Saturday’s Den: Wrapping up an unusually busy Friday

13) First three rounds of the NFL Draft are over; draft is in Las Vegas, so couple of third round picks were announced by Wayne Newton, Donny Osmond. Really, they were. 

12) By the time the 38th player had been taken in this draft, 12 trades had been made. Lot of teams jockeying mid-round picks between this year and next year. 

11) Liberty QB Malik Willis had an over/under of 15.5 for which pick he’d be taken with; he wound up being the 86th pick, by Tennessee. Has to be disappointing, will be expensive to start with, but if he becomes a good starting QB, he’ll forget this week ever happened. 

10) Indianapolis Colts were +14 in turnovers last year and still missed the playoffs; that’s a red flag for sure, because it is tough to duplicate another +14 turnover ratio. They’ve upgraded a lot at QB, with Matt Ryan over Carson Wentz, but not like Atlanta has won a lot recently either.

9) NFL does a terrific job with guys who announce picks after the first round; Franco Harris, Larry Csonka, Barry Sanders (in addition to Wayne Newton/Donny Osmond). They even had Seton Hall basketball coach Shaheen Holloway announce one of the Jets’ picks. 

8) So far in the USFL, thru two weeks, the team leading at halftime won six of eight games; the two games that won after trailing at halftime? Birmingham Stallions, in both their games. 

7) I’m watching Law and Order re-runs the other day and a familiar face appears; Werner Klemperer, who played Colonel Klink on Hogan’s Heroes, is on an early episode, probably Year 2 of the 20-year series. Lot of famous actors have appeared in Law and Order. 

6) Mets 3, Phillies 0— Five New York pitchers combined to no-hit the Phillies. Tylor Megill needed 88 pitches to get thru the first five innings.

Weird part of this no-hitter; Philly’s Kyle Schwarber batted three times, walked every time. 

5) Trevor Bauer got suspended for two years Friday, which could cost him $60M. Bauer will appeal. As always, the lawyers will be the real winners here.

I myself am not a lawyer; this case is apparently a little complex, but Bauer has not been charged with any crimes. Not sure how you suspend a guy for two years without him being charged with a crime, but that is what has happened. 

4) David Cone was explaining on TV the other day how there are fewer doubles in baseball now, partially because outfielders play a lot deeper  than they used to. Another big reason is that the baseball appears to be a little dead this year.

3) Case in point: Guy on the Pirates hit a fly ball to the warning track the other day, but it got caught; the look he gave was so disgusted, like he was sure he hit a home run but it really wasn’t close to being one. Hitters need to become more line drive conscious and less about launch-angle. 

2) When Joey Gallo batted against Baltimore during the week, Orioles used five outfielders and one of the two remaining infielders had both his feet on the outfield grass when pitches were thrown. I’ve never seen that before and after this year, I’ll never see it again, since shifts will be banned after this season. 

1) Dallas Mavericks beat the Utah Jazz in six games in their playoff series; Dallas won their first  NBA title 11 years ago, but since then, had been 0-6 in playoff series.

Friday’s Den: My running diary of the first round of the NFL Draft

If I never hear the term “mock draft” again, it’ll be too soon. Seriously.

Welcome to my running diary of the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft, which is being held in Las Vegas. Originally, Las Vegas was supposed to host the 2020 Draft and I was supposed to be there, but the world had a different idea, with the pandemic and all, so here we are. I’m in my living room, a good place to be and a lot more affordable than Las Vegas this week.

Jacksonville has the first pick, thanks to the Urban Meyer debacle.

I’m watching the NFL Network feed; I’ll watch ESPN on Day 3 Saturday, in deference to Mel Kiper Jr but I’ve lost some enthusiasm for ESPN the last few years.

There are A LOT of people outdoors by the stage where I’m assuming the picks will be announced. A lot, as in maybe 100,000 or so.

8:06— Roger Goodell takes the stage, to mixed reviews. Can we start this already?

8:17— Jacksonville is on the clock; they hired Doug Peterson as their new coach, a huge upgrade from last year. With the first pick, Jaguars take Georgia’s Travon Walker, an edge rusher.

Why does Goodell get booed all the time? So what he makes $30M a year, as a spokesman for 32 really rich people. He seems like a decent guy.

Goodell trivia: When Robert Kennedy was assassinated in 1968, Goodell’s father Charles Goodell took Kennedy’s place as a US Senator.

8:21— Detroit Lions take edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson from nearby Michigan; the last time defensive players were the first two players taken in a draft was in 2000.

Lions haven’t made the playoffs since 2016; in the 56 years of the Super Bowl era, Detroit is 1-12 in playoffs, with lone win in 1991.

8:27— Houston takes LSU CB Derek Stingley Jr, whose dad played Arena Football for the Albany Firebirds; his grandfather Darryl was a terrific WR for New England whose career ended tragically when he was paralyzed in a 1978 preseason game.

8:34— Jets are up next; they take Ahmad Gardner, a DB from Cincinnati. The green room for this draft seems more like an auditorium than a room. Gardner took a wrong turn going from the Green Room to the stage. He is 6-2, almost 6-3, very tall for a corner.

First four picks are defensive players.

Hey there is Hall of Famer Kurt Warner on NFL Network; he made the Hall of Fame despite not being drafted coming out of Northern Iowa. 

8:41— Giants select another pass rusher, Kayvon Thibodeaux from Oregon, who Daniel Jeremiah comps to Shawne Merriman, the old Chargers star. Since 2015, Thibodeaux is the 5th Oregon Duck to be taken in the top 7 of the draft.

Random question: When do the Super Bowl champs pick? Oh yeah, the Rams don’t have a first round pick until 2024- their last first round pick was in 2016 (Jared Goff).

8:46— Carolina Panthers have the wealthiest owner in the NFL, David Tepper, who is worth $16B or so. Thats billion, with a B. Carolina doesn’t have another pick until the 4th round; with the 6th pick, they take Ikem Ekwonu, an offensive tackle from NC State.

If you bet over 3.5 in quarterbacks drafted in first round, you might be in trouble.

8:53— Giants are up again, the first of eight teams with multiple first round picks; they take Evan Neal, a tackle from Alabama, so he is used to winning. Giants have made the playoffs once since 2011; they need guys who are used to winning.

Giants got this pick from Chicago last year, when the Bears wanted to draft Justin Fields. 

Eight teams don’t have a first round pick tonight, including the hometown Raiders.

9:00— Atlanta Falcons are 35-46 since losing the Super Bowl in overtime 5+ years ago; they take USC WR Drake London, giving newly-acquired QB Marcus Mariota a target. They show London dunking a basketball in high school; he probably shoots free throws better than Ben Simmons.

Charles Davis comps him to Larry Fitzgerald, a pretty huge compliment.

Words you hear on draft night, but rarely any other time:
— Upside
— Catch radius
— Physicality
— creating separation

9:09— Seattle Seahawks are up next; right now their QB would be Drew Lock, but they obviously don’t have a game for four months. If I was a Seahawks fan, would I be happy that they traded Russell Wilson? I’m not a Seahawks fan, so its none of my business.

Seattle takes Charles Cross, another SEC tackle (Mississippi State); he goes from playing for Mike Leach to Pete Carroll. Maybe they should’ve drafted offensive linemen when they had Wilson, who is a Hall of Fame quarterback.

I like it better when the people in a team’s draft room aren’t all in shirts/ties; Seattle’s people are all dressed casually. It is a football team, not a damn hedge fund operation.

9:13— Jets are up again; 4 of the first 13 picks go to the Garden State. Jets were minus-13 in turnovers last year, which isn’t good. Jets made AFC title game in 2009 and 2010, the Rex Ryan era; they haven’t made the playoffs since then. 

Jets take WR Garrett Wilson, a WR from Ohio State. Are teams in cold weather areas more likely to draft a player who has played in cold weather in college?

Good Lord, I forgot that the Saints gave Jameis Winston $28M for two years; no wonder Sean Payton quit. They have Andy Dalton as a backup, but Dalton is better than Winston.

9:21— New Orleans just traded into #11 slot; they traded a 3rd/4th round pick to Washington to move up from 16th to 11th, so whoever they pick here is a guy they really want. 

Saints took WR Chris Olave, another WR from Ohio State; Buckeyes threw for 361+ yards in each of their last five games last year. Olave caught 65 passes for 936 yards, 13 TD’s; the guy the Giants drafted (Garrett Wilson) caught 70 passes for 1,058 yards, 12 TD’s.

NFL Network just had a commercial touting the 2022 schedule release, which is two weeks away. That’ll be a busy night for me, starting my handicapping. Thursday night games will be on Amazon Prime, which I actually never heard of until they announced that.

Tony Gonzalez just announced that Chiefs at Chargers is the Week 2 Thursday game, the first Amazon Prime game.

9:30— Lions just traded with NFC North rival Minnesota, dealing an extra 3rd-round pick to the Vikings, to move up from 32nd to 12th- they select WR Jameson Williams from Alabama. The 32nd pick Detroit dealt to Minnesota was the Rams’ pick that the Lions acquired in the Matthew Stafford trade.

It isn’t often division rivals make trades like that, but Detroit GM Holmes/new Minnesota coach O’Connell worked together with the Rams, so maybe that facilitated the deal. 

9:40— Eagles traded with Houston to move up to #13, hopping over the Ravens; Texans get a 4th-round pick and two 5th-round picks to fall back two slots. Philly drafts Jordan Davis, a very large defensive tackle from Georgia.

This is Pete Prisco’s analysis of the Giants’ selection Kayvon Thibodeaux:
“He is the best pure pass rusher in this draft. He has the explosive ability the Giants badly need. The question with him now is his character. Does he love the game? But I think he will get past any of that talk and become a dominant edge player. I love this pick.”

Whenever I see scouts questioning a player’s love of the game, I get queasy.

9:47— Baltimore is up next; they take Kyle Hamilton, a safety from Notre Dame. He is 6-4, 220, a big safety. Ravens also traded with Arizona to acquire the 23rd pick.

Baltimore traded WR Marquise Brown and a 3rd-round pick to Arizona for the 23rd pick; Brown played college ball with Kyler Murray.

9:50— Houston has the 15th pick; they took G Kenyon Green from Texas A&M, who can play multiple spots on the offensive line. Texans went 8-25 the last two years; they need lot of help, which is why they dealt with the Eagles to get extra mid-round picks.

9:57— Washington has the 16th pick; they take Penn State WR Jahan Dotson, who Jeremiah says has the best hands in this draft. Catching the ball is important for a receiver. They traded for Carson Wentz; now they’re giving him targets to throw to.

Dotson played for three offensive coordinators during his time at Penn State.

9:59— Chargers take OL Zion Johnson, who started his career at I-AA Davidson, but wound up at Boston College. They have a great young QB in Herbert; now they need to protect him.

10:02— We have another trade; Tennessee traded WR AJ Brown to the Eagles, for the 18th pick, plus a 3rd-round pick. Titans traded for Robert Woods, wouldn’t pay Brown, so he goes off to Philadelphia. Brown gets four years, $100M from the Eagles.

Someone posted a pic of AJ Brown working out with Eagles’ QB Jalen Hurts four days ago, so this obviously has been in the works.

With that 18th pick, Tennessee takes WR Treylon Burks from Arkansas, whose comp on NFL Network, ironically, is AJ Brown.

New Orleans is up again; will be weird seeing them without Sean Payton on the sidelines. Last year, Saints threw for their fewest yards/game since 1997. Quarterback is an important position.

10:12— Saints select T Trevor Penning from Northern Iowa.

Steelers are up now; no quarterbacks have been taken yet.

Used to know a guy who openly mocked me for watching/enjoying the NFL Draft; never quite understood why it bothered the guy. Everyone likes different stuff, but this is an industry with 32 teams worth an average of $3B each, and some teams are just so much better than others in this process, which makes it fascinating, at least to me.

By the way, Patrick Mahomes has a career record of 58-16; he was THE TENTH PICK in the 2017 draft. Mitch Trubisky was the #2 pick; that is why this is also interesting.

10:18— Steelers, who haven’t won a playoff game since 2016, take Pitt QB Kenny Pickett, who sat out his team’s bowl game, so he wouldn’t get hurt. Mitch Trubisky/Mason Rudolph are also Steeler QB’s. I wouldn’t have taken Pickett under any circumstance. Quarterbacks have to lead their team into battle, not opt out of a game to avoid injury.

Steeler great Franco Harris announced this pick; this fall will be with 50th anniversary of the Immaculate Reception, which I remember because it happened on my birthday. My 8th grade basketball team also lost 34-17 that day- I had nine of our 17 points, which tells you how bad our team was (we finished 1-13).

10:23– Chiefs just traded up with New England, to move up from 29th to 21st; Kansas City takes Trent McDuffie, a CB from Washington. Raiders added Davante Adams, Denver added Russell Wilson; pass defense is more important now than it was in the AFC West.

10:28— Green Bay is up; they select LB Quay Walker from Georgia, who helped the Dawgs win a national title last year. Aaron Rodgers probably just tossed his remote.

Last time Packers drafted a WR in the first round was 2002; NFL Network guys are referencing a scene from A Few Good Men, because all the top WR prospects have already been taken. “I’m not Markinson, are you Markinson?” 

10:35— Lot of trades; Ravens traded into this slot, then just dealt the pick to Buffalo, which takes Kaiir Elam, a CB from Florida.

Ravens get an extra 4th-round pick to drop down two slots. Everyone is Buffalo’s draft room is wearing shirt/tie. No bueno.

10:38— Dallas is up; Jerry Jones’s grandson is sitting there in the Cowboys draft room. He’ll probably own the Cowboys long after I’m dead and gone. Must be nice to be rich.

Watching Hard Knocks last summer, I was totally unimpressed with Mike McCarthy; this is the best guy the Cowboys can get as head coach? He has a good record, but he also coached Aaron Rodgers and Dak Prescott, two pretty good quarterbacks.

There are so many people in Las Vegas for this; has to be a great night to be a pickpocket.

10:43— Dallas takes Tyler Smith, a tackle from Tulsa, who apparently got called for a lot of penalties in college. Tyler the tackle from Tulsa; say that three times fast.

Just saw a sign on TV for the Mirage Casino and I got hungry; they have a Carnegie Deli in there, where they make the best sandwiches ever. They were so big I asked for extra bread and made two sandwiches out of each one. They also have Dr Brown’s cream soda, which is tremendous.

10:50— They just showed the Ravens’ draft room; you could see their white board, with all the players’ names listed. Surprised they allowed that to be shown. Baltimore finished last in their division for first time since 2007; they lost so many close games— I’d make them a candidate for a big bounce back season this year.

10:53— Ravens took C Tyler Lindenbaum from Iowa; long time ago, Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz was OL coach of the Browns, before they moved to Baltimore and became the Ravens. This guy was also a wrestler, which helps offensive linemen.

Jets just dealt a 5th-round pick to Tennessee to move up to 26th in this draft; this will be their third first round pick. It has been 22 years since the Jets had this many first round picks.

Jets take edge rusher Jermaine Johnson from Florida State; Daniel Jeremiah had him as a top 10 player, and he was the 26th pick. He transferred from Georgia to Florida State in college, now he’s a first round pick.

11:01— Jacksonville just traded with Tampa Bay to move up a few slots; Bucs get the first pick in tomorrow’s second round. Jaguars select Devin Lloyd, a linebacker from Utah who has been wearing sunglasses in the green room for the last three hours.

Stanford coach David Shaw has high praise for Lloyd, so good pick for Jacksonville. His comp on NFL Network is 49ers’ LB Fred Warner.

11:14— Green Bay has another pick; coach Matt LaFleur is 39-10 in regular season games, 2-3 in the postseason. Packers take Devonte Wyatt, a DT from Georgia. Both of Green Bay’s first round picks come from national champion Georgia.

Green Bay won the Super Bowl after the 2010 season; since then, they’re 7-9 in playoff games.

11:20— New England is up now; they take G Cole Strange, who played at I-AA Chattanooga. Daniel Jeremiah said he thought he was a 3rd round pick. New England thinks differently than other teams. Rich Eisen just made a Boston reference from Good Will Hunting; it is getting late.

11:22— Chiefs just took edge rusher George Karlaftis from Purdue, which is nice, seeing how he is actually there. It would suck to sit there for four hours and not get picked.

He used to be on the under-16 team for Greece’s national water polo team. Seriously. He has only been in this country for eight years, which is interesting.

I can’t really swim and I can’t see a damn thing without my glasses, so water polo has no appeal to me.

11:26— Cincinnati has the next pick, the second/last pick tonight; they take Daxton Hill, a safety from Michigan who is versatile.

News: Giants are not picking up QB Daniel Jones’ 5th-year option, which helps prove that the new regime in New Jersey knows what they’re doing.

11:33— Last pick of the night belongs to Minnesota; they select Lewis Cine, a safety from Georgia. Do the Dawgs have any players left in Athens? Five defensive players from Georgia have already been taken.

Only one quarterback got taken. Unusual.

Damn, what are all these people at the draft going to do now? It is 8:40 on a Thursday night in Las Vegas. Hopefully they can find some fund stuff to do or some good food to eat. 

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

13) Hitting in the major leaguers is harder than it has ever been; big part of that is because these days, hitters just don’t see the same pitchers very often— starting pitchers don’t stay in games as long now.

Here is some data for you:
— This is Mike Trout’s 11th full season in the big leagues. Here are the pitchers he has faced the most in his career:
88— Felix Hernandez
53— Hisashi Iwakuma
48— Derek Holland, Dallas Keuchel
41— Yu Darvish
40— Justin Verlander
37— Sonny Gray

Hall of Famer Ralph Kiner played ten years in the majors (1946-55). Here are the pitchers he faced the most in his career:
131–- Russ Meyer
126— Larry Jansen
113— Robin Roberts
109— Johnny Sain
102— Jim Hearn
100— Warren Spahn
93— Ralph Branca

The more a hitter sees the same pitcher, advantage hitter.

12) Putting Ralph Branca on the list reminds me of a story, one of the most fun things I ever did.

1990 or so, a mall eight miles from here in the Albany area had former Dodger pitcher Ralph Branca appear to sign autographs; it was at a weird time, like 7:00 on a weeknight.

My dad grew up in New York City, was a huge Brooklyn Dodger fan; I knew more about the Dodgers by the time I was ten than a little kid should know. But the one story that stood out was the day that Bobby Thomson hit a walk-off home run against Branca in a 1951 playoff game. My dad explained that Branca was a very good pitcher who just had a bad moment.

I called my dad and told him to be ready at a certain time; we were going somewhere, but I didn’t tell him where. Just told him I promised he would enjoy it (I did tell my mother, so she would make sure he was ready).

Anyway, the mall is eight miles from his house, so on the way I tell him where we’re going, and when we get to mall, no one is near Mr Branca’s table. Perfect!!!

I introduce myself to Ralph Branca and tell him what a big Dodger fan my dad was, then I stepped back and for like 15 minutes, I just listened to the two of them talk about the old days. It was tremendous, like the two old friends meeting for the first time.

Ralph Branca confirmed a few of the stories my dad always told me, especially one about an old catcher named Ernie Lombardi and how hard he hit the ball. I had often scoffed at that story, so now the joke was on me.

Anyway after 15 minutes or so, some other people came up to the table, so we said our goodbyes and went home. I’m pretty sure my dad really enjoyed it, I know I did. 

11) Back to Ralph Kiner for a second; David Cone was broadcasting the Baltimore-New York game Wednesday, he told a story about when he played for the Mets, he appeared on Kiner’s Korner, which was the post-game show after Mets’ games on Channel 9 back in the day.

Kiner was a great ballplayer who did Mets’ TV for a long time; he seemed like a genuinely nice person, especially for someone with his pedigree. He hit 369 homers in his 10-year career, was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1975. He also dated Elizabeth Taylor, so his life off the field was also Hall of Fame-ish

Anyway, Cone says his gift for appearing on Kiner’s Korner was a Weed Eater, those things that you use to cut the weeds in your backyard. “It even came in the original box” Cone is laughing.

Michael Kay asks him if he ever used the Weed Eater. “No, I lived in a high rise” and now they are both laughing. Cone was very respectful talking about Ralph Kiner, which was cool. 

10) Angels 9, Guardians 5:
— Angels’ OF Taylor Ward has a .531 on-base %age right now; he is 15-38 with 11 walks, off to a tremendous start.
— Mike Trout had two doubles, knocked in two runs.
— Cleveland has lost six games in a row.

9) Cleveland’s Franmil Reyes is having a bad week; he struck out eight times in a row, then grounded into a double play, then struck out again. Slumps suck, but they do end.

8) Orioles’ Opening Day starter John Means had Tommy John Surgery this week, is done for a year or so. 

7) Further proof that the NFL is king of sports: There are 13 major league baseball games Thursday; 11 of them are day games, with the NFL Draft on TV at night. 

6) Speaking of which, it makes me queasy that people bet on the NFL Draft; what exactly do people use for information to base their wagers on? Teams are deceitful on purpose so no one knows who they’re going to draft. Why would anyone bet on this? 

5) Palms Hotel/Casino in Las Vegas opened this week, for first time in 2.5 years, so that is good news for Las Vegas. 

4) Bad news for Las Vegas; the NHL’s Golden Knights lost their last three games, all three in shootouts. Knights went 0-17 in shootouts in those games, the first team since Florida in 2011 to lose three games in a row in shootouts, without scoring a goal in a shootout.

3) For tonight’s draft, the NFL has a red carpet stage that was built over the water in front of the fountains at the Bellagio. I’m guessing the next three days will be quite the production.

2023 draft is in Kansas City, 2024 in Detroit. This year will be a tough act to follow.

2) Arizona Cardinals picked up the 5th-year option in QB Kyler Murray; he will make $29.7M in 2023. Murray is 22-24-1 in three years as Arizona’s quarterback. 

1) A’s 1, Giants 0:
— Chad Pinder led game off with a homer; that was the only run of the game.
— Last time this happened in the major leagues was when Arizona’s Gerardo Parra homered in Miami, May 18 2013, leading off a game that ended 1-0.
— Three weeks into the season, A’s are 10-9, showing spunk and surprisingly good pitching.

Wednesday’s Den: Mid-week musings…….

13) The ABA folded in 1976; four of its teams were absorbed into the NBA: Nets, Indiana, Denver and San Antonio. One of the teams that got left behind pulled off one of the greatest business deals ever.

Remember these dates:
— The ABA folded in 1976
— NBA didn’t become real popular until Magic/Bird’s rookie season, 1979-80.

Before 1979, the NBA was struggling financially.

Ozzie and Daniel Silna owned the Spirits of St Louis, who went went 67-101 in two seasons after moving to St Louis from North Carolina, where they were known as the Carolina Cougars.

Kentucky Colonels, Virginia Squires went out of business with the Spirits, but the Silna brothers cashed in big time.

The Silnas negotiated a deal where they got $5.5M up front to fold the Spirits, but also got this: they got 57.1% of an NBA team’s TV share, every season. As of 2014, the Silna brothers had received roughly $300M in revenue from the NBA, for literally doing nothing.

Then the NBA did this: they gave the Silnas another $500B to put this whole thing to bed, never to be heard from again. So they banked $800M for killing a franchise that wasn’t any good, anyway. Amazing. 

12) Memphis 111, Minnesota 109:
— Ja Morant scored the last 13 points for Memphis.
— Morant scored 30 points, had 13 rebounds, nine assists.
— Timberwolves led 99-88 with 6:58 left.
— Grizzlies lead series, 3-2. 

11) Monday night in Brooklyn, Nets’ big guy Nic Claxton went 1-11 on the foul line; he missed his first 10 free throws, in a game the Nets lost 116-112. Claxton was 6-6 from the floor, grabbed six rebounds, but a pro ballplayer needs to be better than 1-11 on the charity stripe. 

10) This past winter, 6-7 freshman Norchad Omier led Arkansas State to an 18-11 record, was the Sun Belt Player of the Year, so of course he transferred this spring.

Omier will be playing for Miami in the ACC next season.

9) NFL Draft starts Thursday in Las Vegas; 8 of the 32 teams don’t have a first round pick, including the hometown Raiders. 

8) 49ers’ star Deebo Samuel doesn’t want to play RB and WR anymore; says he takes too many big hits at RB, wants to play WR only, but part of his incredible production is because he plays both positions extremely well.

49ers apparently want two first round picks to move Samuel, but who would give up that much draft capital for a guy who only plays receiver, even one as good Samuel is? 

7) Cal State-Fullerton’s baseball program has had 79 of their alumni make the major leagues; that’s a lot of big leaguers. 

6) Twins 5, Tigers 4— One of the strangest endings ever.
— Miguel Sanó hit a line drive to right field, that Robbie Grossman just missed catching.
— The lead runner for Detroit, the tying run, stopped at third base.
— The runner behind him didn’t see him stop and also headed towards third.
— Detroit had a fairly easy chance to get the last out at third, but the catcher threw a wet baseball over the 3B’s head, and the tying/winning runs both scored.
— Ugly way to lose. 

5) Marlins 5, Nationals 2:
— In bottom of 4th, trailing 3-1, Washington had consecutive runners thrown out at home after hits to the outfield. You don’t see that often, Nationals have lost six games in a row. 

4) Arizona 5, Dodgers 3:
— David Peralta hit a 2-run homer in bottom of 8th.
— Diamondbacks won for just 5th time in last 29 games against LA.

3) New York 12, Baltimore 8:
— Anthony Rizzo hit three honers, knocked in six runs. 

2) Milwaukee 12, Pittsburgh 8:
— Willie Adames hit two homers, knocked in seven runs. 

1) Toronto 6, Boston 5 (10):
— Blue Jays tied game with three runs in bottom of 9th
— Springer tied game in 9th with a 2-out home run.
— Ramiel Tapia won game with 10th inning sac fly.

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

13) NFL Draft starts Thursday; it is an interesting process. 32 teams, worth an average of $3B or so each, and some teams draft players a hell of a lot better than others. It is an inexact science, for sure:

— Aaron Rodgers was the 24th pick of the 2005 draft.
— Dan Marino was the 27th pick of the 1983 draft, the sixth QB taken that year.
— Aaron Donald was the 13th pick in the 2014 draft.

This isn’t supposed to be a great year for QB’s in the draft; we’ll see what happens. 

12) Major league teams have to cut rosters from 28 to 26 players by Sunday.

11) So far this baseball season, Pittsburgh Pirates are 8-0 if they score 4+ runs, 0-8 if they score fewer than four runs.

10) Dodgers are 10-0 if they score 5+ runs, 2-4 if they do not.

9) San Diego Padres are 9-0 if they score 3+ runs; they ‘re 1-7 scoring 2 or fewer runs. 

8) Cleveland Guardians are 6-0 if they score 6+ runs, 1-9 if they score fewer than six. 

7) Detroit Tigers were held to three or fewer runs in 11 of their 15 games. 

6) Milwaukee Brewers are 9-1 if they score 4+ runs, 1-5 if they score less than four. 

5) Mets’ OF Michael Conforto turned down the team’s $17M qualifying offer this winter, then he got hurt while training in January, now he’s had shoulder surgery and won’t play this season. Whoops. 

4) Can we agree that Angel Hernandez is a terrible umpire? He was behind the plate Sunday night, and called the game like he had a cab outside the stadium with the meter running. Lot of strikes called; Kyle Schwarber finally lost his mind after getting called out on strikes a second time and ESPN had a good highlight for SportsCenter.

Maybe Hernandez just has stock in robot umpires and wants them to became a thing.

3) Fairleigh Dickinson fired basketball coach Greg Herenda Monday; he was coach at FDU the last nine years, making NCAA Tournament in 2016/2019. Since making the ’19 tournament, Knights went 21-30 in NEC games, so now they’ll have a new coach.

FDU has financial issues; right now, their SID is a student at the school, which doesn’t happen very much. Good luck to the next coach. 

2) Summing up the first two weeks of the USFL in one sentence: Defense is ahead of offense. In the games wheee lot of points were scored, the defense has scored a TD or two. 

1) All five Duke starters have declared for the NBA Draft; four of North Carolina’s five starters are coming back to school. Ain’t going to be easy to follow Coach K at Duke. 

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

13) Average salary in the major league this season is $4.41M; it was $4.17M last year.

Weird thing, though, is the top 100 highest-paid players earn 49% of all the salaries. 

12) Median salary in the major leagues is $1.2M this year; that means half the players earn more than $1.2M, half earn less than $1.2M.

Seven years ago, the median salary was $1.65M, so in that sense, the players have gone backwards a little with their salaries. 

USFL Week 2
11) New Jersey 10, Michigan 6:
— Thru two weeks, Jeff Fisher’s 0-2 Panthers have scored 18 points.
— Generals outgained Michigan, 258-183.
— Neither team scored in second half of this game. 

10) Philadelphia 30, Pittsburgh 23:
— Each team had a pick-6 in first 8:00 of this game.
— Philly QB Scott threw for 272 yards, three TD’s.
— 0-2 Pittsburgh’s backup QB is Kyle Lauletta, who spent a year as the Giants’ backup QB. He isn’t better than Josh Love?

9) Birmingham 33, Houston 28:
— Stallions outgained Houston 391-285.
— Houston lost despite scoring a couple defensive touchdowns.
— Birmingham QB Smith threw for 229 yards, two TD’s. 

8) New Orleans 34, Tampa Bay 3:
— QB Sloter threw for 266 yards, two TD’s.
— Breakers were +3 in turnovers; they outgained Bandits, 374-194.
— Tampa Bay completed only 11-28 passes, for 96 yards. Rough day. 

7) New Orleans QB Kyle Sloter can write a hell of a book someday; quite a journey he is on. 

Sloter first went to college at Southern Miss, then transferred after two years to Northern Colorado, where he threw 29 TD passes in his one season as the quarterback.

From that point, here is his career path:
2017— Denver Broncos practice squad
2017-18— Minnesota Vikings practice squad
2019— Arizona Cardinals practice squad
2019— Detroit Lions practice squad
2020— Chicago Bears practice squad.
2021— Las Vegas Raiders practice squad.
2021— Minnesota Vikings
2022— New Orleans Breakers, USFL

New Orleans looks really good early this season; can Sloter parlay that into a spot on an NFL roster this fall? 

6) College sports is going nuts, with this NIL stuff where players can get paid. Read on the Interweb this weekend that a kid who will be playing quarterback at Tennessee this fall has an NIL deal worth $8M. Backup QB’s in the NFL might be jealous of that deal. 

Texas A&M supposedly spent $25M on this year’s recruiting class. Coach better win, and win big, with that kind of money on the line. 

5) Most sweeps in playoff series by NBA coaches:
17— Phil Jackson
12— Pat Riley
9— Gregg Popovich
8— Billy Cunningham

4) When Utah Jazz came from behind to nip Dallas the other day, they became only the 5th team in last ten years to win an NBA playoff game, after trailing by 4+ points in last 40 seconds. Teams had been 4-701 up until then; now they’re 5-706.

3) NBA playoff scores from Sunday:
— Bucks 119, Bulls 95 (Milwaukee leads, 3-1)
— Nuggets 126, Warriors 121 (Golden State leads 3-1)
— Heat 110, Hawks 86 (Miami leads 3-1)
— Pelicans 118, Suns 103 (series tied 2-2)

2) If the baseball playoffs started today (they don’t):
AL— Tor/NYY, Twins, Seattle. Wild Cards: Tor/NYY, Angels, Tampa Bay
NL— Mets, Cardinals, Dodgers. Wild Cards: Giants, Rockies, Brewers

1) 12 of 30 major league teams are hitting .225 or worse; this isn’t good. Offense is fun, so what if the games take a little longer. Oakland A’s just scored three runs total in a three-game series, and they actually won one of the games.

— Was putting a humidor in every ballpark a good idea?
— Are the baseballs less lively this season?
— Can we ban shifts starting on Memorial Day, instead of next year? 

Sunday’s Den: Wrapping up a sports Saturday

13) Tampa Bay 3, Boston 2 (10):
— Kevin Kiermaier hit a walk-off homer for the Rays.
— Red Sox didn’t get a hit in first nine innings, vs six Tampa pitchers.
— Boston is 15th team ever whose first hit in a game was in extra innings, the first one ever where that first hit was a triple. 

12) Seattle 13, Kansas City 7:
— Ty France went 5-6 with five RBI.
— Mariners scored six runs in 8th inning. 

11) Minnesota 119, Memphis 118:
— free throws: Memphis 19-25, Minnesota 31-40
— Karl-Anthony Towns was 14-17 on line by himself.
— Ja Morant was held to 11 points.
— series is tied, 2-2.

10) Utah 100, Dallas 99:
— Rudy Gobert had 17 points and 15 rebounds (10 offensive), but was only 9-18 on foul line.
— Luka Doncic had 30 points, 10 rebounds, four assists in his first series action.
— Dallas was down 12 at half, outscored Jazz 39-24 in third quarter, then shot 33% in 4th quarter.
— series is tied, 2-2.

9) Miguel Cabrera got his 3,000th career hit Saturday, becoming only 7th player ever with 3,000 hits and 500 home runs. 

8) Mentioned the other day that when Jeff McNeil let Starling Marte wear number 6 with the Mets, he got a Rolex watch in return. I had no idea how much money a Rolex costs.

According to the Interweb, the average price of a Rolex watch is between $7,000-$12,000. Damn. Marte must really like the number six. 

7) Not sure these two things are related, but remember last week, when I called the help desk at DirecTV because my Extra Innings package was screwed up? Actually I called twice in the same day and was on hold the second time for 50 minutes, but…….

Got a note in the mail yesterday that my price for Extra Innings has been cut in half this year; not sure if it was that or the Friday night games on Apple TV causing an uproar, but that saves me some $$$. 

6) One of the top college basketball transfers in the country, Kendric Davis, bolts from SMU to Memphis, staying in the AAC. Tigers have themselves a solid point guard now.

5) Some genius got drunk on an airplane and harassed Mike Tyson, to the point that Tyson finally punched the guy out. I mean, that is next level stupidity; what a moron. Got what he deserved. 

4) I don’t get the NBA at all; Charlotte Hornets went 43-39 this season, their first winning season in six years, so of course they fired their coach, James Borrego. Go figure.

3) Arizona Diamondbacks have an outfielder Pavin Smith, who is named after the golfer Corey Pavin. Pavin Smith’s father is a golf agent who represented both Corey Pavin and Gary Player.

Three years ago, before he made the major leagues, Pavin Smith used part of his $5M signing bonus to pay off the mortgage on his parents’ house. The video of that went viral, was pretty cool. 

2) The TV show Law and Order has been a great stepping stone for lot of actors; there was one episode on the other night, from way back in 1991, that had both Samuel L Jackson and Philip Seymour Hoffman in it.

1) There were 15 QB’s drafted in 2016; Jared Goff is the only one of the 15 who has started a Super Bowl. Dak Prescott is the only one who is still with the team that drafted him.

Saturday’s Den: 20 of my favorite non-sports movies

In honor of Weekend at Bernie’s being on TV tonight. Here are 20 of my favorite non-sports movies (in alphabetical order)
Begin Again— A down-and-out music executive discovers a young singer in a New York City bar; the two go into business together. James Corden is excellent as the young lady’s friend from back home in England. If you like music, you’ll like this movie.

The Bodyguard— A former Secret Service agent becomes the bodyguard for a famous singer, but the singer thinks he works too hard at protecting her, until her attacker kills her sister.

Debbie Reynolds, Robert Wuhl, Ralph Waite (the father on The Waltons) have bit parts.

Bulworth— A suicidal politician puts a contract out on himself and takes the opportunity to be bluntly honest with his voters. In the meantime, he falls head over heels for a young lady, who turns out to be hit the hit man who was hired to kill him.

Halle Berry, Jack Warden, Don Cheadle, Paul Sorvino, Wendell Pierce; excellent cast.

Cousins— Two married people find out their spouses are having an affair with each other, which brings them closer together.

End of this movie has the two main characters (Ted Danson/Isabella Rossallini) sailing off into the sunset together. 26 years later, the final scene of CSI has William Peterson/Jorja Fox sailing off into the sunset. Very similar scenes.

Danson/Peterson were both in Cousins; they were also both head of the crime lab on CSI.

Danny Collins— An aging rock star discovers a 40-year-old letter written to him by John Lennon; he then decides to look up his son in New Jersey, who he had never met.

Quality cast: Al Pacino, Jennifer Garner, Christopher Plummer, Annette Bening.

Dave— Guy who runs a temp agency is hired by the Secret Service to become a momentary stand-in for the President of the United States- they look exactly alike. Then the President has a stroke, and the stand-in finds his role extended indefinitely.

Kevin Kline, Sigourney Weaver, Charles Grodin, Frank Langella, Ving Rhames, Kevin Dunn, Ben Kingsley. Quite a cast.

Fabulous Baker Boys— Two brothers play smaller clubs as dueling piano players; their business picks up when they add a beautiful, up-and-coming singer to their act. Michelle Pfeiffer is the singer; Jeff/Beau Bridges are the two brothers.

Good Will Hunting— A young janitor at M.I.T. has a gift for math, but needs help from a psychologist to find direction in his life.

Robin Williams is great in this as the psychologist; Matt Damon is the math whiz, Ben Affleck plays his friends who offers good advice now and then. Minnie Driver plays a Harvard student who is surprised that she is attracted to a janitor from south Boston.

Last Vegas— Four senior citizen friends throw a bachelor party in Las Vegas for their last remaining single pal. Robert DeNiro, Morgan Freeman, Michael Douglas, Kevin Kline, Mary Steenburgen. Quite a cast.

Leap of Faith— A huckster preacher is stranded in a small town when his tour bus breaks down; they set up their tent and put on shows in a smaller down suffering through a drought.

Steve Martin, Debra Winger, Liam Neeson, Meat Loaf, Philip Seymour Hoffman. I’m a huge Steve Martin fan; this is some of his best work.

Let It Ride— Richard Dreyfuss plays a cab driver/degenerate gambler who gets a hot tip on a race horse and wins big, and for one day, he can’t seem to stop winning.

If you’ve spent any time at the track, you’ll laugh hard at some of this stuff; Dreyfuss is great, with help from David Johansen, Jennifer Tilly, Robbie Coltrane, Teri Garr.

Lost in Translation— An aging movie star and a neglected young woman form an unlikely bond after crossing paths in Tokyo, where the movie star is getting paid a 7-figure sum to do whiskey commercials. Bill Murray is great in this non-comedic role; Scarlett Johansson is his new friend.

Molly’s Game— The true story of Molly Bloom, an Olympic-class skier who ran the world’s most exclusive high-stakes poker game after she quit skiing. This movie is a continuation of the book she wrote to help pay all her legal bills.

Book/movie are both excellent, helping prove that real life is stranger than fiction. Idris Elba, Jessica Chastain are the stars of the movie; Kevin Costner has a small role as Molly’s father.

One More Time— Christopher Walken plays a fading singer who plots his comeback, while dealing with two adult daughters with a sibling rivalry.

Oliver Platt is in this movie; he’s been in a lot of good stuff. Bulworth, A Time to Kill, The West Wing, just to name a few. Quite a resume he has.

Prince of Tides— A high school football coach from South Carolina comes to New York City to meet with his sister’s psychiatrist, after the sister threatens suicide. Because it is a movie, the two of them fall for each other, even though both of them are married.

The scene at the dinner party with the expensive violin is the best part of this movie.

Great cast: Nick Nolte, Barbra Streisand, George Carlin, Blythe Danner, Kate Nelligan.

Rounders— A young gambler who quit after being cleaned out returns to playing big stakes poker to help his sleazy friend pay off loan sharks.

Matt Damon, Edward Norton, John Malkovich, John Turturro, Martin Landau make up an excellent cast. The guys who wrote this movie also write Billions, the Showtime series.

Searching for Bobby Fischer— A sportswriter realizes that his 7-year old son is a chess prodigy, then struggles with how to help his son realize his potential.

Back in junior high, I loved chess and my last name is Fischer— this was about the same time that Bobby Fischer was a world champion at chess, so I was a big fan, although Bobby Fischer turned out to be kind of a wack job, albeit the best player in the world.

Joe Mantegna is the sportswriter, Joan Allen plays his wife. Laurence Fishburne, Ben Kingsley play the kid’s two chess mentors, who have vastly different philosophies.

Excellent movie about chess, and also about how parents push their kids, whether that’s the right thing to do or not.

A Star Is Born— A famous singer discovers a young singer in a drag bar; the two become friends, as her career takes off, while he struggles with personal problems. 

This is the fourth time this movie has been made; this version is very similar to the 1954 version, with James Mason/Judy Garland.

Bradley Cooper/Lady Gaga are the stars; Andrew Dice Clay adds a lot to the movie as her father.

This is Where I Leave You— After their father dies, four grown siblings are forced to return to their childhood home and live under the same roof for a week. 

My dad died in 2015; when I came home from the funeral, I put the TV on and this movie was on HBO, first time I had ever seen it, which was a little weird.

Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Connie Britton, Corey Stoll, Rose Byrne, Adam Driver, Jane Fonda. Impressive cast.

Weekend at Bernie’s— Two young men are trying to make their way in business; when they go to the president of the company with a serious financial error on a printout, he pretends to be thrilled and invites them to his beach house for the weekend. He actually plans on having them killed, to keep his chicanery out of sight.

The boss gets murdered because he is messing around with his work partner’s wife; the two guys then pretend Bernie is still alive, because they think they’ll get blamed for his death otherwise.

I didn’t explain that very well, but the movie is on Sundance tonight. Very funny. 

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

13) Memphis 104, Minnesota 95:
— Timberwolves led this game 47-21 in second quarter.
— Memphis went on 19-2 run in 4th quarter without Wolves calling a timeout.
— Minnesota five subs were a combined minus-41.
— Grizzlies lead this series, 2-1. 

12) Dallas 126, Utah 118:
— Mavericks led 68-51 at halftime.
— Dallas snaps an 0-11 skid in Salt Lake City.
— Jalen Brunson scored 31 points for Dallas.
— Mavericks lead series, 2-1

11) Golden State 118, Denver 113:
— Curry scored 27 points in 31:00 off bench.
— Poole/Thompson shot a combined 19-31.
— Jokic had 37 points, 18 rebounds, 5 assists for Denver.
— Golden State leads series, 3-0

10) Listened to Stan Van Gundy broadcasting on TNT Tuesday night; it is like taking a master class in basketball coaching, every time he is on TV. No BS, he just talks ball all the time and you learn stuff. He isn’t afraid to criticize and that’s what makes an excellent analyst.

9) It is weird watching a basketball game where neither team wears white or gold uniforms; in Game 2 of their series with the Nets, Celtics wore green uniforms, Brooklyn wore black. Why?

I’m superstitious, by the way; Celtics wore black uniforms in Game 1. If it was my decision and we won in Game 1 wearing black uniforms, we’d sure as hell wear black in Game 2, also. 

8) This is a random fact, where A is true, B is true. Unclear if C is because of A and B

A— Last 13 times Chris Paul played a game, with…….
B— Scott Foster as one of the officials
C— Chris Paul’s team lost.

There are three refs in NBA games, so doubtful that one guy would have that much influence, but Chris Paul’s team was favored in eight of those 13 games. 

7) Speaking of Chris Paul, his teammate Devin Booker is out 2-3 weeks with a hamstring injury and Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton will miss the rest of the Chicago series with an injury. 

6) NFL releases its 2022 schedule on May 12, so the next few days after that, this space will be filled with NFL knowledge.

5) Northern Iowa star AJ Green is in the transfer portal, with about 1,400 other kids; sounds like he will head to Iowa State, where his father is an assistant coach. 

4) Last year’s baseball season was first time in 15 years that the strikeout rate decreased from the previous season.

3) Green Bay Packers have 11 picks in next week’s NFL Draft; I’m guessing a couple of those will be receivers, to give Aaron Rodgers some new targets. 

2) Back in December, basketball great Bill Russell had an auction house put up 429 items of his memorabilia up for bid, with a percentage of the proceeds benefitting two charities in the Boston area. The items wound up selling for a combined $7.4M; Russell has/had a lot of unique stuff.

— Russell’s first NBA championship ring sold for $705,000.
— His 1956 Olympic gold medal went for $587,500.

This Friday, a second auction, this time an online auction will take place, including a game-worn Celtics jersey and warm-up jacket from the 1960s. There will also be some items up for bid from Red Auerbach’s personal collection.

Interesting to see that the memorabilia business is still alive and well. 

1) A’s 6, Orioles 4— Baseball season is two weeks old; somehow, Oakland is 8-6, despite having a roster that resembles the Cleveland Indians in the movie Major League.

Flash back to 1978; I was 18 years old and the A’s had a worse roster than they do now, but as late as August 7, Oakland was 60-54 and only five games out of first place, back when there were only four divisions and it was harder to make the playoffs than it is now. 

Then the roof fell in, I mean things got ugly. A’s went 9-39 the rest of the way, paving the way for that fabulous 54-108 season in 1979. Baseball is hard enough when you’re trying to win, when you tank and field a poor team, the grind of 162 games in 182 days will get to you eventually.

Not to be a pessimist, but this isn’t a movie, where the good guys most always win; that said, I’d be the happiest guy in America to be wrong about that. 

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

13) Big news Wednesday night; Jay Wright has retired as Villanova’s basketball coach, after coaching the Wildcats for 21 years. He will replaced by Kyle Neptune, who went 16-16 in his one season coaching Fordham last year.

Wright is 60; he made four Final 4’s, won two national titles at Villanova. Neptune was an assistant at Villanova from 2013-21. 

12) In this weird world of ours, the announcement raises questions:
— Does Wright want to coach in the NBA?
— Is Wright going to grab a TV gig?
— Is Wright’s health OK?
— Has the fact that college basketball is becoming a glorified version of AAU soured Wright on coaching college ball?

We’ll see how this plays out, but the best basketball program in the Big East just took a big hit. 

11) Kentucky star Oscar Tshiebwe will be back in college next year, the first time since 2008 that the National Player of the Year returned to college the next season.

Tshiebwe scored 17.4 ppg, grabbed 15.1 rebounds/game last year, after transferring from West Virginia. There are rumblings on the Interweb that Tshiebwe’s NIL deal at Kentucky is worth around $2M, which would explain his decision to return. 

10) Cardinals 2, Marlins 0:
— Sandy Alcantara has started four games against St Louis, the team that traded him to Miami four years ago. In those games, Alcantara allowed three earned runs in 27.1 IP, but he didn’t get any wins, because the Marlins don’t score lot of runs for him.
— Nolan Arenado hit a 2-run homer in the 9th inning, after Alcantara left the game.
— Was happy to hear Tommy Hutton back in the Marlins’ broadcast booth.

9) Underrated baseball record: Ted Williams holds a record, reaching base in 84 consecutive games. No one ever talks about this, but that is over half a season. Impressive.

Since 2001, the longest such streak is 63 games, held by Orlando Cabrera, whose career on-base %age was only .321. Cabrera played 15 years in the majors for nine different teams.

Ted Williams’ career on-base %age was .482, which is freakin’ amazing. 

8) Diamondbacks 11, Nationals 2:
— Arizona scored 22 runs in their first 12 games; they broke thru here with a big night.
— Seth Beer went 3-4 with three RBI for Arizona.
— Merrill Kelly allowed one run in six IP. 

7) Celtics 114, Nets 107:
— Nets led by 17 at one point; they were outscored 59-42 in 2nd half.
— Celtics shot 63.6% inside the arc.
— Durant was 4-17 from floor, 18-20 on foul line.
— Boston leads series, 2-0. 

6) 76ers 104, Raptors 101, OT:
— Embiid hit a fadeaway 3-pointer from left wing for the win.
— Toronto was up by 10 at halftime.
— Embiid had 33 points, 13 rebounds.
— 76ers now lead series 3-0. 

5) Bulls 114, Bucks 110:
— Chicago led 63-49 at halftime.
— Caruso was +16 in 38:00; Bulls were minus-12 in 10:00 he sat out.
— All the subs in this game shot a combined 5-23 from the floor.
— Series heads to the Windy City 1-1. 

4) Baseball trade: Cubs acquired LHP Sean Newcomb from Atlanta for RHP Jesse Chavez and  cash. Newcomb has started 57 MLB games, none since 2020- he figures to start for the Cubs.

3) Pretty cool to see that Reds’ 1B Joey Votto, who was born in Toronto, became an American citizen this winter.

2) Elon hired Iowa assistant Billy Taylor as its new basketball coach; Taylor has previously been head coach at Lehigh (2002-07), Ball State (2007-13). 

1) Average starting field position in the NFL last year: 25.7 yard-line.
Average starting field position in Week 1 of the USFL: 32.7 yard-line.

In the USFL, they kick off from the 25-yard line, instead of the 35. Fewer touchbacks, better field position for the offense to start their drives.

Wednesday’s Den: Mid-week musings…….

13) If you’ve seen HBO’s series Winning Time, about the Magic Johnson-era Lakers, you know this first item was inevitable.

This week, Jerry West’s legal team sent a letter to HBO/Winning Time series producer Adam McKay, demanding a retraction and an apology for what West called “a baseless and malicious assault” on his character.

The letter includes statements from several people who worked/played for the Lakers during that time, including Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

12) If West is upset with his portrayal, wonder what Paul Westhead thinks of his? The hatchet job this show is doing on Westhead isn’t good.

I wasn’t there, have no idea what the truth is, but last week’s show had the Lakers losing couple of games at Indiana/Detroit after Westhead became the Lakers’ interim coach, when in fact, the Lakers won both of those games. That much we do know.

In 2+ years coaching the Lakers, Westhead went 111-50, won an NBA title, then had great success later on in college ball at Loyola Marymount. This HBO program infers that Westhead wasn’t qualified to be a head coach, which is untrue.

11) Tuesday was April 19; woke up to a dusting of snow on the ground. Bleepin’ awesome. I shouldn’t complain too much; two hours southwest of here, they got a foot of snow.

Temperatures got into the 40’s during the day here, so most of the snow didn’t last too long, but enough already with winter. 

10) Ben McAdoo is the new offensive coordinator for the Carolina Panthers; he answered “yes” when asked if Sam Darnold was Carolina’s #1 QB. Then, he took that statement back.

Baker Mayfield is still in QB limbo; Carolina WR Robby Anderson made it clear recently that he doesn’t want Mayfield to be a Panther, but someone in Charlotte is interested in acquiring Mayfield.

Coach Matt Rhule is on the hotseat in Carolina; if the Panthers draft a QB, they’ll play him, the team will inevitably lose, and Rhule will get fired. Happens all the time. Rookie QB’s get coaches fired. Ask Matt Nagy, Jeff Fisher…….its a pretty long list. 

9) There was a trade in baseball Tuesday, albeit an unusual one:
— Mets OF Starling Marte will now wear uniform #6.
— In exchange, Mets IF Jeff McNeil gets a Rolex watch; he will now wear uniform #1. 

8) It is well-known that when he was in 10th grade, Michael Jordan played on his school’s JV basketball team. Not so well known; a 10th grader named Leroy Smith made the varsity that year. Apparently this annoyed Jordan; years later, he invited Smith to Springfield when Jordan was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Leroy Smith wound up playing college ball at NC-Charlotte, which had been in the Final Four when Smith/Jordan were in high school (Cedric Maxwell played there). Smith wound up playing pro ball overseas for six years.

After his playing days, Smith worked for ASICS AMERICA before establishing himself in media, entertainment and the tech space. He is currently the co-founder/President of a tech start-up and the President of a Hollywood film company. So he’s done pretty well for himself, too. 

7) Colorado Rockies gave P Kyle Freeland a 5-year, $64.5M extension; Freeland is from the Denver area, so he must like pitching close to home. Why else would a decent pitcher want to keep pitching in high altitude? 

6) New York 4, Detroit 2:
— Gerrit Cole lasted 1.2 IP, throwing 68 pitches (only 37 strikes), shortest start of his career.
— In three starts this season, Cole has given up 8 runs in 12.1 IP. Part of his job is to take the strain off the bullpen, but that hasn’t happened yet.
— New York’s bullpen threw 7.1 scoreless innings.
— Two starting pitchers tossed a combined 2.2 innings, throwing 110 pitches. 

6) A’s 2, Orioles 1:
— A’s are 7-5; Mark Kotsay is early leader for Manager of the Century.
— Attendance was 3,748; they had 17,000+ for the home opener Monday. 

5) Arizona 1-0, Washington 6-1:
— Diamondbacks scored one run in 18 innings. Yikes.
— Arizona’s team batting average is .156. 

4) Seattle 6, Texas 2:
— Rangers are paying Semien/Seager a combined $57M and they’re 2-8; Seager makes more money than the entire Oakland roster. Baltimore too.
— Jesse Winker hit a couple of fly balls that were caught on warning track; they both would’ve been home runs in Cincinnati.

3) Braves 3, Dodgers 1:
— Max Fried threw seven shutout innings for the World Champs.
— Kenley Jansen got the save against his old team. 

2) Red Sox 2, Blue Jays 1— Toronto is 13-28 in its last 41 games in Fenway Park.

1) This happened only 11 years ago; seems like a lot longer.

I was in a work meeting; can’t remember what it was for, but I was the lowest-ranking person in the room. There were couple of big shots in there. My job was keeping spreadsheets on how long it took to process criminal fingerprints; my job for that meeting was to shut the hell up, unless someone asked about spreadsheets.

We got thru about 45 minutes and I haven’t said a freakin’ word. A lady big shot was called out of the meeting for something else, which held the meeting up for a decent amount of time.

During the lull, one of the big shots started a rant about how Bert Blyleven had been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. He didn’t like Blyleven; suddenly I heard myself talking.

I went on a 90-second rant about how Blyleven struck out over 3,500 batters (3,701 actually), helped two small market teams win a World Series, and most definitely was a Hall of Famer.

The big shot looked at me like “Who the hell are you?” He actually had no idea who I was, which is fair, because I had no real stature in the building, unless spreadsheet nerd was a status.

I do remember his assistant giving me a small smile, don’t think he liked his boss much. Then the lady came back into the meeting, which resumed and I shut up, never to be heard from again.

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

13) From the sound of things, 2022 will be the last year that DirecTV has the NFL Sunday Ticket, which means that this will probably be the last year I have DirecTV. Apple or Amazon are the favorites to land the Sunday Ticket in 2023.

If any of you have any insights on the best way to go forward as far as watching TV goes, I’d appreciate hearing from you. Seem to be lot more options than there used to be. 

12) Tampa Bay 17, Pittsburgh 3:
— Total yards: Tampa Bay 244, Pittsburgh 186
— Maulers were in red zone three times, scored 3 points. No bueno.
— Pittsburgh completed two passes in the first half; their offense needs lot of work. 

11) If you remember the movie Invincible, Mark Wahlberg played Vince Papale, a 30-year old bartender who tried out (and made the squad) for the Eagles in 1976. True story, good movie; now Papale’s son is a WR for the Tampa Bay Bandits; he caught three passes for 23 yards in Monday’s game.

10) Guy who kicked for the Birmingham Stallions Saturday, it was the first football game he ever played in. He played soccer all thru college, but now he is a pro football player.

9) 76ers 112, Raptors 97:
— Philly was up 15 at halftime.
— Embiid had 31 points, 11 rebounds.
— Philly leads series, 2-0

8) Mavericks 110, Jazz 104:
— Brunson scored 41 points, win without injured Doncic.
— Utah’s four subs were a combined +35.
— series is tied at a game apiece. 

7) Warriors 126, Nuggets 106:
— Warriors outscored Denver 44-30 in third quarter.
— Curry scored 34 points in 23:00; Poole added 29.
— Golden State leads this series, 2-0. 

6) Guard Keeshawn Bathelemy played ball at Colorado the last two years; he started 28 of the Buffs’ 33 games this season, but he transferred to Pac-12 rival Oregon this week.

Not too often kids transfer within a conference; Bathelemy is from Montreal, scored 8.6 ppg this past season.

5) Miami Heat G Duncan Robinson is in his 4th NBA season; he is a career 40.6% shooter on the arc; if you’re GREAT at something, you can play in the NBA and Robinson is a great shooter.

This is a young man who went to a prep school in New Hampshire, then played D-III basketball for a year at Williams College, before transferring to Michigan with a full scholarship, which rarely happens. Not many D-III basketball players make it to the NBA.

4) Celtics’ G Marcus Smart won NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year award, first guard to do that since Gary Payton in 1996. 

3) First three starts for San Diego’s Yu Darvish:
April 7— Six perfect innings at Arizona (92 PT)
April 12— gave up 9 runs in 1.2 IP (57 PT) at San Francisco
April 17— gave up one run in 6.2 IP (96 PT) to Atlanta.
Handicapping ain’t easy.

2) Dodgers’ OF Mookie Betts is also a really good bowler; apparently he owns 40 bowling balls, and he switches back and forth, depending upon lane conditions.

1) Thru their first nine games, Diamondbacks have 42 hits, drawn 46 walks; it is the furthest any team has ever gone into a season, with more walks than hits.

Monday’s Den: Thoughts on the USFL and other stuff……

Some thoughts on Week 1 of the USFL:
— The whole league is in Birmingham, which gives it a bush league kind of vibe. They need to let people in the stands for free, when the hometown Stallions aren’t playing. Looks like tickets only cost $10 and kids may get in for free. League needs people in the stands.

— The 1980’s USFL had top-flight talent; Jim Kelly, Reggie White, Steve Young and so on. This is different, it is like AAA football, but it is good football.

— Lightning delay around noon Sunday set the whole day back, since all three games were in the same ballpark.

— Quality of play has been good; they have good coaches. Mike Riley, Jeff Fisher, Todd Haley  have all been head coaches in the NFL.

— Mike Pereira gives the league great credibility running the officiating end of things.

— First down measurements are done virtually, like tennis replays. No chain gangs in the USFL. 

— Saturday night, TV analyst Brock Huard sat with the Generals’ QB on the bench while he watched clips of his last series on a tablet. Access like that teaches you stuff.

— Teams need to carry three QB’s; Birmingham’s QB McGough got hurt Saturday night. What happens if the #2 QB gets hurt too?

— Having coaches/refs miked is a positive; can learn some football that way.

— Former Cowboys coach Jason Garrett was a disappointment in the booth; he didn’t say much.

Stallions 28, Generals 24:
— New Jersey’s kicker looked bad, missing two FG’s.
— Generals outgained Birmingham, 408-277.
— New Jersey ran ball for 222 yards.
— Birmingham scored game-winning TD with 0:29 left.

Gamblers 17, Panthers 12:
— Panthers’ Hail Mary pass was caught on last play, but WR only got one foot down inbounds.
— Houston scored a TD on a 90-yard scoop/score off a QB sack/fumble.
— Gamblers won despite getting shut out in second half; they led 17-0 at the half.
— Michigan ran 79 plays for 363 yards; Houston 45 plays for 174 yards.

Breakers 23, Stars 17:
— Breakers scored their first TD on a pick-6, then blocked a punt for a safety.
— New Orleans outgained the Stars, 321-246
— Bryan Scott is the Stars’ QB; he went to Occidental College, hardly a football power.
— Remember Jim Mora Sr the coach? His bridge to the NFL was coaching the Philadelphia Stars in the original USFL. Jim Mora Sr also went to college at Occidental.

Tampa Bay-Pittsburgh game was pushed back to Monday night because of the weather delays; seems like having a game on national TV every Monday would be a good idea, anyway.

Elsewhere in this world of ours………
— If I’m the Arizona Diamondbacks’ hitting coach, I’m not sleeping too well; Arizona has scored 21 runs in nine games, somehow going 3-6 in those games.

— Then again, the big money Bronx Bombers have only scored 21 runs their last eight games; getting shut down by the Orioles in Baltimore this weekend is a red flag.

— Houston Astros utility guy Aledmys Diaz has already started games at six different positions.

— Animated cartoon star Daffy Duck turned 85 years old this week.

— QB JT Daniels started his college career at USC, then he transferred to Georgia, now he’s moved on to West Virginia. He was the Dawgs’ backup last year when they won the national title. Curious to see how he does in Morgantown.

— Of the Miami Heat’s top 10 players in minutes played, only five of them were drafted, making them unique in NBA history. No team with that many undrafted players in their rotation has done as well as the Heat.

— Going forward, C JT Realmuto is expected to bat leadoff for the Phillies, which is unusual; don’t see lot of catchers leading off. Jason Kendall holds the single-season record for catchers, batting leadoff in 119 games in 2004.

— In his career, Anthony Rizzo has been hit by 182 pitches, which seems like a lot. Next-highest total among active players is Starling Marte (135). Hughie Jennings holds the all-time record (287); he played back around the turn of the 20th century. 

Sunday’s Den: Wrapping up a sports Saturday

13) Bottom of 4th inning Friday night, Texas leads Angels 3-2; Rangers have bases loaded, one out and Corey Seager up. Angels have a relief pitcher in who they can’t take out; they freakin’ give Seager an intentional walk, giving Texas another run. Next guy hit a sac fly, making score 5-2. People on Twitter were either astonished, furious or calling for Maddon’s ouster.

They walked a guy intentionally with the bases loaded in the 4th inning. It was April 15; if you think the pitcher has any ability, don’t you have to find out if he can get Seager out there? If he doesn’t have any ability, why is he in the game?

If you owned the Angels, would you give Maddon a call to see if he’s feeling OK? Angels won the game 9-6, but sometimes I think Maddon does weird things, just because he can. 

12) NBA regular season scoring vs playoff scoring:
2017-18: 212.7 vs 208.9
2018-19: 222.4 vs 215.4
2019-20: 223.6 vs 219.1
2020-21: 224.2 vs 220.6

In the playoffs, playing 7-game series, teams are more familiar with each other; games are also more intense, more physical. Ergo, lower scoring games. 

11) Is the key to winning the AL East beating up on the Orioles?
From 2020-22, teams’ record vs Baltimore:
— Tampa Bay 27-5 (.844)
— Toronto 22-7 (.759)
— Boston 18-11 (.621)
— New York 19-12 (.613)

By the way, moving the fence back in leftfield has drastically changed Camden Yards; much less of a hitter’s park now. Baltimore has some promising pitching prospects coming up the chain in their farm system. Hard to develop young pitchers when you play in a bandbox. 

10) Last time the Green Bay Packers drafted a RB, WR or TE in the first round? 2002.

Packers signed veteran WR Sammy Watkins this week; Watkins has started 10 games in a season twice in the last six years. Last year, he caught 27 balls for 394 yards for Baltimore.

9) Russell Wilson plays QB for the Broncos now; Quarterbacks make a boatload of $$$. Wilson and his wife just bought a $25M house in the Denver area, complete with a nine-car garage. You know you’re rich when you live in a house with a nine-car garage. 

8) Orioles/Reds are only teams in the major leagues that haven’t scored in the first inning. 

7) Minnesota Twins’ pitcher Joe Ryan’s first seven MLB starts:
— 2.70 ERA
— 0.87 WHIP
— .176 batting average
— 41 K’s in 36.2 IP

6) Arizona P Zac Gallen is pretty good; he is the only pitcher I’ve ever seen go to an index card in his back pocket, while he’s on the mound. I’m guessing there are catcher’s signals on the card, or sign sequences, but I’ve never seen anyone else do it.  

5) Louisville’s new basketball coach Kenny Payne has signed Nolan Smith, Danny Manning as assistants; his coaching staff might wind up being the best playing staff in the country. 

4) Harold Varner III leads the PGA golf tournament in Hilton Head by a stroke; last 23 times a guy led by a stroke after three rounds, he only won the tournament twice. Since 2010, the %age is 30.2%.

3) Baseball stuff:
— Astros put closer Ryan Pressly on the IL
— Mariners put OF Mitch Haniger on the IL
— Orioles put P John Means on the IL
— Tigers put IF Javier Baez on the IL.

2) Friday afternoon, turned my TV on to watch some baseball, and the Extra Innings package is kaput. Nada. Nothing. Bupkus. Called DirecTV’s help desk; they said to be patient, the problem would be fixed later. They didn’t say how much later.

Five hours later, called them again; after waiting on hold for 50 minutes, I was going to unplug the receiver (again) but then the games suddenly appeared on my screen. Problem solved.

1) DirecTV’s help desk is in the Philippines, by the way.

Saturday’s Den: Random baseball trivia……

13) Pitching has certainly changed a lot; from 1952-55, Robin Roberts started 154 games; he finished 118 of them, going 97-52 in those four seasons. 154 starts in four years is 38.5/year; most anyone would start now is probably 32 or so. 

12) In his Hall of Fame career, Tony Gwynn was intentionally walked 203 times; he hit only 135 home runs. 

11) Pretty sure I underestimated how productive Frank Thomas was in his career; seven years in a row, he walked 100+ times, scored 100+ runs, knocked in 100+ runs, hit .300+. 

10) Mike Mussina took five no-hitters into the 8th inning, but never threw a no-hitter. Too bad he wasn’t around for the 7-inning games in doubleheaders couple years ago.

9) Ichiro Suzuki is the only player ever with 200+ singles in a season; he did it twice. Ichiro led the American League in singles ten years in a row.

8) There are seven father/son combinations in MLB history, where both father/son made an All-Star team and father/son played the same position. 

7) Hall of Famer Larry Walker was a hockey goalie growing up in Canada; one of his teammates was NHL great Cam Neely. Walker has three brothers: Barry, Carey, Gary. His parents must have a good sense of humor. 

6) Tris Speaker was a centerfielder who, in his career, pulled off six unassisted double plays. Not sure how an outfielder did that, but he did. 

5) In 1947, Johnny Mize hit 51 homers, struck out only 42 times; I’m guessing he never heard of the term “launch angle”. 

4) Of all the players since 1961 who had 3,000+ plate appearances, these players had the best batting averages:
.338 Tony Gwynn
.331 Roberto Clemente
.328 Wade Boggs

3) In 2015, Max Scherzer came pretty close to Johnny Vander Meer territory; he threw a 1-hit shutout, giving up a 7th inning single. His next start, he threw a no-hitter, the only baserunner a hit batsman with two out in the 9th inning. 

2) Remember Phil Niekro, the great knuckleball pitcher? Turns out one of his childhood friends was NBA great John Havlicek, who apparently wasn’t very good at catching knuckleballs. 

1) Three guys who today might have been passed over in the amateur draft:
1,390th pick— Mike Piazza
574th pick— John Smoltz
511th pick— Ryne Sandberg

Going forward, amateur draft will only be 20 rounds; scouting becomes even more important now, to find the kids who fall through the cracks.