Sunday’s Den: Wrapping up a sports Saturday

13) All-Star break starts Sunday night; they need to push the All-Star Game back earlier in July; lot of tired players/coaches right now, maybe more mentally tired than physically. Teams have played over 90 games; halfway mark is 81, so moving things back a week makes more sense.

Plus, that would allow the NBA Summer League to fill the four-day sports void, but summer league ends tonight, so this coming week Monday-Wednesday will be a 3-day sports void (there are some make-up baseball games Thursday). Bad planning by baseball. 

12) Juan Soto turned down a 15-year. $440M contract this weekend; he can’t be a free agent until after the 2024 season, so Washington has to hold on to him for at least the rest of this season. What will teams be willing to give up to acquire one of the best players in baseball? 

11) Minnesota Twins retired Jim Kaat’s number 36 this weekend; Kaat will be inducted into the Hall of Fame next weekend in Cooperstown. A great pitcher who won 283 games; his number 1 achievement in sports might be this:

When he was 75 years old, Kaat shot 75 in two different rounds of golf. Shooting your age in golf is damn impressive, but here’s the thing.

One round he played right-handed, the other one left-handed!!!

Wonder how times that has happened. 

10) Clayton Kershaw took a perfect game into the 8th inning Friday, the second time he’s done that this season. Kershaw is the first pitcher since 1961 to take a perfect game into the 8th inning twice in the same season.

9) Mets-Cubs are having issues with the umpires in their series this week; Cubs manager David Ross has been thrown out of two games. Ian Happ got tossed last night.

Ramon DeJesus, who worked the plate in Game 1 Saturday, is a pitchers’ ump, which is putting it mildly. He searches for strikes to call, which obviously annoys hitters. So far this season, the under is 9-5 when DeJesus is behind the plate. 

8) Seattle 3, Texas 2— Mariners have won 13 games in a row; they’re 21-12 in one-run games, after going 33-19 in one-run games last year. Scott Servais is a very good manager.

If the playoffs started today, Seattle would be one of the Wild Card teams. 

7) Who decides which jersey a baseball team wears for a game? Some teams have 2-3 different jerseys; the A’s used to let that day’s starting pitcher decide which jersey to wear, but not sure if they do that anymore. 

If I’m a pitcher and I’m on a roll wearing one jersey, I sure as hell would want to wear that jersey whenever I pitched. Superstitions are a big part of baseball. 

6) Unusual stuff in the NBA:
— Nike boss Phil Knight wants to buy the Portland Trail Blazers.
— The NBA wants Phil Knight to buy the Trail Blazers.
— The late owner Paul Allen’s trust requires that the team be sold.
— Portland owner Jody Allen insists the team is not for sale.

Being commissioner of a sports league isn’t as easy as it looks. 

5) Young man named Marko Simonovic scored 17 points in nine games for the Chicago Bulls last year, playing mostly in the G-League, where he scored 17 ppg; he is having big summer league this month, as he tries to earn a spot on the Bulls’ roster this coming season. Simonovic had 17 points, 13 rebounds in a game against Charlotte the other day.

Funny how guys who don’t have roster spots locked up play every game, they don’t take games off for load management. 

4) Russell Westbrook, entering the final season of a five-year maximum deal; fired his agent this week, a guy who had been his agent for the last 14 years. The agent apparently thinks Westbrook should stay with the Lakers, and Westbrook disagrees.

According to Basketball-Reference.com. Westbrook has earned $291,976,692 in his playing career, not counting this coming season, when he will bank another $47M. The agent’s take, if 5%, would be $14,598,835, so the agent/player helped each other become very wealthy.

Hopefully they parted friends.

3) Had to look this up twice; I knew it was true, but it just seems odd that the Miami Dolphins haven’t won a playoff game since 2000.

2) Only one team that won the Super Bowl gave upon more points than they scored during that regular season; the 2011 New Jersey Giants scored 394 points, gave up 400 points, which does not matter, because they won four playoff games, but it is the only time it has happened. 

1) Detroit Lions were an odd team last year; they went 11-6 against the spread, which is pretty good, but the thing is, they were an underdog in all 17 games- they were 3-13-1 SU, which is really bad.

As of a few days ago, Detroit was an underdog in its first three games this season, but is listed at -2 for its Week 4 game with Seattle. 

Saturday’s Den: Pac-12 football notes…….

Arizona:
— 7 starters back on offense, 8 on defense
— 57 starts back on offensive line; soph QB 15 starts at Washington State
— Last three years, 8-6 ATS as a favorite.
— Last two years, they’re minus-26 in turnovers, going 1-16 SU.
— won four of last five bowls, but their last one was in 2017

Arizona State:
— 3 starters back on offense, 4 on defense
— 62 starts back on offensive line; senior QB 12 starts at Florida
— 9-16 ATS as favorite, 10-4 as underdog under Edwards
— under Edwards, they’re 9-14 ATS coming off a win
— were even in turnovers LY (+32 previous three years)

California:
— 3 starters back on offense, 5 on defense
— 51 starts back on offensive line; senior QB 13 starts at Purdue
— under Wilcox:5-16-1 ATS as favorite, 22-7 as underdog.
— Last four years, Cal is 11-1 ATS as a road underdog.
— under Wilcox: 22-17-1 ATS in Pac-12 tilts; 6-8 non-conference.

Colorado:
— 7 starters back on offense, 5 on defense
— 49 starts back on offensive line; soph QB has 12 starts
— Last five years, are 23-31 SU
— In his career, Dorrell is 10-2 ATS as a home underdog.
— Lost last four bowls; last bowl win was in 2004.

Oregon:
— 8 starters back on offense, 7 on defense
— 86 starts back on offensive line; senior QB had 34 starts at Auburn
— Last four years, Ducks are 7-12-2 ATS as a home favorite.
— Lanning is Ducks’ 4th coach in seven years; they’re 35-13 SU last four years
— 2-3 SU in last five bowl games (1-4 ATS), with both wins by one point.

Oregon State:
— 6 starters back on offense, 9 on defense
— 76 starts back on offensive line; junior QB 15 starts
— Last year was Beavers’ first bowl since 2013.
— Smith is 6-1 ATS as home favorite, 0-4 as road favorite.
— Last three years, OSU is 11-4 AATS coming off a loss.

USC:
— 8 starters back on offense, 3 on defense
— 109 starts back on offensive line; soph QB started 7 games at Oklahoma
— Last four years, Trojans are 22-21 SU
— USC is 0-5 ATS in last five bowls (1-3 last four SU)
— Riley is 6-11-1 ATS as a road favorite, 3-0 as road underdog.

Stanford:
— 10 starters back on offense, 7 on defense
— 104 starts back on offensive line (5 starters); soph QB has 9 starts
— 11-19 SU last three years (71-24 the seven years before that)
— 4-12-1 ATS in last 17 games coming off a loss.
— Won four of last five bowls; their last three bowls were decided by total of 5 points.

UCLA:
— 6 starters back on offense, 2 on defense
— 84 starts back on offensive line; senior QB 35 starts
— Under Kelly, 4-9 ATS as home favorite, 10-6 as road underdog.
— Last three years, are 9-5 ATS coming off a win.
— Last bowl was 2017; last bowl win 2014- they made a bowl LY, but it was cancelled.

Utah:
— 8 starters back on offense, 6 on defense
— 73 starts back on offensive line; junior QB started 12 games
— since 2017, , they’re 16-8 ATS as a home favorite.
— under Whittingham, they’re 25-15 ATS as a road underdog.
— Lost last three bowls, giving up 39 ppg.

Washington:
— 8 starters back on offense, 5 on defense
— 82 starts back on offensive line; junior QB started 17 games at Indiana
— Last two years, they’re 3-8 ATS at home
— Last four years, they’re 10-22 ATS in conference games.
— Favorite covered four of their last five bowls.

Washington State:
— 4 starters back on offense, 6 on defense
— 31 starts back on offensive line; new QB was I-AA All-American at Incarnate Word.
— since 2015, they’re 7-3 ATS as a home underdog
— 7-1-1 ATS in Pac-12 games LY; were +11 in turnovers
— Lost last five bowl games (1-4 ATS)

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

13) One thing I’ve noticed the last few days; more and more ballplayers slide into home plate head-first, which is a bad idea. Too easy to get hurt.

Back when catchers could block the plate more, you NEVER slid into home head-first, because you might break your neck, but now that catchers have to leave a lane for the runner to slide, it has become more of a thing, but it is a bad thing.

Your fingers/head/neck are more at risk when you slide head-first. Alec Bohm dislocated a finger sliding head-first into second base this week. Sliding feet-first is the better idea.

12) Ten guys on the Kansas City Royals didn’t make the trip to Toronto this weekend; they’re not vaccinated, so they can’t get into Canada. Oy.

Bigger issue is this: one of the players is Andrew Benintendi, who will be a free agent after the season and is being sought after by some contending teams. Royals would probably like to deal him; are AL teams shying away from Benintendi because of this?

If the team that trades for Benintendi has to play Toronto in the playoffs, he still won’t be able to go there, which obviously defeats the purpose of trading for him. 

Royals 3, Blue Jays 1— Angel Zerpa, the 22-year old pitcher Kansas City brought up to fill the void by all the absent players, is 2-5, 4.36 in 11 starts in the AA Texas League this year. Against Toronto, he gave up one run in five IP (73 PT). Go figure. 

11) Blue Jays fired their manager Wednesday, good/convenient timing with the depleted Royals coming to town, but they still lost Thursday, which isn’t good for them. 

10) Washington’s Juan Soto homered in the 9th inning in both games of the Nationals’ twinbill Tuesday; he is the first major leaguer to do that since 2004, when Rob Mackowiak of Pittsburgh did it against the Cubs (game 1 homer was a walk-off tater).

By the way, I get lot of these statistical nuggets from Doug Kern, who is an excellent follow on Twitter.

9) Mariners 6, Rangers 5— Ty France had the game-winning, 2-run single in the 8th inning; Seattle has now won 11 games in a row. Texas led 5-1 in the 7th inning. 

8) Interested observer at the Las Vegas Summer League was one of the new owners of the Minnesota Timberwolves. You may have heard of him; Alex Rodriguez, who has been known to play high stakes poker now and then. 

7) I’m looking thru the TV shows they have on Paramount+, and I find the Odd Couple, one of the all-time great TV comedies. Loved it when I was a kid; have watched every episode many times over the years.

Paramount+, which costs $$ to sign up for, charges you more to watch Odd Couple episodes, which ran from 1970-75. I am NOT paying money to watch 50-year old re-runs, all of which I’ve seen…….many times. Could you be any more greedy?

6) Indiana Pacers signed C Deandre Ayton to a four-year, $133M offer sheet, but Phoenix Suns matched the offer, so now Ayton can’t be traded before January 15, and he would have the right to veto any trade for one year.

All of this hinders any hopes the Suns had of trading for Kevin Durant. 

5) Philadelphia 76ers’ star Joel Embiid recently became a citizen of France, which is very good news for the French national basketball team. 

4) NBA star CJ McCollum has been doing some TV work on ESPN during summer league; he said something very interesting the other night.

McCollum is a star player; he said that every 10th game or so, he gets a technical foul on purpose just to make sure the officials are aware the he is on the court. In other words, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Star players generally get the benefit of close calls, anyway.

His broadcast partner pressed him a little bit on it; McCollum says he keeps track of when he gets the technicals, and he sticks to the 10-game schedule.

3) Right now, Miami Dolphins are a 3-point home favorite over New England in Week 1 of the NFL season. This will be only the second time since 2003 that the Patriots are an underdog in Week 1— they were an underdog at Arizona in Week 1 of 2016 season, when Jimmy Garoppolo started in place of the suspended Tom Brady. Patriots won the game, 23-21.

If you care about such things, Arizona’s QB in that 2016 game was Carson Palmer. 

2) Pairings for the Jimmy V college basketball twinbill this fall:
Duke vs Iowa…….Texas vs Illinois

1) If the baseball playoffs started today (they do not):
NL: Mets, Brewers, Dodgers Wild Cards: Atlanta, San Diego, St Louis
AL: New York, Twins, Astros Wild Cards: Tampa Bay, Seattle, Tor/Bos

Thursday’s Den: Notes on NFC teams

Arizona Cardinals
— Last three years, they’re 18-8 ATS as an underdog.
— Last three years, they’re 18-7 ATS on the road.
— Last two years, they’re 5-11 ATS at home.
— #1 in $$ spent on their offensive; #17 at QB. When will they pay Murray?

Atlanta Falcons
— 7-2 LY in games decided by 8 or less points; 0-8 in games decided by 9+ points.
— Last three years, they’re 5-10 ATS as a favorite.
— Averaged 2.2 yards/rush on 3rd down LY; NFL average was 4.5.
— 31st in NFL in $$$ spent on QB’s salary.

Carolina Panthers
— Averaged 4.9 yards/pass attempt on 3rd down LY; NFL average was 7.2.
— 2-6 last year in games decided by 8 or less points.
— Last two years, they’re 4-8 ATS as a favorite.
— Since 2019, they’re 6-18 at home; 4-9 as favorite, 2-9 as underdog.

Chicago Bears
— Favorites covered all eight of their home games LY.
— Last three years, under is 17-7 in their home games.
— Last three years, Bears are 9-15 ATS at home.
— Chicago is 31st in NFL in $$ paid to players on offense.

Dallas Cowboys
— Went 12-5 LY with +14 turnover ratio, but lost first playoff game at home.
— Over is 17-7 in last 24 home games; under 11-6 in last 17 road tilts.
— #2 in $$$ spent on offense, #31 on defense.
— Covered eight of their nine road games last year.

Detroit Lions
— Last three years, Lions are 11-37-1 SU
— 0-9 SU in last nine playoff games; last playoff win was in 1991.
— Over is 17-6 in their last 23 home games.
— Were underdog in all 17 games last year (11-6 ATS).

Green Bay Packers
— Went 13-4 LY with +13 turnover ratio, but lost first playoff game at home.
— 5-1 last year in games decided by 3 or fewer points.
— Last three years, Packers are 8-2 ATS as a road underdog.
— Last three years, Packers are 31-17-1 ATS in regular season.

Los Angeles Rams
— averaged 9.8 yards/pass attempt on 3rd down LY (NFL average 7.2)
— 11-2 last year in games decided by 8 or less points.
— Rams covered five of last seven games as an underdog.
— Cooper Kupp had 46 red zone targets LY (next highest Ram: Higbee, 20)

Minnesota Vikings:
— Last two years, over is 21-12 in Viking games.
— Minnesota was 8-9 LY despite a +11 turnover ratio.
— 14 of their 17 games LY were decided by 8 or less points (6-8)
— 30th in $$ spent on cornerbacks; does that mean more zone defense?

New Orleans Saints
— 9-8 LY with +7 turnover ratio, after going 25-7 previous two seasons.
— 2-3 last season in games decided by 8 or less points.
— Last three years, they’re 11-5 ATS as an underdog.
— Last three years, they’re 7-2 ATS as a road dog, 11-5 as road favorite.

New Jersey Giants
— Last five years, they’re 22-59 SU.
— Giants led at halftime in only 21 of those 81 games.
— Last two years, under is 23-9-1 in their games.
— Last three years, they’re 2-5 ATS as favorite, 8-16 ATS at home.

Philadelphia Eagles
— 9-8 last year; 2-4 in games decided by 8 or less points.
— Last three years, they’re 10-15 ATS as an underdog.
— Favorites covered seven of their eight home games LY.
— Have four road games this year where they’re on a short week.

San Francisco 49ers
— 10-7 LY, 5-5 in games decided by 8 or less points.
— averaged 8.7 yards/pass attempt on 3rd down LY (NFL average 7.2)
— Last three years, they’re 10-4 ATS as an underdog.
— 16-9 ATS in their last 25 road games. 

Seattle Seahawks
— 7-10 LY, 0-5 in games decided by 3 or fewer points.
— Seahawks went 7-10 despite a +5 turnover ratio.
— Last three years, Seattle is 7-5 ATS as an underdog.
— Moving on from Russell Wilson at QB presents a BIG downgrade.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
— 24-9 SU with Brady at QB; how does coaching change affect things?
— +10 in turnovers LY, +24 in sacks.
— Last two years, were 11-4 ATS at home (0-6-1 in 2019)
— were favored in all 17 games last season.

Washington Commanders
— 7-10 last year, even with 3-0 record in games decided by 3 or less points.
— Last two years, under is 20-13 in Washington games.
— Last three years, Commanders are 8-15-1 ATS at home.
— covered three of last four games as a road favorite. 

Wednesday’s Den: Mid-week musings……

13) Random NFL stat: over the last 19 years, the team that lost the Super Bowl is 4-15 ATS in their first game the following season.

Bengals are -6.5 over Pittsburgh in Week 1 this season.

12) Major League Baseball is toying with the idea of marking off a “pie-shaped” area behind second base, where fielders won’t be able to stand until after a pitch has been thrown- that is something they’re experimenting with in the minor leagues this year.

That way, more ground balls up the middle will result in hits. 

11) Albert Pujols hit a home run Tuesday; he has now homered off of 446 different pitchers, only three behind Barry Bonds, who homered off of 449 different pitchers. 

10) Whit Merrifield’s streak of playing in 553 consecutive games ended Monday; that was the longest current streak in the major leagues. It is safe to say that Cal Ripken Jr’s record of 2,632 consecutive games played will never, ever be broken. 

9) There was an unusual trade in baseball this week; Atlanta Braves sent three prospects to the Kansas City Royals in exchange for the #35 pick in Sunday’s amateur draft.

Most draft picks can’t be traded in baseball, but this one was able to be traded because it’s part of one of the two “competitive balance” rounds, one of which occurs between the first and second rounds and one of which is between the second and third rounds.

CF Drew Waters is the best of the three prospects Kansas City got in the deal, fueling speculation that Andrew Benintendi will be leaving Kansas City soon.

8) JT Realmuto isn’t playing for the Phillies this week in Toronto; he hasn’t been vaccinated, so he forfeits $260,000 in salary for the series. Three other Phillies are also out, but two of them are pitchers who wouldn’t have thrown anyway, and Alec Bohm dislocated a finger Monday, so he wouldn’t be playing either. 

7) Since 2014, Anthony Rizzo has been hit by a pitch 176 times, 60 times more than anyone else in the big leagues (Derek Dietrich, 116)

6) Last year, San Francisco Giants were 31-17 in one-run games; so far this year, they’re 10-18, which is part of why they’re only 43-42, and on the outside looking in on the playoff race.

5) Mets’ OF Brandon Nimmo sprints to first base after he walks; for some reason, this bothers me more than it should. It is just false hustle: “Oh, he’s such a hustler, he runs to first when he doesn’t have to” It is just phony, it means nothing. 

4) New England Patriots traded WR N’Keal Harry, a former first round pick, to the Chicago Bears for a 7th-round pick.

3) Monday night in Las Vegas, ESPN/NBA had Orlando-Oklahoma City on in primetime, good chance to see Paolo Banchero and Chet Holmgren face off in a battle between two of the NBA’s new young stars. Having that game on in primetime was coincidence.

Problem is, Orlando pulled the plug on Banchero’s summer; he won’t be playing anymore this week, for whatever reason. I’m sure ESPN was thrilled with that decision. 

2) Also Monday night, former NBA player/current ESPN TV guy Richard Jefferson referereed the second quarter of a Knicks-Portland game. ESPN had a referee analyst as third man in the booth for that quarter. Jefferson didn’t do a bad job, he took a little bit of grief but it made for good TV. 

1) Minnesota-Memphis played a game the other day where the teams combined to shoot 6-64 on the arc; there were enough bricks to build another casino on the Las Vegas Strip. At one point. Grizzlies missed 24 consecutive 3-pointers. Oy. 

Tuesday’s Den: Our SEC football preview…….

Alabama:
— 5 starters back on offense, 7 on defense
— 104 starts back on offensive line; soph QB 15 starts
— Last two years, 9-3 ATS as home favorite.
— 9-3 ATS last 12 non-conference games.
— Since 2016, 1-1 ATS as an underdog (2 games vs Georgia LY)

Arkansas:
— 7 starters back on offense, 4 on defense
— 101 starts back on offensive line; soph QB 15 starts
— 10-4 ATS as underdog under Pittman
— +11 in turnovers last two years; previous five years, were minus-13
— Since 2014, are 31-18-4 ATS coming off a loss.

Auburn:
— 7 starters back on offense, 6 on defense
— 120 starts back on offensive line (4 starters); soph QB has 3 starts
— are on 4th offensive coordinator the last four years.
— Harsin is 30-19 ATS on the road.
— Auburn lost 4 of last 5 bowls; they were favored in four of the five games.

Florida:
— 6 starters back on offense, 7 on defense
— 98 starts back on offensive line (4 starters); soph QB has 1 start
— Last two years, are 1-8 ATS as a road favorite.
— 3-10-1 ATS in last 14 games following a win
— Napier was 11-3-1 ATS as an underdog at Louisiana.

Georgia:
— 7 starters back on offense, 3 on defense
— 62 starts back on offensive line; senior QB has 17 starts
— Smart is 17-6 ATS as a road favorite.
— Since 2015, Dawgs are 5-3 ATS as an underdog.
— covered five of last seven bowl games.

Kentucky:
— 6 starters back on offense, 5 on defense
— 45 starts back on offensive line; junior QB 13 starts
— Last three years, are 10-5 ATS as home favorites
— Last four years, are 19-9 ATS coming off a win.
— won last four bowls; underdogs covered last five bowls.

LSU:
— 6 starters back on offense, 5 on defense
— 41 starts back on offensive line; QB started 29 games at Arizona State
— In his career, Kelly is 32-16-2 ATS as an underdog.
— Since 2017, LSU is 8-2 ATS as a road underdog.
— Minus-3 in turnovers LY; previous four years, they were +41.

Ole Miss:
— 5 starters back on offense, 7 on defense
— 111 starts back on offensive line; two soph QB’s- one started 3 games at USC, other guy threw 37 passes as Rebels’ backup LY.
— Kiffin is 2-8 ATS as a home underdog, 14-7-1 ATS as a road dog.
— 10-4 ATS in last 14 games coming off a loss.
— Since 2018, Rebels are 10-6 ATS as a home favorite.

Mississippi State:
— 8 starters back on offense, 9 on defense
— 82 starts back on offensive line; soph QB 19 starts
— Under Leach, 2-8 ATS at home (6-6 SU)
— In his career, Leach is 39-27 ATS as a road dog.
— Since 2017, Bulldogs are 13-8 ATS out of conference.

Missouri:
— 6 starters back on offense, 8 on defense
— 83 starts back on offensive line (4 starters); senior QB started 27 games at Southern Miss
— Under Drinkwitz, they’re 2-7 ATS as a favorite.
— Last three years, they’re 5-11 ATS coming off a loss.
— Lost last three bowls; their last bowl win was in 2014.

South Carolina:
— 9 starters back on offense, 5 on defense
— 129 starts back on offensive line (all 5 starters back); soph QB started 17 games at Oklahoma
— Last three years, they’re 13-22 SU
— Last four years, favorites are 13-6 ATS in their home games.
— Last three years, Gamecocks are 7-15-1 ATS as an underdog.

Tennessee:
— 8 starters back on offense, 7 on defense
— 91 starts back on offensive line (4 starters); sr QB has 11 starts
— Since 2017, Vols are 8-18 ATS coming off a win
— were +3 in turnovers LY (were minus each of previous five seasons)
— In his career, Heupel is 2-5 ATS as an underdog.

Texas A&M:
— 6 starters back on offense, 5 on defense
— 37 starts back on offensive line; soph QB started 14 games at LSU
— Under Fisher, Aggies are 7-2 ATS as a road favorite.
— scored 42.3 ppg in last four bowls (3-1)
— Since 2017, A&M is 15-4-1 ATS out of conference.

Vanderbilt:
— 7 starters back on offense, 7 on defense
— 81 starts back on offensive line; they have 2 soph QBs who both played some LY.
— 5-28 SU the last three years.
— Last played in a bowl in 2018; last bowl win, 2013.
— Last two years, Vandy is 7-2 ATS as a road underdog.

Monday’s Den: Wrapping up a sports weekend

13) Last year, Baltimore Orioles were 52-110; this year, they’re 43-44, pretty good turnaround. Orioles have won their last eight games by a total of 14 runs; they’re only two games out of the third and final Wild Card slot. Brandon Hyde is doing a great job as manager.

Baltimore’s total payroll for 2022: $32,918,626
Max Scherzer’s salary for 2022: $43,333,333

12) Los Angeles Angels started the season 24-13; now they’re 38-49. They’re second team in MLB history to be both 11 games over .500 and 11 games under .500 before the All-Star break. 

11) Dodgers 11, Cubs 9:
— First inning had 81 pitches, most of any MLB game this season.
— Game was two hours old and was still in the third inning.
— Freddie Freeman went 4-5, scored twice, knocked in two runs. 

10) Miami Marlins (14-18) have played most one-run games of any team this season.

9) This week, Red Sox started a rookie pitcher four games in a row; before this week, last time they had done that was 1945. 

8) Johnny Cueto tossed eight innings in a win over Detroit Saturday; he was the first White Sox pitcher this season to get an out after the 7th inning. 

7) Portland Trailblazers’ rookie Shaedon Sharpe went to school at Kentucky last year, but never played in a game; he practiced some, but never played, which made him an intriguing draft prospect. Portland took him with the 7th pick in the draft.

Sharpe played six minutes in Portland’s first summer league game, then tore a labrum in his shoulder. He’ll be re-evaluated in a couple weeks.

Portland is the same franchise that drafted injury-prone Sam Bowie with the #2 pick in 1984, just ahead of a guy named Michael Jordan. Whoops. 

6) Chris Paul has played in 1,297 NBA games, starting them all; over the last 40 years, that is the most NBA games by someone who started all their games.

5) Chicago Bears’ rookie WR Velus Jones is a 3rd-round pick from Tennessee; what makes him unusual is that he is a 25-year old rookie.

He played four years of college ball at USC, two more at Tennessee. Players got a free year of eligibility because of the pandemic; Jones took advantage of his. 

4) Raiders-Jaguars is the NFL Hall of Fame game in Canton August 4th. 25 days away.

3) Golf nugget: Last 11 years, the British Open champ had played in the Scottish Open the week before seven times, the Quad Cities Open twice. Twice, he took the previous week off. 

2) All-Star break is a day shorter than usual this season; there are six games re-scheduled to Thursday of All-Star week, games that were supposed to be played in the first week of the season, the week that got postponed by baseball’s labor problems.

1) If the playoffs started today (they do not):
NL— Mets, Brewers, Dodgers. Wild Cards: Braves-Padres-Phillies
AL— New York, Twins, Houston. Wild Cards: Red Sox-Rays-Tor/Sea

Sunday’s Den: Notes for AFC teams…….

Baltimore Ravens
— Lost last six games LY, with five losses by 3 or less points.
— Minus-11 in turnovers for season.
— Their AFC North road games are in Weeks 14-15-18
— Were #1 in rushing defense, #32 in pass defense. 

Buffalo Bills
— Were 0-6 last year in games decided by 7 or less points.
— Have 11 Sunday games, 3 Thursday games, including Thanksgiving in Detroit
— Have a new OC this season; Brian Daboll coaches the Giants now.
— scored 83 points in splitting two playoff games LY.

Cincinnati Bengals
— Brought in three new starters on offensive line this year.
— Have five night games, three others at 4:25.
— 6-6 last year in games decided by 5 or less points.
— McPherson made 12 field goals of 50+ yards.

Denver Broncos
— Week 1, Russell Wilson visits his old team in Seattle.
— Four of their first six games are night games,
— 0-4 last year in games decided by 5 or less points.
— Their games with Kansas City are in Weeks 14/17.

Houston Texans
— Lovie Smith was 89-87 as head coach of the Bears.
— play 11 games in domes, only six games outside.
— Had 5 draft picks in top 75; took four SEC players.
— Only one nite game; have three 4:00 games.

Kansas City Chiefs
— Three of their first five games are at night.
— 6-4 LY in games decided by 6 or less points.
— converted 52.2% on 3rd down LY, best in NFL
— How do they replace Tyreek Hill’s production? (1,524 yards, 15 TD’s)

Las Vegas Raiders
— Chiefs pounded them twice LY, 41-14/48-9
— won last four games LY, all by 4 or less points.
— were 7-1 in games decided by 6 or less points, 3-7 in other games
— McDaniels was 11-17 as Denver’s HC, in 2009-10.
— Made playoffs LY, despite minus-9 turnover ratio

Los Angeles Chargers
— 1-5 last year if they scored less than 27 points.
— averaged 39 yards/drive (#2), were #5 in scoring
— were 30th LY in rush defense.
— brought in new special teams coach, punter, long snapper

Miami Dolphins
— won 8 of last 9 games, after a 1-7 start.
— figure to use Tyreek Hill the way 49ers used Deebo Samuel
— are on road three weeks in row (weeks 13-15), then go to Foxboro Week 17
— ranked 30th in yards rushing last year.

New England Patriots
— 10-2 LY allowing less than 27 points; 0-6 giving up 27+
— 2nd-year QB will have a new voice in his ear when he is in huddle.
— weeks 12-15; all night games, three of them on road.
— Belichick’s career record without Brady at QB: 72-81

New Jersey Jets
— Were 0-8 last year in games decided by more than 7 points.
— allowed 37.4 yards/drive (31st)
— minus-13 in turnovers; how much has young QB Wilson improved?
— 13 of their first 16 games are at 1:00; not lot of hope from schedule makers

Pittsburgh Steelers
— Who is the QB? Trubisky? When does rookie QB Pickett get first start?
— Week 7: Steelers at Miami. Brian Flores is a Pittsburgh assistant.
— allowed 36+ points in their last five losses LY.
— two games against Ravens are weeks 14/17.
— 32nd-ranked rush defense last year.

Tennessee Titans
— were #1-seed in AFC, lost first playoff game at home; that leaves a scar.
— 6-3 last year in games decided by 6 or less points.
— Is Derrick Henry healthy? New WR Woods blocks well in run game.
— drafted Malik Willis; what does that say about Tannehill’s status? 

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

13) Legendary actor James Caan passed away this week, at age 82. What a tremendous career he had. Here are my favorite James Can movies/TV shows:

— Brian’s Song— First time I ever cried during a movie; I was 10 years old.
— The Gambler— 1974 movie was little bit ahead of its time- 40 years later, they remade it with Mark Wahlberg as the professor with a gambling problem.
— Honeymoon in Vegas— One of his poker buddies was Jerry Tarkanian.
— The Program— He graduated from playing in Brian’s Song to being a coach here.
— Las Vegas— He ran the Montecito casino in 88 episodes.

One of the best-ever actors. RIP, sir. 

12) I think the NHL does its amateur draft the best; just about the whole league is there: GM’s, draft prospects, and they move the draft all over North America.

Arizona Coyotes had the 3rd pick Thursday night; when they announced their pick, they had 13 people on stage. GM’s talk to each other on the arena floor, discussing trades. Its like a multi-billion dollar fantasy league.

NFL Draft has gotten better since they started moving it around the country, but imagine if all the GM’s were in one place during the draft? The drama would be excellent.  

11) People talk too much about who is going to win MVP in every sport, but to me, it is very difficult for an MVP to come from a losing team.

Hall of Famer Ralph Kiner played for bad teams in Pittsburgh; he told the story of his contract negotiations, when they told him “We finished last with you, we can finish last without you”

How can an MVP be on a bad team? I understand that Shohei Ohtani is doing things that NO ONE (including Babe Ruth) has ever done, so change the award to Player of the Year and then Ohtani wins every year. Most Valuable infers the team the MVP played for was a winning team. 

10) Seattle’s Marco Gonzales beat Toronto 8-3 Thursday, throwing 88 pitches in 6.2 IP; he is only the second pitcher this season to throw 6+ innings, while not walking anyone or striking anyone out. Boston’s Garrett Whitlock did it against Cincinnati June 1.

9) Gerrit Cole has pitched in five New York at Boston games, big games for both teams. His ERA in those games is 7.13. 

8) Mets are retiring Keith Hernandez’ number 17 Saturday; they retired Jerry Koosman’s 36 last year, When are they going to retire Dwight Gooden’s number 16? Long overdue. 

7) Oklahoma City Thunder is betting favorite to win the Las Vegas Summer League, but if they decide to pull the plug on Josh Giddey or Chet Holmgren’s participation, their goose is cooked, and sometimes that happens.

Especially 2nd-year players; teams know what they have, and they might want to take a look at other, younger guys, Listen to TV and read a lot; it’ll help you make smarter bets. 

6) San Francisco Giants are 5-14 in games where winning run scores from 7th inning on. 

5) Reds 2, Rays 1 (10)— Cincinnati wins on a walk-off balk, just the 23rd walk-off balk in the last 100 years. 

4) College hoop tip-off tournament in Fort Myers in November: 

Marquette-Mississippi State……..Georgia Tech-Utah

3) Angels released OF Juan Lagares, who then bolted to Korea, where he will get $495,000 to play the rest of the season in the KBO. 

2) Random trivia: all-time record for points in a Las Vegas summer game: in 2009, Anthony Morrow scored 47 points in a game for Golden State.

1) Every kid in America who plays high school basketball should watch the NBA Summer League for a while the next 10 days. There are GREAT basketball players who struggle to make an NBA roster. To play in college and beyond, you need to great at one thing, preferably more than one thing, but definitely great at one thing.

After you watch summer league for a while, go outside and work on your game; a lot. Work on your dribbling, shooting— be great dribbling with both hands. Get stronger, faster, but in this day and age, shooting is marketable. Work A LOT on becoming a great shooter.

Sindarius Thornwell led South Carolina to the Final Four in 2017; since then, he’s played in 160 NBA games for three different teams, averaging 10.8 minutes/game. Last year, he played pro ball over in Germany. He is a great basketball player, but is he still great enough to make a roster in the NBA?

This summer, Thornwell is on the Chicago Bulls’ summer league team, trying to impress a team so they’ll invite him to training camp. I’m sure that Germany is a fine country, but nothing like being on an NBA roster. 

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

13) This is the first time I can remember local TV guys talking about their teams selling off good players at the trade deadline. Heard announcers for the Cubs/Oakland openly speculate on whether Willson Contreras or Frankie Montas will be dealt before August 2. 

12) Baltimore Ravens’ kicker Justin Tucker has made his last 57 field goals in the 4th quarter or overtime; is he the greatest kicker ever? 

11) NBA Summer League announcers will have their hands full; Oklahoma City has Jaylin Williams and they have Jalen Williams. I think they’re going to call them by their uniform numbers, just to differentiate the two. 

10) This season in the major leagues, when a team has runner on third and less than two outs, the runner scores 54.5% of the time. 

9) Starting pitches are throwing an average of 84.4 pitches per start this season. Generally if a guy gets thru the other team’s lineup twice (18 batters), teams are pretty happy. Only 36 of 150 starting pitchers are averaging 90+ pitches/start.

Sandy Alcantara (102.7), Corbin Burnes (100.2) are only two averaging 100+ pitches/start. 

8) Oklahoma City rookie Chet Holmgren scored 17 ppg in his first two summer league games, but wow, he looked really tired by the end of the second game Wednesday night. He played 24.9 minutes/game, blocking 8 shots in the two games. 

7) 2020 college championship rings that used to belong to RB Keilan Robinson are listed for sale by a Las Vegas pawn shop for $60,000.

Robinson transferred to Texas from Alabama last year. He was not on the Crimson Tide’s active roster in 2020, having opted out due to COVID-19.

SEC, Rose Bowl and College Football Playoff championship rings are being sold by the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop — home of the TV show “Pawn Stars”- the rings will make an appearance on the TV show next season.

6) Colorado Rockies are 6-26 in their last 32 games at Dodger Stadium. 

5) Nashville-San Jose will start the next NHL season by playing a couple of games in Prague, Czech Republic; Columbus-Colorado ares playing a couple of games in Finland in November. 

4) Aaron Judge turned down a 7-year contract for $213.5M in April; what is he going to make now, since he is having such a great season?  Speaking of which, what will Shohei Ohtani get when his contract is up? Ohtani is doing things no one has done before.

3) I was surprised to hear that Washington Wizards’ star Bradley Beal is the only NBA player with a no-trade contract. In fact, only 10 NBA players ever have had a no-trade deal. 

2) I’m not sure which birthday made me feel older; Sylvester Stallone turning 76 this week, or golfer Justin Leonard turning 50 last month— he is going to play on the Senior Tour for the first time this weekend. 

1) NFL is promoting the growth of flag football internationally; they’re hoping it’ll be an Olympic sport in 2028, when the Olympics will be in Los Angeles. 

Thursday’s Den: NFL knowledge on a summer day

13) Cleveland Browns traded QB Baker Mayfield to Carolina Wednesday, for either a 4th or 5th-round draft pick in 2024, depending on how he does.

Panthers will pay $4.85M of Mayfield’s salary this year, while the Browns will pay $10.5M; Mayfield agreed to convert the remainder of his $18.8M salary into incentives to facilitate the trade.

Mayfield was 30-31 starting games for Cleveland, winning a playoff game two years ago, Browns’ only playoff win since re-joining the NFL in 1999 (the old Cleveland Browns are the Baltimore Ravens now).

Sam Darnold (17-32 as an NFL starter), PJ Walker (2-0 as a starter) and rookie Matt Corral are Carolina’s other quarterbacks. 

12) Where does this leave Cleveland? Deshaun Watson doesn’t figure to play much, if at all, this season; Browns’ other QB’s are Jacoby Brissett (14-23 as a starter), Joshua Dobbs. 

11) One of my favorite things is when the NFL releases its schedule in the spring; it tells you stuff, if you read between the lines.

Week 1, this fall: Cleveland at Carolina. We should have known.

There are no coincidences. Someone in New York knew something. 

10) Brian Griese worked on TV for ESPN the last 12 years; this season he’s going to be the QB coach for the 49ers, one of four new assistant coaches on the offensive side of the ball for San Francisco, which lost OC Mike McDaniel to the Dolphins.

9) Miami fired coach Brian Flores, even though his team was 19-14 the last two years; here’s the thing- Dolphins flopped badly in Week 17 both of those years, which cost them a playoff spot.

2021- lost 34-3 in Tennessee
2020- lost 56-26 in Buffalo

8) Last six years, Denver Broncos are 39-58; during that time, they’ve started 10 different QB’s. Now they’ve got Russell Wilson, who is 113-60-1 as an NFL starter, a huge upgrade. 

7) Kliff Kingsbury has been a head coach for nine years, counting college/NFL; here is how his teams break down:

first seven games: 42-20-1
from Game 8 on: 17-45

6) 20 years ago,  Oakland Raiders lost the Super Bowl to Tampa Bay; since then, they’ve moved to Las Vegas, but they haven’t won a playoff game.

2016— lost 27-14 at Houston
2021— lost 26-19 at Cincinnati. 

5) Cincinnati QB Joe Burrow was sacked 70 times last year, 19 times in four playoff games; if the Bengals are going to get back to the playoffs this year, they need to keep Burrow upright.

By the way, Jacksonville’s new offensive coordinator is Press Taylor, younger brother of Bengals’ coach Zac Taylor.

4) When Matt Ryan starts for the Colts in Week 1, he’ll be the sixth different QB to start for Indy the last six years.

2017- Scott Tolzien
2018- Andrew Luck
2019- Jacoby Brissett
2020- Philip Rivers
2021- Carson Wentz
2022- Matt Ryan

3) Big X hasn’t had a player drafted in the first round of the last two NFL Drafts; they had 25 players drafted this past spring, but none in Round 1. 

2) WR Stefan Diggs is going to miss OC Brian Daboll, who is now head coach of the Giants; in his two seasons with Buffalo, with Daboll as OC, here are Diggs’ numbers:

2020- 127 catches, 1,535 yards, 8 TD’s.
2021- 103 catches, 1,225 yards, 10 TD’s.

1) Players taken after the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft:
47th pick (2nd round) Bobby Wagner, by Seattle
75th pick (3rd round) Russell Wilson, also by Seattle
102nd pick (4th round) Kirk Cousins, Washington

Wednesday’s Den: Mid-week musings…….

13) NBA Summer League starts Thursday; 11 days of competitive basketball from Las Vegas, most of which is televised nationally.

There are 30 teams, with players trying to get invites to NBA training camps or offers to play pro ball overseas. It is very competitive, fun to watch. 

12) Few years ago, I was at the summer league and these two guys sit in front of me; one guy is huge, looked like a bodybuilder. Remember, this is Las Vegas; you can bet on the games- the big guy is saying how he bet on Team A in this game because “they posted a bad number on this game” at the sportsbook. He thought he had a sure thing. Uh oh.

The odds that the oddsmakers knew less about this game than the bodybuilder were slim, but he thought he knew better. There was one small problem.

Team A crushed its opponent the day before, but they were playing different guys in this game, guys who hadn’t played much the day before. Teams have 12-14 guys; they like to take a look at all of them. The second group of guys weren’t nearly as good as the first group. 

The bodybuilder had a mixed drink; as Team A falls behind quickly, he begins to get steamed. Midway down the second quarter, it is fairly evident his bet is a loser and he is fuming. I’m not even sure he realized they were playing different guys than the day before.

For a split second, I thought about explaining this to him, but then bit my tongue; sometimes they kill the messenger. Instead, I just moved to a different part of the gym. 

11) If you foul out of a summer league game, you’re a hacker; it takes 10 fouls to foul out of a summer league game. 10, not six. 

10) Miami Heat drafted a kid named Nikola Jovic; he looked great in the San Francisco summer league Tuesday, scoring 25 points, grabbing nine rebounds. This was a 4-team, 3-day event that is a prelude to the Las Vegas tournament.

Catch-and-shoot is a huge thing now if you want to play college/pro ball; kids are much better these days at shooting, a positive effect of the Steph Curry/Klay Thompson Warriors winning so much (and making so much money)

9) NBA is doing really well financially; ten players have already signed contracts this offseason worth $100M+.

8) Portland Trailblazers have seven players who will be making $9M+ next season; that means at least two of their subs will be making $9M+, and they were 27-55 last year. 

7) On the TV broadcast of the Miami-Golden State game summer game, they mentioned that pro games in Europe are only 40 minutes long, as opposed to the NBA’s 48 minutes. 

6) I’m debating going to the summer league next year, as long as the league coincides with baseball’s All-Star break. They miss each other by a week this year. With no baseball for four days, it was fun to hang out in a gym all day and watch quality basketball. 

5) Connor Allen posted info about NFL season prop bets on Twitter; he identified six categories where the unders really dominated last year:

rushing TD’s— under hit 76.5%
passing yards— under hit 74.1%
passing TD’s— under also hit 74.1%
receiving yards— under hit 66.0%
rushing yards— under hit 64.1%
Receiving TD’s— under hit 55.6%

4) Golfer Matt Fitzpatrick has really improved his driving this season; his club head speed has jumped to 70th on Tour this year, compared to 122nd two years ago. His strokes gained off the tee ranks 8th this year, compared to 59th two years ago.

This season, Fitzpatrick has earned $6,129,986, with eight top 10 finishes; last year, he earned $2,252,351, year before that, $2,109,709. 

3) Johnny Cueto has started nine games for the White Sox this season; road team won eight of those nine games, which is unusual. 

2) Orioles 10, Rangers 9 (10)— Two bullpens combined to give up 12 runs in 11.1 IP. Cedric Mullins had a walk-off double for Baltimore. 

1) Reds 1, Mets 0— Max Scherzer struck out 11 batters in 6 IP, in his return to action. Reds won on a sac fly by Mike Moustakas in the last inning. 

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

— RIP to Hank Goldberg, who passed away Monday, on his 82nd birthday. 

Mr Goldberg worked at ESPN as an NFL reporter and handicapping expert for two decades; he talked about betting on games on TV back when not many people talked about betting on games on live television.

He was smart, pleasant and he won more than he lost picking NFL games.

Goldberg was also a longtime fixture in Miami, serving as a local radio and TV host for more than 25 years and working as a Dolphins radio analyst. He began his career in the 1970s as an assistant to handicapper Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder.

RIP, sir.

— July 4, 1985 was one of the strangest baseball games ever played; Mets beat Atlanta 16-13 in 19 innings, in a game that was delayed by rain multiple times, and didn’t end until 4am or so.

I was still living at home back then; my dad and I both had to work the next morning, but at some point after midnight, I woke him up to watch the rest of the game. He loved the Mets, but he wasn’t overly thrilled that I woke him up. He watched the rest of the game, though.

Mets scored in the top of the 18th, and looked like the game would end there, but a relief pitcher named Rick Camp (lifetime .074 hitter) bit his one and only major league home run to tie the game again. The people who stayed for the postgame fireworks show were going nuts.

One of the TV voices for the Braves back in 1985 was John Sterling; his call of Camp’s home run was classic; he said it would be more likely that he (Sterling) would be elected President than Camp would hit a home run. But then Camp hit a home run. Classic. 

If you don’t know, 37 years later, Sterling still does games on the radio for the Bronx Bombers. 

Mets finally won the game in the 19th inning; current Mets’ TV analyst Ron Darling pitched the bottom of the 19th— Camp wound up batting again, but made an out.

They went ahead with the fireworks display at 4:15am or so; lot of people called the cops because it was so noisy.

All I remember about the next day at work is that I drank two or three Cherry Cokes for energy; I wasn’t America’s finest employee that day, and I crashed on my bed as soon as I got home from work, but it was worth it. Quite a ballgame.

— July 4, 2022, last game of the night: Braves 6, Cardinals 3, in a game delayed for a long time by rain. Does it rain in Atlanta every year on the 4th of July? 

— Why doesn’t every major league team play on the 4th of July? I know it was a Monday this year, but Marlins-Nationals played an overlap series with a game on Monday. Heard a few people complain that their favorite team didn’t play Monday. 

— Random prop bet I saw today:
Will the Cincinnati Bengals make the playoffs this year?
Yes -135, No +115

You’re probably actually betting on whether they keep Joe Burrow healthy all season; if he plays the whole year, Bengals will make the playoffs. 

— Joey Chestnut ate 63 hot dogs (and buns) in 10 minutes Monday, to win the Nathan’s contest for the 15th time. For some reason, this gets televised on ESPN every year.

I have heard a few people who are grossed out by the hot dog eating; lot of other people enjoy it, but I like to eat hot dogs slowly and enjoy them. Stuffing them down my throat has no appeal.

His over/under for hot dogs eaten was 74.5, but all bets were refunded because someone got on stage to protest something and Chestnut got rid of the guy, but his eating was disrupted so they called off the over/under bets. Imagine wagering on an over/under in hot dog eating? 

— Brewers 5, Cubs 2 (10):
Victor Caratini hit a walk-off homer for Milwaukee.
Seiya Suzuki hit an inside-the-park home run for Chicago.   

— Astros 7, Royals 6— Kansas City led 5-0 in third inning. 

— Cleveland Guardians have had a very busy week:
Tuesday, June 28— Guardians split a doubleheader with Minnesota.
Wednesday— Guardians beat Minnesota 7-6 in 10 innings.
Thursday— Guardians trailed 3-1 in 8th inning, beat Minnesota 5-3.
Friday— Guardians got rained out.
Saturday— Guardians got swept in a twinbill by New York.
Sunday— Guardians beat New York 2-0.
Monday— Guardians got swept in a twinbill by Detroit. 

Three doubleheaders in a week; doesn’t happen much these days. 

— Marlins 3, Nationals 2 (10)—  Miami is 12-1 against Washington this season. 

— If the baseball playoffs started today (they do not):
NL: Mets, Brewers, Dodgers. Wild Cards: Atlanta, San Diego, St Louis
AL: New York, Twins, Astros. Wild Cards: Boston, Toronto, Tampa Bay

Monday’s Den: Happy 4th of July!!!!

13) Late Saturday night, I stumbled upon an old movie I’ve been looking for since I was a kid, over 50 years ago. Was pretty surprising to find it.

In 1969, Charlton Heston starred in a movie called Number One, about an aging quarterback for the New Orleans Saints. Lot of the actual Saints from that era are in the movie; Heston’s character wears number 17, because Billy Kilmer wore number 17 for the real-life Saints.

Apparently the movie disappeared from circulation because Heston didn’t like it, but it is on Amazon Prime now. Watching it very late Saturday night, it is pretty obvious why he might not have liked it much. Number One isn’t a great movie. 

Heston’s passing skills make Warren Beatty (in Heaven Can Wait) look like Dan Fouts. The story kind of drags, but there are parts of the movie that are interesting— dealing with injuries, dealing with moving on with your life after a long career. 1969 was a long time ago; the world is a different place now.

12) Two interesting sidebars to Number One:
— The actual New Orleans Saints are the extras in this movie, much like the Detroit Lions were in George Plimpton’s Paper Lion. One of the Saints back then was Jake Kupp, a lineman who played 12 years in the NFL. You may have heard of his grandson: Cooper Kupp.

— Music for Number One was done by Dominic Frontiere, who composed a lot of music for TV shows and movies in the 60’s/70’s. Is that name familiar? 

Years later, Frontiere became more well-known when he married Rams’ owner Georgia Irvin Frontiere— he got nabbed scalping 16,000 tickets to Super Bowl XIV, and spent nine months in jail for tax evasion, for failing to report the $500,000 in income.

Music in Number One was good; I’m glad I finally got to see it.

11) Birmingham 33, Philadelphia 30
— Birmingham scored two TD’s in a 0:13 span late in 4th quarter.
— Stallions led 20-9 at halftime before a big crowd in Canton.
— Stallions ran for 175 yards, outgained Philly 381-340.

USFL was a success this season; games were highly competitive, fun to watch. Next spring will be interesting, with the XFL starting up to provide more spring football. 

10) Best days of the year to have a birthday:
— July 4— People have cookouts, shoot off fireworks for your birthday.
— January 1— People have parties the night before to celebrate your birthday. Plus, there is a ton of football on TV all day. 

Both days are holidays; you never have to work on your birthday.

9) Worst days of the year to have a birthday:
— February 29— Must suck to have a birthday once every four years.
— December 25— People put up trees/lights for your big day, but then everyone gets presents
— December 26— No one feels much like partying the day after Christmas.
— October 31— People come to your house and ask for free candy on YOUR birthday

8) Colorado Rockies are 13-4 at home if they score 7+ runs; they’re 0-2 if they score 7+ runs on road. Key point here is that in 17 of 19 games where they scored 7+ runs, they were at home. 

7) Saturday at CitiField, Texas Rangers’ 2B Marcus Semien flew out to centerfield all five times he came to bat; it is the first time that happened since 2009. 

6) Reds 4, Braves 3— Albert Almora had a walk-off single for the Reds, who didn’t get their first hit until the 7th inning. Cincinnati snaps a 10-game home losing streak. 

5) Marlins 7, Nationals 4 (10)— Miami is 11-1 against Washington this season, 26-39 against everyone else. The two bullpens combined to allow seven runs in 7.2 IP in this game. 

4) Astros 4, Angels 2— Walk-off home run by rookie SS Jeremy Pena was his second homer of the day; he was 4-5, and is now hitting .279.

3) Padres 4, Dodgers 2— San Diego scored four runs in 9th inning to end a 9-game losing skid in Chavez Ravine. Eric Hosmer had the game-winning single. 

2) One of the best parts of watching baseball every day is seeing great athletes make great plays; there are two young centerfielders now who are tremendous fielders— Michael Harris in Atlanta, Alek Thomas in Arizona. They both cover a ton of ground. 

1) Happy 4th of July; be careful if you’re handling fireworks. Our country is 246 years old; we are lucky to live in a democracy. Let’s hope it stays that way. 

Sunday’s Den: Wrapping up a sports Saturday

— 59 years ago this week, one of the greatest pitching duels ever took place; Braves-Giants in Candlestick Park, San Francisco. Giants won 1-0 in 16 innings, on a Willie Mays home run.

Here’s the thing; each team used only one pitcher. Braves had 42-year old Warren Spahn, who threw 201 pitches (he struck out only two guys), 25-year old Juan Marichal threw 227 pitches (he struck out 10). 

If that happened today, both managers would’ve been fired, probably during the game; these days no one is allowed to face the same hitter four times, sometimes not even three times.

Atlanta had Hank Aaron/Eddie Mathews; they batted seven times each. Giants had Mays, McCovey, Cepeda, Felipe Alou, who all batted 6 or 7 times.

USFL championship game, at Canton, OH:
Philadelphia Stars (7-4)
— Stars won six of last eight games.
— Last eight weeks, they’re +11 in turnovers.
— Gave up 23+ points in nine of 11 games (over 6-2 last eight).
— Were outgained in every game but their three games vs New Jersey.
— 2-3 ATS as an underdog.
— 6-1 if they score more than 17 points.

Birmingham Stallions (10-1)
— Led 21-14 at half last week, most first half points they scored this year.
— Trailed at halftime in five of their 11 games
— Outscored opponents 143-79 in second half.
— 1-4 vs spread the last five weeks (6-0 first six weeks)
— Four of their last six games went over the total.
— Stallions are favored for 11th time in 12 games (6-4 ATS as a favorite)

First meeting:
— Stallions (-6) beat Philly 30-17 in Week 5.
— Stars led 17-14 at the half; Birmingham outscored them 16-0 in second half.
— Birmingham outgained Philly 377-253; both teams had two turnovers.

Major league records in series openers:
Home/Away….Total
Arizona 8-6/4-7….12-13
Atlanta 6-7/7-5….13-12
Cubs 6-7/6-6….12-13
Cincinnati 5-7/7-6….12-13
Colorado 5-9/3-8….8-17
Dodgers 8-3/10-4….18-7
Miami 6-5/3-11….9-16
Milwaukee 8-3/7-8….15-11
Mets 9-3/10-3….19-6
Philadelphia 7-6/6-5….13-11
Pittsburgh 5-8/2-10….7-18
St Louis 9-5/4-8….13-13
San Diego 7-4/8-6….15-10
San Francisco 6-8/7-5….13-13
Washington 5-8/5-7

Baltimore 5-7/6-7….11-14
Boston 7-4/9-5….16-9
White Sox 5-7/5-8….10-15
Cleveland 6-6/8-5….14-11
Detroit 7-6/4-8….11-14
Houston 7-4/8-6….15-10
Kansas City 4-8/7-7….11-15
Angels 6-8/3-8….9-16
Minnesota 7-7/7-4….14-11
New York 12-2/10-2….22-4
Oakland 1-10/3-11….4-21
Seattle 6-6/8-5….13-11
Tampa Bay 7-7/2-9….9-16
Texas 7-5/6-7….13-12
Toronto 9-4/6-6….15-10

— Phillies brought lefty hitter Darick Hall up this week; in his first three games, he went 3-13, but all three hits were home runs.

— Now we can figure out why Quin Snyder quit as coach of the Jaxx; Utah traded C Rudy Gobert to Minnesota this week, for five players and four first round draft picks, last of which is in 2029.

When this is all said and done, one of the players Utah acquired in this trade just graduated from 5th grade.

— Receiving TD’s in the red zone last season:
13— Cooper Kupp
10— Davante Adams, Stefon Diggs
9— Mark Andrews, Mike Evans, DK Metcalf, Hunter Renfrow

— Pittsburgh Pirates are first team ever to have three different players have a 3-home run game in the same month; Reynolds, Suwinski, Perez all had 3-homer games in June.

— Every July 1st until 2035, Bobby Bonilla will cash a check for $1,193,248.20 from the Mets; in 2011, they could’ve given him a check for $5.9M and have been done with it, but they deferred the payment and gave the $5.9M to Bernie Madoff to invest. Seriously, they did.

Hopefully, Bonilla sends his agent a nice gift every July.

— Cleveland Guardians’ P Kirk McCarty played high school football in Mississippi; one year, his team’s offensive coordinator was Brett Favre.

— Washington Nationals picked up the 2023 option on manager Dave Martinez, worth $3.5M. Nationals are expected to be sold soon, but Martinez will have a job next season, or at least he will have a paycheck.

— Cardinals 7, Phillies 6— St Louis hit four consecutive home runs in first inning.

— Dodgers 7, Padres 2— Los Angeles hit three homers in bottom of the first.

— Detroit Tigers hit a total of 12 home runs in June.  

So did Kyle Schwarber.