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

— Next week is July 4, which means there is a nationally-televised hot dog eating contest on TV that day. As if this wasn’t strange enough, you can bet on the hot dog eating contest. Oy.

Over/under for how many hot dogs Joey Chestnut eats in 10 minutes: 73.5

How sick do people get after eating that much food in 10 minutes? I like hot dogs as much as the next guy, but I’m a slow eater. My over/under for ten minutes would probably be 2.5.

— NBA Summer League tips off in Las Vegas next Friday; great event to go to, not necessarily a great event to bet on. Why?

Summer League is a developmental league, for teams to figure out who they want to invite to training camp. Winning isn’t necessarily the #1 priority. Also, lot of teams from leagues overseas are there to scout players for their teams— they’d like to see everyone play, at least a little.

Dallas Mavericks have 14 guys on their summer roster; Mavericks need to take a look at all of them, both in practices and games.

The players you see in today’s game might not play as much in the team’s next game; if you see a pointspread on a game, and the spread seems out of whack, trust me, it isn’t. The people who post the spreads for these games know more than we do.

— NBA’s salary cap ($134M) for next year is $10.4M higher than last year. Teams have to spend 90% of their cap figure by the first day of the regular season.

— Only three NBA players are in the Top 25 all-time in both scoring and assists:

Lebron James, Oscar Robertson……..and James Harden. 

— Houston’s Mauricio Dubon has batted 78 times in June, and hasn’t walked yet; he’s hitting .273 in June, but his on-base %age is actually lower (.269, he hit a sac fly).

Kyle Schwarber is hitting only .229 in June, but he’s walked 16 times, so his on-base %age in June is .345, which is why he is a useful leadoff hitter. 

— Player on the Indianapolis Colts got suspended for gambling; apparently one of the bets he made was an over/under on rushing yardage for one of the Colts’ running backs in a game last year. Having inside knowledge on a team’s game plan should help you win bets. 

— Movie of the Day: And Justice for All (1979)— Al Pacino plays a lawyer that is forced to defend a guilty judge, while defending other innocent clients, and trying to find punishment for the guilty and provide justice for the innocent.

Great cast: Al Pacino of course…….the two judges are Jack Warden and John Forsythe. Two of Pacino’s lawyer friends are Craig T Nelson and Jeffrey Tambor, whose character is crazy.

Movie is little bizarre and it is dated (I was in college when it came out) but I watched it the other night and it is very good. 

— This made me feel a little old:one of my favorite movies, Heaven Can Wait, came out this week in 1978, when I was 18 years old. 

— This week, Arizona’s Evan Longoria became the 11th active major league who has hit a home run against every major league team.

— Pirates 5, Padres 4
San Diego led 4-0 in 4th inning, 4-2 in 7th inning.
Since May 1st, Padres are 2-11 in games where winning run scores from 7th inning on.
Padres and their $250,086,874 payroll are 37-44 at the halfway mark.

— Brewers 3, Mets 2— Mets and their $359,204,730 payroll are 36-45 at the halfway mark.

Mets have been outscored 59-22 in the first inning this season.

— Phillies 3, Cubs 1— Taijuan Walker wins his fifth straight start.

— Tigers 8, Rangers 5— Torkelson homered twice, drove in four runs.

— White Sox 9, Angels 7— Chicago scored 20 runs the last two days, after scoring 16 runs in their previous six games. 

Thursday’s Den: Pac-12 football knowledge………

— last three years, Arizona is 6-23 SU (minus-32 in turnovers)
— 8 starters back on offense, 3 on defense
— 63 starts back on offensive line.
— junior QB has 27 starts, 15 of them at Washington State.
— since 2015, Arizona is 10-22 ATS as a road underdog.
— last four years, Arizona is 1-7 ATS as a favorite.
— Arizona hasn’t played in a bowl game since 2017.

Arizona State
— 32-year old first-year HC was OC at Oregon last year.
— 8 starters back on offense, 5 on defense
— 151 starts back on offensive line— added 6 transfers on OL
— who will new QB be? They added several transfers
— last four years, Sun Devils are 7-15 ATS as an underdog.
— last 10 years, ASU is 26-37 ATS coming off a win
— ASU lost four of their last five bowls (won ’19 Sun Bowl, 20-14)

— Last three years, California is 10-18 SU.
— 8 starters back on offense, 9 on defense
— 92 starts back on offensive line
— new QB’s; one was backup at TCU, another at NC State. 
— since 2014, Golden Bears are 23-12 ATS as a road underdog.
— last four years, Cal is 15-5 ATS overall as an underdog.
— Cal is 2-3 SU in last five bowls; their last bowl was 2019.

— Last 3 years, Deion Sanders was 27-6 SU at I-AA Jackson State.
— 6 starters back on offense, 3 on defense
— 44 starts back on offensive line
— junior QB (Deion’s son) started 26 games at I-AA Jackson State.
— last four years, Colorado was 4-13 ATS as a road underdog. 
— since 2017, Buffs are 12-23-1 ATS coming off a loss.
— Colorado lost its last four bowls; their last bowl win was in 2004.

— 8 starters back on offense, 8 on defense
— 96 starts back on offensive line.
— Senior QB Nix QB has 47 career starts, 34 of them at Auburn.
— Last five years, Ducks are 45-16 SU.
— Oregon was 8-3 ATS as a favorite in Lanning’s first season LY.
— Since 2014, Oregon is 11-20-2 ATS outside Pac-12.
— Ducks are 3-2 in last five bowl games; all three wins were by one point.

Oregon State
— 8 starters back on offense, 5 on defense
— 109 starts back on offensive line
— junior QB started 28 games at Clemson.
— Under Smith, OSU is 10-1 ATS as a home favorite.
— Last three years, Beavers are 15-3 ATS coming off a win.
— Under Smith, underdogs are 18-7 ATS in OSU road games.
— Beavers are 2-3 SU in last five bowls (were favored in all five).

— 8 starters back on offense, 9 on defense
— 95 starts back on offensive line
— junior QB has started 21 games, is favored to win Heisman Trophy.
— In his career, Riley is 23-15 ATS as a home favorite, 5-2 at USC.
— In his career, underdog is 17-8-1 ATS in Riley’s road games.
— USC is 1-4 SU in last five bowls (favored in 3 of 5 games)
— Their last bowl win was 52-49 over Penn State in 2016 Rose Bowl

— New HC Taylor was 30-8 SU as HC at I-AA Sacramento State
— 3 starters back on offense, 3 on defense
— 15 starts back on OL; added 2 OL transfers from Ivy League
— whoever new QB is will be inexperienced
— Cardinal went 3-9/3-9 SU the last two years.
— Last two years, Stanford was 6-18 SU/5-19 ATS.
— Stanford won four of its last five bowls; last one was in 2018.

— 7 starters back on offense, 9 on defense
— 126 starts back on offensive line; high expectations.
— new QB this year; Schlee was starter LY for 5-7 Kent State.
— Under Kelly, Bruins are 6-12 ATS as a home favorite.
— Since 2014, UCLA is 7-20-1 ATS outside the Pac-12.
— UCLA lost its last three bowls, giving up 37-35-37 points.
— Bruins’ last bowl win was 40-35 over K-State in 2014 Alamo Bowl.

— 7 starters back on offense, 9 on defense
— 84 starts back on offensive line; high expectations
— senior QB has started 24 games.
— Last four years, Utes are 34-13 SU.
— In his career, Whittingham is 34-22 ATS as an underdog.
— Since 2018, Utah is 5-10-1 ATS outside the Pac-12. 
— Utah lost last four bowls, after Whittingham started out 11-1 in bowls.

— 7 starters back on offense, 8 on defense
— 36 starts back on offensive line.
— senior QB has 30 starts, 17 of them at Indiana.
— since 2017, Washington is 7-13 ATS as a road favorite.
— since 2018, Washington is 14-27 ATS in Pac-12 games.
— last ten years, Huskies are 7-13 ATS as an underdog
— Huskies won their last two bowls, 38-7/27-20.

Washington State
— 7 starters back on offense, 5 on defense
— 55 starts back on offensive line.
— junior QB started 13 games LY; he previously played at I-AA Incarnate Word, came to Wazzu with the new OC.
— last two years, Wazzu is 13-4-1 ATS in Pac-12 games
— since 2017, Coogs are 7-12-1 ATS outside Pac-12.
— since 2018, Wazzu is 6-1 ATS as a road favorite.
— Coogs lost last three bowls; last bowl win was 2018 Alamo Bowl.

Wednesday’s Den: Mid-week musings……..

— Phoenix Suns are going to have a top-heavy roster next year, lot of minimum salary guys on the end of the bench, with these big-$$$ guys starting:
$47.6M— Kevin Durant
$46.7M— Bradley Beal
$36M— Devin Booker
$32.4M— DeAndre Ayton

Lot of $$$ invested in that starting lineup.

— If someone gave you $100 to bet on the NFC North this coming NFL season, who would you bet on? Here are the odds:

Lions +140
Vikings +295
Packers +385
Bears +402

Detroit is favored; they haven’t won this division since 1993, haven’t won a playoff game since 1991. Green Bay has a new QB (Jordan Love), Vikings won lot of close games last year, which usually signals regression the next year. Chicago went 9-25 the last two years.

Should be an interesting season.

— Sounds like the Jets will be featured on HBO’s Hard Knocks this summer, one of the perks of acquiring Aaron Rodgers.

— Found out this week that the company that picks up my garbage every week just got sold, for $219M. Thats million, with an M. Apparently there is a lot of $$$$ in the garbage industry. 

— YouTube.TV is dumping SNY on July 1, which means no more live Mets games for me; can watch them on MLB TV 90 minutes after they end. I’m guessing they won’t be lowering their prices any, even though they’re taking away a popular channel. 

— Angels added two infielders this week, Eduardo Escobar from the Mets, Mike Moustakas from Colorado. Couple of lefty bats, doesn’t bode well for Anthony Rendon’s return anytime soon.

— Its been a year of close calls for teams from Florida:

Miami/Florida Atlantic both lost in the Final Four
Florida Panthers lost in Stanley Cup finals
Miami Heat lost in NBA Finals
Florida Gators just lost in title game of the College World Series.

— Donte DiVincenzo is passing on his $4.7M player option with Golden State and will be an unrestricted free agent.

— Movie of the Day: For Love of the Game (1999)— After 19 years with the same team, Tigers pitcher Billy Chapel has one last moment in the sun. Kevin Costner plays future Hall of Famer Chapel, JK Simmons is Detroit’s manager (he is a Tigers’ fan in real life). 

John C Reilly is great as Detroit’s catcher; Vin Scully does lot of the voice overs in the movie. One of the guys Chapel strikes out in the last inning wound up playing a cop in CSI New York, Carmine Giovinazzo. 

— Tre Mitchell is a 6-9 forward who just transferred from West Virginia to Kentucky. He’s had an unusual career:
2020— UMass
2021— UMass
2022— Texas
2023— West Virginia
2024— Kentucky

Four different teams in four years. He must have some interesting stories.

— Angels 4, White Sox 2
Ohtani struck out 10 White Sox, also hit two homers himself.
Ohtani has homered in 3 of last 4 games that he pitched.
Ohtani stopped pitching in 7th inning because of a cracked fingernail.

— A’s 2, New York 1
Oakland’s bullpen tossed 3.2 scoreless innings.
Seth Brown homered for the A’s, who are 21-60 at the halfway mark.

— Giants 3, Blue Jays 0
Alex Wood tossed five scoreless IP as the bulk guy out of the bullpen.
Giants are 10-3 this season in bullpen games.

— Marlins 10, Red Sox 1
Jazz Chisholm came off the IL and went 3-4 with three RBI
Sandy Alcantara tossed seven strong innings for the win.

— Braves 6, Twins 2
Joe Ryan tossed a shutout in last start; in this game, he faced 18 batters in 3 IP, and five of them hit home runs.
Ronald Acuna homered in the 1st inning, then again in the second inning.

— Arizona put P Merrill Kelly (calf) on the injured list.

— Guardians 2, Royals 1— Kansas City broke 0-0 tie with run in bottom of the 8th, but Will Brennan’s two-run double in the ninth was a game-winner for Cleveland.

Get well soon to Cleveland manager Terry Francona, who missed this game; Francona went to a local hospital to undergo precautionary tests after he felt lousy before the game— he’s had a variety of health issues over the last few years. 

Tuesday’s Den: Quick notes on American League teams

Orioles— Baltimore hasn’t made the playoffs since 2016, but after going 178-368 (.326) from 2018-21, Orioles went 83-79 last year, are 48-29 this season. Baltimore is 18-8 in games where winning run scored from 7th inning on.

Boston— Red Sox are in last place in AL East, despite a 40-39 record; first place in AL Central is 40-40. Boston is 13-8 vs lefty starters, 27-31 vs righties. Red Sox are 10-14 in one-run tilts. Under is 7-2 in their last nine home games. 

Chi Sox— Last three years, White Sox were 209-175, making playoffs twice, but this year, they are 15-11 vs division rivals, 19-35 against everyone else. Under is 8-2 in their last ten games. Pale Hose are 14-26 in road games.

Cleveland— Guardians have made playoffs in five of last seven seasons; they’re only 37-40 this year, but because the division is so weak, they’re only 2 games out of first place. They’ve played a lot of one-run games (17-19). Cleveland is 5-8 in first game of a home series.

Detroit— Tigers haven’t made playoffs since 2014; since 2017, they’re 375-569 (.397), 34-43 this year. Detroit is 28-10 this year when they score 4+ runs, 6-33 when they don’t. Tigers are 6-10 vs lefty starters, 15-11 vs division foes. 12-9 in one-run games.

Houston— Astros are 6-9 since Yordan Alvarez got hurt; they’re 13-6 vs division rivals. Over last five weeks, Houston is 2-8 in games where winning run scored from 7th inning on. Altuve has missed 52 games this season after getting hurt in the WBC; Abreu is hitting only .232.

Royals— KC is 10-9 in one-run games, 12-47 in all other games. Royals are 10-47 when they score less than 5 runs. Kansas City is 5-20 in series openers, 2-10 at home. Over is 5-2 in their last seven games.

Angels— Halos are 35-23 vs righty starters, 8-14 vs lefties. Overall, Angels are 43-37, half-game out of the last Wild Card slot. Ohtani can walk as free agent after the season; would they dare trade him? Still weird that Anthony Rendon makes more $$$ than Trout or Ohtani. Angels haven’t made the playoffs since 2014.

Twins— Minnesota made playoffs 3 times in 4 years from 2017-20, then went 73-89/78-84 last two years; they’re 40-40 right now, leading a lousy AL Central by 1.5 games. Twins are 8-14 in one-run games but are 8-3 in extra innings. Trading Luis Arraez for Pablo Lopez seems like a mistake, with Arraez hitting .399.

New York— Aaron Judge is out until at least early August; Bronx is 43-35, in the Wild Card hunt but 9.5 games out of first place in AL East. Stanton is hitting .191, LeMahieu is hitting .230, might be a good time to fire the hitting coach.

New York last won a World Series in 2009; since then, they’ve spent the much $$$$:
2010— $206,333,389
2011— $201,689,030
2012— $197,962,289
2013— $228,835,490
2014— $203,812,506
2015— $219,282,196
2016— $213,472,857

2017— $201,539,699
2018— $173.540,000
2019— $206,084,884
2020— $110,852,878 (short season)
2021— $191,205,631
2022— $240,290,714
2023— $279,741,178

That amounts to a total of $2,874,647,741 spent on payrolls since they last won a World Series. ……that’s billion, with a B. Somehow, the general manager still has his job.

Tampa Bay— Rays made the playoffs the last four years, are 54-27 this year, with these payrolls:
2019— $53,444,931

2020— $28,735,222 (short season)
2021— $60,388,600
2022— $75,347,813
2023— $64,652,911

Seems like the Rays are making better use of their $$$.

Oakland— If the owner wasn’t a cheap bastard, A’s could field this team:
C— Murphy
1B— Olson
2B— Semien
SS— Andrus
3B— Chapman
OF— Marte, Canha, Laureano
SP’s— Bassitt, Luzardo, Kaprielien, Irvin
Closer— Hendriks

Would be a pretty good team. Hopefully the owner will sell the team soon.

Seattle— Mariners made playoffs last year for first time since 2001- they won 90 games in both of last two seasons, but they’re only 38-39 this year, 8-15 in one-run games, after they went a combined 67-41 in one-run games in 2021-22. Seattle is 0-6 in Luis Castillo’s road starts this year.

Rangers— Texas is 47-31, despite being 5-11 in one-run games, and despite Seager missing 31 games with a hamstring injury. Rangers are 15-8 vs AL West rivals; they haven’t made it to the playoffs since 2016, but Bochy has won three World Series— he is a great freakin’ manager.

Toronto— Blue Jays made playoffs two of last three years and went 91-71 the other year; they’re 43-36 this year, right in middle of Wild Card chase. Toronto is 7-17 against its division rivals this year, they’re 12-7 in one-run games. 

Monday’s Den: A quick note on every National League team……..

Arizona— Last three years, Arizona was a combined 151-233 (.393); this year, they’re 47-32 and lead the NL West by 2.5 games. Last time Diamondbacks made the playoffs? 2017.

Atlanta— Braves lead the NL East by six games; they’re 19-6 vs divisional rivals. Atlanta has won 10 of its last 11 games overall. Braves have won 11 of their 13 series on the road.

Cubs— Cubs are 13-10 vs lefty starters, 24-29 vs righties, 7-11 in one-run games. Chicago has won 8 of its last 10 games; they’re only NL Central team with a positive run differential (+32).

Reds— Cincinnati leads NL Central thanks to a 12-game win streak; they lost last two days, 7-6/7-6. Over is 6-2 in their last eight games. Will Reds be a buyer at the trade deadline?

Rockies— Kris Bryant makes $27,333,333 a year, and will thru 2028. He played in only 42 games last year, and has already missed 30 more games this year. His OPS this year is .719, which is bad for a guy making $27M. Personnel decisions like this are why the Rockies suck.

Dodgers— Dodgers have been in the playoffs ten years in a row; if the playoffs started today, LA would be the last team in, but they’ve won four of their last five games. Hard to believe the Dodgers won’t be buyers at the trade deadline, trying to fortify an injury-plagued roster.

Marlins— Miami has been in the playoffs once in the last 19 seasons, but they’re 44-34 now and Skip Schumaker is front-runner for Manager of the Year. 20-year Eury Perez is 4-1, 1.54 in his first eight major league starts.

Brewers— Milwaukee went 86-76 LY, but missed playoffs for first time in five years. This year, Brewers are 40-37, half-game out of first in NL Central. Christian Yelich is having a comeback season, having scored 51 runs with a .790 OPS so far in 2023.

New York— With a payroll of $359,204,730, you’d expect more than a 35-42 record, 9-18 vs lefty starting pitchers. Over last five weeks, Mets are 10-19, 2-8 in games where winning run scored from 7th inning on.

Phillies— Phils are 15-5 in their last 20 games; they scored four runs in the bottom of the 8th Sunday to beat the Mets, 7-6. Here is what happened in that inning:
Walk-single-walk-E5 scored a run.
Walk-strikeout-hit by pitch-hit by pitch

Four runs scored on one hit; they’re finding ways to win.

Pirates— On April 29, Pirates were 20-8, the talk of baseball; since then, they’re 15-34 and have scored a total of 21 runs in their last 11 games. Under is 7-2 in their last nine games.

St Louis— Cardinals are a disappointing 32-45, in last place in NL Central, 8-16 in one-run games. St Louis is only 14-22 at home; they’re 2-8 in last ten series openers. Free agent C Contreras is hitting .216, but he went 4-for-4 in London Sunday- maybe that’ll wake him up.

San Diego— Payroll is $250,086,874, record is 37-41, not good. Padres are 30-4 when they score 5+ runs, 7-37 when they don’t.

Coming into this weekend, Padres were hitting .197 with runners in scoring position, which would be the worst such average in the last 80 years:
.197– 2023 Padres
.200– 1969 Padres (they were an expansion team)
.202– 1942 Phillies 
.204– 1968 Mets (they won World Series the next year)
.207– 1963 Senators

Giants— San Francisco is 12-2 in its last 14 games; they’d be the #2 Wild Card team right now, even though that in their last 15 games, Giants’ starting pitcher has lasted less than 5 innings 10 times. They’re pasting together games by taxing their bullpen heavily; is that sustainable?

Nationals— Washington won the 2019 World Series; since then, they’re 175-295 (.372). This year, Nationals are 13-27 at home, 8-14 in one-run games. They lost their last seven series openers.   

Sunday’s Den: Wrapping up a sports Saturday

— Angels 25, Rockies 1— This game was 23-0 in the 4th inning; scores like this get managers fired, especially when 45,274 fans pay to get in. The #8-9 hitters for Anaheim went 9-11 with six runs scored, nine RBI.

— Royals 9, Rays 4— Tampa Bay led 4-0 after two innings, but Royals hit three homers and gave P Jordan Lyles his first win this season. Kansas City had been 0-15 in Lyles’ starts this season.

— Cubs 9, Cardinals 1— Ian Happ hit two home runs over in London; teams play again Sunday. 

— Next year’s London games are Mets-Phillies. Padres are expected to play someone in Korea next year. They were talking on TV about having big league games in France in 2025.

— Orioles 6, Mariners 4— Ryan McKenna entered the game as a defensive replacement for Anthony Santander, who went 4-for-4. Seattle tied the game in the 9th inning, but McKenna hit a walk-off home run to send the fans home happy.

— So it turns out that Aaron Judge has a torn ligament in his big toe; there hasn’t been any timetable listed for his return, but a doctor on Twitter estimated that August 1st would be an optimistic date for Judge’s return.

New York has scored a total of 15 runs in its last seven games; they need a healthy Judge.

— Giants 7, Arizona 6— 21-year old Luis Matos hit his first big league home run.

— Marlins 4, Pirates 3 (11)— Miami improves to 19-5 in one-run games. Pirates tied game after Bryan Hoeing had no-hit them for five innings.

— Dodgers 8, Astros 7— Winning run scored on a controversial balk call in bottom of the 8th inning; Ryan Stanek/Dusty Baker both got tossed as a result.

— Movie of the Day— The Fugitive (1993)— A highly respected surgeon (Harrison Ford) is unjustly accused of killing his wife, and must find the real murderer while being the target of a nationwide manhunt led by a veteran U.S. Marshal (Tommy Lee Jones).

Joe Pantoliano, who was Guido the pimp in Risky Business, is a cop in this movie.

— Braves 7, Reds 6— Cincinnati’s winning streak ends at 12; Reds hit four home runs, but they weren’t enough, since Atlanta also hit four homers.

— LSU 4, Florida 3 (11)— LSU takes the first game of the best-of-3 College World Series;
Bayou Bengal pitcher Ty Floyd struck out 17 Gators.

— West Virginia promoted assistant basketball coach Josh Eilert to interim head coach for the 2023-24 season; it is up to him to keep the current roster intact, if he is going to have any shot at a winning season next year, which is the only chance he would have at getting the full-time job.

— If the playoffs started today (they don’t):
NL: Braves, Reds, Arizona. Wild Cards: Giants-Dodgers-Marlins
AL: Rays, Twins, Rangers. Wild Cards: Orioles-New York-Tor/LAA

Saturday’s Den: Random stuff with the weekend here………

— Reds 11, Braves 10
Atlanta scored five runs in the top of the first inning, but Joey Votto hit two home runs and the streaking Reds won again, in front of 43,086 excited fans.

Cincinnati has won 12 games in a row, their best winning streak since 1957. One of their players that year was Gus Bell, whose grandson David is now the Reds’ manager.

Elly De La Cruz hit for the cycle, in his 15h big league game. It was the first cycle by a Reds’ player since Eric Davis, in 1989.

— Brewers 7, Guardians 1— 36-year old Wade Miley needed only 67 pitches to toss six shutout innings. Milwaukee broke the game open by scoring five runs in the sixth inning.

— Phillies 5, Mets 1— Taijuan Walker allowed only four baserunners and one run in six IP. Mets and their $375M roster are now 34-41, 14 games out of first place, eight games behind the last Wild Card slot.

— Mets traded 3B Eduardo Escobar to the Angels, for a couple minor league pitching prospects.

— Texas 4, New York 2 (10)
Adolis Garcia hit a 2-run homer in the 10th inning for the game-winning runs.
Giancarlo Stanton is 3 for his last 45 and is hitting .183.

It was a pretty good night for teams on long losing streaks:
— Pirates 3, Marlins 1— Miami scored a run in the first inning, Luzardo tossed seven shutout innings, but Pittsburgh scored three runs in the 9th inning. Carlos Santana had the winning hit as the Pirates snap their 10-game losing streak.

— Marlins’ 2B Luis Arraez went 3-for-4, is now hitting .402.

— A’s 5, Blue Jays 4— Shea Langeliers homered in the ninth inning, as Oakland snaps their losing skid at eight games. A’s are 20-58 as the season’s halfway mark approaches, but they’re 3-1 in James Kaprielian’s last four starts.

— Rockies 7, Angels 4— Elias Diaz hit an 8th inning grand slam, as Colorado snapped its 8-game losing skid. Diaz is going to be the first Rockies’ catcher ever to make an All-Star team; this is the 31st season for the Rockies.

— San Diego Padres called up knuckleballer Matt Waldron to start Saturday’s game against Washington. Waldron was 1-6, 7.02 in 12 starts at AAA El Paso, not good numbers, but El Paso is in high altitude.

— Movie of the Day— The Verdict (1982)— An outcast, alcoholic Boston lawyer tries to salvage his career and self-respect by taking a medical malpractice case to trial rather than settling.

Paul Newman plays the lawyer; his friend is Jack Warden, who helps him get the big case. James Mason plays the opposing lawyer in the big case.

Trivia: Jack Warden/James Mason also worked together in Heaven Can Wait, the movie where Warren Beatty plays QB for the Rams and helps them win the Super Bowl.

— Texas A&M defensive ends coach Terry Price, a longtime SEC assistant and former Aggie football star, passed away at age 55. Since joining Texas A&M in 2012, Price helped recruit and develop nine NFL draft picks, all of whom were selected in the first four rounds of the draft.

RIP, sir.

— Gonzaga star Drew Timme didn’t get drafted; he signed with Milwaukee Friday to a minimum contract that can be converted to a two-way deal before the start of the season.

Friday’s Den: Wrapping up a busy Thursday……..

— I was going to do a running diary of the NBA Draft, but ESPN’s coverage is so unlistenable, I had to mute it and just follow the picks on line. They have four people on their panel, only one of whom (JJ Redick) played in the NBA.

Jay Bilas is a college basketball expert at least; their coverage got better in the second round, when they have to go do draft expert Bobby Marks for info on the more obscure players chosen.

— Bad news for college basketball; only two of their first seven players drafted Thursday have played any college basketball at all. G-League players, foreign kids took center stage in this draft.

The first two college players taken both played at Arkansas; would’ve been nice if ESPN had Hogs’ coach Eric Musselman on for an interview, especially since his wife used to work at ESPN.

— ESPN did manage to get UConn coach Danny Hurley on for an interview; lot of D-I coaches were on the floor (Mike Woodson, John Calipari, Shaka Smart, Bill Self). One thing for sure: TV time helps recruiting. 

Hurley, by the way, signed a 6-year, $33M contract extension with UConn this week.

— This is the 16th draft in a row that Calipari had a first round pick in the NBA Draft.

— It drives me nuts when TV analysts say, “This guy is a winner!!!” because for every winner, there is a loser, and I’m damn sure there are no players who are born losers. It takes a lot of work to become a successful pro athlete; no one is pre-ordained for that level of success.

— Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton declined his $40M option for next year, which makes him an unrestricted free agent. Imagine turning down $40M a year to play basketball? I mean, he will probably make more than that next year, but geez……..

— Golden State traded Jordan Poole to Washington for Chris Paul; Warriors also will send 2022 second-round pick Ryan Rollins and two future picks to the Wizards.

— 4th and 5th picks in the draft were twin brothers:
Houston took Amen Thompson with the 4th pick
Detroit took Ausar Thompson with the 5th pick

— Jordan Hawkins was the 14th pick in the draft; last year, he played only 14.7 minutes a game at UConn, scoring 5.8 ppg.

Instead of whining/transferring, he worked hard at his game, and this season, he played 29.3 minutes a game, scoring 16.3 ppg for the national champs. Now he is going to be really rich.

— There was a 3-way trade:
Celtics got Kristaps Porzingis, the 25th pick (Marcus Sasser) and a 2024 2nd round pick.
Grizzlies got Marcus Smart
Wizards got Tyus Jones, Danilo Gallinari, Mike Muscala and the #35 pick (Julian Phillips)

— Every year at the draft, Jay Bilas seems surprised that a lot of pro basketball players have a long wingspan. Lot of guys who are 6-foot-8 have very long arms— go figure.

— Bobby Marks pointed out that teams who are in win-now mode (Miami, Denver, Golden State) are more apt to draft older players, “win-now” guys, while struggling teams might take a younger player that they can develop over time.

— Charlotte took UCLA G Amari Bailey with the 41st pick; Bailey played high school ball with Bronny James at Sierra Canyon HS in Los Angeles— they were in the series on Amazon that showcased that high school team. 

Amari Bailey showed up at the draft Thursday wearing a suit jacket with no shirt and some gold chains; interesting fashion choice.

Damn I’m getting old.

— Royals 6, Rays 5— Kansas City trailed 5-3 after seven innings, but they rallied for the win. KC has split its last six games, after starting the season 18-51.

Rays’ ace pitcher Shane McClanahan left the game with back tightness.

— Twins 6, Red Sox 0— Joe Ryan tossed a complete game shutout for Minnesota. 

— Braves 5, Phillies 1 (10)— Game was scoreless thru nine innings; Kyle Schwarber misplayed a line drive in left field that helped the Braves break the game open in the 10th.

— Padres 10, Giants 0— San Diego snaps the Giants’ 10-game winning streak.

— Marlins 6, Pirates 4— Miami scored five runs in the bottom of the 8th for the comeback win. Garrett Cooper’s 3-run homer was the decisive blast.

— Movie of the Day— Rounders (1998)— A young gambler returns to playing high stakes poker to help a friend pay off loan sharks, while balancing his relationship with his girlfriend and his commitments to law school.

Matt Damon is the star; Edward Norton is his slimy friend. Martin Landau is excellent as a law professor, John Malkovich is a Russian mobster who runs an underground poker room.

Very good movie that helped inspire the poker boom 25 years ago; the guys who wrote this movie also write the Showtime series Billions. 

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

— Baseball season is a grind; 162 games in 183 days. It takes more than 25 guys for a team to work its way into the playoffs. Sometimes a lot more.

2012 was a fun year to root for the A’s; they signed Yoenis Cespedes as a free agent from Cuba, and after going 74-88 in 2011, they went 94-68, winning the AL West. Good stuff. Cespedes was freakin’ awesome in his 2.5 seasons with the A’s.

From July 3rd to the 22nd, the A’s had six walk-off wins; on July 18, a Wednesday afternoon, I was sitting in the sportsbook at The Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas. Guy named Brandon Hicks hit a walk-off homer; he had entered the game as a pinch-runner. I remember jogging out of the sportsbook, shaking my fist as I went to catch a cab back to my hotel. 

It was a pivotal win for the A’s; it was the first of a 7-game winning streak, ignited by a guy who batted only 70 times all season for Oakland, hitting .172. Go figure.

— Monday night in Detroit, the Kansas City led the Tigers 4-1 after six innings; they let starter Jordan Lyles pitch the 7th inning, but things didn’t go well, then the bullpen blew up and Detroit wound up winning 6-4.

Kansas City is now 0-15 in Lyles’ starts this season; they led three of those games after five innings, were tied in two others.

Lyles is 0-11; the last pitcher to lose 20+ games in a season; Detroit’s Mike Maroth, in 2003.

— 50 years ago this week, Hall of Famer Dave Winfield made his major league debut— he never played in the minor leagues. He wound up playing 22 years in the big leagues, hitting 465 home runs, with a .283 batting average, .827 OPS. Great player.

Winfield also played college basketball at Minnesota, where his coach was Bill Musselman— his son Eric is the coach at Arkansas now. 

— Alabama’s football team has been an underdog once in its last 69 games; they lost that game 33-18 (+2.5) in the national title game against Georgia two years ago. 

— Weird Fact of the Day— Mets beat the Astros 11-1 in Houston Monday night. Home plate umpire for that game was the aptly-named Jacob Metz. You figure the Mets will win a game when Mr Metz is umpiring, right?

— Astros 10, Mets 8— 373 pitches, 3:32 time of game. Cristian Javier threw 82 pitches and didn’t finish the third inning.

Mets and their $375M payroll are now 34-40, 13.5 games out of first place, 6.5 games out of the last Wild Card spot. No bueno.

— Reds 5, Rockies 3— Cincinnati has become the biggest baseball story this season; they’ve won 11 games in a row, their longest winning streak since 1957. Reds are 40-35; they lead the NL Central by a game and a half over Milwaukee.

— Cubs 8, Pirates 3— Pittsburgh is in the ashcan; they’re 2-12 in their last 14 games, getting shut out in three of their last five games.

— Arizona 5, Milwaukee 1— Zac Gallen tossed seven strong innings for the first-place Snakes, who lead the NL West by 2.5 games over the Giants.

— Cleveland 7, Oakland 6— A’s have lost seven games in a row, five of them by one run.

— Twins 5, Red Sox 4 (10)— Kyle Farmer’s walk-off single was the game-winner.

— Dodgers 2, Angels 0— Dodgers are now 15-3 in their last 18 games against the Halos; they shut Anaheim out the last two nights.

— Giants 4, Padres 2— San Francisco has won 10 games in a row; their starting pitcher lasted 3 or less innings in five of the ten games.

— Movie of the Day— Moneyball (2011)— Michael Lewis wrote a book about how a small market baseball team over-achieved and made the playoffs; Brad Pitt was in the movie, and everyone in the Oakland front office seemed very impressed with themselves.

Problem is, the A’s suck now, because most everyone else does what the A’s did back then, only those teams do it with a lot more money. Tampa Bay doesn’t broadcast what they do, and they’re still winning.

Oakland’s owners are losing on purpose now because they’re trying to move the team to Las Vegas; they better try to win in Las Vegas, or else……..

— Baseball injuries:
Angels’ IF Gio Urshela will miss the rest of the season with a broken pelvis.
Twins’ RP Jorge Lopez went on the IL for mental health reason; he is the 4th player this season to go on the IL to deal with mental health issues.

— If the playoffs started today (they don’t):
NL: Braves, Reds, Diamondbacks. Wild Cards: Giants-Marlins-Dodgers
AL: Rays, Twins, Rangers. Wild Cards: Orioles-New York-Astros

Wednesday’s Den: Knowledge on SEC football teams……

— 5 starters back on offense, 5 on defense
— 41 starts back on offensive line.
— unclear who QB will be, but he’ll be inexperienced.
— Alabama was even in turnovers LY (+76 from 2015-21)
— Last three years, Alabama is 13-5-1 ATS as a home favorite.
— Crimson Tide won six of its last eight bowls.
— Since 2018, Alabama is 0-1 ATS as an underdog.

— 4 starters back on offense, 6 on defense
— 78 starts back on offensive line
— junior QB has 24 starts
— Under Pittman, Arkansas is 15-10-2 ATS in SEC games.
— Under Pittman, Hogs are 12-6 ATS as an underdog.
— Razorbacks won three of their last four bowls, scoring 37 ppg.

— Last three years, Auburn is 17-19 SU.
— 8 starters back on offense, 9 on defense
— 92 starts back on offensive line
— sophomore QB started 9 games last year.
— In his career, Freeze is 25-10 ATS as an underdog.
— Auburn is 1-4 SU in last five bowls (favored in 4 of 5)
— Freeze is 6-1 SU in bowl games; he is Auburn’s 3rd coach in 4 years.

— 6 starters back on offense, 5 on defense
— 74 starts back on offensive line
— junior QB started 32 games at Wisconsin
— Last two years, Gators went 6-7/6-7.
— Last three years, Florida is 1-9 ATS as a road favorite.
— Florida lost its last three bowls, outscored 114-40.

— Since 2017, Georgia is 73-10 SU
— 6 starters back on offense, 7 on defense
— 62 starts back on offensive line.
— New QB for Georgia; they’ll miss Stetson Bennett.
— Under Smart, Dawgs are 19-8 ATS as a road favorite.
— Since 2018, Georgia is 0-1 ATS as an underdog.
— Dawgs won their last six bowl games (4-2 ATS)

— 10 starters back on offense, 5 on defense
— 125 starts back on offensive line (four starters back)
— senior QB started 26 games at NC State.
— Under Stoops, Kentucky is 22-12 ATS as a home favorite.
— Kentucky is 11-5 ATS in last 16 non-conference games.
— Wildcats won four of their last five bowls (lost 21-0 LY).

— 8 starters back on offense, 7 on defense
— 102 starts back on offensive line
— Junior QB has started 43 games, most of them at Arizona State.
— Since 2016, Tigers are 16-8-1 ATS coming off a loss.
— In his career, Kelly is 35-16-2 ATS as an underdog.
— LSU won four of its last five bowls, scoring 45.6 ppg.

Ole Miss
— 9 starters back on offense, 7 on defense
— 131 starts back on offensive line; good offensive line
— junior QB started 12 games last year.
— they added transfer QB with 41 starts at Oklahoma State
— In his college career, Kiffin is 18-24 ATS at home, 29-24-1 on road.
— Under Kiffin, Rebels are 11-14 ATS in SEC games. 
— Ole Miss is 2-3 SU/ATS in its last five bowls.

Mississippi State
— New coach TY after Mike Leach passed away last year.
— Arnett is a first-time HC (won bowl game 19-10 LY)
— 8 starters back on offense, 4 on defense
— 113 starts back on offensive line.
— junior QB has started 32 games.
— Last three years, State is 7-3 ATS as a road underdog.
— Bulldogs are 2-3 SU/ATS in last five bowls.

— 7 starters back on offense, 8 on defense
— 136 starts back on offensive line; very experienced
— junior QB has started 14 games.
— Last four years, Tigers are 23-25 SU.
— In his career, Drinkwitz is 13-8 ATS as an underdog.
— Under Drinkwitz, Mizzou is 3-7 ATS as a home favorite.
— Mizzou lost its last four bowls; their last bowl win— 2015.

South Carolina
— 6 starters back on offense, 4 on defense
— 86 starts back on offensive line; they added two I-AA transfers, too.
— Junior QB has 30 starts, 13 of them at Oklahoma.
— Under Beamer, Gamecocks are 8-2 ATS outside the SEC.
— Under Beamer, Gamecocks are 7-2 ATS as a favorite.
— Under Beamer, Gamecocks are 7-3 ATS coming off a loss.
— Carolina is 2-3 SU/3-2 ATS in last five bowls.

— 5 starters back on offense, 7 on defense
— 93 starts back on offensive line.
— Senior QB has 9 starts; they added a 5-star freshman QB.
— Under Heupel, Tennessee is 8-2 ATS outside the SEC
— Under Heupel, Tennessee is 11-4 ATS as a favorite.
— In his career, Heupel is 3-6 ATS as an underdog.
— Vols are 4-1 SU/ATS in their last five bowls.

Texas A&M
— 10 starters back on offense, 10 on defense
— 91 starts back on offensive line.
— Soph QB Weigman started 4 games last year.
— Soph QB Johnson (Brad Johnson’s son) used to play at LSU
— Under Fisher, Aggies are 22-7 ATS as a favorite.
— Since 2017, A&M is 16-7-1 ATS outside the SEC.
— LSU won its last three bowls, scoring 52-24-41 points.

— Last four years, Vandy is 10-35 SU; last bowl was 2018.
— 7 starters back on offense, 8 on defense
— 81 starts back on offensive line
— soph QB started 6 games last year.
— since 2019, Commodores are 2-8 ATS coming off a win
— Under Lea, Vandy is 3-10 ATS at home, 8-3 ATS on road.
— Vandy lost last two bowls 41-17/45-38; their last bowl win was in 2013.

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

— Records in series this season (home/away……total)
Arizona 7-5/7-1-3……14-6-3
Atlanta 7-3-2/9-2……16-5-2
Cubs 8-4/3-6-2……11-10-2
Reds 4-4-3/7-5……11-9-3
Rockies 4-6-1/5-6-1……9-12-2
Dodgers 7-4-1/5-6……12-10-1
Marlins 7-4/6-6……13-10
Brewers 7-5/4-7……11-12
New York 5-5-1/3-7-2……8-12-1
Phillies 7-3/6-5-2……13-8-2
Pirates 5-6/4-6-2……9-12-2
St Louis 3-6-2/4-7-1……7-13-3
San Diego 4-5-4/5-5……9-10-4
Giants 4-6-1/7-5……11-11-1
Nationals 2-9-1/4-6-1……6-15-2

Orioles 6-3-2/8-4……14-7-2
Boston 7-5/6-4-1……13-9-1
Chi Sox 4-7/3-8-1……7-15-1
Cleveland 5-6/4-7-1……9-13-1
Detroit 4-6-1/6-6……10-12-1
Houston 5-6-1/6-5……11-11-1
Royals 1-11/2-8-1……3-19-1
Angels 7-4/6-5-1……13-9-1
Twins 6-5-1/3-7-1……9-12-2
New York 6-4-2/6-4-1……12-8-3
Oakland 1-10-1/3-8……4-18-1
Seattle 7-5/3-7-1……10-12-1
Tampa Bay 11-1/4-5-2……15-6-2
Rangers 8-3-1/8-3……16-6-1
Toronto 7-3/6-7……13-10

— Lance Lynn struck out 16 Mariners Sunday but the White Sox still lost. It was Lynn’s 300th career start in the major leagues.

— Marlins 11, Blue Jays 0
Luis Arraez went 5-for 5, is now hitting .400— in his last three games, he is 11-14.

— Reds 5, Rockies 4
Reds have won nine games in a row, are in first place in NL Central.
Cincinnati has trailed in 24 of their 38 wins this season.
Joey Votto homered, knocked in three runs in his 2023 debut.

— Giants 7, Padres 4 (10)
San Diego is 0-6 in extra innings.
Yastrzemski hit a walk-off 3-run homer for San Francisco.
Juan Soto homered twice for the Padres.

— Arizona 9, Milwaukee 1—Diamondbacks are 8-2 in Merrill Kelly’s last 10 starts.

— Red Sox 9, Twins 3
7 of the 9 Boston runs were scored by hitters in 7-9 slots in order.

— Movie of the Day— Danny Collins (2015)— Al Pacino plays an aging rock star who decides to change his life when he is given a 40-year-old letter written to him by John Lennon that he had never previously seen.

Movie was inspired by a true story; Christopher Plummer plays Danny Collins’ agent, Jennifer Garner and Annette Bening are also in the movie. The soundtrack has lot of Lennon songs, and that helps the movie.

— Braves’ IF Charlie Culbertson’s dad was supposed to throw out the first pitch before Sunday’s Father’s Day game with Colorado, but when Atlanta DFA’d Culbertson before the game, Michael Harris’ dad threw out the first pitch instead. Not a great day for the Culbertsons.

Michael Harris, on the other hand, went 5-for-5 after his dad threw out the first pitch.

— Last time the same team won the NFC East two years in a row was 2004, when the Eagles won the division for the fourth year in a row. Eagles also won the division last year, so if that trends holds up, someone else is going to win it this season.

— Texas is so big that El Paso is actually closer to San Diego than it is to Houston:

El Paso to San Diego— 727 miles
El Paso to Houston— 747 miles

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

— ESPN has very little imagination; their last three Sunday night baseball games:
June 4— New York (A) @ Los Angeles
June 11— Boston @ New York (A)
June 18— New York (A) @ Boston

Dodgers played the Giants last night; that’s a pretty good rivalry, too. Show some other teams, promote the whole sport, not just the New York teams.

— Speaking of which………
Boston 6-4, New York 2-1— Giancarlo Stanton went 2-20 this week; he was 1-14 last week. With Aaron Judge hurt, this is where New York needs some production from a guy they’re paying $28M a year.

— Was a strong week on the road for some teams……..
Reds won their last eight games, all on foreign soil.
Miami won its last four games, all on the road.
Phillies won their last six games, all on the road.
Giants had a 6-0 road trip this week.
Angels went 5-2 on a road trip to Texas/Kansas City.

— Marlins 4, Washington 2— Miami is ten games over .500 for the first time since May 29, 2011.

— Reds 9, Astros 7 (10)— Cincinnati has come out of nowhere, winning 8 games in a row; they’re  37-35, a half-game out of first place in the NL Central. Maybe ESPN should put them on TV once or twice.

Why would the Astros rest Jose Altuve two Sundays in a row? With Jordan Alvarez hurt, Astros need Altuve in the lineup. If they want him to rest, let him freakin’ DH.

— Cardinals 8, Mets 7— New York has been outscored 52-21 in the first inning this season; they’ve given up 17 home runs in the first inning, hit only four themselves.

— Braves 14, Colorado 6— Atlanta outscored the Rockies 40-12 in this four-game series; Eddie Rosario homered in all four games.

— Giants 7, Dodgers 3— San Francisco has won 7 games in a row; they’re 39-32, 3.5 games behind Arizona in the NL West, a half-game ahead of the banged-up Dodgers.

— Angels 5, Royals 2— Halos are 11-3 in their last 14 games; they play the Dodgers two games in the Freeway Series this week in Anaheim.

— Washington Wizards are trading Bradley Beal to the Phoenix Suns for Chris Paul, Landry Shamet, several 2nd-round picks and also some pick swaps.

— RIP to Bob Brown, the great offensive lineman who passed away this weekend. He played 10 years in the NFL, mostly for the Eagles; he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2004. 

RIP, sir.

— Houston Texans (0-7-1) were the only NFL team that didn’t win a home game last season; Arizona (1-8) had the next worst home record.

— Movie of the Day— The Bodyguard (1992)— Kevin Costner plays a retired Secret Service agent who takes on the job of bodyguard to a famous singer (Whitney Houston), but her lifestyle is a lot different than a President’s.

The song “I Will Always Love You” that is so well-known from this movie was written by Dolly Parton.

The mansion where the famous singer lives is the same one that was used in The Godfather, when the “horse’s head in the bed” scene takes place.

— If the baseball playoffs started today (they don’t):
NL: Braves, Brewers, Diamondbacks. Wild Cards: Miami-Giants-Dodgers
AL: Rays, Twins, Rangers. Wild Cards: Orioles, Angels, NYY/Hst. 

Sunday’s Den: 13 memorable TV game shows…….

13) Jeopardy!— I liked it better in the old days; Art Fleming was the host; he even appeared in Airplane 2- when the plane was in trouble, one of the passengers said “We’re in real jeopardy now!!!” and Fleming appears at the front of the plane with the Jeopardy! board behind him and one of the contestants says, “I’d like airplane disasters for $200, Art”

Jeopardy! Is low on this list because I never knew a lot of the answers.

12) Jokers’ Wild— Billed as “the game where knowledge is king and lady luck is queen” Jack Barry was the host. He’d get excited if a contestant spun and three jokers came up on the board: “joker, joker……..and a triple!!!”

Contestants answered questions based on categories determined randomly by a mechanism resembling a slot machine.

11) Deal or No Deal?— Howie Mandel hosted this show, and my dad loved watching it, not really sure why, but he did. He liked it so much that one year for Christmas I got him a Howie Mandel bobblehead; if you press the button, it asks “Deal, or No Deal?” The bobblehead is still sitting over there on the shelf.

10) $10,000 Pyramid— The game features two contestants, each paired with a celebrity; one teammate tries to guess a series of words or phrases based on descriptions given to them by their teammates. Whoever wins advanced to the big pyramid, where if the person got through all the categories in time, they’d win the $10,000 (or $50,000, in later versions of the show)

Dick Clark hosted this show for a long time; so did Bill Cullen. Some of the celebrities were a lot better than others at this game; pretty tough for the contestant to win any $$$ if their celebrity teammate was a nitwit.

9) Gambit— There were two teams of married couples competing; Wink Martindale was the host; there was a toss-up question, and if couple got it right, they could take the next card drawn, or give it to their opponent. If they got it wrong, the other couple controlled the card.

Each subsequent card was presented face-down and was turned up once the couple in control decided who should receive it. After a couple received any card (either by choice or by having it passed to them) and could potentially bust with another card, they could elect to freeze, preventing them from receiving any more cards.

Wink Martindale was excellent on this show; if a couple went over 21 and lost, he’d break out into his “…….too much, and the game goes to the Ostranders” bit. When I was 12, I loved this show.

8) Let’s Make a Deal— Monty Hall hosted this show, where the contestants would dress up in outrageous costumes and try to get Hall to pick them out. Once chosen, Monty Hall would give the person something of value, then ask if they wanted to trade it for whatever was behind one of three curtains on the stage; it might be a car, it might be canned squid.

There was no actual skill involved in the show, just the drama of seeing their reactions when they either won something big or got stiffed.

Remember the movie Last Vegas? The woman who played Kevin Kline’s wife in the movie is Joanna Gleason, who in real life is Monty Hall’s daughter.

7) Wheel of Fortune— Sad to hear this week that Pat Sajak is retiring as host after this season, his 41st year hosting Wheel of Fortune— the show has been on TV continuously since 1975.

Contestants solve word puzzles, similar to those in Hangman, to win cash and prizes determined by spinning a giant carnival wheel. Vanna White got famous simply by turning the letters on the board, and of course, because she seems nice and is beautiful.

Pat Sajak hosted a talk show in the early 80’s and left the daytime Wheel of Fortune; one of his replacements was Rolf Benirschke, who previously was a kicker for the San Diego Chargers.

6) The Price Is Right— When I was in high school, Price Is Right was on at 3:00, Match Game at 3:30. Spent lot of time watching those two shows.

Price Is Right is obviously still on, with Drew Carey having taken over for Bob Barker as host. Contestants compete by guessing the prices of merchandise to win cash and prizes; at the end there is a showcase, where the best prizes were won/lost.

In a 2007 article, TV Guide named it the “greatest game show of all time.”

5) Match Game— This show has had many different versions; the one I loved was on in the 70’s. Two contestants competed to match their answers with six celebrities on the panel, some of whom were there to provide comic relief.

Gene Rayburn was the host; Richard Dawson, Brett Somers and Charles Nelson-Reilly were the regular panelists (Brett Somers played Oscar Madison’s ex-wife in The Odd Couple).

I remember that two of the occasional celebrities were Joyce Bulifant and Elaine Joyce; their answers were usually terrible, hard to match.

4) Concentration— This show was on daytime TV from 1958-91; the hosts I remember were Hugh Downs (before he went to the Today Show), Ed McMahon and Bob Clayton.

This game took actual skill; you had to remember what was behind each square of the puzzle. If you guessed that #6 and #8 were the same and they were, they were taken off the board and parts of the puzzle were exposed. If you removed enough squares, it would be easier to solve the puzzle that was behind the squares.

There were 30 squares on the board; this game should come back on TV. 

3) Password— Allen Ludden hosted this show; he was married to Betty White. There is a great episode of The Odd Couple, where Felix/Oscar go on Password and play against Betty White and her partner.

Two teams, each composed of a celebrity and a contestant, try to convey mystery words to each other using only single-word clues, in order to win cash prizes.

In the Odd Couple episode, Felix guesses “Aristophanes” as an answer, which was horribly wrong. Oscar tells him it was a ridiculous answer. The next word comes up “ridiculous” and Oscar’s hint was……. “Aristophanes” to which Felix answers “ridiculous!!!”  Great TV.

2) Hollywood Squares— Nine celebrities sit in a huge tic-tac-toe board; contestants win a square when a celebrity answers the question— the contestant has to agree/disagree with their answer.

Peter Marshall was the host; his son Pete LaCock played for the Cubs for a few years. Once in a while, a contestant would screw up and choose the wrong square to play. Marshall would say, “I might have gone with Wally Cox to block, but this might work out for you”

Paul Lynde was most always the center square; Wally Cox upper left, Charley Weaver lower left, Rose Marie upper middle.

This show was on at 11:30 weekdays for most of my childhood.

1) The Gong Show— Chuck Barris invented The Dating Game and The Newlywed Game; he was later the host of The Gong Show, which was American Idol 20 years before, except virtually no one on the show had any talent.

Contestants would come on the show and perform; three celebrities were on the left, and if one of thought the act sucked (most of them did) they would bang the gong and the contestant left. Someone would win each show (there were some good acts) but the prizes weren’t much.

Chuck Barris was the star; he would say to someone who got gonged “I liked your act, but then again, I like gas fumes” It was bizarre TV, but it was funny as hell.

There was a regular who would appear every so often before commercials; the Unknown Comic. He wore a bag over his head, and would tell off-color jokes to Chuck, who would then send the show into commercials. “Chucky, Chucky, let’s dress up as a horse for Halloween. I’ll be the front end, and you just be yourself”

I was in college then, never scheduled any classes between 12-2; that’s when the Gong Show was on. 

Saturday’s Den: Random thoughts on a summer night……..

— In 2010, Michael Jordan paid $210M to become majority owner of Charlotte’s NBA team; he sold his interest in the Hornets this week, for right around $3B, that is billion, with a B.

In Jordan’s 13 years running the Hornets, they only made the playoffs three times and never won a playoff series, but the NBA’s popularity has grown a ton since 2010, so the price tag for franchises has gone through he roof. 

Charlotte has the #2 pick in next week’s NBA Draft; they have a big decision to make:
draft Scoot Henderson
draft Brandon Miller
draft Amen Thompson
trade the pick, for player(s)/pick(s)

Jordan will still own a small part of the Hornets, but now he has a LOT more money.

— Speaking of billions, Showtime’s excellent series Billions starts its 7th and final season on August 11. This is an excellent series, about a hedge fund trader/prosecutor who hate each other and try very hard to make each other’s lives miserable.

Am very curious to see how the end of the series plays out.

— NBA suspended Memphis G Ja Morant for 25 games as a result of his second incident involving holding a gun in a social media video— he had been suspended for eight games after the first incident.

Morant was scheduled to make $33.5M this coming season:
25 games is 30.49% of 82 games
30.49% of $33.5M is roughly $10,213,413

This suspension is a really expensive one. 

— Reds 2, Astros 1
According to Elias Sports Bureau, Andrew Abbott is first MLB pitcher in last 120 years to begin his career with three scoreless starts of 5+ innings- he’s tossed 17.2 scoreless IP.
Reds have won six in row, 9 of last 11 games; they’re 36-36 now.

— Giants 7, Dodgers 5 (11)
LA rookie Emmet Sheehan threw six no-hit IP in his MLB debut
Despite that, Giants rallied to take a 5-4 lead in 8th inning.
Austin Slater went 3-3 for the Giants, and he didn’t start.

— Marlins 6, Nationals 5
Luis Arraez went 5-5, scored twice, had 3 RBI; he’s hitting .390.
Marlins are 39-31, and Sandy Alcantara is having a cruddy season. Go figure.

— Brewers 5, Pirates 4— Milwaukee leap frogs the Pirates, take over first place in NL Central.

— Boston 15, New York 5— Justin Turner hit two home runs, knocked in six runs, all in first three innings.

— Angels 3, Royals 0— Patrick Sandoval tossed seven shutout innings.

— Rays 6, Padres 2— San Diego and its $246,962,517 payroll now has a 33-36 record. 

— Arizona 5, Cleveland 1— Zac Gallen is 7-0, 1.17 in eight home starts.

— Sounds like San Diego State/SMU are getting ready to bolt their leagues to join the Pac-12, where they’ll replace USC/UCLA.

— This is the sixth year in a row the SEC has had 3+ teams in the College World Series.

— Movie of the Day: Fast Break (1979)— Gabe Kaplan plays a guy who runs a New York City deli, a guy who really likes college basketball- he wants to coach. He is offered the coaching job at a small Nevada college; two of the recruits he brings with him are played by Bernard King and Michael Warren, two good players in real life. Another one of his players is a female in disguise.

In order to get his full-time contract, Kaplan’s team has to beat Nevada State, the best team in the region. First he has to get them on his schedule; he does that when Bernard King beats Bo Winnegar, Nevada State’s coach, in a game of 8-ball at a party.

It is a movie, so of course Cadwallader (Kaplan’s team) beats Nevada State and all ends well.

Trivia; One of Nevada State’s assistant coaches in the movie was played by Jim Harrick, who 16 years later would lead UCLA to a national title in real life. In 1979, though, Harrick had just landed the Pepperdine job, his first head coaching job, after being an assistant at UCLA.

— Atlanta’s Ronald Acuña is the first player in MLB history to have 15+ HR and 30+ stolen bases in his team’s first 70 games of a season.

Friday’s Den: USFL trends, and other stuff with weekend here……..

— Why do the two New York baseball teams only play each other four times this year? They’re eight miles apart; their games are pretty much automatic sellouts, why not play at last six times a year? It makes no sense.

Hopefully when MLB expands to 32 teams in a few years, they’ll re-arrange geographically and local rivals can play 12-13 times a year. MLB will make more money that way.

— The new balanced schedule is odd; Twins-Tigers are in the same division, but didn’t play each other this season until Thursday. Now they’ll play each other seven times in 10 days, then only six more times the rest of the season.

— If you have, the show Recap Rundown is very good; it shows all the highlights from that night, with no talking heads, just a well-edited highlight package that shows all the biggest plays from that day’s games.

— Pitching today: Andrew Heaney threw 95 pitches Wednesday, only allowed one run, but he also only got 11 outs— he threw 3.2 innings. Not good.

Successful pitchers get thru six innings a start; they reduce stress on the team’s bullpen, they give their team a chance to win every 5th or 6th day. Pitching 3.2 innings in a start can screw up a bullpen for a few days.

— Dodgers 5, White Sox 4 (10)— Chicago led 4-0 in sixth inning; Chris Taylor hit a grand slam to tie the game, his 100th career home run. Taylor apparently is the only player ever whose first career home run and 100th home run were both grand slams.

— Nationals 4, Astros 1 (10)— Jose Altuve scored his 1,000th career run this week, but the Astros are 3-6 in their last nine games; they miss Yordan Alvarez, who is out for a month with an oblique injury.

— Movie of the Day: Molly’s Game (2017)— True story about a young lady who ran the world’s most exclusive high-stakes poker game and became an FBI target, because Russian mobsters started playing in her game.

This movie is actually a continuation of the book she wrote about her experiences to try and pay her legal bills.

Jessica Chastain plays Molly; Idris Elba is great as her lawyer. Kevin Costner has a small role as Molly’s father; she was a world-class skier as a teenager, missing out on the Olympics when she crashed in her last run in the Qualifiers. 

This is an excellent movie; truth is stranger than fiction.

USFL trends, thru nine weeks:
Stallions (7-2)
6-0 allowing 20 or less points; gave up 45-27 in losses.
5-4 ATS (favored in every game)
3-1 in games decided by 7 or less points.
under 5-4

Gamblers (5-4)
won five of last seven games, after an 0-2 start
2-3 ATS as a favorite
four of last five games stayed under.
5-1 if they allow less than 29 points
allowed 29-38-23-38 points in their losses

Showboats (5-4)
won/covered four of last five games, after an 0-3 start.
allowed 27-42-30-31 points in losses; 10-10-0-20-16 in wins
under seven of last eight games
5-4 ATS; 5-3 as an underdog, 0-1 as favorite.

Panthers (3-6)
lost six of last seven games, after a 2-0 start
3-0 if they score 24+ points, 0-6 if they score less than 24.
3-3 ATS as an underdog, 0-3 as a favorite.
six of last eight games stayed under total.

Generals (3-6)
lost five of last six games, losing by by 3-3-6-3-9 points.
1-6 when they give up more than 13 points.
2-4 ATS as a favorite, 1-2 as an underdog.
Six of nine games stayed under total.

Breakers (6-3)
Started year 4-0, then lost 3 in row; won last two, 24-20/31-3.
five of last six games stayed under total. 
4-2 ATS as a favorite, 2-1 as an underdog
5-0 if they score more than 20 points; 0-2 if they score less than 20.

Stars (4-5)
Lost last two games, 27-24/37-33.
4-2 in games decided by 6 or less points.
Covered four of last five games.
4 of last 5 games went over the total.

Maulers (3-6)
0-6 if they give up more than 13 points.
Three wins were 21-13/23-7/19-7
under 4-1 last five games
1-5 if they score less than 21 points