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

We’re doing a survey this week; you know how the guy who wins the Masters picks the menu for the champions’ dinner the next year? He can choose anything he likes.

If you won the Masters, what food would you serve at the champions’ dinner?

E-mail me at ffib13@gmail.com or text me, if you know my cell number. We’ll post the results later on this week. 

13) Baylor 86, Gonzaga 70:
— Game was 11-1 early on; Gonzaga never threatened to win.
— Baylor led its two Final Four games by 25-10 points at halftime. 

— Baylor shot 10-23 on the arc, scored 1.26 ppp.
— Great season ends for Gonzaga; they lost in finals twice in last four tournaments.

12) 18 years ago, Scott Drew went to Waco to clean up an unspeakable mess; the previous coach had been fired after a Baylor player murdered another player, and the coach tried to frame the dead player as a drug dealer to cover up NCAA rules violations.

Not good.

Drew was advised not to take the Baylor job, that it was too big a mess, but by his fifth year in Waco, Baylor was 21-11, and in the NCAA Tournament. Two years later, he was in the Elite 8. Now he is a national champion.

One of the great re-building jobs ever, for sure.

11) Jets traded QB Sam Darnold to Carolina for three draft picks; a 2nd/4th/6th round pick, with two of those picks coming in 2022.

Darnold was 13-25 as the Jets’ starting QB, but the franchise has been a mess; plus, he had mononucleosis at the start of last season. He is still only 23 years old, six months younger than Joe Burrow, the QB Panthers’ OC Joe Brady mentored at LSU.

What do the Panthers do with Teddy Bridgewater? He has $10M of his $17M salary for next season fully guaranteed, which makes it harder to trade him.

10) North Carolina hired alum/assistant coach Hubert Davis as its new basketball coach. Davis had been a Carolina assistant for nine years; he was working on ESPN before that. He played in the NBA for 12 years, has never been a head coach.

UNC’s dilemma here here is that they seem to be obsessed with hiring alums to coach their basketball team, but a list of Tar Heel alums who are qualified to be an ACC head coach isn’t real long. Not sure this is an entry level position.

9) Texas Tech replaced the departed Chris Beard with assistant Mark Adams, a defensive wizard who is a Tech alum (Beard is a Texas alum). We’ll see if Tech remains as active in the transfer portal as they were under Beard.

8) Central Michigan picked a weird time to fire its coach Keno Davis; when you’ve been at a mid-major for nine years and have never made the NCAA’s, you’re on thin ice, but this seemed late, with recruiting/poaching already underway.

Chippewas were 23-12 two years ago, but went 10-24 in MAC games the last two years- they haven’t been in the NCAA’s since 2003, when they had future NBA big man Chris Kaman.

7) Padres’ SS Fernando Tatis Jr subluxated his left shoulder while batting Monday night; they’ll examine him again today, but he appears headed to the IL. Subluxation is a partial dislocation of the shoulder.

22-year old Tatis signed a 14-year, $340M deal this winter; they need him healthy.

6) Last year was the first time EVER in the major leagues that #2 hitters in the lineup hit more home runs (332) than #3 hitters in the lineup (289).

5) Last year was first time ever the Mets led the major leagues in batting average, but they were 13th in runs scored, which obviously is more important.

4) Major League Baseball is moving this July’s All-Star Game to Denver; should make for quite the Home Run Derby.

3) Indiana hired alum Dane Fife as an associate coach to new head coach Mike Woodson; Fife spent the last ten years working for Tom Izzo at Michigan State.

2) Aaron Rodgers is hosting Jeopardy! this week and next; he was a contestant in a celebrity tournament a few years ago, now he is taking a shot at hosting it. How weird would it be if he retired from the NFL to replace Alex Trebek as the show’s next permanent host?

1) Was talking the other day about guys discussing futures bets on the NFL; the Darnold trade is a good example of how wagering on stuff this long before the season starts has the potential for disaster.

Jets are almost sure to have a rookie QB starting now; as I type this, the only two QB’s on their depth chart are James Morgan (FIU) and Mike White (Western Kentucky). New coach Robert Saleh comes to the Jets from San Francisco; would they trade for Jimmy Garoppolo?

Don’t forget to answer our survey question:

If you won the Masters, what food would you serve at the champions’ dinner?

Monday’s Den: Random thoughts on a spring day…….

13) First thing today is a survey question; you know how the guy who wins the Masters picks the menu for the champions’ dinner the next year? He can choose anything he likes.

If you won the Masters, what food would you serve at the champions’ dinner?

E-mail me at ffib13@gmail.com or text me, if you know my cell number. We’ll post the results later on. 

12) Tony LaRussa manages the White Sox now; he is 76 years old; there he was Sunday night, barking at 28-year old umpire Edwin Moscoso, who was working the plate. LaRussa probably has lot of clothes that are older than Moscoso.

Chicago has a 3rd-string catcher/DH Yermin Mercedes, who got hits in his first eight AB’s this season, making him the first player since 1933 to do that. He is apparently a bad defensive catcher, but he can also hit. With Eloy Jimenez hurt, White Sox need another hitter.

11) White Sox also have OF Billy Hamilton, who runs very fast but can’t hit; the guy has a career on-base %age of .296, a career OPS of .621- this is over nine years.

Every time I see Hamilton bat, I hear my dad’s voice, what he always said about light hitters who ran very fast: “You can’t steal first base!!!”

10) My A’s are off to a terrible start; they’re the first team in last 100 years to lose their first four games of the season to the same team, all by 4+ runs. Houston is a good team, but Brantley got hurt and missed Sunday’s game. A’s host the Dodgers next— yikes.

9) Red Sox got swept at home by Baltimore, first time since 1948 that they lost their first three games of a season that were all at Fenway Park. Orioles led Sunday’s game 10-0 in third inning; the few fans that were there were not happy.

8) Colorado Rockies have a pitcher named Tyler Kinley who apparently is a descendent of the former President William McKinley.

On September 6, 1901, President McKinley was assassinated in Buffalo- he died eight days after he was shot. Fearing that anarchists might target the rest of the family, the Secret Service suggested that the family change their name a little, and that’s what happened.

7) Speaking of pitchers in Colorado, if you’re a high school/college pitcher and the Rockies draft you, you have to get queasy, yes? Who succeeds pitching in such high altitude?

6) Extra innings in the major leagues start with a runner on second base; there are a couple of baseball guys on TV who advocate intentionally walking the first hitter, saying it is easier to get out of a jam with a force play in effect, instead of just a guy on second.

Don’t think any big league managers have tried that one yet; it conceivably could happen in the bottom half of the inning, if the score was tied. No one is going to put the winning run on base.

5) Back to Colorado for a second; Saturday night, a Rockies runner steals second with two out, and a 1-2 count on Corey Seager. Rockies walk Seager intentionally to set up a force and bring Chris Taylor up, facing a righty pitcher. Can’t remember ever seeing an intentional walk when they count was 1-2.

Taylor crossed up the strategy by banging a double off the leftfield wall.

4) White Sox pitcher Lucas Giolito was miked in the dugout for a half inning of a game this weekend; he seemed at ease with a mike, which makes sense, since his grandfather was an actor named Warren Frost, who played George Costanza’s father-in-law on Seinfeld.

Mr Frost had 36 acting credits, ranging from Death Valley Days to Matlock to Seinfeld; in 10-12 days, when Giolito’s playing days are done, he’ll make a good broadcaster.

3) Maryland Terrapins have already poached transfers from Georgetown/Rhode Island this spring, as the new way to restock rosters isn’t so much recruiting high school kids as it is pillaging players from other schools. Georgetown has lost three starters the last two years.

2) Last year, Mac MacClung bolted from Georgetown to Texas Tech, to play for coach Chris Beard, a very good coach. Imagine MacClung’s surprise last week when Beard bolted himself, from Lubbock to the Texas Longhorns. Transfer market goes both ways.

1) QB Chase Daniel recently signed on as a backup with the LA Chargers; the guy is one of my heroes. He’s started five games in 11 years (five games!!!) but he’s banked $37.8M, plus the most popular guy on the team is usually the backup QB.

261 career passes, $37.1M, plus he’ll be all set for a career as a coach or broadcaster when he retires. Thats a career you can get behind.

Don’t forget to answer our survey question:

If you won the Masters, what food would you serve at the champions’ dinner?

Sunday’s Den: Wrapping up a fun day…….

13) Gonzaga 93, UCLA 90 OT:
— Suggs banked in a 3-pointer at the buzzer to win a tremendous game.
— Gonzaga shot 71.4% inside arc, scored 1.27 ppp- they were only 12-20 on foul line.
— This was UCLA’s 7th OT game this season; it was only Gonzaga’s second game this year decided by fewer than 10 points- the other one was December 2nd. 

12) Baylor 78, Houston 59:
— Game was 45-20 at halftime.
— To win their region, Houston beat seeds #15-10-11-12.
— Baylor is 10-2 since their 21-day COVID shutdown.

11) Opening line for Monday’s championship game: Gonzaga, minus 5

10) In three days of major league baseball:
— Giants’ Johnny Cueto is only pitcher to throw 100+ pitches (105) in a game.
— Seattle’s Marco Gonzales, Chicago’s Lance Lynn both threw 99 pitches in their starts.

9) Tampa Bay pitcher Rich Hill is the only pitcher EVER to lose a perfect game in the 9th inning, when one of his fielders made an error. Later in that same game he became the only pitcher EVER to lose a no-hitter on a walk-off hit in extra innings. 

Hill has thrown to 35 different catchers in his big league career; one of them was Kevin Cash, who is now his manager with the Rays.

8) Arizona Diamondback manager Tory Lovullo hit only 15 homers in his 8-year big league career (303 games); three of them were against Dwight Gooden, Roger Clemens, Jack Morris, all great pitchers.

7) WHIP is a stat that calculates how many baserunners a pitcher allows, but for whatever reason, hit batters aren’t counted- they should be.

6) MLB Network did a very smart thing and hired Buck Showalter to work games; he called a game with Matt Vasgersian Friday night, and pointed out that on Opening Day, there were 256 players on major league rosters who weren’t born in this country, that is 8.5 per team.

5) Showalter offered an interesting player comp: Tampa Bay’s Randy Arozarena and the old Houston outfielder Jimmy Wynn, known back then as the Toy Cannon. Wynn hit 291 homers, stole 225 bases in his 15-year big league career, playing in three All-Star Games.

4) Major League Baseball moved this July’s All-Star Game out of Atlanta for political reasons, heading off a probable showdown with the Players’ Association had they not done that. No word on where the game will be played now.

3) Third day of baseball season, and two of the three outfielders on my fantasy team left their game with injuries/illness. Awesome.

2) Since start of last season, Chicago White Sox are 15-0 against lefty starting pitchers.

1) Dodgers’ president Andrew Friedman was on TV the other night, and admitted that no one is really sure how the 2021 season is going to play out, as far as pitcher usage goes. Last year was obviously a short season, so pitchers will throw a lot more this year than they did last year, but how much more? No one knows. 

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

Its been a busy few days, even beyond baseball starting:
13) North Carolina basketball coach Roy Williams retired, with 903 career wins, 485 for the Tar Heels, 418 at Kansas. He won’t be easily replaced; where does North Carolina turn from here?

My guess is former Tar Heel player Wes Miller, who is coach at NC-Greensboro; last five years, he’s gone 125-43 with the Spartans of the Southern Conference.

Back to Roy Williams for a minute; he seems like a genuinely nice person in addition to being a great coach. I remember reading a article where he read a book about golf— I think Rick Reilly wrote the book, but Williams really liked it, so he bought 20 copies of it and gave them to his friends. There aren’t enough nice people in today’s world: Roy Williams will be missed.

12) Kansas Jayhawks gave basketball coach Bill Self a lifetime contract this week, despite Kansas not having an AD right now. I guess the school’s chancellor stepped in and did the deal.

Pat Forde of Sports Illustrated wrote this about what the contract says about Kansas: “We like to win, we don’t care how, we don’t care what NCAA sanctions may come, we don’t care about anything but continuing to win.”

Kansas is headed towards some type of probation because of recruiting violations, but Self’s new contract says that he cannot be fired for cause due to NCAA sanctions.

11) As I starting writing this piece, Oklahoma tabbed Porter Moser as its next basketball coach, replacing the retired Lon Kruger. Moser went 178-141 in 10 years at Loyola, going 99-36 the last four years, including a run to the Final Four in 2018.

One of the interesting things about college hoop is how teams take advantage of circumstances to become relevant. Creighton left the MVC in 2013, Wichita State in 2017; they had dominated the Valley before moving on to greener pa$ture$. Loyola’s 56-16 run in MVC games the last four years coincide with Wichita State moving elsewhere.

10) Then there is Texas Tech, which got kicked in the teeth this week when Chris Beard left the Red Raiders to become the new coach at rival Texas, his alma mater. Bears was a student assistant to Tom Penders with the Longhorns in the early 90’s.

Beard went 112-55 in five years at Tech, after a 30-5 season at Little Rock. Texas has won one NCAA Tournament game in the last decade (1-6). Beard will be expected to win more than that.

9) Chris Ogden quit his job as HEAD COACH at Texas-Arlington, to become one of Beard’s ASSISTANTS at Texas. Ogden was 44-47 in three years at UTA, after they canned Scott Cross, who went 72-33 in his last three years with the Mavericks. Cross is now the coach at Troy- he knocked Ogden’s Arlington team out of the Sun Belt tournament last month.

8) Washington Wizards’ Russell Westbrook a triple-double earlier this week, the first one ever where the guy scored 35+ points and had 20+ assists in the same game. He had 35 points, 21 assists, 14 rebounds; he must’ve had the ball a lot, that’s for sure.

Most importantly, Washington beat the Pacers 132-124.

7) Utah Jazz had a scary night this week, when their flight to Memphis struck a flock of birds during takeoff, damaging the left engine of the plane. There was a loud sound like an explosion, flames coming out of the engine and visible damage. Then the plane started to tilt and slowly lose altitude.

Players were actually texting their families, saying their goodbyes; luckily, the flight turned around and made an emergency landing back in Salt Lake City. The rest of the team got on a rescheduled flight to Memphis, but star Donovan Mitchell, who apparently hates flying in the first place, stayed home and skipped that game, which the Jazz won anyway.

6) ESPN signed 81-year old Dick Vitale to a new, 2-year contract to continue working for them; they need to tell him to stop pouring that cooler of water over his head that he does in the GEICO commercial— a guy can catch pneumonia.

Not sure if everyone nows this, but Dick Vitale was a really good coach before he worked on TV; he was an assistant coach at Rutgers who recruited a lot of the players who formed the nucleus of their Final Four squad in 1976.

From there, he went 78-30 as head coach at Detroit, finishing ranked #12 in the country in his last season there. He went 34-60 in a brief stint coaching the NBA’s Detroit Pistons.

The man has amazing energy, even now; he’s helped raise over $100M to fight cancer. At times he is tough to listen to, but damn, he’s had a hell of a career.

5) DePaul hired Oregon assistant Tony Stubblefield as its new basketball coach; they haven’t made the NCAA Tournament since 2004. Since 2008, the Blue Demons are 43-206 in Big East conference games, which is, as we like to say, no bueno.

Stubblefield just turned 51; he’s never been a head coach, though he was an interim coach at New Mexico State in 2005, when Lou Henson got sick. He worked as an assistant under Mick Cronin at Cincinnati.

4) The clusterbleep of the year may be at East Tennessee State, where coach Jason Shay was told to take a hike this week- they say he “resigned” but guys don’t quit after their first year as a head coach, not a guy who waited until he was 47 to become a head coach.

East Tennessee’s players took a knee during the national anthem before a few games this year, which ticked off boosters/state politicians, who publicly said so. Shay backed the players; if you want to be a successful coach, you back your players, especially when they’re right.

Shay went 13-12 in his one year as a head coach; he had assisted Steve Forbes for the five years before that, when ETSU went 130-43, going 71-19 in SoCon games.

East Tennessee’s decision makers have some questions to answer:
— Who do they hire from here?
— Who would want this job, if you fired Shay for supporting his players?
— Do the ETSU decision makers want to win?
— If you get a reputation as a racist organization, how do you recruit basketball players?

3) NFL’s Los Angeles Chargers have some internal issues involving the Spanos family, which owns the team. Chargers have to start paying a $650M relocation fee to the NFL pretty soon; they can’t sell the team just yet— the NFL will penalize them even more money if they move the team too quickly after bolting up the freeway to LA— its called a “flip tax”.

In a November 2019 letter included with a court filing, Dean Spanos vowed to his three siblings that he would retain an investment bank at the end of the 2024 season in an effort to find a new owner- by 2024, the “flip tax” wouldn’t be relevant anymore.

But Spanos’ sister says the family’s finances are such that the team needs to be sold before that; the family has owned the Chargers since 1984. If you go broke while you own an NFL franchise, you’re a candidate for the Moron Hall of Fame.

There is a rumor that when the team is sold, they could move back to San Diego, which happens to be the 8th-biggest city in America.

2) In 1979, the Kansas City Royals drafted both John Elway and Dan Marino, which would be great, if the Royals were an NFL team. But they’re a baseball team; Elway played a year for Oneonta in the NY-Penn League, after New York drafted him in the 2nd round of the 1981 draft.

1) Amazing Fact of the Day: Tampa Bay won its season opener 1-0 at Miami Thursday; it is the first time since 1946 that a road team won 1-0 on Opening Day!!!! 

Back then, Bob Feller blanked the White Sox on three hits at Comiskey Park; former major league manager Bob Lemon played CF for Cleveland that day.

Additional thing that happened Friday: this weekend’s Mets-Nationals series was cancelled, due to four Washington players testing positive for COVID. 

Friday’s Den: Wrapping up Opening Day

Lot of stuff happened Thursday; we’ll stick with baseball today, get to the rest tomorrow.

13) Colorado 8, Dodgers 5:
— Cody Bellinger hit a home run that deflected off the left fielder’s glove, but the runner on base thought the LF caught the ball, so he went back to first and Bellinger passed him, which means Bellinger was called out— the baserunner scored.
— Chris Owings had three hits, scored three times for the Rockies.

12) Pirates 5, Chicago 3:
— Both starting P’s threw 63 pitches in three IP on a 36-degree day.
— Kyle Hendricks walked a batter in three consecutive innings, first time he’s ever done that.
— Pirates were 3-20 with runners in scoring position, Cubs 0-5

11) Philadelphia 3, Braves 2 (10)
— Phillies’ new-look bullpen threw 3.1 scoreless innings.
— Jean Segura’s single to left field in 10th inning was the walk-off hit.
— Pablo Sandoval hit a pinch-hit HR for Atlanta’s only runs.

10) San Diego 8, Diamondbacks 7:
— Hosmer had three hits, three RBI for San Diego.
— Bumgarner gave up six runs in four IP for Arizona.
— Arizona was down 6-1, scored six runs in the 5th, but couldn’t hold the lead.

9) Cardinals 11, Cincinnati 6:
— St Louis is first team since the 2010 Braves to score 6+ runs in first inning on Opening Day.
— Castillo gave up 10 runs in 3.1 IP.
— Goldschmidt/Arenado went a combined 6-10, scored four runs.

8) Blue Jays 3, Bronx 2 (10)
— Toronto wore powder blue road jerseys, like teams wore in the 70’s/80’s.
— Top four batters in the New York lineup went 1-18 with eight K’s.
— Sanchez hit a 2-run homer for New York’s only runs.

7) Detroit 3, Indians 2:
— Miguel Cabrera hit his 488th career home run.
— It snowed during first three innings of this game.
— Cesar Hernández had the first hit in the major leagues this year.

6) Kansas City 14, Rangers 10:
— Game was 5-5 after the first inning; not much pitching.
— Two starting pitchers combined to get five outs, give up 11 runs.
— Merrfield, Isbel, Taylor all had three hits for the Royals.

5) Rays 1, Miami 0:
— Meadows hit an 8th-inning homer for the game’s only run.
— Glasnow, Alcantara both threw six shutout innings.
— Aguilar had two of Miami’s three hits.

4) Milwaukee 6, Twins 5 (10):
— Five of Milwaukee’s six runs were unearned.
— Brewers scored three runs in 9th to force extra innings.
— Josh Donaldson (hamstring) left this game very early on.

3) LA Angels 4, White Sox 3:
— Angels scored twice in bottom of 8th inning.
— Angels gave 2B Fletcher a 5-year, $26M extension Thursday.
— Only two starting pitchers all day got wins: Boyd/Greinke.

2) Astros 8, Oakland 1:
— Brantley had single, double, homer for Houston.
— Greinke threw six shutout innings, allowing 3 baserunners.
— A’s bullpen gave up five runs in 3.2 IP. 

Thursday’s Den: Random thoughts on Opening Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday’s Den: Mid-week musings……..

13) UCLA 51, Michigan 49:
— UCLA lost their last four games before the NCAA’s; they were down 5 with 1:27 left in the play-in game, against Michigan State.
— Michigan was 6-11 on foul line in a 2-point loss.
— Bruins have played six OT games this year; two of them were in the NCAA’s.
— Here’s the thing: if Mick Cronin’s relatives filled out brackets, no way they picked the Bruins.

12) Baylor 81, Arkansas 72:
— Bears are 9-2 since their 21-day COVID pause in February.
— Baylor never trailed, led 29-11 right off the bat, made 8-15 on the arc.
— Bears are diverse; they force ton of turnovers, are best in country shooting on the arc.

11) Houston 67, Oregon State 61:
— Each region has teams seeds from #1-16: Houston beat seeds #15-10-11-12
— Cougars have won 11 games in a row.
— Houston shot only 32.3% from floor, but had 19 offensive rebounds.

10) Gonzaga 85, USC 66:
— Gonzaga is 30-0, with ONE WIN by less than 10 points.
— Zags never trailed in this game, led 49-30 at halftime.
— USC has #7 eFG% defense in country; Zags shot 57.8% inside arc.

9) Tip of the cap to Oral Roberts sophomore Max Abmas, who led ORU to a Summit League title, then two wins in the NCAA Tournament. Kid led the country in scoring, at 24.2 ppg.

In Oral Roberts’ six postseason games, the Summit/NCAAs, Abmas NEVER came out of the game, played the whole 245:00 (one game went OT). In those six games, Abmas:
— shot 32-57 inside arc
— shot 13-45 on the arc
— shot 40-46 on foul line
— also had 34 assists
— 23.8 ppg, 5-1 record on the biggest stage. Good for him.

Next question is, unfortunately, how many phone calls has the kid gotten about transferring to a higher-profile program? Come on, kids who are way worse than Abmas have bolted low or mid-majors to be role players for the $$$ teams. Loyalty is becoming obsolete.

We’ll see what happens.

8) Speaking of which, Kentucky poached grad transfer Kellen Grady away from Davidson; Grady 2,000 points+ in his Davidson career and is a career 36.6% 3-point shooter.

Three years ago, Grady scored 16 points against Kentucky in an NCAA tourney game.

7) NFL is upgrading its schedule to 17 games next season; AFC teams will all get the extra home game next year, then NFC teams get the extra home game in even-numbered years.

The extra game will pit division vs division; for 2021:
— NFC West vs AFC North
— NFC East vs AFC East
— NFC North vs AFC West
— NFC South vs AFC South

6) Here is how the length of NFL schedules have worked over the years:
1947-60— 12 games
1961-77— 14 games; from 1966-77, 14 games in 15 weeks
1978-89— 16 games/season
1990-2020— 16 games in 17 weeks.

5) Final Four is set:
— two #1-seeds, a #2-seed and a #11-seed
— 7th year in a row, a team seeded #5 or lower wins a region.
— Third time in five years a double-digit seed goes to the Final Four.

4) This year was first time since 2001 that the Pac-12 had three teams in Elite 8.

3) Pac-12 has done so well in the NCAA tournament that the Washington Huskies have moved up 43 spots in the kenpom.com rankings, since they played their last game.

2) I can’t help it, every time I see Dick Vitale’s GEICO commercial, I laugh/smile; the guy dumps a cooler of water over his head— he is 81 years old. The commercial has been on TV a lot, but it never stops being funny. Hope I live as long as Coach Vitale, and would love to have his energy.

1) Was watching Daily Wager on ESPN2; good program, but they’re talking about betting NFL futures already and it is freakin’ March 30. Too early.

— Haven’t had the draft yet.
— Trading may not be over yet.
— The freakin’ schedule hasn’t been released yet.
— How can you wager on things when so much is still unknown? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Money does strange things to people.

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

Sunday’s Den: Trends for National League teams

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No bueno.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bet you he could write a hell of a book.

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

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

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

Must be fun to be really rich.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Everyone’s a freakin’ expert. LOL

Wednesday’s Den: Mid-week musings……..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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