Wednesday’s Den: In a perfect world, where I make all the decisions……

1) Major League Baseball needs a Hard Knocks-type show during spring training, to show the inner workings of his a team is built. It works great with NFL teams in training camp; it would be better with baseball.

There is so much free time in spring training; you can mike players/coaches in spring training games, show players getting sent down to AAA. We’ve seen it in movies, how about real life?

It would also work during the season, just like the NFL is doing now. 

2) College football needs an 8-team playoff system; actually 16 teams or 12 teams would be better, but eight is good, for now. Fewer meaningless bowl games, more playoff games that would increase TV ratings, attendance and most important, the $$$ would be bigger. 

3) In all pro sports, higher-seeded teams should be able to pick who they play in the playoffs; for example, seven teams from each conference make the NFL playoffs.

#1 seed gets a bye; the #2-seed would then get to pick from seeds #5-7 who they want to play first, then #3-seed gets next choice- the two remaining teams would play each other.

Next round, #1-seed gets first choice of who they want to play, and so on. Can you imagine the TV ratings this would get? It would ramp up interest astronomically. 

4) Baseball needs both a salary cap and, more importantly, a salary floor; cheap teams who don’t even try to win are hurting the game, both aesthetically and financially.

This season, I care way more about my fantasy team that I do about the A’s, and I’ve been as A’s fan since 1965. They’re not trying to win; I’m too damn old to sit there and watch them get their butts beat most every night, so I focus on my fantasy team. At least I’m TRYING to win.

5) Admission to racetracks should be free, just like walking into a casino is free. You go to a track to bet on the horses, you’re going to bet on the races, you’re going to buy the (overpriced) food and drinks, you’re going to buy souvenirs, why should we have to pay $7 just to get in the door?

If need be, make people pay $10 to get in, but everyone gets a $10 voucher for betting, souvenirs  or eating that day. 

6) Spring football is a viable thing; when the XFL starts up next year and with the USFL already a thing, the two leagues need to merge and form a 16-team spring league that people will love, much like the USFL back in the 80’s. 

7) High school basketball players should be able to go right from high school to the NBA, the way they used to; Lebron James, Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant didn’t play college ball. Going to college for one year is useless; it doesn’t help the college game much, it doesn’t help the NBA, it doesn’t help the players much. 

8) Major league baseball should realign geographically; no more American/National leagues, let crosstown rivals compete with each other year-round. Save money on travel, and attendance would be better. More Cub-White Sox, A’s-Giants, Dodger-Angel games, Subway series games. 

9) College football teams should not be allowed to schedule I-AA opponents; it is cheating the fans who pay lot of $$$ to see Alabama play Mercer. It is STUPID; play Sun Belt teams, MAC teams, Mountain West teams, but not I-AA teams. It is stealing money. 

10) This one will never, ever happen, but NBA playoffs would be way better if every round was best-of-3, and the Finals best-of-5. It would be more like March Madness; more dramatic, more upsets, more fan interest. Losing games would cost the league $$$, which is why it’ll never, ever happen, but the playoffs would be better this way.

11) This one will happen, probably next year. Baseball needs to ban shifts; all four infielders have to be on the infield dirt, two on each side of second base. Baseball needs more line drive hitters, fewer guys trying to hit every pitch over the fielders’ heads, out of the park. 

12) ESPN needs to bring back their 24-hour college basketball marathon in November; that was so much fun, games on all night long, giving obscure teams some recognition. I remember being at a bar in Las Vegas playing video poker, watching a game from Hawai’i, then a game with Colgate or Iona or some unknown eastern teams playing— it was awesome. 

13) Super Bowl needs to be on Presidents’ Day weekend, where everyone has the next day off from work. Add an 18th game? Give teams two byes instead of one? I’d prefer the 18th game, but the league would be better off if the Super Bowl was just before spring training started. 

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

13) Good news: Rams signed DT Aaron Donald to a $40M raise over the final three years of his contract, which makes him the highest non-quarterback in the NFL. 

12) Cleveland Browns’ season over/under for wins and Super Bowl odds are all off the boards until the Deshaun Watson situation is resolved. It figures that Watson is going to be suspended for at least six games; training camp starts next month, a decision is due fairly soon. 

11) Wasn’t sure if I knew this or not, but during the season, NFL starting quarterbacks are required to meet with the media twice a week. Once Watson’s suspension is over, his press conferences will become required viewing. 

10) Was little weird watching the Celtics-Warriors game Sunday night; Vivek Ranadive, the guy who owns the Sacramento Kings, was sitting right behind the Celtics’ bench during Game 2.

What makes it weird is that Mike Brown is an assistant coach for Golden State, but as soon as the Finals end, he becomes Sacramento’s head coach. Is Ranadive doing Brown a favor, being close enough to the Boston bench to hear what they’re saying? 

It is a little paranoid to suggest that, but stranger things have happened.

9) Random fact: in 1892, Benjamin Harrison became the first American President to go to a major league baseball game. 

8) 40 years ago, Mike Fratello applied for but didn’t get the head coaching job for the Chicago Bulls; one of Chicago’s co-owners decided that Fratello was too short to command the respect of NBA players.

Seriously; he didn’t get hired because he is 5-foot-7.

Fratello wound up coaching three other NBA teams, compiling a 667-548 record (.549) with 11 winning seasons out of 16. Then he became an excellent broadcaster. 

7) Things turned out OK for the Bulls; they did lousy with the coach they did hire, fired that guy, did lousy again the next year, then drafted a guy named Michael Jordan. Things got better. 

6) When Bryce Harper hit a game-tying grand slam Sunday, it was the first time the Phillies hit a game-tying grand slam in the 8th inning or later since 1954, against the Brooklyn Dodgers. 

5) Red Sox 1, Angels 0— Michael Wacha threw a complete game shutout; Angels have now lost 12 games in a row, but hey, at least Mike Trout got a hit. He is now 1 for his last 28. 

4) Colorado 6, Edmonton 5 (OT):
— Avalanche sweeps Edmonton 4 games to 0.
— Oilers led 4-2 midway thru third period.
— Big year for Colorado owner Stan Kroenke, who also owns the Super Bowl champion Rams.

3) Missouri Tigers poached one of the best remaining transfers; Isiaih Mosley picked the Tigers over Kansas and Mississippi State. Mosley scored 20.4 ppg, grabbed 6.2 rebounds/game while hitting 42.7% of his 3-pointers as a junior last year. 

2) Since 2019, Jimmy Garoppolo’s passes have averaged 6.8 yards after catch, by far the best average in the NFL; this is what the Miami Dolphins are hoping will happen with their QB, Tua Tagovailoa, why they acquired WR Tyreek Hill.

Miami brought in Mike McDaniel to run the Kyle Shanahan offense; we’ll see if Tagovailoa can pull it off. 

1) College baseball tournament is going on now; a pitcher on Maryland threw 109 pitches in Saturday’s game, then pitched again in relief Monday. This is where college baseball becomes dicey; if the kid is a pro prospect, does the manager risk that career for the good of his team?

I remember LSU’s Ben McDonald pitching in relief in the College World Series, the day after he threw a complete game. McDonald wound up pitching nine years in the majors; could he have had a better, longer career had that not happened? We’ll never know. 

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

13) Golden State 107, Boston 88:
— Warriors outscored Boston 35-14 in third quarter.
— Celtics shot only 15-43 (34.9%) inside the arc.
— Series heads east to Boston, tied 1-1. 

12) Phillies 9, Angels 7:
— Angels led 6-2 in 8th inning.
— Harper hit grand slam in 8th; Stott walked it off with a homer in 9th.
— Phillies are 4-0 since they changed managers. 

11) Meanwhile, Angels have now lost 11 games in a row; Mike Trout is 0 for his last 26, and if Joe Girardi got fired this week, can Joe Maddon be far behind? Angels are 27-28; much like the Phillies, they don’t have enough pitching, no matter who the manager is. 

10) Mets 5, Dodgers 4 (10)— In 12 career games at Dodger Stadium, Pete Alonso is hitting .360, with 7 homers, 16 RBI, 11 runs scored. Mets blew a 4-2 lead in ninth inning here, but scored in 10th inning and split this four-game series.

9) Dodgers messed up a new rule in Saturday night’s game; trailing 9-4 after eight innings, LA wanted a position player to pitch the ninth inning, but there is a new rule that says a team has to be behind by six runs to use a position player to pitch.

Dodgers had no idea about the new rule; all of this caused an 11-minute delay in the game; they let the regular pitcher take his normal warm-ups, which greatly annoyed the Mets’ TV crew. 

8) Why do people discuss the MVP race on June 5th? Season still has over 100 games left, long way to go, but talking heads on TV have to speculate who the MVP will be. Come up with better things to talk about, such as………

While the Dodgers are going to pay a $47M payroll tax this year on their $310M payroll, the entire payroll of the Oakland A’s is $48,411,301. For the whole team; that seems fair. 

Week 8 of the USFL……..
7) New Jersey 29, Pittsburgh 18:
— Generals have won seven in a row.
— Pittsburgh has been outscored 121-45 in first half of games.
— New Jersey outgained Pittsburgh 379-290.
— Maulers had a pretty good QB in Vad Lee, but benched him; not good. 

6) Birmingham 10, New Orleans 9:
— I’ve been upbeat about the USFL, but this was a sloppy game.
— Both teams turned ball over three times.
— Stallions kicked a field goal with 1:48 to keep their perfect record (8-0) intact.
— Breakers scored 23+ points in their wins, 13-17-9 in losses.

5) Philadelphia 46, Michigan 24:
— Stars outgained Michigan 25-6 in second half.
— Philadelphia averaged 8.8 yards/pass attempt.
— Last five weeks, Stars are +9 in turnovers.
— Michigan is 1-4 ATS as an underdog. 

4) Tampa Bay 13, Houston 3:
— Gamblers have now lost seven games in a row.
— Houston outgained Bandits 244-214; Tampa threw for only 69 yards.
— Neither team scored in second half.
— Tampa Bay is 4-4 despite their minus-11 turnover ratio.

3) Quin Snyder quit as coach of the Utah Jazz after eight years there; he had a 372-264 record in regular season games, 21-30 in playoffs. Apparently the Utah front office tried to talk him out of it, but Snyder believes the Jazz “……need a new voice”

2) Is it my imagination, or do more hitters swing at 3-0 pitchers now, figuring that might the only time they’re ever going to see a fastball? 

1) Orioles pitching prospect Grayson Rodriguez has a Grade 2 lat strain, could miss the rest of the season. Rodriguez is listed as MLB’s #5 prospect; he was expected to make his major league debut this summer. Now next spring looks more likely.

Sunday’s Den: Wrapping up a sports Saturday

13) Our fantasy baseball league is 18 years old; it is a keeper league. We have 14 teams now, started out with 18 teams. Our first draft took 87 days to complete; it was a running draft, the person whose turn it was would text me their pick, and I would post it. It went the whole damn winter, just about.

My first three picks that year were Matt Holliday, Brandon Webb, Adam Dunn; I bring this up because Matt Holliday’s son is expected to be a first round pick in the amateur draft next month, another thing that is making me feel old(er).

12) Phillies 7, Angels 2— Joe Girardi got fired this week, because teams with lousy pitching don’t win much, especially when they don’t field well. Phillies spent lot of $$$ this winter on couple of sluggers, Schwarber/Castellanos, but they aren’t good fielders.

Enter the Angels, who have a similar approach; outscore your opponents. Well, the Angels have now lost 10 games in a row; they’re 27-27 and Mike Trout hasn’t had a hit in a week. Think Joe Maddon is on the hot seat? 

11) Dodgers have a payroll of $310.6M, will be subject to a tax of $47M or so, which would be a new MLB record. Dodgers are 36-17; they’ve been in the playoffs nine years in a row- they sell out a lot of games, and by the way, their pitching, when healthy, is pretty good. 

10) Mets sent 1B/OF Dom Smith to AAA this week; it took him a few days to catch up with his new team, but he’s gone 3-9 in his first two AAA games, with 2 runs scored, 3 RBI. It figures that sometime this summer, Smith will be dealt for a pitcher. 

9) Former big league catcher AJ Pierzynski does games on FS1; he is a good analyst, speaks his mind, which isn’t always the case. He was talking last night about how catching foul tips is mostly luck, no real skill to it. He should know, having caught in the big leagues for 19 years.

8) There are three current big leaguers with a career .300 average and 100+ stolen bases:
Jose Altuve, Mike Trout, Trea Turner

7) Albert Pujols played in his 3,000th career game Saturday, quite a milestone. He is only the 10th big leaguer ever to play in 3,000 games. 

6) Cardinals 7, Cubs 3 (10)— Chicago is 0-25 when it trails after six innings.

5) Las Vegas sportsbooks are posting odds on football games already; SouthPoint opened UNLV as a 33-point underdog at Notre Dame. Golden Nugget posted that game at 26; wonder how many people played the middle in that game, taking UNLV +33, Notre Dame -26, hoping the game falls in between those two numbers. 

4) Yordan Alvarez signed a 6-year, $115M deal with the Astros this week; he celebrated by hitting couple of home runs Friday, off a pitcher on my fantasy team. Awesome.

3) Auburn-USC will play a home/home basketball series this year and next; this fall’s game is at the Galen Center at USC December 18. 

2) Game 2 of the NBA Finals is tonight; Game 1 was Thursday. I understand that they don’t want games on Saturday, because fewer people watch TV on Saturdays, but shouldn’t they play Game 1 on Friday- you don’t need three days between games when there is no travel. 

1) Not sure I’ve ever seen this before, and if I have, its been a while:

Bottom 4th in LA, Mets lead 6-4. Dodgers have guy on 2nd, two out, Mookie Betts is up. Betts hit a 3-run double in his last at-bat, off starter David Peterson, but they leave Peterson in.

Betts hits a vicious line drive down the left field line, just foul. 0-1 count; Buck Showalter had seen enough. He takes Peterson out, brings in a righty reliever, who strikes Betts out looking.

Not often a pitcher is removed during a count. 

Saturday’s Den: 13 of my favorite TV/movie quotes…….

13) “……here’s the thing. If you can’t spot the sucker in your first half hour at the table, then you ARE the sucker.”
Mike McDermott, Rounders

12) “I’ve got a trig midterm tomorrow and I’m being chased by Guido, the killer pimp.”
Miles, Risky Business

11) “You’re a goddamn quarterback! You know what that means? It’s the top spot, kid. It’s the guy who takes the fall. It’s the guy everybody’s looking at first – the leader of a team – who will support you when they understand you. Who will break their ribs and their noses and their necks for you, because they believe. ‘Cause you make them believe. That’s a quarterback.”
Al Pacino, Any Given Sunday

10) “He’s a great player, but I don’t think we can get him in academically.”
Jerry Tarkanian, Blue Chips

9) “Listen, Lupus, you didn’t come into this life just to sit around on a dugout bench, did ya? Now get your ass out there and do the best you can.”
Walter Matthau in The Bad News Bears

8) “I’ll get to the bottom of this……if I have to go all the way to the top.”
Colonel Flagg, M*A*S*H*

7) “Do whats in your heart, son. You’ll be fine.”
Robin Williams, from Good Will Hunting

6) “God likes me!!! He really, really likes me!!! What a day!!! What a fabulous day!!!”
Richard Dreyfuss in Let It Ride

5) “Being perfect is not about that scoreboard out there. It’s not about winning. It’s about you and your relationship with yourself, your family and your friends. Being perfect is about being able to look your friends in the eye and know that you didn’t let them down because you told them the truth…….”
Billy Bob Thornton, Friday Night Lights

4) “Why would you want to dance with someone who doesn’t want to dance with you?”
Adam Sandler, The Wedding Singer

3) “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard… is what makes it great.”
Tom Hanks in A League of Their Own

2) “A little song, a little dance……a little seltzer down your pants”
Chuckles the Clown, from The Mary Tyler Moore Show

1) “There’s no such thing as a sure thing, thats why they call it gambling.”
Oscar Madison, The Odd Couple

Friday’s Den: Random stuff and Week 8 USFL notes

Celtics 120, Warriors 108:
— Golden State led by 12 after the third quarter.
— Celtics outscored them 40-16 in 4th quarter, including a 17-0 run.
— Boston was 21-41 on arc; they made their first seven 3’s in 4th quarter.

Brewers 5, Padres 4:
— Milwaukee scored four times in bottom of ninth.
— Andrew McCutchen walked it off with a one-out single.
— This was Milwaukee’s first home game this year where the game-winning run scored from the 7th inning on— they’re 8-4 in such games on the road. 

Mariners 7, Orioles 6 (10)
— Jesse Winker had three hits for Seattle, which blew a 6-3 lead in sixth inning.

— Mets’ SS Francisco Lindor missed the game in Los Angeles Thursday; he slammed his right middle finger in a hotel door.

— Portland Trailblazers aren’t for sale, but Nike boss Phil Knight put in an offer to buy the team anyway. Nike headquarters are in Oregon, so that makes sense.

— Ryan Fitzpatrick retired this week, after a 17-year NFL career that spanned nine teams. He is expected to sign on with Amazon to be part of their NFL TV crew.

— October 5-6 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Lakers are going to play couple of exhibition games, against the Suns on the 5th, against Minnesota the next night.

Week 8 USFL games……..
Pittsburgh vs New Jersey (-9)
Pittsburgh Maulers (1-6)
— Have been outscored 98-38 in first half of games. 
— Last five weeks, allowed 172 rushing yards/game.
— Five of their last six games went over total.
— Covered spread three of last four weeks (3-3-1 ATS for year).

New Jersey Generals (6-1)
— Won last six games (4-2 ATS), scoring 23.6 ppg in last five.
— Generals held last six opponents 15 ppg.
— Outscored last five foes 53-32 in second half.
— 2-2 ATS as a favorite
— Three of their last four games went over the total.

First meeting:
— Generals (-9.5) 21, Maulers 13 (Week 4)
— Total yardage: 313-256, New Jersey
— Pittsburgh completed only 15-32 passes.

New Orleans vs Birmingham (-3.5)
New Orleans Breakers (5-2)
— Scored 23+ points in their wins, 13-17 in losses.
— Last four games went over the total
— Last five games, they’re minus-5 in turnovers (5-10)
— Won their only game this year as an underdog.

Birmingham Stallions (7-0)
— Trailed at halftime in four of seven games
— Outscored opponents 114-44 in second half.
— Outrushed last four foes 656-335
— 6-1 against spread

First meeting
— Stallions (-5.5) 22, Breakers 13 in Week 3
— Total yardage: 316-313, New Orleans
— Birmingham was +2 in turnovers; they led 10-6 at halftime.

Michigan vs Philadelphia (-5.5)
Michigan Panthers (1-6)
— Have four losses by 5 or fewer points- lost in OT last week.
— 0-4 in games decided by 5 or fewer points.
— Outgained five of their seven opponents.
— Their only win was 24-0 over 1-6 Pittsburgh.
— Last four games went over the total.
— Michigan is 1-3 ATS as an underdog.

Philadelphia Stars (4-3)
— Won three of their last four games, are 1-2-1 ATS as favorites.
— Last four weeks, they’re +6 in turnovers.
— Gave up 23+ points in all seven games (over 5-1 last six).
— Have been outgained in six of seven games (2-4-1 ATS).
— Scored 30-26-35-35 points in wins; 17-16-17 in losses.

First meeting:
— Stars (+1) won 26-25 (Week 4); Michigan missed 21-yard FG on last play.
— Total yardage: 301-293, Michigan
— Stars were +2 in turnovers; game was 17-17 at halftime.

Tampa Bay (-5) vs Houston
Tampa Bay Bandits (3-4)
— Bandits lost three of their last four games.
— Minus-10 in turnovers— have only three takeaways.
— 2-2 ATS as a favorite.
— Scoring 10.6 ppg in first half, 7.3 ppg in second half.

Houston Gamblers (1-6)
— Lost their last six games (2-4 ATS)
— Led all seven games at halftime, won only once.
— Last six games went over total
— Outscored 107-39 in second half.

First meeting:
— Tampa Bay (-2) 27, Houston 26 in Week 3
— Gamblers led 23-14 at halftime.
— Total yardage: 400-365, Houston- they ran for 160 yards. 

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

13) Teams’ records in series openers:

(home-away/total)
National League
Arizona 6-4, 2-4/8-8
Atlanta 3-6, 3-4/6-10
Chicago 3-5, 5-3/8-8
Cincinnati 3-4, 4-5/7-9
Colorado 3-6, 1-6/4-12
Los Angeles 5-2, 8-1/13-3
Miami 3-4, 1-8/4-12
Milwaukee 6-1, 5-5/11-6
NY Mets 6-2, 7-1/13-3
Philadelphia 4-5, 3-4/7-9
Pittsburgh 3-5, 2-6/5-11
St Louis 6-4, 4-3/10-7
San Diego 5-2, 7-2/12-4
San Francisco 3-5, 6-3/9-8
Washington 2-6, 3-5/5-11

American League
Baltimore 3-5, 4-4/7-9
Boston 4-4, 5-3/9-7
Chicago 2-6, 3-5/5-11
Cleveland 4-3, 4-5/8-8
Detroit 7-2, 2-5/9-7
Houston 4-2, 6-4/10-6
Kansas City 3-4, 4-6/7-10
LA Angels 5-4, 2-5/7-9
Minnesota 5-4, 4-3/9-7
New York 7-2, 6-1/13-3
A’s 1-7, 3-5/4-12
Seattle 5-2, 4-5/9-7
Tampa Bay 4-5, 3-4/7-9
Texas 5-3, 3-5/8-8
Toronto 6-2, 3-5/9-7

12) Mets lead the NL East by 10.5 games; since 1969, only two teams have had a bigger divisional lead on June 1st:
— 2001 Seattle led by 14 games— Wound up 116-46; last time they made the playoffs.
— 2017 Houston led by 11 games— Won World Series that year

11) Back in 1983, a relief pitcher named Tippy Martinez picked three runners off in the same inning, thought to be the only time that has ever happened in the major leagues. 

10) Tuesday night, Adam Wainwright got 32 called strikes from home plate umpire Adam Segal; that’s a lot of called strikes for one game. Wainwright blanked San Diego for seven innings; he faced only 24 hitters.

9) Word has it that Cleveland QB Deshaun Watson will now be facing 24 civil lawsuits accusing him of sexual misconduct during massage parlor sessions. 24!!!!

Watson’s agent must be having a nervous breakdown; he just negotiated a 5-year, $230M contract; 3% of $230,000,000 is $6.9M; that would be the agent’s take, but Watson is going to be suspended, probably for at least six games. I’m wondering if the agent’s fee takes a hit when Watson gets docked those games via the suspension. 

8) Random fact: There has been one no-hitter thrown at Coors Field in Denver, by Hideo Nomo of the Dodgers in 1996. 

7) Phillies 6, Giants 5— Philly scored four times in 6th inning, then their bullpen tossed three perfect innings to snap their losing streak. So far this season, Phillies have been outscored by 15 runs from the ninth inning on- they’re 4-10 in one-run games. 

6) Tampa Bay Rays occasionally use four outfielders, with the 2B in short right field, giving them basically five outfielders. Hopefully this will be the last season they can do this— baseball needs to ban shifts, to increase offense. 

5) Atlanta 6, Arizona 0— Braves are still only 6-12 in day games. 

4) Something I learned a long time ago; if you’re quiet and you wear glasses, lot of people assume you’re smart. They may/may not be right, but they do assume that.

3) Pirates 8, Dodgers 4— Pittsburgh sweeps 3-game series in LA; in those games, the Dodgers were -345, -370, -263. Never lay more than -175 in baseball, people. 

2) Rays 4, Rangers 3 (11)— How would you like to be the GM of Texas, the guy who convinced his boss (the owner) to shell out $57M for Marcus Semien/Corey Seager?
Today is June 2…….
— Semien is hitting .193 with one homer; he hit 45 homers last year.
— Seager is hitting .236 with a .738 OPS; his career OPS is .860.

Rangers are 24-25, eight games out of first in the AL West; they’re 2.5 games out of the last Wild Card spot. There is still plenty of time, but the Rangers need more production from their $57M a year double play combination. 

1) Detroit 5, Minnesota 0– Tarik Skubal is 3-0, 0.84 in his last five starts. 

Wednesday’s Den: Mid-week musings…….

45 years ago this month, I graduated from high school; long time ago. I’ll start today with a story from back then.

Our high school had a policy for certain classes; if you had a 90 average heading into the final exam, you didn’t have to take the final, you were “exempt”. Kids liked being exempt from finals. 

My Sociology teacher was also the football coach, who had moved here from Ohio to take this job, at a school that didn’t have a great football tradition. He had improved the program; we won more than we lost that season, and we also upset the best team in our league, Shenendehowa, the school that current pro athletes Ian Anderson/Kevin Huerter went to.

I was/am a nerd; I helped Mr Gallas, a guidance counselor, do stats for the football team. We did it on the sidelines, each of us with a clipboard— our game with Scotia that year was a rainy mess, you could hardly read our charts when the game ended.

Anyway, Shenendehowa outgained us by a lot, 200+ yards, but we won the turnover battle, scored on a long TD play and we pulled the upset. It was a pretty big deal.

The next Monday, I am told to report to a classroom after school, the room where the football team did their film review— the room was obviously in a very good mood, but I had no idea why I was invited. Then they rolled the tape.

On our long touchdown play, a nerd with a clipboard is running on the sidelines on the bottom of the screen, shaking his fist and jumping up and down with excitement— that was me. Other people were also excited, but I was the only one who ran all the way to the goal line.

We all had a good laugh; by the way, one of our great players on that team played the whole second half that day with a broken wrist. He didn’t get the cast off for five months or so.

So a couple months later, January 1977, and I have a Sociology final; my grade was 87 or so; I trudged off on a cold winter day to take the final. 

I was a lazy student; did what I had to do, then went and read the sports section; go figure. I sit down in my seat in the coach’s classroom and get ready to take the final. I had an 87; if I worked a little harder, I could’ve been home sleeping.

The coach walks into the classroom.

He looks at me and says, “What are you doing here?”

“I’m here to take the final”

“Go home, you’re exempt” I started to explain that I had an 87, but he just shook his head and pointed to the door. I didn’t have to be told again; I scooted out of there and walked home, a mile or so on a cold day, realizing that sometimes enthusiasm has its benefits. 

— Cleveland Cavaliers named Luke Walton as an assistant coach; Walton has been a head coach for the Lakers, Kings, was an assistant with Golden State when they won the 2015 title.

— Was telling someone this story Tuesday, how in 1979, Magic Johnson’s rookie season, the NBA wasn’t nearly as popular as it is now. The Finals games during the week were broadcast on tape delay, at 11:30 pm, after the local news.

Here in Albany, Scott Murray was the local sports guy; at 11:20, he would say: “I’m about to show the score of tonight’s Laker-76er game. If you’re going to stay up and watch the game, turn your head for 30 seconds, while I show everyone else the score. I’ll tell you when its OK to look again.”

He waited couple of seconds, then held up a board with the score of the game, held it there for 10 seconds or so, then put it down and said “It is OK to look” and the news continued. Five minutes later, they went to the tape delay broadcast of the game. 

That is the huge impact that Magic Johnson/Larry Bird had on the NBA; that was the last damn time NBA Finals weren’t shown live. 

— Since Steve Kerr has been coach at Golden State, Warriors are 7-9 vs Boston. 

— Baylor-Gonzaga are meeting in Sioux Falls, SD on December 2; should be a good game.  

— Mets sent Dom Smith down the minors Tuesday, probably to get him at-bats every day so they can trade him for pitching help. Smith is hitting .186 in 39 games this season, but he went 4-4 on a Sunday night couple weeks ago, then sat the next two games.

If Smith were on the A’s or the Pirates, he’d bat third; in 2020, he hit .316 with 42 RBI in 50 games. He is a good hitter who will help the team he gets traded to. 

— Lot of times while I am writing late at night, I’ll stream episodes from the old TV show The West Wing on my laptop; picked up a good bit of trivia while listening last night.

There are 54 national parks in America; just thought you’d like to know. 

— USFL’s Houston Gamblers have led every game at halftime this season; they’re 1-6.

Birmingham Stallions have been tied or trailed in second half of every game; they’re 7-0.

— Adding to the weirdness of the Tommy Pham/Joc Pederson fantasy football dispute is the knowledge that Mike Trout was the commissioner of the league. 

— NL East standings:
33-17— Mets
23-26—  Braves
21-29—  Phillies
19-27—  Marlins
18-33— Nationals

— Mets won their last five games, by a combined score of 44-17; they’re a good team, but the rest of the NL East just sucks.

— Winnipeg 25, Saskatchewan 16— Tuesday night football in the CFL; this game was on ESPN+, if you have that service.

— Colorado 8, Edmonton 6— This was the first playoff game in NHL history where both teams allowed 6+ goals and used multiple goalies.

— Arizona 8, Atlanta 7 (10)— Braves led 6-4 in 8th inning, but Arizona beat up on Atlanta’s bullpen and walked it off on Cooper Hummel’s double down the right field line. Christian Walker went 3-4 with three RBI for Arizona.

— Cubs 8, Brewers 7— Patrick Wisdom’s homer in 8th inning was the difference. 

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

13) Last week or the week before, there was some stuff on social media mocking players of the past, that they could not compare to today’s NBA players. It was disrespectful.

12) There are 48:00 in an NBA game; Sunday night, Jimmy Butler played all 48:00 in Miami’s 100-96 Game 7 loss to Boston. Tremendous effort; the Heat came up just short. People made a big deal out of Butler playing the whole game; doesn’t happen much anymore.

NBA basketball has changed a lot over the years; last ten years or so, it has gotten a lot softer, guys opting out of playing back/back nights. The game has become a lot less physical. On the plus side, shooting has become more fashionable. More passing/less dribbling, which is a good thing. The game is different, for better or worse.

Back in the day, Wilt Chamberlain AVERAGED 45.8 minutes a game for his 13-year career, and that was the regular season. He averaged 47.2 minutes/game in playoff games. His first ten years in the league, he never played less than 72 games in an 82-game season.

11) My point is this: Guys can play major minutes, if they put their minds to it; teams fly around in private jets these days, the accommodations are a lot better now than in previous years. 

When Wilt was 32, the 1968-69 season, the Lakers played back/back nights 12 times, but they also played three nights in a row four times, four nights in a row twice. Could you imagine asking one of today’s stars to play a game three nights in a row? No freakin’ chance.

That season, at age 32, Chamberlain averaged 45.3 minutes a game, playing in 81 of 82 games. 20.5 points a game, 21.1 rebounds a game.

Let’s see one of today’s players match those numbers. 

10) Get well soon to ESPN’s basketball voice Mike Breen, who tested positive for COVID over the weekend; hopefully he’ll be back behind the mike for the NBA Finals.

9) Rangers beat Carolina 6-2 Monday night, to advance to the NHL’s Final Four; since 2005, under is now 38-25-9 in Game 7 of an NHL playoff series, 4-2 this year. 

8) Under is 27-6 in Houston Astros’ last 33 games; they’re getting great pitching and they ain’t hitting so much. 

7) Phillies spent lot of $$$ this winter on Kyle Schwarber, Nick Castellanos; they should’ve spent some money on their bullpen. Phillies are 4-9 in games where the winning run scored from the seventh inning on. Not good. 

6) Same thing for the Angels, who are 29-16-4 in the first five innings of games, but their overall record is only 27-22. Halos will probably still make the playoffs, but how they going to do once they get there? 

5) Texas Rangers’ CF Eli White made one of the best catches I’ve ever seen Monday night, robbing Tampa Bay’s Ji-Man Choi of a home run in left-center field. His glove had to be a couple of feet over the fence; tremendous play. 

4) Brewers-Cubs played a doubleheader Monday; first game had both starting pitchers making their major league debut, something that rarely happens this early in a season.

3) Are NFL teams scouting the USFL for kickers? Guy on Michigan made a 60-yard FG last week; guy on Pittsburgh made a 56-yarder. 

2) There are point spreads posted for every NFL game this fall; Houston Texans are only team that is an underdog in all 17 of their games. Tampa Bay/Buffalo are either favored/pick ‘em in all of their games. 

1) if the baseball playoffs started today (they do not):
NL— Mets-Brewers-Dodgers. Wild Cards: San Diego-St Louis-San Francisco.
AL— New York-Twins-Astros. Wild Cards: Rays, Blue Jays, Angels

Monday’s Den: Happy Memorial Day

13) Boston 100, Miami 96:
— Boston never trailed, leading 32-17 after first quarter.
— Miami had ball in last 0:10 down two points, but missed a 3-point shot.
— Jimmy Butler played the whole freakin’ game, scoring 35 points.
— Other than Butler/Adebayo, Miami shot 12-43 from floor.
— Celtics advance to meet Golden State in NBA Finals. 

12) Over/under for this game was 198, lowest total for a playoff game since Game 7 of the 2018 series between Celtics-Cavaliers. 

Since 2015, under is 57-50-1 in NBA playoff games with totals lower than 200. 

11) Atlanta Braves promoted outfield prospect Michael Harris from AA to the major leagues this weekend; why do some teams have a prospect skip AAA altogether?

Harris is only 21 years old; he hit .305 in 41 games in the Southern League, but is he ready for the big leagues, and if he struggles at the plate, how will he react to that? Harris is a local kid from the Atlanta area; he made a great catch in centerfield the other day, but hitting has to be a struggle, jumping from AA to facing Sandy Alcantara in his first MLB game. 

10) Next season MLB will use a different scheduling format; every big league team will face every other team, so the stars of the game will face every team, and traditional rivals will play each other less than they usually do.

Here’s the problem; baseball SAYS they want more scoring but when hitters see pitchers fewer times, it makes hitting a lot more difficult, and with this schedule, hitters will not see the same pitchers nearly as much as they do now.

9) White Sox star SS Tim Anderson is headed to the injured list after hurting his right leg in the field Sunday; Anderson is hitting .356; he is having an MRI Monday to see how severe the injury is. White Sox are going to miss their leadoff hitter. 

8) Birmingham 26, Pittsburgh 16:
— Unbeaten Stallions clinched a playoff berth here.
— Game was 23-16 with 5:00 left; the Pittsburgh coach got upset his QB’s body language during a timeout, and yanked him, putting in a QB the team signed five days ago. Not ideal.
— Pittsburgh also wasted a timeout early in third quarter when they were trying to draw the Stallions offside— they should’ve taken a delay of game, kept their timeout. 

7) Philadelphia 35, Houston 24:
— 1-6 Gamblers led 17-13 at halftime; they’ve led every game at halftime.
— Stars outgained Houston 315-200. 

6) Giants 6, Reds 4:
— Giants scored six runs in 8th inning, after getting one hit in first six innings.
— Reds had won 29 games in a row when they led from 7th inning on.
— Despite the loss, Cincinnati is 13-9 in its last 22 games, after starting out 3-22. 

5) At one point in his career, Sonny Gray went 48 consecutive starts without allowing more than six hits in any start. That is an all-time record, 16 games longer than the second-best streak. 

4) 42-year old Rich Hill is pitching for Boston Monday; Red Sox are his 11th team in an interesting 18-year career. Betcha he could write a hell of a book.

3) Odd golf stat: Last time a golfer won a PGA Tour event without getting a birdie in the last round was 2014 in Memphis, when Ben Crane won the Fed Ex Open. 

2) Harold Varner was tied for the lead on the 12th hole Sunday at the Charles Schwab Challenge, then his day got ugly; Varner shot +10 on the back nine, wound up tied for 27th. 

1) Memorial Day is a day set aside for mourning the military personnel who died while serving our country, protecting us. We’re lucky to live in a democracy where we can do as we please, and our military does a lot of great work, which often goes unappreciated, which isn’t good.

So thank you to all military personnel; you’re doing very important work. 

Sunday’s Den: Wrapping up a sports Saturday

13) There is a Twitter account called Umpire Scorecards which grades the home plate umpire after every game; it shows where they missed calls, what %age they missed and which team was helped by those calls.

Friday night in Cincinnati, in a game whose start was delayed by rain, Hunter Wendelstedt had the plate. Of the 108 pitches he called balls, only two were strikes. That is very good. Of the 51 pitches he called strikes, 12 were actually balls, mostly borderline high pitches. No bueno.

76% accuracy on called strikes isn’t good; when robot umpires become a thing in a couple years, stuff like this won’t happen anymore. I’m not in favor of robot umpires, but they’re going to be a real thing fairly soon. 

12) New Orleans 31, Michigan 27 OT
— First-ever overtime game in the new USFL.
— They use a 2-point conversion shootout for overtime games; Breakers converted both of theirs, Michigan went 0-2.
— New Orleans is 4-3, Michigan 1-6, with five losses by 7 or less points.
— Michigan’s kicker made a 60-yard field goal; they lost a game earlier this season when a different kicker missed a 21-yard kick at the gun that would’ve won the game. 

11) New Jersey 20, Tampa Bay 13— Generals clinch a playoff berth; Tampa Bay didn’t score a TD in any of their three red zone drives. Bandits were minus-3 in turnovers, are minus-10 for the season. Thats a losing number in any league. 

10) FS1 showed a picture from 1991, when TV analyst/former Cowboys coach Jason Garrett was playing QB for the San Antonio Riders in the World League of American Football. His coach was Mike Riley, who is currently the New Jersey Generals’ coach.

Garrett spoke very highly of Riley, who has had an interesting career in almost every pro football league there has been, plus a couple college leagues— he is Oregon State’s all-time winningest coach.

9) Reds’ OF Tommy Pham and Giants’ OF Joc Pederson got into a pre-game scuffle Friday; now Pham has been suspended for three games. Apparently the dispute was over a fantasy football league they were in last fall; there was an actual dispute about putting a player on injured reserve and well…..you would think this wouldn’t result in a fight, but it did.

Two rich guys in a fantasy football league; there must’ve been lot of money at stake for things to carry over to May of the next year, but now Pham loses $111,111 for his three-game suspension, making it a very expensive fantasy football season. 

8) They were talking on couple of different ballgames Saturday how catchers who use pitch-com are putting it on their knee pad instead of their wrist. Teams are paranoid that signs could still be stolen by seeing where the catchers presses the key pad, if it was on his wrist. 

7) Someone kept track of this at a Tigers-Guardians game this week; they used a total of 115 baseballs in that game. 

6) UCLA 25, Oregon State 22 (10)— Bruins tied game with nine runs in bottom of 9th inning in this Pac-12 tournament game, then won it in extra innings.

— This is the first year the Pac-12 has a postseason baseball tournament.
— Game lasted 5:44
— Kid on UCLA had seven RBI and he didn’t start.
— Beavers later beat UCLA 8-7 in another game, eliminating the Bruins from the double elimination event- they play Stanford for the conference title Sunday night on ESPN2. 

5) Red Sox 5, Orioles 3— This was Nathan Eovaldi’s 211th career start; it was his first complete game. By way of comparison, Greg Maddux threw 109 complete games, Rick Langford 85. No one throws complete games anymore.

Last time a pitcher threw consecutive complete games? Corey Kluber, in 2017. 

4) Golden State is 21-4 in playoff series since Steph Curry has been on the team; they’re 89-39 (.695) in playoff games in the Curry era, the best playoff winning %age of any MVP in NBA history.

3) NY Rangers 5, Carolina 2:
— Carolina is 7-0 at home in the playoffs, 0-6 on the road.
— First five games in this series stayed under the total; this one went over.
— Game 7 is Monday night in Raleigh. 

2) Someone posted a picture on Twitter of a Pistons-Cavaliers game from 2004, when Lebron James scored 43 points. The guy guarding James in the picture was Darvin Ham, who is now going to be Lebron’s coach with the Lakers. 

1) Former Iowa State guard Tyrese Hunter not only transferred away from the Cyclones, he bolted to Texas, a conference rival of Iowa State’s. He was the best available transfer out there; big loss for Iowa State.

Other schools trying to poach Hunter were Gonzaga, Kansas, Louisville, Purdue, Tennessee; last year, Purdue was one of the few top 50 programs that didn’t poach any transfers.

This is where college basketball is headed, free agency. It is what it is, even if it does suck.

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

13) Miami 111. Boston 103— Jimmy Butler played a GREAT game, scoring 47 points, with nine rebounds, eight assists. Game 7 is Sunday night in Miami.

Boston’s Al Horford has played in 140 playoff games without ever playing in the NBA Finals, most of any player without making the Finals. That can all change Sunday. 

12) Los Angeles Lakers named 48-year old Darwin Ham as their new coach; Ham has been an assistant in the NBA for 11 years, most recently with Milwaukee (they won the title last year).

Ham played in the NBA for seven years, won a title with the 2004 Pistons. This will be the first time he is a head coach. His mother used to be mayor of Saginaw, Michigan. 

11) Last three years, first half under is 55-21-1, in Eastern Conference playoff games in Games 3-7 of a series. Teams get to know each other’s plays so well, the deeper you get into a series, the harder it is to score— very few easy baskets. 

10) Cardinals 4, Brewers 2— St Louis is using pitch-com more; they’re trying to get Dakota Hudson to work faster when he is on the mound- they think it’ll help both his pitching and their team’s fielding behind him, if there is less time between pitches.

In this game, Hudson threw 97 pitches in only 4.2 IP, but he didn’t allow any runs.

9) Atlanta Braves’ TV Friday night, Chip Caray/Jeff Francouer broadcast the game from the bleachers in right-center field, which is pretty cool. They’re a good broadcast team.

Chip Caray is Skip Caray’s son, Harry Caray’s grandson, but he isn’t funny like they were. He has made himself into a good broadcaster; upbeat, prepared, fun to listen to. He’s worked very hard at his job; tough to follow in the footsteps of his famous relatives, but he is doing it well. 

8) I enjoy fantasy baseball (except for weeks when my team gets killed, like this week) so this is interesting to me. Bryce Harper can’t play the field because he can’t throw— his elbow is messed up— he DH’s every day, but that means JT Realmuto can’t DH when he doesn’t catch.

So if you have Realmuto on your fantasy team, you’re losing 20-25 games where Realmuto would likely be the DH- lot of at-bats. If there was no DH, Harper wouldn’t even be playing. 

7) Coming into Friday’s baseball, San Francisco Giants’ hitters in the #3 spot in the order were hitting a combined .166, with only 8 RBI, which is terrible.

6) Last weekend, Josh Donaldson got int a kerfuffle with Chicago’s Tim Anderson; MLB said he was suspended for a game. Then he missed a game with COVID. Now he has a bad shoulder.

If I was a conspiracy theorist, I’d suggest his suspension might’ve been longer than one game, they just don’t want to make a big deal out of it. 

5) Mariners 6, Astros 1— Both starting pitchers faced 30 batters in this game, which almost never happens these days. Pitchers seldom face the same batter four times in a game, but three batters on each team did it in this game. Unusual. 

4) Orioles 12, Red Sox 8— Boston led 8-2 after six innings; their bullpen imploded. This game was 6-0 in second inning.

3) Reds 5, Giants 1— San Francisco reliever Jake McGee wasn’t allowed to pitch in this game, because his name wasn’t listed on the Giants’ lineup card, which is given to umpires.

Whoops. 

2) In the NL East, New York has a 7.5-game lead.
In the AL East, New York has a 6.5-game lead.

Think the TV networks that show postseason games are excited about this?

1) There was an ad in a San Antonio newspaper Friday, which said “The summer sale you WON’T want to miss” The sale is for all kinds of rifles, all weekend long, a few days after 19 kids were murdered in a 4th grade classroom, two hours west of San Antonio.

What is wrong with people; why do they need all these assault rifles?

Remind me never to go to Texas again. Ever. 

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

— NFL teams with the most completions LY on passes that went 20+ yards in air:
38— Arizona, Tampa Bay
36— Dallas
34— Minnesota
33— Las Vegas, Seattle
32— Buffalo
31— Green Bay, LA Rams

— NFL teams with the fewest completions LY on passes that went 20+ yards in air:
12— NJ Giants
14— Carolina, Tennessee
16— Detroit
17— San Francisco
19— New Orleans
20— Pittsburgh

Golden State 120, Dallas 110:
— Warriors advance to NBA Finals for sixth time in eight years.
— Golden State led this game 69-52 at halftime.
— Klay Thompson was 8-16 on arc, scored 32 points.

— The father of Cincinnati Reds’ rookie P Hunter Greene is a private investigator with some famous clients, one of whom was lawyer Johnnie Cochran, who became famous during the OJ Simpson trial in the 90’s.

— Been quite a while since I’ve seen a movie promoted as hard as this new Top Gun movie is being pumped up; its been 36 years since the original Top Gun came out, which makes me feel old(er).

— Boston Celtics are 6-3 in road playoff games this season; over the previous ten years, Boston was 12-27 in road playoff games.

USFL Week 7 notes:
New Jersey vs Tampa Bay
New Jersey Generals (5-1)
— Won last five games, scoring 24.5 ppg in last four.
— Have only four takeaways, have minus-2 turnover ratio.
— Outscored last four foes 50-22 in second half.
— Last three games went over the total.

Tampa Bay Bandits (3-3)
— Scored 27-28 points last two games (19.3 ppg in first four)
— Minus-7 in turnovers— have only three takeaways.
— Three of last four games went over total.
— Scoring 11.8 ppg in first half, 6.8 ppg in second half.

Michigan vs New Orleans
Michigan Panthers (1-5)
— Last three games, they’re minus-6 in turnovers, giving up 28.7 ppg.
— 0-3 in games decided by 5 or fewer points.
— Outgained four of their six opponents.
— Their only win was 24-0 over 1-5 Pittsburgh.

New Orleans Breakers (4-2)
— Scored 23+ points in their wins, 13-17 in losses.
— Last three games went over the total
— Last three weeks, ran ball for 137.3 yards/game.
— Trailed three of last four games at halftime.

Birmingham vs Pittsburgh
Birmingham Stallions (6-0)
— Trailed at halftime in four of six games
— Outscored opponents 98-34 in second half.
— Outrushed last three foes 456-206
— 6-0 against spread

Pittsburgh Maulers (1-5)
— Have been outscored 88-32 in first half of games. 
— Last four weeks, allowed 165 rushing yards/game.
— Four of their last five games went over total.
— All five losses are by 7+ points.

Houston vs Philadelphia
Houston Gamblers (1-5)
— Lost last five games, last three all in last 0:05.
— Led all six games at halftime
— Last five games went over total
— Outscored 85=32 in second half.

Philadelphia Stars (3-3)
— Last three weeks, they’re +5 in turnovers.
— Gave up 23+ points in all six games (over 4-1 last five).
— Have been outgained in every game (1-4-1 ATS).
— Scored 30-26-35 points in wins; 17-16-17 in losses.

— Reds 20, Cubs 5— Cincinnati SS Farmer homered twice, knocked in five runs, also had a sac bunt; not often a guy has a sac bunt and two homers in the same game.

— Portland Trailblazers hired Mike Schmitz as an assistant GM; he had been on ESPN for few years, traveling all over the world to evaluate talent for the NBA Draft.

— Rangers 4, A’s 1:
Good news for the A’s; they’re 14-6 if they score 4+ runs.
Bad news for the A’s: they’ve scored 4+ runs in only 20 of 47 games; they’re 5-22 when they score fewer than four runs.

— MLB and the players’ union are allowing teams to still have an additional pitcher through June 19; it is looking more and more like the 14-pitcher thing might last the whole season.

— Tigers 4, Guardians 3— Miguel Cabrera went 3-4, had a walk-off single.

— Reds 20, Cubs 5…….Red Sox 16, White Sox 7— Rough day in Chicago; they both get Friday off, before playing each other Saturday-Sunday on the South side. 

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

I’m going to speak my mind here for a few minutes, because I think it is wrong to shut up at times like these. I don’t belong to a political party, have almost zero interest in politics. I’d much rather watch ballgames or movies, or listen to music. But this has been another bad week.

I don’t remember much about being in 4th grade; it was the first year our classroom was on the second floor instead of the first floor, and my teacher was Mrs Hoen. Other than that, nothing stands out in my memory, which is pretty much how it should be.

Today, there is a school full of kids in Texas who will be traumatized forever by stuff that happened this week; 21 people are dead because an 18-year old took an assault rifle into a classroom and shot a bunch of little kids and their teacher. How does this happen? How?????

I was in the grocery store the other day, and looked around for where the exits are in the back of the store, in case there was ever an episode with a shooter in there. It can happen anywhere. If that is paranoid, so be it, but it never hurts to be prepared. 

Our gutless politicians are in the pockets of the NRA, so gun rules won’t change; when people like Jimmy Kimmel and Steve Kerr speak out and make more sense than any politician, you realize that our politicians are freakin’ useless. Only thing they’re good at is lining their own freakin’ pockets. Not good. Not freakin’ good at all.

Only thing we can do is vote these useless politicians out, and hopefully their replacements will be decent people who realize that no one should be queasy about going to the grocery store, or queasy about sending their kids to school.

Other countries don’t have this problem; they have strict gun laws. Why can’t this country do that???? I haven’t heard a decent explanation yet.

On to less important issues……..
— Joe Niekro pitched 22 years in the major leagues, for seven teams; he batted 1,165 times. He hit one home run, on May 29, 1976, in Atlanta— the Braves’ catcher that day was Biff Pocoroba.

Atlanta’s pitcher was Joe’s brother Phil, a Hall of Famer. What are the odds of that?

— Bulls-Pistons are going to play a regular season NBA game in Paris on January 19, 2023.

— Rumor has it that in 2-3 years, the NBA is going to add expansion teams in Seattle/Las Vegas; they’re talking about building a new hotel/casino in Las Vegas, which will also have a new arena for the expansion team.

— This week, Minnesota Timberwolves made former Denver Nuggets president Tim Connelly one of the league’s highest-paid executives; $40M for five years that also includes ownership equity.

That is good bank for an executive who is an excellent talent evaluator— he took Nikola Jokić with the 41st pick of the 2014 NBA Draft.

— As of last week, over half (54.7%) of freshmen/sophomores who entered the college basketball transfer portal haven’t found a new school yet. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side.

— Louisville Cardinals hired alum Milt Wagner as director of player development and alumni relations; it is just a coincidence that Wagner’s grandson DJ is one of the top-ranked recruits in the 2023 class. Go figure.

— Louisville-Kentucky are renewing their basketball rivalry in Rupp Arena on New Year’s Eve.

— Evansville finally hired a new basketball coach; kind of late in the process to do so, but David Ragland is the Purple Aces’ new coach. Ragland went 44-19 in two seasons as a junior college coach 10-12 years ago; he has almost 20 years as a D-I assistant.

Maybe Ragland can go sign up some of those kids in the transfer portal who haven’t found a new home yet.

— In the USFL, QB Shea Patterson was released by the Michigan Panthers and later signed by the New Orleans Breakers; Patterson has thrown for 973 yards — third in the league — four TD’s and five INTs this season— he has also rushed for 171 yards and two TD’s.

— A box seat to the 1955 World Series cost $31. This year, a beer at the PGA golf tournament cost $18.

— Boston 93, Miami 80— Celtics used a 24-2 run in third quarter to take a 3-2 series lead. Heat made only seven of 45 3-point shots.

— Under was 8-4-1 in Wednesday’s baseball games, as hitters continue to struggle.

— Nationals 1, Dodgers 0— Erick Fedde threw six shutout innings for Washington.

— A’s 4, Seattle 2— It is May 25 and the A’s are ahead of Seattle in the standings; never would’ve guessed that, not in a million years. Mariners are a very disappointing team.

— Tampa Bay 5, Miami 4— Rays scored five runs in first inning, hung on for dear life. Rays open a home series with division rival New York tonight.

— Cincinnati 4, Cubs 3— 38-year old Joey Votto hit a homer and a triple; is he the oldest player to do that? 

Wednesday’s Den: Random baseball knowledge……..

13) When Rickey Henderson was voted into the Hall of Fame in 2009, 28 people didn’t vote for him; how the BLEEP could you not vote for Rickey Henderson?

Well, he’s not alone; here are some other great ballplayers, and how many people didn’t vote for them to be inducted in Cooperstown.

Note: Mariano Rivera is the Hall of Fame’s only unanimous choice.

43— Mickey Mantle (43 people didn’t vote for Mantle???)
23— Willie Mays, Stan Musial
20— Ted Williams, Steve Carlton
16— Mike Schmidt, Johnny Bench, Greg Maddux
13— Tony Gwynn
11— Babe Ruth
9— Hank Aaron, George Brett
5— Tom Seaver

You get the point; Hall of Fame voting becomes personal, which is wrong.

12) There are unusual parallels between the careers of Sandy Koufax/Clayton Kershaw:

— Koufax led the NL in ERA five times.
Kershaw led the NL in ERA five times.

— Koufax led the NL in WHIP four times.
Kershaw led the NL in WHIP four times.

— Koufax won three Cy Young awards and an MVP.
Kershaw has won three Cy Young awards and an MVP.

— Koufax had a career record of 165-87
Kershaw has a career record of 187-84.

There are also a couple differences:
— Koufax threw 137 complete games, including 54 his last two seasons.
Kershaw has only 25 complete games in his career.

— Koufax was a good basketball player; he made the team at U of Cincinnati as a walk-on, later earned a partial scholarship.
Kershaw was a center on his high school football team; the QB on that team was Matthew Stafford. 

12) Koufax had a weird major league career:
— First six years: 103 starts- 36-40, 4.10. 683 K’s in 691.2 IP
— Last six years: 211 starts- 129-47, 2.19. 1,713 K’s in 1,632.2 IP

He retired when he was 30, after a 27-9, 1.73 season. 

11) Who was the first pitcher to strike out 3,000+ hitters, while walking less than 1,000?

Ferguson Jenkins pitched for 19 years in the big leagues, winning 284 games. Career ERA of 3.34, career WHIP of 1.14. Hell of a pitcher. 

10) Detroit Tigers’ star Miguel Cabrera hit a walk-off homer in his first MLB game; his next double will make him the fifth player ever with 500+ homers, 600+ doubles.

Cabrera won the Triple Crown in 2012, hitting .330 with 44 homers, 139 RBI

9) In 2004, Barry Bonds was walked intentionally 120 times; before that, the record for most intentional walks was held by another Giant, Willie McCovey.

McCovey got 45 intentional walks in 1969, 40 more the next year. In a game against the Mets, McCovey was walked intentionally in both the first and second innings.

Giants got really lucky in 1955; they held a tryout camp in Melbourne, FL, which is where they found both McCovey and Orlando Cepeda, two damn good players. 

8) There were 1,469 players taken in the 2001 baseball draft; Justin Verlander wasn’t one of them. Instead, he went to Old Dominion and played college ball.

Three years later, these were the first two picks of the draft:
— San Diego took P Matt Bush with the #1 pick.
— Detroit took Verlander with the #2 pick. 

7) Frank Thomas didn’t get drafted out of high school, either; instead he went to Auburn and played a few games as a backup tight end, while also playing baseball. 

When he was a sophomore, Thomas led SEC in hitting; he was the 7th pick in the 1989 draft.

Thomas was a great hitter; seven years in a row, he hit .300+, walked 100+ times, scored 100+ runs and knocked in 100+. Those 100+ walks made the 100+ RBI a lot harder to get. 

6) When he was a little kid, Brooks Robinson threw left-handed, but he broke his left arm and switched to throwing righty. Good thing for the Orioles.

Robinson was a paperboy; one of his customers was Hall of Fame catcher Bill Dickey.

He knocked in 118 runs in 1964, winning AL MVP. Robinson hit 268 career homers, and made the All-Star Game 15 years in a row. 

4) Good trivia: Rickey Henderson led the American League in stolen bases every year in the 1980’s, except one; in 1987, Harold Reynolds stole 60 bases, beating Willie Wilson by one steal. Henderson stole 41 bases in that injury-plagued season.

3) Frank Robinson was a great ballplayer; 586 homers, .926 career OPS, 1,829 runs scored, 1,812 more knocked in. MVP of a World Series, MVP of an all All-Star Game. Great player.

At the end of his career, Robinson was making $173,000 a year; I always wonder if guys like Robinson, great ballplayers who were born too early, resented the ludicrous money ballplayers make nowadays?

You could make the argument that Robinson is the most underrated player ever; he was also the first Black manager in the major leagues. If he was in his prime today, $173,000 would be his tipping money. 

2) When Roger Clemens was a senior in high school, he didn’t get any Division I scholarship offers, so he pitched at San Jacinto College, a junior college. He wound up pitching at Texas, became a big star, was a first round pick of the Red Sox in 1983— he got the major leagues the next season.

I saw Clemens pitch at Cooperstown, in the Hall of Fame Game; he wasn’t a big star yet, just a young prospect recovering from arm surgery (back then, just about all the pitchers from Texas had their arms operated on).

In 13 years with Boston, Clemens was 192-111, but only 40-39 the last four years. After he left Boston, Clemens went 162-73, 3.21, won four more Cy Young awards.

By way of comparison, these are the CAREER stats for Sandy Koufax:
165-87, 2.76 ERA, three Cy Young awards.

Clemens’ postseason record: 12-8, 3.75 in 34 starts, which ain’t spectacular, but boy, what an awesome career he had.

1) Willie Mays was called up to the major leagues at age 20, he was hitting .477 in AAA, with 29 extra base hits in 35 games; what took them so long?

New York Giants trailed Brooklyn by 10.5 games in August, back when there were no playoffs, just the World Series between the teams who won the NL/AL. Giants made a great run, tied the Dodgers for first place, beat them in a playoff but lost the World Series in six games.

Mays hit 660 homers, and missed two years for military service; he had a .940 OPS, scored 2.068 runs, knocked in 1,909 more.

Mays hit 523 doubles, 140 triples, 660 homers, stole 338 bases. The great writer Joe Posnanski calls him the greatest baseball player ever. Who am I to argue with that?