Sunday’s Den: Wrapping up a sports Saturday

13) Last three days have been very excellent; sat around my house in hooded sweatshirts and sweats, watched ball for 14-16 hours a day, ate pizza, took a lot of notes. Life almost seemed normal again.

In most years, this is my favorite week of the year; last year it was a disaster, when everything shut down because of the pandemic. This week, college basketball was everywhere, the way it is supposed to be in March. Filled in the voids with spring training baseball. Good stuff.

Sunday night the brackets come out, something we all missed last year.

Meanwhile, there was other stuff going on besides college basketball:

12) Every summer, HBO does Hard Knocks, a behind-the-scenes look at NFL training camp, usually one team each summer. They do five one-hour shows during the summer; it is fun to learn some things that normally behind-the-scenes. It helps promote the league.

Baseball needs to do this!!! Give HBO access to a team every spring; Lord knows there is enough free time for managers/coaches/players to talk on camera. Let HBO spen six weeks with the Angels so America can learn about Trout, and Ohtani. Next year do the Padres.

Promote the game!!! Young people need to learn how great baseball is; there is so much stuff going on these days, so much competition for the entertainment dollar. Expose baseball to as many people as possible; that would seem like a good business move.

Speaking of which, why do they black out TV broadcasts of games on MLB Network? Let as many people watch games as want to do it— it is STUPID to black games out.

11) Major league baseball now controls the minor leagues;  starting this season, they’re going to use the minors as a laboratory for new rules. Different levels will have different experiments:
— All four infielders will have to have both feet on the infield dirt.
— Teams will have to have two infielders on each side of th einfield.
— 0:15 pitch clock, which seems to be a bit much.
— Throws to first base vs baserunners will be limited.
— Robotic ball/strike umpires (I really dislike this one, maybe even hate it)

10) The motivation for all this is that MLB wants more baseballs put in play; less strikeouts and walks, more game action. If there are only two fielders on the right side of the infield, guys can go to the other way more— hard grounders that are pulled are more likely to be hits. Fewer batters will try to hit home runs all the time.

Batting average in the major leagues the last three years:
2018: .248
2019: .252
2020: .245— In 2000, it was .270. Shifts have badly hurt offense; offense makes the game more fun to watch.

9) Worlds colliding: a guy named Frank McCourt used to own the Dodgers- it didn’t go well. He had to sell the team,  after he spent too much money in his personal life, and his toxic divorce proceedings pushed the Dodgers into bankruptcy. No bueno.

McCourt now owns a soccer team in France, a team previously owned by a guy who was the CEO of Adidas. When the guy passed away in 2009, his wife inherited the team— she is worth $5.9B, according to Forbes magazine, the richest Russian-born woman in the world. She later sold the soccer team to McCourt.

Anyway, it turns out that the Adidas guy was 2nd-cousins with Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who played Elaine on the Seinfeld TV show. Like I said, worlds colliding.

8) Chicago Cubs hired Jon Sciambi as their new TV play-by-play guy, a huge upgrade over the last guy, who moved to White Sox radio. Sciambi is awesome and will team with former big league pitcher Jim Deshaies. The reason I care about this a decent amount is that I have both Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant on my fantasy team, so I’m going to be watching the Cubs a lot this season.

7) Was watching the Milwaukee Brewers play in the middle of the night this week, the replay of an exhibition game, and got this sick feeling that I get every March when I watch the Brewers.

They’re analytically-driven, which means their front office guys all went to fancy colleges, and they do unusual things with the team, then use their college degrees to defend them when they don’t work. Translation: I will never have another Milwaukee pitcher on my fantasy team.

6) Random sports trivia; Arkansas hoop coach Eric Musselman is the son of the late coach Bill Musselman, who coached the Minnesota Gophers, also in the NBA and in the CBA, with the Albany Patroons, who played three miles from my house. Musselman’s Gophers won the 1972 Big Ten championship, back before there was a conference tournament.

When Bill Musselman was at Minnesota, one of the subs on his team was this guy who was pretty good in another sport, a 6-6 outfielder you may have heard of. Guy named Dave Winfield, a baseball Hall of Famer.

5) Tip of the cap to Nick Markakis, who retired this week after a 15-year career where he hit .288 for the Orioles/Braves, with a career on-base % of .357. Pretty freakin’ good.

Markakis played in 147+ games in 12 of his 15 seasons; he wound up with 2,388 hits. He was on my fantasy team for several years, was a big help— one of the best “abilities” is dependability.

4) NCAA Tournament schedule is a little different this year:
— Play-in games will all be on Thursday.
— First round games are Friday/Saturday
— Second round games are Sunday/Monday
— Second weekend of the tournament will be Saturday-Tuesday.

3) Georgia Tech 80, Florida State 75
— This was only second time EVER (Georgia Tech-Virginia in 1990) that the ACC title game didn’t have a team from North Carolina in it.
— Georgia Tech wins ACC title for first time since 1993.

2) 12-15 years ago, when I used to go to Florida every summer to watch the AAU national tournament at Disney World, I’d venture to different high schools in the Kissimmee area to watch games. When I went back to work the next week, I’d tell people how I spent my vacation, and more than one person gave me an odd look. Go figure.

One day I’m at Poinciana HS watching games, sitting on a cafeteria table, behind one of the baskets and this young coach sits on the other end of the table. I struck up a conversation with him and picked his brain for a couple hours, learned a lot. Probably asked too many questions, but learned a lot.

Maybe 4-5 years ago, I’m at Bishop Gorman HS in Las Vegas watching games, and once again I’m sitting next to the same guy, and we had another good conversation. Now I’m a nobody, he had no reason to be nice to me, or answer my numerous questions, but he did.

Josh Pastner is a hell of a nice guy; was so happy to see him win this game and win the ACC title. He was a sub as a player on great Arizona teams under Lute Olson and now has been a head coach for 12 years, seven at Memphis, five at Georgia Tech. Congrats coach!!!

1) Since AFL-NFL merger, most starts for a QB-coach combo without making playoffs:
85— Jim Zorn/Jack Patera, (expansion Seahawks)
59— David Carr/Dom Capers (expansion Texans)
52— Ryan Tannehill/Joe Philbin (Dolphins)
48— Derek Carr/Jon Gruden (Raiders)

Author: Armadillo Sports

I've been involved in sports my whole life, now just write about them. I like to travel, mostly to Las Vegas- they have gambling there.