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Back to Baseball
[Posted early Wed. a.m.]
Kansas City Royals Quiz: 1) Who are the only two to hit .340 in a season for K.C.? 2) Who is the single-season leader in hits? 3) Who is the single-season leader in home runs? 4) Who is the career leader in wins? Answers below.
Wild Card Standings (thru Tuesday)
Toronto 71-54... +2
Boston 71-54... +2
Baltimore 69-56 ---
Seattle 67-58... 2
Detroit 66-59... 3
Kansas City 66-60... 4
Houston 65-61... 4.5
Yankees 64-61... 5
San Francisco 68-57... +1.5
St. Louis 66-58 ---
Miami 65-60... 1.5
Pittsburgh 63-60... 2.5
Mets 63-62... 3.5
--So I’ve been pointing out how the Washington Nationals’ Stephen Strasburg has been going through a terrible stretch, 19 earned runs in just 11 2/3 innings, and Monday we learned he had been put on the disabled list.
Thomas Boswell / Washington Post
“Perhaps only one cruel fact of baseball life could ruin a fan’s love of the game: the fragile human arm.
“On Monday night at Camden Yards, Washington Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg, whose career was endangered by elbow ligament replacement surgery in 2010, was due to face Baltimore’s Dylan Bundy, the hottest Orioles pitching prospect in the past decade, who missed multiple seasons with both elbow and shoulder miseries. The night’s theme: the sport’s uplifting comebacks. Can’t keep a great phenom down.
“Then, a few hours before the game, Strasburg was unexpectedly put on the disabled list with a sore elbow. Yes, that elbow. A ‘new elbow’ that is reconstructed is supposed to last about how long on average in MLB? Six years? Or is the consensus this week that it’s eight years? Though some last forever.
“This is, of course, the same Strasburg elbow in which the Nationals invested $175 million – all of it guaranteed – just three months ago, gambling Strasburg’s arm has seven more useful years in it. The pitcher can opt out of his deal after the 2019 or 2020 seasons, if he chooses to become a free agent. But the Nationals, like all teams that sign long-term pitching contracts, have no ‘opt-out’ clause for injury....
“The reality is that teams, and their fans, can’t do anything about these scary announcements, which are usually quite vague because nobody really knows....
“ ‘We’ve been monitoring it for a while,’ (GM Mike) Rizzo claimed. ‘We felt like the prudent thing to do – like we always have with our pitchers – was to give him this reset. We’re going to put him on the DL rather than pitch through some routine inflammation and soreness. Hopefully, in 15 days, he comes back stronger than ever and he can recharge and be really strong at the end.’....
“ ‘I think it’s just...being a Tommy John guy, getting through the grind of the season...there’s just a little more maintenance that has to go with it,’ Strasburg said, ‘and I’m still trying to learn these things.’
“That’s probably right. But don’t lap up the happy talk too fast....
“Cross your fingers: 175 million times.”
--Meanwhile, my Mets placed pitcher Steven Matz on the disabled list with tightness in his throwing shoulder; Matz, a former Tommy John recipient, having a myriad of issues this season.
But Tuesday, the Mets started a critical three-game series in St. Louis, the season essentially over if they don’t win 2 of 3, and they took game one, 7-4.
--The Yankees are staying relevant, at least for another few games, after defeating the Mariners 5-1 on Tuesday in Seattle behind CC Sabathia’s solid effort.
But the story for New York has been rookie catcher Gary Sanchez. The longed talked about 23-year-old prospect has burst on the scene with 8 home runs and 15 RBIs in his first 18 games, batting .377. Simply the best start ever for a Yankee by most metrics. And his fielding has been terrific.
--Former Yankee Ivan Nova is helping save the Pirates’ wild card chances as he is 3-0, 3.20 ERA, in four starts since being acquired by Pittsburgh in a trade with New York. He has allowed just one walk in his first 25 1/3, the latest effort a complete game, 7-1 victory over the Astros last night.
--Kansas City has suddenly won nine in a row to get back in the wild card hunt. Tuesday, four Royals pitchers shut out the Marlins 1-0 in Miami.
--On Monday, the Dodgers beat the Reds at the latter’s bandbox, Great American Ball Park, 18-9 behind seven home runs, three by Adrian Gonzalez. The franchise mark is eight homers, set back in 2002, a game against the Brewers that featured four home runs by Shawn Green.
For Gonzalez, it marked the second three-homer game of his career, with his eight RBIs a high for him.
Then on Tuesday, the Dodgers pummeled Madison Bumgarner, 9-5, in Los Angeles as they stretched their lead over the Giants to two games. It was the third time this year they had beaten Bumgarner – fifth consecutive over the last 12 months – as he fell to 12-8, 2.44. The two teams play eight more times, including the last three games of the season.
--A story broke late Sunday that former Mets star Dwight Gooden was in a drug-fueled descent, with his former girlfriend, former teammate Darryl Strawberry, and one of Gooden’s sons coming out very publicly, urging Gooden to get help.
“I have to try something before he’s dead,” Strawberry told John Harper of the New York Daily News.
Gooden was a no-show at a promotional appearance last week in New York, that was to be with Strawberry, and Darryl felt compelled to say:
“He’s a complete junkie-addict. I’ve been trying behind the scenes to talk to him and get him to go for help, but he won’t listen. He thinks he can manipulate and B.S. his way through everything. His son called me to beg me to help his dad before he dies.”
Gooden’s well-documented drug problem goes back to his time with the Mets in the 1980s. In May, Gooden told Harper he hadn’t used cocaine since 2011, but his former live-in girlfriend told Harper this weekend that Gooden has been abusing cocaine since January 2014. He looks awful these day...very gaunt.
So Gooden was ticked at Strawberry for going public and on Monday night, he called Strawberry “Lucifer” in a statement emailed to the New York Post.
“I had always been supportive of Darryl, during his best and worst days,” Gooden said in part. “I had never failed to be there for Darryl Strawberry. I don’t do cocaine and have not for years.”
But Gooden also told Joe Piscopo, who has a local radio show, “I do have a drug problem. I’ve been an addict most of my life. I am an addict.”
Then on Tuesday, after an autograph signing, he said, “I have forgiven (Darryl) already. I learned to forgive and it’s really for me to move on. I have too much going on.”
--Of Team USA’s 46 gold medals, the men won 18 and the women 27 (the other gold was in mixed doubles tennis). Had the women competed as a separate country, they would have ranked third in the overall medal chart (61), behind China (70) and Britain (67) and just ahead of the American men (60).
--America’s lead in the medals table, 51 more than second-place China, was the largest margin by any country in a non-boycotted Olympics since 1932, and the highest by the United States over the last 20 years.
--Among the top 10 athletes with the most medals won at the 2016 Games, eight were members of the U.S. swim team, with Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky combining for 11 of Team USA’s 33 in the pool.
--The U.S. women’s gymnastics team’s nine medals was the most by any women’s squad since 1972, with Simone Biles’ four golds the most ever by an American female gymnast at a single Games.
--The state of Maryland produced 14 gold medals, led by Phelps and Ledecky. One native I failed to mention last time, Kyle Snyder, became the youngest American to win a wrestling Olympic gold medal at 20.
--Richard Sandomir / New York Times
“NBCUniversal heads into the next three Olympics – all of them in Asia – faced with a critical question: Was the lower-than-expected prime-time viewership for the just-completed Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro a fluke or a harbinger of fraying audiences over the next six years?
“The answer, for now, is unknown, as NBC prepares for the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo and the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing. No one is certain how much further consumers will alter their media habits, how much further television viewing will be diminished, or what new technologies will emerge during that time.
“A further challenge to carrying an Olympics in Asia: the 13- to 14-hour time differences between the host cities and New York.
“ ‘You’d be a lot less concerned if you were in the United States or in Continental Europe,’ said Rich Greenfield, an analyst at BTIG Research. ‘Ninety percent of the content from Asia will be happening when we’re asleep – and when we wake up we’ll see our Twitter feeds and news stories telling us what has already happened.’....
“Still, even a favorable time zone like Brazil’s did not deliver for NBC as the network had expected. NBC thought that the greater number of live prime-time broadcasts from Rio would produce audiences larger than those amassed for London four years ago. But at 25.4 million, NBC’s broadcast audience fell 18 percent from the 31 million that watched the London Games. It added 2.1 million more viewers from live streaming and Olympic events on the NBCSN and Bravo cable networks. In all, the three sources of viewership did not combine to match London’s broadcast-only performance.”
Despite all the above, though, NBC did still dominate prime time, though it had promised advertisers a household rating average “in the high teens” and Rio averaged about a 15.0.
For the ninth straight Olympics, the Rio Games were most popular with TV viewers in Salt Lake City, where they averaged a 20.4 rating, according to Nielsen data. New York was tied for 28th out of Nielsen’s 64 TV markets with an average rating of 15.3.
--You know what has to already be a hot ticket? Next year’s World Track and Field Championships in London. Not only are we going to see Usain Bolt for a final time (and I believe him when he says this will be it), but Britain’s Mo Farah, four-time gold medal winner in the 5,000 and 10,000, announced London would be his final competition, though he hasn’t ruled out running the 2020 marathon in Tokyo. He finished eighth in his marathon debut in London two years ago, but he will 37 at the time of the Tokyo Games.
--Every two years we get a story on how much some nations pay their athletes for medaling. The USOC pays gold medal winners $25,000 apiece, and silver and bronze earn them $15,000 and $10,000, respectively. [So Michael Phelps, with five golds and a silver, will receive $140,000 in bonuses.]
France pays the equivalent of about $56,000 for a gold. Japan roughly $50,000.
The big winner, though, according to USA TODAY Sports, is Joseph Schooling, who “is set to receive about $740,000 from the Singapore National Olympic Council, which comes thanks to a sponsorship deal.”
--Britain had a great Olympics, second to the U.S. with 27 gold medals, when just 20 years ago in Atlanta, they came home with only one and finished 36th in the medal count.
After ’96, the country decided to invest funds raised from the national lottery into elite sports to improve their performance and today, three-fourths of the funding comes from the lottery, with funding for Olympic sports now up to $460 million in 2016 from $77.5 million in 1996. [New York Times]
British athletes making the podium receive up to $37,000 a year from U.K. Sport to contribute to their living and personal expenses.
--Some thoughts on how Rio held up during the Games....
Joshua Partlow and Dom Phillips / Washington Post
“Every day, fans by the thousands, a human sea tinted with many Brazilian greens and yellows, streamed into Olympic Park by walking down a makeshift ramp balanced on scaffolding and next to a canal of raw sewage. They waited in miles of lines in punishing sun to get searched by security or order an overpriced frozen pizza. On the rainy days, they shrugged and put on their clickers.
“There was no president to sum up these Olympics in stirring words. One was awaiting her impeachment trial, and the stand-in has stayed far from the stadiums since being drowned out by boos at the Opening Ceremonies....
“For (many Brazilians), this Olympics was unpopular, even infuriating, and can also be judged by who did not attend. Rio is an unequal city, and the less fortunate often were bulldozed out of the way or priced out of events. Tens of thousands of families, a good number of them the poor in favelas, were evicted to pave the way for expensive Olympic projects. Half of Brazil is black or mixed race, and while black athletes such as judo star Rafaela Silva won medals for Brazil, blacks were conspicuous by their absence in the stands....
“The host city could claim some wins. Many praised the new subway line, the bus rapid-transit lanes that zipped fans from venues many miles apart, and the redeveloped port area, anchored by the new Museum of Tomorrow.
“But the bad and bizarre came in waves. A stray bullet here, body parts on a beach there. Whenever one problem was solved, another popped up. The green water in the diving pool was drained and refilled to the intended blue, just in time for an overhead television camera to crash into the park, the whiplash from its cable injuring fans. Suspicious backpacks were blown up, and a media bus was attacked. About 6 million people bought tickets, more than 90 percent of those available. But empty seats dogged events throughout the Games. About 11 percent of tickets sold to the general public were not used, organizers said....
“When there weren’t high-level security officials, ministers, athletes and coaches being robbed at gunpoint, there was American swimmer Ryan Lochte lying about having a gun held to his head and his three teammates going along with the ruse....
“The Brazilian national sporting heart has only one true love, soccer, so much was riding on Saturday night’s gold-medal match between the host country and Germany, which tore out Brazil’s heart two years ago in a 7-1 slaughter in the World Cup tournament. Winning the rematch was all they might need to consider this Olympics a success. It took a penalty shootout to win, and the man who did it, Brazil’s limping star Neymar, looked as if he was crying even before his last shot hit the net.
“ ‘This eases some of the pain,’ said Paulo Hemman, 47, who was savoring the win at a Santa Teresa bar. ‘The game is a relief from everything that happened, to de-stress. The game makes us forget.’”
--Speaking of Ryan Lochte, Monday was not a good day for him, as, first, Speedo USA, and then three others (including Ralph Lauren, which was reportedly just for the Olympics), announced they were ending their sponsorships of the disgraced swimmer.
But an extensive investigation by USA TODAY Sports, “supports Lochte’s later account in which he said he thought the swimmers were being robbed when they were approached at a gas station by armed men who flashed badges, pointed guns at them and demanded money.
“A Brazilian judge says police might have been hasty in determining the security guards, by how they dealt with the swimmers, did not commit a robbery. A lawyer who has practiced in Brazil for 25 years says she does not think the actions of Lochte and teammate Jimmy Feigen constitute the filing of a false police report as defined under Brazilian law.”
USA TODAY’s investigation also notes: “It is clear from all accounts that a Portuguese-English language barrier played a major role in the incident and that a bilingual Brazilian witness who stepped forward at the scene was critical in preventing a tense situation from escalating.”
In a separate USA TODAY report Wednesday, apparently, police in Rio “never questioned four U.S. swimmers about their alleged vandalism of a gas station restroom, further evidence that a poster was the only property damaged by Ryan Lochte,” not the “extensive vandalism” Rio police spoke of in their news conference last Thursday.
The FedEx Cup Playoffs
Some of my friends, good golf fans, don’t get too into this, and it’s understandable, as by the third of the four legs, both college football and the NFL are underway.
But what the sport needs is a big tournament this week, event No. 1, The Barclays at Bethpage Black, Farmingdale, Long Island.
They’re all going to be there...Jason Day, Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson, Adam Scott, Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson, Justin Rose...virtually all of whom have taken off extensive time since the PGA at Baltusrol.
And there’s no football yet. And no Olympics. This is the one week golf should be taking center stage...because the following weekend college football gets going with some very intriguing matchups.
So the deal is you have 125 players who have qualified for The Barclays. Then the top 100 in the point standings after this weekend advance to the Deutsche Bank Championship in Boston (which ends on Labor Day), after which the field is reduced to 70 for the BMW Championship in Carmel, Indiana, and then after a week off, the final 30 play for all the marbles, The Tour Championship at East Lake in Atlanta.
Each of the four tournaments has an $8 million purse in addition to the $35 million FedEx Cup bonus pool.
But, again...golf needs a shot in the arm and this weekend presents an opportunity in the top media market.
By the way, no winner of the season-long competition for the FedEx Cup has successfully defended, so we’ll see how Jordan Spieth does.
--Only five golfers have multiple wins this 2015-16 wraparound season.
Jason Day...3 (9 Top 10s in 16 events)
Dustin Johnson...2 (12 in 18)
Adam Scott...2 (5 in 16)
Jordan Spieth...2 (6 in 17)
Russell Knox...2 (4 in 21)
--Ernie Els and Hunter Mahan are among the higher-profile players who didn’t make the 125 cut-off.
--As I noted a week ago, of the four American entrants at the Olympics – Rickie Fowler, Bubba Watson, Matt Kuchar and Patrick Reed, Reed was the one who was too serious in his approach and didn’t embrace the concept as much as the others.
But he commented the other day, “You didn’t know how things were going to be really run throughout the whole week. But, no, it was flawless. The people were great. There was a lot bigger turnout than I expected out on the golf course with the galleries and, you know, just the traveling to and from, the security and everything, it was awesome. You felt safe.
“Once you get on-site and you see all of the rings everywhere and you see all the people, you see flags from around the world, you see all the Rio 2016 Olympics signs everywhere, just kind of puts chills down your back, thinking one, Wow, I’m an Olympian, and two, We’re here and get to go play. That was amazing.” [Jaime Diaz / Golf World]
--Matt Kuchar, very proud of his bronze medal, has it with him at Bethpage, the 38-year-old calling it a career-defining moment.
“I can tell you this,” Kuchar said. “I’ve never had so many people congratulate me for a third-place finish.”
--A report from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has concluded that the alligator that killed the Nebraska toddler at Walt Disney World in June probably lost its fear of humans.
The report found that neither the 2-year-old nor his family did anything to provoke the alligator, saying the alligator grabbed the boy in a manner consistent with hunting, as CNN reported.
It also turns out several visitors to the park alerted Disney employees about the presence of alligators minutes before the attack.
“One, a South Carolina tourist, photographed the alligator from his hotel balcony about an hour and a half earlier. A short time before the attack, he said, he saw children playing in the ankle-deep water and was heading out the door to warn them about the alligator when he heard Lane’s mother screaming, the report said.
“Another tourist told investigators her two daughters saw an alligator five feet from shore about 45 minutes before the attack and told a Disney employee about it. That employee went to inform another Disney worker.” [USA TODAY]
--I’m not mentioning the name of the neighboring community of mine, but on Monday, a woman from there died while hiking in the Catskill Mountains as she fell 100 feet into a ravine at Kaaterskill Falls. Tragically, this was the second resident from the same town to die in the same spot in a month. Unreal. Both simply slipped.
--On a brighter note, from USA TODAY:
“Dave Kareken knew his dog loved the outdoors, but now he knows just how capable she is in the wild. Kali, his 7-year-old Collie/Golden Retriever mix, managed to survive ten days in the Canadian wilderness by herself after being swept away by rapid water.
“Kali was on a hike with her owners Dave Kareken and Joy Neily, and their son Zachary Kareken. The family was admiring the rapids near Rebecca Falls, on the border of Minnesota and Canada, when their dog missed a jump and fell to a ledge about ten feet below. Dave Kareken says he was on his way to rescue Kali when the dog jumped into the rapid water, trying to swim her way out.
“Kareken knew there wasn’t much of a chance that his dog survived the fast-moving water. ‘We called and searched for hours trying to find her but there was no sign of her,’ he said.”
So the Karekens went back home to Asheville, N.C., while their son stayed at a camp in Minnesota.
Then they got a phone call. Kali had been found alive after ten days. She walked into a campsite, hungry, but otherwise fine. Dave Kareken drove back to the border to get his dog. You may have seen the reunion on line. Great stuff.
--Meanwhile, per a story in the Los Angeles Times:
“A family of otters attacked two teenage boys who were swimming in Shasta Lake, California, on Sunday morning.”
The two, ages 13 and 14, “had been jumping off rocks into the reservoir when between three and five animals attacked them, chasing them down a narrow arm of the lake as they swam for the shore.
“The friends had injuries on their necks, legs, and feet. They had to be taken to the hospital for rabies shots.”
One of the boys said the otters “just kept getting at our legs and our feet. There was one that kept attacking us no matter what we did. I just remember looking back at it and seeing its teeth,” he said.
Talk about scary.
Otter, No. 97 on the All-Species List, is hereby put on six months’ probation.
Top 3 songs for the week 8/26/72: #1 “Brandy” (Looking Glass) #2 “Alone Again (Naturally)” (Gilbert O’Sullivan...incredibly depressing...) #3 “Long Cool Woman (In A Black Dress)” (The Hollies)...and...#4 “I’m Still In Love With You” (Al Green) #5 “Hold Your Head Up” (Argent) #6 “(If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don’t Want To Be Right” (Luther Ingram) #7 “Goodbye To Love” (Carpenters) #8 “Coconut” (Nilsson) #9 “You Don’t Mess Around With Jim” (Jim Croce) #10 “Baby Don’t Get Hooked On Me” (Mac Davis...underrated entertainer, in the classic sense...)
Kansas City Royals Quiz Answers: 1) George Brett, .390 (1980) and Mike Sweeney, .340 (2002) only two to hit .340. 2) Willie Wilson is the single-season hits leader with 230 in 1980. 3) Steve Balboni is the single-season home run leader with 36 in 1985. 4) Paul Splittorff is the career leader in wins, 166-143 (1970-84).
Next Bar Chat, Monday.