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07/30/2015

The NFL Doesn't Let Up On Brady

[Posted Wednesday a.m.]

Yankees Pitching Quiz: Pretty hard ones. 1) Who am I? I won at least 15 games three times between 1949 and 1955, with my overall major league career lasting from 1943-57. But I only won 85 games overall. [Hint: Control was not his strongpoint.] 2) Who holds the Yankees single-season record for appearances? Answers below.

DeflateGate

Well well...as had been rumored in recent days, there was a groundswell of support from NFL owners to stick it to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots and Commissioner Roger Goodell upheld the four-game suspension of Brady. In a 20-page statement Tuesday, the league said Brady destroyed his cellphone the day he was to meet with the league-appointed investigator. All the league had asked for was for Brady, with his attorney, to go through his texts and give them what he thought was appropriate in terms of the subject matter. They did not ask for the phone directly. It was the honor system...but then he did this. The heck with the guy. He didn’t cooperate in the least with the investigation.

Brady will be allowed to participate in training camp and preseason activities, but no doubt he’ll sue the league in court. Adrian Peterson of the Vikings, for example, won his appeal in federal court.

Jackie MacMullan / ESPN.com

Raise your hand if you’ve heard enough.

“Deflategate has gone off the rails, a trumped-up controversy that has disintegrated into a finger-pointing, mud-slinging debacle in which nobody wins and the NFL emerges as the biggest loser.

“The news that Tom Brady’s four-game suspension was upheld is merely another chapter in the simultaneous dismantling of the reputations of two of the most visible faces of America’s most vibrant and popular sport: commissioner Roger Goodell and Brady, the quarterback who once exemplified everything the NFL ‘shield’ hoped to embody....

“Goodell’s investigation of Brady is no longer about deflated footballs; it’s about restoring credibility and salvaging reputations and compensating attorneys....

“Goodell must have felt he had to come down hard, because it wasn’t just the Indianapolis Colts who were clamoring for justice. There were a number of powerful owners who wanted to see those ‘cheating’ Patriots suffer. Spygate is New England’s albatross: proven, documented evidence of a franchise’s arrogance, an incident that has spawned the narrative of ‘once a cheater, always a cheater.’

“This is what Brady waded into, and he didn’t help himself by refusing to hand over his cellphone and then later, according to the NFL, instructing his assistant to destroy it.....

“The NFL Players Association has said Brady will go to court to amend this issue, so the madness continues.

“I get it. Brady feels as though he’s done nothing wrong and his reputation is at stake, but nothing he does now can reverse the court of public opinion, which tried and convicted him months ago in every state of the union except a smattering of New England strongholds.

What Brady needs to do is swallow hard, accept the suspension and move on from this awful mess. Is the penalty too harsh? Of course, but it doesn’t matter anymore what Brady did or didn’t do – and that’s a shame....

Goodell is trying to reclaim some semblance of authority and credibility. He can’t afford to show the slightest hint of sentimentality or favoritism toward Brady or Robert Kraft, because he’s beholden to a bloc of owners who sign his checks and control his destiny.”

Bill Plaschke / Los Angeles Times

“It turns out Tom Brady’s cellphone wasn’t the only thing that was destroyed.

“So, too, was any remaining shard of belief in his competitive integrity, every last piece blown to smithereens with 10,000 text messages and one giant lie.

“Does anybody still believe the NFL’s most celebrated player didn’t purposely deflate footballs in an attempt to gain an advantage during last season’s NFL playoffs?

Does anybody still think his legacy should not include the word ‘cheater?’

“Brady was actually lucky Tuesday when the NFL upheld his four-game suspension. In the wake of the league’s accompanying revelation that Brady ordered the destruction of a cellphone that was one of the centerpieces of the investigation, he is fortunate Commissioner Roger Goodell didn’t double the penalty to eight games. Or more....

“Brady is probably counting on the appeal taking several years, long enough for him to eventually disappear into retirement. And that’s fine. He might never miss a game. The NFL could lose the entire case. It doesn’t matter.

“By upholding the suspension of its most marketable player – Tom Brady jersey sales currently lead the league – the point has been made that cheaters will be punished, and that arrogant cheaters will be shown no mercy, and that Tom Brady is both....

“This entire mess was fueled by what happened in the bowels of New England’s Gillette Stadium, in the press conference room, after the Patriots defeated the Baltimore Ravens in an AFC divisional game, 35-31. Brady had led his team back from a 14-point deficit while directing a four-linemen-and-one-skill-player formation that has since been ruled illegal.

“The Patriots had skirted the rules, pushed the envelope and outsmarted the Ravens. Yet that wasn’t enough for Brady. After hearing Ravens Coach John Harbaugh complain, Brady kicked the Ravens while they were down.

“ ‘Maybe those guys gotta study the rule book and figure it out,’ he said.

“The quote and the attitude were apparently too much for the Ravens to bear. Soon after, the Ravens reportedly tipped off the Indianapolis Colts about the possibility that Brady was using underinflated footballs, an allegation which was proven when officials tested the balls at halftime of the AFC Championship game in which the Patriots defeated the Colts, 45-7.

Yet the swagger continued. Brady maintained his innocence in an awkward pre-Super Bowl news conference, saying, ‘I feel like I have always played within the rules. I would never break the rules.’

“Then he refused to turn over his cellphone as part of the league’s investigation. Even when that investigation resulted in a 243-page report that revealed evidence that Brady was lying, the quarterback stayed in his stance and vowed to fight for his truth.

“Then the league revealed Tuesday that Brady ordered an assistant to destroy the cellphone that contained nearly 10,000 text messages sent during a time period that covered the deflation incident. It was tantamount to Brady throwing a sucker punch in that fight for his truth, robbing him of all credibility, and pretty much ensuring that even hardcore Patriots fans have to believe their man is a cheat....

“In the league statement upholding Brady’s suspension, Goodell said Brady, ‘went beyond a mere failure to cooperate in the investigation and supported a finding that he had sought to hide evidence of his own participation in the scheme.’

“Hide. Scheme. The words paint a picture that even Tom Brady cannot destroy.”

--Separately in the NFL, the Arizona Cardinals hired Jen Welter as an assistant coaching intern for training camp and the preseason to work with inside linebackers, thus becoming the first female coach of any kind in the NFL.

Coach Bruce Arians said, “Someone asked me yesterday, ‘When are we going to have female coaches?’ The minute they can prove they can make a player better, they’ll be hired.”

Welter is deserving. In February, she became the first female coach in a men’s professional football league when she was hired by the Texas Revolution of the Indoor Football League to coach linebackers and special teams.

Welter played in the Women’s Football Alliance for 14 years.

I love what Arians said on the hiring of Welter. “Coaching is nothing more than teaching. One thing I have learned from players is ‘How are you going to make me better? If you can make me better, I don’t care if you’re the Green Hornet, I’ll listen.’”

In April, the NFL announced Sarah Thomas would be the first woman to be a full-time NFL official.

MLB

--In a shocker, the Toronto Blue Jays traded for Colorado shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, in exchange for shortstop Jose Reyes and prospects. 

The Blue Jays also received reliever LaTroy Hawkins, with the Rockies getting Miguel Castro.

The oft-injured Tulowitzki is signed through 2021 and is owed $20 million annually with a $15 million club option in ’21. [$4m buyout.]

So are the Blue Jays just setting up another deal before Friday’s trade deadline? Like for Cole Hamels, Toronto desperately needing pitching, not more offense? Doesn’t seem that way as I go to post.

Reyes, by the way, is owed $22 million in each of 2016 and ’17, with a $4 million buyout in 2018.

--The Mets, who once had some interest in Tulowitzki, but only if Colorado ate a lot of the contract, traded a minor league pitching prospect, Casey Meisner, for former All-Star reliever Tyler Clippard of the A’s. A great move by the Mets, as Clippard provides insurance in the closing role if Jeurys Familia continues to stumble.

Clippard recorded 32 saves in 37 chances for the Nationals back in 2012. This year he has 17 saves in 21 chances.

He’s due to become a free agent this off-season, so the Mets are probably just renting him, but this is fine.

Well, I wrote the above before we all learned on Tuesday afternoon that Mets reliever Jenrry Mejia, fresh off an 80-game PED suspension, was caught again and suspended 162 games by Major League Baseball for a second transgression.

This is beyond unbelievable. It’s a huge disappointment since Mejia, while not eligible for the playoffs under the PED rules, was going to be a key down the stretch if the Mets were to enter postseason play in the first place.

It’s also unbelievable that the talented Mejia would potentially throw away his career like this.

General Manager Sandy Alderson said, “I was totally shocked, incredulous, whatever the right term is, that this could happen so swiftly on the heels of a past suspension....This is having a tremendously adverse effect on a very promising major league career, and that’s a shame. But the rules are the rules and we support the rules. This is the consequence of making bad choices.”

Mejia tested positive for the anabolic steroids stanozolol and boldenone. The earlier suspension was for stanozolol. Needless to say....

But Tuesday night, rookie Noah Syndergaard threw a perfect first six innings, on his way to allowing just three singles in eight scoreless, the Mets winning 4-0 and pulling to within a game of the first-place Nationals, who lost to Miami and Jose Fernandez, 4-1. Fernandez, in his return from Tommy John surgery, is 4-0, 2.53.

--Meanwhile, the Nationals acquired closer Jonathan Papelbon from the Phillies and immediately he displaced Drew Storen from ninth-inning duties.

Papelbon had to approve the trade and the Nationals agreed to pick up his option for 2016. [They also sent pitching prospect Nick Pivetta to Philadelphia.]

Papelbon has a 1.59 ERA and was perfect in 17 save chances this season. His 2016 $13 million option vests if he finishes 55 games in 2015 or 100 across the 2014 and 2015 seasons. So Papelbon needs to finish only 14 more games this season to ensure he gets the $13 million next year, but this would appear to be a mute point.

Papelbon also has seven career postseason saves, including three during the 2007 World Series, and a 1.00 ERA in 27 playoff innings. Storen, on the other hand, has been shaky in his playoff appearances for the Nats.

--The Royals continued to strengthen their team in acquiring Ben Zobrist from the A’s for two minor league pitchers. The deal comes on the heels of K.C.’s acquisition of starter Johnny Cueto from Cincinnati.

Zobrist, who was the most highly-sought player heading into the trade deadline because of his versatility and leadership abilities was hitting .268 with six home runs in 67 games for Oakland.

--Alex Rodriguez celebrated his 40th birthday on Monday with his 24th home run of the season in a 6-2 win over the Rangers. He is one of only five players in baseball history to hit at least 23 home runs and have an OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) of .900 in a season at 40 years old or older, joining Ted Williams (age 40 and 42), Harold Baines (40), Barry Bonds (40, 42, 43) and Jim Thome (40).

He also became just the fourth player in history to homer as a teenager and as a 40-year-old. [Ty Cobb, Rusty Staub and Gary Sheffield being the others.]

A-Rod said after his priorities are different after years of scandal. He said he’s doing it the right way this time: “I’m going to continue to work out and go through my regimen, but it’s also a nice reminder that if you play clean and you play hard, that good things can happen.” [Daniel Barbarisi / Wall Street Journal]

Tuesday, the Yankees blasted the Rangers 21-5, A-Rod going 2-for-4 with an RBI. Shockingly, New York is 57-42, seven games up on Baltimore.

--As Victor Mather of the New York Times noted, Mike Trout’s 31 homers, 75 runs and 10 steals were reached only by Trout and Giancarlo Stanton for the entire season last year! And Trout has 60+ games to improve on them. He is officially a lock for A.L. MVP this season, though the Angels received a scare when Trout did something to his wrist making a diving catch the other night. An MRI, however, revealed no structural damage and he said he is playing tonight.

--On Sunday, John Smoltz became the first pitcher in the Hall of Fame to have returned from Tommy John surgery. Earlier this month, he said he doesn’t know if there will ever be another pitcher to enter the Hall after undergoing the procedure.

Sunday, Smoltz addressed the issue again in his acceptance speech.

“Before I hand it over to the next inductee, I’d be remiss if I did not talk about Tommy John. I’ve been given an opportunity as one of the only players, the only one right now, to be inducted into the Hall of Fame with Tommy John Surgery. It’s an epidemic. It’s something that is affecting our game. It’s something that I thought would cost me my career, but thanks to Dr. James Andrews and all those before him, performing the surgery with such precision has caused it to be almost a false-read, like a band-aid you put on your arm.

“I want to encourage the families and parents that are out there that this is not normal to have a surgery at 14 and 15 years old. That you have time, that baseball is not a year-round sport. That you have an opportunity to be athletic and play other sports. Don’t let the institutions that are out there running before you guaranteeing scholarship dollars and signing bonuses that this is the way....

“I want to encourage you, if nothing else, know that your children’s passion and desire to play baseball is something that they can do without a competitive pitch. Every throw a kid makes today is a competitive pitch. They don’t go outside, they don’t have fun, they don’t throw enough – but they’re competing and maxing out too hard, too early, and that’s why we’re having these problems. Please, take care of those great future arms.”

Great advice. Just the other day I was speaking to a youth group in Newark, at a ministry run by a high-school classmate of mine, and I was musing with the kids about Willie Wilson and playing three sports, bemoaning the fact kids are so specialized these days. I’m glad Smoltz emphasized you can play more than one sport.

--Pedro Martinez, responding to now former ESPN radio guy, Colin Cowherd, and his derogatory remark that baseball can’t be “too complex” because it is played by so many Dominicans, said when asked by reporters about the comment, “I’m sorry. He needs to get to my level to answer him. I’m in the Hall of Fame.”

Martinez elaborated the next day, in saying he doesn’t even know who Cowherd is. [Ed. I didn’t either because I don’t listen to ESPN radio.] “Yes, we are a third-world country. Yes, we don’t have the resources to be more educated. But you know what? Every once in a while you’re going to get one like me, that’s not afraid to face you guys, to tell you how educated or uneducated I am, how proud I am of becoming who I am. We’re not going to stop and go back to probably the third-world country that we were 30 years ago. We want to go forward. We’re looking forward.”

Martinez added he wanted to “set the bar high like Roberto Clemente did.”
 
American Pharoah

I’ll learn Sunday what the crowd is at Monmouth Park, but the estimate has been rising daily. Monmouth is not a huge place, and a crowd of 35,000 or so would be good for a typical Haskell Invitational (the record is 44,000 in 2008 when Big Brown became the second Kentucky Derby winner to claim the Haskell). A week ago they thought Sunday’s crowd could grow to 60,000. Now projections are as high as 80,000. I’m guessing 65,000. I’m also trying to figure out what time I need to leave to be there at, say, 2:00 for the 5:50 p.m. post (it’s being televised on NBC, by the way). 

Baffert, as some of you know, has seven wins at The Haskell, and both he and owner Ahmed Zayat are receiving $75,000 each for bringing Pharoah to Monmouth.

It also needs to be noted that the race should be renamed the Bob Baffert Invitational, with a very weak lineup. But that’s OK!

[As of Tuesday, my $14 reserved seat was going for $70 on StubHub. Higher! Higher!]
 
Cecil the Lion...RIP

Need more evidence on why ‘Man’ remains mired in the 300s on the All-Species List? You have the death of a beloved lion in Zimbabwe, Cecil, who roamed within the confines of an African conservation park, only to be killed by an American hunter when the animal was lured out of its safe haven.

According to news reports citing Zimbabwean authorities, Walter James Palmer, a dentist from Bloomington, Minn., paid about $55,000 for the hunt outside Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park.

Palmer has denied any wrongdoing, saying in a written statement that to his knowledge everything about his trip “was legal and properly handled and conducted.”

Two of the local men accompanying Palmer on the safari are both facing criminal poaching charges. Cecil’s killing was illegal because these two did not have permission to kill a lion, authorities said.

Palmer later expressed “deep regret.” Cecil was found skinned and beheaded, according to the AP.

“I had no idea that the lion I took was a known, local favorite, was collared and part of a study until the end of the hunt. I relied on the expertise of my local professional guides to ensure a legal hunt.”

In 2008, Palmer pleaded guilty to one count of making material false statements in relation to a poaching case in Wisconsin. He was later forced to forfeit black bear remains to the government.

Jeff Flocken, North American regional director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare, said, “Americans are among the most bloodthirsty among citizens of the world when it comes to trophy hunting, in particular lions and elephants.”

To say the least, Palmer is a strong “Dirtball of the Year” candidate.

Golf Balls

Golf is returning to the Olympics in Rio next year and that is playing havoc with the PGA Tour schedule. The first five months of 2016 will look normal, through the U.S. Open, at least, but with the men’s portion of Olympic golf being held Aug. 11-14, the PGA of America was forced to move the PGA Championship from its traditional mid-August date to July 28-31, at Baltusrol. The Travelers Championship is moving from its traditional week after the U.S. Open date to early August, after the PGA.

The John Deere Classic will move from its traditional week before the British Open to the week of Aug. 11-14, opposite the Olympics.

The WGC Bridgestone tournament is penciled in for June 30-July 3. It would seem one event that will suffer is the Greenbrier Classic. The schedule looks like this:

June 16-19: U.S. Open (Oakmont)
June 23-26: Quicken Loans National
June 30-July 3: WGC Bridgestone Invitational
July 7-10: Greenbrier Classic
July 14-17: British Open (Royal Troon)
July 21-24: RBC Canadian Open
July 28-31: PGA Championship (Baltusrol)
Aug. 4-7: Travelers Championship
Aug. 11-14: Olympic Golf
Aug. 11-14: John Deere Classic
Aug. 18-21: Wyndham Championship

Then the FedEx Cup playoffs commence Aug. 25-28 with The Barclays. [Source: Golfweek]

--I forgot to note last time that whereas I won some coin with my DraftKings lineup for The Open Championship, I finished about 110,000 out of 130,000 in the Canadian Open. And then the depression set in....

Meanwhile, DraftKings added $300 million in new investment to sustain its growth and marketing plans, including international expansion. Fox Sports is the lead investor, paying $150 million for an estimated 11 percent of the company.

Its chief daily fantasy sports rival, FanDuel, raised $275 million in additional funding.

Stuff

--Boston Mayor Martin Walsh said he would not sign a host-city contract for Boston’s bid for the 2024 Olympic Games without knowing more about the financial picture associated with hosting the event, so the U.S. Olympic Committee said it is no longer supporting Boston’s bid.

Walsh said he couldn’t put taxpayers at risk for any overruns. It was an incredibly dumb idea to think of holding the Games in Boston in the first place.

L.A. should be the U.S. selection.

--Poker pro Phil Ivey is countersuing Atlantic City’s Borgata casino, which has accused him of cheating at baccarat.

The Borgata filed a $9.6 million suit against Ivey for “edge-sorting,” using defects on backs of cards to adjust betting strategies.

As reported by NJ.com’s Jeff Goldman, “Ivey allegedly had associate Cheng Yin Sun ask the dealer to rotate high value cards 90 degrees, which moved the flaw on the card back to the opposite corner and made it identifiable....

“On one lucrative day in July 2012, he won $4.8 million in 17 hours by betting an average of $89,000 a hand....

“Ivey asserts his success at the Borgata was based on skill and observation.

“The Borgata learned of Ivey’s technique after officials there read a report about a London casino withholding $12.4 million he won there playing a game similar to baccarat in 2012. Ivey lost a lawsuit asking the casino to release the money.”

--Mark R., Notre Dame alum, is already badgering me about the Nov. 14 football game between Wake Forest and the Fighting Irish. It’s going to be ugly, not that ND is going to be special this season...it’s just that it’s going to be another very long season for the Deacs. On to Wake basketball.

--Phil W. passed along a piece on North Wilkesboro Speedway, North Wilkesboro, N.C., one of the great old NASCAR tracks of all time and home of the legend himself, Junior Johnson. I went to two races there back in the 1980s and have great memories...super racing, pulled pork sandwiches and cold beer.

But the speedway closed in 1996, it no longer fitting NASCAR’s new image, including a lot of new tracks around the country, and now North Wilkesboro is in big-time disrepair, just left to decay.

Seph Lawless includes photos of the speedway in his book, “The Last Lap,” but in these pics of a raceway, and a part of the state in general decline, he hoped to evoke some happy memories.

Top 3 songs for the week 7/27/68: #1 “Grazing In The Grass” (Hugh Masekela) #2 “Lady Willpower” (Gary Puckett and The Union Gap) #3 “Stoned Soul Picnic” (The 5th Dimension)...and...#4 “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” (The Rolling Stones) #5 “The Horse” (Cliff Nobles & Co. ...the bane of every high school marching band in the country...) #6 “Hurdy Gurdy Man” (Donovan) #7 “This Guy’s In Love With You” (Herb Alpert) #8 “Classical Gas” (Mason Williams...instrumental week...) #9 “Hello, I Love You” (The Doors) #10 “Indian Lake” (The Cowsills...not their best...)

Yankees Pitching Quiz Answers: 1) Tommy Byrne was 15-7 in 1949, 15-9 in 1950, and 16-5 in ’55 for the Yanks, though only 85-69 overall in a career spanning 1943-57 (he was in the military 1944-45). But what a crazy career it was. He has some of the best hits to innings pitched ratios in baseball history, like 1949, when he gave up just 125 hits in 196 innings, but that same season was emblematic of a problem Byrne had...control...as in he also walked 179! In 1950, he walked 160 in 203 innings. In ’51, he walked 150 in just 143 innings. 1949-51, he also led the league in hit batters (13, 17, and 15). And guess where he went to school? Wake Forest. 

2) Paul Quantrill is the Yankees’ single-season leader in appearances, making 86 in 2004. But that season he was the anti-Byrne, giving up 124 hits in just 95 innings, 4.72 ERA, but he had a 7-3 record. Heck, it was the steroid era, after all.

2004 is also remembered for a different reason, of course, if you’re a Yankees or Red Sox fan. New York blew a 3-0 ALCS lead against Boston.

Next Bar Chat, Monday...not sure when I’m posting...hopefully Sunday night, but depends on when I get out of Monmouth Park and what shape I’m in, frankly.

 


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Bar Chat

07/30/2015

The NFL Doesn't Let Up On Brady

[Posted Wednesday a.m.]

Yankees Pitching Quiz: Pretty hard ones. 1) Who am I? I won at least 15 games three times between 1949 and 1955, with my overall major league career lasting from 1943-57. But I only won 85 games overall. [Hint: Control was not his strongpoint.] 2) Who holds the Yankees single-season record for appearances? Answers below.

DeflateGate

Well well...as had been rumored in recent days, there was a groundswell of support from NFL owners to stick it to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots and Commissioner Roger Goodell upheld the four-game suspension of Brady. In a 20-page statement Tuesday, the league said Brady destroyed his cellphone the day he was to meet with the league-appointed investigator. All the league had asked for was for Brady, with his attorney, to go through his texts and give them what he thought was appropriate in terms of the subject matter. They did not ask for the phone directly. It was the honor system...but then he did this. The heck with the guy. He didn’t cooperate in the least with the investigation.

Brady will be allowed to participate in training camp and preseason activities, but no doubt he’ll sue the league in court. Adrian Peterson of the Vikings, for example, won his appeal in federal court.

Jackie MacMullan / ESPN.com

Raise your hand if you’ve heard enough.

“Deflategate has gone off the rails, a trumped-up controversy that has disintegrated into a finger-pointing, mud-slinging debacle in which nobody wins and the NFL emerges as the biggest loser.

“The news that Tom Brady’s four-game suspension was upheld is merely another chapter in the simultaneous dismantling of the reputations of two of the most visible faces of America’s most vibrant and popular sport: commissioner Roger Goodell and Brady, the quarterback who once exemplified everything the NFL ‘shield’ hoped to embody....

“Goodell’s investigation of Brady is no longer about deflated footballs; it’s about restoring credibility and salvaging reputations and compensating attorneys....

“Goodell must have felt he had to come down hard, because it wasn’t just the Indianapolis Colts who were clamoring for justice. There were a number of powerful owners who wanted to see those ‘cheating’ Patriots suffer. Spygate is New England’s albatross: proven, documented evidence of a franchise’s arrogance, an incident that has spawned the narrative of ‘once a cheater, always a cheater.’

“This is what Brady waded into, and he didn’t help himself by refusing to hand over his cellphone and then later, according to the NFL, instructing his assistant to destroy it.....

“The NFL Players Association has said Brady will go to court to amend this issue, so the madness continues.

“I get it. Brady feels as though he’s done nothing wrong and his reputation is at stake, but nothing he does now can reverse the court of public opinion, which tried and convicted him months ago in every state of the union except a smattering of New England strongholds.

What Brady needs to do is swallow hard, accept the suspension and move on from this awful mess. Is the penalty too harsh? Of course, but it doesn’t matter anymore what Brady did or didn’t do – and that’s a shame....

Goodell is trying to reclaim some semblance of authority and credibility. He can’t afford to show the slightest hint of sentimentality or favoritism toward Brady or Robert Kraft, because he’s beholden to a bloc of owners who sign his checks and control his destiny.”

Bill Plaschke / Los Angeles Times

“It turns out Tom Brady’s cellphone wasn’t the only thing that was destroyed.

“So, too, was any remaining shard of belief in his competitive integrity, every last piece blown to smithereens with 10,000 text messages and one giant lie.

“Does anybody still believe the NFL’s most celebrated player didn’t purposely deflate footballs in an attempt to gain an advantage during last season’s NFL playoffs?

Does anybody still think his legacy should not include the word ‘cheater?’

“Brady was actually lucky Tuesday when the NFL upheld his four-game suspension. In the wake of the league’s accompanying revelation that Brady ordered the destruction of a cellphone that was one of the centerpieces of the investigation, he is fortunate Commissioner Roger Goodell didn’t double the penalty to eight games. Or more....

“Brady is probably counting on the appeal taking several years, long enough for him to eventually disappear into retirement. And that’s fine. He might never miss a game. The NFL could lose the entire case. It doesn’t matter.

“By upholding the suspension of its most marketable player – Tom Brady jersey sales currently lead the league – the point has been made that cheaters will be punished, and that arrogant cheaters will be shown no mercy, and that Tom Brady is both....

“This entire mess was fueled by what happened in the bowels of New England’s Gillette Stadium, in the press conference room, after the Patriots defeated the Baltimore Ravens in an AFC divisional game, 35-31. Brady had led his team back from a 14-point deficit while directing a four-linemen-and-one-skill-player formation that has since been ruled illegal.

“The Patriots had skirted the rules, pushed the envelope and outsmarted the Ravens. Yet that wasn’t enough for Brady. After hearing Ravens Coach John Harbaugh complain, Brady kicked the Ravens while they were down.

“ ‘Maybe those guys gotta study the rule book and figure it out,’ he said.

“The quote and the attitude were apparently too much for the Ravens to bear. Soon after, the Ravens reportedly tipped off the Indianapolis Colts about the possibility that Brady was using underinflated footballs, an allegation which was proven when officials tested the balls at halftime of the AFC Championship game in which the Patriots defeated the Colts, 45-7.

Yet the swagger continued. Brady maintained his innocence in an awkward pre-Super Bowl news conference, saying, ‘I feel like I have always played within the rules. I would never break the rules.’

“Then he refused to turn over his cellphone as part of the league’s investigation. Even when that investigation resulted in a 243-page report that revealed evidence that Brady was lying, the quarterback stayed in his stance and vowed to fight for his truth.

“Then the league revealed Tuesday that Brady ordered an assistant to destroy the cellphone that contained nearly 10,000 text messages sent during a time period that covered the deflation incident. It was tantamount to Brady throwing a sucker punch in that fight for his truth, robbing him of all credibility, and pretty much ensuring that even hardcore Patriots fans have to believe their man is a cheat....

“In the league statement upholding Brady’s suspension, Goodell said Brady, ‘went beyond a mere failure to cooperate in the investigation and supported a finding that he had sought to hide evidence of his own participation in the scheme.’

“Hide. Scheme. The words paint a picture that even Tom Brady cannot destroy.”

--Separately in the NFL, the Arizona Cardinals hired Jen Welter as an assistant coaching intern for training camp and the preseason to work with inside linebackers, thus becoming the first female coach of any kind in the NFL.

Coach Bruce Arians said, “Someone asked me yesterday, ‘When are we going to have female coaches?’ The minute they can prove they can make a player better, they’ll be hired.”

Welter is deserving. In February, she became the first female coach in a men’s professional football league when she was hired by the Texas Revolution of the Indoor Football League to coach linebackers and special teams.

Welter played in the Women’s Football Alliance for 14 years.

I love what Arians said on the hiring of Welter. “Coaching is nothing more than teaching. One thing I have learned from players is ‘How are you going to make me better? If you can make me better, I don’t care if you’re the Green Hornet, I’ll listen.’”

In April, the NFL announced Sarah Thomas would be the first woman to be a full-time NFL official.

MLB

--In a shocker, the Toronto Blue Jays traded for Colorado shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, in exchange for shortstop Jose Reyes and prospects. 

The Blue Jays also received reliever LaTroy Hawkins, with the Rockies getting Miguel Castro.

The oft-injured Tulowitzki is signed through 2021 and is owed $20 million annually with a $15 million club option in ’21. [$4m buyout.]

So are the Blue Jays just setting up another deal before Friday’s trade deadline? Like for Cole Hamels, Toronto desperately needing pitching, not more offense? Doesn’t seem that way as I go to post.

Reyes, by the way, is owed $22 million in each of 2016 and ’17, with a $4 million buyout in 2018.

--The Mets, who once had some interest in Tulowitzki, but only if Colorado ate a lot of the contract, traded a minor league pitching prospect, Casey Meisner, for former All-Star reliever Tyler Clippard of the A’s. A great move by the Mets, as Clippard provides insurance in the closing role if Jeurys Familia continues to stumble.

Clippard recorded 32 saves in 37 chances for the Nationals back in 2012. This year he has 17 saves in 21 chances.

He’s due to become a free agent this off-season, so the Mets are probably just renting him, but this is fine.

Well, I wrote the above before we all learned on Tuesday afternoon that Mets reliever Jenrry Mejia, fresh off an 80-game PED suspension, was caught again and suspended 162 games by Major League Baseball for a second transgression.

This is beyond unbelievable. It’s a huge disappointment since Mejia, while not eligible for the playoffs under the PED rules, was going to be a key down the stretch if the Mets were to enter postseason play in the first place.

It’s also unbelievable that the talented Mejia would potentially throw away his career like this.

General Manager Sandy Alderson said, “I was totally shocked, incredulous, whatever the right term is, that this could happen so swiftly on the heels of a past suspension....This is having a tremendously adverse effect on a very promising major league career, and that’s a shame. But the rules are the rules and we support the rules. This is the consequence of making bad choices.”

Mejia tested positive for the anabolic steroids stanozolol and boldenone. The earlier suspension was for stanozolol. Needless to say....

But Tuesday night, rookie Noah Syndergaard threw a perfect first six innings, on his way to allowing just three singles in eight scoreless, the Mets winning 4-0 and pulling to within a game of the first-place Nationals, who lost to Miami and Jose Fernandez, 4-1. Fernandez, in his return from Tommy John surgery, is 4-0, 2.53.

--Meanwhile, the Nationals acquired closer Jonathan Papelbon from the Phillies and immediately he displaced Drew Storen from ninth-inning duties.

Papelbon had to approve the trade and the Nationals agreed to pick up his option for 2016. [They also sent pitching prospect Nick Pivetta to Philadelphia.]

Papelbon has a 1.59 ERA and was perfect in 17 save chances this season. His 2016 $13 million option vests if he finishes 55 games in 2015 or 100 across the 2014 and 2015 seasons. So Papelbon needs to finish only 14 more games this season to ensure he gets the $13 million next year, but this would appear to be a mute point.

Papelbon also has seven career postseason saves, including three during the 2007 World Series, and a 1.00 ERA in 27 playoff innings. Storen, on the other hand, has been shaky in his playoff appearances for the Nats.

--The Royals continued to strengthen their team in acquiring Ben Zobrist from the A’s for two minor league pitchers. The deal comes on the heels of K.C.’s acquisition of starter Johnny Cueto from Cincinnati.

Zobrist, who was the most highly-sought player heading into the trade deadline because of his versatility and leadership abilities was hitting .268 with six home runs in 67 games for Oakland.

--Alex Rodriguez celebrated his 40th birthday on Monday with his 24th home run of the season in a 6-2 win over the Rangers. He is one of only five players in baseball history to hit at least 23 home runs and have an OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) of .900 in a season at 40 years old or older, joining Ted Williams (age 40 and 42), Harold Baines (40), Barry Bonds (40, 42, 43) and Jim Thome (40).

He also became just the fourth player in history to homer as a teenager and as a 40-year-old. [Ty Cobb, Rusty Staub and Gary Sheffield being the others.]

A-Rod said after his priorities are different after years of scandal. He said he’s doing it the right way this time: “I’m going to continue to work out and go through my regimen, but it’s also a nice reminder that if you play clean and you play hard, that good things can happen.” [Daniel Barbarisi / Wall Street Journal]

Tuesday, the Yankees blasted the Rangers 21-5, A-Rod going 2-for-4 with an RBI. Shockingly, New York is 57-42, seven games up on Baltimore.

--As Victor Mather of the New York Times noted, Mike Trout’s 31 homers, 75 runs and 10 steals were reached only by Trout and Giancarlo Stanton for the entire season last year! And Trout has 60+ games to improve on them. He is officially a lock for A.L. MVP this season, though the Angels received a scare when Trout did something to his wrist making a diving catch the other night. An MRI, however, revealed no structural damage and he said he is playing tonight.

--On Sunday, John Smoltz became the first pitcher in the Hall of Fame to have returned from Tommy John surgery. Earlier this month, he said he doesn’t know if there will ever be another pitcher to enter the Hall after undergoing the procedure.

Sunday, Smoltz addressed the issue again in his acceptance speech.

“Before I hand it over to the next inductee, I’d be remiss if I did not talk about Tommy John. I’ve been given an opportunity as one of the only players, the only one right now, to be inducted into the Hall of Fame with Tommy John Surgery. It’s an epidemic. It’s something that is affecting our game. It’s something that I thought would cost me my career, but thanks to Dr. James Andrews and all those before him, performing the surgery with such precision has caused it to be almost a false-read, like a band-aid you put on your arm.

“I want to encourage the families and parents that are out there that this is not normal to have a surgery at 14 and 15 years old. That you have time, that baseball is not a year-round sport. That you have an opportunity to be athletic and play other sports. Don’t let the institutions that are out there running before you guaranteeing scholarship dollars and signing bonuses that this is the way....

“I want to encourage you, if nothing else, know that your children’s passion and desire to play baseball is something that they can do without a competitive pitch. Every throw a kid makes today is a competitive pitch. They don’t go outside, they don’t have fun, they don’t throw enough – but they’re competing and maxing out too hard, too early, and that’s why we’re having these problems. Please, take care of those great future arms.”

Great advice. Just the other day I was speaking to a youth group in Newark, at a ministry run by a high-school classmate of mine, and I was musing with the kids about Willie Wilson and playing three sports, bemoaning the fact kids are so specialized these days. I’m glad Smoltz emphasized you can play more than one sport.

--Pedro Martinez, responding to now former ESPN radio guy, Colin Cowherd, and his derogatory remark that baseball can’t be “too complex” because it is played by so many Dominicans, said when asked by reporters about the comment, “I’m sorry. He needs to get to my level to answer him. I’m in the Hall of Fame.”

Martinez elaborated the next day, in saying he doesn’t even know who Cowherd is. [Ed. I didn’t either because I don’t listen to ESPN radio.] “Yes, we are a third-world country. Yes, we don’t have the resources to be more educated. But you know what? Every once in a while you’re going to get one like me, that’s not afraid to face you guys, to tell you how educated or uneducated I am, how proud I am of becoming who I am. We’re not going to stop and go back to probably the third-world country that we were 30 years ago. We want to go forward. We’re looking forward.”

Martinez added he wanted to “set the bar high like Roberto Clemente did.”
 
American Pharoah

I’ll learn Sunday what the crowd is at Monmouth Park, but the estimate has been rising daily. Monmouth is not a huge place, and a crowd of 35,000 or so would be good for a typical Haskell Invitational (the record is 44,000 in 2008 when Big Brown became the second Kentucky Derby winner to claim the Haskell). A week ago they thought Sunday’s crowd could grow to 60,000. Now projections are as high as 80,000. I’m guessing 65,000. I’m also trying to figure out what time I need to leave to be there at, say, 2:00 for the 5:50 p.m. post (it’s being televised on NBC, by the way). 

Baffert, as some of you know, has seven wins at The Haskell, and both he and owner Ahmed Zayat are receiving $75,000 each for bringing Pharoah to Monmouth.

It also needs to be noted that the race should be renamed the Bob Baffert Invitational, with a very weak lineup. But that’s OK!

[As of Tuesday, my $14 reserved seat was going for $70 on StubHub. Higher! Higher!]
 
Cecil the Lion...RIP

Need more evidence on why ‘Man’ remains mired in the 300s on the All-Species List? You have the death of a beloved lion in Zimbabwe, Cecil, who roamed within the confines of an African conservation park, only to be killed by an American hunter when the animal was lured out of its safe haven.

According to news reports citing Zimbabwean authorities, Walter James Palmer, a dentist from Bloomington, Minn., paid about $55,000 for the hunt outside Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park.

Palmer has denied any wrongdoing, saying in a written statement that to his knowledge everything about his trip “was legal and properly handled and conducted.”

Two of the local men accompanying Palmer on the safari are both facing criminal poaching charges. Cecil’s killing was illegal because these two did not have permission to kill a lion, authorities said.

Palmer later expressed “deep regret.” Cecil was found skinned and beheaded, according to the AP.

“I had no idea that the lion I took was a known, local favorite, was collared and part of a study until the end of the hunt. I relied on the expertise of my local professional guides to ensure a legal hunt.”

In 2008, Palmer pleaded guilty to one count of making material false statements in relation to a poaching case in Wisconsin. He was later forced to forfeit black bear remains to the government.

Jeff Flocken, North American regional director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare, said, “Americans are among the most bloodthirsty among citizens of the world when it comes to trophy hunting, in particular lions and elephants.”

To say the least, Palmer is a strong “Dirtball of the Year” candidate.

Golf Balls

Golf is returning to the Olympics in Rio next year and that is playing havoc with the PGA Tour schedule. The first five months of 2016 will look normal, through the U.S. Open, at least, but with the men’s portion of Olympic golf being held Aug. 11-14, the PGA of America was forced to move the PGA Championship from its traditional mid-August date to July 28-31, at Baltusrol. The Travelers Championship is moving from its traditional week after the U.S. Open date to early August, after the PGA.

The John Deere Classic will move from its traditional week before the British Open to the week of Aug. 11-14, opposite the Olympics.

The WGC Bridgestone tournament is penciled in for June 30-July 3. It would seem one event that will suffer is the Greenbrier Classic. The schedule looks like this:

June 16-19: U.S. Open (Oakmont)
June 23-26: Quicken Loans National
June 30-July 3: WGC Bridgestone Invitational
July 7-10: Greenbrier Classic
July 14-17: British Open (Royal Troon)
July 21-24: RBC Canadian Open
July 28-31: PGA Championship (Baltusrol)
Aug. 4-7: Travelers Championship
Aug. 11-14: Olympic Golf
Aug. 11-14: John Deere Classic
Aug. 18-21: Wyndham Championship

Then the FedEx Cup playoffs commence Aug. 25-28 with The Barclays. [Source: Golfweek]

--I forgot to note last time that whereas I won some coin with my DraftKings lineup for The Open Championship, I finished about 110,000 out of 130,000 in the Canadian Open. And then the depression set in....

Meanwhile, DraftKings added $300 million in new investment to sustain its growth and marketing plans, including international expansion. Fox Sports is the lead investor, paying $150 million for an estimated 11 percent of the company.

Its chief daily fantasy sports rival, FanDuel, raised $275 million in additional funding.

Stuff

--Boston Mayor Martin Walsh said he would not sign a host-city contract for Boston’s bid for the 2024 Olympic Games without knowing more about the financial picture associated with hosting the event, so the U.S. Olympic Committee said it is no longer supporting Boston’s bid.

Walsh said he couldn’t put taxpayers at risk for any overruns. It was an incredibly dumb idea to think of holding the Games in Boston in the first place.

L.A. should be the U.S. selection.

--Poker pro Phil Ivey is countersuing Atlantic City’s Borgata casino, which has accused him of cheating at baccarat.

The Borgata filed a $9.6 million suit against Ivey for “edge-sorting,” using defects on backs of cards to adjust betting strategies.

As reported by NJ.com’s Jeff Goldman, “Ivey allegedly had associate Cheng Yin Sun ask the dealer to rotate high value cards 90 degrees, which moved the flaw on the card back to the opposite corner and made it identifiable....

“On one lucrative day in July 2012, he won $4.8 million in 17 hours by betting an average of $89,000 a hand....

“Ivey asserts his success at the Borgata was based on skill and observation.

“The Borgata learned of Ivey’s technique after officials there read a report about a London casino withholding $12.4 million he won there playing a game similar to baccarat in 2012. Ivey lost a lawsuit asking the casino to release the money.”

--Mark R., Notre Dame alum, is already badgering me about the Nov. 14 football game between Wake Forest and the Fighting Irish. It’s going to be ugly, not that ND is going to be special this season...it’s just that it’s going to be another very long season for the Deacs. On to Wake basketball.

--Phil W. passed along a piece on North Wilkesboro Speedway, North Wilkesboro, N.C., one of the great old NASCAR tracks of all time and home of the legend himself, Junior Johnson. I went to two races there back in the 1980s and have great memories...super racing, pulled pork sandwiches and cold beer.

But the speedway closed in 1996, it no longer fitting NASCAR’s new image, including a lot of new tracks around the country, and now North Wilkesboro is in big-time disrepair, just left to decay.

Seph Lawless includes photos of the speedway in his book, “The Last Lap,” but in these pics of a raceway, and a part of the state in general decline, he hoped to evoke some happy memories.

Top 3 songs for the week 7/27/68: #1 “Grazing In The Grass” (Hugh Masekela) #2 “Lady Willpower” (Gary Puckett and The Union Gap) #3 “Stoned Soul Picnic” (The 5th Dimension)...and...#4 “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” (The Rolling Stones) #5 “The Horse” (Cliff Nobles & Co. ...the bane of every high school marching band in the country...) #6 “Hurdy Gurdy Man” (Donovan) #7 “This Guy’s In Love With You” (Herb Alpert) #8 “Classical Gas” (Mason Williams...instrumental week...) #9 “Hello, I Love You” (The Doors) #10 “Indian Lake” (The Cowsills...not their best...)

Yankees Pitching Quiz Answers: 1) Tommy Byrne was 15-7 in 1949, 15-9 in 1950, and 16-5 in ’55 for the Yanks, though only 85-69 overall in a career spanning 1943-57 (he was in the military 1944-45). But what a crazy career it was. He has some of the best hits to innings pitched ratios in baseball history, like 1949, when he gave up just 125 hits in 196 innings, but that same season was emblematic of a problem Byrne had...control...as in he also walked 179! In 1950, he walked 160 in 203 innings. In ’51, he walked 150 in just 143 innings. 1949-51, he also led the league in hit batters (13, 17, and 15). And guess where he went to school? Wake Forest. 

2) Paul Quantrill is the Yankees’ single-season leader in appearances, making 86 in 2004. But that season he was the anti-Byrne, giving up 124 hits in just 95 innings, 4.72 ERA, but he had a 7-3 record. Heck, it was the steroid era, after all.

2004 is also remembered for a different reason, of course, if you’re a Yankees or Red Sox fan. New York blew a 3-0 ALCS lead against Boston.

Next Bar Chat, Monday...not sure when I’m posting...hopefully Sunday night, but depends on when I get out of Monmouth Park and what shape I’m in, frankly.