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Who is Yasiel Puig?
Baseball Quiz: Name the nine members of the 500 home run club who are not in the Hall of Fame. Answer below.
“Seemingly from the moment Cuban refugee Yasiel Puig showed up at Dodger Stadium out of nowhere, arriving last June unwilling to discuss his unknown background, the talk behind the batting cages has been rife with unprintable rumors.
“There were rumors Puig was smuggled out of Cuba by members of a Mexican drug cartel. There were rumors he still owed the smugglers money, and that his life could be in jeopardy. There was talk about Puig being essentially owned by a Miami businessman with a criminal record who hired those smugglers in exchange for 20% of the ballplayer’s future earnings.
“Who knew that all those rumors could actually be true? According to a richly researched and chillingly written story by Jesse Katz in the May issue of Los Angeles Magazine, Puig’s journey to Los Angeles was even more harrowing than realized, and continues to be more frightening than imagined.”
Turns out Puig “was smuggled to Mexico by members of the Los Zetas Mexican drug cartel, his trip funded by a Miami air-conditioning repairman named Raul Pacheco who was on probation for attempted burglary. The smugglers held Puig in a seedy Mexican hotel for more than two weeks while attempting to extract increased payments from Pacheco. Eventually Puig was taken from the hotel by a gang organized by Pacheco and soon thereafter joined the Dodgers by signing a $42-million contract.”
So now that Puig is a multi-millionaire, “are the smugglers still involved, and could that involvement one day lead to Dodger Stadium?
“The story notes that in the fall of 2012, one of the smugglers was killed, execution-style, after Puig allegedly complained about the harassment to his former agent, Gilberto Suarez. Could there be revenge involved, and could that one day lead to Dodger Stadium?”
There has been extensive security around the Dodgers’ dugout and, according to Bill Plaschke, “that same security detail could be seen around Puig in public” this past winter.
For obvious reasons the Dodgers won’t say what precautions are being taken to keep the fans and players safe, but this is more than a bit unsettling. It also adds to the muddled picture of Puig himself.
--What’s this? The Mets are 7-7? That’s what happens when you play the Arizona Diamondbacks in Phoenix. The D’Backs are a staggering 1-10 at home this season.
--Washington has to be concerned with the pitching of Stephen Strasburg, who was shelled by the Marlins on Tuesday, 11-2. Strasburg is 1-2 in four starts with a 6.00 ERA, having given up 14 earned runs in 21 innings. He does have 33 strikeouts but this is hardly what you expect from a guy who is supposed to be the next great pitcher in baseball.
Strasburg gave up a bomb on Tuesday to the Marlins’ Giancarlo Stanton, who now has 5 homers and 21 RBI in Miami’s first 15 games.
--Yes, it’s just April, but you can tell the Dodgers-Giants rivalry, both at 9-5 thru Tuesday’s play, will be incredibly intense the rest of the way, especially the six games the two play in September because this race is going down to the wire. Both clubs will need extra security to control the fans.
“The record is as unbreakable as it gets in Major League Baseball.
“Only once has each player on a team finished a game with the same batting average with which they started.
“That team was the 1940 Chicago White Sox, who entered and exited their April 16 game against the Cleveland Indians with a batting average of .000.
“The reason? Seventy-four years ago this week, Bob Feller threw the first Opening Day no-hitter in history, a feat that has never been repeated.”
Feller walked five and struck out eight. In his next outing, attempting to match Johnny Vander Meer’s 1938 mark of back-to-back no-hitters, Feller was actually hit hard by the Tigers in a 12-2 loss, but 1940 would prove to be his best all-around season as he won a league-leading 27 (27-11), while also leading the league in ERA (2.61) and strikeouts (261)...all at the age of 21.
--Television ratings for Masters Sunday were down 24% from last year, in case you were wondering the impact of no Tiger and no Phil, let alone zero drama on the back nine. The ratings were the worst since Mickelson’s win in 2004, that tournament being hurt by the final being on Easter Sunday which held the audience down some. The highest in the last ten years was for Mickelson’s win in 2012.
--As Bubba Watson walked up 18 on Sunday, Jim Nantz nailed it (though I’m not sure if the normally cautious Nantz meant to be so blunt), calling Watson “complicated.”
He sure is. I have to be honest. I’m not a fan, though, one, I recognize he’s a draw and thus good for the game, and, two, I really like his good friends, like Rickie Fowler and Webb Simpson; so they clearly see something I miss just viewing things on television, though I have read an awful lot about the guy.
“The 78th Masters began as a stroke-play event and quickly evolved Sunday into match play, pitting (Bubba) Watson, a 20-year-old masquerading as a 35-year-old, against (Jordan) Spieth, who seems at least a decade and a half older than his 20 years.
“Spieth turned professional in December 2012. Since then, the only time he had remotely acted his age was during an actual match-play contest two months ago against the South African Ernie Els at a World Golf Championship event outside Tucson.
“During a 4-and-2 quarterfinal loss to Els, Spieth pouted about bad shots and punished his clubs, as if they were to blame for the three bogeys he made on the back nine. He later apologized on his Twitter page, writing: ‘I’m embarrassed about the way I acted on the course today. Played like the 13-year-old version of myself mentally.’
“Watson has had enough childish transgressions on the course over the years to fill a psychology handbook, including a tirade directed at his long-suffering caddie, Ted Scott, at last year’s Travelers Championship, when he made a triple bogey on a hole and blamed Scott for a couple of the club selections.
“At the end of last year, Watson convened the members of his inner circle and solicited feedback on how to become a better player and person....
“ ‘I can tell you, last year was a rough year with the pressure of trying to prove yourself,’ Scott said. ‘But this year his attitude has been great. It’s been a lot of fun to work for him....’...
“Watson, who had three top-10 finishes in 2013, wears his emotions like outerwear. Sunsets and his 2-year-old son can reduce him to tears, but so can autograph-seeking strangers. In the months after his win here in 2012, he felt suffocated by his celebrity, as if he were living inside a Tupperware container....
“ ‘It took me a while learning to be a dad and learning to have a green jacket with me,’ Watson said. ‘Those are two big things to adjust to.’ He added: ‘It took me a year to realize I’m not really that good; I’ve got to keep practicing.’”
--Bill Haas has to be a little frustrated that he has had the first-round lead in the last two events, at Houston and The Masters, yet finished T-37 and T-20, respectively.
--My golf magazines arrive with a lag when it comes to results but I have to note that when 19-year-old Lexi Thompson won the Kraft Nabisco event over Michelle Wie, Thompson had an average driving distance of 275.1 to Wie’s 242.0. Somehow I remember Wie being longer.
By the way, Thompson is by far the youngest to win four LPGA events, beating Se Ri Pak by over 1 ½ years.
--Tom Watson is the U.S. Ryder Cup captain this year and he’s been asked what he would do with Tiger Woods, assuming Tiger comes back this year from his surgery but doesn’t qualify for the team based on points. Watson: “I’ll pick him for the team.”
--I forgot to note that Kevin Harvick became the first two-time winner on the Sprint Cup circuit this year in taking the Southern 500 at Darlington.
But after 8 races he is 22nd in the points standings! How can this be? Well it hurts when you also have finishes of 42, 36, 39 and 41.
As to the points leaders....
1. Jeff Gordon
2. Matt Kenseth
3. Carl Edwards
4. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
5. Jimmie Johnson
Gordon and Kenseth haven’t won any of the first 8 events, but they both have six top tens.
Separately, Danica Patrick, who finished 22nd at Darlington, has just one top ten in 54 career Sprint Cup starts. [That was at the 2013 Daytona 500.]
And that’s your Bar Chat Ford Chevy Quicken Loans McDonald’s Taco Bell Phillip Morris Chex Mix Coors Light Havoline Goodyear StocksandNews Sprint Cup report for April 17.
--The Stanley Cup playoffs are here and as the Wall Street Journal’s Geoff Foster points out, there’s just one Canadian team, Montreal. There are seven teams overall from Canada but for the first time since 1973, only one playoff entrant from north of the border, and back then in ‘73 there were only three Canadian teams.
--And the NBA playoffs are about to get started. With one game to play, the Atlanta Hawks clinched the final spot in the Eastern Conference at 37-44, while the Phoenix Suns, at 47-34, will miss out in the West; Memphis and Dallas taking the final two at 49-32.
My “Pick to Click” Brooklyn Nets have stumbled some late but are as healthy as they’ve been all season, which means they have the depth I said would be the key when I first made my prediction.
Meanwhile, the Knicks, 36-45, are finishing up a dreadful season and regardless of whether or not they sign free agent-to-be Carmelo Anthony, they will truly suck next season as well until they begin to get draft picks again and go after the big free agent class of 2015.
--Michigan sophomores Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III announced they are going out for the NBA draft. Stauskas is said to be a mid-first rounder, Robinson mid-second.
Arizona freshman Aaron Gordon is heading out. He’s a lottery pick. And teammate Nick Johnson, a junior, announced he is leaving as well. He’ll be a second-rounder.
But as I go to post Wednesday morning, we are awaiting word on Duke’s Jabari Parker. Will he stay one more season or declare for the draft?
--Donald Trump says he is serious in looking to buy the Buffalo Bills and if successful would keep them in western New York. Owner Ralph Wilson Jr. died on March 25 and the family is looking to sell.
But Trump won’t have it easy, owing to his casino investments. The NFL doesn’t allow anyone involved in gambling to own a team.
Jon Bon Jovi and a Toronto-based group are also said to be interested. According to Forbes magazine, the Bills are worth $870 million.
--Michael Phelps announced he is coming back for the 2016 Olympics, beginning with a meet April 24-26 in Mesa, Ariz. Phelps doesn’t turn 29 until June and will be 31 when the Rio Games take place. He already has 22 Olympic medals, 18 of them gold.
He is due to race in three events in Mesa and if he doesn’t do well, he may rethink his future plans, but he’s too much of a competitor to just pack it in after one comeback attempt, don’t you think?
Phelps’ long-time coach, Bob Bowman, notes that “He’s gotten back into good shape since September. He can give a good effort and certainly not be embarrassed. He’s in enough shape to swim competitively.”
Back to Phelps 18 golds, that’s double the 9 picked up the next athletes on the list...Carl Lewis, Mark Spitz, Larisa Latynina (gymnastics) and Paavo Nurmi (track and field).
--The annual cost of playing professional tennis is $143,000, according to a 2010 study by the U.S. Tennis Association.
So players have been asking for more money, especially at the four grand slam events, and the French Open just announced singles champions will get a record $2.3 million each this year.
But first-round losers will receive an increase to about $32,500. If you can make it out of the first round, but lose in the second, you take home around $57,000. [Bloomberg News]
--I used to subscribe to Men’s Health and didn’t even notice my subscription lapsed. But I just received a free issue as they try to get me back and there’s an article titled “5 Things to Never Say to a Naked Woman.”
A professor of social psychology at Northwestern University, Eli Finkel, says never accuse her. As in don’t say something like “That orgasm seemed as phony as Cheez Whiz.”
Instead, suggests Dr. Finkel (who I’m assuming isn’t related to former Boston Celtic center Henry “Hank” Finkel...but I’m not sure...), “When the topic comes up naturally, say, ‘You don’t ever need to fake orgasms with me. I want our relationship to be totally honest.’”
Huh. But back to the “5 things to never say to a naked woman,” some of mine would be....
“Sorry...there’s a Harthorne Wingo documentary on MSG.”
“Let’s watch an old William F. Buckley ‘Firing Line’ tape instead. I think this one has Barry Goldwater on it.”
Top 3 songs for the week 4/14/62: #1 “Johnny Angel” (Shelley Fabares) #2 “Good Luck Charm” (Elvis Presley) #3 “Slow Twistin’” (Chubby Checker (with Dee Dee Sharp) )...and...#4 “Mashed Potato Time” (Dee Dee Sharp) #5 “Love Letters” (Ketty Lester) #6 “Young World” (Rick Nelson) #7 “Don’t Break The Heart That Loves You” (Connie Francis) #8 “Lover Please” (Clyde McPhatter) #9 “Midnight In Moscow” (Kenny Ball and his Jazzmen... classic ..) #10 “Hey! Baby” (Bruce Channel...at Wake we serenaded the girls to this tune...really...it was a different time...really different...)
Baseball Quiz Answer: Nine members of the 500 home run club who are not in the Hall of Fame.
Barry Bonds 762
Alex Rodriguez 654
Ken Griffey Jr. 630
Jim Thome 612
Sammy Sosa 609
Mark McGwire 583
Rafael Palmeiro 569
Manny Ramirez 555
Gary Sheffield 509
Albert Pujols hit No. 496 on Monday. But as Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY Sports writes, “it seems nobody cares.”
“The trouble, of course, is that the steroid era has dulled our senses and watered down the excitement.
“Just four players hit 500 home runs by 1965, but in the last 15 years, 10 new members joined the 500 club.
“We’ve seen the likes of Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Manny Ramirez, Rafael Palmeiro and Gary Sheffield all eclipse 500 home runs since 1999, and in some cases, 600 and 700 home runs.
“We’ve also seen each of them test positive, or at least be strongly linked to performance-enhancing drugs.
“The only players in the last seven years to eclipse 500 home runs with no links to PEDs are Frank Thomas and Jim Thome.”