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10/02/2014

Royals Pull Out a Thriller

[Posted Wed. morning]

NASCAR Quiz: [Gotta have one or two a year...and it’s Chase time, after all!!!] So, name the nine drivers who have won at least three Drivers’ Championships. [Hint: One of them won his three in the 1950s.] Answer below.

Ball Bits

--Wow...what an opening game! I stayed up through nine of Royals-A’s, scored tied 7-7, and couldn’t believe what I saw in the morning in terms of how it all ended, Royals 9-8 in 12. As is so often the case in baseball, Salvador Perez, who had a pathetic at bat in the bottom of the eighth, striking out when a fly ball was needed to tie the game ended up getting the winning hit in the bottom of the 12th.

Bob Nightengale / USA TODAY Sports

“The Kansas City Royals, their eyes stinging from the champagne, their throats burning from screaming, kept trying to make sense of it all.

“They know they somehow won this crazy game, one that was already being declared as the most exhilarating postseason victory in franchise history.

“But they still can’t find the words.

“ ‘It was the craziest game I’ve ever been part of, in all my life,’ Royals left fielder Alex Gordon says. ‘It didn’t look good there for a while, but we just kept battling and battling. It’s like we weren’t ready to go home.

“ ‘And then we won. Please don’t ask me how.’

“The Royals pulled out a stunning 9-8, 12-inning victory over the Oakland A’s, refusing to quit when it would be so easy to do so.

“They were down by four runs in the eighth inning, facing one of the greatest postseason pitchers of all time in Jon Lester, and still won.

“They were down by a run in the ninth inning, and were down to their final two outs, and still won.

“They were down by a run in the 12th inning, and again down to their last two outs, and still won....

“The Royals played 4 hours and 45 minutes, in a game with 41 players and 13 pitchers, and the pitching star is a kid, Brandon Finnegan, who was pitching at Texas Christian University just three months ago....

“No, there are no Bretts on this team, or a potential Hall of Famer, but after this night, they have now established their own identity.

“They carved their own niche in Royals folklore.

“ ‘This was a crazy game,’ Gordon says. ‘It’s been a crazy season. Now, we’re just getting started.

“ ‘Who knows what you might see next.’

“We can hardly wait.”

Kansas City tied a postseason record with seven stolen bases; the only two other teams to do this were the 1907 Cubs and 1975 Reds.

Finally, Adam Dunn had a chance to play in the postseason, but never got off the bench for Oakland, which was a shame. Afterwards, Dunn announced he’s retiring, ending his career with 462 home runs and 1,168 RBIs...but no postseason games played.

--Pretty amazing Ron Gardenhire managed the Twins for 13 seasons, but he was fired on Monday. After taking the Twinkies to six postseason appearances in his first nine seasons (.550 winning percentage), the Twins lost at least 92 games in each of the last four, including an abysmal .345 winning percentage from Aug. 1 on during this period. Only the Angels’ Mike Scioscia has managed one team longer.

Gardenhire’s teams also had limited success when they made the postseason, going just 6-21. Prior to Gardy, Tom Kelly managed the Twins for 15 seasons.

--You know who deserves a nice raise? Cleveland hurler Corey Kluber, who was a breakout 18-9, 2.44 ERA, throwing 235.2 innings and fanning 269.

--From Paul White / USA TODAY Sports:

Jose Altuve’s hit total for this season, 225, was the highest since Ichiro Suzuki had 225 in 2009 and it’s the most hits since 2000 by a player not named Ichiro.” [You could win some coin on that one. The last guy was Darin Erstad’s 240 with the Angels in 2000.]

Cincinnati’s Aroldis Chapman struck out 52% of the batters he faced.

“ .251: The major league batting average, lowest since 1972. The .314 on-base percentage was also the lowest since ’72.”

“ 64: Players used by the injury-ravaged Texas Rangers. That’s a major league record, as are the 40 pitchers who worked for the Rangers. Is there good news in there somewhere? Well, 23 Rangers pitchers got a victory, an AL record for one season.”

“ 1.77: Clayton Kershaw’s earned run average, making the Dodgers ace the first pitcher to lead a league in that category four consecutive seasons.”

“ 115: Mike Trout’s 115 runs make him the first player to lead his league in runs his first three full seasons in the major leagues.  He also led the AL with 183 strikeouts but that probably won’t stop him from winning his first MVP award.” [I agree, but Trout does need to cut down on the strikeouts. His average fell to .287, after he hit .326 and .323 his first two seasons. I mean you expect Trout to be gunning for the Triple Crown every year.]

*Trout’s AL-leading 111 RBIs was the lowest total (non-strike year) since 1975-76, 109 each by George Scott and Lee May, respectively. [Two great names from my youth.]

“ 3.66: That’s the strikeout-walk ratio of the Washington Nationals pitching staff, the best in the majors since 1900.”

I have to note just how good the Pirates’ superstar Andrew McCutchen has been.

Last year he was league MVP...21 HR 84 RBI, .317, .912 OPS

This year, in 146 games, vs. 157 last year, McCutchen was 25-83, .314, .952, yet he will finish third, I imagine, this year behind Kershaw and Stanton.

--We note the passing of George Shuba, 89. He played parts of seven seasons with Brooklyn, 1948-55 (not ’51), and was on the winning 1955 World Series team, batting .259 for his career in 814 at-bats.

But as Richard Goldstein writes in the New York Times, he is best remembered for a single incident.

“On the afternoon of April 18, 1946, (Jackie) Robinson became the first black player in modern organized baseball when he made his debut with the Dodgers’ Montreal Royals farm team in their International League opener against the Jersey City Giants.

“In the third inning, Robinson hit a three-run homer over the left-field fence. When he completed his trip around the bases, Shuba, the Royals’ left fielder and their next batter, shook his hand.

“Congratulating a home-run hitter was a commonplace ritual, but Shuba’s welcome to a smiling Robinson was captured in an Associated Press photograph that has endured as a portrait of racial tolerance.”

The photo of that handshake was the only memento from his playing days that Shuba kept in his living room.

CFB

--What a football Saturday:

3 Alabama at 11 Ole Miss; 15 LSU at 5 Auburn; 6 Texas A&M at 12 Miss. State; 14 Stanford at 9 Notre Dame....just to name a few.

But of course the biggest game is Wake Forest at No. 1 Florida State, followed close behind in terms of national importance by SMU at 22 East Carolina, where our crack staff is predicting a 70-3 Pirates victory.

Back to Wake, the line is 39 points as I write. I think we’ll get a turnover that we can turn into three points, so the issue is will FSU score 42/43? Yup. Final...49-3.

--What a mess at Michigan as head coach Brady Hoke not only has to deal with rumors he’s about to be fired for the team’s awful performance, but also for allowing quarterback Shane Morris to go back into Saturday’s game. After conflicting comments were then made by the coaching staff, Athletics Director Dave Brandon had to issue a statement acknowledging that Morris suffered a “probable, mild concussion,” saying changes in medical protocol would be made immediately.

Morris, already dealing with a leg injury, was clearly dazed after taking a direct hit to his helmet, leaning on a teammate for support, but then he stayed in for another play, after which the coaches finally removed him.

That brought in quarterback Devin Gardner, who ran a few plays before his helmet was knocked off at the end of a run and under the rules, Gardner had to come out for one play. Stupidly, Hoke sent Morris onto the field in Gardner’s place. Morris handed the ball off, struggled back to the sideline, and eventually left the field on a cart.

But initially on Monday at his regular news conference, Hoke said Morris suffered a high ankle sprain but there was no sign of a concussion.

Brandon, in his statement, said: “In my judgment, there was a serious lack of communication that led to confusion on the sideline. Unfortunately, this confusion created a circumstance that was not in the best interest of one of our student-athletes.”

Brandon explained that while the medical personnel have “the unchallengeable authority to remove student-athletes from the field of play,” from field level they didn’t see the hit that Morris took and thought he was stumbling from his ankle injury.

Then there was confusion between the neurologist, and the head trainer, who was assessing Morris’ ankle injury and the neurologist didn’t know the trainer cleared Morris to go back into the game.

Tuesday, a few hundred students and fans marched to the university president’s house, demanding Michigan get rid of Brandon.

--I mentioned last time that Kansas fired Charlie Weis, but I didn’t have all the contract details so the deal is, Weis, after going 6-22 in his two-plus seasons in Lawrence, will receive every remaining penny owed on the contract, some $7 million, plus he is still getting paid by Notre Dame, five years after it fired him in 2009.

In fact, ESPN, after getting hold of Notre Dame’s federal tax return, discovered that Weis has already been paid $12.8 million (thru June 2013) not to coach the Fighting Irish, and that could end up totaling nearly $19 million by next winter.

Ergo, Charlie Weis is being paid $26 million by ND and Kansas not to coach.

NFL

--Norman Chad / Washington Post

“For the first time in half-a-century, I willingly turned away from an NFL Sunday this past weekend....

“(It) was time to take a break from the game. NFL transgressions keep piling up: major ones like concussions, PEDs, domestic violence and child abuse, plus ongoing misdeeds like taxpayer extortion for new stadiums, Dan Snyder’s repulsive Redskins tap dance, the addition of Thursday night games and, of course Roger Goodell, who wears a nice suit for a corporate mannequin with a forked tongue.

“It’s all sex, lies and videotape; actually, you can substitute ‘money, power and greed’ for ‘sex’ there.

“Plus, I’m not getting any younger – booth reviews alone have stolen the bulk of my middle age....

“So, finally, I walked out of the darkness Sunday and away from the unspeakable sound of Norman Esiason’s voice and into the light.

“I discovered the library. They have books there!

“I discovered the farmer’s market. They have fruit and vegetables there!

“I discovered church. They have God and bingo there! (But you have to go back another day for the bingo.)

“And I discovered the beach. They have shore and ocean there!

“Yes, I understand that Mike Glennon threw a last-second touchdown pass to Vincent Jackson in the Buccaneers’ thrilling 27-24 victory over the Steelers. And, yes, I would’ve liked to have seen it.

“Guess what? Next week there will be another thrilling comeback.”

In all seriousness, forget that my Jets suck, I, like Mr. Chad, just don’t have the enthusiasm for the NFL I used to. My brother expressed similar feelings on Monday, too. It’s a different game than what we grew to love for decades. All the rules changes suck. Oh, sure, they’re designed to protect the players, and, sure, we didn’t know until the last few years, in any great detail, how a full 1/3rd of NFL players will have serious brain issues down the road.

It’s just not as much fun. And we all know the ceaseless number of penalties being called in the average game these days is beyond annoying.

So as my brother commented, and I heartily concur, I’m ready for some old-fashioned playoff baseball. [Written prior to Tuesday night.]

And I’m still into college football, far more so than the NFL game. As in I hope the two Mississippi schools kick butt this weekend!

--In the Patriots’ 41-14 beat down Monday night in Kansas City, quarterback Tom Brady was just 14 of 23, 159 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions. After four games, he has just 791 yards and four touchdowns, with a rating of 79.1 vs. his career 95.4 mark.

Will Brinson / CBSSports.com

“Less than a month ago Brady said “when I suck, I’ll retire.” If he’s true to his word he’ll walk away tomorrow, because he straight up sucked on Monday. There’s plenty of reasonable excuses relating to a lack of weapons and a lack of protection for Brady. But the 37-year-old quarterback – who’s struggled previously this year – made tons of mistakes throughout the night.”

--Jason Gay / Wall Street Journal

“October isn’t even here, and the Jets appear ready to retire alongside Derek Jeter.

“After an 8-8 season in 2013 that felt weirdly not horrible, the 2014 Jets have reverted to being the Jets. Remember, in order for a Jets year to feel like a proper Jets year, there must be – at least – a tease, a temporary flicker of excitement in which fans believe that this may be the year, that the Jets may finally not be the Jets.

“(Then, they can go ahead and become the Jets.)

“This year the tease lasted one flabby game and a half. The Jets beat the minor-league Raiders in the season opener and were rolling the Packers in Week 2 when they corrected hard, losing to Green Bay and retreating to a familiar, forlorn place. After a home loss to Detroit on Sunday they are 1-3, the worst Jets start since 2007, when they bounced back from a 1-3 start to go 11-5 and make the playoffs.

“(Just kidding. They went 4-12.)”

Ben Shpigel / New York Times

“The crowd chanted for Geno Smith’s backup. Smith cursed at a heckling fan. Sheldon Richardson afterward told those who booed to shut up.

This is what a three-game losing streak sounds like. And this is what it looked like: a total mess.

“The Jets’ offense was as disorganized as elementary school recess. Their secondary was shredded for two more passing touchdowns, their defense pummeled for two more long scoring drives.”

And now in a 12-day stretch they travel to San Diego, come home for Denver, and then up to New England for a Thursday night contest. Can you say 1-6?

By the way, as Ben Shpigel points out, between the 2002 and 2013 seasons, only 11 of 84 teams that started off 1-3 reached the playoffs.

But will Rex Ryan bench Geno Smith? Clearly, Smith is starting against San Diego, but if it’s 20-3 at half, will he finally make a move? What some of us wonder is why Rex wouldn’t want to make a change to Vick when it’s Rex’s job that is very much on the line this season.

Gary Myers / New York Daily News

It’s time for Rex Ryan to bench Geno Smith, the F-bomb-dropping quarterback who is crumbling under the pressure of playing in New York. Michael Vick is no savior, but at least he can provide a spark to another Jets season quickly falling apart....

“(Smith), a long way from becoming the face of the franchise, is destroying the season. He has seven turnovers in four games and unless Ryan has been assured by Woody Johnson he will be back in 2015 even if he makes it four straight years without the playoffs, then Smith is in the process of getting him fired.”

Some of us are beginning to wonder if, as Myers says, Woody Johnson did tell Rex not to worry about his job status.

But when it comes to Geno, us fans are all in agreement. We don’t want to hear him ever again say “It’s part of my learning process” as he apologizes for his many mistakes.

--There’s turmoil all over the NFL after just four weeks, including in San Francisco, where some say the players want coach Jim Harbaugh out. NFL Network analyst Deion Sanders said he heard from 49ers players who desire this and Harbaugh lit into Sanders, saying, “Personally, I think that’s a bunch of crap.”

Players are apparently tired of the high-strung coach, while at the same time, Harbaugh is at the top of the list when Michigan fires Brady Hoke.

A week before the season, ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer described the 49er locker room as “toxic.”

--As expected the Raiders fired coach Dennis Allen after the team’s 0-4 start. Allen was 8-28 as Oakland’s coach. Tony Sparano was named interim coach.

--This was incredibly stupid, Monday night...Cindy Boren / Washington Post:

“When Kansas City Chiefs safety Husain Abdullah intercepted a Tom Brady pass and returned it for a touchdown Monday night, he did what so many other NFL players do to celebrate a big play: He paused to make a religious gesture of thanks.

“But Abdullah, a devout Muslim, found that his religious display was met with less latitude than, say, Tim Tebow when he brought Tebowing into the NFL. Abdullah was penalized 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct because he slid to the ground, then knelt in the end zone.

“By 9:30 a.m., the NFL had clarified the ruling.  ‘Abdullah should not have been penalized,’ Michael Signora, the NFL’s vice-president of football communications, said in a tweet. ‘Officiating mechanic is not to flag player who goes to ground for religious reasons.’

“A strict reading of the rulebook reveals why Abdullah was flagged. Using the ground for celebration is not allowed, although Tebow was allowed to kneel. The penalty comes under Rule 12, Section 3, Article 1 (d) of the NFL rulebook, which states that ‘players are prohibited from engaging in any celebrations or demonstrations while on the ground’ as part of the league’s crackdown on excessive, elaborate celebrations. Mike Pereira, the league’s former vice-president of officiating and now a Fox Sports commentator, pointed out that there is an exception to the rule: going to the ground in prayer.”

--Colts safety LaRon Landry was suspended without pay for four games for PED use.

--Bad news for Demon Deacon fans. Jets fullback Tommy Bohanon broke his clavicle, an injury Rex Ryan described as “major.” It’s not known if he’ll have surgery or let it heal on its own. The Jets haven’t been utilizing his receiving skills enough.

Ryder Cup Fallout continues...

Paul Azinger said he wouldn’t rule out returning as captain, Zinger being at the helm when the U.S. last won the Cup in 2008. But he told USA TODAY: “It is time for the PGA of America to recognize the great disconnect and formulate the same business model for selecting a captain as it does for selecting its president and officers.

“Europe consistently repeats a philosophy of leadership that every captain has learned from the captains in the past. It is an approach that is comfortable and familiar. The U.S. approach is less comfortable and completely unfamiliar to every repeat player. The players have to adjust to a completely unique system to the previous two years.”

It was Phil Mickelson who said at Sunday’s news conference: “Unfortunately, we have strayed from a winning formula in 2008 for the last three Ryder Cups, and we need to consider maybe getting back to that formula that helped us play our best.”

Azinger didn’t address the news conference, but he added, “What Europe has in place for its selection process is a business model. They are more bonded. We have lone wolf captains. The captain matters.”

Mark Cannizzaro / New York Post

“As every one of the U.S. players approached the first tee Sunday for his Ryder Cup singles match, U.S. captain Tom Watson was there to greet him with a handshake and some words of encouragement.

“When Phil Mickelson arrived to the first tee for his match against Stephen Gallacher in the fifth match of the day, Watson curiously (conveniently?) was doing a TV interview and never had a single moment of interaction with Mickelson.

“A coincidence considering Watson controversially benched Mickelson, who beat Gallacher, 3 and 1 on Sunday, in both Saturday sessions?

“Not likely for a man of such old-school regimented schedules such as Watson, who has every moment of his day calculated to the minute (think Tom Coughlin).

“It was, indeed, a curious sight and rather damning evidence of a rift between the American captain and one of his most important players.”

So when Mickelson in the post-cup interview session was asked to “put his finger” on what worked for the U.S. team in 2008, “he took a mighty swing and unleashed some thinly veiled fury on the ways he believes Watson failed as a captain by talking up Paul Azinger...

“Asked if players were involved in any of the decision making regarding the team, Mickelson said, ‘No, nobody here was in [on] any decision.’

“If you like awkward, uncomfortable moments, this was a gem, with Mickelson sitting about 20 feet down the table from Watson....

“Watson did not lose this Ryder Cup; his players didn’t play well enough. But Watson did not do enough to put his team in position to win it.

“Conversely, European captain Paul McGinley spoke so reverently all week of a ‘template’ he was using in an effort to stay in step with the philosophies his predecessors had success with.

“Watson apparently does not agree with McGinley’s ‘management philosophy’ either.

“There’s nothing wrong with having a different ‘management philosophy’ than a predecessor – as long as it works. And what Watson did this week did not work.”

John Paul Newport / Wall Street Journal

“Yes, the U.S. had five players ranked in the world top 11: Jim Furyk, Bubba Watson, Matt Kuchar, Fowler and Phil Mickelson. But the rankings don’t measure heart or killer instinct; they measure the ability to accumulate points. Furyk, the highest ranked American at No. 4, hasn’t won a tournament in nearly four years. Fowler, No. 10, finished in the top five in all of this year’s majors, but still has only one PGA Tour victory.

“Cumulatively at Gleneagles, those top five U.S. players won only four matches, while losing 12 and tying three.

“That isn’t the fault of the Ryder Cup machinery, of course, but in the perfect clarity of hindsight, the system did err in picking Tom Watson as the U.S. captain....

“It’s certainly possible to overstate the importance of captains. The players hit the shots, not the captains. At the highest level of sport, however, victory is often achieved at the margins. Today’s top golfers travel with or regularly employ swing coaches, putting-game coaches, physical therapists, managers and sports psychologists, all scrapping for the tiniest advantages.

“McGinley spoke frequently about the European ‘template’ for victory, passed along from captain to captain. Going forward, the U.S. needs more of that kind of continuity, too.”

Karen Crouse of the New York Times noted that Watson “had come across all week as estranged from his team, and as he joined his players for the final time, just how great the divide was became painfully clear.... no one seized the microphone to speak in his defense.”

I disagree with Johnny Miller, who said the actual selection of a captain isn’t important. I get a kick out of those who say the same thing about a baseball manager or football coach. Of course the leader is important.

But when it comes to the Ryder Cup, I do agree with Miller in his assessment Sunday that there is one obvious truth about the U.S. team...we choke big time on the back nine, whether it’s in singles or team play.

Stuff

--Tony Stewart said in his first news conference since the Kevin Ward Jr. incident that while he may never race sprint cars again, he will continue his racing career full time. Stewart also said he would be available to discuss the events of that evening with Ward’s family. “I know what happened and I know it was an accident, but I’m offering to talk to them to help them if it helps with closure.”

--So I saw in the local paper that Saturday afternoon I was shopping at this strip mall I go to frequently and I had no idea that right across the street then was 11-time Olympic medalist Ryan Lochte, visiting the site of a new Olympic swimming pool facility. Drat! I would have gone over just to shake his hand.

--But oh those daffy swimmers. Michael Phelps was arrested Monday night in Maryland for driving under the influence, and Phelps issued an apology Tuesday. It seems he was going 84 in a 45 zone on I-395 as he then went onto I-95 outside Baltimore. The cop followed him through the tunnel and initiated the stop beyond the tunnel’s toll plaza. I only mention this because I have been on that route so many times in my life. I can’t imagine how the heck he was doing 84 without tumbling off the road. It was his second DUI, the first coming in 2004, when Phelps was 19.

Phelps is still targeting 2016 and Rio.

--You know how I wrote the other week of an Irish man who died of a spider bite? In Wednesday’s Irish Independent there was the story of a 28-year-old father who spent 24 hours in intensive care after he was bitten three times in ten minutes by a lethal false widow spider in the side and shoulder.

Eugen M. told the Independent he was sitting on his parents’ couch with his four year-old son when he felt a pain that was “ten times worse than a bone break.”

I witnessed the thing literally getting stuck in, and I actually had to tug it away from me to get it out. The fangs were embedded underneath the skin. A lump of skin came off with it when I took it out.

“I wouldn’t have thought twice about the two earlier bites, but with the third bite he was really getting stuck in....

“I remember my throat shutting and my eyes going. I banged my head on the ground and my eyes were going, and then I was out.”

His dad and brother saw Eugene shaking and “frothing at the mouth” as they called for an ambulance.

Eugene believes he brought the spider home from his job as a utility worker.

Top 3 songs for the week 10/3/81: #1 “Endless Love” (Diana Ross & Lionel Richie) #2 “Arthur’s Theme” (Christopher Cross) #3 “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” (Stevie Nicks (with Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers... incredibly depressing tune...)...and...#4 “Who’s Crying Now” (Journey) #5 “(There’s) No Gettin’ Over Me” (Ronnie Milsap) #6 “Queen Of Hearts” (Juice Newton) #7 “Step By Step” (Eddie Rabbitt) #8 “Urgent” (Foreigner) #9 “Start Me Up” (The Rolling Stones) #10 “Hold On Tight” (ELO)

NASCAR Quiz Answer: Three or more Drivers’ Championships....

Richard Petty...7...1964, 1967, 1971-72, 1974-75, 1979
Dale Earnhardt...7...1980, 1986-87, 1990-91, 1993-94
Jimmie Johnson...6...2006-2010, 2013
Jeff Gordon...4...1995, 1997-98, 2001
Lee Petty...3...1954, 1958-59
David Pearson*...3...1966, 1968-69
Cale Yarborough...3...1976-78
Darrell Waltrip...3...1981-82, 1985
Tony Stewart...3...2002, 2005, 2011

*Of course long-time readers know I believe David Pearson is one of the most underrated Great American athletes of all time.

[Others among the more underrated, generally Hall of Famers but nonetheless buried in the conversation, would include Tris Speaker, Omar Vizquel, Marty Liquori, John Stallworth, Billy Casper, Stan Mikita and Nate Thurmond.]

Next Bar Chat, Monday. I’m away all weekend....so this could be a real brief one.



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-10/02/2014-      
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Bar Chat

10/02/2014

Royals Pull Out a Thriller

[Posted Wed. morning]

NASCAR Quiz: [Gotta have one or two a year...and it’s Chase time, after all!!!] So, name the nine drivers who have won at least three Drivers’ Championships. [Hint: One of them won his three in the 1950s.] Answer below.

Ball Bits

--Wow...what an opening game! I stayed up through nine of Royals-A’s, scored tied 7-7, and couldn’t believe what I saw in the morning in terms of how it all ended, Royals 9-8 in 12. As is so often the case in baseball, Salvador Perez, who had a pathetic at bat in the bottom of the eighth, striking out when a fly ball was needed to tie the game ended up getting the winning hit in the bottom of the 12th.

Bob Nightengale / USA TODAY Sports

“The Kansas City Royals, their eyes stinging from the champagne, their throats burning from screaming, kept trying to make sense of it all.

“They know they somehow won this crazy game, one that was already being declared as the most exhilarating postseason victory in franchise history.

“But they still can’t find the words.

“ ‘It was the craziest game I’ve ever been part of, in all my life,’ Royals left fielder Alex Gordon says. ‘It didn’t look good there for a while, but we just kept battling and battling. It’s like we weren’t ready to go home.

“ ‘And then we won. Please don’t ask me how.’

“The Royals pulled out a stunning 9-8, 12-inning victory over the Oakland A’s, refusing to quit when it would be so easy to do so.

“They were down by four runs in the eighth inning, facing one of the greatest postseason pitchers of all time in Jon Lester, and still won.

“They were down by a run in the ninth inning, and were down to their final two outs, and still won.

“They were down by a run in the 12th inning, and again down to their last two outs, and still won....

“The Royals played 4 hours and 45 minutes, in a game with 41 players and 13 pitchers, and the pitching star is a kid, Brandon Finnegan, who was pitching at Texas Christian University just three months ago....

“No, there are no Bretts on this team, or a potential Hall of Famer, but after this night, they have now established their own identity.

“They carved their own niche in Royals folklore.

“ ‘This was a crazy game,’ Gordon says. ‘It’s been a crazy season. Now, we’re just getting started.

“ ‘Who knows what you might see next.’

“We can hardly wait.”

Kansas City tied a postseason record with seven stolen bases; the only two other teams to do this were the 1907 Cubs and 1975 Reds.

Finally, Adam Dunn had a chance to play in the postseason, but never got off the bench for Oakland, which was a shame. Afterwards, Dunn announced he’s retiring, ending his career with 462 home runs and 1,168 RBIs...but no postseason games played.

--Pretty amazing Ron Gardenhire managed the Twins for 13 seasons, but he was fired on Monday. After taking the Twinkies to six postseason appearances in his first nine seasons (.550 winning percentage), the Twins lost at least 92 games in each of the last four, including an abysmal .345 winning percentage from Aug. 1 on during this period. Only the Angels’ Mike Scioscia has managed one team longer.

Gardenhire’s teams also had limited success when they made the postseason, going just 6-21. Prior to Gardy, Tom Kelly managed the Twins for 15 seasons.

--You know who deserves a nice raise? Cleveland hurler Corey Kluber, who was a breakout 18-9, 2.44 ERA, throwing 235.2 innings and fanning 269.

--From Paul White / USA TODAY Sports:

Jose Altuve’s hit total for this season, 225, was the highest since Ichiro Suzuki had 225 in 2009 and it’s the most hits since 2000 by a player not named Ichiro.” [You could win some coin on that one. The last guy was Darin Erstad’s 240 with the Angels in 2000.]

Cincinnati’s Aroldis Chapman struck out 52% of the batters he faced.

“ .251: The major league batting average, lowest since 1972. The .314 on-base percentage was also the lowest since ’72.”

“ 64: Players used by the injury-ravaged Texas Rangers. That’s a major league record, as are the 40 pitchers who worked for the Rangers. Is there good news in there somewhere? Well, 23 Rangers pitchers got a victory, an AL record for one season.”

“ 1.77: Clayton Kershaw’s earned run average, making the Dodgers ace the first pitcher to lead a league in that category four consecutive seasons.”

“ 115: Mike Trout’s 115 runs make him the first player to lead his league in runs his first three full seasons in the major leagues.  He also led the AL with 183 strikeouts but that probably won’t stop him from winning his first MVP award.” [I agree, but Trout does need to cut down on the strikeouts. His average fell to .287, after he hit .326 and .323 his first two seasons. I mean you expect Trout to be gunning for the Triple Crown every year.]

*Trout’s AL-leading 111 RBIs was the lowest total (non-strike year) since 1975-76, 109 each by George Scott and Lee May, respectively. [Two great names from my youth.]

“ 3.66: That’s the strikeout-walk ratio of the Washington Nationals pitching staff, the best in the majors since 1900.”

I have to note just how good the Pirates’ superstar Andrew McCutchen has been.

Last year he was league MVP...21 HR 84 RBI, .317, .912 OPS

This year, in 146 games, vs. 157 last year, McCutchen was 25-83, .314, .952, yet he will finish third, I imagine, this year behind Kershaw and Stanton.

--We note the passing of George Shuba, 89. He played parts of seven seasons with Brooklyn, 1948-55 (not ’51), and was on the winning 1955 World Series team, batting .259 for his career in 814 at-bats.

But as Richard Goldstein writes in the New York Times, he is best remembered for a single incident.

“On the afternoon of April 18, 1946, (Jackie) Robinson became the first black player in modern organized baseball when he made his debut with the Dodgers’ Montreal Royals farm team in their International League opener against the Jersey City Giants.

“In the third inning, Robinson hit a three-run homer over the left-field fence. When he completed his trip around the bases, Shuba, the Royals’ left fielder and their next batter, shook his hand.

“Congratulating a home-run hitter was a commonplace ritual, but Shuba’s welcome to a smiling Robinson was captured in an Associated Press photograph that has endured as a portrait of racial tolerance.”

The photo of that handshake was the only memento from his playing days that Shuba kept in his living room.

CFB

--What a football Saturday:

3 Alabama at 11 Ole Miss; 15 LSU at 5 Auburn; 6 Texas A&M at 12 Miss. State; 14 Stanford at 9 Notre Dame....just to name a few.

But of course the biggest game is Wake Forest at No. 1 Florida State, followed close behind in terms of national importance by SMU at 22 East Carolina, where our crack staff is predicting a 70-3 Pirates victory.

Back to Wake, the line is 39 points as I write. I think we’ll get a turnover that we can turn into three points, so the issue is will FSU score 42/43? Yup. Final...49-3.

--What a mess at Michigan as head coach Brady Hoke not only has to deal with rumors he’s about to be fired for the team’s awful performance, but also for allowing quarterback Shane Morris to go back into Saturday’s game. After conflicting comments were then made by the coaching staff, Athletics Director Dave Brandon had to issue a statement acknowledging that Morris suffered a “probable, mild concussion,” saying changes in medical protocol would be made immediately.

Morris, already dealing with a leg injury, was clearly dazed after taking a direct hit to his helmet, leaning on a teammate for support, but then he stayed in for another play, after which the coaches finally removed him.

That brought in quarterback Devin Gardner, who ran a few plays before his helmet was knocked off at the end of a run and under the rules, Gardner had to come out for one play. Stupidly, Hoke sent Morris onto the field in Gardner’s place. Morris handed the ball off, struggled back to the sideline, and eventually left the field on a cart.

But initially on Monday at his regular news conference, Hoke said Morris suffered a high ankle sprain but there was no sign of a concussion.

Brandon, in his statement, said: “In my judgment, there was a serious lack of communication that led to confusion on the sideline. Unfortunately, this confusion created a circumstance that was not in the best interest of one of our student-athletes.”

Brandon explained that while the medical personnel have “the unchallengeable authority to remove student-athletes from the field of play,” from field level they didn’t see the hit that Morris took and thought he was stumbling from his ankle injury.

Then there was confusion between the neurologist, and the head trainer, who was assessing Morris’ ankle injury and the neurologist didn’t know the trainer cleared Morris to go back into the game.

Tuesday, a few hundred students and fans marched to the university president’s house, demanding Michigan get rid of Brandon.

--I mentioned last time that Kansas fired Charlie Weis, but I didn’t have all the contract details so the deal is, Weis, after going 6-22 in his two-plus seasons in Lawrence, will receive every remaining penny owed on the contract, some $7 million, plus he is still getting paid by Notre Dame, five years after it fired him in 2009.

In fact, ESPN, after getting hold of Notre Dame’s federal tax return, discovered that Weis has already been paid $12.8 million (thru June 2013) not to coach the Fighting Irish, and that could end up totaling nearly $19 million by next winter.

Ergo, Charlie Weis is being paid $26 million by ND and Kansas not to coach.

NFL

--Norman Chad / Washington Post

“For the first time in half-a-century, I willingly turned away from an NFL Sunday this past weekend....

“(It) was time to take a break from the game. NFL transgressions keep piling up: major ones like concussions, PEDs, domestic violence and child abuse, plus ongoing misdeeds like taxpayer extortion for new stadiums, Dan Snyder’s repulsive Redskins tap dance, the addition of Thursday night games and, of course Roger Goodell, who wears a nice suit for a corporate mannequin with a forked tongue.

“It’s all sex, lies and videotape; actually, you can substitute ‘money, power and greed’ for ‘sex’ there.

“Plus, I’m not getting any younger – booth reviews alone have stolen the bulk of my middle age....

“So, finally, I walked out of the darkness Sunday and away from the unspeakable sound of Norman Esiason’s voice and into the light.

“I discovered the library. They have books there!

“I discovered the farmer’s market. They have fruit and vegetables there!

“I discovered church. They have God and bingo there! (But you have to go back another day for the bingo.)

“And I discovered the beach. They have shore and ocean there!

“Yes, I understand that Mike Glennon threw a last-second touchdown pass to Vincent Jackson in the Buccaneers’ thrilling 27-24 victory over the Steelers. And, yes, I would’ve liked to have seen it.

“Guess what? Next week there will be another thrilling comeback.”

In all seriousness, forget that my Jets suck, I, like Mr. Chad, just don’t have the enthusiasm for the NFL I used to. My brother expressed similar feelings on Monday, too. It’s a different game than what we grew to love for decades. All the rules changes suck. Oh, sure, they’re designed to protect the players, and, sure, we didn’t know until the last few years, in any great detail, how a full 1/3rd of NFL players will have serious brain issues down the road.

It’s just not as much fun. And we all know the ceaseless number of penalties being called in the average game these days is beyond annoying.

So as my brother commented, and I heartily concur, I’m ready for some old-fashioned playoff baseball. [Written prior to Tuesday night.]

And I’m still into college football, far more so than the NFL game. As in I hope the two Mississippi schools kick butt this weekend!

--In the Patriots’ 41-14 beat down Monday night in Kansas City, quarterback Tom Brady was just 14 of 23, 159 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions. After four games, he has just 791 yards and four touchdowns, with a rating of 79.1 vs. his career 95.4 mark.

Will Brinson / CBSSports.com

“Less than a month ago Brady said “when I suck, I’ll retire.” If he’s true to his word he’ll walk away tomorrow, because he straight up sucked on Monday. There’s plenty of reasonable excuses relating to a lack of weapons and a lack of protection for Brady. But the 37-year-old quarterback – who’s struggled previously this year – made tons of mistakes throughout the night.”

--Jason Gay / Wall Street Journal

“October isn’t even here, and the Jets appear ready to retire alongside Derek Jeter.

“After an 8-8 season in 2013 that felt weirdly not horrible, the 2014 Jets have reverted to being the Jets. Remember, in order for a Jets year to feel like a proper Jets year, there must be – at least – a tease, a temporary flicker of excitement in which fans believe that this may be the year, that the Jets may finally not be the Jets.

“(Then, they can go ahead and become the Jets.)

“This year the tease lasted one flabby game and a half. The Jets beat the minor-league Raiders in the season opener and were rolling the Packers in Week 2 when they corrected hard, losing to Green Bay and retreating to a familiar, forlorn place. After a home loss to Detroit on Sunday they are 1-3, the worst Jets start since 2007, when they bounced back from a 1-3 start to go 11-5 and make the playoffs.

“(Just kidding. They went 4-12.)”

Ben Shpigel / New York Times

“The crowd chanted for Geno Smith’s backup. Smith cursed at a heckling fan. Sheldon Richardson afterward told those who booed to shut up.

This is what a three-game losing streak sounds like. And this is what it looked like: a total mess.

“The Jets’ offense was as disorganized as elementary school recess. Their secondary was shredded for two more passing touchdowns, their defense pummeled for two more long scoring drives.”

And now in a 12-day stretch they travel to San Diego, come home for Denver, and then up to New England for a Thursday night contest. Can you say 1-6?

By the way, as Ben Shpigel points out, between the 2002 and 2013 seasons, only 11 of 84 teams that started off 1-3 reached the playoffs.

But will Rex Ryan bench Geno Smith? Clearly, Smith is starting against San Diego, but if it’s 20-3 at half, will he finally make a move? What some of us wonder is why Rex wouldn’t want to make a change to Vick when it’s Rex’s job that is very much on the line this season.

Gary Myers / New York Daily News

It’s time for Rex Ryan to bench Geno Smith, the F-bomb-dropping quarterback who is crumbling under the pressure of playing in New York. Michael Vick is no savior, but at least he can provide a spark to another Jets season quickly falling apart....

“(Smith), a long way from becoming the face of the franchise, is destroying the season. He has seven turnovers in four games and unless Ryan has been assured by Woody Johnson he will be back in 2015 even if he makes it four straight years without the playoffs, then Smith is in the process of getting him fired.”

Some of us are beginning to wonder if, as Myers says, Woody Johnson did tell Rex not to worry about his job status.

But when it comes to Geno, us fans are all in agreement. We don’t want to hear him ever again say “It’s part of my learning process” as he apologizes for his many mistakes.

--There’s turmoil all over the NFL after just four weeks, including in San Francisco, where some say the players want coach Jim Harbaugh out. NFL Network analyst Deion Sanders said he heard from 49ers players who desire this and Harbaugh lit into Sanders, saying, “Personally, I think that’s a bunch of crap.”

Players are apparently tired of the high-strung coach, while at the same time, Harbaugh is at the top of the list when Michigan fires Brady Hoke.

A week before the season, ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer described the 49er locker room as “toxic.”

--As expected the Raiders fired coach Dennis Allen after the team’s 0-4 start. Allen was 8-28 as Oakland’s coach. Tony Sparano was named interim coach.

--This was incredibly stupid, Monday night...Cindy Boren / Washington Post:

“When Kansas City Chiefs safety Husain Abdullah intercepted a Tom Brady pass and returned it for a touchdown Monday night, he did what so many other NFL players do to celebrate a big play: He paused to make a religious gesture of thanks.

“But Abdullah, a devout Muslim, found that his religious display was met with less latitude than, say, Tim Tebow when he brought Tebowing into the NFL. Abdullah was penalized 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct because he slid to the ground, then knelt in the end zone.

“By 9:30 a.m., the NFL had clarified the ruling.  ‘Abdullah should not have been penalized,’ Michael Signora, the NFL’s vice-president of football communications, said in a tweet. ‘Officiating mechanic is not to flag player who goes to ground for religious reasons.’

“A strict reading of the rulebook reveals why Abdullah was flagged. Using the ground for celebration is not allowed, although Tebow was allowed to kneel. The penalty comes under Rule 12, Section 3, Article 1 (d) of the NFL rulebook, which states that ‘players are prohibited from engaging in any celebrations or demonstrations while on the ground’ as part of the league’s crackdown on excessive, elaborate celebrations. Mike Pereira, the league’s former vice-president of officiating and now a Fox Sports commentator, pointed out that there is an exception to the rule: going to the ground in prayer.”

--Colts safety LaRon Landry was suspended without pay for four games for PED use.

--Bad news for Demon Deacon fans. Jets fullback Tommy Bohanon broke his clavicle, an injury Rex Ryan described as “major.” It’s not known if he’ll have surgery or let it heal on its own. The Jets haven’t been utilizing his receiving skills enough.

Ryder Cup Fallout continues...

Paul Azinger said he wouldn’t rule out returning as captain, Zinger being at the helm when the U.S. last won the Cup in 2008. But he told USA TODAY: “It is time for the PGA of America to recognize the great disconnect and formulate the same business model for selecting a captain as it does for selecting its president and officers.

“Europe consistently repeats a philosophy of leadership that every captain has learned from the captains in the past. It is an approach that is comfortable and familiar. The U.S. approach is less comfortable and completely unfamiliar to every repeat player. The players have to adjust to a completely unique system to the previous two years.”

It was Phil Mickelson who said at Sunday’s news conference: “Unfortunately, we have strayed from a winning formula in 2008 for the last three Ryder Cups, and we need to consider maybe getting back to that formula that helped us play our best.”

Azinger didn’t address the news conference, but he added, “What Europe has in place for its selection process is a business model. They are more bonded. We have lone wolf captains. The captain matters.”

Mark Cannizzaro / New York Post

“As every one of the U.S. players approached the first tee Sunday for his Ryder Cup singles match, U.S. captain Tom Watson was there to greet him with a handshake and some words of encouragement.

“When Phil Mickelson arrived to the first tee for his match against Stephen Gallacher in the fifth match of the day, Watson curiously (conveniently?) was doing a TV interview and never had a single moment of interaction with Mickelson.

“A coincidence considering Watson controversially benched Mickelson, who beat Gallacher, 3 and 1 on Sunday, in both Saturday sessions?

“Not likely for a man of such old-school regimented schedules such as Watson, who has every moment of his day calculated to the minute (think Tom Coughlin).

“It was, indeed, a curious sight and rather damning evidence of a rift between the American captain and one of his most important players.”

So when Mickelson in the post-cup interview session was asked to “put his finger” on what worked for the U.S. team in 2008, “he took a mighty swing and unleashed some thinly veiled fury on the ways he believes Watson failed as a captain by talking up Paul Azinger...

“Asked if players were involved in any of the decision making regarding the team, Mickelson said, ‘No, nobody here was in [on] any decision.’

“If you like awkward, uncomfortable moments, this was a gem, with Mickelson sitting about 20 feet down the table from Watson....

“Watson did not lose this Ryder Cup; his players didn’t play well enough. But Watson did not do enough to put his team in position to win it.

“Conversely, European captain Paul McGinley spoke so reverently all week of a ‘template’ he was using in an effort to stay in step with the philosophies his predecessors had success with.

“Watson apparently does not agree with McGinley’s ‘management philosophy’ either.

“There’s nothing wrong with having a different ‘management philosophy’ than a predecessor – as long as it works. And what Watson did this week did not work.”

John Paul Newport / Wall Street Journal

“Yes, the U.S. had five players ranked in the world top 11: Jim Furyk, Bubba Watson, Matt Kuchar, Fowler and Phil Mickelson. But the rankings don’t measure heart or killer instinct; they measure the ability to accumulate points. Furyk, the highest ranked American at No. 4, hasn’t won a tournament in nearly four years. Fowler, No. 10, finished in the top five in all of this year’s majors, but still has only one PGA Tour victory.

“Cumulatively at Gleneagles, those top five U.S. players won only four matches, while losing 12 and tying three.

“That isn’t the fault of the Ryder Cup machinery, of course, but in the perfect clarity of hindsight, the system did err in picking Tom Watson as the U.S. captain....

“It’s certainly possible to overstate the importance of captains. The players hit the shots, not the captains. At the highest level of sport, however, victory is often achieved at the margins. Today’s top golfers travel with or regularly employ swing coaches, putting-game coaches, physical therapists, managers and sports psychologists, all scrapping for the tiniest advantages.

“McGinley spoke frequently about the European ‘template’ for victory, passed along from captain to captain. Going forward, the U.S. needs more of that kind of continuity, too.”

Karen Crouse of the New York Times noted that Watson “had come across all week as estranged from his team, and as he joined his players for the final time, just how great the divide was became painfully clear.... no one seized the microphone to speak in his defense.”

I disagree with Johnny Miller, who said the actual selection of a captain isn’t important. I get a kick out of those who say the same thing about a baseball manager or football coach. Of course the leader is important.

But when it comes to the Ryder Cup, I do agree with Miller in his assessment Sunday that there is one obvious truth about the U.S. team...we choke big time on the back nine, whether it’s in singles or team play.

Stuff

--Tony Stewart said in his first news conference since the Kevin Ward Jr. incident that while he may never race sprint cars again, he will continue his racing career full time. Stewart also said he would be available to discuss the events of that evening with Ward’s family. “I know what happened and I know it was an accident, but I’m offering to talk to them to help them if it helps with closure.”

--So I saw in the local paper that Saturday afternoon I was shopping at this strip mall I go to frequently and I had no idea that right across the street then was 11-time Olympic medalist Ryan Lochte, visiting the site of a new Olympic swimming pool facility. Drat! I would have gone over just to shake his hand.

--But oh those daffy swimmers. Michael Phelps was arrested Monday night in Maryland for driving under the influence, and Phelps issued an apology Tuesday. It seems he was going 84 in a 45 zone on I-395 as he then went onto I-95 outside Baltimore. The cop followed him through the tunnel and initiated the stop beyond the tunnel’s toll plaza. I only mention this because I have been on that route so many times in my life. I can’t imagine how the heck he was doing 84 without tumbling off the road. It was his second DUI, the first coming in 2004, when Phelps was 19.

Phelps is still targeting 2016 and Rio.

--You know how I wrote the other week of an Irish man who died of a spider bite? In Wednesday’s Irish Independent there was the story of a 28-year-old father who spent 24 hours in intensive care after he was bitten three times in ten minutes by a lethal false widow spider in the side and shoulder.

Eugen M. told the Independent he was sitting on his parents’ couch with his four year-old son when he felt a pain that was “ten times worse than a bone break.”

I witnessed the thing literally getting stuck in, and I actually had to tug it away from me to get it out. The fangs were embedded underneath the skin. A lump of skin came off with it when I took it out.

“I wouldn’t have thought twice about the two earlier bites, but with the third bite he was really getting stuck in....

“I remember my throat shutting and my eyes going. I banged my head on the ground and my eyes were going, and then I was out.”

His dad and brother saw Eugene shaking and “frothing at the mouth” as they called for an ambulance.

Eugene believes he brought the spider home from his job as a utility worker.

Top 3 songs for the week 10/3/81: #1 “Endless Love” (Diana Ross & Lionel Richie) #2 “Arthur’s Theme” (Christopher Cross) #3 “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” (Stevie Nicks (with Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers... incredibly depressing tune...)...and...#4 “Who’s Crying Now” (Journey) #5 “(There’s) No Gettin’ Over Me” (Ronnie Milsap) #6 “Queen Of Hearts” (Juice Newton) #7 “Step By Step” (Eddie Rabbitt) #8 “Urgent” (Foreigner) #9 “Start Me Up” (The Rolling Stones) #10 “Hold On Tight” (ELO)

NASCAR Quiz Answer: Three or more Drivers’ Championships....

Richard Petty...7...1964, 1967, 1971-72, 1974-75, 1979
Dale Earnhardt...7...1980, 1986-87, 1990-91, 1993-94
Jimmie Johnson...6...2006-2010, 2013
Jeff Gordon...4...1995, 1997-98, 2001
Lee Petty...3...1954, 1958-59
David Pearson*...3...1966, 1968-69
Cale Yarborough...3...1976-78
Darrell Waltrip...3...1981-82, 1985
Tony Stewart...3...2002, 2005, 2011

*Of course long-time readers know I believe David Pearson is one of the most underrated Great American athletes of all time.

[Others among the more underrated, generally Hall of Famers but nonetheless buried in the conversation, would include Tris Speaker, Omar Vizquel, Marty Liquori, John Stallworth, Billy Casper, Stan Mikita and Nate Thurmond.]

Next Bar Chat, Monday. I’m away all weekend....so this could be a real brief one.