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[Posted Sunday PM...family issues to deal with these days...NFL coverage suffers again...]
College Football Quiz: 1) Name the coach, quarterback and top running back on the 1980 national champion Georgia Bulldogs. 2) Name the quarterback, top running back and receiver (he had 61 receptions) on the 1998 Tennessee Vols [I’m giving you the coach later.] Answers below.
College Football Playoffs Are Set
But first, what follows was written prior to release of the CFP Rankings....
--10 USC (11-2) is headed to a New Year’s Six game after a 31-28 Pac-12 title game win over 12 Stanford (9-4) Friday night. The 11-2 mark for Trojans coach Clay Helton was the school’s best mark since the 2001-09 Pete Carroll years, Carroll having finished AP Top five seven straight seasons, 2002-2008, including two national titles.
I saw just snippets of this one due to that other column I do, but if Sam Darnold is wrestling with the decision on whether to go out for the NFL Draft next spring, it should be an easier one now. He made some terrific, NFL-like plays, including a critical 54-yard pass late that led to a 99-yard touchdown drive that sealed the deal, Darnold going 17/24, 325, 2-0. Once again Ronald Jones II chipped in with 140 yards and two TDs on 30 carries.
For Stanford, Bryce Love, playing valiantly on his bum ankle, rushed for 125 yards on 22 carries, but he was on the sideline during Stanford’s last two shots at the end zone from the two-yard line, the Cardinal down 24-21, and the Trojans stuffed them, setting up Darnold’s heroics.
One other note on Love. He didn’t have to play. He was only jeopardizing his career by doing so, but he did...which shows NFL GMs everything.
--Saturday, we opened with the shootout that I thought would be the best game of the day, 20 Memphis against 14 UCF for the American Athletic Conference Championship and a New Year’s Six bowl game, UCF completing its undefeated season (12-0) with a stirring 62-55 win in overtime, Memphis dropping to 10-2, though the Tigers should have bowl committees salivating.
In regulation, 48-48, McKenzie Milton was 27/39, 484, 5-3, for the Knights, while Riley Ferguson was 28/37, 439, 3-0 for the Tigers (I refuse to include overtime stats from college football...hate it), but Ferguson then threw the decisive pick in OT to seal it for UCF.
There was so much NFL talent on display in this one. I’ve been raving about Memphis running back Darrell Henderson and he was his usual great self, 15 carries for 109 yards and a score, as well as receiver Anthony Miller, 14 receptions for 195 yards and three touchdowns (oops, I’m including OT in his). Miller is phenomenal. I’d love my Jets to somehow get him in the draft.
Anyway, UCF sent off Coach Scott Frost in fine fashion. Frost seems to be a special guy and now he’s headed home to his alma mater, Nebraska, who he once led to the national championship and will now be on a mission to resurrect a moribund program. Lincoln is no doubt super psyched...it will help get them through the long winter ahead. Good for Scott Frost!
--The other games Saturday, save for Ohio State-Wisconsin, were duds.
3 Oklahoma whipped 11 TCU 41-17 in the Big 12 title contest to wrap up a CFP bid, the Sooners now 12-1, TCU dropping to 10-3. Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield (should be unanimous at this point, with Jonathan Taylor’s dud, not to get ahead of myself...though Bryce Love deserves some votes...but now I’m rambling....) was 15 of 23 for 243 yards and four touchdowns, no picks, and another 65 yards on the ground, all in the first half, as the Sooners cruised. [I watched little of this one because of the exciting UCF-Memphis action.]
On to 6 Georgia and 2 Auburn for the SEC title and another CFP berth, and in a mini-shocker, Georgia dominated, 28-7. After getting their butts kicked by the Tigers just three weeks earlier, 40-17, with Georgia’s star running back tandem of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel being held to 48 yards on 20 carries, Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart outcoached Gus Malzahn, Georgia dominating on the line, with Michel and Chubb combining for 122 yards on 20 carries, while freshman D’Andre Swift chipped in with 88, including a scintillating 64-yard touchdown dash.
Plus Georgia’s freshman QB, Jake Fromm, was terrific and in control, 16/22, 183, 2-0. His counterpart, Jarrett Stidham, was not so terrific, 16/32, 145, 1-0, while Tigers running back Kerryon Johnson, banged up with injuries, was a non-factor. Actually, he was a factor in that he lost a key fumble.
So Georgia is 12-1, Auburn 10-3, with two wins over No. 1 teams.
Saturday night it was No. 1 Clemson and 7 Miami for the ACC title and another CFP bid and this one wasn’t a contest either, a 38-3 blowout for the No. 1 program in the land, your Clemson Tigers. I mean how can you not like these guys, led by Coach Dabo Swinney. They have a terrific human being and leader in quarterback Deshaun Watson leave with a national title, and another likeable guy, Kelly Bryant, takes his place.
Bryant was masterful, 23/29, 252, 1-0, while the Tigers’ ‘D’ stifled the Hurricanes all night, holding them to just 214 yards of offense and harassing quarterback Malik Rosier the entire game, as he was awful, 14/29, 110, 0-2. [I may have to revise my previous remarks about his future.]
I also hate to admit that Summit, New Jersey’s own, Michael Badgley, missed an important early field goal when it was just 7-0, and you felt any pregame energy Miami might have had dissipate in a flash.
I’ve watched Badgley all year, probably literally missed like two of his kicks, and despite being All-ACC and finishing the regular season 16 of 20 on his field goals, this was not the Michael Badgley from his previous three years. I’ve also been irked the last few weeks with every single broadcaster doing the games saying he’s NFL bound. I was writing that two years ago, and I guarantee some of this talk seeped into Badgley’s head towards season end. Just an observation from this pretty good college football fan.
Clemson is 12-1, Miami 10-2.
Lastly, we had 8 Ohio State and 4 Wisconsin for the Big Ten crown and this one provided the only drama for the CFP-decisive contests...Ohio State pulling off the ‘upset,’ 27-21, as Buckeyes quarterback J.T. Barrett proved his toughness, coming back just six days after knee surgery; a procedure virtually everyone else takes 2-3 weeks to recover from, leading the OSU offense with 211 yards through the air and two touchdowns, plus converting a critical fourth down late to help the Buckeyes seal the deal.
Yes, Barrett was just 12 of 26, and with two picks, one returned for an early score, but you knew who was in charge. It helped that J.K. Dobbins rushed for 174 yards on 17 carries, and that the Ohio State defense stuffed star Badger running back Jonathan Taylor, holding him to just 41 yards on 15 carries, while Wisconsin QB Alex Hornibrook largely sucked, 19/40, 229, 0-2.
So in picking up their first loss, the Badgers drop to 12-1, while Ohio State finishes 11-2, the two losses to Oklahoma in Week 2, 31-16 in Columbus, and an embarrassing 55-24 one to Iowa.
Meaning, the Selection Committee has to decide between this two-loss team, but conference champion, vs. taking one-loss Alabama, whose only ‘L’ was to Auburn, 26-14.
The thing is, ‘Bama didn’t play anyone and just a few weeks ago, barely got by then-No. 16 Mississippi State 31-24.
But Ohio State has the awful loss to Iowa, 55-24.
Gary Danielson / CBS Sports
“I think, game one to the last game, Alabama has been the most consistent team. I think they could make the argument that top to bottom they have not had any bad games. They’re one of the four best teams.”
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said Saturday night, “We have two wins over two Top-4 teams. We’re the conference champions...we deserve a shot.”
And now...the final CFP Selection Committee decision....
It’s Alabama over Ohio State for the last spot! I don’t think it’s that complicated, as much as OSU fans are sick to their stomachs. The 31-point loss to an unranked Iowa killed them, as the selection committee admitted after.
1. Clemson 12-1
2. Oklahoma 12-1
3. Georgia 12-1
4. Alabama 11-1
5. Ohio State 11-2
6. Wisconsin 12-1
7. Auburn 10-3
8. USC 11-2
9. Penn State 10-2
10. Miami 10-2
11. Washington 11-2
12. UCF 12-0
20. Memphis 10-2
As for the AP, it has the exact same first nine, but with UCF at 10, which is where they belong; Miami 11, Washington 12. So the AP offers you validation on ‘Bama...though it’s 1,307 points Alabama, 1,300 Ohio State in this survey.
Also in the AP, Clemson receives 43 first-place votes to Oklahoma’s 18.
Thus it’s Clemson and Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, New Year’s Day, and Oklahoma vs. Georgia in the Rose Bowl.
In the other New Year’s Six games....
Cotton: USC-Ohio State
Fiesta: Washington-Penn State
Peach: UCF-Auburn...love this one...just wish it was New Year’s Eve!!!
I’ll have something to say on all the other games to come next chat, but for now, yes, I’m pleased with the Wake Forest-Texas A&M matchup in Charlotte, while Duke faces Northern Illinois in Detroit (eh), and Boston College is predictably playing in the Pinstripe Bowl (Yankee Stadium) against Iowa.
--Meanwhile, in the college coaching carousel, as rumored, Jimbo Fisher left Florida State, who he coached to a national title in 2013, for Texas A&M, where he reportedly received the biggest contract in CFB history, $75 million over ten years.
Fisher was 83-23 in eight seasons at FSU, but as you know this year was a disaster, beginning with the opening week injury to solid quarterback Deondre Francois that killed the season before it began. The Seminoles were 5-6 before winning Saturday against UL-Monroe with an interim coach.
So now who will FSU get? Oregon’s Willie Taggart, who spent four seasons at South Florida before going out to Eugene?
By the way, the last coach to leave a program where he won a national title directly for another college program was Johnny Majors, who left Pitt for Tennessee in 1977.
--Speaking of the Vols, the big, ongoing story is in Knoxville, where Tennessee could not be more dysfunctional in the sport’s most tumultuous and pathetic coaching search.
After the Greg Schiano debacle last Sunday, Tennessee suspended athletic director John Currie, with Hall of Famer Phillip Fulmer, who led the Vols to the 1998 national title, being named the interim AD.
Currie was placed on paid leave just eight months after taking the job. He flew back early Friday to Knoxvile after interviewing Washington State Coach Mike Leach on Thursday in Los Angeles. University officials instructed Currie not to broker a deal with Leach or anybody else prior to returning to campus. [Apparently, Tennessee’s top booster, Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam, whose brother is governor of Tennessee, wasn’t consulted and that’s a major no-no.]
Aside from offering the coaching job to Greg Schiano, Currie had courted Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy, Duke’s David Cutcliffe, N.C. State’s Dave Doeren, Purdue’s Jeff Brohm and new Florida coach Dan Mullen. I did not get a call and frankly I may sue.
--Mississippi won’t be participating in the postseason this year or in 2018 as part of NCAA sanctions levied against the school in a long-running investigation where the Rebels were accused of 15 Level I rules violations, including lack of institutional control.
Ole Miss had self-imposed penalties that included this season’s bowl ban, and a reduction of 11 scholarships over a four-year period from 2015 to 2018, but the NCAA is taking away an additional 13 scholarships. Ole Miss seniors will be allowed to transfer without penalty because of the postseason ban for 2018.
--Marc Tracy / New York Times
“A two-year bowl ban for what the NCAA called a team’s ‘recurring culture of noncompliance’ in recruiting.
“An athletic director suspended eight months into his tenure after his fans effectively barred him from hiring a new head football coach.
“A national championship-winning coach reportedly jumping into college football’s most competitive conference with a 10-year contract.
“And in case anyone forgot, a championship game Saturday between two proud rivals, with the winner all but certain to go to the postseason.
“Friday was a fever dream for those who have ever wished the best or suspected the worst of the most passionate, most accomplished (in recent years, anyway) and simply nuttiest league in all of college football: the Southeastern Conference.
“In other words, it was business as usual.”
--One local high school football note. Steve D.’s town, Westfield, won another state title (North Jersey, Section 2, Group 5), beating Bridgewater-Raritan 20-7 the other day at MetLife Stadium, making it a three-peat while running its state-best winning streak to 37 games. As Ronald Reagan would have said, ‘Not bad, not bad at all.’
And Giants fans, what former running back played his high school ball at Westfield? Butch Woolfolk, who I’ve noted before I actually ran a track event against. Sorry to repeat it, but I was a distance runner and my coach was ticked off at me for underperformance, so in a Summit-Westfield meet he stuck me in the 100 (after running the mile and 2-mile) and I like to say that Woolfolk almost lapped yours truly.
I just looked it up...Woolfolk, according to Wiki, still holds the Michigan outdoor record in the 200! We’re talking that was almost 40 years ago.
The following is written prior to Giants-Raiders.
--Yes, Giants coach Ben McAdoo is a “Jerk of the Year” candidate. He’s such a jerk the trophy may be hereafter named for him. Friday, McAdoo told reporters he had no regrets about how the benching of Eli Manning went down, adding he’s “on the same page” as co-owner John Mara.
McAdoo said Sunday’s game plan at Oakland was for Manning to start and then give way in the second half to Geno Smith.
But Mara on Wednesday, amid the ongoing uproar, said it could have been handled better and that the game plan wasn’t exactly as McAdoo made it out to be.
“I mean, I didn’t necessarily think it had to be at the half. I think if (Eli’s) playing well in the first half, we’re winning the game, it looks like we’ve got a chance, the offense is clicking, I would argue then keep him in the game. But having him definitively come out at the end of the first half – I can understand why he would object.”
Unreal. Of course if the guy is playing well and the goal is to win the game, Eli would have remained the QB. Actually, McAdoo is not just a Jerk, he’s an Idiot! [Double hardware come year end?]
Well, the point is moot, and now it appears McAdoo could be fired shortly.
It’s been pretty remarkable how many former Giants and NFL stars have criticized the team for its handling of Eli, with ESPN analyst and HOFer Steve Young saying he would’ve told the Giants to “stick it.” No doubt John Mara has been listening.
Kevin Kernen / New York Post
“The robot coach says one thing, the co-owner says another while the invisible general manager says nothing. Yet, coach Ben McAdoo insists everyone is on the same page.
“Standard operating procedure for a lost team.
“Welcome to the world of mixed messages the Giants have become this season, culminating with the benching of Eli Manning. It shows how dysfunctional the Giants are in 2017.
“It’s a wonder they have two wins....
“Asked if he had spoken to Mara, McAdoo answered: ‘I have not talked to John recently, no. ...I’m confident and comfortable with the way we communicate and our open lines of communication.’
“Open lines of miscommunication?
“Incredibly, it sounds like Mara and McAdoo never had a direct conversation on how this benching was to be handled, the mechanics of the move....
“Two Super Bowl championships for Manning, both times beating the greatest winning QB of all time in Tom Brady, cannot be tossed aside because you have an urge to evaluate backup quarterbacks.
“A football team can be destroyed in many ways, a lack of communication is at the top of the list.”
Jason Gay / Wall Street Journal
“The issue here was the execution. The execution was miserable. The Giants have a legitimate point about wanting to evaluate future talent before it’s too late – especially (Davis) Webb, who, unlike (Geno) Smith (utterly meh in his time with the New York Jets), hasn’t had an NFL shot. But there were at least a hundred ways Manning’s benching could have been better handled, especially in terms of its presentation to the public. The move may have been a long time coming, but it looked like the club planned it on the drive into work. There was no velvet touch.
“It made New York mad, in that comically aggrieved, center-of-the-universe way. It was a glorious parting gift to the local sonic boom, Mike Francesa, who is leaving his afternoon sports radio tuffet on WFAN, and reacted to Manning’s benching as if someone had bulldozed Central Park....
“This is not a tragedy in any sense. Manning has made many millions, won those rings, and has a resume that ranks among the best quarterbacks of his era. He engineered his way from a Get-Me-Out-of-San Diego draft pick to this insufferably demanding sports city and delivered moments (That pass to David Tyree! The one to Mario Manningham!) which will never be forgotten. He’s long outrun the lifespan of the average NFL quarterback, the only time he’s ever outrun anything. He’s still a talent who, if he wants, will continue to play in this league – if not with the Giants, then with any number of clubs with quarterback crises.
“It’s all really anyone can ask for, outside of a perfect ending. But no one really gets that.”
So today, the Giants (2-10) lost out in Oakland (6-6), a key game for the Raiders, 24-17, as Geno Smith showed all the rust you’d expect, 21/34, 212, 1-0, but losing two key fumbles (which was very Genoesque). For the Raiders, as they stay in the playoff hunt, Marshawn Lynch had 101 yards rushing and a terrific 21-yard gain on a screen play that was classic Lynch.
My Jets had a very good 38-31 win over the Chiefs, New York moving to 5-7, K.C. to 6-6 after a 5-0 start. It’s one of the great collapses of our time, since Gary Hart was supposed to be on the way to the 1988 Democratic nomination, before we learned of Donna Rice.....
Josh McCown was 26/36, 331, 1-0, 109.8, with Jermaine Kearse having a terrific game, nine receptions, 157 yards, and Robby Anderson another big effort, 8-107.
But if you had Alex Smith and Tyreek Hill for your Fantasy team, you were thrilled. Smith was 19/33, 366, 4-0, with a 70-yard run thrown in, while Hill caught six passes for 185 yards and two scores.
[I played DraftKings Football today for the first time all season and lost my oatmeal money.]
But, oh, what could have been for the Jets. As I’ve written, they could easily be 8-4.
In other games....
New England is 10-2 after a 23-3 win at Buffalo (6-6), though Tom Brady was very ordinary, 21/30, 258, 0-1, 82.4...I suggest that he change his diet. [Boy, the Tyrod Taylor, Nathan Peterman combo for the Bills was horrid.] I did not see the dirty Gronkowski hit...more next time.
Jimmy Garoppolo made his debut as a starter for San Francisco and the Niners won their second game (2-10), 15-14 over the godawful Bears (3-9), Garoppolo going 26/37, 293, 0-1, 82.4...hey, Bradyesque!
Minnesota is 10-2 after a14-9 win down in Atlanta (7-5). Wow, this must have been scintillating viewing for Falcons fans.
Green Bay improved to 6-6, still in the hunt, following a 26-20 overtime win over Tampa Bay (4-8). But the Packers are regretting they put Aaron Rodgers on IR because he’s ready to play now, though can’t until at least Dec. 17 under the rules.
Baltimore is suddenly in the No. 6 playoff slot at 7-5 and get this, an offense broke out, 44-20 winners over Detroit (6-6), who saw quarterback Matthew Stafford exit with a hand injury after throwing 20 straight completions in the second half.
And Steve G.’s Jacksonville Jaguars appear to be playoff bound at 8-4, 30-10 winners over Indianapolis (3-9); Steve, my former next door neighbor with the rainbow jumper, spending much of his time in Colombia these days, but that’s between us.
--Last Monday night’s game between the Ravens and Texans drew a 6.0 overnight rating, the second-worst all time, behind only last fall’s Saints’-Falcons game that aired opposite the first presidential debate between Trump and Hillary Clinton. [But Baltimore tuned in, 25.4 rating in the city, better than Houston’s 18.4, according to the Houston Chronicle.]
I was reading a piece in the Baltimore Sun by Jerry Barker, discussing how available seats are for Ravens games this season, emblemizing the league-wide problem. For example, for today’s game against Detroit, an $80 ticket for an upper end zone seat could be had for as little as $29.
--Ben Cohen / Wall Street Journal
“It used to be rare when NBA teams rallied from 15 points in the second half to tie the score or take the lead. In fact, it happened in only 6% of games in the 15 seasons before this one, according to Stats LLC.
“But this year? It’s happening in 11% of games....
“If a 15-point second-half rally was once uncommon, then a 20-point second-half rally was almost unthinkable. It happened in roughly 12 games over the course of a 1,230-game season.
“But this year? It has already happened in 11 games. [Ed. thru Friday.]
--Last season, the Oklahoma City Thunder were a rather surprising 47-35 with MVP Russell Westbrook and little else. This season they are 9-12, heading into Sunday night’s contest with San Antonio, and they’ve added Paul George and Carmelo Anthony.
Last season, Westbrook averaged a startling 31.6 points per game, with 10.7 rebounds and 10.4 assists, one of the great individual seasons in NBA history.
This season, thru 21 games, Westbrook’s averages are 22.0, 9.1, 9.7 in the same categories.
Anthony isn’t helping any, that’s for sure.
--So it’s another reason to bring up the brilliant trade the Knicks pulled off in getting Enes Kanter and Doug McDermott for Melo. Kanter showed his value when after being shelved three games with back spasms, he returned last Wednesday, the Knicks hosting the Heat, and Enes had 18 points and 13 rebounds in the first half! [22 and 14 for the game as the Knicks cruised 115-86 to get back above .500, 11-10.]
What was most impressive is Kanter picked it up after Kristaps Porzingis went down in the second minute with a scary ankle injury, though we later learned it wasn’t so bad. Enes is averaging 14 points and 10 rebounds in just 26 minutes of play, a huge force off the offensive glass. And he’s becoming a big-time favorite in the Big Apple.
[But today the Knicks, sans Porzingis (more on this next time....some of us are getting irritated with the lad), lost 105-100 at home to Orlando, Enes Kanter with 18 points, 16 rebounds in defeat.]
--Saturday, in beating the Suns (8-16) 116-111, Boston improved to 20-4.
And what’s this? Cleveland has won 11 games in a row to move to 16-7. So much for trouble in LeBronland.
--Knicks fans are so lucky to have Walt “Clyde” Frazier doing color commentary on our telecasts and sometimes Mike Breen gets Clyde going on some streams of consciousness that are priceless, like last Wednesday night. A sample....
“I tried to get a bonus for making the All-Star team and (GM) Ned Irish said, ‘with the money we’re paying you, you better make the All-Star team!’”
And, when the nightly quiz came in and an answer wasn’t on the tip of Clyde’s tongue...
“It reminds me of college. You can be sitting taking a test and if you don’t know, the answer ain’t coming.”
--Big game last Thursday in East Lansing, No. 5 Notre squaring off against 3 Michigan State, the Spartans then blitzing the Fighting Irish, 81-63.
The same night, Seton Hall beat 22 Texas Tech 89-79.
--Friday night, Grambling State upset Georgia Tech 64-63 on an own basket by Tech with 6.5 seconds to play and if you saw the replay, it clearly looks like the Tech player(s) really dropped a rebound into the wrong basket without knowing it was! Seriously. What an embarrassment.
This was Grambling’s first win against a power six conference (including Big East for college hoops) after 63 losses!
--Saturday, 21 Xavier (7-1) handed arch-rival 11 Cincinnati (7-1) its first loss, 89-76, in another contest punctuated by rough play.
And Paul P.’s SMU (7-2) upset 14 USC (4-2) 72-55. [I haven’t gotten the USC story yet...as in I couldn’t believe they were recently in the top ten. SMU helped expose them.]
Wake Forest evened its record at 4-4 with a resounding 82-53 win over always tough Richmond. Actually, whassup with the Spiders? 22-13 last season, but now 1-7 this year?! Eegads.
For the Deacs, they have quite a story suddenly. 7-1 center Doral Moore, a stiff his first two seasons who barely played, is developing some game and in the last seven contests, he’s hit 37 of 42 from the field! That’s right. 88%! I mean this is a pretty large sample size. If he can just stay on the court 25 minutes per, we might still be pretty competitive.
--Sunday, Seton Hall (7-1) had a very good 79-77 win at 17 Louisville (4-2) in the Rick Pitino Hooker Classic (part of the settlement between the school and the former coach ...interesting women in attendance, offering all kinds of, err, stuff...).
Reminder, while Wichita State is the official Bar Chat “Pick to Click” in terms of winning the national title, we have selected Seton Hall as a lock Final Four. There is still room to get on the Hall Train (due to my proximity to the campus, I can get us discounts on the Summit to South Orange local).
Johnny Mac and Bobby C. are on board. Bob’s father Art C., an alum, I’m assuming is as well (Art also being Willie Wilson’s coach at Summit).
Also today, UCF kept up its mojo, the hoops team with a nice win, 65-62, at 24 Alabama (6-2), the Knights now 5-3.
--The Yankees kind of shocked a lot of us with their managerial selection, after a long, drawn out process that bordered on the absurd. Aaron “Freakin’” Boone, so named by Red Sox fans for his 11th-inning home run for the Yankees against Boston in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS.
What a strange pick. The guy has been in broadcasting since his career ended, the last two seasons as part of ESPN’s dreadful “Sunday Night Baseball” team, and he has zero coaching, let alone managerial experience.
A lot of us are shaking our heads over some of this ‘new age’ thinking on managers, and obvious subservience to the general manager, in this case Brian Cashman. We know why Joe Girardi was fired. Despite his successful record, he did not get along at all with Cashman, probably hated being dictated to, let it show and presto, he’s gone.
But Aaron “Freakin’” Boone?! Yeah, as the New York Post’s Joel Sherman writes:
“He is personable. He is current with the game. He has self-confidence. He has feel with people. If you want to see the next A.J. Hinch or Dave Roberts, you can see the outline there without squinting much.” [The Daily News’ Mike Lupica says the same thing.]
However, Sherman continues, in much the same way I would have:
“But Aaron Boone has never been in a uniform for anything but to play. There is no coaching experience, no minor league managing, no track record that he can lead other people in any fashion.
“Boone’s grandfather, father and brother all also played in the majors. Thus the beats of the game are ingrained in Boone. But the season grinds on a human a different way when you are responsible for scores of others rather than just your own performance, when the 24/7 cacophony of criticism treats a mistimed pitching change in May with the urgency of a meteor shower taking out Brooklyn....
“(Boone) had to reveal enough assets in the Yankees’ background work done on him, in recommendations from those allies who have Cashman’s ear and in the interview process to overcome concerns about his endurance – mentally, physically and spiritually – to manage....
“(But) Boone will walk in – via his eight seasons broadcasting for ESPN – with a wide knowledge of most teams and how vital analytics have become in how games are managed these days and knowing how to work with media, which was a downside for Girardi. Boone has a little Joe Torre in him; you sense Boone is comfortable in his skin.
--As the Winter Meetings approach, and the wheeling-dealing begins, there are two main topics. Where does Giancarlo Stanton end up, and who does Shohei Ohtani sign with?
Ohtani and his representatives will begin meeting with interested teams on Monday. Whoever he selects will have to give $20 million to his Japanese team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, while he will receive a bonus of no more than $3.535 million from the Rangers, who can offer the most, $3.5 million from the Yankees, or another major league team, along with a rookie contract at the minimum of $545,000 next season.
Ohtani has until right before Christmas to decide. This is fun. I totally embrace what the kid is about, playing both ways. I also think some might be underestimating his ability. Just a gut reaction. Go Shohei!!!
*Late word he has already told the Yankees ‘no’.
As for Giancarlo, it’s amazing to think how much new Marlins co-owner Derek Jeter wants to get rid of a guy who just hit 59 home runs and is in his prime, even if he does have a humongous $295 million remaining on his deal.
Awhile back, Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY Sports had some thoughts on Jeter I’ve been purposely holding back on because I knew there would be a better time than then to use it and it’s now.
Jeter, once he took over, said it was “unacceptable” that the Marlins hadn’t reached the postseason since 2003, with a fan base that is sick of being told to be patient.
“That’s unacceptable to the ownership group,” Jeter said. “It’s unacceptable to the fan base. But every team has to go through a period where they have to build, and we’re in that position right now.”
“Yet, before building, they plan a tear-down, and that includes the likelihood of moving Stanton and the remaining $295 million of his contract.
“ ‘There are some financial things we have to get in order,’ Jeter said. “That’s the bottom line. If we were going to run the organization the way it was run before, we wouldn’t have bought it.’”
So Jeter wants to slash the payroll from $116 million to about $90 million, and the easiest way to do that is to jettison their superstar.
“We’re going to make decisions that sometimes may be unpopular decisions,” says Jeter.
“So if Stanton is traded, how can the Marlins expect to win? And if the Marlins don’t win, how do they expect to sell tickets? And if they can’t sell tickets, how will the franchise be financially successful?
“This is why (agent Scott) Boras spent a chunk of time ripping into the Marlins’ plan to trade Stanton and stripping payroll.
“ ‘When we allow sales of teams,’ Boras said, ‘there needs to be some sort of legislation. There needs to be some restriction so that the integrity of the game, as it applies to other teams, is considered.’
“Boras insists the Marlins aren’t losing a single penny, let alone the projected $60 million in 2017. He believes they are simply trying to save money to recoup their investment.
“ ‘It has nothing to do with the fans,’ Boras said. ‘It has nothing to do with winning. It has nothing to do with anything other than a financial plan that suits ownership without consideration of the impact it has on Major League Baseball.’”
I’m sure not a Scott Boras fan, but both he and Nightengale nail it.
But then there is this from Matt Bonesteel of the Washington Post:
“Since Derek Jeter’s ownership group took control of the Miami Marlins in late September, the following things have happened:
“ – The contracts of Hall of Famers Andre Dawson and Tony Perez, former longtime manager Jack McKeon and Jeff ‘Mr. Marlin’ Conine, all of whom were special assistants or team ambassadors for the franchise, were not renewed.
“ – Fox Sports Florida dropped play-by-play announcer Rich Waltz, who had been calling Marlins games for 13 years. It also severed ties with Conine and Preston Wilson, who had served as studio analysts. The network said publicly that it alone made the decision to sever ties with the television personalities, but sources close to the decision told the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson they were skeptical that Jeter’s group didn’t have a hand in the moves.
“ – The team has shopped Giancarlo Stanton.....
“All of those moves could be explained away. A new ownership group obviously would want its own people in the front office and the broadcast booth, even if that means getting rid of some franchise stalwarts....
“But one other move, detailed in a story published Friday by Yahoo’s Jeff Passan, is going to be a little harder to excuse. According to Passan, the Marlins told longtime scout Marty Scott that his contract would not be renewed on Oct. 16. At the time, the 64-year-old former Marlins vice president was in a hospital recovering from colon cancer surgery. Oh, and he also needs a kidney transplant because of diabetes.
“ ‘Derek Jeter doesn’t owe me anything,’ Scott told Passan. ‘Probably in their hearts they did what they thought was right. I know based on certain aspects of the game, I probably was making too much money. But we all love the game. We’re all in it together. I just think 40 years was worth more than a spank on the butt and see you later....
“Scott told Passan that he was able to secure health insurance through COBRA and hopes to schedule his kidney-transplant surgery for January. Still, he hopes that Jeter doesn’t continue this approach over the course of his ownership tenure.”
He will, because he’s Derek Jeter.
--I was irritated to see a piece in the current issue of Sports Illustrated by Jay Jaffe, taking Baseball Hall of Famer Joe Morgan to task for his letter to the voters asking them to reject “players who failed drug tests, admitted using steroids or were identified as users in Major League Baseball’s  investigation into steroid abuse, known as the Mitchell Report.”
Jaffe says Morgan is disingenuous in using “the term steroids and not performance-enhancing drugs – conveniently sidestepping the fact that amphetamines, or ‘greenies,’ were prevalent for more than four decades. ...Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, and Mickey Mantle are among the HOFers who have been connected to amphetamines.”
What a jerk. This is the last time I bring this up...until the next time...but Bob Costas already set us straight on the topic, re amphetamines. As I noted last week, via Mike Lupica, Costas recently said:
“Steroids are performance enhancers. Amphetamines are performance enablers... (Amphetamines) do not, and did not, transform them, as steroids did. Simple proof: in the era when it is generally agreed that greenies were as common in clubhouses as bubble gum, there was no odd distortion of norms of performance."
Yes, it may have been a glorified exhibition, but the 18-man field for Tiger Woods’ Hero World Challenge at the Albany Golf Club in Nassau, Bahamas was outstanding....
Matsuyama, Reed, Rose, Fleetwood, Stenson, Thomas, D.J., Koepka, Fowler, Spieth....pretty, pretty good.
Tiger acquitted himself just fine.
Mark Cannizzaro / New York Post
“Woods came here this week merely wanting to get through four rounds of competitive golf for the first time in nine months, assess how he felt physically and how his scores measured up against the world’s best players, take a breath or three and proceed from there.
“He spoke of having tempered expectations.”
But then Tiger shot 69-68, 7-under, and after two rounds was five back of leader Charley Hoffman. He followed that with 75-68. to finish T-9 out of 18, beating J.T. and D.J., among others. [Rickie Fowler won it with a final-round 61, -18 for the event, four ahead of Hoffman.]
You know I want Tiger to come back in the worst way for the betterment of the sport, but I sure am not going crazy over his very solid effort. It’s all about the health, and while he seemed fine, and going four rounds as he did is a great test of where he’s at, we need to see what happens when he plays back-to-back weeks on the Tour next year.
Or maybe he won’t play back-to-back. He doesn’t have to. But you know he wants to get some tournaments in before The Masters...a tradition unlike any other...on CBS....
All in all, though, a great start.
Premier League...World Cup
In games since my last posting....
Wednesday, Everton whipped West Ham 4-0 as Wayne Rooney recorded his ninth career PL hat trick, first in six years, including a spectacular score from beyond midfield that is worth looking up.
Arsenal blasted Huddersfield 5-0 and Chelsea edged Swansea 1-0.
Saturday, my Tottenham Spurs continued to struggle mightily, a 1-1 draw at Watford, though Tottenham was actually lucky to pick up an away point, playing with just ten players virtually the entire second half after a red card.
Also yesterday, Chelsea beat Newcastle 3-1; Liverpool slammed Brighton & Hove Albion 5-1; Everton won again, 2-0 over Huddersfield; and Man U won a biggie, 3-1 at Arsenal.
Today, Manchester City fell behind 1-0 at half to lowly West Ham, but came away with a 2-1 victory, befitting this special club.
So the standings after 15 of 38...ties broken by goal differential....
1. Man City 43 points...14 wins, 1 draw, 0 losses...as President Trump tweeted (or should have), ‘They say it’s never been done before,’ referring to the start for the season, and he would have been right!
2. Man U 35
3. Chelsea 32
4. Liverpool 29
5. Arsenal 28
6. Tottenham 25
7. Burnley 25
8. Watford 22
10. Everton 18
17. West Brom 13
18. Crystal Palace 10...movin’ on up!
19. West Ham 10
20. Swansea 9
They held the draw for the 2018 World Cup in Moscow on Friday and it ended up innocently, with the likes of Brazil, Germany and Spain emerging satisfied with their brackets.
Defending champion Germany will face Mexico, Sweden and South Korea in the first round, while five-time winner Brazil landed with Switzerland, Costa Rica and Serbia, four years after hosting the tournament and losing in the semis.
Ergo, there is no real clash between heavyweights in the group stage (save for Portugal vs. Spain in Group B), with two of the four in each of the eight brackets moving on to the knockout round.
FIFA changed the rules for the draw by basing it more on FIFA ranking, so the upshot was elite teams were kept out of each other’s way in the group stage, which means some titanic battles loom in the knockout rounds.
England is in a group with Belgium, Panama and Tunisia, so it should advance, though the travel schedule for its matches is formidable. Russia is a rather big country, remember.
Yes, the World Cup isn’t for another 6 ½ months and it sucks royally the United States choked as it did and won’t be participating, because the nation would have been psyched come June and July, but the rest of the world (and many segments of the U.S.) are already amped up.
What is funny is that in the draw, host Russia, with the lowest world ranking in the field, luckily drew a group with Saudi Arabia, the second-lowest ranked team; Egypt, which last qualified 28 years ago; and Uruguay, a formidable power.
Ergo, Russia has a very real shot at advancing and that would be something. Also, imagine the pressure with Vladimir Putin looking on.
Lastly, Johnny Mac and I are issuing an invitation to climb aboard the Iceland train, Iceland being in Group D, with Argentina, Croatia, and Nigeria, perhaps the toughest overall group.
Iceland is very expensive so bring lots of cash.
--And in the Men’s Soccer Championship....
Drat!!! No. 1-seed Wake Forest got beat 2-0 by 9 Stanford in the quarterfinals, a replay of last year’s championship game when Wake lost on penalty kicks. Yes, the Cardinal have our freakin’ number. This blows.
So in the semis it’s 9 Stanford vs. 5 Akron, winners on penalty kicks over 4 Louisville; and 3 North Carolina (a 2-1 winner over unseeded Fordham) vs. 2 Indiana (winners on penalty kicks over 7 Michigan State). [Games next weekend in Philly]
On the Women’s side....
In the semis, Stanford beat South Carolina, 2-0, while UCLA beat Duke on PKs.
And the champion is....
Stanford! 3-2 over UCLA.
--Bill Pennington / New York Times
“In a stunning, milestone performance, Mikaela Shiffrin on Saturday won her first World Cup downhill race.
“Shiffrin’s victory, at the Lake Louise resort in Alberta, was not only a career breakthrough, but a noteworthy defeat over her fellow American teammate and the most dominant women’s skier in history, Lindsey Vonn, who was 12th and trailed Shifrin on Saturday by nearly a second....
“Typically, when a racer ventures into the downhill realm, it usually takes several seasons to master the intricacies of downhill technique. It also takes awhile to develop the nerve to barrel down a hill at 60 to 70 miles an hour. But the competition on Saturday was just Shiffrin’s fourth World Cup downhill race.” [In her third, the day before, she finished third to Cornelia Hutter. Vonn crashed out, which impacted her performance in Saturday’s race.]
--From USA TODAY: “Dog people have long known that canines are smarter than felines. The fact that there are no service cats or drug-sniffing cats making that abundantly clear.
“A new study proves it beyond a biological doubt, giving dog owners the neuroscientific evidence they need to end the argument.
“Researchers at Vanderbilt University found that a dog’s cerebral cortex contains more than twice the neurons of a cat’s brain.
“Neurons are cells associated with thinking, planning and complex behaviors, thus strongly related to intelligence.
“And dogs have it way over cats in the neuron department....
“Dogs have served in the military and in police K-9 units. When it comes to involvement with first responders, cats need help from firefighters to be rescued from trees.
“Dogs assist people with disabilities and can learn to execute complex tasks. Cats generally stay out of the way.
“Famous dogs such as Lassie, Rin Tin Tin and Air Bud earned accolades for performing expert tricks on cue. Grumpy Cat gained fame for a singular facial expression.
“With that said, cats still hold one edge: They know what a litter box is and how to use it.”
[This act probably takes up 98 percent of their neurons.]
Yes, ‘Dog’ remains No. 1 on the All-Species List for multiple reasons, ‘Cat’ No. 57.
--We note the passing of Mitch Margo, 70. Margo was just 14 when he and some Brooklyn pals who called themselves the Tokens recorded “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” a doo-wop version of a Zulu folk song that had been recorded many times over the years.
Out of nowhere the tune climbed to #1 for three weeks in 1961, and then remained in rotation for oldies stations to this day. Amazing success for four kids not yet out of high school, which was never remotely duplicated, but through various iterations the band continued to perform.
The Tokens would have success as record producers for others, including the Chiffons and Tony Orlando and Dawn.
Later, though, when “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” was used in the film “The Lion King,” its DNA became a legal issue.
As noted by Steve Marble of the Los Angeles Times:
“The song was originally written and recorded as ‘Mbube’ by Solomon Linda, a laborer in Soweta, the Johannesburg township. When the Weavers recorded the song – renaming it ‘Wimoweh’ – it was either unknown or overlooked that Linda had written the song....
“The Tokens, who made dramatic musical changes to the song, gave Linda credit but later fought to claim some share of the song’s publishing rights. The group’s lawsuit was ultimately dismissed due to a statute of limitations ruling.”
--And the great Jim Nabors, “Gomer Pyle,” died. He was 87.
Said Stan Cadwallader, Nabors’ partner for 38 years before the couple married in 2013, “Everybody knows he was a wonderful man. And that’s all we can say about him. He’s going to be dearly missed.”
Nabors was singing at a small nightclub in Santa Monica called the Horn in 1962 when Andy Griffith caught his act, in which he’d sing in a booming baritone and then talk in a high-pitched Southern hayseed accent, and it so impressed Griffith, he told Nabors he’d call him if a part in his TV series, “The Andy Griffith Show” ever came up.
“Two weeks later, they called me,” Nabors recalled. “The character’s name was Gomer Pyle. So I read it as the character I was doing in the club. It was the first time I had ever acted.”
Gomer became the attendant at Wally’s gas station in Mayberry. As he said to Griffith’s Sheriff Andy Taylor: “Me, I don’t do no engine work. Just gas and oil, water and air. Water and air is free. We don’t make no charge for it.”
Gomer would go on to be known for his signature exclamations: “Well, gaawl-lee!” “Shazam!” and “Sur-prise, sur-prise, sur-prise.”
Nabors said in an interview for a PBS documentary, “Pioneers of Television,” “Everybody thought [Gomer] was stupid; he really wasn’t. He just wanted to see the goodness in everybody.”
Gomer’s popularity led to a spinoff in 1964, in which he joined the Marine Corps, where he encountered the gruff Sgt. Vince Carter (played by Frank Sutton...who was a terrific character in his own right).
“Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.,” a top 10-rated show, ran on CBS for five seasons.
Considering that it ran during the Vietnam War, Nabors said later in an interview that the series never generated any criticism.
“We had established it was a peacetime situation and every episode was a peacetime situation. War wasn’t mentioned.”
Nabors said one of the “biggest thrills” he ever had was when he performed at the Marine base in Da Nang during an entertainment tour to Vietnam in 1971 with Bob Hope.
“I got the most moving ovation I have ever received in my life,” he said. “There were 40,000 Marines, and all Hope said was, ‘Gentlemen, I bring you your leader.’ And they cheered.”
Nabors said he never had a problem being associated with the character.
“If you had to play a character, I probably played the nicest character of all.”
Nabors went on to host “The Jim Nabors Hour,” a variety show on CBS from 1969 to 1971, and he was his close friend Carol Burnett’s guest star on the opening telecast of each season of her comedy-variety show during its run from 1967 to 1979.
Plus he had roles in Burt Reynolds movies like “Cannonball Run II” and “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.”
But it was singing that dominated his post-Gomer career, and for legions of Indy 500 fans, we’ll forever remember fondly Nabors singing “(Back Home Again in) Indiana” before the start of each race, which he did for a staggering 35 years, his last appearance being in 2014.
Like so many of you of a certain age, I’ll never forget hearing it for the first time, thinking, ‘That’s Jim Nabors?!’ You have to picture that when he first began doing this, the Indy 500 was at its most dangerous, with seemingly one driver dying every year or so, either in practice or during the race, and it was almost as if Nabors was sending off the gladiators...who would survive the 500 miles. I am still scared watching the race to this day (especially having seen it up close in the early 1980s). It’s part of what made Nabors’ singing so touching, frankly.
So we smile, remembering Jim Nabors. I’m sure Indy will have a fitting tribute to him this coming May. RIP, Gomer. You were an American treasure.
Top 3 songs for the week 12/5/64: #1 “Ringo” (Lorne Greene) #2 “Mr. Lonely” (Bobby Vinton) #3 “Leader Of The Pack” (The Shangri-Las)...and...#4 “She’s Not There” (The Zombies) #5 “Baby Love” (The Supremes) #6 “Time Is On My Side” (The Rolling Stones) #7 “You Really Got Me” (The Kinks) #8 “Come See About Me” (The Supremes) #9 “Mountain Of Love” (Johnny Rivers) #10 “I’m Gonna Be Strong” (Gene Pitney...clearly the Beatles were between albums...)
College Football Quiz Answers: 1) 1980 Georgia: Coach Vince Dooley, QB Buck Belue, RB Herschel Walker (274 carries, 1,616 yards). 2) 1998 Tennessee: QB Tee Martin, RB Travis Henry (176-970), WR Peerless Price (61-920-10 TDs).
Next Bar Chat, Thursday.