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Stanton and Ohtani
[Posted Sunday p.m.]
Pittsburgh Steelers Quiz: 1) Name the four with 500 receptions in a Steelers uniform (all modern day). 2) Name the three with 80 career touchdowns. Answers below.
Yankees' Huge Acquisition
Just a few days ago, we were told that in the Giancarlo Stanton sweepstakes it was down to the Giants and Cardinals, with San Francisco having made a firm offer. Then suddenly, in really just 24 hours, stories emerged the Yankees were in the picture and boom! An unbelievable 3-4-5 in the Yankees batting order (or 2-3-4) will be entertaining not just Yankees fans, but fans wherever they play.
Given the usual formalities (physical and stuff), the Yankees are trading infielder Starlin Castro and two minor leaguers to Miami for Stanton, the Marlins picking up $30 million of the remaining $295 million on his contract.
The sudden turn of events came about after Stanton, who had new co-owner/GM Derek Jeter by the balls – Jeter desperately trying to unload the contract to reduce the team’s debt and begin a total rebuild – said he would not waive his no-trade clause to go to either San Fran or St. Louis. The Yankees never thought they would be in the picture but when the other teams dropped out, and Miami agreed to kick in some of the money, they had a deal.
Think of it. Stanton and his 59 home runs, 132 RBIs; Aaron Judge, 52-114; Gary Sanchez, 33-90 (122 games).
The only small issue is they all bat right-handed, so we’ll see what new manager Aaron Boone does with the lineup. First baseman Greg Bird, 14 homers in 251 ABs, bats left-handed and appears to be over his myriad injury issues. If he’s healthy a full season, we could be talking 170 home runs out of just these four (50-50-40-30...book it).
I mean the teams are going to have to make sure they have enough baseballs before the start of each game.
And for Yankees fans (geezuz, I hate writing all this...all my Metsies have done is re-sign Asdrubal Cabrera...), they now have a dynamic duo that could rival Ruth and Gehrig, Mantle and Maris. As the New York Post’s Mike Vaccaro pointed out, the 1961 home run total of 115 by Maris (61) and Mantle (54) remains the two-man record 56 years later.
Well, as good as all the above is, the Yankees know they still need starting pitching, and Stanton does have a history of injuries. In terms of the outfield, the plan today would be to rotate Stanton, Judge, Brett Gardner and Aaron Hicks, one DH’ing. [And they still have Jacoby Ellsbury.]
As for the prospects Miami is getting, neither is one of the Yanks’ elite, though Jorge Guzman, 21, struck out 88 in 66 2/3 at short-season A-ball last season. The other kid is an 18-year-old shortstop, Jose Devers.
Jeter was in a box. All the teams knew he was desperate to get out from under the contract. They played hardball.
But imagine being a Marlins fan. Once again you get hosed. The biggest reason to go to the park, Stanton, is taken away from you, a year after superstar pitcher Jose Fernandez died in that awful boating accident. You haven’t had a winning season since 2009, and the last time you were in the playoffs was 2003, when you won the World Series.
Steve Politi / NJ.com (Star-Ledger)
“This is the type of sports transaction that forces you to suspend all logic and common sense, the kind of blockbuster that makes your eyebrows climb to the top of your forehead and your jaw drop a couple inches.
“Giancarlo Stanton to the Yankees.
“Wait a minute...
“Giancarlo Stanton to the Yankees?!
“The Yankees already have a right fielder who hit 52 home runs with 114 RBI and finished second in the American League MVP race. Now they are on the verge of adding another one who hit 59 home runs and drove in 132 and finished first in the National League MVP race.
“That’s utterly crazy and totally excessive and doesn’t solve any of the team’s pitching problems and is anyone else constantly refreshing the screen to find out if the ink has dried yet?”
Bill Madden / New York Daily News
“Deck your halls with boughs of holly over your new twin giants of power because not too far down the road this deal is destined to give the Yankees more regret than the second Alex Rodriguez contract.
“It was rather stunning how Stanton fell to the Yankees, especially since they were probably the last team in baseball Derek Jeter wanted to do business with in his first major trade as the new Marlins co-owner. But Jeter – who’s made one public relations blunder after another in the few short months since he and his gazilionaire partner Bruce Sherman bought the team from Jeffrey Loria – made the mistake of announcing to the world his intentions of trading Stanton, his marquee player...without first talking to Stanton, who had a no-trade clause in the record $325 million contract he signed in 2014.
“To put a no-trade clause in what was already a no-trade contract was ludicrous. But what did Loria care? He knew he wasn’t going to be around to pay the piper on this contract. This was just a further extension of the fleecing he did on Jeter and Sherman.
“Jeter’s arrogance in not at least gauging his star player’s feeling about being traded and what teams he might agree to being traded to, resulted in a whole lot of wasted talks between the Marlins and the Giants and Cardinals... There were only a very limited number of teams to begin with that could take on the remaining 10 years/$295 million left on Stanton’s contract....
“Jeter was left with only his old pal Brian Cashman to deal with.
“He had zero leverage, which is why someone is going to have to explain to me why the Yankees agreed to this deal without insisting the Marlins take back Jacoby Ellsbury’s contract in it?
“First of all, it was a deal they didn’t have to make, other than the irresistible thrill of teaming up Stanton and Aaron Judge, the two most prodigious sluggers in the game, in the middle of their lineup seemingly for the next 10 years. From Ruth and Gehrig to Mantle and Maris to Judge and Stanton. Like I said, irresistible....
“(But) even with throwing in Starlin Castro and the $21 million owed him the next two seasons, and getting $30 million in cash back from the Marlins, the Yankees, for payroll purposes, will still be paying Stanton roughly $29 million per year for the next 10 years through age 37. That’s all fine – since when did the Yankees ever care about money? – as long as Stanton stays healthy and produces just reasonably consistent to how he did last season.
“Unfortunately history – both his own and these monster contracts in general – suggests he won’t. It’s a fact of baseball life that players after the age of 32, start breaking down and Stanton, before last year, already had a number of concerning injury issues.
“He missed the final 17 games of the season after being hit in the face with a pitch in 2014. He missed 88 games in 2015 with a broken hamate bone from swinging too hard on a pitch, 44 games in 2013 with a hamstring strain and shoulder soreness, 36 games in 2012 with loose knee bodies and abdominal strain, and another 11 games in 2011 with a quad strain.
“All these while he was in his early-to-mid 20s?...
“No doubt there were high-fives aplenty in the Yankee front office Saturday, with visions of Stanton-Judge sugar plums dancing in their heads. I’m sure no one was thinking about four years from now when Judge and Gary Sanchez are coming up on free agency and Stanton will be closing in on 32, with six more years at $29 million per to go....
“Nor could Yankee fans care less about four years from now. For them, it’s already a Merry Christmas with giddy visions for a Happy New Year. No longer are the Yankees those lovable over-achieving kids. Overnight they’ve been transformed back to Beasts of the East. For everyone in Yankeeland’s sake, especially Aaron Boone, they better win next year. Because the euphoria over this trade is almost guaranteed to have a short shelf life.”
As for the Yankees starting rotation, as of today it is Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, Sonny Gray, Jordan Montgomery and Luis Cessa; above average IF Tanaka stays healthy, which is why the Yanks desperately need another veteran arm for insurance, unless one of their kids in the farm system is suddenly ready come April. [CC Sabathia is available but he wants two years and the Yanks will only entertain one...at least as of today.]
One other item regarding the Marlins. They traded All-Star second baseman Dee Gordon to the Mariners for three prospects (including their No. 2, right-hander Nick Neidert), but convinced Seattle to pick up the remaining $38 million on Gordon’s contract. The Mariners plan on moving him to center with Robinson Cano ensconced at second. Gordon has never played center in the majors or minors.
The Mariners also received $1 million in international bonus pool space from Miami, so they were able to offer Shohei Ohtani $3.56 million, just ahead of Texas at $3.54 million.
Ohtani Selects the Angels
In a bit of a surprise, Shohei Ohtani selected the Los Angeles Angels over the competition, with the Angels making clear on Saturday they intend to honor the two-way star’s wishes in allowing him to DH many days that he is not pitching. In front of a large gathering of Angels fans yesterday, he thrilled them when he said he would love to get his first victory and hit his first homer in the same game.
The Angels will be paying Ohtani a bonus of $2.315 million, as well as sending a $20 million posting fee to the Nippon-Ham Fighters, Ohtani’s former team, and he is guaranteed a salary of no more than the major league minimum of $545,000 for the next three years.
But while this is potentially great value for the Angels, no major league player has started 15 or more games on the mound and in the field since 1924. Pitchers need recovery time. It seems unlikely he’s hitting the day after he pitches, for example. Plus the Angels have Albert Pujols at DH (when he’s not at first base).
For his part, Pujols said he hopes to be in his best shape in years, not having needed offseason foot injury for the first time in four years. So it’s possible he could play the field more, freeing up Shohei to DH.
As for pitching, Ohtani is used to throwing just once a week, as is tradition in the Nippon Professional Baseball League, so the Angels could go to a six-man rotation, which is what GM Billy Eppler has wanted to do for years.
One thing is clear. Ohtani should benefit from having Mike Scioscia as manager, Scioscia approaching his 19th season at the helm.
As for new teammate Mike Trout, the best player in baseball, he was marrying longtime girlfriend Jessica Cox this weekend and hasn’t said anything as yet (aside from tweeting an emoji).
Dylan Hernandez / Los Angeles Times...on why Ohtani chose the Angels...
“Unlike the two other American League teams that were finalists for Ohtani’s services, the Angels provide an environment free of the ghosts of players considered legends in Japan.
“With the Seattle Mariners, Ohtani would have been measured against Ichiro Suzuki. With the Texas Rangers, Yu Darvish would have been the standard.
“Anaheim is relatively close to Los Angeles International Airport, which has direct flights to Japan. The Angels are in a big market but remain in the expansive shadow of the Dodgers.
“Ohtani’s decision-making wasn’t driven by money – he might have cost himself upward of $200 million by not remaining in Japan for two more seasons – nor by status.
“The big-market, big-money, star-studded Yankees and Dodgers were largely viewed as overwhelming favorites to land Ohtani a few months ago....
“There are people around baseball who have speculated that Ohtani couldn’t deal with the pressure of a large market. That’s unlikely. He was famous in Japan from the time he threw a 99-mph fastball in high school. His every move has been chronicled by large packs of reporters.
“What Ohtani probably wants to stay clear of is a media environment that could force him to abandon his two-way experiment. Ohtani batted only .202 in his third year with the Fighters. If he was hitting like that for the Yankees or Red Sox, there would be widespread calls for him to concentrate on pitching. He could experience some of that in Anaheim, but it won’t be nearly as intense as it would be in other places.
“It’s important to remember the last real two-way player in baseball was Babe Ruth, and that experiment lasted only a couple of seasons. Ohtani will almost certainly require multiple seasons to reach his potential.
“The Angels convinced him not only that they would invest in his development, but that they would make efforts to grow along with him.”
--One final baseball note...baseball’s Modern Era Committee shockingly elected both Jack Morris and Alan Trammell to the Hall of Fame today! Shocking because this committee, and its prior derivations of, had been tough to crack. They may be fringe HOFers, especially Morris, but they were stars of the pre-steroids ERA, so what the hell.
[Poor Ted Simmons, who I like, fell one vote short; 12 of 15 being required.]
[I made three trips to the rehab facility today where a family member is, so I can’t say I saw much more than the Jets and Giants games. Ah, it sucks getting old, sports fans.]
--Eli Manning returned at quarterback for the Giants, the home fans lovin’ it, and he threw a touchdown pass early to give the Giants a 10-3 lead in the second quarter over the Cowboys, only to see Dallas answer before the half.
It was then 10-10 after three, and still that way midway through the fourth, when Dallas took advantage of two Eli interceptions and put up 20 points in less than five minutes, Dallas (7-6) winning 30-10 to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Dak Prescott was terrific for the Cowboys, 20/30, 332, 3-0, 137.1, and Dallas generated a running game, sans Ezekiel Elliott, still under suspension.
Eli finished 31/46, 228, 1-2, 68.0, and now there is zero reason for New York not to give Davis Webb a look. But interim coach Steve Spagnuolo wants to start Eli for the rest of the season, which is just stupid.
--My Jets are officially out of the playoff hunt, falling to 5-8 with a beyond dismal 23-0 loss at Denver that was ten times worse than the score. [Former neighbor and fellow Jets fan, Steve G., sent me a note that he was in a Denver bar and everyone was laughing at us.]
Denver had only 273 yards of offense, but the Jets had an even 100. One-freakin’ hundred! Pathetic. Quarterback Josh McCown was knocked out in the second half and Bryce Petty, thrown into an untenable situation, was 2 of 9 passing.
For its part, Denver (4-9) broke an 8-game losing streak.
--Carolina (9-4) had a big win at home over Minnesota (10-3), 31-24, even though Cam Newton was hardly scintillating for the Panthers, 13/25, 137, 1-1, 64.9, though with 70 yards on the ground.
Instead it was running back Jonathan Stewart who carried the day, 103 yards and three touchdowns, including the winning score with 1:47 left.
For the Vikings, Case Keenum had a bit of a comeuppance, 27/44, 280, 2-2, 75.9, plus a lost fumble, the three turnovers crucial.
--Philadelphia then regained the top spot in the NFC at 11-2 with a 43-35 win over the Rams in L.A., but Carson Wentz left the game in the third quarter with an apparent knee injury, severity unknown as I go to post. Needless to say, all of Philly is learning the Pope’s new version of the Lord’s Prayer. Prior to the injury, Wentz had thrown for four touchdowns.
For the Rams, Jared Goff was fine, 15/25, 208, 2-0, 112.3, but he coughed up a fumble.
--The Bills stayed relevant, now 7-6, after a 13-7 overtime win over the hapless Colts (3-10) in a classic lake-effect snowstorm. Buffalo’s LeSean McCoy rushed for 158 yards and a deciding 21-yard TD run in OT.
--Kansas City (7-6) had an important 26-15 win over Oakland (6-7), with the 7-6 L.A. Chargers up next in a huge game that could be for the AFC West title.
San Diego beat a listless Washington (5-8) 30-13 as Philip Rivers threw for 319 and two scores. The Chargers started the season 0-4, before winning 7 of 9 to put themselves right there with K.C.
--San Francisco (3-10) won its second in a row behind Jimmy Garappolo, who threw for 334 yards in a 26-16 win over Houston (4-9), the 49ers with their quarterback for next year and beyond.
But the game was marred by a scary situation that speaks to the future of the game, Houston QB Tom Savage being hit and then twitching on the ground, before being allowed to return for a series, after which he was taken out for a concussion. Of course he never should have been allowed to reenter and this is how one day a player will die on the field...someone playing with a severe head injury that was either not diagnosed properly or ignored.
--Cleveland fired its GM this week, replacing Sashi Brown with John Dorsey, but committing to head coach Hue Jackson for 2018. I was reminded that Cleveland has two first-round picks and three second-rounders in the 2018 draft, which will be fascinating to see how they handle this...go after one of the top college QBs, or make a run at Washington free agent Kirk Cousins (assuming the Redskins allow him to move on).
But Sunday the Browns were on the verge of their first win of the season, taking a 21-7 lead at home over the Packers, only to see Brett Hundley rally Green Bay to get the game into overtime, where the Packers pulled it out, 27-21, Hundley hooking up with Davante Adams on a 25-yard scoring strike, his third touchdown pass of the game.
Cleveland’s DeShone Kizer was solid, 20/28, 214, 3-2, but one of those two picks was a deadly one in OT that set up Green Bay’s win. It was awful....a classic rookie mistake.
So Cleveland is 0-13, Green Bay barely alive at 7-6, with Aaron Rodgers due to return next week.
--Detroit is also 7-6 and still in it following a 24-21 win over 4-9 Tampa Bay, Matt Prater with a 46-yard field goal with 0:20 left.
--Roger Goodell had his contract extended for another five years on Wednesday, ending an unusually rancorous monthslong standoff with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who was trying to torpedo the deal.
The contract is said to be worth about $200 million, or $40 million per, after which the NFL could be dead.
--Army suddenly has a two-game winning streak, after 14 consecutive losses to Navy, with a terrific 14-13 win in the snow at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Army overcoming the effort of Navy quarterback Malcolm Perry, who rushed 30 times for 250 yards and a score.
Navy outgained Army 294-241, with the two sides combined completing just two passes in three attempts.
It came down to a last-second 48-yard field goal attempt by Navy’s Bennett Moehring, who had connected on two earlier in the atrocious conditions, but this effort was wide left, barely, as the Black Knights held on.
The win also meant Army won the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy for the first time since 1996 (after an earlier triumph over Air Force).
Army has now gone 9-3, 8-5 the last two seasons under coach Jeff Monken, who started out 4-8 and 2-10 his first two at the helm.
--In the FCS / Div. I-AA Playoffs
No. 1 James Madison remained undefeated at 13-0 with a 31-28 win over Weber State on a last-second Ethan Ratke 46-yard field goal.
North Dakota State beat Wofford 42-10.
South Dakota State crushed New Hampshire 56-14.
And Sam Houston State defeated Kennesaw State 34-27.
--Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy award in a landslide, collecting 732 first-place votes and 2,398 points, with Stanford running back Bryce Love at 1,300 points (75 first-place votes), and Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson, last year’s winner, third with 793 (47).
Mayfield has been cleaning up on all the other postseason hardware, including the Maxwell, Associated Press and Walter Camp awards for player of the year.
--We note the passing of former coach Ron Meyer, who coached SMU’s “Pony Express” powerhouse 1981 team that went 10-1 and finished fifth in the AP, one featuring running backs Eric Dickerson and Craig James. [But then the program eventually got up in a cheating and recruiting scandal that led to the death penalty for two years, 1987-88, Meyer long gone.]
In 1982, Meyer became the head coach of the New England Patriots, where he went 18-15, and then Indianapolis, where he was 36-35, 1986-91.
But it was during the strike-shortened 1982 season at New England that Meyer made his name with a key victory over the Dolphins in a December snowstorm. Before the game, the Patriots offered $10 and a free ticket to anyone who would help shovel snow out of the seats. The conditions didn’t let up, making it difficult for field crews to even clear the yard markers.
“The game was 0-0 and both teams had already missed field goals when Meyer called time out late in the fourth quarter and sent a stadium worker named Mark Henderson out to clear the Miami 23-yard line for John Smith’s 33-yard attempt.
“ ‘[Meyer] said ‘Get out there and do something.’ I knew exactly what he meant, so I jumped on the tractor,’ Henderson told the Boston Globe in 2010.
“With clear turf, Smith easily made the kick as Dolphins coach Don Shula furiously looked on from the opposite sideline. The final score was 3-0.
“ ‘I wanted to go out there and punch him out,’ Shula said years later. ‘In retrospect, I should have laid down in front of the snowplow.’” [Associated Press]
The snowplow was actually a little John Deere tractor with a brush rigged onto the front that is still on display in the Patriots’ hall of fame. Some of us of a certain age vividly remember this game as if it was yesterday.
Meyer died of an aortic aneurysm while playing golf in the Austin suburb of Lakeway, his family said in a statement. Well, if you gotta go.....
--Since last post, we had some big upsets.
Wednesday, Washington beat No. 2 Kansas on the road, 74-65, the Huskies 7-2, the Jayhawks 7-1. For Washington, a terrific win for first-year coach Mike Hopkins, who is finally getting a shot after 22 years sitting next to Jim Boeheim at Syracuse.
Also that night, Loyola-Chicago moved to 9-1 with a 65-59 win over 5 Florida (5-3), the Gators second straight loss, having fallen to Florida State on Monday.
Then Saturday we had the biggie. Boston College (7-3) beat No. 1 Duke (11-1) 89-84 at Chestnut Hill. I watched this entire contest and as Coach K said after, it wasn’t that the Blue Devils played poorly, B.C. was just “terrific.”
The Eagles were playing without graduate transfer Deontae Hawkins, who had become a key figure this season, averaging 12 points and 9 rebounds, but they have some terrific guards and Ky Bowman (30 points), Jerome Robinson (24) and the clutch foul shooting of Jordan Chatman (96% on the year), more than made up for Hawkins’ absence. Just a great win for coach Jim Christian, as B.C. has developed quite a reputation for taking down No. 1s over the last 11 years or so.
For Duke, while Coach K said they didn’t play poorly, they win the game with any kind of shooting from Grayson Allen, the “senior leader,” who let his team down bigly, just 5 of 20 from the field, 1 of 9 from three. Freshman Gary Trent Jr. had 25.
Also Saturday, 19 Seton Hall moved to 8-1 with a 90-67 win over VCU (5-5), while 6 Wichita State (8-1) beat Oklahoma State (7-2) 78-66.
And then today, shockingly, Kansas lost a second straight at Allen Fieldhouse, this time to 16 Arizona State (9-0) 95-85, as the Jayhawks fall to 7-2.
4 Villanova beat LaSalle (5-6) 77-68 in a neighborhood grudge match, ‘Nova now 10-0.
Yup, the next AP ranking is going to be interesting...Michigan State and Villanova moving up to 1-2, with all kinds of teams falling out of the top ten.
--We note the passing of Perry Wallace, who became the first black varsity basketball player in Southeastern Conference history in the 1960s as a strong-rebounding forward for his hometown Vanderbilt University in Nashville. He was 69.
Wallace was one of the top schoolboy players in the country when he accepted a scholarship to play at Vanderbilt in May 1966, agreeing to become a racial pioneer.
Just months earlier, Kentucky coach Adolph Rupp had seen his all-white team lose the NCAA tournament final to Texas Western, whose starting five was all African-American.
So nearly 20 years after Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier, Wallace stepped onto the Vanderbilt campus. In his three years on the varsity team, he remained the only black. He grew to resent those who had recruited him, his white teammates constantly showing their ignorance in comments such as asking him if he liked picking cotton, and he felt betrayed by the extent of racism on the campus.
During his freshman year, the Commodores flew to Starkville, Mississippi to play Mississippi State and Wallace and a fellow black teammate (who didn’t later play varsity) were inundated with racial epithets and threats of lynching, mainly by Mississippi State football players.
Vandy lost the game, but Wallace had 13 points and 19 rebounds. The rest of his college experience was basically just as bad in terms of the abuse.
Wallace had a great senior year, averaging 17.7 points and 13.5 rebounds per game, and was drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers in 1970, after graduating with an engineering degree, but Philly cut him during the preseason. He went on to get a law degree from Columbia and would later work as a trial lawyer for the Justice Department, as well as a law professor at various schools.
--Friday, the Cleveland Cavaliers had their 13-game winning streak snapped in Indianapolis, 106-102, while Boston lost at San Antonio 105-102 to fall to 22-5.
Saturday, Cleveland rebounded to beat the 76ers (13-12), 105-98, to move to 19-8, while San Antonio won again, 104-101, the Spurs 19-8.
Is there any doubt after all his years of success that Gregg Popovich is perhaps the greatest coach in NBA history? Forget Red Auerbach and Phil Jackson. Look at some of the rosters Popovich has won with. Yeah, he had Tim Duncan, an all-time great, but the supporting cast on paper was highly mediocre most of the time.
And this year, with Kawhi Leonard finally due to return this week, I mean look at who Popovich is throwing out on the court most nights. It’s largely a bunch of no-names, or ancient players whose best years were like 5-7 years ago. It’s simply amazing how much he gets out of his guys...how he gets them to commit to his system.
Lastly on Saturday, the Knicks laid another egg on the road, a runny one, 104-102 losers at Chicago, the pathetic Bulls winning their second straight to go to 5-20. The Knicks are 12-13, but 1-8 away from MSG.
--The Nets acquired Jahlil Okafor from Philadelphia, in a trade that had Brooklyn also getting Nik Stauskas and a 2019 second-round pick, the Nets sending veteran power forward Trevor Booker to the 76ers.
So Brooklyn GM Sean Marks has now acquired two of the top 3 picks in the 2015 draft, Okafor going No. 3 and the Nets previously obtaining No. 2 D’Angelo Russell from the Lakers, though Russell could be out for the season with an injury.
After averaging 17.5 points and seven rebounds as a rookie with Philly, his stock plummeted and he had fallen out of the 76ers’ rotation.
Okafor isn’t a good fit in Brooklyn’s system, but he’s still just 21 (as is Russell) and he can score in the paint.
For his part, Trevor Booker is a solid player who was averaging 10.1 points and 6.6 rebounds for Brooklyn, plus he has an expiring $9 million contract.
--Ben Cohen and Nathan Hodge / Wall Street Journal
“The whistleblower at the heart of the International Olympic Committee’s case against Russia alleged in sworn testimony that Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov paid a Russian biathlete millions of rubles not to disclose the elaborate doping scheme that has resulted in the country’s ban from the upcoming Pyeonchang Games.
“The accusations suggesting the owner of an NBA team helped obscure the doping program in his role as the Russian Biathlon Union’s president are buried in a footnote deep in the affidavit of the saga’s central figure.
“Grigory Rodchenkov, who oversaw the state-sponsored doping as the head of Moscow’s doping control laboratory, has explained the fraud in extensive detail since fleeing to the U.S., where he is now being held in protective custody. The IOC found him credible enough to levy the unprecedented punishment on Russia this week.”
Prokhorov disputed Rodchenkov’s account on Thursday.
When he bought the Nets in 2010, Prokhorov was the president of Russia’s biathlon federation, with a mandate to spend lavishly as part of the preparations for the 2014 Sochi Games. Prokhorov promised to step down if Russia didn’t win two golds, and they won one. He did then resign.
Saturday, my Tottenham Spurs broke a four-game winless streak in league play, 5-1, as Harry Kane scored twice and Son Heung-min played a brilliant all-around game.
Lowly West Ham upset a disjointed Chelsea 1-0.
And Crystal Palace had to settle for a 2-2 draw with Bournemouth when, inexplicably, Christian Benteke was selected to take an injury time penalty kick and proceeded to lackadaisically fire it at the keeper. The commentators were aghast at the weak effort. Heck, I was aghast. You had to see it to believe it and this single decision to have him kick could spell relegation for Palace come season end...a critical two-point giveaway.
Sunday, Arsenal and Southampton tied at 1-1, ditto Liverpool and Everton.
But the biggie was Manchester United hosting Manchester City, City winning 2-1, its Premier League record 14th win a row. Staggering.
So the standings after 16 of 38...ties broken by goal differential....
1. Man City 15 (W) 1 (D) 0 (L)...46 points*
2. Man U 35
3. Chelsea 32
4. Liverpool 30
5. Arsenal 29
6. Tottenham 28...picking up two points on 4 and 5
7. Burnley 28
*An 11-point lead after 16 games is ‘season over.’ It’s all about finishing No. 2-4 for Champions League status for the rest of the league. Or, avoiding.....
17. West Brom 13
18. West Ham 13
19. Swansea 12
20. Crystal Palace 11
--In the Champions League, England became the first country to have five teams in the knockout stage after Liverpool blasted Spartak Moscow 7-0 on Wednesday.
Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham, Man U and Man City will find out on Monday what their draw is for the knockout rounds. Champions League play itself doesn’t then resume until February.
--And in the Men’s NCAA Division I Soccer Championship, Stanford won its third title in a row, 1-0 in double overtime (103rd minute) over 8-time champion Indiana. It was just the seventh goal the Hoosiers had given up all season.
So Stanford is the first to three-peat since Virginia won four in a row (1991-94).
In Friday’s semis, Stanford had defeated Akron 2-0, while Indiana beat North Carolina 1-0.
--The FIS Alpine World Cup women’s scene shifted to St. Moritz, Switzerland this weekend and Lindsey Vonn could be out for the Olympics after suffering a back injury in a super-G race on Saturday. After an hour in the finish house she limped slowly away to be driven to a hospital (I’m assuming).
Super-G is not Mikaela Shiffrin’s specialty and she finished 20th in Saturday’s race. A second super-G race and Alpine combined were both canceled Sunday due to weather, so a lost weekend for the women.
As for Vonn, she tweeted late Saturday that she had suffered “an acute facet [spinal joint] dysfunction,” but she had not had an MRI. She reiterated she will do all she can to be in top form for the Olympics.
As for the men, after eight races the Americans still don’t have a podium finish. This blows.
--Hundreds of elite thoroughbred race horses were forced to flee the flames of one of California’s wildfires as it tore through a training center in San Diego County. Last I saw about 30 died, though there were about 450 stabled there.
San Luis Rey Downs is home to horses that run at nearby Del Mar and other top-flight California tracks like Santa Anita. Doug O’Neill is among the trainers who keep at least part of their stable there.
Trainer Cliff Sise told KFMB-TV that he saw about 10 horses die, including his own filly.
“It was dark, everything was hot and she wouldn’t come out. I opened the pen and tried to get behind her and get her out, and she wouldn’t get out,” Sise said. “She burned to death that quick.”
--Congratulations to Sports Illustrated’s two Sportspersons of the Year, Houston’s Jose Altuve and J.J. Watt; Watt for his amazing efforts post Hurricane Harvey in Houston, where he helped raise $37 million for his YouCaring.com fund.
--Goodness gracious...a Florida python hunter snagged a record snake the other day...a 17-foot behemoth in the Florida Everglades. Jason Leon is the new record-holder, the snake being a Burmese python.
Actually, Leon once caught an 18-foot-8-inch python in 2013 but that one wasn’t part of the Python Elimination Program, which is sponsored by the South Florida Water Management District.
Leon said in a video posted by the SFWMD that he spotted the female snake in submerged water, grabbed her and quickly shot her in the head while holding it.
The district pays hunters $8.10 an hour, plus a bounty for each snake caught.
Yet another reason to always look under your bed before calling it a night.
--“Game of Thrones” star Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark) revealed to Variety that the eighth and final season of the HBO show won’t air until 2019! Drat!!!
--Bon Jovi won the fan voting for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, which is part of the equation for those selected for induction, the announcement for the Class of 2018 coming on Wednesday.
The Moody Blues were second, Dire Straits third.
I couldn’t care less about all this anymore after the Dave Clark Five got so screwed for years before they got in, but while I’m not a Bon Jovi fan, they deserve to be in; ditto the Moody Blues.
Top 3 songs for the week 12/10/66: #1 “Good Vibrations” (The Beach Boys) #2 “Mellow Yellow” (Donovan) #3 “Winchester Cathedral” (The New Vaudeville Band)...and...#4 “Devil With A Blue Dress On & Good Golly Miss Molly” (Mitch Ryder and The Detroit Wheels) #5 “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” (The Supremes) #6 “Lady Godiva” (Peter and Gordon) #7 “Stop Stop Stop” (The Hollies) #8 “Born Free” (Roger Williams...story of a lion that devours villagers before turning his life around...) #9 “I’m Ready For Love” (Martha & The Vandellas) #10 “That’s Life” (Frank Sinatra)
Pittsburgh Steelers Quiz Answers: 1) 500 receptions: Hines Ward, 1,000-12083-85 TDs; Antonio Brown, 720-9673-59; Heith Miller, 592-6569-45; John Stallworth, 537-8723-63. 2) 80 TDs: Franco Harris, 100 (91 rushing, 9 receiving); Hines Ward, 86 (1-85); Jerome Bettis, 80 (78-2...kind of surprised he only had two receiving). ....I also forgot Franco had 90 fumbles!
Next Bar Chat, Thursday.