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Fly Eagles, Fly!
[Posted Sunday PM]
Baseball Quiz: As the MLB Players Association grows increasingly upset that their free agents aren’t being signed, identify the players who hit some key salary levels in baseball history (figures courtesy of SABR’s Michael Haupert). I’ll help you with the year. 1) Who was the first to be paid $100,000 (1949)? 2) Who was the first at $250,000 (he was also the first at $200,000...1973-74)? 3) First player to be paid $1M (1980)? 4) Who was the highest paid player in the game at $3.2M in 1990? [Hall of Famer] 5) First player to be paid $10M (1997)? Answers below.
**The hell with convention...I have to start by congratulating the amazing Lindsey Vonn, who this weekend won two World Cup downhills at Garmisch-Partenkirchen, giving her 81 career World Cup titles, now just five shy of Ingemar Stenmark’s overall record.
Vonn has now won three straight downhills when some of us thought she might not be able to compete in PyeongChang because of injury. What a story. And that, my friends, is a truly Great American.
It was a very good first half, Philadelphia pulling ahead 22-12, though the Patriots outgained the Eagles 350 to 323 yards. Tom Brady threw for 276, while Nick Foles went off for 215 and a touchdown (as well as a pick). Foles, though, caught a 1-yard TD pass himself from Trey Burton on a super play call from coach Doug Pederson.
But you wondered how important it would be that the respective kickers both missed extra points, while New England’s Stephen Gostkowski also missed on a field goal thanks to a bad snap.
The Pats, though, took the second half kickoff and Brady and Co. quickly marched down the field, every play seemingly TB12 to Gronkowski, the latter with the culminating 5-yard TD pass.
Foles then answered with an 85-yard TD drive of his own, the last a 22-yard TD pass to Corey Clement, Eagles 29-19.
But Brady drove it 75 yards, culminating in a 26-yard touchdown pass to Chris Hogan, 29-26.
Philly’s Jake Elliott opened the fourth quarter with a 42-yard field goal, Eagles 32-26.
But Brady drove the Pats 75 yards for the go-ahead TD on another pass to Gronkowski, New England 33-32.
Then Nick Foles drove the Eagles 75 yards for the potential winning score, a controversial TD pass to Zach Ertz, the two-point conversion no good...38-33 Philadelphia.
On the huge play of the game, however, Brady was hit, sacked for the first time by Brandon Graham, the ball stripped and recovered by the Eagles.
Philadelphia and Foles then worked the clock and kicked a field goal to make it 41-33, and Tom Brady couldn’t pull off a miracle this time, having to start off at his own 9-yard line following some failed trickery on the kickoff.
Congratulations to the Philadelphia Eagles, coach Doug Pederson, and Nick Foles, who really should just walk away and pursue his dream, described below. He’ll be lionized forever in Philly, and around the country for that matter. Love it.
For the record, Brady threw for 505 yards and three touchdowns, the most-ever in a postseason game, while Foles was 28/43, 373, 3-1. The Eagles’ LeGarrette Blount chipped in with a crucial 90 yards on the ground including a touchdown against his former teammates. Sweet revenge.
Foles was game MVP.
Much more next time.
--As we approached game time, Thursday the Patriots received the news every football fan knew would be forthcoming, that tight end Rob Gronkowski had been cleared to play after his serious concussion suffered in the Jacksonville game. It would have been interesting to see if Gronk would have been cleared if there had only been one week, not two, since the big hit.
--Earlier it was announced that Tom Brady won his third league Most Valuable Player award, becoming the oldest at age 40 to do so, previously picking up the hardware in 2007 and 2010. Peyton Manning was the previous oldest to be named MVP at age 37 in 2013.
Brady threw for 4,577 yards, with 32 touchdowns and eight interceptions in the regular season. He received 40 of the 50 first-place votes, Rams running back Todd Gurley picking up eight, Carson Wentz the other two.
--Very cool that Nick Foles said he wants to be a pastor when he leaves football.
“I want to be a pastor in a high school,” Foles said Thursday. “It’s on my heart. I took a leap of faith last year and signed up to take classes at seminary. I wanted to continue to learn and challenge my faith. It’s a challenge because you are writing papers that are biblically correct. You want to impact people’s hearts.”
Carson Wentz is also outspoken about his strong Christian faith. Good for them.
--I posted last time just as word was coming in that the Redskins had officially given up on Kirk Cousins as a long-time solution at quarterback, trading for Kansas City’s Alex Smith.
Cousins said “It was a surprise. (But) every player looks forward to free agency. It looks like I’m going to be a free agent on March 14....it should be an exciting process.”
Cousins, 29, has thrown for 81 touchdowns and just 36 interceptions the last three seasons, having received the franchise-tag the last two, and it’s expected he could receive five years, $150 million, with around $90 million guaranteed.
Matthew Stafford signed last August for the biggest contract in history, a five-year, $135 million extension with $87 million in the first three years.
In his last three seasons, Stafford was 25-23 with one playoff appearance, while Cousins is 24-23-1, also with one playoff. Stafford had 85 TD passes, 33 picks...so their stats are virtually identical, and both turn 30 this offseason.
Ergo, it’s Stafford’s deal that Cousins is looking to top.
Will the Jets be players? I totally agree with Boomer Esiason. As much as we both (as Jets fans) would like to see Cousins, Esiason wants the Jets to take Baker Mayfield and make him the true face of the franchise. I’m on board. The more I think about Mayfield, having watched a lot of him, and knowing his obnoxious personality, yes, he can more than handle Gotham. With just minimal success, the city will be his. With great success in three or four years, he becomes a legend.
Meanwhile, the Redskins believe the 33-year-old Alex Smith (34 come May) is a better fit for coach Jay Gruden’s offense, Smith being more mobile than Cousins. In his last three seasons in K.C., he was 31-15-0 as a starter, with 61 TDs and 20 INTs, as well as a league-leading passer rating this past season of 104.7.
Washington gave Smith a deal guaranteeing him $71 million (four years, $94 million in total), so likely better than what they would have had to pay Cousins, if they hadn’t franchise-tagged him a third consecutive season at $34 million for 2018.
--Giants fans should be growing increasingly weary of Eli Manning, even as he was a popular cause this past season and is one of the better-liked Giants in franchise history. He clearly is not going to step down gracefully and while I’m sure he does have a good year or two left (given a solid offensive line and some kind of running game), if they’re going to keep him, the Giants, and new coach Pat Shurmur, need him to mentor, in part, backup Davis Webb and whomever the Giants select at QB in the draft.
This week, Manning said it’s really not his job to be The Mentor.
Gary Myers / New York Daily News
“Manning is back to being entrenched as the Giants’ starting quarterback after being solidly endorsed by the new management of GM Dave Gettleman and coach Pat Shurmur, and seemed indifferent Friday whether they draft either Sam Darnold or Josh Rosen with the second overall pick on April 26.
“If the Giants do take Darnold or Rosen with the plan to be Manning’s eventual replacement, he said he will not ask for a trade. He still very much wants to finish his career where it started.
“ ‘I have all intentions of finishing my career with the Giants,’ he said. ‘That’s what I want to do. In football, like everything, it’s year by year. See what happens and go from there.’
“Will he embrace the role of mentor to Darnold or Rosen?
“ ‘Yes, in a sense,’ he said.
“Then he said, ‘It’s not your job to mentor somebody. I wouldn’t look at it as that role. I would look at it as it’s my job to prepare and compete and be ready to play each and every game. In that process you are always talking football, always helping out the other guys in the room.’”
Manning said his approach would be the same as it’s always been with backups, but as Gary Myers points out.
“But there is a big difference: None of Manning’s backups in the past were brought in specifically to compete with him and eventually take his job. If the Giants invest the second pick on a quarterback, the plan won’t be for him to sit for a couple of years unless Manning, at 37 years old, plays a lot better than he did last season.
“When the Packers drafted Aaron Rodgers in 2005, Brett Favre made it clear he was not going to help Rodgers take his job. As a result, there was a lot of friction in their relationship. That is not part of Manning’s personality, but he is also protective of his job.”
Manning should know that if the team has selected Darnold or Rosen, and if Davis Webb is still around and, let’s say, looks great in training camp, the fans, and management, aren’t going to be patient if the team gets off to a 1-4 start. Manning will head to the bench. How he handles it then will be interesting.
--Eight were elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday...linebackers Ray Lewis and Brian Urlacher, safety Brian Dawkins, wide receivers Terrell Owens and Randy Moss; Jerry Kramer and Robert Brazile from the senior committee, and former general manager Bobby Beathard.
Long-time fans such as yours truly only care that Jerry Kramer, #64, is finally enshrined while he is still alive and seemingly pretty sharp of mind; the Ice Bowl being my first vivid Pro Football memory. We had a little portable black and white and set it up on the dining room table.
--In a critically important poll for the Wall Street Journal/NBC News, we see the NFL’s developing nightmare, your editor having long said the NFL was in a total state of denial to begin with.
Jared Diamond and Andrew Beaton:
“(The NFL’s) core audience is losing interest rapidly, a potential threat to the league’s dominant role in American culture.”
More than a potential threat. The sport will essentially be dead in five years, says moi.
“The drop in interest spans age groups and the political spectrum – painting the picture of a sport that isn’t just experiencing a momentary dip, but a battle against fundamental questions about football’s future that have been building for years.
“Sunday night’s Super Bowl...comes at the end of a troublesome season for the league. The best players got hurt. The owners publicly quarreled. The decline in television rating steepened. And the league became a polarizing political lightning rod, entangled in an imbroglio with President Donald Trump over player protests during the national anthem.
“The problems are taking a heavy toll. Adults who report following the NFL closely have dropped 9% since 2014, the poll finds. Most alarming for the league, however, is the makeup of the people moving away from the NFL in large numbers: Just 51% of men aged 18 to 49 say they follow the NFL closely, down from 75% four years ago. The poll did not ask respondents why their interest changed.”
One fan, Tim Muzzy, 29, from Upstate New York, told the Journal, “You watch the guys playing college ball, and I feel like they are trying a lot harder and you get a better game. I don’t hear the talk about [pro] football as much as I used to.”
But what the article and poll doesn’t elaborate on is this fact about college football. You can see from the crowds that they’ve been going down considerably in recent years as well (unless it’s an Ohio State-Michigan, Alabama-Auburn type affair). With declining interest in the NFL, you’ll of course see commensurate loss of interest in the college game, and that is going to be a killer financially for many institutions.
But the biggest issue is the loss of interest at the high school level. More and more schools will be pulling the plug on the sport because of the harm it is doing to the youth they are supposed to be responsible for. You’re not an ‘adult’ until you’re 18, remember.
Meanwhile, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, in his state of the league press conference on Wednesday, said that while there’s been a slight uptick in injuries suffered during the Thursday night games, the increase isn’t “something we need to overreact to.”
“Out of those [four years for TNF],” Goodell said, “only this year showed a slight uptick, which was not even statistically significant.”
Countless players have been highly critical of Thursday night games, which Fox just picked up for $3.3 billion over the next five seasons, but the fact is that while the quality of the games has blown, they still get higher ratings than any other programming that night, which is why Fox would grab it for far more than CBS or NBC was willing to bid.
One more on the future of the sport. Brett Favre said the other day: “I cringe when I see video, or I’m driving and I see little kids out playing, and they’re all decked out in their football gear and the helmet looks like it’s three times bigger than they are. It’s kind of funny, but it’s not as funny now as it was years ago, because of what we know now. I just cringe seeing a fragile little boy get tackled and the people ooh and ahh and they just don’t know. Or they don’t care. It’s just so scary.”
Favre guessed that over his 20-year playing career, he saw stars or felt ringing in his ears “at least once a game,” and said that while he can’t complain about his current health, he remains worried about his medical future.
Favre also said he’s more aware of how the turf was responsible for many of his concussions. Playing on frozen fields in Green Bay “just added to the effect,” adding there were “so many times when my head hit the turf and I was not out,” but “my bell was rung.”
--Finally, on Thursday’s “Jeopardy” the panel went through all the other categories before being forced to address the one that tested their NFL knowledge. The three contestants proved unable to muster even a guess at any of the five questions (answers), much to host Alex Trebek’s chagrin.
The first four clues for the “Talkin’ Football” category:
-- “Your choice; do or don’t name this play in which the QB runs the ball & can choose to pitch it to another back”
-- “Tom Landry perfected the shotgun formation with this team”
-- ‘By signaling for one of these, a returner can reel in a kick without fear of getting tackled”
-- “These ‘penalties’ are simultaneous violations by the offense & defense that cancel each other out”
Each clue went without a buzzer, forcing Trebek to say, “I can tell you guys are big football fans,” after providing ‘option’ as the solution to the first clue.
“Do you think we should go to commercial?” Trebek slyly asked, as “Dallas Cowboys” evaded the grasp of the panel. He then pantomimed making a fair catch, and after familiarizing his contestants with the term ‘offsetting,’ he sighed, “Let’s look at the $1,000 clue, just for the fun of it.”
It had to with the nickname for the celebrated defensive line “that took the Vikings to four Super Bowls.”
“If you guys ring in and get this one, I will die,” Trebek said. Spoiler alert: no one rang in. [Des Bieler / Washington Post]
College Basketball Review...since last chat....
Wednesday, 2 Virginia continued its winning ways with a 74-64 win over Louisville in Charlottesville, the Cavaliers 21-1, 10-0, while the Cardinals dropped to 16-6, 6-3.
And Wake Forest had a nice 76-72 win at home against Florida State (16-6, 5-5), the Deacs picking up just their second ACC win of the season, now 9-13, 2-8.
Thursday, my “Pick to Click” for the national title, your 16 Wichita State Shockers, suffered a bad loss at Temple (12-10, 4-6) 81-79 in overtime, my boys falling to 17-5, 7-3. This is not good. Not good at all.
No. 1 Villanova (21-1, 8-1) whipped Creighton 98-78, the Bluejays falling to 17-6, 7-4.
Saturday, 4 Duke traveled to New York to play St. John’s in the Garden and the Johnnie’s, who blow, pulled off an 81-77 upset, Duke falling to 19-4, the Redmen (oops, Red Storm) now 11-13.
St. John’s got a huge game from Shamorie Ponds who had 33 points. Two games ago against Butler, Ponds was 0 for 12 from the field in an atrocious 70-45 loss.
For Duke, Grayson Allen sucked, just 1 of 7 from the field, 7 points. Terrible loss for the Blue Devils.
2 Virginia rolled on with an impressive 59-44 win at Syracuse (15-8, 4-6), the Cavaliers’ ‘D’ holding the Orange to the lowest point total in program history at the Carrier Dome, Syracuse shooting just 17 of 51 (33%) from the field.
UVA has now won 14 in a row and they remained unbeaten in the ACC, 11-0, 22-1 overall.
3 Purdue (23-2, 12-0) held off a valiant Rutgers (12-13, 2-10) in Piscataway, 78-76, as the Scarlet Knights’ Corey Sanders had 31, but it wasn’t enough.
5 Michigan State handled Indiana in Bloomington 63-60, as the Stonewallers moved to 22-3, 10-2; Indiana 12-12, 5-7.
Yes, Spartans coach Tom Izzo has been far from forthcoming regarding the basketball program and Larry Nassar, telling reporters: “I think there will be a time when I’ll be able to speak, but it isn’t right now.”
Coach Izzo...in just a few days you have lost me as an admirer, and I imagine I’m far from alone. Basically, you’ve become a (cue Jeff Spicoli). Into the December file you go.
With Duke’s loss, 6 Xavier will move into the top five, 96-91 victors over Georgetown (13-9, 3-8), though the Musketeers’ effort was hardly awe-inspiring as they move to 21-3, 9-2.
7 Kansas was upset at home by Oklahoma State (14-9, 4-6) 84-79, as the Jayhawks fell to 18-5, 7-3.
9 Arizona lost on the road at Washington (17-6, 7-3), the Wildcats dropping to 19-5, 9-2.
And 12 Oklahoma lost again (16-6, 6-4), 79-74 to Texas (15-8, 5-5) in Austin, as Sooners’ star Trae Young was held to 19 points on just 7 of 22 shooting from the field, though he did have 14 assists. OU goes out in the Round of 32, says the editor.
And Wake Forest returned to its losing ways, collapsing down the stretch yet again, 75-67 losers to 20 Clemson. The Deacs led 64-63 with 5:37 to play and scored 3 points the rest of the way as our four guards were a collective 12 of 36 from the field, firing up one brick after another in crunch time.
On to today, and No. 1 Villanova hosted Seton Hall and your “Pick to Click Guarantee for the Final Four” Pirates fell 92-76, in a game that was a lot better than the final score, the Hall down 74-67 with 6 minutes to play. ‘Nova (22-1, 9-1) is just damn good. There’s a reason why they are playing like defending national champs.
It’s a different star every game for the Wildcats, and today it was freshman big man Omari Spellman, who came in hitting .426 of his threes and proceeded to go 6 of 7 from downtown, 26 points in all to go with 11 rebounds.
Seton Hall (17-6, 6-4) is OK, they just need to make sure they win a few more conference games to get in the Big Dance and then it’s all about the seniors. Kind of simple. They can still beat anyone.
--In the league’s showcase game Saturday night, Houston (38-13) destroyed Cleveland (30-21) 120-88, as Chris Paul had 22 points and 11 assists, while LeBron was held to just 11 points! [3 of 10 from the field.] James said afterwards that the Cavs should be taken off national television. Coach Tyronn Lue said it didn’t appear that his team was trying.
Cleveland’s Kevin Love is out two months with a broken left hand, so he should be back a week or two before the playoffs.
--The Warriors lost Saturday at Denver, 115-108; the Warriors’ first loss after 37 straight when they were leading going into the fourth quarter. Denver 28-25, Golden State still 41-12.
--My Knicks traveled to Boston on Wednesday and talk about not showing up, the Celts were without Kyrie Irving and Marcus Smart and still destroyed the Knickerbockers, 103-73. Tim Hardaway Jr. was 1 of 10 for the Knicks.
So Friday, the Knicks moved on to Milwaukee and lost to The Greek Freak and the Bucks, 92-90, as Antetokounmpo finished with 29 and 11 rebounds, including the deciding bucket with 1.9 seconds to play on awful Knicks defense, while the aforementioned Mr. Hardaway was 1 of 14 from the field, 0 for 9 from three.
Ergo, Tim Hardaway Jr., who is supposed to be the second scoring option on the squad next to Kristaps Porzingis, was 2 of 24 his last two games. And for this he gets to eat the finest steaks and drink nothing but premium. It just isn’t fair, I tell ya.
Well today, the Knicks were hosting the lowly Hawks and they lost, 99-96, as, guess who, Tim Hardaway Jr. was again the goat, going 3 of 9, making some real bonehead plays down the stretch, and missing the final 3-point attempt to tie it. Walt “Clyde” Frazier, doing the color commentary, was apoplectic that Hardaway, as cold as he’s been, was the player taking the last shot.
So the Knicks fall to 23-31, while Atlanta is 16-37. Fire Coach Hornacek. Zero reason to keep him at the helm.
--In a game Wednesday, Portland beat Chicago 124-108, which I only mention because the Trail Blazers’ C.J. McCollum (the pride of Lehigh University) had a franchise-record 28 points in the first quarter before finishing with a career-high 50.
--I’ve been noting the past six weeks or so that labor trouble is looming, owing to the paucity of free agent signings, but as ‘pitchers and catchers’ approaches, you would expect there to be a flurry of activity, beginning like now.
That said, the Major League Baseball Players Association is making waves about a job action in spring training, spurred on by some player agents, who are a-holes and primarily pissed off because if their clients aren’t being paid, neither are they.
The thing is every fan knows that the day of outrageously bad contracts is coming to an end. Oh sure, there will continue to be outliers, and there will be teams that overpay (read the Phillies and Carlos Santana, 3 years, $60 million...though he’s agreed to do some post-game concerts gratis).
And we’ll still have mammoth contracts next offseason for the likes of Manny Machado and Bryce Harper. [Clayton Kershaw, I imagine, isn’t going anywhere, despite his opt-out clause.]
For now, though, the baseball writers, and a brave player, are weighing in.
John Harper / New York Daily News
“Sure, players are mad that GMs aren’t handing out seven-year deals like merit badges anymore, but it’s hard to take Friday’s agent-rhetoric – specifically threats of a spring training boycott – seriously when one of their brethren spoke the truth on TV this week, basically admitting:
“ ‘We screwed up.’
“As such Brandon Moss probably isn’t the most popular player among his peers at the moment, having heaped the blame for this free-agent freeze-out on the Players Association for giving too much ground in agreeing to the current collective bargaining agreement.
“But Moss, recently traded from the Royals to the A’s as he enters the second year of a two-year, $12 million contract, was dead-on in saying the new CBA doesn’t have enough incentive for owners to spend big on free agents.
“Here was his explanation on the MLB Network’s Hot Stove show. It was shockingly candid and essentially said that if players should be mad at anybody, it’s Tony Clark, head of the Players Association.
“ ‘We have the right to bargain and set our price, just like the owners have the right to meet that price,’ Moss began. ‘But what we’ve done is we have incentivized owners; we have incentivized teams to say, ‘We don’t want to meet that price. It costs us too much. It costs us draft picks. It cost us international signing money.’
“ ‘And the only reason those things are there is because we bargained them in. I feel like, as players, we have to watch out for our own interest. If you run too good of a deal out there in a bargaining agreement, then of course the owners are going to jump on it. You have to be willing to dig your heels in a little bit, fight for the things like the guys in the past fought for.
“ ‘I just hate to see players like me taking advantage of a system that was set up for me by other players, and not passing it along to the next generation of players. Everybody wants to look up and scream collusion. Sooner or later, you have to take responsibility for a system you created for yourself. It’s our fault.’
“With that out there in the public forum, how would the players justify a spring training boycott, which would be a violation of the same collective bargaining agreement?
“For that matter, how would they justify such action under any circumstances at the moment?
“Why, because the Red Sox want to draw the line on a J.D. Martinez contract at $125 million? Nobody will give Yu Darvish a seven-year contract – or Eric Hosmer an eight-year deal?
“Obviously those high-profile stalemates don’t properly explain why more than 100 free agents remain unsigned in this offseason like nobody has ever seen. But it’s not like there aren’t big-money offers out there to top players, whose signings often unclog logjams for less players at their position.
“So maybe this offseason has more to do with agent Scott Boras, who represents a handful of top free agents, refusing to lower his famously-high price tags than anything else.
“Is it really collusion if GMs are smarter now, armed with analytical information that allows them to evaluate players more effectively now, info that tells them it doesn’t make sense to pay huge amounts of money for a player’s declining years in his 30s?
“I’m not saying the players don’t have a right to question the owners’ intentions, especially having proven them guilty of collusion before. But that was some 30 years ago.
“Analytics have changed everything about the way teams do business now, and at least partly as a result, there is more emphasis on youth than there has ever been.
“As such the ultimate solution for the players would be to fight for a change in the system as well – lower the free-agent requirement to, say, four years in the big leagues instead of six so that many players would go on the open market with their prime years still ahead of them.
“Owners would go to war over such a change, in particular because it would create more of a divide between large and small markets, but one way or another players are going to have to fight back to take back concessions they’ve made in recent negotiations.”
The CBA expires 2021. Job actions will go nowhere, and the players will only lose the PR battle, fans being too smart and having too much experience with their own clubs and dumb contracts.
But you still have the rising voices, whether it’s that of agent Boras or, this past week, Brodie Van Wagenen, co-head of CAA Baseball, who said, “The players are upset...they are outraged... Their voices are getting louder and they are uniting in a way not seen since 1994,” the year of baseball’s last player strike.
Ah, Scott and Brodie? You really don’t have a leg to stand on.
Commissioner Rob Manfred said at last week’s owners’ meeting in Beverly Hills: “Teams have always done best when they bring a cohort of players together, and that group matures together and becomes competitive. I don’t see a conceptual change.
“More important, our fans are very sophisticated. They know that the Houston Astros won last year, and they know how they won, and what the process was that they went through in order to put themselves in a position to win. They also remember that in 2016 the Chicago Cubs won, and they also remember the process the Chicago Cubs went through to put themselves in a position to win.”
--Shu passed on a piece from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Adam Bittner, who notes that advertisers are furious with Pirates owner Bob Nutting for trading the face of the franchise, Andrew McCutchen. Nutting is CEO of Ogden Newspapers (locals, not the Post-Gazette).
As Weirton Medical Center, based in West Virginia, announced Thursday, it was pulling its advertising over “the failure of the Pirates to craft a deal to keep Andrew McCutchen a Pirate.”
“We are doing this not to hurt our friends and colleagues working at these newspapers, but to send a message to the Nutting family that we believe in community.... Legions of Pirates fans may not own the ball club, but we certainly feel a sense of ownership too.”
--The Mets new manager Mickey Callaway, who was the former pitching coach in Cleveland, which had the best ERA in baseball last year at 3.30 (the Mets being 28th), is talking about a six-man rotation for the Metropolitans. I’m on board, Mickey!
--Lastly, Oscar Gamble died. He was 68, cancer of the jaw (though his wife said Gamble never chewed tobacco like many in his era).
A left-handed hitter, Gamble hit 200 home runs and drove in 666 over a 17-year career with seven teams, including seven seasons with the Yankees over two stints.
Gamble to some is best known for his 1976 Topps baseball card where he exhibited the all-time classic Afro; next to Room 222’s Jason (Heshimu)...or Bernie, for that matter, but I digress. The card had to be airbrushed with a Yankee hat onto his oversized hair following a trade from Cleveland.
Gamble had an endorsement deal with Afro Sheen but he had to trim his hair to comply with George Steinbrenner’s grooming policy when he joined the Yankees.
“Pete Sheehy told him no uniform until the haircut,” Steinbrenner said in 1991, referring to the Yankees’ longtime clubhouse man. “I said, ‘Oscar, I’ve got a barber.’ They brought this guy in, and he butchered him. Absolutely butchered him. I was sick to my stomach.”
Former Yankees teammate and current Miami manager Don Mattingly said: “I will not only remember Oscar for his abilities on the field, but also for his great sense of humor and the way he treated me as a young player.”
Gamble once described the Yankees clubhouse under Steinbrenner and Billy Martin: “They don’t think it be like it is, but it do.”
Former teammate Ron Guidry said of those chaotic days: “For all the big hits and big home runs he hit for us, his personality kept everyone loose – no matter what was going on. Having him around gave people a boost. As soon as you saw him, you knew you’d be laughing soon.”
Gamble’s play was underrated. Despite his modest .265 average, he had a .356 on-base percentage, very strong for that era, and in 880 plate appearances in The Bronx, Gamble had a .969 OPS.
In 1979, after a mid-season trade from Texas to New York, Gamble hit .389 in 113 at-bats with 11 home runs.
Gary Woodland captured his third PGA Tour title, another playoff this year but in the first hole against Chez Reavie in the Waste Management Phoenix Open, Woodland firing a final round 64.
Phil Mickelson was in it heading to the final holes but finished T-5.
It was an interesting week as Jordan Spieth missed the cut, hurt in no small part by an asshole in the gallery who yelled as Spieth was taking his putter back at a critical moment that he had a bet on the outcome of the putt. Spieth’s putt fell short. The guy was escorted from the premises. [He should be placed on the rack.]
And two-time winner Hideki Matsuyama was forced to withdraw after the first round with a wrist injury. He was trying to match Arnold Palmer’s record of three straight in the event, 1961-63.
--LPGA Tour star Suzann Pettersen denied telling a Norwegian newspaper that President Trump “cheats like hell” on the golf course.
Pettersen told the paper Verdens Gang that she has known Trump for more than 10 years and has played multiple rounds with him. She was quoted in the paper as saying that Trump loves to skip short-range putts (gimmes) with the assumption that he would have made them, and his wayward drives often appear in the middle of the fairway.
“He cheats like hell,” Verdens Gang quoted. “I don’t quite know how he is in business. They say that if you cheat at golf, you cheat at business.”
I’d add you also cheat on your wife. #Stormy
Needless to say,. Pettersen was forced to backtrack wildly, writing on Twitter: “This is what I would call #fakenews. Why would I call someone a cheat...never!”
Then she deleted the tweet, before adding a lengthy Facebook post explaining how she was misquoted.
--Lots of action, including Wednesday after I last posted.
Tottenham had a big win over Manchester United at Wembley, 2-0, as Christian Eriksen scored just 11 seconds into the match, the third-fastest in PL history (pass-pass-doink), and Man U’s Phil Jones had an own goal, but the Spurs really dominated.
Man City beat West Brom, 3-0. Stoke tied with Watford 0-0. Southampton and Brighton ended 1-1, and out of nowhere, Bournemouth shocked Chelsea 3-0.
Saturday, Burnley scored a goal in the 82nd minute to tie Manchester City, 1-1. Man U rebounded to beat Huddersfield 2-0. And Arsenal blasted Everton 5-1 on Aaron Ramsey’s first hat trick.
And in key relegation contests, Southampton leaped out of the bottom three with a 3-2 win over West Brom, while Swansea picked up a key point with a 1-1 draw with Leicester.
So on Sunday, we had a match for the ages, Tottenham at Liverpool...critically important for both.
Liverpool got off to a quick 1-0 lead and Tottenham was clearly out of sorts, the Reds dominating. And it stayed 1-0 until the 80-minute mark when the Spurs’ Wanyama had what the play-by-play lad said was possibly “the goal of the season,” while his partner said he’s never seen a goal hit harder, and “it all came together in a moment of perfection”....it was unreal...worth YouTubing.
So yours truly was psyched to get a point at Anfield when we’ve traditionally choked against our fellow Big Six opponents.
Except the great Mohamed Salah, who as Dr. Whit has told me is clearly the best player in the PL, had a stupendous goal of his own to give Liverpool a 2-1 lead in extra time, after Harry Kane had been stopped on a penalty kick that everyone thought would decide it for Tottenham. Ergo, a disastrous loss for the Spurs.
Until it wasn’t. The Spurs got another penalty call at the very end, and Kane delivered on this one, his 100th Premier League goal, for a tie that felt like a win (and a loss for Reds fans).
You have to picture that if you were a football fan in Britain, you were in a pub watching this one and going nuts, even if you had no allegiances to either. It was like one of those old Redskins-Cowboys games of yore that everyone had to see.
So the standings after 26 of 38....ties broken by goal differential....
1. Manchester City 69 points
2. Manchester United 56
3. Liverpool 51
4. Chelsea 50* ...Championship League line
5. Tottenham 49
6. Arsenal 45
15. Southampton 26
16. Newcastle 25
17. Swansea 24
18. Stoke 24
19. Huddersfield 24 (totally collapsed)
20. West Brom 20
*Plays match 26 Monday against Watford.
--Congratulations to the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights for their expansion record 34th victory on Thursday, 3-2 over Winnipeg. Through Saturday, after just 51 games, the Knights are 34-13-4 (OTL) and in first place in the West Conference’s Central Division. Rather remarkable.
--Boy, gonna have to rethink the treatment of our friend the woodpecker, currently No. 97 on the All-Species List.
Will Dunham had a piece in the Irish Independent:
“For a person, slamming your head full force into a tree trunk could be enough to knock you silly. Woodpeckers do this untold thousands of times during their lives, and these birds have thrived on Earth for some 25 million years.
“But research published on Friday shows for the first time that all this pecking seems to carry consequences for the woodpecker’s brain. Scientists said an examination found build-ups of a protein called tau in woodpeckers’ brains that in people is associated with brain damage from neurodegenerative diseases and head trauma.
“The researchers examined brain tissue from Downy Woodpeckers and Red-winged Blackbirds, a non-pecking bird, from collections at the Field Museum in Chicago and the Harvard Museum of Natural History. The woodpeckers had tau build-up. The blackbirds did not.
“ ‘It was assumed that woodpeckers have no brain injury,’ said George Farah, who worked on the study published in the journal POLOS ONE as a Boston University School of Medicine graduate student. ‘This research seems to suggest the contrary.’”
These initial findings could be a reason for the rather idiotic behavior of Woody Woodpecker, who perhaps for too long got a free pass. But we need more evidence on the species overall. I have previously written woodpeckers were protected in part because there was a space between their brain and skull.
--A new dinosaur was recently identified, Mansourasaurus shahinae, part of the titanosauria group of sauropods – long-necked plant-eaters that include “some of the largest animals known to science,” according to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, which jointly announced the finding with a bunch of other museums.
The dinosaur was identified by a team at Egypt’s Mansoura University, and comes from the late Cretaceous period, between 100 million and 66 million years ago...otherwise known as the Age of Dinosaurs.
I know what some of you are thinking...where does Mansourasaurus, whose bones were located about 75 miles north of Cairo, rank on the ASL?
Well, we don’t cover the Cretaceous period, sports fans; to debunk a popular myth out there.
--Congratulations to Molly Schuyler, a 127-pound, two-time champion, who bested her own record in Philadelphia’s WIP Wing Bowl, downing 501 buffalo wings in 30 minutes...broken down to rounds of 14- , 14- , and 2-minutes.
Last year’s title holder, Bob “notorious B.O.B.” Shoudt took home the crown with ‘just’ 409 wings in 2017, the wings provided by PJ Whelihan’s, cooked in the early Friday morning hours and shipped to the Wells Fargo Center in Philly.
Schuyler takes home a 2018 Hyundai Sonata, plus $5,000 in cash and a championship ring. As Ronald Reagan would have said of the prize package for shortening your life by six months, ‘Not bad, not bad at all.’
--In one of the more depressing news items in recent years, Formula 1 has decided it would no longer use “Grid girls,” beginning this season.
Sean Bratches, managing director of commercial operations, said the change would be made “so as to be more in tune with our vision for this great sport.”
But that vision is best achieved with Grid Girls, Mr. Bratches!
Bratches added the babes, err, girls, were “at odds with modern day societal norms.”
In December, BBC Sport carried out a vote on whether “grid girls” should be part of Formula 1 and 60% say they should be.
If Monster Energy gets rid of their girls for NASCAR (because that body mandates it), I’ll have to riot. Riot hard.
--We note the passing of Dennis Edwards, 74, a lead singer for the Temptations.
Edwards joined the Temps in 1968 and had a number of hits including two Grammy-winning songs, Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone and Cloud Nine.
He was inducted into the Rock Hall of Fame in 1989.
Top 3 songs for the week 2/9/63: #1 “Hey Paula” (Paul and Paula) #2 “Walk Right In” (The Rooftop Singers) #3 “The Night Has A Thousand Eyes” (Bobby Vee)...and...#4 “Loop De Loop” (Johnny Thunder) #5 “Up On The Roof” (The Drifters) #6 “Walk Like A Man” (The 4 Seasons) #7 “Ruby Baby” (Dion) #8 “You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me” (The Miracles) #9 “Rhythm Of The Rain” (The Cascades) #10 “Go Away Little Girl” (Steve Lawrence...in exactly one year, a certain group of mop-top lads from Liverpool would hit the stage for The Ed Sullivan Show...)
*Mark R., your list gets in next time.
Baseball Quiz Answers / Salaries: 1) Joe DiMaggio first to be paid $100,000 (1949 / Yankees). 2) First at $200,000, then $250,000 was Dick Allen (1973-74 / White Sox). 3) Nolan Ryan was first to be paid $1M (1980 / Astros). 4) Robin Yount was highest paid player in the game in 1990 at $3.2M for the Brewers. 5) Albert Belle was the first at $10M for Cleveland in 1997.
Next Bar Chat, Thursday.