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[Posted Sunday p.m.]
Baseball Quiz: 1) Who was the last pitcher to have 15 complete games in a season? [Hint: 1998] 2) Who was the last pitcher to have five shutouts in a season? [Hint: 2012] Answers below.
--The Yankees have been making some moves to shore up their pitching, acquiring reliever Zach Britton from Baltimore, as noted last chat, and then picking up veteran J.A. Happ from Toronto for Brandon Drury and AAA outfielder Billy McKinney.
But they likely need more help as ace Luis Severino had his fourth straight bad outing on Saturday in the first of a day/night doubleheader against the Royals at the Stadium.
Severino gave up 6 earned in 4 1/3 in a 10-5 loss, dropping him to 14-4, 2.94. So his last four starts are like this.
5 innings, 3 earned
5 innings, 4 earned
5 innings, 6 earned
4 1/3 innings, 6 earned
Add it up and in 19 1/3, Severino has allowed 33 hits (seven homers) and has an 8.85 ERA.
Saturday night, though, the Yanks did gain a split, beating the Royals 5-4 with a two-run rally in the bottom of the eighth, after Zach Britton was miserable in his New York debut in the seventh, giving up a run on two hits and two walks.
Back to Happ, save for his 20-4 season in 2016, he’s been a classic third or fourth starter, never winning more than 11 otherwise since he won 12 with Philadelphia in 2009. But he’ll give you six innings and keep you in the game, and he is 7-4, 2.98 ERA in 18 career starts against the Red Sox, which could be important. This season overall he was 10-6, 4.18, in 20 starts, before making his debut for the Bronx Bombers at the Little Bandbox Ruth Didn’t Build, and Happ gave the Yanks everything they wanted, six innings, one run, New York winning 6-3, Happ now 11-6, 4.05.
So the Yankees are now 2-1 since Aaron Judge suffered a fracture of the right wrist after being drilled by the Royals’ Jakob Junis in a win over the Royals on Thursday. The injury doesn’t require surgery, but Judge will be out 3-4 weeks and it’s obviously a critical time for the team.
--As in the Yanks are 5 ½ back of the Red Sox, who were 3-0 winners over the Twins today at Fenway, behind seven shutout innings from newly-acquired Nate Eovaldi (4-4, 3.80) and a phenomenal catch in center from Jackie Bradley Jr.
New York 67-37... 5.5
--As for my Metsies, seeing as they’re irrelevant I won’t be writing much on them the rest of the way but anytime Jacob deGrom pitches is worthy of comment and once again the Metropolitans failed to support him, deGrom and New York losing 5-0 to the Pirates in Pittsburgh last night.
DeGrom wasn’t his normal self, looking very ordinary in giving up three earned in seven innings, but for crying out loud, the Mets have now scored three runs or fewer in 13 of his last 15 starts! DeGrom, now 5-6, 1.82 ERA to lead baseball handily, hasn’t recorded a win since June 18 at Colorado, despite pitching to a 2.51 ERA in his six starts since.
Now that it’s clear the Mets aren’t going to trade him, I would love to see the team limit his innings the rest of the way, maybe give him a week off. And then give him a new contract, even though he’s under control for two more seasons. He’s going to make a killing in arbitration the next two years anyway, $10 million+ for 2019, more than that in 2020, so just do it...give him a deal.
But will the Mets trade starter Zack Wheeler, who has become a hot commodity with his outstanding recent pitching, Wheeler throwing six shutout innings today in a 1-0 win over the Buccos?
Lastly, right after I posted last time, the Mets announced outfielder Yoenis Cespedes is undergoing season-ending surgery on both heels that it appears could keep him out until mid-season next year. It’s a complicated procedure where you have surgery on one heel, wait 2-3 months, and then do the other.
Cespedes is owed roughly $70 million from now through 2020, but while big contracts such as his (four years, $110 million signed in November 2016) are often insured, there are questions as to what extent Cespedes’ is. David Wright, for example, who hasn’t played since 2016, and played just 75 games between 2015 and ‘16, has an insured contract that has allowed the team to recover a reported 75 percent the past two years.
But in the case of Cespedes, the Mets may have cost themselves $millions by taking him off the DL after a two-month stint on it to play one game against the Yankees, before then going back on the list. It’s complicated, to say the least.
--The Cubs picked up veteran lefty Cole Hamels from the Rangers for a bag of balls in what should be a good move for Chicago. Hamels has had a poor season, 5-9, 4.72 ERA, but he’s a proven commodity with a solid postseason record of 7-6, 3.48, and there is no doubt he would be a starter in October if the Cubbies get that far. He also has a career 1.76 ERA in six starts at Wrigley Field and threw a no-hitter there in 2015.
--Milwaukee acquired third baseman Mike Moustakas in a trade with Kansas City, Moustakis batting only .249, but with 20 home runs and 62 RBIs, the Brewers starving for offense. It was expected Travis Shaw would move from third to second* to accommodate Moustakas, who was a victim of the frozen free-agent market last winter, forcing a return to Kansas City instead of striking a rich deal elsewhere. The Royals gave him $5.5 million for 2018, a cut from his $8.5 million pay.
*That was indeed the case Saturday in a 7-1 Brewers win over the Giants. The Giants then beat Milwaukee today, 8-5.
--Atlanta hurler Sean Newcomb, 10-5, 3.23, had a no-hitter with two outs in the ninth, two strikes on the Dodgers’ Chris Taylor, before Taylor singled sharply into the hole between second and third. Then Newcomb in the postgame had to face the revelation of racist tweets he sent in 2011-12 as an 18-year-old. Tell your kids. Josh Hader knows what it’s like.
--Kind of startling that the lowly Orioles (32-74) won their last three at home against Tampa Bay this weekend by scores of 15-5, 11-2, and 11-5, post-the departure of Manny Machado.
I only cared because when I saw the scores I was curious how “slugger” Chris Davis for the O’s, he of the seven-year, $161 million contract, did and he was 0-for-6 in the first two, but homered twice today. That said, Davis is still hitting .159 and on track for the worst batting average in baseball history.
--Jose Altuve went on the disabled list for the first time in his Hall of Fame career (the bust is already made, even though he’s still just 28!) Altuve has a sore knee but it doesn’t sound like he’ll be out much longer than the 10-day list the team placed him on. Altuve is hitting a league-leading .329 with 134 hits in 104 games, looking for his fifth straight 200-hit season. So the brief respite might upset the back of his baseball card, much like Mike Trout’s stint on the DL last year ruined his 100 runs scored streak that gave him such a pristine card. And at the end of the day....
--Max Scherzer celebrated his 34th birthday with 8 strong innings Friday night against the Marlins, the Nats 9-1 winners, Scherzer improving to 14-5, 2.30.
So he reached the 200 strikeout mark for a seventh straight season, tying him with Roger Clemens and Walter Johnson for the second-longest streak in major league history, next to Tom Seaver’s record nine in a row.
But I’ll never forget Seaver’s last start in 1974, when his streak of 200 strikeouts, then six, was in serious jeopardy heading into Game No. 161. Seaver lost it, 2-1, to Jim Lonborg and the Phillies, but he struck out 14 in tossing a complete game to finish an injury-plagued season (sciatica in his hip) with 201. He was only 11-11, 3.20 ERA that season, winning Cy Young Awards on either side, 1973 and 1975. Tom Terrific, the all-time favorite of every Mets fans of a certain age, extended the 200 strikeout streak into 1975 and ’76.
The next season, 1977, came the trade to Cincinnati, which we better not talk about or a lot of us will start breaking furniture....
Where was I? Oh yeah...Scherzer. The dude is now 155-80 lifetime and could pick up his fourth Cy Young Award this year, third in a row. [As much as I love Jacob deGrom, ain’t happenin’ when you’re 5-6.]
Separately, Washington may be getting hurler Stephen Strasburg back quickly from his latest stint on the DL, this time for a neck issue.
--Another three-time Cy Young Award winner, Clayton Kershaw, gave the Dodgers a real shot in the arm on Friday when he went 7 2/3 in a 4-1 win over the Braves, his longest stint since coming off the DL, Kershaw improving his record to 4-5, 2.52. [Kershaw had one hit, a 2-run double, and three walks at the plate, and until watching the Mets Saturday, I didn’t know he was the first pitcher with a hit and three walks in a game since Whitey Ford in 1959!]
--Back to the Nationals, Michael Salfino of the Wall Street Journal had an interesting piece on free-agent-to-be Bryce Harper, he of the .220 batting average in his walk year. Yeah, he turns just 26 in October and he could become baseball’s first $400 million player, but as Salfino writes:
“(There’s) reason for potential suitors to be hesitant... While he’s leading the National League in walks and homers... His OPS (on-base plus slugging) of .842 [Ed. updated from Salfino’s article, ditto batting average] is 60 points worse than his .902 mark heading into 2018.
“Disappointing walk years have been a harbinger of busts to come for the most productive, under-30 free-agent hitters. Of the 35 players in the past 40 years with a career OPS of at least .800 in 2,000 plate appearances, Harper’s walk year is fifth worst. Among the players ahead of him, Billy Butler, Ben Grieve, Marcus Giles and Pablo Sandoval ended up being complete disappointments....
“Conversely, a great walk year has foretold a successful signing. Barry Bonds beat his prior OPS by 228 points in his walk year in 1992 and Manny Ramirez (178) and Larry Walker (170) weren’t far behind. They combined to be named All-Stars 23 times for their new teams, winning six MVP awards (five by Bonds).” [Ed. of course the first two also ‘roided up.]
--I have to admit I couldn’t give a damn about NFL training camp, except for one thing. I wish my Jets and first-round selection Sam Darnold would come to a contract agreement, the hang-up due to the fact Darnold’s agent is being a, err, cue Jeff Spicoli.
Otherwise, I loved what the Wall Street Journal’s Jason Gay wrote the other day:
“A midsummer’s confession:
“I am not ready for some football.
“Of course, football waits for no one. Just a few hours ago, I was catching up on the headlines, and there he was, stern-faced, his mercilessness already in late season form:
“Grumpy Lobster Boat Captain Bill Belichick.
“Is it already time for this? It feels like just yesterday we were at the Super Bowl in Minneapolis, and the planet wanted to know why the Grumpy Lobster Boat Captain didn’t play Malcolm Butler in New England’s upset loss to Philadelphia.
“Now it is nearly six months later, and the planet is back, and so is the Grumpy Lobster Boat Captain...and the question remains: Why didn’t he play Malcolm Butler in New England’s Super Bowl upset loss to Philadelphia?
“ ‘Is there going to be any more explanation about why he didn’t play?’ Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy asked GLBC as the Patriots opened camp Wednesday. ‘Focused on training camp,’ Belichick elaborated, saving on pronouns.
“On one hand, I love the terse comedy of a GLBC media opportunity – it’s like watching a cat take a scrubby-dubby bubble bath.
“On the other hand, I’m not ready to be back here just yet. Summer’s nice. It moves to a different, mellower beat. We’ve already had some majestic sports memories at the World Cup and Wimbledon. There’s still a buzz from Tiger Woods’ performance at the British Open. The Tour de France is still rolling, though Geraint Thomas appears to have Paris in the bag. [Ed. Thomas won today, the first Welshman to do so.]
“Old-time baseball takes a lot of grief, but baseball’s got Mike Trout, Juan Soto and laughing at the Mets. Even NBA free agency is kind of fun.
“But now football’s here, and it’s tracking sand all through the house.
“The NFL can make a mess like nothing else in sports. Even its non-football moves can turn into high dramas. The league still appears confused on how it’s going to handle its pregame anthem ritual; it looks as if the NFL may let the President of the United States chase it around a hamster wheel for another season.
“Meanwhile, there’s a silly showdown between retired wide receiver Terrell Owens and the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Owens was inducted into the Hall, but won’t be attending the ceremony, which has miffed the game’s establishment....
“Even college football tromps around like it owns the universe. You may have caught the wild news conference the other week featuring North Carolina coach Larry Fedora, in which Fedora questioned the building science around concussions and CTE, and worried out loud that too many changes in the sport could provoke in nothing less than the decline of the U.S.
“ ‘I feel that the game will be pushed so far to one extreme that you won’t recognize [it] 10 years from now,’ said Fedora. ‘And I do believe that if it gets to that point, then our country goes down too.’
“Look: I know the bar is high these days for saying loopy stuff in public, but Larry needs to relax. America survived a Civil War, the Great Depression and New Kids on the Block. I’m sure the country will hang in there if, say, football does away with kickoffs.
“In fact, the only thing that would happen if football disappeared altogether is that people would talk to their families more on the weekends.
“Larry Fedora is right about one trend, however: Fedora presumes its primacy, but it’s tough to ignore the building storm clouds....
“I haven’t even gotten to the biggest football lunacy there is: fantasy football. If anyone talks to you about their fantasy team before Sept. 1, you have my permission to call the authorities.
“Can’t we just focus on baseball right now? Baseball needs our help – as football claims to be intertwined with the very notion of the democratic experiment, baseball is getting portrayed as a video shop renting VHS cassettes.
“Should we be kind and rewind? Unlike football, baseball in midsummer is just right – warm nights, cold beer, listening to the crickets...and Nationals fans howling about whether or not they should sign Bryce Harper to a free agency mega-deal. That sounds idyllic. The Lobster Boat can wait.”
--I saw a headline that the Los Angeles Rams are going to wear “throwback” uniforms for five home games this season, which I thought was an incredibly stupid idea that also made no sense.
But then the piece said the throwback is the royal blue, yellow and white of their hey-day, which is “now the team’s primary color uniform until new uniforms are unveiled in 2020.”
Well if the old uniform of Roman Gabriel and Merlin Olsen years is so popular, why not just make that the permanent uniform?!
By the way, I just looked up video of Olsen and here’s something incredible to think about, especially given what we know of the NFL now (injuries and such) that we didn’t focus on in the 1960s-80s. Olsen in 15 seasons never missed a start...208 games.
[Google ‘Merlin Olsen’ and you’ll see an NFL films video that Jerry Kramer is part of. Good stuff.]
--I’m a little surprised they finished the weather-delayed RBC Canadian Open today, as Dustin Johnson reestablished himself, getting his third win of the year, 19th of his career (most since 2008), after shockingly missing the cut at The Open Championship. DJ defeated Koreans Whee Kim and Byeong Hun An, both seeking their first PGA Tour titles, by three shots.
The next two weeks should be great fun. The WGC event at Firestone, where Tiger has won an amazing eight times, and then the PGA Championship. Then you have the Wyndham, to decide the final berths in the FedEx Cup Playoffs, and then the playoffs...and then the Ryder Cup. Who needs football?!
--Miguel Angel Jimenez won the British Senior Open at St. Andrews today, a one-shot victor over 60-year-old Bernhard Langer, who totally screwed up an 82-yard wedge shot on No. 18 that should have given him a great opportunity for a birdie and the tie.
68-year-old Tom Watson finished T-21, after leading midway through the third round (when I was watching the beginning of his implosion).
Anytime there is an event at the Old Course it’s great fun. I love 17 and 18, the last so deceptive on the second shot....No. 17 obviously as unique as any hole in the world.
--Yes, the buzz is already building for the Ryder Cup to be held in Paris, late September. Colin Montgomerie caught some heat for his bold prediction that the European squad will be the best ever. Thomas Bjorn is the Euro captain, but Monty does have a point when you look at the top three for The Open Championship...Molinari, McIlroy and Rose (Rose and McIlroy tying for second with Kevin Kisner and Xander Schauffele).
And Monty has a good point concerning some of the Euro rookies, like Jon Rahm and Tommy Fleetwood. Montgomerie captained the 2010 winning European side:
“Our rookies (back then) were rookies and had to be hidden and protected – fathered, really,” Montgomerie said prior to the Senior British Open. ‘Now, it’s very different...We’ve got great strength and depth, and it’s looking extremely good for (Bjorn).”
The last time Europe lost a Ryder Cup on its home soil? 1993. [Remember, if you’re thinking I thought the Ryder Cup was held on ‘even-numbered years,’ the 2001 event was postponed following the 9/11 attacks.]
After getting bumped off in the final laps by Kevin Harvick last week in New Hampshire, Kyle Busch tied Harvick at six wins this season with a win at Pocono in overtime, Busch’s 49th career win.
So both Busch and Harvick have six, Martin Truex Jr. four, and then down to Clint Bowyer with two. I’d call that a Big Three.
But I was watching when with six laps to go, Darrel “Bubba” Wallace Jr. crashed hard into the SAFER barrier wall at 150 mph, and it’s just a fact, Wallace might not be alive today if that had happened prior to the 2002-on installation of the life saver.
The SAFER barriers actually were not a response to Dale Earnhardt’s death at Daytona in 2001...that was responsible for better head restraints...but I looked it up just now and it was a team of engineers at the University of Nebraska, led by Dean Sicking, that was working on the system from 1998-2002, the year they were first installed at Indy and then all over as the tracks implemented them.
So congrats to Sicking and Nebraska. I know Bubba Wallace tonight is thanking them. Trust me, it was nasty.
It was also touching how Dale Earnhardt Jr., doing the race on NBCSN, clearly choked up describing the crash...memories no doubt flooding back.
--Also right after I posted last time the horse racing world received some bad news. We had recently learned Triple Crown winner Justify had an ankle issue that was keeping it out of today’s Haskell Invitational* at Monmouth Park, which trainer Bob Baffert had used to run American Pharoah after it won the Triple Crown (your editor in attendance at that one in 2015), but for Justify the main thing was being healthy for the season-ending Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs in November, after which it was expected it would be retired.
But retirement came early, Baffert and Justify’s owners announcing their colt had reached the end of the road, already.
These days, with the amazing stud fees, it’s not a surprise to see such a move, but Baffert recognizes the importance to the sport of running a Triple Crown winner a few times after to give the people a chance to see it (as I did).
And with Justify in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, in what would be a very strong field, it would create a ton of buzz for a sport always in need of it.
So it was just a sad day on Wednesday. Justify goes out after just six races...winning them all in a span of 112 days, including breaking the “Curse of Apollo” in becoming the first horse since Apollo in 1882 to win the Derby without starting as a 2-year-old. Pretty amazing...but the horse hasn’t received its due as a champion because some have criticized a few of the Triple Crown race fields, some of Baffert’s competitors opting to hold their horses out in order to stay fresh for the lucrative summer schedule that culminates in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga, Aug. 25. It’s really not fair.
Jockey Mike Smith, who was atop Justify, said Wednesday: “Like everyone else, I am disappointed he won’t run again, but I am thankful he came into my life. There was never a time when I rode him that I felt like I was going to get beat. There was no horse who could run with him without sacrificing themselves, and there was no horse who could come get him. He truly is a gift from God.”
Justify earned $3,798,000 in his six starts. Now it’s all fun and games, as in, err, he, err, will do it an estimated 250 times a year at a currently projected $150,000 per “live foal.” Not sure what Justify’s take is, or what gets deposited in his IRA. You can be sure the International Federation of Horses, IFH, will be all over it.
*Good Magic, who finished second in the Derby and fourth in the Preakness, but was held out of the Belmont for the summer series, won the Haskell handily over Bravazo; Good Magic an automatic qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
--How important could sports betting be to the horse racing business? Every October in nearby Far Hills, N.J. (home of the USGA and an excellent golf museum), there is a steeplechase meeting that I’ve been to just once (a gigantic drunk fest, especially if the weather is good) that I forgot has the highest dollar value card (seven races) in North America...$850,000 in gross purses. The highlight for the 2018 renewal on Oct. 20 will be the $450,000 Grand National, steeplechasing’s richest race in North America that draws the best horses from both here and Europe.
But now with the passing of sports wagering in New Jersey, pari-mutuel betting is being set up that will allow race organizers to hike the gross purse total to $1 million, $500,000 for the Grand National, in time for the 100th running of the race meeting in 2020.
The Far Hills meeting will be operated under Monmouth Park’s pari-mutuel license, supervised by the New Jersey Racing Commission.
As I’ve noted before, sports betting, such as on football that is now legal in my state, will benefit horse racing, as a percentage of the take at Monmouth Park and the Meadowlands will go towards increasing purses there, which will attract larger and better fields...so it is hoped.
All good, says moi.
By the way, I forgot to thank friend Pete M. for going to the Meadowlands prior to The Open Championship to place bets for myself and David P., yours truly betting on Alex Noren. We will both be heading to the track in August to place season-long football bets, that I’ve always been jealous Shu and others regularly partake in in Vegas.
[I’m still waiting to see how DraftKings will handle this stuff as well.]
--The other day, Shu sent me a copy of a 1989 program he had from Hollywood Park that was signed by Bill Shoemaker, very cool.
A few days earlier, Steve G., my former next-door neighbor from my youth, sent me a copy of his program from the 1967 U.S. Open at nearby Baltusrol, my first big golf tournament, and he had three signatures across the top...Jack Nicklaus, Johnny Miller, and Ken Venturi. [Miller was an up-and-coming amateur.]
--Here’s some great news for fans of the old HBO series “Deadwood.” HBO is bringing it back in the form of a movie that the network says could debut next spring, with production to begin in October.
It’s hard to believe that the series, in my top five, aired way back from 2004-06 (where did the freakin’ time go). It helps I’ve been to Deadwood, S.D., a bunch of times, nestled in the beautiful Black Hills.
HBO said it was a logistical “nightmare” getting the ensemble cast’s schedules to align, but I’m not sure who is coming back. Ian McShane is now 75, for starters.
The series was true to Deadwood’s history, and it’s where Wild Bill Hickok met his demise, holding the “dead man’s hand,” Aces and Eights....killed by Jack McCall. Hickok is buried in the town at what is truly a beautiful cemetery, Mount Moriah, next to Calamity Jane. Sheriff Seth Bullock is buried atop the hill, with gorgeous views.
And that’s my bit for Deadwood tourism.
--Yes, it was truly pathetic to see the photos emerge of the donkey being pawned off as a zebra at a zoo in Cairo, Egypt. The newly opened zoo insists the animal is real, but you can see the smudged paint...for starters.
A zoo in Gaza revealed in the past it painted two donkeys because it was too difficult to bring actual zebras past the Israeli and Egyptian blockade.
Of course Noah would have rejected the fake zebras, I can’t help but add, which would have caused a ruckus on social media and cable television, I imagine.
Top 3 songs for the week 7/26/75: #1 “The Hustle” (Van McCoy*... good song, and Mr. McCoy is forgiven for introducing a genre that would otherwise be a really crappy era for music...) #2 “I’m Not In Love” (10cc) #3 “One Of These Nights” (Eagles)...and...#4 “Please Mr. Please” (Olivia Newton-John) #5 “Listen To What The Man Said” (Wings) #6 “Swearin’ To God” (Frankie Valli) #7 “Jive Talkin’” (Bee Gees) #8 “Someone Saved My Life Tonight” (Elton John) #9 “Midnight Blue” (Melissa Manchester) #10 “Rockin’ Chair” (Gwen McCrae)
*McCoy was a pianist/songwriter/producer born in 1944 in Washington, D.C., who died of a heart attack at the age of 35 in 1979. Geezuz. He produced the likes of the Shirelles, Gladys Knight, and the Stylistics.
Baseball Quiz Answers: 1) Last pitcher to throw 15 complete games in a season: Curt Schilling, 1998, Philadelphia. 2) Last pitcher with five shutouts in a season: King Felix Hernandez, 2012, Seattle. Those were his only complete games that year.
Next Bar Chat, Thursday.