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Back Afta Dis...the return of Mike Francesa
[Posted Wed. 10:30 a.m.]
*This is hell week on the homecare front…giant chunks of time off the grid…in the case of this column, just trying to clear some stuff up.
NFL Draft Quiz: 1) Who was the last running back selected No. 1 overall in the draft? 2) Who was the last wide receiver to be picked No. 1 overall? Answers below.
--The Yankees sure have a ton of young offensive talent, and rookie third baseman Miguel Andujar, filling in for injured starter Brandon Drury, is staking his claim to the job full time. Monday, in a 14-1 win over the Twins, Andujar was 2-for-5 with a double and home run, raising his average to .316 (3 HR, 11 RBI).
But in the process of his performance Monday, Andujar became only the third player in Yankees history to collect extra-base hits in seven consecutive games before turning 24 (he being 23), according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The other two? Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio.
In Tuesday’s win over the Twins at the Stadium, 8-3, Andujar went 0-for-4, however Didi Gregorius was 3-for-4, a homer, three RBIs, and is now hitting .347, 8 HR 27 RBI (leads the majors), as the Yanks won their fourth straight to improve to 13-9. Perhaps more significantly was CC Sabathia’s six innings, zero earned runs.
--The Mets are more than hanging in there, now 15-6 after a 6-5 win over the Cardinals in St. Louis Tuesday, Jay Bruce with a tenth-inning homer. Yoenis Cespedes continued his incredibly strange start to the season with a three-run homer, Cespedes now with 5 homers, 21 RBIs, but a .195 batting average with a record 39 strikeouts in his first 87 at-bats, the worst start in this category in baseball history, according to Elias.
--The Angels beat the Astros in Houston last night, 8-7, but Shohei Ohtani had his second straight poor start, 5 1/3 innings, 4 earned, 5 walks, 7 strikeouts, though it was a no-decision. Mike Trout hit his 10th home run.
--The surprising Diamondbacks, 16-6, beat the equally surprising Phillies (14-8) in Philadelphia last night, 8-4.
--The other day I just touched on San Francisco’s Brandon Belt and his 21-pitch at-bat Sunday against Jaime Barria of the Angels, the Giants winning the game 4-2 as starter Barria lasted just two innings, yielding a staggering 77 pitches in the two frames, while giving up just two runs.
It was said to be the longest at-bat in MLB history...but this is only since 1988, when such records began to be kept. [Keith Olbermann said in a tweet it was only since 1998, but he was off ten years.]
That said, we are only talking ‘88, so Matt Bonesteel of the Washington Post thought he’d try to do some research on just how many had at bats longer than Belts (who fouled off 16 two-strike pitches before lining out to right field). Bonesteel came upon a 2006 St. Petersburg Times story that explained why the statistic was not officially kept until the late 1980s: “According to a researcher at the National Baseball Hall of Fame library, it simply wasn’t a big deal until teams began more closely monitoring pitch counts. But the Times story also relayed the tale of White Sox shortstop Luke Appling’s 1940 at-bat against Yankees pitcher Red Ruffing, an alleged battle of future Hall of Famers that went on for an extraordinary amount of time not because of any sort of pitcher-hitter stalemate but simply because Appling wanted to mess with Ruffing.
“As told in a 2003 Baseball Digest story, New York was beating Chicago 8-2 when Appling stepped to the plate. Twenty-four foul balls later, he was standing at first.
“ ‘I figured since we weren’t going to win anyway, I’d have me a little fun and see if I couldn’t wear out Red Ruffing,’ Appling is quoted in the story as saying. ‘So I started fouling off his pitches. I took a pitch every now and then. Pretty soon, after 24 fouls, old Red could hardly lift his arm, and I walked. That’s when they took him out of the game, and he cussed me all the way to the dugout.’”
Bonesteel: “It’s a fun tale of 1940s-era trolling but, after checking Baseball Reference, perhaps a tall one. Ruffing faced the White Sox four times in 1940, but Appling never stepped to the plate against him with his team down 8-2. The closest this came to happening was in a Sept. 19, 1940, game at Comiskey Park, which was won, 10-1, by the Yankees. Appling went 2 for 4 against Ruffing on the day but did not reach base via walk.
“And this doesn’t seem to be a case of ‘Old Aches and Pains’ getting his games mixed up, either. Of the four times he squared off against Ruffing in 1940, Appling drew a walk only in a 4-0 Yankees win July 14. (He drew two of them in that game, actually.) But Ruffing remained in the game after each free pass, pitching a complete game.”
Nor does a check of the seasons surrounding 1940 find a match that might have worked.
But one thing we do know; Appling, a Hall of Famer and .310 career hitter, did have a penchant for fouling off pitches.
“Put it this way: When I saw a pitch I didn’t like, I just fouled it off. It was easy,” he said, according to the Post’s Shirley Povich’s obituary following Appling’s death in 1991.
He also never struck out, with a career high of 41 in a season, while in 1933, in 612 at-bats, he fanned just 29 times.
--Monday, the Rockets took a 3-1 series lead over the T’Wolves in Minneapolis, 119-100, thanks to a stupendous 50-point third quarter, Chris Paul scoring 15 of his 25 in the quarter, as Houston built a 31-point lead and rolled.
The only team in the history of the NBA playoffs with more points in a quarter was the Lakers, who scored 51 in the fourth in a 1962 loss to the Detroit Pistons.
Jeff Teague and Paul engaged in some intense trash talk between former Wake Forest point guards, Teague having gotten the better of Paul in Game 3. Paul baited Teague into a pushing foul at one point when the game was no longer in doubt, Teague scoring just two points Monday.
--Philadelphia wrapped up its series with Miami, winning last night 104-91, as the Sixers take it 4-1…the Process takes another step.
--Boston held on to win Game 5 of its series with Milwaukee, 92-87 in Beantown, the Celts up 3-2.
--The grieving Gregg Popovich remained on the sidelines for the Spurs’ Game 5 Tuesday night against Golden State, again yielding his seat to Ettore Messina, who coaxed a superb effort out of the overmatched Spurs on Sunday in a 103-90 win that staved off a sweep, thanks to 40-year-old Manu Ginobili scoring 10 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter.
But Golden State wrapped things up with a 99-91 win Tuesday at home, taking the series 4-1. Next up, tough New Orleans. Steph Curry’s status is still unknown.
--The Maple Leafs won an exciting Game 6 in Toronto on Monday to force a Game 7 in Boston, Wednesday.
--In Monday’s other contest, the Capitals beat the Blue Jackets 6-3 in Columbus to take their series 4-2, after Washington lost the first two at home in overtime.
But the Capitals have lost in the second round of the playoffs each of the last three seasons.
Columbus, in the league since 2000-01, remains the only active franchise not to win a playoff series (0-for-4)
--Joshua Robinson / Wall Street Journal
“The lunch itself didn’t cost 42 million euro ($50m), but that’s how much it took for the two billionaires to sit down on a sunny Boston afternoon last June.
“If they were being honest, the whole situation was a little absurd. One of them, John W. Henry, had just signed off on his English soccer team paying more than $50 million to an Italian soccer team belonging to the other, James Pallotta, for a midfielder from Egypt. At 25, that midfielder was younger than either of their careers in finance.
“But ever since Henry and Pallotta moved from the hedge-fund world to American sports to the wild scene of European soccer ownership, their tolerance for the absurd had steadily increased. So here they were, the owners of Liverpool and AS Roma, debriefing on the eye-wateringly expensive transfer of Mohamed Salah.
“ ‘It seemed like a lot of euros at the time!’ said Henry, who also owns the Boston Red Sox. That being the case, Pallotta, a part-owner of the Boston Celtics, picked up the lunch tab.
“What neither of them imagined that afternoon was that 10 months later, their soccer clubs would meet in a Champions League semifinal made in Boston. Henry’s Liverpool will host Pallotta’s Roma in the first leg at Anfield on Tuesday with the second leg in the Italian capital on May 2. At stake is a spot in the most prestigious match on the calendar. Even more amazing is that both clubs required incredible quarterfinal upsets to set this up.”
Liverpool shocked Manchester City in their first leg, 3-0, and cruised in the second, while Pallotta’s Roma lost its first leg on the road against Barcelona 4-1. Clearly, that spelled elimination, but six days later Roma overturned the deficit with a 3-0 win over Lionel Messi’s team, Roma thus winning on away goals on aggregate.
As for Salah, he was just named the PFA Player of the Year (the award for top player in English football, i.e., the Premier League), beating out Man City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne and Tottenham striker Harry Kane. Salah has 31 goals in 35 Premier League games, which equals the record for a 38-game season, also held by Luis Suarez, Cristiano Ronaldo and Alan Shearer. [Kane is second in scoring with 26.]
So Tuesday, in the first leg of the Liverpool-Roma Champions League semifinal, Salah scored the first two and assisted on two more as Liverpool piled up a 5-0 lead, only to give away two late goals to Roma, that gives them some hope heading back to Rome for next week’s second leg, a la Roma’s effort against Barcelona.
Today, Bayern Munich hosts Real Madrid in the first leg of their CL semis.
--I didn’t have time last chat to note last Sunday’s finale of the ACC Men’s Golf Tournament at Uwharrie Point, N.C. (Old North State Club). Wake Forest shot a sterling 14-under to come from way back to finish third, Georgia Tech taking the team title, Clemson second. I’m proud of the Wake effort. Recall, we lost star Will Zalatoris to the pro ranks at mid-season, when the Deacs had a real shot at the national title.
But for some of us, the story was Virginia’s Thomas Walsh, who was medalist with an ACC tournament record 16-under (67-65-68) for his first collegiate win.
I bring this up because Thomas Walsh’s parents are classmates of mine from Wake, Tom and Elizabeth. Great people (and good friends of Phil W.). I last saw Tom about six years ago and he was talking about traveling the south with his talented kid, participating in all the junior events. Well it just paid off.
The NCAA regional pairings will be announced on May 2, regionals to be held May 14-16.
--Going back to last Sunday’s conclusion to the Valero Texas Open, 19-year-old Chile native Joaquinn Niemann finished sixth in his first pro tournament, thus securing a spot at the upcoming Wells Fargo Championship. [This week the tour stop is in New Orleans, the Zurich Classic.]
Niemann was the No. 1 ranked amateur at the end of last summer, and he had played the 2017 U.S. Open and the Masters this year as an amateur, missing the cut in both. Aside from the Wells Fargo, he does have a few sponsors’ exemptions lined up as he tries to earn temporary membership on tour.
--From the Irish Independent
“A three-year-old girl who went missing in bushland in Australia was rescued after the family dog followed her, stayed by her side overnight and helped searchers find her.
“The girl, Aurora, wandered off from her family’s remote rural home in the state of Queensland at about 3pm on Friday. She was followed into the bushland by the family’s trusted dog, named Max, a 17-year-old cattle dog which is partially deaf and blind.
“Max stayed beside her for about 16 hours as the overnight temperatures dropped and rain fell. The pair apparently sheltered under a rock.
“In the morning, about 100 emergency workers and local volunteers set off at first light to try to find Aurora.
“She was found at about 7:30am after Leisa Marie Bennett, the girl’s grandmother, heard her crying faintly ‘granny’ from the top of a mountain, about a mile from home.
“As Ms. Bennett approached, Max went out and met her and led her to Aurora.
“ ‘When I heard her yell ‘granny’ I knew it was her,’ Ms. Bennett told ABC News.
“ ‘I shot up the mountain...and when I got to the top, the dog came to me and led me straight to her. He never left her side. She smelled of dog, she slept with the dog.’
“Ian Phipps, from the state emergency service, said the surrounding area was mountainous and ‘very inhospitable terrain.’
“ ‘She’d traveled quite a distance with her dog that was quite loyal to her.
“ ‘With the weather last night it’s quite lucky she is well because it was cold, it was cold and raining.’”
Aurora was “OK” with just a few scratches.
“Queensland’s police force has now named Max an honorary police dog.”
What a great story. And so ‘Dog’ handily remains No. 1 on the All-Species List.
--This is funny for New York area sports radio listeners. There were a slew of stories Tuesday that Mike Francesa is planning to return to WFAN... after am interminable retirment; at least that is what the legendary talk radio host told Newsday’s Neil Best, following a New York Post report that Francesa “desperately misses” radio and was seeking a way to return after his much-ballyhooed departure.
“It is time to return to WFAN,” Francesa told Best, adding, “I have been working on a project with (entertainment and sports agency) CAA for months. That will be explained in the days ahead. ...I will do everything to work WFAN into an integral part of the project.”
Of course Francesa had no details on his “project,” which we heard about for weeks prior to his final show, and now he is talking about some “campaign” to prevent him from returning to WFAN.
“This is for those who started this campaign in recent days. I didn’t decide to go back to WFAN until I was told I better not go back,” he said. “For those behind it, that was the moment I decided to return.”
Francesa’s replacements, Chris Carlin, Maggie Gray and Bart Scott finished behind Francesa nemesis “The Michael Kay Show,” which is broadcast on ESPN Radio New York, in the winter ratings book. Francesa never lost a ratings book to Kay.
Personally, I haven’t listened to Francesa’s replacements for more than five minutes.
But wait, there’s more...I wrote the preceding Tuesday morning, and around noon, word was Francesa was returning to drive time, 3:00 or 3:30 to 6:30 p.m., with Carlin, Gray and Scott moving to somewhere between 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m., along with Joe and Evan. Now this is a real s---show for all involved.
Steve Politi / Star-Ledger
“I know, there is nothing about Mike Francesa’s return to WFAN just four months after his – cough, cough – retirement that should surprise anyone, given the size of his ego. But his galling lack of self-awareness should at least be the subject of a psychological study, right?
“Imagine announcing you were going to leave a job 18 months before you actually do it, then spending much of that time getting showered with hosannas before an elaborate celebration to mark your departure, only to announce within weeks that you’re not only coming back but you’re doing so essentially to spite the people who didn’t want you back.
“The technical term for that type of person is ‘a jerk.’
“So I’m not surprised, Francesa, 64, is coming back. He couldn’t find a stage anywhere else big enough for that ego, so he’s elbowing his way back into his old chair – and, if you are the type of person who makes a move like this, you don’t concern yourself with the lives/careers you’re impacting along the way.
“But I am a little surprised the empty suits at WFAN would welcome him back, especially when it seems clear he has nowhere else in the New York radio market to go.*
“Yes, this is a business, but the power play didn’t end well when Jay Leno pulled it on Conan O’Brien, and I’m guessing it won’t end well for Francesa, either. I was pretty clear on this before he left the show: I wasn’t going to miss his abrasive, tired act for even a minute.
“His loyal fans will return – for now. But the prospects of month after month of callers welcoming him back has to be even nauseating to some of them, especially since the next round of retirement talk isn’t that far off the horizon. My goodness, are we really going to do that again?...
“This isn’t a triumphant return. This is a bitter old man pushing himself back onto the stage because he couldn’t stand that the show moved on without him.
“Back afta dis? Yeah. No thanks.”
* Some of the “empty suits” did not want Francesa back, we are learning. It’s complicated. No one will be happy...but it’s an entertaining soap opera, no doubt. I won’t be listening like I used to when Francesa was 1:00-6:30. His new hours don’t fit my sports radio schedule. I’m on to hard news by then.
But no doubt more next time on this topic.
Top 3 songs for the week of 4/27/68: #1 “Honey” (Bobby Goldsboro) #2 “Cry Like A Baby” (The Box Tops) #3 “Young Girl” (The Union Gap featuring Gary Puckett)...and...#4 “Lady Madonna” (The Beatles) #5 “(Sweet Sweet Baby) Since You’ve Been Gone” (Aretha Franklin) #6 “I Got The Feelin’” (James Brown) #7 “(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay” (Otis Redding) #8 “Dance To The Music” (Sly & The Family Stone) #9 “Tighten Up” (Archie Bell & The Drells...would go on to be No. 1 for a few weeks...) #10 “The Ballad of Bonnie And Clyde” (Georgie Fame)
NFL Draft Quiz Answers: 1) Ki-Jana Carter of Penn State was the last running back to be tabbed No. 1 overall, 1995 by the Bengals. 2) In 1996, the Jets, with the No. 1 pick, selected USC receiver Keyshawn Johnson. Johnson went on to have an excellent career. Carter was a mighty bust due to injuries.
Next Bar Chat, Monday.