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It's Justify...says Moi
[Posted Wed. p.m.]
***It’s been a real rough stretch for your editor. I’ve been spending nights at my parents, doing the Momcare thing, and it’s tiring, and stressful. It’s not easy getting any real work done.
Baseball Quiz: My favorite play in baseball is the sacrifice fly. So in looking at baseballreference.com, the statistic has been officially tracked since 1954. Name the seven with 120 or more for their career, only one of whom played in the 1950s or 60s. Six of the seven are in the Hall of Fame. Of course this is ridiculously hard. Answer below.
Monday...Boston took the opener of its series with Philadelphia, 117-101, as Al Horford (26 points), Jayson Tatum (28) and Terry Rozier (29) combined for 83.
Tuesday...the Cavaliers took the opener of their series with Toronto, north of the border, 113-112 in overtime as LeBron James had a triple-double (26 points, 11 rebounds, 13 assists and just one turnover in 47 minutes), but received much-needed support from J.R. Smith (20 points, 5 of 6 from three) and Kyle Korver (19 points and a key three in OT). For the Raptors, DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry combined for 40, but they’ll need to do more.
Steph Curry returned for Golden State last night and all he did was score 28 points in 27 minutes off the bench, including 5 of 10 from downtown, the Warriors beating the Pelicans 121-116 in Oakland for a 2-0 series lead.
Stanley Cup Playoffs
Monday...the Lightning evened their series with Boston at 1-1 with a 4-2 win, while the amazing Las Vegas Golden Knights took a 2-1 series lead over San Jose with a 4-3 win in overtime, William Karlsson scoring the winner.
Tuesday...the Washington Capitals went up 2-1 on Pittsburgh with a 4-3 win in Pittsburgh; Alex Ovechkin with the late game-winner.
Winnipeg went up 2-1 over Nashville as the Jets whipped the Predators 7-4 at home.
--The Yankees had their nine-game winning streak snapped in Houston on Monday, as once again Charlie Morton worked his magic.
After a big postseason in the Astros’ World Series run, including a clutch Game 7 playoff performance against the Yanks, a 2-1 win, Morton did it again, 7 2/3 of one-run ball, 10 Ks, in another 2-1 triumph. At least New York got an effective effort from Sonny Gray, 6 innings, 2 earned. He’s been horrid early on.
Tuesday, the Yanks bounced back. After Justin Verlander tossed eight scoreless, masterful innings, striking out 14 and walking none, Gary Sanchez hit a three-run homer in the top of the ninth off the Astros’ Ken Giles and the Yankees evened the series with a 4-0 victory, owing to eight scoreless innings from its bullpen, starter Jordan Montgomery exiting after one with a tender left elbow. He didn’t believe the problem was serious. We await the results of the exam.
New York is 19-10, Houston 20-11.
Didi Gregorius went hitless Monday, and then 2 for 4 Tuesday. He was A.L. Player of the Month for April.
I just have to note what I wrote in this space back on 12/8/14:
“I like what the Yankees did in acquiring 24-year-old shortstop Didi Gregorius from Arizona in a three-team trade that sent right-hander Shane Greene to Detroit, with Arizona receiving left-hander Robbie Ray and a minor leaguer from the Tigers.
“Gregorius only hit .226 with six homers and 27 RBI in 80 games for Arizona, but he’s a terrific fielder and I’m guessing he develops into a .260 hitter.”
I was correct to like the trade when early on many blasted the kid. “He’s no Derek Jeter,” they were saying.
That’s right…he’s no Derek Jeter. He’s far better! And only getting better.
2014...6 homers, 27 RBI, .226
--The Mets lost their series opener Tuesday against the Braves at Citi Field, 3-2, as Noah Syndergaard was pounded early, though he held on to yield the 3 runs in six innings, while the Mets bats couldn’t come through in the clutch.
Atlanta is now 17-11 and for real. The Mets fell to 17-10.
But then there is New York’s Matt Harvey, who was caught partying very late in Los Angeles the other night, while the Mets were in San Diego.
That’s right...the party animal rode up to L.A. to party, and then allowed a run in the one inning he worked the following night.
The entire Mets organization, including the players, is tired of Harvey’s act, and his pitching has sucked for years. GM Sandy Alderson was asked if he was upset at Harvey’s latest escapades off the field.
“Usually, I get upset if the report is unexpected. I guess the short answer is no.”
Unless Harvey gets his act together...immediately...it seems a certainty the Mets will just release the free-agent-to-be.
--Boy, the Dodgers are struggling mightily. After 8-5 and 4-3 losses Monday and Tuesday at Arizona (21-8), L.A. is just 12-17, with Clayton Kershaw picking up a no-decision on Tuesday in the 4-3 affair.
And now the Dodgers will be dealing without star shortstop Corey Seager for the season, Seager having undergone Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. L.A. is suffering from an offseason where they did nothing to improve the team; thinking instead about the upcoming free-agent class, including Bryce Harper and Manny Machado.
But now, at 12-17, and going downhill fast, management needs to do something quickly, so there are thoughts the Dodgers will try and trade for Machado, and see if they can sign him later.
Machado, though, is not signing an extension now without testing the free agency waters, where he will almost certainly receive a guaranteed deal in excess of $300 million, maybe $400m.
As for the Diamondbacks, they keep winning while losing pitchers to injury, the latest left-hander Robbie Ray with a strained oblique, the second starting pitcher the team has lost this season, the other right-hander Taijuan Walker, who is out for the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
Ray was an All-Star and 15-game winner last season.
--Also last night, the Nationals (14-16) defeated the Pirates (17-13) 12-4 as Max Scherzer (6 2/3, 2 earned) improved to 6-1, 1.79 ERA.
--Monday, Milwaukee reliever Josh Hader completed a historic eight-strikeout save. Facing the Reds in Cincinnati, Hader faced nine batters. Fanning eight (walking the other), in a 6-5 Brewers victory, Hader became the first pitcher in modern baseball history (since 1900) to strike out as many as eight batters in fewer than three innings, 2 2/3.
--Final thoughts…going back to the top ten picks, I really believe the four QBs ended up in the right situations. First, it would be a bit hypocritical of me to not believe Cleveland has the right man in Baker Mayfield if I thought Mayfield was perfect for New York. The kid is a leader, has more than enough athletic ability, perhaps more than anyone at his position (among the four…not including Lamar Jackson), and he’ll take Cleveland by storm, just as I believed he would do the same in Gotham.
Sam Darnold is a great talent. Jets fans are happy. You’d have to be a jerk not to think we lucked out.
Josh Allen is perfect for Buffalo. He’s already a cold-weather guy. Huge natural ability, fans will love him there.
And Josh Rosen, with a major chip on his shoulder, should be a great fit in Arizona. Like Mayfield, he’s cocky, and the Cardinals could use a little attitude.
And to add a fifth, the aforementioned Jackson in Baltimore…as a pure football fan, this makes eminent sense. The Ravens will turn the team over to him in 2019 and it will be the start of a new, far more exciting, era in Baltimore.
The only issue in the top ten is cornerback Denzel Ward at No. 4 by Cleveland over Bradley Chubb, but the Browns need everything.
--The Westgate SuperBook is out with its over/under win total projections for 2018 and the Patriots are tops at 11, with the Eagles and Steelers next at 10.5.
The Giants are 6.5, the Jets 6.
Picking up the rear are the Cardinals and Browns at 5.5.
--You’ll be seeing a lot of Bob Baffert on Saturday as his horse, Justify, is the 3-1 favorite to win the Derby. Justify drew the No. 7 post in the 20-horse field so no issues there.
As the trainer said, though, “If he doesn’t break well, it doesn’t matter what hole he’s in...he’s lightly raced and he has to leave there running.”
Baffert is seeking his fifth Derby win, and Justify is looking to be the first horse in 136 years to win the race after not running as a 2-year-old. The last to do so was Apollo in 1882. Ergo, you’ll hear lots about the “Curse of Apollo.”
I told you I love the field this year. Bolt d’Oro is 8-1, Magnum Moon 6-1, Audible 8-1.
But the other horse to watch is Mendelssohn, a pre-race 5-1. This is a European colt that crossed the Atlantic to win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf last year. Mendelssohn then dominated his debut on dirt, winning the UAE Derby in Dubai by 18 ¾ lengths.
But I’ve gotta go with Justify. Book it. Should be a super race.
--New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski won’t be gracing the winner’s circle at Churchill Downs as the horse, Gronkowski, pulled out of the Derby last week due to a minor illness, which was unfortunate because horse racing could have used the buzz.
Premier League / Champions League
My Tottenham Spurs won a biggie on Monday, besting Watford 2-0 on goals by Dele Alli and Harry Kane, and in the process stretched their lead over fifth-place Chelsea to 5 points with just three to go...safely in the Champions League it would seem. And the Spurs could finish third.
3. Liverpool 36 matches – 72 points
4. Tottenham 35 – 71
5. Chelsea 35 - 66
In the Champions League Tuesday, Real Madrid moved on to their third straight Champions League final with a scintillating 2-2 draw against Bayern Munich in Madrid. I caught the last 25 minutes of this one, including six minutes of extra time, and Bayern, having lost the first leg at home 2-1, applied unreal pressure, only to be turned back by Real’s keeper Keylor Navas, who made some terrific late saves.
So Real Madrid awaits the winner of Liverpool and Roma today, Liverpool having taken the first leg 5-2 at Wembley.
--Indiana University hoops fans are ecstatic that five-star guard Romeo Langford committed to play at the school. Langford, the top unsigned player in the 2018 class, scored 3,002 points in his high school career at New Albany High in Indiana.
The 6-5, 190, 18-year-old is expected to carry the Hoosiers to glory in what most assume will be his only season.
--Mike Francesa returned on Tuesday to WFAN and he didn’t really explain why he had an 18-month retirement tour, only to return 4 ½ months later, telling his audience it was mostly “none of their business.” Francesa did say he was on a 2 ½-year contract. As Andrew Marchand of the New York Post put it, “Mostly, Francesa acted as if he had never left.”
Francesa didn’t address what he and Entercom president David Field did to Chris Carlin, Maggie Gray and Bart Scott, whose spot he took. The three, CMB, and Francesa met in a pre-show meeting and Carlin said they were all on the “same page.”
Francesa, who is launching an app, said “Apps are the future.” Who knew?
As Andrew Marchand summed it up:
“By himself (without Chris Russo), Francesa just drones on, living on reputation more than anything else. But he is right, it is a different world. It is hard for a talk show host to stick out, because everyone with these new up-and-coming apps has a voice.
“Francesa is still a big deal, because of his history, but listening to all 3 ½ hours of his show felt more like work than joy. And it seemed he owed his loyal listeners a little more.”
--So I was reading this piece in the South China Morning Post by Ernest Kao on the Komodo dragon.
“The Komodo dragon can smell blood up to 4km away – and Agus, a forest ranger and guide at Komodo National Park, the only place in the world where this ancient lizard can be observed in the wild, can testify to their lethality.
“Recently, a village carpenter had to have his leg sawed off after being bitten by one. And last year, a Singaporean tourist was attacked while trying to take a photo....
“ ‘They don’t really think,’ Agus says of the near-endangered animal, which feeds on local deer, water buffalo and wild pigs and can grow up to three meters long. ‘They act on basic instinct and are opportunistic carnivores. They need meat. Any meat.’”
The park has been called one of the “seven new wonders of nature.”
But foreign visitors have been soaring… “and a new influx of mainland Chinese visitors is expected in May.”
And that is a major problem. You see, as any regular reader knows, the Chinese are godawful tourists…and they have zero respect for nature, as documented here countless times.
And as the above-noted Agus said, this month the park is going to start receiving 100 Chinese tourists every day due to a new program.
“While rangers depend on tourist revenues for income, the unspoilt environment is what appeals to the 500 to 1,000 daily visitors who already visit the park for trekking, snorkeling, diving, sunbathing or to see the dragons.
“ ‘This is the last natural habitat for the Komodo dragon,’ he says. ‘Too much tourism will not be good for the local marine life or [the park]. We need to balance tourism [with conservation] of the ecosystem.’
“More tourists means more noise, litter, sewage, waste and possibly, more limbs ripped off from overexcited visitors. More rangers, guest houses, toilets and amenities will be needed as well as a bigger water supply and waste disposal infrastructure. More signs explaining the rules of the park will have to be put up in Chinese.”
One of the many problems is the Komodo depend on local deer for food and the Chinese will disturb the process. Ditto wild pigs.
“They are cannibalistic, if they don’t get enough food, they will start to eat each other.”
Ah, but here’s another key…the rangers get a cut of the revenues from the refreshment stands and gift shops they run.
“They will benefit from tourism more than any other stakeholder. Park revenues are expected to see 70 to 80 percent growth.”
--A coyote attacked a 5-year-old girl at a Westchester County, N.Y. playground the other day. She was saved from serious injury, though, when a fearless off-duty cop tackled and wrestled with the beast to save the child.
“It was a primal instinct. I was in a different mindset,” Irvington Police Officer Arcangelo Liberatore told the New York Post, crediting his training in jiu-jitsu with helping him restrain the animal.
The mother of the girl was focused on saving her 3-year-old boy. She kicked at the coyote but that didn’t stop the animal from latching onto the girl.
Liberatore jumped on the coyote and held it down as he punched it “to daze it.” He actually held the coyote down for five minutes, until Mount Pleasant police officers arrived and killed it with a shotgun. I didn’t hear what the results of rabies testing were.
The little girl received stitches and rabies shots. Liberatore sustained a hand wound and received shots as well.
--An unexpected snowstorm in the Swiss Alps on Monday and Tuesday killed six hikers who were stranded before they could get to the hut that was their original destination.
The storm left a total of 14 hikers out in the cold with no shelter. Of the victims, two Italian couples, in their 40s and 50s, perished, dying from hypothermia. Another victim fell to his death.
In a separate incident in Italy, two Italian skiers died when they fell hundreds of feet to their deaths while skiing in the Dolomite mountains. The two were described as experienced members of Alpine rescue squads, but they were recreational skiing when they fell.
--How cool was Brazilian surfer Rodrigo Koxa, who officially broke the world record for the world’s biggest wave ever to have been surfed, with his incredible run at Nazare beach in Portugal... 80 feet! (24.38 meters).
The World Surf League confirmed the achievement, a recognized by the Guinness Book of Records folks.
Koxa rode the wave back on November 8, and it took this long to compute it properly. The video is spectacular.
On the same day as Koxa’s record ride, British surfer Andrew Cotton suffered extensive injuries from a wave at the same beach.
Top 3 songs for the week 5/2/70: #1 “ABC” (The Jackson 5) #2 “Let It Be” (The Beatles) #3 “Spirit In The Sky” (Norman Greenbaum)...and...#4 “American Woman” (The Guess Who) #5 “Instant Karma (We All Shine On)” (John Ono Lennon) #6 “Love Or Let Me Be Lonely” (The Friends of Distinction) #7 “Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)” (Edison Lighthouse) #8 “Come And Get It” (Badfinger) #9 “Vehicle” (The Ides of March) #10 “Turn Back The Hands Of Time” (Tyrone Davis)
Baseball Quiz Awards: Top seven sac flies.
1. Eddie Murray 128
2. Cal Ripken 127
3. Robin Yount 123
T-4. Hank Aaron 121
T-4. Frank Thomas 121
T-6. George Brett 120
T-6. Ruben Sierra 120
T-8. Rafael Palmeiro 119
T-8. Rusty Staub 119
10. Andre Dawson 118
Next Bar Chat, Monday.