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[Posted Sunday p.m. from my parents’ house! Yes, Mother’s Day was spent taking care of Mom…and Dad…the latter back from rehab. Nothing like cleaning up various mishaps …while quaffing Coors Lights…and watching The Players Championship. As Tony Soprano would have said, “Whaddya gonna do?”]
NFL Quiz: I was reading a piece on Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, the only coach since Curly Lambeau to finish .500 or above in each of his first 11 seasons. Among all coaches through their first 11 seasons, Tomlin ranks eighth in winning percentage. The seven ahead of him are all Hall of Famers. Name ‘em. [Hint: You get Curly Lambeau.] Answer below.
--Boston hosted Cleveland in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals today and it was 61-35 Boston at the half, game over, as the Cavs were 0-12 from three. Final score, 108-83, Cleveland 4-26 from downtown, LeBron with just 15 points. It’s not more complicated than that.
I do have to add since it happened after I last posted that Boston wrapped up its series against Philadelphia in five, 114-112 in Boston, in a game that featured 21 lead changes.
One side bar: Joel Embiid had a chance to tie it late and failed. This year he was 0-8 on game-tying or go-ahead shots in the final minute. Very ‘Melo’ like, Knicks fans will recall.
--Days after being named NBA Coach of the Year, Toronto fired coach Dwane Casey. Casey, the most successful coach in franchise history, lost his job after consecutive second-round playoff sweeps to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Raptors president Masai Ujiri said in part via a statement: “As a team, we are constantly trying to grow and improve in order to get to the next level. We celebrate everything Dwane has done for the organization, we thank him, and we wish him nothing but the best in the future. He was instrumental in creating the identity and culture of who we are as a team, and we are so proud of that.”
Casey had one year left on his contract, worth $6 million.
Toronto won a franchise-best 59 games this season and was the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.
Former Atlanta Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer is expected to get a close look at the Raptors’ job, as well as G League coach Jerry Stackhouse. Casey should be a candidate for the Detroit job.
Tim Bontemps / Washington Post
“The Toronto Raptors just completed easily the most successful three-year stretch in franchise history – and then fired their coach.
“Why? Because Dwane Casey failed in the same way that virtually every Eastern Conference coach has over the past dozen seasons: He failed to stop LeBron James in the playoffs. And as James nears the end of his 15th season, the gap between him and the rest of the East has arguably never felt greater.
“ ‘I’m definitely not a one-man army,’ James told reporters Friday, in response to a question about him being responsible for Casey’s firing.
“Yet over the past dozen years, that’s essentially what he has been to the list of potential contenders in the Eastern Conference – and a nearly indestructible one at that. Having reached the NBA Finals in eight of the past 11 years, he will attempt to do so once again when he leads his Cleveland Cavaliers into the conference finals.”
James enters the Celtics series at 31-4 in playoff series against Eastern Conference foes. And those four losses came against great teams: the 64-win Detroit Pistons in 2006; the 66-win Boston Celtics in 2008; the 59-win Orlando Magic in 2009; and the 56-win Celtics in 2010.
Entering the finals against the Celtics, he has knocked them out of the playoffs four times, same as Chicago, and the Pacers five times. And now, famously, the Raptors three in a row.
--Meanwhile, as for the Coach of the Year award, how is it that Boston’s Brad Stevens received zero votes, as voted on by his peers?
To be fair, the ballot for the 30 head coaches asks them to submit one name only. But seven other coaches received votes in addition to Casey; including Portland’s Terry Stotts and the Clippers’ Doc Rivers. Really?
Stanley Cup Playoffs
Friday, in the Eastern Conference finals, Washington beat Tampa Bay on the road in Game One, 4-2, as Alex Ovechkin netted his ninth goal of the playoffs…17 points in all in 13 games.
Saturday, in the Western Conference finals, Winnipeg beat Las Vegas at home, 4-2, to take the opener of that series.
Thursday night, the Jets had stunned the Predators, in Nashville, 5-1, in their first Game 7, continuing their amazing run.
Jets vs. the Golden Knights in a conference final. There wasn’t a man alive on the planet who foretold this matchup when the season started.
Nashville, by the way, became the ninth Presidents’ Trophy winner (most points) in 10 years not to win the Stanley Cup.
--When the Yankees beat Boston on Wednesday, 9-6, that made it 17 of 18 for New York, the best streak for the club since 1953! New York had a dramatic four-run rally against the Sox’ great closer, Craig Kimbrel, and in the process, it was only the sixth time in his nine-year career that Kimbrel allowed multiple extra-base hits in a game; Brett Gardner with a decisive two-run triple
The Yanks then lost to the Red Sox in the final game of their series on Thursday, and they lost to Oakland at the Little Band Box in the Bronx on Friday, 10-5, as Sonny Gray resumed his losing ways on the mound after two encouraging starts.
But New York had a stirring 7-6 win in 11 innings on Saturday, and then they beat the A’s today, 6-2, as Luis Severino improved to 6-1, 2.14 ERA.
--As for the Mets, after I posted last Wednesday, the freakin’ Metropolitans batted out of order in the top of the first. I was watching this afternoon tilt and the Mets batted in the order we were given on TV, ditto the media, scoreboard operators, etc.
But it wasn’t the official lineup card. The Metsies went on to lose the game 2-1. Manager Mickey Calloway fell on his sword. “I’m pissed at myself,” he said after. No doubt there were others involved. What an embarrassment.
At least the Mets rebounded with a dramatic 3-1 win in Philadelphia on Friday night, Michael Conforto and newly-acquired catcher Devin Mesoraco going back-to-back in the ninth off closer Hector Neris; Philadelphia wasting 7 1/3 scoreless from Jake Arrieta.
Interestingly for Mesoraco, it was the first winning game the former Red had played in all season…0-18 in a Cincinnati uniform, 0-2 with the Mets until Friday. Talk about developing a complex.
But the Mets lost today 4-2 to fall to 19-18. Jacob deGrom, returning from his hyperextended elbow, threw 45 pitches in the first inning, with 20 foul balls, yet held the Phils scoreless. 45 pitches, however, is a major warning sign and he was taken out…the correct move.
--The Braves improved to 24-15 with a 4-3 win over the Marlins (14-26).14-27.
--The Reds won their sixth in a row with a 5-3 win over the slumping Dodgers (16-24). But Cincinnati is still just 14-27.
--And Shohei Ohtani continued to write his amazing story, though he had a no-decision in a 2-1 Angels win over the Twins. Ohtani threw 6 1/3 of one-run ball with 11 strikeouts, lowering his ERA to 3.58. This is obviously the story of the year thus far.
--Jared Diamond / Wall Street Journal
“Scott Boras, baseball’s most powerful agent and pre-eminent cage-rattler, spent the entire off-season railing against what he described as the ‘noncompetitive cancer’ plaguing the sport. As this winter’s free-agent market developed slower than any other, Boras saw as many as a third of franchises across the league valuing the future over the present, emboldened by the success of the Houston Astros and Chicago Cubs. He predicted that it would impact the standings.
“Now, six weeks into the year, it seems difficult to argue with Boras’s point. Six teams – the Baltimore Orioles, Chicago White Sox, Cincinnati Reds, Kansas City Royals, Miami Marlins and San Diego Padres – entered Friday’s action on pace for at least 100 losses. A seventh, the Texas Rangers, is just off the 100-loss track.
“Never before have more than four teams finished with 100 or more losses in a single season, an ignominious record set in 2002 that very well could fall in a few months. Only one team – total – lost 100 games between 2014 and 2017.
“And here’s the upshot of all this: There are still 77 games remaining on the schedule between those seven teams, which means there is a whole lot of baseball left to be played between teams that aren’t just bad – but downright awful….
“Heading into the season, much of the conversation revolved around the idea of ‘tanking’ – a once-radical rebuilding strategy that has quickly become ubiquitous.
“The Astros, the defending World Series champions, famously averaged 104 losses from 2011 through 2014, which gave them the draft picks that turned into star infielders Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman. The Cubs also tore down their roster before their title in 2016, resulting in them drafting Albert Almora, Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber and Ian Happ. Not surprisingly, they inspired copycats.”
Meanwhile, “The Padres and White Sox have accumulated arguably the two best farm systems in baseball and appear to have brighter futures. San Diego even sped up the process this February, signing first baseman Eric Hosmer to an eight-year, $144 million contract.
“But that doesn’t matter much right now, as these teams slog through an ugly season. The White Sox, for instance, went into Friday on pace to compile a record of 43-119, which would match the 2003 Detroit Tigers for the second-most losses of the modern era, which started in 1900. [The 1962 Mets went 40-120.]”
The bottom line is, “The ‘noncompetitive cancer’ that Boras saw coming has metastasized.
“In the off-season, it’s opinion,” Boras said. ‘During the season, it’s reality.”
--John Harper of the New York Daily News had a piece on the above-noted free-agent freeze-out, and “so far the signees are not doing much to prove that teams were wrong for exercising caution during the off-season.
“Of the top free agents, many of whom didn’t sign until February and even March, only a few are making a splash – J.D. Martinez with the Red Sox, Wade Davis with the Rockies, Jake Arrieta with the Phillies….
“Arrieta aside, the starting pitchers have been a disaster, from Yu Darvish to Jason Vargas to Alex Cobb to Lance Lynn.
“On the other hand, thanks in part to the Marlins’ fire sale, trades have produced better results so far for some teams, though the best deal of all was the Astros’ steal of Gerrit Cole from the Pirates.
“Of course, there does appear to be one bargain for the ages. Shohei Ohtani was limited to signing for only what teams had available in their international-free agent pool money, and so for a $2.3 million bonus from the Angels, Ohtani is living up to the hype as the Babe Ruth of Japan.
“The irony is that, in the slowest-moving free-agent market ever, every team in baseball would have spent big on the 23-year-old Ohtani. Except the rules didn’t allow it.”
[I’m going to review this topic in another few weeks. Some, like Carlos Santana of the Phillies, may by some metrics appear to be hardly living up to expectations, but in Santana’s case, he is on pace for a 100 ribbies, despite his .196 batting average.]
--The league announced it would look into a sexual assault allegation made in the 1990s against Matt Patricia, the newly hired coach of the Detroit Lions.
The Detroit News reported Wednesday that in 1996, Patricia, who was 21 at the time, and a friend were arrested while on spring break in South Padre Island, Tex. A woman accused them of entering her hotel room and sexually assaulting her: Patricia and the friend were indicted by a grand jury on a charge of aggravated sexual assault, but the case collapsed after the alleged victim declined to testify. It never went to trial.
Patricia then said at a news conference on Thursday, proclaiming his innocence: “I’m here to defend my honor and clear my name. Twenty-two years ago I was falsely accused of very serious allegations.”
But he wouldn’t say whether he had consensual sex with the alleged victim or explain just what happened that night. He said he had never been asked about the case during all this time and his lengthy football career. The topic didn’t come up in his interview with the Lions.
The Lions said they didn’t know of the allegation, and the team’s background check of Patricia was “limited to employment matters only.” The team said they “believe and have accepted Coach Patricia’s explanation and we will continue to support him.”
Patricia, at the time of the alleged assault, was an aeronautical engineering major and offensive lineman at D-III Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y. He became a graduate assistant at R.P.I. in 1996, and after a series of college coaching jobs, joined the Patriots in 2004, rising to become defensive coordinator for six seasons before Detroit hired him this off-season.
As USA TODAY’s Dan Wolken put it, at his press conference on Thursday, Patricia “looked like a dope.”
“Here he was, in front of the news media on a random day in mid-May, publicly discussing 22-year-old allegations for the first time only because he seemed to foolishly expect that the kind of fame one acquires by becoming an NFL head coach would never result in a serious legal matter from his past being uncovered.
“How is that possible in 2018? How dumb does this allegedly smart man think the rest of us are?
“Over and over again during Patricia’s seven-minute news conference…he made two things abundantly clear.
“The first was that he believes he was falsely accused. The second is that he did not believe that accusation, which wasn’t just hearsay but an actual arrest and formal charge, was something he was duty bound to disclose with potential employers as he rose the ranks and became an inevitable head coaching candidate.”
Patriots coach Bill Belichick released a statement indicating the team was “not aware of the matter which recently came to light” and praised Patricia for having “great integrity.”
“But once Patricia got on the fast track to becoming a head coach within the past couple years, the idea he would lack the self-awareness to anticipate his past resurfacing is simply not believable.”
Patricia was indignant Thursday, chastising the media for pursuing a story “for the sole purpose of hurting my family, my friends and this organization with the intention of trying to damage my character and credibility.”
“But if anything damaged Patricia’s character and credibility, it wasn’t a fuzzy accusation from 22 years ago. It was his strident belief that he’d never have to answer for it again.”
--ESPN announced its full “Monday Night Football” crew…play-by-play announcer Joe Tessitore and Cowboys tight end Jason Witten will be in the booth, while former Buccaneers and Colts defensive tackle Anthony “Booger” McFarland will serve as an on-field analyst (good choice) and Lisa Salters will continue to be ESPN’s sideline reporter.
The Players Championship
Entering the final round today of ‘the fifth major,’ with a $1.98 million first prize and a ten-year Tour exemption, it had been all Webb Simpson. The former Demon Deacon with four Tour wins, including a U.S. Open title, built a seven-shot lead, 19-under, tying the 54-hole record set by Greg Norman.
Webb was playing a different golf course, one that can bite you big time if you’re careless and lose your focus. He had just two bogeys and one double bogey (on the par-3, 17th in the second round) the first three.
So with a 7-shot lead entering final round play, Simpson played it safely, winning by four at -18 over Jimmy Walker, Xavier Schauffele, and Charl Schwartzel. It’s massive for his career and the family’s well-being.
Tiger Woods, who had a personal-best 65 at TPC on Saturday to spring onto the leaderboard, together with Jordan Spieth who both barely made the cut the day before, finished T-11 at -1, but he could have contended today had ne not made some careless mistakes and putts.
--Among those missing the cut, and deeply disappointed no doubt, were Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson and Hideki Matsuyama.
--It was an anticlimactic final Sunday, all 20 teams playing match 38 at the same time, but owing to Chelsea’s inexplicable 1-1 tie with Huddersfield at home on Wednesday, which secured another season in the top flight for Huddersfield, and basically destroyed Chelsea’s hopes for a Champions League berth, Liverpool really finalized things today with a 4-0 win over Brighton, as they took the final CL spot, while Chelsea was losing at Newcastle, 3-0.
At the bottom, Southampton, 1-0 losers to Manchester City, nonetheless will be playing in the PL for a seventh successive season, while Swansea, West Brom and Stoke are relegated.
Tottenham finished up with a thrilling 5-4 win at Wembley over Leicester, Harry Kane scoring twice, giving him 30 on the Premier League season. [Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah scored once, giving him a league record 32 for a 38-game schedule, and the Golden Boot. He was also Premier League Player of the Year, among his many awards.]
Manchester City’s 100 points was a record, ditto the 19-point margin between itself and Man U., as well as a record 106 PL goals.
1. Man City… 32 (W) – 4 (D) – 2 (L)…100 points…staggering
2. Man U… 25 – 6 - 7…81
3. Tottenham… 23 – 8 – 7…78
4. Liverpool… 21 – 12 – 5…75
5. Chelsea… 21 – 7 – 10…70
6. Arsenal… 19 – 6 – 13…63
7. Burnley… 14 – 12 – 12…54…only team outside Big Six with winning record.
17. Southampton… 7 – 15 – 16…36
18. Swansea… 8 – 9 – 21…33
19. Stoke City… 7 – 12 – 19…33
20. West Brom… 6 – 13 – 19…31
2017-18 newbies – Huddersfield, Brighton and Newcastle – all survived to play another year.
The Swansea and Stoke fan bases were particularly surly today, singing songs denigrating their boys. You wouldn’t want to be in the pubs of either tonight.
*Wolverhampton and Cardiff City are being promoted for 2018-19, while there is a playoff taking place among four teams for the third spot.
Separately, did you see the home crowd reaction to Hamburg being relegated for a first time in the Bundesliga? Flares thrown from the stands, massive security required…it was ugly. It was also the first time Hamburg had been relegated since the league was formed in 1963! You can understand the disappointment, but, boy, as my brother and I said, you wouldn’t want to be in the stands there yesterday.
--Ken P. and I have been bouncing thoughts on the Big Six and the lack of parity in the Premier League. I don’t have access to some of my material back in the home office but I’ll get into it more next time.
Outgoing Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger predicts a super league will be introduced over the next few years, leading to major changes for the Premier League.
Wenger, as noted by Agence France Presse, believes Europe’s elite clubs will fight for the introduction of a continental, weekend league to challenge the success of the English top flight.
Wenger sees the Premier League limited to midweek fixtures.
It’s the old story of the big clubs wanting more of the money coming into the sport and not wanting to share it with their smaller rivals, i.e., like baseball has with the luxury tax.
One issue is the Champions League matches have been poorly attended, mostly owing to their midweek slots. But as Wenger, correctly, says, “If you have Real Madrid v Barcelona, or Real Madrid v Arsenal, or Manchester United v Bayern Munich every week the audiences will be good.”
As Ken P. notes (and Dr. W. would concur), there is something wrong with the Premier League structure when only one club outside the Big Six finishes with a winning record. “Broken,” says Ken. [Dr. W., weigh in with your thoughts.]
--I was reading a piece in the Los Angeles Times on MLS and its rising fortunes. As recently as 2009, the minimum salary was $20,100. Graham Zusi back then, in his first season with the Kansas City Wizards, made $34,008. Today his salary is $782,102.
The league does not comment on salaries but the MLS players union releases a list of salaries twice each season and the first survey for 2018, released Thursday, showed the number of millionaires in the league increased to 46 from 28 in 2017. Only two players are listed at the league minimum salary of $54,500.
Changes in the salary structure have clearly made MLS more attractive to young foreign stars and older U.S. players alike, resulting in deeper rosters and more exciting games. I don’t catch MLS action at all, but the experts say the level of play is approaching Mexico’s Liga MX, long the top domestic league in North and Central America.
The salary structure is very complicated. It starts with a salary cap of $4 million, with each club then being allowed three “designated player” exemptions to the cap limits; between $504,375 and $1.5 million, and then this year each team had access to $4 million in allocation money.
Bottom line, this season at least 94 players are getting paid between $504K and $1.5M. $1.5 million is enough to attract some solid overseas players.
Kevin Harvick seems to be unstoppable this year. Saturday night, Harvick won his fifth NASCAR Cup Series event at Kansas Speedway, passing Cup champion Martin Truex Jr. with one lap to go, Harvick’s 42nd win of his career.
The last driver to win five of the first 12 races of a season was Jeff Gordon. Harvick, 42, has won 11 times since turning 40.
Your editor won $10 in DraftKings. But I was disappointed not to catch any live shots of the Monster Energy Girls. Watching from my parents’ place, I’m wondering if Mom was blocking them. [Never knew parental control extended to 60-year-olds.]
--Trainer Chad Brown still hasn’t decided as I go to post on whether he is running Good Magic in the Preakness, Good Magic the runner-up to Justify in the Derby. Brown said Thursday he would decide by Monday. “I’m on the fence,” he said.
If Good Magic doesn’t run, Justify will be a prohibitive favorite. Three years ago, American Pharoah, after winning the Derby, went off at 9-10 at the Preakness’ post time. Affirmed, another Triple Crown winner, was a 1-2 favorite in 1978. Secretariat won gamblers just 30 cents for every final dollar bet at Pimlico Race Course in 1973.
*And this just in…Good Magic is in! The race becomes much more interesting.
--Jo Craven McGinity had a piece in the Wall Street Journal on the number of times you should shuffle a new deck of cards to “ensure everyone has an equal chance of winning based on the luck of the draw.”
It’s complicated, but the best number of shuffles to “randomize a deck” is seven.
Top 3 songs for the week 5/12/73: #1 “Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Ole Oak Tree” (Dawn featuring Tony Orlando) #2 “You Are The Sunshine Of My Life” (Stevie Wonder) #3 “Little Willy” (The Sweet)…and…#4 “The Cisco Kid” (War) #5 “Drift Away” (Dobie Gray) #6 “Stuck In The Middle With You” (Stealers Wheel) #7 “Frankenstein” (The Edgar Winter Group) #8 “The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia” (Vicki Lawrence) #9 “Daniel” (Elton John) #10 “The Twelfth Of Never” (Donny Osmond)
NFL Quiz Answer: Seven coaches with a better winning percentage through first 11 seasons than Mike Tomlin.
Don Shula .785
Paul Brown .744
George Halas .740
Curly Lambeau .735
George Allen .718
Bud Grant .712
Joe Gibbs .685
Next Bar Chat, Thursday…very brief one.