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[Posted Wed. a.m.]
MLB Salaries: As we wait to see what kind of contracts Bryce Harper and Manny Machado are able to sign, name the six players who had salaries of at least $30 million in 2018. Answer below.
--So following New Orleans’ 12-9 win at Carolina, Monday night, the Saints moving to 12-2, one big question is about to be answered. With home games against Pittsburgh this week, and then a return match against the Panthers in the regular-season finale, New Orleans conceivably played its last game outdoors on Monday.
The Saints and Drew Brees are an entirely different team under the dome. Consider that Brees, with 31 touchdown passes and 5 interceptions on the season, has splits of 11-4 in eight road games, and 20-1 in six home contests.
So with the Saints a game ahead of the 11-3 Rams in the chase for the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs, and with New Orleans holding the tiebreaker advantage over L.A. by virtue of beating them (45-35 at home, Brees 4-0, TD-INT), the Saints just need to win one of the final two regular season games to clinch the top seed.
And if they make it to the Super Bowl, of course that’s under a dome.
But it does have to be pointed out, as every football fan has observed, that seemingly after the 54-51 Monday night game, Rams defeating the Chiefs, defenses have begun to stiffen and catch on to the likes of L.A. and New Orleans, for example.
Which leads me to the playoff standings after Week 15....
1. New Orleans 12-2
2. L.A. Rams 11-3
3. Chicago 10-4
4. Dallas 8-6
5. Seattle 8-6
6. Minnesota 7-6-1
7. Philadelphia 7-7
8. Washington 7-7
In the NFC East, Dallas hosts Tampa Bay (5-9), Philadelphia hosts the Texans (10-4), and the Redskins are at the Titans (8-6) this week.
But in terms of the playoffs, and outdoor, potentially snowy/icy weather that so many of us so adore from the comfort of our own homes, at least it looks today as if we will see a first-round game in Chicago. We need the weather going west to east, or north to south; not south to north for that weekend.
In the AFC...
1. Kansas City 11-3
2. Houston 10-4
3. New England 9-5
4. Pittsburgh 8-5-1
5. L.A. Chargers 11-3
6. Baltimore 8-6
7. Indianapolis 8-6
8. Tennessee 8-6
I didn’t note last time something I need to have in these voluminous archives forever...that the Patriots’ loss against the Steelers Sunday represented the first time they lost back-to-back December games since 2002. And, at 9-5, it’s the first time the Pats have lost five since 2009. [Reminder, my Jets have lost 10+ the last three.]
--Nick Foles will remain the starting quarterback against the Houston Texans Sunday, with coach Doug Pederson telling reporters that the team wants to give Carson Wentz another week to recover from his back injury.
Foles was 24/31, 270, 0-1, 89.4 in the Eagles’ key 30-23 win over the Rams Sunday night. Once again, Foles to the rescue.
I mean, how cool is Foles? Like nothing less than the coolest guy on the planet. Name somebody better in his role...time’s up.
--What a bizarre season for Aaron Rodgers. He has a 23-2, TD-INT split, obviously outstanding, but his passer rating is like 11th, and he has made costly errors in key spots; underthrows, overthrows, misfires all over...and he was responsible for getting his coach fired...Mike McCarthy.
And if he doesn’t beat the Jets Sunday at the Meadowlands, Rodgers would become just the seventh QB to go 0-8 on the road; the first since Derek Carr in 2014.
--Since the Giants won the Super Bowl in 2011, they are 47-62 with Eli Manning at the helm. And now it’s likely he’ll be back running the show in 2019, unless they sign a free agent, younger option such as Teddy Bridgewater or Nick Foles...maybe Ryan Tannehill. The next college draft has nowhere near the quarterback quality this past draft had, where you have five QBs selected in the first round, all starting today.
So the Giants must draft a QB and hope he develops, with a veteran stopgap. But if they stay with Eli, it’s another 6-10 season. Eli turns 38 on Jan. 3.
As the New York Post’s Steve Serby wrote:
“Manning, his durability and class aside, has not given the Giants enough bang for their bucks. He is what Bill Parcells used to call a hold-the-fort guy. On days when everything doesn’t go perfectly, the fort cannot be held.
“Enough kicking the can down the road.
“Find the next guy, already.
“No Supe for you this season, Giants fans.
“No Supe for you next season either...or until you find your next franchise quarterback.”
--We have some potentially entertaining bowl games on Saturday, with Houston-Army, and Buffalo-Troy. And of course I’ll be glued to Wake Forest-Memphis at noon.
But Memphis star running back Darrell Henderson (destined to be a superstar in the NFL), won’t be playing as he prepares for the draft, not wanting to risk injury.
Drat. You want to face the best...and obviously there is far less reason for the casual fan to want to tune into this one. [Henderson averaged a staggering 8.9 yards per carry this season.]
Oh well. Will Grier isn’t playing in West Virginia’s bowl contest. Bryce Love isn’t playing for Stanford. It’s the way of the world...and, of course, at the end of the day, fans can bitch and moan but you really can’t blame the players.
--Congratulations to Alabama-Birmingham. Two seasons after restarting the program in 2017 following a shutdown, coach Bill Clark has led the Blazers to its first-ever bowl win, 37-13 over Northern Illinois down in Boca Raton last night. Remarkable. UAB finished 11-3, winning the Conference USA championship as well.
--Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly is the Associated Press Coach of the Year, becoming the third to win the award twice since it was established in 1998.
Both Kelly and Alabama’s Nick Saban had 16 first-place votes apiece (out of 58), but Kelly won on points, 81 to 66. UCF first-year coach Josh Heupel was third with 33 points (five first-place votes).
Kelly joins Saban and TCU’s Gary Patterson as two-time winners, Kelly also winning the award in 2012. That year they lost to Alabama in the BCS championship game.
AP Poll (Dec. 17)
1. Kansas (56) 9-0
2. Duke (5) 9-1
3. Tennessee (2) 8-1
4. Michigan (1) 11-0
5. Virginia (1) 9-0
6. Nevada 11-0
7. Auburn 9-1
8. Gonzaga 9-2
9. North Carolina 8-2
10. Michigan State 9-2
14. Buffalo 10-0
24. Furman 12-0
--I watched Buffalo at Syracuse last night, a thoroughly entertaining affair. Buffalo was trailing the entire contest, down 4-6 points it seemed forever, but they never broke and then the Bulls pulled away at the end, 71-59, to stay undefeated. A very solid road win. Granted, it’s not a great ‘Cuse team, but they do have talent and you can be sure Jim Boeheim will find a way to get them to the Big Dance come March.
Buffalo has five seniors who do the bulk of the scoring and these guys are tough. Now it’s on to No. 20 Marquette for another stern test on Friday.
--Duke destroyed Princeton 101-50 Tuesday. 12 players scored for the Dookies.
--No. 1 Kansas had its way with South Dakota 89-53.
--Wake Forest (6-3), which had a plucky 67-63 win at home over a respectable Davidson team (8-3) Monday, next faces No. 3 Tennessee in Knoxville, but it’s on at the same time as our bowl game! Darn it. Granted, Wake is likely to lose 92-64...or worse.
--One NBA note...the Brooklyn Nets are suddenly 14-18, winners of six in a row, following a 115-110 win over the Lakers. What was interesting is that the Nets’ Jarrett Allen blocked a dunk attempt by LeBron James, which, according to ESPN Stats & Info, was just the ninth time in LeBron’s career this has occurred. That’s rather remarkable. He has attempted 1,850 dunks overall.
--The Angels agreed to sign pitcher Matt Harvey to a one-year contract worth $11 million, plus incentives. Boy, Harvey is lucky. He finished 2018 with a 4.94 ERA in 32 games (28 starts), though after a slew of injuries, his fastball velocity was more like it had been back in the days when he was a budding star.
--Forgot to note the other day that I was very pleased to see that ESPN announced it was moving up the starting time of the nationally televised “Sunday Night Baseball” game by one hour, with first pitch after 7 p.m. ET, rather than after 8 p.m.
It’s a good move for the teams involved, at least one of which has to travel after, and of course East Coast fans, in all likelihood, will now stay up to watch the whole game...at least I’m far more likely to do so.
The biggest part will be July and August, when baseball has the sports scene all to itself.
So here’s to MLB, and ESPN, for doing the right thing.
Premier / Champions League
--It finally happened...Jose Mourinho was sacked as manager at Manchester United. This probably should have occurred months ago, but the timing now makes sense, too, as the club can give a new manager time to get a system in place in time for their Champions League run in February.
The club announced, “A caretaker-manager will be appointed until the end of the season while the club conducts a thorough recruitment process for a new, full-time manager.”
“The club would like to thank Jose for his work during his time at Manchester United and to wish him success in the future.”
So then Man U named a former striker, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, currently coach of a team in his native Norway, where the season is shut down until March, as interim coach.
But United really wants Tottenham’s Mauricio Pochettino, which would really suck for us Spurs fans. To accomplish this, Man U would have to shell out major bucks to Tottenham.
As for the 55-year-old Mourinho, he took over United in May 2016 and led the team to League Cup and Europa League titles, but today they stand a whopping 19 points behind league leaders Liverpool, Man U’s worst start after 17 Premier League games since 1990-91.
The club decided to make the move after seeing zero progress this season, despite spending about $500 million (you’re reading that right) on 11 players, including over $100 million for superstar Paul Pogda, who in last Sunday’s 3-1 loss to Liverpool didn’t get off the bench. Embarrassing. And the final straw for Mourinho, who has never completed four consecutive seasons in charge of a club.
--The Champions League held its draw for the last 16 and the four Premier League teams drew the following opponents.
Schalke v. Man City
Man U v. Paris St.-Germain
Tottenham v. Borussia Dortmund
Liverpool v. Bayern Munich
The way it works is the teams that finished second in group stage play (Man U, Tottenham and Liverpool) host the first leg (Feb. 12-13, 19-20), and the teams that finished first (like Man City) host the second leg (March 5-6, 12-13).
Alpine / World Cup
--Lindsey Vonn is slated to return to the World Cup circuit Jan. 12-13 in St. Anton, Austria, for races including her specialties – downhill and super-G. Vonn has been out since hyperextending and spraining a knee ligament during a training crash Nov. 19.
Vonn has 82 wins, four shy of Ingemar Stenmark’s record 86. While she had originally planned on retiring after the season, she said she will delay it until next fall’s speed races in Lake Louise, Alberta. Of course if she can get five wins before this season ends, I’m guessing she’d hang it up.
--We note the passing of Bronx-born actress and director Penny Marshall – best known for her character on the TV classic “Laverne & Shirley.” Marshall was 75.
The family said in a statement: “Our family is heartbroken....Penny was a girl from the Bronx who came out West, put a cursive ‘L’ on her sweater and transformed herself into a Hollywood success story. We hope her life continues to inspire others.”
After the success of “Laverne & Shirley,” Marshall went on to direct such films as “Big,” “Awakenings” and “A League of Their Own.”
Penny Marshall and her family, including late director brother Garry Marshall, grew up at 3235 Grand Concourse, across the street from the man she would later marry, Rob Reiner.
“When Rob Reiner and I were children, we lived across the street from each other. We never met because the Grand Concourse was a busy street, and we were too young to cross it,” Marshall told the New York Post in 2012.
“He went to PS 8, I went to 80. He moved when he was 7. His father, Carl, was one of the stars on ‘Your Show of Shows,’ and he was the most famous person in the neighborhood. He was also known for giving out the best Halloween candy.”
Penny Marshall married Reiner in 1971, and the pair divorced 10 years later.
Personally, I didn’t watch “Laverne & Shirley,” but I remember Marshall fondly from her stint as Oscar Madison’s secretary Myrna on “The Odd Couple.” She also had a few appearances on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”
Top 3 songs for the week 12/21/63: #1 “Dominique” (The Singing Nun...I kid you not, my first ’45...hey, I was five years old...don’t give me a hard time over this...) #2 “Louie Louie” (The Kingsmen) #3 “You Don’t Have To Be A Baby To Cry” (The Caravelles)...and...#4 “There! I’ve Said It Again” (Bobby Vinton...great tune....) #5 “Since I Fell For You” (Lenny Welch...an even better one...) #6 “Be True To Your School” (The Beach Boys...one of their better ones...) #7 “Drip Drop” (Dion DiMucci) #8 “I’m Leaving It Up To You” (Dale & Grace) #9 “Everybody” (Tommy Roe) #10 “Popsicles And Icicles” (The Murmaids...I am teeing it up for next Bar Chat...we are six weeks away from The Beatles appearing on “Ed Sullivan”...there were murmurs about this group of lads from across the pond...)
MLB Salary Quiz Answer: Six to earn $30 million in 2018....
1. Clayton Kershaw $35.57m
2. Mike Trout $34.08m
3. Zack Greinke $34.0m
4. David Price $30m
5. Jake Arrieta $30m
6. Miguel Cabrera $30m
Next Bar Chat, Monday...our annual Christmas special.