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Don Newcombe, RIP
[Posted Wed. a.m.]
NCAA Basketball Quiz: Give the nickname for the following conference leaders (as of Sunday) who may well end up in the NCAA tournament.
America East: Vermont; Big Sky: Montana; Big South: Radford; Big West: UC Irvine; MEAC: Norfolk State; OVC: Belmont; Southern: Wofford; Summit: South Dakota State
AP Poll (Feb. 18)
1. Duke (58) 23-2
2. Gonzaga (6) 25-2
3. Virginia 22-2
4. Kentucky 21-4
5. Tennessee 23-2...appropriate fall given 17-point loss to Kentucky
6. Nevada 24-1
7. Michigan 23-3
8. North Carolina 20-5
9. Houston 25-1
10. Michigan State 21-5
13. LSU 21-4...up from No. 21 in two weeks
25. Buffalo 22-3
I just glanced back at Sports Illustrated’s preseason predictions and they had the following.
8. North Carolina
10. Michigan State
Kansas has rallied back to No. 12 with three straight wins amid a major personnel upheaval, testing coach Bill Self to the max.
But Houston wasn’t in SI’s top 25. Nor did the Cougars receive a single vote in the AP preseason poll, which had a top five of Kansas, Kentucky, Gonzaga, Duke and Virginia.
Tennessee, Nevada, North Carolina, Villanova and Michigan State Nos. 6-10.
--In action Monday, Virginia improved to 11-2 in the ACC with a 64-58 win over 20 Virginia Tech (20-6, 9-5) in Blacksburg, the Hokies hitting just 3 of 28 from three.
--Tuesday, Tennessee defeated lowly Vanderbilt (9-17, 0-13) 58-46, while Kentucky held off Missouri (12-13, 3-10) 66-58.
--Tonight, it’s Duke travelling to Chapel Hill to square off against North Carolina in a biggie.
--One more from last night, Wake Forest picked up its first ACC road win, 75-68 over Notre Dame (13-13, 3-10), as Brandon Childress, after being shutout in an embarrassing performance against UNC over the weekend, went 5 for 7 from three on his way to a 20 point, 7 rebound, 8 assist effort.
The problem is, while the Deacs (10-15, 3-10) should be firing coach Danny Manning, each game we win makes it harder to do so.
--I just have to go back to some individual efforts on Saturday and Sunday.
Austin Peay’s 6-5 sophomore guard Terry Taylor had 42 points and 18 rebounds in a 73-70 win at Morehead State, Taylor averaging 20.0 ppg plus an outstanding 8.7 rebounds out of the guard position.
Nice race in the Ohio Valley Conference, by the way.
Belmont 12-2 (21-4)
Murray State 12-2 (21-4)
Jacksonville State 11-3 (19-8)
Austin Peay 11-3 (19-8)
Should be a good conference tournament for the lone NCAA invite; the rest hopefully ending up in the NIT.
--And there was a wild one Sunday in Loudonville, N.Y. Quinnipiac defeated Siena 107-100 in triple-overtime. Quinnipiac’s Cameron Young had a record-setting 55 points on 15 of 24 shooting from the field, including 9 of 13 from three, and 16 of 20 from the foul line. Young also had 10 rebounds. The point total is the third-highest by a D-I player in the last 20 years.
Siena’s Jalen Pickett scored 46 points, five short of tying the program record. Pickett also had 13 assists.
But here’s a fun factoid (even if it was a three-overtime game). The combined 101 points between Young and Pickett were the most between two opposing players since Feb. 21, 1970, when LSU’s Pete Maravich and Kentucky’s Dan Issel totaled 115 in a 121-105 win for the Wildcats; Maravich with 64, Issel 51.
Cameron Young is a legitimate ballplayer, a junior averaging 22.8 this season.
--With lots of talk these days of a new ACC Network (yippee), Phil W. has reminded me that this is the final year of an 18-game ACC schedule in hoops, as it grows to 20 next season, which really sucks in that there are already so few out-of-conference games of note.
Prior to the season starting, Phil passed along a piece from the Charlotte News and Observer’s Barry Jacobs that I set aside for this purpose. I did a spot check of Jacobs’ facts and it’s true, after North Carolina played Harvard on Jan. 2, the only ACC team to play outside the league afterward was Duke’s contest at home against St. John’s on Feb. 2.
Granted, it’s the same way in every conference really, but with 20 conference games, I imagine the bulk of ACC schools, for example, won’t have more than one or two major non-conference tests prior to January in the future. And of course in the case of my beloved Demon Deacons, they are finding new ways to lose to lousy non-conference teams each year.
--I guess I have to note for the record that Team LeBron, led by All-Star Game MVP Kevin Durant, rallied from 20 points down to defeat Team Giannis, 178-164, in Charlotte.
I actually half-watched until the intermission and was blown away by J. Cole’s halftime performance...cough cough....
As often happens with this column, a big event hits after I had already put a lot of work in on the topic, so this is what I wrote on Monday. Bar Chat is a running history after all, and so it went...before we learned today’s (Tuesday’s) big news.
--Commissioner Rob Manfred held a 25-minute Q&A with reporters Sunday down in Florida and said a 20-second pitch clock will be employed in spring training games, as a possible precursor to implementing it in the regular season.
But the main issue he faced was of course the unemployment line containing the sport’s highest-profile free agents with the first exhibition games just days away.
Manfred insisted the players were at least as responsible as the teams for the stalemate that has led to Bryce Harper and Manny Machado remaining unsigned 3 ½ months since the start of free agency.
“Everyone seems to approach [the standoff] from the standpoint of, ‘Gee, why aren’t the clubs signing players?’” Manfred said. “I think there’s lots and lots of offers out there, and it’s a bilateral process. Players haven’t accepted those offers yet.”
Manfred then singled out Harper’s and Machado’s agents, saying: “Do I wish, if I had my way, that Scott Boras would find a way, or Dan Lozano – whoever, whatever agent – would find a way to make a deal with some club sooner rather than later? Yes, I do. But we negotiated a system that allows the market to operate, and I have every confidence that for [top] players...the market is going to clear before we get to playing real games.”
“I’m not ascribing blame,” Manfred said, as he proceeded to do just that. “[But] I do think certain things can be an impediment to making agreements. When you’re pronouncing three years ahead of free agency that a player is going to be a $400 million player – and there’s never been a $400 million player in any sport – that becomes an impediment to the bargaining process. I do believe that.”
But while Manfred wanted to talk about the pitch clock, the reporters wanted to talk about Harper and Machado.
“I hate the negativity that surrounds the coverage of the game right now,” Manfred said. “Probably the best antidote to that is to get out there and start playing the game. Because the game is always, always a positive for us. It is that gap during the offseason, when people need things to talk about and write about, that the negativity seems to grow....
“This narrative that our teams aren’t trying is just not supported by the facts. Our teams are trying. Every single one of them wants to win. It may look a little different to outsiders because the game has changed, [and] the way that people think about the game, the way people think about putting a winning team together, has changed. But that doesn’t mean they’re not trying.”
Manfred did have a point as he chided MLBPA chief Tony Clark for whining in February 2018 that the Rays, Marlins, A’s and Pirates were not properly pouring revenue-sharing receipts into their major league payroll.
But only the Marlins finished with a losing record in that bunch and the A’s made the playoffs with 97 wins.
“The assertion that teams aren’t trying started last spring training with Tony Clark singling out four teams,” Manfred said. “He did very poorly with those four teams. This narrative that our teams are not trying is just not supported by the facts.” [Washington Post, USA TODAY Sports]
Tuesday morning, Clark shot back at Manfred, but then by afternoon, the San Diego Padres and Machado agreed on a monster deal, 10 years, $300 million. It’s said much of the $300m is deferred, a la Giancarlo Stanton. There is also supposedly an opt-out clause after five seasons.
Last year the Padres gave Eric Hosmer $144 million over eight years, the largest guarantee to a free agent in that free agent market, and then Hosmer proceeded to blow, as the Padres finished 66-96.
But San Diego also has, in some quarters, the best farm system, while I expect Hosmer to have a big bounce-back season, and as much as a few of us don’t like Machado, I think he’ll do real well. The Padres are on the rise. And the weather is awesome.
But here’s the real bottom line. Machado has signed and it was not a short-term deal, biding time for another 2-3 years. He got the big enchilada.
As Rob Manfred said, yoh, baseball, chill out, all is (mostly) good. No doubt Harper will now get a similar deal. And I’m guessing by the time I post the next chat, Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel will be in the fold as well.
But there is no doubt the game is also trending towards more contracts like Aaron Nola and Luis Severino signed the other day, five years, including the team option, $56.75 million and $52.25m, respectively. Total life security at ages 25 and 24. For the Mets, hurler Noah Syndergaard is strongly hinting he’d take the same deal, though teammate Jacob deGrom, Cy Young winner and 30 is looking for a monster contract, yet the Mets have team control another two years....which is starting to tick me off, as in, we love you, Jake, but the team isn’t obligated to do anything with you for at least another year.
--San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy announced Monday that this would be his last season managing the team, his 25th as a big league manager.
In 12 prior seasons, Bochy, 64, has led the Giants to World Series titles in 2010, ’12 and’14.
“I’ve managed with my gut,” he said on Monday. “I came up here in 2007 on my gut. So it’s a gut feeling it’s time. It’s been an unbelievable ride. There’s so much in there to be grateful for, with the players, the city, the fans, my ride here. It’s time. I’ll stay in baseball and do something.”
He was reminded that every other manager with three World Series titles has been inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Bochy’s first 12 seasons were with the Padres from 1995 to 2006, guiding San Diego to the pennant in 1998.
While he is fully deserving of the Hall of Fame, his career mark is 1,926-1,944, and with the team he has this year, he’ll do well to finish .500. 90-72 to get his career mark to .500 seems out of the question.
Now if they sign Bryce Harper....
--Due to the holiday, I received my hard copy of USA TODAY Sports Weekly on Tuesday (I normally do Sat.) and on the front cover was Frank Robinson and the headline: “Is there a more underrated player in major league history?”
Well, I wrote my bit on F. Robby a while ago, but I certainly can’t argue with the sentiment.
It’s good bar chat. And as I’ve written countless times over these 20 years about a select few I view as underrated in their sport in, to me, the purest sense of the word, I admit there is no formal definition.
I’ve always gone with Tris Speaker in baseball, Stan Mikita in hockey, Nate Thurmond in basketball, Billy Casper in golf, and David Pearson in NASCAR. Steelers receiver John Stallworth, perhaps, in the NFL, as he fits the description.
F. Robby? Baseball was Ruth and Gehrig, then DiMaggio and Williams, then Mantle and Mays, with Aaron alongside, and Frank Robinson was, err, yeah....kind of underrated, but just as great.
For you Stan Musial fans, and who isn’t, I view him differently. Yes, he obviously didn’t get the press playing in St. Louis he would have in New York Boston, or Los Angeles. But I view him more as underappreciated.
--Finally, we note the passing of the great Don Newcombe.
Bill Plaschke / Los Angeles Times
“He could have been the angriest man at Dodger Stadium. Instead, he was the most elegant.
“Don Newcombe, who died Tuesday, was a monument in a fedora, history with a sport coat, a legend bearing a pocket square.
“Even when his memory was fading and his steps were slow, he would show up three hours before every Dodgers home game as if dressing for church. His pew was a seat behind home plate. His congregation was countless players, media and officials who would stop, sit and listen. His message was love.
“ ‘I remember Jackie calling me and Roy together at Roy’s apartment after we first signed,’ he told me, referring to Jackie Robinson and Roy Campanella. ‘Jackie said that people were going to hate us and abuse us, but by changing one letter in one word we can make a difference.’
“He paused, waited for me to ask him for the word and letter, then smiled.
“ ‘Bitter,’ he said. ‘I to E.’
“Better. That was Don Newcombe, better than the hate he endured as one of baseball’s first African American players, better than his personal demons of alcoholism and cancer, better beyond belief in 92 years of a life lived with an unrelenting toughness coated in an uncommon dignity.
“ ‘[Robinson] said we should fight to be better, not bitter, and sure enough, that’s what happened,’ Newcombe said....
“Newcombe became the first African American pitcher to start a World Series game, the first African American pitcher to win 20 games, and one of the first four African Americans to integrate the All-Star game in 1949.
“He was also the first player of any ethnicity to win rookie of the year, Cy Young and MVP awards, an accomplishment matched only by Justin Verlander.
“He had a record of 27-7 with a 3.06 earned-run average during his career year, 1956. He is not in baseball’s Hall of Fame, but he deserves to be reunited with Robinson and Campanella in the Dodgers’ Ring of Honor, and here’s hoping the organization finally does the right thing and puts him there....
“My last visit with Newk was in October, before a Dodgers World Series game against the Boston Red Sox. Because there were so many people around the batting cage, he couldn’t watch batting practice from his usual pregame seat. So he regally headed for the Dodger dugout, his usual sport coat and fedora clashing brilliantly with the pine tar and bubble gum....
“Nobody noticed him. He and I sat alone for the longest time, but he was happy, because for one of the last times, the best-dressed Dodger was home.
“ ‘When I was young, I had nothing,’ he told me once. ‘I borrowed my brother’s suits, I wore my teammates’ suits. I always told myself, if I ever made it...’ Don Newcombe not only made it, he made it better, for baseball, for society, for a world that never saw the bitter, for that seat behind home plate that will never again be so gloriously filled.”
I have written tons on Newcombe over the years, much of it about his hitting. 15 career home runs, a .271 average. In 1955, Newk slammed seven homers (still a record for N.L. pitchers), drove in 23, hit .359 in 117 ABs, and had a 1.028 OPS.
But he was hurt by his failure in the World Series, 0-4, 8.59, and he had issues with the press after because of this shortcoming.
“Bob Feller never won a World Series game, either, but nobody said he choked,” Newcombe told The Plain-Dealer of Cleveland in 1997. “Ted Williams and DiMaggio had bad World Series, but nobody said they choked. But they said it about me.”
While he was 149-90, 3.56, in his career, it was cut short by alcoholism. But he also lost two years to the military in the prime of his career, 1952-53, and many believe had he not been away during that time, he makes it into the Hall of Fame.
Don Newcombe was born ten minutes from where I live in Madison, N.J., and grew up in nearby Elizabeth, where he went to high school.
I need to tie up some loose ends from last weekend’s action.
--Miguel Angel Jimenez picked up his seventh career Champions Tour victory at the Chubb Classic in Naples, Florida, winning in a three-way, sudden-death playoff with Bernhard Langer and Olin Browne. Jimenez only needed par on the first extra hole, while both Langer and Browne bogeyed. It was doubly nightmarish for Browne, who double bogeyed the final hole in regulation to fall back into a playoff.
Langer has finished T-3, 1 and T-2 in three starts this season at age 61.
--Tiger Woods had to play 28 holes Sunday, two days after playing 30 due to all the rain at Riviera.
“Yeah, I got tired,” Woods said following his final-round one-over 72 to end his week T-15, when early Sunday he was T-4 at one point. “I don’t know if I’m the only one, but I definitely felt it.”
Something to watch at the US Open and other events in the summer that often have rain delays.
Of course Tiger has also had four back surgeries. Thankfully, since last September and his win at the Tour Championship, health doesn’t seem to be an issue. He’s just no longer 28.
Meanwhile, at Riviera, Justin Thomas has no one to blame but himself, and a really awful putter, for choking away a big lead on Sunday.
And I wasn’t the only one complaining about J.B. Holmes’ slow play.
As Brian Wacker of Golfworld put it, Holmes aided by Thomas’ 75.
“Hey, someone had to claim the title, and Holmes did enough to be the one holding the trophy at the end when plenty of others didn’t. A win is a win.
“ ‘Always thought that would have been a better chance for me,’ Holmes said of the nasty weather. ‘Usually when the conditions are crappy, I do better.’
“It didn’t hurt, either, that he took his time in doing so.
“The final threesome of Holmes, Thomas and Adam Scott played in 5 hours, 29 minutes. Most of the slow-rolling came at the hand of Holmes, long considered one of the biggest culprits in the game of playing at a glacial pace, as he plumb-bobbed and dawdled his way around Riviera.
“Not that he seemed to mind.
“ ‘Well, you play in 25-mile-an-hour gusty winds and see how fast you play when you’re playing for the kind of money and the points and everything that we’re playing for,’ Holmes replied when asked about the topic following the victory....
“On the one hand, he had a point. The conditions were difficult, and Riviera is a difficult golf course.
“On the other, Holmes’ group found itself a full hole behind the group in front of them for nearly the entire round. Still, they were never put on the clock, or so much as warned to pick up the pace....
“When slow play becomes the topic of conversation – on social media, on CBS’ telecast and among fans at Riviera – as much as or more than the guy who won (or lost) the tournament, that is a problem.
“Which is just as unfortunate as the fact that slow play is something that doesn’t appear to be improving or going away anytime soon.”
My issue, as Nick Faldo was pointing out, exasperatedly, is that while Thomas and Scott were off preparing their own shots, Holmes was doing nothing, essentially until they finished, then he’d go into his freakin’ routine.
Nope, this year I’m a hard-ass. Kuchar is on my S-list, and now Holmes, the two for different reasons. Add Bryson DeChambeau, though in his case, while he plays slow, I also just can’t warm up to his excellence.
Manchester United is a publicly traded company so it gives us a window into the money in the Premier League, for the elite, and the importance of making the Champions League (top four in the PL).
Man U last week reported results for the fourth quarter, the club posting record revenues worth $268 million, a rise of more than 17 percent from the same period last year.
The main reason for the rise was because it was the start of a new broadcasting deal signed by UEFA, European football’s governing body, for the Champions League, which will ensure close to 1.95bn euro, $2.2 billion, is being shared among participating clubs of this season’s tournament.
Ergo, all four Premier League teams [Man U, Man City, Tottenham, Liverpool] advanced out of the original group play of 32 into the ‘last 16.’ The amount of money each club gets is dependent on how far you advance. Tottenham, for example, with its 3-0 ‘first leg’ win over Borussia Dortmund, has a great chance to advance to the quarterfinals with the return match in Dortmund. That’s more bucks. Man U, though, lost its first leg to Paris Saint-Germain 2-0 and faces great odds in moving any further.
It’s about the money from television rights, prize money and ticketing.
So you see how the elite in the Premier League, the Big Six, including Arsenal and Chelsea, just get richer. And the richer you are the better players you can sign. And that keeps the Big Six up at the top.
Like I’ve said all these years, it’s not good for the sport, but it is what it is. Needless to say the lower revenue teams, say, for example, an Everton, or West Ham, wants more revenue sharing, but why would the Big Six agree to this? These teams are owned by some major billionaires (including Russian oligarchs in some cases). Need I say more.
Just another primer on a sport I’m trying to draw one of you, kicking and screaming, into following each year because it is kind of fascinating stuff...and it’s a great sport.
One more. Because Manchester United hasn’t made the semi-finals of the Champions League since 2011, it has been overtaken as the richest club in world football by Real Madrid, which has won the last three European trophies.
Lastly, yesterday, Liverpool and Bayern Munich played to a 0-0 draw in their CL first leg, a disappointing result at home for the Reds.
--Just a week ago I was writing about Yomif Kejelcha, the Ethiopian distance runner who came within 0.01 of the world indoor mile record at the Millrose Games in New York.
So last Saturday, countryman Samuel Tefera upstaged Kejelcha to break Hicham El Guerrouj’s 1500m record set in 1997, Kejelcha second at a race in Birmingham, England. Tefera crossed the line at 3:31.04, taking 0.14 off the mark.
Tefera is just 19.
--Attention dog lovers. I saw in Army Times that there is going to be a military dog stamp (release date unknown), featuring German Shepherd, Labrador retriever, Belgian Malinois, and Dutch Shepherd.
Top 3 songs for the week 2/24/79: #1 “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?” (Rod Stewart) #2 “Fire” (Pointer Sisters) #3 “A Little More Love” (Olivia Newton-John)...and...#4 “I Will Survive” (Gloria Gaynor) #5 “Y.M.C.A.” (Village People) #6 “Tragedy” (Bee Gees) #7 “Le Freak” (Chic) #8 “Lotta Love” (Nicolette Larson) #9 “Somewhere In The Night” (Barry Manilow) #10 “I Was Made For Dancin’” (Leif Garrett...needless to say, we’re goin’ back to the 60s...)
NCAA Basketball Quiz Answer: Nicknames....
American East: Vermont Catamounts (11-1 conference record)
Big Sky: Montana Grizzlies (12-2)
Big South: Radford Highlanders (10-2)
Big West: UC Irvine Anteaters (10-1)
MEAC: Norfolk State Spartans (10-1
OVC: Belmont Bruins (12-2..tied with the Murray State Racers)
Southern: Wofford Terriers (15-0)
Summit: South Dakota State Jackrabbits (11-2)
Next Bar Chat, Monday.