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The NBA's Postseason
[Posted Wed. a.m.]
Baseball Quiz: After at least one National Leaguer had 140 RBIs in a season between 1996 and 2001, name the only three players in the N.L. to do so since. Answer below.
NBA Draft...and free agency
So New Orleans holds the fourth pick in Thursday’s draft, following the trade of Anthony Davis to the Lakers, and the team has had internal talks about moving up to the second pick for Memphis’ selection, thus allowing them to draft RJ Barrett to team him with his Duke running buddy Zion Williamson, whom the Pelicans are selecting with their first pick.
While this scenario seems unlikely, Memphis desiring Ja Morant with the second pick, Knicks fans can dream of it, at least for 24 hours, because this would mean Morant would fall into the Knicks’ laps at No. 3.
Either way, Barrett or Morant will be a welcome addition in New York.
But I liked what Ben Cohen of the Wall Street Journal had to say about what is going to be an insane postseason, which with the AD trade already is.
“Think about how much has already changed over the past week alone. The Toronto Raptors are champions. The Golden State Warriors went from potentially winning three titles in a row to losing Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson. Now the Lakers might actually be good.
“As soon as they traded for Davis, they became the oddsmakers’ favorite to win the NBA championship next season, although the price might have something to do with their fans driving four hours to make charitable donations to Las Vegas casinos. The truth is the Lakers might not even be the best team in Los Angeles if the Clippers sign Kawhi Leonard. They’ll also have to wait to see how the Raptors, Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers handle free agency.
“But that’s exactly the point. There is no best team in the NBA right now....
“Even if the Lakers turn out to be very good, the Pelicans are betting they’ll eventually be very bad. They are invested in their downfall. It could be a hugely profitable investment.
“The Lakers have proven to be one of the more dysfunctional franchises in professional sports over the last decade, and the warped incentives of the NBA reward mismanagement by giving the worst teams the best draft picks. The Lakers could win a title. They could also crumble. They could even do both.
“There are few people who understand the organizational pressure that James exerts better than David Griffin, the new executive vice president of the Pelicans, who was previously the general manager of the Cleveland Cavaliers. If the Lakers do fall apart, they won’t be the ones to benefit. Griffin made sure of it by securing picks and pick swaps in a way that binds the fates of two franchises.
“The Pelicans have basically shorted the Lakers.
“It was a reminder that what happens this month is not simply about the NBA’s balance of power next year. It also means the race to control the next decade of the league has already begun.”
As to the specifics of the Lakers-Pelicans trade, it’s complicated, but the full deal actually cannot be consummated until July 20 at the earliest, with the Lakers, potentially, signing the player who the Pelicans want them selecting at No. 4 for them, which in turn would allow the Lakers to pursue a player such as Kyrie Irving or Kemba Walker because of the salary cap rules.
If the Lakers completed the trade July 6, it seems the Lakers wouldn’t have enough salary cap space to sign another free agent.
But as for the No. 4, the Pelicans can still trade it for a veteran player, if they are not able to move up to No. 2 to pair RJ Barrett with Zion.
At the same time the Las Vegas Summer League is July 5-15.
We should begin to get more clarity, however, this Thursday when we see what New Orleans does.
--Jonathan Givony of ESPN has the following mock draft:
1. New Orleans – Zion Williamson, F, Duke
2. Memphis – Ja Morant, G, Murray State
3. New York Knicks – RJ Barrett, G/F, Duke
4. New Orleans (via Lakers) – Jarrett Culver, G, Texas Tech
5. Cleveland – Darius Garland, G, Vanderbilt
6. Phoenix – Coby White, G, North Carolina...kind of shocking his meteoric rise
7. Chicago – De’Andre Hunter, F, Virginia
8. Atlanta – Cam Reddish, F, Duke
9. Washington – Sekou Doumbouha, F, Limoges, France
10. Atlanta (via Dallas) – Jaxson Hayes, C, Texas
11. Minnesota – Nassir Little, F, North Carolina
12. Charlotte – Rui Hachimura, F, Gonzaga
13. Miami – PJ Washington, F, Kentucky
14. Boston – Tyler Herro, G, Kentucky
15. Detroit – Romeo Langford, F, Indiana
16. Orlando – Nickeil Alexander-Walker, G, Virginia Tech
17. Atlanta (via Nets) – Brandon Clarke, F, Gonzaga
20. Boston (via Clippers) – Bol Bol, C, Oregon
21. Oklahoma City – Cameron Johnson, F, North Carolina
24. Philadelphia – Eric Paschall, F, Villanova
25. Portland – Ty Jerome, G, Virginia
30. Milwaukee – Grant Williams, F, Tennessee...boy his stock has plummeted...unwarranted
This mock draft has the Knicks taking Wake Forest’s Jaylen Hoard, F, at No. 55.
USA TODAY Sports has a mock draft from Stone Hansen of DraftSite.com, where he just ranks the players 1 to 100.
3. Darius Garland
4. Jarrett Culver
5. Ja Morant
6. Brandon Clarke
7. Coby White
8. Bol Bol
9. Kevin Porter Jr. (USC)
10. Cam Reddish
14. De’Andre Hunter
16. Grant Williams...which is more like it
48. Jaylen Hoard
50. Ky Bowman (Boston College)
80. Justin Wright-Foreman (Hofstra)
99. Fletcher Magee (Wofford
100. Chris Clemons (Campbell)
*These last three are very exciting guards who didn’t have the national exposure, but will be well worth a free agent signing for virtually any team.
--The Yankees opened a big 3-game series against the Rays at the Stadium Monday night and Masahiro Tanaka fired a 2-hit shutout, striking out 10, as he evened his record at 5-5, 3.23. Edwin Encarnacion was 0-for-4 in his debut, DJ LeMahieu and Cameron Maybin accounting for the Yankee offense with home runs.
But with the arrival of Encarnacion, Clint Frazier was shipped back to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Frazier saying, “It’s a tough pill to swallow. It’s never fun, especially with how much I felt like I contributed to this team this year.”
Frazier did hit .283 with 11 home runs, but his outfield defense was poor and his attitude less than that. He’s just a strange guy. No doubt the Yankees will do their best to package him for a badly-needed starting pitcher before the trade deadline. Frazier has proven he belongs in the big leagues, but he’s worn out his welcome with Yankee management.
Last night, New York won again, 6-3, as Giancarlo Stanton made his return from the injured list, going 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. He’s the fans’ whipping boy and the pressure is on him to perform. Aaron Judge is also expected back from the IL shortly.
Edwin Encarnacion homered in his second game as a Yank.
New York 45-27
Tampa Bay 43-40...2.5
--The Mets are in the midst of a make-or-break stretch against the likes of Atlanta, Chicago, Philadelphia and the Yankees, the Mets losing in Atlanta Monday 12-3 as the beyond awful bullpen yielded 7 earned in two innings of work.
How awful has the pen been? Try an ERA of 9.23 the last 19 games.
So entering Tuesday, the Mets were 34-38 and in desperate need of a win, so they turned to their ace, Jacob deGrom, and he delivered eight scoreless before tiring in the ninth, the Mets winning 10-2 as rookie Pete Alonso was 4-for-4, two doubles and a home run, 3 RBIs.
Prior to the game, the Mets put pathetic reliever Jeurys Familia and his 7.81 ERA on the injured list.
--The Dodgers beat the Giants 9-0 on Tuesday as Clayton Kershaw threw seven scoreless to improve to 7-1, 2.85. Kershaw is now 23-11, 1.68, lifetime against San Francisco.
--The Angels fielded a lineup featuring Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani and Justin Upton for the first time in eight months Monday, Upton returning from the injured list and homering on the first pitch he saw; Ohtani and Trout also going deep in a 10-5 win at Toronto to move the Angels within a game of .500, 36-37.
With these three in the middle of the order the Angels are a different ball club for sure.
Tuesday, L.A. hit the .500 mark with a 3-1 win over the Blue Jays.
--Max Scherzer broke his nose when during batting practice he fouled a bunt off his face, which might force him to miss a start. The Nationals were then rained out for the second straight time against the Phillies.
--For all the home runs being hit, I won’t be upset unless we have a slew of guys hitting 50, and this season four National Leaguers are on track for that mark – Christian Yelich, Cody Bellinger, Hunter Renfroe and Pete Alonso – but no one in the A.L.
Baseball hasn’t seen four hit 50 in a season since 2001 – Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Luis Gonzalez and Alex Rodriguez.
--When I noted the Padres-Rockies weekend series last time, I was focused on the U.S. Open finish and didn’t realize that the four games saw a combined total of 92 runs, breaking the major league record for scoring in a four-game series set 90 years ago.
Thurs. Rockies 9, Padres 6
Friday: Padres 16, Rockies 12 (12 innings)
Saturday: Rockies 14, Padres 8
Sunday: Padres 14, Rockies 13
The previous record for most runs in a four-game series was 88, set by the Dodgers and Phillies in 1929.
--Major League Baseball and the MLB Players’ Association met in New York on Monday, a big step in what the union hopes are major changes in the current labor agreement. What’s encouraging is that the two sides are beginning to talk more than two years before the current deal expires.
As the New York Times’ Tyler Kepner observes:
“Essentially, the union feels that younger players are rarely paid what they are worth, while veterans are now in much less demand, leading to lower salaries for what were once their prime earning years.
“ ‘We’re past the trend,’ said Tony Clark, the executive director of the players’ association, in a recent interview at his midtown office. ‘This is how it’s going to look moving forward. In acknowledging and recognizing that, you appreciate that the system – and what I’ll call the grand bargain that was in place going back 40-plus years – is no longer reflective of the realities of today. As a result, the system doesn’t work.’”
The current collective bargaining agreement runs through 2021 and MLB is under no obligation to reopen it, but a strike would be a certainty if it doesn’t try to address some of the growing issues sooner.
“Some of the more pressing issues for the union, according to interviews with officials, agents and players, include establishing a more competitive environment among the 30 teams; restoring meaningful free agency; ending service-time manipulation; and, perhaps most important, establishing a system that rewards players – especially young players, who currently have little leverage and, thus, limited earning power – for the value they actually produce.
“The league insists that the portion of revenues the players receive – 54 percent, (MLB deputy commissioner Dan) Halem said – is consistent with historical trends. But, at least in theory, MLB is open to a system that distributes those dollars differently.
“ ‘We do have a higher percentage of our revenue going to younger players through the arbitration process,’ Halem said. ‘That number has increased consistently every year since I’ve been in the job, and that’s due to the fact that we have a lot of very good younger players. Also, we saw this year with respect to free agency, the money is being concentrated at the very top, with super-elite free agents doing very well.
“ ‘What you see going on here is really a distribution issue, how the players want salary distributed. How salary is distributed among our teams is an issue that systems can be designed to address.’”
MLB and the union have avoided a work stoppage since the cancellation of the 1994 World Series and the delay to the 1995 season.
--The College World Series has been slow to develop and as I go to post, only Arkansas has been eliminated.
U.S. Open...final thoughts
--Mark Cannizzaro / New York Post
“The right man won the U.S. Open on Sunday.
“Gary Woodland was the best player in the field from the moment the 119th U.S. Open began Thursday at Pebble Beach. And fittingly, he was the last man standing in triumphant pose, arms and putter in the air on the 18th green, having put an exclamation-point, finishing birdie-bomb touch on an exquisite round and week....
“Seven times prior to Sunday’s final round, Woodland had owned 54-hole leads and failed to convert them to victory. That pesky negative hung heavy in the marine-layer air as the day began.
“Afterward, Woodland, still shaking with emotion, called his play this week ‘as good as I’ve ever been.’
“ ‘I knew my record coming in,’ said Woodland, a three-time winner on the PGA Tour in his 10 seasons. ‘I kept hearing about my 54-hole record and I kept telling myself that records are made to be broken. I kept telling myself during the round that it’s not over and to, ‘Finish, finish, finish.’ I’m glad it’s over with. I’m more nervous right now than I was playing today.
“ ‘A lot of hard work went into this and I’ve surrounded myself with a lot of great people who’ve helped me get to this moment.’
“Two of them were his parents, Linda and Dan, who were green-side on 18 when their son delivered the best Father’s Day gift of all.
“Woodland lost the lead on the first hole when he parred and Rose birdied. But he never flinched, regaining the lead with a birdie on No. 2 and then extending it with another on No. 3. The lead grew to as many as three shots before Woodland bogeyed Nos. 9 and 12 and the lead was shaved back to one over Koepka....
“Everyone in the galleries and the millions watching on TV likely expected Koepka, with his cold-blooded-killer reputation, having won four of his previous eight majors and the last two U.S. Opens, to win....
“There were two shots that defined the final round for Woodland – an aggressive 3-wood play to the back edge of the green in two on the par-5 14th hole that led to birdie and an added cushion, then a sand wedge punch chip from the 17th green over a ridge to about 18 inches for an easy par putt that gave him a two-shot lead with one hole to play.
“ ‘That 3-wood at 14 is what gave me the confidence to even execute that shot on 17,’ Woodland said. ‘I felt better after hitting that shot than I have in a long, long time.’....
“ ‘From a mental standpoint, I was as good as I’ve ever been,’ Woodland said. ‘I never let myself get ahead. I knew I was playing well going in, but I’ve been playing good going into a lot of tournaments and haven’t had the results I wanted.’
“On this day, he got the ultimate result.
“ ‘I think I proved what I always believed,’ Woodland said. ‘That I’m pretty good.’”
Thomas Boswell / Washington Post
“Gary Woodland shocked the golf world and stomped on the back-to-back-to-back U.S. Open championship dreams of Brooks Koepka on Sunday at Pebble Beach Golf Links. But Woodland didn’t shock himself. His three-shot victory over Koepka, capped by a 30-foot bravura birdie putt on the 72nd green, was the culmination of years of work, especially dramatic improvement in his short game over the past two years and a remarkable discovery of how to putt within the past few weeks. Since the middle of last season, his game has been building, peaking until he entered this U.S. Open ranked 25th in the world and brimming with confidence. Only one huge issue remained: Woodland seldom wins. And he never even gets close in a major championship.
“In his 13 years as a pro, he had won only three middling PGA Tour events. The first 27 times he entered major championships, he never cracked the top 10. In two of his past three majors, he improved to tied for sixth and eighth. But a top-five finish – never.
“At the end, Woodland’s one-shot lead became a three-shot appointment with golf immortality. Asked whether he had ever allowed himself to dream this big, he answered, ‘No, I never did.’...
“Sometimes defeat reveals personality better than late-night alcohol. Koepka has been stoic, dominant and intimidating while winning two U.S. Opens and two PGA Championships in the past two years. But after a loss that denied him countless distinctions, he showed perfect grace. Hot under the collar after barely missing a nine-foot birdie putt at the 72nd hole that would have cut Woodland’s lead to one, he regained his best self almost instantly.
“ ‘I tried to go as low as possible,’ said Koepka, who started his round birdie-par-birdie-birdie-birdie. ‘I thought, ‘All right, we got a ballgame now.’ But [Woodland] played a hell of a round. Props to him. It dawned on me [after the last putt] that I was that close to accomplishing something that hasn’t been done in, what, more than 110 years. Nobody in the world played better than Gary did this week.’
“If Woodland had busted a toe and withdrawn Tuesday, the honors that would now be heaped on Koepka are almost hard to believe. It may be better that Koepka seems not to fully sense his loss....
“Instead of hailing Koepka, the golf community can now appreciate Woodland more – especially two remarkable shots that keyed his victory (the 3-wood on 14 and the chip on 17).....
“Part of the tradition of the U.S. Open is the connection to Father’s Day. Two years ago, when Woodland’s wife, Gabby, was pregnant with twins, one of the children died in a miscarriage, but Jaxson Lynn Woodland, who arrived 10 weeks early, is now a healthy 2-year-old. In August, the Woodlands are expecting twin girls.
“ ‘Then life is going to get really real. I need to keep making birdies,’ said Woodland, who earned $2.25 million Sunday – which buys a lot of diapers.
“Often, U.S. Open winners get weepy about their fathers. That’s nice. But occasional contrast is appreciated. Woodland praised his father, Dan, who often worked nights, for coaching him in every sport (except golf) and beating his brains out whenever they competed.
“ ‘My dad never let me win. I didn’t beat him at golf until I was 13. I didn’t beat him at basketball until I was 15,’ Woodland said. ‘When we played each other, he was big and mean.’
“That’s excellent preparation for a Sunday at the U.S. Open when Brooks Koepka beats on your door for 18 holes. Gary Woodland never let him through.”
--When you look back to Sunday, after his sizzling start, Koepka finished up with six straight pars following his bogey on the par-3 12th. He did have a good shot to put some pressure on Woodland on No. 18 but missed the 9-footer.
But with his 69, Koepka became the first player to shoot five consecutive U.S. Open rounds in the 60s going back to the final round at Shinnecock.
He’s also the first who didn’t win a U.S. Open after shooting in the 60s in all four rounds – Lee Trevino (1968), Lee Janzen (1993), Rory McIlroy (2011) and Woodland all hoisted the trophy after doing the same.
But Koepka has also now finished first or second in four consecutive majors dating back to the 2018 PGA Championship.
I also didn’t realize his caddie, Ricky Elliott, is from Portrush, Northern Ireland, site of next month’s Open Championship at Royal Portrush. That has to be a huge advantage for Koepka.
--Until Sunday, Woodland’s biggest moment of the year was the viral video he shot with Amy Bockerstette, a 20-year-old with Down Syndrome, during the Phoenix Open. Woodland invited her to play the par-3 16th, and Amy hit into a bunker, blasted onto the green and made the par putt, all the while saying, “You got this.” That was the message she sent Woodland on Saturday night.
So it was good stuff to see Woodland face-timing with Amy after his win, and then I saw the two on “Today” Tuesday morning, Amy surprised to find Woodland in the studio. A touching moment.
--Not for nothing, but Fox did an outstanding job with the telecast; Joe Buck, Paul Azinger and Curtis Strange meshing well together, ditto Shane Bacon and Brad Faxon.
And the visuals were pretty phenomenal, with first-ever shots from the drones the network employed, which were even more critical with the persistent ‘marine layer’ often blocking shots from the blimp used in every other telecast. And the use of shot tracer was terrific.
--Brad K. reminded me I forgot to note the coyote attack story the other day here in New Jersey, with one attacking a mother and her 4-year-old son while she was pushing him in a stroller on Thursday. [Isn’t four a little old for a stroller?] As noted in the local paper:
The coyote lunged at the mother and child, knocked over their stroller and bit them, police said.
But this happened in a public park, near the community pool, though adjacent to a wooded area.
“As she was walking, another individual who was also walking alerted her to the fact that there was a coyote walking directly behind her. When the woman turned around to see for herself, the coyote lunged at her....
“The coyote then attempted to go after the child, biting him on his right leg, police said. At that time, other individuals began to run towards the victim just as she was able to get up and pick up the stroller.
“She attempted to flee but the coyote again attempted to lunge at her again. The coyote then ran into the woods.”
So police and animal control officials were called, and about two hours later, an officer spotted a coyote traveling along a fence line.
“He exited his vehicle with his M4 patrol rifle and made his way into the backyard. A few moments later, a coyote emerged from behind a pool and began to aggressively approach the officer. In order to protect himself, the officer fired several shots, striking the coyote and killing it.”
I didn’t see if the coyote tested positive for rabies, but residents on the street said a Doberman Pincher was attacked earlier by a coyote.
--Meanwhile, down in North Carolina, a shark bit an 8-year-old boy in the third attack this season along the Carolina coast. The boy was swimming in open water at Bald Head Island on Sunday afternoon when a shark grabbed him by the leg, causing multiple bite wounds. The child is expected to make a full recovery.
Last week, a 19-year-old was bitten by a shark in Ocean Isle, off the same coastline from where a 17-year-old girl lost most of her leg to a shark attack at Fort Macon State Park earlier this month.
Between 2009 and 2018, North Carolina typically experienced one to three unprovoked shark bites each year, so it’s unusual to have three by June.
According to Gavin Naylor of the International Shark Attack File at the University of Florida, most of the shark bites off the Carolina waters are from blacktip sharks, which migrate in large numbers from Florida up to the Carolinas every May, where they breed from June to August.
But it’s believed the 17-year-old girl was attacked by a bull shark.
And yesterday, off the coast of New Jersey, fishermen captured a massive great white that went after the bait hanging over their vessel.
It’s official. The Great Offensive of 2019 has begun. Stay home, or if you feel compelled to head to the beach, confine yourself to mini-golf courses with an ocean view.
Top 3 songs for the week 7/15/78: #1 “Shadow Dancing” (Andy Gibb) #2 “Baker Street” (Gerry Rafterty...great beginning, then song kind of sucks the rest of the way...) #3 “Take A Chance On Me” (Abba)...and...#4 “Use Ta Be My Girl” (The O’Jays) #5 “Still The Same” (Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band) #6 “Miss You” (The Rolling Stones...still more of a ‘Hot Rocks’ Stones’ guy myself...) #7 “The Groove Line” (Heatwave) #8 “Dance With Me” (Peter Brown with Betty Wright) #9 “It’s A Heartache” (Bonnie Tyler...had me asking for my sword back then....) #10 “Last Dance” (Donna Summer...was selling books door-to-door in Oklahoma and Kansas this summer...100 degrees every day...was really asking for a glass of water rather than a sale...)
Baseball Quiz Answer: Only National Leaguers with 140 RBIs in a season since 2001.
2003 – Preston Wilson, 141, Colorado
2006 – Ryan Howard, 149, Philadelphia
2008 – Ryan Howard, 146, Philadelphia
2009 – Prince Fielder, 141, Milwaukee; Ryan Howard, 141, Philadelphia
If you remembered Preston Wilson accomplishing this feat, you’re good.
1969 Mets, cont’d....
The Mets travelled across the country for four in Philadelphia, and in the process swung a big deal, obtaining slugger Donn Clendenon from Montreal for four minor leaguers; Steve Renko, Jay Carden, Dave Colon, and Kevin Collins.
Clendenon, 33, is expected to platoon at first base with Ed Kranepool. Mets GM Johnny Murphy talked to Big Donn prior to finalizing the deal because Clendenon had threatened to quit baseball to go into private business in Atlanta where he lives.
June 17: In the first of a twi-niter, Gary Gentry fired a 2-hitter, with nine strikeouts, the Mets winning 1-0 on an RBI from J.C. Martin.
June 17: In the nightcap, though, the Mets lost 7-3, Don Cardwell (2-7) hit hard as Dick Allen hit his 18th homer, while Larry Hisle went deep twice; Grant Jackson going all the way for Philadelphia.
June 18: Mets win 2-0 behind Jerry Koosman’s 4-hit shutout, besting Rick Wise.
June 19: Mets win again, 6-5, despite Tom Seaver yielding five runs in seven innings, Ron Taylor the win in relief, Tug McGraw the save. Art Shamsky went 4-for-4 with two home runs for the Metropolitans.
So the Mets, 33-27, head home after a successful 8-4 road trip, suddenly just six games back of the Cubs, who were swept in a four-game series in Pittsburgh.
Next Bar Chat, Monday.