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[Posted Sun. p.m., prior to Mets-Braves...not that this game is the least bit meaningful...]
New York Mets Quiz: They honored the remaining members of the ’69 Miracle Mets on Saturday, so have to do something Mets related. For having a 58-year history, they don’t have a lot of big career statistics. 1) Only three Mets pitchers have 100 wins in a Mets uniform, so name the six with 90 or more. 2) Name the only six to win 20 games in a season. 3) Who am I? I was 5-22 one year, but with a respectable 3.78 ERA. Answers below.
NBA Free Agency
Free agency began tonight at 6:01 PM ET, though the players cannot sign deals with teams until July 6. Nonetheless, the latest as I go to post...the following written this morning as it developed...
The two biggest targets, Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard, are rumored to have discussed playing together, either between themselves or through their agents, and could be discussing joining forces in Los Angeles or New York...i.e., the Clippers or, unfathomably, the Knicks.
But Leonard wanted to talk with the Lakers, too, but under one stipulation, that Magic Johnson be there, even though Magic had up and left the organization a few months ago.
As the Los Angeles Times’ Bill Plaschke noted: “The Lakers forced to use Magic Johnson to sell their front office is like a realtor trying to sell a house with a brochure that includes testimony from a former owner who once tried to burn it down.”
The NBA told the Lakers that Johnson can’t be part of an official meeting because, since he quit, he has been actively advising players on other teams. So Magic will have to engage in a private meeting that will clearly have great influence.
Plaschke: “How is Leonard going to believe a Lakers’ sales pitch by a guy who walked away from the Lakers on the final day of the regular season – less than three months ago – because he didn’t like the work environment?”
Kemba Walker plans to reach a four-year, $140.6 million agreement with the Boston Celtics, Boston and Kyrie Irving parting ways. A great move for Boston, Walker, a three-time All-Star, having had his career best season in 2018-19 for Charlotte, 25.6 points, 5.9 assists, 4.4 rebounds, while shooting a solid 35.6% on his 3-pointers.
According to the Charlotte Observer, Walker, 29, who was eligible for a five-year, $221.2 million supermax contract from the Hornets, ‘only’ received a five-year, $170 million offer from the Hornets.
But then out of nowhere, Kevin Durant signs a four-year, $161 million deal with the Brooklyn Nets! Durant now paired with Kyrie, a major crap shoot on 2020-21.
And Brooklyn is reportedly signing DeAndre Jordan, Durant’s buddy, which is a loss to the Knicks.
Speaking of which, two years ago, the Knicks harbored dreams of signing both Durant and Kyrie, and now they lose not only both of them, but Jordan would have been a terrific mentor for developing center Mitchell Robinson.
A massive day for the New York area.
Klay Thompson is going to receive a supermax contract from the Warriors, five years, $189.6 million, even though Thompson is likely to miss virtually all of next season after sustaining a torn ACL during Game 6 of the NBA Finals.
Golden State doesn’t have salary cap space to pursue top-dollar free agents from other teams, but they can keep exceeding the cap and luxury tax lines to re-sign their own free agents. It’s expected the Warriors are thus going to offer Kevin Durant a five-year, $221.2 million deal.
--The Yankees and Red Sox played a first-ever game in England on Saturday, with the Yanks taking it 17-13. For just the third time in history, the two starting pitchers exited in the first inning having allowed six runs each, 6-6.
The contrived stadium, where they held the London Olympics, was just 385 feet in center and the teams combined for six home runs, which, actually, is no big deal these days.
And then the Yanks won today 12-8, after Boston had taken a 4-0 first-inning lead. New York scored nine runs in the seventh to go ahead 11-4 and it was over.
So we have in the A.L. East....
New York 54-28
Tampa Bay 48-36... 7 GB
Boston 44-40... 11
Meanwhile, one guy having a truly outstanding season for New York is infielder DJ LeMahieu, who after going 2-for-3 with runners in scoring position, has his average in those situations up to .486! And it’s not like it’s a small sample size...35-for-72. [No thru Sunday.]
LeMahieu, who signed a two-year, $24 million free agent with the Yanks in the offseason, had spent seven productive seasons in Colorado, batting .299, including a batting title in 2016.
But he had never had more than 66 RBIs, with a career-high 15 homers last season, yet this year thru today was at .345, 12 HR, 61 RBI, and a .925 OPS.
Yes, Brian Cashman looks brilliant with this signing.
--But Cashman may have made a big mistake with the signing of J.A. Happ, 36, to a 3-year, $51 million contract in the offseason (including a vesting option for 2021) after he had gone 7-0 last year in 11 starts, a trade deadline pickup.
But the other late acquisition last summer, Lance Lynn, was 3-2 in 9 starts, yet the Yankees didn’t go after him in free agency.
So Lynn, 32, is 10-4, 4.00 ERA, for Texas after signing a 3-year, $30 million deal there.
Happ is 7-4, but it is oh so deceiving as he has a 5.23 ERA.
Which deal would you rather have at this point?
--The Mets honored the ’69 World Champions yesterday and the current squad, duly inspired, went out and lost their seventh-in-a-row, 5-4 to Atlanta, the bullpen imploding yet again.
On Thursday, as the Phillies completed a sweep over the Metsies, New York had taken a 3-1 lead in dramatic fashion in the top of the ninth, Todd Frazier’s homer giving the Mets a 2-1 lead before they tacked on another.
But then closer Edwin Diaz gave up a two-run homer to Maikel Franco to tie it, and then a three-run walk-off shot to Jean Seguar for the 6-3 comeback win.
WFAN’s Mike Francesa was watching and he went on another epic rant.
“Unbelievable,” he said. “So this guy comes in and gives up five runs.
“That sums it up. Fire all of ‘em. Don’t even bring ‘em back to New York. Let the bus go the other way, please,” he said. “Tomorrow night, let the ’69 Mets take the field, they’d do a better job against the Braves. This is unbelievable. Frazier hits one of the biggest home runs you could hit in your life, kept the Mets alive. 2-1 Mets. They added an insurance run, 3-1 Mets.
“Go to the bottom of the ninth. They traded to get this kid, the great reliever. They bring Diaz in here, all he’s gotta do is get a rocking chair save against the bottom of the lineup! Walks the first batter, gives up a homer to the eight hitter!
“And then gives up a three-run jack to Seguara on his 38th pitch or whatever the heck it was. He’s done, he’s shot, bullpen’s shot, team’s shot, manager’s shot, the pitching strategist – who the hell knows what he does in the first place? You know what? Let the Mets take the bus, instead of coming North on the turnpike, send it south, let the ’69 Mets suit up tomorrow night. I can’t even believe it. You can’t lose this game. They stink so bad, you can’t even make it up. 37 and 45. Diaz goes out and he gives up two homers and five runs, after Frazier hits the clutch home run of the year to keep this team breathing.
“You gotta be kidding me. Get rid of all of ‘em. They’re a bunch of jokers.”
After a pause, Francesa seemed to realize a few of the players are doing OK this year.
“Alonso, I apologize. McNeil, I apologize. DeGrom, maybe I apologize. The rest of you...you stink. Back after this.”
After Saturday’s loss, which followed Friday’s desultory 6-2 defeat, the Mets had lost 13 of 17 to fall ten games under .500, 13 behind the Braves, with the bullpen having blown a major league-most 21 saves, their best reliever, Seth Lugo, having squandered a lead in his last three appearances, including last night, where he came into the game with a 4-3 lead and then gave up back-to-back home runs on consecutive pitches.
The Mets’ bullpen has allowed runs in 18 of their past 20 appearances. For the month of June, the pen, with an ERA of 7.64 (5.58 overall...28 of 30 in MLB) was on the verge of its worst bullpen performance for a single month in franchise history!
And one more...the Mets are 14-39 in the month of June for 2018 and 2019 combined.
--The improving White Sox suffered a big blow, losing potential All-Star shortstop, and leader, Tim Anderson to a high ankle sprain that will keep him out weeks; Anderson hitting .317, with 11 HR, 37 RBI, 15 steals.
--What a shocking two days in Baltimore, Friday and Saturday. The Orioles (22-58) entertained the Cleveland Indians (44-36) and beat them by identical 13-0 scores the two games; the first time in MLB history a team had back-to-back shutouts while scoring at least 13 runs in each contest. It’s a classic ‘just when you thought you’ve seen everything.’
Also consider the fact the Orioles’ pitching staff had given up a staggering, MLB-leading 165 home runs in the first 80 games, including 10 games where they yielded five or more.
And one more. How about O’s pitcher Andrew Cashner? He threw seven scoreless on Saturday and is now 8-3 on a team that is 24-58. As Ronald Reagan would have told Nancy while reading yesterday’s box scores, ‘Not bad...not bad at all.’ [A mini-Steve Carlton, circa 1972, when Carlton went 27-10 on a team that was 59-97. The other five who started at least ten games that year were a combined 17-57! Now that is unfathomable. Reminder...that was the season where the first-ever players’ strike wiped out the first week or so of the season, the games not made up.]
--The Rays brought up 23-year-old two-way player Brendan McKay to start Saturday’s game against the Rangers and all the kid did was throw six innings of one-hit ball, a perfect game through five, gaining the win in a 5-2 victory over the Rangers.
McKay was a combined 6-0 at Double-A and Triple-A, a sterling 1.22 ERA over 66 2/3 innings, while batting .265 with four home runs at the latter.
Today, the Rays improved to 48-36, beating Texas 6-2, as last year’s Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell finally got his act together after a horrible run. Snell, 5-7, 4.87, went six, allowing the two runs with 12 strikeouts. His prior five starts, however, he had allowed 23 earned runs in 17 1/3, an 11.94 ERA.
--Speaking of the Rays, what a joke...Major League Baseball giving the team permission to look for opportunities to split their teams’ season with home games in Montreal. That’s so incredibly stupid.
While this might not take place until 2024, just move the franchise, if the Tampa Bay-St. Petersburg area won’t commit to a new stadium immediately. But the Rays’ lease with hideous Tropicana Field and the city of St. Pete extends through 2027.
Rays’ majority owner Stu Sternberg has said the only way the team could make money on attendance was to split the season with another location. Despite having eight winning seasons in the last 11 years and four postseason appearances, attendance has not averaged over 20,000 since 2010.
At the beginning of 2019, the team announced it would close seating in the upper deck, meaning the stadium now has a 25,000-seat capacity, as opposed to the 45,000 with which it opened in 1998.
Meanwhile, Stephen Bronfman, the son of Charles Bronfman, the late owner of the Montreal Expos, has purchased some land for a potential new ballpark, and MLB at this point should commit to it and move back to Montreal (assuming the city approves too, of course).
--Chicago Cubs closer Craig Kimbrel made his debut on Thursday, preserving a 9-7 Cubs win over the Braves at Wrigley Field. Kimbrel hit 97 mph on his first pitch.
The day before, Dallas Keuchel picked up his first win for the Braves, 5-3 over the Cubs, Keuchel allowing three earned in 5 2/3 in his second start.
So the two big free agents who had to wait until June to sign with their respective teams are off and running. Keuchel signed a one-year deal that pays him $13 million; Kimbrel and Chicago finalizing a $43 million, three-year contract.
--Back to the ’69 Mets....for those of us who have vivid and fond memories of this magical season, yesterday was both wonderful and rather sad. It was great seeing the likes of Ed Kranepool, Jerry Koosman, Jerry Grote, Wayne Garrett, Duffy Dyer, J.C. Martin, Bud Harrelson (despite his dementia) Cleon Jones, Ron Swoboda, and Art Shamsky together on the field, 15 of them in all, but you couldn’t help but think of those we have lost like Tug McGraw, Tommie Agee, Donn Clendenon, Don Cardwell, and Ed Charles. And then there was the absence of Tom Seaver due to his medical issue.
But the Mets did a great job inviting family members of those who have left us and I couldn’t believe Mrs. Gil Hodges was still alive and there at Citi Field, along with son, Gil Jr.
It was a very touching day...the teammates with their arms around each other for a last time in a group this big, watching a video of their remarkable season on the center field scoreboard. Every Mets fan loves them dearly.
Mike Vaccaro / New York Post
“You know all about the mythology, of course. You know all the nicknames – the Amazin’ Mets, the Miracle Mets. God Himself, in the voice and person of George Burns, famously said: ‘The last miracle I performed was the 1969 Mets.’
“You know all the Crazy Stuff that happened – the black cat haunting Leo Durocher and his fading and ill-fated Cubs; the matching catches Tommie Agee made in Game 3 of the World Series and the damn-near-indescribable one Ron Swoboda made the next day; Steve Carlton fanning 19 Mets one night in September but losing the game because Swoboda took him deep twice; the September doubleheader in Pittsburgh, both games won 1-0, both games clinched by RBIs from the starting pitchers, Jerry Koosman and Don Cardwell.
“By the end of this weekend, a river of nostalgia will have washed up against Citi Field, covering newly christened Seaver Way with a fond glisten of reminiscence. It is well-earned. The city is forever split into sporting factions but it is hard to find anyone – even old-time, hard-line Yankees fans – who don’t recall the ’69 Mets fondly.
“Part of that is the romance of time.
“But part is what the ’69 Mets represent. They help explain the inexplicable: the eternal optimist that lurks within the heart of even the most cynical, skeptical, wounded sports fan. In the 50 years since they captured the World Series and, correspondingly, the world’s imagination, they have been referenced millions of times.
“ ‘If the ’69 Mets could do it...’
“They are – and, presumably, forever will be – New York’s most improbable champions....
“These kinds of reunions can become muddled in maudlin, melancholy replacing mania. But for 50 years, that hasn’t been what this team has been about.
“ ‘We’ve always represented what can happen when good guys get together and do great things,’ Swoboda said. ‘And what can be better than that?’”
Saturday, the Mets stood together one last time, as Vaccaro put it:
“New York’s most improbable – and beloved – champions. Then. Now. Forever.”
--Vanderbilt won its second national championship Wednesday night in Omaha in the finals of the College World Series, 8-2 over Michigan in the deciding Game 3.
So with the win, we have our final Baseball America poll.
4. Texas Tech
5. Mississippi St.
7. Florida State
12. East Carolina
14. North Carolina
--36-year-old journeyman Nate Lashley is an easy man to root for. Entering this week he was ranked No. 353 in the world and No. 132 in the FedEx Cup standings, having turned pro in 2005 after graduating from the University of Arizona. It wasn’t until 2015, though, that he began to turn his golf career around, having sold real estate to make ends meet for years.
But while a junior at Arizona, his parents and girlfriend were killed in a plane crash on their way home from watching him compete at the 2004 NCAA West Regional.
So Lashley took a six-shot lead into the final round of the inaugural Rocket Mortgage Classic, a new event debuting at Detroit Golf Club, Lashley -23 after firing 63-67-63. Heck, the cut in this one was -5!
And Lashley closed the deal, winning by six...his sister in the gallery. I shed a tear for the guy. A super sports moment.
Meanwhile, Gary Woodland and Dustin Johnson missed the cut.
--At the U.S. Senior Open...as I go to post, Steve Stricker has a six-shot lead at Warren Golf Course at Notre Dame, a massive commercial for the school. More next time.
But I do have to note that 69-year-old Tom Watson made the cut and is T-17 as I write.
--Follow-up: As expected, Michelle Wie announced she is taking the rest of the year off to get healthy.
We wish her the best and hope she returns next year. Boy, the LPGA Tour could use her.
Women’s World Cup
Megan Rapinoe has been the focus of attention for her exploits both on and off the field, but for the second consecutive match on Friday, she scored twice as the United States won its huge quarterfinal match with France, 2-1, thus advancing to Tuesday’s semifinal against England in Lyon.
In the other semifinal, Wednesday, it will be Netherlands (2-0 winners over Italy) and Sweden (2-1 over Germany).
--For the month of May, for the first time since sports betting in New Jersey became legal last year, more money was wagered at Garden State sportsbooks than in Las Vegas...$318.9 million in bets vs. Nevada’s $317.4 million, as reported by ESPN.com citing revenue numbers released by state gaming control.
In Atlantic City, the Borgata and Bally’s opened new sportsbooks in the past few days, a $12 million project for the Borgata, $8.4 million for Bally’s; this even though gambling and technology executives recently concluded at a conference in A.C. that 90% of sports betting in the United States will be done over mobile phones or the internet in the next five to 10 years.
But this hasn’t stopped the casinos from spending gobs on potential customers, with Bally’s, for example, creating five “fan cave” private rooms, each with a wall of video screens that can be broken down into four separate games. It will also include a beer-pong bar, and Atlantic City’s first self-serve beer bar.
--New England’s last thoroughbred horse track, Boston’s Suffolk Downs, hosted its final live races this weekend, another blow to the sport.
The 84-year-old track lost out on a bid to build a resort casino on the property in 2014, thus sealing its fate.
Two years ago, Sterling Suffolk Racecourse, the company that operates Suffolk Downs, sold the property to a real estate developer that plans to build apartments, condominiums and offices on the 161-acre property straddling Boston and Revere.
Sterling has said it is still seeking permission to keep racing in the New England area, including a proposal to restore the Great Barrington Fairgrounds near the New York state line.
--From Sarah Ladd / Louisville Courier Journal
“They’ll devour slimy newborn calves, full-grown ewes and lambs alive by pecking them to death.
“First the eyes, then the tongue, then every last shred of flesh.
“And there isn’t much defense against black vultures and turkey vultures, both of which are federally protected and cannot be killed without a permit.
“The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 covers all migratory birds, their nests and their eggs, which means that the birds can’t be harmed without federal permission. Their nests can only be disrupted, as a deterrent, if there are no eggs or young in them.
“But as the vultures, which are native to Kentucky, have multiplied in numbers nationally over the last two decades, they have become more of a problem for farmers. Each year, Kentucky farmers lose around $300,000 to $500,000 worth of livestock to these native vultures, according to Joe Cain, commodity division director for the Kentucky Farm Bureau.
“It’s not just farm animals. Small pets may be at risk too.
“The birds can be valuable contributors to the ecosystem, disposing cleanly of animal carcasses. But their increased numbers have made them more desperate for food in other forms – even alive.
“ ‘With a vulture, it’s like someone came in with a skinning knife,’ said Derek Lawson, the head herdsman for the 1,300-acre bio dynamic Foxhollow Farm in Oldham County. ‘It’s all clean cuts. Usually, the hide’s completely cut off, whereas with a coyote or dogs, it’ll be torn and jagged.’”
Well, the vultures are spreading. We have them in New Jersey, like all of our neighbors now do. They are the Nazgul, forerunners to the Apocalypse.
--An American tourist died in a shark attack while snorkeling with her family in the Bahamas last Wednesday afternoon. 21-year-old Jordan Lindsey of Torrance, California, was attacked by three sharks near Rose Island, Lindsey’s parents and other family members having seen the sharks and yelling a warning but she didn’t hear them in time. Officials say her arms, legs and buttocks were bitten and her right arm was severed.
Ms. Lindsey was taken to a local hospital but it was too late.
Officials did not identify the specie of shark involved, but Hammerheads, bull, tiger, reef, and lemon sharks are all common to the area.
--We note the passing of Argentine actress Isabel Sarli, 89. She was immensely popular in her day as a star of sexploitation films in her native country, many then worldwide during the 1960s and ‘70s, though they were often censored, or banned, such as during the time of Argentina’s military dictatorship in the ‘70s.
Sarli once said she often needed a little whisky to gain the courage to film some of her scenes.
In a New York Times review of Sarli’s 1969 film “Fuego,” Roger Greenspun wrote: “Isabel Sarli squeezes more sexual frisson into the space between breathing in and breathing out than most of us could spread over a lifetime of ordinary lovemaking.” Cough cough...cough....
--The late economist Alan B. Krueger wrote a book, “Rockonomics,” a study of the music industry in these rapidly evolving times, before his death in March.
What are today’s economics? A hit song can generate $400,000 for its “creators” from just one prominent streaming service, says Krueger, but those “creators” include companies, publishers and managers, as well as the songwriters, singers and musicians. Not a lot for the musicians by the time it gets down to them.
So with recording in flux, musicians have to rely on performance revenue. According to Krueger, in 2017, for example, U2 earned 96% of their $54 million income from touring. But that touring revenue involves hefty production costs.
Top 3 songs for the week 7/6/63: #1 “Easier Said Than Done” (The Essex) #2 “Sukyaki” (Kyu Sakamoto) #3 “Blue On Blue” (Bobby Vinton...great tune...)...and...#4 “Hello Stranger” (Barbara Lewis...ditto...) #5 “It’s My Party” (Lesley Gore...incredibly underrated artist...) #6 “One Fine Day” (The Chiffons) #7 “Surf City” (Jan & Dean) #8 “Memphis” (Lonnie Mack) #9 “So Much In Love” (The Tymes) #10 “Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport” (Rolf Harris...pretty darn good week seeing as we were six months from being blown away by four lads from Liverpool making their U.S. debut on the Ed Sullivan Show...)
New York Mets Quiz Answers: 1) 90 or more wins: Tom Seaver, 198; Dwight Gooden 157; Jerry Koosman 140; Ron Darling 99; Sid Fernandez 98; Al Leiter 95. 2) 20 wins: Tom Seaver (4 Xs); Dwight Gooden; Jerry Koosman; David Cone; RA Dickey; Frank Viola. 3) Roger Craig went 5-22, 3.78 ERA, in 1963. The 40-120 1962 Mets were lovable losers. The ’63 team sucked, 51-111, batting .219!, though with a 4.12 ERA. [’64 and ’65 also blew bigly, 53-109 and 50-112.]
1969 Mets, cont’d....
Pittsburgh came in for three....
June 27: Pirates won 3-1 behind Steve Blass (8-4, but 4.75), with help in the ninth from Joe Gibbon. Little 4’10” Freddie Patek homered for Pittsburgh. [Actually, he was listed at 5’5”, but looked smaller.] Jerry Koosman (5-5) took the loss for the Metsies.
June 28: Pirates hand the Mets their fourth loss in a row, 7-4, Jim Bunning (7-5) with seven strong, two runs, while Gary Gentry (7-6) went seven, three runs, absorbing the loss. Cleon Jones had three hits for New York, his average now .355.
June 29: The Mets break their little skid, winning 7-3 behind a complete game effort from Tom Seaver, now 12-3, 2.57, Tom Terrific with 10 strikeouts. Ed Charles, struggling all year, had three hits for the Mets.
So the Mets are 39-32, but back to 8 ½ behind the Cubs. New York heads to St. Louis for a rare 5-game series (owing to all the early-season rainouts). The pitching staffs on both teams will be tested.
The anticipation is building for Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest, Joey Chestnut vs. Matt Stonie. Last year Chestnut, an 11-time winner, ate 74 hot dogs and buns, but I’m jumping ahead of myself, as I’ll have more next time.
For now, I just saw that ESPN is debuting a new 30 for 30 about the contest, “The Good, The Bad, The Hungry,” on July 3.
However, to get your mandible moving, and your stomach churning, just a few current records from Major League Eating, the definitive organization of its kind run by one of the truly great people in this country, George Shea, who should be put in charge of the UN’s global food effort, or maybe not.....
Grilled Cheese Sandwiches – 47 in 10 minutes, Joey Chestnut, June 10, 2006 [Some say this will never be broken]
Waffles – 29 (8 oz.) / Waffle House, 10 minutes, Patrick Bertoletti, Oct. 7, 2007.
Pierogi – 165 in 8 minutes, Joey Chestnut, Oct. 8, 2014. [With a bunch of packages of pierogis in my freezer currently, I am very respectful of this particular mark.]
Ice Cream – 16.5 pints Vanilla, 6 minutes, Miki Sudo, July 13, 2017.
Hard Boiled Eggs – 20 in 84 seconds!, Battleship Record, USS Fitzgerald, Adrian Morgan, Aug. 13, 2011.
Next Bar Chat, Thursday.