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More Bad News for the Astros
[Posted Wed. a.m.]
College Football Quiz (for old timers): Give me the name of the quarterback, lead running back and receiver on Ohio State’s championship team in 1968, which defeated USC in the Rose Bowl for the national title. 2) The USC team featured O.J. Simpson. For a year’s supply of Good Humor Whammy Sticks (void where prohibited by law), name the Trojans’ quarterback. Answers below.
First, a reminder of the AP Top Ten, including points:
1. LSU 1542 points
2. Ohio State 1480
3. Clemson 1441
4. Alabama 1312
5. Georgia 1267
6. Oregon 1224
7. Minnesota 1164
8. Utah 1099
9. Penn State 1003
10. Oklahoma 1000
And now the new CFP Rankings:
1. LSU 9-0
2. Ohio State 9-0
3. Clemson 10-0
4. Georgia 8-1
5. Alabama 8-1
6. Oregon 8-1
7. Utah 8-1
8. Minnesota 9-0...largest jump, 9 spots, into the top 10 in the CFP era
9. Penn State 8-1
10. Oklahoma 8-1
11. Florida 8-2
12. Auburn 7-2
13. Baylor 9-0
17. Cincinnati 8-1*
18. Memphis 8-1*
21. Boise State 8-1*
23. Navy 7-1*
25. Appalachian State 8-1*
*Group of Five
At this point, if Georgia runs the table, including a win over LSU in the SEC title game, of course it’s in.
If Oregon or Utah run the table and we have a one-loss Pac-12 titleholder, they should be in.
The fly in the ointment is really LSU. IF they lost a close one to Georgia, it would be between the Tigers and a one-loss Pac-12 team for the fourth spot, with Ohio State, Clemson and Georgia.
As for Alabama, they have to totally destroy their remaining opponents, especially Auburn, to stay in the conversation.
But all the above assumes everyone runs the table to the very end, and that’s not going to be the way it works out.
So for this weekend, we’ll see if there is any letdown for either LSU or Alabama, for starters.
LSU is at Ole Miss (4-6, 2-4 SEC); Alabama at Mississippi St. (4-5, 2-4).
Georgia has a biggie at Auburn (7-2) if they want to stay in the CFP hunt.
And we have Oklahoma at Baylor (9-0, No. 13), plus Minnesota travels to Iowa (6-3, No. 20 CFP). No room for a letdown there.
And Notre Dame-Navy is an interesting contest, with bowl implications.
--Wake Forest (7-2) dropped out of the CFP Top 25 after losing to Virginia Tech, Clemson up next, but the Deacs suffered a huge loss with the announcement Tuesday that their star receiver, Sage Surratt, was out for the season with a shoulder injury requiring surgery. Surratt had 66 receptions for 1,001 yards and 11 touchdowns. He was going to be in the running for first team All-American.
And to make it worse, fellow receiver Scotty Washington will miss the Clemson game with an ankle injury. As I noted last time, the Deacs need both of these two to win.
--When I posted about Arkansas and the plight of coach Chad Morris last time, I did not know he had been fired hours earlier, which only made sense after his 4-18 start in less than two seasons, including Saturday’s embarrassing home loss to Western Kentucky. The interim coach is Barry Lunney Jr.
Under the terms’ of Morris’ six-year, $21 million contract, the Razorbacks will owe him 70% of his remaining compensation, which totals about $10 million. Arkansas athletics will make monthly payments to Morris through 2023.
So Morris can just sit back for a few and stream “Game of Thrones,” “The Sopranos,” and “The Wire,” for starters, while drinking his favorite adult beverage. At least that will take him through February, perhaps. That would leave about four years to do something else.
As for who Arkansas can attract to take over the helm, that won’t be an easy task. One source says Auburn’s Guz Malzahn is a possibility, after they targeted him before hiring Morris, who had previously been the head coach at SMU. And Memphis’ Mike Norvell is on the radar, but in both cases I see it as a lateral move.
--FCS (Div. I-AA) Coaches Poll
1. North Dakota State (26)
2. James Madison
3. Weber State
5. Northern Iowa
6. Sacramento State
8. Illinois State
9. South Dakota State
10. Montana State
--Two outstanding games, Sunday night and Monday. Minnesota is 7-3 after beating Dallas at Jerry’s World, Sunday, 28-24, the Cowboys falling to 5-4.
Kirk Cousins continued his terrific play, 23/32, 220, 2-0, 111.5, while Dalvin Cook rushed for 97 and a touchdown, as well as picking up 86 yards on seven receptions. Cook leads the NFL in yards from scrimmage with 1,415.
Dak Prescott had 397 yards passing and three touchdowns, Amari Cooper with 11 receptions for 147 and a score, but it wasn’t enough, as the Vikings bottled up Ezekiel Elliott, holding him to just 47 yards on 20 carries.
Then Monday night, Seattle took on undefeated San Francisco in Santa Clara and emerged victorious 27-24 in overtime. In a wild OT, with Russell Wilson throwing an interception at the San Fran 4-yard line, and then 49ers coach Mike Shanahan making a huge mistake in not running down the clock on his team’s final possession of the extra session, giving Wilson too much time remaining; the Seahawks capitalizing, thanks in no small part to an 18-yard scramble by Wilson. Jason Myers kicked a 42-yard field goal to move the Seattle to 8-2, after San Francisco’s Chase McLaughlin earlier missed from 47 with 3:10 to play in OT, setting up the finale. He had nailed a 47-yarder with 0:01 left in regulation to tie it at 24-24.
For the 49ers (8-1), Jimmy Garoppolo did not have a good game, 24.46, 248, 1-1, 66.2, plus he lost two fumbles, while Wilson finished 24/34, 232, 1-1, 86.9, but 53 yards on the ground, including the key 18-yard run in the clutch.
--Since returning from his high ankle sprain, Saquon Barkley has carried the ball 64 times for 165 yards, a 2.58 per carry average.
Barkley did come back sooner from his injury than many expected. And then Monday, there was talk the Giants were considering whether to shut him down for the rest of the season. Tuesday, Barkley denied such talk.
Meanwhile, Le’Veon Bell is just 143-449, 3.1 avg. for the season and for the first time on Sunday, it stood out to me he was missing the explosiveness from years past. Prior to the Giants game, you could chalk up his ugly numbers to a hideous offensive line, but this game, it was more than that. Le’Veon did say after that he was playing with a rib injury. But for us Jets fans, it would be nice to see at least one bust-out game of yore to give us hope for next season, assuming the O-Line issue is addressed eventually.
--Speaking of rushing, there were a lot of crappy team rushing efforts this past weekend, so it had me looking to see how the season is going in this regard and 11 teams are averaging under 4.0 yards per carry.
In 2018, just three were under 4.0 for the season. Huh, I thought, thinking I was on to something I haven’t seen discussed anywhere else.
But then I look at 2017 and that year there were also 11 teams under 4.0, so never mind.
--We note the passing of former NFL wide receiver Charles Rogers, 38. He was the second pick overall in the 2003 NFL draft out of Michigan State, and what a two-year career he had there. 135 receptions, 2,821 yards, 20.9 avg., 27 TDs.
But Rogers would only catch 36 passes in a brief 15-game career over three seasons with the Detroit Lions, compounded by injury, like a broken clavicle, which he suffered twice his first two seasons.
Since his career ended, he has been arrested numerous times, and in 2017, he told the Lansing State Journal that he had gotten addicted to Vicodin, a pain medication, in the fall of 2004 after his second injury.
“(The Lions) were giving them out like candy,” he told the newspaper. “Whatever you want, man. Whatever you want. (They) weren’t even questioning as long as you are on the field. They were passing them out like Skittles. I was straight hooked on them things for 3 or 4 years.”
Rogers was suspended for four game in October 2005 for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy and, a month later, the Lions filed a grievance against him, demanding that he return more than $10 million of his $14.4 million signing bonus for breaking his contract after he returned to the team overweight. A court ruled he had to repay $6.1 million. [Another story I read said the initial signing bonus was $9.1 million.]
--Update: The Celtics’ Gordon Hayward will be out an estimated six weeks following successful surgery to repair a broken fourth metacarpal bone in his left hand.
But as Celtics coach Brad Stevens said, this is hardly two years ago and Hayward’s injury situation then. Plus, “The silver lining, any time you miss games, is that you’re more fresh at the end,” and the Celts are obviously geared for a potential run in the playoffs.
--Basketballreference.com had some telling statistics on the first ten games of James Harden’s season, his Rockets 7-3.
Harden has the most 3-point attempts through ten games in NBA history, and it’s not even close.
Harden, 42-141, .298
Steph Curry (2018-19), 59-116, .509
Eric Gordon (2017-18), 39-112, .348
Harden is also fourth all time in most points scored first 10 games of the season.
Wilt Chamberlain (1962-63), 529 points
Wilt Chamberlain (1961-62), 496
Rick Barry (1966-67), 381
James Harden (2019-20), 373
Wilt Chamberlain (1959-60), 371
Last year, Harden led the league in scoring at 36.13 ppg, the most since Michael Jordan’s 37.09 in 1986-87.
[Anytime you can write down Wilt Chamberlain’s name is a good day....for all kinds of reasons...cough cough...cough....]
AP Top 25
3. Michigan State
12. Seton Hall...still no definitive word on the extent of All-American guard Myles Powell’s ankle injury...tell us something, Seton Hall! Geezuz. I’m guessing my own estimate of January is pretty good.
So then what happened last night? In a total shocker, Evansville took out Kentucky at Rupp Arena, 67-64, as the Wildcats shot 20 of 54 from the field and were outrebounded 38-35.
I mean this is a Purple Aces team, coached by former Kentucky player Walter McCarty, that went 11-21 last season.
Good for Evansville and their coach. As Herm Edwards once famously said, “It’s why you play the games!”
--Congratulations to Yordan Alvarez, Houston, and Pete Alonso, Mets, for being selected as Rookies of the Year in the A.L. and N.L. It will be interesting to see if either player experiences a sophomore slump next season.
Alonso of course had a record 53 home runs, breaking Aaron Judge’s rookie record of 52 set in 2017, while Alvarez had a phenomenal 27 home runs and 78 RBIs in 87 games, with a 1.067 OPS. Including his stint in AAA prior to getting a June call-up, Alvarez had 50 home runs and 149 ribbies in 143 games.
--Gabe Kapler has been hired as manager of the San Francisco Giants, a month after being fired from the same job by the Philadelphia Phillies. Kapler replaces Bruce Bochy, who retired after 13 years and three championships with the Giants.
If you’re wondering how San Francisco came up with this selection, after Kapler was just 161-163 over two seasons in Philadelphia, including 81-81 this year with Bryce Harper, you need look no further than Giants President of Baseball Operations Farhan Zaidi and Kapler having worked together with the Dodgers, where Kapler served as director of player development.
--Buster Olney had the following piece on ESPN.com the other day, addressing many of the concerns us fans have, as well as the players.
To set the scene, the MLBPA and its president, Tony Clark, have been trying to drum up collusion charges against the owners all over again after the Braves’ GM Alex Anthopoulos made some remarks that were taken out of context, in the minds of a lot of us.
But it points to the very real tension between the two sides.
“(This) is where we are in the countdown to a showdown that careens toward inevitability, given the many unproductive months in the recent union-MLB relationship. If Clark and the players work from the Fehr-Orza playbook of 1994, then we will see a strike authorization for some time in the second half of the 2021 season, July or August.
“Hopefully, the two sides will have some meaningful discourse before then. In the interim, each side can take steps on its own to improve a product that nobody seems especially satisfied with – least of all the fans, who continue to slowly trickle away, as reflected in the gradual erosion of attendance and World Series television ratings.
“So as the two sides wait for the final game of labor chicken to be played, they can get their own houses in order.
“For Major League Baseball, there should be a mandate to address the tanking problem and other noncompetitive behaviors. The Houston Astros and Chicago Cubs were pioneers in the strategy, earning industry praise and championship rings, but they have also inspired group-thought that if you aren’t good enough to win a World Series, you should quit trying. To paraphrase Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto, there might be more competition for the bottom of the standings than the top.
“But it makes for an absolutely awful and nearly unwatchable brand of baseball. Four teams won than 100 games, and on the other pole, a third of the teams lost 90 or more games. The Tigers lost 114, the Orioles 108 (incredibly, an improvement over their 115-loss season of 2018), the Marlins 105. The Yankees obliterated Baltimore, winning 17 of 19 and nearly lapping the Orioles in runs, outscoring them 151-83. The Marlins lost 15 of 19 to the Braves, and 15 of 19 to Washington. The Tigers managed to keep the Indians in the AL Central race: Cleveland took 18 of 19 games against Detroit....
“An old saying in baseball was that every team was assured of winning at least 50 games and losing 50 games before each season, and what happened in the other 62 determined the difference between good and bad. That premise is increasingly obsolete. The notion of a foregone conclusion might occur in college football or the first round of the NBA playoffs, but it should never happen in a regular-season baseball game – and too often, it does.
“The starting pitchers used to be a great potential equalizer to offset talent disparity between two teams, but cannot be anymore because of the advent of bullpen strategy. So now when teams slash payroll and are designed to be bad, they’re really, really bad....
“On the players’ side, there needs to be a recognition that the slogging pace of play can make the game unwatchable for a lot of would-be fans. Privately, a lot of players, staffers and club officials complain about the way the game can drag, with eight or 10 minutes between slivers of action.
“The swing-and-miss aspect of the game is mostly here to stay, because pitchers throw harder than ever and hitters have altered their swings to adapt to the higher velocity. But year to year, the amount of time between pitches grows. Generally, pitchers take longer than ever to get on the rubber and look for a sign, and generally, a lot of hitters will step out of the box, lingering out of routine or superstition or some increasingly slow process of mentally sorting through pitch-sequencing possibilities. Some players will tell you: That’s what I need to do to get ready.
“The truth is that the lethargic players need to get over themselves. Get on the mound and throw the next pitch; stay in the batter’s box and get ready to hit.”
--As if the above isn’t bad enough, baseball was rocked by a cheating charge Tuesday.
Bob Nightengale / USA TODAY
“Finally, the name of the whistleblower has been revealed.
“Oh, not that whistleblower.
“Oakland Athletics pitcher Mike Fiers has nothing to do with Donald Trump.
“He has everything to do with the Houston Astros making the news again, for all of the wrong reasons.
“It has been an awful few weeks for the Astros, both on and off the field.
“Their assistant general manager was fired for an obscenity-laden tirade directed towards a female reporter.
“Then they lost to the Washington Nationals in the World Series, blowing a 3-2 lead.
“And now the report that Fiers revealed to The Athletic that the Astros were electronically stealing signs during the 2017 season, which ended with the team winning the World Series.
“ ‘I know these past couple of weeks there’s been a lot of news surrounding the Astros and it’s not all good news,’ Astros GM Jeff Luhnow said.
“ ‘It’s disappointing. If there’s an issue that we need to address, we’ll address it.’
“Fiers, who pitched for the Astros from 2015-17, said that the team stole signs using a center-field camera, which violates MLB rules. He warned his Detroit Tigers team in 2018 and the Athletics in 2019 of the Astros’ sign stealing.
“ ‘I just want the game to be cleaned up a little bit because there are guys who are losing their jobs because they’re going in there not knowing,’ Fiers told The Athletic. ‘Young guys getting hit around in the first couple of innings starting a game, and then they get sent down. It’s (B.S.) on that end. It’s ruining jobs for younger guys. The guys who know are more prepared. But most people don’t. That’s why I told my team. ...
“ ‘That’s not playing the game the right way. They were advanced and willing to go above and beyond to win.’
[According to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich, the Astros used electronic equipment to steal signs from opposing catchers, and then relayed the signs to hitters often by banging a trash can in the dugout to signal what pitch was coming next. The confirmation of rule-breaking by Houston is limited to 2017.]
“Major League Baseball and the Astros announced after Fiers’ allegations that they would immediately launch an investigation on whether the Astros cheated.
“Even if the Astros are cleared, it badly sullies their reputation.
“Suspicions that teams are using technology to cheat remains a widespread concern in baseball, but some, including Luhnow, believe it’s been overblown....
“ ‘I know it’s a topic that surfaces every year among the coaches, among the players, among the people in the industry. I’m sure it’s an issue. I just don’t know how widespread it is.’
“Still, the epicenter of the conspiracy is in Houston.
“ ‘We’re going to find out as much as we can, whatever there is to find out,’ Luhnow said, ‘and make a determination after that. I think at this point, we are going to investigate it, figure out what the facts are, and we’ll respond after that.
“ ‘We take the allegations seriously. If you’re not following the rules, it’s a serious matter.
“ ‘But I think the best course of action is not to speculate right now.’
“Still, this isn’t the NCAA. It’s not as if MLB will force the Astros to vacate the World Series title. They won’t be placed on probation. If penalized, it will likely involve nothing more than a monetary punishment, and at worst, loss of a draft pick.
“Again, it’s more about the image of the franchise, which has won at least 100 games in three consecutive seasons including two American League pennants and a world championship.
“ ‘The reason we won the World Series in 2017 was Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman and Justin Verlander and a lot of great players,’ Luhnow said. ‘They do things the right way. We, as an organization, that’s what we aspire to do as well.’
“Still, just as players find it virtually impossible to reshape their image, it’s perhaps even more difficult for organizations to do it.”
Washington Nationals GM Mike Rizzo said Tuesday at the General Managers Meetings that he told his staff to ignore all the rumors and speculation, and just play baseball.
And as Bob Nightengale adds: “Well, if nothing else, the Astros can at least point to this year’s World Series and prove to Major League Baseball they weren’t cheating.
“They didn’t win a single game at Minute Maid Park, losing all four, making this the first seven-game series in North American team sports history that not a single team won a home game.”
“If we were both cheating,” Rizzo said, “we were pretty bad at it.”
To be continued....
--What a tragic story. An All-American college gymnast at Southern Connecticut State University died after slipping off the uneven bars during practice and suffering a spinal-cord injury, her family and the school announced on Monday.
I don’t want to give the girl’s full name, but Melanie C., 20, was gravely hurt in what family friends described as a “tragic freak accident” while practicing Friday and she succumbed to her injuries at Yale New Haven Hospital days later.
Melanie was a Women’s Collegiate Gymnastics Association Scholastic All-American this year and previously made it to the top level of the USA Junior Olympics Program.
It’s so sad. Melanie had four brothers and sisters, including two gymnast sisters, with the mother saying they were inseparable. So we send our thoughts and prayers to the entire family, and the entire Southern Connecticut State University family.
--I’ve been trying to think of a U.S. counterpart to Canada’s NHL commentator Don Cherry, who was forced out of his job with Canadian broadcaster Sportsnet after making divisive comments about immigrants on the air Saturday night.
I mean Don Cherry has been an institution for decades with his role at “Hockey Night in Canada.” Picture Howard Cosell in his role (beyond “Monday Night Football”), except put him on all the networks back in the day, rather than just one. That was the impact of Don Cherry with our friends up north.
Cherry, an often controversial commentator (I just watched an hour of YouTube clips of him for this bit of mine), criticized immigrants in Canada for not recognizing Remembrance Day, the country’s equivalent to Memorial Day. The remarks started a firestorm in Canada that ended with Monday afternoon’s news that Cherry would “immediately step down.”
Matt Bonesteel and Ben Strauss / Washington Post
“Many Canadians wear small artificial poppies in the days leading up to Remembrance Day to commemorate military personnel who have died during war. Speaking Saturday night during ‘Coach’s Corner,’ his intermission segment during the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s ‘Hockey Night in Canada,’ Cherry noted that he rarely sees anyone wearing poppies in Mississauga, where he lives, or in downtown Toronto. Both areas have sizable ethnic populations.
“ ‘You people love – you, that come here, whatever it is – you love our way of life, you love our milk and honey,’ Cherry said. ‘At least you could pay a couple of bucks for poppies or something like that. These guys paid for your way of life, that you enjoy in Canada.’”
Cherry didn’t apologize for his comments, but Cherry’s longtime broadcast partner, Ron MacLean, did apologize for not pushing back on Cherry’s remarks.
“ ‘Don Cherry made remarks which were hurtful, discriminatory, which were flat-out wrong,’ MacLean said. ‘I sat there, did not catch it, did not respond. ...Last night was a really great lesson for Don and me. We were wrong and I sincerely apologize. I wanted to thank you for calling me and Don on that last night.’”
I’m going to be doing this story again in that other column I do at week’s end, though from a different angle.
--Johnny Mac passed on a story from Fox News of chimpanzees continuing to attack people in Uganda, “part of a disturbing trend going on in the country that has led to crop loss and even death.”
“National Geographic reports that the problem has been going on for several years, citing an incident in 2014 that saw a chimp fatally attack a 2-year-old child, stealing the baby from his mother.”
The mother told the publication that “It broke off the arm, hurt him on the head, and opened the stomach and removed the kidneys.”
I’ve always hated chimps, having had s--- thrown at me more than once on my tour of world zoos, No. 189 on the All-Species List when last ranked back in 2017, and now we are suspending it for a full year, which means ‘Chimp’ is banned from all ASL official functions, such as the yearend banquet and award show in Borneo.
Top 3 songs for the week 11/16/63: #1 “Deep Purple” (Nino Tempo & April Stevens) #2 “Sugar Shack” (Jimmy Gilmer and The Fireballs) #3 “Washington Square” (The Village Stompers)...and...#4 “I’m Leaving It Up to You” (Dale & Grace) #5 “It’s All Right” (The Impressions) #6 “Maria Elena” (Los Indios Tabajaras...had to look this one up...two brothers from Brazil...nice song...) #7 “She’s A Fool” (Lesley Gore...awesome tune...) #8 “Bossa Nova Baby” (Elvis Presley) #9 “Everybody” (Tommy Roe) #10 “500 Miles Away From Home” (Bobby Bare...we’re about ten weeks from The Beatles’ first appearance on Ed Sullivan...)
College Football Quiz Answers: 1) 1968 Ohio State Buckeyes, national champs, 10-0, coached by Woody Hayes...QB Rex Kern, RB Jim Otis, WR Bruce Jankowski. These were different times in the sport. Kern threw for seven touchdown passes with six interceptions, as teams ran very few plays. No such thing as hurry-up offenses back then. 2) USC’s quarterback that year was Steve Sogge. O.J. ran it 383 times for 1,880 yards (4.9) with 23 touchdowns.
Next Bar Chat, Monday.