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[Posted early Sunday p.m., prior to Yankees-Red Sox]
Baseball Quiz: Once a year I have to talk about doubles in a season. Everyone is required at one point in the summer to pay homage to Earl Webb and his 67 in 1931; a season really out of nowhere given his career. George Burns (more on him in a moment) had 64 in 1926, and then there are only four others to have 60 in a season in the history of the game, all doing so in the 1930s, and all four Hall of Famers. Name ‘em. Answer below.
--Here in the New York area, it’s panic city if you’re a Yankee fan...panicking over the starting rotation and whether GM Brian Cashman will bring in what is clearly needed, a front-end pitcher. Heading into Sunday’s night game in Boston, the Yanks had lost 5 of 7, including the last three to the Red Sox by scores of 19-3, 10-5, and 9-5...38-13. Saturday represented the sixth straight game Boston has scored eight or more runs against the Yankees, the first time in the clubs’ 117-year rivalry. Furthermore, the Yankees, for the first time in franchise history, had given up seven runs or more in seven straight.
Over the past seven games, New York’s starters have yielded 52 runs – 48 earned – on 52 hits in 26 innings.
In the last eight games, including an 11-5 win over the Rockies, the starting staff has an ERA of 14.90, and since the All-Star break, Yankees starters had a major-league worst ERA of 7.96.
The rotation of Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, CC Sabathia, Domingo German and J.A. Happ is not an intimidating group come playoff time. But a game-changing arm isn’t out there. The Nationals aren’t trading Max Scherzer, Madison Bumgarner is unlikely to be a Yank, and talk about Zack Greinke being available is probably just that, talk.
However, now CC has gone on the injured list with knee inflammation. He’ll probably miss two starts. I repeat...it’s panic city at the Little Bandbox that Ruth Didn’t Build.
--In Friday night’s 10-5 win over the Yanks, Boston's Mookie Betts homered three times, in his first three at-bats off James Paxton, and added an RBI double, giving him five ribbies for the game.
But it was not just Betts’ fifth three-homer game of his career, one shy of the record, but also the fourth consecutive day with a three-homer performance in MLB, a record; the others being Robinson Cano on Tuesday, the Cardinals’ Paul DeJong Wednesday, and Nelson Cruz Thursday.
Actually, when Cruz hit his three in a Twins win over the White Sox, that represented the first time with three-homer games on three consecutive days. There have been 15, three-homer games in 2019 vs. 14 all of last year.
--In Thursday’s 19-3 loss to the Red Sox, for some reason Yankee manager Aaron Boone left in starter Masahiro Tanaka long enough, 3 1/3, for Tanaka to give up 12 runs. That’s just cruel. Tanaka handled it professionally, but he became the second pitcher ever for the Yankees to give up 12 runs in a game, the other being Carl Mays, who in 1923, gave up 13 runs in a game.
Mays had a very strong career, 207-126, but he was hurt in 1923 and pitched to a 6.20 ERA in limited action.
--The Mets are very much in the trade conversation, offering starters Zack Wheeler and Noah Syndergaard for the right price, as well as starter Jason Vargas and reliever Edwin Diaz. The Mets have won four of their five series since the All-Star break but unless they get to .500 they can’t be taken seriously. Too often when you think they are about to go on a roll, they seemingly take a day off.
But in defeating the Padres 4-0 on Thursday afternoon at Citi Field, Jacob deGrom made more history. As the Mets’ broadcasters are calling him, deGrom is “The Sun King.” Quite simply, he is the greatest pitcher in day games of all time, at least going back to 1915.
This was deGrom’s 160th career start, with 52 being in daylight. He is now 24-11 in those game, with a record-low 1.86 ERA after throwing seven scoreless Thursday. At night, in 108 starts, Jake is 37-37, 3.09.
Well, the Metsies ended up sweeping the Buccos today, 8-7, to move to 50-55, but they are still six back of the wild card.
Then, the Mets apparently acquired Toronto starter Marcus Stroman, who was perhaps the top candidate to go to the Yankees....details still trickling out.
--Mark R. warned me Friday that the Phillies were going to wear their god-ugly burgundy uniforms from 1979 for a throwback weekend. Back then the players hated the uniforms so much, one of their stars said he’d rather be traded than have to wear them again. The threatened boycott worked and the team mothballed the uniforms for 40 years.
Until Saturday night, and what a disaster. Starter Zach Eflin gave up 10 runs in 2 2/3, Atlanta was up 15-1 after five, and cruised 15-7.
[Atlanta suffered two big losses this weekend. Outfielder Nick Markakis broke his wrist and shortstop Dansby Swanson is on the IL with a bruised right foot. Markakis was hit by a pitch Friday night and is slated to be out six to eight weeks, though he will not require surgery. So at least he’ll be available for the postseason.]
Today, the Phillies, back to normal uniforms, beat Atlanta 9-4.
--Entering Sunday’s action, the Cubs were 36-18 at home, but just 19-31 on the road after blowing another save (this one multiple times) in Saturday’s 5-3 loss at Milwaukee in 10 innings.
Craig Kimbrel, after eight straight solid performances, gave up two home runs in the bottom of the tenth to Christian Yelich and Keston Hiura, after the Cubs had retaken the lead in the top of the frame on an Albert Almora Jr. homer.
In 542 appearances before this season, Kimbrel had given up multiple home runs in the same outing just once. In 12 games as a Cub, he has done it twice already. He’s 0-2, two blown saves, but does have seven saves.
But the Cubs’ bullpen is tied for the most blown saves in July in all of baseball.
--Friday morning, the Washington Post’s Thomas Boswell had some thoughts on tearing down a baseball team and trying to rebuild.
“A half-dozen teams are trying this approach at this very moment, a number that makes it certain that almost all will fail. By the July 31 trade deadline, more teams will decide whether to be ‘sellers.’ Some will be tempted to go from ‘sellers’ to outright rummage sale while chasing a trend that’s left the station.
“Washington Nationals fans have avoided this disgraceful display, at least for this season, with their teams’ recent rush from embarrassing in May to a wild-card spot now.* But in 2020 or ’21, if the Nats stagger early, you can be sure that, coast to coast, and in D.C., too, you’ll hear wails just like the ones two months ago about how the Nats would be ‘smart’ to consider trading Max Scherzer, Anthony Rendon and others, for kids. By ’22 will it be: What are we offered for Patrick Corbin or Trea Turner?
*After losing Friday and Saturday to the Dodgers, the Nationals were tied with the Cubs and Brewers for the two wild-card slots.
[After today’s play...the Nats beating the Dodgers, 11-4, Stephen Strasburg now 14-4, 3.26...the Cubs, Cards, and Nats are tied at 56-49, Milwaukee and the Phillies one back.]
“Snap out of it. Don’t listen....it’s idiotic to rip up a team that has a chance to make the playoffs, even as a wild card, especially in the first era in MLB history when six teams already are trying to race to the bottom....
“The idea of trying to lose 100 to 115 games, while claiming it’s a long-term plan for glory, always has been a long-shot notion, seldom born out in actual baseball experience. Of the current 30 teams, 20 have never in the past 50 years lost more than 200 games in consecutive seasons, at least not after you exclude their early expansion-team days. Yet those 20 teams have won 33 of the past 50 World Series, exactly the ratio you’d expect if there was no difference between having a Horror Era and never being truly awful at all.
“With the Orioles (on a pace for 111 losses), Tigers (111), Royals (103), Blue Jays (101), Marlins (101) and Mariners (98) all in the same mud hole wrestling to get the same No. 1 overall draft pick next season, we’re watching a bull market in stupidity. And cupidity, too, since all those teams think that they can still make a safe cynical profit, thanks to revenue sharing, no matter how bad they are.
“As for trades, all these bottom feeders are fighting over the same ever-smaller pool of available prospects in a sport full of analytics-driven front offices that (correctly) worship young cheap players. What a joke: A sport full of horrid teams who think they’re being smart until they call a good team and try to trade their mediocrities for a nice Class AA prospect. The answer: Do you think we’re fools? We want the same kind of players you do – and we’re not giving you any of ours.
“This ‘Get Awful to Get Great’ method has led to a few brilliant successes in the past, such as the 2011-13 Astros who deliberately lost 106-107-111 to get No. 1 overall draft picks, while also trading vets for minor league prospects. They won the 2017 World Series.
“The worst-to-first trick also has worked, partly by accident, for teams like the 1988-90 Braves who lost 300 games, then reached the playoffs 14 seasons in a row.
“But those are the exceptions. In the past 50 years, losing usually leads to more losing. A lot more losing. I’ve watched it up close too often in Baltimore. In 1987-88, the Birds lost 202 games. Full rebuild mode. In the 31 seasons since, the Orioles have won 90 games just three times....
“Baseball has seldom seen a darker hour for its core concept of maintaining the integrity of the game. Commissioner Rob Manfred is either asleep or complicit.
“Too many teams are now breaking their implicit vows to the public. They’re making a profit through the back door as money gushes into the game from revenue streams, many of them generated over the Internet, which are divided 30 ways. For generations, fans have believed that they were ‘in it together’ with their teams. Bad times made everybody miserable – fans, players and owners alike. Now, only the fans take it in the neck....
“How do the teams with the most devoted fan bases view losing – and especially horrible demoralizing 100-loss seasons?
“The Boston Red Sox have had only one season with more than 93 losses since 1934. Baseball-loving Cincinnati has seen only one Reds team lose 100 games since its inception in 1882. Baseball in Los Angeles draws huge crowds. Sure, it’s sunny. But entertainment competition is huge. The Dodgers and Angels, in a combined 121 seasons in L.A., have had only one team that lost more than 95 games. The Yankees, a special case to be sure, haven’t lost 100 since they were the Highlanders in 1912. The ‘best fans in baseball?’ Maybe St. Louis. The last Cardinals team to lose even 95 games was in – come on, guess – 1913.
“There’s a pattern here. You better think twice before following the current greedy disingenuous fad to tear down your team to the foundations to ‘rebuild.’ No, better think 10 times – at least.”
--Speaking of losing teams, as the Wall Street Journal’s Jared Diamond pointed out the other day, it really is amazing what has happened to the 2019 Seattle Mariners. They won 13 of their first 15 games, “a blistering start that raised hopes that they would snap out of a playoff drought that dates back to 2001, the longest in the major North American professional sports.”
Since divisional play began in 1969, eight other teams had opened a year 13-2 or better. All of them finished over .500. Six of them reached the postseason – though one that didn’t, the 1994 Atlanta Braves, had their season cut short because of the strike that canceled the World Series.
But the Mariners were 45-63 thru Saturday. Staggering. The Mariners actually spent 33 days in first place in the AL West and might lose more than 100 games. That hasn’t happened in baseball history in 110 years (the 1908 New York Highlanders, who started 20-15, and then went 31-88).
--The aforementioned Dodgers, in beating the Nats 9-3 on Saturday, showed just how the rich get richer. Rookie catcher Will Smith was 3-for-3, a home run and six RBIs, and now in just 10 games is hitting .345 (10-for-29) with four homers and 12 ribbies.
Clayton Kershaw went six effective (two runs) to improve to 9-2, 2.85. I love how he has transformed himself. The greats can do that.
--34-year-old Troy Tulowitzki is calling it a career after 13 MLB seasons. Tulowitzki signed with the Yankees in the offseason, but as was the case for much of his career, found himself plagued by injuries. He played just five games for New York before hitting the IL with a calf strain.
“Tulo” was a five-time All-Star, won a pair of Gold Gloves, and at one point was a sure-fire Hall of Famer. Now he exits the sport as just another very good player who cashed in wildly financially.
--Former Red Sox slugger David Ortiz was released from the hospital Friday, more than six weeks after he was shot at a bar in his native Dominican Republic. Ortiz will continue rehabbing at home. He has undergone at least three surgical procedures for damage to some of his internal organs.
--Training camp generally bores me, and all any fan cares about is keeping the team healthy.
But the New York Giants already have a unique problem. Their wide receivers are dropping like flies, or as they said this weekend, “The situation is going from bad to worse to almost disastrous.” Golden Tate, a free-agent acquisition brought in to help offset the trade of Odell Beckham Jr., was suspended four games for violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing substance policy. Tate is appealing and believes he has a strong case.
But beating the suspensions is not easy and rarely happens.
The loss of Tate comes on top of Sterling Shepard, who would be a starter alongside Tate, going down with a fracture to the tip of his left thumb, which will keep him out of the preseason. And then Corey Coleman, in line to be the No. 3 or 4 receiver, as well as the top kickoff returner, was lost for the season after tearing an ACL.
--Last ‘chat’ I talked about the loss of Tyreek Hill of the Chiefs over child abuse allegations and K.C. having to replace a quarter of their total yards per game, assuming Hill would face a lengthy suspension of at least eight games.
But then Hill wasn’t suspended.
Jerry Brewer / Washington Post
“The NFL is back, and so – cringe – is Tyreek Hill. The two are tied, sadly, in a complicated knot. It’s difficult to celebrate the early stages of a new season without fretting the uneasy re-emergence of the troubled star wide receiver.
“After a disturbing offseason that included a child abuse allegation and police investigation into his 3-year-old son’s broken arm, Hill is free to resume his career with the Kansas City Chiefs. Last week, the NFL opted not to suspend Hill, just as prosecutors in Johnson County, Kan., previously had declined to charge because of insufficient evidence. Both the league and law enforcement officials stopped short of absolving Hill of any wrongdoing, careful to protect themselves by intimating the case is too muddled to make a definitive judgment.”
So Hill returned to practice this weekend, the Chiefs’ “championship aspirations (being) built around an extraterrestrial offense that Hill elevates with his speed and creative playmaking.
“Patrick Mahomes, with limitless zeal and talent, became the face of the franchise in 2018 after his record-setting first season as a staring NFL quarterback. But Hill is the truest representation of the team the Chiefs have created. On the field, they are as fun and carefree as any team the sport has seen. Behind the thrills, however, they are a ticking time bomb of character risks.
“This season might be their best chance in 50 years to win a championship. While their eyes are focused on the Lombardi Trophy, they won’t be winning any morality awards....(As) a franchise, the Chiefs have eschewed caution way too much of late.”
Think Kareem Hunt, for starters.
“But (Hill) is free to play football again, and Kansas City is dreaming the biggest dreams. The Chiefs remain the most exciting team in the NFL, and at the end of this season, they just might be the best, too.
“ ‘We’re comfortable with Tyreek coming back here,’ (coach Andy) Reid said earlier this week.
“Of the many words you can use to describe Hill’s return, ‘comfortable’ would be at the bottom of many lists.
“Perhaps the Chiefs will be fine. Perhaps Hill, who is playing for a lucrative contract extension, will be on his best behavior. Perhaps their electric style will find a way again to overshadow their character concerns. But they won’t always be comfortable to watch. They won’t be fun and carefree.
“Their problems are much heavier now, and at the same time, their potential greatness seems quite fragile.”
--Quarterback Mark Sanchez announced his retirement, setting off on a new career with ESPN as a college football analyst, essentially replacing Mack Brown in the studio, Brown taking the North Carolina job this offseason.
Sanchez retires with a 37-36-0 record as a starter; 86 touchdown passes, 89 interceptions.
--Brooks Koepka won his seventh Tour title (four being majors) in handily winning the WGC-FedEX St. Jude Invitational in Memphis by three over Webb Simpson (Go Deacs!). Rory McIlroy, the third-round leader by one over Koepka, shot a one-over 71 to finish T-4. But he gets credit for bouncing back from last week’s disaster at The Open.
--Bernhard Langer, 61, won another major at the Senior Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, his fourth British Senior title, 11th senior major, and 40th PGA Champions Tour win.
--Tom Watson bid adieu to the Senior Open Championship, just as he had done at the last U.S. Senior Open earlier this summer, but the 69-year-old did so in style this week, making the cut, and shooting 74-70-72-73, +3.
--Tom Edrington of Dogleg News was musing about last week’s Open Championship, ‘winners’ and ‘losers.’ ‘Big Winner’: Royal Portrush. ‘Big Winner’: Shane Lowry, of course.
But a ‘Big Loser’: “J.B. Holmes. Greatest line from Sunday – while Holmes was fidgeting and apparently indecisive on his opening tee shot, Paul Azinger quipped: ‘He’s only had 23 hours to figure it out.’ Add in that closing 87 and J.B. pretty much got what he deserved.”
I’ve told you how J.B. is on my s---list for his incredibly slow play. Needless to say, he’s now on Brooks Koepka’s s---list too. Holmes is bad for the sport, period.
Edrington had another ‘Big Winner’ from The Open: “The Harbour Bar. Got more publicity than any drinking establishment in Ireland.”
--Separately, Ireland scored another Big Win this week with the announcement that Adare Manor in Limerick will be the site of the 2026 Ryder Cup. I have never played there, but they have revamped the main course (it’s inland, not links golf) and it is said to be spectacular and will no doubt look terrific visually.
Early estimates are that the Ryder Cup could add 160 million euro ($170m+) to the economy.
--I forgot to note last time Jim Herman’s second PGA Tour title last weekend at the Barbasol Championship, which was played opposite The Open.
Herman is an assistant pro at Trump National Bedminster, New Jersey, and a frequent playing partner of President Trump.
And it was Trump who a few weeks ago encouraged Herman to change to a conventional putting grip and clubhead following a recent round.
Herman’s only other Tour victory, at the 2016 Shell Houston Open, also followed a round with Trump.
Prior to the Barbasol, Herman had made only three of 19 cuts this tour season.
--Congratulations to Colombia’s Egan Bernal for winning the Tour de France. The 22-year-old is the first Colombian to win it, and he also becomes the youngest post-World War II winner. Bernal won the race with the stages in the mountains, delivering his fatal blow in the Col de l’Iseran, the Tour’s highest point this year at over 9,000 feet.
--It was good to see Katie Ledecky finally win a gold medal at the FINA world championships in Gwangju, South Korea, in one of her best events, the 800-meter freestyle. It was her fourth straight world championship in the 800, and 15th world title overall.
But this had been a world championship to forget. Illness forced Ledecky to pull out of two events, and though she recovered in time to defend her title in the 800, and did help her 4X200-meter freestyle relay team to a second-place finish and an American record (Australia won the gold), the championships were a huge disappointment.
It seems that Ledecky was extremely dehydrated, including from training camp in Singapore prior to Gwangju.
Separately, thank god the accident at the night club in Gwangju didn’t claim more than the two South Korean lives it did. One U.S. woman member of the winning water polo team suffered a leg laceration and others had more minor injuries.
--The Boston Celtics were impressed by the play of 7-foot-7 center Tacko Fall in five summer league games (7.2 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.4 blocks), so they signed him.
The Senegal native starred at Central Florida and had a strong NCAA tournament before the Golden Knights narrowly lost to Duke in the second round. He looked damn good to me.
And to the Celtics’ Danny Ainge, who said in signing Fall, “He’s a high priority for us to try to really develop into a player.” Ainge said some of the plays he makes “are hilarious because you just don’t see them. Guards get in a bind and they just throw the ball up in the air, then Tacko grabs them and makes tip-toe dunks from under the basket. It’s just like a senior in high school playing against fourth-graders sometimes out there.”
I hope the guy is a huge success. Congrats to the Celts for grabbing him.
--UConn is paying the American Athletic Conference a $17 million exit fee so the school can rejoin the Big East next year.
AAC bylaws stipulate any school seeking to leave the conference must give 27 months’ notice and pay a $12 million fee, but the sides negotiated the higher fee for UConn to leave sooner.
The Huskies will join the Big East in all sports except football (and men’s and women’s ice hockey and rowing), with the football program becoming an independent in the FBS in 2020.
--Two boxers have died in the past ten days; Argentine Hugo Alfredo Santillan and Russian fighter Maxim Dadashev. Our prayers to their families.
--Jeff B. passed along the following from CNN.com that I had missed.
“A mass brawl broke out on a British cruise ship Friday morning, leaving several people injured and others confined to their cabins for the rest of their journey, according to an eyewitnesses who spoke to CNN affiliate ITV news.
“The P&O cruise ship Britannia was on the final leg of a cruise to Norway’s fjords from Southampton, in southeast England, when the fracas broke out, ITV reported.”
An ITV correspondent who happened to be on board said that “heavy amounts of alcohol contributed to violence that started on the 16th floor restaurant on Thursday, when a passenger appeared dressed as a clown.”
Well, this would have upset me as well, I hasten to add, and I would have had to riot, too.
One witness told the ITV reporter that they became upset “because they’d specifically booked a cruise with no fancy dress. It led to a violent confrontation.”
The clown should have been thrown overboard, to be devoured by whale sharks that I know ply those waters.
[Granted, whale sharks (#25 on the All-Species List) normally pose no threat to humans, but they would have been freaked out by a clown in the waters just as much as you or I.]
--Panic is spreading across England over the rising number of increasingly violent seagull attacks. I told you the other day of the seagull who carried off a Chihuahua (“Gizmo” is still missing), but now there are concerns a child could be seriously injured. One couple has a group of gulls nesting above the front door of their home and they are attacked each time they step outside. Roy, 77, said he had to be hospitalized for cuts to the back of his head.
What’s even scarier is that the seagulls seem to be much bigger than a generation or two ago.
--The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is adopting a slightly softer stance on the Sunshine State’s invasive green iguana problem.
The FWC, which encouraged residents “to kill green iguanas on their own property whenever possible” in a directive released at the start of the month, provided some additional information Thursday.
“Unfortunately, the message has been conveyed that we are asking the public to just go out there and shoot them up,” FWC Commissioner Rodney Barreto said in a statement.
“This is not what we are about; this is not the ‘wild west.’ If you are not capable of safely removing iguanas from your property, please seek professionals who do this for a living.”
I guess the FWC would frown on my suggested use of a bazooka, unless it was in safe hands.
--Peggy Fleming turned 71 this weekend. 20 years ago I labeled her “The Most Beautiful American of the Century.” Of course she still is. But I’m not allowed to say such things these days....
....in fact the PC police are banging on my door now! [They use AI to read my mind before I even post.]
--If I could create my own summer Country Music Concert these days, beer flowing, it would be Maren Morris, Thomas Rhett, and Florida Georgia Line.
Top 3 songs for the week of 7/31/71: #1 “You’ve Got A Friend” (James Taylor) #2 “Indian Reservation” (Raiders) #3 “It’s Too Late” (Carole King)...and...#4 “Mr. Big Stuff” (Jean Knight) #5 “Draggin’ The Line” (Tommy James) #6 “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart” (The Bee Gees...this was when they were good...before the Disco crap...) #7 “Don’t Pull Your Love” (Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds...loved this one...) #8 “Take Me Home, Country Roads” (John Denver...ditto, but peaked at #2 a few weeks later, behind “How Can You Mend...”) #9 “Sooner Or Later” (The Grass Roots) #10 “What The World Needs Now Is Love / Abraham, Martin and John” (Tom Clay...terrific week, A-...)
Baseball Quiz Answer: Earl Webb had 67 doubles, George Burns* had 64. But the four Hall of Famers with 60 or more were: Joe Medwick, 64, 1936; Hank Greenberg, 63, 1934; Paul Waner, 62, 1932; Charlie Gehringer, 60, 1936.
Todd Helton (2000), Chuck Klein (1930), and Tris Speaker (1923) all had 59.
*As for George Burns, the guy was AL MVP in 1926! I’m sorry....didn’t know that, or killed that brain cell in a saloon in Deadwood. He only had 4 home runs that season, but hit .358 with 115 RBIs and all those doubles, while playing for Cleveland.
Burns played from 1914-29, hit .307 for his career, and had 2,018 hits.
He then became a comic and lived forever....or maybe that was a different George Burns.
1969 Mets...since I’m thru July 27, will pick it up next time. The Astros are coming into town. Uh oh.
Next Bar Chat, Thursday.