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Remembering Two Giants
[Posted Tues. P.M.]
Masters Quiz: Name the last six foreign golfers to win the event (2008-2019). Answer below.
--Sources told ESPN’s Jeff Passan that Major League Baseball and its players are working on a plan that could allow them to start the season as early as May and has the support of federal public health officials who believe the league can safely operate amid the pandemic.
The plan, embraced by MLB and the Players Association leadership, would dictate that all 30 teams play games at stadiums with no fans in the Phoenix area, including the Diamondbacks’ Chase Field, 10 spring training facilities and perhaps other nearby fields. Players, coaching staffs and essential personnel would be sequestered at local hotels, where they would live in relative isolation and travel only to and from the stadium.
But just as in the nation overall, testing is the key. It has to be available and quick.
I don’t know. IF they went ahead with such a plan, June 1 seems a more likely start date. And while the leadership of the MLBPA might be in agreement, a lot of the players are skeptical about separating from their families for an indefinite amount of time – like as much as 4+ months.
On the other hand, the players would be receiving paychecks and the plaudits from a grateful nation.
Among the ideas being bandied about are an electronic strike zone to allow the plate umpire sufficient distance from the catcher and batter, as well as seven-inning doubleheaders.
But Mets broadcaster and former pitcher Ron Darling says he would take an entire summer without baseball over a scenario in which players and those connected to the sport are placed at risk.
“I would always try to err that all of our people are taken care of and protected before I decide to play any sport,” he said in a conversation with the New York Post. “That’s not baseball or basketball or hockey, that’s all the sports. Have we taken care of citizens and made sure they are on the right track? When they are on the right track, then we will give them something to watch.”
Darling says the challenge of conducting a season will be great.
“What happens if one of the 26 players tests positive two weeks after you have started the season?” Darling said. “What are you going to do in [places] where games aren’t going to be played? There’s just so many challenges and I would say I was very optimistic when this thing started that at some point we would find a lane to play a season that would be representative of a baseball season, but as each day goes on I get less and less optimistic.”
Meanwhile, the amateur draft process is a mess. It seems a compromise between the players’ union and MLB has settled on the draft (which was supposed to be June 12-14) now being reduced from 40 to 5 rounds, with the signing bonus value associated with each selection remaining frozen at 2019 levels, most of those bonuses not paid until after July 1, 2021, and no player eligible for the process who goes undrafted can receive more than a $20,000 bonus.
MLB has been looking to remove about 40 affiliates to redo the minors for better efficiency and economics, so reducing the number of players entering pro ball can help accomplish that.
As Joel Sherman wrote in the New York Post:
“No one draft stocks the major leagues, but just to understand where MLB gets volume from: There were a record 1,410 players used in the majors last year, and 482 (34.3 percent) were drafted after the fifth round. Of the 1,410 players, 1,045 came from the draft, thus 46.1 percent of drafted players came from the sixth round or later.”
Lastly, Sherman talks about the losers in this potentially lost season.
The Orioles, for example, lose less.
“They were going to have trouble drawing spectators this year. They get to run time off the horrible contracts of Alex Cobb and, especially, Chris Davis without paying them. No one of too much significance is accruing service time toward arbitration or free agency while games are not played….
“On the other side, the Dodgers are oft mentioned for being particularly hurt by games being missed and perhaps a season lost to the virus. That revolves mainly around one player – Mookie Betts. He is due to be a free agent following the 2020 season regardless and now may never play a game for the Dodgers after they traded three prospects to Boston for him, plus redirected Kenta Maeda to Minnesota.
“But the Dodgers have the young talent and resources to remain a powerhouse even without the prospects or Betts. The lost revenue in the sport likely will drive down free-agent prices at least for the near future, and just a few teams, such as the Dodgers and Yankees, might have the finances to capitalize.
“For the Yankees, though, part of the tolerance to stretch to nine years at $324 million for Gerrit Cole was knowing, yeah, they likely would be overpaying over the last few seasons of the contract, but they also would be getting prime years early. Now, Cole’s final season is in his 20s is tick, tick, ticking away without games….
“The biggest losers are clubs that have pushed so much into the pot for this year or next and do not have strong feeder systems or the financial wherewithal to best withstand things if most or, essentially all, of the 2020 major league season is lost.”
Two examples of this are the Cubs and Mets.
“The Cubs marketed their best players, such as Kris Bryant and Willson Contreras, in the offseason recognizing they needed to spread payroll around more and deepen their stock of controllable talent. But the Cubs never traded those players, who had two years of service time until free agency. So now, as their control is dwindling even as no games are being played, their value is lower, especially because more teams will lack the revenue to want to take on expensive players….
“But the Mets might be the big losers. Let us count the ways:
“They traded key prospects Jarred Kelenic, Justin Dunn, Anthony Kay and Simeon Woods Richardson for Robinson Cano, Edwin Diaz and Marcus Stroman, and they did not make the playoffs last year. Stroman…was obtained with his 2020 walk year in mind. So either he will pitch less in his walk year or become a free agent without pitching at all.
“The trade with the Mariners, already looking disastrous with Kelenic growing into a top prospect while Cano and Diaz faltered last year, can only be revived if the Mets receive a lot out of Cano and Diaz. As one NL executive said of what missing games does to that Mets’ trade: ‘It takes an egregious screwup and makes it worse.’”
Meanwhile, Michael Conforto, Steven Matz and Noah Syndergaard all will be free agents after next season, and the Mets are losing shrinking time with them. With Syndergaard now on the shelf with Tommy John surgery, the Mets blew their best chance to get value for him.
With starters Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha free agents as well as Stroman, the Mets’ rotation for 2021, with Noah out, is Jacob deGrom and Matz. Eegads.
And the Mets are wasting a cheap year for players such as Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil and J.D. Davis who were not yet arbitration eligible.
--Hall of Famer Al Kaline, aka “Mr. Tiger,” died. He was 85.
Kaline was the youngest player to win the American League batting title in 1955 at age 20 with a .340 batting average*, arguably his best season when he had 200 hits, scored 121 runs, slammed 27 home runs and drove in 102, finishing second in the A.L. MVP vote. He followed that up with a 27-128, .314 season.
*He bested Ty Cobb by a day.
Overall, Kaline played 22 seasons, all with Detroit, first coming up as an 18-year-old in 1953. He finished his career with 3,007 hits, a .297 batting average, 399 home runs and 1,582 RBI. A 15-time All-Star, he had 10 Gold Gloves in the outfield and finished in the top five in the MVP balloting four times.
Kaline hit the big leagues six days after being signed by Tigers scout Ed Katalinas, straight out of Baltimore’s Southern High School, making his debut on June 25, 1953.
John Lowe / Detroit Free Press
“In 22 seasons with the Tigers, most of them as a marvelous right fielder, Kaline played in more games and hit more homers than anyone else in club history, and he compiled a batting resume second only to Ty Cobb’s. But while Cobb was widely reviled for his bitterness and meanness, Kaline was widely and eminently respected for his on-field elegance and off-field graciousness. Thus, Kaline has a strong claim as the most distinguished Tiger of them all.
“Albert William Kaline was born in a working-poor section of Baltimore on Dec. 19, 1934. His father was a broom maker. His mother scrubbed floors. When Kaline received a reported $35,000 signing bonus from the Tigers in 1953, he paid off the mortgage on his parents’ home and paid for an eye operation for his mother.
“ ‘They’d always helped me,’ he said. ‘They knew I wanted to be a major-leaguer, and they did everything they could to give me time for baseball. I never had to take a paper route or work in a drugstore or anything.
“ ‘I just played ball.’
“Kaline was 39 when he played his final game, in 1974. Days before his career ended, he had reached one of baseball’s most cherished plateaus when he recorded his 3,000th hit. But he finished with 399 home runs, and on the final day of his career he left the season-ending game with several innings remaining and thus lost a few at-bats in which he could have bid for the 400th homer.
[Ed. Kaline took himself out, telling manager Ralph Houk that he didn’t have the strength to hit a home run owing to a shoulder injury suffered days earlier. But the few fans in the stands were there to see Kaline’s last at-bat. They thought Houk took Kaline out and booed Houk unmercifully. Kaline, at his Hall of Fame induction, mentioned this last game and said he felt awful that Houk was blamed when it was Kaline’s own decision.]
“But statistics never captured how special Kaline was. Like the Yankees’ Joe DiMaggio and the Cardinals’ Stan Musial, he embodied the beauty of the game and became a living monument of how gracefully it could be played….
“Kaline is one of the few dozen players in baseball history to get 3,000 hits. Like his contemporary, Pittsburgh right fielder Roberto Clemente, Kaline is a member of the 3,000-hit club who is remembered nearly as much for his defense as for his offense – perhaps just as much. In one game as a rookie, Kaline threw out a Chicago White Sox runner for three consecutive innings – at home, third and second. The Sporting News said of a robbery he had in 1956 at Yankee Stadium: ‘No one who saw it will forget how Kaline shot above the right field scoreboard in the stadium to make a great one-handed catch on Mickey Mantle.’”
Kaline had the disadvantage of playing in an era of the New York Yankees. In his first 12 seasons, the Yanks won 10 pennants. But then the dynasty collapsed, giving the Tigers an opportunity.
In 1967, in one of the great pennant races in baseball history, the Tigers made a run, only to be eliminated on the final day of the season, Boston winning its first pennant since the mid-1940s.
But in 1968, the Tigers won the A.L. pennant easily by 12 games, thanks in no small part to Denny McLain’s otherworldly 31-6 record, even though Kaline suffered a broken left forearm in late May and was out five weeks.
So that season, along with leftfielder Willie Horton, Mickey Stanley and Jim Northrup received the lion’s share of the playing time in the outfield, not Kaline even after his return.
But as Detroit went to the World Series against the Cardinals, manager Mayo Smith earned his stripes.
“(With) four outfielders for three starting spots, Smith came up with a daring solution… He moved Stanley from center field to shortstop to replace light-hitting Ray Oyler, even though Stanley had played only nine games there in the big leagues. Kaline returned to right field for the World Series, and he batted .379 with eight RBIs. His 11 hits in the Series included two homers, two doubles and perhaps the biggest hit of the Series and of his career.
“The Tigers were within a few innings of elimination when Kaline batted with the bases loaded and one out in the seventh inning of Game 5 at Tiger Stadium. He delivered a two-run single that turned a one-run deficit into a one-run lead. The Tigers never trailed again in the Series. They won Game 5, then went to St. Louis and beat the Cardinals in Games 6 and 7. At 33, Kaline had played on his first and only pennant winner and world champion.
“In the following season, 1969, baseball expanded and went to divisional play. In 1972, Kaline played on a first-place finisher for the second and last time. Kaline, at age 37, got into one of the hottest hitting stretches of his career in the final days of the season and helped the Tigers edge Boston by a half-game for the East Division title.* Over his last 10 games, eight of which the Tigers won, Kaline batted .512 (21-for-41) with four homers, eight RBIs and 15 runs scored.”
*That season started a little late owing to baseball’s first strike. The Tigers finished 86-70, Boston 85-70.
But the Tigers lost to the A’s in the ALCS.
When Roberto Clemente tragically died, Major League Baseball renamed in his honor its annual award for the player who “best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual’s contribution to his team.”
In 1973, the first time it was given as the Roberto Clemente Award, the winner was Al Kaline.
--With the cancellation of The Open Championship, Augusta National, the European Tour, PGA of America, LPGA, PGA Tour, R&A and USGA issued a joint statement on Monday, outlining the framework for golf to eventually be played in 2020.
The U.S. Open is now moving to Sept. 17-20. The PGA Championship is moving to Aug. 6-9.
The Ryder Cup remains in its originally slotted date of Sept. 25-27 at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Six.
The PGA tour is moving its regular-season finale, the Wyndham Championship, and three FedEx Cup Playoff events to one week later, starting the week of Aug. 10 and concluding with a Monday, Sept. 7 finish for the Tour Championship. The Tour is also looking to work tournaments into the weeks formerly occupied by the U.S. Open, British Open and men’s Olympic golf competition in June and July.
One potential for the U.S. Open week is to hold the RBC Heritage at Hilton Head, S.C.
The Masters is moving to Nov. 12-15.
Meanwhile, the European Tour, for obvious reasons, is a mess.
The LPGA is looking to return June 15.
Regarding the PGA Championship in San Francisco in August, California Gov. Gavin Newsom said when asked about the likelihood for fans, “I’m not anticipating that happening,” though he added it will be determined by the facts.
--Monday would have been the NCAA finals, and then The Masters would have started Thursday. Long ago some of us who worked in New York had our own tradition, watching the first round from a bar in Hoboken.
Alas, those were simpler times.
The Masters is estimated to bring more than $100 million to the region. Rates soar for hotel rooms; some families command $100,000 to rent their home for the week; and restaurants and local golf courses are packed with people who otherwise would never venture to this part of Georgia.
But the problem with holding it in November is you obviously are running up against college football, specifically SEC football. Said one ticket broker, “What if there’s a big football game that weekend? I think if you’re a fan of those teams, you skip the Masters because you know there’s another one coming up in April.”
IF…there is football, both college and the NFL, which means golf would also be played, guess who is going to be the busiest man in the sports world? Jim Nantz.
Bobby Mitchell, RIP
The Pro Football Hall of Famer who broke the Washington Redskins’ color barrier as their first African American player and later served as scout and front-office executive during his more than four decades with the organization, died Sunday. He was 84. No cause of death was disclosed.
“I was extremely saddened to hear the news about the passing of the great Bobby Mitchell,” Redskins owner Daniel Snyder said in a statement. “Bobby…represented the Washington Redskins organization with integrity for over 50 years. His passion for the game of football was unmatched by anyone I have ever met. Not only was he one of the most influential individuals in franchise history, but he was also one of the greatest men I have ever known. He was a true class act and will be sorely missed.”
Mitchell, a native of Hot Springs, Ark., played collegiately at Illinois and was selected by the Cleveland Brown in the seventh round of the 1958 NFL draft. He played halfback for Cleveland for four seasons, earning his first Pro Bowl nod in 1960, and was traded to the Redskins along with Leroy Jackson for Ernie Davis in 1962, at which point he played mostly flanker for the Redskins and made the Pro Bowl in each of his first three seasons with the team.
But think of this. Bobby Mitchell was a phenomenal running back in his four seasons in Cleveland
1958…80 carries, 500 yards, 6.3 yards per carry avg.
Then all he does is go to Washington and leads the NFL in receiving yards his first two seasons there.
1962…72 receptions, 1,384 yards, 19.2 avg.
When he retired following the 1968 season, he ranked second in NFL history with 14,078 all-purpose yards and had scored 91 touchdowns and thrown for another. Among his touchdowns were three punt returns for a score, and five kickoff returns for TDs.
But in a 2003 interview, Mitchell said he wanted to be remembered not only as a historically significant player but as a great player.
“I have to live with people always talking about me as the first black player against all my exploits,” Mitchell said then. “ I’ve always been very upset that people always start with that. I don’t want to hear that, and yet I have to hear it constantly, and it overshadows everything I’ve done in the game.”
Mitchell joined the Redskins’ front office in 1969 at the suggestion of Vince Lombardi and eventually held the title of assistant general manager, but in his 2003 interview he said he had aspired to be the NFL’s first black general manager but ended up being passed over by team owner Edward Bennett Williams in favor of Bobby Beathard and by owner Jack Kent Cooke in favor of Charley Casserly.
--Mississippi State football coach Mike Leach arrived in Starkville to much fanfare this offseason, but now the brash one is already under the gun for an insensitive tweet earning him widespread rebuke.
On Wednesday night, Leach tweeted a meme of an old lady knitting with the caption: “After 2 weeks of quarantine with her husband, Gertrude decided to knit him a scarf…,” though the “scarf” is actually a noose.
Not a smart move. Margaret Hagerman, an assistant professor of sociology at MSU, condemned the tweet’s racial undertones by saying “lynching ‘jokes’ are incredibly offensive anywhere” and “especially in Mississippi.”
One potential future star, sophomore defensive tackle Fabien LoVett, announced his decision to enter the transfer portal, the move clearly a response to Leach’s tweet, though he did not formally say so. He did write “WTF” in response to the tweet.
Leach apologized. He is now being schooled on the history of the state.
--There was a story in the New York Post that the Jets’ general manager, Joe Douglas, was leaving a $100 tip whenever he got takeout from the River Grille in Chatham, NJ; about a mile from me. Many of us imbibe there, especially after rounds of golf at the local Par-3. But it will always be known as Flynn’s…it’s former name when we were growing up in Summit. A bunch of us have wondered if it, and every other eating/drinking establishment in the area will survive.
But great gesture, Joe Douglas!
--We note the passing of “Pussy Galore,” British actress Honor Blackman, who played the role in the James Bond film Goldfinger. She was 94.
Blackman was also known for playing Cathy Gale in the 1960s TV series The Avengers opposite Patrick Macnee.
Top 3 songs for the week of 4/6/68: #1 “(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay” (Otis Redding) #2 “Young Girl” (The Union Gap featuring Gary Puckett) #3 “Valleri” (The Monkees)…and…#4 “La-La-Means I Love You” (The Delfonics) #5 “(Sweet Sweet Baby) Since You’ve Been Gone” (Aretha Franklin) #6 “Cry Like A Baby” (The Box Tops) #7 “Lady Madonna” (The Beatles) #8 “The Ballad Of Bonnie And Clyde” (Georgie Fame) #9 “Love Is Blue” (Paul Mauriat) #10 “Honey” (Bobby Goldsboro…outside of first two, not an awesome week… ‘B’…)
Masters Quiz Answer: Last six foreign winners….
2008 Trevor Immelman (South Africa)
2009 Angel Cabrera (Argentina)
2011 Charl Schwartzel (South Africa)
2013 Adam Scott (Australia)
2016 Danny Willett (England)
2017 Sergio Garcia (Spain)
Next Bar Chat, Monday.