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A Star Is Born
[Posted Sun. p.m.]
Baseball Quiz: 1) The other day I mentioned Bert Blyleven had 24 complete games in 1985. Who is the only pitcher with 20 since then? 2) Who was the last with 30 complete games (hint: 1970s). Answers below.
We finally had our first major tournament of the year, which is amazing to think about, though with the U.S. Open and The Masters still to come (The Open Championship canceled). And I think most regular viewers of the sport would agree it was the first event since reopening where you really missed not having fans.
TPC Harding Park in San Francisco also presented itself well. Such a beautiful setting and the chilly weather was very Open Championship-like.
So after 36-holes, we had a surprising figure at the top of the leaderboard, Haotong Li of China, the first golfer from China to lead any round of a major. But he was being pressed by quite a lineup of stars, including Brooks Koepka, going for his third straight.
Tommy Fleetwood -6
Jason Day -6
Daniel Berger -6
Brooks Koepka -6
Justin Rose -6
Mike Lorenzo-Vera (France) -6
But then in the third round, Dustin Johnson fired a 5-under 65 to grab the solo lead, Haotong Li with a 3-over 73 to fall four back at -5.
Scottie Scheffler -8
Cameron Champ -8
Collin Morikawa -7
Paul Casey -7
Brooks Koepka -7
And then a powerful group at -6…Bryson DeChambeau, Rose, Berger, Day, Fleetwood and Tony Finau. It was setting up to be a phenomenal Sunday, with Koepka, in his post-round interview, rather cocky, and appropriately so, in saying only DJ in the group ahead of Brooks, had won a major, let alone Casey and Morikawa, and Johnson only one to Koepka’s four.
I also have to add that DeChambeau hit one helluva dramatic putt yesterday on No. 18, 95 ft., 5 inches, the longest putt on the PGA Tour since 2017.
Well what a final round it was. On the back nine at one point we had seven tied for the lead at -10.
DJ, Day, Finau, Morikawa, Scheffler, Casey and 21-year-old Matthew Wolff; Wolff first in the clubhouse at that level after a 5-under 65.
But then Morikawa birdied 14 with a spectacular chip-in to be the first at -11.
Casey tied him with a birdie at 16.
And then Morikawa hit a spectacular drive that will be remembered for a long time on the short par-4 16th, putting for eagle…and drains it…suddenly -13, essentially game over.
Collin Morikawa thus joins Rory, Tiger and Jack Nicklaus as the youngest to win their first PGA; Morikawa now with three wins on tour and just one missed cut. Amazing stuff. Good for him…great kid.
43-year-old Casey finished second at -11, along with DJ…another great major for Paul, but still no trophy for the classy Brit.
[More on DJ next time.]
--Koepka folded early, finishing up with a miserable 4-over final round, just -3 at the end of the day, T29.
--A golfer I mentioned prior to the event, 60-year-old Jeff Hart, did not finish last, firing 77-77, +14. He in no way embarrassed himself.
--Phil Mickelson made his golf broadcasting debut Saturday and the golfing world has long been unanimous on one thing concerning Lefty. Like him or not, everyone knows he will be a terrific analyst some day…and that came yesterday, though not before an awkward start when Nick Faldo missed Phil’s opening joke.
“Thanks, it’s nice to be here. There’s three things I do well: play golf, and talk golf…”
“What’s the third thing? You said three things,” Faldo asked.
“You setting him up?” asked Jim Nanttz, who understood the original joke. “Leave it to your imagination, dear boy.”
“Oh, that went right over my head,” said Faldo.
But after this start, Phil was nothing but an ‘insight machine,’ telling Faldo when Nick asked how it was different playing without fans.
“It can be difficult given that we need the fans, we need the people to support us to be able to play golf for a living, it’s a big part of our success and our opportunity. But there’s a lot less energy expended during the week when it’s like this. So you’re seeing a lot more practice sessions, a lot more work being done and guys moving about with a lot more ease. Not that’s it’s good for us or good for the game or that we love it, but we’re making the most of it.”
Phil’s analysis of upcoming shots was generally spot on. And he got in mini-shots at himself and his driving accuracy, or lack thereof, when it was needed. After watching Koepka, Rose, Berger and Day all find the first fairway, Mickelson said, “Those four balls in the first fairway, they made that look way easier than it is. That is a hard crosswind and they’re working the ball back into it, into an 18-yard wide fairway.”
--Rickie Fowler missed the cut by one and it was beyond inexcusable, Fowler whiffing on a six-inch putt for par.
--Tiger Woods finished T37 after a middling 68-72-72-67. The cool weather obviously didn’t help his back.
College Football Season in Serious Doubt
--The Mid-American Conference made a very important decision on Saturday, an historic move, with MAC presidents voting unanimously to cancel football in the conference in 2020, pushing over a massive domino that could give other FBS conferences the impetus to do the same.
Earlier, Connecticut became the first FBS program to bag it.
Huskie coach Randy Edsall said he consulted his players before the university made its decision.
“We engaged and listened to the concerns of our football student-athletes and feel this is the best decision for their health, safety, and well-being,” Edsall said in a release. “Our team is united in this approach and we will use this time to further player development within the program and gear ourselves to the 2021 season.”
UConn officially left the American Athletic Conference last month and was going to be playing as an independent, with numerous games canceled because of scheduling decisions by those teams’ leagues, including road games at Illinois and Ole Miss.
UConn has one of the more financially strapped athletics departments in the FBS, with only $2.4 million raised from football ticket sales last season.
Back to the MAC, it hopes to move all fall sports, including football, to the spring, and there’s a growing belief other conferences – particularly in the Group of 5 – will try to do the same. The Detroit Free Press reported on Saturday that the Big Ten is seriously contemplating a reboot in the spring as well.
MAC commissioner Jon Steinbrecher was adamant Saturday the conference’s decision was about health and safety, rather than money. “It’s a health and well-being decision,” he said. “And that’s what it will continue to be as we move forward.”
But it’s also true that only the big schools have the financial resources to do all the testing required to keep everyone healthy. I mean you should be testing players and staff every other day, especially as they are back on campus with other students who aren’t being told by gruff coaches not to go out to bars, frat parties, etc.
The MAC schools, like others in the Group of 5, are also suffering from steep declines in enrollment and playing games without fans is yet another killer.
Plus the MAC was already going to be losing substantial away-game payouts for non-conference games with the Power Five, with Kent State ($5 million), Buffalo ($2.7 million) and Bowling Green ($2.2 million) taking the biggest hits, according to data from USA TODAY Sports.
Another problem is that the Power Five programs are now trying to poach top players from the MAC, using a fall season as an incentive to transfer.
Just a very depressing mess, and it did NOT have to be this way if we had had proper leadership back in May, in particular, as the nation began to open up without following CDC guidelines and many refusing to wear masks. This is inarguable.
Meanwhile, Oklahoma paused its preseason camp on Saturday, with coach Lincoln Riley saying in a release:
“We decided its best to give our players some time off. We were able to start camp before the vast majority of teams because our Aug. 29 season-opening game was the earliest in the country. With that first game pushed back a week or two, it only makes sense to spread out our practices and give our guys some time away.
The Sooners opened practice July 31. Only one player has tested positive thus far in the two weeks of practice, though seven had tested positive for Covid when the team’s first tests were conducted July 1.
Rutgers has 28 players who have tested positive as of a few days ago.
Steve Politi / NJ.com
“The Big Ten is preparing to reveal its modified 2020 schedule this week – which, for Rutgers, is like handing a road map to a driver whose car is engulfed in flames….
“It is pure fantasy to think that the conference will play anything resembling a full college football season, and kicking the can down the road a few weeks with a schedule reveal isn’t going to do anything to change the reality in this country right now.”
And then you have the chaos at Colorado State, where football players and athletic department staff say coaches have told players not to report Covid-19 symptoms, threatened players with reduced playing time if they quarantine and claiming the school is altering contact tracing reports to keep players practicing.
It’s all about the money gained if the school plays fall sports, say the players.
CSU has a new coach, former Boston College head coach Steve Addazio, and players and staff say both he and defensive coordinator Chuck Heater rarely wear their masks; Addazio 61, Heater 67. The players said that is dangerous to themselves because of their age and also sets a bad example for the team.
But then another group of players backed Addazio and his staff as new claims of racial insensitivity and talk of abuse emerged.
Sounds like we don’t have a lot of harmony inside the program, boys and girls.
--Division II university presidents canceled their fall championships, though teams can still play their regular season if they want. Division III university presidents chose to cancel fall sports outright after finding that it was “logistically untenable and financially prohibitive.”
--A total of 66 players have opted out of the 2020 NFL season due to the pandemic, nearly half of them linemen. Thursday was the deadline for opting out with those players with a medical opt out receiving a $350,000 stipend, while those voluntarily opting out receiving $150,000 as an advance against future salaries.
The Patriots had eight of the 66, including Dont’a Hightower and Patrick Chung.
Cleveland was next with five players skipping the season.
Only three had no one opting out: the Steelers, Falcons and Chargers.
Twenty offensive linemen and 11 on defense opted out; so 31 of the 66 were linemen.
No quarterbacks, kickers or punters opted out.
Players can walk away after Thursday’s deadline, but they may or may not get a stipend, depending on whether they already exceeded the value of the stipend in the time the player was active.
--The NFL Players Association announced that 56 players had tested positive for the coronavirus since the opening of training camps. Players are being tested daily for at least the first two weeks of training camps under the agreement reached between the league and union.
--Baseball is a freakin’ mess, what with the Covid issues surrounding, first, the Marlins, and now the ongoing s---show with the Cardinals, who haven’t played since July 29, 12 games postponed since, and now Monday’s with Pittsburgh as well. The Cards keep turning out positive tests among their players, two more on Friday, making it eight, as well as a number of staff members. They have played a whopping five games while most teams, at least those who weren’t scheduled to play the Marlins or Cardinals thus far, are at 15-17 after today’s play.
--The Yankees got off to an 8-1 start, but have struggled since, now 10-6 after today’s 4-3 loss to the Rays (8-8), as their starting pitching, other than Gerrit Cole, 3-0, 3.22 ERA, has sucked.
At least today, James Paxton looked more like himself in the loss, 6 1/3, 3 earned, but 11 Ks.
The Yanks have been riding Aaron Judge, 8 home runs, 19 RBIs, 1.045 OPS (though 0-for-5 today), and Giancarlo Stanton, 3 HR, 7 RBI, 1.038. But now Stanton is once again on the injured list with a left hamstring issue, his third visit to the IL in two years.
--The Mets, after a disappointing 5-9 start, are now 7-9, Jacob deGrom 2-0, 2.45, after today’s 4-2 win over the shocking Marlins, who despite all their Covid issues got to 7-1, now 7-3.
--Nick Markakis had a rather dramatic first start of the season, Thursday, after initially opting out, with a game-ending home run in the ninth inning that lifted the Braves to a 4-3 win over the Blue Jays.
Markakis announced his return a week ago, three weeks after initially opting out due to coronavirus concerns.
--Shu noted that the Pirates starting pitcher on Saturday, Derek Holland, gave up four home runs on his first 11 pitches, as the Bucs went on to lose to the Tigers 11-5. Whatever he was doing the hour prior to the game, he needs to ditch that routine.
The Pirates then lost to the Tigers 2-1 today, the Bucs a sickly 3-13, Detroit a surprising 8-5!
[I’m beginning to warm up to the season…but the Cardinals are the key.]
--Former Angels employee Eric Kay was charged by federal authorities in Texas with distributing fentanyl in connection with the overdose death of pitcher Tyler Skaggs. Kay, 45, was arrested Friday.
An affidavit in support of the criminal complaint against Kay filed in U.S. District Court in Fort Worth said the longtime member of the Angels’ media relations department and Skaggs had a “history of narcotic transactions” and that Kay would “distribute these pills to [Skaggs] and others in their place of employment and while they were working.”
“Tyler Skaggs’ death, coming as it did in the midst of an ascendant baseball career, should be a wake-up call,” Erin Nealy Cox, the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Texas, said during a news conference Friday. “It should prove to his many, many fans that no one is immune from the deadly addictive nature of these drugs, whether sold as a powder or hidden inside an innocuous-looking tablet.”
Skaggs, 27, died in his Southlake, Texas, hotel room on July 1, 2019, hours before the Angels were to play the Texas Rangers. He was discovered on his bed, fully clothed, with no signs of trauma.
A toxicology report by the local medical examiner found the opioids fentanyl and oxycodone in his system. The M.E. listed the cause of death as “alcohol, fentanyl and oxycodone intoxication with terminal aspiration of gastric contents,” meaning he choked on his vomit.
“It was later determined that but for the fentanyl in [Skaggs’] system, [he] would not have died,” the affidavit by Drug Enforcement Administration special agent Geoffrey Lindenberg said.
In a statement Friday on behalf of the Skaggs family, attorney Rusty Hardin said they were “deeply heartbroken to learn that Tyler would be alive today if not for a pill containing fentanyl” allegedly provided by Kay. [Nathan Fenno / L.A. Times]
--We note the passing of former New York Yankees second baseman Horace Clarke, 81. Clarke played with the Yanks from 1965-74, a dark period of mediocrity for the franchise, Clarke the symbol of it, hitting a mediocre .256 for his career, with 1,230 hits. He never made an All-Star team, nor won a Gold Glove, but when you turned on the Yanks, you could always count on seeing Clarke in the lineup, as he appeared in at least 143 games each season from 1967-73.
Late 1960s Yankees manager Ralph Houk once said: “I know I got a lot of criticism for playing Horace Clarke as much as I did, but he was a lot better ballplayer than anyone gave him credit for. He did a lot of things good but nothing great, and that was his problem. Besides, I didn’t have anyone else!”
--Ozzie Guillen, the former manager and player, currently an NBC Sports Chicago studio host, was asked by postgame host Chuck Garfien, Wednesday, whether he disliked Carlos Gomez or Nick Swisher more.
Guillen replied: “Oh my God, nobody can compare that with Nick Swisher. I hate Nick Swisher with my heart.”
This cracks me up. Swisher, who retired after the 2015 season, played one season in Chicago (2008). They apparently did not get along.
“I never talked to him, I was managing him, but I don’t like the way his attitude was all fake,” Guillen said. “And I don’t like fake people. I think he hates me back, there’s nothing wrong with that.”
Garfien noted Swisher played under Guillen for only one season. To which he responded: “It was one year too long.”
“I played him in center field and batting first or second; that guy has to be in right field batting tenth.”
Swisher hit .219 his lone season in Chicago. But then he played four seasons with the Yankees, which is where many of us got to observe the man, and let’s just say his act grew stale quickly.
--We had a doubleheader at Michigan International Speedway and on Saturday, Kevin Harvick raced to his fifth victory of the season, outlasting Brad Keselowski in overtime; Keselowski again denied in his home state. He’s never won a Cup race at Michigan, but he would have another chance Sunday.
For Harvick it was career win No. 54, pulling him even with Lee Petty for 11th on the career list; one behind Rusty Wallace and two behind Kyle Busch, who still has yet to win this year.
Harvick remains the series points leader.
But wait…there’s more! Harvick then won the nightcap…today’s second feature, so make that win No. 55, beating Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex, Truex third both races this weekend.
And I won in DraftKings both races as well! Huge.
--In other racing news, Roger Penske, who owns the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, along with his partners, announced that the 104th running of the 500, rescheduled to Aug. 23, will be held without fans after initially planning to do so.
Penske was heavily criticized for originally thinking about holding the race with tens of thousands in attendance, but then he wised up, faced with the facts of the coronavirus. It was the right thing to do and I still can’t wait to see the race.
--Lionel Messi led Barcelona to a 3-1 win at home to Napoli on Saturday for a 4-2 aggregate victory which took the club into the Champions League quarter-finals for the 13th consecutive season.
Barca plays Bayern Munich in one quarter. The other three matchups are Atalanta v. Paris Saint-Germain; Man City-Lyon; and RB Leipzig v. Atletico Madrid.
Reminder, Man City winning it all would be the ultimate nightmare for UEFA, which recently lost that bitter lawsuit to City, UEFA attempting to ban them from Champions League play, among other things.
--The new Premier League season, by the way, which would have started Aug. 8, will now open Sept. 12. Leeds, West Brom and Fulham replace relegated Bournemouth, Watford and Norwich City.
--We had a tragic death over the weekend. Former Florida State basketball player Michael Ojo, who was a reserve big man on the Seminoles from 2012-17 (missing a season due to injury), collapsed and died of a heart attack during training in Serbia, where he was playing for Red Star Belgrade.
The 7-1 Nigerian-born player was reported to have tested positive for the coronavirus, but had recovered. The stories I read didn’t bring up the obvious. If the facts are correct, we all know by now that one of the long-term side effects of Covid-19 can be heart issues. It’s important we get as much information as possible.
--Since I last posted, defending champion Rafael Nadal has decided not to play in the U.S. Open later this month because the pandemic is “not under control.”
--Two giant pandas are stranded in Canada with a looming bamboo shortage despite efforts to return them to China, as reported by the BBC.
The Calgary Zoo says it has been unable to secure international travel permits to relocate Er Shun and Da Mao.
Pandas only eat fresh bamboo that the zoo had been importing from China, but coronavirus grounded most flights.
Well, I am one who has long thought Pandas were vastly overrated. They are cute for about two months, and then they grow up to be stubborn assholes.
I mean learn to eat something else, for crying out loud! What’s wrong with Canadian bacon, or Campbell’s Chunky Soup, or the go-to product for Trader George and I, Stouffer’s French bread pizza, especially when on sale for $2.00 at Stop & Shop, as it is now (thru Thursday)?
The entire world bows down to Pandas, No. 432 on the All-Species List, and yet they contribute nothing except, admittedly, revenue to the zoos that have one or two because people are stupid… ‘Man’ himself No. 598 on the ASL.
Top 3 songs for the week 8/7/65: #1 “I’m Henry VIII, I Am” (Herman’s Hermits) #2 “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” (The Rolling Stones…had been #1 for four weeks prior…) #3 “What’s New Pussycat?” (Tom Jones…just a terrific tune…thank you, Burt Bacharach…)…and…#4 “Save Your Heart For Me” (Gary Lewis and The Playboys…underrated…) #5 “I Got You Babe” (Sonny & Cher) #6 “Yes, I’m Ready” (Barbara Mason…sounds as good today as back then…) #7 “I Like It That” (The Dave Clark Five) #8 “Cara Mia” (Jay & The Americans) #9 “I Can’t Help Myself” (Four Tops) #10 “Don’t Just Stand There” (Patty Duke…so I had to look this one up…drat….was prepared to give this week an A++…but this one mars it…awful tune…so an ‘A’ week…sorry…)
Baseball Quiz Answers: 1) Fernando Valenzuela is the last with 20 complete games, 1986. 2) Catfish Hunter had 30 complete games (39 starts) in 1975, 23-14, 2.58. Catfish had quite a four-year run, 1972-75, where he finished fourth, third, first and second in the Cy Young Award vote.
Next Bar Chat, Thursday…or sooner.