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Sports? Amid a Pandemic?
[Posted early Tues. p.m. …hairy weather here today and other stuff to do, you understand, like trying to find a way to check on Dad with all manner of streets blocked by downed trees…by the way, trees blow!]
Baseball Quiz: Bill Francis of the Hall of Fame had a story on players who had a good 60-game stretch. I’ll give you the year, name them. 1) 96 RBI in 60 games. 1930. 2) Hit .401 in his first 60 games of the 1983 season. 3) Hit .419 in his first 60 games of the 2008 season. 4) During a 60-game stretch in 1985, started 14 games and completed 12, including 10 in a row. Answers below.
--The season is more than a mess. It’s on the brink with the news Monday that the Cardinals had 13 test positive; seven players and six staff members, prompting MLB to postpone four more games and extend the Cardinals’ shutdown until at least Friday. The team is under self-isolation at their Milwaukee hotel, where they have been since Thursday and where a scheduled three-game series against the Brewers over the weekend was also postponed.
Cardinals team president John Mozeliak said Monday that contact tracing led him to believe the team’s outbreak originated in St. Louis and spread after the team departed for its trip to Milwaukee. Catcher Yadier Molina is among those admitting they have tested positive.
As for the Marlins, who resumed play tonight in Baltimore, CEO Derek Jeter addressed the media for the first time since that team’s outbreak, acknowledging, “Some of our traveling party had a false sense of security and comfort when we left Miami.” Jeter said some players, while in Atlanta for an exhibition game, left the hotel to get coffee, buy clothes and/or attend a dinner at a friend’s house, but there was no “salacious activity” and “no running around the town.”
“Guys got around each other, got relaxed and let their guard down,” Jeter said.
At least the Phillies reported no new positive tests for the fourth straight day on Sunday, paving the way for the resumption of their season in New York against the Yankees.
--Nothing is easy these days for Shohei Ohtani. He has now been shut down as a pitcher for the season, after being found to have a strain of the flexor pronator mass near his surgically repaired right elbow. His status as a designated hitter is “day to day.”
Ohtani, who underwent Tommy John surgery in October 2018, recorded just five outs in his two starts, exiting in the second inning Sunday while complaining later of discomfort in his pitching arm, prompting the MRI.
Dylan Hernandez / Los Angeles Times
“Shohei Ohtani didn’t writhe in agony or clutch his elbow. He didn’t have to.
“The radar gun told the story.
“In a particularly strenuous second inning of an 11-inning, 6-5 defeat to the Houston Astros on Sunday, Ohtani delivered three fastballs over a five-pitch plate appearance by George Springer.
“The first: 89.6 mph.
“His second start back from reconstructive elbow surgery was over. Depending on the results of the MRI examination he underwent after the game, his two-way experiment could be too.”
In 1 2/3 innings over two outings, Ohtani gave up 7 earned and 8 walks.
At the plate he’s 4-for-27, .148, but with two home runs and 7 RBI.
--After I posted Sunday, Clayton Kershaw made his return to the mound after missing the first nine games due to a back issue and he was effective…5 2/3, 0 runs, 3 hits, 6 strikeouts, 0 walks, in the Dodgers’ 3-0 win over the Diamondbacks, Mookie Betts and Cody Bellinger with home runs.
--The Mets are a mess, all over again. Last Sunday in Atlanta, we learned of Yoenis Cespedes’ absence from the ballpark and initially there were concerns for his safety. Then we learned the team knew where he was. Then we were told he had opted out for the season.
Cespedes, it appears, was concerned he wasn’t going to receive enough plate appearances to meet various incentive levels in his contract. He is without a contract for 2021.
In his short stint this season, he was 5-for-31, .161, with two homers. But he had struck out 15 times. Johnny Mac pointed out that in 1941, Joe DiMaggio fanned 13 times in 541 at-bats on the way to one of his A.L. MVP awards, batting .357 with 30 homers and 125 RBIs
--Pitchers have been going down all over the place and the Braves suffered a big blow, not just for this shortened season but at least the start of next year as their star young hurler, Mike Soroka, suffered a torn Achilles tendon as he took an awkward step off the mound in rushing to cover first base. He knew immediately something serious was wrong.
Soroka, who ironically turned 23 today, Tuesday, was 13-4, 2.68 ERA, in 29 starts last season and was second in the Rookie of the Year vote.
--According to data from the MLB Network, the ratings on ESPN for the 12 games it aired through late Thursday averaged 1.16 million viewers, up 34% from last year. Fox Sports also saw a double-digit rise for its games.
[But the ratings last weekend returned to normal, much like David Bowie’s underrated flick “The Man Who Fell to Earth.”]
--Football in the fall? Really? The number of Covid-19 cases connected with the Rutgers football team has nearly doubled from 15 to 28 players, plus multiple staff members have, according to NJ Advance Media on Monday night.
As Keith Sargent reported for NJ.com, three people with knowledge of the situation who requested anonymity passed on the figures, while Rutgers’ athletic director and coach Greg Schiano were unavailable for comment.
There are multiple players with symptoms, including fevers, headaches, and sore throats, two of the sources said. Numerous players are asymptomatic after testing positive last week.
Rutgers football players returned for voluntary workouts on June 15. Back on July 25, the team halted workouts after six additional players tested positive, following an initial two who did so on the return to campus.
The state health commissioner, Judith Persichilli, said on July 29 that the total of Rutgers players who tested positive increased to 15, and she blamed the outbreak on a party attended by Rutgers athletes.
--The Big 12 became the last of the Power 5 to finally announce their plans for the season. It will play 10 games, nine conference, one non-conference game which must be at home. Conference play will likely start “sometime between mid- to late-September” and it expects non-conference games to be played prior to this.
Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said, “We believe this change provides the best opportunity going forward. However, we will undoubtedly need to be flexible as we progress through the season in order to combat the challenges that lie ahead.”
--Meanwhile, a group of 12 Pac-12 football players released a lengthy list of demands Sunday intended to protect and benefit them amid the pandemic and racial injustice that have roiled the country, threatening to boycott practices and games unless their requests are met.
The demands include health and safety protections, the elimination of what the players described as excessive salaries, an end to racial injustice in sports and society, guaranteed medical coverage, and a profit-sharing arrangement in which 50% of each sport’s conference revenue would be distributed evenly among athletes. Boy, this last one is a non-starter. Remind the players that football, coupled with basketball, largely funds a school’s entire athletic budget.
That said, revenue sharing of some kind is coming, and is in a small way already in existence.
But the players do rightfully want more transparency on the health front, though they can’t act like jerks themselves, a la Rutgers and in all likelihood every other football program now under lockdown.
--Eagles head coach Doug Pederson tested positive for coronavirus, the team confirmed Sunday night. He is said to be asymptomatic “and doing well,” the Eagles said in a statement. He is in self-quarantine. Way back in March, Saints head coach Sean Payton had tested positive.
Last week, Eagles offensive tackle Lane Johnson disclosed he had as well.
There have been 42 players opt out of the 2020 season, including eight members of the Patriots. Two starting quarterbacks – the Lions’ Matthew Stafford and the Jaguars’ Gardner Minshew – have been placed on the reserve/Covid-19 list.
--What a treat golf fans have this weekend…finally, a major, the PGA at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco. Which means we also have golf in prime time, on CBS 4:00-10:00 p.m. ET Sat., 3:00-9:00 p.m. ET Sun. [Sun sets at 8:15 local, in case you were wondering.]
Brooks Koepka, who showed his knee wasn’t an issue last week, though it could flare up at any moment, is the favorite to win a third straight PGA, which would put him in truly rarified air, while new No. 1 in the world, Justin Thomas*, has to be considered the co-favorite after his terrific play of late, including the win at the WGC event in Memphis.
But you still have Tiger, Rory, Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm, Xander Schauffele, Justin Rose, Bison DeChambeau, Patrick Reed…scores more that could win it.
*Rahm’s reign at World No. 1 lasted two weeks.
But as Mark Zeigler wrote in the Los Angeles Times, you also have 60-year-old Jeff Hart. 60? Jeff who?
The PGA has that grand tradition of reserving 20 spots in the field for club pros and teachers, usually decided at its annual championship through which players qualify. But with the pandemic, the main event was canceled twice and they went to a points system for Harding Park. Jeff Hart found himself in the top 20, by virtue of winning some events in his native California.
So then he had to decide if he really wanted to play in the PGA, what with a 251-yard par 3, 515-yard par 4 and 607-yard par 5, because he knows he’ll be outdriven by 100 yards by some guys.
Then again, he pinched himself and said, why not?
“I qualified, so might as well,” Hart said. Then he paused. “It’s a little scary on the other hand.”
DraftKings should have an over/under at 80…maybe 82. [I will report on Hart next time and I would love for him to make the cut.]
--I have to note what I failed to write Sunday…Jim Furyk becoming the 19th player to win in his PGA Tour Champions debut (first since Miguel Angel Jimenez in 2014), nearly three months after turning 50. Furyk shot a four-under par 68 at Warwick Hills C.C. in Grand Blanc, Mich., to win the Ally Challenge by two over Brett Quigley and Retief Goosen.
Furyk joins fellow rookies Quigley and Ernie Els in the winners circle in 2020. No doubt, especially with the shorter courses that the senior set plays, Furyk is primed to dominate for a few seasons. But he’ll be in the field at Harding Park for the PGA this week as well, having made the cut in three of his last five PGA Tour starts.
--What a bizarre story out of Australia, where a woman suffered serious injuries after being struck and injured while swimming with humpback whales off the west coast.
Now it isn’t bizarre she was swimming with whales because she was part of a tour group at the popular Ningaloo Reef when she was struck.
It just seems bizarre to me that these are freakin’ humpback whales…not the whale sharks we were first told she had come in contact with, the initial stories being inaccurate. Any schoolchild (save for this year’s pandemic kids, who are having difficulty with “Person, Woman, Man, Camera, TV”….) knows that whale sharks are very docile and I can see why this would be a popular tourist activity….swimming with a WHALE SHARK…not a HUMPBACK WHALE, people!
Humpback whales don’t give a s--- about you, except some are known to threaten us unless you cough up some krill for their latest album. At least that is what I was taught in second grade by Ms. Vetri, who was kind of (oops, shouldn’t go there...Mom said she was a lousy teacher, but I disagreed…Ms. Vetri sporting that Carnaby Street look…).
Anyway, the victim, 29, suffered internal bleeding and upper torso injuries “from the crush,” as in somehow she got caught between TWO HUMPBACK WHALES. Geezuz….thank god she’s alive.
Top 3 songs for the week 8/8/64: #1 “A Hard Day’s Night” (The Beatles) #2 “Everybody Loves Somebody” (Dean Martin…part of what made the 60s special; that a tune like this could be up there with the British Invasion…) #3 “Where Did Our Love Go” (The Supremes)…and… #4 “The Little Old Lady (From Pasadena)” (Jan & Dean) #5 “Rag Doll” (The 4 Seasons) #6 “Wishin’ And Hopin’” (Dusty Springfield…awesome…) #7 “Under The Boardwalk” (The Drifters…in my all-time top 50…) #8 “Dang Me” (Roger Miller…underrated American…) #9 “I Wanna Love Him So Bad” (The Jelly Beans…had to remind myself of this one…good tune…one-hit wonders from Jersey City…) #10 “I Get Around” (The Beach Boys… ‘A+’ week, of course…)
Baseball Quiz Answers: 1) Hack Wilson had 96 RBIs over 60 games from July 26 through Sept. 27, 1930 (with 53 alone in August!). That was the year Wilson had 56 home runs and the MLB record 190 RBIs, later changed to 191 upon further research. 2) Rod Carew hit .401 in his first 60 games of his age-37 season in 1983, finishing the year at .339. The seven-time batting champion finished up hitting .328 for his Hall of Fame career with 3,053 hits. 3) Chipper Jones started off the 2008 season batting .419 in his first 60 games (93-for-222) on the way to his career high .364. Jones hit .422 in April and .417 in May. Jones ended up hitting .399 at Turner Field, the highest single-season home batting average in Atlanta Braves history. 4) In 1985, from June 6 through Aug. 12, the “Flying Dutchman,” Bert Blyleven, started 14 games and completed 12, including 10 in a row. He was traded by Cleveland to Minnesota on Aug. 1 and finished the year a combined 17-16, leading the AL in innings pitched (293 2/3), complete games (24), shutouts (5) and strikeouts (206), and placed third in the Cy Young Award voting.
Next Bar Chat, Monday.