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Big Ten and Pac-12 Bow Out
[Posted Tuesday p.m.]
Baseball Quiz: So Denny McLain went 31-6 in 1968, the first to win 30 since Dizzy Dean won 30 for the Cardinals in 1934. Lefty Grove had 31 wins in 1931, Jim Bagby 31 in 1920, and Grover Cleveland Alexander 31, 33, 30 (1915-17). Who won 36 in 1913 and 34 in 1912?…two different pitchers. Answer below.
--Following the path of the Mid-American Conference, the Mountain West conference announced on Monday that it was postponing its fall sports season.
“We were hopeful we could carefully and responsibly conduct competition as originally scheduled with essential protocols in place,” Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson said in a statement. “However, numerous external factors and unknowns outside our control made this difficult decision necessary.
“I fully understand the impact of this outcome on our student-athletes, coaches, administrators and staff who work so hard daily to play the sports we all love, and I share in their disappointment. We will continue to navigate this pandemic together, overcome the obstacles and return to intercollegiate athletics at the earliest opportunity.”
While the postponement is indefinite, the Mountain West (Boise State, San Diego State, Air Force, among others), like the MAC, will look to the spring as an option, not just for football, but other fall sports.
Canceling the Mountain West season raises doubts about the ability for Air Force to compete for the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy, the triangular rivalry pitting the Falcons against fellow service academies Army and Navy; Army an independent, Navy a member of the American Conference.
--So also Monday, we learned that a vast majority of Big Ten presidents, who’ve been largely silent while the coaches and athletic directors set parameters for a fall football season, voted in favor of postponing football, and Pac-12 presidents were to meet Tuesday. Radio show host Dan Patrick said on Monday the two Power 5 conferences would cancel their seasons, while the ACC and Big 12 were undecided. The SEC, Patrick said, was “trying to buy time to see if the ACC or Big-12 will go along with them.”
[Shares of DraftKings, which went public in April via a merger with Diamond Eagle Acquisition, fell 8.5% Monday on Patrick’s story.]
--The Big Ten conference then officially postponed its 2020 football season today, as well as all other fall sports, while saying it would explore the possibility of playing in the spring. No decision on winter sports, including men’s and women’s basketball, was made.
“The mental and physical health and welfare of our student-athletes has been at the center of every decision we have made regarding the ability to proceed forward,” Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren said in a statement. “As time progressed and after hours of discussion with our Big Ten Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Big Ten Sports Medicine Committee, it became abundantly clear that there was too much uncertainty regarding potential medical risks to allow our student-athletes to compete this fall.”
And also today, after the Big Ten made their move, the Pac-12 followed because of safety concerns, saying it would not hold any athletic competitions until after Jan. 1, including men’s and women’s basketball, which would normally start in November.
“The health, safety and well-being of our student-athletes and all those connected to Pac-12 sports has been our number one priority since the start of this current crisis,” Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said in a statement. “Our student-athletes, fans, staff and all those who love college sports would like to have seen the season played this calendar year as originally planned, and we know how disappointing this is,” Scott making $5 million a year.
The ACC and SEC have said their plans are unchanged, thus far, while the Big 12 is apparently split.
I have written gobs on the financial consequences and won’t repeat all the stats again. But, yes, it’s an economic catastrophe, including for the college towns whose economy depends on the six weekends a year when 80-100,000 fans show up.
--Sally Jenkins / Washington Post
“The coronavirus crisis is an incredible diagnostic tool. The excesses have never been so sharply delineated: The $50 million stadium upgrades, the indoor waterfalls, the ballooning salaries, the locker rooms designed like first-class luxury airliner cabins now look like protruding, tumorous distortions, worthy of recoil and disgust. Institutions had laid themselves bare, with their desperate insistence on trying to make unpaid kids play football in a viral outbreak simply to meet their overextended bills.
“ ‘Schools have spent money recklessly for years,’ says attorney Tim Nevius, a former NCAA investigator who is now an advocate for athletes. ‘Now they’re in a position where if the season doesn’t go forward, they’re on the hook for millions. …There has just been an extraordinary amount of spending on things that have very little resemblance to a university’s mission to educate and develop people.’
“Understand this: These schools don’t have a money problem. They have a shopping addiction. From 2004 to 2018, NCAA revenue exploded from $3 billion to $14 billion thanks largely to media rights, licensing and sponsorship deals. Yet some schools are so financially distressed that a single canceled football season could be catastrophic. Stanford has cut 11 sports, and Wisconsin informed donors that it could face a $100 million shortfall. Where’d the money go? The answer is, to compulsive spending and gross misallocation. Hundreds of millions disappeared into the pockets of deputy assistant associate athletic directors for administration, conference commissioners for the commission of commissions and Nick Saban’s corporate-welfare army of ‘football analysts.’
“The rest went into buildings that look like a Kardashian’s closet. Clemson’s arcade of a football complex includes miniature golf, bowling, laser tag and a movie theater….
“You can see what the priorities are. Book learning and bookkeeping aren’t among them.
“The party is over, obviously. A perfect storm has overtaken an NCAA structure that was rickety to begin with and is knocking it down, exposing all the rotten innards. ‘This is a crazy system we’ve had, that never really worked economically for schools, that got more and more commercialized over time, and it’s ripe for change,’ economist Andrew Zimbalist says. ‘You have all these commercial enterprises called athletic departments that did not face normal marketplace discipline, because there is nobody, not you or I, who owns stock in the Notre Dame or Michigan football team.’
“The accounting is finally here. The pandemic and its accompanying contraction are a painful and uncertain experience all across the country. But one good thing has come of it: It has tilted some leverage to athletes, on whom so many overpaid livings depend. Now they are asking: Why should we play for free and put our health at risk just so a bunch of paper pushers can walk off with more millions?
“An extraordinary shift is coming, like it or not. No one yet knows what the college landscape will look like post-pandemic. But it’s time to recognize the stark reality that there is a major labor industry improperly buried in the stomachs of universities. It has to be either removed or better absorbed.”
Yes, obscene coaching salaries, for one, must come down. Sorry, Dabo ($9 million).
--As for the NFL, it plans to go ahead with safety protocols that range from regular testing to disciplinary action if players or personnel violate the rules. And a canceled college football season doesn’t mean the NFL will follow. The former is complicated by athletes being students, too.
--Lastly, the other day I noted the tragic death of former Florida State basketball player Michael Ojo, 27, who was playing professionally in Serbia when he suddenly collapsed and died on the court during a practice. The thing is, Ojo had recovered from the coronavirus and I pointed out that a known side effect can be heart issues, saying we needed more details on his death.
Well Monday, we learned that a rare heart condition linked with Covid-19 could have been one of the reasons for the Big Ten postponing its season.
We learned from ESPN reporters Paula Lavigne and Mark Schlabach that myocarditis, inflammation of the heart muscle, had been found in at least five Big Ten Conference athletes and among several other athletes in other conferences, according to two sources with knowledge of athletes’ medical care.
The condition is usually caused by a viral infection, like, possibly, Covid.
It’s turns out that the MAC had received medical reports about myocarditis and other problems associated with the coronavirus which influenced their decision to postpone fall sports.
Dr. John MacKnight, the head primary care team physician at the University of Virginia, said with all the other factors like with testing availability, turnaround time for results, and such, the long-term cardiac concerns for athletes may be the tipping point.
“We are collectively, as a sports nation, not quite ready to feel entirely comfortable with what that may look like for our young people down the line, and we are not going to put them in that situation,” he said.
The “likelihood the individual goes on to have myocardial complication is very low” in athletes who had no or very low-grade Covid symptoms, MacKnight said, but he added that there needs to be more studies and data.
Most agree the risks of heart-related issues are small and that most athletes who get them, like myocarditis, will be able to safely return to sports after a restriction of three to six months.
But some doctors say that the inflammation can turn to scar tissue, and that presents other potential issues, including sudden cardiac arrest, which can be triggered by exercise, which brings me back to…yes, Michael Ojo. I’ll go out on a limb to say that Ojo is a “60 Minutes” type story for the fall. [Folks in Serbia are beginning to talk and it’s not good in terms of Ojo and his treatment/diagnosis.]
Meanwhile, as the ESPN reporters note, “A study published in July in JAMA Cariology found that out of 100 adult patients in Germany who had recovered from the Covid-19 infection, 60% had findings of ongoing myocardial inflammation.”
Dr. Jonathan Drezner, director of the University of Washington Medicine Center for Sports Cardiology, said that myocarditis represents up to 9% of sudden cardiac deaths among athletes.
Red Sox pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez was diagnosed with myocarditis and is missing the rest of the season.
Drezner said the concern about myocarditis should “make all of us sort of press pause and do some due diligence so that we can feel the athlete is safe to exercise.
“We can’t rush into fall sports,” he said. “If we’re going to allow sports – where you can’t effectively physically distance – we have to ensure that the risk on the playing field is not necessarily higher than the risk they’re dealing with the rest of their college experience.
“If you can’t achieve that, you should not be putting your athletes at risk,” he said.
--Mets fans are having a hard time getting excited as they entered play Tuesday at 7-10, following a 16-4* drubbing at the hands of the Nationals at Citi Field last night, the Mets’ cardboard faithful cutting off their edges and throwing them on the field in disgust.
*Former Met Asdrubal Cabrera with a 4-for-4 performance, two doubles, two home runs.
And prior to the game, we learned starting pitcher Marcus Stroman had opted out of the season, citing a number of things that worried him.
Stroman, a free agent at the end of the year was attempting to come back from injury and could have been a factor in the final third of the 60-game season and then the playoffs.
So the Mets entered the year with six legitimate starters; Stroman, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz, Michael Wacha, Rick Porcello and Noah Syndergaard, and now they are down to three…deGrom, Matz (who has totally sucked) and Porcello…Noah out with Tommy John, Wacha on the injured list, and Stroman out. At least rookie David Peterson is pitching ably.
But as the New York Post’s Mike Vaccaro and countless others worry about, what will GM Brodie Van Wagenen do? After all, it was Van Wagenen who traded two pitching prospects, Anthony Kay and Simeon Woods Richardson, for Stroman; Kay pitching well for the Blue Jays and Richardson opening eyes in the Toronto organization at age 19.
And it was Van Wagenen who traded for Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz, in a second epic fail, the Mets giving up another two top prospects.
Plus Van Wagenen didn’t re-sign highly-dependable starter Zack Wheeler, now a leader on the Phils’ staff.
He also let catcher Travis d’Arnaud walk for nothing, and he signed Jed Lowrie for two years and $20 million; Lowrie with a total of seven at-bats.
At least Van Wagenen acquired J.D. Davis, and let Pete Alonso start the 2019 season with the big club, and now rising infielder Andres Gimenez is getting a shot, perhaps a year earlier than thought and looking like he belongs in Flushing for a long time.
But will Van Wagenen panic and deal more prospects for a veteran hurler, in order to try and get a playoff run as the team is being shopped for a sale?
For good reason, Mets fans fear the worst.
--Mike Trout’s first season as a regular was 2012 and since then, the Los Angeles Angels have been to the playoffs once, flaming out 3-0 in an LDS. They have wasted the prime years of arguably one of the five best players in the history of the game, certainly top ten.
And once again Trout is off to an MVP-like campaign, 7 home runs, 14 RBIs, .333 average in 13 games, missing a few while on paternity leave, and yet the Angels are 6-11.
It hasn’t helped that 2020’s big free agent signing, Anthony Rendon, is 6-for-42, .143, with six RBIs; Rendon having signed a seven-year, $245 million contract.
So we already know the Angels won’t be among the 16 playoff teams this miserable little season, assuming we get through September, and it’s once more time for “wait ‘till next year.” Pathetic.
--Mookie Betts is off to a 17-for-61, 4 homer, 10 RBI, .279 BA start for the Dodgers (11-6) after his massive new contract (12 years, $365 million) was inked.
--The Arizona Diamondbacks signed Madison Bumgarner, 31, to a 5-year, $85 million deal to lead their rotation and now he is on the 10-day IL, due to back spasms.
Bumgarner hasn’t really been his dominating self since 2016, though he had a deceiving 2019, 9-9, 3.90, throwing 207 innings, thus he got the contract.
But he gave up 18 earned in 17 1/3 innings in his first four starts of this season, 9.35 ERA, seven home runs, four hit batsmen, his command is missing and his velocity has decreased, from never dipping below 90 mph on his four-seam fastball to 87.2 mph, according to Brooks Baseball. It was 91.7 mph last year.
--Cleveland Indians pitcher Mike Clevinger was “instructed to quarantine” after the team learned he had broken Covid-19 protocols while on the team’s road trip to Chicago.
Clevinger is the second Indians pitcher instructed to spend time away from the team after Zach Plesac was also sent home via a car service for reportedly leaving the team hotel to go out with friends in Chicago on Saturday night.
According to the updated Covid-19 protocols from MLB: “Any player or staff member must notify their compliance officer if they intend to leave the hotel on the road. The officer will decide whether their planned trip outside the hotel complies with the manual and the club’s code of conduct.”
--We have a terrific stretch coming up after this past weekend’s excitement at Harding Park and the PGA Championship.
This week is the Wyndham Championship at Sedgefield CC in Greensboro, N.C., the last tournament to qualify for the FedEx Cup playoffs if you’re on the cut line, top 125 in points, so you have something like Nos. 108-145 in the field, scrambling, and that final day there is heartache and triumph.
Now this year is different in that everyone who had a tour card for the 2019-20 wraparound season is secure for 2020-21, due to the pandemic, but qualifying for the playoffs is key to enhancing your status. You’re virtually assured of a spot in every tournament in the new year, save for some of the ‘invitationals’ and majors.
Those who finish 126-200 in the FedEx Cup secure their eligibility for the 2021 Korn Ferry Tourn Finals, which with all cards retained may not seem critical, but it will to some.
After this week, we then have the three FedEx Cup playoff tournaments…Northern Trust in Boston, BMW at Olympia Fields, Illinois (guessing the course got hammered in Monday’s ‘derecho’), and then the Tour Championship at East Lake, Atlanta, which will finish up on Labor Day, which is cool.
The new tour season then starts the week after East Lake, so virtually all the stars will take it off, because the week after that is the U.S. Open at Winged Foot (Sept. 17-20).
One final thought on the Wyndham, Brooks Koepka is in the field, ditto local fave Webb Simpson (Go Deacs), Justin Rose, Tommy Fleetwood and a few other notables. I may place a shekel on Fleetwood (I normally don’t bet on individuals…just my DraftKings lineup).
--John Feinstein / Washington Post…kind of sums up the state of the game following 23-year-old Collin Morikawa’s memorable final few holes for the PGA Championship.
“It should also be noted that four of the top eight Sunday are 26 or under. Bryson DeChambeau, who might win a Mr. Universe title about the same time as he wins a major, is 26, Scottie Scheffler is 24. Matthew Wolff is 21 – almost two years younger than Morikawa. Morikawa, Wolff and Viktor Hovland – who finished tied for 33rd – all turned pro in the spring of 2019, and all have already won on the PGA Tour. DeChambeau has won six times on tour, although Sunday was his first top-10 finish in a major.
“Before all the stories come tumbling in about the young inheriting golf, let’s pump those brakes a little. Paul Casey and Dustin Johnson, who tied for second, are 43 and 36, respectively. A year ago, only one player under 30 – Brooks Koepka at 29 – won a major. Trying to claim anything as an absolute in golf is a fool’s errand.
“There’s no better example of that than Eldrick T. Woods. At 32, he seemed on his way to winning 25 majors. At 40, he was never going to win anything again. After his Masters victory last year, he was supposed to be stalking Jack Nicklaus’ 18 majors again. Going into this week, the Tigeristas were panicked that his creaky back might not make it through a cold San Francisco weekend. When he shot a 2-under-par 68on Thursday, everyone did a 180 and wondered if he might win. He finished tied for 37th. So much for any of us knowing what we’re talking about when it comes to golf predictions. If you had Gary Woodland and Shane Lowry winning majors a year ago, raise your hand – and neither man cracked the top 50 at Harding Park….
“Morikawa’s future appears limitless right now. Wolff, Scheffler and Hovland aren’t far behind. Predicting what happens next is close to impossible. All we know for sure is that Morikawa produced a Sunday finish that won’t soon be forgotten.”
--Dustin Johnson now has 17 top tens in majors, including five runner-up finishes, to go with his lone triumph at the 2016 U.S. Open.
--Prior to the Covid break, Rory McIlroy was on fire, starting the 2019-20 season with a T3, 1, T3, T5, 5, T5.
But since reopening, mysteriously he has lost it…not totally, mind you…he hasn’t missed a cut, for example.
It’s just that he’s gone T32, T41, T11, T32, T47, T33 (last week’s PGA).
--As for Tiger, his next appearance will be the first FedEx playoff event in Boston, maybe the BMW, and then the Tour Championship.
But he’s 47th in the FedEx Cup point standings, so if he doesn’t have a big performance, say top five in Boston, then he’ll have to play the BMW to ensure he makes the final 30 at the Tour Championship.
Top 3 songs for the week 8/13/66: #1 “Summer In The City” (The Lovin’ Spoonful) #2 “Lil’ Red Riding Hood” (Sam The Sham and The Pharaohs) #3 “They’re Coming To Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!” (Napoleon XIV…incredibly awful, depressing tune…still don’t understand how this ever got this high…)…and…#4 “Wild Thing” (The Troggs) #5 “The Pied Piper” (Crispian St. Peters) #6 “I Saw Her Again” (The Mamas & The Papas) #7 “Sunny” (Bobby Hebb) #8 “Mothers Little Helper” (The Rolling Stones) #9 “Somewhere, My Love” (Ray Coniff and The Singers) #10 “Sweet Pea” (Tommy Roe…#3 disturbs me immensely…I have to give the week solely because of this piece of crap a ‘C’…)
Baseball Quiz Answer: Walter Johnson won 36 in 1913 for the Senators, while Smoky (sic) Joe Wood won 34 in 1912 for the Red Sox. You’ll find out next time why I did this quiz.
Next Bar Chat, Monday.