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Lots of "Stuff"
[Posted early Sunday p.m.]
Chicago Cubs Quiz: 1) Name the four with 300 or more home runs in a Cubs uniform. 2) Post-1950, name the four to win 22 or more games in a season. Answers below.
--So the league is saying its releasing the 2020 schedule next week without any major changes and plans to open Sept. 10, with the Super Bowl Feb. 7.
If the pandemic worsens (it better not), there is a contingency plan to delay the start until mid-October.
Meanwhile, the NFL instituted a number of cost-saving measures in the office, including Commissioner Roger Goodell announcing he was reducing his salary to $0, with frozen salaries for many employees, or pay cuts at the management level, as well as furloughs for some individuals (but not terminations).
--In kind of a surprise, and brilliant, move, the Dallas Cowboys signed nine-year veteran QB Andy Dalton to a one-year contract worth $7 million, with $3 million of it guaranteed.
You never know in the NFL, and you must have a capable backup if your starter, in this case Dak Prescott, goes down and Dalton is as good as you can get in that category.
Plus Dallas still hasn’t wrapped up a long-term deal with Prescott.
It was thought Dalton would end up in Jacksonville or New England. He led the Bengals to five straight playoff appearances from 2011-15, but they had missed the postseason the last four seasons.
--Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is prodding MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred to salvage the baseball season, McConnell told 93.9 FM in Louisville.
“I called the commissioner of baseball a couple of weeks ago and I said, ‘America needs baseball. It’s the sign of getting back to normal. Any chance?’” McConnell said.
McConnell says there’s an active discussion about starting the season around July 4, playing either at spring training sites or at home to largely empty stadiums. “It would be a great morale booster for the country and an indication that we’re going to begin to get back to normal.”
--I’m tired of reading about baseball’s various plans to start a season by July, but for the record the latest has three 10-team divisions.
Until there is a final plan…whatever.
--Former slugger Jason Giambi appeared on SNY’s “Baseball Night in New York” show and said the Astros players were guilty of doing the same thing that he and other star players from his generation did when using performance-enhancing drugs.
“Everybody is always looking for an advantage,” Giambi said. “It’s no different than the PEDs. There’s always going to be things going in this game when you’re talking about people making a lot of money and wanting to win.”
Giambi, a one-time A.L. MVP who hit 440 home runs playing 20 seasons in the majors, saw his reputation tarnished forever when he admitted using steroids during a news conference at Yankee Stadium in February 2005, which led to more criticism. Two years later, Giambi finally told the truth and provided a more sincere apology in a May 2007 interview with USA TODAY.
And then a funny thing happened. As opposed to, say, Mark McGwire (let alone Barry Bonds, Rafael Palmeiro and Sammy Sosa), fans forgave Giambi, which allowed him to enjoy his final seasons in the majors and live life, including as a retired player – with peace of mind.
“I sleep great at night,” Giambi said. “I don’t have to worry about it. The biggest thing that came out of it is I created a whole new set of fans who first gave me a second chance, but also I don’t know how many parents I run into that say, ‘Hey, thank you so much for coming forward where I can tell my children if they make a mistake to tell the truth.’”
--We note the passing of former Oakland A’s pitcher Matt Keough, 64. The Athletics announced the death Saturday without providing details.
Keough was 58-84, 4.17, in a nine-year major league career, starting out 11-35 his first three seasons with Oakland, 1977-79, though he was an All-Star in 1978, despite going 8-15, 3.24.
He was 2-17 in ’79, but then the next year went 16-13, selected as the A.L. Comeback Player of the Year.
Keough ended up as a special assistant to the A’s and Billy Beane.
--Baseball canceled the Hall of Fame induction ceremony and has rescheduled it for July 23-26, 2021. So Derek Jeter, Ted Simmons and Larry Walker will have to wait, as well as the late-Marvin Miller.
It was the only smart decision to make.
--Back to the late-Steve Dalkowski, the Washington Post’s Thomas Boswell interviewed former major league player and manager Davey Johnson, now 77.
“Who was the hardest-throwing pitcher who ever lived? One may have a more informed opinion than anyone else.
“Of the 19 pitchers since 1900 who have struck out at least 300 men in a season, Davey Johnson batted against Steve Carlton, Mickey Lolich, Sam McDowell, Vida Blue, J.R. Richard, Nolan Ryan and Sandy Koufax. He also faced Don Drysdale, Tom Seaver, Goose Gossage, Dick ‘The Monster’ Radatz and Bob Gibson, who aren’t in the 300 club but sure could throw.
“Among those 300-strikeout men, Johnson managed in the majors during the careers of Clayton Kershaw, Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling, Chris Sale, Mike Scott, Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Max Scherzer, and he designed the all-right-handed-hitting Baltimore Orioles lineup that beat Randy Johnson twice in the 1997 playoffs. Davey managed Stephen Strasburg and Dwight Gooden, hard-throwing phenoms, and was around long enough to get his eyes on reliever Aroldis Chapman.
“Of all the 300-K men and others generally mentioned in the ‘fastest ever’ conversation, the only ones Johnson doesn’t have a firsthand opinion on are Walter Johnson, Rube Waddell and Bob Feller. So who threw the hardest?
“ ‘Steve Dalkowski threw harder than anybody I ever saw,’ said Johnson, who was a teammate of the southpaw in 1963 with Class AA Elmira. ‘He even threw his slider 95 miles per hour.’”
Yippee! Real sports action is coming! And something I can bet on!
NASCAR announced Thursday that it will resume its season without fans starting May 17 at Darlington Raceway in South Carolina, racing three more times after in a 10-day span.
The revised schedule only goes through May and has a pair of Wednesday races, fulfilling fans longtime plea for midweek events.
Darlington will hold a second race, Wednesday, May 20, and then Charlotte Motor Speedway will host the Coca-Cola 600 on May 24 to mark 60 consecutive years the longest race on the NASCAR schedule will be held on Memorial Day weekend. Super! Charlotte will then host a Wednesday race three days later.
There will also be lower-tier Xfinity and Truck series races at the two tracks.
NASCAR had suspended its season March 13 with only four of its 36 scheduled races completed.
NASCAR has eliminated practice and qualifying for all events except the Coca-Cola 600.
The television ratings will be interesting to see, especially the Wednesday events. Lots of general sports fans can’t stand auto racing, and I understand that, but the midweek idea, especially during the summer, is long overdue, and we’re desperate for live action of any kind.
All the above races are contingent on the health situation not deteriorating over the coming days. That’s especially the case for Charlotte.
--The league is now thinking of going to Disney World to resume the season, at least this is one of the ideas being bandied about, along with Las Vegas, or even the Bahamas.
The advantage of Disney World, though, is that there are multiple courts for games and broadcast readiness. There are also plenty of hotels to sequester the teams.
Plus Disney owns ABC and ESPN, meaning it’s already in direct partnership with the NBA.
I thoroughly enjoyed the 2015 replay of the Derby and the first leg of American Pharoah’s Triple Crown. I forgot what a great run Firing Line made, and little did we know that as the NBC analysts said after, Pharoah was probably just scratching the surface and would only get better, which he did. It was tears of joy from moi when Pharoah raced down the stretch five weeks later at The Belmont. [And then when I saw him in person at The Haskell that summer at Monmouth Park.]
I also thought the virtual Derby was cool. Mike Battaglia, independent of the computer’s picks, made the morning line and had Secretariat at 7-2, followed by Citation at 4-1, and they ended up 1-2, with Seattle Slew third. Affirmed was fourth, American Pharoah fifth.
But let’s hope this is the last time we have to do this.
So there is a lot of talk of the Belmont and the Preakness being run before the Derby, which was rescheduled for September. The New York Racing Association is looking at holding a Belmont Stakes in late May or June, and then maybe the Preakness is held at Pimlico in July.
The Belmont could be shortened.
Churchill Downs has no problem bringing up the rear.
As you know, trainers planned all last fall and early this year to have their horses peak for the Derby so there’s no telling what shape the one-time favorites would be by June-July, let alone September.
NYRA will no doubt run a schedule in June, without spectators, and then Saratoga would do the same.
Churchill Downs itself is resuming live racing on May 16, also with no fans.
European Premier League
The folks that rule the sport on Friday stepped up planning to resume competition in neutral stadiums, holding separate talks with the government and its clubs to discuss Covid-19 testing and the logistics.
Britain is in a national lockdown until at least this coming Thursday, but forms of social distancing will remain even if there is some easing, but clubs are hoping formal training can begin in a few weeks.
So the PL is aiming to resume June 8 after a three-month suspension, without spectators in any stadiums. Police are concerned the fans will still gather outside stadiums if their team is playing at home.
For that reason, no team is going to play any of their remaining matches in their own stadium.
But IF they can restart, Liverpool still could play its remaining nine matches to formally end its 30-year title drought.
As a writer for the Irish Times put it, and I apologize I forgot to write down his name, it would be tragic if Liverpool’s magical season was “ruined by a bat.”
There is a big subtext to resuming, and finishing, the schedule. It’s as much about the bottom three, those that would be relegated, losing tons of money, and setting back their clubs potentially for years. It is not easy getting back to the Premier League.
And those in waiting like historic Nottingham Forest (currently fifth in the Championship League) are chomping at the bit to get back to the big time.
As reported by ESPN.com’s Dan Murphy:
“The NCAA’s top governing body said Wednesday that it supports a proposal to allow college athletes to sign endorsement contracts and receive payment for other work, provided that the schools they attend are not involved in any of the payments.
“A working group assembled to evaluate potential ways to modernize the NCAA’s rules about athletes making money from their names, images and likenesses presented its recommendations to the board of governors during its annual April meeting Tuesday afternoon. The recommendations included significant changes to current restrictions while also leaving room for the NCAA and schools to regulate the types of deals athletes might be allowed to sign in the future and the monetary value of individual contracts.
“ ‘Allowing promotions and third-party endorsements is uncharted territory,’ board chairperson Michael Drake said in a release Wednesday morning.”
Athletes will be allowed to appear in advertisements and can reference their sport and school, but they would not be able to use school logos or branding in those advertisements.
The process is far from over. There are no actual rules in place and the member schools will have a chance to weigh in and give their feedback, so we’re talking another several months before actual policies are implemented. The NCAA is also asking for Congress to help in making proposed changes possible, and that could take a while, especially amidst the pandemic and the election.
As in it’s a waste of time to say much more on the topic, but it’s a start.
I will say it’s clear the NCAA is concerned with “overzealous individuals” and boosters from using endorsements as a way to pay for athletic performance or recruiting enticements, as co-chairs Gene Smith (Ohio State AD) and Val Ackerman (Big East commissioner) put it.
An obvious example to work out is how much is an athlete, the star quarterback, going to be allowed to make off a commercial for an auto dealer? How much can they make from being involved in summer camps?
And then you have the issue of the gaming industry, EA Sports.
Meanwhile, the states of California and Florida are pressing ahead with their own regulations, which are less restrictive than the broad NCAA outline.
So it is just a timing coincidence that the NCAA is beginning to get closer to real solutions at the same time the NBA’s G League is making news.
The other day five-star prospect Daishen Nix announced he was decommitting from UCLA and joining Jalen Green and Isaiah Todd on the “select team,” after another top recruit, Greg Brown, opted to go to college at Texas on Friday over going pro.
As I’ve written before, the G League is paying high school recruits up to $500,000 for one year of training and playing in upwards of 25 games instead of attending college. Nix, ranked 15th in the senior class by 247Sports.com, is reportedly going to accept a deal in the $300,000 range, The Athletic reported.
Wake Forest Hoops
The Deacs quickly filled the need for a head coach, after firing Danny Manning, by hiring East Tennessee State’s Steve Forbes, who guided the Buccaneers to a 130-43 mark in five seasons, including 30-4 this past campaign.
I was pleased, once it was clear John Beilein wasn’t in the picture, though for a day or two I thought maybe it was best just to give the job to Randolph Childress for a year, there being so much uncertainty over the 2020-21 sports season. But I’ve watched Forbes’ since the selection and he seems like a good guy, with a sense of humor (critical), who will relate well with the players.
However, he immediately faced a sort of player revolt… ‘Everyone into the transfer portal! The water’s great!’
Potential NBAer Olivier Sarr, a promising 7-foot center who averaged 13.7 points and 9.0 rebounds for the Deacs this season, including 11 double-doubles, was initially thought to want to stay for his final season but he entered the portal, joining second-leading returning scorer Chaundee Brown and promising guard Jahcobi Neath, along with others, some of whom previously announced their intentions to transfer. At least two of our four incoming recruits announced they were decommitting as well.
Forbes is at a huge disadvantage in not being able to meet with the players individually amid the pandemic, but in a slight glimmer of hope, one returning starter, Isaiah Mucius, and one recruit said they want to remain.
Maybe, Forbes can retain one or two others. Getting Sarr and Neath to come back would be awesome. But Sarr is already getting feelers from Kentucky and that would be hard to pass up.
Meanwhile, as for the Danny Manning buyout, rumored to be $15 million, as reported by Jeff Goodman, “Wake Forest believes it does not have to pay Manning the $15 million he had on his existing deal because he failed to meet certain criteria. Been told Wake feel it owes Manning less than half of the $15 million. Two sides could wind up (going) to court or settling.”
Hell, the school no doubt has a strong case for not paying out the full amount. The team sucked and virtually none of the players stuck around during his six-year tenure!
--In a surprise announcement, a federal judge dismissed the equal pay claims of the World Cup-winning women’s national team on Friday night, handing a victory to the United States Soccer Federation.
Judge R. Gary Klausner of the United States District Court for the Central District of California ruled in favor of U.S. Soccer.
“The WNT (Women’s National Team) has been paid more on both a cumulative and an average per-game basis than the MNT (Men’s National Team) over the class period,” the court said in its summary judgment.
The judge, however, also ruled that players’ claims they do not receive equal treatment as the men when it comes to travel, training, housing and other areas could proceed. The trial date is set for June 16.
Molly Levinson, a spokeswoman for the players, said that they plan to appeal the decision.
“We are shocked and disappointed,” said Levinson. “We will not give up our hard work for equal pay. We are confident in our case and steadfast in our commitment to ensuring that girls and women who play this sport will not be valued as lesser just because of their gender.”
U.S. Soccer did not have an immediate comment.
Players had been seeking $66 million in damages under the Equal Pay Act. The women’s national team beat Netherlands to claim its fourth World Cup title last summer, as the stadium rang with chants of “Equal Pay, Equal Pay,” catapulting its players into the spotlight.
Team co-captain Megan Rapinoe, tweeted: “We will never stop fighting for EQUALITY.”
But as Andrew Das wrote in the New York Times:
“The brutal irony, of course, was that in choosing to fight U.S. Soccer while they were at the peak of their powers – World Cup champions, social media stars and respected, global spokeswomen for women’s empowerment and equal treatment – the women’s team had also picked the absolute worst time to line up a few years of their salaries against a few years of the men’s pay.
“Since February 2015, the agreed-upon start of the class-action period in the case, the women’s team has claimed two World Cup titles (and millions in bonus payments for those triumphs) and won other major gains by negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement with U.S. Soccer. The United States men’s team, on the other hand, has plumbed new lows, with even its failures serving to cripple the women’s case.
“By failing to qualify for the only men’s World Cup played during the class window, the men became ineligible for millions of dollars in performance bonuses of their own. Those payments would have swelled their paydays from U.S. Soccer far beyond what the women could ever earn.
“So U.S. Soccer was able to argue not only that it was not paying the women less, but that it was already paying the women’s team more than the men.”
--By now many of you have seen the story of the “Murder Hornet” from Asia that has been found in Washington state. Johnny Mac and I were discussing it the other day and I’ve decided I’m not going outside anymore except to get essentials. [Food and beer.] Nope, gonna get my exercise at home, walking in circles while watching C-Span.
So Mike Baker of the New York Times starts off his piece from Blaine, Wash., thusly:
“In his decades of beekeeping, Ted McFall had never seen anything like it.
“As he pulled his truck up to check on a group of hives near Custer, Wash., in November, he could spot from the window a mess of bee carcasses on the ground. As he looked closer, he saw a pile of dead members of the colony in front of a hive and more carnage inside – thousands and thousands of bees with their heads torn from their bodies and no sign of a culprit.
“ ‘I couldn’t wrap my head around what could have done that,’ Mr. McFall said.
“Only later did he come to suspect that the killer was what some researchers simply call the ‘murder hornet.’
“With queens that can grow to two inches long, Asian giant hornets can use mandibles shaped like spiked shark fins to wipe out a honeybee hive in a matter of hours, decapitating the bees and flying away with the thoraxes to feed their young. For larger targets, the hornet’s potent venom and stinger – long enough to puncture a beekeeping suit – make for excruciating combination that victims have likened to hot metal driving into their skin.
“In Japan, the hornets kill up to 50 people a year. Now, for the first time, they have arrived in the United States.”
While McFall isn’t positive the murder hornet was the culprit in his case, two of the killers were discovered last fall in Washington State, just a few miles from his property – the first sightings in the U.S.
So now scientists are scrambling to find the hornets and blow them up (cruise missiles?) before they can establish militias that would then decimate the bee population in America.
How smart, and deadly, are these hornets?
Research crews established there was a hive on Vancouver Island and Conrad Berube, a beekeeper and entomologist, was assigned to exterminate them.
“He set out at night, when the hornets would be in their nest. He put on shorts and thick sweatpants, then his bee suit. He donned Kevlar braces on his ankles and wrists.
“But as he approached the hive, he said, the rustling of the brush and the shine of his flashlight awakened the colony. Before he had a chance to douse the nest with carbon dioxide, he felt the first searing stabs in his leg – through the bee suit and underlying sweatpants.
“ ‘It was like having red-hot thumbtacks being driven into my flesh,’ he said. He ended up getting stung at least seven times, some of the stings drawing blood.”
But that night, despite his injuries, Berube was still able to eliminate the nest and collect samples, but the next day, his legs were aching, as if he had the flu. He said of all the thousands of times he’s been stung in his life, the giant hornet stings were the worst.
President Trump needs to bestow the Medal of Freedom on Conrad Berube!
--Hafthor Bjornsson, the man who played the brutal Ser Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane in HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” lifted 501 kilograms (1,104.52) pounds off the ground to claim the title of world’s strongest man.
Bjornsson, 6-foot-9, 420-pound Iceland native, said, “I’m obviously speechless. I’m just so happy and thankful that I got the opportunity to do this, even though the world is going through what it’s going through right now.
“I’m over the moon.”
So I watched some of The Mountain’s action on “Game of Thrones” yesterday and, no doubt, the episode where he dies (only to be brought back to life as a robotic killing machine) is as gross, and intense, of a scene as you’ll ever witness. I remember watching the night it first aired and I, like all the other millions tuning in, could only say after, ‘Holy s---.’ I’m shuddering now all over again.
Yes, Mark R. I wish the Jets had Hafthor, though he might be assessed more than a few personal foul penalties.
--The Washington Post reported eight Labrador retrievers are being trained to sniff out coronavirus cases, part of a University of Pennsylvania research project to determine whether canines can detect an odor associated with the virus. If so, they might eventually be used in a sort of “canine surveillance” corps.
It wouldn’t be surprising if the dogs prove adept at detecting Covid-19, seeing as they can sniff out drugs, explosives and contraband items. They can also sniff out malaria, cancers and even a bacterium ravaging Florida’s citrus groves.
As I wrote a while ago, A similar effort is underway at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, where researchers previously demonstrated that dogs could identify malaria. This school hopes to deploy six dogs to airports in the UK after trials. The head of the effort, James Logan, said “Each individual dog can screen up to 250 people per hour.”
And this is why ‘Dog’ remains No. 1 on the All-Species List, Charlie Brown.
--Dr. W. informed me of the third fatal alligator attack in the last four years in South Carolina, this one on Kiawah Island, where until recently we used to hook up for golf on the Ocean Course prior to the annual half-marathon down there.
I’ve told you over the years of all the gators on that particular course (let alone the entire island) and how you don’t dare go looking for lost balls. [Plus there are lethal snakes.]
So this poor 58-year-old woman was killed near her home on a secluded street near the Ocean Course. The local sheriff’s department tweeted:
“About 5 pm today (Friday), deputies responded to pond near Salt Cedar Ln, Kiawah Island, for report of alligator encounter w/ a woman. The woman has died. A deputy fatally shot and retrieved the gator.”
The circumstances surrounding the attack were not immediately clear. Just awful. It’s such a beautiful spot, right Jeff B.? [He goes most years for tennis and succulent barbecue.]
--Weekends I always play country music in the car as I travel about and the great Kenny Chesney just dropped a new album, “Here and Now.” The New York country station, 94.7, played three tracks from it as I was on a beer run (wait, strike that…granola and fruit run…) and all three sounded terrific.
Top 3 songs for the week 5/3/75: #1 “He Don’t Love You (Like I Love You)” (Tony Orlando & Dawn) #2 “(Hey Won’t You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song” (B.J. Thomas) #3 “Before The Next Teardrop Falls” (Freddy Fender)…and…#4 “Philadelphia Freedom” (The Elton John Band) #5 “Chevy Van” (Sammy Johns) #6 “Jackie Blue” (Ozark Mountain Daredevils…underrated group…) #7 “Shining Star” (Earth, Wind & Fire…the song that launched their career…though they had the #29 “Mighty Mighty” and #33 “Devotion” prior…) #8 “Walking In Rhythm” (The Blackbyrds) #9 “Long Tall Glasses (I Can Dance)” (Leo Sayer) #10 “Only Yesterday” (Carpenters… B- week…)
Chicago Cubs Quiz Answers: 1) Four with 300 home runs in a Cubs uniform: Sammy Sosa, 545…Boooo Boooo; Ernie Banks, 512; Billy Williams, 392; Ron Santo, 337. 2) Four with 22 or more wins, post-1950: Larry Jackson, 24 (1964), Fergie Jenkins, 24 (1971), Dick Ellsworth, 22 (1963), Jenkins, 22 (1970), Jake Arrieta, 22 (2015).
Next Bar Chat, Thursday…or sooner.