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Talkin' Baseball...kind of...
[Posted Tues. p.m.]
MLB Quiz: 1) Eight players in baseball history have led the league in RBIs three or more consecutive seasons. Who was the last to do it? 2) Name the three players with 13 consecutive seasons with 100 runs batted in. 3) Who is the only player with 10 seasons of 130 RBIs? Answers below.
--MLB submitted its third official proposal Monday morning to the union that calls for a 76-game season starting July 10 that will pay players 75% of their salaries if there’s a postseason, and 50% if the postseason is canceled because of the pandemic. The postseason also could be increased to eight teams in each league instead of seven teams from their last proposal, if the union agrees.
The union did not formally reject the proposal, but called it a “step backwards,” believing that the players are being asked to take even a greater financial risk than previous proposals if there is no postseason because of Covid-19.
MLB, knowing that the upcoming free-agent class – led by the Dodgers’ Mookie Betts – could be substantially hurt with the loss of revenue this year, also offered to waive draft pick compensation for free agents. Teams no longer would be permitted to submit qualifying offers for free agents, tying them to draft picks.
The proposal also provides all players the option to not play this season. Those who are considered high-risk in suffering a severe illness because of Covid-19 will still be paid and be given service time. Any other player would not be paid or given service time.
The union is now expected to come up with a counter-offer this week, coming off their last proposal seeking a 114-gme schedule with full pro-rated pay.
MLB officials are adamant that the regular-season must end by Sept. 27, with the postseason finishing by the end of October, after speaking to medical experts who believe a second wave of the coronavirus will sweep across the nation again in the fall. If the postseason is canceled, MLB stands to lose about $1 billion in TV revenue.
If no agreement is reached in the next few weeks, Commissioner Rob Manfred plans to simply implement a 48-to-54-game schedule that will pay players their full prorated salary under their March 26 agreement.
USA TODAY’s Bob Nightengale said there are no more than 10 days left to salvage some kind of season.
--MLB is holding its drastically reduced five-round draft (instead of 40) on Wednesday and Thursday. Detroit with the first pick is expected to go with Spencer Torkelson of Arizona State, a first baseman. Or it could be Austin Martin, the Vanderbilt All-American with experience at multiple positions. Baltimore has the second selection.
--Mets fans were surprised to learn there is a new potential buyer of the franchise: New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia 76ers managing partner Josh Harris, who, as first reported by Variety, is working with David Blitzer, co-managing partner of the Devils and Sixers, on a potential bid.
The Mets have retained Steve Greenberg at Allen & Co. to oversee the sale process, though he declined to comment.
According to Forbes, Harris, who co-founded mega-investment firm Apollo Global in 1990, is worth an estimated $5 billion, while Blitzer, a senior exec at Blackstone Group, is said to be in the neighborhood of $1.3 billion.
The two formed Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, a holding company for their sports franchises that also includes the English Premier League soccer club Crystal Palace.
It’s now said that the Wilpons are finally willing to part with their television network, SNY, which would give Harris and Blitzer a chance to merge their other franchises onto one “superregional” sports network.
The Wilpons are in deep merde, according to most reports, and with the baseball season in doubt, their financial picture is deteriorating more rapidly. The Mets’ ballpark, Citi Field, was recently slapped with a “junk” rating by S&P on fears the Wilpons will not able to make their two $22 million annual payments to New York City going forward if the 2020 season is wiped out.
Recall, the Wilpons walked away from a $2.6 billion offer that didn’t even include SNY from hedge-fund king Steve Cohen. Now Harris and Blitzer can leverage the sorry state the Wilpons are in to their benefit in negotiating a reduced price.
Meanwhile, A-Rod and J-Lo are still trying to put together a bid of their own. But this won’t be a bidding war. Not in today’s environment.
--Angel Hernandez has been labeled the worst umpire ever, while being tagged “as bad as there is” by Pedro Martinez following a disastrous 2018 Yankees-Red Sox playoff game.
But now Hernandez is in hot water for allegedly eavesdropping on an MLB investigative call last July, which focused on a 14-minute delay during a game between the Red Sox and Rays due to confusion over league rules, according to MLB filings in a lawsuit involving Hernandez.
Joe Torre, then the game’s chief baseball officer, claims Hernandez – the acting crew chief for the game – did not hang up the phone when his interview ended and continued listening to the questioning of umpire Ed Hickox. One month later, MLB interviewed Hernandez again to discuss the alleged eavesdropping. Following the incidents, Torre declared Hernandez would be removed from the position of acting crew chief.
Torre wrote in a letter to Hernandez, with the letter copied in MLB’s fillings. “These were purposefully scheduled as separate conversations, both to ensure confidentiality and to avoid the tainting of recollections. At the conclusion of your interview, unknown to anyone else at the time, you remained on the line during Hickox’s interview….
“Simply put, we find your asserted justifications for remaining on the line to be implausible, internally inconsistent, premised on facts that are incorrect and not credible. As a result, we have concluded that you remained on the line in an effort to intentionally and deceptively eavesdrop on a confidential conversation in order to hear what Hickox would say about the July 24 incident. This is an egregious offense.”
--Kurt Thomas, the first U.S. male gymnast to win a world championship gold medal, died. He was 64. His family said he had a stroke May 24, caused by a tear of the basilar artery in the brain stem.
After competing in the 1976 Montreal Olympics, Thomas won the floor exercise in the 1978 world championships in Strasbourg, France, for the first U.S. men’s title. In the 1979 worlds in Fort Worth, Texas, he successfully defended the floor exercise title and won the horizontal bar.
Thomas lost a chance for Olympic gold when the United States boycotted the 1980 Olympics.
--Ken Riley, the former Cincinnati Bengals standout who was head coach and athletic director at alma mater Florida A&M, died Sunday. He was 72. A cause of death was not released.
Riley played 15 seasons for the Bengals as a defensive back, with 65 career interceptions – fifth in NFL history. He had five touchdowns and also recovered 18 fumbles.
Riley, an African American, played quarterback at Florida A&M and was chosen by Cincinnati in the sixth round of the 1969 draft. Coach Paul Brown decided to convert him to cornerback. At the time, black starting quarterbacks were all but unheard of.
“Everybody here loved Kenny. He had everyone’s respect,” Bengals owner Mike Brown said in a statement. “When he came here, Kenny and Lemar Parrish had never played cornerback, and they’re the two best we’ve ever had. And we’ve had a lot of good ones. We put him over there for a decade and a half and we didn’t have to worry about it. I’m going to miss him. He was a good guy and a solid man.”
Riley eventually coached Florida A&M to a 48-39-2 mark from 1986-93, after which he became athletic director.
[By the way, if you know where Lemar Parrish went to school, pour yourself a frosty. Lincoln University, Jefferson City, Missouri.]
--Longtime Atlanta Falcons defensive end John Zook, who teamed with Pro Football Hall of Famer Claude Humphrey to give Atlanta a dynamic combination at DE, has died. He was 72. His brother said Zook passed away after a long battle with cancer.
Initially a fourth-round pick by the Los Angeles Rams out of Kansas, Zook wound up in Atlanta after a pair of trades, first to Philadelphia, then to the Falcons.
Zook was with Atlanta from 1969-75, lining up on the right while Humphrey held down the left. While the team had little success during this time, the duo was recognized as one of the Falcons’ few strong suits.
Zook never missed a game during his tenure with the Falcons and made his only Pro Bowl appearance in 1973, joining Humphrey.
Zook was dealt to St. Louis in 1976, spending his last four seasons with the Cardinals.
--Roger Penske, the owner of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IndyCar Series told RACER the other day that he is making a guarantee to fans whether the race runs Aug. 23 as scheduled or has to be moved back to October.
“Trust me, we are going to run it (Indy 500) with fans.”
He’s the boss, after all.
--After I posted last Sunday, I watched ESPN’s 30 For 30 on Bruce Lee, “Be Water.” If you didn’t catch it, do. Simply outstanding. Lee ends up being a Great American Success Story, and among those featured in the documentary is none other than Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who loved the guy. And you walk away with newfound respect for some actors of that era such as Steve McQueen and James Coburn, who were adherents of martial arts after befriending Lee.
But this is also a story about racism in America.
Every time I’m in Hong Kong I pay homage to Lee’s statue on the harbor, and my brother reminded me that there is also a statue of Lee in of all places, Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Why? The youth back in the 1970s and ‘80s adored the guy and the statue is there because it is the one world figure that all the different ethnic groups in the region can agree on. He unified the city.
--The United States Tennis Association said on Monday it will eliminate 110 jobs and close its White Plains, New York office as part of belt-tightening measures brought on the Covid-19 outbreak. The USTA said in a statement the measures were necessary to combat the negative long-reaching financial effects of the pandemic and ensure that its flagship tournament, the U.S. Open, will remain a world-class level event.
The coronavirus has left the tournament tennis schedule in tatters. Wimbledon was cancelled and the French Open rescheduled, while the U.S. Open has, for the moment, retained its place on the calendar and is scheduled to start Aug. 24.
--President Trump, after I posted last Sunday night, went on Twitter to weigh in on Roger Goodell’s statement on the George Floyd protests and Black Lives Matter.
“Could it be even remotely possible that in Roger Goodell’s rather interesting statement of peace and reconciliation, he was intimating that it would now be O.K. for the players to KNEEl, or not to stand, for the National Anthem, thereby disrespecting our Country & our Flag?”
--Former New York Mets outfielder Cleon Jones grew up in Mobile, Alabama. The other day the New York Daily News’ Deesha Thosar had a piece on his story of growing up black back then, and of his days in baseball and the racism he saw.
Cleon also had this tale. It was 1977, a year after he retired.
“(Jones) was driving home while his wife, Angela, was doing so in another car. She made it home safely. Jones was stopped by a white police officer who claimed his turn signal was broken.
“ ‘Thank you officer, but I didn’t know it wasn’t working,’ Jones said.
“ ‘Where’s your license?’ the officer asked.
“ ‘In the other car,’ Jones told him.
“ ‘OK. Hold on a minute,” the officer said.
“ ‘I waited and waited and waited until finally I asked, ‘What’s going on? How long do you want me to wait?’ A couple of seconds later, more police vehicles showed up and another officer approached me,’ Jones said.
“ ‘We’re going to whoop your ass,’ the officer said.
“Moments later, a brawl ensued. Jones wrestled with police officers on the ground in his own neighborhood when suddenly, he was hit with a club.
“ ‘Finally, my mind said get away from here,’ Jones recalled in a phone conversation. ‘I was right in front of my place of business at that time, so I ran around the block.’
“Except that didn’t work. The police trailed Jones and soon, began beating him up again. His neighbors came out of their homes and started shouting Jones’ name. Eventually, the officers stopped.
“ ‘They didn’t realize who I was at the time,’ Jones said. ‘When people started calling my name, the white officers realized they picked the wrong individual. And this happened in 1977! God knows what happened before then, because I know for a fact it happened to other folks.’”
Jones, who played in the big leagues 13 seasons (1963, 1965-76), said that even the sports biggest stars were viciously harassed by racists. Regarding Hank Aaron and the days leading up to him besting Babe Ruth’s all-time home run record in 1974:
“You can’t imagine what [Aaron] went through and the hate mail that he got,” said Jones, who was good friends with the Hall of Famer. “It was just appalling what was happening. He couldn’t even stay in the same hotel with the team. He had to stay in a different hotel where nobody knew where he was.
“He just wanted to retire, not because he feared for his life, but when you’re about to break records – and records are made to be broken – people ought to be happy for you. People ought to be jubilant for you, not try to piss on you on every corner and diminish what it is that you’re doing. You can be complacent and feel rejected.”
--Kobe Bryant’s wife Vanessa Bryant is seeking hundreds of millions of dollars as part of a wrongful death lawsuit against the helicopter company and the estate of a pilot involved in the deadly January crash that claimed Kobe and daughter Gianna.
The families of the other passengers who perished have since filed their own wrongful death lawsuits.
--According to a study published in Geology, the peer-reviewed publication of the Geological Society of America, researchers have discovered the “cataclysmic” ancient supereruptions in Yellowstone National Park that rocked what is now Idaho and Nevada between 12 million and 8 million years ago.
The supereruptions released clouds of searing hot gas and ash at temperatures greater than 900 Celsius that spread at supersonic speed, sterilizing the land surface, according to Thomas Knott, a volcanologist at the University of Leicester and the paper’s lead author.
“It welded to the landscape,” Knott told USA TODAY. “An area the size of the state of New Jersey would’ve been enameled in solid black glass.”
While the rate of eruptions in what is now Yellowstone National Park is now just once every 1.5 million years, the last supereruption was 630,000 years ago, meaning it may be up to 900,000 years before another eruption of this scale occurs, according to Knott.
The Year 2020 has already been so awful, it would only be fitting, you know, for, err….
--Bonnie Pointer, who along with her singing siblings formed the Grammy-winning R&B quartet the Pointer Sisters in the 1970s, died Monday of cardiac arrest in Los Angeles. She was 69.
“It is with great sadness that I have to announce to the fans of The Pointer Sisters that my sister, Bonnie, died this morning,” her sister Anita Pointer said in a statement. “Our family is devastated. On behalf of my siblings and I and the entire Pointer family, we ask for your prayers at this time.”
Bonnie Pointer and her sisters grew up in Oakland, Calif., where they sang gospel in their father’s church. She was the founding member of the group, convincing sister June to go pro after high school.
Bonnie and June began singing professionally together in 1969, and eventually they convinced their two older sisters Anita and Ruth to join them.
“The Pointer Sisters would never had happened had it not been for Bonnie,” Anita Point said in her statement.
The sisters sang backup for the likes of Taj Mahal, Boz Scaggs and Elvin Bishop before releasing their self-titled debut album in 1973 and scoring with their breakout hit “Yes We Can Can” (#11 1973).
The Pointer Sisters went on to have the following top ten hits:
#2 “Fire” 1978
#3 “He’s So Shy” 1980
#2 “Slow Hand” 1981
#5 “Automatic” 1984
#3 “Jump” 1984
#9 “I’m So Excited” 1984
#6 “Neutron Dance” 1984
Top 3 songs for the week 6/11/66: #1 “Paint It Black” (The Rolling Stones…is now in my all-time top ten…) #2 “Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind?” (The Lovin’ Spoonful) #3 “I Am A Rock” (Simon and Garfunkel)…and…#4 “When A Man Loves A Woman” (Percy Sledge) #5 “A Groovy Kind Of Love” (The Mindbenders) #6 “Strangers In The Night” (Frank Sinatra) #7 “Monday, Monday” (The Mamas and the Papas) #8 “It’s A Man’s Man’s World” (James Brown) #9 “Green Grass” (Gary Lewis & The Playboys) #10 “Barefootin’” (Robert Parker…solid week, B+…)
MLB Quiz Answers: 1) Last person to lead the league in RBIs three consecutive seasons: Cecil Fielder, 1990-92, Detroit. 2) Three with 13 consecutive seasons with 100 runs batted in: Lou Gehrig, 1926-38, New York; Jimmie Foxx, 1929-35 Philadelphia (A.L.), 1936-41 Boston (A.L.); Alex Rodriguez, 1998-2000 Seattle; 01-03 Texas; 04-10 New York (A.L.) 3) Only player with 10 seasons of 130 RBIs: Babe Ruth, 10, New York.
Next Bar Chat, Monday.
***The PGA Tour is back this week!