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Sports' Rocky Restart
[Posted Sunday p.m., prior to rain-delayed finish of second NASCAR race at Pocono]
Baseball Quiz: With a hoped for 60-game schedule, can someone break out of the box and put together a long hitting streak? Since 1900, aside from Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game streak in 1941, and Pete Rose’s 44-game streak in 1978, since 1900, name the five others with streaks over 35 games. Answer below.
MLB Reopens…as of now….
I have to admit I’m really not excited about baseball’s return simply because I have serious doubts on all the sports being able to reopen, hold a partial season or in the case of football, actually have a season. It’s just there are so many positive tests turning up and we have weeks to go before MLB and the NBA get going.
Golf is having its issues as we’ve now seen the last two weeks. Thus far, kind of shockingly, NASCAR has worked out with no positives, but by the time you read this that could have changed as well.
Ashish Jha, a Harvard University professor of global health, kind of summed up the beliefs of a lot of us (something I also covered in my last “Week in Review”).
“I have become increasingly convinced we’re going to find a large cadre of people who get infected, thankfully don’t die, recover from the acute illness but have meaningful long-term complications,” Jha said. “This is much more serious than a lot of folks have been describing, and I would not take the idea of young athletes getting infected lightly.”
The biggest fear should probably be blood clots in the lungs, which we know has been a problem in some Covid patients.
Baseball is slated to start July 23 or 24, training camps reopening July 1. If someone tests positive, they aren’t allowed to travel, access the facility or have contact with others. To return, those people must test negative twice in a row, have no fever for at least 72 hours, possibly pass a cardiac exam, and be deemed by doctors and MLB to present no risk others.
Players testing positive go on the Covid-19 injured list, which doesn’t have a minimum or maximum length.
As for on-field rules changes, the designated hitter will be used in both leagues, extra innings will start with a runner on second base (hate this rule), and the three-batter rule for pitchers will be in effect.
There are all kinds of personnel rules, such as access to stadiums and facilities being divided into three tiers. Tier 1 includes players (60 max), coaches (12), bullpen catchers (2), team physicians and on and on.
As in, let’s just see if we actually see action come July 23/24. Right now it’s a waste of time to discuss the minutiae.
But there is something interesting in the three-division setup to alleviate extensive travel, which we’ll get into a lot more when we see a schedule.
And according to an ESPN poll, 77% of those who said they were baseball fans expressed support for the 60-game season, with 23% opposing it.
Buster Olney / ESPN
“These are the teams that are especially dangerous in a shortened season: the teams saturated with roster depth and strong bullpens. The Los Angeles Dodgers. The New York Yankees. The Tampa Bay Rays, who should be a favorite among the gamblers.
“This is what might lie ahead: High anxiety, accelerated competition, in which a three-game losing streak for any team will border on catastrophe and a three-game winning streak could propel you into first place.
“This is also what might lie ahead: the enormous and uncontrollable impact of Covid-19. Teams being forced to move out of their homes, as governors and mayors issue mandates. Teams becoming hot spots, with one or two or more staffers or players testing positive during the season. Somebody under Major League Baseball’s umbrella getting very sick, or worse, forcing everyone involved to answer an impossible question for themselves: Was trying to play in 2020 the right thing to do?”
The NBA is set to hold the first game of its resumed season on July 30, with New Orleans and Zion Williamson taking on Utah.
So in less than two weeks, NBA players will begin to arrive in Orlando, Fla., play resuming for 22 teams that are willing to spend as long as three-plus months on the isolated campus surrounding Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports complex.
Commissioner Adam Silver said: “We believe we’ve developed a safe and responsible way to restart the season. We are left with no choice but to learn to live with this virus. No options are risk-free right now. We can’t sit on the sidelines indefinitely. We must adapt.
“We’re coming back because sports matter in a society. They bring people together when we need it the most.”
But Silver acknowledged the distinct possibility the season may never be completed.
“We haven’t worked through every scenario…[but] if we were to have significant spread of coronavirus throughout the community, that ultimately might lead us to stop it,” Silver said. “We’re not saying full steam ahead no matter what happens…but we feel very comfortable right now with where we are.”
At least initially, players will be tested daily and be required to wear masks when they are not playing. There will also be a medical clinic set up on the campus.
In the first wave of mandatory tests this week, the NBA said 16 out of 302 players tested positive. Any player who tests positive on campus will be forced to quarantine, while play would continue for those who test negative. No player is contractually required to return to action, though absent players will forfeit the salary for games missed.
“We understand the risks involved, but everyone is ready to make a sacrifice,” said Andre Iguodala, NBAPA first vice president. “A lot of people in America don’t have jobs right now.”
NBAPA president Chris Paul, addressing the league’s response to the Black Lives Matter movement, said, “We’ve agreed on a number of initiatives for social justice. I’m excited for what we can do that is a lot bigger than the game. …It’s not a shut-up-and-dribble situation. You are going to continue to hear from us.”
The NHL is opening training camps July 10.
The Indy 500 will be run Aug. 23 and will have fans…quite a few of them, 50% of capacity.
--Nearly one in three on Clemson’s football team have tested positive for the coronavirus.
Clemson has completed 430 tests since June 1, with a total of 47 positive results; all 120 players on the football roster having been tested, with 37 coming back positive.
Some are wondering if a recent demonstration organized by members of the team is to blame for all the positives, but you can’t pin it on any single factor at this point.
None of those with symptoms have required hospitalization.
--Oregon and Oregon State will no longer use the name “Civil War” to describe their rivalry football game, following discussions with officials from both schools and current and former student-athletes.
Oregon State President Ed Ray said the Civil War name “represents a connection to a war fought to perpetuate slavery.”
“While not intended as a reference to the actual Civil War, OSU sports competition should not provide any misconstrued reference to this divisive episode in American history,” Ray said in a statement. “That we did not act before to change the name was a mistake. We do so now, along with other important actions to advance equal opportunity and justice for all and in recognition that Black Lives Matter.”
Thomas Boswell / Washington Post
“This week, my wife went into a store in Annapolis where she, the owner and a white-haired, 6-foot-6 customer in a Navy hat were the only ones in the place, which bore a sign reading, ‘Masks required.’
“A man entered with no mask. My wife said, ‘The sign says, ‘masks.’’
“ ‘Why should I?’ he said.
“The big old man bellowed at full Navy volume, ‘GET OUT OF HERE!’
“The barefaced guy got out. Fast. Later, he came back – with a mask.
“This little story points in many directions, but one of them troubles me most: America is no longer a team. And it’s killing us. Many of us.
“Our clubhouse is so full of feuding, selfishness, team-last egos and backstabbing that we can’t even agree to wear a face mask during a plague. Our fury is so close to the surface that a few words lead to screams. If the world were a sports league, we would be a franchise falling apart fast.
“Of course, the world really is a competitive league – but an economic one. In that race, in controlling the novel coronavirus pandemic, we are far behind Asia, where, just to illustrate, Japan and South Korea are playing baseball, and Europe, where elite professional soccer is back in England, Germany, Italy and Spain.
“The gap is incredibly embarrassing. If you want to know why, among many more serious American problems, we may have no more Major League Baseball, NFL, NBA or NHL this year, consider Tuesday’s stats. The seven largest countries in the European Union, with a combined population around the same as our 330 million, had about 6 percent as many new coronavirus cases as the United States: 2,074 to 33,730. Texas and California had more than 5,000 new cases each.
“In April, the E.U. was just as big a health disaster as America. But the E.U. still operates like a team – one that believes in science and has a discipline to fight together against a pandemic. Now the results are in.
“The E.U. is considering banning Americans from going to Europe even after its restrictions on travel lift July 1. For the first time, a continent may be saying: ‘We don’t want your American tourist dollars. You’re not worth the risk.’
“The easy out is to blame politics, especially President Trump and the Republican Party, but it’s a lot more, too. A huge piece of America’s core character – such as our collective intelligence and common sense, our unselfishness and cooperation, our tolerance for our differences – key qualities that made us great, have deteriorated. Is that what decadence looks like in an empire that has passed its peak but doesn’t know it yet?....
“Right now, the United States wakes up every day ready to brawl – with itself.
“Good teams grasp the basic level of putting the team first: ‘We can’t win unless we all do this.’ You either buy in or you go out.
“Right now, our country can’t even buy into using masks in situations in which scientists say it will cut the rate of virus transmission by up to 80 percent….
“Each day, sometimes each week, sports fans discuss when or if our games will return. We ask as if owners, players, unions and deciding medical protocols are the main issues. They are not. The reason that sports are returning in the E.U. and not yet here has nothing to do with any of that.
“If you want to know why there might be no MLB or NFL season this year, and the NBA and NHL might not resume, it is for two main reason. The first is the pandemic. But the second is America’s sickly sense of team.
“If we all want to see our country recover – and sports returning is just a small part of that – follow health experts’ guidance on social distancing and crowd sizes. And for all our sake, perform an act so minimal yet as vital as life and death: Wear a mask.”
--We entered the final round of the Travelers Championship in Cromwell, Ct., the third PGA Tour event since the reopening, with this leaderboard.
Brendon Todd -18
Dustin Johnson -16…after a 61 in the third
Kevin Streelman -15
MacKenzie Hughes -14…first round leader after an opening 60
Bison DeChambeau -13
Kevin Na -13
Phil Mickelson among those tied at -12.
And in the end Dustin Johnson prevailed despite a rocky finish…career win No. 21, the 13th consecutive season he has won at least one, leaving him behind only Tiger (14) and Jack and Arnie at 17…rather remarkable.
And this was despite some awful play down the stretch by both DJ and Brendon Todd. Todd, on No. 12, had a hole only us hackers could love, in a perverse way, taking five shots to get down from a greenside bunker…a triple on the par-4. DJ, playing with Todd, with a seemingly insurmountable lead, then proceeded to hit his tee shot on 13 out of bounds, but salvaged a bogey.
After a comeback birdie on 14, Johnson then had the golfing gods on his side; his tee shot on the short par-4 15th somehow avoiding the water.
So a fun finish…Kevin Streelman ending up a shot behind in second, your editor breaking a losing streak in DraftKings as well! Go me.
--Mickelson was playing in his first tournament since turning 50 the other day, and he shot a seven-under 63 on Friday to take a one-stroke lead into the weekend, but then he shot a 71 in the third and faded.
--Collin Morikawa missed his first cut on Tour after making 22 consecutive since turning pro, the longest such streak since Tiger Woods began his career with 25 consecutive cuts.
--Brooks Koepka decided not to play in the Travelers after his caddie, Ricky Elliott, tested positive for the coronavirus.
Koepka, coach Claude Harmon III and Elliott tested negative on Monday after arriving at the Travelers, but they all took another test after learning that Graeme McDowell’s caddie, Ken Comboy, had tested positive for the virus.
Keopka told Golfweek that Elliott’s second test was the only one to come back positive.
McDowell and Koepka played a practice round at TPC River Highlands on Tuesday, and McDowell, despite two negative tests this week, withdrew from the tournament Wednesday, saying he’s experienced some “fatigue and muscle soreness.” He said he was driving back to Orlando rather than fly.
Webb Simpson, after winning at the Heritage last week, pulled out of the Travelers “out of an abundance of caution.” Simpson, whose tests were negative, said he had a family member test positive since Tuesday.
If a PGA Tour player tests positive for the coronavirus and it is discovered that he did not follow the safety protocols, he will no longer be eligible for a $100,000 stipend issued by the tour.
“All of us have an extraordinary responsibility to follow those protocols. For any individual that does not, there will be serious repercussions,” commissioner Jay Monahan said, looking visibly frustrated after the latest positives were revealed. “I’m not going to get into the specifics of it, but everybody knows, and needs to know, that our future, our ability to sustain this business and to impact the communities where we play and to create so many jobs is contingent on our ability to follow those protocols. So when we have instances where someone hasn’t, they will be dealt with, and as I said, the consequences will be significant.”
As the sport plays catchup with the schedule, it originally slated a doubleheader, Sat. and Sun., for Pocono Raceway, a first-ever NASCAR doubleheader. Tons of fans were going to be in attendance, a real treat for diehards.
Alas, it wasn’t to be…instead, yes, two races, but no fans.
In the first one, Saturday, Kevin Harvick picked up his first win at Pocono in 39 starts, 52nd of his career, which is No. 12 on the all-time list. [Your editor snapped a three-race losing streak on DraftKings…very pleased.]
*With about half of today’s race finished due to rain, I just need to pack it in. Sorry.
Meanwhile, on the noose incident, on Thursday NASCAR said its examination of the Talladega racetrack showed only one noose, which was found in the garage of Bubba Wallace.
An investigation by the FBI revealed that the noose had been in the garage since October.
“Although the noose is now known to have been in garage number 4 in 2019, nobody could have known Mr. Wallace would be assigned to garage number 4 last week,” the FBI had said, deciding that there was no hate crime.
NASCAR on Thursday then released a photo showing the noose, and it said its own investigation had looked at 1684 garage stalls across 29 racetracks and found 11 ropes with a pulldown rope tied in a knot. But only one, the one found in Wallace’s stall, was fashioned into a noose.
“Anyone who would suggest this was a hoax, I find personally offensive,” NASCAR president Steve Phelps had said after the FBI’s report. “I don’t know how people think that way.”
As I go to post, NASCAR still doesn’t know who tied the noose.
“Somebody knows,” said Bubba Wallace. “Whoever tied it knows how to tie a noose. And that’s fine. I don’t know if they did it with hate in their heart or what as a joke, but it ended up being a misunderstanding, some will say. But unfortunately, I hate that I’m kinda on the bad end of the deal because of it, just because I was simply given information related to me and we went on with it.”
Separately, in an interview with the New York Post, among the questions posed to Bubba Wallace….
Q: Racers you’ve admired?
Wallace: I’ve always been a [Dale] Earnhardt fan because of my parents, so I just kinda inherited that. I’m not a big role-model guy, I like doing things on my own and figuring it out, but I think throughout these times and these last couple of weeks, the last month or so, Jimmie Johnson has showed why he’s a stud on and off the racetrack. He’s been in my corner heavily these last couple of weeks, checking in on me, making sure I’m OK mentally and physically. …Kevin Harvick has reached out and shown his support. There’s been a lot of drivers in my corner…
Q: How would you describe Richard Petty for me?
Wallace: Gentle giant. The King is 82 years old, he’s a helluva guy, a helluva team owner. He’s very in tune with what’s going on outside the racetrack. The racetrack is what fuels him to keep on going. He goes to at least 20 or something races a year. He’s just on top of things, he wants to know why certain things are the way they are, whether that’s race car or whether that’s just life in general. It’s been a fun three years working with them. They’ve brought me in like family, and excited to see where that goes in the future.
Q: Three dinner guests.
Wallace: Ryan Blaney [Ed. his best friend in NASCAR]; Lewis Hamilton [Ed. six-time Formula One champ]; LeBron James.
Q: Do you hope you’re an inspiration for young black kids in any field that you can overcome odds by being strong and courageous?
Wallace: Absolutely. It’s to all kids and everybody who goes through hardships in their life, whether they’re standing up for what’s right or whether it’s a math exam or English exam, whatever it may be. Just knowing that you can do it as long as you put your mind to it and stay true to who you are. No matter what faces you in life, always look up to God, and He will guide the way. You just have to walk that path very stern, and very proud.
It’s anticlimactic but Liverpool did end 30 years of pain when they wrapped up a Premier League championship the other day courtesy of second-place Manchester City’s 2-1 loss to Chelsea. The result at Stamford Bridge meant Liverpool had an unassailable 23-pooint lead over City with seven games left.
Liverpool were last champions of England when they won the old First Division title in 1989-90 after which a decline in fortunes saw Manchester United and Arsenal, then Chelsea and Manchester City seize power.
But inspirational manager Juergen Klopp rekindled the Anfield flame and delivered the club’s 19th top-flight title, one behind arch-rivals United’s record of 20, after finishing runners-up to City in a thrilling race last season.
As Thursday’s Chelsea game moved into stoppage time at an empty stadium in London, 350km away outside Anfield Liverpool fans began lighting red flares in celebration.
Klopp told Sky Sports: “I have no words, it’s unbelievable.
“I haven’t waited 30 years, I have been here for four-and-a-half years, but it is quite an achievement, especially with the three-month break because nobody knew if we could go on.
“I know it is difficult for people in this moment but we could not hold back. We will enjoy this with our supporters when we can.”
Such has been Liverpool’s dominance, at one stage they led the table by 25 points – a record gap between a side in first and second in English top-flight history.
Today, after 31/32 of 38 matches, the lead is 23, with Liverpool now having a goal of smashing City’s record for points, 100, set in the 2017/18 season.
1. Liverpool 31 games…28 (W) – 2 (D) – 1 (L)…86 points
2. Man City 31…20-3-8…63
3. Leicester 31…16-7-8…55
4. Chelsea 31…16-6-9…54…Champions League line
5. Wolves 32…13-13-6…52
6. Man U 31…13-10-8…49
7. Tottenham 31…12-9-10…45…Drat!
--The New York City Marathon was canceled for the second time in less than ten years because of the coronavirus. The race was scheduled for November 1 and was supposed to be the 50th running. The other time it was canceled was in 2012 after Superstorm Sandy.
--Brad K. passed on this terrifying story from the Daily Mail; another involving monkeys gone wild.
The city of Lopburi, Thailand, is home to about 6,000 macaques which were a tourist draw before the coronavirus lockdown. But now with visitors having stopped coming, the locals are dealing with hungry monkeys which have turned violent. Some are feeding them junk food to keep the peace, but others think the sugar is making them breed faster. So the city is carrying out a mass sterilization program to try and bring their numbers under control.
One resident said, “We live in a cage but the monkeys live outside. Their excrement is everywhere, the smell is unbearable especially when it rains.”
“Footage of hundreds of them brawling over food in the streets went viral on social media in March. Their growing numbers – doubling in three years – have made an uneasy coexistence with their human peers almost intolerable.”
--The notoriously liberal country music trio formerly known as The Dixie Chicks have finally decided that ‘dixie’ had to die.
Now simply the Chicks, bandmates Natalie Maines, Emily Strayer and Martie Maguire, who have sold some 33 million albums worldwide, were widely ostracized by the country music community after they spoke out against President George W. Bush upon his decision to lead the U.S. into war with Iraq in 2003.
On Thursday, the 13-time Grammy-winning band announced the change with a new music video, titled ‘March March,’ released under the new Chicks moniker.
“We want to meet this moment,” read a brief statement on their website.
Earlier this month, Lady Antebellum made the call to change their name to Lay A.
Top 3 songs of 6/26/71: #1 “It’s Too Late” (Carole King” #2 “Rainy Days And Mondays” (Carpenters) #3 “Want Ads” (The Honey Cone)…and…#4 “Indian Reservation” (Raiders) #5 “Treat Her Like A Lady” (Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose) #6 “Brown Sugar” (The Rolling Stones) #7 “It Don’t Come Easy” (Ringo Starr) #8 “Don’t Pull Your Love” (Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds) #9 “When You’re Hot, You’re Hot” (Jerry Reed…crossed over from Country charts) #10 “Sweet And Innocent” (Donny Osmond…not a bad list… ‘B’….)
Baseball Quiz Answer: Aside from DiMaggio and Rose, the other five with hitting streaks over 35 since 1900.
George Sisler, 41, 1922, St. Louis Browns; Ty Cobb, 40, 1911, Detroit; Paul Molitor, 39, 1987, Milwaukee; Jimmy Rollins, 38, 2005-06, Philadelphia; Tommy Holmes, 37, 1945, Boston Braves.
***Just a shout-out to “Indian Bob” Johnson…his relatives at least. I saw on BaseballReference that on June 26, 1941, he had two home runs and six RBIs. I mention this because as a kid growing up in the Philly area, my father’s favorite player was “Indian Bob.”
Johnson was one of the more underrated players of his era, 1933-45, though he was an 8-time All-Star (one year, 1945, they didn’t play the game), playing mostly for the Philadelphia Athletics, and then his last three years in Washington and Boston.
He actually got off to a late start, not hitting the big leagues until he was 27, so his career #s, despite having 7 straight 100-RBI seasons, 1935-41, plus a terrific age 38 campaign in 1944, were held down; Johnson finishing with 2,051 hits, 288 home runs, 1,283 RBIs, a .296 BA, outstanding .393 OBP (including a league-leading .431 in 1944), and a career OPS of .899.
In 1944, again, age 38 and now playing with the Red Sox, he hit .324, with that super OBP and also a league-leading OPS of .959, as well as 17 homers and 106 RBIs.
Yet in two shots at the Hall of Fame, he didn’t even receive 1%! It didn’t help that the A’s teams he played on were absolutely horrid. Yet he did once go 6-for-6, and in another game, drove in all eight runs in a rare win for Philly.
The nickname? He was part Cherokee…born in Pryor, Oklahoma. [Buried in Tacoma, WA. Not an easy road trip, Ken P.]
Next Bar Chat, Thursday…or sooner.