|Articles||Go Fund Me||All-Species List||Hot Spots||Go Fund Me|
|Web Epoch NJ Web Design | (c) Copyright 2016 StocksandNews.com, LLC.|
It's Baylor vs. Gonzaga...and Jordan Spieth Breaks the Drought
[Posted Sun. pm.]
NCAA Basketball Quiz: We’re going to see Monday night if we remember this Gonzaga squad like we did the Indiana 32-0 team of 1975-76. As in I still remember the starting five, all of whom went on to play at least some in the NBA. Do you? Name ‘em. Answer below.
The Final Four
--We had quite a yawner in Saturday’s first national semifinal, as 1 Baylor crushed 2 Houston early, taking a 45-20 lead into the intermission and cruising 78-59. Jared Butler had 17 points in an efficient nine shots from the field (4 of 5 from three), while fellow guard Davion Mitchell had 12 points and 11 assists.
So in the second semifinal, we then had what will go down in history as the best game ever.
From the Associated Press:
“The shot by Jalen Suggs – perfect!
“The Gonzaga freshman banked in a shot at the buzzer from just inside the half-court logo Saturday night to lift the Zags to a 93-90 overtime win over UCLA and move them one win away from an undefeated season and a national title.
“The Final Four thriller was the best game of the tournament, and, considering the stakes, it served up possibly the best finish in the history of March Madness – a banker from near midcourt to keep a perfect season alive.
“ ‘Every day in shootaround before the game we shoot half-courters,’ Suggs said. ‘I haven’t been making my half-courters, but I got it with confidence, put it up. It’s crazy. I can’t (find the) words right now.’
“After the shot went in, Suggs ran to the mostly empty press row, jumped up and pumped his fists a few times. The refs checked to make sure he got the shot off before the buzzer sounded. He did, and the Bulldogs moved onto Monday night’s final…
“They are the first team to bring an undefeated record into the championship game since Larry Bird and Indiana State in 1979.
“Even without Suggs’ shot, it would’ve been hard to beat this game for pure excitement.
“It featured 15 ties and 19 lead changes and an 11th-seeded UCLA team that simply wouldn’t give in. Even though they lost, the Bruins snapped a streak of 27 straight double-digit wins by Mark Few’s juggernaut.
“The Bruins (22-10) were the first team to lead Gonzaga in the second half over five games of tournament play and, in fact, had a chance to win at the end of regulation.
“With the game tied at 81, Johnny Juzang was taking it hard to the hoop in the final seconds, when Zags forward Drew Timme, playing with four fouls, stepped into the paint, planted his feet and took a charge.
“Gonzaga called time and tried a Grant Hill-to-Christian Laettner full-court pass with 1.1 seconds left to try to win in regulation. It didn’t connect. Five minutes later, Suggs may have very possibly knocked Laettner’s shot down a spot on the list of all-timers.”
Steve Serby / New York Post
“They are poetry in motion when they play, a merciless machine that chews you up with relentless excellence and spits you out.
“Virtually every step of the way, Gonzaga hadn’t blinked, hadn’t wavered, hadn’t withered under the pressure of chasing perfection, trying to become the first team since Bob Knight’s 1976 Indiana Hoosiers to stand undefeated with unbridled joy while they play One Shining Moment on the last Monday night of the college basketball season.
“And then UCLA happened. Mick Cronin happened. Villanova over Georgetown started to happen. North Carolina State over Houston started to happen.
“Somebody forgot to tell the UCLA Bruins they were supposed to be foils. The Bulldogs needed 45 minutes to put the gritty Bruins away.
“It was an epic game for the ages, a classic that won’t soon be forgotten.
“Gonzaga needed Drew Timme, who had taken The Charge Heard ‘Round Spokane and Westwood at the end of regulation, in its most desperate hour…its most desperate five minutes of a perfect season.
“And then the Bulldogs needed an electric freshman named Jalen Suggs, because UCLA made them need Suggs.
“They needed a miracle shot from Suggs….
“After Baylor’s 78-59 demolition of Houston, Jared Butler was asked about the expected matchup with the Zags.
“ ‘They got pros, we got pros,’ Butler said. ‘They win a lot of games, we win a lot of games. I think we match up well.’
“ ‘It’s gonna be a battle,’ Suggs said.
“Until the end, the Zags played as if they had everything – perfection, history – to lose.
“They had better be better against Baylor, or they will.”
Bill Plaschke / Los Angeles Times
“No way. That ball didn’t go in. That shot didn’t happen. That shot couldn’t happen.
“No way. Are you kidding me? Jalen Suggs of Gonzaga did not just dribble the ball downcourt and throw up a 40-foot prayer over UCLA’s David Singleton and watch it bank into the basket for the victory as the buzzer sounded.
“No way. The ball banked in? The shot counted? The outmanned Bruins fought their jerseys off against the unbeaten Bulldogs on Saturday night and still lost a national semifinal overtime game, 93-90?
“On a Hail Mary? Good heavens.
“It doesn’t seem fair. It doesn’t seem right. UCLA deserved better. In one of the best games in NCAA tournament history, on the verge of the biggest tournament upset in UCLA history, the Bruins did not deserve to lose on one of the most unlikely final shots in tournament history.
“The Bruins did not deserve to get Laettnered.
“Remember when Duke’s Christian Laettner hit the last-second shot to beat Kentucky in the 1992 East Regional final in what was then considered the greatest college basketball game ever?
“This was that shot, that moment, that miracle.
“Only this time, Bruins fans weren’t watching it, they were living it….
“Before the game, Bill Walton sent the team a video message in which he said, ‘Do your best, that’ll be enough, you’re already champions, you are UCLA.’
“He was right. That’s who they were. That’s how they played. They were UCLA basketball at its finest, and the fact that it eventually ended in tears and sobbing hugs and jerseys pulled over heads doesn’t change that.
“ ‘I just told them they got to let the last shot go, and as much as they want to be down right now and gutted and miserable, they’ve got to let it go, because they’re winners,’ coach Mick Cronin said. ‘As a coach all you can do is ask your players to give you everything they got, and come on guys, all you’ve got to do is watch, to see a team improve the way we improved.
“From losing their final four games before the NCAA tournament to winning a First Four game after trailing Michigan State by 14 points to surviving two overtimes and to end up putting Gonzaga on the brink? Yeah, it was something to see.
“Cronin added, ‘These guys, they deserved a better ending, but like I told them, as Coach Wooden would say, true greatness is giving your best effort, and that’s what they did.’
“After he hit the shot, Suggs told CBS, ‘It’s crazy, I can’t find the words right now.’ It’s crazy how UCLA almost pulled this off.”
Some stats to wrap things up….
Gonzaga shot 58.7% from the field, 37 of 63, with Drew Timme going 11 of 15, 25 points; Corey Kispert 6 of 13 (just 2 of 8 from three), 15 points; Joel Ayayi 9 of 12, 22 points; and Jalen Suggs 16 points, 5 rebounds, 6 rebounds, and that one, sweet, blocked shot, followed by his incredible bounce pass to Kispert that made it 79-77 Zags at the 2:00 mark in regulation.
UCLA shot 57.6% from the field, 34 of 59. Johnny Juzang led the way with 29 points on 12 of 18 shooting (3 of 6 from downtown). Juzang had scored 28 of UCLA’s 51 points in the Elite Eight two-point win over Michigan.
--It really came as no surprise to ACC hoops fans that Roy Williams announced he was stepping down after 18 seasons at North Carolina that included three national titles, and after a 15-year run at Kansas. The 70-year-old deserves to retire.
Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham said, “I believe we’ve got the best job in college basketball. This job doesn’t come open very often. We need to spend a great deal of time thinking about who is the right person right now.”
Actually, you don’t need to spend any time at all. It should be Wes Miller, current coach at UNCG. The 38-year-old has been highly successful in his tenure at UNCG, taking the Spartans to two NCAA tournaments, and he played for three seasons under Williams, including the 2004-05 title team. The dude checks all the boxes…he’s your man. [Hubert Davis has been an assistant to Williams for nine seasons, but I don’t see him as a head coach. “Shu” thinks it should be Rasheed Wallace.]
John Feinstein / Washington Post
“Here’s what you need to understand about Roy Williams: All the ‘god-dangs’ and ‘gosh-darns’ and third-person references to ‘Ol’ Roy,’ were absolutely real. So were the postgame crying jags and all the talk about having the best kids you could possibly coach – win or lose.
“Ol’ Roy retired Thursday with 903 wins in 33 seasons at Kansas and North Carolina. That’s 24 more victories than Dean Smith, his mentor and hero, and one more than Bob Knight, the first man to surpass Smith on the all-time Division I victories list. Only two coaches in D-I history have more victories than Williams – Mike Krzyzewski and Jim Boeheim, both of whom apparently plan to coach forever and a day….
“For most of his career, Williams won and won and won. When he lost, he always took it hard and blamed himself. Like Smith, he never blamed the players. He was a very good high school player growing up in the mountains of North Carolina and played freshman basketball as a walk-on at Chapel Hill. In those days there were freshmen teams and scholarship players were on them. A year later, realizing he wasn’t going to make the varsity, he asked Smith whether he could observe practices.
“That was the start of a remarkable friendship. After graduating in 1972, Williams was a high school coach for five years before Smith hired him as his third assistant in 1978. His salary was minimal, so he sold ads in the game programs to local Chapel Hill businesses to make extra money….
“Williams has long had a temper and a penchant for truth-telling. When North Carolina added a home game with Marquette this season in the midst of the pandemic and lost, someone asked him what he would say to Tar Heels fans who didn’t think he should have scheduled the game.
“ ‘Well, if I’d have known we were going to lose, God Almighty, I wouldn’t have scheduled the game,’ he said. ‘Come on. You can’t operate in damn hindsight. God Almighty. If you told me we were going to lose, yeah, I wouldn’t have scheduled the game. If you told me we were going to beat the Lakers, I’d have scheduled them. Carolina fans, they aren’t that dumb. If they are, I’ve got no answer for them.’
“With that, he stalked out.
“When Williams won his third national title in 2017, giving him one more than his mentor, Williams wouldn’t even hear any talk that he had somehow surpassed Smith. ‘Remember one thing,’ he said. ‘Everything I know about basketball and coaching I learned from him. I’d have never been anything as a coach without him.’
“Smith disagreed. When Williams was at Kansas, I pointed out to him that Williams’ teams did everything Smith’s did: from the passing-game offense to changing defenses to pointing at players for assists to starting walk-ons on Senior Day. Smith listened, then shook his head.
“ ‘That may be so,’ he said. ‘But his teams run their stuff better than we do. That’s coaching.’
“The best thing Ol’ Roy learned from Coach Smith? How to compete like crazy but never lose your humanity – or your soul.”
Roy Williams had an overall record of 903-264 (.774)
Three NCAA championships, all at UNC (2005, 2009, 2017)
NCAA Tournament record: 79-27 (.745)
Nine Final Fours
13 Elite Eights
19 Sweet Sixteens
ACC regular-season record: 212-94 (.693)
Three ACC Tournament titles
--Chris Beard left Texas Tech, after a five-season run that saw him take the team to the national championship final two years ago, for his alma mater, Texas, replacing Shaka Smart…Shaka Smart Shaka Smart. It’s understandable why he would say this was the most difficult decision of his life. I’m not so sure I would have made this move, even though it is his alma mater.
--Loyola Chicago’s Porter Moser finally is bidding the Windy City adieu, having accomplished more than anyone could have possibly expected at the school, including a Final Four in 2018, and Sweet Sixteen this year. Moser was hired by Oklahoma to be its new coach, replacing the retired Lon Kruger. Good for him. He deserves it. And Loyola said all the right things in expressing their thanks for a job well done. Actually, spectacularly so.
--Kansas gave coach Bill Self a five-year extension that adds one additional year after the conclusion of each season, making him a coach for life. He was closing in on the end of a 10-year contract signed in September 2012 that guaranteed him $52.2 million with a $7.2 retention bonus. His new deal guarantees him $5.41 million per.
--An Alabama basketball fan who attended the NCAA Tournament died from Covid-19 on Friday, according to multiple reports.
Luke Ratliff, 23, was a Crimson Tide superfan who attended the men’s team’s Sweet 16 game against UCLA on March 28, the Tuscaloosa News reported. He returned home to Tuscaloosa after Alabama lost.
His father, Bryan Ratliff, said he was hospitalized earlier this week and died after a brief illness, according to the Tuscaloosa News. Multiple sources “with direct knowledge of the situation” told the paper Luke died from Covid-19 complications.
The younger Ratliff was a fixture at Alabama basketball games, even during the pandemic, appearing at 44 of the team’s past 45 conference and postseason games.
Contact tracing has been taking place in Indianapolis.
--In the Women’s Tournament….
Third-seeded Arizona defeated top-seed Connecticut, 69-59, in one semifinal on Friday. The Wildcats thus advanced to their first national championship game Sunday night against Stanford, the No. 1 overall seed.
For UConn it was the fourth straight time they lost in the national semifinals.
Stanford defeated 1 South Carolina 66-65, as the Lady Gamecocks missed two layups and a tip-in off an offensive rebound in the final 18 seconds.
And in the just concluded final, Stanford held on 54-53 for its first title since 1992, third overall, as Arizona star Aari McDonald missed a last-second shot for the win, McDonald finishing 5 of 21 from the field.
--MLB and Atlanta
Major League Baseball made a big move in pulling the All-Star Game out of Atlanta, owing to Georgia’s new election laws.
This column has never been about politics…I reserve that for the other column I do, the one I sign.
But this is Bar Chat #2,370 and over 22 years I have covered all the major topics in the world of sports in incredible detail.
I do not like what Baseball did, but I am also against the new election laws. I explain my position in the other column. I won’t do so here, though I leave a rather prominent clue down below.
What ticks me off is opponents to MLB’s move say, ‘The other side hasn’t actually read the legislation,’ bringing up the easy stuff like not being able to accept a bottle of water while waiting in the line to vote.
The real issue is something far bigger. I just wish Baseball had found a better way to handle things.
Following are two opinion pieces, reflective of the mood. The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board’s view, and others of its ilk, will be part of the other column next weekend.
Mike Freeman / USA TODAY
“If you want to know what courage looks like, look at Major League Baseball right now. They saw the naked, jingoistic racism of voter suppression in Georgia, and in response, decided to move this year’s All-Star game from the state.
“ ‘I have decided that the best way to demonstrate our values as a sport,’ MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said Friday, ‘is by relocating this year’s All-Star Game and MLB Draft.’
“That’s what guts look like.
“If you want to known what total capitulation looks like, what cowardice looks like, what the wrong side of history looks like, what running scared looks like, what you will use as an example to your kids of how not to act, look no further than the Atlanta Braves.
“After baseball released its statement, the Braves released theirs, and I’m surprised they were able to use a laptop with their fingers shaking so much from fear of the voting suppression extremists.
“ ‘This was neither our decision, nor our recommendation and we are saddened that fans will not be able to see this event in our city,’ the statement said. ‘The Braves organization will continue to stress the importance of equal voting opportunities and we had hoped our city could use this event as a platform to enhance the discussion. Our city has always been known as a uniter in divided times and we will miss the opportunity to address issues that are important to our community. Unfortunately, businesses, employees, and fans in Georgia are the victims of this decision.’
“This isn’t just tone deaf. Look up tone deaf in the dictionary and there are the Braves smoking a cigarette.
“First, the idea that Atlanta has always been a ‘uniter’ shows a level of historical ignorance that is stunning from people who should know better. Atlanta may have been the center of the civil rights movement but to say it has always been a ‘uniter’ is a farce. No city in the South has always been a ‘uniter.’ No city in America has.
“Second, their statement is acceptance of the racism of the new voting restrictions enacted by Republicans. There’s no other way to look at it. Either you are for democracy or you are not.
“You will hear all the coded language and lies about ‘cancel culture’ and other nonsense, but what baseball did was position itself on the side of true American values.
“This is an existential crisis and the Braves failed to meet the moment.
“But Manfred did and his actions can be a call to action for everyone.
“He gave sports leagues and businesses a roadmap on how to fight. The NFL, NBA and NCAA have said little since the voting restrictions went into place. Major businesses like Coca-Cola and Delta have released statements but taken no actions.
“Only baseball has demonstrated the proper amount of guts, and it’s glorious to see.
“The Falcons could take similar steps by moving some of its games. The Hawks, too. The NFL could easily, and I mean easily, declare it will never hold a Super Bowl in Atlanta until voting rights are restored. The SEC could do the same with its championship game.
“It is true that such boycotts would financially impact some working people of Atlanta like concession stand workers and businesses that thrive off the crowds attending the games. But those same people are having their access to voting diminished with a bevy of suppression laws….
“Manfred did the right thing in fighting these laws. Every sport, every business in the country, could learn from what Manfred did.
“They could also learn from the Braves, on what not to do.
“On what gutlessness looks like.”
Barry Svrluga / Washington Post
“Here was baseball Friday, leading the way rather than being dragged along. It was reasonable to react to the sport’s December decision to include records from the Negro Leagues in the official cannon with some skepticism, as in, ‘Why so long?’
“But Friday’s move to snatch this summer’s All-Star Game from Atlanta because of the new Georgia laws designed to suppress voting – and therefore suppress democracy – in the state was as swift as it was sure and sound. Make voting harder rather than easier, which is a thinly veiled attempt to limit voting in heavily Black areas? Fine. We’ll take our ball and go elsewhere.
“ ‘Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box,’ Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement.
“Read that sentence again. What American, regardless of political party or race or creed or religion – left or right, Black or White, Christian or Jew, vegan or carnivore, Yankees or Red Sox – can disagree with that? We are a democracy. Decisions in a democracy are made by the will of the people. Not some of the people. All of the people. This didn’t used to be a point of contention, and that’s not some woke mob point of view. It’s just American.
“It’s healthy to scrutinize the people who oversee sports and work for the owners of franchises who try to profit from them. Yet if baseball is still somehow woven into the fabric of America – if it’s still uniquely of this country, even as it grows more diverse and global – then its leaders have an obligation to acknowledge that every eligible American citizen should have the easiest opportunity to cast a ballot, regardless of the level of election….
“Baseball clubhouses tend to lean right, often heavily. Yet the lasting images of a summer of unrest throughout the sport include the New York Mets and Miami Marlins laying a No. 42 jersey – the number worn by Jackie Robinson – at home plate before the two teams walked off the field as a sign of unity and protest. They include veteran Black players Curtis Granderson, Dee Strange-Gordon and Cameron Maybin forming the Players Alliance, aimed at creating more opportunities in Black communities. They include the impassioned words of countless players – Tim Anderson of the Chicago White Sox, Dominic Smith of the Mets, on and on – talking frankly and jarringly about what it’s like to grow up Black in the United States.
“That all mattered, and it had to be factored into MLB’s thinking on the Atlanta All-Star Game. It all helped strengthen the idea that athletes and leagues shouldn’t remove themselves from the discussion. They should help lead it. That those voices and images still resonate could be the lasting impact of 2020’s coronavirus-shortened baseball season. At least something good came of it.
“ ‘Proud to call myself part of the @mlb family today,’ tweeted none other than LeBron James.
“The move had reach. The move had relevance. It also had ramifications.
“It’s important to note, contrary to the repeated claims of President Biden – false claims – that the new Georgia rules do not shorten the hours that polls are open. Indeed, they even expand the opportunity to cast early ballots in some counties.
“But to hide behind those realities is to ignore the fact that Georgia’s state board of elections can now seize control of ballot counting from local authorities. [Ed. emphasis mine.] It’s to ignore the limits on ballot drop boxes that make them all but irrelevant. It’s to discount the dismissal of mobile voting centers that can help ease the burden at overcrowded polling spots and encourage people to vote.
“The Braves, to their shame, said they were ‘deeply disappointed’ and distanced themselves from MLB’s move. They could have said, ‘We understand, and we’ll work to make Georgia more inclusive.’ But apparently they know their base.
“ ‘The Braves organization will continue to stress the importance of equal voting opportunities and we had hoped our city could use this event as a platform to enhance the discussion,’ the Braves said in a statement.
“Uh, how would that have worked, exactly?....
“In their statement, the Braves lamented the economic losses of MLB’s decision.
“ ‘Unfortunately, businesses, employees, and fans in Georgia are the victims of this decision,’ the club said.
“Left unsaid: The oppressive new voting restrictions create victims across the state. That they would be disproportionally Black is also unsaid – and intended. Take into account the roots of these new laws – the conspiracy theories surrounding November’s presidential election that suggested widespread fraud when there was, in fact, none – and consider that they’re designed to prevent what happened then, which was Georgia turning blue.
“This move by MLB says, quite clearly, that there are consequences for the businesses, the employees and the fans of a given state or city based on the actions of its leaders. The discussion is furthered by moving the game, not by keeping it there.
“There is precedent here. In 1990, Arizona voters shot down a ballot initiative that would have established Martin Luther King Jr. Day as an official holiday. In March 1991, the NFL’s owners voted to move Super Bowl XXVII, set for January 1993, from the state.
“And lo and behold, what happened? In 1992, Arizonans recognized the holiday. And the state now hosts Super Bowls.
“In 2017, the NBA moved its All-Star Game out of Charlotte because of HB2, a law that barred local governments from extending civil rights protections to gay and transgender people. After the state repealed portions of that law, the league awarded Charlotte the game in 2019.
“Atlanta will get an All-Star Game once Georgians put into office people who believe in the idea that each American deserves a vote. This isn’t partisan. It’s democratic.”
--The Yankees were absolutely pathetic Opening Day against the Blue Jays on Thursday. Gerrit Cole gave them 5 1/3 of two-run ball, striking out 8, but one of the runs was a tying home run in the top of the sixth. The Yanks would end up losing 3-2 in ten, but that was only part of the story. It’s how they went down, so feebly, that had New York talking for days after (due to Friday being an off day…and no Mets action).
In the bottom of the ninth, the Yanks had a runner on third, one out, and the reigning MLB batting champion, DJ LeMahieu, bounced out to third and Aaron Judge struck out.
Then in the bottom of the tenth, Toronto having cashed in its free runner (the runner on second/no outs extra inning rule), Judge was placed on second and the Yankees proceeded to go down swinging on 11 pitches from Toronto reliever Julian Merryweather. As in Aaron Hicks, Giancarlo Stanton and Gleyber Torres were struck out on 11 pitches, 10 strikes. As Bob Klapisch, now writing for the Star-Ledger, succinctly put it: “It was nothing short of an embarrassment.”
The Yankees were 0-9 with runners in scoring position, 10 LOB. Stanton, the fans whipping boy, struck out three times and received some hearty boos from the crowd of 10,000, which looked like more than that.
Why would I make so much of one game? Because it’s the Yankees, with sky-high expectations, and the recent vintage has a problem with hitting in the clutch. Everything is magnified in the New York media bubble.
[The Opening Day telecast, an afternoon affair, was the most viewed opener on the Yanks’ YES network, and the highest-rated regular season game in three years.]
Saturday, Game 2, the Yankees were better, 4 for 10 with runners in scoring position, as they beat the Jays 5-3, Corey Kluber making his New York debut, throwing four innings, one earned.
Today, the Yanks went back to Game 1 mode, losing to Toronto 3-1, and going 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position…so 4-for-24 thus far. Not good. They’ve allowed three runs in each of the first three games and are 1-2.
--I’m very pissed at the Nationals and their plethora of players, minimum four, that tested positive for Covid, thus negating the entire three-game opening series with my Metsies. You have 60-man rosters, technically, for a reason. Just call some folks up and move on.
But Wednesday night, the Mets did sign Francisco Lindor to a 10-year, $341 million contract; our Uncle Stevie, new owner Steve Cohen, getting it done. This is simply awesome for us fans.
Lindor’s pact is the third richest in baseball history in total dollars, trailing only the 12-year, $426.5 million deal that Mike Trout signed in March 2019 and the 12-year, $365 million contract that Dodgers right fielder Mookie Betts received last July.
Lindor’s deal surpassed the 14-year, $340 million deal that San Diego Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr., signed on Feb. 17.
--Trevor Bauer threw six innings of no-hit, nine-strikeout ball in his debut for the Dodgers Friday in Colorado. But then in the top of the seventh he was stuck on the basepaths for ten minutes and he clearly wasn’t the same, exiting in the bottom of the seventh having yield four runs, three hits, though with a tenth strikeout. All in all, he was spectacular despite the game-ending ERA, and the Dodgers won it, 11-6.
In the Dodgers-Rockies opener on Thursday, Cody Bellinger had a homer negated due to a bonehead baserunning mistake by Justin Turner, the Dodgers and Clayton Kershaw getting slapped around in an 8-5 loss.
Bellinger lined what appeared to be a two-run homer to left-center in the third inning. The ball hit off the glove of outfielder Raimel Tapia and bounded over the fence. Turner was on first base at the time and believing the ball was caught, retreated back to the bag. Bellinger passed Turner in the confusion and the umpires ruled Bellinger out.
Officially, Bellinger was credited with a single and an RBI, but no home run. Rockies second baseman Chris Owings picked up the putout on the crazy play for being the closest fielder.
For Kershaw, who allowed 10 hits and six runs, five earned, over 5 2/3, it was a rare rocky season opener. In eight previous opening day starts, Kershaw had a 1.05 ERA, the lowest of any pitcher (minimum 40 innings) since 1913, Bob Feller next at 1.21.
One or two more starts like this, which would continue the pattern of his dreadful spring, will have tongues wagging in L.A. for sure.
--What a start for Chicago White Sox rookie Yermin Mercedes, who was 8-for-8 in the first two games of the season, before he flied out Saturday on his ninth at-bat. It was the most consecutive hits to start a season by any player in the modern era (since 1900).
Mercedes is a 28-year-old rookie who has bounced around three organizations, originally signed by the Nationals and spending time with the Orioles before the White Sox signed him in 2018. He wasn’t expected to be a big part of the lineup, but the injury to Eloy Jimenez opened up playing time.
The overall record for consecutive hits at any point in the season is 12, held by the Cubs’ Johnny Kling (1902) and two Red Sox players, Pinky Higgins (1938) and Walt Dropo (1952).
--The Reds and Cardinals didn’t throw any punches, but risk being hit hard by MLB after their benches cleared during the fourth inning of their game Saturday in Cincinnati.
The incident occurred after Reds outfielder Nick Castellanos scored on a wild pitch by avoiding a tag from Cardinals pitcher Jake Woodford. After being called safe, Castellanos jawed at Woodford because he had been hit by a pitch in the shoulder from the righty earlier in the frame.
“It led to both benches and bullpens clearing and a good number of the players on the NL Central rivals getting in each other’s faces and pushing each other with the Reds leading 7-2 en route to a 9-6 victory. The situation appears to be a direct violation of MLB’s Covid-19 protocols for this season in regard to fights.
“ ‘Fighting and instigating fights are strictly prohibited.’ the protocols read. “Players must not make physical contact with others for any reason unless it occurs in normal and permissible game action. Violations of these rules will result in severe discipline.”
--It was an interesting Saturday for former Mets pitchers. Chris Flexen, a total bum with the Mets in spot start duty, 2017-19, when he went 3-11 with an atrocious 8.07 ERA, threw five scoreless innings for Seattle, picking up the win, as the Mariners shutout the Giants 4-0.
Matt Harvey was effective in his start for the Orioles, 4 2/3, 2 runs, 6 hits, though a no-decision as Baltimore beat the Red Sox 4-2.
And Zack Wheeler could not have had a better opener, seven innings of one-hit ball, zero walks and 10 strikeouts for the Phillies as they shut out the Braves 4-0. To top things off, Wheeler had two hits and two RBIs. As Ronald Reagan would have told Nancy while reading the Sunday morning sports pages, Nancy preparing blueberry pancakes, ‘Not bad, not bad at all.’
--Wheeler’s Phillies are now 3-0 after sweeping the Braves (0-3), winning 2-1 today. Kind of a crappy time in Atlanta, I think you’d agree.
--And look who is also 3-0…Baltimore…which swept the Red Sox (0-3), winning 11-3 today at Fenway as Cedric Mullins went 5-for-5, 3 doubles, and is now 9-for-13 overall.
--One more, back to yesterday. The Twins and Brewers faced off in Milwaukee and Minnesota’s Jose Berrios threw six innings of no-hit ball, striking out 12, before being removed due to throwing 84 pitches (totally understandable for a first start). But his mound opponent, Corbin Barnes, also had a no-hitter after six, before he yielded a solo homer in the top of the seventh, exiting after 6 1/3, 11 strikeouts, the Twins winning 2-0.
--My Knicks hit a dry spell, losing three straight to the Heat, T’Wolves and Mavericks to fall below .500, but then they blitzed the Pistons (14-35) in Detroit on Saturday, 125-81, to get back to 25-25.
--Kind of shockingly, Kevin Durant has been out seven weeks with his hamstring issue, his last game Feb. 13, yet even after a 115-107 loss to the Bulls (20-28) today, the Nets also without James Harden, Brooklyn is 18-4 without Durant. The Nets have been working in new acquisitions Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge, so when Durant (expected back ‘soon’) and Harden (should play Monday) return, they’ll be just fine.
Eastern Conference Standings
1. Philadelphia 34-15
2. Nets 34-16
3. Milwaukee 32-17
4. Charlotte 25-23
5. Miami 26-24
6. Atlanta 25-24
7. Knicks 25-25
8. Boston 24-25
9. Indiana 22-26
10. Chicago 20-28
I keep forgetting the play-in format for playoff spots 7 and 8, which you don’t want to be part of, thus you want to finish sixth.
It’s actually going to supply some excitement, but we’ll cross that bridge the final week or so of the regular season.
--Deshaun Watson is under police investigation now, the Houston PD tweeting Friday that a criminal complaint had been filed against the Texans’ quarterback.
Neither what Watson is being investigated for nor who filed the report was made clear, but the 25-year-old is facing 22 civil lawsuits from massage therapists claiming sexual misconduct. It’s unknow if the report comes from a new accuser, but it is the first criminal complaint filed against Watson – something his attorney, Rusty Hardin, said he and his client welcome.
“We welcome this long overdue development,” Hardin said in a statement to the Houston Chronicle. “Now, we will learn the identity of at least one accuser. We will fully cooperate with the Houston Police Department.”
Attorney Tony Buzbee, who represents all of the persons who have filed the civil suits, including case No. 22 on Friday, said “other criminal complaints will follow…and in other jurisdictions and with other agencies.”
--It’s still amazing to think that Jordan Spieth’s last win, until today, was at the 2017 Open Championship. He then entered golf’s wilderness…struggling mightily with his game.
But at the Waste Management Open in February, he fired a third-round 61, finished T4, and has had T3 and T4 finishes in other events since.
Then he finally closed the deal on career win No. 12 at the Valero Texas Open. One of the 2 or 3 most popular players on Tour now heads to The Masters. The sport is in terrific shape. So many story lines next week. I love it.
Meanwhile, Charley Hoffman finished two back, the 44-year-old still looking for win No. 5, not having done so since 2016.
Rickie Fowler played well this week, finishing T17, but he’s not heading to Augusta…ending a consecutive majors streak at 41. As Paul Azinger said, it’s the kick in the pants that Fowler needs.
--The PGA Tour and the PGA of America each issued statements yesterday in response to Georgia’s controversial new voting laws, with the Tour saying it will not move its season-ending event to be played in the state in August.
The Masters is expected to address the matter Wednesday when chairman Fred Ridley holds his annual pretournament news conference.
The PGA Tour’s season-ending FedEx Cup playoff event, the Tour Championship, is played annually at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta. Citing its financial commitment to the local community and various charities, the PGA Tour said it would not move the event.
“The Tour Championship’s commitment to East Lake has helped our partners transform distressed neighborhoods into healthy and thriving ones, which is a key to ending the cycle of intergenerational poverty,” the PGA Tour said in its statement. “The charitable and economic benefits that have led to these substantial changes would not continue if we simply walked away from those in need.”
The PGA Tour added, however, that “our intention to stage an event in a particular market should not be construed as indifference to the current conversation around voting rights.”
--The Los Angeles County sheriff says detectives have determined what caused Tiger Woods to crash his SUV last month in Southern California but would not release details, citing unspecified privacy concerns.
Sheriff Alex Villanueva has been criticized for his comments about the crash, calling it “purely an accident” and saying there was no evidence of impairment.
While investigators did not seek a search warrant for Woods’ blood samples, which could be screened for drugs and alcohol, detectives did obtain a search warrant for the car’s data recorder, the black box, though Villanueva would not say Wednesday what data had been found.
“A cause has been determined; the investigation has concluded,” the sheriff said Wednesday.
“We have reached out to Tiger Woods and his personnel,” Villanueva said. “There’s some privacy issues on releasing information on the investigation, so we’re going to ask them if they waive the privacy and then we will be able to do a full release on all the information regarding the accident.”
So, yes, all are in agreement that Tiger is getting special treatment not accorded the rest of us. He’s going to have to talk eventually.
I’m guessing Tiger doesn’t want to overshadow the Masters and we learn more after the tournament.
--Dustin Johnson’s menu for the annual Champions Dinner this week at Augusta, the previous winner getting to select it, a cool tradition.
Pigs in a Blanker and Lobster & Corn Fritters
House Salad or Caesar Salad
Mashed Potatoes and Spring Vegetables
Filet Mignon and Miso-Marinated Sea Bass
Peach Cobbler and Apple Pie with Vanilla Ice Cream
Not exactly exciting, but then DJ isn’t an exciting guy, outside of his otherworldly golf game when he’s ‘on’.
As the condensed season winds down to a precious few games, the fourth, and last, Champions League spot up for grabs, Dr. W.’s Chelsea was blown out 5-2 on Saturday by 19-place West Brom. Eegads. That opened the door for my Tottenham Spurs to move into a tie with Chelsea, but today they came away with just a 2-2 draw against 17 Newcastle, both Spurs goals by Harry Kane, of course. Once again, Tottenham gave up a late goal.
So you know how I’ve talked about that bad habit the Spurs so often have? It turns out that this season, the Spurs have lost 15 points from winning positions, with eleven of the 15 having been lost in the final 10 minutes of games, like today’s tying Newcastle strike in the 85th minute. The eleven is the most of any side in the PL, proving my point.
In other games this weekend, Manchester City got ever closer to clinching the title, 2-0 over Leicester City, while Liverpool whipped Arsenal 3-0.
And in the late game today, Manchester United took a big step towards punching its ticket into the Champions League with a 2-1 win over Brighton.
Standings…29/31 of 38 in the books…Played…Points
1. Man City…31 – 74
2. Man U…30 – 60
3. Leicester…30 – 56
4. Chelsea…30 – 51 …CL line
5. Tottenham…30 – 49
6. Liverpool…30 – 49
7. West Ham…29 – 49…plays Monday
--The Buffalo Sabres ended their losing streak at 18 on Wednesday, beating Philadelphia 6-1. So the Sabres match the record accumulated by the 2003-04 Pittsburgh Penguins.
Buffalo then beat my Rangers Saturday in a shootout, 3-2, which sucks.
--A new Washington Post-University of Maryland poll has 63 percent of Americans saying it is a large or moderate risk to attend a sporting event right now, including 26 percent who say it’s a large risk.
--I can’t believe the prices being paid for sports cards. Tom Brady’s rookie card sold in March for $1.32 million, believed to be a record high for any football card, and now a similar type card sold for $2.25 million on Friday, via Lelands.
The 2000 Playoff Contenders Championship Rookie Ticket card is autographed and numbered 99 out of 100, meaning only 100 copies of this particular card were produced. The version that sold in March to Fitbit CEO James Park was graded as an 8 with the autograph graded a 10. The card that sold Friday was graded as an 8.5 with a 9 on the autograph, but the buyer for this particular card wishes to stay anonymous.
How fast are prices rising? A higher graded version of the same Brady rookie card, a Mint 9 with a 10 grading on the autograph, sold for $400,100 just two years ago.
--Grizzly bears are slowly expanding the turf where they roam in parts of the northern Rocky Mountains but need continued protections, according to government scientists who concluded that no other areas of the country would be suitable for reintroducing the predators.
The Fish and Wildlife Service on Wednesday released its first assessment in almost a decade about the status of grizzly bears in the contiguous United States. The bruins are shielded from hunting as a threatened species except in Alaska.
Grizzly populations grew over the last 10 years in two areas – the Yellowstone region of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, with more than 700 bears; and around Glacier National Park in Montana, which is home to more than 1,000 of the animals.
Remind not to go hiking alone in Glacier. At least not without my official Swiss Army Knife with the corkscrew.
Top 3 songs for the week 4/4/70: #1 “Bridge Over Troubled Water” (Simon & Garfunkel) #2 “Let It Be” (The Beatles) #3 “Instant Karma (We All Shine On)” (John Ono Lennon)…and…#4 “ABC” (The Jackson 5) #5 “Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)” (Edison Lighthouse) #6 “Spirit In The Sky” (Norman Greenbaum) #7 “House Of The Rising Sun” (Frijid Pink) #8 “The Rapper” (The Jaggerz) #9 “Come And Get It” (Badfinger) #10 “Easy Come, Easy Go” (Bobby Sherman…B+ week…)
NCAA Basketball Quiz Answer: Starting five 1975-76 Indiana Hoosiers national champs…
Scott May, Kent Benson, Tom Abernethy, Quinn Buckner and Bobby Wilkerson.
Wayne Radford was the top reserve and he also had a cup of coffee in the NBA.
Next Bar Chat, Tuesday night. Let’s hope we get a great title game Monday night.