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Yan-kees Suck! Yan-kees Suck!
[Posted Sun. p.m.]
Baseball Quiz: I have an item down below on Jimmy Rollins talking about the lack of Black ballplayers in the majors. Last season, though, Kyle Lewis of the Mariners and Devin Williams of the Brewers were the first Black players to sweep the rookie of the year honors in decades. Name the last duo to do so before 2020. Answer below.
--The two best pitchers of their era were on the mound yesterday, the Mets’ Jacob deGrom and the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw.
Kershaw, after a rocky (and worrisome) first start, is now 3-1, 2.19 ERA, after the Dodgers improved to 13-2 with a 2-0 win over the Padres (9-7) in San Diego. Kershaw has yielded just one earned in 19 innings his last three starts. I’d say he’s fine.
As for deGrom, Mets fans have had the pleasure of witnessing his greatness the last four seasons in particular. DeGrom turns 33 on June 19 and he’s only been getting better with age, including, stunningly, more velocity.
But here’s the bottom line, despite an otherworldly 2.03 ERA since 2018, the Mets are now just 37-42 in his starts. Jake’s own record is 26-20 in that time, including six innings of 14-strikeout ball, zero earned, in the Mets comeback 4-3 win in the first game of a seven-inning doubleheader in Colorado yesterday (the Mets, 6-4, losing the nightcap 7-2).
DeGrom now has back-to-back 14-strikeout efforts, 28 Ks in 14 innings, and is 1-1, 0.45, 35 strikeouts in 20 innings his first three…the Mets having seven games postponed/suspended already for Covid or rain (and snow).
But yesterday we did have a moment where some of us thought we were witnessing history as deGrom was approaching Tom Seaver’s record 10 strikeouts in a row set in 1970 that I’ve written often of in the past, a vivid childhood memory.
Shockingly, in this era of zero contact and nothing but strikeouts, no one has tied or exceeded Seaver’s record, and yesterday, deGrom got it to eight in a row, then nine…..
At that moment, I thought, don’t anyone write me….and Johnny Mac did. No! I quickly replied! Don’t jinx him!
The streak stopped at nine.
Yes, it was shades of 1969, when I stupidly called my father upstairs to watch the ninth inning of Tom Seaver’s perfect game against the Cubs, until it wasn’t, when Jimmy Qualls…f’n Jimmy Qualls…broke it up with a soft single into the outfield.
I wrote Seaver and told him my father jinxed him and Seaver replied (or the batboy using Seaver’s stationary) saying ‘don’t blame your dad.’
Well, Johnny knew his mistake right away and thankfully the Mets won the game in the top of the seventh. He was preparing to use the sword, and then wife Ellen was to send it to me, parcel post, after properly sanitizing said implement in these days of Covid.
Actually, much-maligned Edwin Diaz struck out the side in the bottom of the seventh to secure the win for deGrom, 4-3 (the three Rockies runs unearned), and this meant that 17 of the 21 Colorado outs were by strikeout…81%...something that the people at Elias say has not been accomplished by a major league pitching staff since 1900!
Of course this isn’t necessarily good for the game, befitting the current era of failing to put the ball in play, thus lack of action, but pretty impressive nonetheless.
DeGrom also extended his road unbeaten streak to 17.
By the way, DeGrom (2.57) and Kershaw (2.43) are the only active hurlers with a career ERA under 3.00. Chris Sale is at 3.02, Sale due to return from Tommy John surgery by July.
Well the Mets had a huge early-season win today, 2-1, as Marcus Stroman improved to 3-0, 0.89, with eight strong and Diaz with another save; the last out from new catcher James McCann gunning down Trevor Story attempting to steal second.
Fans recognize that there are some games, in like the first 20 of the season, that can prove to be critical, and this was big for us as we go to 7-4.
So regarding the Dodgers…it was an easy bet to say this is a team capable of 108+ wins this season, maybe even 116, the modern-day record held by the 2001 Mariners (who then flamed out in the playoffs). Los Angeles has everything, and they don’t miss a beat even when they lose a superstar like Cody Bellinger, out an estimated two weeks with a hairline left fibula fracture.
For the Dodgers, San Diego is expected to be the competition in the NL West and the rivalry has been heating up over the years. Literally.
As Bob Nightengale wrote after last night’s 2-0 Dodger win:
“There’s nothing that fuels a rivalry more than hatred and hot tempers, with some bench-clearing skirmishes mixed in.
“The Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres have bought into the concept, and are delivering in style.
“Saturday, for the second consecutive night at Petco Park, these two West Coast clubs reminded everyone that they can’t stand one another with yet another incident of wild gestures, taunts and obscenities filling the San Diego air.
“The incident in Round 2 of this new fierce rivalry – which saw the Dodgers win again, 2-0 – overshadowed a brilliant pitching duel between Dodgers Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw and former teammate Yu Darvish, and one of the finest game-ending, and game-saving, catches you’ll ever see by center fielder Mookie Betts.
“Still, the talk focused on the fourth inning skirmish with Kershaw screaming and pointing his finger at Padres first baseman Jurickson Profar after a catcher’s interference call:
“ ‘That’s a (expletive) swing! That’s a (expletive) swing!’ Kershaw bellowed.
“Profar responded by saying:
“ ‘Shut the (expletive) up! Shut the (expletive) up!’
“Nothing makes a rivalry quite like a little extra-curricular activity, fueling the intensity and animosity between these two ultra-talented teams.
“How else can you explain how a catcher’s interference replay review turned into a furious outburst from Kershaw, an outraged reactions from Profar, and saw both benches climb over the dugout railings, poised to brawl if needed?
“It happened with two outs in the fourth inning when Kershaw struck out Profar on a 92-mph fastball. But when Profar swung late, almost as if he wanted to check his swing when the ball was already past him, his bat clipped the glove of catcher Austin Barnes.
“Home-plate umpire Tom Hallion called Profar out. Kershaw and the Dodgers ran off the field. But Profar remained at the plate, gesturing that it should be catcher’s interference.
“He pleaded to Hallion, called out Padres manager Jayce Tingler to argue on his behalf, and the umpiring crew huddled on the infield.
“ ‘It was just really late,’ (manager Dave) Roberts said. ‘I saw the ball in Barnes’ glove. Obviously, I didn’t understand the rule. I’m protecting a catcher. You can break a guy’s hand
“No one was quite sure what they saw, so Hallion walked over to the replay headset. Before Hallion could even listen to what the crew in New York saw, Kershaw screamed at Profar, and pointed his left finger at him.
“He turned towards the dugout, took a step, and repeated himself, jabbing his finger again towards Profar.
“Profar, standing on first base, convinced he would be proven right, realized Kershaw was screaming at him.
“He wildly waved his left hand, and cursed at him.
“Then his right hand, cursing again.
“His right hand again, as if he was telling Kershaw to go away.
“And again with his right hand, now starting to walk towards him.
“And then with his left, with Padres first base coach Wayne Kirby now making sure he went no further.
“Tempers cooled. The replay booth ruled that Profar’s back swing definitely hit Barnes’ glove. The Dodgers went back onto the field, Kershaw induced a fly ball from Jake Cronenworth for the third out, and it was just baseball for the rest of the night.”
And then Mookie Betts saved the day. With San Diego having runners on second and third in the ninth with two outs, Tommy Pham hit a sinking line drive to the right-center gap that had the crowd of 15,250 screaming. Betts, one of the few outfielders in the game capable of making such a play, made an immediate jump on the ball and dived just in time to have the ball land in the heel of his glove. Another example of why he is the best all-around player in the game (along with Mike Trout).
Alas, the Padres won today, 5-2, an important contest, Trevor Bauer with a no-decision for L.A.
--New York’s other ballclub, the Yankees, lost to the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium Friday and Saturday, meaning the Rays had won a seventh straight series against New York.
Friday’s 8-2 clobbering was so embarrassing, manager Aaron Boone called a rare team meeting after. At one point in the sixth inning, the small, Covid-restricted crowd of about 10,000 started throwing baseballs and other objects onto the playing field, which doesn’t say a lot about some New York sports fans.
So being duly fired up by Boone’s chat, the Yanks went out Saturday and laid another egg, 6-3, their crappy lineup held to five hits after a measly three hits Friday.
Ken Davidoff / New York Post
“In Michael Lewis’ legendary book ‘Moneyball,’ the protagonist, Billy Beane, laments, ‘My [bleep] doesn’t work in the playoffs.’
“The 2021 Yankees have seen that concept and raised it: Their (bleep) isn’t working at all.
“What an embarrassing display of baseball Friday night at Yankee Stadium. What a shocking, distressing start to the Yankees’ season. This early in the schedule, they are threatening impressively to post the sort of nightmarish campaign, with the attendant consequences, they haven’t registered in a generation.”
Further, the Yankees are immensely boring. And all spring I wondered about their starting staff and indeed it truly sucks.
Save for today’s starter, Gerrit Cole, and he lost, 4-2, going 6 1/3, two earned, 10 strikeouts, no walks…just fine. But the Yankees offense had all of three hits again…11 hits in three games in the sweep by the Rays. I had to watch the final few innings and the Yankees are so boring, you kind of go into a catatonic state.
Earlier in the week, when the Yankees lost to the Blue Jays 5-4, Ken Davidoff wrote “it’s time for the Yankees to proactively address their crappiness.”
--Prior to the Yankees game, Jay Bruce announced his retirement. The guy leaves the sport with 319 home runs, 951 RBIs. He wasn’t the star the Reds thought he would be when he came up with the franchise, but, heck, he was a 3-time All-Star and a good guy, including as a Met.
But for the Yankees this year, he had a shot with the injury to Luke Voit and only went 4-for-34. He saw the handwriting on the wall.
--We had another Covid shitshow this weekend; the series between the Angels and Twins in Anaheim postponed after multiple positive tests in the Twins organization, including two players, after the team arrived in Anaheim. This sucks. And it necessitates a lot of seven-inning doubleheaders going forward.
Now I like seven-inning doubleheaders…but only 3 or 4 a year…not 15 (slight exaggeration, I hope). At a certain point it really starts skewing season stats.
--Wednesday night, Carlos Rodon threw the majors’ second no-hitter of the early season, as the White Sox whipped the Indians 8-0.
Rodon threw 75 of his 114 pitches for strikes, striking out seven for his first career shutout and second complete game.
The dude was perfect before he hit Roberto Perez on his back foot with an 0-2 slider with one out in the ninth.
The left-hander regained his composure to strike out Yu Chang looking and retire Jordan Luplow on a sharp grounder to third, kicking off the celebration…a crowd of 7,148 on hand amid the restrictions.
White Sox starter Lucas Giolito had a no-no on Aug. 25, while Rodon’s masterpiece (he is not related to the famous sculptor Rodin; as you can see they are spelled differently) was No. 20 in franchise history, second-most in MLB history behind the Dodgers. As Pete M. wrote, channeling an old game show, “That’s Incredible!”
--Johnny Mac had this comparison on the prevalence of strikeouts in today’s game vs. the past.
1981 – 4.7
1991 – 5.8
2001 – 6.7
2011 – 7.1
2021 – 9.4
--Staying on topic, today, Cleveland’s Shane Bieber had 13 strikeouts in eight innings as the Indians beat the Reds 6-3, Bieber now with four straight double-figure strikeout starts in 2021, 48 Ks in 29 1/3.
--The Nationals’ Stephen Strasburg was placed on the IL today with right shoulder inflammation. This is not good for Washington fans….more next time. Could be very serious, especially given the contract he’s under. Like $35 million a year!!!!
Web editors with right shoulder inflammation make $1.95 an hour, befitting the income inequality issue in the nation.
--Good gawd…remember the Oakland A’s 0-6 start? They are now 9-7! As Ronald Reagan would have said to Nancy while reading the Monday morning sports pages, she fixing him Cream of Wheat with extra brown sugar, ‘Not bad, not bad at all.’
--Former All-Star and current analyst, Jimmy Rollins, made his first All-Star team with the Phillies 20 years ago and Black ballplayers made up 13 percent of the rosters. Today it is down to 7.6%. In the 1970s, it was about 20%.
“It’s more than just one thing,” Rollins told the Associated Press. “Marketing. The NBA and the NFL, those guys’ faces are plastered all over the screen. Baseball, there isn’t really a great deal of marketing. Obviously, everyone knows about Mike Trout and rightfully so, but there are some young Black players that deserve some light, too.”
Rollins pointed to Ken Griffey Jr. and Barry Bonds as popular players who were marketed well when he was growing up.
“But when you start going outside of that select few, the sport itself isn’t marketing anyone else in a major way where kids from the inner cities are attracted to it,” he said.
Rollins and teammate Ryan Howard won consecutive NL Most Valuable Player awards with the Phillies in 2006 and 2007. Rollins was the leadoff hitter and Howard batted cleanup for a team that won five straight NL East titles, two NL pennants and the 2008 World Series. The possibilities for marketing two superstars on the same dominant team should’ve been endless.
“I remember we, a lot of Black players, had a phone call with Spike Lee years ago,” Rollins said. “We flew out to Chicago. We were with MLB and the union and Spike Lee. We talked about doing commercials. Nothing ever came out of that. It was like a one-time thing. Not to knock MLB, but they’re going to do things that, at face value, look great. But the impact is minimal because there’s generally never any true follow-through. That’s not just baseball. A lot of organizations do that.”
Rollins also attributed the decline of Black players in baseball to socioeconomic factors.
“You need space to play baseball,” he said. “You don’t have that in a lot of places. In the country, you can find a field. In the city, kids aren’t playing stickball. A basketball, you could pick up and dribble. It’s easier to find a court. You don’t have to field nine guys to play basketball. You can play one-on-one. The expense, you need the tools, you’ve got to pay for travel teams. In other sports, we know it’s been well documented. They get sponsored and those things don’t happen in baseball.
“Also, you look at how baseball’s traditionally passed down from the dad to son. If your father isn’t around, the chances of you being exposed to baseball because it’s more of a team sport, it’s probably less likely to happen.”
--Finally, as I noted in that other column I do, Bernie Madoff died, 82. Madoff ruined things for us Mets fans for years as a result of Mets owners Fred Wilpon, Jeff Wilpon and Saul Katz being major investors, forcing the team to take out big loans to meet payroll, which in turn shrunk from $140 million in 2011 to $85 million in 2014, even as salaries rose across the game.
But now we have Uncle Stevie, and we move on.
Madoff, by the way, did not pass GO and instead went directly to Hell.
--The Knicks came into Sunday’s matinee against the Pelicans at Madison Square Garden having won five straight to get to 30-27, after it seemed the once-promising season was sliding away.
Friday in Dallas, Julius Randle was terrific, a spectacular 44-point outing in the Knicks’ solid win over the Mavericks. Randle also had 10 rebounds and seven assists, and came into today averaging 23.6 points, 10.6 rebounds and 6.0 assists.
So I was preparing to write of the Knicks’ choke job down the stretch against New Orleans, but Reggie Bullock hit a tying three with 2.3 seconds left to send the game into overtime and the Knicks pulled away, 122-112, as Julius Randle, despite a poor shooting effort (11-of-28), finished with 33 points, 10 assists and five steals. Zion Williamson had 34 for the Pelicans, Knicks fans dreaming of a day they may yet get him. The guy is such a beast…love watching him.
--Wednesday, the Nets played in Philadelphia and were without James Harden, Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge. Durant was being rested and Nets fans were not happy after the 123-117 loss, as Joel Embiid had 39 points and 13 rebounds for the Sixers.
Durant got the night off after playing 27 minutes the night before against the T’Wolves, as Brooklyn is being careful with their star following his return from a nagging hamstring injury, but that wasn’t enough for a lot of the Nets faithful.
Coach Steve Nash brushed off suggestions the Nets held out Durant to keep the Sixers guessing how they might look as close to a full unit in the playoffs.
“I think when you start to really try to be cute, it backfires most of the time,” he said. “It wasn’t strategic. It was, this is about the availability we have.”
Nash added that in terms of the No. 1 seed, “It’s valuable…But not at the expense of losing players or prolonging our injury situation.”
Friday, the Nets whipped the Hornets 130-115, Durant with 25 points and 11 assists in 30 minutes.
But Thursday, LaMarcus Aldridge stunned the team when he announced his retirement from basketball, after playing just five games with the team…and looking good, I might add.
Aldridge said he played last Saturday night against the Lakers with an irregular heartbeat.
“Though I’m better now, what I felt with my heart that night was still one of the scariest things I’ve ever experienced,” he said. “For 15 years, I’ve put basketball first, and now it is time to put my health and family first.”
Then this afternoon, the Nets lost at Miami, 109-107, to fall to 38-19, as Kevin Durant left the game after four minutes (and eight points) with a thigh contusion.
This has become a fascinating sports story because as I’ve noted a zillion times, with all the Nets’ moves to get their Big Three – Durant, Harden and Irving – they must win it all this year, yet the three are never on the court together. It’s about making sure they are come the playoffs. Harden should return this week.
--Denver Nuggets star Jamal Murray suffered a devastating season-ending ACL injury, the team announced on Wednesday.
Murray was injured in last Monday night’s game against the Warriors. The point guard was averaging 21.2 points, 4.8 assists and 4.0 rebounds.
--Steph Curry has been on an amazing run. Wednesday, in Golden State’s 147-109 win over the Thunder in Oklahoma City, Curry scored 42 points, with 11 three-pointers in 29 minutes. He’s gunning for teammate Klay Thompson’s all-time mark of 14 threes. Curry scored 25 points in the third quarter on 8-of-8 from the field.
Last Monday, Curry had 53 points in passing Wilt Chamberlain to become the Warriors’ all-time leading scorer.
Last night, Steph had 47 in a 119-114 loss at Boston, going 11-of-19 from downtown.
He’s shooting 42.7% from three for the season, just off his career mark of 43.4%.
--We note the passing of Bobby Leonard, 88. Leonard was an All-American guard for Indiana University’s 1953 NCAA basketball champions who later coached the Indiana Pacers to three ABA championships.
Leonard was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., in 2014 for taking the Pacers to ABA titles in 1970, 1972 and 1973. He coached the team for 12 seasons, eight in the ABA and four in the NBA after the two leagues merged.
“He has meant as much as anyone in the state of Indiana when it comes to the game of basketball,” Mike Woodson, who played for Indiana University in the late 1970s and became its head coach this season after many years in the NBA, said in a statement. “He played the game with great flair. He coached with undeniable passion.”
Richard Goldstein / New York Times
“Leonard was known as Slick. A 6-foot-3-inch guard, he was a fine playmaker in his seven seasons in the NBA. But his nickname wasn’t derived from his savvy on the court.
“As he once told the story to Carmel magazine, an Indiana monthly, while playing for the Minneapolis Lakers in the 1950s he was involved in a game of gin rummy with the team’s star center, George Mikan, on a preseason bus trip. ‘I blitzed him,’ Leonard recalled, ‘and one of the players said that I was too slick. It stuck.’”
Leonard was an analyst and color commentator on Pacers broadcasts for some 35 years.
Larry Bird, who played for Indiana State and later was a coach and president of basketball operations for the Pacers, told the New York Times in 2000: “If it weren’t for Slick, this franchise wouldn’t be here. I can remember in 1977, he had a telethon. I can remember being glued to the TV watching him. He was singing ‘Back Home in Indiana,’ trying to do everything to sell season tickets. I know the history behind the Pacers, and most of the history is Slick Leonard.”
--We now have clarity in the transfer rule. The Division I Council approved new uniform NCAA transfer legislation, which will allow undergraduate athletes in all sports to move freely one time without having to sit out. Technically, the Division I Board of Directors has to ratify it, but they will do so when they meet April 28.
The Council also approved a return to the normal sport-specific recruiting calendar on June 1, ending a 15-month recruiting dead period.
The transfer rule will allow all college athletes, including football and men’s basketball players, to transfer one time and receive immediate eligibility. Currently, all but five sports operate under such a system.
The Council also approved notification dates for those transferring. In normal years, there will be a May 1 notification date for fall/winter athletes to tell their school they are leaving and a July 1 deadline for spring athletes.
Regarding the recruiting calendar for football and getting back to normal, there will be some flexibility for this fall due to the timing of the decision.
Jerry Brewer / Washington Post
“It’s so unfair, this fairness. The traditionalists and control freaks make the NCAA’s less restrictive transfer policy seem so scary, such a violation of their right to be blissfully unconcerned. It is ‘chaos,’ they say. It is going to ‘ruin’ college sports, as if the enterprise is a paragon of purity. It’s anarchy, this enhanced freedom players now have to change their minds.
“The cries are way too dramatic. With the NCAA announcing that athletes in all sports can switch schools one time without having to sit out a year, the adjustment will be significant, and there will be a good number of unintended consequences to monitor. But this is no existential crisis, and to suggest otherwise reeks of paternalism.
“There’s a misguided fear that 18- to 22-year-olds cannot be coached if they have permission to roam freely. It is an overreaction. This new policy is being treated as a grand shift in college athletics, but truth be told, it’s new only to five holdover sports; men’s and women’s basketball, football, men’s hockey and baseball. Coaches and players in every other program have functioned just fine within this dynamic for years.
“Those are nonrevenue sports, so the scrutiny and sense of entitlement are different. But coaches are still demanding, and players welcome it. Programs haven’t been shut down because young adults are too mercurial to handle a looser situation. Mayhem doesn’t reign, and in some cases the coach-player relationships are healthier.
“As long as the NCAA remains rigid and exploitative in its interpretation of amateurism, the organization doesn’t merit much trust. But this long-overdue policy adjustment, no matter how disruptive, proves the NCAA is still capable of making an honest assessment….
“In a society obsessed with instant gratification, the challenges are aplenty. But it is possible to adapt, to keep building, to help players grow. For example, consider the parallel story of Arkansas Coach Eric Musselman this week. With the Razorbacks coming off an Elite Eight appearance in the coach’s second season, they signed Musselman to a new five-year, $20 million contract. The timing tells an interesting story.
“Over six seasons at Nevada and Arkansas, Musselman has done what traditionalists and control freaks are screaming is impossible this week: sustain teams amid transfer mayhem. He rebuilt both programs using heavy doses of transfers. The former NBA coach long has considered the transfer portal to be college free agency. Sometimes he has recruited entire classes of transfers, developed their games during their sit-out years and watched them blossom into key contributors and all-conference players.
“At Nevada, his coaching staff developed analytics to predict, quite accurately, how transfers would fare in the Mountain West Conference. Those numbers were part of their recruiting pitch. Musselman since has modified that for the SEC with similar success.
“His style was once considered too unorthodox, if not crazy. Maybe it could work for a mid-major, but there’s no way he could maintain it in a power conference. Today, he’s a visionary.
“Musselman can recruit at all levels, and even though he has had to coach around turnover and limited rosters (because of transfers sitting out), he has won at least 20 games every season and made two deep tournament runs. And Arkansas, as much as any programs, is well equipped for the turbulence of the next few seasons.
“Musselman is no longer an outlier. He’s a model. His transfer-heavy teams have had distinct identities. They have good chemistry. They play selfless basketball. As an old pro coach, he knows how to adjust to available talent instead of locking stubbornly into one style of play. I spent several days with his team at Nevada two years ago and came away amazed at the culture of a group of players outsiders would have considered castoffs.
“College basketball programs would be lucky to follow Arkansas’ example. There’s no use fearing the inevitable. It is here. It has been here. And it doesn’t have to be ruinous.
“The past three No. 1 picks in the NFL draft have been quarterbacks who thrived after transferring: Joe Burrow, Kyler Murray and Baker Mayfield. In two weeks, Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, who started at Georgia, should be selected in the top 10. Because sports are played by human beings, values and traditions are left to be maintained and cast aside. For fans, it’s an incredibly difficult experience, but the options are to adapt or ignore. And the die-hards probably won’t look away so easily.
“This uncomfortable version of fairness won’t ruin college sports. It may not enhance them, either. It just will be. For once, the players get the last word. Live with it.”
--Speaking of coaches like Eric Musselman, who was on a number of lists for a higher-profile job, not in any way dissing Arkansas (and he made the right move), Wes Miller is the new head coach at Cincinnati, a good spot for him after his years building UNCG.
Cincy had fired John Brannen, after the Bearcats had a disappointing 12-11 regular season, the worst from a winning percentage standpoint since 2007.
After the season, six Bearcats entered the transfer portal, including standout freshmen Mike Saunders Jr. and Tari Eason.
An investigation revealed there were ‘issues’ with Brannen’s program.
So Miller will have to rebuild, but he’ll be given the time to do so.
--Longtime Gonzaga assistant Tommy Lloyd was named to replace Sean Miller at Arizona.
Lloyd, 46, has spent the past 20 years as an assistant to Mark Few. Not only was he Few’s right-hand man, but he proved to be a terrific recruiter.
But the jobs at Arizona and Arizona State, as I noted during the NCAA tournament, won’t be easy on the recruiting front with the reemergence of UCLA and USC and the ability of those two to keep more of the Los Angeles area talent at home than in the past decade or so.
Lloyd, like Wes Miller, is also going to have to deal with the damage left by his predecessor; in Arizona’s case the aftermath of the 2017 FBI investigation that finally brought down Sean Miller.
--There is a reason why I like to bring up my dictum, ‘Wait 24 hours.’ On issues involving athletes and alleged crimes or misconduct, for example, you seldom see me jumping to conclusions. Wait for the facts.
And so this week it appears we had a classic example of this when a man accused Los Angeles Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald of assault outside a Pittsburgh-area nightclub.
The attorney representing De’Vincent Spriggs, who accused Donald of the assault, Todd J. Hollis, told Pittsburgh television station KDKA on Friday evening that Spriggs mistook his attacker for Donald.
The apology came the same day an attorney hired by Donald refuted Spriggs’ claim that Donald was involved in the assault. Casey White, Donald’s attorney, told ESPN on Friday morning that Spriggs swung a bottle at Donald that grazed his head as he ducked, before other people surrounding Donald stepped in.
The bottom line was five witness accounts confirmed video surveillance from the area that did not show Donald assaulting Spriggs, but rather Donald eventually helped pull people away from Spriggs as Spriggs was being pummeled.
After pulling two or three guys off Spriggs, someone then pulls Donald away and says, “This is not a good situation, let’s get the heck out of here.”
Spriggs, we now learn, was looking to start something with Donald and both were escorted out of the establishment, which is when the real trouble started.
Donald, by all accounts, is a good guy, and a Pittsburgh native who starred at Pitt, where he often trains during the offseason.
--In the team’s first news conference since the first lawsuit was filed against Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans general manager Nick Caserio said the team is “respectful of the legal process” and that he doesn’t have “any comment” on the situation.
We are up to 23 lawsuits alleging sexual assault and inappropriate behavior against Watson.
The NFL continues to say it takes the allegations “very seriously.” An NFL spokesperson said the league has launched an investigation.
--As we entered the final round of the RBC Heritage Open at Harbour Town Golf Links, on Hilton Head Island, S.C., it was all about 47-year-old Stewart Cink.
Cink fired a 63-63 opening two rounds (three better than the previous course-record 129 set by Jack Nicklaus and Phil Mickelson) to take a five-shot lead and he maintained it in the third, with a two-under 69.
Collin Morikawa -13
Emiliano Grillo -12
Matt Wallace -11
Sungjae Im -11
Cink has won seven times on tour, including the RBC Heritage twice (2000 and 2004), and it’s been quite a career resurgence, Cink having won the opening event of the 2020-21 wraparound season, the Safeway Open, for his first win since the 2009 Open Championship, in that famous playoff over Tom Watson.
Make that eight….Cink winning by four over Harold Varner III and Grillo. As Larry David would be telling his friends in the Grill Room at Riviera Country Club, “Pretty, pretty good.”
It might be worth putting a few quid on Stewart for The Open Championship.
--Will Zalatoris finished T42, having admitted earlier he was “a little fried,” after the run he’s been on and the energy expended in the Masters. He simply ran out of gas and had a poor weekend. But, hell, he made the cut. He needs some time off.
One thing is for sure, however, he has taken the golf world by storm. He has the ‘it’ factor.
The NHL has the weird schedule, necessitated by the pandemic, to play only teams in their ‘temporary’ divisions, so the Rangers just swept four games from the Devils, 5-3 today, to improve to 23-16-6.
But the team they are chasing, Boston, has also won four straight. I don’t see the Rangers getting in the playoffs, which would suck. They have an exciting team.
I’ll have more next time, because there’s this Russia angle, and it’s political, that I have to get off my chest as it impacted our season, the f’n bastards.
Premier / Champions Leagues / FA Cup….
We’ve had a smorgasbord of action the past week.
In key Premier League matches with Champions League impact:
Friday, Tottenham and Everton tied 2-2, Harry Kane with both Spurs goals, his 20th and 21st of the season to take the Golden Boot lead (most goals in the PL season).
Saturday, Newcastle dealt West Ham a big blow, winning 3-2.
Sunday, Manchester United defeated Burnley 3-1.
So with the season winding down, the standings, 31/32 of 38 played…Played – Points
1. Man City…32 – 74
2. Man U…32 – 66
3. Leicester…31 – 56
4. West Ham…32 – 55 …Champions League line
5. Chelsea…31 – 54
6. Liverpool…31 – 52
7. Tottenham…31 – 52
8. Everton…31 – 49
In the FA Cup semifinals this weekend….
Chelsea defeated Man City 1-0, while Leicester City beat Southampton 1-0.
So it’s Chelsea and Leicester for the Cup, Leicester’s first FA Cup final since 1969.
In the Champions League, we are down to four….
Chelsea vs. Real Madrid
Manchester City vs. PSG
Home-and-home and then the final, which conceivably could be an all EPL affair.
--I will get into the new “European Super League” story next time…which hit today and is important, but wouldn’t start until 2023-24, at which point I might be dead, making it irrelevant, at least to moi.
--Alex Bowman won his third Cup Series race today at Richmond over Denny Hamlin. Incredibly, Hamlin now has eight top-five finishes in the first nine races of the season, but no wins.
--And in the debut Indy Car race of the season, which I normally don’t cover except for the Indy 500, Alex Palou of Spain won his first at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala.
So the only reason why I’m mentioning this is that it was the debut of seven-time NASCAR Cup champ Jimmie Johnson, who was thrilled with his 19th place finish. He survived and it’s all a learning experience…a totally different one.
I just want to see the guy race in the Indy 500, but that won’t be this year. Hopefully 2022. It’s been a goal of his forever, and would juice the sport.
--It’s official, official…the break-up of J-Lo and A-Rod…or J-Rod.
A friendly reminder…if you’re thinking of going after either, both are rather high maintenance.
--Denise D., a fellow huge fan of the late Anthony Bourdain, reminded me that there is a new book out, “World Travel: An Irreverent Guide” by Bourdain and his longtime assistant, Laurie Woolever.
The book is built like a travel guide, covering 43 countries, with Bourdain’s recommendations for restaurants, hotels and other attractions, drawn mostly from his TV shows.
It might seem a bit dated, or useless, amidst a pandemic, but for others anxious to get out and explore, perfect timing.
God, I miss Bourdain…but Stanley Tucci’s recent series on CNN was a good substitute. I’ve tried to make a few of the things I saw on Tucci’s tour of Italy and the early results were mixed.
But I will not give up! At least I’ve accumulated all the right spices. My dishes are always paired with a Coors Light, of course. Or four.
Top 3 songs for the week of 4/20/74: #1 “TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia)” (MFSB featuring The Three Degrees) #2 “Bennie And The Jets” (Elton John) #3 “Hooked On A Feeling” (Blue Swede)…and…#4 “Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me” (Gladys Knight & The Pips) #5 “Come And Get Your Love” (Redbone) #6 “Oh My My” (Ringo Starr) #7 “Sunshine On My Shoulders” (John Denver) #8 “The Loco-Motion” (Grand Funk) #9 “The Lord’s Prayer” (Sister Janet Mead…kind of bizarre for this time…made it to #4…) #10 “I’ll Have To Say I Love You In A Song” (Jim Croce…eh, B week…)
Baseball Quiz Answer: Prior to Kyle Lewis and Devin Williams winning the ROY last season, the last Black duo to do it was in 1984 – Dwight Gooden of the Mets and Alvin Davis of the Mariners.
Next Bar Chat, Tues. p.m.