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Tokyo Produces Some Stars for the Ages
--Well, she did it. Simone Biles returned to competition Tuesday in Tokyo and earned a bronze medal on the balance beam after withdrawing from several previous events.
“It means more than all the golds because I’ve pushed through so much the last five years and the last week while I’ve even been here,” Biles said on the “Today” show.
“It was very emotional, and I’m just proud of myself and just all of these girls, as well. I didn’t really care about the outcome. I was just happy that I made the routine and that I got to compete one more time.”
Here was my issue with all that went down the past week. We learned after the fact, following her pulling out during the team competition, that she had been having issues going back to the Olympic Trials in St. Louis, and possibly before that. [I’m not referring to what Biles is addressing in her five-year timeline.]
I have an opinion, just like everyone is entitled to theirs, but I just feel if she knew this was coming, the “twisties” and everything else, she should have pulled out of the team competition so as not to hurt her teammates and their quest for gold. Clearly, anyone else in the vault would have done much better than Simone did that first day.
As I noted at the time, though, Suni Lee, Grace McCallum, and Jordan Chiles performed spectacularly, especially given the circumstances, in taking the silver, including one for Simone.
And the whole team performed terrifically the rest of the way, with Suni Lee winning the all-around; McKayla Skinner (subbing for Biles), winning silver in the vault; Lee taking bronze in the uneven bars; and, shockingly, Jade Carey winning the floor exercise, after she flamed out in the vault the day before, tripping as she sprinted toward the table, forced to bail out.
Awesome job, Girls! It’s just unfortunate that the team’s performance is going to be forever overshadowed by the Biles drama, in terms of our memory banks.
Lastly, one final shoutout to Rebeca Andrade of Brazil, for capturing gold and silver after being forced to participate as an individual when the team didn’t qualify. And despite three torn ACLs in like the last four years. Man, that’s courage.
--What a men’s 400-meter hurdles final. Karsten Warholm of Norway and Rai Benjamin of the United States, the two best coming into the competition and then in the qualifying rounds, had a duel for the ages, Warholm winning the gold in a world record time of 45.94, edging Benjamin’s 46.17.
It was just last month at a meet in Oslo that Warholm had set a new WR of 46.70, besting a mark that had been on the books since 1992…Kevin Young’s 46.78.
How can you dispute Benjamin’s description of what transpired Tuesday. “This was probably the best race in Olympic history. I don’t even think Usain Bolt’s (9.58-second 100 meters) topped that.”
--And today we also had the women’s 800, and a 19-year-old from Trenton, New Jersey, via South Sudan, Athing Mu, took the gold with ease, leading from start to finish, her long, loping strides chewing up the track, as one scribe described it.
--And American Gabby Thomas, who will be a massive success in whatever field she ends up pursuing after her track career, gutted it out to take the bronze in the women’s 200, Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson-Herah completing the 100-, 200-meter sweep, the same feat she accomplished in Rio in 2016.
--One woman attempting something never done before, Sifan Hassan of Ethiopia, is attempting to become the first to win gold in the 1,500…5,000…and 10,000 meters.
Hassan won the 5,000 Monday night, and will run the 1,500 and 10,000, Friday and Saturday. She had become the first woman to win both the 1,500 and 10,000 world titles at the same meet in Doha in 2019.
Her fellow competitors are in awe.
--American Keni Harrison captured silver in the 100-meter hurdles on Monday, five years after being the prohibitive favorite at the U.S. track and field trials and then finishing sixth – shocked and heartbroken, not even making the Olympic team, though the following month, she set a world record at a Diamond League event. So it’s been a very long wait for redemption.
Jasmine Camacho-Quinn of Puerto Rico took the gold, Camacho-Quinn training with Harrison as they share the same coach.
--Lastly, as I go to post this Tuesday evening, had to stay up for the women’s 400-meter hurdles final and the long-anticipated matchup between the two best in the world, America’s Sydney McLaughlin and Dalilah Muhammad.
And it’s New Jersey’s Sydney McLaughlin!!!! A world record, at age 21, in what is a veterans’ sport. [See Edwin Moses]
I told you how this summer, as I drove to see our Dr. Bortrum in his final days, I passed her high school, Union Catholic. She’s been a star since day one. Fan-tastic!
Muhammad took silver.
--Kevin Durant scored 29 points, and the U.S. men’s basketball team beat Spain, 95-81, to reach the semifinals; Ricky Rubio scoring 38 for Spain.
The U.S. now plays Australia in one semi, while it’s Slovenia and France in the other.
--The U.S. women’s soccer team choked, upset by Canada 1-0 in the semifinals.
Hey, I love our neighbors to the north. Us Americans totally take for granted how great it is to have friends on that border, and staunch military allies. If you lived in Poland, for example, with Kaliningrad on your northern border, and Russia in the east, via proxy Belarus, you don’t always sleep easily. But I digress.
Of course I want the U.S. to do well, in every Olympic event, but sometimes, as a passionate sports fan, you can’t help but root for the underdogs, and the U.S. women were overhyped, played into it, and set themselves up for this debacle…and a debacle is exactly what this is given their high profile.
Consider…the tournament started with a 3-0 loss to Sweden that snapped a 44-game unbeaten streak, and a scoreless draw with Australia in the group stage.
But in Rio, the U.S. was eliminated in the quarterfinals by Sweden.
--Overall, the U.S. swim team won 30 medals in Tokyo, three fewer than their historic 33-medal haul in Rio despite three new events being added to the racing program for these Games. Of those 30, 11 were gold, down from 16 in Rio, as the U.S.’s vice-like grip on dominance in the pool is loosening as the rest of the world catches up.
Australia won nine golds, China eight and Great Britain five.
--Poland granted a visa Monday to a Belurusian Olympic sprinter who said she feared for her safety and that her team’s officials tried to force her to fly home, where the autocratic government was accused of diverting a flight to arrest a dissident journalist.
An activist group that is helping athlete Krystsina Tsimanouskaya apparently bought her a plane ticket to Warsaw for the coming days.
The standoff began after Tsimanouskaya criticized how officials were managing her team – setting off a massive backlash in state-run media back home, where authorities relentlessly crack down on government critics. The runner said on her Instagram account that she was put in the 4X400 relay even though she has never raced in the event.
The runner was then hustled to the airport but refused to board a flight for Istanbul and instead approached police for help. She also asked the IOC for assistance.
“I was put under pressure, and they are trying to forcibly take me out of the country without my consent,” the 24-year-old said in the message.
Tsimanouskaya is at Narita airport tonight, having left the Polish embassy.
--Nice heat index in Tokyo for these Games…like 100+ every day.
MLB Ball Bits
--Just when the Yankees were getting it together, with a sweep in Miami over the weekend behind new acquisition Anthony Rizzo, they came home and promptly laid an egg against the lowly Orioles, 7-1 on Monday.
And they learned after that Gerrit Cole, slated for Tuesday’s start, tested positive for Covid-19, this after an outbreak put six Yankees players on the Covid IL, including Aaron Judge and Gio Urshela.
Cole had spoken to reporters before Monday’s contest and didn’t mention feeling ill. It was unclear whether he was suffering symptoms or if he had been vaccinated.
So Tuesday, the Yanks announced starter Jordan Montgomery also tested positive. That meant that prospect Luis Gil had to make his major league debut for New York and all he did was throw six scoreless as the Yanks rolled 13-1 to remain 2 ½ out of the second wild card.
--On June 1, these were the NL East standings….
Entering play tonight, Aug. 3….
Yup, not just the Mets but the whole division has been treading water in amazingly consistent fashion.
And the Metsies are barely hanging on.
After losing their first two in Miami, 6-3 and 5-4 (tonight), their lead is just 1 ½ over the Phillies.
--When I went to post last time, I didn’t mention the Mets’ failure to sign their first-round pick, right-handed pitcher Kumar Rocker out of Vanderbilt, because I wanted to collect all the facts.
The Mets thought they had a steal when Rocker slipped to the 10th pick, and I, like most Mets fans, was psyched.
But then the Mets said they saw something in an examination of his right arm that disturbed them, even as his agent, Scott Boras, said that his client “is healthy according to independent medical review by multiple prominent baseball orthopedic surgeons.” In addition, Boras said that Rocker had an MRI on his shoulder and elbow after finishing up his season at Vandy in the College World Series.
But he didn’t submit an MRI to MLB before the draft.
The Mets haven’t commented on the specific issue that concerned them, but multiple sources said it was his elbow.
Mets fans know, however, this whole situation is so ‘Mets-like,’ a s---show.
I expressed my feelings in this space, June…. Rocker threw 122 innings.
So by opting not to sign Rocker, they will get the 11th pick in next year’s draft and some additional bonus pool money.
Does this hurt the long-term relationship between Boras and the Mets? On one hand, yes. Boras still has the most studs on his client list. But Boras also needs Steve Cohen’s money.
As for Rocker, he was a junior at Vandy and is eligible to return for his senior season and could be back in the draft next year, or he could go a different route.
Rocker was the only player among the first 29 first-round picks who failed to sign.
The less than monstrous free agency campaign got underway Monday and All-Star guard Chris Paul, as expected, agreed to a four-year deal to stay in Phoenix that could be worth as much as $120 million. Paul had declined a $44 million player option after leading the Suns to the NBA Finals at 36 years old.
Can Paul play at a high level up to age 40? Who knows, though he has avoided major injuries over his career.
But other point guards are moving on, Kyle Lowry agreeing to a three-year deal with Miami, and Lonzo Ball agreeing to a four-year, $85 million offer sheet with the Chicago Bulls, and with New Orleans having two days to match the contract, it now appears there will be a sign-and-trade.
All-Star guard Mike Conley agreed to a three-year, $72.5 million deal to stay with the Utah Jazz.
Trae Young reached an agreement on a five-year extension with the Hawks that will pay him $170 million. Not bad for a 22-year-old.
Among the other biggies, Miami restricted free-agent guard Duncan Robinson reached a five-year, $90 million deal to stay with the Heat.
Kawhi Leonard declined his player option with the Clippers, but this could be the precursor to him returning to the team on a new contract.
As for the Knicks, they signed free agent shooting guard Evan Fournier to a four-year, $78 million deal, while re-signing key pieces Derrick Rose, Alec Burks, and Nerlens Noel. Reggie Bullock, and that incredibly disturbing hairstyle, was allowed to migrate to Dallas.
If this is it, some Knicks fans, and beat reporters, won’t be happy. But assuming Rose stays reasonably healthy, I’m not upset. They still might trade for Cleveland point guard Collin Sexton, but this wasn’t a great free-agent class and key players like Chris Paul were going to stand pat. The Knicks continue to have major cap space, and they have Julius Randle and rapidly improving, 21-year-old RJ Barrett. No need to panic, Knicks fans.
Today, Tuesday, the Warriors and Steph Curry agreed to a four-year, $215 million contract extension, making him the first player in history to sign two $200 million-plus contracts.
Carmelo Anthony agreed to a one-year deal with the Lakers, teaming up with his buddy LeBron for the first time.
And the Bulls added to their haul, with a reported sign-and-trade with San Antonio for Demar DeRozan, the four-time All-Star who has scored 20 points per game in each of the past eight seasons.
--Indianapolis Colts quarterback Carson Wentz is out 5-12 weeks with a left foot injury; not exactly what Indy was looking for when they acquired Senor Wences from the Eagles in a trade back in March.
--My friend David P., from up in the Wellesley, Mass., area, has been raving about a kid from his golf club, Michael Thorbjornsen, for a few years now and all Thorbjornsen did was win the Western Amateur championship last weekend.
The kid won the 2018 U.S. Junior and competed in the 2019 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, making the cut.
Thorbjornsen will be a sophomore this fall at Stanford. Next up, the U.S. Amateur at Oakmont in less than two weeks.
Next Bar Chat, Sunday.
[Posted 5:30 Sun. p.m. ET]
Note: I’ll have a small Add-On up top late Tues. p.m.
Olympic Quiz: 1) Since 1908, who is the only American male to win the marathon? 2) The first women’s marathon was 1984. Who is the only American woman to win it? 3) Who am I? I won the gold medal in my event in 1976 and 1984 on the track, and then took the bronze medal in 1988 in the same event. Answers below.
--Among the American success stories in these Olympics, none is brighter than swimmer Caleb Dressel, who ended up with five golds, joining an elite club of swimmers who won at least five gold medals at one Games.
Michael Phelps did it three times, highlighted by his record eight golds at the 2008 Beijing Games.
There’s also Mark Spitz (seven golds in 1972), East German Kristin Otto (six golds in 1988) and Matt Biondi (five golds, also in ’88).
Dressel was 3-for-3 in his individual events (100-meter free, 100-meter butterfly, 50-meter free), joining Phelps and Spitz as the only men to do so at one Olympics.
Phelps, Spitz and Biondi are the only male swimmers to capture seven medals overall at an Olympics.
Dressel closed his Tokyo Games in memorable fashion, swimming the butterfly leg of the men’s 4X100-meter medley relay, an event the Americans have now won every Games, since it debuted in 1960 (except the 1980 Games, which the U.S. boycotted).
Dressel was in an unusual position going into Tokyo. He was the favorite to win every sprint event even though he had never won an individual Olympic gold medal. But he made it look easy.
--American Bobby Finke won the men’s 1,500-meter freestyle for his second gold, after winning the 800-meter freestyle earlier, a surprising breakout star.
--And Katie Ledecky finished off a grueling Games with two golds and two silvers, after swimming 10 races totaling 6,200 meters across five events. No one had attempted such an ambitious program at an Olympics.
Ledecky collected gold medals in the 1,500-meter freestyle – the first time women have contested the event at the Olympics – and the 800 freestyle for the third consecutive Games in the capstone to the week Saturday. She added a pair of silver medals.
The victories gave Ledecky six individual gold medals in her career, the most of any female swimmer in history.
And she said she isn’t finished. Ledecky is just 24 and looking forward to Paris.
Back to the 800 free, Ledecky won her first as a 15-year-old in London, then in 2016 in Rio at the age of 19. In winning in Tokyo, she joined just two other women in winning any event in three straight Games, neither of them at such a demanding distance: Australia’s Dawn Fraser (100 free, 1956-64) and Hungary’s Krisztina Egerszegi (200 back, 1988-96).
So she has something to shoot for in Paris. The first to four-peat.
And at ten overall medals, she is just two behind three fellow Americans – Natalie Coughlin, Jenny Thompson and Dara Torres, who all have 12 – for the most by a female swimmer.
--Australia’s Emma McKeon put on a show for the ages in the pool. On the final day she won two more golds and became the first female swimmer – and second woman in any sport – to claim seven medals at one Olympics. Four of them were gold, the other three were bronze.
“It’s going to take a little bit to sink in,” said McKeon, a 27-year-old from Brisbane. “I’m very proud of myself.”
The only other woman to win seven – in any sport – was Soviet gymnast Maria Gorokhovskaya, who claimed two golds and five silvers at the 1952 Helsinki Games.
McKeon also won four medals at the 2016 Rio Olympics, giving her 11 medals in total and making her the most decorated Australian Olympian ever. Her five gold medals in Rio and Tokyo are tied with the swimmer Ian Thorpe for the most in Australian history.
--Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson-Herah ran herself into elite company in the women’s 100 meters Saturday night, sprinting to an Olympic record that surpassed the legendary Florence Griffith-Joyner and gave her a second consecutive gold medal in the event, crossing the line in 10.62.
Griffith-Joyner set the old record of 10.62 at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.
Thompson-Herah led a Jamaican sweep, beating her top rival, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, by .13 seconds. Shericka Jackson won bronze in 10.76.
--In the men’s 100, we had a shocking winner…Italian Lamont Marcell Jacobs, finishing with a personal-best time of 9.80 seconds. American Fred Kerley took the silver in 9.84, and Andre De Grasse of Canada finished third in 9.89.
Jacobs qualified third from the semifinals. Coming into Tokyo, his best finish this season was second at the Diamond League meet in Stockholm.
Trayvon Bromwell, who was considered the favorite, bowed out in the semifinal round. The U.S. has not won gold in the men’s 100 since Justin Gatlin in 2004.
--Simone Biles kept dropping out of individual apparatus finals. After pulling out of the women’s team final after losing her bearings in the air during her opening vault, Biles has now also pulled out of the individual all-around, vault, bars and floor finals due to a mental block on her elements and the need to preserve her mental health.
In recent days, more details have emerged about Biles ‘twisties,’ the mental block that is currently hindering her from safely competing. On Friday, she posted a video of herself on Instagram attempting two dismounts on the uneven bars into a foam pit. She lost track of herself in the air both times. Gymnasts around the world have offered their support for her decision, underlining the dangers of competing.
“For anyone saying I quit, I didn’t quit, my mind and body are simply not in sync as you can see here,” Biles wrote. “I don’t think you realize how dangerous this is on a hard/competition surface.”
The floor finals is arguably Biles’ strongest event. She was the defending Olympic champion and a five-time world floor champion. She is unbeaten on the floor at major championships since 2013.
I’m biting my tongue on this whole deal.
--But Biles pulling out opened things up for others. Brazil’s Rebeca Andrade won the vault final on Sunday, bringing Brazil its first gold medal ever in women’s gymnastics. Last week in the all-around final, Andrade, 22, won the silver medal, finishing just behind American Suni Lee. That was the first Olympic medal of any color for Brazil.
American Mykayla Skinner took silver in the vault, getting the opportunity only because of Biles’ WD.
But back to Andrade, in 2019, she needed her third surgery in four years to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee and missed the world championships because of it. Without her, her Brazilian team did not qualify for Tokyo. And she only qualified for these Games just in June, as an individual.
Speaking of Suni Lee, she became the fifth straight American woman to claim the Olympic title in the women’s all-around. Who needs Simone?
--Connor Fields, the American BMX racer who was hospitalized Friday after crashing at the Olympics, suffered a brain hemorrhage at the venue but doctors reported there has been no additional bleeding and no new head injuries were found, USA Cycling said in a news release issued Saturday.
Fields was moved out of the critical care unit and will remain in the hospital until cleared.
According to his father, Fields also suffered a broken rib and bruised lung in the crash.
Mike Fields said, “Cognitively, he’s doing well. He knows where he is. He knows his birthday. He recognizes people.”
Fields was the gold medal winner at the 2016 Olympics and was a heavy medal favorite this time.
--Christine Brennan / USA TODAY
“When athletes become Olympians, their lives and responsibilities change, whether they like it or not. Their singular focus broadens. More is expected of them. They become representatives of one nation and guests of another.
“Michael Andrew, the unvaccinated, 22-year-old American swimmer who refused to wear a mask while talking to journalists in the mixed zone Friday morning at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre, is a first-time Olympian who by now should have figured out that things are different in Tokyo than they were for him back home.
“Instead, somewhere on his journey from self-centered athlete to Michael America, Andrew lost his way.
“When he showed up to speak to reporters at a locked-down Olympics in the middle of a pandemic state of emergency, he was asked by USA TODAY Sports why he was not wearing a mask like all of his U.S. teammates.
“One might have thought he would have realized his mistake, reached for his mask and put it on right then, out of courtesy, if nothing else.
“No way. Not this guy.
“This is what he said:
“ ‘For me, it’s pretty hard to breathe in after kind of sacrificing my body in the water, so I felt like my health is a little more tied to being able to breathe than protecting what’s coming out of my mouth.’
“Translation: I couldn’t care less about you, or the pandemic, or the fact I’m not vaccinated. This is all about me.
“The U.S. Olympic Committee has an ugly American in its midst….
“(But the USOC) gave in to the selfishness of one arrogant American (by allowing him to take his mask off during interviews).
“Across many Olympic Games, it has become tradition for a U.S. audience to think that our Olympians are the best of us, the best this nation has to offer.
“Not this time.”
Andrew’s Olympics were largely a bust, winning just one medal, albeit gold, in the 4X100 meter medley.
Into the December file goes Andrew, for all the wrong reasons.
--USA men’s basketball cruised to the quarterfinals with a 119-84 win over the Czech Republic on Saturday, improving to 2-1 in Group A play. Kevin Durant led the way, scoring 23 points, moving past Carmelo Anthony for the top spot on Team USA’s all-time Olympic scoring list.
So next up is Spain on Tuesday. The Americans’ path to a fourth consecutive Olympic gold medal is no cakewalk. Spain’s roster includes three current NBA payers – Marc Gasol, Ricky Rubio and Willy Hernangomez – as well as a bunch of former NBA players, including Pau Gasol.
If the U.S. beats Spain, they would then face Australia or Argentina in the semifinals. In pre-Olympics exhibitions, the Americans beat Argentina but lost to Australia.
The United States will not face France or Slovenia unless it reaches the gold or bronze medal game. The French won the opener of the tournament against the U.S., and Slovenia, led by Luka Doncic, is a perfect 16-0, including 3-0 in Tokyo.
--Baseball found a way to generate a lot of excitement with the trade deadline this past Friday (no trades allowed after July 30). Among the high-profile moves we had the Giants acquiring Kris Bryant from the Cubs, after the Cubs cleaned house by trading away Anthony Rizzo (Yankees), Craig Kimbrel (White Sox) and Javier Baez (Mets), among other players.
With closers Kimbrel and Liam Hendriks, the first-place White Sox are looking even stronger, plus they have budding star outfielder, Eloy Jimenez, back from injury.
The Blue Jays acquired right-handed starter Jose Berrios from Minnesota for prospects, and then Berrios on Sunday threw six shutout innings as Toronto beat the Royals 5-1 to stay more than relevant in the wild card race.
--The Dodgers made a huge splash in acquiring three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer, as well as All-Star shortstop Trea Turner from the Washington Nationals. A brilliant move, especially with Turner under control for 2022 and incumbent shortstop Corey Seager a free agent this winter.
The Nationals also sent Kyle Schwarber to the Red Sox, as Washington blew up their team. A lot of baseball fans are just wondering why get rid of Turner with a year left?
As in most of the trades that took place at the deadline, the other team received prospects and in Washington’s case, they did get two of the Dodgers’ better ones, catcher Keibert Ruiz and pitcher Josiah Gray.
The Nationals also announced this week that starter Stephen Strasburg had thoracic outlet surgery and will miss the rest of the season, but is expected to be healthy for the start of spring training.
I do have to go back to last Wednesday, as the Dodgers’ Walker Buehler, celebrating his 27th birthday, threw seven shutout innings in an 8-0 victory over the Giants to improve to 11-1, 2.19 ERA in starts this season and 7-0 with a 1.83 ERA in 12 games against the Giants. And Buehler is 35-10 lifetime. Rather gaudy, I think you’d agree.
--The Yankees in the span of 24 hours acquired Rizzo and Texas slugger Joey Gallo, in two big moves that balance the lineup from what had been a right-handed dominant one, lefty-hitting Rizzo and Gallo now available to go for the short porch in right in Yankee Stadium.
Gallo went 0-for-8 in his first two games, but Rizzo homered in each of his first two, albeit in Miami, reaching base eight times in the process as the Yanks beat the Marlins Friday and Saturday.
But to get Rizzo and Gallo, general manager Brian Cashman gave up six of the top 30 prospects in the organization, though none of them were considered top five, including outfielder Jasson Dominguez, while adding a pair of All-Stars.
Yankees fans have reason to be pumped. Plus, the Cubs and Rangers are largely footing the bills for the departing contracts.
Then this afternoon, after the Yanks were shut out for seven innings by Miami’s Sandy Alcantara, the Marlins’ pen took over with a 1-0 lead, and Rizzo proceeded to drive in the tying run and New York went on to complete the sweep, 3-1. Aroldis Chapman, clearly back from his hideous three-game swoon, picked up the save and has now given up one earned in his last 10 innings.
The Yanks have won five of six, the blemish a 14-0 Rays win on Wednesday, Tampa Bay taking Gerrit Cole to the woodshed, 7 earned in 5 1/3.
So with the Red Sox playing the Rays tonight, the standings in the AL East….
Tampa Bay 63-42
New York 56-48…6.5
But with the Mariners and A’s playing as I go to post, for the AL Wild Card we have….
New York 56-48…2
--Javier Baez’s first night as a Met was exciting. Saturday, Baez drilled a two-run homer and the Mets ended up with a dramatic 10th-inning comeback win, 5-4, over the Reds at Citi Field.
Dom Smith tied it in the bottom of the ninth with a 2-strike, 2-out single, and then Brandon Drury drove in the winning run in the tenth, after Edwin Diaz stranded the automatic runner in the top of the frame.
Drury is 11-for-15 since being recalled from Triple-A on July 24.
Friday night, the Reds’ Joey Votto homered for the seventh straight game, one shy of a major league record, as Cincinnati beat New York 6-2. But then he was shut out Saturday.
In the seven games, the 37-year-old Votto had nine homers and 15 RBIs.
The power surge from Votto is all the more startling because in his last two full seasons, 2018 and 2019, his home run total had fallen to 12 and 15, respectively, after 36 in 2017. As of today, he has 21 this year.
So today, Votto got the day off and his replacement, Max Schrock, who had all of 42 ABs this season, went 5-for-5 with a homer and 2 RBIs as the Reds beat the Metsies 7-1.
For every high moment for Mets fans this year, there is a low one. The offense, which looked great on paper coming into the season, has been a huge disappointment.
And with the Brewers beating the Braves 2-1, and the Phillies blasting the Pirates 15-4, the NL East race looks like this….
New York 55-49
--The Oakland A’s acquired center fielder Starling Marte from the Marlins and reliever Andrew Chafin from the Cubs to bolster their playoff push.
--San Diego superstar Fernando Tatis Jr. is back on the 10-day injured list, after partially dislocating his left shoulder for the third time this season on Friday night. This is worrisome. He needs surgery, but is trying to make it though the season.
Tatis leads the NL with 31 home runs, while batting .292 with 70 RBIs.
--The White Sox’ backup catcher, Seby Zavala, heading into Saturday’s game against Cleveland, had five career hits in 40 at-bats, one RBI.
Then he went out and went 4-for-4, 3 home runs, 6 RBIs, 4 runs scored, though the ChiSox lost 12-11. [Kimbrel threw a scoreless ninth for Chicago in his debut.]
--Cleveland manager Terry Francona stepped down this week for the remainder of the season to address lingering health issues.
The 62-year-old Francona has been wearing a boot on his right foot all season after undergoing toe surgery for a staph infection in February. He’s also dealing with a hip problem, which will require surgery.
This is the second year in a row Francona, a two-time World Series champion manager with the Red Sox, has been sidelined because of his health. He managed just 14 games in 2020 because of a serious gastrointestinal issue that landed him in the Cleveland Clinic for weeks.
While hospitalized, Francona had blood-clotting issues, and he was place in intensive care.
--I have to admit, I watched the NBA Draft, Thursday, but was totally disinterested, with my Knicks not having a high pick.
For the archives….
1. Cade Cunningham (Oklahoma State), Detroit
2. Jalen Green (G-League), Houston
3. Evan Mobley (USC), Cleveland
I did care where Seton Hall’s Sandro Mamukelashvili went…No. 54 to the Bucks (via a trade). I love this guy’s game. No doubt in my mind he is a solid rotation piece by year two.
--The Washington Wizards parted ways with point guard Russell Westbrook hours before the draft, sending him to the Lakers for a package that includes Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and their 2021 first-round pick, with the Wizards sending two second-round picks (2024 and 2028) to Los Angeles.
Westbrook, 32, averaged a triple-double for the fourth time in his lone season with the Wizards, who are now going to rebuild around star Bradley Beal.
Westbrook is a Long Beach, Calif., native who played at UCLA, and is friends and neighbors with LeBron James in Los Angeles. But it’s all about how the ball-dominant nine-time all-star will fit in with LeBron and Anthony Davis.
--With the draft over, it’s also all about free agency, which opens Monday at 6 p.m. ET, and while it’s not a monster free-agent class, there are some notable names who have big decisions to make: Kawhi Leonard, Chris Paul, Kyle Lowry and Lonzo Ball; the first two potential unrestricted free agents, Lowry an unrestricted FA, Ball a restricted FA.
Another interesting player is the Hawks’ John Collins, a restricted free agent whose offers can be matched, and Atlanta wants to do so, but only within reason. Or they’ll reach a deal without it getting that far.
The Knicks have a ton of cap space and could make a run at Paul if he wants to opt out, but why would CP3 do so when his Suns are obviously so close to a title?
New York management has shown they can be patient and as a fan I won’t be disappointed if we don’t sign a big name. We just need a solid point guard, and to re-sign Derrick Rose to back them up.
American Xander Schauffele won the gold medal today, after appearing to lose his grip on it as Rory Sabbatini, the South African-Slovakian representing the latter in the Games, shot an Olympic record 61 in the final round to put the pressure on Schauffele, who had to birdie No. 17 for the lead, and then sink a 4-foot par putt for the win.
“Just in shock,” Schauffele said. “I was trying so hard to just stay calm. …But man, it was stressful. And I made that putt and it was just a huge weight lifted off my shoulders and just very relieved and happy.”
This will elevate Schauffele’s ‘Q-Rating’ for sure.
As for the 45-year-old Sabbatini, a six-time winner on the PGA Tour, but no wins since 2011, what a performance! Good for him.
So then there was a seven-man playoff for the bronze, including hometown boy Hideki Matsuyama, Collin Morikawa and Rory McIlroy.
But in the end, C.T. Pan of Taiwan won the bronze on the fourth hole against Morikawa.
Matsuyama had missed a 12-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole that would have avoided the playoff.
For his part, McIlroy said: “I never tried so hard in my life to finish third…I gave it my all out there today.”
Rory said the Olympic experience was far better than expected and that he can’t wait to compete in Paris in 2024.
Meanwhile, South Koreans Sungjae Im and Si-Woo Kim are now subject to mandatory military service. All able-bodied South Korean men are required to spend between 18 and 21 months serving their nation upon turning 19 years old, though it can be delayed for valid reasons such as studying or working abroad. Which, of course, Im and Kim are doing – both being PGA Tour winners who are ranked inside the top 60 in the world.
Still, they will eventually be required to put their golf careers on hold and enlist.
There was, however, a way to get out of having to serve, and that was if they won an Olympic medal, an exemption the South Korean government provides.
Alas, no medals.
World No. 1 Novak Djokovic was expected to romp to the gold in Tokyo, thus setting himself up for the Golden Slam at the upcoming U.S. Open, having won the first three legs of the Grand Slam this year.
But then he lost in the semifinals to Alexander Zverez, and the next day, dropped a second consecutive three-setter, this time losing to Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta in the bronze medal match 6-4, 6-7, 6-3.
For Carreno Busta, ranked No. 11 in the world, winning a bronze medal ranks as arguably the biggest achievement of his career, alongside his two semifinal appearances at the U.S. Open in 2017 and 2020.
Djokovic lost his control in the third set, tossing a racquet into the empty stands, screaming in Serbian and then smashing another racquet on the side of the net-post after falling behind 0-3.
So Djokovic leaves with lots of questions. He’s clearly drained and the U.S. Open starts Aug. 30. Djokovic said he hoped his efforts in Tokyo would not “create a problem” for him in Flushing Meadows. He then added: “That’s something that I’m not sure about right now.”
As for the gold medal match, the fifth-ranked German Zverev whipped No. 25 Russian Karen Khachanov 6-3, 6-1.
--Washington Football Team coach Ron Rivera issued a warning to his team after two more players were placed on the reserve/Covid-19 list, giving his players a what-if scenario: If this had happened the day before their season opener, it would impact the first two games.
Washington now has six players on the reserve/Covid-19 list, including All-Pro guard Brandon Scherrff, who was placed on it Saturday along with reserve tackle David Sharpe. Receiver Curtis Samuel is another starter who already was on the list.
Washington ranks next to last in terms of vaccination rate, having just climbed above 70% of players having at least one shot. The overall player percentage in the NFL is 89.4%, with 22 clubs over 90% and nine above 95%.
As of Saturday morning, Arizona had the most players on the reserve/Covid list with nine. The Colts had four players along with head coach Frank Reich.
Being on the Covid list doesn’t mean the player has the virus, but it could be based on contact tracing. But even that costs a player five days.
Recall from last Bar Chat that Coach Rivera is immune deficient because of cancer last fall.
“I think just making the statement that I’m immune deficient hopefully is part of their conversation, part of their thought process,” Rivera said, in speaking of those players still hesitant to get the shot.
--The Jets and quarterback Zach Wilson finally reached agreement on a contract and by Day 2, he was impressing mightily at camp, after a rocky Day 1.
--The insufferable Aaron Rodgers admitted he was considering retirement this offseason and in a 32-minute news conference following the first training camp practice last week said he wasn’t sure what – if anything – will change in his relationship with the Packers.
“I just want to be involved in conversations that affect my ability to do my job,” Rodgers said.
When asked if he has gotten any assurances that it will happen, he said: “I’m not sure.”
Rodgers spoke at length about how he has been disappointed about veteran players the Packers have either released or not re-signed at various points in his career – rattling off names such as Charles Woodson, Julius Peppers and Randall Cobb, who is actually returning to the Packers in a trade with Houston.
Rodgers did say he didn’t want to be portrayed as a victim.
“I’m not a victim here,” he said. “I made a ton of money here, and I’ve been really fortunate to play a long time and to play here. At the same time I’m competitive and I still feel like I can play, I proved it last year.”
The league said it will investigate an allegation by Evander Kane’s wife that the San Jose Sharks forward bet on his own games and has intentionally tried to lose for gambling profit.
The NHL said Saturday night on Twitter that it was made aware of the social media posts from the Instagram account of Anna Kane and plans to conduct a full inquiry. Anna Kane wrote: “How does the NHL let a compulsive gambling addict still play when he’s obviously throwing games to win money? Hmm maybe someone needs to address this.”
She added: “Can someone ask (Commissioner) Gary Bettman how they let a player gamble on his own games? Bet and win with bookies on his own games?”
In a separate post, Anna Kane accused her husband of spending lavishly partying in Europe while asking her to sell her wedding ring to survive and wrote about not being able to afford baby formula for their child.
The NHL said: “The integrity of our game is paramount and the League takes allegations very seriously.”
Kane responded Sunday, writing on Twitter: “I have NEVER gambled/bet on Hockey, NEVER gambled/bet on a Sharks game, NEVER gambled/bet on any of my games and NEVER thrown a hockey game. The facts are I personally had my best season of my career last year and was the most consistent I’ve been throughout any season, I’m proud of that. I love the game of hockey and would never do any of what was alleged. I look forward to cooperating fully with the league’s investigation, having my name cleared and looking forward to this upcoming season.”
Evander Kane said the two are in the process of getting a divorce and called Anna Kane “mentally unwell.”
But Evander Kane’s gambling history and finances have been public knowledge for some time. A Las Vegas Strip casino sued Kane in 2019, alleging he failed to repay a $500,000 gambling debt racked up during a playoff series against the Golden Knights.
Kane, 29, is three seasons into a $49 million, seven-year contract. Last season, he had 22 goals and 27 assists in 56 games.
--Since I last posted, we note the passing of Dusty Hill, the bassist of U.S. blues rock band ZZ Top, who died the other day at his home in Houston, Texas. He was 72.
Earlier in July, ZZ Top had announced that Hill would not play some upcoming shows due to a hip injury.
Known for his bushy beard and sunglasses, Hill played with ZZ Top for over 50 years.
Bandmates Billy Gibbons and Frank Beard said in a statement: “We, along with legions of ZZ Top fans around the world, will miss your steadfast presence, your good nature, and enduring commitment to providing that monumental bottom to the ‘Top’. You will be missed greatly, amigo.”
ZZ Top was founded in 1969, and played their first live concert the following year. The trio would go on to release 15 studio and four live albums, with hits like “Tush,” “La Grange,” and “Sleeping Bag.”
Top 3 songs for the week 8/4/73: #1 “The Morning After” (Maureen McGovern) #2 “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” (Jim Croce…can’t stand this one…) #3 “Live And Let Die” (Wings…as opposed to this one, which I love…)…and…#4 “Smoke On The Water” (Deep Purple…totally unique sound for this time…) #5 “Yesterday Once More” (Carpenters) #6 “Diamond Girl” (Seals & Crofts) #7 “Touch Me In The Morning” (Diana Ross…where?...) #8 “Brother Louie” (Stories) #9 “Will It Go Round In Circles” (Billy Preston) #10 “Shambala” (Three Dog Night…B- week…)
Olympic Quiz Answers: 1) Since 1908, Frank Shorter is the only American to win the marathon, 1972 in Munich. He then won silver in Montreal in 1976. 2) Joan Benoit is the only American woman to win the marathon, and it was in the first one, 1984 in Los Angeles. 3) The great Edwin Moses won the 400-meter hurdles in both 1976 and 1984 (the U.S. boycotting 1980), and then, incredibly, still had enough in the tank for bronze in 1988 in Seoul.
Moses was just incredible. Between 1977 and 1987, he won 107 consecutive finals in his event.
***I will have a minimal Add-On up top sometime late Tues. p.m. It’s a rough week ahead for your editor. Oh, if you only knew what was going on in my life.