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MLB Quiz: To get you thinking about the new season, name the nine active players with 300 home runs. Answer below.
New AP Poll (records a/o Sun.)…March Madness around the corner…
1. Gonzaga (59) 24-0
2. Michigan (4) 18-1
3. Baylor 18-1
4. Illinois 18-6
5. Iowa 18-7
6. West Virginia 17-6
7. Ohio State 18-7
8. Alabama 19-6
9. Houston 20-3
10. Villanova 15-4
11. Florida State 14-4
12. Arkansas 19-5…up 8
13. Kansas 18-8
19. San Diego State 19-4…Aztecwear stirring in sports drawer
20. Loyola Chicago 21-4
21. Virginia 15-6
22. Virginia Tech 15-5
Gonzaga has been on top all season, and Baylor had been No. 2, until their loss to Kansas Saturday.
Illinois and Michigan then squared off Tuesday and the Illini kicked the Wolverines’ butts, 76-53, so Illinois has officially wrapped up a 1-seed. As the gang in the cornfield at “Hee Haw” would have said, “Sa-lute!”
I always have a soft spot for West Virginia, being a big Bob Huggins fan, but they lost tonight to Baylor, 94-89 in overtime. Won’t hurt the Mountaineers and their seeding in the NCAAs.
Rutgers (13-10, 9-10) had a dreadful loss on the road, Monday, at Nebraska (7-17, 3-14) 72-51, that crushes any hopes the Scarlet Knights had of reaching the Big Dance. They had such a promising start to the season, and then it all went south…or Midwest.
Wake Forest (6-14, 3-14) lost again tonight in Pittsburgh (10-10, 6-9), 70-57, as the Deacs were outrebounded 42-23. Just amazing…a feel-good season (for the team and its fans, despite the won-loss record) has gone terribly awry the last five games. It’s going to be a long offseason. Johnny Mac, prepare the sword….
….I was just reminded by Johnny I need to see how the Mets start out and he has a good point, Hari-kari once again delayed. Plus, I have to wait to see what the Jets do with their No. 2 pick anyway.
--After posting Sunday I watched the Knicks play the Pistons in Detroit and my Knickerbockers won impressively, 109-90, especially having played the night before.
With a record of 18-17, New York is looking playoffs, the last time they were in them being 2013.
The key is that new coach Tom Thibodeau has them playing defense. For us fans, it’s shocking that the Knicks are leading the league in fewest points allowed per game, 104.0 thru Sunday, and also lead the league in lowest field goal percentage allowed, 37.1 percent. By comparison, using 2018-19 as a metric (last season was incomplete), the Knicks were 22nd in the league out of 30 in points allowed.
But Julius Randle is also playing terrific as a point-forward, and a deserved All-Star selection, averaging 23.4 points per game, 10.9 rebounds and 5.5 assists.
--Dallas is on the road back, 8 of 10, after a 130-124 win over the Magic Monday. The Mavs, who were supposed to be a franchise on the rise, started out miserably, 9-14, but are now 17-16 and back in the playoff hunt.
--Brooklyn continues to win without Kevin Durant, 124-113 in overtime against the Spurs in San Antonio last night. James Harden doing what he does best…30 points, 14 rebounds, 15 assists. And, shockingly, zero turnovers!
--The Atlanta Hawks fired coach Lloyd Pierce. He deserved to be. There is too much talent here, but the Hawks were 14-20, and in their Sunday night loss to Miami, 109-99, it was the 11th time they lost a game after holding a fourth-quarter lead. Assistant Nate McMillan will step in as interim coach, and he has extensive head coaching experience in the league, 667-591 (.530) in 16 seasons with Seattle, Portland and Indiana. Will be interesting to see if he can turn things around.
Granted, the Hawks have had some key injuries, none bigger than emerging star De’Andre Hunter, who has been out following knee surgery.
Pierce was 63-120 (.344) with the Hawks.
--J.J. Watt has agreed to a two-year contract with the Arizona Cardinals, the team announced Monday. The deal is reportedly worth $31 million, $23 million guaranteed.
Watt, 31, was released by Houston after he requested it, ending his 10-year run with the franchise.
In Arizona, Watt will be paired with pass-rusher Chandler Jones, who has led the NFL in sacks since coming into the league in 2012; Jones with 97, Watt second with 95.5 over that time.
Arizona is a surprise choice, seeing as how the Bills, Browns and Steelers appeared to be the favorites, along with a few others…none of them the Cardinals.
--Fans are still waiting to see what other quarterbacks are going to be traded ahead of the draft (and free agency) – Matthew Stafford, Jared Goff and Carson Wentz getting dealt thus far.
The main drama surrounds Russell Wilson and Deshaun Watson, and regarding Wilson, the Bears are the latest rumor.
--We note the passing of NFL broadcasting legend Irv Cross, 81.
CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus said in a statement: “Irv was a pioneer who made significant contributions to the storied history and tradition of CBS Sports and, along with Phyllis George and Brent Musburger, set the standard for NFL pregame shows with The NFL Today.
“He was a true gentleman and a trailblazer in the sports television industry and will be remembered for his accomplishments and the paths he paved for those who followed.”
Irv Cross went to Northwestern and was a seventh-round pick by the Eagles in the 1961 NFL draft. He played nine seasons in the league as a defensive back/kick returner, intercepting 22 passes and making two Pro Bowls. He also played for the Rams.
Cross was then first hired by CBS Sports in 1971 as a game analyst, but Cross would then become a staple on “The NFL Today” for 14 years, spending a total of 23 years with the network.
He was the first African American to work full-time as a sports analyst on national television. He was also the first African American to do sports in Philadelphia on local television as well.
In 2009, Cross became the first Black recipient of the Pete Rozelle Award, an annual honor given by the Pro Football Hall of Fame to a member of the media.
I just remember the guy fondly as being pure ‘class.’ And as Brent Musburger tweeted; “Irv was one of the finest gentleman I’ve been with. …No one ever had a bad thing to say about (him).”
--I didn’t mention the winner of the Champions Tour’s event in Tucson, Arizona, Sunday…because in rushing to post…I forgot to! The International Web Site Association (IWSA) fined me $42,500 for this awful mistake. Needless to say, I’m appealing, but the IWSA is currently based in Myanmar. The United Nations is, however, frantically attempting to relocate this esteemed organization to either New York or The Hague, where I’d receive a more favorable judgement, probably getting it down to $1.94.
So Kevin Sutherland picked up his fifth career triumph on the 50-and-older circuit, having just one win on the Big Boys Tour, the 2002 Match Play.
Mike Weir had a two-shot lead with three to play and blew it. Also blowing it, which is harsh, was Phil Mickelson, attempting to set a record for a third consecutive victory to start his career on the senior tour. He finished tied for 20th, 11 strokes back of the winner.
--In case you were wondering if Annika Sorenstam, who finished 74th at the Gainbridge LPGA event in her first tour start since 2008, was going to play in more tournaments, the answer is ‘no.’ At least for now.
Sorenstam, 50, actually hoped to do better than make the cut on the line as the event was at her home course at Lake Nona. She used the tournament as a way to assess her game as she views potential participation in the U.S. Senior Women’s Open in August. But no LPGA events.
“There is a part of me that always felt you can do this and then you come out here and you realize it’s just a different time in my life,” Sorenstam said on Sunday. “My level of golf is not where it needs to be. I know I don’t have the motivation to get there. I don’t even know physically if it’s possible.
“And that’s OK. I’m pleased with that. I’m happy where I am. It’s taken a lot of courage to come out here and I applaud myself for that. I need to work harder and I don’t know if I have that and I don’t really know if I want to do it.”
--I posted last time right after Collin Morikawa’s win in the WGC event at The Concession, and just have to note his classy post-round comments.
Morikawa, in winning his fourth title, talked about Tiger Woods and then teared up after revealing he lost his grandfather, Toshio, a month ago.
“Tiger means everything to me,” Morikawa said. “And yes, he had the crash and thankfully he’s all right and hopefully he has a quick and great recovery, but I don’t think we say thank you enough. So I want to say thank you to Tiger, because sometimes you lose people too early. I lost my grandpa about a month ago. And you don’t get to say thank you enough.”
Asked earlier in the week about “paying tribute” to Woods, Rory McIlroy said, “You say ‘pay tribute to him.’ He’s not gone. …He’s been in a very bad accident. We’re very lucky that he’s still here. I feel like we should pay tribute to him every day for being on the PGA Tour and what he’s done for golf.”
Morikawa was generous in his praise for Mark O’Meara for giving him a lesson on his new putting grip, and then he called out Paul Azinger for an impromptu chipping lesson earlier in the week. ‘Zinger had to be shocked for getting such praise on air, and now all the players will be running to the short-game guru. The lesson was all of five minutes, but it made all the difference in the world for Morikawa.
As for the crash and any further investigation, USA TODAY asked three forensic experts who reconstruct automobile-accident scenes for a living, and it seems clear Woods was not paying attention when he drifted off the four-lane road, crashed through a road sign and crossed the oncoming two lanes of traffic, hit a tree and rolled the vehicle onto its side.
The experts said the evidence does not indicate that he lost control of the Genesis GV80 SUV because of excessive speed. They also said the evidence indicates that Woods applied the brakes late in the crash sequence.
“To me, this is like a classic case of falling asleep behind the wheel, because the road curves and his vehicle goes straight,” said Jonathan Cherney, a consultant who provides car-accident analysis as an expert witness in court cases.
Cherney, a former police detective, examined the crash site in person.
“It’s a drift off the road, almost like he was either unconscious, suffering from a medical episode or fell asleep and didn’t wake up until he was off the road, and that’s where the brake application came in.”
Felix Lee, an accident-reconstruction expert with the Expert Institute, told USA TODAY that “speed wasn’t that much of an issue. It was just some kind of inattention that caused the curb strike.”
Rami Hashish, principal at the National Biomechanics Institute, which analyzes the cause of accidents, said of the evidence: “It was suggesting he wasn’t paying attention at all.”
The damage to the vehicle and to Woods would have been much greater if he had been traveling much over the posted 45-mph limit, Hashish said.
Back when I was at PIMCO, I had a 75-mile commute (each way) and I would catch myself falling asleep at the wheel on the way home all the time, but that was at the end of the business day. So any analysis such as this will lead to stupid stories on what Tiger might have been doing the night before and if it was something outrageous, you’d think you would know something by now. But obviously any medication he was on for his recent back surgery might have caused the apparent drowsiness. Also, still no word on if he was using his phone, but this doesn’t fit the above explanation.
So after I received a comment during the Australian Open and Serena Williams’ ongoing quest to finally tie Margaret Court at 24 majors that Serena isn’t the greatest in her sport, and all I’m saying is that I hope Serena gets to 24, because there is zero comparison between Serena and her era and that of Margaret Court....
Consider the simple fact that the last of Court’s 24 singles titles came in 1973. It wasn’t until the late 1970s, that with one or two exceptions (namely Brazil’s Maria Bueno), all of women’s tennis champs heretofore had been from just three countries – Australia, England and the United States.
Then the likes of Hana Mandlikova (and Martina Navratilova, who initially was a Czech citizen) led a new wave of European players, which then led to Steffi Graf, Monica Seles and Martina Hingis…and the rest is history.
So Serena is stuck on 23 Grand Slam singles titles (7 Australian, 3 French, 7 Wimbledon, 6 US Open), but her record is technically 23 of 77 Grand Slam events, 23-10 in GS finals.
Steffi Graf, on the other hand, has 22 singles titles (4-6-7-5), but is 22 of 54, 22-9 in the finals.
So Steffi has a greater percentage in titles vs. number of Grand Slam events entered.
But Steffi also has five years where she won 3 titles in a year, including the Grand Slam in 1988 (7-1 in 1988-89), with 21 of her 22 wins over 10 years, 1987-96.
Serena ‘only’ has two years with 3 titles, but her longevity is remarkable, 1999-2017 in terms of her titles (she hasn’t won since 2017). And she started out a phenomenal 21-4 in singles finals.
Martina Navratilova, by the way, was 18-14 in Grand Slam singles finals, and 18 of 67 in overall events, but she had 3 wins in each of 1983-84.
On the Men’s side….
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal each have 20 Grand Slam singles titles, with Federer 20-11 in finals, 20 of 79 events overall, and Nadal 20-8 in finals, 20 of 61 overall.
But Federer won 16 of his titles in one eight-year stretch, while Novak Djokovic has 15 in a nine-year period. Nadal’s titles have been more spread out.
Djokovic is 18-63 in overall GS events.
The thing about Federer and Nadal, both have one major where they have just one win. Federer has just one French Open title, Nadal just one Aussie Open title. Federer, though, is 6-1-8-5 (A, F, W, US), Nadal (1-13-2-4).
What’s on Nadal’s side is his six wins from 2017-20 on the supposed back nine of his career.
Turning to Golf….
It’s hard to beat Jack Nicklaus. Not only does he have 17 of his 18 major titles over a lengthy period 1962-1980, in 76 major events over that period, he has the 17 wins, 41 top tens, and 18 non-top tens.
In Tiger’s big stretch, 1999-2008, when he won 13 of his 15 majors, he was in 38 majors, with 12 top tens along with the 13 wins, but 13 out of the top ten.
So just playing some percentages, Jack, in his lengthy prime, failed to finish in the top ten of his majors 24% vs. Tiger’s 34%.
However, I submit the case of Ben Hogan, who AFTER his Feb. 1949 near-fatal auto accident, came back and from 1950-60, playing in a limited schedule of 22 majors, had 6 of his 9 career major titles, and 13 top tens; or in only 14% of the 22 did he fail to finish in the top ten. If I leave you with nothing but this factoid on Hogan, that’s how you pass down the story of a legend through the years.
Walter Hagen, by the way, won 11 major titles, and between 1923-1928, there was a stretch of 15 majors where Hagen finished in the top eight each time, with six wins. As Larry David would have told his golf buddies, ‘Pretty, pretty good.’ My argument in not including Hagen with the other three is simply the lack of competition vs. what we saw with the other three.
Lastly, Auto racing, specifically Formula One and NASCAR….
When you consider the all-time wins list, Lewis Hamilton is on top of F1 with 95 wins in 266 starts, or a staggering 35.7% win rate.
Michael Schumacher was 91 of 306, 29.6%.
Then it’s a big drop-off to Sebastian Vettel, third with 53 wins in 257 races, 21%.
Alain Prost: 51 in 199, 26%.
Ayrton Senna: 41 in 161, 25%.
But Hamilton and Schumacher each have seven world driving championships, to four apiece for Prost and Vettel, three for Senna.
However, in this sport you can’t forget a few old-timers….
Juan Fangio, 1950-58, who won an amazing 24 of 51 races, 46.2%, 29 of 51 he held the pole, and he won five championships.
Alberto Ascari, who also raced in the 1950s, won 13 of 33, 39.4%, including 6 of 8 races in 1952, but he died at Monza in 1955.
Lastly, the late Jim Clark, who won 25 of 72, 34.3%, and two championships, before he died all too young in a Formula Two race at Hockenheim, Germany in 1968, only 32 years of age. Because of the tremendous competition and talent during what most call Formula One’s greatest era, it’s no surprise many argue Clark is the best of all time.
As for NASCAR, I have written of this many, many times…the difference between Richard Petty and David Pearson, who raced against each other for decades.
Petty holds the all-time NASCAR/Winston Cup record with 200 wins in 1,184 starts, or a 17% win rate.
Pearson, who I’ve long argued is one of the more underrated American athletes of all time (along with the likes of Billy Casper, Stan Mikita, Tris Speaker and Nate Thurmond), in the purest sense of the term ‘underrated,’ had 105 wins in 574 starts, 18% ratio.
Petty has 712 top tens in his 1,184 races, 60%, but Pearson has 366 top tens in his 574 starts, 64%. [Pearson had no problem taking little breaks from racing, which makes me respect him even more, but you couldn’t do that today with the sponsor/team obligations.]
Now of course Petty is King Richard for a reason, but just as in the case of Ben Hogan and his record after his crash, any young race fan should know of David Pearson’s greatness, too.
Among the other top NASCAR drivers on the wins list….it’s amazing how uniform the percentages are, vs. Petty and Pearson.
Jeff Gordon: 93 wins in 805 starts, 12%.
Bobby Allison: 84 wins in 718, 12%.
Darrell Waltrip: 84 in 809, 10%.
Cale Yarborough: 83 in 560, 15%.
Jimmie Johnson: 83 in 686, 12%.
Dale Earnhardt: 76 in 676, 11%.
So we went through this little exercise on greatness just to give you some fodder when, after we’re all vaccinated, you head full-force back into your local watering holes (I recognize some of you are already there….we ain’t in New Jersey, boys and girls!)
I wanted to focus on the major individual sports, and not get into Willie Mays vs. Hank Aaron, LeBron vs. Michael Jordan type arguments because those are still team sports, and already covered ad nauseam.
Now if you really want the greatest single individual athlete of all time, look no further than Edwin Moses, who won 107 consecutive finals in the 400m hurdles (122 consecutive races overall), including gold in the 1976 and 1984 Olympics.
[Edwin Moses is also just a tremendous human being.]
And with that I bid you adieu….
Top 3 songs for the week 3/3/79: #1 “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?” (Rod Stewart) #2 “Fire” (Pointer Sisters) #3 “I Will Survive” (Gloria Gaynor)…and…#4 “Tragedy” (Bee Gees…this week is a tragedy…) #5 “A Little More Love” (Olivia Newton-John) #6 “Heaven Knows” (Donna Summer with Brooklyn Dreams) #7 “Le Freak” (Chic) #8 “Y.M.C.A.” (Village People) #9 “Lotta Love” (Nicolette Larson) #10 “What A Fool Believes” (The Doobie Brothers…the last two try to pull the week out but to no avail…D+…and back to the 60s…)
MLB Quiz Answer: Nine active with 300 home runs….
Albert Pujols 662
Miguel Cabrera 487…and 2,866 hits, so looking for two biggies if he stays healthy
Nelson Cruz 417
Robinson Cano 334…not active this year, but he will be in 2022
Jay Bruce 318
Giancarlo Stanton 312
Justin Upton 307
Evan Longoria 304
Mike Trout 302
Chris Davis 295
Joey Votto 295
*If you got 8 of 9, you’re good. Pour yourself a frosty….two, if you’re working at home and your boss can’t see you.
Next Bar Chat, Sunday p.m.