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NBA Playoffs are underway....Baseball
Add-On posted early Wed. a.m.
Philadelphia took a 2-0 advantage in its series with Toronto with another dominating performance, 112-97, as Joel Embiid had 31 points and 11 rebounds, while Tyrese Maxey was stellar yet again….23 points on 8 of 11 shooting, 9 rebounds, 8 assists. Bye-bye, Raptors.
And Golden State is 2-0 after a 126-106 win over Denver. Jordan Poole was the man a second time while in the starting rotation with 29, and Steph Curry came off the bench for 34 in just 23 minutes. Poole and Curry were 22 of 33 from the field, 10 of 20 from three, which is a rather successful formula.
Dallas, playing again without Luka Doncic, saw Jalen Brunson step up with 41 points (15 of 25, 6 of 10 from three), and the Mavs evened up their series with the Jazz at 1-1. Knicks brass was in the stands scouting Brunson, an unrestricted free agent this summer, and they got what they wanted to see.
Miami went up 2-0 with a 115-105 win over Atlanta behind Jimmy Butler’s playoff career-high 45 points.
Memphis rebounded to even their series at 1-1 in beating Minnesota 124-96.
And New Orleans surprised Phoenix 125-114, that series knotted at 1-1. But in this one, Devin Booker, after a spectacular 31-point first half for the Suns, exited in the third quarter with right hamstring tightness and no word yet on his status going forward. Brandon Ingram had 37 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists for the Pelicans.
Sunday night, after I had posted, Phoenix beat New Orleans, 110-99, behind Chris Paul, who had 19 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter.
The Nets and Celtics finally play Game Two tonight in Boston.
--Rain impacted Monday’s schedule, but we had an important game out in L.A. as the Dodgers moved to 8-2 with a 7-4 win over Atlanta, off to a crappy 5-7 start given expectations. What made this significant was it was the first time Freddie Freeman faced his old teammates and homered in his first at-bat against Huascar Ynoa, much to the delight of the Dodgers faithful who have welcomed Freeman with open arms.
Clayton Kershaw, in his second start, was far from perfect but picked up his second win, going five innings, 4 earned, 0 walks, 7 strikeouts. [So 20 strikeouts, no walks, in his first 13 innings, which is rather good.]
Encouragingly for L.A., Cody Bellinger hit his second homer and is batting .278 out of the gate, 10-for 36, as he hopes to put 2021’s nightmare .165 batting average behind him.
--Speaking of encouraging, maybe, Christian Yelich hit a grand slam in the Brewers’ 6-1 win over Pittsburgh, Milwaukee 6-5.
Yelich also doubled but is .242 on the season and that was his first home run.
It was just 2019, when Yelich was baseball’s big star, after winning the 2018 MVP Award with a 1.000 OPS (36 home runs, 110 RBIs, and a league-leading .326 BA), and then following that up with 44-97, .329 (a second batting title), 1.100 OPS and 2nd in the MVP balloting behind none other than Cody Bellinger.
It’s been nothing but a nightmare for both since. In Yelich’s case, it’s been back issues that have zapped him of his power and the best comparison is to Don Mattingly.
Mattingly was on a Hall of Fame trajectory, 1984-89, six straight terrific seasons, hitting with power and a .300+ batting average, when at age 29, back issues took away most of his power and he never hit 20 home runs again, though he was still pretty effective.
Brewers fans would take “pretty effective” from Yelich, like .280, 80 RBIs, as Milwaukee is on the hook for $182 million, $26 million per, for 2022-2028. Yelich hasn’t hit .250 since 2019 and the power is gone.
[Tuesday, Yelich went 0-for-4 in the Brewers 5-3 win over the Pirates.]
Atlanta got payback, beating Los Angeles 3-1, as Max Fried (7 scoreless) outdueled Walker Buehler, and former Dodger closer Kenley Jansen got Freddie Freeman for the last out, which felt weird all around.
--The Mets are 9-3 after their first doubleheader sweep of the Giants (7-4) since 1979; 5-4 in 10 innings in the opener, and then 3-1 in the nightcap.
In the latter, Max Scherzer continued to be exactly what the Mets spent $140 million for, 5 2/3 of no-hit ball, 7 innings overall, one run, as he’s won his first three starts (3-0, 2.50).
Francisco Lindor is a new man after his struggles of last season and he’s playing like the All-Star the team spent a zillion on as well.
--Meanwhile, that other team in New York, the Yankees, beat Detroit 4-2 last night, though the story was their ‘ace,’ Gerrit Cole, who for the first time in his career managed to get only five outs, removed after 1 2/3, having walked five, giving up the two runs. Cole, after three starts, has an ERA of 6.35.
Good job by the Yankee pen, 7 1/3 of scoreless ball to preserve the win, the team now 6-5.
--Back to the Dodgers, hanging over the team, and the franchise, is the Trevor Bauer issue.
Dylan Hernandez / Los Angeles Times
“He was there when Clayton Kershaw pitched seven perfect innings.
“He was there when the Dodgers celebrated Jackie Robinson Day.
“And he was there when they played their most complete game of the season to finish a four-game sweep of the tanking Cincinnati Reds.
“Trevor Bauer wasn’t there in person, but he didn’t have to be. Nearly a year after sexual assault allegations against him initially surfaced, Bauer remains out of sight but definitely not out of mind. His presence is everywhere.
“That was the case again Sunday, when a 9-1 victory over the Reds was overshadowed by speculation of whether Bauer would return to Dodger Stadium.
“If this were any other player, there would have been absolutely no chance of him trying to walk into a locker room in which he didn’t know whether he would be welcome.
“With Bauer, the Dodgers couldn’t be certain.
“He strives to portray himself as an iconoclast and craves attention. He operates a YouTube channel with more than 400,000 subscribers.
“Ultimately, there were no reported Bauer sightings, but that almost didn’t matter. Whether he intended to do so or not, Bauer still managed to shift the focus from the team to himself.
“And he will continue to do so, with The Times’ Bill Shaikin reporting that Bauer is still looking into the agreement between the commissioner’s office and players union to extend his administrative leave through (this coming) Friday….
“On the surface, Bauer’s questioning of the agreement looks like a ploy to force the slow-moving hand of MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred. Bauer is ineligible to play while on leave, but if the agreement isn’t binding, Manfred would theoretically run the risk of Bauer reporting to work if he doesn’t immediately suspend him.
“Bauer maintains he didn’t sexually assault the San Diego woman who accused him of doing so during two encounters. The Los Angeles County district attorney said he couldn’t prove any charges beyond a reasonable doubt, but Manfred could suspend him without meeting that standard. Bauer can appeal any suspension.
“The impasse has created a nightmare for the Dodgers. Whatever happened between Bauer and the woman, an organization that champions itself as an agent for positive social change is now attached to a player with a history of allegations that he harassed women, mocked transgender people and spread racist conspiracy theories.
“The Dodgers knew of his reputation when they signed him. They couldn’t have known he would be accused of sexual assault, but they knew they were acquiring a player who contradicted their self-proclaimed values….
“By now, Bauer has made clear he won’t disappear quietly. If anything, he has shown an inclination to create as much noise as possible, filing lawsuits against media entities and remaining active on social media.
“He also appears disinterested in pursuing the most expedient path back to the field, which would almost certainly involve him negotiating a suspension with MLB. But accepting a suspension would mean he would have to agree to not appeal Manfred’s finding that he violated league policy, and he has maintained he did nothing wrong.
“By dragging out the process, he is not only tainting the Dodgers’ history but also clouding the team’s present.”
I mean think about it. The Dodgers slipped into their No. 42 jerseys and prepared to meet Jackie Robinson’s son last Friday, but behind the scenes, the story was about Trevor Bauer’s potential challenge of the agreement that extended his leave.
And he’s been the story in the days since.
Reminder: Bauer signed a three-year, $102 million contract with L.A. before the 2021 season and has been on paid leave. But he stands to lose a large share of his $35 million per in 2022 and 2023 if he were to be suspended, depending on the length.
This is a royal mess for baseball and the Dodgers. He isn’t going away.
--A lot is being made of Japanese 20-year-old right-hander Roki Sasaki, who threw the first perfect game in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball league since 1992, and then in his very next start last weekend, he nearly did it again, throwing eight perfect on 102 pitches before being pulled to protest his arm. He had thrown 105 in his perfect game.
Sasaki stuck out 33 of the 51 batters in the two starts. His consecutive batters streak overall is 52. The MLB record is 46 consecutive batters retired by righty Yusmeiro Petit with the San Francisco Giants in 2014.
In the perfect game, Sasaki struck out league records of 19 for the game, and 13 in a row. He averaged nearly 100 mph on his fastball.
According to CBS Sports, in 19 career outings, Sasaki has a 1.78 ERA and a 6.14 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Experts say Sasaki’s fastball is as good as any in the major leagues.
BUT…the only issue most of us care about is an answer to the question, ‘When will this guy be coming to MLB?’
First off, the NPB is rated the second-best league in the sport, next to MLB, and there’s no guarantee the kid would want to play here. If he continues to star, he’ll make enormous sums in Japan on endorsements. Like Naomi Osaka makes huge bucks there on her endorsements.
And then you have MLB’s rules governing international free agents. Under the current agreement, players who are younger than 25 years old (or who have fewer than six years of professional experience) are subject to the international bonus pool system that also applies to true international amateur free agents. The policy greatly limits the signing bonus potential of these players, and explains why Shohei Ohtani signed with the Los Angeles Angels for less than the 30th pick in the draft despite being a big-league ready phenom.
Bottom line is unless his team wants to “post” him earlier than his age-25 season, which isn’t likely, Sasaki probably wouldn’t appear in the major leagues until 2027.
--One Japanese player off to a terrific start in his MLB career is Cubs outfielder Seiya Suzuki.
Chicago signed the 27-year-old to a big contract, five years, $85 million, after a 9-year stint in the NPB, where he slugged 182 home runs and batted .315.
And he’s off to a flying start thru Monday, 12-for 28, .429, with 4 home runs, 11 RBIs, and a cool 1.493 OPS.
--Teams going to Toronto have to deal with Canada’s Covid rules, which dictate that unvaccinated individuals are not permitted to enter the country. Individuals must have at least two dosages of an mRNA vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna), or one of the J&J vaccine. In the case of the former, the most recent shot must have been administered at least 14 days prior to entering.
So as for the Red Sox, who begin play their next Monday (April 25), Boston will have a couple players not making the trip, including starter Tanner Houck, while the following Monday, the Yankees come into town and fans are assuming Aaron Judge, and maybe Anthony Rizzo, are among those unvaccinated. I’m biting my tongue, for now.
--Wake Forest fell out of Baseball America’s Top 25 this week, after losing 2 of 3 to Clemson, which is having a down year, over the weekend.
In the Coaches Poll, it’s…
2. Oregon State
3. Oklahoma State
But in Baseball America’s latest…the Cowboys are on top of the Beavers…
2. Oklahoma State
3. Oregon State
--CBS Sports’ Bryan DeArdo looked at 12 mock drafts from multiple sources, including ESPN, NFL.com and CBS Sports, and cobbled the 12 into one consensus mock draft.
1. Jaguars: EDGE Aidan Hutchinson (Michigan)
2. Lions: DL Travon Walker (Georgia)
3. Texans: OL Evan Neal (Alabama)
4. Jets: EDGE Kayvon Thibodeaux (Oregon)
5. Giants: OL Ikem Ekwonu (North Carolina State)
6. Panthers: QB Kenny Pickett (Pitt)
7. Giants: CB Ahmad Gardner (Cincinnati)
8. Falcons: WR Garrett Wilson (Ohio State)
9. Seahawks: CB Derek Stingley Jr. (LSU)
10. Jets: WR Drake London (USC)
11. Commanders: S Kyle Hamilton (Notre Dame)
12. Vikings: CB Trent McDuffie (Washington)
13. Texans: OL Charles Cross (Mississippi State)
14. Ravens: EDGE Jermaine Johnson II (Florida State)
15. Eagles: WR Jameson Williams (Alabama)
--The Browns signed cornerback Denzel Ward to the largest CB contract in NFL history, a five-year, $100.5 million extension that includes $71.5 million in guarantees. Ward was the fourth pick overall in the 2018 draft, the Browns having taken Baker Mayfield with the No. 1 selection. Ward has made the Pro Bowl in two of his first four seasons.
--Meanwhile, the Browns revealed to Sports Illustrated that the NFL is investigating them for allegations of tanking.
The probe has been going on for more than two months, with the league looking into the situation since early February when Hue Jackson insinuated that he was being incentivized to tank while coaching the Browns. In 2016, the Browns went 1-15, and then in 2017, they were 0-16.
The Browns believe they are innocent, noting in a statement that “Hue recanted his allegations a short time after they were made.” Cleveland said it was nonetheless important “to us and to the integrity of the game to have an independent review of the allegations.”
The Rangers have recorded three straight shutouts for the first time since 1972-73 (Ed Giacomin and Gilles Villemure the goaltenders back then), the latest a 3-0 win over Winnipeg on Tuesday.
It was also New York’s 50th win of the season and it pulled them even with Carolina in the Metropolitan division at 106 points, both with five games to play, including next Tuesday’s matchup at the Garden.
--Liverpool went up top in the Premier League, Tuesday, with a 4-0 win over Manchester United, after defeating United 5-0 back in October.
With the games dwindling down to a precious few….
1. Liverpool… 32 – 76
2. Man City…31 - 74
--Kyle Busch won NASCAR’s Sunday night dirt race at Bristol Motor Speedway (Bristol, TN), his first win of the Cup season, win No. 60 in his career, 9th all-time.
The race was literally a mess, delayed twice by rain, over four hours in length, and the first NASCAR race on Easter Sunday since 1989. The sport was hoping to gain a big TV audience, with families gathered together, but I’m not sure it worked out that way.
[Actually, I might be wrong…preliminary numbers that I saw Tuesday said the race was up 28 percent over last year’s Bristol dirt race, with NASCAR viewership on Fox up 17 percent thus far in 2021, averaging 4.764 million through the first eight races.]
--The Boston Marathon returned to its traditional date on Monday, Patriots Day, the 126th running of it, the oldest marathon in the world, and the winner was Evans Chebet of Kenya on the men’s side, in 2:06.51. Second and third went to fellow Kenyans, Lawrence Cherono and Benson Kipruto. Cherono won the race in 2019, while Kipruto took the title last year.
For the women, another Kenyan, Peres Jepchirchir, won it in 2:21.02, edging out Ethiopian Abadel Yeshaneh.
The top American on the women’s side was Nell Rojas, who finished 10th in 2:25.57.
--The April-May issue of Smithsonian magazine has a piece on the amazing recovery of the bald eagle and since 1972, fostered by the Clean Water Act and the banning of DDT, as well as the creation of the Endangered Species Act, the population has risen 200-fold to generally over 300,000 in the contiguous U.S. – equivalent to the estimated number in the 18th century.
[The population is fluctuating more these days because warmer winters of late have deterred bald eagles in Canada from flying south, so they miss the annual Christmas census.]
Next Bar Chat, Sunday p.m.
Add-On up top by noon, Wed.
[Posted prior to late baseball and NBA playoffs]
NBA Quiz: OK, you have to be old as dirt to have a shot at this, but with the recent death of coach Gene Shue, how many of the 8-man rotation for the 1970-71 Baltimore Bullets can you name? [This is the team that was swept by Milwaukee in the finals, the Bucks led by Kareem, Oscar Robertson and Bob Dandridge.] Answer below.
--The Hawks beat the Hornets 132-103 on Wednesday in the 9-10 play-in game to get the opportunity to play Cleveland, which had lost their play-in game to the Nets on Tuesday, and the Hawks prevailed 107-101 to earn the Eastern Conference’s No. 8 playoff seed.
Trae Young put on a helluva show, Friday, with 32 of his 38 points in the second half to overcome center Clint Capela’s knee injury.
So now it’s Atlanta and No. 1 seed Miami. The Hawks were the surprising conference finalists a year ago, but Capela, a vital cog, hyperextended his right knee.
--In the Western Conference play-in games, the Clippers took on the Pelicans for the 8-seed, after the T’Wolves had defeated Los Angeles in the 7-8 game Tuesday and New Orleans beat San Antonio in the 9-10.
But Thursday Clippers star Paul George didn’t feel well and learned he had tested positive for Covid, so he was ineligible for the game Friday night (after scoring 34 against Minnesota on Tuesday).
That was too much for the Clippers to overcome and New Orleans won, 105-101. Just a real tough break for L.A., the city without either of its two teams in the playoffs.
So it was on to the real stuff….all best of seven…
Utah beat Dallas 99-93, as Luka Doncic sat out with his calf injury. No word if he’ll be available for Monday’s game.
Minnesota stayed hot, taking out the favored Grizzlies in their Game One, 130-117, Anthony Edwards with 36.
Philadelphia opened with a resounding 131-111 win over Toronto, Tyrese Maxey with a spectacular career-best 38 points, 21 in the third quarter.
And Golden State defeated Denver 123-107. Steph Curry returned, but came off the bench after being out a month with a strained ligament in his left foot. So his replacement, Jordan Poole, poured in 30.
Miami blew out Atlanta 115-91, as Trae Young was a hideous 1-12 (0-7 from three) for the Hawks, while key cog Bogdan Bogdanovic went 0-8 (0-4).
For the Heat, Duncan Robinson was unconscious, 27 points in 23 points off the bench, 9-10 (8-9).
The Nets were in Boston and after one, it was 29-28, Boston, with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving going 1-8, and that didn’t bode well.
I did not watch a minute of this one, not out of lack of interest, just all about Mets and then golf, and Jayson Tatum’s layup at the buzzer gave the Celtics what was obviously a stirring 115-114 win…Kyrie with 39, but Durant with a ‘poor’ 24, from the box score, while Boston’s starting five had four with 20+ points.
This will be intense and should go at least six.
--In college hoops, I was kind of stunned that North Carolina star Armando Bacot announced he is staying in school for his senior season.
“I’m back,” he said Wednesday in a statement from the Tar Heels.
I’ve been trying to figure out just how high Bacot would have gone in the NBA Draft this spring, after a spectacular junior campaign, 16.3 points per game, 13.1 rebounds, because I just had a hard time seeing how he fit in. He’s very one dimensional, but then a lot of NBA players carve out long careers being that way.
Anyway, should Bacot stay healthy, he’s made a brilliant move. He’ll get even better, stronger, more agile, and put himself in next year’s top five.
Coach Hubert Davis said in a statement:
“Armando is the perfect example of what a Carolina player strives to be. He has excelled at the highest level as a player, in the classroom and in the community. I loved hearing the news yesterday that he made the Academic All-ACC team after the season he had, which wasn’t just good, and not just great, it was historic. I felt he was the best player in the ACC [Wake’s Alondes Williams edged him out] and the best big man in the country.
“He’s coming back for his senior season for several reasons. One, he loves this place. Two, he has the desire to win a national championship. Getting to the final game and getting so close lit a fire inside of him to achieve that goal more than ever. He feels he can still get better and improve on parts of his game to put himself in a position to have a long and successful NBA career. And he feels this is the best place for him to do that. He loves his teammates, this university and his community, and we love him.”
As much as this hurts my Wake Forest Demon Deacons, having Bacot to go up against another few times, I will root for the guy to stay healthy and have a real good season, while praying his teammates blow. [The editor typed with a smile.]
--The Mets got off to a 6-2 start entering Saturday’s game against the lowly Diamondbacks. As all baseball fans know, if you want to get to the postseason, you have to beat up on the bottom rung and play around .500 ball vs. the better clubs. It’s kind of a simple formula, proved over the years. And in the Mets’ case, they opened the season with the Nationals (3 of 4) and the D’Backs, with a trip to Philadelphia sandwiched in between and they took 2 of 3 against Philly who looks to be tough all year.
The Mets then staged their home opener against Arizona on Friday, unveiling a spectacular statue of Tom Seaver outside Citi Field in the process, and blasted the D’Backs 10-3, Chris Bassitt with six strong for the Metropolitans, the bats producing four home runs.
But they stumbled Saturday, a lazy 3-2 loss, despite Carlos Carasco’s five scoreless, the Mets starting staff after nine games pitching to a 1.17 ERA!
So now, to keep the ‘beating up on the bad clubs’ mantra alive, they needed to bounce back today.
And they do, a kind of bizarre 5-0 triumph (the Mets scoring late in partially unconventional fashion), fill-in starter David Peterson with 4 1/3 scoreless, the Mets’ starters now with an ERA of 1.07.
Speaking of the Mets’ starting rotation, our crack staff here at Bar Chat can safely say that Chris Bassitt (2-0, 0.75), Max Scherzer (2-0, 3.27) and Tylor Megill (2-0, 0.00) are going to go a combined 77-4 for the year. Baseball fans 100 years from now will be talking about this. [Assuming the sport is still around…and that Vlad the Impaler doesn’t go all ICBM on us.]
--The immensely boring Yankees moved to 5-4 with a 5-2 win over Baltimore Saturday night. Its just the same old, same old…wait around for a home run, otherwise, they never really ‘build’ runs. Aaron Judge is hitting .281 with one home run, one RBI. Yes, we’re going to follow him game-by-game….he asked for it. If you are a fan of his, and the team, of course you want him to prove management wrong…for turning down a 7-year, $213 million deal. But I kind of want him to fall flat on his face, and I liked the guy.
Last Wednesday, in a 6-4 Yankees loss to Toronto at the Stadium, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. had a rather impressive game. The 23-year-old, in going 4-for-4, three home runs and a double, became the fourth youngest NL/AL player since 1901 with 14 total bases in a game, Mel Ott the youngest as a 21-year-old with the New York Giants in 1930.
I watched this one because I wanted to see Gerrit Cole suck, and he did, giving up two of Vlad’s home runs, 5 2/3, 3 earned, his two-start ERA at 5.59.
Vlad’s blasts were a thing of vicious beauty.
Well the Yanks are 5-5, after a 5-0 loss to the Orioles (3-6) this afternoon, blowing starter Nestor Cortes’ 5 scoreless innings, 12 strikeouts, but 88 pitches. Judge was 0-3, average at .257.
Cortes had an “immaculate inning” in the fourth…three Ks on nine pitches.
--Yesterday, Reds 22-year-old rookie Hunter Greene made his second start and went 5 1/3, giving up 2 earned, while striking out six, but the Reds lost to the Dodgers and Julio Urias, 5-2. Greene was taken out after 80 pitches.
The thing that made this noteworthy was that the former Sherman Oaks Notre Dame High star reached or exceeded 100 mph on 39 of those 80, easily surpassing the record of 33 100-mph-plus pitches set by Jacob deGrom last June. [Shortly thereafter, deGrom’s season was over.]
But once Greene’s four-seam fastball dipped under 100, the Dodgers drilled it, including Trea Turner’s home run on a 98.9 mph pitch for the 2-0 lead. [Turner’s hitting streak is now 27 games.]
Back on 6/15/2017 in this space I wrote:
“In the MLB draft on Monday, Sports Illustrated cover boy, Hunter Greene, the pitcher-shortstop compared to LeBron James and Babe Ruth because of his multiple skills, was selected second by Cincinnati. As I noted when the story came out, Greene, an African-American, seems like a great kid who recognizes how any success he has can help draw more blacks into a sport that badly needs them.”
So we wish the kid well. Just not against the Mets.
[Greene batted .204 in the minors in limited plate appearances, 10-for-49, and I doubt there are any thoughts of playing him both ways, a la Ohtani.]
--Speaking of which, Ohtani, after a slow start at the plate, hit his third home run in two games Saturday as the Angels moved to 5-4 with a 7-2 win over Texas (2-6) in Arlington, Noah Syndergaard moving to 2-0 for L.A. with 6 innings, 2 earned.
On the mound, Ohtani was hit hard Thursday in a 10-5 loss to the Rangers, giving up six runs on six hits over 3 2/3. He is off to an 0-2 start on the mound, though he was effective in his first outing, 4 1/3, one run.
Meanwhile, Mike Trout is off to a .250 start, 2 homers, 2 RBI.
But…today, Trout got hit by a pitch on his left hand, although X-rays came back negative. We pray this is right. Another extended IL appearance by the game’s best player would be incredibly depressing.
It’s official….I will be an Angels supporter this year just because the combo of Trout and Ohtani need to be in the postseason….for the good of the game.
--Twins outfielder Byron Buxton was on many folks’ preseason lists as league MVP, Buxton with a spectacular 61 games last season in Minnesota, cut short by injury. In 235 at-bats, 23 doubles, 19 homers, 50 runs, a 1.005 OPS.
But Buxton can just never stay healthy, otherwise he’s a 40-30 candidate (40 home runs, 30 stolen bases) and he plays a superb center field. He’s an amazing athlete.
So after starting off this season with three home runs early, he suffered what appeared to be severe right knee injury Friday night. It seems, however, that the Twins, who signed him to a 7-yeare, $100 million extension in the offseason, can exhale as an MRI revealed no structural damage and he remains with the team, hopefully playing sometime next week. Baseball needs talents like this.
--Thursday, Clayton Kershaw threw seven perfect innings in very chilly (38-44 degrees) Minnesota, up 7-0, having thrown 80 pitches, striking out 13, when he was taken out by manager Dave Roberts.
Many were in an uproar, including a lot of former players and Hall of Famers, and as I was watching the Mets game being played at the time, announcer Gary Cohen was among those questioning why Kershaw was taken out, and I’m thinking, ‘You kidding me?’
Reggie Jackson tweeted, “What’s the game coming to?”
We had a shortened spring training, I was surprised Kershaw was even on the mound this early in the season, because he had nagging issues in camp, plus he has had non-stop back problems, and it’s 40 degrees…like I totally got it. It was his first start, for crying out loud.
Yes, he would have become just the 24th pitcher in baseball history to throw a perfect game, maybe, but the guy hasn’t made 30 starts since 2015, he made only 22 last season (missing the final six weeks of the season with shoulder and elbow issues), and you’re trying to keep the future first ballot Hall of Famer healthy for what is probably his last season healthy for October.
After the game, Kershaw told reporters, “Bigger things, man. Bigger things.”
Kershaw said the morning after, in an interview with USA TODAY’s Bob Nightengale, “The only thing I feel bad for is if I was a fan, I would want to see somebody finish the game. …If I was bringing my son to the game and there was a perfect game going on? That’s why you come to the games, to see something special. So, from a fan’s perspective, I get it. I do feel bad for that. It’s tough to swallow.
“I wish I could have done it.
“But [Wednesday] wasn’t the day.”
When asked if he would have definitely risked serious injury by pitching a perfect game, throwing at least 110 pitches, Kershaw said:
“I could have thrown nine innings and been fine for the rest of the season. I could have thrown two innings and be hurt the next day. Nobody knows.
“But in the moment, it felt like that was the right call for my personal health, the best interests of the team, and me being ready in October.
“It all seemed like the right call at the time.”
Dave Roberts knew it was the right move, and said he couldn’t have lived with himself if Kershaw wound up with arm problems by letting him try for the perfect game.
Look, there are lots of times when I’m frustrated when a starter isn’t stretched out more, especially in mid-season, but not this time.
Roberts was right: “We all want the great players to do great things. But there’s a cost to everything and I wasn’t willing, and Clayton wasn’t willing, to take on that cost.”
--Speaking of aging veterans, Justin Verlander, who had one total appearance in 2020-21 after being shelved with Tommy John surgery, is 1-1, 0.69, in his first two starts with Houston, 8 shutout innings in a 4-0 win over Seattle last night. Verlander struck out 8, walked none.
--A Good Guy shout out to Milwaukee starter Corbin Burnes. He threw seven scoreless on Wednesday as the Brewers beat the Orioles 4-2 in Baltimore, though he ended up with a no-decision.
However, in the middle of the start, those attending the Brewers Eve Bash Leff’s Lucky Town in Wauwatosa, WI, were informed that the 2021 Cy Young Award winner would be picking up the tab.
Milwaukee’s home opener was the next day, Thursday, but Barnes provided a surprise open bar to a large group of Brew Crew backers. Shades of the late Rod Beck, who was known to do stuff like this.
Seriously, check out Leff’s Lucky Town’s menu (just Google the place). This is simply the best bar and grill lineup I’ve ever seen. Makes me want to take an apartment above the joint and wash dishes there for free food.
--The Draft is just ten days away, April 28 for the first round, and the excitement is building for Jets and Giants fans, the two teams owning four of the top ten. It doesn’t seem as if either is going to be packaging the picks in a trade. I hope my Jets don’t.
--The situation surrounding Baker Mayfield remains a mystery. No one seems to be interested. Mayfield apparently thinks the Seahawks may want him, but some folks feel otherwise.
Then there was talk the Panthers could trade for him rather than selecting a quarterback in the first round, but that appears to be going nowhere and wide receiver Robby Anderson said he doesn’t want Mayfield.
--Any thoughts of Mayfield going to Las Vegas were squelched with the signing of incumbent QB Derek Carr to a 3-year, $121.5 million extension that keeps him in Vegas until 2025. The deal also includes a no-trade clause.
--One of hockey’s greats, Hall of Famer Mike Bossy, died Thursday night in his native Montreal, the cause lung cancer.
Bossy is 22nd on the NHL’s all-time goal-scoring list at 573, but that’s deceiving. He retired after ten seasons with the Islanders (1977-87) at the age of 30 due to back issues, and his first nine seasons he scored 50+, the league’s longest streak, twice leading the league with 69 and 68. He and Wayne Gretzky are the only players in hockey history with nine 50-goal seasons. [Alex Ovechkin has eight.]
Bossy was also one of only five players to score 50 goals in 50 games.
And Bossy was the scoring leader (along with Bryan Trottier) on the Islanders incredible 4-year run, four Stanley Cups, 1980-83, scoring 10, 17, 17 and 17 goals in the playoffs those four years. He had 44 career hat tricks, including five in the playoffs.
Actually, while he’s 22nd in goals scored, consider he is third all-time in regular season hat tricks…his 39 only behind Wayne Gretzky’s 50 and Mario Lemieux’s 40. [Brett Hull is next, way down at 33.]
Rangers fans respected Bossy, for sure, but we lost to the Isles in the playoffs the last three years in that amazing Stanley Cup run. The games between our two teams were intense, to say the least.
Bossy had worked as an analyst for the French-language TVA sports in Canada, and back in October he told the network he needed to step away after being diagnosed with cancer.
It’s the third loss from that Islanders era this year after fellow Hall of Famer Clark Gillies died in January and Jean Potvin died in March.
“The New York Islanders organization mourns the loss of Mike Bossy, an icon not only on Long Island but the entire hockey world,” Islanders president and general manager Lou Lamoriello said in a statement. “His drive to be the best every time he stepped on the ice was second to none. Along with his teammates, he helped win four straight Stanley Cup championships, shaping the history of the franchise forever.”
--The RBC Heritage at Hilton Head, S.C., has always been the perfect tournament for the week after the high-pressure, media-intensive Masters experience. The course is also in total contrast to Augusta National and it’s like everyone can exhale.
It’s also just across the road from Augusta so you still get a lot of top players in the event when normally most of the big names take the week off after a major.
Granted, no Scottie Scheffler, but many of the others.
But entering the fourth round, it was about chasing the weather and trying to finish the event on time, or Monday morning.
And the weather cooperated.....
Harold Varner III -11…seeking his first tour win
Shane Lowry -10
Erik van Rooyen -10
Patrick Cantlay -10
4 tied at -9
4 tied at -8…including Billy Horschel, Tommy Fleetwood and Jordan Spieth.
It was going to be interesting to see how Spieth, after his incredible miss on a one-foot putt at No. 18 Saturday, would come out Sunday.
Well Jordan roared out of the gate, 4-under first five holes and had a share of the lead at -12 with Cam Davis, who shot an 8-under 63, and Wake Forest’s Cameron Young, who was 5-under after 9.
And then Shane Lowry was all alone at -14, but doubled the par-3 14th from off the green, putting it in the water on his second shot, and we had….
Sepp Straka -13…17
J.T. Poston -12…F
Van Rooyen -12…14
Straka, though, bogeyed 18, finishes -12.
Cantley, however, birdied 17 to go -13. Lowry missed a very makeable birdie on 17 to remain at -12. Varner goes to 18 -12.
Cantlay missed a makeable birdie on 18 for the win.
Varner and Lowry ended up in a massive group at -12, seven golfers divvying up the purse for third thru nine.
And in the first hole of the playoff, the par-4 18th, both Spieth and Cantlay put their second shots in the greenside bunker.
Spieth hits a brilliant shot, gets his par. Cantlay was plugged, had little chance, had a very lengthy putt to extend it, and didn’t.
Spieth with win No. 13…this is very good for the game.
I was worried Spieth’s wife would drop the baby.
--Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler missed the cut, Fowler’s struggles continuing. The sport is better if he’s playing well and it has to be immensely frustrating for the lad.
Another missing the cut was Morgan Hoffman, who garnered his share of attention after his journey battling muscular dystrophy with alternative medicine while living in Costa Rica.
Hoffmann, 32, and playing on a limited medical exemption that has him needing to play very well in just a few starts, said he intends to play the Wells Fargo in Maryland in three weeks and wants to knock out his two remaining PGA Tour starts as soon as he can in order to pursue other paths to getting his tour card.
Back in 2013-14, Hoffmann finished 26th in the FedEx Cup standings, but he has yet to win and hadn’t played on tour since 2019.
--Meanwhile, Greg Norman provided some details on the LIV Golf Invitational Series tournaments that are to begin in June. In an interview with SI.com/Morning Read’s Bob Harig, Norman said there will be a full field of 48 players when the series launches June 9-11 at the Centurion Club outside of London. The organization has put off its plans to have players join as a competing league to the PGA Tour and DP World Tour (the new name for the European Tour).
And the Shark stressed, “We will be doing it like this for the next two years.”
Eight events are scheduled for this year, seven of which will have $25 million purses, including a team portion that pays out $5 million. Individuals will compete for $20 million, with $4 million going to first place. Four of the eight tournaments are in the U.S., the first in July at Pumpkin Ridge outside of Portland.
Norman said he was inviting a number of top-ranked amateurs to participate, and for those who do not want to turn pro or have college eligibility left, LIV Golf is working on Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) deals that are prevalent in college sports.
As for the pros supposedly lined up to play, according to a report in The Telegraph, Bubba Watson, Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter and Kevin Na are expected to join.
“We’ve respected the Masters and let it go off, but now our journey is finally coming to fruition – for the players, not for me,” Norman told the newspaper. “Their rightful place to have what they want. That’s why they are still very, very, very interested. We have players signed, contrary to the white noise you’re hearing out there.
“The interest level we’ve had… well, I had a player who’s won a couple of major championships sitting in my very office here 48 hours ago.” No doubt, Bubba.
“Quite honestly, it doesn’t matter who plays, we’re going to put the event on,” he said. “There’s a $4 million first prize. I hope a kid who’s 350th in the world wins. It’ll change his life, his family’s life. And then a few of our events will go by and the top players will see someone winning $6 million, $8 million, and say ‘enough is enough, I know I can beat these guys week in week out with my hands tied behind my back.’”
Norman of course is lying between his teeth, as the Shark is wont to do.
Yes, there will be someone like Bubba go for it. Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood? Sure, and is there is a serious golf fan who gives a damn about these two? Kevin Na? Really?
I imagine one or two young guns will stupidly give it a go, like a Matthew Wolff, who is really messed up to begin with, including his game.
And there still is no word on a television contract. I mean Golf Channel wouldn’t possibly sign on for this and risk ruining their PGA Tour relationship…that’s kind of obvious.
When Norman makes his comment about some kid 350th on the list, the thought struck me that this is really no different than ‘reality television,’ and who ever gave a damn about who actually wins ‘Survivor,’ for example. Who actually watches ‘Survivor’?
Well, to be continued….
--One who isn’t likely to be playing in Norman’s first LIV event is Bryson DeChambeau, who is opting for surgery on his injured left hand, according to Bob Harig. DeChambeau has not publicly announced his surgery, but Harig quotes an owner of the Professional Long Drivers Association, which is hosting an event DeChambeau was originally supposed to participate in this week.
At the Masters, DeChambeau revealed he suffered a torn left hip labrum and a hairline fracutue in his left hand. According to DeChambeau the hip injury originally happened when he began his distance odyssey two years ago after slipping on concrete while he felt something “pop” in his hand last fall. Both injuries were aggravated at the Saudi International during a ping-pong match against Sergio Garcia and Joaquin Niemann.
“We were on some marble floors, and they just wiped it,” DeChambeau explained at Augusta National. “And me not paying attention, I ‘Charlie Brown’d’ myself and went horizontal and then hit my left hip and my hand at the same time, and that really just took me out.”
DeChambeau said it got to the point where he couldn’t even grip the golf club.
As previously said, doctors had advised DeChambeau to sit out four months, but instead he tried to make a run at the Masters, returning in less than two. He played poorly in the two events leading up to Augusta and then went 76-80 to miss the cut last week.
--Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson registered to play in the 122nd U.S. Open, which will be contested June 16-19 at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts.
All players were required to register by Wednesday if they had any intention of playing and Woods could easily back out if he didn’t think he was ready, or wanted to continue to get his body in shape for The Open Championship in July at St. Andrews. Tiger committed to a pro-am event in Ireland prior to The Open, a good sign. He also told Sky Sports after the Masters, “I won’t be playing a full schedule ever again. It’ll be just the big events,” in telling the network he was looking forward to St. Andrews. “That’s something that’s very near and dear to my heart.”
On the other hand, Mickelson’s registration was significant. He’s planning a comeback of sorts, though at 51 (52 on June 16), it’s not as if he is ever going to be a major factor on the regular tour. After his shocking PGA Championship win last year, he played like crap.
One other date to watch is this coming Friday, April 22. That is the deadline for registering for the PGA Championship, May 19-22. Again, for his part, Tiger could register but pull out later. Whether Phil does will tell us a lot. He could make his return at the Byron Nelson, the week before, in McKinney, Texas, as a warmup to the PGA at Southern Hills (Tulsa, OK) the following week. Just my guess.
--CBS’ Nick Faldo apologized the other day for ruining Rory McIlroy’s hole-out on No. 18 last Sunday at the Masters. Appearing on “The Dan Patrick Show,” Faldo called the slip-up a “rookie mistake.”
“I got caught up for that split second and I reacted. You’re right, I got it all wrong for a split second,” Faldo said.
McIlroy’s bunker shot was not shown live on CBS but the roar could be heard over the telecast. Faldo said he didn’t want to spoil the outcome but that “something incredible has just happened.”
--Golfer Jack Newton died. He was 72. The Aussie won the Buick Open in 1978 and the Australian Open in 1979 and three tournaments in Europe before his career – and nearly his life – ended when he walked into the propeller of a small plane he was about to board at Sydney airport on July 24, 1983.
Newton’s right arm was severed, he lost sight in his right eye and also sustained severe injuries to his abdomen. Miraculously, he survived after two months in intensive care and then lengthy rehabilitation.
“Things weren’t looking too good for me. I knew that from the priest walking around my (hospital) bed,” Newton said later. He was 33 at the time of the accident.
But Newton is also remembered for losing a playoff to Tom Watson in the 1975 British Open, and a T2 behind Seve Ballesteros at the 1980 Masters.
Newton went on to become a popular television, radio and newspaper golf commentator in Australia, raising hundreds of thousands for Aussie junior golf.
--Saturday, Tottenham had a chance to solidify its top four position and instead suffered a devasting 1-0 loss to Brighton at home, giving up a goal by Leandro Trossard at the 90-minute mark. The dreadful effort by the Spurs (I watched half of it) came after a run of terrific offense, filled with 4- and 5-goal games that had propelled them into the last Champions League position.
But then Arsenal lost its third in a row, 1-0 to Southampton, so Tottenham is hanging on to fourth.
Manchester United defeated Norwich 3-2 to suddenly get right back in the hunt, as Cristiano Ronaldo once again turned back the clock with his second hat trick in three Premier League games.
At 15 goals on the season, Ronaldo now just trails Tottenham’s Son Heung-min and Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah in the goal scoring race.
So the standings…Played (of 38) – Points
1. Man City…31 – 74
2. Liverpool…31 – 73 …plays United on Tuesday
3. Chelsea…30 – 62
4. Tottenham…32 – 57
5. Man U…32 – 54
6. Arsenal…31 – 54
17. Everton…30 – 28
18. Burnley…31 – 25*
Burnley missed a huge opportunity today at West Ham, settling for a point, 1-1, after being up 1-0 late.
--In the Champions League, Wednesday….
Man City advanced 1-0 on aggregate after a tough second-leg draw with Atletico, City now facing Real Madrid in one semifinal, the two teams in a bit of a fight in the tunnel after following some incredibly dirty play by Atletico.
Liverpool defeated Benfica 6-4 on aggregate after a pulsating 3-3 second-leg draw. The Reds now face Villareal in the other semi.
--In the FA Cup semis, Saturday, Liverpool raced off to a 3-0 lead over Man City, and then had to hold off a rally at the end, winning 3-2 and advancing to the final vs. Chelsea, 2-0 winners over Crystal Palace today in the other semi.
Liverpool thus has a chance at an unprecedented quadruple. They won the Carabao Cup, are in the FA Cup final, the Champions League last four, and a point back in the Premier League.
--The incredibly overrated panda had a celebration of sorts at the Washington National Zoo on Saturday as giant panda mama Mei Xiang and her cub Xiao Qi Ji were given a “cake” made from frozen fruit juice, sweet potatoes, carrots and sugar cane. Way too much time was spent coming up with this.
The zoo was celebrating 50 years of its iconic panda exchange agreement with the Chinese government.
Xiang Qi Ji’s father, Tian Tian, sat in a neighboring enclosure, munching on bamboo.
Pandas are almost entirely solitary by nature, and in the wild Tian Tian would probably never even meet his child, thus solidifying the All-Species List’s designation of the panda as ‘assholes.’
For this and many other reasons, Panda, No. 248 on the ASL, will never sniff the top 100, let alone top 10.
But details on the 1972 agreement sparked by President Nixon’s landmark visit to China that brought about the panda exchange will be part of a new All-Species List, which I promise by end of the month.
No. 1 on the ASL, ‘Dog,’ did receive a $48 fine for first-dog Major’s poor behavior, as recently chronicled by the New York Post and that other column I do.
Top 3 songs for the week 4/20/74: #1 “TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia)” (MFSB featuring the Three Degrees…uh oh, Disco is here…) #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) #10 “I’ll Have To Say I Love You In A Song” (Jim Croce…C- week…)
NBA Quiz Answer: 1970-71 Baltimore Bullets…Wes Unseld (14.1 ppg, 16.9 reb), Gus Johnson 18.2 ppg, 17.1 reb)*, Earl Monroe (21.4 ppg), Jack Marin (18.8 ppg), Kevin Loughery (15.1 ppg), Fred Carter (10.4), Eddie Miles (9.9), John Tresvant (7.6).
*Wilt Chamberlain led the NBA in rebounding that season at 18.2. He would lead the league his next two, and final, seasons at 19.2 and 18.6. Now that’s finishing out on top…a stud…as guys shake their head in affirmation at the thought of Wilt and that last word.
Knicks fans loved the games against the Bullets back in those days…highly entertaining, competitive. The Bullets beat the defending champion Knicks in seven in the semifinals that season.
Earl “the Pearl” was traded to the Knicks early in the 1971-72 season for Mike Riordan and Dave Stallworth.
Add-On up top by noon, Wed.