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USA...in a rout....in the Ryder Cup
Add-On, posted early Wed. a.m.
--Entering play Tuesday night, the Yankees at Toronto, and Boston at Baltimore, along with Oakland at Seattle, we had the following Wild Card standings….
Red Sox 88-68…--
Blue Jays 87-69…1
The Mariners essentially stuck a fork in the A’s hopes with a 13-4 win Monday night in Seattle, while the AL East teams were off.
But Sunday night, after I posted, the Yanks had another dramatic win, 6-3 over the Red Sox as Giancarlo Stanton had yet another titanic blast in the eighth inning, part of a 4-run rally to make it 6-3 after the Yanks had yielded the lead in the bottom of the seventh on a couple of errors.
So then Tuesday, Stanton did it again, a key 3-run homer in the seventh, Aaron Judge with a 2-run shot, and the Yankees beat the Blue Jays 7-2, while the Red Sox, and Chris Sale, were falling to the Orioles 4-2.
Coupled with the Mariners’ 4-2 win over the A’s, we now had the following in the wild card race.
Red Sox 88-69…--
Blue Jays 87-70…1
Stanton has homered in four consecutive, crucial games with 13 RBIs!
--The Dodgers, with a 3-0 defeat of the Diamondbacks Sunday improved to 100-56, but were still two back of the Giants (102-54). Nonetheless, their ninth 100-win season in franchise history.
And then both the Dodgers and Giants won again Tuesday. Still a 2-game margin.
For the Dodgers in a 2-1 win over the Padres, importantly, Walker Buehler returned to form throwing seven innings of shutout ball to improve to 15-4, 2.49.
--As for the incredible Cardinals, they beat the Brewers 6-2, Tuesday, for win no. 17 in a row, extending their franchise record and clinching the second wild-card spot.
Adam Wainwright went six innings for the win and is now 17-7, 3.05. Gotta believe he’s the Cards’ pick to start against the Dodgers.
--Meanwhile, notice how little I’ve written of the Mets recently. Can you believe they entered play Tuesday at 73-82. The season just went pfffff. Incredibly disappointing. Literally only about 3 or 4 players had a season worth a damn.
Emblematic of the second-half disaster was pitcher Carlos Carrasco, who had been out all season until July 30 with a torn right hamstring, and then in his eleven starts the rest of the way, has pitched to a 14.73 first-inning ERA!
But they won a doubleheader yesterday over the Marlins at Citi Field, 5-2, 2-1, and in the nightcap, Noah Syndergaard threw the opening inning, ten pitches, two strikeouts. It was his first appearance in two years after Tommy John surgery and a few further setbacks. He’s a free agent…this was a critical moment for him, and the Mets as they weigh what to do with this troubling roster in the offseason.
Final thoughts on the Massacre at Whistling Straits.
Collin Morikawa, speaking to NBC after his halved match with Viktor Hovland provided the clinching half-point in the 19-9 ass-whupping of the Euros, said, “I don’t think this is just a win. I think this is a dominant win.”
Yup, it sure was and the message was sent. Look out the next 16-20 years. The core of the U.S. squad is going to be around a long time.
No Phil Mickelson. No Tiger Woods…for the first time since 1995 that neither was on the squad.
“I think it’s a different group of guys,” said Brooks Koepka. “Just a lot more fun than years past.”
And consider the six rookies – Schauffele, Cantlay, Scheffler, Morikawa, English and Berger – went a combined 14-4-3.
Coupled with Bryson DeChambeau, Jordan Spieth, and Justin Thomas, that’s a helluva future squad, that will in all likelihood include Will Zalatoris, who plays with the look of a Ryder Cup leader, and maybe talented Matthew Wolff. And Patrick Reed is only 31.
Here’s an interesting factoid, courtesy of the Washington Post’s Barry Svrluga.
Experience isn’t the advantage it’s cranked up to be. “Between 2002 and 2018, U.S. captains tapped 35 rookies to play alongside 73 veterans.
“The rookies’ record, over the entirety of that time: 50-47-26. The record of the Americans who have been there before: 97-136-39.
“The rookies weren’t the problem. They were the solution.”
Patrick Cantlay: “This is going to be the next era of the Ryder Cup team for the U.S. side. We have a lot of young guys and I think they are going to be on teams for a long time. We sent out rookies in four out of the first five matches (Sunday). That’s unheard of. Everybody gets along. The atmosphere is light, but I know everyone has that killer instinct and we are going to bring that to future Ryder Cups.”
Added DeChambeau: “This is a start to a new generation. I think we are going to be doing some incredible things moving forward.”
The disappointment for Europe was expressed in Rory McIlroy’s tearful comments after it was all over.
“I love being part of this. I love this team and I love my teammates so much,” McIlroy said. “I should have done more for the team. I’m glad I put a point on the board, but I wish I could have done more. I can’t wait to get another crack at this.”
The next Ryder Cup is in 2023 near Rome. And McIlroy said Europe will be facing a fierce challenge in Italy and beyond.
“There’s phenomenal talent on that team. A lot of young guys, and I think the most important thing for the U.S. team is a lot of young guys that are great players have bought into the Ryder Cup,” he said. “I think that was probably missing in previous generations. But guys like Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, you know, the sort of heartbeat of that U.S. Team, they really bought into the team aspect of Ryder Cups, President Cups.
“And having guys like that on the team, yeah, they are going to be formidable opposition from now until I’m probably not playing Ryder Cups, whenever that is, in hopefully 20 years’ time.”
Eamon Lynch / Golfweek
[Lynch writes this before Sunday’s singles, the final result being inevitable.]
“A consequence of runaway victories in the Ryder Cup is that the post-mortem commences before the deceased has officially even hit the slab, and so it is with the European team….
“The social media second-guessing was underway by the end of the first session – which shared a demoralizing symmetry with the two that followed it: USA 3, Europe 1 – and built as steadily as the afternoon breeze off Lake Michigan. Even that roomy scoreline might have suggested matters were more competitive than they actually were.
“Predictably, criticism has centered on decisions made in combat by Captain Padraig Harrington.
“Why bust up Friday morning’s only winning team (Sergio Garcia and Jon Rahm)?
“Why send out Lee Westwood and Matt Fitzpatrick in Saturday’s Foursomes when they produced just a single birdie in that same format on Friday?
“Why Ian Poulter, his worst ball-striker, for alternate shot, a format in which his struggles would also doom his partner?
“Why sit Shane Lowry, who brought an inspiring, fiery intensity to Saturday’s Four-Ball, for two of the first four sessions?
“One cynical fan even wondered why Harrington invested so much of the continent’s hopes in players from a nation that had left the European Union – the six English team members had, through three sessions, combined for just two half-points in eight matches.
“While dissenters criticized, loyalists rationalized. As Europe fell ever farther adrift, complaints grew about loud-mouthed, abusive fans. There were some (there always are), but the lopsided score in favor of the home team robbed their bellowing of the usual nastiness.
“There were suggestions that the absence of European fans due to the pandemic travel ban was highly impactful – a sleight of speech that ignores one salient fact: had the entire gallery been from Europe, they would still have had nothing to cheer about. There’s not much reason to whoop if your team is finding the center of the clubface as often as a blind man does a black cat in a dark room.
“There’s actually a reasonable argument that the seeds of Europe’s struggle were sown more than two years ago, and allowed to take root during the Covid chaos.
“In May of 2019, the European Tour’s tournament committee ratified Harrington’s request to reduce his number of captain’s picks from four to three. Later, as the qualification process for both teams was compromised by schedule changes forced by the pandemic, the captains took differing tacks. Steve Stricker got six captain’s picks instead of the usual four, half of his team. Harrington could have pushed for more picks too, but opted against, despite the European Tour schedule being more ravaged than its U.S. counterpart.
“He believes forcing guys to qualify is preferable, and that being picked creates more pressure. A defensible outlook, sure, but an optimistic one when a pandemic is upending the schedule and limiting the amount of travel and starts being made by players. In the end, Harrington’s picks have arguably been less disappointing than his automatic qualifiers, particularly those who occupied the final two spots on that list.
“Westwood made the team thanks to three second-place finishes (in Dubai to end 2020, and back-to-back weeks in March at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and The Players Championship). In 14 events since, he has one top-20 finish, and that was a T-18. Fitzpatrick won that event in Dubai nine months ago, but has had only one impressive finish since April.
“Would they be here if Harrington had fewer automatics and more picks? Possibly. After all, his options were slender. Justin Rose is in middling form. Victor Perez the same, and untested. It’s barely an exaggeration to say Europe’s non-playing vice captains had more merit than some in its starting lineup.
“Harrington has all the attributes one expects in a worthy Ryder Cup captain: an impeccable playing career that brought him three major titles, deep experience in this team competition, the unqualified respect of his players, and a (sometimes manic) attention to detail. Those are traits that often lead to a winning captaincy. Unfortunately, he also has a so-so squad that arrived in beggarly form and that is for the most part performing poorly. That almost guarantees a losing captaincy….
“For 20 years, American players have heard how they need to be more like the Europeans if they want to own the Ryder Cup again. Regardless of what happens Sunday, that existential crisis is now firmly Europe’s to ponder. They have two years to figure out the generation of players who will build a new empire. Because the old one is over.”
Lastly, all are in agreement. Whistling Straits was spectacular, putting to shame past parkland venues both in the U.S. and Europe.
Sadly, looking at future venues, thru 2037, no Whistling Straits.
And I’ve already told you, the next venue in Europe, 2023, outside of Rome, is absolutely hideous. It will be laughed at, in comparison.
A very good week of games coming up, starting with an intriguing matchup in College Park, Maryland, Friday night, as the 4-0 Terrapins host 5 Iowa. How good is Maryland? I’ll say they get the upset.
Then noon, Saturday, the real fun begins. 8 Arkansas at 2 Georgia, followed at 2:30 by 7 Cincinnati at 9 Notre Dame, and at 3:30, 12 Ole Miss at 1 Alabama.
Don’t bother me from noon to 7:30.
But in the evening we have some important contests….21 Baylor at 19 Oklahoma State, both undefeated; Indiana at 4 Penn State; and Boston College at 25 Clemson.
Plus, can 24 Wake Forest get the job done at home against 3-1 Louisville to stay undefeated?
--How despondent are Jets and Giants fans these days? You should have heard the chatter on New York sports radio Monday morning, following another Sunday of twin disasters.
I mean consider this factoid. Since the 2017 season, New York area football fans have been treated to the two worst teams in football! Both 18-49.
What did we do to deserve this crapola, as Archie Bunker would have called it.
I didn’t know it when I posted early Sunday evening, but the Jets became the third NFL team to lose a dozen consecutive games in September, joining the 1994-97 Saints and the 2007-10 Rams, who hold the record with 13 consecutive losses in the month.
The Jets have scored just 20 points in their three losses.
Brian Fonseca / NJ.com
“Call them the Same Old Jets all you want, but the truth is they keep finding new ways to sink further into embarrassing depths….
“The defeat drops the Jets to 0-3 for the third consecutive season, the first such stretch in franchise history.
“Not only are they losing, they’re not even competing; for the second consecutive season, the Jets have never led through their three games, putting them side-by-side with the early-200s Cincinnati Bengals among the league’s all-time punching bags. Other than a few fleeting moments in Charlotte, they never looked close to matching up with any of their opponents.
“Losing is not new for the Jets, who are now 30-60 since their last winning season in 2015, but they are not showing any signs of reversing this continuously-worsening trend.
“Yes, they are at the ground floor of a rebuild with a first-year head coach and rookie quarterback, but it’s not like they’re the first such group in NFL history. At least the Jacksonville Jaguars looked competitive on Sunday.
“The Robert Salah-Zach Wilson era is not doomed by any means, but their first season together is essentially over. Worse than that, there does not seem to be many things to build off of for the seasons ahead.”
Meanwhile, Zach Wilson has been sacked a league-leading 15 times through three games. He simply won’t survive at this rate. Just as in the case with the Giants, the offensive line is atrocious, and wasn’t helped in Week One with the loss of tackle Mekhi Becton for up to six weeks.
As for the Giants….
Steve Serby / New York Post
“You could see Eli Manning pushing his hands down attempting to hush the boos that came raining from the stands as John Mara spoke on the makeshift podium in the middle of MetLife Stadium.
“The jeers turned quickly to cheers and a standing ovation when Mara got out of the way for Manning on the day The Pride of the Giants had his No. 10 jersey retired.
“By the end of Falcons 17, Giants 14, you would have been hard-pressed to find a Giants fan who wouldn’t have signed a petition to have the numbers of virtually every Giant retired, and certainly every Giant on defense, and of course, GM Dave Gettleman, who was joined on this day by Evan Engram, who lost a fumble in his season debut and was cheered once later on when he trotted to the sideline.
“Shame on these Giants. These 0-3 Giants.
“It might be a good idea for the Giants to summon Eli back to the field at every opportunity when things go wrong, because things go wrong with these Giants at every opportunity. And maybe instead of the Eli bobbleheads they handed out on Sunday, an Eli Manning Muzzle specially designed to discourage the boo birds might be an option to consider for the marketing people.
“It is damning commentary on the players and the organization that they could not summon enough pride to make a stand in their house and win a damn game, for him, for themselves and for their disconsolate, disenchanted fans who are sick and tired of being sick and tired.
“Giants teams of yesteryear – it feels like an eternity ago – would have turned this into a homecoming game against a team practically begging to leave town 0-3.”
--Sunday night in Santa Clara, Calif., the Packers (2-1) blew an early 17-0 lead and trailed the 49ers (2-1) 28-27, with only 0:37 left on the clock, after Jimmy Garoppolo engineered a late 75-yard drive to go ahead on a 12-yard touchdown pass to fullback Kyle Juszczyk.
But Green Bay has Aaron Rodgers, and he quickly connected twice with Davante Adams (12 receptions, 132 yards and a TD on the night), and Mason Crosby made a 51-yard field goal as time expired…Packers 30, 49ers 28.
--Monday night, the Cowboys improved to 2-1 with a dominating 41-21 win at home over the Eagles (1-2), Dak Prescott with a fine evening, 21/26, 238, 3-0, 143.3; running back Ezekiel Elliott with his best effort of the young campaign, 17 carries for 95 yards and two scores. Lots of folks quickly hopping on the Cowboys’ bandwagon, especially with Prescott looking very good following his awful injury last fall.
--Last time I wondered how historically putrid the Bears’ 47 total yards on Sunday was as the Browns defense smothered Justin Fields and Co. 26-6.
Well, according to CBS Sports, the Bears had 1.1 yards per play (47 yards on 42 plays), which is the second-fewest by any team this century. [In 2004, the Browns averaged 0.6 yards a play in a 37-7 loss to the Bills.]
--Though an estimated 90% of NBA players are vaccinated, it isn’t mandatory the players get the shots while it is for all the staff. And now the staffers say they’re upset that players aren’t facing the same vaccine requirements as most team staff and referees.
“Everyone who is vaccinated should be pissed at those who aren’t,” a veteran assistant coach told ESPN’s Baxter Holmes, adding, “Not requiring NBA players to be vaccinated is horseshit.”
But, importantly, LeBron James made a big deal of it on Tuesday saying he initially felt “skepticism” regarding the Covid-19 vaccine but ultimately decided to get it for the well-being of himself, his family and his team.
“The ultimate goal is to obviously win a championship. And it starts with, obviously, health as the No. 1 thing. We’re excited to know that we’ve given ourselves another opportunity to be available to each other, and that’s what it came down to.”
But then there’s Brooklyn’s Kyrie Irving.
Sally Jenkins / Washington Post
“Kyrie Irving is too smart for you. He’s so smart, he can outwit germs and governments. He’s so smart, you can’t understand a word he’s saying. That’s how smart he is. His genius is utterly indecipherable to you and me, and while you may wish for some insight into the exquisite, diamond-chip workings of his multifaceted mind, you are not entitled to them because he prefers to keep them ‘private.’
“Irving is so smart that everything he says sounds like a mystery unless it’s a contradiction. ‘I’m a human being first,’ he said in refusing to share whether he is vaccinated against the coronavirus or to comment on whether he is anti-vaccine, as has been reported, a stance that could imperil other human beings because the vaccines reduce the chance of spread.
“Given that New York City requires vaccination for indoor events, including sports arenas, will Irving be vaccinated for the opening of the season? ‘There’s just a lot of questions about what’s going on in the world of Kyrie, but I would like to keep that private,’ Irving responded with a sense of his own unique and unquestionable importance. His remarks came via Zoom at the Brooklyn Nets’ media event Monday, presumably because he is unvaccinated and thus by law could not join the proceedings.
“ ‘Obviously I’m not able to be present there today,’ he said. ‘But that doesn’t mean I’m putting any limits on the future on my being able to join the team. And I just want to keep it that way.’
“I’m sorry – keep it which way? Present or non-present?
“Find the meaning in his sentences. You can’t do it. He’s just too smart for you – you can only try to glimpse him as he wanders through his own musing thoughts while you trail along like a child lost in a hedge maze.
“He’s a gentle philosopher king and a spiritual seeker who wants to leave a ‘service legacy on the Earth,’ he said. It isn’t only whimsical bluster; he has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the homeless and the hungry, to Native Americans and Black students, to social justice causes and international relief efforts. But he can’t seem to serve his own teammate LaMarcus Aldridge, who briefly retired last season with a heart condition, by getting a coronavirus jab. He adopts the air of a laureate as he talks flat-Earth theory. He once said he has never seen a ‘real’ picture of the globe and spoke of doing his ‘own research’ into the actual shape of the planet….
“You might ask yourself, in your dull and foolish way, if Irving is really so much smarter than everyone else – smarter than all the science that shows vaccinated people are less likely to breathe the virus hell on others? Or are these revealing statements of arrogance from someone whose condescension and self-regard are such that he would look at spray paint on a concrete wall and tell you he can read hieroglyphs if he thinks it will make him sound important?
“ ‘Those who claim they need to do ‘more research’ are simply announcing they have done no research,’ Abdul-Jabbar charges. Dimwit that Abdul-Jabbar is, it’s nevertheless a point – maybe the smartest anyone has made yet.”
--In a Champions League game last night in Paris, Lionel Messi put on a show, scoring for his new club, Paris Saint-Germain, on a magical play as PSG beat Manchester City in a highly-anticipated Champions League affair, 2-0.
--Simone Biles said she “should have quit way before Tokyo” rather than trying to power through the Summer Olympics.
In an interview with New York magazine, Biles revealed that the reasons she dropped out of most of her events were far more emotionally complex than a case of the “twisties,” the sudden loss of spatial awareness that is terrifying for a gymnast who is in the midst of a dangerous leap when it strikes. Even now, she says her recovery remains “a work in progress.”
“If you looked at everything I’ve gone through for the past seven years, I should have never made another Olympic team,” Biles said. “I should have quit before Tokyo, when Larry Nassar was in the media for two years. It was too much.”
--The PGA Tour made a unique announcement. The Farmers Insurance Open, to be played the last week of January, will have a Saturday finish. With the NFL expanding its season, the NFC and AFC championship games will be played Jan. 30, forcing the PGA Tour’s hand.
So the annual gathering on the South Course at Torrey Pines in San Diego will be played Wednesday through Saturday, with the final two rounds being aired on CBS and both featuring an 8 p.m. ET finish. Great move.
Next Bar Chat, Sunday p.m.
[Posted Sun. p.m., before Yankees-Red Sox, Packers-49ers, and the conclusion of the late NFL contests…]
I’ll have an Add-On up top by noon Wed.
Baseball Quiz: 1) Padres fan (beleaguered Padres fan, at this point) Bobby C., former fireballing lefty at Summit High School, though he sits on the right side of the political aisle, sent me some notes on Fernando Tatis Jr. after Jr. had hit his 40th home run. Tatis is the youngest, at age 22, in Major League history to have 40 home runs (now 41) and 25 stolen bases. Two players had 40-25 in a season three times. One did it twice. Name them. 2) The other day I talked of Jon Lester winning his 200th career game for St. Louis and his outstanding career winning percentage .631 (200-117). Name the only five in modern baseball history (post-1920) to have a winning percentage over .680. Answers below.
First off, I think most of us golf fans could watch play at Whistling Straits on the shores of Lake Michigan all day, all year. What a fantastic spot, with some great finishing holes, and terrific par-3s overall. What a commercial for the whole resort!
And boy did Team USA put on a show the first two days, Friday and Saturday, in fourball and foursome play, jumping out to a 6-2 lead Friday, and 11-5 heading into today’s singles.
Personally, I really was hoping it would be 10-6 to add some drama to Sunday’s action, because the fact is the biggest final-day comeback in the competition is four points, achieved by the U.S. at Brookline in 1999 and Europe in 2012 at Medinah, when both sides came from 10-6 down to win.
It seems to be impossible for the Euros…literally a 9-3-0 record is the needed margin to reach 14 points and retain the Cup.
Entering Sunday’s action, among the Euros, Sergio Garcia (3-0-0) and Jon Rahm (3-0-1) came into this event as the clear stars of the team, Sergio based more on his past spectacular Ryder Cup play more than his overall 2021 performance.
But they needed a similar showing from the normally Ryder Cup reliable Rory McIlroy and, Rory, befitting his puzzling play since the spring, was a bust…0-3-0. That’s the Euro story right there.
For the Americans, Dustin Johnson shined, 4-0-0, Paulina looking resplendent inside the ropes, while Collin Morikawa and Xander Schauffele were 3-0-0.
Brooks Koepka (1-2-0), Jordan Spieth (1-2-0) and Justin Thomas (1-1-1) were mediocre at best, but Patrick Cantlay (2-0-1) and Bryson DeChambeau (1-0-1) were among the other Team USA members to do their part.
Well on to the singles, and while Rory McIlroy went off first for the Euros and won his match over Xander Schauffele, you then had Scottie Scheffler take out the world’s best, Jon Rahm.
And in the end it was 19-9, the largest margin since they went to this format in 1979. Dustin Johnson became the first American to go 5-0-0 since Larry Nelson in ’79 (the highly-underrated Larry Nelson, I hasten to add).
Paul Azinger made a great comment near the end…that the Euro players over age 40 went 4-9-0, while the oldest golfer for the Americans was DJ at 37. This team is young, has the right attitude, and will dominate for years.
All you needed to know coming in, with the event on U.S. soil, and European fan participation limited due to Covid-19 travel restrictions (which was important), the U.S. had eight of the top ten in the World in its lineup. [Jon Rahm #1, Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa, which isn’t in Europe for those of you geographically challenged, #8, the exceptions.]
I’ll have more in my Add-On Wednesday, as appropriate, but for now, congratulations to captain Steve Stricker. This meant so much to the Wisconsin native. He’s a world-class act and good for him. Love the guy. How can you not? God, I wish America had 285 million of him. Instead, we have 145 million….oh, never mind. That’s for that other column I do.
As for the all-important Q-ratings, those that capitalize the most when it comes to Madison Avenue and endorsements, Scottie Scheffler will get some swag, among those already getting theirs. Bryson could gain more. JT with his exuberance. Tony Finau.
But, lastly, for now, I know many of you are wondering who your editor, nameless for 22 years, by the way, for the purpose of plausible deniability, as in it could be 32 different people doing this column, selects as the WAG of the Ryder Cup.
And the winner is….Katherine Zhu, girlfriend of Collin Morikawa.
Understand, I can not go beyond this cursory assessment without breaking International Web Site Association guidelines for semi-professionalism.
--Gotta hand it to the Yankees, as much as I hate writing that, winning five straight when it mattered most, including last night’s (late afternoon) 5-3 win over the Red Sox in Fenway, Giancarlo Stanton with the deciding, monstrous, grand slam in the eighth, a shot that went an estimated 452 feet over the Green Monster, though truth be told, it’s still going, catching the Jetstream and now in the airspace over the Canadian Maritimes. Fishermen in the area have been notified, in case you were wondering about their safety when the ball eventually splashes down.
Stanton deserves a ton of credit for his 2021 campaign. A solid .275 average, 33 home runs, 91 RBIs, .872 OPS. He’s been much-maligned, and rightly so, having played all of 41 games in 2019-20 combined due to various injuries, but he never went after the Yankee fanbase, understood the criticism was part of playing in Gotham, and now he deserves some love from the same fans. Saturday’s hit was as big as they get. Good on him.
So as New York and Boston play another Sunday Night Baseball game (like for the zillionth time), the AL Wild Card standings….
New York 88-67…--
Toronto 87-69…1.5…after a 5-2 win over the Twins today.
--But how about the St. Louis Cardinals? Just two weeks ago, the Cards were 71-69, struggling to gain the second wild card slot. Good time to, err, win 15 in a row, don’t you think?
And that’s what this freakin’ team did! Geezuz. What a time to set a franchise record, the 15th Saturday in an 8-5 win over the Cubs. Game over for the wild card.
I mean the Cardinals’ history goes back to 1892 (before Grover Cleveland’s second term).
While the pitching has been OK during this run, it hasn’t been particularly spectacular, but the hitting attack has been…including the last five with 8+ runs each game.
--So as I’ve been writing, here you have the Los Angeles Dodgers, who will finish the season with 100+ wins, but are now 2 games back of San Francisco in the NL West.
The Dodgers’ vaunted starting staff has begun leaking oil down the stretch…Walker Buehler, Julio Urias, Clayton Kershaw, even Max Scherzer in his last start (his worst as a Dodger).
In the case of Buehler* and Urias, they have easily surpassed career highs in innings, especially vs. 2020, which we’ve found is an issue with many in baseball (see the Mets’ Taijuan Walker).
*Buehler has thrown 195 2/3 innings this season compared to 36 2/3 last year in the pandemic-shortened campaign.
I mean Cardinals-Dodgers, one game…it doesn’t get any better than that (aside from Yankees-Red Sox). Talk about a tension convention.
--I’ll talk about the NL East race next time, Phillies losing today, Braves leading as I write, Philadelphia entering the day 1 ½ behind.
--Some baseball tidbits….
…Shohei Ohtani had two triples (3 RBIs and 3 runs scored) Saturday in the Angels’ 14-1 win over Seattle, a killer for the Mariners and their wild card hopes. So despite his slump the last two months, Shohei nonetheless has 45 home runs, 98 RBIs, 99 runs scored, and a .968 OPS. Plus that 9-2 mound record*. Pretty, pretty good…and still the AL MVP.
*Ohtani went seven innings, one run, 10 Ks, in a no-decision against Seattle today, ERA dropping to 3.18.
…I was shocked to see that when Cedric Mullins slammed his 30th home run on Friday night in Baltimore’s 8-5 loss to Texas, he became the first in Orioles franchise history to have 30 homers and 30 stolen bases in a season. Mullins has had a helluva year, with a .300 batting average, 89 runs scored, and .905 OPS entering today’s play.
…And then there is the Nationals’ Juan Soto. The future Hall of Famer, just start chiseling his plaque now and maybe put it in his safety deposit box, has had an other-worldly September, 36-for-79, .456, 7 homers, 21 RBIs, 1.408 OPS, and is now up to .324 BA, 29 HR, 92 RBI, 110 runs scored, 1.028 OPS.
At one point, until Friday night, Soto had reached safely in a team record 12 consecutive plate appearances.
As in should he be the NL MVP despite the Nationals’ struggles? Why not?
…Wednesday night, in the Red Sox’ 12-5 win over the Metsies, Kyle Schwarber hit another two home runs for Boston, giving him nine in 10 games against the Mets; Schwarber doing most of that damage while with Washington before his late trade to Boston.
The two dingers came off the aforementioned Taijuan Walker, who after appearing in the All-Star Game (a deserved recognition at the time) has gone 0-8, allowing 20 homers in 57 innings. In 94 2/3 prior to the break, Walker had surrendered just six.
College Football Review
[As always, the following comments are written prior to release of the latest AP poll.]
No shockers in the top ten. Certainly Arkansas winning its biggie and Clemson losing aren’t surprising to anyone following the season closely thus far. But we will have a little shakeup in the second half of the top ten when the new poll comes out.
No. 1 Alabama (4-0) cruised over Southern Mississippi (1-3) 63-14, ‘Bama outgaining the Golden Eagles 606-231, as quarterback Bryce Young (‘next man up’) was a cool 20/22, 313, 5-1.
2 Georgia (4-0), in blasting Vanderbilt (1-3) 62-0, held the Commodores to 77 yards and four first downs! Good gawd, that sucks.
3 Oregon (4-0) whipped winless Arizona (0-4) 41-19, as Wildcats QB Jordan McCloud was picked off five times.
I watched the Ryder Cup all day Saturday and saw little CFB, but I did catch 4 Oklahoma’s (4-0) hardly exhilarating 16-13 win over West Virginia (2-2), as the Sooners needed Gabe Brkic’s 30-yard field goal as time expired to seal the victory. OU quarterback Spencer Rattler was booed lustily, and for good reason…actually, the boos being for the whole offense. I mean they only had 226 yards from scrimmage.
But 5 Iowa State (4-0) only beat Colorado State (1-3) 24-14, so its not like the Hawkeyes will vault over Oklahoma.
Ditto 6 Penn State (4-0), 38-17 winners over Villanova (3-1).
Then we have 16 Arkansas (4-0) beating 7 Texas A&M (3-1) 20-10. Great win for the resurgent Razorbacks program. Heck, they deserve to not just move into the top ten, but to about No. 7.
However, Arkansas travels to Georgia next week, so we’ll hold off on all the superlatives for now. But they have already beaten A&M and Texas this season, huge for recruiting.
By the way, what is the name of the Arkansas head coach? Why it’s Sam Pittman, now 7-7 in his second season overall. The Razorbacks haven’t been 4-0 since 2003.
8 Cincinnati was idle as they gear up for next week’s tussle with Notre Dame.
Speaking of the No. 12 Fighting Irish (4-0), they did what they had to do, beat 18 Wisconsin (1-2), 41-13.
The final score didn’t tell the full story. Notre Dame picked off Wisconsin QB Graham Mertz four times, Mertz also losing a fumble, while ND generated only 242 yards of offense.
So how did the Fighting Irish do it? Two of Mertz’s interceptions were returned for scores and they had a 96-yard kickoff return for a TD.
Cincinnati will present a stiff test. Another good game for next week, along with Arkansas-Georgia.
Meanwhile, in the ACC one thing is clear. The conference title race is wide open after North Carolina State (3-1) manhandled 9 Clemson (2-2) 27-21, holding the Tigers to just 214 yards of offense. Dabo Swinney, he of the $9 million contract (or whatever it is), should be very concerned. It’s not about this season, it’s also about the future.
Dr. W., who lives down in Clemsonland, though is a fellow Wake Forest alum, sent me some very telling stats, fact-checked. Since Dabo started coaching halfway through 2008, since the 2009 season, he has had 5 offensive lineman selected in the NFL draft and 16 defensive linemen. During that same period of time, 12 NCAA Division I schools have had 10 or more OL selected in the draft.
Ergo, as the good doctor says, “Dabo does a good job recruiting on the defensive side of the ball and in recruiting skill players on offense, but his failure to devote as much time and energy to the OL could be a problem with the transfer portal as QBs, RBs and WRs aren’t going to stick around if they can’t get time to pass, run or catch the ball.”
Speaking of the transfer portal, I’m psyched for Wake Forest’s potential in same. We have some kids from big schools contributing this season in this regard and the better we do, the more the second-stringers from a, say, Michigan, are likely to gravitate to Wake. [Wake’s No. 3 running back currently is a Michigan transfer, for example.]
Anyway, Dr. W., a home version of “Bar Chat: The Game” is on its way to you, once we get around to making it. Major supply chain issues these days, you understand.
Lastly, in the top ten, 10 Ohio State (3-1) beat Akron (1-3) 59-7.
In other contests….
11 Florida (3-1) will crack the top ten after beating Tennessee (2-2) 38-14.
14 Iowa State’s season is over in terms of a major bowl game, the now 2-2 Cyclones falling to Baylor (4-0) 31-29. The Bears, on the other hand, could crack the top 25.
15 BYU (4-) beat South Florida (1-3) 35-27. The Cougars needed to win this one more impressively.
Johnny Mac’s 17 Coastal Carolina (4-0) had its way with an atrocious UMass (0-4) 53-3.
19 Michigan (4-0) stayed undefeated in handing Rutgers (3-1) its first loss, 20-13, despite the Scarlet Knights outgaining the Wolverines 353-275. I did not see any of this one but the local scribes are blasting Rutgers coach Greg Schiano for some awful decisions on fourth down.
20 Michigan State (4-0) was hardly impressive in beating Nebraska (2-3) 23-20 in overtime, the Spartans with five yards of offense in the second half.
21 North Carolina (2-2) won’t see the top 25 the rest of the season after a bad loss to Georgia Tech (2-2) 45-22. Tar Heels QB Sam Howell, who was supposed to be a Heisman candidate, had another awful game, losing three fumbles, while GT quarterback Jeff Sims rushed for three TDs and passed for another.
Any hopes USC had of turning around the season after the firing of head coach Clay Helton are out the window, as the Trojans (2-2) fell at home to Oregon State (3-1).
Finally, there are a lot of surprise 4-0 teams early on, like Baylor, and Maryland (and SMU, Kentucky, UTSA, Army, San Diego State…), but one of the big stories, at least in the ACC, is that the only two undefeated teams left are Wake Forest and Boston College.
The Eagles had a nice win against Missouri (2-2), gaining 275 yards on the ground, and my Demon Deacons totally dominated Virginia Friday night, 37-17. Forget that Cavaliers quarterback Brennan Armstrong had another big game, tossing for 407 yards, this contest was never in doubt.
So us Wake fans can now dream of a special season. Those of us who know the schedule are hoping for 3 of the next 4 to get to 7-1, and then we have North Carolina, N.C. State, Clemson and Boston College. That was to be a killer final stretch. Is it now? Me thinks not.
But take care of business the next four, Deacs. [Louisville, Syracuse, Army and Duke.]
-University of Utah defensive back Aaron Lowe was fatally shot to death early Sunday in Salt Lake City, the incident occurring at a house party.
--Lastly, just a note from the Ohio State game, where linebacker K’Vaughan Pope was escorted to the locker room by a team official following a heated exchange with coaches on the sideline.
The altercation reportedly was prompted when he was not substituted onto the field for a series.
In a pair of since-deleted tweets, Pope later wrote during the second quarter, “good lucc [sic] to my teammates” and “f-- ohio state,” misspelling the obscenity.
Pope reportedly quit the team.
Now I’m tempted to put Mr. Pope in the December file for yearend consideration, but I almost feel sorry for the guy. He’s clearly not real intelligent, and someone who no doubt may have problems in the real world the next 40-60 years.
But how did Ohio State recruit such a lad?! Not exactly your model “student-athlete.”
And now….your new AP Poll! And we have some surprises.
1. Alabama (58) 4-0
2. Georgia (4) 4-0
3. Oregon 4-0
4. Penn State 4-0
5. Iowa 4-0
6. Oklahoma 4-0
7. Cincinnati 3-0
8. Arkansas 4-0…is it deserved? Georgia next…
9. Notre Dame 4-0
10. Florida 3-1
11. Ohio State 3-1
12. Ole Miss 3-0…at Alabama next week…
13. BYU 4-0
14. Michigan 4-0
15. Texas A&M 3-1
16. Coastal Carolina 4-0
17. Michigan State 4-0
18. Fresno State 4-1
19. Oklahoma State 4-0
20. UCLA 3-1
21. Baylor 4-0
22. Auburn 3-1
23. North Carolina State 3-1
24. Wake Forest 4-0! Wow…
25. Clemson 2-2…Wow…but well-deserved…
So Clemson’s top-10 streak is over, 97 straight weeks. Alabama now has the longest current streak at 98. The record is Miami’s 137 from 1985-93, which is rather remarkable.
As far as being ranked in the top-25, Alabama’s current 218 is second all time to Nebraska’s 348 from 1981-2002.
Pretty pathetic the top ACC team is 23rd.
--I was focused on the Ryder Cup, but the Giants are now 0-3, their fanbase beyond distraught, as they fell to the equally pathetic Falcons (1-2) 17-14, giving up two big fourth-quarter drives, the second setting up Younghoe Koo’s 40-yard field goal for the win, 17-14.
Long-time friend from Thomson McKinnon days (literally met him my first day in 1982), Newt S., sent me this trenchant analysis of his Giants.
“Three weeks in a row we gave up a TD in the last two minutes of the first half to turn a lead into a deficit, and two weeks in a row we let a team march down the field in the last two minutes to kick the winning field goals.
“You can’t win by playing 28-minute halves.
“We are undisciplined – 8 penalties today, and something like 11 against Washington.”
Yup, old friend, you guys blow. Ditto my Jets.
--The Bills (2-1) beat the WFT (1-2) 43-21, as Josh Allen was a cool 32/43, 358, 4-0, 129.8 for Buffalo.
--Cleveland is 2-1 after a 26-6 smothering of Chicago (1-2), as the Brownies defense had nine sacks, 4.5 by Myles Garrett.
For Chicago, first-round pick Justin Fields got the start at quarterback and it was a struggle, 6/20, 68, 41.3, plus the sacks.
The Bears had 47 yards of total offense! [I haven’t seen yet where this stands, historically, in terms of futility.]
--Tennessee (2-1) beat the Colts (0-3) 25-16.
--The Chargers (2-1) kind of shocked the Chiefs (1-2) in Kansas City, 30-24, as Justin Herbert, 26/38, 281, 4-0, 125.0, outplayed Patrick Mahomes, 27/44, 260, 3-2, 87.6.
Speaking of Clemson skill players, former Clemson first-rounder, receiver Mike Williams, had seven receptions for 122 yards and two touchdowns for the Chargers. While he has had a 1,000-yard season, he has yet to have 50 receptions, but he already has 22 in three games. We be talkin’….BREAKOUT SEASON ALERT!
--The Saints are 2-1 after defeating the Patriots (1-2) in Foxborough, 28-13, as rookie Mac Jones had his first crappy performance for New England, 30/51, 270, 1-3, 55.2, one of the picks returned for a touchdown by New Orleans.
It’s not like the Saints are juggernauts. They had only 252 yards of offense.
--Pittsburgh falls to 1-2, with little sign they can recover for the playoffs, as they lose to Cincinnati (2-1) 24-10. Joe Burrow had 3 touchdown passes for the Bengals, while Ben Roethlisberger threw two picks for the Steelers. [Sorry, Jeff B. and Jeff S.]
--Arizona is 3-0 after a 31-19 win over Urban Meyer’s Jacksonville Jags, who find themselves 0-3. No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft, and Wonder Boy with the flowing, Fabio locks, Trevor Lawrence, threw two more picks for Jacksonville and now has 7 in three games. He had 17 in 40 over his career at Clemson. Welcome to the NFL, Trevor. [I do believe he will be a superstar in year two, if he has any kind of supporting cast.]
--And then you had Ravens-Lions. In this one, Baltimore (2-1) and quarterback Lamar Jackson completed a fourth-and-19 play with 7 seconds left, receiver Sammy Watkins taking it 36 yards to get the Ravens beyond midfield, whereupon Justin Tucker set an NFL record with a 66-yard field goal to win it, 19-17. Yes, he bounced it through off the crossbar, as time expired, but if you had to pick one guy in the NFL today to attempt such a kick, to me it has always been him. Awesome.
Give the Lions (0-3) credit for showing some spunk.
--As for the late games, talk about misery in New York, the Jets joined the Giants at 0-3 with a 26-0 loss in Denver (3-0).
I gotta move on regarding the other late ones, with the Rams looking like winners over the Bucs.
--Thursday night, former Jets quarterback Sam Darnold threw for 304 yards and ran for two touchdowns as the Carolina Panthers improved to 3-0 with a 24-9 win over the Texans in Houston.
Houston rookie Davis Mills, making his first start because the Texans refuse to put Deshaun Watson on the field with all his pending legal issues, was sacked four times and held to 168 yards through the air. Previous starter Tyrod Taylor was out with a hamstring injury suffered the previous Sunday.
Darnold hasn’t been spectacular, but he’s been very efficient, and he has a supporting cast, though Christian McCaffrey will probably miss significant time with a hamstring injury suffered in the second quarter.
--In weekend play, Man City beat Chelsea in a biggie, 1-0; newbie Brentford, playing Liverpool for the first time since 1988, played Jurgen Klopp’s team to an exciting 3-3 draw at home, which is very cool; Aston Villa beat Man U at Old Trafford 1-0, on an 88-minute header, while in the 93rd minute, United’s Bruno Fernandes airmailed a penalty kick that would have tied it. [Cristiano Ronaldo was on the pitch at the time and United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer still went with Fernandes, though truth be told, Fernandes has been better over the years than Ronaldo in PKs.]
And today, Tottenham continued its puzzling swoon, losing 3-1 at Arsenal. It was 3-0 at the half.
My Spurs, who won their first three by identical 1-0 scores, have now been blitzed a cumulative 9-1 their last three.
--We note the passing of Jimmy Greaves, one of the greatest goal scorers in English soccer history. He was 81. Tottenham, where he played for nine years, announced his death last Sunday.
Greaves scored 44 goals in just 57 matches for England. But even though he was the first player to lead scoring in England’s top league for three straight seasons, he may be best known for one game he missed: the World Cup final.
Greaves was England’s star striker going into the 1966 tournament on home soil. But he was injured in a first-round match against France and surrendered his place in the lineup to Geoff Hurst.
Hurst then scored the only goal in a quarterfinal win over Argentina and kept his place on the team at the expense of Greaves. Hurst then scored the first hat trick in a World Cup final, England defeating West Germany 4-2 for England’s only title.
Yet there was Greaves, on the bench. It bothered him forever after.
--Boxing fans in the UK, and around the world, were looking forward to the “Battle of Britain” for the unified heavyweight title…Anthony Joshua vs. Tyson Fury.
But that all is now in tatters after Joshua’s stunning, unanimous decision, loss last night at the hands of Ukraine’s Oleksandr Usyk at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in north London.
Usyk was giving up three inches in height and four in reach, as well as 20 lbs., but the former undisputed world cruiserweight champion totally dominated the bout, winning on the three scorecards, 117-112, 116-112 and 115-113.
Usyk thus claimed the WBA, IBF and WBO titles.
Joshua, who was obligated to face WBO mandatory challenger Usyk after a bout against Fury fell through earlier this year, seemed accepting of the result when the scores came as he suffered just the second defeat of his career.
Usyk, 34, won Olympic heavyweight gold at London 2012, the day before Joshua memorably topped the podium in the super-heavyweight category. It was just his third bout at heavyweight.
--Lewis Hamilton became the first driver in Formula One history to win 100 races as he took today’s Russian Grand Prix in dramatic fashion, putting him back in the lead of the championship over Max Verstappen, who finished second.
Near the end of the race, a rain shower hit, with longtime race leader, Lando Norris, seeking his first F1 win, comfortably in front. Hamilton quickly pitted for his rain tires, Norris stayed out with his dry tires, Norris quickly struggled to keep the car on the track, and by the time Norris finally pitted for the needed change, it was too late as Hamilton and the others with their appropriate tires passed him, Norris finishing seventh.
Top 3 songs for the week 9/26/81: #1 “Endless Love” (Diana Ross & Lionel Richie…ugh…) #2 “Queen Of Hearts” (Juice Newton) #3 “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” (Stevie Nicks with Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers)…and…#4 “Urgent” (Foreigner) #5 “(There’s) No Getting Over Me” (Ronnie Milsap) #6 “Who’s Crying Now” (Journey) #7 “Arthur’s Theme” (Christopher Cross) #8 “Step By Step” (Eddie Rabbitt) #9 “Lady” (Commodores) #10 “Start Me Up” (The Rollings Stones…I’m a “Hot Rocks” Stones fan, not of this era…gotta get back to the 60s, sports fans…)
Baseball Quiz Answers: 1) 40 home runs, 25 steals in a season: Barry Bonds (Boo boooo) and Jose Canseco (at least he admitted he was using) did it three times, and Jeff Bagwell (who really knows in his case) twice. 2) Career winning percentage over .680, post-1920. Whitey Ford (.6901), Clayton Kershaw (.6877)*, Pedro Martinez (.6865), Don Gullett (.6855), and Lefty Grove (.6803).
*Kershaw was ahead of Ford until suffering a loss last night in Arizona.
Gullett, 109-50 for the Reds and Yankees, 1970-78, was the classic case of a pitcher who would have benefited mightily, no doubt, with modern sports medicine. He was out of baseball at the age of 27 due to arm problems.
Again, I’ll have an Add-On up top by noon, Wednesday.