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Jon Rahm on a Roll...Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Wins Daytona
Add-on posted early Wed. a.m.
--New AP Top 25 (records thru Sun.)
1. Houston (48) 25-2…3rd time this season
2. Alabama (7) 23-4
3. Kansas (7) 22-5
4. UCLA 23-4
5. Purdue 24-4
6. Virginia 21-4
7. Arizona 24-4
8. Texas 21-6
9. Baylor 20-7
10. Marquette 21-6
11. Tennessee 20-7
12. Gonzaga 23-5
13. Miami 22-5
14. Kansas State 20-7
15. St. Mary’s 24-5
16. Xavier 20-7
17. Indiana 19-8
18. UConn 20-7
19. Creighton 18-9
20. Providence 20-7
21. Northwestern 20-7
22. San Diego State 21-5
23. Iowa State 17-9
24. TCU 18-9
25. Texas A&M 20-7
--Monday, 3 Kansas (23-5, 11-4) beat 24 TCU (18-10, 7-8) 63-58.
--Tuesday, 14 Kansas State (21-7, 9-6) beat 9 Baylor (20-8, 9-6) 75-65.
16 Xavier (21-8, 12-5) lost to Villanova (14-14, 8-9) 64-63.
Surprising 25 Texas A&M (21-7, 13-2) beat 11 Tennessee (20-8, 9-6) 68-63. A&M is second in the SEC! Who wudda thunk it?
10 Marquette (22-6, 14-3) had a good win at 19 Creighton (18-10, 12-5) 73-71.
And at Michigan State, the Spartans (17-10, 9-7) picked up a big, and emotional, victory over 17 Indiana (19-9, 10-7) 80-65, the first game on home court for MSU since the tragedy that took three students’ lives and injured five.
--No. 2 Alabama (No. 1 in the SEC at 13-1) is back on the court Wednesday at South Carolina and the capital murder case of former reserve Darius Miles continues to reverberate through the program, as we learned Tuesday that freshman standout Brandon Miller brought Miles the gun that was used to kill a woman last month, according to police in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
Detective Branden Culpepper testified Tuesday that Miller brought Miles’ gun to him on the night of the shooting, after Miles texted him and asked him to do so.
Miles didn’t fire the gun that killed 2-year-old Jamea Jonae Harris, but Miles told Michael Lynn Davis where his gun was in Miller’s car. Both Miles and Davis have been denied bond.
Crimson Tide coach Nate Oats said Miller had not been charged with a crime (under Alabama law there is nothing to charge him with), but the program has been aware of Miller’s alleged link to the case.
But Oats is getting excoriated for this remark:
“We knew about that (Miller’s role). Can’t control everything everybody does outside of practice. Nobody knew that was going to happen. College kids are out. Brandon hasn’t been in any type of trouble, nor is he in any type of trouble in this case. Just in the wrong spot at the wrong time.”
As Dan Wolken of USA TODAY wrote:
“Sorry, but the only person who is in the wrong place at the wrong time here is the coach who seems to be completely unprepared and incapable of handling a situation of this magnitude.
“It’s not my job to say whether there should be legal liability for Miller. Tuscaloosa chief deputy district attorney Paula Whitley told AL.com that there’s ‘nothing we could charge (Miller) with,’ according to Alabama laws.
“But that doesn’t mean he should be free of consequences because he’s one of the best basketball prospects on the planet.”
Miller is averaging 18.7 points and 8 rebounds per game. He is a projected top-five pick in the upcoming NBA draft.
As I go to post, nothing on Miller’s status, but sounds like he can play, though he may want to sit out the South Carolina game, it being on the road, you understand.
--I just have to say that after I posted Sunday’s column, I flipped on the All-Star Game and watched the first half, was quickly put in a catatonic state, and then through the halftime show, before I snapped out of it. As everyone in the world, yes, the world, has remarked, that was the single worst exhibition of professional sports in the history of mankind. I cannot imagine having paid $200 for a ticket (or whatever elevated level it was) to actually get out of the house, spend more money on parking, food et al, and think it was time and money well spent.
Final score: 184-175.
At least in Baseball’s All-Star Game it is real, authentic action.
--Anyway, the season restarts Thursday and LeBron James made it crystal clear, “It’s 23 of the most important games of my career for a regular season.”
At 27-32, the Lakers are 4 ½ out of the No. 6 seed. I couldn’t care less about the Lakers, and LeBron, but from a sports fan standpoint, it will be kind of interesting to see how they do.
From the league’s standpoint, it’s a disaster not to have the Lakers in the playoffs, ditto the Knicks.
--The Hawks fired coach Nate McMillan after the team’s disappointing 29-30 start. While assistant Joe Prunty is the interim coach, the team appears to be targeting former Jazz coach Quin Snyder.
Snyder led Utah to six consecutive playoff appearances, but resigned after the 2021-22 season.
--By all accounts, including from David Carr, Derek’s brother, the former Raiders quarterback had a successful trip to New Jersey to meet with the Jets and us fans are panicking. As in, we’d be fools not to sign him immediately if we have a shot (though the brother said it’s going to be a long process). We can’t wait for Aaron Rodgers, because he could go to Las Vegas, if he doesn’t stay in Green Bay. And Jimmy Garoppolo (who I’m not keen on) could go multiple places.
And Carr could end up in New Orleans.
Leaving…the Jets empty! I mean Ryan Tannehill? I’d have to commit hari-kari. [Though not until after the coming Mets season.]
But then there’s Lamar Jackson and his weird Instagram post the other day, inferring he’s not committed to the Ravens.
Lamar a Jet? I’d take that. [A few of the above could only be acquired through a trade and giving up first-round draft picks. But not Carr…for him it’s just clean, cold cash…as Sally Brown used to write in her letters to Santa, “tens and twenties.”]
--This week’s non-designated PGA Tour event, the Honda Classic, has a weak field, as you’d expect, having just had two straight designated, big purse tournaments, with the Honda followed by two more, the Arnold Palmer Invitational and Players Championship. There are just eight players ranked in the top 50, but it’s a terrific opportunity for some off to a rough start this season.
But this is also Honda’s last year of sponsorship, so it will be interesting to see who ends up filling the void next season. The tournament doesn’t have to be in Florida, but whoever comes in I’m sure will demand they receive designated status, at least on a rolling basis.
--LIV Golf is starting its second season this week with a tournament in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. There are 12 teams of four.
Fourteen events, six overseas (including Mexico), eight in the U.S., three of these on Trump golf courses.
--Daytona 500 winner Ricky Stenhouse now has three NASCAR Cup Series victories in his career, all on superspeedways; the other two at Daytona in the summer race, and Talladega, and both of those in 2017.
I was posting as this was ending and for the record, the 65th running of “The Great American Race” was 212 laps, a record, or 530 miles.
It was cool that one of the owners of Stenhouse’s car is former NBA star Brad Daugherty, part of JTG Daugherty Racing. JTG is the first single-car team to win the Daytona 500 since The Wood Brothers Racing did it with Trevor Bayne in 2011.
Daugherty is the first Black car owner to win the race.
--Liverpool took a 2-0 lead on Real Madrid at home Tuesday in a first leg, Champions League Round of 16 contest…and lost 5-2. Such is the state of affairs at Anfield.
--An Australian tourist was killed by a shark in front of horrified onlookers in the French Pacific territory of New Caledonia.
The 59-year-old was swimming about 500 feet from shore at a popular resort when he was attacked on Sunday. He was bitten several times, suffering major wounds to his leg and arms, and died at the scene.
It was the third attack near Chateau-Royal beach in three weeks. Many people were in the water at the time and witnessed the attack, local media reported, prompting a panicked rush back to the shore.
A swimmer was seriously injured by a shark in the area on Jan. 29, and a surfer was attacked a few days later.
New Caledonia lies south of Vanuatu, which is notorious for shark attacks and a place I’ve long argued has hidden many of its fatalities.
New Caledonia, with only 270,000 people, ranks 13th in the world for the total number of shark attacks, according to the Florida Museum of Natural History, which keeps the supposedly official tally across the globe. I’ve long accused them of a massive coverup, underestimating the number of attacks by 642,000.
Next Bar Chat, Sunday p.m.
[Posted Sunday p.m.]
Brief Add-on up top by noon Wed.
Daytona 500 Quiz: 1) Richard Petty won a record seven 500s. Who is the only one to win four? 2) Denny Hamlin went back-to-back in 2019-20. Who was the previous back-to-back winner, 1994-95? He had ten overall career Cup wins. 3) Who are the only two to win the Indy 500 and the Daytona 500? Answers below.
--On Monday, Alabama ascended to No. 1 in the AP poll, and on Wednesday, No. 10 Tennessee beat Bama 68-59 in Knoxville. The Vols have won six straight home games against top-10 teams. It was the eighth time this season No. 1 went down.
Also Wednesday, Northwestern continued its dream season with a 64-62 win over 14 Indiana.
--Then Thursday, Maryland had a super win at home over 3 Purdue, 68-54, holding Zach Edey to just 18 points, the Terrapins first win over a top-10 team since 2016.
Maryland went on a 29-4 run over about nine minutes in the second half to take a 58-41 lead and that was the ballgame.
After starting the season 22-1, with everyone in the game saying they were unbeatable, Purdue has lost 3 of 4. In the three losses they are 13 for 53 (24.5%) on 3-pointers.
So congrats to new coach Kevin Willard (ex- of Seton Hall), while Charlotte transfer Jahmir Young (20 points) has been terrific for the Terps.
--In Saturday’s action, for all those saying John Calipari is on the way out at Kentucky, his Wildcats (18-9, 9-5) are still on the way to the NCAAs after a 66-54 win over 10 Tennessee (20-7, 9-5). It was Kentucky’s second win of the season over the Vols.
No. 1 Alabama (23-4, 13-1) rebounded from the Tennessee loss to destroy Georgia (16-11, 6-8) 108-59.
5 Kansas (22-5, 10-4) beat 9 Baylor (20-7, 9-5) 87-71.
14 Indiana (19-8, 10-6) bounced back from the Northwestern loss to beat Illinois (17-8, 8-7).
20 UConn (20-7, 9-7) beat Seton Hall (16-12, 9-8), as Shaheen Holloway’s Pirates are done in terms of tournament contention. NIT for them. I watched this one and UConn, which has struggled mightily the past month, looked terrific.
In an important game for Rutgers and their NCAA hopes, the Scarlet Knights (17-10, 9-7) edged Wisconsin (15-11, 7-9) on the road, 58-57.
I watched 8 Arizona (24-4, 13-4) beat Colorado (15-13, 7-10) 78-68 rather than watch the NBA All-Star stuff Saturday night because I wanted a look at the Wildcats ahead of the tourney. They’re impressive.
Lastly, Wake Forest’s tourney hopes went down in flames at 15 Miami (22-5, 13-4), 96-87, the Deacs falling to 17-10, 9-7.
For Wake, our star Tyree Appleby had a nightmare for the ages, a school-record 12 turnovers (almost a triple-double of the wrong kind…15 points, 9 assists).
Twelve turnovers! The Deacs had 19 overall. That’s your ballgame. This was winnable and would have been a biggie for the Selection Committee. But as Tony Soprano would have said, ‘Whaddya gonna do…’
Miami, by the way, looks like a real sleeper in March with a super backcourt duo in Isaiah Wong and Nijel Pack, who combined for 51.
--Sunday, 3 Purdue (24-4, 13-4) feasted on pathetic Ohio State (11-16, 3-13) 82-55. Would someone tell CBS to stop putting the Buckeyes on as a lead-in to golf?! Geezuz. They blow.
Speaking of blowdom, North Carolina is .500 in the ACC, 8-8, after losing to 23 North Carolina State (21-7, 11-6), 77-69 in Raleigh.
--The NCAA Men’s Basketball Committee previewed its first top-16, three weeks ahead of Selection Sunday, so take it somewhat with a grain of salt. A lot can happen between now and then.
But the four 1-seeds are Alabama, Houston, Kansas and Purdue, and it’s an important look at the committee’s early thinking, and since the first men’s bracket preview in 2017, three of the four No. 1 seeds in the February preview have held on to the top spots on Selection Sunday, others all fell to No. 2.
Texas, Arizona, Baylor and UCLA are 2-seeds.
--A final tidbit concerning Wake Forest center Matthew Marsh. He has made his last 23 field goal attempts and is 69 of 76 from the floor on the season, or 90.8 percent. Needless to say, he dunks it, and nothing more. At 7’1”, however, the frustrating thing is that he has just three blocks! [He plays about 18 minutes per game. Hopefully in the offseason, he begins to round out his game a little more.]
--As we hit the All-Star Break…
Knicks 33-27…3-0 after Josh Hart trade.
The Knicks would love to stay in the top six, and they know they can move up a notch or two more.
LA Clippers 33-28
New Orleans 30-29
Golden State 29-29
Oklahoma City 28-29
LA Lakers 27-32
--Going back to last Wednesday, the Nets beat the Heat, 116-105, as new acquisition Mikal Bridges went off for a career-high 45 points.
And as the Knicks were beating the Hawks on the road, 122-101, watching it, I couldn’t help but think no one in the NBA needs a change of scenery more than Atlanta’s John Collins.
--Charles Barkley believes a war is brewing behind the scenes in the NBA.
Due to the increase in players – specifically star players – changing teams and demanding trades, as well as the ongoing trend of load management, Barkley thinks NBA owners are becoming fed up and that could lead to a lockout.
Ahead of the All-Star weekend in Salt Lake City, Barkley was asked about the trade requests of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden. Barkley took his answer to the next level. He sees the action of signing huge contracts and then leaving a team in a short period of time as hurting the league.
“You can’t take my money and then say you want to divorce me in six months to a year,” Barkley explained. “You can’t take all my money and then say ‘hey I want a divorce,’ so I’m pretty sure that’s the next thing to come out of the CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement). I don’t think there’s no doubt in my mind that these guys are going to get locked out.”
Barkley thinks the NBA is headed down a worrisome path.
“You can’t treat these owners and fans like crap,” he added, “which these players are starting to do now with load management and then demand to be traded.”
The current CBA is set to expire at the end of the 2023-24 season, though the league or Players Association can opt out before.
Both sides, however, are working on a new CBA.
I couldn’t agree more with Sir Charles. It’s also why he’s the best. You need his voice out there (albeit he sometimes crosses the line...but don’t we all!).
There is a lot of talk on local sports radio about load management, for example, and the father who has spent $100s on tickets to take his child or family, and then LeBron, or K.D. is sitting out the game. It’s outrageous. It’s been an issue for years, but you can see the owners saying enough is enough.
Commissioner Adam Silver weighed in on the load management topic Saturday and said there is “medical data” to support the current practice and disagreed with the notion that too many players – especially stars – are sitting out of games without injury.
Silver has proven to be nothing but an empty suit.
--I don’t watch the All-Star festivities, but I guess for the record I have to note that G-League star Mac McClung won the Slam Dunk Contest and Damian Lillard (err, ‘Dame’ Lillard) won the three-point shooting affair.
You can start calling me Dame Editor.
--Michael Jordan gets an early 2023 Good Guy Award. He celebrated his 60th birthday by making a $10 million donation to Make-A-Wish.
It is the largest donation ever received from an individual in the organization’s 43-year history.
Jordan is hoping his donation will inspire others to help fulfill the wishes of the kids still waiting for their wishes to come true.
“For the past 34 years, it’s been an honor to partner with Make-A-Wish and help bring a smile and happiness to so many kids,” Jordan said in a news release. “Witnessing their strength and resilience during such a tough time in their lives has truly been an inspiration.”
Jordan has granted hundreds of wishes to children all over the world and was named Make-A-Wish chief wish ambassador in 2008 for what the organization called the “life-changing impacts he has had on wish kids and their families.”
That’s a good man.
--It’s big news that San Diego All-Star third baseman Manny Machado announced he would opt out of his $300 million, 10-year deal after this season. He can change his mind, but recall, Jacob deGrom did the same thing last spring training and didn’t change his mind over the course of the year.
So that means Mets fans know our Uncle Stevie will target the lad, who turns 31 in July and should be highly productive for at minimum another four years after this one. The guy has certainly proved his durability, with four, top-five MVP seasons (you know how big that metric is with me). He’s headed to the Hall of Fame.
And as Jon Heyman points out in the New York Post, Machado has a relationship with Mets manager Buck Showalter, who managed Machado in Baltimore.
“I’m proud of the player he’s become and the husband he’s become,” Showalter said Friday when asked about his former star. “I’m not going there. He’s somebody else’s player, and they’re lucky to have him.”
It’s quite possible the Mets actually get Machado in a blockbuster trade at the deadline this season, before even Shohei Ohtani. And as Heyman writes, “Word is, (Showalter and Machado) are close.”
--Speaking of Ohtani, Jon Heyman thinks he likes it too much on the West Coast and he might be right. The other day, Ohtani made his first public comments of the season at Angels camp. The reporters tried their best to pry anything from him, but all everyone wanted, of course, was to hear if he will back with the Angels next year, Ohtani eligible for free agency.
“This is my last year, and I’m aware of that,” he said through his interpreter. “As of now, I’m an Angel, and that’s all I want to focus on.”
He said he hasn’t had any deep conversations with owner Arte Moreno, who opted to keep rather than sell the team.
Asked whether he would be open to an extension, Ohtani said he did not have much idea what his agent was talking to the Angels about these days, if anything.
Asked whether he is determined to become a free agent, Ohtani then replied: “This is the last year of my contract, and if I don’t sign an extension, naturally I will become a free agent.”
You know the world’s greatest baseball player is frustrated the Angels haven’t finished higher than third in the AL West, and that he’s never played a meaningful game in September, let alone October.
I’m guessing Ohtani will be expressing his true feelings, one way or another, by end of May, and if the team gets off to a poor start, he won’t be happy.
As in he’ll be traded so that the Angels can get something in return, or he’ll ink an extension. This won’t drag out beyond the trade deadline.
I do think the Angels made some solid moves in the offseason and he’ll want to stick, Mike Trout convincing him to do so. Of course a key to a good start is for Trout to be on the field, and the last few seasons have certainly been frustrating on that front. He hasn’t played even 140 games since 2018.
Trout this week said that when it comes to Ohtani, “I’m going to do everything I can to keep Shohei here for sure.”
The best way to do it, Trout says, is quite simple.
“Win baby, just win.”
--The Yankees, who lost starter Nestor Cortes to a hamstring issue that probably keeps him from Opening Day, lost starter Frankie Montas to a likely season-ending shoulder surgery.
What a disaster the trade for Montas has been. Acquired from Oakland on Aug. 1, he went 1-3 with a 6.35 ERA in eight starts, and didn’t pitch after Sept. 16 due to inflammation in his pitching shoulder.
I mean the Yanks are suddenly down to Gerrit Cole, newcomer Carlos Rodon (who is getting rave reviews in camp) and Luis Severino, who has a history of injury issues.
New York better hope Cortes gets healthy quick.
--Tim McCarver died at the age of 81 on Thursday. A two-time All-Star, two-time World Series champion, and one of the few to play in four decades in the major leagues (1959-80), having made his MLB debut at just 17.
McCarver really had an underrated career, .271 batting average as a catcher. He was the personal catcher for Bob Gibson and Steve Carlton, and actually finished second in the MVP vote in 1967 (to teammate Orlando Cepeda). He won his World Series with the Cardinals in 1964 and 1967. He also played for the Phillies, Red Sox and Expos.
But for a different generation of fans who didn’t get to see him play, McCarver is known for his Hall of Fame career as an announcer, perhaps baseball’s best…certainly one of the best.
He called games for the Phillies (1980-82), Mets (1983-98), Yankees (1999), Giants (2002) and Cardinals (2014-21). But he was also a national broadcaster for CBS (1990-93) and Fox (1996-2013) and called 20 All-Star Games and a record 24 World Series.
In a statement, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred called McCarver, “one of the most influential voices our game has known.”
Ken Rosenthal / The Athletic
“During our time together at Fox, from 2006 to ’13, he not only accepted me, a print reporter becoming a third voice on the broadcast, but also taught me so much….
“Tim’s enthusiasm for the game never wavered. He worked to prepare for each broadcast, harder than most viewers imagined. On the morning of a game, Tim would call our producer, Pete Macheska, to discuss ideas; Tim valued the opinion of others in helping form his own. He then would arrive at the park at least five hours before first pitch, well ahead of Joe Buck, his play-by-partner for 18 years at Fox, and myself….
“He would look at tapes, graphics, packages, consider what he would say in the opening segment of the show. By the first pitch Tim was like a thoroughbred at the gate, ready to go.
“When Tim left Fox at age 72, he wasn’t finished as a broadcaster. He spent the next six seasons working Cardinals games, and if not for the Covid-19 pandemic, might have kept going. His facility with the language was underrated. His knowledge of the game was encyclopedic. And his memory was phenomenal. Decades later, Tim could recall sequences from when he was catching Bob Gibson in the 1960s and Steve Carlton in the ‘70s – and a whole lot more.
“As Ed Goren, the former vice-chairman of the Fox Sports Media Group, liked to say, Tim also was the master of the ‘first guess,’ giving the proper opinion on strategy before plays occurred, rather than waiting until after. Some fans complained about him – some fans always complain about broadcasters – but Tim worked postseason baseball on network television for 29 consecutive years, including 24 World Series. Both are records for an analyst. Evidently, he was doing something right.
“But back to the 2006 World Series [Ed. Rosenthal’s favorite story]. Cardinals vs. Tigers. McCarver vs. (Tigers manager Jim) Leyland. A classic argument between two proud and feisty baseball lifers.
“Kenny Rogers pitched eight splendid innings in Game 2 to secure what would prove to be the Tigers’ only victory. But his performance, as Tyler Kepner wrote in the New York Times, caused ‘the biggest uproar over suspected pine tar since George Brett burst out of the dugout at Yankee Stadium in 1983.’
“The Fox cameras had shown a discoloration on Rogers’ left hand. Twitter had only been invented months before, so there was none of the social-media tumult that exists in such moments today. But our late director, the brilliant Bill Webb, knew a story when he saw one, and wasn’t shy about showing repeated shots of Rogers’ hand, adding to the drama.
“Cardinals manager Tony La Russa never asked the umpires to check Rogers, probably because his own pitchers were engaging in similar conduct, and he feared reprisal. But Rogers was the focus of the conversation postgame and on the ensuing off day. By the time the Fox announcers entered Leyland’s office before Game 3, the manager had about had enough.
“Normally pregame meetings between broadcasters and managers are fairly routine. The broadcasters will ask questions about strategy, pitching usage, individual players, anything that might be topical. The meetings generally take place three to four hours before games. The conversation is almost always relaxed, hardly ever volatile.
“This day was different.
“Leyland lit into Fox’s coverage of Rogers, raising his voice enough so that his players in the adjoining clubhouse probably could hear. Later, I figured out that was at least part of his motivation, to show his players he had their backs. But in the moment, listening to him rant, I wasn’t processing that so clearly.
“At one point, I recall Leyland saying something about how Fox wanted a New York team in the World Series and not the Tigers, and that is why the network was trying to make his team look bad – a ludicrous accusation that stemmed, it seemed, simply from the heat of the moment. I don’t remember all of the back and forth, but I do remember Tim staying calm, moving forward in his chair and raising his voice back at Leyland. As the rest of us squirmed, Tim refused to back down, telling Leyland he was wrong.
“I was, well, in awe.
“When someone in baseball expresses unhappiness with something I’ve reported, I generally let that person speak without pushing back. The person is entitled to his or her say, and I just listen. Most print reporters do the same, preferring to avoid outright confrontation. But of course, none of us carries the resume of Tim McCarver.”
Joe Buck: “He was the best teammate a 27-year-old doing the National Game of the Week and the World Series could have. A fierce defender if you were in his circle. I’m indebted to him for 18 great years together.”
As Rosenthal said, never afraid to speak his mind, McCarver had another famous run-in with Deion Sanders during the 1992 NLCS after he criticized the two-sport star for playing in a game for the Atlanta Falcons on the same day the Braves had a playoff game, something I barely seem to remember, but this was obviously a huge deal. Sanders responded by dumping a bucket of ice water on McCarver in the postgame clubhouse.
McCarver, in talking of his relationship with the intimidating Bob Gibson, once said: “I remember one time going out to the mound to talk with (Gibson). He told me to get back behind the plate where I belonged, and that the only thing I knew about pitching was that I couldn’t hit it.”
Andrew Marchand / New York Post
“If there is anything in World Series broadcasting akin to Bill Mazeroski’s 1960 championship-winning homer, it occurred in Arizona on Nov. 3, 2001.
“It was Game 7 of the World Series. The bases were loaded with one out and the score was tied in the bottom of the ninth. Mariano Rivera faced the Diamondbacks’ left-handed-swinging Luis Gonzalez.
“ ‘The one problem is, Rivera throws inside to left-handers,’ McCarver said as Rivera stared down Gonzalez. ‘Left-handers get a lot of broken bat hits, into shallow outfield, the shallow part of the outfield. That is the danger of bringing the infield in with a guy like Rivera on the mound.’
“You know the rest. Rivera threw a nasty cutter. Gonzalez floated a little bloop that Derek Jeter would have caught if he were playing normal depth. And the Diamondbacks were the champions.
“ ‘I thought that was the greatest moment I’ve ever heard from an analyst,’ Joe Buck said during a phone interview.”
McCarver’s final national broadcast was Game 6 of the 2013 World Series, the Red Sox defeating the Cardinals. In signing off, he told viewers: “Fairness, accuracy and honesty have always been my goals, along with teaching you something you may not have known about this great game. I hope I’ve achieved those things.”
I have to admit, I had issues with McCarver, listening to thousands of his games as a Mets fan. He sure was opinionated, and he had a lot to say. But he knew the game.
And because of his work ethic, as Bob Raisman of the New York Daily News put it, “McCarver was so committed to his craft he believed others in the business should live up to the same standards. It didn’t matter if it was other broadcasters or management. It didn’t matter if it was producers and directors from the various channels the Mets or Yankees played on or national networks like ABC, CBS, and Fox.
“If you’ve been in broadcasting for 10 or so years, you can show up and get by,” McCarver once said. “I hear some broadcasters and I know they’re getting by. You don’t need a trained ear to tell. I’m never satisfied until I prepare the way I prepare. If I go on the air and there’s one thing I didn’t know, it’s like dammit, why didn’t I know that?”
You can’t help but respect that.
--Tiger Woods did it, make the cut at the Genesis Invitational at Riviera in Pacific Palisades, birdieing his final three holes of his first round to post a 2-under 69, and then barely hanging on in the second after a 3-over 74, to go +1 for 36, right on the cut line. This is his first official event since missing the cut at St. Andrews in the British Open last July.
But this was 11 strokes off the lead and after 36, defending champ Max Homa was atop the leaderboard at -10, with Keith Mitchell, Jon Rahm, and Lee Hodges one back at -9, and Collin Morikawa at -8.
[Woods got himself in trouble with a highly-televised prank on his good buddy Justin Thomas after Tiger outdrove him on one hole…a prank that was seen as sexist, among other things, and he apologized for it…but a self-inflicted error that will hurt him for a brief spell in the world of public opinion. Personally, I couldn’t give a damn, he was just careless in not knowing how many others would see it.]
So, in the third round, Jon Rahm took charge and built a 3-shot lead heading into Sunday’s finale, while Tiger impressed with a 67, -3, T26…which isn’t bad at all.
Rahm -15 (65)
Homa -12 (69)
Mitchell -11 (69)
Patrick Cantlay -10 (68)
And Rahm closed the deal, his tenth PGA Tour win, 3rd of the season, 5th worldwide in nine starts. I’d say he’s kind of hot.
Will Zalatoris -13…Go Deacs!
*The key down the stretch was a spectacular birdie putt on 14, clutch par putt on 15, and then a birdie on 16 for a 2-shot lead.
Tiger had a disappointing 73, -1 for the event, T45…but making the cut was pretty awesome.
However, it sounds like this is it before Augusta.
--Among those missing the cut this weekend were Matthew Fitzpatrick, Jordan Spieth, Justin Rose, Hideki Matsuyama and Billy Horschel.
--The PGA Tour picked up a major victory in its battle with LIV Golf, as a judge ruled that Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund and its governor can be deposed and must produce documents in the litigation battle between the two.
Federal Judge Susan van Keulen rejected LIV’s arguments that the PIF and Yasir Al-Rumayyan are protected by sovereign immunity laws because Al-Rumayyan’s conduct “falls within the commercial activity exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act.” Should the ruling hold, it would give unprecedented access into the business dealings of the sovereign wealth fund, which Saudi Arabia has long fought to keep secret.
The PIF is the primary backer of LIV, and documents the PGA Tour obtained in discovery in December allege that PIF and Al-Rumayyan were “instrumental in inducing players to breach their tour contracts.” The tour argues Al-Rumayyan personally recruited players, “played an active role in contract negotiations, and expressly approved each of the player contracts – all while knowing that these deals would interfere with the players’ tour contracts.”
LIV argued that the PIF was a “mere investor,” but van Keulen has rejected those assertions, writing it was evident the PIF was “the moving force behind the founding, funding, oversight and operation of LIV.”
Al-Rumayyan, who is part of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s inner circle, is considered the mastermind of the Golf Saudi and LIV golf projects.
LIV will appeal the decision, which would then go to U.S. District court Judge Beth Freeman, who has already ruled against LIV and LIV members in a temporary restraining order last summer. LIV could then appeal to the 9th Circuit Court, which would delay the antitrust case for months.
--So with the above in mind, there was a story this week that Brooks Koepka might be having second thoughts on joining LIV. Golf writer Alan Shipnuck wrote in a Q&A mailbag for his website The Fire Pit Collective: “I’m hearing a lot of rumblings that Brooks Koepka has buyer’s remorse. The guy has one of the biggest egos in golf, and as the PGA Tour creates ever-increasing buzz with its elevated events and even the state-sanctioned TGL [tech-infused golf league], Koepka has to feel like he’s on the outside looking in.”
Shipnuck added that the four-time major champ, with eight PGA Tour victories, “has to feel like he’s on the outside looking in” when it comes to huge prize money increases on Tour – something that was a direct response to the emergence of LIV. The Phoenix Open is one of the Tour’s ‘elevated’ events, with a $20 million purse that included $3.6 million to this year’s winner, Scottie Scheffler.
Koepka said on the recently released Netflix docuseries, “Full Swing,” that the WM Phoenix Open is his favorite event.
But LIV did apparently sign up three more players; Thomas Pieters, Danny Lee and Brendan Steele.
As in whoopty-damn-do.
Pieters, 31, has won six times on the European Tour and is talented, but is 0 for 49 on the PGA Tour. Lee, 31, has one win on the PGA Tour, back in 2015, and has sucked this year. And Steele, 39, has 3 wins on the PGA Tour, but two of them were the Safeway Open and the last was in 2018. He too has sucked this 2022-23 season.
As in, Lee and Steele are lucky to get the money, which can’t be that substantial.
Pieters isn’t a loss for the PGA Tour, but it does hurt a little for the Euro circuit.
--Rory McIlroy had some interesting things to say in his Wednesday press conference. He said the PGA tour should build itself around its stars, just like the NBA did to become one of the most popular leagues in the world.
“If you look at the NBA’s trajectory over the last 20 years, they’ve built that league around their best players and their stars, not around the 12th guy on the team,” Rory said. “But because they’ve built that league up around the stars, the 12th guy on the team does way better than he used to. So that’s sort of the way I’ve been trying to tell it.”
Yes, the PGA Tour’s upper echelon loves the changes and how the new designated events have played out so far.
The middle of the pack guys, however, don’t like the new setup, but they need to use the non-designated events to move up in the FedEx Cup standings so that next year they are in the elite top 70. Not enough, yet, this tour season is being made of that…that the FedEx Cup playoffs are for only the top 70 and not the top 125 as in the past. Joe Blow winning the non-designate upcoming Honda Classic soars in the FedEx Cup standings.
The real issue is with the tour sponsors, of course, and it’s a simple solution…rotate a bunch of the designated events so that, say, the Honda Classic is designated every three or four years.
The Tour is considering making at least some of the designated events limited-field, no-cut tournaments, however, and if these are limited to just the top 70, that will create some ill will among the rest of the tour.
McIlroy insisted the PGA Tour’s revamped product will not be a “closed shop for the same guys every week.”
“This tour was built on meritocracy,” McIlroy said. “This tour was built on if you shoot the scores, you can move up the levels and play the biggest events. That’s not going to be taken away.”
Take the case of Canadian Nick Taylor, who finished second at the WM Phoenix Open. He has two wins on the PGA Tour but only once has made the FedEx Cup final top 50. This year he is already 15th on the points list (going into this week…he made the cut at Riviera but might slip a notch or two), and is almost certain to be top 70 this season. And thus he’s part of the elite for 2024. That’s how it should work.
On the other hand, among those I cited above who missed the cut this week, Fitzpatrick is just 93rd on the FedEx points list; Spieth 95th; Matsuyama 73rd; and Horschel 104th. In the past, they’d be like, no problemo, I’ll be in the top 125, even if it is an off year. Not anymore. These guys need to step up their game. That said, they’ll have a great opportunity to do so because they’ll be at all of this year’s designated events with the higher points and purses.
--NASCAR is unique in having its Super Bowl as the first race of the season, the Daytona 500, and this year’s edition is special on a number of levels. Many drivers have made team changes (that I can’t keep up with), but also seven-time Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson, 47, is making his return to the sport after retiring from stock-car racing in 2020, opting for IndyCar, which included his first start at the Indy 500. Kevin Harvick is beginning his final season before hitting the broadcast booth.
So I was focused on Golf, keeping up on the race online, with occasional look-ins, and we had two overtimes…and…
It’s Ricky Stenhouse Jr. …Danica Patrick’s former boyfriend…a very strange finish, chaotic, and I’ll have more in my Add-on.
--Good lord, my New York Rangers are on fire…winning their seventh straight Friday night in Edmonton in a 5-4 shootout. Particularly impressive was that the Rangers were down 3-0 and 4-1, on the road, in the first period!
Seven-game streaks are tough to achieve in the NHL. Like 8 of 10 is great. But this is now the first time in franchise history that the Rangers have posted multiple winning streaks of seven-plus in the same season.
Well, I spoke too soon. They played again Saturday night in Calgary and lost in overtime, 3-2, but at least picked up a point.
--Word is the Green Bay Packers have had it with Aaron Rodgers. Longtime Green Bay reporter Bob McGinn said on a podcast that the team is looking to move on:
“They are done with Rodgers,” McGinn said, citing his own instincts, his knowledge of the league, and “discussions with someone who [has] first-hand knowledge” of the Packers. “He’s not coming back. I mean, they’re disgusted with him, and they’re done with him. And they’re moving on.”
Ergo, the Jets could be on the horizon, though like local sports radio host Tiki Barber, I’m not as certain as I was before that the Aaron Rodgers of today (including all his antics) is really a good fit for the Big Apple. I kind of like the idea of Derek Carr, who is much younger, durable, solid, and still a major upgrade over what we have now.
[The Jets wined and dined Carr the other day and Coach Robert Salah and Carr had lunch at Fiorino’s Ristorante in Summit. For ten years, the first ten of StocksandNews, my office was above this fine establishment.]
--The Washington Commanders finalized a deal with longtime Chiefs assistant Eric Bieniemy to be their assistant head coach and offensive coordinator.
Bieniemy, who spent the past five seasons as Kansas City’s OC, became Washington’s top target following the firing of Scott Turner.
While there are many around the NFL who are ridiculing the move because once again Bieniemy has been passed over for a head-coaching position, this hire is significant.
In Washington, he’ll for the first time have full control of an offense and the play-calling. In Kansas City, in many respects, he was not the sole play caller in games (Reid was). But he comes from the West Coast system, having spent a decade alongside Reid, and he’s under a coach now, Ron Rivera, who you can see stepping down at some point for Bieniemy.
Aside from there being ownership issues in Washington that could force the matter, you have the issue of Rivera’s health.
--Ravens fans should be happy with recent developments on the Lamar Jackson front. The team sought his input in the hire of a new offensive coordinator and they hired Georgia OC Todd Monken to the same position.
Monken has been Georgia’s offensive coordinator for the past three seasons, which means for back-to-back national championships with Stetson Bennett IV.
The Ravens have repeatedly said they will bring Jackson – an impending free agent – back, and Jackson sharing his input is a good sign.
--The Arizona Cardinals filled their head coaching job with Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon, the announcement coming on the same day that the Colts named Eagles offensive coordinator Shane Stiechen their head coach.
Thinking of Eric Bieniemy, the hiring of Gannon was rather ridiculed, Gannon doing such a shitty job in the Super Bowl, unable to stop the Chiefs’ a single possession in the second half, but that’s just me and millions of others.
--Wednesday, Manchester City beat Arsenal 3-1 and was suddenly on top of the standings on goal differential, Arsenal, seemingly on the way to the title just two weeks ago, with two losses and a draw in its last three.
--But Saturday, the Gunners rebounded with a 4-2 win at Aston Villa, while City managed only a 1-1 draw at Nottingham Forest, an embarrassing performance.
So it was Arsenal back on top!
Sunday, Manchester United whipped Leicester, 3-0, as Marcus Rashford had another two goals, 17 in 18 (all matches), the most in Europe’s top five leagues since the World Cup.
And my Tottenham Hotspurs, continuing their up-down, up-down season, got a needed 2-0 win at home against 18 West Ham. So kind of out of nowhere, the Spurs are in the fourth and final Champions League slot.
And the standings…22/24 of 38….Played – Points
1. Arsenal 23 – 54
2. Man City 24 – 52
3. Man U 24 – 49
4. Tottenham 24 – 42
5. Newcastle 23 – 41
6. Fulham! 24 – 38
8. Liverpool 22 – 35
10. Chelsea 23 – 31
--The football world was saddened by the news that Christian Atsu’s body was found in the rubble of a building that collapsed in Turkey’s earthquakes, the Ghanaian soccer player’s agent and club said Saturday.
Atsu’s club, Hatayspor, which is based in southern Turkey, said Atsu’s body would be sent back to Ghana.
“We will not forget you, Atsu. Peace be upon you, beautiful person,” the club said on Twitter. “There are no words to describe our sadness.”
Atsu played for Newcastle United for five years until 2021, as well as Everton and Bournemouth in the Premier League, before joining Hatayspor in September.
He was also a past member of the Ghanaian national team.
--At the FIS Alpine World Championships, Mikaela Shiffrin won the giant slalom, but finished second in the slalom, to surprise winner Laurence St. Germain of Canada. St. Germain (cool name) had never finished on the podium in five World Cup seasons, and now she has gold in the world championships! Goodness gracious.
But while Shiffrin was disappointed, she picked up a gold and two silvers (the other in the super-G) in this competition, far better than her Olympic performance in Beijing. A success.
Now it’s the quest to pick up World Cup win No. 86, and maybe 87, to beat Ingemar Stenmark.
--This sucks…a federal judge denied Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert an injunction that would have allowed him to run horses in the 2023 Kentucky Derby.
U.S. District Judge Rebecca Grady Jennings declined to lift Baffert’s suspension that was imposed by Churchill Downs following the disqualification of 2021 Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit for a drug violation.
The company suspended Baffert for two years in June 2021, citing its duties to ensure horseraces are conducted fairly and safely and protect the reputation of the sport and Churchill Downs Inc.
Jennings noted Baffert is the only trainer whose horses have tested positive in back-to-back marquee races on Churchill Downs’ tracks.
--Raquel Welch died Wednesday, age 82. Oh, the memories for those of us of a certain age.
It all basically started with the 1966 film “One Million Years B.C.,” where she only had three lines, but her doeskin bikini did all the talking, launching her as an international icon/sex symbol almost overnight. She parlayed that notoriety into a Hollywood career that burned bright for nearly 60 years.
“Raquel Welch, the legendary bombshell actress of film, television and stage, passed away peacefully early this morning after a brief illness,” said a statement from Media Four. “Her career spanned over 50 years starring in over 30 films and 50 television series and appearances. The Golden Globe winner, in more recent years, was involved in a very successful line of wigs.”
As the Los Angeles Times put it: “Welch was a La Jolla beauty queen-turned-single mom, but to the world, she was an exotic actor whose smoldering looks and curvy figure suited the mood of the swinging 1960s.
“ ‘I liked that there was something very superhero about her,’ Welch told The Times in 2017, referring to her role as Loana the cave girl. ‘At least I wasn’t one of those mincing little girls; I never wanted to be that.’
“Indeed, Welch had a complicated relationship with her persona. Forever determined to prove that she was more than a sex symbol, she was rarely taken as seriously as she took herself. And though she proudly refused to do nude scenes, her fame was always tied directly to her sexuality, a fate she accepted with regret.
“ ‘There was this perception of ‘Oh, she’s just a sexpot. She’s just a body. She probably can’t walk and chew gum at the same time,’’ she told Men’s Health in 2012….
“In an era when men often considered women largely ornamental, Welch earned a reputation for being strong-willed and independent. In 1970, at the peak of her fame, she took a role that no one wanted as a transgender woman in the film adaptation of Gore Vidal’s satirical novel ‘Myra Breckinridge.’”
Welch liked the book and then the final script was stripped of the elements she enjoyed and the finished project was a bomb.
But some of us will forever remember her roles in “Fantastic Voyage” and “Bedazzled,” and her appearances with Johnny Carson, and a special one with Bob Hope on one of his USO Christmas tours in Vietnam, where with thousands of soldiers hungry for a taste of home amidst that ugly war, she took the stage in a tiny miniskirt with white boots and the men went nuts. [Bob Hope with those shows, for years, was so important for our men and women in uniform. A truly Great American.]
“Every time I left a theater, there would be a crowd of women waiting to ask me questions, such as: ‘What do you eat?,’ ‘What kind of exercises do you do?’ and ‘How do you look like that?,’” Welch told The Times in 1986. “Well, I wasn’t about to stand there and explain my daily hour-and-a-half exercise routine or what I had for breakfast.”
“Being a sex symbol was a tremendous responsibility and a constant battle,” she added. “It used to bother me at first, but I now know you can have that and be respected as well. You can have both.”
Reflecting on her status as an international sex symbol, Welch kept it real with The Times.
“I am not a fool,” she said. “I realized when I came along, I wasn’t Meryl Street who had been put into a bikini. I was somebody that got rocketed into the spotlight and superstardom overnight. I knew this was going to give me an opportunity and I should make the best of it.”
“In the end, I’ve gotten a lot of opportunities to do various things I am very proud of, including Broadway and the physical comedy in ‘The Three Musketeers’ [for which she won a Golden Globe]. So I would probably say to [my younger self], ‘Good for you.’”
RIP, Raquel Welch.
--Switching gears, rudely. A Dirtball Award for boxer Manny Pacquiao, now a Philippine legislator.
Less than a day after he lost his sponsorship deal with Nike because he compared gay people to animals, Pacquiao took to Instagram early Thursday morning and posted some Bible verses that support his view.
One of them, Leviticus 20:13, states in no uncertain terms that homosexuals should be killed:
“If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.”
He deleted the post two hours later, but not before it received 18,000 likes.
Pacquiao has issued all kinds of vile remarks on the topic over the years.
--My thoughts and prayers to country music star Kellie Pickler, whose husband, country music songwriter Kyle Jacobs, committed suicide, a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
I listen to Pickler’s regular gig on Sirius XM’s country channel, “The Highway.” She’s so cheerful, a great promoter of the country brand. I can’t imagine what she’s going through.
Top 3 songs for the week 2/17/79: #1 “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?” (Rod Stewart) #2 “Y.M.C.A.” (Village People) #3 “A Little More Love” (Olivia Newton-John)…and…#4 “Fire” (Pointer Sisters) #5 “I Will Survive” (Gloria Gaynor) #6 “Every 1’s A Winner” (Hot Chocolate) #7 “Le Freak” (Chic) #8 “Lotta Love” (Nicolette Larson) #9 “Somewhere In The Night” (Barry Manilow) #10 “I Was Made For Dancin’” (Leif Garrett…D week…it was junior year at Wake as I struggled to get above the Mendoza Line…)
Daytona 500 Quiz Answers: 1) Cale Yarborough won four (1968, 1977, 1983, 1984). 2) Sterling Marlin went back-to-back in 1994-95. 3) Mario Andretti (1967) and A.J. Foyt (1972) won at both Indy and Daytona.
Very brief Add-on up top by noon, Wed.