Even though he’s not on my team anymore, I’m still rooting for Tom Brady.
He won 6 more Superbowls for the Patriots than I ever thought I’d see them win when I grew up watching them lose in the first round every year, or finally make it to the Superbowl in ’86 only to embarrass themselves.
So even if it feels like watching divorced dad with his new family, I’ll be rooting for Brady, Gronk and Tampa in Sunday’s festivities… but the cold-hearted soul-less analyst in me is thinking Chiefs win by something like 31-28. At least that’s what I got when I crunched all the stats, sport-betting wise (and I’m not betting on the game, especially since my calculations put the result way too close to the spread).
I predict a good game, with back and forth leads… but in the end, I think Mahomes and the Chiefs are just a better team than the Bucs.
I guess this is what it took to get me to emerge from my non-blogging cave for the past several weeks… or is it months? I’ve lost all track of time since all this virus BS began. I can’t tell one day from another, except that each day seems to suck more than the previous one.
I’m tired of it all. How about you?
I’d like to think it ends with logical and reasoned decisions made by people with an adult view of the world, but I’d also like to think I can pick the powerball numbers at will. So I’ll dispense with predictions of violence and apocalypse and stick to picking this year’s Kentucky Derby, bumped this year to Labor Day weekend from its traditional May spot.
The clear favorite this year is 17 Tiz The Law, and for good reason – this horse simply outclasses the remainder of the field. The current line is 3-5 on him, and it’s been a while since a Derby favorite has been under even money. He’s got the speed and the consistency, and has won every race in his career except for a sloppy track effort.
Forecast for Churchill Downs on Saturday is sunny & clear. Fast dry track. Check.
So I’ll definitely go with 17 Tiz The Law as my winner… but with odds like that and MY ENORMOUS EGO to be satisfied, it’s time to think about what sorts of combo plays are possible.
My second choice would be 18 Authentic, one of two Baffert trained entries. Authentic has a near perfect record, save a close failed-as-favorite effort in the Santa Anita Derby. Bounced back nicely in the Haskell with the great Mike Smith aboard… but today, Smith will be riding his long-time partner 16 Honor AP, another horse I’d throw into my combos. Authentic switches to John Velazquez, who has a very nice 3/4 in the money record with Baffert with two wins. That tells me Baffert thinks he’s got a definite shot against Tiz The Law, and is definitely gunning for a money position. I’d also say the same for Honor AP and Smith, even if some of the numbers aren’t as strong.
My other picks for possible money finishes would be 15 NY Traffic, currently 20-1, despite running a fantastic Haskell Stakes, only losing by a nose to Authentic. This horse is improving and comes into this race with some nice momentum, ready to challenge horses who look better on paper… but I’m thinking he could get into that 2-3-4 position and fatten up any exotic pools if he stays 20-1 (though I won’t be surprised if those odds drop considerably by post time.) Rounding out my exotic field are 2 Max Player at 30-1. He’s lost to Tiz The Law twice, but puts up some impressive speed figures recently, and the works tell me his new trainer has him running faster than before. He’s also a closer – could be the kind of horse who sits in the middle for a chunk of the race and then runs into a money position down the stretch. I also would give some chance to 6 King Guillermo, another 20-1 dark horse who shows improving works and the potential to come out ahead in a race-inside-the-race type dynamic of horses competing for 3rd or 4th despite Tiz The Law clearly in the lead.
So it’s looking like a 17/15,16,18 exacta ticket and a 17,18/2,6,15,16,17,18/2,6,15,16,17,18 trifecta, maybe. I might prune depending on odds changes, or if I decide to go all-in on Tiz winning regardless of my combos. But since I’m still playing with house money in my eyes from my long-ago pick 6 win, maybe I’ll get extravagant.
Haven’t bet the horses in a while. One day of betting Del Mar earlier this summer scared me away when I watched twenty bucks go down the toilet when Del Mar did what Del Mar does and NOTHING seemed predictable. And this was after some nice wins at Santa Anita.
Ah well… Santa Anita returns on September 19 for a month or so… I’ll wait til then.
Welcome to a new feature for my fellow sports addicts going through withdrawal.
The other day, I watched MLB Network’s broadcast of the 1978 Yankee/Red Sox divisional play-off, the Bucky Dent game. They showed the entirety of the game with a few pop-up trivia overlays, but essentially just gave us the old WPIX broadcast complete with Bill White and Phil Rizzuto.
And I thought, with ALL sports gone for a while, why don’t the other sports channels run old games? They own the films of all of ’em, and could add panels with surviving players the way MLB does, or put in pop-up trivia, or what have you.
But I then I remembered how people upload their own private video stash to youtube, and sure enough, there’s GOLD like this – the complete broadcast of ABC’s Monday Night Football premiere game of 1970, with the original commercials intact.
There’s a lot to digest here – Keith Jackson’s announcing, Howard Cosell on highlights, and Don Meredith on very infrequent color commentary. The differences both in how the game is broadcast and how the game is played from now is pretty striking.
The broadcast is simple – no frills, very few replays. Limited camerawork given the technology of the day, but all the key action captured. Cosell starts the show off with a nice dig at Meredith, introducing him with a lowlight reel of his QB career, but the tradition of the insults flying in the booth wouldn’t really get going until the show aged a bit.
God… those titles and theme song. Hardly the big production and hype we get now. No yellow first down line. No scores or ticker flashing. We don’t even get to see the game clock unless they cut to a shot of the one at the stadium,
And somehow, it didn’t really matter.
The game play is something to see as well. No celebrations or showboating after mere sacks and tackles. Not even after touchdowns. The guys just play, and try to play well. It didn’t seem like there were as many penalties. The refs weren’t even mic’ed up, their calls had to be explained by Jackson unless you knew the hand signals.
And way fewer injuries, even with the defenses playing with a lot more contact, especially in the secondary.
Oh, and those ads! Never mind the Marlboro ciggie ads as a glimpse into a lost world… all the ads with athletes pitching stuff are SO much more likeable than the ENDLESS God damn insurance company drek that runs over and over and over again during today’s sportscasts. We get Len Dawson & Joe Kapp pitching Gillette before Tom Seaver does. Other ads feature Roger Maris and Bart Starr. It almost rivaled the nostalgia brought back by the players on the field… Joe Namath, Emerson Boozer & Matt Snell on the Jets, or the guy with one of the best names in sports history, Fair Hooker on the Browns.
The halftime highlights go through some of the previous weekend’s games, with Cosell selling it like it’s a huge innovation to see league films. Maybe it was back then.
Those Boston Patriots managed to beat the Miami Dolphins, though! But the seeds of the Dolphins’ future Superbowl champions were in place… some highlight plays include Griese passing to Paul Warfield, a combo I remember very well.
And there’s always Rod Serling selling Ford LTDs or Goodyear tires that’ll keep EVEN YOUR WIFE safe if she drives alone… but one of the ads that really jumped out at me was the United Airlines ad touting flying a 747. Look at the people in it – how well dressed they are, how spacious and relaxed that plane cabin looks, the people strolling around. Flying was once glamorous, luxurious… now they cram you in like sardines, nickel and dime you six different ways and take away your water.
This is a lot of fun to watch – and it’s just a regular game from another era. No playoff or memorable game where some record was broken, just a normal weekly broadcast. The Jets were a year after winning their upset Superbowl, the fans in Cleveland still had hope, and no one knew that veteran Johnny Unitas would finally win a Superbowl that season.
Well, if NFL network or ESPN won’t run stuff like this, I’ll post it to share, and invite your viewership and comments! I can’t be the only one who misses present sports and loves sports history.
So as therapy for our sports on hiatus, look for old games here – football, baseball, basketball, hockey… whatever I can find, especially if it has the original commercials and show bumpers. I want the complete experience, right down to the lame synth theme songs, hairstyles, dated celebrity references… you name it.
Luis Severino, who was the Yankees’ Cy Young finalist in 2018, and who got sidelined for nearly ALL of 2019 with some lame-ass labrum issue during spring training LAST year, is now slated for Tommy John surgery after throwing a small amount in only FUCKING FEBRUARY OF THIS YEAR.
Tommy John surgery means missing ALL of 2020 and a decent part of 2021.
Want more injuries? Aaron Judge, who should’ve won MVP over cheatin’ Altuve, is having “shoulder problems,” which in Yankee-speak means he’ll probably be sidelined until Labor Day.
Pile that on top of James Paxton, with friggin BACK SURGERY conducted a month ago as opposed to, oh, November maybe? He’ll be out until at least June.
Last year, a record THIRTY players from the Yankees went on the injured list. They still managed to win the division and lose to the Astros on stolen signs, but this is ridiculous. No other team in the league has this level of injuries, and as frequently.
The blame clearly lies with the training and conditioning, and whatever pharmaceuticals are being dispensed that numb minor pain before they turn major.
FIRE THEM ALL.
They should have been fired LAST year. And now we’re off to 2020, still in FUCKING FEBRUARY, and two of the best starting pitchers they have have been sidelined indefinitely, their perennial MVP hopeful “questionable.”
ENOUGH OF THIS SHIT.
I’m ready to fly to Tampa and personally pound the living shit out of their training and conditioning coaches. If I go on the injured list, it’s no big deal.
This was supposed to be the year – with signing Cole and everyone healthy, the Yankees should win north of 110 games. But this bullshit is already starting.
THIS RUINED MY WHOLE DAY and outweighed my fear of laboratory-grown Chinese germs heading our way. This just SUCKS.
I skipped picks last week with all the distractions, plus doing pretty badly the week before. Season totals stand at a you-may-as-well-flip-a-coin 39-38-3.
But with a lot of work done and other crap dealt with, it’s time to plunge back in and see what happens. I’m trying to be stricter in throwing possible bets out, so let’s see if that has a positive effect.
In the college games:
Pittsburgh by 7 over Georgia Tech
Cincinnati by 23 1/2 over East Carolina (the secret 51st state)
Kansas State by 4 1/2 over Kansas
LA Lafayette by 22 1/2 over Texas State
SMU plus 5 1/2 against Memphis (a good matchup)
Oregon State plus 5 1/2 against Arizona (probably my iffiest one, tbh)
In the NFL:
Jaguars plus 1 1/2 against the Texans
Panthers by 3 over the Titans
Colts by 1 over the Steelers
Packers by 3 1/2 over the Chargers
I also think the Patriots will win out over the Ravens in what’s probably the best game of the week. Will they cover the 3 1/2 or just win by a field goal? I’m figuring they cover or just lose it outright, to be honest…. so I’ll go with cover! The power of positive thinking.
I don’t know if there’s some sort of baseball award for most blown opportunities in a series, but the Yankees really deserve it for this year’s ALCS.
I won’t bother researching the Bill James stats or whatever they are to see if they set a record for men left on base or for the lowest batting average with runners in scoring position… but it sure feels like it. And defensively they were certainly erratic.
And give it up to the Astros – they took advantage of every mistake, made the most of practically every opportunity they had, sparkled in the field, and simply carried themselves like the team to beat. Too many of the Yankees looked confused and tired. A lot of times you can predict the winners of these things just by sensing the mood and attitude.
So I’ll watch what looks like to be a great matchup between the Astros and Nationals. Both teams have a pair of amazing starting pitchers, and I wonder if Nats manager Dave Martinez will do what he did to the Dodgers and stagger his pair of aces so that they don’t face the aces on the Astros. I guess we’ll see.
I’d have to give the edge to the Astros (who I figured to win it all once they signed Greinke, to be honest… but I have to root for my team and hope for the best… that’s what fandom is all about). The Astros have better hitting and balance, and probably a more reliable bullpen.
Yankees off-season will be interesting. I’m thinking they let Encanarcion go. Sabathia is retiring. I’m not sure if they’ll re-sign Gregorius with Andujar due back & the team overflowing with infielders, although I’d love to see him return. But with Urshela becoming what he has, and Voit doing well, and the wonderful addition of LeMehieu (probably the best move they made) along with future HOF Gleyber Torres out there… well, it’s a bit crowded.
What would I like to see in the off-season? Well, signing Garret Cole would sure be nice, although right now the 2020 starting rotation looks to be Severino – Tanaka – German – Paxton – Montgomery, and that’s not too bad. Bettances should return to the bullpen, too. But they can spend a billion dollars on free agents for all I care. I’m not paying for tickets and get to watch free on TV. Spend, spend, spend, I say!
Although all the “ifs” involved in that or any roster set up rely on avoiding the never-ending injuries that plagued nearly the entire team this year, so I think what I really want to see during the offseason is what I’ve wanted to see since maybe late April, that being for them to FIRE THE ENTIRE GOD DAMN STRENGTH AND TRAINING STAFF. Whatever the hell they’re doing, they’re doing in wrong. Guys miss half the year injured, like Judge – or the entire year like Stanton, only to come back and strain themselves AGAIN doing ordinary baseball stuff like running to first or swinging a bat. It’s ridiculous.
Another off-season move they should seriously consider is trading Gary Sanchez for pitching and prospects. They have other catchers who are perfectly fine, and the more I watched him this post-season the more I think he costs more than he provides, even when he hit better this year.
Cutting loose Jacoby Ellsbury and Greg Bird might be imminent as well.
So now to watch the World Series as merely a fan of the sport. Less stressful to be sure, but I don’t think it will affect my alcohol consumption during the games.
Watching the Yankees the past week has been an emotional chore. They’ve set a team record by allowing more than 73 runs in their last 7 games, not exactly the sort of record you want to set.
They can still score runs, if not enough to win, and they had some nice comebacks against the Twins, early on in this ongoing slog. But the Red Sox decimated them.
The pitching? Awful. Just awful. No one consistently pitches effectively. While sporting a weak starting rotation all year, they managed to finesse a wonderful record by a stars-all-align combo of people like German stepping up, across-the-board solid performances by overused bullpen names, and a lot of breaks going their way.
But these are the sorts of things that catch up with a team down the post-All Star break stretch, through August, when team pitching strength really makes the difference in which teams fade, collapse, or get to the finish line strong, ready for October battles between strong starting rotations.
Every team I can think of that started out the first half or 2/3 of the year looking amazing and then falling apart and collapsing by the end of the season all have the same thing in common: weak pitching. The ’64 Phillies overused their 2 main starters and blew a 6 1/2 game lead with only 12 to play. The ’69 Cubs, ’78 Red Sox, ’07 Mets, ’11 Red Sox… all cruised along early in the season, only to wither and fall by the wayside during the August-September stretch, all because of mediocre to poor pitching.
This week makes me think the 2019 Yankees could be added to this list – they got a 9 game lead right now, flirted with the best overall record in baseball, looked good against likely October competition like Houston, Tampa or Minnesota… but this past week… ugh. They look like crap.
CRAP I TELLS YA!
They have no stopper in the starting rotation. You won’t find a Guidry to chalk up a majority 25 wins after a Yankee loss like in ’78. When the bullpen door opens, Rivera will not appear to ensure the game is over, victory secured. Their best starter, German, seems effective but his win-loss record is a tad deceptive since they’ve come back in a few games where he got blown out early. Guidry he is not.
I thought they might stand pat before the trade deadline, but now it’s looking very likely they deal before the stroke of midnight July 31 for a starter, and the other teams know the price is going up for the Yankees when they’re playing like this. They’ll most likely give up some of the younger players and prospects I like just to get some above .500 pitcher with an ERA below 5, and that’s not good.
Severino, Montgomery and Bettances might come back before season’s end… but the odds of any of them being in top form after being injured so long are slim.
Can they rebound from this week’s doldrums? Sure, anything is possible. Signing some solid starter who rallies a clubhouse might happen. Standing pat, getting players back from the IL and coming together might happen.
I might also win the lottery. You never know. But in the meantime, Houston, Minnesota and Cleveland must be licking their chops.
While sports heads constantly argue back and forth with hot, cold and lukewarm takes on who-was-better-than-who, it’s practically unheard of for someone to pretty much be unanimously accepted as the Best EVER at their particular position in the sport.
I can’t think of anyone making a serious argument for anyone other then Mariano Rivera as the best closer of all time, both in the regular and especially in the post-season. When the bullpen door opened and “Enter Sandman” blasted over the speakers at Yankee Stadium as Rivera took the mound to protect an 8th or 9th inning lead, you could see the opposing dugout simply shrug since they knew the game was over. The man was practically unhittable.
Yeah, I know… he’d been gotten to in a few key games in the post-season, like in the ’97 playoffs, ’01 series and ’04 against the Red Sox… nobody’s perfect. The Yankees winning championships in that period boiled down to whether or not Rivera got saves, and he most often did.
Most closers don’t last as long as he did, unless they’re knuckleballers like Hoyt Wilhelm. 18 seasons of consistency from closers is just unheard of – most of ’em have a few stellar seasons and then blow their arms out, or fail to fool hitters, or just lose control. The history of baseball is littered with guys who had one to a few amazing seasons as a lights-out closer and then vanished – I can think of all the ones I remember over the years – Bill Campbell, Eric Gagne, Tom Niedenfuer, Rawly Eastwick… the list goes on. And then there were the ones who had the staying power, the ones who most often made in into the Hall like Rivera: Eckersley, Sutter, Hoffman… but even those guys weren’t as good as Rivera.
Practically every other position in baseball presents a debate over who was the best ever: Catcher? Berra or Cochrane? Wait, what about Bench? Fisk? Maybe shortstop is easier… Wagner? Jeter? No, no… maybe Ripken. How can you compare different baseball eras, some will say. Even the greatest ever gets debated, by those in the Ruth camp and those offering various alternatives for assorted reasons.
I’m still amazed War of Will won the Preakness. I didn’t see it coming. So bear that level of prognosticatin’ genius in mind as I make my picks for the final leg in this year’s Triple Crown races, Saturday’s Belmont Stakes.
My general rule is to throw out any horse that ran in the Preakness when they have to run against some killer route runners that have gotten a lot more rest. I made exceptions when I (along with many others) correctly picked the recent Triple Crown winners American Pharoah and Justify, or when I woulda picked I’ll Have Another if he’d run the Belmont. So when I tell you that #9 War Of Will at the opening line of 2-1 is totally beatable, it’s NOT because I’m still whinin’ over missing the Preakness, I’m simply applying a proven historic standard that horses who have run in the Preakness (AND the Derby in this case) don’t muster the energy against fresh horses of a similar class.
So who is left? Well, the opening line favorite at 9-5, #10 Tacitus is a good bet to win it. I picked him as a possibility in the Derby, and he did decently down the stretch to come in 4th (oh EXCUSE me, 3rd thanks to disqualification, that LAME disqualification…. and I call it lame since I picked that horse to win. You can’t fault me for honesty.).
But checking the numbers, I gotta say that Tacitus is beatable here, and I can point to two strong possibles to do it: The first is another Derby runner who was gaining on all of ’em down the stretch and given another 1/4 mile, the grueling length of the Belmont, had an excellent chance of catching & overtaking Tacitus – #3 Master Fencer, opening at a nice 8-1, though I’d expect that to fall to 4-1 or 9-2 by post time. He’s mostly raced in Japan and not at this distance, but he’s got the speed and class, and it looks like they’re stretching him out a bit by looking at the works. If he and Tacitus run similar to how they did in the Derby, and that was on a sloppy track – this time we’ll get a fast one – Master Fencer should outrun him in the end.
My other possible is #7 Sir Winston. While he’s never really competed at this level, he’s the only horse in the field to achieve the speed figures usually associated with winners of this race, albeit at the G3 level Peter Pan stakes last month. He had veteran Joel Rosario in the saddle for that one, and Rosario is on him again this time. This horse closes… and while he lost earlier in the year to Tacitus, much like Master Fencer in the Derby, he was gaining on him and had a real shot at overtaking him had the distance been longer. And he’s 12-1 on the opening line, maybe 8-1 by post time.
So it all comes down to whether or not Tacitus can maintain the lead down that long distance, or be caught by #3 or #7, in my opinion. I’ll probably wuss out and do a trifecta box of them. This field doesn’t look like it will yield monster pools & payouts on all the exotics, so I’ll probably just limit myself to a “let’s see if I just get it right this time” type bet.
And yeah, I might throw War of Will in there on the exotics, but not to win.
Some books and movies to discuss this Memorial Day weekend, thanks to several days of clouds ‘n’ drizzle that kept me inside most of the time. So while I’m letting a seasoned porterhouse come to room temperature before I sizzle it up for dinner (I posted a wonderful steak recipe & method here), I’ll tell ya about them.
I knocked off a couple of Hollywood gossipy quasi-bios this weekend, starting out with the one I grabbed a week back aong with a nice haul of other volumes at a big annual library sale – George Jacobs’ Mr. S – My Life With Frank Sinatra. Jacobs was Sinatra’s personal valet from the early 1950s to 1968, the PERFECT time to get all the dish ‘n’ dirt about bad marriages, Rat Pack Tales, the prime years of his music (if you ask me), dalliances with the Kennedys, and so forth. Jacobs mostly focuses on the sex lives of everyone he discusses, so this one was a very entertaining page turner. Sinatra would be incredibly loyal, sentimental and generous to people he liked, and could turn on a dime if he felt betrayed, cutting people completely out of his life & taking the grudge to his grave. Jacobs incurred Frank’s wrath by dancing with Mia Farrow at a Hollywood club, setting off gossip and rumors about affairs and such…. all perfectly innocent in Jacobs’ version, but Frank could never ever forgive the other men who he thought had eyes on “his” women – most often Ava Gardner, who he never could get over – but also the mismatched Farrow. Jacobs spins wonderful anecdotes – little wisps of his observations of Sinatra, and none of ’em disappoint. When I picked it up at the library sale and flipped through it to see if it’d be worth reading, every page I landed on contained another story about Frank getting pissed off at something or someone, smashing a phone, kicking a car radio, or threatening to kill himself – and I said “SOLD!” It was certainly a must-read item, an entertaining behind-the-scenes description of truly monstrous behavior towards people and especially lovers by the overly entitled – just perfect to make me feel both morally superior AND entertained.