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Phil Mushnick, New York Post’s Sports Media Critic, Still A Force After 47 Years

by Scott Mandel

With all due respect for the great sportswriters of the often-silly New York Post, my personal hero of that sports department is the non-politically correct, opinionated, tough-talking (but fair), worldly Staten Island-based buddy of mine, Phil Mushnick.

Phil used to be the “media guy” for the Post’s sports section, the television and radio columnist commenting and critiquing on how sports is covered by the talking heads as well as the print media. But, he’s spreading his wings a bit lately and has been producing a column with broader strokes. You may not always agree with what Phil says, but he says it with great aplomb, and doesn’t really care if you don’t agree with him. He’s authentic. The real deal.

A few years ago, Phil wrote a scathing piece about the hip-hop superstar, Jay Z, who had become a part owner of the Brooklyn Nets basketball team. Mushnick had a problem with Mr. Z’s misogynistic, racist lyrics in his songs, those lyrics providing Mr. Z with the funds to become an NBA owner. The firestorm of negative reaction from the public was enormous. How dare a writer reproduce the actual lyrics of “99 Problems,” the big song off of Mr. Z’s 2004 album entitled, The Black Album, as Mushnick chose to do, an action backed by his editors at the Post.

I wrote a piece defending Mr. Mushnick’s right to express his opinion, and how correct his opinion about Mr. Z’s lyrics was. Phil’s point of view, among many, was that Jay Z making millions of dollars on the back of misogyny and racist messaging ran counter to the mission of the National Basketball Association. Or, it should have run counter. Phil questioned which way the NBA was going to attract fans if someone like Jay Z could become a high-profile team owner.

Mushnick got my number from a mutual colleague and called me at home, thanking me for the support at a time his career might have been hanging by a thread. Ten years later, Mushnick is still at it, and that’s a good thing.

Here’s a recent piece of Mushnick’s. We’d love to hear what you think.

Mandel’s Musings: The Big 10 Conference Craps Out Again in Hoops Madness

by Scott Mandel

The most overhyped conference in the country is once again without representation in March Madness.

Let’s face it, the Big Ten sucks. Every year. Without fail. The NCAA selection committee is so incompetent, one would not be shocked to find out they are being bribed to take these big money Big 10 schools into the tournament to increase television ratings and revenue.

Michigan State is out. Penn State is out. The fraudulent, Purdue Boilermakers, given a number one seeding, were beaten by Fairleigh Dickinson University. Neither Michigan nor Ohio State made the tournament. Iowa is out. Indiana is out. Illinois is out. Northwestern is out. Maryland is out.

Fairleigh Dickinson, the #16 seed defeated Purdue, the #1 seed

The selection committee invited eight schools from the Big Ten. What an embarrassment. The committee doesn’t learn it’s lesson. Year after year, the Big Ten fails at basketball.

However, the “lowly” Big East conference, consisting mostly of colleges with small programs in non-revenue producing sports like tennis and baseball and volleyball and golf, continues to dominate the basketball scene.

The Big East, a conference that saw major sports universities like Syracuse, Boston College, Louisville, Miami, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, and even Connecticut (when they were trying to build a major football program.) leave for the especially greener pastures of football television revenue in the Atlantic Coast Conference and other football conferences with television contracts, may still have the best basketball conference in the country.

Connecticut, which returned to the Big East two years ago, has already punched their ticket to the Elite Eight. Still to be decided tomorrow night will be Creighton, which is favored against Princeton and Xavier, which will be playing Texas for their places in the final eight.

The little engine that could, the Big East, may end up with three out of the final eight teams in this tournament. And next year, with Rick Pitino, taking over St. John’s and Providence’s highly successful head coach, Ed Cooley, moving over to Georgetown, plus two-time national champion Villanova reported to have had a great recruiting class coming in, the little Big East will be stronger than ever on the national stage.

But something has to be done about the selection committee for this tournament. What they are doing is driven by cash, is insane and is unfair to more deserving teams, and schools who could certainly use the revenue generated by making the final 68 teams.

Mandel’s Musings: New York Giants Go to 4-1, Defeating the Green Bay Packers as Daniel Jones Exhibits Leadership

The New York Giants crashed the party on Sunday as they overcame a 14-point deficit to beat Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers, 27-22 in front of a Cheesehead-dominated Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on what marked the historic franchise’s first game in London.

Saquon Barkley put the Giants ahead for the first time in the game with six minutes left as he darted to the outside on a two-yard touchdown run to cap a drive he had exploded into life with a 40-yard catch and run reception.

I just re-watched this game because, yes, I am a football nerd. I discovered something that should make the Giants organization happy. It looks like their quarterback, Daniel Jones, is developing into a leader and maybe, just maybe a legitimate starting quarterback in the NFL (which he certainly has not been for the three plus seasons he’s been Big Blue’s QB.

Today, Jones played hurt, with a moderate to severely sprained ankle incurred during the Giants last game seven days ago. As anyone who has experienced a bad ankle sprain will tell you, it’s damn near impossible for that thing to fully heal in seven days no matter how heavily the trainers tape it.

No matter, Jones was excellent in crunch time, both passing and running the ball without Saquon Barkley on the field during the third quarter. Jones led the game-tying drive, a 15 play, 91 yard gem, during which he was seven for seven passing while gaining 25 yards running the ball on that bad ankle. And he did it against a team from Green Bay with a championship pedigree and a Hall of Fame quarterback in Aaron Rogers.

Saquon Barkley making a defensive back miss on 40-yard pass play

The Giants, who won four game all of last season (4-13) are now 4-1, under new head coach, Brian Daboll, who is now the early leader in the Coach of the Year running. Daboll’s biggest challenge in taking over this sad, forlorn franchise was to resurrect some form of leadership from the quarterback position. Jones was inherited by Daboll and Joe Schoen, the new general manager from the previous and incompetent Dave Gettleman years and can easily move on from Jones as soon as his final year of his four-year rookie deal runs out at the end of this season.

However, Jones may just make that decision a little tougher for Schoen and Daboll, if he keeps playing and leading as he did, today.

Teammates notice this stuff. They see when the light all of a sudden turns on for a player. So do opposing players and coaches around the league.

It was one good day at the office for Daniel Jones, today. He looked like a winner for the first time in four years. The challenge will be in repeating this performance. We’ll see.

Jones found his touch in the second half

Mandel’s Musings: Football Giants Developing Core of Potential Stars But Still a Long Way from Competitive

By Scott Mandel

Excuse this bit of obviosity but, breaking news, the football Giants have been an embarrassment for more than a decade. A civic embarrassment to New Yorkers and an angry embarrassment to their season ticket holders.

It’s been 13 years since Big Blue made it to the Super Bowl. By itself, that’s not a terrible thing since it’s really hard to make it to that game. The Giants, once one of the more successful franchises in NFL history, has made it to the ultimate championship game a total of FIVE times since the Super Bowl came into existence 56 years ago. And that’s a good number. By comparison, the Jets have made it, ONE time, when Joe Namath was 25 years old. Namath is 79, now.

But, in the proceeding years, since the Giants last appearance in the Super Bowl, back in 2011, the Giants overall record has been 61-100. They have missed the playoffs 9 of the past 10 seasons and they have not been competitive in any of those seasons, save for a 6-10 record in 2020 which got the masses excited. That’s how far this franchise has fallen. Their combined record over the past five years is 22-59, an average season record of 4-12.

Giants fans are THIS close to wearing paper bags over their heads at home games. The team has fired four head coaches in the past 9 years. This once-proud franchise has become an eyesore even the most loyal Giants fans try NOT to watch on Sundays.

But, as with most losing teams, hope springs eternal with its fan base. And here we are, at the outset of another NFL season and what is sure to be another losing situation for New York’s Giants (the more they lose, the more we may start calling them the New Jersey Giants, where they play their games and practice and live).

Coming into this 2022 season, which begins tonight with a Thursday night game between Buffalo and the Rams, the Giants have a long way to go to respectability but they appear to be developing a small core of pro-bowl type talent to build around.

S: Xavier McKinney

OT: Evan Neal

OT: Andrew Thomas

EDGE: Azeez Ojulari

EDGE: Kayvon Thibodeaux

WR: Wan’Dale Robinson

WR: Kadarius Toney

DT: Leonard Williams

DT Dexter Lawrence

RB Saquon Barkley

Thibodeax expects a big year

The problem will be in their ability to defend the pass. From what I have seen in the preseason, the starting cornerbacks, Aaron Robinson and Adoree Jackson, are going to get burned constantly in single coverage sets. Giants defensive coordinator, Wink Martindale will need to play lots of zone and nickel schemes to help those guys out while he prays for two things:

That the Giants can play at a very high level on the defensive front. Those seven positions, between the defensive line and the linebackers, will need to pressure opposing quarterbacks on every passing down. That will be a big ask from that group. And, Martindale is hoping the Giants offense can control the ball for 35 to 40 minutes every game to keep the ball out of the opposing teams’ hands. The best antidote for a Swiss cheese defense (lots of holes) is a good offense with a good, clock-consuming running game.

The Giants biggest question mark remains their quarterback, Daniel Jones, who was drafted in the first round four years ago and has not progressed into a winning player, some of which is his fault, some with the coaching staffs and management teams of this franchise. He has been turnover-prone, between interceptions and fumbles, often putting his defense into terrible field position. There isn’t an NFL defense, current or past, that can overcome a terrible quarterback on their own team.

Here in 2022, the NFL predominantly remains a passing league when it comes to putting points on the board. That makes the quarterback position the most important on the field. It also makes cornerbacks the second most important position on the field. The Giants are sweating out these two most important positions. If the level of performance from Daniel Jones does not grow exponentially this season, and if the weakness of Adoree Jackson and Aaron Robinson continues into the regular season games, this will turn into another 4-13 season for Big Blue.

And, yet again, another opportunity to draft their next “franchise quarterback of the future.”

Taijuan Walker Stakes Braves to 8-0 Lead in Mets Loss

By Scott Mandel

From the moment the Mets ran up out of the dugout, through dramatic smoke generated by a smoke machine at the top of the steps, this game had the makings of the kind of tension and drama typical of August baseball between a first place team and a second place defending champion, chasing another championship.

Except it didn’t start that way. 

By Taijuan Walker’s 10th pitch of the first inning, when he got his spikes caught in the dirt, stumbling and seemingly injuring a leg or hip as he pitched to Matt Olson, the game began to fall apart for Walker and the Mets. 

He allowed a run scoring double to Olson, which  followed a double by Dansby Swanson. Swanson walked home with the first run for the Braves. 

Then Walker hit Austin Riley with a pitch putting two runners on for Eddie Rosario, who promptly hit a three-run homer on Walker’s very next pitch. 

It was 4-0 Braves before Mets fans had finished their pre-game ice cream.

To make matters incredibly weird and worse, with two out, Will Contreras, the Braves slow-footed catcher, dribbled a little roller to third base where Louis Guillorme was manning the position. Guillorme, developing a reputation as perhaps the best fielding infielder in the sport, incredulously let the roller keep rolling right under his glove for an error. This wasn’t how the Mets planned the first inning of tonight’s game.

The second inning started out just as poorly for Walker. Michael Harris, the Braves number nine hitter leading off the inning, laced an opposite field home run into left centerfield. It was now 5-zip Braves, while there was still daylight for this night game. Acuña then singled, stole second and came around to score on Dansby Swanson’s broken-bat single before Matt Olson’s 114.6 mph single knocked Walker out of the game after 50 pitches. The right-hander’s velocity was down on all of his pitches, most notably his slider (-2.5 mph from his season average). 

“I just didn’t have command of my fastball today,” said Walker, who snapped a streak of 15 straight starts in which he allowed four runs or fewer. “My splitter was up, didn’t land any sliders for strikes and I left balls over the middle of the plate and they hit me hard.” 

Trevor Williams provided important length to help save the bullpen, relieving Walker and throwing four scoreless innings.  

Instead of rolling over, though, the Mets (67-39) made a game of it, getting within 8-5 by the fifth inning and eventually forcing the Braves (64-43) to use most of their high-leverage relievers, including closer Kenley Jansen. The Mets brought the potential tying run to the plate in the sixth inning before coming up short and having their lead atop the NL East trimmed back to 3 ¹/₂ games. 

Walker didn’t make it out of the second inning

“It wasn’t a good day for me,” said Walker, who was tagged for eight runs on seven hits over one-plus inning. “I don’t want it to happen in a big series like this, but it did and I’m going to move on from it. … My velo wasn’t very good today either and I was leaving too many balls over the middle of the plate. I didn’t do my job today and the bullpen had to wear it, which I’m not proud of at all.” 

No, it was not a good day for Walker, though the Mets did show some grit by putting runs on the board in the fifth inning, forcing the Braves to utilize their own high-leverage relievers with tomorrow’s doubleheader coming up. The chess game continues with three more games in this series.

Arizona Cardinals QB, Kyler Murray Signs $230.5 Million Extension, Could Forfeit Every Dime if he Doesn’t do Film Study

By Scott Mandel

I am as bored and shocked with the kinds of contracts non-elite players who have won nothing are being offered these days. A new one just popped up that turns out to be absurd, not only in the numbers versus the performance of the athlete but in the embarrassing requirements stipulated by the contract.

Kyler Murray, the highly overrated 5‘8“ quarterback of the Arizona Cardinals who is probably in the middle range of NFL quarterbacks (10-15), was offered a 5-year, $230.5 million extension to continue his non-star performances, a contract that includes quite possibly, the most juvenile clause in professional sports history.

Apparently, Kyler Murray has difficulty doing the prep work required of an NFL quarterback, which always includes hours upon hours of film study of all opposing teams, breaking down their weaknesses that can be exploited in upcoming games.

Signed a 5-year contract extension

“I’m not one of those guys that’s going to sit there and kill myself watching film. I don’t sit there for 24 hours and break down this team and that team and watch every game because, in my head I see so much.” That was Kyler Murray recently.

The clause in question? Murray is required, contractually to “do his homework,” or risk having the contract canceled, all $230.5 million of it.

Murray will be required to do at least four hours of “independent study” before each week’s game. This study material will be provided by the team, and time spent in team meetings for normal game prep does not count toward the four hours. Yes, this is a real thing.

To earn those four hours of weekly credit, the team will monitor Murray’s iPad usage to ensure he avoids activity that might “distract his attention” (actual contract language!) while he does this independent study.

This sounds perfectly fine for a middle-school assignment. I’ll even allow a tightly run college sports program. But this? For adults? Absurd. The amount of suspicion and mistrust baked into this contract — which could default, by the way, if Murray fails to adhere to the homework, is enormous. And embarrassing.

Two true things: It’s a bad look for Murray for obvious reasons, and an equally bad look for the Cardinals, who were concerned enough about Murray’s preparation to put this juvenile clause in.

This poor kid will be hearing about it from fans in opposing stadiums this entire season. Murray is at risk of approaching former Steelers quarterback, Terry Bradshaw, of whom an NFL opponent once said, “Bradshaw couldn’t spell cat if you spotted him the C and the A.”

Mandel’s Musings: Matt Carpenter May be the Joe Hardy of This Generation (look up Joe Hardy, young’ns)

by Scott Mandel

Matt Carpenter, the long-time Cardinals star, was out of baseball at age 36. He had lost his swing. He couldn’t hit anymore. It was time to pack up his stuff and go home.

A month before he became a multiposition sensation for the best team in baseball, the New York Yankees, Carpenter planned his retirement tour. He had told himself before the season began that if after a month with the Texas Rangers’ Triple A affiliate, the Round Rock Express, he had not been promoted to the major leagues, he would go home and spend time with his wife, Mackenzie, and their two young children.

Six weeks in, Carpenter realized no call-up was imminent.

On May 19, he requested his release from Round Rock, and he drove home to Fort Worth, where he parked himself on his couch. His agent emailed about half the league, letting them know his client was available, but Carpenter had made peace with an unceremonious end to an 11-year career in which he made three All-Star teams, won a Silver Slugger at second base and four times received MVP votes.

Two months later Carpenter sits in the Yankees’ dugout and cocks his head. “The thing that’s so confusing to me,” he says, “is that nobody responded [except] the best team in baseball.”

That’s not quite right: A few teams, including Atlanta and the Red Sox, reached out but could only offer spots in Triple A, and Carpenter had already decided he “wasn’t just gonna put my family on the back burner to play minor league baseball,” he says. Still, New York was the only team that was prepared to add him to the major league roster immediately.

Carpenter was ready to hang it up rather than continue to play in the minor leagues

Tonight, by some sheer miracle, Matt Carpenter, now of the New York Yankees is playing in his 30th game as a Yankee. Tonight, he has so far hit two home runs against the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium in front of a packed house. Carpenter’s 12th and 13th homers in these 30 games just set a franchise record. No other Yankee player, and that includes Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, and Mickey Mantle, in history had ever hit that many home runs in their first 30 games.

Welcome back to baseball, Matt Carpenter. Maybe Joe Hardy from Damn Yankees really does exist. Hardy made a deal with the devil granting him one last wish. Maybe Joe Hardy, I mean Matt Carpenter wished to become a Yankee. And, to become the biggest star in New York, hell, in baseball, for one last half season of the thrill of his lifetime, before old Matt Carpenter goes back home.

Mandel’s Musings: The “Sad” Stories of Freddie and Casey (Grownups with kids names)

by Scott Mandel

You may have heard about the Atlanta Braves baseball superstar, Freddie Freeman, leaving Atlanta to take gazillions of free agent dollars to play for the Dodgers under a contract that should take him to the end of his career.

Apparently, the Dodgers were not his first choice. Mr. Freeman preferred taking those gazillions of dollars from his former team, the Atlanta Braves where he began his big league career except that his agent, Casey Close, allegedly did not tell Mr. Freeman about the Braves last big contract offer. Close instead, was said to have kept the Braves offer a secret, choosing to advise his client to accept the Dodgers offer of 6 years,, $162 million before they took it off the table. Making it even worse for Freeman was his discovery that Braves offer turned out to be much more lucrative than the Dodgers, given the exorbitant California tax code and the level of deferred payments his agent built into the Dodgers deal.

Upon finding out about his agent’s alleged malfeasance, Freddie fired Casey. (Yes, these are grown men named Freddie and Casey).

Will Gary Busey play Freddie Freeman in the next movie?

More fascinating than Freddie the first baseman’s career choice and apparent inability to properly communicate with the person responsible for negotiating the next six years of his professional life is the fact his now former agent has been a respected player rep who not only was Derek Jeter’s agent for many years when Jeter played for the Yankees, but is also married to the former Miss America, former Fox News anchor, and former apple of Roger Ailes’ eye, Gretchen Carlson.

Carlson, victimized by Ailes and the Fox News culture towards women in the work place, has been a high-profile advocate for equal rights and equal pay for women since Ailes asked her to raise the hem of her skirt in his office while standing up and spinning around for him. She was played in the movies by Naomi Watts in The Loudest Voice and Nicole Kidman in Bombshell. We’re all looking forward to seeing who plays her husband, Casey Close in the inevitable Derek Jeter bio pic that gets made someday. But who will play Gretchen, again?

Or Freddie Freeman? Gary Busey?

Mandel’s Musings: Yankees, With Historic Won-Loss Record, Will NOT Defeat Astros in the Playoffs

By Scott Mandel

The Yankees, the best team in baseball, is not built to win a World Series. Today they got one hit against the Cleveland Indians. Yes, the Tribe, wokesters. Their lineup has not proven it can succeed against very good pitching, which is what they will face in the playoffs.

The Houston Astros have the best starting pitching in the game. It can shut down any lineup. They recently shut down the Yankees and it wasn’t even close. The Yankees are better than Houston. Houston will defeat them, as currently configured, in the playoffs. Again.

If the Yankees add a contact hitter or two to this roster, someone like Kevin Benintendi from the Kansas City Royals to play the field and bat .300, Yankees will have a much better chance of winning against good pitching.

At the moment, Joey Gallo, poor Joey Gallo, is manning an outfield slot and batting ninth. Gallo has lost his ability to contact the baseball with the barrel of his bat. Or, with any other part of his bat. Joey, a nice guy, can no longer help the Yankees win a championship though he can play a powerful role in preventing them from winning one.

The befuddled Joey Gallo is a rally killer

Mandel’s Musings: The NBA, Detached From Reality, Has Turned Into A Twilight Zone

by Scott Mandel

The NBA, which is no longer a sports league but IS a Twilight Zone episode, has lost its footing and sense of reality.

The game, itself, has become mostly unwatchable during the regular season save for the last eight minutes of games when players try to play some defense and rebound.

The inmates, people like Kevin Durant, James Harden, Kyrie Irving, and LeBron James lord over how their teams operate, from how they are marketed to what style they choose to play on the court. NBA coaches are irrelevant. They are camp counselors.

Players with full, legal, notarized contracts to play ball decide on a whim when they don’t feel up to playing on any number of given nights.

Kevin Durant is on his way out of Brooklyn

The players have taken the notion of not showing up to play games to the Nth degree. The stars, who by some megalomaniacal thinking somehow believe the league cannot exist without them, have now doubled down on their power by deciding when they no longer want to be associated with a franchise, despite having ironclad contracts which require them to play, and, where they along with their agents have decided which markets will be their next destinations. The crazy part? Teams acquiesce and trade the player to a new team, with the previous team typically getting far less value in return.

At the moment, Kyrie Irving, in the middle of his contract with the Brooklyn Nets, and his agent are negotiating with the Los Angeles Lakers. Who would the Nets receive in return? Russell Westbrook. Russell Westbrook has not been what he used to be for several years now. He’s on his last legs. But who cares about the Brooklyn Nets, right? Or their fans.

Kevin Durant just told the Nets he will accept a trade to Phoenix or Miami. Sure, and I’ll take that oceanfront mansion on St. Barts. Except, Kevin Durant will get his way. I’ll have to work a little harder for that mansion. And I may have to settle for Anguilla.

All of this nonsense is leading to the destruction of franchises, a league top-heavy with prima donna superstars who command most of the salary base of their respective teams but who could care less about showing up and playing for a city and a loyal fan base, whose ticket-buying support pays his exorbitant salary.

And, it’s not just the players who are the nut jobs in this Rod Serling production. Owners are paying millions of dollars to unreliable players like the talented Zion Williamson, a 22-year old who has played in a third of his team’s games since he entered the league three years ago. For that level of consistency, his team just extended his contract to nearly $40 million per season for five more years of not showing up to play. This, after Zion’s “people” have been letting media people know how “interested” Zion is in leaving his New Orleans franchise to play for the Knicks at MSG. The good news for Zion? He can now decide, on a whim, to quit the franchise and demand a trade, without legal repercussions.

Nets fans are expected to support a team that charges 200 to 1000 dollars for good seats to watch a 2022-23 team that will have a roster of players who do not want to be there.

I’ve grown tired of this act. I hope most fan bases in NBA cities feel the same way. Don’t show up for the games, folks. The pendulum can swing the other way, in favor of fans, if you take a moment to NOT show up to watch these guys. With few exceptions, they haven’t earned your trust.

Mandel’s Musings: Mets Designate Eight-Time All Star Robinson Cano for Assignment As Steve Cohen Era Places Baseball Decisions Over Financial Considerations

By Scott Mandel

The Mets designated Robinson Canó for assignment today. That means they will be eating the remaining $39 million on his contract, unless he’s picked up by another team.

According to general manager Billy Eppler, he presented the baseball and financial ramifications to Mets owner Steve Cohen regarding the potential release of Cano, Cohen had one response. According to Eppler, Cohen said, “make the baseball decision.”

And that was the end of the conversation.

As for Cano, the eight-time All-Star with career numbers easily in the Hall of Fame discussion range, he wants to continue to play. According to his agent, Brodie Van Waggenen, who, as the former general manager of the Mets acquired Cano and that huge contract from the Seattle Mariners in 2018, Cano believes he can still swing the bat and help another major league team.

The Mets, now with an owner who can tolerate a significant financial hit, determined the current roster would be a better fit without the 39-year old Cano, who struggled in the early going of this season to seize a role on this team. Cano was batting only .195 in a small sample size of 44 at bats but, given his age and lack of position flexibility, he needed to hit early and hit well to be a factor on this win-now team.

PHOENIX, ARIZONA - APRIL 23: Robinson Cano #24 of the New York Mets attempts to turn a double play over David Peralta #6 of the Arizona Diamondbacks during the first inning at Chase Field on April 23, 2022 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)
Cano wants to keep playing

The Mets previous owner, Fred Wilpon, did not have the financial capability to eat a contract of the enormity of Cano’s, Even if it was in the best interest of the team.

Times have changed around the New York Mets, who now have the best record in the National League.