Indiana head coach, Rick Carlisle’s comments after last night’s game, a 129-121 Brooklyn Nets win over the Indiana Pacers, reflected who the dominant player of the game turned out to be. It wasn’t Kyrie Irving, that’s for sure.
“When Lance Stephenson is in the game, his best position is point guard. He makes things happen, he has great vision and has the ability to get hot. The run that he went on when he first went in was amazing.”
The run Carlisle is referring to was Stephenson setting an NBA record for most points ever scored by a substitute off the bench in the first quarter of a game. Stephenson came off the bench to a standing ovation from Pacers fans at the 5 minute mark of the first quarter. When the quarter ended seven minutes later, he had rung up 20 points. More precisely, he scored 20 consecutive points for his team in seven minutes.
Stephenson, who returned to Indiana for a third time in his career last night after being drafted in the second round by the Pacers way back in 2010 as a 19-year old, is now a 31-year old grizzled veteran, playing on a 10-day Covid hardship contract after no NBA team was willing to give him an opportunity to play in the league since the 2018 season, when he played for the Los Angeles Lakers. Stephenson had to take his talents to China to play followed by his return to the United States in 2021 to play minor league basketball in the NBA G-League.
Carlisle, in his first year as Pacers coach, was effusive in his praise for Stephenson:
“There were some great moments tonight, and where we are right now, we need more of it. We know that he’s gonna bring energy and attitude and a level of physicality to the game that’s necessary.”
Sounds like a competitive and tough-minded Brooklyn kid to me. It also sounds like a coach who is developing confidence in Stephenson’s skill-set, something the 6’6″ 225 pound guard has always desired during his NBA days. His on-the-court demeanor has always been a little “dfferent,” going back to his blowing into LeBron James’ ear during the heat of a playoff battle, followed by his on-court gyrations and air guitar playing after he scored baskets. But, at his core, he’s always just been a kid who needed an authority figure/coach to allow his unique talents – power, court vision and the ability to score/pass/rebound to flourish.
In Rick Carlisle, desperate to structure a losing Pacers season into one fans will turn out to watch, Stephenson appears to have a coach who’s going to run his offense through him.
Stephenson should have been one of the highest paid players in the league instead of playing for the league minimum on a 10-day tryout. At age 31, Lance Stephenson is going to try to reclaim his talent and actualize it.
Woody Johnson of the Johnson & Johnson family owns the NY Jets. That’s just sports, perennial losers that they are. But today’s breaking news, that a Center for Disease Control panel has recommended other Covid vaccines over J.&J.’s, citing a link to a rare but potentially fatal blood clotting disorder, is terrible for millions of humans.
To Woody Johnson, a huge financial contributor to Donald Trump’s campaign for President, leading to his sweetheart job under Trump as the Ambassador to England: You suck and your family sucks. Get new scientists. And coaches. And players. And, sell both companies to smarter, better administrators.
Mike White, in his last two years at Western Kentucky, threw 63 touchdown passes and only 15 interceptions. 8,540 yards passing, completing 67% of his 966 passes thrown.
In other words, this guy dominated in his level of competition in CUSA, where W. Kentucky plays.
His college head coach, Mike Sanford, Jr., who is now at the University of Minnesota, but also worked with Andrew Luck at Stanford and as the offensive coordinator at Notre Dame, said this about Mike White:
“It didn’t shock me one bit,” said Sanford. Though he had been a Stanford assistant during star QB Andrew Luck’s last season, Sanford said he told NFL scouts and coaches the following:
“Mike White is the best pure thrower of the football that I’ve ever been around.”
If you coached Andrew Luck, one of the greatest passers in college football history, the above statement is more than a mouthful. In Sanford’s opinion, Mike White is a better pure passer than Andrew Luck.
This kid may turn out to be a flash in the pan, but, the people who coached him and played against him don’t think so. They think he’s the real deal.
His next opportunity is in three days, on the nationally-televised Thursday night football game. The phenomenon of Mike White will be on full display. It says here, this kid will go out, have a great time, and play very well. Then, his third star will happen while Jets #1 draft pick, Zach Wilson, stays on the sideline.
After yesterday’s phenomenonal performance by the Jets fill-in quarterback, one Mike White, we wonder if the J-E-T-S are thinking about putting their prized number one draft pick, Zach Wilson, who was gifted the starting job immediately after signing his rookie contract, on the trade market to try to pick up a few chips for upcoming drafts? After all, White, the 26-year old journeyman has become a national story since yesterday, when he replaced the injured Wilson in the first start of his three-year career, leading the lowly Jets to a stunning come-from-behind upset win over the Cincinnati Bengals.
If MIke White is the real deal, in effect, THE ANSWER for the Jets at the quarterback position, it opens up a plethora of opportunities for Joe Douglas, the Jets general manager. But we are getting far in front of ourselves.
We are cognizant of the potential, if not the likelihood White may be a one hit wonder, despite his hellacious debut in the NFL against a Bengal team many see as a contender to get to the AFC championship game. After being a three-year benchwarmer, White completed 37 of 45 passes, throwing for 405 yards and three touchdowns in the thrilling 34-31 win, the kind of victory that has been few and far between for the Jets for many decades.
But, this kid has skills. He can throw the ball accurately and with velocity. Given enough time in the pocket, this 6’5″, 220 pound kid seems to have the poise, the boys (guys know what that means), the vision to check down, the foot work, the arm strength, the quick release, and the accuracy to complete NFL-type passes. And that is something Jets fans have not seen consistently from their quarterbacks since Joe Namath, in 1968. And, that includes Zach Wilson, who has not unexpectedly been an erratic performer, at best, in his rookie season.
Yesterday, Mike White was able to make average or unproven receivers, both downfield and those coming out of the backfield, look better than their individual talents. He also made a disheveled, less than talented offensive line look much better than they have played this entire season. A quick release will do that for you.
Some quarterbacks raise the level of play for their team through inspiration and talent while other quarterbacks need to be surrounded by great players to play well (like Eli Manning, for instance). Mike White made the 1-5 Jets look like a confident, physical football team for the first time this season. That’s a fact.
Will White be a one-hit wonder? Could be. He played at South Florida University before transferring to Western Kentucky, being drafted in the fifth round in 2018 by the Cowboys. Dallas cut him despite needing a backup quarterback and the Jets cut him this year, bringing him back when they needed a third practice quarterback so the legend of Mike White may just be a temporary interregnum in another depressing Jets season in search of a good story.
On the other hand, the legendary Hall of Famer, John Unitas was once cut by the Steelers before breaking every passing record in the sport as a Baltimore Colt. And, Kurt Warner was cut a few times before he became a Hall of Famer, beginning in his late 20s. Sometimes, the light just clicks on for some people later in life than it does for others. And, sometimes, it’s a bummer when Cinderella, with her back story of the glass slippers and the horse-drawn carriage turning into a pumpkin when the clock strikes 12, has her one shining moment before reality kicks in.
Either way, it’s a great story and this moment has captivated New Yorkers as well as football fans all over the country. It has also captured the fancy of Jets head coach, Robert Saleh, who said yesterday, in his post-game comments when asked if Zach Wilson will retain the starting job when he is healthy to play, “anything’s possible” about White getting an extended run as the starter.
Now it’s on to game two, in three short days, for the Mike White saga. It says here, Mike White will get to wear his shiny glass slippers/cleats for a third consecutive game, after this Thursday, when Wilson, the golden boy #1 draft choice, is expected to return from his knee injury.
We will find out, week by week, whether Mike White is THE ANSWER or, just another passing fancy.
So, I’m watching the White Sox vs. Astros American League Division Series game this afternoon. It was Game 2 of the best-of-five series. I was even complimenting (in my own head) how great this MLB Network broadcast team was handling the play-by-play and the color commentary.
In the booth today were three great professionals who not only know what they’re doing, they have unparalelled passions for the game of baseball.
The play-by-play man was the veteran Bob Costas, among the most knowledgeable and erudite of broadcasters in the country. Alongside Costas was Buck Showalter, long-time major league manager and Jim Kaat, former star pitcher in the big leagues and a veteran behind the mic since his retirement 38 years ago at age 44 from a near-Hall of Fame career during which he won 283 games.
In the very first inning, White Sox third baseman Yoán Moncada, a Cuban native, was up to bat when Showalter recalled knowing Moncada had the potential to be a superstar when he first scouted him, as the manager of the Baltimore Orioles. Moncada eventually signed with the Red Sox and was later traded to Chicago. Showalter said, “After the first time I saw him in the big leagues against us, I looked around the Oriole dugout, like, ‘Do we have one of those?'” said Showalter.
Kaat replied: “Get a 40-acre field full of them,” a remark that reminded some viewers of the unfilled promise by the U.S. government that the newly freed slaves would receive parcels of land as recompense for serving as slaves, an offer that was later rescinded by the acknowledged racist president in the post-Civil War era, Andrew Johnson.
At that moment, I took a deep gulp, convinced I had certainly mis-heard Kaat’s comment.
“Kitty,” who has been one of the most respected and well-liked members of the baseball community for 60 years, could not possibly have said what I thought he said in comparing the muscular physique of Moncada to the slaves of the 1860s in America.
As it turned out, Kaat had said what I thought I heard. In the fifth inning, he read an apology, on air, saying, “I want to add a little break here. In fact, I need to read this right now, because earlier in the game when Yoán Moncada was at the plate in an attempt to compliment the great player, I used a poor choice of words that resulted in a sensitive, hurtful remark. And I’m sorry.”
And that was the end of that.
But, in this era of cancel culture, I have a suspicion Jim Kaat will be paying a deeper price for his mistake. Will the MLB Network fire him in the next day or two or chalk it up to human error, a simple mistake from a professional who has never been known to make racist references.
My guess is, it’s bye bye, Jim “Kitty” Kaat. He will be sent out, cancelled into retirement. And that would be sad. Even if we are living in an era of cancel culture. Sometimes, even decent people make big and small mistakes.
You know that old cliche and ongoing excuse losing teams always invoke – We lost a game tonight we should have won? The Giants have been using that old saw for almost a decade, now, and 2021 looks like more of the same. Other excuses/detachments from reality are also expressed as:
It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
I saw some good things out there.
We have a lot to build on.
Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah…..
The Giants don’t have a pass rush. They don’t have an aggressive defensive secondary, they lost their best offensive lineman and captain for the season with a gruesome broken leg from a unit considered by many as the worst in the National Football League.
When does basketball season start?
The Redskins, eh, I mean, the WTF’s or is, WFT’s, controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. The backup quarterback for the “Team,” Taylor Heineke, shredded the Giants for 325 yards passing, with the gift of all the time he had in the pocket to play pitch and catch with his receivers.
The final score was 30-29 on a field goal with zero seconds on the clock but who cares. The football season is over for the Giants and Giants fans. The pressure cooker in New York is going to be turned up on Giants head coach, Joe Judge, whose teams have shown more than a propensity for shooting themselves in the foot with the kinds of mistakes professsionals are not supposed to be making. Dropped touchdown passes in the end zone, offsides penalties with seconds to go and the Giants up by two points moving the Team five yards closer to field goal range.
It’s terrible to have any hopes or dreams if you are a Giants fan. Pretty soon, John Mara will call Giants general manager, Dave Gettleman to send him into his retirement. Gettleman has had three seasons to improve the offensive line and, the team’s record. He hasn’t been successful at either objective.
NEW YORK – The Cardinals arrived from the Midwest late Sunday after a few solid performances back home, some strong starring roles that got lauded regionally, and had three days in the city, right as Broadway reopened, to seize what they craved — their big break.
Written out of the playoff script just weeks ago and stuck in the wings as, at most, an extra, they made the most of their moment on the Citi stage and put on a show.
They made it here. Can they make it anywhere?
The Cardinals, suddenly the scene-stealers in this wild-card dramedy, hit four home runs Wednesday, Lars Nootbaar robbed another at the wall, and they completed a sweep of the New York Mets, nailing their lines in an 11-4 victory at Citi Field. The series sweep was a first for the Cardinals at the Mets’ current ballpark and first in Queens since 2001. With Cincinnati’s loss Wednesday to Pittsburgh, the Cardinals moved 1 ½ games ahead of the receding Reds for the National League’s second wild-card berth.
The Cardinals leave the Big City in their best position in the standings in months and playing their best baseball of the year.
“Ultimately, the best baseball is when you’re doing it all together,” manager Mike Shildt said. “You’re getting the hitting, consistent at-bats. You’re getting the quality pitching. It’s just about doing it all together at one time.”
The Cardinals started fast Wednesday and finished strong. They had a five-run lead before starter Jon Lester threw a pitch, and by the end of the eighth the Cardinals had stacked on four solo homers. Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado, who have both mused about having their swings in harmony at some point this season, hit a homer each in the seventh inning. Harrison Bader, back home and relishing every moment, hit a solo homer in the fourth. After touching home, he gave high fives to his mother, father, and Uncle Joseph, who were seated by the on-deck circle.
Edmundo Sosa put an exclamation point on his eventful evening with a homer in the eighth for the Cardinals’ 25th run of their three-day visit.
The Cardinals’ shortstop had a role in almost every scene. He singled in the first inning and his break from the base on Bader’s floating single to center allowed him to score from first. In the second, he stole a hit with a back-to-home plate catch, cradled fundamentally with two hands, of course. He committed an error later and upstaged that with a homer. Sosa played with such exuberance, and his multi-tasking personified how the Cardinals played all series. They smothered the Mets defensively. They added on late.
“He’s representing that mindset of keep going, let’s keep going, you can’t have enough,” Shildt said. “You’ve got to be hungry.”
If Sosa had a night, the leading players in the lineup had an awakening.
Only a few times in cameos, if ever, have the Cardinals had Arenado, Goldschmidt, and Tyler O’Neill performing at the same time. O’Neill’s recent move in the lineup, sandwiched now between Arenado and Goldschmidt, has animated the offense — but mostly in solo acts. Arenado provided the key runs that downed the Reds. O’Neill brought home the winning run in consecutive games against the Dodgers. They held a concert in Queens. The Cardinals’ trio went 16-for-40 (.400) with four homers. They had six RBIs in the first eight innings Wednesday to give them a dozen for the series, and they scored 13 of the Cardinals’ 25 runs. With Sosa playing his part and the lineup driving the plot, the twist came in the seventh.
The bottom of that inning was a snapshot of the series and the impossible time the Mets had getting by, over, around, or through the Cardinals’ defense.
Veteran lefty Andrew Miller did not retire a batter, and while that invited the Mets’ best chance to erase the Cardinals’ hearty lead it also put in motion the moment that would drop the curtain on it. Shildt pulled Miller in favor of his fireman T. J. McFarland, and to get a second inning from him swapped rookies in right field. Nootbaar entered and Dylan Carlson exited — simply because he made the final out of the previous inning. What dramatic timing.
Two batters and two outs later, the Mets still had two runners on and two-time Home Run Derby champ Pete Alonso at the plate. Alonso connected for a high, soaring ball out toward right field.
At the start of each series, coach Willie McGee takes the outfielders on a tour of the outfield wall — throwing balls up against the fences and padding to see the caroms. They trace the angles of the warning track, and here Nootbaar was again, racing back toward the deepest facet in right of Citi Field’s irregular outfield wall.
“It gave us a couple of more feet of breathing room,” Nootbaar said. “That’s always nice.”
He used it.
He needed it.
Nootbaar jumped at the wall and pulled what would have been a three-run homer back for a third out. Bader hopped in center as if making the catch with Nootbaar. Arenado jumped into the air at third once he saw Nootbaar had it. The third baseman then watched the replay on the scoreboard — and if he squinted he could see that Nootbaar had his tongue out as he made the leaping catch.
“We have little league pictures … with my tongue out,” Nootbaar said. “I could never find a good action shot of myself. So that’s always been that thing. It’s natural. I wish I didn’t do it.”
Before they got the glove, the Cardinals had plenty of bat. Not wasting a New York minute, the Cardinals were three batters into the game when O’Neill delivered a two-run double. That lead grew to 5-0 by the time Lester (6-6) took the mound, and it gave him license to be aggressive in the strike zone. In six innings, the lefty did not walk a batter and used the Mets’ eagerness against them for seven strikeouts in earning his 199th career win. For the fifth consecutive start, Lester allowed two or fewer earned runs, and while the Mets nicked him for two homers, the lack of walks meant they never had a rally going. All three runs came in different innings.
Three runs almost came on one swing.
Javier Baez, Lester’s teammate for years at Wrigley Field, took a mighty swing in the fifth and sent Lester’s pitch to straightaway center. With two on, the ball seemed to have the distance to score three. It traveled about 406 feet and would have if not for Bader standing and jumping at the wall near where it reads, “408 feet.” The runs, the catches, the sweep, the wild-card lead left only one more thing for the Cardinals to do in their visit to New York.
They had to get a slice.
Bader was chomping on two as he came into the postgame interview.
“New York style pizza is delicious. New York style pizza — it’s just good for the soul,” Bader said, folding two slices together, cheese to cheese. “You earn the sandwich.”
According to national baseball columnist, Bob Nightengale, the Dodgers payroll is now above $300 million since adding Max Scherzer and Trea Turner from the Washington Nationals to their mix of players.
The Nationals, who handed those two star players to the Dodgers for four unproven prospects, now has a payroll of $128.16 million, less than half the Dodgers.
In baseball, there is a luxury tax which kicks in at $210 million for team payrolls. It was installed a quarter century ago to achieve a semblance of competitive balance between large market teams like the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Neuvo York Jankees vs. the small-market teams like the Kansas City Royals and the Fred Wilpon-owned New York Mets which could never compete, financially with the big guys. (The Mets have since become a big market team with new ownership).
The Dodgers have the highest payroll in the sport, by far, at $275 million, or, $65 million over the salary threshold. This means the Dodgers will be paying a luxury tax in the range of 40% of that $65 million or, an additional $26 million, pushing the Dodgers overall payroll expense north of $300 million.
The Kansas City Royals’ payroll is $127 million. The Miami Marlins payroll is $58 million, a fifth of the Dodgers. Even the Yankees, who somehow convinced the Cubs and the Rangers to pay the remaining 2021 salaries of the recently acquired Anthony Rizzo and Joey Gallo (not the dead gangster) have not exceeded the $210 million salary threshold, as they regularly used to do when George Steinbrenner owned the team.
Enough said about parity in major league baseball under its current commissioner, Rob Manfred. It’s more like a parody.
It seems the Dodgers, a baseball brand name with an unusually spotty ownership history, are more interested in purchasing a World Series championship than competing for it on the field. The franchise was owned by the Ebbets Family during the early Brooklyn years and sold to the O’Malley family in 1945, which ran a steady and stable ship for 53 years. Walter O’Malley moved the team to Los Angeles in 1958, holding onto ownership until 1998, when his son, Peter, who inherited the team upon his father’s death, sold the Dodgers to Rupert Murdoch, a criminal in so many ways, and his Fox Entertainment Group. Fox Sports, using the Dodgers games as tv programming for their stations, held onto the team for only 5 years before they sold it to another crook, Frank McCourt, who was forced by the Lords of Baseball to divest himself of the Dodgers in 2012 because of nefarious business acts, like embezzlement of the team’s earnings for personal gain. Now, something called Guggenheim Baseball Management (not a lot of flare in that name, is there?) which bought the team out of bankruptcy court owns the famous franchise, which has been run like a circus since the mid-90s. Guggenheim consists of such esteemed baseball people as Billie Jean King, Magic Johnson, Peter Guber (the movie producer), Stan Kasten (former NBA executive with the Atlanta Hawks), and some money guys. Tommy LaSorda must be spinning in his grave.
They may not know anything about baseball but apparently, they know how to buy players for a stretch run.
But, that’s okay, These geniuses at Guggenheim are paying an alleged serial rapist, Trevor Bauer, a star pitcher they acquired in free agency before this season, a whopping $32 million not to pitch because sometimes, bad people and bad organizations get what they deserve.
Matt Harvey is enjoying a bit of a renaissance so far in the second half of the season.
The Orioles’ veteran right-hander has not allowed a run in two starts (12 innings) since the All-Star break. Harvey also managed consecutive scoreless starts for the first time since August 2015.
“Obviously, everybody knows when it is and it’s there, but really, my job is to go out and prepare for each start and see what happens,” Harvey said. “I haven’t put up very good numbers other than the previous two and to really be a target or whatnot, but at the end of the day those decisions aren’t mine and I can’t really worry about them.
“My job is to go out and win ball games for the Orioles, and luckily I’ve been able to do that the last two, and I’m going to continue to do that from here on out.”
On July 18, Harvey (4-10) threw six scoreless innings of three-hit ball with two strikeouts and one walk, throwing 48 strikes with 26 balls in a 5-0 win against the Kansas City Royals. He earned his first win since May 1 at Oakland, snapping a 12-start winless skid during which he went 0-9 with a 10.20 ERA (51 earned runs in 45 innings).
Harvey earned a bear-hug from Orioles manager Brandon Hyde after he left the game. Hyde knows Harvey has the mechanics to have dominant outings, but he is still experiencing some challenges from being limited as a pitcher during the last couple of seasons.
“There was a hug in the dugout just because he wants to go deep in the game and he wants to get back to the form that he was in 2012-2015, and he works extremely hard at it,” Hyde said. “He’s disappointed with not going deeper in games and the fourth and fifth inning issues he’s kind of had. I think a lot of that is physical, too. The year layoff, the weird year he had the year before, injury stuff. But for him to get an extended period of rest and go out and really keep his pitch count down, for me that’s the huge thing with our starters.
Harvey’s next start was equally impressive.
Harvey threw six scoreless innings in a 5-3 victory against the Washington Nationals July 24. He allowed just one hit with four strikeouts and no walks.
Harvey’s ERA has fallen from 7.70 on July 24 to 6.65 as of July 27.
He is becoming increasingly more comfortable on the mound.
“I think the last time I had this many starts was 2018 in a continuous year, so it was definitely good to physically have the break,” Havey said. “And then obviously when you feel like it’s so close and you go out and one inning here and there gets the best of you, it gets a little mentally draining, as well.
“So, I think definitely being able to just kind of flip the switch and just really pretend I’m starting fresh and trying to concentrate on being out there every fifth, sixth, seventh day, whatever it is with all these off-days, and just trying to win as many games as I can for this team and really just kind of start over and flush what happened in the first half.”
Harvey signed a one-year, $1 million deal with the Orioles prior to the season. There was speculation that the Orioles would try to flip him at the trade deadline if he thrived in his new environment.
The idea seemed far-fetched just two weeks ago, but now Harvey could have some value.
After this up and down season, he’s prepared for anything.
“My job is to go out and prepare for each start and see what happens,” Harvey said. “I haven’t put up very good numbers, except for the previous two starts, to really be a target. But at the end of the day, those decisions aren’t mine, so I can’t worry about them.”
Of the six New York Yankees players who have just been diagnosed with Covid, evidently, not all of them were vaccinated. We cannot find out who they are because of privacy laws concerning personal health disclosure but, suffice to say, the rules of the road in 2021 regarding concern for the health of one’s co-workers’ health, if not for their own, have changed. Viruses do that sort of thing, especially the deadly kind.
On Thursday, general manager Brian Cashman told reporters that the Yankees had three positive cases and three that were pending. All six were later confirmed to be positive. The six players — Jonathan Loaisiga, Nestor Cortes, Wandy Peralta, Aaron Judge, Kyle Higashioka, and Gio Urshela — were placed on the COVID-19 list.
These athletes live together every day, on the field and in the sweaty, steamy locker rooms. They travel together and they go out for food and a few pops together after games. It says here, the audacity of not doing whatever they can to protect their teammates is grounds for some form of dismissal from the organization. It may be permanent or temporary but it should be designed to help the team retain its ability to field its players for the games that fans are paying exorbitant amounts of hard-earned cash to attend. And, to watch the best players play, not minor leaguers.
Those players who have chosen to not be vaccinated, for whatever personal and legitimate reasons they may have, should no longer be allowed in the locker room or on the field. They should continue to get paid for some period of time, but not for the length of their entire contracts. The courts can handle that one. But, giving these potential carriers and spreaders of a deadly virus means they cannot be allowed anywhere near their place of work until they decide to get vaccinated. I would think this topic is creating enough acrimony within teams, especially among those who are supporting families consisting of elderly and young people, for it to be a regular debate.
It is time for management and player’s association leaders to get together on a policy. In all professional sports. And, that goes for amateur athletics, as well.
Freedom is a right but it comes with rules, too. You cannot drive a car without being licensed. You cannot travel overseas without a passport. You should not be able to enter public spaces without a mask or, proof of vaccination, Otherwise, you are a public safety risk.
Rules matter. So does basic consideration and concern for fellow human beings in times of collective danger.