The 2019 NBA Draft – Winners and Losers

by Scott Mandel

The NBA draft is over, and now, the work begins for teams to justify who they chose and how these new players will fit in with new teammates.

As happens every year, it’s easy to choose the winners and losers, based on what “experts” predict, on paper. Of course, experts are often wrong. Do you know who else is often wrong? The teams, themselves, who think every one of those top five picks will become superstars, leading them out of the morass of an NBA losing culture (how else did they get one of the first five picks?) into championship contention.

Before we break down the winners and losers, though, let’s take a look at when current NBA stars were drafted, in the past:

  • Steve Nash – 15th pick in first round
  • Draymond Green – 35th pick, second round
  • Nate “Tiny” Archibald – 19th pick in 1970
  • Tony Parker – 28th pick
  • Manu Ginobili – 57th pick
  • Jimmy Butler – 30th pick
  • Kawhi Leonard – 15th pick

And, let’s not forget some of the top 5 picks in recent NBA drafts who turned into busts:

  • LaRue Martin – 1st pick in 1972 draft, chosen before Julius Erving and Bob McAdoo, along with guard Paul Westphal. Bob McAdoo, and Paul Westphal
  • DaJuan Wagner – 6th pick in 2002, chosen before Amar’e Stoudemire, Caron Butler and Tayshaun Prince
  • Kent Benson – 1st pick in 1977 draft, chosen ahead of Bernard King, Walter Davis, Jack Sikma
  • Michael Olowokandi – 1st pick in 1998 draft, chosed ahead of Vince Carter, Dirk Nowitzki and Paul Pierce

The point is, all of the scouting and preparation that goes into choosing the players who will turn bad teams into good ones, often falls flat on its collective faces, getting scouts and general managers fired.

That said, let’s break down the 2019 NBA draft, with the codicil that we are probably going to be proven wrong in many cases:

Winner: The Pelicans’ War Chest and Their Future

On Thursday night, Zion Williamson waltzed into the Barclays Center in a suit as white as his smile and shook Adam Silver’s hand before giving an emotional interview. Obviously, this was a great moment for the Pelicans, but the NBA world had known it was coming since the lottery in May.

Back in New Orleans, David Griffin was still dealing. The Pelicans flipped the fourth overall pick, Solomon Hill’s expiring contract, and the 57th pick to the Hawks for the eighth, 17th, and 35th picks in the draft. Those first two picks turned into rim-running Longhorn Jaxson Hayes and Hokie Nickeil Alexander-Walker. As capologist Albert Nahmad pointed out on Twitter, this expansion of the Davis trade now leaves New Orleans with $30 million in cap space. Here it is, sans the Cavs pick, all laid out:

Anthony Davis has turned into:

– Lonzo Ball
– Brandon Ingram
– Josh Hart
– No. 8 pick in 19
– No. 17 pick in 19
– No. 35 pick in 19
– L.A.’ 21 pick if top 8
– L.A.’ 22 pick if not
– L.A. swap in 23
– L.A.’ 1st in either 24 or 25

And got rid of Solomon Hill’s contract.

Philadelphia 76ers

The Sixers needed a 3-and-D rotation player and they just snagged the best defensive wing in the draft with the No. 20 pick in Matisse Thybulle. It’s amazing how undervalued defense is on draft night. Thybulle broke the defensive scale last season at Washington averaging 3.5 steals and 2.3 blocks per game as the free safety in Washington’s zone defense. If there’s any center in the NBA who can own the rim enough to let others roam, it’s Joel Embiid.

He can be their Robert Covington. Thybulle has shot 36 percent on over 500 3-pointers in his collegiate career. He shot just 31 percent from downtown last season, but he’s better than what he showed there. At 22 years old, he can step in right away and contribute to an already elite defensive core with Ben Simmons and Embiid. 

Sixers fans might get nauseous at the idea of trading up with Boston to pick a Washington product, but this it the back end of the draft, not the front. Also, Thybulle’s presence allowed Philly to dump Jonathon Simmons’ contract on the Washington Wizards and save an extra $1 million for their free agency pursuits.

Atlanta Hawks

League Pass All-Stars. Adding De’Andre Hunter (No. 4 pick from New Orleans via Los Angeles via crazy lottery luck) and Cam Reddish (No. 10 via Dallas for Luka Doncic), the Hawks figure to be an exciting young squad that will be fascinating to watch next season.

With Trae Young and John Collins’ defensive limitations, I love that they targeted Hunter with the No. 4 pick. He may not have the box score stats of a defensive stalwart, but Hunter played in a Virginia defense that suppresses blocks and steals. The Hawks weren’t going to let another Malcolm Brogdon slip from their fingers with two of the best offensive young players in the NBA in Young and Collins. Reddish is a question mark, but at No. 10, that’s a worthy spot for his upside.

Knicks fans

It’s been a rough few weeks for the Knicks faithful. They lost the draft lottery. Their presumed top free agency target, Kevin Durant, tore his Achilles tendon. The Pelicans traded Anthony Davis elsewhere. Just when you thought the Knicks’ offseason couldn’t get any worse … wait, good news on draft night?!

Yes, the Knicks selected RJ Barrett with the No. 3 overall pick, a Knicks pick that was met with loud cheers for the first time … ever? I have my concerns about a shooting guard who couldn’t shoot 3s or at the line efficiently, but it was nice to hear Knicks fans be happy. They got their homegrown talent who seems genuinely thrilled to be a Knick. I sincerely hope he finds his jumper, because the NBA is better when its biggest market has something to root for.

Losers

Phoenix Suns 

I really don’t know what the Phoenix Suns are doing. First, they traded T.J. Warren and his remaining $35 million over three years into the Pacers’ cap space. Warren, 25 years old, is a big wing scorer who shot 43 percent from downtown last season, providing a really good insurance policy for Indiana free agent Bojan Bogdanovic. And you give him away along with the 32nd pick for cash considerations?

This is a deal you make if you’re a title contender looking to add a premiere free agent. But the Suns are going nowhere and they punted on Warren and got next to nothing. This is a new front office led by veteran GM Jeff Bower, but I’m not a fan of their start. Maybe they have D’Angelo Russell in their sights with their resulting cap space, but even then, I don’t love his fit next to Devin Booker. Deandre Ayton will have to be Bill Russell to clean up the backcourt’s mistakes.

And then they traded down from No. 6 for Dario Saric and the No. 11 pick, but reached for the oldest player in the draft, Cameron Johnson. Look, the UNC product is an elite shooter on the wing, but I worry about his age and hip issues. Bone impingement and a torn labrum is what has devastated Isaiah Thomas’ career, so hopefully he’s put those health issues behind him. Phoenix’s brass must’ve heard that Johnson was promised shortly after No. 11 because most intel had him projected to be a late first-rounder, at best. 

For a team that finished with the second-worst record in the NBA, this wasn’t much of a reward for their futility.

Hats

I kinda like the goofy hats atop the giant manes of the draftees, but we need to update the hat logos to reflect the teams they’re actually going to play for. Do we really need to put a Lakers hat on DeAndre Hunter after that pick was traded not once, but twice? Let’s bring the draft into 2019.

Washington Wizards

The Wizards were an awful defensive team last season, ranking 27th in defensive efficiency and traded Otto Porter for two score-first-and-second players in Jabari Parker and Bobby Portis. With interim GM Tommy Shephard steering the decisions for the club, I expected the Wizards to target a defensive presence at the No. 9 pick, someone like Brandon Clarke who reminds me a lot of Shawn Marion with his elite finishing ability and versatility on the defensive end. Clarke is only 6-foot-8 with a short wingspan, but he had the instincts and athleticism to block over three shots a game for Gonzaga. (I love him in Memphis next to Jaren Jackson Jr.)

Instead, the Wizards went with Clarke’s teammate at Gonzaga in Rui Hachimura, who fits the mold of a younger Parker. I like Hachimura’s scoring abilities around the rim, but this team needs more impact players on the defensive end and I think they missed out on Clarke. Getting Simmons from Philly makes some sense on the wing, but then again, coach Brett Brown, looking for defensive players on the wing, didn’t trust him much at all in the playoffs. Admiral Schofield is a solid flier in the second round with the 42nd pick they netted from the Sixers, but that’s a steep price with cash considerations going to Philly. Again, where is the defense going to come from for this team? The good news is Bradley Beal is still a Wizard. No desperate moves from Washington. 

Boston Celtics

It really seems like the Celtics have given up on the 2019-20 season already. By trading Aron Baynes to Phoenix and not moving up in the draft with their bevy of picks, the Celtics have essentially reverted back to the team that rallied to the 2018 Eastern Conference Finals without Kyrie Irving.

But that team had Al Horford, who is an essential part to everything that they do. They’ll need Horford to compete next season, but right now, Jayson Tatum, Gordon Hayward and Robert Williams will be their starting frontcourt next season. I’m not high on Romeo Langford (No. 14), but I love the Grant Williams pick at No. 24. (Jaylen Brown and Williams, the son of a NASA engineer, should stream weekly Academic Bowls.)

No one outside New England is feeling sorry for this team. But between Danny Ainge’s health scare and the surprising exodus out of Boston, this has been a sad chapter for the franchise. 

Look, they might make a run for Kemba Walker, who went to UConn just 85 miles down the road, but the comments out of the team on Thursday night suggest this will be a rebuild. Just a year ago, the Celtics held one of the brightest futures in the league. Now, they’re a cautionary tale.

Bol Bol

No one wants to be the guy that lingers in the green room on draft night, but I’m happy he landed in Denver. For the second year in a row, the Nuggets take a rehab flier on a top prospect. Last year it was Michael Porter Jr., who was the 14th pick dealing with back issues. He had a redshirt season in Denver, which might be the outcome for Bol in 2019-20 while he rehabs from a broken foot.

Bol is more than worth the flier. The son of the late NBA legend Manute, Bol is a 7-foot-2 shooter with a 7-foot-7 wingspan and has some real NBA-caliber skill. I am stunned he fell all the way out of the first round, even with the foot injury. He’s a top-10 talent. Good for the Nuggets to take a chance on Bol.

Yankees May Look to Lengthen Pitching Staff with Shorter Pitchers, Marcus Stroman and Minor League Phenom, Garcia

by Scott Mandel

The New York Yankees, in need of starting pitchers, will try to trade for 5’7″ righthander, Marcus Stroman, a local boy from Long Island who has been languishing in Toronto with the Blue Jays, before the July 31 trading deadline. They have another short (okay, height-challenged, for you politically correct types) pitching phenomenon in the minors, named Delvi Garcia, a 20-year old 5’8″, 160 pounder, who is averaging 16 strikeouts per nine innings and appears to be a “can’t miss” prospect with four above average pitches in his arsenal, including a 95-97 mph fastball.

Wouldn’t it be fun to see little guys out there on the mound, mixed in with Yankee pitchers like 6’7″ C.C. Sabathia, 6’5″ James Paxon, 6’5″ JA Happ, and 6’5″ Aroldis Chapman, mowing down major league hitters during the stretch run of a pennant race?

Whitey Ford, only the greatest pitcher in Yankee history, was about 5’8″, and he’s in the Hall of Fame with 236 wins to his credit.

Clearly it’s not the size of one’s height, it’s the size of one’s heart (just made that up). And, it’s also the spin rate on the curve and slider, mixed in with control and command of a 95mph heater. But more on that, later.

Delvi Garcia is mowing down Double A hitters and could be in the Bronx sooner than expected

The Yankees have been bitten by the injury bug throughout their roster this season with the pitching staff getting hit particularly hard. Injuries to Luis Severino, their ace, along with Domingo German and Jordan Montgomery (recovering from Tommy John surgery last June) have left them with an over-dependence on pitchers like the 39-year old Sabathia and 36-year old Happ while getting inconsistent performances from James Paxson and German (before his injury).

Garcia, at Double A Trenton, is dominating Eastern League batters as he dominated in Single A ball. He is expected to be moved up, once again, to Triple A, the highest level of minor league baseball, within a few weeks. If his dominance continues there, he could be in line to get called up in September, when major league rosters expand.

“For a lack of a better word, he’s been dominant,” Trenton Thunder manager Pat Osborn said. “He has a really good four-pitch mix and all four right now are probably above the Major League average. He’s a heck of a competitor and has the composure of a guy that’s been pitching for a number of years. He’s the full package in terms of what you want in a young starting pitcher.”

Montgomery has had a recent setback in his rehabilitation, trying to come back from rotator cuff surgery in his elbow last June. This time, he is experiencing pain in his throwing shoulder. An MRI this week showed inflammation in the joint, always a scary proposition for pitchers. He won’t be back anytime soon.

German is a question mark, particularly since he didn’t pitch that well prior to his injury. He tends to lose command of his pitches, probably due to faulty mechanics with his delivery. He was able to maintain fastball velocity in the 95 mph range, but wasn’t throwing it for strikes, consistently. He was hit hard over his last several outings.

Severino, who won 19 games last season, seems to be progressing well in his rehab. If everything continues on a good path, it looks like he’ll be headed down to the minors in about two weeks to stretch out his arm so he can give the Yankees solid seven-inning outings when he returns to the big club. That should require at least four starts down on the farm, with the last two outings to occur with the Triple A Scranton-Wilkes Barre Yankees. Depending on how his arm, as well as his other physical ailments respond will determine when the Yankees bring him up to the big club in the Bronx. But, it will certainly be after the All-Star break.

The lesson to be learned is as old as the game, itself. Teams can never have too much pitching.

Seaver, Mets All-Time Great, Suffering from Dementia

Fifty year anniversary of the Miracle Mets. A few teammates, Buddy Harrelson, Jerry Koosman, Art Shamsky, and Ron Swoboda visited the great Tom Seaver at his home in the Napa Valley, just prior to Seaver’s announcement he had been diagnosed with dementia. That’s Tom Terrific, 74, on the right.

Amazing how time flies. Truly astounding.

But, time doesn’t stand still for anyone, which of course, is one of the oldest cliches known to man. These old Mets, now in their mid to upper 70s, won a World Series championship in 1969 with a franchise forever known as the “lovable losers,” until Tom Seaver joined the team in 1967.

Seaver, who retired in 1989 with 311 victories, is a Hall of Famer, one of the icons in the history of the sport. On the mound, and in the clubhouse, he was like John Wayne, in those John Wayne movies. Tough, didn’t take any guff from anyone, meant business, and accomplished his objectives.

So, it was a shock to Art Shamsky when he coordinated a trip to Seaver’s Napa Valley home to visit the ailing pitcher and old teammate to find the former ace struggling to remember events and names from their championship series.

Jerry Koosman brought a copy of the New York Times from the Mets' championship. (Courtesy Erik Sherman)
Jerry Koosman holds up a copy of NY Times from 1969, after Mets won World Series
Tom Seaver discussing viticulture with Ron Swoboda. (Courtesy Erik Sherman)
Swoboda and Seaver on Seaver’s 116 acre vineyard

Mets Win Despite Another Bullpen Implosion as Jeff McNeil Pegs Out Cardinals to End Game

by Scott Mandel

You have to give New York Mets manager Mickey Callaway, a ton of credit. He understands his public role as chief cheerleader for his players, no matter how much his bullpen may blow late game leads or his fielders continue their alarming level of defensive miscues.

The Mets won last night’s game over the Cardinals, 8-7. That’s the good news. The real news? They were leading in the seventh inning, 8-3, with Noah Syndergaard on the mound. He wasn’t particularly sharp all night but he had enough moxie and stuff to get outs when he had to.

As has been Callaway’s wont over the past month or so, with a faltering bullpen and a starting five that no longer needs to be babied with limited pitch counts, he sent Syndergaard out to pitch the seventh inning, with the starter having thrown 102 pitches through six.

Syndergaard (5-4) reached for his right hamstring after throwing one pitch. Callaway and an athletic trainer came out to check on the right-hander, who walked off the field with a bit of a limp.

“It was on that one pitch,” Callaway said, adding Syndergaard will be re-evaluated Sunday morning. “That deep in the game, if he feels anything, you get him out with a five-run lead.”

But, these are the Mets, who either grossly overrated its bullpen coming into this season or, those pitchers out there have all gone off the rails at the same time. The bullpen, coming into Saturday, held a 6.69 ERA in the last 30 days, 8.33 in the past two weeks. You can’t get much worse than that, especially when that unit has blown 16 saves this season, by far, the worst in the game.

When Syndergaard walked off the mound with a five-run lead, one sensed five runs wasn’t nearly enough of a lead to secure a win for the Mets against the scrappy, base-stealing Cardinals, who stole six bases against Mets pitching last night.

Enter Robert Gsellman, one of the Jekyll and Hydes of the Mets bullpen. Gsellman throws 95-97 but unfortunately doesn’t always know where the pitch is going. Often times, it ends up straight over the plate where major league hitters can tattoo it. Predictably, like clockwork, St. Louis scored three times with Gsellman being Gsellman, before the inning ended on a line-drive double play.

With a beleaguered bullpen having so much trouble closing games for the New York Mets lately, it was left to second baseman Jeff McNeil to take it upon himself to save this one, and save Edwin Diaz’ bacon at the same time.

Seth Lugo came on in the eighth inning, loading the bases but somehow, he struck out three in the inning, finally fanning Matt Carpenter with the bases loaded to end the inning.

Then, it was Diaz time. The Mets biggest acquisition of the off-season, Diaz appears to be fragile, an attribute for a closer that doesn’t lead to happy endings. The 24-year old gave up a two-out RBI single to Yadier Molina in the ninth, and Kolten Wong lofted a pop fly toward the right field line.

McNeil sprinted a long way in pursuit and converged with outfielder Michael Conforto, yet neither could make the catch. Conforto tumbled to the turf, but McNeil stayed on his feet and quickly grabbed the ball as it trickled away. He zipped a one-hop throw right to catcher Wilson Ramos that easily nailed Jack Flaherty, the Cardinals pitcher who was pinch-running for the slow-footed Molina.

“Mike goes in there sliding, I go in there leaping. I think once the ball hit the ground, I knew they were going to send him,” McNeil said. “Pick it up and I kind of got lucky; I was behind the ball, so I got some oomph on the throw.”

Flaherty looked back at the ball while running and stumbled coming around third.

“You see Flaherty chugging the bases and I thought he was going to score,” Cards’ starter Michael Wacha said. “The guy made a heck of a throw from right field — right on the money. So I mean, you’ve just got to tip your cap at some point and go get `em tomorrow. But it was a crazy ending, that’s for sure.”

A fired-up McNeil pumped his right arm and the Mets celebrated after a narrow escape. Diaz got his 15th save in 18 attempts.

“That was just a whirlwind of emotions,” rookie slugger Pete Alonso said.

Alonso smashed a mammoth three-run homer off the facing of the third deck in a five-run first inning against Michael Wacha (4-3). J.D. Davis homered and had four hits, finishing a triple short of the cycle. And this time, New York’s relievers finally held on — barely — after blowing late leads in the first two games of the series.

“Third time’s a charm and there was never a doubt,” Callaway said, chuckling. “A win’s a win and it was a great play by Jeff. Heads-up play to get it in and get it home. Great throw.”

“It was pretty nerve-wracking,” Davis said.

Added Callaway: “It’s not easy for us right now. But tonight is a step in the right direction, no matter how it happened. We held the lead and hopefully we can build off of that.”

Mickey can’t say this, as chief of cheerleading but, until the Mets get the collective fragile psyches of its bullpen into a healthier place, there won’t be enough runs in a game to build off of.

Syndergaard Throws Gem, Sending Mets to 6-1 win over Rockies

Setting the tone – Mets hierarchy is deciding to let “Big Four” starters lead the way this season by going “old school” with higher pitch counts and more innings per outing for the foreseeable future.

By Scott Mandel

Noah Syndergaard became a dominant pitcher again at Citi Field today, as he allowed just one hit to the potent Colorado Rockies lineup as the Mets won the rubber game of this weekend series, 6-1.

Todd Frazier, the well-traveled, veteran third baseman, led the Mets, driving in four runs with a home run and a double.

But, make no mistake about it. If this Mets team has any designs on competing for a championship, it’s going to come down to what has historically been the strength and the legacy of this franchise, namely, its starting pitching.

Some organizations have always been known by how many power-hitting bashers they produce, seemingly from year to year. Other organizations are better known for developing great pitching or, speedy, athletic, heady players.

Any success the Mets, in their 57-year history, have enjoyed, has always been predicated on their pitching staff, particularly its young, talented, fireballing starting pitchers.

Boppers? No, it’s never been the Mets “thing.” But, arms? Those have been a thing of beauty in the Amazin’s legacy.

This is the franchise of Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Nolan Ryan, Jon Matlack, Dwight Gooden, and for a brief, shining moment, Matt Harvey. Those were the guys this franchise historically depended on to win championships, or get them into contention to grab the brass ring.

The current Mets possess four talented starters in Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Zack Wheeler, and Steven Matz, along with surprising fifth starter, Jason Vargas, who pitched a complete game shutout on Wednesday. The first four all throw the ball very hard, very consistently. Each of them can sprinkle in curve balls or changeups, but, by and large, these guys are bringing 95 mph plus heat to every start, forcing opposing hitters to cheat a little with their swings to catch up to the velo.

When these guys are “on,” they are dominant major league pitchers. It’s Callaway’s job to put them in dominant mode, and he believes it starts now with confidence-building. They have been told their success will dictate how this Mets season goes. That they, all in their primes right now, are the Core Four of the Mets.

But, up to this point, these pitchers have been mostly babied by this current Mets regime, for fear of developing the types of arm injuries that could derail a career, as what happened to Matt Harvey.

But, if you listen to Mets manager Mickey Callaway now, those days are over. Partially because of a bullpen that has been wildly inconsistent and unreliable, especially when holding leads in the late innings, and

New York Mets third baseman Todd Frazier hits
Hot-hitting Frazier drove in four runs vs. Rockies

partially, because somebody in the Mets hierarchy seems to have awakened recently and asked itself the question, “where and who is the strength of this team and how can we win a championship, today?”

The answer seems to have come to Callaway and his pitching coach, Dave Eiland, over the last four games, after the bullpen lost leads on the Mets recent road trip to the West coast.

Today, Syndergaard (4-4) struck out seven and walked two to pick up his first win in five starts, dating back to May 14. He was sharp from the get-go, working his 97-99 mph velocity to both sides of the plate. The Rockies didn’t look comfortable, as Syndergaard allowed just one hit in his tidy, 98-pitch outing, a Nolan Arenado single to right, just past the reach of Mets second baseman, Adeiny Hechavarria.

“He was on,” said Rockies outfielder, David Dahl. “His fastball is 98, 99 with movement. We were late on that and then we try to kind of cheat to it or get to it and he throws the changeup or the curveball,” Dahl said. “He had everything working.”

New York has homered in 16 straight home games, setting a club record.

All very nice when the Mets’ offense holds up its end of the bargain but make no mistake, this up and down Mets season will evolve into a memorable one if the Big Four succeeds at old school baseball and does what is now expected of them.

17-Year Old American, Amanda Anisimova, Moves Into Semis of French Open, Defeats Defending Champion, Simona Halep

By Janelle Griffith

Seventeen-year-old Amanda Anisimova stunned at the French Open semifinals on Thursday, defeating defending champion Simona Halep.

She made history with the achievement: Anisimova is the first player born in the 2000s to reach a Grand Slam semifinal. Even she seemed surprised by her win.

“I can’t believe it,” Anisimova said on court after the win. “I’ve been working so hard, but I didn’t think it would pay off like this. This is honestly more than anything I could ask for.”

Here are a few other facts about Anisimova and her achievements:

She is the daughter of Konstanin and Olga Anisimova, Russian immigrants who moved to the United States in 1998, with their older daughter, Maria, who was 10 at the time.

She was born in Freehold Township, New Jersey, on Aug. 31, 2001.

She speaks Russian and English.

The family later moved to Florida, where many professional tennis players live and train. Anisimova now lives in Aventura, Florida.

Anisimova has said she picked up her first tennis ball and developed an interest in the sport thanks to her older sister, Maria.

“My sister ended up playing for UPenn at college. So when I was little, she was playing tennis,” Anisimova told the Women’s Tennis Association. “I always saw her playing, and I wanted to do it, too. That’s how I got into it and my parents got into it, too.”

Anisimova made her French Open debut two years ago, earning a wild-card spot at 15.

Although she has Russian roots, she told The New York Times in 2017 that she has never visited her parents’ home country or considered representing it on the court.

“I never considered representing Russia,” Anisimova said. “I do plan on going, though. I really want to visit and see what it’s like and see the culture more.”

She is the youngest woman to reach the French Open semifinals since Nicole Vaidisova, who was also 17 at the time, in 2006.

She won her first Tour title this year in Bogota, becoming the youngest American to win a title since Serena Williams won Indian Wells in 1999, according to Reuters.

At 17 years and 10 months old, Anisimova is also the youngest American to reach a Grand Slam semifinal since Venus Williams did so when she was 17 years and two months at the 1997 U.S. Open.

Image result for amanda anisimova
Anisimova as a 16-year old last year

Should she tire of tennis, Anisimova has said she would like to become a surgeon.

“If I didn’t play tennis, I’d want to be a surgeon,” she said. “Actually what I want to do is go to online college while I’m in my pro career and then go to med school after I finish.”

Callaway Not Tracking as Long-Term Mets Manager as Another Loss is Blamed on His Decision

If New York Mets manager, Mickey Callaway is fired before this season comes to an end, many of us might point to tonight’s loss at Citi Field to the San Francisco Giants, as the beginning of the end of his tenure at the helm.

Returning home from a 2-5 west coast road trip which made clear the biggest weakness of this team is found in its collapsing bullpen, Callaway spoke before tonight’s game about the importance of re-enforcing the starting pitching as the strength and core of this roster, and the one segment of this team that needs to be counted if the Mets are to have a successful, playoff-bound season.

Callaway said tonight it was going to fall on the shoulders of Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, and Steven Matz to lead this team to the promised land, much like past Mets pitching staffs had done, despite spotty lineups and lots of weaknesses throughout the rosters, such as in 1973 when names like Seaver, Koosman, Gentry, and Matlack led the Mets to the World Series despite a modicum of mediocrity throughout that lineup.

The problem is, Callaway isn’t managing as if the strength of this team is in its four starters, as he claimed earlier. He has played it cautious over the past few games with his ace, deGrom and tonight, with Syndergaard, who was removed by Callaway in the seventh inning with a 3-2 lead, having retired 10 of the past 12 hitters, just one out away from closing out that seventh.

Instead of focusing on the supposed core of this team, one of whom is Noah Syndergaard, Callaway managed as if he didn’t trust Syndergaard to retire that third out, the Giants’ righthanded hitting Evan Longoria, who was carrying around a .223 batting average.

Callaway brought in Seth Lugo, recently off the injured list, to pitch to the diminished Longoria as Syndergaard made no effort on the field to hide his anger at Callaway’s call to the bullpen.

With a man on first, Lugo proceeded to give up the lead, and with it, the Mets crumbled late in a game, once again, and suffered a crushing 9-3 loss after taking a lead into the the late innings.

A few hours later, Noah Syndergaard was on an excellent roll and the Mets manager was removing him from the game, the latest evidence that even nearly 1 ¹/₂ years into the job, Callaway still has trouble making decisions under stress. You know who agrees with that assessment?

Image result for Mickey Callaway decision loses game for Mets
Callaway also removed deGrom too early from a game on the West Coast trip, leading to bullpen collapse

Mickey Callaway.

Because after what turned into a 9-3, 10-inning loss, Callaway first gathered his players to express in Syndergaard’s word “remorse” about the decision while taking responsibility for the loss and then publicly conceding, “I’d like to have that [decision] back.”

That might be true about the Wilpons and Brodie Van Wagenen when it comes to their choice to stick with Callaway as manager. Three days after removing Jacob deGrom over the ace’s objections and going to a sketchy bullpen that would end up blowing the game, Callaway did the same Tuesday with Syndergaard with the same results. This is the Robinson-Cano-not-running-out-balls-twice of managing. Once, you are not crazy about it, but the second time reaches inexcusable.

Tabloid New York Post Fails Middle School Level Spelling While Ripping ESPN for Sabathia Photo Error

By Scott Mandel

The New York Post, one of the leading tabloid newspapers in the New York tri-state region, ripped ESPN, yesterday, for mistakenly putting up a picture of Aaron Hicks with the graphic, below, “Leads Active Pitchers with 249 Wins.”

Then, the Post wrote, in its accompanying article,

“Hicks, an outfielder, most certainly does not lead active pitchers with 249 wins.

Besides plainly not being Sabathia, Hicks also throws right-handed, where as Sabathia is left-handed. Sabathia didn’t pick up his milestone 250th win, as the Yankees lost, 8-5.”

HEY POST sports editorial staff, you misspelled the word, WHEREAS. Editors of newspapers and magazines know better than to go to press with your incorrect two-worded version, “WHERE AS…….Sabathia is left-handed…”

The lesson here, New York Post, is, if you’re going to rip another news provider for its errors, clean up your own house. You must know scrutiny goes both ways. Your F in spelling is not even irony. You just look plain silly.

You still have great sports writers, though, New York Post, WHEREAS, many newspapers have lost their way. So, keep up the mostly good work, New York Post.

Mandel’s Musings: New Heavyweight King, Andy Ruiz, Jr. Does Not Epitomize Boxing’s Hallowed History of Champs

By Scott Mandel

Say hello to the new heavyweight champion of the world, a man from Mexico named Andy Ruiz, Jr.

Ruiz Jr. did what many believed was the impossible by stopping Anthony Joshua in Round 7 on Saturday to capture the WBA, WBO and IBF world titles in one of the biggest upsets in boxing history in New York’s Madison Square Garden.

No one is really sure if this shocker occurred because of Ruiz’ great skills in the boxing ring in beating the 6’5″, 240 pound chiseled slab of granite in Joshua. Or, if the champion, Joshua, a Brit who apparently doesn’t enjoy one of the prerequisites of his sport, getting repeatedly punched in the head, had just had enough and decided to hit the mat.

A rumor was being floated around the Garden that Joshua, new to New York City and very much a bon vivant, man-about-town who enjoys his celebrity, wanted to make sure he wasn’t late for his dinner reservations in one of Manhattan’s fancy restaurants. He knows he’ll get a rematch to regain his title belts but you never know if you can get another reservation in some NYC restaurants.

Andy Ruiz, Jr., the new heavyweight champion, knocks out Anthony Joshua at Madison Square Garden last night

As an event, heavyweight championship fights used to be kind of a big deal, particularly in New York City or one of the Las Vegas hotels. Now, the brutality of boxing that once made it so popular has been overtaken by the even more popular and more brutal sport of MMA fighting, in which fighters not only punch each other in the head but they dropkick opposing heads and ribs, attempting to smash those body parts into unrecognizable formations of bone and sinew.

World boxing champions typically present as the epitome of physical conditioning, if not mental acuity. Andy Ruiz, the new champ of the “glamour” division in boxing, looks like he abstains from the training and road work typical of boxers as they prepare for championship matches. Ruiz, 6’1″ and 265 flabby pounds, appears to prefer his potatoes and tacos to sweat equity.

Muhammad Ali, Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano, Mike Tyson, Lennox Lewis, George Foreman….all were great heavyweight champions. Now, you can add to that hallowed list, the name of fellow pugilist, Andy Ruiz, Jr.

So long to boxing as sport. Now, it’s become more like a freak show.

Mandel’s Musings: Bart Starr, Packers Quarterback for Five Championships, Dies at 85

The great Starr won three NFL championships as the quarterback for the dominant NFL team of the 1960s before the Super Bowls began.

by Scott Mandel

Bart Starrwho died on Sunday at 85, ushered in the Super Bowl era, winning two championships for the Green Bay Packers. The most valuable player of Super Bowl I was Bart Starr. And the MVP of Super Bowl II? Starr, once again.

But, it’s easy to forget there were NFL championships before the Super Bowl became part of the national consciousness. And, Bart Starr won three NFL championships, in 1961, 1962, and 1965, before he won the first two Super Bowls.

A 17th round draft choice out of Bear Bryant’s University of Alabama program, Starr was slightly built, didn’t have a passing arm that anyone would mistake for a howitzer, and wasn’t fast afoot. It was no surprise he lasted until the 17th round.

But, all he did was win football games, especially when Vince Lombardi took over Green Bay as the head coach in 1959.

Over the course of their nine seasons, Lombardi and Starr knew only success. A team that had gone 1-10-1 in 1958 (0-6-1 with Starr starting) would never record a losing season under Lombardi. The Packers improved to 7-5 in 1959, played for the N.F.L. championship in 1960, and the first dynasty in NFL history was born, with Bart Starr at the helm.

The two elite quarterbacks in professional football for most of that era were John Unitas, the best forward passer of the 60s, and Starr, who engineered the legendary Lombardi’s offense to perfection.

The difference between them? Unitas had stats, and one important championship in 1956. But, Bart had multiple CHIPS.

Vince Lombardi speaking to Bart Starr during Super Bowl I, in 1967

Stuck between eras of the N.F.L., Starr won more of the league’s titles than any quarterback not named Tom Brady. The line of demarcation in NFL history tends to be pre-Super Bowl and post-Super Bowl, which began January, 1967.

In the era preceding that first Super Bowl, the game began to evolve into something resembling today’s focus on the passing game. The onset of the forward pass started to push to the side, typical NFL offenses based on the concept of “three yards and a cloud of dust,” which utilized running backs to follow the blocks of the offensive lines to essentially move the first down chains. The forward pass, back in the early 50s, had essentially been used when the running game left offenses in third and long scenarios.

The modern era, which Starr/Lombardi and Baltimore’s Johnny Unitas, coached by Weeb Ewbank, helped usher in, led the N.F.L. on a path to being America’s richest and most popular sport. And while the transition from the league’s wilder early days to its sleek and modern present would quite likely have happened without Starr, he and the Packers helped create the early blueprint for players of the soon-to-be-merged N.F.L. and A.F.L. to follow.