Trust y’all had a happy Ride Your Bicycle to Work and National Bee Day on Friday. I hate when major holidays like that fall on the same day. However, we look forward to this weekend and Memorial Day and the chance for the first time in two years to celebrate while remembering. We’ll be maskless if we choose, among family and friends and beginning what should be a great summer. In the meantime we have a few items from the holiday grab bag to share:
It’s been three weeks since Medina Spirit crossed the finish line first in the Kentucky Derby. It’s been two weeks since the horse tested positive for an illegal substance. It’s also been two weeks since we’ve been told a second sample is being tested to confirm or deny the first one. It’s been a week since Medina Spirit fizzled down the stretch in the Preakness. Don’t you think it’s well past time we know who officially won the Kentucky Derby? Horse racing, you want us to accept you as a credible sport? Horse feathers.
Monday is the last day at ESPN for Kenny Mayne, the best athlete to ever become a SportsCenter anchor and a personal favorite of mine. Mayne’s style is clipped, sarcastic, original, funny and good. Kenny was a standout high school football quarterback in his native Washington before becoming a junior college All-American at Wenatchee Valley College in his home state. From there he moved to UNLV and backed-up future NFL-All Pro Randall Cunningham. Mayne then signed as an NFL free-agent with Seattle but quickly released. He spent 27 years with ESPN which was a heck of a lot longer than his gig on Dancing With The Stars that ended when he mangled the cha-cha. On leaving ESPN Mayne called himself, “a salary cap casualty.” He’s too entertaining not to turn up somewhere soon.
If you get Decades on your cable system a fun little peek-in for me at night is The Dick Cavett Show. Featured guests of the day in the 60s and 70s can be watched with a whole different perspective a half century later.
Old Guys Part 1. Baseball. Tony La Russa is 76 years old. He managed for 32 years in the big leagues before calling it quits in 2011. He won three world championships, was Manager Of The Year four times and in 2014 received the highest honor in the sport: inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. During his career he managed the Cardinals, the A’s and the White Sox. The Sox fired him in the middle of the ‘86 season at age 42. Just didn’t have it anymore. So it makes perfect sense they would hire him back more than three decades later to be the oldest skipper in the game. He returned with a lot more knowledge about the ‘unwritten’ rules of baseball than the published ones. Last Monday, with Chicago leading Minnesota 15-4 in the ninth inning, 28-year-old White Sox rookie sensation Yermin Mercedes was at-bat against Twins back-up catcher-first baseman Willians Astudillo, whose only job was to try to throw the ball over the plate, save arms in the bullpen and end the carnage. The count was 3-0 when Astudillo teed-up a 47 mile-an-hour heater which Mercedes swung at and hit out of the park. La Russa was incensed as his star rounded the bases. He said it was ‘unwritten’ in a game like that you don’t swing at 3-0 and embarrass the other team. Never mind Minnesota embarrassing the game using a utility guy to pitch. “Big mistake” La Russa told the media about his guy and added that Mercedes “didn’t have a clue, but now he does.” Mercedes maybe didn’t get the clue saying afterwards, “I am going to play my game.” It could be said La Russa doesn’t have a clue about some of the published rules of baseball. Ten days before against Cincinnati, starting the 10th inning, La Russa wasn’t aware that the last batted out, who gets placed on second base in extra innings, didn’t have to be the pitcher if the pitcher was indeed the last out. Instead the rule book says the last position player to make an out can be used. La Russa didn’t know this; seemingly, his coaches didn’t either so they placed the pitcher on second base, and he died there to end the inning. Not sure if it cost Chicago the game or not but they lost in the bottom of the 10th. About Mercedes, La Russa said there would be “consequences.” No word from Sox ownership on “consequences” for their manager who knows the unwritten rule book better than the written one.
Per the above, former White Sox and Yankees shortstop and Yankees manager Bucky Dent coincidentally sent me a note that over the past 20 years there has been a 3-0 count 557 times with a team leading by ten runs and Mercedes was the only one to swing at the next pitch. Two immediate thoughts: it was about time, and who keeps track of these things? Retired World Series MVP’s, I guess.
Of all teams that La Russa picked to be rule-ignorant against, why did it have to be the Reds, where every loss counts when you bet under 81.5 for the season? The Reds-watch saw the Giants, my new favorite team of the week, sweep four from Cincy moving the Reds four games under .500 with only 118 left to play.
Old Guys, Part 2. Football. I’ve got to be missing something. Tim Tebow is 32 years old, has been out of football for almost eight years and has never played tight end at any level, which is exactly what the Jacksonville Jaguars signed him to play. Just so happens the new Jax head guy is Tebow’s coach from Florida, Urban Meyer, who is obviously trying to reprise some of that 2006 and 2008 national championship magic in the NFL. If this is the way Meyer is going to run his team, Trevor Lawrence at quarterback or not, and Tebow makes the opening day roster, I’ll be all over Jacksonville under 6.5 total season wins.
Word on the Vegas Strip is if you are looking to spend a weekend at Caesars Palace anytime between now and the end of the year fuhgeddaboudit it. There’s no room at the inn.
A couple of notable birthdays last week: Cher turned 75 and if you really want to feel old, Sugar Ray Leonard celebrated his 65th.
The Stanley Cup playoffs, the best and most intense professional sports tournament, is underway for the next two months with Colorado from the West and defending Cup champion Tampa Bay from the East as the local books’ favorites. Interestingly, when the playoffs began 10 days ago, the regular season still had another week to go. Huh? Vancouver lost a month of the season in March when COVID swept through the locker room with 21 players and five staff members infected. For sponsorship and bonus reasons, the Canucks needed to play all of their 56 scheduled games. When the playoffs began on May 15 the Canucks, eliminated from the post-season, still had four games to play. The last three were against Calgary, also out of the playoffs. So while the legit playoffs were heating up, the JV in Calgary and Vancouver were playing out the string.
The NBA playoffs started yesterday. Even with COVID limited seating, as of Saturday morning, none of the day’s games had sold out.
If five years ago you shorted the city of Oakland as a professional sports town you might have a winner. The Oakland A’s are playing the same hand the Raiders played in trying to get the city to build them a new stadium. Major League Baseball has given the A’s permission to look at potential new homes, among them are Nashville, Montreal, Charlotte, Portland and Las Vegas, which presently hosts the A’s AAA team. The Raiders did the same thing trying to squeeze Oakland into a commitment. However, the city dragged and as soon as Las Vegas agreed to build a new stadium the Raiders announced their plans to relocate. Not sure what will happen with the A’s, but they won’t wind up in the same city as their former neighbors. Las Vegas is a football city, a hockey town and will openly embrace the NBA soon. But I don’t see baseball coming here; Vegas doesn’t have a facility, but more importantly, doesn’t have the population numbers to support 81 homes dates a year.
If for some unknown reason you are a Mariners fan and go to Seattle’s T-Mobile Park because you love offensive baseball, stay away. In fact, the baseball the home team is playing is indeed offensive. On Tuesday night the Mariners were no-hit by Spencer Turnbull of the Tigers. Yep, I know what you’re thinking, ‘that’s the same Spencer Turnbull who was 3-17 two years ago.’ It was the second time the M’s were no-no’d this season; both times at home. Right now Seattle is hitting a paltry .197 as a team, lowest in baseball. That will sure sell a lot of tickets.
Remember when no-hitters used to be so rare they were must-see and thrilling? The month of May isn’t over and with the Yankees’ Cory Kluber tossing one on Wednesday night we’ve had six so far this season. About one a week. With the league-wide lack of hitting and plethora of strikeouts, Marlins manager Don Mattingly called the game “sometimes unwatchable.” He’s not wrong.
Atlanta Braves right-handed pitcher Huascar Ynoa was off to a good start this season with a 4-2 won-loss record and an ERA of just over 3.00 before he went on vacation for two months. After being shellacked by the Brewers for five runs in four innings on Tuesday night, Ynoa punched the dugout bench, breaking his pitching hand. Smart.
You may remember the name Colt Brennan, who was a college football standout at Hawaii shattering Western Athletic Conference passing records back in 2006 and 2007. He was a sixth-round draft pick in 2008 of the team formerly known as the Redskins. He flamed out three years later with the Raiders. A 12-year battle with alcohol and drugs followed. On May 10 he was found in a hotel room in Newport Beach, California, and died the next day from a fentanyl overdose. Brennan was 37. Sad.
Native American gaming companies are setting up shop out here in the desert. The former Hard Rock Hotel, now Richard Branson’s Virgin Hotel, has its casino managed by Mohegan Gaming and Entertainment from Connecticut. And two weeks ago, the former hip Palms Hotel and Casino, still shut down from the pandemic, was purchased by the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians from California. Both properties are just a block or two off Las Vegas Boulevard and both were flying high not so long ago.
I know someone who phoned the State of California unemployment office last week to be answered with an automated greeting that said they couldn’t answer the call because they were “understaffed.”
Rennie Stennett, a key cog to the Pirates 1970s success, died Tuesday at the young age of 72. Other than being an outstanding second baseman and 1979 World Champion, Rennie will be remembered for three other career benchmarks: in 1971 he was part of the first all-minority, Black and Latino, MLB lineup that also featured legends Roberto Clemente and Willie Stargell. In 1975 during Pittsburgh’s 22-0 win over the Cubs at Wrigley, Stennett became the first and still only major leaguer to go seven for seven at the plate in a nine-inning game. And most importantly in 2014, the Panamanian became my manager at Pirates camp. Rennie assembled a good team, in fact the best one I’ve played on in 14 fantasy camps. Unfortunately, a key three-run error by his aging and blog-writing first baseman brought the anticipated championship run to an early end. Stennett was a good guy whose 7-7 should stand for a long time.
Also passing on Tuesday was actor Charles Grodin at age 86. Grodin, who attended UMiami, played one of my favorite roles as Lenny Cantrow, a half-assed sporting goods salesman in the 1972 comedy, The Heartbreak Kid.
The two laggards in COVID vaccinations are red state neighbors. Mississippi at 33% and Alabama at 35% brings up the rear. I was in Birmingham for a couple of days last week; the city was wide open and basically maskless. Vaccines are smart, safe, painless and now very easy to get. I just don’t understand.
What Mississippi and Alabama need to do to spur vax interest is what Vegas is doing. Now that gentlemen clubs have reopened, Larry Flynt’s Hustler Club is offering COVID vaccinations to anyone over 21. It was only a matter of time before you could get shots with a shot. As a bonus, anyone vaccinated at Hustler receives a free lap dance and Platinum club membership. I wish I had waited.
We are going to sleep-in next Sunday, so see you in two weeks. Maybe by then we will have a certified Kentucky Derby winner. Or maybe not. Either way, have a safe and fun holiday weekend.