NCAA/RADIOTROY MEN’S SIMULATED BASKETBALL TOURNEY
Indiana 84 Northern Kentucky 74
Florida State 68 Butler 54
Kentucky 68 Virginia 60
San Diego State 73 Iowa 67 OT
Michigan 87 Vermont 85 OT
Maryland 72 Rutgers 56
Michigan State 73 Oklahoma 59
USC 74 Duke 73 OT
Kansas vs. Louisville
Indiana vs. Florida State
Gonzaga vs. Providence
Kentucky vs. San Diego State
Baylor vs. Seton Hall
Michigan vs. Maryland
Dayton vs. Ohio State
Michigan State vs. USC
NBA SIMULATED GAMES SUNDAY
LA Lakers 122 Detroit 113
Toronto 117 Denver 116
Minnesota 117 Portland 114
New Orleans 112 Sacramento 110
Utah 114 San Antonio 112
NHL SIMULATED GAMES SUNDAY
Pittsburgh 4 Washington 3
NY Rangers 4 Buffalo 3
Carolina 3 NY Islanders 2
Chicago 3 Nashville 3
Dallas 2 Winnipeg 1
Arizona 2 Los Angeles 1
COLLEGE BASEBALL SIMULATED GAMES-SUNDAY
Xavier 4 Indiana State 3
UConn 7 Cincinnati 5
Maryland 5 Michigan State 3
Wright State 9 Oakland 2
Miami OH 5 Akron 1
Toledo 5 Ball State 4
Michigan 5 Purdue 2
Ohio State 5 Rutgers 2
Kent State 4 Valpo 2
Notre Dame 5 Clemson 3
Indiana 5 Illinois State 4
Butler 5 Air Force 4
Dayton 7 George Mason 4
Northwestern 3 Penn State 1
Central Michigan 5 Northern Illinois 4
Illinois 7 Iona 2
Iowa 3 St. Mary’s 2
Western Michigan 7 Evansville 6
IOC looking at postponing Tokyo Olympics in 4 weeks of talks
The IOC will look at postponing the Tokyo Olympics during four weeks of talks announced Sunday amid mounting criticism by athletes and sports officials during the coronavirus pandemic.
Consultation with Japanese public authorities, global sports officials, broadcasters and sponsors will deal with “scenario planning” for the July 24-Aug. 9 games, the International Olympic Committee said.
This includes “the scenario of postponement,” the IOC said in a statement, adding “cancellation is not on the agenda.”
“These scenarios relate to modifying existing operational plans for the Games to go ahead on July 24, 2020, and also for changes to the start date of the Games.” the Olympic body said.
The change in strategy followed IOC president Thomas Bach leading a conference call with executive board members.
Bach has consistently said organizers are fully committed to opening the games on July 24 – despite athlete training, qualifying events and games preparations being disrupted more and more by the virus outbreak causing the COVID-19 disease.
Criticism of the stance grew in recent days from Olympic gold medalists and by an IOC member last Tuesday, before Bach finally acknowledged an alternative plan was possible.
“Of course we are considering different scenarios,” Bach told the New York Times in an interview late Thursday.
National Olympic committees in Brazil and Slovenia later called for a postponement to 2021. Norway’s Olympic body said it did not want athletes going to Tokyo until the global health crisis is under control.
The United States governing bodies of swimming and track – two of the three top-tier Summer Games sports – have called on their national Olympic officials to push for a postponement.
“There is a dramatic increase in cases and new outbreaks of COVID-19 in different countries on different continents,” the IOC said. “This led the (board) to the conclusion that the IOC needs to take the next step in its scenario-planning.”
“The (board) emphasized that a cancellation … would not solve any of the problems or help anybody.”
In a separate statement, Bach addressed athletes who wish to compete at the Tokyo Olympics. Of the 11,000 athlete places available in 33 sports, around 4,700 have yet to be allocated.
“Human lives take precedence over everything, including the staging of the games,” Bach wrote. “The IOC wants to be part of the solution.”
Any postponement of the Summer Games would impact the Tokyo Paralympics scheduled for Aug. 25-Sept. 6.
“As you can imagine, potentially changing the dates of the Olympic and Paralympic Games is a huge logistical challenge, and the IPC will support the IOC every step of the way,” the International Paralympic Committee said.
“Currently it is vital that everyone, including athletes, stay at home to help prevent the further spread of this horrible disease which is impacting the global community,” the Germany-based IPC said.
Jays’ Shapiro expects 4-week spring training before season
With no sign of when training camps can resume, Toronto Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro says he thinks Major League Baseball would need at least a month of workouts and exhibition games before regular season play can begin.
Opening day has been postponed until at least mid-May because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Knowing that so many players are not even having any access to throwing at all or hitting at all, but most importantly just throwing, and probably limited access to just training and exercise, it’s hard to imagine we could get ready in less than four weeks,” Shapiro said in a teleconference with Toronto reporters.
Shapiro cautioned that training camps aren’t likely to reopen for some time yet.
“I do think that we’re, by and large, waiting for some sort of flattening of the curve and recognition that we have done our best to limit the strain on the healthcare system and the economic system,” he said. “Until that time, the exact outcome and impact on our schedule, and all of the corresponding business that cascades off that, really can’t be determined.
“It certainly looks like we are not dealing with days and likely not weeks, but closer to months,” he said.
Speaking from his Toronto home, where he and his family are isolating themselves, Shapiro said he expects negotiations between Major League Baseball and the players’ union on an industry-wide plan to compensate players for missed games to conclude “in the next 24 to 48 hours.”
All but three of Toronto’s major league players have left the team’s spring training site in Dunedin, Florida. Those that remain are South Korean left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu, Japanese right-hander Shun Yamaguchi and right-hander Rafael Dolis, who is from the Dominican Republic.
Shapiro said the three players “did not have any place to go.” They are the only players who maintain access to Toronto’s Florida facilities.
Ryu is accompanied by his wife, who is seven months pregnant.
Shapiro said no Blue Jays players or staff have displayed any symptoms of the new coronavirus, and that no one has been tested.
Some 30 minor league players and four staffers who have been unable to go home are being housed in a Dunedin-area hotel, Shapiro said. Eighteen of those players are from Venezuela, and cannot return home.
Shapiro said Toronto’s big league players have been given individualized workout plans, while minor league players still at the team hotel in Florida have received workouts they can perform in their rooms.
“The physical exercise they can do is as much about mental health and maintaining some semblance of normalcy and routine, and probably a little bit less baseball-specific,” Shapiro said. “There’s almost no one who could maintain game-ready shape in light of circumstances.”
MLB Draft process in limbo due to shutdown
The temporary shutdown of the MLB community has left many in the industry wondering about the status of one of its integral cogs; the draft. The MLB Draft is currently scheduled for Wednesday, June 10th – but all of the uncertainty around the coronavirus has many people questioning whether it will be postponed, or even canceled. The reasons are plentiful, the biggest of which includes the money that baseball would save by not holding the event. The Associated Press estimates that teams spend around 400 million dollars on signing bonuses alone. While the teams will be able to save money on signing bonuses, the other impacts of the draft getting pushed back to a later date or scrapped entirely are monumental.
Firstly, what would that mean for draft eligible high school players? Typically, they would get drafted, sign their first pro contracts, and then be assigned to minor league teams. If there is no draft, then where would they be able to continue to play? College scholarships are likely all used up by now, and are likely at risk of becoming fewer and far between thanks to the financial hit that the NCAA took from losing their flagship event, March Madness. That puts these players in a bit of a holding pattern. Where will they train? Will they be able to find another platform to get scouted for 2021?
Secondly, there are tons of college players who were banking on being scouted these next few weeks, and then hearing their names called on June 10th. What happens to them? Yes, they can still go back to college for another year (which causes a similar scholarship issue with the NCAA), but the canceled draft will likely cost them tens of millions of dollars in contract money by having to start their professional careers in 2021 versus 2020 (unless of course, the service time model is adjusted…).
Another question is regarding the punishment for the Houston Astros sign-stealing scandal? MLB handed the Astros a punishment that included the loss of their first round picks for both the 2020 and 2021 drafts. If the 2020 draft is indeed canceled, and the classes are merged – what does that mean regarding the Astros loss of picks? How will that punishment be adjusted?
Assuming the show does go on, on June 10th, how will the MLB imposed scouting freeze impact the draft process? Scouts have been told to halt all activities, which means no games to scout, no showcases to attend, and no phone calls to coaches. We’re talking about two and a half months of little-to-no-scouting. How will that impact which players get chosen where? As if the draft isn’t enough of a crap shoot already, teams will have to shoot from the hip more often than ever. Without the ability to do their final (and most recent) analysis of the draft class, teams are going to miss on talent more than ever because they’re likely going to have to play every pick as safely possible.
With the world in economic uncertainty, it’s hard to feel bad for professional baseball players not getting paid, but it’s important to remember that these athletes aren’t professionals yet. They’re high school and college students, many of whom are not from upper-class families who will be able to sustain their baseball career without the baseball community to help them. They are just kids looking to live out there dream of getting paid what they’re trained to.
AP sources: Jets agree to 1-year deal with CB Pierre Desir
Two people with direct knowledge of the contract say the New York Jets and cornerback Pierre Desir have agreed to terms on a deal.
One of the people tells The Associated Press the contract for the former Indianapolis Colts standout is for one year. Financial terms weren’t immediately available. The people spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity Sunday because teams can’t announce deals until they are officially signed.
The Athletic first reported the Jets’ agreement with Desir, who was released by Colts on Saturday.
The 29-year-old defensive back spent the past three seasons with Indianapolis, where he had 161 total tackles, five interceptions, 26 passes defensed, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery in 37 games, including 29 starts.
Desir signed a three-year contract worth $22.5 million – including $12 million guaranteed – last March, but the Colts saved nearly $7 million on their salary cap for this season by releasing him.
Cornerback is one of Jets general manager primary targets to improve this offseason, especially after releasing former starters Trumaine Johnson and Darryl Roberts earlier this week. New York re-signed nickel cornerback Brian Poole and agreed to terms with Arthur Maulet, but were still in need of starting-caliber defensive backs on the outside.
Desir should fill one of those voids. He was drafted in the fourth round by Cleveland out of Lindenwood University in 2014, and played two seasons with the Browns. Desir also spent time with the Chargers and Seahawks before being claimed off waivers by the Colts in 2017.
WINNERS AND LOSERS FROM THE NFL OFFSEASON THUS FAR
Winner: Buffalo Bills
The acquisition of star wide receiver Stefon Diggs in a blockbuster trade can’t be overstated. The multiple time 1,000-yard receiver will strengthen a Bills skill-position group already headed by wide receiver John Brown and running back Devin Singletary. Already an elite force on the defensive side of the ball, this move will generate even more success for young quarterback Josh Allen and Co. on offense.
Defensively, Buffalo did well to add to its front seven by signing defensive linemen Mario Addison, Quinton Jefferson and Vernon Butler. While under the radar, moves of that ilk will help the Bills’ defense improve after a tremendous 2019 season under head coach Sean McDermott.
Loser: Los Angeles Rams
We previously focused on all the departures for the Rams this offseason. Losing the likes of All-Pro running back Todd Gurley as well as defenders Michael Brockers, Cory Littleton and Clay Matthews won’t help matters. Safety Eric Weddle’s decision to retire adds even more fuel to the fire here.
Los Angeles was already struggling to keep pace with the defending conference champion San Francisco 49ers in the NFC West. Now with an overpaid Jared Goff leading the charge, these Rams might have now fallen behind both the Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals. That’s the harsh reality for a team that ignored the salary cap while sending off multiple valuable draft picks for overrated players.
Winner: Defensive linemen
The Chicago Bears’ decision to sign 29-year-old Robert Quinn to a five-year, $70 million contract threw a lot of people for a loop. Sure Quinn put up 11.5 sacks for the Dallas Cowboys last season, but he’s years removed from being a Pro Bowl-caliber player. It was just a sign of things to come for defensive linemen in free agency.
Nose tackles D.J. Reader and Javon Hargrave got big-ticket deals with new teams. Reader inked an absurd four-year, $53 million contract with the Cincinnati Bengals while Hargrave got $39 million over three seasons from the Philadelphia Eagles. The two combined for 6.5 sacks last season. It just goes to show us that teams are valuing run-stuffing defensive tackles at a near all-time high clip. That’s good news for these guys.
Loser: Jacksonville Jaguars
Just a few years removed from an appearance in the AFC Championship Game, the current iteration of these Jacksonville Jaguars is nearly unrecognizable. Jacksonville dealt away big-name players in that of quarterback Nick Foles, defensive lineman Calais Campbell and Pro Bowl cornerback A.J. Bouye.
The Jags then decided to dole out a ridiculous sum of cash to average linebacker Joe Schobert for some reason. Despite Gardner Minshew giving this squad some hope, the Jags are closer to last place than the top of the AFC South. Thus far this offseason, the team has done nothing to dispel that notion.
Winner: Arizona Cardinals
The acquisition of star receiver DeAndre Hopkins from the Houston Texans in a lopsided trade earlier this week shocked the NFL world. One of the game’s most-dynamic receiving threats, the 27-year-old Hopkins has put up 1,000-plus yards in five of the past six seasons and is averaging nearly 1,400 yards since the start of the 2017 campaign. He will team up with Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk to form an elite trio for young quarterback Kyler Murray.
Arizona wasn’t done there. It addressed the defensive front seven with the likes of Jordan Phillips, Devon Kennard and De’Vondre Campbell. These three veterans combined for 18.5 sacks a season ago. Add in the presence of Pro Bowler Chandler Jones, and Arizona’s defense seems stacked. General manager Steve Keim and Co. have done work this offseason.
Loser: New England Pariots
Not too often can we claim with a straight face that Bill Belichick and Co. are losers. But that’s where we are right now. Obviously, the departure of six-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady changes the dynamic big time in New England. With a dwindling market of quarterbacks, these Pats are stuck between a rock and a hard place.
Almost as important, New England lost other key contributors without bringing back much in return. That list includes defensive starters Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins and Danny Shelton. At this point, these Patriots are likely headed more for a rebuild than another spot in the playoffs. That’s the reality of the situation in New England.
Winner: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
On the other side of the ledger, Tampa Bay finds itself a winner simply by replacing Jameis Winston with Tom Brady. Despite Brady’s recent regression, I could not envision a more drastic upgrade. After all, Winston threw 30 interceptions as season ago. Brady has tossed a combined 29 picks over the past four seasons. He’ll team up with star receivers Chris Godwin and Mike Evans to form an elite skill-position trio in Tampa.
Though, it’s not all about Brady. Tampa Bay retained free-agent pass rushers Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul. The two combined for 28 sacks a season ago. These Buccaneers now have to be considered potential conference title contenders.
Loser: New York Giants
I am not too sure what general manager Dave Gettleman is thinking. New York should be focused on a widespread rebuild under dynamic young quarterback Daniel Jones. Instead, the team has some sort of false sense that adding marginal players on big-money contracts can help it contend.
The Giants doled out a combined $74-plus million to linebacker Blake Martinez and cornerback James Bradberry. While the latter played well in Carolina, he was vastly overpaid. Meanwhile, Martinez was a replacement level starter during his time with the Green Bay Packers. New York will soon find out that overspending for other teams’ castoffs in free agency is not a winning strategy.
Winner: Los Angeles Chargers
Despite losing Philip Rivers in free agency, an argument can be made that Los Angeles is among the most vastly improved teams in the NFL. Rivers was not great last season. He will be replaced by a former Pro Bowler in that of Tyrod Taylor next season. Los Angeles is also sitting pretty as it relates to adding a top-end quarterback of the future in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Equally as important, the Chargers found upgrades up and down the roster in free agency. The acquisition of five-time Pro Bowl guard Trai Turner in a trade for Russell Okung was absolutely brilliant. Adding veteran tackle Bryan Bulaga on a below-market deal was among the best moves of the past week. Heck, Los Angeles picked up Pro Bowl corner Chris Harris on a two-year, $17 million contract. Look for this squad to be a legit contender in the AFC West next season.
Loser: Houston Texans
Where to start with this team? Already under scrutiny for his performance as the Texans’ head coach, Bill O’Brien has struggled big time in his new role as general manager. The trade of star receiver DeAndre Hopkins for injury-plagued running back David Johnson and change has to be seen as one of the worst deals in recent NFL history.
Not to be outdone with his own futility, O’Brien then signed washed wide receiver Randall Cobb to a three-year $27 million contract. He also thought it made sense to ink an average starting safety in that of Eric Murray to a three-year, $20.25 million contract. A whole lot of head-scratching moves in Houston thus far this offseason. That’s for sure.
NFL TRANSACTIONS SUNDAY
|3/22||Brett Hundley||Ari||QB||re-signed/unrest FA One-year contract (through 2020)|
|3/22||D.J. Swearinger||NO||S||re-signed/unrest FA One-year contract (through 2020)|
|3/22||Pierre Desir||NYJ||CB||signed One-year contract (through 2020)|
|3/22||Jordan Lucas||Chi||S||signed/unrest FA One-year contract (through 2020)|
|3/22||Chris Banjo||Ari||S||re-signed/unrest FA|
|3/22||Patrick Scales||Chi||TE||re-signed/unrest FA|
|3/22||Isaiah Irving||Chi||LB||re-signed/unrest FA|
|3/22||Brian Hoyer||NE||QB||signed One-year contract (through 2020)|
|3/22||Brandon Copeland||NE||LB||signed/unrest FA|
AGENT: CAMERON WAKE ‘IS PLAYING THIS SEASON,’ RETIREMENT REPORT ‘SIMPLY NOT TRUE’
On Saturday, a report emerged indicating veteran edge rusher Cameron Wake is set to retire. On Sunday, his agent debunked that rumor with an emphatic denunciation.
After seeing a Rotoworld tweet about the report, Paul Sheehy, Wake’s agent, wrote on Twitter, “As Cam’s agent, I can tell you this is simply not true. Cameron is playing this season and we are actively engaged in conversations with teams.”
Well, there you have it.
Wake, 38, has played 11 years in the NFL after starting out in the CFL. A five-time Pro Bowler, he’s put up a stunning 100.5 sacks during his illustrious career and has been one of the most consistent pass rushers in the league the past decade.
Last season, Wake only had 2.5 sacks as a member of the Tennessee Titans, so it does appear he may be slowing down as he approaches 40. However, it’s not hard to imagine he’d be a tremendous addition to a contender as a situational pass rusher in 2020.
HOW FREE AGENCY AND TRADES HAVE IMPACTED THE 2020 NFL DRAFT
The past several days around the NFL have been filled with a flurry of blockbuster trades and signings. Tom Brady will play for a team outside of New England for the first time in his two-decade career. Philip Rivers is headed to Indianapolis.
Outside of the quarterback position, blockbuster trades of DeAndre Hopkins and DeForest Buckner have turned the NFL on its head.
Now, with about a month to go before the 2020 NFL Draft is held in some form, that annual event has been shaken up big time.
The gist: Mock drafts over the past few months can now be thrown completely out the window. Teams that seemingly had needs at certain positions addressed said needs in free agency or via trades. This is no small thing.
Out in front, the Arizona Cardinals have no need at wide receiver after absolutely shafting the Houston Texans for DeAndre Hopkins. Likely in the market for a quarterback heading into free agency, the Carolina Panthers are now seemingly sitting pretty with Teddy Bridgewater.
As you can tell, things have shifted big time when it comes to the top of the 2020 NFL Draft. I check in on that and more below.
Washington Redskins: Nothing Washington has done this offseason changes the dynamic too much in the nation’s capital heading into the 2020 NFL Draft.
The Skins have not added a veteran to the quarterback room. In fact, they continue to push back against that idea. Most recently, Washington has expressed no interest in Buccaneers free agent Jameis Winston.
The Redskins’ lack of activity as it relates to both quarterback and edge rusher seems to indicate that Chase Young will be the selection at No. 2 overall. After it was previously reported 2019 first-round pick Dwayne Haskins could be one-and-done, he’s looking very much like the starter in 2020.
Detroit Lions: It seems that general manager Bob Quinn has somewhat shown his hand during the early stages of free agency. A trade down from the No. 3 pick seems to be in the cards.
Detroit signed former Atlanta Falcons Pro Bowl cornerback Desmond Trufant to a team-friendly two-year deal on Wednesday. It then proceeded to trade disgruntled fellow Pro Bowler Darius Slay to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Linked to Ohio State product Jeff Okudah a ton in the past, he could be Detroit’s target should the team trade down from the third selection.
By adding linebacker Jamie Collins on a three-year deal from New England, Matt Patricia and Co. made it clear that the front seven would be a target this spring. Might that mean Clemson product and NFL Scouting Combine standout, linebacker/safety Isaiah Simmons?
Miami Dolphins: It was clear before even last season that the Dolphins have been targeting former Alabama standout Tua Tagovailoa in the 2020 NFL Draft. Nothing has changed on that front.
Miami has been among the most-active teams thus far in free agency, focusing primarily on the defensive side of the ball. That includes doling out a combined $178 million in cold hard cash to Byron Jones, Kyle Van Noy, Shaq Lawson and Emmanuel Ogbah.
In the process, general manager Chris Grier has shown his hand. The Dolphins are going offense-heavy with a majority of the five picks they have in the first two rounds of the 2020 NFL Draft.
More specifically, a trade up with Detroit at No. 3 overall to nab Tua makes the most sense. Miami would then still be able to add skill-position talent with its other top-round picks.
New York Giants: As he continues to struggle with the basic elements of his role as a general manager, Dave Gettleman showed his hand in a big way during free agency. It’s almost now a foregone conclusion what direction New York will go in during the 2020 NFL Draft.
The Giants were said to be high on Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons prior to free agency. So it makes total sense that the team would then dole out $10 million annually to a fringe starter in that of Blake Martinez. Simmons no longer appears to be an option.
While he was a darn good player during his time with the Carolina Panthers, New York overpaid for corner James Bradberry. This seems to be a clear indication that Okudah is not an option.
Instead, New York pretty much ignored its tackle position in free agency. Even Gettleman knows that young quarterback Daniel Jones needs protection if he is going to progress under center.
Los Angeles Chargers: It’s not surprising that the Chargers parted ways with Philip Rivers after 16 seasons. A divorce seemed to be the best end result for both sides. It is surprising Los Angeles did not replace him.
This is a major tell from Chargers general manager Tom Telesco. Los Angeles will roll with veteran quarterback Tyrod Taylor under center next season.
That’s a clear indication the Chargers are going to be targeting Justin Herbert with the sixth overall pick come April. They could also trade up for Tua if the team views him as a better option.
Given the moves they have made this offseason, the Chargers are not going into rebuild mode. There’s also a chance that they decide to pick up a player at a need position who can contribute immediately. Los Angeles is a major wild card.
Carolina Panthers: Signing Teddy Bridgewater to a three-year, $60 million contract seems to suggest that Carolina will avoid a quarterback in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. It also has another glaring need.
In addition signing Bridgewater, Carolina added former Pro Bowl left tackle Russell Okung in a trade with the Los Angeles Chargers. At 31 years old and dealing with a multitude of health concerns, Okung is a risk.
Even if he finds a way to return to form next season, Carolina is still going to be in the market for a franchise left tackle. It could come in the form of the No. 7 overall selection next month. Tackle is absolutely loaded in the draft. Said player could start at right tackle out of the gate before taking over for Okung.
Arizona Cardinals: Linked to every possible top-end receiving prospect heading into the draft, Arizona is now going to avoid that position with the eighth overall selection.
The acquisition of DeAndre Hopkins in a blockbuster trade with Houston changes the dynamic in a big way for Arizona. Hopkins will now team up with Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk to form an elite receiver trio in the desert.
I am now fully expecting Arizona to address the offensive line in front of young quarterback Kyler Murray. The team might have re-signed D.J. Humphries, but there’s still a major need on the other side of the line. In a tackle-heavy draft, that should be the direction Arizona goes in.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Here’s another wild card heading into the draft after making multiple moves that thinned out its roster.
Jacksonville has traded the likes of quarterback Nick Foles, defensive end Calais Campbell and cornerback A.J. Bouye. Outside of quarterback, this leaves some major holes for the team to fill.
Corner seemingly becomes a major need. It’s somewhat shocking in that the Jags had one of the best duos at this position heading into last season in that of Bouye and Jalen Ramsey.
Cleveland Browns: I am pleasantly surprised with how new general manager Andrew Berry navigated through his first wave of free agency with the team.
The signing of Pro Bowl tight end Austin Hooper pretty much eliminates the need for Cleveland to go skill position at any point early in the 2020 NFL Draft. Signing All-Pro tackle Jack Conklin fortifies one side of the offensive line.
There’s still some major needs here. Conklin played primarily at right tackle with the Tennessee Titans. He seems to be a more natural long-term fit at that position. Could this lead to Cleveland looking for a left tackle of the future with the 10th selection?
New York Jets: Largely quiet in free agency after striking out on some of their top targets, the Jets now need to find a play maker for young quarterback Sam Darnold.
This is where a run at wide receiver might be in the cards. It’s an absolutely stacked class at that position. Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs and CeeDee Lamb all come to mind.
If the top 10 plays out like expected, the Jets will be in a tremendous position to land that true No. 1 receiving option for Mr. Darnold.
Las Vegas Raiders: Jon Gruden and Co. largely decided to help out the defensive side of the ball with the plethora of cash they had to spend.
Adding starters such as linebacker Corey Littleton, defensive tackle Maliek Collins and corner Eli Apple showed the Raiders’ hands in free agency. It’s seemingly going to be all about the offense come April.
Now that Las Vegas also signed Marcus Mariota to compete with Derek Carr for the starting quarterback job, that position doesn’t seem to be in the cards at No. 12. Look for the Raiders to go wide receiver here.
San Francisco 49ers: Shocking. That’s the best way to describe the 49ers’ decision to trade All-Pro defensive tackle DeForest Buckner.
This move netted San Francisco the 13th overall selection in the 2020 NFL Draft. It’s a receiver-heavy draft, a position the defending NFC champs will look to address come April.
This leads me to a prediction. These 49ers will move down from the 13th selection with a quarterback-needy team to pick up more picks while still adding a receiver later in Round 1.
New England Patriots: Now in the market for a long-term starter following Tom Brady’s decision to leave in free agency, the Pats are a major wild card.
New England does not have the assets to move up for one of the top-three quarterbacks in the class. It, however, can turn its focus to Utah State signal caller Jordan Love in a trade-up scenario.
Love is seen as somewhat of a project, but he’s been compared big time to reigning NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes. It’s something to think about with San Francisco being a potential trade partner.
Projected top 13
- Cincinnati Bengals: Joe Burrow, quarterback, LSU
- Washington Redskins: Chase Young, EDGE, Ohio State
- Miami Dolphins: Tua Tagovailoa, quarterback, Alabama (trade prediction with Detroit)
- New York Giants: Tristan Wirfs, offensive tackle, Iowa
- Detroit Lions: Isaiah Simmons, linebacker, Clemson (trade prediction with Miami)
- Los Angeles Chargers: Justin Herbert, quarterback, Oregon
- Carolina Panthers: Andrew Thomas, offensive tackle, Georgia
- Arizona Cardinals: Jedrick Wills, offensive tackle, Alabama
- Jacksonville Jaguars: Jeff Okudah, cornerback, Ohio State
- Cleveland Browns: Mekhi Becton, offensive tackle, Louisville
- New York Jets: Jerry Jeudy, wide receiver, Alabama
- Las Vegas Raiders: CeeDee Lamb, wide receiver, Oklahoma
- New England Patriots: Jordan Love, quarterback, Utah State (trade prediction with San Francisco)
That’s just a number of different ways the top of next month’s NFL Draft could go. What we do know is that things have changed drastically on this front since the start of free agency.
It happens every year. Blockbuster trades are made to change things midstream. Huge signings are pulled off that determine what direction a team might go.
Tom Brady moving on from the Patriots. The blockbuster DeAndre Hopkins trade. San Francisco now picking in the top 13. The Los Angeles Chargers ignoring the quarterback position. All of these moves will shake up the foundation of the 2020 NFL Draft.
FORMER SOONERS RB TREY SERMON PICKS OHIO STATE AS TRANSFER DESTINATION
In a move that boosts Ohio State football in a big way, former Oklahoma running back Trey Sermon is joining the Buckeyes in 2020.
Sermon told Letterman Row that he is choosing Ohio State as his transfer destination on Sunday morning.
“I JUST BELIEVE IT’S THE BEST SITUATION FOR ME,” SERMON SAID. “I KNOW THAT I HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO PLAY THERE CONSIDERING THE DEPTH, AND I HAD A RELATIONSHIP WITH [RUNNING BACKS COACH TONY] ALFORD DURING MY RECRUITING PROCESS COMING OUT OF HIGH SCHOOL. HE WAS A GREAT GUY THEN, AND I JUST FEEL LIKE I CONNECTED WELL WITH HIM. I KNOW I’M GOING TO HAVE TO GO IN AND COMPETE FOR THE JOB, BUT I FEEL LIKE IT’S THE BEST SITUATION FOR ME TO GO INTO NOW.”
This move should significantly bolster the Buckeyes’ offense in 2020. As we discussed in some detail here, Ohio State’s running back situation is a bit tenuous due to injuries to Master Teague and Marcus Crowley this spring.
2020 MLB POWER POLLS
- Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers entered spring training as World Series favorites even before the Yankees went through a rash of injuries. Now with their closest competition taking some serious hits, the odds of a World Series parade being held in Los Angeles are even higher.
A promising sign early in spring training for the Dodgers is their bullpen. Pedro Baez and Brusdar Graterol have combined to allow just four hits 10 strikeouts across seven innings. Meanwhile, Kenley Jansen seems to be discovering his elite form and Blake Treinen is back on the mound. The lineup, rotation and bench are already loaded and ready to win 100-plus games this season. If the bullpen can be consistent with dominant arms in the late innings, it could be a historically great year.
- Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays boast one of MLB’s best rotations and the front office spent the offseason building a unique lineup. While there isn’t much star power in the batting order outside of outfielder Austin Meadows, Tampa Bay will spend the entire season platooning players and putting guys in the perfect matchups based off splits and the pitcher they face each day.
We’re also keeping our eye on Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, who signed to a two-year deal this winter, and is already putting his incredible power on display. As long as Blake Snell avoids any alarming setbacks with the soreness in his pitching elbow, the Rays can head into the regular season on a high note. If that happens, they’ll have some needed time to create early distance from themselves and the injury-riddled Yankees.
- Minnesota Twins
This is going to be an entertaining team in the upcoming season. Many talked about the Yankees’ lineup being a frightening bunch throughout the order in 2019 and Minnesota’s batting order might offer the same punch this season. Even when you get past the All-Star talent in the first six spots, Luis Arraez, Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton offer incredible potential at the bottom of the order.
Admittedly, we had plenty of questions about Minnesota’s rotation for much of the offseason. It knocked them out of the playoffs, but the additions of Kenta Maeda, Homer Bailey and Jhoulys Chacinshould be enough for a few weeks. Once the summer arrives, Michael Pineda will be back from suspension and Rich Hill will be healthy. While it could be great to see the Twins add a front-line starter, there’s still enough here to compete for a World Series this season.
- Atlanta Braves
Credit to Atlanta for taking a gamble on Felix Hernandez. The 33-year-old hurler is one of the biggest surprises in spring training and is closing in spot in the Opening Day rotation. The Braves need him since Cole Hamels hasn’t been cleared to start throwing from his shoulder injury.
While Atlanta’s rotation carries a few slight concerns, the top of their lineup doesn’t. Ozzie Albies and Marcell Ozuna could be All-Star candidates this season. Meanwhile, Freddie Freeman and Ronald Acuña Jr. will compete for the NL MVP honors. The Braves would greatly benefit from trading for Nolan Arenado, but the current pieces in place can still win the division in 2020 and make fans in Atlanta happy.
- New York Yankees
The Yankees might be cursed. Preparation for the 2020 season started poorly when James Paxton underwent back surgery, which will sideline him until May. Shortly after spring training began, Luis Severino learned he needed Tommy John surgery. Meanwhile, the Yankees will need to monitor the status of Aaron Judge (stress fracture in a rib) and Giancarlo Stanton (calf strain) while they are away from the facilities. Even when they do get healthy, the long-term concerns regarding their durability will remain.
A rotation that could have been dominant, now has major questions. New York’s impressive depth will once again be tested and this club desperately needs Clint Frazier to take advantage of his opportunities. The Yankees are a World Series contender when healthy, but it’s hard to see this team ever staying healthy for a full season.
- Washington Nationals
The reigning World Series champions will be looking to prove themselves once again. While one might assume the defending champions have the target on their back, the Nationals seem to have fallen off the national radar. Losing Anthony Rendon is a significant blow for this lineup. However, the organization is very confident in top prospect Carter Kieboom at third base. If that doesn’t work out, perhaps the Nationals can explore a trade for Nolan Arenado. Of course, Washington’s dominant pitching staff will be the workhorse for this team. Our concern, will a heavy workload in October for Stephen Strasburg, Max Scherzer and Patrick Corbin have consequences late in 2020?
- Houston Astros
Just when you start to think things are going well for the Astros, Justin Verlander suffers a lat strain that could sideline him to begin the season. We had questions about the back of this rotation with an unproven Josh James and Jose Urquidy needing to prove himself, now the Astros have to throw Austin Pruitt into their rotation. This will still be an excellent lineup, even if they don’t get to benefit from stealing signs. Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa, and George Springer are star talents. Meanwhile, Kyle Tucker is poised to start and could live up to his billing as a top prospect. We even like what James has shown this spring working as a starter and his potential is through the roof. But even if James pitches well and Verlander comes back healthy, this rotation isn’t good enough to be near the top teams.
- Oakland Athletics
Oakland didn’t make a notable addition this winter. Instead, the A’s are counting on their core of young, emerging stars to make significant strides this year. A full season from Sean Manaea, Jesús Luzardo, A.J. Puk and Sean Murphy in 2020 – that might be even better than a big trade. We’re especially excited for Luzardo, who is dominating hitters early this spring and has the making of an ace.
Marcus Semien is coming off an MVP-caliber season and is joined by Ramon Laureano, Matt Chapman and Matt Olson. The Athletics have the rotation and lineup to compete for the AL West crown, even if others are sleeping on them. If a few big in-season additions could be made, we wouldn’t be shocked if the Athletics won the pennant.
- Cincinnati Reds
Cincinnati made excellent strides in 2019 to address its rotation, landing Sonny Gray and Trevor Bauer. Entering the 2020 offseason, the Reds needed to provide their rotation with a deeper lineup that provided more run support.
Mission accomplished. The Reds signed three-time All-Star Mike Moustakas to give this lineup another slugger alongside Eugenio Suarez. Cincinnati also added a leadoff hitter with outfielder Shogo Akiyama. Now, paired with one of MLB’s best rotations, it shouldn’t surprise anyone if the Reds win the division this season.
- St. Louis Cardinals
This isn’t a team that is loaded with MLB talent. The lineup will likely finish in the middle of the pack and the pitching staff will carry the Cardinals once again. The division is winnable and this team continues to prove it can win under almost any circumstances. We’ve also been impressed by Paul DeJong this spring and outfielder Dylan Carlson is tearing the cover of the ball in spring training. There’s a path to St. Louis competing for the division crown once more and they are a strong bet to at least take a wild-card spot. Ultimately, though, this team’s ceiling stops at a first-round playoff exit. Unless a blockbuster trade comes during the season, October will likely be disappointing for St. Louis.
- Arizona Diamondbacks
The Diamondbacks entered the offseason with needs in the outfield and rotation. They quickly signed Madison Bumgarner to lead their rotation, then acquired All-Star outfielder Starling Marte before spring training. Bumgarner is a reliable No. 1 starter and Robbie Ray has shown he can be a front-line starter at his peak form. Paired with Zac Gallen and Luke Weaver behind them, this rotation pairs well with a balanced lineup. Arizona will have an excellent team in 2020 and a return to the postseason is likely.
- New York Mets
It’s hard not to think about what could have been if the Mets landed Mookie Betts or Francisco Lindor. One more star bat would have lifted this lineup into a new tier and when paired with their pitching, fans could enjoy one of the best teams in baseball. Ownership refused to make the big move, though, which leaves them in this spot.
The Mets will be a good team in 2020. The rotation is going to be an outstanding group and there’s enough talent in the bullpen to shut opposing lineups down in the late innings. Ultimately, it’s the lineup that we have the most concerns about relative to other top contenders. This team’s ceiling could feature a World Series run, but absolutely everything must go right in 2020. Given the history of this team, we’re not expecting it.
- Chicago White Sox
Credit to the White Sox front office for taking an aggressive approach this offseason. Chicago brought in a ton of talent and the lineup is loaded with All-Star bats. Not only do the White Sox have a lot of exciting, young talent in their lineup, but the front office also made sure sure they stay with the organization. Yoan Moncada just signed a six-year extension to join teammates Eloy Jimenez and top outfield prospect Luis Robert with multi-year deals. The front office is committing to its future stars and it will pay off this season for a team that could be the best in Chicago.
- Chicago Cubs
Just a few years from a World Series title, the end of an era is nearing for the Cubs. The young core that led this team to break the title drought will soon be separated. This team could have one more run in it, but ownership’s focus on cutting payroll isn’t helping that happen. Let’s just hope for the sanity of the fans that Javier Báez gets an extension before hitting free agency, Wrigley Field might not be standing if the Cubs let him and Kris Bryant leave.
- Philadelphia Phillies
After falling short of everyone’s expectations in 2019, Philadelphia’s front office attacked the offseason with a vengeance. The additions of manager Joe Girardi, shortstop Didi Gregorius and pitcher Zack Wheeler will help significantly. However, there are still some lingering questions about the back of Philadelphia’s rotation and the lineup could use a player like Kris Bryant. As the 26-man roster currently stands, the Phillies have a solid shot at making the playoffs this season.
- Cleveland Indians
Cleveland prioritized lowering its payroll this offseason, which led to the Corey Kluber trade. Losing Kluber looks even more painful now that Carlos Carrasco and Mike Clevinger will start the season on the injured list. The good news, both hurlers should be cleared to return to the mound by May. The bad news is that while there are a few All-Star pieces in the lineup and rotation, there isn’t enough to make up for the holes all around it. The consequences of ownership being tight with spending are real and unfortunate for the fans.
- Milwaukee Brewers
Brewers fans should be prepared for disappointment in 2020. While some are confident that Milwaukee will overcome some of the holes on its roster, history suggests that’s unlikely to happen. A team that finished with a +3 run differential in 2019 is destined for regression, which likely means a .500-plus record without a trip to October.
- Texas Rangers
The Rangers would benefit tremendously by trading for Kris Bryant, but for now, it’s pure speculation. Texas will be a competitive club in 2020, especially after adding Corey Kluber, Kyle Gibson and Jordan Lyles to the rotation. The lineup will be even better once Willie Calhoun returns from a fractured jaw. The Rangers are going to be a fun team during the 2020 season, but they need another impact bat to become a real contender.
- San Diego Padres
This team might be a year away from contending for the division. For the time being, with a few holes remaining in San Diego’s rotation, it will stay in the wild-card race but fall short. Fortunately, the future is bright with top outfielder prospect Taylor Trammell and pitchers MacKenzie Gore and Luis Patiño closing in on their MLB debuts. Once the trio reaches the show and settles in, the real fun will begin in San Diego.
- Los Angeles Angels
The Angels certainly would have benefitted from adding Joc Pederson and Ross Stripling, but they pulled out of the deal. We’d also think that signing Yasiel Puig, who remains a free agent with Opening Day closing in, would strengthen the lineup. This is a much better team than this past season, but it’s still not remotely ready to contend for a playoff spot. It’s very unfortunate for Mike Trout, who will have a great shot at winning his fourth AL MVP award.
- Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays are a young team on the rise with more exciting arms on the way to help support this lineup. Of course, Toronto’s fans would have even more reason to be excited if the club let Nate Pearson make his MLB debut to begin the season. Instead, he’ll start the year in the minors with an electric fastball and his service time being manipulated. The Blue Jays will be a treat to watch this season, especially when Pearson arrives, but they aren’t ready to win consistently.
- Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox will head into the season without Chris Sale, who remains at risk to undergo Tommy John surgery. Now without Sale and David Price, Boston’s rotation will likely be one of the worst in baseball and the bullpen isn’t much better. The top of the batting order is strong, but even that could change if the Red Sox decide to retool and trade J.D. Martinez. It’s hard to believe this team won a World Series two years ago, but that’s where we are and how far this team has fallen.
- Colorado Rockies
After winning 91 games in 2018, the Rockies collapsed this past season and the relationship with their biggest star is deteriorating. Oh, the rotation is also a question mark and ownership doesn’t want to spend money to address the outfield. All is not well in Colorado.
- Kansas City Royals
Just a few seasons removed from winning a World Series ring, the Royals should be prepared for another season of mediocrity. Kansas City’s rotation is a liability and it will ultimately drag down what could be a surprisingly productive lineup this season.
- Miami Marlins
We’ll give credit to Derek Jeter for showing a willingness to improve this team in the offseason. However, the rotation is still a disaster and we still lack faith in Jeter to make this team a contender within the next four seasons. At least the Marlins’ Twitter account can make the fans happy.
- Seattle Mariners
Seattle can enjoy thinking about its future outfield with Jarred Kelenic and Julio Rodriguez, two of the best prospects in baseball, expected to make their MLB debuts in 2020. There are exciting pitching prospects too, but this will not be a good team this season. We’ll admit, though, it would be great if they signed Ichiro and let him pitch in a few games.
- Detroit Tigers
The Tigers have built a collection of exciting arms in their farm system with Casey Mize, Matt Manning and Tarik Skubal likely to join the rotation by 2021. Oh, the Tigers also have the No. 1 pick in the 2020 MLB Draft. It will get better Tigers fans, we promise.
- San Francisco Giants
Farhan Zaidi is slowly piecing together one of the best farm systems in baseball, a project that took significant work and still faces challenges ahead. As for the Giants in 2020, let’s just say it won’t be pretty to watch.
- Pittsburgh Pirates
Pirates’ general manager Ben Cherington impressed us by acquiring some intriguing talent in exchange for Starling Marte. It’s the first of many deals coming from Pittsburgh this year as the organization begins a desperately needed rebuild. It might only be a matter of months before Chris Archer, Josh Bell and Adam Frazier are traded.
- Baltimore Orioles
There’s not much for the fans to look forward to this upcoming season for the Orioles. Fortunately, this team’s future is bright with No. 1 pick Adley Rutschman likely to become the team’s starting catcher by 2021 and the Orioles will have more top prospects, too. ON a serious note, keep Trey Mancini in your thoughts and send him the best wishes for his health.
Barefoot Hamlin wins virtual Homestead as NASCAR races again
The stands were packed, Jimmie Johnson caused several wrecks, Denny Hamlin raced barefoot and damaged cars were repaired with the push of a button – a few virtual signs that NASCAR backed quite an unreal race.
NASCAR eased off the brake in the real sports world brought to a sudden halt by the coronavirus and introduced the country to iRacing with some of the sports biggest stars. Hamlin, the three-time Daytona 500 winner, beat Dale Earnhardt Jr. off the final corner Sunday at virtual Homestead-Miami Speedway to win the bizarre spectacle.
“For the community, the racing community, the NASCAR drivers to come together and put drivers on the racetrack with such short notice, everyone is buying up simulation rigs this week and last week getting ready for the event, and for it all to come together and have a great finish, I think it was definitely a success,” Hamlin said.
“iRacing got involved and emailed everyone, said, ‘Hey, this is what we’re thinking about.’ NASCAR got involved, television got involved and said they’d be interested. But no one really talked to the drivers about unifying and participating. It was all free will, and that’s what’s exciting is you had full-time Cup guys out there willing to spend their time doing this.”
It was Hamlin’s 31st victory in iRacing, which is where he was first discovered by Earnhardt long before he made it to NASCAR. Hamlin was heavily involved in putting together Sunday’s pretend race, which was broadcast live on Fox Sports 1 and called by its regular team of Mike Joy and Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon.
NASCAR has suspended racing until at least May 9, and with literally nothing else to do, series executives and iRacing put together the inaugural eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series in roughly one week. The first event was at Homestead, where NASCAR was supposed to be racing Sunday before COVID-19 brought sports to a halt.
This was a one-of-a-kind competition for most watching at home, and ended up with a familiar winner.
It could serve as a petri dish for other sports to try the whole gamer thing. The classic games aired across TV over the weekend will get old in a hurry, and networks are desperate for something fresh until sports resume.
Drivers showed immediate interest – even those with little to no simulator racing experience. Some rushed to purchase “rigs” to get into the 35-driver field, and the show-and-tell on social media of the setups provided an entertaining build-up to the event.
Hamlin, racing barefoot on an elaborate rig in the living room of his North Carolina home, had said earlier this week he’d donate $5,000 to Miami families affected by COVID-19 if he won the race and Kevin Harvick said he’d match Hamlin’s pledge. Hamlin also set odds for the race and was instrumental in a group chat among the participants.
Truck Series driver Ty Majeski, ranked one of the best iRacers in the world, competed from a computer propped on a wooden desk with a steering wheel attached. Kyle Larson said he spent $6,800 building his rig, while many of the less heralded drivers who use iRacing to hone their skills can build a setup for a few hundred dollars. A competitor needs only a chair, computer, steering wheel and pedals, but NASCAR’s superstars shelled out much more to trick out their simulators.
Hamlin estimated his rig cost over $40,000 – but defended the price because his simulator has motion features – and said better equipment makes no difference. He also said he raced barefoot because “I like to feel the pedals.”
Seven-time NASCAR champion Johnson, who has been practicing sports car and IndyCar racing on the simulator in his garage, competed from a rig that appeared more suited for one of those cars than his virtual No. 48 Chevrolet. But Johnson proved to be a less-than-elite iRacer early with a comical crash in which his car appeared to be a ping-pong ball off the wall and several other cars.
“I hope everyone enjoyed that today. I clearly have a ton to learn,” Johnson said.
Among those hit by Johnson was Alex Bowman, Johnson’s teammate at Hendrick Motorsports and one of the highly rated computer racers. But drivers can hit a reset to “fix” the damage and continue.
“No worries my virtual crew used a fast repair and it’s good as new. Also I’m eating an uncrustable,” Bowman tweeted after Johnson wrecked him. “And yeah I’m still tweeting and fake driving.”
Drivers took the event seriously, with most using the opportunity to showcase their sponsor – Landon Cassill even signed a sponsor specifically for the event – and fill fans hunger for racing. Many recruited their real spotters and crew chiefs to help. Bowman’s real crew chief Greg Ives and spotter Kevin Hamlin both watched the event from home in team shirts giving Bowman advice.
Many of the younger NASCAR drivers are world-ranked iRacers and use the game to work on their craft. The iRacing game is as close to reality as any professional sport can get because of the granular detail and precise rendering of each NASCAR track. The venues are laser-scanned to capture the bumps and imperfections in the asphalt, as well as duplicate the grandstands and billboards and pit lane.
The race, called the Dixie Vodka 150, was 100 laps around the virtual 1.5-mile Homestead oval. Dixie Vodka said it would donate $10,000 to The NASCAR Foundation, which is centralizing charitable donations in the NASCAR industry to support those impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Professional iRacing drivers – NASCAR hosts a league – can create their own setups but for Sunday’s event a fixed setup was installed.
The event gave NASCAR a chance to showcase its esports offering on live television while also providing entertainment during a time when most of the world is locked down over fears of spreading the coronavirus.
Pick One Sport To Come Back Right Now At The Cost Of Every Other One
By Rafael Thomas
You have been granted the power to have any sport of your choosing return to competition right now … The tradeoff is that no other sport currently on hiatus can return until 2021, which sport are you choosing?
Three of the four major North American team sports (MLB, NBA and NHL) have suspended their play so far this year. (I am, for the sake of this conversation, saying that the NFL will kick off their season as scheduled.) Then, of course, you have the individual sports of boxing, MMA, golf and tennis along with things like NASCAR and horse racing, all of which have cancelled events already in 2020.
Only basketball and hockey were cut short after going deep into their current season, and baseball was surrounded by negative attention all winter before Spring Training was halted, and the start of the season delayed. The individual sports normally only see their major events watched by mainstream fans before we turn back to our other sports.
It is hard to imagine a post-season that more fans were looking forward to this year than the NBA Playoffs. LeBron James was back to his winning ways and teams like the Clippers and Bucks were looking to knock off “The King” in a 7-game series.
Since they would want to play out their entire season, the NBA Finals and Draft would take place sometime this summer, leading us right into the NFL season, which, thanks to free agency, has provided us with the only fresh sports news we have had in week. I do, however, feel that the NBA regular and post-season is going to be filled with asterisks and what ifs, leaving whichever team that wins the title with one that not everyone is going to consider legitimate.
For me, the choice is simple, give me back Major League Baseball for the spring and summer, then football in the fall and winter. Baseball needs, once and for all, to see if it can be “America’s Pastime” again. Giving it the whole sports spotlight to itself for three or four months is the only way to prove or disprove if it can.
Also, baseball has always been at it best when we have needed it most, and as I have written before, this year it was primed for a long-standing record such as a hitting streak or pitching record to unexpectedly fall.
Sorry NBA fans, but I have had enough of LeBron James to last a lifetime, and I don’t need him to play for and win or lose another championship any more than I need to see another Coronavirus press conference. I want to see the athletes that can do something different and amazing every night to show America it is still a special game played by special athletes.
Give Major League Baseball one last chance, then we can see if basketball has gotten past it once and for all in the hierarchy of America sports.
COLLEGE BASKETBALL: Top 10 Greatest Final Fours of all-time: No. 7 – 1982
This will be the first of two New Orleans Final Fours on our list. (Things are always a bit wilder in NOLA.) The 1982 installment was the first in the massive Superdome. It featured four head coaches who would make the Naismith Hall of Fame. It included Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing, James Worthy, Clyde Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwon – five Hall of Fame players. It also included Louisville’s Doctors of Dunk. And, as an added treat, it introduced the world to something that would become known as Hoya Paranoia.
In his first Final Four, John Thompson headquartered his Georgetown team not in the French Quarter, not in the Warehouse District, not in Metairie or Kenner or Chalmette, not even in the great state of Louisiana. The Hoyas were billeted in Biloxi, Miss., which is closer to Mobile, Ala., than to the shiny dome on Poydras Street. The 6-foot-10 Thompson — he’d been Bill Russell’s backup with the Boston Celtics — wanted his student-athletes not to be led into the temptations lurking on Bourbon Street. They hunkered down 90 miles away. “This is nothing new for me,” he told the assembled, which as you’d expect was going wild over the Biloxi bit. “You should have seen me when I was coaching high school basketball (at St. Anthony of Washington D.C.). I’d stay as far from games as the good sisters could afford.”
The other three qualifiers — North Carolina, Houston and Louisville — had plenty of Final Four history already. This was the nation’s first extended look at Thompson and Georgetown and especially the freshman Ewing. Thompson had sheltered his young center, allowing little media access. (And why did Ewing wear a T-shirt under his jersey?) The Hoyas were the mystery guest that was also downright mysterious. They darn near won the thing. Carolina beat Houston in the first semifinal. Houston’s leading scorer that year wasn’t Drexler, who was a sophomore, or the redshirt freshman who wasn’t yet a starter and was then known as “Akeem Abdul Olajuwon.” It was guard Rob Williams, who had among the worst-ever Final Four games. He took eight shots. He made none. He had more turnovers (three) than points (two). The Tar Heels won 68-63 in a game seldom in doubt. The second semifinal saw nobody shoot well. Between them, Georgetown and Louisville combined for 37 baskets against 36 turnovers over 40 minutes. The Hoyas defended with their usual fury, which the Cardinals came close to matching. Not close enough, though. Final score: Georgetown 50, Louisville 46.
This set up a final between Thompson and his good friend Dean Smith, who’d taken Carolina to six previous Final Fours without winning one. (The 1977 title game, which saw Smith revert to his infernal Four Corners just as the Heels were primed to blow out Marquette, was said to be the one game Smith’s associates never mentioned to him.) The decade of the ’80s was to feature a slew of epic finals. This was among the best. Carolina’s first four baskets came courtesy of Ewing goaltends. Nonetheless, he’d established himself as an inside presence. Georgetown led by a point at the half. (By then, Ewing had five GTs.) The Heels nosed ahead in the second half, and near the end Smith trotted out the Four Corners, which worked until it stopped working. Eric Smith put the Hoyas ahead with 57 seconds to go. You know the rest. Jimmy Black found Jordan, then a freshman, on the left wing. Nothing but net, 15 seconds left. The Hoyas hurried to answer. Fred Brown threw the ball straight to Worthy, who played for Carolina. (Hey, he WAS open. In trying to overplay a pass he thought was coming, he moved so quickly that Brown believed he was cutting to get the ball. Which he did.) Worthy missed two free throws, but no matter. Carolina won 63-62.Smith had his long-sought championship, and the way it happened became a part of Jim Valvano’s stump speech. Then coaching N.C. State, Valvano claimed to have been sitting in the Superdome near some Carolina fans. He said he turned to them and asked, as Brown was moving upcourt, “What do you think?” One Heel backer said, “Dean’ll think of something.” Then Brown passed to the wrong team. The Heel backer poked Valvano on the shoulder. “Told you,” he said.
TODAY IN SPORTS HISTORY-1957
North Carolina defeated Kansas, 54‚53, in three overtime periods tonight to win the National Collegiate basketball tournament. Joe Quigg won the game for the unbeaten Tar Heels with two foul shots in the final six seconds and then blocked a pass to Wilt Chamberlain to foil a Jayhawk scoring bid. Quigg’s jumping one-hand block kept Chamberlain from attempting one desperate shot in the last five seconds of the third extra period. It was the first time a national championship game went into overtime. The Tar Heels’ victory extended their unbeaten streak to thirty-two games.
The final, frantic fifteen minutes of play produced two heated incidents on the court. In the first one Pete Brennan of North Carolina clamped his arms around Chamberlain’s waist and began to wrestle. The second occurred when Tommy Kearns of North Carolina swung aside Gene Elstun of Kansas.
The dramatic finish of the title game occurred after a tight battle that was close except for the opening ten minutes, when North Carolina racked up a 19‚7 margin. It was North Carolina by 29‚22 at the half, and Kansas did not catch up until it took the lead at 36‚35 with 16:40 left. Kansas was on top, 40‚37, with ten minutes left and the score was 46‚46 at the end of regulation play. The score was twice tied and the lead changed twice before the 46‚46 deadlock.
The two teams scored only 2 points each in the first overtime. Chamberlain hit for Kansas and Bob Young, a substitute, tallied for North Carolina. The second overtime was scoreless. Kearns and Quigg then won the game for North Carolina, hitting for all the Tar Heel points in the third extra session. Kearns had a field goal and two free throws to match Chamberlain’s overtime production. Elstun added another free throw to send Kansas ahead, 53‚52, with twenty seconds left. Chamberlain blocked Kearns’ shot but fouled Quigg, who hit for the 2 winning points. Kansas took time out with five seconds left and tried to feed the ball to Chamberlain, but Quigg made the game-saving block.
Chamberlain was the top scorer with 23 points. North Carolina’s All-America, Lennie Rosenbluth, had 20. Rosenbluth fouled out with 1:45 remaining in standard playing time and did not play in the extra periods, which were mostly displays of stalling and ball control. The pattern of stalling began as soon as Kansas got its 3-point lead. North Carolina started slowing it down and Kansas followed suit. From ten minutes left in regulation time to five minutes, not a shot was fired. Both teams continued the stalling in the first two overtimes.
Third place in the championship went to San Francisco, the defending champion. The Dons defeated Michigan State, 68‚60.
TODAY IN BASEBALL HISTORY
1938 Commissioner Landis releases seventy-four Cardinal minor leaguers from a total of six teams, with their owners fined $2,176. The Redbirds, contrary to the rules, controlled the players in two clubs in each of the three Class D leagues in 1936 and each of four Class D leagues in 1937.
1951 Brooklyn signs a 21-year lease with the City of Vero Beach to use an abandoned naval base as their spring training facility, which will become known as Dodgertown. The site will be the team’s Grapefruit League home through the 2008 season, with exhibition games taking place at the 6,000-seat Holiman Stadium.
1959 The Cardinals trade Sam Jones to the Giants for first baseman/outfielder Bill White and third baseman Ray Jablonski. The right-hander, who is called Toothpick Sam by his teammates, will be the runner-up for the Cy Young Award this season, posting a 21-15 record along with an ERA of 2.83 for San Francisco.
1962 The Phillies trade third baseman Andy Carey and second baseman Lou Vassie to the White Sox for right-hander Cal McLish, who will post an 11-5 record for the seventh-place club. Chicago then trades Carey, who will retire at the end of the season after appearing in 53 games, to the Dodgers for infielders Ramon Conde and Jim Koranda, who play in a total of 14 major league games.
1963 On the day he is fitted for his big-league Orioles uniform, Steve Dalkowski, pitching in an exhibition against the Yankees, feels something pop in his left elbow. The fireballer from New Britain, Connecticut, who once struck out 24 batters in a minor league game, will never appear in the major leagues.
1973 The Cardinals play three Cruz brothers, Cirilo, Hector, and Jose, all nine innings in the outfield during the team’s 9-2 spring training victory over New York at Al Lang Field. The trio Puerto Rican siblings, who personally outscore the Mets, bat first, second, and third in the Redbird’s lineup, making all three outs in the first and eighth frames.
1978 The Mets deal 34 year-old Bud Harrelson to Philadelphia for cash and minor league call-up Freddie Andrews, an infielder who will never play another game in the major leagues. The popular shortstop, as a 12-year veteran, could have vetoed the trade but chose to go Philadelphia to play for a contending team.
1990 Howard Spira, who was paid $40,000 by George Steinbrenner in January to dig up dirt on outfielder Dave Winfield, is arrested by the FBI for trying to extort money from the Yankees owner. Commissioner Fay Vincent bans the Boss from playing any role in the team’s day-to-day operations for thirty months, upon learning about the arrangement with the Bronx gambler.
2009 Thanks to Mariners’ Ichiro Suzuki’s two-out, two-run single in the top of the 10th inning, Japan defeats South Korea, 5-3, to win its second consecutive World Baseball Classic title. South Korea, the reigning Olympic champion, had tied the game 3-3 in the bottom of the ninth on Lee Bum-ho’s two-out RBI single off Japanese closer Yu Darvish in front of an enthusiastic crowd of 54,846 at Dodger Stadium.
2009 The Miami-Dade County commissioners approve the final documents necessary to move forward on the Marlins’ new 37,000-seat home, planned to be located on the present grounds of Miami’s Orange Bowl. The long-anticipated retractable-roof ballpark will become a reality in 2012, with the team breaking ground this July.
2019 After acquiring Paul Goldschmidt in an offseason trade with the Diamondbacks, the Cardinals sign him to a five-year (2020-24) contract extension. The National League All-Star first baseman’s contract, reportedly worth $130 million, is the largest in club history, surpassing seven-year, $120 million deal for left fielder Matt Holliday prior to the 2010 season.
WORLD SERIES HISTORY-1905
New York Giants (4) vs Philadelphia Athletics (1)
After refusing an invitation to play the Boston Americans the 1904 World Series, the New York Giants agreed to participate in the 1905 Fall Classic in an effort to win back it’s fan approval. Many were upset by the Giants’ “no thanks” attitude of the previous year and it was clearly visible in their regular season attendance. This time, John T. Brush and company were eager to take on the American League champion Philadelphia Athletics after an National League race in which the Giants won one-hundred five games. The Series would be contested under guidelines drawn up by the Giants’ owner, seeking to stabilize an event he earlier had cancelled. Besides outlining a revenue formula, the John T. “Brush Rules” called for a best-of-seven format.
The Giants were extremely confident going into their first combined post-season championship for obvious reasons. Their pitching rotation read like an All-Star ballot and featured Christy Mathewson (thirty-one victories), Joe McGinnity (twenty-one) and Red Ames (twenty-two) and also included Dummy Taylor (fifteen) and Hooks Wiltse (fourteen). New York wound up using only two of its “big five” as starters in the Series, but that twosome proved more than enough. The Athletics were not as fortunate and were still reeling from the late-season loss of standout lefthander Rube Waddell.
In the opening game, lefthander Eddie Plank, a twenty-five game winner for the Athletics, was matched up against the Giants ace Mathewson. Recalling memories of the first World Series, it remained a pitcher’s duel until the fifth inning when the Giants offense finally broke through for two runs. Game 1 was all Mathewson – on both sides of the ball. At the plate, he contributed a single in the fifth that ignited New York’s scoring drive and a key sacrifice in the ninth. On the mound, he completed a four-hit, 3-0 victory and did no walk a single batter. For Game 2, Athletic’s manager Connie Mack called on righthander Chief Bender to even the score. He obliged the legendary skipper with support from Bris Lord’s run-scoring singles in the third and eighth innings. In the end, Bender out-dueled the Giants’ Joe McGinnity for a 3-0 victory. The Series was now tied and an interesting trend had developed with two shutouts in two games.
With two days’ rest, Game 1 winner Christy Mathewson was given the start for Game 3. Once again, the righthanded sensation dominated the contest and held Philadelphia to only four hits and one walk. First baseman Dan McGann was the Giants’ big gun in a 9-0 romp, collecting two singles and a double and driving in four runs. New York was now ahead, but the Athletics refused to roll over and entered the following contest with a renewed vigor. Game 4 represented the ultimate pitcher’s duel and to this day, is still considered one of the best match-ups ever on the mound during a World Series. This time McGinnity and Plank hooked up in a contest that allowed only nine hits and one run. Philadelphia matched the Giants play in every aspect of the game and only lost due to a crucial infield error. The 1-0 triumph increased New York’s Series lead to three games to one.
Once again, Mack decided to go with Chief Bender to halt the Giants in Game 5, while McGraw decided to stick with a winner and brought Mathewson back for a third performance. Pitching on only one day of rest, the Giant’s workhorse was again up to the challenge allowing only six hits with no walks. His counterpart was almost as good yielding only five hits, but allowing two runs. The 1905 New York Giants suddenly found themselves the champions of a contest that they had previously boycotted and had a newfound respect for their American League rivals who made them earn it.
Mathewson was clearly the most valuable player of the 1905 Fall Classic although the award had not yet been established. In the space of six days, he pitched three shutouts and permitted only fourteen hits. The Giants’ ace struck out eighteen and walked one in twenty-seven innings. Besides Mathewson and McGinnity, the only other Giants pitcher to see action was Ames, who worked all of one inning (as a reliever in Game 2). Pitching was the most noteworthy aspect of the Series with five shutouts in five games.
MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL’S GREATEST PLAYERS (IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER)
Joe Adcock smashed some of the longest home runs ever witnessed. Although measuring the distance home runs traveled has historically been an imprecise science, driven by myth and legend, Adcock belongs to a select few sluggers, among them Mickey Mantle, Frank Howard, and Willie Stargell, whose feats still inspire awe. As a vocal leader of the Braves during their halcyon days in Milwaukee, Adcock hit the first ball into the revamped center-field bleachers at the Polo Grounds and the first shot over the 83-foot-high grandstand onto the upper-deck roof in left-center field in Ebbets Field, and was the first right-hander to smash one over the 64-foot-high scoreboard in right-center field at Connie Mack Stadium. One of the most feared sluggers of the 1950s and early 1960s, Adcock became just the 23rd batter to slug 300 home runs and finished with 336 round-trippers in his injury-plagued career that was marred by years of platooning.
Joseph Wilbur Adcock was born on October 30, 1927, in Coushatta, Louisiana, located about 45 miles south of Shreveport on the east bank of the Red River. His father was Ray Adcock, a businessman, farmer, and longtime sheriff of Red River County; his mother, Helen (Lyles) Adcock, was a teacher. Joe and his younger sister, Mary Ann, grew up on the family farm, where they were expected to help out with the chores by the time they were 7 years old.
Joe was always big for his age and gradually drifted toward basketball; baseball, on the other hand, seemed as uncommon as heavy snow in Northwestern Louisiana. “There was no town team, no school team, not even a diamond,” said Adcock years later as a big leaguer. “The closest I came was a bit of one old cat as a kid with perhaps five kids playing at a time. I’d hit a rock with a stick out by the roadside down home and I’d knocked corncobs up on the barn roof with a broomstick. But as far as playing baseball, that was just something I heard my dad talk about.”
Adcock was a standout basketball player at Coushatta High, leading the school to the state Class B finals as a senior in 1944. Basketball coach Jesse Fatheree at Louisiana State University offered the 6-foot-4, 210-pound Adcock and two of his teammates scholarships to play on the hardwood for the Tigers. Like many colleges (and professional baseball) teams at the time, rosters were depleted because of World War II. Baseball coach A.L. “Red” Swanson took over the team when Fatheree was drafted into the service. “One time in the spring of my freshman year, I was watching the varsity baseball team practice,” Adcock recalled of his introduction to baseball.2 In desperate need of players, Swanson invited Adcock try out for the team. Adcock stumbled learning to throw and catch fly balls, but proved to be a good hitter with an eagle eye. “I was all hit and no field,” he recalled. “I’d never worn spikes. I’d never had a uniform. I never played a game with nine men on a side.”3 Adcock’s first love remained basketball; he led the Southeastern Conference in scoring (18.6 points per game) in the 1945-1946 season and had offers to play professionally.4 On the diamond he established his reputation as a right-handed slugger and capable first baseman. Adcock attracted scouts during his junior year when he helped lead the Tigers to the Southeastern Conference championship. Cincinnati Reds scout Paul Florence signed him to a contract in 1947.
Adcock began his professional baseball career as a 19-year-old in Columbia, South Carolina, playing for the Reds’ affiliate in the Class A South Atlantic (Sally) League. The second youngest player on the team, Adcock batted .264 with a .414 slugging percentage and earned an invitation to the Reds’ spring training in 1948. Among the first cut from camp, Adcock returned to Columbia, where he improved his average to .279 (though his slugging dropped about 30 points), and was named to the Sally League’s midsummer all-star team. He also suffered a knee injury, the first of many injuries that plagued him throughout his career.
After another look-see at Reds spring training in 1950, Adcock was assigned to the Tulsa Oilers in the Double-A Texas League. Still a raw fielder, Adcock worked closely with manager Al Vincent to develop his technique. “He changed my whole style,” said Adcock of Vincent. “I started from scratch with him and he taught me everything.”5 Playing with a knee brace, Adcock emerged as one of most promising young sluggers in the league, belting 41 doubles and 19 home runs to go along with a sturdy .298 average for the league champions.
Adcock secured a Reds roster spot in 1950 but encountered a serious problem. An emerging star, big Ted Kluszewski, seemed to be the club’s first sacker of the future, leaving Adcock without a natural position. Adcock’s three seasons with the Reds were subsequently filled with frustration, missed opportunities, and injuries.
Adcock’s impressive debut as a 22-year-old first baseman against the Pittsburgh Pirates on April 23 (2-for-4 with a double) was followed by an embarrassing outing early in the game the next evening. “I’m sitting on the bench … before the game,” he recalled, “and [manager] Luke Sewell throws me a glove and says, ‘You’re playing left field.’ It was the first time in my life that I ever had a fielder’s glove. The first groundball hit to me should have been held to a single, but I had to chase it all the way to the wall.”6 Struggling at the plate through June in limited duty, Adcock showed that he could hit big-league pitching in a six-game stretch (10-for-24) in early July, then replaced the weak-hitting Peanuts Lowrey in left field after the All-Star Game. From July 5 through the end of the season Adcock hit a team-high .315 (102-for-324) and earned a berth on The Sporting News Rookie All-Star team.
Firmly ensconced as the Reds’ left fielder in his sophomore season, “Billy Joe” (a nickname he earned from Dodgers announcer Vin Scully) gradually replaced Kluszewski as the cleanup hitter. Batting a respectable .281 and slugging a team-best .489 during the first seven weeks of the 1951 season, Adcock injured his right knee and ankle while sliding into second base against the Boston Braves on June 3, foreshadowing a much more serious incident six years later. After missing more than three weeks of action, Adcock slumped in his return (he batted just .212 after the injury) and fielded tentatively.
By his third season, Adcock was vocal in his opposition to playing left field because of his home park’s distinctive embankment, which bothered his knees. “Every player who came into Crosley Field,” said the New York Giants Bobby Thomson, “paid attention to … the unique outfield terrace that ran in front of the left and center field walls.”7 Increasingly moody, Adcock got off to a hot start (batting .333 and slugging .667) when he aggravated his knee injury on May 22 in Brooklyn, missing three weeks. Hobbled in his return, his average steadily declined to .278 by season’s end with little power. He clashed with Rogers Hornsby (the club’s third manager during the season), who desired a more athletic and speedy left fielder.8 Adcock wanted to play first base, but with just 31 home runs in his first three seasons, he failed to show the consistent power to dislodge Kluszewski, a consistent .300 hitter who had hit 54 home runs during the same period. On February 16 Adcock was traded to the Braves, at the time officially located in Boston, in a complicated four-team, five-player plus cash deal.
Adcock arrived at an exciting yet unsure time in Braves history. After months of speculation, team owner Lou Perini announced on March 13 the club’s move to Milwaukee, bringing baseball to the upper Midwest. “[Adcock] gives us a balanced team,” said general manager John Quinn, noting that the Louisiana slugger and another offseason acquisition – outfielder Andy Pafko – would take pressure off left-handed slugger Eddie Mathews.
Adcock’s aggressive style of play appealed to manager Charlie Grimm. “Adcock is my kind of player – a holler guy,” said Jolly Cholly.10Adcock’s first home run for the Braves was a prodigious 475-foot blast against the New York Giants at the Polo Grounds on April 29.11 He launched a pitch from Jim Hearn that landed ten rows up on the left side of the center-field bleachers; he was the first player to do so since the ballpark was renovated in 1923. Another titanic shot, against the Pittsburgh Pirates on July 18, rocketed almost as far, clearing the 457-foot sign in cavernous Forbes Field just to the left of straightaway center. Just as important as Adcock’s 18 home runs and 80 runs batted in for the season were his durability (he played in all of the team’s 157 games) and his fielding. “He has a good pair of hands and shifts well,” said Grimm, a former first baseman with the Cubs.12 The surprising Milwaukee Braves finished in second place and led the National League in attendance.
A classic pull hitter, Adcock crowded the plate with a locked-in stance and took a big step into the ball, which left him vulnerable to getting hit with inside pitches. Sportswriter Red Smith wrote, “National League strategy insists that he can’t pull the ball if it’s close to his wrists,”13 but Adcock continued to make headlines with his slugging in 1954. The power-hitting Braves challenged the supremacy of the Brooklyn Dodgers and their ensuing rivalry throughout the decade proved to be one of baseball’s fiercest. On July 31 Adcock became just the seventh big leaguer to belt four home runs in one game when he victimized four Dodgers pitchers at Ebbets Field. “I hit a fastball for the first homer, a slider for the second, a curve for the third, and a fastball for the fourth,” he told The Sporting News.14 He also hit a double to set a then major-league record for 18 total bases in one game.
In the following game Brooklyn reliever Clem Labine beaned Adcock on the left side of the head. The “distinct thud” heard throughout Ebbets Field came from Adcock’s’ batting helmet, still a relative novelty at the time, but which sportswriters quickly noted may have saved his life.15 “When they throw at me high and tight,” said Adcock, “I can duck, but when they throw behind your head, they mean business.”16 The Braves’ next series in Brooklyn proved to be even more dangerous for Adcock. On September 10 the big right-hander walloped his ninth home run of the season in Ebbets Field to set a new record for visiting players. In the first inning of the next game, Don Newcombe plunked the slugger, breaking his right thumb and ending his season during the Braves’ stretch drive. Adcock finished with 23 home runs, 87 RBIs, and a career-best .308 batting average.
In 1955 Adcock’s season came to a premature end for the second consecutive year. On the anniversary of his four-home-run game against the Dodgers, Adcock’s right hand (near his wrist) was broken by an inside pitch from the Giants’ Jim Hearn. “That’s how I earn my living. Hitting, I mean,” Adcock told sportswriter Red Smith. “You’ve got to make up your mind – do you run away from pitches or stay in there and hit? There are a dozen different stances but I’ve got to use the one that’s natural for me and stay in there.”17
Given 3-1 odds against winning the World Series in 1956, the Braves got off to a slow start, leading to Grimm’s replacement by Fred Haney after 46 games. In his first game as manager, Haney scrapped Grimm’s plan of platooning the slumping Adcock at first base with Frank Torre. Adcock responded by belting two home runs in the first game of a doubleheader on June 17 in Brooklyn. His second blast, one of his record 13 against the Dodgers and the game-winner in the ninth inning off Ed Roebuck, was the first ball ever to soar over the 365-foot mark in left-center field, clear a height of 83 feet, and land on the double-deck roof of Ebbets Field before rolling off into a parking lot on Montgomery Street.
A notoriously streaky hitter, Adcock assaulted pitchers for an NL-record 15 home runs and 36 runs batted in during the month of July which included “one of baseball’s wildest scenes” in memory.18 Adcock, increasingly angered by what he perceived as “head-hunting,” charged the mound on July 17 at County Stadium after New York Giants pitcher Ruben Gomez hit him on the wrist. In the ensuing melee, Gomez threw another ball at Adcock, striking him in the leg. Adcock then chased Gomez into the Giants’ dugout, where by some accounts Gomez found an ice pick but was wrestled to the ground by teammates before he could return to confront Adcock. Two days later Adcock took revenge by clouting two home runs, including one of his ten career grand slams, and driving in a career-high eight runs in a 13-3 Braves victory. The Braves seemed to be headed for their first pennant in Milwaukee, but struggled down the stretch (14-13 in September) and lost the pennant on the final weekend of the season. Adcock enjoyed arguably his best season, ranking second in the NL in home runs (38), RBIs (103), and slugging percentage (.597).
The Braves rewarded Adcock’s success with a rare two-year contract worth a reported $25,000 annually.19 But the big slugger was injury-plagued during the ensuing three years and ultimately forced into an unwanted and frustrating platoon role with Frank Torre. The initial injury occurred 33 games into the 1957 season when Adcock (batting .306 and slugging .562) tore ligaments in his right knee against the Chicago Cubs on May 26. He returned to the starting lineup on June 5 and played through the pain but was platooned thereafter. Adcock’s season came crashing down in a game against the Philadelphia Phillies on June 23 when he fractured his right fibula and tore ligaments in his right ankle sliding into second base in an awkward manner trying to protect his already-injured knee.20 Adcock returned to the Braves roster in September, but was noticeably hampered in the field as the Braves cruised to their first pennant in Milwaukee.
In the World Series against the New York Yankees, Fred Haney followed script by platooning Adcock against left-handers and Torre against right-handers with the exception of Game Three. Adcock started Games One, Two, Three, and Five, but was replaced in the late innings in each game by Torre. Just 3-for-15 in the series, Adcock did line an opposite-field single to right off Whitey Ford to drive in Eddie Mathews in the sixth inning for the only run in the Braves’ 1-0 victory in Game Five. Adcock was forced into the uncomfortable role of fan in the final two exciting games as the Braves captured their first and only championship in Milwaukee.
Adcock was confident that the Braves would capture another pennant in 1958. “We could run away with this thing like the Dodgers did in 1955,” he told Lou Chapman of the Milwaukee Sentinel. “There isn’t a ballclub that can touch us outside of Los Angeles.”21 In Haney’s platoon system, Adcock played first base primarily against left-handers and started just 71 times; however, when left fielder Wes Covington went down with an injury in June, the big Louisianan took over his spot. “That’s a lot of pasture out there,” said Adcock in his folksy Southern accent. “You could run several head of cattle out there in all that territory. But we’re hurting and I’m going to try to do my best. Let’s face it, though, I’m not happy about it.”22 Seeing his first action in the outfield since 1952, Adcock started 24 times despite a painful right knee, which had not fully recovered from the injury the previous year and required surgery following the season. “I couldn’t swing a bat right [in 1958],” said Adcock. “Whenever I put pressure on my back leg, out would go the knee. I didn’t play a game when my leg didn’t lock up on me six to eight times.”23 A team-first player, Adcock complained neither about his role on the team nor his pain. In just 320 at-bats, he belted 19 home runs and slugged .506 to help the Braves secure their second consecutive pennant.
In a rematch of the previous World Series, the Braves and Yankees squared off again in 1958. Adcock started Games One, Four, and Six against Whitey Ford, while Torre started the other contests. In Game One Adcock went 2-for-5 and scored the winning run on Bill Bruton’s single in the bottom of the tenth inning to give the Braves an exciting 4-3 victory. With a three-games-to-one lead, the Braves were on the verge of another championship, but lost three consecutive games during which they struck out 25 times and scored just five runs. In the Series, Adcock went 4-for-13 with no runs batted in; Torre had three hits in 17 at-bats with one RBI.
“I don’t like playing one day and sitting on the bench the next,” said Adcock during a 1959 spring training marred by a holdout and trade rumors. “I can’t do either myself or the team justice.”24 Adcock’s relationship with Haney became increasingly acrimonious. He once again split his time at first base and left field. In one of baseball’s most memorable games, Harvey Haddix of the Pittsburgh Pirates had a perfect game through 12 innings at County Stadium on May 26. In the 13th inning, with Felix Mantilla on second base courtesy of an error and Hank Aaron on first via an intentional walk, Adcock uncorked the first Milwaukee hit of the game, a towering home run to right-center field. Mantilla scored the winning run; however, in the ensuing melee, Aaron scampered to the dugout after rounding second base while Adcock circled the bases. Adcock was later ruled out for passing Aaron and his home run was scored a double. Three days later Adcock supplied another walk-off game-winner under bizarre circumstances when, as Gene Conley of the Philadelphia Phillies attempted to walk him intentionally, he “reached out over the plate a plucked a dribbler” to drive in Aaron on a fielder’s choice.25 Enjoying his best health in three years, Adcock put together a career-best 20-game hitting streak en route to 25 home runs while playing in just 115 games. In the team’s two straight losses in a best-of-three playoff against the Los Angeles Dodgers to determine the pennant winner, Adcock’s big bat was silent with no hits and two strikeouts in four at-bats.
Adcock returned to first base in 1960 under new manager Chuck Dressen, and never played in the outfield again in his career. On April 14 he blasted a titanic shot off Curt Simmons that soared over the 390-foot mark in right-center field in Connie Mack Stadium in Philadelphia, becoming the first right-hander (and just the third player) to clear the 64-foot-high scoreboard. Asked about his estimated 500-foot home run, Adcock responded, “I hit one off Seth Morehead [on September 3, 1958] that went over the roof in left center. That’s even higher than the scoreboard and just as far.”26 “Billy Joe” never lacked confidence. For the first and only time in his career, Adcock was named to the All-Star team; he started both games of the midsummer classic and rapped three hits in five at-bats. (From 1959 to 1962 two All-Star Games were played each season.) Consistent all season, Adcock led the team with a .298 batting average accompanied by 25 round-trippers while the Braves finished in second place for the fourth time in eight seasons.
Adcock was an accomplished and underrated first baseman whose long arms helped him dig out errant throws. He led first basemen in fielding percentage four times, including three consecutive seasons (1960-1962), and retired with the third-highest fielding percentage (.994) at first base in major-league history.
The Braves were in transition in 1961, though it might not have been apparent at the time. The oldest team in the National League, they got off to poor start, sported a losing record at the All-Star break for the first time since their move to Milwaukee, and needed a surge in August to finish in fourth place at 83-71. More disconcerting to owner Lou Perini was the rapidly declining attendance, which reached its nadir the following two seasons at just over 9,400 per game after leading the NL in attendance for six consecutive seasons (1953-1958). Like his team, Adcock struggled, too, before his bat awoke in the second half of the season (21-for-62, .330) to finish with a team-high 35 home runs and career-best 108 RBIs. On June 8 against the Cincinnati Reds, Mathews, Aaron, Adcock, and Frank Thomas belted a record four consecutive home runs in the eighth inning (since accomplished twice in the American League). Aaron (34), Mathews (32), and Adcock became the first Braves trio to each blast 30 home runs in the same season.
At the age of 34, Adcock showed signs of slowing down in 1962. His precarious right knee limited him to just 112 starts at first base, and he completed just 45 of them. He had difficulty running, but still possessed his awe-inspiring power. On July 21 in Philadelphia, he smashed two home runs, the second of which, reported the Milwaukee Journal, soared “over the roof atop the double-decked stands in left center” at Connie Mack Stadium.27 With rumors of his impending trade widely circulating by season’s end, Adcock concluded his final season in Milwaukee with 29 home runs and slugged over .500 for the seventh consecutive season. In their nine years together, Adcock (221), Aaron (298), and Mathews (327) belted 846 home runs, just nine fewer than the Dodgers trio of Duke Snider, Gil Hodges, and Roy Campanella had in ten years.
The offseason signaled an end of an era for Adcock and the Braves in Milwaukee. Owner Lou Perini finalized his sale of the club to the Chicago-based LaSalle Corporation on November 16. Less than two weeks later Adcock was sent to the Cleveland Indians as part of a multi-player trade. “This is just the start [of trading]” said new Braves manager Bobby Bragan, who had succeeded Birdie Tebbetts.28 Adcock was not surprised by the trade and departed with a lasting shot to the Braves management. “The front office took things for granted too much with guys who won the pennant. They figured they’d keep going. Maybe they sat too long, but then they moved too fast, panicky.”29
No longer an everyday player, Adcock spent one injury-plagued season with Cleveland platooning at first base with Fred Whitfield. “[Adcock] never once quit on me in Milwaukee,” said Tebbetts, now managing Cleveland. “I admire Adcock because he’s one of the few players I have ever seen who never has taken a short step … I have never seen him dog it even once.”30
In a trade widely criticized by sportswriters and fans, the Los Angeles Angels completed a trade of popular outfielder Leon Wagner for Adcock and pitcher Barry Latman on December 6, 1963. Reunited with Haney, then GM of the Angels, Adcock played his final three seasons in Southern California. Still a valuable home-run threat, he platooned at first base and pinch-hit. The Sporting News wrote that Adcock retained his boyhood enthusiasm for the game, ran out every grounder despite his aching knees, and was an unselfish player who tutored young hitters.31 On August 27 he reached a milestone when he launched a pitch from Diego Segui of the Kansas City Athletics for a home run at Municipal Stadium, becoming at the time just the 23rd major leaguer to belt 300 home runs. Playing home games in cavernous Chavez Ravine (Dodger Stadium), Adcock led the Angels in round-trippers in 1964 with 21 in just 366 at-bats. He concluded his playing career in 1966, the Angels’ inaugural season in the more batter-friendly Anaheim Stadium. He paced the team with 18 four-baggers (in just 231 at-bats) and launched two of longest home runs in his career. On July 4 he blasted a pitch from Mickey Lolich of the Detroit Tigers into the upper deck just under the left-field roof at Tiger Stadium; and on September 2 he walloped a pitch from Washington Senators reliever Bob Humphreys off a light tower in deep left field at Anaheim Stadium.
Adcock retired as a player after the 1966 season to become manager of the Indians. “The boys can expect me to be strict and I’ll stress fundamentals,” he said. “I think there are a lot of mental errors made that shouldn’t be.”32 He lasted only one season (an eighth-place finish), and was replaced by Alvin Dark. Adcock piloted the Triple-A Seattle Angels in the Pacific Coast League in 1968 before walking away from the game he loved. In his 17-year big-league career, Billy Joe hit 336 home runs, knocked in 1,122 runs, and batted .277.
Adcock retired to his hometown of Coushatta, where he had purchased Red River Farms as a player and spent most of his off-seasons. He bred thoroughbred racing horses and was involved in farming. Adcock lived with his wife, the former Joan James, whom he met after his hand and wrist injury in 1955 when she worked as a nurse for the Braves team physician, Dr. Bruce Bower. They married in November 1956 and raised four children.33 Adcock gradually drifted away from baseball, though he periodically appeared at events commemorating the Milwaukee Braves. In 1975 he was inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame.
Suffering from the effects of Alzheimer’s disease, Joe Adcock died on May 3, 1999, in Coushatta. He was 71 years old. He was buried in Holly Springs Cemetery in Marin, Louisiana.