NFL reveals new postseason schedule with expanded playoff format

The expansion of the NFL playoff field from 12 to 14 teams was one of the most significant changes that was agreed upon in the new collective bargaining agreement. On Tuesday, team owners voted to make that official. The league has also revealed its new postseason schedule.

Only one team in each conference will now receive a bye, meaning Wild Card Weekend will feature six games in total: three on Saturday and three on Sunday.

That means there will be a full slate of NFL games on both days of the opening playoff window. There will be an early afternoon game, a late afternoon game, and a night game.

Some have expressed concern that fans won’t want to watch that much football, but the ratings will likely tell a different story.

The NFL could face scheduling issues down the road due to the coronavirus outbreak, but the league has reportedly not discussed making any rash decisions at this time. By adding two extra games in Wild Card Weekend, there won’t be a need for the season to be any longer than it has been in past years.

 

Report: NFL still planning to play full 16-game season

The start of the 2020 NFL season is still five months away, but there has already been plenty of speculation that the league could be forced to start later than originally scheduled because of the coronavirus pandemic. As of now, that is not something NFL officials have discussed with teams.

NFL reporter Gary Meyers was told by a source on Tuesday that the league is still planning to play a full 16-game season. While contingency plans have likely been discussed on some level, they have not been communicated with any teams.

Meyers added that he was told the start of the season could be delayed, though the NFL obviously wants to avoid having to eliminate any games. That would mean the Super Bowl could be pushed to March.

As of now, there are still too many unknowns to make predictions about if and when certain leagues will resume playing. Medical experts don’t even know exactly how the coronavirus pandemic will turn out or how long it will last, but that hasn’t stopped prominent sports figures from making bold predictions. The NFL and other leagues know there’s a chance they may have to make significant changes, and they will likely begin preparing for that in the near future if they have not already.

 

Sean Payton seemingly reveals 2020 will be final season for Drew Brees

Drew Brees recently signed a new two-year deal with the New Orleans Saints, but the quarterback may already have plans to make 2020 his final season in the NFL.

Brees contemplated retirement this offseason before deciding to return, so it goes without saying that he is taking a year-to-year approach. However, a comment Saints head coach Sean Payton made during an appearance on ESPN’s “Get Up!” Tuesday morning indicated Brees has already decided he will call it a career after next season.

Payton was discussing the role he envisions Taysom Hill playing in 2020 and beyond when the coach called the situation “unique” and said Brees has “announced he’s coming back for his final season.”

“I think Taysom sees himself as being a starting quarterback in this league, and we do, too,” Payton said.

The reason Payton’s remarks were noteworthy is that Brees has not said publicly that 2020 will be his final season. It sounds like he has expressed that privately to the Saints.

Hill has played a variety of roles for the Saints, and Payton seems to love him. While he’s capable of running, catching and blocking in addition to throwing, Hill has made his career goals very clear at this point. Based on what Payton said Tuesday, it sounds like the Saints are expecting Hill to take over as their starting quarterback in 2021.

 

Chris Godwin gives No. 12 jersey to Tom Brady

Tom Brady is beginning a new chapter of his legendary career at age 42, but the quarterback is keeping the same jersey number.

Brady wore No. 12 throughout his incredible run with the New England Patriots, and that number was occupied by one of the best players on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers roster last season. Fortunately for Brady, star wide receiver Chris Godwin had no problem giving up No. 12. The Bucs announced on Tuesday that Brady will wear No. 12 and Godwin is changing to No. 14.

Godwin said recently that he is “very passionate” about the No. 12, and he would have kept it if Brady was indifferent. The receiver said he has worn the number since high school.

“But if he does (want No. 12), out of respect for everything he’s accomplished and everything that he’s done I will kinda have to defer to him,” Godwin said. “He’s the G.O.A.T., you know. If he’s willing to give it up, perfect but if he’s not, then I guess we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”

Obviously, Brady had plenty of reason to want to keep No. 12. His brand is called “TB12” and includes sports performances centers, dietary supplements, and much more. It’s obvious how important Brady’s brand is to him, and we feel it could be one of the reasons he chose to sign with the Bucs.

The real story here is that Godwin (allegedly) gave Brady No. 12 for free, as some players have had to pay steep prices for jersey numbers in the past. Godwin likely made that decision because Brady is the one who is going to be throwing passes to the receiver in 2020 and potentially beyond. Graciously giving up your jersey number for your new quarterback is a great way to get off on the right foot.

 

50-plus prospects likely to participate in draft virtually

Prospects won’t be in attendance for the 2020 NFL Draft. But they’ll still be directly involved.

NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported the league has begun inviting top prospects to participate virtually for the three-day event, which is scheduled to be televised but no longer include public events in Las Vegas because of the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 50 players are expected to be digitally present via video and social media, Pelissero added. Players and their families are also expected to receive a “draft package.”

The NFL has been working on a virtual solution that would incorporate prospects in the broadcast from their locations, with current players and NFL legends also expected to be part of the draft, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport recently reported.

Commissioner Roger Goodell sent a memo to all 32 teams last week stating the NFL’s intentions to proceed with the draft as originally slated on April 23-25.

“Our plan is to connect you with NFL fans watching the Draft live from around the world, directly from your home!” NFL executive VP of football operations Troy Vincent wrote in a letter to invited prospects, according to Pelissero.

In Goodell’s memo, he encouraged teams to “begin necessary planning to conduct draft operations in a location outside of your facility, with a limited number of people present, and with sufficient technology resources to allow you to communicate internally, with other clubs, and with draft headquarters.”

 

Could NFL teams back out on free agent agreements after the draft?

The NFL has been determined to not alter its offseason calendar despite the coronavirus outbreak, but that does not mean the league has been unaffected by the pandemic. For example, many free agents have agreed to contracts with teams but been unable to actually sign them. By nature, that has left those free agents vulnerable to having the rug pulled out from under them.

As ESPN’s Adam Schefter notes, many free agents may not sign their contracts until after the NFL Draft later this month. Should a team address a need in the draft that it already addressed by agreeing to a deal with a free agent, that team could, in theory, back out of its agreement with the veteran player.

While that is technically possible, we can’t imagine any team is going to do it. A stunt like that would essentially be taking advantage of a pandemic, let alone backing out of a verbal agreement that should be as binding as a written agreement. The NFL chose to go through with its free agency period despite the limitations created by the coronavirus outbreak. That should not create an opportunity for teams to back out of agreements if they find a better option down the road.

We’ve already seen teams using some very unique tactics to gather information on draft prospects, and there will be plenty of other complications going forward. Teams potentially backing out of contract agreements should not be something players need to concern themselves with.

 

NFL DRAFT PROFILE: DE CHASE YOUNG, OHIO STATE

  • HEIGHT 6-5
  • WEIGHT 265
  • HOMETOWN HYATTSVILLE, MD.
  • LAST SCHOOL DEMATHA CATHOLIC
  • YEAR JUNIOR

Ohio State Career Overview

  • Team captain and the dominant defensive player in college football during the 2019 season
  • A unanimous All-American in 2019 and won six major individual awards
  • Declared intentions to be eligible for the 2020 NFL Draft following his junior season
  • A finalist for the Heisman Trophy … just the ninth defensive player out of 159 total finalists since 1982
  • Won both the Bednarik Award and the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, which both recognize the nation’s outstanding defensive player
  • Won the Ted Hendricks award as the nation’s outstanding defensive end in 2019
  • Won three Big Ten Conference awards as a junior: the Chicago Tribune Silver Football as the Big Ten’s best player and the Big Ten’s Defensive Player and Defensive Lineman of the Year awards
  • The nucleus of an Ohio State defense that ranked among the nation’s Top 5 statistically in six major categories, including No. 1 in total defense (259.7 yards per game), No. 2 in passing yardage (156.0 yards per game), red zone scores (66 pct.) and pass efficiency (97.50) and No. 4 in scoring (13.7 points per game)
  • Led the nation in quarterback sacks (16.5) and sacks per game (1.38)
  • No. 2 nationally in 2019 in tackles-for-loss (21.5) and TFLs per game (1.8)
  • Led the nation in forced fumbles (six) and with .50 forced fumbles per game
  • Set school records with 16.5 quarterback sacks and 117 sack yards
  • Finishes second (to Mike Vrabel, who had 36.0 sacks and 245 sack yards) with 31.0 career sacks and 211 sack yards
  • Had 99 career tackles, including 42.5 TFLs and 239 TFL yards, figures that rank 11t and fifth, respectively, at Ohio State
  • Two-year starter who played in 38 games and started 23 times

Honors & Awards

2019: Unanimous All-American, Heisman Trophy finalist, Bednarik Award, Bronko Nagurski Trophy, Ted Hendricks Award, Chicago Tribune Silver Football, Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year, all-Big Ten Conference

2018: Second-team all-Big Ten

More on Chase:

  • Was majoring in criminology at Ohio State
  • A consensus 5-star prospect and one of the Top 10 players regardless of position in the nation as a high school senior
  • The No. 1 player in the state of Maryland
  • Helped DeMatha win the 2016 state championship with a 12-0 record by recording 118 tackles and 37 tackles-for-loss, including 19 quarterback sacks
  • Played two seasons at DeMatha and two years at Pallotti High School in Laurel, Md.
  • The son of Carla and Greg Young.

SCOUTS TAKE

1} Young is a tall, long and athletic defensive end. As a pass rusher, he explodes off the ball and gains ground in a hurry. He uses a quick swipe move and also has the ability to control the wrists of blockers. He can convert speed to power and is effective on loops and games. He does have a little tightness at the top of his rush. Against the run, he sets the edge easily and uses his quickness to slip blocks and create chaos behind the line of scrimmage. Overall, Young is an All-Pro talent, reminiscent of Julius Peppers and Mario Williams.

2} Young is quite easily the best edge prospect we’ve ever graded. He shattered the single-season PFF pass-rushing grade record with a mark of 96.5 in 2019. There’s not a single thing about the position he’s not elite at as a prospect. Truthfully, coming up with any sort of negatives about him just seems like nitpicking. Draft him, and you’ve got a top-10 edge in the NFL sooner rather than later.

 

NFL DRAFT PROFILE: LSU QB JOE BURROW

2019 Heisman Memorial Trophy Winner

2019 AP National Player of the Year

2019 Maxwell Award Winner

2019 Walter Camp Award Winner

2019 Davey O’Brien Award Winner

2019 Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award Winner

2019 Manning Award Winner

2019 Unanimous First-Team All-American (AFCA, AP, Athletic, CBS, ESPN, Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, USA Today, Walter Camp)

2019 SEC Offensive Player of the Year (AP, unanimous)

2019 All-SEC First Team (AP, unanimous; Coaches)

2019 LSU Permanent Team Captain

2018 LSU Permanent Team Captain

CAREER

Set numerous NCAA, SEC and LSU records on his way to becoming the most decorated player in LSU football history and only the second Heisman Trophy winner in school history … Guided the Tigers to a 15-0 record and the CFP National Championship in 2019 … Joined Billy Cannon (1959) as LSU’s second Heisman Trophy winner, the most prestigious honor in all of college sports … Won nearly every national award for a quarterback in 2019, claiming the Maxwell Award (College Player of the Year), the Walter Camp Player of the Year Award, the Davey O’Brien Award (National Quarterback of the Year), the Manning Award (National Quarterback of the Year), the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, and was named AP National Player of the Year …. Won the Heisman Trophy by the largest margin in the 85-year history of the award … A unanimous All-America, the first quarterback and 10th player in LSU history to earn the honor … Just the second first-team all-America quarterback in school history, joining the “Ruston Rifle” Bert Jones, who was named All-America in 1972 … Named the AP and Coaches’ SEC Offensive Player of the Year … A unanimous first-team All-SEC selection by the AP … In two seasons with the Tigers, posted a 25-3 record as LSU’s starting quarterback … Won his last 16 starts, which ranks as the second-longest winning streak for the position in school history (trails only Warren Rabb, 19 straight wins from 1957-59) … The second quarterback in school history with back-to-back 10-win seasons, joining JaMarcus Russell in 2005-06 … Capped his career by completing 621-of-906 passes for 8,565 yards, 76 TDs and only 11 interceptions … Completed his career at LSU ranked No. 1 in school history for career completion percentage (68.5), passing yards per game (305.9), TD passes (76), 300-yard passing games (15), 400-yard passing games (4), total yards (9,332), total yards per game (333.3), and TDs responsible for (88) … Ranks No. 2 in LSU history for a career in completions (621) and passing yards (8,565) … Directed LSU to 11 wins over top-10 teams during his two seasons with the Tigers, the most of any quarterback in school history … Completed 20 or more passes in the final 18 games of his career, the longest such streak in LSU history.

SEASON SEASON (2019)

Set nearly every LSU single-season passing record in 2019 on his way to leading the Tigers to a 15-0 mark and the CFP National Championship Game … Only player in SEC history to throw for 5,000 yards and 50 TDs in a season … Set NCAA single-season record for TD passes (60) and total touchdowns (65) … His 76.3 completion percentage ranks No. 2 in NCAA history for a season … Connected on 402-of-527 passes for 5,671 yards, 60 TDs and only six interceptions … Set SEC single-season records for completions (402), attempts (527), passing yards (5,671), passing TDs (60), total TDs (65), completion percentage (76.3), total yards (6,039), total yards per game (402.6), and total plays (642) … Set SEC single-game marks for TDs responsible for (8 vs. Oklahoma) and tied the league mark for TD passes (7 vs. Oklahoma) … Threw for at least 300 yards in 13 of LSU’s 15 games, the most by any quarterback in school history … Capped stellar season with 31 completions on 49 attempts for 463 yards and five TDs in LSU’s 42-25 win over Clemson in the CFP National Championship Game … Named Offensive Player of the Game in the National Championship, as he also rushed for 58 yards and a TD … Accounted for a CFP National Championship Game record six TDs in the win over Clemson … In CFP National Semifinal win over Oklahoma, tied SEC record with seven TD passes and set the league mark for TDs accounted for with eight (added a rushing TD) … Threw for 493 yards on 29-of-39 passing in win over the Sooners … Set CFP Semifinal records for passing yards in a half (403) and a game (493), total yards (515), TD passes (7), TDs responsible for (8), consecutive completions (11), and points responsible for (48) in win over Oklahoma … Named Offensive Player of the Game of the CFP National Semifinal contest … His 493 passing yards against Oklahoma set a career-best and ranks No. 2 in LSU single-game history … The 403 passing yards in the first half against the Sooners is the most in a half in LSU history … Led LSU to a SEC Championship victory with a 28-for-38 performance for 349 yards in the air and four touchdowns in 37-10 win over Georgia … Named SEC Championship Game MVP for his performance … Against Georgia, become the SEC’s single-season passing TD record holder on his first passing touchdown of the contest … In addition to his 349 passing yards, also caught a pass, hauling in a deflected ball for a 16-yard gain … Set the SEC season passing yards record on Nov. 30 against Texas A&M after a 23-for-32 performance for 352 yards, three touchdowns and a career-long pass of 78 yards … Threw for 327 yards and three touchdowns on 23 completions against Arkansas … Set the school record for passing yards in a season on Nov. 16 at Ole Miss, breaking the record of 3,347 set by Rohan Davey in 2001 … Completed 32-of-42 passes for 489 yards and five TDs in win over Ole Miss …  Matched his career high in completions and at the time, and set a then-career high in yards against the Rebels …. Set the LSU record for consecutive completions at Ole Miss with 17 … Went into Tuscaloosa and led the Tigers to the win over No. 2 Alabama with a 31-for-39 performance with 393 yards and three touchdowns … Named the SEC Offensive Player of the Week, Walter Camp National Player of the Week, Maxwell Award Player of the Week and Davey O’Brien Quarterback of the Week after his performance in Tuscaloosa … Completed 32 of 42 passes for 321 yards and one touchdown against No. 9 Auburn … Also rushed for 31 yards with a touchdown on 13 attempts against Auburn … Threw for 327 yards and four touchdowns on a 25-for-32 day at Mississippi State … Connected with Justin Jefferson on an 18-yard pass in the third quarter against Mississippi State to set the single-season touchdown record of 29 in just the seventh game of the season … Broke the previous LSU record of 28 held by Matt Mauck (2003) and JaMarcus Russell (2006) … Against No. 7 Florida, completed 21-of-24 for 284 yard and three touchdowns … Completed 12 straight passes at one stretch against the Gators, which ranks as the third-longest streak in school history … Named the SEC Offensive Player of the Week and Davey O’Brien National Quarterback of the Week after his performance against the Gators … Threw for five touchdowns and rushed for another against Utah State … Totaled 344 yards through the air against the Aggies … Set school-record for TD passes in a game for the first time against Vanderbilt with six, breaking the previous record of five set by Zach Mettenberger and tied by Burrow against Georgia Southern (2019) and Ole Miss (2018) … Was 25-of-24 for 398 yards against Vanderbilt … His 357 passing yards in the first half against Vanderbilt marked the most by an LSU player in a half in school history at the time … Finished 21-of-24 with two touchdowns and 373 yards against Northwestern State … The 87.5 completion percentage against Northwestern State ranks No. 3 in school history … Had a record day at Texas, leading LSU to its first top-10 non-conference road win in school history … Finished 31-of 39 for 471 yards and four touchdowns in Austin for the third-most yards and completions in a game in school history … Connected with Justin Jefferson (163), Ja’Marr Chase (147) and Terrace Marshall Jr. (123) against the Longhorns for the first game in school history with three receivers with more than 100 yards in a game … Hit Jefferson on a 61-yard TD on third-and-sixteen with 2:27 remaining in the game to seal the Tigers’ victory … Named the SEC Offensive Player of the Week, Davey O’Brien National Quarterback of the Week and Maxwell Award Player of the Week after his performance at Texas … Opened the 2019 season against Georgia Southern by leading the LSU offensive to five-straight touchdown drives … Finished 23-of-27 for 278 yards and five touchdowns … Tied the then school record for touchdown passes in a game with five against Georgia Southern and was named the SEC Offensive Player of the Week for his performance in the season-opener.

SCOUTS VIEW:

1} With the highest single-season grade we’ve ever given to a quarterback and quite easily the most impressive statistical season in college football history, Burrow is an easy pick for the No. 1 prospect in the class. His accuracy is on another level from any other top prospect we’ve seen: 61.6% of his targets 10-plus yards downfield this past season were accurately placed, and to put into perspective how absurd that is, Baker Mayfield held the previous record at 55.7% in 2017.

You have to look long and hard to find negatives from Burrow’s play this past season. His lowest-graded passing game still earned a PFF passing grade of 68.2, and he went 25 of 32 for 327 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions in that game. He’s on the “older” end at 23 years of age and won’t wow anyone with his arm strength, and any true on-field negatives would have to be prior to the 2019 season, though if he fixed them in 2019, are they really still negatives? It’s difficult to see Burrow being anything other than a top-15 quarterback in the NFL.

2} Burrow has solid size for the position and he possesses many elite qualities. He operated out of the ‘gun in the LSU spread attack and he is extremely accurate, efficient and instinctive. He is very smooth in his drop and he has the ability to process through his reads at a rapid pace. He throws with anticipation and he can naturally layer the ball over and under coverage. He doesn’t have top-shelf arm strength when driving the ball outside the numbers. He relies more on timing/touch. He doesn’t flinch versus pressure when he sees something he likes down the field. If he needs to buy time, he can slide and climb the pocket with excellent feel/awareness. He has a nice burst when he leaves the pocket and he is more than a capable runner. Overall, Burrow lacks special arm strength, but his combination of poise, accuracy and toughness is very appealing.

 

2020 NFL Draft position rankings

QUARTERBACK

  1. Joe Burrow, LSU
  2. Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama
  3. Justin Herbert, Oregon
  4. Jake Fromm, Georgia
  5. Jordan Love, Utah State
  6. Anthony Gordon, Washington State
  7. Jacob Eason, Washington
  8. Josh Love, San Jose State
  9. Cole McDonald, Hawaii
  10. Jalen Hurts, Oklahoma

 

RUNNING BACK

  1. Zack Moss, Utah
  2. D’Andre Swift, Georgia
  3. Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin
  4. J.K. Dobbins, Ohio State
  5. Clyde Edwards-Helaire, LSU
  6. Cam Akers, Florida State
  7. Lynn Bowden Jr., Kentucky
  8. Antonio Gibson, Memphis
  9. Ke’Shawn Vaughn, Vanderbilt
  10. Darius Anderson, TCU

 

WIDE RECEIVER

  1. Jerry Jeudy, Alabama
  2. CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma
  3. Laviska Shenault Jr., Colorado
  4. Henry Ruggs III, Alabama
  5. Tee Higgins, Clemson
  6. Jalen Reagor, TCU
  7. Brandon Aiyuk, Arizona State
  8. Denzel Mims, Baylor
  9. Michael Pittman Jr., USC
  10. Jauaun Jennings, Tennessee

 

TIGHT END

  1. Hunter Bryant, Washington
  2. Brycen Hopkins, Purdue
  3. Adam Trautman, Dayton
  4. Harrison Bryant, FAU
  5. Cheyenne O’Grady, Arkansas
  6. Jared Pinkney, Vanderbilt
  7. Cole Kmet, Notre Dame
  8. Devin Asiasi, UCLA
  9. Stephen Sullivan, LSU
  10. Josiah Degaura, Cincinnati

 

OFFENSIVE TACKLE

  1. Andrew Thomas, Georgia
  2. Jedrick Wills Jr., Alabama
  3. Tristan Wirfs, Iowa
  4. Josh Jones, Houston
  5. Mekhi Becton, Louisville
  6. Ben Bartch, St. Johns
  7. Jack Driscoll, Auburn
  8. Isaiah Wilson, Georgia
  9. Lucas Niang, TCU
  10. Matt Peart, UConn

 

INTERIOR OFFENSIVE LINE

  1. Netane Muti, Fresno State
  2. Jonah Jackson, Ohio State
  3. Cesar Ruiz, Michigan
  4. Damien Lewis, LSU
  5. Tyler Biadasz, Wisconsin
  6. Robert Hunt, Lousiana
  7. Nick Harris, Washington
  8. Calvin Throckmorton, Oregon
  9. Logan Stenberg, Kentucky
  10. Lloyd Cushenberry III, LSU

 

DEFENSIVE INTERIOR

  1. Derrick Brown, Auburn
  2. Javon Kinlaw, South Carolina
  3. Jordan Elliott, Missouri
  4. Marlon Davidson
  5. Ross Blacklock, TCU
  6. Justin Madubuike, Texas A&M
  7. Neville Gallimore, Oklahoma
  8. Davon Hamilton, Ohio State
  9. Raekwon Davis, Alabama
  10. James Lynch, Baylor

 

EDGE

  1. Chase Young, Ohio State
  2. A.J. Epenesa, Iowa
  3. Curtis Weaver, Boise State
  4. Julian Okwara, Notre Dame
  5. K’Lavon Chaisson, LSU
  6. Darrell Taylor, Tennessee
  7. Yetur Gross-Matos, Penn State
  8. Terrell Lewis, Alabama
  9. Josh Uche, Michigan
  10. Bradlee Anae, Utah

 

LINEBACKER

  1. Isaiah Simmons, Clemson
  2. Zack Baun, Wisconsin
  3. Troy Dye, Oregon
  4. Patrick Queen, LSU
  5. Kenneth Murray, Oklahoma
  6. Akeem Davis-Gaither, App State
  7. Willie Gay Jr., Mississippi State
  8. Davion Taylor, Colorado
  9. Cam Brown, Penn State
  10. Jordyn Brooks, Texas Tech

 

CORNERBACK

  1. Jeffrey Okudah, Ohio State
  2. Kristian Fulton, LSU
  3. C.J. Henderson, Florida
  4. Cameron Dantzler, Mississippi State
  5. Trevon Diggs, Alabama
  6. Jaylon Johnson, Utah
  7. Jeff Gladney, TCU
  8. A.J. Terrell, Clemson
  9. Bryce Hall, Virginia
  10. Noah Igbinoghene, Auburn

 

SAFETY

  1. Grant Delpit, LSU
  2. Xavier McKinney, Alabama
  3. Ashtyn Davis, California
  4. Geno Stone, Iowa
  5. Kyle Dugger, Lenoir Rhyne
  6. Terrell Burgess, Utah
  7. Antoine Winfield Jr. Minnesota
  8. K’Von Wallace, Clemson
  9. Julian Blackmon, Utah
  10. Jalen Elliott, Notre Dame

 

NFL MOCK DRAFT: 6.0

  1. CINCINNATI BENGALS — QB JOE BURROW, LSU

The consensus No. 1 pick, Burrow is coming off one of the best seasons in college football history and the best season we’ve graded since 2014. He throws accurately to all levels of the field, and he’s the kind of signal-caller the Bengals need to turn the franchise around. Burrow had the highest grades in the nation on all 10-plus yard throws, including a ridiculous 68.6% completion rate on passes in the intermediate (10-19-yard) range.

 

  1. MIAMI DOLPHINS (TRADE WITH WASHINGTON REDSKINS) — QB TUA TAGOVAILOA, ALABAMA

There are two ways to generate incredible value with the No. 2 overall pick: draft a franchise quarterback or trade back and accumulate more picks. The Redskins should at least consider Tagovailoa, but a trade back is best for their long-term prospects, as they can now add three potential starters to a depleted roster.

As for the Dolphins, they’ve positioned themselves beautifully to make this move with three first-round picks in their arsenal. They’ll gladly package that extra draft capital to draft Tagovailoa, who has posted 90.0-plus passing grades in each of the past two seasons and spreads the ball around the field with strong accuracy. The biggest question mark is his health, as he’s been banged up multiple times throughout his college career, including his 2019 season-ending hip injury.

 

  1. DETROIT LIONS — CB JEFFREY OKUDAH, OHIO STATE

There’s an obvious debate between Okudah and his teammate, Chase Young, but the Lions’ man-coverage attack desperately needs more options on the back end, and Okudah’s production and measurables make him the top cornerback on the PFF draft board. Okudah has excellent movement size, speed and movement skills — all excellent fits for what the Lions need opposite new cornerback Desmond Trufant on the outside.

 

  1. NEW YORK GIANTS — EDGE CHASE YOUNG, OHIO STATE

This is a great scenario for the Giants, who get the best pass-rusher in the draft in Young and fill an immediate position of need. The Giants really need playmakers all over the defense, and Young’s 96.1 overall grade last season is the best we’ve seen since we started grading in 2014. He had a ridiculous 56 pressures (18 sacks, seven quarterback hits, 31 hurries) on just 320 rushes last season.

 

  1. WASHINGTON REDSKINS (TRADE WITH MIAMI DOLPHINS) — OT ANDREW THOMAS, GEORGIA

Washington’s trade down allows it to fill two holes on a weak roster, starting with the left tackle of the future in Thomas. He’s the best combination of pass- and run-blocker in the draft, as he is the only tackle in the class to rank in the top three in both departments last season (89.0 pass-block grade, 91.4 run-block grade).

 

  1. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS — QB JUSTIN HERBERT, OREGON

While Herbert doesn’t project as well as Burrow or Tagovailoa at the next level, the Chargers have an excellent roster aside from question marks with Tyrod Taylor as the listed starter. Herbert does his best work down the field in between the numbers, and wide receivers Mike Williams and Keenan Allen along with tight end Hunter Henry should play well with his skillset. Finding a solid quarterback is a risky proposition, and picking Herbert certainly is risky despite his excellent tools, but the payout is too great if he can put it all together.

 

  1. CAROLINA PANTHERS — LB/S ISAIAH SIMMONS, CLEMSON

With linebacker Luke Kuechly retiring, adding a coverage playmaker is a high priority for the Panthers, and that’s exactly what Simmons brings to the table. He made high-level plays from the slot, both safety positions and in the box for Clemson — a skillset that will give the Panthers plenty of options as they rebuild their defense. I like Simmons as an early-down strong safety and a nickel/dime joker who can fill a game-plan specific role.

 

  1. ARIZONA CARDINALS — OT TRISTAN WIRFS, IOWA

The DeAndre Hopkins trade may have freed the Cardinals up to focus on their right tackle spot, and the strength of the draft meshes well with that need. Wirfs played both left and right tackle at a high level at Iowa, finishing with the No. 4 overall grade in the nation last season (91.4).

 

  1. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS — WR JERRY JEUDY, ALABAMA

The Jaguars have work to do to improve in the pass game on both sides of the ball, and they take one of the best receivers in the draft in Jeudy with the first of their two first-round picks. Jeudy is the best route runner in the draft, giving Jacksonville an immediate threat out of the slot while also providing a downfield option when lined up on the outside to complement D.J. Chark.

 

  1. CLEVELAND BROWNS — OT JOSH JONES, HOUSTON

Need-drafting is never the preferred option, but the Browns are well-positioned to fill their biggest need, left tackle, in this draft. They’d prefer to have Thomas or Wirfs here, and Alabama’s Jedrick Wills played right tackle in college, so we’ll go away from the draft board for a few reasons. The Browns already signed right tackle Jack Conklin this offseason, and while flipping sides of the line is not an insurmountable goal for Wills,  it’s unnecessary with Josh Jones on the board. Jones has the fourth-best pass-blocking grade in the class (89.2), and he finished in the top three in the run game on both gap and zone runs.

 

  1. NEW YORK JETS — OT JEDRICK WILLS, ALABAMA

The Jets don’t have a right tackle locked in right now, so Wills makes more sense for them here at pick No. 11. There’s a legitimate debate as to whether New York should focus more on skills players rather than adding another body on the offensive line, but its line is far from a finished product — especially long term. There should be another wide receiver available on the turn, so the Jets grab Wills here, who is an explosive run-blocker, though not as polished in pass protection as some of his peers in the class.

 

  1. LAS VEGAS RAIDERS — WR CEEDEE LAMB, OKLAHOMA

In one of my favorite fits in the draft, Lamb pairs with quarterback Derek Carr to give the Raiders a viable option on the outside. Carr was at his best when he had Amari Cooper, and that chemistry led to Carr’s best seasons in 2015 and 2016. Lamb works the vertical route tree, back shoulder game and the intermediate middle — all areas that play to Carr’s skillset and should extract much-needed aggressiveness out of him.

 

  1. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (VIA COLTS) — WR HENRY RUGGS, ALABAMA

The 49ers’ offense has been built on speed, and they’ll find a way to use Ruggs’ 4.2 speed with their current group of playmakers. Ruggs is a field-stretcher but is also capable of taking short passes to the house and doing damage in San Francisco’s end around/jet sweep game. After last year’s Super Bowl run, the 49ers must continue to add more playmakers to the offense, and Ruggs is a perfect fit with the pick they earned from the DeForest Buckner trade with the Indianapolis Colts.

 

  1. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS — S GRANT DELPIT, LSU

The Buccaneers’ best-case scenario is seeing one of the top offensive tackles or wide receivers dropping to this spot, but they’re all off the board at this point. Delpit has been a playmaker in LSU’s secondary, and he adds yet another piece to a Tampa Bay secondary that has gone from disastrous to promising in two years. Delpit’s missed tackles are certainly a concern — he’s had 36 over the last two seasons — but his ability to play free safety or cover tight ends is much needed on the back end for the Bucs.

 

  1. DENVER BRONCOS — CB KRISTIAN FULTON, LSU

Another team that would love to take one of the speedy receivers should they fall to pick No. 15, the Broncos will attack another important position with Fulton. The depth chart features newly acquired cornerback A.J. Bouye on one side and a group of unproven, younger players, so Fulton could start right away and allow Bryce Callahan to man the slot. Fulton had the fourth-best coverage grade in the draft class last year (86.3), and he has forced incompletions on 27.4% of his targets over the past two years, best in the class.

 

  1. ATLANTA FALCONS — CB C.J. HENDERSON, FLORIDA

The Falcons could be primed to double up at cornerback in this draft, and they’ll kick things off with Henderson. He’s one of the most athletic corners in the draft, and it shows up at the catch point, where he’s broken up 21.8% of his targets over the past two years — 11th-best in the class. Henderson will still lose a few reps at the catch point against bigger receivers. He did his best work in 2018, not last season, but he is excellent in off coverage and he has the tools to mirror even the best route runners.

 

  1. DALLAS COWBOYS — EDGE A.J. EPENESA, IOWA

While cornerback could be the play here for Dallas, especially if they’re thinking two years ahead, it would have been nicer to have Fulton or Henderson still on the board. They go with Epenesa, who has two years of excellent production as a pass-rusher, despite taking a step back last year while taking on more of an every-down role. Epenesa plays with great power and he could produce as an interior rusher in nickel situations.

 

  1. WASHINGTON REDSKINS (VIA STEELERS) — WR LAVISKA SHENAULT, COLORADO

The Redskins now walk away from the first round with two starters on offense rather than one Chase Young, and that’s a win from a team-building standpoint. Shenault adds an offensive weapon who can line up outside or in the slot while creating after the catch with running back-like skills (7.4 YAC/reception on 150 career catches).

 

  1. LAS VEGAS RAIDERS (VIA BEARS) — S XAVIER MCKINNEY, ALABAMA

The Raiders have completely retooled their secondary over the past two years, and McKinney adds another important piece, as he can play free safety while also covering the slot or tight ends when needed. He allows last year’s first-rounder, Johnathan Abram, to play in more of a box role that fits his skillset while earning the third-best coverage grade in the class when lined up at free safety.

 

  1. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (VIA RAMS) — CB TREVON DIGGS, ALABAMA

The cornerback value looks good at this point in the draft, and in the real draft, the Jaguars should have even more options — PFF generally values corners more than the NFL. Diggs is the next best option on the board, as he uses his 6-foot-2 frame well and finished with the second-best coverage grade among corners in the class when targeted in single coverage last season.

 

  1. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES — WR TEE HIGGINS, CLEMSON

The Eagles still have a solid group of receivers on paper, but there’s an obvious need for an infusion of youth. Higgins has the catch radius that plays well with an aggressive quarterback like Carson Wentz, and he adds yet another red-zone weapon to the Eagles’ offense. Higgins had the seventh-best receiving grade in the class when targeted on single coverage in 2019.

 

  1. MINNESOTA VIKINGS (VIA BILLS) — WR JALEN REAGOR, TCU

Wide receiver and cornerback are two areas the Vikings will attack in the draft, and Reagor brings a vertical threat to replace the departed Stefon Diggs. He plays big down the field, catching 46.0% of his contested targets over the past two years while averaging 15.1 yards/catch in college, where his production was limited by poor quarterback play.

 

  1. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS — WR DENZEL MIMS, BAYLOR

It’s out of character for the Patriots to draft a wide receiver in the first round once again, but they still need help on the outside, where Mims adds more of a vertical threat. It would free up last year’s first-rounder N’Keal Harry to potentially see more snaps inside or play to his skillset on gimmick plays with the ball in his hands. Mims was productive at Baylor, but even more productive this offseason with outstanding NFL Combine and Senior Bowl performances.

 

  1. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS — DT DERRICK BROWN, AUBURN

Brown is expected to come off the board earlier in the first round, but positional value has pushed him to the back end of Day 1 in this mock. Brown projects as the best interior run defender in the draft and he’s a good, not great, pass-rusher. He had the fourth-best pass-rush grade in the class last year (90.4) and adds another big body up front to the strong New Orleans defensive line.

 

  1. MINNESOTA VIKINGS — CB JAYLON JOHNSON, UTAH

The Vikings attack their other major need with Johnson, who had the ninth-best coverage grade among draft-class cornerbacks last season. Johnson has good size and can play press or off coverage while working through the receiver’s hands down the field. Johnson is the start of what should be multiple picks at cornerback in this draft for the Vikings.

 

  1. MIAMI DOLPHINS (VIA TEXANS) — ASHTYN DAVIS, CAL

After the heavy investment at cornerback, the Dolphins turn to safety, where Davis has the range to shrink the field. He played mostly free safety at Cal, and that’s where he projects at the next level in the Miami defense. Davis didn’t get to work out at the NFL Combine, but he flies around the field, especially when patrolling the deep middle.

 

  1. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS — DI JAVON KINLAW, SOUTH CAROLINA

Kinlaw adds size and length up front for the Seahawks, who could use another interior pass-rushing threat. He had the second-best pass-rush grade and the best win rate among interior rushers in the class, using his length to cause problems all over the offensive line. Seattle still needs help on the edge, but Kinlaw brings some versatility to move up and down the defensive front.

 

  1. BALTIMORE RAVENS — EDGE JULIAN OKWARA, NOTRE DAME

Even with the Ravens franchising Matt Judon, Okwara is a fantastic fit for their defense. They have the most versatile defense in the league, and Okwara is an edge rusher with coverage-dropping athleticism. The Ravens can continue their “positionless football” approach on defense with Okwara, who had an excellent 90.4 pass-rush grade a year ago to go with the movement skills to play off-ball linebacker if needed. The Ravens will use that skillset to keep opposing offenses off balance.

 

  1. TENNESSEE TITANS — CB JEFF GLADNEY, TCU

After a few years with a solid cornerback group, the Titans need to restock now that Logan Ryan is a free agent and Adoree Jackson is in the last year of his contract. Gladney has the speed and ball skills to play on the outside, and he allowed just 47.0% of passes to be completed into his coverage in the pass-heavy Big 12.

 

  1. GREEN BAY PACKERS — WR JUSTIN JEFFERSON, LSU

There are some questions to Jefferson’s game after he dominated zone coverage in the middle of the field at LSU, but he’s a crafty route runner with excellent ball skills. His middle-of-the-field prowess could be perfect for quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who could stand to take more chances over the middle. Jefferson could play in the slot or on the outside with his size and route running, though he’s more of a projection to the outside due to limited opportunities in college.

 

  1. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS — DI JORDAN ELLIOTT, MISSOURI

Elliott is still flying under the radar after posting the top pass-rushing grade in the class a year ago (91.1). He wins with burst, pad level and hand usage, a nice combination that should help mitigate the loss of DeForest Buckner — and at a much cheaper price.

 

  1. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS — LB PATRICK QUEEN, LSU

While the cornerback depth chart doesn’t look great on paper for the Chiefs, their zone-heavy defense did a fine job of taking away the middle of the field a year ago, and Queen will only help in that regard. He brings great range and athleticism to the back-seven, destroying underneath routes and perhaps just getting started after playing only 1,035 snaps in college.

 

Bengals release veteran cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick

The Cincinnati Bengals’ remade secondary won’t include Dre Kirkpatrick.

The team informed the cornerback of his release, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported.

Tyler Dragon of the Cincinnati Enquirer first reported the news. The team later confirmed the release.

“Dre was a part of the Bengals’ organization for many years, and displayed passion, energy and competitiveness both on and off the field,” Bengals head coach Zac Taylor said in a statement. “We appreciate his many contributions to our team and community over the years, and wish him the best moving forward.”

A first-round pick in 2012, Kirkpatrick has been a mainstay in the Bengals secondary for the past eight seasons. He compiled 65 passes defended and 10 INTs with 302 tackles.

The 30-year-old played six games in 2019 before going on injured reserve with a knee injury.

The Bengals spent heavily this offseason to reshape the secondary, signing corners Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander from Minnesota and adding safety Vonn Bell from New Orleans. With Kirkpatrick’s release, Cincy is set to deploy Waynes and William Jackson on the outside with Alexander in the slot.

With the additions, Kirkpatrick’s bulky contract became expendable. The Bengals will save $8.29 million with the release with $2.8 million in dead money, per Over The Cap.

Kirkpatrick might not be a run-stopper but remains a solid cover corner who should draw interest on the open market.

 

Roundup: Colts agree to terms with CB T.J. Carrie

The Indianapolis Colts are again turning to a veteran for defensive depth.

The Colts have agreed to terms with cornerback T.J. Carrie, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported, per a source informed of the situation. The team later confirmed the move.

Carrie spent his last two seasons in Cleveland, where he served as an effective third corner and stepped up to start in place of injured corners Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams. Carrie played well, recording 52 tackles, one sack, four passes defended, one interception and one forced fumble in 16 games (six starts). He was released as a cap casualty, with Cleveland shedding his average annual $8 million salary in order to save over $6 million in cap in 2020.

A former seventh-round pick of the Raiders out of Ohio, Carrie has exceeded expectations in his six-year NFL career. He was well-liked in Cleveland and could be a significant help to a Colts secondary that said goodbye to Pierre Desir this offseason and added veteran Xavier Rhodes as well as Carrie in an attempt to fill the void. With general manager Chris Ballard — a friend of former Browns GM John Dorsey, who signed Carrie in Cleveland in 2018 — in charge in Indianapolis, it’s no surprise they were able to add Carrie to their promising roster.

The Colts also signed defensive lineman Sheldon Day’s to a one-year deal worth $1.75 million with includes $1 million guaranteed, Rapoport reported.

 

Lakers likely to keep Dwight Howard for another season?

Dwight Howard has performed admirably in his first season back with the Los Angeles Lakers, perhaps even well enough to stick around for another year.

Speaking this week on “The Hoop Collective” podcast, ESPN NBA insider Brian Windhorst said that he thinks the Lakers are likelier to keep Howard around to try to “squeeze another year out of him” than they are to choose “a mystery with DeMarcus Cousins.”

The 34-year-old Howard, who only signed with the Lakers on a one-year deal last summer once Cousins went down with a torn left ACL in August, has been one of the most pleasant surprises in the league this season. He holds averages of 7.5 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks per game on an elite 73.2 percent from the field and has willingly accepted a reduced role off the bench.

While it might have been the other way around just a few years ago, Cousins represents a much bigger gamble than Howard right now, especially with a 2018 left Achilles tear also in his recent injury history. The Lakers have said that Cousins is still “part of the family” since waiving him in February, but if there is only one roster spot up for grabs, Howard might be the smarter play.

 

Report: MLB considering July 4 as possibility for Opening Day

If all is right in the world by then, we could have baseball to go along with our backyard barbecues and fireworks shows on Independence Day this year.

Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday that July 4 has been one of the options floated as a possibility in MLB circles for Opening Day.

The report comes after President Donald Trump announced earlier this week that federal social distancing guidelines due to the coronavirus pandemic have been extended until at least April 30. Trump also said that he expects the country to be “well on our way to recovery by June 1.”

We have also heard recently that a “Part II” of spring training will occur once quarantine restrictions are lifted so that the players can get back into shape. Thus, the Fourth of July would be a poetic day to get baseball back and would additionally ensure that teams have enough time to get ready for the season.

 

Johnny Juzang announces his top six transfer destinations

Kentucky guard Johnny Juzang is looking to transfer and has announced his top six possible destinations.

Juzang shared a graphic on Twitter Tuesday that showed Oregon, Texas Tech, Arizona, UCLA, Villanova and Notre Dame are in his final six.

Juzang is from Los Angeles, so it’s no surprise he would be considering three schools on the West Coast/in the Pac-12.

Juzang reclassified to the 2019 recruiting class last year and joined the Kentucky program. Juzang averaged 2.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game in 28 contests this season for the Wildcats.

The 6-foot-6 guard was a 5-star recruit coming out of high school.

 

 

SPORTS EXTRA

TODAY IN SPORTS HISTORY-1985

LEXINGTON, Ky. – This was supposed to be a coronation, a celebration of the mighty Georgetown Hoyas as one of college basketball’s greatest teams. Instead, the crowning was spoiled by a new and unlikely champion, the Villanova Wildcats. In what will surely be remembered as one of the most improbable outcomes in the history of the National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament, the Wildcats, who failed to finish in the nation’s Top 40 in any poll this season, completed their emotion-filled postseason by playing the elusive “perfect game” at the perfect time.
They upset the favored Hoyas, 66-64, to win the school’s first basketball championship ever before a national television audience and a capacity crowd of 23,124 shocked spectators at Rupp Arena. In Georgetown, Villanova was facing a team that had harassed opponents into shooting 39 percent from the field this season, the lowest in the country. But the Wildcats were not intimidated, and shot a tournament- record 79 percent from the field in the contest. They made 22 of 28 shots over all, including an incredible 9 of 10 in the second half. In addition, they made 22 of 27 free throws.
“I had no idea we were shooting the ball that well,” said the Wildcat forward Dwayne McClain, who led all scorers with 17 points while adding 3 assists. “But we were taking our time and taking good shots.” In the final precious seconds McClain lay sprawled on the court, clutching the ball and extending his fist upward in triumph. Indeed, the victory culminated a heart-wrenching joyride for the Wildcats, who finished at 25-10. After finishing the season with a Big East record that left them only tied for third in the conference-behind Georgetown and St. John’s-they strung together six straight victories buoyed by a moving togetherness that became their trademark.
Charged by their trio of seniors- McClain; the point guard Gary McLain, the emotional leader and unsung hero; and the 6-foot-9 1/2-inch center Ed Pinckney-they eliminated second-ranked Michigan, fifth-ranked Memphis State and seventh-ranked North Carolina. And tonight they dethroned the talent-laden defending champions, who came into the contest with a 17- game winning streak and every intention of becoming the first team in 12 seasons to earn two successive titles.
But it was not to be. The Wildcats’ fighting spirit overcame the Hoyas’ talent. Pinckney outscored and outrebounded Georgetown’s 7-foot center, Patrick Ewing-16 points to 14 and 6 rebounds to 5. That earned Pinckney honors as the most valuable player of the Final Four. The Hoyas, who ended their season with a record of 35-3, were gracious in defeat. As each of the Villanova players walked to the podium at center court and received his commemorative gold watch, the Hoyas stood and applauded. “They taught college basketball how to win this season,” Dave Gavitt, the proud commissioner of the Big East, said of the Hoyas. “Tonight, they taught college basketball how to lose.”

 

TODAY IN BASEBALL HISTORY

1914       Rube Waddell, who once struck out a record 349 batters in one season, dies of tuberculosis at the age of 37. The eccentric Hall of Fame right-hander compiled a 193-143 (.574) record along with an ERA of 2.16 during his 13 seasons with the Colonels, A’s, Pirates, and Browns.

1937       The Reds sell Babe Herman to the Tigers. The 34 year-old outfielder, batting .300 for his new team, will appear in only 17 contests with Detroit before effectively retiring from the game, although he will return to play briefly for the war-time Dodgers in 1945.

1938       Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis, not a fan of Branch Rickey’s farm system, grants free agency to a group of nine Cardinal minor leaguers that includes Pete Reiser. A reported gentlemen’s agreement that has Brooklyn signing and hiding the 19 year-old outfielder in the low minors to be traded back to St. Louis at a later date, doesn’t work when Brooklyn manager Leo Durocher disobeys orders, allowing the phenom to display his incredible ability in spring training exhibition games.

1950       Pacific Coast League Hollywood Stars wear shorts and rayon shirts as their Opening Day uniform. In 1976, the White Sox will also don shorts in the first game of a doubleheader against Kansas City.

1962       Dave DeBusschere, a hoop star at the University of Detroit, signs with the White Sox as a pitcher. The 21 year-old right-hander will compile a 3-4 record in 36 appearances with Chicago before moving to the National Basketball Association, becoming one of the 50 named greatest players in the history of the league.

1963       Former Brooklyn Dodger Duke Snider returns to New York when the Mets purchase him from LA for $40,000. The 36 year-old outfielder, who will represent New York in the All-Star Game, will be told at the end of the season by Buzzi Bavasi, his former GM, that the Yankees had asked for him to back up Mickey Mantle before he was dealt to the team the across the river.

1964       Cleveland’s manager Birdie Tebbetts suffers a heart attack. George Strickland will fill in for three months until the 51 year-old skipper returns to the Indians dugout with limited duties.

1968       The Braves purchase Orioles right-handed reliever Stu Miller, best remembered for committing a balk in the 1961 All-Star Game when a gust of wind pushed him off the mound at Candlestick Park. The 40 year-old Northampton (MA) native will throw only 1.2 innings in two appearances for Atlanta before retiring from baseball, having compiled a 105-103 record and 153 saves during his 16-year tenure in the major leagues with five teams.

1969       After acquiring Lou Piniella from the Indians in the expansion draft, the Seattle Pilots trade him to the Royals in exchange for Steve Whitaker and John Gelna. The 25 year-old outfielder will have a stellar season in Kansas City, being named the league’s Rookie of the Year.

1970       Federal Bankruptcy Referee Sidney Volinn, after ruling the team is insolvent, orders the Seattle Pilots be sold to a group headed by mid-western businessman Bud Selig. The American League expansion team’s tenure in the Northwest is over after just one season when the club is hastily moved to Milwaukee to start the new season as the Brewers.

1976       After being released by the Padres, Bobby Tolan (.255, 5, 48), signs as a free agent with the Phillies. The outfielder-first baseman, who plays only 15 games for Philadelphia, will ink a deal with the Pirates in June.

1982       The Mets send outfielder Lee Mazzilli to Texas for rookie starters Ron Darling and Walt Terrell. This deal isn’t well-received at the time, but the trade turns out to be a steal for New York when the two right-handers combine for 118 victories during their tenure with the team.

1987       The Pirates trade Tony Pena, three-time Gold Glove catcher, to the Cardinals in exchange for three youngsters, Mike LaValliere, Mike Dunne, and Andy Van Slyke, who thinks the deal is an April Fool’s Day joke. The former Pittsburgh backstop cries at a news conference with Bucs’ skipper Jim Leyland announces the swap with the Redbirds.

1987       Mets phenom pitcher Dwight Gooden avoids suspension for substance abuse by agreeing to enter a drug rehab facility. The talented 22 year-old right-hander will make his first start on June 5 and will win 15 games for the team despite missing the first two months of the season.

1989       Former Yale University and National League president Bart Giamatti becomes the seventh commissioner of major league baseball. Baseball’s new leader, a lifelong Red Sox fan, is the author of The Green Fields of the Mind, an essay which laments the end of a season in Boston.

1996       Nationalpastime.com appears for the first time on the internet. The popular website is the first to feature baseball history on a daily basis.

1996       The Opening Day game in Cincinnati is postponed when home plate ump John McSherry, who is noticeably overweight, suffers a fatal heart attack after calling the first seven pitches of the contest. The respected veteran arbitrator’s death prompts Major League Baseball to compel its umpires to be more physically fit.

1996       The Mets rally overcome a 6-0 deficit, beating the Cardinals at Shea Stadium, 7-6. The decisive run in the biggest Opening Day comeback of the century scores as a result of an unusual double play when Bernard Gilkey, the base runner on first, is doubled up on Rico Brogna’s short sac fly to right field (RF-1B-SS-1B-SS), allowing Lance Johnson to cross home plate on the play.

1996       Only 7,296 fans show up at Cashman Field to watch the A’s lose their season opener to the Blue Jays, 9-6. The team plays their first six home games in the Las Vegas minor league ballpark due to renovations in the Oakland Coliseum, marking the first time since 1969 when the White Sox played a few of their home games in Milwaukee’s County Stadium that major league game takes place in a “neutral” site.

1997       Setting a record for the most runs scored in one inning of an Opening Day contest this century, the Padres score 11 runs in the bottom of the sixth inning en route to a 12-5 rout of the Mets. Chris Gomez, Rickey Henderson, and Quilvio Veras lead the attack with back-to-back-to-back home runs.

1998       At Camden Yards, the Orioles rock the Royals, 10-1, as Scott Erickson records his 100th major league victory. O’s skipper Ray Miller, who hadn’t won a game since managing the Twins in 1986, enjoys his first win with Baltimore.

2001       In the first major league game ever played in Puerto Rico, the Blue Jays defeat the Rangers, 8-1, in the major league season opener. In his debut with Texas, $252 million shortstop Alex Rodriguez gets the season’s first hit and scores the first run, but also makes a throwing error on his first chance.

2002       Cinci Freedom, who evaded capture for ten days after jumping a six-foot fence to avoid slaughter, is excused from her scheduled appearance in the Reds’ traditional Opening Day parade. Before the Reds’ 5-4 walk-off victory over the Cubs at Cinergy Field, the Charolais cow, after receiving a key to the city, is deemed too jumpy to participate in the Findlay Market activities.

2002       The Mets, with a 6-2 victory over the Bucs at Shea Stadium, improve their mark for Opening Day victories to 26-15 (.634), a major league record. The New York expansion team didn’t win their first season opener until the ninth year of the franchise’s existence.

2005       Albert Pujols does not strike out in any of the 21 Cardinals spring training games. In his 68 plate appearances, the St. Louis first baseman finishes the exhibition season with a .458 batting average, six homers, and 20 RBI.

2006       A day before the start of the season, the White Sox ink Jose Contreras (15-7, 3.61) to a $29 million, three-year contract extension. The 34 year-old Cuban native was the World Champs’ most effective pitcher during the team’s stretch run to the AL pennant, posting an 11-2 mark following the All-Star Game.

2008       With two outs in the 10th inning, Robert Andino’s first career round-tripper is a memorable one as his walk-off homer to deep left off Matt Wise gives the Marlins a 5-4 victory over the Mets at Dolphin Stadium. The post-game celebration is short-lived when the Miami native takes off for home to meet police after getting a text message from his wife informing him their house may have an intruder.

2008       On Opening Day in Los Angeles, Juan Pierre’s 434 consecutive game streak, the longest current one in the major leagues, comes to an end when the Dodger outfielder does not play in the 3-2 victory over the Giants. New skipper Joe Torre plays Andre Ethier in left field in place of the highly paid, but light-hitting fly chaser.

2009       After tallying a run in the top of the first, Kentucky State finds themselves on the short end of a 22-1 score at the end of the inning. After the Colonels of Eastern Kentucky University score 27 more times in the next three frames, the teams decide to halt the contest in the middle of the fifth, giving EKU a 49-1 triumph over the Thorobreds.

2011       Doug Glanville becomes a baseball color analyst for ESPN, the network where he has contributed to the Baseball Tonight television show, ESPN.com, and ESPN – The Magazine. The former major league outfielder, best known for his playing days with the Phillies, also is a guest columnist for the New York Times, where he writes about the culture of sports.

2013       On Opening Day, Jackie Bradley Jr. has a memorable major league debut when he walks three times, scores twice, and robs Robinson Cano of an extra-base hit with an outstanding defensive play in the Red Sox’ 8-2 victory over New York at Yankee Stadium. The 22 year-old Boston rookie outfielder also makes uniform history, becoming the first major leaguer to wear “Jr.” on the back of his jersey.

2013       Bryce Harper, providing all of the offense the Nationals will need, becomes the youngest player to homer twice on Opening Day. The 20 year-old outfielder, playing in his first Opening Day as a major leaguer, hits solo shots in the first and fourth frame in Washington’s 2-0 victory over Miami.

2013       Rockies reliever Adam Ottavino, who will end the day with an 0-1 record when he gives up a walk-off sac fly in an Opening Day loss to Milwaukee, becomes the first big league pitcher to wear the number 0, joining position players Oddibe McDowell (1985-88), Junior Ortiz (1989-2004), and Al Oliver (1978-85). Several players, including hurlers including Bobo Newsome (1943), Curtis Leskanic (2000-01), Rick White (2005-06), and Brian Wilson (2003-14), have donned a double-zero.

2015       Auction items featured in Sotheby’s “New York Sale” include the 1967 Mets’ bullpen cart, which is shaped like a baseball wearing a cap. The electric-powered vehicle, valued between $20,000 and $30,000, fetches an amazing high bid of $125,000.

2018       In his much-anticipated his pitching debut, Shohei Ohtani, striking out six batters in six innings while allowing three runs picks up his first big league win when the Angels beat the 7-4 at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. The 23 year-old Japanese sensation, also touted for his prowess as a hitter, does not have a plate appearance in the American League contest.

 

WORLD SERIES HISTORY-1914

By 1914, the Philadelphia Athletics had become a World Series regular and had dethroned two of Major Leagues baseball’s first post-season dynasties by beating the mighty Chicago Cubs and New York Giants on more than one occasion. Most of their success had been built on a foundation of solid “big-game” pitching. Chief Bender, a Fall Classic favorite, entered Game 1 with a Major League leading .850 winning percentage and a 17-3 record. His opponent, Dick Rudolph had won twenty-seven games for his Boston Braves. Rudolph pitched a five-hitter and teammate Hank Gowdy made a valiant attempt at a True Cycle when he singled, doubled and tripled. Boston won 7-1 and surprised the presumably overconfident A’s who were heavy favorites.

The next day the “Miracle Braves” called on their other ace Bill James who had boasted an impressive twenty-six wins for his team during the regular season. The A’s Connie Mack countered with the 1913 Series winner Eddie Plank and both pitched to a 0-0 standstill after eight innings. In the top of the ninth, Boston’s Charlie Deal hit a one-out double, stole third and scored on a two-out single by Les Mann. In the bottom of the ninth, James walked two batters but got out of the jam by inducing Eddie Murphy to hit into a game-ending double play. James’ two-hit, 1-0 victory gave Boston a shocking Series lead of two games to none.

Although the Fall Classic had shifted to Boston, the Braves were still without home-field advantage. Fenway Park (home of the Red Sox) was chosen over their own South End Grounds as a more attractive and inviting venue. Game 3 was anyone’s game as the Braves and A’s battled to another game extending tie at 2-2 through nine innings. Once again, “Home Run Baker” came up clutch, hitting a two run single off of the Braves starter, Lefty Tyler. The Braves answered back with two runs of their own in the bottom of the tenth as Gowdy led off with a timely homer and Joe Connolly produced a run-scoring fly ball later in the inning. Bill James came in as relief for Tyler and shut the Athletics out for the next two innings. In the bottom of the twelfth, Gowdy knocked a double off of “Bullet” Joe Bush (who had gone the distance) and gave way to a pinch-runner, Mann. After an intentional walk to pinch-hitter Larry Gilbert, Herbie Moran followed with a perfect bunt. Bush grabbed the ball and threw toward the third baseman in an attempt to force Mann, but his throw went wide resulting in much more than an error. Mann jumped at the opportunity and darted home for the 5-4 victory. Boston was now up three-games-to-none and the Philadelphia favorites were in serious trouble.

After failing to win with the “Big 3” – Bender, Plank and Bush, the Athletics turned to second year man, Bob Shawkey in an effort to get themselves back in the game. The Miracle Braves were on the verge of sweeping one of baseball’s original dynasties and the A’s were running out of options. Shawkey rose to the challenge and shutdown Boston for three scoreless innings before giving up one in the fourth. In the next inning, he helped his own cause with a game-tying double, but later surrendered two more runs in the bottom of the inning. Game 1 winner, Dick Rudolph held the A’s at one and the Braves went on to a 3-1 victory and World Series sweep. The Philadelphia Athletics became the first team in World Series history to be eliminated in four games (the 1907 Tigers also went winless, but managed a tie game against the Chicago Cubs, extending the contest to five games).

Hank Gowdy was a standout for the Braves with three doubles, one triple and a homer while batting a Series leading .545. Rudolph and James, after accounting for fifty-three of the Braves’ 94 regular-season victories, went undefeated while holding their opponents to a miserable .172 team mark. After their less-than stellar performance Connie Mack’s Athletics began rebuilding for the future. Unfortunately, Mack’s plan did not include many of the 1914 players. Eddie Collins was traded over the winter, Home Run Baker sat out the entire 1915 season in a dispute before being sold to the up-and-coming New York Yankees and both Plank and Bender went off to the Federal League. It didn’t stop there, by the middle of 1915, Jack Barry, Eddie Murphy and Bob Shawkey had all been traded or sold. The underdog Braves had not only swept the American League’s first real dynasty, they had destroyed it.

 

BASEBALL BEST EVER-ROBERTO ALOMAR

SABR.ORG

The son of a longtime major leaguer and the younger brother of another, Roberto Alomar was immersed in the world of baseball from an early age.

Roberto’s father, Sandy Alomar, spent 15 years as a major-league infielder, and Roberto and his brother, also Sandy, spent most summers in major-league locker rooms. It was during these times that the brothers learned the intricacies of the game from the best players in the world — Nolan Ryan taught 4-year-old Roberto how to pitch while Ryan was a teammate of Sandy, Sr.’s on the Angels.1 Perhaps just as important, they also learned how to handle themselves like major-league ballplayers. The offseason brought with it the Puerto Rican Winter League (in which his father and three of his uncles all starred) and the annual Caribbean World Series.2 Roberto frequently made the trek to games with his father, sometimes completing his homework in the dugout.3

Roberto Alomar was born on February 5, 1968, in Ponce, on Puerto Rico’s south coast, to Santos (Sandy) and Maria (Velasquez) Alomar. He had an older brother, Santos Jr. (Sandy), and a sister, Sandia. They grew up in Salinas, 20 miles from Ponce. Roberto’s baseball ability and instincts were evident even as a boy. When he was 6 a scout reportedly saw him playing pepper and inquired of his father (presumably tongue in cheek) if he could sign him.4 By the age of 7, Roberto was selected as an all-star for the Salinas little league, but was declared ineligible when it was discovered that he was too young to play in the league.5 The time for Roberto to sign his first professional contract came soon enough. When he was 16 he signed with Caguas in the Puerto Rican Winter League, where he was managed by Felipe Alou.6 Alou later said that Roberto “was the best I had ever seen. He was a natural and definitely had the instincts that you just don’t teach.”7

On February 16, 1985, shortly after he turned 17, Roberto signed with the San Diego Padres — the same club for which his father was a coach and with which Sandy Jr. had signed two years earlier. While other teams (most notably Toronto) had expressed interest in the middle infielder and made higher offers than the approximately $50,000 Roberto received, Sandy Sr. had given his word to family friend and Padres scout Luis Rosa that Roberto would sign with the Padres.8

Unlike many newly signed minor leaguers, Roberto did not have to adjust to living on his own for the first time. He was assigned to the same team, Class-A Charleston in the South Atlantic League, for which his father was a coach and to which Sandy Jr. was also assigned. His mother also made the trip and the family lived together and provided a stable foundation as Roberto’s professional career began to flourish.9 Roberto hit .293 and stole 36 bases for Charleston, and his manager Jim Skaalen recalled that “He was tearing up the league against older college players.”10

Skaalen moved up along with Roberto the next season to Reno in the Class-A California League.11 His brother and father, however, did not. Sandy Jr. was ticketed for Double-A Wichita (Texas League) and Sandy Sr. was promoted to coach with the Padres. Roberto later recounted the challenges of his time in Reno: “In the minor leagues everything is different. I was making $700 a month. I had to pay for rent, utilities, food, clubhouse dues. All I had in the house I rented was a mattress on the floor, not even a table. I had no car and had to walk everywhere.”12

Skaalen, though, saw him maturing on and off the field: “He seemed more relaxed away from his dad and brother. He got stronger and seemed to be enjoying every day. He was far ahead of the rest of the talent at that level, and I began to see the good, solid major-league player he was going to become.”13 Whatever the challenges off the field, Alomar’s play certainly did not suffer. He led the league after 90 games with a .346 average and 123 hits, earning him a promotion to Double-A Wichita (and a reunion with Sandy Jr.).14 Sharing a one-bedroom apartment with his brother, Roberto continued his torrid pace and finished the season hitting .319 with 12 home runs and 43 stolen bases.15

Roberto’s minor-league success provided real hope going into the spring of 1988 that he could break camp with the Padres. His performance did nothing to dampen that enthusiasm, as he hit .360 and put together a 10-game hitting streak.16 Padres manager Larry Bowa noted that “this kid is a finished product. All he has to do is go out there and play. He has all the tools; just turn him loose.”17 The Padres, though, had been burned each of the prior two seasons when they tried to promote second basemen (Bip Roberts and Joey Cora) from Double A to the big leagues, and Bowa was directed to give Roberto the bad news that his season would begin at Triple-A Las Vegas, not San Diego.18 The 20-year-old Roberto took the news hard, tearfully retreating to the training room, where he was consoled by his father along with several teammates.

For his part, Bowa had no explanation for the sentence he was ordered to deliver: “I told him he did everything I asked,” said Bowa. “I just told him to keep his head up, that it’s a long season. The chances of Robbie coming to the big leagues in 1988 are pretty good.”19 They were pretty good indeed, as Roberto made quick work of the Pacific Coast League and was leading the league with 14 runs batted in when he was called up to San Diego 2½ weeks into the season.20

On April 22, 1988, Roberto stepped into the batter’s box as a major leaguer for the first time. On the mound was none other than Nolan Ryan — the same Nolan Ryan who had helped teach him to pitch as a toddler. Unfazed, he beat out an infield single in his first major league at-bat.21 Roberto finished the season with 145 hits, a .266 batting average, and 24 stolen bases, finishing fifth in the National League Rookie of the Year voting. He was even stronger the next season, his first full year in the big leagues, batting .295 with 42 stolen bases in 158 games.

Continuing his ascent onto the national radar, Roberto was selected for his first All-Star Game in 1990. What made the honor even more special was that Sandy Jr. (who had been traded to Cleveland), was also selected. The two became the first pair of brothers to be selected for an All-Star Game since Jim and Gaylord Perry in 1970.22 Sandy Sr. reflected on the accomplishments of his two sons: “People have to realize I’m very proud of my kids for the way they act as persons. And they have talent and know how to display that talent.”23

While it appeared that Roberto had established himself as a core piece of the Padres’ future, the Padres had other ideas. After the 1990 season the Padres and Blue Jays struck a blockbuster deal that sent Alomar and outfielder Joe Carter to Toronto in exchange for Fred McGriff and Gold Glove shortstop Tony Fernandez.24 Along with Alomar and Carter, Blue Jays general manager Pat Gillick had also added center fielder Devon White days earlier as Toronto worked to position itself in the competitive American League East.25 Padres’ general manager Joe McIlvaine said, “We just felt it was something we wanted to give a shot to. It was kind of a gutsy trade on both ends.”26 Roberto was shocked: “I didn’t expect it; I didn’t understand it,” he later recalled.27

Surprised or not, Roberto joined a collection of talented players in Toronto and paid immediate dividends north of the border, putting together an early six-game hitting streak as the Blue Jays streaked to the top of the American League East.28 In May, however, Roberto once again ran into the task of facing Nolan Ryan — now pitching for the Texas Rangers. With two outs in the top of the ninth, the 44-year-old Ryan was one out away from his seventh no-hitter when Roberto strode to the plate. As the Fort Worth Star Telegram put it 25 years later, “[T]he kid he’d once coached stood between Ryan and history.”29 Ryan had the last laugh; he struck out Alomar on a 2-and-2 fastball to end the game.30

Later in the season, Roberto was once again elected to the All-Star Game, this time as an American League teammate of Sandy Jr. The long ovation he received from the Toronto crowd served as confirmation of how the city had taken to him: “When I was introduced they gave me such a long, loud ovation, I never expected it,” Roberto said.31

As the season wore on, Alomar kept hitting and the Blue Jays kept winning, clinching the American League East. In his first postseason, Alomar’s.474 batting average could not keep Toronto from being eliminated in five games by the Minnesota Twins. Alomar won his first Gold Glove, and it was clear that the Blue Jays were set to contend in the years to come. The offseason brought with it new riches as well: a three-year, $14 million contract that was the highest at the time on three fronts — for a second baseman, for a player 24 or younger, and for a player with four years or less in the major leagues.32 The average annual value of $4,666,667 made Alomar the ninth-highest paid player in the game.33

Bolstered by the acquisition of Dave Winfield in the offseason and David Cone in August, the Blue Jays again clinched the American League East in 1992. At midseason Alomar returned to San Diego for the first time since being traded and participated in the All-Star Game — once again with Sandy Jr. as a teammate.34

Alomar was named the most valuable player in the ALCS, with the most memorable moment being his game-tying two run home run off A’s closer Dennis Eckersley in the ninth inning of Game Four. He relished the opportunity to be part of the first Blue Jays team to reach the World Series: “I wasn’t here when they didn’t win in the past. … I just want to be here in the present when we win the big one, so we won’t have to hear anymore about the past.35 Alomar continued his clutch hitting and superb defense in the World Series, and helped the Blue Jays defeat Atlanta for their first championship. Alomar’s contributions led Dave Winfield to comment that “You’re one of the best players I’ve ever seen.”36 Manager Cito Gaston agreed: “I could talk about Robbie for an hour,” he said.37

After a slow start in 1993, the Blue Jays took off yet again and Alomar had career highs in numerous categories, including 55 stolen bases and 17 home runs. In the ALCS against the Chicago White Sox, he stole four bases as the Blue Jays won, four games to two. In the World Series, against the Philadelphia Phillies, Alomar hit .480 and drove in six runs as the Blue Jays, on Joe Carter’s game-winning home run in Game Six, won the World Series for the second year in a row.38

With two World Series titles in his back pocket, it was hard to imagine things ever going wrong for Alomar in Toronto. But go wrong they did. After a strike-shortened 1994 season, the Blue Jays began to take a step back in 1995 and look toward the future. This included trading veteran David Cone in July — a move that Alomar protested by sitting out the next game.39 Alomar was also removed from a game in early July when a fan, Tricia Miller, walked into the Skydome hotel where he lived and told employees that she planned to kill him.40 Alomar said, “I wasn’t shaken by it. I never knew that person. I never really knew what was happening. Cito told me in the dugout. They took me out of the game, but they had caught her by then, so I don’t know why.”41

By the end of the season, with rumors swirling about his future, Alomar was unhappy with what he felt was unfair treatment by the Toronto front office and local media:

“I never said that I want to be traded. … They made it sound like I said, ‘Trade me now, I want out of here.’ And the fans believed what they read in the papers. When I stood out on the field in Toronto and heard them booing me, I knew they didn’t understand or know what the truth was. I hadn’t said anything like what the writers wrote. But I could do nothing about it, and I learned how the media is.”42

With no offer from the Blue Jays, Alomar was ready to hit free agency: “If [the Blue Jays] had offered me something before the All-Star break, then maybe I would’ve thought about it and gone for it. Now you’re in the last week of the season. … Now maybe it’s time for me to try the market.”43

At 27 years old and already a six-time All-Star, Alomar inked a three-year, $18 million contract with the Baltimore Orioles in December 1995.44 He was thrilled to team up with fellow All-Star Cal Ripken Jr.: “I never expected to play alongside one of the legends of baseball. … It’s going to be like a dream come true for me.”45

Alomar carried his winter-ball success (he led the league in hitting) over to Baltimore, going on a tear to begin the season, hitting .410 in the beginning part of June.46 Former teammate Tony Gwynn heaped praise on the player Alomar had become, saying, “He has the ability to hit a home run, or work the count and hit a double down the opposite line and do whatever he wants to do. He’s probably the best all-around player in the game.”47 Alomar went on to make his seventh consecutive All-Star Game, collect his sixth consecutive Gold Glove and set numerous career highs as the Orioles clinched the American League wild-card playoff spot.48

Perhaps the most memorable moment of the season, however, occurred during a late-September game in Toronto. After being called out on strikes in the top of the first, Alomar argued with home-plate umpire John Hirschbeck on his way back to the dugout. When Hirschbeck threw him out of the game, Alomar returned to the field. During the course of the argument, Alomar took offense to being called a derogatory name, and spit in Hirschbeck’s face.49

Alomar apologized and donated $50,000 toward research into Lou Gehrig’s disease, which Hirschbeck’s son had.50 This did nothing to prevent his being relentlessly booed for the remainder of the season and the playoffs, or from receiving a five-game suspension to be served at the start of the 1997 season.51

Alomar delivered a game-tying two-out single in the deciding Game Four of the Division Series against Cleveland, and then hit the game-winning home run in the 12th inning.52 Brother and Indians catcher Sandy Alomar Jr. said, “He’s my brother and with all the things that happened with this incident, I felt kind of sorry for him.”53 Roberto was ready to turn the page on the incident: “I’ve been going through a tough time. … Human beings make mistakes. I apologized to the umpire, his family, and all of baseball. It’s time to move on.”54 The Orioles did move on to the ALCS, but were eliminated in five games by the New York Yankees on their way to the World Series title.

The fact that Alomar was even allowed to play in the playoffs did not sit well with many, including major-league umpires. When it was announced that his suspension would be delayed until the next season, the umpires voted to not work the playoffs unless the suspension was changed to apply to the first round.55 The boycott was abandoned, however, when an agreement was worked out in a Philadelphia federal court.56

After he served his five-game suspension to start the 1997 season, Alomar helped the Orioles to 98 wins and the American League East crown. He also took the first step toward putting the spitting incident behind him, publicly shaking hands with Hirschbeck near first base in April before the first Orioles game Hirschbeck called since the incident.57 Several nagging injuries pestered Alomar throughout the season, including a nagging groin injury in late July that made him miss close to a month of playing time. Alomar said the injury “made me grow up. I now knew what it was like to be hurt and what you had to do to come back.”58 After defeating the Mariners in the Division Series, the Orioles came up short of the World Series yet again, this time losing to Sandy and the Cleveland Indians in six games.

The Orioles were nowhere near contention in 1998. The season was not without its highlights though, as Roberto collected three hits (one of them a home run) and the All-Star Game MVP award in Denver, making the Alomar brothers back-to-back winners of the award since Sandy had won the year before. As his three-year contract with the Orioles came to a close, Roberto once again found himself on the free-agent market.

It did not take long for Roberto to find a new home. He signed a four-year contract with the Indians, reuniting with Sandy.59 “It means a lot to be beside my brother, not only to me but to my family,” Roberto said.60 Indians general manager John Hart stated the obvious: “We are elated to have the Alomar brothers in the Indians family.”61 In addition to Sandy, the move to Cleveland also allowed Roberto to team with shortstop Omar Vizquel, who along with Roberto had also won six Gold Gloves. “It would be worth the price of a ticket just to watch Omar and Robbie turn a double play,” said Hart.62 

Free from the injuries that plagued him in 1998, Alomar made an immediate impact on the Indians. “Robbie is one of the few players in the game that can make everybody around him better,” Indians manager Mike Hargrove said.63 The Indians had compiled an enviable offense that exploded out of the gates, and Alomar ended the year with what proved to be a career high 24 home runs. He finished third in the MVP voting (the highest he would ever finish). His hot hitting continued in the playoffs; he went 5-for-8 while the Indians surged to a 2-0 series lead over the Red Sox in the ALDS.64 The Tribe would not win again, however, and fell in five games.65

Although things did not turn out as hoped in October, a late-season meeting helped Alomar to finally turn the page on the spitting incident, which had continued to follow him through the jeers of fans around the country. On September 5, during a rain delay at Camden Yards, John Hirschbeck and family came knocking on the visitor’s clubhouse door, asking for Roberto. Hirschbeck’s 13-year-old son was a fan, and wanted to meet Roberto. The moment together allowed both families to heal. “I don’t see why he should be booed,” Hirschbeck said afterward. “If he and I can forgive and forget, why not everyone else?”66

The next two seasons also ended in disappointment for the Indians. In 2000 they missed the playoffs altogether despite winning 90 games. They charged back to the playoffs in 2001, but fell in five games in the ALDS to the Seattle Mariners. Alomar won Gold Gloves and was an All-Star in both seasons, and stole a combined 69 bases. He still looked to be in his prime with one year left on his contract. But another change of scenery was in store.

On December 11, 2001, the Indians traded Alomar, pitcher Mike Bacsik, and first baseman Danny Peoples to the New York Mets in exchange for outfielders Matt Lawton and Alex Escobar, relief pitcher Jerrod Riggan, and two players to be named later.67 While the move was designed to clear payroll and acquire younger talent, Indians general manager Mark Shapiro knew that the deal would not sit well with all fans. “I think I’ll need a flak jacket when I get off the plane [from the winter meetings], probably,” he said.68 Alomar said he was “kind of disappointed … I was real happy in Cleveland and thought I did a great job.”69 Mets General Manager Steve Phillips was elated: “We sit up in that room and all we do is dream all day about different scenarios,” he said, adding that “I have to admit that I thought this was a long shot.”70

But what had seemed like a dream scenario for Phillips at the Winter Meetings would soon turn into a nightmare. The Mets came nowhere near meeting expectations, finishing in last place in the National League East, 26½ games out of first place. Alomar also began to show the first sign of decline, hitting .266 and snapping his 12-year streak of appearances in the All-Star Game. The 2003 season began much the same way, with Alomar hitting.262 on July 1 when the Mets shipped him to the White Sox for three prospects.71

All told, Alomar played only 222 games for the Mets, and for his part understood that he did not perform at the high level that the Mets, and he himself, had expected. “Sometimes, you put too much pressure on yourself in New York, and maybe I did that,” he said.72 Along with providing a change of scenery, joining the White Sox allowed him to reunite again with Sandy.73 But Roberto hit only .253 down the stretch and the White Sox finished in second place in the American League Central, missing the playoffs.

A free agent once again, Alomar signed a one-year deal in the offseason with the Arizona Diamondbacks in the hopes of rejuvenating his career. “If I can get in good shape, I think I can play the way I used to play,” he said.74 Despite missing 56 games with a broken right hand suffered when he was hit by a pitch in late April, he did indeed experience a resurgence of sorts in his limited time on the field with Arizona, carrying a .309 batting average into early August.75 With the Diamondbacks hopelessly out of contention, Alomar was once again an attractive commodity for teams looking to add a veteran presence for the stretch run. So it was that the White Sox acquired him for the second consecutive season. Alomar struggled mightily in sporadic action, though, batting only .180 in 65 plate appearances as the White Sox once again missed the playoffs.

After multiple seasons of declining performance, Alomar made one last run at extending his career, this time with Tampa Bay, signing a one-year, $600,000 contract in January.76 When he committed multiple errors in one inning of a spring training game, however, he decided it was time to walk away. “I played a lot of games and I said I would never embarrass myself on the field,” he said, adding, “I had a long career, but I can’t play at the level I want to play, so it’s time to retire. I just can’t go anymore. My back, legs and eyes aren’t the same.”77 Alomar concluded his 17-year career with a .300 batting average, 2,724 hits, 210 home runs, and 474 stolen bases to go along with 12 All-Star Game selections and 10 Gold Glove awards.

There was no question that Cooperstown would be the final stop of Alomar’s career. With some Hall voters still holding the Hirschbeck incident against him, though, he came up eight votes short of admission in his first year of eligibility, in 2010. “I feel disappointed, but next year hopefully I make it in,” he said, adding that “at least I was close.”78 Some sportswriters were not as gracious in their assessment of the snub. The Chicago Tribune’s Phil Rogers wrote, “If anybody didn’t vote for Robbie because of the spitting incident, then shame on them.”79

Whatever the concerns some Hall voters had in Alomar’s first year of eligibility, resistance to his election was all but nonexistent the next year. He was named on 90 percent of the ballots, far over the 75 percent needed for induction into the Hall of Fame.80 Even Alomar was surprised by the drastic increase in support from the previous year. “I didn’t expect to get that many votes,” he said.81

Alomar, who went into the Hall wearing a Blue Jays cap, opened his induction speech in Spanish and spoke fondly of his father’s and brother’s impact on his life and career.82 Sandy Jr. recounted the brothers’ year-long wager as teammates/roommates for Class-A Charleston: “We said whoever had the best game, would get the bed. I slept on the couch the whole year.”83 He added, “We didn’t win a championship together but we won this together. And this is a big one. In my heart, you are a Hall of Famer.”84

Statistics aside, it is the way Alomar’s former teammates describe him that truly tells the story of the player that he was. Toronto teammate Pat Hentgen, asked how he described Alomar to present-day players, said, “I tell them Robbie was a career .300 hitter, a clutch hitter, a guy who could hit for power, a great baserunner and basestealer … and (pause) his best asset of all was his glove.”85 The Orioles’ B.J. Surhoff perhaps best summed up Alomar’s baseball career: “Robbie could beat you with the bunt, with the extra base, with the homer. He could beat you with a stolen base. He could beat you by going from first to third, a baserunning move. He could beat you by making plays in the field. Robbie’s a baseball player. And a damn good one at that.”86

Alomar continued to be involved in baseball after his retirement. In January of 2016, he and his wife, Kim, launched Foundation 12, a Canadian charitable organization serving youth baseball players.87

Last revised: June 1, 2018

 

This biography appeared in “Puerto Rico and Baseball: 60 Biographies” (SABR, 2017), edited by Bill Nowlin and Edwin Fernández.

 

Notes

1 “25 Years Later, Nolan Ryan Remembers His Seventh No-Hitter,” Fort Worth Star-Telegram, April 30, 2016, star-telegram.com/sports/mlb/texas-rangers/article74925477.html.

2 Norman L. Macht, Roberto Alomar (Childs, Maryland: Mitchell Lane Publishers, Inc., 1999), 9-11.

3 Macht, 3.

4 Macht, 10.

5 “Like Father Like Son?: Padres Think Roberto Alomar Is a Bit More Than a Chip Off the Old Block,” Los Angeles Times, April 22, 1988, articles.latimes.com/1988-04-22/sports/sp-2096_1_roberto-alomar.

6 Macht, 15.

7 Ibid.

8 Macht, 16.

9 Ibid.

10 Macht, 17.

11 Macht, 18.

12 Macht, 18.

13 Macht, 19.

14 Macht, 19

15 Macht, 21.

16 “Padre Notebook: Few Except Feeney Appear Satisfied as Roberto Alomar Is Sent Down,” Los Angeles Times, March 26, 1988, articles.latimes.com/1988-03-26/sports/sp-354_1_roberto-alomar.

17 Macht, 23.

18 “Padre Notebook.”

19 Ibid.

20 “Like Father Like Son?”

21 Macht, 25-26.

22 “Alomars an All-Star Family: Padres: Roberto Alomar, Along With Teammate Tony Gywnn, Is Named an NL Reserve. Brother Sandy Had Already Been Selected as The Starting AL Catcher for Tuesday’s Game,” Los Angeles Times, July 6, 1990, articles.latimes.com/1990-07-06/sports/sp-113_1_sandy-alomar-jr.

23 Ibid.

24 “Blue Jays Land Carter, Alomar From Padres San Diego Gets Fernandez and McGriff in Deal,” Baltimore Sun, December 5, 1990, articles.baltimoresun.com/1990-12-06/sports/1990340005_1_blue-jays-fred-mcgriff-tony-fernandez.

25 Ibid.

26 Ibid.

27 Macht, 31.

28 “Padres Winning December Deal Looks Like Tie With Blue Jays in April,” Baltimore Sun, April 21, 1991, articles.baltimoresun.com/1991-04-21/sports/1991111135_1_blue-jays-roberto-alomar-deal.

29 “25 Years Later.”

30 Ibid.

31 Macht, 33.

32 “BASEBALL; Cadaret and 8 Others Settle Contract,” New York Times, February 8, 1992, nytimes.com/1992/02/08/sports/baseball-cadaret-and-8-others-settle-contracts.html.

33 Ibid.

34 Macht, 35.

35 “Blue Jays Eck Out a 7-6 Victory in 11: AL Game 4: Alomar’s Two-Run Homer Off Eckersley Ties It in Ninth as A’s Blow 6-1 Lead,” Los Angeles Times, October 12, 1992, articles.latimes.com/1992-10-12/sports/sp-138_1_blue-jays.

36 Macht, 37.

37 “Alomar’s MVP Play Points to New Star,” Baltimore Sun, October 15, 1992, articles.baltimoresun.com/1992-10-15/sports/1992289072_1_alomar-blue-jays-toronto.

38 Macht, 42.

39 Macht, 43-44.

40 “Orioles’ Multitalented Alomar Is Second to None,” Washington Post, March 31, 1996, washingtonpost.com/archive/sports/1996/03/31/orioles-multitalented-alomar-is-second-to-none/b8cd697d-9630-464e-bcd9-84d6ba8db8cf/?utm_term=.9d34bd1c1107.

41 Ibid.

42 Macht, 44.

43 “Jays’ Alomar in No Rush to Decide ’96 Destination He, Molitor Express Interest in Joining Ripken,” Baltimore Sun, September 27, 1995, articles.baltimoresun.com/1995-09-27/sports/1995270116_1_alomar-blue-jays-second-baseman.

44 “O’s Wave Money Wand Building Winner: Signing Six-Time All-Star Roberto Alomar Adds Exclamation Mark to New General Manager’s Swift Revamping of Orioles,” Baltimore Sun, December 22, 1995, articles.baltimoresun.com/1995-12-22/news/1995356066_1_gillick-orioles-roberto-alomar. New manager Davey Johnson was informed of the signing in the dentist’s chair when he answered a call from General Manager Pat Gillick who said,“Well, you’ve got yourself an All-Star second baseman.” Johnson claimed to not feel any pain for the remainder of the day. “Alomar finds O’s 2nd to none Six-time All-Star signs, three-year, $18 million deal,” Baltimore Sun, December 22, 1995, articles.baltimoresun.com/1995-12-22/sports/1995356093_1_roberto-alomar-cone-orioles.

45 Macht, 47.

46 Macht, 46, 51-52.

47 “Alomar Hitting His Prime at Plate,” Los Angeles Times, May 28, 1996, articles.latimes.com/1996-05-28/sports/sp-9201_1_alomar-hitting.

48 Macht, 51-52.

49 Macht, 52-53.

50 Macht, 54.

51 Ibid.

52 “Alomar Shows Some Spit and Polish,” Los Angeles Times, October 6, 1996, articles.latimes.com/1996-10-06/sports/sp-51279_1_sandy-alomar.

53 Ibid.

54 Ibid.

55 “Umpires Vote to Boycott Over Alomar,” New York Times, October 1, 1996, nytimes.com/1996/10/01/sports/umpires-vote-to-boycott-over-alomar.html.

56 “Umpires Abandon Boycott,” Los Angeles Times, October 2, 1996, articles.latimes.com/1996-10-02/sports/sp-49681_1_umpires-working-game.

57 Macht, 57.

58 Macht, 59.

59 Macht, 62.

60 “Cleveland Lures Roberto Alomar,” CBS News, November 23, 1998, cbsnews.com/news/cleveland-lures-roberto-alomar/.

61 Ibid.

62 Ibid.

63 “Alomar: Villain Turned Hero in Cleveland,” Los Angeles Times, June 27, 1999, articles.latimes.com/1999/jun/27/sports/sp-50609.

64 “Baines Goes Deep as Indians Move One Game From Sweep,” Baltimore Sun, October 8, 1999, articles.baltimoresun.com/1999-10-08/sports/9910080129_1_roberto-alomar-baines-cleveland.

65 “Red Sox Ace Out Indians,” Los Angeles Times, October 12, 1999, articles.latimes.com/1999/oct/12/sports/sp-22770/2.

66 “Score One for Friendship,” Baltimore Sun, October 27, 1999, articles.baltimoresun.com/1999-10-27/news/9910270108_1_roberto-alomar-john-hirschbeck-holy-water/3.

67 “Indians Trade Alomar to Mets,” Southeast Missourian (Cape Girardeau, Missouri), December 12, 2001, semissourian.com/story/54375.html.

68 “Indians Trade Alomar to Mets,” CBC Sports, December 11, 2001, cbc.ca/sports/baseball/indians-trade-alomar-to-mets-1.257404.

69 Ibid.

70 “Indians trade Alomar to Mets,” Southeast Missourian, December 12, 2001, www.semissourian.com/story/54375.html.

71 “Mets Trade Roberto Alomar to White Sox,” New York Times, July 1, 2003, nytimes.com/2003/07/01/sports/baseball/mets-trade-roberto-alomar-to-white-sox.html.

72 Ibid.

73 Sandy signed with Chicago prior to the 2003 season.

74 “Alomar Jr. Joins Diamondbacks, CBC Sports, January 7, 2004, cbc.ca/sports/baseball/alomar-jr-joins-diamondbacks-1.516620.

75 “Diamondbacks Trade Alomar to White Sox,” Orlando Sentinel, August 6, 2004, articles.orlandosentinel.com/2004-08-06/sports/0408060185_1_dominican-republic-clemens-white-sox.

76 “Notebook: Roberto Alomar: “It’s Time to Retire,” Seattle Times, March 20, 2005, seattletimes.com/sports/notebook-roberto-alomar-its-time-to-retire/.

77 Ibid.

78 “Hall Passes: Alomar 8 Short,” Baltimore Sun, January 7, 2010, articles.baltimoresun.com/2010-01-07/sports/1001060140_1_hall-s-veterans-committee-john-hirschbeck-roberto-alomar.

79 Ibid.

80 “Alomar, Blyleven Elected to Hall of Fame,” Baltimore Sun, January 5, 2011, articles.baltimoresun.com/2011-01-05/sports/bs-sp-hallofame-01-20110105_1_sandy-alomar-sr-pitcher-bert-blyleven-induction.

81 Ibid.

82 “Alomar, Blyleven and Gillick Enter Baseball Hall of Fame,” USA Today, July 24, 2011, usatoday30.usatoday.com/sports/baseball/hallfame/2011-07-24-hall-of-fame-alomar-blyleven_n.htm.

83 Ibid.

84 Ibid.

85 “Robbie Was Best of the Best,” Toronto Sun, July 16, 2011, torontosun.com/2011/07/16/robbie-was-best-of-the-best.

86 “Alomar Falls Just Short in First Bid for Hall of Fame,” Baltimore Sun, January 7, 2010, articles.baltimoresun.com/2010-01-07/sports/bal-sp.alomar07jan07_1_roberto-alomar-greatest-second-basemen-ballot/2.

87 See Foundation 12 website: alomarsports.com/foundation-12/.