July 15
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to bunt...or not to bunt?

The Orioles almost made baseball history yesterday.

They were three outs away from getting a perfect game thrown at them. But it wasn't just any perfect game. It would have been a combined perfect game by two or more Tampa Bay pitchers, the first of its kind baseball history.

Alas, the O's avoided that date with destiny by producing three 9th inning hits -- and a run, even! -- in a 4-1 loss to the Rays.

By the time the 8th inning rolled around, local baseball fans attending the game were freaking out on Twitter and other social media forums. Some were calling for the Orioles to bunt to try and break up the perfect game. Others were hoping to see history made, even at the expense of the Birds.

I wasn't at the game, but for sure I would have been in the "I want to see a perfect game" camp. Sure, it would be much better to see one thrown by your team instead of against your team, but beggars can't be choosers, right?

Would it have been right for O's skipper Brandon Hyde to call for a bunt in the 9th inning yesterday with the O's on the bad end of a perfect game?

Anyway...all of this led me to wondering about the ethics of bunting in the 9th inning of a no hitter and/or perfect game.

How cool is it?

Sure, the answer relates in some way to the score of the game. In a 1-0 game, bunting wouldn't be frowned upon at all. One runner gets on and suddenly the winning run is at the plate.

Even in a 2-0 game, bunting to lead off the inning isn't bush league.

But what about when it's 4-0?

Would it have been "right" for Brandon Hyde to order a bunt at any point in the inning if the perfect game were still intact?

In other it right or wrong to intentionally try and break up a perfect game? And by "intentionally", I'm talking about doing something that clearly isn't really part of the game plan.

My guess is that bunting in the 9th inning of a perfect game when the score is 4-0 would violate one of those quirky unwritten rules.

I also assume the Orioles being 28-64 has something to do with it as well. That's not to say they should roll over and allow themselves to be part of perfect game history. They shouldn't do that. And they didn't do that.

But bunting in the 9th inning of a game you're losing 4-0 when you're 28-64? That seems really desperate.

It didn't happen, of course. Hanser Alberto singled to right field to lead off the bottom of the 9th and that was that. No history would be made on July 14, 2019 at Camden Yards after all.

But what if?

What if Alberto would have laid down a bunt and scampered across first base to break up the perfecto?

Would you have been cool with that?

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"The Keen Eye" of
David Rosenfeld

DAVID ROSENFELD is a former sports publicist who still keeps his eye on the game. Looking at the game, the news or the players on an in-depth level is what he likes to do. Follow his work here at #DMD every Monday & Thursday, brought to you by Glory Days Grill.

yesterday, today and tomorrow

This Week’s Subject: Endings


The “tiebreak” in tennis was the invention of a former player named Jimmy Van Alen, who more famously went on to found the International Tennis Hall of Fame. Van Alen had several different ideas, not just for breaking ties in sets but also for scoring matches in general, though it was the current “12-point” tiebreak that became the most well-known.

The use of the Van Alen tiebreak has become standard at the end of sets that reach 6-6, besides the final set at the major tournaments outside the United States. While the U.S. Open has used it in that final set for many years, this was the first year that Wimbledon used it, but only after a final set reached 12-12. The French Open still does not use a tiebreak in the final set.

The point is…it’s still arbitrary as to when a tennis match “should” end, and different tournaments still have different opinions.

In general, competitive sports in modern (post-modern?) times have seen a push toward having an ending that, for one, happens quickly enough to make the game only a bit longer than usual, and secondly, gives the teams and the fans a winner.

College football games ended in ties until 1996; in fact, a few very famous games, ones that decided top rankings even, were ties. While a tie wasn’t always the ending the fans or players wanted, the idea of extending the game in some fashion wasn’t always so obvious. The game was four quarters long, and everybody knew it.

Professional hockey in North America has changed greatly over the last two generations in how it creates an ending. Until the 80s, there wasn’t one; a game ended in a tie after three periods with no overtime. Much later, teams began receiving one point just for reaching overtime, thus making just getting to OT a legitimate goal. After the 2005 lockout, the shootout became part of NHL overtime. Whether it’s a good idea or not, it does create an ending.

Still, without being overly nostalgic, I’ve always wondered whether our pre-overtime sports culture was a better one.

Ties were, and still are, unsatisfying, I suppose. But I’ve always thought the level of dissatisfaction varied with the nature of the game itself. Soccer, for instance, is often an epic 90-minute slog in which both teams combined have very few legitimate scoring opportunities; in those cases, a tie makes sense to me.

In general, it’s not so much a tie that I worry about. Instead, it’s whether the ending is a good way to determine a winner.


Sunday’s Wimbledon championship match between Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic put the tournament’s new tiebreak rule after 12-12 in the final set to the test. The fact that it happened in the final, between maybe the two greatest tennis players of all time, made it even more of a story.

Roger Federer had the championship on his racket in the 5th set yesterday at Wimbledon but couldn't serve for victory. His quest for a 21st singles title ended in a 5th set tiebreaker at 12-12.

In this case, I don’t think it was dissatisfying to watch the match end like that, in Djokovic’s favor of course. The tiebreak has been an important part of the game since well before the moment each of them began playing tennis.

Because of that, it didn’t seem artificial at all. In fact, even when the U.S. Open plays a tiebreak at 6-6 in the final set, it doesn’t seem artificial. There’s no reason to end one set differently than any other. It’s the same sport, with the same rules.

That’s always been my biggest issue with the “Kansas playoff,” the system by which college football plays overtime. Field position—and each team’s ability to give itself an advantage in that regard—is an extremely important part of the game. By simply giving each the team the ball in advantageous field position, a large part of the sport is being avoided altogether.

Besides that, though, I just don’t think that the college system necessarily leads to an exciting ending. A three-yard rush for a score by the second team after the first team kicked a field goal gives a winner, but that’s about it.

Penalty kicks in soccer are, in my opinion, the single-worst way to end a game of any sport; talk about a scene that in no way mimics the game itself. It can be impossibly difficult in a high-level match (except if you’re playing Thailand, I guess) to score a goal, and it takes a big-time violation or foul to give up a penalty kick in regulation. Yet, in the most important times, advancement is decided by lining up against the goalkeeper one-on-one.

Just keep playing. Maybe play with fewer players, though in some ways having fewer players on a large soccer field make it harder to score, not easier.

I submit to not knowing the answer of how to create the “perfect” overtime periods in sports, so as to have the fairest endings. Sudden death (sorry, I still call it that) always seems like the best way to go, yet there are certain competitions where that doesn’t feel right.

Maybe the Stanley Cup playoffs come the closest…but one thing those overtimes definitely don’t guarantee is any kind of quick resolution.


If you didn’t know already, endings are up for debate, and maybe coming to a sport near you more quickly than you think.

If last week’s MLB All-Star game had gone to extra innings, the rules now being used in the minor leagues would have taken effect. Beginning in the top of the 10th inning, there’d be a “free runner” on second base to begin every half-inning.

(As an aside, in high school, I was often called on to be the “runner” for the catcher, who was allowed to go back to the bench to get his equipment on. Of course, being the designated “runner” meant I never actually started in the field or at the plate. Anyway…)

Commissioner Rob Manfred has said there are no plans in the foreseeable future to make that the case during regular-season MLB games. You wonder, however, how long he’ll be able to say that. In a few years, lots of players in the majors will have spent enough time playing by those rules in the minors that it won’t necessarily feel weird to them.

The older managers will retire, the older broadcasters will fade away, as will older fans, unfortunately. And nobody will think twice about that guy on second base. It’s a possibility.

On first glance, that rule seems like an incredible advantage for the home team, which already has the advantage in extra-inning situations. But it would be interesting to see a few years of data to prove whether that’s actually the case.

In the case of Major League Baseball in general, I’m not sure there are enough extremely long games (define it however you’d like) to change the rules in that way. Of more importance, I think, are things that can be (and are being) done to make nine-inning games go faster.

What will extra time look like in 25 years, I wonder? Will the NFL have gone fully to the college rule, or adjusted its current 10-minute overtime back to 15 minutes? Will hockey adjust overtime, as the sport seems to do once a generation? Will ties be eliminated entirely in every game in the regular season of every sport?

It would be impossible to find an ending to a sporting event that satisfies everyone, in every situation. In general, always having a winner makes sense, because the entire reason for playing at the highest levels is to win as often as possible.

I only ask this one thing for the future. Whatever it is, in whatever sport, just make it better than stealing first base.


british open top 10

Yes, yes, I'm well aware. The folks on the other side of the pond would prefer I call it "The Open Championship", not the British Open.

Here's how I see it: Jim McKay and Jack Whitaker called it "the British Open", so I'm going to continue to do that as well.

When you say "Open Championship", that doesn't tell me anything about where the tournament is being held. It might be in Malaysia for all I know. When you call it the "British" Open, I know it's the one played the third week of July in Great Britain or, in this case, Northern Ireland, where the season's fourth and final major will be contested starting on July 18 at Royal Portrush.

OK, we have the formalities out of the way.

Let's talk about the tournament and who might win.

Because the event's being played at a course that's never before held a British Open, there's no real history to go on. There might be some players who seem likely favorites based on geography (McIlroy, McDowell, Lowry) and there might be a few you consider favorites based on recent form (Koepka, Woodland, Rahm), but there's no one you can point to and say, "Well, the three other times they've played this tournament there, he's fared well each and every time."

So this one becomes a bit more of a crapshoot than, say, the Masters.

But the best player will win, naturally. And odds are it's going to be a household name and not some journeyman from the European Tour who sneaks his way in via one of their qualifiers and then captures the biggest tournament of his life.

So, with that, let's get started with our Top Ten.

Patrick Cantlay was #10 on July 8. Rory McIlroy was #9. Eddie Pepperell was #8. Tiger Woods was #7. Francesco Molinari came in at #6. At #5, it was Brooks Koepka. Matt Kuchar was #4.

A T3 at the U.S. Open last month bodes well for Jon Rahm as he seeks his first major championship this week at Royal Portrush.

#3 is Jon Rahm.

Rahm's win last week on the European Tour was perfectly placed for the young Spaniard. It came at the Irish Open, which bodes well for this week's event at Royal Portrush, and it came close enough to the season's final major that Rahm will no doubt still be flying high when he tees it up on Thursday.

What's not to like about his game? He kills it off the tee, finds the green in regulation 61% of the time, and ranks 11th on TOUR in birdies per-round at 4.29.

The only questionable part of Rahm's game is his golfing head. It occasionally comes off mid-round if something doesn't go his way. But, you might remember, Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal also had temper issues early on in their careers before settling down to be major champions.

But everything else about Jon Rahm's game is world class. And the thinking here is that Rahm's winning a major sooner rather than later. He will not be a 37-year old veteran like his buddy Sergio Garcia was when he captured his first major title. Rahm's a great bet this week at Portrush.

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July 14
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sunday musings

Not that it was an earth-shattering, out-on-the-limb prediction that I made here six weeks ago, but I said the O's would trade Andrew Cashner in July when he had a 9-4 record. I was one off -- he was 9-3 yesterday when the O's traded him to Boston for two 17 year old kids.

I have no idea if those two young men will ever be any good and neither does anyone else, of course, but what we do know is Cashner, like virtually everyone else on the roster as of yesterday morning, doesn't figure to be in the mix in 2022 when the Orioles hopefully start to make some noise in the A.L. East.

Naturally, lots of folks on Twitter jumped at the chance to bite Mike Elias' head off after the deal. Trading him to a division rival was one of the criticisms I saw, but let's be honest: Who cares where he goes?

With or without Cashner, the Red Sox are light years better than the Birds. Others were upset that Elias "gave him away". Well, when you're a last place team with a pitcher who has -- if we're being honest here -- overachieved for a half-a-season, you really aren't getting a whole lot in return.

The only issue that folks might care about is the obvious one: Without Cashner starting another 13 or 14 games, how on earth are the Orioles going to beat anyone over the last two and a half months of the season? They're 28-64 after last night's 12-4 shellacking at the hands of the Rays. How are they going to win 20 more games and surpass last year's awful 47-115 campaign? Or does that not matter at all?

I don't see the O's being able to do much else, trade wise, unless they're able to peddle Castro or Givens. Maybe someone takes a flyer on Richard Bleier if they need left handed bullpen help. And I suppose Jonathan Villar could be of interest if a contender loses their second baseman over the next two weeks.

Trey Mancini would fetch something in a trade, of course, but it seems unlikely the O's would deal him.

A 6-2, 6-2 thrashing in the Wimbledon final yesterday might have been Serena's grass court swan song.

Serena Williams looked like a 37-year old tennis player on her last legs yesterday when she got run out the gym in the Wimbledon women's final, 6-2, 6-2 by Simona Halep. Maybe that's because she is 37 and is on her last legs.

Williams was gunning for grand slam singles title #24 yesterday, but it wasn't to be. And even though nothing is ever etched in stone with our older, iconic heroes (see Tiger Woods, Augusta, last April), it looks like Williams is finished. Or, at the very least, no longer able to enter a tournament and say, "This is all mine as long as I play up to my capabilities." Her best is no longer good enough.

But what a great ride it's been. Williams and her sister, Venus, (who was actually better than Serena circa 2001) revolutionized women's tennis. They took power and strength to a new level in the sport, taking the reins from the likes of Martina, Monica and Steffi and essentially owning the grand slam circuit for the better part of two decades.

There was a funny bit on Twitter on Friday. 12% of the men who responded to a poll about Serena believed they could win at least one point from her in a best-of-3 tennis match. Now, to be fair, Williams winning 6-0, 6-0 and not losing one point in the match does seem a bit difficult to pull off no matter the opponent. That means she could never miss a shot, essentially. But I definitely voted "no" on the poll, as in "No, I wouldn't win a point from her." I think she'd throw a perfect game at me more times than I'd somehow score a point in a game.

The Angels threw a combined no-hitter on Friday night, as you're probably aware. By now, I'm sure you also heard about all of the quirky happenstances that occurred in the Angels' 13-0 win over the Mariners. On the night they honored Tyler Skaggs, L.A.'s entire roster wore his #45 jersey in memory of the recently-departed left hander.

Skaggs was born on July 13, 1991. That, of course, is 7/13.

On Friday, the Angels scored 7 runs in the first inning. They finished the night with 13. 7/13.

Mike Trout hit a first inning home run that traveled 454 feet. Trout was wearing Skaggs' #45 when he hit the homer.

Oh, and the last time there was a combined no hitter in the state of California (there are five MLB teams in Cali, remember) it was July 13, 1991. That, you might recall from above, was the day Skaggs was born.

You might think those numbers just "happened" to turn up on Friday night. If so, that's fine.

Or you might think Tyler Skaggs had something to do with Angel looking down from above, you might say.

I'll go with that one, myself.

God watches baseball too, you know.

I'm not going to tell you guys to stop ranting and raving about politics here, unless you use foul language or make an overly offensive remark. Those things aren't tolerated around these parts.

But, while I won't tell you to stop, I will, at least, suggest you do it. You guys are starting to lose it a little bit.

I realize these are the dog days and all. How much bashing of the O's can you do, right? And the Ravens are still a month away from getting serious and even then, nothing matters except the regular season anyway.

But the political stuff you guys post here is getting to be a bit much. Truth of the matter, I'd rather you beat up the Orioles.

I don't know if you ever go back and actually read the stuff you post, but if you do, I can't imagine you're overly proud of it. Some of it is really concerning. And odd.

That said, if you really want to keep huffing and puffing about something that definitely isn't changing for at least another 16 months, go right ahead.

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british open top 10

Yes, yes, I'm well aware. The folks on the other side of the pond would prefer I call it "The Open Championship", not the British Open.

Here's how I see it: Jim McKay and Jack Whitaker called it "the British Open", so I'm going to continue to do that as well.

When you say "Open Championship", that doesn't tell me anything about where the tournament is being held. It might be in Malaysia for all I know. When you call it the "British" Open, I know it's the one played the third week of July in Great Britain or, in this case, Northern Ireland, where the season's fourth and final major will be contested starting on July 18 at Royal Portrush.

OK, we have the formalities out of the way.

Let's talk about the tournament and who might win.

Because the event's being played at a course that's never before held a British Open, there's no real history to go on. There might be some players who seem likely favorites based on geography (McIlroy, McDowell, Lowry) and there might be a few you consider favorites based on recent form (Koepka, Woodland, Rahm), but there's no one you can point to and say, "Well, the three other times they've played this tournament there, he's fared well each and every time."

So this one becomes a bit more of a crapshoot than, say, the Masters.

But the best player will win, naturally. And odds are it's going to be a household name and not some journeyman from the European Tour who sneaks his way in via one of their qualifiers and then captures the biggest tournament of his life.

So, with that, let's get started with our Top Ten.

Patrick Cantlay was #10 on July 8. Rory McIlroy was #9. Eddie Pepperell was #8. Tiger Woods was #7. Francesco Molinari came in at #6. At #5, it was Brooks Koepka.

Is it finally time for Matt Kuchar to enter the winner's circle at a major championship?

#4 is Matt Kuchar

I was concerned earlier in the week when "Kooch" posted 63 in the opening round of the Scottish Open. Had he gone on to win that tournament, I would have taken him out of the Top 10 here. It's nearly impossible to win back-to-back weeks on TOUR, let alone a significant event and a major title within a week of one another.

Alas, Kuchar has dropped off the pace at the Scottish Open, so here is.

After his near miss at Royal Birkdale a couple of years ago, the former Georgia Tech star still remains "the best player without a major title." That could change next week at Royal Portrush. There's no need for fancy stats or anything like that. Kuchar's play in '18-19 speaks for itself. He has two wins, two runner-up finishes, 16 cuts made in 17 events, and currently sits on top of the FedEx Cup point standings.

But even with all of that great play, he hasn't really threatened at any of the first three majors of 2019. He was T12 at Augusta National, T8 at the PGA, and T16 at the U.S. Open. The British Open is his last chance of 2019.

Nearly every great player has won a major title. The two most alarming modern names that didn't/haven't were Colin Montgomerie and Lee Westwood. Kuchar is right there with those guys. At some point he needs to win one, at least.

Next week could be his week. He's overdue.


July 13
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the depths i'd sink...

I got to talking with my friend "JS" on Friday and the subject was the Ravens. He's a diehard...a season ticket holder, a guy who travels to a few away games a year, and, someone who is typically miserable for a half-a-week if the purple boys lose on Sunday.

Naturally, as a Ravens fan, he despises the Steelers. He's not much on the Redskins either, but it's the team from the Steel City he hates the most.

So I threw this question at him. "What would you "trade" in order for the Steelers to go 0-16 this season?"

His eyes lit up. A smile appeared.

"Oh, man. For the Steelers to go 0-16? Wow. I'd trade just about anything."

So I put him to the test.

I threw out three scenarios.

If you could see this late in the third period of all 82 Flyers games next season? Wouldn't that be simply beautiful?

#1 -- The Steelers go 0-16 in 2019 but the Orioles go 50-112 both next season and the season after that.

#2 -- The Steelers go 0-16 in 2019 but the Ravens go 8-8 in both 2019 and 2020.

#3 -- The Steelers go 0-16 in 2019 but the Redskins win the Super Bowl this coming season.

And for good measure, I added a biggie.

#4 -- The Steelers go 0-16 in 2019 and 2020, but the Browns win the Super Bowl this season, the Yankees win the World Series in 2019 and Duke wins the NCAA basketball title next April.

Two winless seasons in a row for 'dem Stillers in exchange for the Browns, Yankees and Duke enjoying championships. Fair trade?

"What about you?" he asked. "What's your dream scenario?"

"Oh, that's easy. I've had this dream for a long time. I'd love to see the Flyers go 0-82. No wins, no ties. 82 games. 82 losses."

"I'll create a trade off," JS said.

Little did he know there was probably nothing he could come up with that I wouldn't agree to if it meant the Flyers would go 0-82 next season.

"OK," JS explained. "So the Yankees win the World Series this October. The Steelers win the Super Bowl this season. Duke wins the basketball championship in April. And the Ravens go 6-10 in 2019 after starting the season 6-0."

"Would you trade all of that for the Flyers going 0-82?" he asked.

"How do we make the trade official?" I replied. "Handshake or is there an official document I'd sign?"

Of course I'd do that trade. In a heartbeat. First off, I don't really care who wins the World Series if the Orioles are out of it, which they were on, oh, about April 20th.

I certainly wouldn't want to see the Steelers win the Super Bowl, but to get something big in a trade, you have to give up something big.

I don't care if Duke wins the basketball title if it means the Flyers are going 0-82.

And if the Ravens aren't going to win the Super Bowl, there's not much difference in them going 6-10 or 8-8.

So, yes, I'd make that deal in a heartbeat. The Flyers losing all 82 games next season? Holy cow, there's almost nothing I wouldn't give for that.

Oh, and for the record, JS said he's sign off on all four scenarios (above) I presented to him in exchange for the Steelers not winning a game.

We're bad people, the two of us...

And what about you? What would you trade to see the Steelers go 0-16 this coming season?

Or, better yet, what would you swap in exchange for the Ravens and/or Orioles winning the title at the other's expense?

Would you, say, sign off on the Ravens going 0-16 this season if the Orioles win the World Series in 2020? Or would you trade the Orioles going 50-112 for the next three seasons for the Ravens winning the Super Bowl this season?

Use the comments section below and tell us what you would sign off on.

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british open top 10

Yes, yes, I'm well aware. The folks on the other side of the pond would prefer I call it "The Open Championship", not the British Open.

Here's how I see it: Jim McKay and Jack Whitaker called it "the British Open", so I'm going to continue to do that as well.

When you say "Open Championship", that doesn't tell me anything about where the tournament is being held. It might be in Malaysia for all I know. When you call it the "British" Open, I know it's the one played the third week of July in Great Britain or, in this case, Northern Ireland, where the season's fourth and final major will be contested starting on July 18 at Royal Portrush.

OK, we have the formalities out of the way.

Let's talk about the tournament and who might win.

Because the event's being played at a course that's never before held a British Open, there's no real history to go on. There might be some players who seem likely favorites based on geography (McIlroy, McDowell, Lowry) and there might be a few you consider favorites based on recent form (Koepka, Woodland, Rahm), but there's no one you can point to and say, "Well, the three other times they've played this tournament there, he's fared well each and every time."

So this one becomes a bit more of a crapshoot than, say, the Masters.

But the best player will win, naturally. And odds are it's going to be a household name and not some journeyman from the European Tour who sneaks his way in via one of their qualifiers and then captures the biggest tournament of his life.

So, with that, let's get started with our Top Ten.

Patrick Cantlay was #10 on July 8. Rory McIlroy was #9. Eddie Pepperell was #8. Tiger Woods was #7. Francesco Molinari came in at #6.

Brooks Koepka has four major titles but none have come in the British Open. Will that change next week?

#5 is Brooks Koepka

I know he hasn't played well in anything except major tournaments for the last year or so. I understand. But not betting on Koepka next week is akin to not betting on Tom Brady at the beginning of every NFL season. You just have to throw $100 on the Patriots because, well, you know there's a great chance they're winning it all (again).

Koepka's in Tom Brady territory these days, albeit only in major championships.

Whether that's by coincidence or perhaps the way he game plans his schedule, Koepka is a beast in majors and a lamb in the rest of the events. At least for now. He has five career victories and four of them are majors. A strange stat indeed.

But we're going with the odds next week and putting Koepka smack dab in the middle of our Top 10. We don't think he's going to win, but we're certainly not forgetting about him, either. And if he does hold up the Claret Jug late next Sunday afternoon, none of us should be surprised.


July 12
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"stick to sports"

I invited a friend to listen to my weekly appearance on Glenn Clark Radio yesterday. I typically visit with my former radio co-host on Friday from 10 am to 12 noon, but an obligation today meant I would appear on Thursday of this week instead.

So, when the show ended, I received a call.

"You two are a riot," he said. "It's like listening to an old married couple."

And then he hit me with something I wasn't expecting.

"You guys should really just stick to sports."

"Huh?" I replied.

Is this sports? Or something else?

"Seriously. You guys know sports. It's enjoyable to listen to you guys and read your work at your website when you stick to sports. But listening to the two of you rant and rave about that female soccer player is terrible," my friend opined. "Neither of you are experts in political commentary or analysis. You might think you are, but you're not. You're sports experts. Just do that."

Clark and I got into a spirited debate about Megan Rapinoe's f-bomb laden behavior at the parade on Wednesday in New York. Clark believed it to be a non-issue, bringing up the David Ortiz f-bomb in Boston several years ago and essentially playing the "it's OK for the men to do it, but the women can't, right?" card. I thought Rapinoe's behavior was embarrassing, particularly as the father of an 8-year old girl who might have been watching the parade with stars in her eyes, hoping to someday be on that same stage after winning a World Cup.

This wasn't about "celebrating" or being drunk, I contended. It was about conducting yourself appropriately. Clark disagreed. We were on opposite ends of the spectrum. He doesn't care if Rapinoe acts like a maniac. I think it's an awful look for her and the 15 minutes of fame she's trying to maximize.

My friend who was listening in thought we were both insane.

"Stick to sports."

Those comments stuck with me all day.

I guess I thought discussing Megan Rapinoe and her red-eyed group of friends campaigning for equality and hacking at the President whenever they can was "sports", but it took my friend to make me realize that perhaps it isn't.

There's also a train of thought that Rapinoe and her teammates, like Clark and I, aren't necessarily "sticking to sports" when they start mixing their sexuality with their real platform, which is beating teams on the soccer field. Perhaps they, too, should stick with what they do best. But we know, as a society, that's not how athletes, artists, musicians, actors, etc. do things. They use their status to create dialogue and bring issues to light and there are definitely occasions when they rattle the right cages and make an impact. Muhammad Ali would be case in point #1 for that.

Funny enough, I have friends who used to like Bruce Springsteen that no longer listen to him or support his music because of his political views. I laugh at them. "Who cares what he thinks about politics?" I say. "That doesn't change "Thunder Road" or "The Rising" one bit for me."

But they can't separate the two. I can, for some weird reason, and for the record, I probably don't agree much with Bruce's political leanings.

I've never really been all that political. I can't tell you the last time I voted. I generally think the candidates are lousy when I pay attention long enough to form an opinion. And, no, I'm not going to vote for someone who stinks because he or she stinks less than the other candidates. I didn't think the previous President was any good, but I didn't vote for someone else "just because". And this past election, I didn't vote for anyone, either. I think the weather was really nice that day and I played golf instead.

So, as it turns out, I'm not really all that interested in politics. I guess the Megan Rapinoe story intrigues me because she's a sports figure and, well, I guess I sorta-kinda know sports.

I don't know that I'm very well versed in all of the stuff Rapinoe is complaining about. And even though I believe her blowhard-style is probably hurting her as much as it's helping her, I understand that she's probably thinking "the greasy wheel gets the oil" and all of those other cliches about making the loudest noise when you think you deserve something.

I'm not anti-Megan Rapinoe. But I am anti-beating up the elected President of the country and further trying to divide the citizens.

That said, I think my friend was right.

It might be best if I stick with what I know best. In this case, I know soccer. I've enjoyed discussing the women's World Cup. But I've spent more time recently discussing Rapinoe and her crusade than I have the outstanding play of Lavelle, Heath and, yes, Rapinoe.

Maybe we all should make it a point to stick with what we know best. I saw Pearl Jam once and Eddie Vedder stood up there for 20 minutes over two or three different song breaks and bellyached about the government. "Dude, just play Jeremy and shut up about the President," I said to myself.

"Just stick to music..."

We all have an opinion, of course. And we are certainly entitled to voice it. But if we're looking to make an impact in "something", it probably should be in the area we know the most about.

Perhaps my friend was right. Maybe I should stick to sports.

That is, until an athlete in our country takes a knee again. out.

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british open top 10

Yes, yes, I'm well aware. The folks on the other side of the pond would prefer I call it "The Open Championship", not the British Open.

Here's how I see it: Jim McKay and Jack Whitaker called it "the British Open", so I'm going to continue to do that as well.

When you say "Open Championship", that doesn't tell me anything about where the tournament is being held. It might be in Malaysia for all I know. When you call it the "British" Open, I know it's the one played the third week of July in Great Britain or, in this case, Northern Ireland, where the season's fourth and final major will be contested starting on July 18 at Royal Portrush.

OK, we have the formalities out of the way.

Let's talk about the tournament and who might win.

Because the event's being played at a course that's never before held a British Open, there's no real history to go on. There might be some players who seem likely favorites based on geography (McIlroy, McDowell, Lowry) and there might be a few you consider favorites based on recent form (Koepka, Woodland, Rahm), but there's no one you can point to and say, "Well, the three other times they've played this tournament there, he's fared well each and every time."

So this one becomes a bit more of a crapshoot than, say, the Masters.

But the best player will win, naturally. And odds are it's going to be a household name and not some journeyman from the European Tour who sneaks his way in via one of their qualifiers and then captures the biggest tournament of his life.

So, with that, let's get started with our Top Ten.

Patrick Cantlay was #10 on July 8. Rory McIlroy was #9. Eddie Pepperell was #8. Tiger Woods was #7.

Can Francesco Molinari shake off that Masters collapse and win the British Open again?

#6 is Franceso Molinari

I think Molinari is over his back nine collapse at Augusta National in April, even if the stats don't necessarily prove it.

And he's far too good to not contend in this British Open, which should perfectly fit his style, the way last year's trip around Carnoustie did.

He hasn't played all that much since Augusta, with five TOUR events overall, including four cuts made and a T16 at the U.S. Open.

But Molinari did win in Orlando back in March and was poised to capture the Masters until Tiger Woods ran past him over the final 90 minutes. Oh, and that water ball at #12 didn't help him on Sunday, either.

There are better days ahead for him, though, and it wouldn't be a surprise in the least to see Molinari defend his British Open title next week. Lots of people are forgetting about him. I'm not.


July 11
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i could be wrong, but...

I have a weird feeling the Orioles are going to finish closer to 60 wins than 50 wins. Let's do the math real quick. They're 89 games into the season, at 27-62. That leaves 73 games remaining. To get to 56 wins, they need to finish the campaign 29-44. Never mind...I was wrong, in fact. There's no chance they can win at least 56 games this season. Of course, I could be wrong on that.

I realize the All-Star Game had a horrible (6.2) rating on Tuesday night, but there were some cool parts of the TV broadcast, including putting a live mic on the players and coaches. I might be wrong here, but I see a day in the future when you'll pay extra (if you want) for the "live mic" version of your local team's broadcast. You might hear some words you don't want to hear, but you'll feel like you're out there on the field with them. For a few extra bucks a month, of course.

14:43, 14:44, 14:45, 14:46, 14:47...

I don't watch ESPN all that much any longer. Nothing against it. It's just not in my daily wheelhouse, so to speak. But the ESPY awards last night were very well done. Honoring great athletes and great people. I might be wrong, but ESPN seems a little less full of themselves than they were, say, a decade ago, when they were more interested in promoting their brand than the athletes, coaches and teams that buttered their bread.

I might be wrong on this, but my sense is Megan Rapinoe's growing militant personality is starting to detract from the "fair pay" argument she and her women's soccer teammates are making. I'm not suggesting social media is the final barometer for how we gauge public opinion, but there's no doubt the last few days have shifted the numbers of those in favor of her "act" and those who are against it. As good as she was on the soccer field in the recent World Cup, she's been just as off-putting since the victory.

Phil Mickelson has, by his own admission, played "lousy golf" over the last two months. There's no real reason to think he's going to snap out of it next week at the British Open, particularly given that he has no experience on the golf course other than a few practice rounds between now and then. I might be wrong on this, but I actually think Mickelson's going to play well and hang around next week at Royal Portrush. This is the way he plays now. All over the place, not very consistent and then, out of nowhere, he finds it for a week or two.

I might be wrong here, but I see a National League team scarfing up Andrew Cashner from the O's later this month. What team can he help the most? My guess is he winds up with one of the three N.L. Central clubs who are fighting for the division title. You're pressing me for a destination? OK, I say he goes to the Brewers.

I realize you can't stack the seeds in order to avoid having Nadal and Federer meet prior to the Wimbledon Finals, but it's really a shame they're facing one another tomorrow in the semi's. It will still be great tennis nonetheless, but at this stage in their respective careers, a Finals match between the two of them would be epic. I might be wrong, but I see Federer winning an epic 5-setter on Friday.

The money flying around is completely outrageous, but NBA free agency has been extremely interesting over the last 10 days. The balance of power has quickly shifted from Golden State being the automatic Western Conference finalist to now having the Lakers, Clippers and Rockets all viable candidates to usurp the Warriors in 2019-2020. I might be wrong with this thought, but I see the next NBA season being extraordinarily captivating, and that's coming from a guy who doesn't really follow "The Association" all that much these days.

Who knows, I might be wrong here, but I think one of the four pre-season NFL favorites (Patriots, Chiefs, Rams, Saints) will not make the playoffs in 2019. At some point, New England's magic has to end, right? I can see Atlanta nosing out the Saints for the division title. Do the Chiefs have enough defense to hold off the Chargers and Broncos? And what if the 49'ers recover with Jimmy G. back behind center and the Rams suddenly stop scoring, like they did in the Super Bowl last February. Most likely? I'll go with the Chiefs, who have lost a lot of offensive talent since this time last year.

Tiger Woods is the captain of the 2019 U.S. President's Cup and already a near lock to make the 2020 U.S. Ryder Cup team. Wouldn't it make sense for Woods to use one of his picks on Matthew Wolff and give the 20-year old phenom a taste of "team competition" on a smaller stage so he's not bone-jarring-nervous if/when he makes his first Ryder Cup team? I could be wrong here, but I'll bet Wolff is added to the President's Cup team in December. And it makes great sense, too. Wolff will be a Ryder Cup mainstay, you'd assume. Get his feet wet with the President's Cup first.

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to ride or not to ride?

The R&A, which governs the sport of golf outside of the United States and Mexico, would no doubt say that “tradition” is of utmost importance. After all, the “A” in “R&A” comes from the word “ancient.”

Because of tradition, any of its “champion golfers of the year” is exempt to play in the Open Championship, provided he is age 60 or under on the final day of that year’s tournament. In 2019, that list has 21 people, some of whom qualify in more competitive ways, of course. They range in age from Tom Lehman, who turned 60 in March, to Jordan Spieth, who turns 26 a few days after the tournament.

The “majors,” none of which are run by the PGA Tour or European Tour, all make their own decisions when it comes to qualification. Specifically—as it relates to former winners—both the Masters and PGA Championship invite all past champions to play, while the U.S. Open limits that invitation to winners in the last 10 years.

In the case of Augusta, the leadership has been known to gently nudge aging and/or non-competitive players into not playing, though in most cases the player seems to decide for himself. The PGA Championship simply qualifies it as a player being “willing and able.”

Which brings us to John Daly, who was certainly willing to play in both May’s PGA and this month’s Open. The problem is that he, on his own recognizance, is not able.

Daly has degenerative osteoarthritis in his right knee, which he says makes it difficult to walk. He needs a knee replacement, sooner rather than later.

But is he “disabled"? I guess it’s a matter of where you are, and a matter of how you define it.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), disability is a legal term, not a medical one. The law says that a person with a disability is one “who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.”

While the PGA of America allowed John Daly to use a cart this year, the governing body of golf in Great Britain told him "no".

Daly is a professional golfer, so that’s certainly one of his major life activities. In the United States, his disability actually helped him get a cart for the PGA at Bethpage. In Great Britain, where the ADA doesn’t apply, the R&A said no. Daly then dropped out, wondering out loud (on Twitter, anyway) about “different continents having different laws?” The R&A said nothing about any laws, just that being able to walk the course is an integral part of competing in the tournament.

So, what’s the right answer here? Well, there’s a lot to think about, at first glance.

It’s a worthwhile topic, the whole golf cart issue, one that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2001, you’ll remember. The court delivered its ruling in the Casey Martin case, which is to be respected even if disagreed with. The ADA has been in the background of plenty of case law, not just in the area of professional golf.

It’s also worthwhile to remember that carts aren’t much of a part of the golf landscape on the links of England, Scotland and Ireland. In general, they aren’t available, even to Americans who are used to them, and they’re certainly frowned upon.

It’s worth noting, of course, that the over-50 Champions Tour on which Daly now plays allows players to use carts at most of its events, even if the TV coverage is discouraged from showing that. It’s an admission that older golfers, no matter how good they still are, have chronic problems that don’t go away.

It’s also worthwhile to talk about whether or not having a cart is truly a big advantage. At Bethpage, it almost seemed like a disadvantage for Daly, who had to weave slowly around the gallery near the ropes as opposed to driving right down the middle of fairways.

And then you have Daly himself, who’s certainly lived an unhealthy life, a reason why people both love him and hate him. That shouldn’t really matter when it comes to disability, but public perception is a strong thing.

Like I said, pretty complicated. There’s law and tradition and common sense, questions of fairness and rules and the sport itself, all wrapped up in a guy who drinks and smokes too much and parks his trailer at Hooters.

So, it’s best to try to simplify it, I think. Step away from “grip it and rip it” and the R&A and what constitutes a disability and how best to properly administer the law.

My opinion? It’s just not right for John Daly to ride around in a golf cart while 155 other players don’t. It wouldn’t be right if 20 guys rode around while 136 didn’t. I wouldn’t accept his application, or anyone else’s. That is, unless every player was offered the chance to use one. And that would never happen, since courses are groomed for months to host majors, and organizations sure aren’t going to mess up a golf course after so much time making it perfect.

There are those who say a guy like Daly ought to give up his place in the Open (and the PGA) anyway, disability or injury or not, even though he’s earned it for several more years.

Of the 21 former Open champions eligible to play at Portrush, five others besides Daly won’t make the trip. All have their own reasons, but in general it comes down to a lack of competitiveness. Ian Baker-Finch, who won 28 years ago, travels the tour as a CBS television commentator, not a player. 1989 winner Mark Calcavecchia, like Baker-Finch, is nearing 60. 1997 champ Justin Leonard won 12 times in 12 years…but that ended the week before Tiger Woods won the 2008 U.S. Open. Ben Curtis stopped playing competitively two years ago and now teaches the game. Todd Hamilton missed the cut at the Open 11 times in the 14 years after his 2004 victory.

There’s a section of the public that wonders why Daly doesn’t see himself in the same light as those guys. Having been exempt to play in the PGA Championship since his 1991 win and the Open since his 1995 victory, he’s missed the cut or withdrawn 32 times in 44 combined appearances in those tournaments since. It’s been many years since he’s qualified to play in the U.S. Open or Masters.

The one thing he does have, however, is a legitimate career on the Champions Tour, where he has three Top 10s this year and won an event in 2017. In that way, he’s more like Tom Watson in the 2000s or Jack Nicklaus in the 1990s, not like Baker-Finch or Hamilton.

He shot 75-76 to miss the cut at Bethpage, a hard and long course, not 85-86. He’s John Daly, so he can still hit the ball far enough to play long courses. And he’s earned the right to play in the Open until 2026, and in the PGA as long as he’s able.

After that knee replacement, never a sure thing, Daly might be truly able again. Watson nearly won the Open at age 59, 10 years ago, less than a year after a hip replacement. Surprises, like Daly’s two major wins a generation ago, can always happen.

It’s better off, however, that he’s not playing next week. And it really doesn’t have anything to do with tradition or rules, or loud pants and cigarettes. Daly needs to be healthy enough to play, just like everyone else who’s showing up.


british open top 10

Yes, yes, I'm well aware. The folks on the other side of the pond would prefer I call it "The Open Championship", not the British Open.

Here's how I see it: Jim McKay and Jack Whitaker called it "the British Open", so I'm going to continue to do that as well.

When you say "Open Championship", that doesn't tell me anything about where the tournament is being held. It might be in Malaysia for all I know. When you call it the "British" Open, I know it's the one played the third week of July in Great Britain or, in this case, Northern Ireland, where the season's fourth and final major will be contested starting on July 18 at Royal Portrush.

OK, we have the formalities out of the way.

Let's talk about the tournament and who might win.

Because the event's being played at a course that's never before held a British Open, there's no real history to go on. There might be some players who seem likely favorites based on geography (McIlroy, McDowell, Lowry) and there might be a few you consider favorites based on recent form (Koepka, Woodland, Rahm), but there's no one you can point to and say, "Well, the three other times they've played this tournament there, he's fared well each and every time."

So this one becomes a bit more of a crapshoot than, say, the Masters.

But the best player will win, naturally. And odds are it's going to be a household name and not some journeyman from the European Tour who sneaks his way in via one of their qualifiers and then captures the biggest tournament of his life.

So, with that, let's get started with our Top Ten.

Patrick Cantlay was #10 on July 8. Rory McIlroy was #9. Eddie Pepperell was #8.

Is Tiger's 16th major title coming next week at Royal Portrush?

#7 is Tiger Woods.

Aside from his win at the Masters and a decent showing at The Memorial and the U.S. Open, Woods hasn't really done much over the last few months. He simply doesn't play enough tournament golf these days to get on a roll and win with his eyes closed the way he did circa 2005.

But I've always contended the British Open is the one major Woods can contend in as long as his body still allows him to play competitive golf. See: Tom Watson, at age 59, who nearly won at Turnberry if not for a missed eight foot putt on the 72nd and final hole of regulation.

The British Open courses are typically the same from year to year. British golf folks don't try and add 400 yards to the course every year to try and offset the additional length players are hitting the ball these days. They just grow the rough up, hope the weather wrecks the players, and off they go. And the greens over there are typically much more benign than the ones in the U.S. Think Pebble Beach, more than Augusta National, when it comes to the way the greens are constructed in Great Britain.

So with all of that in mind, Woods figures to be in the hunt at Royal Portrush next week. It's the last major of the year, so there's no sense in "playing safe" over there. And the bet here is that Tiger will -- pending a favorable weather draw, which always makes or breaks the field -- be on the first page of the leaderboard at some point on the weekend. Remember, he would have won last year's event if not for the back nine heroics of Francesco Molinari.

We clearly don't think Woods is going to win, or else he'd be #1 on our list. But it certainly wouldn't be a surprise if he did. Not in the least. He is, after all, still Tiger Woods, the guy who won the Masters at age 43 just three months ago.

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July 10
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wolff and the are they doing it?

A common topic at Eagle's Nest and in my circle of golf friends has been the play of the three college kids who have burst onto the PGA Tour over the last month.

Matthew Wolff just won the 3M Open in Minnesota on Sunday in just his third start as a professional. He edged Collin Morikawa who, you guessed it, was also making his third professional start.

Last month at Pebble Beach, Viktor Hovland sniffed around the leaderboard for a couple of days before settling for a very impressive T12 performance at the U.S. Open. Hovland was technically still an amateur in that event, by the way.

How have these three done it? Before you think winning on the TOUR isn't a big deal, consider these two quick stats: Rickie Fowler's been playing professionally since 2009. He has five career wins. Brooks Koepka also has five career wins, but only ONE of those is a regular TOUR event. The other four, we know, are majors.

Matt Wolff has 20% of the win totals of both Fowler and Koepka and he's been playing for three weeks.

How are these college kids coming out on TOUR and immediately getting in contention and winning?

There are three main things to consider and understand.

For starters, these college players have been playing at an extremely high level for the last couple of years. College golf in the U.S. -- when it comes to the top 50 programs in the country (approximately 300 players) -- is virtually a minor league of sorts for the PGA Tour. While most people contend the Korn Ferry Tour (nee Web.Com) is the breeding ground for the TOUR, it's the college golf world that filters out the wanna-be professionals from the guys who have what it takes.

Former Oklahoma State star Viktor Hovland has already contended in the U.S. Open and finished Top 10 in a TOUR event in the last month.

So, when a guy like Wolff wins the NCAA individual tournament, he's effectively winning college golf's version of The Masters. He's beating the best players the sport has to offer in his particular setting. Hovland won the U.S. Amateur last August, which is like winning amateur golf's version of the U.S. Open.

The top college players like Wolff, Morikawa and Hovland aren't beating stiffs at the local muni over 36 holes. They're playing 7,000 yard golf courses and eating them up, all while beating 75 or 80 other "kids" who have the potential to shoot 66 at the drop of a hat.

Summary: When these kids leave college golf and play on the TOUR, they're ready to play against anyone. Sure, it's a step up in class, but it's not like they're going from 6 furlongs to 1.25 miles. They tee it up and they beat people right away.

The next thing the college kids have going for them is a hybrid of sorts. They have an incredible grasp on what their body needs to do in the golf swing and they are physically capable of doing those things because of their fitness level. Wolff's swing was considered "weird" when he first started playing at Oklahoma State two years ago. Then he started working with instructor George Gankas in Southern California and suddenly his swing was "unique" rather than weird. After winning last week on TOUR, any thought that Wolff's swing won't hold up under the gun has been dismissed.

Hovland, Morikawa and Wolff are "athletes". They're not golfers. They're incredibly athletic kids who are fit beyond belief and know how to use their body the right way. A study of 31 of the highest ranked professional golfers in the country last December showed that all of them had a specific ability to do *something* that a typical male can't do. Do you know what that was? 28 of the 31 could either touch the rim of a basketball hoop or dunk the ball. They're able to do that because of their athleticism, not because of a special sneaker.

So, when an instructor wants to make one of his college pupils do something "new" in the golf swing, their understanding of how their body should work in the golf swing makes it much easier to absorb those teachings.

Oh, and it also helps that they're routinely hitting 320 yard drives and 180-yard 8-irons. If "Player A" has an 8-iron, wedge, 8-iron, 9-iron and wedge into five straight greens, more times than not he's going to beat "Player B" who has 7-iron, 9-iron, 6-iron, 8-iron and 9-iron into those same five greens. Length off the tee and iron distance does matter. Sure, you have hit to hit it straight, but it helps to hit it long, too.

Summary: These college players are gifted athletes. They can run, swim, lift weights and so forth. In fact, that's what they do on a daily basis. Some people still link that dedication to fitness to Tiger and his emergence 20 years ago. Whatever it is, college golfers today don't know anything except "get fit and stay fit".

To me, the most important thing we're seeing from the crop of college kids who are coming out today is that they're able to play without a sense of fear because they're already in a good situation financially. In the "old days", circa 1990, you came out on TOUR and played for your life. You watched every nickel you spent. If you missed a cut as a rookie or second year player, that tournament cost you $1,000 or more because you paid for hotels, meals, caddie fees, etc., and got nothing in return.

Matthew Wolff had $2.5 million in his pocket before he teed up a ball three weeks ago. His $7.5 million deal with TaylorMade (for three years) gives him the luxury of not having to eat Ramen noodles or carpool with three other rookies. Wolff won't be sleeping at a Super 8 anytime soon, that's for sure.

Hovland signed a lucrative deal with Ping and Morikawa has a TaylorMade agreement that will give him a nice head start on things.

Let's pretend you and I both have $1,000 to our name. That's all we have in the bank. And we decided to take it out and head to Las Vegas to either "sink or swim".

Right before we leave for Vegas, a close friend of mine wins the lottery and says to me, "I'll give you $25,000 to gamble with in Vegas, and if you lose it all, I don't need to be repaid. The only qualifier is you MUST gamble with it. You can't pocket it."

I'm taking $25,000 of someone else's money to Vegas and you're taking the last $1,000 you have with you. Who will be more relaxed out there? Who will free wheel it more? Who, ultimately, has a better chance at succeeding?

Me, of course.

The same scenario applies to college golfers who hit the TOUR with millions already in the bank. Sure, that 225 yard 6-iron that Wolff hit to the 18th green on Sunday was a great shot, no doubt about that. But it was made much easier based on the simple fact that he had money in the bank if he hit it to 25 feet and made the eagle putt or hit it in the pond, made bogey, and missed the playoff by a shot.

When it doesn't matter if you hit a great shot or a bad shot, only then can you really play with freedom. And Wolff -- and Morikawa last weekend as well -- can play with freedom because TaylorMade is bankrolling him.

That's not to suggest those kids aren't capable of playing great golf. What happened on Sunday was not a fluke. Matthew Wolff is going to be a star on the PGA Tour. You can take that to the bank. But his acclimation to playing professional golf wouldn't be nearly as easy-peasy if he was playing for a paycheck every week.

Summary: It's all about money. The more they make, the more relaxed TOUR players are. When you make $600,000 for finishing second, all the sudden finishing first isn't all that critical. And when you have a couple of million in the bank before you tee it up as a pro, the next shot doesn't feel all that nerve-wracking after all.

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fox, mlb get it right

Aside from the fact that Baltimore baseball fans are angry that John Means didn't pitch last night, the All-Star Game in Cleveland really was a showcase event.

It was a baseball "game", yes, but it was clearly more of an exhibition, which is really what the contest was always supposed to be in the first place.

And FOX Sports did a stellar job presenting it, I thought. It's taken a few years for me to warm up to them as the network of the U.S. Open Golf Championship, but I think they're improving every season. And their baseball coverage is really spectacular in a lot of ways.

Dodgers' lefty Clayton Kershaw got the loss last night in the American League's 4-3 win over the National League.

While some on social media bristled at the "live mic" segments where lead voice Joe Buck talked to players and coaches during the game, I thought it sewed up the whole broadcast. The in-game interviews with the Houston players (Brantley, Bregman and Springer) was very interesting, particulary the discussion with Brantley about returning to Cleveland to play in the mid-season classic.

It's an exhibition, remember. If you can't mic the players and have some fun with them in that game, when can you do it?

It was really cool to see the players talking in between pitches, then "change gears" and prepare for the play in front of them. Springer, in fact, had a ball hit over his head while he was talking to Buck and Brantley made a nice running catch ("I got it, I got it, I got it!") to end the inning when he and the Astros were live.

And Rob Manfred smartly put the "old" baseballs back in play, eliminating the juiced balls discussion for a night, at least. The American League won, 4-3, and only Joey Gallo and Charlie Blackmon hit home runs in the contest.

Manfred looked nervous in the pre-game interview, I thought. Why he doesn't want to admit the baseballs have been "tweaked" is anyone's guess. But he's clearly hanging on to the notion that nothing has changed in the stitching or the core, even though pitchers who touch the ball every day of their lives insist the stitching is different.

One other benefit of last night's game: John Means is fresh for this weekend's series with Tampa Bay. The O's lefty didn't get in the game, as Alex Cora had to keep at least one arm "open" in the event the game somehow went to extra innings. I get it. When it's your team's player who doesn't get in, you think that's a flimsy excuse. But it's a legit reason to hold out at least one pitcher.

All in all, it was a good night for a baseball game. The pace was relatively quick, the in-game promos involving players from both teams were insightful, and FOX did just enough to showcase what the city means to an All-Star Game to remind us in Baltimore of why we want a game here again someday soon.


british open top 10

Yes, yes, I'm well aware. The folks on the other side of the pond would prefer I call it "The Open Championship", not the British Open.

Here's how I see it: Jim McKay and Jack Whitaker called it "the British Open", so I'm going to continue to do that as well.

When you say "Open Championship", that doesn't tell me anything about where the tournament is being held. It might be in Malaysia for all I know. When you call it the "British" Open, I know it's the one played the third week of July in Great Britain or, in this case, Northern Ireland, where the season's fourth and final major will be contested starting on July 18 at Royal Portrush.

OK, we have the formalities out of the way.

Let's talk about the tournament and who might win.

Because the event's being played at a course that's never before held a British Open, there's no real history to go on. There might be some players who seem likely favorites based on geography (McIlroy, McDowell, Lowry) and there might be a few you consider favorites based on recent form (Koepka, Woodland, Rahm), but there's no one you can point to and say, "Well, the three other times they've played this tournament there, he's fared well each and every time."

So this one becomes a bit more of a crapshoot than, say, the Masters.

But the best player will win, naturally. And odds are it's going to be a household name and not some journeyman from the European Tour who sneaks his way in via one of their qualifiers and then captures the biggest tournament of his life.

So, with that, let's get started with our Top Ten.

Patrick Cantlay was #10 on July 8. Rory McIlroy was #8.

#7 is Eddie Pepperell.

Eddie who? I know someone out there is saying that.

Can Eddie Pepperell take his success on the European Tour into next week's British Open?

The 28-year old Englishman has become a very good player on the European Tour. And it's only a matter of time before he establishes himself as an "international player". Winning the British Open surely would do that.

On the PGA Tour this year, his form has been decent. He's played 7 events, made 6 cuts, and had a 3rd place finish at The Players back in March.

His stats aren't eye-popping at all. He doesn't hit it very far and his greens in regulation numbers aren't inspiring, either. But remember, this is a home game of sorts for him in that it's links golf, on his side of the pond, and it's the kind of event he's used to playing in.

Someone from the European Tour that we don't know much about here in the States is going to hang around at Royal Portrush. It's a given. We think it might be Pepperell.

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July 9
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a final soccer Q & A

Let's put a wrap on all of the soccer we've seen over the last three weeks with a Q & A session that addresses some of the pressing issues.

Q: What's with the "equal pay" request from the women's team? Is it legit?

A: It's not a "request", they actually filed a lawsuit against the United States Soccer Federation back in March. It's a very complex and challenging issue. In some ways, based on the amount of revenue generated in the respective World Cups, the women actually get a bigger percentage than the men. But there's no doubt the men are paid "more" overall than the women when you take into account the pool of money available to them through friendly matches, qualifiers, etc. The issue of getting paid an equal amount doesn't have anything to do with figuring out "who is better" (see below), because that's not a level playing field. The argument some are making is that the women's team wins World Cups and the men's team doesn't. While that's true, it's also not really part of the debate. At the root of it all is one word -- "deserve". The women believe they deserve equal pay. I'm not smart enough to explain if they do or don't, so I won't try.

Q: Can the U.S. men win the 2022 World Cup?

A: First of all, they'd have to qualify to play in it before that answer can be given. But if you're just looking for a general response, the answer is a resounding "no". Their ceiling would likely be getting out of group play and maybe, maybe, winning a game in the knockout round. Anything beyond that would be surprising. But qualifying for Qatar 2022 is very much a 50/50 proposition at this point. CONCACAF is very competitive and with only three guaranteed spots available (and Mexico almost always is an automatic coming out of the region), the American team will have their hands full getting through. But even if they qualify, winning in 2022 in Qatar is a pipe dream.

Can Christian Pulisic deliver a World Cup berth for the U.S. in 2022?

Q: Can the U.S. women repeat in 2023?

Of course. While a couple of high profile players (Rapinoe and Lloyd for sure) will likely be retired by then, the core of the team that just won will return. Winning in 2023 won't be a given, though. As we saw over the last few matches, the talent margin is definitely starting to narrow. Spain gave the U.S. a battle in the quarterfinals and if not for a saved penalty kick late in the England game, the Americans could have fallen to England in the semifinals. The U.S. will bring in several new players over the next few years to further boost their roster, but winning in '23 isn't automatic by any means.

Q: Who would win if the two teams played a game next week?

A: This one floated around on social media on Sunday after the women won the title in Lyon. Without trying to sound disrespectful, I'll say this: The men's team would win the game by whatever score they wanted to win by. And it wouldn't be close. Ever. If the men wanted to make a statement and win 15-0, they would win 15-0. If the men made a decision at the outset to not allow a goal, the women wouldn't score. The American women are GREAT soccer players. But they would be unable to compete with the American men in a 90 minute game. It would be ugly.

Q: Why doesn't America care about soccer the same way they care about baseball and football?

A: The easy answer is "because it's not our game". We've only been trying to make soccer work on the professional level in this country since the early 1970's. We're 50 years into an effort that likely takes at least 100 years to take hold. But make no mistake about it, soccer is growing by leaps and bounds in the United States. The men's league -- Major League Soccer -- started in 1995 and they're now building soccer-specific stadiums all over the country and drawing crowds of 25,000 in most major cities. The championship game in Atlanta drew 70,000-plus last year. It's happening. Soccer will be a "major" sport in our country someday. But that's likely still 15-25 years away.

Q: What's your final commentary about the women's team and all of the controversy surrounding their political views?

A: In some ways, I'd say it's what drove them to winning in France. Not that they aren't outstanding soccer players. They are. They were the best team, for sure. But they also needed something else to help give them an additional slice of motivation and it turned out to be the "equal pay" lawsuit, their fight for equality and sexuality acceptance, and their collective (meaning, most of the team, but not everyone) disdain for President Trump. I thought it was over the top at times, and was certainly off-putting to a significant percentage of the American people, but those women went over their to win, not make friends. And that's the one thing that can't be debated. Like them or not, those women are winners. They know how to win.

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BRIEN JACKSON's work at #DMD promises to provide some of Baltimore's best sports insight and commentary, brought to you by SECU, the official credit-union of Drew's Morning Dish. Brien has done sports-media work with ESPN, CBS, and NPR. His contributions to #DMD will focus on the Orioles, the Ravens, and national sports stories.

It's one of the absolute worst weeks in the calendar year for sports.

NBA free agency is winding down, NFL training camp hasn't started yet, and even if you're a fan of the MLB All-Star festivities (which I find hit or miss) once they've gone we'll have a baseball free time to deal with as well.

To get through it, here's some scattered thoughts on the wide world of sports. Sorry, no soccer. It's just not my thing.

- I'm really not a big fan of ex-players that go on to be broadcasters, in any sport. I get why TV networks do it, why they think it will add credibility, and I guess why they think it will get people to watch them. But honestly, it's past time to admit that the vast majority of them just aren't very good at the TV thing. Jason Witten was the apex of this, with ESPN actually getting in a bidding war with the Cowboys to get him to Monday Night Football, where he was just absolutely atrocious.

And though it's not as high profile of a gig, Harold Reynolds and Ken Griffey Jr. absolutely ruined large segments of Sunday's Future's Game. At various points the two would go on extended riffs telling stories, and at one point talked at length about an upcoming documentary on the '95 Mariners. Which is fine, but my goodness did it detract from the game.

Of course I can't really blame them: Neither one is a prospect guy and it often showed that they didn't know enough about the players in the game to have anything meaningful to say. The blame lies with MLB Network for putting the two of them out there rather than putting at least one media figure with deep knowledge of the minor leagues front and center to actually highlight the kids the league was theoretically trying to promote.

- An exciting NBA offseason could have ended up going by the boards if Kawhi Leonard had decided to team up with LeBron James and Anthony Davis on the Lakers, but suffice it to say that didn't happen. No, Kawhi convinced the Clippers to send a massive haul of assets to Oklahoma City for Paul George before he too signed there, immediately vaulting the other Los Angeles team into the ranks of title contenders, which now sits somewhere around 10 if you're feeling generous to a few teams, and setting up a huge rivalry in Los Angeles between two teams who share the same building.

Oh, and with George gone, OKC seems likely to at least seriously shop former MVP Russell Westbrook and go into a full-on rebuild, so the contender landscape is far from settled.

#DMD's Brien Jackson says O's starter Andrew Cashner will "almost certainly be gone" by the end of this month's trade deadline.

- I don't know why, but the baseball All-Star Game just isn't doing anything for me this year. I'm easily more interested in the trade deadline already, but I'm afraid I shouldn't be. With teams obsessing over prospects and prioritizing budgets over all else, the past few years have decelerated contenders' willingness to try to add stars from failing teams, and I have a hunch this year is going to be one of the worst years on record for that.

On the local front, I don't expect the Orioles to do much. Andrew Cashner will almost certainly be gone, but he's not netting them anything special in return. Trey Mancini and John Means could, in theory, and the Orioles should definitely be fielding offers for them, but in practice you almost never see teams match up on value when trying to trade quality starting players with multiple years of team control left, so I expect both of them will still be here next month.

- Considering that the Orioles are well out of things already, the next question to be settled is if/when some of their best prospects are going to come up. Chance Sisco has already gotten another shot at the big leagues and is handling himself well. D.J. Stewart mashed his way back to the big league roster as well, but things haven't gone so great for him. Meanwhile Cedric Mullins is struggling in Triple-A, Austin Hays continues to deal with the injury bug, and none of their best pitching prospects are anywhere close to ready.

That leaves Ryan Mountcastle who, yes, is still killing it in Norfolk, mashing to the tune of a .307/.329/.505 with 15 home runs and 34 total extra base hits. He's certainly done what he can to show that his bat is ready for the big leagues, albeit his glove definitely isn't.

How Mike Elias handles this is anyone's guess, really: He's brought guys up this year that he didn't have to, but the franchise he comes out of in Houston has been one of the leagues most aggressive in service time manipulation. My guess: Mountcastle legitimately still has a lot of work to do defensively, so I doubt he makes the big leagues until September at least.

- Mike Trout is hitting .301/.458/.646 with 28 home runs. At 27 years old, the game's best player (maybe ever) is having the best season of his entire career, and yet MLB still can't seem to get him front and center on their programming.

Yes I know the Angels aren't anything special as a team and that the Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs, Cardinals, and Dodgers have the big national fanbases that Fox and ESPN crave, but c'mon now. Trout is passing Hall of Famers in career WAR every week now (at 27 years old!) and barring a sudden drop off in his career is going to clearly be an inner circle Hall of Famer and probably in serious conversation for the greatest of all time....and it's absurdly difficult to watch him play. Heck even MLB Network's highlight shows don't put him front and center!

- Is it just me, or does this feel like the least hyped summer in recent memory for the NFL? Maybe it's because the NBA had a great postseason/free agency period while the last Super Bowl was a total stinker? Whatever the case may be training camp is right around the corner and it feels like football is just not occupying the place it normally does in the sports conversation this time of year.

- And finally, how is it that people are still getting suckered by Colin Kaepernick? You would have thought that the gigantic contract with Nike, and the revelation that said contract had been in hand for the entirety of the time that he was supposedly endangering his playing career with his protest, might have caused some people to walk back their celebration of him as an activist, but nope.

Kap's latest stunt really takes the cake though. If you missed it, Nike put out a special shoe featuring the Revolutionary War era 13 stars flag replica, but pulled them from the market when Kaepernick objected on the grounds that slavery was a thing at that time and also that the design has been appropriated by white nationalists groups. Which is apparently true, but c'mon now.

The real problem? The shoes weren't selling. But since Kaepernick turned them into a big national controversy, stores are starting to move the ones they already had been shipped before Nike discontinued the line, and Nike's market capitalization increased by $3 billion according to some financial journals.

How does anyone not recognize this racket?


british open top 10

Yes, yes, I'm well aware. The folks on the other side of the pond would prefer I call it "The Open Championship", not the British Open.

Here's how I see it: Jim McKay and Jack Whitaker called it "the British Open", so I'm going to continue to do that as well.

When you say "Open Championship", that doesn't tell me anything about where the tournament is being held. It might be in Malaysia for all I know. When you call it the "British" Open, I know it's the one played the third week of July in Great Britain or, in this case, Northern Ireland, where the season's fourth and final major will be contested starting on July 18 at Royal Portrush.

OK, we have the formalities out of the way.

Let's talk about the tournament and who might win.

Because the event's being played at a course that's never before held a British Open, there's no real history to go on. There might be some players who seem likely favorites based on geography (McIlroy, McDowell, Lowry) and there might be a few you consider favorites based on recent form (Koepka, Woodland, Rahm), but there's no one you can point to and say, "Well, the three other times they've played this tournament there, he's fared well each and every time."

So this one becomes a bit more of a crapshoot than, say, the Masters.

But the best player will win, naturally. And odds are it's going to be a household name and not some journeyman from the European Tour who sneaks his way in via one of their qualifiers and then captures the biggest tournament of his life.

So, with that, let's get started with our Top Ten.

Patrick Cantlay was #10 on July 8.

#9 is Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy already has one British Open title in his stellar career. Can he capture #2 next week at Royal Portrush?

If your top 10 list of a British Open played in Ireland doesn't have McIlroy on it, I don't know that you're paying attention.

Sure, there's extra pressure on him next week. It's hard to win a major, let alone a "home game" like McIlroy has on his plate at Royal Portrush. But he's going to win another major at some point and this one seems right up his alley given his knowledge of links golf and the way Irish golf is played.

And while it's been a while (2014) since he won a major, it's not like he's become a 4 handicap. He's had an excellent season overall, making 13 of 14 cuts, winning twice and currently ranking 3rd on the FedEx Cup points list.

But he definitely needs another major title to thrust himself back into the "best player in the world" debate.

He might very well get it next week at Royal Portrush. Don't bet against him.

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July 8
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will anyone watch now?

So you might have heard. The U.S. women won the World Cup yesterday, 2-0 over the Netherlands.

It was a beatdown, more like 6-0 rather than 2-0, although critics might suggest the penalty kick call that opened the scoring in the second half was suspect at best.

Ultimately, it didn't matter. The U.S. team was always going to win yesterday. They could play the Dutch team ten times and the Americans would win every single game.

There have been eight Women's World Cup tournaments since 1991. Yesterday was the 4th time the American women have won.

Now that it's over, though, the real question looms.

Will anyone around the country care enough about women's soccer to actually pay for a ticket in one of the cities where something called the National Women's Soccer League plays?

Rose Lavelle scored a huge goal in yesterday's win. She plays for the Washington D.C. team in he NWSL. You likely didn't know that until I just told you. Now you know. So, will you go down to D.C. and watch her and the Washington Spirit play this summer?

You see, for all the talk and boasting and headlines created by Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan and everyone else on the team, the excitement from this World Cup win will die quickly.

There's a parade for the team on Wednesday in New York.

They'll be on Ellen sometime soon.

One of the late night talking TV heads will have Rapinoe and Morgan on, at the very least.

They will get two or three weeks of publicity in the wake of this great accomplishment.

Then what?

Will people suddenly pack NWSL stadiums all over the country?

If not, where's the progress?

There are other stories, of course. Equal pay is one of them. The women want to be paid as much as the men.

Equality is a story, led mainly by Rapinoe, who suggested on Saturday that it's necessary to have a gay player on your team in order to win. I don't know where she got those stats, but she believes what she believes.

And, of course, the on-going friction with the President of the United States will be a saga that's sure to boil over at some point in the next 30 days. The women are not going to accept his invitation to visit the White House, which means the President will likely mention that no such invitation was ever offered in the first place. And on and on it will go. President Trump will tweet about respecting the country. Megan Rapinoe will tweet about not respecting him.

There will be no winner in that particular battle.

On the soccer field, the American women were fantastic. They were always the best team. They just had to prove it. And that they did.

The other stuff, though, is where the next set of headlines will be made. Equal pay, gay players, hating on the's all part of the narrative now that there aren't any more games to follow and report on.

I don't care about any of that stuff, frankly.

What interests me is whether or not the women's league will benefit from this new era of glory we just watched from France.

Because if America won't buy a $20 ticket to go watch Megan Rapinoe or Alex Morgan or or Rose Lavelle, what did winning the World Cup really accomplish?

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yesterday, today and tomorrow

This Week’s Subject: Quirks


Sometime in 1979 I believe, at the age of six, I put on a brief show in the waiting room of a doctor’s office in Owings Mills. According to my mother, when prompted, I began an imitation of the Orioles’ Lee May, the “Big Bopper.”

May had a unique way of waving his bat back and forth quickly, always in motion, while waiting for the pitcher. The technique—a waggle if you will—worked pretty well. May had more than 2,000 hits, and averaged 28 home runs per season. In his second season in Baltimore, 1976, he led the American League in runs batted in.

The Hall of Famer Eddie Murray, who played with May for a few years in Baltimore, did something similar, though slower and with his hands much lower. He was quirky about it, though. Murray didn’t seem to be as active with his hands when batting right-handed, and his pre-pitch movements weren’t as pronounced when he got older.

Also in 1979, the great Carl Yastrzemski got his 3,000th hit for the Red Sox. The older Yaz had a strange batting stance—noticeably closed, hunched over, hands high and bat close to his body. It seemed impossible that somebody could hit from that position, but Yaz had 3,419 of ‘em.

And then there was Cal Ripken, who would change his stance four times in a month in search of something that worked. He stood up straight, in a closed stance, and laid the bat back behind him almost flat. He held his hands much closer to his body and crouched. He laid the bat on his right shoulder blade, sometimes moving it back and forth like a saw. In 1999, he went 6-for-6 with two homers in a 22-1 win over Atlanta with a stance where he was bent over not unlike Yastrzemski.

Some of the best hitters ever, like the recently retired Ichiro Suzuki, had stances nobody would ever teach. Jeff Bagwell stood so wide it looked like he was hitting a driver. Julio Franco and Gary Sheffield had their hands high and cocked the bat back and forth, almost twisting their arms before the pitch.

I don’t know exactly why we don’t see much of that anymore, except that I’d surmise that young players simply aren’t allowed to be as individual about their setup as they used to be. If it worked, as it did for those guys, nobody touched it except for the player himself.

Tony Batista, where are you?


Switching sports, this Matthew Wolff kid is a soon-to-be-star on the PGA Tour, and all people can talk about is his swing. Way to the outside, left heel high off the ground, clubhead strangely vertical, only to quickly “shallow it out” in the same powerful way as many other great pros. The impact position is the same as all of them.

I have no great knowledge of what makes a good swing besides what Peter Kostis tells me on the Konica Minolta BizHub Swing Vision camera. But I do think that an entire generation of players went searching for a swing that wasn’t like Matthew Wolff’s.

Matthew Wolff and his "quirky" swing won a PGA Tour event in just his third start as a professional yesterday in Minnesota.

The reason? Tiger Woods, of course.

Tiger can talk about all the times he’s changed his swing and how only Ben Hogan and Moe Norman (look him up) every really “owned” their swings and, like any other player, how his swing felt great one day and not so great the next day.

But none of that takes away the fact that the he was (probably) the best player of all-time, and he also happened to have an aesthetically pleasing way of doing it. He looked perfect—that must have been the secret to his success.

People thought Adam Scott might be a big challenge to Tiger, mostly because his swing was a close copy, only by someone five years younger, Australian and white. Having reached the No. 1 ranking in 2014, and winning the Masters the year before, he’s done pretty well for himself.

I’m not sure that anybody was really trying to copy the swings of some of Woods’ greatest competitors during his heyday. Sergio Garcia’s action was seen as something that only worked for him. Phil Mickelson was too loose and long to be imitated; only a player of his skill could make it work. Others had lovely swings but didn’t bring the same kind of power, and that didn’t work anymore in the 21st century.

The poster child for the non-Woods swing was Jim Furyk, who like Mickelson will turn 50 next year. I once heard Furyk say something like this—“I never knew my swing was considered weird until I started playing professionally and there was a lot of video of it.”

Furyk was lucky, in a way, though he was unlucky (like everyone else) to be at the top of his game at the same time Woods was at the top of his. Almost six years older than Woods, he never thought about swinging like somebody else.


One thing we do know is that the call of the generation now coming into professional sports is to let them be themselves.

It’s an Instagram world, right? The whole point of life seems to be to make something—anything—go viral. Choreographed sack celebrations are back, and that’s ok. Stop complaining about my bat tossing and my minute-and-a-half home run trots…I’m just being myself. Who knows what else is out there in the world of social media that’s yet to be invented?

That’s the reality, and there are as many opinions about that as Cal Ripken had batting stances. What I wonder is if the quirkiness of the players in their on-the-field skills will start coming back.

The young quarterback Patrick Mahomes is a terrific example, I think. He does things in ways that he’s figured out for himself, certainly helped by having a father who was a professional athlete. He doesn’t seem to be imitating anybody. There’s very little that’s “classic” about him, which makes him a little weird, actually. And all of that pushed him all the way to winning the NFL’s MVP award in 2018.

Baseball has turned into a different game than it was in the days of Lee May; we know that what’s valued now isn’t the same as it was. There’s a certain homogeneity about the sport now, since every player is now expected to provide similar things. It’s not so much that there aren’t a lot of batting stances; it’s just that there must be greater analysis as to why something works or doesn’t work.

So many of the greatest hitters, and so many less famous guys who were outstanding hitters without reaching the Hall of Fame, were players who developed their own styles, ones you could see from four fields away. I wish that was still the case.

With Woods more of a “part-time” player these days, it’ll be interesting to see whether the swings coming into professional golf get more individualized. There isn’t the same perfection to copy—nobody would teach Jordan Spieth’s swing, for instance. Will more people copy Bryson DeChambeau? Probably not, unless they have the same scientific mind as he does.

We live in a world of technique…coached from an early age for young boys and girls who specialize in particular sports earlier than every before.

There seems to be less time for athletes to develop their own quirks before learning that technique, and that’s kind of boring…and maybe not good for their development either.


british open top 10

Yes, yes, I'm well aware. The folks on the other side of the pond would prefer I call it "The Open Championship", not the British Open.

Here's how I see it: Jim McKay and Jack Whitaker called it "the British Open", so I'm going to continue to do that as well.

When you say "Open Championship", that doesn't tell me anything about where the tournament is being held. It might be in Malaysia for all I know. When you call it the "British" Open, I know it's the one played the third week of July in Great Britain or, in this case, Northern Ireland, where the season's fourth and final major will be contested starting on July 18 at Royal Portrush.

OK, we have the formalities out of the way.

Let's talk about the tournament and who might win.

Because the event's being played at a course that's never before held a British Open, there's no real history to go on. There might be some players who seem likely favorites based on geography (McIlroy, McDowell, Lowry) and there might be a few you consider favorites based on recent form (Koepka, Woodland, Rahm), but there's no one you can point to and say, "Well, the three other times they've played this tournament there, he's fared well each and every time."

So this one becomes a bit more of a crapshoot than, say, the Masters.

But the best player will win, naturally. And odds are it's going to be a household name and not some journeyman from the European Tour who sneaks his way in via one of their qualifiers and then captures the biggest tournament of his life.

So, with that, let's get started with our Top Ten.

#10 is Patrick Cantlay

Patrick Cantlay won The Memorial back in early June and has enjoyed his best season ever on TOUR in 2018-2019.

Cantlay's winning a major at some point. Soon. He briefly held the lead at the Masters on Sunday afternoon after making birdie at the 15th hole, but couldn't close the deal. That won't happen to him very often, you can bet on that.

As he showed by winning The Memorial back in June, Cantlay is very capable of beating outstanding fields. And it seems only natural he'll be right there in the thick of things at Royal Portrush.

Here's a stat for you: Cantlay has played in 15 individual events this year on TOUR. He's missed two cuts. In the 13 events he played all four rounds, he's finished in the Top 25 every single time.

In other words, Cantlay is making the cut and playing well just about every tournament he plays in.

The one stat that nags at him is driving accuracy, where he ranks near the bottom 10% of the TOUR with just 58% of the fairways hit. But he more than makes up for that with outstanding iron play, hitting nearly 68% of the greens in regulation.

He's 5th on TOUR in birdies-per-round at 4.42.

Expect him to make a lot of birdies at Royal Portrush.

As his 2018-2019 tournament recaps show, expect Cantlay to be in the hunt at the British Open.

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July 7
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it's "championship sunday"

What a Sunday this sets up to be, with no less than three interesting championships on the line and a -- can't even believe I'm writing this -- series sweep possibility for the Orioles up in Toronto.

It all starts this morning at 11 am when the heavily favored American women's soccer team faces the Netherlands in the championship final of the 2019 Women's World Cup in France.

It continues this afternoon when a pair of TOUR rookies play in the final group of the 3M Open in Minnesota, with both Matthew Wolff and Collin Morikawa playing in just their 4th event since turning professional last month. They sit at -15, alongside Bryson DeChambeau, who was a TOUR rookie himself just two years ago and has already won 5 times since 2017.

And then tonight at 9 pm, the U.S. men's soccer team faces Mexico in the final of the Gold Cup in Chicago. While not nearly as historical as the women's World Cup, the Gold Cup represents a significant opportunity for the American men's side to show growth and development with World Cup 2022 qualifying now only eight months away.

For the American women's soccer team, today is just the beginning of what promises to be a wild week. A win this afternoon will put them on top of the soccer world and, here in our country, directly in the crosshairs of a nation divided by governmental politics and leadership.

If the women win, the next big question will be, "Are they going to the White House?" We all know right now their collective answer is going to be "no". And when that comes down, there's going to be days upon days of media coverage, some of it no doubt inspired by President Trump and his anticipated war of words with several high profile members of the team.

While they should be celebrated by the entire nation, what will wind up happening is far from a coast-to-coast party. Half the country will love them, half the country will not. That's sad.

It will be a disappointing way to end a great journey. That is, if the women wind up winning today against the Netherlands.

And make no mistake about it, anything less than a victory for the American girls today will be a massive upset. While the Netherlands have earned their rightful spot in the Final, there's no one who believes they should win today.

Prediction: U.S. wins 4-0

People wondered if Matthew Wolff's "quirky swing" would hold up under the pressure of the PGA Tour. So far, so good...

While the Netherlands are a huge underdog in France, there are plenty of folks who think Matthew Wolff or Collin Morikawa can win today in Minnesota, where the winner gets an exemption on the PGA Tour through the 2021 season.

Bryson DeChambeau doesn't really need the exemption. He already has five wins and will surely win plenty more. But for Wolff or Morikawa, a win today immediately takes them to a new place in their career. They no longer have to worry about sponsor's exemptions, the Korn Ferry Tour playoffs (where 25 players get their TOUR cards for the 2019-2020 campaign) or where they're going to play next year.

No one is surprised that Wolff and Morikawa are on the cusp of winning today. Both were remarkable college players, Wolff at Oklahoma State and Morikawa at Cal-Berkley. Wolff was the NCAA individual champion back in June and was in contention for a little while on Friday back at the Phoenix Open in early February, where he played as an amateur. Morikawa made the cut at last month's U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.

A friend of mine reached out on Saturday and wondered why two rookies, fresh out of college, were able to shoot 15-under par for three days in a PGA Tour event, but couldn't produce those kind of numbers in a college event.

That one's easy. Everything about the PGA Tour is built on "scoring". The courses are immaculate, the rough (for non-majors) isn't penalizing and the greens are perfect. There's not a blade of grass out of place at a TOUR event.

On the contrary, college tournaments are held at "regular" golf courses for the most part, and while they are typically in good condition, they're most certainly not a PGA Tour layout when it comes to the fairways and putting surfaces.

While the competition on TOUR is much greater, the courses are, in some ways, much easier than those they play in college. You just have to put together a hot week with the putter, like Wolff and Morikawa have done thus far, and you're in position to contend.

I've written several times over the last year that Wolff is going to be a star on TOUR. Win or lose today, he's the one guy coming out of college in 2019 that I think has a chance to really make a name for himself in short time. His college teammate, Viktor Hovland, hung around the leaderboard at the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach before finishing T12. He'll most certainly play for the European Ryder Cup someday, as will Wolff for the United States.

These kids come out on TOUR with multi-million dollar equipment and apparel deals. Before they put the first tee in the ground as a professional, they already have millions in their bank account. It's much easier to play and produce when you're not worried about gas money for the 9-hour ride from Detroit (last week's stop) to Minnesota.

So, what you wind up seeing are young, recent college players who can focus solely on golf. They're not worried about money or making a living. They're worried about birdies and winning.

Prediction: DeChambeau shoots 5-under today and wins.

The American men's soccer team finishes up "Championship Sunday" tonight at 9 pm when they take on Mexico. While the Mexican team hasn't played all that well at the Gold Cup, they've done more than enough to earn their spot.

For the U.S., the game most certainly comes down to Christian Pulisic and his ability to control play. And, naturally, Mexico knows this.

Expect this one to be physical from the outset. The Mexicans aren't exactly the friendliest bunch to ever grace the soccer pitch and they know if they can pester and aggravate Pulisic, they have a great chance of winning.

The difference in the way the two nations see the Gold Cup is easy to define. The Americans have done a great job getting to the Final. If they win, that's awesome. If they lose, progress was still made. If Mexico wins, they should have won. If they don't win tonight, questions will be asked about the coach and players.

Prediction: U.S. wins 2-1 in penalty kicks.

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it's almost trade time

Here's a quirky stat for a Sunday morning.

Should the Orioles beat the Blue Jays today in Toronto, they'd finish the firsth half of the season with 28 wins. That means exactly one quarter of their wins in 2019 -- thus far -- would have come in nine games. They started the season 4-1 and would -- with a win today -- end the first half 4-0.

There's nothing to see there, really, other than the oddity of winning 25% of your games over a 9-game stretch.

Another excellent start from Andrew Cashner on Saturday in Toronto has made him perhaps the Orioles most attractive trade piece this month.

Yesterday's outstanding start by Andrew Cashner most certainly makes him of the more valuable trade commodities in baseball between now and the end of July. Cashner is now 9-3 overall with a 3.83 ERA. Any team with playoff hopes and a need for a right handed starter will be sniffing around the Orioles over the next two weeks-plus.

The Orioles will almost certainly trade him if the deal is right.

They face a bit of a different situation with John Means, who is a legitimate -- but perhaps longshot -- contender for the A.L. Rookie of the Year award. Means has been outstanding as a spot starter and relief contributor and anyone needing a left handed thrower has likely already started scouting him. Means, of course, is largely unproven. What we've seen over the last three months could be a fluke or he could be the real deal. He won't fetch as much as Cashner would.

It would appear the O's are probably going to hold on to Trey Mancini, despite the fact he'll also be highly coveted at the deadline. Maybe I'm wrong on this one, but I think the organization realizes you have to keep someone around that interests the fan base, even though winning and losing doesn't really matter at this stage.

Renato Nunez hits a lot of home runs (20 thus far), but his average (.239) and OBP (.305) are hardly impressive. If the Orioles do move him, they won't get much in return.

Miguel Castro will probably be dealt, but there are gobs of right handed relievers out there. He won't fetch much in return, either.

Other than that, there's probably no one the O's can deal that will make any kind of difference. Alex Cobb would have been an interesting trade chip, but he's done for the year with a hip injury. Chris Davis would be, too, but he makes $23 million and can't hit .200. Jonathan Villar might draw some interest, but only if someone's regular second baseman gets hurt between now and the end of July.

For the record, I'm OK with trading anyone at this point, although if given an option, I'd keep Mancini around.


July 6
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in fairness, alex morgan is right

There are lots of things I like about the U.S. Women's soccer team. They're playing for the World Cup title tomorrow. That's probably the biggest thing I like.

And there are a couple of things I don't particularly care for as well. Kind of like the Ravens and Orioles...I don't always like everything those two organizations do, either.

The Alex Morgan controversy wasn't really much of one if you ask me. She scored a goal in Tuesday's semifinal win over England and did a post-tally celebration. Big deal. It's soccer. Sometimes your team only scores one goal in 90 minutes. You should celebrate when the ball finds the back of the net.

Morgan's post-goal celebration took all of about four seconds. She scored, ran to the sideline, smiled, and acted like she was sipping a cup of tea.

Two different celebrations.

That was it. I know you're probably thinking there was more to it, but there wasn't. It was a sip of tea.

The detractors of either women's soccer or Morgan quickly took aim at her. Some of the criticism was harsh.

The English have a tendency to overreact anyway. And now this. They were really up in arms that the American mocked them with a celebratory sip of tea after her goal.

If it even matters, which it doesn't, Morgan says she was actually mimicking a character from the Game of Thrones show, whatever that is. I'll take her word for it.

Anyway, some English soccer fans went as far as to tell Morgan via social media that the next time she wants to mimic something, perhaps she should look at her own country and impersonate a mass school shooting. See what I mean? It got ugly.

On Friday morning in Paris, Morgan met with the media in advance of Sunday's final and made a remarkable point about the way her celebrating and that of her teammates and other female players gets criticized.

"I feel that there is some sort of double standard for females in sports," Morgan said, "to feel like we have to be humble in our successes and have to celebrate, but not too much or in a limited fashion. You see men celebrating all over the world in big tournaments, grabbing their sacks or whatever it is. And when I look at sipping a cup of tea, I am a little taken aback by the criticism."

Like her or not, Morgan's right.

It might be as simple as this: We expect more from females. And by "more", I guess I mean that we just assume female athletes will rise above the fray and be "better than that".

We certainly can't rely on male athletes to be "better than that" after they score a goal or a touchdown or sink a big three pointer or make a putt in the Ryder Cup and shush the crowd with their index finger up to their mouth.

Me, personally? I don't really care one way or the other about Alex Morgan celebrating a goal by sipping tea. As I wrote here on Wednesday, the only time celebrating too much irks me is when you're ahead 11-0 with five minutes to go and you score to make it 12-0. Then...I think you might be going overboard a bit.

But not only was Morgan "right" about the way she did it on Tuesday, she was "right" on Friday when she highlighted the difference in the way we view men and women in athletics.

The entire NFL on-field product is built on taunting. You score a touchdown and you dance, prance, preen and show up the other team. You catch a 3rd and 13 pass for 15 yards and you have to do something to remind everyone you caught the ball. You have to spin it, drop it, shoot it with a gun, etc. You simply can't just set the ball down and walk away, of course.

There's so much taunting in the NFL and NBA they actually have rules against it, in an effort to reduce or eliminate it.

Alex Morgan scored a goal, sipped tea, and suddenly she's a bad American. And, to her point, she's a bad girl.


A French player in last year's World Cup scored a goal, grabbed his crotch to mimic a character from the video game Fortnite, and no one said a word. Well, no one except for my son and his friends. They thought it was really cool.

A guy grabs his "sack" as Morgan said, and it's fine. A woman sips a cup of tea and, well, let the berating begin.

I don't agree with a lot of things the U.S. women's team believes in, but I know this: Alex Morgan is right on this occasion.

In a perfect world, she'll sip three cups of tea on Sunday in the women's final against the Netherlands.

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a bad fantasy beat, reversed

Anyone who has gambled has suffered what is commonly known as a "bad beat".

It's that game you had sewed up, only to have something completely unimaginable happen at the very worst time.

Card players are deathly afraid of the bad beat. It's one thing to lose a hand or a game. It's another to lose by a bad beat.

Football gamblers lose on a backdoor cover with 8 seconds left in a 21-9 game when they had the winner minus 8.5 points. That's a "bad beat". The game was over...the bet was long as the trailing team didn't score a meaningless touchdown with 8 seconds left in the game.

Not only did Cam Davis make a 7 on the last hole Friday to let all of the 3-under par guys make the cut in Minnesota, but he himself missed the weekend with his triple bogey.

I don't play fantasy sports, online or otherwise, except for golf. I do dabble in several weekly fantasy golf games at DraftKings. It's a fairly benign "habit". I put up $15 a week and try and win at least $16. Last week, I won $80. This week, the golf gods are smiling on me, but we're only halfway through the tournament.

But they almost weren't smiling on me. Until I got the benefit of a bad beat.

One of my teams this week features Bryson DeChambeau, Adam Hadwin and Sam Burns. I'm pleased to report they are -14, -12 and -10 respectively. That means, early on at least, I have a shot at making some "real" money if those three hold on and the other three guys on my roster come through.

Sadly, one of the other three is finished for the weekend, as Rory Sabbatini missed the cut. That left me with two others to worry about. Kevin Streelman and Beau Hossler.

Streelman comfortably made the cut. But Hossler was at 3-under par late Friday afternoon and sitting in 71st place with the last group out on the course. The top 70 and ties all make the cut.

In that last group on the course was a player, Cameron Davis, who made birdie at his 17th hole (#8) to get to 5-under for the tournament. Hossler and the others were cooked, it appeared. He and everyone else at 3-under (including Brooks Koepka) needed Davis to make at least a double bogey at the 9th hole in order for -3 to make the cut.

It was over.

Tour pros rarely make double bogey. And they most certainly don't make double bogey when they're trying to make the cut and play the weekend.

I stood to make some money if I could get 5 of 6 players to make the cut. I probably wouldn't make anything if only 4 of 6 made it.

I needed Cameron Davis to make a double bogey.

He didn't.

He made a triple bogey.

And here's the worst part, for Cameron Davis. He himself wound up missing the cut after making "7" at the 9th hole. He let all of the guys at -3 back in for the weekend, dropped to -2 himself, and now he won't be playing on Saturday and Sunday.

I went from the outhouse to the penthouse with one triple bogey.

For once, I'm thrilled to report, I was on the good end of a bad beat.

Oh, and my condolences if you had Cameron Davis on your team. That was an all-time bad beat.


July 5
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friday musings

The national guys are piling on the Orioles, who will likely own the worst record in baseball at the All-Star break, which starts this Sunday evening...right after the O's lose two of three in Toronto over the weekend. recently produced an extensive look at the mid-season standings, with a number of their esteemed writers checking in with various thoughts about teams, players, playoff spots, etc.

It didn't take long for someone to rip into the Orioles.

Bradford Doolittle: The Orioles. I mean, my gosh, that's a bad team. We knew they'd be bad, perhaps unusually bad. But they are 1898 Cleveland Spiders bad. Well, almost. They are on pace to give up more than 1,000 runs even though they have a Rookie of the Year candidate in starter John Means, who has kind of been like Dickie Kerr in the 1919 World Series except all of Means' teammates are actually trying. And the O's are also on pace to record the worst run differential of all time. How is it possible that a team that lost 115 games last season has not yet bottomed out?

Yikes. That hurts. And I don't even know much about the 1898 Cleveland Spiders. But I know they must have been terrible.

The commentary continued further along in the article.

Buster Olney: Somehow the Orioles are on pace to lose more games than last year.

Doolittle (again): The Orioles might lose 200.

OK, I can breathe a little easier, because I know losing 200 isn't even possible. But it does bother me a bit that Olney is right. The Orioles are on pace to lose more than 115 games, which seems, well, kind of impossible.

I don't know why it bothers me to see those things in writing. I'm a realist. I've never been a homer. I know we're terrible. And I get it, we're going to be hard pressed to win 50 games.

But seeing someone outside of Baltimore writing that stuff really irks me.

Let's win 12 in a row and shut 'em up! What do you say?

Sure does look weird...

I had a conversation with a friend earlier in the week and he brought up Joe Flacco and the off-season trade to Denver.

"I hope he goes out there and just lays a big egg," my buddy said.

I wasn't stunned. My friend is a bit of a negative-Nancy, truth be told. He's the guy that secretly hopes you miss that 3-foot putt at the 18th hole once you announce on the way to the green that "all I need to do is make that putt and it's my best round ever."

Anyway, I quizzed him on the Flacco comment.

"Because if he goes out there and does well, it means he was right and we were wrong," he explained.

"What do you mean, he was 'right'?" I asked.

"You know, just the way he carries himself, with that smarmy, cocky attitude of his like, like 'I'm the best'", he replied.

That one made me laugh.

"Oh, you mean an athlete isn't supposed to think he's the best?" I wondered.

"Not when you're not the best," he countered.

"And who decides that? You? Mike Florio? Tony Romo? Peter King?" I said. (It reminded me of that scene from A Few Good Men where Colonel Jessep says to Daniel Caffey, "Who's gonna do it? You? You, Lieutenant Weinberg?)

"Oh, never mind," he said, waving me off dismissively. "You're just a Flacco lover."

"No, not really," I said. "In fact, I thought the last couple of years he wasn't all that good. But that doesn't really have anything to do with the fact that an athlete is entitled to and should always believe he's the best. Failing to believe that immediately makes you vulnerable. If you get to the 18th hole, a 455 yard dogleg left, and you just assume you're not going to make par there, I'm willing to bet you that you're not going to make par."

"Well, I hope he fails miserably," my friend said.

"I'm the exact opposite," I replied. "I hope he does great. If the Ravens don't win the Super Bowl, I'd love to see Flacco win it in Denver."

"Man, there's really something wrong with you," he said.

At one point in yesterday's annual 4th of July hot dog eating contest, Joey Chestnut was actually on pace to eat -- get this - 100 hot dogs in 10 minutes.

He consumed 50 hot dogs in the first five minutes. That, I believe, is far more impressive than the 71 he ate in ten minutes to win the contest by a landslide. Chestnut didn't just win yesterday, he ate those guys up. (I'm here all week...).

Seriously, Chestnut blew those other fools out of the water, winning by 19 hot dogs.

But the 50-in-5-minutes accomplishment was glossed over by ESPN, for some weird reason. There was no way he could duplicate that feat over the final five minutes, and he even failed to set the record of 75, but once again Joey Chestnut showed the world no one can eat hot dogs like he can.

What I can't understand is how the first place prize money for that thing is only ten grand.

If you eat 71 hot dogs in 10 minutes, you should get, I don't know, $35,500. (For the Flyers fans out there, that's $500 per hot dog.)

$10,000 seems very small indeed, particularly when you take into account Chris Davis makes $23 million a year for hitting .176 and striking out 1.5 times a game.

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three things i'm considering

In no order of importance, here are three events/trips I'm considering putting together for the remainder of 2019.

If any of these interest you, specifically, or you and a group of your friends, please email me directly and I'll start a list of interested people. My email is:

Road trip to Notre Dame -- I did this one a few years ago and vowed I would go back someday. Maybe 2019 is "someday".

The game that likely works out the best is Saturday, November 23 against Boston College. Travel details aren't finalized yet, but we'd likely leave on Friday late afternoon and return on Saturday night after the game. All of that can be worked out at a later date.

If you've never seen a game live at Notre Dame Stadium, all I can say is "you're missing out on one of the great days in sports." It's not just the game. It's everything. The town, the people, the pre-game party, the game, the tour of the campus, etc.

Ravens at Bills, December 8 -- I know what you're thinking. Who on earth wants to go to Buffalo on December 8? I do, maybe. And maybe you do, too. Look, let's be honest. If you're going to go to Buffalo to see a football game, you want to go when you're there to experience the "experience", right? Going up there in September when it's 77 degrees is like going to Charlotte in September. But going up there on December 8 when gametime temps might in the high teens is where the fun is. It's a one time thing. We're not doing it every year. We'd go up on Saturday and return right after the game. Anyone up for it?

Golf trip to Phoenix -- OK, so this one isn't in 2019. It's in 2020. But the Caps are playing in Phoenix on Saturday, February 15. What about leaving on a late Thursday flight, playing golf on Friday, Saturday and early Sunday, then heading home for a late Sunday night arrival? We'd take in the Caps game on Saturday night, obviously. I have just the golf resort to do this, by the way. We'd have to take at least 12 golfers to make this happen. The best way to do this is six teams of two players, so ask a friend of he wants to go and let's start there.

Any of those interest you? Email me if so. I'll do all three if we have enough people interested.


July 4
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a hero, a hero and a dolt

Happy July 4th to everyone in #DMD land. Enjoy a great holiday celebration today and be safe!

At some point roughly 18 months ago here, I authored a piece about a new American soccer player, and not-so-boldly predicted he would become a household name in no short time.

His name is Christian Pulisic.

Two goals from Christian Pulisic on Wednesday night sent the U.S. to the Gold Cup final.

I was right. But I probably undersold his quality, even though I knew he was going to be something special.

I can say this now without hesitation, even though he's only a couple of years into his professional soccer career.

Christian Pulisic is the best American-born soccer player this great nation has EVER produced. He's soccer's Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky, Tom Brady or Mike Trout. Pick one. Pulisic compares.

Oh, and he's all of 20 years old.

Pulisic had 2 goals last night for the U.S. men's national team as they advanced to the Gold Cup finals with a 3-1 win over a deceptively dangerous Jamaican side. For what seems like the 10th game in a row, Pulisic was the best player on the field -- for either team -- and nearly single handedly propped the American squad up when things started to wobble.

The Gold Cup is not the World Cup in terms of importance. We all know that. But it's a vitally important tournament for this young American team as they start to sprout their wings under a new head coach and a new style of play. They'll play Mexico on Sunday night in Chicago for the title.

Pulisic is a hero.

Today on Coney Island in New York, grown men will gather and eat, which doesn't seem all that out of the ordinary on a holiday.

Alas, they'll be eating hot dogs. A lot of them. Too many for my taste, and probably your taste as well, but they'll belly up to the stage and try and wolf down as many as they can -- bun and all -- in ten minutes.

Joey Chestnut will attempt to break his record of 74 hot dogs today at 12 noon.

They're all chasing another American hero. His name is Joey Chestnut.

Last year, Chestnut ate 74 hot dogs in ten minutes.

That's not a typo. Seventy. Four.

Think about this for a second. What do you honestly think is the most hot dogs you could eat in ten minutes? We could all eat one with no problem. If we're being honest, we can probably eat two with no issue, right? I mean, I don't go around eating two hot dogs in ten minutes at a family picnic, but if you pressed me to eat two, I most certainly could.

Could you eat four? Four in ten minutes is definitely "wolfing them down".

Chestnut ate 74 of them last July 4th.

I shake my head every time I write it or think about it.

I love broccoli. It's my favorite food, when prepared the right way. I don't think there's any way I could even eat 74 spears of broccoli in ten minutes.

These maniacs today will eat 50, 60 and 70 hot dogs in ten minutes.

Chestnut is the all-time hot dog eating king. He's won 11 of the last 12 July 4th hot dog eating contests. That's worthy of "hero" status no matter the sport.

And then we have sports reporter Peter King, who is not a hero, as he proved on Wednesday when he signed off on one of the dumbest tweets of all time.

ESPN and the 30for30 franchise has done really great docs and journalism. A shame that as at least a fifth of children in America go to bed hungry nightly they're highlighting gluttony, treating someone who overeats excessively as a "competitive athlete". Truly disgusting.

King is outraged that ESPN's 30-for-30 series recently produced a documentary on the rivalry between Chestnut and fellow competitive eater Takeru Kobayashi.

Boy, talk about howling at the moon.

It's true that far too many children in our country go to bed hungry at night. I think we all agree that's sad. And we'd be a better nation if we could figure out a way to lessen or absolve that issue completely.

But none of that has anything to do with today's hot dog eating contest or any other food-related contest that takes place around the country this year. There are competitions for chicken wings, asparagus, ribs and shrimp, just to name four others.

Yes, it's a "sport", in that there's a time frame, rules, and a winner at the end of the competition. It's not a sport I'd play, just like mixed martial arts isn't, but it's a sport nonetheless.

Peter King thinks ESPN is wrong for broadcasting it and promoting it. I assume he forgets they broadcast sports.

This, of course, is what happens when your country starts to get offended by every single thing that happens. Somewhere, today, people will be offended by fireworks. Someone will be offended by a beer commercial that shows a scantily clad female at a picnic. Someone will be offended because a pair of shoes has an old American flag stitched on them.

And now we know, someone will be offended because men get up on a stage and eat as many hot dogs as they can in ten minutes.

Are we really making America great again if we get worked up about a hot dog eating contest?

We've identified two heroes and a dolt. The heroes get their pictures put up. The dolt doesn't.

Happy 4th, everyone.

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"The Keen Eye" of
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DAVID ROSENFELD is a former sports publicist who still keeps his eye on the game. Looking at the game, the news or the players on an in-depth level is what he likes to do. Follow his work here at #DMD every Monday & Thursday, brought to you by Glory Days Grill.

baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and chevrolet…

What a great advertisement, that one that would have been playing on all three (!) TV networks on July 4 back in the 1970s. Various publications still rank it as the best car commercial of all-time. It was tremendous “branding,” even if nobody really called it that back then.

You remember the guy sitting at the piano, placed oddly out in open country that represented “America.” He asked four questions…

“America, what’s your favorite sport?”


In a Gallup Poll released in early 2018, football remained the bellwether of American spectator sports. 37 percent of adults chose football as their favorite sport to watch. Its popularity is similar among age groups and political ideologies, and pretty much the same between those with young children and those whose children have left the house.

Basketball is next in popularity, with 11 percent of adults choosing it. Baseball now ranks third, at nine percent, only slightly ahead of soccer.

The group with the highest interest in baseball? Those 55 and older. The group with the lowest interest? Their grandchildren, and even some of their children.

That’s all about watching the games, of course. How about playing them? Well, youth baseball participation dropped more than eight percent in the first decade of the 21st century; we’ll have to wait a couple years to see how the next 10 years went. In 2010, more than twice the number of Americans played basketball over baseball.

Lacrosse participation skyrocketed for a while, though that may have slowed a bit. Soccer and gymnastics are the most popular sports for kids under 13. And speaking of gymnastics, let’s not forget that women make up a significant percentage of athletes these days. Girls don’t play baseball; volleyball tops the list.

We know how much the NFL has used its popularity as a quasi-substitute for patriotism, occasionally even of the paid variety. Sometimes, that’s even caused America to start taking sides, as if we need any more of that.

If we made that commercial right now, however, I’m not sure we’d have an answer. Of note from that 2018 study…the highest percentage since polling began, more than 15 percent, say they don’t have a favorite sport. If the guy at the piano asked the question, there’d be so many answers that the response would be unintelligible. Or maybe nobody would answer. CUT! We need another take…

“Your favorite sandwich?”


Two things here. One…is a hot dog really a sandwich? I say no. Two…I probably eat a hot dog, at most, three times a year. And I’m not exactly a vegan.

Earlier this week, I caught the episode of Guy Fieri’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” where he visits the G&A Restaurant, over on Eastern Avenue in Highlandtown. The star of the show was the Coney Island Dog, smothered in what’s wrongly called “chili.” Andy, the owner, can balance nine hot dogs on his wrist and arm. In case you were wondering, Andy uses “wooder” as part of his chili recipe.

Cute. I love it when folks visit Baltimore for stuff like this. The kitsch, and the accent, are all part of the deal. But, hot dogs?

Certainly, Independence Day and hot dog eating go hand-in-hand these days. In recent times (unfortunately?), there’s no event more associated with July 4 than the annual Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, at the real Coney Island. Both the American Joey Chestnut and the Japanese Takeru Kobayashi are international stars, and their ascendance has helped create an actual “sports” organization called Major League Eating.

The popularity of the contest doesn’t come from the fact that hot dogs are America’s favorite sandwich, though. It comes more from the fact that hot dogs are really kind of disgusting and gross, especially when shoved down someone’s mouth and drenched with water at a rate of more than seven per minute over 10 minutes.

Sure, we’re spoiled now. You can go to an app on your phone, punch a few buttons and, 10 minutes later, pick up a terrific sandwich at Panera. Would you have ever thought that a convenience store like Wawa would make some of the best and freshest sandwiches around?

If we made that Chevy commercial right now, you’d be laughed off the set if you yelled “hot dog.” Frankly, I think we’re better off.

“Your favorite pie?”


I’m not just “eh” about apple pie; I honestly dislike it.

Apples don’t taste good to me when they’re warm and mushy. An apple is meant to be eaten crisp and fresh, as something healthy as opposed to part of a dessert. It’s a lousy feeling to bite into an apple and get that mealy sensation.

This makes me extremely un-American, even in 2019, according to a two-day survey that asked Americans to choose their favorite pie. Apple pie was the top choice in 45 of the 50 states. The outliers were Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, which were loyal to their famous Southern pecan pie, and Hawaii and Wyoming (strangely), which each chose pumpkin pie.

It’s interesting that—of baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet (more later)—apple pie is the one that’s still the favorite. If we made that car commercial tomorrow, those Southern accents would be drowned out by everyone else, unless we made it on Thanksgiving, possibly.

I suppose there are just so many fruits that can be used to make pies, and most all of them have been tried. Also, we’ve got a lot of apples, both for eating and for exporting, especially from Washington state; China is the only country that produces more.

Even apples aren’t the same as they used to be though. The good-old Red Delicious apple is declining in production, and the honeycrisp is steadily rising up the charts. Those are expensive, of course, which makes people think they’re better, whether that’s really true or not.

They all kind of taste the same when you bake them in a pie, really. I’ll leave that enjoyment to the rest of the country.

“And what’s your favorite car, America?”


I’m not sure there’s anything “American” that’s taken as much of a hit since they came up with that jingle than American passenger cars.

That actually started happening only a few years afterward, probably in the early 1980s. The Chevy strategy noticeably shifted to talking almost exclusively about trucks. Big. Strong, Powerful. Rugged. America. It was probably more brilliant than baseball, hot dogs and apple pie. The most impactful Chevrolet advertising of my lifetime famously featured Bob Seger’s “Like a Rock,” which played who knows how many times during televised sporting events for maybe 15 years.

All these years later, the Silverado is still the second-most popular vehicle in the U.S. And you’ll pass by many Camrys and Civics and SUVs of every type before you see a Chevy car, which you probably won’t recognize anyway.

There’s something to be said for all this, and it actually relates to baseball too. Sometimes, things from outside of America might be better.

In every season of the 21st century, for instance, Hispanic players have made up more than 25 percent of those who played in the Major Leagues.

Among the reasons to be excited about the new Orioles’ general manager, Mike Elias, is that he’s determined to right every wrong the organization has made in its general ignorance of Latin American prospects.

Speaking of the international signing period, which started this week, Elias said that “it’s going to be a very fun time for this organization to have an infusion of Dominican and Venezuelan talent, and even guys from the Bahamas.”

I don’t know if hot dogs were ever America’s favorite sandwich, and I’m not sure that apple pie will ever lose its American market share. Based on recent events, General Motors will only get smaller.

I still say baseball can get back some of what it’s lost, though. Like those commercials, it’s really all about the branding.


July 3
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anyone for a spot of tea?

Anyone that's known me from the days on local radio through the creation of this website knows what I think about in-game celebrating and "showing up" the other team.

Typically, I don't care for it, but I always say it mostly depends on the moment and the scoreboard.

There are unwritten rules in baseball that are dumb, in my opinion. Getting ticked off with a hitter who runs around the bases too slowly -- or stood there admiring his home run -- is one of those dumb unwritten rules. That said, I abide by the idea of not stealing a base in the top of the 9th when you're ahead 10-1 and everyone just wants to shower and get out of the ballpark.

It's about the moment. And the scoreboard. To me, anyway.

I was put off by the American women celebrating like lunatics when they were smashing Thailand in the World Cup opener, 13-0. I thought it "looked" bush league. It was, in fact, bush league.

But yesterday's Alex Morgan troll-job on the English was simply magnificent in a fun, gambling kind of way. Sure, social media lit up after she scored her goal and politely "took a sip of tea" -- pinkie extended and all -- but those folks who were aggravated by that need to get a life. If the English team felt it was over-the-top, they had 55 minutes of soccer left to put Morgan in her place. And they didn't.

The sip-of-tea heard around the world on Tuesday.

Morgan wasn't afraid to show them up a little bit. And she knew her good-natured ribbing of a traditional English custom could come back to haunt her if, somehow, the Americans squandered that 2-1 lead she had just given them. One thing Alex Morgan isn' afraid.

But it wasn't just Morgan who was entertaining on Tuesday in the 2-1 win for the United States. The whole game was a blast from start to finish. It contained everything you could ask for, including three outstanding goals (and a fourth that was brilliantly executed and then called back after review), several other chances that resulted in remarkable saves by the goalkeeper, a penalty kick that was saved, and drama right up until the final whistle.

The Americans were the better team yesterday. No two ways about it. But England were in there for the fight of their lives. If those teams played once a week for the next five weeks, the U.S. wouldn't go undefeated. The English side is very respectable.

The opening half, when all three goals were scored, featured 45 minutes of the best soccer you can find anywhere, men, women, college, etc. Rosie Lavelle produced a virtuoso performance in the opening 45 minutes, with the ball glued to her feet and several sensational through balls to create scoring chances for the United States. Goals by Christen Press and tea-sipping-Morgan gave the U.S. the lead at intermission, but the game was far over at that point.

The second 45 minutes wasn't quite as skillfully played as the first 45, but the entertainment level was just as high. Back and forth action, a glaring faux pas by Press on a 3-on-1 that woulda-shoulda-coulda sewed up the game, a penalty kick miss by England with 10 minutes remaining, and a series of tough tackles and rough fouls late in the game punctuated what will go down as one of the best games of this 2019 Women's World Cup.

After watching the United States' men's team labor through a dreadful 1-0 win over Curacao on Sunday night, it was indeed a treat to see the quality of soccer we saw on Tuesday from Paris.

3 years and your jersey gets retired?

In fairness, I'm not 100% sure the Golden State Warriors have said they're going to "retire" Kevin Durant's #35. They merely said on Monday "no one will ever wear #35 again for the Warriors."

"We're removing his number from circulation" was the P.R. term for what they did.

It's semantics. I get it. But if you're making a public claim that "no one will ever wear that jersey number again", you are, effectively, retiring that number. In fact, that's precisely what the Ravens have done with Ray Lewis. While they haven't said they're retiring his number, they've made it known no one else will ever wear #52 again.

But Ray Lewis and Kevin Durant aren't even remotely comparable when it comes to this scenario. Lewis put in 17 years with the Ravens. Durant played three seasons for Golden State. Kids are in high school longer than Durant wore the blue and yellow for the Warriors.

I understand Durant's legacy in Oakland. They won two titles with him and got to a third straight championship series in his third year. I know he's a baller. But it wasn't like Golden State was chopped liver before he got there and Durant single-handedly took them from the dumpster to the penthouse.

Three years. And you're going to retire his number?

Seems kind of knee-jerk'ish to me.

I guess it's one thing if you have him for three years and you decide he's too expensive, too injury prone, too whatever...and you kick him to the curb. Maybe the jersey-thing becomes your way of softening the blow of an ended relationship. "Hey, we're not going to keep you around, but we think so highly of you and what you did for us that we're never letting anyone wear #35 again."

That's one thing.

But Durant left on his own accord. I get it, it's a money thing and he wasn't going to play for "chump change" in Oakland next year. Why take $25 or $30 million from the Warriors when you can snag $37.5 million annually from the Nets, right? Make no mistake about it, though. Durant left the Warriors. It was not the other way around.

And that leads me back to the knee-jerk scenario. Why the jersey retirement thing? What does that do, exactly, for a guy who gave you all of three years before peddling himself to the next highest bidder to come down the pike? It really doesn't make any sense.

The Warriors missed this one.

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remembering two great ones

July 3, 1971. The day James Douglas Morrison of The Doors died.

July 3, 1995. The day Charles Markwood Eckman died.

Two of my favorites.

One of them, I knew very well.

The other, I listened to virtually every day of my life from 1980 through, probably, 1985.

The G.O.A.T. -- Charley Eckman

Eckman was a legend, plain and simple. His on-air style wouldn't work today, but neither would a lot of things that were popular back in the 70's and 80's. But back then, Eckman was the best of the best. Whether it was hosting a nightly talk show while he was, ummm, enjoying a beverage or two, or calling Blast soccer games on the radio, Eckman was always on top of his game. It was all a "show" to him and he knew how to turn it on as soon as the microphone was live.

Speaking of on-air beverages, in my first year with the Blast -- the 1981-82 season -- I was the scared-to-death PR intern who worked with Eckman and play-by-play voice Art Sinclair. I *thought* my job was to help make their broadcast better by providing interesting notes about goals, statistics, etc. It turned out, most of my initial duties that first season had to do with serving as Charley's in-game valet.

"Grab me a couple of beers," he would say during a commercial break. "Don't open them," he'd always add. "I just need them around in case one of the big bosses stop by and I need to drink one real quick to hide the scotch on my breath."

Then he'd snicker like always and off I'd go.

Once during a game in Los Angeles, the contest was roughly 10 minutes old when the ball went out of play and there was a commercial break. Eckman leaned over to me, loosely held his hand over his microphone and said, "Where is everyone? There'll be more people at my funeral", signaling to the empty Forum, where maybe 200 people were watching the Blast and Lazers on a Wednesday night.

He was right. The church in Glen Burnie was filled to the brim that July day when Charley was laid to rest. The Lazers would have been thrilled to have a crowd like that on a Wednesday night back in 1983.

I traveled with Eckman from 1981 through 1993, until he finally got too old and too irritated to do it any longer. A few months before he passed away, I stopped by his house in Glen Burnie to say hi and spend some time with him.

"Is the guy with the pretty hair still the goalie?" he asked, referencing Cris Vaccaro. I sensed Charley was starting to lose his fight with cancer at that moment, as remembering names of players from decades gone by was always a strength of his. Now, he couldn't remember the name of someone from a year or two earlier.

"Vaccaro?," I replied. "Yep, still with us."

"Never trust a guy who spends time before the game fiddling with his hair," he said. "No way that guy can win for you."

Speaking of hair, Jim Morrison had some of the best hair in the history of rock-n-roll. And one of the best voices, too.

There was a time in my life when I wanted to be the next Jim Morrison, only I didn't have his physique and I couldn't sing. Other than that, though, I was an exact match.

But something about The Doors' music resonated with me in a way no other band did in the 1980's. They were no longer making new music, of course, with Morrison's death in 1971 effectively ending the group's rise to the top of the charts.

I owned every album, knew every song, and read as much as I could about Morrison's life and death. To this day, any time someone asks me what my all-time favorite song is, it takes me about a half-second to blurt out, "That's easy. It's L.A. Woman by The Doors."

And if you put me on a deserted island and gave me six CD's/albums to take with me, one of them would absolutely be Morrison Hotel.

Here's to two of the truly great ones. Raise your glass on this holiday weekend to Charley Eckman and Jim Morrison.

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July 2
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what makes a broadcaster "great"?

I recently had a conversation with a longtime Baltimore friend and the discussion moved to the topic of Keith Mills, who recently retired from WBAL radio.

"He had a great career," my friend explained. "But I don't know that he was a great broadcaster."

And so it started. We discussed the merits of Mills' career and then talked about him in technical terms. My friend thought his Baltimore accent cost him points. Also thought he was too much of a homer. "He's not Jim Hunter or Steve Melewski when it comes to being a homer," my friend said. "But he's definitely overly protective of the local teams and players."

I explained that a lot of media folks in town are aligned with the teams in one way or the other. My old radio pal Rob Long serves as a host of a couple of Orioles-related shows on MASN, for example, in addition to his duties as a morning drive host on the FM station in town. You see the same in football. There are TV sportscasters serving as radio play-by-play, public address announcers and post-game analysts. In other words, lots of sports broadcasters these days get their bread -- at some of it -- buttered by the very teams they're paid to cover by their main employers.

So it's only natural to want them to do well, for starters. And it's only natural to feel a little bit of pressure, perhaps, to not go hog wild on them when they lose a baseball game 13-2 or a football game 34-7.

Alas, I'm not sure it's right to take away points from a broadcaster just because he/she has some "homer" in them.

Former Brooklyn Park High School star Keith Mills became a Baltimore sports media icon in large part due to his devotion to local players and coaches.

Back to Mills for a second. I thought he was as unique as anyone we've had in this market. He knew more about Baltimore sports than anyone, and that's saying something. He knew more people than anyone, too. Baltimore accent? Sure. Overly hyped about the local teams? Of course. Does that detract from him one bit in my mind? Not at all.

But it got me to thinking. What really does make a broadcaster great?

Is Stephen A. Smith a great broadcaster? He's polarizing, for sure. Some folks love him, some can't stand him. But he most certainly has carved out a nice spot for himself at ESPN. Basketball is his thing, obviously, but I've heard him make some very strong points on the NFL as well.

I don't have a specific definition for what makes a "great" broadcaster, but I think it would include the basics. He/she must have over-the-top knowledge of the local sports scene past and present. If you're a Baltimore broadcaster, for example, and you don't know that it was Toni Linhart who kicked the game-winning field goal in that 10-7 "fog game" against the Dolphins, I think you're swimming upstream. If you're not aware that Jim Palmer never allowed a grand slam, you have a lot of work to do. If you can't rattle off at least a half dozen names of Baltimore high schoolers who went on to play in the NBA or NFL, you're not ready for prime time yet.

Keith Mills, for example, knew three dozen players, their birthdays, where they went to high school, who their high school coach was, and how many state titles they won at said high school.

On that alone, I'd consider him great.

Occasionally these days, I'll hear the producers on the FM station chime in with a thought or opinion on sports. They seem like nice, young men. I have no idea what their "real" age is, but I listen and assume they're fresh out of college, perhaps all of 25 years old. They're working their dream job of sorts, behind the scenes at a powerful FM sports station where they're part of what makes the engine purr. When they do finagle their way on the air, they sound as nervous as a burglar as they try and make a point about why it's dumb for Kevin Durant to go to the Nets or why the Yankees shouldn't spend $5 million on Jasson Dominguez, the "next Mike Trout" that we've been hearing about.

Those "kids" might know more about WAR than Keith Mills did. They might know more about how the NBA salary cap works (I, for one, sure don't). And they might even know more about the upcoming freshman class for the University of Kentucky basketball team.

But Mills knew Tommy Polley and the great Dunbar teams of the 1980's. He knew all about Bob Wade, and Al Larrimore, and Augie Miceli, the longtime Calvert Hall coach/teacher who passed away last weekend. Those young radio producers watched Mark Texeira play for the Yankees. Mills watched him play for Mount Saint Joseph.

Mills knows Baltimore sports history. So, too, does Bob Haynie, another old friend of mine from the radio days. Those guys are "great" broadcasters because they can connect with the people in their own town. Haynie might be able to have a 10-second conversation with your about WAR or exit velocity. He could have a 10-minute conversation with you about Duane Ferrell, Mugsy Bogues and Keith Booth.

So, yes, I argued to my friend, Keith Mills was a great broadcaster. Could he have gone to St. Louis or Dallas and been "great" there? Probably not. That wasn't his style. Another old buddy of mine, Bernie Miklasz did just that, having grown up in Odenton before going to work for the News American in the early 1980's. He left Baltimore in 1985, planted himself in St. Louis, and except for a brief 3-year stint in Dallas circa 1990 or so, he's been in St. Louis ever since. If you listened to Bernie do sports radio these days, you'd just assume he was born and raised out there.

I don't know that Mills could have gone to St. Louis in 2010 and "started over" out there. He would have done the work just fine, of course, but his natural affection for Baltimore sports wouldn't have helped him in St. Louis.

In the end, we all look and listen to broadcasters differently. Personally, I want to know they care about the local teams, first, and know about the history of those teams as well. If they're anti-Ravens or Orioles for any weird reason, I would never consider them "great". They might make a nice living, but that doesn't mean they're great.

Mills was a great broadcaster. We have plenty of others in this market as well. In fact, Baltimore is loaded with great ones, I think. They're fine right where they are.

So what makes a broadcaster "great" in your mind? Use the comments section below and let us know.

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from the desk of
brien jackson

BRIEN JACKSON's work at #DMD promises to provide some of Baltimore's best sports insight and commentary, brought to you by SECU, the official credit-union of Drew's Morning Dish. Brien has done sports-media work with ESPN, CBS, and NPR. His contributions to #DMD will focus on the Orioles, the Ravens, and national sports stories.

I know the NBA isn't exactly the most popular topic around here, or in Baltimore in general really, which is why I usually don't bother to say much about it despite its current status as the most fun/interesting of the major sports leagues in North America. But the first 36 hours or so of unofficial free agency opening have been so blistering, so insane, so fun that it just can't be allowed to pass without comment. So on that note, allow me to offer some scattered thoughts an historic first few days of free agency.

-Obviously the big news is that Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and DeAndre Jordan are all signing with the Brooklyn Nets. Durant probably won't play this year, but this makes the Nets instant title contenders in 2020-21, and has set off another round of kvetching about "superteams"" and "players acting as GM's" because Durant and Kyrie took less money to make this all work, because they wanted to play together.

Color me unimpressed. In fact, consider this a prediction that the Durant/Kyrie Nets are more likely to never even make the Finals than they are to ever win the whole-shebang.

NBA players in the modern age are really weird for having seemingly short memories. For Durant, he opened his career with a franchise that had 2 of the top 5 or 6 players in the league in himself and Russell Westbrook, as well as a decent supporting cast, and never won much of anything. They went to the Finals once, getting swept by the Heat, and otherwise mostly played in the shadow of San Antonio and Golden State despite a roster whose raw talent could compete with anyone.

Kevin Durant was once a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder, where he teamed up with Russell Westbrook to give OKC exactly ZERO titles. Now he's headed to Brooklyn with Kyrie Irving. Same result?

Why? Because Durant and Westbrook simply couldn't gel their playing styles. Westbrook is a ball dominant point guard who creates everything off of the dribble, and Durant thrives in a system built on ball movement and screens. It was just awkward when they were on the court together, and when matched up against other good teams they could just never make it click.

So after escaping to Golden State and a ball movement heavy offense, what is Durant doing? Pairing himself with a slightly worse imitation of Westbrook. Kyrie is every bit the isolation heavy ball handler that Westbrook is, except that while he's a better shooter that's pretty much all he does better than Westbrook. What's more, while Westbrook genuinely seems to have a drive to win Kyrie is the guy who, explicitly and openly, demanded a trade out of Cleveland because he didn't want to be Lebron's Robin.

I don't typically question professional athletes' will to win, but in this case you've got a guy who himself came out and said that being THE star of the team was more important than winning a ring. Well now he's going to be #2 again whenever Durant is healthy, and the Nets are probably going to go through a growing pains period like the Heat did with Lebron/Wade/Bosh when Durant comes back, which will likely be punctuated with all kinds of controversy about who the offense should run through. I know that Kryie and Durant are really good friends and that's why they've paired up, but I' not sure they can handle the frustration of failing to meet sky-high expectations in New York while also not gelling on the court.

This refurbished Nets team might not only fail to win anything, but they could be an all-time entertaining train wreck in 2-3 years.

-Otherwise, the big loose end is Kawhi Leonard. The guy who carried Toronto to the title reportedly hasn't even had a meeting as of this point, and he really doesn't have to. The Raptors, Lakers, and Clippers are all willing to hang around waiting for him, and he's going to get the same max deal wherever he goes. With Durant in Brooklyn I don't think the Clippers are going to appeal to him, which means that for all of the hubbub over Durant Kawhi still holds the key to the balance of power in the NBA. If he stays in Toronto the Raptors remain a real contender and there's roughly 10 teams who could win next year's title, but if he joins Lebron and Anthony Davis on the Lakers that team is going to be nigh-unbeatable if everyone is healthy for a playoff run.

-Bold prediction: The Celtics will be better with Kemba Walker running the point than they were with Kyrie.

-Sign and trades are the best, and I wish the NFL/MLB had more moves like the one that has apparently been orchestrated by the 76'ers and Heat. Miami gets an All-Star in Jimmy Butler, who reportedly wanted to play in Miami. Philadelphia gets Josh Richardson in return, who's not as good as Butler but is younger and cheaper, and leaves the 76'ers still boasting arguably the most talented roster in the Eastern Conference, especially given that they kept Tobias Harris and added Al Horford. And in the machinations, the Clippers got Maurice Harkless. That's not the most impressive addition in the world but a) his style would pair well with Kawhi if he does in fact choose the Clippers and b) if not, he's got an $11 million expiring contract that would position the Clippers to be HUGE players in next year's free agency.

-The Knicks might as well fold up shop. Not only did they fail to land any major free agents, it came out Sunday evening that they declined to even offer Kevin Durant, whom they had long been thought to be the favorites to sign, a max contract because of his Achilles injury. Yes, after a decade or so of stupid contract after stupid contract, the Knicks finally drew the line with one of the best players of all time. The topic gets brought up a lot, but there's really no competition: James Dolan is the worst owner in sports and I'm not sure anyone else can really even mount a credible challenge to his title.

-Mostly I'm just really struck by how wide open the title hunt is looking to be in the upcoming season. Again, that would change in Kawhi did in fact signed with the Lakers, but for the sake of argument let's assume he stays in Toronto. Suddenly, you're looking at 10-12 genuinely compelling teams around the league. The defending champs would be brining back essentially the same team that won a title, but even within their own conference they weren't so much better than the 76'ers or Bucks.

The Lakers got their star acquisition in Davis, a perfect pairing for Lebron, but the rest of the roster is far from impressive and they'd need at least one or two more shooters to really run the offense best suited to Lebron over the years.

The Warriors made another big splash in trading for D'Angelo Russell, but they're losing Durant, Klay Thompson isn't likely to be anywhere near 100% if he even plays at all, and Russell's game may not mesh well with Steph Curry's.

The Rockets are still a championship caliber team even if they trade Chris Paul. And at the very least the Celtics, Jazz, Nuggets, Mavericks, Trail Blazers, and Pacers all look like they'll be good enough to make any playoff matchup an interesting one.

So on that note, I fully expect news to break that Kawhi is in fact going to the Lakers before this is even published.

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July 1
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It was a fun weekend (mostly) for the Orioles, who pasted the Indians on Friday and Saturday by the same score of 13-0. As I joked on Twitter following Saturday's win, imagine if you would have walked into a Vegas casino on Friday at noon and said, "I've got $10,000 that says the Orioles beat the Indians two straight games by the score of 13-0. Give me some odds and take my bet, please."

Alas, things returned to normal yesterday when the Birds lost 2-0, squandering a bases loaded situation in the 9th inning.

The rebuilding project is halfway through its initial season, which is to say it's barely underway. There are 79 games left in the 2019 campaign and in order for the O's to better last year's horrendous 47-115 performance, they'll need to go 24-55 from here to the finish line.

My prediction: They'll do it. Even though they might play the final 60 games of the year without the likes of Cashner and Means, two of the biggest reasons why they've won 24 games already, I still think they'll chip away and win 48 games in 2019. It might not be much more than that, but they'll get to 48, at least.

Renato Nunez leads the Orioles with 18 home runs. Will he do enough in July to create trade interest?

Interestingly enough, speaking on the rebuilding part of this again, a large number of players who have been responsible for the 24 wins to date and will probably be here at least in 2019 and maybe even 2020 won't be around when/if the franchise actually starts to win with regularity again.

Renato Nunez won't be here in 2021. Neither will Pedro Severino. Hanser Alberto won't be with the club in two years time. Neither will Dwight Smith, Jr., who, if you can believe this, is tied for the team lead in RBI. Sadly, Smith Jr. is also the club's leader in mental errors and fielding flaws. But those four players have made an impact this year and have showed themselves to be decent, capable major league ballplayers. In two years, they'll be looking for a job again.

I suppose that's one of the things that stings a little bit about "rebuilding" the way the Orioles are doing it. That's not to say they're doing it wrong. They most certainly are doing it right, actually. But guys like Nunez, Severino, Alberto and Smith Jr. are journeyman-type players who just wanted one more chance to prove they can play. In some cases, perhaps they just needed to go to a place where they could actually play every day, get into the flow of a season, and show their skills on a regular basis.

They finally got that chance in Baltimore and for the most part, the four of them have acquitted themselves nicely. Nunez leads the team in HR's, Alberto is among the A.L. leaders in batting average at .316, Severino has 9 HR's and a .277 batting average and Smith Jr., as mentioned previously is tied with Nunez for the team lead in RBI (44) and has 11 homers himself.

Flawed? Sure, all four are nicked up in some way. That's why they're playing for the Orioles, after all. But given an opportunity, they've run with it. And in a couple of years, just as the winning hopefully returns to Camden Yards, they'll be discarded and shoved away.

Their bank account will probably ease their pains, of course. But those four, in particular, deserve better. They've been bright lights in an otherwise dismal first half of the 2019 campaign.

John Means and Andrew Cashner both figure to generate lots of attention at the trade deadline. Means would be among the league leaders in ERA (2.50) if he had enough innings to qualify and Cashner has allowed less than one hit per inning while going 8-3 thus far.

It seems counterintuitive to give away the only two decent starting pitchers you have, but that's what the Orioles are faced with later this month. And even then, there's no telling what that might get back in return. I mean, it's not like the Birds are dangling Chris Sale and Max Scherzer to the rest of the league. In some ways, it seems logical to keep them both around. But if they can fetch some decent prospects, go ahead and make the deal(s), I suppose.

I'm not even going to mention trying to package Chris Davis in a trade. It's just a waste of time.

So, while the future looks bright with the likes of D.L. Hall, Ryan Mountcastle, Yusniel Diaz and the recent slew of draft picks -- including Adley Rutschman and Gunnar Henderson -- the current crop of table setters deserve a better fate. Signing up to lose 110 times isn't fun. Sure, you get paid for it, but you put in all that work with the hope that you'll someday be part of a winning team. And just when the winning seems inevitable, you're gone.

The U.S. men's soccer team is in a rebuilding stage as well, and even though they've moved into the semifinals of the Gold Cup, it's very apparent they are by no means a lock to qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

The men beat Curacao last night in Philly, 1-0, but it was hardly an impressive performance. Curacao, rated as the 79th best national team in the world, gave the American side all they could handle and then some. If not for a terrific night in goal from U.S. 'keeper Zack Steffen, Curacao would have been moving on to Nashville for Wednesday night's game with Jamaica.

Like the Orioles, the U.S. needs better players. Period. Their best player, Christian Pulisic, keeps them in almost every game all by himself. If something were to happen to him, injury wise, the U.S. would be a semi-laughingstock. They could barely put three passes together last night, and almost every time they did string three together, Pulisic was the starter of it all. His assist on Weston McKennie's first half goal was a thing of a beauty.

But in the regular run of play throughout the 90 minutes, not one other U.S. forward or midfielder did anything of note, save for a late-game left footed shot from Michael Bradley that tested the Curacao goalkeeper. The only problem with that? Bradley is on his way out, age having caught up to him -- some would say years ago. The other offensive players last night, Arriola and Zardes in particular, were simply no shows. And then late in the game when Jordan Morris came on as a sub, he was gifted a glorious chance from 10 yards out and promptly bombed it over the goal.

Interestingly enough, as a quick sidebar here, the U.S. Women's national team has produced a ton of quality offensive players over the years. Hamm, Wambach, Foudy, Akers-Stahl and, now, Lloyd, Morgan and Heath. The men haven't come close to the quality of the women when it comes to offensive players. Weird, right?

Former University of Maryland goalkeeper Zack Steffen has emerged as another stalwart netminder for the U.S. National team program.

For a long time, observers would lament that "the best American athletes don't play soccer, that's why the national team isn't any good", but that excuse is LAME in all caps. Just because Mike Trout chose baseball over soccer doesn't mean the U.S. soccer program can't win. LeBron James is a basketball player. He's not a soccer player. The U.S. program didn't collapse because Trout and James decided to play different sports than soccer.

There are gobs and gobs and gobs of high quality American-born soccer players in this country. Our problem has always been this: Their control of the ball, at their feet, simply doesn't come close to matching the rest of the world. We've developed lots of great goalkeepers over the last 30 years and a handful of solid, high caliber defensive players as well. What we've never really developed are world class offensive players.

Christian Pulisic is the first truly "great" offensive player the U.S. has developed. Eric Wynalda, Cobi Jones, Tab Ramos, Claudio Reyna, Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan...those were all high quality performers, no doubt. But they were never GREAT. They were never coveted by the top teams in the world. If you mentioned Tab Ramos in Brazil, they'd all say "Who?"

Whether it's the coaching they receive at the youth level or some other squandered opportunity that our young soccer players miss out on, there's something not right with the development of our national team players. The clearest sign of this came in 2018 when the U.S. couldn't even qualify for the World Cup while coming out of the watered down CONCACAF region, where Mexico, Costa Rica and Honduras advanced and the Americans sat home and watched.

But now, watching this Gold Cup, it becomes even more apparent that World Cup 2022 is far from a lock for the American team. Unless they can develop some offensive players in the next 12 months, their rebuilding project might need another four years to take hold.

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yesterday, today and tomorrow

This Week’s Subject: Happy Canada Day!


Today is the Canadian federal holiday, Canada Day, which celebrates the confederation of several separate provinces into one country in 1867. It used to be known as Dominion Day until 1982, when Canada officially gained full sovereignty from Great Britain (really, it was that recently!).

Those days in the early 1980s marked a franchise high point for the Montreal Expos, who first entered the National League in 1969. In fact, it was in 1981 that the team made its only postseason appearance as the Expos, losing a memorable five-game National League Championship Series against the Dodgers.

1981, you may remember, was a strike-shortened season, which was split into “halves” thanks to the work stoppage that lasted from June 12 to July 31.

Unfortunately, another players’ strike would prematurely end what was sure to be the best season in Expo history, one in which the team was probably the favorite to win the World Series. The 1994 Expos were 74-40, six games ahead of the Braves, when the season ended in August. Led by the stud outfield of Moises Alou, Marquis Grissom and Larry Walker, and managed by Alou’s father Felipe, Montreal had the best record in the Major Leagues.

After that, Montreal would only get close to the postseason once, in 1996. In their final two seasons in Canada, in 2003 and 2004, the Expos played home games both at their actual home, Olympic Stadium, and the Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan, P.R.

There were efforts made to move the Expos to San Juan permanently, but they ended up moving not too far from Baltimore, as you might know. In Washington, D.C., after several years of torturous play, the team has been one of the National League’s best since 2012 or so.

In 2014, there was even a real thought that Baltimore and Washington might play each other in the World Series. Considering the state of each franchise about 10 years earlier, it would have been quite an amazing matchup.

In Montreal, in 36 seasons, the franchise finished nearly 200 games below .500, averaging about 76 wins per season.

Despite that middling record, the Expos had some great Hall of Famers with great nicknames — the late Gary Carter, “The Kid,” inducted in 2003, Andre Dawson, “The Hawk,” inducted in 2010, and Tim Raines, “Rock,” inducted in 2017. There’s also Pedro Martinez, inducted in 2015, who became better known playing for the Red Sox but started his dominating period in Montreal, where he won the 1997 Cy Young thanks to a 1.90 ERA and 13(!) complete games.


Back to the Expos later. What about the current state of American professional sports in Canada?

Canada Day is yet another day to celebrate the Toronto Raptors, who beat the powerful (if undermanned and injured) Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals last month. It took the Raptors 24 seasons, a generation, to win an NBA championship.

The greatest thing to ever come out of Canada wasn't Guy Lafleur or any other hockey player.

All of the team’s best six seasons, by regular-season wins, have come in the last six years. With the likely loss of Kawhi Leonard, who might be the best all-around player in the NBA, that stretch of success might be coming to a close.

As for the Toronto Blue Jays, the best word to use has been mediocrity. During the 14-year period from 1998-2011, when the Orioles were simply terrible, Toronto was just ok, at least by wins and losses. By playoff appearances, on the other hand, the Blue Jays made the Orioles look good. In 1993, the team won the World Series for the second straight year. It would take 22 years until the Blue Jays made the playoffs again, also winning more than 90 games for the first time since that second-straight title.

The Blue Jays have fallen victim to the Yankees and the Red Sox just the same as the Orioles. It just seems a little better because they’ve won a few more games along the way.

Meanwhile, the state of Canada’s NHL franchises is one of the more interesting topics of discussion in professional hockey, at least to me. The last Canadian franchise to win the Stanley Cup was the 1992-93 Montreal Canadiens.

These days, there are seven Canadian franchises — in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal — from west to east. How are they doing? Well…it depends.

In 2006, the Oilers made a surprise run to the Stanley Cup Finals. Since then, Edmonton has made the playoffs, in a league where half the teams make the playoffs, only once.

The Oilers’ Alberta mates, the Flames, had a fantastic season in 2018-19. Their 107 points tied the Bruins for second-best in the league behind Tampa Bay. Unfortunately, this year marked just the third playoff appearance for Calgary in the last 10 seasons.

Overall, 2018-19 wasn’t a bad year for the Canadian teams. Besides Calgary, which won the Pacific Division, both Toronto and Winnipeg had good seasons. Montreal, which amazingly has only reached the conference finals twice since 1993, looks to be on the way up.

Still, 46% of the players in the NHL are Canadian, so they’ve got that going for them, I guess, eh?


I’m guessing you’ve figured out why I brought up all that Expos’ history before. It sure seems possible that baseball is coming back to Montreal, sorta kinda.

Sacre bleu, I say!

Why, just last week, Rays’ owner Stuart Sternberg and other team officials finally addressed the news that Major League Baseball had given the team permission to examine the possibility of splitting the season between St. Petersburg and Montreal.

The Rays would be less like sharks and more like snowbirds, I suppose. They’d play the early portion of their schedule in Florida, then head to Canada around midseason. My girlfriend’s mom lives in a community near Tampa; I mean, that’s what a lot of her neighbors do!

The ultimate plan would see both places, Tampa (not St. Pete) and Montreal, build new open-air stadiums for the team and…wait a minute…whaaaat?

This has absolutely no chance of happening. Rays’ ownership has never really come close to getting Tampa or St. Petersburg to help finance a stadium for the team. How realistic is it that they’d be able to convince two cities to do so?

Sternberg used part of his press conference to insist that this push toward a two-city solution for the Rays was “neither a negotiating play nor a threat.”

What is it exactly, then? Probably nothing but a fantasy.

It’s a cool fantasy, I guess. A lovely Florida-ish park, probably not too big, near or in downtown Tampa. It would be the exact opposite of the Trop, an eyesore of a not-a-baseball stadium in St. Petersburg. The Red Sox and Orioles and Yankees and Blue Jays would love some nice warm-weather outdoor baseball in April and even May.

Then, right about the time the Central Florida weather turned to disgusting with off-and-on rain showers 13 times every day, the team would be off to refreshing Quebec, where any day over 80 degrees (er, 27 Celsius) is a veritable heat wave.

Would the team return to Florida for any October games, so as not to get caught in an early snow squall? Could they choose to play October games in Canada, so as to keep all those fly balls Aaron Judge might hit in the ballpark?

What would the team’s name be? More importantly, would they bring back the Expos’ logo, which has been sadly lost to history the last 15 years?

These are all fantasy questions, I would think. Plus, the Rays aren’t even allowed to discuss anything for a stadium site before 2028 without an agreement from their current city. Look for a lot of baseball at the Trop for a good while.

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