Friday
June 15
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issue 15
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was that fun? i'm not sure


As several people were stationed at the Eagle's Nest bar early Thursday evening, Jason Dufner missed a 3-foot putt at Shinnecock Hills. It wasn't even close.

That came about 75 minutes after Tiger Woods three-jacked from six feet at the 13th hole.

And a few minutes after Dufner's 3-foot whiff, Jon Rahm took three putts from eight feet at his final hole of the day.

"Is it fun watching this happen to these guys?" someone chirped at the bar. They giggled, so I assume the answer they'd give to their own question was "yes".

"I'm not sure," I replied.

A few seconds later, they showed the scoreboard.

Mickelson, +7 (77)

Spieth, +8 (78)

McIlroy, +10 (80)

As McIlroy's name appeared, I said, "It's certainly not fun seeing three of the best players in the world combine for 25 over par."

But that's the U.S. Open.

It's golf on steroids.

Rory McIlroy's first round score of 80 leaves him eleven shots off the lead at the U.S. Open.

Some players handled the treacherous conditions quite well. Four players somehow even shot one-under par rounds of 69.

A guy named Matthieu Pavon shot 71. I know what you're asking: Who? Don't fret, I've never heard of him, either.

The U.S. is, as I wrote earlier this week, the craziest test in golf. You get bad bounces, worse bounces and bounces no one should have to endure.

Tiger Woods striped it at the first hole and hit a solid iron shot into the green, only to see it race over the putting surface. In a standard PGA Tour event, he would have flipped his lob wedge up to six feet and saved par.

The U.S. Open isn't "standard". Nothing about it is, actually.

Woods made 7 at the first hole, then rebounded nicely until a catastrophe at the 13th hole wrecked his confidence -- and score -- for the rest of the day.

But Woods was far from the only great player to suffer at Shinnecock Hills on Thursday.

There was carnage everywhere.

And here's what's really funny. (Well, funny to me, because I'm not the one making double and triple bogeys from the middle of the fairway.) The golf course isn't even playing "really hard" yet.

Granted, the USGA might actually soften it up a bit over the next couple of days just to treat the players cordially, but make no mistake about it, if the course winds up getting more difficult as the rounds come and go, something around 8-over par could end up winning the golf tournament.

I love the U.S. Open, as I wrote earlier this week.

But I don't like seeing players suffer.

Some dude named Scott Gregory shot 92 on Thursday. You ready for his post-round quote? "I was honestly afraid I might shoot 100 after the front nine. I made a goal of posting 89 or less. I thought that would be a great testament to how much I stuck with it."

He made three pars. Not in a row or anything like that. Three pars. Total.

And this is a guy who deserved to be in the field. Anyone who teed it up on Thursday was either exempt or qualified for the event. A score of 92 isn't fun.

But I'll still watch over the next three days. Actually, today, I'll see it in person, as a group of us are heading up to Shinneock for round two.

Saturday and Sunday I'll tune in and see how it goes, but I'm afraid I already know what lies ahead.

Players we never thought we'd see implode are going to do that over the weekend. Someone will be "right there" for 63 holes or something like that and then blow up on the back nine with the U.S. Open in their sights.

It's not going to be pretty, except for that one lone figure who will hold up the trophy sometime Sunday evening.

Who will that be?

It's anyone's guess.

I'd say based on round one that anyone at 76 or better after Thursday's opening 18 holes still has a chance to win.

17 of the last 19 U.S. Open champions were within four shots of the first-round lead. That math says the guys at 73 or less still stand a chance, everyone else can go home.

Somehow, though, I think this year is different.

It's still anyone's tournament. Well, maybe except for Scott Gregory.

Dustin Johnson shot 1-under yesterday. He knows how to win a U.S. Open. I like his chances.

Heck, who knows...

Johnson could start 7, 5, 6 today and be tied for 14th before you make it into work.

Seriously, though, D.J. is in great position after the opening round. It wouldn't be a shock at all to see him win.

It's going to be fun over the next three days.

Or not.


world cup preview podcast is up


The Juice will return on Monday, June 19.

Today's podcast is a replay of our World Cup Preview with Carlos Stecco of Stecco Law that originally aired this past Wednesday.

With the World Cup just getting started, we thought it would be a good idea to run it one more time for those of you out there who enjoy "the beautiful game".

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sounds like buck's in trouble


When Ken Rosenthan of The Athletic writes something about Major League Baseball, it's likely well-sourced and accurate.

If that's the case, Buck Showalter should be worried.

Rosenthal authored a piece on Thursday that says Showalter has, essentially, lost the clubhouse.

"His message no longer resonates with in the clubhouse or with the front office." That's the quote that probably doesn't give Buck the warm and fuzzies.

Of course, Buck could easily say. "My message? You guys gave men 20 big league players to come north with back in late March. And my message is the problem?"

And that's true, of course.

The Orioles came to Baltimore to face the Twins with three Rule 5 players, plus Pedro Alvarez and Chance Sisco.

Alvarez is hitting .185 and Sisco is beltin' at a .222 clip, although he does have a decent on-base percentage (.341).

Two of the Rule 5 guys have departed to the minor leagues (Cortes and Santander) while the other, Pedro Araujo, should be there.

In the meantime, though, they were all part of the 8-27 start that has downshifted to an ugly 19-48 record that has the Orioles seriously looking at a 55-win season -- if they're lucky.

And somehow, Showalter's to blame?

Sure, Buck's had some down spots this year, too. He's good for a blunder or two about once a homestand or road trip that costs the team a chance to win a game.

But this fiasco is as much his fault as it's the fault of the head groundskeeper.

The Orioles can't hit.

They have three players this year who have played either to or above their potential. Three. That's it. Manny Machado, Adam Jones and Danny Valencia.

And of those three, the only one without a major wart is Machado. Jones has lost a lot of quality defensively and Valenica has almost no quality with the glove.

But those three have pulled their weight this year.

No one else has -- not with the bat, anyway.

The pitching hasn't been awful. Cobb's been terrible and Cashner's been a notch above that. But Bundy, Gausman and Hess have done reasonably well, with Bundy leading the pack and Gausman's 4.58 ERA a bit misleading.

And, again, I'll ask: How has all of this landed on Buck's shoulders?

It's Buck's fault that Schoop can't hit?

It's Buck's fault that Trumbo was hurt and now has just three lousy home runs in 34 games?

It's Buck's fault that Chris Davis hasn't had a hit since Patrick Reed won the Masters?

I could go on and on.

This isn't Buck's fault.

The team was poorly constructed from jump street.

Maybe if they had a general manager with a contract and weren't using a de facto personal trainer as their chief of baseball operations things would be different.

To that end, maybe if the manager had a contract past this season...

At this point, it's a big, fat "whatever" when discussing Showalter, Duquette and the team's 19-48 record.

Nothing that's done now is going to change anything.

Go ahead, fire the manager if you want. You're still going to lose.

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Thursday
June 14
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issue 14
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these are the three best potential u.s. open stories


I definitely have a rooting interest at this weekend's U.S. Open.

On Wednesday, I made the 65 minute jaunt up to Delaware Park -- just outside of Newark -- and created that rooting interest, if you will.

Let's just say I'd be thrilled if any of the following win the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills: Bryson DeChambeau, Branden Grace, Henrik Stenson, Xander Schauffele, Bubba Watson or Jamie Lovemark.

I'd be really thrilled if Lovemark wins. He was 300 to 1.

But none of the players I'm rooting for fall under the category of "best story" material.

As I see it, there are three potential "best stories" at Shinnecock Hills this week.

#3 -- Rickie Fowler wins his first major.

Since Lee Westwood isn't in, thereby eliminating a player I'd love to see win a major championship, let's go with the next-best-thing. And that would be Rickie Fowler.

Fowler said during an interview on Tuesday at Shinnecock that his win at The Players back in 2015 is close enough for him. "I've already basically won a major," Fowler said. "The Players has the best field of any tournament we play. And I won that event in 2015."

Meh. Sure, The Players is a significant tournament. The winner's check is really big. The field is, in fact, among the best of any event, anywhere in the world.

But it is NOT a major champioship. Fowler can consider it a major if he wants, but the reality is it's not a major. And he knows that.

That said, Fowler has played well in majors at various points in his career. He's certainly capable of winning one. Take one look at the crowd at any major championship and you'll see scores of young boys dressed like Fowler, pressing up against the ropes for an autograph, a glove or a ball.

It would be great for golf if Fowler wins the U.S. Open.

And it would be great for Fowler if Fowler wins the U.S. Open.

He deserves it.

#2 -- Tiger Woods wins his 15th career major.

Nothing would do the sport of golf more good this weekend than Tiger Woods holding up the trophy on Sunday evening.

It would culminate a remarkable comeback story for Woods, who this time last year wasn't even swinging a golf club, let alone competing for a national championship.

While he hasn't yet won this year, Woods has played very well at times, including a second place finish at The Valspar Championship and solid play at The Memorial a couple of weeks ago.

If you listen to players on TOUR, they'll tell you Woods is close to winning.

But talk is talk. Woods has to win again before anyone will call the comeback complete.

And a victory at Shinnecock would not only get him back in the winner's circle, it would also produce his 15th career major title.

If you ask me, Woods isn't going to catch Jack's record of 18 majors. But I also know this: If he gets to 15, that's closer to 18 than 14 is. You have to chip away, one win at a time.

Tiger's comeback from major back surgery in March of 2017 is remarkable in its own right, win or lose.

But make no mistake about it, a win at Shinnecock would be a great story for golf and for the 3-time U.S. Open champion as well.

#1 -- Phil Mickelson wins and completes the career grand slam.

By far, the best available story at the U.S. Open involves Phil Mickelson.

A win for Mickelson would cap off his phenomenal career and give him a victory in all four majors (3 Masters, 1 British Open, 1 PGA to date).

A victory at Shinnecock would also help ease the pain of his six (to date) runner-up finishes at the U.S. Open, including a near-miss at the 2004 event at Shinneock Hills.

If anyone in the field deserves to win the U.S. Open more than the rest of the players, it's Mickelson. He's paid his dues. Lots of them.

Every golfer can do the shoulda-coulda-woulda game when it comes to winning -- and winning majors -- but Phil could "easily" have ten majors in his pocket if a few things would have gone his way.

Phil's never been as popular as Woods, but a victory at Shinnecock would do more for Mickelson than it would for Tiger.

In his historic career, there are two things Phil has yet to accomplish. He's never won the U.S. Open. And he's never won a Ryder Cup away from the United States.

Shinnecock Hills might represent his last "best" chance to win a U.S. Open.

And it's very likely his last chance to win a Ryder Cup on foreign soil will come this September in France.

Let's hope Phil scratches the U.S. Open off his "to do" list on Sunday evening on Long Island.

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orioles fall 29 games below .500


I'll start off with perhaps the most amazing stat you can find about the inept Orioles offense.

In their last 55 at-bats with runners in scoring position, the Orioles have a grand total of three hits.

Yep, it's true.

After going 0-for-4 on Wednesday, Jonathan Schoop's average is now down to .209 in 2018.

Prior to yesterday's game with Boston, they were 3-for-48 with runners in scoring position, dating back to the series in Toronto last weekend.

Yesterday, they went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position. That's 3-for-55.

Even a Flyers fan -- never confused for a Rhodes Scholar -- can tell you that's not good.

It's downright awful, actually.

And that's just one way the Birds are losing games in droves, yesterday losing their 7th in a row overall and 11th straight at home, 5-1 to Boston.

The O's are 19-48 on the year now.

To get back to .500, they'd have to win 29 straight games.

They're on pace to win 46 games all season. That won't happen, obviously. At some point, they'll string together a win streak or win 6 of 10 or something like that. But getting to 60 wins is definitely going to be a significant challenge for Buck Showalter's team.

I don't think winning 60 matters any more or less, say, than winning 70 does, but there's something about your win-loss record starting with a "5" that is particularly embarrassing. I'm not sure the O's care all that much, but getting to 60 wins at this point would be a significant achievement and save them some legitimate humiliation.

Then again, if they ship Machado, Brach, Britton and Jones to new teams in the next five weeks, there's no telling how many games they might lose in 2018. I guess it's possible they might not get to 50 wins if they trade those four guys.

It's beyond the laughable stage at this point.

In general, indifference has set in, which is the worst kind of fan reaction a team can generate.

My guess, now, is that most of the city has disconnected with the team. So much promise...all gone.

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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.


too big to make sense


This St. Frances football story just won’t go away.

Whatever you think the narrative is about — race (not really), safety (a little bit) or Biff Poggi’s money (yes, that’s it) — it’s been an unusually popular topic. The D.C. area writer Dave McKenna has even given it some national ink for Deadspin, thus allowing a small conference of typically publicity-averse Baltimore independent schools to enter the national zeitgeist.

St. Frances will now play a “national” schedule this season, assuming it can find enough games to play. Even Gilman, the opponent that probably wanted most to continue playing its old coach’s team, bailed when it heard that.

Frankly, I’m with them, and Loyola and Calvert Hall and Archbishop Spalding and Mount Saint Joseph and McDonogh. They said what they said, and everyone interpreted it in his or her own way. I’ll tell you what I think they were saying…

This is high school sports, for god sakes.

High school sports impart many valuable lessons. They provide great memories for the 90-some percent of kids that never play at a higher level. They can bring a sense of community, and they sure as hell can keep young men and women out of trouble.

Individually and collectively, there’s certainly a level of character and of spirit you can learn playing sports in high school that you weren’t old enough to understand when you first started playing.

And yes, those sneaky independent schools recruit athletes. Sometimes, they even recruit them without any idea they’re doing it. Darius Jennings, who starred for Gilman and UVa and is now on the Tennessee Titans’ roster, came to Roland Avenue in second grade thanks to the Baltimore Educational Scholarship Trust. Did Poggi have a bead on the kid at seven years old?

It’s just that…there are two things that high school sports were never meant to be.

They were never meant to be national; in fact, that goes against the entire fabric of their being. That’s been a big part of the St. Frances story, particularly as it relates to recruiting players from other cities.

More significantly, from the sports perspective, high school sports were never meant to be this important.

There’s a reason why the pros, the best of the best, are scrutinized in every way. There’s a reason why scholarship basketball players at Maryland are covered up and down, even if they aren’t critiqued like LeBron James.

High school sports aren’t played at a high enough level to deserve the kind of interest we’re giving them these days. Unless, that is, you go ahead and recruit the best team you can find from anywhere you can find them, which isn’t really a high school team at all.

That’s not a criticism of high school sports — the kids who reach goals they never thought possible, or the coaches and teachers who give their hearts and souls, and some great knowledge and mentorship, to those kids. They compete to be the best in their leagues and beyond. I appreciate their focus and hard work and what it means to them; I experienced it myself.

There’s just been a total loss of perspective about the magnitude of the games themselves. It’s the kind of mentality that leads to St. Frances co-coach Henry Russell calling people cowards, and to all the back-and-forth statements from adults that have nothing to do with kids at all.

In the fall of 1990, a classmate of mine named Larry Washington ran past, over and through opposing defenses to lead Randallstown High School to an undefeated season and the state football championship in Class 4A, the classification for the largest public schools in Maryland.

If you weren’t paying attention to what was happening on the field, you would have been surprised to know the team was so good. We had no bleachers at our home field. We stood behind a fence next to the track to watch the games.

It was a lot of fun. It was a real source of pride. The quarterback, a great athlete who never got to pass because all we did was hand the ball to Larry, was a good friend of mine dating back to seventh grade. But it just wasn’t that big of a deal.

For some reason lost to history, the 4A state championship game against Wootton High School that season was not played at Byrd Stadium in College Park but instead at Westminster High School. According to news reports, a crowd of 4,000 (including me) attended the game. Not exactly Pennsylvania or Ohio.

We celebrated on the field after the game; I got a big bear hug from my friend Brad Topchik, an offensive lineman twice my size who played at Columbia. He grew up within walking distance of his high school.

And then we went home. We were a big school close to a big city, and a big world that didn’t care that much about the championship awaited us. That even ended up being the case for Larry Washington, who had a short and checkered career at Maryland, including some brief trouble with the law, before ending up at Towson.

Maybe it’s the fact that I grew up here, but that’s what high school sports were to me, and still are. When I went to college in Pennsylvania and first saw the hour-long shows on Friday nights devoted to local high school football highlights, my head almost exploded.

High school sports were small. They were supposed to be small. They were never meant to be about ESPN, and they still aren’t no matter how many recruiting shows appear there. As good as some players were—the ones who would continue in college and sometimes beyond—the games they played really were extracurricular activities.

High schools are not supposed to be funnels through which sports teams operate. Every day on my way to work, I drive by the former Montrose Christian School, the basketball factory that produced Kevin Durant, Greivis Vasquez and others. In financial distress, the church that ran the school first de-emphasized basketball and then sold the land.

I don’t know what getting an education at Montrose was like, but I do know that relying on a nationally-prominent basketball team to make that education possible is the opposite of what it should be. The fact that high school football is such a big deal in one-stoplight small rural towns is understandable, but that doesn't mean it's a good thing.

The fact that high school football is such a big deal in wealthy Texas suburbs is an expression of that affluence, but I don’t think that’s such a good thing either.

When something is small, you can only make it so big before it stops making sense. Isn’t that what the schools in the MIAA “A” Conference are saying?

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Wednesday
June 13
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issue 13
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some folks just don't get it


Maybe this wacky spring weather up and down the east coast is really starting to unsettle some folks.

I'm trying hard to come up with an explanation for some of the things I'm reading and hearing these days. Other than being people downright mean-spirited, I'm going with the weather-excuse for now.

But that still doesn't make it any better.

Maybe some of this stuff should be filed away under the simple concept of "People Are Strange", as The Doors once said on their Strange Days" album.

Or maybe they're just mean at heart.

The Washington Capitals won their first-ever Stanley Cup title last Thursday night in Las Vegas.

Even when he wins the Stanley Cup, some people won't call Alex Oveckhin a "winner".

Anyone following hockey for the last decade knows all too well about the ups and downs experienced by the Caps and their future Hall of Fame captain, Alex Ovechkin.

After a number of near misses and post-season failures, Ovechkin finally reached the promised land last Thursday night.

Except, according to this guy in New York, Ovi's demons weren't exorcised after all.

You can read the drivel here if you'd like.

Granted, there's a solid chance that Larry Brooks, the story's author, wasn't the creator of the goofy headline -- Stanley Cup win doesn't erase Alex Ovechkin's ledger of losing -- but he takes enough jabs at Ovechkin in the piece itself to get his message across loud and clear.

Even when he's a champion, Ovechkin's not good enough.

On this occasion, just this once, having finally conquered the playoffs and hoisted the Stanley Cup, is it too much for Larry Brooks to simply recognize that Ovechkin's place in hockey history is now forever changed?

It did change, by the way. If you think it didn't, you're not very smart. I hate to be brash and, perhaps, overly-frank, but that's true.

Had Alex Ovechkin not won a Stanley Cup in his career, that albatross would have choked him the same way it occasionally smothers the career discussion about Dan Marino.

"Great player and all...one of the best ever, even. But, you know, he never won a championship."

So, Larry Brooks, winning a Stanley Cup title does erase the ledger of losing. It doesn't erase the losses. Every hockey history book will show those, forever. But winning the championship this year turns Ovechkin from a loser to a winner.

Oh, and in case you weren't watching, Larry -- and based on the stuff you wrote, you probably weren't -- Ovechkin was the heart and soul of the Caps post-season triumphs. Without him, they lose. End of story.


Another interesting story circulated over the last 24 hours and this one, too, has become social media fodder.

A unique situation occurred in a high school baseball state championship game in Minnesota, where two lifelong, boyhood friends on opposite teams met with the game and title on the line in the final inning.

Pitcher Ty Koehn struck out Jack Kocon to end the game, but as his teammates rushed in the direction of the pitcher's mound to celebrate their state title, Koehn quickly moved to home plate and hugged his dear friend, consoling him for making the final out of the game.

This set off quite a response in the media and throughout the Twitter world, where there were actually living, breathing human beings (I think) who criticized the pitcher for his actions.

"He should be celebrating with his teammates," I read somewhere. "That's what's wrong with our country these days. The losers think they deserve to be consoled."

There are lots of things wrong with our country, yes. And, I might even subscribe that participation trophies and "misplaced honors" of a similar ilk have watered us down, competitively. And that goes for athletics, education and career wise.

It's fair, in my opinion, to simply say our nation has become "soft" over the last two decades. Maybe we were too tough before and this has just balanced things out a little. Or not.

But a young man consoling a friend who just made the last out in an important high school baseball game is not something that is making our country worse.

We actually need more compassion and empathy in our country, not less. We need more people to stand up and say, "I'm here to support you during these troubled times."

I saw posts and commentary from people who essentially hinted that perhaps the two were involved in a romantic relationship.

Really? That's where we're at these days, eh? A friend consoling a friend brings into question their sexuality?

So silly.


And then there's the on-going saga involving St. Frances and their football team, who recently announced they will play a "national schedule" next season after five local schools opted out of playing them in 2018.

Interestingly, that's all the five schools who didn't want to play St. Frances this season suggested they do all along.

Because some people in town seemingly have a strange need for grandstanding, even in situations like this that involve "kids", we've seen a rash of wild-hair accusations about the St. Frances controversy.

Sadly -- but predictably -- the subject of race has become the hot topic.

Longtime Baltimore Sun columnist Dan Rodricks -- whom I've known for a long time, truth be told -- launched perhaps the most off-target and non-cogent argument on Facebook last night when he wrote that "angry white men" had triggered the outrage at St. Frances and their recent domination of the local high school football scene.

Why is that people can no longer have an opinion on a subject, any subject, without the risk of being labeled "angry" or "a hater"?

I have an opinion on St. Frances. I wrote about it here at #DMD last week.

I wrote, in summary, that I can see both sides of the issue. I respect what Biff Poggi and his staff have done and are continuing to do at St. Frances. My belief is they should play -- as they've said they intend to do -- a national schedule that better fits their goals, aspirations and playing roster.

I also completely understand a school with an undersized and physically vulnerable playing roster being concerned about the well being and safety of their student-athletes, which is the primary reason why Mount Saint Joseph, Calvert Hall, Loyola, McDonogh and Spalding would prefer to not play St. Frances in 2018.

Oh, and yes, I'm white. But I'm not "angry" in the least.

I can establish and maintain a contrary position in the St. Frances debate and not be "angry" about it at all.

I don't know any of the leaders at the other area schools who opted to not play St. Frances in 2018, but I do know Brother John Kane and those involved with the decision at Calvert Hall. None of them, in any way, should ever be considered "angry white men".

They're all intelligent, thoughtful men of faith.

To me, race has nothing to do with it, despite Dan Rodricks' contention that it does.

And it certainly has nothing at all to do with people being "angry".

What's best for all the kids involved is for St. Frances to play an elevated, elite schedule against superior or comparable competition. Remember, this is all about the kids. We have to figure out what's best for them and go from there.

Playing a national schedule is undoubtedly what's best for St. Frances. What good does it do them to beat up on MIAA schools 56-7 every Friday in September and October?

You can't get better that way.

And it's best for the schools in the conference who can't compete with St. Frances to do just that -- not compete with them.

Earlier this week, I saw someone's answer to the problem was this: "As far as those boys go at Saint Joe and The Hall, coach 'em up more. Get 'em in the weight room. Put some meat on their bones."

Yeah, that's a good idea. "Coach 'em up more", because those 200 pound offensive linemen haven't been coached how to overpower a 300 pound defensive opponent.

"Get 'em in the weight room. Put some meat on their bones." Yes indeed, that's a good idea. It's June 13. Let's get in that weight room and put 60 pounds on you over the next two months so you're ready to go in late August when the games start.

Clown shoes...

This is high school sports. On one hand, you have a premium program designed from scratch under a legendary coach to transform young men into potential Division I college football players. By the way, there's typically nothing wrong with that.

And on the other hand, you have a bunch of schools who think football and athletics add value to their scholastic environment, but have no vision at all to compete on the same level as St. Frances does.

There's nothing wrong with that, either.

We're not solving the world hunger crisis here.

It's high school football.

Poggi and St. Frances are doing the right thing by playing a national schedule.

The schools that dropped them had fair and completely understandable reasons for doing so.

No one was angry.

Well, except for a few folks in the media who don't get it.

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world cup preview


I'll admit it. I'm not all that interested in this summer's World Cup, which starts tomorrow with Russia playing Saudi Arabia.

But I know some of you are. And, yes, I'll be watching some of the games for sure, even without the United States playing in this year's event.

So our full World Cup preview can be found in today's edition of The Juice podcast, which you can find over to the right (and above) here at #DMD.

I brought in our resident World Cup expert, #DMD marketing partner Carlos Stecco of Stecco Law, and we sat around for 35 minutes and talked about the World Cup.

There's also a few minutes of discussion about the "other" football, the American kind, and the Ravens.

I won't give away who I have winning the World Cup. You'll have to listen to the podcast to find out. But I'll say this: I do not have Germany taking it all.

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dechambeau, grace will battle it out at shinnecock


It all starts tomorrow at Shinnecock Hills on Long Island.

The U.S. Open returns to one of the country's top golf courses, and if this week's practice rounds are an indication of what's to come, we could be on the verge of seeing a memorable four days of golf.

The United States Golf Association (USGA) has apparently hit a grand slam with the course layout and the greens. The players are praising everything, including the width of the fairways and the length of the rough.

Weather always seems to play a role in these events, making them harder or easier, depending on the moisture (or lack thereof) the course gets throughout tournament week.

It looks like Shinnecock is going to play firm and fast.

Bryson DeChambeau is #DMD's pick to win the U.S. Open this week at Shinnecock Hills.

Our #DMD Top Ten concludes today with the top two players on our leaderboard.

South African players, particularly in the last two Opens held at Shinnecock, have played well there for some reason. Ernie Els was in the hunt in 1995 when Corey Pavin won and Retief Goosen claimed his second of two U.S. Open titles in 2004.

It's a ball striker's course, which Els and Goosen were both known for during the prime of their respective careers.

With those thoughts in mind, I love the chances of Branden Grace this week at Shinnecock Hills.

He nearly won the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay back in 2015, finishing T4 at 3-under par.

He's made 12 of 12 cuts this year on TOUR, with six top 25 finishes and a T3 at the Byron Nelson.

Statistically, he's almost perfectly solid at everything. He doesn't drive it a long way (295 yards on average) but the most important stat is the one in which he ranks best: greens in regulation. Grace hits 69% of his greens in regulation, which puts him in the top 30 on TOUR in that category.

He's 24th in birdies per-round and 34th in scoring per-round.

Like fellow South Africans Els, Goosen, Price, Schwartzel and Oosthuizen, Grace has the golf game to win a major title. Some folks think he's best suited for the British Open, but I love his chances this week.

I'll admit that my hopes for Bryson DeChambeau to win the U.S. Open took a bit of a hit two weeks ago when he won the Memorial Tournament. It's really hard to win consecutive starts on TOUR, which is what DeChambeau will have to do in order to win this week's event at Shinnecock Hills.

But I'm sticking with him.

I'm taking Bryson DeChambeau to win at Shinnecock Hills.

Stats? He has them all. Top 25 in driving distance, top 20 in greens in regulation, top 10 in birdies per-round.

Driving it straight, hitting the green and making the putt. DeChambeau does them all and does them just about as well as anyone on TOUR.

He's having a great season as well, with 14 of 16 cuts made, a win, a second place finish, a T3 and six total finishes within the top 10.

His funky, scientific approach to golf and his unique golf swing have in no way impeded him in his first two years on the big stage. He's a great player.

There's something about DeChambeau that lends itself to events like the U.S. Open. He won the two biggest events an amateur golfer can win in our country; the NCAA individual tournament as a senior at SMU, and the U.S. Amateur later that summer.

He then won on the Web.Com Tour. And has now won twice on the PGA Tour. Oh, and he's going to play on the Ryder Cup team in September in France.

And, if I have it figured out right, he's going to be your U.S. Open Champion this year.

Our #DMD leaderboard:

1. DeChambeau (-5)

2. Grace (-4)

3. Stenson (-3)

4. D. Johnson (-1)

5. Day (E)

Rose (E)

7. B. Watson (+2)

Kuchar (+2)

9. Schauffele (+3)

Mickelson (+3)

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Tuesday
June 12
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issue 12
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aspiring to make a difference


I have some news to share with all of you today.

It's great news to me, which is why I'm spreading it.

If just one of you reading this reaches out to me and we somehow get connected and I wind up making a difference -- even a small one -- the time I took to write this wasn't wasted in any way.

As most of you know, I'm the head golf coach at Calvert Hall High School. I just completed my sixth season there. For two years before that (2011-2012), I was the head coach at John Carroll in Bel Air.

Coaching has always been at the root of my adult-life sports experiences. One of my mentors in my early 20's was Kenny Cooper, the wildly successful head coach of the Baltimore Blast from 1980 through 1992.

Coaches, in all sports, have been and continue to be my most admired professional people.

I've studied coaches. Questioned coaches. Respected coaches. And I love coaching, personally.

I'm excited to pass along some news today about a new coaching endeavor that will hopefully make me a better coach at Calvert Hall and also introduce an amazing organization to you, your players, and their friends and families.

I've been appointed the "Character Coach" for the newly created division of Maryland FCA Golf.

"FCA" is short for Fellowship of Christian Athletes, a wonderful organization that was founded way back in 1954. Its founder, Don McClanen, wrote this note to 19 student-athletes: For some time, I have had the idea of forming an organization of athletes and coaches in this hero-worshiping nation of ours. If athletes can endorse shaving cream, razor blades and cigarettes, surely they can endorse the Lord, too. So my idea is to form an organization that would project you as Christian men before the youth and athletes of our nation.

With that, FCA was born.

Today, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes has a simple mission: "To lead every coach and athlete into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ and His church."

My role with Maryland FCA Golf is to help connect the great game of golf -- in particular at the high school and junior level -- with the mission of FCA. I believe I can do that with great enthusiasm.

The video below is a wonderful eight minutes of inspiration from one of my favorite actors, Denzel Washington. There are some remarkable nuggets of wisdom throughout the video, but the final minute is the most poignant moment of them all.

"Don't just aspire to make a living...aspire to make a difference."

That one gets me every time.

(Please note the video below is my personal endorsement and is not part of any FCA program or presentation.)



#DMD HD-TV


So, just exactly how will I make a difference?

I'll be working with golf coaches and players all over the state of Maryland, helping them understand how golf and their spirituality can be connected in ways they might not have previously understood.

Working with coaches. Check.

Working with young golfers. Check

Helping spread the good news about FCA and what they do for coaches and athletes. Check.

I checked all the boxes I need to check.

By the grace of God, I've been given an opportunity to coach high school golf for the last eight years. The wisdom I've learned and shared, the lessons I've learned and shared, the testimony I've learned and shared -- it will all be part of my new assignment with Maryland FCA Golf.

There are several coaches at Calvert Hall who are involved with FCA, including Bryan Kelly, the outstanding head lacrosse coach of the Cardinals. My friend Brian Hubbard, who coaches for Maryland FCA lacrosse, is a Calvert Hall grad who was instrumental in helping put me together with Maryland FCA for the newly developed golf division.

Frank Kelly III has also helped me in this endeavor. His support of FCA both nationally and in Maryland is understated but extraordinarily important.

I'm indebted to Brian and Frank for their support of my new appointment within Maryland FCA, along with state director Shaun Smithson.

For those who want to know more about FCA in general, you can go here.

If you're specifically interested in my work within Maryland FCA Golf, you can go here.

If you're a coach and you'd like to talk with me about Maryland FCA, you can reach me through #DMD at: drew@drewsmorningdish.com.

I'll also have a FCA e-mail in the near future.

I'd love to come out and visit with you, the coach, or any of the players on your team and help serve FCA's mission: "To lead every coach and athlete into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ and His church."

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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.



Baseball's trade season is a blessing and a curse. On one hand, trades are awesome and the baseball market usually does a pretty good job of enticing teams to move around asset value in just the right way.

Bad teams get cheap young players that can help them win again, contending teams get quality veterans that make them better for the last leg of the pennant chase, and sometimes you even get bona fide stars like Justin Verlander going from also ran clubs to someplace where he can dazzle us with a dominant run to the World Series. It's awesome, is what I'm saying.

On the other hand, endless trade talk can get really annoying. The incessant churning of the rumor Mill is bad enough, but what's really awful is the endless parade of ridiculous trade proposals from armchair GMs, delivered with a sort of angry certainty. Pondering trades is fun, but listening to some dimwit on the radio call Dan Duquette an idiot for not trading Zach Britton, Chris Davis, and Caleb Joseph for Houston's top 6 prospects or something just becomes unbearable after a while.

Still, with the Orioles about as likely to set the all time record for losses as they are to reach .500, trades are about all Baltimore fans are going to have to talk about until Ravens camp opens. So here are some general rules to keep in mind to keep yourself from looking like a buffoon over the next couple of months.

1. The deadline is about every team, not just yours.

Could Orioles closer Zach Britton be the first one to go as the trade deadline starts to creep around?

This is the one that fans have the most trouble remembering in general. Yes, Dan Duquette would probably love to get back 4 or 5 top level prospects for Manny Machado. Perhaps he'd like to start the selloff now. If the need for a trade, or the value of starting to make trades now rather than later, seems obvious to you than the professionals probably haven't overlooked it.

They do, however, need another team to agree to trade terms.

In fact, the deadline is much more about the buyers than the sellers, especially when you are trying to trade impending free agents. Creating value is all about leverage, and the Orioles have none with Machado or Britton. They can't walk away and take another crack later this time. If they have leverage, it's in creating a bidding war between other teams.

But Dan Duquette can't simply induce some other team to give up a bunch of prospects tomorrow just because he said so, and the fact that your fevered demands to make a move aren't being answered isn't proof that it isn't being tried.

2. You probably think your team's players are better than they are.

Another common theme is fans of a team thinking that their team's players are better than fans of other teams see them as being, and likely better than other teams front offices see them as well. Remember how a lot of Orioles fans thought they were going to get two top 100 prospects for Brad Brach last year? Yeah, it's like that.

3. There is no baseline for value.

One of the annoying things about the conversation over trades is the way it creates the need for rules setting boundaries for a common understanding of the topic. So, for example, you constantly here that a player with more games until free agency is more valuable than a rental. And all else being equal that's true but all else is rarely equal, and there are a bunch of factors that go in to creating trade demand.

Like maybe now that the Dodgers are on the ropes the Diamondbacks are more eager to add Machado and make a run while their biggest rival is reeling than they were in December. Maybe the Mariners have more interest after Robinson Cano's suspension. Or maybe something crazy happens! Just remember that if you start citing iron clad laws about player value you're probably going to wind up looking stupid.

4. Every year is different.

Another mistake you see writers make a lot is to use recent years to make determinations about what other players should be worth. That makes a lot of sense on the face of it, but again buyers set the prices, and they don't think they need to pay anymore than need be because of what some other team did in a different situation.

We saw a lot of this last year, when it was taken as a given that the Orioles would get a huge haul for Zach Britton because of what the Yankees got for Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller. But it just didn't work out that way, because there just weren't teams willing to pay that price for relievers that time around. And then the two teams who most prominently passed on the deal went to the World Series anyway.

5. If it doesn't hurt to lose them, no one wants them.

By far the worst fans in this realm are the ones constantly floating crazy ideas to make trades centered around players who aren't very good, and who no one really minds losing. You know, the ones who had a dozen ideas to add an All-Star for a package built around Ryan Flaherty and Joey Rickard. It doesn't have to go to that extreme, but if you're about to propose a trade and it doesn't make you a little bit sad to think of losing on player in the deal, then your trade proposal definitely sucks.

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u.s. open golf top ten


With the sectional qualifying events now over and the field mostly set for the U.S. Open, we can start going through the contenders and pretenders and constructing a top ten for next week's second major of the 2018 golf calendar.

Shinnecock Hills should be a sensational venue for this year's event. After the fiasco in 2004, where the USGA completely botched the course set-up during a scorching hot Long Island summer, the time has come to put the golf course back on its proper pedestal.

Wider fairways are a good start and music to a PGA Tour player's ears. The rough will be penal, yes, but you'll have to hit it considerably off line to get yourself into the deep stuff.

The greens will be fast and firm, yes, but not on the verge of being unplayable like they were in 2004.

Could Shinnecock Hills be the perfect setting for Henrik Stenson's second major title?

This will be a fair test. 2004 was simply "who was left standing" when Retief Goosen won his second of two U.S. Open titles.

So, as we do with every golf major, let's take a look at #DMD's projected Top Ten for the U.S. Open. We'll actually list the #2 and #1 finishers next Wednesday, so each day from now through next Wednesday, we'll feature another player on our advance leaderboard.

Number 10 on the list was Phil Mickleson. Number 9 was Xander Schauffele. Number 8 was Matt Kuchar.

Bubba Watson checked in at #7.

Number 6 was Justin Rose.

Jason Day came in at #5 on Sunday, June 10.

2016 U.S. Open champ Dustin Johnson is our #4 selection.

And at #3, we have a man who has an "Open" of his own, just not the here in the U.S. Henrik Stenson is #3 on our Top 10 list.

If you go back and look at the history of U.S. Open play, greens in regulation -- or what the experts call "ball striking" -- is the most revealing statistic of them all. Lots of people probably would have guessed that putting would have been more crucial than iron play, but that's not true.

The difficulty of the greens at the U.S. Open tends to bunch the field together. In other words, once you're on the green, everyone generally putts with the same degree of success. It's who can get on the green more quickly that separates the guys battling for 25th from those trying to win the title on Sunday.

If you believe in that formula, Henrk Stenson is a natural selection as a potential winner at Shinnecock Hills.

He still remains one of the best drivers of the golf ball in the world and his ball striking ability is jaw dropping. Like a lot of the great ball strikers, Hogan and Nicklaus come to mind right away, he isn't the best around the greens. But that's because a guy who hits most of the greens in regulation doesn't need to worry about chipping and pitching.

When his putter gets hot, like it did a few years back when he torched Phil Mickelson and everyone else in the field to win the British Open, he's as good as any player, anywhere.

Henrik Stenson is very much capable of winning his second career major this week on Long Island.

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Monday
June 11
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issue 11
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here's why i love the u.s. open


Later this week at one of the nation's premier golf courses, the country's national championship will be played over 72 holes.

There are four major championships in golf. The Masters, played every year at Augusta National, the U.S. Open, played at one of roughly 12 courses in the "rotation" established by the USGA, the British Open, and the PGA Championship.

Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder, as the saying goes. The Masters has a special place on the golf calendar, both because it typically ushers in spring in the U.S. and it's played on arguably the greatest course in America.

The British Open -- awkwardly referred to as "The Open Championship" over there -- is played on a similar rotation of courses in the U.K., many of which have been tempered over the years by the inability to change the length and routing of the property while players now hit their drivers 325 yards without a second thought.

The PGA is the afterthought of the group of four, although that might change in 2019 when the event moves to a May placement on the schedule. The only thing special about it? It's a major.

Of the four, there's no doubt which event is the best "test" of golf for the players who tee it up and stand ready for the challenge.

It's the U.S. Open.

Why do I love it so much?

I'm glad you asked.

In 2004, only two players broke par at Shinnecock Hills, as Retief Goosen won the second of his two U.S. Opens with a score of 4-under par.

The U.S. Open combines everything a player requires to win a major championship.

Length off the tee is poo-poo'd these days by folks who bemoan the trampoline effect, the wider sweet spot and a golf ball that spins less than it did two decades ago.

But you can't win the U.S. Open by hitting it 325 yards into the rough. If you can't drive it straight, long doesn't help.

Here's the deal: You should have to hit the ball a long way to win the U.S. Open. It's not easy to hit it 325 yards and in the middle of the fairway. "The woods are full of long hitters" as the saying goes.

They narrow the fairways at the U.S. Open, too, just to make sure an average driver of the golf ball gets weeded out along the way.

But because every player -- even the best in the world -- hits a bad shot or two, the rough along the fairways and around the greens either punishes those who can't handle it or rewards those who can.

I love that element of the U.S. Open.

Sure, the rough is sometimes out of control. Too high in places. It yields far more bad breaks than good breaks.

But that's OK. Over 72 holes, you're supposed to encounter some tough moments. Unfair moments. Moments that separate the men from the boys, so to speak.

The greens are always the biggest topic of conversation during U.S. Open week, because the USGA has often used the putting surfaces as the great equalizer.

The greens are firm. Sometimes, they're like a table top. Only the best shots, the ones struck firmly and crisply, are able to stay on the putting surface.

That's OK too.

If you hit one off the bottom groove from 178 yards out, your penalty should be a delicate chip from ankle high rough.

I'm not saying every PGA Tour event has to be set up like that.

I'm saying it's good to have the nation's major golfing championship set up like that.

There have been occasions along the way where the USGA pushed the envelope a bit with the course and the set-up and either the weather or just the plain difficulty of it all turned the event into a bit of a circus.

Last year the opposite happened. They ventured to a new course, Erin Hills, but the USGA was so afraid of making the place impossible to play that they set it up too easy. Brooks Koepka chewed up the venue like he was playing the John Deere Classic.

Historically, par at the U.S. Open was a good score. I like that concept.

It's a tournament where the guy who makes the least mistakes often times wins.

It's a tournament where some guys handle bad breaks well and some guys collapse when things don't go their way.

That's one of the reasons why the U.S. Open is the best test of golf anywhere in the world.

It's not supposed to be easy.

If it were easy, any goof could win it.

Instead, with the very rare exception, only the best players in the world are able to navigate the U.S. Open layout successfully.

And that's because only the best players can keep their head in the game for 20 hours over four days on those golf courses the USGA chooses to host the U.S. Open.

A great player will win this week's event at Shinnecock Hills.

To do it, he'll have to get good breaks and take advantage of them.

He'll get bad breaks and accept them for what they are. And take advantage of them, as well.

He'll make a few putts he shouldn't.

He'll lip out a three footer or two on those dried up, burned out greens.

And when the dust settles on Sunday evening on Long Island, someone's going to survive the best test in golf.

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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.


#ALLCAPS Edition

Who?

Jeff Halpern

On Friday, Drew threw out a bunch of names from the history of the Capitals whom he hoped “felt like a part” of the team’s first Stanley Cup. These were star guys, like the smooth Swede Bengt Gustafsson, the physical Canadian Dale Hunter and the skilled Slovak Peter Bondra.

Jeff Halpern was more of a grinder, but he has a connection to team history that nobody else can really touch, honestly. He was a local fan of the Capitals who eventually went on to play for the team.

Born in Potomac in 1976, Halpern started playing at the time when the Caps finally turned the corner and became a playoff team. Unable to find the level of hockey he needed to make his dreams come true, Halpern left Winston Churchill High School at age 15 and ended up at prep school in New Hampshire. His prep career led to four years on the hockey team and a degree at Princeton, where I met him.

He wasn’t drafted, but the Caps took a chance on him as a free agent. By 2005-06, Alex Ovechkin’s rookie year, Halpern was the team captain. A guy from Montgomery County with the “C” on his chest.

The February before that, Halpern dealt with terrible tragedy when his mother, Gloria, died in an auto accident in Florida. I can’t imagine how much time and money she and her husband, Mel, spent on a young man from Maryland chasing his professional hockey dream, and I can’t imagine their pride to have seen him put on the uniform they’d been rooting for since 1974.

Jeff currently works as an assistant coach for the Syracuse Crunch of the AHL, an affiliate of the Tampa Bay Lightning. I suppose his job had him rooting for his employer during the Eastern Conference finals, but I hope he switched allegiances to the Caps for the Stanley Cup final. He definitely deserves a part in the team’s story.


What?

Alex Ovechkin’s one-timers

There’s a great video on YouTube of Alex Ovechkin scoring the same goal from the same spot. It’s that right-handed slap shot from the left wing that he always seems to time perfectly.

Okay, sometimes it’s a wrist shot. And it’s not always in the exact same spot. Sometimes it’s closer to the blue line, and other times he’s crashing the goal. Every once in a while, it’s at a very difficult angle; much of the time it’s “open” because it’s a power play.

He's the all-time goal-scoring lead for the Capitals and their only Conn Smythe winner as well.

But still…is there a bigger weapon in sports today than that shot? It’s incredible.

It doesn’t seem to matter if the pass Ovechkin receives is a little too hard or a little choppy across difficult ice right before the period ends. It doesn’t seem to matter if it gets a little too tight to his body. Actually, he seems to like when it gets close to his body.

Like all great athletes, he’s prepared to make the play before the ball or the puck ever gets to him. His stick is wound, his body is turned and his eyes seem to be focused both on the goal and on the puck.

And then…boom. The goalie knows it’s coming but has no chance. The “netcam” is in serious danger of being busted in six pieces every time.

The YouTube video is only four-and-half minutes long, but I’m sure you could make one like that for Ovechkin every season.

He’s a freak, and that might be the freakiest thing he can do on the ice.


Where?

Columbus

To win the Stanley Cup, a team must win 16 games. The Capitals won those 16 games in 24 attempts, similar to champions in recent history.

Remember when all Barry Trotz’s team was looking for was one win?

The day was April 17, a Tuesday, and Washington was down 2-0 heading into a game at Nationwide Arena in Columbus. Somehow, Trotz’s team had blown two-goal leads in both Game 1 and Game 2 at home. Then, they let a late lead slip away again; a third-straight overtime game was in the cards. The Caps were one unlucky break from a 3-0 deficit.

Forget about the usual choke job. This playoff run was about to be over the same week that it started.

Who knew, when Lars Eller saved the Capitals’ season in the second overtime that night, that he’d be the one who’d score the game winning goal in the last game of the Stanley Cup finals almost eight weeks later? In Las Vegas, of all places.

The Game 3 win in Columbus was the start of an outstanding road stretch for the Capitals—nine wins in 12 road games during the playoffs. Included in that stretch were three wins in four road games in the only series that went the full seven games for the Caps—the Eastern Conference final against Tampa Bay.

Back home on April 17, the D.C. fanbase was wondering how much effort it should even put into these playoffs. Luckily, in Ohio, the team kept working to get that one goal that would change their season.


When?

April 12

Washington’s playoff run began five days earlier, on April 12 at Capital One Arena. Exactly eight weeks later, Alex Ovechkin was skating around T-Mobile Arena in a pre-drunken state holding the Stanley Cup like it was a small coffee mug.

People, including me, love to talk about the tension of the baseball playoffs. There’s nothing quite like it if you’re a fan, they say.

Maybe that’s true. But the NHL playoffs have the same tension for twice the amount of time!

The World Series is the Fall Classic, and now it extends into November sometimes. Meanwhile, the Stanley Cup playoffs start in the spring and end in the summer, if not officially then certainly by tradition.

When the NHL playoffs began, the Capitals were depending on Philipp Grubauer to continue his excellent play. By the time those eight weeks were over, it was hard to remember that Grubauer was even on the team.

In other words, the eight-week NHL playoffs are a mini-season. There are narratives that you’ll never be able to guess when the playoffs begin. It’s hard not to look ahead to what might happen, but it’s just too long of a stretch to really do that.

If you look back in the #DMD archives to April 12, you’ll also see that was the day that someone predicted this would be the Capitals’ year. Of course, he also predicted that the three previous years before that, but…great prediction anyway!


Why?

Baltimoreans for the Caps

I used to be one myself.

I have a distinct memory at age 14 of watching the famed “Easter Epic” playoff game between the Capitals and Islanders in 1987, a game that started on Saturday night and ended on Pat LaFontaine’s goal in the fourth overtime at 1:58 a.m. the next day. My brother and I were dragged to my sister’s dance recital and were annoyed to miss the beginning of the game, but it turned out there was plenty of game left.

A few years later, the team actually established a greater connection to “Baltimore” by moving its training site to Piney Orchard, located in Gambrills in Anne Arundel County. The team continued to train there even after the move out of Landover and into Downtown D.C.

In 2006, the Caps smartly moved into their beautiful new “Iceplex” in Arlington, but the connection never left for a lot of kids in Anne Arundel and Howard Counties, who also might have played hockey and learned to skate in that rink near Route 3.

The people who live in those places today still straddle a line. They are fans of the Orioles, of course, and became even more so when Camden Yards was built. If you head far enough south in those counties, you’re in Redskins territory, but you’re all purple in Glen Burnie or Ellicott City.

As for the Caps, though, there’s never been a team to compete with them for your potential fandom. Either you’re a fan, or you’re not. The idea that fans who usually identify with “Baltimore” ought to give away their support for the Caps is pretty silly.


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u.s. open golf top ten


With the sectional qualifying events now over and the field mostly set for the U.S. Open, we can start going through the contenders and pretenders and constructing a top ten for next week's second major of the 2018 golf calendar.

Shinnecock Hills should be a sensational venue for this year's event. After the fiasco in 2004, where the USGA completely botched the course set-up during a scorching hot Long Island summer, the time has come to put the golf course back on its proper pedestal.

Wider fairways are a good start and music to a PGA Tour player's ears. The rough will be penal, yes, but you'll have to hit it considerably off line to get yourself into the deep stuff.

The greens will be fast and firm, yes, but not on the verge of being unplayable like they were in 2004.

Dustin Johnson moved back to #1 in the world with his win in Memphis on Sunday, June 10. Does that help or hurt his chances of winning the U.S. Open this week?

This will be a fair test. 2004 was simply "who was left standing" when Retief Goosen won his second of two U.S. Open titles.

So, as we do with every golf major, let's take a look at #DMD's projected Top Ten for the U.S. Open. We'll actually list the #2 and #1 finishers next Wednesday, so each day from now through next Wednesday, we'll feature another player on our advance leaderboard.

Number 10 on the list was Phil Mickleson. Number 9 was Xander Schauffele. Number 8 was Matt Kuchar.

Bubba Watson checked in at #7.

Number 6 was Justin Rose.

Jason Day came in at #5 on Sunday, June 10.

I'm not entirely thrilled that Dustin Johnson won in Memphis yesterday, because I think it might diminish his chances of winning this week at Shinnecock. Golf being a funny game and all, it's simply too difficult to win twice in two weeks. It's a golf gods thing, I suppose.

But I'm sticking with Dustin Johnson at #4 because I think he's the best driver of the golf ball in the tournament and, as he showed at Oakmont a couple of years ago, his head is strong enough now to win this ultimate test of nerves and composure.

He's won twice this season already. When he's "on", he's as good as anyone in the world. And, like he showed on Sunday in winning the FedEx St. Jude Classic, he can plod along and play the course as it comes to him, which is precisely how you win the U.S. Open.

Dustin Johnson is too good to only win one major championship in his career. Number two could come this week at Shinnecock Hills.

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June 10
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ovechkin, caps show how much winning it all means to them


Alex Ovechkin and I have something in common this morning. We're both running on fumes.

But for a much different reason.

The Eagle's Nest annual member-guest concluded last night with a dinner for the 50 two-man teams who played in the event. The tournament started on Thursday with an 18-hole practice round and a fun night of revelry that included too much food, drinks and night putting. Friday we played 27 holes of golf. Saturday was the 18-hole finishing event, plus I had to play an additional 18 holes afterwards as part of the club championship (by my own choice, admittedly).

I'm wiped out this morning.

Running on fumes, as I wrote earlier.

Ovechkin, though, is at a different level.

He's been on a historic two-day bender ever since the Capitals won the Stanley Cup on Thursday night in Las Vegas.

In fact, we might need to come up with a better word than bender for the shenanigans Ovi and his teammates have pulled off over the last 60 hours. It's been hilarious watching it all unfold on social media.

Alex Ovechkin took the Stanley Cup to Nationals Park on Saturday and wandered through the stadium, stopping off at various points to let fans touch it and pose for pictures.

Working backwards, Ovechkin and a handful of teammates paraded the Stanley Cup through Georgetown early Saturday evening, visiting several restaurants and drinking establishments, singing Queen's "We Are The Champions" at every stop, and drinking more champagne than one person probably should in a short amount of time.

Their Georgetown visit started with the players hopping into a fountain, clothed and all, and splashing around in the water for 10 minutes. Well, Ovechkin was only half clothed. He waded in with just his shorts on, doing "snow angels" in the water and acting like a 12-year old.

Honestly, given what he had been doing over the last two days, it was probably the closest thing Ovi's come to taking a shower since Thursday's 4-3 win in Las Vegas sealed the Caps' first-ever Stanley Cup title.

Earlier on Saturday, Ovechkin and a dozen teammates invaded Nationals Park, where the Conn Smythe winner lugged the Stanley Cup out to the pitcher's mound before the game, and threw not-one, but two "first pitches" because the first one sailed wildly over Max Scherzer's head. A Nats Park employee was quoted as saying "They drank about 100 beers in three hours, but they were really having a good time."

Ovechkin then walked through the stadium with the Cup, occasionally holding it up and leading a C-A-P-S, CAPS!, CAPS!, CAPS! chant in whatever section of the stadium he happened to land in. It became so disruptive to the actual baseball game that they stopped putting him up on the jumbo video screen because it was causing a distraction.

Yes, in case you were wondering, they've been drinking a lot of alcohol over the last two days.

But it's all in good fun. And it shows just how much winning the Stanley Cup means to Ovechkin and his teammates. They could have retired to a fancy restaurant in D.C. on Friday and then had a whopper of a party at someone's 5,000 square foot home on Saturday.

Instead, they took the Cup out to the people almost immediately after arriving back in Washington D.C. on Friday afternoon.

That's pretty cool if you ask me.

Seeing Alex Ovechkin do a keg stand at Nats Park with a bunch of beer in the "cup" part of the Stanley Cup was a hilarious moment.

Sure, at some point in the next few days the whole thing will run its course. We might get tired of seeing the Instagram and Twitter posts by about Wednesday, although I seriously doubt those guys can keep up this kind of pace for much longer.

But for now, it's great to witness it all. The parade to celebrate their Stanley Cup title is this Tuesday. There's no telling what might happen there.

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a question worth asking


Someone at Eagle's Nest on Saturday came up after the Orioles lost to the Blue Jays in ten innings, 4-3, and said, "If they lose tomorrow, is Buck the manager on Monday?"

I think so. I can't imagine the Orioles are going to fire Buck Showalter now, even at 19-45 after they (presumably) lose today in Toronto.

If you were going to fire him, wouldn't you have done that when the team started out 8-27?

But the bigger question, the one worth asking, is this: Is there anything about the Orioles performance that tells you maybe they wouldn't mind if Buck is gone?

I'm not saying they've quit on him, per se. I think that's a dangerous word -- quit -- in sports, because it really speaks to the heart and integrity of the athlete. Someone that quits on their manager or coach in-season isn't someone you want in your organization.

Both without contracts for 2019, is there any potential for both Buck Showalter and Dan Duquette to be back next season?

But I see things in virtually every game now that make me wonder how much the players care about Buck's status and their awful, league-worst record.

I've watched defensive lapses and mental blunders and guys trying to stretch a single into a double in the 9th inning when they're trailing 5-1.

I saw a pitcher yesterday throw four straight balls to walk in the winning run.

I've seen the likes of Jonathan Schoop and Trey Mancini totally change their approach at the plate -- and not for the better.

Chris Davis. No need to say anything else, there. Just -- "Chris Davis".

And, honestly, I've seen Buck make some curious decisions along the way as well, although it's almost impossible to slice off any portion of blame for him given the rag-tag roster they handed him coming north out of Sarasota back in late March.

Buck's still trying to win. I believe that.

But the players? Sometimes, I honestly don't know.

They're either 100% sure Buck isn't getting fired so they're not concerned at all with how their performance "looks", or they don't care if he does get fired.

I don't know which of those is true.

But this baseball we're seeing from the Orioles is awful. Beyond awful, really.

And I can't help but wonder if maybe, just maybe, the players are looking to take some heat off of their own inept performance by exposing Showalter.

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u.s. open golf top ten


With the sectional qualifying events now over and the field mostly set for the U.S. Open, we can start going through the contenders and pretenders and constructing a top ten for next week's second major of the 2018 golf calendar.

Shinnecock Hills should be a sensational venue for this year's event. After the fiasco in 2004, where the USGA completely botched the course set-up during a scorching hot Long Island summer, the time has come to put the golf course back on its proper pedestal.

Wider fairways are a good start and music to a PGA Tour player's ears. The rough will be penal, yes, but you'll have to hit it considerably off line to get yourself into the deep stuff.

The greens will be fast and firm, yes, but not on the verge of being unplayable like they were in 2004.

Jason Day is looking for a second career major title at the U.S. Open.

This will be a fair test. 2004 was simply "who was left standing" when Retief Goosen won his second of two U.S. Open titles.

So, as we do with every golf major, let's take a look at #DMD's projected Top Ten for the U.S. Open. We'll actually list the #2 and #1 finishers next Wednesday, so each day from now through next Wednesday, we'll feature another player on our advance leaderboard.

Number 10 on the list was Phil Mickleson. Number 9 was Xander Schauffele. Number 8 was Matt Kuchar.

Bubba Watson checked in at #7.

Number 6 was Justin Rose.

Now we're down to my top 5 for this week's U.S. Open.

Jason Day is #5.

All he's done this year is win twice, tie for 2nd once, and make eleven of eleven cuts. He's 3rd in FedEx Cup points, if you put any stock in that sort of thing.

Every component of Day's game is perfect for the U.S. Open.

He drives it a long way (309 yards on average) and is 14th among TOUR players in driving distance. He hits 62% of the fairways and 65% of the greens. If those numbers hold true at Shinnecock Hills, he'll have a great chance to be in the hunt on Sunday.

He's sixth on the TOUR in birdies-per-round at 4.33. Just guessing here, but if he makes 17 birdies next week, he'll have a chance to win.

The stats all add up to a contender. If his golf follows suit, Day could be looking at his second career major championship at Shinnecock Hills.

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Saturday
June 9
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issue 9
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lebron's legacy: boosted and tarnished at the same time


Truth of the matter, I didn't watch a whole lot of the NBA Finals this year.

I think we all sorta-kinda knew who was going to win before the first shot was taken in Game 1. Had the Cavaliers not J.R. Smith'd in that series opener, perhaps I would have tuned in more frequently to the remainder of the series.

But I watched enough of the Finals -- won last night by Golden State in case you don't know -- to see one of the all-time great NBA players have his legacy both upgraded and downgraded within that four-game span.

Only LeBron James.

There's probably never been a more polarizing superstar in the "Association" than James. The more bitter argument might be: "Has their ever been a more polarizing athlete, in any sport, ever?"

On the court in the playoffs, James was a one-man wrecking crew until he ran out of gas midway through Game 3 and labored through a mediocre performance -- for his standards -- in Game 4. He was so good, so dominant and so over-the-top impressive throughout the playoffs that some folks thought he might win the NBA Finals MVP as a token of the voters' appreciation for the legacy-improving stuff he showed us.

Alas, that honor rightfully went to Kevin Durant after last night's blowout win for the Warriors.

But James still drew his fair share of the attention following Game 4. Some of it good. Some of it bad.

He walked off the court seconds after the final whistle, failing to stick around for the post-game hug-and-shake thing the NBA players do. Instead, he gave a courtesy salute in the general direction of Steph Curry and a few Warriors celebrating near mid-court and strolled off to the locker room.

Bad form? I'm old school, admittedly, but I'd say "yes" to that question.

I get it. It's not all that fun watching the other guys (or girls) celebrate on your floor. You're standing around doing nothing for a minute or two while they dance around. It's aggravating, I'm sure.

But c'mon man, you gotta hang out for 120 seconds and greet the winners with a hand shake, don't you?

James revealed after the game he suffered a broken hand after the Game 1 loss, the result of smacking a whiteboard in frustration following that overtime defeat.

That's not cool, either. Would Jordan have done that? Kobe? I mean, maybe they would have. They were both ultra-competitive. If Scottie Pippen would have made the same mistake J.R. Smith made in the waning seconds of a crucial Finals opener -- on the road -- maybe Jordan would have punched something and injured himself. But I doubt it.

Speaking of that Game 1 loss, in the break between regulation and overtime, James sat six feet to the right of Smith on the bench. His teammate had just authored one of the great flub-ups in NBA history and James, the "leader" of the team, never once offered a consoling word, handshake or pat on the back. In fairness, neither did anyone else on the team during that 60-second stretch, but James isn't "anyone else".

That's the kind of stuff LeBron does that fuel the fire of his critics. And rightfully so.

On the court, he remains one of the most impressive players in league history. The argument about "who's better?" rolls on. Some say Jordan. Some say LeBron. Jordan went 6-0 in his NBA Finals career. James is now 3-6 after last night's loss to the Warriors.

Jordan never once went to the Finals eight straight years like LeBron has.

Jordan never once lost three of four Finals appearances like LeBron has.

You can make the numbers work for you in any way you want.

And we'll never know if Jordan would have sulked off to the locker room after losing in the championship series because -- you know where this is going -- he never lost one in his career.

If the game is "pro James" or "con James" and you made me pick one, I'm going "pro", for sure. I think LeBron is a magnificent player. A generational athlete if there ever was one.

But things like the J.R. Smith episode in Game 1 and last night's post-game walk off make me wonder how much of a "champion" he really is.

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"how about you take manny and davis?"


The Orioles are now 19-43 on the season after last night's 5-1 loss at Toronto.

Five more hits last night for the O's...in case you're someone who keeps track of that stuff.

Assuming the second wild card team is going to need a record of 88-74 (looking more like it might take 90, actually), the O's are now just 31 losses away from post-season elimination. And it's June 9th, sports fans.

Rumors are starting to percolate about a Manny Machado trade.

I'm not sure why I keep bringing this up. It's over for 2018. I think we all know that. But I guess I continue to marvel at just how awful this edition of the Orioles has become. And quickly.

The O's have 100 games remaining.

If 88-74 gets them in the playoffs, they'll have to go 69-31 to make it.

That's pretty good baseball, there.

News flash: It ain't gonna happen.

So the real story we continue to follow, and the only one that matters now, is what sort of moves the Birds are going to make in the next two months that shape the future of the ballclub.

Rumors are swirling that the Braves are interested in Manny Machado. So, too, are the Phillies.

Good. Cough up a bunch of valuable prospects for him and he's all yours.

Here's an interesting idea. I doubt this would fly, but if I'm the Orioles I at least throw it in there as an option to anyone who calls about Machado's availability.

"You give us three or four valuable prospects for Manny. Or, you take Chris Davis and half the salary we owe him, plus your best prospect, and we'll call it a deal."

Yes? No? Not even worth asking because it's silly?

Think about it. Is there a team that would prefer to not give up a handful of prospects to rent Machado for two months, but might see the addition of Davis as a pie sweetener that could turn out favorably for them if the first baseman suddenly learns how to hit again?

It's worth a shot if you're the Orioles. Isn't it?

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u.s. open golf top ten


With the sectional qualifying events now over and the field mostly set for the U.S. Open, we can start going through the contenders and pretenders and constructing a top ten for next week's second major of the 2018 golf calendar.

Shinnecock Hills should be a sensational venue for this year's event. After the fiasco in 2004, where the USGA completely botched the course set-up during a scorching hot Long Island summer, the time has come to put the golf course back on its proper pedestal.

Wider fairways are a good start and music to a PGA Tour player's ears. The rough will be penal, yes, but you'll have to hit it considerably off line to get yourself into the deep stuff.

The greens will be fast and firm, yes, but not on the verge of being unplayable like they were in 2004.

Justin Rose is going to win more than one major in his career. And having already displayed his ability to conquer the U.S. Open setup back in 2013 at Merion, he could very well be the last man standing at Shinnecock Hills next week.

This will be a fair test. 2004 was simply "who was left standing" when Retief Goosen won his second of two U.S. Open titles.

So, as we do with every golf major, let's take a look at #DMD's projected Top Ten for the U.S. Open. We'll actually list the #2 and #1 finishers next Wednesday, so each day from now through next Wednesday, we'll feature another player on our advance leaderboard.

Number 10 on the list was Phil Mickleson. Number 9 was Xander Schauffele. Number 8 was Matt Kuchar.

Bubba Watson checked in at #7.

Anyone on our Top 10 list can win the U.S. Open and it wouldn't surprise me.

The guy at #6 has already won once, so we know he can do it: Justin Rose.

His game is ideal for the U.S. Open. While he can make a bunch of birdies if necessary, Rose is a plodder. He hits the ball in position off the tee, finds the green with his approach shot, and tries to hole a putt or two along the way.

That's precisely what Hale Irwin did in his three U.S. Open victories.

He went from point A to point B and then made a putt or two.

Rose is cut from the same cloth as Irwin, which is why he contends so often at major championships.

I love his golf game. And his demeanor is perfect for the U.S. Open. He never gets too high when times are good and never gets too low when times are bad.

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Friday
June 8
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issue 8
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all caps


The Washington Capitals won the Stanley Cup last night.

I never thought I'd see it happen.

I wouldn't say I gave up hope as they lost year-after-year in the post-season, but at some point around 2013, I just assumed they were resigned to a lifetime of near misses and playoff failures.

Last night, my hope was restored.

Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Braden Holtby -- they're all champions this morning.

Ovechkin said after the win, "We deserved it." There was a certain tone to his voice that sounded like he knew, perhaps, they didn't deserve it in previous years. But this year, they did.

And he was right.

This 2017-2018 Capitals team deserved to win the Stanley Cup. They came together at the right time, played for one another, and never quit, even when they trailed in all four playoff series'.

But last night's win was hopefully felt in a lot of other places.

I don't know where these guys watched the Caps win Game 5, 4-3, in Las Vegas, but I hope they felt like they were part of it:

It took him 14 seasons, but Alex Ovechkin finally skated around with the Stanley Cup above his head last night in Las Vegas.

Yvon Labre.

Bob Sirois.

Mike Gartner.

Bobby Carpenter.

Mike Ridley.

Pete Peeters.

Kelly Miller.

Bengt Gustafsson.

Dale Hunter.

Olie Kolzig.

Peter Bondra.

And anyone else you want to throw in there.

The Capitals were born in 1974. They've won a lot of games over the years. Some of them were important.

But they've never been champions.

Until now.

Last night's victory was for everyone who ever played or coached or worked in the front office.

It's obviously about Ovechkin and Backstrom and the rest of the guys on the current team. They performed like champions throughout the playoffs, winning the clinching game in each series on foreign ice.

But the win last night was 44 years in the making and it hopefully resonated through every single player who ever slipped on the sweater with "Capitals" across the front of it.

There's nothing else to say or write.

The Capitals are the champions of the hockey world.

And, so, too is Alex Ovechkin.

Finally...

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the time has come for chris davis


Forget the 5-4 loss last night in Toronto.

The Orioles have a certain bigger fish to fry.

His name is Chris Davis.

It's time for Buck Showalter to do something.

Davis was 0-for-4 in Toronto last night. That dropped his average to .152 on the season. His on-base percentage is .232.

With just eight extra base hits so far this season and a paltry .152 batting average, the Orioles can no longer afford to play Chris Davis every day.

He has 4 home runs and 15 RBI on the season. Chance Sisco has 102 at-bats this season. Davis has 198 at-bats. Sisco has 2 home runs and 15 RBI himself.

And Sisco isn't yet a major league hitter, in case you haven't figured that out.

Davis has 8 extra-base hits in those 198 at bats so far in 2018.

Do I need to go on or have I presented enough evidence?

The Orioles aren't going to eat the last four years of the Davis contract. I'm sorry, they're just not. $100 million doesn't just get swallowed up like that with a handshake and a "wish things would have been different" send-off.

They could try the pothole-trick that they used with Ubaldo Jimenez a few years back or come up with a "back injury" like they did with Chris Tillman last month. But as much as the league looks the other way with that kind of chicanery, I think a fake injury with Davis would be frowned upon by the league office.

So that leaves only one thing left.

Buck Showalter needs to bench Davis.

Bench.

As in, doesn't play regularly anymore.

There's zero chance that Davis would object to it. How could he?

Move Trey Mancini to first base, let Craig Gentry roam around out there in left field, and Rickard and Trumbo can platoon in right field.

There are other options, too. Cedric Mullins has been hitting the cover off the ball in the minors, but he's primarily a centerfielder.

Somehow, the Orioles have to get Davis out of the every day lineup.

He'll be the most expensive 25th man in the league, but it's a move that has to be made at this point.

Let him play on Sunday. He can pinch hit in the 8th or 9th inning against right handed pitchers.

But Davis can't play regularly any longer.

If Buck continues to play him every day, he's guilty of managerial malpractice, basically.

Davis is a good man. He's not trying to stink it up. I'm sure this experience over the last two years has gutted him. Yes, he gets his $161 million no matter what, that's true. But no athlete wants to embarrass himself on a nightly basis.

Sadly, at 19-42, the Orioles need to do some things over the next couple of months that might not sit well with certain players.

They might deal Machado and he might not like it.

They might trade Jones, too. And he might be upset.

Nothing good comes from losing.

And nothing good has come from playing Chris Davis in 2018.

The time has come for Buck to do something. And I don't mean sit him down for a day or two and let him try and "work things out".

The manager has supported Davis through the good times and the bad times. Said all the right things in spring training. Never wavered in his faith that the first baseman was going to figure it out.

Sadly, Davis has failed to figure it out.

And it's time for Buck and the Orioles to pull the plug on him as an every day player.

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u.s. open golf top ten


With the sectional qualifying events now over and the field mostly set for the U.S. Open, we can start going through the contenders and pretenders and constructing a top ten for next week's second major of the 2018 golf calendar.

Shinnecock Hills should be a sensational venue for this year's event. After the fiasco in 2004, where the USGA completely botched the course set-up during a scorching hot Long Island summer, the time has come to put the golf course back on its proper pedestal.

Wider fairways are a good start and music to a PGA Tour player's ears. The rough will be penal, yes, but you'll have to hit it considerably off line to get yourself into the deep stuff.

The greens will be fast and firm, yes, but not on the verge of being unplayable like they were in 2004.

Two Masters championships and a top 10 ranking in the world have moved Bubba Watson into the "elite" category on the PGA Tour. One more major championship and he'll own more career majors than the likes of Langer, Olazabal and Norman.

This will be a fair test. 2004 was simply "who was left standing" when Retief Goosen won his second of two U.S. Open titles.

So, as we do with every golf major, let's take a look at #DMD's projected Top Ten for the U.S. Open. We'll actually list the #2 and #1 finishers next Wednesday, so each day from now through next Wednesday, we'll feature another player on our advance leaderboard.

Number 10 on the list was Phil Mickleson. Number 9 was Xander Schauffele. Number 8 was Matt Kuchar.

Anyone on the Top 10 list can win the U.S. Open and it wouldn't surprise me.

I definitely wouldn't be shocked to see the player at #7 win it.

But it would be a dramatic shift if he does, since most people don't fancy the U.S. Open a beneficial set-up for him.

#7 is Bubba Watson.

He's having a whale of a season, for starters. Watson finished T5 at the Masters and won the Genesis Open at Riveira CC and the Match Play Championship as well.

Five years ago, the U.S. Open didn't favor him at all. His occasionally-disobedient driver wasn't a good fit for the narrow fairways and long rough that make news the every mid-June when the U.S. Open is held.

But Watson is a much more complete player now.

He drives it better.

He's still not one of the game's best putters, but he goes through stretches of time where he makes them in bunches.

And Shinnecock Hills, with wider fairways and less punishing rough, should suit him well next week.

I think Bubba Watson could win the U.S. Open. I wouldn't have said that five years ago. I'm not sure he would have said it, either.

But he can win next week. Without question.

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Thursday
June 7
r logo#DMDfacebook logovolume xlvii
issue 7
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ravens latest victim of soft nfl


There will be a moment during the upcoming NFL season when a Ravens defensive back will get beat on a play or fail to utilize the proper technique and John Harbaugh will think to himself, "We would like to teach that kind of stuff in OTAs, but we're now allowed to do it."

The Ravens and Harbaugh were disciplined by the NFL on Wednesday after a rules violation connected to contact during a recent OTA (Organized Team Activities). The club was stripped of its two final OTA opporunities this week and owner Steve Bisciotti and John Harbaugh were both fined.

It's the third time Harbaugh and the Ravens have been cited for violations since he became the team's head coach in 2008.

Harbaugh and general manager Ozzie Newsome said all the right things on Wednesday when the punishment was made public.

What they didn't say, of course, is what's most important about the whole sham.

How on earth are football players supposed to learn and improve if they're not....allowed...to....play....football?

The whole thing is a by-product of the collective bargaining agreement between the players and the NFL owners. Over the last two decades, the language concerning workouts and practices has down-shifted to an almost embarrassing level.

No "contact" during OTAs.

A limited number of two-a-day workouts during training camp and a much more refined schedule that coaches must adhere to.

Reduced "contact practices" during the season itself.

It's comical, really.

But the owners have no one to blame but themselves. They signed the agreement with the players.

I thought about writing "they signed the agreement with the football players", but figured it would be more realistic to leave out the word "football".

The players took a lot of heat on Wednesday when word leaked out that the Ravens were once again going to be punished for their OTA violation(s).

Sure, I see it as kind of laughable, too, but beating up the players is senseless at this point. They negotiated for the wussification of the league and they got it. How can you blame them for something they negotiated for over the last several bargaining sessions?

Why on earth the owners would give in and allow "less football" to be practiced is beyond me.

In season? I might get that. Once the season starts, you don't want your players running around cracking skulls three days a week as a lead-in to a three hour football game.

I understand tightening things up in the season.

But in April? Or June?

It's really going to hurt Marlon Humphrey to put on some pads and defend John Brown on a pass route in practice?

How's he supposed to improve -- both of them, mind you -- if they're not actually allowed to play football while they're learning their craft?

And people wonder why the games are no good and the individual technique levels of players around the league are down.

This is why.

The "football players" don't play much football anymore.

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tonight might be the night i never thought we'd get to see


I got my first hockey puck from a member of the Washington Capitals in 1977 from Hartland Monahan.

Diehard fans of the Baltimore Clippers might remember that Monahan played 20 games in Baltimore back in 1971-72.

I played on a street hockey team in Glen Burnie in the 1970's and early 1980's. We were the "Capitals".

We practiced and played at Glendale Elementary School, which was situated on Biddle Road, which just so happened to be the road I grew up on.

My dad and I went to Caps games in the second season of the team. That would have been 1975-76. We got a season ticket plan right next to the goal that Ron Low (and later, Bernie Wolfe) would defend twice a game.

"We'll get to see a lot of goals," my dad explained as we drove down Route 301 to the Capital Centre.

Bernie Wolfe was a goaltender for the Washington Capitals in the 1970's.

Bernie Wolfe was -- and I guess still is -- my favorite all-time Caps player. I'm not sure why. But no one has ever replaced him as my favorite.

I owned a #9 Ryan Walter jersey for a bunch of years. I think I might still have it. It doesn't fit anymore.

In the old days, we could sit in the upper concourse of the Cap Centre for $4.50 with our student ID. If we wanted to upscale it, the middle concourse was $8.50. Lower concourse seats were $13.50.

Yes, we bought the uppers and snuck downstairs a lot.

There were always seats available.

I interviewed Ron Weber back in 1981 when I was in broadcasting school. We met at the Bowie Ice Rink.

I listened to every Capitals game on WTOP Radio. Ron Weber was my idol. Some kids grow up wanting to be hockey players. I loved hockey. It was my favorite sport to play as a kid. But I wanted to be Ron Weber, not Dennis Maruk.

I loved hockey on the radio so much I would listen to broadcasts of the Montreal Canadiens -- in French, no less -- and Boston Bruins.

Channel 20 out of DC would show roughly ten road games per-season. Channel 4 in DC would occasionally show a home game or two. I can remember fooling around with the rabbit ears on the family TV to try and get the games on.

One year, Gary Unger of the St. Louis Blues and Rejean Houle of the Canadiens gave me a puck during warm-ups in back-to-back home games.

Those early days of the Capitals sparked the development of my dislike for the Philadelphia Flyers and their creepy, crappy fans.

Linseman, Clarke, Barber, Propp, Poulin, Hextall, Kerr -- rotten, no good rat finks. Every single one of them.

The Capitals were a NHL laughingstock for nearly a decade. They got good -- making the playoffs back then was "good" -- in the '82-83 season when they finally made the post-season.

The next year, they swept the Flyers in three games in the first round of the playoffs. I went to Philly for Game 3. The Caps won. I was loud and obnoxious. I don't know how I got out of there alive.

When I worked for the Blast soccer team, a January west coast trip -- circa 1988 -- coincided with the Capitals playing the Los Angeles Kings in L.A. I contacted Lou Corletto, then the Caps PR Director, and he set it up for me and a few Blast players to watch the game at the Forum.

The Caps won that night, 7-2. I got my picture with Kevin Hatcher. I still have it somewhere, I think.

Tonight, the Capitals will play a historic game in Las Vegas.

Tonight marks the first-time EVER that the Washington Capitals are playing a game with the Stanley Cup on the line.

Hard to believe, right?

Since 1974, the Capitals have never played this game, tonight.

I know it's happening, but somehow it all seems completely "unreal".

Years and years of playoff futility. Near misses. Game 7 losses at home. Post-season misery.

All of it prepared the Capitals, somehow, for the events that might possibly take place tonight in Las Vegas.

I never thought I'd see this occasion.

Sure, it's sports and they're the Capitals and the other team tries too -- all of which is mentioned as an attempt to remind myself that even with a 3-games-to-1 lead, the Caps still haven't won anything.

But they're not losing this Stanley Cup. It's their time to win.

I know the Capitals aren't everyone's cup of tea in Baltimore. I get it. People ask me all the time why I like them so much.

The answer is simple: We never had a NHL team of our own in Baltimore.

Traveling one hour from Glen Burnie to the Cap Centre was easy. The games were on the radio. I was a hockey nut. It all came together.

Sure, they were the Washington Capitals, but I never really thought of them as a "Washington team". They were the only hockey team I ever rooted for.

Tonight is the night Capitals fans have been waiting for since 1974. Maybe it happens this evening, maybe it happens on Sunday night in D.C.

But this evening, for the first time ever, the Capitals have a chance to hoist the Stanley Cup.

I never thought this would happen.

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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.


tiger time

It's that time again. Time to talk about Tiger Woods.

A reminder: a year ago, almost to the day, I wrote a mild obituary for the guy, personally and professionally. He had been arrested for a DUI, with traces of Vicodin, Dilaudid, Xanax and Ambien in his system.

That's a couple of painkillers, a tranquilizer and a sedative—if you're scoring at home.

We all know you can smoke cigarettes and play good golf, and the odd beer on the course probably won't hurt you too badly. That combination above, though? Not helpful.

Meanwhile -- last Tuesday, May 29, the one-year anniversary of that event, Tiger was back at Muirfield Village, Jack's place, preparing for one of his favorite tournaments, The Memorial.

The course near Columbus is the site of some great Tiger memories. The most recent came in 2012 when he holed the most amazing flop shot from a thick lie near the green on the par-3 16th hole, making birdie on the way to victory. Playing partner Rickie Fowler, wearing all orange and desperately in need of a haircut, could only watch and laugh.

This year, Woods made a couple nice memories. On Friday, he pitched in from 95 yards for an eagle on the par-5 11th hole. On Saturday, he brushed in a putt on the 15th hole to briefly tie for the lead. Problem was that he had started two-and-half hours before the leaders.

Feel free to watch the clips on YouTube if you’re interested in rehashing the rest. I’m more interested in other things besides his scores.

Can you believe, a year after those horrendous images after the DUI, that Woods looks like he does?

Can you believe, nearly five years after his last win, how much the other players out there are talking about how great Woods looks?

Can you believe that CBS and the Golf Channel still show every shot he hits, assuming they are live and on the air?

I can’t believe he looks like he does. The only thing that looks like it’s 42 years old is his face, and his hairline of course, which has been happening for a while now. I can’t see through his Nike shirt (they’re still in the golf apparel business), but he’s filling it out as well as he was five years ago.

He’s just…strong. He did something in the last year, before he could really practice golf and continuing when he could, that’s hard to fathom considering where he was. In one of his tournament rounds at Augusta in April, he had 93 yards left to the green on the 450-yard first hole.

I don’t know whether to give him credit or to wonder if he’s getting a little help, or if he’s just healthy now and that’s what healthy Tiger Woods looks like.

It’s been a little harder for me to figure out why someone like Patrick Reed, who just won that Masters by the way, was so keen on telling us how great Tiger is hitting it. I mean, Reed isn’t exactly that keen on anybody out there except himself.

Does Tiger Woods really hit the ball so much more cleanly than Rory McIlroy? Are his shots so much more majestic than Dustin Johnson’s? Did he hit his irons pin-high any more than Bryson DeChambeau, Kyle Stanley or Byeong Hun An, the threesome who ended up in a playoff last week?

On some level, I think all the talk about Tiger by his peers (ok, wrong word) is an indication that he isn’t really who he used to be. There was a time when he was so dominant that players got tired of being asked about him; they were almost embarrassed that they couldn’t keep up.

There’s other reasons behind it, I guess. Fact is…Woods is the inspiration for almost every PGA Tour player under the age of 30. Even after they meet him, play with him, and beat him, they’ll never get tired of talking about him.

Speaking of that, the Tour’s television partners really don’t get tired of talking about him. On Sunday, they teed off earlier than scheduled in Ohio to avoid potential bad weather. Woods was close to being done with his round when CBS ran a short promo narrated by Jim Nantz: “Tiger Woods is lurking at the Memorial.”

Except he wasn’t. Tiger was never the story at the tournament. He was too far behind after the first day. He looks strong and everyone out on the course is thrilled with his ball-striking, but there were obviously quite a few players in Columbus who brought their “A” game, as Tiger used to say.

So, yes, I really wish they’d miss a shot of his occasionally or show it on tape. He’s not the only person playing well enough to deserve special treatment. But he is, of course, Tiger Woods. Which brings me back to him, last May in Florida, zombied out on medication and telling the police he was in Los Angeles. It really is hard to believe it’s the same person.

Drug addiction and dependence is a real thing, even for Tiger Woods. Knowing the discipline of what he’s put in his body during his career (yes, maybe even something against the rules), he wasn’t using those drugs just for kicks. He was obviously in severe pain.

I don’t know any other reason why an athlete like Woods would think that he needed a second, more powerful pain reliever after Vicodin. If you’re in severe pain, one that can only be solved temporarily, it causes a tremendous amount of anxiety about living a normal life and an inability to sleep normally.

Woods was in a bad place, one that a lot of us have seen in friends and loved ones, or even ourselves. Yes, he had the financial capacity to help himself more than most. That’s a dark place, however, and he’s to be commended if he’s completely left it behind, celebrity or not.

He’s made lots of bad personal decisions, ones that ruined his marriage and many other relationships, I assume. His efforts to “change” have been half-hearted at best, not surprising for someone in his position. It’s entirely possible that the great Tiger Woods, in part because of those decisions, will have won his last major championship at 32 years old.

I don’t need to see every shot he hits when he’s in 14th place, and I don’t need CBS to promote every golf tournament he enters until he retires as the Tiger Invitational. You are what your scores say you are, and as of now he’s a great player who isn’t as great as the old Tiger Woods.

Seeing him last May, and then seeing him this May, though? There’s a real win there, and I’m willing to say that I’m happy that he at least looks like Tiger Woods.

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u.s. open golf top ten


With the sectional qualifying events now over and the field mostly set for the U.S. Open, we can start going through the contenders and pretenders and constructing a top ten for next week's second major of the 2018 golf calendar.

Shinnecock Hills should be a sensational venue for this year's event. After the fiasco in 2004, where the USGA completely botched the course set-up during a scorching hot Long Island summer, the time has come to put the golf course back on its proper pedestal.

Wider fairways are a good start and music to a PGA Tour player's ears. The rough will be penal, yes, but you'll have to hit it considerably off line to get yourself into the deep stuff.

The greens will be fast and firm, yes, but not on the verge of being unplayable like they were in 2004.

Matt Kuchar has come close to winning a major on a couple of occasions in his career, but still hasn't entered the winner's circle. Could 2018 be the year he finally does it?

This will be a fair test. 2004 was simply "who was left standing" when Retief Goosen won his second of two U.S. Open titles.

So, as we do with every golf major, let's take a look at #DMD's projected Top Ten for the U.S. Open. We'll actually list the #2 and #1 finishers next Wednesday, so each day from now through next Wednesday, we'll feature another player on our advance leaderboard.

Number 10 on the list was Phil Mickleson. Number 9 was Xander Schauffele.

You've heard of Mickelson. The guy at #9, though, you might not have heard of -- not yet, anyway.

The U.S. Open that was held at Shinnecock in 1994 and again in 2003 featured two similar style players. Corey Pavin, the '94 titleist, plodded along nicely for four days, culminating his one and only major title with a 4-wood from 225 yards out that nestled some five feet above the hole at #18. That he missed the putt there didn't matter. He won the U.S. Open, finally.

Retief Goosen won his second major title (and second U.S. Open) at Shinnecock in 2003. His style, like Pavin's, was very unassuming. He was one of the few guys to play the golf course any good on Sunday, battling stifling hot temperatures and borderline-unputtable greens to come out on top. Goosen's unsuspecting nature is one of the trademarks of U.S. Open play. Just hit in the fairway, try to get it on the green, and make a putt or two along the way. Just keep your head down and play golf, basically.

Which brings us to our #8 player, one who perfectly fits that "unsuspecting" tag.

Like Pavin in the lead up to the '94 event, this guy doesn't yet have a major title in his career. He's come close, including last year's British Open. His game should fit nicely with what Shinnecock Hills offers next week.

Number 8 is Matt Kuchar.

Maybe he'll wind up playing the TOUR for 25 years and not winning a major. That could be his destiny. But I still think Kuchar is going to win one. And it could come next week.

His game is solid on every front. He's a good driver of the ball, hits his irons well and can get red-hot with the putter on occasion. His short game isn't one of the TOUR's best, but that's a by-product of hitting a lot of greens.

Kuchar deserves a major championship.

The golf gods have a way of rewarding players who "deserve" one. They might only win one, but they do win.

Kite, Couples, Love III, Pavin, Furyk, Stenson -- all veteran players who finally broke through and captured a major well into their respective careers.

This might be Kuchar's time. If so, I'd be thrilled.

Wednesday
June 6
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please -- all of you -- just be quiet


Would everyone just please stop talking?

Please. Just shut up.

That goes for you, Mr. President.

And you Torrey Smith. And Malcom Jenkins, too.

And you, Peter King, and the rest of the media members who fan the flames of this tired story about the White House and the national anthem.

I'd single out a conservative media member, too, but I'm not sure I've heard or read any of them whine quite as much as King, Jemele Hill and others.

Let's throw the mayor of Philadelphia in there while we're at it.

All of you. Shut. Up.

The President is certainly partly to blame.

He claims he's making some progress in his quest to "Make America Great Again" but we'll never find that out because he won't stop talking or tweeting long enough for any of us to judge the work he's doing.

The only way he could say less is by speaking longer.

Please, Mr. President, shut up already about the national anthem and the kneeling stuff. Let it go.

We get it, sir. You want the football players to stand for the anthem. You've been bloviating on that topic for a year or more now. We know where you stand.

Let's be clear on this as well: The NFL players are partly to blame.

This peeing match they're involved in with the President is junior-high-school-stuff. It's like two 14-year olds arguing over who is going to sit shotgun on the ride down to Ocean City.

Who freakin' cares?

At one point, the NFL players might have been making progress in their effort to get folks to understand their plight.

Not anymore. Not with me, anyway. I'm done with it. Tired of it. Over it.

I don't care if you guys stand or don't stand. Stay in the tunnel. Sit in your chair in the locker room. I don't care. Just, please, shut up.

I realize a lot of players fancy themselves advocates for societal-change, but what I'm mainly interested in is your ability to change the scoreboard, hopefully in my team's favor. Just play football guys. With all due respect, it's what you do best.

Being lured into fights on social media with the President of the country is a bad look for NFL players. People are already turned off by the grandstanding on the anthem topic. If they think they're helping they're cause by blabbing every day about the national anthem, they're wrong.

Here's what we've learned this week about the "honor" of visiting the White House after your team wins a championship.

It's no longer an honor, really.

The Philadelphia Eagles got invited recently and about a dozen players wanted to attend the ceremony. The rest had some paint to watch dry that afternoon, I guess.

Two decades ago, it was a thrill to visit the White House and meet the President.

That was then. This is now.

There were athletes who refused to visit with President Obama because they didn't agree with his politics.

The same goes for President Trump now. It's more of a badge honor to NOT go than to go, it would appear.

Here's a tip from the top for you, Mr. President.

It's pretty simple: Stop inviting teams to the White House after they win a championship. It just doesn't matter that much anymore.

Oh, and because I have to add this: Don't put something out on social media saying "I'm not inviting teams anymore". I know you love to stir the pot, but on this occasion, save your breath and your energy.

Just don't invite anyone anymore. Spend that time doing something productive for the country.

I don't think Torrey Smith and the rest of the Eagles are at all worried about not getting an invitation. What do they care?

I can't imagine there's one championship team who would be wildly disappointed to not visit the White House.

It was important in 1988. It's not important in 2018.

And that's not really intended to be a criticism, either, even though it probably looks or sounds like one.

Times have changed. Most of today's athletes really don't want to take a day out of their schedule to go through with a visit to D.C. That juice just isn't worth the squeeze anymore.

The players will likely bellyache about not getting invited in the future, because the media will goad them into it, but the real truth is the players -- for the most part -- just don't care all that much.

As for the media, they're to blame for a lot of this.

Those with a liberal bias are the most active. Even Monday, as the word trickled out that the Eagles were "disinvited" by President Trump, liberal journalists, bloggers and media members were quick to either bash the President or applaud the players who stood up to him and refused his offer for a visit to the White House.

It's so tiring.

Who flippin' cares?

And this is coming from someone who thinks everyone should stand for the national anthem of our country because that makes you a right guy (or girl).

But as much as I think people who sit or kneel during the national anthem are deplorable, I'm still bored to tears with all of this garbage about "who stands", "who kneels" and "who's right and who's wrong".

Stop talking about it. Stop reporting on it. Stop tweeting. Stop Facebooking. Just stop.

Let's move on to another subject.

No one is winning this one.

The President isn't going to change his tune.

And NFL players aren't changing their tune, either.

It's like two goats, butting heads. All the two of you are going to get is a headache.

It can't worse than the one you all have given the rest of us, though.

Please, stop talking.

Go back to trying to run the country.

Go back to your football games.

Go back to stories and deadlines and clicks and ratings.

Stop talking about the national anthem.

We don't want to hear it anymore.

Clown shoes...to all of you who continue to prop up this lazy, media-driven topic.

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scherzer throws second immaculate inning


The Capitals aren't the only D.C. team hitting top form this week.

Max Scherzer remains the best pitcher in Major League Baseball and last night in St. Petersburg, he became just the fifth pitcher in the history of the game to throw two immaculate innings.

An immaculate inning occurs when a pitcher strikes out the side on nine consecutive pitches. Scherzer's feat occurred in the top of the sixth inning in a game the Nationals would win, 4-0.

Scherzer, a 3-time Cy Young winner, first threw an immaculate inning in May of 2017.

According to ESPN Stats and Information, the only other pitchers in baseball history to record two immaculate innings were Lefty Grove, Sandy Koufax, Nolan Ryan and Randy Johnson.

Kevin Gausman of the Orioles is the only other major leaguer to record an immaculate inning this season, doing so back on April 24.

In last night's start vs. the Rays, Scherzer went eight innings, allowed two earned runs, struck out 13, and improved his record to 10-1 on the season.

He threw a total of 99 pitches on Tuesday evening. 81 of them were strikes. Yes, you read that right. 81 of 99 pitches last night went for strikes.

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u.s. open golf top ten


With the sectional qualifying events now over and the field mostly set for the U.S. Open, we can start going through the contenders and pretenders and constructing a top ten for next week's second major of the 2018 golf calendar.

Shinnecock Hills should be a sensational venue for this year's event. After the fiasco in 2004, where the USGA completely botched the course set-up during a scorching hot Long Island summer, the time has come to put the golf course back on its proper pedestal.

Wider fairways are a good start and music to a PGA Tour player's ears. The rough will be penal, yes, but you'll have to hit it considerably off line to get yourself into the deep stuff.

The greens will be fast and firm, yes, but not on the verge of being unplayable like they were in 2004.

You might not know him now. But if Xander Schauffele has his "A game" at Shinnecock Hills next week, you'll know lots more about him.

This will be a fair test. 2004 was simply "who was left standing" when Retief Goosen won his second of two U.S. Open titles.

So, as we do with every golf major, let's take a look at #DMD's projected Top Ten for the U.S. Open. We'll actually list the #2 and #1 finishers next Wednesday, so each day from now through next Wednesday, we'll feature another player on our advance leaderboard.

Number 10 on the list was Phil Mickleson.

You've heard of Mickelson. The guy at #9, though, you might not have heard of -- not yet, anyway.

The U.S. Open has a long history of showcasing players that typically wouldn't be among those you might think would hover around the leaderboard.

Way back in 1990, it was journeyman Mike Donald who was a made five-footer away from winning at Medinah, only to have Hale Irwin eventually capture his 3rd U.S. Open in a sudden death playoff.

Andy Dillard was a two-day leader at Pebble Beach in 1992, only to falter on the weekend.

Rocco Mediate shoulda-coulda-woulda won at Torrey Pines in 2008 until Tiger Woods-on-one-leg edged him out in a dramatic Monday playoff that went 19 holes.

Ricky Barnes nearly won at Bethpage Black in 2009.

Andrew Landry had a chance to win at Oakmont two years ago.

There's always a guy who hangs around for a day or three and you watch the coverage and say, "Who the heck is that guy?"

"That guy" this year might just be our #9 player, Xander Schauffele.

Who?

Xander (sounds like Zander) Schauffele (Show-fa-lay).

He was last year's PGA Tour Rookie of the Year. He also won the TOUR Championship, if you don't recall.

And he's a terrific young player.

And at an event where someone "unique" always seems to hang around for a while, don't be shocked if you're watching him among the leaders next Saturday and Sunday.

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Tuesday
June 5
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issue 5
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looks like a white towel being waved


If nothing else, at least Dan Duquette followed his plan.

It took him a month longer than it probably should have, but Duquette finally spoke late Sunday afternoon about the Orioles' awful record and the need to start re-tooling at the major league level.

At 17-41, the O's vice president of whatever he supposedly runs finally admits it: The time has come to trade away some coveted pieces.

"Obviously, we haven't had the kind of season that we were hoping for, and it's time for us to look at our competitive position and see where we can help our ballclub internally and for the future," Duquette said on Sunday. "We've had a couple of months to look at our team and see how competitive our club is, and our club is not up to the competitive standards of previous Orioles clubs or the top clubs in the division, so we've got to take a look at all the options and see where we can strengthen the team."

That's a long way of saying, "We're out of the race and need to start trading some players to make ourselves better in 2019, 2020 and beyond."

Finally.

Duquette talked a lot of other mumbo-jumbo on Sunday, but the root of it all is the same. The time has to come to move Machado, Britton, Jones and anyone else, really.

Orioles closer Zach Britton should return to the major league club sometime in the next week or so. Just in time for the O's to shop him to the highest bidder in July.

It's also unfortunately "losing time" again in Baltimore. If this rebuild begins in earnest over the next two months, we're probably going to be a bottom feeder -- like we were for 14 years -- for a couple of seasons at least.

And as a longtime fan of the team, here's my pledge: I'll still go to the games.

Not that my $600 investment matters that much to the Orioles, but I'm in for my annual mini-plan purchase next season, no matter what this year's final record is or how bad the club looks on paper next spring.

I hope others out there who are similarly invested will do the same thing. If you're one of the folks clamoring for a rebuild -- and I'm one of them, admittedly -- then you have to stick around while the process gets started.

It's the least you and I can do.

That no one will go to the games is their biggest fear at the Warehouse. They don't realize, of course, that no one's really going now. They just get petrified at the thought of finishing last for a season or two and say, "When we were terrible before, the stadium was empty."

That's right. It was. And it stands to reason that the attendance numbers at Camden Yards might drop off a bit over the next year or so. Winning matters, after all. But this rebuild is a mandatory move at this point. It has to be done, attendance be damned.

So I was happy to finally see Duquette give in on Sunday.

"These things are cyclical," Duquette said. "They generally take a bit of time, but, like I said, you're either trying to help your team today or help your team get better for tomorrow. It looks to me like we've got to put a little bit sharper focus on the future."

That's code word for: "This might take a while."

It took a while in Houston, too. They went from the outhouse to the penthouse over a 5-year stretch, but they rewarded their patient fan base with a World Series in 2017.

There are people who don't think this Orioles executive regime has the tools or the competence to manage a successful rebuild of the 25 and 40 man roster and they might be right about that. This ultimately comes down to not only a decision to rebuild, but the ability to do it the right way. There's no telling if the O's can pull this off.

But anything is better than seeing the team go 17-41 and lollygag around like they couldn't care less about winning.

We're with you Mr. Duquette.

Or I am, at least.

Put a shovel in the ground and let's start building.

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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.



The NBA Finals really shouldn't be so entertaining this year.

One team is so vastly superior to the other that anything short of a sweep would be a small miracle of sorts. With an outcome so seemingly obvious, the series ought to be the definition of can-miss television, something that you have no qualms about ignoring until you can see how much the Warriors won by on the next morning's SportsCenter.

But somehow, the first two games have been undeniably compelling for one reason: LeBron James.

The best basketball player in the world in the playing at the highest level we've ever seen him reach, and the results are mesmerizing.

Indeed, Game One of the series was the stuff of a movie script. On the one side you had one of the greatest collections of talent in the history of the game, playing on their home court, and on the other side you had the best individual player in the world and a bunch of scrubs who would make up the worst team in the league without LeBron.

But LeBron somehow found a way to get Cleveland into overtime before the wheels fell off the train. Heck, one made free throw or one less boneheaded J.R. Smith play (and for all of the rightful attention on his end of regulation gaffe, there were at least half a dozen times earlier when he could have passed to LeBron instead of firing up a worthless shot) and they actually might have won the game!

In the end Lebron turned in 51 points on 59.4% shooting from the floor and came this close to doing what by rights ought to be impossible.

As for Game Two, while it lacked the storybook appeal at the end, James still managed to keep the Cavs within striking distance for most of the game until Steph Curry exploded in the second half. And while his final line of just 29 points to go with 13 assists and 9 rebounds wasn't nearly as impressive as his Game One performance, or half a dozen other games he's played this postseason, it says a lot that coming one rebound shy of a triple double represents a down night of sorts for anyone.

What we're witnessing right now in the NBA is truly remarkable and maybe unprecedented.

On some level it doesn't even matter that the Warriors are going to win their third title in four years, and very likely will do so in a sweep. The story of this year's playoffs, what everyone will remember about the 2017-18 playoffs 20 years from now, is the unbelievable level of play that LeBron has turned in on a night in night out basis.

With at least two games left to play, he has turned in a ridiculous eight games over 40 points and three triple doubles. He's only scored under 30 points in nine games this postseason, but the Cavs won two of those games by 30 points or more and James recorded triple doubles in two of the other such contests.

And again, for the second time in his career, LeBron has carried a roster that, without him, would be among the league's very worst all the way to the Finals.

But for all of that unprecedented excellence, the bulk of these amazing performances have inevitably ended up channeled into a predictable and perpetual debate over whether or not LeBron James is better than Michael Jordan.

An argument that never really goes anywhere because....it can't go anywhere.

There is simply no way to answer the question, as the two played in and dominated different eras, with different rules leading to different styles, and both have cases to be made that are largely mirror images of one another. LeBron may have carried his teams to a much larger degree than Jordan ever had to make up for his all-time great supporting cast, but the Eastern Conference of Jordan's period was far deeper than anything LeBron ever had to fight his way too (although the Warriors and Spurs teams who beat Lebron in the Finals may well be better than any of the team's Jordan had to beat in his championship years).

It's a question without an answer, that just evokes passionate arguments from partisans on both sides.

Which is, of course, why the media fixates on it so much.

In this day and age of 24 hour sports media and "engagement" on social media, provoking arguments is seen as the ticket to capturing audiences, and so much the better if it's an unwinnable argument, because that just means you can milk it forever.

It's unfortunate that that's what drives presentation of sports these days, but I understand it.

And I understand the perspective of both sides of the Jordan vs. LeBron debate. What I don't understand, however, is the degree to which a whole bunch of people who take Jordan's side pretty clearly dislike LeBron James. Not even as a person, I suppose, but as a player, to the point where they seem to get angry by the mere suggestion that he could even be in the conversation for greatest player of all time.

That just seems unbelievable to me: Jordan might be the better player of the two, but it's certainly obvious that LeBron has a case, right? And that there are even points in LeBron's favor?!

I guess I shouldn't be surprised, though, because this is a depressingly normal phenomenon in sports. Great players always provoke backlashes, and create subsets of fans who hate them specifically because they're so darn good.

I'm not talking about rooting against them, per se. It's certainly natural to root for, say, the Raptors or the Pacers to pull off an upset and upend LeBron in the Eastern Conference, or to find yourself rooting your heart out for Nick Foles to outplay Tom Brady and the Patriots in the Super Bowl.

That's a natural David vs. Goliath aspect to sports but, for most people, it's born out of a respect for greatness and an appreciation for seeing someone improbably beat them. That same appreciation for the improbable would, you think, give us a much greater appreciation of contemporary all-time greats than we seem to have. It's far more likely to see people investing time and energy vociferously arguing that modern day greats are not, can not be, as good as the best layers of 40, 30, or even 20 years ago.

That's universal too. For as much as you might be led to believe that Jordan was viewed as the consensus greatest of all time, I distinctly remember people scoffing at that notion in the 90's by citing names like Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson, or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

And in the event that any such arguments became a bridge too far, you could rest assured that someone would inevitably fall back on the claim that Jordan couldn't be the best ever because Bill Russell had 11 rings. I have no doubt whatsoever that a number of people who were saying just that in 1998 are having angry Twitter arguments in MJ's defense any time someone suggests Lebron might be better in 2018.

And I find this very interesting because there's a very real possibility that we're living in a sort of golden age of greatness. LeBron has an argument as the greatest basketball player of all-time, as does Tom Brady in football. Not only that, but Brady is still playing at an MVP level at an age that none of his historical peers of done previously.

In baseball, Mike Trout is beginning to make us seriously consider the possibility that he might be the best player in the sport's 150 some odd year history. And while I'm not a huge hockey fan, I know there are people who consider Sidney Crosby the best ever in that sport. And yet, that observation will probably provoke an angry reaction from more than one person who reads it.

I don't get it. I really don't. And I don't think I want to get it.

I like rooting against Tom Brady and the Patriots as much as the next guy, and it would have been a story for the ages if the Pacers had scratched out an amazing win in the close Game 7 they played in the first round. But I like watching great athletes do things that I didn't even believe were possible before I saw it done. That's what LeBron is doing now.

I don't care if he's better than Jordan or anyone else, I just know that he's doing things I've never seen done before, and it's absolutely mesmerizing. We can have arguments about who the best ever is some day if we must, but for now I'm just going to enjoy watching the impossible.

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u.s. open golf top ten


With the sectional qualifying events now over and the field mostly set for the U.S. Open, we can start going through the contenders and pretenders and constructing a top ten for next week's second major of the 2018 golf calendar.

Among those who qualified yesterday included former Masters champ Adam Scott, Keegan Bradley, Aaron Baddeley, Russell Knox, Steve Stricker and Aaron Wise.

Shinnecock Hills should be a sensational venue for this year's event. After the fiasco in 2004, where the USGA completely botched the course set-up during a scorching hot Long Island summer, the time has come to put the golf course back on its proper pedestal.

Wider fairways are a good start and music to a PGA Tour player's ears. The rough will be penal, yes, but you'll have to hit it considerably off line to get yourself into the deep stuff.

The greens will be fast and firm, yes, but not on the verge of being unplayable like they were in 2004.

The only major championship he's failed to win is the U.S. Open. Could 2018 be the year Phil Mickelson finally does it?

This will be a fair test. 2004 was simply "who was left standing" when Retief Goosen won his second of two U.S. Open titles.

So let's get started with our #DMD Top Ten. We'll actually list the #2 and #1 finishers next Wednesday, so each day from now through next Wednesday, we'll feature another player on our advance leaderboard.

The golf course is going to play long, but that doesn't automatically eliminate the guy we have at number 10, Phil Mickelson. The rest of his game is good enough to make up for a distance shortage, and as long as he can find the fairways out there, Mickelson has a chance.

More importantly, because the USGA contends they're not going to grow the rough five or six inches around the greens, Mickelson will be able to use his short game to save par on the holes where he doesn't reach the putting surface in regulation.

Maybe it's the old man in me that says "Phil has a chance next week", but I see Mickelson and Shinnecock getting along nicely. I don't put much stock in the practice rounds he's played there recently, where the lefthander raved about the course and the set-up.

What's he going to say? "This place stinks"???

But I do put stock in Mickelson's ability to get the ball in the hole.

And, yes, I put some stock in the fact he's never won the U.S. Open and the golf gods owe him one (or four).

I look for Mickelson to contend next week. He won't win, but the golf course won't beat him.

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Monday
June 4
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issue 4
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"so why are you even going?"


A funny thing happened on the way to church yesterday morning.

My two children were in the back seat of the car and we were stopping for a quick coffee (for me) and donuts (for them).

We somehow got on the subject of our respective schedules for the upcoming week. I explained that I would be in Philadelphia on Monday, trying to qualify for the U.S. Senior Open.

My 10-year-old son is enamored with sports and championships. He's like his Dad, I guess. If there's a sporting event on, he's up for watching it.

"So are you playing in a championship tomorrow?" he asked.

I explained that it wasn't really a championship, but it was a qualifying event to get to a championship. I went through the process of how it all worked. 70-some players play in the qualifier and the three players with the best scores get to play in the "championship".

"Would you be on TV if you make the championship?" he asked.

"Maybe," I said. "It all depends."

"Daddy is going to be on TV," my daughter said with glee. She clearly didn't hear the word "maybe".

My son was still in quiz mode.

"So can we go with you if you make it to the championship?" He loves to travel and watch sporting events. That he could travel, watch sports and see his Dad play in a "championship" would be really cool to him.

"Of course you'd go," I replied. "The whole family would go."

Then the quiz took on a different tone.

"Can you win money if you win the championship?" my son asked.

"Well, yes and no," I explained. "The person who wins the championship will make a lot of money. But I can't win any money, because I'm an amateur. Amateurs can't take money, even if they win."

There was silence.

I instinctively turned down the Kidz Bop channel thinking that maybe the music was interfering with our conversation.

"So you can't win money even if you win?" he asked again.

"Nope. I can't," I said.

"So why are you even going?" was his immediate follow-up.

Now, the silence was on my end.

"Well, I'm not there, yet, remember. I still have to beat a lot of really good golfers in Philadelphia on Monday just to get to the championship."

"That's what I mean," my son said. "Why are you even going to Philadelphia tomorrow? If you can't win money..."

There was more silence.

We pulled into church. We were 20 minutes early because my son altar serves on Sunday morning and needs to be there before the service begins.

He went in.

I stayed in the car with my daughter. She listened to music for a few minutes and I thought about the question.

"Why are you even going?"

It seems kind of crazy when you start thinking about it and go through the details.

$200 to enter the qualifying event.

There's no sense in playing in the qualifier if you can't go to the site beforehand and see the golf course. The practice round was $60. Gas and tolls to Philly was $40.

I have to get up there a day early since I'm playing at 8:00 am today (Monday). I'll buy dinner on Sunday night for my friend Dale Williams, who is caddying for me at the qualifier. That's another $80.

I'm fortunate that I have a relative who lives about 20 minutes from the golf course, so I avoided a $150 hotel room for Monday night.

Then, if I am somehow fortunate enough to actually make it through the qualifying round and advance to the U.S. Senior Open, there's airfare, hotels and gobs of other expenses waiting for me.

I never factor that stuff in, of course, but the reality is you're probably looking at somewhere around $3,000 for the week out in Colorado.

If you're a professional and you make it, spending $3,000 or $4,000 with the hope of making $25,000, $50,000 or more is well worth the gamble.

But for an amateur, the money spends but there's no collecting on the other end.

"So why are you even going?"

I finally chiseled out an answer, more for me, I suppose, than for my son.

I go because the best thing about golf is this: "You always have a chance."

If you need a birdie at the last hole to win the club championship and you top your drive at 18 and then hit a 6-iron to within 75 yards of the green, there's still a chance you can hole out from the fairway for that birdie you need.

"You always have a chance."

If you've never before shot under 80 and come to the 16th tee needing three birdies to do so, you have a chance, still, to break 80.

I've tried to qualify for the U.S. Senior Open on five previous occasions. I've come close twice. Once I missed a playoff by two shots. On another occasion I was even par with nine holes to go and made a mess of things coming in.

One year in Delaware, I was 2 over with four holes to play and tried to go for a par-5 in two thinking I might need an eagle to get to even par to get in.

I hit my second shot in the water, made double-bogey, then stared at the scoreboard in horror afterwards when I saw that even par was a playoff. Had I just played the 15th hole like a standard par 5 instead of out-thinking myself, I might have made birdie there and given myself a chance on the last three holes.

But that's why I go.

Because you might very well give yourself a chance with a few holes to play.

And that's when it's fun.

It's no fun if you start out three or four over on the front nine and then have to battle like a maniac to get yourself back to within striking distance.

But if you play decent golf for a few hours and come to the 14th or 15th tee with a legitimate shot to make it, the final holes are really invigorating.

Even if you can't win any money.

Sure, the odds of making the U.S. Senior Open as an amateur are pretty slim.

But I do know three local guys who have made it before; Sheldon Kalish, John Howson and David Nocar.

Those three are all outstanding players. That they qualified is not only a testament to their abilities, but it shows the quality of golf you have to play on a consistent basis just to be good enough to make it to "the championship", as my son says.

Once you're in the event itself, the odds of an amateur competing on the final day for a shot at the U.S. Senior Open title are extraordinarily high. It's never happened before, as far as I can tell. That's how high the odds are.

United States Senior Open Trophy

Guys like Palmer, Player, Nicklaus, Trevino, Irwin and Langer have won the U.S. Senior Open.

Amateurs don't stand much of a chance when you go up against players of that ilk.

But that's part of the fun it, too. How cool would it be to qualify for a tournament where you're competing against Fred Couples, Vijay Singh and Kenny Perry?

Sure, you're gonna get clobbered by those three. Join the club. Lots of other guys are on that list.

"So why are you even going?" I was asked.

Because I love to compete, that's why.

And I don't need the money.

Well, I mean, I sure could use the $700,000 winner's check.

But I don't need the money to lure me into competing. I'll do it anyway.

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get dechambeau's uniform size


A few weeks back, a #DMD reader asked me to predict the 12-man U.S. Ryder Cup team that will compete against the European side in Paris in late September.

After breezing through the three or four obvious guys, I took a flyer on someone that, as it turns out, wasn't much of a flyer at all.

I predicted Bryson DeChambeau would make the team on points, falling inside the top eight of American players who automatically qualify for the team.

With his win yesterday at The Memorial, that just about sews up his spot.

There are a lot of American players who are extraordinarily talented:


Justin Thomas Dustin Johnson Patrick Reed
Jordan Spieth Rickie Fowler

And you can add DeChambeau's name to that list.

In fact, he's had a better season than Spieth and Fowler so far. By a lot.

DeChambeau has all the goods.

And his win yesterday moves him to 4th in the FedEx Cup standings, if you care about that sort of thing.

The field he beat at Muirfield Village was "major-ish". All the big guns were there, including McIlroy, Day, and the aforementioned American hotshots who all failed to post 15-under par for four days.

I said two years ago this kid was going to be a special player on the PGA Tour.

You don't win the U.S. Amateur and NCAA individual tournament by accident.

His golf swing is terrific. His scientific methods aren't for everyone, that's for sure. But the swing returns to impact in a square position. Almost every time.

Spoiler alert: Before he won at Muirfield Village, he was going to be my pick to win the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills. Given the difficulty of winning two times in three weeks, I might have to re-think that pick.

Or maybe I won't change my mind.

That kid is a great young player.

He's going to win a lot of tournaments.

Maybe even the next major.



"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.


you can’t get the whole story
without asking the five w's:

who, what, when, where, and why ?


each week, we’ll answer those questions here at #dmd



* * * * * *    controversy edition    * * * * * *


Where?


St. Frances Academy


Full disclosure: I worked at Gilman School from 2008 to 2013.

My connection to Biff Poggi and the football team was small. I helped with getting live-streaming of games off the ground. I pitched a story to The Sun about the Gilman-McDonogh rivalry that ended up on page A1. Every year, I’d attend the ceremony where future college players announced their choices and signed letters of intent.

I remember attending a couple of cross-sectional games, against Bergen Catholic at Homewood Field and Don Bosco Prep at Morgan State’s Hughes Stadium. In 2012, the Greyhounds played a game against Archbishop Moeller in Cincinnati that was televised on ESPN.

Those schools are football factories and Gilman isn’t, and the scores showed that. We were really good, with lots of future college players, but they were on another level.

Poggi had an idea to change that, and I don’t think the administration was interested. In St. Frances Academy, he found a place that was interested. I don’t need to rehash everything that’s been written over the last week.

From my perspective, the most interesting things about Gilman football under Poggi weren’t external: the players he recruited, the schedule his team played, or the money he had. The more curious issues were internal: the culture that the program had created within the school.

He wasn’t so much a coach leading a football team; he was man who was using football to teach a certain set of values. He was operating a laboratory of sorts for Joe Ehrmann’s program of “Building Men for Others.”

There was always a certain amount of tension because of that. Poggi had created a team that seemed somewhat detached from the school and from the rest of the athletic department. Poggi is a Gilman alumnus, yet he never seemed to care all that much about Gilman. He was more interested in developing his program, his way, and the business of Gilman Football had an outsized presence.

I encourage you to read Jeffrey Marx’s Season of Life, the Pulitzer Prize-winning book from 2004 about Gilman football, Ehrmann, and Poggi. And when you read about them, I doubt you’ll find anything negative. I’d bet you’d want your son to be influenced by these men, and it’s often African-American boys who are most in need of that influence.

Poggi and SFA might be changing the MIAA for the worse right now, and in doing so putting their competition in a no-win situation both literally and figuratively. But there’s no doubt that much of what he does every day is for the better.


Who?


God


The editor of this site is a man of faith, which he sometimes discusses at length. Most recently with jockey Mike Smith at the Kentucky Derby, but also at other times before that, he’s talked about how much he loves hearing athletes (or anyone else) “share the word.”

Relatedly, he’s also asked the same question more than a few times: By giving thanks and praise to their Lord and savior, what did Mike Smith (or anyone else) do that was so wrong?

Nothing really, except maybe ignore an interviewer’s question for a few moments.

But I’ve thought a lot about this, and what I’ve realized is that it’s not about people believing that Mike Smith is wrong. It has nothing to do with sarcastic barbs about what God thought about the other 19 horses, or why a hitter only points to the sky when he hits a home run and not when he strikes out.

It’s about being made to feel uncomfortable.

I know what you’re going to say; if I feel uncomfortable when someone else expresses his or her faith, that’s my problem. And that’s correct in a way. I ought to respect that person’s religious beliefs, and if public praise is part of that then I have no reason to fret.

What folks like Mike Smith don’t realize, because they don’t think about it this way, is that there are many people of faith who carry it privately.

When it comes to sports, we hear a lot about those who are born again; they tend to make headlines with their stories of redemption. By nature, though, that type of Christianity is evangelical. Getting the “word” out is not just about thanks and praise; it’s also about bringing others into the fold.

That’s what people hear when Mike Smith praises the Lord: he’s really wants you to believe what he believes.

And that makes me uncomfortable.

I suppose the world would be a better place if we all were made uncomfortable more often. We’d probably treat each other better, help those in need more frequently and be less selfish. When religion makes us uncomfortable, however, it sometimes serves as a way of separating us as opposed to bringing us together.


What?


LGBTQ Pride


So Jaelene Hinkle elected not to play in a game last year for the U.S. women’s soccer team for religious reasons, based on the jersey the federation had asked the players to wear. Just after that decision became public, almost a year later, she was booed and ridiculed while playing in a pro game in Portland, Oregon.

That’s terrible, honestly. The second thing, I mean. Why should anyone be mocked for his or her religious beliefs?

Portland has a well-known reputation for being politically progressive, and it’s probably one of the most “un-religious” large cities in the country. In another town, the boos for Hinkle might not have been as noticeable.

But what if the fans weren’t booing Hinkle because of her religious beliefs? What if they were booing her because she just doesn’t understand?

Not ignorance. Just lack of understanding.

When the U.S. national team wears a special uniform like they did that night Hinkle wouldn’t play, or the Orioles hold an LGBTQ Pride night, they aren’t doing so as a way to celebrate a lifestyle, whatever that’s supposed to mean.

They’re doing it as a way of recognizing that a group of people – of every faith, color, and background – have been discriminated against, and that was and is wrong.

They’re doing it as a way of recognizing that, as we engage in debate over the years, we treat people with dignity and respect.

Those temporary colors on the USWNT uniform are about people. It’s about some of Hinkle’s teammates throughout her career, some of the fans in the stands and lots of people she’s never seen. And doing what she did seems to be more about herself than it was about others.

All indications are that Hinkle made no grand gesture when she made this decision, nor did she seek any publicity for it. She said she wasn’t going to play for “personal reasons,” and she didn’t. That game went on without her, and she went on without the game.

That’s good, and if she’s now being blackballed by the federation, that displays a lack of understanding on its part, too. Dignity works both ways.


When?


August 26, 2016


That was day of the third preseason game of the 2016 season for the San Francisco 49ers, who lost to the Green Bay Packers 21-10.

Someone noticed that San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick stayed seated during the national anthem, someone asked him about it after the game, and he explained why. He’d done the same for the team’s first two preseason games, but he wasn’t in uniform so nobody noticed.

The NFL hasn’t been the same since. Nearly two years later, we’re still talking about this.

Has anyone handled this the right way?

The owners are a group of 31 oligarchs who care mostly about the bottom line. No matter how much “support” they give their players, or their fans, they go back and forth with the tide, on any issue, depending on what it means to them financially.

The commissioner? Well he works for the owners.

The players, many of them anyway, saw this as an opportunity to latch onto something, no matter how much it really meant to them.

The President of the United States says what he says, because that’s what he does in his ongoing Reality TV presidency. I don’t think he could care less whether someone stands for the national anthem.

And don’t forget the teams and their history of paid patriotism, “honoring” veterans out of the goodness of the Department of Defense’s wallet.

But back to the original question. Has anyone handled it the right way? I’d say yes. His name is Colin Kaepernick.

He explained himself that August day, and in the days following it, and he’s never changed his position. He’s also put his money where his mouth is.

Besides that, I’ve never heard anything from him publicly like we heard from his radio DJ girlfriend about Steve Bisciotti and Ray Lewis.

It’s possible for you to believe that Colin Kaepernick made the wrong choice in protests. It’s possible for you to have a different opinion on the issues he hoped to bring to light. It’s quite possible that he isn’t playing in the NFL for performance reasons more than off-the-field reasons.

But you have to admit . . . after two years, he’s pretty much the only person for whom you know the real motivation behind his actions.


Why?


Instant Replay


Let’s get back on the court . . . to Game 1 of the NBA Finals, final minute, the Oracle Arena in Oakland. Cleveland leads 104-102 when Golden State’s Kevin Durant drives the lane only to be met by LeBron James, who steps off his man to take the charge.

The officials go to video replay to confirm that LeBron was outside the restricted area near the basket; in the last two minutes of the game, they can do that. While making that confirmation, thanks to a rule initiated in 2012, they can also determine if the defender was in “legal guarding position.”

The charge is changed to a block, infuriating the Cavs, though the play almost seems lost now after J.R. Smith’s gaffe in the final few seconds.

The rules are the rules, and both teams know them going into the game. But the last minute of Game 1 is an example of why replay causes as much frustration as it solves.

The “trigger” for the entire visit to the monitor was doubt—whether James was inside the restricted area or not. Yet the officials should have seen in real speed that there wasn’t any doubt. If you watch the replay, the baseline official and the referee on the right wing are looking directly at James and Durant. He’s clearly outside that circle.

There never should have been a trigger. And when there wasn’t a trigger for a review, the charge/block scenario wouldn’t have been reviewed.

The officials made the wrong call, to do a review in the first place, which then allowed them to change a call based on judgement, which shouldn’t be allowed in any situation.

And then there’s the fact that the exact same play could happen with 8:46 left in the second quarter with the score 44-34, and there would be no replay recourse at all.

In general, replay works better in basketball than it does in football. A player’s foot was either on the three-point line or it wasn’t. The ball either went off the Maryland player or the Wisconsin player. Or the replay doesn’t show enough to change whatever the call was.

Allowing changes to judgment, however, is a mistake. And it’s even worse when a replay wasn’t the right answer anyway.



Sunday
June 3
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issue 3
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it might actually be happening


What the Washington Capitals have gone through since 1974 pales in comparison to the title drought experienced by both the Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox. And baseball being what it is and all, more attention will always be given to its story angles.

But what's happening in Washington right now with a certain hockey team almost defies anything we've seen in sports over the last decade.

This is Charley Brown kicking the ball straight through the uprights -- yes, with Lucy holding for him -- from 50 yards out to win the Super Bowl.

It's that much of a miracle.

Potentially.

There are still two games left to win, and the Vegas Golden Knights are just a premium Game 4 performance from turning the series back to their favor, but the Caps don't look like a team that's going to lose a hockey game anytime soon.

Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov each scored a goal on Saturday night as the Caps beat the Golden Knights, 3-1.

Last night's 3-1 win in D.C. was strikingly similar to the way the Caps disposed of the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 6 and Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final. If not for an all-time brain fart by goaltender Braden Holtby early in the third period, Vegas wouldn't have scored on Saturday evening.

A 2-1 series lead is far from a done deal. But the more hockey the two teams play, the more it's apparent the Capitals are the better side. While they appear to be gaining energy with each passing period, Vegas looks to be running on fumes.

Just like they did in the final two games of the Tampa Bay series, the Caps are physically punishing Vegas on every shift. And those hits are taking their toll.

Braden Holtby might very well wind up being the Conn Smythe winner, which goes to the MVP of the playoffs, but there's no doubt at all who is engineering this colossal story for the Capitals.

It's Alex Ovechkin.

He leads the team in goals, sure, but the rest of the stuff he's doing is completely off the charts. The future Hall of Famer is skating like a man possessed, blocking shots at one end and leading offensive rushes on the other.

Holtby has been terrific. No two ways about it. But these playoffs have been Ovechkin's finest hour, for certain.

That's not meant to slight anyone else's performance. Everyone has played well, which is why the Caps are two wins away from skating around the ice with a big silver cup. But Ovechkin's play has been LeBron-like, to cast him against another all-time great who is currently battling for a championship ring.

These will now be the hardest two wins the Capitals have ever recorded in their history. You have to win four games. Not two. Not three. But four. And they will not come easily.

Never before have the Capitals been in this positon as an organization. Sure, they have a couple of guys who have won Stanley Cup titles, but the engine of the team -- Ovechkin, Kuznetsov, Backstrom, Oshie, Carlson, Holtby -- has never been in this spot.

This is when things starting getting weird.

You're so close you can taste the champagne.

But lots and lots of teams have won two and three games in the Finals. Four is the magic number.

The Capitals are two wins away from winning the Stanley Cup.

Heck, I've never written that in my life, come to think of it.

This is new territory for all of us.

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"it's always about six putts"


Among the few golfing staples that I preach to my high school team, this one gets the most mileage.

"Your round of golf almost always comes down to six putts."

If I say it once per-season, I say it 30 times.

The PGA Tour keeps a bunch of fancy putting stats these days, including something called "Strokes Gained", but it's a lot easier than that.

If you have a 40-inch putt, you should make it. 3-footer for par? You should make it every time. 5-footer for birdie? Gotta roll that one in, too.

Tiger Woods is currently at 9-under par through three rounds of The Memorial Tournament in Dublin, Ohio. He trails Bryson DeChambeau by five shots, which isn't a huge deficit to make up given Tiger's play over the first three days and his history of winning at Muirfield Village.

But Woods could easily be winning the golf tournament if his putter would cooperate.

Bryson DeChambeau is the 3rd round leader at The Memorial after a 66 on Saturday left him at 14-under par.

DeChambeau, according to tournament data, has missed one putt inside of four feet this week. Woods has missed six.

Hey, look at that, there's five shots!

Tiger has also missed eight additional putts from ten feet and in.

For all the talk about Tiger's return from injury, his back surgeries, his "new swing" and everything else we can connect to his three-year absence from the leaderboard, its putting that has plagued him in 2018.

Tee to green, Woods is as good right now as anyone out there.

But he just can't make the putts the way he did back in the 2000's.

You'd think it would be the other way around, right? A 42-year old guy with four back surgeries shouldn't be swinging a golf club at 125 mph and rifling three irons 280 yards off the tee. But a 42-year old guy could conceivably beat the ball around decently, hit it close on six or eight holes, and putt the lights out of it. Putting, after all, is more about experience, feel and confidence. Anyone can do it.

Woods has it going the other way right now.

He can't putt well enough to win.

His ball striking and actual "golf skills" are fine. More than fine, really.

But if he can't get the ball in the hole quickly enough, he can't win.

Everyone who plays with him says the right stuff afterwards. Yesterday, it was Patrick Reed singing Tiger's praises. A couple of months ago it was Sam Burns. A few weeks back it was Phil Mickelson.

"There's no doubt about it. Tiger's going to win again," they all say.

Except he hasn't. Not yet.

If he continues to hit it the way he's hitting it, there's no telling when it might happen. Maybe he rolls in a bunch of putts today and wins The Memorial.

But that seems unlikely.

This isn't a recent putting slump that Woods is enduring. He's been putting "just OK" for a long time. On the PGA Tour, it just takes a few putts per-round to not go in and you're sliding from 10th place to 40th place in a hurry.

Tiger could be leading this week. He probably should be leading, truth be told.

But it's always, always, always about putting.

Six of them. In every round.

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another night, another loss


No team in baseball has 41 losses except for the Orioles.

The lowly Chicago White Sox are 17-38.

Even the Miami Marlins have reached the 20-win mark.

But the Orioles...they're 17-41 after last night's 8-5 loss to the Yankees at Camden Yards.

58 games played. 41 losses. There's futility -- and then there's 17-41.

Kevin Gausman struck out nine Yankees on Saturday but fell to 3-5 on the year after New York tagged him for five earned runs.

Last night's loss was particularly embarrassing given a 6th inning Keystone Cops routine that saw the O's make an error on three consecutive plays -- two from Adam Jones -- as the Yankees scored twice to extend a 4-2 advantage to 6-2.

Big league clubs don't do that kind of stuff.

Well, big league clubs that are any good don't do it, I should say.

Then again, I'm not 100% sure what we really expect the Orioles to do given that lineup they trotted out there on Saturday.

The bottom four hitters are all struggling, except Danny Valencia's .287 average gives him at least a puncher's chance of doing some damage, especially when he faces a left handed pitcher.

Mancini (.239), Davis (.154) and Sisco (.210) are just outs waiting to happen.

It's hard to beat anyone with five legitimate hitters in your lineup and four guys who probably aren't going to help much.

Then there's the pitching.

And the defense.

Neither of those things are all that great, either.

The O's wrap up the homestand today, then head off to New York for a pair games with the Mets before visiting Toronto for four games later this week.

I wrote yesterday at #DMD about the O's pursuit of a 7-7 mark over their next 14 games, which would put them at 24-47 through 71 games of the season.

They're 0-1 so far.

I should probably wait until they get to 20 wins before I start looking ahead to 24, huh?

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so let's gamble


Day one of our $1,000 gambling "experiment" didn't go so well.

I'm doing this to prove a point.

Yesterday, I took some early steps to proving it.

We made five "mythical" wagers of $100 each on sporting events around the country.

We won two of them. And lost three.

The losers: Patrick Reed over Tiger Woods in The Memorial (lost $100), Houston (-1.5) over the Red Six (lost $100) and the Giants/Phillies Over 8.0 (lost $100).

The good news, though, is the two winners we had paid back more than even money.

We won $210 on the Capitals (-1.5) in their 3-1 win over Las Vegas last night. And we won $175 on the Mariners (-1.5) in their 3-1 win over Tampa Bay.

So, for the day, we wagered $500 and collected $385.

We're down $115 heading into today's action. We have $615 still left to use.

We'll bet $400 today.

First off, let's take the Indians (-1.5) to win at Minnesota. Mike Clevinger is on the mound for the Tribe. We're taking the Indians and laying 1.5 runs to win $120 on our $100 bet.

I can't believe I'm doing this. This is why the guys in Vegas have nice cars and big houses. The Orioles have to win a game at some point, right? I get it, it might not be anytime soon, but they're +157 today against the Yankees. Let's roll the dice on the Orioles and Alex Cobb to beat the Yankees straight up. $100 to win $157.

Because you can't win big by just playing the favorites all the time, I'll bite the hook on tonight's Cavaliers-Warriors game. Cleveland is +460 to win outright. Bet $100 to win $460? I'm in. Let's take the Cavaliers to win Game 2 of the NBA Finals.

And at The Memorial, let's look at a final round matchup between Rickie Fowler and Si Woo Kim. Kim is the underdog here. He's +150 on the moneyline. Let's take Si Woo Kim to beat Fowler straight up in their fourth round pairing. Betting $100 to win $150.

There you have it. Another $400 down the drain, most likely.



Saturday
June 2
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issue 2
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that's 40


At one point way back in the early part of May, when the Orioles were stumbling and bumbling out of the gate at 12-28, I wondered if they could play "well enough" to make it to 20-40 at the sixty game mark.

After last night's 4-1 loss to the Yankees, they have the 40 part taken care of.

The Birds are now 17-40.

They churned out a total of five base hits last night, including Manny Machado's first inning home run that staked the Birds to a temporary 1-0 lead.

Five hits. One run. No offense. Again.

They had the bases loaded in the eighth inning last night, down 4-1, and just needed a hit of some kind to ignite -- gasp! -- a rally that might have tied the game. Instead, Jonathan Schoop struck out and Chris Davis flew out softly to center field and that was that.

Buck Showalter's team has scored a grand total of three runs in their last four home games. Sure, one of those four outings came against Max Scherzer, but major league offenses don't score three runs in four games.

Aaron Judge hit his 16th home run of the season last night as the Yankees beat the Birds at Camden Yards, 4-1.

But at what point does the front office reach "enough is enough" territory?

Unless Zach Britton learned how to hit in the last eight months and he's going to be the O's version of Shohei Ohtani, I don't see Britton's return sparking a wildly impressive winning streak that gets the Birds back to respectability by the All-Star break.

They're 17-40 right now.

After these next two home games with the Yankees, the O's go to New York for two with the Mets, head to Toronto for four with the Jays and return home for three each with Boston and Miami.

What can they possibly do in those next fourteen games?

Can they go 7-7? Sure, especially with the woeful Marlins coming to town at the end of the 14-game stretch.

Let's pretend they go 7-7. That puts them at 24-47 at the 71-game mark.

It will be June 17 at that point.

At 24-47, the season is OVER.

I mean, you and I know the season's over now. Someone hasn't convinced the Orioles hierarchy of the same thing, yet, but smart people know they're not extricating themselves from this fiasco-of-a-start.

But on June 17, if they're fortunate enough to be 24-47, the season is OVER.

I can't help but wonder how the Orioles are going to foul up this scenario that has them owning three extraordinarily valuable commodities; Manny Machado, Zach Britton and Richard Bleier. And if Mark Trumbo continues to hit .300, someone will take him, too. Granted, you might not get a king's ransom for Bleier and/or Trumbo, but they both have value to the right team in the right situation.

Machado and Britton can get you something significant.

So, too, could Jonathan Schoop. The Orioles are in the same spot with Schoop this year as they were with Machado in 2017. We can all look ahead and forecast that Schoop will likely chase the free agent windfall that's coming to him in the winter of 2019. Why not move him now?

We've been asking these questions for a while now and nothing comes of it except more losing.

Surely the Orioles can't be dumb enough to hold on to Manny and Britton, right?

They can't be that dumb.

Right?

Yeah, I'm with you. They might be that dumb.

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so let's gamble


This should be fun, especially since it's not one thousand dollars of "real" money.

With this week's news that sports gambling will be up and running in Delaware on June 5, I thought it might be fun to take a stab at betting on some games over the next few days.

It's not real gambling. It's a thousand bucks of play money. But just to show you how quickly you can lose a thousand dollars, I thought I run this little exercise for everyone.

I'll start out wagering on five games today.

With Evgeny Kuznetsov practicing without restriction on Friday, it looks like he'll be playing in tonight's third game of the Stanley Cup Finals vs. Las Vegas. The moneyline has the Caps at (-130), which means you have put down $130 to win $100 in return.

Can Patrick Reed beat Tiger Woods straight up today in the third round of The Memorial Tournament?

However, the spread is 1.5 goals and if you take the Caps (+210), you wager $100 and win $210 if they win the game by more than one goal.

Let's take the Caps and that 1.5 goal point spread. The way I see it, unless the game goes to overtime, the Caps are winning by more than one goal IF they win the game. And I suspect they're winning tonight. If they're up 3-2 late, Vegas will pull the goalie and the Caps will dump one into the empty net to win by two. The same scenario happened in Game 1, if you recall.

We're putting $100 on the Caps to win by 1.5 goals tonight.

In baseball, the Mariners are playing terrific baseball of late and tonight they go up against one of the most overrated pitchers in the American League as they face Chris Archer of the Tampa Bay Rays.

Seattle, at home, giving up 1.5 runs, gets you $175 for your $100 wager. Let's put down $100 and take the Mariners (-1.5) to beat the Rays by at least two runs.

The Phillies and Giants are playing a series out in San Francisco this weekend. Philly is playing solid baseball. The Giants aren't terrible. The total in the game is "8". If you bet the over, it's even money. Let's go with the "Over 8" for $100 in the Philles-Giants game.

If you believe in "the hot hand", you have to figure Justin Verlander is an easy bet tonight. The Astros host the Red Sox, who have been playing -- and losing -- without Mookie Betts (rib soreness). Then again, Verlander has to have an "off" start sometime soon, right? Is tonight the night he finally gives up some runs? On the road, I might go with Boston. But I think we'll stick with Houston here, giving up 1.5 runs, putting up $100 to win $135 if the Astros can win by more than one run.

That wager above also gives me another reason to root against the Red Sox. As if we needed another reason, right?

And in golf today, they're playing the 3rd round of The Memorial Tournament in Dublin, Ohio. Patrick Reed is actually a betting underdog against Tiger Woods on the moneyline. Reed is (+105) and Woods is (-130). I realize Tiger plays Muirfield Village well, as evidenced by his 67 on Friday, but I'll go with Reed to beat Tiger by at least one shot today -- $100 to win $105.

So there you have it. A hockey game, three baseball games, and a player vs. player golf matchup.

$500 down.

Let's see how it goes.

KELLY banner ad

join #dmd for the "charlotte cup", october 25-28


If you're a golfer who enjoys mixing competitive golf with business networking and Ravens football, #DMD has just the event for you.

Last year, a group of 16 of us converged on Nashville for four days of golf, fun, and football, as we saw the Ravens-Titans game in early November. The "Nashville Cup" was a huge success.

This year, we're heading to Charlotte in late October to see the Ravens and Panthers, with golf once again taking center stage for three days before the game.

We once again will take eight, two-man teams on the trip. After invites to last year's group went out and came back, we have openings for THREE (3) two-man teams at this point.

This year's "Charlotte Cup" will be played at The Golf Club at Ballantyne, one of North Carolina's top golf resorts.

If you'd like to play in the "Charlotte Cup" and join our trip, we have room for you and your partner!

This is not only a great opportunity to play golf and take in a Ravens game, but you'll be able to do some business networking at the same time. Our group of participants all work in the Baltimore area and have businesses of various types. Maybe there's a new client out there just waiting to be met!

Here are the details of the Charlotte Cup.

You must bring a golfing partner on the trip. Both of you must have a verifiable handicap. What your handicap is doesn't matter. We play both a gross and net competition over the three days (72 holes). You can shoot in the 70's, 80's or 90's...it honestly doesn't matter.

You and your guest will share a hotel room on the trip. We'll be staying at a resort about 15 minutes from the Panthers football stadium. We'll be playing golf there two of the three days.

We'll depart from BWI Airport on Thursday morning, October 25. We'll return to Baltimore on Sunday evening, October 28. The Ravens and Panthers play in Charlotte at 1 pm that day.

The golf event is wide ranging and designed to be a mini member-guest, for those of you who have played in that type of tournament before. We'll award prizes to teams, plus have individual awards and daily closest-to-the-pin competitions as well.

At night, we enjoy an adult beverage, have a nice dinner together, and talk about our businesses and golf games. It's a great way to meet people and share four days of memories.

#DMD does all the work! Your airfare, golf, hotel and travel while in Charlotte are all part of the package. We're working on getting seats together for the Ravens-Panthers game as well.

If you're interested in possibly securing one of the three team spots available, please reach out via e-mail: drew@drewsmorningdish.com.

We'd love to have you join us!

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Friday
June 1
r logo#DMDfacebook logovolume xlvii
issue 1
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jaelene hinkle and the jersey decision


You're forgiven if you've never heard of Jaelene Hinkle. Not many sports fans in America know who she is or what sport she plays, even.

She's a female soccer player. A good one, too. Good enough to be called up to play for the U.S. Women's National Team on nine occasions.

Hinkle made eight appearances. It was the ninth one that she didn't make that is now coming to light.

Last June, she was indeed called up for her 9th appearance with the national team. Hinkle was all set to play in a "friendly" and represent her country when she learned that the team would be wearing a special jersey commemorating LGBTQ Pride Month.

A devout Christian, Hinkle elected not to play in the game, citing "personal reasons".

In a recent television interview on The 700 Club, Hinkle revealed that she refused the call-up last June due to her religious convictions.

The U.S. Women's soccer team wore these jerseys showing their support for the LGBTQ community last June and one of the players called-up to play in the game refused to participate because of the jerseys.

"I just felt so convicted in my spirit that it wasn’t my job to wear this jersey," Hinkle told The 700 Club. "And I gave myself three days to just seek and pray and determine what He was asking of me to do in the situation."

"I’m essentially giving up the one dream little girls dream about their entire life, and I’m saying no to it," Hinkle continued. "It was very disappointing."

Naturally, even though the story itself is a year old at this point, the revelation that Hinkle withdrew from a national team appearance because of a jersey supporting/promoting the LGBTQ community has sparked a wide range of opinions and debate.

Desmond offered this comment on Deadspin, which featured the story on Thursday afternoon: Probably in the minority here, but I think it’s fair for an athlete not to want to take part in someone else’s political speech - not wearing the jersey isn’t that different than not wanting to stand for the anthem. This isn’t a private team, it’s the USWNT, for all intents and purposes an arm of the state. It should be noted, she did this a year ago and didn’t make any announcement about her motivations, and it doesn’t seem like she’s out there making hateful statements or anything, just wanting to do her own thing relatively privately. She decided her convictions were more important to her than appearing for USWNT, and didn’t ask anyone to change what they were doing. While I think she should have just played, I can’t help but agree with “how” she went about it.

Also on Deadspin, O's, Poes and Boh's wrote: Imagine if people took Harry Potter or something as seriously as people take a 2,000-year-old work of fiction. She shouldn’t be celebrated. She should be mocked.

Jaelene Hinkle, an 8-time participant on the U.S. Women's soccer team.

Twitter heated up when the story hit social media on Thursday. I didn't do a scientific count of the comments and tweets associated with the story, but I can say with relative certainty that more people criticized Hinkle than praised her.

Earlier this week, when the story broke nationally, Hinkle's outdoor team in a women's pro league played in Portland. The fans in Portland ridiculed and booed Hinkle throughout the game.

The biggest story in sports over the last 18 months has been the one involving NFL football players exercising their right to not stand up while the national anthem is played.

Supporters of Hinkle will use a similar position when discussing her "right" to not wear a jersey that, in her mind, calls for her to promote and support something she doesn't believe in.

Hinkle, by the way, hasn't been asked to play again for the national team since she refused the June 2017 call-up.

Colin Kaepernick is currently involved in a highly publicized collusion lawsuit against the NFL because he believes his failure to secure a job in the league over the last 12 months is directly connected to his refusal to stand for the national anthem while he played with the San Francisco 49'ers in 2016.

Could Hinkle have a similar case against the U.S. Soccer Federation?

Is the story less concerning to the mainstream media and sports fans across the country because it's "only" women's soccer?

The Orioles have an upcoming promotional night at the ballpark where they are giving out LGBTQ Oriole-themed baseball caps. What would happen if, say, Chris Davis said, "My religious convictions don't allow me to play in the game tonight due to the support and endorsement of a LGBTQ-themed item that is being distributed by the team."?

A couple of years ago, Bruce Springsteen pulled out of a show in Greensboro, North Carolina due to a law in the state that connected with public bathrooms and the sexual orientation of those who used them.

These are interesting times in our country.

Does Jaelene Hinkle have the right to turn down an employment opportunity based on her faith and beliefs?

Or should she be required to show up, wear whatever her employer gives her, and do so obediently and without disruption?

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since you didn't ask...


Next Tuesday, June 5, you will be allowed to bet on sports in the state of Delaware.

All sports.

You know, as in the way you've been occasionally making a wager with a guy you know who used to work with your brother-in-law a few years back.

That kind of wagering.

Except it will no longer be illegal.

Next Tuesday, in Delaware, you can bet on the Orioles to win, bet the total in the game, etc. Note: You can also bet on the Orioles to lose, which is probably what you should do if, in fact, you're foolish enough to bet on a game involving the Orioles.

Braden Holtby and the Capitals play Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals next Thursday in Las Vegas. Starting on Tuesday of next week, you can bet on the game in the state of Delaware.

OK, so here's my tip from the top. Ready? Lean in so I can whisper it to you.

In a light voice: Don't bet on sports.

Why not? Because you're gonna lose, that's why.

You might win a few games right out of the gate. The gambling gods are good like that. They're not dummies.

You'll win a few games at the start.

"Heck, this better than working for a living," you'll say to yourself after you take the Braves and the over 8.5 on a Thursday night and they score five runs in the bottom of the eight inning to make the score 6-4.

The first time you sniff out an upset and place a $100 bet on Wake Forest at +230 on the money line and it hits -- you'll need an industrial size pair of pliers to get that hook out of your cheek.

I play fantasy golf, yes. The government contends -- or at least concedes at this point -- that daily fantasy sports are not gambling. I guess I agree with that. I play a $5.00 fantasy golf lineup and hope to win $100,000 but wind up being content when I win $8.00.

And I'm not betting on any one performance by a PGA Tour player. I play a six man lineup and more times than not, all six guys have to play reasonably well for four days just to give me a shot at winning ten or fifteen bucks.

But if I can go to Delaware on June 12 and bet which PGA Tour player is going to win the U.S. Open...now that's a different story.

Well, except I'm telling you it's futile to bet on sports and think you're going to come out on top.

You're not.

You might win for two weeks, but by the fourth week, you'll be back to zero.

Don't prove me right.

Don't bite the hook.

Please.

But on the off chance you ignore my advice and you're heading up to Delaware sometime around June 11,12 or 13, I'd love to know what the odds are on Bryson DeChambeau winning the U.S. Open.

For a friend...

KELLY banner ad

join #dmd for the "charlotte cup", october 25-28


If you're a golfer who enjoys mixing competitive golf with business networking and Ravens football, #DMD has just the event for you.

Last year, a group of 16 of us converged on Nashville for four days of golf, fun, and football, as we saw the Ravens-Titans game in early November. The "Nashville Cup" was a huge success.

This year, we're heading to Charlotte in late October to see the Ravens and Panthers, with golf once again taking center stage for three days before the game.

We once again will take eight, two-man teams on the trip. After invites to last year's group went out and came back, we have openings for THREE (3) two-man teams at this point.

This year's "Charlotte Cup" will be played at The Golf Club at Ballantyne, one of North Carolina's top golf resorts.

If you'd like to play in the "Charlotte Cup" and join our trip, we have room for you and your partner!

This is not only a great opportunity to play golf and take in a Ravens game, but you'll be able to do some business networking at the same time. Our group of participants all work in the Baltimore area and have businesses of various types. Maybe there's a new client out there just waiting to be met!

Here are the details of the Charlotte Cup.

You must bring a golfing partner on the trip. Both of you must have a verifiable handicap. What your handicap is doesn't matter. We play both a gross and net competition over the three days (72 holes). You can shoot in the 70's, 80's or 90's...it honestly doesn't matter.

You and your guest will share a hotel room on the trip. We'll be staying at a resort about 15 minutes from the Panthers football stadium. We'll be playing golf there two of the three days.

We'll depart from BWI Airport on Thursday morning, October 25. We'll return to Baltimore on Sunday evening, October 28. The Ravens and Panthers play in Charlotte at 1 pm that day.

The golf event is wide ranging and designed to be a mini member-guest, for those of you who have played in that type of tournament before. We'll award prizes to teams, plus have individual awards and daily closest-to-the-pin competitions as well.

At night, we enjoy an adult beverage, have a nice dinner together, and talk about our businesses and golf games. It's a great way to meet people and share four days of memories.

#DMD does all the work! Your airfare, golf, hotel and travel while in Charlotte are all part of the package. We're working on getting seats together for the Ravens-Panthers game as well.

If you're interested in possibly securing one of the three team spots available, please reach out via e-mail: drew@drewsmorningdish.com.

We'd love to have you join us!

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Drew is here.

Every weekday.





O's SCOREBOARD
Wednesday, August 15
Orioles
5

Mets
16
WP: Z. Wheeler (8-6)

LP: D. Bundy (7-11)

HR: Villar (2), Frazier (12), Plawecki (4), Flores (11)

RECORD/PLACE: 36-85, 5th (of course)

breakfast bytes

Tampa's Snell continues Cy Young chase, improves to 14-5, Rays beat Yankees in NY, 3-1.

Former Oriole Brad Brach blows save in 9th, Braves lose at home to Rockies, 5-3.

Marlins' Urena suspended six games for hitting Braves' Acuna on Wednesday.

PGA Tour: Snedeker becomes 9th TOUR player to shoot 59 in first round of Wyndham.