MLB Midseason Stats: Fact or Fiction

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Today wraps up Major League Baseball’s first half, and even though statistically we are beyond the actual 81-game midpoint (games played by teams thus far range from a low of 86 by the White Sox to a high of 93 for the Mariners), there are some interesting questions bubbling up within the statistics that drive the game for hardball nerds like us.

Such as, was it really necessary for the Mets to absolutely bombard social media today when Pete Alonso hit his 30th home run this afternoon? Yes, it is an absurd and unexpected total for the big rookie, and even cooler is the fact that it tied a record set by Dave Kingman (Kong!) 43 years ago. But c’mon — Alonso’s two-run shot made it 6-2 Phils, in a game Philly would win by a score of 8-3. In other words, it was a meaningless homer. This is a glimpse into what Mets fans can likely expect out of the season’s second half.

But for about 27 other MLB teams (sorry Royals, Orioles and Marlins), there remains a lot to play for, and with all due respect to Polar Pete, he’s not getting to 50 round trippers this year folks. I call that a “FACT.” 

And as I pored over the statistical tables this afternoon, I wondered about the likelihood of other stars sustaining their first half numbers with the dog days of August beginning to cast their ominous shadow in the distance. So, here’s a few quick hits for consideration over the next several days while we wait for real baseball to resume:

*Christian Yelich is now a combination of Barry Bonds (without the steroid-inflated head) and Roger Maris circa 1961, and will rewrite the MLB record books over the balance of his career. “FICTION”  Yeah, Yelich is on pace to challenge the 60 homer mark as a nice encore to his torrid 2018 second half that won him an MVP out of nowhere, but let’s not put him in Cooperstown just yet. I can see 50 dingers easy out of that sweet swing of his this year, and here’s hoping the Brew Crew make the playoffs, because this guy is so much fun to watch, but he’s actually not even the best player in the NL right now.

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*Cody Bellinger will continue on his tear and become “the lefty Mike Trout,” soon rivaling the Angels superstar for “best in game” status. FACT  The kid’s plain scary right now, and while I don’t envision Bellinger challenging the 60 dinger level this year either, I do see him maintaining a level of excellence that will earn him his first MVP come the awards season. And let’s not forget this guy plays defense, too — at multiple positions, no less — and possesses one of the best arms in baseball. A beast.

*The Dodgers will keep up their .660 pace, win 105 games, make their third straight World Series and win this one. FICTION  Yes, they are darn good. Like they were two years ago, when manager Dave Roberts gift wrapped the 2017 World Series for the Astros. If they can stay healthy, the Los Angelenos should definitely cross 100 wins and be heavy favorites to make their third consecutive Fall Classic. But get the Buffalo Bills jokes ready — they will be on the wrong side of the championship outcome yet again.

*The Braves will be the only NL team not named the Dodgers to win 100 games this year. FICTION  Everybody loves the Bravos right now, but it is a long season, and even with the benefit of facing so much bleh in their NL East-heavy schedule, they won’t get to the century mark. Pencil them in as division champs (again), but this one won’t be a layup for the young Atlanta squad.

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*Jeff McNeil will keep up his scorched earth pace and lead the majors in hitting this year. FICTION  You get the feeling when watching McNeil that if he wasn’t batting leadoff for the Mets he’d be in an alley somewhere tossing tin cans in the air and smacking them with a broom handle. He’s the ultimate “see the ball, hit the ball” savant, but when you are named an All Star in your first full season in the bigs and go into the Midsummer Classic leading both leagues in Batting Average, your days of sneaking up on folks are numbered. If Alonso remains hot hitting behind him that would be a huge boost, but both these kids are subject to the ups and downs all young ballplayers go through.

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*Josh Bell will finish the year with over 50 home runs and 50 doubles. FACT  I’m sorry, but where did this guy come from? I know, he went for 26 and 90 two years ago, but when he slid to 12 and 62 last year I stopped paying attention. Now I look up and the guy is taking 30 HR’s and doubles into the All Star break? In 1995 Albert Belle reached 50 in both doubles and HR’s, and since then? Nobody. Before Albert Belle? Nobody.  This is effin noteworthy, gang! Here’s saying Josh Bell will join Albert Belle in this historically exclusive MLB club. What will make it even more fascinating, is to watch Josh’s pursuit of 50/50 continue should the Pirates manage to buck the odds and remain in contention. Albert Belle’s Indians were a powerhouse in ’95, and his stats benefitted from that loaded lineup. Josh Bell equalling that feat while playing Pirates games in a pennant race with little lineup protection? Yes, that would be incredible.

*The AL division leaders heading into the break will all still own the top spot when the regular season concludes. FICTION  I haven’t been a Twins buyer all year, and I’m not jumping on the bandwagon just yet. For those still paying attention to the AL Central, the Indians are beginning to play good ball, while Minnesota has leveled off just a bit. A 100-win pace and chance at home field in the ALDS seems like way too much too soon for the Twinkies, so here’s predicting that they end up in a division dogfight down to the season’s last weekend. And finish second to the more experienced Indians. As for the Yanks in the East and the Astros out West? Yup — you can write down that ALCS matchup right now.

*The Red Sox will not defend their World Series title in this year’s postseason. FACT  Outside of Boston, is anyone really sad about this one? Enough winning in Boston already, right? Everything went right last year for the Sawx, and in keeping with the Bosox pattern of taking a year off after winning the World Series, this club hasn’t smelled right since they chose to begin the season with no established closer. There’s still a ton of talent in Beantown, but they also face the toughest division competition, something the Indians/Twins and the A’s don’t have to concern themselves with. See ya next year Red Sox. This year’s AL Wild Card will feature the A’s versus the Twins (and please, please, please send the Twins home and spare us the pain of watching them roll over once again in a playoff series against the Yankees).

*Gabe Kapler will be the Phillies manager for Spring Training 2020. FICTION  Yes, the rock headed Philly field general has outlasted my preseason predictions of an early shit-canning, but that’s simply because he’s gotten to play the Mets so frequently. Talk about underperforming expectations? Somehow I’m guessing that when Phillies owner John Middletown talked about spending so much money this past offseason that it could even be “a little bit stupid,” he didn’t envision Kapler sitting around .500 at midseason. Kapler may make it through the regular season, but he’ll be back doing vitamin supplement videos on YouTube TV by November.

*The Mets are hopelessly out of the Wild Card race heading into the All Star break. FICTION  They are only seven games back in the race for the second wild card. And that is seven back of the Phils! My buddy Palmer texted during yesterday’s game saying that if the Mets were to pull out a win, it would be the catalyst for a historic run to the playoffs (the Mets won, 6-5). Now Palmer’s texting history is littered with preposterous claims, but there are 70 games still to play, and no one is distinguishing themselves in the NL outside of Los Angeles and Atlanta. The Mets have had just about everything go wrong that could, yet the league hasn’t run away from them. If (and yes, this is a BIG IF) BVW’s key offseason pickups (Cano and Diaz) revert to their historic norms and the young bats keep producing? Well, stranger things have happened (and besides, look at this paragraph’s heading — we’re merely stating that the Mets aren’t “hopelessly out of it”), and I can’t get excited about any other mediocre NL club. So let’s sign up for the Dodgers and Braves remaining 1 and 2 in the NL seedings, with Milwaukee thrown in at 3 (Yelich vote). The play-in Wild Card game? Let’s go Cubs-Mets, with deGrom coming up big to advance the Mets and seal the fate of Joe Maddon getting dismissed the day after the postseason concludes.

Ya Gotta Believe!

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Independence Day Celebration of New York Sports

Here’s a quick 4th of July around the horn look at observations pertaining to the most dysfunctional (at least the ones I root for are) of all species — the New York sports franchise.

Mets 

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*Great to see Pete Alonso repping the Mets in this year’s Home Run Derby. Here’s hoping it doesn’t ruin his swing the way it did David Wright’s back in 2006.

*Yep, the Mets have three all-stars, and each are deserving. Sure beats the days of John Stearns or Lee Mazzilli getting the nod because every team has to have one All Star Game rep, even the lousy clubs. Yet why does the 2019 edition of New York Mets seem every bit as bad as those late-’70’s squads?

*To quote an old joke, “there’s gotta be a pony in here somewhere…” — I mean, c’mon, Conforto, J.D. Davis, McNeil, Alonso, Dom Smith, a starting rotation featuring arms any contender would deal for if they came available? Yet we suck. Two words — bullpen, Cano. And that’s entirely on the GM.

*In BVW’s defense, I did think it was cool he sat in the bleachers with the fans for Game 1 of this week’s Citi Field edition of the Subway Series. Gotta believe the security detail was on high alert for that visit, huh?

*Does anyone doubt that once Zack Wheeler gets traded he will win a Cy Young within two seasons? Just please don’t let it happen in pinstripes. Please.

*Why is Jason Vargas still on the roster? I know he’s pitched better this season, but simply for his clubhouse jackassery with the reporter, followed by his stubborn refusal to apologize…cut the bum and send a message.

Yankees

*It’s the 4th of July and I’m already trying to handicap who I need to root for to knock them off in October.

*They are on pace for well over 100 wins, and haven’t been healthy all season. Scary.

*I’m so glad Luke Voit got hurt.

*I’m nearly as happy that despite hitting well, Clint Frazier got sent down. Grow up, Ginger.

Knicks

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*Eldrid Payton, Julius Randle, Bobby Portis, Taj Gibson, Wayne Ellington, Reggie Bullock — I just threw up a little in my mouth.

*I know, Steve Mills, I know…this was your plan all along.

*And yes, absolutely brilliant getting them (five of them anyway) on two year deals with the second being a team option. I feel so much better now. Can’t wait to see the next front office team execute their plan for the free agent class of 2020.

*Does anyone really see Kevin Knox ever being a key cog on a championship roster? I know he’s young, but sometimes you can spot a selfish, one-dimensional coach-killer early on.

*Okay, I am excited to see a full year of Mitchell Robinson starting at center.

Nets

*David the Brooklyn Barrister called me out over my reminder in the last SportsAttic post that the Nets are nearly as historically bad a franchise as the Knicks have become. Sorry counselor, but it’s true. Over/under on number of games Kyrie plays for Brooklyn this coming season? How about 40? Yeah, sounds about right.

Rangers/Devils/Islanders

*Sorry for the head fake, NHL fans. No hockey coverage here, but if I did pay attention, I might remark that it seems like the needle is pointing up for all of the Tri-state area hockey teams. Is that true? Could that be possible?

Giants

*Does it say more about how far Eli Manning has fallen, or about the enormous upside of Daniel Jones that the papers are already trying to create a QB controversy for Big Blue. Hint: it’s not about Jones’ upside.

*Given the short shelf life of NFL running backs, is anyone else concerned that the Gints could be wasting valuable years of the magnificent Saquon Barkley’s tire tread during what appears to be a slow and unfocused rebuild?

Jets

*With the sorry state of the aforementioned Knicks and Mets, I’m afraid I have to pin any short-term hopes for sports relevance among my favorite franchises on Gang Green.

*This is a critical year for Sam Darnold’s development. I’m glad they have Le’Veon Bell to give him a weapon out of the backfield, but wouldn’t a frontline deep threat make some sense guys? Robbie Anderson is fast, but not sure we haven’t seen all there is to see with him. Does Wesley Walker have a kid?

*The two young safeties and the two guys named Williams up front give me hope on defense, especially with C.J. Mosley plugged into the middle.

*With camps opening later this month, I’m actually getting excited about the 2019 New York Jets (always a dangerous thing). Is 10-6 too much to ask, including one win over New England? Hell yeah I’d sign up for that right now.

*And then I remember, we are pinning our hopes on this guy to lead us there….

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Happy 4th of July everybody!

 

Three Point Play: Let’s Not Anoint The Brooklyn Nets Just Yet

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So much to write about, so little time. As tempting as it is to dig deeper into the New York Mets bullpen woes, or the fact that the hapless Mets somehow managed to tarnish yesterday’s 50-year Miracle Mets anniversary celebration by declaring two of the squad’s former players dead before their time, there’s really only one direction to go today.

And that’s to Brooklyn.

Give the Nets credit.

They are going for it, and they just signed two of the marquee names available in free agency (we are going with the broadly accepted assumption that Kyrie Irving signs with the Nets as well). Coupled with the strong core that earned the Nets 42 wins and a surprise playoff visit last season, and there is enthusiasm bubbling over out in the borough.

All the sweeter for the Brooklyn basketball franchise has to be the fact that these signings of Kevin Durant and Kyrie (with recent Knick DeAndre Jordan thrown in for good measure) spit right in the eye of their big brother franchise across the East River. The Knicks openly expressed interest in these two stars (it was way more than interest, it was almost a smug wink and nod that these two starts would soon be theirs), and not long ago were roundly considered front-runners to land the duo.

So in the course of one Sunday afternoon, the Nets have inserted themselves into the wide open 2019-20 NBA title contender conversation, while dealing a right cross across the jaw of the cursed Knickerbockers, who have owned New York City hoops fans’ hearts forever, even while the team has stunk up MSG for the better part of the last 19 years.

In fact, the sorry state of the Knickerbocker franchise has allowed the Nets to regroup a little of their own questionable mojo under new ownership, with a capable GM and head coach showing how title contenders and culture can be built to last. The Knicks are so dysfunctional on every level, beginning with the worst owner in professional sports and continuing through the overmatched front office and right down to the head coach who seems more interested in positive PR than winning games, that the Nets can fly below the radar while rebuilding from the ground up. Yes, the Knicks are the definition of a train wreck in a city loaded with contenders for such a title.

However, here’s my question: Can we really trust the Nets just yet?

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Lest we forget, the Nets are not exactly the paradigm of a high-functioning sports franchise. In fact, it was only six years ago when the franchise badly crippled itself with the draft night deal that landed them Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry from Boston in exchange for, well, in exchange for the future of their franchise. The Celtics have ridden that deal to the top of the league since, benefitting from the implosion in Brooklyn and the resulting high draft picks they received in the Garnett fleecing.

Now barely emerging from that soul-crushing deal, a winning culture starting to appear with a selfless and team-first system made up of young, athletic no-names, the Nets have taken this monumental step. And this week’s SportsAttic Three Point Play will point out a few reasons for caution on the way to the victory parade undoubtedly being planned for a year or two from now over in Brooklyn.

  1. They traded Dr. J. It hasn’t reached “selling Babe Ruth” curse proportions just yet, but let’s think about this one for a minute. We (okay, I) bemoan how the Knicks haven’t won an NBA title since 1972-73, but what about the Nets? They’ve been in The Association 42 years and they possess zero titles. And they sold the one chip that had forced the ABA-NBA manager back in 1976, Julius “Dr. J” Erving, ushering in a series of unwatchable rosters that welcomed the Nets to the NBA and set a tone of ineptitude that lingers to this day. In fact, if not for the gold standard daily dumpster fire across the river stealing all the thunder, we’d probably spend more time lamenting how the Nets have been synonymous with losing dating back to their entry into the league.
  2. “Woop-de-damn-do!” Perhaps my favorite NBA quote, from the inimitable Derrick Coleman, back when the Nets were tricking us into thinking they could become consistent contenders (for what seems like the umpteenth time as we reflect back on how often this sort of tease played out in Nets-land). Of course the genesis of the famous Coleman quote took place when former first-round pick Yinka Dare (remember him?) walked innocently into the Nets locker room one afternoon to prepare for the night’s game. Dare was greeted by then-Nets captain Kenny Anderson, with “What up, Stinka.” The following day Coleman quizzed a reporter as to why Kenny’s insult of Dare was such a big story, and was told it was because Anderson was team captain. Coleman considered that response briefly, and then made his historic statement. Those were the New Jersey Nets of the early-’90’s.
  3. The RAC. For those of you outside the New York metropolitan area, The RAC stands for Rutgers Athletic Center. It’s where the Nets played their home games for four years after abandoning Long Island and the Nassau Coliseum, only the home to their two ABA Championship teams and tens of thousands of diehard hoops fans who loved the Nets (in fact, the Nets headed to the NBA in 1976 coming off seasons of 55, 58 and 55 wins respectively, plus the two titles). So to reward their loyal fans upon their entry into the NBA, the Nets immediately sent Dr. J down the New Jersey Turnpike to the 76ers, proceeded to lose 60 games with the likes of Bubbles Hawkins as their go-to scorer, and then left town, heading to a below-par, college arena in central Jersey. Thus began the era of the New Jersey Nets.

So let’s hold off on that parade for just a few minutes now, can we?

As exciting as these signings seem today in the heat of the moment, let’s remember a few things:

*KD won’t play next year, and when he returns in year two of his deal, he’ll be 32 years old and coming off an achilles rehab. This will not be the guy we last saw lighting up the 2019 playoffs for the Warriors.

*Kyrie remains perhaps the biggest poison to a locker room this side of Chris Paul. He will be displacing D’Angelo Russell, who could very well prove to be the superior player over the next couple of years. And oh yeah, have we mentioned that Kyrie is injury prone?

*There will still only be one basketball in play at a time in Brooklyn per NBA rules, so one must wonder what the ball-dominant style of Irving will do to the development of all those young pieces the Nets have so skillfully assembled over the last couple of years.

Okay, maybe this is Knicks bitterness speaking, but I’m actually a bit relieved that the Knicks didn’t end up with KD or Kyrie. The potential for the bad outcomes mentioned above would have been stone cold locks had the two free agents donned the blue and orange at MSG.

At least the Nets have a strong chance for relevance and contention now. It is an optimistic time in Brooklyn, and everyone from the new owner to GM Sean Marks to head coach Kenny Atkinson seem professional and high caliber. Will the Nets be contenders by 2020-21?

Only time will tell, but let’s just close with the reminder that New York boasts not one, but two, NBA franchises with checkered histories.

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Sports Media Then and Now

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I miss the days of pajamas and Sunday mornings, pulling the rubber band off the rolled up newspaper and spreading the sports section out all over our dining room floor. The initial scan and deliberation, deciding which article to read first.

I almost always began with the recap of the previous night’s Mets game (or Knicks, depending on the season), but it was a veritable overflow of critical information that any young sports fan had to know about.

The Newark Star-Ledger was the paper I grew up on, and to this day I would argue that from the early-’70’s to the late-’90’s (when newspapers all started falling by the wayside), the Star-Ledger (we never added “Newark” to the moniker back in the day, it was always just the Star-Ledger, or Ledger) Sports Section was consistently head and shoulders superior to all others. Best in class, period. And not just for the tri-state area — we are talking across the entire country! Heck, the whole, wide world!

The Sunday Ledger’s expanded Sports Section was the grandaddy of them all, of course, because you always had a Saturday game to digest, plus you had the columns from all the staff writers and senior editors on their respective sports (Dan Castellano on baseball and the Mets was my personal favorite), plus there was the grid.

You know what I’m referring to, dontcha? That weekly table listing every hitter and pitcher in both leagues, with all their important vitals (average, HR’s, RBI’s, ERA — none of this OPS or WAR stuff that annoys the hell out of me these days). I could spend hours on the grid.

Important questions often emerged from scouring the grid, such as “can Ron Blomberg really get enough official at bats to lead the league in hitting this year?” or “how can a hitter as good as Hal McRae really be dead last in the entire American League?”

For good measure, the Ledger would throw in individual stats for the Mets and Yanks separately with their own tables covering the entire active rosters (and update them after every game — are you listening New York Post?). But maybe the best tidbits were those you’d find buried among the classifieds and horse racing results in the final few pages of the sports section.

That’s where the true gems could be uncovered. Like wrestling results — “Ivan Putski won again — Polish Power!” — or small, waiver-wire transactions, like young Hank Webb being sent down to Triple-A after another awful start. Yup, you could spend hours poring over the abundance of information pulled together in that awesome, grainy collection of pressed pulp and ink that was sure to leave a stain on the carpet when you were done (sorry, mom).

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I got to thinking about how we used to consume sports news as I waited for my flight to Dallas to take off. On my phone I’d just reviewed in detail my New York Post app, getting caught up on all the New York action from the previous day (Mets lost again and their bullpen still sucks. Yanks won again and traded for the leading home run hitter in the AL, apparently just to rub Mets fans noses in it).

Intermittently I flipped over to the Facebook app, where amid all the pictures of graduations and household pets I caught a posting of the New York Times article from 50 years ago reviewing the Mets trade for Donn Clendenon from the Expos (we got that one right, at least, although it probably speaks more to the Expos nascent front office back then).

Then I jumped over to Twitter, where I saw a couple of cool, old photos, one of Walter Payton and Earl Campbell together back in the ’70’s — a couple of great backs wearing number 34 (note they were wearing, not exchanging, jerseys) — and one showing Terry Bradshaw and Jim McMahon yucking it up on the sidelines after a game in the mid-’80’s. We can only hazard a guess as to what those two Mensa members had been discussing.

Back on Facebook, another post popped up from a page I follow offering to sell a 1954 Ted Williams Topps baseball card to the highest bidder, and over on Instagram I see that apparently Genie Bouchard is in London this morning. And additionally, it appears the tennis star/IG Model has recently auctioned off her match-worn sneakers from her latest early-round knockout, this one at the French Open, to reward her fans and celebrate reaching that all-important milestone of two million followers.

Huh. Match-worn sneaks?

Not exactly Ivan Putski, but interesting nonetheless.

As an admitted traditionalist, but also a sports fan with huge appetite for anything nostalgic, I wonder — is this the Golden Age for those of us who wake up ready to eat, drink and sleep sports? Or are we all actually suffering from this embarrassment of riches, unknowingly getting sucked into information overload — sports fan version?

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Like on most important existential topics, I don’t have a clear answer here, but perhaps it is simply another example of today’s world not being better or worse than the “good old days,” but just different?

As a kid, I lived for the four minutes of sports coverage at the back end of the 6:00 evening news that my father insisted on tuning to daily. Warner Wolf was the king as far as I was concerned, poking fun at Mr. G. the weatherman, and making his predictably inaccurate selections of the weekend’s upcoming football games (yeah, sounds familiar).

Bill Mazur was a surly and unappealing talking head who had somehow garnered a short, erratic time slot to talk sports on one of the local channels (Channel 9, I think), and I couldn’t stand him. But I watched him. Every time I could. Because it was sports information, and I needed it. Yeah, in those days, you either worked your schedule around when sports news fleetingly flashed at you on the television, or hoped you’d luck into a segment like Mazer’s while surfing from Channel 2 to 13 and back, before heading to bed.

Then in the ’80’s George Michael’s Sports Machine came along on Sunday nights, and I felt as though I’d died and gone to heaven. All sports, highlight after highlight, with amusing, insightful and in depth commentary. Yeah, he was a homer for the Redskins, but I didn’t care too much, because this was appointment viewing aimed specifically at me, and it carried me through the college years. What a way to close out your weekend!

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But print media was my foundation. When the family moved west in the ’70’s I switched my allegiances to the L.A. Times sports section. I found it to be a solid runner up to the Ledger, with the added benefit of broad college football and basketball coverage, something that was more of an afterthought back in New Jersey (let’s face it, Wooden’s UCLA Bruins and the USC gridiron powers of the ’70’s demanded coverage, and the uninspiring sports programs of Seton Hall and Rutgers back east simply couldn’t compare).

In addition to the daily papers, at an early age I developed a long-term relationship with Sports Illustrated that continues to this day. I still subscribe, and if the wifi had precluded me from working on my blog on this morning’s flight (as so often is the case with United Airlines, a consistently bad horror show 30,000 feet in the air), I’d be diving into the latest issue, even though, much like my beloved Mets, Knicks and Jets, SI has fallen on hard times these days.

I mean, c’mon, it is perfectly understandable if the poor economics facing all newsstand publications these days force the publishers to adopt an every other week distribution format, but don’t lie to me and tell me it’s the same amount of sports content. It isn’t, and oh by the way, while we are on the subject, stop pandering to the politically correct by choosing to cover certain sports that few readers (or me, at least) care about.

I’m sorry, but a full issue — or damn near it, anyway — dedicated to women’s soccer and the World Cup is overkill, especially right on the heels of having featured several members of the same women’s soccer squad in last month’s swimsuit issue. If I were a skeptic, I’d hazard a guess that there could be some financial connection between the upcoming World Cup and SI, but we will save the conspiracy theories for another day.

(SportsAttic aside — is it just me, or do others also feel like a leacherous creep if they dare open up the SI Swimsuit Issue in a public setting? It’s bad enough being a member of the universally despised demographic of over-50 white males, without throwing gas on that fire by pulling out a magazine showing nothing but women less than half my age in various stages of undress. I can’t help looking over my shoulder, anticipating an angry mob of pant-suited feminists descending upon me, ready to snatch my magazine from my age-spotted hands to beat me to death with it, while being raucously cheered on by the other passengers on the plane. Sigh.)

However, I digress.

Anyway, here’s my quick and personal Top 5 of sports media sources, past and present, along with a note or two on why they were, or how they could be, useful to me and my fellow sports fans:

PAST

  1. Newark Star-Ledger Sports: Give me a Jerry Izenberg column on the first page, talking about Muhammad Ali or Y.A. Tittle, or some little known fact about a long-ago Super Bowl. Follow that with columns from Castellano and the Kleins — Dave on the NFL and the football Giants, Moss on the Yanks and the American League — and throw in all the local New York beat writers. The Ledger. Nothing better — retired champion, never to be challenged again.
  2. Warner Wolf on CBS Channel 2: Before we had “The Swami” and “SVP” on ESPN, there was Warner, guaranteeing if the viewer followed his picks (and went the opposite way) they were a lock for betting success. Then flashing to a fan passed out in the upper deck at Shea Stadium and leading into his next segment with his “and Mr. G was at the game!” call. Priceless stuff.
  3. Los Angeles Times Sports: The ’70’s were the time to be a young sports fan in Southern California. Wooden’s Bruins were in the midst of their incredible unbeaten streak. McKay’s Trojans were winning national championships with Student Body Right. The Dodgers’ vaunted core was beginning to form with Cey, Russel, Lopes and Garvey finding their way to their appropriate spots in the Chavez Ravine infield (before the Dodgers finally figured out this grouping and rode it to the 1974 World Series, that infield featured Garvey trying to play third, Russell as an outfielder because an aging Maury Wills was still at short, Lee Lacy as the second baseman of the future, with Billy Buckner the heir to Wes Parker at first — really, you could look it up). Plus you had some formidable L.A. pro football drama, and the weekly debate over James Harris or Pat Haden or Ron Jaworski for the always close-but-no-cigar Rams was intense.
  4. Sports Illustrated: It was the photos that got me hooked. Ali, Secretariat, O.J. The articles were too long for me as a kid, but when I figured out how inspiring the writing could be, too, I was all in, and still am to this day.
  5. New York Times Sports: Just kidding to make sure you’re all still paying attention. This list ends at four. The NY Times was, is, and always will be, the worst sports section on the planet.

PRESENT

  1. ESPN: I don’t care if it is overexposed. Nothing compares, and now that they’ve ditched that dreadful pairing of Michael Smith and Jamele Hill I can go back to watching without the need to keep my remote within reach. And east coast fans, I know Scott Van Pelt comes on late back there, but he’s the best in the business, bar none. Relatable, witty and having so much fun with his guests and sidekick, Stanford Steve. It’s like hanging with that guy you don’t see very often, but when you do you can’t wait to dive into the latest in the world of sports. Record it if you can’t stay up that late, or…
  2. Twitter: Used to be my least favorite social media medium, but I chalk that up to not recognizing how to make it work for me. In addition to following my favorite sports writers and commentators (hello SVP, Buster Olney and Joel Sherman), I’ve found a helluva lot of “retro” and “vintage” sports sites that bring back obscure and fun memories from my sports fan days of old. Plus, there’s the real time element of wondering why the heck Jason Vargas just left a game he seemed to be cruising in, only to learn via Twitter he has a cramp (a cramp?) in his calf. And Dickie V. Lots of Dickie V. The guy loves Twitter. He gives updates on everything, not just college hoops (MLB, his grandkids, a stranger he befriended at dinner the night before), and he may just be the nicest, most genuine guy in the entire world of sports.
  3. Facebook: I know it’s fashionable to blast Facebook. And sure, there’s a lot I don’t care for, mostly pertaining to the aggressive political views overshared by many, but if you join a few clubs, groups and sites that share a passion of yours (and block — but stay friends with — basically everyone else), the Facebook experience becomes a steady feed of information that matters to you. Right now I enjoy posts from MLB, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, ’69 Mets, and various sports card collectible pages (some photos, some where you can go in and purchase), along with all my favorite team sites (and the Sopranos page, Classic Movies, yeah, it’s a long list).
  4. Instagram: Similar to my Facebook strategy, I prefer to cherry-pick certain meaningful InstaGram pages (meaningful to me, anyway, and apparently two million other Genie Bouchard fans) to follow, and enjoy a wide range of interesting photos and commentary on the world of sports, plus the added bonus of old movie clips, satire (The Onion cracks me up) and humor. Now if I could only find a way to post SportsAttic blogs on IG, this site would vault all the way to #2 on my list.
  5. New York Post phone app: Maybe the ritual I miss the most from my days commuting from New Jersey to New York City every morning is forking over my fifty cents to buy the best hour of entertainment known to man. Starting from the back cover (of course), I could usually make my way completely through the sports section and entertainment pages before arriving at my lower-Manhattan destination. I’ve transitioned (begrudgingly) over to the electronic version, and despite still preferring the feel of newspaper in my hands, I’ve embraced the economy and convenience of having The Post’s irresistibly campy articles and features just a finger tap away. The Post is my current undisputed champion of New York sports coverage, filling the void left when the Ledger succumbed to the financial pressures of today and became it’s current shell of its old self.

So is today’s media better, worse or just different?

I’m going with just different. The memory of learning how to read a boxscore, or understand movement in the daily MLB divisional standings via my voracious consumption of the Star-Ledger sports section makes me smile to this day.

But laughing out loud and pausing Scott Van Pelt so I can rewind and share a “Bad Beat”  segment with the rest of my family on a Sunday night is pretty cool stuff, too.

Would watching Warner Wolf have felt so special if I could have dialed him up 24/7 on a tablet back in the ’70’s? I don’t know the answer to that one either, but I do know that appointment viewing with the family and sharing a laugh at Mr. G’s expense always felt good back in the grade school years.

Then again, what I wouldn’t have given back in my childhood to be able to touch a button and read about Willie Mays’ catch in the ’54 World Series, or see a clip “on demand” of Ali’s “phantom punch” against Liston.

Special times then and now. The common thread? Sports as a timeline for life well lived, with vivid memories, shared joy and anguish among friends and strangers, and always the knowledge that tomorrow will offer up more unique moments and experiences to be enjoyed.

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The NBA Offseason — It’s FAN-tastic!

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What a difference a week makes!

Last Saturday the discussion was all about whether KD could give the on-fumes-but-still-champion Warriors enough of a jolt to recover from the 3-1 hole they’d dug for themselves in the NBA Finals.

Today the whole complexion of the free agency market, and balance of power across the league, has been turned upside down.

As we are all still coming to terms with a 2019-20 NBA season that will likely go on without Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson making a single bucket between the two of them, the Lakers swoop in and pick up Anthony Davis without having to give up their best player not named LeBron, Kyle Kuzma (but they did include pretty much everything else that wasn’t nailed down).

Instantly the Lakers take a place at the table of western conference powers, with the offseason only in its infancy. A rested King and a Brow with something to prove? Plus their most talented youngster in Kuzma? This was a serious power move by L.A.

Wow. Okayyyy…

So with the draft still a week away, what are we to make of this deck chair shuffling that’s kicked off the NBA’s always enjoyable offseason?

Stay with us here, because we are going to dig in and figure the whole thing out. Who are the winners and losers heading into the draft as a result of this seismic shift in NBA power, one that’s taken place in only the few short days since the Raptors brought the good people of The North their first NBA title? SportsAttic takes a look:

WINNERS

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No surprise that LeBron has found a way to insert himself into the June dialogue. You know watching this postseason had to positively kill him. He pathetically attempted to join the discussion around the fan that shoved Kyle Lowry (kinda like the grounded little kid, nose pressed to the window, while a game of kickball goes on in the street outside), but no one engaged him and he went quiet again.

Well LBJ is back. With no less than an NBA top-5 superstar as his latest wingman keeping him company. Anthony Davis is that big a deal, and keeping Kuzma may be the most important aspect of this deal. That’s a big three. Throw in another year of Rajon Rondo and any capable young point guard apprentice, and the Lakers are one three-point marksman away from becoming the prohibitive favorite for the 2020 title.

And speaking of winners, just when we thought things couldn’t get any better for Kawhi Leonard, the Davis deal happens today and now all of Los Angeles turns toward the Clippers, shouting a collective “your move.”

If the Clippers want to fight for a reasonable share of fan interest and L.A. hoop hype (and they really have no choice), Kawhi’s signing just became a must. He’s been rumored to be leaning in the direction of the Clips already, but talk about a sense of urgency for the “other” NBA team based in L.A.!

The Davis deal makes it necessary for the Clippers to double down. The question now becomes who will be the “second” star to join Kawhi in coming aboard the perennial “second” Los Angeles basketball franchise. The Clippers’ salary cap room is there, but the free agent pickings just got a lot slimmer in the last six days.

The SportsAttic guess? Kemba Walker. Anyone else see a little Kyle Lowry in Kemba? With Kemba riding shotgun for Kawhi, along with the Clips returning crew of no-name, but effective, role players, the Clips could still make things interesting next year in the battle for Los Angeles.

Plus, don’t forget about Jimmy Butler. The injuries to KD and Klay move Butler from afterthought to primary free agent target. He’s not enough of a pure shooter to help LeBron, and too similar in style to become Kawhi’s sidekick, but Butler’s value took a huge leap when Klay Thompson blew up his knee in Game 6, so look for the two-way star to cash in, big time.

LOSERS

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Talk about a tough week in Oakland.

Not only did the final hoops game in Oracle Arena history end in elimination for the hometown Dubs, the franchise now faces an existential crisis. Will Golden State stay the course with their carefully crafted image of the evolved, player-friendly place to be, thus succumbing to the pressure and offering max deals to both KD and Klay — their guys — despite the high likelihood both will miss the entire upcoming season?

Or do they go back on their word, pass on the wounded hometown heroes, and go full shift in another direction, choosing to establish a new identity to usher in their shiny, billion dollar, downtown arena? Based on their public commentary about remaining committed to KD and Klay despite their injuries, it would appear Steph Curry better gear up for a lot of triple teams come the fall.

We can certainly add Durant and Thompson to our list of losers, if not financially (although that remains to be seen), then absolutely for the year of painful rehab in their future. My sense is that no team (except perhaps the deep-pocketed Dubs) will pay full, max-contract value for any star who will sit out the first year of their salary cap draining deal. That is bad news for Durant and Thompson for sure, right?

Right… Uhhh, check that. I could see one franchise doing something that dumb.

Hello New York Knickerbockers. Would they really? Of course they would. Bidding against themselves while buying into every smokescreen being sent out from San Francisco to Brooklyn, can’t we all see the Knicks going full on with a max-deal for KD this summer? Somewhere the ghosts of Bob McAdoo, Spencer Haywood, Amare Stoudemire and Antonio McDyess are all doubled over, shrieking in hysterics. Simply because they are the Knicks, they must be added to the list of “losers.”

WILD CARDS

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It is hard to imagine calling a team on the rise, one who is about to add a recognized superstar to their playoff core, a “loser.” So we’ll stick the Brooklyn Nets in the “wild card” category.

This one will be fascinating to watch, as the Nets seem to be on a collision course with Kyrie Irving, casting an enormous shadow of doubt over the positive culture that GM Sean Marks and Coach Kenny Atkinson have been brewing in Brooklyn. And for those of you who remember such things, wasn’t it only a year ago that one of the most popular offseason rumors had Irving and Butler packaging themselves together this summer in hopes of teaming up and making a run at a ring? Butler doesn’t seem to be a fit for the Nets, especially should the Nets retain restricted free agent D’Angelo Russell as most expect, but still worth watching as the pieces begin to fall this July.

Lastly, where does all this leave the lone remaining “K?” Yup, Khris Middleton has completely flown under the radar when pundits discuss this summer’s free agent crop, but the guy is solid as they come, and with the two Golden State front-liners now in injury-induced limbo, Middleton, just like Walker and Butler, finds his stock rising at the right time.

Here’s guessing that the Bucks find a way to keep Middleton and reload for another run this fall. Milwaukee didn’t earn the league’s best regular season record by accident, and when they sat 2-0 against the Raptors in the conference semis, many expected them to be the eastern foe facing the Dubs in the finals. So we’ve got to pick one free agent to resign with his old team (besides the lamentable, injury-induced retention about to take place by The Bay), and Middleton is our choice.

Unless, that is, an additional wild card team deludes themselves into thinking they are one free agent away from contending in what appears to be a wide open “Association” in 2019-20 (watch the Heat and the Mavericks in this category — Middleton could be a poor man’s D-Wade down in South Beach, or bring a complementary style to Dallas’s European duo of Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis). Barring such a surprise, look for Middleton and the Greek Freak to pick up where they left off in the east next season.

And now we wait for this Thursday’s draft.

Zion Williamson to the Pelicans is a fait accompli, and we will all learn a lot about just how good Lonzo Ball really is once those two youngsters take the floor together in November. Ja Morant will go at two to the Grizzlies, and make no impact this season (or ever? Bust, anyone?), before the Knicks grab R.J. Barrett with the third pick, a selection so obvious that even the overmatched Knicks front office can’t flub this one.

The fourth pick will be the Pelicans again, in a draft that most feel drops off steeply following the first three selections. Will New Orleans parlay the Lakers’ three first-rounders into success down the road, building around the other worldly talents of Williamson and those other L.A. castoffs received in return for The Brow? That’s why they play the games, of course, but it will be fun to watch.

Just because the Finals are behind us doesn’t mean the intrigue ceases. In fact, this summer could be the most fun we’ve had in an offseason since… well… since KD went off to the Hamptons for the 4th of July and returned a members of the Golden State Warriors.

Game on!

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The Year Magic Couldn’t Do It Alone

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Tell me if any of this sounds familiar.

A 31-year-old point guard. A franchise synonymous with winning NBA titles. Series-altering injuries to two of the point guard’s key teammates. An opponent featuring a superstar on the rise, who in addition to his considerable talents in putting points on the board, knows how to play suffocating defense, and is capable of willing his team to win.

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You guessed it. We aren’t talking about the 2019 NBA Finals, but we may as well be. In this case, the finals in question took place in June of 1991. The 31-year-old point guard was Earvin “Magic” Johnson, only five months prior to him shocking the world by announcing he had contracted the HIV virus and would be retiring from the NBA.

The 27-year-old superstar? None other than SportsAttic’s NBA GOAT — the incomparable Michael Jordan.

I’ve been thinking of the parallels between this year’s NBA Finals, where the heavily favored Warriors find themselves on the brink of elimination prior to Game 5, and the 1991 finals that featured a tired Magic and injured Lakers running mates trying to squeeze out one last title triumph from their battle-fatigued bodies.

Since the beginning of this year’s finals, with Kevin Durant on the shelf due to a partially torn calf, and Klay Thompson gimpy due to a tender hammy, the similarities between that 1991 matchup and today’s have been striking to me. Then, the other day, an old friend posted on social media a suggestion that perhaps the Raptors of 2019 were a reincarnation of the 2004 Pistons. Hmmm…

I like my friend’s comparison, particularly since the Pistons of ’04 were an unheralded group that entered the finals heavy underdogs and parlayed unselfish teamwork into an unexpected title. Those ’04 Pistons were a team that played better together than any of their individual parts would have suggested, and one that came out of nowhere to upset a heavily favored Lakers team that had won three of the four previous NBA titles.

Yeah, it’s a solid comparison.

However, the difference between the comparisons of today’s Raptors and those ’04 Pistons, as opposed to the ’91 Bulls, lies in the fact that the Raptors, for as well as they are playing as a team right now, are riding the superhuman efforts (on both ends of the court) of Kawhi Leonard. The Pistons were a team with no single superstar, whereas those Bulls…

Well, yeah, they were all about MJ.

Let’s take a look back for a minute.

The 1990-91 Bulls went 61-21 during the regular season, but were a team that had been dispatched by the NBA-champion Pistons each of the prior two seasons. At the time, the ringless Jordan was recognized as the greatest individual basketball player in the game (key word “individual”), but had not yet earned the other-worldly distinction of “World Champion Superstar,” one who makes the teammates around him better.

The intense jealousy/dislike I would develop over time for MJ was only in it’s infancy back in ’91. His Bulls had sent home the favored, Rick Pitino-led Knicks in 1989’s conference semis, and I began to dislike Michael then, perhaps sensing the pain he was only beginning to inflict on me and my Knicks-fan brethren. Chicago swept the Knicks out in Round 1 of the 1991 playoffs, and had only dropped one game heading into the finals. I wanted the Bulls to lose mostly out of Knicks-fan bitterness, not realizing just how painful Michael and the Bulls would make NBA seasons to come for the New York Knickerbockers and their fans.

Along the way to the ’91 finals, MJ and the Bulls exorcised their Pistons demons, sweeping the defending two-time champs in the conference finals, where the Pistons (led by that all-time classless worm, Isiah Thomas) had walked off the court and into their locker room with time still remaining on the clock in Game 4, rather than shake hands with the new eastern champs.

Like Kawhi Leonard today, Michael was 27 years old and at the height of his athleticism. Jordan played in all 82 games during the 1990-91 season, averaging 37 minutes a night, while scoring 31.5 with 6 rebounds per and 5.5 assists to boot. Because of MJ’s ability to fill out a box score on a nightly basis, it was easy to ignore that he was also becoming the game’s preeminent defender, and with the addition of wingman Scottie Pippen a couple of years earlier, Chicago had begun to show the two-way dominance that would ultimately define the MJ title years.

But remember, at this point, there had been zero Bulls titles. And this Knicks fan was a little tired (already) of all the MJ hype for a guy that hadn’t won anything. So heading into the 1991 NBA Finals, my prediction (yeah I’ve been making impetuous and preposterous prognostications for a looooong time) was for a series where the great Magic Johnson (like Steph Curry today, a 31-year-old former MVP) would be able to neutralize Jordan, while Magic’s superior supporting class of Lakers (featuring James Worthy, Byron Scott, Sam Perkins and a young Vlade Divac) would turn the series in the direction of the Lakers, delivering them the title. Not so fast…

The Lakers actually went into Chicago and won Game 1 of the finals that year, thoroughly convincing me of my predictive genius. MJ and the Bulls came back and won Game 2 at home, but the Lakers were happy to head back to L.A. knowing the next three games would be on their home court (ahhh the days of the 2-3-2 playoff format). Game 3 foreshadowed what was to come, though, because with both teams at full strength, the Bulls emphatically pulled away in the second half to go up two games to one.

The Lakers were on fumes, showing the wear and tear of annual trips deep into the playoffs during the decade of the ’80’s (wars waged against the likes of Moses, Dr. J and the Sixers, Larry Legend and the Celts, etc., — the era of heavyweights during which Magic had garnered his five rings).

Kareem had retired after the ’89 finals, where Detroit had bullied their way to the first of  their two championships in a row, and the Lakers had fallen in the western finals in 1990, their first in memory with no Abdul-Jabbar in the middle. So this was not the Showtime Lakers of the mid-’80’s by a long stretch.

Despite his age, Magic had still suited up for 79 games in 1990-91, averaging a rugged 37.1 minutes a game, and his Lakers had gone 58-24. Scott had played in all 82 at the age of 29, averaging 32 minutes, and Worthy appeared in 78, logging 38.6 minutes a game, also at the age of 29. The wear and tear was adding up.

In the playoffs, their time on the court ratcheted up dramatically, with Magic averaging 43 minutes a game in the Bulls series (in fact, in the  ’91 finals — Magic’s last — he averaged 18.6 points, 12.4 assists and 8 boards — unreal stats nobody talked about because Michael went for 31, 8 and 6). And Magic wasn’t alone in leaving it all on the court one final time. The aging Lakers had a thin bench, and coach Mike Dunleavy had little choice but to ride his veterans, with Worthy averaging 40 minutes a night throughout the playoffs. Dunleavy also drained Perkins for his own 40 minutes a contest, and Scott for 38. In other words, Los Angeles was flat out gassed.

Would a healthy Lakers squad have been able to salvage one or two of the remaining games in L.A. and extend the series back to Chicago, where they’d benefit from a couple of days off for travel? We’ll never know, because in Game 4 Worthy came down the wrong way with a third-quarter rebound, and badly sprained his ankle, effectively ending any chance of a Lakers rally to even the series that night. To further compound the trouble, in the fourth quarter Scott collided with “Medical” Bill Cartwright, severely jamming his shoulder.

Both Worthy and Scott would be forced to sit out Game 5 as the Bulls closed out the series on the Lakers’ home court. Magic was brilliant in what would turn out to be his swan song, posting the second of his two finals triple-doubles that year, despite being shadowed every step from the inbounds pass on by Pippen and Jordan in the backcourt, then to be picked up at mid court by the long-armed Horace Grant. Effectively facing a three-on-one in Game 5, with Magic’s two primary scoring options in street clothes on the bench, the game was over before it started and the Bulls were champs, 108-101.

Now the point here is not to make the claim that Kawhi Leonard and his suddenly emboldened supporting cast, playing excellent team defense and executing their roles within the Raptors game plan flawlessly thus far in the series, will go on to form a MJ-like dynasty (heck, Kawhi won’t even be in Toronto next year). The point is that the NBA, for nearly 80 years now, has featured multiple torch-passing moments.

We saw one last year when the Dubs swept LBJ all the way to L.A. We could be seeing another one right now. There is no denying Steph Curry’s brilliance, but at 31 and showing the worn tire tread that accompanies five consecutive finals appearances, the Warriors team we will see tomorrow night may be closing the chapter on this phenomenal run.

The brilliance that is Kawhi (on the verge of his second career ring, but first as the go-to superstar), will likely take up residence in another locale for the 2019-20 season (SportsAttic’s call is that Leonard will assume the KD role alongside Steph in a Warriors-2.0 configuration, christening their new San Francisco home and kick-starting another run of titles for the lucky fans by The Bay). In addition to Kawhi’s brilliant offensive numbers this postseason, he’s instilled toughness and confidence in a franchise that’s shown little of either prior to his arrival.

Like MJ during the 1990’s, Leonard’s defense may be the most impressive, and least talked about, component of the arsenal he puts on display for the fans every night. And his teammates are following his lead and just played two of the best back-to-back road contests we’ve seen in NBA Finals history (since 1991, in fact).

No, this series isn’t over. The saying “a standing champion is still the champion” is particularly appropriate when applied to the 2018-19 Golden State Warriors. The talent is still there, and just maybe we’ll see KD take the floor Monday night. They still have 31-year-old Steph, who only needs to point to his Game 3 performance to remind us of the herculean capabilities he still possesses.

But it sure feels like that torch is again in flight. And the enormous hand of Kawhi Leonard appears poised to grab it. Based on what we’ve seen through these playoffs, he may hold onto it for awhile.

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Three Base Hit — The Saga of Tom Terrific, the Phighting Phils, and Pennant Races in June

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I had really hoped this whole Tom Terrific story would quietly go away.

My plan had been to spend most of June focusing on the NBA Finals (which, by the way, is shaping up as a well-played and fascinating series), with a subsequent return to MLB that I assumed would coincide with the Wilpons finally deciding to pull the plug on the short and miserable managerial reign of poor, overmatched Mickey Callaway over in Queens.

But the world of sports doesn’t operate that way, and neat segues from one concluding sport season into another rarely play out as diagrammed. So here we are with this Three Base Hit segment, because as Popeye used to so eloquently say, “I can’t stands it no more!”

Let me begin by politely and delicately imploring Tom Brady to “PLEASE, just shut the fuck up, you arrogant, lying dickhead.” There, I feel a little bit better now.

As if his ham-handed money grab at the eponymous nickname of all-time great New York Mets Hall of Famer Tom Seaver (who’s family recently announced to the world is suffering from severe dementia) wasn’t bad enough, today’s excuse, released by Team Brady, attempting to somehow justify this deplorable thievery, made things even worse.

Hang on, though, because since Tommy B. persists in keeping this story alive with his positively laughable excuses, we should take one more look at the cause of this hullabaloo. The Patriots QB, an all-time gridiron great in his own right, last week filed a trademark request on the nickname “Tom Terrific.”

Yup, the nickname that’s been synonymous with Tom Seaver for north of 50 years now, and at least to the ears of this sports fan, has not once ever been associated with, or directed toward, Tom Brady. In my layman’s understanding of such things, filing a trademark request to protect (or claim ownership of) an invention, name, idea, etc., is typically done by an individual with a goal of cashing in on any related branding opportunities (or other financial success) associated with the idea/term/name, etc.

So Brady, who flaunts his staggering personal wealth by citing how it is only diminished by the even more incredible fortune amassed by his Supermodel wife, had quite obviously decided that the name Tom Terrific presented an opportunity for him to parasite his way to additional riches.

Is such douchebaggery legal? Sure it is. Do these sorts of things happen every day? Yeah, they do. Is it possible that it’s one of Brady’s myriad managers, agents, handlers and assorted sycophants who actually came up with the idea, rushing to present it to the coolest kid in their little inner circle with the hope of earning a much coveted pat on the head from the GOAT QB? Maybe.

But was it really necessary? Of course not. Couldn’t Brady have stepped up at any time and put an end to this? Withdraw the trademark request and praise Seaver at the same time, forgoing the marketing cash in exchange for some good will associated with recognizing the err in his ways? Sure he could have. So why didn’t Brady do something like that when the backlash began to bubble up?

For the life of me, I don’t know. Maybe this is just a lens into Brady’s ruthless and capitalistic soul — an Uber-competitive individual who’s ceaseless drive to win on the football field spills over into the “real world.” Perhaps the thrill of hoisting so many Lombardi trophies through the years only goes so far, and to keep those competitive fires stoked, Tommy now thirsts to compete and win in the rankings of the Fortune 500.

What I do know is that Brady issued an “explanation” this morning that was so phenomenally absurd that I’m left here opening my eyes as wide as I can, a technique I’ve previously only employed in the midst of horrific nightmares where I try to wake myself up and force the mental torture to cease.

According to the explanation released this morning, Brady took out the trademark request because he actually doesn’t like the nickname Tom Terrific, and wanted to ensure that it could never be applied to him.

Huh? WTF?

So, in other words, this had nothing to do with any potential financial windfall that might accompany such a legal maneuver. The attorneys deployed to draft the filing documents? The time spent planning and executing the move? This was time and money spent to help Brady avoid ever being called a name he didn’t like? Ahhh, gotcha (wink).

Really? Do they find us all to be such easily manipulated rubes? That’s the best Brady and his team of advisors could come up with to rationalize this despicable, overt attempt to add a few additional sheckles to his considerable net worth?

I’m rarely stunned in this day and age of billionaire part-owners shoving opposing point guards from their courtside seats during live game action of the NBA Finals. Or where a young girl can get struck by a line drive and be hospitalized, yet no extended nets show up at any MLB ballparks the next day.

But this one has me speechless. Okay, Tommy, we won’t call you that anymore. Pinky swear. Promise. Can Seaver have his nickname back now?

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And another prediction we were so excited about a few months back goes down the tubes.

I sure hope SportsAttic Nation isn’t keeping score, because this is an anti-Holzhauer run SportsBro finds himself caught up in (“Prognostication for 1000, Alex. The answer is — Something that will never come to pass. James? What is a SportsAttic prediction, Alex?”).

It would appear safe to assume that Phillies manager Gabe Kapler will not be the first MLB field leader fired this year. And our accompanying prediction that one of the high-profile managerial troika of Aaron Boone, Dave Roberts and Joe Maddon would find themselves on the ropes by now with the MLB season more than a third complete also looks like a preposterous misreading of the SportsAttic crystal ball.

Nope, the first to go will almost certainly come from the NL East (at least we got the division right), but at this point it appears a flatfoot tie between the Nats’ Dave Martinez and the Mets’ Mickey Calloway for the honor of first skipper canned during the 2019 season.

That’s okay, though, because never one to balk at throwing good money after bad, let’s return to the Kapler prediction for just a second. The unconventional and rock headed leader of the Phils currently has his team in first place, engaged in a battle against the 2018 division champs from Atlanta, and despite being blessed with loads of talent down in the land of cheesesteaks, Kapler finds himself beset by injuries and suspensions.

First he lost Odubel Herrera to a domestic abuse claim (wouldn’t it have been refreshing if Phils ownership had just stepped up and released Herrera when these charges first came out?), and now Andrew McCutcheon is lost for the season with a blown out knee.

Kapler’s managerial mettle will be put to the test in the coming months, as he gets to see firsthand why Mets fans weren’t dismayed to see lead-footed Jay Bruce donning the Phils candy-cane pink, pinstriped uni last week (yeah, I know Mets fans, Bruce will look like Roger Maris reincarnated every time he steps in the box against us, you can count on it). Regardless, here’s predicting that Kapler will find a way to manage the Phils out of contention by the time September rolls around, just like he did last year.

First manager fired in the upcoming postseason? Yup, we are doubling down on Big Gabe and the City of Brotherly Love.

Speaking of pennant races, I don’t recall ever seeing postseason berths locked up in the first week of June. Until this year’s American League, that is.

If you look at today’s A.L. standings, it is hard to imagine anything other than the Astros and Yankees continuing their season-long purge of their division competition on the way to clinching the top two seeds come October. Add in the high degree of likelihood that the Red Sox will find a way to join them in the postseason (just too much talent there, folks, even with their post-World Series hangover at full intensity), and the surprise rise of the Twins in the Central, and all that’s left to wonder about with nearly four months of regular season remaining, is who the second Wild Card will be facing the Sawx in the play-in game this fall.

Sure, we can anticipate at least a slight correction coming our way from Minnesota, but with such a lackluster division at their disposal, it’s highly unlikely the Twinkies will miss out on this golden opportunity. In fact, I’m pretty sure the Bombers are already licking their chops at the idea of their old, familiar playoff punching bag coming to the Bronx and rolling over yet again in this year’s ALDS.

The Rays are fun and quirky (quick, name me three players on the Rays roster), and right now appear to be the odds-on candidate to take on Boston in the Wild Card, but we’re going to cast our rooting vote in the direction of the Halos. Here’s hoping Mike Trout and the Angels can muster enough pitching to sneak into the playoffs and give us at least one postseason game for today’s top superstar under the national spotlight.

Yup, it’s June 6th, and that’s all there is left to wonder about in baseball’s Junior Circuit. At least we have the National League to keep us in suspense, where pretty much everyone still has a shot outside of Miami and San Francisco.

Pennant races in June? Not if you are a fan of the American League, folks. Sorry.