Sports: Baseball, Eliminating the Great at Bat

Anybody who watches or follows baseball, knows what the great at bat is. For those of you that don’t, the great at bat, is where the batter battles the pitcher, by fouling off pitch after pitch. The pitcher will throw between 10 to 15 pitches, and once in awhile more. No matter what the batter does, strikes out, makes an out by putting a ball in play, or gets a hit or a walk, the announcer will say, that was a great at bat. I absolutely agree 100%. It is also very BORING and TIME CONSUMING. As the pitcher gets more and more frustrated by the batter fouling off all those pitches, he usually slows down his approach. In the era of 100 pitch counts, the pitcher is using up 10 to 15% of his limit on one batter. Other than the appreciation of the great at bat, there is nothing good about the great at bat. It slows the game down, it is by far, the longest period of time in the game, where there is little, or no action, except the pitcher throwing, and the batter swinging, and fouling off pitches. It wastes the pitcher talents, by having to throw so many pitches, to one batter. The problem is the foul ball. Baseball has never really known what to do with the foul ball. In the beginning, it was hard to define, and through the years the definition changed. The one thing that has never changed, is there is no penalty for foul balls, except when you foul off a bunt attempt, with 2 strikes, and your out. This all needs to change, if baseball is going to move along in the 21st Century, and add some excitement to the game. It will take a couple of simple, but bold rule changes to make this happen.

We need to make 3 the magic number in baseball. We already have 3 strikes your out. We need for 3 fouls to be an out. Foul balls would become a separate entity. Finally, walks would be reduced to 3 balls. Let’s look at what this would do. The most pitches any batter would face would be 7. The new full count would be, 2 balls, 2 strikes, and 2 fouls. This would be the first true full count, because on the next pitch something is going to happen. The batter is going to strike out, foul out, walk, or make an in play hit, or out. There would be this defined end point, to the pitcher-batter confrontation. It would be the first time in baseball history, that you would know, that something was going to happen, on the next pitch. There would be this new, and I’m sure some would call odd strategy situation, when a batter would foul off the first two pitches. He could take 2 strikes in a row. However, does the pitcher groove two strikes, thinking the same thing. Would the batter take those strikes, or would he go after those pitches risking hitting the 3rd foul ball, and making an out. With these rules in effect, the starting pitcher would have more of a chance of going deeper in the game. Pitchers would be forced to throw the ball over the plate more. The 3 ball rule may not get more balls in play, but it would make walks happen faster. These two rule changes would keep the game moving. It might not cut down how long a 9 inning game lasts, in time, but in that time frame, there is going to be a lot more action. Baseball is realizing that people can not spend 3 to 4 hours at a baseball game. We now have the 7 inning doubleheader, and a runner on 2ond, to start an extra inning. Baseball needs to continue to catch up to the times, and have a game that is going to have continuous action, and not a spot in the game, where one batter fouls off pitch after pitch after pitch, zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. This is the best way to get new fans to start watching, what use to be called the national pastime.

I would be remiss, if I did not mention the NFL Championship games, where my predictions were 50-50, just like flipping a coin. Even though I thought Kansas City would beat Buffalo, I thought Buffalo would give them a better game. They jumped out to that 9-0 lead, when Kansas City muffed a punt, and Buffalo recovered on the 2 yard line. But after that, the Chiefs dominated the action, for a fairly easy 38-24 win. Is Tom Brady riding some kind of destiny thing? I don’t know, but two teams in a row have handed him victories. The Packers weren’t quite as bad as the Saints, but a 50+ yard touchdown pass with 12 secs left in the half, that wasn’t even a Hail Mary, was horrific. Then boom, a fumble to start the 2ond half, returned to the 8 yard line. One play later, Brady threw a touchdown pass, and the Packers put themselves in a huge hole, that they could not overcome, even with Aaron Rodgers. Will the fates be kind to Tom Brady for a third time, who knows? I will be watching, the game only, as I speed through every one of those God blessed commercials, and the ridiculous half time show, on my DVR.

Sports: AFC and NFC Championship Games

Tomorrow, will be the Conference Championship games of the AFC and the NFC. I needed something mundane to write about, for various reasons, and this fits the bill, perfectly.. This will not be an in depth analysis, since I have only seen the Packers, Buccaneers, and Chiefs play once, which was last week, and the Bills twice. Watching the divisional match ups last weekend, did nothing to make me renew my interest in pro football. I will be watching tomorrow, for lack of anything better to do. Since everybody does analysis and predictions, I thought it would be fun to put my two cents in. I admit, I did do a little reading on ESPN, just to get a little more background on the teams, and I was surprised, by how many people think the Buffalo Bills are going to win tomorrow, and then follow it up with a Super Bowl win. The Chiefs won a lot of games down the stretch, by the skin of their teeth, and their defense has always been a little suspect. The Bills got off to a shaky start this year, in one respect, by winning a lot of close games, but then went on a 10 game tear, by going 9 and 1, with 8 of those wins by double digits. Their only loss was by 2 points, and that was on a Hail Mary pass on the last play of the game. Let’s take a look at the match ups.

The first game is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs the Green Bay Packers, in Green Bay. They played earlier this year with Tampa Bay easily defeating the Packers 38-10. It had to be one of Green Bay’s worse games, and tomorrow I do not expect that to happen. As Tampa Bay knows, it does not make much difference what you do in the regular season, as they defeated New Orleans, who had beaten them two times, once soundly. Bruce Arians, does not think the weather will be a factor tomorrow. It is supposed to snow, but most of the snow should stop by game time. It will be about 31 degrees and drop to about 26 when the game is over. According to the forecast the wind should not be bad. Tom Brady has always played well in cold weather. I do not know if that can be said for the rest of the Tampa Bay Bucs. The most impressive unit, last week, was the Green Bay offense. The Tampa Bay offense got handed a lot of opportunities, last week, by the benevolent New Orleans Saints. Even at 43 years of age, it is hard to go against Tom Brady, but I do think the Green Bay Packers are going to win tomorrow, and go on to win the Super Bowl.

The night game will be Buffalo at Kansas City and it does appear that Patrick Mahomes will play. Even if he did not play, I think Kansas City would beat the Buffalo Bills. Buffalo came charging into the playoffs with decisive wins, and momentum, but looked lousy last week even in victory. I feel, the big knock on the Buffalo Bills, is they do not run the football. There is something about that, I just can not get past. It is pretty much a given, that if you want to win championships you must be able to run the football. This team does not even try. Their defense is good, but Kansas City is the best offense in the AFC. I do think the game will be close, but I think the Chiefs will prevail. One thing about the Chiefs, is they seem to know how to win, by hook or crook. Last year they were behind in the AFC Championship game and the Super Bowl by 10 points, and came back, and won both games. In the Super Bowl it was a huge 4th quarter rally. This year they held on to a fourth quarter lead, against Cleveland, to win with their starting quarterback on the sidelines. They have tasted defeat one time this year. One website, called them one of the luckiest teams in football. I do not see any of that changing, and thus Kansas City will beat a red hot Buffalo Bills team. Then we will have to endure the worst spectacle in sport, the Super Bowl. You can check out my views on the Super Bowl, that have not changed, on my blog of January 31, 2020.

Sports: The Division Playoffs

I watched all four division playoff games this weekend, for the first time, in about 20 years. This is what a pandemic can do to you. Normally, I would watch parts of a particular game, or the ending, if it looked like it might be close. Professional football is not what it use to be, and the game is really not all that exciting. We are down to the final four, with the Green Bay Packers hosting the Tampa Bay Bucs, and the Buffalo Bills, taking on the defending champs, Kansas City Chiefs, in Kansas City. I am going to give a brief synopsis of each game, because that is all they deserve, and then just some random thoughts, as it relates to the Steelers, and TV coverage in general. The first game of the weekend was Green Bay beating the L. A. Rams. By far, the most impressive unit of the weekend, was the Green Bay offense. But even as impressive as the Packers were, the Rams were still in the game trailing 25-18, going into the 4th quarter. The Packers got a great break on a fumble, that went right back to Aaron Rodgers, and then a few plays later, hit a 58 yard bomb, to wrap up the game. Then came Buffalo and Baltimore, or should I say, Bufoonalo and Butchimore. Between dropped balls, missed field goals, penalties, and general ineptitude, this game was laughable. The only good sequence of plays for both teams, came at the start of the second half, with Buffalo driving down, and scoring a touchdown, and then Baltimore doing the same thing, until they got inside the 10 yard line. That is when Buffalo intercepted a horrible pass from Lamar Jackson and returned it 101 yards for a touchdown and for this game, an overwhelming lead of 17 to 3. The next day started with Cleveland playing Kansas City. Even though Kansas City won by only 5 points, 22-17, and Kansas City lost their quarterback to a concussion, you never really thought the Chiefs were going to lose. Another game that featured a lot of dropped balls, and that ill-advised attempted stretch across the goal by the Cleveland receiver, which resulted in a touchback and Kansas City’s ball on the 20 yard line. There were some gutsy fourth down calls, but other than that another sleeper. Then, New Orleans decided to gift wrap a game for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Three turnovers all leading to touchdowns for the Buccaneers, with one touchdown drive being 3 yards. Another game where there were many mistakes, by both teams. Buffalo and Tampa Bay, will have to elevate their games, if they want to be competitive next week.

There were 5 quarterbacks over the age of 35, in the playoffs. Going from the youngest to the oldest, they were Aaron Rodgers 37, Ben Roethlisberger 38, Phillip Rivers 39, Drew Brees 42, and Tom Brady 43. There is no question that Ben plays like he is the oldest. My suggestion would be to shed the weight, and get back to playing the game. Both Brees and Brady made successful quarterback sneaks. Aaron Rodgers looks very mobile in the pocket and at times will pick up good gains running the football . Brees seems to have lost some arm strength but seems to move pretty well. Brady looks the same as ever. Ben, you need to recapture that zest to play the game. It was ironic to see so many 4th down chances taken in the Cleveland-Kansas City game, after Pittsburgh punted the ball away last week. The Browns went for it on 4th down, with more time on the clock, and deeper in their own territory. It’s called going after the win, Mike Tomlin. The coverage of the games was not too bad, but it did have it’s humorous moments. Tony Romo saying there is no way they are going to snap the ball, when the Chiefs snapped the ball and won the game. Troy Aikman still does not like any officiating calls and is always quick to point it out. But my favorite “analysis” was during the Green Bay game. There were two plays that were exactly the same thing but because the result was different there was a different analysis for each play. Aaron Rodgers was under pressure from the L.A. defense, scrambled around, threw slightly behind the receiver, the ball went off his hands for an incompletion and the L. A. defense was giving so much credit for “disrupting the play”. Then later in the game the exact same scenario happen. This time Rodgers scrambled, again threw the ball slightly behind the receiver, but this time the receiver caught the ball. The defense got no credit and it was all Rodgers. There is no question that dropped balls are pretty much ignored by the announcers of the game. They do mention them, of course, during the play itself, but the significance of them is quickly forgotten. I think that they want people to forget about some of the poor quality of play in the NFL. All networks are too busy trying to show replays and many times do not get back to the action until right when the ball is snapped and sometimes just after. This can be very annoying. Not quite as annoying as conducting interviews, while the game is going on. That has cut down, thanks to Covid. Next week will be the Championship Games, and it’s a good bet we won’t see any, that will be considered a classic.

Sports: Football Mysteries

As the football season is coming to an end, with the NFL starting the playoffs, and the College Football Playoff Championship game, set for next Monday, it is time to look at what I call, the mysteries of football. Maybe I should say, what is mystifying about the game. I am going to write about what I consider 3 unsolved mysteries when it comes to football. First let’s take a look at what makes football a very unique sport. Of the four major team sports in America, it is by far the most emotional. Emotion is not going to allow you to win a football game, all by itself, some talent must be there, but when a team gets fired up, there is no telling how much this will affect the outcome of the game. This is the only sport, where championships are decided by one game, winner take all. If football even tried to play three game series, most players would be dead, by the time they reach the age of 30. Football can be classified as a brutal and violent sport. Bill Russel said it best, “Basketball is a contact sport, football is a collision sport”. One of the reasons given for not expanding the college playoffs, is that it would make the colleges play more games, and increase the risk of injuries. In order to cut down on injuries, the rules of football have almost made the kick off a non play. Football is having trouble getting participation on the youth level because of fear of brain damage to the young participants. So with all this in mind, it is time to look at these football mysteries.

The first mystery is why would anyone take the chance of inciting a team by belittling them or showing some kind of disrespect. The latest example of this is Dabo Swinney saying that Ohio State did not belong in the final 4 of the college football playoffs. He may have been right. You can find out what he said and did, but the point is, why do it at all. Your not going to change who is in the playoffs, and who is out. It is a done deal. Why give your opponent more incentive and fire. Clemson had eliminated Ohio State last year in the semi finals, so the revenge factor was already motivating this team. Dabo put fuel on the fire by his repeated, inane remarks. He tried to temper those remarks near game time, by saying, he would have said the same thing about any team, that had played only 6 games. The damage was done. Not only did this fire up OSU, but it may have subconsciously made his own team overconfident. Whatever the reason, Ohio State rolled to an easy 49 to 28 win. I don’t think you are going to hear much from Nick Saban this week. The basic rule in football is to never say a disparaging word about you opponent. If you want to predict a win go ahead, but keep those feelings about the other team to yourself. Swinney wasn’t the first to make this mistake and for whatever mysterious reason won’t be the last.

Again targeting was in the headlines this week, for players getting ejected for the foul. Everybody’s screaming that it is an unfair rule, and is ruining the game. The mystery is why do players continue to do it, and more importantly why don’t coaches stop it, by making sure that players tackle with their heads to the side of the player. Being ejected from the game has been part of rule since 2013. This does not seem to be much of a deterrent. It seems like, the player’s overwhelming desire, to hurt and maim, is greater than staying in the game, and helping his team. Let’s face it, if you are leading with the helmet, you are up to no good. There is an easy solution to all of this. Just don’t do it. Don’t lead with your head. For whatever reason, players are not schooled in the proper way to tackle. Maybe it’s football’s way of making sure that more offense is in the game. If the players do not know how to tackle, then there will be more offense. Even announcers call tackles that are bad, good. In my view the only good tackle is when the arms wrap the ball carrier up. If defensive players are ejected for targeting then their replacements won’t be as good and hence more offense. If my view there is no excuse for targeting. There is no ambiguity in the rule, the way the media tries to make you believe. Lead with your head, and you are out of there. Good riddance, as far as I am concerned. Targeting needs to be enforced more, not less.

The final mystery is simply, can anybody make a yard. Watching 3rd and one and 4th and one plays especially in the pros, is mystifying. Offensive coordinators are always being criticized, when their respective offense is floundering, but this is ridiculous, when you see teams, not able to pick up a yard, in two or more tries. I blame it on being a slave to the west coast offense, and the shotgun snap. What would people say on a first and goal, at the one, if quarterback was under center, took the snap, and then pitched a lateral to the running back, 6 yards behind the line of scrimmage. This is essentially what the shotgun snap does, on a short yardage situation. You are one yard from pay dirt, but then take the ball 6 yards further back, with the snap. Let me offer some solutions, for the short yardage situation. Quarterback under the center. A quarterback, who is young, and has the ability to quarterback sneak. Place two other running backs, or even three, in the old T formation. Whether it is, 2 or 3 running backs, make sure, that these are running backs, you give the ball to on a regular basis. Since I am not coaching or playing against any football teams, this weekend, let me be a bit condescending, it’s called deception. Even if there are only two running backs, in the backfield, there are three options. Quarterback sneak, or hand the ball of to either running back, and if you go to the T formation, you will have four options. Football needs to find a short yardage offense, even on the college level. However, this does not seem to be happening in the near future. Teams continue to run plays from the shotgun on short yardage, sometimes with only the quarterback in the backfield. So football will come to it’s grand covid conclusion this month, and I doubt if any of these mysteries will be solved. I will be watching though to see if some are. GO BUCKS.

Golf: A Very Unique Day

I was originally going to write about this day, under the title, golf stories, the 2000’s, but the more I thought about this, I realized that this day, needed a blog, all to itself. I was not too sure, how to even categorized, this day. First, I was going to call it strange, but it wasn’t really all that strange. I think unique, describes it well, because I have not experienced a day like this before, or since. It was a day, because two rounds of golf were involved, not just one. It took place during the South Park Men’s Championship, at the South Park Golf Course near the end of the 2000’s decade. The South Park Men’s Championship is a 36 hole tournament played in one day. I played in the event until my early 60’s. I really did not have any delusions of grandeur of winning the event, at my age, but I enjoyed playing in the event, and they had a skins game so you could always have a good hole and recoup your costs for the tournament. There was a spit tee with groups teeing off on 1 and 10. If you teed off one for the first 18, then you teed off 10 for the second 18. I was starting on the back, for my first 18, and I was informed that 2 members of the group, had already signed for the cart. I found one member of the group, a young guy in his early thirties, and he was on the driver’s side of the cart. I introduced myself, and put my bag on the rider’s side. Little did I know, just how fortunate I was, being a rider. The 10th hole is a dogleg left, par 5, that is not long, even from the blue tees, so you hope to get off to a good start. We met the other two in our foursome, and we were ready to go. My cart partner looked pretty good on the tee box, had a decent looking swing, and hit a pretty good drive, that was not far enough to get around dogleg. He had some other problems on the hole, and made bogey. No big deal, right. To make a long story short, the kid probably had the worst case of nerves I have ever seen, and went on to shoot, are you ready, 121 on the first 18 and 127 on the second 18. I have to give him credit he finished. Here are the lowlights of the day.

First of all, he did something, that I do not think you could do, even if you tried. This was like something, maybe, a trick shot artist might be able to do. Five times during the round, with driver in hand, he swung mightily, was able to move the ball, but it did not go past the white tees, forget the women’s tee. Three time he just barely grazed the ball, and it trickled off the tee, and the other two, he hit so far behind the ball, the dirt move the ball, a few yards. The 11th hole, which is one of the hardest holes on the course, he made double bogey, but this still did not give me a clue, on what I was about to watch. That was followed up by two triples, but I knew I was in big trouble, after he hit a fairly good drive on the 14th hole. Believe it or not, despite all of his problems, we were not out of position, and had to wait to hit our second shots on the par 4 hole. He took this opportunity, to call his girlfriend, and tell her how nervous he was, and he just couldn’t believe, ( remember the last blog), that he was playing this bad. He told her, it was like he couldn’t see or function. She must have been trying to make him feel better because I heard I love you too, sweetie. Things just got worse after that, and he did some typical things, like miss 6 inch putts, and chunk chips about 2 feet, on his way to the opening round 121. There is a slight break between rounds, to get a quick bite, and he mentioned to me, that he thought, he couldn’t do any worse. I said don’t say that, at least you didn’t kill anybody. We started the second 18, on number 1, a very easy par 4. He hit a pretty good drive, with a little fade, but wouldn’t you know, it rolled right under a pine tree, and he had to take an unplayable. The second hole he butchered, but on number 3, a medium length, par 5, he hit his best drive of the day. He then took out a 3 wood, and hit another very good shot, that hugged the left side of the fairway, but took a horrible kick to the left, and rolled right under another pine tree, where he had to take another unplayable. I thought, this poor guy, he just can’t catch a break. But he waited until the 12th hole, the 30th hole of the day, to hit his shot of the day. The tee box does not give a lot of room to stand, because there is a large downslope, just to the right of the tee box. We had all hit, he was hitting last, and we were cramped in pretty tight just too the right of his teed ball. He took that big swing of his, hit one of those low heeler that was ripped. The only problem was, he lined it, right into the aluminum garbage can, that was just 10 yards in front, and right of the tee box. It was like a cannon going off. I must have jumped 3 feet in the air. It scared the crap out of me. Naturally the ball ended up right behind the can and we had to move it. He did do worse on the second 18 by carding a 127. But as I stated before he did finish. I know I wouldn’t have.

Needless to say I did a lot of walking that day, but thank God I was not driving. I am sure we would have held up play, if I would have had to drive him to all those shots. I do not have any recollection of who our playing partners were, but they did seem to take everything in stride. I shot two 78’s, not bad, considering. I did manage to pick up a skin, which paid for my day. After the round, someone who must have been giving him some coaching, could not believe his scores. He made the comment, that before the tournament, he was consistently shooting in the mid to high 70’s. I am sure, that this was the first competition, he had ever played. He counted everything, kept his cool, and finished the day. Thank God, he played in a group that was understanding, and very tolerant. If he was playing in a group that hoped to win the tournament, he may have been killed. That would have made the day even more unique.

Golf: Sayings

I have been playing this great game of golf for over sixty years. Over that space of time, I have seen many changes in the game. But one thing, that has not changed, is some of the things you hear on the golf course. Swearing is always prevalent on a golf course, but I am talking about the phrases that people say, during the round of play. When I was a youngster, I really did not pay much attention to this, but when I became an adult, I began to notice these things, and over the years, they have not really changed. There are the quick phrases like, nice shot, great shot, good up, and so forth. There are things that are directly related to playing of the game, like your away, or worse, your still away. These are the sayings, that are not directly related to playing the game, but have been around for as long as I can remember. Here are what I consider the top three, with no. 1 being the top one by a wide margin.

What am I doing wrong, or simply, what am I doing? You hear this more from the beginning golfer, but I have heard this from every level of golfer. This leads to other common phrases. You picked your head up. You swung too hard. Your trying to kill it. You did not turn. You did not shift your weight. Your playing the ball to far forward or back. Your grip is bad. Your stance is too wide or too narrow. With someone who has played the game for awhile, you may hear more technical answers. You didn’t make a complete backswing. You took the club back too fast, or too slow. Your are using your wrists too much. There are many answers to this proverbial question. There is only one correct answer. You took up golf, asshole. I would suggest bowling. Then you or your playing partner should just walk off the course.

The second phrase is weather related and it is really two phrases, but since both are concerning the weather, I have lumped them into one phrase. The first is when you are playing the round and the weather is less than ideal. Maybe it is cold or there is a threat of rain, or maybe some high winds. For the moment, the weather is not too bad. Probably cloudy, cold, but no wind or rain. When that is the case, someone will say, now, if it will only stay, just like this. I use to say this myself, until I noticed how many times, it was said by other members of my group. I think people say this, and I admit I thought the same way, because this might help keep it just like this. The other saying is when you are waiting out a rain, and it’s been about twenty minutes, and someone will look over at the horizon, and say, it looks like it is lightening up over there. My thought has always been, yes but we are not playing over there. This was more common when there was no radar to look at. It reminds me of another often heard sentence concerning the rain, before radar. This looks like an all day rain. Twenty minutes later, the sun was out.

Without a doubt, the number one phrase you hear on the golf course is, I can’t believe. I can’t believe is followed by whatever the player can’t believe. I can’t believe it didn’t go in. I can’t believe the putt broke left, or right, or did not break. I can’t believe the wind didn’t affect that ball. I can’t believe I hit it that far, and it went over the green. I can’t believe that bounce. I can’t believe I’m short. I can’t believe it went that far right. I can’t believe that I hit it that bad. I can’t believe he gets a stroke on that hole. I can’t believe that buried in the lip. I can’t believe it didn’t stop. I can’t believe I didn’t carry the lake. I can’t believe that sucked back off the green. I can’t believe that the green is that soft or hard. I can’t believe how high this rough is. I can’t believe that my drive only went this far. I can’t believe it’s 150 yards, it doesn’t look it. I can’t believe that we can not find my ball. I can’t believe that my ball hit the tree or did not hit the tree. I could go on and on. There is one question to ask. Just what the hell do golfers believe? If they do not believe, what they are seeing with their own eyes, do they believe in anything. All I can say is, they must believe that the game has some kind of super natural powers, that defy the logic of the universe. It can’t be us.

These are the most common things I have heard on the golf course, over these many years. I have heard some unique things and this one bears repeating. Many years ago when I belonged to Rolling Hills Country Club, I was playing in a team event, a best 2 out of 4 balls with full handicap, and our team was doing particularly bad. Nobody was having a good day. As we were walking to the 13th tee, and it was obvious we were not going to finish any where near the top, one member of our group said, its a wonder any of us have jobs. I never heard that quote before, or since, and it did give all of us a good laugh on a bad golf performance. But after the round was over, everything was returned to normal, when another member of our group said, I CAN’T BELIEVE WE ALL PLAYED THIS BAD.

Golf: D. J. Dominates

Dustin Johnson wins the November Masters, with a dominating performance and breaks the tournament record by two shots, with a final score, of 20 under 268. I thought the scoring record would be intact, but the soft conditions, and the overall lack of wind, were bigger factors, than the strangeness of no crowds, and the long shadows. Johnson’s performance was complete. He drove the ball extremely well, and putted better than anybody in the field. He may have not had the best putting statistics, but what he did better than anybody else, was leave himself no stress second putts. His speed was impeccable. Johnson plays very quickly for all his shots, until he gets to the green, and then he takes more time to read a putt, than any player on tour. His routine is exactly the same on every putt, and with his new putting mechanics, this is the best he has putted in his career. The other big difference with D. J.’s game, is he does not seem to hit the really wild drive, that cost him in some previous majors. In a way, this Masters, was Johnson’s own kind of redemption, for a lot of heartbreak, in past majors. It was nice to see him win, with a complete performance, that left little doubt down the stretch, right now, he is the best player in the world. My four picks who I thought would do well did ok, with Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm finishing in the top 10. Rahm is going to have to figure out, how not to hit the horrible shot. The grounder on 8 in the third round that led to the double bogey cost him any real chance of putting some heat on D. J. For Koepka, he played well, but did not have that major championship putting, that he has had in the past. I thought Phil would do well, and for 2 rounds he was looking good until he went completely brain dead in the third round, and shot 79. Is it possible to be senile at 50? Collin Murikawa never could get untracked and barely made the cut. Tiger did better than I expected and played really well. His putter really let him down. In the second round on Saturday, he hit a horrible putt on 17, that cost him a birdie on one of the harder holes on the course. If he could have made some putts, he may have contended until the end, back issues not with standing. Then there was good old Bryson, and just like I predicted the ghosts of Augusta took care of him. After his lost ball he was never a factor. I think it was Bobby Jones himself, that intervened there. Now for some unrelated random thoughts on this November Masters, that was like no other, even before it started.

Many scoring records did fall but I am willing to bet that Corey Conners may have set a different kind of record. Who is Corey Conners? You do not want to ask that question to CBS. Corey finished in the top 10 at the Masters. He may have been on TV less than any player in history who finished in the top 10 in a major. I really do not remember seeing him at all. For a man who never misses, Abraham Ancer missed a lot of short putts. The one on 11 in the third round was unbelievable, which in my view ended his chances. There was this contrast, watching the best players in the world. On one side of the coin, you saw some of the most unbelievable short game shots, ranging from chips, pitches, and bunker play, only to see a lot of missed putts. It makes what D. J. did on the greens, even more impressive. Thanks to Justin Thomas, another player who did not putt well, we now know, how frustrating mud is on the ball. Then there’s Cameron Smith, who finished tied for second, with the help of some of the greatest recovery shots in the history of the Masters. The only player in history, to shoot all four rounds in the sixties. But come on Cameron, the facial hair has got to go. Your so call mustache, looks like you left hair remover on you upper lip. Just face the fact, that even though your 27, you look like you just graduated from high school. The facial hair and curls coming out the back of your hat do not help. When I graduated from veterinary school, I went through the same thing. On one of my first job interviews, I went in, introduced myself, and they thought I was there for the kennel boy job. I had to tell them I was interviewing for the doctor’s position. I was 25 at the time. This Masters may not go down as one of the great one’s of all time, but it was great to see Dustin Johnson win going away. After many setbacks it was nice to see his childhood dream come true.

Sports: Targeting

Targeting is the rule in college football which states, that no player shall target and make forcible contact against an opponent with the crown of his helmet. This foul requires that there be at least one indicator of targeting.¬†When in question, it is a foul. It goes on to say that no player shall target and make forcible contact to the head or neck area of a defenseless opponent with the helmet, forearm, hand, fist, elbow or shoulder. This foul requires that there be at least one indicator of targeting. When in question, it is a foul. To me, this is one of the most critical rules in college football. The penalty is ejection from the game, and if it happens in the second half, you are not allowed to play the first half of the following game. With the status of concussions in the NFL, and the damage that has been done to many players over the years, this is a rule that puts players safety first and foremost. Because of the severity of the penalty, this foul always has to be confirmed by replay and not allowed to stand, if there is doubt about the call. Many times, the announcing team will disagree with the call, when the targeting penalty is confirmed. This was very evident during the Ohio State-Nebraska game, when there were three targeting calls made against Nebraska. The announcers, including the rules announcer, thought that all three calls should have been reversed. They were right only once on the first call. In my view, all three calls should have been confirmed. I think about 98% of targeting fouls should be upheld. I think the rule is very clear and coaching staffs have been very remiss on teaching how to tackle, in this new atmosphere of player safety. Either that, or players just don’t care and really want to maim and injure, even if it means ejection from the game. If this attitude is not changed in the very near future, then football is going to continue on this path of destruction.

Despite this rule being in effect in college football since 2008, the players, coaches, and the media just don’t seem to get it. Just make sure you helmet is to one side or the other of the player you are trying to tackle. You see this all the time, where the running back and the defender put there head down, and crack each other helmet to helmet. On those plays, there should be a double targeting call and both players ejected from the game. The announcers of the games do not help the situation out at all. To use the example of the Ohio State-Nebraska game, again, the announcers were talking about intent and that the hit was not that hard, to plead their case, that the targeting call should not be enforced. However, all three hits were initiated by helmet to helmet contact and that is targeting. The word malicious is not in the rule. Most announcers do the same thing, and question the validity of a targeting call, 75% of the time. I blame the coaches for most of this problem, about targeting. Not leading with the helmet should be emphasized every day at practice, and any form of targeting will not be tolerated at the great University of Money. If teams made the penalties for targeting even more severe, like 2 to 3 game suspensions then helmet to helmet contact may disappear all together. The players? Who knows what the hell they are thinking? Tackling has been replaced with head on collisions, that will have severe repercussions to their future life, but they do not seem to care. One thing is for sure. Football is headed for extinction, if they do not get their act together, when it comes to targeting. Football participation in young children ages 6 to 12 is down by 50%. Parents do not want to visit their children in head trauma facilities. As a sport, football has done nothing more than lip service, of trying to reduce the likelihood of a concussion during the game. They had better change their tune before it is too late. Targeting needs to have even greater enforcement and not this whining that it wasn’t that bad, and it’s a shame that a player was removed from the game for that hit. If it doesn’t happen, the only thing America will be watching on Sunday in the fall, is golf.

Sports: World Series

The World Series starts today, and Major League Baseball lucked out, by having the two teams, with the best record, make it though the expanded playoffs. Think of all that excitement, if it would have been a Reds-Blue Jay Series. The only way it would have been better, was for the Yankees to win, and play the Dodgers. It would have been a ratings coup. Both teams had their scary moments, as the Tampa Bay Rays jumped out to 3-0 lead in the series, only to see Houston win the next 3. However, they were able to prevail, in a fairly tense game 7. The Los Angeles Dodgers fell behind 3 games to 1, in their series, with the Atlanta Braves, but then went on to win 3 straight, as the Braves went brain dead on the base paths, and bat dead in the last 5 innings of game 7. We have the Tampa Bay Rays vs. the Los Angeles Dodgers, and on paper, this looks like a bigger mismatch, than last years series, when Washington played the heavily favored Houston Astros. Hey, wait a minute, Washington won that World Series, that saw the visiting team win every game, for the first time in World Series history. Can it happen again, this year. The Los Angeles Dodgers finished in the top five in baseball, in OPS+, OBP, runs scored, ERA+, FIP, Whip, and Defensive Efficiency. On paper, this has the makings of a sweep. If on paper was the determining factor, the Dodgers would be playing the Astros. Let’s take a look at a most interesting 7 game series.

When this series started, I thought the Houston pitching was not going to hold up, but the pitching held up, quite nicely. It was the Houston batters, that left this series on the table. Houston outhit the Rays 59 to 44, but could only muster 22 runs, from those 59 hits. In the four losses, Houston was held to 2 runs or less, and only once scored more than 4 runs. Houston walked 29 times, 5 more than the Rays, and struck out 27 less times. Tampa Bay averaged over 11 strike outs per game. About the only thing they did better than Houston was hit more home runs, but only by 11 to 9. Of course, they won more games, and did score more runs, over all. So how did they do it? By embracing the way the game is played today. Like it or not, the basics are this. Swing for the fences. Strike out a lot, but do not care. Shift players around on defense. Do not let opposing batters see the same pitcher more than twice, if at all possible. The Rays add one little wrinkle, play everybody. Recent history shows, that during the post season, teams have a tendency to shrink the line up, rather than expand it. The biggest example is in bullpen usage. Bullpens of 6 or 7, may see 2, or even 3 relievers, not used, or used very little. Not so, with Tampa Bay, as everybody gets into the act, and I expect to see no change, during this World Series. Even the batting order and line up, changes on a daily basis. Tampa is the poster child for team concept, in this world of individual glory.

I thought Tampa Bay would beat the Astros in 5 games, and even though they won, it was a scary struggle. I also thought if a team won the first 2 games of the National League Series, they would go on to win the series. Of course, that did not happen. So, what is my cracked crystal ball saying for this World Series. You have the Tampa Bay Rays, who are dedicated to today’s style of baseball, vs the Los Angeles Dodgers, who use sabermetrics, but still play a more traditional game. They have the most potent offense in baseball, and as a team, do not swing at balls, outside the strike zone. Both teams are equally confident. You might think that Tampa Bay may have lost some of that swagger, when Houston made the comeback. However, they seemed to take it in stride, as they played a great game 7. The Rays have the system, which they rely on, and believe in. The Dodgers rely on Dave Roberts instincts, which in previous World Series and playoffs, have not been too good. I think having a day off, between games 2 and 3, and 5 and 6, may help the Rays. So far, this has not been the year for ending playoff hexes, as Oakland and Minnesota continued their playoff woes. The Dodgers have not won a World Series since 1988. Is this enough to have another upset winner. Me thinks so.

Baseball: The Final Four.

Well, baseball made it to the final four. No major surprises on who the final four are. The Houston Astros are the biggest surprise, based on the their regular season record. They benefitted from getting two playoff jinxed teams, Minnesota and Oakland, in the first two rounds. Minnesota lived and died, by the home run again as they could only muster 2 runs in the two games against the Astros. Oakland still can’t seem to get any playoff love since they went to Moneyball. Maybe it should be called Non-Moneyball. They barely escaped the White Sox, and they were no match for the Astros. Tampa Bay is the other American League team as they eliminated the Yankees with a typical 2-1 victory. Typical, that in 65 plate appearances for both teams there were only 31 balls put in play, 27 for outs, 2 errors, and 3 hits that stayed in the ballpark. There were 24 strikeouts, 7 walks, and 3 home runs that accounted for all the scoring. This is what baseball has declined down to, a game of swings and misses, walks and home runs. The National League really went according to plan, as both top seeds rolled into the championship series undefeated with each one only having one game that was really close. This may affect the outcome of the championship series, but more on that later. With this new expanded playoff system, baseball lucked out, where the best teams are playing for the World Series. Where baseball did not luck out, was that the games, for the most part were not that exciting. There were only 4 one run games, out of the 34 playoff games played. The best game was the elimination game between Tampa Bay and the Yankees, even though it lacked balls in play, it was still a good tense baseball game that went down to the wire. The most memorable play, was the Cody Bellinger catch, of Fernando Tatis’s deep fly to center field, which kept the Padres from grabbing the lead, in game 2 of their 5 game series. That play just sucked the life out of that team, and allowed the Dodgers to go on to sweep the series. Other than that, not much was memorable in these 34 playoff games, as 7 of them were won by 5 runs or more. So what is going to happen next.

The Astros should be taken care of by the Tampa Bay Rays, clearly the best in the American league. I can not see the Astro pitching holding up much longer. I will be surprised if the series goes more than 5 games. The National League should provide a much more interesting series, provided one thing happens. The first two games of the series are split. Both of these teams are hot, and brimming with confidence. If one of the teams wins the first two games then that team’s confidence level should skyrocket. If the games are split then I think it will be a dog fight and go 7 games. I don’t have a good feel who will win this series. The Dodgers are the heavy favorites, but the Braves seemed to have learned their lessons, from previous playoff failures, and seemed to be poised to make it to the World Series. Hopefully, the League Championship Series, and the World Series can create some excitement, that has been lacking in the playoffs, so far. No matter what happens, I will be watching.