So much about that lull in the sports calendar I mentioned a few weeks back. The past week has been full of sports news so we’ll tackle some of the big stories in today’s column before taking a break the next 2 weeks. Your boy will be on vacation recharging the batteries, and when I’m back I’ll have one of our biggest columns of the year, our in depth NFL Preview! Let’s get to the summertime madness…
Deshaun Watson was served with a 16 game suspension for violating the leagues personal conduct policy, a decision made by disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson. The NFL recommended that Watson should be suspended for the entire season while the NFLPA argued that Watson did not deserve any suspension. The suspension seems very light, however it should be noted that Robinson’s decision was made only based on the evidence that the NFL presented to her, which included only 4 interviews of Watson’s accusers (there were 30 total). I suspect that the NFL will appeal the decision with hopes of extending the decision to at least 8 games. The decision certainly is confusing. Robinson herself said that Watson’s behavior was “egregious” and that the “NFL has carried its burden to prove by a preponderance of the evidence, that Mr. Watson engaged in sexual assault (as defined by the NFL) against the four therapists in the report…and posed a genuine danger to the safety and well-being of another person.” The NFL is not without fault here either. They had every opportunity to interview more witnesses and chose to only interview 5, one of which was thrown out. The process needed to be much more thorough and deliberate before turning their evidence over to Robinson. Bottom line – the NFL needs a complete revamp to their disciplinary system. You have players who have been suspended for entire seasons for marijuana use or gambling. What Watson did is much worse and he deserved to be disciplined accordingly.
In other NFL news, the Miami Dolphins were stripped of their 2023 first round draft pick, their 2024 third round pick and owner Stephen Ross was suspended for 2 months for violating tampering rules with former Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and former Saints head coach Sean Payton. The NFL investigated into the matter and established the NFL had “impermissible communications” with Brady while he was a member of the Patriots and again after the 2021 season. They also had impermissible conversations with Sean Payton while he was under contract with the New Orleans Saints. This is very significant for the Dolphins who were walking into next year’s draft with their pick and the 49ers first round pick. The Dolphins were hoping to utilize those picks as a backup plan to trade up if quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has another subpar season. The 2023 draft is a loaded quarterback class and this will certainly make it more difficult for the Dolphins to move up.
On the baseball front, it was a wild trade deadline with a lot of pieces moving around. The highlights include:
The Padres made the biggest splash of all acquiring superstar Juan Soto, Josh Bell, Brandon Drury and Josh Hader. An incredible haul. Between these additions and a returning Fernando Tatis Jr., the Padres are poised for a run deep into the postseason.
The Astros acquired Trey Mancini and Will Smith. This was a team with few needs that somehow got better. Also the Baltimore Orioles should be ashamed that they traded their heart and soul away in Mancini, especially considering they’re in wild card contention.
The Twins needed arms desperately and picked up closer Jorge Lopez, Michael Fulmer, and Tyler Mahle. Does this make them an instant contender? Maybe not but in a close division they picked up the depth they so desperately needed.
The Phillies have been on a roll once again and instead of standing pat they picked up Brandon Marsh, David Robertson and Noah Syndergaard. If the Phillies make the postseason they are going to be a tough out. Robertson was an excellent pickup.
Very curious deadline for the Mets. I’ve sung their praises all year but they needed to do more. Mychael Givens, Daniel Vogelbach, Tyler Naquin and Darin Ruf are not difference makers. And last I checked only Givens can pitch. The rest are simply roster depth and nothing more. The bullpen needed a lot more help. Catcher Wilson Contreras (who the Cubs curiously hung on to) was available and would have been a perfect addition. The Mets have a nice team, but the Braves and Phillies are right on their tail and the lack of action is going to put a lot of pressure on Max Scherzer and the recently returned Jacob deGrom. We’ll see what happens.
The Yankees made mostly very solid moves at the trade deadline acquiring a much needed number 2 starter in Frankie Montas, All Star outfielder Andrew Benintendi, reliever Scott Effross and Lou Trivino who has struggled a bit this year out of the pen but has had success in the past. Effross and Trivino address bullpen depth, Montas addresses the rotation, and Benintendi is going to be an excellent addition once his bat comes around. The best part for the Yankees is that they managed to keep all of their top prospects like Anthony Volpe and Oswald Peraza. They did however make a very confusing move at the end of the day, trading starter Jordan Montgomery for Cardinals outfielder Harrison Bader. Bader is an elite defender however he doesn’t appear to be available until September due to an injury and the Yankees have quite a few options in the outfield after the acquisition of Benintendi. But what’s most puzzling is trading away Jordan Montgomery who has a 3.69 ERA in 114 innings this year with a 1.099 WHIP. The Yankees acquired Montas because the rotation was thin, trading Montgomery thins it out even more. It also is going to put more strain on a bullpen that has depth issues of it’s own and need to be performing at a high level come the playoffs. This one was a headscratcher. All in all though a good, but not great deadline for the Bombers.
The word “legend” gets thrown around loosely at times. But in the case of Bill Russell, he embodied everything a legend is and should aspire to be. The former Boston Celtics big man died on Sunday at the age of 88 and the praise immediately poured in from the NBA community. Reporter Michael Wilpon called Russell “the most important player to every put on a uniform”. Michael Jordan stated that Russell “paved the way and set an example for every black player who came into the league after him, including me.” Steph Curry said, “Trailblazer. Icon. Greatest Champ in basketball. Made the world on and off the court a better place.” Russell’s contributions on the court are unrivaled. He won 2 NCAA Championships at the University of San Francisco, followed by an Olympic Gold Medal. In 13 seasons with the Cetlics he won 11 championships, a feat that will never be matched. He AVERAGED 42 minutes a game for his career. He played in ten game Game 7’s in his career. He won every single one of those games. While I can go on and on about his on the court accomplishments, his off the court accomplishments are even more impressive. He was the first black head coach in North American sports and fought tirelessly for racial equality. He was a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. If you have an opportunity to read about some of what Bill Russell endured during his career, I would highly recommend it. The person was greater than the player.
Sadly Russell wasn’t the only legend to leave us this week, as yesterday the incomparable Vin Scully, famed Dodgers announcer passed away at the age of 94. Scully’s incredible career spanned from 1950 to 2016, beginning as the radio and TV announcer for the Brooklyn Dodgers (not the LA Dodgers!) where he watched legends like Jackie Robinson, Duke Snider, and Roy Campanella win big at Ebbets Field. He called some of the biggest games and moments in baseball history including Don Larsen’s perfect game, Hank Aaron’s 715th home run, Game 6 of the 1986 World Series between the Mets and the Red Sox and Barry Bonds record breaking 71st home run. For me however, I’ll always have one Vin Scully memory that will stand out amongst the rest.
It was a cool Saturday night on October 15th, 1988. As a 9 year old boy who was obsessed with all things baseball, I was excited to watch Game 1 of the World Series between the Athletics and Dodgers on my 10-inch black and white Sony TV in my bedroom. The game featured the powerhouse A’s led by Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire while the Dodgers were led by a collection of tough vets including MVP outfielder Kirk Gibson. Unfortunately for the Dodgers however, Gibson appeared to be unavailable for Game 1 as he injured both of his legs in the NLCS against the Mets. The game was close throughout after getting 8 innings out of starter Dave Stewart, the A’s turned to closer extraordinaire Dennis Eckersley to protect a 4-3 lead in the 9th inning. With 2 outs in the 9th inning, Eckersley faced pinch hitter Mike Davis. Eckersley noticed utility infielder Dave Anderson on deck so he pitched around Davis and walked him. Eckersley was in for a surprise however, as Gibson had been swinging in the clubhouse and famously told manager Tommy Lasorda, “I think I have one good swing in me”. The crowd at Chavez Ravine cheered loudly as Gibson walked to the plate. Scully could not have painted a more perfect picture. He used his words so deliberately simply stating, “Well…look whose coming up. All year long they looked at him to light the fire, and all year long he answered the demands until he was physically unable to start tonight with two bad legs. The bad left hamstring and the swollen right knee. With 2 outs you talk about a roll of the dice, this is it!” The next 5 minutes was drama at it’s complete apex. Gibson fell behind in the count 0-2 but kept battling fouling pitch after pitch off until he was finally able to draw a 3-2 count. Between every pitch Scully provided context where needed but also knew when to let the moment breath. On the 3-2 count, Eckersley delivered a backdoor slider, and Gibson mustered up every ounce of strength he had and swung. Scully exclaimed…”High fly ball into right field…she is gone!” Gibson limped around the bases pumping his arms as Scully so eloquently stated: “In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened!” It was a moment that defines why we watch sports, and it is a moment I will remember for the rest of my life.
Talk to you in a few weeks!