“Dodgertown” in Vero Beach was closed and extensive renovations are being done by MLB, so the closed I could get was the front iron gates. Our friend grew up there, her dad a pitcher for the 1955 World Champion Brooklyn Dodgers. He set a rookie record for 27 strike outs in two successive games before an injury ended his career. The park’s historical significance also reflects the 1947 signing of Jackie Robinson. Corona also affected visits this year to Cubs/White Sox Spring training in Phoenix and a Cardinals/Rangers exhibition game at the new Globe Life Park in Arlington.
I found myself in front of the TV again last night with the Chiefs and Buccaneers headed to the Super Bowl. I also monitored another IU Basketball loss, this time to Rutgers after the surprising Iowa victory. The game against Michigan State this weekend has already been stomped out by the pandemic, so we’ll have to live with this disappointment for at least a full week before Illinois comes to town. That game will then likely lead to further despair, as tourney chances once again have been sadly derailed.
We returned our rental car to the airport last night only to find a dent in the hood. I remember parking at a Cracker Barrell restaurant the other day under the shade of a coconut tree. Could one have fallen and caused this costly damage or was it like that when we picked it up? It’s just another hassle we’ll have to deal with on this journey. I’ve run the beach path and street in front of our hotel the past two mornings past all the Art Deco hotels in our area. The once heavily congested Ocean Avenue has been shut down to traffic, so the restaurants have all expanded into the streets. It’s now a much more pleasant atmosphere on the beach front if there’s such a thing as a plus-side to the Coronavirus outbreak. Running near the water and in the sun is always a nice distraction from the dreary streets of downtown Portland.
It’s a New Year with hopes of an I.U. Outback Bowl victory. Last year, they fell short against Tennessee with a late game letdown. With last night’s Ohio State Sugar Bowl domination of Clemson, this Hoosier team is even stronger than I thought. We came so close against the Buckeyes, plus Northwestern throttled Auburn, so the BIG 10 has proven to be a very formidable league, especially against the highly touted SEC. Indiana can add to the 3-0 conference bowl record today with a victory over Old Miss in Tampa. This would set the stage for more respect when next year’s postseason slate is determined.
The Hoosiers should have played in the top tier Citrus Bowl instead of Northwestern but fell in the final rankings to #11 despite a convincing win over Wisconsin, the other BIG bowl representative. Clearly politics played a role, just as Notre Dame was awarded a playoff spot despite the Clemson blow-out loss. Coach Tom Allen has vaulted the I.U. program into the upper echelon of a powerful conference. They can prove their worth today! My other team, #25 Oregon, plays #10 Iowa State later today in the Fiesta Bowl.
Meanwhile, basketball continues to struggle, but did manage to pull-off an OT win over Penn State. Another W against Maryland next week and they can even their BIG record after an 0-2 start. Basketball used to be the big sport on campus in Bloomington, but surprisingly football has proven to be more successful in recent years. In the Bob Knight era it was “The Magic of 60.” If the Hoosiers got to 60 before their opponent victory was eminent. However, with the addition of the 3-point shot, 70 is now coach Archie Miller’s defining number. With his leadership, in conference play (including the B1G tourney) the Hoosiers are 18-7 when scoring 70 or more points and 10-30 when scoring below 70 points. 70 is the new 60 going forward.
Purdue basketball is off to a 7-4 start, but 2-2 in the conference. They play #15 Illinois this afternoon, after losing to #14 Rutgers. It would be nice to see a ranked Purdue or Indiana program. Unfortunately, both rivals will be in the lower half of the BIG since the league is loaded with 7 nationally ranked teams. Here on the West coast, the undefeated Zags are still the #1 team in the country while the Oregon Ducks (6-1) stand at #21.
On the baseball front, the Cubs continue to clean house with the trade of Yu Darvish and Victor Caratini to the Padres. Yu has been the pitching leader for the last two years, with Cy Young consideration. There’s also talk of dealing my favorite and IU alum, Kyle Schwarber. Rizzo and Bryant will soon become free agents, so the World Series Champions of 2016 are seeing their winning foundation deteriorate. Today, however, my concern is football the Indiana Hoosiers in the Outback Bowl.
Today started like most every other day in 2020 with a run and a blog post. There’s little indication that it will change soon. I do appreciate this mild December weather with clear blue skies, a rarity in Portland this time of year. We also continue to remain healthy and active. Travel would be nice, but not likely the remainder of this year and probably into next. Today’s calendar features a trip to the dentist for a cleaning. Basketball on TV keeps me entertained. Sadly, there’s not much variety in my life these days and little spice to go with it. The words are from a William Cowper’s poem called “The Task,” written in 1785: “Variety is the very spice of life, That gives it all its flavor.”
We watched an old Bill Murry movie called Quick Change as a change of pace last night. It was slap-stick comedy and somewhat disappointing. A couple more episodes of Suits filled the evening. I broke out a bottle of WhistlePig whiskey that I received as part of a Flaviar subscription. Tonight, they’re attempting to break the world record for participation in a virtual toast. I’ve yet to decide whether or not to get involved in this tribute to Dean Martin. Too many of the TV shows I’ve been watching are centered around the office beverage cart. They’ve finally tempted me enough to make my happy hour a sip or two of whiskey rather than a glass of wine. Variety is the spice of life thanks to Flaviar.
I.U. finished third in the Maui Invitational after bouncing back from their poor performance against Texas to whip Stanford. Times have certainly changed to the point where Texas is now ranked higher than Indiana in basketball but lower in football. It’s always been the other way around as long as I can remember. Hoosier Football can take another giant leap with a victory over Wisconsin on Saturday. Injuries and Covid may be the determining factor. I do like the possibility that Ohio State may not be able to get in enough games to qualify for the BIG Championship. If I.U. somehow wins, it will be interesting to see if Michigan will thwart the rival Buckeye’s bid to compete for a title by simply not playing. In the world of baseball, former I.U. star and Cubs’ World Series hero Kyle Schwarber is now a free agent. Thankfully for me, there’s always variety in the world of sports when all else fails.
It’s the last day of the baseball regular season and I know who to cheer for today because there’s no Chicago Conflict. The Cubs have clinched their division with the Cardinals loss yesterday, while the White Sox still have a chance for the same top prize. It will involve winning against the Cubs coupled with a Twins loss to the Reds. My new Sox socks arrived just in time for the game today at Comiskey, so I can show my “support.” It’s exciting to have both of my teams in the playoffs, but to have both win their divisions in the same year would be the first time since 1906 when they ultimately met head-to-head in the World Series. A repeat of this is unlikely but still possible, even if the Sox fail to win tomorrow. I’m excited for the postseason possibilities.
The Cubs have nothing to play for today but pride, with not even a chance to even the Crosstown series of 2020 that the Sox now lead 5-2, including Summer Camp. They can’t move up or down in the seedings in the National League brackets. The Dodgers, Padres, and Braves will finish with better records regardless of the final scores today, so it’s assumed that the #3 seed Cubbies will rest their starters against the Sox today. The White Sox, on the other hand, have everything to gain, while keeping a hopeful eye on the scoreboard. They own the tiebreaker against the Twins, having achieved a 5-5 series draw but enjoy a better overall record in the American League Central. The victory over the Cubs last night ended a horrible 6-game losing streak, their longest of the short season. They could salvage this Titanic-like disaster with a win and a little luck. The Reds could suddenly become my favorite team if they could somehow beat the Twins and stay pace with Miami in the National League race. I’ll be waiting for the Final Score.
The Red Zone will keep me occupied today, as I keep an eye on the Bears and Colts while stuck with local broadcasts of the Raiders, Seahawks, and 49ers. On the basketball front, the Celtics have another do-or-die game against the Heat, both teams vying for the opportunity to meet the Lakers in the Finals. LeBron had another triple-double to upend the Nuggets last night. With regard to hockey, the Lightning failed to claim the Stanley Cup as the Stars prevailed in double overtime. Plus, when the final scores were posted yesterday, college football saw upsets of two top-ten teams and an incredible comeback by the Texas Longhorns.
It’s another exciting day of sports that we’re fortunate to at least be able to watch on TV. It’s surprising how smoothly the seasons have progressed, despite the initial pandemic panic that threated to cancel everything. We’re on the verge of crowning an NBA champion, Stanley Cup winner, and having a MLB postseason. Although the achievements in each sport will be tainted with asterisks, there will be a satisfying sense of accomplishment given the intense challenges. Yes, there will be a Final Score.
P.S. (Could stand for Post Season)
The Cubbies came out full strength, scoring 6 runs in the second inning behind Bryant and Bote home runs. The Final Score was 10-8, as the Sox fell short after stumbling behind early. They did rally with the tying run at the plate in the bottom of the 9th. Too little…too late! The Twins lost to the Reds and the Indians beat the Pirates. It was a frustrating fall from grace for the hite Sox in the final week to drop from first to third in the division standings and plummeting to the seventh seed, losing seven of eight down the critical stretch. It sets the stage for next week’s A’s vs. Sox series in Oakland and Cubs vs. Marlins match-up at Wrigley. The Cardinals travel to San Diego, while the Giants and Phillies were eliminated in when each Final Score was posted.
The baseball season is now down to a long weekend, with the Sox and Cubs both in miserable slumps. As a pessimist, I should have anticipated this, but this season is unprecedented. It all started back in March when we were supposed to attend a Spring Training game between the two Chicago foes. It was cancelled, along with many of our plans this year. When the season finally officially began on the 24th of July, I did not have great expectations for the league to make it to the postseason. The Cubs jumped to the top of their division but stumbled against the slower-starting Sox in their first series. The Pale Hose finally claimed the top spot in the AL Central over the Twins and Indians, only to falter down the stretch. I’ve watched them go 3-7 against the Twins, Indians, and Reds in the past week or so.
The last two nights have been particularly painful for the White Sox, losing in walk-off fashion to Cleveland on both occasions. On the other side of town, the Cubs lost another one this morning, their third straight, to the last-place Pirates. They could have helped the Sox in the series before that against the Twins, but Minnesota took two of the three. They did top the Indians in two of three, after a 12-0 drubbing of the Brewers and a no-hitter by Alec Mills. However, the poor-hitting Cubbies are now in danger of being caught by the Cardinals, Reds, and Brewers. The Covid-plagued regular season ironically all comes down to a three-game series against the Sox at Comiskey (excuse me – Guaranteed Rate). For a historical first, they each play in role in the other’s playoff fate this late in the season. Sadly, I just watched the Sox blow another early lead by the Indians – at least it’s not the last inning last the previous two, although there’s still three innings to go. It’s looking like a repeat of last night’s disappointment, with the White Sox up by one again after a Yoan Moncada triple in the 7th. If the Indians make it a four-game sweep, the Sox could fall to a full-game behind the division leading Twins, who are idle today, and could potentially face the perennial powerhouse Yankees in their first post-season appearance in twelve-years.
On the other hand, if the Cubs lose all three to the Sox, they could be passed by the Reds and/or Cards. It will be a tough weekend about who to cheer for in each critical game? Allegiance could easily change depending on the circumstances. In a normal season, both Chicago teams would be facing division rivals rather than cross-town foes. It’s just another Covid quirk, that also includes a expanded 16-team Playoff field, empty ballparks, limited homefield advantages, and designated hitters for both leagues. The World Series will take place in Arlington, Texas, another deviation from normalcy. It’s been a tough year for baseball purists.
The Covid-Cardinals are of particular concern to me, with respect to the Cubs. The Red Birds have seven games remaining, while standing only one game behind the Cubs in the loss column. They would have to win all seven to pass the Cubbies, but also postseason seeds are at stake. Three losses to the Sox would give them 27 for the year, while San Francisco, Cincy, Milwaukee and Miami could also disrupt their current #4 NL placement, down from #2 just a few days ago. This weekend, and possibly Monday, determines who plays where, who, and when. I’ll have to wear a Sox sock on one foot and a Cubs on the other.
In other sports important to me, the Celtics are in trouble, while the Lakers dropped their first to the dangerous Nuggets, who have miraculously come from behind in their last two series. The Timbers won their second straight match, outdueling the regional rival Seattle Sounders 1-0 last night. Against all odds, each sport has somehow persevered over threats of the virus. Thankfully, there are live sports to watch every day, including both NFL and NCAA football. The Pac-12 announced today that they will join the other power conferences in pursuit of a 2020-21 National Championship. However, teams won’t start play until November 6th, with a 7-game schedule. They reversed their initial decision and joined the BIG-10 in delayed reconsideration. It sets the stage for college basketball to start, missing only a few non-conference games this year. But first, I’ll focus on a expanded baseball Playoff that involves a very rare joint appearance by both of my teams – Cubs and Sox.
P.S. The White Sox brought in a reliever named Bummer following a 4-run collapse in the bottom of the 7th to the never-give-up Indians. It seemed like an appropriate name to describe the bullpen in this series. The red-hot Tribe took a 5-4 lead in response to falling behind once again in the series. Hand then shut-down the Sox, with two strike-outs and a easy grounder to finish up the 4-game sweep. Cleveland is now just one-game behind the Sox and two short of the Twins, after 5 straight Pale Hose losses. I couldn’t be more frustrated after cross-town losses today at a time when teams need to be playing their best ball. Who wants it more this weekend – the Sox or the Cubs?