ORLANDO, Fla. — These annual NFL owners meetings might be hijacked by the national anthem debate. I mean, the Jets’ let-’em-protest president Christopher Johnson versus the stand-at-attention-or-else Bob McNair of the Texans would be great political theater on, say, Jake Tapper’s CNN show. Or that could flame out by midday today. Then what?
My money’s on the definition of a football move.
On Sunday afternoon, inside a ballroom at the Ritz Carlton, the NFL’s eight-man Competition Committee milled about after briefing NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on the rules proposal that the league hopes will clear up once and for all what a catch is. (I’m not optimistic it will.) In the front of the room, prepping the plays he wanted to show me that were at the crux of the proposed new rule, NFL vice president of officiating Al Riveron riffed on the rewrite of the complex rule.
“The Competition Committee rewrote the catch rule, basically, over the last two months,” Riveron said, with the infamous Dez Bryant play paused on the screen at the front of the room. “Totally. And it’s broken down in three basic things: control, two feet down or a body part down, and a football move. We took away the element of going to the ground. Once they fulfill these three steps, it’s over.”
Riveron ran the Dez tape. The play, Bryant’s controversial non-catch in the 2014 NFC divisional playoff game against Green Bay, is three years and two months old. In the eyes of the Competition Committee, it’s the Zapruder film.
“One of the examples we use as a football move is a third step,” Riveron said. “So watch Dez.”
Bryant catches the ball at the Packers’ 5-yard line, high above Sam Shields. “Control,” Riveron said.
Bryant left foot down at the 5. “One,” Riveron said.
Bryant right foot down at the 4. “Two,” Riveron said.
Bryant left foot down, with a chunk of sod flying up, at the two-and-a-half-yard line. “Three,” he said. “We have a catch. Contact with the defensive player [Shields]. Down by contact. Play over. Process over. Catch. Doesn’t matter that the ball’s jarred loose.”
That would have reversed 2014 history. This next play is more recent.
“Now Jesse James,” Riveron said.
December 2017: New England, 10-3, at Pittsburgh, 11-2. Home field in the AFC playoff in the balance. Almost certainly it’s Pittsburgh’s with a win. Pats up 27-24, 30 seconds left. Ben Roethlisberger throws to tight end James near the goal line.
The video starts. James catch just outside the 1-yard line. “Control,” Riveron said.
Left knee on the ground, two feet from the goal line. “A knee equals two feet,” Riveron said.
Football move—James reaches across the goal line and breaks the plane … and the ball moves perceptibly as both hands and arms hit the ground beyond the goal line. “Now he reaches,” Riveron said. “Football move. It’s over. Catch. Touchdown. He made the football move. He broke the plane of the goal line. Play over.”
“One question,” I said. “Can you define ‘football move?’”
“We’ve got this in our proposal,” Riveron said. “Player reaching out with possession. Player pulling the ball back. Player making a third step. Player protecting himself. Those qualify for a football move.”
The Riveron point, backed by the Competition Committee, is pretty clear. The simplicity of it—the three elements of control, two feet down and football move—sounds simple. But as we’ve learned, with the betterment of replay technology, the increasing number of HD cameras at every NFL game, and the ability of TV crews to have far better views of tight plays, simple plays are not simple anymore. Look at the replays the NFL overturned in 2017—such as the overwrought, overcorrected Kelvin Benjamin touchdown for Buffalo in New England that should not have been negated but was—and you realize so much of this is subject to human control too. I expect a few things if, as expected, the new rules pass this week when a three-quarters vote of the 32 teams comes up.
• I expect Riveron to be less of a micromanager as the replay supervisor in 2018. There is no question that the Competition Committee and the league office thinks the standard of indisputable visual evidence must be reinstated after a 2017 season when it was fungible.
• I expect this rule to pass, because there is little organized opposition. I couldn’t find league or team people ready to fight it before the vote this week. That’s because it’s better than the rule that includes the point that a receiver must keep possession when he goes to the ground. “The problem with that,” said Competition Committee chairman Rich McKay, “is that if the players takes three steps and then goes to the ground, it could be a number of yards after he’s caught the ball.” In Bryant’s case, for instance, it was four yards between the time he took possession and the time the ball was jarred loose by contact with the ground.
• Three weeks ago today, I quoted a person close to the Competition Committee in this column, regarding the what-is-a-catch conundrum: “Going to the ground is going away,” my source said. And immediately I heard from several people in the league wondering if the league was simply exchanging one problem for other ones. Dean Blandino, the predecessor to Riveron, told me the Competition Committee is getting what it wanted with this new rule. “The Competition Committee wanted those plays, the Dez play and the Jesse James play, to be catches, and basically figured out, How do we do that? They figured it out. But now the issue is going to be, ‘Did they perform a football act, an act that is common to the game?’ That is going to be subjective.”
My feeling is, this rule is better than the one it’s replacing, but it is not a cure-all. If anything, I think Riveron is going to have more reviews in 2018 than last year.
“We just have to be mindful that this is not going to solve everything,” Blandino said.
I wish as a football-crazy people we could realize that. There are so many analysts, fans, players and coaches who express incredulity when a call on the field is upheld or overturned. Nothing is perfect, and no system in a bang-bang sporting play is perfect. I had to watch the Bryant replay more than 10 times to see all the intricacies. Imagine doing that on the field, in real time. It’s hard. Football can’t be perfectly officiated. We shouldn’t think this system will fix all wrongs, because all wrongs in such a fast game cannot be fixed.
On the Anthem
It was fated to come to this. Patience in the NFL is wearing thin for protests during the anthem—actually, they are protests of the American condition, not protests of the American flag—and as owners gathered here on Sunday afternoon, the six-month-old protests about players’ activities during the anthem flared.
“Our playing fields are not the place for political statements,” said Texans owner Bob McNair. “There are fans that are upset about it. Fans are our customers. You can replace the owners and the league would survive. You can replace the players, although the game won't be good. You can't replace the fans. If you don't have the fans, you're dead.”
Said the owner representative of the Jets, Christopher Johnson: “I just think that trying to forcibly get the players to shut up is a fantastically bad idea.”
Look for the league to take this up at its May meetings. Commissioner Roger Goodell has been trying to straddle a fine line of allowing players to exercise their free will, while also not inflaming the situation with advertisers and fans who think the demonstrations during the anthem are unpatriotic. I don't see a way that this won’t end ugly.
On Wayne Huizenga
The former Dolphins, Marlins and Panthers owner, known in the wider world for starting three Fortune 500 companies (Waste Management, Blockbuster and AutoNation), was the greatest owner in the history of south Florida sports in his spare time. He died Thursday at 80. What I’ll always remember about Huizenga: Late in his second year coaching the Dolphins in 2006, Nick Saban was the subject of well-founded rumors that he would leave to coach Alabama. Saban denied it several times, once to me vehemently, but it was clear he was unhappy in the job. Saban went to Huizenga and told him he preferred college football. Now, understand that Huizenga made a huge commitment to Saban in 2005: five years and $22.5 million, mountainous money at the time. And Saban wasn’t really paying off; he and the Miami doctors allowed Drew Brees to get away in free agency in 2006 because of Brees’s surgically repaired right shoulder, the Dolphins didn’t have a long-term quarterback, and Saban was just 15-17 in his first two years.
Huizenga understood Saban’s angst. With south Florida enraged that Saban would even consider carpetbagging out on the contract, Huizenga said he would not stand in Saban’s way if he wanted to leave. And Saban did leave. “I feel the pain of Nick and [wife] Terry,” Huizenga said at the time. “I am not upset with Nick, because it’s more involved than what you think. I think Nick is great. I’m a Nick Saban fan.”
For years Saban has harbored regrets over how he left, and rightfully so. Twenty-four months after he got handed the keys to reconstruct the Dolphins for huge money, Saban walked away to coach Alabama. He told Dan LeBatard in 2012: “I’ll probably never feel good about it.”
On the news of Huizenga’s death, Saban repaid his former boss thusly: “He was the classiest man I ever met, a fantastic friend, a tremendous leader and a world-class businessman. I had as much love and respect for Wayne as a man as anybody I’ve ever met other than my own father. He was always supportive and treated us like members of his own family during our time in Miami. Even during a difficult transition when we left Miami, we were able to maintain our friendship and positive relationship, which shows you what kind of man he was.”
You won’t find many people—any, probably—with a bad word to say about Huizenga the sports owner.
On Jim Kelly
The Hall of Fame quarterback, who announced recently that the cancer in his jaw and mouth had returned, is scheduled to have surgery Wednesday in New York to take another crack at eradicating the disease that he’s dealt with for five years. This time, the surgery is expected to be more radical, with doctors likely to remove his prosthetic jaw and more in his lower facial region, and rebuild the jaw area with parts of his leg bone. One of his friends at the league meetings here says Kelly is optimistic and bullish on the chances for a recovery that will lessen the pain he has felt in his jaw area because of the prosthesis.
It’s a daunting surgery, and an even more daunting disease. Our best to Kelly and his family.
Quotes of the Week
“This isn’t the second chance. This is the 35th chance. This is the last of the last chances to show people that I’ve made a drastic change in my life, and it’s for the better and I’m happy with where I’m at.”
—Johnny Manziel, to Bruce Feldman of SI.com. Manziel worked out for NFL teams at the University of San Diego pro day Thursday.
“This is the starting quarterback on our team. There are no 'bridge' players.”
—Cleveland coach Hue Jackson, on the notion that Tyrod Taylor, acquired from Buffalo in trade this month, is a bridge player to the long-term quarterback in Cleveland.
Tyrod Taylor is a bridge player to the long-term quarterback in Cleveland.
“I always felt like an undrafted free agent. Even last year, even when I was in year six or seven, after my biggest years, I still felt like an undrafted free agent. I don’t know if that was just me, because of how it’s always been and kind of always being looked over, but I always felt like someone was out to get me or out to replace me. And that played to my advantage. It’s not always a fun feeling, because you’re always paranoid that you’re getting cut. You never know in this business, but from Day 1, I wanted to do everything in the world to make people look stupid if they cut me.”
—Danny Woodhead, in an open and interesting Exit Interview with Jenny Vrentas at The MMQB.
Woodhead, 5'8" and a constant underdog, caught 300 footballs in his career, and more in the playoffs—including a touchdown pass from Tom Brady in the Super Bowl six years ago. Not bad for a guy from Chadron (Neb.) State.
“Darnold, Allen, Mayfield, Rosen.”
—ESPN’s Chris Mortensen, on the Cover 2 podcast of Don Banks and Nick Stevens at Patriots.com, asked in what order the first-round quarterbacks will be drafted.
Mortensen also said he thinks a fifth quarterback, Louisville’s Lamar Jackson, will be a first-round pick.
“I’m not saying I’m going to stop being active, because I won’t. I’m just going to consider different ways to be active, different ways to bring awareness to the issues of this country to improve on. I don’t think it’ll be in the form of protesting during the anthem. And I said ‘during’ because it’s crazy to me that the narrative got changed to we were protesting the anthem, because that wasn’t the case. But I think we’re going to take a different approach to how to be active.”
—Free-agent safety Eric Reid, a staunch supporter of Colin Kaepernick with the 49ers. Eleven days into free agency, despite having a good résumé and being just 26, Reid remains unsigned.
I wonder why.
—Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt, the 98-year-old chaplain of the Loyola basketball team, asked what she has given up for Lent.
Stat of the Week
NFL head-coaching hires, last three offseasons: 20.
NFL head-coaching hires, last three offseasons, offensive side of the ball: 14.
Percentage of offensive hires in the last three years: 70 percent.
2016 … 7 offense: Mularkey, Jackson, Gase, Pederson, Koetter, Kelly; zero defense
2017 … 3 offense: Marrone, McVay, Shanahan; 3 defense: Lynn, Joseph, McDermott.
2018 … 4 offense: Nagy, Gruden, Shurmur, Reich; 3 defense: Wilks, Patricia, Vrabel.
Factoids That May Interest Only Me
Last week, he was in northern Sweden, sleeping in the carved-out middle of a glacier.
This is a testament to the tenacity of soon-to-be-35-year-old running back Frank Gore, who was signed by his hometown Miami Dolphins last week: If Gore rushes for 76 more yards as an NFL back, only three backs in NFL history—Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton and Barry Sanders—will have rushed for more yards than Gore.
On another Gore note: I’m happy for one of the all-time good guys that he gets to continue his career in his hometown—if he makes the Dolphins’ roster at 35 this September. But it’s a curious move. He’s played 13 grueling NFL seasons, and his last three are the only ones in which he averaged less than 4.0 yards per rush. Good for him, to get to play for his hometown team this spring and summer at least, and good for the Dolphins to be able to show the rest of the team his worker-bee ethos. It’ll be interesting to see as training camp progresses if he has a legitimate shot at playing time there.
Mr. Starwood Preferred Member Travel Note
Hillstone restaurant, Phoenix, last Monday. Before taking the redeye home, I stop for my favorite cheeseburger in the United States. (Don’t challenge that assertion until you’ve tried it.) Sit at the bar. Order the cheeseburger. Place fairly empty. Woman about six seats away eating and talking on her call phone. On and on. Eats and drinks and talks. Annoying.
She finishes eating. Still on phone. Hasn’t stopped talking to Sarah now for 20, 25 minutes. Gets up, walks toward the alcove where the restrooms are. Gone for four, five minutes.
I wonder: There is no way she can still be on the phone with Sarah. If so, she would have had to stay on the phone in the women’s room, and … well, that’s not something we do while spending needed time in the rest room, is it?
She comes back. Still on phone. Never hear her say “Sarah,” but the tone and familiarity of the conversation is the same.
I travel a lot. Cell phones are ubiquitous, and they’re used at all times and in all places. But I’m not going to be able to handle people on cell phones in restroom stalls at fine restaurants. Or dives, for that matter. I’m just not. I think I can take people putting on makeup while on the train, which I’ve seen. Excessive farting on small regional planes—terrible, but perhaps unavoidable. This phone thing, though, falls into the category of clipping nails on the airplane, which also is reprehensible.
Thoughts? Talkback@themmqb.com. I need to figure out whether I am cracking.
Tweets of the Week
John Mara at NFL Meetings: "I'm tired of answering questions about Odell's behavior. He knows what is expected of him and now it's up to him."— Tom Rock (@TomRock_Newsday) March 25, 2018
Good for the Giants’ scion. Odell Beckham Jr. is very close to not being worth the trouble.
When an email starts, “Dear Special Guest,” you’re not.— Sam Farmer (@LATimesfarmer) March 22, 2018
I pulled out my daily dose of holy water and was immediately told by security to pour into a Powerade cup before consuming it.— Sister Jean (@SisJeanLoyola) March 24, 2018
From “The MMQB Podcast With Peter King,” available where you download podcasts.
This week’s conversations: Chicago Bears coach Matt Nagy and quarterback tutor Jordan Palmer, brother of Carson, who is training Sam Darnold and Josh Allen for the 2018 NFL draft.
• Jordan Palmer on the similarities between Darnold and Carson Palmer, which he first noticed when Darnold was in high school: “I was like, ‘That kid over there it looks exactly like Carson when he was that age.’ Red hair, freckles, wearing some scrubby basketball shorts, white socks crinkled down, and just walked like him, talked like him, acted like him. Two years later, he’s in Elite 11, [age] 17 now. ... There's 11 quarterbacks in the country, the top 11—he's the only kid who's uncommitted. And I said, ‘Why aren’t you committed?’ He goes, ‘I just want to come here and see where I want to go to school. I want to look at these other guys.’ And at the time there's a kid named Ricky Town. Ricky Town was the top recruit out of California committed to USC. Everybody's talking about he was the next [Matt] Leinart, next [Mark] Sanchez, whatever. And Sam watched Ricky throw for one day and he came up to me and said, ‘After this whole thing's over I'm going to ask and commit to USC.’ He said, ‘That kid [Town] is going to transfer,’ and he did. Carson did the same thing, but Carson was coming out of high school. He was I think the second-rated player behind Jason Thomas from Compton Dominguez. Carson played against Jason, saw Jason work, and said, ‘I'm going to SC too.’ Same class. Jason changed positions and then ended up transferring. It’s ironic the same thing keeps happening. Now Sam’s leaving USC with a chance to be the number one pick in the draft, just like Carson.
“They’re both internal processors, they're both grounded in incredible humility to the point where you may question how confident they are there. They’re that humble. They don’t like attention. They don’t do social media. They don’t want a bunch of media. They don’t love signing autographs. They just want to win and have a great time with their teammates, and they actually love the work part of it. And they’re very close, you know. Sam’s like a little brother to me. Carson doesn’t get involved in any of the coaching stuff that I do, but he has gotten involved with Sam, and it’s crazy how similar they are … This is like the same kid. The way I would compare them, though, he’s got about 10 percent less of Carson’s arm talent at that age and about 25 percent more athleticism than Carson at that age. So I’m not going to sit here and compare the two of them in terms of who’s going to project to be better but it’s pretty crazy … Very, very similar.”
Ten Things I Think I Think
1. I think there’s one rule the NFL likely won’t fix at these league meetings, and I cannot figure out why. The Jets proposed a rule that would limit defensive pass interference penalties to 15 yards, with the exception being flagrant fouls such when a cornerback, clearly beaten, tackles a wide receiver downfield with the ball in the air; that would remain a spot foul. On Friday, league officials downplayed the efficacy of a rule that would limit defensive pass interference to 15 yards, with EVP for football operations Troy Vincent saying: “The professional defensive backs are too skilled, too smart … You don’t want a defensive back being able to strategically grab a guy.” Of course you don’t. That’s why you keep the egregious fouls spot fouls, and cap all the jousting fouls at 15 yards. And that’s why you make the rules change for one year only, and revisit it after the season.
2. I think the reason I’m bullish on changing this rule is that year after year, we see how the field gets tilted by ticky-tack calls. In the Saints-Vikings divisional playoff game, Ken Crawley was flagged on consecutive first-quarter plays for pass-interference downfield, handing the Vikings 54 yards for the simples acts of jousting with a wide receiver; there was nothing remotely flagrant. I’ve got no problem with flagging Crawley, even flagging him twice. But the Vikings went from first-and-10 at their 40-yard line to first-and-goal at the Saints 6 in a couple of minutes—all because of simple coverage jousting. Those flags simply do not deserve to tilt the field like that.
3. I think the league’s defense—there were only 11 DPIs of 40 yards or more last year—is specious. One of Crawley’s penalties was 20 yards, the other 34. Certainly a 40-yard DPI foul is huge. But a 25-yard DPI is huge too. And last year, there were 60 defensive pass-interference calls of 25 yards or more, per Pro Football Focus’ Nathan Jahnke. SIXTY! In addition, there were a total of 126 flags for DPIs of 16 yards or more.
4. I think I will end with this: I talked to Stanford coach David Shaw about the college rule (15 yards max on DPI) versus the spot foul in the NFL, and he said, even though there’s a fear of a beaten cornerback dragging down a receiver, it doesn’t happen often. Shaw prefers the college rule.
5. I think, of course, Michael Bennett is innocent until proven guilty in the case involving a charge by Houston police that he assaulted a disabled elderly female security officer nearly 14 months ago at the Super Bowl. But it is a bad look when the Houston police chief calls a press conference to issue a strong denunciation of Bennett’s alleged actions. “I think it’s pretty pathetic that you would put your hands on a 66-year-old paraplegic and just treat them like they don’t exist,” Houston police chief Art Acevedo said. There’s a warrant out in Texas for Bennett’s arrest. It’ll be interesting to hear Bennett’s response—and the response of his new team, the Eagles—to the incendiary charge.
6. I think the one blue-collar, middle-class, free-agent signing I like a lot is Carolina getting cornerback Ross Cockrell (former Steeler and Giant) for the reasonable price of two years and $6.8 million. Cockrell, per Pro Football Focus, allowed a passer rating of 70.3 on men he covered for the Giants last year; Aqib Talib, for instance, allowed an 82.7 rating. Good value there by the Panthers.
7. I think that story of New England safety Duron Harmon being detained in Costa Rica for trying to enter the country with 58 grams of marijuana is concerning for a few reasons. The biggest: Harmon’s smart and mature, the kind of veteran Bill Belichick relies on as a leader. To try to bring a significant quantity of marijuana with you on a trip to another country? That’s stunningly irresponsible, particularly when there’s heightened security around the world these days.
8. I think the words of Bills coach Sean McDermott at the NFL’s coaching-development symposium heartened those in the crowd—such as Cincinnati defensive coordinator Teryl Austin. McDermott’s message basically was: It’s not you; it’s me. Most often when head-coaching interviews happen, candidates fail to get the job because they’re not exactly what the team is looking for, or they’re not on the side of the ball the team is ideally looking for. It’s not because they stink. Austin, for instance, has interviewed seven times and not gotten a head-coaching job. I always think so much of the coaching merry-go-round is chance and happenstance, and based on which is the hot team. In December, Frank Reich was on the radar of zero teams; now he’s the head coach of the team with Andrew Luck at quarterback. He got the job because the Eagles’ late-season hot streak, the discovery that he was a huge piece of the Super Bowl-winning strategic offensive puzzle in Philadelphia, and because Josh McDaniels dropped out. I’ve long believed that there’s little that helps a prospective coach other than the performance of his players and his ability to control a room of men. Lobbying the owners and GMs is zero help. This symposium identifies coaches who may be head-coaching prospects down the road, and it’s a good idea. I saw incoming Eagles quarterbacks coach Press Taylor down here for the symposium. It’s smart for the NFL to develop young prospects early on.
9. I think this analytical look at Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield by Robert Klemko was really interesting—and it showed the tools Mayfield will bring to the NFL for some team. Of 63 quarterbacks who have taken an exam called the Athletic Intelligence Quotient test since 2012, Mayfield scored second-highest. A high score indicates a player who should be able to get on the field sooner and not be cowed by the mental part of the game.
10. I think these are my other thoughts of the week:
a. Highlight of Saturday, for me, was this incredible performance and message from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Drama Club and student choir, singing a song they wrote called “Shine.”
b. “We’re done with all your little games. We’re tired of hearing we’re too young to ever make a change.”
c. Play that song. Turn it up.
d. What kids. What young adults. They are just awesome.
e. And you, Gregg Popovich. You’re a great example of a smart man with a lot on the line saying the heck with it; I’m going to say what needs to be said for the good of the future of our country. On Sunday, he said, “I’m sure most everybody’s got to be unbelievably proud and excited about those students and what they’ve done, because our politicians have certainly sat on their thumbs and just hidden. It’s almost like a dereliction of duty.” Almost? No. It is. Bravo, Popovich. Bravo.
f. Story of the Week: “What Hope Hicks Knows,” by Olivia Nuzzi of New York magazine. Great inside story of the White House communications director’s life at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
g. “Hope! Hopey! Hopester!” What a memorable scene.
h. Political Story of the Week: an op-ed column in the Washington Post, by the summarily fired FBI veteran Andrew McCabe. A detailed first-person from one of the casualties of the implosion of our political system.
i. Gesture of the Week: Patriots owner Robert Kraft providing his team plane to fly students and families from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High to Washington on Thursday, and then back home after Saturday’s massive rally against gun violence.
j. No matter your politics, that’s a wonderful thing Kraft did. Because no matter what your politics, it is downright insane that semi-automatic killing machines, such as the kind that killed 17 people at the Florida high school, can be owned by average American citizens.
k. The Patriots put a card with these words from Margaret Mead on the plane for the Marjory Stoneman Douglas students and families: “Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.”
l. Coffeenerdness: From The MMQB’s Mark Mravic:
Starbucks scene: Tall blonde steps up to the register. Barista yells out “tall blonde!”— Mark Mravic (@MarkMravic) March 22, 2018
(A drink order.)
m. Beernerdness: We had an MMQB lunch Friday in New York City, and the beer menu said PERONI (CAN). Never heard of Peroni in a can. And I’m Mr. Peroni. So I ordered it. Cute can, eh?
n. Welcome back baseball. How we’ve missed you.
o. Had a nice, leisurely Saturday afternoon at the charming ballpark in Lakeland, Fla., for Phils-Tigers. (Beer choice, not so charming.) I love watching a game and discovering a player I’d never heard of. Centerfielder Roman Quinn was That Guy in this game. Wisp of a guy, maybe 5'9", batting ninth. What speed. Thought I was watching Billy Hamilton. Reached on a fielder’s choice in the second, stole second. Singled in a run in the fourth; advanced to second on the throw and then stole third. Grounded out to second in the sixth. Reached on an infield dribbler in the eighth, went to second on the overthrow, and stole third. This guy’s a huge threat! … One other thing: I love watching Jose Iglesias play shortstop. With two out in the sixth, he charged a slow roller, picked it up and fired to first in one continuous motion and nipped the runner. Iglesias never broke stride on the way off the field, where he ran and took a seat on a folding chair next to the dugout. Quick as a flash. Fun stuff to watch.
p. In the annual (get-your-hopes-dashed-early) rite of spring, I present the 2018 Montclair Pedroias rotisserie baseball team: Infield—Freddie Freeman, Brian Dozier, Didi Gregorius, Anthony Rendon, Welington Castillo; Outfield—Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, Adam Duvall, Manuel Margot; DH—Carlos Santana … Starters—Jake Arrieta, Trevor Bauer, Jon Gray, Dylan Bundy, Marcus Stroman; Relievers—Craig Kimbrel, Corey Knebel, Nate Jones, Blake Parker.
q. On Sunday, I traded Arrieta and Yonder Alonso (from my bench) for Robbie Ray.
r. I did draft Pedroia in the 25th and final round. The Pedroias would not be the Pedroias without Pedroia.
s. Nice job on your postgame interview with Leonard Hamilton, Dana Jacobson. Florida State did not foul, down four to Michigan with 11 seconds left, and let the clock expire. Of course it was highly unlikely that FSU would have won the game, or even have had a good chance to win. But giving up? I understand the heat-of-the-moment thing about postgame interviews, but it’s part of the business Hamilton chose. It’s ridiculous that Hamilton thought it wasn’t a fair question.
t. It’s pretty great to see a real underdog story, Loyola of Chicago, in the Final Four.
u. The Devils are a fun team to root for right now. They beat the fifth and first teams in the Eastern Conference on successive nights over the weekend, Pittsburgh on the road and Tampa Bay at home. Interesting note: Entering play Sunday evening in the NHL, Tampa Bay was 0-3-0 against New Jersey, and a league-best 51-17-4 against every other team.
v. Sympathy to veteran Detroit scribe Mike O’Hara on the death of his life partner, Tina Co, in Michigan. Mike’s one of the truly good people I’ve met in this business. So sad for him today.
The Adieu Haiku
So what is a catch?
Good chance league’s just trading one
prob for another.
• Question or comment? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.