The Predictably Disappointing End of the Miami Hurricanes’ Season

The warning signs were there long before the NCAA Tournament. The Canes had lost 3 ACC road series in a row and gone 0-2 at the ACC Tournament, including getting run-ruled by Wake Forest.

But the home record was still intact, and when the Canes earned the #6 National Seed there was a prospect of finally making it back to Omaha without having to perform outside Coral Gables.

There was a caveat, though. Miami drew Arizona and Ole Miss in their regional, two very talented, underachieving teams. That meant on paper, the Canes were not better than those teams. Still, at home, and with what was essentially a free pass into the winner’s bracket with Canisius in the first game, Miami’s season still had promise.

The Long and Winding Road to Irrelevance

The University of Miami is young for a university, less than 100 years old. And for that reason, it is rarely a blue blood or aristocratic in anything. Baseball is the exception. Whereas in football the Canes burst onto the scenes as outsiders in the 1980s, in baseball they, through former manager Ron Fraser, were foundational in popularizing the sport.

And from 1973-2016 the Canes were mainstays, not just in the NCAA Tournament, making it every year, but in Omaha, making it 25 times.

In 2016, the last year of this tournament run, the Canes converted a national seed into a trip to Omaha. They did this, not by necessarily playing great, but coming through in the clutch. They won 2 one-run games in the regional to get past Long Beach State, and then used all 3 games to get through Boston College and make it to the College World Series.

But this was the beginning of the end. The Canes couldn’t hit in Omaha, scoring a combined 4 runs across two games. After getting blown out by Arizona, the Canes trailed UC Santa Barbara 5-3 in the 9th inning. They needed 2 runs to force extra innings. And with a runner on 1st and 1 out, with veteran lefty first baseman Chris Barr at the plate, maybe there was one last rally left in the 2016 Canes.

Except Barr never batted. In what was a horrific foreshadowing of the inexplicable demise of the program that echoed all the way into last Sunday’s elimination at the hands of Arizona, then manager Jim Morris chose to pinch hit for Barr with Peter Crocitto. It’s not that Crocitto was a bad player, it was that he had hardly played. Barr had 282 plate appearances in 2016, Crocitto had 60. In his last act as a Hurricane (he would go the NAIA route after the 2016 season), Crocitto grounded into a double play to end the Canes season.

Miami expected to be back. They always get back. And then 2017 happened. The Canes went 31-27 and missed the NCAA Tournament. They were the last team out, and this was largely due to their horrific play in midweek games. Miami was over .500 in ACC play at 16-13, but 1-game over .500 in non-conference did them in.

If 2017 was bad, 2018 (Morris’ last year) was worse. The Canes once again went 16-13 in ACC play, but were a game below .500 out of conference, missing the NCAA Tournament again.

To this day, current manager Gino DiMare stresses the importance of midweek games. Losing midweek games ended the NCAA Tournament streak for the Canes.

This history is painful, but it’s important to understand what Gino DiMare inherited. It was not the machine that Ron Fraser left to Jim Morris and that Jim Morris then carried forward for over 20 years. It was a failing program at its lowest point in over 40 years.

Not Good Enough

DiMare hit the ground running. The 2019 Canes were a resurgence. The end of the Morris’ tenure saw the Canes struggle at the plate, seemingly being left behind by college baseball. But the 2019 Canes powered up. A young team guided by power bats slugged their way through the ACC. Alex Toral was one of the top HR hitters in college baseball and the Canes were fun again.

They, frankly, should have hosted regionals, but they just missed out and were sent to Starkville. Miami was confident, but, in a sign of things that are now so commonplace as to be unnoticeable, the Canes blew the opener. It started well. In the 3rd inning, the Canes hit 2 HRs and went up 4-0. They just needed to press their advantage and step on Central Michigan’s throat to advance to the winner’s bracket game against Mississippi State.

What happened from there is going to be painfully familiar. The Canes gave up 5 runs in the next 2 innings, aided by a massive error resulting in multiple unearned runs. They ended up losing 6-5. Despite winning 2 in a row to eventually face Mississippi State, including an 18-3 win avenging the loss to CMU, the Canes were eliminated by Mississippi State.

2020 was going to be different. The bats were returning, the pitching staff was solidified. Miami was a Top 5 team. And then COVID happened, and the season cancelled.

The bulk of the pitching staff went pro, but in 2021, the Canes still had a good team, with most of the 2019 and 2020 field players returning. But something had changed. Whether through complacency or regression, the Canes were not nearly as good. By the time they went 0-2 in the ACC Tournament, any opportunity for a host had gone. And they were promptly sent to Gainesville.

Losing to UF has been a mainstay in the disintegration of the Canes’ program, so being in their regional was not a welcome sight. But like Moses parting the Red Sea, the bracket opened up for Miami. UF would lose to 4-seed USF and 3-seed USA. Miami just had to beat 2 lower conference, lower seeded teams to make the Super Regional for the first time in 5 years.

Despite Moses parting the Red Sea, the Canes still managed to drown in it. They scored 5 runs in 3 games, with the bats completely disappearing. Somehow, they won the opener 1-0, but lost the next 2 games and went back to Coral Gables a battered and embarrassed group.

Many of that promising 2019 class still had eligibility left, with an extra year being granted for COVID. Nonetheless, they were shown the door, scapegoated for the underperformance of the team.

Resurrection Of Sorts

Whether those 2019 players would have contributed this year is hard to say. With the Canes earning a National Seed, the regular season goals were accomplished.

But in the postseason, the bats disappeared again. They were able to score against Canisius aided by Yoyo Morales’ 3 HRs, but against Ole Miss and Arizona, it wasn’t nearly enough. In a Black Sunday which saw the Canes lose twice, and lose their season, they totaled 4 runs. More frustrating still is that they pitched well, and had it not been for errors in the field, and the inability to get productive outs, they would have won both games.

They could have put Ole Miss away early, with the bases loaded and 1 out. But the Canes swung their way out of the inning, chasing pitches out of the zone from a pitcher that couldn’t find it. After taking the lead 1-0, Miami couldn’t hold it. And when the Canes tried to rally in the 9th, with a 1-out double, they couldn’t.

Arizona was basically the same game. Miami lead 3-2, and had 2nd and 3rd with no outs in the 8th. They could have blown the game open. Somehow, they didn’t score. And with 2 outs and no one on, an error fueled a 2-run rally Arizona. When the Canes had the tying run on 3rd with less than 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th, with the season on the line, the failure was inevitable. Miami, for what seemed like the millionth time over the 2 games that Sunday, just needed to put a ball in play. A productive out ties the game.

What did Gino DiMare do? He took a page out of his predecessors’ book. Lefty Eduardo Villegas was up against a righty. He could have let him bat. He also could have pinch hit with Jacoby Long, a low strikeout hitter likely to put the ball in play. Instead, he went to the righty Gaby Gutierrez, who had struck out 30 times in 86 plate appearances. If you’re asking if he struck out, you haven’t been paying attention.

And when a groundout ended the game, Miami had failed to advance to the College World Series as a National Seed for the first time in school history.

Full Circle

Somehow the Canes ended up back right where they started in their 2016 elimination from Omaha. 4 runs scored across 2 games, the last glimmer of hope frittered away with an inexplicable pinch hitting decision.

Something is broken in this program. As we saw the cacophony of scores reverberate across college baseball with teams routinely scoring in double-figures and eclipsing the 20-run mark, outside of a game against Canisius, the Canes couldn’t score. When they needed to make plays in the field, they made errors. A program built on clutch moments, clutch pitches, and clutch hits can no longer execute in the operative phases of games and seasons.

Seasoned veterans of Canes’ fandom wanted to believe this year, but by the 9th inning of the last game, even with a runner in scoring position and 1 out, they knew no run was coming. We’ve seen how this movie ends.

After the game, Dan Radakovich confirmed that he would be working on a contract extension with Gino DiMare. And it makes sense to do so. He’s in his last year of his contract, he took over a program that had missed the NCAA Tournament 2 years in a row, and is coming off his best season. Having him coaching on the last year of his contract makes little sense.

With that said, his best season to this point is not nearly good enough. This team is young and was not supposed to be as good as it was. But it needs to take the step the 2019 team never did.

After 2019, the Canes had a promising, bright future with a young, talented team. They ended up running those players out of town.

Now, in 2022, they are in a similar position, and should not suffer a regression. Contract extension or not, if this team does not progress next year, it should cost the manager his job. He should be empowered to make whatever changes he needs to break this vicious cycle of unrealized promise, and absent the ability to do so, someone else should.

Miami has gone from blue bloods to also rans. From forefront to afterthought.

Abraham Lincoln, frustrated at the inaction of his commanding general George McClellan during the Civil War, remarked:

If General McClellan does not want to use the Army, I would like to borrow it for a time, provided I could see how it could be made to do something.

If Gino DiMare does not take his army, this well-equipped, heavily invested in Canes Baseball program, to Omaha next year, then Radakovich needs to take it back and find someone that can see how it could be made to do something.

Vishnu Parasuraman is a journalist for @FiveReasonsSports. He covers the Miami Hurricanes for Sixth Ring Canes and Formula 1 for Hitting the Apex. You can follow him on twitter @vrp2003

5 Takeaways from Marlins’ Series Split vs. Giants

Coming off a disappointing series against the Colorado Rockies earlier in the week, the Miami Marlins looked to bounce back and defend their home field against the visiting San Francisco Giants over the weekend.

Miami won the first and third games of the series, but failed to close out the series win on Sunday as they lost 5-1 and ended up splitting the four-game series against San Francisco. 

The Marlins don’t play the Giants anymore in 2022, with the exception of  a miracle postseason berth, and finish 3-7 against them.

It was a very up-and-down series for the Marlins which also fittingly sums up their season so far.

Here are five takeaways from the series.


Sandy Alcantara throws another gem

Does this really come as a surprise? It seems like every start, starting pitcher Sandy Alcantara racks up eight or so strikeouts and gives up no more than one run. 

In the series-opening game against the Giants, Alcantara tallied eight strikeouts and pitched a shutout in seven innings. 

After his phenomenal performance, Alcantara’s ERA sunk down to a staggering 1.81 which is fourth in the MLB and second in the National League.  


Elieser Hernandez pitched his way out of the rotation

Starting pitcher Elieser Hernandez has really struggled this season. His 6.75 ERA is the worst among Miami starters and he has given up a total of 18 home runs all year, the most in the MLB. 

Hernandez’s outing against the Giants was probably the worst in his career. In the second game of the series, the Marlins opted to go with an opener to start the game. 

Left-handed relief pitcher Richard Bleier opened the game for Miami and didn’t pitch great. Bleier looked uncomfortable because he had been so used to coming out of the bullpen throughout his career, so opening a game was not what he had in mind. 

Hernandez would then come out of the bullpen in the second inning and he didn’t have an answer for shutting down the San Francisco hitters. Hernandez gave up eight hits and eight earned runs through 4.1 innings of work. Miami lost that game 15-6 and Hernandez was sent down to Triple-A.

“He hasn’t been able to gain any traction through the course of the season,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said about moving Hernandez to Triple-A. “I felt like the best thing for him is to get him down, get reset, let him get refocused, and let him work on things without the pressure of being in a big league game.”


Garrett Cooper is heating up, but where’s everyone else?

First baseman Garrett Cooper has been the lone bright spot in the Marlins’ offense during the series and was a big part in Miami’s come-from-behind 5-4 victory in game 3. 

During the three games he played in the series, Cooper went 7-for-14 and hit an opposite-field solo home run during the series finale. 

Cooper has been starting to get it going offensively and it’s been great to see. 

As for everyone else, the bats have been fairly quiet during the series. There’ve been too many strikeouts and not enough production with runners in scoring position. Also, where has the long ball been? Just one home run through four games. I know the ball flies at Coors Field, but even in Miami, the Marlins haven’t had a problem hitting the ball into the stands. 


Giants had too many extra-base hits

It felt as if every hit the Giants had in the series was an extra-base hit. Doubles, home runs, and triples were being sent all around the ballpark. 

Over the four-game series, the Giants had a total of 17 extra-base hits.

Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford even recorded a triple in the third game and if you’ve seen Crawford run, he’s not exactly Rickey Henderson out there. 

Sure, LoanDepot Park is a big ballpark and it’s easy to get a triple if you hit the ball deep enough into the corner like Crawford did. But also, the pitcher has to make sure that those types of hits don’t happen and the outfielders need to be quick to react to the ball.


The Walk-Off Helmet

In the third game of the series, the Marlins beat the Giants in the bottom of the ninth with a walk-off sacrifice fly by outfielder Jesus Sanchez that was deep enough to score third baseman Luke Williams with ease. 

In typical walk-off fashion, the players chased Sanchez around the field and showered him with sunflower seeds. But, is that a football helmet on his head? 

We’ve seen crazy walk off celebrations over the years but the football helmet has to be a first. 

Do I get it? No. Do the players look like they’re happy? Sure. And that’s all that matters, right?

Up next for the Marlins is a three-game series against the Washington Nationals.

That series will be played from Tuesday through Thursday at LoanDepot Park. 



Photo by Tony Capobianco


Could Joel Embiid Really Join The Heat?

The other day, Sixers center Joel Embiid sent out this tweet that led to a whirlwind of speculation. 

It immediately begs the question,  when Embiid says, “Miami needs another star,” is he referring to himself? If so, could Joel Embiid to the Heat be in our future?

Embiid Isn’t Wrong

First, let’s be clear that Embiid does have a point here. At the moment, Jimmy Butler is Miami’s best player, and the team’s only true “star.”

Bam Adebayo is probably the next closest to that designation, but he is not quite there yet. Looking at the rest of the roster, they have some great role players and veterans who were once stars, but their best days are behind them.

One thing is obvious, if Embiid joined the Heat tomorrow, he would immediately become the best player on the roster. What team wouldn’t want to add him?

Could Embiid Want Out?

The big question here is whether or not Embiid would actually leave Philly. He has established himself as the undisputed leader of the team and is beloved by that city. However, frustration could be mounting for the Sixers big man after a fifth consecutive postseason exit without making the conference finals.

Philly’s front office has failed to put a star alongside Embiid. They had Butler for the 2018-19 season, which ended in a heartbreaking game seven loss to the eventual champions in Toronto. Rather than trying to run it back, Butler was sent to Miami.

The latest attempt at finding a running mate for Embiid was a trade for James Harden. Unfortunately, Harden is a shell of his former self. Worse yet, he has an irresistible player option for next season that would pay him over $47 million, making him virtually untradeable.

Is Embiid willing to risk wasting another year of his prime on a team that will likely struggle to contend for a title? He might decide that the Sixers have had enough chances and that it is time to move on.

If he does, Miami would be a near-perfect fit. Embiid and Butler already have a great relationship and their playing styles mesh together well. Both are playmakers with and without the ball. Also, Embiid already plays with the tenacity that Heat coach, Erik Spoelstra, demands.

Most importantly, the addition of Embiid would transform a Miami team that is currently a contender into a juggernaut.

How Would a Joel Embiid to the Heat Move Work?

Given that Embiid is under contract for next season, any move would require a trade. Also, he cannot be traded until July 17. So, what would a potential trade look like? After using ESPN’s NBA Trade Machine, and then adding in some draft picks, here is one possibility:

Miami receives: Joel Embiid

Philadelphia receives: Bam Adebayo, Max Strus, Miami 2023 1st round pick, Miami 2024 1st round pick.

For Miami, Embiid would be a significant upgrade over Adebayo. Giving up Strus and two firsts is the price of doing business, one that they would happily pay. On the other side, any trade in which Philly gives up Embiid would feel like a loss. The compensation is not terrible, but it is hard to see how the Sixers get better in this trade. It is important to note that this trade would only happen if Embiid demanded it. This would give Philly little leverage.

Will it Happen?

At the end of the day, it is hard to picture Embiid being anywhere but Philly next season. I think it is more likely that Daryl Morey finds a way to either trade Harden or add another shooter. Still, this situation is something to keep an eye on. Embiid is heading into the final year of his contract. If the Sixers are not looking like contenders when next year’s trade deadline rolls around, all bets are off.


***This article was originally published on the ATB Network by Dalton Blackman***

  Hussam Patel is a Miami Dolphins contributor and Lead NFL Draft analyst at Five Reasons Sports Network, Director of Scouting at PhinManiacs and Editor at Dolphins ATB. Follow him on Twitter at @HussamPatel  

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June to be a make or break month for the Miami Marlins

Finally on the other side of an abysmal 7-19 May that squandered the goodwill of a 12-8 April, the Miami Marlins kicked off June by splitting a doubleheader with the Colorado Rockies. 

The Marlins scored a total of 25 runs and demonstrated to be a team that was close knit and capable of providing their own energy. It could be the start of a run that they desperately need but the doubleheader also ended with the reminder that many of Miami’s efforts will likely be undermined by the futility of their bullpen.

The Marlins have recorded the second fewest saves in the National League. Only the last place Washington Nationals have fewer. Cole Sulser and Tanner Scott were the big bullpen acquisitions and both of them have an ERA over 5. Sulser was given the closer role recently but has blown two saves in his last three opportunities, including giving up the walk-off home run to Rockies second baseman Brenden Rodgers (his third homer of the game) in the 10th inning of Wednesday’s night cap.

As a unit, the Marlins bullpen has blown eight save opportunities this season. Having at least half of those going the other way would drastically change the Marlins season outlook. Anthony Bender leads the Marlins with six saves but starting April and May with a blown save has shaken management’s confidence in him to close the door.

Unfortunately for the Marlins, there isn’t an external solution to the bullpen. Calling a familiar face from Triple-A Jacksonville isn’t going to work and the Marlins aren’t at a point where trading for a high leverage reliever is worth giving up a prized prospect. Right now, the best way for them to mitigate future damage is to have the starting pitching go deep, cross your fingers and send in Anthony Bass and Bender to close it out.

Overall, pitching is Miami’s strength. Only three teams (San Diego, Los Angeles and Milwaukee) in the National League have a lower ERA and a higher opponent batting average than the Marlins. Pablo Lopez has a National League leading 1.83 ERA through 10 starts this season and Sandy Alcantara has a 2.00 ERA this season. It’s the first time the Marlins had two pitchers of this caliber at this point of the season. Both pitchers could be in the All-Star Game should they keep this up.

Edward Cabrera threw six scoreless innings, including five no-hit innings with nine strikeouts after being called up on Wednesday. If he emerges to what Trevor Rogers was last year (1.75 ERA in his first 10 starts) then the Marlins clearly have the starting pitching to move out of their current funk.

“He had some electric stuff,” Rodgers said. “And he’s throwing 95 mph changeups. That doesn’t happen pretty much ever. Maybe some guys like [Jacob] deGrom and maybe two or three others have stuff like that.”

With a strong starting rotation and an improved lineup that ranks 5th in the NL in OPS, the Marlins are a sleeping giant that could turn things around as soon as they break their one-run curse. Over the past two months Miami has played the most one-run games in the NL. Only the Toronto Blue Jays (22) have played more in baseball. Unlike the Blue Jays, who have won 14 such games, the Marlins (6-15) have lost more games by a single run than any other team the big leagues. Had they simply split that number 7-8, Miami would be 27-21 and competing for a wild card spot. 

Even with all of their shortcomings, the Marlins entered June with a Pythagorean win-loss record (which is predicted based on a team’s runs scored and allowed) of 23-23.

The Marlins are at home for the next two series, hosting the San Francisco Giants and Nationals. A positive homestead can change the trajectory of their season, or further the decent to the depressing depths of disappointment.


Marlins fans can be part of the solution but are part of the problem

It’s amazing to look back and realize that South Florida has had Major League Baseball in its backyard for 30 years.

30 seasons, four ownership regimes, three memorable playoff appearances, and two championships.

One of those championships was being celebrated this past weekend in a series against the Milwaukee Brewers, managed by the very man who scored the winning run in Game 7 of the 1997 World Series.

The total combined attendance numbers on Saturday and Sunday were 24,670. To put that in context, the Marlins’ 3-1 win over the Seattle Mariners on April 30 had 29,010 fans in attendance, and that was because it was University of Miami theme night.

To further put it into context, the Tampa Bay Rays, who have spent their entire existence playing in an oversized Costco warehouse adjacent to Tampa, saw a higher attendance (20,832) on Sunday.

The 1997 team deserved better. The current team deserves better. The ballpark is 10 years old and is constantly being upgraded. The Marlins are the only team in baseball that has the players literally greet you at the gate. Jazz Chisholm is not just becoming a star but the envy of fans everywhere. Craig Mish said on his podcast that Chisholm might be a bigger star outside of Miami than in Miami and he might be right.

At some point, the issue of the fans and their constant lack of support must be brought up. No team in baseball is consistently successful without the support of fans . The fans here want the team to spend and succeed despite not going to the games and supporting that effort. Nobody wants to say it, but in South Florida, the fans are part of the problem when they should be part of the solution.

Is South Florida the only market in which the team must literally earn their fans by winning? The Florida Panthers had to win the Presidents Trophy, awarded to the team with the best regular season record, to get full crowds to their games.

Do the Marlins need to make the playoffs first for them to stop playing in empty stadiums? All the complaints one would hear about why nobody goes — the team is not competitive, the owner is cheap — are not unique to Miami, even if the fans like to think they are.

The Colorado Rockies franchise started the same year as the Marlins did. Over that time the have only been in the playoffs five times and in the World Series once. The owner is extremely unpopular and at times fans clamored for a change in ownership. Nolan Arenado, the Rockies’ biggest star since Todd Helton, demanded a trade a year after signing a big extension because of his frustration with the front office.

Do you think anyone in Denver trusts the Rockies’ front office? They signed Kris Bryant, a former MVP coming off another All-Star appearance, to a seven-year, $182 million contract. The move dumbfounded everyone. Why trade away one All-Star third baseman signaling a rebuild just to overspend for another in free agency. Rather than be excited, fans were rightfully confused.

Yet despite all that, the lowest attended game at Coors Field this season was 20,403 on a cold Monday against the Philadelphia Phillies. To get that number in Miami, the dogs need to be let in and Sebastian the Ibis needs to throw out the first pitch.

Not being good enough isn’t a worthy excuse to not show up either. The Arizona Diamondbacks are coming off their worst season ever, with practically the same roster, and the only games that saw sub-10,000 attendance were when the Marlins were in town. And this isn’t some state of the art sports complex that alone attracts fans. It’s more than twice the age of LoanDepot Park and smells like a crayon box when the roof is closed. The Diamondbacks wanted to make the county pay for upgrades and were rumored to move to Las Vegas before the Oakland Athletics. And yet they still have better attendance numbers than a Marlins team that signed the World Series MVP in Cuban slugger Jorge Soler and are trying to win.

Want to talk about a lack of trust? Who at this point trusts the Cincinnati Reds? They tore down half of their roster. Phil Castellini, the team president and son of the owner, alienated his fans before the start of the home opener. Despite all of that, in a ballpark with 5,000 more seats, the Reds have seen more home games with 20,000+ fans (5) than the Marlins (2) this season. The last place Reds have had only two games this year with less than 10,000 fans — which has been a constant in Miami since they stopped fudging the attendance numbers.

Are the fans here still holding the past tear downs against the franchise? The first time led to a second World Series in five years. The Marlins instantly improved on offense with the second fire sale. The third rebuild led them to having their most talented outfield ever, and the most recent rebuild is being played out right before your eyes. It’s time to stop holding the grudge.

Miami has the reputation of being an unworthy sports town and in baseball, it’s one that has been earned by both franchise and fans. It doesn’t have to be that way. We’ve seen the energy that emanates from a full crowd in Miami. The two World Series are legendary. The World Baseball Classic was always at it’s best in Miami than anywhere else. The All-Star Game didn’t disappoint either. Even 2012 had good crowds, until the team collapsed in the summer.

Marlins fans need to drop the excuses and start supporting the team at the ballpark because they won’t reach your expectations without you.

Mateo’s Hoops Diary: The 76ers’ Shameful Handling of Embiid Situation

Word on the street is Joel Embiid has cleared concussion protocols and is doing everything he can to suit up for Game 3 against the Heat.  It comes across as poor taste that the 76ers can’t protect their star big man from himself. 


I don’t pretend to be a physician, but I don’t remember ever hearing or reading of a broken face healing in a week.  By not shutting Embiid down, the team is keeping the story alive that there is a possibility he could come back when suiting him up puts his career at risk.  #21, reportedly was finally able to lift his phone to his head without the light from the screen bothering his injury, and somehow the 76ers are squeezing a lucky rabbit’s foot hoping Joel makes a supernatural recovery. 


Perhaps the team is basing hope on their center coming back from an orbital fracture because he did it four years ago, but only after a three-week hiatus.  It was dangerous then, but the idea now should be so far removed from the realm of possibility and anyone suggesting it doesn’t care for Embiid’s health.  Injuries are a lamentable reality of the sport.  Suck it up and come back next year.


It’s an unnecessary risk for Embiid to waste his time in this series, especially when factoring the danger of playing and how poorly his team is performing. Basketball is a contact sport.  Suck it up and come back next year.


This team should have enough to cop a game, meanwhile, without Philly’s MVP candidate, the outfit has fallen into a 2-0 hole, with the spotlight of criticisms shining on Doc Rivers and James Harden.   Rivers gave the start to Deandre Jordan, a veteran big-man waived by the Lakers in late February, for Games 1 & 2 and his club immediately suffered for it.  Miami was quick to attack DJ through pick ‘n’ roll,  pulling up from midrange when he dropped back to protect the rim.  Considering the Heat’s versatility offensively, perhaps the operative move would have been starting Paul Reed and going smaller so Philly could Ice on Miami’s rim rolls.


As I sat through Philly’s post Game 1 presser, I thought I was hallucinating when I heard Rivers say he’d keep playing Jordan whether we liked it or not. The old adage, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results,” is often misattributed to Albert Einstein but the point still stands.  


Then there’s the Beard.  His decline is Shaekesperean because he had a part in doing it to himself.  He has not taken care of his body, and it’s likely a reason aside from age that he’s got no burst left.  On a Game 2 possession where he forced a switch to get Max Strus on him at the top of the key, Harden opted to take a dribble pull-up triple instead of cutting left for a layup or possible trip to the line.


In the first game, the Bearded One was a non factor from the field in the second half, missing ¾ attempts. His only made a bucket was in the low post and his three misses came from the perimeter.


When I asked Harden what the Heat did schematically to prevent him from getting to the line at his normal clip, after Game 1, he said “Next question.”  


I remember a version of the Beard who was must-see TV for three years.  He had a linebacker’s body with deep range, a tight handle and an explosive first step.  The man casually averaged 35 points a night between 2018-2020 while playing mainly in isolation, the toughest way there is to score because of the lack of ball movement.   It’s difficult to accept that person is never coming back.


I originally called this series in five games favoring Miami but it’s possible it won’t stretch that long because the Heat have a counter for every scheme the 76ers deploy. 




Opening Day is baseball’s day of romantic fantasy

Opening Day

It’s the first of 162 games, but it feels much more special than that.

It’s the first date of a long relationship between baseball and its fans, a day when magic happens. Reality will set in the next day but for teams like the Kansas City Royals, St. Louis Cardinals and Arizona Diamondbacks, this day belonged to them. 

The Diamondbacks were staring down the barrel of a 2-0 defeat at the hands of a San Diego Padres team with playoff aspirations. Yu Darvish went six innings without a hit and manager Bob Melvin felt that the bullpen could finish the job. For two innings, he was right. 

The 35,508 fans at Chase Field who didn’t give up and left the ballpark early got their money’s worth at the end and were witnesses to a four-run ninth inning rally that was punctuated with a three-run walk-off home run by a barrel of a man named Seth Beer. It just so happened to be National Beer Day. 

Opening Day in Arizona also marked the 20th season of pitcher Oliver Perez’s career. Only one player has been in the big leagues longer than Perez and he began his final season where it all started. 

Albert Pujols last played for the St. Louis Cardinals during their surprising World Series run in 2011. After a forgettable decade-long stint with the Los Angeles Angels, Pujols returned to St. Louis to join long-time catcher Yadier Molina and ace Adam Wainwright for one last run to glory. A career that will likely end with 3,000 games with over 3,300 hits and 2,100 RBI under his belt, the last milestone for him to chase is 700 home runs. Thanks to the new era of the designated hitter in the National League, Pujols will have every opportunity to hit the 21 home runs needed to reach 700. 

While the East side of Missouri was experiencing nostalgia at its finest, the West side was welcoming a fresh new face. 

Hope has arrived in Kansas City in the form of top prospect Bobby Witt Jr. Taken with the second pick of the 2019 MLB Draft, his first career hit resulted in an RBI double that gave the Royals a 2-1 lead in the eighth inning en route to a 3-1 win over the Cleveland Guardians. 

How the rest of his rookie season goes is anyone’s guess but he and the Royals fans in attendance will never forget this game. 

The only aspect of Opening Day that is unfortunate is that it is not played by all 30 teams. The Miami Marlins had to wait until Friday fo partake in the christening of the new season. They couldn’t have picked a better place to open on the road. The Marlins make their splash towards San Francisco in the middle of the conflicting scents of sea salt and sourdough. 

The Marlins are retooled and ready to make a run at the playoffs while taking on a Giants team looking to back up an improbable 107-win season. The pitching trio of Sandy Alcantara, Pablo Lopez and Trevor Rogers have the opportunity to earn the Marlins some early credibility with a series win against the best team in baseball. 

The Marlins have been projected to finish with either a winning season or slightly below .500 in a loaded division where three teams enter with World Series aspirations. Miami goes into the new season with an above average pitching staff bolstered by a Gold Glove winning catcher in Jacob Stallings and a newly minted outfield serving as the lineup’s sorely needed power source. Avisail Garcia, Jorge Solar and Jesus Sanchez all have 30-homer potential and if Jazz Chisholm makes the leap to true stardom in his second full season, the Marlins will be able to compete with the best and capitalize in either the Mets or Phillies’ eventual late summer collapse. 

Enjoy the hope while it’s at its peak and let the games begin.

The Marlins wasted a promising season

Entering the road series with the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field, the Pythagorean theorem had the Miami Marlins at 55-54 and competing for their first ever National League East division title.

Instead, Miami was in last place of the division with a 47-62 record. The Pythagorean theorem predicts a team’s expected record based on the number of runs scored and allowed. Prior to losing 18-1 to the Washington Nationals a month ago, the Marlins had the highest run differential in the division throughout much of the season.

That mathematical system has likely flipped on the Marlins since after being swept by the Rockies in embarrassing fashion. Seeing Sandy Alcantara get tagged for 10 runs on Friday certainly didn’t look good. The most recent prized pitching prospect, Jesus Luzardo, gave up seven runs in less than five innings the next game and what’s left of the bullpen gave up 13 runs in the series finale. 

The main reason why the Pythagorean did not match reality was the amount of close games that did not go Miami’s way. Of their 65 defeats this season, 39 were by two runs or fewer. The Marlins have played 33 one-run games and won only 11. That’s tied with with the Arizona Diamondbacks, the team with the league’s worst record, for most defeats of such nature in baseball.

This feels like a total waste of a promising season especially at a time where the NL East felt the most vulnerable. The division leading Philadelphia Phillies rose to the top on an eight game winning streak but is barely above .500 on the season. The New York Mets long had a flimsy lead and it only took a four-game losing streak to drop all the way to third place. Despite being 18 games below .500, the Marlins are closer to the top (12 GB) than any other last place team in baseball. 

The Marlins were supposed to build off their first playoff appearance and instead wasted a promising season. Not having Sixto Sanchez at all didn’t help but the pitching staff had a top 5 ERA in the NL prior to being victims of Coors Field.

The Marlins made shrewd moves when they added veteran bats like Jesus Aguilar, Starlin Marte and Adam Duvall but they seemed like the sole source of offense for Miami this season. 

Aguilar has been the Marlins best hitter since his acquisition and along with Miguel Rojas, the most consistent and relied on hitter on the team. He currently leads the NL in RBI (79) and along with Rojas — who is the leader of the team years after being a throw-in of a 2014 blockbuster trade that brought over Dee Gordon — are top priorities during the upcoming offseason. 

Duvall was brought to Miami on a reasonable salary to hit 30 home runs and he was living up to his end on the deal prior to being traded back to Atlanta for catching prospect Alex Jackson. The Marlins front office has proven to bring in competent veteran bats to bolster their refreshed pipeline and will be counted on to do it again this offseason. 

The rebuild was a success on the pitching side, but a complete failure on the hitting side. Outside of Jazz Chisholm, there has not been a prospect acquired in a trade since the new ownership whom has had success on the plate. 

A silver lining this season has been the gradual improvement of Lewis Brinson. After spending the first two seasons batting below .200 after being the centerpiece of the infamous Christian Yelich trade — which only happened because the eventual National League MVP wanted to leave — has been batting above the MLB average (.242) at .261 in 45 games. He has been a guy throughout his four years with the Marlins whom has been a disappointment due to his stature as a No. 1 prospect but always a good person from the area that makes you want to root for. 

Trading away the entire starting outfield has given Brinson another opportunity but this time, he’s capitalizing on it. He has one more hit in 51 at-bats after the All-Star Game (.317) than in 68 at-bats prior to the Midsummer Classic. It has been the best stretch of his career without any end in sight. With a .944 OPS during that stretch, he has outperformed everyone who has been slated to replace him. 

It seems like the rest of this season has now been dedicated to monitoring the new prospects brought over in the trades. Jackson has demonstrated plenty of power in the minor leagues and in seven games with the Marlins, two of his four hits have gone yard. Bryan De La Cruz was traded from the Houston Astros for relief pitcher Yimi Garcia and made his big league debut after batting .324 in his first Triple-A season. This season has been an objective disaster for Luzardo (7.36 ERA in 15 games, eight starts) but the 23-year-old prized pitching prospect will be given every opportunity to succeed for his hometown team.

There’s still hope that the 2022 Marlins could feature a starting rotation of Trevor Rogers, Pablo Lopez, Sanchez, Alcantara and Luzardo and a revamped lineup of veterans and breakout rookies. Nothing short of a playoff series at home will bring fans in LoanDepot Park.


Observations from inside the MLB All-Star Game

While the very concept of the All-Star Game may seem outdated, MLB clearly has the best of the four major sports.

It’s been six years since I last attended the MLB All-Star Game. It’s the type of event that takes a place like Cincinnati and turns it into a happening place. An argument could be made that the 2015 All-Star Game that featured their flamethrower of a closer mowing down three of the best hitters in the rival league and the Home Run Derby won by the hometown star was the biggest sporting event to happen in that city since the Reds winning the World Series in 1990 — the year I was born.

Most cities had plenty of time in advance to prepare for All-Star Week. Denver was tasked with putting the event together in the first week of the season and did an amazing job with it. Any market with a downtown ballpark is ideal for maximizing the event that is the All-Star Game. It would be interesting to see what Los Angeles does with it next year after missing out last year.

The crowd at Coors Field represent a comeback after a year that had us all hiding in homes and being away from each other due to a viral pandemic, a year where we all wondered when we will get to enjoy the game we love once again. It was more than a capacity crowd. Everyone was in their seats, and in the rooftop bar, and in the team store, and waiting in line for overpriced food.

It was a Coors Field sellout combined with a typical Marlins crowd. It felt like 2019 never ended.

The national anthem was a beautiful spectacle, starting with one of the stars of Hamilton singing and punctuating with a flyover and firework show.

The Colorado Rockies only had one representative in the game but they fans did get to see Nolan Arenado return to Coors Field as the starting third baseman for the National League after forcing a trade to the St. Louis Cardinals this past offseason after a divorce with the outgoing front office.

“Colorado deserves this,” Arenado said after being serenaded by the fans who knew him for ruling the hot corner for eight years.

Fireworks pierced the sky immediately after the words “play ball” were ushered by one very lucky kid.

We have been waiting for this moment for a long time.

The All-Star Game is meant to be an opportunity to see great moments from the game’s best, starting with Shohei Ohtani, who was the leadoff hitter and starting pitcher for the American League, the first ever to do so. There’s nobody in baseball who has had a better season like Ohtani, who is leading baseball in home runs with 33 while sporting a solid 3.49 ERA with 20 more strikeouts than innings pitched. A perfect inning and a couple at-bats and his day was done.

Perhaps the biggest moment of the game was Vlad Guerrero Jr. hitting a home run ball that nearly cleared the left field stands. He is one of three father-son duos to play in the All-Star Game.

“Dreams come true,” Guerrero Jr. said through a translator after the game. “Since I was a kid, I was thinking about this moment. I’ve worked all my life very hard and a lot of it is happening right now.”

The Miami Marlins, despite a season of struggles, should have had more than only one player in the game. However, Trevor Rogers was a good choice to rep the Marlins. The rookie leads all first-year players in ERA (2.31), innings (101 1/3) and strikeouts (122). He is certainly a shoo-in to win the National League Rookie of the Year.

“It’s something that we really dream of as a kid and growing up,” Rogers said, “here with the best guys in the world.”

While the game seemed like another lopsided American League victory, all anyone wants in a game like this is for the losing team to have a chance. It is even made all the more sweeter if your guy is the one to play the hero. 

That wasn’t the case for Marlins fans but if you were a Chicago Cubs fan, Kris Bryant was your guy. With the bases loaded in the bottom of the eighth inning, Bryant hits a Matt Barnes fast ball to left field. It would’ve certainly been a game changer had it not been for a sliding catch by Jared Walsh to end the inning. 

In the end, a Japanese player started the game, an Australian closed it out and a Dominican won the MVP, all while representing the American League. Baseball is truly a global game. 

Along with Rogers, two other Miami Marlins should be All-Stars

Trevor Rogers is the most deserving among the Miami Marlins to be named a National League All-Star but he should not be the only one. 

When a team like the Marlins is 12 games under .500 this late into the season, it’s understandable for them to only have the mandatory one rep, but the fact that the Pittsburgh Pirates, one of the worst teams in baseball, has twice as many All-Stars is a travesty. 

Statistically speaking, an argument can be made for Marlins outfielder Adam Duvall and first baseman Jesus Aguilar making the NL All-Star team. 

Duvall currently leads the National League in runs batted in with 60, and is also fourth in home runs with 19. If that is not good enough to make the All-Star team then what is? 

Sure, he has 86 strikeouts, a .230 batting average and a .767 OPS, but if that’s good enough for Texas Rangers outfielder Joey Gallo (20 HR, 46 RBI, .233 BA), who is on the American League All-Star team as a reserve, then it should be good for Duvall. 

Duvall is certainly more deserving than Los Angeles Dodgers outfielders Chris Taylor (10 HR, 42 RBI, .268 BA, .828 OPS) and Mookie Betts (10 HR, 31 RBI, .247 BA, .810 OPS), who got in as reserves based on name recognition and team affiliation. Aguilar is the only Marlin to have played more games (78) than Duvall (73). He has been the anchor of the lineup ever since arriving to Miami a year ago. 

Aguilar leads all NL first baseman in RBI with 53. With 13 home runs, he is on-pace to finish with 25 HR and over 100 RBI, which is similar to his breakout season in Milwaukee in 2018. 

Outside of Atlanta Braves’ Freedie Freeman, who was voted in as a starter by the fans, Dodgers slugger Max Muncy is the only reserve first baseman. Muncy has five more home runs and his .974 OPS blows the entire Marlins roster out of the water. 

At the very least, Aguilar should be on the final vote ballot. 

Pablo Lopez (2.97 ERA) and Sandy Alcantara (2.96 ERA) are certainly worthy of making the All-Star team, but 2021 has been a very good year for National League starting pitchers. Only German Marquez has a higher ERA than the Miami duo and as the Colorado Rockies’ lone All-Star, he pretty much has to be on the team. 

Pitchers are usually selected to fill the quota and make sure that every team has a rep. Starters who pitch on the Sunday leading up to the All-Star Game have their roster spot replaced, while still being honored and enjoying the festivities. 

So there is still a chance that Rogers isn’t alone in Denver on All-Star Week.