July 30, 2018

Latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated): Dolphins camp takes on soccer at The Rock for No. 1. See who wins and what else falls where; plus your verdict on Fins win total and Tannehill, 4-Man Outfield & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

1) It's MONDAY, JULY 30. Football's back so it's the perfect time to delight the Dolfans in your life with the surprise of our 'Fins At 50' book. Check it out here on Amazon. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins open training camp with two polls and my Tannehill column, R.I.P. Tony Sparano, Heat seen as seventh seed, The List & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

On Tannehill as Dolphins open training camp: I write in my latest column that Miami needs a new and improved Ryan Tannehill as he begins his comeback season with the start of training camp. The Dolphins need him to be what he hasn't been thus far: A difference-maker able to lift a team and put it on his shoulders. To read that latest column, click Dolphins Need a Better Tannehill, Not Just A Healthy One.

Other recent columnsTo The Good-Guy Grinder In The Shades, on the death of Tony Sparano. Also: Dolphins Results Will Exceed Brutal OffseasonSoccer Stadium Progress, But Much Work LeftReasons For Hope As Jeter Plan Takes RootTime to Flip the Old Narrative On Miami As a Sports TownCan Riley Rescue Heat From Purgatory? When 3 World Cup Legends Were Ours.

HOT BUTTON TOP 10 (UPDATED): WHAT SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive every-Sunday feature, updated Mondays, is part week-in-review, part look-ahead. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, from a Miami perspective, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead. This week's HB10:

Hotbutton1. SOCCER: Top-tier soccer back Hard Rock with ICC matches: The Stephen Ross-invented annual International Champions Cup global soccer tournament is back at Hard Rock Stadium, bringing top-tier futbol to town -- although years like this when it immediately follows the World Cup don't bring quite the same sizzle. Manchester City beat Bayern Munich 3-2 Saturday before 29,195 in the first of two games in Miami, with Real Madrid vs. Manchester United coming Tuesday night. Consider it free ad for the November referendum vote for David Beckham's new MLS stadium. man 3-2 29,195 

2. DOLPHINS: Rose-colored glasses on as training camp begins: Miami Dolphins training camp began Thursday at Davie headquarters and so today/Monday is Day 5 of the Optimist Festival. Early indications are that Adam Gase is thrilled, everybody looks great, Ryan Tannehill is dominating early practices and the 6-10 team with about the same wins over/under for 2018 could be the surprise of the NFL. Training camps should come with a warning label: Caution! Whatever you see and especially whatever you are told means nada until real games begin Sept. 9.

3. HURRICANES: UM football's 'Paradise Camp' returns to campus: Mark Richt's third annual Paradise Camp returned to campus on Saturday, the yearly one-day Family Love-In in which past, current and future Canes gather to celebrate what's special about being in the football fraternity known as The U. A brilliant tool for brand-growing as fall practice nears.

4. MARLINS: Fish break out the 'MVP Chain': Miami is now 5-4 after the break with Saturday's win on J.T. Realmuto's walk-off hit then Sunday's gem by Jose Urena to wraps the homestand. Now it's on to seven straight on the road. Meanwhile the team has created an "MVP Chain" that the player of the game is given to wear following wins. Um, does UM's Turnover Chain get royalties?

5. HEAT: Team, Riley expect Wade decision soon: Heat godfather Pat Riley told reporters this week he expects free agents Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem to decide in the next few weeks whether to re-up with the Heat. Wade has a lucrative offer waiting in the Chinese Basketball League. Meanwhile Riley said he is "not frustrated at all" by the club's offseason inactivity, as if any team executive in any sport is prone to publicly admitting frustration.

6. TONY SPARANO: Ex-Dolphins coach dies suddenly: The Minnesota Vikings offensive line coach, who led the Dolphins in 2008-11, died unexpectedly of a heart ailment at 56. Sparano inherited a team that had gone 1-15 the year before and led it to an 11-5 record in his first season. A genuine good guy. R.I.P. 

7. MLB: Flurry of deals as trade deadline nears: Manny Machado and Cole Hamels were among big names changing uniforms ahead of this Tuesday's MLB trade deadline. Hoping Marlins, potential sellers, will be quiet and not move, say, J.T. Realmuto. 

8. COOPERSTOWN: Baseball Hall inducts 6 more Sunday: Chipper Jones and Vladimir Guerrero headed a 2018 Hall of Fame class that also included Jim Thome, Trevor Hoffman, Alan Trammell and Jack Morris. Which of course begs the question, "Alan Trammell and Jack Morris!?" 

9. CYCLING: Welshman wins Tour de France: Geraint Thomas of Wales, former support rider for the great Chris Froomes, clinched the Tour de France championship on Sunday along the Champs-Elysees in Paris.

10. LEGAL SYSTEM: Nasser assaulted in jail: Disgraced Olympic gymnastics doctor Larry Nasser, doing life for sexually abusing dozens of gymnasts, was assaulted in prison and is now asking for a new trial. The national group, People Who Feel Sorry For Larry, will be meeting Monday in that phone booth over at Fifth & Vine.   

Missing the HB10 cut: Former Hurricanes running back Tyrone Moss, gone too soon at 33. R.I.P. ..... An intentionally set fire destroyed dozens of gold carts at Melreese. Was a hooded figure resembling David Beckham seen running from the blaze? ..... Fox New reporter Britt McHenry bashed Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill in a series of Tweets, begging the question, "Britt McHenry!?" ..... Dez Bryant, continuing to be Dez Bryant, went on a Twitter rant blasting former Cowboys teammates and the team's play calling ..... Florida's two-day lobster mini-season was this past week. That's a lot of effort to catch something I can buy at Publix ..... The WNBA All-Star Game was held Saturday in Minnesota, and I have no idea who won, or who played ..... Update. Countdown now 2,885 days (give or take) until Miami hosts its first match in the 2026 World Cup.

POLL RESULTS: CAUTIOUS OPTIMISM FOR BOTH DOLPHINS SEASON, TANNEHILL: We asked, "As training camp begins what are your honest expectations for this Dolphins season?" and it  was 34.01 percent for 9 wins and 17.01% for 10-plus. That's 51.02% thinking playoffs or at least in the hunt. After that it was 19.73% 8 wins, 9.52% for both 6 and 7 wins, and 10.20% for 5 or fewer. The betting over/under for Miami wins is commonly 6 1/2, so voters in our poll definitely were thinking "over." We also asked, "As he begins his 7th NFL season, how confident are you in quarterback Ryan Tannehill?" and Very beat Somewhat by 41.13% to 35.46%, with the other 23.40% voting Not Very. That's a split vote, but generally conveys at least modest support.

4manof'THE FOUR-MAN OUTFIELD' (UPDATED): YELICH OVERTAKES STANTONThroughout the MLB season -- just for fun -- I'm comparing and updating the ongoing performances of the three Marlins outfield starters traded away during the offseason and current (though injured) Marlins center fielder Lewis Brinson, the best prospect to arrive in the deals. Unfair to compare three established stars with a rookie? Boo hoo. Who said life was fair! Plus, remember: Just for fun! We base our rankings on OPS (on-base plus slugging). The updated 4-Man Outfield appears every Sunday and Monday in the blog. The latest:

Player, Team                                  OPS     G   AB   R   H   BI   D-T-HR    AVG. 

1. Christian Yelich, Brewers           .911   92 359  70 115   57  21-4-15     .320

2. Giancarlo Stanton, Yankees       .854  103  404  64 113   64  19-1-24    .280

3. Marcell Ozuna, Cardinals           .701  101 395  41 106   57  10-1-12     .268

4. Lewis Brinson, Marlins               .570   84  290  22  54   30   6-4-10     .186

OUR APSE-HONORED COLUMNSThe Associated Press Sports Editors 2018 writing awards ranked me a Top 10 national sports columnist in the major-outlet category. Thanks, APSE. Here are the nominated columns that earned the honor: At Doral, an annual tradition since 1962 is replaced by silence, and by what's missing  /  Marlins' Jose Fernandez statue is divisive yet has a chance to serve a greater purpose  /  NFL has moral obligation to help Buonicontis and Kiicks while it limits future suffering  /  What led to El Clasico Miami began with Joe Robbie's unlikely, accidental love of soccer  / With 59 home runs, Stanton still had a magic season. Just hope this wasn't goodbye.

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

July 23, 2018

Latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated): Dolphins training camp? Wade to China? Soccer? See what's No. 1 and who else falls where; plus our latest column (Fins), your Dolphins anthem-policy verdict, 4-Man Outfield & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

1) It's MONDAY, JULY 23. R.I.P., Tony Sparano, former Dolphins head coach, dead suddenly and unexpectedly at age 56. 2) Delight the Dolfans in your life with the surprise of our 'Fins At 50' book. Check it out here on Amazon. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins anthem policy poll, Miami MLS stadium wins to get on ballot, Time's Trump/Putin cover, your ASG vs. HRD verdict & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

Latest column: Dolphins poised to exceed expectations as camp opens: The offseason segues into the preseason for the Dolphins and 31 other NFL teams with the full start of training camps this week. For Miami it's been a brutal offseason in terms of media criticism and low public perception. But fans should expect better as camp opens. I explore why in my latest column. Click Dolphins Results Will Exceed Brutal Offseason to read.

Other recent columnsSoccer Stadium Progress, But Much Work LeftReasons For Hope As Jeter Plan Takes RootWhy 'Melo To Miami Would Be Strange MarriageLeBron-to-Lakers A Decision Worth ApplaudingTime to Flip the Old Narrative On Miami As a Sports TownCan Riley Rescue Heat From Purgatory? When 3 World Cup Legends Were OursTannehill's Defining Season.

HOT BUTTON TOP 10 (UPDATED): WHAT SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive every-Sunday feature, updated Mondays, is part week-in-review, part look-ahead. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, from a Miami perspective, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead. This week's HB10:

Hotbutton1. DOLPHINS: Training camp opens under (more) anthem cloud: Offseason turns to preseason with Thursday's first full Dolphins practice of training camp. Meantime the NFL firestorm over national-anthem protests enters its third year with Miami in the middle. Dolphins instituted a policy threatening four-game suspensions for on-field protests, then walked that back as NFL put on hold its new go-hide policy mandating that any protests be off the field and out of view.

2. SOCCER: Miami MLS stadium gets onto ballot: By the perfect soccer score of 3-2 the Miami City Commission voted to allow the Miami Freedom Park soccer stadium initiative onto the November ballot. Public approval of a stadium at the Melreese site would then lead to lease negotiations between the Beckham group and city. Meantime the team set to begin play in 2020 has targeted Atlanta United VP Paul McDonough as its new general manager.

3. HEAT: No 'Melo. Now can Miami keep Wade from China?: Heat and Houston were after Carmelo Anthony, but he was traded to Atlanta in a three-team deal instead, continuing a quiet free agency period for Miami. When your biggest move is re-signing Wayne Ellington for one year, your offseason has been a Lollopa-snoozer. But that could change for the worse if Dwyane Wade, a free agent, actually leaves Miami for the Chinese league's Xinjiang Flying Tigers, who reportedly are offering a monster contract. "Qing buyao zou, Dwyane!" (That means please don't go).

4. MARLINS: Fish back at it after break, stay hot: Miami is now 23-19 since June 5 including 2-1 after the All-Star break after winning the series in Tampa Bay today before now playing six straight at home vs. NL East rivals Atlanta and Washington. With the July 29 trade deadline looming, let's see if Derek Jeter does right and holds onto all-star catcher J.T. Realmuto and ace closer Kyle Barraclough.

5. SOCCER: Hard Rock poised to host ICC soccer: The annual International Champions Cup, a brainchild of Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, is coming to Hard Rock Stadium, with Manchester City facing Bayern Munich this coming Saturday and then Manchester United vs. Real Madrid July 31. No more Ronaldo for Real, alas. Still, these club giants figure to deliver a level of futbol comparable to or even exceeding what we just saw in the World Cup.

6. GOLF: Tiger falters, Molinari wins British Open: Tiger Woods shot 66 at Carnoustie in Scotland Saturday, his best major round in seven years, and briefly held the lead Sunday before faltering in the British Open. Tiger in the hunt in a major was all we can ask for. Wait. Check that. I guess all we can ask for would have been his first major win since 2008. Instead Francesco Molinari became the first Italian to win a major. Quick aside: British Open courses are the ugliest on Earth, and those painted-green greens surrounded by brown look ridiculous.

7. HURRICANES: ACC Media Days means football is near: As Mark Richt plans for his Paradise Camp this coming Saturday, ACC Media Day were held in Charlotte. The consensus? Miami should be really good in 2018, and with eight returning starters on defense that Turnover Chain should be flyin'. Canes should win the Coastal Division and have a rematch with Clemson for the conference crown. Wait, we had to fly to Charlotte for that

8. NBA: Kawhi Leonard trade tops the week: San Antonio Spurs traded disgruntled star Kawhi Leonard to Toronto even-up for DeMar DeRozan n a deal that didn't seem to please either player but likely helped both teams. It was NBA's biggest offseason move; well, other than that guy whatshisname going from Cleveland to the Lakers.

9. MLB: It was an especially wild All-Star break: The AL beat the NL 8-6 in a homerfest, one night after hometown hero Bryce Harper won the Home Run Derby. Oh, and Hialeah-born Manny Machado was being traded from the Orioles to the Dodgers during the game. And, oh yeah, it blew up on social media in the middle of the ASG -- while he was on the mound -- that Brewers pitcher Josh Hader had a teenage history of racist, homophobic tweets. Oy!

10. ESPN: ESPY Awards go heavy on emotion: Nobody will remember who won the top individual awards, but few will forget the emotional chords struck as ESPN (appropriately) honored the sexual abuse survivors of disgraced Olympic gymnastics doctor Larry Nasser and the three coaches who were among the mass shooting victims at Parkland's Stoneman Douglas High.

Missing the HB10 cut: Big3 basketball, a league of unretired former NBA players, came to the Heat's arena with a tripleheader Friday night. Somewhere, the guy running the Harlem Globetrotters, once the sport's reigning novelty act, is softly weeping ..... Baseball Hall of Fame inductions are next Sunday in Cooperstown. Terrell Owens is boycotting that one, too ..... The Tour de France ends next Sunday. It will be won by somebody I've never heard of and whose name I'll immediately forget ..... Update. Countdown now 2,892 days (give or take) until Miami hosts its first match in the 2026 World Cup.

POLL RESULTS: POLARIZING, BUT MAJORITY AGAINST NEW DOLPHINS ANTHEM POLICY: We asked, "What do you think of the Miami Dolphins' new national anthem policy threatening players who protest on the field with four-game suspensions or fines?" The response was voluminous (you may still vote), and last we checked it was 60.61 percent against, 36.60% for and 2.79% undecided. Of note, it opened around 70% percent against, but the "for" votes gained traction.

4manof'THE FOUR-MAN OUTFIELD' (UPDATED): YELICH PUSHING STANTONThroughout the MLB season -- just for fun -- I'm comparing and updating the ongoing performances of the three Marlins outfield starters traded away during the offseason and current Marlins center fielder Lewis Brinson, the best prospect to arrive in the deals. Unfair to compare three established stars with a rookie? Boo hoo. Who said life was fair! Plus, remember: Just for fun! We base our rankings on OPS (on-base plus slugging). The updated 4-Man Outfield appears every Sunday and Monday in the blog. The latest:

Player, Team                                  OPS     G   AB   R   H   BI   D-T-HR    AVG. 

1. Giancarlo Stanton, Yankees       .859   96  378  59 105   57  18-1-23    .278

2. Christian Yelich, Brewers           .856   85 330  62 100   47  18-3-12     .303

3. Marcell Ozuna, Cardinals           .685   95 370  39  98   51   9-1-10      .265

4. Lewis Brinson, Marlins               .570   84  290  22  54   30   6-4-10     .186

OUR APSE-HONORED COLUMNSThe Associated Press Sports Editors 2018 writing awards ranked me a Top 10 national sports columnist in the major-outlet category. Thanks, APSE. Here are the nominated columns that earned the honor: At Doral, an annual tradition since 1962 is replaced by silence, and by what's missing  /  Marlins' Jose Fernandez statue is divisive yet has a chance to serve a greater purpose  /  NFL has moral obligation to help Buonicontis and Kiicks while it limits future suffering  /  What led to El Clasico Miami began with Joe Robbie's unlikely, accidental love of soccer  / With 59 home runs, Stanton still had a magic season. Just hope this wasn't goodbye.

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

July 21, 2018

What do you think of Dolphins' controversial new anthem policy? Poll. Last day to vote!: plus our latest columns on Dolphins, MLS Miami soccer; also, Time's Trump/Putin cover, your ASG vs. HRD verdict & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

Cotefrench1) It's SATURDAY, JULY 21. Click on Greg Cote Tuesday for the best-of podcast from this week's LeBatard Show. Got a kick out of the artwork pictured at right, courtesy loyal show fan @oigomusic. It was inspired by a World Cup conversation that included me mentioning that the Cote family has partly French ancestry. Chris wears that jaunty beret quite well! 2) Delight the Dolfans in your life with the surprise of our 'Fins At 50' book. Check it out here on Amazon. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Marlins at the break and Jeter's plan, All-Star Game vs. Home Run Derby poll & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

Latest column: Why Dolphins are poised to exceed expectations: Estimations by the national NFL media and resulting public opinion have been brutal to the Dolphins this offseason. But fans should expect better as training camp begins this coming week. I explore in my latest column. Click Dolphins Results Will Exceed Brutal Offseason to read.

DolkneelPOLL: FOR OR AGAINST DOLPHINS' NEW ANTHEM POLICY?: The NFL and its players association agreed Thursday to suspend implementation of its new national anthem policy -- requiring players who wish not to stand to stay off the field -- pending further negotiations. while the two sides work on a resolution. That was in reaction to broad criticism after an Associated Press report that the Dolphins' new team policy threatens players who protest on the field with  up to a four-game suspension and fine. The Dolphins later clarified that "all options are open," and that kneeling players wouldn't necessarily be suspended or fined. In other words, for the NFL and the Dolphins, this whole issue remains a holy, unwinnable  and unsettled mess entering its third season clouding the NFL. I'm a freedom-of-expression guy who also believes the cause of the kneeling -- social justice and prejudice against blacks -- is a righteous one. Now have your say on the Dolphins' new policy:

MIAMI MLS SOCCER STADIUM: IT STILL WON'T COME EASY: Wednesday was a big day along the road to fruition for Miami's Major League Soccer expansion team being shepherded by the Masgroup headed by David Beckham and Jorge Mas. Mas is pictured. He's the one with the relieved smile. The 3-2 Miami City Commission vote to put the proposed Miami Freedom Park at Melreese measure on the November ballot was significant. I'd be shocked if it didn't pass, with strong support from Miami mayor Francis Suarez and with all the advertising money one envisions coming from the Beckham group as the vote nears. But hurdles remain even presuming the voters say yay, as I write in my latest column. Click on Soccer Stadium Progress, But Much Work Left to read in full. As commissioner Ken Russell said, "There's so many places this could [still] die along the way." Negotiations on the lease will be complicated, and tough. The city will be very demanding. That's the Loria Lesson. The city and county were played for fools in the Marlins Park deal, and so the due diligence on getting the best deal from Beckham/Mas will be painstaking. That will make difficult the October 2019 deadline for breaking ground on the new stadium. Missing that deadline could jeopardize the entire project and future of MLS in Miami or, at best, mean the stadium wouldn't be ready by the 2021 season (after the inaugural 2020-season home games are played at Hard Rock Stadium or Marlins Park or a combination). Wednesday was a significant step, but there remains a long way to go.

Other recent columnsReasons For Hope As Jeter Plan Takes Root (on Marlins at the break). And Beckham Group's New Theme Song: It Don't Come Easy and Let The Voters Decide (our two previous columns on Miami MLS soccer stadium debate vs. Melreese golf). Also: Why 'Melo To Miami Would Be Strange MarriageLeBron-to-Lakers A Decision Worth Applauding7 Reasons the Dolphins Could Be OK. Time to Flip the Old Narrative On Miami As a Sports TownCan Riley Rescue Heat From Purgatory? When 3 World Cup Legends Were OursEnd the Illogical Shame and Get Howard in the HallTannehill's Defining Season. And Heading For Home: An Ode to Jim Morris. (For our column page, browse MiamiHerald/GregCote).

ComboTIME MAGAZINE'S FRIGHTENING NEW COVER: It depicts a combination of Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin as one person. Click here for the story behind the cover, including a video that shows one man morphing into the other, and back. Eerie, especially in light of the Helsinki summit.

POLL RESULT: HOME RUN DERBY RULES: In a poll on our Twitter site we asked, "Which of MLB's two main midseason events do you prefer?" and, with nearly 1,000 votes cast, the Home Run Derby clobbered the All-Star Game by 71 percent to 29%. We asked the same question in a blog poll with very different results -- ASG beating HRD by 57.14% to 42.86% -- but that attracted fewer votes than any blog poll we've ever done.

OUR APSE-HONORED COLUMNSThe Associated Press Sports Editors 2018 writing awards ranked me a Top 10 national sports columnist in the major-outlet category. Thanks, APSE. Here are the nominated columns that earned the honor: At Doral, an annual tradition since 1962 is replaced by silence, and by what's missing  /  Marlins' Jose Fernandez statue is divisive yet has a chance to serve a greater purpose  /  NFL has moral obligation to help Buonicontis and Kiicks while it limits future suffering  /  What led to El Clasico Miami began with Joe Robbie's unlikely, accidental love of soccer  / With 59 home runs, Stanton still had a magic season. Just hope this wasn't goodbye.

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

July 18, 2018

All-Star Game vs. Home Run Derby. Your preference? New poll. Vote now!; plus Marlins at the break and signs of budding progress on Jeter's plan. My latest column & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

1) It's TUESDAY, JULY 17. Click on Greg Cote Tuesday for the best-of podcast from today's LeBatard Show. 2) Delight the Dolfans in your life with the surprise of our 'Fins At 50' book. Check it out here on Amazon. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot Button Top 10, your Miami MLS vs. Melreese verdict, 4-Man Outfield & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

Harper AsgPOLL: MLB ALL-STAR GAME VS. HOME RUN DERBY: Baseball is still out front with its All-Star Game, which Miami hosted a year ago, and whose 89th edition is tonight. Because of its tradition and because it matters a bit, it kicks the ass of the Pro Bowl, the NBA All-Star Game and whatever the NHL keeps tinkering with every year. But this is a reasonable poll question because the Home Run Derby is a "thing" again, revitalized by the addition of a time clock adding urgency and drama (and Monday night's edition was a good one). I personally prefer the ASG (also a good one last night; AL 8-6 in 10 innings). Don't really get everybody swooning over the Derby -- like it's so great that professional longball hitters can mash against grooved 50-mph slowballs. It's like watching a men's softball game. But I know many seem to prefer the Derby. So here's your turn. Which do you prefer? Put another way: Which would you watch of you could pick only one? Vote now:

JeterMARLINS AT THE BREAK: SMALL SIGNS OF PROGRESS ON JETER'S PLAN: I'm not overselling the progress we've seen in the past six weeks or so, when the Marlins have gone a credible 21-18 after once being 20-39. The road to where they want to be -- a playoff contender -- may take a few more years of hard travel. But we are seeing indications and signs of the right direction. As I write in my latest column: "Derek Jeter is not entitled to stand on any soapbox and crow, 'I told you so!' But he is entitled to believe he might gradually be winning some benefit of doubt on his ground-up rebuild." Critics including myself decried his offseason fire sale, the salary-dump trades of Giancarlo Stanton,Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna and Dee Gordon. But the bounty of prospects in return has restored the health of Miami's minor-league system and solidified the franchise's foundation. We are seeing the signs. The budding proof. To read in full my latest column, click Reasons For Hope As Jeter Plan Takes Root.

Other recent columns: Our two last week on the Miami MLS soccer stadium debate vs. Melreese golf: Beckham Group's New Theme Song: It Don't Come Easy and Let The Voters Decide. Also: Why 'Melo To Miami Would Be Strange MarriageLeBron-to-Lakers A Decision Worth Applauding7 Reasons the Dolphins Could Be OK. Time to Flip the Old Narrative On Miami As a Sports TownCan Riley Rescue Heat From Purgatory? When 3 World Cup Legends Were OursEnd the Illogical Shame and Get Howard in the HallTannehill's Defining Season. And Heading For Home: An Ode to Jim Morris. (For our column page, browse MiamiHerald/GregCote).

OUR APSE-HONORED COLUMNSThe Associated Press Sports Editors 2018 writing awards ranked me a Top 10 national sports columnist in the major-outlet category. Thanks, APSE. Here are the nominated columns that earned the honor: At Doral, an annual tradition since 1962 is replaced by silence, and by what's missing  /  Marlins' Jose Fernandez statue is divisive yet has a chance to serve a greater purpose  /  NFL has moral obligation to help Buonicontis and Kiicks while it limits future suffering  /  What led to El Clasico Miami began with Joe Robbie's unlikely, accidental love of soccer  / With 59 home runs, Stanton still had a magic season. Just hope this wasn't goodbye.

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

July 16, 2018

Latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated): See who won week's pitched battle for No. 1 (surprise!) and what else lands where; plus Viva La France!, MLS Miami vs. Melreese (my column, your poll verdict), 4-Man Outfield (final first half) & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

1) It's MONDAY, JULY 16. Thanks again to Ari Odzer and NBC6 for featuring us in this David Beckham/soccer report. Enjoyed it. 2) Delight the Dolfans in your life with the surprise of our 'Fins At 50' book. Check it out here on Amazon. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): MLS Miami soccer vs. Melreese golf drama and poll, Heat's interest in Carmelo Anthony, World Cup semifinals, Back In My Day video & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

BeckhamDOS COLUMNAS EN BECKHAM/MLS MIAMI: We had two columns last week on the Beckham/Mas group's continuing bid to build a stadium in Miami for their Major League Soccer expansion team. The most recent: Beckham Group's New Theme Song: It Don't Come Easy, following Thursday night's postponement of a vote whether to allow the stadium referendum on the November ballot. (David Beckham and Jorge Mas are pictured at that meeting of the Miami City Commission). And prior: Let The Voters Decide, exhorting commissioners to approve the referendum. (We also had a blogpoll on this matter. Results are below).

Other recent columnsWhy 'Melo To Miami Would Be Strange MarriageLeBron-to-Lakers A Decision Worth ApplaudingLeBron's 1 Choice to Meet His Legacy Head-OnMLS Miami Says All Are Welcome7 Reasons the Dolphins Could Be OK. And Time to Flip the Old Narrative On Miami As a Sports Town.

HOT BUTTON TOP 10 (UPDDATED): WHAT SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive every-Sunday feature, updated Mondays, is part week-in-review, part look-ahead. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, from a Miami perspective, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead. This week's HB10:

Hotbutton1. SOCCER: Major Wednesday vote to steer MLS Miami future: David Beckham and Jorge Mas will have one last shot Wednesday to convince the Miami City Commission to place the Miami Freedom Park/soccer stadium item on the November ballot. Even if voters then approved it for the Melreese golf sight, the city would have to green-light the project. Beckham's stardom and Mas' billions vs. a bunch of golf moms hardly seems fair, but Beckham/Mas aren't out of it yet.

2. WORLD CUP: Viva La France! Viva La France!: France defeated Croatia 4-2 today in Russia for the 2018 World Cup championship, after Belgium beat England 2-nil Saturday in the Game Nobody Wants, a.k.a the third-place match. As a totally impartial journalist, I was wearing a jaunty beret and shouting "Viva la France!" today vs. the dirty, shoving Croatians who thugged their way past the Brits in the semifinals thanks to a cowardly referee afraid of yellow cards. 

3. MLB: Home Run Derby, All-Star Game on deck: All-Star Week festivities rolled out Sunday at Nationals Park in D.C. with the Futures Game and all-star softball. Tonight comes the Home Run Derby, albeit a low-watt version compared to last year's sizzler at Marlins Park. (When the star sluggers pass -- talking to you, Aaron Judge -- baseball is stuck with what the NBA's Slam-Dunk Contest has become). Then Tuesday is the 89th All-Star Game, featuring Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto and a bunch of other guys.

4. HEAT: Miami woos Carmelo Anthony: Miami reportedly is pursuing likely soon-to-be-free agent Carmelo Anthony, which sounds exciting until you remind yourself he's a 34-year-old defensive liability with fitness issues coming off the worst shooting season of his career. The good news? Most seem to think he'll sign with Houston. In other news, the Heat's youthful Summer League team finished 4-4 with Saturday's loss to Boston.

5. TENNIS: Joko's wild on Championship Weekend at Wimbledon:  In Sunday's men's final Novak Djokovic dispatched little-known Kevin Anderson, who may have been too tired to lift a racket after he beat American John Isner in a grueling 26-24 fifth set semifinal. It was Djokovic's fourth Wimbledon crown and first major title in just over two years. Angelique Kerber beat Serena Williams in straight sets in Saturday's women's finale. So, to summarize, within a few days, Serena was denied a record-tying 24th career major and missed her baby's first steps.

6. DOLPHINS: Finally! Training camp is upon us!: Fins rookies report this Wednesday and veterans report a week later, with the first full-squad practice scheduled for July 26. Then we begin to see on the field who's right: A confident team convinced it is playoff-bound. Or a skeptical national media that thinks a 6-10 team has had a tough offseason and is headed for more woe. Meantime the team may move its training camp to the main stadium site beginning in 2020.

7. MARLINS: Fish slide into break with strong first-half finish: Offering up a positive spin as the Fire-Sale Fish closed the first half of the schedule Sunday here vs. the Phillies with a rally-win on an 8-run fifth inning: After starting 20-39 Miami went 21-18, five teams have worse records at the break, and the Marlins are now on pace to lose only (!) 94 games. The slow ascent from abysmal to mediocre has seldom felt better!

8. SOCCER: Ronaldo changing uniforms: Portugese star Cristiano Ronaldo, arguably the greatest active player on Earth (sorry, Messi), is taking his club-team talents from Real Madrid to Juventus on a crazy $117 million transfer fee. Juventus will pay Ronaldo $140 million over four seasons. (Um, they do realize h's 33 ... right?)

9. GOLF: Brkitish Open begins this week: Golf's next major begins this Thursday at Carnoustie. This is once again where we chew over whether Tiger Woods is finally "back" and ready to at last win his first major in 10 years, raising the volume when he shoots a solid early round, only to concede by the weekend it ain't-a gonna happen.

10. BIG3 BASKETBALL: BIG3 coming to Miami this week: Eager to see a  bunch of guys who retired from the NBA because they got too old or too slow but then decided to squeeze out that last ounce of octane in the tank? We got you covered! BIG3 basketball comes to the downtown Heat arena with four games this coming Friday night. This is where the joke goes about the Gatorade pail being filled with Geritol.

Missing the HB10 cut: John Cynn, 33, of Indianapolis, beat a field of 7,874 dreamers to win the $8.8 million grand prize in the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys, but do put a deck of cards in the crib ..... Manny Pacquiao continued to not go away by knocking out WBA welterweight champ Lucas Matthysse last night ..... It's Miami Swim Week, where a bunch of models wearing almost nothing parade around. Wait, it isn't that every week in Miami? ..... The 26th ESPY Awards are this Wednesday night in L.A. Because there just are not nearly enough awards shows! ..... The Tour de France was a lot more interesting when every stage featured PED suspensions and spent needles all over the course ..... Update. Countdown now 2,899 days (give or take) until Miami hosts its first match in the 2026 World Cup ..... Thank goodness all 13 were safely rescued from that flooded Thai cave. Currently trapped even deeper in a flooded cave but with no hope of rescue: Papa John's stock.

POLL RESULT: MOST FAVOR MELREESE SITE FOR MLS SOCCER: We asked, "What best reflects your thought on the use of city-owned land near Miami International Airport?" Three choices were offered. Your verdict: 50.17 percent voted "Build Miami Freedom Park and the new MLS soccer stadium there"; 27.27% voted "Keep Melreese golf course there as it has been since 1961': and 22.56% voted "Let Miami voters decide with a ballot referendum in November."

4manof'THE FOUR-MAN OUTFIELD' (UPDATED): STANTON ON TOP AT THE TURNThroughout the MLB season -- just for fun -- I'm comparing and updating the ongoing performances of the three Marlins outfield starters traded away during the offseason and current Marlins center fielder Lewis Brinson, the best prospect to arrive in the deals. Unfair to compare three established stars with a rookie? Boo hoo. Who said life was fair! Plus, remember: Just for fun! We base our rankings on OPS (on-base plus slugging). The updated 4-Man Outfield appears every Sunday and Monday in the blog. The latest:

Player, Team                                  OPS     G   AB   R   H   BI   D-T-HR    AVG. 

1. Giancarlo Stanton, Yankees       .864   94  371  58 103   55  18-1-23     .278

2. Christian Yelich, Brewers           .823   82  318  60  93   43  16-2-11     .292

3. Marcell Ozuna, Cardinals           .693   90 351  38  94   49   9-1-10      .268

4. Lewis Brinson, Marlins               .570   84  290  22  54   30   6-4-10     .186

OUR APSE-HONORED COLUMNSThe Associated Press Sports Editors 2018 writing awards ranked me a Top 10 national sports columnist in the major-outlet category. Thanks, APSE. Here are the nominated columns that earned the honor: At Doral, an annual tradition since 1962 is replaced by silence, and by what's missing  /  Marlins' Jose Fernandez statue is divisive yet has a chance to serve a greater purpose  /  NFL has moral obligation to help Buonicontis and Kiicks while it limits future suffering  /  What led to El Clasico Miami began with Joe Robbie's unlikely, accidental love of soccer  / With 59 home runs, Stanton still had a magic season. Just hope this wasn't goodbye.

Other select more recent columnsCan Riley Rescue Heat From Purgatory? When 3 World Cup Legends Were OursEnd the Illogical Shame and Get Howard in the HallJeter Must Restore Faith Before He Can WinTannehill's Defining SeasonHeading For Home: An Ode to Jim Morris. (For our column page, browse MiamiHerald/GregCote).

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

July 09, 2018

Latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated): See who's No.1 this week and what else falls where; plus your World Cup rooting-interest verdict, 4-Man Outfield & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

1) It's MONDAY, JULY 9. Surprise the Dolfans in your life. Give them our 'Fins At 50' book. Check it out on Amazon. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): World Cup final-8 poll, LeBron to Lakers poll, the president and the press & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

I'm back!: Missed new columns from me lately? It's because I was on vacation last week. I'll be back with a new column later today. Meantime, our most recent columns: LeBron-to-Lakers A Decision Worth Applauding. Our four other columns from the past week: LeBron's 1 Choice to Meet His Legacy Head-OnMLS Miami Says All Are Welcome7 Reasons the Dolphins Could Be OK. And Time to Flip the Old Narrative On Miami As a Sports Town).

HOT BUTTON TOP 10 (UPDATED): WHAT SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive every-Sunday feature, updated Mondays, is part week-in-review, part look-ahead. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, from a Miami perspective, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead. This week's HB10:

Hotbutton1. WORLD CUP: Unorthodox final four set to go!: It'll be neighbors France vs. Belgium on Tuesday and then England vs. Croatia on Wednesday in World Cup semifinal matches from Russia. No Brazil or anybody else from South America left. No world No. 1 Germany. Italy didn't even qualify. And no surviving team has won it all in at least 20 years. No matter the results from here, the 2018 World Cup will have been nothing if not ... refreshingly different. 

2. TENNIS: Top-seed Halep out as Wimbledon reaches midpoint: Unseeded Su-Wei Hsieh stunned No. 1-seed Simona Halelp as the forthnight at Wimbledon bounced to halftime with upsets galore on the women's side. Meantime her nanny revealed that new mom Serena Williams, still in play, missed her baby's first steps while practicing in London. Ouch. Onus now on Serena to win her first post-pregnancy major to make up for the missed milestone.

3. MARLINS: Realmuto an all-star; Fish ready to ride homestand to break: After closing victoriously at Washington Sunday the Marlins have a six-game homestand starting tonight to carry them into the midseason break for the July 17 All-Star Game. Catcher J.T. Realmuto will be the Marlins' lone representative in the ASG, selected as a reserve Sunday evening.

4. DOLPHINS: Low grade for Fins as camp nears: Oy! With Dolphins training camp poised to start in six days with rookies reporting, Miami's offseason is graded a C-minus in an ESPN ranking of how all 32 NFL teams have done. Only two teams (Carolina and Detroit) are graded lower.

5. MLB: All-Stars announced on Sunday: The selection show for the July 17 All-Star Game was last evening on ESPN. No Marlins were voted in, but catcher J.T. Reamuto made it as a reserve. Now comes a few days of baseball writers chewing over their list of top "snubs." (Bor-ring!)

6. NBA: Is LeBron-as-Laker any closer to crown?: LeBron James going to L.A. seemed a huge deal, but then champ Golden State also got better in summer free agency, and now one wonders if LeBron is any closer to what he wants now than he was in Cleveland. The answer may lie in the biggest offseason prize left: Kawhi Leonard. Will the Spurs trade him? And to whom?

7. HEAT: Miami continues in Summer League play: Quiet on the free agency front, the Heat are now 0-2 in the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas after going 2-1 in Sacramento. Miami next faces Utah on Tuesday. Derrick Jones Jr. has been tearin' it up. Um, can we even pretend we really care?

8. NASCAR: Jones survived wreck-o-rama: Erik Jones didn't so much win as survive a wreck-filled race at Daytona for his first NASCAR title. Meantime Brad Keselowski vowed to wreck blockers moving forward. By the time the race finished it felt like there'd been more yellow flags than cars left on the track. 

9. UFC: Cormier wins heavyweight title: Daniel Cormier defeated Stipe Miocic to win the heavyweight championship at UFC 226. The obvious question arising from the bout? Who on Earth names their baby boy "Stipe"?

10. THAI RESCUE: Cave rescues begin: The first four boys have been removed from that flooded cave in Thailand. A soccer team and their coach have been trapped. I just bet big that they'll be honored on the ESPY Awards. There's a wager for everything, isn't there!

Missing the HB10 cut: Scandal rocks the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest! Apparently some of the totals were suspect. No wonder. You couldn't pay me enough to judge that mess. I get nauseous just watching ..... The Big3 basketball league is back. Some things you can't stop no matter how hard you try ..... The Tour de France is underway. Gentlemen, start your PEDs? ..... The British Open is in 11 days. You know it's a slow time on the sports calendar when we're counting down to the British Open ..... Update. Countdown now 2,906 days (give or take) until Miami hosts its first match in the 2026 World Cup.

EnglandPOLL RESULT: YOUR WORLD CUP ROOTING INTEREST? ENGLAND ALL THE WAY!: With the World Cup down to its final eight teams (before the paring to four), we asked, "Which of the final eight teams do you hope wins it all?" Your results, among the four surviving teams: England with 32.89 percent, Belgium 14.91%, France 9.18% and Croatia 8.60%. Among the now-eliminated teams it was Brazil 11.47%, Uruguay 10.90%, Russia 6.12% and Sweden 5.93%. Considering it was a combined 65.58% for the surviving teams and 34.42% for the ousted ... you got the final four you wanted.

4manof'THE FOUR-MAN OUTFIELD' (UPDATED): WILL BRINSON EVER GET TO .200?Throughout the MLB season -- just for fun -- I'm comparing and updating the ongoing performances of the three Marlins outfield starters traded away during the offseason and current Marlins center fielder Lewis Brinson, the best prospect to arrive in the deals. Unfair to compare three established stars with a rookie? Boo hoo. Who said life was fair! Plus, remember: Just for fun! We base our rankings on OPS (on-base plus slugging). The updated 4-Man Outfield appears every Sunday and Monday in the blog. The latest:

Player, Team                                  OPS     G   AB   R   H   BI   D-T-HR    AVG. 

1. Giancarlo Stanton, Yankees       .852   86  337  52  90   51  17-1-21     .267

2. Christian Yelich, Brewers           .821   74  281  55  80   36  12-2-11     .285

3. Marcell Ozuna, Cardinals           .714   85 331  36  91   47   9-1-10      .275

4. Lewis Brinson, Marlins               .570   84  290  22  54   30   6-4-10     .186

OUR APSE-HONORED COLUMNSThe Associated Press Sports Editors 2018 writing awards ranked me a Top 10 national sports columnist in the major-outlet category. Thanks, APSE. Here are the nominated columns that earned the honor: At Doral, an annual tradition since 1962 is replaced by silence, and by what's missing  /  Marlins' Jose Fernandez statue is divisive yet has a chance to serve a greater purpose  /  NFL has moral obligation to help Buonicontis and Kiicks while it limits future suffering  /  What led to El Clasico Miami began with Joe Robbie's unlikely, accidental love of soccer  / With 59 home runs, Stanton still had a magic season. Just hope this wasn't goodbye.

Other select more recent columnsCan Riley Rescue Heat From Purgatory? When 3 World Cup Legends Were OursEnd the Illogical Shame and Get Howard in the HallJeter Must Restore Faith Before He Can WinTannehill's Defining SeasonHeading For Home: An Ode to Jim Morris. (For our column page, browse MiamiHerald/GregCote).

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

June 04, 2018

Latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated): See who's No. 1 and what else falls where; plus Dolphins Beef-O-Meter (Parker vs. Chambers), latest Sunday column (moral reckoning in sports), your verdict on LeBron vs. Michael, 4-Man Outfield & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

1) It's MONDAY, JUNE 4. Delight the Dolfans in your life with the perfect anytime-gift: our 'Fins At 50' book. Their reaction is sure to be: "Wait. Greg Cote wrote a BOOK!?" Click on Amazon to check it out. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): LeBron James vs. Michael Jordan poll, your verdict on NBA Finals predictions, Canes in NBA Draft, The List (NBA title droughts) & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

KaepLatest Sunday column: Sports were simple, once. No more: Kneeling protests during the national anthem continue a polarizing NFL controversy. A soccer star refuses to join the U.S. Women's National Team rather than wear an LGBT Pride Month patch. An NBA coach in the heart of Texas is outspokenly anti-Trump. Dick's Sporting Goods stops selling assault rifles. Publix donates to a candidate who is pro-NRA. More and more, who we cheer for in sports, where we shop -- everything -- now requires a moral reckoning. This is my latest column. To read, click When Sports Stopped Being All Fun & Games.

Other most recent columns: The King, Indeed: LeBron Tops Michael / Hell Week For Goodell / NFL Hiding Problem And Hoping It Goes Away / Tannehill's Defining Season / A Solution To Jeter's Impatience / Heading For Home: An Ode to Jim Morris / Confessions of a Lifelong Dolfan / Crossing the Line On American Sports' Pandering For Foreign Money.

HOT BUTTON TOP 10 (UPDATED): WHAT SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive every-Sunday feature, updated Mondays, is part week-in-review, part look-ahead. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, from a Miami perspective, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead. This week's HB10:

Hotbutton1. NBA: LeBron, Cavs in 2-0 Finals hole: Game 2 last night in Golden State offered no remedy for Cleveland in a 122-103 Cavs loss that made it a 2-0 NBA Finals, after Warriors took opener 124-114 in overtime despite LeBron James' 51 points. Next two games are in Cleveland Wednesday and Friday, with LeBron realistically needing to win both to keep hope alive. Quick thought: Steph Curry and Kevin Durant are pretty good! 

2. DOLPHINS: Mandatory minicamp on deck for Fins: Dolphins continue offseason work with a mandatory minicamp this Tuesday through Thursday. Meantime the team signed four draft picks including No. 1 guy Minkah Fitzpatrick and bestowed upon cornerback Bobby McCain a four-year, $27 million extension including $13 million guaranteed. Not bad for a nickelback who comes off the bench. Call the position millionback now.

3. MARLINS: Reeling Fish planning 25th Anniversary Weekend: The reeling Fire-Sale Fish are 20-39 after six straight losses and nine L's in past 10 games as they continue on a 10-game road trip. Team returns next Saturday and Sunday for a 25th Anniversary Weekend. That presumes there are any Marlins fan out there, even one, in a celebratory mood.

4. NHL: Washington takes 2-1 Finals lead: Saturday night's 3-1 Capitals win put Washington up 2-1 over Vegas as the Stanley Cup Finals stays in D.C. for Game 4 on Monday. The expansion Golden Knights are now scrambling. One more loss and Cinderella is on life support.

5. TENNIS: French Open loses Serena to injury: While Rafael Nadal rolls on to what seems a sure spot in the men's final, the women's side on Monday saw Serena Williams withdraw with an arm injury ahead of her quarterfinal match with rival Maria Sharapova. Lucky break for Maria. Williams has dominated the rivalry, winning of 19 of 21 matches. But this was the first time Serena would have faced Sharapova as a New Mommy.

6. HORSES: Justify goes for Triple Crown in 5 days: The Belmont Stakes is next Saturday, with Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Justify a prohibitive 4-5 favorite to win the Triple Crown. After not having had a Triple Crown champ since 1978, Justify would be the sport's second in four years, after American Pharoah in 2015. Justify has dominated in rain on mud. Clear skies may be the field's  best hope.

7. SOCCER: Countdown 10 days 'til World Cup: The month-long men's World Cup begins June 14 in Russia, with Germany (7-2 odds) and Brazil (4-1) the favorites, followed by France and Spain (both 6-1) and Argentina (13-2). Italy shockingly did not qualify. Neither did the U.S., although I'll be chanting "Let's Gooooo States!" anyway, in protest.

8. MLB: Annual draft on deck: The Miami Marlins select 13th overall in the annual MLB Draft this Monday through Wednesday. The NBA draft has two rounds. The NFL draft has seven. Baseball has 40! Um, if you're drafted in, like, the 38th round ... is that something you brag about or reluctantly admit?

9. BRYAN COLANGELO: 76ers exec mired in Twitter scandal: Answer: The 76ers' president of basketball operations reportedly kept several secret Twitter accounts he used to anonymously defend himself, criticize his own players and take shots at other NBA executives. Question: What's the best simplest way to ruin your reputation and possibly get fired in 140 characters or less?

10. SPELLING: A feeling of koinonia for Karthik: Karthik Nemmani, 14, of McKinney, Tex., won the 91st annual Scripps National Spelling Bee by correctly spelling koinonia, which means "an intimate spiritual communion." The son of an immigrant from India, Karthik's win continues a spelling bee dominance by children of Indian descent over the past two decades. "I wonder why that is," said the kid who is not a son of immigrants as he played Grand Theft Auto for the 6,000th time.

Missing the HB10 cut: MLB All-Star voting has begun. Why!? ..... The annual Fins Weekend of golf and fishing was Saturday, another chance to hear klng-retired former Dolphins gripe about lack of benefits ..... Johnny Manziel made his CFL preseason debut. Not sure if that says more about the state of Canadian football, or of Manziel ..... It's the Memorial this week as Tiger Woods continues to not win golf tournaments.

DpDOLPHINS BEEF-O-METER: DEVANTE PARKER VS. CHRIS CHAMBERS: So foremr Dolphins receiver Chris Chambers goes on Ethan Skolnick and Chris Wittyngham's Five Reasons podcast and ranks DeVante Parker (pictured) the third best current Fins receiver, after Kenny Stills and Albert Wilson. The oft-injured Parker was lucky. Chambers could have had him fourth, after Danny Amendola, too. Anyway, Parker gets angry, Tweets that nobody cares what Chambers thinks.  OK. For what it's worth, a per-game comparison of Chambers' 100-game Dolphins career and Parker's 43-game Miami career thus far:

Player                        Receptions   Yards      TDS per game

Chris Chambers             4.05           56.88     0.43

DeVante Parker             3.23           44.37     0.19

Note: Chambers averaged 14.0 yards per catch to Parker's 13.7. Chambers made one Pro Bowl to Parker's zero.

POLL RESULTS: SURPRISE! IT'S LEBRON OVER MICHAEL: Rarely am I surprised by the result of one of our blogpolls, but this surprised me. I asked, "What best reflects your opinion on who should be considered the greatest NBA player of all time?" And it was 47.74 percent for LeBron James vs. 30.04% for Michael Jordan. Another 16.46% voted "Still Michael, but LeBron narrowing gap," while 5.76% voted "Neither; someone else."

4manof'THE FOUR-MAN OUTFIELD' (UPDATED): BRINSON TOPS .160!: Throughout the MLB season -- just for fun -- I'm comparing and updating the ongoing performances of the three Marlins outfield starters traded away during the offseason and current Marlins center fielder Lewis Brinson, the best prospect to arrive in the deals. Unfair to compare three established stars with a rookie? Boo hoo. Who said life was fair! Plus, remember: Just for fun! We base our rankings on OPS (on-base plus slugging). The updated 4-Man Outfield appears every Sunday and Monday in the blog. The latest:

Player, Team                                  OPS     G   AB   R   H   BI   D-T-HR    AVG. 

1. Christian Yelich, Brewers       .846   48  188   36  56   26   8-2-7      .298

2. Giancarlo Stanton, Yankees    .800   54 210  35  52   31  10-1-12      .248

3. Marcell Ozuna, Cardinals        .697   53 206  22  56   28   6-0-5      .272

4. Lewis Brinson, Marlins            .492   57  198  12  32   19    3-0-7     .162

OUR APSE CONTEST-HONORED COLUMNSThe Associated Press Sports Editors 2018 writing awards ranked me the No. 5 national sports columnist in the major-outlet category. Thanks, APSE. Here are the nominated columns that earned the honor: At Doral, an annual tradition since 1962 is replaced by silence, and by what's missing  /  Marlins' Jose Fernandez statue is divisive yet has a chance to serve a greater purpose  /  NFL has moral obligation to help Buonicontis and Kiicks while it limits future suffering  /  What led to El Clasico Miami began with Joe Robbie's unlikely, accidental love of soccer  / With 59 home runs, Stanton still had a magic season. Just hope this wasn't goodbye.

For all of our more recent columns, browse MiamiHerald/GregCote.

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

May 14, 2018

Latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated): See who's No.1 and what else falls where; plus confessions of a lifelong Dolphins fan. My column, with vintage photos from boyhood; also your verdict on U.S. teams playing abroad & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

Moms1) It's MONDAY, MAY 14. Hope you moms out there had a lovely Mother's Day! We enjoyed a group brunch at Vienna Cafe and it was terrific. The bottomless Bloody Marys and Mimosas didn't hurt. 2) By the way, saw James Taylor at the BB&T last week and he was great. A genuine dude and one of the best voices around. 3) Astonish and thrill the Dolfans in your life with our 'Fins At 50' book. Their reaction is sure to be: "Wait. Greg Cote wrote a BOOK!?" Click on Amazon to check it out. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Exporting games outside U.S. with poll, Adam Gase's big gamble, latest Back In My Day, state sports' Twitter reach, your inspiring-most-optimism verdict & more. 5) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

"Happy birthday, Michael! Love you!," said father Greg Cote to his youngest son.

Auer GrieseCONFESSIONS OF A LIFELONG DOLPHINS FAN ... ME: Readers who find me too critical of the Dolphins may find it surprising, but I grew up a diehard fan of the team. I am still a Dolphins fan at the core. I don't think you ever outgrow what you loved as a kid, and what hooked you on Program Pennantsports. I just happen to have grown up to be a Miami Herald sports columnist who writes about the team he adored as a boy. This is the topic of my very unusual, very personal latest column. To read it in full, click Confessions of a Lifelong Dolfan. I think anybody whose fandom dates to the expansion years, or at least predates Dan Marino, will especially relate. I detail the fan I was and how it started. The four photos here harken to those early days. Left to right: The program from the team's first-ever home game, an exhibition in August 1966; a Dolphins pennant identical to the white one that hung on my bedroom wall; a (very) young Bob Griese appearing in a magazine ad for Velda Farms milk; and a Joe Auer Royal Castle player card. In the column I also write about how that fandom informs the way I think about the team now, a fan's sensibility factoring into the frustration I feel over the prolonged, continuing downturn of the franchise's fortunes.

Other most recent columns: Adam Gase Places His Bets / Crossing the Line On American Sports' Pandering For Foreign Money / Burden Is On Team, Not Player It Chose.

HOT BUTTON TOP 10 (UPDATED): WHAT SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive every-Sunday feature, updated Mondays (and back after a week's hiatus), is part week-in-review, part look-ahead. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, from a Miami perspective, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead. This week's HB10:

Hotbutton1. NBA: LeBron struggles in Game 1 loss at Celtics: LeBron James may have expected the customary warm greeting from kind Boston fans Sunday (!), but bet he didn't expect a humbling 15-point game on 5-for-16 shooting  as the Cavaliers gor routed 108-83 in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference best-of-seven finals. Houston and Golden State open the Western finals tonight. The pretenders (talking to you, Toronto and Philly) are back on the couch and the NBA has the Final Four we all figured would happen while teams like the Heat ponder how to get that good.

2. DOLPHINS: Rookie minicamp begins offseason work: Dolphins on Saturday completed a two-day rookie indoctrination for first-year guys led by top  draft pick Minkah Fitzpatrick. Full team practice days happened May 22-24 and 29-31 with a June 5-7 mandatory minicamp ahead of full training camp. Coach Adam Gase likes his team. Others, not so much, with ESPN's No. 30 ranking of Miami indicative of low regard from the outside. Somebody's wrong here.

3. MARLINS: Fish back to earth, still in cellar: After a brief hot streak the Fire-Sale Fish are 14-26 after Sunday's loss as a seven-game homestand continues Tuesday vs. the Dodgers. One Marlin player looking through rose-colored shades said the other day Miami would "continue to shock the world." Continue? When are they going to start!? 

4. NHL: Capitals, Jets out front in final four: While the Panthers watch, the W's have it so far in NHL's Eastern and Western conference finals, with Washington up 2-0 over Tampa Bay and Winnipeg up 1-0 over Vegas. From the West will come the more compelling story, with either Winnipeg having a shot to win Canada's first Stanley Cup since 1993 or Vegas making the Finals as an expansion team.

5. GOLF: Simpson wins Players with ease: At The Players Championship outside Jacksonville, golf's fifth major to some, Tiger Woods shot 65-69 on the weekend. That's the good news, Tigerheads. The bad? He finished seven shots off the lead because Webb Simpson ran away with the damned tournament, winning by four strokes. 

6. MLB: Yankees-Red Sox headed for London: The scourge of a trend -- American teams exporting meaningful games abroad -- crossed a line this week when MLB announced the Yankees and Red Sox would play two regular season games in London in 2019. The crown-jewel rivalry of America's Pastime should be played in Boston or Da Bronx. Period. Am I alone on that?

7. UM BASEBALL: Hot Canes win eighth in a row!: The once-sinking Hurricanes are now 25-25 and on a season-best eight-game winning streak after completing a series sweep Sunday at Virginia Tech. If Canes continue to finish strong and then impress in the upcoming ACC Tournament, they may have a chance to sneak into an NCAA regional after all in Jim Morris' final season.

8. SOCCER: Real Madrid, Liverpool reach big final: Club titans Real Madrid and Liverpool will meet May 26 in Kiev, Ukraine for the UEFA Champions League crown after both won semifinals. The Spain vs. England final reprises the same matchup from 1981, won 1-nil by Liverpool. Real Madrid is the (very slight) favorite this time.

9. HORSE RACING: Justify readies for Preakness: Countdown five days 'til Saturday's 143rd Preakness Stakes at Pimlico, and Kentucky Derby winner Justify is an early 1-2 betting favorite to make it two-thirds of the way to thoroughbred racing's Triple Crown. What's more impressive: A horse winning a Triple Crown? Or Mr. Ed being able to talk?

10. MOTHER'S DAY: Happy your-day to all the great Moms!: Love and respect and best wishes to all of the great Moms out there. Not to the lousy ones who never shoulda had kids. But to  the great ones! Hope y'all had a wonderful day.

 Missing the HB10 cut: The Hot Button Top 10 is happy to be back after a holiday last week in Montreal spent soaking up the history and culture and mostly drinking beer ..... The NBA draft lottery is this Tuesday. Agents are already counting their money ..... Albert Pujols collected his 3,000th hit. It's axiomatic. The more who do it, the less special it becomes ..... Amanda Nunes retained her bantamweight title by whuppin' Raquel Pennington in UFC 224 last night in Rio de Janeiro. Or, UFC CCXXIV to our Roman readers.

4manof'THE FOUR-MAN OUTFIELD': STANTON SURGINGThroughout the MLB season -- just for fun -- I'm comparing and updating the ongoing performances of the three Marlins outfield starters traded away during the offseason and current Marlins center fielder Lewis Brinson, the best prospect to arrive in the deals. Unfair to compare three established stars with a rookie? Boo hoo. Who said life was fair! Plus, remember: Just for fun! We base our rankings on OPS (on-base plus slugging). The updated 4-Man Outfield appears every Sunday and Monday in the blog. The latest:

Player, Team                                  OPS     G   AB   R   H   BI   D-T-HR    AVG. 

1. Giancarlo Stanton, Yankees    .855   40 155  28  39   26   9-1-10      .252

2. Christian Yelich, Brewers       .783   29  115   17  33   14   5-1-3      .287

3. Marcell Ozuna, Cardinals        .658   36 151  12  40   20   5-0-3      .265

4. Lewis Brinson, Marlins            .522   38  134  10  23   13    2-0-5     .172

POLL RESULT: MOST AGAINST EXPORTING AMERICAN GAMES ABROAD: We asked, "With Yankees-Red Sox in London next year the latest example, what best represents your view of U.S. sports leagues playing meaningful games in foreign countries?" Your verdict: 55.38 percent against it, 32.31% for it, 7.69% were for it but think it's gone overboard, and 4.62% undecided.

OUR APSE CONTEST-HONORED COLUMNSThe Associated Press Sports Editors writing contest ranked me the No. 5 national sports columnist in the major-outlet category. Thanks, APSE. Here are the nominated columns that earned the honor: At Doral, an annual tradition since 1962 is replaced by silence, and by what's missing  /  Marlins' Jose Fernandez statue is divisive yet has a chance to serve a greater purpose  /  NFL has moral obligation to help Buonicontis and Kiicks while it limits future suffering  /  What led to El Clasico Miami began with Joe Robbie's unlikely, accidental love of soccer  / With 59 home runs, Stanton still had a magic season. Just hope this wasn't goodbye.

For all of our recent columns: MiamiHerald/GregCote.

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

April 16, 2018

G2: Heat @ 76ers: Tonight or forget it. Will Miami show up?; plus latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated). See who's No. 1 and what else falls where; also, 4-Man Outfield update (Brinson at .131) & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

1) It's MONDAY, APRIL 16. Jackie Robinson dissolved baseball's color barrier 71 years ago yesterday. 2) Surprise and delight the Dolfans in your life with our 'Fins At 50' book. Click on Amazon to check it out. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Heat-Sixers Game 1 and playoff preview, your confidence-level verdict, The List, 4-Man Outfield update & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

G2: HEAT @ SIXERS: MUST-WIN FOR MIAMI? NOT LITERALLY, BUT YES REALISTICALLY: Still no Joel Embiid for Philly, yet Heat are a 7-point underdog tonight in Game 2 of their NBA first- Miaphiround playoff series after being shellacked 130-103 in Game 1 Saturday. This is the 34th seven-game series in Miami franchise history, and the weight of Game 1 is clear. The 18 times Miami has G2won the opener, it is 15-3 on advancing. The 15 times it has lost the opener, it is 7-8 on advancing. But four of those advances from 0-1 were in the Big 3 era; today's is obviously not an especially strong Heat team, just a resourceful one with a deep bench. The onus tonight is on Erik Spoelstra to make adjustments that give his Heat a chance. That starts with better perimeter defense against the Sixers' 3's. It also depends on much better efforts and results from everybody but the one guy who played well Saturday, Kelly Olynyk. Time for Miami's "Culture" to show up in the battle with Philly's "Process." The fundamentals that Spoelstra relies on -- defense and effort -- need to arise in full tonight or Miami will limp home in an 0-2 crater.   

My Heat playoff columns: The Dolphins thought they'd retake Miami when LeBron left, but the Heat, back in the playoffs, have other ideas. Click In Dolphins vs. Heat, Only One Has Earned Our Trust. Also, I foolishly daringly picked Miami to win in six games. For that column: The Rise Of The Underdog Heat.

HOT BUTTON TOP 10 (UPDATED): WHAT SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive every-Sunday feature, updated Mondays, is part week-in-review, part look-ahead. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, from a Miami perspective, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead. This week's HB10:

Hotbutton1. HEAT/NBA: Heat get clobbered in Game 1 as playoffs underway: Ouch. Oy. Miami got spanked 130-103 by the 76ers in Philly last night, with Game 2 back up there tonight/Monday. Kelly Olynyk showed up big off the bench for Miami; everybody else pretty much disappeared. It's early, but our series pick (Heat in six games) has been rushed to the emergency room. First the Eagles win the Super Bowl, then Villanova wins the NCAA Tournament, now this. Don't get greedy, Philly!

2. DOLPHINS: Amendola sounds off as draft nears: We're 10 days until the draft's first round, so before we get fully immersed in that, new Fins receiver Danny Amendola tells ESPN that his former Pats boss, Bill Belichick, is both a brilliant coach and a person who could be "an a-hole sometimes." Um, Danny, doesn't that sorta go without saying on both counts?

3. MARLINS: B.V.I. Fish ready to visit Yanks, Stanton: After closing out a home set with the Pirates on Sunday (another loss, of course), the British Virgin Islands Marlins travel to New York for Monday and Tuesday games vs. the Yankees and Giancarlo Stanton. Marlins dismantler-in-chief Derek Jeter said it would be "awkward" for him to be in Yankee Stadium so he won't make the trip. What, like it isn't awkward for him to be at Marlins Park, too?

4. HURRICANES: Spring Game fails to settle QB battle: The quarterback race remains open although with Malik Rosier out front and the defensive line dominated the offensive line, if you want a capsule synopsis of Saturday's football Spring Game at Hard Rock Stadium. Other big college programs sell out their Spring Games, while UM 's drew only around 12,000 fans. If that. You know why? Because Miamians are smarter than everybody else. Bulletin: A Spring Game doesn't count. It's a glorified practice. See ya in September.

5. NHL: Panthers extinct (again) as playoffs underway: Florida finished ninth in the scrum for eight Eastern playoffs spots, but the fight for Lord Stanley's cup is on, anyway. Nashville, Tampa Bay and old-guard Boston are the betting favorites going in, but wouldn't it be fun if the expansion Las Vegas Golden Knights won it all!? Already picturing a float full of waving Elvis impersonators in the victory parade.

6. SOCCER: Neat contrast in Champions League semifinals: The UEFA Champions League is down to four teams as the first leg of the semifinals looms April 24-25. In the upstart division: Liverpool vs. Roma. And in the heavyweight division: Bayern Munich vs. Real Madrid. The only real Cinderella? Associazione Sportiva RomaI Giallorossi = La Lupa = La Magica. Roma!

7. GOLF: Tiger commits to U.S. Open: He was encouraged by a credible showing in this month's Masters with a 1-over tie for 32nd, including a finishing 69. Now Tiger Woods says he'll play in the 118th U.S. Open June 14-17 in New York. Tiger has won three U.S. Opens and the one way back in 2008 was his last major title. Time for another, Eldrick?

8. UM BASEBALL: Will Clemson series be needed spark?: The Canes are limping with a 15-20 record but were encouraged to take two of three on the road at No. 8-ranked Clemson over the weekend. UM will take a spark anywhere it can find one as it tries to salvage Jim Morris' swansong season.

9. NFL: Cowboys release star receiver Dez Bryant: Dallas rather abruptly cut Dez this week. Yes, and other than his age, injuries, diminishing production, huge salary and itinerant attitude issues, it was a real shock!

10. MLB: Two-way sensation Ohtani continues to wow: The Angels' Japanese star Shohei Ohtani enters Sunday play hitting .367 with three homers and a 1.191 OPS, and is 2-0 pitching with a 2.08 ERA and 18-2 on strikeouts/walks ratio. Mike Trout? Who?

Missing the HB10 cut: Quick. Somebody check on Conor McGregor. Getting worried. Been several days since he's done anything stupid ..... Dancing With The Stars announced an all-athletes lineup for its 26th season, including Adam Rippon, Josh Norman, Johnny Damon and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The must-watch factor? A chance to hopefully see Tonya Harding fall on her a-- in humiliated defeat ..... PGA Tour golfer Kelly Kraft missed the cut because his tee shot hit a bird. He'd have still made the cut had more of his other shots hit birdies ..... WNBA draft was held. Details when available ..... Free-agent QB Mark Sanchez was suspended four games for performance-enhancing drugs. Dear Mark: They ain't workin'!

4manofUPDATED: 'THE FOUR-MAN OUTFIELD': BRINSON DOWN TO .131: Throughout the MLB season -- just for fun -- I'm comparing and updating the ongoing performances of the three Marlins outfield starters traded away during the offseason and current Marlins center fielder Lewis Brinson, the best prospect to arrive in the deals. Unfair to compare three established stars with a rookie? Boo hoo. Who said life was fair! Plus, remember: Just for fun! We'll base our continually updated rankings on OPS (on-base plus slugging). Early days, but Brinson is really struggling, while Yelich remains sidelined by an oblique (abdominal) issue. The latest, entering Monday play:

Player, Team                             OPS     G   AB   R   H   BI   D-T-HR    AVG. 

1. Christian Yelich, Brewers        .984   6   26    6  10    5    2-0-1      .385

2. Giancarlo Stanton, Yankees     .761  14  59    8  13   10   3-1-3      .220

3. Marcell Ozuna, Cardinals        .703   15  66    6  19   10   2-0-2      .288

4. Lewis Brinson, Marlins            .316   15  61    3   8    1    0-0-0      .131

OUR APSE CONTEST-HONORED COLUMNSThe Associated Press Sports Editors writing contest ranked me the No. 5 national sports columnist in the major-outlet category. Thanks, APSE. Here are the nominated columns that earned the honor: At Doral, an annual tradition since 1962 is replaced by silence, and by what's missing  /  Marlins' Jose Fernandez statue is divisive yet has a chance to serve a greater purpose  /  NFL has moral obligation to help Buonicontis and Kiicks while it limits future suffering  /  What led to El Clasico Miami began with Joe Robbie's unlikely, accidental love of soccer  / With 59 home runs, Stanton still had a magic season. Just hope this wasn't goodbye.

Select additional columns: Recent: Buy Me Some Tetley's And Crumpets, Jack / Tiger & Phil & the Emotional Power Of Sports / The Case For Gronk to Dolphins / Dave Shula Goes Home Again / Others: Marlins' Ballpark Experience Only Missing One Thing / Gore Continues Dolphins' Strange Offseason / Wayne Huizenga: A Legacy Indelible Serena Fighting Her Career Sunset. And She Has Company / Canes QB Battle One Of Strength, Not Desperation / Don't Shut Up, Get Louder / Top 25 Miami Sports Figures For 2018 / Jeter's Shameful Decimation Of Marlins Overshadows Season / Our two on the Parkland tragedy: MSD On Their Jerseys, A Community In Their Hearts and Sports Mourns. We All Mourn, Then Wait For The Next Tragedy While Leaders Do Nothing / Our Dwyane Wade homecoming trilogy: Only 3 Points, But He Owned The NightHeat Have Big Plans For Wade 2.0 and Welcome Home, D.Wade / Also: Dear Canton: Call Zach. Farewell, RubinBeckham's Dream Becomes A TeamWhen Victims Seize The PowerThe Godfather SpeaksRegret, Tears & a Legacy's Dark Shadow. Thank You, Edwin Pope.

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

April 04, 2018

On Dave Shula's long journey back to coaching after 21 years; plus new feature comparing ongoing seasons of Stanton/Yelich/Ozuna with Marlins' Lewis Brinson (new leader); also, latest Back In My Day video, my final NCAA bracket & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

Mexico1) It's WEDNESDAY, APRIL 4. At right, sign on a Mexican restaurant that just opened in Norway. 2) Surprise and delight the Dolfans in your life with our 'Fins At 50' book. Click on Amazon or Barnes & Noble to check it out. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot Button Top 10, NCAA bracket update, your Marlins-outlook verdict, "Dear Greg" & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

DaveshulaNewest column: Dave Shula ends long estrangement from coaching: He'd been out of coaching since the Cincinnati Bengals unceremoniously fired him midseason in 1996, now Don Shula's eldest son (pictured) is back. To read, click on Dave Shula Goes Home Again. Other most recent columns: On Opening Day: Marlins' Ballpark Experience Only Missing One Thing and Marlins 2018: Accentuating The Positives (Sort Of) / On NCAA Final Four: Centenarian vs. Nonagenarian and Larranaga On Being Cinderella / And on Fins: Gore Continues Dolphins' Strange Offseason.

NEW 'BACK IN MY DAY': VIDEO GAMES!: Here's the latest Back In My Day video, which aired for the first time on Tuesday's LeBatard Show on ESPN Radio and ESPNews. It is not my favorite, especially on the heels of an all-timer (Pocket Change!), the week before. Still hope you enjoy it:

4manof NEW REGULAR FEATURE! 'THE FOUR-MAN OUTFIELD': Throughout the MLB season starting here -- just for fun -- I'll be comparing and updating the ongoing performances of the three Marlins outfield starters traded away during the offseason and current Marlins center fielder Lewis Brinson, the best prospect to arrive in the deals. Unfair, you say, to compare a superstar and two established stars with a rookie? Boo hoo. And who said life was fair again!? Plus, remember: Just for fun! We'll based on our continually updated rankings on OPS (on-base plus slugging). The latest:

Player, Team                             OPS     G   AB   R   H   BI   D-T-HR    AVG. 

Yelich1. Christian Yelich, Brewers       1.111   5   23    6  10    5    2-0-1      .435

2. Giancarlo Stanton, Yankees    .979    5   19    4   4    4    2-0-2      .211

3. Marcell Ozuna, Cardinals        .636    5   22    2   5    4    1-0-1      .227

4. Lewis Brinson, Marlins            .499    6   31    3   7    1    0-0-0      .226

VitaleNCAA BRACKET UPDATE: MY FINAL RESULT: We've been updating you on how our bracket was faring in the invitation-only LeBatard & Friends pool at ESPN.com. There were 131 entries, and I ended up in 10th place. Not bad!:

Final Four -- After a five-day break the Madness crescendoed with the Final Four on Saturday: No. 3 Michigan rallying to beat No. 11 Loyola-Cinderella and then No. 1 Villanova crushing No. 1 Kansas. I had no teams in the first game and both in the second, with Villanova winning it all. Was hoping a 'Nova win Monday night could get me in the pool's final top 10 or close to it, and it did just that. [See earlier blogposts for our results preceding the Elite Eight round]

OUR APSE CONTEST-HONORED COLUMNSThe Associated Press Sports Editors writing contest that had placed me top-10 among national columnists for 2017 in the major-outlet category has revealed the order and I ended up No. 5. Congrats to the winner, Vahe Gregorian of the Kansas City Star, and thanks to APSE. I'm pleased by the top-five. Here are our nominated columns that earned the honor: At Doral, an annual tradition since 1962 is replaced by silence, and by what's missing  /  Marlins' Jose Fernandez statue is divisive yet has a chance to serve a greater purpose  /  NFL has moral obligation to help Buonicontis and Kiicks while it limits future suffering  /  What led to El Clasico Miami began with Joe Robbie's unlikely, accidental love of soccer  / With 59 home runs, Stanton still had a magic season. Just hope this wasn't goodbye.

Select additional columns: Wayne Huizenga: A Legacy Indelible Serena Fighting Her Career Sunset. And She Has Company / Canes QB Battle One Of Strength, Not Desperation / Brutal Honesty On the State Of the Dolphins Don't Shut Up, Get Louder / Top 25 Miami Sports Figures For 2018 / Tiger Still Best Thing In Golf, But Reasons Why Have Changed / Jeter's Shameful Decimation Of Marlins Overshadows Season / Our two on the Parkland tragedy: MSD On Their Jerseys, A Community In Their Hearts and Sports Mourns. We All Mourn, Then Wait For The Next Tragedy While Leaders Do Nothing / Our Dwyane Wade homecoming trilogy: Only 3 Points, But He Owned The NightHeat Have Big Plans For Wade 2.0 and Welcome Home, D.Wade / Also: Richt Building Something Big & Something To LastDear Canton: Call Zach. Farewell, RubinBeckham's Dream Becomes A TeamWhen Victims Seize The PowerThe Godfather SpeaksRegret, Tears & a Legacy's Dark Shadow. Thank You, Edwin Pope.

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote