July 17, 2018

Poll: All-Star Game vs. Home Run Derby. Which do you prefer? 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 last night's edition was a good one). I personally prefer the ASG. 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 new 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

January 15, 2018

Latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated): A No. 1 that hasn't been there for awhile, and what else falls where; plus how we did on our NFL playoff picks, latest troika of columns & more

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

Mlk1) It's MONDAY, JANUARY 15. It  is Martin Luther King Jr. Day in America and I wold dare say that, these days, his life's mission and fight for racial equality is a a cause as vital as ever, and worth supporting and carrying forward against insidious resistance. 2) Whoa, Nellie! R.I.P., Keith Jackson, gone at 89. 2) Click on Amazon or Barnes & Noble to check out Fins At 50, our Dolphins book. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): NFL Divisional-Round playoff picks, The List: Dolphins 1st-round picks ranked top to bottom, your verdict on Fins moving past Tannehill, Alabama's recent run in perspective & more. 4Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

Our week's troika of latest columns: Call him Sasha. Call him Barky. Call him the future, the best hope for leading the Panthers back to relevance; click And Barkov Shall Lead Them to read. On the surreal reappearance of Tonya Harding; click No Way to Escape Her Shame. And on the Dolphins moving beyond Ryan Tannehill; click Are the Fins Feeling Bold?

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, but from a Miami perspective, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead. This week's HB10:

Hot1. HEAT: Sizzlin' Heat win 7th in a row!: Dion Waiters may be done for the year, but without him Miami has won a season-high seven games in a row after Sunday's home win over Milwaukee. As a five-game road trip begins today at Chicago the Heat has climbed to fourth in the East -- and closing in on third-place Cleveland. Heat is now 55-28 the last half of last season and first half of this one. Um, can we start the playoffs now?
 
2. NFL: It's Patriots-Jaguars, Eagles-Vikings for AFC, NFC crowns: Two wild games Sunday -- Jags over Steelers 45-42 and Vikes over Saints 29-24 on a miracle finish -- completed the Divisional Round playoffs and set New-England-Jacksonville and Philadelphia-Minnesota as the two games that will be play-ins for the Super Bowl. So, yes, three of the last four QB standing are Case Keenum, Nick Foles and Blake Bortles. Meantime the Dolphins' contribution to the NFL conversation the past week was disgraced former assistant Chris Foerster admitting he'd done cocaine a week straight at the time of that leaked video. Line coach, indeed!
 
3. UM BASKETBALL: Canes men host Duke in big ACC test: No. 18 Miami hosts Mike Krzyzewski's No. 7 Duke Blue Devils Monday night in a game that will help shape the Atlantic Coast Conference race as March Madness draws ever nearer. Duke is 15-2 and Miami 13-3, but both already have two losses in ACC play. Duke once owned this series but Miami is 5-3 vs. the Diablos Azul ever since Jim Larranaga took over as coach in 2011-12 -- including two straight UM wins in the Gables.
 
4. PANTHERS: Week to celebrate young, old as Cats chase playoffs: Fans are thrilled that rising star and team centerpiece Aleksander "Sasha" Barkov will rep Florida in the NHL All-Star Game later this month. Meantime as play resumes this coming Friday the Panthers will honor Wayne Huizenga, 80, the franchise's founding owner. One man is the main reason the team is here. The man is the main reason there is hope for its future.
 
5. TENNIS: Australian Open opens with Venus 1st major upset: Spaniard Rafael Nadal and Romania's Simona Halep are the No. 1 men's and women's seeds as the year's first tennis Grand Slam event got underway in Melbourne. Halep, 26, is most known for having breast-reduction surgery but is yet to win her first major. So it's "Win Or Bust"? Meanwhile Venus Williams was upset on Day 1 as American women went 0-for-8.
 
6. GOLF: PGA Tour event in midst of missile-attack false alarm: The low-watt Sony Open was going on in Honolulu Saturday when when the (erroneous) news broke a ballistic missile was headed to Hawaii. Tournament leader Tom Hoge never got the text. He was entranced watching college basketball in his hotel room. 
 
7. BASEBALL: Strong get stronger as Astros get Cole: The reigning World Series champ Houston Astros added Pirates ace Gerrit Cole in a five-player trade Saturday. If all the other teams just conceded the 2018 crown to the Astros, imagine how much would be save in travel expenses?
 

8. BROADCASTING: Icon Keith Jackson dies at 89: The man who brought homespun charm to college football for decades has lapsed to memory. Farewell, Mr. Jackson, and R.I.P. I'm sure it won't but wouldn't it be perfect if his tombstone read: Whoa, Nellie!

9. OLYMPICS: New 'I, Tonya' movie resurrects 1994 skating scandal: Tonya Harding's goons clubbed rival Nancy  Kerrigan's knee 24 years ago, and now Harding is doing the promotional tour for the new movie that seeks to reboot her in a sympathetic way. You can't outrun your shame, sad Tonya.

10. MARLINS: Spring training now one month away: With the decimated Fish opening spring training Feb. 14, Starlin Castro has become the latest player to want out as new owner Derek Jeter severely cuts the player payroll. If only Marlins could demand to be traded.

Missing the HB10 cut: LiAngelo and LaMelo Ball were held scoreless in their second pro game in Lithuania. Ain't it great! ..... The Cavaliers slump has LeBron James beside himself. Ain't it even greater! ..... They're still partying in Tuscaloosa. Wait. They're always partying in Tuscaloosa ..... U.S. Army is contesting the NHL Las Vegas team's Golden Knights nickname. If Army paratroopers start dropping on the arena, then be worried ..... Headline: 'UFC is headed to Russia for first time ever'. My reaction: UM, can they stay there, please? ..... Dolphins hosted the 7th annual Dade vs. Broward football high-school All-Star Game, won by Dade. Many of the competing players will emulate their Dolphins heroes by also going on to pro careers that rarely ever end up in the playoffs.

FripixRESULTS ON OUR NFL DIVISIONAL-ROUND PLAYOFF PICKS: We missed both of Sunday's games straight-up (thanks Marcus Williams!), but had better fortune against the spread. Had Jags with the points at Pittsburgh, and Vikes by five was a push. For the round we were 1-3 straight-up and 2-1-1 ATS. On Saturday, we owned the Patriots' 35-14 win, calling it 31-13, but saw the favored Falcons taking care of business and blew that one. I thought the two AFC games were pretty simple, clear-cut picks, but the two NFC games I wrestled with. Divisional-Round Gems for all our second-round pick as the Super Bowl Tournament continues now with the Final Four -- King Sport-style.

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

Twitter @gregcote

January 06, 2018

Last day to vote! What was Miami/South Florida's biggest sports story of 2017? Annual poll. Our 18 finalists, you pick top 6. Vote now; plus your biggest-national-story verdict, our NFL playoff picks & more

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

1) It's SATURDAY, JANUARY 6. A happy birthday to Dolphins icon Don Shula, who turned 88 Thursday. Here's to many more! 2) Click on Amazon or Barnes & Noble to check out Fins At 50, our Dolphins book. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Annual national-sports-story-of-the year poll, final SOPY standings, latest Back In My Day video, R.I.P. Mae Riback & more. 4Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

WHAT WAS MIAMI/SOUTH FLORIDA'S BIGGEST SPORTS STORY OF 2017?We had it easy in 2016 with three stories that clearly stood out above the rest, although two made us sad. You voted the Miami17tragic death of Jose Fernandez the biggest story of the year, followed by the Dolphins ending their eight-year playoff drought and then Dwyane Wade leaving the Heat. Nothing else was close. But is anything as clear-cut for for 2017? We'll see. And you'll decide. Previously we asked you to name the past year's top national sports story and you did (with results below). Now we invite you to select the 2017 Miami/South Florida sports story of the year, from a randomly presented top 18 of my choosing. You may vote for your top six (6). I offer no synopsis beyond the description phrase in the poll, because if it needs further explaining, it obviously wasn't that big/impactful/important to you. OK. Ready? Vote!

VOTE FOR YOUR TOP SIX (6)

Deciphering a 6-vote poll: A six-vote poll means the maximum percentage for any one story would be 16.67 percent if every participant voted the max six times. Any vote above 16.67 means some voted only for that story. Multiply the percents above times six for an idea how often that story is being included on the consensus top-six ballot.

NFL player protests voted biggest 2017 national story: We asked what was the biggest national sports story of 2017, gave you The Associated Press Top 10 in jumbled order, and allowed you to vote for your top three. That means the highest vote total possible would be 33.3 percent if every participant used all three votes. Triple the percentages below for an idea how often that story was included in the consensus of top threes. Your results:

1. NFL player protests over social justice draws critics led by President Trump--20.14

2. Astros win 1st World Series to lift city devastated by Hurricane Harvey--19.72

3. Patriots, in year of Tom Brady suspension, stage record rally to win Super Bowl--14.31

The rest: U.S., Italy fail to qualify for men's World Cup--12.21%; Conor McGregor vs. Floyd Mayweather--9.03%; Clemson rally beats Alabama for college football title--8.06%; College basketball investigated by FBI over recruiting corruption--5.69%; Golden State led by Kevin Durant wins NBA Finals--4.17%; USA Gymnastics rocked by sex-abuse scandal involving team doctor--3.75%; Russia banned from upcoming Winter Olympics over doping--2.92%.

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

Twitter @gregcote

January 02, 2018

Dolfan Satisfaction Meter: 7.7% final season approval; plus Happy New Year!, Fins fall in finale 22-16 to end season 6-10, latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated) & more

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

Hny1) It's MONDAY, JANUARY 1. HAPPY NEW YEAR! May it be a great one for you and everyone you love. Need one more gift for the Dolfans in your life? Click on Amazon or Barnes & Noble and check out my historical book, Fins At 50. 2) I was honored during Saturday's Orange Bowl game with the 2017 OB Edwin Pope Media Award. Click HERE for the story. 3) Watch for our season-ending college State Offensive Player of the Year (SOPY) results following all of the bowl games involving state FBS teams. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hurricanes lose Orange Bowl to Wisconsin with CSM poll, thank you OB Committee & more. 5Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

My UM-Wisconsin Orange Bowl column, CSM vote in: Click HERE for my game column from stadium on Saturday night's 34-24 Canes loss to Wisconsin in 84th Orange Bowl. See previous blogpost for results in latest and season-finale Canesfan Satisfaction Meter postgame poll.

Season-ending DSM poll online, too: Click HERE to read our postgame thoughts and to vote online.

DsmDOLFAN SATISFACTION METER: G16/SEASON FINAL: 7.7%: Results are certified in the latest and season-ending installment of the Dolfan Satisfaction Meter postgame polls, and they show 7.7 percent overall approval -- the combination of "very" and "somewhat" satisfied votes -- in the wake of Sunday's 22-16 Dolphins home loss vs. the Buffalo Bills putting Miami's final season record at 6-10. The DSM is a continuous weekly gauge of how Dolfans are feeling about the team and its direction. Right after each game I invite you to share your overall degree of satisfaction. Criteria for voting is your own, but I suggest fans consider the most recent game's performance and caliber of opponent, season as a whole, direction the club is heading and your overall degree of optimism — all in the context of reasonable expectations. Because this was the final poll, I suggested you give added weight to the season as a whole. Results are certified official the morning after one full day of voting. In this case that was around 7 a.m. today/Tuesday.

2017 game-by-game DSM results

G1: 81.9% (following 19-17 victory at L.A. Chargers)

G2: 4.8% (following 20-6 loss at N.Y. Jets)

G3: 3.8% (following 20-0 loss vs. New Orleans in London)

G4: 9.9% (following 16-10 victory vs. Tennessee)

G5: 79.7% (following 20-17 victory at Atlanta)

G6: 86.1% (following 31-28 victory vs. N.Y. Jets)

G7: 6.1% (following 40-0 loss at Baltimore)

G8: 13.1% (following 27-24 loss vs. Oakland)

G9: .5% (following 45-21 loss at Carolina)

G10: 3.6% (following 30-20 loss vs. Tampa Bay)

G11: 7.7% (following 35-17 loss at New England)

G12: 56.4% (following 35-9 victory vs. Denver)

G13: 79.4% (following 27-20 victory vs. New England)

G14: 6.9% (following 24-16 loss at Buffalo)

G15: 5.7% (following 29-13 loss at Kansas City)

G16/season final: 7.7% (following 22-16 loss vs. Buffalo)

Yearly DSM Results: 2017--7.7% (following 6-10 season); 2016--76.2% (following 10-6/playoff loss); 2015--18.1% (6-10); 2014--2.7% (8-8); 2013--4.2% (8-8); 2012--29.8% (7-9); 2011--34.9% (6-10); 2010--3.8% (7-9); 2009--31.2% (7-9); 2008--96.9% (11-5/playoff loss).

G16: BUFFALO AT DOLPHINS: MIAMI TRYING TO END A ROTTEN YEAR WITH A FORCED SMILE: Click HERE for our postgame thoughts ..... Original postNine of the 12 NFL playoff tickets have been punched entering this final all-Sunday weekend of the regular season, and six teams remain alive for the remaining three spots. Alas, the Dolphins are not among the halves, relegated instead to the dubious incentive of trying to avoid what Bufmiawould be only the franchise’s seventh 10-loss season since 1970. Another sad, better-than-nothing incentive: The 6-9 Fins playing spoiler in the 4:25 CBS game to 8-7 Buffalo’s (faint) hopes. To reach the playoffs for the first time since 1999 the Bills must beat Miami and either have the Ravens lose or have the Chargers and Titans both lose. Got that? How fitting the Dolphins would find themselves positioned as spoilers. The entire season has looked, felt and smelled spoiled. Rotten. It was back to mediocrity, as if the aberration of last year’s playoff season never even really happened. Give coach Adam Gase credit for not sugar-coating, as when he said Thursday, simply (and accurately): “Nobody has done anything great. We’ve got a lot of work to do.” Sunday almost certainly will mark the farewell appearance for quarterback Jay Cutler, the pricey one-year rental who, like the entire team, had too few solid performances interspersed amid the prevailing erratic underperforming. Buffs beat Fins 24-16 only two weeks ago. With little cause but a hunch, I see Miami, a 2 1/2-point underdog, finishing strong with a home upset over a Bills squad that is only 2-5 away. So Miami continues the long Bison playoff drought, at least. Hey, it’s better than nothing … albeit barely. My pick: Dolphins, 23-17. [Click Week 17 Gems for all our season-ending NFL picks].

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

Hotbutton1. HURRICANES: UM ends year of progress with loss in hometown Orange Bowl game: Tenth-ranked Canes were home underdogs to No. 6 Wisconsin Saturday in the 84th Orange Bowl game and fell 34-24. Three straight losses ended UM's year, but a first 10-win season and first OB invite since 2003 made it a season of progress toward the destination: Back. (Click HERE for our column from the game).
 
2. COLLEGE PLAYOFF: Last four in CFP semifinals on Monday: It's No. 3 Georgia vs. No. 2 Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl today and then No. 4 Alabama vs. No. 1 Clemson in the Sugar in College Football Playoff play-ins to reach the championship game. Oddly, both lower-seeded teams are slight betting favorites. College fans at least can agree on this: Everybody outside of Tuscaloosa hates Nick Saban.  
 
3. DOLPHINS: For Fins, a season of regression mercifully expires: Miami hosted the Buffalo Bills Sunday to wrap up a disappointing, injury-wracked, no-playoffs season with a 22-16 defeat. The good news, Dolfans? It very likely was the last time in a Fins uniform for the $10 million rental with the bargain-bin results, Jay Cutler. 
 
4. HEAT: Miami warms up, gets on playoff pace: It's still early, yeah, but Heat as of today are on playoff pace as the eighth East seed -- and only 1 1/2 games from being the fourth seed, which would mean home-court advantage in the first round. Hey, in the post-Big 3 era, you seize optimism when you can.
 
5. PANTHERS: Cats finally showing signs of life: The Florida Panthers, who'd struggled most of the season, have won a season-best five straight games entering a five-game road trip starting Tuesday. Previous long win streak had been two. Aberration? Or start of a happy new year?
 
6. MARLINS: Fire-sale Fish shopping Yelich, Realmuto: Miami reportedly is "listening" to offers for left fielder Christian Yelich and catcher J.T. Realmuto in new owner Derek Jeter's apparent continuing effort to do the impossible and make us all miss Jeffrey Loria.
 
7. UM BASKETBALL: Canes men win ACC opener: No. 15 Miami men improved to 12-1 with a 67-53 win at Pitt in their ACC opener. Meanwhile the 10-3 Canes women had won five straight entering Sunday's home day with Duke. 
 
8. NFL: Black Sunday for coaches: As NFL regular season ends today, segueing to playoffs, a handful of head coaches likely are working their final games. Meanwhile reports are the Oakland Raiders are trying to lure Jon Gruden from the comfort of the broadcast booth with partial ownership. He's gone.

9. BASEBALL: Astros' Altuve named Athlete of Year: Associated Press named champion Astros star Jose Altuve its male athlete of year. The best news in that? Runnerup Tom Brady and third place LeBron James lost at something.   

10. TENNIS: Serena makes her comeback, sort of: Serena Williams played her first match since her pregnancy and having a baby girl, losing in an exhibition. I mean, that had to be tough, holding a racket in one hand and a nursing baby in the other!

Missing the HB10 cut: Cris Cyborg beat Holly Holm to retain her title in UFC 219, challenging us to again take seriously an athlete who answer to "Cyborg" ..... Herald sports columnist Greg Cote (hey, wait, that's me!) won the 2017 Orange Bowl Edwin Pope Media Award. The previous sentence was completely gratuitous. But it is my damned blog, after all.

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

Twitter @gregcote