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

December 28, 2017

Babies 'n Baseball: My official Hall of Fame ballot for Cooperstown revealed here, and so is newest addition to Cote family; plus NFL Pix 'n Fantasy results, updated Herald NFL QB rankings & more

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

Xmas171) It's THURSDAY, DECEMBER 28. ICYMI, click HOHOHERE to watch our annual Christmas video, starring me, Derek Jeter, Smokin' Jay Cutler and two others. Oh, and if you need a late gift for the Dolfans in your life, click on Amazon or Barnes & Noble and buy my historical book, Fins At 50. 2) Sorry we haven't had as many general sports columns lately. Burning a slew of leftover vacation time this month. 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): Dolphins eliminated in loss at Chiefs with our takeaways and postgame poll, Merry Christmas video, Hot Button Top 10 & more. 5Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

Yours truly wins Orange Bowl/Pope award: Pleased to say I am the the 2017 winner of the Edwin Pope Orange Bowl Vanguard Media Award. Honored because I respect the Orange Bowl Committee's good works. Especially honored because the honor is named for my great friend and mentor who passed away last January. Thanks to all. Click HERE for the story the Herald was king enough to write.

BbballotIN THE NAME OF TRANSPARENCY: MY OFFICIAL 2018 BASEBALL HALL OF FAME BALLOT: As a voting member of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, I cast my Hall of Fame ballot the other day to meet the Dec. 31 deadline. Mailed it in an envelope. They do it old-school up in Cooperstown! There were 33 men on the ballot including 19 in their first year of eligibility. I could Bbhallvote for as many as 10. I ended up voting for nine, including two ballot "rookies." The seven holdovers who got my votes were (alphabetically) Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Vladimir Guerrero, Trevor Hoffman, Edgar Martinez, Manny Ramirez and Gary Sheffield. The two first-time-eligibles I voted for were Chipper Jones and Jim Thome. If I had to bet I'd say Jones, Thomas, Guerrero and maybe Hoffman will get in. Support for Bonds and Clemens is steadily growing but they may be a year or two away. My own thought on voting for perhaps the two biggest faces of the so-called Steroids Era: I no longer believe any association with PEDs should be an automatic life sentence in terms of reaching Cooperstown -- not if the career resume' is so outstanding, as with Bonds and Clemens, that there is reasonable cause to think they'd have been Hall-good even without the help. I do continue to think, as I always say and have written, that their bronze Hall of Fame plaques should mention the controversy that kept Bonds and Clemens out for so long. Same with Pete Rose and gambling, should he ever be allowed back on the ballot and be voted in as he should.

GrandpapI'M A GRANDPA! (THAT MEANS I'M OFFICIALLY OLD. ALSO HAPPY AND BLESSED): I normally don't get real personal here in the blog but I posted this photo on Twitter yesterday and it has gotten well over 4,000 likes so I thought I'd share it here as well. This is me, on Christmas Day, holding my first grandchild for the first time. I could not be happier that my son Christopher and his wife Christie have invited this joy into their lives and given this miracle for both of their families to share. Sorry, Tonka Tank, but this bumps you as the greatest Christmas gift I have ever received.

NFL PIX 'N FANTASY: WEEK 16 RESULTS: Every week in the blog I tell you know how I did the previous NFL weekend with my Miami Herald predictions and with my Greg's Lobos team in the LeBatard Show fantasy league. WEEK 16: Herald picks: Went a solid 12-4 overall but a just marginally OK 7-8-1 against the spread, with the Eagles win pushing for the tie. Had Titans with the points (but not outright) in my  Upset of the Week ("Aawwk!"), and also had 'dog Seahawks with points. Greg's Lobos: Alas, the 'Bos had been eliminated in the league semifinals the previous week, losing to eventual champion Allyson. #GurleyMen #WeAreTheLobos

BB GUNS: IT'S BRADY VS. BREES FOR SEASON CROWN: HERALD NFL QB RANKINGS: WEEK 16: The Ravens’ Joe Flacco wins Week 16 with a 42.85-point game, lowest winning total of the season, in the Miami Herald’s NFL quarterback rankings. But the Bradybreesbiggest story is that it’s down to Patriot Tom Brady vs. Saint Drew Brees for the season crown with one week to go. Brady’s margin over Brees is only 10.65 points. And it looks like we’ll get full games from both in their finales, with the Patriots needing a win to assure home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and the Saints needing a win to assure the NFC South title. Third-place Alex Smith of the Chiefs is realistically out of contention. For any chance he’d need a gargantuan game coupled with awful games by both Brady and Brees. Lower in the chart, the Dolphins’ Jay Cutler holds steady in 24th place. This is the 20th season of our Passer Success System (PASS) rankings, which began in 1998. Our formula is simple and unchanged since its inception, factoring accuracy, yardage, TD-interception ratio and team result. Most major ranking systems such as the NFL’s and ESPN’s are complicated and percentile based, allowing QBs who miss half a season to still win a title, while our system is cumulative, rewarding players who are consistently productive and avoid injury or benching.

The Top 20 plus Dolphins entering Week 17:

RK LW  Player, Team                       Wk16       Season

1    1   Tom Brady, NE                     33.20       535.30

2    2   Drew Brees, NO                   30.95       524.65

3    3   Alex Smith, KC                    34.20       487.10

4    5   Ben Roethlisberger, PIT        33.30       473.55

5    4   Matthew Stafford, DET        13.15       460.15

6    6   Kirk Cousins, WAS                26.95       433.75

7  11  Jared Goff, LAR                    38.05      424.45

8   7   Case Keenum, MIN                17.95      419.90

9   9   Philip Rivers, LAC                 26.50      417.40

10 8   Russell Wilson, SEA               22.65      414.10

11 12 Matt Ryan, ATL                     22.40      398.90

12 10 Carson Wentz, PHI                 DNP       386.80

13 13 Blake Bortles, JAC                30.10      367.45

14 19 Joe Flacco, BAL                    42.85      353.90

15 16 Dak Prescott, DAL                 11.10      342.90

16 15 Derek Carr, OAK                     5.00      340.65

17 14 Josh McCown, NYJ                 DNP       336.30

18 17 Eli Manning, NYG                 16.15       335.80

19 18 Cam Newton, CAR                17.00       331.10

20 21 Jameis Winston, TB              36.35       314.05

24 24 Jay Cutler, MIA                     17.30       278.00

Bubble: Andy Dalton, CIN, 310.90. Week 16 Best: Flacco, BAL, 42.85 (29-38, 237, 2-0 in win). Week 16 Worst: Brett Hundley, GB, minus-5.50 (17-40, 130, 0-2 in loss).

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

Twitter @gregcote

December 13, 2017

Dolfan Satisfaction Meter: 79.4%; plus Cutler, Miami stun New England 27-17; also, Radio Tuesday, Greg's Lobos news, latest Hot Button Top 10, Stanton trade poll (vote now) & more

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

1) It's TUESDAY, DECEMBER 12. It's the holidays! Which can mean only one thing: Giving the Dolfans on your list the gift of my book on the club's first half-century. Click Fins At 50. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Marlins trade Stanton to Yankees with poll, my column on trade, your verdicts on Gordon trade/faith in Jeter & more. 3Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

My column on Marlins trading Stanton to Yankees: Click Stanton Had All the Power -- And Used It.

Greg's Lobos Update!: Epic! EPIC! The Lobos got 24.6 points from Jarvis Landry last night to miraculously beat No. 1 seed Chris 120-117.4 in the first round of the LeBatard Show fantasy-league playoffs. Landry had The Heart of a Lobo -- the highest compliment that can be attributed to anyone. 

FIVE TAKEAWAYS FROM DOLPHINS' ASTOUNDING, IMPRESSIVE WIN OVER PATRIOTS: Jay Cutler thoroughly outplayed Tom Brady and the Miami Dolphins mostly dominated the New England Patriots.

The preceding may be the most unlikely sentence ever written in the history of the English language.

Five takeaways from Miami's 27-20 Monday Night Football home victory over the Patriots:

1. Where have you guys been? Why is a Dolphins team capable of this kind of effort, this kind of night, still sitting at 6-7 and still an NFL playoff longshot even after this exhilarating triumph? Miami wore its throwback uniforms and gave us a throwback performance. We thought the Dolphins just weren’t very good. Maybe it's that they've just been grossly underperforming.

2. Cutler finished with three TD passes and a 112.1 passer rating to Brady's two interceptions and 60.8 rating. Brady didn't have an off night. Miami's defense gave him an off night, forced it on him, with constant pressure and those two picks by Xavien Howard.

3. I'm finally sold on Kenyan Drake, who had 114 yards rushing and 79 receiving. He is fast, elusive, explosive. I thought Miami was dumb to trade top back Jay Ajayi earlier this season. I feel less like that after Monday night.

4. Finally -- finally -- they were ready for the prime-time stage. Before this, Miami has lost 14 of its past 18 games under the lights, including all three this season. The Fins were on a 1-7 skid on MNF. But that changed Monday as the NFL week's biggest underdog, against their longtime nemesis rival, stood up with everybody watching. Impressive.

5. This was a rotten week in South Florida sports, with the Marlins losing superstar Giancarlo Stanton to the Yankees. Monday night made Miami smile. Ah, the power of sports. The power to lift. And to surprise!

Your challenge now: Weigh the elation of Monday night with the whole of the season and vote in the latest Dolphins postgame poll:

DOLFAN SATISFACTION METER: G13: 79.4%: Results are certified in the latest installment of the Dolfan Satisfaction Meter postgame polls, and they show 79.4 percent overall approval -- the combination of "very" and "somewhat" satisfied votes -- in the wake of DsmMonday night's 27-20 Dolphins home victory vs. the New England Patriots putting Miami's season record at 6-7. That is the highest positive rating in seven weeks. 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. Results are certified official the morning after one full day of voting. In this case that was around 8:45 a.m. today/Wednesday.

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)

G13: NEW ENGLAND AT DOLPHINS: WILL THE NOT-READY-FOR-PRIMETIME FINS FINALLY SHOW UP UNDER THE LIGHTS?: NE 17-27 (4Q): Brady-White 3-yard pass ... MIA 27-10 (3Q): Cutler-Landry 4-yard pass ... MIA 20-10 (3Q): Cutler-Grant 25-yard pass ... NE 10-13 (2Q): Gostkowski 46-yard FG ... MIA 13-7 (2Q): Cutler-Landry 5-yard pass ... NE 7-6 (2Q): Burkhead 3-yard run ... MIA 6-0 (1Q): Parkey 44-yard FG ... MIA 3-0 (1Q): Parkey 30-yard FG. ... Original post: I’m no slave to trends, friends, but some you simply cannot ignore. They are like a car in a ditch. You can’t help but slow down and rubberneck. One is that few teams in recent history are Nemiabetter in prime time than New England, and few are worse than Miami. Patriots are on a 16-3 run under the lights while Dolphins are on a 4-14 stumble — including 0-3 this season by a combined score of 112-40. Fine-tune that trend even more and find Fins are 1-7 in past eight Monday appearances. That, along with these teams’ overall disparity and a guy named Tom Brady, is why Miami is NFL Week 14's biggest betting underdog at 11 points. And there’s this: Jay Cutler in three career starts vs. NE is 0-3 with five interceptions in losses by 34, 29 and 28 points. These are reasons why the hope borne of last week’s 35-9 Dolphins rout of Denver will prove fleeting as the 10-2 Pats handle the 5-7 Fins at The Rock tonight. But now here are reasons why some hope still exists. Dolphins have beaten Patriots three of the past four meetings in Miami. Brady is below his overall career averages in most every category vs. Miami -- merely quite good, vs. otherworldly. And no Gronk. Wait. One more! Pats visit Steelers next week in a battle for the AFC’s No. 1 seed and may be peeking ahead past the disrespected, easy-to-overlook Dolphins. Bottom line: Do I give Miami much chance to upset New England? Nope. But do I sort of like the Fins getting 11 points? Yep. My pick: New England, 31-23.

StantongTHANKS FOR THE MEMORIES, GIANCARLO: [This item and the poll are carried over from previous blogpost] My column that you'd find here focuses on how the no-trade clause given to Stanton by former owner Jeffrey Loria meant Stanton could get the best deal for himself -- and that the Marlins could not get the best deal for the Marlins. The poll below invites Marlins fans to lay blame for Stanton's departure as they see fit. There has to be room for thanks as well, though. You cannot blame Stanton for the contract he got or the no-trade clause he was given. I honestly believe he wanted to stay; it was the Derek Jeter-led new owners who found his contract beyond their means. I trust Marlins fans will show Stanton the love when he returns in pinstripes. For me, he ranks below only Dan Marino and Dwyane Wade as the great team-drafted star in Miami sports history. Farewell, Giancarlo.

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:

Hotbutton1. MARLINS: Team trades Stanton, Gordon. Merry Christmas, fans!: Marlins fans were still shaking heads over the team trading Dee Gordon to Seattle when the dreaded bombshell hit on Saturday: Giancarlo Stanton to the Yankees. Miami got Starlin Castro and prospects for Stanton but couldn't get the best deal it was offered because Stanton's no-trade clause gave him ultimate control. Call it Jeffrey Loria's final parting gift. 
 
2. DOLPHINS: Fins try to keep (faint) hope alive vs. Patriots Monday: How did Miami, 5-7 and a playoff longshot, become an NFL also-ran team? Try this: Fins have lost 14 of past 18 night games including all three this season and seven of past eight on Monday stage. Somewhere along the line, folks, your Dolphins turned into the Not Yet Ready For Prime-Time Players.
 
3. HEAT: Miami beat Brooklyn in Mexico City: The Heat faced the Nets in Mexico City on Saturday night -- both teams were able to successfully scale Donald Trump's border wall -- and Miami won, 101-89. Given the disappointing, off-playoff-pace seasons both franchises are having thus far, was this a regularly scheduled game ... or were the two teams deported?
 
4. COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Five days from start of bowl season: Dec. 16 begins the parade of 41 bowl games culminating with the College Football Playoff national championship Jan. 8. This is first time all three South Florida FBS teams have made the postseason the same year, with Miami in the Orange, FAU in the Boca Raton and FIU in the Gasparilla. Gentlemen, start your bowling!
 
5. COLLEGE BASKETBALL: Canes, OB Classic in spotlight: The unbeaten, 10th-ranked Hurricanes men's team returns to action on the road this coming Saturday, the same day the Orange Bowl Basketball Classic featuring No. 5 Florida vs. Clemson and FSU vs. Oklahoma State happens at the Sunrise arena. It'll be so strange, so different, to see exciting action in the building where the NHL Panthers play.
 
6. BASEBALL: Angels land Japanese sensation Ohtani: Baseball winter meetings in Orlando don't start 'til Monday, but the two biggest prizes already have changed uniforms, with the Yankees landing Miami's Giancarlo Stanton after the Angels won the sweepstakes for Japanese hit/pitch sensation Shohei Ohtani. He is being called the sport's greatest dual threat since Babe Ruth. No pressure or anything!

7. PANTHERS: No defense for Cats' poor start: Florida is 11-18 after Saturday night's 7-3 home loss to Colorado, is eight points off playoff pace, and has given up the second-most goals in the NHL. Cats are off now on a five-game road trip. Probably just as well. Seeing bad hockey on TV is never quite as bad as enduring it in person.

8. HEISMAN TROPHY: Ho hum. It's Mayfield in a rout: Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won college football's biggest individual prize in a rout Saturday, collecting 82.5 percent of the first-place votes. If he has two more wins in him -- over Georgia, then over Clemson or Alabama -- he'll be lifting another pretty nice little trophy as well.

9. SOCCER: Toronto beats Seattle for MLS Cup: Toronto FC handled Seattle 2-0 in the championship match of Major League Soccer. You know MLS. It's the league David Beckham has been trying to get a Miami team into for about the past 45 years. 

10. TIGER WOODS: Comeback Kid to play Honda Classic?: Tiger Woods is back healthy (for now) and competing again in PGA Tour events. He lives on Jupiter Island in Florida. The Honda Classic is around the corner Feb. 22-25 in Palm Beach Gardens, which is about a 20-mile hop from Jupiter Island. Hmm....

Missing the HB10 cut: Hope Solo is running for president of U.S. Soccer. The preceding sentence would be much bigger news if we dropped the word "soccer" ..... The Cavaliers' winning streak ended at 13 games. See. I told ya that LeBron James guy would never amount to anything! ..... Actual Headlines I Never Thought I'd See, But Did: 'Vending Machine Worker and Season Ticket Holder Dresses For Blues as Emergency Goalie' ..... In football, Army beat Navy for the second straight year. It figures. Army is built to perform best on land ..... Soccer superstar Ronaldo said, "I am the best player in history." OK, Pele and Messi, you have my permission to beat the [bleep] out of him.
 

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

Twitter @gregcote

December 08, 2017

On Marlins' Gordon trade and on Jeter: Two new polls. Vote now!; plus Dolphins-Patriots, other NFL Week 14 picks & more

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

1) It's FRIDAY, DECEMBER 8. It's the holidays! Which can mean only one thing: Giving the Dolfans on your list the gift of my book on the club's first half-century. Click Fins At 50. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Herald NFL QB rankings, state-school FBS bowl games by importance, updated SOPY standings, NFL Pix 'n Fantasy results & more. 3Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

My new column on Gordon trade, Jeter: Click on Do We Trust Jeter To Fix Marlins? to read.

ON MARLINS' GORDON TRADE, YOUR FAITH IN JETER: Dee Gordon (.308, 114 runs, MLB-leading 60 stolen bases) is about the perfect leadoff hitter. He is Seattle's now, after the Marlins traded him Thursday for three Mariners prospects including their No. 1 minor-league pitcher, righty starter Nick Neidert. It was a
Djeter Dgordonway to restock the Fish farm system, which is needed. Mostly it was a salary dump, which the new owners fronted by Derek Jeter say is needed as they begin paring the payroll. Is this the beginning of a dismantling, a.k.a. fire sale? We anticipate and brace for a Giancarlo Stanton trade, but Gordon sort of came out of nowhere. Are Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna also on the block? We can't know for sure and Jeter isn't saying. These are apprehensive times, though, for Marlins fans, who longed for Jeffrey Loria to sell the team but may now be mindful of the phrase, "Be careful what you wish for." I explore in my latest column, which lists some of Jeter's public missteps preceding the Gordon trade. Click Do We Trust Jeter To Fix Marlins? to read my opinions. Now it's time for yours. Two quick polls here. One one the Gordon trade, the other on Jeter. Weigh in. Vote now.

FripixUPSET BIRD DAY IN AMERICA! NFL WEEK 14 PICKS: ON DOLPHINS-PATRIOTS AND EXPLOSION OF UPSETS: I call for a crazy seven betting-line upsets in this week's latest NFL predictions. Unfortunately for Miami, Dolphins beating Patriots Monday night ain't one of 'em. Click Week 14 Gems for my full Fins-Pats predix capsule, my Game of the Week (Rams-Eagles), Upset of the Week (Browns-Packers: "Aawwk!") and all the rest. Our week got off to a strong start Thursday night as we accurately called the Falcons' slight home upset win (+1 1/2) over the Saints to begin our serpentine parade of upset picks.

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

Twitter @gregcote

December 04, 2017

Canesfan Satisfaction Meter: 57.8%; plus UM spanked 38-3 in ACC final; also, FAU, FIU, UCF win, other State Collball and conference title games (updated), your Cooperstown election verdict & more

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

1) It's SUNDAY, DECEMBER 3. Holiday season? That can only mean one thing: Giving the Dolfans on your list the gift of my book on the club's first half-century. Click Fins At 50. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Baseball Hall of Fame poll, NFL Week 13 picks & more. 3Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

My new column from Canes' ACC loss: Click on Seeing Past the Pain to read.

'Tis the season to celebrate Canes, FIU, FAU: The Three Kings, Mark Richt, Butch Davis and Lane Kiffin, have led their three teams to the best combined record ever, with all three bowl-bound for the first time. UM and FAU played for conference titles Saturday and Richt and Kiffin have had the loudest seasons, but Davis quietly has done his share at FIU. Click on 'Tis The Season to read the column.

CsmCANESFAN SATISFACTION METER: G12: 57.8%: Results are certified in the latest edition of the Canesfan Satisfaction Meter postgame polls, this in the wake of Saturday night's 38-3 loss by the No. 7 Hurricanes to the No. 1 Clemson Tigers in the ACC Championship Game in Charlotte putting UM's season record at 10-2. The CSM polls are your invitation after every Canes game to share your overall degree of satisfaction with the team. Criteria for voting is your own, but we suggest you consider the latest performance and caliber of opponent, the season as a whole, the direction of the program and your overall sense of optimism -- all in the context of reasonable expectations. Poll results are certified official the morning after one full day of voting. In this case that was around 10 a.m. today/Monday. [You may also find the poll online HERE].
 
2017 CSM results
G1: 69.5% following 41-13 victory vs. Bethune-Cookman
G2: 83.9% following 52-30 victory vs. Toledo 
G3: 96.5% following 31-6 victory at Duke
G4: 97.6% following 24-20 victory at Florida State
G5: 96.0% following 25-24 victory vs. Georgia Tech
G6: 93.0% following 27-19 victory vs. Syracuse
G7: 64.3% following 24-19 victory at North Carolina
G8: 98.0% following 28-10 victory vs. Virginia Tech
G9: 98.6% following 41-8 victory vs. Notre Dame
G10: 95.4% following 44-28 victory vs. Virginia
G11: 54.9% following 24-14 loss at Pitt
G12: 57.8% following 38-3 ACC Championship Game loss vs. Clemson
Next: Season/final poll: Dec. 30 following Orange Bowl game vs. Wisconsin
 

MiaclemACC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: HURRICANES VS. CLEMSON: HEAVY-UNDERDOG MIAMI MUST SHOCK WORLD TO REACH CFP FINAL FOUR: My new column from Canes' ACC loss: Click on Seeing Past the Pain to read ..... It is UM's biggest football game since the 2002 season ended, bar none. Saturday night at 8, ACC Championship Game in Charlotte, No. 1-ranked and 11-1 Clemson vs. No. 7-ranked and 10-1 Miami in what is all but a play-in game for the College Football Playoff semifinals. It also is UM's first conference title-game appearance since joining the ACC in 2003. A win here would mean the Canes are two wins away from winning the school's sixth national championship and first since '01. No hyperbole is needed to frame this game. All you need are the facts. Alas, Clemson is favored by 9 points -- biggest spread of any Power 5 conference final -- and with valid reason. The Tigers are not only top-ranked but also defending national champs. The bet-line opened at 6 1/2 and climbed. This, clearly, is the gauge-game for whether UM truly is "back" or merely headed in that direction, on the right path. "We'll find out Saturday for sure," as second-year coach Mark Richt put it. "It'll be a great measuring stick to see where we're at." In the words of Clemson coach Dabo Swinney, both teams are playing for "a seat at the table" -- the final four. The Hurricanes lead the nation with a plus-17 turnover margin and also lead the country in sacks with an average of 3.55 per game. The Turnover Chain-fueled defense is Miami's strength. But Clemson's D may be even  better. It will be difficult for QB Malik Rosier and RB Travis Homer to bounce back from off-games in the loss at Pitt. Especially because the Canes will be missing two of their top receivers to injuries in Ahmmon Richards and Christopher Herndon. All four Clemson defensive-line starters made 1st- or 2nd-team All-ACC (UM was shut out) and all four will be NFL-bound. UM's inconsistent offensive line will really be under the gun. These teams' most recent meeting, in 2014, was the 58-0 Clemson rout that got Al Golden fired -- the first domino in UM's turnaround. I am concerned for another lopsided game. I've been high on UM all season (called the wins over Virginia Tech and Notre Dame), but unfortunately I do not have a very good feeling about this game. My ACC Championship Game pick: Clemson, 27-16.

Other state FBS Week 14 games (chronologically, all Saturday):

FIU 63, Massachusetts 45: Butch Davis' Panthers close out regular season at 8-4 to bolster bowl outlook. It was a pick-'em game, betting-wise, so the home rout is all the more impressive.

No. 14 UCF 62, No. 20 Memphis 55 (OT): Knights stay unbeaten at 12-0 after surviving a wild overtime shootout at home to win the American Athletic Association conference championship game.

Florida State 42, Louisiana-Monroe 10: Seminoles were 27-point faves to wrap up uncommonly disappointing regular season with the consolation of .500 at 6-6 as coach Jimbo Fisher bolts for Texas A&M.

FAU 41, North Texas 17: Lane Kiffin's Owls dominated throughout to go to 10-3 and win Conference USA championship. #LaneTrain.

No. 1 Clemson 38, No., 7 Miami 3: My new column from Canes' ACC loss: Click on Seeing Past the Pain to read.

FBS conference championship games (chronologically, all Saturday except as noted):

ConfchampsPac-12: No. 10 Southern Cal 31, No. 12 Stanford 28: USC, now 11-2, was slightly favored in Santa Clara, Calif. on Friday night and delivered, but has no real shot at leaping into final four-team CFP.

American: No. 14 UCF 62, No. 20 Memphis 55 (OT): See above.

Mid-American: Toledo 45, Akron 28: Toledo now 11-2 after comfy win in Detroit.

C-USA: FAU 41, North Texas 17: See above.

Big 12: No. 3 Oklahoma 24, No. 11 Texas Christian 17: Unbeaten Sooners lock up one of final four spots in College Football Playoff.

SEC: No. 6 Georgia 28, Auburn 7: Auburn was slightly favored in Atlanta but it's the Dawgs likely joining the CFP semifinals.

Mountain West: Boise State 17, No. 25 Fresno State 14: Boise was the favorite at home. 

ACC: No. 1 Clemson 38, No. 7 Miami 3: See above.

Big Ten: No. 8 Ohio State 27, No. 4 Wisconsin 21: Wisconsin was unbeaten but Buckeyes were 7-point favorites. But will the win be enough to elevate OSU  into CFP final four?

POLL RESULT: YOU ELECT FIVE TO BASEBALL HALL OF FAME: It was among our most popular blog polls ever, with more than 2,700 electors casting more Chipperthan 22,000 votes. You could vote for as many as 10 players on a 16-man ballot, with a share of 7.5 percent or more in our poll equating to the 75 percent needed for induction into Cooperstown by the actual BBWAA vote. On that basis, the five men you elected were: Chipper Jones 12.24% (pictured), Jim Thome 9.93%, Vladimir Guerrero 8.96% Barry Bonds 8.88% and Roger Clemens 8.46%. The close-but-sorry guys were: Trevor Hoffman 7.41%, Manny Ramirez 6.99%, Edgar Martinez 6.46% and Curt Schilling 6.22%. And the also-rans: Mike Mussina 5.21%, Omar Vizquel 4.66%, Fred McGriff 4.18%, Larry Walker 3.81%, Andruw Jones 3.08%, Scott Rolen 1.99% and Jamie Moyer 1.52%. Thanks for the tremendous response!

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

Twitter @gregcote