April 21, 2015

NFL schedule day: What is Dolphins' sexiest non-division home game? New poll. Vote now; plus Heat 1st-round pick, Tebow, Riley/LeBron, Mike Redmond, Fins draft verdict, favorite Tweets & more

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

No radio today: Not doing my regular Tuesday in-studio gig with the Dan LeBatard Show today because I'll be attending the Bob Dylan concert in Fort Lauderdale. I'll be on-air Thursday this week instead.  

1aa1aloveteeth1) It is TUESDAY, APRIL 21. Saw this window decal today. Somebody loves their dentist, their teeth or their devotion to dental hygiene to a rather bizarre degree. 2) Happy 89th birthday, Queen Elizabeth II. Let's do lunch soon. 3) Click on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes-column package. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Pat Riley column, Dolphins draft poll, 4/20, Hot Button Top 10 & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Latest Mayweather/Pacquiao odds: Via Bovada today, it's now Floyd Mayweather Jr. the favorite at 10-21 odds for their May 2 fight, with Manny Pacquiao at 17-10.

"If Tim Tebow makes the Eagles opening-day roster I'll walk from Miami to Gainesville pulling a 19th Century-style Conestoga covered wagon." --Greg Cote

Trust Riley ... except when he says he's made peace with LeBron: I trust Pat Riley to have the Heat winning big again. I trust him, period, except when he told me directly that he has "absolutely, yes" made peace with the way LeBron James left Miami. Click on In Riley We Trust for my latest column, off yesterday's Riley state-of-the-Heat postseason press conference.

NFL HAS 3-HOUR SCHEDULE SHOW TO TELL US WHAT IS ALREADY SUBSTANTIALLY KNOWN: If corporations can be a genius, the NFL is a genius. No sports league markets itself better. It used to be that the Super Bowl and the draft were the NFL's only national holidays. The draft grew to three days. 1aa1adolhelThen they began to televise the annual scouting combine. Now they televise the announcement of the regular-season schedule. Seriously. That's tonight at 8 p.m. on NFL Network. It's a three-hour show. Three hours! To announce something that is mostly already known! Every team and its fan already know who every 2015 opponent will be. Tonight simply sets the order, filling in exact dates and kickoff times. Big deal. Minor details. Dolphins fans, for example, already know that the five non-division home games will be vs. Baltimore, Dallas, Houston, Indianapolis and the New York Giants, and that the five non-division road games will be at Jacksonville, Philadelphia, San Diego, Tennessee and Washington. Dolfans also know that the six home-and-away series games vs. AFC East foes Buffalo, New England and New York Jets will include an Oct. 4 date vs. the Jets in London. That was supposed to be Miami's home game, meaning the the Fins will have only seven actual home games this year, and travel nine times. Anyway, I'm curious what to you is the sexiest non-division home game on this year's schedule -- the one you're most looking forward to. Vote and say why.

Poll result: Wide receiver should be Dolphins' No. 1 pick: We asked what position Miami should target in upcoming NFL Draft and you had it 44.7 percent for wide receiver, 22.0% cornerback and 13.8% linebacker. The other 19.5% voted "something else."

ARIZONA SWINGMAN PROJECTED AS HEAT FIRST-ROUND PICK: Arizona Wildcats' Stanley Johnson (pictured), a 6-7 small forward who also has played shooting guard, is projected as the Heat's first round 1aa1astanleyjohnsondraft pick (10th overall) by ESPN's Chad Ford in his latest mock draft. Ford's synopsis: "The Heat's future is very much up in the air this summer. Dwayne Wade, Goran Dragic and Luol Deng can opt out and Chris Bosh's health is still a major question mark. Drafting for need probably isn't the smartest move. Johnson would be a nice fit regardless of what the others do. He's one of the most NBA-ready players in the draft, can play the 2 and the 3 and he's a fierce competitor. He can back up both Wade and Deng if they come back, or take a starting role if one of them (likely Deng) decides to leave." My addendum: Wade isn't going anywhere, Heat is highly confident of re-signing Dragic and equally confident in Bosh's full recovery, although Deng departing is a possibility. Not as sure Johnson is NBA-ready. He turns 19 May 29.

1aa1amikeredMARLINS: RED'S LAST STAND?: Marlins manager Mike Redmond, "Red" to his friends, red-faced by a 3-10 start to the season, may be fighting for his job in the three-game series in Philadelphia starting tonight. After suffering a four-game sweep at the Mets, a three-game sweep by the lowly Phillies could doom Redmond. For me it's too soon to have any manager on a firing line, but owner Jeffrey Loria never has led the league in patience. The turnaround needs to start soon. Tonight, por favor? (By the way, Jack McKeon is 84 now. Don't go there!).

MY BIGGEST TWEETS OF PAST 12 MONTHS: I had a curiosity and a few minutes' free time so I researched my most popular Twitter entries of the past year, based on number of combined re-Tweets and times favorited listed as "total" below. Here are the Top 10 Tweets:

Total  Date         Subject synopsis

449    6-14-14    Why is great pass in soccer always a "lovely ball"?

362    2-19-15    No confirmation yet, but blood clot feared on Bosh lung

340    5-10-14    Michael Sam kisses boyfriend after drafted (photo)

269*  4-20-15    Pot smokers get baked on 4/20 ... and every other day (*-as of this a.m.)

211    7-1-14      Prideful World Cup run ends for U.S.

154     8-7-14     ESPN suspends LeBatard, his reaction 

154    2-19-15    Heat gets Dragic, Riley wins again

150    4-14-15    LeBatard vs. Cain Velasquez (video)

131    3-3-15      LeBatard wears horse's head (video)

127    4-7-15      Mocking backpack wearers (video)

Others topping 100: 122 on 6-20-14 for "Let's Goooo States!" (video); 111 on 2-24-15 for prosthetic nose day at LeBatard show (video); and 107 on 1-13-15 for Canes snap Duke's 41-game home win streak.

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April 18, 2015

NBA playoffs begin! Preview, picks and who-wins poll. Vote now!; plus Record Store Day, Dolphins preseason details, debut of new Marlins blog feature 'Weighing The Fish,' Fins cast as Star Wars 'Greedos,' Mayweather-Pacquiao & more

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


1aa1arecordsstoreday1) It is SATURDAY, APRIL 18. Today is national Record Store Day, championing the cause and comeback of vinyl and the indie shops that are its main purveyors. Vinyl sales last year were the highest in 20 years, and growing. Find an indie store near you and explore! 2)
In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Kiper draft picks for Dolphins/Hurricanes, rooting-for-LeBron poll, Aaron Hernandez verdict, Back in My Day audio, LeBatard vs.Cain Velasquez & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

1aa1adolphwarsDolphins preseason details: Club announced specific dates and kickoff times today. The schedule: Aug. 13 at Chicago 8 p.m.; Aug. 22 at Carolina 7 p.m.; Aug. 29 vs. Atlanta 7 p.m.; and Sept. 3 vs. Tampa Bay 7 p.m. Pictured right, the Dolphins logo and helmet reimagined with the Rodia Greedos character from Stars Wars by by Mexican artist John Raya. Click on pic for enlarged image.

Mayweather-Pacquiao and Miami: Watch this video and hear Floyd Mayweather confirm that his upcoming May 2 megafight vs. Manny Pacquiao would never have happened if the two hadn't run into each other at a Heat game in Miami on Jan. 27. (Which pretty much makes that the best thing to come of this Heat season).

Click on Awful Decisions And 1.5 Miles for my latest column, on the Aaron Hernandez verdict.

1aa1anbaposNBA PLAYOFF PREVIEW, PICKS FOR ALL EIGHT SERIES: Miami is unqualified for the first time since 2008 and yet the NBA has the temerity to go on with its postseason. Four series begin today and the other four Sunday. Our first-round capsules:

EASTERN CONFERENCE

1aa1aatl
1-Atlanta vs. 8-Brooklyn:
Game 1 Sunday 5:30 p.m. Hawks 12-1 title odds via Bovada, Nets 250-1. ESPN experts panel likes Hawks, 18-0. Me: Al Horford, Jeff Teague and "faceless" ATL won't be tested much in this round. Pick: Hawks in 5 games.

1aa1acle
2-Cleveland vs. 7-Boston:
Game 1 Sunday 3 p.m. Cavaliers 11-5 for title, Celtics 150-1. ESPN panel picks Cavs, 18-0. Me: LeBron James and company have way too much firepower for the popgun Celtics. Pick: Cavaliers in 4.

1aa1achi
3-Chicago vs. 6-Milwaukee:
Game 1 today/Saturday 7 p.m. Bulls 14-1 for title, Bucks 250-1. ESPN panel likes Bulls, 18-0. Me: Mediocre Milwaukee won't stay in this if Derrick Rose can manage his first healthy playoffs since 2011. Pick: Bulls in 5.

1aa1awas
4-Toronto vs. 5-Washington:
Game 1 today/Saturday 12:30 p.m. Raptors 50-1 for title, Wizards 75-1. ESPN panel likes Raptors, 13-5. Me: See a Longshot Bowl upset by D.C. gang led by guards John Wall, Bradley Beal. Pick: Wizards in 7.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

1aa1ags1-Golden State vs. 8-New Orleans: Game 1 today/Saturday 3:30 p.m. Warriors 2-1 for title, Pelicans 150-1. Me: Steph Curry vs. Anthony Davis fills a marquee pretty good. But did I mention GS is 39-2 at home? Pick: Warriors in 5.

1aa1ahou2-Houston vs. 7-Dallas: Game 1 today/Saturday 9:30 p.m. Rockets 16-1 for title, Mavericks 40-1. ESPN panel likes Rockets, 16-3. Me: A motivated James Harden and a healthy Dwight Harden will be too much for Mavs. Pick: Rockets in 6.

1aa1alac3-L.A. Clippers vs. 6-San Antonio: Game 1 Sunday 10:30 p.m. Spurs 15-4 for title, Clippers 16-1. ESPN panel likes Spurs, 16-3. Me: Feeling an upset by Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and rebounding machine DeAndre Jordan. Pick: Clippers in 7.

1aa1amem4-Portland vs. 5-Memphis: Game 1 Sunday 8 p.m. Grizzlies 28-1 for title, TrailBlazers 50-1. ESPN panel likes Grizzlies, 19-0. Me: Yes on The Griz but Portland is being underestimated and will push this series hard. Pick: Grizzles in 6.   

POLL: WHICH TEAM IS YOUR PICK TO BE NBA CHAMP?: Las Vegas sets odds to reflect its estimation of public perception and then moves the line if needed to reflect actual betting trends. Based on that there is no clear favorite in the NBA playoffs that 1aa1acurryjamesstart today/Saturday -- but there are three teams clearly out front. Cleveland and Golden State, generally seen as co-favorites, and San Antonio, are those teams. The fourth-best odds show a sharp drop to Atlanta and Chicago. So Mr. Vegas is feeling a LeBron James vs. Steph Curry final but also showing much respect for the playoff-tested oldies of Tim Duncan. Curry and James are pictured. Not much love for the beast-of-the-East Hawks, who could attract lots of wagering action as the under-regarded, disrespected 'dog. Who would you anoint as the favorite as the playoffs begin? Not who you hope wins but who'd bet actually will. In the poll I list the seven teams with the best odds, plus an "other" category covering the longshots. Vote and say why you feel as you do.

Poll result: Very little rooting interest for you in Miami, LeBron: With the Heat out of it, we asked if you would now be rooting for LeBron James to win the NBA title, and it was 58.0 percent "no" vs. only 15.2% "yes. The other 26.8% said they no longer care who wins.

NEW BLOG FEATURE: WEIGHING THE FISH (10 GAMES): We throw the occasional bell 'n whistle into 1aa1adeegordon
1aa1afishweighthe blog, and today we debut a new feature. "Weighing The Fish" -- WTF! -- will be a once-every-10-games ranking of every Marlins batter who is averaging at least one at-bat per game. Nine qualify for our first ranking. WTF is cumulative and factors six offensive categories. It serves as an ongoing de facto team MVP race. The numbers might not mean much, but, relative to each other, it gives an idea who is having the best season or, in this case, who's off to the best start and who most needs to pick it up. Early leader Dee Gordon is pictured. Weighing The Fish after 10 games (at 3-7):

Player                          WTF#

Dee Gordon                   86.8

Giancarlo Stanton         74.8

Michael Morse              60.5

Adeiny Hechevarria     57.8

Martin Prado                 54.6

Christian Yelich           52.8

Ichiro Suzuki                44.4

Marcell Ozuna              39.7

Jarrod Saltalamacchia  34.9

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April 02, 2015

Who are best athletes of past 20 years? 20 names; you pick top 5. Poll. Vote now!; plus Canes/NIT, Heat/Panthers playoff chase (updated), dead Cats, Ricky Williams' singing debut (w/ video), Marlins, Fins cheerleaders & more

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

It's Radio Thursday!: My usual Tuesday gig was delayed to Thursday this week so I'll be in-studio today with the Dan LeBatard Show, 3-7 on The Ticket Miami, 4-7 on ESPN Radio. Ears welcome.

1) It is THURSDAY, APRIL 2. Departed Brian Hartline bought a billboard to thank Dolphins fans. Classy. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Final Four polls, Heat/Panthers playoff update, ageless wonders Wade and Jagr, Dolphins draft, Larranaga at NIT, Bieber roast & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Bumper sticker: 'Honk If You're Bored By Pointless, Premature Guesswork On What Teams Might Or Might Not Do In the NFL Draft'.

PLAYOFF CHASE: Heat holding on, Cats needing miracle. Update entering ThursdayA daily blog feature as two teams fight to finish in top eight in their Eastern Conference. HEAT--Trending even in 7th place at 34-40 (L1), 2 1/2 games from 6th and 0 games (tiebreaker) from 8th with 8 games left (next tonight at Cleveland). Heat playoff likelihood: 74.5% (down 2.0) per Hollinger/ESPN. PANTHERS--Trending even in 10th place at 35-42 (L1), 3 points from 9th and 6 points from 8th with 5 games left (next tonight vs. Carolina). Cats playoff likelihood: 0.7% (unchanged) per sportsclubstats.com.

TOP 20 ATHLETES OF PAST 20 YEARS: PUTTING ESPN'S LIST IN RIGHT ORDER: ESPN.com marks its 1aa1atop20 1aa1atop20grath20th anniversary this week not only with a needless website redesign but also by ranking the Top 20 athletes of 1995-2015. All sports, and not just American athletes. You can read the story and see the list here. But I am interested in how your order might differ from ESPN's. In this poll -- the longest one we've ever had in this blog -- I list all 20 athletes, but alphabetically, not in ESPN's order, so as not to prejudice the jury. Please step back to take an historic view. Consider how the athlete dominated his or her sport and stands in its all-time estimation. Vote for your top five (5) and check back often for evolving results as we put a Miami spin on ESPN's order.

Deciphering the vote: In this poll, 20 percent would be a perfect-score vote if everyone voted for the maximum five athletes. Any total over 20% would indicate some are voting for only that person. Multiply an athlete's vote total by five for fair estimation of percentage of ballots that are including that athlete.

CANES-STANFORD FOR N.I.T. TITLE! BUT...: Jim Larranaga's Miami men face Stanford tonight 1aa1acaneshoopsat Madison Square Garden for the NIT championship after beating Temple in the semis. It's nice the Canes reached the final, win or lose. They have made the most of being passed over for the NCAA Tournament. But let's tap the brakes on what this means. Larranaga said a couple of days ago: "I hope our players realize the opportunity they have because whoever cuts down the nets on Thursday night, it's going to be winning a national championship." Hmm. Well... Really? The problem with the NIT is it's so clearly the "other" postseason tournament, the one you are relegated to if you don't get invited to the one you want. It would be great if UM won. An accomplishment, yes. But one worthy of "national champion" talk and a parade? Sorry. No.

1aa1adeadcatCATS DEAD ON ICE: Call it. It's over. This week's blown-lead 3-2 loss at Boston was a season killer for the Florida Panthers (see Playoff Chase above). The Cats are now six points off pace for the final playoff spot with five games left, their chances now negligible. Florida probably must finish on a 5-0 run (all at home, starting tonight) and then hope Boston and Ottawa both crash to even have a small chance. Otherwise this would make it the 17th non-playoff year in 21 franchise seasons. Hasn't been a terrible season by any means. Just not good enough.

Poll result: Kentucky, Duke the Final Four picks: We asked for your Final Four predictions, and you went Kentucky by 67.3 percent over Wisconsin and Duke by 67.5% over Michigan State. Thought both favorites, especially UK, might draw a larger margin.

EX-DOLPHIN RICKY WILLIAMS EMBARKS ON SINGING CAREER: Ever on a mystical journey of self-enlightment, Ricky Williams' latest life detour has led him to a recording studio. Williams, 37, is now barely recognizable after gaining about 85 pounds (see below) since his playing career after being diagnosed with acute munchieitis. And he again is wearing his hair in dreadlocks as he embarks on a musical career. Williams formed a duo he calls P.M. Dawn, explaining that the name stands for Post Miami, "and represents the dawn of a new morning on the beachhead of my life." The duo was signed to Gee Street, a boutique subsidiary of Def Jam Records, and has been recording at Noegnud Studios in northern California. "I don't sing the songs. The songs sing me," said Williams in a recent interview in Vibe. The sound is trippy, R&Bish with a hip-hop flavor. "Williams' sultry, breathy vocals score a touchdown!" raves Billboard in a new review. Williams' first single is called "Looking Through Patient Eyes." The video for it below begins with an introspective Williams seen walking on a beach, his eyes enigmatically covered by a dark lace veil:

 

GOOD NEWS, BAD NEWS FOR MARLINS: The good news? In an ESPN The Magazine survey of MLB 1aa1abb25players, the Marlins finished first with 25 percent to the question, "Which team will be the 2014 Royals?" -- meaning the team that unexpectedly makes the playoffs. The bad news? The Washington Nationals, Miami's NL East roadblock, finished first with 30 percent to the question, "Who will win the World Series?" Update: Marlins are unchanged at 33-1 to win World Series (tied for 16th) in latest Bovada odds. However, the over/under on Miami wins has inched up from 81.5 to 82.5.

1aa1adolcheer2
1aa1adolcheer
URGENT DOLPHINS CHEERLEADERS NEWS:
 We here at Greg Cote's Random Evidence blog feel duty-bound to keep you abreast of Miami Dolphins cheerleaders news, and so we would note that the troupe recently embarked on a Norwegian cruise to Nassau, St. Maarten and St. Thomas for a photo shoot for their 2016 calendar. Pictured, courtesy the Dolphins: Two artsy photos taken on the cruise. The site of the photo shoot is the latest evidence of the club's concerted effort to grow the Dolphins brand in the Caribbean. Supposedly several cheerleaders got hammered one night on the cruise and crammed nude into a hot tub, to the howling delight of other passengers. NO IT ISN'T TRUE! I totally made that up. That did not actually happen. To our knowledge.

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February 23, 2015

ESPN's Great Analytics Rankings: How Dolphins, Heat, Panthers and Marlins rate on use of new-age info; plus get-well campaign for Bosh, Dan Marino, Daytona 500, fight verdict, Oscars review & more

It's Radio Tuesday!: I'm back in-studio with the Dan LeBatard Show today, 3-7 p.m. on The Ticket Miami, 4-7 ESPN Radio. Ears welcome. (And eyes, on the national-show webcast...)

1) It is TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 24. Click on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes-column package. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Pacquiao-Mayweather poll, Hot Button Top 10, Dragic debut for Heat, Oscar snorts coke & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Stuck in the middle with you: Those six words are more than a 1972 song by Stealers Wheel. They describe the position of So-Fla sports fans, as I explore in today's latest column. Click on Border Town to read. Heat and Panthers clawing just to make playoffs, UM men's basketball on NCAA Tournament bubble, Dolphins and UM football stuck in mediocrity, Marlins improved yet not a betting pick for playoffs ... everywhere you look, our teams are better than bad but maybe not quite good enough.

Corner to Fins in first round?: For what it's worth, USA Today's new, post-Scouting Combine mock draft has Miami selecting Michigan State cornerback Trae Waynes. My comment: That's be a great, but it's doubtful the draft's top CB will still be around at No. 14.

MIAMI TEAMS FALL SHORT IN ESPN ANALYTICS RANKING: ESPN The Magazine and ESPN.com are calling 1aa1aanalyticsit "The Great Analytics Ranking" and it is now on The World Leader's website; click here. (Illustration shown is from the magazine). ESPN rated all 122 NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL teams on how it judged "the strength of each franchise's analytics staff, its buy-in from execs and coaches, its investment in biometric data and how much its approach is predicated on analytics." Teams were slotted in one of five tiers: All-In, Believers, One Foot In, Skeptics and Non-Believers. The Dolphins, Heat and Panthers all rated in the middle ground of One Foot In, while the Marlins are in the bottom rung of Non-Believers. Here is ESPN's synopsis (minimally condensed by me) of each Miami team:

DOLPHINS: Owner Steve Ross and GM Dennis Hickey have become proponents of analytics, and new VP Mike Tannenbaum is a recent convert. Ross is heavy user of analytics in his real estate business and has been frustrated by its relative infancy in NFL. In summer of 2014 team hired Dennis Lock, who holds graduate degree in statistics, to head a football analytics group. At same time Dolphins announced hiring of sports science analyst Dave Regan, and in September, Tom Pasquali, with a graduate degree in applied statistics and experience in Yankees front office, joined Lock's staff. Tannenbaum said in January he planned to hire a "sports performance director" and acknowledged, "We have a long way to go, but we started something in terms of trying to give ourselves a competitive advantage." Miami has monitored player health for several years, and coach Joe Philbin has altered practice schedule to improve sleep habits by becoming only coach to give players Thursday off. But Philbin focuses on game film far more than stats, and it remains to be seen how well he'll use Miami's burgeoning analytics department.

HEAT: When analytics skeptics point out that coaches have been using numbers for decades, Heat president Pat Riley is commonly cited. As coach of Lakers, Riley famously devised his own efficiency rating for players. He passed that interest to protégé and coach Erik Spoelstra, who speaks the language of analytics. Riley devised a system the Heat still use to grade each defensive possession based on 54 criteria, focusing on the process of executing the team's system rather than results. Evaluations are done by Brian Hecker, Miami's director of basketball information technology, who gets the pertinent numbers to Spoelstra. In addition to lineup data, Spoelstra also has relied heavily on a simulation model developed by analyst Bob Chaikin. He has worked for Heat since 2008, following stint as consultant for team during 1990s, when Riley first arrived as coach. "I look at [stats] to evaluate our team, to compare us to other teams, particularly defensively," Spoelstra told NBA.com in 2011. "I also use it to make points to the team about things we need to improve. I use it also for scouting." Riley's fondness for statistical analysis doesn't seem to have carried over to his personnel work as team president. Miami has regularly punted valuable draft picks in favor of stacking bench with fading veterans. Heat's success, including three titles in past decade, has made it easy to justify sticking with an old-school approach. To get back to that level, Miami's front office may have to embrace details like analytics and international scouting that have gone neglected.

PANTHERS: The Panthers were wise to pick Brian Macdonald as team's director of analytics last summer, although they still have a skeleton crew compared to some other teams around league. Integrating him into team's decision-making has been a season-long process because of when he was hired, and his impact may not be felt until next season. "Anywhere there is data in this organization, I've tried to get my hands in it a little bit," Macdonald said. "That includes the business side of things now, also. The past couple months, I've been doing more business than hockey."

MARLINS: Marlins have a small, tight-knit baseball operations department that has shown very little interest in analytics. Team president Michael Hill was a two-sport athlete at Harvard, but like GM Dan Jennings, is a former player with a background in player development and scouting. The job of keeping the Marlins aware of analytics trends falls to director of baseball ops Dan Noffsinger, a longtime staffer who majored in applied math and economics at Harvard. Noffsinger has good reputation but a broader, less technical skill set than the leading sabermetricians being hired by other organizations. In a sign that Marlins might be ready to change their ways, they are looking to hire their first analytics interns this year to get their program off the ground.

HEAT INVITES YOU TO WISH BOSH WELL: Everything is so organized now. For example the Heat on
1aa1acbgetwellMonday (prior to beating lowly Philly at home) unveiled a getwellcb.com website to encourage fans to send best wishes to Chris Bosh, who will miss the rest of this NBA season as he undergoes treatment for blood clots in his lungs. Not sure the prompting was needed. Great player, great guy. Everybody rooting for Bosh. (He'll be on blood thinners probably at least through May, but is expected back fully for next season's training camp).

1aa1adanteesoffIT'S (STILL) GOOD TO BE DAN MARINO: Dolphins icon (and ambassador and now front-office consultant) Dan Marino tees off during his second annual Marino & Friends Bahamas Weekend event, as a deployed small battalion of the team's cheerleaders stand in the background looking all cheerleader-y. (The excellent photo is courtesy the Miami Dolphins). The Marino event isn't a fundraiser but rather a cross-promotion in which the Dolphins grow their brand in the Caribbean while the Bahamas promotes itself as a tourist destination.


IT WASN'T THE DAYTONA 500 NASCAR NEEDED:
 A race should not end under a caution flag. Start 1aa1ajloganothere. So it was the antithesis of a thrilling ending in NASCAR's season opener Sunday as Joey Logano (pictured) coasted to the finish. In NASCAR's dream it would have been fan favorite and defending champion Dale Earnhardt Jr. and retiring Jeff Gordon duel-barreling to the checkered flag. Or maybe Tony Stewart finally ending his Dayton jinx. Nope, just Logano under a yellow flag. NASCAR, reeling from the domestic-abuse suspension of Kurt Busch, could have used a result that wowed fans in one of its signature events. Didn't get it. That's racin', I suppose.

Poll result: Hoping Pacquiao wins but predicting Mayweather: We asked your feelings on the upcoming Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather fight and it was split. Most hope Pacquaio wins, 56.5 percent to 23.4%. But most predict Mayweather will win, 57.9% to 22.0%. (The other 20.1% said they have no interest in the fight).

THE ACADEMY AWARDS REVIEW: Sunday's Oscars telecast may or may not still be going on. The Big 3 winners were Birdman (best picture with Michael Keaton), Eddie Redmayne (actor for The Theory of Everything) and Julianne 1aa1abirdmanMoore (actress for Still Alice). Admit it: No other Oscar category really matters that much except to the winner. Admit it II: You'd never 1aa1abirdheatheard of Eddie Redmayne, either, before last night. Evening lowlight: Host Neil Patrick Harris in his underwear. Admit it III: Against high expectations, NPH wasn't all that good. Summary: Boyhood

took 12 years to make and one night to pretty much ignore. Quick aside: While watching a film called Birdman, 1aa1abirdraphow must Chris Andersen and Bryan Williams feel? Andersen of course is the popular Heat reserve nicknamed Birdman. Williams is better known as the rapper whose stage name is Birdman, co-founder of Cash Money
records. I'm no lawyer but think the two Birdmen pictured at right should sue the movie for royalties. Speaking of the Heat and movies, I cannot confirm that How to Train Your Dragon 2 is the story of how an NBA team works to integrate newly arrived Goran (Dragon) Dragic into its lineup.

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February 22, 2015

The new Hot Button Top 10 including Heat-Dragic-Bosh, Marlins, Daytona, UM, Tiger; plus Mayweather-Pacquiao poll (vote now!), snorting Oscar & more

1) It is SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 22. Click on Random Evidence for today's latest Sunday notes-column package. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Heat acquire Dragic with poll, Bosh medical crisis, athlete-media relationship poll, Mount Rushmore/QBs result, sign spinners & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

NOW LET'S HOPE PACQUIAO-MAYWEATHER IS WORTH THE WAIT: The camps of Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. have been negotiating six years to make this happen -- six years! -- and now (supposedly) it 1aa1afightfinally will, on May 2, in Las Vegas. This is the fight for the ages, the one to save the sport, the one to set pay-per-view records, the one to remind UFC that a major boxing title fight (this for the welterweight crown) still rules the fighting world. Credit the Miami Heat for a small role, perhaps in making this happen. Recall Pacquiao and Mayweather met courtside at a Heat game here three weeks ago -- astonishingly the first time the two had ever met and conversed. The unbeaten Mayweather opens as a betting favorite, the bigger question is whether two past-prime fighters can put up a show that lives up to the hype ... and the wait. Pacquiao just turned 36; Mayweather turns 38 on Tuesday. We're wondering here who you hope will win and also who you predict will win. Heart vs. mind. The answer for you may be one in the same. Or not. Take a dip in our poll and say why.

HOT BUTTON FEB. 22: TOP 10 THINGS SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive Sunday feature is an expanded, updated version of what appears in the Sunday pulp editions. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead:

1aa1ahotbutton1. HEAT: Dragic arrives but Bosh out for season in wild, emotional week: In a late-week whirlwind Miami fans cheered the trade for Goran Dragic then mourned Chris Bosh's medical news -- blood clots on his lungs that will shelve him the rest of the season. Almost forgot. Dwyane Wade returned from injury. Otherwise, slow week for the Heat.

2. MARLINS: Play ball! Upbeat Fish begin spring training in Jupiter: First spring game vs. big-league foe isn’t until March 5, but practice for the practice games has begun. Excitement in So-Fla and national media buzz suggest Miami will be playoff contender, although the Las Vegas over/under of a modest 81 1/2 wins says, “Whoa, now!”

3. BOXING: Mayweather-Pacquiao fight is (finally!) set: The May 2 bout in Vegas, finally on after some six years of negotiations, is expected to set pay-per view records. Question now is whether two past-prime fighters -- Manny Pacquiao is 36 and Floyd Mayweather is about to turn 38 -- can produce an event worthy of the hype ... and worth the wait.

4. UM FOOTBALL: Golden convenes spring football practice: Offseason football is under way in Coral Gables culminating with annual offense vs. defense Spring Game March 28. Spring traditionally is time for optimism, except among perpetually dissatisfied Canes fans, who complain UM is only .500 in intrasquad spring games under Al Golden.

5. NASCAR: Earnhardt, Gordon in Daytona 500 spotlight: Dale Earnhardt Jr. will try to become only fourth back-to-back champ in event’s 62 years and first since 1995 as Sunday's Daytona 500 begins Jeff Gordon’s farewell year. NASCAR opener will start with the traditional call: "Gentlemen, start your feuding and backbiting!"

6. UM BASKETBALL: Canes men miss big opportunity at Louisville: Miami, on the bubble in terms of making NCAA Tournament, blew a late lead and lost 55-53 Saturday at No. 12 Louisville, missing what would have been a huge win. Should coach Jim Larranaga's Canes wind up settling for NIT instead of being on the Big Dance card, they'll maybe blame this.

7. PANTHERS: Cats blow chance to take over No. 8 seed in East: Florida lost 4-1 at Ottawa last night when a win would have overtaken the idle Boston Bruins for eighth and final playoff spot in NHL’s Eastern Conference. Hey, when your team last won a postseason series in 1996, close counts and this is Playoff Fever.

8. NFL: Scouting Combine nears conclusion in Indianapolis: And, really, other than questions about his weight problem, his shoulder weakness and all of the baggage of his immaturity-fueled college shenanigans, it was a great Combine for Jameis Winston. 

9. GOLF: Honda Classic in Palm Beach loses Tiger Woods: PGA Tour’s Honda Classic starts in four days, but sans Tiger Woods, who is taking a short break from golf. Jack Nicklaus called Tiger’s struggles "between his ears." NBC analyst Johnny Miller said he "must have demons in his head." On the other hand, Sigmund Freud thinks Tiger’s problem is just a hitch in his backswing.

10. MLB: Baseball institutes speed-up rules: Effective this year, for example: Hitters must remain in batter’s box after asking for time, and pitching changes will be on the clock. Good! I don’t wanna say baseball got much too slow, but the sport fell so far behind it is just now about to begin the 2009 season.

Also considered: Roger Federer bows out of Key Biscayne tennis, A-Rod's apology letter, Canes at Gators baseball, beagle wins Westminster dog show, Cricket World Cup.

HEAT FIZZLE IN DRAGIC DEBUT AS POST-BOSH RUN BEGINS: Newly acquired Heat point guard Goran Dragic (pictured) debuted for Miami at home last night in a disappointing, never-led loss to New Orleans. With Chris 1aa1adragicBosh sidelined for the remainder of the season with blood clots in his lungs, this unveiled the post-Bosh Heat. With Dragic here and Dwyane Wade back, this is your new-look team. And if last night was any sort of good test and good gauge, Miami could struggle to make the playoffs without Bosh. Miami had whipped the awful Knicks the night before without Dragic, but that was no gauge. When Udonis Haslem makes his first career 3-pointer, Mario Chalmers has eight steals, eight of the only nine players available score in double figures and Tyler Johnson is on the end of an alley-oop dunk, you know the opponent is awful and all things are flowing your way.

Poll result: Heat fans loving -- loving! -- the Goran Dragic trade: We asked, and you had no doubt, with 80.4 percent "loving" and another 16.1% "liking" the Heat's trade for point guard Goran Dragic. Fewer than 4% disliked or hated the deal.

Poll result: Athletes should deal with media, but it's arguable: Little consensus. We asked if leagues and teams had a right to expect players to be available to media, and it was 47.8 percent yes and 43.8% no, with 8.4% undecided.

1aa1aoscarcokeSATIRIZING THE OSCARS: The Academy Awards are Sunday/tonight as most know, and I found funny the pictured work of a Los Angeles street artist named Plastic Jesus. (Yes, Plastic Jesus). It depicts an iconic gold Oscar statuette on all fours snorting two lines of cocaine. The sign reads, 'Hollywood's Best Party.' Ah, artistic freedom! It's a wonderful thing. Although Academy Awards lawyers may not have agreed. The display was soon removed.

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August 10, 2014

Dolphins' predicted win %'s in every game; plus Brady Quinn, RIP Robin Williams, Wade's jab at LeBron, Hot Button Top 10, Le Batard & more

1aa1arobinw1) It is MONDAY, AUGUST 11. R.I.P., Robin Williams, 63, one of our great comic actors, dead of an apparent suicide. Shocking. So, so sad. 2) Peyton and Eli Manning have a new hip-hop video (sort of) for DirecTV. It is splendidly awful. Click here to cringe or enjoy. In case you missed it, click here for my Saturday column on Alonzo Mourning's hall of fame induction. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Tannehill sharp in preseaon-opener loss, Reshad Jones suspended, Dolphins-newcomer poll, Zo's big night, my 50 yards from glory & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Vine and Instagram.

1aa1adwadejabD. Wade's gentle jab at LeBron?: Dwyane Wade's latest Instagram post today, unexplained, is this quotation: "Loyalty Is Rare, If You Find, Keep It." Interpret as you will.

Le Batard explains himself: Dan Le Batard reacts to his recent two-day ESPN suspension today in a new column for ESPN.com. Click here to read it.    

"Cleveland is ecstatic. Because of LeBron James and Johnny Manziel? Well, yeah, that too I suppose, now that you mention it. But I meant because the city is hosting the International Gay Games this week." --Greg Cote

HERE ARE WIN-LIKELIHOOD PERCENTAGES FOR EVERY DOLPHINS GAME: PredictionMachine.com computers replayed the 2014 season 50,000 times and spit out an average of 7.4 victories for the
1aa1apredictionDolphins -- foretelling the typical competitive-but-no-playoffs season. Miami is given a 12.2 percent chance to win the AFC East 1aa1adol0.4and a 13.9% shot at a wild card -- a combined postseason likelihood of 26.1%. The Dolphins are given a 0.4% chance -- less than half of 1 percent -- to win the Super Bowl. Here are game-by-game win percentages, from likeliest victory to unlikeliest: 60.2% vs. Bills (Game 10); 58.5% @ Jaguars (7); 55.0% vs. Jets (16); 54.2% @ Raiders (4); 54.1 @ Jets (12); 53.8% vs. Chiefs (3); 52.5% vs. Vikings (15); 50.8% @ Bills (2); 49.7% vs. Ravens (13); 43.7% vs. Chargers (8); 42.3% @ Bears (6); 39.3% vs. Packers (5); 38.5% vs. Patriots (1); 36.6% @ Lions (9); 29.3% @ Patriots (14); and 17.2% @ Broncos (11). PredictionMachine says the six AFC playoff teams in order will be Broncos, Patriots, Colts, Bengals, Chargers and Texans. For the NFC it's Saints, Seahawks, Giants, Packers, 49ers and Eagles. Most likely Super Bowl champions are the Broncos (25.1%), Seahawks to repeat (22.1%), Saints (15.8%) and Patriots (8.8%).

The Dolphins recycle: Quinn tops Grossman, Skelton in QB audition: Dolphins worked out
1aa1abradybodyquarterbacks Rex Grossman, Brady Quinn (pictured lookin' all sexy) and John Skelton today, with Quinn signed. This was because team's QB situation after starter Ryan Tannehill seemed in flux, with backup Matt Moore and third-string Pat Devlin both sitting out preseason opener injured, and Moore a pricey backup with a $4 million salary. Quinn of course is the guy many Dolfans hoped team drafted in 2007 (instead of Ted Ginn), but he has done little in NFL. Coach Joe Philbin was typically say-nothing on the auditions today: "We’ve had workouts almost every single day and it’s no different. We’re always evaluating different people that are out there." To me it felt like flying in these guys was mostly a message to Moore and Devlin; now it seems Quinn will supplant Devlin as the No. 3. Hey, now let's start a Tim Tebow rumor and really make this fun. Wait. Vince Young!

1aa1afrank2


1aa1afrankmaloneyFAMED BOXING PROMOTER BECOMES WOMAN:
You don't see this every day. It turns out famed British boxing promoter and manager Frank Maloney, now 61, who shepherded Lennox Lewis to the heavweight title in the '90s, is now a woman named Kellie. Click here for the story out of the UK. Frank and his female transmogrification are pictured.

1aa1afacekiniFASHION TREND: THE 'FACEKINI': Beachgores in China have popularized a bizarre head-covering designed to both protect the face from the sun's harmful rays and also to scare the living s--- out of children imagining an alien attack. Click here for thre backstory. This is a blog, so I couldn't say it if it weren't true.

HOT BUTTON: TOP 10 THINGS SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Hot Button is an added Sunday feature of the blog because our Sunday notes-column package in the print edition has been on summer hiatus, scheduled to return to the newspaper on Aug. 24. Hot Button means what's on our minds as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead:

1aa1ahotbutton1. Dolphins: Tannehill shines in preseason opener: Safety Reshad Jones was socked with four-game NFL suspension for PEDs. Better news: Ryan Tannehill was 6-for-6 on opening drive and new offense looked good early in 16-10 fake-game loss in Atanta.

2. UM football: Golden plays mind games: Coach Al Golden has his Hurricanes undergoing "mindfulness" sessions with neuroscientist Amishi Jha. UM fans hope that what players are most mindful of is blocking and tackling. 

3. Marlins: Huge homestand needed: Brad Penny won in first game back with Fish, but team is still 4.5 games back in wild-card chase entering Sunday. Miami will need a big showing in a nine-game homestand starting Monday to have a chance.

4. Dan Le Batard: LeBron prank leads to suspension: ESPN suspended Le Batard for two days from his TV and radio shows after he paid for billboards that read, "You're Welcome, LeBron. Love, Miami," to coincide with James' Akron homecoming. The billboards: $5,000. The publicity: Priceless.

5. Alonzo Mourning: Zo joins hall of fame: The Heat's first big star was among 10 newest members of the basketball hall of fame Friday night in Springfield, Mass. To say the inductees spoke a little long would be understating it. I think Nolan Richardson might still be talking.

6. Heat: Riley's well-timed shot: speaks: Pat Riley's ill feelings about how LeBron left the Heat continue to seep through. On Friday, the same day Akron officially welcomed James home, Riley released to "Heat Lifers" a forward-looking video full of optimism. Meanwhile James assured Cavs fans, "I don't plan on going nowhere" -- and was suspended four games for a grammatical double-negative.

7. Golf: Rory leads PGA Championship: Red-hot Rory McIlroy took a one-shot lead into Sunday's final round of the season's fourth and final major. Tiger Woods missed the cut. Rory insists the"next Tiger" talk is premature. Win today and the insisting will be harder.

8. Biogenesis: Charges filed: One year after the story first broke, the feds arrested Biogenesis founder Tony Bosch and others connected to the Coral Gables steroids mill that implicated Alex Rodrguez and others in MLB. Just when you think baseball's "Steroids Era" is over, it isn't.

9. NASCAR: Stewart involved in tragedy: Tony Stewart withdrew from Sunday's NASCAR race after accidentally striking and killing another driver in a Saturday dirt-track race.

10. NCAA: O'Bannon ruling: NCAA said it will appeal after judge ruled against it in landmark case that would open door for college athletes to receive some of the money they generate in major college sports. The way the legal system works, I wonder if Ed O'Bannon, 41, will still be alive to someday collect.

1aa1ablazorPoll result: Lazor, Albert and Landry lead Dolphins newcomers: In the previous blogpost we gave you 12 choices for the Dolphins' top newcomer/biggest addition (you may still vote), and three men dominated: Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor (pictured) with 27.4 percent, OT Branden Albert with 25.6% and WR Jarvis Landry with 22.2%. On a distant second tier were CB Cortland Finnegan (7.0%) and OT Ja'Wuan James (6.6%). Showing minor support were RB Knowshon Moreno (3.1%) and S Louis Delmas (2.9%). The five others mopped up with negligible votes.

1aa1adanback
THE TICKET CAPITALIZES ON LE BATARD SUSPENSION:
Radio station 104.3 & 790 The Ticket bought this full-page ad in the Miami Herald on Sunday to welcome back Dan today/Monday following his two-day ESPN suspension for those tweaking-LeBron billboards in Akron. Nice touch to show the "offending" billboard on the bottom of the ad. Take that, ESPN!

50 YARDS FROM GLORY: THE LATEST: My bet with Le Batard that I can make a 50-yard field goal (an unadulterated radio-show gimmick) is not looking good. I worked out Saturday at St. Thomas Aquinas High with kicking coach Tim Conrad and did not top 30 yards before a strained quad muscle cut short the session. Stugotz was there; if only his moral support translated to added yardage. Have I given up? No. But the injury will force me to postpone my live-on-the-air attempt that had been planned for Tuesday. Meantime a video of me kicking on Saturday is posted on my Instagram account @ upsetbird. Updates to come.

1aa1adolcheercoverDOLPHIN CHEERLEADERS UPDATE: The Dolphins cheerleaders have revealed their 2015 calendar and the suspense has ended. Now, at long last, we can tell you that Monica (pictured) is the cover girl. Was she the betting favorite? Not sure. One more question. Why can't the Dolphins ever look as good on the field as the cheerleaders do in a calendar?

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April 23, 2014

G2: Heat 101, Charlotte 97: LeBron's 32 lifts escape to 2-0 series lead; plus Arison's bravado, Heat's Game of Thrones, Jose Fernandez chases history & more

1) It is WEDNESDAY, APRIL 23. King Sport unleashes its 2014 schedule in an NFL Network show tonight. It's much ado about not much considering teams' opponents already are known, and tonight just attaches dates. 2) Record Store Day just passed. Support your local indie music shop. Long live vinyl! 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Heat-Charlotte preview and Game 1, Typepad issues hold blog hostage & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote.

Blog note about recent issues: You know how you never really stop to appreciate how good you feel until you're sick? I go forth with renewed appreciation for the simple act of being able to post in this blog whenever I wish. That was taken away for several recent days as Typepad fought denial-of-service cyber attacks. Thanks for the patience and understanding, all.

G2: HEAT 101, CHARLOTTE 97: NARROW ESCAPE AS LEBRON NETS 32: LeBron James' game-high 32 points lifted Miami tonight in a narrow escaoe for a 2-0 series lead. Chris Bosh had 20 including some clutch shots late. Dwyane Wade was off offensively (4-for-10 shooting, 15 points) but had a victory-sealing steal with 1.2 seconds left. A very hard foul against James by Josh McRoberts with just under a minute left was not called a flagrant but will be subject to league review and possible discipline. Maybe that play is what is needed to fire up the Heat, which has not shown its best or most intense effort these first two games of the postseason. ..... Game 2 Heat Players of the Game: 1. James, 2. Bosh, 3. Wade (edging the early spark of Mario Chalmers). ..... Original post: Tonight's Game 2 of the Heat-Charlotte first-round series is the 100th home playoff game in Heat history. (Hallmark make a card for that?) More 1aa1aheatchaimportant, it's likely to be the stage for Miami taking 2-0 series command following that 99-88 opening win on Sunday and before 1aa1ag2heatchathe series swings up to North Carolina for Game 3 Saturday night. Mario Chalmers (shin) is game-time decision for Miami tonight. More significantly, Bobcats star Al Jefferson (foot) says he'll play but surely will be limited. Charlotte is 13-4 following losses since mid-January, but a far weightier 17-game sample is that Miami has won 17 in a row over Charlotte including five this season. Dwyane Wade's continued progress will be a watch-point again tonight after an encouraging and efficient 23-point game in the opener. He referred to himself Tuesday as still "working my way back." It'll also be interesting to see if James Jones' heroics off the bench in Game 1 (12 points in 14 minutes) was a one-off thing or portends a steady rotation role.

Heat Postseason MVP Standings (through 1 game): Entering Game 2 tonight: Dwyane Wade 3 points; LeBron James 2; James Jones 1. (We name 'Heat 3 Stars' after every playoff game and award points on 3-2-1 basis).

HEAT OWNER SORT OF GUARANTEES RETURN OF BIG 3, ALMOST!: Well, he did. Sort of. Not that he can be sure, really. So this might be big news, or it might not be news at all. Welcome to Journalism 1aa1amickya2014, where sometimes news can be a casual aside in a Tweet, and sometimes it can be Micky Arison, on ESPN Radio Monday, answering, "100 percent," when host Dan Le Batard asked the Heat's owner for a percentage likelihood "this thing stays together next season." (Dan didn't say what he was referring to, but all know This Thing meant the Big 3 era). Micky (pictured far right with Pat Riley) could have said "we're hopeful" or some other vaguary but he took Le Batard's bait with the one percentage that sounds like all but a guarantee. The one problem: Whatever Micky thinks in April is trumped by whatever LeBron James thinks and decides this summer. Clearly nothing about this is 100 percent, but I don't think Arison is far off in his optimism. If Miami wins a third straight NBA title it almost guarantees the Big 3 stays intact. If Miami falls short I think the likeliest scenario is that the Big 3 all extend for one more season with the option to test free agency in 2015. I'd put that likelihood at a solid, um, 78.4 percent.

Heat = Lannisters in NBA Game of Thrones: I don't watch HBO's Game of Thrones. But I know many do, and may enjoy this piece drawing parallels between the popular show and the 2014 NBA playoffs. Pat Riley is cast as Tywin Lannister and his team as the Lannisters, which must mean something to somebody.

 

1aa1ajoshmcrBobcats enlist Jesus, fail anyway: The Charlotte Bobcats, who ran like hell from the depravity of South Beach after their Game 1 loss, fell in the opener despite Jesus playing for the team. And on Easter no less! (I'm surprised this was not a bigger national story, and thanks to Twitter follower @mancard1 for pointing it out to me). Jesus, pictured right, scored 15 points in the 99-88 Miami win while playing under the earthly name "Josh McRoberts."

MARLINS POSITIVITY: Miami is 10-11 right now after Jose Fernandez's 14-strikeout gem last night, but only six teams in MLB have a better run-differential than the Marlins' plus-12. As for Fernandez's dominance, see The List directly below.

THE LIST: KID K, JOSE FERNANDEZ: Fernandez so far in his young career averages 10.307 strikeouts per 9 innings pitched. The only two pitchers in history to average more are Randy Johnson (10.610) and Kerry Wood (10.317). How Fernandez ranks in strikeouts-per-inning vs. the eight pitchers with 500-plus career strikeouts for the Marlins:

Pitcher                K's-per-Inning    Strikeouts / Innings

Jose Fernandez       1.145             234 / 204.1

Josh Beckett            0.997             607 / 609.0

Josh Johnson          0.908             832 / 916.2

A.J. Burnett            0.882              753 / 853.2

Anibal Sanchez       0.851              676 / 794.1

Ryan Dempster       0.827             628 / 759.2

Ricky Nolasco         0.817             1001 / 1225.2

Dontrelle Willis       0.740              757 / 1022.2

Brad Penny             0.729             570 / 781.2

YES, MEBRAHTOM KEFLEZIGHI IS AN AMERICAN: The Boston Marathon ran in peace Monday one year after 1aa1amebkthe terrorist bombings -- a triumph of American resolve and spirit -- and, fittingly, in the storybook style sports so often delivers, an American man won for the first time since 1983. The American is named Mebrahtom "Meb" Keflezighi, and you could almost hear a million Americans snorting, "What!? That's no American!" Well, Meb emigrated from his native Eritrea in 1987 at age 12. (I know. Eritrea sounds like the dog in Scooby Doo mispronouncing a word, but it's a small country in the horn of Africa). Anyway, Keflezighi is now 38, living and raising a family in San Diego, and a U.S. citizen. His is a very American story, and a particularly sweet one for this year's Boston race. Congrats, Mebster!

R.I.P., RUBIN (HURRICANE) CARTER, 1937-2014: He was the former middleweight boxer who was framed, wrongly convicted of murder and spent 19 years in prison before his conviction was overturned. He died this week in Toronto. His story was the subject of the Bob Dylan song, "Hurricane," which we offer below. This is not Dylan singing (sorry), but is briefer than the original, includes lyrics (some adult language) and well-represents the tale.

 

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April 14, 2014

Tue pm 4-15: Why Heat preferred No. 2 seed (by a lot); plus Philbin on candid camera, All Apologies, Wade verdict, Bubba's Mastery, Pacquiao & more

It's Radio Tuesday Thursday!: I'm in-studio with the Dan Le Batard Show again this week, but Thursday, not today.

1aa1abostonstrong1) It is TUESDAY, APRIL 15. Remembering those killed, injured and otherwise affected on the one-year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings. 2) Click on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes-column package, leading with the end (for now) of the Heat drama, Waiting on Dwyane. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dwyane Wade poll, Wade shines in return, Heat-Pacers, Stephen Colbert, Dolphins cheerleaders & more. 4) Follow on Twitter @gregcote.

LeBron, Bosh sit in Heat loss: LeBron james and Chris Bosh sitting out last night's 114-93 loss at Atlanta verified (see item directly below) how little interest Miami had in the No. 1 seed at this point.

FIGHT FOR NO. 1 SEED WAS A FALLACY. HEAT BETTER OFF AS NO. 2: Miami's season-long chase with Indiana for the No. 1 Eastern Conference playoff seed has been a fallacy. As the standings have set, it 1aa1ano2has become clear that the Heat much prefer being right where they're at, holding the No. 2  seed. Take the two reasons chronologically. The second seed means Miami's first-round playoff opponent is Charlotte, not Atlanta. Though Miami would be hugely favored over either and be threatened by neither, the Heat are 4-0 vs. the Bobcats this season, only 2-2 vs. the Hawks. But the second round is the big reason. The No. 2 seed in the second round would face the winner of the Toronto-Washington series, while the No. 1 seed would face the winner of Chicago-Brooklyn. Miami of course is 0-4 vs. the Nets, and only 2-2 vs. the Bulls and irritant Joakim Noah. The Heat are 4-0 vs. the Raptors, and 2-2 vs. the Wizards including last night's token effort. Bulls or Nets in the second round would be a real test for Miami, whereas Raptors or Wizards would be more of a waltz into the conference finals. The Heat won't ever say they preferred No. 2, but it's beyond logical why they would. (Oh, and Miami would still have that Eastern finals Game 7 at home if the opponent is anybody but Indiana, whch it very well could be with Brooklyn).

Poll result: Still concern over Wade's health: We asked how you feel about Dwyane Wade's health situation entering the playoffs, and a narrow plurality of 39.2 percent were confident he'd be healthy and a major contributor. But 38.9% were concerned about rust or reinjury, and another 21.9% were worried his contruibution would be limited.

1aa1ajoemoeBLOG EXCLUSIVE! JOE EATS AT MOE'S: A blog spy shot this picture over the weekend of Dolphins coach Joe Philbin having lunch alone at Moe's Southwestern Grill just north of Dolphins camp. Joe, an apparent fork southpaw, appears to be digging into a healthful salad. We thank our blog spy for passing this along. We'd thank them even more if it wasn't a bad photograph framed by giant cups in the foreground. The news value in this exclusive photo is that Philbin appears -- at least to me -- to be in deep thought mulling options as to what the Dolphins will do in the first round of next month's draft.

I WISH I WAS LIKE YOU, EASILY AMUSED...: At the recent Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductions one of my favorite bands, Nirvana, performed one of my favorite songs, "All Apologies," with one of my favorite newer performers, Lorde, on lead vocals. Love it. You might, too. Or, not.

  

NHL PLAYOFF ODDS; CANADIAN MISERY CONTUNUES: Boston is a 7-2 favorite (via Bovada) to win the NHL's Stanley Cup as playoffs near, followed by St. Louis at 6-1, Pittsburgh 7-1 and Chicago 8-1. A Canadian team, Montreal, last won it all in 1993. Montreal is the only northern neighbor of 16 qualifiers this year, and is mid-pack 20-1. 

1aa1abubbawBUBBA THE PERFECT MASTERS WINNER: Bubba Watson's second Masters victory in three years must please the men who run Augusta. What better representative for an Old Boys Network that fought kicking and screaming to admit blacks and women as members than a champion named Bubba? In all seriousness, gotta love anybody who just pocketed a 1.6 million check and celebrates at a Waffle House. Mea culpa: Originally I referred to Bubba as Watkins, not Watson. OY! Sorry. Quick aside: Nobody -- with the possible exception of the grand marshal in a St. Patrick's Day parade -- looks good in a green jacket.

My own golf game: I am playing as well as I ever have, which I say modestly. My past two rounds, at Holywood Beach and Hillcrest, have both been scores of 92. One included seven pars, the other four pars and a birdie (on a 25-foot putt on a par 3). 

PACQUIAO-MAYWEATHER?: Manny Pacquiao's decision over Timothy Bradley in their rematch in Vegas, avenging a controversial 2012 loss, did two things. 1) It made Heat coach Erik Spoelstra very happy. Spo is big fan of Pacquiao, a fellow Filipino. 2) It will mean a resumption of speculation about a Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather Jr. bout. Such a fight would have been pay-per-view gold a couple of years ago. Interest is diminished because both fights are, but interest remains. Could still set PPV records with the right hype.

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February 25, 2014

Wednesday p.m.: The night Ali was born, 50 years ago later; plus the N-word, Marlins' projected win total, Team USA verdict, Hiassen/Pitts & more

1) It is WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 26. In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Team USA Olympic poll, Dale Jr., LeBron's nose & more. 2) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote and also on Instagram, Vine and Facebook.

IT WAS 50 YEARS AGO: CLAY BEATS LISTON IN MIAMI BEACH, AND MUHAMMAD ALI IS BORN: I spoke with Ferdie Pacheco, "The Fight Doctor," for yesterday's column on the golden anniversary 1aa1aclayliston1of a watershed event in American sports history, and arguably the biggest one we have hosted in greater Miami. Click on Ali Is Born for that column. Ferdie and I did not speak at length. He was tired. He 's 86 now, and he'd just done four hours with CBS Sports cameras in his Miami home for a 1aa1aclaylistonspecial. Being the last, best living link to those Clay-turning-Ali days makes Pacheco a treasure, living history. Ali himself, of course, is a shell in the terrible embrace of Parkinson's. It's as if Pacheco is his voice now, too. I was too young to know of that Feb. 25, 1964 fight, let alone to have attended, but the buzz about it helped kindle in me a fascination with boxing; more accurately, with Ali, the Greatest Of All Time. He was the first athlete of my generation, at the least the first on my radar, who transcended sports, and who brought politics, religion and outlandish (wonderful) braggadocio to our games. He was like nothing before, and there has been none like him since. It is fitting that the History Miami museum has an art and photo exhibit marking that event 50 years ago, and hosted a panel discussion last night. And it is fitting that The Fight Doctor was on that panel, the painter's brush strokes giving color to memories in black and white.

MARLINS' PROJECTED WIN TOTAL: It's 69.5 on the betting over/under, says Bovada. Good news: That's better than last season's 62 wins. Bad news: That's still tied for next to last in all of MLB, and last in the NL East, after Nationals 88.5, Braves 87.5, Phillies 76.5 and mets 73.5. Overall leader is Dodgers at 92.5.

Poll result: Mixed verdict on Team USA performance in Sochi: We asked in the previous blogpost and you all gave Team USA what amounts to silver or bronze at best. Most, 32.5 percent, rated the overall performance "good," 29.2% "fair" and 26.6% "disappointing." It was "a failure" to 6.5% and "excellent" to only 5.2%.

ON THE USE OF THE "N-WORD": First, yeah, I'm about as white as can be and yet here I am opining on the n-word. So what? No apologies. If I can speak up for gay rights even though I'm not gay, why can't I have an opinion on others using the n-word? I have not been hurt to have been called it in anger, 1aa1anwordderision or hatred like many older African-Americans (and some younger) may have, but I still am jarred by the sound of the word, no matter it's present-day connotation. I address its use not from a vantage of Civil Rights, but of civility, and Black History Month provides a natural vessel for discussion. I hear black friends and black athletes (though not all) defend using the word among themselves, but with an "-a" not an "-er" on the end. Rappers feel the same justification. Even some whites do, as if using the word includes them in some private club. That was an element of the Incognito/Martin dynamic in the Dolphins' Bullygate saga. I'm not audacious enough to tell anybody how they should speak among themselves, or in their art form, but I can suggest the continued use of the n-word, even ending in "a," feels self-defeating to me. It is clearly generational, as we saw in the recent ESPN Outside The Lines special on the word. It is significant to note most older blacks who actually were victims of segregation and racism abhor the word in all its forms. This, to me, is reason enough to erase the word in all its forms from our lexicon. That includes rap lyrics and collegial locker-room banter. It is a matter of respect, not so much respect for one's self as respect for generations past that suffered greatly, sometimes paying with their lives, when the n-word represented discrimination in its most violent, hateful form. I don't agree with the NFL considering making a penalty of the word, but only because not saying it should not require rules or legislation. Not saying it should spring from the conscience.

IN APPRECIATION OF HIASSEN, PITTS: Columnists Carl Hiaasen and Leonard Pitts Jr. make me proud of the Miami Herald, and honored to be a colleague over here on the sporting wing. The thought occured Sunday as I read the latest from each: Hiassen on the latitude and lunacy of Florida's Stand Your Ground gun law, and Pitts on gay rights and stubborn wrongs. Excellence. From them it almost always is.

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