February 27, 2015

In-out door spinning: On Hartline, Jagr, Beasley; plus what Miami team inspiring most optimism? (poll; vote!); also Stanton in body paint, LeBron, Tiger & more

1) It is SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 28. Click here to watch a Boston-area man roll the last three strikes in a perfect 900 series in bowling. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): ESPN analytics ranking of local teams, get-well-Bosh campaign, Dan Marino, Daytona 500, Oscars review & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine. 4) Here is the latest 'Back In My Day' segment from the Dan LeBatard Show: Back_in_my_Day-_Baseball's_Rule_Changes-_2-24-15 (2)

"Will the last ESPN on-air personality to not be suspended please turn out the lights?" --Greg Cote

HARTLINE OUT, BEASLEY, JAGR IN. HUH? WHA!?: OK I leave for a long weekend's holiday in Austin, Tex. and all hell breaks loose back in South Florida. Man I can't leave you people alone for a minute! Just since I left early Thursday, the Heat bring back Michael Beasley with a 10-day contract, the Panthers acquire aging star Jaromir Jar, and the Dolphins release receiver Brian Hartline (and also Brandon Gibson). Quick thoughts on each: Heat/Beasley -- Makes sense. With Chris Bosh out the rest of the season and Josh McRoberts out all year, Miami needed power-forward help, and Beasley is still young enough and with enough upside to risk a trial run. Panthers/Jagr -- Well, Jaromir is 43 now. Can he still provide the scoring punch Florida needs to lock down a playoff spot? As when the Marlins signed Ichiro, this signing is exciting for the remaining big-name value but may not have huge impact. Dolphins/Hartline -- It's a clear salary purge to erase a one-time prominent WR of diminishing results. The question now is if eliminating Hartline and Gibson means it'll be more likely that Mike Wallace stays. (I doubt it). Interesting times for all of these teams. And getting more interesting all the time.

WHAT MIAMI TEAM HAS MOST EARNED YOUR OPTIMISM?: Blind hope is one thing, but I'm talking here
about optimism rooted in reason. What is the local Big 5 team most headed the right way? Current or 1aa1aoptimismmost recent won-lost record should be factored, but maybe not as much as the overall direction -- the sense of how well the team is positioned to win big and soon. This is not asking your favorite team or sport. It's asking who among Dolphins, Heat, UM football, Marlins and Panthers fans should feel the most optimistic right now? Purposely I did not include a "none of them!" option in the poll, because like the guy to the right staring up at you says, if you can't find optimism somewhere, you're dead. This, I know, is a tough poll question that may scare away discourage many potential voters because the answer can't be quantified and because it's hard to compare different sports. Plus, you may think it's a close call between a couple of teams. Nevertheless! You are challenged: Take a dip in our poll and drop a Comment saying why you feel as you do.

1aa1agiancarlosiSTANTON'S BURGEONING STAR-POWER AFFIRMED ... IN BODY PAINT: Marlins star Giancarlo Stanton adorns the cover of the latest Sports Illustrated, and SI say it's the first time any athlete has been on its cover in body paint. (Um, don't some things go without saying?) This is the latest indication of Stanton's burgeoning journey from local star en route to national superstar. A $325 million contract will start that process, along with the expectation of 40-plus home runs. Being built like somebody sculpted in marble doesn't hurt. And the human interest angle -- coming back from an awful, face-smashing beaning -- just adds another layer.

On Marlins' two top prospects: One you may see soon, the other will take awhile. The Marlins 1aa1ajtrealplace righty pitcher Tyler Kolek (ranked No. 34) and catcher J.T. Realmuto (No. 72) among ESPN's Top 100 MLB prospects for 2015. Kolek, who just turned 19, will need a few years to marinate and refine, although he's a 6-6, 270-pound behemoth with a mid-90s fastball and the club thinks he could develop into a top-of-the-rotation starter. Realmuto (pictured) turns 24 in March and has a chance this spring that he's ready to stick with the big club.

1aa1albjmcdHE'S LOVIN' IT! (OR SO HE CLAIMS): In a Tuesday interview about diet and fitness LeBron James seemed to briefly forget that McDonald's pays him millions to pimp its products. He said, "I ate McDonald's my first couple of years in the NBA. I didn't stretch, I didn't ice. It didn't matter. I was 18, I could do whatever I wanted to." Nice recovery, though. When later asked how often he eats McDonald's nowadays he said, "Every day! Every day, every day, every day, every day, every day. I just had it this morning!"

BETTING PUBLIC HAS LITTLE FAITH IN TIGER TURNAROUND: It was the opposite once. The wagering 1aa1atwoodspublic loved Tiger Woods. Back in his reign, as a major neared, people actually debated if Tiger vs. the field was a decent bet. I remember the conversations. Now? New odds from our friends at Bovada have Tiger winning zero majors this year as a prohibitive 1-7 likelihood, and he's now a 14-1 longshot to surpass Jack Nicklaus' career majors record. The bright side? If you see Tiger with a big comeback left in him, it's a buyer's market.

NEWS STORY / MY COMMENT: News story: Three British teens arrive in Syria to join terrorists. My comment: Oh, how unfathomably idiotic!

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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 17, 2015

Do you root for or against Tiger Woods? New poll. Vote now!; plus pro-rating Miami's all-time pro coaches, Heat career ASG leaders, Marlins outlook, saving newspaper industry & more

It's Radio Tuesday!: I'm back in-studio with the Dan LeBatard Show today, 3-7 on The Ticket Miami, 4-7 on ESPN Radio. Ears welcome.


1) It is TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 17. Hope y'all had a lovely Presidents' Day. 2) Click on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes-column package. 3) 
In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot Button Top 10, Loria verdict, thank you Dr. J & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Heat in Haiti: Heat stars Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade (and wives) are in Haiti post All-Star Game and before the NBA season resumes. Click here for more.  

Marlins outlook: Buzz not so loud nationally: Local buzz about the Marlins is not reflected so much in national expectations based on new Bovada win over/unders that have Miami at 81.5 -- right about .500. Nationals top NL East at a majors-leading 92.5, with Fish and Mets both 81.5, Braves 73.5 and Phillies an MLB-worst 68.5.

TAKING SIDES ON TIGER WOODS: I explore the Tiger Woods phenomenon in today's latest column; click on Can't Stop Watching to read in full. It's timely because Woods is taking an indefinite break and 1aa1atigerwoodsunlikely to play the Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens later this month, which in turn means he wouldn't qualify to compete in the WGC event at Doral. We followed Woods through his era of excellence and aura. We watched during the infidelity scandal that rocked his golf career. Now we watch as he struggles, at 39, to come back and win again. Well, I do, anyway. And I think many do. But you may not. I see Woods as polarizing so I think most have an opinion. Like him or don't like him? Still interested or past him? Root for him or against him? I think Tiger Woods not playing is still more interesting than anyone who is (a problem for the PGA Tour), but I could be wrong. Take a dip in our poll and share your thoughts.

PRO-RATING SOUTH FLORIDA'S ALL-TIME WINNINGEST PRO COACHES: Jack McKeon won more games in Miami than Don Shula. Huh. What? Of course he did. Because baseball (162) plays 10 times more 1aa1adonshulagames in a season than football (16). Basketball and hockey (82) in turn play five times more games than football but half as many as baseball. So just for fun I did the math on all-time wins in each sport, with baseball managers holding at one point per victory, hockey and basketball coaches having their win totals doubled, and football coaches seeing their wins multiplied by 10. We included regular season and playoff wins. Here, pro-rated for the first time, measuring both success and longevity, are South Florida's all-time winningest coaches in a way that allows the comparison of each relative to each other. The Top 15:

Coach, Team                            Win value    Duration

1. Don Shula, Dolphins                2,740        1970-95

2. Pat Riley, Heat                           960        1995-03, '05-08

3. Erik Spoelstra, Heat                   798        2008-current

4. Dave Wannstedt, Dolphins         430        2000-04

5. Jimmy Johnson, Dolphins          380         1996-99

6. Jack McKeon, Marlins                292         2003-05, '11

7. Tony Sparano, Dolphins             290         2008-11

8. Fredi Gonzalez, Marlins             276         2007-10

9. Kevin Loughery, Heat                270         1991-95

10. Stan Van Gundy, Heat             258         2003-05

11. Joe Philbin, Dolphins               230          2012-current

12. Rene Lachemann, Marlins       221         1993-96

13. Jacques Martin, Panthers        220          2005-08

14. Peter DeBoer, Panthers          206          2008-11

15. John Boles, Marlins                 205         1996, '99-01

Note -- Others active (along with Spoelstra and Philbin): Marlins' Mike Redmond (139) and Panthers' Gerard Gallant (48). Spoelstra and Gallant are in-season, with totals updated through Sunday.

HEAT ALL-TIME ALL-STAR GAME SCORING: Only seven Heat players in franchise history have played in an NBA All-Star Game, encompassing 28 appearances. That includes Chris Bosh on Sunday. The seven listed in order of ASG points scored:

Player                            Pts.-Games    Avg.

Dwyane Wade                 173-10          17.3

LeBron James                 106-4            26.5

Chris Bosh                        42-5              8.4

Shaquille O'Neal               39-3            13.0

Alonzo Mourning              30-3            10.0

Tom Hardaway                18-2              9.0

Anthony Mason                  0-1              0.0

1aa1afloridiansNote -- The Miami Floridians (later The Floridians) played four seasons in the ABA, 1968-72. Their six players who appeared in an all-star game were: Donnie Freeman 31-2, Mack Calvin 18-2, Les Hunter 12-1, Larry Jones 6-1, Warren Jabali 4-1 and Skip Thoren 2-1.

 

NEWSPAPER INDUSTRY PLANS BOLD NEW SURVIVAL STRATEGY: GUILT-TRIP ON "CHEAP" AMERICANS

    Faked-Up News Network (FUNN) -- The Association of American Newspapers, desperate to reverse years of declining circulation and advertising revenue, is expected to soon unveil a major national multi-platform 1aa1anewspapersad
campaign embodying a bold new strategy: Shame Americans by making them feel guilty for being too cheap to buy a paper. "Nothing else has worked because of the damned Internet so we're going the guilt-trip route," confirmed AAN president Mort Eppermeier. "I mean, seriously, you'll pay $2 for a cup of coffee but you won't spend 50 cents for a paper? How cheap are you!?" The media group considered an alternate ad campaign centered on Thomas Jefferson's famous words said in 1787: "Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter" -- but that was shouted down as too high-minded. The group also considered a campaign emphasizing alternate uses for old newspapers, such as packing material and weed retardant, but that too was rejected. The rollout of the new ad campaign -- 'BUY A PAPER, CHEAPSKATE!' -- is expected later this summer.

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February 13, 2015

Time to reconsider Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria? Poll is (surprisingly) close. Last day to vote!; plus D-Wade on '50 Shades', Dolphins free-agency results & more

1aa1adayval1) It is SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 14. Happy Valentine's Day to all the ladies! Guys, make it actual jewelry and roses this year, not photos. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins free-agency poll, Rolling Stone on SNL, Heat/Chalmers trade speculation & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.


Attention paraskevidekatriaphobes:
To those afflicted with paraskevidekatriaphobia (fear of Friday the 13th), I hope y'all stayed indoors yesterday, because, sadly, your worst fears are real!

TIME TO GET OVER PAST ANIMUS AND RECONSIDER LORIA: That headline sums up the theme of my latest column, which points out all the good going on with the Marlins -- from Giancarlo Stanton's long-term deal to yesterday's official announcement about the 2017 All-Star Game -- and suggests owner 1aa1aloriajJeffrey Loria deserves a fresh look from fans. (Click on Reconsidering Loria for the full column). But I know the team's owner remains polarizing and disliked by many. For example, these I swear were the first two (of many) emails I read in reaction to what I wrote. First one: "Nice column. Deserved to be said." Second one: "Are you that [bleep]ing STUPID? Loria is a SCUMBAG!" And so it goes. I either bravely wrote what needed to be said, or I'm an idiot who defended the devil. I get why people were anti-Loria; I ripped him in print plenty for years of underspending on payrolls. But as I write: It isn’t about “trusting” the owner, or liking him. It’s about not allowing what was to blind you to what is. For me, the full measure of Loria includes the negative, the old baggage, but it also includes the positive, the now. The Marlins are a franchise in good shape, making smart decisions and headed right. Has Loria earned our full trust and blind faith? No. But has he earned some benefit of doubt and a detente on the hatred? Yes. Anyway, enough of my opinions. Time for yours. This poll attempts to explore how we feel about Jeffrey Loria, and whether those opinions are evolving. Vote, and elaborate in the Comments on why you feel as you do.

1aa1adwade50D-WADE ON '50 SHADES OF GRAY': Heat star Dwyane Wade, in New York for the NBA All-Star Game he'll miss injured, was stopped on the streets by TMZ and asked about the erotic movie 50 Shades Of Gray. Wade said he planned to take actress/wife Gabrielle Union to see it because, "I wanna learn something!" Watch the brief video here.

Poll result: Suh tops Dolfans' free-agency wish list: We gave you a choice of 10 top free agents-to-be and asked which you'd most like to see a Dolphin, and the only three with double-digit support were Lions DT Ndamukong Suh with 35.4 percent, 49ers OG Mike Iupati with 21.4% and Cowboys WR Dez Bryant with 11.6%.

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February 12, 2015

Who should Dolphins target in free agency if they're dreaming big? New poll. Vote now!; plus Heat trading Chalmers?, ranking SNL's all-time cast 1 through 141 & more

1) It is THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 12. Bill Belichick talks Deflategate (sort of) with David Letterman last night. Transcript and video here. 2) Richie Incognito says he's learned lesson and that Bills will be his last chance. Read here. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Marlins All-Star Game, LeBron's grand plan, Kiper on Fins, Brian Williams/Jon Stewart, Chicago Little League, 'Dear Greg' & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

"One can't have too much useless info so I now know I burned 590 calories sleeping last night. Thanks, FitBit." --Greg Cote

On the Chicago Little League scandal: Jackie Robinson West team is stripped of the U.S. championship it won at the Little League  World Series and, as usual, the problem with youth sports is the adults. Click on Shame Isn't the Kids' to Bear for today's latest column by me.

DOLPHINS WISH LIST (IF YOU'RE DREAMING BIG): Preemptive strike: The odds are Miami won't sign any of the 10 soon-to-be players in our poll once free agency begins officially on March 10. Chances are there will be higher 1aa1afanflbidders or better opportunities for each; plus, not everyone here fits a position priority for the Fins. But these are the 10 best guys who'll be available, according to ESPN, and the Dolphins will be shopping like every other team, so why not dream? Where would you steer Miami on this alphabetical list if money was no object and you had the ear of Mike Tannenbum and Dennis Hickey? Weigh the talent available with the team's needs and decide. Vote and say why.

1aa1asnllistROLLING STONE RANKS ALL-TIME 'SNL' CAST MEMBERS 1 THROUGH 141: This is a blog, so I couldn't say it if it weren't true. Rolling Stone in its latest cover story marks the show's 40th anniversary by ranking everybody who's ever been in the Saturday Night Live cast. I would never, ever spoil it by telling you who is No. 1 so the photo here would be totally random and coincidental. Click here for the full list.

HEAT/CHALMERS TRADE SPECULATION: Sports Illustrated today includes Heat guard Mario Chalmers (pictured) among five players it thinks are most apt to be traded before the Feb. 19 NBA deadline. SI's 1aa1achalmersmlogic: "He has a semi-tradeable contract (signed through next season at $4.3 million) that could interest teams in need of a better backup point guard, such as Washington and New Orleans. Chalmers’ shooting percentage on three-pointers above the break is 21.7%, yet he still launches 21.1% of his attempts from there. Miami, accordingly, has scored nearly four more points per 100 possessions when Chalmers is off the court. The Heat have a better offensive rating with Norris Cole running the show, and Shabazz Napier boosts the team defensively and is a viable threat from beyond the arc (35.4 three-point field goal percentage). By continuously giving time to Chalmers, Miami isn’t necessarily bettering their playoff chances, so Erik Spoelstra might as well let their younger options gain some experience to see if Cole is worth re-signing after this season and if Napier can morph into the long-term answer." All of that makes sense.

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February 11, 2015

Marlins All-Star Game in historical context; plus LeBron's grand plan, Kiper's new Dolphins pick, bad news for Al Golden, Chicago's cheaters?, Brian Williams/Jon Stewart, armed goats & more

1) It is WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 11. In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot-Seat Index coaching poll, SI swimsuits, J-Law's snake, Marlins unis, 2015 college football rankings & more. 2) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

LeBron's grand plan: LeBron James reveals in the Feb. 20 issue of The Hollywood Reporter his grand plan including a future in movies and his dream of building a Hollywood empire. Click here for the story and related video. Must-read for LBJ fans. 

'Back In My Day': Many of you on Twitter and in emails ask for links to the "Back In My Day" segments I do Tuesdays on the Dan Le Batard Show. I have done 17. Click on BIMD Volume 1 for episodes 1 through 10 (which originally appeared in the blog on Dec. 11). I'll have a link to the most recent episodes soon.

"I liked Beck before it was cool." --Greg Cote

1aa1afishlogoMARLINS ALL-STAR GAME IS FIFTH FOR SOUTH FLORIDA: The Marlins will be hosting their first MLB All-Star Game in 2017, a direct result of the new stadium that so many complained about but that will prove a positive for generations to come. Getting this game is a big deal, and it's about time. Baseball's annual
showcase is far superior to the other sports'. Giancarlo Stanton in the Home-Run Derby seems a given. But Miami sports historians like myself know this Marlins first actually will be the fifth major (Big Four sport) professional all-star game in South Florida. The list, chronologically:

All-Star Game               Date                    Site

NFL Pro Bowl                Jan. 20, 1975       Orange Bowl

NBA All-Star Game        Feb. 11, 1990       Miami Arena

NHL All-Star Game        Feb. 2, 2003        Office Depot Center, Sunrise 

NFL Pro Bowl                Jan. 31, 2010       Sun Life Stadium, Miami

MLB All-Star Game        TBD, 2017            Marlins Park

KIPER APES MCSHAY ON FINS PICK: Dueling ESPN mock drafters Mel Kiper (pictured) and Todd McShay need to get together and fake some variety. Kiper in his new Mock 2.0 out today has Jameis Winston No. 1 1aa1akipermeloverall to Tampa Bay, Marcus Mariota No. 6 to the Stinkin' Jets and Michigan State cornerback Trae Waynes No. 14 to Miami -- just like McShay did last week. Kiper on Waynes: "Dolphins need to add some effective youth at cornerback, and Waynes is a well-coached cover man with the versatility to help in both man and zone and brings a physical presence. He's effective taking on big receivers and will also not shy away from tackling and setting the edge as a run-defender. If you're going on pure upside, Marcus Peters (Washington) could gain a slight edge, but Waynes gets the nod for reliability. The Combine can shift perceptions at this position, but I think Waynes is a safe bet to be one of the top two corners taken and it's a need area for the Dolphins, who need more playmakers in their secondary."

Poll result: It's Golden over Philbin for the coaching hot seat: We asked who among So Fla's Big Six coaches should lead the Hot-Seat Index, and UM football coach Al Golden swamped the Dolphins' Joe Philbin by 65.9 percent to 32.4%. We figured a two-man race and man was it! Heat's Erik Spolestra, Marlins' Mike Redmond, UM hoops' Jim Larranaga and Panthers' Gerard Gallant combined for a scant 1.7%.

ON BRIAN WILLIAMS, JON STEWART: NBC suspends Nightly News anchor Brian Williams for six months 1aa1abrianwmswithout pay for the truth-fudging that has spawned a million Internet lampoons like the photo pictured. I get the punishment. U.S. presidents and network news anchors -- aren't those the folks you sort of want to trust most? I wonder if in six months Williams will return as if nothing happened or just sort of fade into shamed retirement. Elsewhere on the dial, Jon Stewart is leaving Comedy Central's The Daily Show, a major loss for hilarious, razor-edgy political commentary. I think Stewart is brilliant, by which I mean he shares my take on just about everything arising from today's headlines.

LITTLE LEAGUE A LITTLE TOO LATE WITH ITS DISCIPLINE: So Little League Baseball strips the U.S. championship from the Chicago team (Jackie Robinson West) that won it in the 2014 LL World Series by, we now are told, supposedly fudging boundary lines to improperly build a superteam. Two adults involved have been supposed for actions that spoils the heart-warming story of the first African-American team to reign. Better late than never on the discipline, I suppose, but Little League's due diligence on boundaries and birth certificates needs to come before a tournament not afterward. This story bears further examination. As it was the Chicago team's triumph was overshadowed, anyway, by the Sports Illustrated cover-spawning mania over the Philadelphia girl pitcher, Mo'Ne Davis.

1aa1agoatswithguns"DEAR GREG...": "I have heard rumors that a sect of anti-government separatists in the Deep South has formed a militia made up entirely of armed goats trained to perform as soldiers. Can this possibly be true?" Dear Reader: I find that almost impossible to believe, but I'll check into it and get back to you.

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February 09, 2015

Hot-Seat Index: What Miami coach should be feeling most job pressure? New poll. Vote now!; plus early '15 college football rankings, Marlins uniforms, J-Law's snake & more

It's Radio Tuesday!: I'm back in-studio with the Dan LeBatard Show today, 3-7 on The Ticket Miami, 4-7 on ESPN Radio. This will be my 50th national show, so I'm sure they have a nice surprise planned for me. Balloons? Cake? Stripper? Nothing at all? Ears welcome.

1aa1ahannahdavis1) It is TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 10. Model, Derek Jeter squeeze and professional sexy person Hannah Davis is the cover girl for the new Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue now out. So there. 2) I'd like to brag tell you that I shot an 86 over the weekend at Sunrise, featuring seven pars. This, for me, is very good. Then again, my son Christopher shot 78. What a showoff! 3) Click on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes-column package. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot Button Top 10, Ndamukong Suh poll result & more. 5) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Thank you, Knicks: Click on Good Medicine for my column from the arena off last night's Heat victory.

HOT-SEAT INDEX: WEIGHING THE PRESSURE ON MIAMI'S 'BIG SIX' COACHES: I call South Florida's Big
1aa1ahotseatSix teams the Dolphins, Heat, Marlins and Panthers on the pro side, plus the Miami Hurricanes in football and men's basketball. We offer a quick "State Of" and gauge the current job pressure on those six head coaches, listed by our estimation of most pressure to least:

1aa1ajoepJoe Philbin, Dolphins: High pressure -- Philbin, 53, approaches his fourth season with a three-year mark of 23-25 and no playoffs. Fans are restless and impatience is now justified. A 10-6 season with no playoffs or perhaps even a one-game improvement to 9-7 with no playoffs might spare Philbin, but chances are he must see Miami into the postseason in 2015 or see himself replaced.

1aa1aalgAl Golden, Hurricanes football: High pressure -- Golden, 45, approaches his fifth season with a four-year record of 28-22, including 16-16 in the ACC and 0-2 in bowl games. The NCAA cloud he inherited has bought Golden leeway with administrators, but much less so with an angry, vociferous fan base. Coming off a six-win season, it could take a bounce to 9-4 to save his job.

1aa1agerardgGerard Gallant, Panthers: Medium-high pressure: Gallant, 51, is in the midst of his first season, with Cats currently 23-28 (including 11 overtime losses) and six points off playoff pace. Gallant hadn't head-coached in NHL since 2006-07 before this season, and Florida thought it had a playoff team. Unless he gets there, it could be a quick hook.

1aa1amikerMike Redmond, Marlins: Medium pressure: Redmond, 43, is about to open spring training on his third season, with a two-year record of 139-185 and no playoffs. The team's 15-win improvement last year earned Redmond credit, but now a  much-improved roster (and a mercurial owner) means a playoff berth or a serious run at one will be expected or the hotseat could find Redmond.

1aa1aeriksErik Spoelstra, Heat: Low to no pressure: Spoelstra, 44, is in the midst of his (hard to believe) seventh season, with a mark of 336-191 including six playoffs and two NBA championships. Even at 22-29, fighting for a playoff spot and facing his first losing season, "Spo" continues to be seen as a long-term gem by loyal Pat Riley.

1aa1ajimlJim Larranaga, Hurricanes basketball: Low to no pressure: Larranaga, 65, is in midst of his fourth season with record of 81-44, including 36-26 in ACC. Has one NCAA appearance (Sweet Sixteen, 2013) and one NIT (second round, 2012). Winning ACC title in 2013 was huge, and Canes are now 15-8 and hoping for another March Madness ticket. It's Larranaga's job for as long as he wishes.

Clearly, to me, Philbin and Golden are under the most pressure. But which is under more? Or, you may feel somebody else should be seen as on a hotter seat. Hence, the poll, with our Big Six coaches listed alphabetically. Vote and say why.

1aa1ajlawANOTHER NAKED CELEBRITY ATTEMPTS TO BREAK INTERNET: I enjoy making fun of celebrity and the silly uses of it, such as the wont of so many female celebs to be naked. This time it is Jennifer Lawrence, 24, "J-Law," the actress from Hunger Games, American Hustle, Silver Linings Playbook et al. She is au natural but for the unnatural presence of a giant Colombian red-tail boa constrictor posed strategically across her body in the current Vanity Fair. Remember when showing this much skin was risque? Now it's like, yeah, so? I'll throw out a token, "Lucky snake!" and move on.

1aa1afishlogoMARLINS UNIFORMS RANKED 20TH: Bloguin via AOL ranks MLB uniforms 1-30, best to worst. Top three: Cardinals, Yankees, Phillies. Dead last: Padres. Marlins a sort of almost respectable 20th, with the look described as "love it or hate it." (I must say, for me, the Fish's South Beach-y colors took a while to get used to, but I like 'em now).

1aa1aespnsiCOLLEGE FOOTBALL RPI RANKINGS FOR 2015: ESPN Stats & Information does this each year and, before you dismiss it, consider that its top three-ranked teams last year -- FSU, Oregon, Alabama -- all made the initial College Football Playoff. They factor a team's offense, defense and special-teams from previous season, returning starters, head coach and recruiting ranking. The 2015 top three is Ohio State, Alabama and LSU. How state teams fare among 128 schools rated: FSU 21st, Florida 27th, Miami 29th, UCF 73rd, FIU 87th, South Florida 101st and FAU 108th.

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February 08, 2015

The new Hot Button Top 10: Canes, Heat, NFL, Tiger, Cats, Dean Smith, Marlins, Fins, Brian Williams; plus verdict on Suh & more

1) It is SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 8. Click on Random Evidence for today's latest Sunday notes-column package. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Ndamukong Suh-to-Dolphins poll, Incognito joins Bills, 7 Canes at Combine, Terrell Williams, death of newspapers video & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

HOT BUTTON FEB. 8: 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. COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Mixed reviews for UM recruiting class: ESPN rated Miami’s National Signing Day class No. 23 in the country, with most other outlets ranking it lower. Perpetually disgruntled Canes fans face the usual dilemma: Wishing the best for UM while also wanting coach Al Golden gone. What to do!? Oh, the conundrum!

2. HEAT: Once-proud team sputtering to All-Star break: The darlings of the LeBron James Era seek answers, with Dwyane Wade still out injured, the guard play abysmal and Miami now struggling to maintain playoff pace -- Hassan Whiteside the bright spot. Chris Bosh said the season is “slipping away.” Volunteers to stop the slide are encouraged to raise their hand.

3. CANES HOOPS: Moment of truth for “bubble” Canes: Coach Jim Larrañaga’s UM men have been mostly mediocre since that 8-0 start. Now they’re 14-8 after three losses in a row entering today's/Sunday’s key home date with Clemson. Canes are down to “bubble” status on NCAA Tournament watch lists. Many more losses and that bubble bursts.

4. NFL: Super Bowl, dramatic ending draw record numbers: The Patriots’ 28-24 win over Seattle was the most-watched TV telecast in U.S. history with a record 115.1 million viewers and was the highest-rated Super Bowl in 30 years. Um, what was that you were saying about how Ray Rice et al would damage the NFL’s popularity?

5. GOLF: Woods is unraveling for all to see: In the past two weeks, Tiger Woods — who last won a major in 2008 — lost a front tooth, missed the cut of his PGA Tour season debut after a career-worst 82, and then withdrew from the latest tournament with a back ailment. He’s unraveling! On the bright side: Tiger made $55 million on 2014.

6. PANTHERS: Florida beefs up front office: The hockey club has added longtime Philadelphia Flyers boss Peter Luukko as a a new team executive. I'd be more impressed if the club had added a team that could actually  make the NHL playoffs for a blessed change.

7. COLLEGE BASKETBALL: Coaching great Dean Smith dies at 83: Smith led North Carolina to 11 NCAA Final Fours and two national championships. Tobacco Road weeps today. Well, except for those !@#$%^s at Duke.

8. MARLINS: High hopes as spring training nears: Team prepares to open spring training in Jupiter Feb. 20 with new additions and unusually high hopes. With Heat and Panthers struggling it's time for Jeffrey Loria to save us. (Did I really just say that!?)

9. DOLPHINS: Stadium redesign adds upscale seating: There will be 16 four-seat "living rooms" available starting at $6,000 per game. My thought? Watch the game in your own living room and save 6,000 bucks.

10. TELEVISION: NBC's Brian Williams in hot water: NBC News anchor claimed to have been in a helicopter hit by enemy fire in Iraq in 2003 -- a tale now proved false. We now hear Williams admits it was not him who guaranteed and quarterbacked the Jets' 1968 Super Bowl win.

Poll results: Dolfans want Suh, but with some reservations: We asked in the previous blogpost if the Dolphins should pursue free agent-to-be defensive tackle Ndmaukong Suh (you may still vote), and it was 57.0 percent yes. However 28.8% said "avoid him like the plague" and 14.2% were undecided.

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February 07, 2015

Bully for them! Bills bringing Incognito back into AFC East; plus should Dolphins pursue Ndamukong Suh? Poll. Vote!; also, 7 Canes invited to Combine, funny death-of-newspapers video & more

1aa1abobm1) It is SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 7. Bob Marley (pictured), one of my musical heroes, would have turned 70 yesterday. 2) Mentor LeBron James talks about rehabbing badboy Johnny Manziel; read it here. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hurricanes recruiting poll, Heat season "slipping away," Dolphins draft & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

"Can we please not make too much of the Heat falling off playoff pace. It's a half-game with 32 to play. Geez." --Greg Cote

Seven Canes invited to NFL Scouting Combine: Seven (former) Hurricanes are on the newly released invite list for this month's Scouting Combine in Indianapolis -- the main showcase for the NFL Draft. They are, alphabetically: DE Anthony Chickillo, WR Phillip Dorsett, OT Ereck Flowers, CB Ladarius Gunter, RB Duke Johnson, ILB Denzel Perryman and TE Clive Walford.

NDAMUKONG SUH A DOLPHIN?: This is one of those what-ifs that is intriguing to me despite the fact that -- realistically -- it seems unlikely to happen. But the fact it could makes it fair game for discussion (and a poll!). The three pertinent facts: 1) The Dolphins need help on run defense. The 165.3 yards 1aa1andamsuhMiami allowed the last six games of the season were the most in the NFL. 2) The Lions' Suh, in his prime at 28, is the best run-stopper in the NFL, a four-time Pro Bowl guy and three-time All-Pro in five stellar seasons. And 3) Suh is expected to be a free agent who can sign with anybody beginning March 1. I say "expected to be" assuming Detroit does not re-sign him or apply a franchise tag, which seem unlikely. Now, the two complications: First, money. He made $12.5 million last year. That's a starting point. He might not command J.J. Watt dough ($100 million over six seasons), but he could be close to that neighborhood. To sign him under the salary cap Miami likely would have to jettison Mike Wallace or Brian Hartline and other lesser guys, and restructure other contracts. It would be complicated and costly. Second, Suh's reputation. He has been fined $420,669 for "player safety violations," suspended once, named the league's "dirtiest player "(Sporting News) and "least-liked" player (Nielsen). He's been clean off the field but a personal-foul king on it. Should  that be a factor in pursuing him? Is he worth the monetary stake? Money, first, and his reputation make the Dolphins' pursuit unlikely but not unfathomable. Factoring everything, should the Dolphins seriously pursue Suh? Take a dip in our poll and say why.

Poll result: Fans generally unimpressed with Canes' recruiting class: We asked if you judged UM's National Signing Day bounty as very good, good, average or poor and your verdict was 4.1 percent very good, 29.4% good, 43.1% average and 23.4% poor. That's not condemnation, but it is twice as many on the average/poor side as on the very good/good side.

1aa1aincognitoREX RYAN EXHUMES INCOGNITO'S CAREER: In Buffalo this morning the signing of guard Richie Incognito, the former Dolphins Bullygate star, was considered imminent. He was there taking a physical. Rex Ryan upon taking the job said he planned to "build a bully" no other team wanted to play. Now he has signed a bully toward that end. Suddenly the Dolphins have three vital rivals in the East: the nemesis Patriots, the hated Jets and now, fueled by Ryan's arrival, the Bills. Fun!

FIRST WORDS FROM NEW DOLPHINS ASSISTANT TERRELL WILLIAMS: Pertinent stuff from the introductory conference call with new Dolphins defensive line coach Terrell Williams (pictured): On impressions of DE Dion 1aa1atwmsJordan--"I haven’t really evaluated Dion since college, since he was coming out in the draft. We’re still in the evaluation stage. I’m sure we’ll be able to put Dion in the best position for him." On his defensive philosophy--"It’s not about me and what my philosophy is. It’s what makes the Miami Dolphins the best. We are in the process of looking at our personnel and kind of figuring out what we do best. I just like guys who make plays." On  a 4-3 defense vs. a 3-4--"It still comes down to tackling guys. It doesn’t matter, whatever the defensive scheme is, it still comes down to tackling and fundamentals." Williams, 40, coached the Raiders' DL in 2012-14. He'd recently joined the Florida Gators' new staff before accepting the Dolphins job. Summary of today's Q&A: Bland. An unilluminating interview in which Williams repeatedly played the tough-to-comment-because-I-just-got-here card.

CLEVER VIDEO ON DECLINE OF THE NEWSPAPER: A funny video (below) called Stop the Presses humorously makes a serious point about the decline of the American newspaper. Click here for the background story. It over-emphasizes comic strips/funny pages but gets across its larger point, too:

 

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February 05, 2015

How would you rate Hurricanes' recruiting class? Poll. Vote!; plus Bosh says season "slipping" from Heat, latest draft projection for Dolphins & more

1) It is FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 6. I'm up at Random Evidence Laboratories today calling out for Sunday's Random Evidence notes column. 2) Mentor LeBron James talks about rehabbing badboy Johnny Manziel; read it here. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): National Signing Day and Canes with poll, betting updates for local teams, Super Bowl verdict, 'Dear Greg' & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Dolphins stadium re-design to include "living rooms": Ridiculous, but true. Click here to read. Remember when the game was the thing? When winning was plenty? When teams didn't need bells and whistles to attract fans?

"Whiteside. Whiteside! WhitesideWhitesideWhiteside. WHITESIDE!!" --Greg Cote

NATIONAL SIGNING DAY POST-MORTEM ON CANES: The dust has settled (even though whenever people say that there invariably is no dust involved), the national rankings are in and opinions have gelled and are 1aa1acanesnsdhardening. So: How'd the Miami Hurricanes and coach Al Golden do this week on National Signing Day? The big-four ratings are not too kind, with ESPN ranking the Canes' class 23rd, Rivals 26th, 247Sports 26th and Scout 34th. There were no 5-stars recruits and the 3's outnumbered the 4's. A staggering 14 de-commitments and only seven kids signed from the South Florida backyard also colored those rankings. I thought UM's class was better than it was ranked; click on The Ones That Got Away for my column. Canes really beefed up on the offensive line, for one. Some emailers are similarly upbeat but many others are not so, seeing this as the latest damnation of Golden. So let's throw it open to debate. I admit no school's recruiting class can be fairly judged for a couple of years, but that doesn't mean you can't have an immediate opinion. Take a dip in our poll and say why.

DESPITE WHITESIDE, HEAT IN PERIL: Chris Bosh after Wednesday's 102-101 loss at lowly Minnesota, the
1aa1ahassanlatest blown-lead defeat: "Things are slipping away from us." And they are. Slumping Miami now is the No. 8 East seed in hunt for eight playoff spots, a mere half-game ahead of Brooklyn. Dwyane Wade, Bosh and Luol Deng have missed a combined 28 games -- and counting, with Wade still out. What's doubly disappointing is that Miami is losing despite the monstrous arrival of 7-foot phenom Hassan Whiteside (pictured), who had 24 points, 20 rebounds, three steals and two blocks on 12-for-13 shooting last night. Mr. Brightside has 101 points, 92 boards and 23 blocks in his past six games. Still, disconcertingly, the Heat is only 7-16 in games Whiteside has played. (It's 5-7 when he plays 20-plus minutes). Get well soon, Dwyane.

LATEST MOCK-DRAFT GUESS FOR DOLPHINS: ESPN's Todd McShay is out with his Mock 2.0 -- oh 1aa1atwaynesthank God! -- and he has Miami selecting Michigan State cornerback Trae Waynes (pictured) 14th overall. Drafting a CB first makes some sense if there is no inside-linebacker worth taking that high, although wide receiver still could be the target if Mike Wallace or Brian Hartline or both aren't back. McShay has Jameis Winston going No. 1 overall to Tampa Bay and Marcus Mariota falling to sixth and becoming a Stinkin' Jet.

Poll result: NSD coverage is excessive: My media brethren, take heed. We asked how readers feel about the mountainous coverage of National Signing Day, and 55.9 percent called it "excessive" while another 30.6% paid "little or no attention." Only 13.5% called the coverage "justified."

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