April 23, 2018

Latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated): Who won the tight battle for No. 1 and what else falls where; plus Heat's hope-crushing defeat (with column), 4-Man Outfield & more

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

1) It's MONDAY, APRIL 23. Eagles and Jimmy Buffett put on a great show at The Rock on Saturday. Vince Gill played with the Eagles and was fantastic. 2) Surprise and delight the Dolfans in your life with our 'Fins At 50' book. Click on Amazon to check it out. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Heat-Sixers Game 4, analyzing Dolphins schedule, 4-Man Outfield & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

The violent swing of a physical series: My Heat Game 4 column: This was the 76ers coach after Saturday's game: "I'm shocked we won this game. We didn't really have a right." The Heat's 106-102 loss for a 3-1 series disadvantage could not have been more demoralizing. Miami did so much right. Philly did so much wrong. And yet the Heat let what should have been a faith-restoring, series-evening victory slip away late. Again. My column: A Hope-Crushing Defeat. Our previous Heat playoff-run columns: Embiid Shows Up, Whiteside Not So Much / Not Good If Heat Need Wade to Carry Them / Whiteside Must Rise Up Now / In Dolphins vs. Heat, Only One Has Earned Our Trust / And The Rise Of The Underdog Heat.

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

Hotbutton1. HEAT: Crushing Game 4 loss has Miami on the brink: Saturday's 106-102 Game 4 home loss by Miami made it a 3-1 series that Philly can clinch at home on Tuesday. How in hell did the Heat manage to lose that game? How on earth did the Sixers somehow win!? Soon, there will be a long offseason to ponder the questions. Short answer: The 76ers are better. As for my series prediction -- Heat in six games -- I plead temporary insanity. Although "temporary" may be open to debate.

2. DOLPHINS: Finally! It's NFL Draft Week: The regular-season schedule came out, and it isn't daunting enough to be an excuse for more Fins losing. Meanwhile, finally, it's draft week, with the first round this Thursday night kicking off the three-day event. You've read a thousand mock drafts (mine is yet to come) and still have no idea what the Dolphins will do with the 11th overall pick. It's OK. Neither do I. The real question: Do the Dolphins even know?

3. SOCCER: Quartet of giants at Hard Rock this summer: The International Champions Cup returns to The Rock this summer with a massive doubleheader: Manchester City vs. Bayern Munich on July 28, and Manchester United vs. Real Madrid on July 31. Both games should sell out, just like last summer’s El Clasico Miami did with Real Madrid and Barcelona. Miami and Hard Rock alway gets the best ICC matches. No mystery. "I own the event," as Dolphins and stadium owner Stephen Ross points out.

4. MARLINS: Jeter tries to defend the indefensible: Fire-Sale Fish owner Derek Jeter made the  mistake of going on HBO's Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel for an interview that airs Tuesday. It got contentious. Jeter called Gumbel mentally weak and at one point said, "Tanking? What is tanking?" Well, since he asked! Dear Derek: Tanking is trading away your best players in a payroll slash, even knowing it would leave you with a non-competitive team. Marlins' current record: 5-16. Or 5-17, if you count Jeter's loss to Gumble.

5. NBA: Pelicans first through, LeBron sweating: New Orleans swept Portland to be the first team onto the playoffs' second round, while Golden State and Philadelphia are one win away from advancing. Three series are deadlocked 2-2 including, surprising, Cavs-Pacers in the wide-open East. LeBron James struggling to get past the first round? Well, if the Heat don't advance, isn't that about the best South Florida can hope for?

6. HURRICANES: UM football puts a bow on spring practice: Mark Richt wrapped up a month's offseason work, and spring practice ended with it looking as if Malik Rosier would enter the fall still as the team's starting quarterback. The questions fans are left to ponder: Is that a good thing?

7. NHL: Six teams advance, two close: Tampa Bay, Winnipeg, San Jose, expansion Las Vegas, Pittsburgh and Nashville are on to the next round in the Stanley Cup playoffs, while Boston and Washington are up 3-2 and try to clinch on road ice tonight. Winnipeg is the last hope to end Canada's four-decade Stanley Cup drought. But don't get your hopes up, eh?

8. SOCCER: UEFA Champions League semifinal on deck: It's Liverpool vs. Roma and Bayern Munich vs. Real Madrid in the first leg of the semifinals this Tuesday and Wednesday, with the second leg on May 1-2. You partial to Cinderellas? Roma's your team.

9. UM BASEBALL: It isn't getting any better, folks: Dropping two out of three at Pitt, Canes baseball is now 17-22, with the chances to climb above .500 slipping away. A sad way for coach Jim Morris to go out after such a long and stellar career at UM. 

10. POWERBOATS: Miami Marine Stadium comes alive!: There was powerboat racing at Miami Marine Stadium this weekend for the first time in 26 years with the P1 Miami Grand Prix of the Sea. It's history making, by which I mean this is the first-ever appearance of powerboat racing in the Hot Button Top 10.

Missing the HB10 cut: UCF football unveiled a "2017 National Champions" sign at its stadium. Um, should we tell them, or let them continue in their harmless delusion? ..... Packers QB Aaron Rodgers bought a small share of the Milwaukee Bucks. His advice to the team: More passing! ..... UM held its 50th annual Sports Hall of Fame banquet. honoring a nine-person class led by new Dolphin Frank Gore. The number of people in the UM hall now exceeds the population of half the countries in the world ..... Five years after the Boston Marathon bombing, an American woman won the race for the first time since 1985. "U-S-A!" ..... Condolences to Spurs coach Gregg Popovich on the death of wife Erin.

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

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

1. Christian Yelich, Brewers      1.000   11  42   10  14    8    2-1-2      .333

2. Giancarlo Stanton, Yankees    .678   20  81   11  15   12   3-1-4      .185

3. Marcell Ozuna, Cardinals        .616   19  81    8  20   11   2-0-2      .247

4. Lewis Brinson, Marlins            .479   20  73    6  11    7    0-0-3      .151

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

Select additional columns: Recent: On Dolphins schedule: Schedule Not Daunting, So No More Excuses. Also: Buy Me Some Tetley's And Crumpets, Jack / Tiger & Phil & the Emotional Power Of Sports / The Case For Gronk to Dolphins / Dave Shula Goes Home Again / Others: Marlins' Ballpark Experience Only Missing One Thing / Gore Continues Dolphins' Strange Offseason / Wayne Huizenga: A Legacy Indelible Serena Fighting Her Career Sunset. And She Has Company / Canes QB Battle One Of Strength, Not Desperation / Don't Shut Up, Get Louder / Top 25 Miami Sports Figures For 2018 / Jeter's Shameful Decimation Of Marlins Overshadows Season / Our two on the Parkland tragedy: MSD On Their Jerseys, A Community In Their Hearts and Sports Mourns. We All Mourn, Then Wait For The Next Tragedy While Leaders Do Nothing / Our Dwyane Wade homecoming trilogy: Only 3 Points, But He Owned The NightHeat Have Big Plans For Wade 2.0 and Welcome Home, D.Wade / Also: Dear Canton: Call Zach. Farewell, RubinBeckham's Dream Becomes A TeamWhen Victims Seize The PowerThe Godfather SpeaksRegret, Tears & a Legacy's Dark Shadow. Thank You, Edwin Pope.

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

Twitter @gregcote

April 21, 2018

G4: Philadelphia 106, @Heat 102: Miami squanders lead, sees series hope fritter away; plus Dolphins' 2018 schedule not daunting, so no more excuses!; also, 4-Man Outfield (updated) & more

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

Meshirt1) It's SATURDAY, APRIL 21. It's Record Store Day! Explore an indie shop near you. That's me on the right flying the flag of my local haunt. Get your groove on. Vinyl's back, Jack! 2) Best wishes to longtime colleague and fellow columnist Dave George, who retired this week after 40 years at the Palm Beach Post. 3) Surprise and delight the Dolfans in your life with our 'Fins At 50' book. Click on Amazon to check it out. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Heat-Sixers Game 3, your Whiteside verdict (uh oh), Dolphins draft/schedule, MLB Top 50, 4-Man Outfield & more. 5) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

My Heat Game 4 column: Click on A Hope-Crushing Defeat to read.

Column on Dolphins schedule offering no excuses: Click Schedule Not Daunting, So No More Excuses for my latest column. With Ryan Tannehill back, an offseason of changes that (they think) made them better, and a schedule that is less than daunting, the Fins are out of excuses to not win in 2018.

G4: PHILADELPHIA @ HEAT: SPO ON THE SPOT TODAY IN (REALISTICALLY) A MUST-WIN: I hate saying "must win" casually, when it isn't that literally, but today is everything but for the Heat, Embiidtrailing the Sixers 2-1 in this best-of-seven playoff series. Another loss would leave Miami having to win three games in a row -- two of them in Philly. Even a win today still leaves the Heat G4disadvantaged, but at least with a fair shot and the assurance of another home game. I say "Spo on the spot" in the headline here because coach Erik Spoelstra must find a way to neutralize the 76ers' clear advantage in overall talent. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons are the best players in this series, and both so young and athletic. Who can stop Embiid (pictured), the the masked marvel? Spo must find a way to do that, to get Hassan Whiteside involved offensively, which he has been unable to do thus far, and he also must find a way to create much better perimeter defense, considering Philly has sunk 18 three-pointers in both its series wins. All of the pressure is on the home team today. Let's see how they handle it.

Our Heat playoff-run columns: On Thursday's Game 3 home loss: Embiid Shows Up, Whiteside Not So Much. Also: Not Good If Heat Need Wade to Carry Them / Whiteside Must Rise Up Now / In Dolphins vs. Heat, Only One Has Earned Our Trust / And The Rise Of The Underdog Heat.

RtDOLPHINS SCHEDULE SOFT ENOUGH TO WIPE AWAY ALL THE EXCUSES: [Note: An expanded version of this blogpost on Dolphins schedule appears as an online column linked immediately above]. You know what I see when I look at the Miami Dolphins' newly minted 2018 regular-season schedule? I see a last chance for the regime of VP Mike Tannenbaum, GM Chris Grier and coach Adam Gase. At least that's how they should see it. Like an opportunity they should seize as if their Dolphins futures depended on it. This is a schedule that affords a chance for last year's 6-10 team to improve by a few games and be in the playoff hunt. The return of quarterback Ryan Tannehill (pictured) only underlines the notion that there will be no excuses for Miami in 2018. After the season opener, the Fins play nine of their next 10 games against teams not in the playoffs last year. There is a real shot to be in solid postseason shape entering December -- and they'd better be, because the schedule finishes tough. With all but one game at 1 p.m. on a Sunday, our game by game synopsis/outlook, with AFC East games in bold:

G1: Vs. Tennessee Sept. 9 -- Titans made playoffs at 9-7 last year but Dolphins beat them here (16-10) and get home-opener boost. Win likelihood solid.

G2: @ N.Y. Jets Sept. 16 -- Rivals were 5-11 last year but teams split games. Always tough roadie for Miami. Win likelihood fair.

G3: Vs. Oakland Sept. 23 -- Raiders were disappointing 6-10 in '17 but edged Miami 27-24 here. Payback? Win likelihood solid.

G4: @ New England Sept. 30 -- Big Daddy Pats were 13-3, reached Super Bowl. Assuming Tom Brady doesn't retire, the Danny Amendola Bowl might not go well. Miami last won in Foxborough in 2008. Win likelihood slim.

G5: @ Cincinnati Oct. 7 -- Bengals were 7-9 and missed playoffs, but Fins lost last trip to Cincy in '16. Win likelihood fair.

G6: Vs. Chicago Oct. 14 -- Bears were 5-11. If Miami has a playoff prayer, this one better be in the bank. Win likelihood solid.

G7: Vs. Detroit Oct. 21 -- Lions were 9-7 but missed postseason. Another key game a playoff team must take. Win likelihood fair.

G8: @ Houston Oct. 25 -- Texans were 4-12 but will have Deshaun Watson back a huge difference. And this is the Thursday night road game every traveling team hates. Win likelihood slim.

G9: Vs. N.Y. Jets Nov. 4 -- If you can't beat the Stinkin' Jets at home, can you say you deserve the playoffs? Win likelihood solid.

G10: @ Green Bay Nov. 11 -- Pack was 7-9 and missed playoffs. Aaron Rodgers, but what else? Tough venue, though. Win likelihood fair. 

Bye Week. Late. But well-timed for a big closing push?

G11: @ Indianapolis Nov. 25 -- Colts were 4-12 but should have Andrew Luck back for the Frank Gore Bowl. Win likelihood solid. 

G12: Vs. Buffalo Dec. 2 -- This begins the schedules' tough closing stretch. Bills were 9-7 and made playoffs, and swept Miami (both close) last year. Win likelihood fair.

G13: Vs. New England Dec. 9 -- Well, Dolphins beat Pats at home last year, so... Win likelihood fair.

G14: @ Minnesota Dec. 16 -- Vikings were 13-3. Tough roadie. Win likelihood slim. 

G15: Vs. Jacksonville Dec. 23 -- Jags were 10-6 and made playoffs, but it's here, and it's still Blake Bortles. Win likelihood fair.

G16: @ Buffalo Dec. 30 -- Weather a likely big factor. Tough finish if this is for a playoff spot. Win likelihood slim.

ESPN forecasts a two-game bump to 8-8 for Miami. I have it as five "solid" wins, seven "fair" shots and four "slim" chances. By that reckoning, if Fins go 4-3 in those seven teetering games, that's 9-7 and a (likely) wild-card spot. In any case: No More Excuses!

4manofUPDATED: 'THE FOUR-MAN OUTFIELD': Throughout the MLB season -- just for fun -- I'm comparing and updating the ongoing performances of the three Marlins outfield starters traded away during the offseason and current Marlins center fielder Lewis Brinson, the best prospect to arrive in the deals. Unfair to compare three established stars with a rookie? Boo hoo. Who said life was fair! Plus, remember: Just for fun! We'll base our continually updated rankings on OPS (on-base plus slugging). Brinson has been struggling mightily but came alive with two homers Thursday (his first extra-base hits all years) to raise his OPS from .316 to .456. The latest, entering Saturday play:

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

1. Christian Yelich, Brewers       1.076   9  34    9  13    6    2-1-1      .382

2. Giancarlo Stanton, Yankees    .740   18  73   10  15   12   3-1-4      .205

3. Marcell Ozuna, Cardinals        .622   18  77    7  19   11   2-0-2      .247

4. Lewis Brinson, Marlins            .442   18  66    5  10    4    0-0-2      .152

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

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

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

Twitter @gregcote

April 19, 2018

G3: Philadelphia 128, @ Heat 108: Embiid shows up, Whiteside doesn't, and Miami down 2-1. With my column from the arena; plus poll verdict in on Whiteside (ouch!); also, Dolphins draft/schedule, Top 50 MLB players, 4-Man Outfield & more

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

1) It's THURSDAY, APRIL 19. Condolences to Spurs coach Gregg Popovich and family on the death of his wife, Erin, 67, following a long illness. 2) Click on Greg Cote Tuesday for the podcast of this week's LeBatard Show on ESPN Radio. 3) Surprise and delight the Dolfans in your life with our 'Fins At 50' book. Click on Amazon to check it out. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Wade rescues Heat, Whiteside poll, Marlins 29th of 30 in 'legendary,' 4-Man Outfield & more. 5) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

NEW: COLUMN ON HEAT'S GAME 3 LOSS: Click Embiid Shows Up, Whiteside Not So Much for my column from the arena on Thursday night's 128-108 Game 3 loss creating a 2-1 series hole entering Saturday's Game 4 here.

G3: PHILADELPHIA @ HEAT: GOOD THAT WADE HAS THAT LEFT IN HIM. BETTER IF MIAMI ISN'T COUNTING ON IT: Heat-Sixers NBA first-round playoff series locked 1-1 entering Game 3 back Hwhitesideat the downtown bayside arena tonight -- Miami's first home playoff game in two years. Philly super-center Joel Embiid being called "doubtful" to play tonight, meaning he might but probably G3won't. Pretty clearly, the 76ers will need Embiid to challenge for the East crown, but think they can get by without him now and beat Miami anyway. Up to the Heat to prove otherwise. Dwyane Wade carried the Heat off the bench with 28 points in Game 2. As I explore in my latest column (link below), Miami should not rely on its 36-year-old icon to ave the day. Wade at this point in his career should be more luxuruy than necessity. Others must step up, led by Hassan Whiteside (pictured) and Goran Dragic and the bench. Only James Johnson and Kelly Olynyk have distinguished themselves in this series beyond Wade's Game 2. Miami stripped away Philly's home-court advantage but I still consider Sixers the series favorite. Both sides need a win tonight very badly, the beauty of a seven-game series. Our four Heat playoff-run columns thus far:

(*) New: It's good Wade can still do that, but better if they don't need him to: Not Good If Heat Need Wade to Carry Them.

(*) His Heat future is wavering, and two quiet games haven't helped: Whiteside Must Rise Up Now.

(*) With Wade at the hub, Heat keep giving us reasons to care: In Dolphins vs. Heat, Only One Has Earned Our Trust.

(*) And my series prediction, which Wade pulled from the gutter: The Rise Of The Underdog Heat.

POLL RESULT: VERDICT IN ON WHITESIDE (SORRY, HASSAN...): We asked, "What best reflects your opinion of the Heat's Hassan Whiteside?", and of four choices, a majority of 58.53 percent answered, "He's big disappointment relative to salary." Then it was 18.70% for "His skill set does not fir the evolving NBA," 17.89% for "Spoelstra needs to give him more minutes," and 4.88% for "Favorable. No issue. All good. No problem." The two negative options totaled around 77% to the two positive options' 23%. Ouch.

TannenbaumDOLPHINS: PRE-DRAFT PRESS CONFERENCE (HA!), SCHEDULE RELEASE: The NFL insist teams have a pre-draft media session, so the Dolphins did on Wednesday, starring VP Mike Tannenbaum and GM Chris Grier (pictured), the team's Ministers of Draft Non-Information. They'll make the draft decisions with input from coach Adam Gase, and Wednesday the two men spent an hour revealing as little as possible about their intentions. It's Groundhog Day. Every year, reporters dutifully ask questions, team execs dutifully emit banal generalities. Everybody says thanks and leaves. Now, Thursday night comes Part II of the NFL making much ado about very little. The schedule release! It's packaged as prime-time TV now, of course. We already know who all of the Dolphins' opponents will be. Tonight simply sets the order and tells us if there are any prime-time games, yet the NFL says it's big news so the media obediently treats it as such. Teams coming off 6-10 season can't count on any prime-time stages, by the way, although odds are the Fins may get one. Update: And they did get one.

ESPN TOP 50 LIST ANOTHER 'OUCH' FOR MARLINS: ESPN ranks its Top 50 players in MLB right now and it's another reminder why the Marlins are where they are in the NL East. The Washington Nationals place five players in RHP Max Scherzer (4th), OF Bryce Harper (5th), RHP Stephen Strasburg (19th), 3B Anthony Rendon (37th) and SS Trea Turner (46th). There are two New York Mets in RHP Jacob deGrom (32nd) and RHP Noah Syndergaard (34th). There is one Atlanta Brave in 1B Freddie Freeman (25th). No Philadelphia Phillies, but the Phils are rising with the kind of rebuild the Marlins are hoping for and a few years from. The Marlins list shutout is magnified by the facet four ex-Marlins make it: Yanks OF Giancarlo Stanton (13th), Brewers OF Christian Yelich (41st), Cardinals OF Marcell Ozuna (42nd) and Indians RP Andrew Miller (44th).

4manofUPDATED: 'THE FOUR-MAN OUTFIELD': YELICH BACK: Throughout the MLB season -- just for fun -- I'm comparing and updating the ongoing performances of the three Marlins outfield starters traded away during the offseason and current Marlins center fielder Lewis Brinson, the best prospect to arrive in the deals. Unfair to compare three established stars with a rookie? Boo hoo. Who said life was fair! Plus, remember: Just for fun! We'll base our continually updated rankings on OPS (on-base plus slugging). Early days, but all are struggling to varying degrees except Yelich, who is finally back off the disabled list. The latest, entering Thursday play:

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

1. Christian Yelich, Brewers       1.023   7   28    6  11    5    2-0-1      .393

2. Giancarlo Stanton, Yankees     .702  16  66    9  13   10   3-1-3      .197

3. Marcell Ozuna, Cardinals        .673   16  70    6  19   11   2-0-2      .271

4. Lewis Brinson, Marlins            .316   16  61    3   8    1    0-0-0      .131

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

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

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

Twitter @gregcote

April 18, 2018

What's the deal with Hassan Whiteside? New poll. Vote now!; plus Dwyane Wade saves the day, Marlins ranked 29th of 30 teams in 'legendary,' 4-Man Outfield update (Stanton sub-.200) & more

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

1) It's WEDNESDAY, APRIL 18. Click on Greg Cote Tuesday for the podcast of yesterday's LeBatard Show on ESPN Radio. 2) R.I.P. former First Lady Barbara Bush, gone at 92. 3) Surprise and delight the Dolfans in your life with our 'Fins At 50' book. Click on Amazon to check it out. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Heat-Sixers Game 2, Hot Button Top 10, 4-Man Outfield update & more. 5) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

HassanWHAT'S THE DEAL WITH HASSAN WHITESIDE?: I explored this question in a recent column; see link just below. It is troubling the Heat are paying $24 million a year to someone who has become an easy-to-bench, situational player. I wonder about his future with the team; i.e., whether he has one. Now it's your say. This poll offers four choice. Pick the one that comes closest to representing how you feel about Miami's 7-foot center. Vote now!

DwyaneWADE TO THE RESCUE! VINTAGE SHOW SAVES HEAT: Dwyane Wade erased a good 10 years off the calendar Monday night to rescue the Miami Heat's playoff hopes with a vintage performance: 28 points in 26 minutes on 11-for-17 shooting. It was the most points off the bench in Heat postseason history. Hassan Whiteside had another quiet night -- four points in 15 minutes on only two shot attempts -- but Wade's heroics made up for a lot of too little elsewhere. Miami will need more from Whiteside when Joel Embiid returns for the 76ers, which could be in Game 3 Thursday night at the bayside arena. The series is 1-1 with Monday's 113-103 win, offsetting an embarrassing 130-103 loss in the best-of-seven opener. Our three Heat playoff-run columns thus far:

(*) His Heat future is wavering, and two quiet games haven't helped: Whiteside Must Rise Up Now.

(*) With Wade the hub of it, Heat keep giving us reasons to care: In Dolphins vs. Heat, Only One Has Earned Our Trust.

(*) And my series prediction, which Wade pulled from the gutter: The Rise Of The Underdog Heat.

Jconine"WE'RE NO. 29!" MARLINS' 'MOST LEGENDARY' LINEUP RANKED 29TH OF 30: The Topps trading card company is unveiling the "all-time legendary trading card line-up" for all 30 MLB teams in a season-long gimmick, and Miami's checks in 29th, ahead of only Tampa Bay. Marlins in the lineup range chronologically from LF Jeff Conine in 1993 (pictured) to RF Giancarlo Stanton in 2010. In between are RP Robb Nen '94, 2BLuis Castillo '96, C Charles Johnson '98, 1B Derrek Lee '99, 3B Miguel Cabrera '00, UTIL Mike Lowell '00, SP Dontrelle Willis '02, CF Juan Pierre '03 and SS Hanley Ramirez '06. Should Topps ever produce a series of least-legendary lineups, the Marlins outfit you're watching this season might be No. 1.

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

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

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

2. Giancarlo Stanton, Yankees     .702  16  66    9  13   10   3-1-3      .197

3. Marcell Ozuna, Cardinals        .673   16  70    6  19   11   2-0-2      .271

4. Lewis Brinson, Marlins            .316   16  61    3   8    1    0-0-0      .131

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

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

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

Twitter @gregcote

April 16, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Twitter @gregcote

April 14, 2018

G1: Heat @ Sixers: Philly routs Miami. Oy!; plus The List (Heat playoff history), 4-Man Outfield (updated) & more

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

1) It's SATURDAY, APRIL 14. I trust you paraskevidekatriaphobes had a nice, paranoia-laced Friday the 13th? 2) Surprise and thrill the Dolfans in your life with our 'Fins At 50' book. Click on Amazon to check it out. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Heat huge playoff underdogs with chart, Canes in NBA draft, 4-Man Outfield, latest Back In My Day video & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

Update: Defenseless Heat routed by 76ers Saturday night, 130-103, in playoff Game 1. Most points ever allowed by Miami in a playoff game.  

Heatsixers Wade G1: HEAT @ SIXERS: WHY MIAMI CAN SHOCK THE WORLD STARTING TONIGHT: Heat is roughly a 5-point underdog tonight in Game 1 of the NBA first round despite Philadelphia being without star center Joel Embiid at least for this game due to a recently G1fractured orbital bone near his eye. Pictured: Dwyane Wade shooting over Ben Simmons. This would be the game for Miami to pinch if it is to defy odds, win the seven-game series and advance. Few believe that will happen, which I feel is an overestimation of the Sixers based on the 16-game winning streak they carry into the postseason. I believe in the Heat (see column linked below), but I'm in the vast minority. I believe Miami's distinct edge in coaching and playoff experience will be the difference. The teams were 2-2 in the regular season, Miami winning the last two, and the Embiid factor also is big.

My Heat playoff columns: The Dolphins thought they'd retake Miami when LeBron left, but the Heat, back in the playoffs, have other ideas. Click In Dolphins vs. Heat, Only One Has Earned Our Trust. Also, Miami will win in six games and here's why. Click The Rise Of The Underdog Heat.

ESPN's expert-panel's judgement: Twenty-one NBA chroniclers predicted each series, and in Philly-Miami it went 19-2 for Sixers, with only Amin Elhassan and Jorge Sedano dissenting. Thanks for the company, fellas. Group hug? The other series faves were Houston, Portland, Toronto and Cleveland all by 21-0; Golden State 20-1; Boston 17-4; and Oklahoma City 13-8.    

Your Heat-Sixers poll verdicts: We asked how confident you are the Miami Heat can beat Philadelphia in the first round, and as of this morning it was 38.46 percent "fairly," 36.54% "very," 13.46% "barely" and 11.54% "nope." But that's a limited blog poll with a likely higher share of readers who are Heat fans. I took the same poll on my Twitter feed, which has a much more national following, and the results were far different. There, with more than 1,400 votes, it was 40% nope, 28% barely, 22% fairly and 10% very. Twitter poll has now closed, but you may still vote in the blog poll here:

THE LIST: HEAT PLAYOFF OPPONENTS: If Philadelphia seems like an uncommon playoff opponent for the Heat, it is. Here are Miami's all-time Eastern Conference (non-Finals) playoff foes, in order of frequency of postseason meetings. This is Miami's 37th Eastern postseason series, with the Heat advancing 22 times vs. 14 eliminations:

Times  Opponent (Results)

7         Chicago Bulls (L-1992/L-96/L-97/W-06/L-07/W-11/W-13)

5         New York Knicks (W-1997/L-98/L-99/L-00/W-12)

4         Indiana Pacers (L-2004/W-12/W-13/W-14)

3         Boston Celtics (L-2010/W-11/W-12)

3         Brooklyn/N.J. Nets (W-2005/W-06/W-14)

3         Charlotte Hornets/Bobcats (L-2001/W-14/W-16)

3        Detroit Pistons (W-2000/L-05/W-06)

2        Atlanta Hawks (L-1994/L-09)

2        Philadelphia 76ers (W-2011/??-18)

Note: 1 each versus Milwaukee Bucks (W-2013), New Orleans Hornets (W-04), Orlando Magic (W-97), Toronto Raptors (L-16) and Washington Wizards (W-05). 

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

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

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

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

3. Marcell Ozuna, Cardinals        .730   14  63    6  19    9    2-0-2      .302

4. Lewis Brinson, Marlins            .361   13  53    3   8    1    0-0-0      .151

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

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

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

Twitter @gregcote

April 12, 2018

Heat among biggest underdogs in 2018 NBA playoffs. Quantifying that here; plus the British Virgin Islands Marlins (column), latest Back In My Day video, Canes in NBA Draft, updated 4-Man Outfield (Brinson sinking) & more

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

1) It's THURSDAY, APRIL 12. Surprise and thrill the Dolfans in your life with our 'Fins At 50' book. Click on Amazon to check it out. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot Button Top 10, your Heat playoff-opponent verdict, 4-Man Outfield & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

UNION JACKLatest column: Meet the British Virgin Islands Marlins!: Not sure which is more embarrassing: A team that traded away its best players in a salary dump and has the record to prove it. Or a team based in Miami claiming in court it's a corporate citizen of the British Virgin Islands. You have them both in the Marlins! We have a little fun in our latest column. To read, click: Buy Me Some Tetley's And Crumpets, Jack. Other most recent columns: Tiger & Phil & the Emotional Power Of Sports / For Heat, 1 Team to Avoid / The Case For Gronk to Dolphins / And Dave Shula Goes Home Again.

HeatsixersOUCH: QUANTIFYING WHY HEAT ARE AMONG BIGGEST UNDERDOGS IN 2018 NBA PLAYOFFS: It could be that the Philadelphia 76ers are sailing into the NBA playoffs on a league-leading 16-game winning streak. Or it could be simply that nobody thinks the Miami Heat Underdogsare all that good. The combo has Miami among the biggest underdogs in the 16-team playoffs that begin this weekend, with Heat-Sixers Game 1 Saturday night in Philly. Here we rank the 16 teams based on percentage likelihood of advancing past the first round, according to ESPN's Basketball Power Index. The second column has the same percentage according to FiveThirtyEight.com, and the third column has Bovada's betting odds against that team winning the NBA title. By those three measures the Heat are ranked tied for 13th, 14th and 16th of 16 teams:

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Team                                  ESPN BPI        FiveThirtyEight       Bovada

Toronto Raptors                     88%                 91%                      +850

Philadelphia 76ers                  78%                88%                      +1500

Boston Celtics                        78%                73%                      +7000

Cleveland Cavaliers                62%                72%                       +650

Indiana Pacers                       38%                28%                       +10000

Milwaukee Bucks                    22%                27%                      +10000

Miami Heat                            22%                12%                      +12500

Washington Wizards               12%                  9%                      +10000

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Team                                  ESPN BPI        FiveThirtyEight       Bovada

Houston Rockets                    88%                 92%                      +160

Golden State Warriors            76%                 56%                      +135

Portland Trail Blazers             63%                 58%                     +3300

Oklahoma City Thunder          53%                 52%                     +2500

Utah Jazz                              47%                 48%                     +4500 

New Orleans Pelicans             37%                 42%                     +10000

San Antonio Spurs                  24%                 44%                     +6000

Minnesota Timberwolves        12%                  8%                      +9000

NBA DRAFT WILL BE DULL FOR HEAT ... BUT NOT FOR CANES: The upcoming June 21 NBA Draft will be a dull one for Heat fans, but likely not for Hurricanes fans who'll be lamenting the one (two, actually) that got away. Because of previous trades the Heat will have neither a first- or second-round pick for only the sixth time in franchise history. But, even more rare: the LWALKERHurricanes, who've had only four first-round picks ever (list below), could have two this year for the first time. Lonnie Walker (pictured) and Bruce Brown both declared early for the draft. With an ESPN mock draft as a gauge, Walker is a certain first-rounder (projected 14th overall) and Brown is a maybe first-rounder (projected 27th). Walker is 15th and Brown 28th in Sports Illustrated's Top 80 prospects list. Says SI of Walker: "It was an uneven freshman season from Walker, who dealt with a meniscus tear over the summer, eventually overcame the setback and had a good stretch in conference play, but still cut an underwhelming figure at times. On pure talent and potential, he’s worthy of a lottery pick. His confidence has been all over the place, but he’s a terrific athlete with a good build and nice-looking jumper, and has the potential to become a useful defender. There’s a case for Walker to return to school, play a full, healthy season and fight for a top 10 spot in a weaker 2019 draft. But he‘s looking at guaranteed money if he goes now." SI on Brown: "After entering the season as a fringe lottery pick, Brown ended up in about the worst-case scenario: he was underwhelming through the end of January, then missed the rest of the season with a foot injury. Given he was already old for his class, the lack of progression was frustrating. His athleticism, size and defensive-minded game remain good selling points for a combo guard, but he needs to convince people his three-point shooting can swing closer to last season (34.7%) than this year’s poor 26.7% mark. He’s still an interesting complementary player, and will have a chance to redeem himself in the pre-draft process." Both guards are flawed prospects, but together they amount to a huge loss for Jim Larranaga's Canes.

THE LIST: FIRST-ROUND HURRICANES: UM has had only four first-round picks in the NBA Draft, and number that should grow to five (Lonnie Walker) and could grow to six (Bruce Brown). The exclusive company they'd join, in chronological order:

Year      Player                Overall     NBA career

1965     Rick Barry             2nd        10 years, 23.2 ppg, Hall of Fame

1999     Tim James           25th        3 years, 1.6 ppg

2002     John Salmons       26th        13 years, 9.3 ppg

2013     Shane Larkin        18th        4 years, 4.3 ppg (active)

4manofUPDATED: 'THE FOUR-MAN OUTFIELD': BRINSON NOT HITING HIS WEIGHT. AND HE'S REALLY SKINNY: Throughout the MLB season -- just for fun -- I'm comparing and updating the ongoing performances of the three Marlins outfield starters traded away during the offseason and current Marlins center fielder Lewis Brinson, the best prospect to arrive in the deals. Unfair to compare three established stars with a rookie? Boo hoo. Who said life was fair! Plus, remember: Just for fun! We'll base our continually updated rankings on OPS (on-base plus slugging). Early days, but Stanton and Brinson are really struggling, while Yelich remains sidelined by an oblique (abdominal) issue. The latest, entering Wednesday play:

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

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

2. Giancarlo Stanton, Yankees     .826  12  51    7  12   10   3-1-3      .235

2. Marcell Ozuna, Cardinals        .712   12  52    4  16    7    2-0-1      .308

4. Lewis Brinson, Marlins            .329   12  50    3   7    1    0-0-0      .140

NEW 'BACK IN MY DAY': SEVEN RULES!: Here's our newest Back In My Day, which debuted on Tuesday's LeBatard Show on ESPN Radio and ESPNews. Parental warning: Includes reference to the lost art of towel-snapping:

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

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

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

Twitter @gregcote

April 09, 2018

Latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated): Tough fight but a new No. 1, and see what else lands where; plus my Sunday Tiger 'n Phil column, your Heat playoff-foe verdict, 4-Man Outfield update (oh no Brinson) & more

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

1) It's MONDAY, APRIL 9. This was my mother's birthday. It's why my first uniform number in Little League was 9. Miss you, Mom. 2) Surprise and thrill the Dolfans in your life with our 'Fins At 50' book. Click on Amazon to check it out. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Heat playoff possibilities with poll, 4-Man Outfield, 'Dream Still Lives' video & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

Latest column: Tiger, Phil and the emotional power of sports: Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson at The Masters. Two beloved, all-time greats, out of contention but trying to summon glimpses of the greatness that is running away from them. This is the emotional pull of sports, the sentimental power of it. And this is an atypically personal column by me. To read, click Tiger & Phil & the Emotional Power Of Sports.

Other most recent columns: Heat/playoffs, Dolphins/Gronk, Dave Shula, Marlins: As a playoff opponent is determined: For Heat, 1 Team to Avoid  /  Hop aboard our flight of fancy: The Case For Gronk to Dolphins  /  He'd been out of coaching since 1996, now Don Shula's eldest son is back: Dave Shula Goes Home Again  /  And on baseball's Opening Day: Marlins' Ballpark Experience Only Missing One Thing

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

Hotbutton1. HEAT: Two games left and playoff foe still a mystery: Miami ends the NBA regular season at home tonight vs. Oklahoma City and Wednesday vs. Toronto -- with everything still up in the air. At the moment Heat is 6th seed and set to open playoffs vs 76ers, but that can change. Miami still could finish 6th, 7th or 8th and face the Raptors, Celtics, Sixers or Cavaliers. So pick your preferred opponent and then hold your breath for a couple of days.

2. PANTHERS: No playoffs for you, Cats. The fight was lost: Florida ended its season with five straight wins but still was officially eliminated from playoff contention -- by one standings point. Cats started season too slowly and got good too late. Roberto Luongo became only third goalie to reach 1,000 career games, but, once again, too little of that career has been spent getting anywhere near the elusive Stanley Cup.

3. GOLF: Reed hangs on to win Masters: American Patrick Reed finished 15-under-par to to win The Masters and his first career major, edging Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth. Way back were Tiger Woods at plus-1 and Phil Mickelson at plus-2. You know it's bad when Sunday for Tiger and Phil is more about saving face than contending. Meantime defending champ Sergio Garcia missed the cut thanks to an 8-over par 13 on the 15th hole of the first round. Who'd he think he was, Greg Cote!? 

4. MARLINS: Fire-Sale Fish embarrassed in 20-1 loss: Miami has a 3-6 early-season record lowlighted by Sunday's shameful 20-1 loss -- yes, 20-1 -- at Philadelphia. The Mets visit starting tonight. The marketing catch-phrase for Derek Jeter's starless team is, "Just Gettin' Started." Yeah, that's what worries us, Derek!

5. PRO WRESTLING: Bam! Pow! It was Wrestlemania XXXIV!: The Undertaker beat John Cena and Ronda Rousey was victorious in her WWE in-ring debut to highlight Sunday's 34th Wrestlemania extravaganza before 70,000 at the Superdome in New Orleans. When the final history of America is written just prior to the Apocalypse, our bizarre, enduring fascination with the loony spectacle of pro wrestling needs to have its own chapter.

6. DOLPHINS: NFL Draft countdown: 17 days: Getting closer to the April 26 first round. I'm not privy to exactly what's being discussed inside the Dolphins' Ginn Family War Room. But I do know that Miami probably should spend the 11th overall pick to get its quarterback of the future. Which is why it probably won't happen as the conservative, inside-the-box Fins probably will target defense first.

7. SOCCER: UEFA Champions League nearing semifinals: Barcelona, Liverpool, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid will own the inside track as the second leg of the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals take place this Tuesday and Wednesday. If you're radar for the sport is only engaged during the World Cup, treat yourself to some of the the best club futbol on Earth. I mean, Ronaldo's bicycle-kick goal, am I right!?

8. UFC: McGregor rampage, then UFC 223: Khalib Nurmagomedov or perhaps Nurmagomedov Khalib won the lightweight Saturday at UFC 223 in Brooklyn. But more interesting was the rampage that got Conor McGregor arrested earlier in the week for disrupting a Dana White UFC media event. McGregor was caught on camera throwing a hand dolly through the window of a bus carrying UFC fighters. There is a phrase for this: "Publicity stunt."

9. HURRICANES: Spring football unveiling in five days: Canes' open-to-public Spring Game is this coming Saturday at The Rock. Yesterday's scrimmage was closed to fans and media, but, based on statistics provided by Mark Richt, Malik Rosier outplayed challenger N'Kosi Perry in the quarterback battle. Spring schming. September, please.

10. UM BASEBALL: Canes' rocky farewell for Morris continues: UM baseball is 13-18 after beating North Carolina on Sunday to snap a seven-game losing streak and avoid being swept at home. Forget College World Series for the moment. Don't even think NCAA playoffs. Take it one step at a time, Canes. Think .500. Think trying to avoid one of the worst seasons in UM history.

Missing the HB10 cut: The Alliance of American Football spring league announced Steve Spurrier, 73 this month, will coach its Orlando team when the eight-team league begins play the week after the next Super Bowl. Negotiations with Spurrier went smoothly once they agreed to that sideline putting green ..... I correctly had Villanova winning it all. It was all those other damned games that ruined my bracket ..... Miami Open tennis leaving Key Biscayne for Hard Rock Stadium? If I might adapt the lyrics to Joni Mitchell's Big Yellow Taxi: "They left paradise and moved to a parking lot" ..... The WNBA Draft is coming up on April 12. Where's Mel Kiper's mock? ..... Dear Media: Can we please quit acting all excited every time Tim Tebow hits a home run in Double-A? Thank you ..... That reminds me: Johnny Manziel, the devil to Tebow's angel, threw TD pass in some spring game Saturday ..... The quarterback grandson of Bear Bryant just signed with Alabama. Hey no pressure or anything, kid!

POLL RESULTS: CELTICS OR CAVS FOR HEAT, PLEASE, NOT 76ERS OR RAPTORS: We asked what opponent (of four possibilities) you'd most like the Miami Heat to face in the playoffs' first round, and it was 43.2 percent Boston Celtics, 32.0% Cleveland Cavaliers, 22.4% Philadelphia 76ers and 2.4% Toronto Raptors. The same question on our Twitter feed had the same order: Celtics 46%, Cavs 36%, 76ers 11% and Raptors 7%

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

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

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

2. Giancarlo Stanton, Yankees     .831   9   35    5   7    7    2-0-3      .200

3. Marcell Ozuna, Cardinals        .765    8   34    4  11    5    1-0-1      .324

4. Lewis Brinson, Marlins            .428    8   38    3   7    1    0-0-0      .184

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

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

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

Twitter @gregcote

April 07, 2018

Heat's 1st-round playoff opponent: Who do you want? New poll too close to call. Last day to vote!; plus 4-Man Outfield (updated), 'Dream Still Lives' video & more

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

1) It's SATURDAY, APRIL 7. Surprise and thrill the Dolfans in your life with our 'Fins At 50' book. Click on Amazon to check it out. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins and Gronk, Heat playoff's ball of confusion, 4-Man Outfield & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

BuddiesON THE HEAT'S OPENING PLAYOFF OPPONENT: WHO DO YOU WANT?: If the season were over right now, the 6th-seed Heat would face the 3-seed 76ers in the first round of the playoffs after Philly beat and supplanted the Cavaliers and LeBron James last night. Pictured right, we imagine BFFs 'Bron and D-Wade -- hell-bent to deter lipreaders -- are whispering about the possibility they too may meet. Because the season is not over right now. Miami has two games left after last night's loss at the Knicks. That means the Heat still could finish 6th, 7th or 8th and the opening playoff opponent still could be the Raptors, Celtics, 76ers or Cavs. I explore all of this in my latest column; to read, click For Heat, 1 Team to Avoid. Staying out of the 8th seed and avoiding Toronto is, to me, paramount. That's partly because the Celtics are without injured Kyrie Irving, the hot Sixers may be without Joel Embiid, and LeBron's Cavs have not been as dominant as years past. For whatever reason, who do you hope is the Heat's opening playoff foe? Is it the opponent you think would be easiest to beat? Is it the series you'd most want to watch? Poll is alphabetical by city name. Vote now!

Other most recent columns: Dolphins and Gronk, Dave Shula, Marlins: Hop aboard our flight of fancy: The Case For Gronk to Dolphins  /  He'd been out of coaching since 1996, now Don Shula's eldest son is back: Dave Shula Goes Home Again  /  And on baseball's Opening Day: Marlins' Ballpark Experience Only Missing One Thing.

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

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

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

2. Giancarlo Stanton, Yankees     .843   8   33    5   7    7    2-0-3      .212

3. Marcell Ozuna, Cardinals        .667    7   30    3   8    5    1-0-1      .267

4. Lewis Brinson, Marlins            .443    7   35    3   7    1    0-0-0      .200

'DREAM STILL LIVES': AN MLK SALUTE: Stevie Wonder assembled dozens of notables and others for a 'Dream Still Lives' video marking the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King. The few folks going for humor (talking to you, Stern) were off-key notes, but overall a pretty powerful piece:

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

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

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

Twitter @gregcote

April 05, 2018

The case for Gronk to Dolphins. A flight of fancy, yes, but one worth discussing; plus Heat's ball-of-confusion playoff possibilities, '4-Man Outfield' update & more

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

1) It's THURSDAY, APRIL 5. Surprise and delight the Dolfans in your life with our 'Fins At 50' book. Click on Amazon to check it out. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): The Return of Dave Shula, Back In My Day (Video Games!), debut of 'The 4-Man Outfield,' my NCAA final bracket & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

GronkTHE DOLPHINS AND GRONK: Yes I did. I actually did. My latest column discusses the idea that Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski should/could end up a Miami Dolphin. This admittedly is a flight of fancy on my part. But I'm not convinced Bill Belichick still won't trade Gronk for the right price. Would not surprise me even a little bit. And if he's on the market the Dolphins, with a great need for a great tight end, should try to get him. No team prefers to trade within its own division, but Belichick would not not do it if Miami had the best offer. I'm not predicting this will happen. Doubt it will. But it's fun to explore all the factors at play. To read, click The Case For Gronk to Dolphins.   

Other most recent columns: Dave Shula, Marlins: He'd been out of coaching since the Cincinnati Bengals unceremoniously fired him midseason in 1996, now Don Shula's eldest son is back. To read, click Dave Shula Goes Home Again. And on Opening Day, click Marlins' Ballpark Experience Only Missing One Thing.

HEAT PLAYOFF OUTLOOK A (BASKET)BALL OF CONFUSION: Great googa mooga, can't you hear me talkin' to you it's a ball of confusion! (The Temptations, 1971). With three games left for Miami in the NBA regular season the Heat could still realistically finish 6th, 7th or 8th  in the East, and their first-round opponent still could realistically be the Raptors, Celtics, Cavaliers or 76ers. So guessing how it's "likely" to play out is pointless. Miami's record this season against possible 1R opponents: 1-1 vs. Toronto, 2-1 vs. Boston, 1-2 vs. Cleveland and 2-2 vs. Philadelphia. Emotional tiebreaker: LeBron, please. Thank you.

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

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

1. Giancarlo Stanton, Yankees    1.029   6   23    5   5    6    2-0-3      .217

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

3. Marcell Ozuna, Cardinals        .692    6   26    3   7    5    1-0-1      .269

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

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

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

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

Twitter @gregcote