March 25, 2015

Hurricanes in NIT semis is how big a deal? Poll. Vote now!; plus Dolphins' perfect draft fit, Heat/Panthers playoff update, MLS/Miami, Marlins/gambling, Haiku Challenge winner, Mavis Staples & more

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

1) It is THURSDAY, MARCH 26. Happy 68th birthday yesterday to one of my musical heroes, Elton John. 2) Click here to hear 30 minutes of Alonzo Mourning talk about his life and March Madness in an AOL event. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot Button Top 10, March Madness at break, Haiku Challenge, Marlins' OF, Wade is king & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Marlins individual betting over/unders: Via Bovada, for Giancarlo Stanton it's a .285 average, 37.5 homers and 105.5 RBIs for the regular season. Select others: Marcell Ozuna 20.5 homers; Dee Gordon 50.5 stolen bases; Michael Morse 17.5 homers; Mat Latos 12 wins; Henderson Alvarez 12.5 wins; and Steve Cishek 35.5 saves.

How can anybody claim to have figured out a Heat team that blows a 16-point lead in a loss at Milwaukee but the very next night wins impressively at Boston without Dwyane Wade or Hassan Whiteside?

PLAYOFF CHASE: Heat beat Celtics, Cats in prayer mode. Update entering ThursdayA daily blog feature as two teams fight to finish in top eight in Eastern Conference. HEAT--Trending up in 7th place at 33-38 (W1) after last night's 93-86 win at Boston, 2 games from 6th with 11 games left (next Friday at Atlanta). Heat playoff likelihood: 76.9% (up 13.0) per Hollinger/ESPN. PANTHERS--Trending even in 10th place at 33-40 (L1), 4 points from 9th and 5 points from 8th with 9 games left (next tonight at Toronto). Cats playoff likelihood: 1.7% (unchanged) per sportsclubstats.com.

IS REACHING THE N.I.T. SEMIS ANYTHING SPECIAL?: I'm not asking because I think it isn't. I'm just wondering. Jim Larranaga's Miami Hurricanes men (the coach is pictured) were denied an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament 1aa1ajimlum 1aa1anit-- a "bubble" team some thought should have gotten in -- but they've made the most of the hand dealt them by reaching the NIT semifinals. (UM will face Temple next Tuesday at Madison Square Garden. The other semi will be Stanford vs. Old Dominion). Clearly the NIT is the "other" tournament, the shadowed periphery of March Madness. It's where few teams actually want to be; some even decline the invitation. Does anybody fill out an NIT bracket? I would posit that even winning the NIT is not as much an accomplishment as getting to and winning one game in the NCAAs. In any case Miami is making the most of the NIT as a glass-half-full consolation prize. In fact last night the team was honored at Mark Light Stadium by throwing out the first pitch before UM's baseball game. Hmm. I wonder if Canes fans are excited and think it's a big deal or not. Perhaps this poll result will tell us.

DOLPHINS' PERFECT DRAFT FIT: ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr., who has fashioned a lucrative career from the guesswork of the NFL Draft, has a new story listing 11 perfect fits for the first round, or what he calls in 1aa1adevantepMel-speak, "optimal player-team marriages." One of them is Louisville receiver DeVante Parker (pictured) to Miami. From Kiper: "The fit: The Dolphins have some dependable receivers in Jarvis Landry and Kenny Stills, but nobody is going to mistake either of those guys as stretch-the-field types. The departure of Mike Wallace creates a void for a true deep threat and the type of player who can consistently win in the air on contested balls. The chances: I think it's slightly less than a 50 percent chance right now. It's at least conceivable that Parker could be in play at any slot in the Nos. 9-13 range, and Miami picks at No. 14. If he's there, I'd grab him." My take: I'd grab him, too. Parker is 6-3, 209 pounds and averaged 17.7 yards per catch with 33 TDs in 39 college starts. But his stock is rising. The bet is he's gone by 14.

MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER, EXPANSION AND MIAMI: MLS commissioner Don Garber said he wants 24 teams by 2020. Well, then, it's on Miami and David Beckham now. Orlando and New York City joined this 1aa1amiaviceseason to make it 20 teams. Atlanta and Los Angeles are set to start in 2017 to make it 22. Minneapolis today was affirmed to start in in 2018 to make it 23. The 24th slot is being held for Beckham and Miami ... but for how much longer if Becks' efforts at a waterfront or at least downtown stadium site continue to hit roadblocks? A site next to Marlins Park now looms as plausible. The pressure is on, with Sacramento, San Antonio and St. Louis all seeking a team and poised to poach Miami's spot. We hear Garber will return to South Florida in the coming weeks to kick up dust, discuss the Marlins Park site and push Beckham's agenda. Pictured is a proposed logo and nickname for the new team. How about we go in this order: stadium, team and then logo and nickname? 

MARLINS' COSART LINKED TO GAMBLING?: Marlins pitcher Jarred Cosart is involved in a weird, Twitter- 1aa1acosartbased implication of gambling, and MLB is investigating, according to Miami New Times. (Full story here, and the obligatory Deadspin regurgitation here). Cosart has since deleted his Twitter account. The guy with whom he supposedly was communicating is a self-proclaimed gambling expert. Cosart is only in trouble if it is proved he bet on baseball. A new Twitter account purporting to be Cosart Tweeted, "I have not, nor will I ever, bet on the game of baseball." I predict this will prove to be too much ado about hardly anything and that zero will come of the MLB probe. But until then, it's an unwelcome little distraction two weeks from start of the season.

Marlins' franchise value: Forbes' annual list newly out has Miami Marlins valued at $650 million, ranking 29th of 30 MLB teams ahead of only Tampa Bay at $625M. Yankees lead at $3.2 billion; the average is $1.2B. Miami ranks 28th in revenue at $188 million and 21st in operating income at $15.4M.

KACIE LIEBMAN WINS HAIKU CHALLENGE!: It's official. Congratulations to reader Kacie Liebman (pictured) for winning our blog's 10th March Madness Haiku Challenge, an annual spring exercise that is 1aa1akaciel 1aa1ahaikuwinnot particularly popular and yet stubbornly we continue to do it. We'll update you later on the
prize Kacie selects. More than 100 haikus were submitted via blog Comments or (predominantly) emails to me. Sadly but predictably almost half did not qualify because they were not precisely 17 syllables in the mandatory haiku tradition -- c'mon, people! -- but 57 entries were certified as prize-eligible and considered. The top three:

Champion Kacie Liebman: "Hoop dreams or nightmares * Dribble swoosh crowd goes crazy * More busted brackets"

Runnerup Rob Morris: "Woe in the sunshine * No Gators nor Canes nor Noles * With ospreys we ride?" Third-place Tracy Towle Humphrey: "March Madness is here * Inflated balls are ready * Kentucky wins it!" Also thanks to Shad Ewart, Tony Figueroa, John Flannery, Frydad4, Jay Krupa and everybody else who played along (even those who couldn't quite grasp the 17-syllable thing...).

MY 40-YEAR LOVE AFFAIR WITH MAVIS: Since high-school I have been a fan of the Staple Singers and especially the family group's lead singer, Mavis Staples, who continues today as a solo artist at age 75. I run into few people who remember the Staples or know Mavis still records, but, no matter. The family,
1aa1amavisrooted in gospel but commercially successful on the pop side in the '70s,
1aa1aritzjaxstopped recording with patriarch Roebuck "Pops" Staples' death in 2000, but Mavis has enjoyed a career renaissance thanks largely to Wilco
frontman Jeff Tweedy, who began producing her albums. She performed over the recent weekend in Jacksonville and we drove there to see her at the historic Ritz Theatre. It's a small venue, seats around 450, and was sold out. We had front-row seats because I'd bought the tickets in January and also because the show wasn't big enough for the ticket congolmerates and vendors to buy up the best seats for resale. It was the first time I had seen Mavis live, and what a show! She performs for only about an hour, around a dozen songs, a deference to age, but nobody leaves feeling cheated. The playlist ran the gamut from the early Civil Rights-era anthem "Freedom Highway" to commercial hits like "I'll Take You There" to more recent stuff like "You're Not Alone." I could have listened for hours longer. The woman is an American treasure. Her family used to perform as a de facto opening act for Dr. Martin Luther King. At one point Mavis leaned down from the stage to shake a few hands in the front row. Mine was one. He hand was cold, her grip surprisingly strong. I'll never forget the night. I have a Twitter site @Mavis_Staples if you'd care to follow. (Below is an old spiritual called "Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around." The video is from 2012, also she also performed the song Saturday night).

 

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March 20, 2015

Who is South Florida's biggest sports star? You pick 3 from 10 choices. New poll. Vote now!; plus March Madness, Heat/Panthers playoff update, Haiku Challenge update & more

1aa1apatriley1) It is SATURDAY, MARCH 21. Heat potentate Pat Riley, imprimatur of cool, turned 70 on Friday. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Boring March Madness ahead? with poll, Haiku Challenge news, Loria reimagined, Pouncey brothers, D&G & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine. (New stuff from this week's LeBatard Show).

NCAA TOURNAMENT: Georgia State coach falls off chair during game: Georgia State's Ron Hunter, coaching while sitting on a courtside office chair due to an injury, falls from seat in closing minutes of his 14th-seeded team's upset of No. 3 Baylor Thursday. Funny! Click here to watch.

PLAYOFF CHASE: Heat stay hot, Panthers need huge finish. Update entering Saturday/today: A daily blog feature as two teams (one barely) fight to finish in top eight in Eastern Conference. HEAT--Trending up in 7th place at 32-36 (W3) after last night's win over Detroit, 1 1/2 games from 6th with 14 games left (next Sunday at Oklahoma City). Heat playoff likelihood: 68.4% (up 9.0) per Hollinger/ESPN. PANTHERS--Trending even in 10th place at 32-39 (W1), 3 points from 9th and 5 points from 8th with 11 games left (next tonight vs. Boston). Cats playoff likelihood: 2.8% (unchanged) per sportsclubstats.com.

WHO IS SOUTH FLORIDA'S BIGGEST CURRENT PRO SPORTS STAR?: I'm looking forward to this vote, 1aa1astarpowerbecause the landscape is evolving. It has added firepower. Ndamukong Suh is a 1aa1astarpower2new Dolphin. The Marlins and Panthers have recently added certain future Hall of Famers in Ichiro and Jaromir Jagr, respectively. I leave it up to you how you interpret the poll question. Certainly longevity in the market is a factor. But the question, stripped bare, is who is greater Miami's biggest professional team sports star right now. We've offered you up to three votes, not just one, because the question is open to interpretation, and also because the list is pretty strong. The order is alphabetical. (If I left someone out, let me know in the Comments section). Vote for your top three (3) and say why.

Interpreting the voting results: With three votes allowed per person, a player's maximum vote percentage would be 33.3 percent if everyone voting cast the maximum three votes. A player's percentage multiplied by three is a fair barometer of the percentage of ballots on which he is being included. A percentage over 33.3 indicates some voters are voting only for that person. 

HAIKU CHALLENGE CONTEST UPDATE: Our annual March Madness Haiku Challenge continues ... but not for much longer, so enter soon! Get those 17-syllable poems in now. Three simple rules: 1. If your poem 1aa1ahaikuis 17 syllables exactly and it's about the NCAA Tournament/March Madness/college hoops, it's a valid entry. 2. You may submit entries here in the blog's 'Comments' section below (preferred) OR email them to gcote@miamiherald.com. 3. You may enter as many haikus as you wish. We'll give you some warning on the new deadline but enter now just to be safe. Contest prize? Grand prize will be the glory of victory, but we'll throw in something else. Maybe a Dolphins or Heat media guide? Maybe a chance to visit the Dan LeBatard Show on a Tuesday we're in-studio? We'll figure something out. In any case, rev up your creative mind. Ready, set ... haiku!

THE EXPECTATIONS ON GIANCARLO STANTON, QUANTIFIED: How much is expected of the Marlins' $325 Million Man? Well, new betting odds out via Bovada have Stanton as the money favorite to win both the MLB home-run title (at 7-1 odds) and the NL MVP award (at 3-1).

Poll result: Kentucky the pick over the field: We asked, "What would you bet is more likely to happen in the men's NCAA Tournament, Kentucky wins it all, or a different team wins?," and the pick was Kentucky with 62.5 percent.

ON THE LEBATARD SHOW: 1aa1adanshowOne of the fun things about my doing the Dan LeBatard Show on Tuesdays each week is that it becomes interactive with listeners. Last week, for example, during a break in the show, I posted this Vine from the Clevelander (where the studio is) that depicted LeBatard smoking a cigar while scantily clad women danced on stage in the background. Quintessential South Beach. Well, that Vine inspired the photo-illustration at right, created by talented listener Angel Resto. Love the detail, such as me wearing a jacket with a "Greg's Lobos" logo.

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March 19, 2015

NCAAs a foregone conclusion? Most boring March Madness ever? Poll. Vote now!; plus Charles Clay, Ron Fraser, Haiku Challenge news, Heat/Panthers playoff update, Loria reimaging, Pounceys, D&G & more

1) It is THURSDAY, MARCH 19. Corned beef. The meat I really enjoy one day a year, then never think of again. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): March Madness Haiku Challenge, Wade beats LeBron, UM men denied NCAAs, Hot Button Top 10 & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine. (New stuff from yesterday's LeBatard Show).

Georgia State coach falls off chair during game: Georgia State coach Ron Hunter, on a courtside office chair due to an injury, falls from chair in closing minutes of his 14th-seeded team's upset of No. 3 Baylor today. Funny! Click here to watch.

Charles Clay to Bills: Dolphins today decline to match contract offer by Buffalo, meaning tight end Clay is headed to Bills. For him it's a smart financial move, dubious football move, awful lifestyle move. 

Ron Fraser statue dedication: The Miami Hurricanes will have a ceremony unveiling a new Rom Fraser statue on April 24 at 4 p.m. outside Mark Light Field. Fraser, the two-time national champion baseball coach, passed Away in at age 79 in 2013.  

PLAYOFF CHASE: Heat soaring, Panthers nearly done. Update entering Thursday/today: A daily blog feature as two teams (one barely) fight to finish in top eight in Eastern Conference. HEAT--Trending up in 7th place at 31-36 (W2), after last night's big 108-104 home win over Portland led by Dwyane Wade's 32 points. Miami is now 2 1/2 games from 6th with 15 games left (next Friday vs. Denver). Heat playoff likelihood: 60.0% (up 13.6) per Hollinger/ESPN. PANTHERS--Trending even in 10th place at 31-39 (L2), 3 points from 9th and 7 points from 8th with 12 games left (next tonight vs. Detroit). Cats playoff likelihood: 1.6% (unchanged) per sportsclubstats.com.

ARE WE STARING DOWN THE BARREL OF THE MOST BORING MARCH MADNESS EVER?: You could make the argument that we are if the feel of "foregone conclusion" is a barometer. Think about it. Kentucky is 1aa1amarchmad34-0, a unanimous No. 1 and a huge favorite (near even-odds) to win the men's NCAA Tournament. On the women's side, UConn is 32-1, also a unanimous No. 1 and perhaps an ever bigger favorite. I'd feel very good if you gave me Kentucky and UConn and you took the field. I get the two favorites; you get everybody else. I cannot recall a previous year in which the two overall No. 1s were such prohibitive favorites. Doesn't mean brackets will be filled out any less or that office pools will be smaller, but, for me, at least, the seeming inevitability of Kentucky's men and UConn's women reigning makes this March Madness feel like we know the ending even as the story is just starting.

HAIKU CHALLENGE CONTEST UPDATE: DEADLINE EXTENDED!: Due to unpopular demand we are extending the deadline to enter our annual March Madness Haiku Challenge into next week. (As an 1aa1ahaikuemailer put it, "Why end the contest just as the tournament is beginning, you moron!" Fair comment). So you still have time to get those 17-syllable poems in. Three simple rules: 1. If your poem is 17 syllables exactly and it's about the NCAA Tournament/March Madness/college hoops, it's a valid entry. 2. You may submit entries here in the blog's 'Comments' section below (preferred) OR email them to gcote@miamiherald.com. 3. You may enter as many haikus as you wish. We'll give you some warning on the new deadline but enter now just to be safe. Last year's contest was won by reader Scott Vogelsberg. His winning entry: "Beware Ides of 1aa1adickievMarch * Et tu Brutus the Buckeye * Bubbles pop for all." The judging panel (that's me) appreciated the classic 5-7-5 phrasing, liked the nod to the Roman calendar, loved the link between Ohio State and Shakespeare, and also enjoyed the double entendre on bubbles popping. But you can do better! Contest prize? The grand prize will be the glory of victory, but we'll throw in something else. Maybe a Dolphins or Heat media guide? Maybe a chance to visit the Dan LeBatard Show on a Tuesday we're in-studio? We'll figure something out. In any case, rev your creative mind. Ready, set ... haiku!

JEFFREY LORIA: BIG SPENDER: Still getting used to the re-imaging of Marlins Owner Jeffrey Loria, erstwhile notorious tightwad. First, the huge contract for Giancarlo Stanton, Now, the private team jet.
1aa1aboeing767200The Marlins have rented a Boeing 767-200 (the model pictured) for the season and it includes 84 oversized luxury seats, a massage table and card tables. The outside of the jet will bear the Marlins logo. Miami also has expanded its overall payroll as well as its scouting, player development, marketing and sales departments. Did I mention the executive chefs to prepare meals for home games? Many Marlins fans still think negatively of Loria and maybe always will, but give him this. He's trying. And spending.

ON THE POUNCEYS' SNIPES AT WALLACE: Oh, those Pouncey brothers! Cue the ghost of Ronald Reagan 1aa1apounceysshaking his head with a smirk and saying, "Well, there they go again..." So Dolphin Mike Pouncey and his bro Maurkice (pictured) pretty much say in an interview "good riddance" to departed Mike Wallace. Maurkice drops the hot-potato word "coward," assuring media (over-)attention. To me this isn't a big deal because the Pounceys by now are established loose cannons and Wallace is a ship sailing fast from Finland. (Mike who?)

THE SLOW SUICIDE OF DOLCE & GABBANA: It's above my pay grade and sartorial splendor, but Dolce & Gabbana is an Italian luxury fashion line in the category Armani, Gucci and Versace. It is only important to 1aa1ad&gnote that founders Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana both are gay because of the controversy now embroiling them. Celebrities led by Elton John have condemned the  brand and promoted a boycott of D&G because of the founders' saying in an interview that gay adoption is unnatural and referring to babies born via in-vitro fertilization as "synthetic children." The LGBT community, non-gays who have benefited from IVF and many others inclined toward tolerance are sympathetic to the boycott, which seems to be growing. Many others agree with D&G's opinions or align on the side of freedom of speech in the social media age. What's interesting to me is that it feels like such business-suicide for a high-end fashion house to be perceived as anti-gay or anti-same sex parents. I am generalizing here, but feel safe in thinking D&G's customer base is gay or OK with same-sex adoption to a far greater extent than it would include supporters of D&G's stance on the matter. #BoycottDolceGabbana

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March 13, 2015

Judging Mike Wallace's time with Dolphins. New poll. Vote now!; plus NFL's biggest FA/trade moves poll, Canes hoops, Marlins in fantasy, Heat/Panthers playoff update & more

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


1) It is SATURDAY, MARCH 14. In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Suh effect/Dolphins expectations poll, college hoops, robot sportswriters & more. 2) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

It's back! Our annual March Madness Haiku Challenge!: An annual spring fixture in this blog is our March Madness Haiku Challenge. You know the drill. Haikus (17-syllable poems) about the coming NCAA Tournament. Stay tuned. Rules and details coming Sunday, contest starts Monday.

Ex-Cane Henderson leads NFL performance-pay list: NFL every spring puts out Top 25 list of performance-based pay bonuses, based on playing time vs. salary. Guys on list tend to be modestly paid but prominent -- overachievers, based on their salary. Well, No. 1 for last season was Bills tackle Seantrel Henderson, the ex-Cane, with a $373,671 bonus. One Dolphin made it: LB Jelani Jenkins, 24th with $242,782.

PLAYOFF CHASE UPDATE: Heat/Panthers status entering Saturday: A new daily blog feature as two teams fight to finish in top eight in Eastern Conference. HEAT--Trending down in 9th place at 29-36 (L1), 1/2 game from 8th and 1/2 game from 10th with 17 games left (next Monday vs. Cleveland). Heat playoff likelihood: 33.7% (down 3.5) per Hollinger/ESPN. PANTHERS--Trending down in 10th place at 30-37 (W2), 1 point from 9th and 6 points from 8th with 15 games left (next tonight at Carolina). Cats playoff likelihood: 4.6% (unchanged) per sportsclubstats.com.

DOLPHINS TRADE WALLACE, SIGN CAMERON AND STILLS: On Wallace: Dolphins late yesterday traded receiver Mike Wallace (pictured saying goodbye) to Vikings, along with a seventh-round draft pick, in exchange for a fifth-round pick. They gave him away in ending speculation whether he'd remain with team. His free- 1aa1amwallaceagent signing in 2013 is tough to judge (see poll just below). The 140 catches for 1,792 yards and 15 TDs in two seasons is not the Pro Bowl level Miami thought it was getting but neither should it be called a complete failure. What's notable is that Wallace was targeted 256 times, so the 140 catches translates to only 54.6 percent -- that's low. It speaks to he and Ryan Tannehill never quite finding their chemistry. So does the fact only one of his 15 scoring plays exceeded 50 yards. On Cameron: Free agent tight end Jordan Cameron looks the part at 6-5 and 245 pounds and is only 26. In 2013 he made the Pro Bowl with 80 catches for 917 yards and seven TDs for Cleveland. And last year even sidelined almost half the season he averaged a big 17.7 yards per catch. He isn't Rob Gronkowski or Jimmy Graham but at his healthy best he's very good, a guy who can bust big plays and a guy popular in fantasy drafts, though considered a below-average run blocker. The asterisk: Cameron has a concussion history that bedeviled him last season and could well reoccur. Cameron: "If it was a concern for me, I wouldn’t be here right now. I’ve seen a lot of specialists and talked to a lot of people and it’s cleared. There is no cause for concern on my end and the Dolphins felt the same." Cameron is a quality hedge against the Fins likely losing Charles Clay to Buffalo. On Stills: Receiver Kenny Stills comes in trade via Minnesota, giving up LB Dannell Ellerbe and a third-round pick. Ellerbe was a bust but a 3R pick is pricey. Stills had 63 catches for 931 yards and three TDs with Saints last season and is only 22. He joins Jarvis Landry to give MIA an excellent young tandem.

NFL WHIRLWIND: THE BIGGEST FREE-AGENT SIGNINGS OR TRADES IN LEAGUE'S WILDEST MARCH: I 1aa1anflcannot recall a previous NFL spring that has seen such major activity in terms of free agency and trades. In winnowing our poll to a manageable 12 names I had to omit several notable player movements. (Sorry you missed the cut, Brian Hartline to Browns, Jordan Cameron and Kenny Still to Dolphins and Jared Odrick to Jaguars). What I present you is the top dozen players switching teams, listed alphabetically. You may vote for up to three (3). Base your selections on overall expected impact. Consider how much news the signing made and how exciting the deal is to fans. Remember, vote for your top three and say why.

Deciphering the vote: With three votes allowed per person, a player's maximum vote percentage would be 33.3 percent if everyone voting cast the maximum three votes. A player's percentage multiplied by three is a fair barometer of the percentage of ballots on which he is being included. A percentage over 33.3 indicates some voters are voting for only that person.

MARLINS IN FANTASY DRAFT: ESPN's first fantasy baseball mock draft is out and the Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton was the No. 4 overall pick in the first round. Other Marlins chosen in the 25-round draft: Christian Yelich (7th round), Dee Gordon (9th), Marcell Ozuna (10th), Steve Cishek (13th), Mat Latos (18th), Jose Fernandez (20th) and Martin Prado (24th). Fernandez of course is out until midseason recovering from Tommy John surgery; otherwise he might have been among the 10 starting pitchers mock-drafted in the first five rounds.

CANES BASKETBALL SHOULD BRACE FOR BAD NEWS NOW: Jim Larranaga knew it going in. His Hurricanes needed to beat Notre Dame in second round of ACC Tournament in Greensboro, N.C. Instead UM lost 70-63, continuing a close-but-not-quite season now at 21-12. (Cane Tonye Jekiri is pictured right). The U 1aa1atonyejerikiwill be very close to making the NCAA tournament on Selection Sunday, but is expected to fall just short and settle for the NIT. Miami's low RPI number and 1-7 mark vs. ranked teams will be tough to overcome. Upsetting the Irish might have done it. Eamonn Brennan's analysis of UM's situation for ESPN: "Miami's resume' is basically the same as it's been all February: one massive road win (at Duke), four ugly losses (including a still-inexplicable 72-44 home drilling at the hands of Eastern Kentucky), a good road record (which Larranaga has been touting as much as possible), a bad non-conference schedule and a shaky RPI. Miami has been among the first teams outside Joe [Lunardi's] bracket for weeks; it has never gotten over the hump. It may yet on Selection Sunday. We'd be surprised, but far stranger things have happened. Fingers crossed." 

Poll result: Suh expected to lift Dolphins to playoffs: We asked your expectations for the Dolphins in the wake of the Ndamukong Suh signing and most, 65.4 percent, voted "fairly high/playoffs." Then it was 12.3% "modest/improved but no playoffs," 9.7% "low/disappointment and firings," 9.3% "high/division champs," and 3.3% "very high/Super Bowl contender." That's 78.1% overall who expect the playoffs, though doubts remain.

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March 10, 2015

Dirty Town: Suh, Whiteside make Miami new bad boy of sports, but situations are opposite. Is Hassan jeopardizing his Heat future? Poll. Vote!; plus Canes/FIU hoops, Heat/Panthers playoff chase (updated), analyzing Marlins future, Twitter & more

1aa1aangusyoung1) It is WEDNESDAY, MARCH 11. Thanks to the Tony Kornheiser Show for having us on the radio this morning to talk Ndamukong Suh, Hassan Whiteside and more. Always great being on with Tony! 2) Click on Rock The Blues Away to see and hear AC/DC's latest video. Love it when guys even older than me still rock hard! 3) Click on Bosh Back Home for my column earlier this week on Chris Bosh. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins land Suh with poll, Hot Button Top 10 & more. 5) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

Signed, sealed, delivered: Dolphins announce 4 p.m. news conference today to make official the Ndamukong Suh signing.

1aa1agatorgolfUm, I think I'll just take a double bogey and move on...: This is not a doctored or fake photo. That is an actual, giant alligator on a green at Myakka Pines Golf Club this week in Englewood, Fla., just north of Palm Beach on the state's west coast. Fore!

PLAYOFF CHASE UPDATE: Heat/Panthers status entering Wednesday: A new daily blog feature as two teams fight to finish in top eight in Eastern Conference. HEAT--Trending even at 9th, 28-35 (L1), 1/2 game from 8th with 19 games left (next tonight vs. Brooklyn). Heat playoff likelihood: 28.5% (down 1.4) per Hollinger/ESPN. PANTHERS--Trending down at 9th, 29-37 (W1), 6 points from 8th with 16 games left (next Thursday vs. Winnipeg). Cats playoff likelihood: 4.4% (down 0.3) per sportsclubstats.com.

DIRTY TOWN: SUH, WHITESIDE PUT THE 'BAD BOY' IN MIAMI SPORTS: Dirty Town. A spanking new Dolphin, Ndamukong Suh, and a Heat player we'd never heard of before this season, Hassan Whiteside, combine to suddenly position Miami, for better or ill, as sports' new face of dirty play. It is interesting to me how the two teams (and perhaps their fan bases) view each player so differently, and how the two situations are so different. Some thoughts...

On Suh: He bothers quarterbacks and stops the run better than any defensive tackle in the NFL, but he


1aa1andamalso is unquestionably the most controversial player in the league for his on-field actions. His league fines for "player safety violations" approach $500,000 in five seasons. Last year alone he had 10 unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. He might  "accidentally" step on your ankle. But is anybody worried? Nah. Not at all. The Fins know what they are getting in Suh, 28, and will happily take the tradeoff: The occasional dumb, needless penalty in exchange for overall excellence. The same Dolfans who once saw Suh as a villain now happily welcome him to town as the guy bringing their team needed bravado and "toughness."

On Whiteside: It's the opposite. Heat management is very concerned that Whiteside's immaturity and temper -- the reasons an athletic 7-footer was unwanted around the NBA and 1aa1ahassanavailable in the first place

-- may prove unmanageable and jeopardize his future here. (The poll below indicates how concerned Heat fans are, or aren't). Monday night the 25-year-old was ejected for the second time in five games and is suspended by the NBA from tonight's game. Whiteside has the potential to be a 15-point, 15-rebound guy, a dunking, shot-blocking savant who defends the rim like a lion defending her cubs. He could be a huge and hugely popular part of this team moving forward. But Miami needs to get his head straight. Pat Riley, Erik Spoelstra, Alonzo Mourning, Juwan Howard, Udonis Haslem, Dwyane Wade -- if this excellent leadership and support system can't do it, then Hassan may be hopeless. The dumb fouls and ejections, the unreliability, shouldn't and won't be tolerated indefinitely.

Bottom line: We have here two guys clearly share anger management issues. But one, Suh, is so exceptional at what he does that the dark side is accepted as simply a part of his football DNA. The other, Whiteside, full of potential but still short on proof, is not so established that his behavior is accepted as a part of his game. The Dolphins' message to Suh: "Keep doin' what you do, big fella." The Heat's message to Whiteside: "Grow up. Fast."

Poll result: Most love Suh signing, but reservations, too: We asked how you felt about the Dolphins landing Ndamukong Suh and 54.3 percent said "great." Another 26.4% were pleased but think Miami is overspending. The other 19.3% were not pleased because the cost might short-change roster elsewhere.

CANES BASKETBALL BEGINS POSTSEASON: Miami's men's team faces Virginia Tech tonight at 9 in the first round of the ACC Tournament in Greensboro, N.C. Should be a low-stress waltz. UM was 2-0 vs. Hokies this 1aa1ajimlseason by a combined 45-point margin. Canes if they win tonight would then face tough Notre Dame in second round Thursday. This week will determine whether the men of Jim Larranaga (pictured) will earn an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. Upset loss tonight and there's no shot. Win tonight and then upset Notre Dame and an invite is all but assured. The anxious in-between will come if Miami wins tonight but then loses a close one to the Irish. That's what would turn Selection Sunday into a nail-biter for Canes fans.

FIU wins tourney opener: FIU's men opened play in the Conference USA Tournament today and beat Texas-San Antonio, 57-54, in Birmingham, Ala., led by Dennis Mavin's 15 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists. Not expected, considering G-Panthers had lost to UTSA by 11 in only regular season meeting. 

MARLINS' FUTURE: ESPN's periodic "futures rankings" are newly out for baseball, and the Marlins (surprisingly and disappointingly) are ranked only 23rd of 30 teams and fourth of five in the NL East in terms of how each team is set up for sustained success over the next five years based on five categories. (Story and 1aa1ajustinnicrankings here). Despite the unimpressive ranking, the accompanying synopsis is fairly upbeat: The overview (by Buster Olney) -- "Think about the ages of the players who form the core of this team: Giancarlo Stanton is 25, Marcell Ozuna is 24, Christian Yelich 23, Jose Fernandez 22 and Jarred Cosart is 24. This might be just the beginning of something that lasts." The dilemma (by Jim Bowden) -- "The Marlins need to find long-term answers at both first and third base. Perhaps at least one of those players could be a left-handed power hitter to better balance out their lineup." Impact prospect (by Keith Law) -- Lefty Justin Nicolino [pictured] doesn't miss bats, but he's one of the most efficient pitchers in all of baseball, throwing strikes and generating ground balls. He'll probably be a midseason call-up when the Marlins need a starter." 

THE SMALL DELIGHTS OF TWITTER: I like Twitter (@gregcote) and make a point of trying to click on as many new followers as possible because I'm curious about the backstory, the location, et cetera. I appreciate you all and am ceaselessly flattered. I also enjoy it when, 1aa1atwitter

1aa1ahaggardevery once in a while, a new follower will randomly jump out at me as I scan the daily list -- a notable name or perhaps the symbol for a verified account will catch my eye. Very recent examples of that, willy nilly: @SeriouslySusan is Susan Bennett, a voiceover artist who is the voice of Siri; and @kidfromkidnplay is Christopher Reid, half of the 1980s/early '90s hip-hop duo. And this new follower popped in Monday night, while I was at the Heat game: @merlehaggard. As a fan of old-school and outlaw country, I must tell you what a cheap thrill it was to see that Merle, a musical hero, follows little ol' me. Thank you, Mr. Haggard, and thanks to you all!

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March 08, 2015

Dolphins land Ndamukong Suh. What say you? New poll. Vote now!; plus Fins in trouble over contract leak?, Bosh's special delivery, Hot Button Top 10 & more

1) It is MONDAY, MARCH 9. Click on Random Evidence for our latest Sunday notes-column package. 2) Heat extend Michael Beasley with another 10-day contract. No surprise. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Exciting-times poll, Mike Wallace verdict, new betting odds & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

What a Sunday for Miami sports!: Dustin Johnson punctuates his golf comeback with a stirring victory at Doral as the news is breaking across South Florida about the Dolphins landing prized free agent Ndamukong Suh. The days don't get much better than this for local sports. Click on Dolphins 'n Doral to read my column combining both events.

#GetWellCB DeliveriesBosh's special delivery: Heat star Chris Bosh is to address the media this evening prior to the Heat's home game vs. Boston. It will be Bosh's first availability since last month when his season was ended by blood clots in his lung, for which is undergoing continuing treatment with a full recovery expected. Pictured: Earlier today, about 35 Heat staffers delivered 10,000 get-well messages from fans to Bosh's home.

Heat/Panthers updated playoff picture entering Monday:  A new daily blog feature as two teams fight to finish in the top eight in their Eastern Conferences. HEAT--Trending down at 9th, 28-34 (W1), 0 games (tiebreaker) from 8th with 20 games left (next tonight vs. Boston). Heat playoff likelihood: 38.2% (down 1.7) per Hollinger/ESPN. PANTHERS--Trending down at 9th, 29-37 (W1), 4 points from 8th with 16 games left (next Thursday vs. Winnipeg). Cats playoff likelihood: 4.7% (down 1.8) per sportsclubstats.com.

A MAN NAMED SUH!: DOLPHINS REPORTEDLY LAND FORMER LIONS DEFENSIVE TACKLE: It had been looking like Miami was the frontrunner for Ndamukong Suh. Sunday it began to look all but 1aa1ansuhofficial as ESPN's Chris Mortensen first reported the Fins had landed the NFL's top free agent with a six-year, $114 million offer including $60 million guaranteed. The good: Miami gets the league's premier DT and second-most impactful defender overall after  Houston's J.J. Watt. Suh is in his prime at 28 and instantly and hugely upgrades both Miami's run defense and pass rush. It is a bold, major move by owner Stephen Ross and the franchise. The not so good: The enormous expenditure may short-change the club and its roster elsewhere. Also, Suh is a notoriously dirty player who has incurred some $421,000 in league fines (and two games' suspension) in his five seasons. When you factor in all of it -- Suh's talent, his reputation and the money it is costing -- what do you think of the reported soon-to-be signing? Vote and say why you feel as you do.

Fins being investigated for Suh contract leak?: This story suggests Miami and other NFL teams may be investigated for leaking contract information to the media prior to Tuesday's first day that teams may sign free agents.

Suh, Whiteside top most-excited-about vote: We asked what about Miami sports excites you most at the moment, and of five choice it was the Dolphins' pursuit of Ndamukong Suh leading with 38.6 percent and Hassan Whiteside's Heat emergence with 28.4%. Then came optimism for Marlins season at 18.5%, UM's pursuit of men's NCAA tournament bid at 11.2% and Panthers chasing NHL playoff spot at 3.4%.

HOT BUTTON MAR. 8: TOP 10 THINGS SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive Sunday feature. Hot Button means what's on our minds, locally and nationally, as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead:

1aa1ahotbutton1. DOLPHINS: Fins reportedly land Ndamukong Suh: Miami was seen as a front-runner to sign defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, and ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported Sunay that the deal ($114 million over six years with $60 million guaranteed) is done barring a last-minute glitch. Suh is the ex-Lion known for his sacking, run-stopping excellence but also his dirty play and league fines. Admit it: You hate Suh. But you’d love him on your team.

2. HEAT: Miami hanging on to edge of playoff contention: Heat can regain the No. 8 seed with a win over visiting Boston tonight. Why am I smiling? Before season, on a hunch, I bet big that players leading Heat's stretch run would include Hassan Whiteside, Goran Dragic, Michael Beasley, Tyler Johnson and Bill-turned-Henry Walker.

3. UM BASKETBALL: Canes men seek big showing in ACC tourney: UM ended its regular season 20-11, but now Jim Larrañaga’s Canes need a big ACC tournament starting Wednesday -- at least one win and likelier two -- to get into the NCAA Tournament. Teenage girls and bubble teams know it: It’s tough waiting to see if you’ll be asked to the Big Dance.

4. PANTHERS: Cats now four back in playoff chase: Newly acquired future Hall of Famer Jaromir Jagr has added a spark, but Florida (off until Thursday) has now dropped four points off the No. 8 seed even after the 4-3 shootout win over the Islanders. Injuries have left team thin at goaltender. I don’t wanna say Cats are desperate, but if you own a stick and a glove, you might be starting next game.

5. GOLF: Johnson survives Championship Sunday at Doral: Dustin Johnson, in only his fifth tournament back from last year's six-month PGA Tour leave for personal issues, survived J.B. Holmes and Bubba Watson to win the World Golf Championships event on Doral’s Blue Monster. A $1.57 million check, a new baby son, going home to Paulina Gretzsky ... life is good for Dustin.

6. MARLINS: Spring training games begin amid high hopes: The team not only spent big to keep Giancarlo Stanton and bolster the roster but also will have a private team jet and personal chef for players this season. This is making it tough now for me to make fun of owner Jeffrey Loria for being cheap. Damn him ruining my hobby!

7. NFL: Big moves of interest to Miami: Bills acquiring RB LeSean McCoy and Jets trading for WR Brandon Marshall put heat on Dolphins in AFC East. Meanwhile it was a rough week in the NFL for old ex-Canes as the Patriots released Vince Wilfork and Colts cut Reggie Wayne. Perpetually disgruntled UM football fans blamed Al Golden.

8. SAILING: Miami Sailing Week ends on Biscayne Bay: The 88th Bacardi Miami Sailing Week wrapped up, a weeklong sun-splashed regatta held this time each year expressly to make folks in the snow-buried Northeast feel even more jealous of us than usual.

9. AUTO RACING: Streets ready for Miami ePrix: They’ve set up barricades downtown for this coming Saturday’s “Miami ePrix,” in which world’s fastest electric race cars will be humming down Biscayne Boulevard. Miamians have a phrase to describe that kind of crazy speed, chaos and danger on the road: "I-95."

10. SOCCER: MLS begins its 20th season: Major League Soccer is back in action as David Beckham continues to search for a stadium site for his prospective Miami franchise. Dead-ends so far on all his preferred locations. Poor Dave may end up settling for a warehouse district in Hialeah.

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What excites you most today about Miami sports (poll, vote now); also updated Heat/Panthers playoff trends, verdict on Mike Wallace & more

1) It is SUNDAY, MARCH 8. Click on Random Evidence for today's latest Sunday notes-column package. 2) Heading down to Doral for today's golf finale. Rain, rain stay away. 3) Saw Elton John at the sold-out AAA Friday night. He never ceases to amaze with his talent, professionalism and ability to still be relevant and a major draw 45 years after "Your Song." 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Do Dolfans like Mike Wallace poll, Austin and a horse's head, Heat-Lakers, playoff odds, Spoelstra sings Billie Jean, Suh redux & more. 5) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

UPDATED: Heat/Panthers updated playoff picture entering Sunday: A new daily blog feature as two teams fight to finish in the top eight in their Eastern Conferences. HEAT--Trending up at 8th, 28-34 (W1), 0 games (tiebreaker) from 7th with 20 games left (next Monday vs. Boston). Heat playoff likelihood: 39.9% (+5.7) per Hollinger/ESPN. PANTHERS--Trending even at 9th, 29-37 (W1), 2 points off pace with 16 games left (next Thursday vs. Winnipeg). Cats playoff likelihood: 6.5% (+1.1) per sportsclubstats.com.

Good golfer, better story: Isn't often I write a column about an athlete involving multiple brain surgeries and porn. Click on J.B. Holmes for my latest, on Doral's leader entering today's final round.

EXCITING TIME FOR MIAMI SPORTS ON ALL FRONTS: Swivel your head in any direction around here and see something exciting. Out at Doral the best golfers in the world are playing. The best in tennis are 1aa1aexcitedabout to descend on Key Biscayne. The Florida Derby will soon hit Gulfstream Park. Spring training has sprung. And we haven't even gotten to our local teams yet. Anticipation and excitement for the Marlins is very high. The Dolphins seem the favorite land the NFL's biggest free agent and best defensive tackle in Ndamukong Suh. Hassan Whiteside continues as an emerging force for the Heat. The Panthers are thick in the hunt to make the NHL playoffs. And UM men's basketball is on the bubble fighting to make the NCAA Tournament. A crowded sports plate full of a lot to like. So what involving our biggest local teams has you the most excited at the moment. Tough poll, I know, because many of you would check three or four answers if you could. But life isn't fair. What interests or excites you the most right now? Vote and say why.

Poll result: "Like" factor on Mike Wallace mixed but largely favorable: We asked your overall impression of the Dolphins receiver and your decision was 46.5 percent favorable vs. 28.6% unfavorable. The other 24.9% answered "mixed or undecided," an unusualy high number for the not-sure crowd.

UPDATED BETTING FAVORITES IN FOUR SPORTS: Courtesy Bovada, Cleveland is now the NBA title favorite at 11-5, with Golden State next at 15-4. In the wide-open NHL it's Chicago 15-2 followed by Anaheim and Nashville at 9-1. MLB clear pick is Washington at 7-1, with L.A. Dodgers next at 17-2. In MLS, it's L.A. Galaxy out front at 10-3. (The Miami team with the shortest odds is Marlins at 33-1. Panthers are 66-1, Heat 200-1).

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March 04, 2015

Do Dolphins fans like Mike Wallace? New poll. Vote now!; plus Spoelstra sings 'Billie Jean,' Heat-Lakers, Doral, Heat/Panthers playoff odds, a horse's head, man named Suh & more


1aa1adonald1) It is THURSDAY, MARCH 5. I'm down at Doral today to slap Donald Trump. Nah, I'm really down there to write a column off the first round of the golf tournament. 2) Shania Twain fan? The country star will be playing the Heat arena in downtown Miami July 16 as part of a (supposed) farewell tour. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot Button Top 10, optimism-poll results & more. 4) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also on Facebook, Instagram and Vine.

THE VIEW ON DOLPHINS RECEIVER MIKE WALLACE: As NFL free agency begins in earnest the Dolphins seem more and more inclined to keep receiver Mike Wallace and his big salary, although he has 1aa1amikewsomewhat under-performed on expectations. Part of keeping him may be that the trade market was tepid. Some fans undoubtedly think Miami might be better off cutting ties with Wallace and pursuing Packers free-agent Randall Cobb, who is younger and coming off a Pro Bowl year but wouldn't be much cheaper. I wonder how Dolfans feel about Wallace, factoring in his performance and also elements of his personality that included removing himself from a game late last season in a pique over the amount of passes being thrown his way. Is Wallace overrated and nothing special? Or is he a big talent being underutilized? Is the problem his or Ryan Tannehill's that the deep passes taking advantage of Wallace's premier speed have not been happening enough? For me, Wallace is a talent worth keeping and finding a way to fully deploy. Some may disagree. This poll isn't really asking if you think Miami should keep Wallace or not, though it sort of is I I guess. Interpret the question any way you wish, but whatever way you do, it'll be a referendum on how Dolfans feel about one of the team's biggest (and most controversial) stars. Vote and say why in the Comments section.

1aa1ahorseheadAUSTIN AND A HORSE'S HEAD: My wife and I meet a couple of good friends from the D.C. area in a random city a couple of times a year for a mini-vacation, just because. Been doing it a few years now, and we spent the long weekend just past in Austin, Texas, visiting funky-bizarre antique shops on SoCo and party-drinking on 6th Street. Loved hearing the blues-rock of the Red Lady Band at Darwin's, loved Iron Works BBQ, loved the (unexpected) Scholz Garten, loved touring the LBJ Presidential Library, and counted a quite-elaborate horse's head mask among the souvenir purchases I brought back. Of course I had to take it into the Clevelander studio on Tuesday and turn it into radio schtick just for laughs. That's me pictured here wearing the head. Check me out on Twitter or Vine for a video of me trying to coax Dan LeBatard into putting it on.

HEAT-LAKERS: THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING RIVALRY: Heat beat ,lowly Lakers last night100-94, paced by Hassan Whiteside's 25 rebounds. Heat-Lakers used to be LeBron and Kobe on Christmas Day, 1aa1aheat-lalwith two big teams and stakes high. Now? LeBron gone, Kobe out, Bosh out and much less interest (at least nationally) as Miami hosted LAL last night. What used to be a hell of a rivalry is now a shell of a rivalry, with Miami trying to hang onto playoff pace at 27-33 and L.A. way out of it at 16-44. The last time both teams had losing records the same season: 1992-93.

Heat, Panthers playoff odds: Heat sit on playoff pace as current No. 7 East seed but find five pursuers on their tail. ESPN's computerized Hollinger postseason odds are pessimistic, giving Miami (before last night) only a 40.9 percent chance to make playoffs. In hockey, the Panthers currently are only two points off pace as the No. 9 seed, but Cats' outlook is even gloomier. Hockey-reference.com puts Florida's playoff shot at 12.0%.    

SPOELSTRA CHANNELS HIS INNER MICHEAL JACKSON, RILEY TAKES ON BEATLES AT 'BATTIOKE': Shane Battier's annual karaoke night just happened at the Fillmore South Beach, and highlights included Heat coach Erik Spoelstra (and girlfriend Nikki Sapp) performing Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean"and the Silver Fox himself, Pat Riley, displaying Sexy Old Man moves on a Beatles remake. Click on Twist and Shout for Riley. Spo is below. Videos courtesy WQAM. Fun!

 

A QUICK BRAG ON NDAMUKONG SUH: Good to see everybody else catching up to us this week on the 1aa1ansuhDolphins and free-agent defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. It was almost a month ago, Feb. 7 in this blog, before anybody was mentioning this guy and Miami in same breath, when under the headline 'Ndamuking Suh a Dolphin?' we listed three reasons why it was possible. In an accompanying poll on whether Miami should pur-Suh him, y'all voted 56.8 percent yes, 29.0% no and 14.2% undecided.

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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 SUNDAY, MARCH 1. Happy new month! 2) Our Sunday Random Evidence notes column and our blog-exclusive Hot Button Top 10 are taking today off. 3) Click here to watch a Boston-area man roll the last three strikes in a perfect 900 series in bowling. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): ESPN analytics ranking of local teams, get-well-Bosh campaign, Dan Marino, Daytona 500, Oscars review & more. 5) 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 22, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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