[Find "Futblog: World Cup'" in post just below this in the blog. Friday's four matches bring first round to close and set 16-team field. Also, join us at Twitter.com/gregcote].
FREDI GONZALEZ CALLED OUT: THE POLL: I guess the headline above -- "Marlins firing Fredi is premature, unjust" -- sort of gives you an idea how I feel. For more click here for my column online in Thursday's pulp-edition. I think owner Jeffrey Loria was setting Fredi up to fail in order to hire his old pal Bobby Valentine, which now seems very likely. And how about Loria daring to says that everyone knows he is "all about winning." Really? Really!? Does that include all those years when he spent less on player payroll than any other owner in the sport? But enough of my ranting. Now you tell me about this managerial change. Take a dip in our poll and expound.
HEAT DRAFT DONE. NOW COMES THE GOOD PART: I won't even mention any of the Heat's second-round draft picks from last night because in the big scheme they hardly matter. What does is free agency starting in six days and what will happen. These things seems more and more clear to me: 1) Re-signing Dwyane Wade long-term is a near-certainty. 2) Trading Michael Beasley is very likely and what makes sense is Beasley ending up in Memphis (which liked him in the draft) and Memphis signing and trading to Miami Rudy Gay, a less-than-max-cost guy who would provide offensive punch from the small-forward spot. Gay (pictured) turns 24 in August, and averaged 19.6 points last season. Don't put much stock in Pat Riley saying he won't trade Beasley. The player's value diminishes if Riles does anything but portray Beasley as a valuable piece in the team's future. 3) Chris Bosh will be the primary, realistic target in free agency, with Amare Stoudemire the acceptbale, though lesser, fallback. 4) That "We Want U Back"-themed birthday party wasn't all show. The Heat wants Udonis Haslem back. 5) By acquiring one max-cost guy like Bosh and one a bit cheaper like Gay, Pat Riley would have salary-cap space left over to fill in the cracks with some additional bargain pieces. If I am right, Wade-Bosh-Gay is your new nucleus, Miami.
U.S. SOCCER WIN AT GROUND LEVEL: [See "Futblog: World Cup" just below this in the blog for more]. I was scheduled to write a column off the U.S. World Cup soccer game yesterday until Fredi Gonzalez was abruptly fired. Showed up with a buddy at Duffy's Plantation, a sports bar, for the 10 a.m. match, joined soon after by one of my sons. Place was packed, all U.S. supporters as far as I could tell. (Kept looking for an Algeria supporter from Miami's "Little Algiers." Didn't see one.). World Cup beer specials: 34-ounce drafts from various countries. Morning, but I partook of one (that I'm admitting to). Terrific crowd. "U-S-A!" chants, flags, face paint, the whole bit. I wore my USA soccer shirt and fit right in; no pretense of impartiality whatsoever and proud of it. When we scored in extra time on Landon Donovan's shot the bar erupted in sonic joy. I was hugging a guy I'd never met. I mean, there is something about the World Cup. Patriotism reigns. We are not cheering for a team, or even a sport. We are rooting for ourselves. It was a special late-morning I'll not forget. Pictured: A guy there who had applied his facepaint in the mirror so that (oops) when you looked at him you saw an A, a backward S, then a U. Nevertheless! A happy, proud American, and what's better than that!?
[Click here (then red button marked 'Start listening') for the U.S. goal call by the incomparable Andres Cantor. Geez, and I thought I was excited!]
TENNIS MARATHON FINALLY ENDS: In an historic Wimbledon first-round match, John Isner (pictured) finally won this morning when his opponent, Nicolas Mahunt, died of old age. No I'm kidding. Mahunt lost in the 138-game fifth set but did not perish. Isner's final winning line: 6-4, 3-6, 6-7, 7-6, 70-68. I play tennis. I can testify that this no-tiebreaker, win-by-two fifth set is one of the most remarkable sports occurences of our lifetime -- a record never to be broken or likely to be approached.
THE LIST: HEAT 2ND-ROUND PICKS: Eleven of the club's 26 second-round picks have gone on to appear in a game for Miami. Top five 2R picks based on career regular-season points for Heat:
5,473 Grant Long (1988-95)
2,544 Sherman Douglas (1989-92)
1,352 Matt Geiger (1992-95)
1,264 Rasual Butler (2002-05)
1,176 Eddie House (2000-03)