January 19, 2019

Our AFC, NFC Championship Game picks: 2 old G.O.A.T.s are trying to reach Super Bowl. Only 1 will; plus Canes' 2019 football schedule looks like Manny Diaz dreamed it, happy birthday D.Wade, why Dolphins' 'Tank for '20' plan is risky & more

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

Dwhappybday1) It's SATURDAY, JANUARY 19. Happy birthday Dwyane Wade as Heat star turned 37 this week. He's Miami sports' all-time G.O.A.T. Or co-G.O.A.T. with Dan Marino, if you insist. 2) Visit Greg Cote Tuesday for the best-of podcast from this week's Le Batard Show. 3) Football is at its crescendo and the holidays are upon us. That means it's the perfect time to delight Dolfans you know with the (late) gift of our 'Fins At 50' book. Check it out on Amazon. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot Button Top 10, how we did on NFL Divisional-Round picks & more. 5) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

Newest column: Why Dolphins' supposed 'Tank for '20' strategy is dumb and risky: To read our latest column, visit This Is Offseason for Dolphins to Be Bold, Not Think Tanking.

Our other most recent columns: Blueprint For Dolphins Is Right In Front Of Them / Kooch Never Made Canton But Helped Make Dolphins History / A Better Coach Isn't Dolphins' Biggest Need. Also: From Dark and Empty to the Top Of the World: Dan Le Batard at 50 / Hurricanes' Wild Ride From Chaos to Calm / Wade Deserves All-Star Sendoff / The Dolphins Seem Desperate, And It's About Time / Getting Diaz Back The Perfect Fit For UM / Richt Can Call It Retirement, But He Just Quit On The Canes / Miami's Hate-Hate Relationship With Nick Saban.

PicksNFL PLAYOFF PICKS / CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES: AND THE SUPER BOWL MATCHUP IS...: It's Rams-at-Saints and then Patriots-at-Chiefs on Sunday in play-in games for the Super Bowl. It's the first time in the SB era the league's four highest-scoring offenses have made the final four. Also only the eighth time in the 29 years of the current playoff format that both conference title games are No. 1 vs. 2 seeds. Oh, yeah: And two old G.O.A.T.s -- 40-something QBs Tom Brady and Drew Brees -- are trying to make it. Will both make it? Just one? Neither? Sunday should be a ratings bonanza for the NFL. For our Championship Sunday preview and predictions, visit Championship Round Gems.

MdiazANALYZING 2019 HURRICANES FOOTBALL SCHEDULE: MANNY DIAZ SHOULD BE SMILING: The Miami Hurricanes' 2019 football schedule, revealed yesterday, starts big and tough, vs. the Florida Gators in Orlando, but then turns soft. And stays that way. And for openers, Florida in-state is not as daunting a Game 1 as LSU was this past season in Arlington, Tex. Florida, 10-3 last season, is the only '19 UM foe ranked in the final 2018 polls. Miami's other 11 opponents were a combined 62-76 last season. Florida, in fact, may be the only game in which UM is the betting underdog. The schedule is such that the Canes wull have a big shot at padding the record and being ranked if they can find a way to beat the Gators. Miami's schedule also is favorable from a travel standpoint. UM plays five straight home games (Games 3 through 7) and -- because three of its road games are in Orlando, Tallahassee and at Marlins Park -- the Canes will travel out of state only three times all season. "Win%" below is our estimation of likelihood Miami will win, based on game's expected point spread. It sets up as a very favorable schedule for first-year coach Manny Diaz. Presuming he finds a good quarterback, of course.

Date       Opponent                    2018   Most recent meeting   Win%

Aug 31    Florida                        10-3   Won 21-16 (2013)        45%

Sep 7      @ North Carolina           2-9   Won 47-10                   70%

Sep 14    Bethune-Cookman         7-5   Won 45-14 (2011)         99%

Sep 21    Central Michigan           1-11  First meeting              99%  

Oct 5     Virginia Tech                 6-7    Won 38-14                   70%

Oct 11    Virginia                         8-5    Lost 16-13                  65%

Oct 19   Georgia Tech                 7-6    Lost 27-21                   65%

Oct 26   @ Pittsburgh                 7-7    Won 24-3                     60%

Nov 2    @ Florida State              5-7    Won 28-27                   55%

Nov 9    Louisville                      2-10   Lost 31-13 (2014)         70%

Nov 23   FIU                              9-4    Won 31-17                    90%

Nov 30   @ Duke                        8-5    Lost 20-12                    55%

Notes: All most recent meetings were last season except as noted. Florida opener is neutral-site game in Orlando. Virginia game is a Friday; all others are Saturday. FIU game is being play at Marlins Park.

APSE-HONORED WORKThe Associated Press Sports Editors 2018 writing awards ranked us a Top 10 national sports columnist in the major-outlet category. Thanks, APSE. Here are the five 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.

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

Twitter @gregcote

January 05, 2019

NFL Wild-Card Weekend playoff picks: Winners here!; plus What was the biggest national sports story of 2018? Annual poll. Here's The AP Top 10. You pick your top 3. Vote now!; also, our recent Dolphins/Hurricanes upheaval columns & more

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

1) It's SATURDAY, JANUARY 5. I'm still saying "Happy New Year" and I don't care who objects with their silly rules. 2) Football is at its crescendo and the holidays are upon us. That means it's the perfect time to delight Dolfans you know with the (late) gift of our 'Fins At 50' book. Check it out on Amazon. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): The 3 days that shook Miami  football, final Herald NFL QB rankings, Pix 'n Fantasy results & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

DwadeSend D.Wade out as an all-star: The fan vote is saying the Heat's Dwyane Wade, in his final season, should go out as an NBA all-star starter. The players and media votes should do the same. To read our latest column, visit Wade Deserves All-Star Sendoff.

Other most recent columns: The Dolphins Seem Desperate, And It's About Time (on firing Gase, demoting Tannenbaum). Getting Diaz Back The Perfect Fit For UM (on hiring new football coach). Richt Can Call It Retirement, But He Just Quit On The Canes (on shocking resignation of Mark Richt). 'Bama Shows Miami The Way Back To That Good (on Tide's Orange Bowl/CFP semifinal win). And Miami's Hate-Hate Relationship With Nick Saban.

NFL PLAYOFF PICKS / WILD-CARD WEEKEND: AND THE 4 SURVIVING WINNERS ARE..: The Magical Season of Cote marauds into the postseason under  shower of confetti after a personal- Picksrecord-setting regular season. We’ve been doing NFL picks in the Miami Herald since Don Shula and Dan Marino were still rocking Miami. The Patriots quarterback was somebody named “Hugh Millen.” Bill Belichick was a rookie head coach with the Browns. It was 1991 — making this our 28th season of picks. And our best. Ever. Our .705 season winning percentage overall tied our personal best. And our .582 mark against the spread stands alone on the mountaintop at No. 1, beating the previous record of .574. Not a great finishing kick last week but we still managed to hit on four dogs with points in the Lions, Cowboys, Bears and Bengals. Now we wipe the slate. Playoffs, baby! Chaff has separated from wheat. Wanna-be's like the Dolphins watch on TV while the dozen qualifiers enter the Super Bowl Tournament. This opening weekend eight teams are in play while the four bye kings rest and wait. Our four Wild-Card Weekend picks include one by-the-numbers upset and at least one other that feels like one based on betting trends. Visit NFL Wild-Card Weekend Gems for all of our latest selections.

YOU PICK THE 2018 NATIONAL SPORTS STORY OF THE YEAR: Welcome to our annual year-in-review vote on the biggest national sports story in America. The top 10 stories in this poll are 2018not mine; they are from The Associated Press official annual ranking for the calendar year. I list them alphabetically by subject here, not in the 1-through-10 order of The AP's selection, so as not to prejudice the jury. I want this to be your independent vote and not influenced by The AP's rank. I am purposely not including a synopsis of each story, because if the ballot phrase alone is not sufficient, the story mustn't have been that big or important to you. VOTE FOR YOUR TOP THREE (3). And remember, this is a national list, so please consider your vote in that broad context. On Sunday, following our national vote, we'll offer a separate poll to choose 2018's biggest Greater Miami/South Florida sports story. For now, let's go nationwide. One year ago, you voted "NFL player protests over social justice draws critics led by President Trump" as the No. 1 national story, followed closely by "Astros win 1st World Series to lift city devastated by Hurricane Harvey." What reigned for 2018? You decide, right now. My personal top 10 probably would have found room for LeBron James joining the Lakers, the corruption scandal in college basketball and Serena Williams' successful return from maternity leave, but, again, this is The AP's list. We'll keep the poll open three-plus days and announce results on Sunday as we present the South Florida poll. Vote now! 

Vote for the top three (3) biggest national sports stories of 2018:

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

Twitter @gregcote

November 16, 2018

NFL Week 11 pick$ for Chief$-Ram$ and the rest; plus our NASCAR-in-trouble column, your verdicts on Gase/Richt (oy!), Marlins' new logo, Hassan's gun & more

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

1) It's FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 16. Visit Greg Cote Friday for the podcast from today's LeBatard Show on ESPN Radio. 2) Football is raging and the holidays are upon us. That means it's the perfect time to delight Dolfans you know with the gift of our 'Fins At 50' book. Check it out on Amazon. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Gase/Richt support-level polls, Herald NFL QB rankings, Pix 'n Fantasy results, college State of the State rank & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

NascarLatest column: NASCAR celebrates, but under cloud: For the 17th straight year Homestead-Miami Speedway hosts NASCAR's Championship Weekend, and it's a quality Championship Four gunning for the top-series season title Sunday. But a celebratory weekend cannot hide the issues confronting the sport, including decreasing attendance and TV ratings and a loss of starpower. We explore. To read, visit NASCAR Needs A Next Big Thing.

Other select recent columns: On Dwyane Wade's extended paternity leave: Wade's World Bigger Than Hoops, And Good For Him. And Honeymoon Over: How Collapsing Seasons Put Heat on Gase, Richt.

PicksUPSET BIRD DAY IN AMERICA!: NFL WEEK 11 PICKS FOR CHIEFS-RAMS AND ALL THE REST: The Dolphins are off this week on a bye. So is the rest of the AFC East. In keeping with division patterns, anybody doubt Bill Belichick will find a way to dominate the bye week? With Miami off, the Game of the Week, Chiefs at Rams in a battle of 9-1 teams, tops my latest NFL selections. Visit Week 11 Gems. Included are my Upset of the Week ("Aawwk!") and all the rest. Our 28th season of Friday NFL picks (online Thursdays) is rockin' hot. Entering the week we were at a .699 winning percentage overall and a big .587 against the spread. And we bull's-eyed last night's game (Thursday Gem), not only calling Seattle's 27-24 win, by getting the score on the nose for a rare Exacto!

GaserichtYOUR VERDICTS ON GASE, RICHT: With both their teams slumping, we wanted to gauge your level of support for Dolphins coach Adam Gase and Canes coach Mark Richt. We asked, "Do you support Adam Gase?" You said: Yes, fully 10.32 percent; Yes, but wavering 36.90%; and Nope 52.78%. Overall Gase support: 47.22%. We asked, "Do you support Mark Richt?" You said: Yes, fully 18.75%; Yes, but wavering 41.07%; and Nope 40.18%. Overall Richt support: 59.82%. I'm surprised both results were so damning, but timing is everything in polls, and the timing of these ones admittedly worked against both men. I'm especially surprised the Gase verdict was so negative, given that his starting quarterback has missed 25 of the past 30 games injured. To make clear to those who misinterpreted my recent Gase/Richt column (Honeymoon Over: How Collapsing Seasons Put Heat on Gase, Richt) or these polls (love you anyway, Uncle Luke), I support both coaches and would have neither on any hot seat. 

MarlinslogoONE WORD FOR MARLINS NEW LOGO: As Derek Jeter continues to distance himself from anything to do with Jeffery Loria with a broad rebranding of the franchise, the Marlins yesterday unveiled a new logo and uniform colors that eliminate the orange but have blue, black, red and gray as the new colors. The logo depicts a leaping marlin above red baseball seams and the word Miami in script. One logo variation features the Miami skyline, including the Freedom Tower, in the background. The Freedom Tower is notable because the Jeter regime makes unequivocal the overt appeal to Hispanic fans in the makeover. Example: the announcement of the new colors uses the Spanish spelling, "colores." Initial thoughts on the new logo? It's fine. OK. But one word jumps out. Dark. I mean, a black background!? Looks like a retro flyer for Disco Night at a South Beach club.

Hassan M16JUST ANOTHER CHAPTER IN THE BOOK OF HASSAN: Mercurial Heat center Hassan Whiteside has done it again: Made news for reasons dubious. Whiteside bought a $50,000 M16 assault rifle, ammunition, a rifle bag, and a silencer in Miami on July 5, all of which were immediately stolen from his unlocked car, 640 AM radio's Andy Slater reported. Whiteside, 29, in a statement issued through the team: "I have a license for the gun that was stolen from me over the summer. I should have secured it better and I’m glad it was recovered. It won’t happen again. It is now locked in a safe and I only use it at the gun range." Whiteside apparently did not violate any team rule, except perhaps the one about using common sense. Dear Heat: Please consider a team rule on the wisdom of players owning military-grade assault weapons such as mass killers tend to favor. Just a thought.

Select other recent columns: Moving Beyond Tannehill Smart But Not Easy For DolphinsDolfans, Your Team Is Not Easy To LoveWade Reminds Us Why We'll Miss HimNo More Excuses, Florida PanthersTannehill: Requiem For A QuarterbackWhatever Happened to Kenyan Drake? NFL 2018 Team RankingsDolphins? Heat? Nope. UM Football Owns This TownNFL Enters Year 3 Of Anthem-Protest QuagmireTo The Good-Guy Grinder In The ShadesTime to Flip the Old Narrative On Miami As a Sports TownCan Riley Rescue Heat From Purgatory? When 3 World Cup Legends Were Ours.

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

Twitter @gregcote

November 10, 2018

Poll: Will Dolphins make playoffs? Last chance to vote. Do it now!; plus NFL Week 10 picks for Fins-Packers and the rest, our Bill James/replaceable athletes column, congrats D.Wade!, the Mahomes/Marino parallel & more

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

Wadebaby1) It's SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 10. Congratulations to Heat star Dwyane Wade and wife Gabrielle Union on the birth this week of their baby girl via surrogate. A name was not immediately shared. Union-Wade had been honest about her struggle to have a child, including previous miscarriages. "Our miracle baby," said Wade. 2) Visit Greg Cote Tuesday for the podcast from this week's LeBatard Show on ESPN Radio. Included: the latest 'Back In My Day.' 3) Football season means it's the perfect time to delight Dolfans you know with our 'Fins At 50' book. Check it out on Amazon. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Herald NFL QB rankings, Dolphins' '72 Perfection reaffirmed, Pix 'n Fantasy results, college State of the State rank & more. 5) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

On Bill James and replaceable athletes: The sabermetrics ace and Red Sox fell into hot water this week by saying baseball players were replaceable, likening their importance to that of beer vendors. By extension he  meant athletes in general. But  here's the thing. He has a point. He may be right. I discuss in my latest column. To read it, visit Bill James Struck A Nerve, But He's More Right Than Wrong.

Picks W10pixUPSET BIRD DAY IN AMERICA!: NFL WEEK 10 PICKS FOR DOLPHINS-PACKERS AND THE REST: It's the Dolphins making a rare visit to Lambeau Field in Green Bay this Sunday, and there is bad news on two fronts. 1) The temps will be in the 20s. 2) Opponent points will be in the 30s. Dolphins-Packers tops my latest NFL selections. Visit Week 10 Gems. Included are my Game of the Week, Upset of the Week ("Aawwk!") and all the rest. Our 28th season of Friday NFL picks (online Thursdays) is rockin' hot. Entering the week we were at a .705 winning percentage overall and a big .585 against the spread. Mixed start last night as we had Steelers but winning but blew it thinking Panthers would cover. See Thursday Gem for that pick.

MahmarMARINO SET THE BLUEPRINT FOR MAHOMES: What the NFL is seeing this season from Patrick Mahomes in Kansas City  is the most instantly dynamic impact by a young quarterback since what Dan Marino brought to Miami, and to football, in 1983-84. The arrival and prolific output of the two (pictured right) are among the many similarities in the two passers 35 years apart. I explore in a column from earlier this week. Read it by visiting Marino Set the Blueprint For Mahomes.

Select other recent columns: UM, Florida and FSU have a current combined seven-game losing streak, indicative of broader struggles and challenges for the state's erstwhile Big 3. Read State of Shock For Canes, Gators and Noles. Also: Dolphins Win, But Under Cloud, Not RainbowTime For Faith In Richt, And PatienceMoving Beyond Tannehill Smart But Not Easy For DolphinsDolfans, Your Team Is Not Easy To LoveSnakebit AdamFamily Tradition. And Victor-y, Miami!

DologoPOLL: WILL THE DOLPHINS MAKE THE PLAYOFFS?: Miami is a better than expected 5-4 entering NFL Week 10, and currently sits seventh in the jockeying for six AFC playoff sports. The Dolphins are well in the hunt. But will they make it? What is the confidence level of fans? That's why this poll is here. Try to cast a dispassionate vote -- not what you hope happens, but what you honestly predict will. What you'd bet on. Go!

Other select recent columns: Wade Reminds Us Why We'll Miss HimNo More Excuses, Florida PanthersTannehill: Requiem For A QuarterbackWhatever Happened to Kenyan Drake? NFL 2018 Team RankingsDolphins? Heat? Nope. UM Football Owns This TownNFL Enters Year 3 Of Anthem-Protest QuagmireTo The Good-Guy Grinder In The ShadesTime to Flip the Old Narrative On Miami As a Sports TownCan Riley Rescue Heat From Purgatory? When 3 World Cup Legends Were Ours.

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

Twitter @gregcote

May 21, 2018

Latest Hot Button Top 10 (updated): See the surprise at No. 1 and what else falls where; plus links to latest columns, 4-Man Outfield (updated), The List (NBA Game 7s) & more

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

Chris1) It's MONDAY, MAY 21. Happy birthday on Monday to Christopher (pictured), a.k.a. Fat Chris, Fast Chris, Stats & Info and more. Love you, kid! #FirstBorninIt 2) Astonish and thrill the Dolfans in your life with our 'Fins At 50' book. Their reaction is sure to be: "Wait. Greg Cote wrote a BOOK!?" Click on Amazon to check it out. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Farewell Jim Morris, solving Jeter's problem, NBA playoffs chasing history, The List (longest-serving coaches), your verdict on legalized sports betting & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

Our most recent columns: Jeter's Marlins, Jim Morris' farewell, NBA playoffs, more: A Solution To Jeter's ImpatienceHeading For Home: An Ode to Jim MorrisNBA Rolling A Pair of 7sAlso: Supremes Got It Right On Sports BettingConfessions of a Lifelong DolfanAdam Gase Places His Bets and Crossing the Line On American Sports' Pandering For Foreign Money.

HOT BUTTON TOP 10 (MAY 20): WHAT SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Our blog-exclusive every-Sunday feature 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. UM BASEBALL: ACCs next as Morris waves goodbye to home fans: Hurricanes beat Boston College twice before a Saturday rainout in coach Jim Morris' final homestand before retiring after 25 seasons. UM isn't done yet, though. The Canes (27-25) are headed to the ACC Tournament in Durham, N.C., facing Notre Dame Tuesday and then Clemson Thursday. Canes were 2-1 vs. both schools this season. Miami needs a big performance in ACCs for a shot at an NCAA Tournament invite. Morris would end it all back in Omaha if sentiment meant anything. If only...

2. NBA: They're alive! LeBron, Steph lift Cavs, Warriors: Cleveland within 2-1 of Boston in East finals after Saturday's 116-86 LeBron James-fueled win at The Land. Then Golden State made it 2-1 in the West over Houston on Sunday led by Steph Curry. Still thinking my prediction of the NBA's first two 7-game conference finals since 1979 is looking solid. (Um, unless the Warriors keep looking like they did Sunday).

3. GAMBLING: Supreme Court OKs spread of legal sports betting: For Las Vegas and Nevada, the game of monopoly is ending. Soon any state that wishes to may have legalized sports betting, thanks to a landmark Supreme Court ruling this week. Most everybody seems happy with the notable exception of your bookie Vinny Down at the Bar and others to whom taking illicit bets under the table had become a lucrative cottage industry. Sorry, Vin.

4. DOLPHINS: Week offers first full glance at 2018 team: Miami's OTA practices this Tuesday through Thursday will offer a first look at the Dolphins' full 2018 squad as veterans take the field with first-year guys including recent draftees. All eyes will be on quarterback Ryan Tannehill as he returns gingerly from last summer's knee injury that shelved him all season. Translated: Any defender who forgets and accidentally tackles Tannehill will be pilloried.

5. MARLINS: Jeter: "I'm not a patient man": Fire-Sale Fish are 17-29 after giving up six runs in bottom of ninth to wrap up Braves series yesterday and now visit Mets for three in a six-game road trip. Meantime boss Derek Jeter says he is impatient to win. OK, do something about it, chief. Spend money to augment your ground-up business model.

6. NHL: Vegas in Finals, Tampa Bay close: Vegas won again Sunday to eliminated Winnipeg 4-1 in the West and reach the Stanley Cup Finals as an expansion team. Tampa Bay Lightning is up 3-2 over Washington in the East finals after a third straight series win Saturday night, and tries to clinch today. Looming: One of the most nontraditional Stanley Cup Finals on record.

7. HORSE RACING: Justify wins Preakness: Kentucky Derby winner Justify predictably was a clear betting favorite for this coming Saturday's 143rd Preakness Stakes in Baltimore, the second leg of the thoroughbred racing's Triple Crown, and won as expected, though barely. Triple Crown, anyone? Other top contenders Saturday included Good Magic and Greg's Lobos. OK I made up that last one.

8. SOCCER: Prep on for Real Madrid, Liverpool: A Spanish giant and an iconic English club prepare to go at it this coming Saturday for the UEFA Champions League title in Kiev, Ukraine. No word yet whether Vladimir Putin and Russia will attempt to exert influence and fix the result of the election soccer match.

9. TENNIS: Nadal, Serena center-stage as French Open nears: Year's second tennis major opens next Sunday at Roland-Garros in Paris, with Rafael Nadal the clear men's betting favorite and Simona Halep out front of a bunched women's field. Serena Williams, on the comeback from maternity leave and childbirth, is among top five women's faves. You get the feeling Serena might still be playing when her newborn daughter starts dominating in juniors.

10. ROYALTY: Harry and Meghan tie the royal knot: Princess Harry and Meghan Markle wed Saturday in a Royal Wedding that enthralled Great Britain and much of the world, according to my wife, who was glued to the ceremony and pomp. First offspring due date: Nine months from last night.

Missing the HB10 cut: The men's soccer World Cup in Russia is now less than one month away. Vladimir Putin has already decided who'll join Russia in the final, but he isn't saying ..... CFL's Hamilton Tiger-Cats signed Johnny Manziel. The latest indication Colin Kaepernick may never play again ..... Shaquille O'Neal is selling his Orlando-area mansion for $28 million. One drawback: When you live there, you start mumbling so softly nobody can hear or understand you ..... The Cleveland Browns are on Hard Knocks. Wait, haven't they been for like 30 years? ..... Chuck Liddell is making an MMA comeback. And we care why? ..... UCF coach Scott Frost and Nick Saban keep jabbing each other over UCF's national-champion claims. Man, I hate to agree with Saban! ..... Phoenix Suns win NBA draft lottery and No. 1 pick. Wait. They had worst record. Isn't that the way it's supposed to work? ..... Answer: Dallas man, 25, arrested for impersonating 17-year-old to join high-school basketball team and relive his glory days. Question: What's a new defintion for 'pathetic'?

4manof'THE FOUR-MAN OUTFIELD': BRINSON HITS SLAM BUT STILL LAGSThroughout 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 base our rankings on OPS (on-base plus slugging). The updated 4-Man Outfield appears every Sunday and Monday in the blog. The latest:

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

1. Giancarlo Stanton, Yankees    .872   44 171  32  45   27  10-1-11      .263

2. Christian Yelich, Brewers       .809   35  138   22  40   19   6-1-5      .290

3. Marcell Ozuna, Cardinals        .591   41 171  15  40   21   5-0-3      .234

4. Lewis Brinson, Marlins            .510   44  155  11  26   17    2-0-6     .168

THE LIST: NBA CONFERENCE-FINAL GAME 7S: Here are the five most recent full 4-3 series in each conference final, with result and series leading scorer:

Eastern Conference

Year    Result                                           Leading scorer

2013   Miami def. Indiana                         LeBron James (MIA), 29.0      

2012   Miami def. Boston                          LeBron James (MIA), 33.6

2005   Detroit def. Miami                         Dwyane Wade (MIA), 25.8

2001   Philadelphia def. Milwaukee          Allen Iverson (PHI), 30.5 

1998   Chicago def. Indiana                      Michael Jordan (CHI), 31.7

Western Conference

Year    Result                                          Leading scorer

2016   Golden State def. Oklahoma City   Kevin Durant (OKC), 30.0

2002   L.A. Lakers def. Sacramento          Shaquille O'Neal (LAL), 30.3

2000   L.A. Lakers def. Portland               Shaquille O'Neal (LAL), 25.9

1996   Seattle def. Utah                           Karl Malone (UTA), 27.0

1993   Phoenix def. Seattle                      Charles Barkley (PHO), 25.6

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.

For all of our more recent columns, browse MiamiHerald/GregCote.

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

Twitter @gregcote

May 19, 2018

Our solution to Derek Jeter's impatience (new column); plus Jim Morris' last stand: An ode to retiring Canes baseball coach; also, NBA playoffs chasing history, Miami's all-time most tenured coaches, your verdict on legalized betting & more

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

Wedding1) It's SATURDAY, MAY 19. Happy Wedding Day to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle! Not quite sure why I care about the Royal Family, but strangely I do. 2) Astonish and thrill the Dolfans in your life with our 'Fins At 50' book. Their reaction is sure to be: "Wait. Greg Cote wrote a BOOK!?" Click on Amazon to check it out. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Should Florida legalize sports betting poll, bold(ish) predictions on LeBron/Tiger/Marlins, latest Back In My Day video & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

MorrisTHE LAST (HOME)STAND OF CANES BASEBALL COACH JIM MORRIS: Only Hurricanes baseball legend Ron Fraser and Dolphins icon Don Shula have exceeded Jim Morris' 25 seasons at UM among South Florida's all-time biggest-team coaches (see The List below). Now, weather willing of course, the retiring Morris' final home game is Saturday afternoon vs. Boston College at the campus ballpark. The final home series began Thursday night with a 3-0 UM win and continued Friday with a 4-3 win, making it 10 straight Canes wins to keep alive Miami's hope of making the NCAA Tournament with a record now 27-25. Last season and this one have been a downturn for Canes baseball and Morris. Nevertheless the two-time-champion Morris earned his way out of Fraser's long shadow and stands on his own in UM history, retiring as the fourth-winningest major-school coach in college baseball history. My latest column is an unabashed ode to Morris as he bids farewell. He is the man who would never fill Fraser's -- and yet did. To read the column, click Heading For Home: An Ode to Jim Morris.

MachadoLatest column: A solution to Derek Jeter's impatience: The Marlins' boss said this week he is impatient for the team to be a winner. Guess what, Derek? So are Marlins fans! But Jeter's ground-up, farm system reboot is a slow-fix that will test that patience. To accelerate the process and help assure its success Jeter must do something more. It involves spending. And it should center around two names: Re-signing J.T. Realmuto long term, and going after Manny Machado in free agency after this season. To read my latest column, click A Solution To Jeter's Impatience.

LebronWill this NBA playoffs make history?: Golden State and Houston are giants out West. In the East, LeBron is LeBron. For those reasons I believe both conference finals will go the limit to Game 7, which would be the first time that has happened in the NBA since 1979. To read our latest column,  click NBA Rolling A Pair of 7sAdditional most recent columns: Supremes Got It Right On Sports Betting, Confessions of a Lifelong Dolfan, Adam Gase Places His Bets and Crossing the Line On American Sports' Pandering For Foreign Money.

THE LIST: ALL-TIME MOST TENURED SOUTH FLORIDA MAJOR-TEAM COACHES: In the long history of South Florida's biggest teams -- Miami  Dolphins, Miami Heat, Miami Marlins, Florida Panthers and Miami Hurricanes football, basketball and baseball -- here are the only persons to have served at least 10 seasons as head coach. The man third on the list, Jim Morris, coaches his final home game on Saturday:

Coach, Team                                   Years    Span        W-L Pct.

Ron Fraser, UM baseball                     30      1963-92      .742

Don Shula, Dolphins                           26      1970-95      .659

Jim Morris, UM baseball                     25      1994-18      .698

Ferne Labati, UM w-basketball           17      1988-05      .608

Andy Gustafson, UM football              16      1948-63      .587

Katie Meier, UM w-basketball             13+    2005-          .607

Bruce Hale, UM m-basketball             13      1954-67      .663

Pat Riley, Heat                                     11      1995-08      .535

Erik Spoelstra, Heat                             10+    2008-          .602

Hart Morris, UM m-basketball            10      1938-52      .592

Leonard Hamilton, UM m-basketball  10      1990-00      .495

POLL RESULT: STRONG MAJORITY WANT FLORIDA IN ON LEGALIZED SPORTS BETTING: We asked, "In the wake of this week's Supreme Court ruling, do you hope Florida will be among the states to legalize betting on sports?" And it was 76.81 percent yes, 18.84% no and 4.35% undecided.

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.

For all of our more recent columns, browse MiamiHerald/GregCote.

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

Twitter @gregcote

May 16, 2018

Legalized sports betting in Florida: Yay or nay? Poll. Vote now!; plus latest Back in My Day video (Disappearing Jobs!), confessions of a lifelong Dolfan, bold(ish) predictions on LeBron/Tiger/Marlins & more

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

1) It's WEDNESDAY, MAY 16. Astonish and thrill the Dolfans in your life with our 'Fins At 50' book. Their reaction is sure to be: "Wait. Greg Cote wrote a BOOK!?" Click on Amazon to check it out. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Confessions of a Lifelong Dolfan, Hot Button Top 10, 4-Man Outfield, your verdict on exporting U.S. games abroad & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook and Instagram.

PennantConfessions of a Lifelong Dolfan: I think anyone whose fandom dates to the expansion years, or at least predates Dan Marino, will especially relate to my latest column. In case you missed it, click Confessions of a Lifelong Dolfan. I detail the fan I was and how it started. I also write about how that fandom informs the way I think about the team now, a fan's sensibility factoring into the frustration I feel over the prolonged, continuing downturn of the franchise's fortunes. Other most recent columns: Adam Gase Places His Bets / Crossing the Line On American Sports' Pandering For Foreign Money / Burden Is On Team, Not Player It Chose.

BettingSHOULD STATE OF FLORIDA EMBRACE LEGALIZED SPORTS BETTING? POLL. VOTE NOW: The Supreme Court's 6-3 ruling yesterday effectively allowed all states to join Nevada in having legalized sports gambling. I think this is a good thing. To read my full latest column, click Supremes Got It Right On Sports Betting. Billions of dollars in underground, illicit money will now be bet above board, out in the open, and closely regulated. New Jersey and a handful of other states are poised to quickly allowing legal bets on all sports. One estimate is that at least half of all states could have legalized gambling within five years. Florida thus far is not among the 20 states that have already initiated some form of gambling-related legislation in anticipation of Monday's ruling. A spokesman for Gov. Rick Scott said Florida would "review the court's ruling." I write in my column that Florida should join the gravy train, but not all agree. I wonder your thoughts. Hence, this poll. Votes welcome.

THREE BOLD(ISH) PREDICTIONS: ON LEBRON, TIGER, MARLINS: 1) LeBron James, after a 15-point whisper of a Game 1 on 5-of-16 shooting in a loss to Boston, will score at least 30 in a resilient Game 2 Cleveland win tonight. 2) Tiger Woods will win the U.S. Open next month, his first major victory in 10 years. And 3) the Miami Marlins will trade catcher J.T. Realmuto for prospects before the July 31 MLB trade deadline. Bold-O-Meter on each prediction: LeBron's big Game 2--Barely Bold; Tiger winning U.S. Open--Pretty Bold; and Fish dealing Realmuto--Barely Bold. Update: Half right on LeBron. Cavs lost last night, but 'Bron popped for 42.

'BACK IN MY DAY': DISAPPEARING JOBS!: Here is the latest BIMD that debuted yesterday on ESPN Radio and ESPNews on the LeBatard Show:

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.

For all of our recent columns, browse MiamiHerald/GregCote.

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

Twitter @gregcote

May 10, 2017

Vegas to Dolphins: Fluke! No playoffs for you in '17! Agree? Set over/under on Miami wins. Poll. Last day to vote; plus Kathy Berman, latest Back In My Day video; also, Chris Bosh, porn and rat poop, your LaVar Ball verdict, Hot Button Daily (Wed) & more

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

1) It is WEDNESDAY, May 10. Our new Back In My Day video from the LeBatard Show is entitled 'Bumper Stickers.' Watch it HERE. 2) Chris Bosh is being sued by a porn website. Rat poop is involved. Story here. 3) Know any Dolfans? Thrill them with our new book on club's first half-century, Fins At 50. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot Button Top 10, LaVar ball/$495 sneakers with poll, my Heat/Wade column, Colonel Sanders: Super Stud, your verdict on eSports & more. 5) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

Chris Berman's wife dies: Kathy Berman, for 33 years the wife of ESPN icon Chris, died in a car accident Tuesday. Story here. Condolences to the Berman family.

DOLPHINS' POST-DRAFT, PRESEASON BETTING OVER/UNDER ON WINS IS NOT A PRETTY NUMBER: Las Vegas and offshore sports books set odds to reflect what they believe public perception to Dolphs Sevenfivebe, and so it may now be said: Dolfans might be confident about Miami's coming season, but the rest of America pretty much think the Dolphins will not repeat as a playoff team. As we were the first at MiamiHerald.com to report, via Bovada, the Fins' 2017 victory over/under is 7 1/2 wins, or just under .500 -- not a playoff number. That's a big drop foreseen from last season's 10-6 mark  that ended an eight-year playoff drought. Further bad news: The AFC East rival Patriots lead everybody with an O/U of 12 1/2, the highest opening number in almost 10 years, and two full wins better than anyone else. Need a dollop of consolation? The Bills (6 wins) and Jets (5) have even lower over/unders than Miami. Vegas and bettors aren't always right, of course. They have set a starting point of 7 1/2 wins, but what about you? Being realistic, what is a reasonable expectation for number of Dolphins regular-season victories. Take a dip in our poll, vote and check back often to monitor evolving results:

POLL RESULT: LAVAR BALL, $495 SNEAKERS GET SAVAGED: Ouch. We asked what you most hope will be the outcome in the story of LaVar Ball, Lonzo Ball, Big Baller Brand and its $495 sneakers, and 77.1 percent answered, "Failure. Crash and burn." Only 22.9% voted, "Success. I wish them well."

HOT BUTTON DAILY / WED 5-10-17: Up to five events on today's sports calendar that interest SoFla most:

1. NHL playoffs, 7:30 p.m.: Two conference-semis Game 7s with Penguins at Capitals, Oilers at Ducks.

2. St. Louis at Marlins, 7:10 p.m.: Fish end 3-game series in midst of long homestand.

3. NBA playoffs, 8 p.m.: Wizards at Celtics in Game 5 of 2nd-round series tied 2-2.

4. UEFA Champions League, 2:45 p.m.: City rivals Real Madrid vs. Atletico Madrid in 2nd leg of semis.

5. Central Florida at Hurricanes, 7 p.m.: UM baseball needs strong finish for any playoff shot.

Select recent columns: On The Team's Term's, Not His, the latest, on what it would take for a Heat/Dwyane Wade reunion. to read. Not In Our Stadium, on the N-word at Fenway and fans' responsibility. The Kid From Pampa, on why the Dolphin draft's late rounds matter. Right Pick For Right Reasons, on Fins' first-round choice Charles Harris. Home Run For Miami, on Bush/Jeter group reaching agreement to buy Marlins. The Jose Statue's Positive Purpose, on controversy over Marlins' planned Fernandez memorial. An American Tragedy , on suicide of Aaron Hernandez. History Breathes at UM Sports Hall, a tour of a little-known campus gem. Spo's Greatest Challenge -- And Triumph, on this strangest of Heat seasons. Is There A Team Brave Enough for Kaepernick?, on a curiously unemployed QB. Thank You, Mae Riback, as I meet my oldest fan. Also: A Ghost Tour of Miami's Sports Past, The Miracle of Liberty City and Thank You, Edwin Pope.

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

Twitter @gregcote

May 05, 2017

First 2018 ESPN mock draft brings bad news for Dolphins, UM; plus Heat expand ties with esports/gaming, but is that even a sport? New poll. Vote now!; also, updated Fins/Marlins title odds, your who-runs-this-town verdict, Hot Button Daily (Fri) & more

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

Cinco1) It is FRIDAY, May 5. Happy Cinco de Mayo, all! 2) Marc Anthony is the right flavor to play halftime of July's Real Madrid-Barcelona match in Miami, but I'm not sure his selection qualifies as the "historic musical performance" they teased us with. 3) Happen to know any Dolfans? Delight them. Get each of them our new book on club's first half-century? Check out Fins At 50. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Biggest-team-in-town poll, Manny Machado's epic rant, Mike Dee's return to influence in Miami, your Dolphins draft verdict & more. 5) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

My latest column: On Boston racial incident, sports fans' responsibility: You know by now the story of a Red Sox fan directing the N-word at Orioles outfielder Adam Jones. I explore in my latest column, and challenge fans themselves to be the problem's solution at the grass-roots level. Click on Not In Our Stadium to read. (Thanks to RealClearSports for including it in the day's national list of top columns).

CRAZY-EARLY 2018 NFL MOCK DRAFT BRINGS BAD NEWS FOR DOLPHINS, HURRICANES: ESPN's Todd McShay has an absurdly early 2018 NFL mock draft out, and here are three observations from a Miami perspective:

Draftdream1. McShay's projected draft order, via Football Outsiders, has the Dolphins selecting 10th overall. Ouch. Teams with the 10th pick are not playoff teams, so the initial overarching gloom of this mock is that it sees a sizable downturn by Miami. As an example, in the recent draft, a 7-9 record "earned" the 10th pick. If it matters, the Fins are projected to select Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick. (Is Minkah even a name?).

2. Florida State, of course, is the Hurricanes' nemesis and roadblock in the ACC. Well, the Seminoles are projected to have four players go in this mock's first 17 picks, suggesting an especially talented FSU team will be presenting itself to UM. The four, all on defense, are safety Derwin James (8th), cornerback Tarvarus McFadden (12th), defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi (15th) and DE-OLB Josh Sweat (17th). (Only one other state player, Florida Gator receiver Antonio Callaway, is projected as an '18 first rounder, going 21st).  

3. Maybe there was a method to UM QB Brad Kaaya's madness, after all, in entering this past draft even though nobody thought he'd go early (and he didn't, finally taken in the 6th round). Why? McShay has QBs going 1-2-3 next year with USC's Sam Darnold, Wyoming's Josh Allen and UCLA's Josh Rosen. That rarity has happened only twice in NFL Draft history: In 1999 with Tim Couch, Donovan McNabb and Akili Smith going 1-2-3; and in 1971 with Jim Plunkett, Archie Manning and Dan Pastorini. 

MIAMI HEAT EXPAND INTEREST IN ESPORTS/GAMING: The Heat will be one of 17 NBA teams involved in an NBA 2K esports/video Misfitsgaming league set to debut in 2018, it was announced. The NBA thus becomes the first major traditional sports league to partner directly with the growing phenomenon of esports. The Heat already had been involved. Miami earlier this year became a partner with the esports team Misfits, a group of five teams of players based in Europe. The Misfits team will serve as the Heat in the NBA 2K league. Misfits CEO Ben Spoont told ESPN: "2K is uniquely positioned as a professional sport video game title to be able to reach fans that are esport fans as well as NBA fans and 2K fans alike. The opportunity here is to be able to reach fans that are in vastly different markets but all with a common thread, which is their love of the NBA and/or video games." Said Heat president of business operations Eric Woolworth: "We are thrilled to be working alongside 16 other NBA teams on this innovative esports league. Given our unique integration into the esports community through our relationship with Misfits, we feel confident in our ability to reach Miami Heat and Misfits fans alike as we help create a new and exciting league from scratch."

50-1UPDATED BETTINGS ODDS FOR DOLPHINS, MARLINS: All of these latest betting lines are via Bovada, and unless you are comforted by 50-1 odds, this is not good news for either the Dolphins' next season or the Marlins' current one. Post-NFL Draft odds see the Dolphins unchanged at 50-1 to win the Super Bowl, tied for 20th of 32 teams, while Patriots are a stronger-than-ever runaway favorite at 7-2, with nobody else closer than 12-1. Offensive rookie of the year pick out the gate: Leonard Fournette at 7-2. In baseball, the Cubs remain the pick to repeat World Series title at 4-1. The Marlins are now 50-1, surprising (they're 12-14) up from a pre-Opening Day 75-1, but still only tied for 17th overall of 30 clubs.

DolphinsPOLL RESULT: WHO RUNS THIS TOWN? THE MIAMI DOLPHINS: The results are hardly scientific, of course. They might just reflect how this blog's readership tends to skew. But we asked what local team is the biggest thing in South Florida sports, and it was Dolphins with 

HOT BUTTON DAILY / FRI 5-5-17: Up to five events on today's sports calendar that interest SoFla most:

1. Marlins at N.Y. Mets, 7:10 p.m.: Slumping Fish need spark as NL East rivals open 3-game series.

2. NBA playoffs, 7 p.m.: Cavs at Raptors, Spurs at Rockets in pair of 2nd-round Game 3s.

3. NHL playoffs, 8 p.m.: Two 2nd-round Game 5s, with Nashville (at St. Louis) able to clinch.

4. Bethune-Cookman at Hurricanes, 7 p.m.: Sweep-seeking UM baseball opens 3-game set.

5. Boxing weigh-in, 6 p.m.: Stare-down preceding Alvarez-Chavez super-middleweight bout.

Select other recent columns: The Kid From Pampa, on why the Dolphin draft's late rounds matter. Right Pick For Right Reasons, on Fins' first-round choice Charles Harris. Home Run For Miami, on Bush/Jeter group reaching agreement to buy Marlins. The Jose Statue's Positive Purpose, on controversy over Marlins' planned Fernandez memorial. An American Tragedy , on suicide of Aaron Hernandez. History Breathes at UM Sports Hall, a tour of a little-known campus gem. Spo's Greatest Challenge -- And Triumph, on this strangest of Heat seasons. Is There A Team Brave Enough for Kaepernick?, on a curiously unemployed QB. Thank You, Mae Riback, as I meet my oldest fan. Also: A Ghost Tour of Miami's Sports Past, The Miracle of Liberty City and Thank You, Edwin Pope.

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

Twitter @gregcote

April 26, 2017

Dolphins pre-draft poll: Which of these 7 possible 1st-round Miami selections would please you most? Last day to vote!; plus new Marlins-sale column, Pat Riley/Dion Waiters, updated NHL forecast, Hot Button Daily (Wed) & more

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

1) It is WEDNESDAY, April 26. It's NFL Draft Week! WOOO! 2) Wright Thompson has an excellent piece on Pat Riley in the new ESPNTheMag. Read it here. Also there's a braggadocious Players Tribune piece penned by Heat's Dion Waiters. Find it here. 3) Happen to know any Dolfans? Delight them. Get each of them our new book on club's first half-century? Check out Fins At 50. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot Button Top 10 & more. 5) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

Latest column: On Bush/Jeter agreement to buy Marlins: A cloud lifted over Miami and the Marlins with Tuesday's reports that Jeffrey Loria had reached an agreement to sell the Fish for $1.3 billion to the Je Bush/Derek Jeter group. Click on Home Run For Miami to read my latest column. 

ICYMI, our Sunday column on Jose Fernandez statue controversy: Many are against the Marlins building a statue to honor Fernandez since toxicology reports indicated he was impaired in the boat crash that killed himself and two others. I too am uneasy over the idea, and yet I see the potential for a greater good because the statue will be a constant reminder not only of his life, but of how it ended. Click on The Jose Statue's Positive Purpose to read.

DOLPHINS PRE-DRAFT POLL: WHICH OF SEVEN POSSIBLE MIAMI FIRST-ROUND PICKS AT 22ND OVERALL WOULD PLEASE YOU MOST?: My 26th annual official Miami Herald mock draft Dolclockcomes Dolphinsout very soon. I don't want to tip my hand (quite yet) on how the first round will play out for the Dolphins Thursday night (even though I have an idea). Instead, I invite you to have your say first. The seven players in this poll are not arbitrary. They are players who met both of two criteria: 1) They are at one of Miami's top-five position needs -- linebacker, guard, cornerback, safety or defensive tackle. 2) They are within range of the 22nd pick by being within five in either direction, 17th to 27th, according to the mock drafts of either Mel Kiper or Todd McShay of ESPN. In other words, these are guys who both should interest Miami in terms of need and who also could be available. I was tempted to add one more -- Canes tight end David Njoku -- but did not. I think he'll be gone, it isn't a dire position need, plus I didn't want a UM guy in there disproportionately glomming votes. I also do not include a "somebody else" category because I want to reel the vote in to what's most realistic. Photo at right: Dolphins on the clock. GET IT!?! Now take a dip in our poll, vote and check back often to watch a consensus magically form. It don't cost nuthin'.

NHL ROUND OF EIGHT FORECAST: The four NHL conference semifinal series begin Wednesday, and based on predictions by ESPN's 11-person hockey experts panel, we might expect three pretty clear-cut matchups and a tossup. The forecast is Rangers over Senators by a 10-1 margin, and a pair of 8-3 margins for Ducks over Oilers and Predators over Blues. The big one figures as Washington-Pittsburgh, with Capitals over Penguins by only a 6-5 experts margin. However betting odds via Bovada disagree on two of the series. Bovada has Anaheim-Edmonton even going in, and St. Louis a narrow pick over Nashville.

HOT BUTTON DAILY / WED 4-26-17: Up to five events on today's sports calendar that interest SoFla most:

1. Marlins at Philadelphia, 7 p.m.: After Tuesday rainout, Fish 'n Phils play first of two.

2. NBA playoffs, 6 p.m.: Two 1st-round Game 5s, with WAS-ATL, CHI-BOS both tied 2-2.

3. NHL playoffs, 8 p.m.: St. Louis, Anaheim host as conference semifinals begin with two Game 1s.

4. N.Y. Yankees at Boston, 7 p.m.: Baseball's best rivalry renews at Fenway.

5. FIU at Hurricanes, 7 p.m.: After 8-7 win Tuesday, UM baseball hosts city rival.

Select other recent columns: Everyone's Shouting Defense, But..., on Dolphins and first round. An American Tragedy , on suicide of Aaron Hernandez. History Breathes at UM Sports Hall, a tour of a little-known campus gem. Spo's Greatest Challenge -- And Triumph, on this strangest of Heat seasons. Time to Make It About Baseball, Winning, on Marlins Opening Night. Jeter Everything Loria Isn't , on Marlins' potential ownership change. Mourning And Celebration, Marlins season preview. Is There A Team Brave Enough for Kaepernick?, on a curiously unemployed QB. Thank You, Mae Riback, as I meet my oldest fan. Also: A Ghost Tour of Miami's Sports Past, The Miracle of Liberty City and Thank You, Edwin Pope.

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

Twitter @gregcote