As great as today’s Nets look with their starry threesome, they could have dominated the N.B.A. much, much sooner — in the 1970s, behind Julius Erving.
Kevin Loughery and Julius Erving share a city, Atlanta, a golf club and an emotional connection to a basketball allegory told inharmoniously in three distinct parts — what was, what might have been and what now has become.
In other words: the history of the Nets, from Long Island to New Jersey to Brooklyn.
Inevitably, wistfully, Loughery’s conversation with Erving centers on Part 2, the potentially grand Nassau Coliseum stage that was dismantled just before the curtain was to rise on the N.B.A. debut of Erving and the Nets.
“I always talk to him about what we might have done,” Loughery, who coached the developing legend of Dr. J. to two A.B.A. titles and stayed on to guide the remains of the Nets after the financially troubled franchise sold the rights to Erving, the world’s most electrifying player, to the Philadelphia 76ers on the eve of the 1976-77 season.
Loughery added in a telephone interview: “What haunts you is that when we had him in the A.B.A. he was the best he ever was. The last A.B.A. series against Denver, when we won that second title, that was the best series I’ve ever seen anyone play.”
That’s quite a mouthful, coming from an 81-year-old basketball lifer who once shared a backcourt in Baltimore with Earl Monroe and who coached seven pro teams, including one in Chicago that unveiled a rookie named Jordan.
There is also an evolving symmetry to this ancient history. Forty-five years after their infamous selling of the rights to the Doctor, the Nets finally have become what they were poised to be in 1976: the sport’s sexiest team, with an opportunity to be its best.
Alas, Brooklyn’s assemblage of a superstar-laden lineup has occurred during a time of fan-less arenas only now welcoming crowds still enfeebled by the menace of Covid-19. Selling out America with Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving for now remains the dream it was for Loughery and Erving.
On the eve of that 1976-77 season, Erving was holding out for a contract upgrade and the league office was holding its breath after scheduling the Nets for a nationally televised opener against Golden State in Oakland. The arena sold out weeks in advance, but the sale of Erving’s rights to Philadelphia two days before the game by the owner Roy Boe — and after the Knicks absurdly let themselves be outbid for a homegrown player who would have altered their history — persuaded CBS to show a late-night movie instead.
Hoping to make a splash, or at least save face, the Nets had acquired Nate Archibald, an explosive, New York-bred guard who was known as Tiny, one month earlier. Archibald had a bigger annual salary than Erving, which stiffened Erving’s resolve, despite his not wishing to leave Long Island, where he’d grown up.
“It’s tough to play Abraham Lincoln and George Washington in the frontcourt,” Loughery memorably told reporters when the news reached California that Erving was gone. He and his players were gutted, even if they came to realize that Boe’s inability to pay millions both for league entry and to the Knicks for territorial rights limited his options to one.
Still, Loughery has for decades wondered: what if? “I don’t know if we would have been a championship team, but we would have been very, very competitive,” he said.
Rod Thorn, who returned to Loughery’s side that season as an assistant after a one-year absence to coach the Spirits of St. Louis, offered a more certain revisionist take.
“History in New York basketball would have been changed,” he said. “We played and won exhibitions against N.B.A. teams. Every building was sold out for Doc. We also would have had a couple years’ window to add more pieces.”
Instead, Archibald played 34 games for the Nets and blew out an Achilles’ tendon. The team moved to Piscataway, N.J., to play in a college gym. Loughery and Thorn shared long drives from their homes on Long Island, epitomizing the detour into a competitive ditch.
The Nets and the 76ers had more peculiar chapters to co-author. Two years later, they played what may have been the weirdest game ever, when the N.B.A. upheld a Nets protest of technical fouls — the referee Richie Powers called three each on Loughery and Bernard King, one more than the limit for ejection.
The game was replayed more than four months later from a point in the third quarter, but before then the teams made a four-player trade. In the final box score of the suspended game — won by the 76ers — three of the players appeared on both sides.
Thorn later made what until further notice remains the most beneficial deal in the Nets’ N.B.A. history. As team president in 2001, he acquired Jason Kidd, who inspired successive runs to the finals. Thorn left New Jersey in 2010, joining the 76ers’ front office, essentially trading places with Billy King.
That put King at the Nets’ helm as they finished out their New Jersey run in April 2012 by hosting, of course, the 76ers.
Now Thorn watches from afar as Sean Marks, who succeeded King with the Nets, plays personnel chess, building on his big three by reeling in the former All-Stars Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge with the ease of signing escapees of the G League.
Skeptics worry about Durant’s health, Irving’s reliability and their sensitivity to criticism. Loughery has reservations about the perimeter defense of Harden and Irving. But Thorn has come to believe that the Nets will be fine as long as they remain in Harden’s soft hands.
“I’ve changed my opinion of him,” he said. “He dominated the ball so much in Houston, but he’s been a fantastic playmaker for them.”
As fate would have it, the Nets are challenging for Eastern Conference supremacy with the 76ers, along with Milwaukee. On Wednesday, they go to Philadelphia to confront a formidable group coached by a man nicknamed Doc (Rivers). On the Nets’ plus side, their owner, Joseph Tsai, is rich beyond belief. Lincoln and Washington didn’t make the cut.
Are You a Glennon or an Abby?
Inside the relatably argumentative, highly downloadable marriage of the best-selling author Glennon Doyle and the retired soccer star Abby Wambach.
Sofa, so good: Ms. Wambach (left) and Ms. Doyle at home in the ’burbs.Credit…Morgan Hornsby for The New York Times
NAPLES, Fla. — It was a rainy evening and Abby Wambach, the soccer star, was staging an intervention from her kitchen. It was an intervention about fun.
“Glennon doesn’t know how to have fun,” Ms. Wambach, the two-time Olympic gold medalist and former captain of the U.S. women’s soccer team, announced. Her wife, the author and activist Glennon Doyle, was curled up on a nearby couch in a pair of tie-dyed sweats.
“I mean, for instance: This weekend I was like, ‘Babe, what are we doing Sunday? What do you want to do for fun?’”
“She literally said, ‘fun,’” Ms. Doyle confirmed.
“She said, ‘Huh. Do you want to clean out the rest of the garage?’”
The couple’s teenagers, Chase, 18, Tish, 15, and Amma, 13, snickered from across the room where they were lounging with the family dogs and Chase’s boyfriend, Julio.
“Glennon, that is a chore. A chore with an outcome,” Ms. Wambach said. “That is not fun.”
“What is fun, though?” her wife retorted, sounding a bit like Fran Lebowitz. “Like truly, I don’t understand what ‘fun’ is. I understand what ‘rest’ is. I understand what ‘work’ is. I kind of understand what ‘self-care’ is. But this idea of ‘fun’ of which you speak is not something I’ve grasped. So can you define for me what fun is to you?”
This is typical pre-dinner banter for the Doyle-Wambach clan who, like many of us, have spent a lot of time together over the past year, observing — in more detail than perhaps any of us ever wanted — each others’ tics. “We’re not exactly starved for family interaction,” Chase said.
But unlike many of us, when this family began uploading snippets of their domestic disputes on Instagram at the start of the pandemic — when Ms. Doyle’s book tour went remote and Ms. Wambach’s normally busy speaking schedule came to a halt — hundreds of thousands tuned in.
There was a video about dishwasher-loading etiquette, recorded spontaneously on an evening not unlike this one, viewed 664,000 times. (Cheryl Strayed proclaimed that she was “100% Team Abby” on the subject, while the poet Maggie Smith noted that the video, in which Ms. Wambach chides Ms. Doyle for her loading technique, “made my eye twitch.”)
Then there was Ms. Wambach’s disgust over Ms. Doyle’s toothbrush hygiene (“Look at this!” Ms. Wambach says, holding up her wife’s sticky toothpaste tube in horror). Or the couple’s nightly inability to decide on a TV show. Or how on earth two married people can have such different philosophies on whether toilet paper should be put on the toilet paper holder or simply balanced on top of it. “Who cares?!” Ms. Doyle asked, incredulous.
Apparently, a lot of people.
Whether you subscribe to the “honesty gospel” of Ms. Doyle or her latest New York Times best seller, “Untamed”; whether you are a soccer fan, or have followed Ms. Wambach’s fight for equal pay or Ms. Doyle’s humanitarian work, there was something relatable, almost soothing, about seeing these conflicts play out.
Identifying one’s self as “the Abby” or “the Glennon” became a kind of relationship shorthand. Stating you are “looking for the Glennon to my Abby” is a line at least one of the couple’s millions of social media followers has “totally swiped right on,” while some, like Sydney Cuvelier, of Boston, have declared the couple “otp” (short for “one true pairing,” or internet speak for the ideal relationship). Ms. Cuvelier, 24, who recently came out as gay, said she and her therapist discuss them almost weekly.
Abra Said, a 35-year-old designer in Ohio who has read “Untamed” multiple times since it came out (and recently went through a breakup), put it this way: “Sometimes it’s just nice to remember that even Glennon and Abby fight about dishes.”
Ms. Doyle, 45, is seasoned at confronting and considering feelings, on the page and off: her complicated childhood in Burke, Va., her anxiety, her bulimia, her alcoholism, her sobriety, her marriage, her husband’s infidelity, her decision to forgive him, and, ultimately, her evolution from Christian parenting blogger who never really questioned her sexuality to best-selling author who left her husband for a woman.
“I grew up in a family where you weren’t really supposed to express too much,” she said. “So I raised the kids to express all of their feelings, all of the time.”
And her wife? “More into processing relationships — at least our relationship — than anyone I know,” Ms. Doyle said.
Ms. Wambach, 40, describes herself and her wife as “seekers” — the kind of people always looking for a deeper understanding of themselves and the world. And indeed, in this house, phrases like “radical honesty” and “trauma response” roll off the tongue; taking “moral inventory” of their day — a concept they learned in recovery — is something they often do before bed. (Ms. Wambach, who faced a public struggle with alcoholism after her retirement from soccer, is now five years sober; Ms. Doyle is going on two decades.)
“We have nights where we get in bed and I’ll be like, ‘I can’t.’ Like I actually cannot talk anymore,” Ms. Doyle said.
But how could big talkers, these days, resist a podcast?
Announced on Ms. Doyle’s Instagram last week, the podcast, “We Can Do Hard Things” — a mantra Ms. Doyle’s fans will recognize — hovered at the No. 1 slot on Apple even before it debuted Tuesday with an episode on anxiety.
Which Ms. Doyle was feeling intensely when she first met Ms. Wambach in 2016, at a book convention where both were promoting their memoirs. Ms. Wambach’s was called “Forward,” about her life and retirement from soccer; Ms. Doyle’s, “Love Warrior,” was about recommitting to her husband.
When Ms. Wambach walked through the door — strong, seemingly self-assured — “I remembered my wild,” Ms. Doyle would go on to write in “Untamed.”
The couple began corresponding by email. Less than a month later, Ms. Doyle told her husband she was leaving him. Three months after that, Ms. Wambach moved to an apartment in Naples. “I was like, wait, what?!” said Julie Foudy, a former captain of the U.S. women’s soccer team and Ms. Wambach’s longtime friend. But “there’s no gray area with Abby. It’s like, ‘I’m all in or I’m not.’”
They waited until Ms. Doyle’s children felt comfortable, then Ms. Wambach moved in. They were married almost exactly one year after they met.
The couple is preparing to move their brood to Los Angeles this summer; they are investors in a new National Women’s Soccer League team there, and “Untamed” is headed for Hollywood.
But for now, they are in this sprawling house on a canal that connects to the Gulf of Mexico, with a boat outside. Craig Melton, Ms. Doyle’s ex and her children’s father, is just a short drive away; he will move with them to Los Angeles, where they’ve committed to living less than a mile apart. It is a modern blended family — the three share parenting duties — of the kind that their family friend, the musician Brandi Carlile, thinks “more people need to see.”
It wasn’t always this seamless, of course. But Ms. Wambach likes to say that Mr. Melton gave her a gift — which was “permission for his kids to love me.”
She was on her second coffee of the day, in a “Sporty Spice tank top,” as her wife described it, having just returned from a run. In normal times, she is on the road at least a week a month, giving motivational speeches. But for the past year, she has taken on the role of family hype woman, coach, chef, personal trainer, soccer mom and chief technology officer. It’s the longest time she has been in one place since she was 14.
“I love not leaving. I love not having to get on a plane. I love being completely enmeshed with what the kids are doing,” Ms. Wambach said. “For the first time in my life, my central nervous system has completely calmed down.”
She was helping Ms. Doyle set up her microphone to record an episode of the new podcast. Ms. Doyle, putting on her headphones, began shouting into the computer screen.
“See, she yells,” Ms. Wambach said, making her way to the laundry room, where she would set up her microphone next to a pile of clean socks. “Do you need your glasses, honey?” she called back.
In “Untamed,” Ms. Doyle writes about a slogan she came across in a classroom years ago: “We Can Do Hard Things,” saying that it saved her life. These days, that slogan can be found on T-shirts, posters and coffee mugs. When Joe Biden won the presidency — his team had recruited Ms. Doyle to help reach suburban women — his campaign manager tweeted, “We can do hard things … and you just did!”
Now it is the title of her new podcast, with the goal of helping her followers (or “community,” as the couple likes to say; “followers sounds cult-y,” Ms. Wambach said) forge deeper connections after so much time in isolation.
Hosted by Ms. Doyle, the podcast features her sister, Amanda Doyle, as co-host; her wife as frequent guest; daughter Tish singing the opening song; and an episode with Mr. Melton, possibly on parenting, though they are still figuring out what he and his ex-wife want to talk about. (“I really want to talk to him about dating,” Ms. Doyle said. “I’m so curious about that.”)
There is an episode on “Fun,” one on “Sobriety” and another called “5 Fights,” in which Ms. Doyle and Ms. Wambach dissect their most common arguments, including fighting about the way they fight — “the most lesbian thing you can actually fight about,” Ms. Wambach said.
They like to joke that they can do hard things, but that sometimes it’s the easy things that seem hardest. Like Tish returning a phone call, on the actual phone, to her soccer coach — to discuss when she should tell the rest of the team she is moving. “But what if she asks me, like, ‘What do you want to do?’” Tish said, making a face. “Well, what do you want to do?” Ms. Wambach said. “You have to go inside of yourself and think, ‘What do I want?’”
Or losing track of a full cup of coffee inside the washing machine. “Yeah, we still don’t really understand how that happened,” Ms. Doyle said.
(“When Glennon starts getting into her thoughts, she’s like … ‘What do we call it?’” Ms. Wambach asked. “Under water,” Tish said. “But then she comes back up.”)
Or naps — very controversial in this household.
“Early on in our relationship, I would take a nap. I had to take a nap. I played sports,” Ms. Wambach said. “And she’d come in and she’d look at me like, you’re going to take a nap?! Like, are you sick?”
(Ms. Wambach has not napped recently, she said. “Evidently children are very time-consuming.”)
Or food — one battle in particular. Ms. Wambach asks Ms. Doyle if she would like a milkshake. Ms. Doyle says no. So Ms. Wambach buys one milkshake, for herself. But then Ms. Doyle asks for a sip of that milkshake, or sneaks some from the fridge.
As it happened, they were now ordering lunch. (A grain bowl for Ms. Wambach; a pizza for Ms. Doyle, though, she wanted to be sure she could have a bite of the grain bowl.)
“The thing for me is that I know I want a bite of things, but I don’t want the whole thing,” Ms. Doyle said.
“But I want the whole thing,” Ms. Wambach said, “and not one fry, or not one sip, less.”
Ms. Doyle, who has struggled with eating disorders throughout her life, doesn’t like to waste food but also hates having leftovers in the house. “I don’t trust myself around them,” she said. Ms. Wambach, who grew up the youngest in a family of seven — competing for food, attention, airspace — has the opposite problem. “I’m afraid I’m not going to have enough.”
Later, her wife somewhere else, Ms. Doyle was still ruminating: “I’m telling you, it’s just a weird part of me that’s like, ‘I want you to want me to have a sip more than I want you to want all of your sips,’” she said, laughing.
If you are a person who abides by the belief that it is the small things — the sips — as much as the big things that make a relationship work, then seeing these micro-issues analyzed is quite helpful. “It’s actually encouraged me to try to talk to my own husband about this kind of stuff,” Amanda Doyle said.
But what about the energy expended doing so?
“Here’s the thing: We’re both recovering addicts,” Ms. Wambach said, explaining that recovery has taught them that anything left unsaid can turn into something bigger.
“So we’re obsessed with processing,” Ms. Doyle said.
Luckily for them, there is no shortage of subjects. Take fun — please.
“I guess the closest I can come to ‘fun’ is the feeling of relief,” Ms. Doyle said. “Like, knowing that the thing is done. But I realize that’s not what you’re talking about.”
“No, it’s not,” her wife said.
“So what you’re saying to me is that fun has to be something that is not related to productivity or accomplishment. Right? And what’s fun to you is competition.”
“Which is why I like walking with you into the grocery store and beating you by one step. That’s fun.”
“I will be getting out of my car to go into the grocery store, and the next thing I know Abby’s gone. Why is she gone? Because she’s running ahead of me, so she can beat me into the grocery store. As if I give a crap.”
Patrick Mazeika Continues to Be Magic for Mets
The third-string catcher has two walk-offs in four career games. The Yankees got past positive coronavirus tests and beat the Rays.
Patrick Mazeika got his second walk-off R.B.I. in four career games with a fielder’s choice grounder in the ninth inning, helping the banged-up Mets rally to beat the Baltimore Orioles, 3-2, on Tuesday night for their sixth straight win.
Baltimore led by 2-1 entering the ninth after John Means outdueled Marcus Stroman in his first start since throwing a no-hitter last week.
Mazeika pinch-hit in the pitcher’s spot with two on and one out against closer Cesar Valdez and hit a grounder to first baseman Trey Mancini, whose throw home was a little high and too late to nab speedy Jonathan Villar as the former Oriole got a quick jump off third.
Mazeika also plated the winning run Friday with a similar fielder’s choice in the 10th inning of a 5-4 victory over Arizona. And he had a go-ahead R.B.I. on Sunday when he drew a bases-loaded walk as a pinch-hitter in the sixth inning. The 27-year-old third-string catcher still doesn’t have a big league hit.
The inning started with an apparent tying homer from Kevin Pillar that was overruled after an umpire meeting. Pillar hit Valdez’s second pitch over the wall in the left-field corner, and third base umpire Roberto Ortiz signaled fair, drawing immediate disagreement from the Orioles.
The umpire crew convened in the middle of the field and signaled foul ball after Pillar had finished rounding the bases. He returned from the dugout to continue his at-bat and ended up with a single, which was followed by Villar’s single and a tying hit from Dominic Smith.
Valdez (2-1) blew his third save in 11 chances. Jeurys Familia (1-0) dodged trouble in the eighth and got the win.
Jeff McNeil spoiled Means’ bid for a second straight no-hitter by leading off the first inning with a sharp single, but the Mets second baseman was lifted two innings later with body cramps. The Mets also lost Albert Almora Jr. in the eighth after the center fielder crashed viciously into the outfield wall trying to catch Austin Hays’ long fly.
That came hours after the Mets placed ace Jacob deGrom on the 10-day injured list with right side tightness. Lineup regulars Brandon Nimmo and J.D. Davis are also on the I.L.
Jordan Montgomery pitched six strong innings, Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez homered, and the Yankees beat the Tampa Bay Rays, 3-1, on Tuesday night.
About two hours before the start, it was announced that Yankees third base coach Phil Nevin is away from the team after a positive coronavirus test.
After the game, Manager Aaron Boone said a staff member also tested positive. He said several other coaches, including pitching coach Matt Blake, were absent as contact tracing continues. First base coach Reggie Willits was replaced by minor league coordinator Mario Garza.
Boone said the Yankees are preparing as if they will play Wednesday night.
“Get ready and hope that we avoid any more hiccups or potential positives and things like that,” Boone said. “Major League Baseball and their doctors are advising us. They know what would require a non-play but they also were very confident today that we could play and should play.”
Judge said the players voted to take the field.
“It was stressful but it’s all part of it,” Judge said. “You’re going to have days like this where things happen. We all kind of talked about it, seeing what was best for us. We’re all here, we decided we were good to go and ready to play.”
The Yankees beat Tampa Bay for just the second time in seven games this season. The Rays had won 18 of the last 23 meetings, including a five-game victory in last year’s division series.
Yankees slugger Luke Voit went 0 for 3 in his first game this season. The major league home run leader last year with 22, he was reinstated from the 10-day injured list after having knee surgery on March 29.
Voit was hit by a pitch around the right wrist in the fourth inning and had a flyout to the right-field wall in the seventh.
Montgomery (2-1) gave up one run, two hits, walked one and tied a career high with nine strikeouts. After Jonathan Loaisiga worked two innings, Aroldis Chapman got three outs to get his eighth save and complete a three-hitter.
“They pitched well,” Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash said. “We just couldn’t get anything going.”
Tokyo Olympics: A Brief Guide to Every Sport
The Champions League final may be moved from Istanbul to London.
European soccer’s governing body will hold talks with the British government on Monday about moving this month’s Champions League final to London. Travel restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic have made it almost impossible for domestic fans of the finalists — the Premier League rivals Chelsea and Manchester City — to attend the match at its scheduled site in Istanbul.
The final, which is planned for May 29, is the biggest day on the European club soccer calendar; like the Super Bowl and the Wimbledon final, the Champions League decider is one of the tent-pole events in global sports every year.
Questions about where to hold the match have been growing since Turkey announced a lockdown late last month. They intensified on Friday, days after Chelsea and City clinched their places in the final, when the British government announced that Turkey was among the countries to which Britons should avoid all but essential travel.
Officials from the Football Association in England have opened talks with Europe’s governing body, UEFA, about moving the game, and they will be present at Monday’s meeting, when UEFA will outline its requirements for relocation. A decision will most likely be announced within 48 hours.
Wade Miley Waits Out Delay and Throws Season’s Fourth No-Hitter
The Reds scored three runs in 9th to break 0-0 tie. The Mets won in extra innings and the Yankees got crushed.
Wade Miley pitched baseball’s second no-hitter in three days — and fourth already this season — leading the Cincinnati Reds to a 3-0 win Friday night over Cleveland, which was no-hit for the second time in a month.
Miley (4-2) relied on breaking pitches and his experience of 11-plus major league seasons to baffle Cleveland and throw Cincinnati’s first no-hitter since Homer Bailey in 2013.
“It feels surreal,” Miley said.
The left-hander shook off an 83-minute rain delay to start the game and followed Baltimore’s John Means, who no-hit Seattle on Wednesday, to continue an early run of pitching gems in 2021 — quickly becoming the Year of the No-No.
San Diego’s Joe Musgrove started the 2021 no-hitter club by throwing the first in Padres’ history on April 9. Five days later, Chicago White Sox left-hander Carlos Rodon blanked Cleveland, just missing a perfect game when he hit a batter in the ninth inning.
Arizona’s Madison Bumgarner pitched a seven-inning no-hitter against Atlanta on April 25, but that one isn’t recognized as official because it didn’t go nine innings.
This is the earliest in a calendar year there have been four no-hitters since 1917, when the fourth was thrown on May 5 and the fifth on May 6. It’s no wonder, with hitters entering Friday batting a record-low .233 this season.
For their part, Cleveland hitters joined a dubious list by becoming the 16th team to be no-hit twice in the same season. It most recently happened to Seattle in 2019.
Miley walked one and struck out eight on 114 pitches.
“He put on a clinic,” Indians Manager Terry Francona said.
While Miley was blanking Cleveland, Zach Plesac did the same to the Reds for eight innings before Cincinnati pushed three runs across in the ninth, helped by closer Emmanuel Clase’s throwing error and a balk.
The Reds got a pair of singles before Clase (2-1) fielded an infield tapper and threw wide of second base, allowing Nick Senzel to score from second. Then, with runners at the corners, Clase began his windup before stopping and tried to throw to second.
Mike Moustakas, starting at first for the injured Joey Votto, followed with an R.B.I. single to make it 3-0 and give Miley more cushion — but also more tome to think about it in the dugout.
In the ninth, Miley retired pinch-hitter Rene Rivera on a lazy fly to right, struck out Cesar Hernandez and then retired Jordan Luplow on a grounder to third before he was mobbed by the Reds, who encircled him and danced across the grass.
It was the Reds’ 17th no-hitter since 1892.
“For something like this to happen, I don’t have the words,” Miley said.
Washington burst ahead in a six-run eighth inning that included three errors and a three-run homer by Josh Harrison, and the Nationals beat the Yankees, 11-4, Friday night to stop a three-game skid.
With the score tied 3-3 on a chilly night, Yadiel Hernandez lined a single against Jonathan Loaisiga (3-2) that right fielder Aaron Judge allowed to bounced off his glove for his first error since Sept. 30, 2018.
Victor Robles followed with a sacrifice bunt up the third-base line and reached when D.J. LeMahieu, moved across the diamond a day after Gio Urshela injured his left knee, threw wide of first.
Trea Turner hit a go-ahead single and Harrison, batting .325 on the season, drove a 1-0 fastball into the left-field stands for a 7-3 lead.
Kyle Schwarber hit a run-scoring single off Luis Cessa and shortstop Gleyber Torres allowed Yan Gomes’s grounder to bounced past his glove for a run-scoring error.
Juan Soto, making his first start after missing 10 games with a strained shoulder, added a two-run homer against Cessa in the ninth.
The Yankees’ bullpen had a major league-best 2.24 E.R.A. through Wednesday but Chad Green wasted a 3-2, eighth-inning lead in a 7-4 loss to Houston on Thursday, and Loaisiga and Cessa combined to allow eight runs — six earned — in two innings.
The Yankees lost their second straight following a five-game winning streak and dropped back to .500 at 16-16.
Kyle Finnegan (2-0) pitched a scoreless seventh for the win. Washington’s bullpen entered with 28 consecutive outs before Finnegan walked Gary Sanchez, his second batter in the seventh. A streak of 36 outs for Nats relievers ended when Clint Frazier hit an R.B.I. single off Will Harris in the ninth.
LeMahieu hit solo opposite-field homers to right in the first and fifth innings off Patrick Corbin, who allowed three runs and four hits in six innings, dropping his E.R.A. from 8.10 to 7.36. LeMahieu has six homers off Corbin, his most against any pitcher the most Corbin has allowed to any batter.
Josh Bell hit a solo homer in the second off Jameson Taillon and Gomes hit a two-run drive for a 3-1 lead.
Sanchez homered in the bottom half, his first home run since April 3. Sanchez had been in a 2 for 30 slide.
Taillon, meanwhile, retired 15 in a row following Gomes’s homer.
Francisco Lindor hit a tying, two-run homer in the seventh inning after an apparently heated exchange with teammate Jeff McNeil in the dugout tunnel, and the Mets rallied to beat the Arizona Diamondbacks, 5-4, Friday night.
The Mets walked off with a victory when designated runner Pete Alonso scored on pinch-hitter Patrick Mazeika’s fielder’s choice.
A day after snapping a 0-for-26 slide with a ninth-inning single Thursday in St. Louis, Lindor produced his biggest moment since signing a $341 million, 10-year deal with the Mets. He tied the game by hitting a 2-2 changeup from left-hander Caleb Smith.
The blast came a half-inning after shortstop Lindor and second baseman McNeil combined to misplay a popup. After the top of the seventh, teammates rushed into the tunnel adjacent to the dugout. Lindor acknowledged after the game that he and McNeil were having a disagreement — he claimed the pair saw a rat in the tunnel, and he was objecting to McNeil’s suggestion that it was a raccoon.
After rounding the bases on his homer, Lindor exchanged fist bumps with Tomas Nido, who drew a walk to start the inning and Michael Conforto, who was waiting in the on-deck circle. Conforto was among the first who flew toward the tunnel during the exchange.
Shortly after Lindor’s second homer as a Met, the team’s owner, Steven Cohen, tweeted: “That was BIG.”
Mazeika softly hit a 2-2 pitch from Stefan Crichton to the first base-side of the mound to score Alonso.
Before his homer, Lindor heard boos when he flied out in the fifth with a runner on first. Lindor went 2 for 5 and produced his second multi-hit game as a Met. His other was April 14 against Philadelphia.
Aaron Loup (1-0) tossed a scoreless 10th for the win.
Connor McDavid Getting Closer to 100 Points in 56 Games
With 96 points and four games left, the Edmonton Oilers star is piling up goals and assists at a pace not seen since the days of Gretzky and Lemieux.
A 100-point season is a benchmark of greatness in the N.H.L. That Connor McDavid is closing in on that total this season, with only 56 games to get there instead of 82, is simply remarkable.
With one point awarded for each goal or assist, one to five players get to 100 points in a typical season. McDavid hit the total in his first three full seasons. Last season, he reached 97 points; he would have made it four in a row, if not for the season’s being truncated to 68 to 71 games per team instead of 82.
Of course, once the pandemic-affected current season was announced at 56 games per team, it was clear that no one would make it to 100. But that prediction did not account for McDavid’s having a mind-blowing year for the Edmonton Oilers at age 24.
McDavid stands at 96 points — 31 goals, 65 assists — with four games to play. The second player in the standings, his teammate Leon Draisaitl, has 77.
Over his last four seasons, McDavid has tallied 1.2 to 1.5 points per game played. This season he is at 1.8.
Extrapolating his points, he would be on a pace to get 151 over an 82-game season. That’s a total that hasn’t been achieved this century. Nikita Kucherov’s 128 for the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2018-19 is the best total in the last 20 years.
Besides points, McDavid ranks first in the N.H.L. in assists, hat tricks and point shares, a Hockey Reference statistic that is the equivalent of baseball win shares. He is second in goals and game-wining goals to Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs. McDavid is the prohibitive favorite to win his second Hart Trophy as the league’s most valuable player.
It seems clear that more than that, McDavid is having one of the best seasons in N.H.L. history. Only two players consistently scored at a faster rate, Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux.
“The maturity that he’s shown this year, he’s gone to an even higher level,” Gretzky told The Athletic, referring to McDavid. “And I don’t just mean in points. His physical play is a lot higher than it’s been in the past. His body language is that he doesn’t want to lose, and it’s infectious through the hockey club.”
The next Gretzky? Pundits have started calling younger players, like the second-year player Jack Hughes of the New Jersey Devils, “the next McDavid.”
McDavid is fast on the ice and remarkably dexterous. But for some hockey fans, that would not be enough. They are wowed by skill, and truly revere those who can add at least some rugged play.
Gretzky is not the only one who has noted McDavid’s physicality. In March, McDavid delivered a punishing hit on Jesperi Kotkaniemi of the Montreal Canadiens, driving his elbow into Kotkaniemi’s shoulder and jaw. He received a fine, but not a suspension. The incident prompted tut-tutting from some corners, though nary a corner in Edmonton.
If there is a knock on McDavid’s season it involves the quality of his competition. In this unusual N.H.L. season, teams are only playing others within their division, and the Oilers are in the all-Canadian North division. It’s hard to gauge exactly how strong each division is, with so many usual opponents unmet. Last season, the Oilers, the best Canadian team, were just the eighth best team in the league. And no Canadian team has made the Stanley Cup finals in 10 years, or won it in 28.
McDavid has been playing hockey since he was 4 and has been heralded across the continent at least since he was 13. The Oilers took him No. 1 in the N.H.L. draft, and he was immediately anointed as the savior who would rescue a team that, once a dynasty winning five Stanley Cups from 1983 to 1990, had missed the playoffs for nine straight years. “I think my expectations of myself exceed any of those that are put on me,” McDavid said at the time.
The Oilers have made the playoffs twice in McDavid’s tenure, and have an 8-9 record there. They look to be getting the second seed in the North this season, and potential first- and second-round series against the Jets, Canadiens or Maple Leafs seem winnable.
Going into a game on Saturday night against the Vancouver Canucks, McDavid needs four points in four games to reach 100. He has scored a point in 41 of 52 games this season, has 27 points in his last 10 games and 12 in his last five. Barring injury, he looks likely to get there, and beyond.
Taijuan Walker Is Dominant in Win Over Cardinals
The Mets starter allowed just one hit in seven innings. In Cincinnati, Tony La Russa admitted a mistake.
ST. LOUIS — Taijuan Walker allowed one hit in seven innings and the Mets scored three runs on bases-loaded walks to beat the St. Louis Cardinals, 4-1, on Thursday.
Walker (2-1) struck out eight and walked none as the Mets salvaged a split after dropping the first two of the four-game series in St. Louis. The Mets won despite leaving 17 runners on base, tying a team record for a nine-inning game.
“It’s just get strike one,” Walker said. “Once I get strike one, I feel like I’m in control, and I feel like I did a good job of doing that today and just really pounding the strike zone. I feel like I could throw everything for strikes when I needed to. Even when I got behind, I was able to throw a changeup or something just to go off the fastball and get them to fly or ground out.”
Walker set the tone by striking out the side in the first inning. He retired the final 18 batters he faced after Paul DeJong reached on a fielder’s choice and throwing error that set up the Cardinals’ lone run in the second.
“He was in attack mode, pitch one,” Mets catcher James McCann said of Walker. “Every time we need to go over things for a game that’s one of the big things he talks about: attack, attack, attack.”
Trevor May struck out two in a perfect eighth and Edwin Diaz pitched around a pair of hits in the ninth to earn his fourth save.
The Mets scored twice in the fifth without a hit. Pete Alonso reached on an error and Cardinals pitchers John Gant and Kodi Whitley combined to walk the next four batters as the Mets took a 2-1 lead.
The Mets tacked on two more runs in the eighth courtesy of another bases-loaded walk from right-hander Jake Woodford to Alonso and an R.B.I. single by Dominic Smith.
“You see the guys ahead of you taking tough pitches and taking their walks, and as you walk in the box you shrink your zone, don’t want to swing at the really good pitch, you want to force the pitcher to come to you. And if he ends up dotting, he ends up dotting,” McCann said. “And we did a really good job of laying off some tough pitches and handing the baton off to the next guy.”
Gant struggled with his control all game, needing 98 pitches to get through four and a third innings. He walked six and struck out five as St. Louis dropped its second straight after having won six in a row.
“I felt comfortable, felt fine, felt strong, you know, just threw too many non-competitive pitches and some of those borderline calls were balls, just didn’t go my way,” Gant said. “But not here to make excuses, I got to bear down and throw more strikes.”
Gant (2-3) stranded eight baserunners in the first four innings, including wiggling out of a bases-load jam in the third by striking out Smith looking and getting a dazzling catch in foul territory by left fielder Justin Williams on Kevin Pillar’s drive.
The Mets had at least one baserunner in every inning, aided by 11 total walks.
“Today we just had a really good overall approach,” Mets manager Luis Rojas said. “We could have scored more runs, but enough to get the win with the Walker performance.”
Hall of Famer Tony La Russa developed a reputation as a master strategist while managing the Oakland Athletics and the St. Louis Cardinals to a total of three World Series championships.
His second tenure with the Chicago White Sox is off to a bumpy start. And a decision in Wednesday’s 1-0 loss at Cincinnati will only raise more doubts about whether he is the right person for the job.
La Russa acknowledged he was unaware of a rule that would have allowed him to use Jose Abreu as the automatic runner at second base rather than closer Liam Hendriks in the 10th inning.
“I’ll re-read that situation,” he said. “I’m guessing you know the rules there. Now, I know.”
The pandemic rule states the runner must be the batter preceding that inning’s leadoff hitter, but there is an exception if it would be the pitcher.
Willie Mays Turns 90
On the occasion of baseball’s oldest living Hall of Famer turning 90, a reflection on the conditioning that powered his greatness.
I once asked Willie Mays what his proudest achievement was in baseball.
His oft-cited designation as the greatest all-around player in history?
His two Most Valuable Player Awards?
None of the above.
“I came into the league with a 32-inch waist, and I retired with a 32-inch waist,” he told me 12 years ago when I interviewed him for a biography.
A bit surprising, but not really. Mays takes great pride in his durability as a player, and it wasn’t an accident. He never drank, never smoked, watched his diet and rarely went clubbing.
His self-discipline made possible an epic career that began with the Birmingham Black Barons in 1948, reached exalted heights with the New York Giants in the 1950s and didn’t end until 1973. Playing center field for 22 years in Major League Baseball, with a record 7,095 putouts and with 6,066 total bases, Mays surely ran more miles on the field, and with greater speed and more style, than any player before or since.
And he’s still going.
Mays turned 90 on Thursday. He is the oldest living member of the Hall of Fame, which recently has become particularly bittersweet. Since the beginning of 2020, we have seen the passing of 10 Hall of Famers, including Henry Aaron, Lou Brock, Bob Gibson, Al Kaline and Tom Seaver, all of whom were Mays’s contemporaries.
It’s as if a curtain were falling on an entire era of baseball, and an extraordinary era it was — from the 1950s through the ’70s, a period when M.L.B.’s expansion west turned the game into a transcontinental enterprise; when the burgeoning medium of television created instant megastars; and when the All-Star Game mattered. When the “Game of the Week” was must-watch TV and baseball was venerated as a model of inclusion and diversity.
Mays alone now holds the torch for that era.
He has lived in the Bay Area since the Giants moved to San Francisco in 1958, and he lives in a house he purchased in 1969. He typically travels to Scottsdale, Ariz., for the Giants’ spring training — he holds court in the clubhouse and gives young players nicknames — but Covid-19 restrictions kept him housebound this year.
A small circle of loyal friends looks after Mays, but aging is not much easier for a living legend than it is for someone else. Glaucoma has compromised his vision so that he has not driven in years, and even watching the games on TV can be difficult, though his ears still perk when he hears an announcer cry, “A Willie Mays catch!”
“He didn’t have to throw the ball,” Mays will grumble. (After his over-the-shoulder catch in the 1954 World Series, Mays’s throw from deep center in the Polo Grounds prevented the runner on second, who represented the go-ahead run, from tagging up and scoring.)
As with anyone who reaches their 90s, what is most difficult for Mays is that he keeps losing friends and loved ones — and he has always been anxious about death. He was raised by his Aunt Sarah in Fairfield, Ala., and when she died in 1954, Mays returned home for her funeral but was so distraught that he stayed in his bedroom for most of the visit. He avoids all funerals, if possible, but they are, of course, inevitable. His beloved wife, Mae, died in 2013, and rarely does a month go by in which someone he knows from the baseball world, including the Negro leagues, does not pass away.
He was particularly close to Seaver, who as a college player noticed that Mays didn’t button the top of his jersey, so Seaver never buttoned the top of his. They became teammates when Mays was traded to the Mets in 1972, and before each game Seaver started, Mays asked him how he was going to pitch each hitter. As the game progressed, Seaver discreetly signaled to Mays in center what adjustments he was making on the mound, and Mays repositioned himself accordingly.
Those subtleties are why Mays’s lifetime stats, as exceptional as they are — .302 batting average, .941 O.P.S., 660 home runs, 338 stolen bases, 12 Gold Gloves — do not capture his true greatness. He defied the box score.
The paradox of Mays’s career is that the part he is most proud of — his durability — is not only overlooked but completely subverted by the misfortunes of his final game. It’s time to correct the record.
Mays wasn’t just durable (2,992 regular-season games). He rarely took a day off.
His first full year was 1954, when the season was 154 games, and he played in more than 150 for eight straight seasons. In 1962, when the National League extended its season to 162 games and the Giants played 165 to break a tie with the Dodgers, he missed only three games. He continued at close to that clip for the next four years. In 1966, he played all 10 innings of the All-Star Game in St. Louis’s muggy 105-degree heat. How hard did he push himself? Twice in his career, Mays collapsed on the field or in the dugout from exhaustion and was hospitalized. Not until he was 41 did he play fewer than 100 games.
Along the way, he won his second M.V.P. Award at 34 and was still one of the game’s best players at 40 — his .907 O.P.S. was 225 points above the league average. The following year, in 1972, he led the Mets in on-base percentage and was third on the team in batting average. It was the Say Hey Kid’s triumphant return to New York, and had he retired then, after years of slamming into catchers and crashing into walls, he would have been remembered for his rugged invincibility.
But Mays played one more year, 1973, and injured throughout the season, he appeared in only 66 games. The Mets reached the World Series, and though Mays had barely played in six weeks, in Game 2 in Oakland, he pinch-ran in the ninth inning and was then sent into center field. It was a brutal sunny day, with players staggering under pop-ups all game (six errors were committed). In both the ninth and 12th innings, Mays lost fly balls in the sun and looked terrible doing so. He was scorned for his pratfalls.
Never mind that many great athletes — Babe Ruth and Aaron in baseball, Johnny Unitas, Muhammad Ali and Michael Jordan in other sports — play too long. Mays became the cautionary tale for all athletes — and, for that matter, entertainers and politicians — who don’t know when to quit.
Mays is too proud to acknowledge that this hurts him, but I’m certain it does. He makes no claims about being the greatest player of all time and isn’t interested in the discussion. He dismisses comparisons to other players. He jokes that if he had known stats were important, he would have paid attention to them. He is too stubborn to be an egotist.
What was important to him was that he helped his team win, he entertained the fans and he honored the game — which, in his mind, he did by playing every game he could, as hard as he could, as long as he could.
Willie Mays at 90? Of course. It befits a man whose durability, on and off the field, is his legacy — and whose endurance is a poignant reminder of a certain era in American sports, glorious but vanishing.
James S. Hirsch is the author of “Willie Mays: The Life, the Legend.”
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