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Top Secret Fyles
By Rich Fyle
Times Sports Copy Editor
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Top Secret Fyles

Top Secret Fyles: NCAA Playoff committee got it right

First published: December 09, 2014 at 1:25 am
Last modified: December 09, 2014 at 1:25 am

From the drawers of the Top Secret Fyles:

Everybody from fans to the media was crying for a national playoff format in major college football, and now we have it.

It’s about time, though boosters in the state of Texas are none too pleased because Big 12 co-champions Baylor and TCU are both on the outside.

The four schools — Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and Ohio State — that will play in two semifinal games on New Year’s Day and ultimately for the national title on Jan. 12 are all conference champions by virtue of wins over Missouri, Arizona, Georgia Tech and Wisconsin, respectively, the past few days.

The NCAA Playoff committee got it right. No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Oregon and No. 3 Florida State have been solid playoff contenders all season, and their selection to the playoff was justified when all became conference champions.

No. 4 Ohio State was somewhat of a surprise choice, leaping past Baylor and TCU into the fourth and final playoff slot.

However, the committee had no other choice but to take the Buckeyes after their impressive 59-0 pounding of a pretty good Wisconsin team in the Big Ten title game, with a third-string quarterback on a neutral field.

It also helped that TCU and Baylor, which both posted wins over the weekend, were victims of playing in a major conference (Big 12) that does not participate in a championship game at the end of the regular season.

While there will always be critics about the schools left out of the championship hunt, there’s no doubt the right schools were invited to the party, and this format will validate a true national champion.

n The New York Giants (4-9), who snapped an eight-game losing streak with Sunday’s 36-7 win at Tennessee, have endured a disappointing season. But the Giants may don a spoiler’s cape in determining the NFC East champion, playing host to contender Philadelphia in the Dec. 28 regular-season finale. The Eagles (9-4) and Cowboys (9-4) meet Sunday at Philadelphia.

n Trivia question: Which active NHL standout has played the most games with one franchise?

n A couple of former area college hockey stars have been bitten by the injury bug. Winnipeg defensemen Zach Bogosian (St. Lawrence) and Grant Clitsome (Clarkson) are both sidelined with lower-body injuries. Bogosian is expected to miss four weeks and Clitsome two.

n Trivia answer: Arizona’s Shane Doan with 1,343 games since 1995-96, when the franchise was based in Winnipeg.

Richie Rich’s Final Top 10 rankings in College Football: 1. Alabama; 2. Florida State; 3. Oregon; 4. Ohio State; 5. TCU; 6. Baylor; 7. Michigan State; 8. Mississippi State; 9. Georgia Tech; 10. Mississippi.

Richie Rich’s Top 10 rankings in the NFL: 1. Packers (played Monday); 2. Patriots; 3. Seahawks; 4. Cardinals; 5. Eagles; 6. Cowboys; 7. Colts; 8. Lions; 9. Ravens; 10. Steelers.

Times copy editor Richard Fyle can be reached at rfyle@wdt.net

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Top Secret Fyles: Home-field edge may play key role in NFL playoff teams’ fortunes

First published: November 18, 2014 at 1:10 am
Last modified: November 18, 2014 at 1:10 am

From the drawers of the Top Secret Fyles:

It’s too bad the National Football League playoffs can’t start in a couple of weeks.

The critical element in who advances to the Super Bowl in February is what teams will have lucrative home-field advantage in the AFC and NFC rounds.

Green Bay (7-3 overall) is destroying every opponent who comes into Lambeau Field, but it doesn’t have the best record in the NFC. That belongs to the Arizona Cardinals (9-1), who are off to the franchise’s best start in 66 years when they were known as the Chicago Cardinals.

The Packers, who beat the Bears and Eagles by respective 55-14 and 53-20 scores in consecutive weeks, know they have to obtain home-field advantage to get the Super Bowl.

Led by quarterback Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay has outscored the opposition by a combined 167-23 through three quarters of their past four home games. Their offense is rolling and the defense is playing with plenty of confidence after a 1-2 start. However, they have a pair of challenging home games left in the regular season against rival Detroit and New England.

Arizona, meanwhile, which still has two regular-season meetings left with defending Super Bowl champion Seattle, is bidding to become the NFL’s first team to play in a Super Bowl on its home field. Despite injuries, the Cardinals are winning close games.

Both Arizona and New England are currently on six-game winning streaks.

The Patriots (8-2) appear to be in great shape for the AFC playoffs. If they don’t stumble down the stretch, the Patriots more than likely have forced Denver and QB Peyton Manning to play in chilly New England in January for possibly the AFC title.

There are five NFL teams left without a home defeat this season: Patriots, Broncos, Eagles, Packers and Cardinals.

n There’s no doubt this season that the Southeastern Conference has proven to be the best league in college football.

However, the conference appears to be eating itself up. A month ago, three SEC schools were ranked in the top five. When the updated, four-team playoff matchups are revealed tonight, it looks like only one-loss Alabama from the SEC will be in the top four after last Saturday’s win over previously top-ranked Mississippi State.

The college football season has been outstanding in 2014 and the sport has grown significantly over the past 10 years because of television. The new playoff system has definitely stirred further interest.

Richie Rich’s Top 10 rankings in College Football: 1. Florida State; 2. Oregon; 3. Alabama; 4. TCU; 5. Mississippi State; 6. Baylor; 7. Ohio State; 8. Michigan State; 9. Mississippi; 10. Georgia.

Richie Rich’s Top 10 rankings in the NFL: 1. Patriots; 2. Cardinals; 3. Packers; 4. Broncos; 5. Cowboys; 6. Lions; 7. 49ers; 8. Chiefs; 9. Eagles; 10. Colts.

Note: Top Secret Fyles will resume on Dec. 2.

Times copy editor Richard Fyle can be reached at rfyle@wdt.net

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Top Secret Fyles: Bears, Raiders experiencing that awful feeling

First published: November 11, 2014 at 1:11 am
Last modified: November 11, 2014 at 1:11 am

From the drawers of the Top Secret Fyles:

Is this the time of the National Football League regular season when teams decide to quit playing, or maybe just can’t play?

The season is approaching the two-thirds point, so there’s a lot to play for, namely the playoffs, but the recent efforts of the Chicago Bears and the Oakland Raiders have been rather lackluster.

Regarded as a quality playoff-caliber team early, Chicago now looks lost. Its 55-14 thrashing by the rival Green Bay Packers was embarrassing. It had appeared that the Bears were more interested getting onto the plane back to Chicago than playing any type of football following halftime, when they trailed 42-0.

First of all, give Packers QB Aaron Rodgers all the credit by tying an NFL mark with six TD passes in the first half en route to the blowout.

But, what happened here to the Bears?

The Bears’ offense has more than enough legitimate talent, especially at the skill positions, but there is serious deficiency of talent on defense, mixed with aging players and injuries. Entering Sunday, the Bears (3-6) ranked last in the 32-team NFL in allowing the most average yards per rushing attempt by an opponent while surrendering more than 50 points in back-to-back games.

They are demoralized and it is not a good fit between the players and second-year head coach Marc Trestman, who’s more of a offensive-minded finesse leader.

The Bears right now are not the rock-’em, sock-’em Monsters of the Midway.

It’s easy to figure out the Raiders (0-9). Their talent level is critically sub-par.

Oakland has changed coaches this season but that hasn’t helped and following the team’s 41-17 home loss to the Denver Broncos, the Raiders have been outscored 252-146. They are in line for their worst season since 1962, and may go 0-16. I think their only chance to win is vs. the Rams on Nov. 30 in St. Louis.

n Trivia question: What active quarterback-to-tight-end combination has hooked up for the most touchdowns?

n Here’s my Top 10 list of free agents ready to be signed in Major League Baseball: 1. Max Scherzer, rhp; 2. Jon Lester, lhp; 3. Pablo Sandoval, 3b; 4. Hanley Ramirez, ss; 5. Victor Martinez, dh-1b; 6. James Shields, rhp; 7. Nelson Cruz, of; 8. Russell Martin, c; 9. Melky Cabrera, of; 10. Ervin Santana, rhp.

n Trivia answer: San Diego’s Philip Rivers to Antonio Gates (69).

Richie Rich’s Top 10 rankings in College Football: 1, Mississippi State; 2, Alabama; 3. Florida State; 4. Oregon; 5. TCU; 6. Auburn; 7. Baylor; 8. Ohio State; 9. Arizona State; 10. Michigan State.

Richie Rich’s Top 10 rankings in the NFL: 1. Patriots; 2. Cardinals; 3. Broncos; 4. Lions; 5. Eagles; 6. Cowboys; 7. Colts; 8. Seahawks; 9. Packers; 10. 49ers.

Times copy editor Richard Fyle can be reached at rfyle@wdt.net

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Top Secret Fyles: Patriots are that good, and the Jets are that bad

First published: November 04, 2014 at 1:35 am
Last modified: November 04, 2014 at 1:35 am

From the drawers of the Top Secret Fyles:

Are the New England Patriots this good or are the New York Jets just as bad?

The Patriots have turned into a scary good bunch behind head coach Bill Belicheck and quarterback Tom Brady since getting drubbed by the Kansas City Chiefs in late September.

New England has rolled off five straight wins, with Brady throwing 18 touchdown passes to just one interception. He knows how to make his offensive weapons better, and New England has been on its way after the coaching staff fine-tuned the offensive line.

The 7-2 Patriots are in line to win (or at least share) the AFC East title for the 13th time in the past 14 seasons.

The 1-8 Jets, meanwhile, have been a dumpster fire. New York has significantly regressed this season under sixth-year head coach Rex Ryan, who has the reputation of a great defensive coordinator with a lousy offensive mind.

Quarterback Geno Smith, in his second year out of the University of West Virginia, has been a bust — done in by costly interceptions — and now he’s injured. Backup Michael Vick has seen better days and he’s prone to injury on any play.

Some have said that the Jets’ QB play is like a blindfolded person trying to navigate through heavy rush-hour traffic. It’s no wonder the Jets have lost eight straight games while headed for their worst season since 2007.

n NBA memo: Please pull the Los Angeles Lakers off future national television broadcasts. L.A. is off to its worst start (0-4) since the franchise moved from Minneapolis in 1960, and has been blown out in three of the losses.

Kobe Bryant is filling his stat sheet and getting plenty of TV face time, so he’s not suffering. The Lakers will be lucky to win 15 games this season.

n Trivia question: Which is the only NFL team to not allow a rushing TD this season?

n There could be some serious penalties issued either today or Wednesday for NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Brad Keselowski, who has been involved in two postrace brawls in the past four weeks. His latest encounter was with driver Jeff Gordon and their respective pit crews after Sunday’s Texas 500, won by Jimmie Johnson.

It seems like NASCAR is the only sport in which fighting is condoned. Fighting doesn’t happen in Formula 1 races.

NASCAR officials will have to look at the image it’s portraying to the public (“Good ol’ boys who brawl.”). It’s already been a tragic year in racing.

n Trivia answer: The Chiefs.

Richie Rich’s Top 10 in College Football: 1. Mississippi State; 2. Florida State; 3. Auburn; 4. Alabama; 5. TCU; 6. Oregon; 7. Michigan State; 8. Kansas State; 9. Baylor; 10. Notre Dame.

Richie Rich’s Top 10 in the NFL: 1. Patriots; 2. Cardinals; 3. Broncos; 4. Eagles; 5. Lions; 6. Cowboys; 7. Steelers; 8. Bengals; 9. Colts (played Monday night); 10. Seahawks.

Times copy editor Richard Fyle can be reached at rfyle@wdt.net

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Top Secret Fyles: World Series games need better TV exposure, ratings

First published: October 28, 2014 at 1:07 am
Last modified: October 28, 2014 at 1:07 am

From the drawers of the Top Secret Fyles:

It has been a terrific World Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Kansas City, with the National League team leading the best-of-seven series, 3-2, heading into tonight’s possible clinching game at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City.

Great games, great drama.

It’s the Royals’ youthful enthusiasm mixed in with athletic ability against the Giants’ recent postseason success and the shrewd decision-making of possible future Hall of Fame manager Bruce Bochy.

If the Royals can stave off elimination tonight, Wednesday night’s deciding Game 7 could be a game for the ages.

There’s only one problem: virtually nobody is watching the games on Fox.

The television ratings have been abysmal. Last week, “The Big Bang Theory” and the “Walking Dead” posted better TV ratings than the opening two Series games.

No offense to those non-sports programs, but the World Series should be outdrawing them.

In fact, Fox is trying to renegotiate the remaining eight years of its TV rights with MLB to possibly ship the games to Fox Sports1, a network that is not featured on standard cable in 50 million households.

n Trivia question: Who holds the NHL record for most career overtime goals in the regular season since the extra session started in the 1983-84 season?

n Post-mortem on the Watertown Rams: Last week’s announcement of the franchise being booted out of the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds was the culmination of long-standing, tenuous relations between the team and the city.

Reports of former players trashing the locker room are disturbing. It would be unfortunate to think of no baseball in Watertown next summer.

Something was not right last summer when I drove past the ballpark during a light rain in the afternoon before a scheduled home game and most of the field was exposed to the weather.

If a new management group enters the picture before next season, let’s hope greater care is exercised with the field, and relations improve between the team and the city.

n How bad have been the Buffalo Sabres so far this season? Despite their 2-1 upset win at San Jose on Saturday, the 2-7 team has been outscored 29-11, with only six players scoring, and the power play is a dreadful 0-for-30.

n Trivia answer: Jaromir Jagr (18).

Richie Rich’s Top 10 rankings in College Football: 1. Mississippi State; 2. Florida State; 3. Alabama; 4. Auburn; 5. Oregon; 6. Notre Dame; 7. Mississippi; 8. Michigan State; 9. TCU; 10. Kansas State.

Richie Rich’s Top 10 rankings in the NFL: 1. Cowboys (played Monday night); 2. Broncos; 3. Patriots; 4. Cardinals; 5. Lions; 6. Seahawks; 7. Eagles; 8. 49ers; 9. Bengals; 10. Ravens.

Times copy editor Richard Fyle can be reached at rfyle@wdt.net

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Top Secret Fyles: Giants the pick in 6 over upstart Royals

First published: October 21, 2014 at 1:05 am
Last modified: October 21, 2014 at 1:05 am

From the drawers of the Top Secret Fyles while celebrating our one-year anniversary:

After what seems like an eternity, baseball finally returns tonight on Fox with the first game of the World Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Kansas City Royals.

It’s an intriguing matchup between the Giants’ postseason experience (third Fall Classic appearance in five years) and the Royals’ youthful enthusiasm following a 29-year playoff drought. It’s only the second all-wild-card World Series, and the first in a full season where the participants both won fewer than 90 games in the regular season.

The Royals (89-73), probably considered by Americans as “darlings” who have been off for five days, are the first team to win its first eight games in a postseason and feature an unbelievable bullpen (Greg Holland, Wade Davis and Kelvin Herrera) to go with dynamic team speed (MLB-best 153 stolen bases in the regular season and 13 more in the playoffs) and super defense. Kansas City hit an MLB-low 95 homers in the regular season, but has eight in eight playoff games.

The Giants (88-74), who suffered a three-game sweep at Kansas City in August, are notorious for playing their best ball in the postseason, seeking a third title since 2010.

San Francisco, 15-2 in its past 17 playoff games under manager Bruce Bochy, has an uncanny knack for scoring runs in odd ways and finds unlikely playoff heroes. But the core of the lineup is 2012 Series MVP Pablo Sandoval (.375 batting average, 6 HRs, 14 RBIs in 23 playoff games), Buster Posey and Hunter Pence.

The Giants’ bullpen has been efficient as well. Jeremy Affeldt, Santiago Casilla and Javier Lopez have respective scoreless playoff appearance streaks of 18, 17 and 15.

It would be a big lift for the Royals if “Big Game” James Shields (3-4, 5.19 ERA in nine playoff games) can beat Giants ace Madison Bumgarner (5-3, 2.67 in 11 playoff games).

The Royals play exciting ball, but will they get nervous after a first loss? The Giants, 7-1 in their past eight road playoff games, know how to deal with the big stage. Giants in six games.

n Hockey note: Ex-St. Lawrence University defenseman Brandon Bollig, who played the past few seasons with the Blackhawks, is wearing No. 25 this season with the Flames. Bollig, who had worn No. 52 with the ’Hawks, is wearing Hall of Famer Joe Nieuwendyk’s old number. The Flames’ management is old-school, very rarely allowing players to wear numbers higher than 35.

Richie Rich’s Top 10 rankings in College Football: 1. Mississippi State; 2. Florida State; 3. Mississippi; 4. Alabama; 5. Auburn; 6. Oregon; 7. Michigan State; 8. Notre Dame; 9. TCU; 10. Georgia.

Richie Rich’s Top 10 rankings in the NFL: 1. Cowboys; 2. Broncos; 3. Eagles; 4. Cardinals; 5. Patriots; 6. Colts; 7. Packers; 8. Lions; 9. Ravens; 10. Chargers.

Times copy editor Richard Fyle can be reached at rfyle@wdt.net

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Top Secret Fyles: Winners and losers from the weekend

First published: October 14, 2014 at 2:34 am
Last modified: October 14, 2014 at 2:34 am

From the drawers of the Top Secret Fyles:

This past weekend produced a series of upper highs and the lowest of lows for sports teams.

Winners

Dallas Cowboys (NFL): Quarterback Tony Romo and Co. engineered a stunning 30-23 victory over the defending Super Bowl champion Sea- hawks — in Seattle.

The Cowboys have one of the league’s three best offensive lines and running back DeMarco Murray is flourishing.

The defense is adequate, nothing flashy, but it makes key plays at key times.

Dallas is off to its best start in seven years behind Romo, who’s tops in the NFL with 26 fourth-quarter or overtime game-winning drives since 2006.

New England Patriots (NFL): After a horrible defeat at Kansas City two weeks ago, the Patriots fixed their offensive line and QB Tom Brady has six touchdown passes and no interceptions in impressive 43-17 and 37-22 wins over the Bengals and Bills, respectively.

State of Mississippi (NCAA Football): Who would have ever thought that the Magnolia State would be the king of college football? The programs are in the top three in the latest AP poll and set for a collision course on Nov. 29.

Kansas City Royals and San Francisco Giants (MLB): With Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina sidelined, the Giants are now favored and could be poised for a third World Series title in the past five seasons.

Though the Giants’ bullpen faltered in Game 2 of the NLCS, San Francisco relievers have been very reliable, along with Kansas City’s lights-out bullpen.

If the Cardinals and Orioles can’t jump on their respective opponents’ starters, it appears to be a Giants-Royals matchup in the Fall Classic.

Losers

Buffalo Bills (NFL): Western New York fans have to be disappointed in the team’s lackluster loss to the Patriots after last week’s announcement of a new ownership group.

Turnovers, penalties, poor play in the secondary and a brutal December schedule will keep the Bills out of the playoffs for a 15th straight season.

New York Giants (NFL): After a couple of promising wins at home the past few weeks, the Giants fell to earth after getting walloped by the Eagles.

With wide receiver Victor Cruz done by a knee injury, subpar play by the offensive line and a difficult five-game stretch on tap (at Dallas, Indianapolis, at Seattle, San Francisco and Dallas), the season may spiral downward big time.

Oklahoma City Thunder (NBA): The Thunder will have to tread water for the next six to eight weeks following the loss of prolific scorer Kevin Durant to a foot injury.

Richie Rich’s Top 10 rankings in the NFL: 1. Cowboys; 2. Chargers; 3. Eagles; 4. Patriots; 5. Cardinals; 6. Broncos; 7. Bengals; 8. Seahawks; 9. Colts; 10. Lions.

Richie Rich’s Top 10 rankings in College Football: 1. Mississippi State; 2. Florida State; 3. Mississippi; 4. Baylor; 5. Auburn; 6. Alabama; 7. Michigan State; 8. Oregon; 9. Notre Dame; 10. Oklahoma.

Times copy editor Rich Fyle can be reached at rfyle@wdt.net

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Top Secret Fyles: Intrigue abounds about NBA draft selections for ex-SU hoops stars

First published: June 24, 2014 at 1:17 am
Last modified: June 24, 2014 at 1:17 am

From the drawers of the Top Secret Fyles:

While former Syracuse University star C.J. Fair tours the NBA workout circuit, ex-teammates Tyler Ennis and Jerami Grant are thinking higher with the league’s draft set for Thursday.

Fair worked out for the Clippers, Jazz and Mavericks last week in hopes of impressing a team if he’s not drafted. The Orange’s top scorer in each of the past two seasons is not projected to be taken in the two-round draft, according to leading NBA draft experts.

Six of the top 10 mock draft websites have Ennis going as the 20th overall pick to the Raptors. That could be a good fit for the dynamic point guard, joining a young-and-upcoming team that won the Atlantic Division this past season with a 48-34 record.

Because Ennis is a Canadian, he would be an instant drawing card for the Raptors.

NBA Draft Room projects Ennis as the 11th pick by the Nuggets — that’s the highest forecast — while he is at No. 25 by the Rockets, the lowest projection among the 10 mock drafts.

The former freshman directed the Orange’s 25-0 overall start last season before declaring himself eligible for the draft.

While Ennis seems like a certain first-rounder, Grant’s selection can bridge between the first or second rounds, according to the experts.

The highest projection for the ex-SU power forward is 18th by the Suns according to NBA Draft Room, while two draft boards target Grant to be taken 26th by the Heat and two more see him being picked 27th by the Suns. Phoenix has two selections in the first round. Four other sites project Grant as a non-first-round pick.

Hard to believe baseball statistic: Three-time AL batting champion and 2009 AL MVP Joe Mauer of the Twins has only two RBIs in 151 plate appearances in 33 road games this season. The former catcher-turned-first baseman is hitting .261 with 2 home runs and 22 RBIs in 68 games overall.

Here’s another mystery: The Syracuse Chiefs of the International League have the best overall record among Triple-A teams this season at 47-30, but they are last among 14 teams in attendance. The Chiefs are averaging 3,008 paid fans per game over 34 dates. The team is on target for its worst attendance in NBT Bank Stadium’s 18-year history.

n Trivia answer: Derek Jeter (Yankees), David Wright (Mets), Jimmy Rollins (Phillies), Ichiro Suzuki (Mariners) and Carl Crawford (Rays).

Richie Rich’s Top 10 rankings in Major League Baseball: 1. Athletics; 2. Giants; 3. Brewers; 4. Tigers; 5. Dodgers; 6. Blue Jays; 7. Angels; 8. Nationals; 9. Braves; 10. Royals.

Times sports copy editor Richard Fyle can be reached at rfyle@wdt.net

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Top Secret Fyles: Coburn’s remarks ill-timed after horse’s loss, apologizes

First published: June 10, 2014 at 1:37 am
Last modified: June 10, 2014 at 1:37 am

From the drawers of the Top Secret Fyles:

Emotions got the best of California Chrome co-owner Steve Coburn after his horse was denied a Triple Crown victory by Tonalist at Saturday’s Belmont.

On Monday, Coburn repented after his bitter remarks, criticizing horse racing’s system of allowing owners to select what Triple Crown legs the horses participate.

Coburn was upset that Tonalist didn’t run in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, but pulled out a second victory at the lengthy Belmont track in four weeks, after winning the Peter Pan Stakes on May 10.

Coburn came off as a crybaby after tying for fourth place, saying that Tonalist owner Robert Evans took “the coward’s way out.” Coburn wanted an equal playing field, suggesting the Belmont lineup should have been horses that had ran in both the Derby and Preakness, racing’s first two legs.

This is horse racing and these animals are delicate creatures. Evans had wanted to have Tonalist in the Derby, but sickness prevented the horse to run in the qualifying Wood Memorial a few weeks before the Derby.

At least, Coburn took a smart PR person’s advice and apologized — better late than never.

n For Tony Gwynn’s fans, here are a couple of juicy statistics on the Hall of Fame batting champion worth noting.

The former Padres’ All-Star hit a combined .381 — with only three strikeouts — in his career against star pitchers Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux, both going into the Hall of Fame next month, and John Smoltz, who becomes eligible for the Hall next year. In Gwynn’s total career 9,288 at-bats covering 2,440 games over 20 seasons, the outfielder posted only one three-strikeout game.

n Channel surfing: SNY-TV baseball analyst Keith Hernandez has turned into this century’s version of former Yankees announcer Phil Rizzuto behind the microphone.

The Mets’ announcer always seems to have entertaining comments — and some amusing stories during his playing days with the Cardinals, Mets and others — and definitely can chat up a good game.

Though at times, the former first baseman can be overly critical on today’s major leaguers and their execution — or there lack of — on plays.

n Speaking of the Mets, who have returned to their losing ways with a current six-game skid, did you know that former Mets second baseman reject Brandon Hicks — now with the Giants — has twice as many home runs than David Wright?

Hicks, who went 4-for-43 in spring training with the Mets in 2013 before being sent down to Triple-A Las Vegas, caught on with San Francisco this season, replacing the injured Marco Scutaro, and has hit eight homers. All four of Wright’s blasts this season have been hit at Citi Field in Flushing.

Richie Rich’s Top 10 rankings in Major League Baseball: 1. Giants; 2. Athletics; 3. Brewers; 4. Blue Jays; 5. Tigers; 6. Nationals; 7. Angels; 8. Braves; 9. Mariners; 10. Cardinals.

Times sports copy editor Richard Fyle can be reached at rfyle@wdt.net

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Top Secret Fyles: Everything going wrong this season for Red Sox

First published: May 27, 2014 at 12:30 am
Last modified: May 26, 2014 at 9:34 pm

From the drawers of the Top Secret Fyles:

Perhaps the Boston Red Sox will put together a hot streak following Monday’s 8-6 come-from-behind victory over the Atlanta Braves, ending a stunning 10-game losing streak for the defending champions.

The Red Sox (21-29) need to get going in a big way before they fall off the edge of the earth.

Every possible move right in 2013 for Boston, which had hit the restart button after a bad 2012 season, signing key free agents that played key roles in winning the World Series.

The Red Sox signed not big-name players, but guys like outfielder Jonny Gomes and first baseman Mike Napoli, who play baseball the right way.

This past offseason was a disaster for Boston, re-signing only Napoli out of seven free agents from last year’s club, until shortstop Stephen Drew was signed last week to provide stability in the infield.

Meanwhile, outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury (Yankees) and catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia (Marlins) were the key players that left last year’s title club.

Saltalamacchia really has been missed. He has developed into a top-flight receiver with his ability to handle pitchers, thanks to the teaching of former bullpen coach Gary Tuck, now with the Yankees.

The Red Sox have been a mess in the outfield all season — Shane Victorino twice on the disabled list and Daniel Nava was optioned to Triple-A before he was recently recalled. Boston has been in search of a leadoff hitter all season.

Third base has been a problem spot, with now Will Middlebrooks on the DL for the second time, and over the weekend, Napoli was placed on the DL with a finger injury.

Starting pitcher Clay Buchholz, who enjoyed a great 2013 campaign, has been lost on the mound. His ERA is at 7.02.

In the recent losing skid that was Boston’s worst since 1994, the starters’ ERA was 6.18 and the team was outscored 52-36.

Until Dustin Pedroia’s key two-run single and David Ortiz’s three-run home run in a five-run fifth inning that tied Atlanta on Monday, the Red Sox’s meat-and-potatoes hitters badly slumped.

Pedroia managed one RBI during the losing streak, and Ortiz had no extra-base hits in his past 36 at-bats before Monday. Overall, Boston hit.212 as a team and .197 with runners in scoring position before the offense woke up Monday.

However, the Red Sox are fighting tough odds to make the playoffs.

As reigning champions, only the 1998 Marlins and the 1947 Cardinals had a worse record on Memorial Day than the 2014 Red Sox, and only that depleted Marlins team and the 1986 Royals endured longer losing streaks than Boston. In the wild-card era that began in 1995, no team with a 10-game losing skid has made the playoffs.

At least, the Red Sox have time to recover in the flawed AL East Division.

Richie Rich’s Top 10 rankings in Major League Baseball: 1. Giants; 2. Athletics; 3. Tigers; 4. Braves; 5. Blue Jays; 6. Brewers; 7. Angels; 8. Cardinals; 9. Rockies; 10. Yankees.

Times sports copy editor Richard Fyle can be reached at rfyle@wdt.net

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