SPRAYING HITS (AND MISSES?) TO ALL FIELDS

Clayton Kershaw left Sunday’s game with a balky back and likely is headed for the disabled list. Considering his brilliant stats (15-2 record; 2.04 ERA; 0.88 WSHIP; .197 batting average against; 141 1/3 innings; 101 hits allowed; 24 walks; 168 strikeouts) and the fat lead by his Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League West (10 ½ games over Colorado), I’d vote him the NL Cy Young Award if he doesn’t pitch another inning this regular season.

How about the New York Yankees giving a try to Chad Green as their closer, trading Jacoby Ellsbury for anything, and playing Clint Frazier in right field every game?

Baltimore should trade Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo for players with power who strike out less and can move. It probably would be difficult to find any takers.

The Houston Astros rejected Jose Altuve from a tryout camp in Venezeula a decade ago because he was too small. He returned the next year and was signed as an undrafted free agent for $15,000. At five-foot-six he is the shortest player in Major League Baseball but one of the five-best players today. He might win American League MVP.

Houston utility player Marwin Gonzalez (.320, 18 HRs, 68 RBI, .995 OPS) deserves a lot of American League MVP votes, too. He can play anywhere – including shortstop – and has become a solid clutch hitter.

Would Barry Bonds have hit 100-plus HRs in a season if the baseball’s he was swinging at were as lively as the baseball’s being used today?

I’m wondering why it took so long for defense shifts to become the norm in Major League Baseball.  It once was a shock when a team shifted solely against Ted Williams.

Ben Gamel of the Seattle Mariners is one of the relatively few International League Rookie of the Year winners to make a major impact in Major League Baseball. For the record, the last 20 were: Brian Rose, Marlon Anderson, Kurt Bierek, Aubrey Huff, Brandon Duckworth, Carl Crawford, Aaron Miles, Jason Kubel, Francisco Liriano, Joss Fields, Joey Votto, Randy Ruiz, Austin Jackson, Freddie Freeman,  Julio Teheran, Ernesto Mejia, Chris Colabello, Steven Souza Jr., Ben Gamel (2015 with short hair for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre) and Yandy Diaz.

Doesn’t it seem like the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals are on Sunday Night Baseball way too often?

The Yankees started 21-9 and are 30-37 since. I don’t blame that all on manager Joe Girardi, but I don’t think he has done a sterling job.

ESNP during Sunday night’s game asked which team not currently in first place is most likely to win the World Series. My top five in order of preference: Cubs, Arizona, Cubs, Colorado, Cubs, Yankees, Cubs, Kansas City.

THAT’S HORSE RACING...ARROGATE FINISHES FOURTH...HUGE PAYOFFS RESULT

The biggest sports upset of the weekend – and probably a lot longer – was Arrogate, the world’s top-ranked race horse, finishing fourth in Saturday’s $300,000 San Diego Handicap at Del Mar in California.

Arrogate’s seven-race winning streak was snapped. It included the $6-million Breeders’ Cup Classic, the $10-million Dubai World Cup and the $12-million Pegasus World Cup.

Of the $2,671,938 in the win-place-show betting for Saturday’s race, all but $214,466 was wagered on “can’t miss” Arrogate.

Arrogate’s fourth-place finish, 15 ¼ lengths behind winner Accelerate, created some amazing payoffs for $2 bets:

Accelerate -- $17.70 to win...$32.60 to place...$22 to show

Donworth -- $119.80 to place...$67.40 to show (both were track records)

Car Burglar -- $38.20 to show.

Arrogate’s trainer, Bob Baffert said his champion “laid an egg...he was flat (coming off nearly a four-month layoff)...that’s why I have white hair.”

Arrogate’s next race is scheduled for the $1-million Pacific Classic August 19. The field is expected to include Accelerate.

ANOTHER CLEAN SHEET FOR TOMAS GOMEZ...ANOTHER TIE FOR RHINOS

The announced crowd Saturday at Capelli Sport Stadium was decent (3,269). The result was OK (Rochester Rhinos 0, Pittsburgh Riverhounds 0). Rhinos goalie Tomas Gomez posted his United Soccer League-best eighth clean sheet (shutout) of the season. He had four saves.

The Rhinos lead the 30-team USL with eight draws. They have six wins and only three losses.

I suppose fans of the Rhinos will be expecting to see at least one goal from the good guys Wednesday when Toronto FC II visits Capelli Sport Stadium for a 7:05 p.m. game. Toronto FC II has 3 wins, 10 losses, 5 draws and has been outscored by 17 goals this season.

The Rhinos will visit FC Cincinnati (8-6-6 record) Saturday, 7 p.m. FC Cincinnati beat the visiting Harrisburg City Islanders 3-0 before a crowd of 18,334 at Nippert Stadium last week. Cincinnati is averaging around 19,000 per home game.

Cincinnati is hoping to eventually join Major League Soccer. MLS is expected to add Nashville, Las Vegas and Fresno for next season. Birmingham and Charlotte are among a reported eight cities vying for USL expansion in 2019 or 2020.

The USL is considering a three-conference alignment, possibly as soon as 2018. We’re hopeful that the Rhinos will be coming back and part of the Eastern Conference.

PALKA REJOINS THE RED WINGS...COULD GRANITE BE NEXT?

The Rochester Red Wings completed a 7-1 homestand with a 7-1 victory over the Toledo Mud Hens Sunday at Frontier Field.

Rochester is a season-best 16 games above .500 (58-42 record), has outscored opponents 411-342 (+69) and has closed to within four games of the International League’s wild-card playoff berth with 42 games left in the regular season. August should be a fun month for Rochester baseball fans.

Slugger Daniel Palka returned to the lineup Sunday after missing a big chunk of the season with a broken finger. Could sparkplug center fielder Zach Granite also be back soon?

Minnesota’s game plan was to return Granite to Rochester when Byron Buxton (groin injury) was activated from the disabled list. After a poor start with the Twins (1-for-14), the hits have begun to drop (8-for-22 since) for Granite.

Rochester’s pitching continues to dominate. The Red Wings have a 3.22 earned-run average, best in the 14-team IL.

Red Wings fans can look forward be more outstanding pitching in the future. The Chattanooga Lookouts, Minnesota’s Double-A Southern League team, has a 65-34 record and has outscored opponents by 131 runs (448-317). Chattanooga’s pitching staff has a 2.89 ERA, easily the best in the 10-team league.

TYLER LYDON THE LATEST IN SYRACUSE U. FIRST-ROUND PARADE TO THE NBA

The selection of Tyler Lydon by the Utah Jazz No. 24 overall in the 2017 MBA Draft marked the sixth straight year that at least one Syracuse University player was chosen in the first round.

It has been quantity more than quality so far. On the whole, SU products have been traded a lot:

2012 – Dion Waiters (No. 4 overall by Cleveland) and Fab Melo (No. 22 by Boston). Waiters looks like a late bloomer. He averaged 15.8 points in 46 games with Miami last season and recently signed a four-year deal worth $52 million...Melo played in six games with the 2012-13 Boson Celtics and sadly passed away Feb. 11, 2017, at age 26.

2013 – Michael Carter-Williams (No. 11 by Philadelphia). He’ll turn 26 on Oct. 10. He’ll start his fifth NBA season with his fourth team – Charlotte. He has averaged 13.0 points in 235 NBA games. Poor shooting continues to plague him (.407 field-goal percentage; .252 3-point FG percentage).

2014 – Tyler Ennis (No. 18 by Phoenix). He’ll turn 23 on Aug. 24 and he’ll be entering his fourth NBA season with his fourth team – from Phoenix to Milwaukee to Houston to the Los Angeles Lakers, where he has a fair chance to back up and mentor rookie Lonzo Ball at point guard this season.

2015 – Chris McCullough (No. 29 by Brooklyn). The 22-year-old forward has averaged 3.7 points in 40 games over two seasons for Brooklyn and Washington.

2016 – Malachi Richardson (No. 22 by Charlotte). He was traded by Charlotte to Sacramento for Marco Belinelli. In 22 games with the Kings last season, he averaged 14.4 points. He also spent time with Reno of the NBA D-League. He’s only 21 and a big part of Sacramento’s building plans.

2017 – Tyler Lydon (No. 24 by Utah). Lyon was selected by Utah and traded to Denver on draft night. He started every game for Denver in the NBA Summer League but shot very poorly. He is expected to open this season in the NBA C-League (formerly the D-League). He has a two-year guaranteed contract worth $3.45 million.

MORE BAD READING FOR DOUG WHALEY

Which are the NFL’s “25 most outsized contracts”?

Bill Barnwell of ESPN offered his list last week. The Buffalo Bills were the only team to appear on the list three times: No. 4 DT Marcell Dareus...No. 16 TE Charles Clay...No. 22. OT Cordy Glenn.

Barnwell noted, “Doug Whaley wasn’t a bad player evaluator at all, especially given the bevy of street free agents who came into their own in Buffalo. But he consistently failed to properly value players.”

REMEMBERING JOHN KUNDLA

John Kundla died Sunday in Minnesota. He was 101 years old.

If you’re old enough to remember the early years of the Rochester Royals, you’re old enough to remember Kundla as coach of the Minnesota Lakers – often the best team in pro basketball when the Royals were second-best.

Kundla coached the Lakers to six league titles – in the National Basketball League in 1948, the BAA in 1949, and four of their first five seasons in the NBA. The only miss over that span was in 1951, when star center George Mikan was injured and the Royals beat the New York Knickerbockers in the finals.

He later coached basketball at the University of Minnesota and was the first Gophers coach to offer scholarships to African-American players. He was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1995.

SHORT SHOTS

The Open champion Jordan Spieth is a wonderful ambassador for the United States on the international sports scene. Let’s hope he never changes.

The New York Post back page Training Camp coverage heralded “SUPER BOWL OR BUST: Giants eyes on title – Jets dream of high pick”.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver last week said legalized regulated sports gambling will be a reality in the United States “in the next few years.” He said in-game wagering will be a very popular attraction. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has been more open to the possibility of legalized sports betting than predecessor Bud Selig was. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has yet to advocate for legalized sports gambling, though everyone knows illegal gambling on the NFL is immensely popular and a possible future revenue stream for the league.

The New York Racing Association wants to conduct night racing at Belmont Park in an attempt to boost business and create a new and younger fan base. Good idea and good luck. The harness racing lobbyists will be out in force in Albany. In hindsight, before Finger Lakes built a casino, the best hope for long-term success would’ve been a turf course and night racing on racing dates other than weekends.

Four young Washington Nationals prospects – Jared Johnson, Gilberto Chu, Jose Jimenez and Joan Baez – combined to pitch back-to-back seven-inning no-hitters Sunday for the Gulf Coast League Nationals in 4-0 and 1-0 victories over the GCL Marlins.

The Buffalo Bills will kick off the 2017 NFL season at home against the New York Tanks. Is that a good break or a potential bad break for new coach Sean McDermott?  The Jets, er Tanks, arguably are the league’s worst team and the Bills should win. But what if Buffalo loses? Western New York would be in mourning.

Before Branden Grace’s 62 on Saturday, no golfer even had fired a round that low in the 422 PGA major championships. There have been 31 rounds of 63 in the majors, including Jason Dufner’s at Oak Hill in the 2013 PGA Championship. Of the 32 players shooting rounds of 62 or 63, only five (including Dufner) won the tournament.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO...

Monday, July 24

Maurkice and Mike Pouncey (28)...Brian Cushing (30)...Patrice Bergeron (32)...Donte Whitner (32)...Torrie Wilson (42)...Rick Fox (48)...Brian Blades (52)...Barry Bonds (53)...Karl Malone (54)...Julie Krone (54)...Steve Grogan (54)...Bob Lilly (78). Torrie Wilson (42), Jennifer Lopez (48) and Lynda Carter (66) are invited to the birthday party.

Tuesday, July 25 – Jenna Smith (29)...Soccer’s Hulk (31)...Nesson Piquet Jr. (32)...Corey Graham (33)...Finn Balor (36)...Gerard Warren (39)...Pedro Martinez (46)...Billy Wagner (46)...Tony Granato (53)...Doug Drabek (55)...Pete Holohan (58)...Pete Ward (80). Walter Payton was born on this date 63 years ago (1964) and died in 1999.