Niners, Chiefs in Super Bowl; Baseball Steals Headlines
January 20, 2020

I know a lot of San Francisco 49er fans. They aren't all the whiny bunch that some southern California stereotypes suggest. I suppose I should be happy for them. I'm not really, but maybe I should be. I mean, the Rams went to the big game last year, right? Anyway, it should be a good game, and a great matchup with Kansas City. Wait a minute! Breaking news. Another baseball manager has been fired.

Someone on television actually did the easy math and pointed out that ten percent of all managers have now been fired from the sign-stealing scandal of 2017. First, Houston skipper A.J. Hinch for frowning upon his team's actions in the playoffs but looked the other way. Next, Red Sox manager Alex Cora, who was the bench coach that year, and supposedly was the mastermind behind relaying images of signs to the stands, so a member of the Astros personnel could bang a trash can to signal pitches. And finally (so far), Carlos Beltran, who was a player in 2017, and named manager of the Mets during this off season. He hadn't even managed a game yet. Also, if you are keeping score (and players from other teams are), no players have been suspended for their part in this insidious clash between old time tradition and modern technology.

I'll hand it to the Niners, though. After a thrilling regular season finale where they hung on to beat Seattle and win their division, their two playoff games weren't much to write home about. That Seattle win got them a week off, and home field advantage throughout the playoffs. They then dispatched Minnesota and Green Bay in consecutive weeks.

This time of year, football always gets all the headlines. Everything from where, or if, Tom Brady is going to play next year, to whether the Cincinnati Bengals would contemplate trading their number one overall draft pick and not take LSU quarterback Joe Burrow. If George Kittle or Raheem Mostert had a nagging toenail problem, pundits would be pontificating about it for the next two weeks 24/7.

Baseball will be making their annual Hall of Fame announcement tomorrow. Sometimes that would make its way above toenail talk, but now it won't even be the top baseball topic. Will Dusty Baker be the next manager of the Astros, or will it be the Mets? Former Dodger Ron Roenicke (whose brother Gary lives in Grass Valley) could be the next skipper of the Red Sox. Those are the current baseball topics, and the sign-stealing scandal has but baseball on the sports page in recent days, in a negative way.

Incidentally, Niner fans, the Chiefs are a slight favorite two Sundays from now. While San Francisco was building up leads and decimating opponents, the Chiefs were toying with theirs. They spotted Houston 24 points in just over a quarter, and then routed them 51-31. On Sunday, they gave Tennessee the first ten points of the game, and still won 35-24. If the Niners score early, it might just be part of Kansas City's plan.

On the baseball side, there is a big story that nobody is hearing. There seems to be a slowly-brewing social media groundswell, but still nothing official really from anybody. Why aren't any players commenting on sign stealing? Two Astros have made comments, but they were really saying 'no comment'. There's video of Jose Altuve not letting his teammates rip his jersey off him after a game-winning hit, inciting rumors that he might have an electronic sign-stealing device taped to his body. He denies it and people seem to believe him. Teammate Alex Bregman stuck to a script, saying that Major League Baseball has done its job. Players from other teams, though, are starting to ask questions. Maybe that means we'll get some answers.

There's now two weeks with no football. That usually is when the toenail sagas emerge, so at least maybe Trash Can Gate, or whatever you want to call this fiasco, can be dealt with. Derek Jeter will be elected to the Hall of Fame tomorrow. We'll find out if it was a unanimous vote.

If you want to tie the Super Bowl and baseball together, there's always this. Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is the son of former major leaguer Pat Mahomes, who pitched from 1992-2003 with the Twins, Red Sox, Mets, Rangers, Cubs, and Pirates. I bet no one stole his signs. Well, not electronically anyway.

Happy Birthday to me?: Super Bowl Sunday is also my birthday this year, and having the Niners in the game casts a bit of a pall on the whole thing, but I'll be okay. The last time the Super Bowl was on my birthday, Seattle clobbered Peyton Manning's Denver Broncos. I was in Pennsylvania, and had to sit next to a Seahawks fan for half the flight home. Thank goodness for layovers.

NBA on MLK: In recent weeks I remarked about how Thanksgiving belongs to football, and basketball has taken over on Christmas. Maybe because it isn't as big of holiday, but Martin Luther King Day has seen multiple games on national television for years. Today, TNT had a tripleheader starting at 2pm Pacific Time with New Orleans at Memphis, followed by the Lakers at Houston and Golden State at Portland...Also this week, first overall draft pick Zion Williamson will make his professional debut Wednesday night when the New Orleans Pelicans host the San Antonio spurs. Somehow, ESPN found a way to get that game on their schedule (tipoff 8:30pm PT).

This is Jeopardy!: There wasn't a lot of drama in the just-concluded 'Greatest of All Time' prime time Jeopardy tournament on ABC, but it didn't really matter. The format with all time mega-winners James Holzhauer, Ken Jennings, and Brad Rutter was the first to win three matches, and since the tourney was only four nights (that's all that came up in local listings), you didn't have to hold your breath after Jennings had already won two matches going into the final episode. The grand prize was a million dollars.

The final out: My condolences to the family of Wayne Neault, who passed away just a few days ago—apparently from cancer. Wayne was known in the Marysville-Yuba City area for several things, including owning his own construction company, but I knew him from baseball. His company built the stadium in Marysville, but his passion was umpiring, and he officiated many Gold Sox games. He was fair and nice with everyone, and taught me the intricacies of umpiring, including everything from how umpires on a three-man crew cover empty bases, to the difference between obstruction and interference. He always sent me an umpiring schedule for the season, and chatted with me on the radio several times. Services will be Friday at 4pm at the Community Church in Hallwood. He was a Dodger fan, too.

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