By NEAL FARMER
When you say Lefty in golf, the discussion is about Phil Mickelson. That’s someone who is well-known and respected. He now is continuing to make a name for himself with a recent decision not to play golf.
Some used to laugh at Mickelson as the best player not to win a Major. But he has since won three of the four Majors. He only needs the U.S. Open to complete the career sweep, where he has been runner-up a record six times – the latest in 2013. But despite getting older, and with that, his chances of winning another major dwindling, Lefty isn’t planning on going to the U.S. Open this year. And it is because his priorities in order.
Michelson’s oldest daughter, Amanda, graduates from high school during this year’s U.S. Open, and Mickelson is staying at home to see his daughter’s ceremony. He withdrew from the tournament on Saturday, waiting to see if weather would change his daughter’s ceremony to make a final decision, according to a news story in the New York Times. He has not missed a cut this season, and he had three top-8 finishes in his first 13 starts, so he is making the decision not to play despite having a hot hand lately.
Mickelson has made two family-related decisions about golf previously. When Amanda graduated from 8th grade, Mickelson flew back from the U.S. Open in 2013 for the ceremony. He made it back to the Philadelphia golf course two hours before tee time – and finished second.
The other time was when Amanda was born. In 1999 at the U.S. Open, Mickelson had a beeper and was ready to leave the tournament in North Carolina for their then-home in Arizona when his wife went into labor with their first child. Amanda held out until the day after the tournament, where her father finished second. He lost to Payne Stewart, who celebrated by holding Mickelson’s face, looking deep into Mickelson’s eyes, and saying: “Good luck with the baby. There’s nothing greater than being a father.”
I left sports writing after 15 years at the Chronicle because event when I was in town, I didn’t see my kids. Games the Chronicle covered usually are played at night, and I was getting home after midnight – well after the kids were asleep.
Mickelson already misses a lot with his kids because of his professional career. But playing in his 24th U.S. Open doesn’t trump being with family on a special day.
“As I look back on life, this is a moment I’ll always cherish and be glad I was present,” said Mickelson, who turns 47 on the day of his daughter’s graduation.
Former Pres. Gerald Ford once said he read the sports section every day, because he had a “50-50 shot” at reading something positive. I think Mickelson tops the list of positives in sports with this decision, and I am a fan of this.
ASTROS ADDING ANOTHER PITCHER? – I think Yu would look good in an Astros jersey. That’s Yu, not you. I am not trying to get you to purchase an overpriced, $100-plus bright orange garment.
Despite officials from the Dallas Rangers at Arlington saying it ain’t so, the rumor continues to be out there that the Astros are looking for a starting pitcher for the second half of the season, and the Rangers’ Yu Darvish, 30, has been a large figure in the discussions. Maybe my friends with Rangers’ connections are just guessing, but I think it makes sense.
Nobody knows what will happen when the trade deadlines come up, and Houston may stay pat because of their current success as the team in MLB with the best record.
But it is highly possible the Astros will sign a seasoned pitcher, because of the possibility of injuries to the current staff. Dallas Keuchel missed a start last month with a neck injury, Collin McHugh might be back in July and might not, Lance McCullers threw 157.2 innings in 2015, but threw only 65.1 last year due to various ailments.
Add to that Charlie Morton and Mike Fiers are almost interchangeable – four good innings before falling off the cliff whether they are injured or not. (Maybe one could start and be relieved in the fifth inning by the other as the fifth co-starters?)
And if you look at it through the eyes of analytics, Darvish-to-Houston does make some sense. Why? Because the Rangers mortgaged their future about 3-5 years ago to get veterans to make their recent runs into the playoffs. Whereas, Houston built the organization from the ground up, using draft picks garnered when the team was losing 100 games. (To be fair, the Astros added Carlos Beltran this year for his 20 years of experience, because the younger players WILL listen to him. And Brian McCann and Josh Reddick could be considered experienced additions — but not like Beltran.)
Clearly, the Rangers are in a downward trend, and the Astros are built to be a machine for at least three more years, and likely more – barring internal strife from arguments over money and unforeseen injuries to key players. Adding to that is that the Astros have one of the top minor-league systems in pro baseball, with some players not being able to rise to the majors because there is no room in the inn. Heck, the Astros currently have an outfield where some are sitting who would start on other clubs – Jake Marisnick, Nori Aoki, Josh Reddick, Marwin Gonzalez and George Springer.
So with that in mind, the Rangers can benefit in the long run by obtaining several young players from the Astros, who would be stronger for a championship run in 2017 (see Sports Illustrated article from two years ago) and still be built for future runs at championships.
Who would the Astros part with? Besides a Player to be Named Later?
What about these possibilities –
Derek Fisher – a rising star on the AAA level, Fisher is playing very well at the Houston affiliate in Fresno, Calif. According to the Houston Chronicle, he homered in four-straight games this year, is batting .341 and has a 1.015 OPS. He is also a five-tool player.
Jake Marisnick – considered an outfielder with a great arm, he has thrown people out this year from the outfield. He is batting .268 and not playing every day.
Alex Bregman – If you want to get something, you have to give up something. Marwin Gonzalez looks like he could play third base for Houston. Adrian Beltre has played a long time and could be in his final year at 3B for the Rangers.
Marwin Gonzalez – At one point, led the Astros in homers, despite not being an every-day player. I think he could also catch and pitch if the Astros needed him, although not at the same time. Maybe. But I would protect him from trade, like I would Carlos Correa, George Springer and Jose Altuve.
Yuli Gurriel – A liability in the field at first base, he has made up for it with his hitting. But his large salary could come back to haunt Houston if others start demanding Yuli money.
Teoscar Hernandez – has had a cup of coffee in the majors, but still is an unknown.
NBA PLAYOFFS – Let’s say Golden State defeats Cleveland 4-0 in the NBA Finals. Wouldn’t that make Golden State the best playoff team of all time because they went undefeated in the 2017 playoffs? I don’t see how you could say otherwise.
UH’s APPLEWHITE HAS LINE OF THE YEAR – First-year University of Houston football coach Major Applewhite enjoys his friendship with Tom Herman, who left UH as its head coach after two years for the University of Texas. They still keep in touch. And Applewhite had the line of the 2017 college football season so far, proving he has a heck of a sense of humor. Applewhite was discussing the changes in the program when he pointed out about UH in 2017 at a Touchdown Club of Houston luncheon: “We will be less athletic at quarterback, but more athletic at head coach.”
SHOUTING FROM THE ROOFTOPS – When you are shouting from the rooftops how good the Astros are, here are what someone considers the top roof-top bars in Houston. I’ve only been to the Marriott, so I have got some traveling to do.
LONGEST HOMERS IN MLB – George Springer had a 473-foot dinger last month, but it does not make the longest homer list. These are the majestic of the long homers in MLB, and had to go at least 500 feet. Try to guess which of the players hitting the homers are on ‘roids. https://www.facebook.com/GreatestBaseballPlaysOfAllTime/videos/1392325920862437/?pnref=story
CLASSIC MUSIC OF THE DAY – Brahms is the man. One of the pieces that he wrote after visiting another country was the Hungarian Dances, No. 5 in g minor. Many will hum the tunes from it hours after hearing it. Brahms is one of the Killer Bs – Beethoven, Bach and Brahms.
QUOTE OF THE DAY – When you are hitting, the baseball looks like a grapefruit. When you’re not, it looks like a black-eyed pea. – most of the Dallas Rangers of Arlington
HOTTIE OF THE DAY – Golden State can make two points against Cleveland in other ways.