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

Top Secret Fyles: Biffle, Puccia desperately need win for Roush Fenway Racing team

First published: August 25, 2015 at 12:31 am
Last modified: August 25, 2015 at 12:31 am

From the drawers of the Top Secret Fyles:

If anyone on NASCAR’s Sprint Cup circuit desperately needs to have a place in Victory Lane, it’s got to be driver Greg Biffle and his crew chief and Watertown native Matt Puccia.

The team is part of the Jack Roush Fenway Racing unit, which has gone winless for the 2015 auto racing season, its longest drought for a single season in 19 years.

Biffle has been an accomplished driver on NASCAR’s top loop for 10-plus years, and Puccia is an accomplished crew chief, joining Biffle and Roush Fenway Racing in mid-2011. It seems like RFR has been cursed for the season.

After Saturday’s 25th-place in the Irwin Tools race at Bristol, Tenn., Biffle has gone 81 races without a victory, since June 2013 at Brooklyn, Mich., where he leads all current Sprint Cup drivers with four wins overall.

The 45-year-old Biffle, who owns 19 Sprint Cup victories, has a pair of top-5 finishes and three top-10 finishes in 24 events during this season, but currently stands in 18th place in total points in the Chase for the Cup playoff season that begins next month. Biffle and Puccia know now is the time to move, with only two races left before the Chase in which the top-16 in total points qualify for a chance to become Sprint Cup’s yearly champion.

If Biffle, who was a disappointing 23nd in the last Michigan race, fails to qualify for the Chase playoffs, it would be only the second time in eight seasons, he would be on the outside, looking ahead for the 2016 NASCAR season.

Biffle isn’t the only RFR team member struggling this year, joining drivers such as one-time Daytona 500 champion Trevor Bayne (27th place in points) and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (28th). Bayne and Stenhouse Jr., have a combined total of just three top-10 finishes.

RFR’s last victory — some 45 races ago — occurred in June 2014 at Sonoma, Calif., by Carl Edwards, who has since defected to another racing program.

n Channel surfing: I know Channel 7 news anchors Brian Ashley and Patrick Malowski are devoted Red Sox fans, but for any Boston die-hard fan, it’s practically impossible to have any type of reasonable playoff hopes with six weeks left in the regular season.

The reasons are bountiful: The Red Sox are 8 1/2 games in back of the second wild card in the crowded AL playoff chase, needing to climb over NINE teams to qualify. With 38 games left, Boston would need to go 28-10 to finish six games over .500. Would that be good enough?

The Red Sox starting pitching has been a mess all season, closer Koji Uehara is done for the year and the team is in transition, with a manager on medical leave, and a new president trying to evaluate talent while searching for a new GM.

Richie Rich’s Top 10 rankings in Major League Baseball: 1. Cardinals; 2. Royals; 3. Pirates; 4. Cubs; 5. Blue Jays; 6. Astros; 7. Yankees; 8. Mets; 9. Dodgers; 10. Giants.

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

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Top Secret Fyles: Red & Black playing solid football across the field

First published: August 18, 2015 at 12:43 am
Last modified: August 18, 2015 at 12:43 am

From the drawers of the Top Secret Fyles:

The Watertown Red & Black semipro football team has started the season winning five of its first six regular-season games.

The team has played consistently well behind long-time head coach George Ashcraft, and there’s solid cohesion between quarterback Anthony Noel and wire receiver Chris Furr to go with an always solid ground game, headed by Curtis Dukes and Joe Brennan.

Tristan Jones, considered a rover between defensive end and linebacker, and secondary member Evan Buckingham have been key on defense despite the loss of two linemen.

The Red and Black’s chances for an Empire Football League championship will go through defending titlist Plattsburgh, which handed Watertown its only loss to date.

n It was a compelling finish at Sunday’s PGA Championship in Wisconsin, where Jason Day captured his first major title, after owning five top-5 finishes in other majors over the past five seasons.

Day has battled injuries and illness (vertigo) throughout the season, and understandably, he was emotional surrounded by his wife and child on the 18th green right after sinking the final putt. He became the first golfer in the modern era (since 1934) to finish a major 20 strokes under par.

Jordan Spieth didn’t do too bad either, finishing three shots behind Day, and became the world’s top-ranked golfer, according to computer rankings, succeeding Rory McIlroy.

Look at the season to date for Spieth, who won two majors, was a major runner-up and missed entering a three-hole playoff at the British Open by a shot.

If Day and Spieth turn into golf’s next two friendly rivals, that’s OK with me, following the likes of Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus in the 1960s, and Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson in the 2000s.

n The New York Yankees recovered in time to win two of three games at Toronto, leaving the city Sunday night with a half-game lead over the Blue Jays.

It would be encouraging if the Yankees could develop a small ball game instead of relying solely on the long ball, three late-inning relievers and a couple of starting pitchers. Speedy outfielder Brett Gardner on Sunday stole his first base since June 12. Everyone knows home runs dry up in the postseasons.

n The NFL has moved the ball back on the point-after-touchdown try from the 2-yard line to the 15 this season, meaning kickers will be attempting PATs totaling 33 yards.

Last season, kickers converted 99.4 percent of PATs when the ball was kicked from the 10 for 20 yards overall. When 33-yard field goals were attempted last season, kickers were successful 95.1 percent.

Richie Rich’s Top 10 rankings in Major League Baseball: 1. Cardinals; 2. Royals; 3. Pirates; 4. Cubs; 5. Dodgers; 6. Yankees; 7. Blue Jays; 8. Giants; 9. Astros; 10 Mets.

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

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Top Secret Fyles: No panic just yet for Yankees

First published: August 11, 2015 at 12:30 am
Last modified: August 11, 2015 at 12:30 am

From the drawers of the Top Secret Fyles:

The New York City scribes all were moaning and groaning in Monday’s sports sections, claiming the Big Panic has set in with the New York Yankees, who, after being swept by the Toronto Blue Jays this past weekend, saw their once seven-game lead over the Jays cut to 1 1/2 games in the AL East.

The Yankees are in a race.

Toronto’s first three-game sweep of the Yankees in New York in 12 seasons proved the Jays are focused on making the playoffs for the first time since 1993, currently MLB’s longest postseason drought for a team.

The Yankees have been shut out for 26 consecutive innings and are 0-for-their-last-18 at-bats with runners in scoring position, last scoring in the second inning of Friday’s opener. Their all-time MLB record of 2,665 consecutive games without back-to-back shutouts was snapped Sunday.

Toronto, which has mortgaged its future to acquire five players by the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, left New York with an eight-game winning streak overall and won for the seventh time in nine meetings against the Yankees.

Don’t forget, however, before the six-game homestand in which the Yankees went 2-4, New York had scored 90 runs over a 10-game road stretch against the Twins, Rangers and White Sox.

New York will definitely score in the three-game series at the Indians, and then get another opportunity against the Blue Jays the upcoming weekend with a three-game set at Rogers Centre in Toronto.

The Blue Jays are new birds since the trading deadline. They are 10-1 since acquiring shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and 10-0 with him in the lineup and have picked up 5 1/2 games on the Yankees in the standings over the past 10 days before Monday.

The trades for Tulowitzki, pitchers David Price, LaTroy Hawkins and Mark Lowe, and outfielder Ben Revere for a combined 11 pitching prospects and shortstop Jose Reyes have made the Blue Jays the favorites to win the division.

Despite the Yankees’ recent offensive woes in which they have scored four runs in five games, they still lead the division and have 10 games remaining against the Blue Jays in the regular season.

n Trivia question: What is San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey’s real first name?

n The NFL lost a true gentleman in Frank Gifford. His work on the NFL pregame shows for CBS-TV in the mid-to-late 1960s catapulted him to play-by-play man and later analyst on ABC’s iconic “Monday Night Football” for 27 seasons through 1997. Some of my fondest memories as a child in grade school during the early ’70s was when Mom let me watch “MNF” until halftime or around 10:30 p.m. before it was lights out on a school night.

n Trivia answer: Gerald.

Richie Rich’s Top 10 rankings in Major League Baseball: 1, Cardinals; 2. Royals; 3. Pirates; 4. Cubs; 5. Yankees; 6. Blue Jays; 7. Dodgers; 8. Mets; 9. Astros; 10. Angels.

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

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Top Secret Fyles: Bills’ defense a good start

First published: August 04, 2015 at 12:52 am
Last modified: August 04, 2015 at 12:52 am

From the drawers of the Top Secret Fyles:

One of the greatest strengths of the Buffalo Bills in 2015 should be their defense.

Though new head coach Rex Ryan has been criticized in the past while with the Jets for his team’s inability to move the ball consistently on offense, Ryan knows his stuff on defense. The man with the effervescent personality won a Super Bowl ring as the Ravens’ defensive coordinator 15 years ago.

The highlight of the Bills’ defense is the front line of ends Mario Williams and Jerry Hughes, and tackles Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams.

The quartet was recently named to the NFL Network’s Top 100 players announced earlier in the year. The Williamses, Hughes and Dareus make the Bills the first team to have an entire defensive line make the Top 100. Mario Williams came in at No. 42, Dareus at No. 53, Hughes at No. 63 and Kyle Williams at No. 72. Mario Williams and Hughes have a combined 47.5 sacks over the past two seasons.

In 2014, Mario Williams was fourth in the league with 14.5 sacks, Dareus and Hughes were tied for ninth with 10 sacks apiece and Kyle Williams had 5.5 sacks. Their production helped Buffalo lead the league with 54 sacks, and overall, the Bills paced the league in third-down efficiency.

Buffalo was a top-5 squad in 11 of the 18 major defensive statistics last season. It’s no wonder that Ryan, whose welcome had worn out with the Jets, had no problem with aligning himself with the defensive-oriented Bills. His major task will be finding a consistent QB between E.J. Manuel and Matt Cassel. The Bills, who have the NFL’s longest playoff drought at 15 years, missed out on the postseason last season by a game, finishing at 9-7.

n Entering Monday, the power-packed Blue Jays’ lineup led the AL with 561 runs, outdistancing the runner-up Yankees by 49 runs. The Blue Jays’ average of 5.29 runs per game projects to almost 860 for the entire season.

n It’s been a turbulent season for the Watertown Bucks and the North Country Baseball League in the initial season. The Bucks were forced to be idle for more than a week during the season because of the Jefferson County Fair, suffered with sparse home crowds, and manager Kelly Stinnett and some players abruptly left the team. The original league, meanwhile, collapsed less than a week from the start of the season, was hastily put together with some new franchises, and, since early last month, games can be played only at Watertown and Old Orchard Beach, Maine. The amount of nonstop expenses to operate a minor league pro team — and league — can be frightening. The last-place Bucks (16-22) enter the NCBL playoffs Wednesday.

n Richie Rich’s Top 10 rankings in Major League Baseball: 1. Cardinals; 2. Royals; 3. Pirates; 4. Yankees; 5. Astros; 6. Dodgers; 7. Giants; 8. Mets; 9. Nationals; 10. Angels.

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

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Top Secret Fyles: Hamels’s stock soars as trade deadline approaches

First published: July 28, 2015 at 1:36 am
Last modified: July 28, 2015 at 1:36 am

From the drawers of the Top Secret Fyles:

The opening act began last week with a spattering of moves ahead of Friday’s Major League Baseball’s non-waiver trading deadline.

The Mets acquired Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe, the Astros got Scott Kazmir, the Pirates added Aramis Ramirez, the Cardinals acquired Steve Cishek and, of course, the big one to date through Sunday, the Royals snagged Johnny Cueto from the Reds.

Meanwhile, the real flurry may develop over the next couple of days, with the Phillies’ Cole Hamels on the trading block.

It is perfect timing for the Phillies and the left-hander, who tossed a no-hitter with 13 strikeouts over the Cubs last weekend.

Many contending teams, including the Dodgers, Blue Jays, Pirates, Angels, Cubs and Orioles, are thirsting for a quality starting pitcher. Hamels could be the difference for a would-be World Series team. He’s 6-7 with a decent 3.64 earned-run average for last-place, going- nowhere Philadelphia.

Hamels tops the most likely players to be traded by Friday, as teams become either buyers, sellers or stand pat for the season’s final two months.

As of Monday afternoon, here’s my top 10 list of players most likely to be moved before the trading deadline: David Price and Yoenis Cespedes (Tigers), Chris Davis and Matt Wieters (Orioles), Jeff Samardzija (White Sox), Ben Zobrist (A’s), Mike Napoli (Red Sox), Ian Desmond (Nationals), Yovani Gallardo (Rangers) and Justin Upton (Padres).

n Trivia question: Reds pitcher Johnny Cueto won 20 games last season. Who was the last Cincinnati hurler to win 20 games in a season and the last right-handers before Cueto to do the feat?

n Baseball analyst Ron Darling, who covers the Mets for SNY, came up with his all-underrated MLB team. Here are his selections: 1B — Edwin Encarnacion (Blue Jays); 2B — Jason Kipnis (Indians); SS — Alcides Escobar (Royals); 3B — Kyle Seager (Mariners); OF — Lorenzo Cain (Royals), Brett Gardner (Yankees), Michael Brantley (Indians); C — Wilson Ramos (Nationals); SP — Mike Leake (Reds); RP — Tony Watson (Pirates).

n Radio surfing: I wish someone at Stephens Media Group, whose radio affiliates include sports station WNER-AM (1410), would update the sign above its Mullin Street headquarters in Watertown. The former ESPN affiliate has been aligned with Fox Sports since December 2011.

n Trivia answer: Left-hander Danny Jackson won 23 games in 1988, while Sammy Ellis and Jim Maloney won 22 and 20 games, respectively, in 1965.

Richie Rich’s Top 10 rankings in Major League Baseball: 1. Cardinals; 2. Royals; 3. Pirates; 4. Yankees; 5. Dodgers; 6. Giants; 7. Angels; 8. Astros; 9. Nationals; 10. Twins.

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

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Top Secret Fyles: Hamels’s stock soars as trade deadline approaches

First published: July 28, 2015 at 1:33 am
Last modified: July 28, 2015 at 1:33 am

From the drawers of the Top Secret Fyles:

The opening act began last week with a spattering of moves ahead of Friday’s Major League Baseball’s non-waiver trading deadline.

The Mets acquired Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe, the Astros got Scott Kazmir, the Pirates added Aramis Ramirez, the Cardinals acquired Steve Cishek and, of course, the big one to date through Sunday, the Royals snagged Johnny Cueto from the Reds.

Meanwhile, the real flurry may develop over the next couple of days, with the Phillies’ Cole Hamels on the trading block.

It is perfect timing for the Phillies and the left-hander, who tossed a no-hitter with 13 strikeouts over the Cubs last weekend.

Many contending teams, including the Dodgers, Blue Jays, Pirates, Angels, Cubs and Orioles, are thirsting for a quality starting pitcher. Hamels could be the difference for a would-be World Series team. He’s 6-7 with a decent 3.64 earned-run average for last-place, going- nowhere Philadelphia.

Hamels tops the most likely players to be traded by Friday, as teams become either buyers, sellers or stand pat for the season’s final two months.

As of Monday afternoon, here’s my top 10 list of players most likely to be moved before the trading deadline: David Price and Yoenis Cespedes (Tigers), Chris Davis and Matt Wieters (Orioles), Jeff Samardzija (White Sox), Ben Zobrist (A’s), Mike Napoli (Red Sox), Ian Desmond (Nationals), Yovani Gallardo (Rangers) and Justin Upton (Padres).

n Trivia question: Reds pitcher Johnny Cueto won 20 games last season. Who was the last Cincinnati hurler to win 20 games in a season and the last right-handers before Cueto to do the feat?

n Baseball analyst Ron Darling, who covers the Mets for SNY, came up with his all-underrated MLB team. Here are his selections: 1B — Edwin Encarnacion (Blue Jays); 2B — Jason Kipnis (Indians); SS — Alcides Escobar (Royals); 3B — Kyle Seager (Mariners); OF — Lorenzo Cain (Royals), Brett Gardner (Yankees), Michael Brantley (Indians); C — Wilson Ramos (Nationals); SP — Mike Leake (Reds); RP — Tony Watson (Pirates).

n Radio surfing: I wish someone at Stephens Media Group, whose radio affiliates include sports station WNER-AM (1410), would update the sign above its Mullin Street headquarters in Watertown. The former ESPN affiliate has been aligned with Fox Sports since December 2011.

n Trivia answer: Left-hander Danny Jackson won 23 games in 1988, while Sammy Ellis and Jim Maloney won 22 and 20 games, respectively, in 1965.

Richie Rich’s Top 10 rankings in Major League Baseball: 1. Cardinals; 2. Royals; 3. Pirates; 4. Yankees; 5. Dodgers; 6. Giants; 7. Angels; 8. Astros; 9. Nationals; 10. Twins.

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

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Top Secret Fyles: Syracuse University football not getting whole lot of love

First published: July 14, 2015 at 1:07 am
Last modified: July 14, 2015 at 1:07 am

From the drawers of the Top Secret Fyles:

To no one’s surprise, prospects look dim concerning the season outlook for the Syracuse University football team in 2015.

The Orange, coming of a 3-9 overall and 1-7 mark in the Atlantic Coast Conference last season, is not projected to go a bowl game in head coach Scott Shafer’s third season at the helm, and not predicted to achieve a winning record, finishing in the bottom tier of the league’s Atlantic Division.

In a tally of four of the top national college football preseason magazines, the Orange is predicted to place sixth out of seven divisional teams in three of the four publications (Wake Forest is projected last), while the other scribe has SU set to land in the basement.

The four publications are Athlon’s College Football Preview, Sporting News College Football, Lindy’s College Football and USA Today College Football Special Edition.

Shafer faces a daunting rebuilding year after losing eight starters on defense, the top two leading rushers from last season as well as his leading receiver from an injury-filled 2014 campaign, when quarterback Terrel Hunt suffered a season-ending injury in the team’s fifth game. The offense averaged 17.1 points per game last season — its lowest output since the 2007 team went 2-10.

USA Today is kind toward the Orange, predicting the team will go 5-7 overall and 2-6 in the conference.

Athlon’s, meanwhile, is harsh, forecasting SU will go 3-9 and 1-7 and closing, “Shafer could be coaching for his job.”

The Orange’s schedule is challenging, facing traditional powers Clemson, Florida State and LSU and an always strong Louisville squad. The only gimme wins on the SU slate include FCS-level Rhode Island, which went 1-11 last year, Wake Forest and most likely Central Michigan.

Don’t be surprised if the Orange begins the season 3-0 and then plummets under the weight of the difficult, second-half schedule.

n Channel surfing: Channel 7 Sports Director Mel Busler did an excellent package detailing the history of professional baseball in Watertown last week, The piece concentrated on the city’s two New York-Penn League major league-affiliated teams from 1983 through 1998, the Pirates and the Indians before the franchise left for Staten Island.

The feature’s most poignant touch was near the end when one of the then-Staten Island owners was interviewed at the New York City ballpark, with the two World Trade Center towers of Manhattan looming in the background before they came down a couple years later.

n Richie Rich’s Top 10 rankings in Major League Baseball: 1, Cardinals; 2. Pirates; 3. Royals; 4. Dodgers; 5. Nationals; 6. Yankees; 7. Angels; 8. Twins; 9. Cubs; 10. Astros.

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

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Top Secret Fyles: Donaldson, Harper are MLB’s first-half MVPs

First published: July 07, 2015 at 12:44 am
Last modified: July 07, 2015 at 12:44 am

From the drawers of the Top Secret Fyles:

Major League Baseball reached its official halfway point of the regular season this past weekend though the mythical second half, according to some, begins late next week following the All-Star break.

Here’s a quickie look of the best performances in the first half, and a look ahead to the second half:

n AL Most Valuable Player: Josh Donaldson (Blue Jays). The Toronto third baseman, who was the All-Star game’s top vote-getter with a record total thanks to a furious campaign spearheaded by hockey analyst Don Cherry, is enjoying life in Canada, hitting .296 with 19 home runs and 56 RBIs.

n NL MVP: Bryce Harper (Nationals). The fourth-year outfielder is having a breakout season at .344/25/60.

n AL Cy Young: Dallas Keuchel (Astros). The left-hander never has a bad start as evidenced by his 10-3 record and 2.03 earned-run average.

n NL Cy Young: Zack Greinke (Dodgers). His record is not gaudy at 7-2 while a victim of low run support, but the right-hander leads the majors with a 1.48 ERA and currently has tossed 27 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings.

n AL Rookie: Steven Souza Jr. (Rays). The former Nationals outfielder has a low batting average (.210), but leads all AL rookies in homers (15), RBIs (33) and extra-base hits (25).

n NL Rookie: Joc Pederson (Dodgers). The Los Angeles leadoff hitter usually does one of the following at the plate: hit a home run, strike out or walk. He’s hitting .234/20/38. The Cubs’ Kris Bryant will get votes.

n AL Manager: A.J. Hinch (Astros). Houston (48-36) has been the majors’ biggest surprise this season after enduring three straight 100-plus loss seasons from 2011-13. They rely a lot on Keuchel and the long ball. Skeptics think Houston will falter sometime later this summer.

n NL Manager: Mike Methany (Cardinals): St. Louis (53-28) has been the majors’ best team since the start of the season, and it has been playing at a supreme level despite losing ace pitcher Adam Wainwright and first baseman Matt Adams.

n AL team most likely to rise: Mariners. Seattle (38-44) has been underachieving badly all season, but has an excellent nucleus of hitters, and it’s a matter of time before Robinson Cano snaps out of his funk.

n NL team most likely to rise: Giants. San Francisco (42-41), coming off a brutal East Coast swing, figures to get going against the Mets and woeful Phillies this week.

n AL team most likely to fall: Rays. Tampa Bay (43-41) has been a feel-good story all season, but it has no home-field advantage, and the Rays are 3-11 in their past 14 games.

n NL team most likely to fall: Mets. New York (42-41) is in trouble if its starting pitchers are outhitting the reserves.

Richie Rich’s Top 10 rankings in Major League Baseball: 1. Cardinals; 2. Pirates; 3. Astros; 4. Royals; 5. Nationals; 6. Dodgers; 7. Yankees; 8. Cubs; 9. Angels; 10. (tie) Orioles, Twins.

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

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Top Secret Fyles: Syracuse University pair should be chosen in Thursday’s NBA draft

First published: June 23, 2015 at 1:19 am
Last modified: June 23, 2015 at 1:19 am

From the drawers of the Top Secret Fyles:

Former Syracuse University men’s basketball players Chris McCullough and Rakeem Christmas should hear their names be announced sometime during the two rounds of Thursday’s NBA draft.

While the SU program will be heading into murky waters following sanctions levied by the NCAA for academic fraud three months ago, McCullough, a freshman, is expected to be a late first-round or early second-round pick. Christmas, a senior, should be chosen late in the second round in the 60-player draft.

McCullough, whose season was curtailed by a right knee ACL injury, averaged 9.3 points and 6.9 rebounds per game as a power forward in 16 outings for the Orange. Christmas averaged 17.5 points and 9.1 rebounds per game at center.

McCullough is listed at No. 31 and Christmas No. 52 on the USA Today’s Top 100 draft board.

Karl-Anthony Towns, a power forward who may lead a parade of seven University of Kentucky players selected Thursday, is expected to be taken first overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The Lakers draft second and are expected to take center Jahlil Okafor from Duke, while the 76ers, perennial draft lottery holders, should take shooting guard D’Angelo Russell out of Ohio State at No. 3.

The Knicks, who fell from second to fourth in the draft lottery, need help in all areas and most likely will select point guard Emmanuel Mudiay of China. He’s not a great shooter, but may be the best available player at that draft juncture. The Magic may be eyeing small forward Justise Winslow of Duke.

n It was nice to see on back-to-back nights last week that the north country enjoyed a flavor of former major leaguers. On Tuesday, north country summer resident Tommy John spoke at the Lowville Elks Club and then on Wednesday Bucks manager Kelly Stinnett allowed former World Series hero Jim Leyritz to direct the club. All three former big leaguers used to play for the Yankees.

n Trivia question: The country of Venezuela has produced one Major League Baseball Hall of Famer. Who is he?

n What do former Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks and ex-Cardinal outfielder Enos Slaughter have in common? They are the only two players since 1900 to collect an extra-base hit in each of their first five games to begin their careers. ... .The defending World Series champion San Francisco Giants (38-33) are 9-3 this season against the Dodgers, but a combined 9-17 against the other three teams in the NL West.

n Trivia answer: Shortstop Luis Aparicio, who played for the Orioles and White Sox. (But the Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera will join Aparicio someday.)

Richie Rich’s Top 10 rankings in Major League Baseball: 1. Cardinals; 2. Royals; 3. Astros; 4. Rays; 5. Yankees; 6. Pirates; 7. Dodgers; 8. Cubs; 9. Giants; 10. Nationals.

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

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Top Secret Fyles: No shortage of stars in NBA and Stanley Cup Finals

First published: June 02, 2015 at 12:45 am
Last modified: June 02, 2015 at 12:45 am

From the drawers of the Top Secret Fyles:

There will be plenty of star power and electricity when the NBA and Stanley Cup Finals get under way later this week.

Based on regular season numbers, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors in the NBA and the Chicago Blackhawks and Tampa Bay Lightning in the NHL all have prolific offenses.

In the NBA, LeBron James plays in his fifth straight Finals after returning to Cleveland from Miami, where his Heat went 2-2 in the Finals. The four-time MVP averaged nearly a triple-double in the Cavs’ East finals sweep over the Atlanta Hawks. Meanwhile, reigning league MVP Stephen Curry is averaging 29.2 points per game while shooting 43.7 percent on 3-pointers in the playoffs. His numbers were better in the Warriors’ five-game ouster of the Houston Rockets in the West finals.

The Warriors have a deep bench and may alternate Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala guarding James, who’s shooting only 17.6 percent from the arc in the playoffs.

The teams split home wins during the regular season. James was dominant in the Cavs’ 110-99 win, scoring a season-high 42 points on 15 of 25 shooting with 11 rebounds. Curry averaged 20.5 ppg and 8.0 assists pg in the two meetings.

Home court will also be key: the Warriors are 46-3 in the regular season and playoffs at Oakland, while the Cavs are 26-2 in their past 28 games at Cleveland.

Prediction: Warriors in seven games.

Richie Rich’s Top 10 rankings in Major League Baseball: 1, Cardinals; 2. Twins; 3. Astros; 4. Dodgers; 5. Giants; 6. Royals; 7. Nationals; 8. Mets; 9. Angels; 10. Cubs.

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

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