Scarlett decommits from UM; Loria excited about Marlins offseason and his team; Notable comments from J.T. (Fins); Sapp (UM); Whiteside chatter
Quick Sunday morning update, and a bad one for UM:
During his visit to FSU, four-star St. Thomas Aquinas running back Jordan Scarlett announced on Twitter that he's decommitting from Miami, a blow for Miami three days before National Signing Day.
"I am no longer committed to the University of Miami," he tweeted. "I thank all the coaches there for their time. I will announce Feb. 2 on Fox Sports. #UM #FSU #UF."
UM has only one running back now committed (four-star Mark Walton) but also has offered four-star Dexter Williams, a previous UM oral commitment who says he's considering UM and Notre Dame and will announce Wednesday morning.
Scarlett kept saying for the past month that his UM commitment is solid. But he was apparently impressed by visits to UF and FSU over the past nine days.
Scarlett is rated the nation's 20th-best running back by Rivals.com.
Of the 16 Dade/Broward prospects in ESPN's top 300, UM has only two oral commitments: Walton and Killian safety Jaquan Johnson, who's enrolled.
UM is still pursuing a couple of those 16: receiver Antonio Callaway and quarterback Torrance Gibson. And UM didn't offer all of the 16 (many but not all).
SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN
The Marlins’ key decision-makers --- owner Jeffrey Loria, president David Samson and top baseball executives Michael Hill and Dan Jennings --- have made smart, sensible and savvy moves this winter, achieving more than most considered realistic in one offseason.
Beyond the historic Giancarlo Stanton contract, they’ve clearly upgraded at first, second and third base, added a top-half-of-the-rotation starter (Mat Latos is one of only five pitchers with at least 15 starts and an ERA below 3.50 each of the past five seasons), acquired the best-available fourth outfielder (Ichiro) and augmented the rotation and bullpen.
“They are going to be beyond interesting,” Loria said of a team that now fields starters who have had big-league success at every position. “We’ve put together an incredible combination of players. We believe we have probably the best outfield in baseball.”
And he loves his revamped infield, which has just one incumbent starter: Adeiny Hechavarria. He looks at it this way: “Are we going to trade [Martin] Prado for many third basemen? I don’t think so. Are there shortstops you would trade for Hechavarria? Maybe a couple you could think of, but I wouldn’t trade him for anybody. [Second baseman] Dee Gordon we’ve liked for several years and the fact we could make this trade was terrific.”
Loria addressed a few issues in a phone conversation:
### He said he’s more optimistic about this team than the high-priced roster the Marlins assembled in 2012, their first year at Marlins Park. Why?
“Because I can see the experience and energy of these guys,” he said. “We didn’t have this outfield then. Giancarlo is one of the best players in baseball, gets better every year. It’s nice to have this core of young players. [And] we have the best chemistry we’ve ever had. What you see now is the continuity, stability and cohesiveness that I have dreamed about. It’s felt from upstairs to the clubhouse. It’s a feeling that we can do anything.”
### He said the Reds weren’t shopping Latos “but we decided we would inquire. We went right at it because Jose [Fernandez] is not going to be back until sometime after June 1. We wanted to bridge the gap. Mat Latos --- I wouldn’t stand in that batter’s box with a shield [against him]. He’s that tough.”
### He isn’t sure what will happen with Dan Haren: “I don’t know: one moment he says he wants to play, the next minute he says might retire, the next minute he wants to pitch on the West Coast.” (He plans to report to spring training.)
### On replacing Casey McGehee (now with the Giants) with Prado at third base: “We all loved Casey. There were questions about what happened in the second half last season. Maybe he got tired. We don’t know. He didn’t drive in a lot of runs [in the second half]. This opportunity came along and it was something we had to follow. Prado is a consummate pro who has had a consistently great career, a [.291] career hitter, one of those wonderful players who would fit well into our clubhouse.”
### On Gordon: “Anybody who can run like the wind and plays like he does has to be part of our team. He’s an exciting player. We had that speed in [Christian] Yelich but thought we may have been sacrificing him as a leadoff hitter.” (Manager Mike Redmond has spoken of hitting Yelich second or third.)
### On new first baseman Michael Morse: “I called to congratulate him on joining the team and welcomed him; the conversation was close to an hour and a half because he’s very engaging and very wise. He gets it. He has the experience of being on a winning team. Whenever I saw him come to bat, I kind of turned my head away because I didn’t want to see what he would do to the baseball.”
### On catcher Jarrod Saltamacchia, who hit .220 in his first season for the Marlins after batting .273 for Boston in 2013: “He had a rough first year. We know what he’s capable of. We look for a really good turnaround.”
### He likes the under-the-radar pitching acquisitions. “David Phelps [acquired from the Yankees] and Aaron Crow [from Kansas City] are very intriguing. Phelps is a tough kid. He can pitch inside, doesn’t back down, comes right at you. He’s a little bit like A.J. Ramos. And I wouldn’t overlook [former White Sox starter/reliever] Andre Rienzo. He was tough in the World Baseball Classic.”
### Loria wisely makes no playoff predictions because he knows the competition is formidable. “Washington certainly has a great team; they’re the favorites [in the National League East]. But every team is capable of being at the top. The Mets have great pitching. Philadelphia knew for a long time how to win. The Nationals have won two years in a row; they are the favorites. But I like my guys.”
### Jason Taylor raised several valid points this past week in an appearance on the Dolphins-owned radio show. Taylor, who was a guest assistant coach during OTAs last summer, asks this about the Dolphins: During halftime, “what adjustments are being made? That’s one of the great things the Patriots do. Sometimes, that’s lacking [here].”
He said linebacker “needs to be shored up," that Miami’s defense plays “a little flat,” and doesn’t act like Seattle’s (“they’re nasty, they intimidate, want to inflict pain”). When prompted by Sam Madison, he said this Dolphins defense simply doesn't play with the same mentality that his defense did.
He suggested “mileage” on players is one factor in the Dolphins’ defensive decline but also cited offensive play-calling: “Some of these games you get a little conservative and keep putting things on the defense and [they] wear down.”
Of the Dolphins' new power structure, he said: “I hope there’s less confusion in the building than outside.”
### Whereas Michael Irvin told NBC-6's Adam Kuperstein that Miami fans need to “calm their asses down” about Al Golden, Warren Sapp said of UM’s defense (to WQAM's Marc Hochman and Zach Krantz): “You can’t win with this. We’re farther back in the end zone than the running back was from the goal-line. I was blown away It looks like we’re playing in Canada....
"We play Florida State. Jameis was in the pocket lighting us up. You kidding me?
"You've got to touch the quarterback. I would like a defense that me and you recognize or Jim Burt recognizes or anybody that played at Miami in the last 50 years recognizes. We are looking at something that's unfamiliar to us. I can't watch it. The most decorated Cane in school history can't watch this university? That's tough."
And he said of Irvin: "If he didn't have a microphone in front of him, it's a different conversation you're having about the University of Miami program."
### For all the good work UM point guard Angel Rodriguez has done, his shooting percentage has plunged to a team-worst 33.6. Coach Jim Larranaga said Rodriguez, whose basketball role model is Portland’s Damian Lillard, “maybe needs to be a little bit more patient” and teammates need to “free him for better shots.”
Comparisons were drawn earlier this season between Shane Larkin's great season (2012-13) and Rodriguez's. But while their scoring averages were similar (14.5 for Larkin then, 13.7 for Rodriguez now), Larkin shot much better during his breakout season (48 percent). UM plays at FSU on Sunday.
HASSAN WHITESIDE CHATTER
### Start with this: Through 20 games this season, Whiteside is first in the NBA in blocks per 48 minutes, second in rebounds per 48 minutes (behind Andre Drummond) and third in efficiency rating (behind Anthony Davis and Kevin Durant).
And even beyond the defense and rebounding and dunks, we saw a silky jumper on Friday. Whiteside shot 67 percent in January (63 for 94), which according to Elias, was the second-highest in a month in franchise history (minimum 40 field goal attempts), behind Shaquille O'Neal's 68 percent (66-for-97) in April 2006.
### As he told Dan Le Batard and Jon Weiner, Whiteside says his game most resembles David Robinson’s and Alonzo Mourning's. Here's how that comparison stacks up so far numerically:
Whiteside’s stats per 36 minutes: 17.2 points, 14.2 blocks, 5.1 blocks. (Nobody has ever matched or exceeded those numbers collectively in a season.) Robinson’s career numbers per 36 minutes: 21.8, 11.0, 3.1.… Mourning's career per 36: 19.8, 9,9, 3.3.
### Chris Bosh last week called Whiteside a “bigger, younger Tyson Chandler." Even Chandler saw similarities Friday.
### Fans are stopping Whitside everywhere now –-- restaurants, gas stations, on the street for pictures and autographs.
Not everyone recognizes him, though, and there was this amusing exchange at Dadeland Mall: When Whiteside told a teenager (Lamar) that his name is Hassan, “he told me he has someone named Hassan, Hassan Whiteside, on his fantasy team. He didn’t know it was me.”
### Besides Mourning and Juwan Howard, Pat Riley is often in Whiteside’s ear, “telling me to keep doing the right things.”...
### Erik Spoelstra told a few of us on Thursday that when he met with Whiteside in November, Spoelstra said to him, "You'll understand the type of player I like" if Whiteside looks up what center started most of the first season of the Big Three. Spoelstra was talking about the defensively-skilled Joel Anthony. (Actually, Anthony started mostly in the second year of the Big Three era, but Spoelstra's point was clear.)
### After a basket last week, Whiteside flexed his biceps like Mourning does and “Zo liked it. When I came in to practice the next day, everyone was flexing their muscles at me.”...
Whiteside admits that “sometimes” he blocks shots out of bounds “just ‘cause the crowd likes it.”…
### Best Whiteside line of the week: What did he learn playing in Lebanon? “Hummus is really good. Ya’ll need to try it.”…
### On a serious note, what’s unfortunate is that the Heat’s new prefered starting lineup (Whiteside, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Mario Chalmers, Luol Deng) has played just 28 minutes together because of injury (and has outscored teams by 12 points during those limited minutes).