John Clay

John Clay’s notes: American Pharoah deserved to win, Rajon Rondo and Pete Rose to lose

American Pharoah, with Victor Espinoza up, wins the Breeders' Cup Classic horse race at Keeneland race track Saturday, Oct. 31, 2015, in Lexington, Ky.
American Pharoah, with Victor Espinoza up, wins the Breeders' Cup Classic horse race at Keeneland race track Saturday, Oct. 31, 2015, in Lexington, Ky. The Associated Press

A triple crown of random notes:

▪ Serena Williams was sensational in 2015. She won 53 of 56 matches. She captured three Grand Slam titles. She made a strong case she is the greatest female tennis player of all time.

In the end, however, Serena couldn’t pull off the calendar Grand Slam, upset in the semifinals of the U.S. Open. Even after a fantastic year, Serena came up a little short.

Meanwhile, American Pharoah got the distance. He was the first horse to capture the Triple Crown in 37 years. Then, to top off the year, American Pharoah became the first horse to win racing’s Grand Slam by capturing the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland.

Williams was named Sports Illustrated’s Sportsperson of the Year on Monday.

Ahmed Zayat didn’t have to race Pharoah after the champion won the Belmont to complete the sweep of the Classics. He could have retired his champion to stud. Instead, Zayat sent Pharoah back to the track three more times and on the final trip racing fans were rewarded with seeing something that had never been done before.

Seems a good example of sportsmanship to me.

▪ Can we forget Rajon Rondo ever played basketball at Kentucky? Can we erase his name from the alumni roll? That may seem a little harsh, but I doubt the school has any plans to welcome back its former guard anytime soon.

For starters, Rondo never seemed happy his two years in Lexington. Fans blamed his sour attitude on Tubby Smith, saying the coach was holding back the future NBA star. Rondo was merely frustrated, claimed his backers.

Now we know better. Given the way Rondo has behaved in the NBA, we know he’s just a disagreeable guy, and a nasty one, too, apparently. In his latest controversy, Rondo was suspended a game for directing a gay slur at an NBA official, Bill Kennedy.

Rondo apologized (sort of), via Twitter on Monday, saying he “did not mean to offend or disrespect anyone.” After being criticized for not directly mentioning Kennedy in his tweet, Rondo put out a statement Tuesday saying, “I want to be clear, from the bottom of my heart that I am truly sorry for what I said to Bill. There’s no place on or off the court for language that disrespects anyone’s sexual orientation. That is not who I am or what I believe and I will strive every day to be a better person.”

Rondo had run-ins at Boston with various coaches and players. After being traded to Dallas, it only took a couple of months of Rondo — he and Coach Rick Carlisle didn’t see eye-to-eye — for the Mavericks to tell the point guard it would be best if he didn’t come around anymore.

When Rondo opted for free agency, he had no suitors. Well, one. The Kings signed the 29-year-old former All-Star to a one-year, $9.5 million deal.

Going back to Rondo’s days at UK, there are some “Tubby Bashers” who owe the coach an apology.

▪ Last but not least, we come to Pete Rose, who continues to be his own worst enemy.

Baseball’s all-time hits leader had his appeal for reinstatement to Major League Baseball denied by new commissioner Rob Manfred on Monday.

The announcement wasn’t really a surprise, and neither was one of the reasons given for the denial. Seems Rose wasn’t honest with the commissioner about whether he still bets on baseball, the very thing that got him into trouble in the first place all those years ago.

In his letter explaining his decision, Manfred wrote that in their meeting, “Rose initially denied betting on baseball currently and only later in the interview did he ‘clarify’ his response to admit such betting.”

I don’t blame Manfred, but I do agree with ESPN’s Buster Olney, who wrote Tuesday that the Hall of Fame should put Rose on the ballot or turn his name over to the veteran’s committee and let the voters decide.

The Hall, writes Olney, “should take the opportunity it has to use Rose — still banned by Major League Baseball, as Commissioner Rob Manfred announced Monday — as a way to get itself back to what it should be: a museum that neutrally presents history.”

In other words, the truth.