MLB’s First Manager Fired Already

The Cincinnati Reds have been awful in the early going of the 2018 MLB season; they lost 15 of their first 18 games.  Then they fired their manager, Bryan Price, as if that is going to make the team into a winner; it will not.  The Reds find themselves on the wrong end of two very important baseball stats.  This is not new and advanced analytics; these stats go back to the beginnings of baseball:

  • Through 18 games, the Reds have scored 54 runs in 18 games; that is 3.0 runs per game.  Every team in the NL is averaging more runs scored per game than the Reds.
  • Meanwhile, the Reds have allowed 100 runs in those same 18 games.  No other team in the NL has allowed 100 runs for the season no matter how many games they have played to date.

When you consistently give up 2.5 runs per game more than you score per game, you are going to lose a whole lot of baseball games – – and that is just what the Reds have done so far.  I don’t know Bryan Price from The Price Is Right, but I am confident that he was not the reason the Reds began this season so pitifully.  Jim Riggleman will take over as the manager in Cincy; good luck to him.

Recently, I wrote about the attendance problems facing the Oakland A’s.  With the less-than-charismatic White Sox coming to town, the A’s decided to do something bold to get the attention of their fans.  The A’s played a game and offered free admission to those who showed up in time to get a seat.  Rather than the normal crowd of about 17,000 souls, this game between two teams with a combined record of 13-21 was played in front of 46,765 fans.  Local writers in the area are saying that this bold move is what the A’s needed to jumpstart interest in the team and that it would result in an attendance upswing.

Those pundits may be right, but I think they are looking at the situation through rose colored glasses.  Here is how I interpret what happened for that game:

  1. There is indeed “baseball interest” in Oakland and there are fans of the A’s as a local team.
  2. Those fans will come out and support the team when the price is right.  Currently, whatever the A’s charge for tickets is higher than what many fans consider the “right price”.
  3. Free games cannot work as a business model.  Whatever the current price of A’s tix may be, it is too high, and it will not work well as a business model either.  I agree it will work better than free games, but the current price-point is not really sustainable either.

The folks at NCAA HQs have come up with a new rule for college football.  It has nothing to do with actual games; it is another of the ancillary details of college football that the NCAA seeks to regulate.  Henceforth:

  • College football teams can no longer use former players to practice with the current team.

It seems that some schools have figured out that they can use former players as members of the “scout team” when those former players have a skill-set that is close to the skill-set that an upcoming opponent might present.  Somehow, that seemingly harmless practice has drawn sufficient wrath from the NCAA honchos that it is now forbidden.  When you figure out who or what is harmed by that practice, let me know…

Finally, at a time when concussion-awareness is front and center in football, this item from Dwight Perry’s column Sideline Chatter in the Seattle Times just made me shake my head:

“Cheyenne, Wyo., is set to host the country’s first bare-knuckle boxing card since 1889 on June 2, using current professional boxers and former UFC and Bellator fighters.

“Which certainly doesn’t give any John L. Sullivan wannabes much time to grow their handlebar mustaches.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

 

 

RIP Bruno Sammartino

Bruno Sammartino died earlier this week.  Long ago when I watched pro ‘rassling on black-and-white television sets, Bruno Sammartino was the champ and the guy who beat up all the bad guys who were “terrorizing” the rest of the ‘rassling cast.  He was 82 years old.

Rest in peace, Bruno Sammartino.

ESPN.com had a report yesterday saying that Cubs’ first-baseman, Anthony Rizzo, said on the local ESPN Radio station that he thinks the season is too long and there is too much baseball.  In a show of self-awareness and candor, he also said that he knows that would mean salary reductions for the players; yet, he thinks a shorter season makes sense.  He has obviously thought about this concept for more than a moment or so because he said that there would have to be a transition period from today’s environment to a shorter season to accommodate all the guaranteed contracts out there.

He is clearly not enamored with starting the season in Chicago in early-April.

“I think playing in the cold sucks … When you think of Cubs and Cardinals, you think of a beautiful Saturday at Wrigley Field.  You don’t think about playing in 20 degrees.”

He also said the season could be shortened on the calendar by scheduling double-headers prior to scheduled off-days.  I have advocated both shortening the season and adding double-headers to the schedule to fit the season into a more climatically-friendly part of the calendar.  I realize that my idea has little chance of happening – – and Anthony Rizzo agrees with me on that point too.

Even in a part of the country where bleak weather conditions are not threatening the health and questioning the sanity of local baseball fans, there are some “attendance issues”.  Recently, the Miami Marlins hosted the NY Mets on a weeknight and according to ESPN.com the Marlins drew fewer fans that night than did their AA affiliate, the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp.  Granted, it was the home opener for Jax; nonetheless, the Jumbo Shrimp drew 6960 fans while the Marlins drew 6150.

  • The AA team drew 13% more fans than the MLB team.

Let that sink in and recognize that the Marlins had a miserable year at the gate in 2017 drawing a meager 1.58M fans for the season.  This year – with new owners and a completely gutted roster, the Marlins are on track to draw only 1.07M fans and that is the lowest in MLB.  Even on Opening Day, the Marlins did not come close to selling out; they only drew 34,000 fans for that event.

For this year, the Marlins say that they are going to report attendance only as the number of tickets sold.  According to reporting by the Miami Herald, last year’s attendance figures of 1.58M fans included tickets that were given away and that the ‘paid attendance” for the Marlins season was less than 900K fans.  Logically, Miami should be a viable MLB market given the popularity of baseball in Caribbean nations and the large Hispanic community in the Miami area.  The fact is that has not been the case.  Previous owners – Wayne Huizenga and Jeffrey Loria – have been blamed for the Marlins’ “image issues”; now the new owners fronted by Derek Jeter are taking heat for dismantling the core of a good young team.  All in all, this viable baseball market seems to have been squandered…

One of the players the Marlins sent elsewhere was Giancarlo Stanton.  Stanton has not set the world afire in NY for the Yankees so far.  Consider:

  • In 16 games, he is hitting .197
  • He has 13 hits and 3 homeruns
  • His OPS is only .702
  • He has struck out 29 times.

It is the strike out stat that stands out to me.  He is averaging 1.8 strikeouts per game and that would project to 294 strikeouts for a season.  That is an outrageous number even when you temper your reaction to it based on the small sample and the large extrapolation.  When compared to another great Yankee outfielder, Joe DiMaggio, those strikeouts are even more alarming:

  • In the 1941 season – the year of the 56-game hitting streak – DiMaggio played in 139 games and had 622 plate appearances.  He struck out a total of 13 times.
  • In fact, DiMaggio had 7 seasons where he struck out 30 or fewer times.

DiMaggio struck out a total of 369 times in his 13 season in MLB.  Stanton has been in MLB for 8 years and a month and has already struck out 1169 times.  Wow…

Finally, Richie Incognito seemingly announced his retirement from the NFL – and then he rescinded that announcement – and then he said he would report to the Bills’ OTA – and then he said he wanted out of Buffalo – and then …  I have no idea if or where Richie Incognito will play football this year or in future years, but in the midst of all the announcements, Brad Dickson tweeted this comment:

“Richie Incognito is retiring. The NFL’s loss is dwarf tossing’s gain.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

 

 

Quick Notes Today

Today will have to be brief.  Yesterday we closed on our purchase of a new condo and we are in the process of listing/selling our townhouse.  That does not leave me a lot of time for research or typing.  Now, if anyone here would like to purchase a lovely townhome in Falls Church, Virginia which has been the site of Curmudgeon Central for the last ten-and-a-half years …

NFL free agent QB, Mark Sanchez, did not enhance his value when he flunked a drug test and incurred a 4-game suspension.  Predictably, he said that he had no idea how the stuff showed up in his system because he had made no changes in his diet or supplement regimen and he had passed lots of these tests in the past.  I guess that is standard operating procedure these days; no athlete who flunks a drug test ever has a clue how it could have possibly happened.

There is an irony here.  Sanchez is suspended for violation of the league’s Performance Enhancing Drug policy.  The juxtaposition of “Mark Sanchez” and “performance enhancing” is discordant.  Imagine how he might have performed without any enhancement…

Consider this comment from Bob Molinaro in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot from a couple of weeks ago:

“Grant Hill is the first Duke player to be voted into the Naismith College Basketball Hall of Fame. But for what it’s worth, Lefty Driesell, who joined Hill in this year’s hall class, also played for Duke before going on to a great coaching career.”

Jim Nantz and Bill Raftery made mention of this during the weekend of the Final Four and – frankly – I have a problem with this.  I do not begrudge Grant Hill’s induction in any way; he is fully deserving of recognition in the Hall of Fame.  My problem is that he is the “first Duke player” to be voted in.  Excuse me; how can Christian Laettner not be in the COLLEGE Basketball Hall of Fame?

There have been conflicting reports linking Rick Pitino to the open coaching job at Sienna.  I have no idea if there is any substance to these reports but – rightly or wrongly – Rick Pitino would be a punching bag in any college basketball coaching position.  The folks at the NCAA would go apoplectic – once they calmed down.  The media, which has already tried and convicted Pitino of nothing short of crimes against humanity would be merciless in their coverage.  So, riddle me this:

  • How about Rick Pitino to fill one of the openings in the NBA?

If he is hard over to continue in the coaching profession, I really think the NBA is the place for him to go.

Finally, here is a comment from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald channeling Carnac the Magnificent:

Answer: I just saw that the UM men’s tennis team is ranked 46th in the nation.

Question: Do you think maybe they ‘re ranking too many teams?”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

 

 

Tax Day USA

If you have not yet filed your 2018 US Income Tax Return, stop reading this immediately and go finish your filing.

If you have already completed that task, I feel your pain.

They say that death and taxes are the only two certainties in life.  If so, at least the IRS is willing to grant you an extension.

I had lunch yesterday with an old friend who is a college basketball junkie to an even greater extent than I am.  The reason I say that is that he follows rather closely women’s college basketball and I do not.  I check out some of the top matchups during the season; he is on top of what goes on there.  Naturally, college basketball involving both genders was a central part of our conversation over lunch.

His excitement extended beyond Villanova’s national championship.  Let me be clear; he watched and followed the men’s tournament as closely as anyone you will meet on the streets.  In addition to that, he paid close attention to the women’s tournament to a degree that surpasses anyone that I know.  What he wanted to discuss were his ideas about how to make the NCAA women’s tournament a much bigger deal than it is today.  He wants to see the women’s tournament grow in interest/following such that it might rival March Madness one of these days.

As I go through the concept(s) here, I want to be sure everyone understands the point from which I depart in this matter:

  • I find women’s basketball interesting to watch but not exciting to watch
  • I find women’s college basketball has a paucity of talent which is concentrated in about a half-dozen schools making for lots of uninteresting blow-out games.

I mention those biases of mine so that you can factor them into my commentary on my friend’s ideas and our discussion of them.  His premises boil down to these three things:

  1. Women’s college basketball is at a stage of development equivalent to men’s college basketball in the 1970s.
  2. Women’s college basketball is not the same game as men’s college basketball.
  3. Rather than emulating men’s college basketball, women’s college basketball would be better off defining itself as a different animal.

I might quibble with #1 above but only on the margins.  Like men’s basketball in the 60s and 70s, there was a concentration of talent in a small number of schools and the levels of competition were severely restricted.  That is not the case today.

I totally agree with #2 above.  Women’s college basketball – – and WNBA basketball – – is not the same game that men play.  Simplistically, men play above the rim and women play a more fundamental game below the rim.

I agree with #3 above – – but I had not thought about it sufficiently to suggest how the women’s tournament might differentiate itself from the men’s tournament until my friend offered up his ideas.  Here is the general idea:

  • Just as there were not 64 – – or 68 – – men’s teams worthy of being in a tournament in the 70s, there are not that many women’s teams worthy of it today.  So, the first order of business is to cut that number to 32 teams at most and probably to 16 teams if you want a quality product from start to finish.
  • Do not overlap the women’s tournament with March Madness; it is not now – – and is not going to be – – ready to survive that competition for at least a decade or so.  That is not a prejudicial statement; that is reality.

My friend’s idea is for the women’s tournament to consist of 16 teams and to take only 2 weeks to accomplish.  He would start the tournament on the Thursday after the men’s tournament final game so that there is no overlap/competition for attention among college basketball fans.  [Aside:  We part company on how much of a benefit that would be.  He thinks fans of March Madness will be drawn to a women’s tournament with the “best teams only” in the field after March Madness “sets the table”; I think the start of the MLB season and the final days of the NBA season will be stiff competition in that calendar slot.  You can take your own side here…]

My friend’s version of the women’s tournament would end sometime around mid-April – – right about now if his idea had been implemented for the 2017/2018 women’s college basketball season.  While I may disagree with his premise that there is a hole in the sports calendar in early April, I do have to admit that it would be a better time for a women’s tournament than the current schedule that has the women competing for attention with the men in March.

He said that UConn’s loss for the second year in a row in the Women’s Final Four would have been a much bigger deal – – and a greater boost to women’s college basketball – – if it had not happened while the men’s tournament was drawing to its close.  He is probably right on that point; in women’s basketball now, UConn occupies the same stature that UCLA did back in the late 60s and early 70s.  When UCLA lost, it was a BIG deal.  [Aside:  If I have counted correctly, UConn is 0-2 in the last two Final Four games and is 147-2 in its last 149 games.  Those two losses should indeed have been a bigger deal than they were.]

I asked my friend if his idea could possibly survive what I called a “Title IX Challenge”.  If colleges must have equity between men’s athletics and women’s athletics, wouldn’t his smaller tournament and different scheduling be considered a form of inequality.  His answer was short and simple – – and would not be acceptable in polite company.  Let’s just say that he thinks anyone who would promulgate such a challenge should do something to himself/herself that is anatomically impossible.

I don’t know if his “abbreviated women’s tournament” would succeed in bringing more attention to women’s college basketball – – but I doubt that it would hurt the game.  The early rounds of the women’s tournament are dominated by blowout games – – glorified scrimmages if you call them what they are.  No one wants to see them, and no one cares about them.  Losing the games that cut the field from 64 to 16 will not kill off interest in the tournament – – except for the fact that it will diminish interest in every Ivy League and Patriot League women’s basketball game during the regular season because if the field in only 16 teams, neither of the champs there is going to participate in the “abbreviated tournament”.

There is food for thought here.  This idea is not half-baked – – but I am not sure it is ready to serve either.

Finally, here is a comment from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“Mattel, saying it wants to provide better role models to inspire young girls, is launching 17 new Barbie dolls, including aviator Amelia Earhart, gymnast Gabby Douglas and snowboarder Chole Kim.

“What, no Tonya Harding action set complete with a lead-pipe Ken?”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

 

 

RIP William Nack

William Nack – one of the great writers for Sports Illustrated in the 70s, 80s and 90s – died over the weekend.  He wrote a “biography” of Secretariat which SI excerpted in the magazine; it was a great read.  He also spent several years tracking down chessmaster Bobby Fischer who had taken up a hermit-like existence.

Rest in peace, William Nack.

There is a story on CBSSports.com this morning which indicates that mankind has not yet run out of bad ideas.  In the pantheon of Bad Ideas – – probably right next to the idea of playing leapfrog with a unicorn – – is this latest entry from the Alabama High School Athletics Association (AHSAA).  Starting this Fall, high school football games in Alabama will use instant replay to assist officials in “getting it right”.  This will not just be for the championship game or even for all the playoff games leading to the championship game; instant replay will be part of all high school football games.

Maybe the august members of the AHSAA mistakenly thought that fans attending high school football games were feeling slighted at those events because they did not get to sit through all of those less-than-exciting sessions where the officials go to the sideline to “check the monitors”.

  • Memo to AHSAA:  No one wants to see more of that nonsense.  Instant replay hardly guarantees the officials will “get it right”.

Make no mistake; instant replay in high school games will require school athletic departments to spend more than a couple of dollars.  Obviously, Alabama schools are so awash in funding and currently provide their students with the most advanced facilities and technologies for learning that instant replay for football is not a luxury; it is a necessity.

Moving on to football at the NFL level – where instant replay has shown several things:

  1. It is anything but instant.
  2. It sometimes – but not always – corrects a call on the field to everyone’s satisfaction.
  3. It happens far too often.

Anyway, there were several NFL actions in the past several days that need a brief mention.  Here is an observation from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald yesterday that will give you the essence of one of those “actions”:

“We’re 11 days until the draft’s first round, so before we get fully immersed in that, new Fins receiver Danny Amendola tells ESPN that his former Pats boss, Bill Belichick, is both a brilliant coach and a person who could be “an a-hole sometimes.” Um, Danny, doesn’t that sorta go without saying on both counts?”

Here is Greg Cote once again addressing another NFL action that produced a lot of sound and fury last week:

“Dallas rather abruptly cut Dez [Bryant] this week. Yes, and other than his age, injuries, diminishing production, huge salary and itinerant attitude issues, it was a real shock!”

A much more serious NFL-related issue involves Niners’ linebacker, Reuben Foster.  Recall that Foster was arrested recently related to a domestic violence incident; last week he was charged with 3 felonies in that matter:

  1. He is charged with battery
  2. He is charged with “forcefully attempting to prevent the victim from reporting the crime”.
  3. He is charged with possession of an assault rifle with a high capacity magazine.

Potential jail time for all of these charges is 11 years.  Foster is not going to be convicted and sentenced to 11 years in jail, but this matter demonstrates that Foster remains a troubled young man who is going to need mentoring and monitoring as he works to mature into a socialized adult.  Foster shows great promise as a football player, but his career is very near a precipice.  Remember, the NFL can and has meted out suspensions and other penalties even without any convictions.

There was an oddity in MLB last Saturday.  The Braves led the Cubs 10-3 as the Cubs came to bat in the bottom of the 7th inning.  The temperature in Chicago was just below freezing so no one would have blamed any fan who left early to get into a warm bar in the Wrigleyville neighborhood.  The Cubs scored 2 in the bottom of the 7th making it 10-5 but Braves’ fans probably still thought this game was in the bag.

Well, it wasn’t because in the bottom of the 8th inning, the Cubs scored 9 runs to win the game 14-10.  That was not the oddity; teams score 9 runs in an inning more than once a season.  The oddity was how they did it; in the bottom of the 8th inning the Cubs got their 9 runs on:

  • 3 hits
  • 5 walks
  • 2 hit-batters
  • 1 wild pitch – – and – –
  • 1 error.

The Washington Generals could not have blown a game any better…

Finally, here is Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times commenting on the release of Dez Bryant:

“Does anyone else find it bizarre that, right after the NFL finally clarified its definition of what constitutes a catch, the Cowboys drop Dez Bryant?”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

 

 

Surprising And Not So Surprising Today

The early part of every MLB season produces some surprise teams.  This year, the Nats have been underachieving through the first 13 games with a 6-7 record.  The Mets are an astonishing 10-1; everyone knows that will not last.  For me, a really big early surprise team is the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Common wisdom was that the Pirates had gutted their roster trading away Andrew McCutcheon and Gerrit Cole and that the team was diving into a rebuild.  So far, the Pirates are 9-3 and – even though that will not be sustainable – they are playing very well.

The secret to the Pirates winning is not particularly complicated.  They are scoring runs in bunches; they have scored 77 runs so far this year and that is 11 more runs than any other National League team has scored; the Pirates average 6.4 runs per game.  When a team scores 6.4 runs per game they are going to win a whole lot of those games – – unless of course the team scoring all those runs is the 1930 Phillies who had a pitching staff that had a team ERA for the season of 6.71.  Yes, that is the MLB record for the highest team ERA for a full season.

So far in 2018, the Oakland A’s have not been all that surprising; they are 5-8 in their first 13 games.  Here is something else about the A’s that is not all that surprising:

  • In 2017, the A’s averaged 18,219 fans per game; that ranked 29th in MLB.
  • In 2018, the A’s average 15,212 fans per game; that ranks 29th in MLB.

The A’s had a 4-game homestand against the Rangers.  The total attendance for those four games was 34,613 fans or 8,653 fans per game.  I understand why attendance was not great:

  • It is early in the season and the weather is not great.
  • The team is not very good.
  • The stadium experience is better than being in a porta-potty – but not much better.

The problem that the A’s – and MLB as a whole – must acknowledge is that something has to be done here.  It has been a long and fruitless process by which the A’s and MLB have sought to get a new stadium in the Bay Area.  The city of Oakland does not have tons of spare revenue to spend on a new stadium but at the same time the city of Oakland has not been helpful in terms of identifying venues where anyone could build a stadium.  The Coliseum is a mess; the city lost one franchise already – the Raiders – largely due to the fact that the Coliseum is a mess.  I will not be surprised to hear that the A’s are also in the “relocation rotation”.

I can think of two natural landing spots for the Oakland A’s:

  1. Las Vegas:  The NHL is there and doing well.  The NFL is heading there and there is a $1.9B stadium going up as we speak.  The new arena where the Golden Knights play seats about 20,000 fans so it would not be a shock to see an NBA team there one of these days.  MLB would not have to juggle its divisions because Las Vegas can easily fit into the logistics of an AL West team.  The population of Clark County – where Las Vegas exists – was 2.1 million in 2015; that is enough to support sports franchises well.
  2. Portland:  The NBA is there and doing well.  MLS is there and is doing very well.  Putting the A’s there would create an immediate rivalry situation with the Seattle Mariners.  The population of Portland is 635,000 which is about the same size as Seattle and Denver – both of which support MLB franchises.

[Aside:  Montreal is a venue that MLB should consider for future relocations; the city does not fit well as a venue for the A’s because it would require a shuffling of the division teams in the AL but if/when a team in the East needs to move…  Fans gave up on the Expos because of the stadium; with a real venue in place, baseball in Montreal would work.]

For the 2018 season, the A’s will likely rank 28th or 29th in MLB in average attendance.  They seem to be protected from finishing 30th by the Miami Marlins who should have the lowest average attendance by a sizeable margin.  So far this year, the Marlins are drawing only 12,641 to home games.  Doing some math, that projects to a total attendance for the year of only 1.02M fans.

Finally, Scott Ostler had this comment in the SF Chronicle recently.  It speaks to the stadium experience for Oakland A’s games:

“Nice new touch at the Coliseum, where the A’s are creating a vegetable garden near the right-field flag poles. Not really surprising, though, considering how the team has gone to seed the past three years.

“Fertilizing the A’s new garden will be simple. Just divert the sewage overflows from the clubhouse to the garden.”

But don’t’ get me wrong, I love sports………

 

 

NFL Teams For Sale

There has been plenty of interest in – and sufficient reporting about – the process of selling the Carolina Panthers.  The last time I checked Forbes.com, they had the franchise valued at $2.1B; recent reports said that the bidding could go as high as $2.5 – 2.7B.  That is not a bad rate of return for a franchise that cost $206M in 1993.

I mention the Panthers’ situation because there is another NFL franchise that could change hands if the pieces fall together.  Suzie Adams has a one-third interest in the Tennessee Titans; Suzie Adams is one of three heirs of Bud Adams who left equal interests in the team to the three heirs in his will.  There may or may not be some tension among the three heirs depending on which report you read, but the fact is that Suzie Adams would like to sell her one-third share.  For the moment, Amy Adams Strunk is in control of the team; but the NFL does not like situations in ownership where there can be significant internal struggles.  Obviously, the simplest solution would be for Amy Adams Strunk to buy out Suzie Adams and move on.  That has not happened for whatever reason so there is a significant chunk of an NFL team out there for sale and not much action surrounding that commodity.

For the record, Forbes.com has the value for the Titans at $2.05B which is awfully close to the value they set for the Panthers.  Granted, whoever purchases the Panthers would have total team control and that factor might be the motivation for bidders to up the ante there.  However, a one-third interest in the Titans should be worth about $700M.

Speaking of the NFL – sort of – the league released its “preseason schedule” yesterday.  Here in Curmudgeon Central, we call it the Exhibition Game Schedule most of the time and even the “Make-Believe Game Schedule” occasionally.  If you were hanging onto your computer waiting to catch this release seconds after it happened or worse yet you were tuned in to hear the announcement live and in person, you need to get yourself into a Twelve Step Program.  And I mean NOW

Surely, you have read some reports about the tragic accident involving the Humboldt Broncos of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.  Even if you have read other reports, let me highly recommend that you follow this link to a column at SI.com by Charles P. Pierce.  I thought the piece was excellent.

Consider this comment from Bob Molinaro in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

“All in good time: With two national championships in three years, Jay Wright’s success should serve as a lesson for impatient boosters and school officials everywhere. In his first three seasons at Villanova, Wright’s record was 52-46 with no NCAA tournament appearances. Now he oversees what may be the best program in the country.”

“Best program in the country” is certainly open to debate, but the fact that Villanova is now an elite basketball program is established.  The important part of this comment is the call for patience.  Boosters and Athletic Directors who are impatient and who send coaches packing after only a couple of years on the job are not demonstrating their commitment to winning by terminating a coach.  What they are doing is demonstrating very clearly that they did not do a good job in selecting “the right guy” to do the job they wanted done.  They cloak their action(s) in a commitment to winning and excellence when those action(s) more accurately represent either impatience or an incompetent process for selecting the coach about to be fired.  And when fans think of it that way, why should they be more optimistic that the same folks who did not get an “instant winner” out of their last set of hiring deliberations are going to get it right this time?

The NY Knicks are a good example of the above.  Reports this morning say that the Knicks have fired Jeff Hornacek as the head coach.  If so, that means the Knicks will be looking to hire their 5th coach since 2012 and their 12th coach since 2001.  Looking back at the Knicks since 2001, they have posted a winning record only twice, so it is not as if coaches have gone there and been successful and used the Knicks as a stepping stone to go on to other things.  The Knicks situation demonstrates one of two things to me:

  1. The problem is not coaching.  The problem is roster construction.  Or …
  2. The problem is not coaching.  The problem is the process by which the Knicks owner and Front Office make their selection of head coaches.

Shed no tears for Jeff Hornacek.  In 2016, he signed a 3-year contract with the Knicks reportedly worth $15M.  If those numbers are accurate, he should collect about $5M next year to stay home and be with his family.  My long-suffering wife has lived with me in that same situation since I retired to spend 168 hours a week with her; the difference is that I am not bringing in $5M per year to compensate her for her time and effort.

Finally, I often like to report on culinary concoctions available around the country.  Earlier this week, Brad Rock of the Deseret News uncovered this beauty in Utah:

“The Salt Lake Bees are upping their food game with a new sandwich that is half ham, turkey, roast beef and cheddar cheese with a basil aioli; the other half consisting of salami, capicola, pepperoni, provolone cheese and green chili aioli.

“Both halves are topped with jack cheese, lettuce, tomato, onions and carrots mixed with Italian dressing.

“The $24 sandwich, sized the same as a regulation base, is called the ‘6-4-3 Double Play.’

Also known as ‘Gwyneth Paltrow’s Revenge’.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

 

 

What Is A Victim?

Headlines today relate to the FBI investigation of college basketball recruiting and that Kansas has been put in the focus.  One writer suggested that the FBI probe might be the event that ends Kansas’ run of 14 consecutive Big 12 basketball championships.  However, please read the statement released by Kansas on this matter:

“Earlier today we learned that the University of Kansas is named as a victim in a federal indictment.  The indictment does not suggest any wrongdoing by the university, its coaches or its staff.  We will cooperate fully” …  and so on

The indictment alleges that someone paid money to people connected to two recruits who would up going to Kansas.  Allegedly, one of those recruits was Sylvio De Sousa who was a 5-star recruit coming out of high school.

So, let me get this straight…

  • The University of Kansas is a victim of a federal crime because they had a 5-star recruit “decide” to enroll there and play basketball for the Kansas’ team.

This seems to me to be just a tad ass-backwards.  Imagine someone coming up to you and drawing a gun on you.  Then, this assailant reaches into his pocket and gives you a hundred-dollar bill, tells you to have a good day and walks on.  I would not characterize you as a victim in that situation – and that is about what happened to Kansas.

Anyone who has read these rants even for a short time knows that I think “Mock Drafts” are as bad – if not worse – than “Bracketology” ruminations.  Around this time of the year, anything that you hear directly from an NFL owner, GM or coach related to the upcoming draft is at best duplicitous and it is only from those sources that anyone could write a meaningful analysis or predict the outcome of the upcoming draft.  Yesterday, there was a “report” based on unnamed sources that the Cleveland Browns will draft Josh Allen as their next franchise QB and pass on Sam Darnold.

I think both of those guys can play QB in the NFL – albeit I only saw Allen play one full game and one partial game.  What I am about to say has nothing to do with which is the better prospect; however,

  • Picking Josh Allen at the top of the draft is potentially very damaging to whatever is left of the Browns’ image as a professional football franchise.

The last QB for the Browns who could properly be described as “above average” was Bernie Kosar and he stopped playing for the Browns in 1993.  Not only have the Browns lacked a very good QB for the last 25 years, their draft picks at the QB position have been underwhelming to be sure.  Here are some of the QB selections made by the Browns:

  • Colt McCoy
  • Brandon Weeden
  • Johnny Manziel
  • Cody Kessler
  • DeShone Kizer

Compare that list with this list of QBs that the Browns could have had in the draft but did not take:

  • Carson Wentz
  • Dak Prescott
  • Mitchell Trubisky
  • Deshaun Watson

Look, fans will be mightily upset if the Browns take a QB early in this draft and he washes out. However, they might be less rabid in their criticism if the guy was from USC; after all, he came from a big-time program and the football gods just did not smile on him at the pro level.  But if he comes from Wyoming and washes out, the kindest and gentlest criticisms will probably begin with the question:

  • What the [BLEEP] were you thinking?

Finally, since I mentioned Kansas basketball at the outset, let me close with this query from Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times:

“If Kansas’ basketball coach takes a photo of himself, is that a Selfie squared?”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

 

 

The Fringes Of Sports Today…

Masters’ winner, Patrick Reed, showed up at an NBA game wearing his green jacket – – and somehow, that became newsworthy.  Oh, I get it; the reason it is newsworthy is that he made a huge fashion faux pas wearing that ugly thing out in public.

Greg Cote of the Miami Herald summarized the weekend of The Masters tersely in this comment:

“American Patrick Reed finished 15-under-par to win The Masters and his first career major, edging Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth. Way back were Tiger Woods at plus-1 and Phil Mickelson at plus-2. You know it’s bad when Sunday for Tiger and Phil is more about saving face than contending. Meantime defending champ Sergio Garcia missed the cut thanks to an 8-over par 13 on the 15th hole of the first round. Who’d he think he was, Greg Cote!?”

I have done a small sampling of the new ESPN morning offering, GET UP featuring Mike Greenberg, Michelle Beadle and Jalen Rose.  I appreciate that a new program needs a bit of time to find its rhythm and its tone; also, I know that this show is in its infancy; so, I need to put these comments into that sort of landscape:

  • If the suits at ESPN broke up Mike and Mike to produce a show that is “different” in some way from other ESPN offerings, they must be sorely disappointed.  GET UP is cut from the same cloth as almost anything else on ESPN except for the tone and tenor.
  • This is not a show full of “hot takes” or “stridently expressed wing-nut opinions”.  This show is almost like a pepperoni pizza without the pepperoni.  It is still good; but it just seems to be missing something.
  • On the plus side, none of the three hosts is objectionable.  That is not meant to damn the show by faint praise because there are indeed shows on ESPN and on FS1 where there are hosts sufficiently objectionable that I grab the remote and change the channel.
  • Bottom line:  Give the show time to settle in and find its grove.  It is pretty bland fare so far.

Since I alluded to some of the programming on ESPN and FS1 with objectionable hosts, let me offer this:

  • According to reports, Pope Francis said that there is no Hell.  Most assuredly, I do not wish to challenge His Holiness on religious matters.  I know when I am in over my head.  Nonetheless, I wonder what the Pope would call viewing First Take and/or Undisputed day after day after day after…?
  • I guess they don’t get those programs in Vatican City…

According to a recent report at Forbes.com, the new stadium in LA that will house the Rams and the Chargers will have a total price tag of almost $5B.  Granted, that figure includes the cost of developing the entire 60-acre tract where the old Hollywood Park racetrack used to be and not just the cost of the stadium itself.  The stadium is probably only going to cost a measly $2B.  The Rams have already begun to offer PSLs at a price of $100K which sounds like an awful lot of money to spend just to earn the right to purchase over-priced season tix to the games.  However, in perspective, the Rams would have to sell 20,000 of those top-shelf PSLs to recoup the cost of the stadium alone.

Here is a link to the report at Forbes.com if you are interested in what the entire development project entails.

The site of this development project calls to mind that this same site was supposed to be the place where the old LA Raiders were going to have their new stadium back in the late 80s/early 90s.  The idea of a stadium to replace the racetrack was originally floated all the way back then but the difference now is that the league and the team owner is providing the major funding.  Back then, the deal required massive funding from the city and/or state and that never materialized.

Finally, Dwight Perry had this comment in the Seattle Times recently regarding an athlete whose financial picture is not very bright:

“Bankrupt former champion Boris Becker, 50, says he’d like to sell off his tennis trophies but can’t remember where he left them.

“Maybe he’s hoping to write them off on this year’s taxes as a net loss.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

 

 

Briefly Today …

Last Saturday was National Beer Day – in case you did not know.  This commemorates April 7, 1932 which is the day of enactment of the Cullen-Harrison Act of 1933 signed into law by FDR and allowed taverns to open on April 7, 1933 for people to enjoy “near-beer” after 13 years of Prohibition.  Serious beer aficionados have extended the celebration of National Beer Day by creating an informal holiday of their own.  Last Friday night, April 6th would have been “New Beer’s Eve” for true beer devotees.

Enough with a small wrinkle in American culture; back to the sports rant you came here to read…

Last week, I wrote about the Ravens signing RG3 and the furor that caused among some sports commentators regarding the fact that the Ravens chose RG3 instead of Colin Kaepernick as the guy to come in and be the backup to Joe Flacco.  While it is correct to say that RG3 has been “less than successful” as a QB in the last several years, it is a stretch to say that he is without talent.  When he was drafted in 2012, he was the second overall pick in the draft and he was the offensive Rookie of the Year.

Moreover, it is not as if the 2012 draft was devoid of talent.  That was the same draft class that brought Russell Wilson and Andrew Luck into the NFL; for that one season, RG3 was better than either of those QBs who have shown that they are a lot better than chumps.  Oh, and the Skins also drafted Kirk Cousins in that same 2012 draft and now that we will be entering the 2018 season, Cousins will be embarking on a 3-year contract worth $84M – – fully guaranteed.

Mentioning Cousins brings this situation to mind:

  • Please note that the Skins – who spent a ton of draft capital to move up to draft RG3 – now have neither RG3 nor Cousins.  That situation demonstrates the management ineptitude that pervades that organization from the top down.

Mike Bianchi has this comment in the Orlando Sentinel about another recent personnel move by an NFL team:

“The Jacksonville Jaguars dumped their longest-tenured player — tight end Marcedes Lewis — after 12 seasons earlier this week. Sadly, this is just what happens when your Marcedes gets too many miles on it!”

Finally, The Masters ended over the weekend with Patrick Reed becoming a first-time winner.  For the two weeks leading up to the tournament, the casual observer of the golf media would have been hard pressed to realize that anyone other than Tiger Woods was going to show up and tee off.  That brought “buzz” to the tournament despite the fact that Woods finished tied for 26th and a mere 16 strokes off the lead.  Here is how syndicated columnist, Norman Chad, described his reaction to all the “Tigermania” recently:

“Here’s the Tiger Effect for me: Whether or not he’s playing, I will not watch golf on TV.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………