The MLB regular season is all but over. However, there is a game on the schedule for today that is of interest here in Curmudgeon Central because it is a benchmark game in terms of futility. The Seattle Mariners – a team that I have traveled across the country to see more than a dozen times – are a bad baseball team. They started the season winning 13 of their first 15 games; and then, the wheels came off the wagon. As of this morning, the Mariners record is 66-91; they are a mere 37 games out of first place in the AL West. Today, the Mariners play the first-place Houston Astros who have wrapped up the division championship, and that game is one to watch.
Being in the same division, the Mariners and the Astros are scheduled to play each other 19 times. Today is the final time in 2019 the teams will meet. After losing to the Astros last night, the Mariners’ record against the Astros in 2019 stands at 1-17. If they lose again today, that would leave the Mariners record against the Astros at 1-18 which you would think would be the futility standard for a modern MLB team.
But it would not be the futility standard … Earlier this month, the Detroit Tigers and the Cleveland Indians concluded their 19-game schedule against each other, and the Tigers lost 18 of those games. If the Mariners lose again today, neither the Mariners nor the Tigers will be in the record books alone for their ineptitude in the 2019 season.
Sticking with MLB for the moment, the Padres fired manager Andy Green last weekend with 8 games left to go in the season. Granted, the Padres had higher expectations for 2019 than winning 70-75 games; however, making the change with 8 games left to go in the season seems awfully petty. I am not saying that firing Andy Green was a bad idea; his record with the Padres from 2016 until last weekend was a less-than-inspiring 274-366. What advantage might accrue to the Padres now that they did not wait for another 8 games to announce his termination?
Bob Molinaro had this comment in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot recently related to MLB:
“Sarcasm ahead: Before Giancarlo Stanton returned to the lineup Wednesday, the Yankees’ highest paid player – $26 mil – had appeared in nine games this season. The team was so badly crippled by the absence of his bat that the Yankees are en-route to winning a mere 100-plus games. You get the drift. Another slugger who isn’t worth his asking price.”
Moving on … the biggest story of the day is probably the announcement by the NCAA that they have charged Kansas University with 5 “Level 1 violations” of NCAA rules and they have also asserted that there was “lack of institutional control” at Kansas during the time the alleged infractions were happening. This is a big deal for a lot of reasons:
- Kansas is a blue-blood NCAA basketball program. The first coach at Kansas was none other than Dr. James Naismith who is regarded as the inventor of the game of basketball.
- Current coach, Bill Self, has been the head coach at Kansas since 2003 and is in the Basketball Hall of Fame.
- Kansas has won its conference championship 61 times – – approximately every other year over the history of the program. The team has had a winning record in 97 of its 121 seasons.
- Each of the five “Level 1 infractions” would carry with it penalties of reduced scholarships plus seasons banned from post-season play.
- If – I said IF – Coach Self is found to be materially guilty, he could be forced out of his job and slapped with a show-cause order – meaning that any other school that wanted to hire him would have to appeal to the NCAA to do so lest it inherit the same penalties levied on Kansas.
The biggest deal of all are the words “lack of institutional control”. That is what the NCAA used to invoke the so-called “Death Penalty” on SMU’s football program in the 1980s. Basically, it shut down the program and allowed all the players to transfer; the football program at SMU. The school was not allowed to play any games for 1 year and then not allowed to play any home games for another year. The school lost a total of 55 scholarships spread over multiple years and no “off-campus recruiting” was allowed for two years.
SMU was a big-time football program at the time. Since returning from the death penalty, SMU football has been hugely unsuccessful; there have only been 5 winning seasons since football resumed at SMU in 1989.
Kansas and Bill Self have loudly proclaimed innocence here and it does not appear that this controversy will go quietly into the night. The NCAA has its own reasons to take a hard line on this matter. Remember, the NCAA super-sleuths are responsible for turning up exactly nothing related to these charges. Whatever the NCAA has accused Kansas of doing was handed to the NCAA on a silver platter by the FBI and Federal prosecutors using taxpayer dollars. Without that federal investigation of criminality in the college basketball recruiting process, the NCAA would still be sitting on their collective thumbs at NCAA HQs in Indianapolis, IN.
The image of the NCAA and its ability to enforce its own monstrously complex set of rules is akin to that of Inspector Clouseau. I would assume that that the NCAA mavens would prefer to shed that imagery but the only way for them to do so will be to see to it that someone takes a fall for the violations that the NCAA alleges to have occurred. After all, if the police and the authorities do not – or cannot – send Inspector Clouseau to jail after he drops the Pink Panther out of his handkerchief, then it is the police who are the bumbling fools and not Clouseau himself.
This saga will go on for a while; there will be threats; there will be venting of spleen; there will be high drama. Here is what I think I know going into all of this:
- College basketball players – at Kansas and at other schools – are now and have been paid money under the table. NCAA rules forbid that.
- The NCAA – lacking subpoena powers and the ability to acquire search warrants as is proper – cannot enforce its own rules without dumb luck handing them irrefutable evidence.
- I do not see how the NCAA can “save face” or emerge from this appearing to be in control of the sport(s) it purports to oversee without a visible and recognizable person or entity facing serious sanction(s). Kansas and Bill Self seem to have been chosen by the NCAA overlords to be those visible and recognizable ne’er-do-wells.
- Sooner or later, the NCAA will find it advantageous to expand its assertion of authorities here and my guess is that the University of Arizona is next on the list.
Finally, having dealt with allegations of cheating and skirting the rules today, please consider this comment from Brad Rock formerly of the Deseret News regarding another sporting cheater:
“Lance Armstrong trolled Mike Pence on Twitter, saying he ‘just blew the doors off’ the Vice President while passing him on a bike path in Massachusetts.
“Armstrong now plans to enter the Cub Scout Olympics to see if he can sweep the sit-up and softball toss competitions.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………