Lou Brock died last weekend at the age of 81. After a 19-year career in MLB, he was enshrined in the Hall of Fame; his ”calling card” was the stolen base. For his career, Lou Brock stole 938 bases including 118 steals in 1974. He was involved in one of the most lopsided trades in MLB history; there were 6 players involved but the two that headlined the trade were Lou Brock and Ernie Broglio. Broglio went to the Cubs and did nothing special there; Brock went to the Cards where he played for 16 years, made the All-Star team 6 times and then entered the Hall of Fame.
Rest in peace, Lou Brock.
The most unusual occurrence over the weekend had to come from the world of tennis where Novak Djokovic was defaulted in a match in the US Open. Djokovic is currently ranked as the #1 player in the world and while the tennis term is that he “was defaulted”, the more colloquial way to say this is that he was thrown out of the tournament. What happened is that Djokovic hit ball at a line judge and caught the judge in the throat; the judge was having trouble breathing and had to be assisted off the court. Reports say that he hit the ball “in anger” and that this was not an accident; that sort of behavior interpreted in that way would get any athlete thrown out of any event save a pro ‘rassling encounter;.
Djokovic has some history with “anger issues” but this is the first time his behavior has cost him a match – and a chance to win another major tournament. Elite tennis players in the past have also had “anger issues”. Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe and Nick Kyrgios are men who come to mind there; Serena Williams has also been known to be less than polite when it comes to dealing with match officials. There is probably a PhD dissertation in psychology wrapped up in this situation…
Steve Nash has been hired as the head coach of the Brooklyn Nets. Nash is a Hall of Fame player but has no coaching experience of any note prior to this undertaking. Stephen A. Smith of ESPN said that this was an example of “white privilege”.
I like Stephen A. Smith and have liked him since he was a beat reporter and then a columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer. When he was in that phase of his career, the term “NBA Insider” had not yet entered the American language, but Stephen A. Smith was as much an “NBA Insider” then as anyone who lives in the glow of that term today. Having said that, I completely disagree with him on this point.
I have written here several times my sense that great players do not make great coaches. Nonetheless, great players – of every color and ethnicity – have a trump card to play within the confines of the game at which they excelled.
- Billy Cunningham and Larry Bird were hired as head coaches after their playing days were over; those hires were not “white privilege”; those hires were “basketball privilege”.
- Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Paul Silas and Magic Johnson were hired as head coaches after their playing days were over; those hires were not “black privilege”; those hires were “basketball privilege”.
Steve Nash played in the NBA for 18 years; he was named to the All-NBA team 7 times; he was an All-Star 8 times; he was the NBA MVP two years in a row and won the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award one time. If there is an issue or a question or a job opportunity related to basketball, those credentials would get anyone – of any color or ethnicity – entry into the discussion if that person so chose to be involved.
Having said the above, I go back to my stance that great players do not make great coaches and I do not make any assumption that Steve Nash will be a guaranteed success as the head coach of the Nets. That issue will work itself out over time and the record will demonstrate if this was a “good choice” or a “bad choice” by the Nets’ ownership. However, under no circumstances do I believe this hiring choice was one of “white privilege”.
Dwight Perry had an item in his column in the Seattle Times last weekend that I missed completely:
“Giants manager Gabe Kapler challenged a play at first base with his team ahead 18-2 in the seventh inning.
“So why isn’t there an unwritten rule about that?”
The final score of the game in question was Giants 23 – Rockies 5. Considering the vitriol expressed when Fernando Tatis, Jr swung at a 3-0 pitch to hit a grand slam home run late in a blowout game only about a week before this Giants’ game, I wonder why there was no outcry about Kapler’s challenge. I am sure that if someone had questioned Kapler on that behavior, he would have had some arcane analytical point to make about the necessity for such a move. Kapler seems to me to be one of analytical baseball’s high priests; he manages the game in a way that a friend characterizes as “analytics on steroids”.
MLB has moved significantly in the direction of analytics; while some of that movement is positive, there are some jarring aspects too. I have seen games where players in the field take out a card/sheet from the pocket of their uniform to figure out where to play the next hitter in this game situation or for a pitcher to look to see how to pitch to the next batter. For players at the top rung of their profession, that is a bad look; you don’t see NFL offensive linemen come out of the huddle checking their “crib sheets” to figure out what blitz to look for on 3rd and 8 at their own 25 in the third quarter.
Finally, one more observation from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:
“Who better suited to be the White Sox’s stopper than righty Dylan Cease?”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………