Well, that did not take long. COVID-19 exhibited its ability to impact the MLB season on opening day. The Nats/Mets game was postponed because of a positive COVID test within the Nats organization and subsequent contact tracing implicating five players who were in close contact with the positive player. According to reports, that was what got the game called but subsequent reports said that the Nats now have at least three players who have tested positive. Based on negotiated agreement between MLB and MLBPA the names of players who test positive or are under scrutiny per the COVID protocols will not be revealed, confirmed or denied. However, if indeed the Nats have a minimum of three players who are positive for the virus, the likelihood that they will be playing at full strength any time soon is small.
Yesterday, I mentioned that MLB will be experimenting with a couple of rule changes in the minor leagues this year with an eye towards increasing the number of base stealing attempts. Those comments prompted an email from a former colleague who provided an interesting set of stats. Here is the pertinent part of his email:
“Baseball wants stolen bases to go up and strikeouts to go down … What they need are more players like Tony Gwynn. Gwynn was in the league for 20 years and in 5 of those years he had more stolen bases than strikeouts.”
Tony Gwynn was a great player, but I never realized that, so I went to baseball-reference.com to check and my former colleague is 100% correct; the seasons in question here are 1984-87 and 1989. For his 20-year career Gwynn had 319 stolen bases and 434 strikeouts.
The NHL fired one of its officials, Tim Peel, for a comment he made within range of hot microphone saying that he was looking for a way to penalize the Nashville Predators early in a game against the Detroit Red Wings. The penalty appeared to be a ticky-tack call and after the fact the hot microphone recorded Peel saying:
“It wasn’t much, but I wanted to get a [bleeping] penalty against Nashville early.”
Peel has been officiating NHL games since 1999; there is no way I can convince myself that he failed to know two things:
- That sort of comment must not be made even in jest.
- If he actually had that thought in his mind, it was time for him to find another line of work.
I have mentioned here several times that I did a lot of basketball officiating many years ago. I learned about the problems caused by snide comments the hard way. Let me recount the story here.
This was a local recreation league game for boys 11 and 12 years old. I walked into the gym and saw two teams warming up – – one wearing green shirts and the other wearing a different color that I do not remember. I took off my jacket and saw the guy who was in charge of the recreation league sitting by the scorer’s table, so I went over to say hello. I also said something very close to this:
“So, what is the line on tonight’s game? Do we have our money down on Green or ‘whatever the other color was’? Looks like a good night to cash a bet…”
His response was something along the lines of:
“Green is the play tonight…”
Now in the exact moment that we had that exchange, the mother of a player on the other team happened to be walking by and overheard us. She thought we were being serious and became incensed that there would be a situation where the referees and the league organizers were “fixing games”. She said she would report us to the city officials who oversaw the entire recreation department. I tried to tell her that it was a joke and that there was no “fix” in for the night and that I did not know of any local bookies who would take bets on 11- and 12-year-old boys basketball games. None of that allayed her fears; when the Green team did win the game that night, I knew this would not just dry up and blow away. Sure enough, the city recreation director called the league organizer and me in for a “fact-finding meeting”.
It all worked out in the end for me because the absurdity of the scenario I had painted in my snarky remark was a sufficient defense that no hanky-panky was going on. But I learned a different lesson then about what an official can say about the game in front of him and/or the game he did the night before.
Tim Peel lost his job with the NHL which is about as severe a penalty as possible in this matter. Unfortunately, I have to think it is justified because even a hint of motivation on the part of an official to make a call that is based on anything other than the events just witnessed by the official strikes at the integrity of the contest. The NHL lives on because its players, coaches and fans do not believe the games are fixed; the NHL business model does not coincide with the WWE business model so the NHL cannot tolerate “complicit officials”. I have no idea if Tim Peel’s words and actions struck at the heart of the NHL’s game integrity, but the NHL cannot take a chance on something like that.
Roy Williams announced his retirement from the position of head coach for the UNC men’s basketball team yesterday. Williams is in the Hall of Fame hanging up his whistle after 33 seasons and 903 victories. UNC basketball has been a program that has maintained a lineage back to Dean Smith who started there as an assistant coach in 1958 and then was the head coach from 1961 to 1997. Since Smith retired, the UNC head coaches have been:
- Bill Guthridge – – longtime assistant coach under Dean Smith
- Matt Doherty – – played under Dean Smith for four years at UNC.
- Roy Williams – – assistant coach under Dean Smith for 10 years
I have no inside information on who might be on the list to replace Coach Williams but noting the “pedigree aspect” of UNC hirings here, I will only mention that Jerry Stackhouse is in the coaching business at Vandy…
Finally, just as COVID-19 inserted itself in toe the MLB season yesterday, the virus has also maintained a presence in the NBA regular season as well. Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times took note of one such intrusion:
“The Warriors were left without any big men for a game against Memphis after Kevin Looney joined James Wiseman on the NBA’s COVID-19 restricted list.
“Obviously they’re not centers for disease control.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………