In last week’s comments on the NBA Draft, I omitted one of the notes I made while watching the event. For the sake of completeness – and not because I think there is some fundamental wisdom contained therein – I shall include it today:
I think the Utah Jazz made an interesting pick at #12 in Trey Lyles from Kentucky. I thought Lyles was the most complete big man on the Kentucky team last year but he definitely will need to add muscle to be effective in the NBA. Utah is one of the NBA’s “middling teams” at the moment. They are not nearly poised to make a run at the Conference Championship; they are not nearly as bad as a half-dozen other teams. The questions – I believe – are whether the Jazz can or will be patient with Lyles as he develops and whether Lyles puts in the work to get a lot stronger. He is only 19 years old.
What I really want to talk about this morning is the resignation of Ryne Sandberg as the Phillies’ manager last week just before game time. Let me be clear about one thing from the start:
The Phillies have not done well in the time that Ryne Sandberg was their manager. That is not Sandberg’s fault; it would have taken a miracle worker to get the extant Phillies’ roster to play .500 baseball. When he took over for Charlie Manuel, the team was aging fast and the star players that had won the NL East routinely for the past several years were already on the wane.
Having said that, Sandberg’s sudden departure is strange. First of all, he resigned in the middle of his contract meaning that he left money on the table. I know that money is not the most important thing in the world and that Sandberg has made more than a little bit of it over his career such that he does not dine in soup kitchens. Nonetheless, that is not an exit path used by many coaches/managers in sports these days.
Like many other players who made it to the Hall of Fame, managing did not come as easily to Sandberg as did playing the game. However, unlike many other Hall of Famers who went onto the managerial track, he was not handed a top job on a platter. Sandberg spent years in the minor leagues in the Cubs’ system and then in the Phillies’ system. In the minor leagues, his teams won. However, the Phillies with their aging roster and depleted farm system had no chance and it was all unraveling on Sandberg’s watch. I presume – because I cannot possibly know – that the frustration of that situation is what kicked him over the edge and into resignation.
I am sure that Phillies’ fans who watch every game can point to errors in his judgment and/or strategies. Looking at the bigger picture, I think it is fair to criticize Sandberg for not getting the team to over-achieve – and by “over-achieve” I mean play such that they would not lose 100 games this year. [The Phillies are on pace to lose 105 games this year.]
Measuring a manager by the criterion of “over-achieving” is a tough one. Paul Molitor – another Hall of Fame player – surely seems to be doing that in Minnesota so far this year with the Twins 5 games over .500 and in second place in the AL Central as of this morning. Ryne Sandberg clearly did not make that happen in Philly this year or last.
One interesting outcome from all of this will be to see when/if Ryne Sandberg gets another job with an MLB team – as a manager or a coach or a minor league manager or a front office guy. Obviously, he knows something about the game and how to play it; however, he resigned – which some may equate with “quit” – in the middle of a disastrous situation in Philly. I wonder if that decision by itself will pollute the waters should he seek another job in another venue.
One other interesting thing to keep an eye on will be the Phillies’ scouting system. Only the Brewers have a record nearly as bad as the Phillies so it would not be outrageous to suspect that the Phillies will have one of the top three picks in next year’s draft – if not the top pick. The pressure is on…
Bob Molinaro had these two comments in his column last week in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:
“Adding spirits: The University of Maryland submitted a proposal to its local liquor board to sell beer and wine during football and basketball games because, says Maryland president Wallace D. Loh, ‘it will enhance the fan experience.’ But fans have always found a way to, ahem, enhance their game-day experience with tailgate drinking and by sneaking flasks and miniatures through the gates. For college crowds, locating booze is not a problem, though if Maryland gets its way, Terps fans finding their cars after the game might be.”
“Boo to booze: Texas is another institution of higher learning that wants to sell beer and wine at games. Noting that his school is resisting the trend, Texas A&M chancellor John Sharp wryly commented: ‘Our athletic program has not reached the point where we require the numbing effects of alcohol.’ A zinger that good deserves a toast.”
I would respect Maryland president, Wallace Loh, if he simply spoke the truth here. Selling beer and wine at the football and basketball games is a new revenue stream and the school needs to find way to increase its athletic revenues. If, in fact, the objective was to “enhance the fan experience”, then Maryland would be selling the stuff at cost with no mark-up. If they REALLY wanted to “enhance the experience” they would be handing the stuff out. Does anyone actually think either of those scenarios will come to pass?
I went to college in the 1960s; I went to an Ivy League school where football was not nearly the iconic part of campus life that it is at Texas. Nonetheless, in the student sections, at least 25% of the students could not have passed a breathalyzer test by halftime. Some were over the limit when they entered the stadium with pre-game parties often starting at 0900 and bringing adult beverages into the game was not even a challenge.
This entire business is just that; it is a business decision to dip deeper into the pockets of the fans. It has the potential to go way down south…
Finally, here is a cogent observation from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:
“The Indianapolis Colts hung a ‘2014 AFC Finalist’ banner at Lucas Oil Stadium to commemorate their 45-7 loss to the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game.
“Yes, and Custer was a finalist at the Little Big Horn.”
For the record, Custer was a “finalist” in more ways than one at the Little Big Horn…
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………