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John Rooke - Thinking Out Loud

Saturday, July 26, 2014

 

Thinking out loud…while wondering if it’s possible to perfect the ballpark wiener…

       

  • Marcus Allen said it this week, and I’ve been thinking it for a long time…the Raiders should move back to Los Angeles.  From an old-school standpoint, they should always be the Oakland Raiders.  But the late Al Davis, you’ll perhaps recall, moved his team from LA back to Oakland in 1995 when he was told he should share a proposed new stadium with another franchise.  That never happened, of course, and he ended up leaving the nation’s 2nd largest city without a team at all…

 

  • Always wondered how the San Francisco Bay Area supported two NFL teams (along with the 49ers, of course) and Los Angeles was left with nothing.  Never made sense, and it still doesn’t, after almost 20 years.  It may be déjà vu all over again however; the league wants the Raiders to share SF’s new stadium…and the Raiders apparently want nothing to do with that…

 

  • When Patriots’ owner Robert Kraft said last week he thought the NFL should have a goal of placing a team in London before the end of the decade, he wasn’t kidding.  New market = new revenue source.  But for my money, a team should arrive in Los Angeles before the league turns its lonely, deprived eyes overseas…

 

  • Profootballtalk.com has the Patriots ranked as 4th best in the NFL as camps get started…behind Seattle, San Francisco and Denver.  Hard to argue with that assessment.  What I would argue with, however, is over potential.  There just may be more of it in New England than meets the eye…

 

  • Sad to hear that Denver owner Pat Bowlen has stepped down from his control of the Broncos as he battles Alzheimer’s disease.  Team president Joe Ellis takes over, accompanied by John Elway.  Here’s hoping Mr. Bowlen fights through this at least as hard as his Broncos fight the Patriots every time they meet…

       

  • Baltimore’s Ray Rice ultimately got a two-game suspension, plus an extra game check fine, for striking and dragging his then-fiancee Janay Palmer from an elevator at an Atlantic City casino in February.  Yes, they still got married.  Yes, Rice loses a lot of dough…more than $700K.  Yes, the penalty was too light.  Yes, good people are capable of making bad decisions.  But this one, really, was just heinous…

 

  • What are the Ravens becoming, by the way?  A college campus?  Five Baltimore players were arrested this past off-season…

 

  • Tweet of the Week I – from @awfulannouncing: “The NFL suspended Ray Rice 2 games for assaulting his fiancée. The NFL suspended Terrelle Pryor 5 games over free tattoos. In college.”

 

  • Maybe Jacksonville’s Justin Blackmon needs a trade to, say, Denver?  Or Seattle?  Or how about a simple reality check?  Somehow, the word hasn’t gotten to him that it’s still illegal to smoke pot in Oklahoma, where he was arrested for a 3rd time, in possession of marijuana.  He’s already serving an indefinite suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy, after a third positive test…

 

  • Rory McIlroy’s dad’s bet on his son to win the British Open before he turned 26?  At first, it was an eye-opener.  Next, a shake-of-the-head in disbelief.  Followed by a “good-for-him” pronouncement, having that kind of confidence in his kid.  Now?  Can you imagine the pressure that might have been put on younger Rory?  Just sayin’…

       

  • It was an impressive performance by McIlroy at The Open, no doubt, winning wire-to-wire as he did.  He’s deserving of his new world ranking that will take him up to #2 behind Adam Scott, certainly.  But for my money, the hot guy to watch in the coming weeks and months is Rickie Fowler…even though he’s a year older than McIlroy, there’s just something about his game that looks good for the long haul…

 

  • Seven straight losses?  A World Cup bump in the wrong direction for the New England Revolution

 

  • From the desk of Captain Obvious…ESPN.com conducted a survey of 300 high school football recruits from across the nation, and received more than 150 responses to questions asked about the changes that await college athletes – like receiving stipends.  Predictably, 86 percent of those who answered said “sure, we should receive a stipend.”  What worries me is the 14% that said no…are they smart enough to attend college in the first place?

 

  • A remarkable streak…Clayton Kershaw’s stretch of eight straight starts allowing no more than one run (8-0, 0.74 ERA) is one of the more dominating pitching performances by ANY one over the past few years.  But the team that finally got to him, the St. Louis Cardinals (even though LA won the game in question last Sunday), will have no fear once the post-season gets here…

 

  • A six percent chance of making the playoffs?  Woo hoo.  That’s up from a week ago, right?  Hey bandwagoners…don’t look now, but the wheels are flying off the caboose again…

       

  • Did Jon Lester’s price just go up, or what?  Whether negotiations are tabled or not, they’re never completely turned off.  Four words to the Red Sox.  Pay.  The.  Man.  Now.  That is all

 

  • Lester can hardly do more than he’s doing right now, in trying to earn a new contract.  But as I’ve mentioned previously, I’m not entirely certain the Sox want to enter the fray for retaining his services next year and beyond.  4-0 with a 0.85 ERA in his last seven starts (before Friday night) is Kershaw-esque, and the Sox silence on the matter will grow louder…in spite of the revelation this week they’ve “tabled” negotiations…

 

  • Still think Lester is not long for Boston.  Most likely, the Sox offer him a qualifying one-year deal, which would be worth around $14 million for next year.  He says no, which then means the Sox would receive a sandwich first-round draft pick, and the team that signs him would have to give up a first-rounder.  Or, how about just keeping him?

 

  • My friend Tim Geary, a now-retired sportswriter, encapsulates Clay Buchholz pretty well with this missive this week – “Here’s a tip…play some pepper, then maybe you can catch a comebacker with something other than your face...”

 

  • He just doesn’t seem to WANT to be out there, does he?  Talk about a player who doesn’t look like he enjoys his job.  And if Mike Hargrove was the original “human rain delay” for his elongated antics in the batters’ box (Google it, kids), what does that make Buchholz on the mound?  The “human decade killer?”  Dude, a little rhythm in your life might be good for you…

 

  • WEEI’s Rob Bradford pointed out this week that, even though 39-year-old pitchers might not get any attention, shouldn’t the Sox at least consider a new deal for all-star Koji Uehara, rather than trading him?  Having saved 40 of 44 with an ERA just over 1.00 since assuming the closers’ role just over a year ago…of course they should.  But at what numbers?  His $4.25 million this year is the highest of his MLB tenure…

       

  • Tweet of the Week II – from @ESPNStatsInfo: “Jake Peavy (BOS): Lost 9 straight decisions. First Red Sox starter to do so in a single season since Jim Lonborg in 1969.”

 

  • Don’t look now, but the Pawsox actually ARE back into a playoff chase in the International League.  In the playoffs each of the past three years – I.L. Governors’ Cup champs two years ago, and finalists last year – Pawtucket has bumped along this year with a combination of players including prospects (like Mookie Betts) and rehab assignments (Will Middlebrooks continues his)…all under a new leadership team led by manager Kevin Boles.  This week, the team winning streak reached a season high seven games, and they are very much in a pennant race once again…

 

  • Not for nuthin’…but the team Boles left from a year ago – the Double A Portland Pirates – are kicking a** and taking names in the Eastern League this season, so far.  Signs are strong down on the farm…

 

  • MLB’s suspension this week of San Diego outfielder Cameron Maybin, 25 games for PED use (amphetamines), shows exactly why the great players shunned by the Hall of Fame for using performance enhancers should be, um, un-shunned.  Why?  Because it has been fairly well documented that players of a different generation (read Jim Bouton’s Ball Four, for examples…and a huge laugh, too) used to pop bennies like they were M&M’s in a candy jar.  Some of them GREAT players, HALL-OF-FAME players, of a different generation.  Nothing ever happened to them…

 

  • Baseball needs to get off of its sanctimonious high horse, and allow the best players IN the Hall.  PED use has occurred throughout baseball history.  No one has stopped it yet, and it’s doubtful anyone will.  Let ‘em all in, or throw the whole thing out…

       

  • My wish list for the Patriots included Tony Gonzalez coming out of retirement…and it became clear this week the Patriots at least have a list.  Although, they didn’t get Gonzalez (yet) to re-think his future, they did sign former Tampa Bay TE Nate Byham – who is also recovering from an ACL injury - and then they dumped him Friday.  Potential backup for Gronk could come from both Michael Hoomanawanui and D.J. Williams…in the event Gronk comes up short for Week One or beyond…

 

  • That he has been medically cleared to take part NOW, instead of later, is incredibly good news for TB12’s offense and the team in general.  Surprisingly good news, especially so with Bill Belichick’s public pronouncement of his readiness last Wednesday.  Translation?  Show us something.  We think you’re ready.  Still…if he plays much – at all, even – during the pre-season, it’s senseless.  If he lines up for extra point duty?  Stupid is as stupid does...

 

  • There’s just no way Gronk is the same Gronk at the start.  It doesn’t happen after ACL injuries, and it doesn’t take a lot of digging to find that out.  Keeping him relatively healthy until he can re-develop that “Gronkness” is the priority.  Patience will be required on the team end, as well as yours…

 

  • Tweet of the Week III – from @RobGronkowski: “Super excited to be back on the practice field with my teammates! Gotta keep on working if ya know what I mean!”  Uh, sure Gronk.  Yo soy Fiesta?

 

  • Two Things You Could See Happen During Camp:  1) Rookie Bryan Stork takes over at center from Ryan Wendell.  If Wendell has anywhere close to the kind of start he had in 2012, he’ll keep his gig for the short term.  But if the O-line has some troubles as camp gets underway, the Patriots will start in the middle and give the rookie from Florida State every chance to take over – especially with a new O-line coach (Dave DeGuglielmo) now running the show…

 

  • And 2) Ryan Mallett will move.  Somewhere out of state.  Probably not for Andre Johnson in Houston, but someone will need a QB and if the Patriots should discover their backup in rookie Jimmy Garoppolo, call in the trucks.  Mallett is in the final year of his current contract, so it’s tough to think the Patriots won’t try to get something for him, or out of him, in return…even though he should initially be able to hold onto his current job as TB12’s understudy…

       

  • And Two More Things About the Patriots You May Not Have Known…1) the Patriots are the only team in the NFL without a former NFL player on the current coaching staff.  NFL.com’s Gil Brandt reports even though he signed a contract with Green Bay, special teams coach Scott O’Brien never played in a regular season game for the Packers; 2) the Patriots are one of 14 teams currently without a designated Assistant Head Coach.  That title belonged to the retired Dante Scarnecchia, but will apparently not be passed onto anyone else – like Josh McDaniels

 

  • If you make the trek to Foxboro and Gillette Stadium for Training Camp over the next few weeks, you’ll notice a difference in the East Side of the stadium.  25,000 square feet of new office space has been completed as an addition for the coaches, who moved into the new digs a week before camp started.  Hard to believe, but Gillette is 13 years old…which means improvements inside-and-out are coming, if they haven’t already…

 

  • Remember when former Colts’ GM Bill Polian got all flustered with the way Patriots’ DB’s were roughing up Peyton Manning’s receivers?  It was a point-of-emphasis for the NFL and its referees more than a decade ago, and it will be rearing its head once again this season.  And the Patriots are attached to it again, if only for the fact that Brandon Browner will (eventually) be in the NE secondary.  Browner was a part of Seattle’s “Legion of Boom” defense in winning the SB last season, which may or may not have gotten away with some, ahem, holding every now and then…

 

  • So we don’t see a parade of officials’ flags hit the turf for every game, expect refs to also call offensive pass interference as well.  But overall, the offense will still rule the day.  It has to.  People pay to see points.  Period…

 

  • Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security here…but in case you haven’t noticed, some early-season New England opponents have already taken a fair share of hits as camp opens.  Miami (Week 1) has lost center Mike Pouncey with an injury, and DE Dion Jordan will face a four-game suspension to start the season; Minnesota (Week 2) will be missing special teams’ coach Mike Priefer for three games, due to a suspension.  ESPNBoston.com’s Mike Reiss pointed out recently the Vikings led the NFL in average starting field position last year, and Buffalo has lost LB Kiko Alonzo with a torn ACL…

       

  • Talk about Living On A Prayer…did you see where rocker and friend-of-Bill-Belichick Jon Bon Jovi is apparently in on the potential new ownership group for the Buffalo Bills?  The group says they are committed to keeping the Bills in Buffalo, and NOT moving them to Toronto, as has been rumored.  If the deal happens, does this mean no more Bon Jovi tunes blaring from the Gillette Stadium speakers at practice?  After all…that would be akin to supporting the enemy…

 

  • Oh.  And the reported price tag for those Bills?  $1.1 billion.  That’s for the B-U-F-F-A-L-O Bills.  The only franchise to have been in (and lost) four straight Super Bowls…and a team that hasn’t sniffed success in the post-season in 20 years (last winning a playoff game in ’95), or reached the playoffs in 14.  Whoa

 

  • More signs that (almost) everybody loves a bad boy…Johnny (Football) Manziel leads the NFL in jersey sales…

 

  • So Tony Dungy says, according to the Tampa Bay Times, that he would not have drafted Rams’ rookie LB Michael Sam because he’s gay.  So what?  He’s only being honest.  Dungy also said he wouldn’t have wanted to put up with the trouble that, he believes, will accompany Sam’s efforts in trying to make his team.  In other words – he wouldn’t want a distraction.  Does that make him a homophobe?  Most coaches don’t like distractions, either.  Does that make them all homophobes?  Please…

 

  • To his credit, St. Louis coach Jeff Fisher (Sam’s head coach) says Sam’s presence hasn’t been a distraction.  Yet.  Dungy’s religious beliefs, he’s admitted, also influence his way of thinking.  But the issue at hand is a football issue.  Is he good enough to play?  And if the non-football part of it creeps into the football side, Sam will be – and probably should be – gone…

 

  • Talent alone wasn’t good enough to keep a guy like Tim Tebow, with his outward religious beliefs and pied-piper following employed in the NFL.  Neither was talent apparently good enough for Minnesota punter Chris Kluwe, cut from the Vikings for his claims about a culture of discrimination within that locker room.  We’ll see how Sam’s story plays out, soon enough…

       

  • Never been a fan of the ESPY’s.  Contrived, staged, and putting some on a pedestal that don’t belong there…ESPN’s version of the Emmys/Oscars was a cool idea when it started (think back to Jim Valvano’s moving speech), in an effort to create something from the vast nothingness that baseball’s All-Star break presents to the sports world.  Now?  Meh.  Although Stuart Scott, who is fighting cancer himself, was inspiring…

 

  • Not for nuthin’…but the ESPY’s were actually beaten in the TV ratings this year by Nickelodeon’s “Kids Choice Awards.”  Awful Announcing points out that the ESPY’s were simulcast on ESPN2 as well, which put their total audience at just more than those watching on Nick…but the glitz and supposed glamour of the ESPY’s is clearing waning…

 

  • Uh oh…Has Larry Brown lost his grip in Dallas?  First, five-star guard Emmanuel Mudiay decides to de-commit from SMU and head for Europe.  Now, four-star shooting guard Matt McQuaid has also said “no” to the Mustangs.  What looked to be a potentially star-studded season for SMU in the American Athletic Conference has certainly lost some of its’ luster…

 

  • Thought it was kinda funny – and ironic – that Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby opened his conference’s football media day this past week with the statement that his league’s programs “don’t exist for the purpose of preparing professional athletes.”  That's pure, unadulterated mule muffins.  What exactly, are his schools doing RIGHT NOW about trying to become autonomous in their decision-making process on whether to pay athletes or not?  And what are his schools doing right now about trying to train future doctors, lawyers and businessmen in all walks of life, as well as football, basketball or baseball players, for that matter? 

 

  • I get it, I get it.  He’s simply trying to state Big 12 schools aren’t a professional system of minor-league teams for professional sports leagues.  That their job is to educate first…yada, yada, yada.  But of course they are, and about to become more so…in football, especially.  Look, you don’t have to like it…so do something about it.  He won’t, and neither will anyone else with that kind of swag…there’s simply too much money involved to go back to the “way things were” 30 or 40 years ago.  But don’t lie…to us, or yourself…

       

  • You realize, of course, that with changes coming from within the NCAA…schools will struggle to stay up with the financial pressures of “keeping up with the Joneses” of Division I.  Admins and coaches aren’t going to take pay cuts.  Costs are rising.  Demands are greater than ever.  Which means – smaller sports that can’t/don’t pull their weight (tennis/golf/swimming/wrestling/gymnastics) are as good as gone.  Mama, don’t let your babies grow up to be gymnasts.  Put a hockey or lacrosse stick in their hands…

 

  • And this gem from Big 12/Oklahoma State football coach Mike Gundy: “I am convinced there are teams that are cheating that are saying ‘catch me if you can.’”  Ok, so what’s really new here?  But yeah.  College sports are headed in the right direction…

 

  • Too bad schools can’t have more alumni like PC’s J. Raymond Vadnais.  Mr. Vadnais, Class of ’54, passed away recently but left behind a $100K donation to the Friar basketball program.  He also left behind generous donations to the Catholic Foundation of RI, supporting scholarships at St. Cecilia’s Elementary in Pawtucket, and to Miriam Hospital…

 

  • Congrats and best wishes to former Friar and current/future San Antonio Spurs guard Bryce Cotton, as he and fiancé Simone Tubman tie the knot this weekend.  Wow.  Can you imagine the whirlwind year Cotton has had…and is still having?  Carpe Diem, young man…

 

  • We still coming…speaking of weddings, imagine the surprise when a New York bride-to-be sent out a mass text inviting guests to a bar-be-que and photo shoot.  To the wrong group of people.  And when told it wasn’t for strangers, the reply “we still coming” became, well, viral.  And the photo is a wedding photo for the ages

       

  • My buddy Statbeast sez there are two secrets that keep his marriage coming along: 1) Whenever he’s wrong, he admits it; 2) Whenever he’s right, he shuts up…

 

  • Simply put, I love a good hot dog.  Crave them, actually.  Wish I could figure out a way to make them a healthy part of my diet, rather than one to run from.  It doesn’t stop me completely (love me some Olneyville in Cranston and Sparky’s Coney Island System in East Providence) from enjoying one of life’s complicated, yet simple pleasures.  In honor of National Hot Dog Day this past Wednesday, I drooled over this Sports Illustrated layout of the best dogs at every major league ballpark.  I’ve tried seven of them, anxiously anticipate an 8th coming up soon, and well…need to figure out a way to get a real Rhode Island wiener on someone’s ballpark menu.  C’mon McCoy Stadium, why not?

       

  • From the mailbag this week – @lucasfrankel from somewhere in NY via Twitter: “@JRbroadcaster read your column, think you really underrated the Wizards, they're top 3 team in East with Miami and Indy going backwards.”  Lucas:  In reference to last week, where I thought Paul Pierce’s addition to the Washington Wizards was hardly where he should be heading at this stage of his career…I do see your point.  I don’t see the Wizards, until they actually show something, improving enough to be included in the same breath as Miami or even Indiana.  And what about Cleveland?  LBJ’s presence alone requires a Cavalier presence in any top 3 discussion, does it not?

 

 

 

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