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John Rooke - Thinking Out Loud

Saturday, April 26, 2014

 

Thinking out loud…and wondering who settles for a “cheeseburger in paradise?”

• Have to start with an apology this week. This column isn’t as long as it usually is – not that I don’t have a lot on my mind – but because for the first time in several years I took an actual “non-working” vacation. Well, except for this. And I’ll be lucky enough to take another later this summer, thank you very much…

• My hope is that this is not true…but TMZ Sports had an item this week reporting that former Friar and ex-Celtic Eric Williams is homeless and broke, after spending 12 seasons in the NBA. TMZ, and the State of Colorado, apparently, found Williams in New Jersey. Allegedly, he owes more than $24K in back child support to the mother of his 13-year old son, but says he is in the “rebuilding stage of his life.” Williams was a part of the first PC Big East championship team in 1994, as a junior…

• Not to be all doom and gloom…but we reported here last week that the Providence athletic department ranks 44th nationally in the Learfield Sports Director’s Cup. Don’t know what that really means? It’s a compilation of the season-ending results from at least 10 men’s and 10 women’s sports at every Division I school in the country…and PC is the highest ranked school among non-football-playing institutions…

Providence was also only one of two schools to send BOTH men’s basketball and men’s hockey to the NCAA’s. The other – was Wisconsin. With a student enrollment of 43,200, as of 2013. PC? 3800 undergrads…

(tripadvisor.com)

• The most spectacular drive – speaking for the North American continent only – may be the one traveled south on US 1 from Homestead, FL to Key West. During the nearly-four-hour excursion, there is a section of the highway near Marathon, FL where almost literally you have the Gulf of Mexico outside the passenger door of your car, and the Atlantic Ocean on the drivers’ side. The original Seven Mile Bridge, built in 1912 by Henry Flagler, connected the mid-Keys region to the Lower Keys…and was considered (at the time) one of the Seven Wonders of the World…

• While the original bridge still exists today, it’s used mostly for hiking, biking and fishing. The current highway was built in 1982, and is actually not quite as long as the original (6.79 miles). There is a Seven Mile Bridge run in early April to commemorate the completion of the Florida Keys bridge rebuilding program…

• Speaking of runs…it was great to see the success – and the extra 9K or so participants – at the Boston Marathon. RI resident Joann Flaminio is an acquaintance, and she’s been president of the Boston Athletic Association for the past three years – the first woman to lead the BAA in its’ history. To say this past year has been trying, would be an understatement. Flaminio, with the will of the people, gave us an event to celebrate once again…as the longest continuously run marathon in the world…

Meb Keflezighi. Still can’t pronounce it the way I believe it should be pronounced. But I’ll try. Win-ner

Great side story to Keflezighi’s becoming the first American to win the race in 31 years…he’s 38 years old. And, three years ago, he lost a shoe deal with Nike (all bow, please) because they thought he was too old. See, the Swoosh doesn’t know everything, and doesn’t control all it sees. Sometimes, even The Swoosh is “stupid is as stupid does…”

• Speaking of stupid…let’s put NY Yankee pitcher Michael Pineda’s face on the bulletin board. Or maybe his neck. I don’t know what’s worse…the fact that he thought he could get away with using pine tar again – after having a glob on his hand the last time he faced the Red Sox – or the fact that he thought no one would notice it? All together now, with feeling – “stupid is as stupid does…”

• Pineda said after the game last Wednesday night he used the pine tar so he wouldn’t hit anybody. I’ll take him at his word for that…but don’t you suppose that someone – anyone (hello Joe Girardi) – should have spoken to him BEFORE going out on the mound to say “um, Michael, you don’t have any of that goo on ya,’ do you?” Just sayin’

• Sorry kids, but to me, Girardi is complicit here. He should be suspended right along with Pineda. You can’t convince me, especially after it happened in his previous start against Boston, that he knew NOTHING. Reporters asked him questions about the pine tar on his hands, which he outright dismissed, in order to protect his player. He knew it was there. He and the Yankees are playing us all for fools…

• To his credit, GM Brian Cashman said the Yankees’ organization is responsible here. So do the right thing, Brian. Suspend your manager for as long as baseball sits Pineda. It’s the right thing to do. Or are you just blowing smoke up our skirts?

• You know what would have been worse here? What if John Farrell, for a second time, failed to question Pineda’s pine tar like he did the first time? I would seriously question his sanity, as well as every ounce of his baseball acumen, if that had happened. Fortunately, someone decided “enough” with the cheating…and called the Yankees on it…

• You can surely expect Clay Buchholz to get a thorough inspection from the umpires and the Toronto Blue Jays prior to his Saturday start in Toronto, by the way. Buchholz has also been accused in the past of mixing rosin with sunscreen to get a better grip on the ball. Trouble is…the way he’s been pitching of late, he’s clearly not doing it enough…

• What did you expect? Bouquets? So Jacoby Ellsbury was booed in his Fenway return last week…big deal. The Yankees still overpaid for him, he never really had a chance to stick around Boston…and just like Johnny Damon, is now viewed as “the enemy.” Sox to Yankees? Boo him. I’m fine with that, regardless of what he may have meant to title-winning teams. Some of us still root for laundry…

• He shut those boos down, though, when he whacked Jon Lester’s 3rd pitch of the game for a triple…

• And if you loved booing Ellsbury, wait until you get the chance to boo Lester when he makes his return to Fenway next season in, gulp, pinstripes...

• What about Lester? Way to come up small, big fella. Not for nuthin’…but does anyone else think that John Farrell left him in there just a smidge too long? I mean, I know – on occasion – a veteran pitcher deserves the chance to work his way out of trouble. But it’s the manager’s job to KNOW when to pull a guy, and because of his previous reign as Sox pitching coach, I think Farrell is often too close to those guys…and can’t properly “manage” the situation. Last Tuesday night was a perfect example of that…

• Ok, where has THAT John Lackey been this season? 11K’s and no BB’s in his Wednesday start against NY, his second career effort with those numbers, puts him in select company with Pedro Martinez – the only two pitchers in MLB history with multiple games of 11 strikeouts and no walks against the Yankees…

• FIVE errors? In a single game? What is this, Little League? And I’ve had many LL teams play better in the field than what happened Thursday night at Fenway…

• Oh, and 12 walks…three stolen bases allowed…three wild pitches…a passed ball…and spare outfielder Mike Carp pitching. Not exactly ingredients for success. For a defending WS champ to have a game like that – it tells me last season’s run may have had a little extra “foo-foo” dust sprinkled on it, if ya’ know what I mean…

• The season win count is now Ellsbury 5, BOS 2, if you’re adding it up at home. And Yankee fans are, I’ll wager…

(weei.com)

• Big Papi set a record this week. Didja miss it? David Ortiz set a major league record with his 1,644th game as a designated hitter. He broke the mark previously held by Harold Baines

Albert Pujols probably sealed his fate for the Hall of Fame when he became the first player EVER to club career home runs #499 and #500 in the same game last week. That alone won’t get him to Cooperstown, but the fact that he’s still a three-time National League MVP (how soon we forget St. Louis) and he’s the 26th player all-time to hit the 500 mark should do the trick…

Stats, Inc. says of the 26 players to reach the 500 career home run level, 11 of them have done it in the last 15 years. The last player to do it? Gary Sheffield, in 2009...

• Why do I think Pujols has no shot at 600? Could it be that his body has begun breaking down, and his numbers have followed since moving westward to Los Angeles? As you may recall, former Cardinal (and Red Sox 1st baseman) Jack Clark accused him of steroid use last year – only to retract those comments when Pujols sued him for defamation of character…

• Former Sox and Chicago Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster joined MLB Network as an analyst this week. Dempster walked away from the remainder of his Sox contract – which never happens any more – and should be good in his new role, as long as he injects his sometimes-quirky personality into the mix…

Here’s a way we can make golf more fun, more entertaining to watch…and completely shut the sport down altogether at the same time. Huh? Make this a requirement…

• Honest question here. How do we know the difference between being a “tough coach,” and being a bully? Boston University had to answer that question, and fired women’s basketball coach Kelly Greenburg as a result of four players quitting the team a year ago because of “emotional abuse.” Let’s see if I have this straight…athletes want scholarships, some may want to unionize and/or get paid, and also want to be coddled more. Is that about it?

• Change is coming in college sports. SEC Commissioner Mike Slive said as much when he spoke at UMass a week ago…that there will be a new subdivision of NCAA membership housing the five “equity conferences” (as the SEC, Big 12, ACC, Pac-12 and Big 10 now wish to be called). The vote comes in August, but don’t expect the complete transformation to take place for at least another year…

• The Northwestern football players have decided on their unionization vote, but the results won’t be known for a while. What will this mean for college sports? Nothing right away, but when the members of these “equity conferences” begin tilting the playing fields further in their direction toward providing more benefits for their, ahem, student athletes…you’ll see the true end to amateurism as we know it. Especially if unions start popping up on campuses…

Tuukka Rask has been brilliant, yes. But the defense in front of him has been equally tough, to be sure. Saw all I needed to see when the Bruins killed off a 5-on-3 Detroit power play last Tuesday night. It was only 35 seconds, but they were glorious, if you love “D…”

• Another reason to be excited about the Bruins for the long haul…the first two goals scored in Tuesday’s 3-0 win at Detroit were scored by Dougie Hamilton (drafted #9 overall three years ago) and Jordan Caron (a 2009 1st round selection). Ah, youth…

• Thursday’s OT win, to me, was a defining moment for this edition of the Boston Bruins. Every team of “destiny” has them, and if these B’s go on to win the Stanley Cup, Game 4 against the Red Wings will stand out as that moment. You’re in their place, you’re down two goals in the 2nd period, and you’re not getting the breaks or bounces. Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg played for the first time since back surgery – and emotions are high, against you. All of a sudden, Torey Krug sneaks one in, and the Bruins kept pushing. They were relentless. And that’s the trait of a winner…

Claude Julien celebrated his 54th birthday this week. Does he look 54 to you?

• My buddy “Big E,” who is also Julien’s age, says when he sees a pretty young woman these days…he wonders what her mom looks like…

• Michigan’s Mitch McGary decided to jump to the NBA this week. But only after he failed a drug test for marijuana…in which the penalty is a one-year suspension. And he only played in eight games because of a back injury. Schools do have their own rules and penalties for failed drug tests, but the NCAA’s rule is a year off – no exceptions. If Rhode Island continues its’ trek toward legalization, and the NCAA likely hangs onto its most-of-the-time Draconian rules, you can expect this story to hit “home” at some point…

• Comings and goings…well, mostly goings. DeAndre Daniels has decided to depart UConn for the NBA, but Ryan Boatright stays behind to right the ship for next season. And the Harrison twins, Andrew and Aaron, are coming back to Kentucky. That UK team Providence will face next season in Lexington? NINE McDonalds’ all-Americans will be on it, at last count. Whoa

• The Friars’ Brice Kofane, who is graduating next month from PC, has one year of playing eligibility left…and announced via Twitter this week he will play next season at Monmouth in New Jersey…

• I don’t think it’s a horrible idea, expanding the NFL playoffs from 12 to 14 teams…but what I don’t want to see is the NHL/NBA-ization of pro football. Can it wait until the league decides to expand back into Los Angeles, or perhaps actually put a team in London? With 14 playoff teams, the NFL will have 44% of its teams reaching post-season play…behind the NBA and NHL with 53%. Baseball, for all of its troubles with replay, still hangs onto the “less is more” theory with just a third of its teams making the playoffs…

• The one thing on the Patriots’ schedule that really stood out to me – a well-placed bye week at Week 10, just past the midway point of the regular season. That should allow for walking wounded to heal, mentally and physically, at the very least. It seems like New England always gets a break from the schedule-makers on bye weeks…

• Three straight home games, too…after four of the first six on the road, which is a tough start. NYJ, CHI and DEN will be at Gillette, in a row, just prior to the week off, at the end of October and early November. That will be a huge momentum builder – or a real buzz kill…

• A Monday night game (@ KC), a Thursday night game (vs. NYJ) and three on Sunday night (two of them away, @ IND and @ SD). I don’t know about you, but give me 1:00 pm Sunday kickoffs any time…

• But here’s all you really need to know about “schedule talk:” Tweet of the Week – from @notthefakeSVP (ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt) – “NFL schedule talk is pointless. If you had ATL or HOU on your sched. last yr, it was “tough.” They won 25 games in ’12. Last year they won 6…”

• BS call: Former Dallas Cowboys’ running back Herschel Walker told USA Today that at age 52, which he is right now, he could still play in the NFL. Walker was a great college back at Georgia, and was part of perhaps the most lopsided trade in NFL history when he went to the Cowboys from Minnesota for five players and six draft picks. And he’s been into martial arts, ballet, all sorts of athletic and business ventures since he last played a down. But today? He was a good, not great pro back. And I’m not anywhere near him physically, but at my age (54) I have aches and pains I didn’t have 20-30 years ago. Walker? One hit is all it would take to close his pie hole…

• Get ready, Buffalo. If Donald Trump buys the Bills…I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if you had a Walker sighting soon follow. Walker played for Trump’s New Jersey Generals in the USFL…

• I’d rather see Michael Jordan, at age 51, attempt a comeback before I’d watch Walker get pounded by the Patriots…or some other team. That would qualify as elderly abuse…

• As you may have guessed, I did get to spend some time in paradise this past week, or at least as close to it perhaps as I’ll ever get. And I suppose that “paradise” to one person may not be all that great to another. But I will say this about Key West, FL – there’s a different mindset there. The world slows down to a better-than-manageable rate. Cares are suddenly whisked away. Problems disappear. And it’s not just the booze in the blender talking, as Jimmy Buffett once sang so eloquently…Ernest Hemingway wrote novels there. The summer White House for Harry S. Truman was there (and still is). The 42 bridges you cross in making the drive from Miami are all unique, and many hold breathtaking views. It also seems like half of New England is here as well (shout out to Chris and Tiffany from Scituate, RI!), judging from the yells, screams and cheers for the Bruins and Red Sox this week at local establishments. And the booze in the blender?  It is first rate…

• From the mailbag this week – Paul via email writes: “Would Al Skinner ever consider the head coaching (job) for UMaine? Getting a team into the NCAA tournament for the first time could be another highlight in his accomplished career. Just one man's thought.” Paul: It’s a good thought, and I’ll wager Coach Skinner has at least considered it. We’ll try to follow up on this, but my guess is at this stage of his career he really wants to help those who have been loyal to him…and that includes Tim O’Shea at Bryant, where he served as an assistant this past year. Al told me last summer he would always consider a good opportunity if one came open, so the question really is…is Maine a good opportunity? Ted Woodward was fired after 10 mostly “meh” (117-178) seasons. I’d be surprised if RIC’s Bob Walsh didn’t get a look here as well…

• Interested in having your questions on local RI sports (including the Patriots, Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics) answered in a somewhat timely fashion? Send ‘em to me! It’s your chance to “think out loud,” so send your questions and comments to [email protected]. We’ll share mailbag comments/Facebook posts/Tweets right here! Follow me on Twitter, @JRbroadcaster…and on Facebook, www.facebook.com/john.rooke ...

• Don’t forget to join us for GoLocal Sports on 103.7 FM, every Saturday from 7:00-9:00 am! Call in (401) 737-1287, or text us at 37937…and send email to the show - [email protected] .

 

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