All-Star Game Needs Help

July 18, 2013

Once again the baseball All-Star game has come and gone. Did anyone notice the American League’s 3-0 victory last night? My enthusiasm for the ‘Mid-Summer Classic’ has waned precipitously in recent years. I can pinpoint my exact moment of disinterest – when commissioner Bud Selig decided to have the game actually mean something. After an embarrassing tie in an All-Star game in his Milwaukee hometown, Selig over-reacted. It wouldn’t be the last time.

Selig’s solution was to anoint the winning league in the All-Star game with home-field advantage in the World Series. Not an insignificant reward in a six or seven-game World Series.

Has this made the All-Star game more meaningful? No. Has fan interest increased? No. Have television ratings increased? No. What was wrong with just watching the best players on the planet share a diamond for one night?

It used to be, of course, that seeing the National League versus the American League actually meant something because they never faced off except for the All-Star game and the World Series. Now though, there are inter-league games every day of the baseball season, made necessary by 15 teams in each circuit.

I have a suggestion for a format change – have the defending World Series champs play a team of All-Stars from both leagues. This year it would be the San Francisco Giants vs. the All-Stars. The football season used to kick off with the defending NFL champs vs. the college all-stars. The game was eventually shelved because of injury concerns to the collegians but the concept was and is very intriguing.

It might also help if baseball took its head out of its xxx and promoted the players everyone is talking about. Yasiel Puig has lit up the game in his 45 days of major league experience, hitting .391. His merchandise is flying out of stores in the nation’s second-largest market. Yet he was unable to find his way onto the National League’s all-star roster. Yes, I know he was outvoted but certainly some accommodation could have been made to have him in New York. If people actually become fans of the game because of Puig, great. Baseball needs all it can get and it certainly didn’t help its PR image by denying Puig a place.

Bringing the Butler Way to the Back Bay

July 4, 2013

Excuse me if I don’t fall all over myself like Bob Kravitz did in his column in today’s Indianapolis Star congratulating Brad Stevens. If Kravitz wanted to send Stevens a card, many CVS and Walgreens are open 24 hours for his convenience.

Let’s be honest here – Stevens screwed Butler at best and at worst is a hypocrite for so vociferously denying reports after the college basketball season ended that he would ever leave Butler for a better job – at the time UCLA. He leaves Butler in a lurch just as the crucial July evaluation period gets under way.

I too want to wish Stevens good luck. Good luck rebuilding a team with one superstar returning from a devastating injury; good luck with a demanding Boston press troupe and fan base – something tells me that you soon will want to bring David Woods with you to the Boston Globe; good luck winning 35 games and missing the playoffs; good luck coaching in 82 games; good luck on those back-to-back nights in Portland and Sacramento and landing back at Logan in the middle of the night. Good luck bringing the ‘Butler Way’ to the Back Bay.

Gone is the fawning Indianapolis media and a less-than-demanding fan base. ┬áThe Celtics are close to becoming an afterthought on the Boston sports landscape. The Red Sox are playing well again and were the second major league team (after the Pittsburgh Pirates!) to reach 50 victories this season. They will forever be New England’s favorite and most important sports franchise. The Patriots are making headlines for all the wrong reasons lately, stories that fit more comfortably in a news hole than a sports hole, but their sustained success has made them wildly popular. The Bruins were sixty seconds away from forcing a decisive Game 7 for the Stanley Cup before they imploded and play in a region that loves the sport from the amateur levels to the NHL.

Enter stage right a 36-year-old coach with no professional coaching experience and a team that will be searching for an identity. How many days until Red Sox spring training starts in Ft. Myers? How many days until the annual picture of the equipment truck being loaded up at Fenway Park, ready to roll south? Who is going to win the Beanpot this year – BC? BU?

 

But of course there is a fallback plan. I’m sure Stevens and his agent have discussed this – “what’s the worst that can happen?” Let’s say Stevens never finds his mojo in the NBA, the Celtics don’t come close to hanging another banner, and he parts ways with the team after five years. He is obviously much richer than he would have been had he kept driving to 49th and Boulevard every day and he will have collegiate options galore. See Rick Pitino. Let’s see in five years Coach K might be ready to listen to ESPN. Coach Williams might be ready to hit golf balls all day. Coach Pitino might want to hang in the clubhouse at Churchill and watch his horses. Coach Cal might want to devote himself full-time to social media. Here comes Coach Stevens – gosh he was the coach of the Boston Celtics for five years. It would be our distinct honor to have him in Lexington or Chapel Hill or Durham.

Butler needs to go ‘outside the family’ for Stevens’ replacement. Stevens has elevated Butler from a coronation job to a destination job. My vote is for Dane Fife. He played at Indiana, has already been a Division I head coach at IUFW and has spent the last couple of years learning from one of the greatest coaches of his generation, Tom Izzo. He is ready for this opportunity.

I can already see the signs at cozy Hinkle as the sun streams in the windows on another cold February Saturday afternoon – ‘Fife for Life.’ Yeah, right.

 

Snelling a promotion

July 1, 2009

Ian Snell lost his bid for a no-hitter with one out in the fifth inning last Sunday afternoon, giving up a clean single. Not only was it the first hit of the afternoon by the opposition, it was also the first hit ball of the afternoon by the opposition.

Little did I know when I made the spur-of-the-moment decision to attend Sunday’s AAA game at Victory Field between the Indians and the Toledo Mud Hens that I would say a game unlike any before.

Snell, a mediocre major-league right-handed pitcher was making his first start for the Tribe after being demoted by the Pirates.

On a sparlkling Sunday afternoon, with ‘Chamber of Commerce’ temperatures, Snell took the mound and promptly illustrated why even the lowly Pirates didn’t want him around anymore. He walked the leadoff batter on a 3-2 count.

What followed has never been equalled in baseball history. Snell went on to strike out the side. Then he did it again in the second. Then he did it again in the third. Then he did it again in the fourth. Then he struck out the lead-off batter in the fifth before giving up a base hit.

Thirteen strike outs in a row. The major league record is believed to be ten straight set by Tom Seaver. Snell went on to fan seventeen Toledo batters – in only SEVEN innings. He recored twenty-one outs and struck out seventeen of them.

Oh yeah, Indianapolis won 2-1 in ten innings but the story of the game was Snell.

Now I know the Toledo Mud Hens are not the Los Angeles Dodgers but still seventeen strikeouts is impressive whether it’s Little League or the big leagues.

This is one scorecard that I’ll keep for a long time.

Pacers’ Draft/Kahn’s Plan

June 28, 2009

I can’t understand why everyone is so upset with the Pacers pick of Tyler Hansbrough as their first pick.

If I would have told you before the draft that Indiana would be able to get the former national player of the year, a three-time All-American, and the all-time leading scorer at arguably the most relevant Division I basketball school over the past twenty years, what say you?

Credit the Pacers for looking in the mirror and accurately assessing the needs of a team that has won 36 games the last two years and missed the playoffs the past three.

The last thing this franchise needed was another point guard which was why I was scared they were going to draft another Heel with a first name starting with ‘Ty….’ when David Stern announced their pick.

Fortunately the Ty was Hansbrough, not Lawson, and the Pacers can try to rebuild their depleted front line around the basket. Indeed, I would have rather them traded up, if they needed to, for another ‘big’ instead of wasting the second round pick on A.J. Price as they did.

The bottom line though, is the Pacers are going to need to start playing some defense if they are going to improve. The clock is ticking on coach Jim O’Brien. A poor start to the ’09-’10 season could doom him early on and provide some cover for Larry Bird, also in the last year of his contract, if the team fails to excite fans before the new year.

There are some good coaches waiting in the wings…Jeff VanGundy, Bill Lambier, and something tells me that a December change is likely.

Speaking of VanGundy, it was pretty apparent that new Minnesota president David Kahn was telling the world that Jeff is in the mix for the still-vacant Wolves’ coaching job when he did his draft-night interview on ESPN.

Clearly Kahn has some plan up in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. The exact nature of that paradigm is unclear to me at this writing. What does make sense is they drafted Rubio knowing the Spaniard’s likelihood of spending the winter in the Twin Cities was as likely as Iran holding fair elections. Now, Kahn has Rubio as a bargaining chip and can exact a trade for him. The longer he holds out, the more alluring the Spaniard is going to be.

Kahn spent some years with the Pacers’ front-office organization and was not the most popular guy to ever inhabit the basement of Conseco Fieldhouse. No one has ever doubted his smarts though, so it will be fascinating to see what goes on in Minneapolis.

Hello world!

June 14, 2009

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