Thinking out loud: Hard to support baseball right now

Baseballs
Photo credit USA Today Sports
By WEEI 93.7
Thinking out loud…while consulting a dictionary for this new word I’ve created…

  • Cranky and anxious.  It’s how I’ve been feeling lately.  What about you?

 

  • So what is it that’s making me cranktious?  Baseball. 

 

  • Buh-bye baseball.  For the summer, and maybe even for a while longer.

 

  • It will be hard to support players who won’t play ball with owners during a universal time of need.  And hard to support owners who are completely deaf, dumb and blind when it comes to venturing outside of their insular worlds. 

 

  • Baseball was there for us after WWII and Korea.  It was there during Vietnam, and it was there in the aftermath of 9-11.  But it isn’t there for us now.

 

  • Even after the 1994 strike year, baseball didn’t take long to captivate us all again with McGwire vs. Sosa and the long ball in ‘98. 

 

  • Baseball could have re-positioned itself with a claim to the throne as King in this Country again, had they been first with a comeback plan…and first to return to play.

 

  • Instead, hockey beat ‘em to the punch.  Ice Hockey.  During the summertime, too…when it’s supposed to be baseball season.  I mean, who saw that coming?

 

  • If there was ever a Grand Poobah who has overseen and orchestrated the dismantling or destruction of his or her league, it might be baseball commissioner Rob Manfred.  What, pray tell, has he done to actually help his sport lately?

 

  • Ironically, his background is in labor law, having settled labor disputes for years – and that’s precisely where MLB is experiencing its’ present level of omnivorous cannibalism.

 

  • There are rich, greedy owners on one side, and almost equally-rich, greedy players on the other.  And neither cares (much) about finding middle ground. 

 

  • And the commish is caught in the middle, working for one side over working for the good of the sport. 

 

  • Yeah, baseball is doing its’ best to drive us away.  I’m including myself in that collective ‘us.’

 

  • Most seem to feel as if Manfred blew the Astros’ cheating scandal.  Even if he got that right (TBD), there are 42 communities across the country – Lowell, MA being one – that could soon be without Minor League Baseball thanks to his plan, and wish, to contract the sport.

 

  • Pace of play?  PED use?  Shrinking attendance and TV ratings?  Baseball needs more than just new blood, new interest, new life and new revenue – instead, baseball needs an enema.

 

  • The owners are rich, they should give in?  Don’t they have the right to earn a return on their investment?  These owners knew what they were getting into, especially when they started handing out hundreds of millions of dollars in salaries.

 

  • As did the players, especially those in the upper-crust making those millions to play a game.  It’s hard to blame just the players here, either…after already agreeing to cuts “for the good of the game,” and now approaching ownership again like Oliver Twist with his hand out, pleading ‘please sir, I want some more?’

 

  • The whole thing makes me want to go take a shower.  And look forward to football – or hockey, even. 

 

  • Baseball has blown it.  They also know they’ve blown it, but apparently they don’t care enough about any of us to do anything about it.  Owners may lose less money if no games are played, and players…well, they want theirs.  Just sayin’.

 

  • Tweet of the Week I, from @AndrewAugustus: “It’s getting to the point where steroids and juiced balls won’t be able to save his (Manfred’s) tenure.”

 

  • Oh, and the Oakland A’s announcing they won’t be paying their minor league players to ‘save money?’ 

 

  • The franchise is worth more than $1 billion.  The owner is worth more than $2 billion.  The combined salaries for all of their minor leaguers would be just north of $1 million. 

 

  • What else has me cranktious?  Ok, mostly cranky.  Besides the wimpy decision to cancel the Boston Marathon – sorry, it’s L-A-M-E – I mentioned it here last week, and rightfully, the Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy and the esteemed global company Forbes called TB12 out on it this week.

 

  • His immunity supplement sales in a time of pandemic…suddenly appearing (and advertised on social media) after the pandemic has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives…is little more than ‘Dr. Feelgood’ selling snake oil to the gullible masses.

 

  • C’mon Tom.  It ain’t a good look for you, trying to capitalize on misfortune.  A little decorum or respect for your adoring public, please?

 

  • And what is it with this still-in-love affair with all things TB12 and Gronk around here, anyway?  They ditched us, you know.  Grass is always greener on the other sideline.

 

  • TB12, Phil, Tiger and Peyton’s golf match got big ratings, sure.  Most-watched golf match EVER on cable TV.  Me?  Didn’t watch a minute of it.

 

  • Why?  I’ve discovered other things more important, I suppose, than watching multi-millionaires throwing barbs at each other like kids in a locker room trying to snap each other with wet towels.

 

  • At least TB12 showed he’s mortal when it comes to some of his shot-making…or shot-duffing. 

 

  • And Gronk’s new TV show?  Again, didn’t spend a minute with it, but didn’t need to.  A big, overgrown kid playing games that he has a knack for mastering.  Like the big kid who always got picked first when we were playing ‘Buck-Buck’ back in elementary school…just because he was big.

 

  • Gronk stiffed you, too.  He would rather have stayed retired than come back to New England.  You good with that?

 

  • Back to the marathon for a sec – the decision to hold a ‘virtual’ event (whatever that’s supposed to mean) flies in the face of the history and the meaning of the event.  It’s disrespectful to our character.  Does ‘Boston Strong’ mean nothing after what we witnessed in 2013?

 

  • Tweet of the Week II, from @Buster_ESPN: “Lance Armstrong Part I was a dead-honest forensic examination of how he made the choices he made, including what drove his willingness to cheat. The Last Dance was more of a jockumentary; this is a documentary.”

 

  • And it was boring.  Partially because Lance is not a likeable guy.  Except for when he was in “Dodgeball.”

 

  • Not for nuthin’, but the Bruins got screwed in the NHL’s start-up plan.  So much for having the best record in the league during the season.  Means squat, now.

 

  • But at least they’ve got a start-up plan.

 

  • And The Athletic’s Joe McDonald tweeted this week he’s hearing Delaware North emailed TD Garden employees, saying they will start to receive assistance money from the fund that was set up for them. 

 

  • Anyone notice Disney will be opening the parks…about the same time as the NBA plays in Orlando, too?  Can’t fool Mickey Mouse…he’s a smaht little rat.

 

  • But it says here that while the ‘bubble environment’ looks fine on paper, the inclusion of player families-in-residence adds another dimension entirely to this entire plan. 

 

  • Like failure.

 

  • It’s admirable many of the players want to be with their families.  But when you’ve got to go to work, you go to work so you can support them.  You (usually) don’t take them to work with you, do you? 

 

  • Let’s get back to work, fellas.  Play ball.  If the job mandates you’ll be away for a while, so be it.

 

  • Tweet of the Week III, from @MarkDivver: “In a parking lot at intersection of two busy streets in Pawtucket, came across a guy selling facemasks, hand sanitizer and…fireworks! Love you, Rhode Island.”

 

  • Governor Gina Raimondo says youth sports can get back to playing in RI, starting next week.  In a year where we all feel like we’ve been grounded for the past three months, it is a welcome sign.

 

  • He opted out.  Now, he’s opting back in.  Ex-Friar Bryce Cotton re-signed with Perth in the Australian Basketball League this week.  He’s only a two-time (and reigning) MVP.  But if the NBA calls, he can return stateside.

 

  • He has also applied for Australian citizenship (his daughter and the baby mom are Aussie), which would undoubtedly place him on the Olympic team for next year, too.

 

  • Patrick Ewing gave us all a scare last weekend, with his announcing that he had contracted the coronavirus.  But the Georgetown coach is out of the hospital and recovering at home.

 

  • It has been rough recently for Ewing in many ways.  Junior guard Mac McClung transferred out of the program earlier this month, and announced this week he is headed for Texas Tech.

 

  • St. John’s took a big blow this week as well, with Lawrence, MA product L.J. Figueroa choosing to leave the Red Storm and enter the transfer portal.  A Top 5 potential Big East team with Figueroa, the Johnnies are most certainly knocked down a peg with a move.

 

  • Villanova, Creighton, Xavier, Providence, UConn, Seton Hall, Marquette, St. John’s, DePaul, Butler, Georgetown.  Based on what we know today, where am I off?

 

  • PC athletic director Bob Driscoll this week said on a zoom call the Friars have looked into the potential use of Mohegan Sun Arena for home games early next season, if the Dunk cannot accommodate.  Which would be fine – the Friars have rolled in that building.

 

  • Tweet of the Week IV, from @ByBerkowitz: “NCAA Chief Medical Officer Brian Hainline on recent advances in coronavirus testing: ‘I’m confident that a month from now, we’re going to be in a much different place.’”

 

  • CBS’ Jon Rothstein tweeted URI and BC will start up a home-and-home hoop series next season in Chestnut Hill.  The return match at the Ryan Center would come in ’21-’22.  The Eagles’ Jim Christian is on the hot seat at the Heights, and as you may recall, he’s also a Rhody alum.

 

  • All Division I sports may voluntarily begin a start-up as of June 1st.  Most will tap their toes in the water, to check the temperature…literally, if not figuratively. 

 

  • Here’s where less is going to mean more, at least for the short term.  The Big Sky Conference is reducing the number of league games from 20 to 16 for next season in a cost-cutting move.

 

  • More cranktiousness – Appalachian State sliced men’s tennis, soccer and indoor track & field this week.  Wisconsin-Green Bay waved goodbye to men’s and women’s tennis.  Alabama-Huntsville said ‘see ya’ to men’s ice hockey.

 

  • And Brown announced Thursday they are slicing 11 sports – eleven – from their varsity program. Men’s and women’s golf, men’s and women’s fencing, men’s and women’s squash, women’s equestrian, women’s skiing, men’s indoor track and field, men’s outdoor track and field and men’s cross country will all move to ‘club’ status.

 

  • Brown, however, sponsored 38 varsity teams – 3rd most in the nation behind Harvard and Stanford.  These cuts are apparently part of a departmental review as opposed to being just a cost-saving measure.  The Bears will maintain their current operational budget.

 

  • The cuts will keep coming – and they’re on the way at UConn, too.  Several in the media have reported UConn is preparing for deep cuts in light of a $42 million deficit within athletics for 2019.

 

  • Sports Illustrated’s Pat Forde this week laid the blame squarely at the feet of athletic administrators in Storrs, both present and past, for the failure of the school’s football program to thrive within the American Athletic Conference after the old Big East blew up.

 

  • Can’t say he’s wrong.  The Huskies wanted big-time football.  They got it, briefly – including a Fiesta Bowl trip in 2010.  But they didn’t sustain it, or even properly feed it along the way after making the leap from the FCS. 

 

  • The ACC wouldn’t touch them (thanks in part to Boston College standing in the way).  The Big 12?  Big 10?  Please.  Football rules those roosts.  And UConn added zero in football value to those leagues.

 

  • Poor hires and fiscal decisions instead led UConn football into a money pit off the field and losing on the field, eventually forcing men’s and women’s basketball – the signature on-campus sports – to retreat into the waiting arms of the new iteration of the Big East.

 

  • Think about this – football at UConn could lead to slicing as many as eight other sports within their athletic department budget.  How do you explain away football’s plight with a straight face to those student-athletes and their families you once recruited?

 

  • The real kick in the teeth here is UConn reportedly stands to lose anywhere between $65 million and $129 million in revenue next year, depending on whether or not students return in the fall.  They’ll need football to play, albeit as an independent, to stem some of that tide.

 

  • Two greats in the game of basketball passed away this past week – Utah’s Jerry Sloan and Hall of Famer Eddie Sutton.  Sloan (and his dry humor) were very easy for this one-time NBA neophyte to work with back in the early ‘80’s while he was in Chicago.

 

  • Sutton always had the taint of controversy surrounding his recruiting, his style, his tactics.  But he won more than 800 games and was the first coach to take four different NCAA teams to the dance…including Creighton in 1974. 

 

  • I met Coach Sutton while he was at Arkansas, and there were some fierce battles with Texas and Abe Lemons in the late ‘70’s, especially.  As a reporter for The Daily Texan at the time, Coach Lemons once told me Eddie Sutton made his skin crawl.

 

  • After a tough, last-second defeat to Sutton’s Razorbacks in Fayetteville, Lemons spotted me and my photographer dragging our rear ends in the hotel lobby before boarding the plane home the next morning.  He said, chomping on his signature cigar, “why look so glum?  We get to go home.  They’ve gotta stay here.”

 

  • Sutton’s later career at Kentucky was marked with scandal and dogged him for a long time, probably keeping him from the Hall in Springfield until this year (now postponed until 2021).

 

  • One of the nicest, most professional gentlemen in the all-too-rude business of radio and TV also passed away this week.  “Gentleman” Gene DeGraide spent parts of five decades in the industry within Rhode Island, at WWON, WJAR and WKRI, and hosted programs on Channels 10 and 12. 

 

  • DeGraide was inducted into the inaugural Class of ’08 for the Rhode Island Radio and TV Hall of Fame, along with Salty Brine, Sherm Strickhouser, Chris Clark, WHJY’s Paul Fuller and Al Matthews, Charlie Jefferds, Arlene Violet and Chuck Stevens.  He was 97 years old.

 

  • Ok, so no sports (for now) at Gillette Stadium, so how about a drive-in movie?  Showcase Cinemas announced this week they are opening a pop-up theatre (and concessions) this weekend – which is already sold out. 

 

  • NFL rules changes – replay review out.  An untimed, 4th and 15 play in lieu of an onside kick is also out.  I was good with both.  If you ain’t changin’ it up, you ain’t livin’ it up.  See baseball.

 

  • Did you see where the Cleveland Browns are sponsoring a contest allowing fans to script up to 15 preseason plays? 

 

  • It’s a brilliant strategy, actually.  First, the game means nothing.  Second, it will prove how difficult a job it is to make these decisions, especially in a highly emotional, nerve-wracking environment. 

 

  • Third, it still won’t get Browns’ fans off of their backs.  But then, they’ll have to blame themselves.

 

  • Rodney Harrison and Rookestradamus have something in common – they’re both disappointed the Patriots haven’t figured out a way to sign and bring in Cam Newton.  Yet.

 

  • My buddy “Big E” sez his grandson was in a live zoom class and the teacher gave an assignment to help with spelling.  “I want you to speak up and give us your fathers’ occupation, spell it, and say one thing he would give us all if he was with us in-person today.”

 

  • The first student raised her hand to volunteer. “My father is a banker. B-A-N-K-E-R and if he was here today, he would give us all a shiny new nickle.”  The next student said, “my father is a baker. B-A-K-E-R and if he was here today, he would give us all a freshly-baked cookie.”

 

  • Poor little Mikey was next, and he said, “My father is an accountant. A-K, no wait, A-C-K, no…” Before he could spell it, the teacher cut him off and told him to think about it for a while. “Big E’s” grandson went next, and he said, “My father is a bookie. B-O-O-K-I-E and if he was here today, he would give us 20-to-1 odds Mikey will never be able to spell “accountant.”

 

  • Cranktious.  Cranky, and anxious.  Think I’ll keep that one around…the word, if not the attitude.  Work for you?

 

  • Interested in having your questions on local Rhode Island sports (and yes, that includes the Patriots, Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics, whenever they play again) answered in a somewhat timely fashion? Send ‘em to me! It’s your chance to “think out loud,” so send your questions, comments and local stories to jrooke@weei.com. 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 tune into Providence’s 103.7 FM, every Saturday from 7:00-9:00 am for Cordischi and Coit!  Call in at 401-737-1287 or text at 37937.