Sports Microscope Podcast #4 Available

podcastsEpisode #4 of the Sports Microscope podcast is online and available here and on iTunes. This week I talk about the NY Mets, the Boston Red Sox, Josh Hamilton, Greg Hardy, and the potential of the San Diego Chargers leaving. I also give you my pick for team of the week.

I hope you enjoy it and look forward to your feedback!

Angels Conduct With Josh Hamilton Disgraceful

BaseballWhen Angels owner Arte Moreno decided to sign free agent Josh Hamilton a couple of years ago, he knew he was getting a player with a history of problems with substance abuse. But now that Hamilton has had a relapse, Moreno and the Angels can’t get Hamilton on a plane out of town fast enough.

News has surfaced that the Angels are prepared to pay all about 15 million of the 80 million left on his contract to trade him to the Texas Rangers, Hamilton’s previous home. Frankly, it’s probably better for Hamilton in the long run. He has a history there, the Rangers know him well, the fans love him, and he’s out of the hot spotlight of the LA market.

However, what is most troubling to me is that the Angels have shown zero support for their troubled player (at least publicly) and have done nothing but find ways to tear him down even further. Hamilton voluntarily turned himself into MLB to fess up to having a relapse with his problems with alcohol and drugs. Even after it was decided he hadn’t violated MLB policy and wouldn’t be suspended, here is what general manager Jerry Dipoto had to say in a statement:

The Angels have serious concerns about Josh’s conduct, health and behavior and we are disappointed that he has broken an important commitment which he made to himself, his family, his teammates and our fans. We are going to do everything possible to assure he receives proper help for himself and for the well-being of his family.

Obviously, the Angels feel “proper help” is sending him to Texas.

Again, the Angels knew who they were getting and knew it was a daily struggle for the guy to come clean. Frankly, the only reason the Angels aren’t supporting him is because he’s only been a so-so player in the first two years there, hitting just 31 homers. I can guarantee you that if he had been hitting over .300 and hit hitting 30 homers a season, the Angels would have done everything in their power to not only get him on the field again, but get him whatever help he needed.

From all accounts, Hamilton’s life was spiraling out of control. His production on the field had dropped, the media was on his case, and his marriage was falling apart – the perfect recipe for a relapse. Someone had to see this coming. And even if they didn’t, the Angels needed to do whatever they could to help the man. I repeat… they knew who they were getting and that this had to be a possibility.

Instead, Angels ownership and management have shown themselves to be completely heartless and clueless. I pray that Hamilton will get back on his feet, get back on the recovery road, and thrive in Texas. I also hope that every time he goes to Anaheim he deposits several balls in the rocks out beyond the center field fence. I would like that very much.

Episode #3 of the Podcast Available

podcastsThe third episode of the Sports Microscope podcast has been uploaded and is available here and on iTunes. This week’s episode features my takes on Pete Rose, the Red Sox, Tim Tebow, and Floyd Mayweather,

I hope you enjoy it and look forward to your feedback. Stay tuned, because I’ll be joined by some special guests in the coming weeks.

 

Aaron Hernandez Verdict A Cautionary Tale

cautionThere is an old saying that adversity doesn’t build character, it reveals it. Along those lines, after the conclusion of the Aaron Hernandez trial yesterday I was left with this – fame and money do not suddenly make someone a better person who is worthy of being a role model, it reveals their true character.

I don’t make this statement to try and run down Hernandez – lord knows there’s been plenty of that already. I say it because  we need to be very careful of who we put on a pedestal. There were many people in my home state of Connecticut crowing about how great it was that Hernandez was one of “ours” and a great example of how someone from a tough town can make good and become a star. Good luck finding those people now.

Troubled people do not change when suddenly given millions of dollars and an abundance of fame. In fact, if you look closer, the opposite is often the case. The only thing that changes is their ability to hide their transgressions or buy their way out of them.

Unfortunately the NFL is loaded with examples like this. Look at all the cases of domestic violence, the bullying case of Richie Incognito with the Dolphins (and I guarantee that is just the one that came to light), or the downfall of Lawrence Phillips in jail for assaulting is girlfriend, and who is now suspected of killing his cellmate in prison. Adrian Peterson was arrested for whipping his son, several players have been jailed for dealing drugs, and several others for fraud. Then there are the more extreme examples of Hernandez and OJ Simpson.

There are numerous examples of musicians and actors jailed for a wide range of crimes. Rappers seem to lead the way these days, though it is not an exclusive club. Bobby Brown has gone to jail more than once. Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul & Mary did time for having sex with a 14-year old back in 1970 (he received a pardon from President Carter in 1981). Chuck Berry did time for armed robbery and sex with an underage girl. Steve Earle did time for drugs. Producer Phil Spector is doing life for murder.

Now, on the opposite end of the spectrum, look at all the incredible charity work done by many celebrities who find themselves in the position of being able to afford to help. What Drew Brees has done for the children of New Orleans is amazing. Peyton Manning has his own foundation to help children, and donated millions of dollars to a hospital in Indianapolis. London Fletcher’s foundation, London’s Bridge, has helped numerous children from underprivileged backgrounds. Albert Pujols of the Angels runs a foundation designed to help families and children who live with Down’s Syndrome. Bill Gates donates more money than the GDP of some small countries.

To be sure, there are far more people doing good works than committing crimes like Hernandez, but that doesn’t mean we don’t need to be very careful in choosing who we hold up as role models. Fame does not necessarily equal good.

Finally, why is it that we are more likely to forgive a sports star, musician, or actor who makes a mistake, but we don’t extend the courtesy to people from everyday walks of life who run into trouble. There is something very wrong with that.

 

Episode #2 of Sports Microscope Podcast is Up

podcastsListen to my ramblings about the start of the Major League Baseball season, the Masters, NASCAR, and ridiculous college football coaching salaries in the latest edition of the Sports Microscope podcast.

You can listen to the show here or go to iTunes and subscribe to have it automatically downloaded to your iPhone or iPad.

Hurts So Good!

stopwatchI sit here a little bleary eyed this morning after enduring (from my couch) a seven-hour, 19-inning affair between the Red Sox and the Yankees. Normally staying up until 2:15 on a Friday night to watch a ballgame wouldn’t be that big a deal, but having to broadcast a baseball doubleheader a couple of hours from now has left me a little sleep deprived. This kinda pain I’ll take though – all season long if I have to!

While it was frustrating at time to watch the Sox have three other chances to win the game before finally wrapping it up with a beautiful double play to end the game in the nineteenth inning, I have to admit it was one of the more entertaining games I’ve watched in a while. In case you didn’t watch it, here’s how the drama unfolded:

  • Red Sox lead 3-2 in the bottom of the ninth. Chase Headley hits a two-out bomb off of interim closer Edward Mujica to tie the game and send it to extras.
  • David Ortiz homers with one out in the top of the 16th to put Boston up 4-3.
  • Mark Teixeira hits an absolute bomb off a Steven Wright knuckleball to lead off the bottom of the 16th to tie it at 4-4.
  • Pablo Sandoval puts Boston back up 5-4 in the 18th with a one-out, RBI single that scored Dustin Pedroia, who had been plunked by a pitch to lead off the inning.
  • Carlos Beltran sends it to the 19th with a one-out RBI double off Wright.
  • A single by Xander Bogaerts, a walk to Ryan Hanigan, a passed ball, and a sac fly by Mookie Betts puts Boston up 6-5 in the top of the 19th.
  • Jacoby Ellsbury leads off the bottom of the inning with a single. With one out, Garret Jones grounds into a 6-4-3 double play to end the game.

It was a beautiful play by Bogaerts on a ball that looked like trouble and was destined for center field. He moved to his left, picked up the rocket on a short hop behind second base, and flipped to Pedroia who finished off the DP.

In the grand scheme of things, it’s just game number four out of 162, but if you’re going to play the longest game (by time) in franchise history (6:49 with a 19-minute delay when a bank of lights went out) you may as well win the damn thing.

It’s gonna hurt a little today when they have to turn around and play a day game 11 hours later with two bullpens that are shot, but for the Red Sox (and a sleep-deprived broadcaster/blogger) it’s gonna hurt so good.

Episode #1 of Sports Microscope Podcast Available

As if my wordy ramblings are not enough, the first episode of the Sports Microscope podcast is available here.

The weekly offerings will be available on this website, and soon on iTunes as well. I hope you enjoy it, and I look forward to your feedback!

Is it Wrong to Root Against the UConn Women?

basketball-20clip-20art-9i4eR8k9TI live in Connecticut – have for most of my life. Having said that, I find myself rooting against the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team tonight. Does it mean I should be run out of the state on a rail?

Why am I rooting for Notre Dame, you ask? Nope, didn’t go to school there. It has nothing to do with being Catholic either. It’s as simple as this. The UConn women have won four of the last six titles. Between UConn and Tennesee, they have won 17 of the 33 since 1982. Outside of those big two, no one has won it more than twice. Notre Dame has won two and been the runner up three times. The NCAA, and women’s basketball in general, NEEDS the Huskies to lose.

I’ve met UConn coach Geno Auriemma a couple of times, and I like him a  lot. He’s an excellent coach. He could coach the men, high school, midgets, the Yard Goats, anything, and he’d find a way to win. However, he made some comments that got some legs the other day about how the men’s game has become a “joke.” I would contend that he needs to look a little closer to home. It’s the women’s game that has become a bit of joke and is in need of some help. Not his team specifically, but across the board.

The level of real competition for the top five or six teams is mighty, mighty slim. Going into the women’s Final Four, his team has outscored opponents by an average of 41 points a game! Are you kidding me? The next best team on the list is Princeton at 23.2 – and that’s more about how bad the Ivy League is than anything else.

Danielle Kurtzleben wrong a great article about the state of the women’s game. It’s worth a read. She points out that there are far fewer upsets in the women’s basketball tournament over the years than in the men’s. In fact, it’s not even close.

I’m sorry, folks, but women’s basketball is not a lot of fun to watch. Maybe five or six times a year there is a great game when two titans get together in a game that is really fun to watch. That is not often enough.

It’s not Geno’s fault – he schedules most of the “tough” opponents. The problem is, they’re not tough enough to hang. Notre Dame was ranked second, UConn third, when they played in December. UConn won by 18. Duke was ranked tenth when UConn played (and spanked them by 31) on December 29. South Carolina was the number one team on February 9 – UConn by 25. Sense a pattern here?

Now people will point out that the Huskies lost to #6 Stanford on the road by two. First, it was on the road. Second, even a blind squirrel finds a nut now and then.

It’s also not Geno’s fault that the best players want to play for him. Who wouldn’t want a chance to win a National Championship every year? I think a start would be cutting back to 13 scholarships, just like the men have. It might stop the talent pool from being diluted and allow some of the also-rans to be competitive.

I don’t have all the answers, but the women’s basketball coaches should all be worried about a system that has allowed such a huge gap to form between the haves and have-nots.

Oh, one last thing… UConn has never lost an NCAA Tournament championship game, so I don’t think I’ll be holding my breath tonight.

Christian Vazquez Injury a Setback for Sox

Red Cross logoAs Dean Martin once sang, “Ain’t that a kick in the head!”

With the news that Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez will be out for the season after it was determined he needed Tommy John surgery, it has thrown the prospects for the coming season into doubt. It’s not that Vazquez was going to be a force at the plate – heck, the Sox of plenty of offensive pop. It’s the loss of his defense, his ability to frame pitches, and the comfort the pitching staff had with him that is going to hurt.

Yes, the Sox did sign veteran backup Ryan Hanigan, and recently traded for Sandy Leon with the Washington Nationals, but neither of those guys can come close to matching Vazquez’s skills. Heck, newly acquired hurler Rick Porcello said Vazquez was the best backstop he’d ever thrown to. The Sox also have 35 year old Humberto Quintero in camp, though the trade for Leon makes it appear that he is the odd man out.

Hanigan, who will turn 35 this year, has only been in as many as 100 games in a season once in his eight-year career. He has thrown out a respectable 38 percent of the runners trying to steal against him, but the question remains whether he can handle a regular workload.

Leon is a young option at just 25, but he’s played a total of 34 big league games in three years. He also has a cannon for an arm, which definitely makes him attractive. He’s out of minor league options, so the Sox almost have to keep him on the 25-man roster of expose him to the waiver wire. It also doesn’t hurt that he and Vazquez know each other pretty and Vazquez has been helping him get up to speed quickly.

And what about Blake Swihart, you ask? He’ll start the season in AAA Pawtucket – as he should. Yes, he appears to be the catcher of the future (at least offensively),  but the kid has just 69 at bats at AAA and definitely needs more time honing his skills. That’s not to say we won’t see him during the year (providing the Sox don’t decide to put him in a package for Cole Hamels), but there is no reason to rush him to Boston before he’s properly seasoned.

Sox fans are right to be concerned about the loss of Vazquez. The starting rotation is shaky at best. I don’t care what management wants to say about not needing an ace. The guys they on the staff allow base runners like nobody’s business, so a solid defensive catcher is even more important. The scouts say Leon could be it. Hanigan has been solid, if not spectacular, as a backup, and the biggest chip in their trade bank (Swihart) isn’t ready and may not even finish the season in the organization.

Every team faces injuries during the course of the year, but the dearth of quality catching in the majors, and the fact that the Sox had one of the rising stars at the position, makes this one a little harder to swallow. Ah well… what’s a Red Sox season without a little drama?