Hello and welcome to another Wednesday of deep thoughts. For once, I am happy to see a month fly by. Seriously…does anyone like January? Yes, we get playoff football…but if the truth be told, I am tired of football as well. It is pretty difficult for me to admit this, because I am someone that truly loves football. With the Super Bowl…football is over. Rather than looking forward to the big game, I find myself looking back at the 2014 season. What I see is troubling to me. It is not so much how the season played out, but rather the leadership or lack of leadership that Roger Goodell has displayed. With the recent furor surrounding the amount of air in the Patriot footballs, I have a question. If the league had received a complaint that the Patriots were playing with balls that were underinflated, why not just go to the Patriots and discuss the problem. Richard Sherman has stated that because of the relationship between Roger Goodell and Robert Kraft that the Patriots will escape punishment. If the relationship with Kraft and Goodell is so strong, wouldn’t Goodell simply give Kraft a heads up regarding the balls? While the Patriots have experienced some recent embarrassment, my guess is that the lasting embarrassment will be for the NFL. I have a strong suspicion that after this season is over that the owners will take a long look at the job performance of Roger Goodell.
The phrase NFL investigation has become the punch line to many jokes. The integrity of the NFL has been questioned and the buck stops with Roger Goodell. How can the NFL owners be happy with what they are getting for their $44 million dollars? The NFL is riding high and filling its owner’s pockets…but this can change. The landscape for football is changing. Fear of concussions leave many parents reluctant to allow “little Johnny” to play football. Will Johnny be a football fan when he grows up? Will the lack of perceived integrity in the NFL change our viewing habits? The NFL really needs to face the facts and find a leader that is more visionary than Roger Goodell.
With the tainted NFL season soon to end, I am eagerly awaiting the return of baseball. I know that for those of you dealing with snow, spring is probably not on your radar yet…but it is coming! The most obvious change for baseball is a new commissioner. Bud Selig is gone and Robert Manfred has taken the reins as the MLB commish. Do you realize that in the history of baseball there have now only been 10 commissioners? I don’t know about you, but I was surprised to learn this. So how will you remember Bud Selig? I will give him is due with regard to solving the labor issues of baseball. I will give him credit for the wild card and interleague play…but I cannot forget how he turned a blind eye to the ped issue in baseball. In reading and listening to Rob Manfred, I like most of what I hear. Here are words from Commissioner Manfred:
The mission before us is clear: To honor the game's history while welcoming new people to our great sport -- people who will one day pass their love of baseball down through the generations. That is what our parents and grandparents did for us, and it is what we are doing for our own children. Baseball is a game firmly rooted in childhood experiences, and its vitality and growth rely heavily on giving young people from all backgrounds the opportunity to play and watch baseball.
This notion that baseball is the game of children is central to my core goals as Commissioner. Maybe that is because my own Little League experience in upstate Rome, New York was such an important part of my childhood. I will never forget my intense dedication to that club and to my teammates -- each of whom I can still name to this day -- and being part of a perfect game.
My top priority is to bring more people into our game -- at all levels and from all communities. Specifically, I plan to make the game more accessible to those in underserved areas, especially in the urban areas where fields and infrastructure are harder to find. Giving more kids the opportunity to play will inspire a new generation to fall in love with baseball just as we did when we were kids. Expanding Little League, RBI and other youth baseball programs will also help sustain a steady and wide talent pool from which our clubs can draw great players and create lifelong fans.
As Commissioner, I will draw closer connections between youth baseball and MLB. I want to inspire children's interest in baseball and help parents and coaches foster that passion. In the coming years, MLB will work with college, high school, amateur and youth baseball programs to help grow our game and to ensure that the best players and talent have the opportunity to pursue their dreams. I call it "One Baseball" -- a partnership between all professional and amateur groups involved in our game.
In reading his words, I wholeheartedly agree with his concept. With the focus of injuries in football, baseball is offered a prime opportunity to gain big strides toward regaining the title America’s Pastime. When you think about it, baseball offers a place for a Randy Johnson or Jose Altuve. It allows players of all sizes to excel and in my opinion places more value on intelligent play than other sports. By grabbing kids when they are young, the sport has a much better chance for those kids to be life time fans. I am encouraged to read his words about pursuing a closer tie with college and high school baseball and youth baseball. I think that in the past, baseball has lost some of the best athletes to other sports. I am anxious to see how Manfred plans for MLB to work with college, high school and amateur baseball as I am hopeful that some of the better athletes will consider baseball a better option in the future.
With the good, I suppose there has to be some bad. I am worried with the infatuation of putting a clock on baseball. In the past three years, here is the average time for games:
The average NFL game in 2014 was 3 hours and 7 minutes and college football is much longer than this. Why would anyone think that baseball games need to be shorter? It is pretty funny that in reading how some would propose shorter time between innings. Given that this is when advertisements run, what is the likelihood that this will happen? Commissioner Manfred also suggested that he would look to “modernize the game without interfering with its history and traditions.” I welcome this approach, but I worry when I hear discussion about restricting teams from utilizing the defensive shift. This thought has been offered as a way to improve the scoring opportunities in baseball. I am steadfast in my belief that you must have the game change itself. Players must attack the shift with intelligence instead of brawn. When I was coaching, I was really big on hitting the ball where it was pitched. I coached a couple of kids that were dead pull hitters and I spent quite a bit of time in their ear trying to teach them that pitchers would not pitch them middle in if they could not hit middle away. There are two simple ways for professional hitters to succeed against the shift…bunt or learn to hit the other way. It is a simple game, don’t mess with it. Of course, I had to laugh in listening to MLB Tuesday night. They pointed out that with more offense the games are longer…well, there is that.
With the recent passing of Ernie Banks, I had to take a moment to reflect on the life of “Mr. Cub”. I have to admit that I have sort of overlooked just how great of a player that Banks was. In all honesty , it was Banks that gave us the first power hittng shortstop, not Cal Ripken. Banks won a couple of MVPs when players like Willie Mays and Hank Aaron were terrorizing the National League. His career home run total of 512 is an amazing feat for a shortstop. As great as Banks was, I think that most would agree that he was a better person. As I thought about the life of Banks, I realized how similar it was in some aspects to my dad. They were born the same year and lived 30 miles apart. Banks father had a strong dislike for whites and my grandfather carried his Georgia racism with him to Texas. The more I thought about this, the more I realized just how significant it was for each of them to break away from the thinking that they were raised with. I was raised to be colorblind, they were not. This generation that is passing is one of great character and integrity. Although racism still exists, these two men found a way to move beyond it with how they treated people. I wrote in my dad’s eulogy that he lived live with a heart full of love; I think the same applies to Ernie Banks. In closing my dad’s eulogy, I used a quote from Dr. Seuss…”Don’t cry because it is over, smile because it happened.” I think the same applies for Ernie Banks…RIP Mr. Banks.
I read this week that the Yankee marketing agreement with Alex Rodriguez calls for him to receive a $6 million dollar bonus each time he passes another icon on the HR board. Rodriguez currently sits at 654 HRs and can realistically pass Willie Mays at 660 in the coming season. The Yankees have decided that because it has been proven that Rodriguez used PEDs during his time as a Yankee, they are going to fight paying the bonus. While I have NO love for ARod, I am torn with this decision. I am curious…what do you think about this? Is this a bad precedent or does ARod deserve to lose this “bonus”? Of course, the Yankees could sit Rodriguez on the bench and make the payment a moot point. I have to admit, it would not hurt my feeling to see Mays remain ahead for Rodriguez. As I understand this "contract"...it is not his normal employment contract, but a special marketing agreement that was unique for Rodriguez.
I don’t usually have much to say regarding the NBA, but I had to add this video of Blake Griffin. Camera’s never blink Blake!
That's all I have today, but I will leave you with a bit of Jack Handey:
Martha says the interesting thing about fly fishing is that it's two lives connected by a thin strand. Come on, Martha...grow up.
Even though he was and enemy of mine, I had to admit that what he had accomplished was a brilliant piece of strategy. First, he punched me, then he kicked me, then he punched me again.
Thanks for stopping by and feel free to leave a few deep thoughts of your own...