Shooting from the lip/Aug. 2 edition
Looking back at a weekend of televised sports, including a poor decision by Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey, the rich getting richer and yet another conflict of interest for ESPN.
New Yorkers certainly won't agree with this and they'll flood my e-mail inbox calling me a whiner or Yankee hater or whatever, but doesn't it seem wrong that the Yankees can just go out and trade for practically whomever they want at the trade deadline? The Yankees are certainly playing within the rules and you can't blame them for improving their team, but it has a fishing-with-dynamite kind of feel to it, doesn't it? They don't worry about how much a player is making. They never have to worry about losing a player they've developed because they can always afford to keep him. They don't worry about trading prospects because they can simply restock their big-league team with free agents. In the end, it's not like they can claim they are smarter or work harder than other teams. They simply have more money to buy the best talent and is it really satisfying to win that way? Or is it as satisfying as it is for Twins or Rays fans when their teams win?
Speaking of the Yankee trades to pick up Lance Berkman, Austin Kearns and Kerry Wood, New York Daily News columnist Mike Lupica, while appearing on ESPN's Sports Reporters on Sunday, said, "They obviously are a little insecure about whether they think they can hold off the Tampa Bay Rays, who only have a payroll, by the way, that's $135 million smaller than the Yankees.''
Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan chimed in: "That is their issue. When it's all said and done, the Rays are right there. They absolutely are not going away.''
ESPN simply never learns. The network already is under attack for its shady relationship with LeBron James. And continuing to produce television ads that mix on-air talent with athletes only adds to the perception that its people are in bed with some of the subjects they cover. The latest, like all the previous ones, is clever, funny and a complete conflict of interest. In an ad for SportsCenter, Mets shortstop Jose Reyes is teaching on-air personality Karl Ravech how to dance the merengue as another on-air personality, John Anderson, looks on. The commercial ends with Reyes and Ravech dancing hand-in-hand.
Ravech is the host of ESPN's Baseball Tonight -- a show, one would assume, that talks specifically about Reyes from time to time. As host, Ravech can steer the conversation about Reyes in any direction he chooses. So how quick is Ravech going to be to criticize Reyes from now on? Why should be believe him if he says something positive about Reyes, even if it's warranted? Maybe Ravech's character is beyond reproach, but ESPN thoroughly undermines Ravech's credibility by having him appear with Reyes in a commercial -- a commercial that promotes an ESPN show, for goodness sakes.
And this is just the latest of dozens of ads ESPN has shot over the years combining on-air personalities with athletes and coaches. ESPN needs to stop this practice now. Until it does, it will have no reasonable defense whenever anyone questions its relationships with those that it covers.
What in the world was Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey thinking? For that matter, Grant Balfour, too. In the heat of a pennant race with a key three-game series against the Yankees about to start, the two were roughhousing Friday night and Balfour ended up getting hurt (left rib strain) and will miss at least a month. What is this, summer camp? Balfour deserves a portion of the blame, but Hickey really should know better. "Roughhousing'' and "horseplay'' are not words that should ever be associated with a 49-year-old man, particularly a coach. No disrespect to Balfour, but what if had been David Price or, worse yet, Evan Longoria who was going to miss a month because of something so irresponsible?
Speaking of irresponsible, if you turned on Sun Sports at 7 p.m. Saturday night to watch the Rays game, you learned that Balfour was going to miss four-to-six weeks, but you were never told what Balfour's injury was and how it happened. One could guess that the Rays television crew didn't want to embarrass anyone, but come on, news is news.
ESPN's "30 for 30'' film series has been must-see TV. Add the latest installment to the list of documentaries that you should not miss. The Birth of Big Air looks at the career of BMX daredevil Mat Hoffman, who was pulling unthinkable stunts 20 years ago that still amaze today. As you watch it, you don't know whether to respect Hoffman's fearlessness and ingenuity or question his sanity. The film celebrates Hoffman's achievements, but doesn't ignore his failures, so much so that some of the footage is difficult to watch. It's no coincidence that ESPN rolled out this doc now to drum up interest in the X Games, but the timing is appropriate, too. Many of the extreme antics of today's X Games athletes are merely products of the things Hoffman invented years ago.
Add ESPN's T.J. Quinn, who was filling in as host for Bob Ley on Outside the Lines, to the list of the geographically challenged when it comes to the Rays. Quinn said the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez was looking for his 600th homer against the Rays "in Tampa.'' The Rays, I'm betting, are eventually going to end up in Tampa, but last I checked, they still play in St. Petersburg. By the way, speaking of A-Rod’s pursuit of 600, check out this line from Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith on Outside the Lines: "There's always going to be that question: how many was real, how many was not?''
During Sunday's Rays-Yankees game, Sun Sports announcers Dewayne Staats and Kevin Kennedy brought up how both Rays manager Joe Maddon and Yankees skipper Joe Girardi are former catchers, and then how many ex-catchers go on to become big-league managers. They are right. One-third of MLB's 30 managers were primarily catchers in their playing careers. And only one current manager was a pitcher. Here's a breakdown of the managers and their main positions when they played:
Catchers: Joe Maddon (Rays), Joe Girardi (Yankees), Jim Leyland (Tigers), Ned Yost (Royals), Mike Scoscia (Angels), Bob Green (A’s), Don Wakamatsu (Mariners), Joe Torre (Dodgers), John Russell (Pirates), Bruce Bochy (Giants).
Infielders: Terry Francona (Red Sox), Ozzie Guillen (White Sox), Manny Acta (Indians), Ron Gardenhire (Twins), Ron Washington (Rangers), Bobby Cox (Braves), Edwin Rodriguez (Marlins), Brad Mills (Astros), Ken Macha (Brewers), Jerry Manuel (Mets), Tony LaRussa (Cardinals), Jim Riggleman (Nationals)
Outfielders: Buck Showalter (Orioles), Cito Gaston (Blue Jays), Kirk Gibson (Diamondbacks), Lou Piniella (Cubs), Dusty Baker (Reds), Jim Tracy (Rockies), Charlie Manuel (Phillies)
Pitcher: Bud Black (Padres).
Three things that popped into my head
1. How in the world does Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino still have a job after all his extra-curricular shenanigans?
2. All season long, I’ve predicted the Rays are going to miss the playoffs. It might be time to admit I’ve been wrong.
3. It still seems weird to think that Bobby Bowden is not going to be on the sidelines at Doak Campbell Stadium this year.