Shooting from the Lip/Monday edition
Looking back at a weekend of televised sports ...
ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball crew questioned (as well it should have) Joe Maddon's decision to rest first baseball Carlos Pena on Sunday night. It really is difficult to question anything Maddon does, but unless Pena had some sort of health issue, it's hard to understand Maddon's reasoning on this one.
First, this is Rays-Red Sox. These are big games. You want your best lineup, don't you? On top of that, we're only 33 games into the season and the Rays are off Monday. It's not like it was a steamy hot August afternoon. It was a cool New England evening. Pena hasn't struggled at times against Boston starter Josh Beckett, but ESPN analyst Steve Phillips pointed out that Beckett isn't quite the same Beckett for much of this season. Plus, Pena, who grew up in Boston, plays well at Fenway Park.
And ESPN analyst Joe Morgan made a great point when he mentioned how Evan Longoria is about the hottest hitter going right now in the majors and you would want Pena batting behind him for protection. It just seemed like an odd call on Maddon's part. Pena did pinch hit in the ninth and struck out with the Rays trailing, 4-3, a runners on the corner and no outs.
Add Fox's Dick Stockton, who called Saturday's Rays-Red Sox game, to the long list of announcers who refer to the local baseball team as the "Tampa Rays'' and insist that it plays in Tampa. He said the Rays will host the Indians next weekend in Tampa on Fox, but here's hoping the Fox crew shows up in St. Petersburg for the game at the Trop.
Many don't, but I like Fox baseball analyst Tim McCarver. Still, we have to call him out for changing the name of Rays second baseman Akinori Iwamura. During Saturday's Rays-Red Sox game, McCarver called him "Akimura'' … twice!
Though Fox's Tim McCarver butchered Akinori Iwamura's name, he did a pretty solid job on Saturday's Game of the Week broadcast of the Rays and Red Sox. The most engrossing topic McCarver brought up was that Rays manager Joe Maddon keeps batting averages on fly balls. His point was that when players such as Carlos Peña or Evan Longoria hits fly balls, their averages are not bad because they hit homers and balls into the gaps and off the wall. But when players such as Iwamura or Jason Bartlett hit fly balls, their averages are low because they don't have power and hit flyball outs. McCarver expertly pointed out how ballparks in Japan are smaller and Iwamura’s fly balls were homers in Japan but are routine outs in the majors. Good stuff.
New York Times columnist Bill Rhoden championed a good idea on ESPN's Sports Reporters. He thinks there should be a U.S. Cabinet post for sports. His nomination for Secretary of Sports is a good one, too: former Bucs and Colts coach Tony Dungy.
CBS golf analyst David Feherty is in trouble because of something he wrote about U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate leader Harry Reid for D Magazine, a lifestyle and news publication in Dallas. Feherty, who grew up in Northern Ireland but now lives in Dallas, has visited troops in Iraq and wrote near the end of his article:
"From my own experience visiting the troops in the Middle East, I can tell you this, though. Despite how the conflict has been portrayed by our glorious media, if you gave any U.S. soldier a gun with two bullets in it and he found himself in an elevator with Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Osama bin Laden, there's a good chance that Nancy Pelosi would get shot twice, and Harry Reid and bin Laden would be strangled to death.''
CBS and the PGA Tour criticized Feherty's remarks, and Feherty offered an apology to Pelosi and Reid on Sunday. Whether you think Feherty was out of line or exercising his right to free speech is open for debate. But the larger point is why we should even care about what a golf analyst, for crying out loud, has to say about politics. If Feherty wants to talk about the slope of the greens or whether some hacker should use a 9-iron or a wedge, I'll listen. But when he gets into the war, I care as much about what he thinks as I care about what Tiger Woods thinks about the economy, Peyton Manning thinks about same-sex marriage and LeBron James thinks about the car company bailouts … which is, not at all. Frankly, considering the author, I'm surprised anyone even read the article long enough to get to the controversial remarks.
Best reason to wait
There's no question quarterback Brett Favre is tarnishing his image by handling the end of his career the way he is. You have to wonder if he really wants to play for the love of the game or just to stick it to the Green Bay Packers. But in the end, shouldn't Favre be able to do whatever he wants? If he wants to keep retiring and coming back, so what. It's his life. Anyway, the past couple of seasons seem to indicate he eventually runs out of gas during a 16-game regular season. So instead of coming back now, maybe he should try something different. Why not stay home, continue to work out and wait for a good team to suddenly need help at quarterback because of an injury? The way the NFL works, it's almost impossible for a team to go through a season with one good, healthy quarterback. Favre can wait for someone to get hurt, and he wouldn't be required to play a full season.
Fans are close to giving up the right to complain about steroid use in baseball because so many of them seem to turn a blind eye to it. Here's the way it seems to work: Steroid use is awful, it's cheating, it's not to be tolerated … as long as the accused player plays for a team other than your favorite. If it's a player on your favorite team, well, then, it's not so bad. How else can you explain Yankees fans showing up in Baltimore on Friday and giving Alex Rodriguez a standing ovation? The same thing will happen when Manny Ramirez returns to Los Angeles after his suspension. As Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan put it on Sunday's Sports Reporters on ESPN: "The fans flunk the test.''
Best example of a double standard
Capitals star Alex Ovechkin stuck out his leg and hit the Penguins’ Sergei Gonchar with a shady knee-to-knee hit in Friday's game that most likely will sideline Gonchar for the rest of the season, no matter how long it lasts for the Pens. Ovechkin wasn't suspended. One has to wonder if the situation was reversed -- if Gonchar had hit Ovechkin -- if Gonchar would have been suspended. I'm betting he would have been. And Ovechkin should have been.
It would've been nice if Versus analysts Keith Jones and Brian Engblom had weighed in a little more with what they thought about the hit. That's the major flaw of the Versus broadcasts: Unlike NBC's coverage with opinionated analysts Pierre McGuire, Mike Milbury and Ed Olczyk, the Versus crew often stops just short of a strong opinion.
Speaking of Olczyk, Versus picked up the Comcast Chicago broadcast of Saturday's Blackhawks-Canucks game. Even though he was calling the game for the folks in Chicago, Olczyk refreshingly said a Blackhawks player should have been penalized for diving on a play that resulted in a Chicago power play late in the game. Something like that can give an announcer instant credibility with viewers.
Three things that popped into my head
1. Even if you're a Rays fan, you had to smile when Rocco Baldelli hit a homer Saturday afternoon against the Rays.
2. What a sad year it has been for the Detroit Pistons. First, longtime owner Bill Davidson passed away in March, then Chuck Daly, who led the Bad Boys to NBA titles in 1989 and 1990, passed away Saturday.
3. Blame the networks for force-feeding us Tiger Woods, but when Tiger drops out of contention, as he did Sunday at the Players Championship, golf just isn't as thrilling to watch.