Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Sports

Jones: Ultimately, no bad guys in Adam LaRoche saga

Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones looks back at the best and worst from a weekend of televised sports.

Biggest missed point

The most interesting story of the past week is White Sox first baseman Adam LaRoche retiring because the organization asked him to limit the amount of time his 14-year-old son Drake spends with the team. LaRoche claims the White Sox knew how much his son was going to be around, and that's partly why he signed with Chicago. However, other than the White Sox players themselves, it seems as if most people agree that LaRoche should not have his son around 100 percent of the time. No one brings their kid to their job every day.

It's admirable that LaRoche is standing up for his son and wants to be with him, so much so that he's walking away from $13 million.

From all accounts, LaRoche's son is a good kid, and many players agree he is not a distraction. However, it's my guess that we haven't heard the whole story. I bet a few players did complain privately about LaRoche's son always being there.

But here's the part we all seem to be missing, and that's a quote from LaRoche a couple of years ago when he decided to have his son around all the time. His son is home-schooled part of the time and attends school some of the time. LaRoche told the Washington Post, "We're not big on school. I told my wife, 'He's going to learn a lot more useful information in the clubhouse than he will in the classroom, as far as life lessons.' "

No question there are wonderful lessons to be learned from sports and teamwork, and far be it for me to tell someone how to raise his children. But suggesting that a child learns more from a baseball clubhouse than school seems irresponsible.

Ultimately, there are no bad guys or victims here. The Sox want what is best for their franchise. LaRoche wants what is best for his family. Perhaps it's best if they do part ways.

Best conversation

I love the NBA on TNT studio duo of Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith, but I always thought it was a rotten idea to put those two on the NCAA Tournament. They might follow college hoops, but that is not their field of expertise. Barkley even admits it, and it has never made sense to have those two talk about the most important college games of the years. Hey, I love NBA analyst Jeff Van Gundy, but I wouldn't want him calling NASCAR.

However, Barkley and Smith do get credit for their honesty, and that's why, ultimately, they manage to pull it off on CBS's NCAA Tournament coverage. The best part of the weekend was when, after Indiana beat Kentucky, Barkley was quick to point out that this was not one of Kentucky's more talented teams and that coach John Calipari might have done his best coaching job.

Barkley said he hates picking on college kids but said anyone who had Skal Labissiere as the best high school player in the country was an "idiot."

Smith quickly pointed out that, like every year, Kentucky was loaded with high school All-Americans. It was the type of conversation — and chemistry — that keeps college fans tuned in.

Best crew

The No. 1 announcing team for CBS's NCAA Tournament coverage is, officially, Jim Nantz, Bill Raftery and Grant Hill. And they've been fine. Who isn't a fan of Raftery?

However, the best crew CBS/TNT has is Ian Eagle, Reggie Miller and Len Elmore.

Not only do the three mesh better together than the top crew (give credit to Eagle for that), but they don't get in the way of the broadcast. They add to the broadcast, they don't become the broadcast. Too bad those guys won't do the Final Four.

Best game

Most probably won't agree with this, but the best basketball game of the weekend was not a part of March Madness. It was Saturday night's NBA game on ABC between the Warriors and Spurs. And here's the thing: San Antonio's grind-it-out victory over Golden State wasn't even a great game by NBA standards.

The point is the NBA is so much better than college basketball. I'm talking in every aspect: talent, playmaking, coaching and — this is important — officiating. It was so enjoyable to watch a game and not see the referees insert themselves, calling every ticky-tack foul like they do in college basketball.

I realize that comparing a game between the two best teams in the NBA to college games isn't fair, but it's not as if the weekend didn't have some intriguing college matchups, such as Indiana vs. Kentucky.

The NCAA Tournament is full of drama, and the one-game-elimination format makes for intense thrills regardless of the talent level. Watching Notre Dame and Northern Iowa win on buzzer-beaters is really good stuff. But given the choice between watching an NBA game or a college game? It's not even close for me, yet I would bet that, around here, I'm in the minority.

Worst-best news

Rebecca Lowe, the fantastic studio host of NBCSN's English Premier League coverage, is going on maternity leave starting today. She is due to have a baby in the next couple of weeks. Arlo White and Steve Bower will fill in for her. She is expected to return to NBC for the Olympics. Congratulations and best wishes to Lowe, but dang, we are going to miss her.

This and that

Sports Illustrated reports that Peyton Manning likely is not ready to make the jump to full-time broadcasting. But if and when he does decide to become a broadcaster, CBS is the likely landing spot.

• NBA reporter Marc Spears is leaving Yahoo Sports to join ESPN's The Undefeated — the new ESPN site dedicated to race and culture.

• Random thought: How come I love CBS' Verne Lundquist when he's calling SEC football in the fall but don't love him so much when he's calling college basketball in the spring?

Not the worst news

Fox has announced that Tony Siragusa will not return next season on the network's NFL coverage. The big lug known as "Goose'' had been a hybrid sideline announcer/analyst the past eight seasons on a crew with Kenny Albert and Daryl "Moose'' Johnston. Like sideline reporters, Siragusa roamed the sideline, but unlike sideline reporters, Siragusa's microphone was open at all times.

Siragusa always came off as a poor man's John Madden, an Everyman personality that Sports on Earth accurately described as a "meathead persona.'' It played well with some viewers, but not so well with others.

Personally, I won't miss him, but I wonder how much of Siragusa's on-air personality was authentic and how much was an act encouraged by Fox.

Best show

ESPN's Outside the Lines broadcast live Sunday morning from Havana, where the Rays will play the Cuban National Team on Tuesday. Host Bob Ley, along with guests such as Pedro Gomez and Eduardo Perez (both of Cuban descent), did a sensational job explaining the political history between the U.S. and Cuba, as well as telling the stories of Cuban baseball players, some of whom have moved on to play in the majors.

The most touching story was that of the White Sox's Jose Abreu, whose young son remains back in Cuba.

Three things that popped into my head

1 Tuesday night's game against the Red Wings will be the most meaningful regular-season hockey game the Lightning has played in years.

2 Congratulations to the USF women's basketball team for beating Colorado State in Saturday's first round of the NCAA Tournament, but gee whiz, that was a bad basketball game.

3 To all the Canadian snowbirds out there: No need to go back home. None of your teams are making the Stanley Cup playoffs.

tom jones' two cents

     
 
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