Let’s clear the decks of idle thoughts, random musings, and irrelevant asides – not all of them mindless – while awaiting the implosion of our erstwhile National Pastime.
•And would you, too, agree that Shoeless Joe Jackson has a better chance of getting enshrined at Cooperstown than Alex Rodriguez?
•While it’s nice to belatedly pay tribute to the crusty likes of Deacon White and Jake Ruppert, this year’s annual Hall of Fame weekend up at the Baseball Brigadoon was an undeniable bust. Nor will it be easy for the keepers of the flame to restore it as the controversies that ruined this year’s hallowed process will only widen. What a mess! Hopefully the drug cheats are proud of themselves.
•Meanwhile, pro football – somehow enjoying a complete pass in the awful furor over drug abuse in sport – had an edifying induction ceremony at its Canton, Ohio, shrine, highlighted from our perspective by the honoring of Bill Parcells. Foxborough wasn’t the happiest chapter in Bill’s gridiron odyssey but it was surely crucial to the Patriots. If Boss Belichick is their Messiah, the Tuna was his Precursor.
Don Cherry liked to say if he ever met a man from Mars who wondered what a hockey player was like he’d present Cam Neely. Were the same chap to have the same question about a football coach, there’d be no better example than “The Tuna’.” He was born for the role, right out of Central Casting; dogged and stubborn, relentless and remorseless, equally arrogant and caring, giving and unforgiving, and, above all, a thousand percent his own man. Parcells was priceless.
• Here’s one more note on sports people being honored. Graciously, the Yankees gave Hideki Matsui a hail and farewell moment, perhaps to redeem a touch of guilt in having cut him loose four years ago right after he’d delivered them a memorably heroic World Series performance. Matsui, of course, never complained and ended his career a nomad, commanding still greater respect even as his skills diminished.
The tribute to Matsui at Yankee Stadium was stylish and classy, like the gentleman himself. He was a fine player – near letter perfect in his discipline and attitude – and, if not the fabled “Godzilla” he’d been in Japan, no less the sort of player that any great team yearns to have as a terrific example of how to conduct oneself on and off the ball field.
In Matsui, and quite as much in his fellow traveler, Ichiro Suzuki, Japan has given the American game admirable exemplars over this generation. Given all the nonsense that has otherwise afflicted this great game of late, it is a considerable gift.
•Which leads us, regrettably, to another painful A-Rod observation:
Reviewing his road to ruin – a task that could only tempt the idlest minds – you find affirmation of NYC columnist Mike Lupica’s pet theory holding that the wretched fellow will go to the wildest extremes to make himself seem “the victim.” As strategies go, it’s sufficiently pathetic to explain A-Rod’s strange motivations. And if in the end it’s sympathy he seeks, he’ll likely get it. For it’s a virtual Elba that awaits him when this fiasco plays out.
•If John Henry’s bid to buy The Boston Globe holds up, and you rather doubt some wild and crazy press baron from San Diego will be able to upset that applecart, we’re in for some new savage amusement as critics avidly scope the Globe’s sports pages for signs of the Red Sox owners’ sly and meddlesome interventions.
It will probably prove a waste of time. Mr. Henry is not stupid and such antics would be all of that, nor are the professionals in command of Globe Sports who would have to be complicit in any such conspiracies likely to disappear, let alone capitulate.
On the other hand, few newspaper sports departments are now as irreverent, testy, or voracious as they once were. At the Globe for example, there’s no longer a Willie McDonough around to regularly terrify the local franchises with his deep and biting reportage, nor a Clif “Poison Pen” Keane ever ready to turn their follies into objects of derision. They were the best examples, but there were others. The knights of the keyboard aren’t as nasty as they used to be.
Under the aegis of Publisher Henry, Owner Henry may succeed in getting more extensive and enlightened soccer coverage, hardly a crime except to the bourgeoisie. Other than that, I wouldn’t worry.
•My old friend, the aforementioned Willie McDonough, once famously branded Roger Clemens “The Texas Con-man’ and was eventually proven 100 percent correct in the minds of many. Methinks Willie would have called out David Ortiz, in much the same manner.
It’s undeniable that “Big Poppi” – like Clemens before him – has had great moments in Boston and has been, even more than Clemens, engaging and likeable. But it’s also true that – unlike Clemens – he has gotten away with big-league outrages. The most important remains the fact he’s never responded to those steroid charges – as he sanctimoniously promised – leveled by no less than the New York Times and based on evidence gleaned from the Mitchell Report. They are precisely the same charges that ruined others and that originally bagged A-Rod.
In the latest example of the ridiculous double standard Ortiz enjoys, he got off without a reprimand or even a scolding, let alone the suspension he richly deserved for hammering to smitherines the telephone equipment in a Baltimore dugout punctuating a pointless rage against an umpire. Have you seen a more violent outburst in a ballpark? He was bonkers! Absurd!
•Could it be the Yankees keep pitching Phil Hughes just to lower his potential value on this fall’s free agent market? No other plausible reason comes to mind.
•It’s not intended as a mea culpa, but it may be appropriate to acknowledge this much. Last winter, we snickered when the Red Sox signed journeyman Johnny Gomes, then rashly declared Shane Victorino to be washed up. Nor were we alone. Is it too early to have to apologize? As the Townies churn through the Dog Days, the talk glibly turns to who deserves the most credit.
It says here it’s not the manager, but the general manager. Master Cherington’s game plan, which looked rather dubious in December, seems not so dumb in August. It was original, bold, even novel. The kid who was very much on the spot defied the conventional wisdom and had the courage of his convictions.
On the other hand, it is early in August, which is about the only hedge left to us naysayer.
•Lastly, a gentle word on a gentle fellow, George Scott, who died the other day at 69. I was partial to “The Boomer’,” maybe because we arrived on the scene at the same time, both thinking our promise was unlimited.
In his way, George was historic, the very first black player of potentially landmark value groomed from the very sandlots by a team that had long been scandalously unwilling to do such a thing. He was the pride and joy of the new order – promulgated by Dick O’Connell – that would lead not only to the revival of this franchise but also to its salvation.
George played earnestly, if awkwardly, a historic role, but he never became what he ought to have been, and there remains great sadness in that fact. The potential was there but he – so lacking in sophistications – and others – prisoners of their own histories – were lacking in allowing its realization. Racism was a factor. I witnessed it but won’t spout names because they are all long gone and their intentions weren’t as bad as they may now seem. Still, they should have known better.
George was a good man who wasn’t quite equal to the demands made of him, but who might reasonably hold that against him? He came from hard times and never quite escaped them. But he will always be, “The Boomer.” Rest in Peace, old Friend!