Back in the good old days when daily newspapers were all alone as kings of the media heap and the New York tabloids were the sauciest in the art form, Jimmy Cannon was widely regarded as the last word on every game under the sun. And not only by himself, might I add.
In only one of his more favored poses, Jimmy would pass the evening at Toots Shor’s mid-town Manhattan joint sipping scotch with such good buddies as Jack Dempsey and Joe DiMaggio and Jackie Gleason, then deliver a column laced with smoking jabs and jibes along with the occasional plug for a pal. It would probably be deemed trite in today’s very different world, but back then it somehow never got old and the most memorable of his stuff always began, “Nobody asked me, but …”
Jimmy Cannon has been gone over 40 years now so maybe I can get away with this. Otherwise, I wouldn’t dare try. Nobody asked me, but:
• Here’s wagering when all’s said and done Sepp Blatter will have gone nowhere and will be more smug and ornery than ever atop FIFA’s throne, and undisputed despot ruling all of international “futbal” more arbitrarily than ever. Because in the end nobody else will be electable. Blatter, wily rascal that he is, has rigged the process by expanding FIFA to include every obscure duchy, enclave, and sandbar in Asia, Africa, the South Pacific, and Indian Ocean from the Maldives to Fiji and back to Senegal. And he’s got every one of those votes which, combined with the anti-Euro bloc from the Middle East and South America, will carry the day.
• The fizzling of the much-touted farm system of the Red Sox has been at the core of their ongoing epic swoon now approaching crisis proportions in light of recent shellackings. Every kid they’ve introduced the last three years has been, variously, over-rated, or mis-stated, or clearly promoted too soon and/or inexcusably harmed by being asked to do too much too soon. Now they may even have managed to rattle their prize lefty, Eduardo Rodriguez, latest of the kids ticketed for Cooperstown before they’ve experienced two road trips.
Hotshot baseball youth can be awfully precocious. Might the Red Sox be afflicted with the institutional malaise of being able to see only what they want to see? It’s one thing for the media to fall in love with its own rave notices; for the front office to make the same mistake is ridiculous.
• The Bruins have a crisis or two brewing as well, the foremost being Dougie Hamilton. It’s possible that re-signing him long term could cost in the seven-eight million per-year range, frightful for a 21 year old whose game is still developing, and a nightmare for a team with little wiggle room under the salary cap.
Hamilton’s potential remains immense although, contrary to what you’ve been reading, he has not reached stardom yet. His offense is terrific, but his defense, still the priority of an alleged defenseman, remains patchy. He was AWOL on “D” for some two months mid-season. He has plenty to learn.
But all that’s academic. They must re-sign him. They can’t go the Kessel-Seguin route with Hamilton. Letting Phil Kessel walk was smart. Dumping Tyler Seguin was necessary, no matter what revisionists now suggest. Letting Hamilton escape, however, would be disastrous. Given rising anxieties, Bruins Nation is in no mood for it, no matter how many choice draft-picks might come in return.
• And how does the Celtics gallant late-season playoff drive look now? The price for a four-game wipe-out –hardly as close as the final tally suggest – was too high. They’d have been better off with the fourth or fifth choice in the draft, for which they were still hotly contending as late as early March.
• Further in retrospect, it’s amusing to recall that Sports Illustrated, which considers itself the ultimate savant in the subject area, picked the Bruins to meet the LA Kings in the Stanley Cup Finals this year, with both, of course, failing to even make the playoffs. So much for prophecy, still the most useless exercise in sports journalism in so far as it can even be considered journalistic, that is.
• David Ortiz is said to believe the new R&Rs designed to speed up the game account for his precipitous decline at the plate so far this season. Among the curbs is a ban on hitters wandering from the batter’s box between pitches, at least with both feet, a move formerly an Ortiz specialty; he was often clocked at puttering about aimlessly more than 30 seconds between pitches while everyone held their breath, which was downright silly.
However, no matter what he thinks, the tighter restrictions logically have little to do with his current woes. An outfit named Fangraph, which presumably has nothing better to do and therefore tracks such arcane irrelevance, says the average time between pitches to Ortiz this season is only two seconds less than it was last year. To rational observers that won’t seem enough to make much difference. On the other hand, there’s no accounting for the nonsense that can creep into a baseball player’s head.
• Did you know that in the 2012-2013 off-season, 29 National Football League players were arrested on felony charges? With only a handful of weeks left until the end of the current off season, the record appears safe for another year. Might we congratulate the NFL and its chief parole officer, Roger Goodell, for making such wonderful progress?
• Did you further know that last season National League pitchers collectively had a batting average of .122 while striking out more than 40 percent of the time? Have never been a big fan of tinkering with baseball’s essential dynamics, but after 40 years have firmly concluded it’s time for the NL to adopt the designated hitter. Amen!
• And right after that can we get rid of all the all-star games. This year they’ve further eroded from the trivial to the embarrassing, and that will soon include baseball’s version, which, as bad as it has become, remains the best. If you thought the NBA’s egregious display of runaway showboating has become the worst, that can only be because you missed the NHL’s even more pathetic version, which borders on painful self-parody. As for the touch football in Hawaii the NFL offers, no one knows because nobody watches it. Get rid of them all. The party’s over.
• And while vaguely on the subject, talk of Alex Rodriguez being an AL all-star pick this year – now growing in New York – is ill-advised. Even if he were leading the league in everything, a pass on such exaltation would be wise this year. Better to leave that stone unturned and if I were A-Rod, I’d insist on it. In his year of doing contrition, he doesn’t need the attention.
• Don’t know about you, but I was worried about the crusade to bring the Olympics to Boston as it was stumbling over a pothole or two. But then the promoters appointed Larry Bird and David Ortiz and Jo Jo White, among other luminaries, to a special advisory committee serving the cause. Worries over!
• Finally, we end on a question. What do you think former baseball czar Bud Selig does to earn the six million dollars he’ll annually get in retirement for serving as a consultant to his successor in the office where he ultimately got a salary equal to A-Rod’s? Among Bud’s ”achievements” as commissioner – albeit one you’ve never heard him boast about – is having more than quadrupled the commissioner’s salary. Having had the pleasure of knowing Bud’s predecessor, Fay Vincent, I can say with confidence thaty Fay would have never expected such remuneration, let alone lobbied for it.
By the way, there has never before been an ex-commissioner serving as “consultant” to the new commissioner, never been a need for one since Kennesaw Landis invented the gig, nor an ex-commissioner willing to pretend otherwise. I’ve always wondered how Bud Selig could be so critical of the rising salaries of ballplayers with a straight face. Maybe it was easy.
So much for “Nobody asked me, but …” with apologies, of course, to Jimmy Cannon.