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Thinking out loud: Baseball needs to get going with plan

John Rooke
May 15, 2020 - 11:58 am
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Thinking out loud…while wondering if surgical masks have replaced fuzzy dice on rearview mirrors in cars across America…

  • Hey baseball?  What’s up? 

 

  • Even soccer has a plan, with MLS proposing all teams go to Orlando for training and games, culminating in a tournament.  It’s not perfect, but at least it’s something.

 

  • But baseball?  Crickets. 

 

  • We should be a quarter of the way through the season, and these guys – players and owners – are arguing over what else, but money?  Money they already have, money we don’t have and money they’re not going to get without games being played.

 

  • Plus, baseball has a commissioner that seems bound and determined to undermine the future of his sport by mowing down its’ grass roots – and eliminating 42 minor league teams in small towns across the country, including in places like Lowell, MA. 

 

  • Just when we all want to feel better about things, baseball has forced us into a ‘chasm of unpredictability and uncertainty,’ when instead, it should be more like ‘hope springs eternal’ for everyone. 

 

  • If baseball blows this – and it’s looking like they might – they’ll get what they deserve…a massive PR disaster on their hands, and the potential for some teams (Miami, hello) to go belly-up.

 

  • And crickets.

 

  • It’s quite possible that pandemic attrition may take care of much of the issue between MLB and MiLB, and the 42 minor league teams set for elimination. With a 2020 season less likely as the days go by, financial ramifications may decide who plays on, and who hangs ‘em up.

 

  • Construction has resumed at Polar Park in Worcester for the Paw-soon-to-be-WooSox.  But there’s a lot of work yet to be done for a spring start – and move – in 2021.

 

  • They’ve found a way for youth baseball and softball to return in Nebraska and Missouri for the summer, and the Futures Collegiate League (Brockton, Worcester, Pittsfield, Westfield, North Shore, Nashua, NH and New Britain, CT) hasn’t yet ruled out a July 1 start to its’ season.

 

  • Robert Kraft kinda let the cat out of the bag – Richard Seymour took in around half of the public vote for induction into the Patriots Hall of Fame this year, while Bill Parcells and Mike Vrabel split the other half.

 

  • It is a most-deserving honor for a great, sometimes underappreciated defensive tackle who may also be bound for Canton, OH. But going forward, here are two thoughts:

 

  • 1) Bill Parcells belongs.  But it’s clear not enough fans believe that.  Time for his inclusion as a “contributor.”  Can, or will, the Kraft family make it happen?  Can’t believe I’m agreeing with Andy Hart on this one.

 

  • 2) We’re still not finished voting for Super Bowl-era players.  Vrabel is now on the wait list.  Let’s not forget the worthy players who helped establish the foundation in the pre-championship years, like Mosi Tatupu?

 

  • I can believe the now-popular notion TB12’s relationship with Josh McDaniels was strained.  How could it not be, after some of the sideline ‘discussions’ we witnessed through the years – especially the last couple?

 

  • Were they simply ‘brothers’ fighting?  Perhaps, but I know I stopped arguing with my younger brother about the time I could no longer sit on him.

 

  • That TB12 then took the media to task this week after the stories of their strife were put out there…tells me two things.

 

  • It’s damage control, as he tries to control a narrative.  The man doth protest too much, methinks.

 

  • Let it go, Tom.  Leave us alone.  You don’t play here anymore.

 

  • Deflategate was five years ago.  Seems longer, doesn’t it?

 

  • Why are so many fans – plus the media – fixated on kickoff times being different for the Patriots and Tampa Bay Bucs?  Who cares about the Buccaneers?  They don’t care enough about Tampa IN Tampa!

 

  • Former Friar coach and Bryant athletic director Dan Gavitt, the Senior VP of Basketball for the NCAA, is staying on in his role in Indianapolis rather than take a position as Executive Director of the National Association of Basketball Coaches. 

 

  • CBS’ Jon Rothstein said this week December 4th is the date penciled in for PC-URI at the Dunk next season.  Provided there IS a next season. 

 

  • Couple the financial impact of no NCAA Tournament this year with the ongoing pandemic, and you can quickly realize college basketball scheduling…particularly for those considered mid-or-low majors…is going to be very difficult.

 

  • Teams will be looking to cut costs wherever they can. Reduced travel, more bus trips and ‘buy’ games will be on the menu, if you can find them.  Could PC, URI, Brown and Bryant all schedule each other again in men’s hoops, in order to save expenses?

 

  • $225 million will be distributed to Division I membership by the NCAA, as opposed to an anticipated $600 million.  On average, that hit-per-school ($400K-$1M) will cause some serious one-year adjustments in attitudes and plans of action.

 

  • With so many mid and low-major teams looking for buy games, The Athletic reported this week the price has been driven downward from $85-$95K per game to around $70-$75K.  The pandemic has also affected high major programs with what they can afford to pay.

 

  • The Big East may not have some of the problems faced by other leagues, if only because they’ve added two games to each teams’ schedule by bringing UConn back into the mix.  The Huskies are a bus trip for five of the other 10 conference schools.

 

  • The Big East, Pac 12, ACC and Big 10 are all planning on 20-game league schedules.  The available supply of guarantee games for low-to-mid majors – and potential ‘cupcakes’ for the high majors – is shrinking, and not just for the short term.

 

  • The NCAA cancelled the College Basketball Academy scheduled for July, which would have taken place at four regional sites across the country (including UConn in the East), with 1600 players evaluated by college coaches.  But not this year.

 

  • Cast adrift in their move back to the Big East, UConn football this week announced they’ve signed a deal with the CBS Sports Network to televise home games through 2023.

 

  • UConn, and every other Division I program, will probably need to have football players return to campus by July for an on-time start in the fall.

 

  • The collegiate cutbacks are already deep in some places.  D-I Akron dumped golf, men’s cross country and women’s tennis this week.  Division II Florida Tech this week made the decision to drop football…after launching the program in 2011.  And D-II St. Edwards in Austin, TX is dropping six varsity programs due to financial difficulties brought on by the virus.

 

  • The Mid-American Conference (of which Akron is a member) announced this week they will be eliminating conference tournaments in eight sports for next year, as cost-cutting measures.  Football and men’s and women’s basketball won’t be affected.

 

  • The chancellor of the California State University system put the kibosh on 23 schools in his state for the fall – which could have scheduling repercussions for three Mountain West programs – San Diego State, San Jose State and Fresno State.

 

  • The D-II California Collegiate Athletic Association has also already cancelled all fall sports.

 

  • Of course, that’s presently in conflict with many other decisions being made by colleges in other parts of the country to open…including Brown and Harvard (minus 1st year med students), who led the parade for opening campuses only a week ago. 

 

  • Time, maybe a lot of it – and science, will tell who’s making the right choices.

 

  • Big East Commissioner Val Ackerman said last week during a Zoom conference if campuses aren’t open in the fall, sports events and activities won’t be either, which echoed what NCAA Grand Poobah Mark Emmert had said a week earlier. 

 

  • It makes sense, of course, even if it is painful to consider.

 

  • The time frame for deciding upon the fall semester ‘comeback trail’ will probably come by the end of June to early July.  Football coaches across the country universally agree they need about six weeks to condition their athletes for a season.

 

  • But now there are rumblings that some schools may not need to have campuses open for football to return.  The sport is needed not just for our entertainment, but for some departments to survive.

 

  • While the Big East doesn’t have football as an issue, July is likely the timeframe for a decision on any college sports for the remainder of 2020.

 

  • And for basketball and the winter/spring sports?  We’re probably looking at Labor Day for those decisions-to-be.

 

  • But the Big East isn’t under the gun like other conferences around the country.  They’ve got a bit more time on their side in the decision-making process for bringing back their marquee sport, since football isn’t a concern.

 

  • Here’s a thought – what if some schools are back on campus, and others aren’t, within the same league?  It could happen.  In that case, schedule adjustments would have to be made, and contingency plans are in the works for those.

 

  • Big adjustments and contingency plans will be needed at Georgetown, after Mac McClung’s yo-yo routine this spring.  He’s pulling out of the NBA Draft but leaving the school and entering the NCAA transfer portal this time. 

 

  • The Hoyas may be slotted for dead last (11th) in next year’s Big East.  Patrick Ewing, you have a problem.  And talent alone won’t help you solve it.

 

  • Only one member of the 2019 Big East all-freshman team is still with his program – Marcus Zegarowski at Creighton. 

 

  • Seton Hall landed two notable additions to its’ basketball team this week, with 6-9 big man Jeff Ngandu and point guard Ryan Conway headed to New Jersey.  Ngandu can play next season, while Conway is a 2021 recruit.

 

  • The URI men’s basketball team is facing a major rebuild of its’ roster for next season, provided transfers aren’t immediately eligible.  The Rams did pick up 6-5 Towson transfer Allen Betrand (who played for ex-URI and PC assistant Pat Skerry) this week, but he won’t be able to suit up until next year.  For now.

 

  • Shocked, and only mildly chagrined, that Zion Williamson may have taken illegal inducements to attend Duke for a year before cashing in on his millions.  Who’da thunk that?

 

  • If the NCAA can’t nail the Blue Devils and Mike Krzyzewski like they’re attempting to crucify Kansas, Louisville, Arizona and other blue bloods in the FBI investigation and shoe company scandals – really, why bother anymore?

 

  • Williamson’s former marketing agent Gina Ford has filed court documents stating he received impermissible benefits from Nike and Adidas, among several other sources.  After initially signing with Ford, Williamson dumped her to sign with CAA Sports in 2019. 

 

  • Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, amiright?

 

  • Speaking of Coach K, and Coach Jim Boeheim, Coach Roy Williams and other notable 60 and 70-somethings in the college game…could the pandemic force any (or all) of these older coaches to the sidelines? 

 

  • Doctors are already telling us that it may not be safe for 65-year-old (and up) teachers to return to classrooms in the fall.   What about these coaches getting back on the sidelines, or into the locker rooms?  How exactly would that be considered safe territory?  Just sayin’.

 

  • If Coach K has Ziongate on one side, and the pandemic (he’s 73 years old) on the other…have we seen him in his last game?  Perhaps he should move on, while he still has a choice…with a Teflon rep still intact.

 

  • The top three conferences in Academic Progress Rate for the past year?  Ivy League, Patriot League, Big East.  The Atlantic-10 was fifth. 

 

  • I don’t know any Friar anywhere who didn’t know Joe Prisco, know of him or know something about him.  Coach Prisco, born and raised in East Providence, coached the golf team at PC for an extraordinary 60 years. 

 

  • A WWII veteran, Joe was inducted into the RI Golf Hall of Fame, the Golf Coaches Association of America HOF and the PC Athletic HOF. He passed away this week at age 101. 

 

  • Murder hornets?  Now, giant gypsy moths?  My buddy “Big E” sez any ol’ bug can hit your windshield…but it takes some real guts to stick.

 

  • The English Premier League has decided to give it a go next month, even with major concerns from the players over maintaining health through the training process.

 

  • The NBA Players Association apparently polled its players, asking if they wanted to resume the current season or just close up shop.  While there is (not surprisingly) a desire to get back to the court and continue or finish this season – time is not an ally.

 

  • Something the NHL, especially with foreign travel restrictions in place, is finding out for itself.

 

  • If you’re responsible for the creation of an iconic moment or idea, shouldn’t that make you an icon, too?  That’s where I place comedian and actor Jerry Stiller, father of actor Ben Stiller, who passed away this week at age 92.

 

  • Festivus, for the rest of us?  Always and forever.  Including the ‘airing of grievances.’  The anti-holiday episode made famous by Stiller’s character on the TV comedy “Seinfeld,” Frank Costanza, qualifies as a memorable media moment if there ever was one.

 

  • And you want iconic?  Little Richard may have been ‘different,’ but there was never any question of his musical talent and abilities in the rock ‘n roll world.  Richard Wayne Penniman also passed away this week at age 87, after a major kick-start to the rock genre in the 1950’s with his showmanship and flair.

 

  • Good golly, Miss Molly, there was a whole lotta shakin’ go on back then.  Pioneer.  Architect.  Singer.  Writer.  Entertainer.  Great gosh a’mighty, his energy was infectious, his exuberance eternal. 

 

  • PC hockey forward and Hobey Baker finalist Jack Dugan has agreed to join the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights, after leading the NCAA in scoring with 52 points in 34 games this past season for the Friars.

 

  • Not for nuthin’, while the AHL decided to end its’ season last week the Providence Bruins decided to re-up their coaching staff for next season. 

 

  • Mark Divver tweeted out this week Jay Leach, Trent Whitfield and Ryan Mougenel have agreed to new contracts after the AHL Bruins finished with the best record in the Eastern Conference.

 

  • Here’s a punch in the financial gut – the Wall Street Journal reported this week that more than $1 billion in previously-planned TV ad spending could be cancelled by advertisers…largely due to the paucity of live sports. 

 

  • But that could change for the 3rd quarter of 2020, if sports come back – with or without fans.

 

  • In the span of three months earlier this year, sports betting in Rhode Island went from its’ best month, ever, in terms of revenue…to one of its’ worst.  $3.28 million in revenue was earned in January, and just $840K in March as the sports industry began to bottom out.

 

  • And just how important is the industry to the Ocean State’s coffers?  The forecasts for the remainder of 2020 are grim, showing less than a quarter of previously predicted revenue coming into the state.

 

  • In 2021, less than half of what’s been budgeted for the entire year is expected.  Better buckle up.

 

  • Interested in having your questions on local Rhode Island sports (and yes, that includes the Patriots, Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics, whenever they play again) answered in a somewhat timely fashion? Send ‘em to me! It’s your chance to “think out loud,” so send your questions, comments and local stories to jrooke@weei.com. We’ll share mailbag comments/Facebook posts/Tweets right here! Follow me on Twitter, @JRbroadcaster…and on Facebook, www.facebook.com/john.rooke ...

 

Don’t forget to tune into Providence’s 103.7 FM, every Saturday from 7:00-9:00 am for Cordischi and Coit!  Call in at 401-737-1287 or text at 37937.