USA Today Sports

Thinking out loud: Tough week for Houston

John Rooke
January 17, 2020 - 12:56 pm
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Thinking out loud…while wondering whatever happened to Zip Rzeppa?

 

  • Not for nuthin,’ but this past Sunday-into-Monday may have been the worst 24-hour period EVER for a big city within its’ collective sports psyche. 

 

  • Houston, you have a problem.  But Boston, you’re a close second.

 

  • The Texans’ choked away a 24-point road lead on the Chiefs and were drummed out of the NFL playoffs by 20.  Then, the Astros took a paddling from the principal and turned it into an execution. 

 

  • All in a days’ work.  Just sayin’.

 

  • Sign-stealing has been a part of baseball since the invention of the sport.  Trouble is, in this day and age of political correctness, it’s no longer ‘gamesmanship,’ but out-and-out ‘cheating.’ 

 

  • The Astros’ A.J. Hinch and GM Jeff Luhnow were complicit in their unwillingness to cease and desist, in my way of thinking here, because they’re ‘damned if they do, and damned if they don’t.’  Now? 

 

  • They’re just damned.  Probably for the rest of their professional lives. 

 

  • The problem is baseball’s problem.  It was once ok to steal signs, just don’t get caught doing it.  Now that someone has been caught using modern-day electronics as an able assist, baseball’s heavy hand of justice has slapped everyone silly.

 

  • Including Alex Cora, the Red Sox and the entire New England region. 

 

  • It’s the height of hypocrisy.  If baseball really believes this is going to clean up sign-stealing…just wait.  New ways of gaining an advantage are undoubtedly being developed by someone or some team who will do it better than ever, and it’ll simply become more covert than video cameras, smartphones and banging on trash cans. 

 

  • Where there’s a will, there’s a way.  And there’s definitely a will within baseball.  Or do you not know of the Black Sox Scandal in 1919, or recall Pete Rose’s gambling, or the steroid crisis of the ‘90’s?  What will the next crisis/crusade be?

 

  • Rookestradamus says computers will eventually call balls and strikes.  They already assist on close plays with video – eventually, umpires will become obsolete, or, become mere window dressing.

 

  • And we will resort to yelling at an inanimate object – a computer – rather than spewing invective toward a fat guy dressed in black behind home plate.

 

  • Yeah, that’s progress alright.

 

  • As for Cora, that the Red Sox were forced to ‘part ways’ with him is a disgrace unto itself, putting the franchise front and center within baseball’s (and pro sports?) worst cheating scandal in 100 years. 

 

  • Gotta admit, New England pro sports don’t look squeaky clean to the rest of the country right now…although if you honestly give a damn, you count as one.  And I hope you don’t live in a glass house.

 

  • I’ve thought about this quite a bit, since I have family living elsewhere and am in regular touch with acquaintances from around the country – why did this happen, and why did this happen up here? 

 

  • Spygate, Deflategate, Signgate?  Why us, why our teams?

 

  • I can come to only one, reasonable conclusion.  The pressure to win is as great as it ever has been.  And once you win, the pressure to keep winning is firmly applied.  There’s big money in pro sports as we know, and even bigger profits to be made when you win. 

 

  • Legacies are made, history gets written.  Wallets get fatter.

 

  • Fans and media remember winners, they don’t remember the money involved.

 

  • But fans and media do remember a fall from grace.  They do remember things done that bring superstars down to their own human level, complete with fallacies we all tend to have but don’t expect from these people we put up on a pedestal – whether deserved or not. 

 

  • So Yankee fans, baseball fans – enjoy watching the Sox and their fans squirm.  But remember, you’ve got next.  And as long as sports today are set up with the kind of pressures that can crush coal into diamonds, cheating will happen. 

 

  • It isn’t right, but it is only natural.

 

  • It’s all about the competition, the inevitable winning and making lots of money.  And as long as we continue to play these games to be entertained, the result often includes ugliness and unseemliness beneath the surface.

 

  • Borrowing a phrase from one-time Jets’ coach Herm Edwards, “Hello? You play to win the game!”

 

  • It’s the only reason to play.  Just win, baby.  But, unless you want to lose your appetite for baseball, just don’t watch as the hot dog gets made.

 

  • Oh, and the unreasonable conclusion?  It’s the price we have to pay for winning so damn much.

 

  • Chaim Bloom has to be thinking ‘what the hell have I gotten myself into?’  Amiright?

 

  • And for that matter, what looney tunes really want to be Red Sox manager, constantly scrutinized, consistently criticized for the things he doesn’t do and forced to live unnaturally – that is, like an actual human?  You know, one that makes mistakes?

 

  • Makes me think a guy who simply doesn’t give a s**t, like Buck Showalter, would be a perfect fit.

 

  • Other than Bloom, the rest of the Red Sox hierarchy looked like “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” at the press conference this week.  If there wasn’t anything they could (or wanted to) say, why did they hold it?

 

  • How crazy is this story?  14-15 months after winning a world championship, the Sox have fired their GM, fired their manager and are covered in a rather unseemly mess as the world automatically assumes the worst.

 

  • Is 2018 tainted?  No.  Sign stealing is as old as dirt.  It’s a part of baseball, and always has been.  As I said, blame the sport.  The use of technology, however, separates these acts from simply peering in on the catcher’s signals from 2nd base to gain a competitive ‘edge.’ 

 

  • Does anyone really grasp how hard it is to even relay a stolen sign, comprehend what’s coming, then actually use it for benefit?  Maybe it helped in some small way, but the difference between winning and losing a championship?

 

  • Get real.  If you’ve ever faced a fastball at 80-90+ mph, or a curve ball close to that speed, you know.

 

  • Tweet of the Week, from @MrTylerVI: “John Henry takes over the Boston Red Sox, they win the most games in their history and win the World Series…eventually implicated for cheating. John Henry takes over Liverpool, they make the best start in their history and probably win the Premier League…#TickTock.”

 

  • Had a laugh with Brendan McGair of the Pawtucket Times/Woonsocket Call the other night over the reported $30 million cost overrun at Worcester’s new Polar Park.  “That’ll be in your column, won’t it?,” was McGair’s comment.

 

  • Yup, it sure will.  $30 million?  That could have been Pawtucket’s problem.  Wait, wut?

 

  • Cool local story this week with Pawtucket Shea High School’s scoring star Erickson Bans giving a verbal agreement to Jared Grasso, to attend Bryant next year.  Bans is the first Rhode Island player to hit the 2000-point career scoring mark in 20 years.

 

  • Rhody’s up and down trends were back up this week, with a big win at VCU and another at St. Joseph’s without suspended star Jeff Dowtin.  But the Rams overall trend looks good right now, at 63 on the last check of the NET rankings.  Gotta avoid trouble down the stretch.

 

  • With Dowtin suspended because he apparently played in an unsanctioned charity game last summer (really?!?), Fatts Russell came to the rescue scoring 25 points in the win over the Hawks and hitting 1K for his career at URI.

 

  • The Friars’ big moment this week, at the Dunk against St. John’s, was a success – in that it qualifies as a ‘W.’  You don’t give those back, especially at home.

 

  • PC is 4-1 in league play.  But the issues with being able to score early in games is a real problem and could be a death knell for this team as it begins its toughest stretch of the season this weekend at sharp-shooting Creighton. 

 

  • Followed by at Seton Hall, home against Villanova, at Butler.  Whoa.  No pansies in that group.

 

  • In the Big East this week, Creighton’s Greg McDermott got career coaching win #500.  Good thing that’s out of the way before Providence finds its’ way to Omaha.

 

  • TWITBE this week features Villanova’s Jay Wright, Butler sharp-shooter Sean McDermott and ex-UConn star-turned-Fox analyst Donny Marshall.  Catch the show on Westwood One radio, Sirius/XM, via podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, GooglePlay or Spotify, or online at bigeast.com and westwoodonesports.com.

 

  • Did anyone else see Clemson win at North Carolina for the first time in 95 years?  Which also means for the first time, ever?  The Tar Heels are discovering this season how the other half has lived…for a very long time.

 

  • Josh McDaniels misses out on Cleveland.  Like his flirtation with Indy, he’ll one day soon be glad he didn’t take his talents to Ohio.

 

  • And so will TB12.  Be glad, that is.  McDaniels’ staying on with the Patriots should markedly improve the chances of Brady staying, and not going elsewhere.  Right, BB?

 

  • It appears as if Nick Caserio will stick around, too, after all the tampering talk with Houston last year.  The Texans announced they’re standing pat, so to speak, with their current chain of command.  Also good for TB12, and the team as a whole.

 

  • Fix the Pats – in two moves?  1) Bring back TB12, provided he’s willing and the team doesn’t suffer a case of head-up-***-itis.  2)  See #1.

 

  • Two cool, once-in-a-lifetime moments I’d like to see happen again for others – both Jimmy Johnson and Bill Cowher were surprised “live,” on their respective networks, with the announcement of their inclusion into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

 

  • The Sports Business Journal this past week reported NFL owners have donated to Republican candidates for office over Democrats by an 11-to-1 margin since 2007.  I’ll just leave this one right here.

 

  • Not surprised in the least by LSU’s win over Clemson in the college football national title game.  LSU’s Tigers may have been one of the best championship teams of the past decade, or more.  Ya’ hear that, Bama?

 

  • And Heisman-winning QB Joe Burrow is one of the best to sling it in some time.  Too bad he’ll be wasted on Cincinnati, but he is an Ohio native…so, there’s that…

 

  • Hey OBJ?  Rookestradamus did predict your name would soon be front-and-center.  But handing out cash to the kids you never played with at LSU after the game?  Even if it was Monopoly money?  Straight stupid, homie.

 

  • ESPN reported this week Notre Dame backup QB Phil Jurkovec is planning to transfer to Boston College.  And, Jurkovec showed up for the first day of spring classes this week at BC.

 

  • Jurkovec was rated the #9 QB in the Class of 2018 but would need to sit a year unless he’s granted a waiver to play next fall.  Anthony Brown has been a 3-year starter for the Eagles but put his name into the transfer portal soon after new coach Jeff Hafley moved eastward.

 

  • Awful news this week from Holy Cross, with the auto accident involving their women’s rowing team in Florida for training, and the death of 20-year-old sophomore Grace Rhett from Uxbridge, MA.  11 people total were injured, including a coach and six of Grace’s teammates.

 

  • ICYMI, last weekend famed percussionist and drummer for Rush, Neil Peart, passed away after a battle with cancer at age 67.  Not sure there is a more air-drummed-to guy out there in rock-land. 

 

  • Certainly, any cultural figure’s death is going to trigger a run on nostalgia – and Peart’s energetic rhythms, along with his sci-fi-tinged connectivity through his lyrics, are a very large part of my ‘70’s and ‘80’s wayward days.  Among their many hits, Tom Sawyer, Limelight, Spirit of the Radio and Freewill were real favorites.

 

  • But then again, weren’t they all?    

 

  • And does anyone remember the Bostonian who actually discovered Rush playing in Canada while working in Cleveland back in the early ‘70’s?  Donna Halper is a noted radio historian and author who introduced Rush to the states while working at WMMS Radio as a DJ in 1974.  She’s currently an associate professor of communications at Lesley University.

 

  • Thanks, Donna.  Thanks, Rush.  And God speed, Neil.

 

  • Kudos for the long-overdue induction into the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame – to the Doobie Brothers.  Notorious B.I.G.?  Whitney Houston?  Do they even belong in the same sentence together?

 

  • Ed Cooley and Rodney Harrison this week were named honorary co-chairs for U.S. Senior Open golf championship this June, which will be held at one of the USGA’s five founding courses – Newport Country Club.  As long as they don’t have to swing the clubs, we’ll all be fine.

 

  • Congrats to the State of Rhode Island National Sports Media Association sportswriter and sportscaster of the year award winners – the Journal’s Kevin McNamara and WPRI’s Ruthie Polinsky.  Kevin is a friend and TWITBE partner, Ruthie is a superstar-in-the-making. 

 

  • In Massachusetts, NESN’s Jerry Remy, the Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy and ESPNBoston’s Mike Reiss claimed honors, while in Connecticut, kudos to old friends Dave Borges of the New Haven Register and Wayne Norman of WILI in Willimantic and the UConn Radio Network.

 

  • Anyone remember Zip Rzeppa?  A former Boston University classmate of Howard Stern and Bill O’Reilly and a one-time sports anchor at Channel 7 in Boston, Rzeppa moved onto St. Louis after leaving New England where he earned perhaps his greatest TV fame – as a mentor for a young Joe Buck. 

 

  • In 2014, Rzeppa was inducted into the St. Louis Media Hall of Fame.  He currently serves as the Executive Director of Mater Media, a Catholic evangelical company.

 

  • Tom sent an email that got me thinking: “Being a college basketball fan (Go Friars), there are a couple of stats that I find misleading 1. Points per game and 2. Assists…I'm assuming that a scorebook these days is computer-based, a tablet or laptop and that a player's minutes per game can be measured.  Given that, would not points per minutes played rather than points per game be a more meaningful metric?”

 

  • Tom:  Probably – is the best answer I can give you.  NBA teams do a lot of points per minute, as opposed to points per game, and I’ve seen several college teams figure those numbers out – but the standard has always been PER GAME, regardless of minutes played.  Why?  In this day and age of modern analytics, I can’t give you a definitive answer.  But it comes from a time when players played most of the game – and there were fewer substitutions.

 

  • Interested in having your questions on local Rhode Island sports (and yes, that includes the Patriots, Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics) 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.