Thinking out loud: All the best to Jerry Remy

June 16, 2017 - 1:58 pm

By John Rooke

Thinking out loud…while wondering whatever happened to the Human Rain Delay?

— No matter how attached we become to our sports teams, our athletes or public figures, hardly a week can go by without a not-so-subtle reminder that life always marches on. Sometimes, life throws you a real curve ball, too. So it is with Jerry Remy, who disclosed this week he’s battling lung cancer – again.

— He’s beaten the “Big C” before, and Rem Dawg certainly has a recent history of working through or overcoming obstacles and tragedy in his life. There comes a point in time, however, where you wonder “what’s next?” as the waves of life’s adversities continue a relentless path. I wouldn’t blame him one bit if he were to pack up and simply move on to his next adventure.

— But Remy, who I had the privilege of working with during my own cup-of-coffee in the big leagues back in the ‘90’s, is one of those blessed individuals whose career and persona are a huge part of his present adventure. What he does has helped define who is he, especially to baseball fans. He recognizes this, and he has embraced it.

— It’s not meant to be comical or flippant, but Remy’s path is not unlike that of Adam West, who was typecast as the actor portraying “Batman” for most of his career. It’s just who he was. West passed away last weekend at age 88, but he embraced his role, who he was, and he made the most of it. Life had presented an identity to him, whether he asked for it or not.

— And as long as we’re dealing with the subject of positive thoughts and good vibes for those who might need them – on a personal note, my dear friend John Zannini (aka “Statbeast”) – who I have lampooned here almost every week with both real and imagined tales and stories of our past lives – could use your positive thoughts and prayers. The Beast is battling his own issues, and the fight is proving to be a substantial task for him to tackle alone.

— Sorry. Two extra-inning wins at Fenway over the sad-sack Philadelphia Phillies this week, and a 1-0 road loss to the same team has me thinking a completely different way about your Boston Red Sox.

— What do these Red Sox need to realize this potential we’ve all heaped upon their shoulders? Let’s start with playing games in a timely fashion. Good grief, baseball was meant to be savored and appreciated. It was meant to be lyrical, warm and nostalgic. It wasn’t meant to be an exercise in futile patience. It wasn’t meant to be agonizingly unenjoyable, fingernail-biting bad because it takes the pitcher a full minute to decide what kind of pitch he’s going to throw to a batter who is liable to pound the ball out of the park on him anyway.

— Sorry. I have issues with the Sox pitchers. There is such a thing as overthinking. TTDB.

— Red Sox games simply are becoming un-watchable. I don’t have four hours’ time to spend for every game. And if the Sox – and Major League Baseball – don’t understand this of their consuming public, the sport is doomed. Those empty seats you see at the ballpark aren’t imagined – they’re real.

— As Baseball Commissioner for A Day – I would limit mound visits. After one visit, no matter who it is (catcher, coach or manager), that’s it. Make a change. I would keep batters in the box. I would instruct umpires to not allow time outs – you’re up there to hit the ball son, not to adjust your cup or your gloves or to warm up against phantom pitches. And if need be – we’re getting closer to it in the majors – I’d put a clock on the pitchers. Just TTDB.

— TTDB = Throw the damn ball.

— We have overthought the game of baseball. We’ve allowed a “thinking man’s game” to become a “thinking man’s obsessive-compulsive desire to control his environment.” Play the game the way it was intended to be played, or go play another game, like chess.

— David Price? Just throw it. You are the pitching version of the 1970’s and ‘80’s version of the human rain delay, Mike Hargrove. Rick Porcello? Was last year a fluke? You certainly don’t seem to be interested in proving otherwise. Tyler Thornburg? On the shelf because of an off-season throwing program? That defies believability.

— Not for nuthin’, but Hanley Ramirez is the present-day equivalent of the talented, bratty-kid you’re afraid of upsetting because he’s the best player on the team, and you don’t want him to quit on you if you get mad at him. He’s the present-day Kelly Leak. I know he played first Wednesday night, but the Sox’ enabling of Ramirez is embarrassing, really. He can hit 460-foot homers but can’t take throws at first base?

— And what to do with Pablo Sandoval? I don’t believe Sox brass is willing to cut him loose because of their foolish investment in him (five years, $95 million) in the first place. Dude can’t play at 3rd, he can’t hit for average and he has zero real power. He’s no DH, either. He’s about as useless on a baseball field as a real Panda might be.

— Is Sandoval among the worst free agent signings in Sox history? Steve Buckley’s Boston Herald column this week has him right up there. Trouble is, Price is on this team, too. That’s two of an alleged Top 10 all-time bad signings on the same team. Whoa.

— All the above points back to – management. Or ownership. Take your pick. But it would be unfair to single any person out, because they’re all in it together.

— And yet, the Red Sox are what – eight, nine games above .500? Is this what high expectation has brought us – an unrealistic sense of ability or achievement? It’s what the Yankees have brought us. It’s because they’ve overachieved, and perhaps soft-sold fans an underestimated bill of goods along the way.

— The PawSox, who have been playing very well of late, announced this week they’ll induct Mo Vaughn and Joe Morgan into their Hall of Fame on Sunday, July 23rd at McCoy Stadium. Carlton Fisk is also on the HOF-to-do list, but he’ll be inducted later.

— Need a ride to McCoy Stadium? Starting this weekend, RIPTA is offering free bus service – you read that right, FREE – to the ballpark in Pawtucket for weekend games. Every Saturday and Sunday home game for the rest of the season. Free is always good.

— Congrats go out to the local diamond talent – URI’s Chris Hess and Martin Figueroa, Brown’s Christian Taugner and Robert Henry, and Bryant’s James Karinchak for their selection in this week’s MLB Draft. Who knew? Workouts on wet, muddy and often snowy fields can pay dividends.

— A couple of firsts in the Rhode Island high school baseball ranks – or at least a couple of “not in a while’s.” Classical won the Division III baseball title, it’s first since 1979. And LaSalle Academy claimed its first Division I crown in 33 years by beating South Kingstown. In case you were wondering, Ponaganset took DII for a second straight season, defeating Scituate.

— Did you see the ESPN video feature on LeBron James and his manager about Tom Brady’s “greatness?” LBJ says TB12 is the best QB he’s seen, but he can’t possibly be the best athlete of all time because he only affects the game “one way.”

— Last I checked, Brady not only led his offense to a stunning, 31-point comeback win in the ultimate game to the 2016 season, but also gassed the Atlanta defense along the way to the point of no-return. TB12 most definitely affected both sides of the ball. Just sayin’.

— And Bron-bron? Where was your own defense against Golden State? Actually, that’s not entirely fair. James played well, but he didn’t have enough help in slowing down the Warriors’ offensive juggernaut.

— Should we just bypass the 2017-18 NBA regular season now, and just put Golden State and Cleveland in the finals again this October? Barring injury and team stupidity, who else has a snowball’s chance here?

— My buddy “Big E” sez he was sitting at his breakfast table recently one morning, reading an article about a good-looking actress marrying a football player known for his brawn over his brain. He turned to Mrs. E and said, “I’ll never understand why the biggest jerks get the most attractive wives.” To which wifey said, “Why thank you, dear.” — And now, quiet time. The Patriots ended mini-camp and OTA’s this week with very little angst on their sideline. Why should there be any worries? Given the relative depth and health of the roster, training camp next month should be 40 guys competing for about four jobs. That could be good reality TV.

— No Jimmy Garoppolo on the last day of OTA’s, and suddenly, questions abound. Is he fragile? Come on. We’re inventing stuff to see if it sticks, or if it will get a rise out of people. This is how the rich, privileged, spoiled people live, amiright?

— Classy that Julian Edelman thanked the Patriots for his new contract. Dude is living the dream, and I don’t blame him one bit for not wanting to ever wake up from it.

— I don’t think the J-E-T-S will go 0-16, but they may give the ignominious mark a run for its money. They’re tanking 2017 more than a month before training camp opens – a new record for futility. Every season ticket sold this year should come with an extra ducat for next year, too.

— The escort-prostitute scandal at Louisville hit hard this week, as Rick Pitino will serve a 5-game suspension within the ACC for his role, or rather, his lack of oversight within his program. Seems a little light, if you ask me. But the school gets a 4-year probation for that lack of oversight, and that seems about right.

— Get this – Pitino, Jim Boeheim, Jim Calhoun and Larry Brown, all Hall of Famers, have all been suspended from coaching games by the NCAA in this decade. What’s that saying – if you ain’t cheatin’, you ain’t tryin’?

— And here’s the kicker to the whole thing – the school has 45 days to decide which games they played that used now-deemed ineligible athletes from 2010-14, and announce their forfeiture. Could this include the 2013 national title? That qualifies as a ‘wow.’

— Last week, it was former Friar and Brown assistant John Linehan moving on to Hartford. This week, it’s former Ram and URI assistant coach Antonio Reynolds-Dean changing addresses. Reynolds-Dean appears headed to Clemson from Kingston for this next season, and the ProJo reports ex-Quinnipiac head coach and former UConn assistant Tom Moore is in line to step in.

— Congratulations to former PC hoops assistant Josh Sash, as he joins the full-time staff at UMKC. Sash was a video coordinator for one season under Keno Davis, and most recently was the assistant head coach at Indian Hills Community College in Ottumwa, Iowa. Yes, that’s the hometown of one Cpl. Walter “Radar” O’Reilly of M*A*S*H TV fame, too.

— LaVall Jordan’s arrival at Butler to replace Chris Holtmann follows one familiar pattern – that of hiring from within the “family.” Jordan played at Butler from ’97-’01, and was an assistant coach from ’03-’07 under Todd Lickliter, prior to Brad Stevens’ promotion to head coach.

— But there’s also a potential pattern of trouble in this case. Jordan will bring his staff from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where the team finished 11-24 in the Horizon League last season. It’s an entirely new staff, with Holtmann’s guys on last year’s Butler staff all moving onto Ohio State. The learning curve (new players, new league) could prove to be problematic for a program in transition, no matter the level of talent left behind on the roster.

— Keep the rumor fire stoked. UConn and Villanova are now engaged in a “home-and-home” hoop series beginning this upcoming season, scheduled to meet in Hartford’s XL Center in January. Is there any reason – any reason at all, other than pure disdain for their New England brethren – for the Huskies to keep avoiding Providence?

— It’s like the little brother outgrowing the big brother, and big brother won’t have anything to do with his sibling because he knows “junior” will whack him, but good, if they ever tangle.

— How about this choice? The NCAA says UCF football player Donald De La Haye, who is a kicker and a marketing major, needs to decide between his YouTube channel or his athletic eligibility. His following has grown to more than 56K subscribers, which earns him a small sum through YouTube ads. The NCAA, in its infinite wisdom, says he’s in violation of their amateurism policies.

— The NCAA bylaw states that an athlete “may establish his or her own business, provided the student-athlete’s name, photograph, appearance or athletics reputation are not used to promote the business.” The videos on his channel are mostly about De La Haye’s daily life, so naturally, his name and likeness are responsible for part of his popularity.

— What if he simply refused the ad revenue generated from his page, until his eligibility is completed? Too easy? Thanks, NCAA. I’m available for hire.

— Did anyone notice that former Brown University president Gordon Gee is now the new Big 12 Chairman of the Board of Directors, as the president at West Virginia? In other words, he’s athletically most-powerful in a major league position (pun intended), even if he’s not athletically most-inclined. For someone who, years ago, seemed to treat big-time athletics with a certain level of disdain, he’s come a long way.

— After one very successful season in Providence, P-Bruins coach Kevin Dean got the call to move up to Boston this week to join Bruce Cassidy’s staff. Makes perfect sense, with Dean and Cassidy having worked together in Providence for five seasons with many of the players the organization is now grooming as “the future.”

— It puts the P-Bruins in the position of hiring a new head coach again, but they shouldn’t have to travel too far to find one. Assistant coaches Jay Leach (also a former Friar) and Trent Whitfield – who were both players in Boston and Providence – should get long looks.

— The US Open this week, the CVS Health Charity Classic and the Northeast Amateur next week. The NE Am remains one of the country’s premier amateur golf tournaments, and beginning next Wednesday at Wannamoisett Country Club in Rumford 10 of the world’s top 20-ranked amateurs will participate in the field. Admission is free.

— As for Brad Faxon and Billy Andrade’s annual event at Barrington’s Rhode Island Country Club, this year it’s a one-day event (Monday) with a new format and three-player groups competing. A current PGA pro, an LPGA pro and a PGA tour champ will comprise each team.

— Mayweather-McGregor? Really? It’s all a ruse to take your money from you. Sadly, many will give it up, gladly. What’s that saying – there’s a sucker born every minute? — Who remembers Mike Hargrove, the Human Rain Delay? As a player in Texas and Cleveland in the ‘70’s and ‘80’s, Hargrove basically invented the “step out of the box, adjust your helmet, grab your cup, adjust your gloves, pull your sleeves up, wipe your hands on your pants, tap your bat on your cleats, hold your hand up and step back in” move – after nearly every pitch – that kids still replicate in Little League even today.

— Loved ya’ Mike, your routine was clever and even funny 35 years ago, but it was the start of baseball’s slow, downward spiral into irrelevance and boredom. That other players soon learned to copy your gig to frustrate pitchers has now strangled the sport, and led us to having thoughts about putting a clock on guys to get them to stay in the box – or to just TTDB.

— In response to last week’s column, our friend Edward from East Providence posted on Facebook: “Rafa Nadal is about to win his 10th French Open and 15th major. I can make a case for him being the G.O.A.T.” Edward: Ok, I’ll bite. State your case. I’ll take Bjorn Borg in his prime, with 11 majors and a somewhat early retirement from the sport. That would be a heckuva match, if such a thing could happen. And how about Rod Laver, with 20 majors? Did you forget about him? Dominant.

— 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 [email protected]. 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 Southern New England Sports Saturday! Call in at 401-737-1287 or text at 37937.

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