A little of this, a little of thatâ€¦
Weâ€™ll have some baseball news to chew on Wednesday afternoon when the Hall of Fame balloting is unveiled for public consumption. In the eyes of this non-voter, Cooperstown should roll out the welcome mat for one non-steroid tainted newcomer on the ballot, Craig Biggio, whose inclusion is based purely on achieving 3,000 hits â€“ one of those mythical benchmarks that automatically trigger inclusion into the gameâ€™s exclusive fraternity.
Meanwhile, two additional first-timers are expected to officially begin serving their penance for crimes of denial, arrogance, and chemically influenced stat lines. Judging by the exit polls of writers who chose to make their ballot choices public, some serious time is going to have to elapse before deciding how to proceed with Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds.
Both are so far from slam dunks that it seems appropriate after Wednesdayâ€™s HOF announcement to place them in the receptacle marked â€śposter boys of Major League Baseballâ€™s performance-enhancing drug era,â€ť where the company includes Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Rafael Palmeiro. Their linkage to a dark time has made it such that Mike Piazza figures to struggle for recognition even though the slugging catcher claims he never touched PEDs. Call such a veil of proof the main reason why itâ€™s not easy filling out a ballot these days.
What Clemens, Bonds, and the rest of their steroid-soiled brethren have done is shed light on players who have been ballot mainstays for years, yet somehow always seem to fall short of triggering the 75-percent vote required for enshrinement.
For the past several weeks, weâ€™ve heard about Jack Morris and Tim Raines, and to a lesser degree, Alan Trammell and Dale Murphy being mentioned as possible candidates. The only reason why such good, but not great, ballplayers are being bandied about in the first place is the fallout from those writers who cast votes examining the careers not named Clemens or Bonds.
Just because Raines and Morris were squeaky clean doesnâ€™t mean that their career numbers should be viewed any differently. Voters abstained from putting them into the Hall for years, and now just because weâ€™ve arrived at the core of steroid-linked players becoming HOF eligible, that shouldnâ€™t provide the license to re-examine ballplayers who didnâ€™t meet the criteria then and certainly not the case today.
Last time I looked, itâ€™s the Hall of Fame, not the Hall of Good. Itâ€™s up to the voters to remember that as they continue to weigh the pros of cons of giving Clemens and Bonds their day.
â€śRight now, I have a very fragile group, a soft group, but we better grow up quick.â€ť
Such choice words were leaked from the lips of Providence basketball coach Ed Cooley following a one-point loss at Brown on Dec. 28. That same night, he downplayed the career-best 37 points sophomore LaDontae Henton netted, saying â€śHe was the worst defender in the building. He couldnâ€™t guard an ant in an ant building.â€ť
Talk about ouch!
Now letâ€™s revisit what Cooley said following yet another stinging defeat, this one coming last Saturday at The Dunk versus DePaul: â€śIâ€™ve got to do a better job with this group.â€ť
To go from publicly criticizing his players to taking ownership in a little over a weekâ€™s time, it would appear Cooley has seen the error of his ways. While itâ€™s fine for a coach to get after a player behind closed doors, yet once the media is privy to such choice verbiage, such remarks can set off a firestorm that can lead to disharmony in the locker room, sort of what the Red Sox went through last season with Bobby Valentine cutting up his players with tape recorders and TV cameras present.
Itâ€™s important for all coaches at all levels to remember that public castigation invites more damage than actually firing up the players. While we in the information-gathering business love a juicy quote, weâ€™re not the ones providing the fodder for debate on matters that are best handled in-house. We are simply relaying what was told to us, hence, why it goes back to the coach or manager summoning the correct words.
The feeling here is that the high school basketball tournaments conducted over Christmas break deny teams the chance to evolve and grow heading into the resumption of league games in the new year. Before picking up your bow and arrow, hear me out for a second.
Basketball teams were allowed to begin practicing the Monday after Thanksgiving, with games taking place roughly 10 days after rolling out the pumpkins for the first time. That doesnâ€™t seem like a lot of time for coaches and players to get on the same page and establish chemistry, yet if the schedule decrees that itâ€™s time to toss up the ball for real, lets run with it.
By the time the holiday break arrives, coaches have probably identified their clubâ€™s strengths and weaknesses. By playing tournament games that have no bearing on the standings, youâ€™re taking away from time that would be better served to shoring up areas such as press breaks and how to run an offense when confronted by zone or man-to-man defenses.
As much as coaches probably wish they had more time to prime their teams, Christmas vacation would prove more valuable to get the players in the gym for some hard-core instruction that would prove far more beneficial down the road rather than the gains yielded from some tournament.