Behind the Mic: …Had a Great Fall

Tiger Woods played at the Memorial this past weekend.  He just made the cut on the very last hole.  This was a man who did not miss a cut for seven years!  On Saturday, he shot the worst score of his competitive career, an 85!  He hit seven fairways, nine greens in regulation, hit four balls into the water, and missed three putts inside of five feet.  Zac Blair (who?) played with Tiger on Saturday and beat him by 15 shots!

And, perhaps, that was not the most embarrassing part of the weekend for Tiger.  Because there were an odd number of players who made the cut, Tiger played the final round as the first one out for the day and he had to play by himself!!  He shot a 74 and finished in last place.  I know there are “Tiger-haters” out there and they are probably happy to see him fail.  I, for one, thought that this was a sad moment for one of the greatest ever in his profession.

This got me to thinking about some of the great “falls” in professional sports.

Pete Rose
I just loved watching the way he played the game of baseball.  He just exuded energy and enthusiasm for the game, became the career hits leader, and was destined for the Hall of Fame.  And then, there was the betting scandal, tax evasion, and imprisonment.  And still no Hall of Fame.

Lenny Dykstra
All his problems began after his baseball career – there was bankruptcy, concealing baseball gloves and other souvenirs that were supposed to be part of the bankruptcy, imprisonment, grand theft auto, and filing a false financial statement.  He was never able to “hustle” his way to success after baseball.

Lance Armstrong
He won the Tour de France seven times.  He beat cancer.  He was an American icon.  Turns out, he was a cheater who finally admitted to doping.

Marion Jones
She won five medals in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney and an NCAA basketball championship at North Carolina, but she used performance-enhancing drugs.  She spent six months in jail for lying to a grand jury.

Michael Vick
Football was not enough competition for him.  He decided to finance a dog fighting group.  That turned out to be a serious crime and a public relations nightmare.  He, too, went to prison.

These are just a few of the great falls from grace.  There are plenty of others – baseball’s Ryan Braun, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, remember Tonya Harding, Oscar Pistorius, etc.

After thinking about these infamous athletes, I come away thinking Tiger’s problems with the “sticks” are not so bad.  Let’s hope that he thrills us a few more times in his career.

When I have a bad round of golf, I always use the excuse that “I’m working on things.”  At least, Tiger can continue to “work on things”.  You can’t say that for the others.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS) 

  1. As everyone knows, American Pharoah broke the 37-year Triple Crown jinx by winning the Belmont Stakes. The race took two minutes and 26 seconds.  The broadcast took two hours and 45 minutes!  NBC did an outstanding job with all the back stories, the atmosphere, and the actual race.  Jockey Victor Espinoza became extremely likable as the story unfolded and I’m sure was forgiven for his expletive right after winning.  Great story!
  2. Since this blog talks about the demise of some of the greatest athletes, how about the amazing success of Serena Williams. She won the French Open even though she was not physically at full strength.  This was her 20th Grand Slam singles victory of her career.  She, arguably, is the best women’s player ever.
  3. For the first time in NBA history, the first two games in the finals went overtime. Two great teams with great players.  I actually watched both and was thoroughly entertained and awed by the talent.  And both teams played defense!
  4. On Saturday night, the NHL playoffs continued and Tampa beat Chicago 4-3 to even that series at 1-1. There was an allowed goal that should not have been, a goaltender who left the game twice, a rookie goaltender who had five saves on five shots, and hockey at its best.
  5. The RCN-TV crew will be heading to Penn State and Labrano Park for the PIAA state baseball championships to be played on Friday. The broadcasts will be LIVE on PCN beginning at 10:00 AM.

 

 

The SportsTalk Shop: Ways to Fix the Phillies

Last week I gave my trimester grades on a season-gone-wrong for the Phillies through the first two months of the season. Today we take a look at how the team should proceed from here:

1) Trade AT LEAST one of the core players
I know this will be extremely painful to the Phillies front office to part ways with one of their most marketable players, but it has to happen. The Phillies have to change the mentality and the look of this franchise and show everyone – the fans, the community and the players themselves – that no one is untouchable. The debate over trading Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Cole Hamels, Ryan Howard, Cliff Lee, Marlon Byrd and others is gaining the momentum of a runaway freight train. The Phillies should be open to seeing which of these players would bring you the greatest return value for next year and pull the trigger on a deal. You need to improve this team in multiple ways, and with very few minor league options on the horizon, the only way to start accomplishing this is by dealing a major piece NOW.

2) Acquire a “dirt-baller”
Think Larry Bowa, Pete Rose or more recently, a Randy Ready or an Aaron Rowand. A high-energy guy, perhaps not the greatest talent, but someone who understands the game and will play it the right way. I’m not a big fan of the “WAR” statistic (wins-above-replacement), but those numbers do have some merit. You need to bring people that will help you find ways to win ball games and the Phillies need to find players who at least have a positive number in that category (eg., Ben Revere has a -0.4 WAR as of last week, Cesar Hernandez a -0.6, Tony Gwynn Jr. is a -0.8, Dom Brown is a -1). Each season the St. Louis Cardinals have rosters littered with players who know how to play the game and execute the fundamentals. I’m hard pressed to find very many younger players on the Phillies’ current 25-man roster who have shown the ability to do the same, and someone must be brought in to start doing that.

3) Stop evaluating with rose-collared glasses
John Mayberry, Jr. last year had a WAR of -1.2 and the organization REWARDED him with a near $ 1.1 million raise. He’s had three different seasons to prove himself as a starting outfielder, a platoon outfielder, than a fourth outfielder, a capable pinch-hitter…and has not delivered in any of these roles on a consistent basis (despite a dismal first eight weeks, Mayberry fans would argue he’s deserved more money based on the red-hot June he’s having offensively). The Phillies say Darin Ruf is not an everyday player…fine, then show me a young player who is. Sticking with Revere, Brown and the like when you no longer have reasons to believe in these players is fool’s gold that the team has continued to purchase for three years now.

4) Stop tolerating mental mistakes
Jimmy Rollins made a innocent comment about preseason games being meaningless and he was benched three days IN SPRING TRAINING. If Mayberry can’t shag a fly ball against the fence, then don’t put him out there anymore until he can. If Revere doesn’t remember to tag up on a fly ball with less than two outs or isn’t taking the appropriate lead off a base, then bench ‘em, outright ‘em or option them to Triple-A. Granted, there’s not many major league available players waiting in the wings right now, but giving these guys repeated chances and watching them fail multiple times with mental lapses is not working. I’d rather see Triple-A players Steve Susdorf or Clete Thomas try to fight their way to remain on the big league roster than to see listless players (Brown) not running hard to first base.

There’s another issue to address here: Ruben Amaro, Jr. The current Phillies general manager is pretty much in a no-win scenario, of which he is responsible for creating. If he conducts a massive fire-sale over the next two months, he’s admitting that his five-year plan of sustaining what was a World Series contender has failed miserably, thereby inviting a changing of the guard to take place. If he does nothing, or next to nothing, during the next few weeks, then he could be fired for not being proactive in correcting this out-of-control team. There’s no easy road here and accomplishing the above-listed tasks will not be easily achieved mid-season, but actions must start coming…and soon.

I do believe Amaro’s hands were tied somewhat in trying to rebuild this team a few years ago. Remember that in 2011 Ruben stated that the team needed to take a different direction: produce more runs, work counts, play more fundamentally sound baseball and similar comments. The moves that have transpired since that time are mostly contrary to that belief. Like him or not (and I certainly have not agreed with very many of his decisions over the last three years), Amaro is still an intelligent man with a solid baseball background. I don’t believe he completely gutted this team without outside influence, whether it be pressure to keep popular players in town, bad advice on player evaluations, poor scouting reports, or a combination of all three.

Full disclosure: I backed Amaro when he was making the trades for Lee, Doc Halladay, Hunter Pence, et al, while ravishing what top prospects were a part of the system. I don’t believe I was the only one in the Delaware Valley that enthusiastically bought in to the ‘win now’ mantra and threw caution to the wind when making those deals. I remember the euphoria that ensued when the cash vault was opened and we woke up hearing of Lee’s triumphant return to the Phillies. We all salivated over the “Four Aces” rotation during the thrill ride that garnished 102 regular season wins, and no one back then was worried about Jonathon Singleton, Kyle Drabek and the other prospects exiled to acquire those major chips. I for one was prepared to sacrifice several years of bad baseball for one more World Series championship….a second title that never materialized.

What in-season moves to you think the Phillies should (or will) make this summer? Do you think Amaro will be retained or even make it through the 2014 season? Post a comment below or email us at RCNSportsTalk@rcn.com. We’d love to hear your thoughts on this year’s Phillies team.