Archive for May 2010
Dear Ricketts Family:
I’ve had enough. Please commence with rebuilding the Cubs with all due haste. It would be foolish to wait until the end of the season, or even the end of next week. It would be nice to see these wheels already in motion and the engine working up a head of steam before the team reports to Spring Training next year.
To aid in your rebuilding, I would like to suggest a multi-point plan.
1. Trade or put Derrick Lee on waivers. I know this won’t be popular, but he might as well be swinging a toothpick this season. An American League playoff contender would probably welcome his services, at least as a DH. He’d look good playing for Minnesota or Detroit. Heck, there are even a few National League teams that could use his defense and his bat if it ever heats up. Philadelphia might welcome him later in the season. D.Lee isn’t going to play any better for the Cubs, and if he does, it’s going to be a waste because this season is already lost. Dump him while we can still get something out of him.
2. Continue with your plans regarding Carlos Zambrano. I will stick by my claim that his demotion to the bullpen is an attempt to preserve his arm, which will help recoup some of what we will lose with personnel when he is traded. He’s too much of a headache. Let him be another team’s headache. It doesn’t help that he took the loss to the Pirates yesterday. It doesn’t help that the Cubs can’t even beat the Pirates, which is the biggest indicator that it’s time to fold this season and think about the future.
3. Eat the Soriano and Ramirez contracts. Nobody is going to want either one of them, so there’s not much you can do. At least Soriano is hitting, but he’s still a headache and too inconsistent on defense. Aramis Ramirez doesn’t look like he even wants to play. The mercurial third baseman has only ever played as good as the team is playing, which is great when the team is winning. But I don’t remember anybody talking about how they gather around Rami when things are bad, or how he shoulders the load and helps pull the team through. His best baseball is about 3 years behind him. Besides, if Lee is swinging a toothpick, Ramirez is swinging a piece of thread.
4. Keep things as they are up the middle. Soto is coming around nicely after a bad year, Marlon Byrd was a great pickup, and though I’m not a huge Theriot fan, he’s doing fine. Fontenot will provide consistent defense and some decent offense, and let’s hope Starlin Castro becomes all we hope he can be. If you’re strong up the middle and have decent pitching, you’re okay. I know this doesn’t solve the power hitting problems on the corners, but there’s not much need to change things up the middle.
5. Finally, fire Lou Pinella. Immediately. He’s ineffective, uninterested, and his spark is so far gone that I don’t think it could ever be reignited. We had high hopes for Lou, same as we did for Dusty Baker. They both went the same way, sliding into nose dives after hot starts. Sadly, I don’t respect Lou any more than I do Dusty, and there aren’t many people in baseball I dislike more than Dusty Baker. You’ve got a guy in the broadcast booth who has been watching this team closely for the past 4-5 years, he’s managed as many World Series championship teams as Lou, and he is still definitely interested in coaching (he interveiwed for the Brewers job 2 years ago). He’s a fan favorite, is one of the sharpest minds in baseball, and could at least do as well as Lou would the rest of the season.
Hire Bob Brenley.
The season is lost. There’s no sense in keeping this team together if they’re only going to play .500 (and that’s the best they can hope for). Sadly, I remarked to someone last night that I don’t even know if I’ll make it to Wrigley this year, and that I don’t necessarily care if I do. What’s the point? I can get to Milwaukee just as easily, it costs less to get in the game up there, and I can still see the same quality of baseball.
continued from yesterday…
The sad fact, too, is that coaching football can assure you continuous employment. Schools are willing to overlook poor teaching evaluations, controversy, and even pathological behaviors. In one district I’m familiar with, a set of twin brothers were rah-rah district football heroes. They were hired under a rah-rah football superintendent, and essentially knew no consequences. They did what they wanted to do. Unfortunately, that meant one of the boys thought little of drinking at a bar one night with underaged students, four of whom died in a drunk driving accident while heading home.
That coach? He coached downstate for a while after he resigned from his hometown district. He then hooked up with brother #2, who had left their hometown district, worked at a private school as a football coach, and was ready to take a job as a football coach at another public school. He never coached day one there because he was caught with a student and subsequently was convicted of a felony (aggravated fleeing). Meanwhile, brother #1 moved west when he found still another coaching job. He resigned there after a superintendent’s investigation into how brother #2 came to be a volunteer coach for the team. Brother #1 found another football job, but resigned after four days under still more mysterious circumstances.
That’s six districts that poured an untold amount of taxpayer money into the pursuit of football glory, regardless of the dark side they were bringing along with it. Shame and embarrassment don’t see to be enough of a deterent for the people making the football decisions.
None of this is to say that I don’t like football. I do; at least at the pro level. The NFL is the terminal point for football, and I can at least appreciate it there because it has the least corrosive and corrupting effect on my career field. All the damage has been done by that point. Up to the NFL, I don’t care much for football, and it fact can’t stand about 95% of the college game.
Football at any level hinges on pathological behaviors. You’re supposed to plow over the opponent, knock him down and knock him out. If he gets hurt, fine. You have to expect that– it’s part of the game. We expect and encourage the pathology on the field, but are aghast and point fingers when those same players display the same behaviors off the field in the real world. In Roethlisberger’s case, his behavior is consistent with the long-term effects of a brain injury (violence, inappropriate actions, lack of self-control, impulsivity, impaired judgment). He is unable to stop himself, and the NFL is unwilling to stop him because of the revenue he generates. A six-game suspension at this point is little more than a token penalty.
Acting with impunity is the common thread between Roethlisberger and the coaches I know of and dozens of others (insert the name of your choice… Ray Lewis, Michael Vick, Lawrence Taylor, Ryan Leaf…). They are elevated to God-like status in their hometowns and on their college campuses, moreso in the towns where they play professionally, and then they treat the mortal world with contempt.
How can anybody claim that football is worth all this?
I’ve been following the Ben Roethlisberger story the last few weeks. Given his various run-ins with the law since the start of his career, he’s become one of the NFL’s leading thugs, enough so that if he maintains his current rate of thuggery, he’s on track to become an honorary member of the NBA. It seems that zipping around helmetless on a motorcycle a few years ago and almost being killed in a subsequent accident wasn’t enough to change his mind about his lifestyle choices.
I read last week that Steelers fans are turning on him. Some have grown tired of his behavior; others feels he’s shaming not only the team, but the owner and his family, as well. It’s nice to see the Rooney name is so revered in Pittsburgh for all they’ve done with the Steelers and for the city; it’s too bad that they have a stereotypical spoiled athlete to deal with. I imagine right about now that Pittsburgh (and probably most of western Pennsylvania) is polarized; some blame Roethlisberger for not being accountable for his idiotic behavior; others are excusing him as a victim of repeated concussions who is living out the resultant consequences.
Unfortunately, no matter how bad we think it is with Roethlisberger, it’s probably a lot worse. We’ve only seen what has leaked out in public. A motivated reporter or an eager whistleblower could probably uncover a lot more dirt on Big Ben. I’m certain his behaviors didn’t emerge the moment he signed his contract with the Steelers. If his story is true to form, there’s probably a river of dirty behaviors and misdeeds flowing behind him. Given his talents, he’s probably had the benefit of people looking the other way or covering things up all the way back to junior high school.
This feels all too typical. The thug players are merely the symptoms; football is the disease.
Football is king, and we bow to it. As a high school teacher, I’ve lived with the impact it has on my career field. Football turns the wheels of district budgets and takes the lion’s share of money in most every athletic department.
As a teacher, the surest way to advance in many districts is through football. If you were a standout football player at your high school, there’s a good chance that you can be hired by your high school once you complete a college education and earn teaching credentials. If you’re inclined to advance into administration, having football on your resume will punch your ticket. Your name is already familiar to your school board; they may have been hearing it all the way back to when you were a student. If you’ve proven yourself as a football coach, many times that’s all your local board and administration needs to know that you are a capable and effective leader. They all too often associate your ability to organize and manipulate teenagers with your ability to lead educated professionals, many of whom have as much or more educational experience than you do.
I had a professor at Ball State who explained his understanding of how our public schools became stuck in the web of football. The way he saw it, college football players back in the day were commonly enrolled as Education majors, especially Elementary; specifically, Physical Education. It was thought that those degree areas were easiest to pursue, and wouldn’t offer much worry about studies for students whose time on the football field was more important than their time in the classroom.
He made the argument that it’s easier for a PE teacher to pursue advanced studies and an administration degree because there isn’t intensive paper grading and planning, much less at the elementary level. So so he has a leg up there. If he has coached football, that’s another leg up. Who do you think oft times gets picked when it’s time to fill administrative positions? The familiar face, ‘natch. If the superintendent happens to be a rah-rah football guy, you can bet that his bias is going to trickle down through the ranks to teachers who were hired for football moreso than education.