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Thinking out loud: Already some issues with Red Sox

04.07.17 at 2:40 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud…while wondering why I have to wait to be happy?

— Happy New Year! It’s Red Sox opening week, and we already have issues to address with this team. Would we want it any other way? And don’t you just love the smell of fresh cut grass and antiseptic rub in the morning?

— Chris Sale is the real deal, if his first start is any indication. We anticipated as much. But are defined roles important for the guys behind the starters in the bullpen? Why do they need to be? If a pitcher has the hot hand and has been throwing BB’s, why can’t he be plugged in where needed?

— For instance, Joe Kelly has been impressive with his pitch command and velocity, but does anyone really believe he’ll keep it up? Not a knock on Kelly, really. Just a realistic viewpoint, based on case history. His role – his job – is likely to shift as the season progresses.

— This whole idea of “roles” is overrated. Know your role? Nah. This team’s role is to produce, and to win. That’s the role everyone should get behind.

— Where did Sandy Leon come from? I mean, I know where he came from (Washington), but he wasn’t supposed to be the #1 catcher, was he? He won’t hit .625 (like he was hitting mid-week) all season, but if he can hit half of that, there’s no reason to bump him from his spot.

— Dave Dombrowski has said it before, and it bears repeating – “you win with stars.” It’s true. But it’s the role players surrounding those stars that make (or break) a championship effort. It also can’t be one or two stars and 23 bums, either.

— Keep this in mind as spring turns into summer, and as the Red Sox figure out what else they may need to get where everyone seems to think they’re already going – and that’s to the post-season. Picking up pieces to solve a season-long puzzle must make sense, as well as cents.

— Sure, so Georgetown hires Patrick Ewing to be their new head basketball coach, as expected. But did you know that Dad cost his son a job? Patrick Junior was an assistant on John Thompson III’s staff, and while Patrick Senior wanted to bring him back, he can’t. Georgetown has a nepotism rule they apparently won’t waive. Gee, thanks Dad.

— This week, Ewing started his job by showing off his lack of knowledge within the collegiate world. He committed a recruiting infraction on-air with Dan Patrick, telling Patrick he wanted Allen Iverson to assist with recruiting, which is a no-no unless you are on the staff. Iverson won’t be a part of Ewing’s staff. Uh oh.

— If Ewing and Chris Mullin – who Patrick says he reached out to about the job before he was hired – don’t get together and reprise the “ugly sweater” game from predecessors Louie Carnesecca and JTII in 1985, then karma doesn’t exist. Time to go “old school” in a “nu skool” Big East.

— If you’re of a certain age where you don’t recall what Ewing and Mullin meant to college basketball – and to the Big East – do yourself a favor. You Tube, Google, school websites all have highlights. Watch them. You’ll miss the intensity that existed back then, but you’ll understand part of what the rivalry was all about.

— And you’ll be ready, instantly, for next season.

— Disappointed in Gonzaga, but credit goes to North Carolina for being the stronger team, start to finish, in the national title game. So how long do the Tar Heels get to claim the championship before the impending academic fraud case against them wipes this one – and potentially others – out?

— Didn’t it seem like UNC’s student section was particularly full behind one of the baskets at University of Phoenix Stadium? I thought so too, more so than last year in Houston. There’s a reason for it – they weren’t UNC students. North Carolina couldn’t sell its allotment, so they farmed out hundreds of tickets to nearby Arizona State students.

— Frauds on the court, and in the stands, too. Whoa.

— I don’t blame the ASU kids – how else were they ever going to sit on the floor for a Final Four?

— Just another way the NCAA seems to placate North Carolina, which will now again receive consideration to host future NCAA championship events in-state, thanks to the apparent repeal of the Bathroom Bill.

— Not surprised to hear that URI’s Hassan Martin was named to the Lefty Driesell Defensive All-American team. For someone 6-7 to be such a force around the basket, his talents were unique, and fun to watch. Creighton’s Khyri Thomas, one of three players to share the Defensive Player of the Year award in the Big East, was also named to the squad.

— The UConn women’s stunning loss in the Final Four, snapping an incredible 110-game winning streak, was must-watch – if only from the historical perspective that we may NEVER see anyone have a streak like that broken again.

— Unbreakable record? Yeah, I’ll put that hunny-ten right up there with DiMaggio’s 56-game hit streak. And Chamberlain’s 100-point night in the NBA. Unless Devin Booker plays the Celtics again.

— What Geno Auriemma has accomplished in Storrs is every bit as impressive, if not more so, than what John Wooden managed to compile at UCLA in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s. 110 straight wins? Four consecutive national titles? When parity is supposed to be the rule in sport? The Wizard of Westwood needs to make room for the Sorcerer from Storrs in the Hall of Fame.

— Oh, he’s already there. Undoubtedly, some who watched his team lose this week didn’t realize this. UConn and Auriemma may have gained more for the sport by losing, than by winning again.

— As we first mentioned a couple of weeks ago, the American Athletic Conference made it official Friday by announcing Wichita State has joined the league in basketball and Olympic sports, beginning July 1st. For UConn and other AAC membership, strengthening basketball is a key to survival, even though every school in that conference would take a slot if one opened in the ACC, Big 12 or Big 10. Maybe even in the Big East.

— What will the trickle-down or aftershock effects be? Hard to tell at this moment, but the Missouri Valley, sans WSU and Creighton, is severely weakened. Perhaps the AAC is emboldened, and goes further on the offensive?

— If you’ve ever wondered how “the other half” lives – more like the other “four-fifths” in college athletics – take the University of Buffalo. A mid-major program mired in the relative anonymity of the Mid-American Conference, the Bulls fight the daily fight to remain relevant in college athletics so their football and men’s basketball teams can compete with the power programs, and rake in those TV rights’ crumbs left behind.

— Only this week, Buffalo announced it would be cutting four sports, three of them male teams, and they become the 4th different MAC school to field the Division I minimum of 16 teams. The cuts come so they can keep up with the cost of doing business in the more popular, revenue-driving sports.

— This is what the cost of keeping up with the big boys is doing to schools across the country. You’re either a “have,” or a “have-not.” The middle-class is evaporating more quickly than a rain drop dries on the pavement in July. Sorta like our economy.

— Updates from the gridirons at Brown and URI – both programs are participating in bone marrow drives, with Brown’s taking place April 11th (Sayles Hall, 10 am-4 pm) and Rhody’s taking place (Multicultural Center, 11 am-4 pm) on April 14th. Both drives are open to the public.

— Brown football also announced it had 18 seniors this past year who each maintained a cumulative GPA of 3.2 or higher throughout their college careers – the most of any program in the country.

— I’m now reminded of a quote from one of my favorite collegiate movie characters of all time, Faber College’s Dean Vernon Wormer: “You’ll get your chance, smart guy!” I think the guys at Brown made the most of their chance. You?

— And this week’s sign of the future, or of the apocalypse? The University of Utah has announced it will be the first school from a “power” conference program (Pac-12) to offer a varsity e-sports team. Yes, this would be student “athletes” competing in video and computer games just like their athletic peers on campus. Several smaller schools already offer e-sports teams and programs. Scholarships won’t be far behind.

— LaVar Ball, father of UCLA phenom and expected lottery pick Lonzo Ball, told the Orange County Register this week the Bruins lost in the NCAA tournament because they played too many white guys. Yup. He went there. Can you imagine the fall out if the colors were reversed?

— Yes, I laughed. But did anyone else cringe – even slightly – when Rob Gronkowski took off head-first and launched his shoulder into Jinder Mahal at Wrestlemania 33 last week?

— I mean, the guy has had three back surgeries since 2009. And he’s flying through the air in the squared ring, and stomping on guys? Does he have that written into his NFL contract? Just sayin’.

— Just because Adrian Peterson (aka “All Day”) visited Foxboro this week doesn’t mean the Patriots are ready to sign him. Quite the contrary. The Patriots have become the dominant franchise they’ve become because of their due diligence in ALL matters, including personnel.

— But if there’s still gas in his tank, why can’t New England be in position to siphon off some of that for themselves? Don’t say you’re not interested because he whipped his child and was suspended – because you’d be a fraud when you not only WANT, but you EXPECT your heroes to be the best they can be. And win games. That’s the bottom line.

— Someone who may still be the best running back in the NFL today doesn’t even warrant a look? Please. Stupid is as stupid does.

— Speaking of stupid – the Patriots’ White House visit is scheduled for April 19th. Wanna avoid the three-ring circus? Wanna separate sports and political grandstanding? Stop the madness. Stop the practice of being “honored” by the President. To quote Nancy Reagan – “just say no!”

— But would I go if asked? Absolutely. Honor the office, if nothing else.

— Richard “You mad, bro?” Sherman’s name has been batted around in the media as a possible replacement via trade with Seattle should the Patriots decide not to retain Malcolm Butler. I could think of worse choices. Still think Butler plays in New England next season, but at this stage, the Patriots are as unpredictable with personnel as they’ve been in years.

— Greed, or smart business? Amazon grabbed NFL streaming rights away from Twitter this week for a cool $50 million – five times what Twitter paid the league a year ago. It’s a one-year deal for Thursday night games that will also be broadcast by CBS or NBC, and the games will be available only to Amazon Prime subscribers.

— The Celtics hit 50 wins, battle Cleveland for first place in the East this week, and fall flat on their faces. Not ready for prime time. Why? No real defense, except for Marcus Smart; no real glass-cleaner on the boards. Don’t get your post-season sights set too high on these guys.

— I won’t quite go with a full “mea culpa” on Tuukka Rask, because the next time he misses out on a big game, we could experience an earthquake on Causeway Street. And even though Brad Marchand is a punk, he’s the Bruins’ punk. Would you want to skate against him? Insure your family jewels, people.

— Not for nuthin’, but the Pawsox now say they hope to build an exact replica of Fenway on one of those potential new stadium sites in Pawtucket. I get the nostalgia thing and all, but do we really need to do another Fenway (hello, Jet Blue Park)? How about something with a little originality in the thinking?

— Back to the Future, Part IV – Andy Gresh returns to the Providence airwaves on April 17th, as WPRO-AM has announced he’ll host sports talk weeknights from 6-9. Just like I once did, just like Scott Cordischi once did, just like Chuck Wilson once did. Although our slots were more drive-time in the ‘80’s and ‘90’s from 4-7 pm.

— But you have to wonder. Gresh was a part of the old 790 The Score gang (as Cordischi and I were at one time as well), left to go to Boston (98.5), didn’t have his contract renewed and moved to Hartford and WTIC. In between were shorter stays with ESPN, Sirius/XM, CBS and even WFAN. Now, back to Providence? Is this the last hurrah, or another stepping stone to someplace else?

— I will say this, however. There’s always been an appetite for Rhode Island-based sports talk, and we brought it back on 103.7 WEEI-FM more than five years ago – albeit on weekends. It will ultimately be up to you – the consumer – as to whether it succeeds or not.

— CNN? NBC? You need to look no further than ESPN to see some solid left-wing support from the media these days. First, Curt Schilling is shredded for his often-bombastic-but-right-wing view points, and fired from baseball work. Although it’s true he should have chosen some (okay, a lot) of his words more carefully. Now, ESPN’s Sage Steele has been demoted from her spot covering the NBA, ostensibly for her “conservative” views.

— Steele took harsh criticism from co-workers and others in the media after complaining in January about her travel plans being disrupted because of crowds protesting President Trump’s travel bans. The network says she’s simply being reassigned. Uh huh.

— Do I feel bad for Phil Simms? Not really, as anyone in this business knows how cutthroat it can be, and Simms is a big boy. Plus, he has two years left on a contract, so he’ll get his money and other work. But now-ex Dallas QB Tony Romo joining CBS, and stepping right into the #1 chair alongside Jim Nantz, is a bit of a surprise for someone who has never done TV before.

— Romo will probably do just fine, short of looking at the wrong camera every now and then. But here’s the trouble with the new guy – every mistake will be analyzed and dissected like pulling apart a pig in science class. Will he crack under that pressure, like he did on the field in big moments?

— In honor of golf’s first major of the year, the Masters, my buddy “Big E” told me this week his wife was taking lessons, but decided to give them up. She was stung by a bee as she was practicing on a local course, and it was so painful she quickly retreated to the clubhouse for assistance. The pro asked her why she was back inside so quickly after starting, and she explained she had been stung. He asked her where, and she said, “between the first and second hole.” He then nodded knowingly, and replied “your feet are too far apart.”

— I’ve been told recently that turning 60 is the new 40, and turning 50 is the new 30. Right. Got it. Sure, why not? Time Magazine recently published research from the London School of Economics, and from Scientific American, stating that the two happiest times of our lives are at age 23 and 69. Sixty-nine?!?

— So, I wait for the best time of my life to get here? The research points out at 23, we’re basically immune to life’s everyday problems, then we hit a skid and steadily decline until our mid-50’s, before working our way back toward Nirvana at 69, when we’re most likely comfortable where we are in our lives. The turnaround point is 55, according to the study, where happiness starts climbing again.

— Frankie Valli once sang it best – “I’m working my way back to you, babe, and the happiness that died.” Happiness, here I come. Now, if I could just do something about the arthritis in my shoulder, I’d be much happier.

— And Rest In Peace, Don Rickles. One of the funniest men I’ve ever seen on TV or the stage, Rickles never failed to make me laugh. He performed as recently as last fall at Twin River in Lincoln, Rhode Island, at the age of 89. Rickles passed away, 90 years young, this week. I’ll wager he’s giving it to Sinatra up in heaven all over again.

— Guillermo (@GuillenNogara) tweeted at me this week, on NFL free agency: “Hi John, who arranges a visit, the player, the team, the agents? Thanks!” Guillermo: It’s a great question, without just one answer. Truthfully, a player visit can be arranged by any party, but most likely it would be the athlete’s agent who starts the process of bringing someone in for a visit, by contacting a team to gauge interest. Even if a team initiates a conversation, they’ll first contact the agent to arrange a meeting.

— 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 john.rooke@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 Southern New England Sports Saturday! Call in at 401-737-1287 or text at 37937.