Okay, so this Friday morning does not find me in a particularly good mood- not only has the temperature dropped into the 40’s here in lovely Michigan, but I awoke to discover my refrigerator had broken, a day after I had gone food shopping for the next two weeks.  Yippee.  However, at least I have something to celebrate with Mike Gonzalez managing his best George Sherrill impersonation in getting the save last night to give the O’s their first win.  At least all three Orioles starters put together a decent line, even if they couldn’t get very deep into the game.  The bullpen remains a concern, but honestly, call me in May.  There is way too much else going on in the sports world to get hung up on 3 games of work.  So how about we start this Friday by lining up for the kick…

Brad Stevens Might be Doing the Right Thing- if He Stays

Butler men’s basketball coach Brad Stevens became possibly the hottest young coach in the sport after leading his team to the finals, and was rewarded with a 12-year contract that he promptly signed.  There were no doubt going to be or already were other suitors from bigger-name conferences going after his services, and I have to respect him for making a commitment to the school.  I also should commend the university for being willing to doll out enough to make the offer convincing for Stevens (the financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed).  However, before we start preparing to build the Brad Stevens Fieldhouse in 20 years, let’s bear something in mind.  These 10 or 12 year deals rarely run their course-  I have seen innumerable mid-major coaches sign long term deals and then find their way out of the deal when something better comes along.  Moreover, if Butler misses the tournament for a 3 or 4 year stretch don’t be surprised if the university’s commitment start to wane.  I just wish we lived in a society or legal system where both coaches and universities were obligated to see contracts through to the end- no buyout clauses, no outs at all.  The university must see their side of the deal, as must the coach.  The world doesn’t need any more Nick Sabans, yet that’s what our system encourages.

Infidelity or Not, Tiger is Still Great to Watch

Simply put, the man is good for golf and I think anyone who enjoys watching greatness has to be fixated on seeing Woods make his move up the leaderboard.  I mean, the man hasn’t played competitive golf in six months and yet he finished the first round of the Masters just 2 shots behind the leader.  There is a lot left to play, but considering Tiger is a slow starter at Augusta, this could put him in great position for the weekend.  More confusingly, I find myself wanting him to win.  Beyond the dozen (at least) women he fooled around with behind his wife’s back, past the insincerity, secrecy, and salacious stories, there is a great golfer.  Even the great Babe Ruth cheated on his wives, and innumerable other athletes were and are carrying on flings with a revolving door of women.  This reveals questionable character, but it does not inhibit the greatness of their ability.  I find myself tracking Tiger the same way I always have at the major tournaments, wanting to see if the story of Tiger Woods takes another miraculous turn towards becoming the greatest individual ever to play his sport.  No amount of TMZ coverage will change that.

Someone Please Give Umpire Joe West a Medal

Umpires get a lot of grief- from fans, from players, and especially from Earl Weaver.  However, when Joe West made comments about the Yankees and Red Sox being a “disgrace to baseball” for their slow pace and their refusal to actually start pitching and moving into the batters box at a decent pace, I am tempted to forgive him the next time he misses a play at the plate.  But only tempted.  Baseball is already one of the dullest sports in the world to a fan who hasn’t grown up with it; there is more standing around than in football for a sport where the ball is actually only in play for about 10 minutes a game.  Considering that the league average is almost 3 hours of airtime, this is not good for the fan or for the starting pitchers whose arms get cold sitting on the bench, preventing them from going deep in the order. 

What bothers me more than anything is the way that Mariano Rivera and other players roundly denounced West, saying they were doing all they could already and that it is just part of the game, and suggesting that West “do something else.”  I don’t think we would see a Royals or Pirates player talking about the umpires that way, but I suppose Mr. Rivera’s reputation makes him feel on an equal or higher level to the umpires.  That is the kind of arrogance that makes the Yankees such a darling team to talk about.  Just as the pitcher must adjust his pitches to fit the umpire’s strike zone, the team needs to pick up or slow down the pace to keep with what the crew wants.  If the umpire wants a faster tempo it is on the team to oblige.  Don’t worry Red Sox and Yankees fans, you will still get to see your teams at the top of every Sportscenter, so you won’t miss out too much.