The Orioles are playing surprisingly well during Spring Training (the losses have mostly been due to players we will not see on the 40-man roster), and that should not be lost on anyone who saw the way they tanked last season.  I remain concerned about Derrek Lee and Brian Roberts, the latter of whom I doubt will be able to make it through the season without at least one trip to the DL.  All you Cesar Izturis fans (I am sure there are some out there) will get some significant time to watch your favorite middle infielder at work… and that is not a good thing.  But if he can give the O’s 120 or so games, I will be happy enough.  I just hope the position doesn’t get too thin.  As for Lee, he needs to start seeing the field, and after his down year last year I want him to get all the reps he can. 

Speaking of not being on the field, this will be my last column for a while on BSR, while I take a long break to handle work, life, and other vague generalities.  Our very own Zach Wilt will be taking over FK, and the AL East preview series will be finished by another of our great writers.  In the interest of going out strong, let’s line up for the kick…

It’s Never the Crime, It’s the Cover-Up

I don’t want to add to the pile of columns condemning the obvious about Jim Tressel, since you have read it all before.  However, it is important that we make a distinction between the crime itself and the cover-up.  Even I will admit that while selling one’s gifts from the university in exchange for tattoos is repugnant and a sign of lack of class, school pride, and general ethical behavior, I don’t think that what the players did is anywhere near as bad as what Jim Tressel did- or didn’t do.  These players were able to go on the excuse that they weren’t properly educated in compliance, which, while a stretch, deserves the 5-game suspension and not much more.  Tressel’s crime should not be judged in the light of what he was covering up.  He lied or otherwise misled the NCAA on three separate occasions, and gave playing time to players he knew were ineligible.  He made statements in February that it was “inevitable” that the players would be named ineligible given what they had done- now that we can look back and realize he was aware of what they had done ahead of time.  That more than constitutes a major offense. 

At USC, the university what punished for not knowing what they should have known about Reggie Bush.  At Michigan, the university was punished for poor record keeping and misapplication of the rules (they thought they were following NCAA rules but weren’t).  Neither of these cases had the smoking gun that resides in Jim Tressel’s inbox.  Two games and a $250K fine doesn’t cut it, nor does it answer the bigger question.  If the players hadn’t been outed by the NCAA and FBI, Tressel would never have said anything- after all, he didn’t in 8 months prior.  So if the NCAA looks into this, they should ask a simple question.  “What else did Jim Tressel choose to ignore over the years?”  They may be very interested in what they find.

Bengals Would be Wise to Heed Palmer’s Trade Request

Carson Palmer hasn’t been good for the Cincinnati Bengals these last few seasons.  In fact, he really hasn’t had a truly exemplary season since 2006, his third year in the league.  He went from adequate to superstar and back again, except this time he isn’t a young player looking to become a star, he is quickly becoming a disappointment.  The thing is, it won’t get any better in Cincinnati.  Palmer has been good to that city, enduring losing season after losing season, handling his injury in the playoffs with grace and dignity, and enduring Terrell Owens and especially Chad Johnson as a model citizen.  Whether due to his morale or the quality of the team around him, Palmer is never going to be that great quarterback he is capable of being as long as he is with this toxic team and organization.  Still in the prime of his career, he has plenty of time to start somewhere new and see if he can recapture what he is capable of.

The Bengals won’t get any better with him under center, and Palmer won’t be happy having to continually fight against that dysfunctional environment.  It would be best for both parties if the Bengals trade Palmer to get what they can in the draft and move on from there- it is rebuilding time again in Cincinnati.

NHL Must Take Action in Pacioretty Hit

When Max Pacioretty’s name came across the ticker, the first thing that came to mind was broadcasting his games when he played at Yost Arena with the University of Michigan hockey team.  His way around the ice, the way he would weave around defensemen was nearly indescribable over radio (luckily I wasn’t the play-by-play guy).  I had no idea at the moment that he had just been leveled into the stanchion and broken several vertebrae and suffered a severe concussion.  The hit itself was legal, perhaps by the letter of the law if not the spirit.  Zdeno Chara, with a 60 lb. weight advantage over Pacioretty, checked him into the wall, and then raised his arm high, which pushed Pacioretty’s head over the edge and into line with the stanchion.  It was that movement of his arm that was unnecessary- the puck was long gone, the hit was made- yet it was that movement that caused Pacioretty’s momentum to continue forward, but his head to stop.

Technically it was legal.  Yet it is things like this that kill the NHL’s reputation.  People tune in to Olympic hockey because it is hockey at its best- talented skaters flying around the ice, making incredible shots and saves and cutting off passes to break up a rally.  The NHL is stuck instead in the stone ages, where “enforcers” who couldn’t play an open game if their life depended on it, lumber around the ice and slam into the actually talented players with the goal of injuring or intimidating them.  It was as though you allowed an NBA team to hammer Kobe Bryant on every play with a hard foul and made it legal.  Sure, you could see Kobe being great now and then, but the sport wouldn’t nearly be the spectacle it is.  The NHL has catered to its hard-core fanbase by keeping antiquated rules that penalize talent in favor of brutality. 

Yea, the Pacioretty hit was technically legal.  The NHL is also only technically a major sport in the U.S.  I am starting to realize why.