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Tuesday, January 12, 2016

A new year brings a new blog---Hall of Fame musings and grid observations











It’s a new year, which means the blog should be updated. I’ve had a few people to remind me that the blog was not refreshed in quite some time, so that means I better snap to it and give the loyal readers something new from me. I apologize for being lackadaisical and will make my first New Year’s Resolution right here to be more diligent when it comes to the blog. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

Anyway, let’s start with the Baseball Hall of Fame inductees that were announced last week. Of course, Ken Griffey, Jr. is an absolute no-brainer and a Hall of Fame baseball player if there ever was one. 

“Junior” is one of the best all-around players to ever play the game, right there with people like Willie Mays and Hank Aaron.

To think that there are three members of the Baseball Writers Association of America who kept Griffey, Jr. off the Hall of Fame ballot for some reason _ other than they didn’t want him to be the first unanimous selection or they thought he shouldn’t go in on his first try is preposterous.

Of course, Mike Piazza got his just due and was elected to induction after four previous tries. Why it took five times on the ballot to get Piazza, the greatest hitting catcher of all-time, into Cooperstown is another befuddlement of this BBWAA mishmash election process.

It’s believed that a lot of the writers believed that Piazza was tied into the whole steroid controversy. They heard rumors that Piazza was on the juice because someone spotted Piazza with acne on his back (a symptom of steroidal abuse), so the former Met All-Star was kept away from his proper place in Cooperstown because of the rumors and innuendo.

That idea just totally eats at me. Let’s deny a man’s place in immortality because a bunch of old sportswriters heard scuttlebutt that Piazza was juicing or was believed to be juicing or someone saw his naked back in need of Clearasill and bingo _ instant steroid bad boy.

Keeping a guy out of the Hall of Fame because of rumors? Piazza was never once officially linked to steroids. From what I gather, he was not listed on the now-scandalous and oh-so-secret Mitchell Report. He was not called to Congress to testify. He never had huge jars of androstenedione supplements prominently shown in his locker. No syringes, no gauze. Nothing _ yet, the thoughts were that Piazza was a juicer.
Hey, he had to be one, because who could ever hit the ball that far and that hard to right field like Piazza did. He had to be on the stuff because he hit 423 homers and catchers didn’t hit that many homers. It was all based on rumor with no substantiated fact, yet Piazza was kept away from Cooperstown and a Punch-and-Judy second baseman like Craig Biggio got in ahead of him.

Well, it’s over now. Piazza got enough votes to get in finally. He will have his day with Griffey, Jr. in August. He will be the second Met player to be enshrined after Tom Seaver. Some people were worried that Piazza might choose to have his place in immortality wearing a Dodger hat, but as everyone knows, Piazza was identified with the Mets for seven-plus seasons and is still considered a Met. He’s the best positional player the Mets have ever had.

Hopefully, the knuckleheads that run the organization will recognize that fact and finally put Piazza’s No. 31 on the wall at CitiField, next to Seaver’s No. 41.

I was rooting (mostly for personal reasons) for Tim Raines to get the necessary votes to get in and “Rock” just fell a few votes short. I got to work with Raines for two years when he managed the Newark Bears and I was the official scorer.

We spent many a day talking baseball, especially through rain delays in his office. The baseball brain trust sessions I enjoyed with Rock, Mike Torrez, Ron Karkovice and Jim Leyritz were priceless.

I especially liked the days when Rock and his son, Tim, Jr., were together in Newark, forming a unique bond that not many outsiders could see.

As a baseball player, Rock was electric, the second best leadoff hitter in the game, next to another former Newark Bear Rickey Henderson, who I also had the fortune to work with when he was a teenager in Jersey City in 1978. Incredibly, Henderson is in the Hall of Fame. Raines should be _ and hopefully will be next year _ and I got the chance to know both pretty well.

Although it’s a fair assumption that Henderson would not remember me again _ even after a reunion in Newark 13 years ago. He remembered the car I drove him to his Duncan Avenue apartment in Jersey City, which was a 1976 AMC Pacer, but didn’t remember me.

“The bubble car?” Henderson said. “You had the bubble car?”

Yes, that was me, but he didn’t remember me at all. That’s OK, I’m not offended. When he was reunited with John Olerud with the Mets, Henderson told Olerud that he once played with a guy who wore his batting helmet in the field. Of course, that player was indeed Olerud. The two were teammates with the Toronto Blue Jays, but Henderson didn’t remember who it was.

But when I was a freshman and sophomore at Marquette in 1979 and 1980, Henderson left me a bunch of tickets in order to see the Oakland A’s play the Milwaukee Brewers. In 1979, most of my Marquette friends weren’t too impressed that I knew two major leaguers in Henderson and Mike Norris. A year later, Henderson broke Lou Brock’s stolen base record and Norris won 22 games and finished second in the Cy Young voting and everyone wanted to know me for the tickets.

Anyway, here’s to hoping that Raines gets his place in Cooperstown with Henderson and Piazza next year. It’s so deserved. Raines is not only a Hall of Fame player but as a guy, he’s definitely better than Cooperstown.

As for the controversy that surrounds others who are not in the Hall of Fame, I’ll stick to my guns and say that Pete Rose belongs in the Hall of Fame, that Roger Clemens belongs in the Hall of Fame, that Barry Bonds belongs in the Hall of Fame and when the time comes, Alex Rodriguez belongs in the Hall of Fame.

Rose belongs because of what he achieved as a ballplayer should not overshadow his incredible disease of being a compulsive gambler. It’s a disease that still has not left Rose’s system, because he’s still betting today. But Rose is a Hall of Famer through and through.

As much as I hate both as human beings, Clemens and Bonds are also Hall of Famers. They were lock members of the Hall of Fame before they ever saw a syringe and put a needle into their bodies. They only enhanced their careers with steroids. The drugs did not make them become legendary ballplayers. They both belong.

As for A-Rod, it’s hard to say where the steroids started, but he was also a Hall of Fame player before the lies began and the steroid use became known. Reports have it (ah, yes, rumor and innuendo) that Rodriguez began his steroidal use rampantly when he was with the Texas Rangers in 2002. Before that year, A-Rod already had four seasons of 40-plus homers and 125-plus RBI and a .330 batting average _ as a shortstop. He should be in as well.

But Clemens, Bonds and A-Rod will more than likely never see the Hall. Nor will Rose after his last defiant stand.

The Hall of Fame should be for the greatest players of all-time. It’s not for players who a bunch of old sportswriters (yes, I’m an old sportswriter myself, just not a voting member of the BBWAA) who have picked people like Phil Niekro, Don Sutton, Bill Mazeroski and _ hate to say it, but true _ Phil Rizzuto in the past.

That’s just my opinion. There are other great players like Albert Belle, Dale Murphy, Jeff Kent and Jack Morris that are Hall of Famers and will never get in. Jeff Bagwell will get in next year, but there’s another.

It took Jim Rice almost 15 full years before he got in _ and that’s because other sportswriters hated him. Rice should have been in right away. He was the best player in the American League for more than a decade. Rice batted .298 for his career. In comparison, Reggie Jackson hit .262. Yet, Jackson is considered an immortal and Rice an afterthought.

Ok, enough with the Hall of Fame. It’s old news, at least, for another year. On to other news now.
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The Cincinnati Bengals-Pittsburgh Steelers playoff game Saturday night was a downright disgrace to pro football. It wasn’t a football game. It was like a bloodcurdling battle to the death, like in a Roman gladiator arena. I thought Russell Crowe should have made an appearance any minute.
First, had anyone in their lives ever see a coach actually pull the hair of an opposing player in a game? We all remember Woody Hayes throwing the punch at the Clemson player that ended the Ohio State legendary coach’s career.
Well, early in the Bengals-Steelers game, Steelers assistant Mike Munchak _ the former head coach of the Tennessee Titans _ actually grabbed the dreadlocks of Bengals defensive back Reggie Nelson on the sidelines after a play. Yes, the coach pulled the hair of an opposing player in the middle of a game. Unreal, right?
Munchak was flagged 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct. Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin should have taken Munchak off the field by his own scalp for doing something so totally ridiculous.
Munchak’s play set the tone for what became an absolutely chippy game on both sides with vicious hits galore.
There was the hit on Bengals’ RB Giovanni Bernard that knocked him out of the game, then there was Bengals’ LB Vontaze Burfict’s hit on Steelers’ QB Ben Roethlisberger that knocked Big Ben out of the game with what was later diagnosed as a separated shoulder, only to see Big Ben return with one arm to lead his team.
Burfict was all set to be the hero. Not only did he make the hit on Ben (a hard hit, but a clean one), but he made a great diving interception of a Landry Jones pass with 1:36 left that seemed to be the game-winning play.

Burfict then stupidly runs with the football off the field and into the tunnel, but that’s another thing altogether. The interception was a great play, great read, great catch.

However, Jeremy Hill fumbled on the ensuing play, giving the Steelers one last ditch hope. Big Ben, with his right arm hanging off, went back onto the field to try to lead the Steelers. He obviously couldn’t throw the ball more than 20 yards, but he was out there.

With just 22 seconds remaining, Roethlisberger attempted a pass to Antonio Brown that sailed high. The pass was clearly incomplete, but Burfict went into Brown with his shoulder aimed at Brown’s head. The collision was violent, sending a limp Brown to the turf unable to move his arms, causing a concussion.

The bad blood continued with Steelers assistant coach Joey Porter (who was never a saint as a player) somehow on the field taunting the Bengals, which incensed another bastion of good standing and wonderment Adam (don’t you dare call me PacMan anymore) Jones going after Porter and instead of pushing Porter, he pushed an official instead. That’s a no-no as well.

So Burfict got 15 yards for his hit of Brown and Jones got 15 yards for his push of the official and the Steelers got 30 yards in penalties on a play where the injured quarterback with the bad arm couldn’t have thrown the damn thing 30 yards. Out trots kicker Chris Boswell and he kicks the field goal that gives Pittsburgh the improbable 18-16 win.

It was an implosion like never before seen. The Bengals lost control of themselves and lost the game because of it. Burfict is a super football player who has very few peers. But he’s a complete jackass for all the other things he does _ and there have been so many that he was slapped with a three-game suspension to start the 2016 NFL season. If the Bengals won the game, he would be on the sidelines this weekend. That’s how much of a bonehead he is.

There’s no justification for it. None. Not for Burfict’s hit and certainly not for Jones’ pushing of an official. But there’s also no justification for Munchak pulling Nelson’s hair and Porter going onto the field to taunt and belittle, so both teams were way wrong.

Frankly, it was all pretty sickening and spoiled what was a decent game and turned it into a memorable mess. Burfict deservedly got his suspension. He should have been suspended earlier this year for twisting the legs of players after making a tackle. He’s also been flagged for several vicious late hits, but nothing like this cruel act of violence Saturday. Sure, football is a violent game, but it doesn’t have to be like that. This was hideous.
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If Tom Coughlin wants to pursue coaching jobs in the NFL, that’s his right. He has earned that right to do whatever he likes.

But if he’s looking at the Eagles or the 49ers, then he still wanted to coach. And if he wanted to still coach, then that position should have been with the Giants and not anywhere else.

I don’t buy that the time had come for a change and that sometimes change is necessary. That’s a load of crap. Coughlin earned the right to be the Giants coach for as long as he wanted to be the coach. He earned that right with Silver Big Thing No. 1 (three for the main team in East Rutherford) and cemented that right with Silver Big Thing No. 2 (four for the main team in East Rutherford).

If you win two Super Bowl titles, two Lombardi Trophies (the real name), then you’re a Hall of Fame coach and you can do whatever you like as a coach. 

You don’t fire legends. And apparently, by the way this has played out this week, with Coughlin looking for another job and him not shaking John Mara’s hand after Monday’s press conference, then call it whatever you like. Resigned, retired, moved on, change is good, stepped aside, what have you. It wasn’t that. Coughlin was fired and that’s just wrong.

It wasn’t Coughlin’s fault that the Giants were 6-10 this year. Sure, he didn’t do exactly a great job when they lost to Dallas to open the season or to Atlanta and the Jets. All three games were wins if the team was coached properly. I get it.

But the Giants had an inferior defense from training camp on. Their offensive line was also a work in progress. Those are two main components to a winning football team and the Giants had neither.

How do you fire Coughlin and keep Jerry Reese? The general manager is the one who picked the players.

I tell you what. It was Reese who gave that ridiculous contract to horrible offensive lineman Will Beatty. Reese gave Beatty a 5-year, $37 million contract. OUCH! Why? Beatty never proved himself worthy of that money. He simply cannot play. Brad Benson and his radio commercials for his car dealership could block better than Beatty right now.

The Giants are on the hook for $9.3 million on the salary cap for 2016 for Beatty’s contract. Oh, brother. Beatty was never worth that kind of deal and forced the Giants to nickel and dime their way with other players to fill out a competitive roster.

Beatty proved his worth by not playing a down last season, suffering an offseason injury lifting weights, then suffering another in-season injury working out. He has to be the most overpaid and useless player in the league. A contract like Beatty’s is what strangled the entire franchise and forced the spiral downward, not Coughlin’s coaching ability.

So if Coughlin wants to coach elsewhere, he is applauded. But let’s not kid anyone here. He didn’t step aside or retire gracefully. He was shown the door _ and that’s not only wrong, but a gigantic mistake.

And mark my words: Ben McAdoo will be named the Giants’ new head coach within the next two weeks. McAdoo wasn’t enticed here from Green Bay just so he could become an offensive coordinator. He was promised the head coaching job when Coughlin stepped aside. Or in this case, was pushed out the door.
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I said it when they got rid of him and I’ll say it again now that the Brooklyn Nets are a complete laughingstock.
The biggest mistake that franchise made was to turn the coaching reins over to unproven and disloyal Jason Kidd and get rid of P.J. Carlesimo in the process.
Carlesimo was 35-19 as the head coach of the Nets after they canned the overmatched Avery Johnson as coach.
Carlesimo led the Nets to the playoffs, but they were defeated by the Chicago Bulls in 2013. Since then, the Nets were 44-38 in Kidd’s lone year as head coach, went 38-44 with the lethargic Lionel Hollins as head coach last year and owned a robust 10-27 mark this year before the clueless ownership group fired Hollins and GM Billy King, the architect of all the trades that cost the Nets a zillion draft choices and brought them wonderful people like Deron Williams.

Why the Nets decided to get rid of a successful coach like Carlesimo is beyond my wildest comprehension. One thing’s for sure: They’re not going to be 35-19 again anytime soon.
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You can read more of my work at www.hudsonreporter.com, www.theobserver.com , www.dailyrecord.com and www.northjersey.com


































































































































Sunday, December 6, 2015

Rutgers muffs up once again

First, let me start by stating that I am a huge Kyle Flood fan and dismissing him as the head football coach was the worst thing Rutgers could have done. I don't think he did a bad job after replacing used car salesman Greg Schiano as head coach and did a great job in bringing back a lot of the New Jersey high school football coaches to Rutgers that ran away because of their disdain for Schiano.

Plain and simple, the New Jersey football coaching community had a ton of respect for Flood and was more than willing to help Flood rebuild the Rutgers program. They were definitely more willing to help Flood than they were to aid Schiano, who had lost the trust and respect of a lot of the local coaches.

Flood had a respectable 27-24 record in his four years as head coach, considering that two of those years, the Scarlet Knights were thrown under the bus of the Big 10 _ and still somehow made it to a bowl game.

But the media in general was out to get Flood. Sure enough, NJ.com and Advance Media got news of Flood sending emails and contacting a professor asking for help on the grade of a Scarlet Knight player's grade on a term paper.

That was apparently a no-no in the eyes of the Rutgers hierarchy, citing rules and policy that the school has about employees being contacted by others involving grades.

However, you can't tell me that in the history of college sports, that there hasn't been another coach who has contacted a teacher to see if something could be done to a grade. It's safe to assume that Pop Warner and Walter Camp probably tried to persuade English professors during their heydays. It's more than likely Woody Hayes and Bear Bryant talked to math teachers. It's laughable that Flood received a three-game suspension because of it.

But there were all the other things that took place in Piscataway that Flood took the fall for. When standout Leonte Carroo got involved with a domestic squabble with his ex-girlfriend after hours, people blamed Flood. When five players tried to enter a New Brunswick nightclub with fake ID, people blamed Flood. And horrifically, when a group of players were arrested and charged with robbing and tying up victims with duct tape and rope, people blamed Flood.

So basically, there was too much other stuff going on for Flood to keep his job. Plus, the school was canning the woeful Julie Herrmann as well as athletic director. Herrmann might have been the worst hire since Sebastian Cabot was replaced as the butler on Family Affair or since Ray Handley replaced Bill Parcells as coach of the Giants. Herrmann was a complete mess from the minute she arrived in Piscataway. When talk arose last week of her pending departure, one had to figure that Flood wasn't far behind.

Saturday, the Rutgers program went on the cheap by hiring Chris Ash, an assistant coach from Ohio State. Getting someone with Jersey ties and head coaching experience like Al Golden would have made too much sense, so getting another assistant coach is a typical Rutgers move. Bringing in Pat Hobbs from Seton Hall as the athletic director is a move of desperation, not improvement.

As it appears right now, Rutgers is headed down the slippery slope of doom in the Big 10. The school is simply not going to be competitive in any Big 10 sport anytime soon.

I personally would not have gotten rid of Flood. I think they would have at least been competitive with Flood at the helm for the years to come. I can't see that starting from scratch all over again. It seems like it's time for doom and gloom on the banks of the old Raritan, back to the days of the early 80s under Frank Burns, when people were happy if the Scarlet Knights scored a touchdown against Penn State.

Now? Who knows?
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Friday, October 30, 2015

So, what's new? Let's Go METS!!!



Let’s see, a lot has transpired since I last offered something on this blog Sept. 5.

Donald Trump, of all people, has emerged as the leading candidate for the Republican nomination to become President of the United States. Yes, the man who once said “You’re Fired” to Lou Ferrigno and Flavor Flav is now headed toward the nomination. But then again, we once elected the guy who played with a chimp in “Bedtime for Bonzo” and played George Gipp in the movies, so anything is possible.

The Giants and Jets are both off to decent starts. I don’t think loyal followers could have predicted that both teams would have four wins before Halloween. Todd Bowles seems to have his finger on the pulse of the Jets and we all knew Tom Coughlin would after the Giants started 0-2.

The weather has been fantastic since the end of summer. We had only a few days of below normal temperatures. It was 73 yesterday on Oct. 29. That says it all. It’s almost like spring or early summer with those temperatures. Lonnie Quinn doesn’t have to roll up his sleeves yet.

And yes, the biggest story around these parts has to be the appearance of the New York Mets, my beloved baseball team, in the World Series.

I know they’re in an 0-2 hole and that’s a tough hole to recover from, but did anyone in their wildest dreams think it was possible for the Mets to actually be in the World Series?

I still can’t believe it. I really can’t. I feel like I’m doing the Time Warp again. I feel like it’s some weird Rod Serling “Twilight Zone” moment and someone is going to tap me on the shoulder and tell me that it was all part of an evil scheme.

I mean, the Mets, THESE Mets, are in the World Series? It can’t be.

I know that as the biggest (in size, of course) Mets fan on the planet, I’m supposed to be excited, giddy and joyous. Believe me, I’m very happy, VERY happy. But I simply can’t believe it.

It’s probably the reason why I’m so even keeled and low-keyed about the whole thing. Some of my closest family members and friends are amazed on how even tempered I’ve been, that they figured I’d be so in the rapture of Mets fever that I would be uncontrollable. Maybe getting my car stolen with my cell phone in it and a week’s vacation at a resort called the Clara Maass Medical Center might have helped with the temperament.

But I also know that as a diehard Met fan, I gave up. That’s right. July 23 was the day I bagged it and said that they were through. They lost a game to the Padres, a game that they had a six-run lead and turned it over to the god awful Bobby Parnell, then gave the ball to Jeurys Familia after an hour long rain delay, only to see him give up a homer to Justin Upton and the Mets lost.

That was it. I bagged it. I was sick and tired of watching the Mets lose with immortals like Eric Campbell and John Mayberry, Jr. and the thoroughly immortal Danny Muno and the ever-so immortal Johnny Monell in the lineup through June and July. I mean, there was one game were Mayberry, Jr. (who is still swinging and missing at flies in his backyard) and Campbell were cleanup and No. 5 in the Mets lineup. It was disgusting and so hard to watch.

But then something miraculous happened. Wilmer Flores, who has always been a favorite of mine and someone who I thought could hit 20 homers if he was left alone to play every day, was traded, cried, then wasn’t traded and hit the homer in the 12th inning against the Nationals that turned the entire season around.

Then the Mets swept the Nationals and a day later, they traded for superstar Yoenis Cespedes, who is the best positional player the franchise has had since Mike Piazza walked away. Cespedes started hitting homer after homer and the Mets went nuts. Kirk Nieuwenhius (however you spell it) hit a clutch homer off that assface douchehead Papelbon and the Nationals were buried, thanks to the brilliant managing of the since-deposed and sure-to-be-missed Matt Williams.

The Mets steamrolled to the NL East title and that would have been good enough. But they beat the Dodgers in five, then destroyed the Cubs in four straight to win the National League pennant.

Then Daniel Murphy simply morphs into Reggie Jackson, hitting homer after postseason homer. How does that happen? How does someone who hit 14 homers in the regular season mash seven in the playoffs? That's miraculous.
 
Miraculous? I’d say so. I know a lot of people think I’m crazy for saying this, but this team is far more miraculous than the 1969 Miracle Mets. The reason? That team, even though in ninth place the year prior, was going to be good from the start of the year. It had talent throughout the roster, especially with the pitching. They hung around the Cubs all season, then blew past them and went to the World Series. Sure, Miracle Mets because of what they were the year before, but not what they were during the 1969 season. That team won 100 games. They were very good.

This team was absolutely left for dead in July and came back to win the pennant and now in the World Series. This is more of a miracle in my eyes.

So I know the season is in the hands of the Mighty Thor Noah Syndergaard tonight. Without a win tonight, it’s over.

But this is a wonderful pitching staff, the best starting staff I can ever remember, better than the Braves of the 1990s _ and even Hall of Famer John Smoltz, one of those Braves hurlers, agreed.

It’s going to be a joy to watch these pitchers over the next few years. And remember, Zach Wheeler comes back next July to join the group. It’s an amazing staff.

For now, I’ll enjoy this run, this miraculous run. I never thought it was possible. Maybe that’s why I’m so numb by all of this.

Let’s go Mets! Let’s try to make this Series respectable with a win tonight.

I attended Seton Hall basketball media day yesterday and I was very impressed with the way Kevin Willard handled the tough questions about how his team collapsed last season, that there was talk of team members having friends around campus and at practices, a “posse” that served as a major distraction.

Willard addressed it after I asked him about what happened, how a team that was nationally ranked in January could actually win one of their last 11 games to finish a disappointing 16-15.

“We had a lot of outside distractions last year, family, friends, aunts, uncles,” Willard said. “It wasn’t just one factor. There was a lot going on. I don’t think I did a very good job of handling the distractions. We had too many family and friends around and that’s how we lost focus.”

The team also lost its starting backcourt of Jaren Sina and Sterling Gibbs (the team’s leading scorer at 17.5 points per game) to transferring because of the negative stuff going on in the locker room.

“I didn’t handle the outside distractions well,” Willard said. “I have a much better handle on it now, but the dynamic of the team is much different.”

However, the source of all the problems is still there. It’s up to Willard to handle it this season, because if the Hall has another disappointing campaign, then Willard might be shown the door.

You can read more of my work at www.dailyrecord.com, www.northjersey.com, www.hudsonreporter.com and www.theobserver.com, although this week is the first time in 16 years that I didn’t have a column in The Observer because of my illness. Hey, you can only do so much.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Rutgers in headlines again; don't think Brady is innocent

The college football season kicks off on the banks of the Old Raritan in Piscataway later this afternoon, when Rutgers faces that scary world power Norfolk State.

It won't be like any other seasonal kickoff at Rutgers, because this year, there's a dark cloud hovering over the football program and unfortunately that cloud is just about covering the Scarlet Knights' wonderful head coach Kyle Flood.

That's because on Thursday, five members of the Scarlet Knights football team were arrested and charged with felony assault, possession of illegal weapons, home invasion and possession of a controlled substance (marijuana).

These bastions of society were charged with stealing cash and drugs from students in a dorm at gunpoint. Another incident saw an innocent 19-year-old Rutgers student get his jaw broken, just because he was in the way of a botched robbery attempt.

The five players have not only been suspended from the football team, but suspended from school. Rutgers president Robert Barchi, who has already proved his worthlessness in prior incidents involving the former Rutgers basketball coach and the hiring of the current athletic director, called the arrests "deeply troubling."

"The alleged behavior is abhorrent and unacceptable," Barchi said in a released statement, which is the only way Rutgers officials offer anything to the media these days. "This behavior is not reflective of Rutgers or of the members of our academic community."

These arrests come on the heels of five other players getting suspended for the first half of today's game, because they were caught using fake ID cards to enter drinking establishments.

And it comes just a week after it was learned that Flood apparently inappropriately contacted the professor of one of his players (off a private E-mail account) to talk about the academic progress of one of his players.

Incredibly, that player, Nadir Barnwell, was one of the five players arrested in the robbery and assault parade on Thursday.

You're right. You can't make this up.

Let's go back to front here and start with that almost ridiculous "investigation" into Flood's inappropriate e-mail to the professor.

It's absolutely absurd. Does anyone think that a coach hasn't contacted a professor before to talk about his players' grades? It's probably happened going back to the days of Walter Camp and Pop Warner. I would bet you dollars to donuts that good old Knute Rockne probably called some English teacher to check on George Gipp's performance in class.

Point being made: Coaches have been contacting professors forever. It's part of their job to monitor the academic progress of their players, to insure that they remain in good academic standing in order to remain on the field and off the sidelines on Saturdays. College coaches just don't coach football. They have to worry about whether their players get to class and get sufficient grades. It's part of the job requirement.

Why this became such a huge incident and needed an "investigation" is beyond me. It's the least of the worries going on at Rutgers, but since that brilliant and forthright athletic leader Julie Herrmann  _ the athletic director with a ton of skeletons in her closet and yet keeps her job _ launched the "investigation" because the professor blurted it out that Flood had sent the e-mails about Barnwell's progress, it became headlines.

Frankly, it's hogwash. There's nothing that states that Flood asked the professor to change Barnwell's grades in the e-mails. Flood just wanted to know how he was doing, because without a good grade, Barnwell would probably have been shown the door. So Flood sent the e-mail from his private account, asking about Barnwell. Naughty, naughty. Herrmann says "Let's launch an investigation."

When the bottom line is this: For some reason, Herrmann doesn't like Flood and wants him gone. She didn't hire him. It was the previous regime's hire. How anyone cannot like Flood is beyond my wildest imagination, because he is one of the genuinely nice and honest people you'll find in the sport of coaching football.

But being likable doesn't exactly help when it comes to Julie Herrmann's affections. She didn't bring him in. She wasn't the one to promote Flood when used car salesman Greg Schiano scooted from the Scarlet Knights and scampered to Tampa to steal $25 million from the Buccaneers.

So this investigation as to whether Flood did anything wrong in contacting the professor from his private e-mail account is a complete waste of time. Coaches have been doing such things _ just probably with untraceable phone calls and not electronic proof _ for as long as there has been college football.

Now, the second from the bottom. Kids will be kids, right? How many of us didn't try to have a fake ID in order to purchase something that we couldn't have when we were teenagers? A show of hands would probably state about 80 percent. We all had a friend who had a cousin who had a cousin who could get a genuine fake ID that could gain us entrance into the disco or allow us to buy beer. I never really had one, but I paid $5 to get one that I never got.

The thought is that using a fake ID isn't the biggest mistake these kids will make. So Flood did the right thing and suspended them for a half today. Maybe Flood could have gone a step further and shown his authority by keeping them on the sidelines for the entire game, considering that curfews were also missed in going out to the club and using the fake IDs.

But Flood could have never known about the other shoe that dropped Thursday.

This one is serious. The real problem here _ besides the actual act of using a weapon to steal things from a college dorm _ is that they more than likely conspired together to commit the crimes. They didn't act alone. They were among a group of 10 that were charged. So that smells of conspiracy.

And that means that they planned it out, talked amongst themselves and drew up a strategy, in order to pull off the hideous acts.

And that's just flat out wrong and disgusting. "Nadir, it's Razhonn. Listen, bro, let's go to the dorm, break into a room, flash a knife and steal some money. I know these dudes have pot in there, too, so we can steal that as well."

That's just illogical for college kids. Who thinks like that?

So these five get arrested in the days prior to the season opener. There was the other incidents floating around.

What it all adds up to is some more black eyes on Rutgers, once again, courtesy of the athletic program. It's all over the news once again. Rutgers is associated with something wrong, something hideous. Whether it's a basketball coach assaulting and verbally abusing his players or a new athletic director suddenly forgetting her abusive past as a coach or another coach failing to report that he didn't have a college degree when he was hired, it's all negatives on the banks of the Old Raritan.

This time, the attention isn't laughable. It's downright scary. I know that parents sent their kids off to Rutgers last week for another school year, thinking that their kids were safe and secure in the Rutgers dorms. Then, whammo, this story of weapons and forced entries and marijuana theft comes out. Suddenly, little teenage Brandon and teenage Lisa don't seem so safe anymore.

So the sun might be shining brightly on this first Saturday afternoon of college football. It may be picture perfect in Piscataway. But once again, there's a dark cloud looming _ and it's hovering real low these days over the head of Kyle Flood.

You can be rest assured that the affable Flood will be made the scapegoat in all of this mess. An unnamed Rutgers official was quoted as saying that Flood would have already been fired if it weren't for the fact that the school would still be on the hook for Flood's salary _ already the lowest in the big money world of the Big Ten.

The sad thing in all of this is that Kyle Flood will probably lose his job. From a perception point around the state of New Jersey, that idea is just criminal, because Flood totally changed the image of the football head coaching position at Rutgers, once he was promoted to head coach upon Schiano's flirtation with Florida.

In an instant, the high school football community went back in unison to embrace Flood. Many of the New Jersey high school coaches were just sick and tired _ more tired than sick _ of Schiano's constant lies and debauchery when it came to recruiting the New Jersey high school football player.

Some went as far as to say that they would never open the doors of their locker room to Schiano ever again. Imagine that. The head football coach of the state university of New Jersey getting shunned by high school coaches in his own state? That's what happens when you lie and connive and manipulate high school kids. Once you're nailed being a liar, there's no coming home. After a decade, most everyone in the New Jersey football community got to realize what Schiano truly was.

Quite frankly, Greg Schiano was more full of horseshit than one would find in American Pharoah's barn. If Schiano told me that it was 4 p.m. in the afternoon, I'd have to check my watch, the bank clock, turn on 1010 WINS and ask the man on the corner to see if it really was. He was THAT bad.

So Flood as the head coach was a breath of fresh air. He was welcomed back into the local fold. Coaches now insisted on their players making recruiting visits to see Flood. Things were going to be good again. The top New Jersey players were going to stay home instead of going to points elsewhere. Flood was going to make it all good again, because let's face it, no one outside of Julie Herrmann wants to see Kyle Flood fail.

You want to root for Flood. You want to stand and cheer for him. Yay, Kyle.

Not now. That good feeling is gone. It started to ooze a little last year when the Scarlet Knights proved that they just simply didn't belong in the Big 10, even after beating Michigan and almost beating Penn State.

That good feeling just went right out of the bag Thursday with these five players getting arrested, one of whom is the one that Flood apparently risked his entire career over.

Will Flood finish out the year? Who knows? But he's done after this year. Julie Herrmann is going to get her way, much like she did when former football SID Jason Baum was bounced out in favor of former sportswriter Tom Luicci.

Baum did a great job coordinating Rutgers athletics and did so in the face of adversity, like the Mike Rice fiasco and of course, Herrmann's hiring.

Herrmann didn't like the way the media portrayed her in that entire debacle, so she blamed Baum and he was out the door. And how a sportswriter who used to blast Rutgers on every occasion in print was able to land on his feet with the demise of the Star-Ledger and get a six-figure job working at Rutgers in sports information is beyond anyone's wildest dreams.

But that's besides the point. Flood is going to be left holding the bag here _ and this time, there's just not enough good feeling air left in that bag to save his hide.

And frankly, that's a shame. There's talk floating around that the school may reach out to that old car salesman and see if he would like his old job back. Isn't that special?

So the season begins today with a win over Norfolk State. It will end with the pursuit of a new coach, a young one that won't mind getting paid $600,000 a year when the other coaches in his league all get in the millions.

There's pandemonium in Piscataway for sure. It's just not on the field. Once again.

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Now, as for the judge upholding Tom Brady's suspension.

All these people are out, punching their chests, screaming "I told you so," proclaiming that the ruling proves that Brady was innocent and did nothing wrong, like the golden boy always said from the beginning.

WRONG! It does not prove that Brady was innocent of cheating. It proves that the judge thought the penalty was too severe and that the NFL bungled the investigation and the suspension hearing. The judge did not absolve Brady of any wrongdoing. He just said that the four-game suspension and fines were unfair.

What the ruling also did was totally castrate the powers of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. If you're an NFL player, why are you worried about getting suspended for doing something wrong? Just take the suspension to court and have the damn thing overturned, because Goodell and the league are now 0-for-their-last-7 in terms of suspensions.

If I'm the owner of the Carolina Panthers or Jacksonville Jaguars, I have to seriously wonder why my contributions to Goodell's $44 million salary are worth it. Am I getting any bang for my big buck? Goodell won't resign, because that's a load of moola to leave on the table. But now, it's hard to take the man's power seriously after getting ruled against yet again.

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I'm not even going near jinxing my beloved Mets, because we all know what has happened in the past. But it's Sept. 5 and the Mets are entrenched in first place. Just sayin'.

And I know it's dreaming, but Freddie Coupon and Coupon Jr., the two boobs that are majority owners of that franchise, should do anything and everything in their power to make sure they scrounge up enough money to keep Yoenis Cespedes, because he's the best position player to grace the Mets' lineup since the acquisition of Mike Piazza in 1998.

Freddie Coupon and his little boy, who reportedly is the one who pushed for Cespedes, should take some of the money they get from SNY and put it towards signing Cespedes to a nice five-year deal worth around $160 million.

There shouldn't even be a debate. Cespedes is that good and proves it every single day. If he could only pitch middle relief, then he'd really be worth it.
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You can read more of my stuff at www.hudsonreporter.com (high school football previews galore), www.theobserver.com (high school football previews galore) and www.dailyrecord.com (high school football previews galore, but later this week). I've written more heights and weights over the last three weeks than ever before.




Thursday, July 30, 2015

Brady's dilemma and disgust with the Mets

Here's my final take on Tom Brady and Deflategate:

If Brady wasn't as guilty of football tampering, then why did he destroy his phone the day before he was set to testify in front of the special NFL investigator? Brady's excuse was that he said he destroys his phones periodically. But in this case, he just happened to destroy the phone on the day he's supposed to meet with Ted Wells?

Not buying it. He wanted to destroy any evidence of texts that linked him with the two equipment managers involved in the case, one of whom referred to himself as the "Deflatinator."

See, here's the problem. For the last 15 years, the New England Patriots _ or Cheatalots, as I like to call them _ have done whatever they wanted to do, because they feel like they can get away with anything and that they're above the law.

You name it, they've done it. Videotaped other team's practices, circumvented the salary cap to get top players, videotaped other teams on the sidelines to pick up signals and signs, killing off a team's walkie-talkie service during games, you name it. The Cheatalots cheat a lot because they can.

Or so it seemed. See, this time, the pretty boy quarterback with the supermodel wife cheated and got caught. And instead of just coming forward and admitting he was cheating and got caught, he did what all cheaters do _ denied it.

Just like all the steroid users in baseball. They didn't do anything wrong. They used someone else's syringe, like their cousin's or their personal trainers. They never did performance enhancement drugs. Shame on anyone who even thought that.

Until the evidence became so clear, like in the cases of Roger Clemens (who is still in denial mode), Barry Bonds and most recently Alex Rodriguez, that they had no other choice but accept the fate handed to them.

No one is even insinuating that steroid use and deflating footballs are on the same level. Not even close.

But the denial is the same. Brady first tried to play stupid when confronted about the deflated footballs, saying that he didn't know anything about it. Then, when the two equipment guys stepped forward and told NFL investigators that of course Brady knew, then he changed his tune a little.

And then he had the audacity to go to his hearing, first with Wells, and later with Commissioner Roger Goodell, that he didn't do anything wrong, when he was handed evidence of the contrary.

For good measure, Brady said he destroyed the cell phone with the text messages on it. Gee, now there's some coincidence.

There's no question that the other NFL owners pressured Goodell (whom they pay an astonishing $45 million a year) to handle the Brady case with utmost importance and severity, because frankly, the rest of the NFL is sick and tired of the Cheatalots getting away with everything. I can't say they get away with murder, because Aaron Hernandez is proof that even a Cheatalot can't get away with murder. It might work for Viola Davis and her students on that silly ABC show, but it doesn't work in real life.

Goodell had no recourse but to throw the book at Brady and he did. Four games for deflating footballs? That's pretty hefty.

But Brady isn't getting four games simply for taking the air out of balls during games. Hell, if he fessed up to it when he was first accused, he would have received a $25,000 fine and a slap on the back of his hand, saying, "Naughty, naughty, Pretty Boy."

The reason why Brady is getting slammed is the audacity he showed by not cooperating with the investigation, then trying to destroy evidence. And if you're not guilty, as Brady still is in denial mode over, then why go to those lengths? Why not cooperate and prove your innocence?

Goodell had to do something drastic with Brady, because frankly, the other owners who pay his ridiculously gaudy salary wouldn't have stood for it any other way. Brady should take his four-game suspension and fine and slink off into the sunset. He should come back rested and tanned in October, ready to take on the world.

But to continue to deny that this all took place is silly and frankly tarnishing Brady's legacy as an all-time great. Right now, he's known as an all-time cheat, four Super Bowls or not. No one ever accused Johnny Unitas or Joe Montana of cheating. Their legacies are intact and in good standing. Brady will forever be known as the cheater who got caught deflating footballs.

Brady should take his suspension like a man, because unlike what he professes, he knows he did something wrong.
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Now, as for the complete clusterf**k known as the New York Mets, can anyone explain to me what actually happened Wednesday night?

Right after the first pitch was thrown, reputable sportswriters like Bob Klapisch of the Bergen Record and Joel Sherman of the New York Post were reporting that the Mets had indeed traded injured pitcher Zach Wheeler and infielder Wilmer Flores to the Milwaukee Brewers for All-Star centerfielder Carlos Gomez.

Soon after, the flood gates opened. My phone pinged with updates about the trade more than pictures of Caitlyn Jenner on the cover of Vanity Fair went viral. Seriously, I received about 30 different notifications from Facebook, Twitter, instant messages, you name it. The trade was done. It was official.

Except there was Flores still playing shortstop for the Mets. The crowd at CitiField knew Flores was traded, because they gave him a much deserved standing ovation for what appeared to be his last at-bat, one where he grounded out to short. It had to be the first time a baseball player received a standing ovation for a ground out.

Flores then was visibly upset as he went back out onto the field. The 23-year-old kid has spent his entire baseball life with the Mets, going back to when he was a 16-year-old kid in the Dominican Republic. He was upset that he was being traded.

Mets manager Terry Collins then talked to Flores before the bottom of the ninth inning, and off Flores went to the clubhouse, apparently to be forever replaced by the legendary Ruben Tejada.

And then, after the game, Collins said that he knew nothing of a trade. It seemed ridiculous that every person in the building knew of the trade except the manager of the team. A few minutes later, Mets GM Sandy Alderson appeared in front of the media to say that there was no trade and that any trade was off.

Say what? What in God's name happened?

Now, as a member of the media, I can tell you this: Klapisch and Sherman are impeccable. So is Jon Heyman, who reported the trade a few minutes after Klap and Sherman. Their reputations as reporters are stellar.

Could they be wrong? It happens. But that would be if just one reported the trade. All three? Highly unlikely.

Someone in the Mets' front office leaked the trade before it was official and it went viral. But I'm risking my own reputation by saying that trade definitely happened, because there's no way all three would have missed it. No way in hell.

What did take place is that the Mets look once again like a second-rate organization and left their young shortstop out on the field to have an emotional breakdown for the entire world to see on television. There were already jokes this morning involving Flores and Tom Hanks' memorable line from "A League of Our Own," when he uttered "There's no crying in baseball."

If there was a trade in place, Flores should have been in the clubhouse, far away from the bright lights. He should not have been paraded out there for the world to see him emote like that. And for Collins and Alderson to boldly state that they knew nothing of a trade and that no trade existed, that's just a complete crock.

Of course there was some trade. Who pulled the trade back remains to be seen? But I'll stake my entire 34-year career on the fact that there was some agreement between the two clubs, that agreement was leaked to the media and then that agreement was pulled back in the late stages of the game.

And the one victim of it all? Wilmer Flores. Sure, professional baseball is a business. We all understand that. But there's no way he should have been left out there to fry. Shame on the Mets. Once again. They really know how to screw up everything, don't they?
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You can read more of my work at www.hudsonreporter.com, www.theobserver.com and from time to time at www.dailyrecord.com.