Locker Room: Ugly basketball, and baseball will survive

      Basketball is very unpredictable this season. It was bound to happen. There are reasons. The one and done stuff is hurting the overall quality of college hoops. The shocking number of transfers is hurting the quality of the sport, football too. Players are now allowed to transfer with basically little or no reason with immediate eligibility.  You must have a tighter hold to your sport than that in this opinion.
      And you now have the obvious lack of concern about academics in the sport. “Student athlete?” You don’t hear that term as frequently as you used to, even from the office of the NCAA. Plain and simple. When you do not have student-athletes playing the game, and you have the “best” players with no concern for academics or graduation at all, the character of the game will suffer. The NBA could help by not taking one semester players, but fat chance of that. That league isn’t concerned about education either. I wonder why the academic elites at places like Duke don’t speak up.
    The problem evident in Kansas last night. The brawl at the end of a lopsided game was ugly. When you do not have academic integrity and athletes that are “students” in terminology only, a lack of character too frequently surfaces. It certainly did in Lawrence Tuesday night.
     Standing over a fallen opponent to demonstrate your physical superiority should have been flagged in football and a technical foul in basketball years ago. I get competition. But I also know what disrespect is when I see it.
     Silvio Sousa, who has been under NCAA investigation almost from the time Kansas recruited him, picked up a chair. That’s criminal. He wanted to use it as a weapon. I’ll give Kansas coach Bill Self credit for saying he was embarrassed by the action of his team. I discredit K-State coach Bruce Webber for trying to soft soap the ugly event.
     When you have people playing college sport that have no intentions of ever graduating from college, and have no desire to attain a higher education, then do you actually have competition between “real” college students. Last night a college basketball game turned into something that looked like “thuggery.” And it probably looked like it because that may have in fact been what it was.
     There should be severe penalties handed down by the NCAA, and law enforcement should be involved with what happened in Kansas last night. Silvio should never play another game of college basketball. His actions were uncivilized. In fact, severe penalties should be handed down to numerous players and both programs. If not, then once again, college athletics is exposed as being a place for non-students.
Baseball Is Not Dead:
     Some of these talk shows on television and radio have commentators that are paid to be controversial so you have to take overreaction with a grain of salt. They have airtime to feel and if you get everybody upset the time goes by faster.
     In a nutshell the Astros were caught cheating. Dadgum it! Ain’t that something. I remember when they used to catch old Junior Johnson cheating in NASCAR. It irritated people from time to time, especially if you owned the car he beat. But man that #12 would run. Junior’s job (and may that racing legend rest in peace), was to win races.
     The Astros were caught stealing some signs. I’d be upset if I owned a team and my manager wasn’t trying to steal signs. When I played little league baseball at age 11 and 12, we tried to steal signs. It’s part of baseball. If I’m the manager of a baseball team when I go to the park I’m there to win the game. If I have to do something a bit shady, I’ll apologize later, take the win and have a cold beer.
     I remember the hullabaloo a few years ago about somebody watching some other team’s practice and giving information to Bill Belichick and the Patriots. Tell me how many of you if you were a football coach and you could put a scout at your opponent’s practice, you wouldn’t. I would. I go to the football stadium to win. If I have an edge I will gladly accept it.
     But all this is just sport. It’s about getting an edge. Nobody hurt anybody, nobody broke the law. It’s about trying to win a game. Is it wrong? Well yes it is, and no it isn’t. What baseball is saying is stealing the other teams signs is fine just like it has been for a hundred years, but you just can’t do it using technology. Fixing the problem should be simple. Take the technology out of the dugout. As far as I’m concern you can throw the technology out of the ballpark. It took me about two weeks to get sick of hearing about analytics.
    How about this? I want my leading off man to get on base, take a walk, hit single, and run the bases well. I want my number two hitter to be able to hit behind the base runner, sacrifice, bunt, have decent speed, and be able to keep the game moving. My three hitter is my very best hitter, for average, total bases, probably runs batted in, and maybe home runs. He also needs to run well. My cleanup guy is the next best thing I have to my three hitter. My five guy is a power hitter that if he connects can clean all those other guys off the base, but he’s usually not a high average hitter. The six guy in the lineup should be a lot like the number two hitter, the seven hole is my next best power hitter, the eight guy is usually  the catcher because he can’t run very well, and you know who hits 9th. In the American League you add the DH and how you use that depends on who is the best hitter you have not in the starting lineup.
     That’s it. You can talk all the analytics you want and think of a million statistics, most of which are meaningless, but what made a good baseball batting order in 1950 is exactly what makes a good batting order today. If you put your overall best hitter or your best power hitter in the two spot, then I will not be impressed with you as a manager, but some people mistakenly believe that’s the right way today. Analytics!
     But there have been numerous scandals in baseball history. It’s just that there is more media that will keep this alive as long as they need something to talk about. The Astros got fined, lost draft picks, and have suffered a substantial penalty. But the game has not died. The fans have not been cheated. The game does not need to be ashamed. You don’t need to take silly polls that ESPN says indicate that 53% of the baseball fans think the Astro players need to be penalized. Wonder how many of those are Astro fans. I don’t buy the legitimacy of that poll at all. Besides, the players union would never allow that.
     Just a short review. Every heard of the Black Sox Scandal? How about the 1957 All Star game when a local Cincinnati paper made up extra copies of the all star ballot and distributed them to fans and the Reds had seven of the nine players in the NL starting lineup. How about the corked bats. Remember when a hitters bat would break and the ball boy would rush on the field as fast as his legs would carry him and pick up the splinters from the hollowed out lumber. Then there was the owners collusion scandal which I never understood. If I owned a team I would not hesitate to enter into an agreement with the other owners to keep salaries down. It’s business. How about the performance enhancing drug scandal? Now the sign scandal. They should call it the technology scandal. Sign stealing will continue. And the Astros got caught. Were they the only team? Don’t be naïve.
     The point is the game is not tainted. Baseball will live on, and whatever team wins the World Series this year will not give a hoot about the sign stealing scandal. By the way, Phil Niekro and Gaylord Perry are both in the baseball Hall of Fame. They cheated almost every time they threw a pitch. They were two of the most well liked players in the game. The game of baseball is fine.
By DAN CALLAHAN, The Patriot