By Bill Campbell
There is a school of thought, not necessarily a small one, which believes we should pay our college athletes. Many think that the Ohio State mess involving football coach Jim Trestle might never have happened if players had been granted some sort of a stipend or monthly grant. It is a belief that almost completely disregards the fact the Trestle knew what his players were doing and did nothing to inform school superiors or make any effort to stop it. He was informed of the activity by a former player whom he thanked for the “heads up” but did nothing about it. In thanking the former player, now a Columbus attorney, Tressel said he would handle it “ASAP” – but never did. His hands off attitude gave players free reign to trade championship trophies, mementos and other honors for cut-rate tattoos. And students were awarded sweetheart prices for cars on behalf of themselves and their families.
Does anyone seriously believe that paying some sort of a stipend, plus free room, board and tuition, could possibly be the answer for preventing these situations? Would it not be a case of the more the players are paid, the more they would want? This situation has similarities all over the country and letting players run free, off and on the field, has previously caused problems at Southern California and other schools. What surprises me, perturbs and disappoints me even more, is identifying some of the people who have defended these players and coaches. John Kasich is the governor of Ohio and an Ohio State alumnus, but his sole comment was one of sadness that Jim Tressel was forced to resign. He called him “a terrific person”. And there was Jack Nicklaus, another former Buckeye, who likened Tressel’s inaction to what a father would have done to protect his son. He said that undoubtedly Woody Hayes, Tressel’s most prominent predecessor as coach, would probably have done the very same thing—acted like a father protecting his son. It was a remarkable comment coming from Nicklaus, who accomplished so much in a sport where offending players call foul violations against themselves. The question remains: would the paying of a stipend have prevented this? Possibly. But the mercy of the National Collegiate Athletic Association sounds a bit too professional for me.
As for baseball, while the Phillies’ pitching has been almost as good as expected, the hitting has certainly been inconsistent. Losing all or even some of these low-scoring games has been annoying, to say the least. Back in the cold days of winter, when this pitching rotation was being assembled, that’s all we talked or wrote about. The hitting problems that presented themselves since were never anticipated. Pitching, indeed, remains the key to the game. It’s where the game begins. But if set aside, without the accompanying hitting, base-running and defense, it can become a bit of a dull game. It certainly would not be baseball, the great American game. It is one of the reasons the American League went to the designated hitter – to put some action into the game, make it more of a pitcher-throwing-to-a-catcher kind of a thing. The All Star Game and the World Series, particularly, required some changes to make the game more relevant and promote more rivalry. Injuries have become a big factor and they have happened this season in the Phillies case. Charlie Manuel’s’ efforts to use a standard starting line-up have often been stymied and have influenced the Phillies’ lack of consistent hitting and scoring runs.
A new clause in recent negotiations presented itself this season: it is included in the paternity lists that decree one to three days’ leave for a player whose wife is about to give birth. I find it to be a new list, in addition to the disabled list and others, putting more pressure on managers and general managers trying to assemble a roster. The paternity list, approved this year, affected the Phils on their last road trip to Pittsburgh. John Mayberry, Jr., after considerable thought, was optioned to the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs who were playing in Charlotte, N.C. When the Phillies finally made a decision on the make-up of their roster, Mayberry had to hustle to make travel connections to Charlotte. The new rule was designed to prevent a major league team from ever starting a game with a shortened roster but outfielder Russ Gload’s wife, Betsy, was about to give birth in Philadelphia and Gload wanted to be with her. No sooner had Mayberry arrived in Charlotte when his phone rang in his hotel room. The caller was Ryne Sandberg, the Lehigh Valley manager, informing Mayberry that the Phillies needed him back in Pittsburgh because Gload had departed for Philadelphia. Mayberry had to hustle again to board a plane in Charlotte heading back to Pittsburgh to join the Phillies, if only for a day. It amounted to just that because Mayberry is back with the Iron Pigs and Gload is back with the Phillies.
The Phillies have had 11 players visit the disabled list as we head into the early days of June. But they continue their consecutive string of sell-outs and their profound influence seems to be spreading across the state. The overall attendance last weekend in Pittsburgh was amazing. Over the three days, almost 109,000 fans attended, the largest audience total in the history of the Pirates’ handsome new ballpark. An obvious question: should we wonder how many of them were Phillies fans? While the Phils have had their offensive problems, they have been able to pretty much maintain their distance in the National League East. Atlanta and Florida haven’t gained that much ground. However, I cling to my early season thought that the Phils need productive seasons from both Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley in the middle of the diamond. And they need it over the long haul. Utley couldn’t start the season because of his bad knee and I find it troublesome and a bit scary to see him come back and regain some stability only to see Rollins go down, even if only for a short while. They can pitch their ears off. But I don’t think they can win consistently without Rollins and Utley in the middle, every day.
Just an old blogger’s opinion.