Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A Whole Lot To Say On A Whole Lot Of Topics

Here we go:

1. The 108th U.S. Open Championship turned out to be one of the most memorable Major championships in the history of golf. Tiger Woods, coming off of knee surgery two months ago, played a very uneven tournament, mixing in incredible eagles (3) and birdies (17) with bogeys (14) and double bogeys (3). As much as every story in golf is always somehow related to Tiger, I’d say the real story should be Rocco Mediate. Here’s a guy who has battled injuries for the last several years, a guy who is an unspectacular golfer by tour standards – seriously, have you seen an uglier swing than that? – and yet he plays scratch golf for the entire weekend and stares down the best golfer of all time...and almost wins!

Tiger has now won his 14th Major championship and is only four behind all-time leader Jack Nicklaus in that category. Technically speaking, Woods is still a perfect 14-for-14 when leading a Major after three rounds. But, as much as people want to praise him for winning an incredible tournament on a bad knee, I have to say that a lot of Tiger’s inconsistent play over the weekend came down to some uncharacteristic mental mistakes. Tiger’s decision to hit a fairway wood on the second shot of the 13th hole on Sunday will go down as one of the dumbest decisions of his professional career, made worse by the fact that he played to lay up on the following hole, despite having a drivable green off the tee. All told, those two holes cost him a stroke and forced him to make the dramatic birdie on the 18th green. I’m sure Team Tiger will look back at this tournament and realize that they dodged a bullet.

2. The Mets, in typically dysfunctional fashion, fired their manager (Willie Randolph), pitching coach (Rick Peterson) and first base coach (Tom Nieto) after weeks and weeks of dragging their feet on a decision. Since their troubles began, where the Mets squandered a seven-game lead with 17 games to play at the end of the 2006 season, the Mets have gone a disappointing 39-47 (.453). Obviously a payroll that is third-highest in the big leagues ($138M) and a roster with all-stars on the field and on the mound creates expectations. And certainly the Mets would seem to be better than the fourth place team they currently are. For those reasons, I think a change in leadership was at least justifiable (even if I don’t actually see the purpose of making an in-season change).

The real problems with the Mets’ managerial and coaching change are as follows: first, instead of simply taking decisive action, General Manager Omar Minaya and team ownership prolonged the decision for over a month, using a daily barometer of wins and losses, and fan and media input as their weather vane. Not only is a daily temperature-taking a ridiculously short-sighted and amateurish way to run a business, it misses the point that if the team was underperforming, perhaps ultimate blame resided with the man that acquired the talent and not the man asked to lead the team. Second, firing Randolph and part of his staff after a win on the west coast and making the announcement at 3:12 am local (New York) time is as underhanded and cruel a way to behave. Don’t make him fly all the way to California. Don’t fire him when the New York press has already gone to sleep. How cowardly can a management group be? The Mets suck and I hope they finish in last place this year. That franchise isn’t worthy of any respect.

Oh, this is the best part: Randolph was replaced by bench coach Jerry Manuel. Chicagoans may remember Manuel as the mild-mannered ex-manager of the Chicago White Sox. Considering one of the things that people hated about Willie Randolph was his perceived lack of emotion or fire and inability to motivate the team, I’m sure hiring an even more mild-mannered guy like Manuel is JUST what the team needs to give them a jump start...

3. Game 6 of the NBA Finals is tonight. As I said before the finals began, I just had a feeling that the Celtics would beat L.A., even if L.A. had every possible advantage on paper. Phil Jackson has been badly outcoached in this series and Kobe Bryant, for all of his talent, picked the absolute worst time to regress into a selfish ball-hog while also going through a shooting slump. The Celts will close out the series tonight. Yawn, another NBA season reaches the point of anticlimactic weariness.

No comments: