Archive for January, 2011

Hats off to KC Royals’ Pitcher, Gil Meche, For Doing the Right Thing

What would you do if you were in Gil Meche’s shoes?

Now 32 years old, he’s pitched serviceably for the Kansas City Royals for the last four years. But over the last few seasons, he’s run into all sorts of arm problems. Nevertheless, for this coming 2011 season, he was slated to earn $12 million . That money is guranteed, so long as Gil heads off to spring training in Arizona in a couple of weeks. Even if his arm isn’t heathy —  so long as he makes an attempt to pitch — he gets the dough. Even if he just ends up going to rehab for his arm, the money is his to keep.

Gil Meche decided he didn’t want to be accused of just picking up a paycheck if he couldn’t earn it. So he called the Royals GM and told him that he was going to retire. Meche knew full well that if he retired, then the money wouldn not be forthcoming.

Meche shrugged and said, in effect, that he wouldn’t be able to live with himself if he got paid under false pretenses. So he walked away, and left the $12 mil on the table. $12 mil that was his!

Mind you, Meche has earned $40 million over the last four years for his efforts for KC, so it’s not like he’s destitute. But still, in a world of pro sports where the mantra is still “Show me the money!” a story like Meche’s is, well, just amazing. And inspiring.

Do yourself a favor and take a couple of minutes and tell your young athletes this story. Twelve million dollars is a LOT of money, but sometimes, you have to ask yourself what’s the right thing to do.

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Has the Time Come to Pay College Athletes a Salary?

For years, it’s been debated as to whether college student-athletes should be paid a small salary in addition to the tuition, room, and board they receive for being on an athletic scholarship. After all, it’s pretty clear that the university benefits greatly from having these talented athletes wear the school colors on the fields of competition.

As noted on the show, when a college has a successful athletic program, usually student enrollment goes up as do alumni donations. This explains why that even at non-scholarship schools (such as in Div-III), kids with less GPAs and SAT/ACT scores can gain admission. Why? Because the university knows that having winning teams translates into more money coming in — money that the school keeps but does not share with the student-athlete.

Bear in mind that a kid on an athletic scholarship is told that their top priority to be at all practices and games. Studies come second. In effect, the kid has become an employee of the school. Furthermore, as one caller pointed out, lots of college athletes pretend to go to class. They have private tutors or are enrolled in meaningless courses, just so they can maintain a GPA so they can play.

So, why not pay the student-athlete a salary of $15,000 a year, and he or she can decide whether they want to pursue liberal arts, OR learn a technical skill that will prepare them for a real job in the real world when their four years of athletic eligibility are over OR they can choose not to go to class at all. Let the young athlete make some important decisions. Let them be accountable for their actions. But most of all, let’s get away from the sham of having the NCAA serve as watchdogs over which student-athletes are really going to class.

I know this all sounds perhaps like fantasyland, but trust me, this conversation ought to be had by top college presidents sooner rather than later.

Is Trash-Talking a Curse? Or Just Entertainment?

It used to be that coaches warned their players all the time not to engage in any trash-talk, lest the comments find their way to the opponent’s bulletin board, which then becomes stronger motivation for one’s opponent.

But that all changed this week with the NY Jets’ profane and pushy comments about their game with the Patriots. Antonio Cromartie was particularly outspoken about Tom Brady. And Coach Rex Ryan wasn’t far behind.

To tell you the truth, I had a very strong hunch that every football fan in the USA (with the exception of Jets’ fans) was hoping that the Patriots would clobber the Jets.  But, of course, that didn’t happen. In fact, the Jets dominated and won going away against New England.

So, what’s the take-away? Is trash-talking now the new way to pump one’s team up? Is that now the key way to insure that one’s team plays well?

As one of my callers said this AM, “C’mon — it’s just entertainment. It doesn’t mean anything. It’s like pro wrestling.”

But on other hand, does this mean that sportsmanship has pretty much become extinct?

As you probably can guess, personally I’m not big on trash talking. I may be old school, but I still prefer winning with dignity. That seems to be a trait that Ryan and the Jets don’t seem to care much about.

Even worse, the victory by the Jets and their verbal demonstration will, unfortunately, have real impact on amateur teams. After all, why should HS kids or younger athletes care about keeping their mouths shut when the Jets have yapped their way to the AFC championship game?

Only time will tell, of course, just how all of this plays out. But for those of us who care about doing the right thing in sports, this kind of verbal behavior really sets back sportsmanship.

Put it this way: wouldn’t the Jets’ win today been a lot sweeter if it hadn’t been tarnished by all their pre-game trash-talk?

Can A Kid Be Cut from a Team for Not Cutting His Hair?

The short answer is…yes.

This stems from a recent Federal lawsuit from Indiana where a junior HS basketball player was cut from the school basketball team because the coach had a rule that all kids on the team needed to have short hair. Apparently, the kid balked at getting a hair cut, so the coach dismissed him from the team.

The parents filed suit. But as law professor Doug Abrams pointed out this AM, there’s quite a body of legal decisions that say that being on a team is a “privilege” – not a right. And as such, the coach and school have a lot of leeway when it comes to setting down certain rules and regulations regarding hair length, dress codes, demeanor, behavior, and so on.

In truth, this somewhat surprised me. After all, in this day and age where parents file lawsuits routinely, it seemed to me that rules regarding freedom of expression (in line with the First Amendment) would make it difficult for HS coaches to be too demanding or strict about such items as hair length, facial hair, tattoos, dress code, and so on. But as Doug made clear, coaches and schools these days are allowed the freedom to use common sense rules when governing their teams.

Please note, of course, that I’m writing very precisely here. That is, once you get into issues of religious or ethnic concerns, the laws become a lot hazier. For example, if an athlete’s religion dictates the wearing of certain headwear or clothing, the school (and coach) have to respect that. If there’s a medical reason as to why a young man can’t shave his beard, the school (and coach) have to allow that as well.

But it can be confusing. As my colleague Tony Fiorino asked on the show, “What if a coach mandates that all the kids on the team have to get a mohawk in order to show solidarity? Can a coach make all the kids do that?” Good question. Answer? Probably not.

Or as Doug asks: what if a swim coach mandates that all kids have to shave their head in order to swim faster – and a kid doesn’t want to do that? Does the coach have the right to boot him or her? Good question. Answer? I just don’t know.

Bottom line? The good news for schools and coaches is that there’s a lot of legal precedent for them to put down their team rules and regulations, and truly expect the kids to follow them. And if they don’t, then the kid can be dismissed from the team since being on the team is seen as being a privilege, not a right.

However, if I were coaching a HS or Jr HS team and I wanted to set down some team rules, I think I’d want to check with the school district’s policy on such rules before announcing them to the team. During these litigious times, you just can’t be too careful.

Baseball Bat Alphabet Soup: BESR, BBCOR, etc…

I truly feel sorry for any well-intended Mom or Dad who attempts to purchase their son a new baseball bat for this coming spring. That’s because -thanks to the aluminum and composite bat manufacturers and fueled by the dopey support of LL Baseball that there’s no difference between a ball coming off a wood bat or a non-wood bat —  there’s now more confusion than ever in the history of baseball as to what kinds of bats are legal to use in amateur ball in 2011.

And here’s the irony. All of these new bats with new rules are being constructed with one purpose in mind – to come close to simulate the effect of a wood bat hitting a pitched ball.

Huh?

I can hear you asking. “Well, if that’s the purpose, why not just get rid of aluminum and composite bats, and simply go back to just using wood bats.”

And that’s exactly my point. Starting this spring, and then carrying over into 2012, pretty much every baseball bat will have to carry a BBCOR certification…which means that the bat will have the same kind of very restrictive trampoline effect that all wood bats have. The only advantage, from what I can tell, is that non-wood bats won’t break. Aluminum bats and composite bats won’t drive a ball any further; they’ll just be difficult to break.

So the question is: why would you spend $300 or more to buy a composite or aluminum bat when a really good maple bat only runs $125? True, a maple can break, but even that extra maple bat still costs you less than the $300 composite.

As Steve Kallas pointed out on the show this AM, this is just madness. Plus all of these BBCOR/BESR certifications now puts an extra burden on umpires working the game to review all the bats before the game. Umps will need a long list of which bats are legal, and which ones aren’t.

What’s the simple solution? Just outlaw aluminum and composite, and pass a rule that only wood bats – just like they use in pro ball – are allowed. Not only does it make for a better game, but it’s the way the game was invented.

I just don’t see any reason why this can’t be done. It’s just common sense, plain and simple.