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Monday, May 30, 2011

Really Jim, Really????? Tressel's Resignation A Little Late

Before I get started let me say this much…I don’t know Jim Tressel, I have never met Jim Tressel, and I will probably never have the opportunity to meet Jim Tressel.  With that said, I don’t feel bad for Jim Tressel, and I believe that Jim Tressel’s resignation as head football coach for the Ohio State University Football Team had little, very little, to do with what is best for the University and the football program, and more to do with Jim Tressel feeling the heat from a scandal that was getting bigger and bigger as the days went by.   Like Governor Schwarzenegger’s confession about his baby momma drama, the walls were closing in on Tressel and the Ohio State University football program.   

Tressel wasn’t doing what was best for the University, if he did, he would have come clean with all that was going on as soon as he heard it (or read the first emails from former Buckeyes walk-on Chris Cicero). If he did, he would have taken immediate action and suspended those players charged with selling their memorabilia for the Sugar Bowl, and not for three games at the beginning of the 2011-12 season. If he did, he would have stepped down earlier.  Stepping down now does nothing for the kids who are left behind, or for the Ohio State program that won’t start searching for a coach until after this year’s season.  What it does do is help Tressel avoid all the investigation, all the news reports, and all the trouble that follows his actions or lack of action.  For the better of the program – please stop. 

Feel bad for Tressel…why?  He got his championships, he got paid, he got his book deal, (The Winners Manual: For The Game of Life) and he got out looking like he is the hero who threw himself on the sword.  Some people will say that this isn’t Tressel’s problem, it is Ohio State U’s problem.  Yes, it is a problem for Ohio State University, but it starts with Tressel.  When the Buckeyes won their National Championship in 2003, wasn’t Tressel hailed the hero or was it deflected to the Athletic Director, and the rest of the school administration? 

Under Tressel’s leadership, Ohio State won a national championship in 2003 and played two other national title games. The team has had at least a share of the Big Ten title in all of the past six seasons. The Buckeyes finished last season with a 12-1 record and a Sugar Bowl victory.  Shouldn’t the leader take the blame when things go wrong especially when he knows about these misgivings and doesn’t report them.  So, please don’t tell me, Tressel is taking the all heat – he deserves all the heat. 

Think about it…Maurice Clarett acts when unnoticed by Buckeye’s coaching staff?  Nobody had knowledge of what Terrelle Pryor was doing?  And what about the Tressel admission in March that he played ineligible players and lied to the NCAA about it… Why did we believe this was Tressel’s first and only mistake?    (And don’t look into Tressel’s past at Youngstown State…there are signs there as well.)

What concerns me is how Tressel can justify his actions or more importantly, avoided taking responsibility, and some how, because he led the Buckeyes team to a National Championship and Conference Titles, we forgave him and accepted his transgressions with the old adage…Nobody is Perfect.  Perhaps we shouldn’t be looking for perfection, maybe we should just settle for doing the right thing!  

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Chatting Around With...Lonnie Smith

Quickly, name the Top 4 players who made their Major League Baseball debut in 1978…At the time, the biggest name that year was 3rd baseman Bob Horner, straight out of Arizona State University and into the Atlanta Braves starting lineup.  There’s Ozzie Smith, future HOFer and who started out with the San Diego Padres.  There’s Pedro Guerrero of the Los Angeles Dodgers and how about Lonnie Smith…who came up with the Philadelphia Phillies at the age of 22.  A first round pick in 1974, Lonnie Smith’s first appearance in a game was September 2, 1978 against the San Francisco Giants, (he came in as a pinch runner for Bull Luzinski), and his career ended 17 years later with the Baltimore Orioles. 

In between, Lonnie played in 5 World Series, and in 1980, he helped bring the crown to The City of Brotherly Love for the first time.  In the '82 Series, Smith batted .321 with the St. Louis Cardinals and the Cards beat the Brew Crew (Milwaukee Brewers) in 7 games.  He was back again in 1985 and this time Lonnie Smith was facing the St.Louis Cardinals as a member of the Kansas City Royals.  Smith batted .333 and help Kansas City take the title.  Smith was back again in The Fall Classic with Atlanta Braves in 1991 against the Minnesota Twins and tasted defeat for the first time as the Twins beat the Braves in 7 games.  Although Smith led the Braves with 3 home runs in The World Series, he will forever be remembered for his base running blunder in the 8th inning of Game 7 with the score tied 0-0 that cost the Braves the Championship.  (The Twins behind an outstanding pitching performance by Jack Morris, won the game and the Series in the 10th inning, 1-0.)  The following year, Lonnie and the Braves lost again in the World Series, this time against the Toronto Blue Jays in six games.  

I caught up with “Skates,” (a nickname given to Smith for his inability to keep his footing when running around the bases), recently and chatted around with him about some random topics…the results are as follows:

Around The Horn: Toughest Pitcher you ever faced…

Funny, people would think, a flame thrower…Like Nolan Ryan.  Well, I hit Nolan Ryan.  He only struck me out once.  Toughest guys for me to hit…Charlie Leibrandt, Greg Maddux…guys who mixed things up and could hit the corners.  Those guys kept me off balance.  Now, I’m not saying Nolan Ryan was a piece of cake…When he got the ball up, he was unhittable.    Oh, and I better not forget Dennis Eckersley…That was another guy that gave me a tough time.  His motion, and he could bring it – he was deceptively fast.

Ryan didn’t like guys that crowded the plate…he hated it.  He came at you inside…I remember Tim Johnson – he hit him, and took a chunk of meat off. 

ATH: What about Tom Seaver…

I faced Seaver late in his career…so I didn’t get his best stuff.  But he kept you off balance and he kept the ball low.  I would compare him to Maddux. (Greg Maddux)

I will tell you – I am not so sure those radar guns today are accurate.  I mean you got guys throwing 95…98…100…and hitters are pulling those guys…I mean cmon.  I will tell you, I couldn’t imagine facing guys like Gibson, Seaver in their prime…

ATH: Talk about Jack Morris, the Twins Ace, who beat the Braves in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series (Lonnie played left field for the Braves) …

He was good – good movement.  Would spot the ball from corner to corner…But I did well off of Morris.  The thing I liked about Morris – I could steal off of him.  He had such a deliberate motion…I could always get a good job off of Morris.  Funny, one time, Kirk Gibson ran up to me and said…"Lonnie, you love when you face Morris don’t you…cause when you get on first, it’s a matter of time before you steal second."

ATH:  You played for Bobby Cox and the Atlanta Braves from '88 to ' was it playing for Cox...

Playing for Bobby Cox was good – first of all, Bobby and the Braves organization gave me a second chance after my issues with the Royals put me on the Black List.  Bobby’s style was – I am going to let you play.  If you play well, you continue to play…if you don’t, I am going to bench you.  Simple as that. 

ATH: And your time with the Cardinals…

I really enjoyed my time in St.Louis, (1982 - 1985) – in fact, I was real upset when I got traded. (Smith was traded to Kansas City after playing 28 games for the Cardinals in 1985.)  I really liked it there – I had a good group of guys on that team.  Oberkfell, Hendrick, Herr, Porter, McGee, Ozzie…Whitey was our manager.  I mainly batted leadoff, but when I was in a grove…Whitey put me in the 3rd spot. 

ATH:  What are your thoughts about how things are going in New York with Posada, Jeter, and all the drama about their playing time and how they are being treated…

It’s tough when you are at the end of your career…but you should see it coming.  I mean, late in my career, I saw the writing on the wall in Spring Training…I was getting less and less at bats – I think it was 20 atbats and I knew I wasn’t going to be starting that year. 

If you know about it early in the season, I think it is easier – I think then, you have time to prepare.  It is tough – no one wants to be told that they can’t do it anymore. Nobody!