Thursday, July 12, 2012

What Would be Justice for Penn State?

The late Joe Paterno, former Penn State President Graham Spanier, and former Athletic Directors Tim Curley and Gary Schultz have all been accused of a cover-up that allowed Jerry Sandusky to prey on young boys, in order to preserve the reputations of the school and the football program. In other words, these high-ranking Penn State officials put PR ahead of the safety of children.

Sandusky has already met Justice. And Paterno has already met his Maker. Paterno's legacy is tarnished in the eyes of most people. Only a few Penn State cultists cling to the idea of JoePa as a great man. Some of the other PSU officials involved will likely face perjury charges. It will also be quite difficult for them to find a job at another school.

What about the program, though? What would constitute Justice for the football team that was placed on so high a pedestal that pedophilia was ignored?

Some have suggested the "Death Penalty," which would ban the existence of the team for a period of time. SMU received the "Death Penalty" when their rampant compensation for athletes was revealed. And surely this is worse than any NCAA violation.

That's a bit harsh to me. Not that I don't like the idea of being harsh to PSU, but I prefer a punishment that doesn't allow Penn State any sympathy. I can already see ESPN lauding Penn State's inevitable recovery from the "Death Penalty," with stories about the resiliency of the institution.

The "Death Penalty" would also be over too quickly. It's a very harsh punishment but it only lasts 1 or 2 years, I prefer a punishment that lingers on. Just as Sandusky was allowed to linger at Penn State.

The "Death Penalty" would not destroy Penn State football. The program would return to prominence shortly after it was born again. It's in a top league, has good facilities, has history, is nationally prominent, and is in a good geographic location for recruiting. It would be a premier program shortly after resurrection.

Instead, Penn State football should be banned from post-season play. No bowl games. No Big Ten title game. For at least 5 seasons.

They should have their scholarship limit severely reduced. From 85 to 50 (or fewer), for 6 years. After that, they should be allowed only 70 scholarships for 4 years.

All current players would be given the option to transfer.

What I would like to see is an extended period of Penn State football being a second-tier team. I want to see them lose recruits to Miami (Ohio). I want to see them get blown out by Northwestern.

I want to see the program that Paterno, Spanier, Curley, and Schultz tried to preserve reduced to mediocrity. I want their efforts to protect Penn State football to wind up hurting Penn State football.

That would be Justice.

Rob Gronkowski Goes Deep

The AAA All-Star Game was held in Buffalo this week (as if you didn't already know that), and Rob Gronkowski participated in the celebrity HR Derby out there. He more than participated. He won. Gronk hit a total of 12 homers over the significantly-closer-than-the-normal-wall celebrity wall. He beat the likes of the Bills' Fred Jackson, Sabres' forward Patrick Kaleta, and QB legend Jim Kelly.

Gronkowski was born in Amherst, NY, a town only 10 miles from downtown Buffalo. However, the Patriots' tight-end was greeted with some light booing as he stepped to the plate. His performance eventually won the crowd over, especially this blast, which was an actual homerun over the permanent outfield fence.

Belichick does indeed like players who can play multiple positions or multiple sports.

But while demonstrating his baseball skills, he seemed to forget how to catch, which is kind of an important thing for a tight-end to do.

The Red Sox Have the Worst Doctors in Boston

When the Red Sox resume their 2012 campaign in St. Petersburg this weekend, they'll welcome back a pair of key players from the Disabled List: Jacoby Ellsbury and Clay Buchholz. Will Middlebrooks is also likely to return to the lineup.

That's not a bad way to start the second half of a season. Ellsbury will bolster the Sox lineup, and perhaps bring more consistency to the team's offensive production. Buchholz was pitching very well until his esophagus flared up. He was 4-0 with a 2.40 ERA in June. And Middlebrooks' .538 slugging percentage is second on the Sox roster, behind only David Ortiz.

So that's great news on the injury front.

However, I've decided to take all injury news regarding Red Sox players with a grain of salt. Daisuke Matsuzaka's neck problems, and the way the Sox handled his rehab and return to the Majors, have raised some serious concerns.

The City of Boston is home to some of the best doctors and medical facilities in the world. So why does the local baseball team have so many confusing medical foul-ups?

Daisuke's trapezius issue is the latest in a pattern of missed diagnoses and failed rehabilitation strategies.

During spring training and while rehabbing in Pawtucket, Matsuzaka repeatedly experienced soreness in his neck. He was given two cortisone injections. At one point during his rehab he was shutdown. Then he resumed throwing after a shot, claimed he was fine, and the Red Sox brought him back to the Majors.

This was despite the fact that his rehab outings weren't very good. Especially for a Major Leaguer facing AAA talent.

He seemed fine once he returned, although he had difficulty pitching well in the 1st inning. In other words, he struggled to warm-up.

Before his latest start in Oakland, he was unable to throw a bullpen session due to stiffness in the neck. He was still allowed to start the game. Disaster ensued. Now he's back to the DL.

With injuries, the Sox consistently seem to do two things:

1. Allow players to convince medical personnel that they're okay.
2. Return players from injury as quickly as possible (which perhaps explains #1), even if there still might be an unhealed issue.

Daisuke said he was healthy and ready to pitch. And the Sox listened. Because it's exactly what the Sox wanted him to say. They want their players back out there ASAP.

Jacoby Ellsbury in 2010 is the most extreme example of a player rushed to return to the lineup. The Sox wanted Ellsbury back in the lineup as quickly as possible, so they never considered any reasons to not re-activate him. He spent the year with recurring injuries that were never properly healed.

Earlier this season, Dustin Pedroia injured his thumb. It seemed as though the DL was a last resort option. Pedroia was eager to return to the lineup, and the Red Sox allowed him to do so. He only missed 6 games. He struggled for a month until the team started to question if something was still wrong. And now he's on the DL.

Had he been placed on the DL back in May, he might be healed and completely ready to play by now.

I don't think the Red Sox have incompetent doctors working for them. But I do think those doctors operate with a certain goal in mind. Instead of needing absolute proof that a player is healthy, they'll let the player play so long as there's no obvious sign of injury. They'll ignore things like Daisuke struggling to warm-up, or Pedroia struggling to hit.

They let Ellsbury return even when his ribs needed more healing. They let Daisuke rehab even when his neck is stiff. They let Pedroia play after tearing a muscle in his thumb. Even when that was re-aggravated last week, manager Bobby Valentine declared Pedroia's thumb was "Not really hurt. I just think he needs these two days, and so does he... He's a little stiff here and there."

Pedroia was eventually placed on the DL. Thankfully Bobby V is not a doctor (I don't think so anyway).

So Ellsbury, Buchholz, and Middlebrooks are returning. Hopefully they're returning at the appropriate time, and haven't been rushed back to the lineup.