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Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012

Sometimes You’re Thrown for a Loop

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Prince Fielder is in the World Series, but not the one Brewer fans wanted. And thanks to the Giants, Fielder can't give them a little vicarious revenge against the Cardinals for last October.

Frank: I just got back from seeing Looper, the time-travel movie set in 2044.

Artie
: I'll bet in 2044 the Brewers will still be signing the Braden Loopers of baseball and the Yankees will still have the highest payroll.

Frank
: Fat lot it helped my Yanks in their meltdown against Detroit.

Artie
: They could have used a Looper or two pitching for the Tigers.

Frank
: Or a time loop to bring back their regular-season selves, who led the majors in homers and were second in runs and on-base percentage.

Artie
: If it's any consolation, in a Cardinals-Yankees World Series I'd have donned pinstripes.

Frank
: Seeing Fielder catching the final Yankee popup, Brewer fans probably wished they'd looped back a year and were watching him finish a different League Championship Series.

Artie
: At Miller Park, closing out the Redbirds. It should have happened!

Frank
: Alas, the 2011 Brewers were displaced by the poor-pitching, bad-fielding bunch who played those last two NLCS games. And a re-loop gave the Cardinals a shot at a second straight title as a wild card.

Artie
: Thanks. Giants, for squelching that! If it had been Cardinals-Tigers I'd have hoped for a loop back to 1968, when Detroit came from 3-1 down to beat Bob Gibson's bunch. What a job by Mickey Lolich, Willie Horton, Al Kaline...

Frank
: Did you spot Mr. Kaline in the dugout during the Tigers' ALCS celebration?

Artie
: He looks great! He's almost as old as Livan Hernandez but in a lot better shape.

Frank
: Now the Giants have emulated the '68 Tigers and roared past St. Louis. They even surpassed '68 because they also had to win three straight against Cincinnati!

Artie
: I'm with the Giants all the way, because when we were growing up San Fran was the team of Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal and Orlando Cepeda. Back then it was actually a tossup whether my favorite team was the hometown Braves or the Giants.

Frank
: So you're not pulling for Prince?

Artie
: The Large One is wearing the wrong tent, er, uniform. And he's only hitting .211 for this post-season. It'll be tough to find his bat against the Giants' pitching; even the 2002 Cy Young version of Barry Zito seems to have looped in.

Frank
: A half-dozen Yankees would have killed for .211.

Artie
: Especially A-Clod. Good luck finding somewhere to dump him! But it wasn't just Yankee ineptitude; Detroit's pitching was awesome. Not only Justin Verlander and the other starters; the bullpen led by ex-Yankee Phil Coke made up for the funk Jose Valverde fell into.

Frank
: Yet the Tigers had to battle hard to reach the playoffs as a division champion with only 88 wins—same as the wild-Cards. It's more proof that the post-season is all about who gets hot.

Artie
: And who cools off suddenly, like the Brewers for two games last year and the Yankees for four this time. And now the Cardinals for three! One comforting thing about their return to the NLCS was that it happened with a rookie manager, Mike Matheny. Maybe Tony La Russa's "genius" wasn't so indispensable.

Frank
: I would have enjoyed your company rooting for the Yankees against St. Louis.

Artie
: I swore off the Cardinals in 1982 when they beat the Brew Crew, but I did root for them once, in '64, when they won in seven over....

Frank
: Ugh. Don't send me back to that time.

 

‘Stuff’ Happens, And Not All Good

Frank: College basketball is getting close, but before we get into predictions, I have a few comments about the Marquette program.

Artie
: In August, MU suspended coach Buzz Williams for the first Big East game and fired one of his assistants, Scott Monarch, because of a recruiting violation.

Frank
: The deed seemed minor; providing team-issued apparel and transportation to a prospective recruit. But MU said Monarch initially “provided misleading information... multiple times."

Artie
: In other words, he lied.

Frank
: MU's self-imposed punishments indicate the school was trying to head off NCAA sanctions. And I think the MU administration is concerned about... let's call it the amount of negative “stuff” that's happened in Williams' program. Stuff that can't have pleased alumni.

Artie
: Alumni such as you.

Frank
: I'm not as devoted as I was when I cheered for Al McGuire's Warriors, but I want the program to maintain its national reputation.

Artie
: And you see that threatened?

Frank
: Let's review the "stuff." Last year it was learned that there were allegations of sexual assault involving MU athletes in October 2010 and February 2011.

Artie
: The four accused athletes were never publicly identified, ain’a?

Frank
: My former MU roommate, who monitors the “chat rooms” involving MU athletics, says it's generally believed they were basketball players. And when MU addressed the allegations, it made sure Williams met with the press.

Artie
: Circumstantial evidence, but significant.

Frank
: Marquette admitted it violated state law by not reporting the allegations to police. And MU became the subject of an investigation under the federal disclosure law that was involved in the Penn State sexual-abuse scandal.

Artie
: We said at the time that Penn State and MU seemed most concerned about limiting negative publicity.

Frank
: The institution took precedence over individuals.

Artie
: The MU athletic director, Steve Cottingham, resigned in June of ’11, ostensibly to “pursue other interests.”

Frank
: The university president, Father Robert Wild, also stepped down last year, although he'd announced his plans in 2010. Father Scott Pilarz took over about a year ago, and in January Larry Williams became the AD.

Artie
: It's a given that they came in determined to prevent any more scandal.

Frank
: And there hasn't been anything comparable to 2011. But there's been more “stuff.” Last spring it was disclosed that six MU players were involved in a January altercation at a Milwaukee nightclub and were ticketed for being underage.

Artie
: Underage drinking is not a rare thing, but it ain't something you want your most visible students doing.

Frank
: In June, guard Todd Mayo was suspended indefinitely, but Williams didn't say why. He apparently was reinstated recently. And then there was the Monarch stuff.

Artie
: One of the nightclub guys was Vander Blue. Wasn't he in some other trouble?

Frank
: Last year Blue pleaded no-contest to a municipal citation of disorderly conduct. He was accused of punching a man outside a campus-area restaurant in October 2010.

Artie
: Again, not earth-shaking, but not good.

Frank
: Back to the self-imposed penalties in the Monarch matter. I think the new president and AD were sending a message not just to the public, but to the coach.

Artie
: Which was?

Frank
: Something like, “Buzz, you've been a successful coach and a popular ambassador for the university. But we won't tolerate any more of the misbehavior that's been happening.”

Artie
: Popular is right. The guy's 96-45 since taking over in ’08, when Tom Crean ditched MU for Indiana, and his guys have reached the last two NCAA Sweet Sixteens.

Frank
: And Williams has done well financially. The Journal Sentinel reported that he made more than $1.7 million in the year ending June 30, 2011. And in the previous year he got a bonus of almost $2 million “for retention purposes.”

Artie
: To keep him from bolting like Crean. Williams' name often comes up when a major school needs a coach. Like Crean, he's profited from that. It's how the game is played.

Frank
: I'm not saying Williams is a bad guy. But as an MU alum, I'm not happy that the basketball coach makes what must be many times more than the highest-paid professor. And I think the $2 million bonus showed misplaced priorities. Is MU a school with a basketball program or vice versa?

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