My last post introduced a new nickname for yours truly, The Prince of Paranoia, courtesy of eminent Baltimore sportswriter Jim Henneman whose name will be affixed permanently upon the Oriole Park at Camden Yards press box.
When word came last Thursday on the first day of pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training that two key Oriole pitchers, Kyle Bradish and John Means, will start the season on the injured list, my gulp could be heard most of the way to Sarasota.
Bradish had a breakout 2023 and would likely be the number two starter behind newly-acquired Corbin Burnes. Kyle has now been diagnosed with an UCL sprain (ulnar collateral ligament) that often leads to Tommy John surgery. Means has still not recovered fully from his TJ surgery two years ago.
There is also news of the stress fracture in throwing elbow of Samuel Basallo, the Dominican catcher-first baseman who is not yet 20 years old. He is not expected to make the team this year, but he won't be playing in the field until later in the season. Throw in a fourth, supposedly minor injury, the aching oblique of Gunnar Henderson the 2023 AL Rookie of the Year, and all those "experts" picking the Orioles for the World Series should be taking a step back.
It helps me to recall a great adage, "Every season is different". Last year's record means next to nothing in a new season. Nothing really counts for the Birds until March 28 when their regular season begins against the Ohtani-less LA Angels. The Padres and Dodgers start 8 days earlier in Korea as part of the international "grow the game" philosophy that the owners and Players Association seemingly agree is a good idea.
I still pledge that the Prince of Paranoia won't really get rolling until the games actually count. And now I'm introducing a more benign nickname,
Captain Culture. This was bestowed upon me decades ago by a colleague at UMBC (University of Maryland Baltimore County), the late philosophy professor and world educator Thomas Luther "Tom" Benson.
There is nothing like the arts opportunities in my overpopulated but very stimulating home town. About a week ago, Captain Culture was enthralled by a delightful NY City Ballet rehearsal of Jerome Robbins 1956 satirical ballet, "The Concert."
It takes great talent to deliberately make mistakes in any art and this piece spoofs the inability of certain dancers to make the correct hand gestures and leg kicks. Adding to the hilarity is a dancing role for the pianist who plays wonderful Chopin throughout the piece but is hardly agile chasing with a net the dancers costumed as butterflies in the last scene.
There are two more chances to see "The Concert," aka "The Perils of Everybody," as part of the ballet program at the Koch Theatre in Lincoln Center:
Th Feb 22 at 730p
Th Feb 29 at 730p Info on tickets at nycb.com
I've always felt great athletes are like dancers in their grace, stamina, and technical prowess. Yesterday Su Feb 18, I saw on ESPNU one of the most intense basketball games I ever saw. The Columbia women's basketball team improved to 9-1 in the Ivy League with a grueling 71-63 victory at third-place Harvard (7-3).
I had never seen a game where no team led by more than 4 points until midway in the fourth quarter when Columbia finally got some breathing room. Outstanding team defense and balanced scoring were the keys to the victory with junior Cecelia Collins leading the Lions with 20 points, including six vital free throws in the last minutes. (Collins, a Scranton PA native, is one of the best advertisements for a wise use of the transfer portal - she previously played two seasons at Bucknell in Lewisburg PA.)
Columbia hosts the much-anticipated rematch with Princeton (10-0 in league, #25 in the nation) on Sat Feb 24 at 2p. It's the last regular season home game for the Lions but the Ivy League four-team post-season tournament will be held in the same Levien Gym from Mar 15-17. If you haven't seen Abbey Hsu, the senior sharpshooting guard who is in the running for Naismith Player of the year, don't miss these last chances. Ticket info at
Establishing a "winning culture" - the phrase du jour throughout all sports these days - is not easy, but Megan Griffith the youthful Columbia coach now in her 7th year, and her staff have done it. Everyone associated with the team contributes to a winning culture.
One of the nice touches this year was earlier this month when Noah Dayon, one of the team managers, sang an excellent no-frills acapella National Anthem before one of the games.
I was a manager of men's basketball for three years and never was asked to sing. Mercifully. But I did hit a 30-foot jump shot in coaches-managers game in the old University Gymasium and 30 years later a jump shot in a media game at Madison Square Garden.
One last word on Columbia sports - Brett Boretti's Columbia Lions open the home season very early this year because of unexpected cancellations.
Marist from Poughkeepsie NY visits for a four game series over the weekend of Mar 1 - with single games Mar 1 & 3 at 3P and twinbill Mar 2 at Noon.
Big Ivy League matchups come early this year - SaSu Mar 23 with Harvard and SaSu Mar 30 defending league champion Penn.
The news is not as good for my other favorite team the Wisconsin men's Badgers. They have lost 5 of their last 6 games and their seeding in both the post-season Big Ten tournament and the national tournament is plummeting.
It is hard to put a finger on one particular reason for the slide. I always think back to former coach Bo Ryan, who is on the ballot again for enshrinement in the Springfield (MA) Basketball Hall of Fame, who once said, "We judge our players by what it takes to discourage them."
It seems too many of the current Badgers can't put together consistent games. It will be up to current coach Greg Gard, Ryan's longtime assistant, to find the key to re-ignite a talented squad that looked so good and so deep in the first half of the season.
Although Gard's contract reportedly runs for three more years, Ohio State fired once-heralded coach Chris Holtmann after a loss last week to the Badgers in Madison. The Buckeyes responded with a win at home yesterday over national title contender Purdue.
I still am wary of quick fixes. But in this age of NIL funds for top talent at one end and the wide-open transfer portal for all players, it will take wise
leadership from administrators to navigate these new currents that were overdue but seem to border now on the chaotic.
In closing sad notes - RIP basketball coach Lefty Driesell, 92, died Feb 17. Brought top-notch basketball to the University of Maryland and earlier Davidson and later James Madison and Georgia State. His Basketball Hall of Fame acceptance speech was a classic.
RIP Don Gullett, 73, died Feb 14, outstanding southpaw with 109-50 career record. Only pitcher in MLB history to win four World Series in a row, two with one team (Reds 1975-76, Yankees 77-78). Injuries and illnesses curtailed career at age 31. Remained lifelong friend of Gene Bennett, the scout who signed him and projected his greatness from 7th grade on. I tell story of their heartwarming relationship in the Bennett chapter in my recent book BASEBALL'S ENDANGERED SPECIES (University of Nebraska Press).
That's all for now. Take it easy but take it, and stay positive, test negative.