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Proud To Be A Badger & Remembrances of Roland Hemond and Kenneth Moffett + Whither The Mets?

I must admit I didn't know what a "libero" was until I got wrapped up in the University of Wisconsin's stirring rise to their first women's volleyball championship last weekend.  I now know that a libero is the rearmost roaming defensive player in both volleyball & soccer. 

 

Undefeated Louisville and perennial contender Nebraska provided stiff competition for my Badgers in the Final Four. But behind a 6' 8" and 6' 9" front line of senior Dana Rettke and first-year Anna Smrek (daughter of a 1980s-backup-LA Laker champion), Wisconsin won the title in a five-set thriller.

 

"We try to practice gratitude," head coach Kelly Sheffield said during the week leading up to the tourney. "And it's really tough when you're in a grind." But he stressed the importance of appreciating the advantages players have -  competing in a sport they love with teammates who may be friends forever for a truly supportive Madison community.

 

Wisconsin has been blessed with a lot of inspirational leaders and well-chosen psychologists. "If consistency were an island, it would be lightly populated," current basketball coach Greg Gard cited one such thinker last year.

 

Nearly ten years ago, Gard's predecessor Bo Ryan explained how the Badgers overcame a late game deficit to win in Columbus:  "You measure people by what it takes to discourage them."

 

BTW So far this season, the Badgers are a pleasant surprise with a 9-2 overall record and 1-1 in the Big Ten.  How Covid affects the rest of the season is still an unknown but I'm looking forward to more great play from sophomore sensation Johnny Davis.  He has to shine for the team to have a chance at contention in the maelstrom/moshpit known as  B1G basketball.

 

A shoutout is also in order for Badger backup center Chris Vogt from Mayfield, Kentucky.

He not only contributed to two recent wins including the erasure of a 22-point deficit

against Indiana.  But more importantly he has spearheaded relief work in his home town that was devastated by the recent tornados.  His GoFundMe page reportedly raised nearly

$200,000. 

 

Today's last word on Badger exploits goes to National Women's Volleyball Player of Year Dana Rettke who explained the team's success this way:  They have learned to live "in the precious present . . . taking one point at a time and being where our feet are."  Reminds me of the old baseball scout who said that 87% of baseball was played beneath the waist. 

 

IN REMEMBRANCE:

ROLAND HEMOND, 92, who passed away in Arizona on Dec 12. From the age of 10 he was steadily employed in baseball and ultimately won three executive of the year awards. Yet Roland never forgot his roots as a hot dog and soda vendor.

 

His first front office job was as a typist for the Boston Braves.  "I always call him Henry Louis Aaron because that is the name I typed on his form," he once quipped.

 

In this age of impersonal uber-analytics, his kind will never be replicated.  But he must be remembered for his kindness and understanding that the human touch is vital in a sport where someone must lose every day.

 

KENNETH MOFFETT, 90, in Alexandria, Virginia, on Nov 19.  He was the federal mediator in baseball's 1981 strike. After that season, he briefly replaced retiring MLB players union leader Marvin Miller but he was considered too accommodating to owners' interests. 

 

In his less than a year of heading the MLBPA, Moffett and Lee MacPhail, his labor relations counterpart on the management side, hoped to work out a joint drug abuse program. It was not to be.   

 

Moffett moved on to work for the NABET union (of broadcast employees and technicians) and stayed with them when they merged with CWA, the Communication Workers of America.)  I'm glad he was remembered well in Wash Post and NY Times obits.

 

He loved the game of baseball and once coached in youth ball former Oriole Baby Bird southpaw Steve Barber.  He was an avid runner. 

 

   

Maybe early in the new year, there will be a breakthrough to end baseball's latest exercise in labor relations brinksmanship.  All the field managerial positions have been filled now that  Buck Showalter, 65, is taking over the Mets, and former MLB outfielder Mark Kotsay, 46, will lead the Oakland Athletics.

 

Being media savvy is essential for high positions in today's sports so I am sure both men will impress in their introduction to the public. 

 

Whether they can lead the players to the playoffs is another question.  The A's might be headed to Las Vegas in the relatively near future and they could be on the verge of a fire

sale.  

 

As the Yankees manager pre-Joe Torre, Showalter, of course, is a known commodity to the New York market. He has been a TV commentator so he will obviously be more fluent than the previous Mets rookie managers Mickey Callaway and Luis Rojas.  (Carlos Beltran never got to manage even one game because of his role as a player in the Houston sign-stealing scandal).

 

It will be very interesting to see who Buck names as his coaches.  He inherits the former Mets journeyman pitcher Jeremy Hefner as his pitching coach.  

 

Sure hope Jeremy and Buck are on the same page. The trend in baseball, however, is for pitching coaches to be hired by front offices not the manager.  

 

And people wonder why games are so long? "See the ball, hit the ball" has been replaced by pumping the latest analytics into pitchers while batters are gearing up for the proper hand position for maximum launch angle and exit velocity.   

 

More Mets questions:  Can the two horses at the top of the rotation, $43 million a year man Max Scherzer and oft-injured Jacob DeGrom, deliver full-seasons? What kind of year will erratic closer Edwin Diaz provide?  Which Francisco Lindor will show up - the Cleveland star or last year's washout?

 

Very interesting questions all and many more. As a fan of the Woerioles, who just before the lockout lavished $7 million a year on Jordan Lyles, one of the most ineffective pitchers in recent history who is penciled in as a number 2 starter, I guess I'd like to have the Mets' problems.

 

That's all for now!  There is reason to believe that if we don't panic, the latest Covid variant, amicron, might not be life-threatening and maybe even short-lived. So again stay positive, test negative, and take it easy but take it! l 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Reflections As I Prepare To Pack Up From 79 Wistful Vista

I like to have fun with my birthdays.  I turn 79 on June 27 so I've called my residence this year 79 Wistful Vista in memory of Fibber McGee and Molly (Jordan)'s radio residence.

 

The year before I was spinning through the year at 78 rpm and prior to that I was riding on 77 Sunset Strip.  

 

The wonderful jazz bassist Ray Drummond once told me that when you are 59, you are In The Park, Central Park.  

 

That means, starting June 27, I will be at the center of the Museum of National History on Central Park West, where Teddy Roosevelt's statue with his Indian guide is shortly being removed.

 

(I think it is a wise choice as long as the statue is not destroyed or vandalized. We can't ignore dark sides of our history by simply deploring them and removing them from sight.) 

 

I've spent many of my signature birthdays watching the Orioles.

At 40 I saw Jim Palmer pitch seven strong innings in a rout of the Tigers.  Storm Davis, hailed as a successor to Palmer, mopped up the last two innings.  He never panned out as a solid starter.

 

At 50 I saw the KC Royals Kevin Appier beat Mike Mussina in a pitcher's battle.  At 60 Jason Giambi, now with Yankees, unloaded two homers on Scott Erickson in another losing game.

 

At least, these games were competitive.There is nothing except expletives to say about the 2021 Orioles and the so-called "rebuild" of the current regime. I knew this team would be bad but didn't think they'd be so unwatchable.

 

So I share the solace of watching former Oriole Manny Machado lead the Padres to a sweep over the Dodgers. It was worth staying up to the wee hours of the East Coast on June 24. 

 

Manny hit an early homer, hustled out an infield single to set up the winning run in the bottom of the eighth, and made three outstanding plays at third in the late innings to save the win.

 

The play he didn't quite pull off was the best one.  Playing short right field in the shift, he almost made a sensational running catch near the foul pole. A full-extension dive on the warning track came up just short. 

 

At times Machado's behavior is concerning, almost punk-like. But he is a great talent along with the young Fernando Tatis Jr. and the onetime Michigan Wolverine Jake Cronenworth who make a great double-play combo (when the shift allows for a double play).

 

One cautionary note about the Padres.  Closer Mark Melancon, leading MLB with 23 saves, is on the edge of being overworked. They better not burn him out too early.

 

As summer begins, there are some great races in MLB which is good news.  Giants-Padres-Dodgers in NL West, no one except Miami out of the NL East race and ditto the NL Central except for the Pirates.

 

In the AL East, the Yankees and perhaps Blue Jays might yet challenge Red Sox and Rays.  The Houston-Oakland race in AL West should remain a good one with Seattle possibly hanging around.  

 

Only the White Sox seem in firm control of AL Central, especially now that most of Cleveland's pitching staff is injured.  But never count out manager Terry Francona's teams and their good player development staff.  

 

In one of the interesting stories so far in 2021, Amed Rosario, almost a throw-in the Francisco Lindor trade, is actually hitting better than Lindor and flashing the form that never developed when he was a Met. 

 

That's all for now. Always remember - take it easy but take it. 

 

 

 

 

 

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