I was pretty hyped up to take a little vacation up to the Lake Erie Islands this week. We booked the room, made our plans, and were spending last weekend getting packed and ready to head out when I realized that I was going to miss a lot. I’ve cobbled together a timeline of my weekend and some of the sports drama that I knew was unfolding from stealing glances at my smartphone on the ferry or in between frosty cold ones.
Monday mornings without work were put on Earth for sleeping in, and this particular Monday was no different. I spent the morning driving north to Sandusky to roam around a bit and hop on the Jet Express to Kelley’s Island. Monday morning was also the NCAA press conference that was pretty much just NCAA President Mark Emmert standing Penn State up just to knock it down again.
By now we all know the penalties by now – four year bowl ban, $60 million in fines, 20 scholarships taken away, and 112 victories vacated – but none of us really have a handle on what the fallout from all of this is going to be. There are two things I know; that Penn State will recover from these sanctions, and also that the recovery is going to depend on current coach Bill O’Brien and how much faith the current recruits have in him to put them in a winning position without the promise of bowl games.
O’Brien has to keep these players convinced that they can still compete enough on a game by game basis to adequately showcase their talents to prospective NFL scouts and agents. I’d like to preach about the sanctity of being a student athlete and what it means to play for a traditional institution, but the reality is that players that will make the program money are also the players that are looking after their financial futures. If O’Brien can manage that, and by all accounts he’s handling this very well, then the program will survive this bowl ban and come out on the other end in a decent position. There will certainly be fallout and recruiting trouble, but making even one of the meaningless bowl games in the 2016 season would be a goal that I believe can be attained.
The other half of the Penn State sanctions story is picking a bandwagon to ride on. Do I think the NCAA went too far, or do I think they went far enough? Honestly, I’m okay with what happened. Like I said, I don’t think this will cripple the program forever, but it sure is going to sting. Making the current players play under these sanctions is very unfortunate collateral damage, but it’s the same collateral damage that happens to the players of every school that gets sanctioned for anything. There are innocent coaches and players getting punished all over the college football landscape for indiscretions from the program whose flag they play or coach under.
As far as erasing 112 of Joe Paterno’s wins from the record books, I’m fine with that, too. So sorry, Joe. Your name has been removed from the marquee for turning your head for 14 years.
Monday and Tuesday Night
These nights were pretty much all the same for me. Great times on Kelley’s Island and Put-in-Bay. We ate awesome food, drank over-priced beer, and I totally let my fiancé beat me at mini-golf. Each night was a ferry ride back to the mainland to catch Sportscenter and Baseball Tonight on ESPN at the hotel. The Cleveland Indians won Monday and Tuesday to stop a four game losing streak, but the team has fallen out of contention in the American League Central.
The problem is simple, yet largely overlooked. The Cleveland Indians cannot score. Even after a 5-3 win over the Detroit Tigers, the Indians have gone the last eight games scoring 17 runs combined. Everyone says that pitching wins championships, but a team that goes through a pivotal stretch scoring less than two runs per game won’t get you to the playoffs where a championship can be won.
To put the Indians scoring woes into perspective as they relate to contending for the playoffs, I offer you this little tidbit: If the Indians starting rotation were Jered Weaver, Chris Sale, Justin Verlander, David Price, and Felix Hernandez the staff’s combined ERA would be 2.48. Since the Tribe are only scoring 2.125 runs per game during the last eight games, Cleveland would statistically be underdogs in every game.
It gets worse when you back away from this latest stretch of ineptitude and look at the whole season. Even when the team is pitching well, the Indians are right on the league average, only scoring 4.34 runs per game. Unfortunately, they’re not usually pitching well. The staff’s 4.49 ERA is sixth worst in the league, and if it wasn’t for Chris Perez and his 28 saves and setup man Vinnie Pestano stealing the show, the Tribe’s arms would just another heaping pile of disappointment.
I’m not saying that there hasn’t been flashes of brilliance, or that I won’t be rooting my tan-lined behind off for the Indians to make a run and snag the division, but let’s be brutally honest for a moment. These players have to play much better and much more consistently if the Indians are going to make this What If ad campaign mean anything. There aren’t going to be any big blockbuster trades and Roberto Hernandez isn’t going to save the rotation with his career 4.59 ERA (would be smack dab in the middle of the current crop of Tribe starters).
On the bright side, I bet there’s a statue in Pennsylvania that the Indians could get for cheap to put up instead of the Jim Thome shrine.