OBSERVATIONS: Are pitchers coddled during spring training?

By Hal McCoy

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave after watching Saint Peter’s arrive at the pearly gates of college basketball.

—We old geezers remember the cartoon-page characters Mutt Jeff. . .the very tall Mutt and the very short Jeff.

On Opening Day of spring exhibition games, the Cincinnati Reds started two Mutts against the Cleveland – – – – dians — Nick Lodolo and Brandon Williamson, both 6-foot-6 and both left handed.

Lodolo, a Reds product, was noteworthy with two perfect innings and four strikeouts.

Williamson, part of the trade that sent Jesse Winker and Eugenio Suarez to Seattle, not so much. In 1 2/3 innings he gave up a run, two hits, walked two and struck out one. again.

The Reds lost the mean-nothing game, 2-1, but won their next two, then lost

After all the payroll dumping, the Reds’ current payroll is $90.3 million. And are you ready for this? Cleveland’s payroll is $35.5 million. While baseball can’t get a salary cap, why can’t they get a minimum cap. . .a salary level that no team can go below?

—How times have changed. On Sunday, Reds pitcher Tyler Mahle started against Oakland and pitched one scoreless inning and was lifted. One inning.

Former Reds general manager Murray Cook, who used to run me ragged on a tennis court and whip my posterior, recalls that Hall of Fame pitcher Warren Spahn once pitched a nine-inning complete game. . .on his first spring training exhibition appearance.

And a deep bow for Max Scherzer. He made his New York Mets debut this week and pitched five innings, which is unheard of in these days of coddle the pitchers.

—QUOTE: From Warren Spahn, who faced Willie Mays 253 times and gave up 18 home runs, including one the first time they faced: “I’ll never forgive myself. We might have gotten rid of Willie forever if I’d only struck him out.”

—The 8.2 Richter Scale earthquake named Saint Peter’s that swallowed Kentucky in a crevice reminded Orange County Register columnist Mark Whicker of another Saint Peter’s team.

I should have remembered, too, because I was there. It was the 1968 NIT in Madison Square Garden.

Saint Peter’s defeated Duke in the quarterfinals, 100-68. After the game, Duke coach Vic Bubas said, “I thought Saint Peter’s was a church.” Right now, it is. . .The Father, The Son and The Holy Smoke.

Why was I there? Well, Kansas beat St. Peter’s in the semifinals and in the finals played. . .the University of Dayton. I was witness to a Don May-led UD 60-48 victory over Kansas.

—QUOTE: From legendary Duke coach Vic Bubas, who had to fix the broken parts on his team after Saint Peter’s tore them loose: “I don’t believe in the statement that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. If that were the case, then Cadillac, Jaguar and Mercedes would never make a change.” (You can be certain ol’ Vic never drove a Ford or a Chevy.)

—Kentucky coach John Calipari always has some way-out-there quotes after his team loses, and he didn’t disappoint after his team’s catastrophic loss to Saint Peter’s in the first round of the NCAA.

“I took guys out of the game because they wouldn’t shoot the ball. I did that about three times,” he said. “If you don’t shoot it, I’m taking you out. They wouldn’t shoot, I had to take them out. I don’t care if you make it.” (It is hard to imagine any UK players suffering stage fright against little ol’ Saint Peter’s, a 2,355-student school tucked away in Jersey City, N.J, a school that once closed for a few years for a lack of students.)

—Ohio State managed to beat Loyola Chicago, 54-41 in the NCAA’s first round despite making 1 of 15 from the three-point line. For the mathematically challenged (I used a calculator), that’s 6.7%. Uh, 1 for 15? Given the chance, 102-year-old Sister Jean, Loyola’s biggest fan, could do better than that.

—From Fort Worth Star-Telegram sports columnist Mac Engel: What do North Carolina, Baylor and Kansas have in common. . .other than they were three of the four basketball teams to make the second round of the NCAA regionals in Fort Worth?

All three have received notices of infractions from the NCAA for various ‘indiscretions.’

In 2016 North Carolina was informed it was under investigation for academic fraud. In 2018 Baylor was informed it was under investigation for lack of institutional control involving the football team’s alleged sexual assaults. In 2019, Kansas was informed that coach Bill Self and an assistant were under investigation in connection with Adidas for blatant disregard of NCAA by-laws.

As Engel said, nothing will come of any of it from the toothless NCAA, which stands for No Control At All.

—QUOTE: From Iona basketball coach Rick Pitino, fired by the University of Louisville after the NCAA sanctioned the school: “Personally, I’ve lost faith in the NCAA.”

—There is an NFL quarterback who, when he suits up this year, will have played for 14 different NFL teams in 14 years — never as a full-time starter.

The teams: Tampa Bay, Cleveland (of course), Cincinnati, Washington, New York Giants, New York Jets, Baltimore, San Francisco, Houston, Detroit, Buffalo, Oakland, Indianapolis and Denver. In addition he played for the Sacramento Mountain Lions of the UFL, San Diego Fleet of the AAF and the Los Angeles Wildcats of the XFL.

His name is Josh Johnson and he just signed up to be Russell Wilson’s back-up for the Denver Broncos.

Can he play? He played for two teams last season. In Week 9, he hit 27 of 41 passes for 317 yards and three touchdowns for the Jets. In Week 16, he completed 25 of 45 passes for 304 yards and two touchdowns for the Ravens.

His motto: Have Arm, Will Travel. . .and his suitcase has more travel stickers on it than Marco Polo, who was the world’s leading ground gainer.

—The worst changes in collegiate athletics over the last 25 years are the transfer portal and the NIL (name, image, likeness).

The transfer portal enables athletes to become mercenaries and some ‘student-athletes’ play at three or four different schools, changing uniform colors like a chameleon.

The NIL was designed to give athletes some pocket change and enough money to buy a clunker car.

Talk about getting out of hand. A kid who has not yet attended his high school junior prom signed a contract that could pay him $8 million during his collegiate career.

‘The Athletic’ saw the contract drafted by California attorney Mike Caspino. The kid’s name and the school he will attend are being withheld, but one can guess he is a quarterback from California.

The $8 million comes from a school’s boosters, called a collective. None of the money, of course, comes from the school because that would be an NCAA violations., . .nod, nod, wink, wink.

—Sometimes those guys in the desert suffer mirages and get it wrong. Real wrong Las Vegas had the Notre Dame women 1 1/2-point underdogs for an NCAA game at Oklahoma.

Not only did the Irish win by 44, they scored 108. I tuned in to watch Kettering Fairmont grad Maddy Westbeld, a 6-foot-3 sophomore for the Irish. Saw her score 13 in 26 minutes and saw a rainstorm of three-pointers drench Oklahoma. The Irish made 10 of 25 (40%).

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