Thinking out loud … and wondering if the Magic 8-Ball really knows all.
— As the Patriots roster now begins to take its shape for the upcoming season, keep this in mind: Injuries always play a factor. That’s why I find so-called roster projections from the media interesting. No one really knows what the coaches and front-office personnel ultimately will decide.
— Unless they’re like me, and they utilize their Magic 8-Ball, which always has been quick with a response in the past. I asked the 8-Ball what the Patriots roster was going to look like next week, and it replied, “My answer is no.” Makes perfect sense to me.
— So, any Tom Brady sightings in or around Gillette Stadium in the last 48 hours or so? Think the NFL might have some super-secret spies checking out the landscape to see if anyone is, um, taking liberties with the rules?
— Among the players already visited by “The Turk,” Terrance Knighton’s cut from the roster was a bit of a surprise from this corner. I do seem to recall, however, that when his signing appeared imminent, he wasn’t initially thrilled with becoming a “rotational player.”
— Knighton, according to the NFLPA and seconded by our friend and salary cap guru Miguel (his Twitter handle is @capspacev2), apparently did not earn any of his weight-based bonuses in his contract, either. Wonder if that came back to bite him, um, in the, um, you know?
— Barkevious Mingo brings badly needed depth to the linebacking corps, and if nothing else, also brings an automatic spellcheck every time I type his name.
— If you’re wondering about the guy who was flying around MetLife Stadium Thursday night against the New York Giants, Mingo’s story is a familiar refrain — underachieving, young veteran player looking for a clean start and new opportunity. This is how, more than just about anything else, the Patriots have built themselves into a dynastic franchise — identifying hungry players eager to make a name for themselves.
— Oh, and one more thing: They bring in players who also are in their final contractual years, as Mingo is. Make or break is a pretty good attitude to have on your side.
— Why does anyone have a problem with Jimmy Garoppolo not playing in the Giants game? Just because he needs “more work”? Says who? You? If he needed it, he would have been in there. Or In Bill Don’t You Trust Any Longer?
— Consider the players Jimmy G. will have at his disposal for Arizona. He’s never had them — all of them — available in his previous appearances. So, chillax.
— Colin Kaepernick’s decision to sit during the national anthem probably should have been a simple personal choice, without the pomp and circumstance that has come with it. However, it’s easy to criticize those who choose NOT to get involved in social or societal matters, so to that extent I admire his willingness to bring attention to what he perceives as an ongoing problem.
— But did anyone stop to think that his message might actually have had more of a positive impact instead of instant ridicule if he actually had been, shall we say, a hotter commodity on the field? It’s one thing for the Muhammad Alis of the world to stand up and be counted, because we’ll all notice a world champ.
— But for a team’s backup quarterback (and that’s what he is right now) to stir the drink? Doesn’t make the issue any less of a societal problem, but facts are facts. We all pay better attention to the games’ stars.
— Work on your own problems, Kaep. Then come back to us later with society’s problems, if you must. Or, at least come up with a better personal PR staff and listen to that group the next time you want to stir the pot.
— I asked my Magic 8-Ball what Kaepernick should do next. It replied, “Ask again later.” That’s a good answer.
— We’re another step closer to one of two things — the elimination of the NFL preseason altogether, or QBs wearing belts with flags on them (or skirts? Sorry, ladies) so they can’t be hit. Already, QBs and other players who can’t have contact wear red “non-contact” jerseys in practices.
— And then comes along the case of Vikings signal-caller Teddy Bridgewater, who ripped an ACL merely dropping back to pass in practice. Not a game, not a game, not a game. We’re talkin’ ‘bout practice. What’s next? Bubble-wrapping these guys?
— And still, Tim Tebow can’t get a job on a football field. So now he’s taking to baseball, holding his very open audition for scouts this week. He looks good, runs well and actually swings the bat OK, according to those who watched. But his throws? Let’s put it this way: He throws a football better. And we know how that’s worked out for him lately.
— The Magic 8-Ball had a different take on Tebow, when I asked if he would sign a pro baseball deal: “It is decidedly so.” Mark it down, you heard it here first.
— It’s still in our DNA to complain about the Red Sox around here. Blame the Curse of the Bambino, an 86-year title drought or just a simple willingness to challenge authority as we have in New England. So a simple tweet this week about the bullpen being bad was met with, “We’re only two games out,” as a response.
— Dammit, we’re getting too complacent around here. Where’s the fire? Where’s the passion? Just sayin’.
— Examining the positives, the play of Rick Porcello and Dustin Pedroia has been exceptional, and Pedey has not simply been on fire of late, he’s been torrid. Porcello is the de facto ace of the pitching staff, the first in the majors to 18 wins this year, and his signing has been (in retrospect) one of former GM Ben Cherington’s best moves.
— Pedroia? An 11-for-11 streak at the plate, just one hit away from tying a major league record this past week, tells you he’s got gas left in his tank.
— But the bullpen? For all of the positives that Dealer Dave Dombrowski has brought into recreating a contender in Boston after two last-place finishes, for the life of him he cannot seem to figure out bullpens. Add to this mix John Farrell’s repeated eighth-inning head-scratchers (Clay Buchholz in set-up? Really?) and you know things are tough when 87-year-old Koji Uehara is your savior.
— That is, when he’s healthy. Healthier, rather.
— Got this nugget from the Providence Journal’s Tim Britton this week: In their 13 August losses, the Red Sox led in the sixth inning or later in eight of those. If not for the bullpen’s ineptitude, the Sox might have matters under control in the AL East, instead of merely being “contenders.”
— Remember the first rule of baseball: You can never have enough good pitching. And yes, I also thought it was, “There’s no crying in baseball.” But I stand corrected.
— Asked how the Red Sox bullpen will finish out the year, the Magic 8-Ball said, “Don’t count on it.” Seriously. That’s what it said. I’m still laughing about it.
— Whatever happened to Jonathan Papelbon’s alleged Red Sox return? Man, he must really be bad if he can’t crack this pen.
— September call-ups, anyone? Yoan Moncada, with not even a dozen games at third base in the minors, gets thrown into the fire. What about outfielder Chris Marrero, who was named an International League All-Star, leading the Pawtucket Red Sox in hitting, home runs and RBIs? Cousin Deven, a shortstop and the Sox’ first-round pick in 2012, got the call, but no Chris when Friday’s call-ups were announced.
— Not for nuthin’, but Chris Marrero was an IL All-Star in July and was named the IL’s top player after hitting an eighth-inning home run to clinch the win over the Pacific Coast League. He also won the Triple-A Home Run Derby, in case you missed it. If you can’t keep the other teams from scoring runs, maybe you need bigger bats?
— No one has more guts than TNT NBA reporter Craig Sager, by my current estimation. Sager has battled leukemia for the past two years, and this week underwent a rare third bone marrow transplant. Fewer than 1 percent of all transplant patients have a third procedure. Sure hope the third time is the charm.
— And while we’re at it, can we get some positive thoughts and vibes together for my buddy Statbeast? He’s begun his own round of experimental treatments in his fight with the “Big C,” and it’s my hope the power of positivity wins out over all.
— Statbeast sez his chemo-induced baldness this summer has accomplished at least a couple of positives, as he sees it. One, he now can officially audition for Blue Man Group. Two, he’s going to be completely honest at the DMV when he renews his driver’s license and they ask for his hair color. It’s now “invisible.”
— Is it just me, or is the Big 12 expansion circus playing out a little like the next episode of “The Bachelor”? Jeez. There were 20 candidates to start, and this past week the list was publicly winnowed to a Dirty Dozen. East Carolina even issued a press release saying it didn’t get a rose. Or something close to that.
— UConn is, for now, still in the Big 12 process. The smart money on invites continues to point toward BYU and Houston, with Cincinnati waiting in the wings. If UConn was smart, however, it would be past this already and working on a realistic, reasonable solution to all of the conference commotion.
— Back to the Big East, Part II? The Magic 8-Ball isn’t bullish on the Huskies. When asked if UConn would return to the Big East, the reply was, “My sources say no.” So, that’s that.
— Good news for URI basketball fans, and for star guard E.C. Matthews. He’s been cleared for all basketball activities, after tearing an ACL in the opening minutes of last year’s season opener. The hype is beginning to build in Kingston, and official Top 25 recognition is coming, too. Now, can the Rams live up to all of the attention and anticipation?
— The first Ed Cooley Radio Show for the upcoming hoop season will roll out Thursday night. The show will tape for a live audience on the Providence College campus, where basketball and hockey season-ticket holders will have their preseason get-together. The show tapes at 5:30 p.m. and will air on 103.7 WEEI-FM at 7 p.m.
— Former Brown and All-Ivy League center Cedric Kuakumensah signed a professional contract with the Redwell Gunners Oberwart of the Austria-A Bundesliga. Kuakumensah set the Ivy standard for career blocked shots (311) while averaging 14 points and almost 10 rebounds per game last season, and joins a team that won its league championship a year ago in the Austrian League.
— Preseason expectations always are high at Providence, especially when it comes to Ray Treacy’s cross-country teams. PC’s women’s team is ranked No. 3 in the country by the USTFCCCA (U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association), behind New Mexico and Colorado. The PC men are ranked 21st in their preseason poll.
— He overcame leg cramps and served 12 aces in the process, and Rhode Island’s Jared Donaldson then came up with the biggest wins of his young professional career this week at the US Open Tennis Championships. The 19-year-old knocked off 12th seeded David Goffin of Belgium in four sets, and then beat 32nd-ranked Viktor Troicki in the second round.
— Donaldson, ranked 122nd in the world, needed three wins in the US Open qualifying tournament just to get into the main draw. The win over Goffin is Donaldson’s first over a top 30-ranked player in his pro career. Instead of playing in junior events, he’s trained in Argentina (since he was 14) largely against older players — and the regimen is beginning to pay off. He’s now in the third round of the US Freakin’ Open.
— I’ve always had a hard time grasping the significance of the PGA Tour’s “playoffs,” but that’s what we have this week at TPC Boston in Norton, Massachusetts, for the Deutsche Bank Championship. Playing for the FedEx Cup, which was won by Jordan Spieth last year, the top 125 players during the season advance to the playoffs, and the field is whittled to the top 100 for this week. After playing at TPC Boston, only the top 70 move on.
— OK, so it isn’t the NFL postseason, or even the NBA or NHL. But I understand why the PGA Tour got into the business of postseason play. To generate interest (and income) in the sport as football season kicks off and baseball season gears up for its own postseason. It gets tough trying to wedge a little golf into the autumn mix.
— Did you have a Magic 8-Ball as a kid? Do you still have one? Developed by the Mattel toymaker in the 1950s, the functional component on the inside of the ball — the floating answer disc that gives accurate, inaccurate or improbable answers — was invented by Albert Carter, whose mother was a Cincinnati fortune-teller. The forerunner of Mattel’s Magic 8-Ball was called a Syco-Seer, a clear, iridescent crystal ball that was marketed and sold in the late ’40s. When the Syco-Seer flopped, a Chicago billiards company came to the rescue with the idea of the black 8-ball that tells all. Or, sort of tells all. The rest, as the saying goes, is history. When asked about its own future, my 8-ball said, “Reply hazy, try again.”
— Oh, and I asked again (as per its earlier request) about what Colin Kaepernick should do next. The new reply: “Outlook not so good.” OK, now I’m creeped out a little.
— Dave from Quincy, Massachusetts, posted on Facebook this week, on the passing of former Patriots center Dr. Bill Lenkaitis: Hopefully makes younger Pats fans go back and look at the history … the Pats had some fun, damn good teams and players in the old days. Dave: No doubt about it. Dr. Bill actually became Dr. Bill by attending dental school at the University of Tennessee in his offseasons, and Lenkaitis served as the team dentist while still an active player, continuing his Foxboro practice for several years thereafter. Drafted by San Diego in 1968 after playing at Penn State, Lenkaitis played for New England from 1971-81, starting 119 of his career 151 games. The 1978 offensive line on which he started helped New England rush for an NFL-record 3,165 yards, which still is the NFL single-season team record today, and the team won the AFC East Division for the first time. Lenkaitis passed away at the age of 70 on Aug. 27, and several of his former teammates were present at the funeral — including Hall of Famer John Hannah, Shelby Jordan, Pete Brock, Steve Grogan and Steve Nelson.
— Interested in having your questions on local Rhode Island sports (and yes, that includes the Patriots, Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics) answered in a somewhat timely fashion? Send ’em to me! It’s your chance to “think out loud,” so send your questions, comments and local stories to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll share mailbag comments/Facebook posts/tweets right here! Follow me on Twitter, @JRbroadcaster, and on Facebook, www.facebook.com/john.rooke.
— Don’t forget to tune in to Providence’s 103.7 FM every Saturday from 7-9 a.m. for Southern New England Sports Saturday! Call in at 401-737-1287 or text us at 37937.