Thinking out loud … while wondering whatever happened to Jacek Duda?
— Not for nuthin’, but have we forgotten how to play baseball around here?
— I’m thinking “sell” right now for the Red Sox, but who or what can you sell? And who’s buying any of what we’ve seen so far this season? Right now, it has to be about 2016 and beyond, unless the organization wants to see this two-year death spiral continue. How much can we, as consumers, put up with?
— Boston was outscored 39-13 on the seven-game road trip. That’s bag-on-your-head-stuff right there. Winless on a trip that long for the first time in 64 years, since 1951. Let that sink in for just a minute.
— The Red Sox are still one of the richest teams in baseball? In all of sport? Prove it. Three seasons out of four in LAST place with a payroll in the vicinity of $200 million is not just abysmal. It’s embarrassing. Remember, a good house-cleaner always starts on the top shelf.
— Clay Buchholz = that good-looking tease in high school who wouldn’t give you the time of day but now wants to be your friend on Facebook. Meh.
— The one potential silver lining to this cacophony of calamity, lefty Brian Johnson, was sent back to Pawtucket after an uneven major league debut. Maybe they just decided the blasting the pitching staff on the big club is taking would leave him too “shell-shocked.”
— I know there’s a drought out West, but can you imagine — not having a home game rained out in more than 20 years? That was the deal with the Red Sox and Angels in Anaheim — washed out last weekend in the first home postponement for the Angels since 1994.
— Too bad the entire series wasn’t postponed. Coincidentally, the Sox season is now a washout, too; losing four straight in Anaheim was Boston’s first four-game sweep at the hands (gloves and bats, too) of the Angels in the 55-year history of the franchise.
— File this under “Things I thought I wouldn’t see, ever” — the Houston Astros picking up Oakland lefty Scott Kazmir before the trade deadline. He’s been dominant against the AL West (I keep forgetting, that’s Houston’s division) this season. Give the Astros credit, they’re swinging with short sticks but connecting on a heck of a lot more than the Sox.
— With the Providence College basketball team’s non-league schedule announced, the first impression is a pretty good one overall. Top to bottom, it is very comparable to last season’s slate that helped put PC in the NCAAs, short of winning the Big East again. Harvard (four straight NCAAs), Illinois (Gavitt Games) and Boston College highlight the home games at the Dunk, and two large road challenges will take place at URI and at UMass. There’s no Kentucky (Arizona could be there, however, in Anaheim), but there’s no real bottom-feeder, either.
— Speaking of Anaheim, CBSSports.com announced the Wooden Legacy pairings for the Thanksgiving week tournament this week, and it looks as if the Friars will open on Turkey Day against the Evansville Aces of the Missouri Valley Conference. Evansville won the CIT last year and returns star guard D.J. Balentine. Should Providence win and advance, the likely second-round match is against national power Arizona. Michigan State is on the opposite side of the bracket — and will face Boston College. As mentioned here a couple of weeks ago, with this set up there’s a chance PC and BC could meet each other twice within a two-week span, especially if the Friars lose the opener. The Friars and Eagles already are scheduled to play Dec. 9 at the Dunk.
— And it’s no “Quahog Cup,” but for the first time in three years, PC will play the other three D1 teams in Rhode Island in the same season. Home against Brown on Nov. 21 (having lost two of the past three), at Rhody on Dec. 5 (having won four straight) and home against Bryant for the first time since 2012.
— Surprise! An incoming transfer for the Friars basketball program instead of an outgoing one, as former George Mason swingman Isaiah Jackson announced his intention to transfer to Providence. In his freshman season at GMU, the 6-foot-6 Jackson averaged 8.7 points and 3.9 rebounds per game for Paul Hewitt’s team. Jackson is a former runner-up for Florida’s Mr. Basketball in 2013, playing at Gainesville High School. He’ll sit out this next season with three years of eligibility remaining.
— Jackson’s transfer makes five incoming players for the Class of 2015, with one more scholarship still available. It apparently will belong to 6-foot-9 forward Brodricks Jones, who de-committed from San Diego State, if he wants it. Jones is eligible to play right away.
— Nice story by Gavin Keefe in the New London Day this week on the offseason notoriety being picked up by Kris Dunn. He’s now one of Kevin Durant‘s favorite college players? Whoa.
— I must admit, I’m a little surprised with the news that former PC athletic director Lou Lamoriello has left his long-time, 28-year post with the New Jersey Devils to get back into the GM game with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Lamoriello hires a new GM (Ray Shero) in the Meadowlands, then steps away as team president — all to become a general manager again at age 72? More power to him, if he believes he can still create a winner. This has to be ego-driven. If he does it in sad-sack Toronto, he’ll become God-like in Canada, maybe even on par with Don (Grapes) Cherry?
— It is, however, a reunion between Lamoriello and Leafs president Brendan Shanahan, whom Lamoriello drafted No. 2 overall back in 1987 as his Devils tenure got started. So it’s back to the future in Toronto, minus the DeLorean, perhaps.
— Back to the hoops — URI has its non-conference slate set for next season, with the possibility of adding one more game to the mix. It’s a solid schedule, based on last year’s RPI rankings. At home in the Ryan Center, mark the calendars for Saturday night, Dec. 5, against PC. The Rams will open Nov. 13 against American, feature Valparaiso on Nov. 17 and Houston on Dec. 8. Road games will be at Nebraska, at Old Dominion and at Brown on Dec. 30. Rhody will also play at the Cancun Challenge in Mexico, opening up against TCU from the Big 12.
— File this under “This week’s sign of the apocalypse”: The ESL, the world’s largest gaming organization (yes, it really exists, in Germany), announced this week it would begin to explore a comprehensive drug-testing program for its, ahem, athletes.
— If you thought Rhode Island — or any other New England state, for that matter — might have a shot at staging an Olympic sport in the Boston 2024 bid, think again. Sites will range from the Deerfield River in Northwest Massachusetts to New Bedford in the southeast for sailing. New Bedford for sailing? Wasn’t NB just ranked No. 1 for worst places to live in Massachusetts? Can’t see that as a selling point. Just sayin.’
— Perhaps you got a glance at the Patriots’ 2016 schedule this week? 2015 hasn’t even started yet, but the team will be racking up some frequent-flier miles as the opponents were confirmed, with two exceptions. On the road — at San Francisco and Arizona, with an AFC West team to be determined. Included in the home dates for Gillette Stadium are the St. Louis Rams and Seattle Seahawks, with an AFC South team to be determined based on where the teams finish in the standings.
— What song did Tom Petty sing so famously at one time? The waiting is the hardest part? Wonder what songs Tom Brady is humming in his head right about now? How about Carly Simon’s “You’re so vain,” pointing toward the high-and-mighty NFL?
— Seriously, if the reports this week that the NFLPA offered a compromise settlement proposal on Brady’s suspension — allegedly met with stone silence by the league — are true, then the NFL deserves every bit of venom New England can spit toward it. The problem here is that the league is rumored to be under pressure from owners of OTHER teams to stick it to the Patriots. So, what do we have here, Commissioner Goodell?
— How about some leadership for the good of the league, rather than the good of the owners? That is, of course, silly. The owners gave him his job. It’s just that he will — if he hasn’t already — lose his most influential friend in Robert Kraft if Deflategate ends poorly for Brady and the Patriots. Choose wisely, Mr. Commish. History is full of real leaders who learn how to fall on a sword. Will you be one of those? You started this mess.
— File this under “No surprise here”: The mess isn’t hurting Brady’s status as a football icon, apparently. NFL Players, Inc., reported this week merchandise sales related to TB12 have been the highest in the league. Hey, people want to be associated with a winner, period.
— Brady’s status is just part of the reason camp anticipation is rising by the day for the Patriots. The opening practice for the fans is Thursday, exactly two weeks before the preseason kicks off against Green Bay in Foxboro. With so many holes to plug on the defensive side of the ball, it’s almost better to ask who WILL play, rather than who won’t.
— Tarell Brown’s addition at cornerback is a no-brainer. Depth is automatically upgraded, if not the potential for adding a seasoned, veteran starter. Brown’s previous role as a starter in San Francisco and Oakland could be a great fit, even in nickel situations.
— Many of the Patriots players have been offering standard, almost robotic, cookie-cutter comments when asked about the changes from last season. If you hear, “We’re just going to go day by day,” take it to mean there’s at least a little bit of concern over who will step up, or over who will be stepped upon.
— Jordan Speith doesn’t have golf’s mystical grand slam this year, but he should have the respect of his peers and plenty of respect from fans of the game. He’s all class, and proved as much after congratulating Zach Johnson at the British Open. He’s just what the game needs, with the sport struggling to relate to so many in our current financial state.
— The economy might slowly be improving, but golf hasn’t yet gotten the memo.
— Very cool, though, that the USGA is returning to Brookline in 2022 for the US Open, once the scene of “The Greatest Game Ever Played.” As an amateur, Francis Ouimet defeated Harry Vardon and Ted Ray in 1913 to put the sport on the front pages of newspapers and into the minds and hands of commoners. It also led to a pretty good sports flick, too.
— Who wants to go camping? The ABA’s Providence Sky Chiefs have announced they’re holding a summer camp for boys and girls, ages 7 to 14, at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Pawtucket from Aug. 17-19. The coaching staff and players will be on hand for instruction, skills training and some other fun stuff, too. Hit up providenceskychiefs.com for registration information.
— Speaking of camps, it was nice to literally run into former Friars coach Tim Welsh this past week. Welsh just finished conducting a camp for kids in East Greenwich, Rhode Island, with the assistance of members of the URI women’s program. Tim is every bit the doting father of three young children, pushing a carriage up a hill with two of his kids riding in front, coming from the Westport, Massachusetts, beach near where his wife was raised. I know this because he just about ran me over as I was headed down the hill to that beach. Check out timwelshbasketball.com for information about his camps.
— Also ran into former Welsh assistant and ex-RIC head coach Bob Walsh on his way to Las Vegas during the summer recruitment period. Walsh is beginning his second year as head coach at Maine and says the top eight teams in America East all return their best players for next season. Which means Albany, Stony Brook and Vermont should be formidable again.
— My buddy Bernie sez he recently ran into an old friend who just bought a brand-new hearing aid. Said it cost him “four thousand bucks, but it’s perfect. State of the art.” Bernie asked him what kind it was, and the guy said, “Twelve-thirty.”
— We’re just less than two months from kickoff, but Brown’s football schedule is building some anticipation for the program’s 137th season. The opener is Sept. 19 against Bryant, and another home game under the lights at Brown Stadium will come against URI on Oct. 3 for the Governor’s Cup. The game will be the 100th meeting between the two programs and is set for a 6 p.m. start. Should be a big night.
— Did You Know? Two former Rhode Island governors have actually played for the Governor’s Cup — Philip Noel, Brown Class of 1954, and Don Carcieri, Brown Class of 1965.
— Friars fans in the millennial and Baby Boomer brackets undoubtedly will remember Jacek Duda, the 6-foot-10 center from Poland who became a huge part of Rick Pitino‘s 1987 PC Final Four team. Duda has remained in the area working in financial services since that time 28 years ago, minus his time playing pro ball in Germany, and he currently resides in Providence. He’s been bitten by the coaching bug, too — assisting on his daughter Cassandra’s 10th grade AAU basketball team — along with his wife Anne, who also is a former basketball player. Led by head coach Frank Kiser, North Providence-based Team BSB recently won the Division 3 AAU national championship at Disney World in Florida, and in the semifinals played a team from Georgia that included former Friar Marshon Brooks’ sister, Naya. Great to see that hoop success is running rampant in the Duda family. The young ladies on Team BSB: Christina Kiser (LaSalle Academy), Gabby DeComo (Portsmouth), Cassandra Duda (Lincoln School for Girls), Anna Metcalf (Wheeler), Grace Coutu (Barrington), Kayla Raymond (Oliver Ames), Hannah Carroll (Oliver Ames), Christine Pye (Milford) and Seanna Deering (North Kingstown).
— @VCSParent tweeted this week, in response to the waiting game all Patriots fans have been playing on TB12’s suspension: “My guess is, the penalty stands. Kraft folded like an accordion, bad precedent for Brady.” Parent, even though I have maintained since day one that he would not serve any suspension, I must admit the longer this goes, the more I’m thinking this might not end well. However, I’m still hopeful that smarter minds will prevail, and that the NFL won’t have the stomach for a drawn-out legal battle that will undoubtedly ensue should a suspension of any kind be upheld. It’s in everyone’s best interest to get by this fiasco and concentrate on actually playing the game, not playing the part of fools.
— 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 email@example.com. 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 join Scott Cordischi and me on 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.