Thinking out loud … while wondering whatever happened to Mike Torrez.
— I’m left with an overwhelming sense of sadness in considering the sale of the Pawtucket Red Sox announced this week. Maybe it’s because it’s the end of an era, one in which Ben Mondor turned a moribund minor league team into a true Rhode Island treasure. Maybe it’s because of the fond memories over several years of calling games on radio and TV, covering those great players and watching my own kids grow up at McCoy Stadium. Maybe it’s because I sense that, in the end, greed is winning out over all.
— Greed? What else could it be? There’s a perfectly good, classic stadium sitting on Ben Mondor Way in Pawtucket with a low-cost lease in hand that the new ownership feels is no longer viable. Historically, the new owners are turning their back on the site of the longest game in the history of the game — 33 innings — that took place in 1981. From that context, it’s difficult to understand why they might feel the way they do. Why wouldn’t Larry Lucchino have felt that way about Fenway Park before sinking millions into keeping it around? Because it’s about control. Put up with what you have to, but control everything else you can.
— The new owners have every right to pursue every option in an effort to maximize their investment. After all, it IS an investment. But don’t feed me and every other Rhode Islander a steady diet of Quahog crap how this is “Rhode Island’s team, it belongs to everyone,” when you don’t consider the city of Pawtucket or its residents who have supported it for so long. To not even consider Pawtucket as an option? Stupid is as stupid does.
— The reluctance to consider staying at McCoy tells me one thing and one thing only: Brace for a move OUT of Rhode Island. If the land parcel on I-195 (and where would they park cars?) doesn’t work out, there’s your excuse to call in the moving vans to Massachusetts, where ownership can control everything. Land, new stadium, ticket prices, everything. That’s what they want. They’ll get it, too, unless R.I. leadership somehow holds their feet to the fire.
— Three words: I. Don’t. Trust. And I don’t mean the state or the city of Providence needs to unnecessarily capitulate on taxpayer-financed incentives. If a new palace goes up, the emperors should pay for it. If the skids can be greased without whacking an over-taxed populace over the head again, so be it. If not, well, it’s been nice knowing you, PawSox. We’ll have a two-year going-away party. Gee, that’ll be fun, huh?
— The only thing I really need to know, right now, from Red Sox camp is whether or not grass is still green. ‘Cuz we won’t see any of that stuff for some time to come.
— Speed up the game? Yes, please. But don’t put all of it on the hitters. Pitchers need to get up on the mound with a sense of purpose and throw the ball — not hem and haw around trying to decide what fancy spin to put on cowhide. And if you’re a purist who believes baseball is fine just as it is? You’re nuttier than squirrel poo. Times change, and so should baseball.
— David Ortiz had a rant at training camp this week on pace of play that was pretty much spot on, especially on two counts: One, pitchers should be held accountable for speeding things up; two, players should have been consulted by the committee charged with speeding up play. Of which Red Sox chairman Tom Werner was a member.
— Providence’s appearance in the Top 25 Associated Press poll this week, while it looks great on the outside, is really much ado about nothing. The AP and USA Today coaches’ polls are dog-and-pony shows, and mean very little in the overall scheme of the sport — and especially, the Big Dance. The only poll that really means anything is the RPI (Ratings Percentage Index), where relative strengths of teams can be compared. Otherwise, it’s just a popularity contest.
— Besides, I think it’s best for this group of Friars to lie in the weeds, and then have the chance to sneak up on someone before the year is done. Think of this team like college basketball‘s version of a good, older cast from NBC’s “Saturday Night Live.” The Not Ready for Prime Time Players, who, back in the day, were actually pretty good — and on their way to stardom, but little known.
— LaDontae Henton is known, however. And even though some teams have figured him out of late, he’s still managed to win three Big East Player of the Week awards. He’ll get consideration for Player of the Year, too — but my money right now is on Villanova’s Darrun Hilliard to take that honor.
— Why? Because the regular-season title belongs to the Wildcats for a second straight year, and the best player on the top team should get serious consideration. That doesn’t mean I don’t think Henton is deserving — he is. But the conference coaches vote on the honor, and they have a tendency to take players on the best team(s). It’s really pretty simple.
— There may also be some votes split between Henton and his teammate, Kris Dunn, who has really wowed more than just one coach in the Big East this season. It will be interesting to see if the last two weeks of the regular season sway anyone’s opinion.
— You don’t want to completely disregard the result, but PC’s loss at ‘Nova this week is one of those to F & F — file and forget. Villanova is Final Four-good, and with its personnel may be one or two of the teams nationally that could actually provide a challenge for Kentucky. The Wildcats’ quickness is deceiving, their strength is imposing. The knock on coach Jay Wright has been his teams’ fade from the regular season to the postseason in the past.
— The Friars started three freshmen against the Wildcats last Tuesday night. I know, they’re not really freshmen any longer, but going up against the “men” Villanova has is tough enough for seasoned veterans. It also shows how important Carson Desrosiers is to the Providence lineup, as a bruised knee kept him on the bench. Much of Kris Dunn’s successful play can be attributed to Desrosiers’ presence on the floor.
— There was a mixed bag of results from the recruiting trail this past week in Friartown. Great get by the coaching staff to secure a verbal commitment from 6-foot-5 North Carolina guard Ricky Council (no relation to former Friar Vincent Council), who has seen his stock rise immeasurably in a post-grad season of play. What’s the one real missing ingredient from this year’s team? The ability to knock down long jumpers, consistently. Council shoots 45 percent from deep. On the other end, disappointing news concerning 6-8 forward Alex Owens, an earlier commitment who has had surgery to repair a torn ACL. With a typical 6-9 month recovery period, don’t be surprised if the Friars keep an eye out for an extra big man for next season.
— Bryce Cotton finally had his breakthrough moment this week, signed by the Utah Jazz to a 10-day NBA contract worth almost $30K. Now comes the hard part — as if getting to the NBA wasn’t tough enough. Staying there is an entirely different story, with 10-day deals often expiring before a player gets the chance to prove himself. Just sayin’.
— Jared Terrell is one guy who is proving himself for the Rhode Island Rams, named as the Atlantic-10’s rookie of the week for the week past. He has had a huge hand in Rhody’s best-ever 11-3 start to the A-10 season, 14 points against UMass and 16 more against George Mason. He did miss a three that could have given his team a win over Davidson at the Ryan Center, however. Take it to the tin, Jared.
— URI’s home loss to Davidson wasn’t a bad loss — but the way in which the Rams lost wasn’t good, either. Outside of E.C. Matthews, Rhody was a pathetic 9-for-25 from the free throw line. Honestly, I could make at least 9-for-25 wearing a blindfold. The defense was stout against a good outside shooting team, but defense alone wasn’t enough.
— Hey, Rams fans, you’re still in first place. A four-way tie for first should be celebrated. But losing to Davidson also keeps Rhody behind the eight-ball for road games at LaSalle Saturday and at Dayton. Must win? Yes, if you have any designs at all on a possible at-large spot in the NCAA tournament. But if you plan to win the Atlantic-10 tourney title, well then, that’s different.
— Bryant clinched home-court advantage for the opening round of the Northeast Conference tournament by beating Central Connecticut, 77-69, Thursday night in Smithfield. Saturday afternoon, we’ll see just how well the Bulldogs might match up in the NEC derby as they end the regular season at home for Senior Night against No. 1 seed St. Francis-Brooklyn.
— The headline from my friend Chris Humm at Brown read “Brown basketball to wear 250th anniversary throwback uniforms.” So naturally, my assumption was the Bears would be wearing something from the Colonial-Patriot era — until I realized basketball hadn’t been invented back then. So either Brown is going to play Princeton Saturday night in skivvies, or they’ll find another era more suitable for public consumption.
— My LOL moment this week came last Saturday when I saw pictures from Syracuse’s jersey retirement ceremonies for “Louie and Bouie” — Louis Orr and Roosevelt Bouie — who tortured opponents together for four seasons from 1976-80. The two were a part of Jim Boeheim’s first class at Syracuse, with Orr (a former PC assistant coach under Pete Gillen in the ’90s) being recruited directly by then-assistant coach Rick Pitino. They were 100-18 during their time and lost just one home game at Manley Field House — the infamous loss to John Thompson and Georgetown as the Big East launched. And the school misspelled Bouie’s name (B-O-W-I-E) on the back of his jersey. Can’t make this stuff up.
— “Old time hockey! Like Pauly Shore!” Two great hockey moments from our past came to mind this week — one, the 35th anniversary of the 1980 Olympic team winning gold from Finland after beating the USSR, and Al Michael’s famous words, “This impossible dream comes true!” Two, this week marked the 38th anniversary of the release of the movie “Slap Shot,” with Paul Newman. The Hanson brothers are still lovable, iconic figures after all these years.
— An absolutely heartbreaking story, if you haven’t seen it, on Baylor walk-on running back Silas Nacita. Nacita spent much of his time in high school and early in his college career homeless, and as it turns out, because he accepted an offer of a place to stay during this time he is now ineligible to play for the Bears. But before you kill the NCAA on this, the dismissal from the team was initiated by Baylor — not the unfeeling NCAA. And to his credit, Nacita accepted full responsibility for his predicament. The hope is through the appeals process Nacita might return to the football team at some point.
— Great story this week on ABC 6 from Nick Coit profiling Portsmouth freshman Chris Herren — the son of former Durfee High School, Boston College, Fresno State and Boston Celtics guard Chris Herren. Footsteps are always hard to follow, but young Chris might be basketball-good like his dad was at one time, as he averaged about 19 points per game this season for the Patriots.
— Not for nuthin’, but did you see Kobe Bryant‘s reaction on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” this week when he was shown a clip of teammates Jeremy Lin, Nick Young and Jordan Hill celebrating their end to an eight-game losing streak by beating the Celtics? Priceless. Bryant has been out of action with a torn rotator cuff, but at the very moment he saw his teammates whoop it up like a group of bratty teenagers partying with mom and dad out of the house, well, let’s just say, “If looks could kill …”
— Danny Ainge this week lamented the shape injured forward Jared Sullinger was in before he broke his foot to put him out for the season. The first thing that came to my mind: Out of shape? What? Round isn’t a shape?
— My buddy “Big E” sez his friend Doc from Boston met a hooker in a bar recently, and she told him, “This is your lucky night. I’ll do absolutely anything you want for $300, as long as you can say it in three words.” Doc thought for a minute, pulled out three $100 bills and said slowly, “Shovel. My. Driveway.”
— Giovanni Feroce, the CEO of Rhode Island-based Benrus, is at it again. The owner of the ABA’s Providence Sky Chiefs announced this week the inaugural Preserve Open, to be held at The Preserve in Richmond, Rhode Island, on June 18 and sponsored by the PGA. It will be an 18-hole, par-3 tournament, where a hole-in-one can earn a golfer $1 million, with more than $20 million in prize money available. TV coverage will be provided by ESPN and NESN.
— Speaking of the Sky Chiefs, their last regular-season home game is March 1 against Staten Island at Brown’s Pizzitola Sports Center, with an 8 p.m. tip-off. The Sky Chiefs have lost three straight, but they’re 12-7 on the season and still ranked eighth in the 76-team ABA. They will close out the regular season March 8 on the road against the Jersey Express, and then host the ABA regional playoffs March 21-22 at Brown.
— Can’t believe I’m thinking this way, but when Reggie Bush was cut by the Detroit Lions this week, at first thought it seemed like he would be a great fit in the Patriots offense next season. Ultimately, he might still be, until you consider his pass-catching production over the past two years is actually LESS than Shane Vereen‘s. Vereen also is four years younger than Bush, which might actually drive his free agent price higher than what Bush can presently command. All things being equal right now, I’d stick with Shane.
— Live long and prosper, Leonard Nimoy. Nimoy passed away Friday at age 83, ironically after being victimized earlier this week by an Internet hoax. The New York Times reported he died at his home in Bel Air, California, of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. One of the great character actors of our time, Nimoy was Mr. Spock to a generation (or more) of Trekkies who followed the exploits of Captain James T. Kirk, Dr. “Bones” McCoy and Spock through the “Star Trek” television series and subsequent movies. He was much more than just Spock, however, as he directed movies and wrote poetry as well throughout his career. I didn’t know until recently that Nimoy was originally from Boston — and not the planet Vulcan.
— Ah yes. Mike Torrez. The one-time Yankee-turned-Red Sox pitcher who ended up allowing one of the most talked-about hits in Sox history, right alongside Carlton Fisk’s “wave it fair” home run in the 1975 World Series against Cincinnati. You know the hit I’m referring to? The home run clubbed by Bucky “Bleeping” Dent in the 1978 one-game playoff at Fenway? Even then, as I love a good conspiracy theory, I thought Torrez threw a fat one to Dent, since he had come to Boston from New York after winning two games in the ’77 World Series for the Yankees. Torrez stayed with the Sox until ’83, when he was dealt back to New York — to pitch for the Mets. His playing career basically ended there, after he beaned the Houston Astros‘ Dickie Thon. Torrez was shipped off to Oakland for another month before he was done in ’84. He also spent some time in baseball management, most recently for the independent Atlantic League Newark (N.J.) Bears, where he was fired as GM in 2011.
— Chad in Georgia posted on Facebook, among several responses to a question posed on whether or not the Patriots should exercise all options in retaining the services of Darrelle Revis: “These kinds of corners don’t grow on trees. If the Pats organization is smart, which I believe they are, they will PAY THE MAN.” Chad, your thoughts are overwhelmingly shared by a majority of Patriots fans as priority one for New England in the offseason. What you and many of the same fans fail to realize is that Bill Belichick IS THE MAN. And he has never stopped to consider what you or I think before making a move he’ll always believe is “in the best interests of the football team.” There is a history of moving on from veteran players here, and while Revis clearly demonstrated this season he has plenty of gas left in his tank, this is precisely the time when the team has parted ways with veteran players previously — before they hit empty. Don’t be surprised if they move on, but if they do re-sign or rework his existing contract, that should speak volumes about his worth to this team.
— 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.