August 23, 2007

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LONGSHOTS: Spine vs. lack of spine theme for school board debate
by Dave Long

Anyone know why the manager or coach is ALWAYS wrong?

Yes, I know second-guessing is part of the game. But, even though it stands to reason that no one, not even Rush Limbaugh, can be wrong 100 percent of the time, when things go wrong coaches always are. Except of course when the public agrees and things go right. Then they are brilliant.

Talk about ego.

It’s true players catch flack when things go wrong, but the manager is a co-conspirator. For instance, I say if Grady Little had pulled Pedro Martinez after six in the seventh game of the 2003 playoffs vs. the Yankees and the bullpen still coughed up the lead, he’d have been fired anyway. He was red meat for the second-guessers, where his only chance no matter what he did was for the players to do their job. In this case, Pedro tried but he couldn’t, yet the most unprecedented torrent of acrimony this side of Alabama getting smoking by Auburn in the Iron Bowl was unleashed on Little and not Pedro. Not that it should fall on a guy who pitched his heart out either.

And it’s not just on-field decisions. Think about how they get after Tito Francona for Manny Being Manny. You tell me what you’re supposed to do with a guy who lives in the ozone with a $20 million financial noose around his team’s neck? Trade him? They tried four times. Bench him and talk radio shouts the run production should be the same even with 130 RBI missing. If they play him, Tito’s soft on crime. Even after he knocks in the winning run in game one and then hits .400 in August after his trading deadline funk in 2005.

And don’t think it’s confined to pro sports. Anyone who’s coached in a high school team can tell you the second-guessing is far worse with parents. That’s because many simply can’t detach themselves from what’s best for their kids and an objective thought process. Take the events at the Manchester School Board meeting that aired on MCTV last week more often than Seinfeld re-runs on TNT. It pitted a group of parents against Memorial Softball coach Dave Hedge, whose actions they feel prevented their daughters from playing in the Class L Softball Tournament in June.

The turn of events came in an interesting week illustrating how good managing is more dependent on players doing their job than it is on any one decision. On Monday Tim Wakefield befuddles Tampa Bay for eight innings in allowing two meaningless hits. Still with a 3-0 lead Tito brings in Jonathan Paplebon. Since there’s no guarantee the reliable Pap would be on his game and my eyes said the un-hittable Wake was not out of juice, I saw it as a gamble. It worked out fine, but if it hadn’t – oh mama. The next night Scott Kazmir, who absolutely owns Boston, had a shutout after six. Yet Joe Maddon follows the LaRussa Manual and yanks him after 100 pitches, even though if you look Blow Torch up in the dictionary there’s a picture of their bullpen next to it. I said — YES! And two innings later they score twice to win in the ninth. Same decision, different outcomes. Also on the mound in the ninth was Eric Gagne, who’d blown two games the previous weekend. Tito stuck with him and he got his first Red Sox win. But if he’d failed – it’s, oh mama times TEN!

The point is some good decisions don’t work. Some bad ones do and some aren’t real popular. In the pro game it comes with the territory and people deal with it because where else could they make money like that? High school sports are completely different. Most are quasi volunteers who face yakking parents on a regular basis and can find themselves alone on a limb when not backed by election-conscious school board members. In the Hedge situation, I’m watching from afar so I don’t know what has or hasn’t gone on behind the scenes as some parents suggest and I wouldn’t know any of the parents if I fell over them.

But here is what I do know. It is the job of the school board to hear what tax payers have to say — although you’d hope they’d act more like Bob Leonard and with a little more spine than Arthur Beaudry and the pandering Doug Kruse. The problem started when six girls from the Memorial softball team skipped school illegally the day before a playoff game as part of senior hike day tradition. When you miss school you are not allowed to practice that day. But they did practice because Coach Hedge told them to be at practice. That, according to NHIAA rules, made them ineligible for the playoff game the next day. Memorial, minus several key players, lost that game and their season ended abruptly.

What is a little more murky is, did Hedge know the kids were in school or not? And did the victimization of the missing players start before or after semi beloved (though apparently a little less so in the south end of town), semi-retired scribe Joe Sullivan had the audacity to write about it for the state’s largest newspaper in what I thought was one of his best columns ever? That apparently struck a chord as it came up repeatedly on MCTV. Imagine having the audacity to write about someone trying to dig up a pitching rubber, to presumably get the game postponed, which, oh by the way, let the girls play the next day. You know if the alleged perpetrator of the fig leaf bank robberies wasn’t in the slammer, I’d think he was behind that brilliant caper too.

Can you imagine ANYBODY wanting to win that badly? I guess, sadly I can.

In the end I see it this way. It doesn’t matter if Hedge knew the girls were in school or not. And most assuredly they are not the victims. The innocent victims are the girls who did go to practice. Kids whose dreams of winning a state softball title were dashed when six young women, contrary to the tradition of a team, put personal interests ahead of their teammates. If that hadn’t happened, they still might not have won that state title, but I doubt very much any of the “other issues” being used to justify this mess would have come up.

So I wonder if the kids, whose actions put a tireless worker under scrutiny, are learning anything from their selfish act. Because with parents looking to lay the blame for their mistake anywhere but where it belongs, you can see how they probably didn’t get why it was such a mistake in the first place.

Dave Long is host of Home Team Saturday with Dave Long and Company, 10 a.m. to noon each Saturday morning on WGAM (1250 AM in Manchester and 900 AM in Nashua).


8/16/2007 Time for thoughts from the summer mailbag

8/9/2007 Will this three make it big in Boston?
8/2/2007 Trading places all in a day's work for Boston GMs
7/26/2007 Getting out of a slump; an ameteur golfer can feel Sox' pain
7/19/2007 Does second chance guarantee a great outcome?
7/12/2007 Masse still a honeymooner in local baseball culture
7/5/2007 Brown Monster a big Fisher Cat hit
6/28/2007 Rambling along with some random thoughts
6/21/2007 The future is now for the C's come Thursday night
6/14/2007 Homers create bonds among fans for generations
6/07/2007 Sox win by losing two of three this weekend
5/31/2007 Lutz of things to think about
5/24/2007 Down 2-0 M’s for playoff payoff
5/17/2007 Baseballs' conventional wisdom is for the birds
5/10/2007 The Rocket lands in Gotham during Monarchs' playoff break
5/3/2007 Raiders say "No Moss" in fight with talented wideout
4/26/2007 A little history on the ancient Sox and Yanks rivalry
4/19/2007 Lessons to be learned from Robinson, Monarchs and I-Man
4/12/2007 A few questions for the sports gods
4/5/2007 Stanton his case on a variety of current topics
3/29/2007 Sox spring back into action on Monday
3/22/2007 A guide for having fun on NCAA hockey weekend
3/15/2007 The madness of March kicks off on Thursday
3/8/2007 Jumping through hoops after an odd season
3/1/2007 A trip to the mail bag for Hippo Sports
2/22/2007 Six degrees of Muhammed Ali
2/15/2007 Monarchs rule as streak reaches 12
2/8/2007 Talking a good game ahead on all-sports WGAM
2/1/2007 Manning the Super Bowl watch more difficult in '07
1/25/2007 Winning and what else matters in college coaching
1/18/2007 ESPN polls are fanning the flames of national lunacy
1/11/2007 Patriots marching to MIami promised land
1/4/2007 Predictions for 2007
12/28/2006 REcognizing the best on the national front
12/21/2006 Present under the tree for all
12/14/2006 Mailbag open for busines at a time filled with questions
12/07/2006 Lions and Gators and Bears, oh my
11/30/2006 Does Fenway frankness roll to the negative side?
11/23/2006 Turkeys and thanks as the big day arrives
11/16/2006 Green-around-the-gills Celts looking to earn some respect
11/9/2006 Blame game reaches new local low
11/2/2006 A week of highs and lows in sport
10/26/2006 Curses! The U is foiled again
10/19/2006 Time for a trip to the sports mailbag
10/12/2006 U turns Granite Stare around on football
10/05/2006 James' gang riding into town to face the Celtics
09/28/2006 Words to describe a lost Red Sox season
09/21/2006 Football Friday can't stack up to Saturday
09/14/2006 A lesson to be learned in remembering a somber day
09/07/2006 Usual pat choice to win AFC East questioned
08/31/2006 Whining won't yank AL East away from NY
08/24/2006 Spring forward or fall behind for Sox
08/17/2006 Trash talking abounds in the Empire over Sox and Pats
08/10/2006 Monarchs call press conference to crown new leader
08/03/2006 Deadly Fenway duo leave mark on history
07/27/2006 Word of the wise gets lost in sports translation
07/20/2006 Looking beyond the Big Three
07/13/2006 Cream rises to the top of baseball talk at the Dot
07/06/2006 Greetings and salutations toThe Nation at mid-year
06/29/2006 Being dealt is a consequence of the trade
06/22/2006 A year later, Boudreau's cup runneth over
06/15/2006 See dogs and cats battle for a different fan experience
06/08/2006 Not Bad Anymore league makes a comeback
06/01/2006 Luck goes Sox way with Lowell in Massachusetts
05/25/2006 Pitching in to help the Sox trade a few places
05/18/2006 Going to school by cutting Red Sox payroll
05/11/2006 Columnist blows his mind; here are the results
05/04/2006 Yanks stormed Manchester 37 years ago this week
04/27/2006 Regular crowd nowhere to be found come playoff time
04/20/2006 Questions and answers from the mailbag
04/13/2006 Local sports teams spring into action
04/06/2006 Predictable Red Sox season lies ahead
03/30/2006 Analyzing this and that as Pats roster shrinks
03/23/2006 A week of following the bouncing balls
03/16/2006 The beginning of four days of basketball bliss
03/09/2006 Many miss the central point of the story
03/02/2006 Better late than never to jump through local hoops
02/23/2006 Celtic green means raw, not envy as it once did
02/16/2003 An issue that is all black and white
02/09/2006 Nomar curses from the UL's Sullivan
02/02/2006 Super memories from 40 years of watching the big game
01/26/2006 A certain uniformity to the inquiries in the mailbag
01/19/2006 Sudden end to Pats' season leave just one thing to do
01/12/2006 Pats on the back for the football team
01/05/2006 Predictions for Manchester Sports 2031
A lesson for Leo the Lip and nice guys everywhere

Chop House opening is Berra of good news
Event-filled weekend missed en route to evil empire
Hero’s death lays to rest misuse of the word
Saint Theo ascends to new heights in The Nation
Santa sack filled to the brim with sports
Patriots march through injuries toward threepeat
Sports talk should be on the air
Stars shine brightest when winning is in the mix
The Demonization of Johnny Damon
Thirty-seven topics and so little space
Too many holes in Sox for repeat
Trip to the injured list makes it a long weekend for local scribe
Turkeys and giving thanks take center stage this week
Yanked from the edge of your seat