Sports Mailbag: 5/5/06
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There is a long (and not always justified) history of asking a black QB to change positions
I found it ironic that while chastising Michael Robinson for insinuating that race was a factor for why he would be moved to a position other than quarterback, Ron Cook insinuates that race was not a factor in denying blacks the opportunity to play the position in the past ("Robinson fumbled the exchange on his role in NFL," May 2).
Cook wrote, "Maybe it was different 25, 30, 40 years ago. Maybe it was tougher for a black quarterback to get an opportunity."
Exactly how old are you?
Warren Moon, the NFL's first Hall of Fame black quarterback, had to play six years in the CFL and win five Grey Cup championships before an NFL team signed him in 1984. Prior to him, not many black QBs had ever played a game in the NFL, let alone started for the majority of a season.
I agree that it seems to be different now, and I have no problem with Cook disagreeing with Robinson's viewpoint. But Cook sure makes an unintended yet persuasive point in support of Robinson's case.
GREG VERDERBER, Aspinwall
Card could be better played
Ron Cook should be commended for his column on Penn State quarterback Michael Robinson, who made the absurd claim that NFL teams wanted him to move to a different position because of his color ("Robinson fumbled the exchange on his role in NFL," May 2) . Far too many people think it is acceptable to loosely play the race card anytime they are displeased about something. This not only insults whites who have worked for decades to overcome their ancestors' racial prejudice, but it also serves as a slap in the face to blacks who are real victims of racism. Ridiculous claims like these will unfortunately foster a "boy who cried wolf" syndrome. What a shame it would be if someone who was actually denied an opportunity due to his race were to be written off because an irresponsible football player was upset about having to play a different position.
TIM HANNAN, South Fayette
Patrick deserved better
Since the gloves have been off for a long time, someone needs to step up for Craig Patrick.
He was by far the most valuable off-ice asset the Penguins had.
This post-work stoppage team had Mario Lemieux and his minions' fingerprints all over it. And the local media bought into it. Because they too have no idea what it takes to assemble the types of players and system to create and establish a defense-first, winning program.
If Craig Patrick hadn't brought the Badger [Bob Johnson] here, Mario and this city would be Cupless today.
Patrick's dismissal was conducted with a total lack of class, which has become typical of this organization.
Ken Sawyer and Mario Lemieux are the ones who should have been jettisoned by a board really looking out for the best interest of the team.
GEORGE KIRK, Monroeville
Portland listens only to herself
Within the Rene Portland controversy, responsibility and leadership evaporate in the mire of charges, responses and posturing. Since her 1991 disciplinary action, Portland has demonstrated ignorance of university policy, indifference for Penn State leadership and disregard for her employer. Portland states that "specific sexual behaviors" have no place in "her program."
On this doctrine, she has been consistent and public for years. Little has changed. Her boorish behavior has grown bolder because university leadership offers no consequences for her actions. Nothing except another verbal warning and a note in her file. Her reaction, she disputes the process, criticizes colleagues and snubs senior management.
Who does the women's basketball program belong to?
BILL EARLEY, Merion Station, Pa.
Pirates fan wants answers
As we watch yet another Pirates season crash and burn under the almost comically inept management team of Kevin McClatchy and Dave Littlefield, I am going to issue a public challenge for either man to answer.
Combining the events of the Rule Five debacle which has resulted in Chris Shelton maturing into a feared slugger, Chris Young developing into a capable major league pitcher, the absolute absence of a five-tool prospect in the upper levels of the minor-league system, the inability of any of the current crop of young pitchers to maintain consistency and the continued misguided annual signings of marginal players in the dying days of mostly undistinguished careers, on what basis can it be argued that those who occupy the positions of general manager and managing general partner are anything more than abject failures?
I believe as a highly disappointed and offended customer an explanation for such abysmal performance by these two men should be offered in some sort of public forum. But I strongly suspect, like every challenge encountered by this organization, my direct challenge will go unmet as well.
CHARLES HALT, Bellevue
A tired generation speaks
OK, this just in. Stop the presses. The Pirates have no fan support because they stink. Let's not kid ourselves anymore. Nobody wants to pay to see a team that hasn't won in 14 years.
And I am so tired of hearing about how beautiful our park is. The novelty is gone. There comes a time when it is about what is on the field and no longer about the beautiful skyline. This city is dying for a winning baseball team. Pittsburgh would be a baseball town again in a heartbeat if the Pirates could remain just one game over .500. How pathetic that I'm rooting for my baseball team to win just one more game than they lose.
BRAD SHAY, Mt. Lebanon
No one wins these days
Every year, Pirates fans are told the team will be better, and every year the results are the same. It's sad to say, but Michael Keaton's comments on opening day were accurate. It's baffling to me why any Pirates fans were disgusted or offended.
As a result of Batman's comments, a Pirates spokesperson actually stated that they've made a commitment to winning merely by raising the payroll. The problem: the front office has failed to spend wisely as well as being poor judges of talent. Quite an impressive list can be assembled of the team's mistakes.
Kevin McClatchy's response was that Keaton is not qualified to speak on the matter. On the contrary. [McClatchy is] not qualified to speak about winning baseball.
TOM FUNK, Westmoreland City, Pa.
The ugliness of losing
This is my 60th season of following Pirates baseball. There were some dark days in those early years, but by the 14th season the 1960 Buccos won it all.
We are now into the 14th consecutive losing season and there appears to be no end in sight. It is one thing for a team to be defeated by better opposition; when a major-league baseball team persists in beating itself day after day by running through the third-base coach's stop sign or when a pitcher has a batter 0-2 and throws a pitch down the middle of the plate, there is no hope.
Thus far, McClatchy ownership has been spectacularly unsuccessful and while we hear the constant babble of small-market team and limited financial resources, the chief culprit is something else: an utter lack of common sense.
AL MATLACK, State College, Pa.
Too many zeroes
In 1966, Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente was voted MVP of the National League. The following season, the Pirates rewarded Clemente with the franchise's first $100,000 contract.
At that time, there were only four other players in baseball with $100,000 contracts: Hall of Famers Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Hank Aaron and Frank Robinson.
This season, there are 61 players with contracts exceeding $10 million a season including three Yankees infielders, each earning more than $20 million.
I wonder how many of the "Fab 61" will be enshrined in Cooperstown?
RONALD P. PALUZZI SR., South Greensburg
Just look at the NFL
Bob Smizik recently pointed out some facts for fans who think there is no competitive balance in baseball. Smizik wrote "the past eight National League championships have been won by eight different teams" and "the past six World Series have been won by six different teams." While these facts are accurate, they are not the proper basis on which to determine whether there is competitive balance. The proper measure is to look at how many different teams have made the playoffs, because in reality a team can only be considered competitive for a world championship if they make it to the postseason. By this standard, baseball miserably fails.
Because baseball has only eight playoff positions each year and football 12, it is only fair to compare the past six baseball seasons to the past four football seasons. That's a total of 48 possible playoff spots for each league over these years. During the six baseball seasons, only 18 different teams have filled the 48 possible playoff spots. The Yankees and Braves have each made it all six years, and St. Louis and Oakland have made it to the playoffs four times each. Those four teams thereby have accounted for 42 percent the playoff spots.
In contrast, 26 different teams have made the NFL playoffs the past four years and only six teams have not made the playoffs at least once. In fact, in the past two NFL seasons, 19 of the league's 32 teams have made the playoffs.
The National Football League is the standard for competitive balance. This is because it has the combination of revenue sharing, free agency and a salary cap. Until baseball makes similar moves, it is ridiculous to say that it is competitively balanced.
RYAN O. HEMMINGER, Mount Washington
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First Published May 5, 2006 12:00 am