The Friday Feed
By Stan "The Fan" Charles
Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts has taken only 33 MLB at bats this season, which makes it hard to feel safe projecting how his comeback story is going to turn out. Yet it's not too early to begin to formulate opinions about how Roberts is faring at the highest levels of his profession.
To date, he is holding his own. After what he has been through since spring training 2010 -- a herniated disk in his back, an abdominal strain, a self-induced concussion and a second concussion suffered as he slid headfirst toward first base -- that he is back at all is no small feat.
Although there was hope that the old Roberts would magically appear, this is pretty much what I would have anticipated. He is batting .242, with eight hits and four RBIs. For a lifetime .281 hitter, who has a career on-base percentage of 35.2, well you can see he is getting by.
Roberts' brother in all of this is Minnesota Twins first baseman Justin Morneau, who has battled back from multiple concussions during the same two seasons, but is ahead of Roberts in his 2012 comeback, with 195 at bats.
His results are remarkably similar in style, but more similar to the old Morneau, a lifetime .279 hitter who reached base at a .351 clip. Although Morneau is batting.241, he does resemble his old self in power and RBI numbers -- 12 doubles and 10 home runs, while knocking in 33 runs.
Both players bear watching, and in a way it's nerve-racking doing that. All athletes are one play away from losing their athletic gifts, and these concussion comeback stories give new meaning to having viewers on the edge of their seats.
I have always thought Nats skipper Davey Johnson was one of the best in the business. Although he also has been a little rough around the edges in his communication skills, it was great to see Washington general manager Mike Rizzo reach out to him to take over the Nats in 2011, after Jim Riggleman's bizarre career suicide.
Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon, who is now engaged with Johnson in a twin exchange of bombast, has always engendered my admiration. Yet, I am expecting any day now to hear Maddon make a cleansing admission that he has been dead wrong on his side of interpreting the events that have led to an eight-game suspension for right-handed pitcher Joel Peralta.
Johnson, like any good manager worth his salt, waited until a key moment during a game to use intel he had that Peralta kept pine tar on his glove.
Upon Johnson's request to the umpires, Peralta was tossed from the game -- and his ejection has led to an eight-game suspension. But it was Maddon's characterization of the Johnson maneuver -- as being born of cowardice and somehow crossing the line of baseball etiquette -- that made him begin to seem off his rocker.
The more Maddon talked on the topic, the more childish he looked. He even said future free agents might want to steer clear of playing for Johnson, for fear that he'd one day use the same gambit on them.
Maddon will now have to answer questions from MLB investigators about his other off-the-wall assertion -- that all pitchers are using pine tar. I am sure his other pitchers will be happy for the extra scrutiny heaped upon them.
The sooner Maddon admits Johnson simply pulled one over on him and he spoke out of utter frustration, the better this will end for him.
Speaking of the Nats, I'm sure you'd never get Johnson to admit his new bosses, the Lerners, purposely wanted the team to arrange its rotation in such a way as to have its star-power pitching ace, Stephen Strasburg, miss pitching in a head-to-head matchup with the Orioles on MASN.
I understand that the Nationals are closely monitoring Strasburg's innings, and I know they had an off day this past Monday. Yet, it still seems strange that Strasburg pitched June 8, a Friday, in Boston, then at home on back-to back Wednesdays, June 13 and June 20.
So, instead of Strasberg drawing a huge number of viewers on the regional sports network predominately owned by Peter Angelos, the Orioles owner who is embroiled in a battle with the Nationals about television rights fees, Strasburg will start on Monday, at Coors Field in Colorado.
Only six golfers have ever won the U.S. Open and British Open during the same year, and U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson is not going to be the seventh.
Instead, Simpson has announced he is staying home to ensure he will be present at the birth of his second child. Simpson's wife, Dowd, is due to give birth to the couple's second child in late July.
Last night, I watched the Miami Heat win the final game of the 2011-12 NBA season. Many experts picked the Oklahoma City Thunder to easily best the Heat, and I can't say I disagreed with them, but in hindsight, there are many examples of teams making it to a championship round and feeling they have won already.
The Thunder ran an unparalleled gauntlet of besting three of the six teams that have won championships since 1999: the Dallas Mavericks, the 2011 champs; the Los Angeles Lakers, who have five championships since 2000; and the Spurs, who won four since 1999. The Thunder simply got too caught up in their press clippings and failed to match the intensity of a Heat team that was hell-bent on proving its worth.
Heat president Pat Riley, and also coach Eric Spoelstra, put a championship team together with owner Mickey Ariston's rather deep pockets. The Thunder should be able to hold their heads high and learn the art of winning it all.
Posted June 22, 2012