NFL: Donovan McNabb shouldn’t be criticized for giving his honest assessment…

There was some controversy in Philadelphia over the weekend when former Eagles QB Donovan McNabb opined on CBS Radio on Saturday that the franchise should consider drafting another quarterback if Carson Wentz couldn’t lead the team past the second round of the playoffs in the next two seasons.

Of course, in this day and age of social media, McNabb’s take drew criticism from others, including eagles offensive tackle Lane Johnson on Twitter. Johnson then went on a radio station on Sunday to call out McNabb and other former Eagles players for criticizing current players on the team.

Now, I have to say that I don’t blame McNabb for giving his honest opinion and insights. McNabb, after all, guided the Eagles franchise to seven playoff appearances and a trip to the Super Bowl following the 2004 season. He was a proven winner in Philadelphia and in the NFL, and the fact that he played in the league for as long as he did certainly proves that he knows what he’s talking about when it comes to evaluating what he sees.

I mean, what he sees on the field would be valuable analysis – that’s precisely why networks bring in former players to do commentary.

It’s better than an athlete being a homer and with Donovan McNabb being asked a question on a radio show, he gave his honest assessment and shouldn’t be criticized for that.

I remember early in the 2018 season when poor place-kicking cost the Minnesota Vikings a game, and ex-Vikings great Cris Carter was on television passionately saying the kicker needed to be cut right away. That emotion probably stemmed from Carter’s own experience in the 1998 season when his 15-1 Vikings lost the NFC championship game after Gary Anderson missed what would have been an insurance field-goal attempt late in regulation.

That would not be what I would like to see or hear from an analyst when it comes to sports takes, having emotion cloud his judgement.

But that’s just how I see it – so shame on those who criticized Donovan McNabb over the weekend.

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More NHL first-round action…

On Wednesday, Calgary blew a 2-1 lead and lost 3-2 in overtime, falling behind its first-round series 3-1 against Colorado.

The Flames’ overtime struggles in playoff competition – and lack of playoff success, period – are really no surprise… you wonder if they’ve been cursed since their 1989 Cup victory. It seems they can’t win in the playoffs, or if they go into overtime in the playoffs, they lose (other than during their run in 2004).

This particular series in 2018-19 reminds me of the 1989-90 playoffs, when that season’s Flames were also the No. 1 seed in their own conference. Facing the L.A. Kings, they were tied 1-1 after the first two games in Calgary. The Flames then lost 2-1 in overtime in Game Three, and were blown out 12-4 in the fourth game to fall 3-1.

This season, it’s backwards. Tied 1-1, Calgary got blown out 6-2 in the third game and then lost the fourth contest 3-2 in OT. Anyway, an OT loss as well as a blowout loss on the road… and suddenly the Flames are down 3-1.

But it’s interesting how the Flames always seem to lose in playoff OT games… they did so in the third game in Montreal in the 1989 Finals before rallying to win that series. They lost big playoff OT games in 1990, 1991, 1994, 1995, and 1996… and lost the clinching game in OT in all of those springs.

I guess the more things change, the more they stay the same, for Calgary.

NHL Series Sweeps

Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh getting swept in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs on Tuesday night came as big shockers, but once again the playoffs are always unpredictable in hockey.

In particular, the Lightning tying the 1995-96 Red Wings’ single-season mark of 62 wins had many people thinking Tampa was going all the way. There were, in fact, a few articles that came out in recent weeks suggesting Tampa Bay was the greatest NHL team ever because of what the club was doing this season… but c’mon….

But ahhh… this goes back to how the winningest teams in the four professional sports leagues never won the title that year… whether it was the 2001 Mariners, those same Red Wings and now the Lightning, the 2007 Patriots, and the Warriors team that blew the 3-1 series lead to Cleveland in the NBA Finals.

I have no rooting interest here, so I’ll say that Tampa’s meltdown is something that should please fans of the 1992-93 Bruins. When Boston that year got swept by Buffalo in the first round, I remember there was talk about how the Bruins were the first team ever to win 50 games and then get swept in the playoffs. Well, the Lightning of 2018-19 won 62 and then nothing in the playoffs, so at least that takes those B’s off the hook.

And the other series – Pittsburgh vs. Islanders – was a shocker too… The Isles had a great season, but c’mon… New York had accomplished something that it couldn’t do when John Tavares was there. Now with Tavares in Toronto, the Isles are doing what they’re doing… simply amazing. I’m guessing this is New York’s first sweep since the 1983 team swept the Oilers in the Cup Finals.

We’ll see what other upsets occur the rest of the way…

“A Life of Knuckleballs”: Just Missed the Cut, Part I

When I first wrote the manuscript for Tom Candiotti: A Life of Knuckleballs, I had over 600,000 words, which, of course, made it unpublishable.

So, my publisher, McFarland & Co., requested me to cut the manuscript down, and because of that, many stories did not make the cut.

Over the next little while, I will be posting some of the original content that didn’t make it to the book. I call this, “Missed the Cut.”

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This one is from Tom Candiotti’s first month in the majors, with the stories about Pete Vuckovich and the Milwaukee veterans not making it into the book:

TCThe Brewers were still in contention even with the struggles of veteran Don Sutton—who despite pitching nine shutout innings against California on August 24th, was 0-5 with a 6.49 ERA in his last seven starts.

Even though the veteran wasn’t getting it done, the rookies certainly were, up to that point. Including Candiotti, the Brewers had four rookie pitchers who each played a big role in the team’s success. The quartet had 19 wins and 10 saves, led by reliever Tom Tellmann (nine wins, eight saves), Chuck Porter (six wins), Bob Gibson (two wins, two saves), and of course, Candiotti (two complete-game wins in two starts).

As it turned out, Milwaukee wouldn’t win another game in which Tellmann, Porter, and Gibson appeared until the final three days of the season. Tellmann would pitch well down the stretch (2.31 ERA) but the Brewers would go 0-9 in his final nine appearances of the season. They would be 0-4 in Gibson’s appearances—he was 0-2—until he defeated Detroit 6-2 in a meaningless start on the final weekend. As for Porter, he would be 0-4 with a 7.16 ERA—the Brewers would lose all six of his starts—before beating the Tigers 7-4 on the final day of the season.

As for Vuckovich, he wouldn’t make a difference when he made his long-awaited season debut on August 31st. The reigning Cy Young winner would last only 14.2 innings in three starts, going 0-2 with a 4.91 ERA. Meanwhile, in a complete reversal of Sutton’s September 1982 performance, the veteran right-hander would be 1-3 with a 3.80 ERA in his final six starts of 1983.

As Washington Post writer Thomas Boswell noted in late August, “The core of the Brewers’ suspect rotation—Sutton, Mike Caldwell and Bob McClure—has a combined 25-26 record and an ERA over 4.40. When you have to give 27 starts in the pennant race to Chuck Porter, Tom Candiotti, Bob Gibson, Jerry Augustine and Rick Waits, you’re in line for baseball sympathy” (Thomas Boswell, “Mighty Brewers Have Gone From Muscle to Hustle Team,” Washington Post, August 22, 1983).

Though Vuckovich would go winless in 1983, Candiotti, to this day, marvels at the clubhouse presence he exhibited that season. “Vuckovich, like the veteran players, made sure the rookies were paying attention to what was going on,” says Candy. “I’d be on the bench. He’d walk by in the ninth inning and say, ‘What did this batter do in his second at-bat?’ So I’d have to recall the pitch count and things like that. He kept me in the game, kept me watching all the time. That’s how baseball was back then. The veterans kept the young players in the game. All those guys made sure the rookies were paying attention and knew what was going on. And boy, I tell ya, if Pete was asking you a question, you’d better get it right!”

Candiotti also credits Vuckovich with teaching him a lot about pitching, especially pitching around hitters. “He taught me an awful lot, being able to pick the outs you wanna get. I was never taught to walk guys intentionally, like intentionally ‘unintentionally.’ But he sat down with me and went through things with me that I never knew.” For instance, many times a pitcher would walk a hitter apparently unintentionally, when actually it was almost intentional. If, say, there was a runner on second base and a tough hitter up, the pitcher wouldn’t actually give him an intentional pass, but would pitch carefully to him. If the pitcher got the batter out to chase pitches out of the strike zone, that was great. If he walked the hitter, that was fine too—his main goal was to basically not give the batter anything to hit. Candiotti, who never liked to walk hitters, learned to appreciate such a pitching strategy. He was grateful for having Vuckovich as a mentor in teaching him how to pitch in the majors.

“He wore me out, though,” Candiotti laughs. “I had to buy him this and that. This was kind of like my ‘welcome’ to the big leagues. Of course, that Brewers team was a veteran club. [Catcher] Bill Schroeder and I were two of the few rookies that year, until the September call-ups came up to Milwaukee. For a while there, Pete really wore us out. I know he wore me out. He wouldn’t let me in the trainer’s room initially. I was tested as a rookie. But once I passed the test, he was awesome. He was a great teammate to be around.” And how did Candiotti pass the test?

“Well, what happened was I was making my first major-league start. I went into the trainer’s room and Vuckovich was there. He goes, ‘What are you doing here, rookie?’

“I go, ‘I’m just gonna get some heat.’

“Pete says, ‘Get the hell outta here, rookie.’”

Candiotti didn’t let Vuckovich’s abuse bother him. He left the room, pitched Milwaukee into first place, and kept his distance from the veteran pitcher. Soon enough, Vuckovich approached the rookie to welcome him. “A few days later,” Candiotti says, “he comes up to me and goes, ‘You’re doing pretty well. You can come into the trainer’s room now.’ So after that, he was great. But if I’d fought him on it, he would’ve made my life miserable that rookie season.”

He still laughs at how Vuckovich walked 102 batters with 105 strikeouts during the 1982 season and still won the AL Cy Young Award*. While Vuckovich was second in the league in wins—finishing 18-6 with a 3.34 ERA—he was also second in bases on balls. “Now, I think back and I wonder—and I’d joke about it with him—‘How did you win the Cy Young with those numbers?’” Candiotti says with a grin. “He had over a hundred walks! I’d joke about it with Pete, like, ‘That’s one of the strangest things how you won that award!’”

Another veteran who helped Candiotti along that first season was catcher Ted Simmons, who’d assign him homework. “Ted once got me to do a report about the ball-strike counts on which most baserunners ran,” he says. “You know, which counts runners go the most. Or he’d quiz me on pitch selections during a game. It was great. And of course, he called a knuckleball for the first big-league pitch I ever threw. He knew how to help me out as a young player. It was a huge thing for me.”

*One could make the argument that Toronto’s Dave Stieb was robbed of the Cy Young in 1982. Vuckovich, who made 30 starts, pitched 223.2 innings with nine complete games, including one shutout. Stieb, meanwhile, started 38 games, completed 19 of them, tossed five shutouts, and threw 288.1 innings. He led the AL in innings, complete games, and shutouts, and was tied for third in games started. He was 17-14 with a 3.25 ERA, walking 75 and fanning 141.

 

People 101: The Unprofessional McDonald’s Employee

(Note: This post was originally posted on one of my other sites, kpwee.com.)

A lot of people around us are mean. Inconsiderate. Rude. They’re all around us. Since they are like that, well, then it’s fair game that I criticize them. Starting now – right here and right now.


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So, the other day (last Sunday at 7 p.m., in fact… according to the time stamp on the photo that I took), I visited the local McDonald’s. Not wanting to endure receiving poor service and/or dealing with unfriendly cashiers yet again (my experience has often been cashiers not smiling and/or not even bothering to greet the customer), I used the mobile app to order the meal and requested McDonald’s “table service.” It’s simple. You just enter the table #, and they’re supposed to bring it to your table.

Soon after I ordered through the app, a McDonald’s employee – a young lady – brought a tray out with items that looked like what I had ordered. She walked right past my table and took it to another table where two guys were seated. She said to them in a very cheerful voice, “Did you guys order this?”

I waved at her and said, “I did.” She brought the tray over and placed it at my table, and left without a word. No “Can I get you anything else?” or “Is that everything?” No, she put the tray down and walked away WITHOUT A WORD. And no, she didn’t re-join the kitchen or the counter, or wherever she was supposed to go. She went BACK to that table with the two guys and said something to them before leaving.

I was having my meal, sipping on the hot tea, and I would say about 25 minutes later, that same young lady came back into the customer area. She re-joined that same table and sat down with the two guys. Apparently, she was off-duty at that point, and they were discussing college classes, etc., and in their conversation they were – including she – using swear words. I was still in the middle of my hot tea, and that’s why I was still there. And since the area was pretty empty – but not without customers (such as myself) – I could hear their conversation. It wasn’t that I wanted to.

Her actions were highly unprofessional. I have a contact at the head office, so I discussed this incident with that person. I didn’t mention the swear words, though. I stuck to the lack of service with this so-called “table service.” What that lady does in her free time – swearing at her place of work – is none of my business. But being unprofessional while still on duty… when I’m the customer… well, it’s definitely my business. The tables have numbers on there, and I input my table number, yet this McDonald’s employee was unprofessional in carrying the tray to where her friends were sitting – sure, cater to your friends first, right? – instead of doing her job. The worst part was this dropping off the tray and not saying a word to me while returning to her friends. Unprofessional. Gutless.

 

A big problem in our society: Parents and Schools encouraging kids to “hate”

Instead of encouraging children to be positive and have a good attitude, some parents and schools are apparently doing the opposite.

In the story about a 10-year-old winning his science fair by proving New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady “cheated,” the boy stated that he hated Brady and said the future Hall of Fame QB didn’t deserve his money. “Gimme some of your money; you don’t deserve it,” the boy was quoted as saying in the story.

Wow. Give me a break. I’m guessing the parents encouraged him to do this science project knowing he hated the quarterback. “Hate” is always a strong word, but if parents are okay with 10-year-olds expressing hate, our society will have a big problem.

The school should be ashamed for allowing him to win. The boy hates Brady, so can his scientific findings be reliable when he has so much bias? And the fact he was allowed to win when he has hatred is just inappropriate.

Think about this: If we are encouraging kids to be biased in their research – which clearly is the case here – what does that tell us about the results of the research? It will likely be twisted to suit the “hater’s” agenda.

Finally, the comment about giving “some of your money; you don’t deserve it”: So, what makes the kid thinks he deserves that money? Just because he used his bias to cook up a biased research project? Or, just because he hates Tom Brady? Where is the logic in that?

The bottom line is this is a good example of poor parenting and a bad job by the school.

Welcome to the society and world we live in.

And once again, how about those so-called experts…

Well, I remember after Week 2 of the NFL season, all those so-called experts thought that the Pittsburgh Steelers, 0-1-1 at the time, were done. Now, after Sunday’s comeback win over Jacksonville, Pittsburgh is the No. 2 seed in the AFC….

I still like New England in the AFC, and hope that it will be a Patriots-Saints Super Bowl and we’ll get to see Brady vs. Brees… but we shall see.

And speaking of those Saints, they lost the season opener to Tampa Bay, and now haven’t lost since, winning nine straight. And kudos to those who said that “Fitz Magic” – the superb play of Ryan Fitzpatrick – wouldn’t last. That one, I think, was an obvious one, and he’s struggled over the past few weeks. I mean, remember when Buffalo gave him that big contract all those years ago after he’d led the Bills to a winning record in the first half of the season? As I keep telling everyone, for those on the band wagon of a surprise team that starts out on fire, there’s always a second half of the season to play…

And the Dallas Cowboys… it seems a LOT of people in the media want them to fail. A few weeks ago, they were “dead” after losing to the Houston Texans in overtime. Now, they’re a game back of first-place Washington, with the two teams playing on Thanksgiving Thursday with the division on the line. Alex Smith, hurt on Sunday, is done for the season. Colt McCoy is in for the Redskins… that means Dallas has a shot.

I still think the Redskins can pull it off, and then if they go on to beat Philadelphia 11 days after that, they would have eight wins, which would essentially wrap up the NFC East … seeing that Dallas would be too far back and have no tie-breaker…

But man, the Cowboys are still in it. You know that the “haters” in the media will say this week that Dallas will find a way to choke… Fun times!