Schu Strings: UA cleaning house?

Sometimes there are just some unfortunate victims in the constant that is the everchanging world of collegiate athletics. Members of the Arizona baseball team are learning that lesson.

Arizona Baseball Coach Andy Lopez has taken some heat, and probably not surprisingly, for making references about cleaning house and starting anew in the struggling UA baseball program. It's pretty clear that some members of this year's team aren't going to return for the 2003 season as Lopez begins the real process of making the program his.

It's an unfortunate reality in college athletics when a coaching change occurs. Naturally, the new guy isn't going to be especially enamored with every philosophy incorporated by his predecessor, and as a result, some of the players who were representative of that philosophy will be on the outside looking in.

Many of the players who won't return are undoubtedly good guys too, it's just that the new system doesn't jell, and it could significantly affect their ability to be as productive as before.

This is not a Lopez phenomenon. He was hired for one purpose. And that purpose is to improve a program that has tasted more bedrock than stratosphere the last decade. In many ways, football coach John Mackovic is in the same transition process. It's a borrowed time period for coaches, but eventually they'll be able to administer their style on the program, at which point they feel they can then be appropriately judged.

For some of the players caught in the crossfire, it sucks. Simple as that. And there isn't a heck of a lot that can be done. One hopes the new coach shows a little tact in the transition process, or that the school shows a willingness to stick with a program a bit longer while the student-athletes involved in the transition use their eligibility. But truth is, if a coach doesn't like a kid who was part of the old regime, that kid is going to have problems in the new system. Sure, he or she could leave, and perhaps the NCAA would grant a quick exit and allow play at another institution, but that doesn't help in personal circumstances, say with the numerous friends and relationships that athlete has had an opportunity to cultivate.

If college is occasionally supposed to provide life lessons, this can be a somewhat unpleasant one for student-athletes in the middle.

Now onto ranting, and this week's subject is none other than Cat Tracks Editor Brad Allis. Brad Allis? Why Brad Allis? Brad Allis is a good guy. He does a great job with the NEW Cat Tracks Magazine, and the website. He's a fantastically good conversationalist who has numerous insightful opinions on a variety of topics, and I can school him on the basketball court. So why Brad Allis?

Because Brad Allis needs to look into his little Wonderland mirror.

Sherman, set the Wayback Machine to not-so wayback. Say last Wednesday, and Brad's Wonderland column about the problems with baseball. Indeed, Brad addressed many things, but somehow neglected a major issue, perhaps the biggest factor, or non-factor, in the whole equation.

Here's a Brad excerpt:
"I went to a Diamondbacks game this weekend. Randy Johnson was on the hill. The D'Backs and the Dodgers combined for 19 runs in 10 innings and all anyone wanted to talk about was the "Mike Piazza gay thing". As I discussed the issue with my friends the overwhelming consensus was ‘who cares'."

Well, I don't care about Piazza either, but then Brad goes on and talks about steroids and the impending strike and any of a number of other issues.

So what's the biggest problem? Brad, again, supported the very institution that, again, is threatening to cripple the sport. He went to a Major League Baseball game, and he spent money at a Major League facility.

People have this desire to whine and moan about everything baseball.

Millionaires arguing with billionaires and all that stuff, and how they're out of touch with the real world. But we, the people who could actually change this thing, are incapable of breaking away from our addiction.

Instead, like Steve Howe (not the fine guitarist for Yes) or Darryl Strawberry, we're addicted. But our pathetic addiction is to our beloved franchise, or the beloved sport, and we return again and again and again.

And apparently again.

All the doomsayers who blab about their apocalyptic ending of the sport should baseball strike again, are doing little more than shouting at themselves. Why should baseball change? Why should the agents, the corrupt bastards who have really undercut America's pastime, do anything to change?

Their players make ridiculous amounts of money. Owners are still worth 10-figures. And the fans will whine and moan and bitch and cry and talk about how they'll never come back. And you know what, they'll come back. And they'll come back. And they'll come back.

When Major League Baseball endured its third work stoppage, I was gone. End of the game for Johnny Schu. I haven't attended a Major League game since. Yeah, BOB, the crowning jewel of downtown Phoenix, the very building that resoundingly says, "look at us, we're in the big leagues now,"--never been there. I might get around to watching Ozzy and Black Sabbath if they play there again, but sure as hell not the Diamondbacks.

Have I seen games on TV? Of course, but I don't think I've had 10 games on in my apartment since the last strike. Generally, the games I've seen have been at other locations. Have I bought products advertised on Major League Baseball games? Probably, but indirectly. I don't even know who the advertisers are, although I suspect I could venture some educated guesses. I watched Game Seven of the World Series in Phoenix at my dad's place. Thought that was pretty cool, but likely would have been just as content talking with him and listening to his endless yarns.

The people who truly need a union are the fans, but the fans as a whole are too stupid to create it. And in the end, they just can't give it up. No aversion therapy will cure their ills. The hardcore fan will always come back for more, no matter how many times he or she has been metaphorically whacked over the head. And the bandwagon fan will always go when the team wins, just to be a part of the festivities. If I were part of the baseball hierarchy, I would think I could do pretty much anything and never reap the consequences. Why, because I haven't been penalized yet.

Should baseball strike, this should be regarded as a crossroads not for the players and owners, but for the fans. For when the players return to the field, either don't go or shut up.

On another note, while I have largely drifted from the NBA since its walkout a couple years back, I must admit the Sacramento/Los Angeles Western Conference Finals series was one for the ages. As much as the Lakers annoy me, they know how to win, and managed to be just good enough, despite Shaquille O'Neal playing at less than 100 percent, and equally as important, despite not getting the role player contributions they had in the past.

Conversely, Mike Bibby, by virtue of this series, has firmly placed himself among the top 10 players in the game, and probably made himself an extra 12 to 15 million dollars by virtue of his clutch play. His Game Seven effort down the stretch in the fourth quarter was remarkable, and he showed the nation what Arizona fans have known for some time. He is bottom line clutch. However, nobody else on Sacramento is, and therein lies the problem. The great players must be able to hit the big shots, but they must also be surrounded by others who can answer when the defense swarms. We remember Michael Jordan's repeated clutch efforts, but it was John Paxson who hit the shot that beat the Suns. And Steve Kerr who doomed Utah the year prior to Jordan's swan song bucket against Brian Russell.

We remember Larry Bird and Kevin McHale, but Dennis Johnson defined clutch in the late stages for the 80's Celtics.

Bibby is clutch, no question. But Chris Webber is not. He's the new Karl Malone. The new Charles Barkley. A great talent who shies away from the great shot when his team needs him most. Worse, Bibby provides Doug Cristie and Peja Stojakovic with wide-open looks. Wide open. And they deliver Brad Allis clankers from long range. Conversely, if you give Robert Horry that shot, count it. Every time. Just like Schu.

[Editor's Note: Although Schu and Brad have played football, they have never played a game of basketball together. Schu claims he is deadly from the outside, but all we have to go on is some good shots on an office Nerf Hoop.]

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