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The Lutz blog has moved

The Lutz blog has moved to the new Kansas.com. You can find it at www.kansas.com/lutz-blog/.

How long can Rory McIlroy be No. 1?

With two major championships in his hip pocket this year, Rory McIlroy has skyrocketed to the No. 1 position in the Official World Golf Rankings, which has been kept since April 6, 1986.

The first No. 1 in the world, by the way, was West Germany’s Bernhard Langer. It was so long ago that his country doesn’t even exist now.

McIlroy has been No. 1 five different times for a total of 41 weeks. He has a long way to go, obviously, to catch the all-time leader at No. 1, Tiger Woods. Woods has a total of 683

Rory McIlroy has been at the top of the World Golf Rankings for two weeks currently. How much longer can he stay there?

Rory McIlroy has been at the top of the World Golf Rankings for two weeks currently. How much longer can he stay there?

weeks, just over 13 years, in the top spot. Now you have to wonder if he’ll ever get there again as his game, and his body, are showing deterioration.

McIlroy is definitely the flavor of the moment, having just won the PGA Championship on Sunday to go with the Open Championship he captured in July. He’ll attempt to win his third major in a row next April at the Masters in Augusta, Ga. I think we’ll probably all be watching.

Only 17 players have held the No. 1 spot, mostly because Woods has been such a No. 1 hog. He has streaks of 264 and 281 weeks atop the rankings and has been No. 1 on 11 different occasions.

Next best is Australia’s Greg Norman, who spent 331 weeks at No. 1 during 11 times in the top spot. Nobody else has more than Nick Faldo’s 97 weeks. And Tom Lehman has just one week at No. 1, from April 20 until April 26 in 1987. It was the best week of his life.

How many weeks in the top spot will McIlroy accumulate. He’s only 25 and seems to have taken his game to a higher level. And he was already pretty high, as his two major championships before the past couple of months indicate.

With Woods seemingly out of the picture – yes, I suppose he could still surprise us with another rise to No. 1 – it appears McIlroy is head and shoulders above the rest. Not that others aren’t capable of unseating him, but the guess here is that McIlroy is in for a long run at No. 1. Perhaps not one that approaches Woods’ dominance, but it wouldn’t surprise anyone to see McIlroy settle in for a year or more.

Who is even in position to challenge him?

Adam Scott, who has spent 11 weeks at No. 1 previously, is currently ranked No. 2. He’s a fantastic player and could rise to No. 1 again, certainly. Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose, Jim Furyk, Matt Kuchar, Bubba Watson, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day round out the top 10. Woods is 11th followed by Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler.

Of those names, Scott and Spieth seem like the biggest threats to McIlroy’s reign at No. 1. But after a fast start to the 2014 season, Spieth has struggled. He tied for second at the Masters, then tied for 17th at the U.S. Open, 36th at the Open Championship and 117th at the PGA.

McIlroy has battled inconsistency, too, but seems to have risen above it. And he looks to have the mental capacity to withstand challenges that will come his way.

Here’s the list of all-time No. 1 players with how many weeks they’ve been in the top spot:

Tiger Woods, United States, 683

Greg Norman, Australia, 331

Nick Faldo, England, 97

Seve Ballesteros, Spain, 61

Luke Donald, England, 56

Ian Woosnam, Wales, 50

Nick Price, Zimbabwe, 44

Rory McIlroy, Northern Ireland, 41

Vijay Singh, Fiji, 32

Lee Westwood, England, 22

Fred Couples, United States, 16

David Duval, United States, 15

Adam Scott, Australia, 11

Ernie Els, South Africa, 9

Martin Kaymer, Germany, 8

Bernhard Langer, Germany, 3

Tom Lehman, United States, 1

Now by country:

United States 715

Australia 342

England 175

Spain 61

Wales 50

Zimbabwe 44

Northern Ireland 41

Fiji 32

Germany 11

South Africa 9

 

What is David Feherty?

Something has been bothering me for two days, and it makes me wonder about my place in the world.

I think of myself as a journalist. I hope others do, too. I studied journalism at Wichita State. I’ve been in the newspaper business since I was 17 years old. I’ve learned from people who value the role of

 For his second shot on the second hole, Jason Day rolled up his pants and removed his shoes to wade across Floyds Fork and hit out of weeds.

For his second shot on the second hole, Jason Day rolled up his pants and removed his shoes to wade across Floyds Fork and hit out of weeds.

journalism and a free press in American society. There are even those who believe the nation would crumble without it, even in this age of social media in which everybody is a “journalist.”

So what is David Feherty?

He covers the PGA Tour as part of CBS’ golf team. He’s clever, smart and entertaining. He has his own popular show on The Golf Network and he knows the game, its rules and its accepted behavior.

Golf is a gentleman’s game. Gentle men play it.

So here’s what’s bugging me.

During Saturday’s early third-round play in the PGA Championship, at Valhalia Golf Club in Louisville, Australia’s Jason Day hit an errant tee shot on No. 2. The ball sailed to the left of Floyds Fork, a stream that is the primary water feature on Valhalia, and into some deep rough. Very deep rough.

I questioned whether Day’s ball could be found in the allotted five minutes. Day, who was just a shot behind tournament leader Rory McIlroy at the time, looked perplexed as two people looked for Day’s ball. One was his caddie, which of course no one would have an issue with. The other was Feherty, who had rolled up his pant legs and waded across the creek to the other side.

Before I discuss my opinion on this, I want to ask again: What is David Feherty?

Is he a journalist? Because if he is, then what is he doing looking for Day’s ball?

One of the first things we’re taught in journalism school is that we shouldn’t interject ourselves into the stories we’re covering. That’s a big no-no.

But isn’t that what Feherty was doing by looking for Day’s ball?

Let me provide a what-if here.

Let’s say Day’s ball eluded those who were searching for it until the very end of the five minutes that are allowed. Let’s say he was about to give up and drop a ball – which would resulted in a penalty – when Feherty suddenly finds the ball. Day goes on to play the hole and makes a par, which is what happened Saturday. Except that Feherty wasn’t the one who found the ball; it was discovered by caddie Colin Swatton.

But say Feherty had found the ball. Day gets the par instead of a bogey – or worse – and goes on to win the tournament by a shot.

What then?

Feherty would have had an obvious influence on the outcome of the PGA Championship. Would CBS have been OK with that? Would everyone who has sat in a journalism classroom in their lives been OK with that?

Surprisingly, at least to me, there has not been much outrage about this. Perhaps it’s because Day did not go on to win. But there wasn’t even much said at the time, even on Twitter where controversies usually blow up immediately. I, however, was immediately incensed that Feherty was looking for Day’s ball.

Feherty is directed by CBS, I assume, to provide on-course commentary and reporting. By that definition, then, he is a journalist. That’s what journalists do – they report. And they are mandated to be unbiased in their reporting.

Feherty was asked about this situation by reporters, to which he replied. Here is an excerpt from Golf Digest:

Though far from the first time Feherty has assisted a competitor in finding an errant shot during a tournament, the former tour player was surprised by the reaction his gesture provoked, particularly because McIlroy is a fellow countryman from Northern Ireland.

“I got some crap on social media about it, that I shouldn’t have been helping him,” Feherty said, shaking his head. “And then I caught some flak from the Northern Ireland people asking me why I should help Jason against Rory. The reason is because I would help anybody. That’s how we do this in this game. That’s the spirit of it.” 

If Feherty and other on-course reporters are helping competitors find golf balls during tournaments, shouldn’t that practice stop immediately? What am I missing here?

“That’s how we do this in this game? That’s the spirit of it.”

Again, I’m at a loss here to understand what makes these golf reporters any different from other reporters. I realize that helping golfers find their hard-to-find balls is the gentlemanly thing to do. I depend on those I play with to help me frequently, because I hit a lot of bad shots.

But I’m not in a tournament and they’re not reporters. They’re fellow players.

Feherty is not a fellow player, though he might think of himself as one. If so, he shouldn’t. He wears a different hat now. And he shouldn’t be helping a player look for his ball during a tournament. He should tell us if that player is having success finding his ball. And that’s it.

 

Bill Snyder having it both ways?

Kansas State football coach Bill Snyder.

Kansas State football coach Bill Snyder.

I like Kansas State football coach Bill Snyder and I agree with every point he made Wednesday about how college athletics, and especially big-time college football, has become more about big money than quality education.

Snyder, during Kansas State’s football media day, used his platform – again – to point out the how he believes the money being thrown around in college football nowadays distorts what used to be a clearer picture.

“It’s changed,” Snyder said. “I mean college athletics, football in particular, has changed dramatically over the years. I think we’ve sold out. We’re all about dollars and cents.”

Snyder is saying nothing that he hasn’t said before. Or nothing that many associated with college athletics haven’t expressed concern about, whether that concern is real or manufactured. The rich are getting richer in college sports, as we learned again Thursday when it was announced that the NCAA’s power five conferences – Big 12, Big Ten, ACC, SEC, Pac-12 – are now free to make up their own rules. Or at least many of them.

The little guys, once again, are being left out in the cold while the powers that be in college sports par-tay on the inside. It’s a trend not just in college athletics, but in every-day American society. Class structures are more pronounced now than ever. And if you’re at the top of the class, you’re not necessarily concerned about those in the middle or at the bottom.

“It’s no longer about education,” Snyder said Wednesday. “We’ve sold out to the cameras over there and TV has made its way. And I don’t fault TV. I don’t fault whoever broadcasts games. They have to make a living and that’s what they do. But athletics — that’s it. It’s sold out.”

Kansas State, of course, is in one of the big five conferences. The Wildcats play in a stadium named for Snyder, one that recently underwent $90 million in renovations with $65 million more scheduled to begin after the 2014 season.

Snyder is also working under a five-year contract, signed last year, that pays him an average of nearly $3 million annually. While there is undoubtedly a “Keep Up With the Joneses” mentality in college athletics, it is not a mentality that has escaped Kansas State.

“Everybody is building Taj Mahals,” Snyder said. “And I think it sends the message — and young people today I think are more susceptible to the downside of that message, and that it’s not about education. We’re saying it is, but it’s really about the glitz and the glitter, and I think sometimes values get distorted that way. I hate to think a young guy would make a decision about where he’s going to get an education based on what a building looks like.”

Snyder is a strong believer in education and in young people. During his three years away from coaching, after he retired in 2005, Snyder became involved in a youth mentoring program called Kansas Mentors. When he expresses concern for the state of college sports, and specifically football, he is coming from a good and, I believe, genuine place.

The place where he works, however, has bought in to the new ways. It’s impossible to survive – and especially to succeed – without doing so in today’s climate of college sports.

“Our professors — I have an office I could swim in,” Snyder said Wednesday. “They’re in a cubbyhole somewhere, yet they go out and teach and promote education every day and I value that.”

It’s fascinating to listen to and read what he has to say on the subject. But it’s also impossible not to acknowledge the contradictions.

Snyder is part of the big wheel that turns college sports, whether he likes it or not. All around him, new buildings are going up and coaches are being paid exorbitant amounts of money. Kansas State will benefit from $26 million in television revenue this year, according to Ivan Maisel at ESPN.com.

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby  was in New York on Thursday when the NCAA Board of Governors, of which he is a member, voted to grant autonomy to the five biggest revenue-producing FBS conferences and Notre Dame.

“I think we got to a place,” Bowlsby said, “where we just believe there was a need for us to be perhaps a little less egalitarian, a little less magnanimous about the 350 schools and spend a little time worrying about the most severe issues that are troubling our programs among the 65.”

Strong words. Direct words. The big boys in the NCAA have decided it’s time for them to break free.

Meanwhile, Snyder obviously laments the way college athletics has grown, eating everything in its way. Yet he doesn’t push his plate away. He’s hungry, whether he wants to be or not.

 

Thoughts on the NBC World Series

Mind you, I haven’t been down at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium very much this year. I’m kicking myself over that and don’t really have a legitimate reason or excuse. I worry about the future of the NBC World Series, now in its 80th year. But I commend the tournament organizers, and especially NBC World Series logofirst-year tournament director Kevin Jenks, for working hard.

Jenks and his staff are doing their best in a difficult economy and a strange time for collegiate summer baseball. It’s gotten harder and harder for these teams to make ends meet and coming to Wichita, for most, is a difficult proposition.

But in being around the park for a couple of days now and talking to some people, I do have a few thoughts on the tournament. Here goes:

* Last night, Hays knocked off Santa Barbara in a thrilling game. It’s one of the best games I’ve seen in the tournament in a while. The Larks came back from five runs down to win, 9-7. Lots of excitement. It was tense. But what was the reward for Hays? The Larks get to play tonight (Wednesday) against the NJCAA national team, which beat Haysville on Tuesday night. That’s not a great reward, especially since the losers of those games – Santa Barbara and Haysville – get a night off tonight. That’s a flaw in the format of the tournament that needs to be fixed.

* Several people aren’t happy that the NJCAA national team is in the 30-team field. I wrote some about this in the newspaper this morning, about how I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing that novelty teams like this one, Team USA in 1995 and the Chinese Taipei team from 2003 are at times added to the field. But I understand the concern. The NJCAA team does not have to go through the process of recruiting players. Players are assigned. And the coaches don’t have to raise money to come to Wichita, which is almost always the case for the summer-league teams that make up the biggest part of the field.

* Inviting these national teams helps fill the stands at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium. And the NBC, after all, is a business. A non-profit business these days, but a business nonetheless. It’s important to appeal to baseball fans, and those fans obviously are enjoying having the NJCAA national team in the tournament this year. Team USA was a huge draw, as was Chinese Taipei. They’re good for the tournament, but only if the rest of the teams understand their value.

* And that’s the dilemma. I think most teams are OK with national and novelty teams being in the tournament, but they’re not thrilled at seeing big prize money go to these teams. Did Team USA, for instance, really need the first-place money it was awarded back in 1995? Probably not. So perhaps when those teams are in the field, they should agree to not be financially rewarded. It’s just a thought. And the topic is definitely worthy of more discussion.

* I do like the way the tournament is celebrating its history with PA announcements and mentions of some of the great players who have passed through the NBC World Series on their way to the big leagues. The 80-year history of the tournament is the best thing it has going for it. Just more than 100 current big leaguers are NBC alums, according to the tournament program. How many of those players actually played in the NBC World Series is not documented, though. And it should be. The selling point here is how many former big leaguers played in Wichita, in this tournament.

* The Boulder (Colo.) Collegians and Prairie Gravel out of Illinois, two of the storied names from NBC past, sent teams to this year’s tournament. But they were nothing like the teams from the past. Boulder and Prairie Gravel were made up mostly of young players, just out of high school. They weren’t frauds, exactly, but anyone who thought these two clubs were going to be anything approaching what they once were was sorely disappointed.

* Boulder won four championships from 1966-78 while Prairie Gravel won its only title in 2005 after a couple of near misses.

* The NBC World Series is diminished any time the Liberal Bee Jays aren’t in the field, which is the case this year. And it’s still hard to believe the El Dorado Broncos, who have won three titles in El Dorado and were a two-time champion when the franchise played in Wichita, were ousted in two games.

* The Jayhawk League, of which Liberal and El Dorado are members, has not had a good showing outside of Hays, one of the final two unbeaten teams. The tournament needs the Jayhawk to be powerful.

* Thanks for reading. I’m looking forward to being back out at the ballpark tonight.

 

What does the future hold for Andrew Wiggins?

I’m torn when it comes to Andrew Wiggins and his NBA future.

On one hand, I’d love to see Wiggins alongside LeBron James with the Cleveland Cavaliers. It would be fun to watch Wiggins grow and adapt with the greatest player in the world as his teammate as he aspires to take over that mantle, perhaps.

On the other hand, it’s a no-brainer that the Cavs should trade Wiggins if they have a chance to

It appears unlikely Andrew Wiggins will ever wear a Cleveland Cavs jersey when it counts.

It appears unlikely Andrew Wiggins will ever wear a Cleveland Cavs jersey when it counts.

acquire big Kevin Love from the Minnesota Timberwolves. Love will never be the greatest player in the world. But he’s already a proven NBA star who can score and rebound and he would fit perfectly with James and young point guard Kyrie Irving to give Cleveland the kind of trio that could lead a team to an NBA championship.

Soon.

Wiggins is an  unknown. We think we know he’ll become a superstar, but we’re not quite sure. He has the athletic gifts to be great. He can run and jump. He was a very good defensive player during his one season at Kansas, when he averaged 17.1 points per game.

Yet I feel this strange sense of uneasiness about Wiggins. Perhaps it’s because the last time I saw him play, in the third round of the NCAA Tournament against Stanford, he was awful. Wiggins pulled a disappearing act in that game. With a chance to lead the Jayhawks to the Sweet 16, he led them home with a four-point, four-rebound performance while making only one field goal.

Wiggins, of course, had more good games than bad at KU. Yet he had enough bad ones to make you think.

He made 44.8 percent of his shots, but that number was just 43.1 during KU’s final 15 games. And if you take two magnificent games during that stretch out of the equation (41 points on 12-of-18 shooting against West Virginia and 30 points on 9-of-17 shooting against Oklahoma State), Wiggins’ field-goal percentage was below 40 percent . . . 39.5 to be exact.

Wiggins is at times a human highlight reel. But at other times he’s simply human. When he’s shooting the basketball, he doesn’t always make you want more. There are times when he makes you want less.

Which is why, in a perfect world, Wiggins would have stayed at KU to play another season or two for Bill Self. He would have improved as a shooter. He would have improved all aspects of his game.

But I’m being naive. Wiggins was the overall No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft. The Cavaliers were eager to select him. That was before they discovered that James was ready and willing to return home and eager to bring the Cavs, and Cleveland, a championship.

Wiggins is not a win-now kind of player. It’ll take him time to acclimate. He is not a finished product the way James was when he entered the NBA after his senior season of high school.

That’s why Wiggins looks to be expendable. It’s why he’s the centerpiece of a deal that could bring Love to the Cavaliers later this month. And Cleveland would be acting irresponsibly not to pull the trigger on that trade.

Meanwhile, there’s the matter of Wiggins’ potential. How much is there? How good could he become?

Will he become a perennial All-Star and a multi-time champion? Or will he struggle to find a niche the way former Kansas State All-American Michael Beasley has? Did you know Beasley played for the Miami Heat last season? If so, you probably had to look really hard to find him.

Wiggins is a more focused and determined player than Beasley. He’s a better defender and passer.

But Wiggins had more than a handful of games at Kansas when he didn’t do a whole lot. He failed to make more than five shots in 11 games. He shot only 34 percent from the three-point line.

It would be fascinating to know what James thinks of Wiggins. It was interesting that in the letter in which he announced his decision to return to Cleveland, LeBron didn’t mention Wiggins. He mentioned Irvin and Tristan Thompson, but he didn’t mention Wiggins. It’s led to speculation that James has always considered Wiggins to be on the move for a more proven, win-immediately type of player like Love.

Selfishly, I would love to see Wiggins grow at the feet of James. What a great mentor LeBron would be.

Instead, it appears Wiggins will wind up in Minnesota on a team with no hope of winning much of anything for the foreseeable future.

I’m not sure what kind of player Wiggins will become in the NBA. But I am sure he’d be better off as a wing man for LeBron James than he will as a wing man for Ricky Rubio.

 

 

Can the Royals do this?

Kansas City’s leader in runs batted in, with 52 games remaining in the regular season, is second baseman Omar Infante. He has driven in 51.

The Royals acquired Infante during the offseason to stablize second base. They did not, I’m sure, think he would be leading the team in RBIs in early August.

But the Royals are not an easy team to figure. They are four games above .500 after finishing 86-76 last season. The improvement has been

Royals right-hander Wade Davis has rediscovered himself as an eighth-inning stopper for Kansas City this season.

Royals right-hander Wade Davis has rediscovered himself as an eighth-inning stopper for Kansas City this season.

marginal. Yet Kansas City just won two of three on the road at Oakland and the Athletics have the best record in baseball. The Royals are just 1 1/2 games behind Toronto for the second wild-card spot in the American League with a pack of teams in pursuit.

It promises to be a wild final eight weeks of the season. Can the Royals stay in the mix?

The offense tells you probably not. The defense shrieks a resounding “Yes!”

It’ll be about the pitching.

And it’ll likely be about the next three weeks, starting Tuesday night with a three-game road trip to Arizona. Following that, the San Francisco Giants visit Kauffman Stadium for a three-game set, after which Oakland comes to KC for four. Then it’s on the road to Minnesota, Colorado and Texas before a home makeup game with the New York Yankees.

That’s a tough stretch. The Royals aren’t playing any world-beaters on the road, but it is the road. Then again, Kansas City is 30-26 away from Kauffman this season and only .500 in the friendly confines.

Like I said, it’s not an easy team to figure.

Kansas City is banking on the young arms of Yordany Vetura and Danny Duffy. So far, so good, although Duffy has to be scratching his head at his record (5-10) and ERA (2.42). They don’t go together.

James Shields hasn’t pitched like an ace all the time, but he’s still the veteran. Still the guy. Still the likely starter if the Royals do get into a one-game wild-card situation. Although you have to wonder whether Ned Yost, the Royals’ manager, would be tempted to go with someone else. Nah, KC didn’t trade away Will Myers so that someone other than Shields could potentially pitch in the biggest game the team has played in almost 30 years.

The real strength of the Royals lies at the back end of the Royals bullpen, where Wade Davis and Greg Holland lurk like a pair of shady characters in “Breaking Bad.”

These two are nasty and they turn every Kansas City game into a seven-inning battle.

Davis normally pitches the eighth inning when called upon and Holland, as one of baseball’s best closers, handles the ninth. Combined, they have pitched 90 innings this season and allowed only 48 hits while striking out 137. They have allowed only 13 earned runs in those 90 innings, a ridiculous 1.30 ERA.

Davis has been a find at the back end of the bullpen after mostly futile results as a starter during his career. And Holland is the best Royals closer since Dan Quisenberry. That’s right. Move over, Jeff Montgomery and your franchise-best 304 career saves. You were never as filthy, or as dominant, as Holland.

The Royals, as we know, lack offensive firepower. Their most dangerous hitter is left fielder Alex Gordon, who ranks 33rd in the American League in OPS, 23rd in on-base percentage and 37th in slugging percentage. Mike Moustakas has a team-high 13 homers; Salvador Perez has 12. Nobody else has more than nine.

First baseman Eric Hosmer is out for a good, long while with an injury. That means Billy Butler, most comfortable in a DH role, has to play first base now. Nobody is comfortable when Butler is wearing a first baseman’s glove.

Lorenzo Cain’s is the team’s only .300 hitter. The Royals have a bunch of guys in their lineup who are OK, but lack oomph. Kansas City is last in the AL in homers with 62, 14 fewer than the team with the next fewest, Texas. So, despite ranking fifth in the league in hits, fourth in average and first in stolen bases, the Royals are 13th in runs.

And that’s where pitching becomes so vital. The Royals do not have Babe Ruth waiting in the wings, so they’re going to have to continue to scratch out wins and hold good-hitting opposing teams, like Oakland, below their season norms.

Get six or seven innings out of a starter, then turn it over to an electric bullpen, one that also includes Kelvin Herrera, who has allowed only one run in his past 19 appearances since June 4. In that span of 18.2 innings, Herrera has given up only 13 hits and struck out 17. He’s finding himself. Aaron Crow can still be effective, too. The bullpen and the defense are the Royals’ best chance to get to the postseason.

The offense is shaky. The starting pitching can be erratic still. It’s why Kansas City hasn’t been able to shake loose from hovering right around .500 for most of the season. Something good is usually followed closely by something bad.

But that something bad rarely happens at the back end of games when the Royals have the lead. Davis and Holland are slamming a lot of doors.

 

 

My summer vacation

Hey, everyone. It’s been a while. And don’t think for a minute that I haven’t missed you, whoever you are.

Anyway, it’s good to be back at work. I’m looking forward to the rest of the baseball season, the start of football and isn’t it always basketball season in Kansas? Yes, it is. It should be another fun year.

I had some thoughts during my summer hiatus. A few. Not many. So in rapid-fire fashion, I wanted to share some of them here.

* We had a great first League 42 season, with around 220 kids, 16 teams and four age groups. It was an absolute blast and we’re already gearing up for our second season. We’ll be having a series of clinics during August and September and we’re already signing up players for the 2015 season. We expect to grow to around 350 kids next season.

* I finally made it to Buster’s, the famous Sun City bar/restaurant near Medicine Lodge, last week. My friend Steve Harper, who died in 2000, talked so much about Buster’s. It was fantastic because of the atmosphere, the town (what is left of it) and mostly because it reminded me of Steve, The Eagle’s former outdoor writer and photo editor.

* I was happy to see LeBron James return to Cleveland. And yes, the Cavs should definitely trade Andrew Wiggins for Minnesota’s Kevin Love. It’s a no-brainer, regardless of how Wiggins does in the NBA. He’ll be nowhere near as productive as Love is right now. And right now is all that should matter to the Cavs. They need to get this deal done.

* The Royals are in the hunt for an American League wild-card playoff hunt. No, I don’t give them much of a chance to overtake Detroit in the American League Central, especially after the Tigers acquired David Price at the trade deadline last week. I’ll be writing more about the Royals on the blog later today.

* It’s been an incredibly frustrating season to follow my beloved St. Louis Cardinals, whose offensive inadequacies are telling. But the Cardinals are still right there, just a game behind Milwaukee in the National League Central. And what a wild NL Central it is, with Pittsburgh and Cincinnati also in the mix. I’ve made sure to have extra Tums with me at all times during the final couple of months of the season.

* Ray Rice should have been suspended for six or eight games. Or the season. Or forever. But two games? Ridiculous. And Stephen A. Smith needs to be quiet.

* I watched an entire soccer game this summer – the USA’s World Cup elimination loss to Germany. Was it Germany? I honestly can’t remember. No, wait, it was Belgium. But I had to look it up. Anyway, I watched the entire game. I just wanted you to know.

* We’re having a League 42 fundraiser on Aug. 29. It’s a roast. Of me. It’ll be at The Abode Venue starting at 6 p.m. with dinner and a cash bar. Tickets are available at league42.org. It’ll also be a celebration of my 40 years at the paper, which comes in November. Roasters include: Wichita State pitching coach Brent Kemnitz, West High football coach Weston Schartz, Campus boys basketball coach Chris Davis, Wichita Eagle assistant managing editor Tom Shine, Topeka Capital-Journal sports columnist Kevin Haskin, KNSS radio personality Ted Woodard and the ever-popular Bonnie Bing. There will also be some surprises. I hope you’ll be there.

* I’m looking forward to getting out to the NBC World Series the rest of the week. Shamefully, I have not made it out yet. There’s no excuse for that.

* One thing I’ve come to enjoy about summer is watering plants and flowers. I’m not sure what this means, but I think it’s probably a positive.

* I also love hanging at the ballparks at McAdams and watching kids play baseball. Probably my favorite thing to do.

* The San Antonio Spurs were a joy to watch in the NBA Playoffs. This is not exactly new news, but I thought I would share anyway. It’s refreshing to see basketball played the way the Spurs play it, with crisp passing and unselfishness. Gregg Popovich has to rank as a Top 10 coach of all-time, at any level. Right?

* I watched the gruesome injury to Indiana Pacers star Paul George once. I won’t watch it again. And I regret watching it once.

* I can’t wait to see how Bill Snyder puts his football team together at Kansas State this season. Quarterback Jake Waters and receiver Tyler Lockett are proven stars. There are three returnees on the offensive line. But who will run the ball? Who will help fortify the defense? Can K-State make a push toward the top of the Big 12 standings? Don’t bet against it.

* Meanwhile, at Kansas, Charlie Weis is going with sophomore Montell Cozart as his starting quarterback. I see red flags, especially with an inexperienced offensive line. KU will have to play outstanding defense to improve. Fortunately, linebacker Ben Heeney is again part of that Jayhawks defense.

* Tiger Woods is breaking down. Watching to see if he can build himself back up will be fascinating. Meanwhile, is Rory McIlroy finally becoming the guy? Seems so.

* Thanks for reading. Check back later for my post on the Royals. See you at the NBC World Series, perhaps?

 

Friday musings

* I know the record for Wichita State’s baseball team is at .500 as the Shockers prepare for a three-game set with Southern Illinois at Eck Stadium this weekend. I know fans aren’t used to seeing this team battle just to stay afloat. I know Todd Butler is having a rough first year. But it’s not all that surprising, given the team’s injuries, suspensions related to NCAA clothing violations and lack of overall talent depth.

* Way, way to early to make any long-term judgements about Butler and his coaching staff. Let’s see how he recruits. He has 17 new players coming in for next season, he told me Thursday. There will be changes to this roster in the coming weeks and months.

* Even though the season has been difficult so far, Butler told me he’s having fun and that he’s determined to make Wichita State a college baseball powerhouse again. Of course that’s what he would say. But I believe he’s the right coach at the right time and that good results are coming soon. That said, the Shockers need to start producing more consistently in all facets of the game this season. This has been an underachieving team in many ways. It’s been surprising to see Garrett Bayliff and Tyler Baker struggle offensively, though both are showing signs of late of getting into a groove.

* I’ll be off work from The Eagle for three months starting next week, back at the start of August. I mention this for the two or three of you who might wonder where I am. I’m very much looking forward to the first season for League 42, our brand new baseball league for kids who, for a variety of factors, have rarely or never had the opportunity to play baseball. Our season begins Monday, April 28, at McAdams Park. I hope some of you will stop by as we play league games on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays through the end of June.

* The debut episode of Fargo on FX the other night was so good that I can’t stop thinking about it. I mentioned on Facebook yesterday that it has a chance to be even better than the highly-acclaimed movie of the same name. Billy Bob Thornton seems to have fallen into a dream role here and looks 100 percent capable of pulling it off. Of course, it’s only one episode. But to say this show is promising is a vast understatement.

* Gary Busey is is marketably weird, if you know what I mean. Most weird people aren’t marketable. Busey is. He’s lucky that way, I suppose.

* A little Cardinals update because I know you care. Adam Wainwright is a stud. So is Yadier Molina. I wish the Cardinals hit more home runs. I like Mike Adams as a hitter but he needs to hit 25 homers. I’m not sure why Allen Craig isn’t consistently hitting the ball harder. Shelby Miller and Lance Lynn have great ability, but I’m not sure about their mental approaches. Jon Jay is going to play more center field than Peter Bourjos based on what I’ve seen so far. Jhonny Peralta is a huge upgrade at shortstop. I’m not 100 percent sure about rookie second baseman Kolten Wong. Carlos Martinez will be a superstar pitcher someday soon. Michael Wacha might already be.

* I need a new personal laptop so that I can play Spades again online. I miss it.

* I’m going to start watching Game of Thrones next week on Netflix. It better be good.

* I love the sound of a lawnmower when I’m sitting in my basement office doing work. It gives me a good feeling. I think it has to do with the weather being warmer.

* Two very interesting basketball coaching job openings in the SEC at the moment. Tennessee and Missouri are two schools in that conference that could mount a challenge to Kentucky and Florida. But will they? These upcoming hires are huge.

* The Royals swept the Astros. Today, they return to MLB.

* I went decades without caring at all about the stock market’s performance. Now I check it daily. Part of that is because it’s so accessible because of my smart phone. But it’s also because I worry incessantly about the health of my 401k. And some of it, too, is because I’m Gary Busey-weird.

* I miss affiliated minor league baseball in Wichita more than ever. It’s ridiculous that this city isn’t affiliated with an MLB team and if I had a wish list of things I want in local sports, that would be at the top of the list. Along with a renovated Lawrence-Dumont Stadium. That place is in dire need of work. And I won’t stop being this drum until all of the funds in my 401k disappear and I’ve living under a bridge somewhere. With Gary Busey.

* How many tickets would Bruno Mars and Pharrell Williams sell at Intrust Bank Arena? They’re touring this summer and hitting Tulsa, Little Rock and Omaha – but not Wichita. I think that’s a shame. I would go see that show and I have to think it would fill the arena. Wouldn’t it? And if not, why not? I’m trying to understand how city musically. I know we love country music. Is that it? Are most other musical genres destined for Hartman Arena, the Orpheum and the Cotillion?

* How good is the television show Parenthood? We’ve watched it a few times over the years but haven’t been hooked. Not because it’s not excellent, but because there is just too much to watch. So I ask – what are we missing? My son and daughter-in-law rave about this show.

* I finally saw Frozen this week with my granddaughter, Airyn. What a fantastic movie. She’s seen it five times now and was singing along with the songs.

* It doesn’t sound like Transcendence is a very good movie. And it doesn’t sound like Johnny Depp is a very good actor anymore. I fear he’s gotten weird, and not marketably so. Perhaps he needs to talk to Gary Busey.

* See you soon, everybody. Have a great weekend.

 

NBA playoff time, finally

 

Basketball season – at least the NBA version – begins for me this weekend.

As I tell anyone who wants to know, I pay little to no attention to the NBA’s regular season. And I would like for someone – anyone – to tell me what I missed.

I’m waiting.

But the playoffs? Now that’s excitement.

Can John Wall and the Washington Wizards make a playoff push?

Can John Wall and the Washington Wizards make a playoff push?

I’m interested in every first-round series in both the Eastern and Western conferences, for varying reasons. I can’t wait for Saturday, when four series begins (the other four start Sunday).

I always pick a couple of off-the-wall teams to follow in the playoffs, hoping that eventually the Miami Heat win a third straight championship. I’m a Heat guy and a LeBron lover. We’ve had our ups and downs, but I always welcome LeBron back with open arms. And we’ve been on good terms for a while now after his ESPN debacle a few years ago.

My two quirky teams this year are the Washington Wizards and the Toronto Raptors, both in the Eastern Conference.

Washington and Toronto are not the first two teams you think of when you think about NBA success stories.

The Wizards were 117-377 from 2008-09 through 2012-13, but this season improved 15 games to 44-38 under second-year coach Randy Wittman.

I’m looking forward to seeing the young backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal go up against the Chicago Bulls in the first round. It’s one of the best young guard tandems in the league.

Washington hasn’t won a playoff series since 2004-05, and before that it was 1981-82. The Wizards have been a forgotten franchise, revived to life by Wittman and some deft draft picks.

Wall averages 19.8 points and 8.8 assists per game; Beal averages 17.1 points. Center Marcin Gortat (you know him, right?) averages 13.2 points and 9.5 rebounds. I’m interested in this team, though I haven’t seen them play a second this season.

Ditto for Toronto, which made a 14-game jump this season from last to 48-34 and earned the No. 3 seed in the East. The Raptors will take on the Brooklyn Nets in the first round. I’m a little bit of a Nets guy, but I’m pulling for Toronto in this series.

The Raptors, like Washington, have an exciting backcourt duo in DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, who combine to average 40.6 points, 11.4 assists and nine rebounds per game.

Impressive.

The Western Conference playoffs are loaded with Dallas, the No. 8 seed, sporting a 49-33 record. Poor Phoenix couldn’t even get into the playoffs despite a 48-34 mark.

The Los Angeles Clippers’ first-round series against Golden State is can’t miss television. First, the two teams hate one another. Second, the Clippers are being picked by many experts to win the NBA championship, kind of like many were picking Denver to make a run at least to the Finals last season.

But Golden State beat the Nuggets in six games in a first-round series.

The Portland-Houston series, a battle of 4 vs 5, might be the best first-round series of all.

I’m telling you, they’re all interesting. There’s something to watch in all eight first-round matchups.

How will Indiana (which meets Atlanta) and Miami (which faces Charlotte) play? Both teams have had a difficult time of it down the stretch of the regular season and the Heat, the one team I do pay some attention to during the regular season, has looked beaten up and exhausted.

Those pesky Memphis Grizzlies are back to battle Oklahoma City in the first round. That’s hardly a pushover for the Thunder.

And what about these potential conference-semifinal clashes: Indiana vs. Chicago/Washington; Miami vs. Toronto/Brooklyn; San Antonio vs. Portland/Houston; Oklahoma City vs. LAC/Golden State.

Good stuff and worth waiting for. The playoffs are finally here.