Monthly Archives: March 2010

Steve on Rick Wolff’s The Sports Edge 3/21/10

On this show Steve and Rick discuss the tragedy of 16-year-old Gunnar Sandberg, who is in a coma in a hospital in California after getting hit in the head with a ball hit off an aluminum bat, while pitching in a high school game in California.  Rick and Steve also discuss the changes in the rules of Little League baseball for the upcoming season.

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THE BASEBALL SEASON HAS JUST STARTED AND ALREADY THERE’S A YOUNG PITCHER IN A COMA FROM A BALL HIT OFF AN ALUMINUM BAT

                                                                                       Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

It was a scrimmage in Kentfield, California, between Marin Catholic High School and De La Salle High School on Thursday, March 11, 2010. Junior right-hander Gunnar Sandberg was on the mound for Marin Catholic. Sandberg, 16, threw a pitch and the batter, hitting with an aluminum bat, hit a rocket right at Sandberg’s head. By all accounts of the people who were there, Sandberg never had time to react, was hit in the head just above the right ear and went down in a heap. Yet, Sandberg was actually able to get up and even walk around after he was hit.

Thankfully, according to the reporting of John Swartz of Marinij.com, who has covered this story from the beginning, Marin Catholic trainer Jamie Waterman said, “[Sandberg] was answering questions, but as soon as they told me what happened – a batted ball to the head – I said to call 911.”

Thankfully, someone did.

DECOMPRESSIVE CRANIECTOMY SURGERY

After several CAT scans at the hospital, which showed a fractured skull above his right ear the size of a baseball, according to Bjorn Sandberg, Gunnar’s father, “On Friday morning, everything seemed reasonable. That night, my wife noticed [Gunnar] seemed more agitated. The doctors did another scan, and they came back and told us he was in surgery in 10 minutes.”

According to marinij.com, Sandberg then underwent decompressive craniectomy surgery, which consisted of removing a portion of Gunnar’s skull to allow his brain to swell without being compressed.

The doctors had to put Gunnar into a medically-induced coma, which has been done to other young pitchers in other parts of the country who have been hit in the head with balls hit off aluminum bats.

While the doctors told Bjorn Sandberg that his son would be in the coma for about three to five days, they also said don’t be surprised if it’s more. Friday was Gunnar’s eighth day in a coma.

WHAT’S THE MESSAGE?

The first message is that, no matter how “OK” a kid may seem after he’s been hit like this pitcher (and others), you have to get him to the emergency room immediately. And he has to be monitored for at least days, not hours, after the fact.

But the bigger message is coming from Bjorn Sandberg, who now wants to work towards making things safer for kids. It’s interesting to see that, despite the “victory” of the Brandon Patch family in Montana (who got a jury verdict for $850,000 against Louisville Slugger when their son was killed by a batted ball hit off an aluminum bat, see Kallas Remarks, 10/28/09), many people don’t understand the dangers until they see them happen in front of them.

Well, the people of Marin County, California have now seen it first hand and, hopefully, they will be able to do something about it. Already, Gunnar’s baseball team has played games with donated wooden bats. Another team in their league, Branson High School, not only played against Marin Catholic with wood, they announced that they would use wood the rest of the season to “honor Gunnar and the rest of the Sandberg family,” according to Branson coach Damon McGovran.

WHAT DO THEY DO NEXT?

There’s a lot to try and do. As the Patch family did in Montana prior to filing a lawsuit on virtually the last day before the statute of limitations ran out on their claims against Louisville Slugger, the Sandberg family could spearhead a movement to try and get a local, city or even statewide law passed banning non-wood bats in games for kids 18 and under.

They can do what legislator Jim Oddo successfully did in New York City – lead an effort to ban non-wood bats in high school games. They can lead informational sessions, increase awareness, show others what can happen to a virtually helpless kid on the mound (Marin Catholic catcher Andrew Traver said “I saw that Gunnar didn’t have any time to react… . It got real serious real fast.”).

And while the family may not want to do this now, they may consider releasing the video of their son getting hit. As of now, they have allowed TV stations only to use the before and after of the video. While that is certainly a family decision, having others view the video will show the obvious – that, many times, kids are helpless and have no chance to get out of the way.

We all hope that Gunnar Sandberg comes out of his coma and has a complete recovery. But many are on notice in California of what can and does happen in youth baseball with these modern-day non-wood bats.

They can put kids in comas and, in the case of Brandon Patch, even kill a kid. Now, in California, and, hopefully, across the country, a whole new group of parents is aware of this.

© Copyright 2010 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.

BOTH CORNELL AND TEMPLE WERE SHAFTED IN THE SEEDINGS; THINK CORNELL IS A TOP 20 TEAM NOW?

                                                                                        Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

It wasn’t stunning to see Cornell pull away from a highly touted Temple team in the first round of the NCAA tournament in their 78-65 win. It wasn’t even stunning to see Cornell shoot threes the way Cornell shot threes against Temple – that’s what they do.

What was stunning was the fact that Cornell was made a number 12 seed – all because of one loss. While many people correctly thought that Temple should have been a number four (some even thought three) seed, Cornell was hurt far more in the seeding.

And make no mistake:  This was no “shocking upset.”  Even the bookmakers knew that, making Temple only a four-point favorite.  This was, at most, a minor upset.  No matter what you hear from the “experts.”

Cornell cracked the top 25 this year a week or two after almost beating number one Kansas in Kansas. It was inexplicable to this writer that Cornell wasn’t already a top 25 (or even a top 20) team after leading most of that game on the road against Kansas (see Kallas Remarks, 12/23/09 and 1/7/10).

ONE LOSS COST CORNELL EVERYTHING (IN TERMS OF SEEDING)

The NCAA generally frowns upon the Ivy League champ. But this Cornell team, early on, showed that it wasn’t really an “Ivy” team (whatever that means). As everybody now knows, they have Jeff Foote, a seven-footer who can play and who has improved a lot even from earlier this season, never mind from past seasons (becoming an NBA prospect in the minds of some). They have a lights-out shooter in Ryan Wittman (son of NBA player Randy Wittman), who is the Ivy League Player of the Year, Cornell’s all-time leading scorer (and three-point scorer) and also an NBA prospect.

They also have Louis Dale, a solid point guard (21 points, 7 assists v. Temple) who was the Ivy League Player of the Year two years ago as a sophomore. They also have a bunch of other players who can play.

But, after losing to now #1 seed Syracuse early on and Seton Hall when Jeremy Hazell played like JEREMY HAZELL (that is, one of the best scorers in the country), Cornell, at 2-2, ran off 10 wins in a row, including winning the Holiday Festival at Madison Square Garden. After leading Kansas most of the way and losing by five, Cornell ran off another eight in a row.

And then, inexplicably, at 20-3, they lost to lowly Penn. And virtually every poll voter wrote them off and out of the top 25.

THE PROBLEM WITH IVIES AND POLLS

It was virtually irrelevant that Cornell then ran off another seven consecutive victories since they were all “only” Ivy wins. So they can’t recover from one bad loss, in the eyes of the poll voters (and, apparently, the NCAA selection committee), and never really got any respect from the committee.

Think about it. If Cornell beats Penn, they are 28-3 with losses to two number one seeds. They are probably a top 20 team come tournament-selection time. You know they would never be a five seed (even if they should have been), but they could have been a six or a seven and would have been at least an eight or a nine seed.

SO BOTH TEMPLE AND CORNELL GOT SHAFTED

Temple should have been higher (maybe) and shouldn’t have played a team as tough as Cornell. But, more importantly, Cornell should have been much higher and shouldn’t have played a team as tough as Temple. The Ivy League Champ, in recent years, always seems to get knocked down a peg or four in the seedings.

Maybe the committee will remember this huge mistake next year.

WHERE DOES CORNELL GO FROM HERE?

Well, Wisconsin didn’t look very good just beating Wofford and Cornell looked great beating Temple. But looks can be deceiving in the NCAA tornament. This will be a tough game, but it says here that Cornell’s run continues to at least next weekend.

KENTUCKY WOULD BE THEIR TOUGHEST NUMBER ONE MATCHUP

In addition to being seeded number 12, Cornell also got placed in the worst bracket from a-game-with-a-number-one (if they get that far) perspective. Cornell could beat Kansas on a neutral court (they almost beat them in Kansas and Foote is even better now than he was then). It says here they could beat Duke (the weakest of the ones) and, if they shoot the lights out (which they can), they could beat Syracuse’s 2-3 zone.

But Kentucky has at least three pros and will be Cornell’s toughest matchup with any of the one seeds. But it says here that they can even beat Kentucky, a young team, with a little luck and continued great shooting.

We’ll see what happens.

© Copyright 2010 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.

96 TEAMS IN NEXT YEAR’S NCAA BASKETBALL TOURNEY IS BEYOND STUPID; SYRACUSE’S EARLY BIG EAST TOURNEY LOSS WILL HELP THEM

                                                                                        Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

It looks like the train that is a 96-team NCAA basketball tournament in 2011 can’t be derailed. The first two days of this year’s tournament – 32 games in two days – is already borderline ridiculous. Nobody who seriously wants to follow all of the games (16 each day) can do that – even if they have five TVs. The games just blend into each other and, before you know it, you are mixing up teams, games and scores in your mind.

It will be far worse next year when the top 32, apparently, will get a first-round bye and there will be 32 games on Tuesday and Wednesday (or whatever the first two days of the tournament would be – the previous weekend would be absurd but that’s what might happen for ratings) and then 32 more on Thursday and Friday.

What a disaster!

HOW MUCH WILL THAT CHEAPEN THE REGULAR SEASON AND THE CONFERENCE TOURNAMENTS?

Well, it will cheapen them plenty. The regular season (other than the Ivy League, where there is no conference tournament) long ago left the building as having any more than minimal importance. Very few pick up on college basketball nowadays before mid-January and most football fans don’t think about it until after the AFC and NFC Championship games (or even the Super Bowl in early February).

But, now, the automatic bid for winning a conference tournament will also mean less. With 32 extra teams in the tournament, it will be hard to be any good (not real good) and not make the tournament. For example, many stated that, next year, a team like Connecticut would make the tournament, an embarrassment given the way they played down the regular-season stretch and then in their mind-boggling performance in a weak loss to St. John’s in the first round of the Big East Tournament.

And what will the regular season AND the conference tournament mean when 10 or 11 (or 12?) teams from one conference make the tournament?

Very, very little, if anything at all.

FOLLOW THE MONEY

You know it’s almost always about the money. And this is no different. If the powers-that-be at the NCAA are going to further water down their product by adding ANOTHER 32 games, that’s how it’s going to be.

But it says here that this mistake will wind up with fewer viewers during the regular season, fewer viewers during the conference tournament and a big yawn for the first four days of the 2011 tournament (i.e., wake me up for the Sweet 16, which already happens with some fans).

SO, WHAT’S THE SOLUTION?

Well, that’s easy. There really are some “bubble” teams every year that have a legitimate gripe about not getting into the field of 65. The easy solution would have been to have the last four out, according to the committee, go on the road that first Tuesday and play the last four in (see Kallas Remarks, 3/18/08). Then have the winners play back on Friday.

Eliminate the pathetic 64/65 game, which should be renamed the “Play to Get Your Head Kicked in by a Number One Seed” game. Once somebody came up with this stupid idea, it should have been clear to somebody with a brain and some power that, by having four competitive games (for teams who would be seeded 11 or 12, not 16), they could have four sellouts on college campuses across the country, four meaningful games where the winners at least have a chance (unlike the 64/65 winner) to make a run and, most important, the biggest complainers of not getting in could go on the road and prove the committee wrong.

If you couldn’t get into the top 68, you really wouldn’t have a valid complaint (and we wouldn’t have to listen to the chairman of the committee say how tough it was at the bottom – there would be a “buffer zone” of teams with the opportunity to get in).

Next year, with 96 teams, it will be a joke.

BEWARE SYRACUSE AS THE EARLY LOSS MAY ACTUALLY HELP THEM

In retrospect, the best thing that could have happened to Syracuse in the Big East Tournament might just turn out to be losing in their first game (after the ridiculous double-bye, another new invention of the last few years). No team who is going to make the tournament, like Syracuse, needs to play three head-banging games in three days (or four or now even five with the “everybody makes the tourney” absurdity).

In all seriousness, what is the meaning of the regular season if every team makes the post-season conference tournament? It’s preposterous.

To ask a coach to play three games in three days, etc. is like asking a three-year-old race horse to win the Triple Crown – nobody intentionally races a horse three times in five weeks anymore (except the Triple Crown) and no coach with a brain would schedule three games in three consecutive nights (or four in four or five in five). It’s beyond stupid.

And don’t forget that when Syracuse won it all in 2003, they lost their second Big East Tournament game to UConn. And the two other times that Jim Boeheim made the Final Four (1987 and 1996), Syracuse failed to win the Big East Tournament.

So what? Quick, who won the Big East Tournament three years ago? Hopefully, you get the point.

WITH EXTRA REST AND A WEEK TO PREPARE, SYRACUSE CAN WIN IT ALL UNLESS …

Unless their injured big man, Arinze Onuaku, can’t heal totally before next week (apparently he suffered a “treatable” quad injury in Syracuse’s Big East Tourney loss – we’ll see). One of those big bodies who can bang and score (11 points, 5 rebounds per), Onuaku is desperately needed by Syracuse. They only go seven deep, but, nowadays, as in virtually all sporting events of note, there are so many TV timeouts, etc. that players can get a rest throughout the game and don’t need to be taken out of the game as much as yesteryear, when there was a palpable flow to a game.

Today, it takes forever to finish these sporting events, be they baseball games, football games or even college basketball games (I’m no big soccer fan, but you’ve got to love the fact that the clock just keeps on ticking and, even with a few minutes of extra time, you know pretty much when the game will end virtually EVERY GAME).

But it says here that Syracuse, if healthy, can make an all-the-way run in this year’s tournament – regardless of (and maybe with help from) their meaningless loss in the Big East Tournament.

© Copyright 2010 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.

WILL SWEDEN’S (AND HENRIK LUNDQVIST’S) EARLY OLYMPIC EXIT HELP THE NEW YORK RANGERS?

                                                                                          Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

Was it a blessing in disguise that defending Olympic champ Sweden, with star Ranger goalie, Henrik Lundqvist, got knocked out before the medal round, giving The King an extra four days of rest?

It says here: absolutely.

WHAT HAPPENED IN 2005-2006?

Back then, Sweden went all the way to win the gold medal in Turin. Lundqvist played in some high pressure, high intensity games, bringing home the gold to his native country. While many players were in the Olympics, the goalie on the gold medal-winning team (along with the silver medal goalie, see Ryan Miller this year, for example) must have the most pressure and the most wear and tear of all participants.

WERE THE RANGERS HURT BY THE 2006 OLYMPICS?

While there was a big debate in New York at the time as to whether the Olympics hurt The King and, thus, the Rangers, it seemed pretty clear to this writer that it had a negative impact on the Rangers. Pre-Olympics, the Rangers were a very good team. Post-Olympics, they became a sub-.500 team, struggled mightily at the end of the regular season (losing their last five) and then, as a 100-point team (but remember, in the new NHL, 100-point teams ain’t what they used to be, see Kallas Remarks, 12/7/08), were swept in the first round by the Devils.

In 2005-2006, Lundqvist only played 53 games as a Ranger. Since then, he’s played 70 or more, not a good sign for anyone not named Martin Brodeur (and maybe not a good sign anymore for future Hall of Famer Brodeur, who is down a notch last year and this despite setting all of those records (see, for example, the Olympics, where he was benched in favor of Roberto Luongo, who many in Canada thought should have been the number one goalie for Canada from the get-go. After a poor showing against the U.S. in that early 5-3 loss, Brodeur went to the bench and watched from it as Canada won the gold, including a 3-2 OT thriller in the gold medal game over the U.S.)).

This season, with 20 games in the final 41 days (another Olympic-caused problem, the tighter NHL schedule), Lundqvist will get very little rest as the Rangers are battling for the final playoff spots and are not in a playoff spot as of today. Or, if he does get rest, that will hurt the Rangers no matter who their backup goaltender is. The King is on schedule to play about 70 games again (before the playoffs and not counting the Olympics).

And that’s not a good thing.

WHAT ABOUT MARIAN GABORIK?

Well, Gaborik playing in the Olympics isn’t working out too well for the Rangers, is it? Gaborik, who had been injury-prone with Minnesota (17 games last season, 48 games in 2006-2007), has the Rangers holding their collective breath every time something happens. He was injured before the Olympic break, fought through it and played for Slovakia, and then got a separate injury (maybe a groin pull?) in the Olympics.

Although first viewed to be no big deal, Gaborik did not play in the Rangers 4-1 win over Ottawa in their first game back from the “break.” He’s questionable against the Penguins on Thursday and the Rangers have a brutal schedule ahead (Pittsburgh, Washington (with the well-rested Ovechkin), Buffalo (with MVP Miller, who sat out the Sabres’ first-game- back loss to the Penguins, so the Olympics probably hurt Buffalo as well) and then New Jersey.

That’s not going to be easy.

If there is one Ranger near (not equal to) the level of value to the Rangers that Lundqvist is, it’s Marian Gaborik. With 35 goals in the Rangers first 59 games (he’s missed three of their last four and only played about three minutes in the one game he did play in), Marian Gaborik has scored just under 25% of the Ranger goals for the season (35 of the 152).

And although the Rangers have scored a staggering (for them) 13 goals in their last four, they might have some trouble scoring over their next four, with or without Gaborik.

WHERE DO THE RANGERS GO FROM HERE?

Well, you have to hope that The King will stand on his head from here on out. That, of course, will help the Rangers make the playoffs. While it’s hard to expect this team to make a run deep into the playoffs, at least they have a well-rested goalie.

And, in hockey, that means plenty.

© Copyright 2010 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.