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Thursday, August 11, 2016

Rob’s Rants on Sports: Is it really better if Lane Johnson didn’t know? Mackanin and his young pitchers; Eflin’s knees; more

I don’t want to be another guy saying, “How stupid is Lane Johnson?” who reportedly faces a second suspension for using performance enhancing drugs. The Eagles lineman supposedly has a familiar excuse—he was using a substance approved by the league. If that’s true—though a guy whose already been suspended doesn’t have much credibility—it’s hard to comprehend how this keeps happening. Players can supposedly call the league to make sure they’re taking approved supplements. Johnson’s appeal of the suspension will likely be based on the supplement being “wrongly labeled.” Maybe the league needs a hotline for players to find out where they can buy supplements. Is it really that hard for a billion dollar industry to regulate, or maybe organize is a better word, how players get their supplements?

Again, with Johnson’s previous suspension, most people aren’t buying his apparent excuse. But I really think it brings up a bigger, or at least another, issue. We’ve all heard the stories about steroids being readily available in the locker room. I’m reading a book right now, Those Who Hit the Hardest, that mentions them being available “on our training table in cereal bowls,” quoting an anonymous player discussing the AFL in the 1960s. I think most fans, myself included, assume things are much cleaner now, at least in terms of league involvement.

But I begin to wonder how much sports organizations really care about the issue of PEDs.

I know I’m not saying anything new. But if by chance Johnson and others aren’t lying about mislabeled products, it seems almost worse than the expected reasons for PED use. Who are players buying from? Are they total frauds with their dealer on speed dial? Are guys going online ordering from Canada or wherever? I think I heard that scenario floated on sports talk this week. If it’s really this rampant, why are we even worried about off-the-field transgressions? Or Deflategate?

  • Besides the fact that Phillies pitchers are dropping like flies—Aaron Nola and Zach Eflin have gone to the disabled list, and Jeremy Hellickson left yesterday’s game with an apparent back problem—the most disturbing thing I saw came after Vince Velasquez’s last start. Manager Pete Mackanin questioned his pitch selection, and added that catcher Cameron Rupp told him that Velasquez “didn’t want to throw [his changeup] for whatever reason. . . . I don’t know, he gave up a hit to [Joc] Pederson early in the game [on a changeup] and then decided he didn’t want to use it.” According to Jim Salisbury of, the pitcher responded with a “pronounced roll of the eyes” when told of his manager’s comments. That’s great. It really gives fans confidence that the young guys want to learn.

  • Eflin, according to the Inquirer, has had bad knees for more than a decade. Not to worry, though, the Phillies knew about his knees when they traded for him, according to Matt Gelb’s article. Why? That’s all I want to know. Why do Philadelphia teams keep taking players who are injured? Is it working? Am I somehow missing championship parades up and down Broad Street? Hopefully this is a blip on the radar for Eflin, whose managed this problem for years. But, again, . . . why?

  • The Phillies turned their first triple play since 2009 on Sunday, and it was pretty cool to see it happen as I watched the game live instead of on replay. It was almost weird in that it looked so normal, going down as a 5-4-3 triple play. I think they mentioned on the game broadcast that the White Sox have 3 triple plays this year (at least that’s the number I found from googling). It’s makes me miss the days of This Week in Baseball. Somehow, instant highlights every night on SportsCenter isn’t the same.

  • Chris Berman and Tom Jackson have kind of become a punchline. But with Jackson retiring, I was surprised to read NFL Primetime ended 10 years ago. Time flies. Give ‘em credit. That show could be the best part of a football Sunday if the Eagles lost, and was a must watch for fantasy football players before the internet gave us instant stats. Berman’s rumblin’, bumblin’, stumblin’ description of a lineman picking up a fumble and running for a touchdown had its day. They were having fun with highlights before writing quips was a requirement for anchors that was more important than knowing the game.

  • You gotta love ESPN. I think they’d literally like that to be a law. Remember when they had a contract to air NHL games? They covered hockey like it was the most popular sport in the country. Now, you’d be hard-pressed to know it still exists based on their coverage. Guess who doesn’t have the Olympics? On Sunday afternoon around 4:45 their main headline read, “Which are the worst Olympic sports?” It just struck me as odd timing. I barely browsed the article, and, to be fair, they seem to be covering the Games just fine. But that headline doesn’t run if they are airing the Games. You just gotta love ESPN.

  • Of all the jokes about the NFL canceling the Hall of Fame Game because paint caused the field to feel “like cement” at midfield, I thought the best one came from Randall Cobb. “The disappointing part is [fans] not getting a game from us,” he said. It almost sounded like he cared about playing a fifth preseason game.

  • I used to have “Golf is not a sport” as a topic label on my old sports blog. This week provided a perfect example of why I can’t stand the game. I first heard about this on 97.5’s Midday Show “Nooner.” Jim Furyk shot the lowest round in PGA history with a 58 at the Travelers Championship, but it almost didn’t count because his playing partner wrote down the wrong score for Furyk on a hole. That’s not integrity. It’s dumb.

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