Matt Cooke is not a saint (this one is serious)

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Matt Cooke is not a saint (this one is serious)

By Mary Paoletti
CSNNE.com

I'm a fan of perspective.

As a story-teller, I realize there's often more than one side to everything and that both should be explored. Especially if the main character is being put on trial.

But don't insult my intelligence with a 'Matt Cooke's not a bad guy' angle.

This excerpt is from SI's story, "The Public Enemy":
Cooke is at an Italian restaurant in Pittsburgh's Strip District with John Lawrence and his family. Lawrence is 19. When he was 16, he suffered extensive brain and spinal injuries in a car accident and remained in a coma for 10 months. When Cooke heard about Lawrence through his foundation last fallMatt and his wife, Michelle, started the Cooke Family Foundation of Hope five years agohe invited Lawrence's family to the opener in Pittsburgh's new Consol Energy Center in October and took him to practice the following day. While Cooke was being trashed in the wake of the Ovechkin and Tyutin hits, Lawrence's father called a reporter at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review who previously had written about his son to say the city should know the other side of Matt Cooke. "John admired Matt's bravery and strength and turned to that when his rehab was rough," said his father, who is also named John. "Everybody was teasing John that his favorite guy was a dirty player, a goon, but Matt's just a guy who fights for his position on the team. A battler."

I thought of it today because at 1:30 p.m Cooke had a disciplinary meeting with Colin Campbell -- the third since February 6. He's accused of yet another dirty hit and the question is not if he'll get suspended again, but for how long.

Matt Cooke is rotten and I'm sick of hearing otherwise. He could start 15 foundations and it wouldn't matter. Why? This is a hockey problem. There can be no character witnesses who aren't employed by the NHL.

And this statement by Cooke -- "The biggest thing for me is that on the ice, there's a persona. It's what it is because that's what's made me successful. But that has nothing to do with who I am" -- is worthless.

This is what you aren't understanding, Matt: I don't care who you are as a person. On the ice -- as a hockey player -- you recklessly hurt opponents. And it needs to stop.

A Stanley Cup and nine 10-goal seasons in 10 years doesn't make someone who repeatedly hits guys in the head a tough, niche-player. There's a list of guys in the NHL who, despite philanthropy or impressive stats, will also be remembered as jerks because of dirty hits.

Here are a few. I hope the names make you feel less lonely, Cooke. The way guys with prison girlfriends don't feel lonely.

MARTY MCSORLEY
Off the Ice: Has participated in the Scotiabank ProAm hockey tournament that benefits the Gordie & Colleen Howe Fund for Alzheimer's. "To see people you love . . . slipping away. It's hard.'' McSorley said. Alzheimer's is terrifying; it's difficult not to sympathize.

On the Ice: Repped as one of the NHL's dirtiest players. He retired with 3,381 career penalty minutes. The video shows a hit on Donald Brashear that earned him a 1-year suspension from the NHL and an assault conviction in Canadian court. Seriously.

BRYAN MARCHMENT
Off the Ice: Participated in team charity events that benefited the UConn Children's Cancer Fund. He's also golfed in the Gary Roberts and Friends celebrity tournament held to raise money for Jumpstart (helps low-income children succeed in school).

On the Ice: 13 suspensions in his first 12 seasons. Has injured: Mike Modano, Joe Nieuwendyk, Greg Adams, Mike Gartner, Kevin Dineen, Peter Zezel, Pavel Bure, Paul Kariya, Wendel Clark and Martin Rucinsky. (What's that, four different countries?!) Marchment really shines at the 1:00 mark of this video.

ULF SAMUELSSON
Off the Ice: He's given countless sticks away to fans and charities. The Swede has played charity hockey in his home country as well.

On the Ice: Tuffe Uffe's fans and most teammates loved him. That's because they never opposed his elbows. "Ive never tried to put a player out for the season, Samuelsson once said. But it wouldnt bother me if I put a player out for a game.

Um.

CLAUDE LEMIEUX
Off the Ice: In 2009, Lemieux skated in "Battle of the Blades." The couples figure skating represented one or two charities. Shares respected hockey opinions on TSN's "Off the Record."

On the Ice: Another Stanley Cup winner. Snagged the Conn Smythe Trophy in 1995. Could also be a total dick. Biting Calgary's Jim Peplinski's finger in a fight was small time. Check out these classy moves. Dino Ciccarelli on Lemieux after the 1996 Detroit-Colorado series: "I can't believe I shook his freakin' hand."

BOBBY CLARKE
He's considered a legend: Hall of Famer; four Stanley Cup finals; three 100-point seasons; three Hart Trophies. He was a much better hockey player than Matt Cooke could ever hope to be. He was also dirty.

While watching this video, keep in mind that this game was a "friendly" with Czechoslovakia.

Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza take their place among legends in Cooperstown

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Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza take their place among legends in Cooperstown

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — Two players who began their careers at opposite ends of the spectrum nearly three decades ago ended up in the same place on Sunday — with their names etched on plaques at the Baseball Hall of Fame.

For Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza, the culmination of their long journeys was tinged with tears all around.

"I stand up here humbled and overwhelmed," Griffey said, staring out at his family and tens of thousands of fans. "I can't describe how it feels."

The two became a piece of history on their special day. Griffey, the first pick of the 1987 amateur draft, became the highest pick ever inducted. Piazza, a 62nd-round pick the next year —No. 1,390 — is the lowest pick to enter the Hall of Fame.

Griffey played 22 big-league seasons with the Mariners, Reds and White Sox and was selected on a record 99.32 percent of ballots cast, an affirmation of sorts for his clean performance during baseball's so-called Steroids Era.

A 13-time All-Star and 10-time Gold Glove Award winner in center field, Griffey hit 630 home runs, sixth all-time, and drove in 1,836 runs. He also was the American League MVP in 1997, drove in at least 100 runs in eight seasons, and won seven Silver Slugger Awards.

Griffey, who fell just three votes shy of being the first unanimous selection, hit 417 of his 630 homers and won all 10 of his Gold Gloves with the Seattle Mariners. He played the first 11 seasons of his career with the Mariners and led them to the playoffs for the first two times in franchise history.

"Thirteen years with the Seattle Mariners, from the day I got drafted, Seattle, Washington, has been a big part of my life," Griffey said, punctuating the end of his speech by putting a baseball cap on backward as he did throughout his career.

"I'm going to leave you with one thing. In 22 years I learned that one team will treat you the best, and that's your first team. I'm damn proud to be a Seattle Mariner."

Dubbed "The Natural" for his effortless excellence at the plate and in center field, Griffey avoided the Hall of Fame until his special weekend because he wanted his first walk through the front doors of the stately building on Main Street to be with his kids, whom he singled out one by one in his 20-minute speech.

"There are two misconceptions about me — I didn't work hard and everything I did I made look easy," Griffey said. "Just because I made it look easy doesn't mean that it was. You don't become a Hall of Famer by not working, but working day in and day out."

Griffey's mom, Birdie, and his father, former Cincinnati Reds star Ken Sr., both cancer survivors and integral to his rise to stardom, were front and center in the first row.

"To my dad, who taught me how to play this game and to my mom, the strongest woman I know," Junior said. "To have to be mom and dad, she was our biggest fan and our biggest critic. She's the only woman I know that lives in one house and runs five others."

Selected in the draft by the Dodgers after Hall of Fame manager Tommy Lasorda, a close friend of Piazza'a father, Vince, put in a good word, Piazza struggled.

He briefly quit the game while in the minor leagues, returned and persevered despite a heavy workload as he switched from first base to catcher and teammates criticized his erratic play.

Mom and dad were foremost on his mind, too.

"Dad always dreamed of playing in the major leagues," said Piazza, just the second Hall of Famer depicted on his plaque wearing a Mets cap, after Tom Seaver in 1992.

"He could not follow that dream because of the realities of life. My father's faith in me, often greater than my own, is the single most important factor of me being inducted into this Hall of Fame. Thank you dad. We made it, dad. The race is over. Now it's time to smell the roses."

Piazza played 16 years with the Dodgers, Marlins, Mets, Padres and Athletics and hit 427 home runs, including a major league record 396 as a catcher. A 12-time All-Star, Piazza won 10 Silver Slugger Awards and finished in the top five of his league's MVP voting four times.

Perhaps even more impressive, Piazza, a .308 career hitter, posted six seasons with at least 30 home runs, 100 RBIs and a .300 batting average (all other catchers in baseball history combined have posted nine such seasons).

Though the Dodgers gave him his start, Piazza found a home in New York when he was traded to the Mets in May 1998.

Three years later, he became a hero to the hometown fans with perhaps the most notable home run of his career. His two-run shot in the eighth inning at Shea Stadium lifted the Mets to a 3-2 victory over the Atlanta Braves in the first sporting event played in New York after the 9/11 terror attacks.
Piazza paid tribute to that moment.

"To witness the darkest evil of the human heart ... will be forever burned in my soul," Piazza said. "But from tragedy and sorrow came bravery, love, compassion, character and eventual healing.

"Many of you give me praise for the two-run home run in the first game back on Sept. 21st, but the true praise belongs to police, firefighters, first responders that knew that they were going to die, but went forward anyway. I pray that we never forget their sacrifice."

Attendance was estimated at around 50,000 by the Hall of Fame, tying 1999 when George Brett, Nolan Ryan and Robin Young were inducted, for second-most all time behind 2007 (Cal Ripken, Tony Gwynn).

Copyright The Associated Press

 

First impressions of Red Sox' 8-7 win over Twins

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First impressions of Red Sox' 8-7 win over Twins

BOSTON -- First impressions of the Red Sox' 8-7 win over the Minnesota Twins on Sunday at Fenway Park:
 
Rick Porcello did all he needed to do.

Although he’s still undefeated thus far at home (10-0), Porcello’s start could have easily gone better for him -- especially if Brock Holt catches a few fly balls hit his way.

Regardless, he's 13-2 with a 3.57 ERA and still maintained the title of Boston’s “most reliable pitcher.”

Yes, he gave up five runs -- but four were earned. And Juan Centeno’s “double” that was lost in the sun by Holt should’ve been caught -- accounting for at least one more run.

Porcello had another start where the bullpen was overworked the previous day in a tough loss. Furthermore, his teammates were expected to perform a little more than 12 hours after a rough four-hour contest.

This is a game where the numbers don’t do his performance justice -- but at the same time, Porcello left the bullpen to hold a three-run lead in the final 2 1/3 innings.
 
The Red Sox need Mookie Betts back in right.

If that wasn’t made evident with Michael Martinez’s play Saturday night, Holt made it clear when he couldn’t corral Max Kepler’s deep fly to right in the fourth.

Although the sun could’ve played a factor, Holt got there in time. So the ball has to be caught. Instead, he was too worried about the hip-height wall that he was heading toward at full steam.

Not too mention the fly ball he dropped looking into the sun in the seventh -- which was somehow ruled a hit. As much as the Green Monster is a difficult beast to master, right field at Fenway can be just as difficult.
 
Hanley Ramirez continues to take advantage of pitcher’s mistakes.

The best part about Ramirez’s third-inning, three-run blast was it came on a first pitch changeup -- not exactly something hitters are sitting on out the gate.

Additionally, Tommy Millone’s changeup ran in on Ramirez, instead of away from him -- given Millone is a lefty and Ramirez a right-handed hitter.

If Ramirez gets that pitch a month ago, he rips in foul or rolls over the top of it. Instead, he keeps displaying that he can still pull the ball with power.