No cracking the code

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No cracking the code

By Rich Levine
CSNNE.com

When BYU dropped the hammer on Brandon Davies season, and spoiled sweet Jimmers Final Four dreams, the consensus outside of Provo hovered somewhere between "Oh my God!" and "What the hell?!?"

The Cougars were shocked, too. Their team was third in the polls, with the best player in the nation, and a supporting cast that was just good enough to make you wonder: "Hmm, with a little luck, these guys might actually have a chance . . . "

And then, just like that, thanks to one extraordinarily good swimmer, those championship aspirations were gone.

But while the BYU community was more troubled by the sudden collapse of their basketball team, the rest of the country was merely trying to comprehend the events that triggered it.

Essentially: Did they really just kill their season because a kid accidentally impregnated his girlfriend?

In a world where you pretty much just assume every player on every Division 1 team is somehow sexually involved, that was a question that initially made no sense.

Come on . . . youre suspending him for that? In 2011?! What about the season?

And what about JIMMER?!?!!!

It was tough, because on one side, you couldnt deny that the school had every right to suspend him. The code of conduct is real, and not something they mess around with.

Google "BYU suspends football" (the basketball version is all Davies results) and youll see pages of players who were penalized over the years due to violating the honor code. Its not like this is some rule that they dusted off special for Davies. This has been happening for a while, and athletes know the deal. They know the risk.

Something tells me the players probably get away with a little more than the honor code allows. If I had to bet, Im guessing Davies isnt the only one in that locker room whos hopped off the abstinence train. I wouldnt even be shocked if some of them have had a beer or two since coming to college. But they do it with the knowledge that theres a chance things could go real bad.

On a completely random note: Its like double parking. Everyone double parks. Its out of control. At this point were about six months away from triple parkers. Anyway, we all know double parking is illegal but it doesnt matter, because most of the time you can get away with it. If youre careful, its a pretty low-risk strategy.

But you know theres still that small risk. The meter maid could be having a bad day. Or the person youre blocking could return right away and call the cops. Whatever it is, theres the chance you could come back to a 40 ticket, or to find your car on a flat bed headed for East Boston. And at that point you can go nuts, and everyone will be like, Wow! I cant believe theyd tow you just for double parking!, but at the end of the day theres nothing you can say. The punishment might feel excessive but you took a chance and it backfired.

And it seems like thats what happened with Davies. I dont think hes the rogue fornicater. He just got caught. He was careless. And once that happened, the school had to react. They have a pretty consistent track record of doing so. So with all that, you can understand why BYU ruled the way they did.

But at the same time, three days later, it still doesnt feel right.

Im still left with a sort-of-uncomfortable, messed-about feeling about the fact that this 19-year-old kid is now missing out on an opportunity of a lifetime and might be costing his teammates the same because he accidentally slipped one passed the goalie. With a girlfriend. Even more, with a girlfriend who doesnt even go to that school. Can you imagine how crazy life becomes when youre 19 and realize your girlfriends pregnant? Now, on top of that, imagine this pregnancy is a nationwide story and destroys something youve been waiting your whole life to accomplish. Who knows when BYU will have another player like Jimmer, or another legitimate chance to make a significant postseason run? Who knows how long everyone around there will remember what happened with Davies and wonder what could have been?

Like I said, I know the rules. I know what he signed up for. Hes also a Mormon; its not like these rules were a complete lifestyle shock. I also dont know a thing about Davies outside of this story. I dont know if hes a great kid or if hes maybe not. But I do know that if theres anything negative about him, its not that he impregnated his girlfriend. That happens all the time. To every day, non-evil people. And the punishment just feels harsh.

Obviously, this couldnt be any less of my business, and for the people living in that world, my opinion means less than zero. Its not like Im the first person whos ever failed to relate to the Mormon way. Its not like a Mormon would read this and think, Hmm, now that you mention it, I guess we do do things a little differently around here . . .

This has all been said before. And it will be said forever. When youre talking religion, nothing makes complete sense to anyone else. There are some things you just cant understand. And thats fine.

Were just not used it having that kind of effect sports.

And while we all like to talk about sports as religion, I guess this is just a reminder that sometimes theres still nothing more powerful than the real thing.

Rich Levine's column runs each Monday, Wednesday and Friday on CSNNE.com. Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

Patriots making contract statements with OTA absences?

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Patriots making contract statements with OTA absences?

Malcolm Butler was one of many not spotted during OTAs on Thursday when the media got a looksee at one of the practices.

Butler wasn’t the only one. But he did stand out as a missing player who hadn’t (to my knowledge) had a surgery but did have a contract that needs addressing. Another one? Rob Gronkowski. If we really want to extend it out, throw in Duron Harmon and Logan Ryan.

This is the point where it’s important to point out that these workouts are voluntary – VAW-LUN-TERR-EEEE! Players don’t have to be there. Additionally, I’m not even sure Butler or Gronkowski (or Ryan and Harmon) weren’t at the facility. All I know is they weren’t on the field. And, per usual, nobody’s tipping his hand as to why.

But we do have this, relative to Butler. ESPN’s Mike Reiss wrote Sunday that he “wouldn’t be surprised if it was related to his contract status.” Reiss said that Butler “told teammates and friends he plans to push for an adjustment to his contract before the 2016 season, and staying off the field in voluntary workouts would be a decision that limits injury risk and also could be viewed as a statement to the organization that he's unhappy with the status quo and/or the movement/specifics of contract talks.”

In the same vein, I wouldn’t be surprised if Gronkowski opted out as well for the same reason, especially since he threw out a tweet that signaled dissatisfaction with his pact in March.

But in terms of a statement, not going to OTAs is more of a throat-clearing than a noisy proclamation.

Not to minimize the move if Butler, Gronkowski or anybody else is actually staying away because of business. The Patriots usually enjoy almost perfect OTA attendance. Also, there hasn’t been much contract strife around here for the past five seasons.

Money matters were an annual issue for the Patriots from about 2003 through 2010. Lawyer Milloy, Ty Law, Richard Seymour, Rodney Harrison, Ty Warren, Logan Mankins, Vince Wilfork, Randy Moss, Adam Vinatieri, Mike Vrabel and – quietly – Tom Brady all had their contract dances back then. But the only one that got hairy in the recent past was Wes Welker.

It’s still too soon to know if any of these will get contentious. When will we know? When either a player or his agent spouts off. Or, when someone’s a no-show at mandatory minicamp beginning June 7.

That would amount to a shot across the bow. Of all the players likely to take that shot, Butler seems a reasonable bet. His base pay this season is $600K after a Pro Bowl campaign in 2015 that saw him check the opposition’s best wideout on a weekly basis. He’s a restricted free agent at the end of the year. He deserves longer-term security than he currently has. Gronkowski has a lot less to kick about. He may make less than lesser players, but he also was the league’s highest paid tight end when he was missing scads of games due to injury.

After Butler, Jamie Collins and Dont'a Hightower would figure to have the strongest cases to want new deals and want them snappy. Ryan and Harmon would be right behind those two. Then Jabaal Sheard.

Sheard, Hightower and Collins were all on the field Thursday. 

Can the Patriots get all these guys reupped? Will they even try? How do they have them prioritized? If the guy who howls loudest gets to the front of the line, the time to make some noise is close.

But we have yet to hear any of these players loud and clear. 

Quotes, notes and stars: Pedroia and Bogaerts Stay hot

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Quotes, notes and stars: Pedroia and Bogaerts Stay hot

Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox’ 5-3 win over the Blue Jays:

 

QUOTES

 

* “I benefited from good defensive plays and hard hit balls at people and guys just making plays. Whether you feel good or not you have to have good things happen out there on that field.” David Price said on his successful start against Toronto.

 

* “He woke up this morning more sore than when he left here last night . . . Didn’t want to push it. We’re hopeful he’ll back in the lineup tomorrow.” Farrell on David Ortiz being a late scratch prior to Sunday’s game.

 

* “It’s always great to avoid a sweep . . . We battled hard the whole game and had great at-bats the whole game.” Mookie Betts said on winning the final game of the series against Toronto in a postgame interview with NESN.

 

* “On a day when we were thin with the amount of usage we’ve had, Clay stepped in.” John Farrell said on Clay Buchholz’s relief appearance for Boston in the 10th inning.

 

* "It definitely felt a little different . . . Got to help the team any way I can . . . Glad I could contribute today . . . All in all it's sort of a learining experience for me and I'm sure I'll get better at it as we go." Clay Buchholz said on his first relief appearance of the season for the Red Sox out of the bullpen.

 

 

NOTES

 

* Xander Bogaerts extended his hitting streak to 22 games in his 1-6 performance.

 

* Dustin Pedroia extended his hitting streak to six games with an RBI single in the sixth. Pedroia has also hit safely in 23-straight games against Toronto

 

* Clay Buchholz made only his third career appearance as a reliever for the Red Sox, striking out one and allowing no runs in the tenth. His last relief appearance came on 8/17/08.

 

 

STARS

 

1) Dustin Pedroia

 

The second baseman continues to dominate the Blue Jays, finishing 2-6 with the game-winning double.

 

2) David Price

 

Boston’s ace answered the call in his most important start as a member of the Red Sox, even though he didn’t get the win he only gave up two earned runs off five hits and three walks

 

3) Mookie Betts

 

Entering the game with one hit in his last 20 at-bats, Betts went 2-4 with two walks, scoring two runs.

First impressions: Boston's lineup bails out the snake bitten bullpen

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First impressions: Boston's lineup bails out the snake bitten bullpen

First impressions from the Red Sox' 5-3 win over Toronto:

 

The Red Sox bullpen coughed it up in the eighth in the second consecutive game.

After coming into a difficult situation in the eighth, Heath Hembree grooved a 1-0 fastball to Encarnacion for his 10th homerun of the season.

Hembree missed with his fastball middle-in, when Christian Vazquez set up down and away. That’s a miss that can’t happen against a hitter who’ll make you pay every time. Hembree entered the game locked-in, but lost his focus in the eighth.

 

Clay Buchholz's successful inning in reliefer doesn mean anything, yet. can’t pitch from the bullpen either.

He has a long was to go before he proves any value in the bullpen. The only guarantee right now is Buchholz can pitch more then one inning. He has to churn out more appearances like Sunday to be usable for the Red Sox.

 

The real David Price has arrived.

Boston’s ace showed up when he was needed. And he did it against a strong, streaking lineup, without having to strike everyone out.

After coughing up a two-run homerun to Jose Bautista and walk Josh Donaldson, he regained his composure to get out the deadly Edwin Encarnacion and one of yesterday’s villains, Justin Smoak.

And after Boston got him a one-run lead in the following half-inning, Price came out with 89 pitches to his total and only threw seven in the sixth.

That extended his outing by an inning and gave Boston’s bullpen some extra rest.

 

Blake Swihart looks like a natural in left field.

Even though his trade value is highest as a catcher, Swihart looks very comfortable in left. The question that remains with the change is his bat. If Swihart hits the same playing in left as he does behind the plate then there’s limited value in keeping him in left field once Brock Holt is healthy.

 

Dustin Pedroia and Xander Bogaerts’ at-bats in the sixth completely threw off R.A. Dickey’s start.

In addition to Mookie Betts breaking up the no hitter before Pedroia came up, Boston’s men up the middle extended their hitting streaks after grueling at-bats.

The two saw 19 pitches between them both, taking six balls apiece. With the knuckleball being unpredictable to begin with, it became that much harder for Dickey to get the ball by Boston’s two and three hitters.

After that, he got into another full count with Shaw, walking him after seven pitches.

Once he hit Hanley Ramirez in a 1-0 count that marked the 11th ball of the inning after throwing 25 in the previous five innings.

Dickey clearly tried to change his approach with hitters figuring out the knuckler the third time through, which led to his earlier than expected exit after throwing five innings of no-hit baseball.