Joe Santoro: Jackie Robinson Day is all good, but what about Larry Doby?
Sports Fodder for a Friday Morning
Nevada Wolf Pack menand#8217;s basketball coach David Carter might have added a point guard in his own image this week with the signing of Jordan Finn to a National Letter of Intent. Armon Johnson, who decided to give up his senior year to enter the June NBA draft, was always more of an elite scorer than he was a playmaking point guard. Thereand#8217;s no secret that Johnson didnand#8217;t play defense or take care of the ball as well as Carter would like to see in his point guard. Thatand#8217;s all about to change. The similarities between Finn and Carter are hard to ignore. Finn, who verbally committed to the Air Force Academy a year ago, is from Etiwanda High in the Los Angeles area (Rancho Cucamonga). Carter graduated from Los Angelesand#8217; Crenshaw High. The 6-foot-4 Finn, like Carter, is more of a pass-first point guard and defensive specialist than he is a scorer. And, like Carter, he is a winner. Carterand#8217;s Crenshaw teams lost just five games in three years. Finnand#8217;s Etiwanda teams were 98-26 in four years. Finnand#8217;s strengths (same as Carterand#8217;s as a player), according to numerous reports, are his overall feel for the game and his basketball intelligence. The Pack just might have found their point guard for the next four seasons.
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Losing Johnson, though, will be felt by the Wolf Pack, especially early in the 2010-11 season. You canand#8217;t replace three years of experience at point guard without experiencing some growing pains. The relationship Johnson had with his teammates, especially with Luke Babbitt, wonand#8217;t be easy to replace. It might take this Pack team a couple months to run smoothly next season. Johnsonand#8217;s offensive skills covered up a lot of flaws for the Pack the last three years.
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Will Luke Babbitt follow Johnson into the professional ranks this summer? The Wolf Pack better hope not. Losing Johnson and Babbitt in the same offseason would throw the Wolf Pack into a complete rebuilding mode. Dario Hunt would be their most experienced returning player. Odds are Babbitt will stay one more year and leave after his junior year. So relax, Pack fans. For now.
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Jackie Robinson Day is all well and good. If there was ever an athlete who deserved to have a day named after him, it is Robinson. But itand#8217;s time (it was actually time 10 years ago) major league baseball also gives a day to Larry Doby. Doby is the most overlooked player in the history of the game. Doby became the first black player in the American Leagueand#8217;s history on July 5, 1947, less than three months after Robinson joined the Dodgers in the National League. All of the racism and hatred Robinson experienced in the National League, Doby experienced in the American League. Doby was also the second black manager in major league history after Frank Robinson and the first former major leaguer (with Don Newcombe in 1962) to play in Japan. Doby, who was just as good as Jackie Robinson as a player, had to wait 39 years to get into the Hall of Fame. Letand#8217;s hope MLB doesnand#8217;t make his family (Doby died in 2003) wait another 39 years for his day.
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This yearand#8217;s NFL draft (April 22-24) will be extremely important for the Oakland Raiders and San Francisco 49ers. The Raiders have three of the top 69 picks (8, 39, 69) and the 49ers have three of the top 49 (13, 17, 49). Expect the 49ers to have a solid draft. They are on the verge of making the playoffs and only need a few tweaks here and there. The Raiders? Well, my dog has had better fantasy drafts the last decade than the Raiders have had in selecting college players. Do yourself a favor, Raider fans. Take a three-day vacation on April 22-24. Go to a secluded spot. Cut yourself off from all media, social or otherwise. The Raiders, as long as Al Davis is calling the shots, will always be the comic relief at the draft.
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OK, nobody expects Edgar Renteria to hit .382 all season, Juan Uribe to hit .344 or Sergio Romo, Dan Runzler and Guillermo Mota to never give up an earned run. And you canand#8217;t play the Houston Astros and Pittsburgh Pirates 50 times each in a season. But the San Francisco Giantsand#8217; 7-2 start is not a fluke and they arenand#8217;t doing it with mirrors. They are doing it with amazing pitching (no surprise) and timely hitting (a pleasant surprise). The National League West is there for the taking this season.
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The NCAA has banned all messages on football playersand#8217; eye black. You canand#8217;t even put “Hi” on one and “Mom” on the other. Isnand#8217;t it nice that the NCAA is spending its valuable time dreaming up new rules on such important subjects?
and#8212; Joe Santoro writes a weekly column for the Sierra Nevada Media Group.
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