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Thumbs Up and Down in the Sports World

There’s plenty of activity on the national sports scene and, as always, some is good and some is not so good. Here’s my take on some situations taking place in the pros.

Thumbs up — The Red Sox are rolling along and the real difference may be the resigning of General Manager Theo Epstein. In the ever-tricky business of making trades and signing free agents while attempting to build a team, Epstein has distinguished himself. Yes, there have been a couple of stinkers, but for the most part Epstein has done a remarkable job of judging talent on his way to building the Red Sox into a perennial contender.

Thumbs up — Roger Federer won his fifth consecutive Wimbledon this past weekend, joining Sweden’s Bjorn Borg as the one of two players in history to accomplish this feat. Many, including Borg, feel Federer is on his way to becoming the best that every played, but he needs to figure out how to defeat his main rival, Rafael Nadal, on clay before that happens.

Thumbs up — The Detroit Tigers and the Cleveland Indians are staging a wonderful battle for Central Division supremacy. Detroit, with the addition of outfielder Gary Sheffield, is out to prove last year’s trip to the World Series was no fluke, while the Indians continue to keep pace behind a solid core of emerging young stars. Both teams are well-armed in the pitching department, and that may very well mean a trip to the playoffs for both organizations.

Thumbs up — Much-maligned Yankee shortstop Alex Rodriguez has been nothing short of sensational during the first half of the season. Playing in New York, as in Boston, is like playing under a microscope. Every move you make is scrutinized. Like him or not, A-Rod is special and we just may be in the midst of watching him have a very special year.

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Thumbs down — NASCAR’s most popular and recognizable driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr., has done the unthinkable. The son of the late, great Dale Earnhardt Sr. has joined up with his late dad’s biggest rival, Jeff Gordon, at Hendrick Motor Sports. It was obvious the Junior was not going to survive under his stepmother’s reign atop DEI (Dale Earnhardt Incorporated), but a move to Richard Childress Racing (his dad’s former team) seemed like a better fit.

Thumbs down — The first-half season play of the New York Yankees was dismal at best. The Yanks’ philosophy under the ownership of George Steinbrenner has been go out and get whomever at whatever cost and neglect the idea of team chemistry. When Gene Michael and Buck Showalter put together the great Yankee teams of the mid and late 90s, chemistry was a big part of the equation. It’s time to clean house, continue to re-stock the minor league system and go about the task of rebuilding the ball club.

Thumbs down — The witch hunt orchestrated by baseball commissioner Bud Selig and former Senator George Mitchell to single out and crucify Barry Bonds has gotten very old and stale. It baffles me that someone like Selig, who undoubtedly had some degree of knowledge concerning the likes of Sammy Sosa, Mark McGuire and others using performance enhancing substances, now chooses to pursue the issue to such an extent. On the flip side of this subject, how does Selig feel now when baseball fans across the country voted Bonds in as a starter for this year’s All-Star game?  I give the fans a thumbs up for that.

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Thumbs down — The Tour de France is under way but does anyone really care? After all, last year’s winner, Floyd Landis, may yet be stripped of his championship for alleged doping. It would seem to me that race organizers might want to consider an every-other-year format, which might allow them to finish all of their investigations from the previous race before they start the next one.

Thumbs down — Michelle Wie and her handlers and advisors need to take a step back and re-examine the career path they have chosen for this talented young teenage golfer. Those in charge of making the decisions, a group that includes her dad, have quite possibly pushed her too far too fast, and in doing so, rattled the young star’s confidence. She is off to college in the fall and that may be the best career move for her yet.

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On the local scene:

Thumbs up — The Winsted Whalers baseball team is sitting on top of the Tri-State League with a perfect 12-0 record. For the most part, the team is made up of former standouts from our two local high schools, Gilbert and Northwestern. Winsted has a long and illustrious record in the Tri-State League and this current group of young die-hards is playing a major role in the rapid resurgence of the league, as well as restoring Winsted’s reputation for being a good baseball town. Home games are played in Winsted at Walker Field and fan support is always needed and appreciated.

Thumbs up — The Torrington Twisters are cruising along in the New England Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL) with a record of 14-8. Coach Gregg Hunt continues to get good pitching and timely hitting, which is a tough combination to beat. The NECBL is a wooden bat league and there’s no better way to spend a summer evening than taking in a Twisters game at Torrington’s Fuessenich Park.

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