Jim Vallet and Robert Perea, The Fernley Reporter
When I was the pitching coach at Moapa Valley High School, we had a catcher who could not throw the ball back to the pitcher. It was painful and frustrating to watch, and very frustrating for our pitchers who were getting pump faked again and again by our own catcher. We tried moving other players there, but it didn’t work. We tried the JV catcher, he wasn’t near ready. So, we had to make do, but it wasn’t pretty. Wild throws back to our pitcher with runners on third cost us runs. We tried having him stand up and throw the ball as hard as he could back to the pitcher, but that just meant the subsequent wild throw went further into the outfield after it sailed over our infielder attempting to back up the throw from catcher to pitcher. And it wasn’t just in games. One time, we were playing in a tournament at Centennial High School in Las Vegas. We were the designated home team for that game, and our pitcher was warming up in the bullpen before the game. That bullpen had the pitcher throwing with his back to the complex, and in the opposite direction of the direction the pitcher was going to throw during the game, I soon found out why.
Our catcher, not our pitcher, sailed a return throw far over our pitcher’s head which crashed very loudly into the beautiful exterior of the complex, leaving a good sized dent. I mildly reprimanded our catcher, and two pitches later, he did it again, leaving another sizable dent in the not as beautiful as before complex. This time the Centennial coach came out, and unnecessarily informed me that it was normally pitchers, not catchers, who were likely to sail throws and that was why they changed the direction in which their pitchers warmed up. I finished warming up our pitcher, and our catcher did not reliably throw the ball back to our pitchers the rest of the year.
Like our catcher, but even more befuddling and sad because they are professionals, there have been many elite athletes who could not perform the most mundane tasks of their sport. Mackey Sasser was a catcher with the New York Mets who had the same problem as our high school catcher throwing the ball back to his pitchers. A huge difference was that professional pitchers were much less tolerant of this problem than our high school pitchers were. Rick Ankiel was a hugely talented major league pitcher who suddenly, and permanently, lost the ability to throw a pitch in the strike zone. It was dangerous to sit on the first base stands at Yankee Stadium when Chuck Knoblauch was playing second base, due to Knoblauch’s inability to throw the ball 60 feet accurately. The number of golfers who could not putt a golf ball into a hole led to things like long putters and putting side saddle style. Anyone remember Wilt Chamberlain trying to make a free throw? How about numerous NBA players shooting free throws with their eyes closed?
And then there’s kickers. I have made clear my disdain of place kicking in football. But I can tell you, your favorite NFL team is going nowhere in the playoffs without a reliable place kicker. And, like our catcher and many, many others, it takes time and effort to recover from the yips. Most never do.
That brings me to Dallas Cowboys’ place kicker Brett Maher. Maher missed his first four extra point attempts Monday night, and adding in that Maher also missed his final extra point try the game before, meant that Maher missed an incredible five straight extra point attempts. Maher was so bad that two of his attempts missed the net designed to save kicking balls from sailing into the stands! Since the Cowboys only brought three kicking (K) balls with them to Tampa, that meant they were down to their last K ball! On Monday, Maher missed his first two attempts wide right, and in the interest of being politically correct, yanked his third attempt wide left before missing to the right again on his fourth attempt. To say it was a bad night for Brett Maher is like saying the Titanic had a couple problems.
The Cowboys say (now) that they are going to stick with Maher. Just from the experience of our high school catcher, I say Abandon the SS Maher Ship, Cowboys! Save yourselves and your season (possibly) before it’s too late! He will NOT get better soon! You won Monday because you played a Tampa team that clearly did not belong in any playoff game! You did not need a kicker! To win, you WILL need field goals AND extra points this week against the 49ers! I understand you say he is a good guy, but you have a chance to go to a Super Bowl, don’t let one guy with the yips stop you! If you want a nice guy to kick for you, pick me! I can miss extra points for a LOT less money, in fact, I’ll do it for room and board!
Whew! I feel like that guy on NFL Network who is always screaming during “Angry Runs”. As long as I’m on my soapbox, how about Joey Bosa? After sitting out most of the season injured, Bosa did return just in time to cost his Los Angeles Chargers a chance to win Saturday night because, “(he is) sick of these f*#&*@# officials”. So, like all babies, he cursed them out and threw his helmet while still on the field, drawing not one but two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. After his second unsportsmanlike conduct penalty which moved an extra point try from the two to the one, Jaguars coach Doug Pederson wisely went for two points instead of one. The successful attempt was the difference in a one point Jaguar win. Did Bosa repent from his behavior? No, in fact he doubled down the next day. I guess the refs made him make his comments and fire his helmet to the ground. As his helmet was bouncing wildly on the field, none other than Chargers head coach Brandon Staley scrambled to retrieve his “star” player’s helmet, I guess humiliating himself in the hope no official would see it. Too late, and on Tuesday Staley fired not Bosa but two of his assistants. Wanna bet this behavior, like the yips, continues?
We’re on to the Divisional Round, and all teams remaining will play. Last week was really crazy, but that has happened before in the Wildcard Round. Now the big boys come back and will bring stability, right?
I don’t know about that. It’s been a crazy season where any predictions are hazardous at best. Here are my picks for this week against the point spread. Lines are from sportsline.com on Tuesday, Jan. 17.
Jacksonville Jaguars (+8 ½) at Kansas City Chiefs: To say the Chargers are unlucky after Saturday night is not correct. I think the Chargers are lucky it was as close as it was because if the Jags don’t turn the ball over five (!!??) times they win by 25. The Chiefs are better, and if Jacksonville turns the ball over five times again they will lose. But the Chiefs have had big problems covering big (more than 7 points) point spreads.
New York Giants (+ 7 ½) at Philadelphia Eagles: I picked the Giants last week because of their opponents, whom I believe were hugely overrated. And, although the first half of their game two weeks ago worries me, I believe Jalen Hurts’ injury is bothering him more than the Eagles are letting on, and they are giving a bunch of points.
Cincinnati Bengals (+5) at Buffalo Bills: Watch the Bengals’ offensive line injuries as the week goes on. I don’t think all is well in Buffalo, and we know the Bengals know how to win these games.
San Francisco 49ers (-3 ½) vs. Dallas Cowboys The Boys are not playing Tampa Bay this week, they are playing the team I think is the best in the NFC. I put the line at 7, and it’s only 3 ½.
Last week 3-3
Chiefs team total over 30 ½: The only thing I’m sure of in the Jaguars/Chiefs game is that the Chiefs are going to score. They cruised to a 20-0 lead against the Jaguars earlier this season, then played conservative and held on to win 27-17. This time, if the Chiefs get such a lead, I think they’ll deliver the knockout blow. If they don’t get such a lead, then they’ll be firing away for 60 minutes. I’ll take all other factors out of the equation and bet on the Chiefs to score some points.
Giants (+7 ½) over Eagles: I’m not in love with this side, and I think the Giants are dead in the water if they fall behind by a couple scores early, but these teams just played two weeks ago and it was 22-16. Jalen Hurts gutted it out but didn’t look great, and I think the Giants can hang tough again.
Bengals (+5 ½) over Bills: For as potent as they are, the Bills make a lot of juvenile mistakes, and the Bengals can match anybody in the league score for score.
49ers/Cowboys over 46 ½: Both of these two defenses can get after the quarterback, but both have burnable cornerbacks and the weapons to exploit them. 49er/Cowboy playoff games tend to be doozies and almost never follow the script of conventional wisdom. But both of these teams have so many ways to score, and even as good as both defenses are, I think enough points hit the board to get this one over the total.
Last week 3-3