From the standpoint of the fan, Ken Kendrick is the kind of guy you want to own your sports team.
He sincerely cares about winning. He’s willing to open his wallet to make that happen. And most of the time, he gets out of the way and allows the people he has hired to do their jobs.
That’s about all you can ask for. And that’s an acid test that a lot of other sports owners fail to reach.
But Kendrick’s emotional investment in the team also leads him to make pointed comments with his fan hat on. In some cases — like those he made this week regarding Justin Upton’s awful first two months of the season — his words bring credence to the same things fans have been thinking after every game, every frustrating at-bat and adventure in the outfield.
He didn’t blame the team’s woes on Upton. He said he expected better. So does Upton. So do the fans. And Kendrick’s comments dovetailed with manager Kirk Gibson’s decision to give Upton three days off to reflect, recharge and reboot.
His comments on Stephen Drew’s progress are harder to defend. Drew suffered a catastrophic injury on a hustle play at the plate last summer. The team made moves in the off-season, re-signing Aaron Hill and Willie Bloomquist to hedge their bets in case the rehab took longer. It seems as if Drew has gone from an added bonus before the season to a lament with the team’s poor start.
Down the stretch-ed ligament
What used to be commonplace — earning the Triple Crown in horse racing — now appears to be right up there with Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak and Ted Williams hitting .400 in terms of level of difficulty.
The injury just before this weekend’s Belmont Stakes will leave everyone with a “What if?” when it comes to I’ll Have Another. It’s been 76 years since the winner of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness didn’t run in the Belmont. There have been 12 Triple Crown winners in horse racing history, and now 12 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winners who fell short of the final goal.
In the 1970s, three horses turned the triple trick in seven years — and Secretariat was so far ahead of the Belmont pack in 1973 it looked like Deion Sanders high-stepping to the end zone. Not anymore.
Three races in three cities at three different lengths over six weeks could be too much for today’s horses. And the competition and the level of training in the sport means beating back different challenges from different horses specializing in different distances. As with other sports, the money and the bright lights have attracted plenty of attention. It’s going to take a super horse to reach the summit.
• Michael Floyd across from Larry Fitzgerald feels very good at the wide receiver spot. Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams as a 1-2 punch in the backfield feels very good. Rob Housler and Jim Dray may form such an impressive tandem at the tight end spot that the Todd Heap homecoming story may have an unhappy ending in training camp.
And then we have Kevin Kolb and John Skelton under center. The Cardinals are the poster child for the prevailing NFL wisdom that “if you don’t have a quarterback, you don’t have anything.” Does Arizona have one? Two? Will Kolb learn from last year’s mistakes? Will he stay healthy long enough for it to matter? Are Skelton’s measurables and flashes of brilliance enough to spell out a winner?
You can’t answer these questions in shorts at OTAs, or in 7-on-7 drills in training camp or in half-speed preseason games in August. It can only be answered in season — and if the answer is “no,” by the time you figure it out it’s already too late.
Should be an interesting September.
• Sportswriters sure get away with a lot these days. You can read through a 30-inch baseball article where the only people quoted are “one scout” and “an American League executive.” It’s not like the things they are saying are particularly outlandish or controversial. It’s just that it now seems understood that you don’t have to be quoted on the record if you don’t want to be.
The same thing is happening in the locker room. “One Knick” blasts Carmelo Anthony. “One Cub” doesn’t like the manager. In the interest of getting a story, scribes seem willing to relieve the person making the comments of any responsibility. If you work in the CIA and you can’t be quoted about a matter of national security, that’s one thing.
If you’re a backup power forward and you think the starter shouldn’t have gotten a contract extension, that’s not quite the same standard.
Jerry Brown is a contributing columnist who appears every Sunday in the Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.