Sports questions and answers

By RICK CLEVELAND,

The Answer Man returns with answers to many questions readers have asked in recent days...

 

Is Lebron James the best basketball player you’ve ever seen?

Presently, he is playing the best basketball I’ve ever seen played.

 

So, you’re saying he’s the best. Better than Jordan? Better than Magic? Better than Wilt and Russell? Better than Bird and Big O? Better than Elgin Baylor, as well?

What I am saying is that if you take every facet of the game – scoring inside, scoring outside, rebounding, passing, effort, making the players around you better, defense – he’s the most complete basketball player I have ever seen. And he has never played any better than he is playing presently. Take him off this Cavs team, I’m not sure they make the playoffs. That’s how good he is and what a difference he makes.

 

Florida State’s Mike Martin, the winning-est coach in college baseball history, made a decision over the weekend that has drawn much criticism. What do you think about it?

It was terrible, just terrible. For those who don’t know, here was the situation: Florida State led State 2-0 after eight innings and after a rain delay of slightly more than two and a half hours. Drew Parrish, the Seminoles’ fine, sophomore left-hander had gone the distance, had thrown 109 pitches and shut the Bulldogs down. After 109 pitches and that long a rain delay, he deserved plaudits, an ice bag and a long rest.

But, no, Martin brought him back into the game – after 109 pitches and 159 minutes on the sidelines – and he walked his first two batters of the game.

Take him out, right?

No, Martin left him in. Didn’t even go to the mound for a visit, and had nobody up in the bullpen when Elijah MacNamee strode to the plate for State. By that point, Parrish had thrown 132 pitches, and the last 23 had been stressful. MacNamee, of course, hit a three-run, walk-off home run to end State’s season.

Remarkably, Martin didn’t second guess-himself, afterward. He said he would do it again. He said he would do it because Parrish wanted the ball and his teammates wanted him to have the ball.

“Drew was in complete control,” Martin said.

Obviously, he was not. But we’re not just talking about a decision that lost a ballgame. We’re talking about a decision that could ruin a promising pitcher’s arm.

I don’t care if Parrish wanted the ball and his teammates wanted him to have it. Don’t care if Martin really believed that keeping him in the game gave FSU the best chance to win.

Part of Martin’s job as head coach – besides trying to win games and championships – is to take care of his players. It was awful, just awful. “It was horse (bleep) a high ranking Major League scout,” told me. “Worst I’ve seen in the modern era. You used to see that kind of stuff all the time, but it’s gotten better in recent years. After more than an hour rain delay and that many pitches, you just don’t do that. You would never see it in the Major Leagues.”

No, because in the Major Leagues, they know how valuable an arm can be.

 

You have often written that the NCAA’s limit on college baseball scholarships is a travesty. Each Division I school is allowed 11.7 scholarships to be divided among a maximum of 27 players. What is the right number?

Well, you can certainly make a case for 27 and 20 would be far better. Heck, 15 would be nearly 25 percent more than they now have. When the current scholarship limits were instituted, college baseball was a sport played in small venues, with little attendance and no TV. Now, the sport is played at the highest levels in huge stadiums with leased luxury suites, with sellout crowds, and the games are often televised. College baseball players deserve better. The situation – as it stands and has stood for so long – is absurd.

Rick Cleveland (rcleveland@mississippitoday.org) is a Jackson-based syndicated columnist.