Some things I think I think:
Former Pawtucket resident Mason Williams is leading the New York Penn League in batting average. The son of former Patriots wide receiver Derwin Williams is hitting .358 in the short-season Class A League while toiling for the Staten Island Yankees. He leads the league in hits, is tied for fourth in total bases and OPS, and has 16 steals in 42 games.
Williams was a fourth-round pick of the New York Yankees in the 2010 draft. The Yankees gave him a larger signing bonus than their No. 1 pick, Cito Culver, based on the recommendation of Kevin Towers, who was working for New York at the time.
Towers, a former Padres GM, took the same job with the Arizona Diamondbacks last offseason. He is considered one of the top talent evaluators in baseball. Yankees GM Brian Cashman asked Towers to scout Williams last summer when he was playing AAU ball. Towers came back and told Cashman to sign Williams, a 6-foot, 150-pound centerfielder with blazing speed, at all costs. The Yankees ended up paying Williams $850,000 to sign his name to a contract.
Ironically, Culver hits second behind Williams in the Staten Island Yankees lineup. He’s hitting .284. Culver, a shortstop from Rochester, N.Y., was a surprise pick in the first round, a player expected to go later in the draft. The Yankees were thinking of Culver as an eventual replacement three years down the road for Derek Jeter. They may have been wrong on Culver, and very right on Mason Williams, who turns 20 years old later this month during a road trip to Lowell, Mass.
Williams should be playing in the NYP All-Star game that is scheduled for August 16 in Lowell.
Was that really Tiger Woods playing golf on television Thursday afternoon? After looking at his golf swing, I wasn’t so sure. Woods, playing his first full round of competitive golf since the Masters in April, seems to be swinging more within himself. In other words, he’s no longer coming out of his shoes on tee shots. That could be a concession to the leg and knee problems that have cropped up in recent years.
Maybe this is the middle-aged version of Tiger Woods. He’s 35 years old now. Very few people thought he could continue swinging from his heels forever. Problem is, Tiger still doesn’t seem to be all that accurate off the tee. He missed his first two fairways and did a lot of putting for pars on the front nine. And you know what Lee Trevino once said about golf pros who putt for pars: They end up like dogs who keep on chasing cars.
The early demise of Tiger Woods as his sport’s dominating figure is one of the great disappointments for golf fans of my vintage. I grew up fixated by Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Johnny Miller for a few years, and Trevino. I kind of lost interest in watching golf on TV when Nick Price and Nick Faldo ruled the game in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Then along came Phil Mickelson, a power-hitting lefthander with an incredible short game and charisma to match. Phil revived my interest. Tiger just blew Phil and everyone else away when he came on the PGA Tour in 1996.
I’m getting a little too old to root for 21-year-old Rory McIlroy. So it’s going to be me and Tiger in the living room for the next 10 days. Asking him to contend for the PGA Championship next week is probably a bit much. But it would be nice to see him regain some of his old magic.
Alex Rodriguez has managed to become a distraction for the New York Yankees, even from the disabled list. Major league baseball commissioner Bud Selig wants to meet with A-Rod to find out if various tabloid news stories of his high-stakes gambling endeavors have any truth to them. A-Rod reportedly has been gambling with a crowd that includes actors Matt Damon, Tobey Maguire, Ben Affleck and Leo DiCaprio. And those are just the good guys.
These names represent the new class of rich people created by the sports and entertainment industries in recent years after salaries went through the roof. Modern multi-millionaires can’t enjoy the little things in life the way the rest of us do. They go off and hang with each other, playing high-stakes poker as one of their little sidelines.
This is how Tiger Woods got in trouble. He fell in with Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley, gambled a lot, chased women, lost his perspective on what is real in life, and what isn’t, and saw the sky fall down on his world.
It’s no surprise that A-Rod has problems with reality, and accountability. This is the most insecure athlete in history, a man with more talent than anyone in his field, a man who believes his value is determined by the size of his contract. A-Rod needs constant reassurance from teammates and rivals that he is the best. He rarely gets it. Ever since he left the warm cocoon of Seattle for his first big contract, A-Rod has lost sight of who he is. Maybe he never knew to begin with.
Bud Selig might even suspend A-Rod for a few games if his investigators turn up any incriminating evidence of association with known gamblers and mob-connected individuals. Or he might believe Rodriguez’s explanation and bury the issue. Who knows?
One thing Bud shouldn’t do is ask Red Sox fans Damon and Affleck for their cooperation in the investigation. And by the way, is this the best these guys can do with their lives? I thought they were better than that. Go home to your wives, fellows, or go make a decent movie instead of living off of your reputations.