Saturday, August 28, 2010

Sports columnist Aaron McFarling: Tommy John strikes again

This week's Q&A-Mac is brought to you by Tommy John: 288 major league wins, one very different legacy.

Q: No kidding. How'd you like to be that guy?

A: Wouldn't. At least not today. Not that he's done anything wrong or has anything to be ashamed of. But when he wakes up this morning, all he'll see is headlines like these: "TOMMY JOHN COULD SIDELINE STEPHEN STRASBURG 12 TO 18 MONTHS." He's got to be thinking, "Wonderful. Now I've shelved the phenom. So glad they named that ligament-replacement surgery after me."

Q: Could be worse, though, right?

A: Sure. He could own the Washington Nationals. What a tough break for everyone involved in this story: Strasburg, of course, but also the team, MASN -- which had appointment TV every fifth day with the ace on the hill -- and baseball fans in general, who will miss his electric performances. Just a bummer all around.

Q: Should the Nationals have done something differently to protect Strasburg?

A: No. They eased him in about as gingerly as a club could. They took him out when he complained of pain. The limited his pitches and innings. Sometimes guys just get hurt. I only hope he recovers and has a long and distinguished career ... sort of like Tommy John did.

Q: Speaking of baseball, the Salem Red Sox announced this week that they're removing the tarps from the general admission seats along the first-base line. Like the move?

A: I love it. It took them longer than it should have to come around, but I'm glad they did. The next step should be to ditch the tarps on the other side, too. You've got seats; let people use 'em. Still, opening the first-base side was a welcome move -- and just in time for the final homestand that opens Tuesday.

Q: What should they do with the pair of tarps they've taken down?

A: I'll turn this one over to Travis Williams of Christiansburg, who posted this idea on my blog: "Two words: water slide. Yeah lets attach those things, get a couple hoses, maybe some baby oil, and we're set. It will be just like back in the day, slide all the way down, get some sweet grass burn trying to stop, and walk back to the top of the hill covered in lawn mower clippings." Sounds like a plan to me.

Q: The University of North Carolina is under investigation for possible academic misconduct among its football players. The school says it might wait until gameday next Saturday to decide which athletes will play and which will sit. How bad is LSU going to crush the Tar Heels?

A: Impossible to answer at the moment, but it could get ugly. The Tar Heels must implement damage control here. Their fans don't want to hear this -- and I wouldn't either -- but it's better to get blasted with eligible players than it is to put guys out there who ultimately are going to be ruled ineligible. The challenge for UNC is identifying who those risks are.

Q: Martinsville Speedway's owners announced Thursday that the track will continue to host two Sprint Cup races at least through 2015. Thoughts?

A: Happy. And not nearly as surprised as I would have been, say, five years ago, when expansion was still hot and the track really seemed vulnerable to losing a race. Have to give speedway president Clay Campbell some credit here. All those years we kept asking about the possibilities of losing a race, he pointed toward the improvements the track was making and spoke optimistically about keeping the dates long-term. Many of us were skeptical, but -- with an assist from the economic downturn and flagging ticket sales at many tracks -- he was proven right. Great news for the track, the community and area race fans.

Q: Track officials also said they'll be making $3 million worth of upgrades to the facilities, including enhancing concession areas. Any chance they'll add fully loaded Italian sausages and super nachos, the likes of which we've never seen?

A: I hope so. That's known in the industry as the "Aaron McFarling Upgrade."

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