Further Review

Steve Hummer's Further Review blog offers comments, asides and quick hits on the state of sports

Friday Fives: A.J. is better than OK for Braves

A fistful of comments, asides and quick hits on the state of sports.

And if we ask real nicely, maybe petition the great and powerful commissioner, can we get a football game in here, like yesterday?

Would you sign a contrite Ray Rice?

Watching this week’s ESPN interview with Ray Rice it is easy to believe that he really, truly thinks it wrong to knock out your fiancée in an elevator, and drag her out into the hall like a laundry bag of wet clothes.

From every angle, the former Ravens running back addressed his assault on his now-wife and sounded appalled by his own actions. He called himself a “rehabilitated man.” Perhaps you don't consider the violent nature that led him to that infamous videoed domestic abuse to be quite in the league with substance abuse. Still, you’d like to think a person could confine that behavior.

Of course, he had a motive for laying himself bare. He wants to play again, after sitting out all of 2014.

So, here’s a question, if you were an NFL owner or general manager watching that interview, would you declare, “I want that rehabilitated abuser on my team.”

No, probably not.

Rice was such a toxic figure that he not only poisoned himself, he dragged the entire integrity of the league down with him. That’s too much human asbestos to introduce to any locker room.

The second part of the question – the purely practical one – would you take any risk to get a 28-year-old running back whose production plummeted from 1,143 yards in 2012 to 660 in 2013, his last season? Rice’s average per carry dropped from 4.4 yards to 3.1. His receiving yardage dropped by 30 percent as well.

So, no, definitely not.

Reputation fit Pierzynski like skinny jeans

When the Braves signed catcher A.J. Pierzynski, he was preceded into town by sundry stories about what a pain in the patoot he could be.

Even Fredi Gonzalez admitted he expected to dislike the 18-year veteran at first sight. Said he actively lobbied against the acquisition. But now, the manager declares: “I’ve really enjoyed him here, I really have.”

What we have here is a valuable cautionary example. Don’t believe everything you hear about someone new. Don’t assume that a reputation is written in stone. And yet, we all do it, all the time.

Maybe Pierzynski well-earned his rep, but with the Braves, it could be argued he has been their MVP thus far during a trying season. He was imported for spot duty behind the plate, yet became the everyday guy after Christian Bethancourt backslid. He’s hitting just over .300, leading the regulars in batting average. He’s been a valuable resource to a young pitching staff. And a solid model on how to compete even during a season of few returns. It remains to be seen how much the Braves will play the veteran down the stretch.

And besides, Pierzynski made the play of the season Monday. David Aardsma bounced a pitch five feet in front of the plate, yet Pierzynski snagged it and attempted to frame it as if trying to coax a strike call from the ump. Didn’t work, of course, but it was some needed comic relief.

Pierzynski has been a real tool – a valuable one, not that kind that some claimed he was.

So far, no Olympic water-borne global pandemics

Good news from Rio de Janeiro: They had a triathlon test event last weekend and no competitors reported that their skin melted off their body or that any of their insides are now on the outside.

Great concern bloomed at the site of the 2016 Summer Olympics when an AP investigation revealed epic bacterial and viral contamination at all the open-water venues in Brazil. Apparently it can be a problem when a new bucket is considered an upgrade to your sewage treatment infrastructure.

Test results “consistently found high counts of active and infectious human adenoviruses, which cause explosive diarrhea, violent vomiting, respiratory trouble and other illnesses,” the AP wrote.

For events such as the rowing, sailing and the triathlon, the scene at the medal platform may be less than dignified. Hope they spread a large drop-cloth.

Still, there’s hope that the steely constitution of our best athletes can ward off illness. The triathletes emerged from Copacabana Beach last week no worse for wear. American Gwen Jorgensen, the winner, told NBC, “We swim in waters all around the world, and this was no different from anywhere else.”

Be either reassured or deeply depressed over the general state of water quality around the world.

Crash Davis lives

The Braves may be dead last in the Majors in home runs, but one of their alums just established a minor league mark that is just about movie-worthy.

Persistence, your name is Hessman. Mike Hessman.

A 15th-round pick by the Braves in 1996, Hessman hit his 433rd minor league home run Monday, becoming the all-time leader in that category. His grand slam for the Toledo Mud Hens broke an ancient record held by one Buzz Arlett, who labored in the minors from 1918 to 1937.

It is a somewhat dubious mark for a 37-year-old still scuffling in the minors. But Hessman was nonetheless upbeat: "I was just happy to do it here at home for the good fans here in Toledo," he said.

Hessman has 109 games worth of Major League experience, with the Braves, Detroit and the Mets. His totals for those various drinks of coffee: .188 batting average, 14 home runs, 33 RBI. He last saw a Major League pitch in 2010.

He has played on 12 different Minor League teams in the U.S. and Mexico. The man has ridden more busses than Ralph Kramden. Eaten more peanut butter sandwiches than Elvis.

The man is baseball.

The 2015 NFL Darwin Award goes to:

As camps opened around the NFL last week, players throughout the league were indebted to New York Jets Pro Bowl defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson.

Before the first preseason game was played, Richardson already had established a new low, one which will be nearly impossible for any of his peers to limbo beneath. With Ray Rice old news, someone else needed to step up as the player the rest of the league could point to and say: “I don’t want to be that guy.”

The field is clear now, fellas. Regardless of what trouble you may find, you will look like trappist monks compared to Richardson.

The beauty of Richardson’s misconduct was in how each element, while distasteful on its own, built one upon another into a breathless crescendo of stupidity.

Going 143 mph in his Bentley.

Police noting the unmistakable odor of cannabis in the car, with Richardson already serving an NFL substance abuse suspension.

Apprehended with a loaded semi-automatic pistol in the vehicle.

With a 12-year-old in the back seat (a human, not a scotch).

And all the while trying to hide the July incident from the team, as if it would all evaporate like the morning dew. He must have thought the NFL hadn’t signed up yet for internet access yet.

Oh, yes, the news broke about an hour after Richardson testified before reporters: “(The Jets) don’t have to worry about my name being in the news again.”

A true tour de force of bad judgment. Quentin Tarantino couldn’t have scripted a more outlandish scene.

Your deeds will not soon be forgotten.

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About the Author

Steve Hummer writes sports features for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He covers a wide range of sports and topics.