Yet another reason why the GM shouldn’t play the manager’s role

July is upon us, which means we’re due for another Miami Marlins makeover.

Didn’t think I’d be typing that again this summer. The team looked pretty good in spring training, with Giancarlo Stanton back healthy and ready to rip, plus solid additions like Dee Gordon, who’s only leading the majors in batting, not to mention the larger promise of Jose Fernandez sailing through his Tommy John rehab and on line for a solid second half of the season.

The Miami Marlins' Dee Gordon (9) is congratulated by manager Dan Jennings after scoring in the first inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Marlins Park in Miami on Friday, June 26, 2015. (David Santiago/El Nuevo Herald/TNS)
The Miami Marlins’ Dee Gordon is congratulated by manager Dan Jennings after scoring in the first inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers on June 26, 2015. (David Santiago/El Nuevo Herald/TNS)

All the same, the losses started piling up so quickly and so high that manager Mike Redmond got fired, offseason contract extension or not, and before you knew it Stanton being on something like a 60-homer pace was of little consequence. The Marlins, sitting at 31-46, are worse than every team but Philadelphia and Milwaukee and the bottom’s still not in sight.

That’s because Stanton broke his wrist and he’s out for six weeks or so. Who’s going to set that home-run sculpture into a fit of synchronized chaos now? It’s down to just the regular Marlins chaos now, unplanned and unstoppable.

Anyway, the trading deadline is July 31 and Jeffrey Loria doesn’t like paying guys past June if they’re not going to make the playoffs. This would seem the natural time to get together with team president Michael Hill and the general manager to determine which guys will bring the most in trade.

Wait a minute. Dan Jennings isn’t the GM anymore. He’s the Marlins’ manager, and tooling along at 15-24 since replacing Redmond on May 18.

[Tom Brady is using all his allotted timeouts to fight suspension]

[Dechiphering ‘Nerdgate,’ the Cardinals’ childish computer game]

[Once you quiet Johnny Football, is there anything left to cheer?]

If you’re wondering why players wouldn’t be all that excited about somebody from the front office writing out the lineups and determining how much each guy plays, it’s because of conflicts of interest just like this one.

It’s not a matter of trying to win the division anymore. It’s shuffling through contracts and digging through the minor-league organizational charts of other teams to find somebody that might make you a little better next year, or the year after that.

The manager shouldn’t be buried hip-deep in that process, but Jennings clearly isn’t the final answer there and never was. He’s holding a space until Loria figures out what he wants to do next, and then it’s back to the front office for DJ, a super scout and a super guy but not the superglue you need to hold together a clubhouse that’s been torn up and put back together so many times before.

Even the Phillies understand this side of the equation. Ryne Sandberg resigned as their manager last week, muttering something profound about “Wins and losses was a big thing that took a toll on me,” and the team replaced him Monday with the interim solution of third-base coach Pete Mackanin.

Mackanin is 63. He’s been wearing a baseball uniform his entire life. Probably doesn’t know how to tie a necktie. He’ll take the toll now, as well as anyone could, knowing it’s the role he was born for and the only one he’s suited to play.

Jennings, on the other hand, is miscast. It’s not his fault, but it is his curse. The manager is supposed to have his players’ backs in feuds with umpires and reporters and team presidents and even owners, or at least that’s how they see it.

Instead, as another potential Marlins makeover looms, Miami’s manager is a visitor from the front office, beholden to Loria for the job that matters most, the one he wants to return to, which is managing the roster instead of the team.

Not fair, not smart, comparing Justise Winslow to Dwyane Wade

So Mike Krzyzewski says that Miami Heat first-round pick Justise Winslow could be the next Dwyane Wade. That’s what the Duke legend told Jay Bilas anyway, and that’s a mouthful.

Duke's Justise Winslow responds to a question during the NBA basketball combine Friday, May 15, 2015, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Duke’s Justise Winslow responds to a question during the NBA basketball combine Friday, May 15, 2015. Jason Lieser of Palm Beach Post standing directly behind him (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Everybody goes a little daft with the draft. Let’s just agree that nobody in this rookie class deserves to enter the league with that kind of pressure on him.

[Most needed position would have meant passing on Dwyane Wade]

[Jeremy Foley still doing a lot of things right at Florida]

[NFL guessed wrong 50 years ago picking Atlanta over Miami]

The No. 10 spot in the NBA draft isn’t supposed to produce Hall of Famers, NBA Finals MVP’s and other foundational franchise saviors. If it happens, great, but go leaping after that dream just because it makes you smile.

Winslow, I think, will be very good for the Heat. Pat Riley certainly thinks so. He talked about Winslow’s fall to No. 10 and likened it to the year that Caron Butler came to Miami at the same number and in the same way. Butler, a small forward like Winslow, had a strong rookie year, starting 78 games and averaging 15.4 points. Can’t ask for more than that.

The thing with Butler is he didn’t become an all-star until his fifth NBA season. He had already played for two other teams by then, the Lakers and the Wizards. Riley used him for trade bait after two Heat seasons, packaging the promising young pro in the deal that brought Shaquille O’Neal to Miami.

Winslow, we’re hoping, will be so productive that he sticks with the Heat for a long time, starts a lot of games and maybe even becomes part of a championship unit.

Riley doesn’t always see draft picks the way everybody else does, however. Unless it’s a star like Wade, he’s thinking about trading them for veteran help almost from the day the kids arrive.

Here’s another small caution. Guys get drafted at No. 10 for a reason, and the last four who did haven’t amounted to much at this point.

Four years ago it was Jimmer Fredette, the long-range fad of the NCAA tournament from BYU. He has started seven games in his career. Total.

Here are the numbers on the three most recent No. 10 picks. Prepare to be underwhelmed.

***

AUSTIN RIVERS, 2012 Draft

Yr.                 Starts   Pts. Avg.     Reb. Avg.   Assists avg.

2012-13           26          6.2              1.8                   2.1

2013-14            4           7.7              1.9                 2.3

2014-15           5             7.0                2.0                   2.0

***

C.J. McCOLLUM, 2013 Draft

Yr.                   Starts     Pts. Avg.   Reb. Avg.   Assists Avg.

2013-14           0             5.3                1.3                0.7

2014-15           3             6.8               1.5                 1.0

***

ELFRID PAYTON, 2014 Draft

Yr.                     Starts     Pts. Avg.   Reb Avg.   Assists Avg.

2014-15               63           8.9           4.3               6.5

***

Payton, Orlando’s point guard for most of his rookie season, has been the best of them, but unless you’re a big-time NBA fan, you may not have heard of him.

Not to pile on Rivers, either, but he’s playing for his dad, Doc Rivers, head coach of the Los Angeles Clippers, and still started just two of 41 regular-season games since coming over from New Orleans midseason.

Rivers was a one-and-done star at Duke, too, just like Winslow, if it matters.

Probably doesn’t.

50 years later, Miami’s franchise history sacks NFL expansion rival Atlanta

Fifty years ago this summer American Football League owners granted Miami an expansion franchise, but only because they couldn’t keep their first choice.

The more-established NFL swooped in and took Atlanta, which left the AFL looking around for a replacement, which wound up being Joe Robbie. In no time flat Robbie pulled together actor Danny Thomas and some other investors, rustled up a contract with the city-owned Orange Bowl and, just like that, on Aug. 16, 1965, Miami was granted an AFL franchise, pushing that league from eight teams to nine.

ATLANTA, GA - AUGUST 08: Damien Williams #5 of the Miami Dolphins is tackled by Kimario McFadden #40 of the Atlanta Falcons in the fourth quarter of a preseason game at the Georgia Dome on August 8, 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia. The Falcons won 16-10. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
Damien Williams of the Miami Dolphins is tackled by Kimario McFadden of the Atlanta Falcons in the a preseason game at the Georgia Dome on August 8, 2014. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

It could have gone a lot of different ways, of course. Without the growing war between between the NFL and the AFL, it might have taken much longer to bring pro football to Florida. Next came the NFL-AFL merger in 1970, which gave the Dolphins more credibility than they really had earned, and then came Don Shula and, well, you know the rest.

Let’s just throw all of these unmatched apples and oranges into a barrel that’s half-a-century deep now and see which city came out better from the expansion frenzy of 1965.

Atlanta thought it had won the day and the NFL thought it had scored the plum market of the moment, but not according to this chart.

 

Atlanta                             Miami

Super Bowl titles                                    0                                       2

Super Bowl appearances                       1                                       5

Division championships                        5                                     13

Playoff appearances                               12                                   22

Winning seasons                                     14                                   28

Hall of Famers                                          2                                      9

Longest postseason drought              12 yrs.                               6 yrs.

All-time passing yds. leader            Matt Ryan                        Dan Marino

All-time rushing yds. leader           Gerald Riggs                     Larry Csonka

All-time receiving yds. leader         Roddy White                  Mark Duper

Times city hosted Super Bowl               2                                     10

 

All right, so maybe it doesn’t make perfect sense accrediting the successes or failures of any given NFL cities to the markets alone. It’s up to decades of different owners and coaches and draft picks and injuries and on and on.

Let’s just say that Miami is 8-4 in head-to-head play against the Falcons, and that Miami has won 443 games to just 329 for Atlanta, and that the Falcons don’t have to claw their way around New England in the AFC East every year. They’ve got New Orleans and Tampa Bay and Carolina instead.

Make what you want of that information concerning the expansion rivals of 1965. I’m sure you’ll be fair.

My view is that the NFL saw something that wasn’t there in Atlanta, and missed something in Miami that was.

 

Jeremy Foley still doing a lot of things right at Florida

There always are going to be people who want to see Jeremy Foley fired. That’s because the Florida football team isn’t Alabama and Ohio State and USC and Florida State all rolled up into one unbeatable juggernaut. We’re not talking about reaching that monstrous level this year, either, but every year.

GAINESVILLE, FL - DECEMBER 06:  Florida Gators athletic director Jeremy Foley speaks on during an introductory press conference on December 6, 2014 in Gainesville, Florida. Jim McElwain has left Colorado State and replaces ex-Florida head coach Will Muschamp who was fired earlier this season.
GAINESVILLE, FL – Florida Gators athletic director Jeremy Foley speaks during a Dec. 6, 2014 press conference introducing new football coach Jim McElwain.

Remember when the Gators actually did rule the world, and in both major sports? During the three-year span from 2006-08, Florida won two national championships in football and two more in basketball, which is such a ridiculous level of achievement that Alabama and Ohio State and USC and FSU all rolled into one couldn’t pull it off, and that’s in combination with Duke and UCLA and UConn and Kansas and all those hoop hangouts, too.

Well, Foley’s taking a few hits these days and he’s punching back with a few new hires, Jim McElwain and Mike White, who will need a little time to gain some traction. Overall, the Gators are still tearing into the competition pretty good in all the sports that come without RV cities and $300, two-night-minimum hotel stays.

According to the Learfield Sports Directors Cup standings, which measure achievement in men’s and women’s sports across the board, Florida earned the No. 4 spot nationally this year with a pair of NCAA titles (gymnastics and softball) and 13 top-10 finishes in the other sports.

The Gators’ nearest misses were men’s track and field, a national runnerup in both the indoor and outdoor competitions, and baseball, which tied for third in the College World Series.

Altogether, this is the seventh-consecutive finish in Learfield’s national Top 10 for the Florida athletic program. Also, Florida’s media relations department reports that the Gators are the only program in the nation to win multiple national titles in each of the last six years.

Foley, the only AD in Div. I history to oversee multiple national championship title teams in football and men’s basketball, doesn’t get many brownie points for all of that when Gator Boosters gather to grumble about losing to Georgia Southern in football.

The Gators do live in the SEC, after all.

For anybody who cares about anything else, however, Florida continues to do a lot of things right, and Foley is the man in charge of that.

 

 

2014-15 Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup standings

School                       Points

Stanford                   1482.0

UCLA                         1236.0

USC                           1209.0

Florida                      1188.5

North Carolina         1152.0

 

 

 

Can you imagine if Heat had passed on Dwyane Wade and drafted most urgent need?

[cmg_cinesport url=”http://cinesport.palmbeachpost.com/embed/palm-beach-sports/nba-draft-lottery-preview-miami-heat/#autostart=on;”%5D

Pat Riley needed a point guard to ignite a sluggish lineup in 2003. He could have drafted T.J. Ford of Texas or Kirk Hinrich of Kansas to fill that hole. Aren’t you glad he didn’t?

[Tom Brady is using all his allotted timeouts]

[If you take the party out of Johnny Football, what’s left?]

[Anybody seen Darko, the dud of the 2003 NBA draft?]

Drafting No. 5 overall, Miami took Marquette shooting guard Dwyane Wade instead. Three NBA titles later, that decision to take the best available player clearly made all the difference for the franchise. Wade hopefully isn’t finished yet, either, if the Heat can keep him happy with a new contract this summer.

Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade (3) before pre-game introductions at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami, Florida on June 12, 2014 (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)
Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade (3) before pre-game introductions at 2014 NBA Finals. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Not that Hinrich would have been a total disaster. He’s still in the league and working on a career average of five assists per game. Ford didn’t last quite as long because of injuries but he did start on playoff teams in Milwaukee and Toronto.

Compare almost anyone to Wade, however, and you come up short.

Well, there is LeBron James, of course, who went No. 1 overall in the 2003 draft, but Riley didn’t have a shot at him back then. What he got was an astoundingly athletic alternative in Wade, who never backed down to LeBron or anyone else from his first days in the league.

There’s a longer version of this Wade draft item coming on Thursday. You’ll find it in our print edition that morning and on the web, too, at mypalmbeachpost.com.

A little appetizer. There’s something in there about Wade beating LeBron on a last-second summer league shot when both were new to the league.

Tom Brady is using all his allotted timeouts to fight 4-game suspension

Tom Brady finally gets his hearing with Roger Goodell today on the quarterback’s four-game Deflategate suspension, but I’m still not convinced this thing is going to be settled by the regular-season opener with Pittsburgh on Sept. 10.

Tom Brady  (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)
Tom Brady
(Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

The Dallas Cowboys are still waiting on Greg Hardy’s appeal of his 10-game suspension for violating the league’s personal conduct policy. That appeal hearing before NFL arbitrator Harold Henderson took place May 28, nearly a month ago. It had to do with the player’s involvement in a domestic-violence charge that was dropped in February because the accuser did not make herself available for a jury trial.

[Deciphering Cardinals’ childish ‘Nerdgate’ conspiracy]

[Proven methods to avoid locker-room interviews]

[Anyone seen Darko, big dud of the 2003 NBA draft?]

If that doesn’t sound nasty enough, here is some of what Goodell wrote to Hardy in explaining what league investigators determined and how that informed him on setting such a long suspension.

“The use of physical force under the circumstances present here, against a woman substantially smaller than you, and in the presence of powerful, military-style assault weapons, constitutes a significant act of violence in violation of the personal-conduct policy,” Goodell wrote.

Military assault weapons as evidence in a domestic-violence case? That ought to blow a bazooka hole through any appeal, and yet there is no final ruling. Also, when one does come, the NFLPA has promised to take the league to court on Hardy’s behalf.

Compare that case, with its 10-game suspension, to the case of a superstar quarterback who got four games for knowing something about footballs being intentionally deflated below the league minimum. Wait, make that “more likely than not” knowing about it, according to a league-run investigation $5 million in the making. And that’s with newer independent studies reporting that there may be no way to prove that the Colts’ footballs from the AFC Championship game were measured as fairly as the Patriots’ footballs.

If Brady wanted this over quickly, it already would be. As it is, he doesn’t even need an ironclad defense to make participation in the season opener a possibility. All he needs is to use all his available timeouts in a system that’s mired in mud.

If you quiet Johnny Football, is there anything left to cheer?

 

Johnny Football doesn’t want to be Johnny Football anymore because of the distractions his party-boy image have caused him and the Cleveland Browns. That’s good thinking. Makes me want to flash a quick thumbs up.

Wait, we’re not doing hand signs anymore, or at least Johnny Manziel isn’t.

“The money sign will not be back,” Johnny told Browns reporters last week in a wide-ranging reassessment of personal goals. “I will not be making it out there.

“”I think at times Johnny Football probably took over me a little bit, too, and I bought into

CLEVELAND, OH - JUNE 4:  Rookie draft pick Johnny Manziel of the NFL Cleveland Browns acknowledges the crowd prior to the game between the Cleveland Indians and the Boston Red Sox along with other Brows rookies at Progressive Field on June 4, 2014 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH – Johnny Manziel of the NFL Cleveland Browns acknowledges the crowd prior to a game last June between the Cleveland Indians and the Boston Red Sox. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

that.”

Ten weeks in rehab gave Manziel plenty of time to think and grow during the offseason. Whether he truly is a different person will be proven, as always, in the public spotlight where Johnny lives. I suggest that he dispense in the meantime with all hand signals or symbolic gestures, no matter how benign.

After all that’s transpired at Texas A&M and in his rookie NFL season, they’ll only be misinterpreted and criticized in the media anyway.

For example:

Johnny flashes a “V” for victory: “I knew Winston Churchill,” writes a grumpy old columnist, “and you, sir, are no Winston Churchill.”

Johnny clasps his hands in a prayerful posture: “Now he’s trying to out-Tebow Tebow, like he’s some kind of choir boy,” shouts a talking head on a sports cable channel. “This guy has no shame.”

Johnny holds his index finger in the air while running to butt helmets with the tight end who just caught his preseason TD pass: “Might want to win the starting job, kid, before you start telling everybody you’re No. 1,” says the old columnist, still typing away.

Johnny waves and says “Hi, Mom,” when the TV camera finds him on the sidelines: “Classic,” spouts the talking head. “Still so immature he can’t focus on his profession for three lousy hours.”

Johnny stands tall and straight and sings along during the national anthem: “Can’t believe he even knows the words,” the columnist judges. “Sounds a little pitchy to me, too.”

Johnny runs up to give a postgame handshake to Peyton Manning or Tom Brady: “Perfect photo op,” warns the talking head. “He’ll be selling that selfie on his website tomorrow. Extra if it’s autographed.”

Johnny flaps his arms, asking the home crowd to pipe down while the Browns have the ball: “Oh, now he’s telling these fine, hard-working folks who are helping to pay his salary to shut up,” the columnist rails. “Maybe if just once in his life somebody had told him to shut up, to straighten up, to grow up, the Browns might have gotten something in return for that No. 1 draft pick.”

Johnny runs over to the front row to hand a football to a young fan: “Nice,” the talking head grows. “Do you have any idea how many germs on that thing after it’s been used in a game? I hope that kid’s had his shots, not that Johnny would care.”

Enough already with the exaggerations. You get the picture. Johnny Football is too strong a personality to wish away overnight. He did that to himself, and now wants to undo it.

I hope he can. Already one NFL season has been wasted on this foolishness.

One day it would be nice to see him flash the “OK” sign and know it wasn’t an act.

 

 

 

Not to dampen NBA draft enthusiasm, but has anyone seen Darko?

Where are you, Darko Milicic? More specifically, how could the 7-footer who got drafted ahead of Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade in 2003 get lost in the first place?

These are important questions as we prepare to spin the roulette wheel of another NBA draft next Thursday. Here’s another one. Do you know the only player to be drafted ahead of Milicic, the Serbian skyscraper who started with Detroit and in 12 NBA seasons averaged 6.0 points per game?

His name is LeBron James. Like Milicic, LeBron never played a minute of college ball in this country. Like Milicic, he had an NBA body as a teenager.

[Deciphering ‘Nerdgate,’ the St. Louis Cardinals childish hack job]

[It’s better this way, with LeBron coming up short in NBA Finals]

[A tip of the cap to Ichiro Suzuki, Japan’s gift to the Marlins]

NEW YORK - JUNE 26:  Darko Milicic is selected #2 overall in the first round by the Detroit Pistons holds up a Pistons #31 jersey during the 2003 NBA Draft at the Paramount Theatre at Madison Square Garden on June 26, 2003 in New York, New York.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images) ORG XMIT:   ORG XMIT: MER0705071350323490
Darko Milicic was selected #2 overall in the 2003 NBA draft by the Detroit Pistons.  (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)

The difference is that LeBron was and is so unstoppable that it comes as a shock all these years later when he doesn’t win an NBA title, even if the mission is to do it almost single-handedly.

Milicic? Not so much. An internet search turned him up playing these days for a Serbian pro team called Metalac Farmakom, which probably means something to Miami Heat point guard Goran Dragic but doesn’t mean anything to me.

The names Kristaps Porzingis and Mario Hezonja don’t mean that much to me, either, though it seems they each will be drafted in the top 10 next week by NBA teams that can’t resist their slick Euro moves and towering builds. With the buzz that’s growing in all the mock drafts, Porzingis, the 7-foot-1 Latvian, even looks like top-five.

This institutes added mystery to a draft process that already is baffling enough.

LeBron didn’t have to be LeBron, for instance. He could have turned instead into Kwame Brown, a player considered such a sure thing that he was the NBA’s first No. 1 overall pick drafted straight out of high school.

The Washington Wizards and team president Michael Jordan took Brown over all others in 2001 based on the shot blocker’s play at Glynn Academy in Brunswick, Ga. That was a disappointment to Billy Donovan, who had Brown signed to a scholarship at Florida, but hardly a surprise. Brown was ready for the NBA, everybody agreed, but after bouncing around the league with seven different teams the 6-foot-11 project retired, uncompleted, with a career average of 6.6 points right in Milicic’s neighborhood.

Add it all up and I’m glad that Pat Riley is in charge of using the Heat’s No. 10 overall pick. He doesn’t get them all right, as we’re reminded every time Michael Beasley comes and goes in Miami, but he has a good feel for what players will be worth to the franchise a year or two from now.

That’s what the NBA draft is for most organizations, a facet of the team’s long-term development, an acquisition phase to be utilized in future trades.

Once a player’s been around the league for a while and showed himself adaptable and tough enough to stand out, then it’s time to get excited about him.

That’s how you tell the difference between Goran Dragic and his brother Zoran.

That’s how you learn to make your plans as if the draft might not work out at all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dechiphering ‘Nerdgate,’ the St. Louis Cardinals’ childish computer game

So, while we’re waiting for a ruling on Tom Brady’s role in Deflategate, the generous summer of 2015 serves up a bonus baseball conspiracy crisis of outsized proportions.

Nerdgate.

What else are we supposed to call an investigation into computerized creeps stealing juicy megabytes of information on behalf of the St. Louis Cardinals, and choosing as the victim a Houston Astros franchise that hasn’t posed a serious threat to much of anyone in the last decade?

With the St. Louis Cardinals out of town on a road trip, Busch Stadium sits quiet Wednesday, June 17, 2015, in St. Louis. The team said Wednesday it hired a law firm several months ago to conduct an internal inquiry and to assist the FBI and Justice Department in their investigation into possible computer hacking of the Houston Astros database by members of the Cardinals organization. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
With the St. Louis Cardinals out of town on a road trip, Busch Stadium sits quiet Wednesday, June 17, 2015, in St. Louis. The team said Wednesday it hired a law firm several months ago to conduct an internal inquiry and to assist the FBI and Justice Department in their investigation into possible computer hacking of the Houston Astros database by members of the Cardinals organization. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

The FBI is taking this very seriously but at the moment I’m having a little trouble.

Hackers from North Korea and China are dangerous, digging into secrets and practices that are strictly the business of the U.S. government and American corporations.

Then there are the hackers who pry into the accounts of private citizens who mistakenly believe their data is protected by banks and credit card companies and department stores. That hits all of us where we live.

Baseball hackers, on the other hand, can only do harm by embarrassing and antagonizing a rival. Everybody scouts the same players. Everybody deals with agents who represent players on every team and use that private knowledge to full advantage. Everybody has front-office personnel who move from one organization to the next.

Snooping around the internal communications and personnel evaluations of another team isn’t sophisticated. It’s punkish. It’s a prank that you pull just because you can.

Picture adolescents of another time so bored that they call people up at random and ask them if their refrigerator is running. They had yellow fingers from stuffing cheese puffs into their mouths and stains on their shirts from laughing so hard that the soda came shooting out of their noses. These were the kids who stayed inside playing Strat-O-Matic rather than going out and actually organizing a pick-up game.

Can’t do that phone stuff anymore, of course, because of caller ID. So we’re on to computer bullying in its various forms. This Cardinals crew, possibly operating from a home in Jupiter during spring training 2014, allegedly used a new set of dirty tricks to spy on the Astros, whose general manager Jeff Luhnow previously worked in the St. Louis organization.

A Yahoo report on the FBI’s year-long dig into this molehill says the Jupiter residence was occupied by several Cardinals employees. If true, that doesn’t sound like wealthy front-office types. They’re over on the beach, not crowding into a spot near Roger Dean Stadium in order to cut costs on shared pizzas and stay up late playing video games.

Maybe I’ll be proved wrong on this over time. Maybe a Cardinals executive is involved in this, directly or otherwise. At first glance, though, it doesn’t fit the mold of an organization with a long reputation for doing things the right way.

If there’s anything really funny about this, it’s picturing Bill Belichick a little grumpier than usual today, asking himself why he didn’t think of this first.

And if there’s anything truly intriguing about it, how about the fact the Astros will be in West Palm Beach for spring training 2017, just down the road from the Cardinals in Jupiter?

That, however, is too far out in the future. Other earthshaking investigations in the sports world will long have overshadowed this one, like maybe news of a slush fund meant to win votes for an Olympics in Oklahoma City.

(Note to self: Good, that’s done. Better head to the vending machine down the hall now and buy a soft drink for the I.T. team and anyone else who has ever swooped in to perform a rescue mission on a computer problem beyond my kindergarten-level technical skills. Nobody likes being called a nerd.)

It’s better this way, with LeBron coming up just short in NBA Finals

Was it really that long ago that the Cavaliers led the NBA Finals 2-1 and LeBron James was the unquestioned series MVP and people were acting like it would have been lucky just for Michael Jordan to get his cell number?

The new reality of Golden State as champion makes more sense. It’s built on a collection of young stars and soon-to-be stars that could win several more titles, growing up together just like the San Antonio Spurs did.

That won’t sound good to LeBron but it will sound cruelly familiar.

The first time he went to the Finals with Cleveland in 2007, the Spurs won it in a sweep. LeBron was the Cavs’ only major offensive weapon that time because Cleveland simply

OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 04:  LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers makes contact with Andre Iguodala #9 of the Golden State Warriors in the first quarter during Game One of the 2015 NBA Finals at ORACLE Arena on June 4, 2015 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) ***BESTPIX***
OAKLAND, CA – LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers makes contact with Andre Iguodala of the Golden State Warriors during Game One of the 2015 NBA Finals. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

needed more players. This time LeBron lost in six games, his own spectacular efforts notwithstanding, because Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, the stars that made his homecoming logical, were injured.

It’s better this way, and not just because I originally predicted Warriors in five.

Basketball was not built to be a one-man game dominated by a giant talent. If it were, Wilt Chamberlain would have won more than two rings, matching LeBron’s total.

Besides, the TV ratings kill when LeBron is in beast mode, and he’s only in beast mode when he has to be. His preference is to involve all his teammates and to be able to trust them when times get tough. That’s better for him but the numbers LeBron put up in this series, averaging 35.8 points, 13.3 rebounds and 8.8 assists per game, were so epic that it made everybody watch, sports fans or not.

LeBron never would call himself the best player in the world, either, if he were part of an overall great lineup. He’d feel silly and self-concious saying something like that while sitting at the same interview table with a future Hall of Famer like, say, Dwyane Wade.

It was great theater to hear him saying it, though. Some loved it. Some hated it. All agreed with it. Most of all, no one had the option of ignoring it.

Wade, by the way, averaged 34.7 points and 7.8 rebounds while Miami was winning the 2006 NBA Finals MVP award. He’s not as big as LeBron at 6-feet-4 and 212 pounds but in the process of reversing a 2-1 deficit to Dallas Wade was just as impactful.

Could you have made LeBron the Finals MVP here? If the Cavs had pushed it to seven games, sure. He was that much better than everyone else on the court and Cleveland, outside of LeBron, was so much worse than a Finals team should be.

Again, though, it’s better this way. LeBron can add this slight to his “secret motivation” list and we can look forward to seeing him doing it all over again next year, only a little angrier.

That’s LeBron at his scariest, and most entertaining, too.