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On the road to Rio

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They [the Bruins] are unquestionably in eclipse and we're in the middle of another off-season when little has been done to brighten increasingly dim prospects. But with one stroke they could at least slow that dubious trend, if not alter it. They could find a way to convince Jimmy Vesey, a pure local phenomenon out of North Reading and Harvard, to sign with them.

Clark
Booth

Here's some random observations and stray quibbling looking for a place to land while we await shoes, cleats, spikes, sneakers, whatever to begin dropping in Rio.

And should we add to the hyper fears about the quadrennial opus the possibility that the frustrations delivered by the IOC's drug gendarmes might arouse the competitive passions of intense jock Vladimir Putin to boil over thus placing geographically luckless Estonia at mortal peril. That is if -- having been thwarted in his high jump dreams -- he doesn't take it out on little Latvia.

Hey, crazier things are happening these days. Brother Putin, however, is not the only chap who needs be reminded these are only "games''.

When Mike Piazza got enrolled in baseball's communion of saints alongside Junior Griffey at bucolic Cooperstown the other day there was even more sanctimony attached to the occasion than usual. It was reported many beholders wept, seemingly of joy, although some of the tears may have been for the Hall of Fame's failed -- indeed hopeless -- campaign to keep the holy place "clean".

There's never been any question about Griffey's authenticity. But there have been plenty of doubts about Piazza, believed by many to have been on the now infamous secret-list of 95 likely suspects compiled by MLB a dozen years ago. That, of course, does not constitute "proof". There is none. But there's as much circumstantial evidence tainting Piazza's cause as there is now condemning Rafael Palmeiro, among others, to permanent disgrace and exile.

At a minimum, it would have been appropriate to let Piazza wait a bit longer in the hope more time will help clarify this impossibly complex situation a bit more honestly. His elevation wedges the door open further, much as Craig Biggio's did a year ago. Next year you can expect Jeff Bagwell to prance in on Piazza's coattails busting the door wide open, with Pudge Rodriguez following promptly and soon enough David Ortiz, etc, without stirring a whiff of doubt. Nor will anyone dare even gingerly pose the question anymore.

Maybe in the end this is okay, even fair. After all, there's no proof, and likely never will be even if down the road that list of hot ''suspects'' is revealed in its entirety. But if that's the way it's bound to go you're going to have cut the Palmeiro's some slack. In fact you're ultimately going to have to let them all in; Bonds and Clemens, Sosa and McGwire, even bloody A-Rod. Like it or not! You can only play God with this stuff so far.

Of our four resident sterling and too heavily adored sporting franchises the Bruins are the only one currently flirting with irrelevance. They are unquestionably in eclipse and we're in the middle of another off-season when little has been done to brighten increasingly dim prospects. But with one stroke they could at least slow that dubious trend, if not alter it. They could find a way to convince Jimmy Vesey, a pure local phenomenon out of North Reading and Harvard, to sign with them. If it has the look of a no-brainer it's not that simple, alas.

Is Vesey worth all the fuss he's stirring? I've no idea. Sure he was a fabulous collegian, winner of the highly distinguished Hobey Baker laurels. Moreover, sneering at Ivy Leaguers doesn't wash in the NHL where many of them have excelled. A half dozen teams are in hot pursuit. He has size and speed as well as pedigree. Pundits quote scouts as believing he could skate on the second line of better teams, here and now. But I don't buy any of that stuff until I see for myself. Too many hockey phenoms peak in their teens.

None of which diminishes current expectations. If the Bruins fail to sign him it will be seen as further proof of their deteriorating brand, bitter evidence of a fading stature. They can't afford such rejection. Look for a decision about 15 August.

The retirement of the estimable Tim Duncan, amidst boundless praise, must have been painful for the Celtics, reminding them only too bitterly of the price paid when ML Carr lost that coin-flip two decades ago.

There's been much speculation that when Washington's 23 year-old Bryce Harper becomes a free agent in two years he could command a half BILLION dollar contract. One learned savant predicts he could get $650,000,000 ($50 million per for 13-years).

For whatever it's worth, on August first with near two-thirds of the season done Harper was hitting .234. Sort of makes David (9-7) Price at a mere 31.3 million a year look like a bargain, eh.

Lastly, on their rocky visit to Anaheim for trade-deadline weekend the Red Sox brought along an entourage of 11 front-office suits led by chief cook and bottle-washer Dave Dombrowski, presumably to study what ails this team, although a couple may have slipped away to do Disney World.

Somewhere in the Great Beyond old pal Dick O'Connell -- who as Sox GM didn't need a Senior Vice-President of Player Personnel let alone a Director of Major League Operations or Executive VP of International Scouting -- is howling gleefully.

Clark Booth is a renowned Boston sports writer and broadcast journalist. He spent much of his long career at Bostonís WCVB-TV Chanel 5 as a correspondent specializing in sports, religion, politics and international affairs.

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