Pedersen on Sports

Our sports guy reflects on the AIA rankings fiasco, Tucson baseball history and the befuddling Suns

Halloween has come and gone, and my children have inexplicably already forgotten about the loads of candy they hauled in last Thursday night.

Their loss is my and my wife's gain, though that means I'm on such a perpetual sugar high that there's no way I'm able to focus on just one topic to rant about this week. So instead, we have many!

Hope you enjoy these thoughts ... about things. If not, blame the Blow Pops and fun-sized Snickers.

Tucson's best baseball star

I was in the living room of Tucson's greatest professional baseball player when he got the call that he'd been drafted. It was June 2001, and J.J. Hardy had numerous family and friends over to listen to a really bad webcast—remember, Al Gore hadn't fully perfected the Internet at this point—of the Major League Baseball draft.

When Hardy, a Sabino High School star, got word he'd been taken in the second round by the Milwaukee Brewers, the room erupted in cheers.

Hardy made his big-league debut in 2005, and now he's a bona fide star.

He's coming off a season in which he batted .263 with 25 home runs and 76 RBIs for the Baltimore Orioles, his third team. Those numbers helped him make it to his second All-Star game. And two weeks ago, Hardy, a shortstop, was awarded his second consecutive Gold Glove.

The 31-year-old Hardy has committed just 82 errors in more than 1,100 games, safely handling 98.2 percent of the defensive plays he's been involved in. Combine that with five seasons of 20-plus home runs (despite being a wiry 6 foot 1 and 190 pounds) and you can see why I think Hardy is the best ever to come from Southern Arizona.

Another active local, Canyon del Oro grad Ian Kinsler, is having his own great career as a second baseman with the Texas Rangers, while former pros Ron Hassey, Tom Pagnozzi and Ed Vosberg also deserve consideration.

But I didn't get to hang out in their living rooms on draft day. That gives Hardy the edge in my completely unscientific rating of Tucson's best professional baseball players.

Well done, AIA

When I used to run the high school sports coverage for another local paper, we would jokingly refer to the Arizona Interscholastic Association by a different name, calling the state's prep sports governing body Assholes In Action.

This was in reference to how so many of the people involved with the very Phoenix-centric AIA seemed to look down on any school, team or players that weren't from Maricopa County.

Over the years, even as I've become less involved in preps, I've still noticed the myriad bonehead moves and decisions the AIA has made: Call them Idiots In Action.

Never was this more evident than last Saturday, when the AIA announced its state football playoff brackets during a live webcast—yes, that did happen—just after 9 a.m. But an hour later, the AIA said those brackets were void and new ones would be forthcoming.

Why, you ask? It seems that MaxPreps, the über-preps organization that provides the AIA with a "proprietary" (read: we won't tell you how it's tabulated) formula for power points that determine playoff participants in all sports, made a major gaffe when it forgot to factor in the most recent results for out-of-state teams that Arizona schools played this year in football.

(That's kind of a big deal, since Salpointe Catholic played teams from California and Nevada, as did several Phoenix schools. And Arizona schools near the California and New Mexico borders played a bunch of out-of-state opponents prior to sectional play.)

As a result, the final power points standings (and corresponding playoff brackets) weren't accurate. This, despite coaches already putting together game plans and arranging with opposing coaches to exchange game film, not to mention teams that didn't make the postseason starting to get their offseason affairs in order.

Like Sierra Vista Buena, which was 17th in the Division II standings when they were announced initially ... then found itself 15th and headed to Gilbert on Friday night.

Good thing that power points formula was "proprietary," huh, AIA? That way you got to be the ones to point out the huge screw-up, instead of various coaches and prep reporters who used to track the power points themselves and could accurately project the playoff pairings within minutes of the final regular season games.

Anyone want to help me get a Kickstarter campaign going to pay for signage to change AIA to IIA?

WTF Suns?

As I write this, the Phoenix Suns are 2-0 to start the 2013-14 season. Some people were projecting them to finish with roughly that many wins for the entire season, considering the moves they'd made over the summer that just screamed of "we're tanking for the No. 1 overall pick" activity.

By the time this makes it online or into print, though, Phoenix will probably be 2-3 and well on its way to another ridiculously bad season, something that's not surprising for a franchise that has pretty much done nothing right over the past five years.

It's sad that a team, rather than try to do its best and hope for some momentum, has to resort to deliberately trying to lose just to get a shot at a perceived draft pick savior. And I'm not sold yet on Kansas' Andrew Wiggins. He could be the next LeBron or he could be the next Nerlens Noel, he of the immense pre-college hype, blown ACL and unlikelihood of playing professionally this season.

It's likely the Suns will finish with 20 to 25 wins, putting them sixth or seventh in terms of draft order, which means they'll get to select someone who is just good enough for them to not make the playoffs yet again.

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