Former SJU Hawk Todd O'Brien Rips Phil Martelli in SI Column Updating Feed

Former SJU Hawk Todd O'Brien Rips Phil Martelli in SI Column Updating Feed

This may only be one side of the story, but it's a pretty compelling side.

Former St. Joseph's basketball center Todd O'Brien has written a column in Sports Illustrated accusing the university's athletic department—and head coach Phil Martelli, in particular—of prohibiting his transfer to the University of Alabama-Birmingham without cause.

O'Brien, who is currently enrolled at UAB and taking classes toward the achievement of his Masters Degree, alleges that Martelli is prohibiting him from exercising his remaining year of eligibility out of pure spite. Spite is really the only assumed motivation, because, according to O'Brien, St. Joseph's did not provide an explanation as to why they were declining his request for transfer when they were prompted to do so.

[excerpts from the piece and an official response from St. Joseph's University below]

From O'Brien:

"I met with Coach Martelli to inform him that I would not be returning. I had hoped he would be understanding; just a few weeks before, we had stood next to each other at graduation as my parents snapped photo. Unfortunately, he did not take it well. After calling me a few choice words, he informed me that he would make some calls so that I would be dropped from my summer class and would no longer graduate. He also said that he was going to sue me. When he asked if I still planned on leaving, I was at a loss for words. He calmed down a bit and said we should think this over then meet again in a few days. I left his office angry and worried he would make me drop the classes.

A few days later I again met with Coach Martelli. This time I stopped by athletic director Don DiJulia's office beforehand to inform him of my decision. I told him I would be applying to grad schools elsewhere. He was very nice and understanding. He wished me the best of luck and said to keep in touch. Relieved that Mr. DiJulia had taken the news well, I went to Coach Martelli's office. I told him that my mind had not changed, and that I planned on enrolling in grad school elsewhere. I recall his words vividly: "Regardless of what the rule is I'll never release you. If you're not playing basketball at St. Joe's next year, you won't be playing anywhere."

And from the university:

"Saint Joseph’s University followed all applicable NCAA procedures and applied consistent internal practices in declining to support the requested transfer exception. Upon appeal, the NCAA legislative relief waiver team (initial decision) and the Division I Subcommittee for Legislative Relief (final decision) each reviewed the case and did not grant the requested waiver.

Institutional policy and federal student records law prohibit Saint Joseph’s from releasing additional or confidential information in this matter. As all eligibility determinations rest with the NCAA and not its member institutions, Saint Joseph’s University has no further comment and considers the matter closed.”

Head on over to SI.com to read the complete story as told by O'Brien.

As we again stress that O'Brien's narrative is just one side of the story—and told from a young man understandably bitter about being denied a transfer against his wishes—we'll let you be the judge as to who is in the right and wrong after reading his column, and then revisiting the SJU statement in response.

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Update (12/19/11 at 10:15 p.m.): Not mentioned in the SI story was this February 2011 report from Dick Jerardi
which mentions O'Brien as being (what seems to be briefly) suspended
from the basketball team after his "peripheral involvement" in an
incident surrounding a stolen laptop that would ultimately result in
then-freshman Patrick Swilling, Jr. leaving the basketball team. Though
the omission of this information in O'Brien's chain of events is surely
convenient, it doesn't  seem to have any real import on why the
university would take such a hardline approach to his transfer either.

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Update (12/20/11 at 1:21 p.m.): Regardless of how you want to view what happened, both the coach and university are getting pummeled by the national media, and will likely continue to be until the situation is resolved. Martelli has been a plenty divisive figure during his tenure at St. Joseph's, and this story figures only to further the ill-will he has already generated in some quarters. Now even athletic director Dom DiJulia is being taken to task for "hiding" behind the failed appeal of his own decision.

Though St. Joseph's considers the matter "closed," we will be sure to provide updates in the event they become available.

In the meantime, we're going to point you in the direction of the @SethDavisHoops twitter feed. While Seth clearly has his own leanings on the story, he's also done a great job pointing out the absurdity of a student-athlete even needing a release given the rules which govern an institution's ability not to renew scholarships and a coach's ability to leave a program at any time.

This is really just a bad situation all around at the moment, and one that has the feeling that its only going the get worse before it gets better, be it for one or both parties. In that sense, even if they do see themselves as justified in their actions, Martelli, DiJulia and the university might want to rethink their position even if its just to rid themselves of what's quickly becoming a nationally-recognized debacle. Really, it's hard to think of a worse time for this story to come out considering the program is in the middle of a legitimate state of revival. Solely in the interest of having the media refocus on the actual basketball being played, wouldn't they just want to get rid of this and let the kid go?

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Again, more if we get it, come across it, or have it brought to our attention.

>>>My Name is Todd O'Brien and I am Getting Shafted by St. Joe's and the NCAA [SI]

This is an updating thread subject to change as further details emerge.

Cesar Hernandez remains a person of interest as Phillies look to improve

Cesar Hernandez remains a person of interest as Phillies look to improve

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — The Phillies have completed the signing of veteran reliever Joaquin Benoit to a one-year, $7.5 million contract (see story). The deal could be announced Tuesday and will require the club removing a player from the already-full 40-man roster.

Benoit is one of three additions that the Phils have made to their bullpen this offseason — the club traded for veteran right-hander Pat Neshek and picked up lefty David Rollins on waivers — and more will likely come, probably on minor-league contracts, before the team reports to spring training.

Now that the bullpen has been addressed, let’s take a look at what could be next for the Phillies this winter.

• The addition of Benoit could create enough back-end bullpen depth that GM Matt Klentak could look to trade either Jeanmar Gomez or Hector Neris. Gomez saved 37 games in 2016, but struggled down the stretch. Neris showed great promise in recording a 2.58 ERA and striking out 11.4 batters per nine innings in 79 games in 2016. The hard-throwing righty is young (27), talented and inexpensive so the Phils would have to be overwhelmed by an offer to move him. Last year, Klentak moved a young closer in Ken Giles for a significant return from Houston, so he has history in making these types of moves.

• In addition to more potential comings and goings in the bullpen, the Phils will look to add a backup infielder and maybe a backup catcher in the coming weeks. Andres Blanco could return as that extra infielder. A.J. Ellis could return as the catcher. But nothing is firm. In fact, Klentak hinted Monday that he’d be comfortable bringing Andrew Knapp up from Triple A to be the backup catcher next season.

“I don’t think we need a veteran backup catcher,” Klentak said. “If it works out, we’re open-minded to that. But Andrew Knapp just finished his age 25 season in Triple A. He has a full year of at-bats in Triple A. At some point for both he and (Jorge) Alfaro, we’re going to have to find out what those guys can do at the big-league level. During the 2017 season, we’ll have to find out — not just about those two guys — but others.”

• One of the biggest remaining issues facing Phillies management this winter centers around the outfield and the offense. Basically, Klentak and his advisers are weighing the merits of adding another veteran hitter — the club already traded for Howie Kendrick — to improve the offense or giving a significant playing opportunity to a promising youngster and potential future core piece such as Roman Quinn in what currently projects to be one opening in the outfield.

“That topic is the one that we have spent the most time discussing, not just here but this offseason, about striking the right balance between adding a veteran bat or veteran free agent to this team to make our team better, but again, not taking playing time away from players that need the playing time.

“That’s part of the dynamic that we have to consider there. Roman Quinn came up at the end of the year and, at times, looked like a legitimate major-league contributor. But we also have to be mindful of the fact that he hasn’t logged a single at-bat at Triple A yet.

“This doesn’t have an obvious answer. We are continuing to talk about trade acquisitions and talk to agents for free agents to see if the right opportunity exists to blend all those factors together. But what we do not want to do is bring in so many veterans that we are denying opportunities to our young players.”

This brings us to a situation that could potentially satisfy the team’s desire to improve the offense without taking away a playing opportunity from Quinn.

J.D. Martinez of the Detroit Tigers is an outfield bat that the Phillies like. They like his production and the fact that he’s signed for just 2017. In other words, he wouldn’t block a young prospect’s pathway to the majors, at least for long.

Martinez, owed $11.75 million, which is very affordable for the Phillies, is a serious trade candidate for the cost-cutting Tigers and the Phillies have spoken to Tigers officials, dating to the early part of the offseason.

According to sources, the Phillies and Tigers could be a trade fit if the Tigers were to deal second baseman Ian Kinsler. If the Tigers move Kinsler, they could look to move Martinez to the Phillies for second baseman Cesar Hernandez. Phillies officials have said they are in no hurry to deal Hernandez, but the team does have depth at second with a pair of prospects (Scott Kingery and Jesmuel Valentin) on the way and a ready-made stopgap in Kendrick at the position. 

So keep an eye on Kinsler. If he moves, the Phillies could pursue the veteran bat that would make their offense better. And it would not cost Quinn an opportunity as he could play left field with Kendrick moving to second.