Classic debate at the Masters: Time for women?


Classic debate at the Masters: Time for women?

From Comcast SportsNet
As a club that prides itself on tradition, Augusta National again is in the middle of a membership debate it thought it was done with nearly a decade ago. Just seven days before the Masters, no less. The last four chief executives of IBM -- a longtime corporate sponsor of the Masters -- have been members of the exclusive golf club in Augusta, Ga. The latest CEO of the computer giant happens to be a woman. Virginia Rometty was appointed this year. One problem -- a woman has never worn a member's green jacket since Augusta National opened in 1933. "I think they're both in a bind," Martha Burk said Thursday evening. Burk, who spearheaded an unsuccessful campaign 10 years ago for the club to admit a female member, said Friday morning on CNN she fears Augusta and IBM will work out a "sham solution" to make the issue go away. "The company has a huge responsibility here not to undermine its first female CEO," Burk said. "If they accept anything less than full member -- or resign their sponsorship, which is another option -- they're going to undermine their new CEO. And they'll be making a statement that they don't consider her an equal to her predecessors." Still to be determined is how much traction the topic will muster going into the Masters. Augusta National, through a spokesman, declined comment in keeping to its policy that membership issues are private. IBM did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment. Rometty is said to play golf sparingly. Her greater passion is scuba diving. Hootie Johnson, chairman of the club a decade ago, ignited the controversy back then when he said that while Augusta might one day have a female member, it would be on the club's timetable and "not at the point of a bayonet." Burk applied pressure on just about everyone connected with the club and with the Masters, the major championship that garners the highest TV ratings. She demanded that four companies drop their television sponsorship because of discrimination. She lobbied PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem not to recognize the Masters as part of the tour schedule. It didn't work. The protest fizzled in a parking lot down the street from the club during the third round of the 2003 tournament. "We did raise the issue," Burk said on CNN. "If we had not done that, this would not be on the table now." Not only is the debate back, this time it has a face -- Rometty, a 31-year veteran of IBM who has been ranked among the "50 Most Powerful Women in Business" by Fortune magazine the last seven years. Rometty was No. 7 last year. The chairman of Augusta National -- and the Masters -- is Billy Payne, who ran the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. When he replaced Johnson as chairman of the club and of the Masters tournament in 2006, he said there was "no specific timetable" for admitting women. The question was raised at the 2007 and 2010 Masters. Both times, Payne said membership issues were private. Rometty succeeds Sam Palmissano at IBM, which runs the Masters' website from the bottom floor of the media center. According to a list published by USA Today in 2002, the three CEOs prior to Palmissano also were members -- Louis Gertsner, John Akers and John Opel. As the corporate sponsors became the target, Johnson wound up doing away with TV sponsorship for two years at the Masters to keep the corporate partners -- IBM, Coca-Cola and Citigroup -- out of the fray. Only IBM returned as a TV sponsor for the 2005 Masters. The others were SBC Communications and ExxonMobil. Burk said it should not be that easy for IBM to hide if the debate gains momentum. "What IBM needs to do is draw a line in the sand -- We're either going to pull our sponsorship and membership and any ancillary activities we support with the tournament, or the club is going to have to honor our CEO the way they have in the past,'" Burk said in a telephone interview Thursday evening. "There's no papering over it. They just need to step up and do the right thing. "They need to not pull that argument that they support the tournament and not the club," she said. "That does not fool anybody, and they could undermine their new CEO." Burk said she would not be surprised if IBM pressured Rometty to say she doesn't want to be a member. "Really, I don't think it's her responsibility," Burk said. "It's the board of directors. They need to take action here. They don't need to put that on her. They need to say, This is wrong. We thought the club was on the verge of making changes several years ago, and we regretfully end our sponsorship to maintain her credibility and the company brand.'" The debate returns just in time for one of the most anticipated Masters in years. Tiger Woods finally returned to winning form last week at Bay Hill and is considered one of the favorites, along with U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy. Eight of the top 20 players in the world ranking have won heading into the first major of the year, a list that includes world No. 1 Luke Donald and Phil Mickelson. Now comes a sensitive issue that dogged the tournament a decade ago, and might not go away easily. Women can play the course at Augusta National, but cannot join the club or wear the Augusta green jacket, which is reserved for members and stands as a status symbol in business and golf. Rometty could become a central figure in the argument over female membership whether she wishes to or not. "We have a face, we have a resume, we have a title and we have a credible reason to do it that doesn't involve Martha Burk," Burk said. Burk said she is no longer chair of the National Council of Women's Organizations. She had planned to step down until the first flap with the Masters began in the summer of 2002. Now, she said she runs the Corporate Accountability Project for the council, a project born from her battle with Augusta.

Scouting the Cubs' competition: The Braves are coming (but not yet)


Scouting the Cubs' competition: The Braves are coming (but not yet)

The expectations couldn't be any higher for the 2018 Chicago Cubs. 

It's 2016 all over again. The goal isn't just a trip to the playoffs or another NL pennant. It's World Series or bust for this group of North Siders.

With that, let's take a look at all of the teams that could stand in the way of the Cubs getting back to the Fall Classic:

Atlanta Braves

2017 record: 72-90, 3rd place in NL East

Offseason additions: Preston Tucker, Charlie Culberson, Brandon McCarthy, Scott Kazmir, Peter Moylan, Chase Whitley, Grant Dayton, Chris Stewart, Anibal Sanchez

Offseason departures: Matt Kemp, R.A. Dickey, Jason Motte, Matt Adams

X-factor: Ozzie Albies

One of the youngest players in the league, Albies just turned 21 in January. He carries with him the pedigree of the game's No. 11 overall prospect entering last season and got his first taste of big-league life toward the end of 2017.

He hit well, posting a .286 average and .810 OPS while showing an advanced knowledge of the strike zone and providing some pop and speed.

Assuming he can avoid any sophomore slump and take another step forward, the Braves could actually surprise some people this year. But without Albies providing Ender Inciarte and Freddie Freeman some lineup support until a certain phenom gets to town, it's hard to see Atlanta contending.

Projected lineup

1. Ender Inciarte - CF
2. Ozzie Albies - 2B
3. Freddie Freeman - 1B
4. Tyler Flowers - C
5. Nick Markakis - RF
6. Preston Tucker - LF
7. Dansby Swanson - SS
8. Rio Ruiz - 3B

Projected rotation

1. Julio Teheran
2. Mike Foltynewicz
3. Brandon McCarthy
4. Sean Newcomb
5. Scott Kazmir


The Braves are coming, you guys. 

Maybe not now, but they'll be here soon enough.

2018 will feature growing pains for a young group of up-and-comers including the aforementioned Albies, plus Tucker (a powerful outfielder acquired from the Astros), Swanson (the 2015 No. 1 overall pick who's since fallen on tough times) and Newcomb.

Oh and there's some guy named Ronald Acuna coming up next. You may have heard of him.

The 20-year-old phenom has absolutely torn the cover off the ball everywhere he's gone the last 14 or so months and we'll see the game's No. 1 overall prospect in the big leagues in mid-April, God willing.

Once Acuna does come, it adds another level to a lineup that frankly comes up a bit short right now, even with Freeman (one of the best hitters in baseball) and Inciarte (one of the game's most underrated players). 

The Braves have a solid bullpen, plenty of rotation depth and a decent bench. It wouldn't be shocking to see them challenge for the second wild card spot, but true contention will probably come in 2019 for this bunch.

Prediction: 3rd in NL West, no playoffs

Complete opposition research

Los Angeles Dodgers
San Francisco Giants
Arizona Diamondbacks
Colorado Rockies
San Diego Padres
Miami Marlins
Philadelphia Phillies
Atlanta Braves

Podcast: Eddie O discusses what went wrong for Blackhawks this season


Podcast: Eddie O discusses what went wrong for Blackhawks this season

Eddie Olczyk joins Pat Boyle, Steve Konroyd and Jamal Mayers to discuss what went wrong for the Blackhawks this season, and what changes could happen this summer to get the team back into the postseason.

Listen to the entire HawksTalk Podcast here: