Friday, May 06, 2005Running Off the Wire
Cheap Seats picks Bandini [Link]. No reason other than its a biproduct of Fusiachi Pegasus', 2001 Derby winner, I got no problems with that.
Pat Forde of ESPN and formerly from the Louisville Courier-Journal also picks Afleet Alex, which makes me think I've got the right idea. [Link]
It's Going Seven: Boston wins on the road without Pierce four days after winning on the road without Walker [Boston Globe]. Seems like an odd coincedence but I can't exactly pinpoint it.
Houston finally wins at home and ties the series with Dallas [Houston Chronicle]. The Mavericks shooting in the fourth quarter was atrocious. Lots of open looks and the rim took a massive pounding. No biggie though, if Dallas continues to get open shots like that, they will fall.
Marc Stein says T-Mac has answered all questions [Link]. I disagree, I still have a question: When is he going to win a playoff series? Maybe Saturday...
It Could Go Seven: Wizards-Bulls tonight. Not a lot of people have watched the first five games but it's been an entertaining series with a lot of young talent and athleticism. Ben Gordon, Kirk Hinrich and even Tyson Chandler have become the types of players you can root for. Washington is such a better team without the constant annoyance of Kwame Brown.
This is a must win for Washington, they've got the momentum and they can't afford to take their foot off the gas pedal. But I like the mental make-up of the Baby Bulls, they are undermanned and just keep fighting.
My verdict: Bulls win, we'll finish it on Sunday.
Thursday, May 05, 2005NBA Playoffs
Houston-Dallas is the best thing going and Denver-San Antonio was sloppy at times but really intense throughout. Only two things was missing -- a clutch three-pointer.
Thank you Jannero Pargo.
And the other thing was a buzzer-beating game winner on the road.
Thank you Gilbert Arenas. [Sun-Times]
My question to anyone complaining about the NBA Playoffs is simple -- What the hell are you watching? This has been the best start to the playoffs in about 8 years. Three series have the chance to go seven and I have no clue who's going to win any of them.
Parity I tell you. The NBA is starting to figure out the deal. It's all about parity.
And while we're waiting for the best four teams to matchup. There's something intriguing about Ray Allen trying to keep him string going against Bruce Bowen. And who doesn't think Phoenix and Dallas will be explosive?
As for the rest of the World. There's still no joy in the Bronx as the Yankees lost again, however maybe Steinbrenner's horse will come through. [Courier-Journal]
Wednesday, May 04, 2005Today's Best Extra...
Rocker, Fans Reunite: While I think his heart is in the right place, you knew people weren't going to accept the new and improved John Rocker. [Newsday]
"I got a rude awakening this past week. People still want to continue to make me the favorite whipping boy of America," Rocker told Newsday late last night after his involvement in a verbal exchange with a fan in Atlantic City yesterday afternoon. "I don't understand. I'm about fed up with it."
While I don't know if this run-in had to do with his past comments or the fact that he's just a terrible pitcher right now. But Rocker had a great comeback to a fan's verbal jab with "I'm still a millionaire". That was pretty good.
I can't lie, I've been kinda rooting for the guy on this comeback. It takes a lot of heart to start at the lowest level and try to comeback from Tommy John surgery. And I believe his attitude has truly changed for the better. However, he still can't pitch and he's lost his velocity. That's going to be the reason he doesn't make it back to the bigs.
"Notifying families in a timely way that they have had a loved one killed or severely injured is complex and imperfect work. We can do better," said Paul Boyce, an Army spokesman. "At the heart of every notification effort is a commitment to compassion and completeness in providing information as it is known to those who sustained the loss. That is what happened in the case of
Corporal Tillman, and that effort continues to this day."
New Yankees, Old Results: Kevin Brown gets beaten like an egg by the mighty Devil Rays. Yankees are now 11-16 and a long way away from first place. [NYT]
On the Other Side of the River: Tom Glavine keeps his reputation as stopper for the any Mets momentum. Glavine is now 1-4 with a 7.04 ERA and he has replaced Armando Benitez was the target of vicious Met fans. [NY Daily News]
Bonds Has Third Knee Surgery: This Bonds thing is funny. No one outside of the slugger has a clue of what's going on with his rehab. Something tells me that come July 15, his name will be in the lineup card and everyone will be caught off guard. [Reuters]
Sonics, Pistons Advance: Pistons-Pacers could matchup in second-round series if Pacers win game 6 in Indianapolis. Riot police have been warned. All Sonic reviews worth reader are at Brems [Link]
Pittsnogle to Enter NBA Draft: But he won't hire an agent. Good thing. [ESPN]
Spurned Big East Teams Settle Lawsuit: Finally they released that it doesn't matter how much money they get, the conference will still stink during football season. The cost for freedom -- around 5 million. [AP]
Tuesday, May 03, 2005And Now the News..
Cincinnati Fans "Treated" to Magic: As the faithful at GAB watch the Reds' 6-run lead disappear thanks to a horrible "bullpen". The kicker was when "closer" Danny Graves gave up a two-run moonshot to John Mabry. How bad was the bullpen, check these numbers out:
Wagner: 1 IP, 3 hits, 1 run (earned)
Mercker: 1 IP, 1 hits, no runs
Weathers: .2 IP, 2 hits, 4 runs (earned), two walks
Graves: .1 IP, 4 hits, 3 runs (1 earned), two HRs
Yankees Win, But Will Change Lineup: Bernie Williams will head to the bench, Randy Johnson may go on the DL, Tony Womack will play left field, Hideki Matsui will play center and young Robinson Cano gets the call from Columbus to play second base for the rest of the season. [ESPN]
High-priced bust Steve Karsay will be designated for assignment and I expect Ruben Sierra to have the same fate when he comes off of the DL.
Even "GM" Brian Cashman has decided to take the road trip, maybe he wants to get as far away from Steinbrenner as possible [Newsday]
I called George last night and said I'd like to take a flight," Cashman said. "The way we're playing, I don't want to be too far away. I thought [Sunday's] game was the worst one we had this year."
Donovan Defends Himself: Finally Mr. McNabb has stuck up against the undue criticism from Terrell Owens and Freddie Mitchell, neither of whom made the Eagles mini-camp [Philly Inquirer]. Mitchell was not invited and will seek out a trade or just get released.
"When I'm on that football field, it doesn't matter who I'm throwing it to," he said. "If I'm throwing it to you, you can catch it. If you catch the ball, you get first downs, and that's what I'm happy about. What bothers me is when you... lash out and say whatever. That's when I would come to
have a problem. T.O. never called me. Freddie never called me. Hank called me and I talked to Runyan."
McNabb needed to go after Owens. The criticism he received from a guy he perceived to be his friend probably stung. For some odd reason it seems like McNabb gets it from every end, whether its his teammates or radio shot hosts. He's carried this franchise for much of his career without a strong tailback and, until last season, a top receiving threat.
No Deal for White: The Heisman Trophy winner in 2003 is a free agent again after failing to stick with the Kansas City Chiefs [AP]
Be Fair to Flair: Here's a funny one. Reid Fliehr, son of pro wrestling great Ric Flair got into a scuffle after his high school wrestling match when the kid who defeated him mocked him with a "Flair strut". [Charlotte Observer]
Reid's mom Beth says her son has consistently dealt with abuse from fellow wrestlers and parents based on his famous father.
Once, when Reid was 6 or 7 years old, she said, he was competing in Fayetteville when the adults all crowded around to watch, beating the floor chanting "Beat Reid. Beat Reid."
The Harden family has pressed criminal charges against Reid (give me a break)...
"Colby didn't have the right to do the shuffle. That was very un-sportsmanlike," he said. "That was Colby's way. It wasn't to hurt Reid. It wasn't to hurt Ric."
Anyone got change for a million?
Not a good night for Jeff Van Gundy at all...First he gets fined $100,000 dollars for his comments on how Yao Ming is "refereed" differently and suggested that lobbying from Mark Cuban was the cause of it (and how happy is Cuban to know that HE got in someone's head like that) [Dallas Morning News]. The fine seems severe until you realize that Van Gundy said an actual referee called him and told him as such. [KRT]
Van Gundy, to his credit, refuses to back down. And Yao, who seemed genuinely touched by his coach's defense, offered to pay half his fine. That's also illegal. But David Stern's comments in USA Today were definitely strong to say the least. [Link]
"You can't say the league is biased, there are specific instructions, I have proof but I won't cooperate," Stern said. "That's at the lowest possible end of the banter. And the investigation's not over.
"After Houston has finished its run, even to the Finals, he's going to have to satisfy us on a number of fronts," said Stern, who added that if Van Gundy continues to say things like that, "he's not going to continue in this league."
Van Gundy didn't appear to be shaken by the Commissioner's words and believe me if he thought the league had it out for Houston before...just wait. Even ESPN's Marc Stein says this one is far from over [Link]
"I didn't see anything wrong with what I said," Van Gundy said. "But certainly, obviously, for a statement like that to come out, he obviously differs. ... That's all right."
Now, I have to admit, this is very much Van Gundy. The man will go to any length to stick up for his players (see Mourning foot dragging incident). He's a pure basketball guy, he doesn't care how bad his combover looks, he doesn't care if his suit is wrinkled. He only seems to want the respect of the 12 guys on his roster.
So I think it would've been nice for the Rockets to play a little defense last night. Instead, despite a monster game from Yao, the Rockets lost their third game in a row to the Mavericks [Houston Chronicle]. T-Mac was 6-for-19 and for the third game in a row he's not hitting his open looks.
As for the rest of the night's action.
The Wizards tied up the series with the Bulls at 2 thanks to a 106-99 win last night at home [Sun-Times]. The home team has won all four games in this series and they have mostly been blowouts. The Bulls were down by 28 last night before making a comeback. The Wizards success has come from strong bench play from Etan Thomas and Juan Dixon (35 points last night)
The Spurs took a 3-1 lead over the Denver Nuggets thanks to a super game by Tim Duncan (39 points, 14 boards) before fouling out. Once again the Nuggets just didn't have the mental game to hang with San Antonio. Kenyon Martin and Andre Miller struggled with fouls all night. A better review of the game is on the MVN Spurs site [Link].
Overall the Spurs will need some bench help. Someone outside of Duncan, Parker and Ginobili needs to contribute double-digit points, especially while Duncan still isn't healthy.
Monday, May 02, 2005Absolute Genius
From the classic "I'm a soldier" interview in 2003 to his long holdout with the Poston Brothers that spawned this cartoon, [Link] Winslow has been a great source of entertainment for me and agony for the Cleveland fans who so desparately want to see him play.
Well it's been announced that KW2 got into a minor motorcycle accident this past weekend. Thankfully none of the injuries are life-threatening but his helmet wasn't fasten properly and fell off of his head during the accident. [AP]
Mind you Winslow is coming off a broken leg that costed him the majority of his rookie season. Maybe a head injury will do him some good. In all seriousness, I hope he gets better soon.
MLB Pops Actual Major Leaguer for Steroids...
Rincon was 2-1 this season with a 2.25 ERA.
Cavs Say No to Jackson?
Meanwhile former great Earl "The Pearl" Monroe doesn't want Knick fan to get used to the idea of Jackson coaching there because it probably isn't going to happen. [Newsday]
In other basketball news, Ben Wallace won his third defensive player of the year award in four years. An undersized center, Wallace continues to dominate periods of games through blocking shots and crashing the boards.
Sunday, May 01, 2005Few More Baseball Tidbits
Johan Santana's 17-game winning streak came to an end at the hands of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (I think I'm the only person who digs that name). [Link]
Meanwhile Dewon Brazelton still can't buy a win on the road [Link]. The Dreaded Rays have lost their last seven.
The Semi-Hot Corner (# 2)
First and foremost, I'll plug my last two columns, which are both baseball related.
Here I am mocking George Steinbrenner for his rant two weeks ago, which has basically led the Yankees to playing .500 ball as compared to .375 ball. The problem is they are still four games under .500. [Link]
And here I am ripping Curt Schilling for being a moron and basically not having a clue about anything, specifically his incident with Lou Piniella. [Link]
That's a simple enough title. Bud Selig made one of his rare smart moves yesterday, he announced plans for a serious upgrade to the steroid-testing program and then put the complete responsibility of it pass on the players.
The upgrade, sort of a three strikes and your out policy, will impose a 50-game ban for a first-time offender, 100-game bad for a second-time offender and a lifetime ban for a third-time offender. It also includes the banning of all amphetamines, more frequent random testing and all testing will be done by an independent third-party group.
Now some insiders seem to think amphetamines -- or greenies -- seem to be the real problem. They are already banned at the minor-league level and they aren't really being tested for correctly at the major league level.
The inclusion of a third-party testing group is Selig's acknowledgement that the public doesn't trust baseball to do this correctly. An acknowledgement that's become clearer with the fact that the four players who have been tagged under this policy were met with cynical applause since all four are from small markets and three were minor league players.
Jon Heyman of the Newsday thinks the players are cornered and need to concede [Link]. But not surprisingly many of the players have come out and claimed Selig is grandstanding and his proposals aren't fair.
Tom Glavine, an elder statesmen for the union, is clearly on the fence. [NY Times]
"I have no problem with a three-strikes-and-you're-out policy, but I'm not going to say 50 games is the right number. But that aspect of the agreement is an area we could look at and make a lot tougher."
He added: "Guys are serious about cleaning it up, and most of us think if you leave the program alone it is going to work, but other people obviously don't believe that. We're not going to dismiss this proposal out of hand; we're going to work at it."
Former Met and Dodgers catcher Jason Phillips is clearly against this policy in its current language.
"Put me on the record as saying that's ridiculous - I mean, until they come up with a list of banned substances," he told The Associated Press. "They still don't know what you can buy over the counter and what you can't buy."
But not all players are against this. Take current Dodger Jeff Kent for example and here's what he told the Houston Chronicle [link]
"I'm disappointed with Major League Baseball and the (players) association for not implementing a plan that is completely solid. We need to prove to the fans that there's no question baseball should be clean and is clean, and we're not sending the right message with this policy. We're
continuing to beat around the bush.
"Major League Baseball should set a higher standard, like the Olympic athletes. We are the best of the best. Why shouldn't we be accountable for things? I think we should."
Well...and god I never thought I'd say this...but there need to be more players like Jeff Kent out there....Yikes.
The players are expected to respond in a few days. There are more related stories here [LA Times], here [Boston Globe] and here [Denver Post].
Dontrelle Willis is 5-0 and he's quickly becoming the ace of the strong, young Florida Marlins staff. Willis seems much more comfortable on the mound this year as compared to last year, when he was messing around with his timing.
His stuff is borderline nasty. I'm willing to say it's better than what Josh Beckett and A.J. Burnett have in their arsenal. He's also able to disguse his velocity on his fastball and change speeds on his other pitches very effectively.
Willis is now 8-0 in the month of April.
Kevin Baxter of the Miami Herald explains Willis' success further [link]
Yanks in April
This is also not worth talking about but I'll give five reasons why the Yankees (lack of) success in April could be a sign of the times.
-- Starting Rotation: Randy Johnson is still very tough but he's hittable, Carl Pavano should be solid. Jaret Wright isn't a good signing. He had one good season under Leo Mazzone, the best pitching coach in the league and he's got injury problems (he's current out for 4-6 weeks). Mike Mussina doesn't strike fear in any of the AL hitters and Kevin Brown's injury history has finally caught up with him.
What's even worse is that Johnson, Mussina and Brown are completely untradable with their salaries and no one will take a flyer on Wright given his injury history and a guarantee of over 8 million dollars in 2007. I expect Pavano to gradually become the Yankees ace and he's only a little better than .500 for his career.
-- The Baltimore Orioles: The Yankees (and the Red Sox) used be able to write in 45-50 freebies thanks to the futility of the Orioles, Blue Jays and the Devil Rays. Well the Orioles decided to open up the pocketbook in the last two seasons and no one can write off a lineup with Sammy Sosa and Miguel Tejada in it. The Orioles aren't going anywhere.
-- Aging All-Stars: Jorge Posada is no longer the best catcher in the AL. Jason Giambi isn't the same threat from the plate he was three years ago. Bernie Williams has lost several steps in the outfield.
Right now the Yankees could be forced into paying big money to Hideki Matsui and Gary Sheffield because the power surge on that team has declined considerably in the last two years. A-Rod is still excellent, Jeter will always get on base but this lineup 1-through-9 isn't as daunting as it was a year ago.
-- Bad Trades: Only the Yankees trade the second baseman of the future for an out-of-position third baseman and an extra $15-20 million in salary. Read the list of prosects they've given up for the A-Rods and Javier Vasquezs and Randy Johnsons. Many of these guys were only B+ prospects but now the Yankees farm system has C and D prospects. And like I said earlier, the salaries are so high that it's going to be tough to trade for prospects. Who's going to give up a top prospect for Bernie Williams? Or Mike Mussina?
-- Defense: The corner outfield spots are great. Bernie Williams has lost several steps in center and his arm has never been that good. A-Rod has made several, game-changing mistakes at third, Jeter is vastly underrated but still not a great shortstop. Jason Giambi is absolute garbage at first base to the point of where Tino Martinez has to play even through slumps. Posada is still an excellent catcher but the years of wear and tear are starting to accumulate.