Mitchell Tires of Feuding With Vince, Starts Fighting With Stephon

Posted in Basketball at 10:36 am by

(Stephon working his way around Milt Palacio Saturday afternoon)

Frayed tempers and hurt feelings were the order of the day following New York’s 108-102 win over Toronto the other day (72 hours after the Raptors had routed the Knicks) and the Toronto Sun’s Mike Koreen and Steve Buffery were on the scene with the kleenex.

Raptors Coach Sam Mitchell does not care what Stephon Marbury thinks about his coaching style. Mitchell didn’t mince words yesterday when asked about the York Knicks guard, who said that the Raptors do not run many plays for Vince Carter following a win over Toronto on Saturday.

(Mitchell’s management style was often questioned in Walford, too)

“I should not have to waste my time answering questions about what someone on another team that’s struggling like we’re struggling (said) about how we should play,” said Mitchell.

“It’s not worth my time, my thought or my energy to even have to respond to that.

“When we beat (the Knicks) by 25 (on Wednesday), (what) did he say … when we ran up and down the court and everybody scored? They beat us by six (Saturday) and all of a sudden (Marbury has an opinion).”

Jenkins On Minaya’s Mating Dance With Pedro

Posted in Baseball at 10:20 am by

The New York Times’ Lee Jenskins strikes a cautionary tone regarding the Mets’ courtship of Pedro Martinez.

Martínez could soon receive a contract offer from the Mets that is competitive with the one he has already received from Boston. The notion of leaving the Red Sox for the Mets is just crazy enough for Martínez to consider. Part of his appeal has always been his free-flinging nature, and signing with the Mets would only add to his unpredictable persona.

Martínez and the Mets would make a strange but not inconceivable match. They are desperate for attention and eager to reassert their relevance. Curt Schilling has overshadowed Martínez for the past year, the Yankees have overshadowed the Mets for the past decade and now they are discussing a union of the scorned.

Besides sellout crowds, a supportive clubhouse and another chance at the World Series, the Red Sox have offered Martínez a two-year deal worth $25.5 million, with an easily attainable option year that would bring the package to $38.5 million with $2 million in performance incentives.

To outbid Boston for Martínez, the Mets will probably have to offer him at least a three-year guaranteed contract worth more than $13 million a season with an equally attainable option year.

Omar Minaya wants to make a statement in his first off-season as the Mets’ general manager, but it is risky to give the 33-year-old Martínez a four-year deal, considering his slight physique and the velocity he lost last season.

It will be difficult to match the good will that Boston has built up with Martínez. He is perhaps Boston’s most famous athlete over the past seven years, and even when he was struggling last season, the Red Sox gave him every possible concession. When the Mets had discussions about Martínez, some in the organization were concerned that he would need a separate set of rules.

While playing for Boston, Martínez was allowed to report late to the stadium on days he did not pitch and was coddled after he called the Yankees “my daddy” after a loss in September. In Game 7 of the American League Championship Series, with the Red Sox drubbing the Yankees, Manager Terry Francona allowed Martínez to pitch, presumably because Martínez wanted to participate in the excitement.

Free Agent SS Orlando Cabrera is asking for 4-5 year, a request that the Boston Herald’s Michael Silverman doubts the Red Sox will honor.

With shortstop prospect Hanley Ramirez expected to be ready for prime time perhaps as early as 2006, the Red Sox do not have an interest in wrapping up any shortstop in a three-, never mind a four- or five-year minimum deal. With free agent catcher Jason Varitek still seeking a five-year deal and the Red Sox offering four, and the club apparently willing to sign Pedro Martinez to three guaranteed years, a long-term deal for Cabrera seems next to impossible to imagine.

     The one way Cabrera could conceivably come back: by accepting an offer of salary arbitration from the Red Sox, who would not mind if the shortstop accepted and cost them $7 million to $8 million for next year. The Sox also would not mind if Cabrera rejected arbitration and signed elsewhere, meaning the club could gain a draft pick next June.

     The Red Sox are expected to pursue a number of veteran options in the shortstop market. Some of the names that have already come up, or are expected to shortly, are Royce Clayton, Jose Valentin and Barry Larkin. The club made a two-year proposal to Omar Vizquel, who instead inked a three-year deal with the Giants


Rosenthal Tips SF to Pursue Benitez

Posted in Baseball at 11:57 pm by

from Ken Rosenthal’s latest Sporting News column :

Look for the Giants to make a push for free-agent closer Armando Benitez. The team appears stalled in its negotiations with closer Dustin Hermanson, who is believed to be seeking a two-year deal in the $6 million range. Benitez’s price also is high ” he wants a three-year contract between $21 million and $24 million ” but he’s coming off a season in which he converted 47 of 51 saves and posted a 1.29 ERA. He likely would be comfortable under Giants manager Felipe Alou, a fellow Dominican.

Rogers On St. Louis’ Pitching Needs

Posted in Baseball at 9:42 pm by

Following the news earlier this week that the Cardinals opted not to exercise their option, on P Woody Williams the Chicago Tribune’s Phil Rogers takes a gander at St. Louis’ plans.

Between them, Woody Williams and Matt Morris earned $19 million last season. Their impending departures give Cardinals GM Walt Jocketty the financial flexibility to pursue a Randy Johnson deal.

The White Sox, Yankees and Angels also are exploring possible Johnson trades. The Cardinals appear to be offering Reggie Sanders in a package that probably includes 26-year-old first baseman-outfielder John Gall, who hit .292 with 22 homers at Triple-A Memphis. But the Diamondbacks probably could get more firepower from the Sox in Konerko and one top minor-league outfielder, either Brian Anderson or Ryan Sweeney.

“We’re interested in Randy Johnson,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. “We were interested in him at the trading deadline. But a lot of things have to fall into place.”

Teams know they will have to give Johnson an extension to get him in 2005, which is the last year on his deal with Arizona. He could prefer to stay in the pitcher-friendly National League.

“The only way to make it work is if we have him for more than one year,” Jocketty said. “He wants to win 300 games.”

The 41-year-old Johnson is at 246, including only 22 in the last two years. He will need to pitch at least three more years, and probably four, to reach 300.

Williams could wind up as the latest native returning to Houston, replacing a retiring Roger Clemens in the Astros’ rotation. But new GM Tim Purpura must wait to see if Clemens is really ready to go.

While the Cardinals won’t offer arbitration to either Morris or Williams, there’s an outside chance they’d sign Morris to a one-year contract before Dec. 7, when they essentially would lose the chance to keep him.

UK Home Secretary’s Zipper Problem

Posted in politics at 9:19 pm by

For the record, I’d like to make it clear that my extended stay in Great Britain was hassle-free and I didn’t have to sleep with any civil servants to get a special stamp on my passport. From tomorrow’s Independent and Colin Brown :

David Blunkett’s cabinet career hung in the balance last night after he ordered an independent inquiry into allegations by his former lover, Kimberly Quinn, that he abused his powers as Home Secretary to fast-track a visa for her Filipina nanny.

Downing Street was standing by Mr Blunkett but a cabinet colleague said: “We don’t know if David can survive.”

The Home Secretary’s friends accused Mrs Quinn, wife of a publisher, of waging a vendetta against Mr Blunkett because DNA tests proved he is the father of her two-year-old son, William, rather than her husband, Stephen. Mr Blunkett also claims to be the father of a second child, due in the new year.

Mrs Quinn’s most serious allegation came in an e-mail claiming that Mr Blunkett helped to fast-track an application for a visa for Leoncia “Luz” Casalme, 36, who was challenged by a newspaper about it. If that is proved, Mr Blunkett could be forced to resign.

(Blunkett, shown with one of his bitches)

(Jim Plunkett, who has nothing to do with this story)

The leaked e-mail by Mrs Quinn to a friend on Thursday last week said: “I have had Luz on the phone very tearful, saying that she had been contacted about the passport [visa] application that David fast-tracked for her … he’s so paranoid he’ll think it’s me and try and nail me.”

Mrs Quinn also claimed Mr Blunkett had given her two first-class rail tickets assigned to him for his work as an MP; put pressure on the US embassy for a passport for her son to travel with Mr Blunkett on holiday in France; had used a government driver to take Mrs Quinn to his home in Derbyshire for weekend trysts; took Mrs Quinn to Spain with a driver and four security officers; tipped off Mrs Quinn that her American parents should avoid Newark airport because of a security scare; and stationed police outside her £2m Mayfair home as protection against May Day rioters.

Muddy Pats Prevail

Posted in Gridiron at 6:44 pm by

With about 10 minutes remaining in the long-awaited Billick/Belicheck Bowl, there were only 2 points left to ponder :

1) Do the pigtails really work for Bonnie Bernstein? Discuss.
2) Is the “BB” monogram on Belicheck’s sweatshirt really necessary, and would it really do him any good with kleptomaniacs like Brian Billick and Bonnie Bernstein prowling the sidelines?

Frank Rich On Manufactured Outrage

Posted in Free Expression at 2:53 pm by

So what got people more bent out of shape, the actual broadcast of T.O. & Nicolette Sheridan in (and out) of a towel, or the constant reminders that said footage was supposedly offensive? The New York Times’ Frank Rich thinks it over.

Though seen nationwide, and as early as 6 p.m. on the West Coast, the spot initially caused so little stir that the next morning only two newspapers in the country, both in Philadelphia, reported on it. ABC’s switchboards were not swamped by shocked viewers on Monday night. A spokesman for ABC Sports told The Philadelphia Inquirer that he hadn’t received a single phone call or e-mail in the immediate aftermath of the broadcast.

Even the stunned Rush Limbaugh, curiously enough, didn’t get around to mounting his own diatribe until Wednesday. Mr. Owens’s agent, David Joseph, says that the flood of complaints at his office and Mr. Owens’s Web site also didn’t start until more than 24 hours after the incident – late Tuesday and early Wednesday. Were any of these complainants actual victims (or even viewers) of “Monday Night Football” or were they just a mob assembled after the fact by “family” groups, emboldened by their triumph in smiting “Saving Private Ryan” from 66 ABC stations the week before? Though the F.C.C. said on Wednesday that it had received 50,000 complaints about the N.F.L. affair, it couldn’t determine how many of them were duplicates – the kind generated by e-mail campaigns run by political organizations posting form letters ready to be clicked into cyberspace ad infinitum by anyone who has an index finger and two seconds of idle time.

Like the Janet Jackson video before it, the new N.F.L. sex tape was now being rebroadcast around the clock so we could revel incessantly in the shock of it all. “People were so outraged they had to see it 10 times,” joked Aaron Brown of CNN, which was no slacker in filling that need in the marketplace. And yet when I spoke to an F.C.C. enforcement spokesman after more than two days of such replays, the agency had not yet received a single complaint about the spot’s constant recycling on other TV shows, among them the highly rated talk show “The View,” where Ms. Sheridan’s bare back had been merrily paraded at the child-friendly hour of 11 a.m.

The hypocrisy embedded in this tale is becoming a national running gag. As in the Super Bowl brouhaha, in which the N.F.L. maintained it had no idea that MTV might produce a racy halftime show, the league has denied any prior inkling of the salaciousness on tap this time – even though the spot featured the actress playing the sluttiest character in prime time’s most libidinous series and was shot with the full permission of one of the league’s teams in its own locker room. Again as in the Jackson case, we are also asked to believe that pro football is what Pat Buchanan calls “the family entertainment, the family sports show” rather than what it actually is: a Boschian jamboree of bumping-and-grinding cheerleaders, erectile-dysfunction pageantry and, as Don Imus puts it, “wife-beating drug addicts slamming the hell out of each other” on the field.

“Desperate Housewives” is hardly a blue-state phenomenon. A hit everywhere, it is even a bigger hit in Oklahoma City than it is in Los Angeles, bigger in Kansas City than it is in New York. All those public moralists who wail about all the kids watching Ms. Sheridan on “Monday Night Football” would probably have apoplexy if they actually watched what Ms. Sheridan was up to in her own series – and then looked closely at its Nielsen numbers. Though children ages 2 to 11 make up a small percentage of the audience of either show, there are actually more in that age group tuning into Mr. Cherry’s marital brawls (870,000) than into the N.F.L.’s fisticuffs (540,000). “Desperate Housewives” also ranks No. 5 among all prime-time shows for ages 12-17. (“Monday Night Football” is No. 18.) This may explain in part why its current advertisers include products like Fisher-Price toys, the DVD of “Elf” and the forthcoming Tim Allen holiday vehicle, “Christmas With the Kranks.”

O’s Ponder Free Agent Options

Posted in Baseball at 2:39 pm by

So many ways to finish no higher than 3rd next year, as the Baltimore Sun’s Roch Kubatko surveys the scene.

Pitcher Carl Pavano and his representative, Scott Shapiro, will fly into Baltimore the night of Dec. 5 and meet the following day with Flanagan and executive vice president Jim Beattie. Shapiro is hopeful that his client also will be introduced to majority owner Peter Angelos and pitching coach Ray Miller. The crab cakes can wait.

Pavano will be the first free agent to visit the Orioles, but he has already stopped in Boston and also is scheduled to meet officials from the Detroit Tigers, New York Yankees, Seattle Mariners and Anaheim Angels.

Not much has changed for the Orioles since they left the general managers’ meetings last month in Key Biscayne, Fla. They still want to add at least one front-line starter, with Brad Radke, Derek Lowe and Eric Milton also on their radar. They still want a first baseman, and regard Carlos Delgado, Richie Sexson and Troy Glaus as possibilities — though Glaus wants to stay at third base. They are sorting through their options in center and right field, which keeps Carlos Beltran and Magglio Ordonez in play.

Presented with these names over the weekend, Flanagan said: “Those haven’t changed. They have not been eliminated — by them or by us.”

Former Oriole Steve Finley, 39, would be a solution in center field, though shorter-term than Beltran, and the two sides have talked.

It’s believed that Finley will command a two-year deal with an annual salary exceeding the $6.75 million he earned last season. The Tigers have been aggressively pursuing him, but an Orioles source said, “He’s not a major player for us right now. They touched base with us and we haven’t eliminated anything, but it hasn’t gone any further than that.”

Like many teams, the Orioles appear to be keeping Finley on the back burner until determining whether they can sign Beltran, who most likely will string along teams for most of the winter. The Orioles don’t want to wait too long and lose out on other players, and Finley eventually should be in hot demand.

The Orioles need bullpen help after Jason Grimsley underwent ligament-replacement surgery on his right elbow. They’re still deciding whether to add a closer and return B.J. Ryan (above) to a setup role.

They never inquired about free agent Troy Percival, who signed a two-year, $12 million deal with the Tigers, and aren’t expected to bid for former Oriole Armando Benitez because of the expected cost, which soared after he posted 47 saves and a 1.29 ERA with the Florida Marlins last season.

One team official described Benitez as “a long shot.”

In any event, you can count on the Orioles to sign their 3rd or 4th choice in most instances, either that or grossly overpay for the guy they really wanted.

Vescey On The Turmoil In Memphis

Posted in Basketball at 2:14 pm by

The New York Post’s Peter Vescey takes a look at the real scoop behind Hubie Brown’s sudden departure from the Grizzlies.

Health permitting, Hubie, 71, was on course to coach out his three-year, $11 million contract. Next season the plan was to reward him big time ($5M) with a one-year farewell tour after which he’d retire simultaneously with West, 66, the draftsman responsible for the Hall of Fame TV analyst returning to his preferred profession following a 16-year absence.

Judging by the sorrowful sight and sound of Jerry West (above) at Friday’s press conference, Hubie’s untimely exit could easily hasten his own premature exodus. Coming off last season’s 50-win, first-round playoff finish, losing your league-honored coach and eight of the first 13 games is definitely not how things are supposed to be going in Memphis.

A confessed serial skeptic, I, nonetheless, almost certainly would’ve believed Hubie had he stated health as his singular cause for leaving. In all probability, I would’ve allowed West to ease into hiring Mike Fratello – whom he enthusiastically endorsed to Rod Thorn just before the Nets’ boss appointed Byron Scott – and kept any follow-up cynicism behind this sudden flight to a bare minimum.

Clearly, Hubie tried his best to take the ultimate high road. Then he added shortness of oomph to the equation. Offered a second motive for hightailing it. Declared his spirit, energy and passion were kaput; therefore, he had to go, too. Hubie could’ve left it with really not feeling all that well (“there’s nothing specific,” says a source, “but close to it”), but, perhaps, in all good conscience, was compelled to take his startling sendoff a step further.

Consequently, so must we. After 50 or so years around the game you don’t just lose your passion overnight, or over two or three weeks, it has to be pounded out of you. Something had to happen to turn off and shut down Hubie so completely.

So, what happened? To begin with, resentment abounded when retread Brian Cardinal arrived flaunting a 6-year, $37M free agent contract and Pau Gasol was rewarded with $86M over the same span.

Several players were overcome with envy, expressly rising free agents Bonzi Wells, who half-stepped through pre-season with a pulled hamstring, and Stromile Swift, who was unable to leverage a $10M per long-term deal out of Memphis and thus was forced to “settle” for the one-year, $6M qualifier.

Jealousy quickly deteriorated into selfishness, and did it ever show. The team’s first three games against the Wizards (seven short of a rotation), Rockets and Mavericks were disgraceful exhibitions of individualism, though, for the most part, the team concept has prevailed since.

Hubie’s pet, James Posey, made matters worse by showing up in camp with a swelled head and a bloated body; it’s uncertain when he sprained his foot, but after three games he was ordered to the injured list to rehab his act and ailment.

Furthermore, West was unable to acquire Erick Dampier in a sign-and-trade with the Warriors, but did match the Cavaliers’ three-year, $1.9M per offer sheet to Jake Tsakalidis. Meaning Hubie again had three centers he’s not especially fond of – Lorenzen Wright, Swift and Tsakalidis.

With apologies to the Chicago Tribune’s Sam Smith, whose perspective I incorrectly refuted, West and Hubie were hardly friction-free. It seems the coaching staff was upset with West’s decision to release Bo Outlaw and Troy Bell versus two second-rounders. Hubie was particularly unhappy to be the one forced to notify them when he caught wind GM Dick Versace was about to alert the media.

On top of that, when Tennessee was burning, West was in Europe. When the team was losing ugly early and often, players were going off on their own agendas and Williams was in Brendan Brown’s face, giving him a profane earful, the Grizzlies’ boss was on an extended scouting trip. When such flagrant disrespect demanded discipline, the franchise commander was overseas.

“Of course, Hubie’s health is bothering him,” I heard Warner Wolf duly note on radio the other day. “He’s sick of the NBA.”

Ratto On Broncos/Raiders

Posted in Gridiron at 10:17 am by

The San Francisco Chronicle’s Ray Ratto on what used to be one of the more intense rivalries in the NFL, Oakland versus Denver.

You want a stat that helps you get into this game? OK, try 148.

That would be the number of tickets the Raiders returned to the Broncos because they could neither sell them, give them away, or threaten potential litigants with them. One hundred and forty-eight.

And here’s another stat. Fifteen and four. That is Denver’s record against The Swords In The Skull since Mike Shanahan took the job here, which indicates if nothing else Shanahan has gotten back the $250,000 he says the Raiders never paid him, and gotten it back at a rate of interest that would shame a usurer.

Now, let’s understand the likeliest way we know the Raiders couldn’t get rid of their ticket allotment is that some happy imp in the Broncos’ front office made sure the media learned it. This is not information made readily available to the public, and yet it miraculously appeared here Friday.

As for the other number, well, everyone knows it, or can get to it easily. And it proves, more dramatically than anything else, that the Raiders and the Raiders alone have let this once-extraordinary rivalry take on root rot.

I mean, this match has become an absurdity, because when you peel away the history and the mean-spirited recriminations that warm Al Davis’ and Pat Bowlen’s respective hearts, the teams aren’t remotely comparable, which is how you get 15 for one side and four for the other.

Now nothing in football is preordained, and it is supposed to snow like Al Roker’s Own Hell this evening, but because this game is considered the gateway to the Raiders’ doom in 2004, there is reason to watch with rapt attention, because the Broncos already have logged a 31-3 win at Oakland, need the game to stay with San Diego in the AFC West, and could very well hasten the removal of Oakland’s wheels on a season already gone through bad, heading for worse and on target for worst in the Al Era.