SI’s Swimsuit Frontlash

Posted in Sports Journalism at 1:32 am by

One of the highlights of the winter occurs each February when approximately two weeks after the publication of Sports Illustrated’s insanely profitable Swimsuit Issue, the magazine publishes the inevitable pile of mail from readers vowing to cancel their subscriptions. Perhaps anticipating the outcry of this vocal minority, SI has run the following item on the Letters page of their year-end double issue.

The annual SI Swimsuit Issue will be published in February. If you’re a subscriber and would prefer not to receive it, call our customer service center toll-free at 1-866-228-1175 and let us know. If you choose to not receive the SI Swimsuit issue, we will extend your subscription by one issue.

(this young man swears he was just looking for Bill Sheft’s column)

No word yet if SI will set up a hotline where other subscribers can order emergency replacement copies. It also seems like this would be a fine opportunity for Time, Inc. to send the rejected Swimsuit Issues to elementary & junior high school libraries around the country. It’s never too early to get kids hooked on the magic of reading, the photography of Bob Rosato, the pithy commentary of Rick Riley, etc.

Martz Denies Turley Death Threat

Posted in Gridiron at 1:15 am by

St. Louis’ Mike Martz has denied filing a report with NFL Security, accusing injured OT Kyle Turley of threatening to kill the Rams’ head coach. Turley for his part, has also refuted the story.

I would assume there are so many people in the St. Louis area threatening to kill Martz on a daily basis, the coach must have trouble keeping track.

More Critical Acclaim For CSTB

Posted in Blogged Down at 12:47 am by

From ChezMeowMeow

Speaking of sports, I found Gerard Cosloy’s blog today. I guess I’m not as disappointed in the content as I am the rather toothless nature of it. I thought there’d be some seething analysis, the tearing down of boring league stooges (Hi, Tom Brady!) and the celebration of banal excess (do you guys need me to post my shipping address for the Artest thing or what?). Instead it’s just dry re-hashing of the same old hacks, with little to no original writing at all.

Hey, guilty as charged. As anyone who reads CSTB every day can tell you, I revere boring league stooges — all of ‘em! And this guy nailed me on the lack of orignal content. I mean, I’m tempted to share intimate details about my personal life, but compared to the scintillating stuff at CMM, it wouldn’t possiby stand up. I have no doubt that when you check out the aforementioned blog and get a load of this guy’s thrill-ride existence, you won’t be coming back here again. For instance, you’ll be dazzled with entries like :

I’m working 8-5 this week, which is completely rotten. At least I have computer access, but I haven’t worked like this in so long that a lot of the tips I learned to help whittle away sloooow days have disappeared from my memory. It doesn’t help that I’m stuck in this cycle where friends are in town, friends are leaving town, more friends are in town, different friends are leaving town that seems to translate to “get three hours of sleep before going into work a mind-numbing 9 hour shift with nothing to do and no iPod access because you might have to take a few phone calls.” I don’t do stuff like play games at work or anything that bold yet time-wasting, so I’m kinda stuck looking at the same handful of things on the internet and AIMing the crap of H*BOMb and Willis.

Hot stuff, eh? I’m enough of a good sport to admit when I’ve had my ass kicked. I just wish the horrible realization of CSTB’s lameness hadn’t hit me during this, the Suicide Season. Why, oh why, has it take so long for a superior talent to put me in my rightful place?


Catching Up With Wobbly Legs Grobbelaar

Posted in Football at 11:59 pm by

Goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar is an accused match-fixer and regarded by Roma fans as a cheat. He also owes The Sun a lot of money. The Guardian’s Rory Carroll traveled to South Africa to catch up with a football pariah.

Two decades after the rubber-legs act in Rome, a decade after the allegations of match-fixing and two years after his financial ruin, the so-called clown prince of English football has wound up coaching a team on the southern tip of Africa, broke, unrepentant and defiant. “The Britons bankrupted me. I came to their country with £10 in my pocket and they gave me £1 back. But in between I had one hell of a ride.”

Glory has not blossomed in South Africa. In five years he has coached six teams, including big hitters like SuperSport United, Seven Stars and Hellenic before moving on – and down – to poorer clubs. Apart from Manning Rangers he denies being fired from any of these jobs, but there was a cloud over each departure. Typically he would start well and push his new team up the league before faltering and dropping down. “He is sliding down the ranks,” says Julia Beffon, sports editor of the Johannesburg Mail and Guardian. “I don’t think he is a very good coach. Not very technically aware.”

In a blaze of statistics and anecdotes, Grobbelaar begs to differ, casting himself as a savvy saviour of underperforming teams who is nevertheless cast aside by managers too dumb or stingy to keep him. The body language is expansive and, appropriately for a goalie, includes numerous references to landing on his feet. But the sense of victimhood is unmistakable. He is the victim of Ian Smith’s Rhodesia which made him an army corporal in a doomed bush war against Robert Mugabe’s guerrillas in the 1970s: “It was a struggle to survive.” The victim of a supposed friend, Chris Vincent, who secretly videotaped their conversations about match-fixing: “I went into business with an arsehole.” The victim of a vindictive newspaper, the Sun, which splashed on the allegations and defended them in an epic, eight-year legal battle: “I wouldn’t even wipe my fucking arse with it.” The victim of a legal lottery whereby juries refused to convict him and he won a libel award only for judges to overturn everything and ruin him: “You win in the court of law and yet they decide that you have to pay the opposition.”

He reminisces about that famous night at Rome’s Olympic stadium in 1984 when Liverpool and Roma went to penalties to decide the European cup final. As Francesco Graziani prepared to take his kick, the figure between the sticks wobbled his knees in a parody of terror. Unnerved, the Italian missed, and another cup was on its way to Anfield. “The idea came when I bit the net before his kick. It felt like spaghetti so I did spaghetti legs.”

Grobbelaar splutters at suggestions it was not very sportsmanlike. “When you go out on to that field it’s going to be war. Sportsmanship is playing to the best of your abilities and then, afterwards, shaking your opponent’s hand.”

Nets Sign Mosio

Posted in Basketball at 11:44 pm by

F Jerome Mosio, freed from Sam Mitchell’s Toronto doghouse since being waived last month, was signed yesterday by the New Jersey Nets. G Ron Mercer, currently in rehab following arthoscopic surgery on his left knee, was placed on the injured list.

Vince Carter, not quite recovered from last night’s cramping, scored 25 points after a miserable start, leading the Nets to a 84-80 win over the Bulls. Jason Kidd had another brutally cold night, scoring 4 points, but collecting 11 rebounds and 11 assists

Milwaukee placed F Keith Van Horn on the injured list yesterday. Van Horn has missed the last 10 games and is expected to be out for another two weeks. The Bucks improved to 8-16 last night, crushing the underachieving Rockets, 115-87 in the city Jeffrey Dahmer built.

Mets Sign Woodward, Aybar

Posted in Baseball at 11:36 pm by

On Tuesday, the New York Mets signed SS Chris Woodward (above) to a minor league contract. Woodward, 28, spent 2004 with the Blue Jays, hitting .235 with 1 HR and 24 RBI’s in 69 games. In parts of 5 years with Toronto, Woodward has a career .247 average with 26 homers and 135 RBI’s in 351 games.

The Mets also signed pitchers Manny Aybar and Joe Nelson to minor league pacts.

Nelson had a cup of coffee with the Red Sox last year (and not a good one, either) ; Aybar had 18 appearances in ’04 for Puebla of the Mexican League.

Susan Sontag, RIP

Posted in Dead Authors at 11:26 pm by

Author, activist and self-described “zealot of seriousness” Susan Sontag has died at the age of 71.

Author of “The Volcano Lover”, “The Way We Live Now” and “Where The Stress Falls” ; an acclaimed essayist and human rights campaigner, Sontag had been undergoing treatment for breast cancer for some time.

Payton To Dallas?

Posted in Basketball at 7:42 pm by

(Gary, accepting the ESPY on behalf of Tom Sizemore)

Dallas needs a point guard and Gary Payton is unlikely to stay in Boston past next spring. The Fort Worth-Star Telegram’s Art Garcis explores the possibility, however remote, of the Mavericks making a move.

The Mavericks could be one of the many teams to enter the Glove Sweepstakes, if and when Payton hits the market. Payton will be on display tonight as the Boston Celtics open the Mavs’ five-game homestand at American Airlines Center.

The Mavs aren’t seriously pursuing Payton or point guards at this juncture, despite speculation. That doesn’t mean that can’t or won’t change by the Feb. 24 trade deadline.

Donnie Nelson, president of basketball operations for the Mavs, maintains contact with front offices around the league. Though owner Mark Cuban would rather stand pat, the Mavs are in the upgrade business if the deal is right.

If the Mavs weren’t concerned about point guard, the team wouldn’t have traded for Darrell Armstrong. Don Nelson has already started all three of his point guards, with Jason Terry the current first-teamer.

The Mavs are last in the NBA in assists per game at 17.5. Terry’s average of 3.6 assists would be the lowest in franchise history for the team leader if it holds up.

The Mavs would take a hard look if Payton were shopped, but it’s difficult to gauge what’s going on in the Payton saga. In one breath, Payton says he’s out of Boston after the season, returning to his home on the West Coast. The next, he’s leaving his options open for a return to Beantown.

Ainge has said it’s important to get something for Payton before he walks. Ainge has also said Payton is the perfect role model for the team’s young players, and it might be best to keep him for the season without any assurances of a return.

There are several reasons why Payton in a Mavs uniform would make sense. Despite being 36, he doesn’t have a long-term or high-paying contract. Payton is on a one-year deal worth $5.4 million.

As a true All-Star-caliber playmaker, Payton would serve as a perfect mentor for Devin Harris. The rookie from Wisconsin is the future at point guard, and having Payton on board (unlike Jason Kidd) doesn’t disrupt those plans.

Payton is one of the main reasons the Celtics, despite their 12-14 record, are in the Atlantic Division title hunt. While trading him is a viable option as Ainge builds for the future, the Celtics can probably do much better than anything the Mavs would offer.

The Mavs aren’t going to move young talent — Marquis Daniels, Josh Howard, Harris, etc. — for a short-term fix. Financial considerations might be more important in a deal for Payton or another high-caliber player.

The Mavs would prefer to move significant contracts, such as Tariq Abdul-Wahad or Booth.

Abdul-Wahad is an interesting option — only half of Abdul-Wahad’s contract for next season ($7.3 million) is guaranteed. The guarantee is 25 percent on $7.9 for the following season, the last on his contract. Though Abdul-Wahad’s “full” salary counts against the salary cap in those two years, the team would only be on the hook for a total of $5.6 million.

The selling point is a team can trade salaries within 15 percent of Abdul-Wahad’s cap value. If the Mavs throw in the maximum $3 million trade kicker, a deal for Abdul-Wahad benefits the bottom line.

It’s unlikely Payton fits into an Abdul-Wahad scenario. But expect the Mavs to take a look.

A Public Plea To Phil Mushnick

Posted in Sports Journalism at 6:50 pm by

For years, the New York Post’s Phil Mushnick has bravely spoken out about the marketing of overpriced sneakers to inner-city youth, citing time and time again cases of young males gunned down in the pursuit of Air Jordans, Starter jackets (ask your grandfather) and other flimsy material possessions.

(I can’t look at this car without wanting to kill someone)

With today’s news that Vanderbilt RB Kwane Doster was slain following “trash talk” about an orange Infiniti, when will Phil do-it-for-the-kids and take aim at the automotive industry? Or the Post’s jam-packed auto advertising section?

Vets Howl Over Reggie Tribute

Posted in Gridiron at 6:35 pm by

from ESPN.com :

Some war veterans in the Green Bay area were offended Sunday when the Packers flew the U.S. flag at half-staff at Lambeau Field in honor of the late Reggie White, the Green Bay Press Gazette reported Tuesday.

Ron Sager of Appleton, founder of the Fox Valley Vietnam Veterans Association, said the honor is reserved for those who have served or made a sacrifice for their country.

“It does cheapen the reason” for flying the flag at half-staff, Sager told the paper. “Obviously (Packers president] Bob Harlan was thinking that this is something he could use to pay tribute to White, but unfortunately he is not familiar with the etiquette.”

“As much as I appreciated Reggie White, not only for his football playing but his character off the field, I don’t believe the U.S. flag should be flown at [half-staff] for anyone unless it is authorized by our government. It sort of denigrates the service of those in Iraq and Afghanistan who have lost their lives.”

According to the U.S. Flag Code, which spells out the rules of flag etiquette, the American flag can be flown at half-staff only upon a directive of either the president or governor and on Memorial Day. The code also specifies who qualifies for the honor. Football players are not on the list.

Harlan told the paper he has ordered the flag lowered for others without anyone raising any objections.

“We have done this through the years and we are going to continue to do it,” Harlan said Monday. “I would hear from more fans who are upset with me if I didn’t do it than if I did. Is that what you are getting at, that we are not obeying the flag codes? Well, we are going to do it.”

However, Harlan said he has ordered the flag lowered for others associated with the Packers organization without objections. He did acknowledge, though, that the flags aren’t lowered when a local soldier is killed in Iraq or Afghanistan.

I’m offended that the NFL didn’t cancel the entire season in honor of Pat Tillman’s ultimate sacrfice.

Bzdelik Fired By Denver

Posted in Basketball at 3:05 pm by

The morning after a 104-101 defeat to Golden State, Denver (13-15) has fired coach Jeff Bzdelik.

The Nuggest, losers of 6 straight, have promoted assistant Michael Cooper to the top spot on an interim basis. Cooper, a cog in the Lakers’ ’80′s dynasty and former coach of the WNBA’s L.A. Sparks (with whom he won two championships) might have a little more slack than Bzedlik. The latter was sacked despite having to make do without Carmelo Anthony for the past 5 games, as well as losing Voshon Lenard on opening night.

Guided By Voices’ Long Wolk Off A Short Pier

Posted in Rock Und Roll at 12:59 pm by

With about 72 hours left to go in the life of Bob Pollard’s gift to rock’n'roll, Guided By Voices, rather than reflect on the thrills this American treasure has brought us, let us instead bring up the oft-argued position that Pollard doesn’t know how to edit himself, rarely exercises quality control, etc.

But before we get to that, is there an obligation on Pollard’s part to be any more or less focused, to display greater follow-though than say, someone who passes comment on hundreds of recordings a year? Is Bob any more or less arrogant to assume that every composition or recording is worthy of commerical release than the blogger who pollutes the universe with mind-numbingly boring details about his or her personal life?

I’ll save the next question for those of you who have actually done the research and aren’t just repeating shit you’ve heard a hundred times. Is Guided By Voices’ hit or miss ratio any better or worse than that of Bob Dylan, Mark E. Smith, Neil Young, Jay Z, Prince Rogers Nelson or the Frogs?

I think the GBV ouvre holds up pretty fucking well compared to any of the above — and that’s even if you take ‘Bee Thousand’ out of the mix. Naturally, I’m biased, but so is everyone with a pulse. The only people on earth who have a problem with Robert Pollard’s insane creative output are a) record company fucks who struggle to shift all of it (present company included) and b) self-styled guardians of quality control who are just as hung up on how their tastes reflect on themselves as they are the actual content of what they’re reviewing. For the actual human beings who purchase GBV records, having a lot to absorb is a blessing rather than a curse. Though I’m aware that Mike Piazza, waiting patiently for his Dream Theatre triple CD/DVD box set to arrive, could make a similar argument, Pollard’s efforts yield far more than “a few gold flakes” and only suffer comparison to his older work if you’re somehow embarrassed that you’ve liked the same band for more than 3 years. That is, without said band having the promotional savvy to break up, go insane, fall into lengthy legal battles with record company fucks, end up in prison, etc. I mean, shame on Bob for not having provided a hot enough backstory (until this week, that is).

Roethlisberger To Sit Versus Buffalo

Posted in Gridiron at 11:08 am by

The playoff prospects of the streaking Buffalo Bills took a turn for the better yesterday with the unsurprising revelation that rookie Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger is expected to miss the two teams’ regular season finale. From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Ed Bouchette :

Roethlisberger has bruised ribs, and it is extremely doubtful he will play for the Steelers Sunday at Buffalo, sources told the Post-Gazette. He will, however, be ready for their first playoff game Jan. 15-16 in Heinz Field.

The Steelers had no official comment yesterday on Roethlisberger’s injury, other than to confirm it was to his ribs, the result of a late hit by Baltimore linebacker Terrell Suggs in their 20-7 victory Sunday against the Ravens. An MRI Sunday night showed no serious damage to Roethlisberger’s ribs.

No quarterback in the history of the game can match Roethlisberger’s 13-0 record as a starter in the regular season — not just as a rookie but in any season. Jim McMahon was 11-0 as a starter for the Super Bowl champion Chicago Bears when they went 15-1 in 1985. Bart Starr started every game for the NFL champion Green Bay Packers when they went 13-1 in 1962.

Roethlisberger long ago snapped the rookie quarterback record for consecutive victories, once held by Mike Kruczek at six in 1976.

By not playing in Buffalo, Roethlisberger will have set two more rookie quarterback records, held by Dan Marino since 1983. Marino completed 58.3 percent of his passes as a rookie, Roethlisberger completed 66.4. Marino’s rookie passer rating was 96.0, topped by Roethlisberger’s 98.1.

He also will become third all-time in the NFL among rookie quarterbacks with the highest average gain per pass attempt — and the best since the 1970 merger.

Cincinnati’s Greg Cook averaged 9.411 yards in 1969, Cleveland’s Bob Waterfield averaged 9.409 yards in 1946 and the Chicago Bears’ Zeke Bratkowski averaged 8.36 in 1954. Roethlisberger averages 8.88.

So, it appears his rookie regular season is in the books. Now, Roethlisberger can set his sights on the postseason and another first: No rookie quarterback has ever started a Super Bowl. Roethlisberger will have three weeks to rest those bruised ribs and try to make a run at that one.

Footie Racism Under A Roof

Posted in Football, Racism Corner at 10:56 am by

An expensive airplane ticket to Spain isn’t necessary if you want to hear racist taunting at a soccer match. From the Associated Press :

The general manager of the Baltimore Blast vowed to apologize personally to a player for the Philadelphia KiXX who said two Blast fans directed racial insults at him during a Major Indoor Soccer League game on Sunday.

Kevin Healey also promised to try to find the fans involved in allegedly taunting KiXX forward Shawn Boney during the Blast’s 7-4 victory over Philadelphia.

The Major Indoor Soccer League, a 10-team league which plays a six-a-side game on artificial turf covered ice hockey rinks, is in its 21st season in the United States. Its players provided the bulk of the U.S. team at the recently staged World Futsal Championship in Taiwan.

In the fourth period, Boney said he was racially insulted by two women behind the goal. Boney, who is black, reported the incident to his coach and to Blast officials.

Boney, a native of Trinidad and Tobago, left quickly for the team bus after the game.

“Unfortunately, by the time I heard about the reported incident, the Philadelphia team and the fans had already left,” Healey said. “I will try to find the two women who were described, and they’ll probably deny it. But I’ll have a plan in place by the next time Philly comes here, and if someone is doing it they’ll be caught. We certainly don’t condone it.”

Cubs Pay Up In Sex Discrimination Suit

Posted in Baseball at 10:39 am by

From the Montgomery (AL) Advertiser’s Bob Lowry :

A federal judge has approved a settlement of a case in which a Montgomery woman who was a part-time baseball scout for the Chicago Cubs and their owners, the Tribune Co., accused the team of sexual discrimination for failing to promote her to a full-time scout.

Senior U.S. District Judge Harold Albritton signed the settlement agreement in the case, which originally had been scheduled to go to trial earlier this month.

Jennie D. “J.D.” Patton, 48, of Montgomery, originally sued the Cubs and the Tribune Co., in 2003 after the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued her a “right-to-sue” letter.

Terms of the settlement were sealed by Albritton, who ordered parties on either side not to discuss the details of the case.

According to court papers, Patton was hired by the Cubs’ scouting department on Jan. 5, 1994, as a part-time scout, earning $2,000 a year, plus expenses. Her lawsuit said she helped the Cubs “locate several outstanding baseball prospects.”

Patton said she continually expressed an interest in becoming a full-time scout as she gained experience, but she was passed over by men with little or no scouting experience. In addition, her pay was cut, compared to that paid to comparable male scouts.

A full-time scout for the Cubs in 1997-98 was paid about $39,000 annually.

Patton, the only female scout in the Cubs’ organization, was fired after she filed her charge of discrimination with the EEOC in 2002. The Cubs said her contract, along with the contracts of several other male scouts were not renewed because of financial reasons.

While she was a scout for the Cubs in the southeastern U.S., Patton was supervised by Jim Crawford. When Crawford was promoted to the new position of professional scout, Patton claimed she should have been hired to fill Crawford’s spot. Instead his duties were divided among five part-time scouts.

Patton, a native of Tennessee, first started as a Major League Baseball scout in 1989 with the Chicago White Sox. She later worked for three years as a volunteer coach at Enterprise State Junior College.

“I was always amazed at the depth and breath of Ms. Patton’s knowledge about baseball,” Enterprise baseball coach Tim Hasley said in an affidavit signed May 17, 2004. “Indeed, she was the best I have ever seen at evaluating talent at the junior college level.”

The Cubs and the Tribune Co., said Patton mainly scouted rural high schools and junior colleges in Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee. But Patton said she worked in larger cities in the South, plus throughout the state of Florida.

Preston Douglas, an experienced scout who gave a deposition in the case, said of the Cubs, “One thing I can say very strongly about the Chicago Cubs organization is that it exemplified them, and still exemplifies, as does most of professional baseball, a good ‘ole’ boy fraternal attitude and practices, with its rules of solidarity, discrimination, elimination and exclusion.”

“As early as 1995, I heard discussions and statements within the Cubs organization that Ms. Patton would never be a full-time scout because she was a woman,” Douglas said in the deposition.


Crap Band Provides Woozy Score For NFL Network Spot

Posted in Sports TV at 11:31 pm by

(Fran has all kinds of time…to answer questions from the Securities & Exchange Commission)

Not content with tapping into the MILF craze or butchering the Kinks’ “Better Days” in the recent remake of “The Manchurian Candidate”, duller-than-dishwater rockers Fountains Of Wayne have entered the pop culture pantheon once again, courtesy of the NFL Network writes the NY Times’ David Carr.

The 13-month-old cable channel was created by the league to broadcast all football, all the time, including historical footage from NFL Films. If Fountains of Wayne seems like an unusual choice for the network, it is perhaps because the NFL has tended to favor the beer-and-barbecue stylings of Hank Williams Jr. over those of alternative rock. In the commercial, as the band sings, “The young quarterback, waits for the snap, when suddenly it all begins to make sense: He’s got all kinds of time,” gorgeous slow-motion photography is shown of Johnny Unitas, Fran Tarkenton, Troy Aikman, Joe Montana and Brett Favre roaming unfettered in the pocket.

Judy Fearing, the NFL Network’s senior vice president for consumer marketing, said she first heard the song nine months ago and was struck by the cinematic narrative. “When I heard the song, it was almost as if they wrote it with NFL Films in mind,” she said.

That happens to be the case. “I always had NFL Films in my head when I was writing the song,” said Adam Schlesinger, bassist and song writer for Fountains of Wayne. “The slow-motion effect is really key. I wanted to take this sports cliché literally and see if I could take those few seconds in the mind of a quarterback when he drops back, and make them last for the length of the song.”

Mets, Minaya Bidding For Beltran

Posted in Baseball at 11:02 pm by

Since I openly scoffed at Omar Minaya’s chances of landing Pedro Martinez, I’m just gonna shut up and see how this situation plays itself out. And then resume scoffing. From Newsday’s David Lennon.

With the ink barely dry on Pedro Martinez’s contract, the Mets have now targeted Carlos Beltran a top priority, two baseball officials familiar with the situation said yesterday.

After weeks of internal discussions about Beltran, the Mets are prepared to make a serious push for the 27-year-old centerfielder, who already has visited with the Astros and Yankees. Luring Martinez away from the Red Sox was a nice coup for new general manager Omar Minaya, but winning Beltran will be a far more difficult — and costly — undertaking for a number of reasons.

Beltran’s agent, Scott Boras, is looking for a 10-year deal worth $200 million. It was Boras who scared the Mets away from bidding on Alex Rodriguez after the 2000 season. The difference this time is that the Mets are coming off three disastrous years, not a World Series appearance, and principal owner Fred Wilpon apparently has entrusted Minaya with his checkbook to buy back some of that lost respectability.

Despite his agent’s lofty projections, Beltran’s price tag is yet to be determined, and the Astros reportedly started the bidding with a six-year offer worth roughly $96 million. Houston traded for Beltran last season, and after coming within a Game 7 of advancing to the World Series, thanks largely to Beltran’s record-breaking October, the Astros hope that familiarity works to their benefit.

Of course, the bottom line is the money, and Beltran is sure to top $100 million with the Yankees and Mets both involved. Beltran traveled to Tampa last Tuesday to meet with Yankees’ principal owner George Steinbrenner, though it is unclear if he received an offer, and Beltran could visit with the Mets as early as next week.

Minaya prides himself on the sales pitch, but despite a Thanksgiving recruiting trip to the Dominican Republic to woo Martinez, the Mets still had to decisively outbid the Red Sox with a four-year, $53 million contract. That won’t be so easy to do with Steinbrenner in the hunt, and Minaya will try to entice Beltran with something that the Yankees cannot match — top billing as the team’s brightest star.

Beltran, a potent switch-hitter with speed and defensive flair, is unlikely to topple either Derek Jeter or A-Rod as king of the Bronx. But there is a sizable void to fill in Queens, where Mike Piazza is in decline.

A’s Owner Defends Hudson, Mulder Deals

Posted in Baseball at 10:38 pm by

From the Oakland Tribune’s Josh Suchon:

Speaking publicly for the first time since the controversial trades of star pitchers Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder, Oakland Athletics co-owner Steve Schott insisted he didn’t order the trades as a cost-cutting measure, but supported the bold decisions by general manager Billy Beane.

Schott also said the trades were not to position the A’s to be sold more easily and suggested Barry Zito’s healthy track record was the reason he was the member of “The Big Three” who was picked to stay.

“Let me first say, I gave Billy no mandate to slash the payroll,” Schott said. “We knew we had a tough decision for sure with Tim and that was, without a doubt, one of the toughest. Those two guys have been, in my experience as owner, the greatest two pitchers we may ever see in a long time. They were warriors. They pitched their heart out and had great stuff.”

The A’s knew signing Hudson to a fair-market contract would be tough. But after the contracts dished out this winter ” from the sub-.500 Kris Benson (three years, $22.5 million) to Pedro Martinez (four years, $53 million) ” the A’s knew it would be impossible to sign Hudson within their payroll limits.

“(Hudson) deserves something in the low or high $50 (millions) for four years,” Schott said. “Telling Billy to slash the payroll was never in any discussion. It was how do we deal with Tim. If we can’t sign him, make a trade that will fit our needs. We think we did that.” Shortly after the Hudson trade, Beane told Schott he was thinking of trading Mulder too.

“I said, ‘I’m not thoroughly excited by it, but if you think we can get a lot of value for Mark, then we’ll do it. We have to bite the bullet,’” Schott said. “We have to retool and restructure the system. We can only do it the way Billy does it. We draft and try to trade now for players who come up through the system.

“The Mark Mulder situation was tougher for me. With Tim, we knew we couldn’t compete (financially for him).   We’re much better off now. Their absence is tough. But the team is more balanced. We feel good. It’s young. The bullpen is much better. The outfield will be strong as well.”

The letters to the editor and posts on A’s message boards have mostly been negative about Beane’s trades. Schott pointed to the track record of Beane and asked the A’s fan base to keep that in mind.

“Billy’s done wonderful things for the ballclub,” Schott said. “Let’s face it, his percentage of being right over wrong is so far up the ladder it’s definitely remarkable. I’m not a scout or a guy who has time to evaluate who we are getting. I gave him a lot of flexibility to go in that direction and he certainly deserves the benefit of the doubt.

“Everybody criticized this thing. But the more you look at it, they are going to be outstanding stars down the road. Billy made some good moves. We were on the same page on this ” all the way along.”

Schott created a position a year ago for Lewis Wolff to search for a new ballpark and the funding for it. The deal gave Wolff an option to purchase a share of the team, which Wolff is doing,   but Schott denied he’s looking to sell the team.

“Right now, (Wolff) is trying to buy (co-owner and silent partner) Ken Hofmann out,” Schott said. “I don’t think any of this positioning is going to make it easier to sell. If that was the case, we would just leave it status quo. Why would I want to make a decision, as difficult as it was on Tim and Mark, if I really thought I’d sell the team?

“Lou is here to work with the city and county on a new stadium. That’s all he’s concentrating on. The bottom line is that we retooled this roster to be as competitive as we can and hopefully in the thick of it.”

Sharp-Shooting Knicks Gun Down Magic

Posted in Basketball at 9:34 pm by

Primed by an uncharacteristic display of accurate shooting from the field, New York beat Orlando 119-111 Monday night at the T.D. Waterhouse Something-Or Other Complex Of Aisles & Girders.

(Stevie Franchise, suffering from JYD being glued to his person)

Led by PG Stephon Marbury’s 34 points (21 in the first half), the Knicks broke out to a 9-0 lead and never looked back, scoring their highest point total of the season against a sluggish Magic squad. (NY’s 71 points by intermisison was the Knicks’ biggest first half total in 13 years). Stevie Francis and Cutino Mobley had 25 and 24 points apiece for Orlando.

Vince Carter had a strong debut for the Nets tonight, scoring 23 points (5 steals, 3 assists) in New Jersey’s OT loss to Detroit before having to be helped off the floor with what appeared to be leg cramps. Carter had played 42+ minutes in his first game back from injury and perhaps wasn’t ready for that much action. Not sure what excuse can be created for Jason Kidd, who scored a mere 2 points from the line, going 0 for 8 from the field.

Carlin In Rehab, At War With Vegas

Posted in The World Of Entertainment at 7:02 pm by

Reuters is reporting that comedian George Carlin is undergoing treatment for excessive boozing and pain-killer popping. Though I ordinarily wouldn’t think Carlin’s difficult time was worth of repeating/linking to, much respect is due the 67 year old humorist for the following outburst, as documented earlier this month by the New York Post’s Page Six.

George Carlin ended his relationship with the MGM Grand in Las Vegas with a devastating diss the other night. The caustic comic finished his four-year run with a dark set that included riffs on suicides and beheadings, and made it clear that he couldn’t wait to get out of “this [bleeping] hotel” and Sin City. The Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Norm Clarke reports that Carlin told the crowd of 700 that he was looking forward to going back east “where the real people are.” He added, “People who go to Las Vegas, you’ve got to question their [bleeping] intellect . . . Traveling hundreds and thousands of miles to essentially give your money to a large corporation is kind of [bleeping] moronic. That’s what I’m always getting here is these kind of [bleeping] people with very limited intellects.” When a woman yelled something that sounded like “stop degrading us,” Carlin fired back, “Thank you very much, whatever that was. I hope it was positive; if not, well, [bleep] me,” using slang for oral sex. Strangely, though, Carlin isn’t ready to leave town yet: He’s jumping to the Stardust in February after a falling out with the MGM Grand.

Rockets Get Wesley

Posted in Basketball at 6:42 pm by

New Orleans traded PG/drag racing enthusiast David Wesley to the Houston Rockets today in exchange for SG/F Jim Jackson and F Bostjan Nachbar.

(there are no tickets for Toni Braxton at will call and he’ll thank you not to ask again)

Jackson, a 13 year veteran, Ohio State graduate and one third of the Mavericks’ dysfunctional “Three J’s” (along with Jason Kidd and Jamal Mashburn) in the early ’90′s, is about to suit up for his 10th NBA team.

Reds Sign Milton

Posted in Baseball at 3:13 pm by

Despite rumors that the Indians were nearing a deal with free agent P Eric Milton, the AP is reporting that the veteran left-hander has signed a 3 year, $25.5 million (thank you, Kris Benson) contract with the Cincinnati Reds.

Milton was 14-6 in 2004 for the Philadelphia Phillies, made the All-Star team in 2001 and threw a no-hitter for the Twins on 9/11/99 — truly a a memorable event, but not one worthy of such somber rememberence as we’ve strangely seen around the sports world the past few years.

Eddie Layton, RIP

Posted in Baseball at 3:03 pm by

Eddie Layton, Yankee Stadium organist from 1967 to 2003, has passed away following a long illness. His age was not known.

Layton also played the organ at Knicks and Rangers games for some 18 years.

Ostler On SF’s Ancient Outfield

Posted in Baseball at 12:16 pm by

When I refered to 2/3rds of the Giant outfield (Bonds and Alou) being a combined 80 years of age, I was, of course, forgetting about Marquis Grissom. Luckily, the San Francisco Chronicle’s Scott Ostler is on the case.

Age is nothing more than a number, and the Giants’ outfield’s number is 115.

I asked general manager Brian Sabean if the combined age of his starting outfielders causes him any worries.

“Flurries?” Sabean said. “Nope, we don’t get much snow in these parts during baseball season. Now, when I was a youngster …”

Barry Bonds (40), Marquis Grissom (37) and Moises Alou (38) will be put out to pasture by the Giants on Opening Day. All three will celebrate birthdays during the season, God willing, although the team will combine the three cake celebrations into one event due to concern over global warming.

You want some speed in your outfield these days, what with the lively ball and the corked bat, so age might be a concern for the Giants. However, it should be noted that if Bonds, Grissom and Alou each has a career year in stolen bases by just one steal per player, they will swipe 150 bases!

(If all three match last season’s steal totals, they will swipe a combined 12 bases.)

What Bonds, Grissom and Alou have lost in speed, they more than make up for in, I don’t know, some other area. Like maybe veteran savvy. Or the ability to keep their caps from flying off while chasing flyballs.

Bonds has won eight Gold Gloves and Grissom four. Granted, Bonds has gone the last six seasons without winning a Gold Glove and Grissom has gone the last eight. But they’ve both forgotten more about fielding than most big-league outfielders know, including Alou.

(If Alou’s glove appears to be gold, it might be due to his hand-washing habits.)

It’s an interesting experiment the Giants will be conducting. Around the horn they have Mike Matheny (34) at catcher, J.T. Snow (37) at first, Ray Durham (33) at second, possibly Edgardo Alfonzo (31*) at third and Omar Vizquel (37) at short.

(*The inquiry flag is up on Alfonzo’s age. Some insiders raise the possibility of clerical error or smudging on Alfonzo’s birth certificate, since his first pro season was ’91, when he would have been 17. And there’s the Victrola he plays at his locker.)

On the plus side, the Giants have veteran leadership and a quiet clubhouse.

“Age is only a state of mind,” the Giants’ players will tell us over and over, because they will refuse to bow to younger teams, and because old people tend to repeat inane tidbits of wisdom.

Griping Over Minutes In Orlando

Posted in Basketball at 11:49 am by

The addition of Stevie Franchise plus the re-emergence of a healthy Grant Hill has done wonders for the Orlando Magic. Even so, Pat Garrity and DeShawn Stevenson want out and aren’t afraid to say as much.

The Magic will be gunning for their 4th straight home win when they take on the Knicks this evening at 7pm EST. And by EST, I mean “Eastern Standard Time”, not that therapy where everyone sits in a circle screaming at one another.