Pride Of The Yankees : Sheff’s All About The Money

Posted in Baseball at 8:29 pm by

Clearly, Gary held the hammer in this exchange. How can the fledgling YES Network become a success without his star power on promos, interviews and the like?

J.P. Ricciardi Digs In The Batter’s Box

Posted in Baseball at 8:17 pm by

To paraphrase my good friend Reggie, for the GM of a major league baseball club to have this much time to respond to nonsense internet chatter isn’t a good sign for the business.

Or maybe he’s just capable of engaging in give and take in a public forum.

Towers Suspected Caminiti ‘Roid Use, Didn’t Say Shit

Posted in Baseball at 8:05 pm by

ESPN The Magazine’s Buster Olney interviews San Diego GM Kevin Towers in the latest issue of the glossy ; the Padres exec comes clean about the extent of his knowledge of the late Ken Caminiti’s steriod use. Though this isn’t as flashy a headline as Bonds, Giambi or Sheffield’s grand jury testimony, it oughta be. We already know that Caminiti was juiced. But for the first time, a management figure pretty much confirms one of Jose Canseco’s main points — baseball knew were the power surge was coming from, and did nothing to stop it.

“I feel somewhat guilty, because I felt like I knew,” Towers says, watching the Padres take batting practice from the balcony outside his spring-training office in suburban Phoenix. “I still don’t know for sure, but Cammy came out and said that he used steroids, and I suspected. Selfishly, the guy was putting up numbers, and I didn’t do anything about it. That’s just the truth.”

Baseball needs a lot of honesty right now. It needs a lot of people to ask themselves questions and answer honestly, as Towers is.

“The truth is, we’re in a competitive business,” Towers says, “and these guys were putting up big numbers and helping your ballclub win games. You tended to turn your head on things. And it really wakes you up when someone you admire as a person is no longer around. You can’t help but think, could I have done something differently four or five years ago that might have changed what happened to him?

“I hate to be the one voice for the other 29 GMs, but I’d have to imagine that all of them, at one point or other, had reason to think that a player on their ballclub was probably using, based on body changes and things that happened over the winter.”

The Padres were a baseball laughingstock after their 1993 fire sale, and before the 1995 season, they traded for Caminiti in an 11-player deal. Tony Gwynn was the face of the team, but Caminiti gave them an identity, playing hard every day, diving in the dirt at third base and throwing out runners while sitting on his backside.

He played sick, he played hurt, he was the MVP in 1996, and the Padres won a division championship, revitalizing a dormant franchise. And he was on steroids.

“We went through a real difficult time in 1994, with the strike,” Towers says. “Then some amazing things happened. Home runs were up. Fans were flocking to ballparks, lining up to watch batting practice. But we all realized that there were things going on within the game that were affecting the integrity of the game. I think we all knew it, but we didn’t say anything about it.”

(Kevin letting the young Matt Bush know that San Diego will not tolerate any further lawbreaking)

Towers believes money was not Caminiti’s motivation for taking steroids. Rather, he thinks Caminiti only wanted to find a way to play every day, through a 90 percent tear of his throwing shoulder, through injuries that plagued him. Steroids helped him recover from day to day. But during the 1998 season, Caminiti’s last with the team, Towers saw the relentless and powerful third baseman crumble, sometimes falling down during his swing.

“He could hardly stay on his feet,” Towers says. “It just got to the point where his body couldn’t handle it anymore. He was broke physically, and broke mentally.

“I feel as GM I probably get to know these guys better than my own family. And as a young GM, what Cammy did not only for the organization, but for my career … If he’s not there, not only am I not wearing a ring, who knows if I’m still a general manager? Those were three of the best years we ever had.”

Towers was stunned by Caminiti’s regression. “I thought, wow, here’s a player I care about, like he’s part of my family. I knew he had a problem. But I never did anything about it, because selfishly, it helped the organization and helped me.”

Hawks Waive Glove, Payton Coveted by Boston, Miami and Phoenix

Posted in Basketball at 3:30 pm by

The Boston Herald’s Steve Bulpett on the choices facing Gary Payton.

Gary Payton should be placed on waivers today by Atlanta and, assuming he clears, the point guard is leaning toward a return to the Celtics.

     “We’ve reached an agreement with the Hawks, and things should be in place no later than early (today),” said Payton’s agent, Aaron Goodwin. “It’s just going to be a matter of getting the paperwork approved by the league.”

     The unlikelihood that Payton will be claimed off waivers is based on the fact a team would have to be more than $5.4 million under the salary cap or have an exception that size to take on the veteran.

     Payton then will be free to sign where he wishes, and Goodwin said yesterday he has had some interesting calls from teams which reportedly include Miami and Phoenix.

     “Quite honestly, Gary’s out with his family and his mom, and I haven’t talked to him much,” Goodwin said. “I think he’s leaning toward coming back to the Celtics. I think he likes what’s going on in Boston. I still have to talk to him about things, but I think that’s where he wants to end up. But you never know with Gary.”

     Meanwhile, the Celtics don’t appear to be counting on anything with Payton just yet. There still is interest in bringing back Kenny Anderson, who was waived by the Hawks to make room for their new players. Anderson said he will sign with either the Clippers or Celts.

Ozzie Vs. Maggs

Posted in Baseball at 3:25 pm by

From the Chicago Sun Times’ Doug Padilla.

No longer able to hold his tongue, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen sounded off on Magglio Ordonez on Sunday morning after another round of comments critical of Sox management.

In a story in Sunday’s Chicago Sun-Times, Ordonez praised his new owner with the Detroit Tigers, Mike Ilitch, and in the next breath said he doesn’t understand why his former owner, Jerry Reinsdorf, won’t pay the money to keep his best players.

Enough was enough for Guillen, who has grown tired of reading and hearing about Ordonez’s shots at the Sox.
“This is bull [bleep],” Guillen told the Sun-Times, pointing to a copy of Ordonez’s quotes. “This is girl [stuff]. Every time there are a couple of [reporters] over there with a piece of paper and a pencil in his hand, is he going to talk about the White Sox? Come on, just move on. Just play your game and forget about the White Sox.”

Guillen is most bothered by the fact that Ordonez is making himself out to be the victim when he was offered three separate contracts by the Sox last season, including at least one after he went down for the season with a knee injury.

He also was irked that Ordonez has implied the Sox aren’t interested in winning and that Ordonez says the Sox tried to exaggerate his injury to make him less attractive to other suitors.

“Don’t come around and make this thing look like crap when you’re not right, when you know you’re lying,” Guillen said. “Don’t lie. You can say whatever you want: I want to make some money, I hate Kenny Williams, I hate Jerry Reinsdorf, I hope they die — whatever you want to say. But don’t come out every day and say things to make sure you look good with the fans.

“[Don't] say that they [Williams and Reinsdorf] are horse [bleep] and I’m not. Because now the fans and the media, they will hear what I have to say, and they know I won’t bull-[bleep] them.”

“I’d rather see the player say, ‘Listen, I wanted out of there because I wanted more money,”’ Guillen said. “I respect that. When Alex Rodriguez said he wanted out of there because ‘I want to win,’ Seattle won 100 games with him [actually 91 in 2000] and they won 116 without him [in 2001]. If you want to win, that’s a winning team. You left because of the money, and Magglio left because of the money.

“You’re going to tell me all the cities he could go to, there is a better city than Chicago? He was a legend here with the White Sox. A lot of people wanted him to finish his career here with the White Sox, and count Ozzie Guillen in that group.”

Presto, Chango, Coronation Street Goes Glam

Posted in The World Of Entertainment at 3:11 pm by

The soon to be fatherless Craig Harris.

(before and after)

Byron Crawford Carefully Monitors The Pope’s Progress

Posted in Religion at 6:42 am by

This particular deathwatch is so much easier to endure if instead of watching CNN 24-7, we just rely on someone’s else’s sage observations.

Lupica Interviews Guys Who Sleep On The Street

Posted in Baseball at 6:27 am by

(The Kid & Straw congratulate Air America’s Al Franken upon being first in line to purchase 2005 Mets ducats)

Mets tickets are on sale and the Daily News’ Mike Lupica talks to young men who think that’s a big deal.

Victor Vazquez, 21 years old, from the College of Staten Island, was maybe five spots from the front of the line. He was dressed in a blue North Face ski parka and matching ski pants and looked as if he was ready for cross-country skiing if the snow forecast for today came early. He was with his buddy, another Staten Island kid named Mike Candela, a junior. The car they came in, a red Pontiac Sunfire, was right there, a choice spot, primo they said, directly in front of the Mets’ store.

They had come on Saturday night. They thought the line would be shorter on 42nd Street than out at Shea Stadium. Vazquez would hold the spot when Candela would go for coffee, or food. They would take turns getting warm in the Sunfire.

“We always root for the Mets,” Victor Vazquez said, “even when we stink. But now we feel like the owners have shown us that they give a damn again.”

“You want to know when we started talking about making the trip into town, pulling the all-nighter?” Candela said. “When they got Pedro. Even before Beltran. Pedro showed us, right off the bat, things were gonna be different with Omar (Minaya) in charge.”

“Hey,” Vazquez said, “we stayed out all night the year they signed (Roberto) Alomar and (Roger) Cedeño, so it’s not like we think we got a sure thing here.”

And someone stayed out all night the years the Mets acquired Bret Saberhagen, Eddie Murray, Vince Coleman, Bobby Bonilla and George Foster before that. Maybe even the year the Mets signed Mike Cameron. I don’t wanna puke on the parade or anything, but this is still a team with no middle relief, problems in RF, LF and behind the plate. And the Queens version of depth = Gerald Williams and Andres Gallaraga at camp.

Sloane : Leiter Trashed Mets To Delgado

Posted in Baseball at 5:22 am by

Jon Heyman’s best friendster, David Sloane, continues to rub it in. The agent for Marlins 1B Carlos Delgado seems all to eager to burn all bridges, toll roads and highways to Mets GM Omar Minaya, writes Newday’s David Lennon.

The Mets convinced Carlos Beltran and Pedro Martinez, the two most coveted free agents, to take their money this winter. But it is the one that got away, Carlos Delgado, who won’t go away.

Delgado’s agent, David Sloane, apparently is not satisfied that his client snubbed the Mets to sign a similar four-year, $52-million contract with the Marlins. Why else would Sloane send out an e-mail of a Toronto Sun story that traces a timeline of Delgado’s path to Florida and portrays Al Leiter as a Mets detractor?

According to Sloane’s account in the story, Leiter was a key figure in Delgado’s meeting with Marlins officials Jan. 15 at Joe’s Stone Crab in Miami, when he reportedly conjured a nightmare scenario of playing in New York.

Leiter is quoted as saying, “Who better to discourage him from going to New York?” He then describes what happens when things go poorly in the media capital of the world. “It just chip, chip, chip, chips away at your resolve, cracking away your protective toughness,” he said. “Every bad game it’s like, ‘Are you worried? … The manager says this … Are you worried?’ You begin to doubt yourself. That’s why slumps in New York are so elongated.

“Then the guys on [talk radio] get on you, move it up another notch, and everyone driving to the game listens. You get to the park and your home fans are booing you and after the game you say something stupid.”

Mets officials were surprised that Leiter might have been the secret weapon for the Marlins in winning the Delgado sweepstakes, and Leiter denied that he specifically ripped his former team during the negotiations.

“I don’t know if I said exactly that, but it sounds like that actually happens to players from time to time,” Leiter said yesterday in an e-mail exchange. “I wasn’t ripping New York. I was telling him how sometimes it is more difficult to get out of slumps and it is when a player slumps that he is most vulnerable.”

Mets general manager Omar Minaya dismissed the notion that Delgado was scared away by Leiter. “When you create a winning environment, people want to come there,” Minaya said. “It also comes down to dollars and cents, and trust. I always ask the player if he feels like he could handle New York, and even if he says yes, I can tell by looking in his eyes if he really feels that way.”

Ed Whitson could not be reached for comment.

The Battle For The Mets’ 5th Outfield Spot

Posted in Baseball at 12:05 am by

The New York Times’ Charles Nobles on the big league aspirations of journeyman OF Kerry Robinson.

Thee speedy outfielder Kerry Robinson has never had a chance to start extensively since becoming a major leaguer in 1998. Robinson, a free-agent acquisition by the Mets, is looking at another long-shot situation this season. Cliff Floyd, Carlos Beltran and Mike Cameron are expected to be the starters when healthy.

Yet Robinson, 31, does not lack confidence. As a player who relies far more on swiftness than power, he likens himself to Juan Pierre, a center fielder for the Florida Marlins. In his five-year career, Pierre has hit .312 with 210 stolen bases and 424 runs scored, helping the Marlins win the 2003 World Series.

The speed and effectiveness of Pierre, hitting leadoff, and the Marlins’ No. 2 hitter, Luis Castillo, has led other teams, including the Mets, to seek speed at the top of the lineup. The Mets are doing that with José Reyes, Kazuo Matsui and Beltran.

“I think of myself as Juan Pierre if he never got a chance to start,” Robinson said Sunday, before rain cut the Mets’ practice short. “If I could play every day, I think over the course of a season I could really do some damage.”

Robinson has played in 445 major league games, yet has never started more than 31 in a season. He played in 80 games for San Diego last season, but had just 92 at-bats. He did hit .293, stealing 11 bases and scoring 20 runs.

Omar Minaya, the Mets’ general manager, persuaded Robinson to sign in December. Robinson liked hearing Minaya talk about the Mets’ building for a brighter future, but that was just before Beltran signed a $119 million contract, locking down the last starting outfield job.

Robinson shrugged when asked about that Sunday. He said he had some idea it might happen. He seems not to mind competing to be the Mets’ fifth and final outfielder. Eric Valent, who hit .267 with 13 home runs in 130 games last season, appears to have the inside track to be the fourth outfielder. Robinson, a left-handed batter, will compete for the fifth spot with Gerald Williams and Ron Calloway, other players with major league pedigrees.


Hudson,Braves Near Pact

Posted in Baseball at 9:16 pm by

It seems as though the Braves will beat Tim Hudson’s March 1 deadline and sign the former A’s star to an extension. The Sporting News’ Ken Rosenthal, no doubt offended that his reportage is reduced to mere bullet points in this setting, wrote earlier today :

The Braves are close to signing right-hander Tim Hudson to a four-year extension worth approximately $48 million with a vesting option for a fifth year.

Hudson (above), 29, likely would have commanded at least five years and $75 million as a free agent after this season, but his desire to play 75 miles from his home in Auburn, Ala., is proving the overriding factor in negotiations. The signing of Hudson would enable the Braves to keep their five current starters together through at least 2006 while allowing top prospect Kyle Davies to complete his development at his own pace.

The Guantanamo Guidebook : The New Fear Factor

Posted in The World Of Entertainment at 9:04 pm by

From the same UK channel that brought us “Banzai” and “So Graham Norton” comes the reality show that will hopefully snuff out the genre. From the Sunday Herald’s Damien Love.

Earlier this year, in an anonymous building in east London, Channel 4 set up its latest reality show house. This one did not require a hot tub or chickens, but the spirit of the original, Orwellian, Big Brother hovered around it. No-one was voted out, but three of its seven voluntary inhabitants left before the 48-hour shoot was over.

In that time, the volunteers, all men, were, to varying degrees, lightly tortured: stripped, slapped, subjected to extremes of temperature, screamed at, touched, blindfolded, shackled, forced to soil themselves, deprived of food, disoriented, isolated, intimidated, humiliated, threatened, deprived of sleep, and then put through it all again.

The first to leave was taken out after 10 hours, suffering stress and hypothermia. The last, one of the first to vomit, finally asked to be let out because he couldn™t take what was being done to him anymore. Earlier, he had become so distracted he™d failed to notice his handcuffs had cut off the blood to his hands. Interviewed later, he seemed shocked numb.

What to make of The Guantanamo Guidebook? This one-off, which recreates inside a Hackney warehouse procedures used at the US prison camp in Cuba, where œenemy combatants have been detained without charge since 2002, is the centrepiece of Channel 4™s week-long Torture strand.

The season explores a post-9/11 acceptance of, even appetite for, torture “ or, to use the Newspeak euphemism, œenhanced interrogation techniques “ within the US and UK administrations. An acceptance this has led to Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, and to the situation where Britain will happily use information extracted from captives in Uzbekistan, whose intelligence agencies (according to Craig Murray, our former ambassador to that country) boil their prisoners alive.

You must remember that these techniques are only the mildest of those actually employed; that these volunteers can leave at any time. Then, for it to work, you must imagine this is not the case. It teeters between documentary experiment, and some hardcore reality revival of Endurance, the famous Japanese gameshow, whose contestants won for being able to stand having their nipples burned the longest. It is easy to imagine someone watching thinking, œI could handle that. Indeed, the original adverts for volunteers asked prospective entrants how œhard they were. It unwittingly runs the risk of introducing the idea that light torture might not be so bad. But it is grim, genuinely unsettling watching, and maybe constructive. If all The Guantanamo Guidebook manages is to force us to glimpse the tip of the iceberg, then wonder more about what enormities lie beneath, it™s worthwhile.

Isiah’s Pleathora Of Picks = Larry Bait?

Posted in Basketball at 5:42 pm by

The New York Post’s Marc Berman suggests one possible reason Isiah Thomas is so eager to load up on draft picks

Knicks president Isiah Thomas talked with great enthusiasm Thursday night after the trade deadline about using his four first-round picks across the next two drafts on four young players.

But there is a possibility of using one of those first-rounders on one old coach ” namely, Hall-of-Famer Larry Brown.

The Knicks can never admit it publicly because they’d be tampering, but two league sources said Thomas knows he is now in much better position to make a deal for a head coach ” not just Brown ” who might be under contract elsewhere.

Before Thursday, the Knicks were in no position to land Brown. It’s been widely speculated that the Knicks would have to fork over their first-round pick along with cash this June if they wanted to get Brown from under his Piston contract, which runs another three years.

Problem is, the Knicks are forbidden from trading their own first-round pick under NBA rules. A team mat not deal its own first-round pick in two successive years. The Knicks shipped their 2004 first-rounder to Phoenix in the Stephon Marbury deal.

Now Isiah is well-stocked with picks that he can use to deal with Detroit or another club. When Pat Riley was freed from breaking the Knicks’ contract to join Miami in 1995, the Heat gave the Knicks a first-rounder and $1 million. The Pistons might look greedy to ask for more than the late first-rounder the Knicks acquired from San Antonio Thursday, a second-rounder and $3 million in cash.

Sudan 1, England 0

Posted in Food at 4:37 pm by

I popped into a W12 Safeway on Friday afternoon and cast a quick glance (as I often do) at the poster listing recalled products. Usually, said food stuffs will number no more than 4 or 5 in length and the overall threat to public health is minimal.

So imagine my shock and awe to see some 6 dozen products on the Safeway recall list. What the fuck happened? Or more to the point, could there been something of interest in the UK papers besides Mourniho-baiting or Prince Charles marrying a horse?

As it turns out, my ignorance is no excuse, though a quick glance at the Safeway poster might’ve saved me a trip to casualty.

Haters Of Freedom Persecute Best-Selling Author

Posted in Baseball at 1:58 pm by

ESPN.com on threats against baseball’s Salmon Rushdie, Jose Canseco.

Jose Canseco’s book “Juiced” is generating more than its share of controversy. It’s also provoking death threats.

The Chicago Tribune reported Saturday than an e-mail death threat submitted through Canseco’s Web site forced Canseco to halt his book-signing tour.

Canseco’s attorney Robert Saunooke told the paper the FBI is investigating the threat and has identified the sender of the e-mail with help from AOL.

“We are not taking the threat lightly,” Saunooke told the paper. “It’s not that I believe Jose is in immediate danger. He’s a black belt in three different kinds of karate, so he can take care of himself.

No truth to the rumor that the offending e-mail came from the address “wilsonalvarez@aol.com”.

Fuck The Agent

Posted in Baseball at 1:46 pm by

The New York Post’s Michael Morrisey on the disappointing news that George Steinbrenner’s first erruption of 2005 wasn’t caused by A-Rod, Larry Lucchino or David Wells, but rather by superagent Arn Tellum.

(News Corp., mindful of sensitive readers)

Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, who has evaded reporters and sidestepped controversy this month, expressed his extreme displeasure with the way Arn Tellem has handled Giambi by using one choice four-letter word.

“[Bleep] the agent,” Steinbrenner told reporters from a Legends Field elevator. “He’s no good.”

he Boss is ticked that Tellem has advised Giambi against using the word “steroids” in any of his conversations about BALCO. If the embattled Yankees slugger does make an official admission, the Bombers would have better legal standing to void the remaining $82 million on his contract.

Sources said they believe Steinbrenner also is fuming because he thinks Tellem leaked the story about how the word “steroids” was dropped from Giambi’s contract.

The Boss is apoplectic that Tellem attempted to spin that particular story to make the Yankees look like willing co-conspirators, when in reality the club replaced the phrase with broader language that still protected them against steroid use, sources say.

Thus, George M. Steinbrenner momentarily became George F. Steinbrenner, or George Carlin. Steinbrenner, who stunned reporters with his matter-of-fact F-bomb, came down to the Yankees clubhouse a few minutes later and apologized.

“I just don’t like the guy,” he said. “I’m not happy with him.”

Other Yankees said they think Tellem is acting professionally on behalf of his client and have no problem with that.

“Well, the court told Jason that he could say anything he wanted to,” Steinbrenner said. “And then Arn Tellem says, ‘No, he doesn’t. He doesn’t say anything.’ ”

Tellem countered that court officials told Giambi he might be a federal witness in the future and was led to believe he shouldn’t talk about his grand jury testimony.

Asked if Giambi would’ve come off better during his New York press conference if he had explained what he had apologized for, the Boss responded, “I don’t know what he was apologizing for. You’ll have to ask him.”

Steinbrenner said he wasn’t angry with Giambi and gave him a big hug on the field at the end of yesterday’s workout.

“This is all news to me,” a sweaty Giambi told reporters at his locker afterward.

Newsday’s Jon Heyman, as you’d expect, doesn’t have much sympathy for the Boss.

Giambi batted an anemic .208 last season after reportedly testifying he was a regular steroid user, so it’s surprising The Boss held back this long. By now he must know he would have been better off investing in a mutual fund of WorldCom, Enron and that personal favorite of his, Krispy Kreme Donuts.

Yankees execs can’t be sure whether Giambi’s finished. With the effects of the steroids presumably wearing off, there’s no telling what he’ll be. No matter what he is, he isn’t worth the $82 million coming to him. What’s worse, they’re pretty sure they’re stuck with him.

Steinbrenner is blaming the wrong party for this mess, anyway. If he doesn’t like Giambi’s deal, he needs to grab a mirror.

Steinbrenner is the one who insisted on Giambi. The Yankees could have brought back Tino Martinez on a two- or three-year deal, kept their chemistry intact and spent the extra loot elsewhere. But Steinbrenner is fascinated by the long ball. He was in love.

Steinbrenner and his executives messed up. They showed bad taste and poor judgment by signing a player everyone strongly suspected of being on steroids even if they didn’t absolutely know it. They had to know he was a player who liked to get out, and stay out, past midnight.

Yankees people haven’t completely given up challenging the contract, but their current strategy appears to involve waiting for Giambi to slip up and say the wrong thing. That’s a longshot.

While Giambi is anything but cautious in the way he lives his life, he is oh so careful not to make any admission that could jeopardize the $82 million. If you think reporters were frustrated by Giambi’s murky apology, that’s nothing compared to how Steinbrenner feels.

“The court told Jason he could say anything he wanted to. Then Arn Tellem says no, he doesn’t. He doesn’t say anything,” Steinbrenner said.

“I just don’t like the guy,” Steinbrenner said about Tellem.

It’s hard to love someone who’s taken you to the cleaners. And made you stay.

Omar On “Los Mets”

Posted in Baseball at 1:37 pm by

(utility man Jose McEwing, happy to welcome teammates of all ethnic backgrounds to spring training)

The Daily News’ Adam Rubin gets Omar Minaya’s views on public reaction to the changing makeup of the New York Mets.

Omar Minaya had dramatically altered the face of the Mets in one winter, from Al Leiter and John Franco to Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran. As he did, the whispers began throughout New York, about the ethnicity of Minaya’s imports.

“Los Mets,” became a phrase uttered often, albeit quietly, or anonymously on fan message boards, though it was even used in the clubhouse this spring.

Minaya, the Mets’ Dominican-born general manager, finds the phrase objectionable.

“People who make those comments have a racial bent to their thinking,” Minaya says. “When you hear that, you ask yourself, ‘Do they make those comments when the staffs are all another race?’ But look, when you are doing something that has never been done before, people are going to make comments. A lot of times it’s part of being a minority.”

The rapidness of the Mets’ transformation, coupled with the profile of the players involved in this winter’s retooling – Leiter, Franco, Mike Stanton and Vance Wilson out; Martinez, Beltran, Felix Heredia, Miguel Cairo and Andres Galarraga in – may give a false impression of the Mets clubhouse diversity relative to other clubs. An analysis of baseball’s 40-man rosters shows the Mets rank tied for 10th of 30 teams in percentage of players born in Latin America (27.5%) – though it’s worth noting that the team Minaya formerly led, the Expos-turned-Nationals, tied with the Dodgers for highest percentage at 37.5.

Throw in the non-roster invitees at Mets camp this year – of which 11 of 27 are Latin American-born – and one player labels the number of Hispanic players in the clubhouse as “very, very high.”

If the Mets fielded 25 players from Mars who could do the job, that would be fine with me.

Carling Cup Final : Liverpool 2-3 Chelsea (aet, score at 90 minutes, 1-1)

Posted in Football at 1:19 pm by

Just another quiet week for Jose Mourinho ; knocked out of the FA Cup last weekend by Newcastle, dealt a serious blow to his Champions League hopes on Wednesday at the hands of Barcelona, Sunday saw Chelsea win the least coveted piece of silverwear on offer, getting out of jail via Steven Gerrard’s own goal in the 78th minute. Mourinho wasn’t around for the surprise equalizer, nor Chelsea’s extra time victory, having been sent off before intermission for gesturing towards Liverpool supporters.

You can hear the shy, retiring Mourinho’s explanation here. (Real Player required).

Is Mourinho losing his cool at the first signs of pressure, or does everyone with a notepad just hate the former Barca translator cause he’s so handsome? Either way, Manchester United’s 2-1 win over Portsmouth yesterday narrowed Chelsea’s lead atop the Premeireship to a mere 6 points.


Non-Story of The Week : Giambi “Pressured”

Posted in Baseball at 8:07 am by

From the Associated Press :

TAMPA, Fla. – A former minor-league teammate of Jason Giambi said in a to-be-released issue of GQ that Giambi felt pressure from the Athletics to become a home-run hitter.

Terance Frazier, described as Giambi’s closest friend and confidant at Class A Modesto, Calif., told the magazine: “He was getting pressure from the organization. He said they were telling him he needed to hit home runs. He was getting frustrated.”

According to a San Francisco Chronicle story late last year, Giambi admitted to a federal grand jury investigating BALCO that he used performance-enhancing steroids and human growth hormone for at least three seasons. Giambi refuses to answer direct questions about his steroid use, but he says he told the truth to the grand jury.

Sandy Alderson, who was the Oakland general manager at the time, could not be reached for comment.

And of course, Giambi’s experience was unique to young players stationed at what is generally considered to be a power position (unless you’re Jason Philips or Dave Magadan) — no other first baseman in the history of minor or major league baseball has been told that he needs to hit more home runs. In light of this staggering revelation, Giambi’s drug indiscretions are not only excuseable, but I hope he considers suing the A’s, Major League Baseball and the China Club, all for contributing to a hostile work environment.

Rich Ankiel’s Long Road Back

Posted in Baseball at 5:46 am by

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Joe Strauss on the enigmatic Rich Ankiel, still trying to recapture the form he flashed a half decade ago.

By the first week of April the Cardinals hope to anoint Ankiel as part of their staff – either as the surrogate for rehabilitating starting pitcher Matt Morris or as a long reliever.

“He’s out of options. You’ve got to assume he’s going to be on your ballclub,” Duncan said. “The way I’m looking at it is, how’s he going to pitch, what’s he going to do? When I watch Rick pitch I’m trying to envision how he’s going to be part of our staff. I’m not thinking about anything else.”

“Everybody has a responsibility, and Rick is going to have a responsibility. There isn’t anything special about his responsibility. He’s got one-eleventh or one-twelfth of it,” assessed manager Tony La Russa, referring to the question of whether he takes 11 or 12 pitchers into the season.

Ankiel (above), now 25, threw 40 pitches to four hitters. Five were hit but only two left the cage. Only Gonzalez’s opposite-field swing on a too-high offering would have fallen for a hit.

A breaking pitch hit third baseman Scott Seabol in the foot but left no bruise.

“He looked good,” Duncan said, estimating that the lefthander’s mechanics looked to be in proper alignment for all but five pitches – an acceptable ratio in his first exposure against hitters this spring. “He got a little flat on a couple but otherwise it looked very solid.”

“Everything he threw was good,” said catcher Yadier Molina. “It’s exciting.”

Ankiel’s career has been stop and start since October 2000. Command problems, elbow issues and ligament replacement surgery have derailed a pitcher who teased the Cardinals with 11 wins before turning 22.

Returning last summer from surgery in July 2003, Ankiel worked 23 2/3 innings among Tennessee, Memphis and St. Louis.

He made five appearances for the Cardinals, doing nothing to quell anticipation for his return.

“I was excited to see him,” La Russa said. “He pitched just a few times, but watching his bullpen sessions, he showed what he’s capable of because he was pitching. He put a little on, took a little off, moving it around, showing two or three fastballs, a couple different breaking balls and a good change. That’s something to get excited about.”

What Duncan once lambasted as a media-induced “freak show” has dissipated. The only remaining obstacle is for Ankiel to become more comfortable throwing to bases.

Duncan sees improvement in the changeup that almost disappeared the past several seasons. The curveball is still knee-buckling. The fastball still climbs into the mid-90s.

Therre is no remaining margin for delay. Ankiel has no remaining options, meaning he must first clear waivers for the Cardinals to send him to the minors.

His breakout 2000 season and remaining potential make that virtually impossible.

“I’m excited, but who has a crystal ball?” La Russa asked. “He pitched a lot last year, his arm got sore; he’s just got to stay healthy. We’ll

Jeter’s Name Considered Vulgar By FleetCenter Officials

Posted in Ugly New Stadiums at 5:32 am by

As a postscript to yesterday’s tale of the eBay winner who wanted to rename the FleetCenter, “Derek Jeter’s Range At Short Isn’t That Bad Center”, the following is from ESPN’s Darren Rovell.

There will be no Derek Jeter Center after all.

On Tuesday, New York attorney Kerry Konrad won the right in an eBay auction to name Boston’s FleetCenter for a day. For his $2,325, Konrad wanted to honor the New York Yankees shortstop.

But, on Friday, FleetCenter officials rejected the name, which Konrad hoped would add to the 25-year rivalry he has had with his former college classmates who are Boston Red Sox fans.

“We decided that all the names had to be rated G, and this name was determined to be obscene and vulgar,” said Richard A. Krezwick, president and chief executive of the FleetCenter, which has auctioned off daily naming rights to about a dozen companies since its contract with the bank was terminated. “We were afraid of the volume of phone calls bogging down our switchboard, the number of e-mails clogging our portal and the potential graffiti on the side of our building.”

When reached at his office, Konrad said he was not disappointed.

“I had no idea that this joke would get so much attention in the first place,” Konrad said. “It was a joke. I’ve already had my laugh. But I could have made it much worse, like the A-Rod Center, Bucky Dent Center, the Aaron Boone Center, or the ‘Only 25 More [championships] To Go’ Center.”

To be fair, the Red Sox are only 20 championships behind the Yankees’ major league record 26.

Instead, on March 1, the building will be named the Jimmy Fund Center. Jerry Rappaport Jr., Konrad’s ex-college roommate and Red Sox fan, added $6,275 to Konrad’s bid — to reach $8,600 in total to signify the 86-year Boston Red Sox curse that was broken in 2004. The money will go to The Jimmy Fund, which supports the fight against cancer through Boston’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

(Jimmy Key, thrilled to have an empty building in downtown Boston named after him, if only for a day)


Breckman’s Telemarketing Solution

Posted in Technical Difficulties at 8:57 pm by

Andy Breckman of WFMU’s “7 Second Delay” suggests pretending you’re retarded when the telemarketers ring.

I’ve found that pretending I’m turned on usually ends the call rather quickly — even faster if I’m not pretending.

Payton To Stay In Boston?

Posted in Basketball at 5:22 pm by

As hinted at yesterday, Gary Payton is not expected to report to Atlanta following yesterday’s Antoine Walker trade. The veteran point guard has requested a buyout of his contract, according to the Boston Herald’s Mark Murphy.

Payton may return to the Celtics under a new free agent deal.

     Atlanta, according to multiple sources, has agreed to buy Payton out of what’s left on the final year of his contract.

     Though agent Aaron Goodwin declined comment last night, his client is already believed to be receiving inquiries from several teams in anticipation of the buyout.

     Though Miami has reportedly expressed interest, the Celtics are still considered a favorite to keep Payton in green, based on the starting role they can offer him. With Dwyane Wade now in a shooting guard role, and Damon Jones also commanding major backcourt minutes, the Heat may not have the same opportunity for Payton.

     The 36-year-old point guard, reportedly in Los Angeles visiting his family last night, was unavailable for comment.

Raissman Observes The Burial Of Hockey & Comedy

Posted in Hockey, Sports Radio at 5:11 pm by

In what sounds like it was the lamest WFAN promo-stunt since Don Imus began dragging sick kids to his ranch in an atempt to become Michael Jackson with jowls, the NY Daily News’ Bob Raissman attended the FAN’s NHL “funeral”.

The Rosenberg and Benigno show might have been delivered to WFAN dead on arrival, but yesterday the casket was not reserved for sports talk radio’s version of the Bowery Boys.

The box was meant for an organization as twisted as any of Sidiot’s “comedy” stylings. An organization as irrational as some of Benigno’s old midnight monologues.

The National Hockey League.

That’s who this mock funeral was for. That’s why so many people in the small crowd were smiling. A joke is supposed to be funny. And there is no bigger punch line in sports than the NHL.

Gary Bettman’s league is nothing more than a resource for Letterman and Leno.

This did not dawn on Benigno. He was a few minutes away from being able to dump on Bettman and Bob Goodenow, two humorless bureaucrats, but seemed reluctant to seize the opportunity. Deep in conversation with FAN GM Lee Davis, Benigno said something about facing “an embarrassing” moment. Davis put his arm around Benigno. The talkie just dragged on a cigarette and threw it to the ground.

Perhaps Benigno was embarrassed over the size of the turnout. Forty. Tops. Maybe less. Math ain’t my thing.

There was a mixture of FAN employees, a few true fans, and some curious bystanders who wandered out of the restaurant.

Sidiot stood at the podium looking down at the casket, which contained a pillow and a couple of hockey sweaters. Someone asked if he was cold.

“If I stand here 20 more minutes I may be in there,” said Rosenberg, pointing to the casket.

Sidiot’s detractors could only hope.

Someone read a hockey poem (fortunately it was short) before Benigno took over the microphone.

“I’d like to thank everybody that showed up here today,” Benigno said. “I question your intelligence.

“… It’s tough for a Rangers fan. It’s another year where we won’t make the playoffs, but nobody else will, either.”

Adding more ice to the atomosphere, Benigno segued into a somber spiel. Another dissertation on the salary cap would not bring any heat to this soiree.

Rosenberg broke the ice. He said the lost season has left fans with many important questions.

“The most pressing of all is: What’s Carol Alt going to do now?” Rosenberg asked.

Another question offered by Sidiot? “Is a former haberdasher turned prostitute now a hat trick?”

Rosenberg obviously consulted with spiritual scholars to find the most appropriate line to close out his eulogy.

“So, to the NHL, puck you. And oh yeah, Potvin sucks.”

How darn moving.

Isiah’s Latest Moves : Vescey’s Verdict

Posted in Basketball at 4:25 pm by

From Peter Vescey in Friday’s NY Post :

On a day it might’ve been easier for the NBA to relocate franchises rather than move the multitude of traded players, Isiah Thomas almost did exactly the opposite of what he’s been saying over the last couple weeks he wouldn’t do.

There’s nothing more damning than spouting a conflicting philosophy.

Once again the Knicks have exchanged two bad players with undesirable contracts – plus their one and only pro center – for a pair of fringe starters with longer and higher salaries.

In the opaque opinion of the team’s patronizing president, anybody who can’t see the above deals are perfectly reasonable deserves to be demeaned.

In his murky mind Thomas believes he’s justified swapping Nazr Mohammed ($5.5M) and Jamison Brewer to the Spurs for Malik Rose ($6M, $6.55M, $7.1M, $7.64M) as well as Moochie Norris ($4.2M) and Vin Baker ($3.85M) to the Rockets for Maurice Taylor (above) ($9.1M and $9.7M).

Why? Because the Knicks got two first-round picks pre-owned by Phoenix and San Antonio as part of the package.

According to Thomas’ shadowy genius, their mutual irrelevancy is worth more than competing with a halfway competent center. His lame logic is biting and sweeping:

“Who did I have playing center for me now?” Thomas submarined.

“Come on, Mohammed was that bad?” I replied.

“No, not that bad,” Thomas qualified. “But everyone in the Eastern Conference is playing without a pure center except the Heat [Shaq], the Cavaliers [Zydrunas Ilgauskas] and now the Bulls [Eddy Curry].”

Like, whoa! I could’ve sworn I heard Thomas repeatedly defend the Keith Van Horn-Tim Thomas transaction back when by claiming his sole motive for making it was to get Mohammed in the three-way deal.

In Thomas’ jumbled judgment he thinks compiling immaterial draft picks (two No. 1s this June and two the year after, he gleefully notes) is vital to rebuilding.

“Look how many quality players were drafted low in the first round and early in the second,” he stresses. “We drafted [traded for, actually] Jamaal Tinsley at No. 27 at Indiana and my other choice was Gilbert Arenas [taken No. 31 by the Warriors].

Fine, we all know the league’s elite talent scouts make their fair share of mistakes every draft. Josh Howard went No. 29, Tony Parker went No. 28, while Auburn’s Marquis Daniels went undrafted, for crying out tears despite winning player of the year in the Southeastern Conference.

Rashard Lewis (No. 32), Manu Ginobili (No. 57) and Arenas are ideal examples of players who were criminally overlooked. But just because Thomas uncovered Trevor Ariza at No. 43 last June it doesn’t mean he’s assured of a superior being (on the scale of the above three reigning All-Stars) slipping through the cracks, nor has he proved he can identify it if it’s there for the plucking.

In this salary-cap restrictive age, I don’t care how much a team is on the books for luxury tax; hindsight and some sideline experience has taught me it’s unnecessary to tear a team apart in order to rebuild it a championship contender/conqueror.