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