Watford Sack Lewington

Posted in Football at 10:40 am by

Despite leading Watford to the League Cup semi-finals earlier this year, a disasterous run that has seen just 4 wins in their last 24 Coca Cola Championship matches was enough to ensure Ray Lewington’s exit as Hornets manager earlier today.

Nigel Gibbs and Terry Bullivant, Lewington’s former assistants, are now in charge of first team football on an interim basis.

Tillery On Malingering Swift

Posted in Basketball at 9:53 am by

The Memphis Commerical Appeal’s Ronald Tillery weighes in on one of the NBA’s more fragile types, the Grizzlis’ Stomile Swift.

In trying to figure out which was more embarrassing — Swift (above) missing his 13th game last Sunday because of a moderately sprained left ankle or sitting in a uniform not prepared to play — one had to wonder what really is on the fifth-year forward’s mind.

Pau Gasol rushed back from a stress reaction in his left foot.

Shane Battier played two games with a 101-degree temperature that should have rendered him bedridden.

Jason Williams rolled his ankle and performed after two games.

Earl Watson has a busted left hand, a tender shoulder and would have missing teeth if not for cosmetic surgery. Yet the 6-1 reserve guard is, yep, playing.

So where is Stromile Swift?

He’s back, all right.

He’s back to being the butt of a joke heard during the Grizzlies’ inaugural season in Memphis.

Whenever the team bus hit a bump in the road and players were slightly discharged from their seats, a teammate would sarcastically check on Swift.

The remarks would go something like this: Somebody check on Stro. He may have separated his shoulder.

Right now it appears Swift’s view on his future is separated from reality.

Sure, he played well when Gasol first went down because of an injury. Sure, Swift can jump to Pluto if he wants, and he operates as the team’s only legitimate shot-blocker.

But those credits he earned with fine performances before the Feb. 16 ankle injury at Boston have been spent on unexcused time off.

Swift has been cleared by doctors to play for more than two weeks.

This is a guy fighting for a contract beyond this season, and he has shown no recuperative powers and little professional pride. For a team battling for a playoff berth, the Grizzlies are right to plan on excelling without Swift.

Vescey On Silas’ Exit

Posted in Basketball at 9:44 am by

From Peter Vescey in today’s NY Post.

At least when Don Nelson’s coaching days in Dallas ended a few days ago his son (Donnie) got to remain a Maverick, which is more than can be said for Paul Silas, whose son (Stephen) was dusted along with him yesterday by the Cavaliers.

Ironically, Silas’ replacement is Brendan Malone. Last season his son (Michael) was retained on the bench when security callously escorted Brendan and Don Chaney out of Madison Square Garden during the Knicks’ annual rite of coaching passage.

But enough about the NBA’s widespread nepotism; Phil Jackson now has two additional teams to enhance his already heightened leverage to become the wealthiest spiritual bench leader in league history. Big Chief Triangle can’t help but be attracted to their superstars, not to mention their sufficient supply of supporting actors.

The Knicks, Blazers, Magic and Timberwolves have their share of tempting bait and tackle, as do the Nets; if you’re owner Bruce Ratner and you’ve already got Jason Kidd, Vince Carter, Richard Jefferson and Marv Albert locked up long term, surely you have to make a strong pitch for Jackson, even at the risk of hurting the feelings of Ian Eagle, er, Lawrence Frank.

Still, the Mavericks and Cavaliers flaunt Dirk Nowitzki and LeBron James. Though Dallas lacks a key ingredient or two and Cleveland hasn’t nearly gone through the necessary aging process, both give off that special championship-flavored aroma.

While I doubt Maverick owner Mark Cuban went to the trouble of placing Avery Johnson in position to succeed as Nelson’s interim and now permanent replacement, only to push him aside for Jackson, he’d certainly have to consider the proposition if it presented itself. As for coaching LeBron, Jackson can’t help but see Michael Jordan four or five years before he matured into His Airness.

Silas unmistakably went out of his way to get himself fired by sitting a starter down. The Cavs’ coach had a lot going against him in the last couple weeks and seemingly lost his passion; the losing of nine games in the last dozen, the fall from grace in the Central Division to No. 5 in the East, the nine successive road lack of successes; having to answer questions regarding strategy and substitutions to new owner Dan Gilbert, making him feel like he was back in New Orleans waging war against then minority owner Ray Woolridge; and conflict with several players, especially Jeff McInnis and Drew Gooden regarding their defensive defects.

Gooden was recently demoted but fought his way back into the lineup. For the most part, rather than confront McInnis, by all accounts, a tough customer to deal with, a guy who yells at everyone, Silas left him alone.

There came a time, of course, when there was no getting away from disciplining McInnis, a rising free agent whose stock was high the first 30 games of the season. Rather than sit him down last Sunday in favor of Eric Snow, say sources, Silas wanted to cut him; he felt his point guard would be too much a problem and wouldn’t accept the new role.

When Gilbert and GM Jim Paxson refused to endorse such an extreme measure, preferring to wait to see if McInnis became a complete jerk sharing minutes, Silas decided not to play him a single second. Almost overnight he’d gone from integral to insignificant.

Cubs’ Borokwsi Fractures Wrist

Posted in Baseball at 9:34 am by

Despite blowing 9 of 34 save opportunities in 2004, reliever LaTroy Hawkins will start the season as the Cubs’ closer after the job’s other likely candidate, Joe Borowski suffered a hairline crack in his right wrist while fielding a grounder.

Borowski (above, right) missed the 2nd half of ’04 with a bad shoulder and had recently undergone arthroscopic knee surgery. He’s not expected back for 3-4 weeks.

Mets Pitching Guru Seeks To Straighten Out Ishii

Posted in Baseball at 9:19 am by

Newsday’s David Lennon on Flushing’s Dean Of Pitching and his attempts to control Kaz Ishii’s…uh, control.

Ishii won 36 games for the Dodgers during the past three seasons, but in the process, he drove manager Jim Tracy nuts by piling up walks. The Japanese lefthander has averaged a major league-worst 5.8 walks per nine innings since signing with the Dodgers in 2002.

“It doesn’t really bother me, the number of walks,” Ishii (above) said through an interpreter. “I may walk a lot of guys, but I provide a lot of wins as well. I want for everyone not to get too nervous about the walks.”

Solving such problems is Rick Peterson’s job, and he coolly handled questions about Ishii’s wildness. Dealing with that type of question is something he has experience at, considering he faced the same scrutiny when he pushed the Mets to acquire Victor Zambrano for top prospect Scott Kazmir last July.

“I think the main issue is keeping run production to a minimum,” said Peterson, who said he could fix Zambrano in “10 minutes” before the Mets traded for him. “You don’t get many points for touching first base. I see nothing but good things in the forecast.”

Peterson is a glass-half-full kind of guy, but manager Willie Randolph won’t have such a rosy outlook if Ishii keeps walking batters, an irritating habit that led to his dismissal from the Dodgers. On the positive side, Ishii has shown the ability to handle pressure, which would explain his knack for escaping tight jams, not unlike Al Leiter’s flair for the dramatic last season.

Leiter could be frustrating with his high pitch counts and walk totals, and it will be up to Peterson to prevent Ishii from doing the same. His Dodgers counterpart, Jim Colborn, eventually had to wave the white flag, and he expressed sympathy for the Mets on Sunday, a few hours before the trade became official.

“I think Tracy and I have leaned on the side of patience and trust,” Colborn said, “but it hasn’t been easy.”

While Ishii is capable of supplying the quantity of innings to replace the injured Steve Trachsel, the quality of those innings remains to be seen. The Mets are just glad to have him, and they’ll worry about the walks when they happen.

“Any time you can get a pitcher of Kaz’s status, that’s incredible,” Peterson said. “The day after Trachsel had surgery, we had Kaz in the fold. The pitchers we have in camp now is a huge improvement over what we had last year.”


News Of The Whirl

Posted in Free Expression at 11:31 pm by

If you’re trying to find the legendary St. Louis crime rag The Evening Whirl online, you’re shit out of luck. As slim consolation, however, last December, The Riverfront Times’ Chad Garrison traced the paper’s orgins under founder Ben Thomas (above), and recent resurrection under current editor/publisher Anthony Sanders.

A 1983 article on the arrest of a robbery suspect reads: “George Lowery, 42, of the 3900 block of Blair, committed a crime that wasn’t so rare, and for him was a terrible affair, and police caught him there. The crime master turned out to be his own disaster.”

Thomas called his weekly columns exposing people arrested for drug and domestic-violence charges the “Dope Fiend Club” and “Wife Beaters and Sweetheart Mistreaters.” His penchant for exposing homosexuals — referring to lesbians as “bulldaggers” and gays as “faggots” — earned him the ire of the gay community.

Sanders says he never tried to replicate Thomas’ style. For starters, society no longer tolerates the epithets and blind accusations that made Thomas his mark. In place of Thomas’ lyrical prose, Sanders fills the paper with articles accented with his own crude street lingo. As always, the Whirl’s articles appear without a byline, a practice that lends the paper an omniscient narrative, as if the streets themselves are coughing up the tales.

A piece on a domestic-violence case in Cahokia begins: “Just because a woman has children by you does not mean you own her. Let her get on with her life with the new man. Or thug as the case may be. Michael O. Foster couldn’t do that and is now behind bars for 30 years on two counts of aggravated battery with a firearm.”

A story on the rape of a Granite City teenager reads: “Here’s one of the perils of drinking before your time. A young 15-year-old high school student drank until she passed out and woke up with a penis in her vagina.”

“It’s all supposition,” says Sanders. “We get the same information that everyone else gets. We just know how to fill in the details to make them interesting. For example, say you got a guy nicknamed ‘Bobo’ who pulls a gun on the police and gets himself shot. Now, you got to ask, ‘Why the fuck would anyone pull a pistol on a cop when they are trained to kill your ass?’”

Still, for all its “genius,” there are those in the African-American community who claim the Whirl serves to perpetuate stereotypes of black men as violent criminals — an argument Sanders dismisses outright.

“The reality is that 99 percent of this is black-on-black violence perpetuated by drugs,” Sanders says. “I’m giving readers the same thing they could get in the news briefs of the Post-Dispatch, but instead of giving it to you in tiny teaspoons, I’m giving it to you in a whole goddamn scoop. If you’re choking on it, it’s because it’s there.”

Produced in the basement of Sanders’ Central West End home, the Whirl is a bare-bones operation; Sanders is the paper’s only full-time employee, while two freelance writers compile police reports and press releases into stories that Sanders drops into the paper’s formatted pages.

Sanders isn’t sure how the Whirl got its name, “but I always thought ‘whirl’ was like kicking up the dust of the night.”

Sans Duncan, Spurs Crushed By Knicks

Posted in Basketball at 11:00 pm by

With today’s news that F Tim Duncan will miss the rest of the regular season following his 3rd ankle sprain of the year, there was no greater proof of San Antonio’s difficulty competing without their MVP than the Spurs being humbled at MSG by the decidedly average Knicks, 88-75.

Malik Rose (above, guarded by the player he was traded for, Nazr Mohammed) gained a measure of revenge against his former club, scoring 18 points and collecting 7 rebounds. Stephon Marbury scored 31 for New York.

Earlier Monday, David Stern announced that the NBDL will expand to 4 Southwestern cities for the 2005-2006 season, CSTB’s HQ of Austin, TX being amongst them.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited about this. The team will play at Austin’s formless, SXSW-tastic Convention Center, and any excuse to spend next autumn & winter dumping on hardworking NBA hopefuls making minimum wage is only a good thing where this blog is concerned. Whether or not Austin will support such an endeavor, well…I’m no Isiah Thomas, but surely Commissioner Stern and staff have taken into account that in this football-loony town, the University of Texas’ basketball program struggles to fill the Erwin Center, and the other local minor league franchises (the CHL’s Ice Bats and the AFL’s Wranglers) have played before their share of empty chairs, too.

Anyhow, I am hopeful that the NBDL will pay homage to this city’s tremendous musical heritage and shall name the team the Austin Stegalls.

Playing Small Ball With The ChiSox

Posted in Baseball at 7:07 pm by

Sportsline’s Scott Miller on Ozzie Guillen, manufacturing runs and the death of conventional logic.

You’ve heard all about the optimism of spring, and how teams think anything is possible at this time of season?

How about the White Sox figuring they can simply hit the delete key on all kinds of statistical data that says their home ballpark is a terrific place to hit home runs?

It’s all right there in black and white: Ever since owner Jerry Reinsdorf moved in the fences following the 2000 season, the Park Formerly Known as Comiskey has served up home runs like the creepy neighborhood bachelor dishes out pickup lines.

Last year, there were an average of 3.4 home runs per game in Chicago’s South Side ballpark — easily the most in the American League.

Over the past five seasons, slugger Frank Thomas (above) has cranked 99 home runs at home … compared with 36 on the road.

So, really? The White Sox don’t play in a home run park?

“To me, our pitching and our defense weren’t strong enough (last year),” Guillen says. “Now we can win games 3-2 with a squeeze. Last year, it never went through my mind to squeeze.”

This is all relevant right now because the Sox, the AL’s lovable perennial underachievers, said farewell over the winter to slugging outfielders Carlos Lee (31 home runs, 99 RBI) and Magglio Ordonez (who had averaged 32 homers and 118 RBI in the five seasons before losing most of 2004 to a knee injury).

In their place they brought in Scott Podsednik, the former Milwaukee Brewer who swiped 70 bags last season — but has just 22 career homers in 327 major-league games. And they hired outfielder Jermaine Dye, who had 23 homers last season. And they re-signed Carl Everett, whose best days were several years ago.

And now, a team that bashed a franchise-record 242 home runs last season has re-made itself into a small-ball style club that will hit-and-run, bunt and work at being much more aggressive on the bases.

A team that joined the New York Yankees in becoming the only clubs in baseball history to belt 200 or more homers in each of five consecutive seasons will stage a throwback, back to the days of the fast-running, light-hitting Go Go Sox of Luis Aparicio and Nellie Fox of the 1950s.

Guillen, who encouraged general manager Kenny Williams to follow this plan, jokes about asking the stadium operations folks to blow off fireworks when the Sox successfully execute a squeeze bunt rather than when they belt a home run in ’05.

But make no mistake: To Guillen, this is no joking matter.

“In Chicago, everything is power every year,” Guillen says. “Home run, home run, home run. But every year, second place, second place, second place.

Guillen says he would rather have six players capable of hitting 20 homers than three who can hit 40 because “it’s still 120 home runs, but you put those three 40-homer guys out there, there probably will be a lot of solo home runs. You put those six out there and there are going to be a lot of home runs with guys on base.”

The always excitable White Sox manager is really revved up this year, because while many look at his team and wonder where all the runs are going to come from, Guillen looks at it, thinks back to last year and wonders how it can help but win.

“Since the home run era has come up in baseball, everybody forgot how to play the game,” Guillen says. “I think everybody thinks that whoever hits the most home runs, that’s who’s going to win the game.”

Paging Tobias Funke

Posted in The World Of Entertainment at 5:26 pm by

Not as hot as the INXS tryouts, but not for a lack of trying.

Rivera’s Return

Posted in Baseball at 12:19 pm by

Recovering from elbow trouble closer supreme Mariano Rivera can’t find the plate….and that’s considered progress, writes the New York Post’s George King.

Mariano Rivera morphed into Mitch Williams yesterday in a Legends Field bullpen, and the Yankees could have cared less if Rivera’s location resembled Wild Thing’s.

The most important development for Rivera and the Yankees was that his right elbow came through an extended throwing session without barking after testing it with high-octane fastballs. Rivera has been sidelined since March 12 with bursitis and the rustiness showed in his pitches to catcher Mike Borzello, not many of which cut the plate in half with several so high Borzello had to come out of his stance.

“I don’t care about control,” said Rivera (above), who tossed 40 warm-up pitches and 63 off the mound out of the stretch. “It will be fine. I care about the elbow and it’s fine. I had no doubt it would be fine.”

Good enough to work a game tomorrow night against the Phillies at Legends?

“Hopefully,” said Rivera, who has worked three innings in three games. “Obviously I have to feel good. (Yesterday) was a good day but (today) is the biggest.”

If the Yankees want to give Rivera an extra day, he could throw in a minor league game Wednesday instead of making the trip to Sarasota for a night tilt versus the Reds.

The sight of Rivera being all over the place was strange since Rivera’s strength is impeccable control and the ability to throw the ball exactly where he wants it.

“I am not worried about it, but I am not used to seeing the ball go wherever it wants,” Rivera said. “It was the first time in (eight days) that I was on the mound. I didn’t expect for the control to be all there.”

Fight Night In Philly, Canzano On Rasheed’s New Image

Posted in Basketball at 12:00 pm by

The Philadelphia Daily News’ Phil Jasper is reporting that Allen Iverson tried confronting referee Marc Davis after the Sixers’ 94-88 loss to visiting Chicago on Saturday night.

Iverson approached Davis, one of the three officials who had worked the game, and had to be restrained by teammates.

Later, Billy King, the Sixers’ president and general manager, had to calm down Iverson in the hallway outside the team’s locker room after it appeared Iverson wanted to locate the officials’ dressing room.

Iverson, in a postgame interview by his locker-room cubicle, told reporters, “I never had a referee tell me he’d whup my ass, but that’s the way it went… I basically lost it after that. That was just strange.”

He also said, “I thought at times it got personal… ”

Asked which referee he meant, Iverson responded, “I don’t even know his name.”

He then identified the referee in question as “the bald-headed guy.”

Of the three officials, including Scott Foster and Robbie Robinson, only Davis is bald.

“I was upset about a lot of the calls that were made in the game,” Iverson said. “I thought at times it got personal, because a lot of the stuff that I was saying on the floor was like going back and forth with each other all through the game, and then when the game was over, it was crazy. I never had a referee tell me he’d whup my ass, but that’s the way it went… I basically lost it after that. That was just strange.”

Later, Iverson said: “But, I mean, it had been going on all game. I thought there were a lot of missed calls. I thought there were a lot of bad calls. I just got upset about the whole thing. I went to talk to [apparently indicating Davis] after the game, and we got into a little argument, and he said he’d whup my ass.”

Iverson said there had been “words” with the referees all evening, and didn’t feel that was unusual.

“I mean, not just him – him and another referee,” Iverson said. “I think one of them, we didn’t have any words throughout the game, but, I mean, I usually have words with referees during games, so that was natural. They didn’t do anything that any other refs don’t do, or it didn’t seem any different than any other time, except for him saying what he’d do to me.”

From the Oregonian’s John Canzano.

Rasheed Wallace was awarded the NBA’s Community Assist Award for February. Source with the Blazers once told me that the team nominated Wallace several times when he was in Portand and… after a few months, the league politely informed the Blazers to not bother nominating Wallace again.

I guess the NBA has re-thought that stance.

Cavs Can Silas

Posted in Basketball at 11:46 am by

The morning after LeBron James dropped 56 points on Toronto in a losing effort, Cleveland has fired head coach Paul Silas. The Cavaliers have lost 9 of their last 12 and Silas has had a number of disputes with the likes of ex-Cav Rickey Davis and Eric Snow, as well as benching Jeff McInnis yesterday.

Prior to his tenure in Clevland, Silas had coached the Clippers and Hornets, leading the latter to 4 straight playoff appearances. During his 16 playing career, Silas, a two-time NBA All-Star, won 3 rings, two with the Celtics and one with Seattle. Your author —- suffering through a difficult childhood at the time —- once telephoned broadcasting legend Johnny Most in the middle the night to ask his opinion of Silas.

“Paul Silas……,” intoned the gravel-voiced Most “…..is a very, very good basketball player.” And then he hung up.

Mirabelli Vs. Kim

Posted in Baseball at 11:26 am by

From the Boston Herald’s Jeff Horrigan.

An exorbitant $6 million salary may result in Byung-Hyun Kim [stats, news] making the team, but the enigmatic pitcher has got a long way to go before the Red Sox [stats, schedule] accept him as a teammate.

     Kim returned to action yesterday following a two-week, flu-related absence and tossed a scoreless inning of relief in a 5-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates at McKechnie Field, but his catcher said he didn’t know what to make of the outing due to the hurler’s reluctance to communicate with him.

 It’s that apparent man-made barrier, according to Doug Mirabelli [stats, news], that has resulted in Kim’s unpopularity and ostracism from the rest of the Sox. The catcher said the 26-year-old native of Gwangju, South Korea, is capable of fitting in but curiously continues to make himself an outcast.

     “I don’t get a sense of anything from him,” Mirabelli said. “You don’t get a sense for what he’s feeling. I have no idea. He stays in his own world.”

     Kim refused to meet with reporters yesterday because assistant trainer Chang Lee, who serves as his translator during the rare occasions that the right-hander agrees to speak, was not assigned to the road game. Mirabelli said the pitcher, who came to the United States in 1999, has held onto the language barrier as a crutch for far too long.

     “I don’t know if he gets the concept of a teammate or if he grasps that,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s a knock against him that he doesn’t grasp that, but people have tried to help him out. You’ve got to give him some leeway for language but at some point (you realize) he does speak more than he lets on. So at that point, you start to think he’s making that choice.”

Mirabelli said it’s difficult to gauge if Kim even cares about what the Sox think.

     “What happens when you’re a good teammate, when you go through tough times, your team’s behind you and supports you and helps you get through that,” he said. “When he goes through tough times, he doesn’t have anybody to lean on. You try to reach out early on and try to get some kind of feedback, but he doesn’t really give a lot of feedback.

     “I mean, everybody here’s willing to be a good teammate. Everybody’s a good teammate to each other. Why wouldn’t we be a good teammate to him? We’re not segregating him out of anything. He’s choosing to be over there (by himself). That’s his choice, not ours.’

Back To The Future : John DeLorean, RIP

Posted in Automobiles at 12:03 am by

John Z. DeLorean, one time G.M. of Packard, Pontiac and Chevrolet, and maverick founder of the DeLorean Auto Co., has passed away at the age of 80.

DeLorean, best known as the creator of the ill-fated DMC-12 and one time target of the federal government in a cocaine sting, deserves credit for producing a car whose iconic status looms far larger than any vehicle with only 9000 owners ought to possess.


General Heaps Hate On Hoosier Program

Posted in Basketball at 11:52 pm by

Perhaps the only satisfying thing about Texas Tech eliminating Gonzaga yesterday is that said upset has provided coach Bobby Knight with more opportunities to share the love.

“I stayed at Indiana six years too long because of the administration. The administration handled a lot of things poorly,” Knight told Sporting News Radio on Saturday, after his Red Raiders upset Gonzaga to reach the Sweet 16. “I was working for an athletic director [former IU AD Clarence Doninger] that didn’t know his [expletive] from third base. I ended up staying because of the kids that I liked and the people I did like rather than focusing on the real negatives there.”

Knight, who coached at Indiana for 29 years and won three national championships, was fired in 2000 for violating a “zero tolerance” behavior policy by grabbing the arm of a student who he said greeted him by his last name. Knight sued two years later, claiming the university violated his employment contract. The lawsuit was eventually dismissed.

Knight also doesn’t think much of Mike Davis, his successor with the Hoosiers. Indiana missed the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year, and the Hoosiers lost in the first round of the NIT.

“They created that for themselves,” Knight said in the Sporting News Radio interview. “The guy that’s coaching there [Mike Davis] is a guy that I told Pat [Knight, his son and assistant coach] we were going to replace at the end of the season. There’s no way that I would have kept the guy any longer than that. [But] That’s their [Indiana] problem.”

Lennon On the Mets’ New Wildman

Posted in Baseball at 11:28 pm by

With the Ishii/Phillips trade done and dusted, Newsday’s David Lennon explores the reasons why Los Angeles was so willing to part with left-handed starter.

Getting Kaz Ishii was the easy part. Turning him into a more efficient pitcher, and having the patience to do so, might prove to be more difficult.

Just ask the Dodgers. Rather than stomach another season of watching Ishii struggle to find the plate, they traded him to the Mets yesterday for catcher Jason Phillips and also paid a significant chunk of Ishii’s salary, roughly $2 million of the $5.4 million he is guaranteed through 2005.

The Mets know all about Ishii’s. wildness, but after losing Steve Trachsel to back surgery for a minimum of three months, they figured the Japanese lefthander would be a quick fix for that vacant No. 5 spot.

Ishii has a nasty habit of putting people on base, having walked 106, 101 and 98 in the last three seasons. Pitching coach Rick Peterson already had his hands full with the erratic Victor Zambrano, and now the Mets have another project in Ishii. But general manager Omar Minaya does not seem overly concerned.

“Some guys have a way of pitching like that,” Minaya said. “The walks are there. But when you look at what he’s done in the past, and you look at the five guys we have, it’s comforting to have that guy.”

The Mets obviously did not feel as good about their in-house options for the role of fifth starter, with Matt Ginter, Jae Seo and Aaron Heilman having totaled only 21 wins during their brief major-league careers.

Ishii is 36-25 in three seasons, but his style frustrated Dodgers manager Jim Tracy, and the rift between the two reached the point of no return.

“That’s what is unique about him,” Dodgers pitching coach Jim Colborn said. “He does stuff that is self-destructive, but he still winds up being successful. That’s one of his strengths. He’s unbelievable in the clutch. He seems to need his back against the wall to pitch his best.”

Ishii has the repertoire to get batters out. A deceptive delivery gives his 88-mph fastball a little more jump, and he mixes in a cut fastball, changeup and curve.

But just like Zambrano, whose pitches can be unhittable at times, the problem is consistency. When Colborn was asked yesterday what pitch Ishii has trouble with, the coach joked, “A strike.”

Helton Outed, Denies ‘Roid Use

Posted in Baseball at 11:17 pm by

From MLB.com

Colorado Rockies first baseman Todd Helton said Sunday he should not have to defend himself against an insinuation from one of the team’s former broadcasters — a statement that was later retracted — that he has used steroids.

St. Louis Cardinals radio broadcaster Wayne Hagin, who broadcast the Rockies’ games from their 1993 inception through 2002, told St. Louis’ ESPN Radio affiliate in an interview on Saturday that Helton was using “the juice” — common slang for steroids — until then-Rockies manager Don Baylor told him to stop.

But Baylor said in Sunday’s editions of The Denver Post that Hagin was referring to “the wrong drug.” It was creatine (or creatine monohydrate), a legal, over-the-counter nutritional supplement designed to help build muscle mass.

By Sunday, an ESPN national show read a statement from Hagin saying that his original statement was “erroneous.” Hagin acknowledged that the substance in question was not steroids.

“I’ve never used steroids and I don’t know why he’d come out and say that, especially when he doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” Helton said. “I’ve been told he retracted it and said he didn’t know what he was talking about. And all he did was cause me grief.

“I’ve worked hard my whole life to get to where I am and it’s amazing one guy can say something, not knowing what he’s talking about, obviously making a mistake and now I have to defend myself. And that’s very unfortunate but that’s the way it works. But, like I said, I’ve never used steroids and I never need to.”

Clearly, Helton doesn’t have the benefit of Mark McGwire’s great legal advice and is willing to talk about the past.

Liverpool 2, Everton 1

Posted in Football at 11:08 pm by

Sunday’s Setanta PPV match saw Liverpool narrow the gap between themselves and 4th place Everton. The Guardian’s Kevin McCarra was at Anfield for this hotly contested derby.

While managers ought generally to be prohibited from gurning over missing players, a special exemption will have to be granted for Rafael Benítez. The Spaniard’s English vocabulary has mostly been enhanced by medical terminology since he arrived in this country.

Stephen Warnock, Fernando Morientes and Dietmar Hamann all had to be replaced before the interval, so preventing Benítez from savouring his team’s superiority as Liverpool won a Merseyside derby at Anfield for the first time in five years. The manager’s contentment will also be undermined by a weakness in one of his players that had nothing to do with strained muscles or twisted joints.

After 77 minutes Milan Baros (above) was as rash in the challenge as he had been in his finishing and lunged at Alan Stubbs in a manner that ensured a red card. Benítez could not bear to make eye contact with the Czech as he left the pitch but could surely visualise what would happen next and, within five minutes, Everton had scored as Tim Cahill rifled in a shot from Duncan Ferguson’s knock-down.

At the end it was understandable that a generally reserved manager should join the huddle of celebrating players on the pitch. Joy has to be grabbed because it vanishes swiftly for men in his position. Benítez was soon talking vaguely about the “two or three weeks” for which the experienced pair of Morientes and Hamann will be absent.

Neyer’s Picks To Flop In 2005

Posted in Baseball at 3:43 pm by

ESPN.com’s Rob Neyer projects reversals of fortune for Vinny Castilla, Moises Alou, Carlos Guillen, Al Leiter and most amusingly, the Yankees’ 2B Tony Womack.

I wish I’d been a fly on the wall when the board of directors got together to discuss Tony Womack. Did anybody mention that he’s 35 and that 2004 might have been the best season of his career? Did anybody mention that his still-impressive speed has relatively little value in the American League East, where only last-place teams bother to steal bases? Did anybody mention that the last thing the Yankees need is an out-making middle infielder who’s a butcher with the glove? General manager Brian Cashman’s a bright fellow, so I can only assume he was overruled on this one.

AHL Playoff Ringers, Courtesy of Mike Keenan

Posted in Hockey at 10:00 am by

From Newsday’s Bruce Berlet.

Mike Keenan has been a lightning rod for years, from benching top players to aggravating opponents.

Until last week, the Florida Panthers general manager had limited his dealings to the NHL. Now some believe he has made a travesty of the AHL, loaning San Antonio’s top two prospects, forward Stephen Weiss and defenseman Jay Bouwmeester (above), to Chicago for cash. Then the Panthers sent standout defenseman Joel Kwiatkowski to St. John’s and loaned former Wolf Pack wing Paul Healey to Edmonton.

Loans are made every year as teams try to improve before finalizing playoff rosters and in-residence lists, which must be submitted by noon today. The Pack loaned John Jakopin to Binghamton last year, but the defenseman had become a spare. Weiss, the Rampage’s leading scorer, and Bouwmeester, a standout for gold medal-winning Canada in the 2003 world championships, were third and fourth overall picks that would be in the NHL if not for the lockout. Can’t imagine West Division teams, especially then first-place Milwaukee, were pleased when they learned of Chicago’s inheritance.

Keenan said he wanted Weiss and Bouwmeester to get playoff experience as pros. The Rampage were 11 points out of the final playoff spot in the West Division but had a quarter of the season left. What Keenan didn’t say is the independently owned Wolves, 5-0 since the deal, reportedly paid Florida $50,000 for the duo and will fork over another $50,000 for each playoff round they win, an AHL source said.

But what about San Antonio fans, especially season ticket holders? Can they get 25 percent of their money back? The Rampage have 11 of their final 15 postloan games at home after being away for 12 games because a rodeo was in town.

“It’s ridiculous, just really bad business,” Lowell coach Tom Rowe said. “I don’t understand how it can happen. I guess I’m a little more sensitive because, on the business side in Lowell, if someone had done that to us I would have been really upset. San Antonio ownership is a class organization and doing everything they can to sell tickets and have a successful franchise. When you see your two best players leave town, it’s kind of demoralizing.

“The other side of it is the poor kids who are still there. I just don’t know how the heck that’s right. I guess Chicago is the New York Yankees of our league.”

The AHL is not to blame for Keenan’s moves, which were legal but sent plenty of bad messages, including to Rampage players, who had to wonder why Bouwmeester earned a promotion after being a team-worst minus-22. They showed how they felt by losing 2-1, 1-0 and 8-0 in the five days following the March 8 deal.

Mushnick In Funny Joke Shocker….

Posted in Sports Journalism at 9:48 am by

…and the world spins off its axis. From today’s New York Post :

Dick Vitale will return to ESPN before the Final Four having yesterday undergone a hernia operation, one he’d been putting off despite causing constant pain that apparently caused him to shout while on air.

An Apology

Posted in Rock Und Roll at 2:46 am by

Dear Friends,

On Friday, I opined that recomendations to see a band that sounded like later-period Soul Asylum fronted by Charles Nelson Reilly (above) came from persons with double-digit musical IQ’s.

This of course, was horribly unfair. Said recomendations came from persons with single-digit musical IQ’s.

But seriously folks, no matter how diabolical the band in question truly was, I hope it is understood by all that making value judgements according to others’ musical tastes is terribly juvenille and should not be encouraged. Though I cannot fathom why a singer who makes Jello Biafra sound like Mario Lanza is a good thing, I will defend to my dying breath the right of others to enjoy, if not champion, such artists.


Tourney Turmoil

Posted in Basketball at 7:49 pm by

(is your bracket looking as good as Mark Pancratz’ ?)

After a 48 hour stretch that’s seen Kansas, Syracuse, Gonzaga and B.C. all crash out of the field of 32, all I can say is, thank the lord (or Tom Osbounre) that gambling is illegal. Kind of.

From the Washington Post’s Liz Clarke, as the scene in Vegas.

Betting on college sports threatens the integrity of the games, in the view of Bill Saum, the NCAA’s director of agent, gambling and amateurism activities. At worst, it exposes college athletes to pressure from criminal elements conspiring to fix the outcome of games. At its most benign, it sends mixed signals about the propriety of gambling, whether on sports, slots, poker or pool.

Others see no foul in adults gambling on college sports and argue that banning it would simply drive the action underground, below the radar of the regulatory bodies that police Nevada’s gaming industry. Frank Fahrenkopf Jr., the gaming industry’s chief lobbyist, likens legal sports wagering to “a canary in a mineshaft” — sounding the first alarm that something pernicious is in the air.

“Miners in the old days always brought a canary in a cage with them down the shaft, because with the first elements of gas, the canary would die,” Fahrenkopf says. “The first warning signal of the last major-college points-shaving case, at Arizona State, was picked up by the legal sports books in Nevada, which noticed irregular wagering going on, reported it to the FBI and pulled the game” off the betting boards.

For now the college-gambling issue has lost traction in Congress. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a chief proponent of a ban, recently indicated he’ll set it aside — at least until the next point-shaving scandal.

Given the money swirling around college sports and the number of athletes who feel they should get a piece of the pie, that’s just a matter of time in the view of Robert Walker, who sets the lines for MGM’s five race and sports books, including the Mirage. But he thinks it would be foolish to shoot the messenger.

“The only thing that Las Vegas cares about, contrary to public belief, is the integrity of that game,” Walker says. “We want to make sure that no matter what side you bet, you have faith in that game.”

For the record, I too, see no foul in adults gambling on college sports. It’s the losing I can’t stand.

Alomar Retires

Posted in Baseball at 2:16 pm by

In a move that comes about 3 years too late for the New York Mets, veteran 2B Roberto Alomar has announced his retirement, as has Tampa Bay teammate, OF Danny Bautista. Released just days ago by the Tigers, OF Alex Sanchez has signed a free agent contract with the Devil Rays.

The addition of Sanchez and subtraction of Bautista probably moves the former to center field, with Carl Crawford shifting to left, at least until Rocco Baldeli returns.

Going Hog Wild With Hogzilla

Posted in Going To The Zoo at 1:55 pm by

After teasing us with the time-testing queary “who is the thug” for several weeks, The New York Times switches gears and asks “what is the hog?” Thanks to Sam Frank for the link to the following item by Shaila Dewain.

Drinking a mixture of Fanta Cherry and Pibb Extreme on his lunch break, Mr. Griffin, (above right) 32, told the story he has told a thousand times: He was picking up after hunters when he saw the hog. He grabbed a rifle from his truck and fired. “I shot him, and he turned around and walked off, and I thought, how’d I miss something that big?” Mr. Griffin said. He said he followed the hog into the swamps, where it collapsed and died. Mr. Griffin said he managed to drag it out with a backhoe.

Mr. Holyoak said he measured Hogzilla “with a ruler” and drove the hog in his flatbed truck to a peanut scale. The meat was too gamey to eat, he said, and the pig was too expensive to stuff, so he told Mr. Griffin to bury it.

But before they laid Hogzilla to rest, Mr. Holyoak shot a picture of the pig trussed up by the hind legs, dangling from the backhoe. Later, he had six people sign affidavits saying they had seen the 1,000-pound wild hog (each signer circled “alive” or “dead”).