03.29.06

Hear Nothing, See Nothing, Say Nothing : QPR Play Out The String Against Stoke

Posted in Football at 4:38 pm by

QPR 1, Stoke City 2

Inept defending, midfield indifference (hello, Marc Bircham!) and a first half penalty muff by Gareth Ainsworth that even Discharge’s Cal could’ve stopped, conspired to sink QPR Tuesday evening, 2-1 losers to Stoke City at Loftus Road.


(the Potters’ Hans Sigurdsson can hardly believe Rangers are so careless on their own turf).

Yours truly could’ve enjoyed the televised splendors of Inter’s 2-1 win over Villarreal in the Champions League, but instead opted for the live drudgery of the nothing-left-to-play-for Superhoops. 28 quid is a lot of money to watch the R’s struggle without Kevin Gallen, but I had to double that toll when I arrived at will call and my ticket was nowhere to be found. Good old Rangers, some things never change.

New Yorker To Sultan Of Surly : Drop Dead

Posted in Baseball at 4:23 pm by

writes Ben Schwartz,

Or, at least, that’s what they mean by this week’s cartoon cover in their own wry, understated, Uptown way. Bonds has offered no comment, nor wry, understated, witty cartoon, in response.

Milton Bradley Fails To Pummel Abusive Fan

Posted in Baseball at 12:05 pm by

The San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser is on the scene with Oakland’s master of restraint, Milton Bradley.

“The only thing people know about me is I get p — off, so the only thing they try to do is p — me off,” the right fielder said a week ago. “Now all the little things people do to p — me off doesn’t work.”

Case in point: A few innings into Tuesday’s game, a fan down the right-field line began to yell racial slurs at Bradley. Bradley simply informed the umpiring crew and second-base umpire Ted Barrett had security remove the fan after the inning was over. There was so little fuss, many in the stadium didn’t even notice.

Bradley went 0-for-3 in Tuesday’s 8-3 victory over the Rangers and he is batting .200 for the spring, but he is not remotely troubled by that.

“I’ve been trying to work out some kinks in my swing, and it feels good,” he said Tuesday morning. “That’s my main concern. I can’t put much stock in spring training (numbers). One year, I hit .360 with six home runs, the next year, I had seven hits all spring. When the season starts, I’ll be fine. When it’s game time, there’s just a different focus. And I’m looking forward to having a good year.”

The AP is reporting Cleveland CF Grady Sizemore has signed a 6 year, $23.5 million contract extension, a pact described as the largest ever signed by a player with less than two years major league service time.

The agreement includes an $8.5 million club option for 2012 with a $500,000 buyout. If the option is exercised, the deal would total $31.45 million over seven seasons, and the option price could increase to $10.5 million depending on whether Sizemore is an All-Star, Gold Glove or Silver Slugger or does well in MVP voting.

Blazers’ Przybilla : It’s Quittin’ Time!

Posted in Basketball at 10:48 am by

More Trailblazers turmoil, as chronicled by The Oregonian’s Jason Quick

The darkest day of the Trail Blazers’ season may have arrived Tuesday when co-captain Joel Przybilla said his future with the team might be in jeopardy because of the way some teammates have given up on the season.

Przybilla (above), a fan favorite and a player whom coach Nate McMillan singles out for his hard work, becomes a free agent on July 1. He has spent much of the season saying his top priority is to re-sign with Portland, but after a dismal second half, which has included 22 losses in 25 games, the 7-foot-1 center says he will look elsewhere this summer unless changes are made.

“When the season is over, it’s going to be a big decision for me, and a lot is going to be determined by what team they bring back,” Przybilla said. “Because I’m telling you, this is tough, it’s real tough.

The Best Bench In Baseball Just Got Better

Posted in Baseball at 3:28 am by

The above headline is supplied by Ben Schwartz, who writes the following, after noting the Cubs have placed Mark Prior and Kerry Wood on the disabled list to start the 2006 campaign ;

The guy from Fire Dusty Baker, who has officially made me the second least forgiving Cub fan alive, picked up on what Paul Harvey likes to call ‘the rest of the story,’ by following up on the Cubs hoped-for Walker for Graffanino trade after it fell through.

“Let me get this straight…

The Cubs tried like hell to trade Todd Walker for Tony Graffanino. The deal could not be closed so the Red Sox put Graffanino on waivers. Now the Cubs can just pick him up, but suddenly they have no intrest in him. This brings up two points:

First, they really are trying that hard to dump Walker, huh?

Second, Hendry really did over-estimate Walker’s value when he re-signed him this off-season by a lot. I mean, the Sox were going to cut Graffanino anyway, and didn’t even want a free player. Wow.”

Cooking With Fabregas

Posted in Football at 3:15 am by

Arsenal 2, Juventus 0 (Champions League, QF, first leg)

Sorry, I think I deserve just a little credit for not going with “Absolutely Fabregas”.

All of a sudden, Arsenal’s loss of Patrick Viera last season seems a little less devestating. Not only is the (mostly) young Gunners side coming into its own with poised showings against Europe’s toughtest competition — last night’s impressive display following Arsenal’s ouster of Real Madrid — but the home side’s composure was in stark contrast to the 2nd half meltdown suffered by Fabio Capello’s men. From the Telegraph’s Henry Winter.

If Cesc Fabregas’ name danced merrily on the lips of every Arsenal fan as they strolled into the ground last night, then mention of Kolo Toure surely featured in ensuing utterances. Organised superbly by Toure, Arsenal’s defence equalled AC Milan’s Champions League record of seven successive clean sheets.

Juventus coach Fabio Capello must have secretly admired the mobility and steel of Toure and his defensive cohorts, particularly as his own back five cost £100 million – 20 times more than Wenger’s rearguard. Toure was magnificent, even inflicting two stealthy tackles on Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who wore the bemused look of someone belatedly realising he had been pickpocketed.

This compelling first leg was played at an intensity and speed that Juventus failed to match. At times it resembled an FA Cup tie, although the only Englishman to touch the ball was Brian Barwick, the Football Association’s watching chief executive, who caught a wayward clearance from Zebina.

The foreign hearts in the Arsenal ranks were filled with an English passion as they tore into esteemed guests, the sixth-placed side in the Premiership giving a wonderful advertisement for the English league. The suggestion that Arsenal would struggle against more physical European opponents, and would melt when Vieira and Emerson crunched into challenges, was soon mocked.

Even Robert Pires, who would normally struggle to tackle a petit fours, flew into challenges on Vieira. The thought must briefly have passed through troubled Italian minds: had they plucked the wrong French ball-winner from Highbury? “Welcome Home Patrick – Toujours the Fantastique 4″ read one banner on the North Bank. Nobody had bothered to add anything about Pires tackling him.

I didn’t get to see last night’s Benfica/Barcelona match in its entirety, but there’s a pair of saves at Ronaldinho’s expense that ought be shown on “SportsCenter” in an endless loop. “What Chris D’abaldo is to Saliva,” I can already hear John Buccigross intoning, “Moretto de Souz is to Benfica”.

Hometown Boor Bashes Bruins

Posted in Basketball at 2:52 am by

After the ethical lapses of Jim Harrick and the abomination that was Steve Lavin’s hair, you’d think there’d be tremendous civic pride over the recent achievements of Ben Howland’s UCLA basketball team. Think again, suggests the LA Times’ resident pain in the neck Bill Plaschke, who thinks the Bruins are so dull, “UCLA could win a national title and get hurt in recruiting.”


(Cedric Bozeman spies Plaschke ducking out to purchase nachos during Saturday’s UCLA/Memphis trudgefest)

The scoreboard flickered with the sort of numbers that Southern Californians love.

At a football game.

The playing surface was littered with the sort of diving stops and up-the-middle defense that Southern Californians adore.

At Dodger Stadium.

To many in its hometown, UCLA’s return to college basketball’s Final Four with a 50-45 regional championship victory over Memphis on Saturday was more confusing than cathartic.

This is fun?

This is entertaining?

This is L.A.?

More Deadwood than Hollywood, the cold-blooded Bruins are two winnable games from making their town’s sports fans face a long-dreaded question.

What if a national championship is brought to Los Angeles by a bore?

Why was Saturday’s 10.2 Los Angeles rating for the Memphis game only one-third the rating the game received in Memphis, and less than one-third the rating of other recent L.A. teams in playoffs and World Series and bowl games?

And did you talk to anyone after the game, or after any of the first four UCLA tournament victories?

The three words I have heard most often are “A great game.”

But the next three words, spoken in the same breath, are “Hard to watch.”

Shenin : MLB Is Parity-tastic

Posted in Baseball at 1:59 am by

Citing the White Sox’s improbable championship run last season, the Washington Post’s wishful thinker Dave Shenin declares “It’s Anyone’s Ballgame”.

In hindsight, the White Sox’ success should not have been so unexpected simply because they were mediocre the year before. In fact, they were the fourth team in five years to win the World Series after logging 85 or fewer wins the year before — including two champions (the 2003 Florida Marlins and the 2002 Anaheim Angels) who had losing records the year before.

So, with the dawn of the 2006 season upon us, we say to thee: Have faith, Milwaukee (manager Ned Yost, shown above). Hang in there, Arizona. Believe, Baltimore. This really could be your year.

If the period from roughly 1995 to 2001 will be known forever as the Steroid Era, perhaps this one will be known as the Parity Era. The evidence, as it was in the last era, is right in front of our eyes:

Eight different NL pennant winners in the last eight years. Four straight unique AL champs. Six different teams winning the World Series in the last six years. In the last five years, almost half the teams in baseball — 13 out of 30 — have played in a league championship series. And by our count, there are perhaps 17 teams good enough to win it all this season.

“It’s not like it used to be a few years ago, when you felt like only a few teams could win it all,” Washington Nationals Manager Frank Robinson said. “Look at our division [the NL East]. Any one of us could have won it in the last month.”

Perhaps instead of the “Parity Era,” we should call this one the “Era of Fundamental Soundness.”

Gaze at the Big Picture of Baseball over the last few years, and you can almost sense a sea change coming over the game. In the post-steroid era, the impact of the long ball clearly is diminished, and what is taking its place is a renewed emphasis on pitching, defense, athleticism, teamwork — all the things the 2005 White Sox, like the 2002 Angels and the 2003 Marlins, possessed in large quantities. (The 2004 Boston Red Sox? We’ll call them the exception that proves the rule.)

If anything, the trend should accelerate in 2006, the first year in which amphetamines are banned from the game — which is expected to result in starting players getting more frequent days off, and making the quality of a team’s bench that much more important.

Computer Associates’ Islanders Scam

Posted in Hockey, The Law at 1:49 am by

Perhaps someone other than Stan Fischler should’ve done the accounting? Newsday’s Mark Harrington on the forthcoming Richards/Kumar trial.

A fondness for exotic cars, “frequent” personal use of a Gulfstream V corporate jet and a $51-million loan backed by his restricted Computer Associates stock to buy one-third of the New York Islanders all may play cameo roles in the upcoming securities-fraud trial of two former CA executives.

In papers filed this month in advance of the trial in May, federal prosecutors said they intended to make an issue of the stock holdings and “lavish lifestyle” of former chief executive Sanjay Kumar (above, left) and co-defendant Stephen Richards to allege they had motives to manipulate the company’s books in the $2.2 billion accounting scandal. Kumar and Richards have pleaded not guilty to securities fraud, obstruction of justice and conspiracy charges.

In one of the more illuminating sections of the March 3 filing, the government draws a direct correlation between the $51 million line of credit Kumar secured on June 30, 2000, to buy his Islanders interest and the company’s July 3, 2000, announcement that it would miss financial projections. The latter disclosure, released just before midnight during the July 4 holiday weekend, caused CA stock to plummet 43 percent, or a collective $13 billion, when the market reopened July 5.

Kumar was able to use restricted CA stock as collateral for the loan because the CA board had voted days before the purchase to ease a restriction on the sale or transferral of the stock, prosecutors said. The vote took place the same day a Delaware court approved a settlement forcing key CA executives to return 4.5 million shares of stock from the plan.

“The Islanders purchase likely caused the 35-day month practice to extend for more quarters than it might have otherwise existed,” prosecutors charged.

The 35-day month refers to CA’s extending financial quarters beyond their close date so that more sales could be piled on, a violation of federal securities law.

Whammo!

Posted in Baseball at 12:01 am by

With no available videotape, the Associated Press photographer Brita Meng Outzen provides the Boston Globe with a blow-by-blow description of Monday’s brawl between Boston’s Julian Tavares and Tampa Bay’s Joey Gathright.

Rocker Still Smarting Over Glavine Blow-Off

Posted in Baseball at 12:00 am by

Sorry I missed the following item from Monday’s New York Daily News and T.J. Quinn, but I’ve actually had to read it a second time just to be certain that John Rocker hasn’t accomplished the near-impossible : he’s made Tom Glavine seem like a sympathetic figure.

Former Atlanta Braves pitcher John Rocker said he didn’t want to be “pigeonholed” as a bad boy last night, but then he took a few shots at onetime teammate Tom Glavine on the “Daily News Live” show on Sportsnet New York.

“He’s had a few comments to make against myself that I thought were out of line and really sort of unnecessary and people took his side because he was the more mainstay Braves guy,” Rocker said. “I just really thought as far as reaching out to younger players and reaching out to his teammates, somebody who could ‘rah-rah’ in the clubhouse, really kind of stayed to himself. … You walk past him in the hall, he wouldn’t even look at you.”

Rocker said he idolized the Braves growing up in Macon, Ga., and didn’t like the cold shoulder he got from Glavine.

“You know, to go and get something to eat and sit down at a table with him for 10 minutes after a game and you grew up idolizing him and he won’t even look at you, that’s rude. Maybe that’s just his personality and he’s a quiet guy, but to me it was rude,” Rocker said.

03.28.06

The Cyborg-Sense Of Danny Fortson

Posted in Basketball at 11:10 pm by

This would explain an awful lot. (link culled from True Hoop).

Reggie : Must…Kill…The Bronx

Posted in Baseball, Ugly New Stadiums at 10:40 pm by

The AP and the New York Times on the continued attempts to make the new Yankee Stadium a reality, regardless of whether the neighborhood wants it or not.

Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson testified Tuesday when the New York Yankees pushed their proposal for a new $800 million ballpark before a City Council subcommittee.

Jackson (above), who acts as an adviser to the Yankees, said he’d had his share of fights with owner George Steinbrenner. And he said he knew the relationship between the Yankees and the neighborhood wasn’t always great.

”You can’t change the past,” he said. ”I do think there’s an opportunity to engage with people who are trying to help.”

Jackson’s testimony added drama to a packed hearing that had plenty of emotion but wasn’t even expected to result in a vote. Various committee and full council votes on the 53,000-seat stadium plans are expected on April 5.

Jackson’s entreaties that city leaders ”engage” with Yankees officials pushing for a new South Bronx stadium across from their current one caused some council members to bristle.

”It’s an uneven relationship, and it’s almost abusive,” said Councilwoman Helen Foster, who represents the Bronx neighborhood.

She cited longtime stresses on the impoverished neighborhood — traffic among them — resulting from the Yankees’ presence. She questioned whether the current plans were taking Yankees fans’ concerns more seriously than those of Bronx residents.

Linda Florence, who lives near the stadium, said she didn’t mind the Yankees getting a new ballpark. But she’s worried about the loss of green space in a neighborhood where it’s scarce.

”Don’t take away the parks that are central to our neighborhood,” she told the council.

Adam Arce, who works in security for the Yankees, said a new ballpark would be a boost for the team and nearby businesses.

”This is a trigger,” he said. ”This is a starting point.”

Councilman Charles Barron, questioning the Yankees’ commitment to the largely minority neighborhood, asked team president Randy Levine how many upper echelon ballclub officials were minorities. Levine said he found the question ”offensive.”

Packer Plugs The Final Three (Plus One)

Posted in Basketball at 6:00 pm by

The superb recent performances of several schools that we’ll charitably call not-exactly-national-powerhouses have done little to quell CBS’s Billy Packer, writes the Chicago Tribune’s Teddy Greenstein.

Billy Packer–a.k.a. the Scourge of the Missouri Valley Conference, the Enemy of the (Wichita) State–was as feisty as ever while speaking with reporters Monday to promote CBS Sports’ coverage of the Final Four.

Again he did not back down from those who accused him of showing bias toward the major conferences.

He pointed out that in the final Associated Press poll, none of the 72 voters ranked George Mason among the Top 25 teams.

“Now I don’t see anybody clamoring for members of the AP [poll] to apologize for not giving George Mason a vote,” Packer said.

“That would be ridiculous … I find this rather stupefying that it’s: `Billy Packer made this horrendous mistake.’ I’m in the majority. There was no one in the country, no knowledgeable observer of basketball, who had George Mason playing Wichita State [in the Sweet 16]. So why would anybody apologize for that?”

Packer, though, confirmed he had seen very little, if any, Missouri Valley competition during the season.

But he said that didn’t change his view that the committee should have recognized that the power conferences had dominated the tournament in past years.

Said Packer: “You’d have to say that what the Valley did this year in the tournament should certainly give them some weight in the future.”

It’s Official : Bannister Wins 5th Spot In Mets Rotation, Heilman To Relieve

Posted in Baseball at 5:34 pm by

For those who’ve not followed the Mets’ seeming indifference towards Aaron Heliman, this might seem like a 3rd string quarterback controversy. But when there are questions marks surrounding spots 1-4 in the Mets rotation (Pedro’s toe, Glavine’s 80 mph fastball, Steve Trachsel and Victor Zambrano being, well, Steve Trachsel and Victor Zambrano) and Heilman was declared untouchable in at least one rumored offseason deal, at the very least, this is a 2nd string quarterback controversy. From Newsday’s David Lennon.

The bullpen phone rang for Aaron Heilman shortly before 9 o’clock yesterday morning, when the pitcher formerly known as the Mets’ No. 5 starter was called into the manager’s office and told his job title had changed.

Brian Bannister soon followed, and in a matter of minutes, the Mets had pulled off their best trade of spring training without going outside the organization. Or so they hope. Promoting Bannister on the strength of his Grapefruit League resume is a calculated risk, and giving him Heilman’s spot makes it even more so.

“I look at it as, ‘What makes our club better?’” manager Willie Randolph said. “Both deserve to be in the rotation. We have some questions with [Jorge] Julio coming in late and [Duaner] Sanchez getting acclimated. But Aaron [Heilman] just makes that nucleus out there that much better.

“That’s all. And that’s not to say really that this is etched in stone. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. This is about what’s best for the team at this point in time.”

The key word being “team.” Heilman was not exactly thrilled after receiving the news, and the Mets are fortunate he doesn’t have Jose Lima’s flair for public speaking or there may have been some early morning fireworks in the clubhouse.

The Mets are also fortunate Heilman doesn’t share Jose’s flair for pitching. Lima Time allowed 5 runs, all earned, in two innings of labor earlier today, as Florida beat New York, 12-7.

ESPN’s marketplace maven Darren Rovell reports that when and if Barry Bonds passes Henry Aaron’s all-time mark of 755 career home runs, Major League Baseball “will in some way formally celebrate.” As opposed to the day the Sultan Of Surly retires, a moment MLB plans to unofficially commemorate with a huge party most of us aren’t invited to.

Released by the Red Sox on Monday, 2B Tony Graffanino was picked up waivers today by Kansas City.

16 year veteran Marquis Grissom has declared his retirement after failing to land a job with the Cubs

Hoosiers Hire Sampson

Posted in Basketball at 5:08 pm by

Bob Huggins has been in the Big 12 less than a week and the competition’s already running for cover. From the Sports Network.

Kelvin Sampson has reportedly agreed to leave Oklahoma to take the men’s basketball head coaching vacancy at Indiana.

Sampson would replace Mike Davis at the storied program, according to the Bloomington Herald Times, and an official announcement could come as early as Wednesday.

In 12 years at Oklahoma, Sampson has compiled a 279-109 record. The Sooners have been to the postseason every season since he arrived for the 1994-95 campaign and have reached the NCAA Tournament 11 times.

Sampson’s tenure in Norman was highlighted by a run to the Final Four in 2002, which ended with a loss to Davis’ Indiana squad in the national semifinals.

The North Carolina native guided the Sooners to nine consecutive 20-win seasons and has the highest winning percentage (.719) in school history.

Sampson led Oklahoma to three straight Big 12 Tournament championships (2001-03) and the Sooners played in the title game five times in the last eight campaigns.

The two-time national coach of the year has a career record of 455-257 in 23 years with Oklahoma, Washington State and Montana Tech.

Mind Crimes, Redefined

Posted in Baseball, Rock Und Roll at 4:15 pm by

Metal Mike might’ve moved to San Diego, but his aesthetic lives on in Flushing. From what even Chris Ballard would agree is the bane of all internet activity, Blabbermouth.net (thanks to Maura Johnston for the tip).

QUEENSRŸCHE frontman Geoff Tate will sing the national anthem at the New York Mets/Washington Nationals game Shea Stadium in Flushing, New York on April 5 at 7:10 p.m. According to a posting on QUEENSRŸCHE’s official web site, the anthem will be aired live during the radio broadcast and after the anthem, a mention will be made of the group’s new album, “Operation: Mindcrime II”.

“Operation: Mindcrime II” is scheduled for release on April 4 via Rhino. Legendary heavy metal vocalist Ronnie James Dio (BLACK SABBATH, DIO, RAINBOW) makes a guest appearance on the album as “Dr. X”.

Bruce Ratner Vs. Tomorrow’s Leaders

Posted in Basketball at 12:51 pm by

From The New York Daily News’ Hugh Son.

The controversial Atlantic Yards project shouldn’t get $100 million in state funds until a desperately needed Sunset Park high school is built, a Brooklyn elected official said.

The stalled high school project – promised and then scrapped three times in 37 years – is more deserving of state funding than developer Bruce Ratner’s $3.5 billion arena, office and residential tower project, said state Sen. Velmanette Montgomery (D-Fort Greene).

“There shouldn’t be any dollars going to that arena until that high school is built. Period,” Montgomery told the Daily News.

The $93 million school project – in limbo amid budget disputes between Gov. Pataki and the city – should “definitely go to the top of the list” for funding, Montgomery added.

Education advocates and Sunset Park parents fear the school will be shelved yet again amid an ongoing battle regarding at least $4.7 billion courts have ruled the state owes city schoolchildren.

A Ratner spokesman declined to comment.

If you’re searcing for a gift for Shaquille O’Neal, a copy of Who’s Who In The NBA might be a good place to start.

On the occassion of Danny Fortson’s 30th birthday, consider the following statement :

Danny is just a great human being no matter what may be written about him!

Randy Johnson, Father Of The Year

Posted in Baseball at 12:14 pm by

Though the good folks at the New York Daily News were unable to provide a compelling enough snapshot of The Little Unit (She-Unit?), thanks to the wonders of Photoshop, I am counting on someone to deliver the goods to CSTB very shortly. Thank you.

Rangers Waive Durazo

Posted in Basketball at 11:52 am by

Designated Hitter Erubiel Durazo and P John Wasdin have been released by Texas.

While the Rangers have no shortage of players who can DH or play first, it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see Durazo (above) on someone’s major league roster by opening day. Personally, I’d refer to see him go head-to-head in a televised tryout versus Carlos Pena on Saturday night, kind of the like the NCAA tournament’s play-in game (or the first season of “Dream Job”, only with less talking).

Houston’s $15.6 million insurance claim on Jeff Bagwell has been rejected by Connecticut General Life. The insurance company takes issue with the club’s declaration that Bagwell is “totally disabled”. Well, let’s see. Bagwell can’t throw and has struggled to hit the ball out of the infield this spring. Not only do the Astros have a case, but going by the lowest of baseball standards, the Mets might want to try the same thing with Kaz Matsui.

Pete Rose has come out in favor of punishment for players found guilty of using steroids “during the last two years.” That should kill Matt Lawton’s remaining chances of making the Canadian Baseball Hall Of Fame.

Julian Tavares Regrets Nothing

Posted in Baseball at 10:32 am by

The Globes’ Gordon Edes collects the quotes from Boston’s 2nd bench clearer in as many days.

”What do you mean, ‘regret’?” Tavarez said when asked if he was sorry he hit Gathright with a blow to the jaw in the eighth inning of a 12-11 win over the Devil Rays, adding another line to the rap sheet of scrums between these clubs. ”I wish I don’t have to [throw a punch], because I’m not here to fight, you know. Little things happen in baseball, you know. No big deal.”

Incensed at what Gathright’s teammate, Carl Crawford, called a sucker punch, delivered with Gathright on one knee and trying to push away Tavárez’s left leg that was planted on his right forearm (”I can show you the marks,” said Gathright, who did just that for reporters), the D-Rays expect that baseball disciplinarian Bob Watson will view the incident with more gravity than Tavárez did.

”I think that may require a suspension, absolutely,” said Joe Maddon, the Tampa Bay manager who is replacing Lou Piniella, accused by Curt Schilling last season of fomenting some of the bad blood between the teams. ”That kind of action cannot be tolerated, and I don’t want any of our guys ever doing anything like that, I know that.”

The Journal News’ John Delcos does his best to determine which relievers are making the Mets’ big league roster and who will find themselves bound for Norfolk.

Duaner Sanchez and Jorge Julio seem certain to work the eighth and seventh innings, respectively, as the bridge to Billy Wagner. Bradford figures to be the situational right-hander, which would account for four relievers.

Should Randolph carry 11 pitchers, he’s looking at two more relievers. One of them probably will be a lefty, either Royce Ring or Darren Oliver.

If Randolph takes 12 pitchers north, he could conceivably take both left-handers and another reliever.

Who would it be? Yusaku Iriki? Pedro Feliciano? Heath Bell? Juan Perez? Perhaps a veteran such as Jose Lima, who could be a swing guy and work as both a starter and a reliever.

It won’t be Mitch Wylie, a Rule 5 pick who yesterday opted to become a free agent rather than accept a minor-league assignment.

The wild card is Aaron Heilman, who would go to the bullpen if Brian Bannister makes the roster as the fifth starter, which is the only way he would stick, Randolph said.

“I haven’t heard anything,” Bannister said, giving the four-word greeting that serves as hello for him these days.

Today against the Marlins at Jupiter, Heilman will make his final spring start, which could help Randolph make his decision.

“Aaron changes everything,” Ring said. “If he’s in the bullpen, everybody will be juggled, and they would probably only take one lefty.”

Indie’s Lawson On “Ugly, Dishonest” Football

Posted in Football at 9:04 am by

On a day in which Patrick Viera (above, right) returns to Highbury (for tonight’s Arsenal/Juventus Champions League Quarterfinal), the Independent’s Dominc Lawson wonders why today’s footballers can’t be nice, polite gentlemen like those well-bred cricket and rugby players.

Rugby Union has long since turned professional. But the interesting thing is that the now well-remunerated players still maintain the same standars of conduct on and off the field as they did when it wan amateur game. In contrast to the way in which the modern professional football player writhes in mock agony at the slightest tap, the rugby union player reacts in the opposite fashion: even after receiving a thump that would fell an ox, he pretends not to be hurt.

The same is true of professional cricket. Batsmen are frequently struck sickening blows from fast bowlers, but it is a matter of professional pride never to rub the bruise, agonising as everyone knows it to be. In other words, rugby and cricket are manly games, while English football, symbolised by the effete and narcissistic David Beckham — no longer is. This development is frequently blamed on the foreign players who now dominate the Premier League, but I doubt whether such racial analysis would stand up to scrutiny.

Yes, I know that the greatest players — Pele and George Best spring to mind — have something about their movement on the field which is profoundly aesthetic. But, taken as a whole, the modern game is about as beautiful as a pub brawl.

Sucking Up A Storm With S.I.’s Chris Ballard

Posted in Blogged Down, Sports Journalism at 6:32 am by

A long transcontinental flight gave me time to catch up on some old mail, a couple of unfinished books, yesterday’s papers, ‘The Fog Of War’ and least interesting of all, Chris Ballard’s “Writing Up A Storm (How The Web Is Changing Sports Coverage”) in the latest Sports Illustrated.

It’s tough to argue with Ballard’s assertion that sports bloggery is packed with drooling, gossip-mongering social reprobates with little or no training, credentials, etc. Because after all, it takes a journalism degree to deliver the hard hitting content you’ll find in a serious sports mag like S.I. For example, did you know the Knicks’ David Lee and S.I. swimsuit model Anne V. are dating?

Seriously, other than those stuck on airplanes or dentist offices, who regularly reads Sports Illustrated anymore? The photography is still top notch, some of the reportage of a high quality (Tom Verducci’s no slouch), but far too much of the modern SI reads like a desperate attempt to mimmick the breezy, personality-parade that is ESPN The Magazine.


(Sports Illustrated’s Rick Reilly — irrelevent in the pre-blog era, too).

I’m not sure what purpose it serves in the year 2006 to rail against the plethora of crud on the internet aimed squarely at the lowest common denominator. There’s a signal-to-noise quotient for all subjects, not merely sports. For every thousand poorly written, shit-stirring-for-the-sake-of-it-blog, there’s still a sizable minority of articulate, original voices that weren’t likely to be sanctioned by Time-Warner anytime soon.

(Though that said, it is worth noting that some of those voices, Dodger Thoughts’ Jon Wiseman amongst them, are SI contributors these days. Just like Chris Ballard.)

A couple of additional observations from this mess of an article :

1) Though I could certainly Die In Peace without reading another word about Bill Simmons’ career trajectory, there is something kind of amazing about an ESPN competitor giving Simmons that much coverage. I’m struggling to think of a good analogy — Fox’s Sunday NFL show profiling Chris Berman?

2) Next time, I sincerely hope Ballard and SI will commission more photographs of dudes hunched over their laptops. We really need more of that kind of thing.

3) “Leitch is not surprised by Deadspin’s popularity. “It seemed like there was a gaping hole for a site like this,” he says. “Most sites were either hard-core heavy stats, Bill Jamesian, or they were ‘Jets suck!’”

Indeed, I can’t tell you how long the sabermetric approach of The Sports Frog proved daunting to someone like me, who just wanted some light entertainment.

Likewise, the partisian sentiments flowing from a blog like Yard Work so completely overwhelm whatever else the site might have to offer in terms of satire, absurdity, etc. At bedtime tonight, after you’ve given thanks to Will Leitch for inventing the internet, be sure to give him very special credit for pioneering just whatever the fuck it is he wants to continue taking credit for.

4) As paradigm-smashing as the the current sports blogging boom might seem, Ballard’s version of da ‘sphere seems exclusively populated by, well, white guys of a particular vintage hunched over laptops. The sole non-male voices heard from, for better or worse, are the anonymous young ladies behind On The DL (correctly cited by Ballard as “the most risque thing about Deadspin).

Sheesh. They have the internet on computers now. Maybe next time (said in Geico caveman voice) Ballard can do a little research.

03.27.06

They Don’t Get Much Edgier Than Leo Mazzone

Posted in Baseball at 7:47 pm by

From MLB.com Spencer Fordin writes that Kevin Millar has convinced Orioles pitching coach Leo Mazzone to get a tattoo. I apologize in advance for the nightmares you are certain to have this evening.

“I’m going to break him in a little bit, and we’re going to bring The Edge to this club — that edge this team needs,” Millar said in his diary dated March 15. “Leo’s been in my ear a little bit that he wants one, and I told him I’ll think of one for him. I’ve got to go to my drawing board, but I’m going to take him once our families leave. We’ll have a day together.”

That goal came to pass over the weekend, with Mazzone sporting some brand new ink on his left shoulder. The design, instigated by Millar, is a red-and-blue pennant with the words “14 straight” written inside of it. The slogan refers to Mazzone’s run of success with his former team — the Atlanta Braves — which included 14 consecutive division titles.

“He’s fired up about it. He’s going to be shirtless for a while,” said Millar on Monday. “He’s a tough guy, but he got to the tattoo parlor and he was nervous. He kept asking me, ‘Millar, will it be all right?’”

Forgiving Barry Becomes The Sultan Of Suicide

Posted in Baseball at 7:38 pm by

From the AP :

“My life is in shambles. It is crazy,” Barry Bonds said Monday in an interview with The Associated Press. “It couldn’t get any crazier. I’m just trying to stay sane.”

Then, clearly joking, he went for shock value:

“Go to the Empire State Building and jump off, commit suicide and people can say, ‘Barry Bonds is finally dead.’ Except for in San Francisco,” he said. “I’ll leave something for them.”

Asked how he blocks out distractions, he says:

“What’s my job description? That’s what I’m doing at that time,” Bonds said. “No, I don’t forget [what is said]. I will never forget. I forgive you but I don’t forget. I forgive everybody.”

Much as I hate to imagine how gruesome it would be if the Sultan were to take a flying leap off the Empire State Building, I can’t be the only person wondering if Pedro Gomez would have the presence of mind not to follow him.