09.28.06

Cubs 2007: Hendry Mulls New Role For Wood

Posted in Baseball at 9:16 pm by

Tribune executives got more bad news today as a Federal judge has ruled that Trib shareholders cannot sue Trib Media itself — they have to target the executives. The Judge, perhaps a Cub fan, is insisting the Trib corporation itself sue its own directors, too. In other words, this time its personal.

Re-aligning the Chicago-based company with the stockholders and against the directors — some of whom also live in Illinois – - meant the case could not be heard in federal court. The stockholders are not barred from re-filing in state court.

Second-quarter profit at Tribune fell 62 percent, increasing pressure on FitzSimons and the others to break up the company, which owns the flagship Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, New York-based Newsday, several TV stations and the Chicago Cubs baseball team.

Meanwhile, a œslimmer and trimmer Kerry Wood (read: his low carb, no-steroid diet is working?) refused to meet with Cub beat reporters face to face. I’m guessing his arm is too weak to point and say, “Yes, you in the back, you have a question?” So, he appeared on Tribune-owned WGN radio to say he felt an “obligation” to return to Wrigley in 2007. In what capacity I cannot imagine, since even Trib paperboys have to be able to toss the paper from their bikes to the front porch.


Wood (above) declined a request to talk with Cubs beat reporters, but told WGN-AM 720 on Wednesday he has an “obligation” to return in ’07 and feels “there is something to prove.”

The Cubs are not planning to exercise Wood’s $13.5 million option, and will buy it out for $3 million. But general manager Jim Hendry already has said he would like to have Wood back as a reliever, so all that remains to be decided is what kind of an incentive-laden deal can get it done.

“It’s obvious Jim and myself have to sit down and discuss that,” Wood said. “I know I haven’t given this organization or the fans or this team what they paid for two, three years ago. As a player, you feel”you don’t want to say ‘guilty’”but you [don't] feel like you’ve done your job and earned your money and gone out and done what you’re supposed to do.

“There’s an obligation there, absolutely. This organization has given me everything I have and gave me a chance to play baseball and they drafted me. There’s definitely loyalty here. I love Chicago, I love the fans, I love the stadium, I love Wrigley Field. I love everything about the situation I’m in.

Wood loves the situation he™s in? I think the only guy whose ever gotten a better ride out of baseball is George Bush.

James Loney’s Phantom Movers

Posted in Baseball at 5:55 pm by

Dodgers 17, Rockies 11 (top of the 8th)

2 HR’s, 9 RBI’s for LA’s James Loney this afternoon at Pete Coors Field. Don’t tell Clint Hurdle’s G-d, but I think the humidor is broken.

Neither a 3 1/2 hour rain delay, nor the Pirate bats were much match for Houston’s Roy Oswalt earlier today. The Astros’ ace whiffed 6 over 7 shutout innings, as Houston won its 9 consecutive, 3-0. St. Louis’ lead in the NL Central is now down to a mere half game, with the Cards sending Jason Marquis (14-15, an era somewhere between 5.79 and 30.00) to the hill against Milwaukee in about 90 minutes.

Slam On The Tru Warier’s Latest

Posted in Basketball, Hip Hop at 5:37 pm by

Calling Ron Artest’s forthcoming ‘My World’ “the greatest album in the history of rapping basketball players,”, Slam Online’s Sam Rubenstein predicts “David Stern will try to have the album pulled from the shelves before Thanksgiving (Hater).” (link courtesy taken from True Hoop)

The first song on the album after the opening skit is called œHaters. Here are some quotables from that song:

œI admit I used to smoke before games.

œHit the liquor store at halftime.

œDavid Stern! Damn, David Stern. I gotta teach you bout the ghetto there™s some things you should learn.

œMatt Lauer, up on NBC. You look like a girl don™t talk to me.

Three minutes into the album. This is f™ng amazing already. Nowadays I™m kind of leery of beef for the sake of beef, but Ron had some stuff to get off his chest, and he does.

With all due respect to Sam’s hip hop credentials, I’m waiting for the thumbs up/thumbs down from DJ Fuckensuck before purchasing the album.

Winless, Pointless, Gutless : MI High School Team Forfeits Final 5 Games

Posted in Gridiron, Leave No Child Unbeaten at 5:27 pm by

Winners never quit. But winners also manage to score the odd field goal every month or so. From the Lansing State Journal’s Hannah Northery.

A northern Michigan school district is canceling its football season because adults don’t want the members of team – which hasn’t scored a point all season – to risk getting hurt.

But Lansing-area schools that have suffered through losing streaks say Oscoda Area High School’s decision to throw in the towel sends the wrong message.

“The message you’re telling the kids is that when it gets tough, you’re giving up,” said Eaton Rapids football coach Randy Taylor, whose team went 0-9 last season.

Oscoda coach Kyle Tobin said the team was not physically competitive, had too few players and faced a tough schedule in the North East Michigan Conference.

A editorial in today’s Huron Daily Tribune intones,

We have to remember playing sports in high school is a privilege, not a right. Students are there for an education, not a college athletic scholarship.

When these football players look back on this decision in the years to come, they will realize it was the right decision.

Sometimes, the right decisions are the hardest to make.

Indeed, there is a time and place for the ritual humiliation of weaker male athletes. That time is every weekday afternoon, and the place is Long Island.

Seaver Wins Dopey Award, Dick Young Unavailable For Comment

Posted in Baseball at 3:13 pm by

Congrats, Tom. But Greg Jefferies is demanding a recount.

Brett Statue In Greater Demand Than Brett

Posted in Baseball, The Law at 12:55 pm by

From the Springfield News-Leader :

A bronze bust of former Kansas City Royals third baseman George Brett (above) has apparently been stolen from outside the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, 3861 E. Stan Musial Drive, a Greene County Sheriff™s Department spokesman said today.

Museum officials noticed the bust was missing today but think it was probably taken some time over the weekend, Sgt. Rick Mallory said.

Mallory said the bust was worth about $15,000, but he didn™t know how heavy it was.

œThat™s got to weigh a lot, but not necessarily so much that one person couldn™t carry it off, he said.

Paging Lou Piniella : Nats Tell Robbie To Fuck Off

Posted in Baseball at 11:33 am by

From MLB.com’s Bill Ladson.

The Nationals are planning to tell manager Frank Robinson on Thursday that he will be not return to the club in 2007, a baseball source said after Wednesday’s game against the Phillies.

Another source said the front office, which includes general manager Jim Bowden and team president Stan Kasten, has yet to set up a meeting with Robinson. Bowden did not reply to an e-mail and Kasten declined to discuss Robinson’s situation when approached by MLB.com.

Robinson’s contract expires at the end of the year, and the veteran skipper has been waiting for weeks to learn about his future. Robinson was hoping to manage the Nationals for another three years, but a second-half collapse in 2005 — after being in first place before the All-Star break — and a subpar season in 2006 has put him on thin ice with the organization.

T.O.’s Physio Spills The Beans

Posted in Gridiron at 8:17 am by

While Terrell Owens’ publicist boldly claimed yesterday that her client “has 25 million reasons to live,” (yeah, tell that one to Kurt Cobain), the Dallas WR’s personal trainer paints a far different picture in this morning’s Dallas Morning News.

(Mendlebaum?)

“A lot of things were coming to a head anyway, and then this happened,” said James “Buddy” Primm (above) , 55, who until earlier this month, had been living with Owens in his loft on Commerce Street, in the shadow of Fair Park.

Primm said Owens underwent two traumatic events Monday involving his 7-year-old son and his fiancée, a woman he has dated for three years.

Owens’ son, from a previous relationship, celebrated his birthday Monday, Primm said. Owens was distraught, he said, about not being able to be see the boy, who lives in California.

“He wanted to get together with the boy,” Primm said. “But the boy could not come here, and Terrell could not go there.”

Then hours later, a woman whom Primm described as Owens’ fiancée broke off the relationship. Primm declined to give the woman’s last name but said she and Owens had been dating for three years. She also lives in California.

“That’s been coming on forever,” Primm said of the breakup. “She’s not a bad girl. She’s cool, she’s fine. He said, ‘Can I take a break from the engagement?’ And she said, ‘No, let’s just put a stop to it.’ And that was a complete surprise to Terrell.”

Owens “doesn’t have many friends,” said the trainer, who contends that the public and news media have long misperceived a man he considers “a gentle soul” and a “caring, highly sensitive” individual with a fragile psyche.

Shpigel : Trachsel, Maine Likely For Playoff Starts

Posted in Baseball at 8:10 am by

While recapping the horror show that was Pedro Martinez’ latest start, a gruesome display in last night’s 13-1 loss at Turner Field, the New York Times’ Ben Shpigel examines the Mets’ playoff rotation options. Looks like everyone not named Heilman or Lima has a shot at starting.

Willie Randolph had already prepared Tom Glavine and Orlando Hernández for the possibility of starting Game 1, but he must decide almost immediately. Since he is scheduled to pitch Thursday, Hernández would be in line to pitch Game 1 either Tuesday or Wednesday.

Asking Glavine to pitch Game 1 would require him to miss Saturday™s scheduled start, and he would need to change his routine. Steve Trachsel will almost certainly get a postseason start and John Maine, once in danger of not making the playoff roster, is a near-lock now, too.

Unfortunately for them, the Mets are no longer operating in a vacuum where Martínez is their greatest and sole concern. His disintegration Wednesday coincided with the team™s freefall, a miserable stretch of 10 losses in 13 games that has dropped their September record to 11-15. For the Mets to avoid not having a winning month for the first time this season, they must win their final four games. Right now, that seems impossible, even with playing the final three at last-place Washington.

Since I’ve taken no small pleasure in their recent woes, I’d be remiss in not mentioning the other NL club heading for the finish line with even less momentum than the Mets might’ve saved their season last night, thanks to some late heroics from Albert Pujols. The results at Nuevo Busch, however, didn’t provide Tuesday’s most tension-filled moments (outside of the CSTB birthday bash), said honor going to the Phillies’ marathon win at RFK, a conclusion seemingly witnessed by a few thousand Philadelphia fans and hardly anyone else.

Don’t Fix The Cubs Or The TribCo, They Ain’t Broke

Posted in Baseball at 7:22 am by

Dusty Baker isn™t the only Trib employee wondering where they™ll land next season, as an apparently chipper Trib CEO Dennis FitzSimons dropped in on his œBaltimore Sun staff to let them know he holds their work in even less regard than Kerry Wood™s arm:

Witnesses said that FitzSimons (above) had a conversational tone and even cracked a couple of jokes that went over surprisingly well, despite at least one staffer suggesting that the company sell the Chicago Cubs instead of its newspapers and television stations. FitzSimons responded by noting how much the value of the Cubs franchise has grown in recent years.

Uh, “grown?” I’ll check my Baseball Encyclopedia, which is just chock full of Cub post seasons stats from œrecent years, but the sad thing is only the Cubs could “grow” and finish dead last in their division. And how nice of FitzSimons to shrug off firing suggestions of firing the worst team in baseball over the œSun. Anyway, FitzSimons’ Don’t Fix It If It Ain’t Broke attitude explains a lot about his stewardship of The Tradition. At least Phil Rogers has something on his mind other than Dusty — booting Jim Hendry and Andy MacPhail. Go, Phil, Go …

If injuries explain a 94-loss (and growing) season, then why does that explanation excuse the two guys above the manager but not the manager? Hendry was under pressure in the winter and made some shaky moves. He never will complain about anything, but where was MacPhail when Hendry needed help?

Where was MacPhail to help him defuse the Baker-Steve Stone mess down the stretch in 2004? Cooler heads should have prevailed on that one, especially since the melodrama played out as the Cubs were falling out of the playoff picture? Where was MacPhail when the Cubs were planting the seeds for the mess that would be their 2006 season?

Rockets Nab Bonzi

Posted in Basketball at 7:01 am by

While the New York Sun’s John Hollinger made the reasonable suggestion that Charlotte — some $4 million under the cap — make a play for ex-Sacramento/Memphis starlet Bonzi Wells, Houston have made a hash of Hollinger’s otherwise excellent column, inking the free agent SG to a two year, $5 million pact.

ESPN’s Rich Bucher describes Wells as “the last significant free-agent talent on the market.”

Which, I suppose, is Bucher’s roundabout way of saying Keith Van Horn is not a significant talent.

Recovering motorsports enthusiast Jay Williams is expected to sign a deal with the Nets later today. Though the contract is non-guaranteed, it’s a fair bet that no matter how this relationship plays out, it should prove slightly less fatal than the last time New Jersey had a player with a very similar name.

09.27.06

Astros, Phillies, Cards In Tight Spots, Pedro Shelled

Posted in Baseball at 9:49 pm by

(fuck Robert Fick, here’s your replacement for Nick Johnson, Alexander Ovenchkin)

While the Phillies shook off last night’s rip job in erasing a 4-1 deficit tonight at RFK, Houston’s having a problem against the spoil-tastic Pirates.

(UPDATE: Houston 6, Pirates 6, as Eric Bruntlett’s RBI single with two out in the top of the 9th transfered the hook from Jason Hirsh’s jaw to that of Salmon Torres)

(UPDATE DOS : Phillies 6, Nats 5. A blown save for Flash in the last of 9th, but Philly’s rebounded against Flatcap Chad)

For the 2nd time in his last three starts, Pedro Martinez failed to make it past the 3rd inning, allowing 7 earned runs on 8 during a miserable 61 pitch outing, one marked by HR’s served up to Brian McCann and Jeff Francouer. Atlanta’s ahead 13-1, and scorelines like this are becoming brutally familiar to the Mets in September.

Grim numbers from the AP’s game summary : “Martinez has a 16.97 ERA over his last four starts, giving up 22 hits and 20 earned runs in 11 2-3 innings.” Even Hayden Penn shuddered while reading the above.
Four words the suffering baseball fans of St. Louis really didn’t need to hear on this or any night : “Now pitching, Braden Looper.” Though in all seriousness, the introduction of San Diego’s Chris Young oughta give the rest of the league genuine pause. He’s been almost untouchable in his last two stints.

The Yankees, currently engaged in stat-padding mania at the Stadium versus the O’s, passed the 4 million mark in home attendence this evening. Clearly, the Bronx is far too dangerous a place for the Mushnick family to spend a night out.

Sheridan : Bench Burrell Now

Posted in Baseball at 4:20 pm by

Claiming the Phillies’ Pat Burrell “looks so miserable, you have to think it would be a mercy killing for Charlie Manuel to pull the plug on his season,” the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Phil Sheridan would like to see Burrell benched “ASAP, stat and PDQ – before the Dodgers or Padres are spraying champagne to celebrate their wild-card clinch.” (link swiped from Repoz and Baseball Think Factory)

With righthander Ramon Ortiz starting for the Washington Nationals, the lefthanded David Dellucci would have made perfect sense. As it was, Manuel dropped Burrell to the sixth spot, after Jeff Conine.

It didn’t help. Burrell struck out with runners on first and second in the first inning, helping to douse a potential big rally after just two runs. After a single in the third, Burrell came up in the fifth with one out and runners on first and third.

He struck out on three pitches: foul ball, foul ball, flail at an outside pitch – just as it says in the How to Strike Out Pat Burrell pamphlet available in every major-league clubhouse.

In the eighth, with the Nationals out of lefthanded relievers, Manuel let Burrell lead off. He popped weakly to second base. Lefthanded pinch-hitter Randall Simon immediately drilled a single to left off reliever Jon Rauch.

“Pat hit some balls hard,” Manuel said after the 4-3 loss dropped the Phillies a game down in the wild-card race. “My options there are Pat, Conine and Dellucci. I’m going to match them up. Pat had some pretty good numbers against the guy tonight.”

Burrell was 2 for 5 lifetime against Ortiz, with two singles and two walks. Dellucci was 1 for 3 but had struck out twice against Ortiz. So those are the numbers.

Any More Football Questions, Folks?

Posted in Gridiron, Sports TV at 2:38 pm by

“When I find out what the hell’s  going on, I’ll you know. I’m not gonna be interrogated.”

Crack reporter Michael Irvin and Arena Football exec Deion Sanders
have each passed along Owens’ denials of a suicide attempt.

As the story crosses from the comic to the tragic and back again, on the bright side, at least Mike Vanderjagt is under a bit less scrutiny.

Bob Ley, not given to overstatement, introduced Chris Mortensen today as “someone with more NFL contacts than any human alive.” I’d be pretty keen to meet the dog, chimp or dolphin that has a better hookup than Mort.

Bidding War Alert, Pt. XX

Posted in Gridiron, Rock Und Roll at 11:27 am by

Bo Knows Getting Fucked In The Eye By The Buckeyes?

Presenting Columbus, OH’s Dead Schembeclers (link courtesy Wojohowicz)

There’s No Crying In Shipping…

Posted in Baseball at 11:15 am by

…until DHL loses your PowerBook. The initial results of MLB’s latest dubious promo were announced yesterday, and get a load of the following “DHL Hometown Heroes”.

Chicago White Sox : Frank Thomas. Not a poor choice necessarily, but the timing couldn’t be worse for 3rd place Ozzie considering the Big Hurt played such a crucial role in Oakland’s latest AL West crown.

Washington Nationals : Gary Carter. Granted, two years in DC isn’t enough time to properly recognize the Nats, but Montreal isn’t exactly the same hometown. The Senators’ legacy should’ve been considered (resulting in Gwen Virdon as Washington’s representative).

Tampa Bay Devil Rays : Wade Boggs. Al Leiter feels it is far too early for Scott Kazmir to win such a prestigious award.

Barra Evaluates “Less Than Mediocre” Michael Vick

Posted in Gridiron at 10:47 am by

Promising that “any day now, Michael Vick is going to find that he’s lost a step and some hungry young linebacker who wants a highlight on ESPN can now catch up to him a split-second before he makes it out of bounds,” The New York Sun’s Allen Barra hails the pure ability of Atlanta’s QB, but warns “it’s about time to wonder whether Vick will ever fulfill his potential or, maybe more to the point, if football is the sport his potential is really suited for.”

This is Vick’s sixth season; the closest he has come to winning anything substantial is second-round playoff losses in 2002 and 2004. He is almost certainly what most football commentators call him: the most exciting player in the league. But that is largely because he is so wildly inconsistent and, therefore, unpredictable. The Falcons’s offensive coordinator, Greg Knapp, has come under much fire for his inability to produce an effective offense with a talent like Vick to lead it. But how can you be a good coordinator with a quarterback who wants only to improvise?

His 2005 NFL passer rating was just 73.1, good for 25th in the league, and his career rating of 76.1 is considerably less than mediocre. If you don’t understand or trust the NFL’s passer rating, go with simple stats: Vick has played 63 NFL games and has completed less than 55% of his passes, which means he misses nearly as often as he connects. He is only 20% more likely to throw a touchdown pass than an interception, and in the all-important stat of yards per throw, he’s at just 6.7, which has put him in the bottom half of the league’s passers since 2001.

How bad are things looking for Vick after Monday’s loss to the Saints? So poor, that I hear Matt Leinart’s about to become the starting quarterback in those Briscoe High commercials.

A Suggestion For St. Louis’ Genius Manager : Syringes, Puppies And Ice Cream All Around

Posted in Baseball at 10:40 am by

The spectre of Philly’s 1964 collapse (5 1/2 up with 13 games remaining) was raised yesterday in relation to St. Louis’ modern tailspin (7 games dropped in a row, and counting). No telling if Tony La Russa will attempt to have Chris Carpenter (above) close the day after a start, or perhaps try to put Albert Pujols in the batting order two or three times, but clearly things are getting desperate. From Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal.

Carpenter isn’t scheduled to pitch again for the Cardinals until the season finale on Sunday. Right-hander Jeff Suppan, Saturday’s starter, has a 2.59 ERA in four starts this season against the Brewers. But the Cardinals’ bullpen, without injured closer Jason Isringhausen, is a disjointed mess.

As of now, rookie right-hander Anthony Reyes would start Monday’s game against the Giants, if necessary, and right-hander Jason Marquis would start Tuesday’s potential playoff against the Astros.

That’s right, Jason Marquis, whose 5.80 ERA is the highest in the National League among pitchers with enough innings to qualify for the ERA title.

Are we having fun yet?

While Astros manager Phil Garner probably has saved his job by leading another second-half rally ” this one is occurring rather late even by the Astros’ usual heart-stopping standards ” La Russa is threatening to become a latter-day Mauch.

It’s understandable that La Russa stuck with Carpenter for a season-high 122 pitches Tuesday night, given the state of the Cardinals’ bullpen. But Carpenter blew a 5-2 lead in the Padres’ four-run seventh, and another defeat Wednesday night will give the Cardinals their third eight-game losing streak of the season.

While recent injuries to Isringhausen, left-hander Mark Mulder, shortstop David Eckstein and center fielder Jim Edmonds clearly have had a major effect, La Russa’s intense, demanding style surely would come under scrutiny if the Cardinals failed to win the division.

Of course, there would be plenty of blame to go around.

General manager Walt Jocketty, whose contract recently was extended, failed to make an impact move before the July 31 non-waiver deadline, adding only right-hander Jeff Weaver and second baseman Ron Belliard.

And ownership reduced the Opening Day payroll from $92.1 million last season to $88.9 million this season, in part due to the debt it incurred by financing much of the new Busch Stadium.

Dallas CBS Affiliate : T.O. Attempted Suicide

Posted in Gridiron at 10:26 am by

From KTVT.com

According to the Dallas Police Department incident report, Terrell Owens told police he took more than 30 pills in a suicide attempt.

Sources tell CBS 11 News Owens was taken to Baylor Hospital by Dallas Fire Rescue and that emergency room doctors attempted to induce vomiting.

Baylor Hospital officials continue to deny Owens received treatment, however, federal privacy laws allow people to block their name from being released.

I’ve not had a chance to check out some of my favorite sports blogs this morning, but I trust this story is being handled with the kind of sensitivity it deserves.

Of course, most people who work with Bill Parcells merely contemplate suicide.

T.O. Hospitalized

Posted in Gridiron at 1:21 am by

From the Associated Press :

Terrell Owens was taken to the emergency room for an undisclosed reason Tuesday night, and doctors treating the Dallas Cowboys receiver were trying to induce vomiting, according to a television report.

Owens was brought by a fire rescue crew to Baylor Medical Center, Dallas-Fort Worth television station KTVT reported, citing sources the television station did not identify. A reporter for the station later said she saw Owens being wheeled down the hall.

ESPN’s Ed Werder is reporting the Cowboys’ WR had an adverse reaction to medication he’s been taking following his recent surgery. Not sure what method they’ll employ to induce the vomiting, but this might work.

09.26.06

Capital Punishment : CSTB Night Out At RFK

Posted in Baseball, Tourism at 8:06 pm by

(DC’s Ryan Zimmerman, doubling off Big Bully Brett Myers in the 3rd)

Nationals 3, Phillies 2 (middle of the 6th)

It cost me a mere $3 USD to see Ramon Ortiz duel Brett “I Kissed Her But It Felt Like Spousal Battery” Myers, a great entertainment value even if the security guards couldn’t direct me to Wizznutzz’ luxury box.

How did Joe Theismann manage to make RFK’s Washington Hall Of Stars banner, while neither Pentagram nor Mark Robinson made the cut? Hopefully the Nats’ new ownership group will look into this.

Chase Utley and Ryan Howard have a pair of singles apiece. There have been repeated “MVP” chants for the latter, as RFK is filled with dudes sporting Steve Carlton, Lenny Dykstra and Mike Schmidt jerseys. No Kruk Kustom models, however.

I don’t grasp the relevance of ZZ Top’s “Tush” as Billy Traber’s warm-up music. At moments like this, I could really use Todd Jones on speed dial.

(UPDATE : Nats 4, Phillies 3.  As mentioned by Chuck Meehan in the comments below, Philly was royally jobbed when a 2nd inning 3 run HR by Chase Utley was ruled a foul ball, despite replays showing otherwise.  The loser of every argument this century, Charlie Manuel, vented.

“Somebody’s got to see it. And I want to tell you something — the … umpire has to see it, too. We play all year long and we’re trying to get somewhere and all we need is for somebody to miss a call like that. It’s terrible. It’s absolutely unreal. But at the same time … we could’ve scored more runs and we didn’t.”

I’ll tell you what’s absolutely unreal, Charlie.  That Screech is so fucking aloof in person.  Doesn’t MySpace friendship mean anything anymore?)

ProJo’s Reynolds : New England’s Dynasty Is Over

Posted in Gridiron at 5:12 pm by


(the Hooded Casanova had no answers for the Pseudo Snake or Javon Walker the other evening)

Calling the Patriots, “just another mediocre group that can’t score,”, the Providence Journal’s Bill Reynolds surveys the wreckage of New England’s lopsided Sunday night loss to the Broncos and wonders if “you can’t keep losing quality players and quality coaches without eventually paying some price, however great an organization is?”

The Patriots’ mystique, and the inherent message is that it almost doesn’t matter who you lose off the team, because someone else can get plugged in and the beat still goes on, uninterrupted. So guys come and guys go, but the team rolls on. Charlie Weis goes. Romeo Crennell goes. Eric Mangini goes. But the team rolls on.

That’s always been the unofficial line, anyway. Lawyer Milloy goes. Damien Woody goes. Ted Johnson goes. Willie McGinest goes. David Givens goes. Adam Vinatieri goes. Deion Branch goes. Other guys get plugged in. Nothing changes.

Until, of course, it does.

Until the Broncos come in to Gillette Stadium, in what was billed as a big revenge game, and beat the Patriots.

Until you look at the Pats and they seem somewhat diminished.

At least they were Sunday night.

And it’s more than that the Broncos beat them on two big pass plays. Or that for the second straight game they had a field goal blocked, a sign of a team out of sync. It’s more than the fact that they had only 50 yards on the ground, or gave up too many third-down plays to the Broncos, sure signs of a struggling team. It’s even more than the fact that Brady had to throw 55 times, a sure sign of trouble. Or that the only time he really was able to move the team was in the no-huddle drive in the fourth quarter against a prevent defense.

It’s that they seemed decidedly ordinary.

Floating, then refuting a conspiracy theory even Richard Belzer would find farfetched, Pro Football Talk raises the possibility the NFL leaned on the Texans to pass on Reggie Bush in last June’s draft.  The league’s motivation being the touchy-feely-good story that took place in New Orleans last night, and what Reggie Bush might mean to the Saints franchise long-term. In return, outgoing Texans GM Charley Casserly would find himself with a cushy NFL job.

Anyhow, PFT says there’s nothing to it —- they doubt Casserly could keep his mouth shut about such a secret deal, and can’t understand why Houston wouldn’t have traded down if such a plan was in place.  Some of us can’t understand why they didn’t trade down anyway if there was no intent to take the draft’s most glittering prize.

It was explained on ESPN today that Bush has done so many wonderful things for the N.O. community (ie. having his advisors lean on sponsors for relief donations), that any accusations of wrongdoing while at USC have received scant attention locally. Perhaps Mario Williams should make a donation or two, just to be on the safe side.

Henry, Arsenal Top Group G

Posted in Football at 4:26 pm by

Arsenal 2, FC Porto 0


The Gunners find themselves 2 points ahead of their Champions League Group G rivals tonight, courtesy of a Thierry Henry strike and subsequent Alexander Hieb goal, neatly set up by Henry and Williams Gallas.

Much as I wish that was the day’s biggest soccer story, a source no less reliable than Sharon Osbourne claims former England manager Sven Goran Eriksson is having trouble selling his £2.6million Regents Park home. If potential buyers aren’t put off by the glass toilet, they might have a problem with the naked portrait of Nancy Dell™Olio.  Presumably said portrait could be removed, but the notion of Nancy’s visage being so terrifiying that Ericksson was forced to shave several hundred thousand pounds from the asking price proved irresistable to The Sun.

Texas’ Volquez Enters The History Books

Posted in Baseball at 1:54 pm by

With last night’s 8-3 loss to the still-mathematically alive Angels, Rangers starter Edinson Volquez became, “statistically speaking, the worst starting pitcher of the last century,” declared the Dallas Morning News’ Evan Grant.

Volquez fell to 1-6 for the season, 1-10 for his career, but the really ugly number is his career ERA, which is 9.20 for 14 games (11 starts). Since 1900, no pitcher with at least 10 career starts has finished with an ERA of nine or higher.

The Rangers don’t expect Volquez to finish with such unattractive numbers, either. But in two short auditions over the last two seasons, he’s seemed to be overwhelmed by major league hitting.

“He’s had one or two good outings,” manager Buck Showalter said. “He just didn’t have much to defend himself with today. But the good ones figure it out. If he’s got the stuff and the moxie to pitch up here like we think he does, he will figure things out. This is a learning experience, but only if he learns from it.”

Often, he’s gotten himself in trouble with walks, but that wasn’t the problem Monday. He threw strikes. It’s just that the Angels crushed them.

He allowed a one-out single to Orlando Cabrera in the first, then threw a meatball to Vladimir Guerrero. His ringing two-run homer put the Rangers behind. They stayed there all night.
In the next two innings, Volquez was troubled by being unable to finish things off.

He got the first two outs in the second, then allowed a single to No. 9 hitter Chone Figgins. Figgins stole second and scored on a single by Maicer Izturis.

In the third, he allowed three consecutive two-out singles, the last by Howie Kendrick to account for another run.

When he started the fourth by giving up a homer to Figgins, manager Buck Showalter sprinted out of the dugout to make a pitching change. The short evenings have been another disturbing trend in Volquez’s brief career. He’s failed to make it through five innings in eight of his 11 starts; he’s pitched more than five just once.

The Rangers could pitch Volquez in Sunday’s season finale against Seattle, but Showalter was leaning toward giving that start to Robinson Tejeda, who pitches today. Volquez could pitch in relief in that game in an effort to give him some kind of positive finish to this season.

Right now, almost anything would represent progress. Anything, that it is but more runs.

Actual Praise For Stephen A.

Posted in Sports Journalism, Sports TV, The Woah, Total Fucking Terror at 1:38 pm by

The Nation’s Dave Zirin finds the “bombastic…hyper-caffeinated, volume-eleven foghorn,” Stephen A. Smith grating when the ESPN2 host is howling on “Quite Frankly..”. In another setting, however, Zirin considers Smith to be a a voice of sanity (link courtesy True Hoop).

Imagine my shock after seeing Stephen A. on a recent CNN Live Event Special debating the future of the Middle East, oil consumption, the war in Iraq, energy alternatives and other issues. The shock was not that Stephen A. could hold his own. It’s that his voice of perpetual disgust and alarm seemed oddly appropriate and satisfying when discussing US foreign policy.

Radio America’s Ben Ferguson, whom I have never heard of but who seems to be to the right of Attila the Hun, said, “We’re so worried about being politically correct, we don’t want to offend anyone, and say we’re going back to the ’60s or ’50s or whatever it may be, because that’s what people say. If you profile people, you’re being racist. No, I’m racist towards terrorists and if you fit the profile of a terrorist, then I don’t like you.”

Stephen A. was the only panelist to stand up to this racist garbage: “What’s the profile of a terrorist?… Hold on, now. Let’s be clear about something. When you talk about Timothy McVeigh or what have you, in Oklahoma City, he didn’t fit the profile.”

Ferguson responded: “But I think most Americans admit, when you get on a plane–be honest–you know exactly who makes you nervous when you get on a plane…. Do they not all look the same?… The people that did 9/11, people that did the Madrid? Do they not all fit–”

Smith shut him down: “But that’s bigotry.”

As the subject turned to Iraq and Afghanistan, you could see Stephen A. start to muscle-twitch, getting in that comfort zone. Ferguson, whom Stephen A. was starting to treat like Vince Carter treated Frederic Weis when he dunked on his head at the 2000 Olympics, said, “If you got a problem, you can either witch about it, or you can fix it.”

“So, 100,000 lives have been lost. What’s your definition of fixing the problem?” Stephen A responded. And after the conversation took a few more turns, he said, “There’s plenty of people–I’m telling you right now, you know how many soldiers I run into, American soldiers–American soldiers–who we unequivocally support, and they say we have no business over there. Most of those people don’t even want to be over there. They actually say that.”