12.30.06

Covered Up On The Line : Iowa’s 21-3 Lead That Wasn’t

Posted in Gridiron at 8:56 pm by

Alamo Bowl : Texas 26, Iowa 24

While I won’t make too much of Texas’ ability to hand Iowa their 6th loss in their last 7 games, it can safely be said that any worries about Colt McCoy’s physical condition were unfounded. And while this was largely a lost season for Drew Tate, he came awfully close to winning the Alamo Bowl for the Hawkeyes…and if you ask Kirk Ferentz, he was robbed.

With Iowa up, 14-3, A 2nd quarter TD pass from Tate to Scott Chandler was nullified when the latter was ruled an ineligble receiver. It shouldn’t be necessary for me to describe how bad my eyesight is (too many art films when I was young) but even I could read Ferentz’ lips from section 336. On the ensuing play, Tate was picked off in the end zone by Texas’ Aaron Ross (above).

Trailing 26-24 with about 3 minutes to play and taking possesion at midfield, the Hawkeyes merely needed to move the ball another 15-20 yards to set up a game winning field goal. Instead, what was probably meant to be a pass downfield by Dominque Douglas turned into a 9 yard loss when the Iowa WR was pulled down by Marcus Griffin.

Not to add too much insult to injury, but if this was Ferentz’ audition for the New York Giants gig, I think he flunked.

And on that note, with the Giants leading the Redskins, 20-7 at intermission, it certainly looks as though the New York media will have Tiki Barber (2 TD’s, 143 yards on 14 carries) to kick around some more, at least for another week.

Reusse : Zito Deal Is Bad News For The Twins

Posted in Baseball at 1:06 pm by

Just the other day, a wise man pondered, “if (Barry) Zito can command a contract of such size and length, what™s Johan Santana going to be worth on the open market?”

OK, that’s not exactly what I asked. But either way, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Patrick Reusse can read the writing on the wall.

Johan Santana became a full-time starter halfway through the 2003 season and has been baseball’s best since then. He will turn 28 in March. If he continues that excellence through 2008 and then becomes a free agent, he will be the first $200 million pitcher.

Goodbye, Twins. Hello, New York City.

There will be two options for General Manager Terry Ryan: A) Trade Torii Hunter this summer, no matter where the Twins are in the standings; or B) keep him for a potential pennant race, then allow Torii to leave as a free agent.

If Ryan goes with B, that would create an anguished scene for Twins followers during the next offseason. Hunter would be signing elsewhere at the same time Ryan was taking offers for Santana.

You can let Hunter leave as a free agent and get away with it. You can’t possibly do the same with Santana, perhaps the most valuable individual commodity in the game at the moment.

Johan will be dealt before the Twins report to spring training in 2008. That became a given when the Giants presented $18 million per year to Zito.

Darren Dreifort just muttered something about today’s starters being wildly overpaid.

Higsons’ Revenge : Stupor Hoops In Free Fall

Posted in Football at 12:37 pm by

(since there were no Rangers highlights worth showing, you’ll have to settle for this classic moment in recent Norwich history, instead)

Norwich 1, QPR 0

If QPR’s visit to Norwich could be characterized as the Higsons vs. Pigbag, it’s fair to say the porridge eaters (with apologies to R. Hitchcock) came out on the better end.  The Canaries captured the 3 points courtesy of Dion Dublin’s clinical finishing in the 69th minute, and with that, the R’s have now lost 7 of their last 8 and seem to be looking forward to trips to picturesque locales like Carlise and Yeovil Town next season.

Weirdly, Dublin’s goal came from a cross by Robbie Earnshaw, whose disappearing act while playing for Cardiff City against QPR  in the 2003 playoff final led to an appearance by that match’s eventual hero, Andy Campbell.

A pair of goals by Cristano Ronaldo in Manchester United’s 3-2 defeat of Reading, coupled with a late equalizer by Fulham’s Carlos Bocanegra in the West London Derby combined to extended Manchester United’s Premiership lead over Chelsea to 6 points.

At the other end of the spectrum, a terrific header by Bryan Hughes in extra time gave Charlton Athletic a 2-1 victory over Aston Villa, Allen Pardew’s first win since taking the reigns at the Valley.

In Saturday’s late game, a 41st minute strike by Christian Nade, his first in the English top flight, has provided Sheffield United with a 1-0 advantage over Arsenal.  I can’t say my enjoyment of FSC’s telecast has been helped one bit by the halftime advertisements for the Midwest Center For Stress & Anxiety Inc. I truly feel as though Lucinda Bassett is looking right through me.

Giants, Colonel Coughlin On The Brink Of History

Posted in Gridiron at 9:52 am by

The New York Futile Giants could become the first team to finish the season 2-6 (or 1-7) and make the playoffs, a situation the New York Post’s Paul Schwartz describes as “either shameful or fortuitous or perhaps a little bit of both.” With tonight’s visit to DC marking Tiki Barber’s regular season finale and Big Blue’s last shot at redemption, save for backing in, the New York Daily News’ Ralph Vacchiano thinks Tom Coughlin’s a goner.

“You think the fans don’t like him?” one player said this week. “The players don’t like him, either. We’re tired of listening to him.”

After tonight, they may not have to listen to him much longer.

According to multiple sources in the organization, the Giants’ management team – headed by co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch – has grown increasingly frustrated with both the play of Coughlin’s team and the seemingly constant chaos that swirls around it. Mara and Tisch haven’t returned calls.

One source suggested the only thing that could save Coughlin is a very unlikely run to the NFC Championship Game. Another indicated it was possible that just one postseason win might do the job.

Vacchiano was on ESPN Radio late last night, picking the Redskins to prevail, sagely noting it’s 5-10 Washington who’ve played with the urgency of a club fighting for a playoff spot more recently than the Giants.

Rebuilding Year’s Josh Rosen may or may not be relieved to know that Coughlin is very much alive.

Easily Rattled Eli — already trying to make do without Armani Toomer, will have to get it done tonight sans the services of TE Jeremy Shockey. Whether or not an injured ankle will be enough to prevent Shockey from announcing Joe Gibbs outcoached Colonel Coughlin after the game, remains to be seen.

For The Dice Man, It’s Time To Make The Doughnuts

Posted in Baseball, The Marketplace at 9:03 am by

The Boston Globe’s Neil Reed reports that while newly acquired P Daisuke Matzusaka is already hawking Ashai Super Dry beer, dressed in Red Sox gear, he might be in line for an endorsement with a well-known New England firm.

Tom Manchester , director of sports marketing for Dunkin’ Donuts, said the company hasn’t officially negotiated for a Dice-K sponsorship, but would like to do an ad similar to those it did with Red Sox Curt Schilling , who in 2004 was cast by Dunkin’ listening to a book on tape to learn how to speak with a New England accent.

“The win for us would really be to introduce Dice-K to what New England runs on, and that’s Dunkin’ Donuts,” Manchester said. Dunkin’s sister company, Baskin-Robbins Inc., has more than 800 ice cream shops in Japan, so Matsuzaka could be a marketing asset to the company overseas. too.

I can only assume Manchester has seen the footage below, and he’s not troubled.

Howard Poised To Cash In

Posted in Baseball at 8:22 am by

Perhaps in response to being dubbed “the best thing (baseball) has seen in a long time” by Scoop Jackson, the Phillies’ Ryan Howard is expecting a substantial raise writes the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Marcus Hayes.

In what could be a significant move in the pursuit of a big payday, Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard has dismissed agent Larry Reynolds.

According to the Phillies, Howard, who won the 2006 National League MVP in his first full season, is looking for new representation. He has not informed the club who that will be, though he might be fortifying his camp with a higher-powered entity than Reynolds.

Whomever Howard chooses, the new agent can expect to deal with the Phillies relatively quickly, even though Howard will not be eligible for arbitration until after the 2007 season. Maybe he can get some of the cash the Phillies earmarked for the righthanded power hitter they failed to sign as his protection in the lineup.

Howard made $355,000 last season.

Though Reynolds’ website appears to be down, you can check out a cached version here.

According to the New York Post’s Joel Sherman, the only thing holding up Randy Johnson’s return to Arizona is the matter of how much, if any, of the Unit’s salary the Yankees will be expected to eat.

The two sides have discussed more than 10 permutations, depending on the finances. The Yanks may budge on the money to continue their recent quest to inflate their farm system. Among Arizona’s most advanced pitching prospects, the Yanks favor Micah Owings, and also Dustin Nippert and Ross Ohlendorf.

Fisk : Soccer & Violence Go Together…

Posted in Football at 1:10 am by

…like pretentious broadsheet editorials and sweeping generalizations.  Armed with a copy of Franklin Foer’s “How Soccer Explain The World”, the Independent’s Robert Fisk declares football and violence to be “mutually interchangable.”

Foer wades in at the deep end with a visit to Belgrade’s top- scoring Red Star, a team nurtured by Serbia’s equally top war criminal Arkan, who took his well-armed footballers down the Drina Valley in 1992 on an orgy of killing, plunder and mass rape. Arkan (above, right) drove a pink Cadillac and sported a football wife – the gorgeous retro singer Ceca (above, left) – whom he married in full Serb uniform. Red Star’s pre-war match against the Croatian Partizans – beloved of its fascist president Franjo Tudjman who had adorned the team he once led with wartime Ustashe icons – ended in a pitched battle.

It was Margaret Thatcher who famously described football hooligans as “a disgrace to civilised society” – the very words we later used about the murderers of Serbia. In Glasgow, Protestant supporters of Rangers would sit in separate stands – “We’re up to our knees in Fenian blood,” they would roar in unison – from fans of the Catholic Celtic football club.

Vandalism, assault and murder have now become so much a part of European football that it has become a habit. “Football fan shot dead after racist mob attack,” read a headline as I passed through Paris the other day. Typically, the story – of an off-duty French cop who killed a white supporter of the Paris Saint-Germain team as he screamed anti-Semitic insults while trying to murder a French Jewish fan of Israel’s Tel-Aviv’s Hapoel – was printed on page 27. It is quite normal, you see, for racist football fans to try to kill their opponents – and for the police to open fire.

I remember a more disturbing moment in the Middle East when I was investigating one of the many – and all too true – incidents of brutality by British soldiers against Iraqi prisoners. In a Basra hospital, I listened to a badly wounded ex-prisoner of the British Army as he described how his tormentors had entered the room in which he and his friends were being held.

“Before they assaulted us, your soldiers gave us all names – the names of world-famous footballers,” he said. “Then they started beating and kicking us until we screamed and begged for mercy. Why would they do that?”

12.29.06

Knicks Scorched Early In Phoenix

Posted in Basketball at 9:24 pm by

Suns 56, Knicks 39 (halftime)

Wednesday’s triple OT defeat of the Pistons seems like a very distant memory for the Knicks this evening, as Steve Nash is running rings around Stephon Marbury, while noted Steph-sparring partner Kurt Thomas (above) has 10 points against his former club.

From the backhanded compliment file, the New York Post’s Peter Vescey pays tribute to Isiah Thomas’ shorthanded Knicks winning 4 of 5.

Thomas’ coaching noticeably improved the moment his rotation got shortened by suspensions and injuries, meaning fewer genius thoughts and fewer chances to cause substitution and situational slip-ups. That translates into happier and less inhibited (as well as lengthier) players. Their fear factor of being yanked has been greatly diminished. Minutes and roles are more consistent and clearer.

Thomas wasn’t the only one rooting against the fog ever lifting on the Baltimore tarmac. Surely that explains why Quentin Richardson’s therapy for back spasms is extended “Limbo” lessons. And some of you dared to believe Nate Robinson’s warning label states he’s an anti-coagulant.

Alas, the flaming five-game western swing to wring out the old and ring in the new begins tonight in Phoenix. If I’m Thomas, I’m twitching in apprehension; fans and the free media may expect more nights like Wednesday. This tends to be the case when your payroll hovers around the national debt and your team is wont to perform like a national disgrace.

The Daily News’ Frank Isola, while not printing playoff tickets just yet, prefers criticism of the more constructive variety.

The one thing Isiah Thomas learned in the aftermath of the brawl is that less is more. Marbury and Crawford should be the starting backcourt and Thomas should find a veteran backup “- an Anthony Johnson type “- who can play either position. The Knicks don™t need Steve Francis and he doesn™t want to be here anyway.

You have to wonder about where Nate Robinson fits in. I™ve never big on undersized guards and I™ve always felt that Earl Boykins is one of the most overrated players in the league. As a 12th man, Nate would give Isiah some insurance in the backcourt. Otherwise I would drop him from the rotation.

Since Isiah seems committed to using David Lee off the bench, Lee should be used to play all front court positions. His rebounding and hustle are the same intangibles that Charles Oakley and Marcus Camby once gave the Knicks.

Lee has been the team™s most important player to date, followed by Eddy Curry, Crawford and Marbury. Not surprisingly, those players have logged the most minutes this season.

The Nets received strong contributions from their big 3 of Vince Carter, Richard Jefferson (above) and Jason Kidd in tonight’s 91-81 defeat of the Heat, playing sans D-Wade and the suspended James Posey.

Stu Jackson can do whatever he wants to the latter, just so long as he doesn’t interfere with the cinematic career of James’ sister Parker.

Speaking of Flash, I suppose we’re all very lucky neither he nor members of his family were recruited to make a late season cameo on the Miami-based “Nip/Tuck”.

Basketbawful did a nice job of chronicling Al Harrington’s mohwak-mania, but neglects to mention that Al might’ve well been inspired by the early hair styles of his former Hawks coach, Terry “Richie” Stotts.

Your Year-End Dose Of The Klap

Posted in Baseball at 7:51 pm by

While “Pedro Martinez and Zito and even Jeff Suppan, (the Plan B who shocked everyone by signing with the Brewers) are just vapor in the Mets’ once-lofty plans,” the Bergen Record’s Bob Klapisch wonders just what sort of starting rotation the Mets’ Omar Minaya will cobble together.

The options are limited, unless you’re intrigued by free agent Jeff Weaver, who already failed once in New York, or a trade for Javier Vazquez (ditto) or think it’s worth being fleeced by Billy Beane just to pry Rich Harden away from the A’s.

Minaya has been sweet-talking Beane in recent weeks. Give him credit for at least trying. The two spoke 10 days ago, when Minaya again tried to persuade the A’s to take Aaron Heilman and Lastings Milledge for Harden. Beane wouldn’t budge. By telephone Thursday, the GM said, “We have some personnel here that would be difficult for us to consider moving.” In not so many words, Beane told the Mets it would take Milledge, Philip Humber (above) or Mike Pelfrey and Carlos Gomez, a 20-year-old can’t-miss prospect, to complete a deal for Harden or even Dan Haren.

The Mets knew there was no competing with the Giants’ cash, not at $18 million a year. The Wilpon family and Minaya decided Zito simply wasn’t worth that much. One GM said, “This is one time Omar realized something we all try to remember in this business, there’s always another star who’ll be available. It’s never about one guy.”

But will that restraint mean anything next summer, when half the rotation is decomposing, and the bullpen is burned out by July? The Mets have every right to feel good about the money they saved Thursday, but in the heat of a pennant race, cash is no substitute for wins. The scouting report for the ’07 Mets is already in: They had better hit.

Always Amazin’s Ryan McConnell is pretty satisfied that long-term, the Mets have dodged a bullet.

I’m appreciative that Omar Minaya isn’t Steve Phillips. Much like Bobby Bonilla’s deal with the Mets in ’92, Zito’s deal with the Giants is astoundingly bad; it’s the type of contract that not only throws the market completely out of whack, but cripples a team’s financial flexibility for years to come. While Zito’s a solid pitcher and I’m disappointed he won’t be playing for the Mets, I have little doubt that passing on him will be the right decision for the future of the franchise. Resisting the “win now” mentality isn’t easy, especially in New York. But it’s these kinds of decisions that make a decade-long dynasty more possible.

Much as it pains me to write the following, the notion of bring Steve Traschel back to the Mets is not only inoffensive in light of recent events, it might even be downright prudent (assuming Traschel isn’t looking for Jeff Suppan money, and if he was, we’d have probably heard about it by now). The single/seperated life led to a career year in ’06 for Paul Lo Duca, so perhaps Traschel and Captain Red Ass can room together?

SI.com’s Jon Heyman casts an obstinate no way (Jose) vote against Mark McGwire’s Hall of Fame candidacy (“With eight years to learn and reflect, there’s almost no doubt in my mind McGwire was not only artificially enhanced but that he was more enhanced than just about anyone else,”), and I for one, am completely stunned. How did Heyman get a ballot?

I don’t know when or if the former Pride Of Peabody, MA, Jeff Allison will be making his Yard Work debut. But he’ll have to try pretty hard to live up to the standard set by Shea Hillenbrand.

Requiem For A Sham Marriage

Posted in Basketball, History's Great Hook-Ups at 6:28 pm by

Michael Jordan and his wife of 17 years, Juanita, filed for divorce today.

Deadspin’s A.J. Daulerio, showing all the charm and panache of A.J. Benza, marked the occasion by observing, “those rustling noises you hear are the sounds of millions of opportunistic vaginas twitching simultaneously.”

A pop psychologist could have a field day with that particular statement. But if Daulerio can fashion a vocation out of pandering to a readership that actually believes there’s such thing as an opportunistic vagina, best of fucking luck to him.

And best of luck to Michael Jordan. Presumably, putting this chapter behind him was the only thing preventing MJ from making the Bobcats every bit as successful as he made the Wizards.