02.25.09

Would Mike Schmidt Have Opted For PED’s In The ’90′s?

Posted in Baseball at 10:14 pm by

“Most likely,” says the former Phillies 3B and Hall Of Famer Michael Jack Schmidt, who suggests “people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones” where Alex Rodriguez is concerned.   And while it’s nice to see Cole Hamels isn’t the only quote machine working overtime in Clearwater this February, there’s something slightly disingenuous about saying the public should be more concerned with “someone fighting in Iraq” or “Barack Obama”.  A-Rod’s celebrity, if not his enormous earning power, was built on the back of individual accomplishments that might’ve been tougher to achieve without the benefit of performance enchancing drugs.  If Schmidt isn’t personally offended by Rodriguez’ deeds or inability to tell the truth, that’s fair enough — a less than hysterical reaction to the subject is admirable.  But if we’re really supposed to live in a culture where no one has strong feelings about the exploits of professional athletes, guys like Schmidt will have to earn a living wearing something besides pyjamas in public.

Farewell To The Red & The Green (Books) ; Chass Denied Precious Reference Materials

Posted in Baseball, History's Not Happening, Sports Journalism at 9:46 pm by

Major League Baseball announced earlier today they’ll cease publication of printed versions of the Red and Green books, the venerable media guides for the American and National Leagues that David Pinto calls “staples of baseball researchers before computerized stats came along”. Though MLB promises to make a PDF version available to working media, said pledge is slim consolation to Murray Chass who protests, “I am too devastated and outraged to write anything else at the moment,” before writing quite a bit else on the matter.

Baseball officials would say the books died of atrophy. No one was using them any more. But I used them, often on a daily basis. They sit on a shelf an arm™s length away from my desk. I can get them that quickly when I need information from them.

One explanation given for the elimination of the printed books is the repetition of some of the elements of the books. The previous season™s statistics, for example, are in the average book that is published after the season. Rosters of the 30 teams appear in the spring training media guide.

But once spring training ends and the season starts, the spring training guide is put away, and the Red and Green Books become the references of choice. I don™t blame MLB for abolishing the books. I wish they hadn™t, but if they find that no one uses them, it™s just another unfortunate development of today™s coverage of baseball.

Younger writers, more attuned to the use of the Internet than their older colleagues, may not have a problem with the disappearance of the books. But in past years they didn™t have the Internet as an alternative reference site. They apparently just didn™t feel the need for any information the books provided.

That says more about them than it does about baseball™s decision.

Yanks’ Trost Patiently Explains To Fans Exactly How They’ve Been Screwed

Posted in Baseball, The Marketplace, Ugly New Stadiums at 9:13 pm by

Now available at WFAN.com :  Yankees CEO Lonn Trost (above) rebuts oh so many nasty accusations surrounding claims of ill-treatment by his ballclub’s season ticket holders in a chat with noted consumer rights advocate Mike Franscesca.  How much are standing room only tickets at the new Yankee Stadium?  “$1000.00″ chuckled Trost, who is still willing, in all seriousness, to charge $325 per seat for a Wendesday, April 22 matinee against the A’s in what isn’t even close to the venue’s priciest location.

Inside the People’s Republic of Baseball: Triple Canopy’s Patrick Clark on the Dominican Game

Posted in Baseball, Sports Journalism at 2:54 pm by

The absence of venues for serious sportswriting is one of my stock bitches. This is in part because it’s true, although that kind of tracks with the decline in high-profile venues for good writing, period. But it’s also because I like to imagine that a dearth of deserving venues is the only thing keeping me from writing that sprawling, deeply felt and powerfully composed 3500-word feature on, like, the A-11 offense or the weirdness of going to a NBA game or whatever it is that seems important to me at the moment.

But there’s another way to write that piece, which is embodied in Patrick Clark’s elegant, eloquent and strikingly thoughtful piece on baseball in the Dominican Republic at Triple Canopy. And that is simply to take the risk of researching and writing it, then trust your lower-profile venue to do right by it. (Triple Canopy is a web magazine run in part by Sam Frank, who’s a frequent CSTB tipster and all-around friend of the program) Dominican baseball is something most baseball fans have read about, although usually through little picaresqued moments of color like Felix Pie (above) having to borrow cleats for his first MLB tryout or glibbish pieces about scouting — but never really with any sense of the desperation, depth or cultural import of the game in that country. Clark gets at all those things not by pounding out a mournful, Zirin-y think-piece about the exploitation built into the game, but by actually going to the Dominican and hanging around prospects, buscons — the word translates roughly to “pimp,” and refers to the trainer/coach/agent hybrids who are the cornerstone of Dominican scouting — and their baseball academies. That Clark wrote the hell out of the piece that resulted is to his credit, but the reporting is what makes the article really work, and really different from essentially all of what’s out there to read on this subject.

The whole piece is worth reading (and looking at, as there are photos mixed in), and its flow and depth makes it difficult to excerpt. Know that it’s recommended highly, and that the bit below is just a taste.

I™d come to the DR curious about what baseball costs boys like Priki [Ignacio, a prospect under the wing of buscon Juan Cedeño], and certainly, it™s hard to watch a teenager languish in isolation, out of school, hanging all his hopes on a baseball dream. There™s no question Priki faces incredibly long odds; the numbers dictate he will have washed out within a few years, with little to show for his prodigious efforts: no education, scant savings, few job prospects. I didn™t meet many people willing to criticize the place of baseball in the lives of Dominican youth, but those few I did would point me to the motorcycle-taxi drivers. Those are your baseball players, they™d say.

Baseball men claim that the sport offers other benefits: the food and shelter that Cedeño pointed to, or, commonly, that the clubs teach English to their charges. But when I met an American who worked at one of the academies, he told me that his club was hardly invested in teaching English: Most of the players will never make it to America, so why waste the time and effort? As Cedeño told me, a prospect must focus on only one thing.

And yet, it isn™t baseball that™s keeping Priki and his peers out of school. Lack of education is a national, systemic problem; while I wasn™t able to pin Priki or Cedeño down on an answer, I can guess that even without baseball, Priki would have been out of school by the time he was twelve or thirteen. I met other ballplayers who practiced by day and attended school by night, but they are more exception than norm. Meanwhile, Priki™s agreement with Cedeño allows him a richer material life than he had in Los Minas, a neighborhood that generally draws electricity from the power grid for less than twelve hours a day.

Nor can I help but think his efforts provide their own rewards. In college, my baseball coaches used to harp on the sacrifices of time and effort you made to be an athlete: that you worked hard because hard work was a good thing. At eighteen, I found their exhortations to have something of a false ring. Now, watching Priki labor day after identical day, I can believe in the value”unquantifiable, and perhaps only private”of the rigorous pursuit of an improbable dream.

Chesney, Urban, Bentley Could Be Next

Posted in Gridiron, History's Great Hook-Ups at 2:04 pm by

ESPN.com headline: Bucs to release Brooks, Dunn

NFL Commish Sacked For 20 Percent Loss

Posted in Gridiron, The Marketplace at 12:50 pm by

Reuters reported earlier today that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is taking a 20 percent pay cut as the league announced layoffs of 169 employees.  There’s no word yet from Ben Schwartz on my proposal that he and other CSTB contributors follow suit by accepting 80% of their current blogging fees rather than watch their junior colleagues face termination.

Goodell took a voluntary cut from the $11 million salary plus bonuses he was to receive for 2008 and agreed to freeze his salary for 2009 along with other executive staff, the league said.

The job cuts, made in response to the struggling economy, represented 15 percent of NFL staff and affected the New York business office, NFL Films in Mt. Laurel, New Jersey, and the NFL Network and NFL.com production in Los Angeles.

They were made through a combination of buyouts, layoffs and open jobs not filled.

“It will continue to take collective sacrifice to get through this challenging economic environment, but these and other steps by our office and clubs will enable us to be more efficient and better positioned for future growth,” the NFL said in a statement.

The Biggest Jump: WaPo On D.C. High Schooler with 3.8 GPA, 50-Inch Vertical, 0 Scholarship Offers

Posted in Basketball, College Spurts at 2:49 am by

From the Washington Post — and then, as per usual, from Brendan Flynn — comes the story of a D.C. prep star named Travon Smith. Smith is his class’s valedictorian, possesses a vertical leap that would would get the soles of his feet over at least one member of the Geto Boys with ease, and yet isn’t being recruited by D1 schools because…he lacks hoops fundamentals? Which is interesting considering, like, the last generation or so of college basketball recruiting. The Post‘s Alan Goldenbach reports:

Smith is learning that the hops alone don’t write the ticket in basketball. An 18-year-old who stands 6-5 and weighs 300 pounds or who can run the 40 meters in 4.3 seconds likely will find a football scholarship opportunity simply because coaches know they cannot teach someone to be that big or that fast. A baseball program will take a chance on a left-handed pitcher who can’t find the plate but can throw 90 mph. Aside from height, though, basketball is not a sport that chases raw skills.

“There are some positions in football where strength and speed can overcome a lack of skill or technique,” said Chris Caputo, an assistant basketball coach at George Mason, speaking in general terms because NCAA rules prohibit college coaches from discussing potential recruits. “In basketball, it’s ultimately your skill set [coupled] with your athleticism. When we look at strength and jumping ability, we also look at a skill set. Can he shoot? Can he pass? The athleticism is certainly a nice piece of the puzzle, but there’s more to it. At our level, it’s hard to teach technique, and that’s what makes the difference. In basketball, they really don’t care about your 40 time.”

…Smith shifted to guard this season, because that’s where he likely would play in college. Now, he’s working on his ball-handling and outside shot.

“I just want to go to college,” Smith said, “Yeah, I’d love to play, but I really want to go to college.”

It’s enough to make you miss the days when kids like Smith — or, say, C.J. Miles — could make the jump to the NBA because of abilities like that (with non-sociopathic personalities as fringe benefits). I may not be watching college hoops well enough or intelligently enough, but the GMU coach’s comments just seem entirely wrong to me. I can believe that CAA teams aren’t chasing athletes lacking certain basic fundamentals, but isn’t that the entire recruiting philosophy for schools like Georgia Tech and Wake Forest, among others?

Those programs’ unpolished athletes are McDonald’s All-American pedigreed, but it is baffling that some run-and-gun D1 team — Duquesne, UMass, pick your local spazz-core shoot-first squad — couldn’t take on such a ridiculous athlete, teach him to play perimeter D, and watch what happens on some Bravo TV shit. If Slim Charles and the Junkyard Band can show some love to Anacostia, why wouldn’t some program — it could be any that has fans who enjoy dunks and that likes graduating players — take a chance on this dude? (And why aren’t there YouTube clips of Travon available? Come on, DC!)

02.24.09

PECOTA Vs. The Chicago White Sox

Posted in Baseball at 11:00 pm by

(Above: Nate Silver and crew take a break after shipping Baseball Prospectus ’09)

I’m the last one to doubt the statistical prowess of Nate Silver.  To run the table as he did predicting the ’08 presidential election results really says volumes about his proven ability to accurately predict a future by examining the past.  What’s more, I want to point out how much I personally appreciate the decision he made to share his number-crunching gifts with the worlds of politics and baseball, thereby depriving the Wall Street pig-pen of one more enabler.

All that said, it seems there’s a ghost in the machine. Silver’s Baseball Prospectus has published its 2009 edition, and its PECOTA team forecasts call for rain on the South Side once again. The system has has sold short the Sox three out of the last four seasons, but this year is truly inexplicable. PECOTA puts  the division champ White Sox dead last in an AL Central that just hasn’t improved appreciably.

Silver knows it’s been tougher to figure out the White Sox than a presidential election.  PECOTA badly missed predicting the 2005 World Champs, forecasting a mere 80 wins.  Next, BP shorted the Sox in ’06 before nailing their performance in ’07 – a year everthing went horribly wrong.

Last season, the Sox again whipped PECOTA’s projections and contributed significantly to the system’s first historical increase in average error predicting team wins.  On average, PECOTA now blows its forecasts by an averge of 8.5 wins, ending a steady trend toward increasing accuracy with a rude blemish.

“Everybody pick us for theer o four so I tink we doin pooty goo” offered Ozzie on last year’s expectations. Pooty goo is right. The Sox came out on top despite the loss of Scott Linebrink, the dismal months of Paul Konerko and Ken Griffey PAs, the cracked wrist and failed MVP bid of Carlos Quentin, the achilles tear of Jose Contreras and the mental desertion of Javy Vazquez in September.  To drag all that into the postseason was, yes, pooty goddamn goo.  While the Sox can’t do worse than PECOTA predicts, what’s likely to happen in ’09?

Going in, this spring looks worse for the Pale Hose than last year. The loss of Vazquez to Atlanta and Contreras for at least half the season has not been compensated.  The dicey proposition to cast Bartolo Colon in the fourth slot and and allow a competition for fifth probably means trouble early on.  It puts new pressure on Buehrle, Danks and Floyd to go deep and might lose the Sox quite a few games if the weeks drag on.  Average outings become a luxury for the starters the team can ill afford as the bottom either heals or learns.

But last place?  Quentin, Ramirez, Dye, Thome and Pierzynski are bats that more than easily match the local pitching.  Konerko may decide to play a full season, you never know.  Getz, Anderson, Viciedo – the kids are (probably) alright.

Last place? Who are these giants in the AL Central, anyway?

Cleveland?  I wouldn’t want to face Carl Pavano or Kerry Wood in a sulking contest, but this team is at least one CC Sabbathia short of where it was last spring, and Sizemore’s average is deflating faster than the Dow Jones.  I don’t see the threat.

Detroit?  Sure, Jim Leyland can croon like Sam Cooke when he’s taking the Motown studio tour, but where’s his pitching?  A healthy Zumaya and a restored Verlander is only the beginning of what they’re going to need to dominate.

The Royals?  The White Sox are supposed to finish behind the Royals? Not unless they’ve cloned Zack Greinke, recalled Mark Grudzielanek and given Esteban German the same surgery they gave Charlie Gordon in Flowers For Algernon.

Minnesota?  Okay, Joe Crede will help –but probably only for the two months his repaired back will survive him flinging himself onto the Metrodome concrete.  Mauer’s alarmingly unhealthy, which means nobody setting the table for Morneau, which means lots of pressure on an underwhelming rotation that unfortunately for them, is still forced to play away games.

The AL Central will probably come down to 5 or 6 games difference between first and fourth place.  Truth be told, the Tigers are probably the team with the most pent-up demand for wins and I see them putting in a far better effort this year.  Sox win 88, take the division, and Clint Eastwood takes Best Director in 2010 for The Human Factor.  Book it.

Time Kapsule Korner : Shea Stadium, Opening Day 1982

Posted in Baseball, History's Not Happening, New York, New York at 9:15 pm by

…aka “The Lengths Some People Went To In Order To Stare At Joel Youngblood & Ellis Valentine”. Thanks to Paul Lukas for the YouTube link

Finally, Stephon Marbury Has Been Emancipated

Posted in Basketball, Hip Hop, The World Of Entertainment at 7:32 pm by

Years from now, you might not remember exactly where you where or what you were doing when news broke of Stephon Marbury and the New York Knicks coming to turns on a buyout agreement after a four month staring match.

Not me, however.  I’ll always remember that I was watching UK terrestrial outlet Channel 5‘s coverage of tonight’s Pistons/Heat tilt, and analysis of the Marbury/MSG divorce was provided by none other than Coolio (above).

Though I’d lost track of Coolio’s career travails of late, he seems to be something of a crap TV fixture over here, having finished 3rd in the most recent series of “Celebrity Big Brother”.  In addition, he’s made a recent appearance on “Star-ving”, a straight-to-the-web program that pairs the aspiring white rapper duo of David Faustino (aka M.C. Bud Bundy) and Corin Nemec.

This doesn’t have much to do with the state of the Knicks roster or the Celtics’ mooted plans to sign the newly freed point guard.  But I do know I will be very, very careful in the future before I ever again refer to Stephon Marbury as washed up. There’s all sorts of second and third acts in public life.

All Tensed Up – Indy’s O’Brien Sets Land Speed Record

Posted in Basketball at 6:44 pm by

As the Indy Star’s Mike Wells points out “the Pacers were without three starters and Marquis Daniels, who had 28 points, was throwing up at halftime because of his battle with the flu,” leading the visitors to suffer the indignity of allowing 72 second half points to the Knicks (32 of ‘em coming from emerging All-World candidate Nate Robinson) in last night’s 124-199 loss. As such, head coach Jim O’Brien (above, left) made it very clear he was in a hurry to get the fuck out of Dodge. Either that, or he had to make it downtown to Paul’s Place before they turned the grill off.

Pacers coach Jim O’Brien was asked a question I couldn’t fully hear by a reporter about 75 minutes before Monday’s game against the Knicks.

“It depends on what kind of mood I was in,” O’Brien responded to him.

O’Brien was in one of those moods – a sour one – after their four-point loss to the Knicks at Madison Square Garden.

Just when I didn’t think O’Brien could beat his 41-second postgame interview session in Milwaukee in December, he takes two questions and spends a total of 22 seconds addressing the media before walking away.

O’Brien’s abrupt exit had one New York reporter yell out, “Thanks a lot coach,” as he walked away.

O’Brien obviously isn’t one that takes losing lightly. He cut an interview session short when he walked out the room at Conseco Fieldhouse last season after being asked about not believing moral victories following a loss.

There was the question of why O’Brien had Jeff Foster taking the ball out? Why they couldn’t stop Nate Robinson from scoring 32 points in the second half?

None of that got asked because O’Brien was in no mood to discuss things.

While Seth from Posting & Toasting reminds us that Larry Hughes fared no better in his home debut as a Knick than in his shoot-first-ask-questions-later stint on Sunday in Toronto (“shooting contested jumpers when you’re admittedly rusty is downright moronic”), of equal concern is the prospect Walt “Clyde” Frazier might be blissfully unfamilair with the cinematic history of Will Ferrell.

Will Ferrell attended tonight’s game, and if you know anything about Nate Robinson, you’ll know that he goes apeshit for Will Ferrell. The two exchanged “shake and bake” fist pounds all night.

Speaking of which, when Mike Breen explained that the “shake and bake” phrase to which Nate so often alludes is from Talladega Nights, Clyde responded “Really!? I thought he got it from me!” How Clyde manages to be so cool with so little sense of pop culture is beyond me. Maybe what makes him so cool is that he’s still stuck in 1970.

Billy Childish & Pals Gang Up On Damien Hirst

Posted in Free Expression, Modern Art at 3:02 pm by

In December, Private Eye reported that Damien Hirst had confiscated works by teenage collage/graffiti artist Cartrain (above), claiming copyright infringement over the latter’s use of the diamond-encrusted skull from Hirst’s “For The Love Of God”.  It’s a curious claim given prior charges Hirst himself was accused of lifting the skull idea from John LeKay, and with so much ill-will floating around, it should come as no surprise that a number of artists have come to Cartrain’s defense.  From Red Rag To A Bull.com :

It has come to our attention that some artist named Damien Hirst has allegedly been picking on one of our treasured Street Urchins who used a bit of art in one of his collages.

Thanks to Red Rag To A Bull and a small group of highly trained artists you can now save this Street Urchin from certain death and help him get back the 200 quid that this Hirst allegedly nicked off him.

All of the works below are for sale and once TWENTY MILLION POUNDS has been raised ALL the proceeds will go to make an exact copy of a sculpture known as “For the Love of God”. This will then be sold for FIFTY MILLION POUNDS and the THIRTY MILLION POUND profit will then be used to repay the Street Urchin his 200 quid, help other Street Urchins and also feed starving children in Africa and Sussex.

Nats’ Kasten : If You Keep Talking About Bowden, You’ll Miss Adam Dunn Stretching

Posted in Baseball at 11:26 am by

“This is a fantastic camp – as positive, upbeat, optimistic a camp as I can recall in my career in terms of athletic talent and atmosphere and the attitude of the players,” stressed Washington Nationals Prez Stan Kasten to the Times’ Mark Zuckerman. “[The negative news is] certainly not affecting any of them in their preparation.”  And while GM Jim Bowden’s rumored involvement in a growing bung scandal might not give those in uniform pause, the Washington Post‘s Thomas Boswell and Dave Sheinin report the case has the fully attention of the Nats’ front office, despite Katsen’s attempts to refocus the media coverage.

Behind the scenes, according to sources, some within the team’s ownership group — which includes Managing Principal Owner Theodore N. Lerner, seven principal owners and nine founding partners — are eager to cut ties with the general manager they inherited almost three years ago, and see the investigation as a way of facilitating Bowden’s exit. The Nationals, one source said, are encouraging the investigation to return an answer on Bowden (above) so the parties can “go on their merry way.”

Washington’s pragmatic stance with Bowden, several sources said, will change instantly if the investigation gives team ownership any ammunition. That group, which took control of the Nationals in 2006, inherited Bowden as its general manager – and ever since, Bowden has built a reputation for survival skills. He survived the transition to a new ownership group by fostering an alliance with Principal Owner Mark Lerner, still his closest supporter. He survived a forced marriage with Kasten. He survived a 2006 drunk driving charge. He survived three losing seasons in Washington, including last year’s 102-loss calamity.

Bowden’s track record in building the Nationals reflects a mix of unwise contracts given to veterans, savvy high-reward risks on players like Elijah Dukes, and notable offseason upgrades, including the early February signing of free agent Adam Dunn. While talking about Bowden on Monday, Kasten bemoaned the lack of recent attention given to on-field story lines.

“It’s happened with your backs turned to it at the moment,” Kasten said, motioning to one of the practice fields. “I hope you’re not happy about that. Something could be happening out there. We could have Adam Dunn at third base at the moment and you wouldn’t know about it.”

Joe Girardi’s Idea Of Male Bonding

Posted in Baseball at 10:57 am by

Pic culled from Peter Abraham and The Journal News.   It looks as though the Yankees had fun yesterday, but I must admit, upon reading of manager Joe Girardi’s plans to host an 8-Ball Tournament, the first thought that came to mind was “will Steve Howe Mickey Rivers come out of retirement?”

02.23.09

On The Campaign Trail With Jim Bunning

Posted in politics, The Law at 4:23 pm by

When the Louisville Courier-Journal‘s Joseph Gerth attended a Saturday function headlined by Senator Jim Bunning (R-KY),  how was he to know he’d end up penning 2009′s best candidate to date for “Is It Real Or Is It The Onion?”

Jim Bunning predicted over the weekend that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg could be dead from pancreatic cancer within nine months.

During a wide-ranging, 30-minute speech on Saturday at the Hardin County Republican Party’s Lincoln Day Dinner, Bunning, of Kentucky, said he supports conservative judges “and that’s going to be in place very shortly because Ruth Bader Ginsburg ¦ has cancer.”

“Bad cancer. The kind that you don’t get better from,” he told a crowd of about 100 at the old State Theater.

“Even though she was operated on, usually, nine months is the longest that anybody would live after (being diagnosed) with pancreatic cancer,” he said.

Bunning, who has only about $150,000 in his campaign account, has been criticized because of his inability to raise money.

“I’m not only asking for your support, but if you have a $25 check somewhere, or whatever, you can send it; I’ll cash it,” he told the group.

The “B” Stands For Baseball: FBI Focusing on Bowden’s History of Hijinks

Posted in Baseball, The Law at 3:52 pm by

Nationals GM Jim Bowden’s tenure in Washington is notable mostly for the fact that, even considering our nation’s just-deposed political leadership, Bowden (above) has somehow generally managed to be the most volatile, baffling and maligned chief executive in the city. Back in July, the Washington Post‘s Chico Harlan broke a story about the FBI’s investigation into allegations that scouts and other Nats front-office people were skimming money from the bonuses given to prospects. Harlan has a follow-up in today’s WaPo, but the bigger story is in Sports Illustrated, where Melissa Segura reports that the Feds are looking at Bowden’s connection with this sort of malfeasance going back over a decade.

A federal investigation into the skimming of signing bonuses given to baseball prospects from Latin America is looking at Washington Nationals general manager Jim Bowden as far back as 1994, when he was GM of the Cincinnati Reds, according to a baseball executive familiar with the investigation.

Two sources inside baseball say that a long-time scout in Latin America, Jorge Oquendo, 47, is the man who links the FBI’s investigations of Bowden and his special assistant Jose Rijo to that of former Chicago White Sox senior director of player personnel David Wilder. Last May the White Sox fired Wilder and two Dominican-based scouts after allegations surfaced that they had pocketed money earmarked for player signing bonuses. Oquendo worked for Wilder in 2006 and 2007, as well as for Bowden with the Reds in 1994 and again with the Reds from 2000 through 2003.

Considering the amount of money involved in these bonuses — yes, even those paid by the stingy Nats — this maybe isn’t that surprising. Considering Bowden’s rep for half-shady quasi-incompetence, it’s probably even less so. But considering the Feds’ ultra-aggressive but notably unsuccessful attempts to prosecute baseball’s bad guys — witness, for instance, the flatlined, ultra-pricey Barry Bonds investigation — maybe Bowden doesn’t have anything to worry about.

The Ghost Of Super Agency Past Tells Today’s Ballers They’re Not Holding The Hammer

Posted in Basketball at 3:34 pm by

Agent David Falk — at one time, arguably the most powerful man in professional basketball not named David Stern or Michael Jordan, warns the New York Times’ Howard Beck that upcoming labor negotiations between the NBA and the Players Association could be disastrous for the latter.  Given this is the man who brokered the deals that brought Shawn Bradley to the big screen in “Space Jam”, Falk knows a thing or two about a catastrophe.

The N.B.A.’s system is broken, Falk says, and fixing it will require radical measures that almost guarantee a standoff in 2011, when the collective bargaining agreement expires.

“I think it’s going to be very, very extreme, ” Falk said, “because I think that the times are extreme.”
How extreme? Falk said he believed Stern, the commissioner, would push for a hard salary cap, shorter contracts, a higher age limit on incoming players, elimination of the midlevel cap exception and an overall reduction in the players’ percentage of revenue. And, Falk said, Stern will probably get what he wants.

“The owners have the economic wherewithal to shut the thing down for two years, whatever it takes, to get a system that will work long term,” he said in an extensive interview to discuss his new book. “The players do not have the economic wherewithal to sit out one year.”

Falk despairs over the current state of the agent industry, saying “there’s rampant cheating going on” and “the quality of the representation is low.” He blames the union, which certifies agents but provides almost no oversight. A union spokesman declined to comment.

The players, he said, must recognize that the owners have the ultimate leverage. Many are billionaires for whom owning an N.B.A. team is merely a pricey hobby. Some of them are losing “enormous amounts of money” and would rather shut down the league for a year or two than continue with the current system.

So Falk is urging the union to take a more cooperative approach.

“And if we don’t do that, in my opinion, there’s an overwhelming probability that the owners will shut it down,”  he said.

Torts and Contracts

Posted in Hockey at 3:18 pm by

With our fearless leader out of blog range over the Atlantic (or maybe just between Texas and the Maritimes at this point), I may as well make this another post instead of updating. From TSN’s Bob Mckenzie (y’know, that never ceases to amuse me):

Sources say the New York Rangers and John Tortorella have an agreement in place that would make him the next head coach of the NHL team, but that the Tampa Bay Lightning have not yet been contacted for permission.

A current NHL on TSN analyst, Tortorella remains under contract to the Lightning for the balance of this season. In order for him to become head coach of the Rangers, he requires the blessing of the Lightning. Sources also tell TSN that the blessing has yet to be granted, however the NHL’s head office is now involved in an attempt to resolve the situation.

Arent you suppose to ask for permission first? Usually, all the other team can say about a fired coach is, “go ahead, relieve of us his salary.” But if the Rangers tampered, however harmlessly, and the Lightning stand their ground, a draft pick or more money could come into play. Just another feather in the Dolan/Sather cap.

Update: “Brooksy” of the New York Post says it’s the Lightning who are being squirrely.

Rangers Fire Only Winning Coach They’ve Had In Past 11 Years

Posted in Hockey at 1:17 pm by

Tom Renney is out. Hardly unexpected, however. They’d lost 10 out of their past 12 games (2-7-3), and could lose out on a playoff spot to Florida (among others).

As with past recent-vintage Rangers teams, high-paid free agents have disappointed, even though these particular guys (Gomez, Drury, Redden) never felt like flashy, celeb-first acquisitions a la Fleury or Lindros, and indeed, were acquired more for their particular skill sets (Gomez, winning pedigree and assists, Drury, winning pedigree and grit, Redden – oops – defense) than first-team all-star caliber (problem is, they’re paid like all-stars).

The CW for days has been that former Devils coach Jim Schoenfeld, who has coached the Rangers’ AHL team in Hartford and is currently in the NY front office, will step in to finish out the season (Hartford’s current coach is second-year man Ken Gernander). Then, of course, you have to wonder if they’ll keep the unexciting hockey lifer (as they did with Renney) or feel obligated to go after Pat Quinn or another “name” (which has hardly been the trend in the NHL of late, Todd McLellan and Bruce Boudreau being the most recent examples).

John Tortorella would seem the obvious choice (Bob McKenzie is saying so on TSN), so much so that you have to wonder if they’re hiring him (or should I say, re-hiring – he was an assistant back in ’99-’00, including four games as the interim head coach) right now. ‘Cause if you were just promoting from within you could announce it on the spot.

Tortorella’s last stint with the club is also the last time the Rangers fired their GM (Neil Smith) and coach (John Muckler) at the same time; Glen Sather’s been there ever since.

Did this franchise really once employ Ron Low and Bryan Trottier? Good times.

Update: Via Puck Daddy, Jane McManus of the Journal-News says “The new coach will almost 100 percent certainly be John Tortorella.”

And I almost 100 percent certainly can’t decide which is more delightful, the thought of seeing Torts again during a Flyers playoff series, or the thought of Torts and Larry Brooks seeing each other every day.

Update 2: This also means the Flyers’ John Stevens is the longest-tenured coach in the division, and third in the entire Eastern Conference. This has been noted by Rich Hoffman, though for all I know he did his research here.

If You Happen To Find Yourself In The Alleged Live Music Capital Of The World During Mid-March…

Posted in Internal Affairs, Rock Und Roll at 9:33 am by

…please feel free to stop at the above event. I’ll be the guy looking at his watch every 20 seconds.

02.22.09

Presenting The Greatest Dust Jacket Of Modern Times

Posted in Free Expression, Rock Und Roll at 9:05 pm by

Thank you, Blabbermouth.net.  This looks to be a certain literary classic, though it would be good to know whether or not Tommy Saxondale handed in a foreword before I place an order with Amazon.

Mavs’ Rags : Solidarity For Stacy Peralta’s Gang Doc

Posted in Basketball, Cinema at 7:40 pm by

On a Sunday in which former Maverick Pops Mesah-Bonsu went off for 39 points and 18 rebounds in Austin’s 131-124 O.T. win over Colorado, there are suggestions he’s either auditioning for the Raptors or being recruited for Great Britain’s Olympic team.  Back in Big D, the Star-Telegram‘s Eddie Sefko admits he scoffed when FSN Southwest’s Emily Jones reported Antoine Wright and Jason Terry were hanging blue and red bandanas (respectively) from their lockers, representing the Crips and Bloods (“this would be the Emily Jones of legendary gang hotbed of Plainview, Texas”).  “Turns out, the West Texas lady knows her stuff,” conceeds Sefko.

Jason Terry informed us that the bandanas do represent the rival gangs and were sent out by the LA Clippers’ Baron Davis, who is co-producing the movie Crips and Bloods: Made In America. It chronicles the bloody feud between America’s most famous and infamous gangs.

Terry said Davis sent out trailers and other information to all NBA players about the movie. And the players, as they often do, have responded. Many of them, including Terry and Wright, are donating money for every point they score this season.

The donation will be distributed to help inner-city youths across the country.

The Tribe’s Gullibility Is Already In Mid-Season Form

Posted in Baseball, Going To The Zoo at 3:05 pm by

Monta Ellis wishes he’d thought of this story, as provided by the Cleveland Plain-Dealer’s Paul Hoynes.

OF David Dellucci, who will miss at least the first three games of the Cactus League season, told reporters Saturday morning that he suffered a cut left thumb when an alligator bit him while he was saving a boy while fishing near his home in Baton Rouge, La.He hooked two of the three reporters gathered around him hook, line and sinker before coming clean.

Dellucci said he smashed his thumb while trying to close the tailgate of his trailer on Feb. 1. He called the Indians with news about the mishap right after it happened and reported to camp early to get it checked out.

As reported in an earlier post, Dellucci needed three stitches to close the cut. Then he needed surgery on the thumb to reclose the cut properly and reattach the nail to the nail bed.

Dellucci told reporters he wrestled with the alligator to free the boy, but “the gator got me on the thumb.”

After telling the truth, Dellucci laughed and said, “There are about 10 or 15 guys in this clubhouse who still think that story is true.”

Papi : Relationship With Sinister Trainer/Boogeyman Is Purely A Matter Of Convenience

Posted in Baseball at 1:51 pm by

Given David Ortiz’ suggestion earlier this week that those found abusing PED’s be sentenced to a one-year suspension, it might be a tad embarrassing for Boston’s hulking DH to find himself linked to controversial trainer Angel “Nao” Presinal.  No need to panic, however, because Big Papi assured viewers of Comcast “Mohegan Sun Sports Report”, œthis place where he works out is a facility that™s like five minutes away from my house.”  From the Boston Herald’s John Tomase :

œIt™s like an Olympic place where everyone goes and hits, runs, gets all their work in,” Ortiz said.  “It™s like in the middle of everyone™s houses, so we all go down there and work out. He™s a good trainer. He™s the guy that teaches you how to train, how to get your body ready to go. Besides that, I have no idea about any of this.

Presinal was banned from big league clubhouses in 2001 after border agents in Toronto intercepted a gym bag full of steroids that Presinal signed for. When questioned, he told investigators it belonged to Indians outfielder Juan Gonzalez.

œHe got into some trouble before from what I hear, and that™s something he™s got to deal with, especially with what™s going on, Ortiz said.

The Smiley Gonzalez Scandal Claims A Member Of The Nats’ Front Office

Posted in Baseball at 12:23 pm by

(l-r : Washington’s inexplicably employed Jim Bowden, the Dominican Republic’s oldest teenager)

Nationals assistant GM Jose Rijo is taking a leave of absence. Previously implicated in baseball’s bung scandal, Rijo was said to instrumental in Washington’s awarding Dominican prospect Esmailyn Gonzalez to a $1.4 million signing bonus at the age of 16.  Trouble is, the player wasn’t 16 at the time, nor was his name Gonzalez.   Appropriately enough, Fire Jim Bowden is keeping track of further developments, including a vehement insistence from the not-nearly-so-young man’s trainer that neither he or Rijo were involved in the scam.