03.24.09

#38 Not In His Phormer Teammates’ Hall of Fame

Posted in Baseball, History's Great Hook-Ups at 9:48 pm by

While Rob Neyer’s surprisingly emphatic (and intuitive) thumbs up to Curt Schilling and Cooperstown gets discussed and then some at Baseball Think Factory, the Philadelphia Daily News‘ Bill Conlin puts down his grouper sandwich and checks in with a few members of the 1993 Phillies:

Larry Andersen, now a radio voice, was the weary reliever who set up closer Mitch Williams that fatal Game 6 in Toronto, Schilling with the towel covering his head and face, Joe Carter up with one out, two runners on, the Phils clinging to a 6-5 lead. A lot of people on that bench have never fully forgiven Schilling for the way he showed up his teammate with the baseball world watching. And it didn’t matter that Williams wound up serving the most dramatic World Series walkoff homer since Bill Mazeroski in 1960….

Andersen rolled his eyes when I asked his reaction to Schilling’s cyberspace announcement that his 20-year career is over. “I was taught that if you can’t say something nice about somebody, don’t say anything at all,” he said. Then LA laughed mirthlessly. “It would probably make CNN.”

As luck would have it, the showers that came gusting off Tampa Bay and doused another Bright House Field sellout forced Darren Daulton to land the mothership in the parking lot. He was holding court in the Hooters box with the usual gaggle of pals and fans who surround him here during the Countdown to Dec. 21, 2012, last day of the Mayan calendar. When that page is turned, he says, all humankind will continue to exist, but in a different form.

Dutch pointed to Andersen. “I’m with him,” he said.

Some Phillies fans are wondering which hat Curt would wear should he earn HoF induction. Really? (And hey, remember when that used to be a serious question to ask about Roger Clemens?)

03.19.09

Hey Cinderella, Show Us Your Tits: Duke’s First-Round Victim Earns Another Round of Scrutiny

Posted in Basketball, College Spurts, History's Great Hook-Ups, Lower Education, The Law at 11:08 pm by

Brendan Flynn had some good comments on my Portland State post; we probably could have gone back and forth all week, which only serves to underscore the main point of my post – that the topic is probably worthy of some in-depth coverage in the Oregonian. Especially considering (as I updated), that Portland State itself publicly admitted its Division I status was in danger the next day.

My other point amidst the verbiage was that, during this time when we romanticize the small schools and the mid-majors and underdogs, they aren’t all the same, in terms of academics, money, or philosophy. Having a double-digit in front of your line on the NCAA bracket isn’t necessarily a mark of purity. The New York Times‘s Pete Thamel has already explored this topic with regards to Binghamton; today, he reports the university has been named in a federal sexual misconduct complaint (H/T to SI.com):

A woman who raises money for Binghamton University athletics has filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging œegregious acts of sexual misconduct by two senior athletic department officials.

Elizabeth Williams, a major gifts officer for Binghamton athletics, began processing the complaint with the E.E.O.C. on March 5 and formally filed it Tuesday. In it, she named Jason Siegel, a senior associate athletic director, and Chris Lewis, the assistant athletic director for development….

Williams was hired in March 2008 as the university™s regional director of major gifts, and she switched to raising money for the athletic department in January. She said the harassment began her first day in the department, when she was told by Lewis that she needed to engage a donor at a Binghamton game because he liked œchesty, loudmouthed women.

One week later, Williams said, she attended a dinner in New York with Siegel, Lewis and major donors from a fraternity. Soon after dinner began, she said, a donor began putting $100 bills on the table and asked her to tell him to stop when there were enough there for her to sleep with him.

According to Williams™s complaint, Siegel and Lewis encouraged and participated in harassment the rest of the night. She said that they speculated on her chest size and that Lewis suggested she strip for a donor who was planning a bachelor party.

At their hotel after dinner, according to the complaint, Siegel grabbed Williams™s breast in an elevator and told her he wanted to œmake sure it was up to standard. She said Siegel spoke with her the next morning in the lobby, saying: œWe™re all O.K., right? Nothing happened last night.

Williams said similar behavior continued at work, where she said Siegel consistently stood close enough to touch her body, stared at her chest and spoke to her using sexual innuendo like œusing her assets. When she made a work recommendation to Siegel in February, she said in her complaint, she was told she was œnot hired to have opinions, but rather to look good and flirt with donors.

And let me add, I am glad to be publishing this on a blog where there won’t be seven comments in the next half-hour asking for her picture.

Asshat FSU President Apologizes to “Dipshit” Samford University

Posted in College Spurts, Free Expression, Gridiron, Lower Education at 7:19 pm by

Ok, a moment away from TV and the Twitter. From the Tallahassee Democrat:


In a March 18 letter to the Samford University president, Florida State University President T.K. Wetherell apologized for a comment he made at a Tuesday news conference that could have been associated with Samford.

The letter, addressed to the university’s president, Andrew Westmoreland, says Wetherell is “deeply embarrassed and very sorry for the remark in which I inadvertently described Samford University in an unflattering manner.”

The letter goes on to say:

“I was speaking with the reporters about Head Football Coach Bobby Bowden’s winning record, and, in reference to his record at smaller institutions, I said that I was not concerned with a certain Orlando Sentinel sports reporter’s challenge of Coach Bowden’s win record ‘at dip**** schools.’ I immediately apologized to the group and said that I meant ‘smaller schools, a long time ago.

Mike Bianchi, the Orlando Sentinel scribe in question, has previously documented most of this.

So if Samford University’s a dipshit school, what sort of word would Wetherell use to describe the NCAA penalties? “Pissant” doesn’t seem colorful enough, though Bobby says it’s like “they’re killing a flea with a hammer.”

03.18.09

Is Our Cinderella Learning?

Posted in Basketball, College Spurts, Lower Education at 4:29 am by

Oregonian columnist John Canzano is often mocked by his detractors (generally speaking, I am not one) when he goes all Rick-Reilly-meets-Dave-Zirin and writes, for example, about the Juarez murders during Oregon State’s Sun Bowl visit. He has also, for better or worse, been the guy most associated with holding the “Jail Blazers” accountable (or unfairly tarring them as bad actors, depending how you look at it).

So it was sort of surprising to me to see this little dismissive tangent in the comments section of his most recent column about Portland State, after someone noted that the Vikings helped bring up the rear of the latest University of Central Florida report on tournament team graduation rates.

(REPLY FROM JC: The manner in which grad rates are measured is inherently skewed against the mid-majors or commuter campuses that will take second chance or higher risk student athletes. I’m shocked PSU isn’t last.)

This is a familar argument (see also: John Chaney) that has a lot of truth to it, but isn’t this exactly the sort of subject that should rate one of those “socially conscious” columns at a time when everybody else is doing game previews and human interest?

For example, how does Binghamton and Robert Morris and Utah State and Western Kentucky graduate 100% while PSU is 17%? And isn’t the fact that Portland State is one of just 7 tournament teams that will face NCAA penalties for its substandard APR, well… news? (three straight substandard APRs can get you booted from postseason play).

To be fair, PSU’s graduation rate last year was 43% – in basketball, where a graduating class can be just two or three students, numbers definitely don’t tell the whole story – but they do still tell a story. It’s also interesting to note that in the current study, PSU had a 50% graduation rate for African-American players but a 10% graduation rate for white players – most schools trend the other way.

Btw, this blog may have been the first to suggest PSU as a first round winner. It certainly hasn’t been the last, but I’m not too convinced. Neither are the sports books, which has Xavier as a 10 1/2 point favorite (for that, I sure do like the Vikings). Xavier’s coming off two recent losses, but they were both basicallly meaningless, the last one coming against an underrated Temple team in front of a Philly-partisan crowd. And while I always hesitate to read too much into conference comparisons, Big Sky regular season champion Weber State, which beat the Vikings by double digits both home and away, just got eviscerated by San Diego State in the NIT.

One thing’s for sure, Portland’s ostensible proximity to Boise won’t work against the Muskies… or so PSU coach Ken Bone told the Cincinnati Enquirer:

“Our gym seats 1,400 people. We don’t fill it up. We had two sellouts this year.”

Last year in Omaha, when we played Kansas in the NCAA Tournament, we had no more than 25 fans there. Hopefully this year we’ll get 40 to 50. Maybe a couple parents…my wife and three daughters will be there. That’s about it.”

It’s true. I lived walking distance from their arena for three years and am ashamed to say I never went to a game; they are sixth fiddle in Portland behind the Blazers, Oregon, Oregon State, the Winter Hawks and the University of Portland (which at least draws when Gonzaga comes to town). There are of course, advantages to such anonymity – unless, that is, CBS is currently working on a moving halftime story about what a difficult, character-building experience it was for Jeremiah Dominguez to be falsely accused of assault while on spring break last year.

Update: Today Portland State abolished its men’s wrestling team. From the university’s own press release:

The program has not achieved an appropriate academic progress rate (APR) as mandated by the NCAA. In fact, two years of excellent APR scores by the wrestling program will still not be sufficient to avoid penalties severe enough to impact Portland State™s entire athletics program, including its Division I status.  

03.16.09

“What’s Up, Knight? Can I Lend You This Copy of “The Feminine Mystique?”

Posted in Basketball, castration nation, College Spurts, Sports TV at 12:42 am by

Last month I interviewed Xavier athletic director Mike Bobinski, one of the ten people on the NCAA men’s selection committee, and what I’ve noticed since then is that anyone who truly takes the time to study up on the committee’s “policies and procedures,” and everyone who has participated in the NCAA’s mock bracket simulations, says that conferences, be it the number of teams per conference or the whole issue of big conference vs. little conference, almost never gets discussed. ESPN.com’s Pat Forde said it in 2007

To my surprise, there really is NO consideration given to the number of bids per conference. I’ll be honest: I annually rolled my eyes when the selection committee chairman insisted that was the case.

… and since then, countless WWL writers and personalities have been through the same exercise and reported the same thing. And yet, this “issue” came up several dozen times over the course of Sunday’s coverage, though I don’t really expect Dick Vitale to know better.

Another trope that’s out there is the notion that more “basketball people” should be involved in the selection, rather than ADs and commissioners. Perhaps it was caffeine-induced hallucination, but I’m pretty sure I even heard Jay Bilas (or one of his cohorts) suggest it should be more like college football. Meaning, I guess, that all those coaches and Harris pollsters who “know the game” do such a bang-up job. Here’s Bilas to the Indianapolis Star’s Steve Ballard this morning:

“Let me put it this way: If you have to take your car in for service, would you like it to be looked at by 10 mechanics or four mechanics, two doctors, a lawyer, a plumber and grocery clerk?” said Bilas, a former Duke player.

“In a multibillion-dollar industry — and that’s what this is — I’ve never heard anybody make the case that more basketball experience wouldn’t be better. More experience is better in anything. In everything.”

Apparently, Bilas is unfamilar with this defunct blog.

So ok… I’ll make the case. Or rather, I’ll let Jay’s colleague Bobby Knight help make it for me. This is a direct quote from the Sunday broadcast:

“[B]oth Walter (Byers, the first NCAA executive director) and myself felt that the women are going to pay a lot more attention to the women’s tournament [and] the men are going to pay a lot more attention to the men’s tournament, and I don’t think one should be on the other’s selection committee. I think that would be something that should really be taken care of.”

It’s the sort of comment that demands a numbered list.

1. There’s only one woman on the men’s selection committee, and she’s just the second woman ever. UT-San Antonio athletic director Lynn Hickey works for a school that hosted its third men’s Final Four in just over a decade last year. After today, her biggest job is gonna be a brand new FCS football program (headed up by former Miami bench boss Larry Coker). Her men’s team was playing for a bid today (and lost to Stephen F. Austin). She’s an AD, she’s in charge of both men’s and women’s sports, and it’s 2009 – how can this even be an issue?

2. There are, on the other hand, three men on the women’s selection committee. Two are athletic directors and one is a commissioner. Of the seven women, four are associate or senior associate athletic directors, and two are associate commisioners. One, Marilyn A. McNeil of Monmouth University, is an AD. Five also carry the title “senior woman’s administrator.” Anybody want to tell me how this problem can be fixed to Bob Knight’s liking?

3. Everyone who serves on either committee has specific assignments and procedures they must follow, during the entire season and when they get in the room. This is why I’m thinking somebody who “knows the game” like Knight would not be suited for the job, because apparently, if he were on the women‘s selection committee, he’d be sitting on his couch, getting ready to watch a Tennessee-LSU game or something, and then he’d just say, “Fuck it. I’m a man! Let’s see how Stephen Curry’s doing against Georgetown!” From there it’s just a small step to, “Eh, I don’t really need to watch St. Mary’s against Eastern Washington. I already know they’re not as good as Arizona.”

The committee, of course, did pick Arizona over Patty Mills and company (much to Vitale’s chagrin), and having been in Spokane on the night Mills broke his wrist, I feel better knowing that the members of the selection committee assigned to the WCC at least watched every minute that St. Mary’s played, and it was not a gut decision.

03.13.09

Maybe Rick Majerus Should Just Join A Better Conference?

Posted in Basketball, College Spurts at 12:15 am by

Ok, I’d say maybe some of these conference tournaments might have their moments.

The amusing world of blogging attribution: I do a post about Phil Sheridan’s article in the Inquirer last night. Yahoo’s The Dagger blog also picks that up, properly linking to (but not mentioning) Sheridan and the Inky, while quoting/crediting yours truly. Then Sports Illustrated‘s Luke Winn throws the item into his blog, but only with a “via Dagger.”

I’ve argued in favor of minor bowl games like the Alamo before, and after today’s hoops action I’d say much the same about the conference tournaments – they’re basically just an extension of the regular season, and when the match-up’s sexy or the game is good, what’s not to like about that? Of course, if you had a longer regular season and a system where the regular season champion got an automatic bid, the entire period of February 1 to March 15 would be pretty compelling.

But while Majerus effectively shot down the notion that it’s a good thing for a middling team like his to parlay short-term excellence into an automatic bid, the real purpose of these tournaments is to further seed and shake out all the teams who have a decent or near-certain shot of being in the field of 65. There’s little reason for St. Louis to participate – perhaps Majerus’s players really ought to be in class. Xavier can’t prove all that much by winning, but it would matter to Dayton.

The BCS conferences, however, are another story. Nine of the 11 Big Ten schools needed to play these games (imagine a small tear running down my cheek for the Northwestern Wildcats), while the tournament is how the gigantic Big East makes up for its unbalanced schedule. Syracuse and UConn only played each other once during the season. Now they’ve not only played another game, but an extra half a game on top of that, thanks to what is currently, at 1:05 am New York time, a 6-overtime fun-fest that Syracuse had never led at any point past regulation until the sixth OT. Seven players between the two schools have fouled out. It’s almost hockey-like. Of course the announcers have just jinxed it by mentioning the 7-OT longest game in NCAA history.

Update: It’s now 120-112 Orange, with 1:47 left. It would be kind of funny if the Huskies can catch up enough to turn the last 40 seconds into your classic eternal foul parade, but they already have to foul now, and Syracuse keeps making their shots. 3 hours and 40 minutes.

Update 2: Announcer just asked if Boeheim would be more proud of this team on this night than he was of his national championship team in New Orleans. Um…. no? 

Update 3: Syracuse 127, UConn 117. Anticlimax! The Orange may have bought themselves a higher seed or better region. But perhaps the losing team is the real winner here – UConn can just rest up instead of playing two more games, while West Virginia might be a good bet tomorrow.

“I’m more proud of this team… than any team I ever coached,” Boeheim says. Ok, mea culpa.

btw, I had Syracuse +5 1/2.

03.12.09

No Reason to Watch Today’s Xavier-St. Louis Game

Posted in Basketball, College Spurts at 5:05 am by

So says the ever-delightful Billikens coach Rick Majerus, sort of. From the Philadelphia Inquirer‘s Phil Sheridan.

The real heart of Majerus’ argument was that these tournaments also carry too much weight in basketball terms. His Billikens, with their 18-13 record, will play No. 1 seed Xavier (24-6) today at noon.

“I tell you what would be a real shame,” Majerus said, “if we were to beat Xavier, and for Xavier not to go to the tournament. They’re probably going anyway. They should go anyway. . . . I really believe that the regular season is everything. We could win this, put on a hat and shirt – we aren’t going to win this - and say, ‘Oh, we’re the champs.’ What a phony thing that would be. We were the champs of that four-game tournament.”

He’s right, but you could just as easily apply that logic to the big dance – by all long-term measures, Georgetown and Wisconsin were both better teams with better seasons last year than Davidson, but Davidson is the team that made it to the regional final (perhaps they even printed t-shirts). A tournament is a tournament, and when you win a tournament, that is all you’ve won, whether it’s the Atlantic 10, the FA Cup, Olympic Hockey or March Madness. Going back to the days of automatic bids for the regular season champions and abolishing the conference tournaments would be fine by me, but, it almost goes without saying, it’s all about TV and revenue, with bubble-buster teams like Cleveland State (or hey, perhaps St. Louis) becoming as much a part of the hype as Cinderellas.

03.11.09

John Gagliardi, Overlooked Again

Posted in Blogged Down, College Spurts, Gridiron at 9:51 pm by

SI.com’s Andy Staples asks:

Will this be Joe Paterno’s final season at Penn State?

With Florida State’s Bobby Bowden in danger of losing wins because of NCAA sanctions, Paterno, 82, seems to have a comfortable lead on the Division I-A wins list. If his lead looks insurmountable at the end of 2008, will that prompt him to retire? Or will Paterno, who currently boasts 393 wins, take a crack at breaking former Grambling coach Eddie Robinson‘s all-time record of 408?


It’s not like that record fell last season, either – John Gagliardi (above) has been the top guy since November 8, 2003, and now has 463 wins. Not coincidentally, he’s also the first active coach ever to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame – with Bowden and Paterno being the second and third.

Here’s my favorite thing about him though:

Gagliardi took over the program in 1953 with a mandate to turn the program around. Meanwhile, Blood offered this gloomy prediction: “Nobody could ever win at Saint John’s.”

Once again, Gagliardi surprised the skeptics by winning the MIAC title that fall. He also won championships with SJU’s track team, and he also coached the SJU hockey team for five seasons, compiling a 42-25-1 record, which is still the best career winning percentage of any hockey coach in school history. 

03.08.09

March Mildness in Cincinnati

Posted in Basketball, College Spurts, Sports Journalism, Sports TV at 10:27 pm by

I couldn’t help but think of a couple of old Cincinnati Enquirer articles after yesterday’s college basketball action.

On January 22, columnist Paul Daugherty asked, “Has Xavier outgrown the A-10?,” worrying that the Muskies were “too dominant.”

Then February came, and XU lost to Duquesne, Dayton and Charlotte. Yesterday they finished up with a 80-75 loss at Richmond in a meaningless game (they’d already clinched the top seed in the conference tournament). The Enquirer’s Shannon Russell wrote that “Xavier played its final regular-season game like a team with nothing to lose “ which is perhaps why it did.” But shouldn’t that be “nothing to win?”

Meanwhile, remember when Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin called out ESPN’s Joe Lunardi for leaving UC out of “Bracketology”? Then 17-8, the Bearcats promptly lost five of its next six games in the challenging Big East, including yesterday’s finale at home against Seton Hall. Maybe Daugherty could get them to switch conferences with Xavier?

Still, UC might be good for an early upset in the tournament, while Xavier, which isn’t playing for a bid, could get knocked off in the A-10 just like last year – they’ll probably face Temple or St. Joe’s in the semis, with the tournament being played in Philadelphia-friendly Atlantic City.

Still some college basketball action going on right now – Niagara just beat Rider in double overtime, Gonzaga’s making the the Vegas Sports Books look conservative against Santa Clara (it’s 79-43 92-57) while Patty Mills is about to return for St. Mary’s against Portland.

Here’s a weird little postscript (literally): with the WCC tournament ending tomorrow night, and the NCAA tournament not starting until March 19th, St. Mary’s has scheduled an extra regular season home game for next Friday.

Ryan Howard’s Press Box Power

Posted in Baseball at 6:32 pm by

MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki is not the only Phillies beat writer who covered this incident from Saturday’s Phillies-Tigers game, but he’s the only one (that I’ve seen) who delivered on a picture:



Ryan Howard just ripped a foul ball into the Bright House Field press box. The ball cruised between Phillies baseball communications folks Greg Casterioto and Kevin Gregg. Howard hit the ball so ridiculously hard that it put a hole in the drywall in the back of the press box, a good 20 feet behind the open window it sailed through.

Not only did the ball dent the drywall, you can actually see the seams of the ball imprinted on the wall.

Howard looked up into the press box and couldn’t help but laugh when he realized he nearly maimed Gregg and Casterioto.

Kevin is the son of the late umpire Eric, btw.

03.07.09

Congratulations, JoePA

Posted in College Spurts, Gridiron, Lower Education at 5:15 am by

When I saw the news of Florida State’s probation earlier today, that was indeed my first response – “cool, Joe will get a bigger lead as Division I’s all-time winningest coach!” I saw no reason to post this at the time because…

A) it still hasn’t been determined how many wins the Seminoles will lose

B) it seemed like a silly little thing that only Penn State and Florida State fans would really care about (and plenty of those would rather see both coaches leave the race entirely)

C) Of all the things to talk about in a story about academic fraud and the biggest big-name football probation in a while, the wins record seems trivial.

But, the record angle quickly became paramount, for ESPN’s Ivan Maisel as well as SI’s Andy Staples. And, in fact, it is significant on at least a couple of levels – one of which make FSU’s apparent wish to keep the program’s forfeits separate from the coach’s record just a tad ridiculous, the other of which makes it offensive.

See, as any Penn State-biased fan can tell you, it’s fitting that Bobby Bowden (above) might have to give up wins on a technicality, since he already has so many on a technicality – the 31 victories he earned at Howard College (now Samford University), which get folded into his career Division I record even though they didn’t happen at a D-I school. JoePa, of course, has never had another coaching job, so this has never been an issue for him. Perhaps the best way to resolve this would be for John Gagliardi to go coach a D-I school, but the 82 year-old St. John’s (MN) legend would have to put in 10 years before his 461 wins at at the D-III level got “promoted.”

More importantly, probation’s not a technicality. You cheat, you lose, and this is not the first time FSU has been in trouble in the ostensibly less seedy post-SMU era. Staples actually uses the word “SMU” in noting that the school should make sure it is totally forthcoming in identifying which players and games will factor into the vacated wins. And certainly, the NCAA didn’t mince words:

“The violations were serious and intentional; student-athletes competed while academically ineligible; there was a finding of institutional failure to monitor; there was widespread academic fraud; the academic fraud was perpetuated purposefully by three different individuals in the institution’s academic support services, including the former learning specialist.” 

Now, Penn State’s halo has been tarnished over the past few years by legal issues. But it’s still a school that smokes every other football factory in terms of graduation rate, and one that has never come close to an NCAA violation (something no other Big 10 school besides Northwestern can claim). I don’t necessarily think Penn State is truly better than the often hypocritical, plainly money-driven world of football “student-athletes” – heck, Joe considers Bowden a good friend – but that track record counts for something – and now, officially, it counts for more.

There is good news for Bobby though: he is already in the Hall of Fame.

03.03.09

The Avery-Tortorella Non-Story

Posted in Blogged Down, History's Great Hook-Ups, Hockey at 3:02 am by

With Sean Avery poised to join the Rangers (or, hey, some other team) Tuesday morning, we’ll be forced to read John Tortorella’s quote from his time as a TSN talking head at least another dozen times. The Daily News’ Filip Bondy did the honors Monday:

“Enough is enough,” Tortorella said then. “He’s embarrassed himself, he’s embarrassed the organization, he’s embarrassed the league and he’s embarrassed his teammates, who have to look out for him. Send him home. He doesn’t belong in the league.”

Along with all the stories speculating about whether Tortorella can put up with Avery, there was even one (sorry, can’t remember where) suggesting Avery might have issues with the fact that Tortorella dissed him. Of course, he hardly has that luxury.

But more than that, Sean Avery is a guy who talks trash for effect. Anger management or not, it’s part of how he makes a living.

And guess what? Being a talking head on TSN is kind of the same job – one that’s about as complicated as calling into Rome – have a take and don’t suck. Stake out your position to the nth degree. Exaggerate. Blow up. Just don’t be dull.

Well, John Tortorella’s not an entertainer anymore. What he said on television is no longer relevant. He’ll deal with all this as a coach – and really, the fact that he’s a hard-ass coach should only be a good thing for Sean Avery. And seeing as how Torts the coach is also famous for “shut your yap!” and “get the fuck out of here!” one would also think he understands his likely new charge well.

First Do No Harm To Easily Checked Facts: The “Times” on Matt McCarthy’s Memoir

Posted in Baseball, Reading Is Fundamental, Sports Journalism at 1:58 am by

Odd Man Out, former Angels semi-prospect-turned-Harvard-med-school graduate Matt McCarthy’s book, was mentioned here last month; I thought the Sports Illustrated excerpt was vivid, frank, and pretty much fantastic. Well, according to the New York Times’ Benjamin Hill and Alan Schwartz, it was fantastic in the other sense:

…statistics from that season, transaction listings and interviews with his former teammates indicate that many portions of the book are incorrect, embellished or impossible. It comes during a difficult period for the publishing industry, which has recently had three major memoirs ” James Frey™s infamous œA Million Little Pieces and the recollections of a Holocaust survivor and of an inner-city foster child ” exposed as mostly fabricated. The authors of those books have acknowledged their fraud.

When presented with evidence of his book™s wide-ranging errors and misquotations in an interview Monday morning, McCarthy said that he stood by the contents of œOdd Man Out. He said the book, which was published last month by Viking Press and was ranked No. 29 on the most recent New York Times nonfiction bestseller list, was drawn from detailed journals he kept during his year in the Angels™ minor league system. He declined to show how those journals corroborated his stories.

You’ll have to read the story for a total rundown, including a separate three-screen point-by-point list of the errors. But here’s one highlight:

In early July, while the broadcaster Larry King was in the stadium as the team™s special guest, the young infielder Matt Brown is depicted as being punched in the groin by King™s 8-year-old son, and then profanely threatening to kill the child. Brown is also shown chugging beers while under age and talking with McCarthy on a long mid-July bus ride to Medicine Hat, Alberta. But Brown did not report to Provo until July 30, according to Major League Baseball™s official transaction log. 

Tony Reagins, now the Angels GM, then its director of player development, disputes several details in the book, while a lawyer for McCarthy’s former manager Tom Kotchmann sent publisher Viking Penguin a 13-page letter prior to its publication.

Is this a James Frey deal? Probably not, but clearly McCarthy’s note-taking ability is not what he thought it was, or – and this just has to be assumed until he can prove otherwise – those journals simply don’t exist. Memories are unreliable, and reconstructing dialogue and scene (and putting thoughts in people’s head) for the sake of literary effect while still producing actual non-fiction is a tricky game indeed.

But if we’ll never know for sure whether Reagins shed real tears the day he cut McCarthy loose (it’s basically “he said/he said”), or if Brown was simply confused with another player, there are still enough basic errors to require a new edition, if not retractions or apologies. And you would think that both McCarthy and his publisher would have learned from Frey et. al (or any of the steroids-in-baseball stories for that matter) that stonewalling as the first position almost never lasts with further scrutiny.

But most of all, I would think this situation is a problem not because it reflects badly on McCarthy as a writer, but because “hey, isn’t that the doctor who wrote that sloppy, hyperbolic baseball book” is something that you want to hear on Scrubs, not the floor of New York Presbyterian/Columbia. One might prefer the Beat the Reaper guy.

02.25.09

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

02.23.09

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.

02.21.09

Terrapin Evacuation

Posted in Basketball, College Spurts at 12:04 am by

As if the recent lack of tournament appearances and the three-part Washington Post series wasn’t enough for the University of Maryland, sex columnist Dan Savage recently appeared there, and, well, I believe one UM student has inadvertently helped him think up a new one for the Cameron Crazies:

Fear the Turtle: What a woman experiences when she realizes halfway through vaginal intercourse that her bowels are full and her enjoyment of the sex has been superseded by her fear of crapping the bed. “Sue had to ask Drew to stop fucking her because she feared the turtle. She got on the can for a minute, then hopped back in bed, and no longer feared the turtle.”

02.16.09

Free J.C. Romero!

Posted in Baseball, The Law at 3:01 am by

Are there any writers outside of Philadelphia demanding justice for J.C. Romero? The Inquirer‘s Phil Sheridan suggests Commisioner Bud Selig ought to reduce the pitcher’s sentence down to 10 or 20 games.


Romero (above, left) sat on a picnic table outside the Phillies’ clubhouse yesterday morning and discussed “the longest and most frustrating off-season that I had in my career.” He was told in December that an arbitrator had ruled him “negligent” for taking an over-the-counter supplement that produced a positive test for the banned substance androstenedione – even though andro was not on the list of ingredients.

Romero was formally suspended by Major League Baseball in early January. A week later, the Drug Enforcement Agency raided the laboratory and offices of ErgoPharm, the company that produced the supplement in question. Results of the raid are under seal pending investigation, according to reports.

Clearly, Romero made a mistake by not following the letter of the MLB Players Association procedure for checking out supplements. But it was not a 50-game mistake. That’s the penalty a player would receive if he tested positive for the most hard-core injectable steroid on the market.

Oh, and it’s 50 games more than Rodriguez, Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens ever served or will serve….

Y’know, I understand the common-sense, spirit-not-the-letter sentiment at work here (see also, Spurs-Suns in 2007). But I can’t think of a single reason why it would be a good thing if we have a collectively bargained system of rules, appeals and arbitrations, which the commissioner of baseball then ignores at his discretion. Never mind that the “best interests of baseball” clause already grants Selig that power – do we really want him using it again? In the long run, that couldn’t be a good thing for the players or the fans.

To me, the whole thing becomes crystal-clear if you just flip the script. It was reported by Sheridan himself that Romero and the MLBPA originally thought he’d win the arbitration.

So let’s say that he had. Would justice and due process have been served if Selig chose to step in afterwards and said, “no sorry, he failed the test – never mind the arbitration, I’m suspending him for 20 games.” Either Selig is allowed to override the system or he isn’t. The rules may need an overhaul, but it’s too late for J.C. Romero, just like it should also be too late to punish A-Rod.

Meanwhile, Cole Hamels had to answer questions about shopping at GNC today. I look forward to an in-depth investigation of Chase Utley and Myoplex next.

ESPN’s Burnside Takes Up For Michel Therrien

Posted in Hockey at 2:13 am by

I’m not a fan of middle-of-the-season firings either, but ESPN’s Scott Burnside is too generous, IMO.


This is a man who took a Penguins organization that was adrift, aimless, shiftless — and those were the team’s good qualities — when he arrived in December 2005. And he kicked butt.

Remember when kicking butt was a good thing in Pittsburgh?

Remember how he kicked the Penguins’ butts from laughingstocks in 2005-06 to 105 points in 2006-07 and then kicked their butts right to the Stanley Cup finals last season?

So, you ask yourself, did Therrien suddenly become a dunderhead in the time between Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals and the start of this season?

No. But he became an easy scapegoat.

Actually, lots of people thought he was a dunderhead before. To me, Michel Therrien will always be the coach whose Canadiens squad blew a 3-0 lead (and 2-1 series lead) in Game 4 of the second round of the 2002 playoffs against the Hurricanes. That happened because of a five-on-three brought on by Therrien himself, who earned an unsportsmanlike conduct call for whining. The Canes took it to overtime, and when Therrien failed to put out two good centers for a key defensive draw, Jeff O’Neil won the face-off easily to set up Niclas Wallin’s goal.

What’s more, Burnside then says this:

The fact that Shero turned the reins of this talented, underachieving team over to the team’s AHL coach from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, a journeyman forward who managed 19 goals in 429 NHL games, suggests one of two things: a heartfelt belief Therrien really wasn’t the guy despite his successes, or Shero needed to do something, anything, to jolt this team into the playoffs, and this was the simplest plan of action.

But, erm…. that’s exactly how Michel Therrien got hired! Ed Olczyk was panic-canned, and the Montreal pariah Therrien, rebuilding his career in Wilkes-Barre, was the nearest available coach.

Also, since when does it matter how many goals a coach scored as a player? Michel Therrien “managed” zero goals in zero NHL games. And Dan Bylsma (who I am rooting for because our paths crossed briefly in Cincinnati) is a longtime hockey educator who has already spent four years behind the bench as an assistant, including one year in the NHL.

The irony in all of this is that last year, the dismissive thing to say about Michel Therrien if you didn’t rate him as a coach was, “anyone can win games with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.” Apparently not.

Intellectually Speaking, Mike Milbury Is a Bit Light In the Loafers (…and Other Hockey News)

Posted in Hockey at 1:14 am by

If you’ve ever watched the likes of “Trailer Park Boys,” “Testees” or (my favorite) “Rent-A-Goalie,” then you know Canadian TV is not as prudish as its U.S. counterpart. This was further borne out today on NBC by between-periods analyst Mike Milbury (above).

The poor man’s Don Cherry who isn’t Barry Melrose made some headlines in the Globe and Mail a few weeks ago for his multiple references to “the pansification of hockey” on Hockey Night in Canada. CBC producer Scott Moore said he didn’t have a problem with the word, though even Grapes himself quickly rejected it.

“I’ve upset just about everybody else, but never ever said anything about gays,” he said.

The Hockey Night commentator said yesterday he supports gay initiatives and has influenced teenagers to come out of the closet. He recalled plugging a gay hockey tournament in New York on Coach’s Corner several years ago.

“I got a nice letter from the head of the gays thanking me very much,” Cherry said.

Yup, that’s progress.

So today, after a ticky-tack unsportsmanlike conduct call on some shoving by New York’s Colton Orr (who couldn’t get the fight he wanted with his team down 5-1), Milbury had his say.

“I’m trying to find a word to describe it. I’ve used ‘wimpification of the sport, that one works.”

But had he actually used ‘wimpification of the sport” before?

“Or maybe I could call it the Pierre McGuireification of the game,” Milbury continued. “That would work for it too.”

Yes, if you’re familar with the history and context, Mike Milbury all but called his broadcast partner a fag on national television. Some people might want him fired. And some might want to give him his own radio show.

- The game itself was disappointing in a way – the Flyers and the Rangers haven’t played since October 11, so I was looking forward to a few hours of entertainment. Except the Rangers have been limpid for the past few weeks, so much so that Milbury was quick to join what had so far been a one-man banging-of-the-drum (by Larry Brooks) for Sean Avery’s return.

The Flyers 5-2 win was significant for rookie Claude Giroux’s big night (1 G, 2 As) and Mike Richards’ fifth shorthanded tally during a Rangers five-on-three. In just his fourth pro season the Flyers’ captain has become the first NHL player ever to score three career shorthanded goals with his team playing two men down. Is that because we’re in the era of more penalties, or the era of more-skilled penalty killers? (I suspect the latter is a direct result of the former, actually.)

- Then, of course, the night was capped off with the firing of Penguins coach Michel Therrien, about whom the Post-Gazette’s Ron Cook said last July, “I’m betting Therrien will become the first coach in Penguins history — 41 years and counting — to start and finish four consecutive seasons.”

This was his third. Of course, Cook was assuming that the team would play well. Certainly, extensions never change a thing – five weeks before that, when all the talk of locker room discontent first surfaced, I wrote on a message board:

...he’s going to end up getting fired if they don’t come out like gangbusters, or he will if they don’t do anything less than raise the Cup. And he was never Shero’s guy. It’d be jumping the gun but it’s a gun they’ll probably fire sooner rather than later anyway.

Hardly genius or clairvoyant, of course – to some extent the same could have been said about John Stevens or Bruce Boudreau.

- And finally, it’s understandable that Deadspin can do nothing but chortle at the thought of a theatrical evening of “Hockey Erotica,” ’cause yeah, it doesn’t get much more Canadian than that (unless someone has done a show of “Maple Iced Donut Erotica”).

But the truth is, it is an intriguing work from director Blake Brooker, based on short stories by Dave Bidini (author of Tropic of Hockey among other books, and, full disclosure, blurber of Zamboni Rodeo), with music by his band the Rheostatics. I suppose the U.S. equivalent would be a night of “Baseball Erotica” from Stefan Fatsis, Hal Brooks and Steve Wynn.

02.14.09

Curiously Missing From This Story: The Word “Orlando”

Posted in Baseball at 8:19 pm by

Not content with Phillies-killer Tim Redding or former Phillies flameout Freddy Garcia, the Mets have signed Livan Hernandez as an additional fifth starter candidate. From MLB.Com’s Marty Noble:


The Mets’ ongoing search for starting pitching depth has led them to a familiar surname, Hernandez. No “El Duque” this year, but Livan Hernandez is coming. The club has agreed to a Minor League contract with El Duque’s younger — of course he’s younger — half-brother and invited him to Spring Training.

Mets manager Jerry Manuel mentioned Hernandez as a candidate for the fifth spot in the rotation Saturday morning during a state of the team address. Indeed, Manuel mentioned the 12-year veteran before he mentioned Freddy Garcia, Tim Redding or Jon Niese. Unmentioned was Pedro Martinez, who general manager Omar Minaya essentially dismissed as a potential Mets…

Hernandez has won at least 11 games in each of those nine seasons and produced a 120-112 season in that period. His career record is 147-139.

“He’s our new Pedro,” one Mets player said. “Or our new Duque.”

Bearcats Coach to ESPN Bracketologist: “Get ESPN Full Court”

Posted in Basketball, College Spurts, Sports TV at 4:24 pm by

Given the way the BCS works, it’s understandable that football coaches like to campaign in the media. Basketball is different. Perhaps University of Cincinnati hoops boss Mick Cronin doesn’t realize Joe Lunardi isn’t likely to have a concrete impact on the NCAA selection process. The Cincinnati Enquirer‘s Bill Koch stirs him up:

“Even though they’re very close, I don’t really like their chances going forward,” Lunardi said Thursday, “because at this point they still haven’t beaten a team that’s in the field.”

That’s not to say they won’t. UC (17-8 overall, 7-5 in the Big East Conference) will play four of its last six regular-season games against Pittsburgh, Louisville, West Virginia and Syracuse, all teams that are currently included in Lunardi’s NCAA bracket…

UC is currently listed by Lunardi as one of the last four teams out of the bracket, which means the Bearcats are within striking distance.

But they’re 0-6 against teams that are included in his latest bracket, having lost to Connecticut, Florida State, Memphis, Villanova, Marquette and Xavier by an average margin of 16.6 points….

Lunardi has seven Big East teams in the NCAA Tournament with Georgetown and Notre Dame both struggling.

“To me, that’s ridiculous,” said UC coach Mick Cronin. “I would tell Joe Lunardi he needs to buy the ESPN Full Court package. Are you telling me that Syracuse wouldn’t win the A-10? Does somebody want to give me that answer? I’d like to have that argument with somebody.

“You’re going to tell me that Syracuse, with their McDonalds’s All-Americans and their talent, would not win the A-10? They’re eighth in our conference. For us to not get at least eight is only a byproduct of us beating up on each other and being penalized for having too good of a conference.”

That would appear to be a dis of Dayton, which, unlike Cincinnati, has beaten both Marquette and Xavier. Or, Xavier, which beat Memphis (among others). Or, most likely, a dis at Lunardi for his day job at St. Joseph’s University.

The Bearcats are playing Pitt right now (and you don’t even need Full Court).

02.13.09

One Heck of a Larry King Impersonation…

Posted in College Spurts, Gridiron, Sports Journalism, Technical Difficulties at 7:50 pm by

From Oregonian Beavers beat writer Paul Buker:

…the revelation that new UW football coach Steve Sarkisian has a Twitter page and recently broke his own story on the thing got me to wondering …what the hell is a Twitter page? … so I did some research, and now I’m afraid Sarkisian’s tweets (it’s what you call Twitter page items) might touch off a Twitter page arms race in the Pac-10. … I’ll bet if I asked coach Riley what a twitter page is, he would draw a blank, or maybe think it was some kind of Valentine’s Day card.. … if I asked coach Cav, “do you twitter?’ he’s liable to take a swing at me.

As if things aren’t bad enough in the print business, now as beat writers we’ve got to start monitoring the coaches’ Twitter pages?

Don’t like it.

Yeah, well, that problem will eventually take care of itself.

Of course, it’s old news that Pete Carroll started off this trend. And given that certain coaches supposedly don’t fill out their own USA Today polls, perhaps a dead-tree beat writer could stay relevant by telling us how much of the tweeting at the school they cover falls to the sports information intern.

Incidentally, Sarkisian spent Wednesday helping out his former student Mark Sanchez with NFL combine preparation. (And for the record, Scott Wolf of the L.A. Daily News is aware of both Twitter’s existence and the likelihood of ghostwriters.)

Next You’ll Tell Me The NBA Is Gonna Put In a Real Salary Cap

Posted in Basketball, Sports Journalism at 2:25 pm by

As if the trade rumors weren’t bad enough, Amare Stoudamire got convinced by Niki D’Andrea of Phoenix New Times that the NBA is instituting a “tattoo cap.”

Anybody with tons of tattoos is subject to criticism, and NBA players are no exception. In February 2008, the NBA announced it would push for a “tattoo cap” on players when its collective bargaining agreement expires at the end of the 2011 season. “We feel it is important that our players not scare the bejesus out of affluent demographic groups with gangsta-style tattoos,” NBA Commissioner David Stern told Foxsports.com. The proposed cap, as strange as it sounds, would require teams to limit their roster as a whole to 61 percent tattoo coverage of the “upper arms and necks.” So if a team has a couple of players covered in tats, conceivably two or three players with flesh as pure as a baby’s butt would be needed to offset….

For Stoudemire, getting inked is a personal ” not corporate ” decision. He finds the idea of a tattoo cap in the NBA ludicrous: “That’s totally B.S. They can’t put a cap on NBA players. It’s a part of life. I know attorneys with full sleeves, and politicians with tattoos. You can’t judge basketball players like that.”

Yes, “totally B.S.” indeed. The paper has since retracted that part of the story, which is a lengthy cover piece on Suns players and their tats, having been caught out by Alana G (who was formerly “Miss Gossip” at AOL Fanhouse).

The New Times article claimed FoxSports.com as the source, but was in fact quoting a clearly satirical blog post by Con Chapman that appeared in Fox’s community section….

Ms. D’Andrea seems like a very nice woman, and I hate to be a hater here… after all, there are lots of very nice people who just aren’t web savvy, aren’t quick to understand things, and make terribly embarrassing errors… but those people should not be PAID STAFF WRITERS AT NEWSPAPERS. As a female trying to earn my own credibility in the media world as an editor at Yardbarker.com, I actually feel personally upset by incidents like this. Sh*t like this brings us all down. This woman was going around asking NBA players about this proposed tattoo cap. My mind implodes.

Niki replied to my email right away and asked if we could speak on the phone. She indicated in her email that she still wasn’t sure if she had been duped or not. Couple of things: 1) How could you still not be sure you had been duped? Read the full hilariousness of the Con Chapman post, consider the sheer ridiculousness of David Stern’s supposed quote, do a quick Google search to see if any news site talked about this “tattoo cap”… 2) If you are trying to get to the bottom of this matter, why do you want to waste time talking to me? You have no idea who I am. Spend your time talking to the NBA or a trusted source who reports on the NBA, right?

Anyway, in our phone call she told me that she had “heard” about the tattoo cap, couldn’t get the NBA to return her calls about it, did a Google search and found the FoxSports “article” and… decided to go ahead and print it. Questions still unanswered include: 1) Since when does one Google search yielding one satirical blog post constitute adequate reporting? 2) Where was her editor? 3) Where was the fact-checker? 4) Where was the guy who takes out the trash who occasionally watches Sports Center who might have leaned over her desk and caught a glimpse of this story and realized right away that it was completely unbelievable?

Grand Rapids Columnist Might Have Been Prepared for Death of Newspapers

Posted in Get Out Of Jail, Sports Journalism, The Law at 1:05 am by

Until the cops stepped in, that is:

Police say longtime Grand Rapids Press sports columnist David Mayo grew marijuana in his home, neatly preserving his crop in canning jars…

Mayo, 48, was arraigned Wednesday in Grand Rapids District Court on charges he manufactured more than 20 but fewer than 200 plants, a seven-year felony. He also is charged with maintaining a drug house at his home on Fuller Avenue NE. That charge is a two-year, high-court misdemeanor….

Mayo turned himself in Wednesday morning at the Kent County Jail. A warrant for his arrest was issued by the prosecutor Friday.

Press Publisher Dan Gaydou said the newspaper became aware of the allegations Wednesday morning. Mayo has been suspended with pay pending further investigation, he said….

Lawyer Bruce Block said Mayo, his client, is cooperating with police and prosecutors. Block said the plants were for personal use and Mayo was not selling them….

David Mayo has been employed at The Press since 1985 and has covered collegiate and professional sports, including the World Series and Super Bowl. He specializes in boxing coverage and has traveled the country to report on the career of Floyd Mayweather. A native of Kirby, Ark., he is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

So what’s up with the suspension? Shouldn’t that at least wait until a guilty plea? Is there a Plaxico Burress-like “good conduct” clause? Is there a medical angle? Or do you think this sort of arrest might hurt Mayo’s credibility in college locker rooms and boxing gyms?