Friday, March 28, 2003

National League Preview

The biggest race of the National League just might be the race to 74. Is it even possible any more or are the days of inflated homerun numbers gasping their last breathes? Barry Bonds went from 73 homers to 46 last season. Sammy Sosa, from 64 to 49 and Junior, injury plagued and mercilessly burlesqued, from 22 homers to 8. The last time neither league was able to produce at least one 50 homer slugger was 1994 when Matt Williams led the majors with a paltry 43 dingers.


Houston Astros: Now that their stadium is no longer associated with the sludge of the corporate greed and corruption of Enron, the biggest question for the Astros may be who, after Roy Oswalt and Wade Miller, will fill out their rotation. They've just dumped Shane Reynolds. Brian Moehler, who split an uninspiring season between Detroit and Cincinnati last year, has a steady record of mediocrity for the last four seasons will likely replace him while two youngsters who had fine spring trainings, last year's Pacific Coast league Most Valuable Pitcher Jeriome Robertson and fireballer Tim Redding, will fill out the rotation. Beyond this lack of depth in the rotation however, the Astros have a fine bullpen, one of the league's best closers in Billy Wagner and setup man Octavio Dotel, who on any other team, would be a standout closer. The list of things the Astros have going right for them is long. Signing Jeff Kent adds to an already formidable lineup that includes Bagwell, Lance Berkman, Biggio and Richard (hope for 30/30, settle for 20/20) Hidalgo, who has recovered sufficiently from getting shot in the arm during the an attempted carjacking in the off season. In a division where every team has one sort of serious problem or another, from injured closers to poor rotations, the Astros have best one-two starting pitching punch and the best pen. After winning the division four of the last six seasons, the Astros should make juicy Minute Maid Park a winning stadium in no time.

Los Angeles Dodgers: With Eric Gagne as their closer, the Dodgers went 80-2 when leading after eight innings. They have the deepest rotation in the National League with Nomo, Perez and Ishii, Dreifort and Kevin Brown, who, with a fantastic spring, can be counted on to fight Junior for Comeback Player of the Year honors. To back them up in the field, the Dodgers made only 90 errors all season. Their lineup, with speed demon Dave Roberts at the top followed by LoDuca, Green, McGriff, Brian Jordan and Adrian Beltre, while not the most intimidating in the West, certainly outshines that of Arizona, whom they open the season against. They won 92 games last year without Kevin Brown and Dreifort and without the balance of solid left handed power that McGriff brings. This year, they should do even better.

New York Mets: This is certainly the most enigmatic team in the National League. Spring has been a long love fest with everyone chirping about how happy they are with the laid back Art Howe in control. No kidding. But being happy and laid back doesn't necessarily provoke two fading stars, Mike Piazza and Roberto Alomar, back into their usual career numbers. Fat Mo lost some weight, sure enough, but he still has the range of a stone at first base. The Mets never satisfactorily filled the infield holes or the centerfield hole in Cedeno's glove or the holes in the rotation. Being laid back won't fill those holes. You can be sure of one thing however, with the three top teams in the East having undergone radical off season changes, the Mets are the only ones who have to do it this season or bust. Half of the rotation should be pitching in the Old Timers games next year, Piazza, if he continues a stubborn refusal to move out from behind the plate, will continue to see his power numbers sink, Alomar appears to be heading in a swift downward spiral and their closer, Armando Benitez, chokes like Mama Cass on a ham sandwich when the game on the line has any meaning. That said, because they are my favorite team, I can look at the potential of this season unobjectively. I can say Cedeno may play like a blind man in center, but he's still got great speed and can get on base enough to put some juice in the lineup. I can say Wigginton can be the answer at third and will hit better than any of the candidates the Mets could have brought in to replace Edgardo Alfonso. I can say that Glavine and Leiter are two great clubhouse leaders with enough guile and experience to pitch their way to superb, although not overwhelming seasons. I can say that Fat Mo will hit 40 homers and even Burnitz, who laughs at his strikeouts as if they were punchlines to his power, could do the same. I can say that a healthy Cliff Floyd is the catalyst that holds the lineup together. I can say both Alomar and Piazza have one more decent season in them. I can say alot and of course, because they are my team, I can see things just as idiotically rosey as the players and management do. After all, if you can't go into a season with the hope your favorite team can make it into the post season, you might as well move to Milwaukee and root for the stinkin Brewers.

Atlanta Braves: The entire premise of the Braves winning the East is based upon the assumption that the Philadelphia Phillies, with all the pressure of their big acquisitions building on them and a hot head manager like Bowa to lead them, are going to crumple like tissue paper at the first sign of adversity. The Braves, on the other hand, are on autopilot most of the year, convinced as much as the Yankees that the division is theirs to lose. Yes, the Braves lost Glavine and gave Millwood away for the closest thing to free you can find. Yes, their bullpen took several hits. Yes, Javy Lopez is on his way down and Vinny Castillo hasn't hit his weight in spring training. But the lineup still boasts Laaaaarry Jones, Andruw Jones and Gary Sheffield. It still has a Hall of Fame pitcher left over and the best closer in the division. The bullpen, the best in their history last season, is reconstructed from scratch but everyone being counted on, from Hernandez to Holmes, have had solid springs so the drop off might not be as hideous as some people expect. The good news is that Robert Fick, no longer boozing it up in the hangover that is the Detroit Tigers, will give the Braves some left handed punch at first base and the othergood news is that Skip Caray and Pete Van Wieren, who could put a crack head to sleep with their listless and hypnotic broadcasts for TBS, are gone. While I'm rooting for both Hampton and the Braves to falter miserably, like the Mets, the Braves aren't much, but they are experienced and they know how to win.


Milwaukee Brewers: For the first time in Milwaukee Brewers history, a Selig will not be president of the franchise so at least Brewers will have something to be happy about this year. New manager Ned Yost has already demonstrated he is a managing mastermind. "I believe that the clubhouse is your sanctuary," he said about the Brewers clubhouse to-be. "If you want to listen to music, it's very easy to put on a set of headphones, get in your own little world and listen to what you want and leave the 24 other guys out of it.". Yost wears his #3 uniform in honor of Dale Earnhardt who has nothing to do with baseball but from whom Yost says he learned "dogged determination". Yost is going to need more than dogged determination and a silent clubhouse to fix the Brewers. He'd need something like gazoo to get the Brewers back to .500. Unfortunately, gazoo is still busy helping Fred Flintstone out of his jams so Yost is going to have to take his lumps like the Brewers managers of the last ten losing years have and pray for a quick and painless dismissal.

Montreal Expos: Considering he was able to get the Expos to finish with a winning record and in second place last year, you might believe there isn't anything Frank Robinson can't do. The threat of contraction seems to have recuperative powers both in Montreal and in Minnesota. But this year brings even more distractions. Relocation. Playing in Canada and in Puerto Rico. Losing Bartolo Colon. Getting the Hernandez brothers. Not losing Fernando Tatis. And the soon-to-come Vladimir Guerrero sweepstakes. These things add up but they don't add up well.

San Diego Padres: Ever since the Padres couldn't get Phil Nevin to move to Cincinnati, it's been one headache after another. Call it the Junior Curse. Closer extraordinaire Trevor Hoffman has rotator cuff surgery and is lost for half the season. Nevin breaks his arm. The price of a gallon of gas in San Diego jumps to $2.21 a gallon. There are some nice suprises waiting to happen in San Diego, like Brandon Villafuerte and San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board's September deadline to devise a plan to better clean millions of gallons of contaminated ground water it pumps from beneath the downtown Convention Center and discharges into San Diego Bay. But other than that, you've got a stadium that sounds like a Middle East capital and a team mascot that represents a catholic priest. Neither has had a good year and the Padres won't either.

What The Hell Are We Doing Here Award: Will go to Reggie Sanders and Kenny Lofton who went from the National League division champs to the Pittsburgh Pirates in one off season.

This Is Not A Good Omen Award: The Philadelphia Phillies, after an offseason frenzy of free agents and stars which has their fans and many baseball experts squirming with anticipation, not only get no-hit in an exhibition game last night, but they get no-hit by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays! Yes, the Phillies were quick to point out that Jim Thome didn't play in the game but the rest of this fabled hitting Leviathan did and if Jim Thome is expected to carry this much of the burden, they should have paid him $185 million instead of $85 million. And yes, the Phillies stole Millwood from the Braves but let's not forget, Millwood was the number three starter for the Braves. He isn't Cy Young. Padilla has a bad attitude and a 7.58 ERA this spring, and Randy Wolf looks like he's pitching in a softball tournament instead of the major leagues. Add it up with the fact that their closer is Jose Mesa, Larry Bowa, a man who makes Lou Piniella look like Buddha, is their manager and the expectations in a city of mean-spirited fans like Philadelphia who won't wait for the Phillies to "discover" themselves and I think you've got the season's biggest train wreck waiting to happen.

What In The Name of Alex Gonzalez?: Has anyone else noticed that Alex Gonzalez is slated to play shortstop for both the Florida Marlins and the Chicago Cubs? No, not that Alex Gonzalez, the other Alex Gonzalez.

Close But No Cigar Award: To Chicago, St. Louis, San Franscico and Arizona. They all have good teams and they all have great chances to make the playoffs but little intangibles, like the Cardinals have no closer and half the starters are either already injured or so injury prone it's just a matter of games before they snap a joint or tear a muscle. The Cubs are a sentimental favorite for most of the world who loves perennial losers and people who like to think if you root long and hard enough, the odds are with the Cubs that some day they will win a World Series. The Giants can be summed up thusly: Felipe Alou for Dusty Baker (bad), Edgardo Alfonso for Jeff Kent (worse). Don't let all the other off season noise fool you. Dusty Baker held that team together for those many years and without him, they are just another team. The Diamondbacks, with the Johnson and Schilling and Pray for A Mercy Killing pitching staff will continue to prosper but the hitting is only done in private and you can't win 1-0 every game.


NL East: Atlanta, NY Mets, Philadelphia, Florida, Montreal
NL Cental: Houston, Chicago, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee
NL West: Los Angeles, Arizona, San Fransisco, Colorado and San Diego

MVP: Shawn Green
Cy Young: Randy Johnson
Biggest question: Will Jose Hernandez strikeouts become bunt singles in the thin air of Coors Field?

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

American League Preview

Serious pennant races in the AL East and West. Serious races for the AL All Star Shortstop. Serious races for the wildcard. And best yet, Nomah stinkin Rally Monkey!


NY Yankees: The first thing I notice about the Yankees, with a bit of glee in fact, is that their bullpen has been squandered and is in disarray. Yeahyeah, they've got Mariano, but Mariano's got a cranky groin (ugh), just like last season and he's starting off the season on the DL. Taking his place will be Juan Acevedo. All you need to know about Juan Acevedo is that he was the closer for the Detroit Tigers last year and he has a career 4.16 ERA. He's so good the Tigers didn't even want him so the Yankees were able to sign him to a minor league contract. More genius bullpen moves by GM Brian Cashman: Dump Ramiro Mendoza and Mike Stanton. Sign Chris Hammond and his shoulder injury, watch Steve Karsay suffer another shoulder injury, sign Antonio Osuna, a piker with a 3.86 bullpen ERA last year for the White Sox. Pick up Acevedo from the dregs of the Tigers and whew, call it a day. Cashman is my hero. He destroyed the bullpen almost single-handedly.

Fortunately for him, because George Steinbrenner would buy Satan if the Red Sox wanted him first, the Yankees still have 5, perhaps 6 very good starters. They also have a very gruesome hitting lineup. I get the willies looking at it. Soriano, Jeter, Giambi, Williams, Matsui, Posada, etc. Worse still, Reggie Jackson appears to have straightened out Raul Mondesi. There are holes here and there but not many.

Boston Red Sox: Despite Pedro's big mouth, I like this team. I like them even though half the positions will be filled "by committee". There's the closer by committee that everyone already knows about. Then first base by committe between Millar, Ortiz and Giambi. Then perhaps a third base by committee between Hillenbrand and on cloudy days, Mueller. And of course, DH by committee between whoever else isn't starting on the field that game. I like that. The Boston Platoon Sox. Grady Little and the Boston Platoon Sox. What a great little jazz combo. Nomah will fight it out with Jason Giambi all season for MVP while Manny Ramirez just emasculates pitchers, over and over again.

Oakland A's: The three questions are: How will they do without Howe? Will all of The Big Three (Zito, Hudson and Mulder) stay healthy? Did Billy Beane FINALLY make a mistake by trading Billy Koch and getting Keith Foulke in return? Answer one: Howe's bonehead pitching staff moves cost the A's a chance to make it to the World Series last season so no, he won't be missed. Answer two: Yes, all three will be healthy but Mulder, not Zito, will be their ace by the end of the year. Answer three: Getting rid of Koch means far fewer late innings of high drama as Koch walks the first two batters he faces before he strikes out the side. Foulke is not an exciting closer but he'll do.

Minnesota Twins: Here's a crazy thought: Picking up Kenny Rogers at the last minute to replace the injured Eric Milton might have saved the Twins' season. The best off season move by any team in the minors was when the Rochester Red Wings dumped the Baltimore Orioles as their AAA parent team and hooked up with the Minnesota Twins. Wow. That's like divorcing Roseanne Barr and marrying Jennie Finch. The Minnesota Twins have unlimited supplies of great players in their minor league system and combined with a stunningly good bullpen, the Twins can continue to give Commissioner-For-Life Bud Selig the collective finger.

Women And Children First:

Detroit Tigers: Worst team by far in the AL. Starting pitching led by a trio called is Sad, Sadder and Saddest. Bullpen is decent but who is going to save a game when you're down 13-4 in the 8th every night and even the hot dog vendors have already run home in terror? However, the Tigers are "on their way up". By 2013, they should make it to fourth place.

Toronto Blue Jays: Suprised to see yourself so far gone? I know, I know, in the cosmic order of the universe, everyone picks them THIRD. The Blue Jays separate the milk from the cream, the Yankees and Red Sox from viral diseases like the Orioles and Devil Rays...Well, I'm not buying it. Other than Shannon Stewart and Roy Halladay, this is a AAA team managed by a man named Carlos Tosca. Am I the only one outside of Canada asking myself, WHO? Tosca? Wasn't that an opera? Oh yeah, Puccini on first, Angelotti on second and Cavaradossi on third. it sounds beautiful but remember, in the Third Act, the chick leaps to her death. Doesn't bode well. Yes, I know Mr. Tosca managed the Jays to a miraculous 58-51 record as an interim manager last season but check out this downward spiral since 1998: The Jays' winning percentage has been: .543, .519, .512, .494 and last year: .481.

Tampa Bay: Poor Lou Piniella. Instead of a grand return to New York to manage the Mets, he ends up in a sink hole like Tampa Bay. Instead of managing Mike Piazza, Tom Glavine, Al Leiter, Roberto Alomar and Cliff Floyd, he's stuck with Stooopid Rey Ordonez. Bright spot? Keep an eye on Rocco Baldelli, their #1 pick in 2000. That, and the fact that Tropicana Stadium is now being billed as "The Ballpark of the 21st Century" on their website. Now that is something to be proud of.

Kansas City Royals: Hey, they're KILLING everyone in spring training this year. They're 17-6 in games that don't matter. Enjoy it now Royals fans. Mike Sweeney is one of the best first basemen in the American League. Enjoy him now Royals fans. Enjoy Carlos Beltran and Joe Randa now, while you can Royals fans and then turn out the lights, grateful that at least you don't live in Detroit, the only circle of hell higher than being a Tigers fan.

Baltimore Orioles: What does it mean when your bright spot of the off season was getting Buck Martinez to be the color man for your broadcasts? That tells you all you need know about the Orioles this year. Well, it might be exciting to have the best closer in the AL East. Jorge Julio, if the Orioles can stay close in a few games this year, might be worth the wait. That and the opportunity to watch Jay Gibbons and Tony Batista attempt to offset the breeze blowing in from the Inner Harbor with the gale force winds created by their gargantuan whiffs at the plate.

Two Managers With Unreasonable Tasks: Buck Showalter tries to micromanage the Rangers out of last place in a division that has no weaknesses. Lou Piniella tries to manage the Devil Rays out of last place by subverting the laws of physics.

Team I Will Root For Even Though They Haven't Got A Prayer: Cleveland Indians: very close to being a AAA Allstar team. The Indians will be back on the warpath in another year. Josh Bard, Travis Hafner, Brandon Phillips, Casey Blake and Ricardo Rodriguez are all future stars.

Team I Will Root Against No Matter What, Not Even If God Promises To Disembowel George Steinbrenner Before My Very Eyes: New York Yankees. Joe Torre is the most overrated manager on planet Earth.

Team I Will Root Against When The Yankees Aren't Playing: Anaheim Angels. Gimme a break. Gene Autry? Rally Monkey? Disney? Last season's World Series was an emotional scar on the collective subconscious of the universe. The Angels won't even smell the playoffs again for another decade.

Most Interesting Individual Battle: Allstar voting for AL Shortstop. I don't care if he makes more than George Steinbrenner, A-Rod is the best shortstop in baseball, bar none. He's a trillionaire, he's one of baseball's best players and his hero is Cal Ripken. Give the guy some credit. He could have ended up like another former #1 pick: Darryl Strawberry. Instead, he's humble, talented and hell, for my money, he's the Arky Vaughn of the 21st century.

AL East: Boston, NYY, Baltimore, Tampa Bay, Toronto
AL Central: Minnesota, Chicago White Sox, Cleveland, Kansas City, Detroit
AL West: Oakland, Seattle, Anaheim, Texas.

AL Champs: NY Yankees

First Manager Fired: Carlos Tosca.

MVP: Nomah Garciaparra

Cy Young: Pedro Martinez

Monday, March 24, 2003

Beware The Ides of March
"Oft expectation fails, and most oft where most it promises; and oft it hits where hope is coldest; and despair most sits."
William Shakespeare

As it was undoubtedly for many others, the luster of this weekend's NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament games were dulled somewhat by the war news hitting us constantly and from every angle.

Nevertheless, the games did go on as normal: Dick Vitale did not seem to hyperventilate any less, cheerleaders (especially those on Syracuse) did not seem any less enthused or less provocative, and most of all, my brackets experienced their annual meltdown, liberating me from the anxiety and angst of rooting for teams I don't like or barely know, just because I picked them in my pool. Now I can say with certainty that I'm rooting for an All Big East Final Four. Why not?


One thing even that managed to bring my baseball emotions to the forefront this past week was the remark of a certain waifish and emaciated pitcher for the Boston Red Sox named Pedro Martinez. Martinez, who rarily himself ever stands up at the plate to bat, came to the defense of his equally skinny and cowardly Dominican hermano Guillermo Mota following Mota's back-pedaling, scared schoolgirl act after hitting Mike Piazza in an exhibition game twice in a row. Piazza, whose eyes blazed with an insane fury not unlike those of Nicholson in The Shining as he chased Mota, was criticized by Pedro who felt compelled to try and examine the inner motivations of Piazza's attempt assault on Mota:

"Maybe he felt like he had to show off his testosterone," Martinez said of Piazza. "But this may be more embarrassing than the one before. Why would you go after skinny Guillermo Mota in spring training and do nothing to Roger Clemens in the World Series?"

I've seen Pedro flail away with a baseball bat before, like June 14, 2002 against the Braves. It's painful to watch. Something like a schoolgirl swinging in a coed gym class game. Even Pedro admits it. After that fateful game against Atlanta, striking out twice in three weak at bats, he confessed: "I've got no chance. It seems like I'm lost out there."

Secondly, while Pedro might be well-versed in playing in exhibition games, since he's been in a grand total of ZERO World Series games, I don't think he should comment on how other players, especially players like Piazza, who could easily use Pedro as a toothpick, conduct themselves in the heat of a World Series game.

I used to like Pedro but the more he opens his mouth, the more it becomes apparent that he's better off keeping it shut. Red Sox fans might recall Pedro's remarks last summer about current Met Cliff Floyd after Floyd was traded to the Red Sox in July. Pedro whined and squealed about how the Red Sox didn't need a player like Cliff Floyd. When asked about Cliff Floyd's experience as playing on World Championship team, having a World Championship ring, Pedro replied: "His ring doesn't mean anything."

Yeah. Why would the Red Sox need a player like that when they've won so many World Series' themselves? Likely, Pedro would prefer more Dominican teammates. Mota and his 10-22 career won/loss record. Jose Offerman and his refusal to pinch hit. (Didn't you hear Pedro wax poetic about fellow Dominican Offerman when the clubhouse cancer was on his way out?).

Come to think of it, maybe an all-Dominican team wouldn't be so bad after all. Bartolo Colon, Ramon Ortiz and Pedro heading the starting rotation. Manny Ramirez, Vladimir Guerrero, and Sammy Sosa in the outfield. Miguel Tejada, Albert Pujols, Alfonso Soriano and Cristian Guzman in the infield, Octavio Dotel setting up and Armando Benitez closing. That's pretty much an All-Star team from one little island.

So Pedro, while you sticking up for your fellow Dominicans is admirable, two bits of advice: don't stick up for the crappy ones and don't knock Piazza because frankly, there aren't any Dominican catchers out there as good as him right now.


Favorite quote of the week came from Padres genius GM Kevin Towers:

"You can't score runs unless you get people on base"

What are you talking about? Hey, Towers, ever heard of something called a HOMERUN before?


I'm sure there are plenty of Mets fans out there with pangs of regret that our little punching bag Rey Ordoñez is no longer with the team. Sweet memories flooded over us all when the Mets played Tampa Bay last week and Ordoñez whined about former teammate Roberto Alomar:

"He talked too much -- about me, with the trade. So I want to see that in his face now. Every day, he said something different about me."

The problem with Rey Ordoñez is that he learned to speak English. He's been putting his foot in his mouth ever since.

Tampa Bay manager Lou Piniella said he has noticed that Ordonez has been excellent in the field but that, "offensively, he has been a little overagressive." Hahaha. I guess poor Lou never got to see Rey in action before. Ordoñez is currently hitting a sterling .195 for the Devil Rays.

Provided the war doesn't get too out of hand, hopefully there will time for a baseball preview this week. ONLY 6 DAYS TO GO TO OPENING DAY.

Monday, March 17, 2003

Which Will Last Longer?

An admittedly morbid thought but it strikes me as we approach both the brink of war with Iraq and the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament that I'm not sure which will last longer. Will Baghdad fall before the Texas Longhorns? Will Saddam outlast the Kentucky Wildcats?

Considering the fact that this annual exercise in futility otherwise known as the NCAA Tournament bracket has confounded me year in and year out, I've decided to abolish the traditional efforts of using my limited knowledge of the teams involved and my best efforts at guessing probability charts, point guards and regional advantages for a less scientific approach.

Thus, in the first round, I did the following: took the starting lineups of each team plus their top two reserves and assigned a number system 4 for seniors, 3=juniors, 2=sophomore and 1 for freshmen. That number, plus the amount of victories each team had in the last ten games became each teams' aggregate score. It's called the Experience and Momentum Theory. It's an admittedly flawed system yet no more flawed than pulling out my hair trying to figure which teams will pull off the upsets, which teams will produce as hoped and which teams will fail to show up. Using this system, the following winners advanced:

MIDWEST: Kentucky, Utah, Weber State, Dayton, So. Illinois, Holy Cross, Indiana & Pitt
WEST: Arizona, Gonzaga, Wisc.-Mil., Western Ky., Creighton, Duke, Memphis & Kansas
SOUTH: Texas, LSU, BYU, San Diego, UNC Wilm., Troy State, Colorado & Sam Houston
EAST: Oklahoma, California, Butler, Louisville, Penn, Manhattan, St. Joes, & E. Tenn State.

The glaring weirdness of the system was of course, in the South, which created 6 upsets out of 8 games. The other glaring weirdness was that there were two #15 seeds (Sam Houston and E. Tennessee State)that toppled #2s (Florida and Wake respectively). It isn't likely that both of those #2 seeds will lose but then again, Florida, 6-4 over its last 10 games, isn't exactly cruising into this tournament and Wake Forest is not just very young but also turns the ball over alot. So, possible.

What I was surprised about is that all told, other than the South, there were only 11 upsets out of the 24 other match-ups. And most of those upsets, other than perhaps Western Kentucky over Illinois, were more the result of idiotic and nonsensical seedings than actually hard-to-believe results.

In the SECOND ROUND, I discarded the Experience and Momentum Theory because frankly, it would have produced a Final Four of Weber State, Sam Houston, Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Penn. While in theory, such a result might well reflect the sort of chaotic environment the world is entering into, the likelihood of it actually coming to pass was about as likely as the Knicks winning the World Championship this season and we know how absurd that is.

So, for the second round, I developed a new theory which used the winning percentage of each teams' coach (at that University) coupled with the assist/turnover ratio of each teams' top 7 players. This theory produced the following second round winners:

MIDWEST: Kentucky, Dayton, Holy Cross and Pitt
WEST: Arizona, Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Creighton and Kansas
SOUTH: LSU, San Diego, UNC-Wilmington, and Sam Houston
EAST: Oklahoma, Butler, Penn and St. Joes.

The pattern we see here is of course, the continually skewed East which already had only one top five seed remaining prior to a LSU upset over Texas AND the continued onslaught of those pesky Bearkats of Sam Houston, led by Robert Shannon.

Nevertheless, all but one of the number one seeded teams remained and so despite the upsets, the bracket still wasn't looking too ridiculous to believe.

For the next round, I considered myself lucky that these idiosyncratic methods hadn't produced far worse results and went for the traditional TEAM MASCOT THEORY. This theory of course, pits the likelihood of victory of one mascot over another, by far the most scientific method available to date. The results were tricky, sometimes even difficult:

KENTUCKY over DAYTON: An easy one. Wildcats over Flyers. Because, "Flyers" being so vague, I could invent whatever definition I wanted. They could be flies, butterflies, feeble birds, even Air Force pilots. I chose butterflies and since I believe a Wildcat can beat a butterfly, Kentucky goes to the next round.
PITT over HOLY CROSS: A no brainer. Panthers over Crusaders. Crusaders were from like, the 13th century and they didn't have very sophisticated weaponry. I think a panther could take them, provided it had the element of surprise.

ARIZONA over WISCONSIN-MILWAUKEE: A very tough battle between Wildcats and Panthers. Maybe even a double overtime affair. I could have gone with the "wild feline of small to medium size, like a lynx" definition, but I decided instead to use the "workers' strike unauthorized by their union" definition because, well, I can't really fathom Wisconsin-Milwaukee making it past Arizona, even if they are "panthers" because frankly, I'm not really convinced there are any panthers in Milwaukee so perhaps they are the "figment of the imagination Panthers" but such a mascot name is too long for the jerseys. In the end, I figured the battle scene resembled some sort of Hieronymus Bosch-like painting.
KANSAS over CREIGHTON: Another no-brainer. JayHAWKS over the seemingly docile Blue Jays.

LSU over SAN DIEGO: It got a little interesting for a moment, the battle of the Tigers and the "Toreros" (which means bullfighters in Spanish). Had it been the Chicago BULLS against the Toreros, well, I probably would have gone with San Diego, but I think a tiger is a little smarter than one of those big, ugly bulls isn't going to just prance around while some bullfighter shoves sharps sticks in him.
UNC-WILMINGTON over SAM HOUSTON: It's another tough match: Seahawks against Bearkats but because of the strange spelling of Sam Houston's mascot, I get the impression it's like one of those little retarded bearkats, not a more formidable, fierce one.

OKLAHOMA over BUTLER: Sooners were supposed to be tough, ornery settlers. Bulldogs, even if they were pit bulls, can't really take humans, at least not according to my charts. Humans usually defeat dogs.
ST. JOES over PENN: Normally, I'd say humans could take a hawk but in the case of the human in question being a Quaker, who I believe are pretty passive, religious sorts, I'd guess the hawk would get the better of the Quaker.

So, now down to the final 8 teams, I was left with some tough choices and decided to use a new theory once again. This theory is called the TEAM I LIKE THEORY or TILT. This theory is based solely on which team I'd rather play for or whomever I like better, for whatever reason.

KENTUCKY over PITT: If Kentucky goes to the Final Four, all hell breaks loose in Kentucky. If Pitt advances, what happens? Another shot and a beer? It's a football town, a fading steel workers town for crissakes, they don't belong getting this far any more than a team like "Vermont" or "Wagner".

ARIZONA over KANSAS: Let's just say Lute Olsen is still one of my favorite coaches.

LSU over NC-Wilmington: I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm not rooting for a team with a hyphen in its name. It's just not dignified.

OKLAHOMA over ST. JOES: Fact: No school with the name "Saint" anything has every won the NCAA Men's Basketball title and they aren't going to start now.


ARIZONA over KENTUCKY: Wildcats against the Wildcats. Wildcats win.
OKLAHOMA over LSU: Let's face it, I just don't like the South.

The University of Oklahoma has made it to the NCAA finals twice: In 1947, they lost to Holy Cross, 58-47 and in 1988, they lost to Kansas, 83-79. This year will be an overtime thriller, but Oklahoma will keep its perfect losing record:


Friday, March 14, 2003

Sports Catatonia

Many of you have been there before. A churrascaria rodizio, all-out fleshfest, a revolving barbeque where a variety of meats are cooked on three-foot swords over open-wood fires in the restaurant's kitchen. Then the swords are brought to diners' tables. The server puts the tip of the sword on a patron's plate, asks the customer how many pieces of meat he or she desires, and then slides the food off the sword and onto the plate. This goes on and on, over and over, until you can take no more, until your stomach is ready to erupt from over consumption and a dizzy haze clouds your eyes from the fatigue of eating. And so it also happens in sports, twice a year, a sporting rodizio of sorts.

Perhaps the finest satiation of sports comes in October. Last year for instance saw the American and National League Division Series Playoff Games as well as the World Series, NFL football games, NCAA football games, the MLS Championship, and the beginning of the NBA and the NHL seasons. On a given weekend one could literally sit hours in a catatonic stupor, clicking channels, staring at the screen until the eyes grew blurry and red, opening beer after beer, consuming chip after chip, and watching the world of spectator sports in all its splendor.

We now arrive in March to the second incident of sports catatonia: March Madness, followed by everyone with their little office pools from secretaries to CEOs, janitors to lawyers, policemen to grammar school teachers. And because this is America, because nothing is ever enough, March Madness joins with the NHL and NBA playoff races making both sports quasi-interesting for the first time since their season's onset, and then, the whipped cream and the cherry on top, baseball creeping forward, exhibition after exhibition until the madness bursts through with everyone's opening days.

The mere quantity however, should not be confused with the excitement nearly each episode brings. How else could I find myself last night spastically channel flipping between 4 different, yet simultaneous conference tournament matchups, a baseball exhibition game, an NBA matchup with playoff implications, and, mystery of mysteries, a NY Rangers overtime match which essentially castrated their playoff hopes?

In times like these, but for the sporting melodramas, the house grows dim as people and pets alike are ignored, phones go unanswered, calls go unreturned, the computer finally gets a rest, and food delivery bills mount with each passing hour.

Are the specifics so enticing? Is life made or broken by the outcome of the Seton Hall-Connecticut match, regardless of the seeding implications? Will the success or failure of civilization hinge upon whether or not the Red Storm is knocked from the Big Dance or if the Nets reassert their presence by knocking the Celtics down a peg or two, or if the contumelious plague of the Yankees over the Red Sox continues, even in spring training games? Of course not.

But just like Piazza tearing after that shameless knave of a pitcher with the 5-11 lifetime record named Mota with a feverish, homicidal rage in his eyes after being plunked yet again, such things might not matter in the larger scheme of things but it doesn't make it any less emotional.

So when the Mets meet the Dodgers twice more this coming weekend and the major conferences hold their tournament finals, the world will know where to find me: planted fanatically in front of all the televisions, surrounded by the sound of sports, and tunnel vision-focused.

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Spring Fever

Although it's often cited that spring training statistics are meaningless and perhaps even deceptive, that to get excited about some no-name tossing days of shutout innings or some Bunyanesque phenom hitting hours of home runs is a a waste of time or a puerile antic, this spring's stats to date are providing some surprising consistencies.

First of all, Junior, leading the spring training leagues, has plugged 5 homers to date, 3 of them in one game. Alot of people have been down on Junior for the last several years because of injuries and a myriad of unfulfilled prophesies but after the humiliation of almost being dumped on the Padres but for the protests of Phil Nevin, after suffering the boobirds and the backroom innuendos that he was washed up, Junior appears to be ready to repay the doubters.

Junior is tied for the homer lead with a guy named Todd Sears for the Twins. Admittedly, Sears is no household name but he's no slouch either. A few years ago, the Twins picked him up from the Colorado Rockies for Todd Walker and Butch Huskey. Last season, playing at AAA Edmonton, he hit .310 with 20 homers and 100 rbis before being called up at the end of the year. He's 6'5 215 but plays first base and will have to beat out Doug Mientkiewicz if he wants to break out in the bigs this season.

After Sears, come Pujols, Aramis Ramirez of Pittsburgh (who hit 34 homers two years ago)and, Barry Bonds. Here's hoping, if spring homers can be any measure of the season to come, that Junior and Bonds go neck and neck all season in the race to 74.

And look who is leading the spring in hitting. Mike Sweeney of the lowly Royals. Hardly a surprise considering he hit .340 last season. Well, perhaps a surprise that he's hitting .500 so far. Probably can't keep it up all season.

However, two things not to expect to continue out of the spring: Toronto 2B Orlando Hudson hitting .435 the rest of the season or teammate SS/2B Russ Adams making the team, even if he continues hitting .409 all spring.

As far as pitching goes, Al Leiter and Bartolo Colon are two pitchers tied for the lead with three wins so far in the spring. Does it mean they'll be the Cy Young winners for their respective leagues? Doubtful, but Leiter, at least, should have a good season considering how well he responds to the challenge of having a second "ace" in the rotation. He went 16-8 with a 3.20 ERA when the enigmatic traitor Mike Hampton was on the staff the year the Mets won the NL Championship.

The real question as far as pitchers go this spring is should anyone be getting excited about Elmer Dessens? Well, I don't think Randy Johnson or Curt Schilling will be worried about losing their respective spots in the rotation but Dessens is 3-0 and hasn't given up a run yet in 10 innings of work. Imagine if he really does have that kind of season: A one, two, three rotation might spell an early pennant clinching for the Diamondbacks if they can ever find someone on the team who can hit the ball out of the infield.

It's hard to get excited about someone who isn't even on the Major League spring training roster, but the Mets drafted a pitcher last year by the name of Scott Kazmir, the steal of the 2002 draft. Kazmir was named the 2002 High School Player of the Year by Baseball America after he went 11-2 with an 0.37 ERA and 172 strikeouts in 74.2 innings for Cypress Falls HS (TX). He was equally impressive in his stint with the Brooklyn Cyclones, striking out 34 batters in just 18 innings of work, with an 0.50 ERA and holding opposing batters to a miniscule .089 batting average. You can be sure I'll be taking the N train over to Key Span Park in Coney Island when he's pitching this year, if he lasts there very long before moving up.

Believe it or not, the Newark Star Ledger reports somewhere out there is a Major League team dumb and desperate enough to take Jeremy Burnitz off our hands and no, it isn't the Washington Redskins!

Apparently, the Padres have offered outfielder Bubba Trammell and starter Kevin Jarvis for strikeout specialist Burnitz and before they come to their senses, that birdbrained GM Steve Phillips should take them up on it. Although coming off an elbow injury and a fatter-than-deserved contract, Jarvis could fill right in for the #4 or #5 spot in the rotation while Trammell is a decent utility outfielder. Burnitz, as we know, is hitting a glorious .150 this spring and takes pride in his strength as a whiff artist.

Lastly, whatever happened to former One on One sports radio personality John Renshaw? He appears to have vanished off the face of the earth. It was rumored he had hooked up with Fox Sports radio on a weekend gig, but after searching through their website, I couldn't find any verification of it. Let's hope he isn't rotting away in rehab somewhere.

Monday, March 10, 2003

What Team Would Jesus Manage?

"I would say Dusty certainly earned the right to manage the team. On merit he deserves it. But we'll make the final decision in the spring." -- Baseball commissioner Bud Selig on whether current Cubs and former San Francisco manager Dusty Baker will manage the National League in the All-Star Game.

Although I thought it was smart of the Cubs to sign Dusty Baker to be their manager this season, apparently, in Lakeland, where seemingly every church has a sign out front, one advertised an interesting topic for its sermon this Sunday: "What if Jesus ran the Chicago Cubs?"

What if he ran the Cubs? Would that automatically mean the end to the Cubs' 94 year World Champioship drought? Would there be night games at Wrigley without lights? Would the beer and hotdogs be replaced with wine and wafers? And more importantly, would he allow Sammy to blast his salsa music in the lockerroom to the annoyance of everyone else?


Be glad you're not a Detroit Tigers fan. First, Jeff Weaver was dumped to the Yankees, then they let Robert Fick jump to the Braves and now it appears the Tigers are ready to let Matt Anderson, their 26 year old closer with the 100 mph arm, go to the highest bidder.

The Tigers didn't like Weaver because he complained about the ownership and made too much money. Now he's pitching so well, don't be surprised to see him leap-frog past Jose Contreras the Cubano chicane who at the current rate of gracelessness, couldn't retire the side of the Pawtucket Slaterettes, and David Wells, who needs an instant turn around to redeem himself in the eyes of his teammates and Bud "Not Now I'm Sleeping" Selig for his transgressions. With one injury, Weaver might well be the #2 starter on the staff.

The Tigers didn't like Fick because he was plagued by rumors of excessive drinking and someone who partied too much which he now claims he's stopped. He says of Atlanta: "With the guys they've got over here, you better be ready to play when you come to the ballpark," which leads one to believe that the guys in Detroit are better at beer bongs than at laying down bunts.

Now the issue is Matt Anderson, who admittedly is coming off a right shoulder muscle tear and has a career 4.84 ERA. But Anderson is only 26 and still registers triple digits on the gun. Potentially, he could become a devastating closer or set-up man but the Tigers want him out. According to the
Detroit Free Press, he won't be in Detroit by season's end. To replace him, they've got the nose tackle closer Franklyn German who at 6'4, 265, is probably the last guy to leave the clubhouse buffet table but is still labeled as their future star closer. This is Fat Sid Fernandez just waiting to blossum.

Someone to keep an eye on might be Indians starter Ricardo Rodriguez.
"Ricardo has been outstanding," Indians GM Mark Shapiro said. "He has a great sinking fastball, a good change-up and he's been working on his breaking ball." Rodriguez is 1-0 with 1.00 ERA so far this Spring. He shut out Jim Thome and the Phillies for four innings in Saturday's 7-1 victory.


Hee Seop Choi Update: "I see a player that possibly could hit 25 to 30 home runs," Hall of Famer Billy Williams said about Choi. To date, Choi is hitting .350 in 9 homerless games. Eric Karros, his main competition, has had just two at bats so far this Spring because of a bad bout with bronchitis.


The bizarre raid of the New York Jets roster by the Washington Redskins continued yesterday when the Redskins announced they'd reached a tentative agreement on a contract offer sheet with restricted free-agentwide receiver Laveranues Coles. Coles agreed to a seven-year contract worth about $35 million, including a signing bonus of approximately $13 million. The Redskins would owe the Jets their first-round pick -- the 13th overall in the draft -- as compensation. Lucky for the Jets, QB Chad Pennington's contract is good through 2005.


How do you spell quitters? Cleveland Cavaliers, that's how. Three of their past five games have been 26-point losses and they appear well on their way to the worst record in team history. The good news is, even the team with the worst record has only a 1-in-4 chance of ending up with the first draft pick so this horrific play down the stretch guarantees nothing but the fact they'd have a better chance reaching .500 in the WNBA.

However, since they are going to remain in the NBA, their coaching problem will have to be resolved. Interim coach Keith Smart is 3-18. Not the kind of numbers that get you a return contract. To date, Mike Dunleavy and Suns assistant Marc Iavaroni are at the top of their list.

After August, Jeff Van Gundy is a free man and anyone with a coaching vacancy who isn't knocking his door down to get him isn't serious about winning. Given the tradition in Cleveland, Van Gundy probably isn't a big enough loser to merit consideration but even with owner Gordon Gund a slim bet at best to spend the bucks to lure a big name coach to Cleveland, what if they actually did manage to win LeBron and the little child king LeBron doesn't like the coach? You see, the quagmire is simply too complicated to overcome. Look for the Cavaliers to be losers for many more exciting years to come.

Speaking of losers, looks like the Wizards are just about out for the count following a pathetic loss to the Knicks with Michael Jordan rightfully complaining afterwards about the hustle of his younger teammates and Stackhouse whining about not being able to toss up enough bricks because Michael was doing all the shooting. Stackhouse of course, was 1 for 7 from the field. I guess he needed another 30 shots to get warmed up. "What we’re doing right now ain’t for me" Stackhouse wailed in the lockerroom afterwards. Must be, Jerry, not enough "me".
So maybe he'd better ask himself, "how many shots would Jesus take?"

Friday, March 07, 2003

Say Hello To The Washington Jets?

With yesterday's signing of standout kick returner Chad Morton to a five-year, $7.95 million offer sheet, at the current rate, the Washington Redskins will have signed the entirety of the New York Jets roster, well ahead of the September 4th deadline, when The New York Jets will play at Washington in the NFL's season opener.

Earlier, Jets guard Randy Thomas, then Jets kicker John Hall signed deals with the Redskins who, to date, have signed eight unrestricted free agents since last Friday and are attempting to sign wide receiver Kevin Dyson, an unrestricted free agent from the Tennessee Titans. Time will tell if The Danny ever learned from his last bout of overindulgence with free agents. As Thomas Edison once mused: "I haven't failed, I've found 10,000 ways that don't work.'


The first scab of Spring Training has been ripped off the flesh of the Mets and look what we find underneath: Pedro Astacio complaining of recurring bicep tendinitis in the front of his right shoulder. Since before the day he signed, Astacio had skeptics wondering when his right shoulder would give out due to a partially torn labrum and it looks like his day of reckoning is fast approaching.

What that means for the Mets is that shortly, their two top starters will be 37 years old, their number three starter may be out for the season, they've got a number four starter with a career 90-108 won-loss record and if we're lucky, a 40-year old David Cone as a fifth starter. I can't tell if this is a starting rotation or an open audition for a new reality tv show called "Get me out of this nursing home!"

Oh well, if all else fails, there's always Jae Weong Seo to the rescue.

And although I beseeched the Baseball Gods all winter long to convince the Mets to dump Armando Benitez before his market value bottoms out, there he was, the King of the Choke, doing his best beached-Mo Vaughn imitation out there in the Florida sun. Frankly, unless three or four Mets starters have career seasons at the plate and the Mets can average about 15 runs a game, there probably won't be much need for Benitez to roll out from the bullpen when it counts this year.

It's funny. Yesterday you had Tom Glavine discussing the kind of adjustments he has to get used to with Piazza and his fielders. Reportedly, the Mets planned on pulling out old scouting reports that included Atlanta's defensive alignment with Glavine pitching. Perhaps the Mets should focus more on teaching Wigginton to play third base without flubbing every third ball hit to him and Cedeño to well, to just try not to get hurt out there in center. Glavine, no doubt, will have to incorporate a new pitching theory that utilizes the kind of Laurel and Hardy fielding the Mets have demonstrated to date.


And yes, we've all heard by now that Roger Clemens sister thinks she can kick David Wells' ass:

"He better look out for himself in the hallway. She (Clemens' middle sister) might hit him upside the head with a set of car keys. She's pretty upset with him. I'd have to look out for Boomer,"


And if she can't do it, certainly Rocco Graziosa's sister can.

Thursday, March 06, 2003

America's Pele?

Pele made his sensational international debut as a 17-year-old in the 1958 World Cup in Sweden when he scored six goals in just four games. Last night saw the debut of the future of American soccer, the youngest player ever to represent U.S. soccer in world competition and this 13 year old phenom needed only five minutes to make an impact.

Freddy Adu, someone U.S. soccer has never seen the likes of, set up a goal in the fifth minute and scored on an impressive individual effort in the closing moments as the U.S. under-17 national team defeated Jamaica, 3-0, at the world championship qualifying tournament.

Adu set up Corey Ashe for the game’s opener, as Ashe first-timed Adu’s cross home from six yards out. Adu received the ball on the left side of the penalty area, and beat one defender before getting into the area. Adu did one stepover to beat a defender and got to the endline, where he sent the ball across the face of the goal, and Ashe wasted no time in volleying it home.

Late in the match, Jamaica keeper Kerr Duwayne forced Adu wide of the goal, where he wan’t able to get off a shot. Instead, Freddy turned and doubled back to the center of the penalty area. Slaloming through three Jamaican defenders, he set himself for a shot 12 yards from goal, and hammered the ball past a stunned Kerr.

Just last month, playing in a preseason exhibition against the MSL's Chicago Fire, Adu scored both of the under-17 national team's goals, including the game winner.

An excellent student, Adu skipped seventh grade, so he was a high school freshman this fall and amassed 25 goals and 12 assists in 16 games on varsity, leading them to the state title.

Last year, when he was "only" 12 years old, traditional Italian powerhouse AC Milan offered his family $750,000 to sign him.

So what makes this kid so special? All the prodigious talents you would expect of a 13 year old playing on the international level; breakneck speed, amazing acceleration, miraculous field vision and deceptive strength for a 5-foot-8, 150 pounder. More importantly, he possesses that critical ability to keep the ball on his foot, even under intense pressure, as if it were dangling from a string. He can emerge from a sprint, pull the ball behind him and loft a beautiful 30-foot, left-footed pass directly on a teammate's head. He can dash at full speed with the ball yet it is never far enough ahead for an opponent to steal it.

"I see him do things I haven’t seen the pros do," says U.S. coach John Ellinger.

"He has an unflinching confidence with the ball," marveled Dave Sarachan, the coach of MLS’s Chicago Fire. "Speed kills, and if you give him any room, he’ll break down your defenders."

Lest you think soccer is his only forté, in his first organized basketball game two years ago, a jayvee contest for The Heights School in Potomac, Freddy scored 28 points. On the first golf hole he ever played, a 370-yard par-4, Freddy reached the green in two and two-putted for par. In his first art competition as a fifth-grader, his drawing won the top county prize.

In other words, there ain't much this kid can't do.

So naturally, already, talk turns to the future.

America has only recently begun producing strong attacking players with the flair that is the hallmark of the world’s greatest soccer nations. This past summer a pair of flashy 20-year-olds, Landon Donovan and DaMarcus Beasley, helped the United States to a quarterfinal berth at the World Cup, its best showing since 1930.

By the time the next World Cup comes around in 2006, Freddy will be 17 years old, the same age as Pele was when he made his debut. If what he has shown to date is any indication, there might be a day in the future not only when Freddy Adu is the greatest soccer player in the world, but when he has elevated America soccer to one of the best in the world as well.

Tuesday, March 04, 2003

Wells Has Run Dry

In a spring training already rife with controversy over the death of Orioles' pitcher Steve Bechler and an accompanying debate over the use of the substance ephedra, the foremost foot-in-mouth disease expert David Wells has finally weighed in:

"As of right now, I'd estimate 25 to 40 percent of all major leaguers are juiced. But that number's fast rising." Wells wrote in "Perfect I'm Not! Boomer on Beer, Brawls, Backaches and Baseball", an autobiography scheduled for release next month. Although Wells has since tailed off the quotes of his own autobiography, only last year Jose Canseco estimated up to 85 percent of major leaguers used steroids, and Ken Caminiti said half did before retracting his statement, saying he thought the percentage was far lower.

Between steroids, amphetemines and ephedra, today's baseball aspirants may well be better served studying pharmacology than attending baseball school.

As everyone's probably already heard, Wells didn't limit his stupidity to one category. In that same autobiography he wrote that he was "half-drunk" when he pitched his perfect game in 1998. While this might be a great service to teammate Derek Jeter, already criticized by George Steinbrenner for his nightlife habits detracting from his play, Wells has since tried to backtrack on that and other statements. In the end however, he appears to have admitted only that "Sometimes I'm too honest and that's probably my own fault."

If it isn't his fault, it must be Roger Clemens' fault. Clemens was oft-critiqued in Wells' book, going as far as to note that "Derek Jeter and Scott Brosius have taken beanballs to the head from this guy and a huge percentage of this team hates Clemens' guts." and then adding that "Trust me, if I were Mike Piazza, that broken bat would still be shoved up Roger's (butt)."

Naturally, none of this has gone over well in the Yankees' front office or in the Commissioner For Life, Bud "Hot Dog and a Diet Soda" Selig.

The Yankees have played it cool since the word of the books' contents first came out but GM Brian Cashman noted that that Wells' book "tarnishes the Yankees' image.".

Selig wants to read David Wells' autobiography before deciding whether baseball should take disciplinary action against the New York Yankees' pitcher.

Lest you think Wells' derogatory comments were reserved for New York players, he also gave a shout out to his ex-fans in Toronto:

"Honest to God, the Toronto fans suck," Wells wrote "Even though this underpaid, understaffed, under-loved little team is right in the thick of the hunt, right into the last week of 2000, these mouth-breathers in the stands have no idea what we've accomplished. The wool-hat wankers just boo relentlessly. I've never been so happy to end a season on the road."

Ever since September, when a 5-foot-7, 150-pound man named Rocco knocked out two of the 6 feet 4, 245 pounds Wells' teeth, his slide toward oblivion has seemed inevitable. Chances are, when, as a 39 year old man, you're still out getting drunk until dawn and getting into diner brawls, your future as a major league pitcher can't be very bright.

Not that David Wells ever seemed very bright to begin with. He just seems compelled to have to prove it to us over and over again.