Wednesday, December 29, 2004

NFL Playoffs Looming Large in the Rear View Mirror

Well with only a week left to assess the situation and still so many scenarios, it's time for Sports Amnesia to play who can guess the loudest. So far, we know this much for sure:

In the AFC

Pretty much every playoff spot up for grabs, oddly enough, both in the AFC AND NFC, hinges upon the St Louis Rams versus Jets game. Pittsburgh and New England are top seeds in the AFC.

Seeds 3 and 4 will probably be Indianapolis and San Diego.

The Wildcard is up for grabs. In the running still and with the best chances of success:

5. NY Jets - who only have to beat the St Louis Rams in the dome of St Louis.
6. Denver - Another team who "only" have to win to get in, however, they have to beat Indianapolis in Denver. If it weren't for their horrible inconsistency combined with Peyton Manning, you'd have to think the Broncos would be a pretty safe bet. But they aren't. They are a safe bet to choke and stumble. Over the last month and a half they follow a loss with a win with a loss. It's been that kind of season.
7. Buffalo Bills - either Jets or Broncos must lose AND Bills have to beat Pittsburgh at home. Pittsburgh will not have Ben Roethlisberger and Pittsburgh probably doesn't care too much about whether or not they win this game.
8. Jacksonville Jags - First, Buffalo and Denver have to lose, PLUS, they have to win at Oakland. All very good possibilities. Problem is, they haven't won in weeks and frankly, they aren't going to get very far this week either.

Now, who gets the AFC wildcards and why:

1. NY Jets: they can and will beat St Louis. Remember, they only lose to GOOD teams, not inferior teams. Their victory gives them the 5th seed.
2. Buffalo Bills: The primary reason is the belief that the Denver Broncos are accomplished choke artists and will lose to Indianapolis. The secondary reason is that they will be playing the Steelers at home in a game that means virtually nothing to the Steelers and who will be resting the QB who helped get them this far.

In the NFC

First Round Byes:

1. Philadelphia Eagles, homefield advantage throughout the playoffs and limping with the loss of TO and the humiliation of getting absolutely pounded by the St Louis Rams.
2. Atlanta Falcons have the other first round bye clinched and this, my friends, is the team destined to get clipped in their first postseason match, bank on it. They've been playing preseason-like intensity for the last three weeks and cannot just juice it back up when it counts.
3. Green Bay has clinched the Central and the third seed.
4. The "race" for the West includes Seattle and the St Louis Rams. Seattle have already clinched a playoff spot but COULD lose the title of West "champs" if they lose AND St Louis wins. We've already established that the Rams will lose to the Jets, so the Seattle Seahawks win the West and have homefield advantage against the better of the two wildcards.
5 and 6 seeds will again depend on who becomes the wildcard.

Having established that the Rams will lose to the Jets and will not make the playoffs, dinner is served.

A week or two ago I had the Vikings and Carolina Panthers in the 5th and 6th seed.

Again, the Rams loss determines alot as a Rams loss means the Vikings are in, regardless of whether they win or lose this week. The Vikings, it is important to note now that Head Coach Mike Tice has been extended a year, can back into the playoffs like a garbage truck, and they will.

The other wild card, having established the Rams losing to the Jets, will be between New Orleans and Carolina and this match will be played in Carolina. 'Nuff said?

Now, the dilemma here is which seed finishes where between the Vikes and the Carolina Panthers. This is important because the lower seed will have to face the Packers in Green Bay whilst the higher seed will face a crap Seattle team who have ever hope of losing straight away in the first round.

My theory is that the Redskins, to cap off Gibbs' first uninspirational season but send a message to the rest of the league that the Gibbs is not to be messed with, will defeat the Vikings, who are weak on grass and well, just aren't that good. You could make the argument that the extension of Tice's contract for a year gives the Vikings added incentive, proving the owner right, but that's the rub, it does exactly the opposite. It puts pressure on them to prove the owner right, which is more pressure than it would have been merely to beat the Skins and make the playoffs. Thus, they will lose to the Redskins. Combined with Carolina's imminent victory over New Orleans, this means that both wildcards will finish 8-8.

To break the tie and determine seeds 5 and 6, the NFL has the ole tiebreaker mould.

Sadly, there is no head to head, so it falls upon their conference records, which means Carolina, by virtue of an 8-6 NFC record, is seeded higher than the Vikes and their 6-8 NFC record which means that Carolina gets to face creampuff Seattle and the Vikings have to go all the way to Green Bay to be humiliated again.

So, the first round probably looks like this:


NY Jets at San Diego
Buffalo Bills at Indianapolis


Carolina at Seattle
Minnesota at Green Bay

And tomorrow, boys and girls, IF you're good, I'll let you know what happens the rest of the way.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Ding Dong The Rev Is Dead

Strange but true, at the ripe young age of 43, Reverend Reggie White, former career QB sack record holder and hater of gays in his role as religious freak, died yesterday in hospital, possibly from a respiratory ailment.

Besides sacks, what I really remember Reggie White for was his decision to go to Green Bay as a free agent because "God" told him to go there, as if God had nothing better to do than fret over where Reggie White landed as a free agent. I also remember Reggie White's infamous 1998 speech to the Wisconsin State Assembly wherein he referred to homosexuality as "one of the biggest sins in the Bible" and used ethnic stereotypes for blacks and whites, proving yet again that whilst God can bless people with great physical skills, he doesn't always allow them the same unfettered access to intelligence.

My question is, did Reggie serve his purpose on earth and get called up for more important issues in heaven or did he just die from too many fried foods and being about 100 pounds overweight?

On the other hand, another saddening death, that of Johnny Oates, spawns no ridicule nor mockery. Although he is better known for his dog days of managing the Orioles and the Texas Rangers, I will always remember him for his days as a catcher for the 1971 Rochester Red Wings, Junior World Series Champions. Oates hit .529 in the postseason splitting time with baseball and military duty.

That '71 Red Wings team had on it, besides Oates, future MLBers, Bobby Grich, Don Baylor, Terry Crowley, Rich Coggins, Mike Ferraro, not to mention staff ace Roric Harrison and the manager of this jewel, Joe Altobelli.


So, Peyton Manning not only broke Dan Marino's record for most TD passes in a season but he led his team to overtime with the pass and eventually to victory and the probable third slot in the AFC postseason with 34-31 victory over the San Diego Chargers.

Even from as far away as England, this was impressive to Sports Amnesia. There was an aura of inevitability in the final drives, a cold confidence and matter-of-fact manner which he marched his side up the field with completed pass after completed pass, 27 of 44 for 383 yards worth in total. Of course, the Colts defence has alot of holes and is well vulnerable to the run as well as the pass, but it's going to take a massive defence to let the air out of this balloon before it's all said and done.

From a Jets point of view, I was rooting for the Colts simply because I think the Chargers will make an easier first round opponent. However, given this season's history that the Jets have of getting humiliated by decent teams, it might not matter WHO they end up playing in the first round.

I wouldn't want to think that they choked or that they have a habit of choking or that they simply play scared against good teams, but yesterday was large from a standpoint of respect, solidifying a wild card spot and perhaps making people take notice of them and instead of rising to the occasion, as they have all season the Jets simply failed to show up.

"Everything," Curtis Martin said of what went wrong. "That's what I put my finger on. I didn't see one area where we performed well. Everything was the problem."

Everything might be wrong indeed. Although they have a reasonably weak opponent to finish off the season with in the form of the 6-8 St Louis Rams, if they lose, and Buffalo and Denver win to join them at 10-6, the Jets will be out of the playoffs. That's right. Out of the playoffs before they even start. Next week, Buffalo are home against Pittsburgh and Denver are home at Indianapolis. So things still look bearable from the Jets point of view.

Now, falling behind 23-0 at home to the World Champions might seem like a case of failing to rise to the occasion, but searching for that pearl in the oyster of excuses, one could cite the Patriots' own humiliation, only the week before, to the Miami Dolphins and point out that the Patriots, being a "real" Super Bowl contender, had everything to prove out there, especially since their mentor, Coach Belichick was to appear on 60 Minutes last night. More to prove than even the Jets, still fighting for the playoffs and playing at home.

The tendancy here though, is to believe that the Jets, even should they make the playoffs, will be out after the first round, regardless of their first round opponent is the Colts OR the Chargers.

Nobody Is Afraid of the Jets.


So, christmas has come and gone and still nobody has signed Carlos Beltran yet. In an odd catch 22, the Astros could probably get him to agree if Roger Clemens is coming back and Roger Clemens probably isn't coming back unless they sign Carlos Beltran. It seems easier in New York where either the Yankees or the Mets are willing to put up whatever money it takes.

Meanwhile, the Orioles star pitcher was busy assaulting a judge allegedly, down in Aruba. On Christmas day, when everyone else was opening presents and enjoying hams and turkeys, Ponson was on a beach in Boca Catalina where several people confronted him, accusing him of harassing them with his personal watercraft and operating it recklessly, police said.

The 28-year-old right-hander allegedly struck one of the men in the group several times, police said. The man was later identified as a local judge, Comenencia said. Ponson fled the scene but was later arrested and is now sitting in the can in Aruba where hopefully, they will keep him on a strict water and bread diet so he can scale down the obesity factor in his enormous frame.


Boxing Day certainly didn't slow down Chelsea, who maintained their 5 point bulge in the Premiership with a 1-0 victory over Aston Villa.

And Magpies boss Graeme Souness wasn't entirely embarassed returning to face his auld team, Blackburn. The fact that Newcastle were able to squeak out a 2-2 draw is more indicative of the low level of expectation - Souness was relieved more than angry to come away with the draw.

"We are in a difficult period and we need everyone to stick together and pull in the same direction."

No kidding. And if that direction isn't the direction of moving up instead of down in the tables, Graeme may not be around to see the end of the season.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Victory Over World Champs Doesn't Get You Far These Days
"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes." -- Marcel Proust

Fresh off their lusty and unexpected victory over the World Champions, the Miami Dolphins have offered the head coaching job to Nick Saban.

So much for interim head coach Bates turning permanent. Just shows you, the value of beating world champs ain't what it used to be. This isn't even "What have you done for me lately?", this is a case of "Whatever you haven't done you won't do and even that which you HAVE done you could never do again"...

This follows the Dolphins "good faith" offer to Art Shell.

By the way, if anybody cares at this point in the NFL season, they've announced their Pro Bowl rosters. I don't even care about this when the season's done, the carcass of the Super Bowl has been picked clean and there's nothing but NBA (and this season not even the NHL) on the telly but the Pro Bowl. Thoughts are already with Spring Training by then. So who, other than the players and their agents, really care about the Pro Bowl?

Frankly, the ONLY thing that matters at this point in the season is how the Playoff Picture is Shaping Up.

There are two things I care about in the AFC and they are:

1. That the Bills beat out the Ravens, Jacksonville and Denver for the final wildcard spot.
2. That the Jets, as the top wildcard, end up playing San Diego and not Peyton Manning in the first round.

So I'll be rooting for the Colts to dunce the Chargers this week.


I can't seem to really work up a healthy froth about the AP pulling out of the BCS either. I don't mind the BCS the way it is. Is there any other championship to watch other than USC-Oklahoma? Does anyone with an IQ over 10 and NOT from the South want to see Auburn face either of these teams, even if they ARE undefeated? No. A playoff isn't a perfect system either because at the end of the day, someone is going to be left out that deserves to be in and viceversa. I just wish people would stop whingeing about the BCS like it held some sort of world importance or something. Controversy? C'mon. The invasion of Iraq, now THAT was controversy.

More of the Embers of The Unit Burned Before He Gets To New York

It appears that in the union of New York-based Cy Young pitchers, Pedro Martínez and Randy Johnson have never pitched against each other. In fact, in Johnson's 16-year career and Martínez's 12-year career, they have played in the same league at the same time for only four months. That was in 1998, Martínez's first season with Boston, and Johnson's last with Seattle. Both pitchers played for Montreal, but nine years apart.

Need we remind you that the Mets and the Yankees play an interleague mini-Subway Series twice a year and what, I ask, would be more exciting than seeing those two square off?

Well sure, the Randy Johnson v Curt Schilling, Yankees-Sox matchups wouldn't exactly be dull either...

I can't seem to get enough morbid fascination with the trade that wasn't. On the one hand, it's nice to see the Yankees not get their man for a change, even if this aberration is only temporary. On the other hand, it does appear that quite nearly everything the Diamondbacks have been involved in since winning the World Series in 2001, has been one unmitigated disaster after another. True, it was the Dodgers at the end of the day who wore the cold feet and the shrinking spine, but given recent Diamondback history, it is no suprise that their fingerprints are all over this third consecutive failing effort to send Randy Johnson elsewhere.

Of course, there's always the typical, arrogant optimism of Yankee supporters that Johnson, five months wasted trying to punch his ticket out of Arizona, is destined for the Yankees.

I don't begrudge him that -the mishaps and mistrades and freak signings have flattened the Arizona franchise to a shadow of its former self with not much of a future to look ahead to. But to insist that only the Yankees are good enough, well, it's just too narrow-minded. Why not Shea? It's still NYC. How about a Big Trio of The Unit, Pedro and Glavine? The aging wonders. The oldest starting rotation in the history of mankind...certainly the Mets have a "legitimate" shot at the World Title with that sort of rotation, don't they?

Hypothetical Question du Jour: If neither team can shed their troublesome stars, whose clubhouse would suffer more, Arizona's with a replay of The Unit's Season of Discontent or the Cubbies Clubhouse with the apathetic and well-hated Sammy Sosa? What if the two could just swap headaches? Why wouldn't Johnson be interested in joining a Cubs super rotation and help lead them their first an historic title, like counterpart, Curt Schilling did with the Red Sox?

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Deal Undone

Just as fast as the deal to return baseball to DC (again) unfolds, so does the Unit getting turned off.

Until either story comes to fruition, time to give both a rest.

And Mulder was schocked by his trade.

Otherwise, a quiet day at the office.

Monday, December 20, 2004


Staggering like a behemouth beneath its mighty weight, the gargantuan trade between the Yankees, Dodgers and Diamondbacks continues to maintain its fragile equilibrium between teetering on the brink of collapse and standing up on its own hindlegs.

It appears not only that the deal is still on hold, but that Dodgers GM is getting slightly cold feet and is holding up the mega-trade to bring the Unit to New York.

This isn't a devious plot against the Yankees, although it would be a joy to watch the joy of Yankee fans shrivel, but DePodesta has been holding up the trade because, for the Dodgers, the deal is only part of his mysterious master plan.

"We have to make sure the trade is in the best interests of our '05 club," he said. "As it stands, the only way it's attractive is if we do other things alongside. As a standalone, it's not helping our Major League team. It isn't a done deal at this point."

It is reported that DePodesta indicated that he will not pull the trigger until his other deals are in place.

One deal that MIGHT be in place shortly is the deal on the DC Nats.

In the other staggering deal that can't seem to fully conceive itself, it is being reported that there might be a possible agreement between DC Mayor Anthony A. Williams and district council chair Linda W. Cropp on a stadium financing package that they said will satisfy Major League Baseball by guaranteeing construction of a permanent home for the Washington Nationals.

If you aren't Republican and still believe what you read in the Washington Post, you can read that an accord has been reached.

Hoorah for the fight against small-minded stupidity and Hip Hip for baseball in DC!

An excellent prism through which to view the story ulimately, comes via, yet again, the Post's Sally Jenkins who writes:

"The baseball controversy had a funhouse mirror effect on the District. Everything was distorted and inverted. The skinny looked fat and the fat looked skinny, and common sense was called ridiculous, and all the wrong people were blamed. It's time to bust the funhouse mirror, preferably with a baseball bat, and look at this thing straight on. Place the blame for the uncertainty of the past weeks where it belongs, on a mayor who was a cheerleader for a bunch of extortionist Major League Baseball owners, and give credit where it's due, to a lone council head who did her job and stood up to them."

Hmmm. Well, one way or another, it's Play Ball! anyway....


Iggles Doomed Again

Well, I guess this let's the air out of the Philadelphia Eagles bandwagon AND narrows the NFC potential Super Bowl Champions down to zero.

The only decent team in the NFC, the Philadelphia Eagles, announced that their primary superstar, Terrell Owens, will be lost to the team for the last two games of the regular season and probably the playoffs because of a severe ankle sprain.

Seriously - why will the NFC send a representative to the Super Bowl this season?

Even the 5-9 Redskins still have a chance to reach the playoffs in the NFC!

Meanwhile, in the AFC, the Pittsburgh Steelers just landed a step closer to hosting the Super Bowl (otherwise known as the AFC Championship) when the Staggering Genius Patriots Mysteriously Lost to the Dolphins this morning (or, last night if you live in America) - the loss means the Steelers now have the best record in the AFC and if the song remains the same, they will also have homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.

This still doesn't mean that the Buffalo Bills won't win the playoffs thereby writing the most improbable story in NFL team history, but it does mean that anything is still possible.

Maybe even Beltran to the Mets, hehheh.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

The Trade That Ate New York
"Be not afraid of growing slowly, be afraid only of standing still." - Chinese Proverb

It really wasn't surprising when the announcement came along that the Yankees had finally landed Randy Johnson. Johnson wanted to go to the Bronx and the Yankees drooled for him. Money was never an obstacle and winning is a priority so this was pretty much a done deal, even if it took five months of rumours to complete. As Mike Lupica notes; "Randy Johnson to the Yankees is inevitable the way Roger Clemens to the Yankees was inevitable once"

What is suprising is the amount of players involved.

It now appears the trade involves 10 players. So far, Johnson and a minor leaguer will be traded to the Dodgers and then sent on to the Yankees, along with another good leftie, Japanese left-hander Kazuhisa Ishii. The Yankees will then ship the disappointing Javier Vazquez to the Dodgers along with their two best minor leaguers -- catcher Dioner Navarro and third baseman Eric Duncan. From the Dodgers, the Diamondbacks will get slugger Shawn Green and right-handed pitchers Brad Penny and Yhency Brazoban.

What this also means is that in order to fill what was a major weakness last season, their starting rotation, the Yankees will now have about 10 starters. Well, not 10, but 6, still more than the usual requisite. In addition to Johnson and Ishii, the Yankees have already signed Carl Pavano and Jared Wright this season (which makes four new starters) to go with the still-untraded Kevin Brown, and Mike Mussina. That's six aces on one staff and the Yankees are still the likely highest bidder for free agent Carlos Beltran. Almost impossible to fathom financially, but with the Red Sox getting people like David Wells and Edgar Renteria, it appears the gap between the two sides is growing and maybe, just maybe, the bigger rivalry will become the bidding wars between the Yankees and the Mets in the future.


It's more than a little suprising that not only did the A's deal one of their three aces, Tim Hudson, in a much maligned trade to the hated Atlanta Braves, but now they've dealt another, Mark Mulder to the Cardinals for a pair of relatively unknown pitchers in Dan Haren, Kiko Calero and prize prospect Daric Barton. So the A's, it looks like, are funding the National League pitcher's rehab movement and strengthening the Mets competition all in one fell swoop. Bastids.

Haren was considered a potential part of next year's rotation. He was 11-4 at Memphis last season and distinguished himself in the postseason by allowing only two earned runs in 8 innings. Calero was a versatile piece of the Cardinals' bullpen and finished 3-1 with two saves and a 2.78 ERA last season.

But the most significant expenditure might turn out to be Barton, 19, who was the club's No. 1 pick in the 2003 amateur draft. A lefthanded hitting catcher, Barton batted .313 with 13 home runs, a .445 on-base percentage and .511 slugging percentage at Class A Peoria.

Elephants In Oakland think this is an "out-bleeping standing move" by Beane.

Obviously, the A's have decided to go into the rebuilding mode. Perhaps there's a chance that they might even sell off the third ace, Barry Zito, and make it a clean sweep.

Ray Ratto knows the pain:

"Now our boys Matier y Ross are reporting that Lewis Wolff, who was supposed to be hustling up a new stadium for the A's, instead is fronting a group to try to buy the A's, in which case the Mulder trade makes sense in a lowered-payroll-means-easier-sell kind of way. Sure, it stinks for you, the ticket-buying fan, but those are the hideous realities of fun-filled predatory high-end capitalism."


It's hard to believe, but here we are near christmas and MLB still doesn't know where the Expos franchise is going to be playing next season! Apparently, baseball is going to meet with the suddenly-well-known DC councilperson, Linda Cropp, perhaps to kidnap her or slap her until she comes to her senses and agrees to agree to what was already agreed to, fair or not.

Baseball is also contemplating that if the deal does not get renegotiated, commissioner Bug Selig will refuse to let the team play at RFK Stadium, home to the NFL's Washington Redskins, and could instead make the team play two seasons in Norfolk, Virginia. Then what are they, Norfolk Expos, Norfolk Nationals, Norfolk the Team That Time Forgot?

It's all getting quite absurd but absurdity has plagued this Montreal Expos franchise for several years now. First it was the weirdness of being owned by the owners, then they came out with the assinine, vagabond "home" schedule that took them to San Juan, Puerto Rico for several dozen games a season.

The Nats blog has a list of ways for Nats fans to raise the $140 million the city needs for the stadium.

The Nats blog also reported on WTOP's report that The sex industry funded part of a campaign that opposes the construction of a new baseball stadium on the Anacostia waterfront:

"WTOP Radio has learned up to 20 percent of the $50,000 came from Robert Siegel, an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner whose business would have to move to make way for the stadium.

Siegel is a major landowner on the South Capitol stadium site, an area that Siegel calls "D.C.'s unofficial Red Light district."

He owns 11 properties, several of which house gay nightclubs. He also owns a gay porn shop and adult theaters."

This is just too weird for words, almost - gay nightclubs versus Major League baseball. Then again, with former crack-smoking mayor Marion Barry acting as the shadow antagoniser behind Linda Cropp, it isn't that surprising after all.


Although the battle of the rookie quarterbacks ended yesterday pretty much the way everyone expected, with the Steelers defeating the Giants, Eli Manning finally looked as though he had a clue about what he was doing out there. At Manning's request on Monday, Coughlin reduced the previous package of plays in the offensive game plan to those Manning had been using since training camp and it made all the difference.

Meanwhile, Dan Roethlisberger, another rookie QB who has helped lead the Steelers to 12 consecutive victories since he started playing, led the Steelers to either a touchdown or a field goal on every possession, except for two interceptions and the game-ending ball-control drive. He hit 18 of 28 passes for 316 yards.

But even in Pittsburgh, they can see that Eli Came of Age in this game.


Yet another star landed in the NYC area when the soon-to-be Brooklyn Nets traded for Vince Carter and gave up virtually nothing in return to the Toronto Raptors, in the form of Alonzo Mourning, Aaron Williams, Eric Williams and two first-round picks.

First of all, Alonzo Mourning isn't even expected to join the Raptors. So in essence this is five time All Star Vin-sanity for Aaron and Eric Williams and a couple of unknown draft picks.

Maybe it's just possible that Nets owner Bruce Rattner isn't the greedy pig intent on gutting the Nets that everyone has made him out to be. First he acknowledges it was a mistake to trade Kenyon Martin to the Nuggets and now he's traded for someone who could be one of the most exciting players in the NBA, giving up virtually nothing but a bad front court in return.

The Nets will have to be faaaast because they aren't going to outrebound anyone with no one in the front court who isn't a stiff, but having J-Kidd, budding star Richard Jefferson and Vince Carter on the same side is almost an All Star team by themselves. It is a great move for the Nets AND allows them to one-up the Knicks, who had also been after Carter but couldn't come up with acceptable personnel for the deal.


The real excitement of the end of the week came with the Champions League draw for the knockout round was made. There are some really good matchups out of this:

Round of 16 - Matchday 7


Real Madrid 20:45 Juventus
Liverpool 20:45 Leverkusen
PSV 20:45 Monaco
Bayern 20:45 Arsenal


Porto 20:45 Internazionale
Barcelona 20:45 Chelsea
Man. United 20:45 Milan
Bremen 20:45 Lyon

We've still got a few months to think about it but there's the list anyway.


And, for all those readers in Grenchen and Basel who have been driving me nuts with emails every hour asking me who the Swiss Sportsman of the Year was going to be, the vote is in:

World tennis number one Roger Federer.

Of course if you're like me, you'd naturally wonder, who the hell else in Switzerland was in the running? A bunch of skiers nobody's ever heard of and some yodelers?


Lastly, it appears that a gorilla named "OJ" is having "trouble" with love and is being shipped back to the SF zoo as the new King of of Gorilla World...


If it's Mets news you're lusting after, check out the sister station at Archie Bunker's Army.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

The Deluge Begins

Busy days ahead but the official offseason buzz of baseball is buzzing already. Outraged to be out-publicised by the Mets, the Yankees are answering the splash of Pedro putting Metland on the map with the deal of the offseason, which will see Randy Johnson finally going to the Yankees.

The Yankees are to receive the giant pock-marked pitcher Randy Johnson, a five-time Cy Young Award winner and the pitcher they've sought since the middle of last summer, and surrender pitcher Javier Vazquez and two of their top minor-league prospects, gutting their minor league system in the process. However, the deal makes the Yankees probable favourites to win the World Series. Poor little Yankees had to surrender the spotlight from King George's Massive Ego for more than a day and look what happens. A deal that couldn't get done for the last 5 months or so, is suddenly done and the spotlight is back on the Yankees. Gee, let's hope Randy Johnson doesn't suffer any career-threatening arm injuries between now and October and send the Yankees on another desperate chase for infamy.

According to a Diamondbacks source, the Dodgers will receive Vazquez, catcher Dioner Navarro and third baseman Eric Duncan. Los Angeles will send outfielder/first baseman Shawn Green, pitcher Brad Penny and reliever Yhency Brazoban to Arizona.

And, of course, the Mets are not going to sit by idle whilst the Yankees steal their thunder. They allege to be getting closer to signing behemouth first baseman Carlos Delgado.

Meanwhile, all remains quiet on the Boston front, Pedro-less and fading fast.

They didn't even score the replacement pitcher.

The Braves did though. Being in the Mets division, they had to react. The Braves nabbed Oakland Ace Tim Hudson for outfielder Charles Thomas and pitchers Juan Cruz and Dan Meyer, and continued to reload for next season.

Former Dodger 3B, Adrian Beltre was severely overpaid by the increasingly desperate Seattle Mariners. Beltre joins recent signing Richie Sexson which is great but hé, didn't anyone tell the Mariners front office that they still don't have any pitching to speak of?

The Red Sox weren't totally silent though. They are proud to announce the signing of Edgar Renteria. Uh, Randy Johnson, Pedro and Tim Hudson, three of the best pitchers in baseball, all move teams and the Red Sox sign Edgar Renteria. Hmmm. I guess with the novelty of winning the World Series the Red Sox can be expected not to understand they can't rest on their laurels.


Take the Gun Away From DC's Head

But worse still, of all the announcements made and some not made, the news that baseball's move to DC is on the verge of collapse.

The way I understand it, this is about baseball trying to shove an agreement that DC already agreed to down the throats of DC, insisting that money for a new stadium be paid in majority part by the taxpayers and the council of DC wants private money to pay for it.

The sensible thing to wonder of course, is why are these council members, at least one of whom is making a push for Mayor of DC (Linda Cropp)and certainly likes the publicity garnered from this 11th hour morality play, only speaking up now when they've known about this deal for months?

The other thing to wonder is why DC, a city which doesn't have enough money to fund education for it's children, will be using valuable tax dollars to finance a bloody baseball stadium to begin with?!

And lastly, why is MLB such a group of extortionists that they would want to take education and food from the children of DC solely to foot the bill for a baseball stadium that will probably be out of style or out of date in a decade? If the Idiot Collective who decided to award the franchise to DC in the first place, had simultaneously announced an OWNER for this alleged franchise, then the owner could sort it out of his own or their own pockets for a DC franchise.

At the end of the day, it isn't difficult to imagine someone like Peter Angelos paying off DC Council members to raise this last-minute stink because if you recall, Angelos, billionaire champion whinger and all-around pig, hasn't reached a deal with MLB that will pay him off for "letting" a franchise move to DC in the first place.

If you want to know what sucks about baseball, don't even bother worrying about the steroids just yet. In baseball owners, you've got a collective of greedy swine who will stoop to nothing to line their billionaire pockets more full with ill-begotten cash and meanwhile, you've got opportunist scum like Linda Cropp and The Ambitions ruining DC's chance to get in on the billionaire's game.

Somtimes, without a scorecards, you should never know who to be more disgusted with.

If you are really disgusted with Linda Cropp, you might want to have a look at the Drop Cropp campaign being waged heavily.

Unfortunately, if you are really disgusted with MLB owners, there isn't any such similar campaign afoot. Like DC, you'll have to tolerate them, or leave baseball altogther.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Give Me Your Hungry, Your Tired, Your Pedros
"And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom." -- Anais Nin

Well, here's some funny thoughts on precedents where Pedro is concerned:

Back in 1996, the Red Sox let go a 33 year old starter who they said had seen better days. Roger Clemens signed with the Toronto Blue Jays on December 13, 1996 having completed two relatively subpar seasons which saw him start 57 games, complete 6 of them, 2 for shutouts, pitched 382.2 innings, struck out 389, walked 166, won 20 and lost 18 and had a 3.83 ERA. We all know what Roger Clemens went on to do.

Now, almost 8 years to the day, the Red Sox let go another 33 year old starter who they say may have seen better days. Pedro Martinez signs with the New York Mets having completed two seasons which saw him start 62 games, complete 4 of them, 1 for a shutout, pitched 403.2 innings, struck out 433, walked 108, won 30 and lost 13 and had a 3.12 ERA.

Sound familiar?

There's been a little more time to digest the Pedro signing now and frankly, whatever trepidations being felt when the rumour of Omar chasing Pedro first broke, are now gone. There are two irrevocable realities about this transaction:

1. The starting rotation of the Mets, with Pedro, is stronger than it was with Al Leiter, is stronger than it would have been had they'd been forced to sign someone along the likes of Odalis Perez and creates an aura about the franchise that hasn't existed since they first traded for Mike Piazza in 1998.

2. The starting rotation of the Red Sox, without Pedro, having allowed Pavano to slip to Yankees and with nothing but a desperate hope to link themselves with the Oakland A's to get Tim Hudson, is weaker than it was with Pedro. If the Red Sox don't pull off a late and unexpected deal, they have weakened themselves by allowing Pedro to leave. Boomer Wells is not the kind of top of the line pitcher the Red Sox need to follow Schilling in the rotation.

We hear the scare tactics about Pedro's inevitable decline, how Pedro is not the pitcher he once was, how absurd it is to guarantee a 4th year and frankly, I don't really care what happens three or four years and $40-50 million later. I've never even really liked Pedro and his strange, prima donna maddening ways and I'm excited about this. Pedro in a Met uniform. Wow.


The rumours are still flying around Sammy Sosa, not just to the Mets, but several other teams, sniffing around to find out just how much of his salary the Cubs are willing to eat. One thing that might be interesting to note, especially now in conjunction with the Pedro signing: If you compare Sosa's relative production over the last three seasons with the three big ticket players the Mets might be interested in, you see that Sosa has nearly outperformed them all:


Delgado .284 107 352
Sosa .274 124 291
Alou .283 76 258
Sexson .273 83 249

Now, one step further, you see that Sosa has numbers comparable to even the majesty of Anti-Christ Boras' holy trinity of free agents:

Beltran .281 93 309
Sosa .274 124 291
Beltre .278 92 276
Drew .283 64 191

I haven't heard much more about a trade to move Sosa to the Mets but having two players come to Shea with chips on their shoulders and something to prove, cannot be a bad thing for Mets fans next season.

Perhaps even more remarkable still, it appears that Manny Ramirez is still being dangled as trade bait for some combination of Cliff Floyd, Mike Piazza or Kaz Matsui.

Sosa .274-124-291
Ramirez .325-113-341
Piazza .276-64-186

Clearly the Pedro signing can only be the beginning because if the Mets go to the mat with Pedro, a defensive liability like Piazza at catcher, a pathetic bullpen, no outfield, a dodgy second baseman/shortstop combination and no power to speak of in the spine of the lineup, Omar may as well have saved us all the heartbreak of believing in the first place. This can only be the first step and there will have to be many more to come.


Why won't this nasty rumour about pitching in the National League go away? How many times have we heard or read in the last several weeks that pitching in the National league, without a DH, blablabla, turns Pedro's 6 inning outings into 7, stretches 100 pitches, turns ordinary pitchers into great ones, water into wine, and can create Cy Young candidates out of aging vets.

C'mon. If pitching in the National League were so much better than pitching in the American league, why doesn't every free agent pitcher on the market flock to Shea? Why have Wells, Pavano, Jared Wright and probably Eric Milton all made moves FROM the oh so weak and watered down NL pitching Babylon to the denizens and caves of evil, cynical pitching netherworld like the AL East? Are they merely masochists or are they really that stoopid?

There is no magical formula. Pedro's pitch count isn't really "worth" more in the National League than the American League - true, he doesn't have to pitch to DHs but he will have to pitch to more PHs and worse still, he will have to bat himself, he will have to face pitchers after buzzing hitters near the ear and get the same medicine in return. You've got to wonder if Pedro is tough enough to continue pitching in the same aggressive fashion knowing he might get some of the same treatment himself.


My favourite quote of the week to date comes from Tony Kornheiser, who normally isn't worth quoting but today's nattering about the Nat's GM and the Nat inactivity in the winter meetings, bears repeating, if only because it ends the world's longest streak of unfunny quips in human history:

"...What was Bowden waiting for, Monty Hall to come down the aisle and say, "If you have a hard-boiled egg in your pocket, I'll give you Al Leiter"?


I think we can all agree that the current ruling triad of NFL super powers are New England, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, and probably in that order.

What appears to be more interesting to the casual fan these days is what is happening in places like Cincinnati and Buffalo, two franchises that are not headed for the Super Bowl but who are breaking out like acne across a greasy teenage pore.

The Bengals have won 4 of their last 6 games and the two losses were by a combined 8 points to none other than Pittsburgh and New England. Over that 6 game span, they've scored 170 points and even managed to knock off the Ravens AND score 27 points at the same time. Currently 6-7 after a slow start, they aren't really in the hunt for a playoff spot in the AFC but they are definately being groomed as a force to be reckoned with in the seasons to come.

The Bills have won 6 of their last 7, losing only to New England along the way and have outscored opponents 154-65 in those six victories. They are currently 7-6 with a vague chance at earning an AFC wildcard.

Guess who meet next week: why it's the Super Bowl of the Up And Coming, Buffalo Bills at the Cincinnati Bengals.

Unless, of course, you believe the Carolina Panthers, finally having righted themselves after suffering an untold score of injuries, have reeled off five in a row and are moving rapidly towards possible post season contention despite starting the season with a 1-7 record. 1-7 and still playoff eligible!

I've said before that Washington Redskins are the most underrated 4-9 team in the NFL and I stand by that if that is indeed anything to stand by at all. They are still better than 4-9 Tennessee, Arizona or Oakland. I watched them give the Eagles all they could handle on Sunday night. I watched them mangle the Giants and give the Steelers all they could handle two weeks before that. Their record doesn't indicate it, but this is a team on the move. Joe Gibbs' last run at head coaching started off miserably as well but I think this guy's ability to succeed at everything he does goes far beyond whatever it means to come back to coaching in the NFL after such a long layoff.

Because there are only three weeks left in the season, it's clearly a little late to speculate on who it is I might have thought would appear yet again in the Super Bowl this season. Instead, I offer you my prediction on the dodgiest playoff chase in the NFL, the NFC wildcards:

So we know Philly and Atlanta are probable first round byes. After that, there are probably only 10 teams out of 12 who have playoff possibilities and even one of the ones who probably don't have playoff possibilities aren't even mathematically eliminated yet. Only the San Francisco 49ers are completely and irrevocably out of the picture.

Of these 10 teams, two will make it in as division winners and two as wildcards. The Pack should coast in at 11-5 and Seattle will redeem themselves in typically haphazard fashion to win their division at 9-7. The Vikings will make one WC and the other will fall to a tiebreaker between division rivals, the hard-charging Panthers and Tampa Bay. The Panthers get a slight edge because the adversity overcome this season plus last season's experience, makes them the better team in the end.


Lastly, as Shaq says, the sunglasses are off now and you can see the source of the problems in LaLaLand. Not that anyone doubted it. But none of that really matters so much as the weird exchange that was reported to have gone on at the Lakers game between Kobe's rather fit looking wife Vanessa and the rapidly aging but gigantically svelte Karl Malone.

For some reason, Vanessa is to have asked Karl courtside at the Lakers game, dressed up in cowboy boots, something along the lines of hey cowboy, what are you hunting?
Now Karl, if you didn't already know, is quite a hunting freak. No kidding, Karl is one of hunting's embassadors so frankly, even if it were wrapped in some sort of LA-Weird sexual innuendo, at least Vanessa could always say her question seemed legitimate.

And of course, Karl, big game hunter that he is, replies "I'm hunting for little Mexican girls" which is FAR more information than any of us want to know about how Karl Malone is spending his first season away from the NBA and probably has very little to do with the NRA.

Now I don't know about you, but I don't reckon this is what Uncle Karl had in mind.

So regardless of whether Karl was kidding or Karl is really some sort of weird deviant or Karl just fancies Kobe's missus, we'll probably never know, but whilst Shaq is having a great time laughing it up in Miami, Kobe is looking like he's wound just a little too tight.

As always, if you're interested in Mets-specific language, come and check out my new Mets blog, Archie Bunker's Army.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Leinart Landslide

Matt Leinart won the 70th Heisman Trophy awarded yesterday. The only region Leinart he didn't win was the Southwest, who wanted returning winner Jason White of Oklahoma. Leinart joined the likes of OJ Simpson, Marcus Allen, Charles White, Mike Garrett and Carson Palmer. In fact, two out of the last three years, the Heisman has gone to a USC quarterback.

Speaking of the Heisman, I didn't think it was possible but apparently, some female trophy hunter has been married to not just one, but two Heisman Trophy winners.

Yvonne Davis wed her childhood sweetheart, the late Alan Ameche, and then had the temerity to "find" love a second time, with 1946 Heisman winner Glenn Davis. And if you think that's crazy, now try understanding that her daughter, Catherine, married the brother of 1973 Heisman winner, Penn State running back John Cappelletti.

What the hell is that all about?


Just when I thought the immediate world had exhausted its seemingly endless supply of idiots, along come more to the see the light of day. It appears people paid $7500 to pretend they were friends with Bonds and A-Rod for five minutes. Funnier still, for that money, they weren't even allowed to ask Bonds about steroids.


Looks like the battle has begun for offseason supremacy and who knows where it will all end when the smoke clears. Last season, it was the Red Sox making a one-sided trade to steal Curt Schilling from the Diamondbacks and the Yankees trading for A-Rod, the very player the Red Sox had spent half the winter trying to get.

Yes, markedly less dramatic, this offseason has begun with the Red Sox grabbing Fat Man Wells. It's a move Sox fans should be happy with. Wells has started six times in Fenway over the last three years and has a 2-0 record with a 2.19 record to show for it. The fun part of course, is picturing Wells pitching against the Yankees six times a year.

The Yankees, in typical Yankee fashion, have countered by just about signing the former Mr Alyssa Milano Pavano in Pinstripes and just about signing Jaret Wright, Eric Milton and pretty much any other available starter on the free agent market.


George Vecsey has finally sprung us from this incessant, tired and hypocritical examination of steroids in baseball with the valid question: What Would Wee Willie Do?

His policy is, "Hit 'em where they ain't."

In the recently concluded season, Wee Willie has hit exactly zero home runs.

"Home run hitters drive Cadillacs," the agent says.

"They don't make Cadillacs yet," Wee Willie says


I would be remiss if I didn't point out the Nats Blog's heavily researched answer to the question of Can Barry Larkin Do Anything?.


Notre Dame appear to be close to naming Charlie Weiss their new head coach.

One thing that makes this idiotic straight away is that he may not be available to coach full time at Notre Dame until late January.

Combined with the head coaching void for the last several weeks, it should do wonders for Notre Dame's 2004 recruiting class.

Just remember, The Irish Future's On The Clock.


And yes, the big day is finally upon us: Arsenal-Chelsea.

Graeme Le Saux talks about Terry and Chelsea.

Is if anyone needed reminding, one of Chelsea's best assets as they face Arsenal today is Jose Mourinho.

If you just can't get enough, you can read what the papers have to say about the match.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Kent Can't Be A HOFer, Can He?

Ever since I read that the Dodgers signed Jeff Kent, I began to ponder the eternal question: for all that money, his success on several different teams and the bonehead trade the Mets once made, Does Jeff Kent belong in the Hall of Fame?

According to Hall of Fame Standards, based upon batting alone, Kent earns 39.1 points whilst the average HOFer earns 50.

Frankly, this doesn't tell me much. What does tell me something is looking at what second basemen are in the HOF already.

Well, Kent is certainly not in the company of players like Rogers Hornsby, Jackie Robinson, Joe Morgan, or Nap Lajoie.

On the other hand, if you look at someone like Bid McPhee, you have to wonder:

McPhee, .281 liftetime hitter. Kent, .289 lifetime hitter.
McPhee, .380 slugging average. Kent, .505 slugging average.
McPhee, 2342 hits. Kent, 1910 hits to date.
McPhee, .944 fielding average Kent, .981 fielding average

If McPhee is going back too far for you, you might compare Kent to another dubious HOF 2nd baseman, Nellie Fox. Fox had a .984 fielding average, hit .288, and had 2663 hits.

If Kent has an average season for the duration of his two year deal with the Dodgers, he'll finish with 2203 hits, 349 homers and 1393 RBIs.

As I am a firm believer that any new HOFer should be measurably better than the average HOF at that position, I'd say unless he has a few monster seasons in the Dodger's cavernous pitching park, he does not belong in the HOF.

However, if you enter him in as The Barry Bonds Chancre, he might have a chance.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Holy Helix, Batman!

You've got to wonder how a team like the Helix High School in suburban San Diego managed to cough up two Heisman candidates in one season. Not surprisingly, the 2000 Helix High team went undefeated.

Heisman officials said that these are the first high school teammates ever invited to New York as finalists. Reggie Bush and Alex Smith played on the same team but Bush's talent overshadowed Smith's in high school, as Smith's primary job in Helix's Wing-T offense was to hand off to Bush.

Apparently, Helix High is still going strong and will be playing in the Division II semifinals this weekend.


On the other end of the spectrum of Heisman candidates comes the University of Michigan's defensive lineman Larry Harrison Jr. Harrison allegedly masturbated on the porch of a house occupied by several women near the U-M campus shortly after midnight.

Now here's the funny part:

Ann Arbor police Lt. Chris Heatley declined to give details of how Harrison, 6-feet-3, 313 pounds, was identified as a suspect.

Hmmm. 300 pound man masturbating outside a house in Ann Arbor. Must happen all the time, how can we match the profile? Probably not a member of the cross country team...


Oh the dread of Iggles fans: shall they go for 15-1 or shall they rest on their laurels?


Is This A Yogi-ism?

Yogi Berra, well known not only for playing for the Yankees for ten championship seasons but perhaps equally for his Yogi-isms like "This is like deja vu all over again.", "Baseball is 90% mental -- the other half is physical." and "Think! How the hell are you gonna think and hit at the same time?" to name but a few, has finally spoken up about Jason Giambi and steroids.

Berra said steroids were dangerous for players and the fans who look up to them. "They could die from that stuff," he said.

Yeah, that too.



It caused quite an uproar in some parts of Alabama that the undefeated Auburn Tigers were slighted from the BCS Championship in favor of Oklahoma and USC. When it was revealed that a certain writer who covers rival Alabama's football team had ranked Auburn THIRD, not second, a slap in the face to all Alabamans, Huntsville Times writer Paul Gattis has responded:

"I thought about other family members who were subjected to undeserved and ridiculous stress this week as some Auburn fans presumably attempted to get me fired from my job by spreading rumors so ludicrous that they must have a ZIP code from Fantasyland.

OK, Auburn fans. You've filled my e-mail box with about 300 requests, wanting to know how I can be so stupid as to not vote your team higher in the poll. Or at least higher than the Oklahoma Sooners, a team that's been so bad this year that it has the same 12-0 record as your beloved Tigers.

You wanted a rationale. You wanted an explanation.

Here it is.

I think Oklahoma is the best team in the country. I think Southern Cal is the second-best team in the country. I think Auburn is the third-best team in the country.

And don't bother sending another 300 e-mails. I got the message the first time.

I'm stupid..."


Something I didn't know about Urban Meyer, the guy who Notre Dame THOUGHT would be their next head coach but who ENDED UP being the next head coach for the University of Florida instead:

His wife grabs alot of headlines.

I have to admit, when I'd been reading a few articles in various Utah papers about Urban, there was the invariable reference to "the telegenic face of Utah football" being his wife, Shelley. And looking at her, well, for a football coach's wife, I guess she isn't all that bad, but believe me, she's no Ali Landry though, is she then?

In any case, it appear the people in Utah are not too happy with Florida.

Oh yeah, and from the "I Thought I'd Seen Everything But Obviously Haven't" Department, it appears that the assistant to Notre Dame's president has shaved her head to protest Tyrone Willingham's firing as football coach, saying she will remain bald until the Irish win a national championship."

Personally, for those who have to look at this hideous face every morning at work, I recommend that the rest of the staff of Notre Dame's president put together a collection for a paper bag for Chandra Johnson to wear over her newly-shaved head.


Say what you want but this Sunday's Chelsea-Arsenal match promises to be one of the most exciting of the season.

Keep an eye out for the Chelsea FC Blog for accounts of the ultimate demise of my least favourite team, Arseholenol.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Assault Charges Meted Out To NBA Players
Hockey Continues To Get Off Scott-Free

Looks like you've got your choice of maladies for professional sports these days. On the heels of baseball's steroid scandal, you've now got real, live NBA players, five Pacers in all facing midemeanor assault charges for their involvment in the November 19 brawl at the Palace of Auburn Hills, the Oakland Country district attorney's office announced Wednesday.

Jermaine O'Neal was charged with two counts of misdemeanor assault and battery while teammates Ron Artest, David Harrison, Stephen Jackson and Anthony Johnson were charged with one count apiece.

Apparently, in the absence of an NHL season, the NBA has to assume the mantle of being the brawling sport with athletes facing charges for assault at games but they needn't bother - look, even at the lower levels, a hockey mom and her daughter assaulted a player. Where's the outrage for that? Muted because they aren't spoilt billionaires with the tats to prove it?

The Pistons are allegedly happy about the charges being brought because they're tired of hearing about it and hope that filing charges will bring some sense of closure - what, before the trials even begin? This story isn't going away any time soon.

Palace president Tom Wilson said he doesn't feel that the incident is a reflection on the Pistons, the arena or the fans, and joked that it might have been just a case of cosmic revenge. Three teams owned by Bill Davidson - the Pistons, Shock and Tampa Bay Lightning - won league titles in a 10-month span of 2003-04.

"Maybe this was payback for winning three championships in a year," he said. "We've had 15 million people in this building, just for Pistons games, since it opened, and never had anything like this. It could have happened in any arena with the right guy throwing the right beverage at the right player."

Yeah, and look again, this stuff happens all the time in hockey, what's the big deal? Even in Montana, brawls break out in hockey arenas. 19-year-old Helena resident Jeremy M. Sanchez is facing a felony charge of assault with a weapon in connection with the incident along with misdemeanor assault. Where's the big headlines on that one?

Again, Mr Sanchez is not a spoilt billionaire athlete with the tats to prove it so he's relegated to the back pages.

In hockey, you've even got team owners get charged with assaulting linesman. Yeah, the owner!

"I hope someone will have learned something from all this," Danbury ice hockey fan Scott Britton Britton said. Danbury Trashers owner James Galante, 51, was accused of striking linesman James Harper, 39, in the visitor’s penalty box after the game. Galante was later charged with third-degree assault, a misdemeanor, and is expected to appear in court this week.

The team's nickname is "Trashers" - what can you expect?

Anyway, I agree with the Pistons. Enough hand-wringing about a lone incident, a single riot in one basketball arena. If people want to get indignant about violence in sports, they ought to train their focus on hockey, the most evil sport of all.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Urban Renewal in Florida, Not Notre Dame
"If a problem has no solution, it may not be a problem, but a fact - not to be solved, but to be coped with over time." -- Shimon Peres

If you judged by the inside hoopla after Notre Dame suddenly fired Ty Willingham for overseeing one humiliating blowout loss after another, their selection of his successor was a rather foregone conclusion. Urban Meyer was named after popes, raised on Midwestern football, trained in the coaching business at Notre Dame, successful, popular, interested and available. There aren't many people with more pro Notre Dame football coaching resumes than he was alleged to have.

Well, that is another myth dispelled. Their fate and their future heading now in the same direction, it looks like their boy wonder has gone elsewhere and the Fighting Irish now face the unsavory project of yet another futile head coaching hunt.

Actually rather than resembling a search for a head coach, this seems to provoke a litany of head coaches who turn down the opportunity to take the worst job in college football.

Much like 2001, there are more people who are NOT interested in the job than are. John Gruden has expressed no desire to coach the Fighting Irish, Lions coach Steve Mariucci said Saturday he was contacted by Notre Dame about its coaching vacancy but decided to stay with Detroit, Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said Saturday that he is not interested in replacing Tyrone Willingham at Notre Dame.

So, plans A, A1 and A2 have failed loudly and publically. What about Plan B? Or will that be another O'Leary? Isn't this how Notre Dame ended up with the "perfect" candidate in Ty Willingham to begin with, the process of eliminating all the more savoury candidates?

So now they're already down to the Bobby Petrinos and the Charlie Weisses of the coaching world. Sadly, here's how the Who's Who amongst the last remaining potential candidates shape up.

Oh this bodes poorly for fans of ND football, no question. How is anyone going to be able to recruit players to a program that has no coaching continuity, whose reputation has been sullied by fruitless coaching searches twice within four years, and has "unreasonable" academic standards for the average Football Über Jock to overcome to play for the Fighting Irish? Let's face it, there just aren't that many 340 pound Catholic physics majors left in the ChicagoLand area.

Alot of people cried about what a travesty it was to fire Ty Willingham. Unrealistic or not, Notre Dame football should not be losing games by 30 points to any team and if he was fired because of unacceptable blowout losses, this is a rather logical path, even if they didn't have the patience to see what happened during the rest of his contract. If they fired him merely to get Urban Meyer, than of course, this was a colossal failure, an humiliation and a cock-up of massive proportions which should see the AD Kevin White dumped like chum into a sea of sharks.

The mystical rubbish that was once Notre Dame football will no longer sustain the program, not the 11 national championships, nor its seven Heisman Trophy winners. Academic standards should not ultimately be a roadblock to success even though it does create a rather unlevel playing field. The next coach will have to outrecruit the other programs for the nation's smartest college football players, for the nation's collegiate athletes with the best character, and perhaps most importantly, for the best athletes who fit into a coherent AND successful offensive and defensive philosophy. In other words, not only a fantastic recruiter, but a fantastic recruiter with a successful plan. This doesn't mean they need 22 superstars. And such a plan wouldn't be impossible. Duke's Mike Kryzyzewski does it nearly every year in college basketball and yes basketball and football are apples and oranges but successful recruiting and successful philosophies are not.

None of the candidates being thrown around even vaguely resemble the requirements. But no one ever said living up to a legacy was easy. Whether Notre Dame football's future is a problem to be resolved or a fact to be coped with, will be determined by how they proceed in the near future.


Well, if John McCain hasn't already solidified in everyone's mind what an idiot he is, his roadshow of sanctimony and righteousness continues to baffle. Yesterday, he threatened baseball with legislative action and simultaneously demonstrated his contempt for baseball's recently stained icons:

"I don't care about Mr. Bonds or Mr. Sheffield or anybody else," McCain said. "What I care about are high school athletes who are tempted to use steroids because they think that's the only way they can make it in the major leagues."

How very puffy-chested of you Mr McCain. This is a wonderful sentiment however, can you really not find more important issues on your agenda as a United States Senator than how stringent baseball's rules on steroid use are by January? If you're really that bloody bored with perfecting government and your role in it, why not take on something really important, like straightening out college football and the BCS?


For those of you all along who saw the resemblance of Christ in Johnny Damon this season, it's time to reveal the Red Sox Supper.


And BIG NEWS, kids. I've decided to create a Mets-Only blog to relieve yea weary readers of my Mets ranting and raving on this site. I will continue updating this blog however, for those of you starved and thirsting for Mets commentary you shall now be forced to have a look at Archie Bunker's Army. The inaugural column is already in the hopper, so go and have a look!

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Batting Fourth and Playing First Base, The Human Growth Hormone
"I was thrown out of college for cheating on the metaphysics exam; I looked into the soul of the boy sitting next to me." -- Woody Allen in Annie Hall

Well, the cat's out of the bag. The Giambi brothers copped a plea and finally admitted taking steroids.

The question is not what does this mean for the Giambi brothers, nor the Yankees' luxury tax with Jason's $120 million contract (and maybe even Sheffield's) potentially off the books. Nor is it a question of what it ultimately means for Barry Bonds, Gary Sheffield, Sammy Sosa or any other slugger or player proven to have taken steroids. What is worse still, Giambi's admission calls into question the very intergrity of baseball, a potential scandal running as deep into the fabric of the sport as any since the Black Sox Scandal of 1919.

Just as damaging as wondering at a World Series game whether an error was indeed an error and not an intentional gaffe, or that the infallable closer who suddenly surrenders jumbo homers in the bottom of the 9th of Game Seven has done so because he simply blew it, not because he had money riding on the outcome, this mushroom cloud of steroid use by some of the game's biggest names provokes fans to openly question which accomplishments by which players were achieved by cheating and which were authentic. Believe me, no sport and especially not a sport like baseball whose stats and history play such a prominent role in the spirit of the game, wants its fans questioning the validity of the accomplishments of its players.

So as this category five hurricane of controversy begins to gather strength and speed off the shores of baseball, the question is, what is baseball going to do to mitigate the damage?

Is the roll call of cheaters and confession and of BALCO founder Victor Conte going to be enough to indict the named names? What, if anything, can be trusted about Conte or what he says?

The problems facing baseball is more than just what to do about the problem in the future. That will be sorted in time, one painful piece of legislation after another. The real problem is first of all, how to establish, beyond question, which players have used steroids in the past, how much they used, how much that use benefited those playes and how to prove any of it.

Let's take Barry Bonds for example. If Conte and Giambi and others come rushing forth to confess and implicate Bonds but Bonds continues to assert that he's never used steroids, what, other than speculation and damage to his legacy can be established? There is no solid means of proving that Bonds used steroids if he has but refuses to admit it, much in the same way there is no way of disproving that he did if he didn't actually use them and no one believes him anyway.

And even if Bonds confessed to using steroids and even details how long and how much, how then can it be determined precisely what degree he was assisted by steroids? Would he have hit 45, 50 or 12 instead of 73 homers in 2001? Would he have 550 or 417 career homers instead of 704? Would he have, like Mark McGwire, already retired out of frustration over injury and pain?

And who would Bonds have hurt more by steroid use, himself or baseball? So far, the only big name synonymous with steroid use is Jason Giambi and as a result, his every accomplishment is being hauled out before the court of public opinion and called into question. This doesn't even consider whatever permanent physical damage he's done to himself already.

Let's face it, the accusations are out there and short of confessions, baseball will never be able to prove that its stars did or didn't take steroids to enhance their game and nor will baseball ever be able to prove to what degree such enhancements effected baseball itself. This scandal doesn't destroy baseball nor does it ruin it's integrity, but for the moment, baseball has been kicked in the balls and lies writhing in pain on the ground.

First things first: The Giambis will have to be the first sacrificial lambs for the wolves of the indignant righteousness of the media and the fans. Would lifetime bans for the pair suffice? Of course, such a punishment would not exactly induce any other players to come forward so perhaps a general baseball amnesty (setting aside for the moment whatever legal recourse there will be for prosecutors), would be more appropriate. Come forward now and confess your steroid use, allow the fans of baseball themselves to judge whether they think your cheating merits discrediting the accomplishments of your entire careers and begin a lifetime ban for anyone using steroids in baseball thereafter.

As a fan, I don't feel "cheated" by the cheating of other players using steroids. If Bonds' entire body is made up of one giant human growth hormone, in fact, I'd be a little relieved, as it would begin to explain why he has been so much better than everyone else in baseball. I don't want my money back for tickets I bought that helped pay the salaries of steroid sluggers I went to see play in baseball stadiums around America. I don't want records erased or asterisks affixed to any homerun records - fans can figure out for themselves what is and isn't merited in the paen of great homerun hitters. I don't want endless debates about championships that should be taken away, moments that would have never happened, the stigmatisation of every homerun that travels more than 500 feet in the future.

I want every possible remedy undertaken to ascertain who took steroids and who didn't so those who have been clean can be recognised as such and those who weren't can be villified as such. And this, as we all know, should be accomplished as quickly as possible, the heart of the matter cut out and offered up to the gods of baseball and then for the love of baseball, let's put it behind us and get back to the things about baseball that we love the most.

The one benefactor in all this swirl of this controversy is the strikeout. The strikeout has always been the arch-nemesis of the slugger. And now, steroids and homeruns virtually synonymous, it is time for the power pitchers who for the time being anyway, appear to be free of steroid accusations one and all, to reclaim their place at the top of the pantheon of baseball and be recognised as the demon slayers that they have become.

So, if you're a fan of deliciously ironic twists, on the day this controversy swirls around baseball calling into question every homerun hit over the last decade, Babe Ruth's spector looms above like a reminder of the good ole days when even fat men with spindly legs could hit homeruns like no one in history. Naturally it was yesterday that The Babe's Bat Was Sold for $1,260,000 at Auction. How apropos.


Lastly, as studiously pointed out by Astro Mike, my assertion in yesterday's column that Dan Brouthers and his .342 lifetime batting average weren't in the Hall of Fame was just plain wroooooong. Here is his HOF plaque to prove it.

Mike also offered that Pete Browning, my other example of high average hitters who didn't make it to the HOF "was one of the worst fielders in baseball history. He erred almost one out of every ten balls that came his way...For years, the HOF has had a longstanding historical prejudice and exclusion of the major stars from the fabled American Association, which was virtually a hitter's paradise. So that's the reason why he was never on a Hall ballot...The flaw in Pete's case for the Hall of Fame is just like that for some other baseball immortals of the late 1800's. They played a significant portion of their careers in a league other than the National League."

Thanks again for pointing that out, Mike, well spotted. And apologies to all those members of the Brouthers family who read my columns religiously.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

People Come And Go Talking of El Pedro
"In the room the women come and go,
Talking of Michaelangelo."
- T S Eliot, "The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock"

One thing GM Omar Minaya has done, if nothing else, is create a stir. Rumours of trading Piazza for Shawn Green isn't much of a trade-off, one team's gout for another team's asthma. And nobody was ever really sure how they felt exactly about bringing Sammy Sosa to Shea. After all, the guy pulled back muscles coughing last season for crissakes, you've gotta be a little skeptical about how much of him can be left to rip mystical homers and institute that Sammy homer hop in Queens.

But this Pedro thing, well this is another matter altogether. Some people think
Pedro Is A Big Mistake. Clubhouse cancer, frail, rapidly ageing, whinger extraordinaire, etc. You can find an encyclopedia about why it's wrong to ink Pedro to some fat, four year deal (which is what it may take by the time the smoke from a looming bidding war clears), and you wouldn't be wrong to recite it.

On the other hand, he's 5-1 with a 1.17 earned run average at Shea Stadium and in the past three years, he is 4-2 with a 1.80 E.R.A. against National League teams. The NL plus the facing the Yankees only once or twice a season should compelling arguments for Pedro to move back to his mother league. Note the Post's Mark Hale's hysterical comparison with Roger Clemens:

"In Clemens' last year in the AL (2003 with the Yanks), he went 17-9 with a 3.91 ERA. This past year with Boston, Martinez's numbers (16-9, 3.90) were nearly identical. Then, facing non-DH lineups in the NL last season, Clemens went 18-4 with a 2.98 ERA."

The theory gaining momentum is that whilst Pedro is on the decline in the American League, the absence of the DH and the naturally lower pitch count in the National League as a result, all play in Pedro's favour.

Of course, this might all be rubbish. Pedro might be just jacking up the bidding war in the hopes he'll eventually land back in Boston at the bloated salary he wanted all along. If that's the case, well, these frail thoughts are for naught and Omar will have alot of egg on his face.

This morning, the other shoe dropped. Yep, that was the noise. A size 14, steel-toed shoe. Just when you thought it was safe to make public offers to free agents without immediately being blown out of the water, the Evil Empire has suddenly announced they aren't interested in the Big Unit anymore.

Hmmm. Wonder how far beyond a 10 year, $200 million offer to El Pedro is.

Of course, this could be more of those dodgy "negotiating ploys". Or, this could mean that Pedro is going to be a very, very happy man by the time the ink dries on his contract, wherever they might be.

What this certifies in all probability, is that the Mets' chances of landing Pedro just became infinintely dimmer still, as King George waddles in with his billions, tossing his sugar daddy dollars around until Pedro gets a whiff.


The baseball Hall of Fame announced its ballot and on it are five-time AL batting champion Wade Boggs, eight-time All-Star Darryl Strawberry and four-time All-Star pitcher Mark Langston. You might make the argument that none of them belong.

Not inducting Strawberry is a no-brainer for a no-brain kind of has-been waste of talent. A 17 year career of homers and coke, neither of which ever amounted to much, is hardly a Hall of Fame CV. For a man with a meagre .259 batting average, 335 career homeruns simply isn't enough. And three World Championships to his credit speak nothing of the volumes of disappointment, nevermind the .209 batting average in the 21 World Series games he played in. Scratch his name off the ballot and keep it off.

On Mark Langston's ballot you can just write "179 career victories" across the top and then scratch his name off the ballot forever as well.

Keeping Wade Boggs out is alot harder to justify. He's a .328 lifetime hitter. That's the same lifetime batting average as Rod Carew, who is already in the Hall of Fame. Rod Carew won 7 batting titles. Wade Boggs won five. Carew led his league in OBP four times and Boggs six times. Carew drove in 1015 runs in his career, Boggs 1014. Boggs played in just 30 games less in his career than Carew and had 43 hits less than Carew. They are tied at 30th for highest career batting average. These are basically, if you didn't know any better, the same careers. So it would pretty hard to make the argument that Wade Boggs doesn't belong in the Hall of Fame but Rod Carew does.

So don't make that argument. Who says Rod Carew really belongs in the Hall of Fame either?

Now everyone is throwing up their hands. How can you not put two .328 lifetime hitters in the Hall of Fame? The Rules for Election to the Hall of Fame note that "voting shall be based upon the player's record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played."

You can't really gripe against either's .328 batting average. But the HOF has a history of electing stiffs like Jake Beckley and Dave Bancroft to name but a few. That doesn't mean the trend should continue.

And hell, if batting average is so important, why isn't Pete Browning and his lifetime .349 batting average in the HOF, or Dan Brouthers and his .342 average?

Somewhere along the line, enough is enough. Yes, Boggs and Carew both hit for high average and reached the 3000 hit plateau (barely and only because they dragged through a few extra seasons to get to it, well past their primes.)

The current trend is to reward players for achieving milestones. But Wade Boggs and Rod Carew are to 3000 hits, like Rafael Palmeiro and (almost Crime Dog McGriff) are to 500 homers and Don Sutton (who won 20 games only once in his career) is to 300 victories. They are meaningless numbers added on and added on until they appear to mean something. They don't.

If the urge to nominate someone, anyone is irresistable, then back the candidacy of someone who truly merits a place in the Hall of Fame, Jim Rice.


I came across this gem a few days ago on one of the online NY tabloid sites which in a sense, summate both the hopes and dying dreams of Mets fans everywhere:

5:04 PM EST, Nov 30, 2004
my name is jose reyes. I am out for 2005 cuz i broke my hand buttering
Submitted by: jose reyes


And just yestereday, reading about the SF Giants signing of closer Armando Benitez, I read the following understatement of the year:

..."But while Benitez has been one of the game's top closers in the regular
season with 244 saves in 283 chances (the fourth best percentage all-time,)his postseason history is spotty

I had to have a laugh at this euphemism. Since when did choke like a dog morph into "spotty" -- is this some new PC language for tetchy closers? What Armandogeddon story is ever complete without the sacred litany of Armandogeddon Post Season Apocaplyses? (I'll spare my dear readers here, as this litany I've recited ad infinitum whilst he choked it up for the Mets game after meaningful game.)


From the Keeping Perspective Dept.: Ricky Williams told SI's Mike Silver:

"At least I quit before all the fantasy drafts. Let's face it: If I'd
quit after the drafts, the fans would all hate me."


Some of the other finds this past week that struck a chord:

Oddest stat in Peyton Mannings TD pass testimonial is that he's already thrown 55
more td passes than Roger Staubach did in his entire career. Of course, he'd thrown more than his father after his first half of his first game...


Thoroughly enjoyed ESPN Page 3's Best Seinfeld Sports Moments. In particular the episode where George tries to get fired from the Yankees and so:

"Tying a World Series trophy to the back of a car and dragging it around the Yankee Stadium parking lot, yelling, though a bullhorn: "Attention, Steinbrenner and front-office morons! Your triumphs mean nothing. You all stink. You can sit on it, and rotate! This is George Costanza. I fear no reprisal. Extension 5-1-7-0."

Where have you gone yea George Costanzas of the world?


Ever wondered what ever happened to The Jewish Michael Jordan?

"Tamir Goodman had a successful season for Givat Shmuel, which competed in the top Israeli league. He earned Most Outstanding Player when the team faced Maccabi Tel Aviv, a powerhouse in Israeli basketball. In 2003, Goodman was sent to Elitzur Kiryat Ata, a team in Israel's second tier division. He led Kiryat Ata to the division championship and was named the Most Valuable Player of the championship game.

Goodman is currently fulfilling his duty in the Israeli Defense Force, but recently signed a one-year contract and will return to Givat Shmuel to play this fall."


Long on my list of favourites, The Mighty MJD continues to please:

"At halftime of the Chargers/Raiders game, the Raiders have their junior dance team on the field, consisting of 8-10 year old girls in Raider cheerleader uniforms. It was probably wrong of me to call them sluts. While we're on the subject, though... we've got an NFL organization dressing up children in skimpy cheerleader outfits, and we're worried about Terrell Owens and a Desperate Housewives intro?"