Friday, April 01, 2005

Random Chatter ...

It’s Friday, the weekend is almost here and I feel like talking about a ton of things. The best part is – I can.

I heard that Maurice Clarett had a ‘special’ workout for several NFL teams this week near his hometown in Ohio. From what I’ve seen Clarett had a much better showing than he did in February at the NFL Combines where his 40-yard dash times were 4.87 & 4.72. This week the 236 pound running back ran a 4.67 & 4.68. Some people speculated that he would be a late round pick or wouldn’t get drafted at all – something tells me somebody’s going to draft him and give him a shot. Would I? Maybe in the sixth or seventh round if I needed a running back.

Have you taken your steroids today? Good golly with all this steroid talk. Earlier this week it came out that several Carolina Panthers players were linked to a doctor in South Carolina that prescribed them steroids. The names that have come out are former Panther and current Tampa Bay Buccaneer offensive tackle Todd Steussie, Panthers center Jeff Mitchell and Panthers punter Todd Sauerbrun. Apparently we’ll find out the other names as the ongoing investigation moves down the pike. These guys are just a few of many in this league that actually got busted. Can you imagine how many guys are using the ‘cream’ the ‘clear’ and whatever else they can get their hands on? For some reason I knew they weren’t better than the Eagles two years ago when they went to the Super Bowl.

No seriously, did you take your steroids today or not? Mr. Tour de France Lance Armstrong’s former personal assistant is saying that he found some ‘roids in LA’s apartment in early 2004. Would it surprise me that he’s doing them? Yes. This guy has been tested more times than most lab rats. Maybe he took some performance enhancing drugs after he survived cancer, but since the man one his first Tour de France he’s been scrutinized for being on some sort of dope, while being tested like an animal in the San Diego Zoo.

J-E-T-S…JETS! JETS! JETS! That’s right the team from New York (um, New Jersey?) that’s been sharing Giants Stadium with the Giants for forever seems like it might get a stadium of its own – and a stadium in Manhattan no less. I think it’s about twenty years overdue and that the Jets players, coaches and fans deserve a brand new stadium in the heart of NYC. I’ve been fortunate enough to attend about seven or eight Jets home games over the years and remember going to the last game of the 1996 season against the Miami Dolphins during the Jets miserable 1-15 season. The game was close and the place was going crazy when the Jets pulled ahead in the 4th quarter. I remember thinking, “Why do they care?” Jets fans are a special breed, you might call them ‘True Green – Through and Through.’ I can’t imagine how many free agents would love to play for the Jets if the deal goes through – talk about an electrifying experience.

Surprising news out of Cleveland Indians spring training – Juan Gonzalez is on the 15-day Disabled List. It’s nothing new for this guy – in fact on his baseball cards I’m not sure why they don’t list him as:
Juan Gonzalez
Cleveland Indians
Height: 6’3”
Weight: 220 lbs.
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Position: Disabled List/Outfielder

Linebacker Tedy Bruschi is apparently recovering nicely from his stroke in mid February. Bruschi has been with the Patriots since 1996 and has played in 4 Super Bowls with the team – winning 3 of the last four years. Here’s hoping that a true leader of the great Patriots team makes a full and speedy recovery.

Courtney Brown shuns the Redskins to sign with the Broncos. Why on Earth did Joe Gibbs make this guy a priority? They ‘courted’ Courtney like he was Deacon Jones and he was somehow going to have an injury-free productive season. Please tell me that Gibbs will make better decisions on player personnel so I don’t have to listen to my Redskins friends cry.

Randy Johnson vs. David Wells … World Champion Boston Red Sox vs. New York Yankees on Sunday night. I’m a die-hard Mets fan, but I can’t think of a better way to start the 2005 season. Watching the Sox strut onto the field that they finished an improbable 0-3 turnaround leading to there first World Championship in 86 years last season in front of the Yankees and the fans at Yankee Stadium is going to be great. And then watching former beloved Yankee David Wells beat them on opening night will be even better.

The NIT Championship was spectacular last night.

The Final Four. The next time I see you again (Monday) we will have the championship set. I can’t wait to see what happens on Saturday…hopefully we’ll have two awesome games leading up to a masterpiece on Monday night.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Money Talks ... Make Steinbrenner Sweat

I've got it. It hit me last night and I've been thinking about it ever since. The answer of all answers. I was thinking about how it ticks me off that George Steinbrenner and the New York Yankees can afford a payroll of over $183 million and the next closest two teams are the Red Sox who are just over $125 million and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (or whatever they're being called these days) at almost $102 million. I have the answer to fix the problem of salary imbalance in baseball and it can't go wrong.

How do you get a payroll of $185 million dollars? You get a REALLY rich person to buy your favorite Major League Baseball team. I'm not talking about some run-of-the-mill multi-millionaire that lives on the other side of town from you - I'm talking about the people who make it into Forbes Magazine for being the richest people on this Earth.

My hatred of the Evil Empire made me log onto Forbes' web page to see who I could get to buy teams close to where they live. I was amazed how many matches I could find that have the financial backing to bring this game back to an even level. I'm sure the Players Association and Donald Fehr wouldn't mind if these people bought these teams.

Let's start with the Milwaukee Brewers, who have the lowest payroll in baseball at just $27.5 million. Milwaukee isn't that bad of a place to live and play, is it? Robin Yount apparently loved it - he played his entire 20-year Hall of Fame career there. They've got a great ballpark and the fans are crazy about the Packers, so maybe they'd get behind the new and improved baseball team.And let's think about playing there if you were making some serious money. Money that Mr. Samuel Curtis Johnson (S.C. Johnson & Son) might supply after he buys the Brew-crew. Mr. Johnson is worth $7.4 billion, so I'm guessing he might be able to buy the team at a few hundred million and would then be able to go dollar-for-dollar with any free agent George covets.

We move on to another team that needs some major funding, the Pittsburgh Pirates. What a shame that baseball's money has taken such a great franchise and turned it into a place where young talent develops and moves on and old guys finish their careers. The Pirates won two World Series in the 1970s and had such a great team in the early 1990s and now they have one of the nicest new ballparks in the game (I've been there). Mr. Henry Lea Hillman, with his $2.8 billion, could change that! He could quadruple the Pirates' $40.2 million payroll and make the Steel City a powerhouse again.

The Montreal Expos are no more and, frankly, living in Washington, D.C., I couldn't be happier. But that leaves just the Toronto Blue Jays in the cold country north of us. What better time then now for Kenneth Thomson & Family of Toronto, Canada, to buy the Jays? According to Forbes, the family is worth $17.2 billion. Buy the team, hire Blue Jays' icon Joe Carter to manage them and you've got them back to where they were in the late 1980s and early 1990s. A country is relying on you.

Echo Star owner Mr. Charles Ergen could make the Colorado Rockies the best place on the planet to play in the 1.2 seconds it will take him to sign his name on his check. C'mon Chuck. You would be a hero to that entire region forever. You live in Denver and every potential free agent would love your city with its mile-high air and the fact that the ball flies off bats like a corked Sammy Sosa "practice" bat. Mr. Ergen is worth $8.9 billion and would be lauded as the Father of the Rockies for eternity.

With a name like Micky Arison, you've gotta love baseball! Mr. Arison made money from the cruise industry and lives in Bal Harbour, Fla., not far from where the Florida Marlins currently play. He currently owns the Miami Heat - so I'm not going to ask him to break the bank on the Marlins' payroll. Buy the team with your $4.4 billion and buy them a new stadium and get the payroll up and I promise that every player in the league would think strongly about playing in that warm South Florida weather. The cruise ship industry has never looked so good.

We're not sure why the richest man in the world hasn't bought his hometown Mariners yet. Bill Gates is worth $46 billion and frequently goes to Seattle games. Yes, they have a respectable payroll at $78.4 million, but they would never have a problem luring free agents to the great North West again. Do it Bill - I'd love to see Steinbrenner's face.

Oracle's own Lawrence Joseph Ellison lives right near Oakland in Redwood Shores, Calif. "Billy Ball" would be instantly turned into "Larry Ball" and his $18 billion would provide a much-needed new stadium and would certainly keep his young talent from leaving the other team by the Bay.

William Alfred Cook is worth $3.1 billion from a bunch of medical devices and lives in Bloomington, Ind., not far from Cincinnati. The Reds' $42.7 million payroll would be a drop in the bucket. And besides, he's used to stopping pain, isn't he?

Richard Schulze made himself $2.8 billion rich with BestBuy. The state of Minnesota would love it if he stepped up and got the Twins out of the garbage stadium that they play in and kept the young talent around with a nice payroll. Please Richie, please.

Each member of the Walton Family is worth $20.5 billion EACH. Buy the Kansas City Royals and bring back a great team. They were once a team to be reckoned with when George Brett played his Hall of Fame career there; they can be again, with an infusion of cash.

Ty Warner 8 is worth $6 billion and he's from Chicago - you laughed at those Beanie Babies when they first came out, huh? Take your pick, pal. I'd say the White Sox, but the Cubs' Nation wants the money, too. I'll let you decide.

We still have the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Washington Nationals and Cleveland Indians, along with several other teams that could use the cash to become more competitive.

Calling all members of Forbes Richest People list: Help destroy the Evil Empire and make George Steinbrenner go ballistic on his entire staff. The game would be so much better if every team was on an even playing field again and the Yankees weren't allowed to buy their way into the playoffs every year.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

What the Flip?

Why would you want Flip Saunders to coach your team? And let's leave Phil Jackson's name out of consideration for all jobs, too. Let the man retire. Hasn't he done enough? Not to mention he probably realizes that he'll never have Michael Jordan & Scottie Pippen together again or Shaquille O'Neal & Kobe Bryant together again. So what's the next best combo in the league that's available? LeBron & Ilgauskas? Or KG & whoever else? It's not worth the headaches and I'd be surprised if he comes back.

OK - back to Flip Saunders. I'm trying to figure out why so many teams, especially the Cleveland Cavaliers, seem to be SO interested in Flip Saunders? Flip had a pretty good run with the T'Wolves when he took over early in the 1996 season until last year. I can't argue that the guy won .563 of his games (386-300) in the regular season during that time. Let's face it, he took the helm of a terrible franchise that was 132-380 before he took over 20 games into the '96 season.

But my problem with the Flipster is that his playoff record is AWFUL - 17-30 which includes 10-8 during last year's playoffs. That's just flat out terrible. In the early runs to the playoffs he had a budding superstar in Kevin Garnett and other All-Stars in Stephon Marbury and Tom Gugliotta and other key players like Anthony Peeler, Chauncey Billips (yes, you forgot). In the later years, the T'Wolves added shooters like Wally Szczerbiak and Fred Hoiberg while acquiring Sam Cassell and Latrell Sprewell.

This season they just flat-out tanked. They were miserable and Saunders was fired. Minnesota might fight to get the 8th seed, but even if they do, they'll do their usual dance and get bounced from the playoffs in the first round for the eighth time in nine seasons.

If I'm a team looking for a coach, it isn't Flip Saunders - do you want to drive the same road that's been traveled on for years and go nowhere or would you rather go get a guy who might spring some life into your team ... a guy like Maurice Cheeks. Mo Cheeks knows how to win; he was a winner as both a player and a coach. A four-time NBA All-Star as a player, he sported a 140-106 coaching record when he headed Portland for three seasons and played the point for the 76ers when Dr. J, Moses Malone and company won the 1983 NBA title and played in two other Finals. That's my guy ... go get him and you'll be happy that you did.

In other NBA news, the 37-year-old Detroit man who threw a chair into the tunnel area in the Palace at Auburn Hills Arena during the Pistons-Pacers brawl in mid-November pleaded no contest. They've got him on tape and I'm sure he realizes that it was a stupid thing to do. This guy wasn't in any harm, but he was probably drunk and decided to exact some revenge on the Indiana players that he could see trying to leave the arena.

This just brings me back to that whole situation and the ramifications that followed. Ron Artest acted like a dope by running into the stands after an even bigger idiot threw a cup of liquid on him. Then fellow Pacers teammate Stephen Jackson, in my mind, acted like the biggest jerk of them all by running in and throwing wild punches at everything that moved that wasn't wearing a Pacers uniform.

I've said for months that I don't agree with Commissioner David Stern's suspension of Artest for the rest of the season. I would've given him a 50-game suspension. I would've suspended Jackson for more than he got and more than what Artest was levied. Commissioner Schmidt would've suspended Jackson for 55 games so that the rest of the league knew that if you follow somebody into a fight and they're not being attacked, your first reaction should be to restrain.

Lastly, I love seeing that look on Kobe Bryant's face - the look of "Oh no, what did I do here?"

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Best Time of the Year

Is there a better time of the year than March Madness? Seriously, I’ve been saying since about the age of 13 that this time of the year is better than Christmas. The presents are great and spending time with the family is wonderful but this is the culmination to college basketballs season all lumped into a few weeks of upsets, #1 seeds, Cinderella’s, Elite Eight Overtime Games and now the Final Four. How many times were your sisters telling you, “Mom said to come inside now” because you still had that one final play on the driveway to win the NCAA Championship? For me, it was about a few hundred.

This year we’ve had some Wisconsin-Milwaukee upsets, West Virginia’s rendition of the sharp shooting Hoosiers, Bucknell beating Kansas in the First Round, Michigan State getting past both Duke and Kentucky (In 2 OT’s) to reach the Final Four, Roy Williams taking the Tar Heels of UNC to St. Louis and Rick Pitino getting back to the Final Four with another team from the state of Kentucky. Its been incredible. To NCAA Division 1-A Football I say eat your heart out…it doesn’t get any better than this.

Illinois vs. Louisville
Illinois-Louisville is going to be a barn burner. These two teams will have more than enough fan support in St. Louis. The Illini are within a few hours of the Final Four and St. Louis is sure to be littered with orange. Louisville is also very close, only about a 4 hour drive – and let’s be honest, how many college kids wouldn’t drive 50 hours to see there team in the conclusion of the Big Dance? It should be madness at its finest. Francisco Garcia and Larry O'Bannon have been scoring points in bunches all season long and are two of the most athletic players in college ball. They will need to lift up there games to compete with the Illini pressure.

On the other side, Illinois' Deron Williams, Dee Brown and Luther Head are such an incredible 3-guard set and have had there way with everyone this year. It’s impossible to stop all three in one game that most opposition pick their poison. This game is going to come down to who wins the rebound battle and which team can get to the foul line and cash in from the charity stripe. Both of these teams can score, but which one will be clutch?

North Carolina vs. Michigan State
UNC-Michigan State might turn out to be an even better game (if it’s possible). The Tar Heels have more talent and depth than any other team in the country – and they are led by three juniors who have run the full course at Chapel Hill. Rashad McCants, Raymond Felton and big man Sean May are going to have to be stellar for the Tar Heels. But the two guys that will make the most difference for North Carolina are senior forward Jawad Williams and senior guard Jackie Manuel. Call me crazy, but if those two guys don’t do a good job on defense and don’t put up significant numbers Carolina is going to lose.

The reason the Tar Heels might get bounced? Six Spartans…Maurice Ager, Alan Anderson, Paul Davis, Chris Hill, Kelvin Torbert and Shannon Brown. These guys are tough and balanced – all six score between 9 points per game and 13.8 points per game. Anderson, Hill and Torbert are three seniors who are playing like there is literally no tomorrow while Brown and Ager have both picked up the scoring lately. Should have all the makings of another great Final Four game.

I can’t wait. I want both games to go into OT – and I want to see some great play from all four teams. This is the climax of college basketball and the only thing I can think of is can this Final Four be better than the Elite Eight was? Two semis final games and a title game that should have all the makings…

Whose last shot on the driveway will win the game?

Monday, March 28, 2005

We Don't Need No Stinkin Roids!

Let’s discuss a topic that I’ve been reading about, talking about and honestly thinking about for months - Steroids in baseball. The questions and allegations have been everywhere for the last several years, and should’ve been asked as far back as the late 80s. First it was a federal investigation into BALCO and the leaked testimony of Jason Giambi and the alleged unknown use of steroids by superstars Gary Sheffield and Barry Bonds, arguably the greatest player ever. But it was a former AL MVP and the first 40-40 man that sparked an absolute media frenzy and then got the United States Congress involved…Jose Canseco and his book ‘Juiced’.

I have read his book and don’t suspect Canseco will win any writing awards for his book –however I think he’s telling the truth about most (if not all) of what he’s detailed in this book.Too many guys that he’s labeled as steroids users in his book seemed to explode in statistics and muscularity in the early-mid 1990s, having seasons that Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth would’ve been thrilled about…and seasons that probably made Ted Williams and Mickey Mantle want to jump through the ground to find out answers – but everyone turned the other way…especially Major League Baseball and the Players Association. Why would they do that? Didn’t they know that steroid abuse does terrible damage to a person if not taken correctly and moderated in dosage…Yes, they knew – but they also knew that the strike of 1994 and the cancellation of the World Series had fans more than peeved and they needed a jolt in more places than the buttocks to get the game going again. Home runs and home run races will do that for you.

Back to ‘Juiced’…Canseco claimed that he gave roids to several guys and said that he injected most of them in the beginning of their use to show them the correct methods.

Let’s take a look at several of these players…When Canseco was traded from Oakland to the Texas Rangers in late 1992 several All-Stars turned into potential Hall of Famers.

Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez went from 8 HR & 37 RBI in 1992 up to 67 RBI and an increase of 13 points in his BA. And then – boom 16 HR in the strike-shortened season of 1994 in more then 100 less at bats and with probably 250 more at bats to come had the players not went on strike. His RBI, HR and BA all kept getting gradually better and better over the next several years and reached its peak in his AL MVP season of 1999 when he hit 35 HR 113 RBI and .332 while also stealing a career best 25 bases - he only has 97 stolen bases in his career…?

Rafael Palmeiro had seasons of 8, 8, 14, 26 and 22 before the 1993 season when he hit 37…then in a strike shortened season he hit 23 and then in 95 & 96 he hit 39 in each. Followed in 97 with 38 and then these:
98: 43
99: 47
00: 39
01: 47
02: 43
03: 38
04: 23
Pretty funny how when all the talk of roids came out his numbers fell back down…?

Mark McGwire. I think it’s safe to say that when Big Mac testified in front of the House Government Reform Committee a few weeks ago he didn’t want to give many details about his past. This has led many people to believe that he was trying to hide something but c’mon, you’d be foolish to say that you can’t see what steroids could have done for this guy. He was a good hitter with great power when he was a 23-year old rookie in 1987 but when you add 50 pounds of muscle look what happens…you have seasons of 52, 58, 70 and 65 HRs. And you also get injuries that lead to 9 HRs in two straight injury-riddled seasons of 1993 & 1994. Let’s remember that Big Mac had a full season in the early 90s where he hit .201…?

Jason Giambi. A doubles hitter when he came into MLB who turned into a hitting machine producing multiple 40+ HR seasons and having averages of .315, .333., .342 and .314 with RBI totals of 110, 123, 137, 120, 122 and 107…a far cry from the 79 and 81 he hit in his first two full seasons in the bigs huh? Sure I know, guys get better and better each season that they play – but do guys normally put on that much muscle…?

I won’t argue that the great players do in fact get better and better each year – but these guys had significant bursts in numbers, weight and muscles…and I find it hard not to believe. There are so many guys around the league that used steroids as an advantage – guys that we try not to believe, but we can’t be that ignorant. The crazy thing is that when Canseco and the late Ken Caminiti (NL MVP in 1996 and admitted steroid user) gave their estimates of how many major leaguers were using anabolic steroids, unfortunately I think they were right.

The reason I find this issue to be so troubling is that it’s something that teenagers have been turning to for a way to make it far in baseball and sports. Kid ‘A’ is a really good High School athlete, but has been told he probably can’t get a Division 1 scholarship. But if he does a few cycles of steroids and improves his batting average and his power then he might land at that Big East college. Or we have College Kid ‘B’ who’s been a role player for a Big Ten university his first two years when a spot opens up at third base. The coaches tell him that he’s got to work real hard this offseason to get the starting spot. Kid ‘B’ might just think that some steroids and lots of weight lifting might put him over the top all the while also jeopardizing his health.

I hope that Major League Baseball finally digs into the batters box to try to face this problem…to tell you the truth, I can’t wait to see how many swings it will take to hit it out of the ballpark. I’ll be watching from the Field Level.