Thursday, March 29, 2007

Yo, Meathead!

So much going on, so much to talk about!

SEASONINGS: First, I have to laugh at Joe Theismann losing his job on Monday Night Football. I never could stand Theismann, and I was irate that he got the MNF job last year in the first place. As a New York Giants fan, I could understand why Theismann, a former Washington Redskins QB, might feel some rancor for that team, especially after Lawrence Taylor ended his career with the tackle that broke Theismann’s leg. But ever since Theismann became a broadcaster, any time the Giants were on his telecast, I had to listen to him always shred the Giants for one thing or another, even when Big Blue was actually pretty good. The only good things I’ve ever heard Theismann say about the Giants were about Tiki Barber and Michael Strahan—anyone could find something good to say about them! Good riddance to Theismann! I wonder what he will do about the job broadcasting college football that ESPN offered him!

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell dropped the (foot)ball this past weekend at the latest series of NFL meetings. Expected to release his new, tougher disciplinary policy for players who can’t stay out of trouble, Goodell promised only that more was to come on that issue. While I think it’s good that instant replay is now permanent, I can’t understand why the NFL didn’t change the rules regarding overtime kickoffs. If they’re so concerned about the advantage the team receiving the ball has at the start of overtime, why not just move the kickoff to the 35, instead of the 30, as they had said they might do? This would take away some of the field position the receiving team would have and make overtime more even, which is what they supposedly wanted to do anyway.

I guess Isiah Thomas isn’t going to get the Knicks to the playoffs this year, after all, which is pretty pathetic given the state of the Atlantic Division. Yes, I know all the Zeke apologists will say that he’s had too many injuries to cope with, but I say, so what? The East is so bad in general that all it takes to make the playoffs (if they started today) is a 33–39 record. Even the stinky Knicks should be able to pull that off! Why, Stephon Marbury is the best point guard in the NBA (wink, wink)! Instead, they’ve lost four out of five and have fallen even further out of the last available playoff spot.

I do have to hand it to Steph, though, for his low-cost basketball shoes. He did a great thing by making them affordable, so parents won’t go bankrupt getting sneakers for the kids. Now Ben Wallace is getting on board, and I believe the plan will eventually be to release a whole line of apparel. This sort of selfless thing seems so out of keeping with the image that Marbury projects on the court and in the locker room, it’s hard to believe it’s the same guy!

And how about Ugueth Urbina getting 14 years in prison for attempted murder of five people? In a recent post, Ed was talking about the intrigue and scandal in international cricket—this isn’t quite the same level as what’s happening in Pakistan, but it’s still pretty crazy!

Wally Westlake

Yesterday I interviewed a former MLB player in Sacramento named Wally Westlake. What a wonderful person he is! He played for the Pittsburgh Pirates in the late 40's and 50's. He's 87 years old and just a great guy. I love interviewing these old players and hearing their stories. It's history and I'm capturing it and the whole process just makes me feel great!

Monday, March 26, 2007

My Interview with Dick Williams

Dick Williams was a player and manager in the major leagues for a total of 35 years. He entered the big leagues with the 1951 Brooklyn Dodgers, and although he didn’t play much as a rookie, he was on hand to witness Bobby Thomson’s shot-heard-round-the-world. He then played for 12 more seasons, with the Dodgers, Orioles, Indians, Kansas City A’s, Indians and Red Sox, primarily in the outfield, although he did fill in at first base, second and third. His best season was probably in 1959, when he hit .288 with 75 RBI while playing in 130 games for Kansas City. As a manager, Williams had a HOF career, winning a total of two world championships and two league championships, winning it all while the skipper of the ’72 and ’73 Oakland A’s and losing in the World Series in 1967 at the helm of the Red Sox and in 1984 with the San Diego Padres. He was known as a fiery competitor and a great manager who loathed mediocrity and stressed fundamentals. He made enemies with his outspoken style; including famous feuds with people like Ted Williams, Jack McKeon and Charlie Finley, but his players respected him because he was honest and direct. During his career, he managed the Red Sox, A’s, Expos, Padres and Mariners, for a total of 22 seasons, with 1,571 wins and 1,451 losses. He is considered by many to be one of the most successful managers in the history of the game, and yet the Hall of Fame has not included him into their coveted club.

As manager of the 1967 Boston Red Sox, his first managing job: “The team had finished a half of a game out of the cellar the year before, so I had to start from scratch, on fundamentals. And I was pretty tough with them. Jim Lonborg was the Cy Young winner that year, Yaztremski was the MVP and won the triple crown; I was the Manager of the Year and Dick O’Connell was the Executive of the Year, so that’s four spots right there. But, we played good, fundamental solid baseball. The way you’re supposed to do it. The role players were Conigliaro, who we lost him when he got beaned; Norm Seibern, Jim Landis, Jose Tartabull and Kenny Harreslon all played. Petrocelli got hurt, so I had to play a guy at shortstop who was normally a second baseman, he was one of my backup infielders, Jerry Adair. Everybody contributed on that club.”

On his relationship with Ted Williams: “Ted Williams and I didn’t see eye-to eye. My first spring training with the Red Sox he was there to supposedly work with the hitters. Usually during spring training you’ve got a lot of extra players around. So, for a lot of the pitchers, when they they weren’t on the field, I set up a volleyball net down the third-base line. I got all the pitchers tennis shoes, and we had a little volleyball tournament, with four or five different teams playing each other. Well, Ted didn’t like that. He thought it was stupid. So, he walked out of my spring training camp. But, somehow he showed up when we were in the World Series.”

Bert Campaneris throwing the bat at the pitcher during the 1972 AL playoffs: “Campy was having a great game that day, I think he had two or three hits, including a home run, I’m not sure. But, Larren LaGrow was the pitcher for Detroit, and he hit Campy in the shins, but this was on orders from the manager, Billy Martin, I know darn well it was. Because Campy could beat you a number of ways – with his bat, with his glove or with his legs. And he hit him in the shins. He could have put him out of the series permanently. He’s Latin, Campy is, so his first reaction is to get revenge, and he fired the bat at LaGrow, and he got suspended for the rest of the playoffs. But, it was always tough managing against Billy Martin. He was a great manager. All he tried to do was win, any which way he could.”

Relationships with umps: “I got along with most of the umpires, but there were a few I
didn’t always see eye to eye with. Usually whenever a manager gets tossed out of a game it’s for cussing. But, sometimes you can look at an umpire a certain way, and if he didn’t like you and you didn’t care for him, he’d run you. I don’t know how many games I got thrown out of -- I know it wasn’t as many as Earl Weaver, but I was probably next in line.”

Managing the A’s: I got a three-year contract from Charlie Finley in 1971. And we won 101 games that year. Then, we lost three games in the playoffs against the Orioles. Then, the next year, we won everything, including beating the Reds in the World Series without Reggie Jackson. Jackson was hurt sliding into the plate in the playoffs against Detroit. And then the next year we were down three games to two to the Mets going back to Oakland, and Yogi was managing that club, and he decides to pitch Tom Seaver against us one day ahead of time and we knocked him out in the fifth inning, and that forced Matlack to pitch one day early, and we won the last two and won it.”

The Mike Andrews controversy in the 1973 World Series: “Sure, Andrews let a ball go through his legs, but that can happen to anybody. Charlie (Finley) wanted him out of there and tried to get him to say his back was hurting him. And he wouldn’t do it, was Charlie just flat-out fired him. But, Bowie Kuhn reinstated him, and he re-joined us in New York. He wanted to get Trillo in there, but he wasn’t eligible.”

Friday, March 23, 2007

Murder in the World of Cricket?

What an incredible story. As many scandals as major league baseball has had, there's absolutely nothing like what is happening in Cricket right now. Murder, a tell-all book, gamblers and games being fixed? This is something right out of a crime novel. Unbelievable. Stay tuned.
This was on today:

KINGSTON, Jamaica (March 23) - Police investigating the murder of Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer were seeking permission Friday to take DNA samples from players.
"It is true that anybody who is required to give a witness statement in this incident we are seeking their permission to get fingerprints and DNA samples," to help eliminate suspects, Jamaican police deputy commissioner Mark Shields said in a radio interview.

Pakistani players and officials were among people fingerprinted and interviewed by police at a Kingston hotel on Thursday before the squad traveled to Montego Bay.

Police Commissioner Lucius Thomas said in a statement late Thursday that a pathologist report found Woolmer's death on Sunday was due to "asphyxia as a result of manual strangulation."Woolmer, 58, showed no signs of life when he was found in his room Sunday by hotel staff and was later declared dead at a hospital, police said.
A Pakistan team spokesman said Woolmer had been writing a book and had been "disturbed" that pages had gone missing.Days before police confirmed it, former Pakistan fast bowler Sarfraz Nawaz claimed Woolmer had been murdered and it could be linked with illegal gambling syndicates he was going to expose in the book. Police said there was no evidence of forced entry or visible signs of a struggle, and Woolmer might have known his killer.

"I have to say at this stage it looks as if it may be somebody somehow linked to him because clearly he let somebody into his hotel room and it may be that he knew who that person was," Shields said.Police were reviewing security cameras at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel and urging witnesses to come forward. Shields on Friday rejected media reports that a suspect had been arrested or taken into custody."There is absolutely no truth to the story that anybody has been arrested," Shields said. "Nobody is in custody and have no suspects.
"There are certainly a number of lines of inquiry that we are looking at and we have some theories of what may have happened, but it's too early to go public with them."Shields said police were investigating if more than one person could have been involved." Because Bob was a large man, it would have taken some significant force to subdue him, but of course at this stage we do not know how many people were in the room," he said. "It could be one or more people involved in this murder.

"Shields declined to comment when asked about local media reports describing the condition of Woolmer's body. "There are some issues surrounding marks on his body, but for the moment I would rather we stick to the cause of death, which is asphyxia," he said.

Pakistan team spokesman Pervez Jamil Mir said the players were shocked by the news Woolmer had been killed."I've spoken to the chairman and he's totally devastated. He can't believe it. He's very, very distressed. The team is distressed. Everybody is absolutely in a state of shock," he told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. The coach's widow earlier said it was possible an irate fan might have killed her husband.
"Some of the cricketing fraternity, fans, are extremely volatile and passionate about the game and what happens in the game," Gill Woolmer said Thursday in an interview from South Africa with Britain's Sky TV. So I suppose there is always the possibility."

Gill Woolmer said her husband had not recently mentioned anything about match fixing. He had been South Africa's coach in the 1990s when the team's captain, Hansie Cronje, admitted taking money to fix matches and was banned for life. Woolmer was never implicated. The head of the International Cricket Council's anti-corruption unit will investigate if match fixing had played a role in Woolmer's death, ICC chief executive Malcolm Speed said." Sadness has now been replaced with a profound sense of shock at the news that his death is being treated as murder," he said.
Ex-South Africa fast bowler Alan Donald said the World Cup should be canceled out of respect for his former coach. "I just don't know how this World Cup can continue under the shadow of what's happened," he told BBC radio.But Speed said the March 13-April 28 World Cup would continue, despite the murder probe, a call backed by England captain Michael Vaughan. Woolmer's death left the Pakistan national team in tatters and tears.

The national selection panel resigned. Team captain Inzamam-ul-Haq announced his resignation and retirement from one-day cricket, then led Pakistan to an emotional victory Wednesday against Zimbabwe. A fan at the match hoisted a sign saying: "Do it for Bob."Woolmer was born in India, played for England and recently split his time between South Africa and Pakistan, where he has been national coach since 2004. He had been expected to finish his contract after the World Cup and return to South Africa.
He is being accorded hero status in Pakistan after his death. Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf said he would be awarded the Sitara-e-Imtiaz, or Star of Excellence, for his contribution to sport.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Yo, Meathead!

For my last post, a few days ago, I put up an article with MLB commissioner Bud Selig’s thoughts on former commissioner Bowie Kuhn and his place in the game’s history. Interestingly enough, a day later, I saw this piece by New York Times columnist Murray Chass, who disagrees with Selig and believes that Kuhn had no positive effects on the game of baseball. I am posting Chass’s article, as well, because I think it is fascinating how two people can observe the same history and come up with totally opposite perspectives. For anyone out there who remembers Kuhn and the way the game was during his oversight, let us know what YOU think. Was Kuhn all that, as Selig thinks, or was he a dud commissioner, as Chass believes?

Kuhn’s Achievements Are Not All That They Seem

Published: March 20, 2007
New York Times

This may be perceived as an unpleasant job, but somebody has to do it: the deconstruction or demythologizing of the former commissioner Bowie Kuhn.

In the aftermath of Kuhn’s death last Thursday, much has been attributed to him, and he has said much in televised file interviews, that is simply far off base in relation to reality.

The most accurate, candid assessment of Kuhn comes from Andrew Zimbalist, a sports economist at Smith College and author of several books on baseball, including one on the current commissioner, Bud Selig.

“He never did anything enlightening; he never did anything that anticipated the future,” Zimbalist said of Kuhn on Sunday night in a telephone interview.

In an earlier interview with The Boston Globe, Zimbalist said, “I think Bowie established a pattern of antagonism and acrimony and distrust between the owners and players in the 1970s that took baseball 25-plus years to work through.”

Kuhn, whose 15-year tenure was riddled by five of baseball’s eight work stoppages, was indeed at the heart of the poor relationship between the owners and the players. He liked to portray himself as the commissioner of the owners and the players, but that notion didn’t fool anyone.

In a 1998 interview with ESPN, he abandoned that stance in commenting on the disastrous 50-day strike in 1981. In so doing, though, he continued to try to perpetuate a fantasy that he had first created after the strike — that the owners had prevailed.

“I could have stopped that strike at any time in ’81,” he said in the interview, which was rerun Thursday night, “and I decided that the wisest course was for the players to take their licking on this one in hopes that we wouldn’t face the same problem” in the future.

Kuhn was credited with having a sense of humor, but that might have been the funniest thing he ever said.

“They won it?” an incredulous Marvin Miller responded last week when he was told about Kuhn’s belief that the owners won that strike.

The owners were the ones who ended the strike, but only when their strike insurance ran out.

Kuhn was the commissioner when baseball’s oppressive reserve system ended — not that he did anything to contribute to changing the system. Kuhn rejected Curt Flood’s objection to a 1969 trade and forced him to sue to gain rights to movement that baseball denied players. Then Kuhn testified against Flood.

Several years later, Kuhn fought against free agency, arguing that it would create an elite class of teams to the detriment of others. He had a golden opportunity in 1975 to influence change in the system, but he instead joined the hard-line owners who opposed compromise with the players.

The arbitrator Peter Seitz urged the two sides to settle the Messersmith-McNally grievance before he ruled and, in fact, signaled that he was prepared to rule for the players.

“The debate over the reserve clause and Seitz raged for some time; it was a bitterly contested situation,” Clark Griffith said last week.

Griffith, now a lawyer in Minneapolis, was the vice president of the Minnesota Twins in 1975. As Seitz neared a decision, Griffith was a few months away from joining the board of the owners’ labor committee.

Griffith recalled that there were two points of view: one led by Lou Hoynes, who had succeeded Kuhn as the National League lawyer; and the other led by Ed Fitzgerald, who preceded Selig as the chairman of the Milwaukee Brewers.

Fitzgerald, Griffith said, wanted to negotiate an agreement with the union; Hoynes told the owners that they should let Seitz rule, and if he ruled against them, they could go to court and win there.

The Hoynes camp, Griffith said, included Gussie Busch, the Cardinals’ owner; Walter O’Malley, the Dodgers’ owner; and Calvin Griffith, his father and the Twins’ owner.

“Bowie caught the drift of the powerful N.L. owners and went that way,” Griffith said. “It was the safe way for him.”

Neither Kuhn nor Hoynes was a labor lawyer, and they didn’t understand that arbitrators’ rulings were virtually never overturned in court. Seitz’s subsequent ruling against the owners was upheld in federal court in Kansas City, Mo., and on appeal.

Kuhn continued to rail against free agency, saying it would destroy the game, but the economic growth that some have attributed to his leadership actually began with the advent of free agency.

Major League Baseball set attendance records the first three years after free agency began after the 1976 season; attendance rose nearly 40 percent.

Some obituaries credited Kuhn with growth through expansion, but only two of the majors’ 14 expansion teams came into existence during his tenure. Four teams began life in his first year, but they were obviously born before Kuhn became the commissioner.

Some obituaries cited the escalation of player salaries during his tenure, but they rose in spite of him, not because of him.

Selig said the other day that baseball was at its present state in large part because of many seeds that “were planted in the Kuhn era.”

But Kuhn’s seeds more likely turned into dandelions.

Perhaps the best story relating to the idea that Kuhn was the commissioner of the players as well as the owners occurred during labor negotiations in 1976.

Miller and his general counsel, Richard Moss, arrived early for a bargaining session at the 42nd Street office of John Gaherin, the clubs’ negotiator. As they sat in Gaherin’s office, they heard some movement in another part of the office.

Moss went to the door to see what was going on, and there were Kuhn and his chief aide, Sandy Hadden, stealthily leaving by a back door.

“I can’t help what goes on here,” Miller said Gaherin told them later, “but they come in here, which they have a right to do. They said they didn’t want to be seen here. I give them space in a back office. They have to pretend that they’re neutral.”

SEASONINGS: It is getting hard to believe.

This from the AP in the last 16 days:

A.J. Nicholson, linebacker for the Cincinnati Bengals, was sentenced to 2 months in a work program and 2 years probation for burglary and grand theft.

Cornerback Johnathan Joseph of the same team was allowed to enter a diversion program for marijuana possession.

Another Cincinnati corner, Deltha O’Neal, pleaded guilty to reckless driving rather than facing the more serious charge of drunk driving. In a separate case, running back Dominic Rhodes of the Oakland Raiders pleaded guilty to the same charge.

Richie Anderson, who used to be an NFL fullback, was fired from his job as an assistant coach with the Arizona Cardinals after being arrested in Phoenix during a prostitution sting.

Jacksonville Jaguars wideout Charles Sharon was arrested on stolen weapons charges.

Tight end Jeramy Stevens faces charges of drunk driving and marijuana possession and will not be re-signed by the Seattle Seahawks.

A court appearance was delayed until May for cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones of the Tennessee Titans after being charged with felony obstruction of police in February 2006.

Defensive lineman Tank Johnson of the Chicago Bears received a four-month prison sentence for a probation violation in a gun case from 2005.

Miami Dolphins linebacker Joey Porter was issued a summons on a misdemeanor battery charge after being accused of punching offensive lineman Levi Jones of the Cincinnati Bengals after police said the players exchanged trash talk at a Las Vegas casino blackjack table.

Gerald Sensabaugh, a safety for Jacksonville, was arrested and charged with speeding and carrying a firearm without a permit.

Police are investigating a woman’s claims she was raped at the home of Seahawks defensive end Patrick Kerney, though Kerney is not a suspect in the assault.

Yikes! Think the NFL has a problem? It’s getting a bit ridiculous. New commissioner Roger Goodell is expected to announce new disciplinary measures for players who can’t stay out of trouble at a league meeting next week. Hopefully, it will help what is becoming an embarrassing blot on the NFL’s reputation.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Posh Spice is Mega-Bummed

Victoria Beckham is obviously very upset. Is it because her husband was injured recently playing for Madrid in soccer? No, Poshy is mad because she went on an eating binge yesterday and ate half a grape.

Yo, Meathead!

In this article by AP sports writer Josh DuBow, current MLB commissioner Bud Selig ruminates on former commissioner Bowie Kuhn, who died this past week. Buddy-Bud also touches on the drug scandal and the A’s move to Fremont, California.

Selig: Kuhn Never Got Respect He Was Due

.c The Associated Press

PHOENIX (AP) - Bud Selig complained Saturday that Bowie Kuhn was never appreciated for his success as baseball commissioner, saying the changes Kuhn oversaw in his 15 years on the job have helped baseball reach the level of success it currently has.

“I think the reason we are where we are today…a lot of the seeds were planted in the Kuhn era,” Selig said. “He never gets credit for it but he should.”

Selig spoke of his predecessor as commissioner while attending a spring training game between the Oakland Athletics and Milwaukee Brewers. Selig planned to fly to Florida to attend Kuhn’s funeral on Tuesday.

Kuhn died Thursday at St. Luke’s Hospital in Jacksonville, Fla., following a short bout with pneumonia that led to respiratory failure. He was 80.

Selig recalled when he first met Kuhn back in the 1960s before he became a baseball owner. Kuhn, then a lawyer for the National League, questioned Selig on the witness stand during a trial over the Braves’ move from Milwaukee to Atlanta.

“But we became great friends,” Selig said.

Selig sought advice frequently from Kuhn during baseball labor battles in the 1990s, but called Kuhn’s 15-year tenure the toughest the game has ever had.

“The sport had been stuck in neutral for a long, long time,” Selig said. “Pete Rozelle had taken over the NFL in the 1960s. Baseball was resistant to change. The sport was adamantly resistant to change. And now change started. And Bowie was the commissioner then.”

In other topics, Selig said he’s still waiting to see what will come out of a nationwide investigation into the illicit sale of steroids and human growth hormone. Baseball players Gary Matthews Jr., Jose Canseco, John Rocker, Jerry Hairston Jr., David Bell and Darren Holmes have already been linked to the investigation.

The district attorney in Albany, N.Y., who is conducting the probe, said earlier in the week that he will forward the names of athletes linked to the inquiry to pro sports leagues. Selig said has no more details on that.

Earlier, Selig addressed the Athletics’ investors and talked to them about their proposed stadium deal in Fremont, Calif. Selig said he was pleased the team plans to remain in the Bay Area

“I told them every stadium deal is very difficult,” he said. “They have made good progress. I’m hopeful.”

SEASONINGS: As if baseball needs any more negative attention, now Pete Rose is opening his mouth again, telling anyone who will hear that he placed bets on his team, the Cincinnati Reds, every night while he was managing the club. Rose reminds me of another serial talker—A-Rod. Why do these guys feel as if what they have to say has to be back-page tabloid fodder all the time? Why can’t they just shut up and keep their announcements and opinions to themselves? Rose should realize by now that it doesn’t matter what he says to anyone. Until another commissioner comes along besides Big Bud—and maybe not even then—he will never be allowed back into the game of baseball. As for Rose’s desire to manage again…please! Would you put someone in charge of watching the oven when he has already let the cookies get burned?

Sunday, March 18, 2007

My MLB NL Central Picks for 2007

My Less-than-Fearless Predictions for MLB 2007

I am a little skittish about making my MLB 2007 season predictions for several reasons. For one, I know that I’ll be picking more with my heart than with my head; the same trap I seem to fall into every year. Secondly, my 2006 picks were pretty bad. I had the White Sox beating the Mets in the World Series last year. As you’ll recall, the Mets lost in the NLCS to the Cardinals and the Chisox didn’t even make the playoffs, despite winning more than 90 games. I may be a lot of things (a lousy prognosticator, for one), but I’m no quitter, so, here goes. I’m going to start out by predicting the NL Central.

The 2007 National League Central is a mish mash of teams who either improved themselves, lost players or made only a few off-season changes. Of all the divisions in baseball this year, it may be the one with the most question marks. Can certain players catch on with their new teams? Will others be able to rebound from injuries they experienced in 2006? Will anyone be there in mid-October? Will Tony LaRussa smile?
Who will get better and who will continue to spiral downward? Hopefully I can answer some of those burning questions here.

Let’s start out with the one team you can bet won’t be in the postseason – the Pittsburgh Pirates. If Roberto Clemente or Willie Stargell could see this group, I’m sure they’d be rolling over in their graves. The Bucs didn’t spend any bucks this off-season, and the result is going to be a dismal year. Manager Jim Tracy is a great field general, but even he won’t be able to win with these guys. The pitching staff is promising, with Ian Snell (14-11, 4.74), Zach Duke and Paul Maholm. And then there’s last season’s NL batting champ Freddy Sanchez (.344, 6 HR, 85 RBI) and Jason Bay, who can both hit. Chris Duffy will need to get on base more as the leadoff man if this team is to succeed at all, which they won’t be able to on any kind of consistent level over a 162-game season.

Three other teams that could possibly do well, but only if there is a complete convergence of the universe, are The Cincinnati Reds, Houston Astros and Milwaukee Brewers.

The Reds have a new General Manager, Wayne Krivsky, who wasn’t able to do much during the off-season. The team has a few bright spots, but there are just two many holes in this squad to be in contention. The Redlegs’ pitching is better than its been in several years, with Bronson Arroyo (14-11, 3.29), Eric Milton (who is healthy again); and Aaron Harang all have good stuff and will only get better. Manager Jerry Narron will juggle a line-up of seasoned vets and young kids, while moving Ken Griffey Jr. (.252, 27 HR, 72 RBI in only 109 games) from CF to RF, where Ryan Freel will play. Adam Dunn (.234, 40 HR, 92 RBI) will be moving from 1B to RF, which will help his hitting, because he never liked playing there in the first place. Jeff Conine and Scott Hatteberg will share duties there. The Reds may show moments of brilliance throughout the year, but won’t be able to maintain any semblance of effectiveness over the long haul.

The Houston Astros are getting about as much respect as the planet Pluto in 2007 and for good reason. The big off-season question from day one has been Roger Clemens or not Roger Clemens. It won’t matter either way. The ‘Stros pitching staff is not bad, with Roy Oswalt and Jason Jennings, but after that it’s full of major question marks. Starters Woody Williams (who is rumored to be finished); Wandy Rodriguez and unproven Chris Sampson will have to step up if this team hopes to contend, but all of them are probably a long-shot. Houston’s offense is even more iffy – the addition of Carlos Lee will undoubtedly help, and the fact that Lance Berkman (.315 in 152 games while playing hurt) will be big plusses. But, there are just too many weak stars on this team, including 3B Morgan Ensberg and OF Luke Scott have shown moments of excellence but are basically inept at the plate and haven’t figured out enough ways to get on base. The Astros will show moments of brightness but will get sucked up into a black hole called created by hitting and spotty pitching.

The Milwaukee Brewers, owned by the dynamic Mark Attanasio, are a team on the rise. This team is several years away from becoming a real contender. Last season’s sub-.500 performance was caused by a ton of injuries and the inexperience of some young players. Manager Ned Yost is being patient – he really has no choice – and this team will greatly improve as the 2007 season progresses. The first move Yost is making involves moving Bill Hall from SS to CF, so that potential phenom J.J. Hardy can play full-time at short. If 3B Corey Koskie recovers from post-concussion syndrome, and if 1B Prince Fielder (.271, 18 HR, 81 RBI) can continue to show power for average, this team could be a problem for the rest of the NL. If Hardy is healthy after an ankle injury, he could soar. The Brew Crew’s pitching staff shows promise, with the addition of Jeff Suppan (12-7, 4.12) to go along with Ben Sheets (6-7, 3.82 while playing hurt).

That leaves the two teams I believe will contend for the NL Central title in 2007 – the Chicago Cubs and the St. Louis Cardinals. It’s been way too long since the Cubbies won, and just last year for the Cards, but both of these teams still have a load of what-if’s on their rosters. One thing they do have is seasoned, veteran managers – Lou Pinella for Chi-town and Tony LaRussa for St. Louie. If either team has the horses to get into the playoffs, these two experienced bench jockeys can surely get them there.

The Chicago Cubs spent $300 million during the off-season to pick up a plethora of big free agent names, including the most coveted of the bunch, Alfonso Soriano (.277, 46 HR, 95 RBI). They also picked up P’s Ted Lilly and Jason Marquis, as well as solid hitters Cliff Floyd and Mark DeRosa. One of their best moves was in retaining 3B Aramis Ramirez (.291, 38 HR, 119 RBI), probably the best overall third baseman in the NL. A pitching staff led by Carlos Zambrano (16-7, 3.41) and a bunch of wannabes means this team is going to have to score a ton of runs to win consistently. The biggest gaps in this squad’s presentation revolve around the physical conditions of chronically injured P’s Mark Prior and Kerry Wood. This team spent so much money on players that they’re now selling advertising along the outfield wall at Wrigley Park. If they don’t win early and often, this one could turn into a real drama in the Windy City. Will the curse of the goat continue to haunt the Cubbies? Or will the rest of the division be eating ivy by the time it’s all over? No matter what happens, it’ll be fun to watch.

The Cardinals won the World Series last year with the worst record of any champion in the history of the game. Can St. Louis catch the magic again in 2007, or will they come down to earth and wither under the big arch in the heat of a Missouri summer? All of the major players are back on offense, including Pujols, Edmonds, Eckstein, Molina and the promising young RF Chris Duncan (.293, 22 HR, 43 RBI in 90 games). One question here is: Will 3B Scott Rolen play nice with the enigmatic Tony LaRussa this season? If so, this team will be tough to out-hit. Pitching could be another matter altogether, however. Jeff Suppan, Jeff Weaver and Jason Marquis are all gone. Adam Wainwright, who moves from the bullpen into the starting rotation, and Anthony Reyes will have to take up the slack if this team wants to finish on top. Another big what-if involves Mark Mulder (6-7, 7.14 while hurt) who won’t be back until at least July. The Cardinals are walking a fine line and playing with shadows, but they have just enough talent and experience to get it done.

I’m picking St. Louis to win the NL Central, with the Cubs finishing a close second. I would be surprised if either team wins 95 games. The Brewers will finish third, the Reds will show promise early and then fade and the rest of the division will finish under .500.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

My Top 5 Favorite Baseball Movies

As an avid baseball fan, I have always loved baseball movies. The problem is that many of them are completely unwatchable (examples: The Major League and Bad News Bears series of films). Here are five, however, that I believe are worth noting. None of them are cinematic gems, but I think each has something to offer those who love this great game. If you're jones-ing for the MLB season to start as much as I am, maybe viewing one of these movies will ease your pain.

5.) Bull Durham: (1988) A funny, well-written movie produced by Ron Shelton, the king of sports films, this movie deals with things that have never been addressed before or since about life in the minor leagues. The love triangle between Susan Sarandon (Annie) as the baseball groupie with a soul; Tim Robbins (Nuke LaLoosh) as the clueless pitcher with a good arm and no brain; and Kevin Costner as the career minor league catcher named Crash Davis, is priceless.

4.) Eight Men Out: (1988) John Sayles is a great filmmaker and this movie truly captures the era and the story of the Chicago Black Sox throwing the 1919 World Series. Memorable performances by Jon Cusack as Buck Weaver, Charlie Sheen as Oscar “Hap” Felsch, John Mahoney as Kid Gleason, and David Strathain as Eddie Cicotte make this a special period piece that will always have a place in the history of great baseball movies.

3.) The Natural: (1984) Although this movie is more of a fable than a story with any truth to it, it is fun to watch and even though I always know how it will end, I still love it. People complain that it is too mythological and not realistic enough, but I don’t care. Robert Redford, playing Roy Hobbs, is a character based on real-life ballplayer Ed Waitkus, who was shot in 1949 by an obsessed fan named Ruth Ann Steinhagen. When Hobbs names his favorite bat “Wonderboy”, it’s a takeoff on Shoeless Joe Jackson’s renowned bat, “Caroliney”. Redford is perfect in the role of the washed-up underdog who makes an incredible comeback, and Michael Madsen as the cocky Bartholomew “Bump” Bailey is also great, as are Richard Farnsworth as coach Red Blow, and Wilford Brumley as embattled manager Pop Fisher.

2.) A League of Their Own: (1992) Penny Marshall’s creation about the Women’s Baseball League of the 1940’s is a wonderfully balanced and poignant story about a group of women asked to entertain those at home on the baseball fields of small-town America while the boys are at war. Tom Hanks plays the washed-up drunk manager, Geena Davis is excellent as the best player in the league, and awesome performances by Lori Petty, Madonna, and Rosie O’Donnell make this film a must-see for fans and non-fans alike.

1.) Field of Dreams: (1989) This film has it all – reincarnated ballplayers, a ball field in Iowa that people are mysteriously drawn to; the story of one man’s search for truth and his pursuit of something pure -- is so unique that nothing else can compare to it. Once again, Kevin Costner (Ray Kinsella) is there to tell the story, along with great performances by Ray Liotta as Shoeless Joe Jackson, Burt Lancaster as Midnight Graham, and James Earl Jones as Terrence Mann -- all of whom make this a one-of-a-kind baseball movie. This film coined the phrase, “If you build it they will come,” which has been used and overused to describe so many things non-baseball that it’s become part of our culture.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Bombs Away, Barry!

"Is that the Grand Jury or a Spring Training fly ball coming down on my head?"

Monday, March 12, 2007

My MLB 2007 Season Predictions: The NL West

This is a rebuttal to my partner Eric Gouldsberry's picks for the NL West. Actually, he picked the Dodgers to win the division as well, so it's not really a rebuttal.


Coming from an avid San Francisco Giant fan, it had to be tough for my cohort Eric to pick the Dodgers he despises so vehemently. With the talent that General Manager Ned Colletti has assembled for 2007, there’s really no reason to believe that this team won’t be able to win the West. Although the addition of Juan Pierre may be questioned down the line, no one can argue that adding Schmidt and Wolf to an already strong starting rotation was a shrewd move. Combine old-schoolers like Kent, Gonzalez and Garciaparra with new names like Loney, Kemp, Billingsley and LaRoche, and you have a mixture that will be volatile for the rest of the West. Whenever the Blue Crew has won throughout the years (and it’s been a long time) it’s pitching that has gotten them there. Dem Bums will return to the playoffs in 2007 and who knows what happens then.

The rest of the NL West is a real enigmatic bunch. San Diego, Arizona and San Francisco are all capable of capturing team chemistry in a bottle and making a run at the title. The Padres are young and deep, with veterans in some of the right places. The Diamondbacks are inexperienced but game. And the Giants are old, creaky and controversial, but may still have enough gas in the tank to excel.

San Diego has won the NL West the last two years, but now the landscape has changed considerably. Management realized a couple of seasons ago that they can’t field a power-hitting team for the simple reason that they play in a cavernous ballpark more suited for singles and doubles. With the hustling Giles brothers, Marcus and Brian, reunited on the roster, and the promise of youngsters like new 3B Kevin Kouzamanoff, the Pads look like a team that could be formidable if jelled. They lost some key veterans, but by acquiring the master himself, Greg Maddux, they could be a contender once again.

The D-backs are one of the more interesting squads in the majors this year and will either be really bad or surprise everybody but Peter Gammons. They’ll have the pitching with Cy Younger Webb and reunited prodigal son and HOFer Randy Johnson. Their young studs – guys like Quentin, Drew, Jackson and Chris Young -- all have the potential to really make an impact and a huge difference in Arizona’s future and beyond. 2B Orlando Hudson has a great glove and a refreshingly wonderful attitude that can’t help but rub off on this team. Mark my words – the D-Bax could be the Detroit Tigers of 2007.

The San Francisco Giants are older than any team in baseball and their minor league system is producing about as much as Ford Motors, but getting Barry Zito could make all the difference in the world for the Boys by the Bay. The big questions are who will save the games Zito, Lowry and Cain can’t finish, and whether or not Barry Bonds can contribute at least two-thirds of the time. That’s how often they’ll need him if they hope to compete.

The Colorado Rockies will bring up the rear with few stars and little chance of improving enough to make any significant impact in 2007. The other teams in the NL West will be happy to see the Rockies in the opposing dugout, because they are untested, inexperienced and ready for the slaughter. Sure there will be a few bright spots – Holliday is a genuine star and so is Garrett Atkins. And the team has some guys who are a few years away from being all-stars too -- kids like 3B phenom Ian Stewart, SS Troy Tulowitzki and 3B/1B Jeff Baker – but they need more time and the opportunity to fail without consequences. Lucky for them, failure should be the theme this year for the Rockies. The end result will be a sub-.500 year for the Mountain Boys. There will be a ton of high scoring in Colorado this year, but mostly by the other team.

That’s the way I see it. The Dodgers will win it, although it could be close. San Diego and Arizona have a legitimate shot at the Wild Card, while the Giants will need a series of miracles. The Rockies will be done by June.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

My MLB 2007 Season Predictions: The AL East


The American League East has been a two-horse race for the past decade, with the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox taking turns trading titles for wild card entries. Last year, the Toronto Blue Jays passed the Bosox for the second spot, but only because Boston had more injuries than a geriatric softball team of 60-somethings playing in the Leisure Village Senior League. Once again, it figures to be the Big Apple vs. Bean town playing Abbott & Costello in the AL East, with the only question being “Who will be on first?” when it’s all said and done.

My pick to win it this season is the New York Yankees. Instead of turning their off-season into another annual garage sale, the Bronx Bombers played it smart and held their cards close to their chest during the winter. General Manager Pat Cashman has finally been allowed to run this team without Georgy Porgy getting in his way. The franchise has started to concentrate on building from within and the two most immediate examples of this are young promising pitchers Phil Hughes and Russ Ohlendorf. Neither of these future phenoms may be ready to contribute in 2007, but at least they represent baby steps in the right direction. The Yankees unloaded all-stars of the past Gary Sheffield and Randy Johnson while picking up solid team-oriented guys like Andy Pettite and Doug Mientkiewcz. The pitching staff in NYC is one of the reasons I’m picking them, led by Chien-Ming Wang (19-6, 3.63) and the always reliable Mike Mussina (15-7, 3.51). Offensively, it’s hard to believe that guys like Johnny Damon (.285, 24 HR 80 RBI), A-Rod (.290, 35 HR, 121 RBI) and Jason Giambi (.253, 37 HR, 113 RBI) could get better, but they can. The Yankees will live up to the hype and win the division, primarily because the circus has moved out of town.

The Boston Red Sox have a roster packed with talent. Guys like Ortiz, Lowell and Ramirez are savvy everyday performers that make up the core of a solid squad. By raiding the LA Dodgers and picking up fragile J.D. Drew (.283, 20 HR, 100 HR) and versatile Julio Lugo (.278, 12 HR 37RBI) during the off-season, the Red Hose have made themselves deeper and stronger. Throw in the promising rookie 2B Dustin Pedroia and the Japanese acquisition-of-the-year P Daisuke Matsuzaka, and you have a team that will rock Fenway Park and put a smile on Manager Terry Francona’s face. The only problem I can see here is their pitching depth. Curt Schilling (15-7, 3.97) and Josh Beckett (16-11, 5.01) did fairly well in 2006, but I have to believe they won’t be able to keep it up and will falter by mid-season. Schilling is old and rickety and Beckett is over and done. The biggest hole, however, is in the Bosox bullpen. With last year’s closer Jonathan Papelbon in the starting rotation, Boston is going with Joel Pineiro (8-13, 6.36) as their closer, which could be an enormous mistake. In many other divisions (like the AL West), the Red Sox would dominate, but in this one they’re only second-best.

The Toronto Blue Jays ended up in second place last year. The last time they were able to finish that high was when they won the World Series since 1993. To make any kind of run this year, they’re going to need better pitching, defense and situational hitting. Overbay, Glaus and Rios make up a strong offensive nucleus, and the best thing this team did during the off-season was retaining CF Vernon Wells (.303, 32, 106) a star today and for many years to come. Losing P Ted Lilly will hurt. Trying to replace him with John Thomson is like believing that Jay Leno could have ever possibly made us forget about Johnny Carson. Roy Hallady (16-5, 3.19) is one of the best in the game, and A.J. Burnett (10-8, 3.98) is no slouch either, but the Blue Jays don’t have enough live arms to make it to the postseason in 2007. They’re an improving bunch, however, and we may be hearing “Oh, Canada” being sung in the playoffs sooner than you think – just not this season.

Britney Spears has a better chance of getting through rehab than the Baltimore Orioles do of getting through 2007 without a series of disasters coming their way. This entire team needs an intervention, starting with their bullpen (5.27 ERA in 2006, ranked 13th in the AL). The O’s signed a plethora of arms in hopes of taking up the slack – cast-offs like Danys Baez, Jamie Walker and Chad Bradford – which will only cause the wounds created by Baltimore’s starting staff to bleed even more. If it weren’t for the quality players that the Orioles were able to steal from the Oakland A’s over the last several years – namely SS Miguel Tejada (.330, 24 HR, 100 RBI) and C Ramon Hernandez (.275, 23 HR, 91 HR), Baltimore fans would be rooting for hot dog vendors.

The Tampa Bay Devil Rays should be hoping that global warming would hurry up and flood their ball park – washing away the embarrassing season that’s coming their way in 2007. The team has some promising talent – players like 3B Akinon Iwamura, OF Delmon Young, Infielder B.J. Upton and SS Ben Zobrist are all up-and-comers. But, that’s not going to be enough to catapult the Rays out of the MLB’s little leagues. P Scott Kazmir (10-8, 3.24) pitched amazingly well with little support last year, but the rest of the starting staff all feature ERA’s between 5.00 and 8.00. If Al Gore is right, Tampa Bay isn’t long for this planet. And that may not be such a disaster.

So, it’s the Yanks, the Bosox, the Jays and then who cares in the AL East in 2007. It will be a fun year featuring a century-old, super intense rivalry -- complete with gyro balls, green monsters, witty Boston Herald and New York Times’ headlines and enough hand wringing and rolling eyes to keep us on the edge of our seats all season long.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Yo, Meathead!

What hath befallen our great game?

Has there ever been a more depressing spring training? It seems as if every big story—except how A-Rod thinks he can finally make it without Derek Jeter’s approval—is about the use of steroids and other performance enhancers.

First, in January, we find out that Mark McGwire didn’t come close to getting the votes he needed to make the Baseball Hall of Fame. We were reminded of Big Mac’s ridiculous testimony before Congress a couple of years back when he all but implicated himself of using illegal performance enhancers with his repetitive evasions and refusal to give direct answers.

Of course, once pitchers and catchers reported, the biggest story became Barry Bonds. Unless Bonds’s bones are so brittle from all his drug use that they snap in spring training, he’s poised to break Hank Aaron’s all-time home-run record. But you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone in the word who believes that Bonds is innocent of cheating. He actually admitted that he used what could have been steroids, even though he says he thought it was flaxseed oil. All we can do is watch helplessly as this monstrosity marches ever closer to the sacred mark.

Now what about Gary Matthews, Jr.? He’s been pegged as receiving human growth hormone in 2004 from pharmacies he found online. Matthews was just signed by the Angels to a five-year, $50-million contract this past off-season. Funny how he had his breakout season last year, at age 31, batting .313 for the Texas Rangers after a .249 career up to that point. Angels owner Arte Moreno has asked Matthews to talk to the public. “Address the press and say: ‘Yes, my name has been linked to this story. I’m sorry this has become a distraction and we’re going to try to clear it up as quickly as possible,’” Moreno said. “I’m not asking him to admit to anything illegal. His response was, ‘I’m talking to my people and we’ll get back to you.’”

And let’s not forget that fans have to decide whether they want to root for Sammy Sosa as he tries to make a comeback for the Rangers. Was Sosa ever on the juice? We may never know for sure, but we do know for sure that Slammin’ Sammy corked his bat—an ignominious moment for one of the game’s great stars at the time. Sosa wants to try to win the fans back one last time before he retires so that maybe he will get into Cooperstown with all of his years of home runs. Yeesh! Before you know it, Rafael Palmeiro will be grabbing his mitt and heading for the field.

How many more will be exposed as cheats by the end of the season? How many more records will become questionable after athletes on performance enhancers set them? How has baseball, once a symbol of the good ol’ days, become such a pumped-up, money-crazed machine? New parks! Outrageous salaries! Ten-dollar beers! Where will it end?

And yet, I still enjoy baseball. I stumbled into great season tickets with the A’s a few years ago through a good friend—we’re about 25 rows behind the plate, just a hair to the left-field side. We sit among other season-ticket holders and we have fun socializing with them. When I go with my wife, we have a good time talking to these friends while we watch the game. It’s a relaxing evening at the park. It’s hard to think about cutting it out of my life completely when it’s part of the fun of summer.

But I want these steroid cheats to go down and stop polluting the game! How can I reconcile my enjoyment of the game with subsidizing these super-sized frauds? Will there eventually be a breaking point where I say, “No more”? How do the millions of other baseball fans today feel about this? Are we all just waiting for Major League Baseball to work with the players’ union to clean up baseball so the games can start on an even footing again? Only the ghost of Babe Ruth can tell us when that might happen!

Friday, March 9, 2007

Hampton Injured Again?

What a rip off pitcher Mike Hampton has turned out to be. This guy signed for some outrageous amount of money a few years back and hasn’t earned one single penny of it. He’s been hurt pretty much the entire time. Guys like this should feel guilty for taking tons of money they never came close to earning, but I’m sure they don’t. If this guy had a decent (un-injured) bone in his body, he’d return some of his salary. Fat chance!

This appeared on today:

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Left-hander Mark Redman agreed Friday to a minor league contract with the Atlanta Braves, who learned a day earlier that Mike Hampton will be sidelined for up to two months.
Redman was scheduled to start Saturday's game against the Toronto Blue Jays. If he is added to the 40-man roster, he would get a $750,000, one-year contract and the chance to earn $500,000 in performance bonuses based on starts
The 33-year-old was an AL All-Star last year, when he went 11-10 with a 5.71 ERA for the Kansas City Royals. An eight-year major league veteran, he is 64-76 with a 4.65 ERA in 186 starts and 12 relief appearances.
Redman began his career with the Minnesota Twins in 1995 and reached the majors in 1999. He was scheduled to report to the Braves on Friday night.
Hampton, coming off reconstructive elbow surgery that caused him to miss last season, strained his left oblique during batting practice Wednesday.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Baseball Cards to Go Corporate? Say it Ain't So!

Wow, this comes as a shocker. As a former long-time baseball card collector, Topps has always been a company that’s very dear to me. Now Michael Eisner, the cutthroat former CEO of Disney, is trying to take over the card manufacturer. Everything in Major League Baseball is going corporate, so this is no surprise. Michael Eisner was the guy who tried to replace Walt Disney, schmoozing with Mickey and Goofy during the intros to the Wonderful World of Disney TV show. Walt Disney was one of the most creative visionaries of our era. Will Eisner is a hack who ripped off the Disney empire and doesn’t have one creative bone in his entire body. If the group he represents takes over Topps, it will be a disaster and a travesty.

The baseball card pictured above is a 1968 Topps Mickey Mantle. When I was 10 years old, it was the one card I would have given up anything for , including my bicycle, my slingshot, my walkie-talkies and my little brother.

This article appeared on yesterday:

NEW YORK -- The Topps Co., maker of baseball cards and Bazooka bubble gum, agreed to accept a $385.4 million takeover offer from a buyout group that includes former Disney chief executive Michael Eisner.
Topps, founded in 1938, makes trading cards featuring athletes of Major League Baseball, the NFL and NBA.
Eisner was CEO of The Walt Disney Co. for two decades until he stepped down in 2005. Disney owns theme parks, movie studios and the ABC, ESPN and Disney TV networks.
The deal drew immediate opposition from Topps director Arnaud Ajdler, who said Tuesday he had not yet been in touch with other major shareholders. He thought the deal should be abandoned because negotiations did not go through a proper process and that the Eisner-led offer undervalues the company.
The board approved the deal in a 7-3 vote, with Ajdler and two others opposed. The company said it will solicit better offers over the next 40 days. The deal requires regulatory approval and a vote by Topps shareholders.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Yo, Meathead!

And I’m back from Ohio with another column! Can you believe we traveled to Ohio in February? Why? Because I promised someone I would. It was cold! But we had fun seeing some old friends, and we visited the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame…!

Check out this cynical article from Thursday, by Jim Litke of the AP. Jim is one of my favorites.

I sure hope Barry Bonds is shaking in his boots now!

Players Feeling Different Heat

.c The Associated Press


Question their motives, but baseball commissioner Bud Selig and his counterparts from around the world of sports were right about this much: The fight against doping won’t be won simply by applying pressure from the top down.

So buckle up. Events this week suggest their prayers are about to be answered.

Recent raids against different kinds of operations carried out by different law-enforcement agencies in different locales appear to have opened a new front in the fight against doping. Somebody finally thought to call in the real cops.

Eight people in three states were arrested, as many as two dozen could face felony charges soon and a few new names - Angels outfielder Gary Matthews Jr., and former heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield - became grist for the rumor mills.

We could argue for days about how committed the people in charge of big-time sports have been. Or whether doping is really bad for business, since attendance, TV contracts and revenues have all swelled along with the supersizing of the games.

The argument about what the efforts against doping have yielded so far? That wouldn’t last as long as this sentence.

Baseball was forced into drug testing in earnest just two seasons ago, but the NFL started nearly two decades earlier, and the Olympic movement has been on the case - with much more diligence - as far back as the mid-1960s.

There have been high-profile busts - Ben Johnson; cautionary tales - Lyle Alzado, who blamed steroids for the brain cancer that killed him; a raft of congressional hearings; public-service campaigns; and best-selling books. All these things have merely created more cheats - and richer and more sophisticated cheats.

What’s surprising, on the other hand, is why the real cops haven’t stepped in before now. Testing athletes, after all, is one thing. Having cops armed with subpoenas breaking down the doors of homes and businesses involved in the supply chain is another.

It’s been done on occasion - see BALCO investigation - and talked about for years. Dick Pound has used the World Anti-Doping Agency as a bully pulpit since the agency hung out a sign in 1999. But his relish for controversy and occasionally reckless, heavy-handed conduct has undercut the message. No matter. The Controlled Substances Act passed in 2004 gave a stick to any prosecutor ambitious enough to wield it. The day Pound has been heralding all this years could be just around the corner.

``I think the future of the fight of doping in sports is going to involve more and more government agencies,’’ he said again earlier this week. ``They’re the ones who have power to invest and resources to invest. They have ability to seize evidence.’’

And they’re becoming less shy about using them at every level of the supply chain, from unethical doctors to former Diamondbacks pitcher Jason Grimsley to Internet distribution networks that may provide performance-enhancers to thousands.

Unless I’m mistaken, having authorities fan out and make arrests in an attempt to choke off supply is how Prohibition and the War on Drugs began.

There may be a way to stop doping, but first there has be a will.

So good luck to everyone building cases and being sent out on raids in the latest push against doping. They’re going to need it. Because as popular as the campaign sounds, my guess is that support for it runs only so deep.

It’s hard to imagine the same audience that actors try to appease by using Botox and home-run hitters lure to ballparks by loading up on human growth hormone is prepared to settle for wrinkles and records that stand for decades.

Everybody else in society, from first-year law students to corporate chieftains trying to win a promotion, is on something to look, feel or do their work better. It wasn’t that long ago, after all, that Newsweek magazine pointed out, ``You want to see performance enhancement in sports, look courtside at a Lakers game.’’

It’s already an instant-gratification world outside the lines that sports has drawn. Until that changes, it’s unrealistic to think that sports and its heroes will be coaxed, coerced or even bullied into behaving any differently than the rest of us.

SEASONINGS: How about Everson Walls? The former Dallas Cowboys cornerback donated a kidney to friend and ex-teammate Ron Springs. It sounds as if Springs, who has been diabetic for the last 16 years, was in pretty rough shape. He had been on the transplant waiting list for three years and has had a foot and two more toes amputated due to diabetes. Now, if there are no complications, Springs may soon be much better. It’s the nicest thing I’ve ever seen done by a Cowboy—Michael Irvin could learn something from this guy!

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Billionaire Baseball Player Richest Man in Sports!

This guy is the richest baseball player in the world and he hasn’t even made the team yet. I love it. All of these overpriced prima donnas must be jealous as hell. Now every MLB player in the league is going to be hiring geologists.
This article was on AOL today:

VERO BEACH, Fla. (AP) -- Matt White a journeyman pitcher trying to make the Los Angeles Dodgers, could become baseball's first billionaire player.
It has nothing to do with his arm. He owns a rock quarry in western Massachusetts.
White, who has appeared in seven big league games in nine professional seasons, paid $50,000 three years ago to buy 50 acres of land from an elderly aunt who needed the money to pay for a nursing home.
While clearing out a couple acres to build a home, he discovered stone ledges in the ground, prompting him to have the property surveyed.
A geologist estimated there were 24 million tons of the stone on his land. The stone is being sold for upward of $100 per ton, meaning there's well over $2 billion worth of material used for sidewalks, patios and the like.
Of course, that doesn't factor in the expenses involved in processing the stone and transporting it for sale.
"It sounds bogus even saying those numbers," White said. "I'm just a small town guy trying to get to the big leagues. It's beyond comprehension."
The news has prompted some of White's teammates to refer to him as "The Billionaire," but the 29-year-old left-hander isn't counting his money just yet.
"There are a lot of questions," he said. "It takes time, it takes money, it takes machines. There are professionals who handle that stuff."
White's father has been involved in selling the stone, but it's presently a small-time operation.
"I guess you could say the property is for sale," White said with a chuckle. "We'll have to see how things turn out. I don't even know where to start. I'm in the process now of getting in touch with business-savvy guys, finding out how much to ask."
White said he doesn't feel like he's wealthy, which he isn't quite yet.
"Not at all. I don't live like a rich man," he said. "I'm a minor league guy who's played winter ball to make ends meet."
Dr. Peter Pannish, an adjunct professor in the department of geosciences at the University of Massachusetts, surveyed the property.
"It's basically a slabby rock that can be used for sidewalks, building faces and stone walls," Pannish said from his Amherst, Mass., office. "You can use it for a lot of other things, like flagstone on a patio. There are some sidewalks right here on campus that are made of that same rock."
Pannish said he believes White could sell his property for several million dollars, or more.
"As far as hundreds of millions, I doubt if that's possible because of all the expenses that would have to be considered," Pannish said. "But it could be quite a bit of money. He probably needs a mining engineer or an economic geologist to come up with a good evaluation."
White has received inquiries about making national television appearances, and has even been contacted about a possible movie. He is represented by Herbie Zucker of Zucker Sports Management in Chicago.
But for now, White is concentrating on his day job. And that's no surprise, considering pitching in the big leagues has been a lifelong dream.
"They say lefties bloom later than righties. I keep telling myself that," he said. "I'm here to make the big-league team. I feel confident about that, absolutely. I've had some pretty good years in Triple-A.
"I plan to play baseball until I can't play anymore. My goal is to play in the big leagues, regardless of what happens with the rock quarry."
White signed a minor league contract last December with the Dodgers -- his eighth organization. He has appeared in 254 minor league games, 136 of them starts.
White pitched in three games each for Boston and Seattle in 2003, and one for Washington in 2005, going 0-2 and allowing 18 earned runs in 9 2-3 innings.
The Boston manager in 2003 was current Dodgers skipper Grady Little.
"The kid has a genuine love for the game," Little said. "He's quite a competitor, he's always striving to get better. It's not about money for him. He's prepared himself well coming into camp and he'll be going after somebody's job. He'll be given an opportunity.
"It's a tough hill to climb. We have 28 pitchers in camp, we'll leave spring training with 11 or 12. Before it's over, we might need 20. He's in there trying to get a job."
With that, Little smiled and said: "Along the way, if anybody needs landscaping stone, we know where to find it."