Saturday, September 29, 2007

So Long to Solo

Outspoken U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo will not be with the team for Sunday's third-place game against Norway in the Women's World Cup.

Coach Greg Ryan announced the decision 24 hours before the game and just two days after Solo went public and criticized him for benching her for the semifinal with Brazil. Ryan went with 36-year-old veteran Briana Scurry, but it didn't matter. Brazil overwhelmed the top-ranked Americans 4-0, superior in every phase of the game."We have moved forward with 20 players who have stood by each other, who have battled for each other," Ryan said on Saturday. "And when the hard times came - and the Brazil game was a hard time - they stood strong. Now it's the 20 who have stuck together who will be ready to go out and compete against Norway."

I think Ryan is the one who looks bad here. Why didn’t he stick with Solo? She was a on a perfect roll, having not given up one goal during the entire World Cup. Scurry was coming off an injury and is definitely not the same player she was several years ago.

The four goals that Brazil scored against Scurry all looked like they could have been blocked. Scurry looked lost out there, and although I admit that it wasn’t completely her fault, I don’t know how anyone can say she played a good game. Solo most certainly could have blocked at least a couple of those shots, which would have at least given her team a chance.

Ryan is trying to blame Solo for not being a team player, but in the end, the coach made a decision and it didn’t work out. If Scurry had played well, none of this would even be an issue.

Taking Solo out just because Scurry had never lost to the Brazilians was a bone headed move. Why mess with perfection? This is a prime example of a coach getting in the way of his team’s success. Dance with the one who brought ya, Ryan. It’s the oldest rule in the book. Let your best players play and don’t mess with a team’s chemistry, especially if they’re winning.

If the U.S. team loses to Norway with Scurry in goal, Ryan will look even worse. He had better pray for a consolation win, not that anyone cares at this point. No one remembers anyone except the championship team.

Defending champion Germany will face Brazil in Sunday's championship game. The Brazil loss marked the second straight time the United States has fallen in the semifinals of a Women's World Cup, failing to repeat titles of 1991 and '99.Solo, 25, in a widely seen interview, said Ryan had made the "wrong decision" by benching her. She also said she would have made the saves, an open criticism of Scurry who led the United States to the '99 title and gold in the 2004 Olympics.Scurry will start against Norway.Captain Kristine Lilly and star striker Abby Wambach said Solo apologized at a team meeting. And on her myspace page, Solo said she did not mean to criticize Scurry. However, she maintained Ryan's decision was wrong.

Friday, September 28, 2007

The SF Weekly Punks Us All!!

The SF Weekly is featuring a cover story this week entitled, “Steroids Confidential – Greg Anderson Has Given Up His Freedom Rather Than Testify About Barry Bonds. But One Man Has Learned The Trainer’s Secrets,” a piece written by Nic Foit and Ira Tes. When I first read this article, I was absolutely astonished at what it uncovered. And what I learned after reading it shocked me even more.

In the article, they reveal that Barry Bonds injected steroids into his penis in order to satisfy his mistress Kimberly Bell, which later led to Bonds not being able to bend over and caused an error that led to the California Angels beating the Angels in the 2002 World Series. The article also goes on to tell about a titanium brace that had to be implanted into Bonds’ neck in order to keep his huge bobble-like steroid’ed head from flopping over. The article then goes into detail about the supposed fact that now that the MLB is testing for steroids, Bonds consumes a “power drink” that consists mainly of elk semen.

The fact is -- this entire article is a ruse. If you unscramble the authors’ names, you come up with “Fiction and Satire.” What I can’t believe is that there is not one single disclaimer within the entire piece. In one sense – it’s absolutely brilliant. From another point of view, it’s completely irresponsible. If Bonds does not sue the SF Weekly, I will be very surprised.

To read this very creatively written article, check out this link:

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Bonds Will Be Giant No More

Barry Bonds will not be a San Francisco Giant next year. Who he’ll be playing for is unknown, but one thing is certain – the man has worn out his welcome in the City by the Bay. After breaking Hank Aaron’s career home run record and having a mediocre season this year by Bonds’ standards, Barry will be looking for a job. It’s been a long run for him in San Francisco, the team he’ll always be associated with after his career is long over.

A lot of fans are saying that Giants Owner Peter Magowan is abandoning Bonds after his team benefited from all the fame, press and added attendance that came with the home run record chase. That’s a bunch of nonsense. Bonds was paid very well and if anything, the Giants could have sprung him last winter but didn’t out of loyalty for what Barry did for the team in the past.

Logically, Bonds will be going to a team in the American League, where he can DH and put his glove in storage -- which is a good thing, considering he’s lost a few steps in the outfield, where he was definitely a liability for the Giants this season.

And what team in its right mind will want to pay Bonds the big bucks he will no doubt be demanding? The Yankees? (Steinbrenner will love the press he’ll get) The Angels? (Bonds will fit right in at Disneyland) Or how about a small market team like the Royals or the Devil Rays where he can be a big fish in a small pond? Other stars played their last seasons on lesser-known teams. Babe Ruth ended his career as a Boston Brave and Aaron finished off playing for the Milwaukee Brewers. Maybe Barry would like to fade off into the sunset on a team that will adore him just for who he is.

This appeared on sports last night:

The Giants told Bonds they will not bring him back next season, ending a 15-year run in which he set the single-season and all-time home run records and became a lightning rod for the steroids debate in baseball."It's always difficult to say goodbye," Giants owner Peter Magowan said Friday. "It's an emotional time for me. We've been through a lot together these 15 years. A lot of good things have happened. Unfortunately a lot of bad things have happened. But there comes a time when you have to go in a different direction."On his Web site, Bonds said he wasn't done."There is more baseball in me and I plan on continuing my career. My quest for a World Series ring continues," he said.The 43-year-old Bonds did not join Magowan and general manager Brian Sabean at the news conference. Asked whether he had anything to add, Bonds said, "I already made my statement."Bonds had always said he wanted to finish his career in the comfort of his hometown, where his father, Bobby, played alongside his godfather, Willie Mays. Bonds talked with Giants Hall of Famer Willie McCovey and took batting practice in the cage before Friday night's game against Cincinnati.Bonds hasn't played since Sept. 15 because of a sprained right big toe and was out of the lineup again. Manager Bruce Bochy said he thought Bonds could play this weekend. The Giants' final homestand ends Wednesday night.Magowan said he and Sabean recently decided about Bonds' future. Magowan personally told Bonds in a 90-minute meeting during Thursday night's game against Cincinnati."I think he knew the decision was coming," Magowan said. "I don't think it was surprising to him. I think, naturally, he was disappointed, maybe somewhat saddened," Magowan said. "But he was really very respectful."Bonds broke Hank Aaron's record with his 756th home run on Aug. 7. Bonds helped revitalize a struggling franchise that nearly moved to Florida before he signed with the Giants as a free agent in December 1992.Bonds has spent the past 15 seasons of his 22-year big league career with the Giants. Re-signed as a free agent in the offseason, he made $19.3 million in a one-year contract, including $3.5 million in bonuses.Shadowed by steroid speculation for the past few years, Bonds has hit 28 homers this season, raising his career total to 762. The seven-time NL MVP is batting .279 with 66 RBIs and a major league-leading 132 walks."He can still play," Sabean said. "He's still one of the biggest threats of any No. 4 hitter in the National League."Prior to the toe injury, he had been mostly healthy, playing 125 games. The left fielder has 2,935 career hits and has said that reaching 3,000 is a goal of his."This is a guy who plays every day and is still leading the National League in some league categories, which is amazing," teammate Barry Zito said. "He's really done special things this year being at the age that he is. If Barry has the opportunity to go be a DH somewhere I'm sure that's only going to prolong his career."Despite Bonds' personal achievements, the season has been a disappointing one for the Giants, who are mired deep in last place in the NL West."We've heard for a long time that the Giants are an old team and want to get younger, so we're not surprised," said Bonds' agent, Jeff Borris. "Barry is their oldest player, but qualitatively, he's their best player.""He's still planning on playing next year, irrespective of whether it's an AL or NL team," he said.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Yo, Meathead!

Ahhh…some time in Hawaii was just what I needed. I feel refreshed and ready to take on the rest of regular-season baseball, the playoffs, and the heart of the NFL season. (I saw that hockey training camps open this week—please! Does anyone even get Versus, the network that shows national NHL games?)

There are already some trends in the NFL after two weekends of play, and someone bolder than me might start making Super Bowl predictions. But I’ll tell you what I think…for what it’s worth!

The best teams in the league, in no particular order, are Indianapolis, New England, and San Diego. Even though the Chargers were blown away by the Pats Sunday night, they will recover and finish strong. There is too much talent there to crumble, even with Norv “Spine Like a Wet Noodle” Turner as coach. And even though the Patriots will have to deal with the fallout from the Bill Belichick videotaping scandal, they will shake off any distractions and likely go deep into the postseason.

Other teams that have a chance to contend with these three include Pittsburgh and Denver. I know the Texans are undefeated, but I need more evidence before I say the franchise will be able to shake the “expansion” label and make its first true playoff run. Cleveland made a statement by scoring 51 points against the Bengals this past weekend, but since the defense gave up 45 points, it was nothing to be proud of!

Now, let’s get this out on the table (as if you didn’t know already)—there is no team in the NFC that can compete with the class of the AFC. Though it galls me mightily to admit it, the best team in the NFC might just be the Cowboys. But even if Dallas somehow succeeds under cream-puff coach Wade Phillips and makes it to the Big Dance, the team will be crushed by whomever represents the AFC.

It’s hard to say who will play into January from the NFC. Just because Detroit, Washington, and San Francisco are 2–0 doesn’t mean these teams have finally turned around their miserable fortunes of late. The 2–0 Packers might have a good season, but is the team really going to have great success in the playoffs? The Saints’ 0–2 start is most surprising, but of all the 0–2 teams, I’d say New Orleans has the best chance of righting its ship.

Really bad teams this year will probably include the Dolphins, Raiders, Chiefs, Giants, and Falcons. In the AFC East, I know the Jets and Bills are 0–2, along with Miami, but I think New York and Buffalo have a better chance of winning some games in a lousy division and at least playing .500 ball. I am a little shocked at how badly Herm Edwards’s Chiefs have been outplayed so far and don’t think they will recover. The Raiders—well, what can I say? The Falcons are dealing with the Michael Vick fallout and will just have a down year. As for the Giants, I will bet that this season will be a long, slow death march for Tom Coughlin as head coach. Coughlin has proven that he is out of touch with today’s game, and the Giants, who plainly won’t play their top game for him, definitely need a new approach.

In baseball, we’re down to the last two weeks before the playoffs! The only divisions that seem to be wrapped up are the AL Central and West. In the Central, Cleveland has quickly stretched its division lead to 7.5 games over Detroit, while out west, the Mariners took a nosedive while I was away to basically squander what had been a very promising campaign and give the division to Anaheim without a fight. Boston’s division lead is down to only 2.5 games! In the National League, all three division races are tight, with the Mets barely clinging to a 1.5-game lead over the Phillies, the Brewers and Cubbies tied at the top of the Central, and Arizona just a game over San Diego. Both wild cards are too close to call! Hold on to your hats, baseball fans…!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

New England Patriots Caught Cheating!

I don’t know why I am so shocked about something like this. A friend of mine who has worked as a college referee was telling me recently that this kind of thing goes on all the time at the college level. I hope the NFL really cracks down on the Patriots. I understand that they will be heavily fined by the league and will probably lose two draft picks next year – most likely a number two and a number five.
There is no excuse for cheating. We expect our sports teams to be squeaky clean, but as we have learned here, we should never assume for one minute that they are. I wonder how many games the Patriots won by cheating.
I don’t wager on games anymore, but if I had bet on this one and lost, I’d be upset as hell!
Hopefully now, other NFL teams will do more to camouflage their sideline signals. This is deplorable and I hope the NFL steps up and acts quickly on this matter so that it does not happen again.
This appeared on http://www.cbssportsline/ today:
PITTSBURGH -- Steelers coach Mike Tomlin isn't surprised a New England Patriots employee is suspected of videotaping signals by Jets coaches during Sunday's season opener.
Spying rumors in the NFL are nothing new, Tomlin said Tuesday, and he wouldn't be surprised if the allegations were true.
"Usually where there's smoke, there's fire, so those rumors are founded on something," said Tomlin, an NFL assistant coach for six years with Tampa Bay and Minnesota before being hired by Pittsburgh. "No, it's not totally shocking, no."
NFL security confiscated a video camera and tape from a Patriots employee during New England's 38-14 victory Sunday, reported. The employee was accused of aiming his camera at the Jets' defensive coaches as they signaled to players on the field.
Last season, the Green Bay Packers had an issue with a man wearing a Patriots staff credential who was carrying a video camera on their sideline.
Tomlin did not say he suspects the Patriots of spying -- the Steelers and New England meet on Dec. 9 -- but said all NFL coaches are aware of and protect against subterfuge.
"You hear rumors of things of that nature, but there's nothing new in terms of confirming it," he said. "It's never been confirmed in any incidence in my knowledge."
The lone first-year NFL coach to win his opener last weekend, Tomlin said the Steelers have methods to protect against spying, but he wouldn't reveal them.
"We like to keep our methods private so we can continue to be successful," Tomlin said. "We don't spend a lot of time worrying about that, but we are sharp enough to protect ourselves versus the potential of something like that happening against us.
"Really, this is nothing new. You see offensive play callers covering their mouths, that's been going on for a long time, and that's the reason that's done."
The Steelers (1-0), trying to open 2-0 for only the second time since 1999, play their home opener Sunday against Buffalo (0-1), a team dealing not only with a last-minute loss to Denver but a catastrophic injury to tight end Kevin Everett.
Everett severely injured his spinal cord and is unlikely to walk again following a helmet-to-helmet hit with Denver's Domenik Hixon during the second-half kickoff. Everett lay motionless on the field as his teammates held hands at midfield and prayed.
"Incidents like that are so much bigger than football," Tomlin said. "It's tough to deal with, I imagine, and it's sent some shockwaves around this league, not just in Buffalo. I wish that young man the very best."
Despite their situation, Tomlin doesn't expect the Bills to be any less competitive on Sunday. Buffalo led Denver 14-6 in the second half Sunday, only to lose 15-14 on Jason Elam's 42-yard field goal with one second remaining.
"I'm sure it's tough to deal with on a personal level, those things always are," Tomlin said of Everett's injury. "But those are guys are professionals, and I expect those guys to get it together from a professional standpoint and be ready to play Sunday."

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Yo, Meathead!

We are officially in September, and now it’s much easier to tell who’s for real in baseball and who’s going home at the end of the month. There are still a few races, although things are not as close in the wild card as Major League Baseball would have us believe. Of course, MLB will do everything it can to keep fans interested as more and more teams drop out of the running and the season winds down to its conclusion.

The fact is that in the American League, it’s a three-horse race for the wild card between New York, Seattle, and Detroit. With the Yanks 7 games back of Boston for the division, Seattle 6.5 back of Anaheim, and Detroit 6 back of Cleveland, I would be pretty surprised if any of these current second-place teams made the playoffs with a division title. The Blue Jays are 5.5 games behind the Yankees for the wild card, and the Twins are 7 games back, but I don’t see that either of these teams can compete to get into the postseason. Minnesota just never really caught fire this year, but I’d bet they will be back in the running in 2008.

The two AL teams in the playoff mix that caught me off guard the most are the Indians and the Mariners. Who could have guessed that the Tribe was a first-place team at the start of this season, especially considering the way the Tigers played last year? I would have thought Detroit was a lock to win the AL Central in 2007. And even though Seattle has played unevenly at times, they are only 6.5 games behind the Angels, who have had a really fine season—I think that’s an accomplishment in itself.

The National League has a few more teams than the AL that are fighting for spots in the playoffs. Milwaukee is only 1.5 games behind the Cubs for first place in the Central, and St. Louis is just a half-game behind the Brewers. While the Cubs have had a great second half, I have to hand it to Tony “Have Another Beer” LaRussa, who has brought the Cards all the way back from the cellar to contend for the division in the last few weeks of the campaign. Meanwhile, the NL West has been a three-way seesaw for most of the year. It looks as if the Dodgers are dropping behind, now 4 games off the pace, while San Diego has overtaken Arizona, and the Padres now have a 1-game lead in the standings. The Rockies were giving it a good shot all year, but they are now 5 behind, and they seem to be running out of steam. In the East, the Mets, whose lead was just 2 games a few days ago, now have a 5-game advantage over Philadelphia, and Atlanta has fallen behind by 7.5. The Amazin’s received a boost yesterday in their win over the Reds with the return of Pedro Martinez. Pedro went 5 innings, gave up 2 earned runs, and earned his 3000th career strikeout. If Pedro has no residual soreness, he could be the piece the Mets have lacked all year that could turn them into a true contender for a championship ring.

The NL wild-card chase is more complex than that of the AL because a bunch of the teams in the running are also in contention for a division title. The Diamondbacks lead the race, but they could also win the West. L.A. and Philadelphia are just 3 behind the D-backs, then Colorado is 4 back, and the Braves are 5.5 back. The Brewers and Cardinals are 6 and 6.5 games behind respectively, but either of these teams has a much better shot at a division title than the wild-card slot. The wild card basically boils down to whoever comes in second out west, the Phillies, or the Dodgers.

Surprises in the Senior Circuit include Arizona and Chicago. I’m actually glad for the Cubs and hope they win the division this year—if the Mets get knocked out, I would root for the Cubbies all the way! The Rockies also were a surprise, staying alive for as long as they did, but ultimately, the postseason will escape the God Squad yet again.

SEASONINGS: I just had to cheer at the University of Michigan’s ignominious defeat at the hands of juggernaut Appalachian State. Don’t laugh! The Mountaineers have won 15 in a row—the longest current streak in the country—including two Division I-AA championships—and they weren’t about to lie down in Ann Arbor for anyone. But someone should let the Wolverines know that you have to do more than just show up on game day! Michigan coach Lloyd Carr should be mortified at having his team so unprepared for what should be known as one of the greatest upsets in all college football history. No wonder his contract was tweaked to possibly permit him to leave after the season! Now Carr should consider packing his bags immediately and heading overseas for a while to let himself—and angry fans—try to forget this fiasco!

By the way, this will be my last post for a little while. Poor me—I’m going to Hawaii for a week. While I will miss all the action from the first football Sunday of the NFL season, I’ll be rarin’ to write all about it when I return! In the meantime, sports fans, keep those comments coming! Your feedback is what makes all this writing worthwhile! And a double thanks to Ed for keeping the site rolling while I’m gone!