I always thought that the Boston Celtics were a classy organization- even when Red Auerbach was at the helm. But now I don’t know. They think they can catch lightning in a bottle by signing Stephon Marbury. They saw how the LA Dodgers were able to have Manny Ramirez and all his baggage come to town and play, for virtually no cost, above every expectation and they’re hoping for the same thing with “Star-bury.” Tom Knott, of the DC Times wrote: “Stephon Marbury is the cartoon character who is said to embody all that is wrong with the NBA. Marbury is the antithesis of self-sacrifice, the anti-team player who favors bad shots, eerie interviews and delusions galore. He even has a tattoo on the left side of his head, perhaps in a subliminal effort to channel Mike Tyson.” I said before and I’ll say it again that Marbury, at 32, still should have quite a bit of basketball talent left in his tank. BUT, and that’s a HUGE BUT, that leopard MUST change its spots. Marbury’s, self-created overblown sense of entitlement could turn on the Celts at a moment’s notice and claw its way back to the fore (probably during the first three game loss run, when he’ll say that he could have turned those games around by playing more). Remember, he played point guard for the 2004 Olympic team that played so poorly in Athens. He typified that team’s “me-first” attitude which failed so miserably. Remember, he’s the player who abandoned his team on more than one occasion. Once, when the NY Knicks had only eight healthy players, including Marbury, on the bench he refused to play because he wasn’t starting. The rest of the players voted, to a man, that he should be suspended. The Celtics may have bitten off more than they can chew with this one; only time will tell when the real Marbury starts to appear.

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The other night something happened that was an “OOOH” moment. It seems that Kobe Bryant made a close-in shot and New Orleans’ Chris Paul stepped out of bounds to pass  the ball in bounds. Except he used an old Globetrotters trick play. Paul bounced the ball off Kobe’s back, picked it up, and took off down the court.

Bryant and Paul don’t dislike one another, even respect each others playing, but the outcome of all of this is dependant upon Kobe’s reaction. He could react as though this were no big thing and was a little funny. Or he could react as if Paul meant this as a “dis” and turn it into a dark moment. However Kobe reacts, I’m sure that he marked this play down somewhere in his mind to be remembered at a later date.

My point in bringing this up is that the NBA needs moments like this to remind the fans that the players are people too.

I remember when “Hot Rod” Hundley played for the Lakers after going to school at West Virginia. He enjoyed cutting up on the court quite a bit. More than once, he ran down the floor and jumped up to hang on the rim, he swung back and forth calling for the ball to be passed to him from Jerry West or Elgin Baylor. He didn’t get the pass but it was good for a laugh.

The players, themselves, have to remember that their playing a GAME they first learned in the playground Every Christmas morning you can hear the new basketballs, received as gifts from Santa, being bounced.

Basketball is a GAME that is only as serious as the players want it to be.

 

Aside from all of the greenbacks the NY Knicks gave him, Stephon Marbury will soon have the Celtics green on his back.

The Celtics will find out soon enough what’s in his heart, how his ankles are, and how bad his knees are. My grandfather always used to say, when someone asked him why he wasn’t wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day, “It’s what’s in your heart that matters the most, not what’s on your back.”

 Scott Ostler, of the SF Chronicle, wasn’t surprised that Tiger Woods had an impressive opening match on the first day of a match-play tournament at the Ritz Carleton Country Club in Tucson, AR, against Brendan Jones. Woods had been out with a torn ACL for the last eight months. During that period, the other golfers on the pro-tour took turns hoisting the winner’s cups over their heads. But now, they might just as well go back and play in the “Garage and Attic Classic” types of tournaments. Scott recently heard that Tiger “ran a 4.29 40 at the combine and bench pressed his caddie 14 times.” The Golf Channel AND ESPN figure that now, with Tiger’s return, the ratings for their broadcasts just might top those showing rhythmic gymnastics. I agree with Scott when he said that Woods “looked fit and not at all rusty. He’s thinner in the waist, thicker in the shoulders, and biceps. THIS IS JUST WRONG- “He’s aging like Benjamin Button.” When Woods opened his play with birdie-eagle on the first two holes, Jones looked around for a bus to throw himself under. Growth Industries Even though our economic are creating massive layoffs, one of the areas, aside from the federal government, that seems to be spending money hand over fist is pro-sports. That industry MUST be growing if Manny Ramirez can turn down $25 million for one year and Matt Holliday can turn down $72 million, as he did last spring. NOW, we have to prepare our selves for the NFL free agent market that opens its doors today. We should be ready to see numbers lit $30 million being laid out with a sizeable portion being paid as a guaranteed signing bonus. I can almost hear Bert Lahr saying, “Make me an offer. Make me an offer.” How many people would hire Bud Selig to run their business? Raise your hands. Are you voting, sir? Oh, it’s the second door on the left. With his $17.5 million salary Kreiger said in the Rocky Mountain News, that it’s comparable to Barney Fife being the highest paid law enforcer in America. It’s unbelievable.

  

No one can say that Stephon Marbury doesn’t have any basketball skills, or skills in making headlines, or in alienating teammates and team managements.

As far as his playing skills go, they’re bordering on the unknown right now because he hasn’t played that much in the last two years due to bone spurs that required surgery and an injured ego as well as a deflation of the self-inflated sense of entitlement.

That deflation was also self-caused because he refused to play in a Knicks game last November because he didn’t start. The Knicks only had eight healthy players for that game, including Marbury but he still refused to play. The team docked him $400K for that refusal. Marbury, unbelievably, filed a grievance with the NBA and said it wasn’t his fault. That wasn’t the first time that he refused to play.

When Isiah Thomas was the coach he informed Marbury he wouldn’t be starting in a game, while on a flight to the game and Marbury THREATENED to reveal some harmful secrets about Thomas if he didn’t start. Thomas didn’t back down but Marbury took a plane home, deserting the team, who voted to a man that Marbury should receive a one game suspension for the act.

Not only didn’t Thomas suspend Marbury but allowed him to start the next game and play over 30-minutes.

During the negotiations for the buyout of his $20 million contract, Marbury offered to round off the numbers to the next nearest my way- 95% for me, 5% for you.

Mitch Lawrence of the NY Daily News said as Marbury exited NY, “He leaves exactly as he came, a loser.”

 

The latest strange baseball injury story came from Cleveland Indians outfielder David Dellucci. Dellucci explained the stitches that were in his thumb to the AP by saying while he was fishing by the side of his lake (his lake?) he heard a young boy screaming. He ran over and saw that an alligator had the youngster by the leg. “I jumped on the gator, poked him in the eyes, freed the kid, but he (the gator) got me in my thumb. I got stitched up and had surgery.” As the reporters were furiously writing, Dellucci explained he was just kidding and that he slammed his throwing hand on a tractor gate at his home in Louisiana.

According to Dellucci, “There are about a dozen guys in the clubhouse who still believe” the fib.

 

 

T.J. SIMERS, OSCARS, BASEBALL

February 24, 2009

 

Friends, Romans, Sportsmen

T.J. Simers wrote a column in the LA Times that took the paper’s Mary McNamara to task for being so negative in reporting what happened at the Oscar Awards Ceremony to the night’s winners, past winners, and all the glitterati. Near the start of his piece Simers asked: “I just don’t get it. Why do writers always have to be so negative? Why are they so intent on tearing things down?”

He also said: “Now just imagine the practice time involved here…putting it all on the line for such a huge audience- the great ones responding when the pressure is on.”

I had to read this twice to see if Simers really was listed as the author because he has always been known as for his sharp barbs that have been aimed at athletes in every sport. This piece could have easily been written by one of Simers’ critics about HIM.

He wrote: “Some people are never pleased. He (writing about another Timester Patrick Goldstein) probably is nothing but a disturber, if you know what I mean, who writes only to get a rise out of people or sell more papers.” “Just how hard is it to give someone their due?”

Simers, here, has answered HIS critics without overtly saying what he’s doing.

He’s a good read who hasn’t shed all of his East Coast sarcasm. It’s not hard, at all, giving him HIS due!

 

Phil Mushnick of the NY Post pointed out that there hasn’t been very much noise, recently, from the MLB owners or from the players calling for the replacement of “Uncle Bud” Selig as Commissioner. Could it be that both groups are happy with what he’s done or hasn’t done depending on the viewer’s outlook?

Every time a new potentially serious problem starts to appear, Selig gives a few “harrumphs” and says that he already has gotten together a committee of experts in order to study the problem and give him their findings and recommendations.

I wonder if that committee reported if those maple bats, that when they broke sent shards of sharpened dart-like pieces of wood into the seats or across the field, present much danger to the fans or players?

I wonder if that committee reported their findings on the dangers that foul balls present to the fans or coaches at first and third. OH WAIT- they did require that the coaches wear helmets on the field and that protective fences be erected if front of dugouts. Was anything done to protect the fans seated near home plate? NO. Recommendations had been made to the “committees” that the netting behind home plate is extended beyond the dugouts. But nothing was done because the “committee” found that fans wouldn’t like the obstructed view. The view behind home plate is NOT OBSTRUCTED.

 The owners MUST be pleased because they raised Selig’s salary to over $17 million.

 

I was day dreaming about the Gonzalez/Alverez identity fiasco and realized that this was nothing new. A couple of cases quickly come to mind.

The first deals with Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez. When he fled from Cuba on a raft
(the story goes) he left his important papers behind. He’s supposed to be 44, but no one knows for sure.

Leroy “Stachel” Page SAID he was born in 1906 and made his big league debut, with the Cleveland Indians, in 1948 when he was alleged to be 42.    

I went to an Indians game with my dad and he told me Lou Boudreau, then managing the Indians, told him that Paige might have been 20 years older than he said, but he didn’t care if he got batters out.

Stories like these have become part of baseball’s lore and only became “super” important because big money was involved.

Dan Daly wrote in the DC Times about this and said: “About the only way this story could be better is if Gonzalez/Alverez had invested his $1.4 million bonus money with Bernie Madoff.”

 

 

 

Frankly, it puzzles be how a MLB team like the DC Nationals could pay a $1.4 million signing bonus to Esmailyn (Smiley) Gonzalez, a 16-year old star SS in the Dominican Republic before learning that his real name was Carlos Alvarez and he was actually four years older. How many people laughed at those dumb North-Americans who threw all of that money at Alvarez, who along with his buscones Basilo Vizcaino conned their way into the National’s bank vault? HA! Steroids-schmeroids.

When “Boston” Shaughnessy went to his 30th spring training (Yes, I’m jealous) he wrote: “Spring training is where Roger Angell saw the longest home run of his life – a majestic blast off the bat of Dave Kingman in Fort Lauderdale in 1975. Hall of Famer Catfish Hunter threw the pitch. Kingman’s blast sailed over a light tower (“three palm trees high” wrote Angell) and bounded onto a practice field beyond the left-field wall. Yankees manager Bill Virdon decided it was a six-bagger – a home run at Fort Lauderdale Stadium and a double on the adjacent diamond.                                                                        Spring training is where I saw a Montreal left fielder crash into a fence in Winter Haven chasing a fly ball. Back in 1976. The kid was out cold for a spell. Fans applauded when he finally got to his feet. He wound up spending most of his career behind the plate. Gary Carter. Hall of Famer.                                                                                                         It’s where Bill Lee told baseball writers of the Sox’ acquisition of Dennis Eckersley in a six-player blockbuster in 1978, screaming, “Send lawyers, guns, and money, the [expletive] has hit the fan!” Eck wound up in Cooperstown. Spring training is where I saw the longest home run of my life. Bo Jackson vs. Oil Can Boyd. In Davenport, Fla., in 1989, near the intersections of I-4 and US 27. Boyd and Jackson talked about it before the game. Can promised to challenge Bo. Jackson responded with a blast that sailed over a 71-foot-high scoreboard in left-center and landed in a cow pasture some 515 feet from home plate. Spring training is where Twins owner Calvin Griffith stood on the balcony of his Orlando condo and stared blankly into a sky filled with wreckage from the Challenger spacecraft in 1986. It’s where Lou Gorman said, “The sun will rise, the sun will set, and I’ll have lunch,” after Roger Clemens stormed out of camp in Winter Haven in 1987. It’s where the local newspaper published the titles of overdue videos (all pornos) rented by Boyd. The Maniacal Chuck Waseleski dubbed it “the Can’s Film Festival.”

There’s nothing quite like a Championship fight-night in the “big-room” at Madison Square Garden. There is a constant humming sound throughout the arena that comes from everyone waiting for the main event. Last night’s main event was a 12-round match for the vacant WBO World Welterweight Title between Miguel Cotto (33-1, 26 KO) and Michael Jennings (34-2, 16 KO). Cotto was having his first appearance in a ring since being TKO’d by Antonio Margarito in July of 08. Margarito had since had his title stripped because he was found to have tried to use illegal substances in his hand wrapping before his fight with Shane Mosley, Jan’09. Cotto said that he felt as though he were hit by bricks in that bout with Margarito.                                                         Jennings was having his first bout outside of the UK and was hoping to catch Cotto still trying to recover from that beating. He wanted to use his victory over Cotto as a spring-board to sign for further lucrative matches. By the time the two fighters got into the ring it was about 10:30 P.M. the crowd was on their feet, the girls who wanted to be seen walking around the arena were seated, the publicists stopped talking (if you can believe it) because they couldn’t be heard, the writers on press row stopped trying to impress one another with their predictions. Ring announcer, Michael Buffer proclaimed, “LET’S GET READY TO RUMBLE!”                                                                                                 And rumble they did. They first round had both fighters trying to see what the other’s game plan was.                                                                                                                       Cotto was going to press the action, work the body then throe combos to the head. Jennings was going to hit and move in order to tire Cotto out.                                            In the second Cotto found that his body work was causing Jennings to drop his right elbow in order to protect his right side. Cotto saw this and threw an exploratory left hook that found its mark on the side of Jennings’ head. You could almost see that Cotto was filing that info away He used it in the fourth round when he dropped Jennings with a left and again with a left to the body near end of the round. The fifth was all Cotto and he dropped Jennings for the last time at the 2:26 mark.                                                    Duddy won a unanimous decision from a game Matt Vanda with scores of 99-91, but Duddy was almost put away in the 10th. In fact, if the bout lasted one more round Vanda would have taken Duddy by a KO.

  

                                                                                                                                                            

 

 

 

 

 

Bruce Jenkins wrote in his “Three Dot Blog” about the character clause in MLB-HOF Rules of Induction should be eliminated. “Specifically, it stipulates ‘playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character and contribution to the team(s) on which the player played.’ I’m sure it sounded good when the rules were drawn up, but if you eliminated all the gamblers, cheats, racists, drunks, gun-toters, shameless womanizers, drug users, amphetamine-dependent stars and all-around bad guys from the Hall of Fame, you’d realize that the “character” issue has seldom been acknowledged by the writers. Whether it’s Cobb, Gaylord Perry, Ferguson Jenkins, Orlando Cepeda, Bonds or (eventually) Rodriguez, come on — are you kidding? The Hall is about performance on the field, the really influential players, not who performed the most community service.  He’s right.

DAY DREAMS

I going to MSG this evening to see the fights that are being headlined by welterweights Miguel Cotto (32-1, 26 KO) and Michael Jennings (34-1,16 KO). This is a come-back fight for Cotto who was stopped in a TKO in his last outing by Antonio Margarito. Jennings is looking to use this win (if he wins) as a springboard to a title bout.

Also on the card is middleweight John Duddy (25-0, 17 KO) against Matt Vanda (39-8, 22 KO). Duddy has still another trainer who is supposed to cut down on the punishment taken by Duddy in recent bouts.

There is supposed to be a closed circuit broadcast of a bout between Pawel Wolack (22-1,15 KO) and Norberto Bravo (27-16, 15 KO) from Europe.

Super featherweight Maureen Shea (13-0, 7 KO) goes against Kina Malparteda (8-3, 1 KO).

I’ve been working on a way to evaluate the overall effectiveness pro basketball players that looks at more than only scoring points.

I’m going to use the player’s per game averages for turn-overs plus personal fouls divided by the total of points, rebounds, and assists.

I compared Kobe Bryant        – .151

                  LeBron                   .135

                  Magic Johnson       .196

                  Michael Jordan       .148

                  David Lee               .195

                 Amare Stoudemire – . 187

                 Steve Nash             – . 190

                 Shaq                         .195

                 Dwight Howard        .193

HMMM, Verrry Interesting

  

 

 

I understand the office of the MLB Commissioner issued a statement saying, in effect, that the Commissioner was unaware of steroid use by ballplayers until 1998.

I can almost hear him say, “That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.”

He must have thought that the only people using PAD’s were East-German swimmers, sprinters, weight lifters, and football linemen.

I’m not going to defend him, but I have to admit that I was on the same bus headed toward OZ. I didn’t think that baseball players would put anything in/on their bodies that might make them look like the opposite sex, cause them to lose the flexibility they needed to play baseball by bulking up, or possibly suffer an early death from a heart attack.

I really believed that the increased home run production was because of a livelier ball, or because the new parks being built were hitter-friendly band-boxes, or the fact that pitchers weren’t claiming the insides of the plate the way Bob Gibson did.

My thinking, however, started to waiver when small middle-infielders started to hit 30 homers and when pitchers whose velocity hovered in the 80’s during their careers started reaching the mid-90’s with regularity.

Now, you may ask if I should have written about this mess earlier. But I don’t think so. I don’t think it’s the place for a columnist to go bonkers over something outsize the foul-lines.

I’m going to quote Dr. Charles E. Yesals, a Professor of Health Policy at Penn State, who said, “People still vote with their wallets. To a large extent, especially the younger fans who don’t give a rats behind about the sacredness of baseball records, they don’t want to go through a moral struggle when they go to a ballgame”- neither do I.   

I’m going to start hammering away at the concrete wall that protects the MLB-Commissioner. I know it’s a little early for something like that, but I don’t want to get caught in the rush. The spring training sites for all of the teams have opened and players are on the field. Well, most of the players are there except for Manny, who still hasn’t signed with anyone yet. The teams are scheduled to play almost 40 exhibition games, or 25% of a full season. OOPS, sorry. I meant to call them preseason games. There are also games in the WBC (World Baseball Classic) which ends March 23rd. That’s going to push back team openers until April 6th instead of, oh say March 31st. This could have later ramifications on the other end of the schedule. Now I know that team managements would rather see their number 1 catcher getting familiar with new arms on the pitching staff. Bruce Jenkins said this delayed opening baffled the manager of the Tigers, Jim Leyland who said: “It’s not disruptive (the WBC) if you don’t let it. They’re away, but they’re getting their work in, playing baseball. It’s not like they’re sitting home eating bon-bons.” Today’s major leaguers are paid well enough to train during the off-season. With the season starting on the 6th, the World Series, if it goes a full seven games it could last until November 7th and have the same weather caused series interruptions that plagued Bud Selig last year. CHANGE THE EMPHASIS Enough with the “investigating teams” who rebroadcast old findings about Bonds, Sosa, Palmiero, McGwire, and A-Rod, how about going after the steroid manufacturers. They seem to be able to get their product into the hands of users pretty easily. You know this stuff isn’t brewed up in a still in Hillbilly, Tennessee. It must be a pretty sophisticated manufacturing plan. When we learn this, we’ll be near the sources of the problem.