Hot dogs have been woven into the fabric of MLB. There’s nothing like that first whiff of air when you walk out of an entrance into the stands at a ballpark.
That aroma will automatically turn you back into a youngster at their first game.
Yet another definition of a hot dog is being pushed to the fore of a fans mind. It also has a face that accompanies it and that face is Manny Ramirez.
Manny said that the “Manny-Frenzy” was no surprise when he played for the Albuquerque Isotopes, the Dodgers triple-A team, and he said that everyone
liked him wherever he went.
WAIT- not so fast, Manny. There was a 7-year old girl who sweeps the bases during Albuquerque’s games who didn’t want to wear a $25 Manny
dread-lock wig because her father told her Manny took drugs and she didn’t want to look like him.
HA-out of the mouths of babes, right?
Scott Ostler awarded him the “Knucklehead of the Week.”
Mr. Malaprop, Jerry Coleman once told his listeners in San Diego of the teams promotion of a drug-awareness program by saying, “Hats off to drug
abusers everywhere!” 

Graham Jones reported in the LA Times that, “Soccer’s Confederations Cup is over and done with and the U.S. team, derided only 11 days ago but lauded
today, is heading home from South Africa.
It does so not with its tail between its legs, as once feared, but with a silver medal around its neck.
So what did Coach Bob Bradley learn from a tournament that saw the Americans start off in horrendous fashion but still reach Sunday’s final, only to lose, 3-2, to Brazil in Johannesburg?
Quite a bit, as it turns out.                                                                                           
 Bradley learned that two forwards are better than one, and that Jozy Altidore and Charlie Davies could grow into a dangerous attacking pair, the former using strength and the latter using speed.
He learned that physically fit as the U.S. players undoubtedly are, they have yet to learn to sustain the level of intensity needed for the full 90 minutes and beyond.
The Brazilians can do that. As Donovan said in player comments posted on U.S. Soccer’s website, “eventually they just wore us down.”
Coach Bob Bradley learned that the U.S. still needs to do a better job managing a lead. Ahead by two goals, it should have been able to lock the door. Instead, it left it ajar.
“We gave them everything they could handle . . . and deserved every piece of that lead,” Howard said. But it lasted only 45 seconds into the second half
and then evaporated altogether.                                                                                                                        
You always hope to do the most learning when you win, but you probably learn more by losing,” Midfielder Landon Donovan said. “If we’re smart and
we take what we should from this game, we can progress; and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Bocanegra, the U.S. captain, echoed the sentiment.
“What we can take away from this is the confidence that we played so well against the big teams here,” he said. “We showed that we belong. We’re not just going to be a pushover in the World Cup when we come down here.”

There’s a movement starting to have Roger Maris inducted by the MLB-HOF veterans committee. That’s a nice sentiment, but I believe that his 12-year
career didn’t have the numbers necessary for inclusion.
He SHOULD, however, have a special mention for being the first player to top Babe Ruth’s single season home run mark of 60 homers that stood for
54-years. Asterisk or not (having done it in a 162-game season instead of Ruth’s 154-games) – he STILL did it!
Maris’ drawbacks included his 275 career home runs and his .260 BA.

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I’m not going to comment on the NBA draft until it ends and all of the deals shake out.        
Gwen Knapp talked about Jose Canseco and his apparent war with the world. “Barry Bonds might want to send Jose Canseco a thank-you note. The
former A’s right fielder, now a five-tool pariah, has indirectly polished Bonds’ image recently. Both men believe they’ve been blackballed by Major League
Baseball, but Bonds has let his agent and the Players’ Association do the whining on his behalf. Canseco does the venting in his own voice.                                                                                                       
The sound of it the other night on Comcast SportsNet could not have been more grating – or more desperate. Canseco said he alone had been ruined by
baseball’s steroid scandal, that as the sport’s consummate truth-teller and whistle-blower, he never received the forgiveness and attendant multimillion-dollar
contracts that went to other drug users. Contrast that with Bonds, who returned to China Basin for a reunion last summer, less than a year after he told a
group of fans “I got fired” in a bitter explanation of the Giants’ decision not to re-sign him in 2007. He came to the tribute, marched out on the field, smiling
and waving to the crowd, went up to the broadcast booth and had a long chat with Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow. He returned as a guest of ownership
early this year, making another appearance in the booth.                                                                                                                                          
No one has ever confused Bonds with a diplomat, but when he needs to turn on the charm, he has a reserve tank. He went into survival mode when no
team picked him up last season, shelving grudges for the time being. It was savvy.                                   
Unlike Canseco, he realized that he had two strikes against him: Being under indictment for perjury and obstruction of justice in a federal drug case required a show of humility and amiability.                                                                                       
Granted, Canseco had a bigger comeback to make. Federal charges don’t carry the same stigma in a sports culture as ratting out teammates to score a
book deal.   Bonds, by contrast, shows no signs of financial distress, despite a pending second divorce and an endless legal fight with the feds. As detailed
in the book “Game of Shadows,” Bonds arranged for his accountants to put him on a strict spending allowance.                                                                                                                         
Canseco never had that kind of discipline, and that deficiency is what ruined him. His latest scheme is to sue MLB and the players’ association for his inability to find work in the game. He appears to have crossed into delusion. At one point in the TV interview, when Canseco cited players who had admitted to or been caught using performance-enhancers near the release of “Juiced,” he referred to Jason Giambi as “the first baseman for the Yankees at the time. God, what’s his name?”
The interviewer had to tell him.”

Bruce Jenkins listed his most memorable matches and here are two that I remember:
Bjorn Borg def. John McEnroe, 1-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-7 (16), 8-6, men’s final, 1980: “Seldom has there been a greater contrast – the brash, vulgar genius of the
serve-and-volley attack against the stoic, unrelenting baseliner, each a tennis rock star in his own right. Until Federer-Nadal, this was the greatest match
ever played, one of the last of the wooden-racket era, and the fourth-set tiebreaker remains the most compelling sustained drama the sport has ever known.
McEnroe saved five match points to win that 18-16 thriller, making it all the more remarkable that Borg came to back to clinch his fifth straight Wimbledon
title.”                                                                                  
 Margaret Court def. Billie Jean King, 14-12, 11-9, women’s final, 1970: “It was a match of the highest quality between all-time greats, and a landmark in
women’s sports. At the time, it was widely believed that women lacked grittiness and endurance in sporting endeavors (there wasn’t a women’s 1,500-meter race in the Olympics until 1972). Now there was Court, nursing a sore ankle that had been injected with an anesthetic before the match, against King, playing on an aching knee that would require surgery a few weeks later. Playing hurt, playing tough, they were all over the court for nearly two and a half hours, King saving five match points before it ended.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

June 28, 2009

All forwarded by Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times:
Ian Hamilton of the Regina (Sask.) Leader-Post, after a 47-year-old Milwaukee-area man was arrested for DUI — while trying to make the 40-mile trek home on a golf cart: “That’s what happens when you have a driver in the bag.”                                           
Chris Cluff of OutsideThePressBox.com, on Bernie Kosar listing a $1.5 million debt to the Browns in his bankrupcty declarations: “Imagine how much he
might owe if he had to pay the Bills.”                                                                                                                    
Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com, on the stunning U.S. soccer win in the Confederations Cup semifinals: “The last time something this
embarrassing happened to Spain, the Armada was involved.”                                                                                        
Vancouver (B.C.) comedian Torben Rolfsen, on the Cavaliers acquiring Shaquille O’Neal to team with LeBron James: “Isn’t that like hitching a trailer to a Ferrari?”
From Bruce Jenkins of the SF Chronicle:                                                                                                  
Almost every night, you watch those two-toned maple bats break in half, launching a weapon through the sky. You know the bats. Looks like you got ’em at Target, next to Kids Jeans. This was baseball’s grand plan, identifying the dreaded maple by splitting the color in half. Meanwhile, as Mike Krukow
continually warns his audience that “it’s just a matter of time,” there’s Boston shortstop Nick Green, trying to avoid a flying shard (in Washington on
Wednesday night) that wound up sticking in the grass like a javelin. Yo, Bud Selig: This calls for a series of meetings – wait, blue-ribbon panels – stretched
over a six-year period. That way you can really study the slashings, the impalements and the lawsuits.
From Mike Reiss of the Boston Globe:                                                                                       
Only 16 of the 32 NFL teams return their top five offensive linemen in 2009, which reflects how difficult it is to achieve the desired continuity up front.                                       
While some teams have made changes with an eye toward improvement – such as the Eagles with the additions of Jason Peters and Stacy Andrews – the
general goal for most is to retain the same personnel.                                                                                           
 “The obvious part is the familiarity,’’ said Patriots left tackle Matt Light, who is part of a unit that returns intact. “It’s not impossible, but it’s a heck of a
learning curve trying to get used to playing next to another guy and all the mistakes that come with that.             
“When you’ve been able to keep a group together, you are able to get through camp so much easier. You’re able to install things quicker, unless we somehow have football amnesia.                                                                                                                      
 “Then you start working on all the little things, you can fine-tune in those areas. You get so much critique from season to season and you keep building on that stuff. When you have a new guy that comes in, or there is a rotation or some kind of mix-up, it takes a while to jell again.’’                                                                                                            
“In the AFC, the Broncos, Chiefs, Colts, Jets, Steelers, Texans, and Titans join the Patriots in returning their top offensive line personnel.
“In the NFC, it’s the Cardinals, Cowboys, Falcons, 49ers, Giants, Panthers, Saints, and Seahawks. The Buccaneers will qualify if left guard Arron Sears,
who has remained away this offseason in a bit of a mystery, returns from personal issues.”

NBA DRAFT

June 27, 2009

Jim Armstrong of the Denver Post and a Nuggets fan wrote, “Nuggets mover ‘n’ shaker Mark Warkentien on the team’s draft effort: “You hear this
‘good draft/bad draft.’ . . . If your guy ends up being a good player, then you had a good draft.” Whew. Glad we got that cleared up. . .  
Ty Lawson says he should have been a lottery pick, and the Nuggets agreed. They got him at No. 18 but were talking to five teams that had earlier picks.
“He was targeted, no question,” Warkentien said. “He had a bull’s-eye on his back at 4 o’clock.” . . .                           
Random thought while watching Duke’s Gerald Henderson go six picks ahead of Lawson: My point guard can beat up your honor student. .       

Biggest surprise in the NBA draft? Pitt’s DeJuan Blair going in the second round, apparently out of concern about his bum knees. What part of rebounding machine don’t these people get? . .                                                                                                  
ESPN’s Stuart Scott, moments after the Timberwolves selected Nugget-in-waiting Lawson, their third point guard among three first-round picks: “Well,
they’ll pass a lot.”
There seems to be a lot of thoughts about a new term in describing guards- “Combo-guard”. In SF they have Monta Ellis, who hasn’t established himself
as a true point, and drafted Stephen Curry (Wilbon, Ratto. AND Jenkins all gave me BIG “HAW, HAW’s when the Warriors drafted Curry at 7 just before
the Knicks) who ran the Davidson offense and averaged nearly 29 PPG using a BIG outside shot.                                   
Bruce Jenkins of the SF Chronicle said that Don Nelson was an “unconventional” sort who wouldn’t be averse to playing Ellis and Curry at the same time. I guess Nelson didn’t forget all of those Celtics-Knicks games, in which he played as a Celt, where Walt Frazier and Earl Monroe were in the NY backcourt, both, scoring points AND “hitting the open man” (Red Holzman’s mantra).                                                                        
The T-Wolves also moved in this direction by picking Ricky Rubio (rumored to be headed to NY in a trade) and Jonny Flynn.

NOTES AND QUOTES

June 26, 2009

Sam Smith, author of “The Jordan Rules,” on conversation he had with Kobe Bryant: “I personally believe he motivates himself toward the Jordan record
and feats, though he said something interesting. He said no one will ever be regarded better than Jordan. I asked why. He laughed and said Jordan is an
urban legend, that people remember him hitting every big shot and making every big play. He said you can’t compete against that.”
Bill Simmons: “Jon Barry told us (on ABC) that Kobe is the closest thing to Jordan we’ll ever see. Really? Ever? You’re telling me I won’t see another
hyper-competitive, super-athletic 2-guard average 30-plus a game and win an NBA title? Hell, I just saw it three years ago with Dwyane Wade.”
Greg Cote: “Spreading wild across the Internet: Various reports that Brett Favre and the Vikings have an agreement in principle. Does that make a today a national holiday in Peter King’s house? Think it makes the Vikings a little better, short-term. Think it helps Favre’s legacy not a bit. Think a slew of
Cheeseheads feel betrayed. Me? I’m just glad the protracted saga is (apparently) finally over. Let us now hear nothing more of Favre until his first three-pick day.                                                                                                    
Seems more and more likely the report of the arrest of Dolphins top pick Vontae Davis was bogus. (Stolen wallet? What are the odds a cornerback would be picked?) If Vontae is right, the media is wrong here. What happens is, the more we see athletes arrested, the more numb we become to it, and the more believable every report becomes.”

The Sports Curmudgeon talked about Tony Romo’s latest odd reasoning. Romo must have been out in the Dallas Sun too long. “The latest head-shaker
comes from Tony Romo himself who said: “I’ve been coached the same since I’ve been here. There’s no different style or way. I mean, if you need to be
coached to be good or great, then you’re probably not going to be good or great.”  Excuse me.  The coaching provided by Bill Parcells is the same as the
coaching provided by Wade Phillips?  One of the monikers hung on Wade Phillips by Jennifer Engel in the Star-Telegram is “Coach Cupcake”.  No one
ever thought Bill Parcells was a “cupcake”; some may have thought he might have chowed down a few too many cupcakes in the past, but no one thought he was a cupcake. 
I also don’t get the assertion that Romo makes about the lack of importance of coaching to become “good or great”.                                                                              
Consider: Michael Jordan’s greatness came to the fore when he teamed up with Phil Jackson as his coach.
Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson have swing coaches.
The top tennis pros have coaches too – and the coaches attend most of the key matches.  There are even rules in tennis to limit “coaching” during matches.
Gymnasts and track and field athletes all have coaches.  If the ones who become great would have done so without the coaching, why did they waste all of that money and put up with all of the coaches’ nonsense?”

Mike Penner, of the LA Times told us that, “Dodgers fans seeing Manny Ramirez in an Albuquerque uniform and wondering “Isotope?” need to watch more episodes of “The Simpsons.”
The Springfield Isotopes are the baseball team in the Simpsons’ hometown. In the 2001 episode “Hungry Hungry Homer,” Homer Simpson goes on a
hunger strike to try to thwart the team’s planned move to Albuquerque.
When the real-life Calgary Cannons moved to Albuquerque after the 2002 season, fans in New Mexico were asked to vote for a new team nickname.
“Isotopes” received 67% of the vote.
According to Answers.com, an isotope is “One of two or more atoms having the same atomic number but different mass numbers.” The team’s logo features a baseball-shaped isotope zipping around the letter A.
And the nickname is appropriate for New Mexico, which has several scientific facilities dealing with nuclear technology, including Los Alamos National
Laboratory.”

Donald Fehr

June 25, 2009

Gwen Knapp wrote about Donald Fehr’s retirement as the head of the MLB players’ association (I still can’t refer to it as a union). “The Major League
Baseball Players Association served its members very well during Fehr’s administration, with only exception. It wasn’t the strike of 1994-95, for which Fehr and his rival, Commissioner Bud Selig, were universally reviled. The union did the right thing then, showing the owners that even the relatively pampered players of that era would not be pushed around, giving in to the kind of salary restrictions that their football and basketball brethren had accepted. Fehr did his job then. (I disagree.)                                           
But when his union resisted steroid testing, Fehr failed. The stand violated the union’s fundamental responsibility to protect the players. If the union had
forcefully opposed steroids and conceded the need for aggressive testing and punishment years ago, McGwire wouldn’t have been called in front of a
congressional committee in 2005, where he declined to answer questions that might have incriminated him.     He probably wouldn’t have broken Roger Maris’ record with 70 home runs in 1998, either, but we can’t know that. If baseball had implemented testing in the late ’80s, when the A’s and their Bash Brothers hit prime time, certain players may never have peaked as high as they did. Who knows how quickly Jose Canseco, the self-styled godfather of steroids in baseball, would have washed out?                                          
Even he can’t know. Canseco had phenomenal skills, and if he’d had the guts to test them naturally and the discipline to stay focused on the game, rather
than all the ancillary rewards, he might have been one of the greats anyway. He preferred the easy route, and no one in baseball dared divert him. 
Why didn’t agents step forward and demand something akin to the testing done at the Olympics? They were enablers, plain and simple.                                                       
So were the owners, and the commissioner. But those people, let’s be honest, don’t look out for players. Their job is to protect the game, the industry. That’s why Selig kept citing growing attendance at the height of the doping scandal. If the fans didn’t care enough to pull their financial support, then the issue didn’t
matter.                               
To the union that pulled baseball employment out of the dark ages, it should always have mattered. More to the point, the union should have known that its members, not its adversaries in ownership, would pay the ultimate price if the truth about performance-enhancing drugs was ever exposed. Fehr, more than anyone, should have known that the public likes to put a face on every misdeed. That’s how his mug became a focal point of the strike.” 
Attendance at baseball games might be down as much as 10% in some locations, but that’s not saying that baseball hasn’t reached more people because of broadcast, cable, and satellite TV (because it has).  Baseball salaries averaged $300k twenty-five years ago and have since escalated to a little less than $3 million today. The owners, for as much as they want to deny it, are ultimately and greedily responsible for that increase.                                                                                                                                    
Bob Molinaro said in HamptonRoads.com, “Even the worst indictment of his administration (Fehr) – that it failed to deal with steroids – must be shared by
the owners and Bud Selig, and everyone else who turned a blind eye to the issue.                      
Labor problems that surfaced under Fehr – three work stoppages, the cancellation of the 1994 World Series – are all but forgotten now, eclipsed by the shadow of steroids.”            
Fehr opposed testing players until 2002. He considered testing a violation of civil liberties. He now admits that he was slow to come around to what was
happening, but he had a lot of company. And while he was never able to paint a pretty face on the privacy issue, making him out to be the villain is just too
convenient.                                     
What about the personal responsibility of the players themselves? What about the owners, who never really pushed as hard for drug testing as they did for ways to make more money?”
In any event, it’s as the Sports Curmudgeon said, “Fehr and Orza- indisputably- are four letter words.”

Columnist Norman Chad talked about the latest scary thing invading the scouting world. “Rivals.com and Scout.com provide Sports Nation with an
invaluable service: They keep us up-to-date, as we should be, on the top high school prospects being recruited for student-athlete status at our institutions of
higher learning.                                                      
But what about middle school jocks?                                                                                               
 Isn’t there some place where pre-teen standouts can get noticed?                                       
Yes, there is!                                                                                                                    
Just the other day, while grazing the Internet over a glass of Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio 2006, I discovered the following information on the home page of JuniorRank.com (italics mine):”At 6-4 and over 230 pounds, Kyle Bosch of St. Charles, Illinois is no ordinary 8th grade tight end. With good hands, good
grades and a ‘nasty’ disposition on the field, this JuniorRank.com Preseason Regional ‘Top 20’ candidate is definitely ‘One to Watch.’                                                                                             
There was even a photo of Kyle lifting weights.                                                                                
I marked him in my notebook as a top five prospect for the 2017 NFL draft.                              
(Of course, Hoopscooponline.com has been scoping out stellar basketball-playing SIXTH-GRADERS for years. It’s tireless work that must be done.)                                   
The news gets even better:                                                                                           
This Saturday, JuniorRank.com is holding one of its “junior football combines” in Chicago; next month there will be one in San Diego. For just a $49 registration fee, you get nine hours of football instruction and evaluation from an elite group of combine coaches.                                                                                                                            
Lunch is included!                                                                                                                    
The combine is open to all athletes between the ages of 11 and 16. That’s right — even if you are A SIXTH-GRADER, this is your day to get into the game
big-time.                           
Athletes attending must bring shorts and sneakers, but JuniorRank.com will provide “performance shirts.” (I used to wear a performance shirt. Alas, it didn’t make me perform better.)                                                                                                        
JuniorRank.com, according to its Web site, “is searching for the nation’s top seventh- and eighth-graders” to send to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl
weekend in January — that’s the annual high school all-star game on NBC. You might get on TV! (Well, NBC.) And the JuniorRank.com combine is
extending a “Quarterback Special Offer”: For “$200 all-inclusive,” you get the Saturday combine and a Sunday instructional day from former quarterbacks
Steve DeBerg, Jack Trudeau and Jeff Christensen. (I assume Scott Mitchell had a scheduling conflict.)                                                                                             
Note: Out-of-town guests can enjoy a JuniorRank.com rate of $99 a night — including breakfast! — at the Hilton Garden Inn in Hoffman Estates, Ill.                                        
(This is not to be confused with the Chicago Hilton, site of the climactic final scene between Dr. Richard Kimble and Tommy Lee Jones in “The Fugitive.”
Now, everybody in that movie was wearing a performance shirt, no?)
Combine participants will be instructed, measured and tested in the following areas: 20/40-yard dash, 5-10-5 agility shuttle, vertical jump, kneeling power
ball toss and bench press. This is actually ahead-of-the-curve thinking — there should be scouting combines for other adolescent pursuits outside of athletics.                                                           
 Let’s take all the aspiring 8-year-old grocery clerks and measure them for: express-lane lateral quickness, cash-register dexterity, deferring-to-unreasonable-shift-manager drill, union leanings and double-bagging.                                                                               
Let’s take all the aspiring 8-year-old sportswriters and measure them for: locker-room etiquette, making deadline, tweeting drill, anonymous sourcing,
Breathalyzer and expense-report manipulation.                                                                                       
Heck, if my major journalistic skills had been recognized and developed in third grade, I could’ve been working for USA Today by now.”

I can’t get over the fact that Manny Ramirez is supposed to be suspended by MLB from playing baseball but, nevertheless, is playing for a Dodgers triple-A
farm team to get himself in shape to play at the major league level. The team, the Albuquerque Isotopes, is making money from the increased ticket sales
from Manny’s presence and forwards a portion of that to the MLB home office.                                                                    
Plaschke seems to agree and wrote in the LA Times, “When negotiating the drug policy three years ago, baseball officials felt they had to allow for minor
league rehab assignments in order to get union agreement on a 50-game suspension total. The union was claiming that, otherwise, with the player needing to get back in shape, the suspensions actually would amount to more than 60 games.
Officials were also receiving pressure from their clubs to allow the players to do rehab assignments during the suspensions, instead of later, so the teams did not have to pay the players while they were in the minor leagues.
In the end, the baseball bosses were so desperate for any sort of penalty, they caved in to everybody. And perhaps they hoped that everyone would be so
happy the druggies were finally being punished, nobody would notice.
Well, today, we all notice.
Today, a suspended baseball player is back on a field playing baseball and making money for the same people who suspended him.
Today, a shamed drug offender is basking in the national attention and adulation created by the same people who shamed him.
Today, a troublemaker who is currently being suspended from high school is enjoying private tutoring from his teachers in a simulated classroom
environment filled with students, and where’s the learning in that?
This is not the first time this has happened this season, as the Philadelphia Phillies’ J.C. Romero quietly made five appearances in the minor leagues before completing his 50-game substance suspension.
Did it help? Well, Romero began his season with six consecutive scoreless games, and has given up one run in nine innings so, yeah.
Romero is a fairly anonymous middle reliever and didn’t grab the national attention of Ramirez, but it was wrong then, and it is wrong now. Baseball needs to fix it before it happens again, and baseball knows it. Think about it. During the suspension, Ramirez had reaped all the rewards of being a Dodger without any of the responsibilities.
He has been allowed clubhouse and training room and field access without ever explaining how and why and when he violated baseball’s drug policy. The Dodgers have taken care of his every need — from cough syrup to batting-practice baseballs — without once asking him to be accountable to the community that they once considered a priority.
The Dodgers so value Ramirez’s comfort above all else that they actually sent employees to Albuquerque to help him and protect him from the unwashed
masses who would dare bother the great man during his courageous comeback from a female fertility drug.      
All of this is set up to fill stadium seats and company wallets upon Ramirez’s July 3 return. Did you hear about the previously planned bus trip to San Diego for the Padres series on Fourth of July weekend? In an e-mail sent to fans, a Dodgers employee re-billed the trip as a welcome back for Ramirez, exploiting a drug offender in only a slightly more sophisticated manner than the dude standing on a darkened corner of Sunset.
And, c’mon, after watching fans fill up the yard in Albuquerque, is there any question that the Dodgers will re-christen the “Mannywood” section the moment he returns to Chavez Ravine?
When Manny Ramirez is old and gray and sitting outside the locked doors of Cooperstown, he might reflect on this summer as the best 50 games of his
career. Or is it 42 games? Or, really, was he ever gone?”

Ray Ratto was reading my thoughts about this week’s draft and said, “Now I don’t know how the division of credit breaks down at your house, but the
folks I know operate under the assumption that the father is typically wrong until he is adjudged by the other family members to be even more wrong than
they originally thought. Father’s Day is traditionally their way of softening up the old man for the next 364 days of blame delegation.                                                                                                                       
At least that’s our story, and we’re standing on it.”
A few of you wanted to know why I didn’t list any centers on my watch-for list- the answer is that this draft is a pretty shallow one and I agree with, as
much as it pains me to say it,  Celtics GM Danny Ainge when he reasoned, “that he doesn’t expect to make a trade during Thursday’s draft, and any roster additions will likely come via free agency, which starts in July. The Celtics have only the 58th pick in the draft, in the second round. “We have nothing close to happening,’’ Ainge said. “I would guess that there would not be anything [on draft night]. We like the free agent market of veteran players much more than we like the draft.’’ On the wild trade rumors concerning some Celtics, Ainge said, “I just assume all of them are jokes when I read some of the junk out there and some of the things involving us that seem invented out of the blue sky.’’ Another GM said, “This draft is so weak that someone selected at No. 12 could end up being as good as someone drafted No. 4.

Bruce Jenkins gave his take on those guards, “It won’t be the Warriors, who can’t afford anothersmall guard in the backcourt, but whoever takes North Carolina point guard Ty Lawson – winner, leader, three-year collegian, allergic to turnovers – will be extremely happy … Caught some video of Brandon Jennings, the point guard who went from high school to the Italian league, and whatever faults he may have, wow, is he unstoppable on the dribble. Quick, long strides and as many moves as you like … Understandably particular about where he plays, Spanish sensation Ricky Rubio is wading through a distasteful minefield (Memphis, Oklahoma City, Sacramento) as the draft approaches. What he’s probably thinking, after watching countryman Pau Gasol win a title: Somehow, some way, get me to the Lakers. I’m betting it happens before Rubio turns 25.”

Mike Reiss said in the Boston Globe that, “Phil Simms once made the point that the Giants teams he quarterbacked in the 1980s were constructed with a
purpose.                      
Simms said that coach Bill Parcells had NFC East foes foremost on his mind when he pieced together the Giants’ roster. The Redskins, for example, had
“The Hogs’’ on the offensive line – a big, physical group that Parcells felt had to be countered by a big, physical defensive line.                                                                                                    
Two decades later, Parcells’s divisional mind-set is still apparent. One look at the Dolphins’ offseason activity provides confirmation.                                                                                      
Parcells, in his second season as executive vice president of football operations in Miami, has orchestrated a significant overhaul of the secondary. The Dolphins signed free agent safety Gibril Wilson to a lucrative contract, added cornerback Eric Green in free agency, and drafted cornerbacks Vontae Davis (first round) and Sean Smith (second round) – four moves aimed at improving a pass defense that ranked 25th in yards surrendered per game last season
(227.8).                                                                                                         
Think Parcells had the Patriots and their high-flying passing attack in mind?                          
There is little doubt, not to mention the addition of receiver Terrell Owens in Buffalo, and to a lesser degree Jerricho Cotchery in New York. Phil Simms
once made the point that the Giants teams he quarterbacked in the 1980s were constructed with a purpose.

When 29-year-old first baseman Eddie Waitkus of the Philadelphia Phillies returned to Chicago’s Edgewater Beach Hotel on the shores of Lake Michigan
around 11 p.m., he found a mysterious note from a young woman in his mailbox.                                                                                   
 “Mr. Waitkus, it’s extremely important that I see you as soon as possible,” it read. “My name is Ruth Anne Burns, and I am in [Room] 1297-A. … I won’t
take up much of your time.”                                                                                                                                  
The date was June 14, 1949, the tall, attractive woman’s name was really Ruth Ann Steinhagen, and as promised she didn’t take up much of Waitkus’ time.
Shortly after he stepped through the door and sat down in a chair, she said, “You’re not going to bother me any more. If I can’t have you, nobody can.” Then she shot him in the chest with a .22-caliber rifle.                                                                                                                         
If this sounds vaguely familiar, it should. Years later, in a book called “The Natural,” author Bernard Malamud adapted the grim story with his hero, Roy
Hobbs, as victim. In 1984, Robert Redford played Hobbs in a memorable movie of the same name.                                                              
For Waitkus, however, this was no imaginary tale. Steinhagen was a 19-year-old stalker who had idolized Eddie for years and wept bitterly when her
hometown Cubs traded him to the Phillies after the 1948 season. Waitkus, a slap hitter and fancy fielder, played 11 major league seasons, batting .285 with just 24 home runs and 373 RBI. He was a charter member of the major league Baltimore Orioles in 1954 but played in just 71 games for them in his final
two seasons.                                                                                                
Once a gregarious, friendly sort, Waitkus turned understandably suspicious and wary of the world following the shooting. Who could blame him?                                                                                                             
After his career ended, things went downhill for Eddie. He worked as a counselor at Ted Williams’ baseball camp but also frequently needed unemployment insurance to get by.            
“Eddie was magnificent with the kids,” Williams said. “I always knew Eddie was a great ballplayer, but he was a hell of a man, too.”                                                                  
Richie Ashburn, a teammate with the Phillies, saw Waitkus in a different light.                                                                                                                  
“Eddie wasn’t the regular, normal ballplayer,” Hall of Famer Ashburn said. “He wasn’t a rough guy. He didn’t go [into bases] with his spikes high, and he
didn’t fight. He was almost an aberration. He read Latin, loved poetry and classical music and was an expert in ballroom dancing. I used to think it was a shame he had to play baseball.”                                                                
 And even worse, to be a target for a deranged fan who might have succeeded indirectly in killing him 23 years later.                                                                                          
“Cancer of the lung or esophagus can take up to 20 years or more to be fatal,” his son, Eddie Jr., said after Waitkus’ death from the disease at 53 on Sept.
15, 1972. “My dad was never diagnosed with cancer. It wasn’t until after the autopsy that this came out. So I think Ruth Steinhagen might have been more successful than she thought.”
Tragically so.

OK, it’s time for me to put on my NY Knicks GM cap and give you my top draft wishes. No matter who was running the point this year, they didn’t get the
job done. My top guard choices are Tyreke Evans, Stephen Curry, Ricky Rubio, and Jrue Holliday. Power forwards are ALWAYS valuable. Mine are:
Jordan Hill, Tyler Hansbrough, and Earl Clark.

Kurt Streeter of the LA Times said that it’s “Funny, isn’t it, how time and the insinuation of modern life — stats and graphs and net-fueled probability theories– change everything. For the Dodgers, of course, Scioscia played for the decidedly old-school Tom Lasorda, who let his pitchers hang on until their arms fell off. Scioscia also teamed with Fernando Valenzuela. “They didn’t have pitch counts back then,” Scioscia said with a laugh. “What did Fernando Valenzuela ever care about 130 pitches? The thing is, you have to have balance and that’s why we view the pitch count as another bit of good information.
It’s just a tool.”
Too much of a tool? The Angels are hardly the worst offenders — let’s be frank, overall Scioscia does a masterful job giving his pitchers space — but in
baseball as a whole it’s a different story. These days, a starting pitcher throws six innings, gives up three runs and it’s called a “quality start.” He goes more
than six and the next day the guy’s agent is sending angry texts to ownership, complaining his pitcher is being treated like a piece of meat. He makes it to
110 pitches and almost invariably the wheels start spinning off, as happened to Billingsley against the Angels on Friday. (He made it to 112).
Yes, there’s a gray area here. There’s an art to when a pitcher should be pulled that takes into account his history of injury, how smoothly he has progressed
through a game, how well he rebounds from tough games. I just worry that in too many cases the art is being tossed by the wayside. Hard numbers hold too
much sway.
Larry Bowa agrees. The Dodgers’ third base coach, famously tough, sneered when asked about pitch counts. “I don’t like ’em,” he said, noting that he’d
make some exceptions for young players and whippet-thin ones. “This stuff is hurting the game. These guys get to 100 pitches and they start looking for help.
They don’t know how to pitch out of a jam or bring home the win.”
Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt hardly hid his thoughts either. He called this a problem deeply woven into modern baseball, one that’s awfully hard to stop at the major league level. “You get guys like Chad Billingsley and Clayton Kershaw and they’ve been on a pitch count since the minors,” he said. “They’re 24 and 25 and it’s hard to get them off it.”
Things won’t ever go back to the way they used to be, nor should they. But Honeycutt said baseball can move in a more balanced direction if jolted by a
successful team that goes against the grain. Down in Texas, in his second year as president of the Rangers, Ryan is trying to do just that. His mantra, from
the minors on up: toss the pitch counts to the side — let the pitchers show their stuff.
Said Honeycutt: “You’ve got to have a guy like a Nolan Ryan saying ‘enough of this stuff, there’s no reason in the world these guys can’t go 120 pitches. No
reason at all.’ A guy like Ryan, maybe he can shock the world.”
Here’s hoping the Rangers taste that kind of success — just so long as they don’t have too much of it against their division rivals. After all, we’d like to see a Dodgers-Angels reprise in the World Series.”

The Phillies are rightfully taking their time with Michael Taylor, a 6-6, 250 pound five-tool corner outfielder. Taylor who is playing with Reading, Philly’s Double-A affiliate in the Eastern League, and is hitting .326 with an OPS of .937. Last season playing on two levels he hit .329 (37 of his 80 hits were for extra bases), with 15 steals, and 18 outfield assists- think Dave Winfield.