Friday, November 18, 2005

A REAL BUZZ FOR THE FORMIDABLE MLB TEAMS

Of lately MLB’s AL Central has regained credibility and respect. With the Chicago White Sox’s emergence as the world champions, the division has been acknowledged as among the best. The other teams of the division are equally a success. The Indians are a young team and are looking forward to contend for a World Series in 2006. The Twins are perfect in pitching/defense and if pitching/defense really wins pennants then there is no looking back for the Twins. The Tigers, if they manage to acquire top free agent pitchers they will successfully shed the label of pussycats. The Royals are as usual optimistic. With an expanded budget and top prospect Alex Gordon on the rise, they are seeing a light at the end of the tunnel.

And as far the teams like the Yankees and the Red Sox are concerned they will have to work harder and more meticulously to win their division, with the fact in their mind that the wild card can practically come out of the AL Central. There will be three or four genuine contenders from this division.

The dos for the White Sox to retain their supremacy are they should re-sign Paul Konerko and should make him No. 1 offseason priority. They should leave a rotation spot open for Brandon McCarthy. They should re-sign Frank Thomas. The Chicago White Sox captured their first title in 88 years when they swept the Houston Astros in the 2005 World Series.

10 TRADE TARGETS

The MLB managers to make their team better this season are focusing on trading their players. They simply have forgotten the criterion of free agents and have become more creative. The top 10 players who might get traded this season are Manny Ramirez, Carlos Delgado, Torii Hunter, Jim Thome, Lyle Overbay, Milton Bradley, Juan Pierre, Alfonso Soriano, Troy Glaus, and Adam Dunn.

By now Manny Ramirez has become the veteran saint of trade attraction. This season he has asked to be dealt again. But it won't be easy. He is getting older. And therefore there's the matter of that astounding $57 million due him for the next three seasons. Carlos Delgado is a forever fixture in Toronto. Last January the Marlins lured him to a four-year, $52 million deal. And now the Marlins, looking to cut payroll because of the lack of a stadium solution in South Florida, are trying to struggle their way out of the contract. Now it is predicted that he is acquired by someone like the Mets or the Mariners or the Orioles. Torii Hunter is the Twins asset. He was rumored to be going to the Yankees. But the Twins need guys like Hunter to stick with the White Sox in the American League Central. Jim Thome is famous for bringing the Phillies back to the postseason. He spent most of last season on the disabled list and watched rookie Ryan Howard winning the National League's Rookie of the Year award and, almost certainly, stole the first base job. Jim Thome will turn 35 next year, so it seems to be difficult to think that many teams will take a chance on an aging slugger with a bad back and a hefty paycheck. First baseman Lyle Overbay doesn't have the power that those other guys have, with only 19 homers and 72 RBIs in 158 games last season. He has to go, for everybody's sake.

Milton Bradley always has had issues in the past with just about everyone else he's ever met even with the dog across the street. Apart these issues the Dodgers won't offer him a contract and he'll become a free agent in December. He is still young and has plenty of talent and he can play any outfield position. Marlins Juan Pierre’s .326 on-base percentage in 2005 was among the worst of any leadoff man, though he still ranked in the top 10 in runs scored. But still the Marlins need him; to keep him in the roster the Marlins will dump some of their payroll, and Pierre will make some $5 million through salary arbitration. Alfonso Soriano will not be easy to deal. He has averaged nearly 32 homers and more than 92 RBIs a season. The Twins would love to have him. Troy Glaus is a formidable player of the Diamondbacks. His threatening play is the fancy of so many teams that would love to see him on their line-up including the Twins, Red Sox and Dodgers. He will definitely be traded because the problem because of $34 million that Glaus is owed over the next three seasons. Adam Dunn is a part of surplus outfielders in Cincinnati, and he's about to become really expensive. He’ll probably earn somewhere around $9 million in negotiation in '06.

FIXING THE PLAYOFF FORMAT

An interesting scenario is fermenting in both the conferences. Both the conferences are loaded with effervescent teams this season and having watched both San Antonio and Dallas roll to victories tonight, it is indeed a good time to discuss. The two divisions that seem to be particularly loaded this season are the Central Division in the East, with Detroit, Indiana, Cleveland and Milwaukee, and the Southwest Division in the West, with San Antonio, Dallas, Houston and Memphis. These divisions very well house the two best teams in each conference. San Antonio and Dallas sport the conference's two best records while Detroit and Cleveland likewise sit atop the East. This juxtaposition of teams would make for great conference finals.

But here you all the fans, you need to go into the fancy, since the NBA has already assured that it won't happen. They have set a playoff system according to which the three division winners will get the top three seeds in each conference. This unintended playoff system will virtually make it impossible for division rivals to meet in the conference finals.

EAGLES RELUCTANCE TO TAKE TERREL OWENS BACK

It has become apparent that the Philadelphia Eagles don't want Terrell Owens back, but some of his teammates and loyal fans do. But the Eagles management is absolutely resolute that Owens will not return to the team, despite of Friday's negotiation or any settlement that might be reached. If Owens' four-game deferral is reduced, Owens fears the Eagles will demand $1.75 million in signing bonus money, for which the team holds every right to take back. Owens was suspended by head coach Andy Reid two weeks ago for a sequence of incidents that included an open condemnation of the organization and quarterback Donovan McNabb. It is also feared that following his suspension of four games Owens would be deactivated for the rest of the season. Since Owens suspension has come into existence the team has lost to the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys. But this stance has not softened the management. One possibility of saving the plummeting team is that if Owens could make amends with Reid, the things will definitely sort out. But it would require the grouchy Pro Bowler to come back with an understanding that he respects the coach's authority.

Otherwise the Eagles management should follow the recommendation of the NFL Players Association to release Owens if they won’t reinstate him after his four-game suspension is over.

PLAYING A CLASSIC NHL IS POSSIBLE WITHOUT “DIVERS”

To this day, Colin Campbell, a longtime veteran has maintained that as an undersized pro defenseman, he never took a dive. One reason probably could be that he wasn't good enough to dive. Complacency, down-to-earth attitude, kind of self-deprecation, of course, is part of what makes Campbell as nice and respected in his job. He was not always popular, but it should come as no surprise that Campbell believes diving, or acting as if to be fouled in order to draw a penalty on the other team, is something that can't be ignored. Of lately this problem has been emerging gently all season and with every new season it comes out to be more aggressive. The teams struggle with new enforcement approaches to everyday occurrences like holding and hooking. This issue finally exploded this week when unpredictable Los Angeles Kings forward Sean Avery exploded the league and the new competition committee after being openly identified as a reiterate offender. With this incident Avery has managed to draw attention to himself for mostly negative reasons The NHL apparently warned Avery after he received a diving penalty Oct. 19 and was fined $1,000 for diving during a Nov. 3 game. Now he has become well-known for his proclivity to provoke rival players into penalties, particularly penalizing ones, and is one of the league's best known scrap talkers. This debris talker has clamored for total innocence by mentioning that how a guy sitting in an office in New York can determine if you dived or not by watching a tape without knowing whether a player is suffering from an injury or not. Currently, a player who is penalized for diving or suspected of doing so can be sent a warning letter by the NHL. A second offense is cause for a $1,000 fine and being named on a list, and the third offense is a $2,000 fine. The fourth offense results in a one-game rustication.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

PUJOLS BECAME THE RECIPIENT OF NL MVP


Albert Pujols has finally reached the pinnacle of his career after winning the National League's Most Valuable Player Award. Albert Pujols started his career with four startling seasons, which was at par or say better than those of many Hall of Famers. Pujols with his phenomenal rookie season helped the Cardinals earn a Wild Card berth in the playoffs. For the season, Pujols batted .329 with 37 home runs and 130 runs batted in and was unanimously named the National League Rookie of the Year. With numerous other credentials and a slew of close-but-not-quite MVP candidacies, finally he has been acknowledged as the man in the Senior Circuit. Pujols won his first National League MVP award edging Braves Andruw Jones in a close vote that didn't include Bonds, who missed most of the season because of a knee injury. Pujols this season was an offensive threat earning a commendable ranking among the NL leaders in virtually every hitting category. He batting was complemented with solid and improving defense and success on the base paths and at times came up with big hits. He emerged out as one of the constant threat in Cardinals lineup, which was ravaged by injuries this season. He was the best player on the best team in the league. Pujols now has one individual award that dodged him for his first four big league seasons. In each of his first four seasons he finished fourth or better. Jones led the major leagues in home runs, batted .263 and also won his eighth straight Gold Glove. He played in 161 of 162 regular-season games even though being nagged nearly the entire season by plantar fasciitis.

Pujols All-Time MLB Career Ranks

AVG

OBP

SLG

OPS

OPS+

.332

.416

.621

1.037

169

30th

23rd

4th

7th

9th

MLB TO FOLLOW A TOUGHER STEROID POLICY

Baseball's existing steroid penalties are a 10-day deferral for a first offense, 30 days for a second offense and 60 days for a third. The most basic could be a ban for lifetime from the baseball world is a fifth offense. Drive by the threat of legislation, baseball players and owners have agreed to toughen the penalties for steroid w.e.f. next season. The new penalty would cost 50 games for a first offense, 100 games for a second and a lifetime ban for a third, plus testing for amphetamines. It means a player who fails a steroid test will miss nearly a third of the season instead of a little more than a week. Baseball’s test for amphetamines will take place for the first time. It is a giant step forward and a remarkable step as a pro tem. When there are several bills that are pending across major U.S. pro sports, an impetus in baseball steroid penalty would definitely encourage the other league to follow baseball's lead. The agreement reached by owners and players Tuesday has come as a surprise to the players because of the severity of the penalty for a first-time offense. Some players considered the penalty for first-time offenders to be harsh. It is understood that young players want to do everything possible to gain an edge, but the latest attempts to curtail steroid use will change that.

THE PISTONS ENDEAVOR TO BE THE BEST

The Pistons has flourished, emerging as the league's only unbeaten through the first two weeks. With Flip Saunders replacing Larry Brown, one can only imagine what would have occurred if the Pistons began the season hovering around .500. With the newfound offensive liberation, the Pistons improved to 7-0 by defeating the Boston Celtics 115-100. It seems that this offensive liberation has made the Detroit Pistons a real threat. On Tuesday night they looked even scarier when they decided to flip the switch Tuesday night. Detroit fans can now expect excellence and can count on the chemistry between the players that helped the players to supersede the coaching change. Chauncey Billups and Rip Hamilton have never been more prolific than in Saunders' new warm up offense. Rasheed Wallace was satisfactory; Ben Wallace and Tayshaun Prince looked even more comfortable in their roles than they did under Brown. The Pistons played the poorest first half he could remember since arriving in Detroit nearly two years ago. Detroit will attempt to match the best start in team history, 9-0, during a two-game road trip to Houston and Dallas over the weekend.

WEEK 11: THE POWER RANKING OF PROUD PURPLE

A cloud of bizarre has enveloped the Minnesota these days. The type of developing feel-good story has taken place in the squad who were devastatingly pathetic, so fractured that one could hear the pain in every depressed word head coach Mike Tice uttered during his postgame press conference. The team had all the possible problems: an awful defense, lame-duck coach, the love boat humiliation and a losing record. Without Culpepper, the only positives that were in anticipation of Minnesota were a top-10 draft pick and the search for a new coach. But the scenario is totally different now. The Vikings' 24-21 win over the New York Giants last Sunday has given the team a different platform. Led by a journeyman quarterback in Brad Johnson, and with most of the sports world having written them off, the Vikings have suddenly started playing good football. They are emerging out as a better team with Culpepper on the sidelines. Though Culpepper is a fans favorite, but it is a hard truth that without him the team is performing better. Of lately he became the Vikings' biggest problems. He'd lost his confidence and couldn't hit receivers consistently. It looked as if he had become disoriented from his aim. Now that Culpepper is gone, the Vikings are elevating their games instead of waiting for him to carry them. Their season was slipping away because of poor decisions and poor play on the field, but now they have reignited their running game. Though now there is not any time left for the team to turn their new attitude into a postseason berth, but still it's still a good thing that they have atleast become positive.

FIRST SIGNIFICANT TRADE OF THE SEASON

Star forward Sergei Fedorov was traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets by the Anaheim Mighty Ducks marking the first significant trade of the season. The Columbus Blue Jackets acquired six-time All-Star center Sergei Fedorov and a fifth-round pick in 2006 on Tuesday for forward Tyler Wright and rookie defenseman Francois Beauchemin. Arguably, Fedorov’s greatest season was in the 1993-94 NHL season when he won that year's Hart Memorial Trophy, Frank J. Selke Trophy and Lester B. Pearson Award and finished second in scoring behind Los Angeles' Wayne Gretzky with fifty-six goals and 120 points. It was with the Ducks that Fedorov picked up his 1,000th point, becoming the first Russian-born and fifth European-born player to do so. Fedorov is currently making $6.08 million US this season. Fedorov, who returned to the Ducks' lineup over the weekend after missing 13 games with a groin injury, should give Columbus an offensive impetus. Currently the Blue Jackets are ranked next to last in the Western Conference. Fedorov has 431 goals and 589 assists in 15 seasons in the NHL. The speedy Russian had a career-high 56 goals for the Red Wings in 1993-94.

Monday, November 14, 2005

STEELERS HINES WARD SETS RECORD

Hines Ward has emerged as the Steelers all-time leading pass receiver. Ward's 15-yard catch late in the second quarter was the 538th of his career, moving him past John Stallworth for tops in franchise history. Ward kept the ball and tossed it to the sidelines which encouraged the crowd to give him an exciting prolonged applause. At Forest Park High School in Forest Park, Georgia, Ward showcased his athletic skills as a quarterback and was a two-time Clayton County Offensive Player of the Year. Ward's versatility has served him well as a professional wide receiver. Since being drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the third round of the 1998 NFL Draft, he has earned two team MVP selections. He is also a 4 time consecutive NFL Pro Bowl selection.

A MISSING CREDIT FOR THE VICTORY

In 2005, unquestionably Mariano Rivera was the best pitcher in the American League, but he didn’t become the recipient of the Cy Young Award because at the first he’s a relief pitcher, and Bartolo Colon who was one of many choices where undeserving players were selected had 21 victories. It was another classic season when great players went unrewarded when lesser players had their "career" seasons. Another similar injustice is about to take place in the American League most valuable player vote. David Ortiz was the most feared and best clutch hitter in the league, but Alex Rodriguez will probably win the award because Big Papi is a designated hitter, and a DH has never won the MVP. An all-time team of undeserving major award winners includes the names of left-handed Pitcher: Fernando Valenzuela, 1981; Relief Pitcher: Eric Gagne, 2003; Relief Pitcher: Rollie Fingers, 1981; Catcher: Johnny Bench, 1972; First-Base: Harmon Killebrew, 1969; Second-Base: Johnny Evers, 1914 Chalmers Award Winner; Third-base: Ken Boyer, 1964; Shortstop: Marty Marion, 1944; Outfield: Roger Maris, 1961; Outfield: Hank Sauer, 1952; and Outfield: Jackie Jensen, 1958.

But one could not deny the rules as written for professional baseball, this being the reason Rivera couldn’t be the Cy Young winner because someone else with an ERA nearly two runs higher had won 21 games, and baseball tradition says that if a starter wins 20-plus, a reliever can’t win. And if a player is a DH, he can’t win the MVP.

KNICKS FIRST WIN OVER THE SLUMPING KINGS

The Knicks' worst start in 18 years spinned for the better Sunday. The Knicks raced to a big lead and held off struggling Sacramento 105-95 the first victory of the Larry Brown era. Though Larry Brown had already anticipated that his first win with the New York Knicks would come eventually, but it was a surprise that the victory came in what used to be one of the NBA's most daunting road arenas. Brown won for the first time in six games as New York's coach, with rookie Channing Frye scoring 19 points in a 105-95 win over the struggling Sacramento Kings on Sunday night. The Kings has enormous problems of their own. The Knicks in each of their last three games, build a double-digit advantage, only to dissipate it with poor execution down the stretch. Brown's teams indeed started very slowly -- a combined two wins and 18 losses. On three other occasions, Brown took teams that had been below .500 the previous year and started spectacularly. On two other occasions, Brown had a middling start with his new team One of these teams finished 21-61. The other won the NBA championship leading to a conclusion that under Brown you will get a winning team and if you start slowly, you will improve. The Knicks fans have a reason to feel happy since Brown has a very strong track record of taking teams. Brown hasn't put great trust in young players, but his youthful Knicks might win him over eventually particularly if they keep playing this way.

SEAHAWKS AS SUPER BOWL CONTENDERS

"The Devil's Dictionary," describes patience as "despair, disguised as a virtue." Until this season the definition held a frenzied standpoint. This season there may not have been a truer definition for the Mike Holmgren era in Seattle. It’s been years watching the Seattle Seahawks had been an exercise in patience that apparently delivered only despair and disgust. But now Seattle's rise is no longer a matter of anticipation. Their Sunday's 31-16 win over the St. Louis Rams, the 7-2 Seahawks have taken their place as the NFC's influential team. And unlike their last year's early-season mirage, this season the Seahawks form a more substantial and promising group than flash. The critics and analysts have certainly pointed to their last season's 3-0 start and their early whispers of Super Bowl potential, but their Sunday's decisive win over the Rams is just the latest answer to their last year's failure. The achievement has boosted the consciousness of players that have plenty to prove to themselves. The Seahawks developed a reputation of being a sluggish team over the last few seasons, won the NFC West last season even though they fell apart down the stretch. The displeasure was further exaggerated when in the offseason Holmgren thought about retirement and critics subjected the team’s underachieving roster.

The Seahawks 2005 edition in its first few weeks looked same. The defense was injury-plagued and devoid of leadership and offense was a mega-distraction, but with the signings of Chartric Darby, Bryce Fisher, Kelly Herndon and Jamie Sharper, Lofa Tatupu and free-agent veteran Joe Jurevicius, the team adorned a diverse and productive look. Sunday's development of the Seahawks came as an exclamation on the Seahawks' struggle for authenticity.

DETROIT RED WINGS AT VANCOUVER CANUCKS


The Canucks' Todd Bertuzzi celebrates one of three goals he scored against the Red Wings. Todd Bertuzzi (44) takes the puck around Detroit Red Wings goalie Manny Legace to score his second goal in the first period in Vancouver Sunday. He showed glimpses of what he's capable of doing on the ice after scoring three goals against one of the league's best goalies and handing the Detroit Red Wings their first road loss of the NHL season. After only scoring twice in the first 15 games, Bertuzzi is showing signs of returning to his old form when he netted 46 goals two seasons ago. With this achievement Bertuzzi notched his fourth career hat trick. With five goals in three games, Bertuzzi matched his total from the previous 33 -- dating to the 2003-04 season when he scored just 17. He completed his first three-goal game since March 17, 2003, after coming in alone again on goalie Manny Legace with five minutes left in the second. Bertuzzi finished both breakaways in style, beating Legace with a quick backhand-to-forehand deke on the first and roofing a backhand shot on the second. The sellout crowd of 18,630 littered the ice with hats when Bertuzzi scored off a backhand on a breakaway.