Friday, November 25, 2005

IS PLUMMER AN MVP CANDIDATE?

In six years with the Arizona Cardinals, Plummer threw 90 touchdown passes to 114 interceptions. In his three years with the Broncos, he has enhanced his performance by throwing only 30 interceptions to 55 touchdown passes. Commonly known as Jake The Snake, Jake Plummer doesn’t have to make a living doing what he did to earn that catchy nickname. He has adapted himself and is now comfortably cuddling in his role as one of many good ingredients on a good team. He has been efficient and has also been making big plays. One apparent example of his big play was his 309-yard, four-touchdown performance in Denver’s win over the Eagles last week showed. Now how about this: Jake Plummer, MVP candidate?

Since he started playing for the Broncos in 2003, he has been the ‘X’ factor on a team that has long had a championship-caliber running game, but always needed a quarterback to balance it. He has come to one of the better NFL organizations. The Cardinals could never find enough players to help the quarterback fulfill the potential he showed at Arizona State. In his first two years in Denver, Plummer was at his worst, and even though he went 19-8 as a starter and set the franchise record with 4,089 yards in 2004, Broncos fans only focused on the downside. Plummer after taking his share of blame in two-plus seasons with Denver and suffering the repercussions has now finally fitted in his job. He like other players wants a championship.

WILL MARLINS GET LURED?

Antonio Munoz is the businessman who brought Montreal Expos games to Puerto Rico. Now he is in the process of luring the Florida Marlins. Antonio Munoz wants the Marlins to move to Puerto Rico permanently and if not permanently he wants that the team should at least consider playing some of their games there, the same way the Expos did from 2003-04. He is enticing the team and seems as if he is not going to leave any stone unturned to see the Marlins play in Puerto Rico.

The Marlins are frustrated because they have been unable to put together financing for a new ballpark in South Florida, and now when they have received permission from the commissioner's office to explore moving the franchise for the 2008 season. Munoz paid millions in 2003 and 2004 to get the Montreal Expos to play more than 40 games at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan. The franchise moved to Washington and was renamed the Nationals before last season. If Puerto Rico caters to all the needs of the team the Marlins won’t hesitate to relocate there. Several cities have already shown an interest in becoming the club's new home. The team due to their economic restrain has struck two provisional deals this week to trade three star players: first baseman Carlos Delgado, pitcher Josh Beckett and third baseman Mike Lowell.

IMPATIENT VETERANS OUT, BLAZER KIDS IN

After watching the Portland Trail Blazers fetching their first road win of the season with a record of 95-87 over the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday, one can easily understand where Ruben Patterson is coming from. Using bad language against your coach and that too during an in-game cluster is undoubtedly never a good move, and that move particularly becomes unpleasant when that coach is no-nonsense Nate McMillan, but veteran Ruben is not nuts crazy for wanting out of Portland or even for taking radical measures to make it happen. The Blazers veterans should be patient but here the case is completely opposite. Every discussion having to do with this team in the last few years has been about the citizenship only. Sorry for the distraction, now coming to the point the Blazers ranks 26th in points surrendered per 100 possessions (109), 27th in points scored per 100 (99.3), and 27th in turnovers per game (16.4). They play poor team defense, they make bad decisions, forcing balls into traffic, and throwing the ball into the alley-oops that aren't there. They regularly go through long, flat stretches of distractedness or disinterest. I am not demoralizing the the team neither I am averting your interest from the team. There are still flashes of hope. Sebastian Telfair can't shoot, but he sees the floor and he drives by people. He's is expected to get better as the season progresses. Joel Przybilla's is promising. He runs the floor, he's got hands, he can leap, and he's developing some subtle little moves around the bucket on both offense and defense. And Travis Outlaw can play a little if he gets a chance. And so can Sergei Monia.

It’s time for Ruben to sit and see the lean and young bunch of players perform.

SAINTS ANNOYANCE

The Saints are annoyed because of lately they haven't received any affection from NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue. Wide receiver Joe Horn has all of a sudden has become blunt for the team’s rights. The way he has ripped Tagliabue and the NFL for their inconsiderate way of handling the Saints' concerns in the repercussions of Hurricane Katrina, shows the commissioner’s favoritism towards other affected teams. The Saints are feeling bitter because Tagliabue hasn't met personally with the team, which has relocated to San Antonio. Horn has also criticized the league for not having any satisfactory arrangement to help the Saints in the wake of the hurricane.

Horn also is angry because the team is in indeterminate state, not knowing where it will play next season. The league is expected to announce in January the new home of Saints' and away schedule for 2006, three months earlier than the rest of the teams. At present, the team’s operations are fixed up in San Antonio's Alamodome. But for how long Alamodome will cater to them? The Saints will be thrown out next month because the Alamodome has some pending business commitment.

Is there anybody to let the Saints give an affirmation that they can go home and that they are not bait.

SIDNEY CROSBY: “THE NEXT ONE”


Penguins 18-year old rookie Sidney Crosby has drawn comparisons to Wayne Gretzky. As a 14-year-old in hockey-crazed Canada, the natives called him ''The Next One.'' And now undoubtedly his fans on a professional level are having great expectations from him. They are hoping that this star is dazzling enough to save the franchise. It is a matter of wonder how this teenager handles all the strain and prominence that has come with being considered the future of the NHL?

But all of you should know that this wunderkind kid is an extravaganza whose mental skills are above average. He has great determination. A preview at what he's done through his career, will help you out to know that he's not just satisfied by playing in the NHL, but he pushes himself to be the best player in the league. Crosby played his first professional NHL game on October 5, 2005, against the New Jersey Devils. He appeared onto the national scene with plenty of hype and boom. He leads all rookies in scoring and is 16th in the league in scoring. The 18-year-old has scored six goals in his past six games and has helped the Penguins rebound from going winless. His performance in the first half of the 2005-06 NHL season will warrant him for the 2006 Canada Olympic hockey team.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

THE REVIVAL OF BUCCANEERS CINDRELLA SEASON

The Buccaneers have a special look about them that can’t be ignored. Proverbially they form the “team you least want to play” making it hard for the rivals to know what to make of them leaving no clues for rivals what they're going to obtain from the Bucs. There plenty of senseless things about the league, for instance the fact that the 2-8 Green Bay Packers have outscored their opposition. Tampa Bay over and over again has been the team to make the necessary plays. Currently, the Bucs are playing a little bit better offensively, which has allowed them to come from behind and win some games that they weren't able to play last year. The Buccaneers this season started the year with a record of 4-0, with three wins coming against the NFC North, and that was the time when no team in that division was genuinely playing good ball. Undoubtedly there is still cynicism regarding whether Tampa Bay is for real or not. It is more or less like a fairytale. It is only in your dreams that you will ever see the Bucs winning two games in which they allow 62 points combined. It is not only the fault of the environment but also the players that makes the Bucs an undeniable comedy. A Cinderella story won’t sound complete without the mentioning of a Fairy Godmother. But here the Bucs don't have any; they have Brooks, whom they affectionately refer to as The Godfather. He is the undisputed key person of the Bucs.

THE RED SOX’S ACQUISITION OF BECKETT, LOWELL

The Boston Red Sox have shopped for a premier pitcher. They have put together a deal to acquire the Marlins champion Josh Beckett. The Red Sox and Marlins reached a preliminary agreement that would send Beckett and third baseman Mike Lowell to Boston for three players. It has been hyped that that the Marlins will get shortstop Hanley Ramirez and minor league pitchers Anibal Sanchez and Jesus Delgado in the deal. The Red Sox are not only in the search of formidable players but also they are searching for a new GM after Theo Epstein's departure at the end of last month. It is highly appreciating that the Sox’s management understands its responsibility and an absence of GM hasn't stopped them from doing business. Beckett was the MVP of Florida's 2003 World Series win over the New York Yankees and went 15-8 with a 3.38 ERA last season. A three-time All-Star, Lowell slumped to .236 with eight homers and 58 RBIs with the Marlins last season but won his first Gold Glove. He has averaged 24 homers and 94 RBIs in each of the previous five years. The Marlins this season came off with a third-place finish in the NL East, and are possibly looking to shed salary. They had an opening-day payroll of $60 million last season, while Boston began the year at $121 million. After winning the World Series in 2004, the Red Sox were swept by Chicago in the first round of the AL playoffs last month. Prior to the trade, Beckett was also chased by the Texas Rangers. The Rangers were even ready to trade All-Star third baseman Hank Blalock and a top pitching prospect. Let’s wait and watch if the charisma of Beckett and Lowell works wonders for the team or not.

THE CAVS ARE HOT, THEY ARE HAPPENING WITH LEBRON JAMES 36 ON THEIR LINE-UP

It’s the second consecutive season and the Cavaliers has started selling tickets, T-shirts and assorted merchandise with a slogan "One for All. All for One." This slogan has been designed to promote the goodwill of the team and particularly LeBron James. James scored 36 points for the second game in a row, and Larry Hughes have added 25 to make the Cavaliers NBA's hottest team with their eighth straight win, 115-93 over the Boston Celtics on Tuesday night. The Cavaliers are not just winning but dominating. Their improvement on the floor has been the biggest change. The Cavs last won eight straight games in 1997 when James was in middle school, long before he became an Akron high school legend and All-Star forward. In three years as a pro, he has never been better, and neither have the Cavaliers. And currently James has left an enormous impact on the Cavaliers, who are off to their best start since the 1976-77. In their past two games, James and Hughes, who signed with Cleveland as a free agent during the summer, have combined for 134 points.

LATEST VICTIMS OF THE INJURY BUG

All the season long the injury bug has plagued the NFL and with the beginning of Week 11, it has once again taken its toll by sidelining some of the league’s elite players. The players that have been put on disabled list are Miami Dolphins linebacker Zach Thomas, Carolina Panthers starting middle linebacker Dan Morgan, Chargers tight end Antonio Gates, St. Louis Rams quarterback Marc Bulger, and Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Lito Sheppard. Miami Dolphins linebacker Zach Thomas is a five-time Pro Bowl selection. In his 10th season, Thomas is the Dolphins' leading tackler. He has led Miami in tackles in eight of the past nine seasons. He sustained injuries while trying to hit Browns rookie quarterback Charlie Frye. Carolina Panthers starting middle linebacker Dan Morgan was forced to leave Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears after injuring his left ankle in the first quarter. Chargers tight end Antonio Gates was voted an All-Pro last year after setting an NFL record for tight ends with 13 touchdown catches. He was forced to leave Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Bills with a foot injury while tackling after catching a 21-yard pass from Drew Brees midway through the third quarter. St. Louis Rams quarterback Marc Bulger left Sunday's game against Arizona with a bruised right shoulder after getting sacked in the third quarter. Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Lito Sheppard sprained his left ankle in Sunday's game against the New York Giants. He made the Pro Bowl last season.

DISCUSSING ONE OF THE MOST HYPED MATCHUPS IN YEARS

On Tuesday night Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin revived the version of NHL where Gretzky and Lemieux stand. These wunderkinds are enjoying one of the greatest shows in professional sports. The pair has joined in an enthusiastic race for the Calder Memorial Trophy that is annually awarded to the NHL rookie of the year. Crosby has an added advantage since he has captured the award for the October NHL Rookie of the Month. On the hand the Capitals' Alexander Ovechkin has emerged onto the NHL scene with 15 goals in 20 games. Crosby leads in overall scoring, but Ovechkin has more goals. Crosby has 10 goals and 15 assists in 21 games, while Ovechkin has 15 goals and six assists in 20 games. But the play of both the players is more than statistics. Both of them are outstanding skaters and are daring, with very hard shots. Meetings of Ovechkin and Crosby have an unusual air, rivaled only by those of Gretzky and Lemieux.

Monday, November 21, 2005

MARLINS ALL SET TO UNLOAD THEIR HIGH-PRICED PLAYERS

The Marlins are trying to retool their team by trading their increasingly expensive players for younger and cheaper players. Following the A's plan from last off-season, the Marlins have already started discussing the trades for right-hander Josh Beckett, first baseman Carlos Delgado and center fielder Juan Pierre. The Marlins know that they need to reduce payroll. The Marlins are aware of the fact that Beckett is better than any pitcher on the free-agent market and that Delgado is better than any hitter, and thus, they could make multiple blockbusters in exchange, capitalizing on the Marlins assets.

The dealing of Beckett and third baseman Mike Lowell to the Rangers for third baseman Hank Blalock and top left-handed pitching prospect John Danks would save the Marlins about $14 million. Low-revenue teams like the Marlins usually have a choice when trading their expensive players. Last season the Marlins failed in their attempt to put together Lowell with right-hander A.J. Burnett and this season Lowell is the price for getting Beckett. Beckett potentially could be the best starter in Rangers history and Lowell, who recently won his first Gold Glove, could easily perk up at hitter-friendly Ameriquest Field under the guidance of Rangers hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo. But still the Marlins are not at loss. The finances earned by them would heavily favor them because now they would be able to get Danks, who could develop into an affordable champion. Of course, Danks might never reach the level of Beckett. The Marlins' next step would be to land another top pitching prospect for Delgado, but making a killer trade for Delgado might be difficult. Undoubtedly Delgado trade will increase Marlins chances of acquiring top prospects. But if all of the team’s trades come together, they could recover the way they did after collapsing in their 1997 world-championship club.

OZZIE GUILLEN: THE RIGHT CANDIDATE TO BE NAMED SI SPORTSMAN OF THE YEAR

Ozzie Guillen managed the White Sox to their first World Series title in 88 years. That was the time when Oswaldo "Ozzie" Guillen was mocked by White Sox GM Ken Williams in late 2003 when he offered his services for the manager’s job. Williams said that Cito Gaston was the clear front-runner for the job and that the former White Sox shortstop had to sell himself if he wanted the post. Guillen told Williams to go to hell. That was a bizarre but a start of a dodgy relation between the White Sox and Guillen that eventually emerged out as a success. His team went out and played the kind of hustling, fundamentally sound baseball that would look just as good in black and white. Like any other relation this relation also had its share of ups and downs. Guillen managed the team by gut and not like a spreadsheet. He emphasizes pitching, defense, baserunning and bunting due to which his White Sox capably threw four straight complete games during an 11-1 postseason run. When Chicago completed an unlikely Series sweep, Guillen quietly watched his players pile onto the field from the third-base coaching box, not wanting to disrespect Astros manager Phil Garner by jumping into the scrimmage. He is the first foreign-born manager to win a World Series who now represents the most international of American pro sports. Guillen took back the trophy to his native Venezuela where he was treated as a conquering hero, complete with parades, fireworks and a sitdown with the U.S. ambassador.

NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK: THE CLIPPERS

The Los Angeles Clippers are off to their best start in history after beating warriors. They are enjoying life in the NBA's high-rent quarter, where they are expected to stay for a while. The Clippers have improved to 8-2, which is their best start in their 36-year history. They have pulled back into a tie with defending champion San Antonio for the best record in the Western Conference. The Clippers defeated Golden State by 113-101 on Sunday to open up a 21/2-game lead on the Warriors in the Pacific Division. The two teams shared a good chemistry level. The 8-2 start is the best 10-game stretch for the Clippers at any point of a season since 1978-79, when they were represented San Diego. It also is the first time the Clippers have started 4-0 at home since 1991-92 which equaled their best home start in franchise history, set in 1983-84. The Clippers are the proven winners -- tested winners. The Clippers have got a nice bench and a nice starting combo when we they are all on the court -- Sam, Mobley, Corey, Elton, Chris. They have very good one-on-one players.

AN END TO A RIVALRY DROUGHT

New York has finally ended rivalry drought against NFC East rival Philly. The Giants are leading the NFC East by 20-17. It is an important milestone for a team that hadn't defeated its NFC East arch-rival in the last four meetings. The victory also helped the Giants (7-3) surpass their 2004 win total and remain tied atop the division with Dallas, which defeated Detroit. With third-string quarterback Mike McMahon playing a gutsy game in place of injured Donovan McNabb, the Eagles (4-6) trailed 20-17 in the fourth quarter after McMahon's 1-yard touchdown run.

RANGERS HAND BRUINS SIXTH STRAIGHT LOSS


Rangers Jaromir Jagr in his home weekend recorded a perfect game. He showed off his playmaking side by spending the first 20 games of the season reintroducing the NHL to his scoring touch. He broke a third-period tie with his 19th goal and established two others in the Rangers' 3-2 victory over Boston, which was the Bruins' sixth straight loss. Jagr always had more assists than goals. He moved into an 18th-place tie with John Bucyk on the NHL list with 556 goals. Truly a goal-scorer Jagr has rediscovered his game and drive in his first full season in New York. He is scoring goals, setting them up, and even acting as a forechecker. He is a terrific playmaker, who is most appreciated for the times when he had to be the first forechecker in, and had to be the first forward back. The Bruins (7-10-5) played hard but it wasn't enough to keep them from their first six-game losing streak. The Rangers have never headed and won for the seventh time in 10 games.