Friday, December 09, 2005

AN UNSTOPPABLE NFL RUNNING BACK

Heisman favorite Reggie Bush is all set in momentum as he is playing for another national title. His competency has raised many expectations that he will become an unstoppable NFL running back. Nicknamed The President, Bush is outstanding for his extraordinary speed and ambiguousness. His contention for the Heisman Trophy is directly proportionate to his acquisition in the top five picks in the 2006 NFL Draft. No NFL team he is going to play for is likely to be as powerful and successful as USC. New England won three of the past four Super Bowls but lost 16 games during that stretch. Bush is already at the summit and is cutting its way through the sport. Already, USC is almost a touchdown favorite to beat Texas in the Rose Bowl for title No. 3. The only surer thing this week is Bush for the Heisman. No player in recent years has been more blessed than Bush. There have been no injuries that he has countered.

Leinart's time is almost up and Bush might take that No. 1 spot, and the extra millions that go with it, that Leinart surrendered last year. History opines Leinart, as a quarterback, is going to have a much longer career than a running back whose average NFL stay lasts three years. But is Bush a true running back if his career evolves into that of a returner. Bush is known for his entertaining runs.

BOSTON AND YANKEES BUSY IN DEALS

MLB in its offseason and the executives are busy with a flurry of deals. Boston Red Sox has already given up on shortstop Edgar Renteria and the New York Yankees has got rid of second baseman Tony Womack. Boston HAS sent Renteria to the Atlanta Braves for Andy Marte. Orioles’ Miguel Tejada wants to come out of Orioles. The Orioles signed him to a $72 million, six-year contract before the 2004 season, but the things didn’t go in the direction that the Orioles expected. Miguel Tejada has done many things with this team and didn’t see any good results. Now coming to the point, the other teams are getting stronger while the Orioles have not made any signings to reinforce the club

Renteria won Gold Gloves in 2002 and 2003, then helped St. Louis win the NL pennant in 2004. He signed a $40 million, four-year deal with the Red Sox but led the major leagues with 30 errors last season. Boston agreed to pay $8 million of the $26 million he is owed in the next three seasons — plus the $3 million buyout if his 2009 option is declined. Now Renteria will join Atlanta in their expedition who sent third base prospect Andy Marte in the deal. Boston also is exploring trading 2004 World Series MVP Manny Ramirez. Womack had signed with the Yankees after hitting .307 as Renteria’s St. Louis teammate in 2004, but he lost his starting job a month into last season. New York also reached a preliminary agreement on a $2.4 million, two-year contract with lefty reliever Mike Myers. The Yankees are one of the targeted teams of the players. The Cincinnati Reds finalized their trade that sent popular first baseman Sean Casey and $1 million to the Pittsburgh Pirates for left-hander Dave Williams. Almost 121 free agents were declined arbitration and can’t return to their former clubs until May 1.

NBA INJURIES OR JUST A SCRATCH

A little physical abuse, a bruised hip or a jammed finger and sometimes a worsened situation makes the sport of basketball a tough game. The NBA, to be sure, has become a hazardous line of work with bigger and stronger and faster bodies flying around too quickly to effectively police the mayhem. And, if referees called fouls for everything the rulebook suggests as illegal, the game would become far less entertaining, sadly. But the sport has still it charm. This being the reason several talented athletes gave up football in order to stay healthy for the basketball season. The way this game has evolved it doesn’t seem that the underlying principle holds up any longer.

THE COLTS UNSTOPPBALE QUEST FOR PERFECTION

The Colts are dominating the AFC and as the NFL has entered the final four games of its regular season, there is no looking back for the Colts. It is all about their seemingly unstoppable quest for perfection. However there are some issues since the Seahawks, Chicago Bears, Carolina Panthers and New York Giants leads their respective division. The Seahawks have clinched the West, and the other three are almost in a tie to join Seattle in the postseason.

But still if you go in the depth of the issues of these teams, the Bears are 9-3 and have won eight games in a row. Their main concern is their offense and rookie quarterback Kyle Orton. The Bears in their past seven games scored only seven offensive touchdowns, and have failed to score two in a game since a Week 9 win over the New Orleans Saints. Winning with defense is will be a great achievement but the offense needs to do more than that. The Panthers are 9-3 and have won eight of their past nine. Again here the main area of concern is their offense particularly the lack of a running game. Their running game is averaging a league-worst 3.1 yards per carry. No matter how prolific your passing game or how troublesome your defense may be but Panthers you can’t win in the playoffs doing that. The Giants are 8-4 and have won five of their past seven games. Their main aspect of concern is Eli Manning and his slumped QB rating. To win their division, and be a factor in the playoffs, the Giants will need Manning and the defense to be far better than average at the same time. The Seahawks are a conference-best 10-2 and have won in eight games in a row. Their main concern is their offense and their poor performance of their offense against the Philadelphia Eagles.

The conclusion is that fans wait for the final four games of the regular season because they are going to be very interesting.

SENATORS ON THE TRACK OF RECORDING AN INCREDIBLE REGULAR SEASON

Hasek was arguably one of the most popular figures in the Czech Republic, especially after Nagano 1998 his reputation was comparable to the one of the then president Vaclav Havel. This season he has put heavy-duty individual numbers, and his team is off to one of the best starts in NHL history. He is minding his business very well. In 2004-05 Hašek expressed his desire to be on a club that could contend for the Stanley Cup, and specifically named the Ottawa Senators as a possible destination. The Senators later signed Hašek to a multiyear deal, but he stated that if an agreement had not been made on the 2005-06 NHL season by the summer of 2005, he would retire from professional hockey. A deal was reached on July 13, 2005, and later approved by the players and owners. Hašek returned to play for the Senators. Hasek is a 40-year-old future Hall of Famer who is sporting 1.99 goals-against average and a .931 save percentage so far. The only area his team has to show its consistency is the playoffs. There are still many players here who don't have too much experience and he is the only one to be in the Stanley Cup Finals. This year's version of the Senators seems to be a replica of the 2002 Red Wings, with whom he won a Stanley Cup. The Senators, who have won 21 of their first 25 games in this first season of a post-lockout era created the NHL's most pronounced level of equivalence in years. Despite having playing fewer games than all but four teams, the Senators have scored the most goals in the league. They've allowed the fewest and have outscored opponents by a 2-1 margin in each period of their games. Also Ottawa's No. 1 line is the best in the league, with center Jason Spezza tied for the NHL scoring lead and wingers Dany Heatley and Daniel Alfredsson deadlocked for second. The Senators own the top three player plus-minus slots and five of the top six, and they are on pace to break the single-season record of 132 points set by Montreal in 1976-77. Ottawa has averaged 102 points in each of the past six regular seasons but has flopped regularly in the playoffs.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

FIVE STEP PROGRAM, AND LAKERS CAN STILL MAKE THE PLAYOFFS

The Lakers noticeable lack of talent -- outside of Kobe Bryant and Lamar Odom -- is making it clearer by the day that reaching the postseason is a long shot. Still, the Lakers’ has managed to play most of the games above the .500 plateau and a game back of the eighth spot in the Western Conference. At this the Lakers can still rise again to their rightful position. They just need to be optimistic. The Lakers also depend on Smush-mouth basketball. The more performance oriented Smush Parker becomes, the more focused the Lakers become. As the season progresses and Parker becomes more comfortable in the triangle offense, the Lakers will only improve. So far, only one of the Lakers has been aggressive on the offensive end of the floor. Many times, the Lakers’ has given a standing ovation to Bryant every time he broke free from the triangle and relied on his unbelievable talent to keep the Lakers in games. However, the Lakers need to do more than just stay in games. Balanced scoring is what the Lakers need, but it won't happen until Bryant makes those around him better. If Kobe can show some confidence in his teammates, their aggressiveness will increase, and the scoring burden will be taken off No. 8. The Lakers also need to show some patience, but the only problem is that the one player most familiar with the offense -- Bryant -- has shown the least patience. The Lakers also need to realize that there's no need to start panicking. The Lakers also need to learn win some back-to-backs. The Lakers just haven't figured out how to play that second game. In three back-to-backs this year, L.A. is 3-0 on the first night and, 0-3 on the second night. The last of all in the five step program is the acquisition of Latrell Sprewell. The Lakers could use a proven scorer right about now.

FIVE STEP PROGRAM, AND LAKERS CAN STILL MAKE THE PLAYOFFS

The Lakers noticeable lack of talent -- outside of Kobe Bryant and Lamar Odom -- is making it clearer by the day that reaching the postseason is a long shot. Still, the Lakers’ has managed to play most of the games above the .50 plateau and a game back of the eighth spot in the Western Conference. At this the Lakers can still rise again to their rightful position. They just need to be optimistic. The Lakers also depend on Smush-mouth basketball. The more performance oriented Smush Parker becomes, the more focused the Lakers become. As the season progresses and Parker becomes more comfortable in the triangle offense, the Lakers will only improve. So far, only one of the Lakers has been aggressive on the offensive end of the floor. Many times, the Lakers’ has given a standing ovation to Bryant every time he broke free from the triangle and relied on his unbelievable talent to keep the Lakers in games. However, the Lakers need to do more than just stay in games. Balanced scoring is what the Lakers need, but it won't happen until Bryant makes those around him better. If Kobe can show some confidence in his teammates, their aggressiveness will increase, and the scoring burden will be taken off No. 8. The Lakers also need to show some patience, but the only problem is that the one player most familiar with the offense -- Bryant -- has shown the least patience. The Lakers also need to realize that there's no need to start panicking. The Lakers also need to learn win some back-to-backs. The Lakers just haven't figured out how to play that second game. In three back-to-backs this year, L.A. is 3-0 on the first night and, 0-3 on the second night. The last of all in the five step program is the acquisition of Latrell Sprewell. The Lakers could use a proven scorer right about now.

HAVE YOU HEARD OF WORLD BASEBALL CLASSIC

World Baseball Classic is an intercontinental baseball competition, featuring Major League players. For the first time in MLB history it’s going to take place in March 2006. The event is not going to be annual feature and will take place every four years. It is the first international baseball tournament to feature major-league players. MLB has named nearly 180 major league players, among them Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Vladimir Guerrero, Eric Gagne and Derek Jeter, have volunteered to play in the introductory World Baseball Classic in the 16-team international tournament to be held over 2 1/2 weeks. An awesome line-up will aso feature Albert Pujols at first, Alfonso Soriano at second, Miguel Tejada at short, Adrian Beltre at third, Manny Ramirez in left, David Ortiz at designated hitter. The starting pitcher would be Pedro Martinez, to be relieved by Bartolo Colon, or vice versa. The inaugural World Baseball Classic will take place at Petco Park. The semifinal and championship games will be played in downtown San Diego, following pool-play games as close as Anaheim and Phoenix and as far away as San Juan, P.R., and Tokyo.

It is a marvelous idea to keep major league talent on just two teams. Buck Martinez, who managed the Toronto Blue Jays in 2001 and for 53 games in 2002, will manage the U.S. team.

The Cuban National Team publicly announced that they will not allow the players who failed to make to the United States to play in Major League Baseball to play on their team. They have eliminated big names such as Orlando Hernández, José Contreras, Danys Baez, and Rafael Palmeiro, but MLB officials are self-assured that will get governmental clearance for Cuban involvement.

THREE YEAR COMMITMENT OF THE NBA PLAYERS

Jerry Colangelo and USA Basketball have planned that prospective NBA players would be signing three-year commitment memo to their international pursuits. This revamped format is destined to be a demanding assignment to fulfill since it will be difficult to censure those players who pass on the opportunity to wear the red, white and blue in international competition. Shaquille O'Neal’s tendency to break down has been well-documented the last six seasons. His massive body is hardly in any position to take the additional stress of an international event in the offseason. The extra workload is only one of the concerns before prospective players. The prospect of an injury, nagging or otherwise, is no small element either. It is also a fact that many of the players who make the early jump to the NBA already have been immersed in what amounts to a year-round basketball program, with the emergence of AAU exceeding the importance of the local high school team. Gilbert Arenas is the lifeline of the Wizards. God forbid, if he stumbles or goes down, there goes the franchise. The Wizards have millions invested in Arenas, and they will get the returns only when if Arenas and the Wizards play at a fan-appealing level. The U.S. ruled basketball as long as it did only because of global indifference. That changed with the Dream Team in 1992. The NBA might as well be called the World Basketball Association.

BRENDAN HARRIS UNDOUBTEDLY A MAJOR LEAGUE PLAYER

What if infielder Brendan Harris would become the Nationals' Comeback Player of the Year? Certainly it won’t be strange since Brendan Harris is a Major League player and has played for the major league level twice before. A highly rated prospect in the Chicago Cubs system, Harris made his MLB debut back in July 2004, and returned later that same year, but with some other team. And he doesn't play for either one of them anymore. Now he is the Nats asset.

Now coming to the point, what if infielder Brendan Harris would become the Nationals' Comeback Player of the Year? He is the same player who was nowhere to be seen on the team's radar screen in terms of playing in the Major Leagues in 2006. But the two incidents that took place in the off-season have made Harris a strong entrant to be Ryan Zimmerman's backup at third base next season. Harris, 25, played for the Peoria Saguaros of the Arizona Fall League and also helped Team USA win the 2005 CONCEBE Regional Olympic Qualifying Tournament. Harris, came to the Expos from the Cubs in the trade that sent Orlando Cabrera to the Red Sox and Nomar Garciaparra to the Cubs on July 31, 2004. In the AFL, Harris was the Saguaros' best hitter, and displayed all his skills to perform equally stupendously at shortstop, third and second base. But there was a time when the Nats fail to feel too good about Harris. This happened during the last Spring Training, when Harris developed some serious problems catching the ball, for which he was promptly demoted to Minor League camp. Though he was once again promoted to big leagues on but didn't stay long -- just eight days and to this day, Harris is bewildered by the relegation because Jose Vidro was still on disabled list and the Nationals needed a second baseman to replace him.

BRUINS PULLED THE BACK GEAR

The Bruins were anticipated to be a real dominant team this season, but everything happened in contrast. They struggled mightily after trading their captain Joe Thornton for three role players. This was a step backward in their bid for the postseason and a run at the Stanley Cup. It is intriguing how the Bruins decided to shape their roster immediately after the lockout ended, and went into the season. But as soon December approached, Boston performance slumped and they fell last in the Northeast Division. Had been the Bruins' woes were due to a single reason, they would have been easily tackled. The Bruins seem to be overestimated what they had on defense. They have some young defensemen with solid potential, but it will take time for these younger defenders to play like veteran players.

A perfect example of this was when the team's veteran Brian Leetch, suffered a strained medial collateral ligament in his right knee in early November was sidelined for almost a month. That was a setback for the Bruins because Leetch provided stability to the defense. And because the Bruins haven't been very good of defense, their goalies, Andrew Raycroft and Hannu Toivonen, are seeing a lot of surprises. Thornton in had so many wonderful individual achievements when he played for the Bruins but the Bruins never achieved what he was expected to help them achieve - a Stanley Cup. In Thornton's seven seasons in Boston, the Bruins made the playoffs five times, but only once made it past the first round.

So should the Bruins have pulled the trigger on trading him? The impact of the trade will not be very significant on Boston's chances of future success. And that too, when the Bruins are far from being a Stanley Cup contender. Besides the liability of a thin defense a lot of things have to turn around for the Bruins.

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Monday, December 05, 2005

THE HOT AND HAPPENING DEFENSE OF THE GIANTS

This season, it was the New York Giants offense that won the recognition, the sexy headlines, and the majority of New York's games. Their success reached summit when they had the league's highest-scoring offensive record to boast-off. Moreover, Eli Manning looked ready to carry New York's playoff hopes almost entirely on his talented shoulders. Now what’s concerning everybody is that NFL is not only about offenses, and now when December has approached when the team is going to improve its defense. These Giants are most likely going to the playoffs, but how far they go when they get there is going to be decided by their defensive might, not the scope of their offensive gnaws. Right now they are in first place in the NFC East. It's December, and with four games left, they seem to steer their own destiny. That's all one can ask for at this time of year. As a matter of fact, the Giants defense has been rather dominating for quite a long time. In the season's first six games, New York allowed an average of 411.7 yards per outing, but in its last six games, New York has given up just 227.5 yards per game, and held its opponents to six offensive touchdowns in that span. It will be foolish on Giants part to say that their defense is equal of Chicago's -- which is on a record pace this season when it comes to points allowed. This way the Giants are threatening themselves. Come January, the wide-open NFC won’t leave any space for comparisons.

THE NATIONALS LONG-AWAITED SALE

It is the time for Mayor Anthony Williams to feel glad as Major League Baseball is ready to contribute the cost involved in the planned stadium for the Nationals. The contribution is going to put baseball in a partnership with the District, instead of a one-way road that overtaxes the city. The city is close to a provisional stadium lease agreement with baseball that would clear the way for a new stadium for the Washington Nationals and the acceptable sale of the team. The agreement states that baseball would give $20 million to an emergency fund to meet the expected costs and guarantee rent payments.

However, MLB is yet to set a lease agreement for the sale of the Nationals. And at this end eight bidders are ready to pay $450 million for the team, which is currently owned by the other 29 major league teams. If the deal is peacefully takes place the $20 million will go toward the costs involved on the $535 million state-of-the-art ballpark. With a player payroll still to be determined by Major League Baseball, Nationals President Tony Tavares is going to join General Manager Jim Bowden at the meetings. This move is necessary to give the impression that the Nationals won't be mere spectators when the meetings commence. MLB still owns the team more than 14 months after it moved the franchise from Montreal.

The Nationals will try to improve on a club that went 81-81 and finished last in the National League East in 2005. This season, the Nationals have already lost two of its most important pitchers -- starter Esteban Loaiza and swingman Hector Carrasco -- to free agency in deals that totaled more than $27 million and by far the only additions have been bench players Marlon Anderson and Damian Jackson.

WHICH TEAM GOT THE BEST PLAYER IN THE TRADE?

Every Suns game is an answer to certain questions that have popped out including who will be the best player in the notorious Joe Johnson trade five years from now? Will Johnson develop his fine talents in the insignificance of Atlanta? Will it be one of the two first-round draft the Suns received from the Hawks? Or will it be Boris Diaw, the player the Hawks handed the Suns to shut down the deal?

Booing Johnson incessantly, the crowd of 16,992 at America West Arena helped boost the Suns to an easy 112-94 victory over Johnson's Atlanta Hawks on Sunday night. This scenario again puts up a question. Is Boris Diaw really another Magic? Diaw, the drive-and-dish specialist with a great basketball I.Q., continues to grow in confidence. Though he is seldom showing his set of skills but still at this moment of time he is the person for the right comparison. It was Diaw's clever play and pure efficiency of his stat line -- 5-for-6 FGs, 4-for-5 FTs, nine assists, four boards, four blocks -- that brought the Suns back to the original question: Which team got the best player in the trade?

For one thing, there is no one else like Magic Johnson. For another, Magic one has to have the ball in his hands all the time, to become the point guard for one of the greatest teams ever. And, on the contrary Diaw is passive and cool.

In Atlanta, Diaw had a big problem. He could get into the lane at will, but he wouldn't or couldn't finish at the basket. At this, the Hawks focused on what he couldn't do. Here in the Suns, the organization has seen what he could do. So, in a genius move the Suns took the point guard and made him a center. (This is where the Magic comparisons start). Diaw's needs to finish stronger. He needs to drive past almost anyone, with his long, smooth strides since he tends to pass or flip the ball up instead of dunking it when he approaches the rim.

REUBEN DROUGHNS, A PERFECT SYMBOL OF UNHERALDED PLAYER WHO KNOWS HOW TO KEEP HIS TEAM IN GAMES

Droughns has become the first Browns back to break 1,000-yard plateau since 1985. He has been a perfect symbol of the 2005 Cleveland Browns, pioneers who knows how to get his job done and simultaneously keep his team in games. With wins already over the Packers and Bears this season one can bet over the unabashed confidence. He

The Browns hadn't had a 1,000-yard back since both Kevin Mack and Earnest Byner did it. Since 1985, 257 backs in the NFL - at least one from every team except Cleveland - had superseded the barrier. Droughns, who came in with 941 yards, surpassed 1,000 on a six-yard carry late in the second quarter. The game was witnessed by Mack along with Hall of Famer Jim Brown, Mike Pruitt and Greg Pruitt, who all went over 1,000 yards for the Browns.

CAREER RUSHING STATS

Year Team G Rush Yds Avg Lg TD

2001 DET 9 30 72 2.4 15 0

2002 DEN 16 4 11 2.8 9 1

2003 DEN 15 6 14 2.3 12 0

2004 DEN 16 275 1240 4.5 51 6

2005 CLE 11 211 941 4.5 75 2

Totals: 67 526 2278 4.3 75 9

CAREER RECEIVING STATS

Year Team G Rec Yds Avg Lg TD

2001 DET 9 4 21 5.3 8 1

2002 DEN 16 5 53 10.6 22 1

2003 DEN 15 9 87 9.7 15 2

2004 DEN 16 32 241 7.5 23 2

2005 CLE 11 31 300 9.7 51 0

Totals: 67 81 702 8.7 51 6

CAREER RETURNS STATS

Year Team KOR Yds Avg Lg TD PR Yds Avg Lg FC TD

2002 DEN 20 516 25.8 53 0 0 0 0.0 0 0 0

2003 DEN 12 293 24.4 36 0 0 0 0.0 0 0 0

2004 DEN 14 344 24.6 48 0 0 0 0.0 0 0 0

2005 CLE 5 119 23.8 35 0 0 0 0.0 0 0 0

Totals: 51 1272 24.9 53 0 0 0 0.0 0 0 0

ANALYZING RED WINGS COACH MIKE BABCOCK

Mike Babcock Became the first Canadian coach to win gold medals for the world junior championship team (1997) and the IIHF world championship team (2004). Under him, the Mighty Ducks became the first NHL team since 1952 to sweep a defending champion in the playoffs in 2003. The 42-year-old Babcock from star player in England became a coaching sensation in North America. The only credit that has dodged him is the most prized piece, the Stanley Cup. There are lots of challenges for the coaches to meet and every team needs energy and because of the Olympic break, they have a mandatory schedule to follow every second day. For a coach, that's a challenge and that too after knowing the salary cap means he has to help develop stars, you can't just trade for talent. For Babcock it's all about doing what works best. He tries to create an environment of responsibility. And when he has been given the tab as being a defensive coach he has much more to give. Manny Legace has emerged as his No. 1 goalie, but Babcock is uncertain about his performance.

Babcock is already 42 and he is coaching players in his peer group like Steve Yzerman and Brendan Shanahan and Chris Chelios, who is actually older than you. According to him they are the on-ice heroes. Everybody in life needs leadership and quite simply the guys who play the best, play the most. After playing major junior and college hockey in Canada he played professionally in England for one season and accumulated 132 points in 36 games (Voila! Gretzky-like numbers)