Friday, December 23, 2005

A CRAZY SCENARIO

Ron Artest has grown to a massive number following the preliminary inquiry of the director of psychology at St. Elizabeths and has been declared socially misfit. The only question that pops up in his case is not: Is he ready to play tonight? Instead, it is: Has he taken his medication today? He is the crazy and a public disturbance with a record company to promote a past that cannot be escaped. He was the leading principal in the NBA's first steel-match event in Auburn Hills, Mich., last season and was the one with the steam coming out of his ears and the eyes rolled up into the back of his head. Most of you might not know that wherever Artest ends up, the team is obligated to take a straitjacket on hand and a slew of medical practitioners armed with long hypodermic needles. Artest is sometimes such a nuisance that his teammates in Indianapolis have literally disowned him. Artest has stuck with the Wizards like a scabby, snarling mutt. He is so obnoxious that to his notion, the Wizards have been unanimous in their disapproval. Artest has that ogre-like quality and character to him that most of the times he is almost mythical, as he takes to living on the corner of fact and fiction. There is no NBA city where Artest can hide from his past. Sympathy goes to the team president, coaching staff and players who end up on the wild side with Artest.

JAPANESE INVASION OF AMERICA


Before Hideo Nomo, no Japanese player had ever been a star in America. Indeed, the path usually went the other way, as second-tier major leaguers such as Warren Cromartie, Randy Bass and Tuffy Rhodes went to Japan and became offensive forces for their teams. It's a different world now, one that can lead to a greater international awareness of baseball. MLB partisans are now aware of the skills of Japanese players and MLB partisans should keep their eyes on other Japanese players. The Yomiuri Giants pitcher, Koji Uehara, struck out Barry Bonds three times in a MLB-NPB all-star match. But not every Japanese player has the talent to play in the Major Leagues, and it's often hard to predict who will be successful. Koji Uehara prior to entering the Japanese amateur draft and signing a contract with the Yomiuri Giants in 1998 talked with the Anaheim Angels but eventually decided to stay in Japan when the team refused to guarantee him a spot on their major league roster. He will now have to wait another year to achieve his dream of playing in MLB. He is eligible for free agency in Japan in 2007 and hopes to pitch in the majors in 2006 via the posting system. He hoped to be posted in 2005, but decided to sign a new deal with this club despite a 20-million-yen pay cut from this year. After re-signing the Yomiuri Giants for an estimated 340 million yen and a cut in the pay roll, still he has become the highest-paid pitcher in Japan. Also the 30 year old has committed to Yomiuri club representative Hidetoshi Kiyotake that he won't pursue a career in the major leagues via the posting system. Uehara was 9-12 with a 3.31 ERA in 27 games this year, the first time in his seven-year career his losses outnumbered his wins.

THE MOST BALANCED AND UNSELFISH STARTERS IN NBA HISTORY: PISTONS

Maybe the Pistons are America's team. The Pistons are the most balanced, unselfish championship contenders in NBA history. Saunders doesn't have to bench his starters for selfish play, because they are allergic to selfish play. He doesn't have to come up with some crazy scheme to get shots for his star, because every starter is a star. If you look at Pistons games, almost every game they play, there is some point in the game where each of the player carries and this is what makes the squad unique. In one 125-game stretch, dating back to last season, the Pistons' top four scorers (Rip Hamilton, Chauncey Billups, Tayshaun Prince and Rasheed Wallace) each led the team in scoring (or tied for the lead) at least 17 times, including at least once this season. It is common for each of the four to lead the team at some point in a 10-game stretch. By comparison, Dwyane Wade led the Heat in scoring in 17 of its first 21 games this season, and only three players (Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker) have led the Spurs in scoring in any game this season. With these Pistons, the center harasses point guards, the power forward shoots three-pointers, the point guard posts up and the small forward does everything. There are, obviously, many benefits to having one of the top five players in the league: frequent monster scoring nights, a buzz around the team, endorsement runoff, etc. the Pistons offensive strategy in basketball is mostly about one thing: getting a good shot. The thing that separates the Pistons from other teams is that they understand the guys they are playing and seldom they put any of their teammates in a poor position, either offensively or defensively.

FOR CHREBET IT’S THE CALL OFF HIS CAREER

The veteran Jets receiver stayed away for over a month so he could come to terms with the predicted that he would never be a part of that locker room again. The thought of going back into the locker room, seeing his teammates, his uniform, his old life was too much to bear for Wayne Chrebet. Once Chrebet made his way to the Jets facility for the first time since sustaining another concussion Nov. 6, he realized it could be an end of his career. Chrebet confirmed his 11-year career was over. Chrebet quivering lips and watering eyes has made it clear that it is the end of a love story between the little receiver that could and the fans that embraced the hometown hero. Accepting and fighting with the fact that this is the end of his career is heart-rending. He is not going to get back on the field and everybody's aware of that. Chrebet signed with the Jets as an undrafted free agent out of Hofstra, the same place the Jets practice. Though he was undersized at 5-10, he quickly became a clutch possession receiver. Chrebet had a series of head injuries that plagued him the past three seasons, and sustained at least six concussions in his NFL career. He finishes second on the Jets career receptions list with 580.

HAPPINESS OF A PRETTY PROUD GUY: BRENADAN SHANAHAN


What makes Brenadan Shanahan to flash a 3000 watt smile? These days he is smiling as wide as the compliments he is receiving about the on-ice product this season in the NHL. Undoubtedly, the Detroit Red Wings winger is endeavoring to record another solid season, with 20 goals and 17 assists in his first 35 games and his team is sitting atop the Western Conference with a 23-9-3 mark, five points clear of their closest pursuer, but nothing can compare the compliments he receives. Shanahan was actively involved in revamping the NHL game as it came out of the lockout, pushing it towards momentum and creativity and away from the slow, skeptical exercise it had become on all too many occasions. Shanahan gave the sport a makeover, providing it with a kind of sexiness that would appeal even to the most casual of fans. During the refurbishment, Shanahan was one of the most voiced proponents of opening the game up. Today’s NHL is a product that is close to his ideal that he envisioned during the darkest days of the NHL lockout that shut the game down for close to a year. For the most part, he even ignored the complaints and condemnations of the new-look NHL before it even got off the ground. A power forward throughout his career, Shanahan is among a vocal minority that believes the new anti-obstruction rules have removed part of the down-low battles that give this sport its character. This new character will supposedly let physical play creep back into the game as players and referees find a common ground.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

WHO CARES?

Tony Gwynn is inarguably one of the very best players in baseball history. In honor of Tony Gwynn's long service to the San Diego Padres and the community, the address of the Padres' ballpark, Petco Park, is 19 Tony Gwynn Way. He is an eight-time National League batting champion, leading the league in 1984, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1994, 1995, 1996, and 1997, which ties him with the Pittsburgh Pirates' Honus Wagner for the league record. He is also a 15-time All-Star. Gwynn retired in 2001 with a total of 3,141 hits and a lifetime batting average of .338. He played his entire career with the Padres. Recognized as the most successful hitter of the past quarter-century, an interesting fact that has off lately popped us is that his amazing career has been overshadowed by the very mediocre career of Cal Ripken, Jr. Ain’t it surprising and mystifying that the best hitter of the past 25 years has retired under the shadow of a mediocre Cal Ripken, Jr. It's hard to believe, but that's exactly what happened in the 2001 baseball campaign. That season’s All-Star game was practically a Cal Ripken Memorial Game, which added even more "legacy" to the single, most over hyped player ever to play the game of baseball, but that doesn’t make him eligible to compared with Gwynn. Gwynn never came close to hitting as low Cal's career average of .276 in any season. Ripken, on the other hand, hit higher than Gwynn's career average only one time and that was a .340 season in which he had only 332 at bats. For all those Cal lovers that talk about his great defense at shortstop, it should be noted that Gwynn has 5 gold gloves. Gwynn has continuously brought along young players and is always willing to help opposing hitters better themselves. Also, Gwynn refused to take a spot on the All-Star team because he "didn't want to take the spot of a deserving player" - a remarkable story in this day in age.

A SMOOTH TRANSITION

Nomar was part of the so-called "Holy Trinity" of shortstops that debuted in the mid '90s, which includes superstars Alex Rodriguez (now a Third baseman) and Derek Jeter, who were considered the best shortstops in baseball. But now Nomar Garciaparra is moving to first base with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He signed the Dodgers for a reported 1 year contract with a base salary of $6 million, which could earn him up to $8 million, in incentives. At age 32 and playing as a premier shortstop, he has several good years left no matter what position he plays for. In Boston, Garciaparra was one of baseball's best shortstops and a five-time All-Star who won two batting titles. In 2005, he received a World Series ring from the Boston Red Sox, even though he was playing for the Cubs. The Red Sox felt that any player who played at least one game in the 2004 season deserved a ring. A peculiar aspect of his playing is that he has a very distinctive and extraordinary side arm throwing motion while making defensive plays. This action is often coupled with an apparently off-balance running pace, which looks unproductive and even injury-prone, but produces a throw with surprising accuracy and high velocity. Before joining the Padres, Nomar also considered the New York Yankees, Cleveland Indians and Houston Astros. Garciaparra has a .320 lifetime batting average, fifth-highest among active major leaguers with 191 HRs and 740 RBI.

LINGERING MEMORIES OF ENGLISH NBA PLAYERS

The english basketball players who get to play in north America's National Basketball Association (NBA) are a atypical variety whose NBA memories can reasonably linger long. For instance John Amaechi, who grew up in Manchester, spent eight years in the NBA, enjoying 294 starts in two separate spells. He started his career with the Cleveland Cavaliers and ended in 2004 with the New York Knicks, including the Orlando Magic, Utah Jazz and Houston Rockets along the way. His most memorable moment was when he played for Orlando in Miami in 2000 he went on to make the first basket of the millennium, earning entry into the NBA's Hall of Fame in an annotation to the sport's history. At that time he played at a high enough level that he was no longer in the situation where he was just in the NBA. By this he wanted to emphasize that he became a part of that veteran core of the NBA.

In a separate case, England's all-time top scorer Steve Bucknall went to the University of North Carolina before a season in 1989-90 with the LA Lakers, Magic Johnson and all. He is now a guard with Leicester Riders in the British league. His lingering memory is that he played against and with Michael Jordan and other good basketball players whose competitiveness was at a level he had never really seen before. Andrea Congreaves, a key member of England's women's team for March's Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, played in the women's NBA for the Charlotte Sting and Orlando Magic. The 35-year-old Congreaves is now with Rhondda Rebels in Wales, and still remembers the day in 1997 when she got the call to say she had made it to the WNBA. Five years earlier only Congreaves was told her career was over after she ruptured her right knee. Bucknall's bad news came when the Lakers released him after one season.

TAKING DEFEAT POSITIVELY

Losing isn't everything, but accepting it gracefully is the only thing. For an awful lot of coaches, in football and in every other sport, dealing with defeat is a big part of the job. And most of the coaches earn the name when they lose. This gives a rise to a question that can losing be good for a team? If it's only occasional and takes places at the right time. The subject seems chiefly significant in our day, for two reasons. The Indianapolis Colts lost their first game of the season on Sunday, after starting 13-0 and stirring the ghosts of the 1972 Miami Dolphins. And in the other case the Eagles are getting a big dose of losing after five consecutive playoff years, four appearances in the league's final four, and one trip to the Super Bowl. So, can losing benefit these teams in the long run?

For the Colts, this little arrest will helps fix them, mentally and physically, for the playoffs. Especially if they have to face their archrival, the New England Patriots, sometime in January. For the Eagles, it is more or less a one-year sabbatical from winning that will help the entire team to refocus, bring some perspective, and imply some changes that were delayed while the team was winning.

Had the Colts finished the regular season at 16-0 and then lost in the playoffs, it would have been one of the hollowest achievements in the history of the NFL. Now Dungy can rest his starters, get everyone fresh and ready at the risk of a 14-2 or 13-3 record, and try to win that Lombardi Trophy. In case of the Eagles cruising during the regular season, losing becomes sarcastic, so the Eagles must respond to this misfortune quickly and decisively. As painful as it is to look back to September and early October, the Eagles have to do it. And they have to see that, too often, their opponents took the field better prepared and with far more intensity than the Eagles did. This year will only serve the Eagles well in the future if they face what happened head on and if they take the appropriate action.

TORONTO’S 9-6 VICTORY


With the 9-6 victory, the eighth-place Leafs hold a three-point lead over the Islanders, who have played one less game than Toronto. The Leafs scored nine goals on 34 shots to hold off the Islanders 9-6 in a mistake-filled exciting game of hockey between the two teams that are battling for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Rick DiPietro and Garth Snow of the New York Islanders let their opponents off the hook with some of the worst goaltending witnessed in the National Hockey League this season giving the Leafs a huge relief who were bounced 8-2 by the Ottawa Senators on Saturday when the Sens scored six power-play goals, but for goalie Ed Belfour. Belfour's is now second to only Patrick Roy, who finished his Hall of Fame career with 551 wins. Belfour was hardly at his best in making 27 saves. Three of the Islanders goals came on the power play, two with a 5-on-3 advantage. The Leafs in the eventual 20 minutes scored six unanswered goals to take an 8-4 lead. After giving the Senators 11 power-play chances on Saturday, the Leafs pledged to stay out of the penalty box. They improved because they gave the Islanders only 10 man-advantage opportunities. Leafs rookie Kyle Wellwood enjoyed his first three-point game with a goal and two assists. Eric Godard of Vernon, B.C., and Rob Collins of Kitchener, Ont., scored their first career NHL goals, while Alexei Yashin, Mark Parrish, Mike York and Arron Asham also scored for the Islanders.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

VARITY OR VISION: NBA SIMULATION

Recommendation: If you want to know what it's like to go from a promising rookie to being the next Allen Iverson or LeBron James, this game is for you. This playstation act should provide enough rich content to keep you entertained for quite a while.

The synopsis of the game is that NBA smudges the lines between reality and fantasy by totally throwing you into you into the life of an NBA superstar. Pretty much every aspect of an NBA player's career is put in a nutshell in The Life, a story mode that takes you away in the court and into the locker room and personal life of your player. By far, the Life's story mode is the best feature in the game. It adds so much depth to the overall experience - pre-draft workouts, press conferences, on-court and off-court drama, and the chance to become a superstar of Jordan-sequel proportions. How wonderful it would be you digitally place your own face on your superstar. It's a quantum leap past other NBA simulators that focus only on the season schedules, stats and rosters. :- ) Playing the basketball games during the life can take a back seat to all the off-court action because there's nothing in the game that you haven't seen in other NBA simulations. Gameplay during a basketball game is pretty standard, although players do talk trash and it is entertaining.

CLEMENS PROJECTION

Drafted 19th overall by the Boston Red Sox, making his major league debut on May 15, 1984, Clemens reached the twilight of his career in early 1990s. After Red Sox general manager Dan Duquette disgracefully made him infamous by exaggerating the remark of "twilight of his career" and did not re-sign him following the '96 season, Clemens signed with the Toronto Blue Jays. In his two seasons there, he won the Cy Young both years. Clemens was traded to the New York Yankees before the 1999 season. In 1999 and 2000, he won World Series titles with the Yankees. In 2001, he became the first pitcher in history to start a year 20–1. He finished the season at 20-3. On June 13, 2003, pitching against the St. Louis Cardinals in Yankee Stadium, Clemens posted his 300th career win and 4,000th career strikeout, and became the only player in history to record both milestones in the same game. He signed a one-year deal with his hometown Houston Astros on January 12, 2004. He finished the season with 4,317 strikeouts and an 18-4 record, giving him a career record of 328-164. After the season, he won his seventh Cy Young Award and went on to become the oldest player ever to win this award, at the age of 42. On January 21 2005, Clemens and the Astros agreed on a one-year, $18 million contract, which made Clemens the highest yearly salary-earning pitcher in MLB history. On October 22 2005, in his last performance of the 2005 season, he lasted only two innings in Game 1 of the 2005 World Series. The Astros declined arbitration to Clemens on December 7 2005 that means the seven-time Cy Young Award winner can't re-sign the National League champions before May 1, 2006. With 341 victories, Clemens is ninth on the career list with the most wins among living pitchers. Should Roger Clemens return to baseball next season, he already has mentioned his preferable teams; Houston, Texas, New York and Boston.

OUT OF SIGHT, OUT OF MIND

Utah sightings of Carlos Boozer have been occasional since he decided to rehab his hamstring in Los Angeles. Had he been playing for Portland coach Nate McMillan, he would not have been mending his injured hamstring in Los Angeles. When a player like Boozer suffers an injury that requires long-term treatment, it becomes all the more very important to stay with the team and remain a part of the team. If you're out for any period of time, a lot of transformations take place, and that is the time when a player feels that he should have been a part of the team in his convalescing times also. When a guy's gone, it's most of the times taken as he's on vacation. Boozer, Utah's $68 million power forward, has not played this season because of a strained hamstring. His plight has become even worst since Jazz fans are unable to digest that he has been rehabbing in Los Angeles - away from team doctors, trainers and physical therapists. He has made only occasional check-in trips to Utah. As the Jazz are in the midst of a road swing that includes five games over eight days, there is still no timetable for Boozer's return. Two years ago, Seattle All-Star Ray Allen missed 26 games because of an ankle injury. After undergoing surgery in Los Angeles, he returned to Seattle for his rehabilitation. It was neither Boozer like nor a heroic deed. Some guys who have played for different teams have relationships around the country. So going [out of town] is best for them. The conclusion is any time you lose a key guy in your rotation, it affects your team and on the flip side, an injury to one player provides opportunity for another.

SAINTS MAY FILE A CASE AGAINST NFL

A legal fight between the New Orleans Saints and the NFL over the franchise's location after this season could be intimidating. Even the NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue has showed his apathy. He along with the support of the NFL Players Association is prepared to order the Saints back to their Metairie training facility in January and schedule most if not all of their 2006 home games in Baton Rouge and a repaired Superdome. And the team apparently wants to remain in San Antonio, where the franchise relocated shortly after the Hurricane Katrina that damaged New Orleans on Aug. 29.

Moreover with the revelation of the fact that the controlling partner of the franchise was unregistered in Louisiana and registered in Texas on Oct. 31, the Saints legally want to stay in San Antonio only. The timing of the registration change could play a significant role because it came nearly two months after the team moved to San Antonio indefinitely. The irritated Benson has already said that he would never return to Baton Rouge. Registering his corporation in Texas rather than Louisiana could mean significant tax savings to Benson. Louisiana has a 4 percent tax on corporations, while Texas has none. It also could mean that a future lawsuit against the NFL would be heard in a Texas court rather than a Louisiana court. Benson wants to put down the roots of his team in San Antonio, which has been a second home to the New Orleans native for decades.

SHOOTOUTS GURANTEE A WINNER

The tie games are terrible things in hockey. Tie is a result just like winning and losing are results. There are good ties and bad ones. Sometimes in hockey the only fair result is a tie. The notion behind shootout is

Before going to the shootout, though, overtime would be modified to include one five-minute period of four-on-four overtime and, if still tied, a three-minute period of three-on-three. If, after eight minutes of overtime, the game is still tied, then it would go to a shootout. The winner of the game - in regulation time, overtime or the shootout - would receive two points for the victory. The loser, regardless of when the loss occurred, would receive no points.

Unlike my title ”SHOOTOUTS GURANTEE A WINNER” I strictly condemn the notion since it is a lousy way to decide a hockey game in a World Championship and a lousy way to decide a hockey game in an NHL regular season. If ties are eliminated, we don't need points at all. Elimination of ties has to be the dumbest rule change idea that is being considered. Wouldn’t it make more sense to have a shootout winner recieve two points while the loser still gets one? Shootouts can be more exciting each goalie is permitted to take a breakaway on the other goalie. Hockey can’t be so unsophisticated to think that they ought not to make changes to make it a more offensive game.