Friday, December 30, 2005

LADISLAV NAGY IS FUN TO WATCH

Ladislav Nagy is probably one of the top five offensive guys in the league when he has the puck. He's fun to watch. On no second thoughts there’s no question about that. Even from the fans point of view, we pay to come and see him in action. And that is for sure we definitely get our money's worth watching him play. Nagy more than played up to the compliment against the first-place Los Angeles Kings as the left wing, apparently created a scoring chance every time he touched the puck and finished with a goal and three assists to help lead Phoenix to its fourth win in its last five games, 6-5 in overtime at Glendale Arena. Nagy now has at least an assist in five straight games and six in his past two. Nagy, who nearly had his second five-point game of the season but missed wide on a penalty shot early in the second period is a total package of fun. Ladislav Nagy also played with the St. Louis Blues from 1999 to 2001 and the Slovak national ice hockey team in the 2001, 2002 and 2003 Men's Ice Hockey World Championships. He won the gold medal with Slovakia in 2002 championship and the bronze medal in the 2003 championship.

GLOOMY BEGINNING OF THE NEW YEAR

Discontented shortstop Miguel Tejada distress with the Baltimore Orioles is obvious because team failed to get stronger in the offseason and didn’t fulfill his trade request. He is more upset because it's been a month and the Orioles haven't done anything. Tejada, who has entered the third year of a six-year, $72 million contract, requested a "change of scenery." The disgruntled All-Star is upset by the Orioles' failure to make trades that would strengthen the team. The Orioles and free agent outfielder Jeromy Burnitz agreed on a two-year contract. The former Chicago Cubs right fielder will earn between $10 million and $12 million. The 36-year-old Burnitz hit .258 with 24 homers and 87 RBIs with the Cubs last season. It seems the Orioles except Tejada are considerate about every aspect of the team. Baltimore also reached a preliminary agreement with free agent Jeff Conine on a one-year, $1.7 million contract. Conine, played in Baltimore from 1999-03. He just needs to pass a physical for the deal to be finalized.

It’s been long Tejada has been notibg that division rivals New York and Toronto have made productive made moves to improve. The Yankees acquired outfielder Johnny Damon and the Blue Jays signed closer B.J. Ryan, starting pitcher A.J. Burnett and third baseman Troy Glaus. Tejada is now so fed up with the Orioles that he has stated "If the Orioles don't do anything, I want them to trade me because I am tired of losing."

YAO MING, A TOP PROSOECT IN NBA ALL-STAR BALLOTING

Yao always had the potential to become the most dominant center in the league. His sheer size allows him to easily shoot over any defender. He has a variety of offensive post moves and his skill for his size is incomparable. However, many believe that his lack of forcefulness and speed hinders his ascension to the next level. Despite criticism of Yao's slow development over his 4 years in the NBA, he has nonetheless exceeded the expectations of many and has become one of the top centers in the world today. He is still leading the balloting after the second returns of the NBA All-Star balloting program. Yao, who elected a Western Conference All-Star starter by fans in each of his three seasons, has 1,319,868 votes in global fan balloting with Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, second with 1,213,387 votes. Yao is averaging a career-high 19.5 points and 9.1 rebounds a game for Houston, where the 55th NBA All-Star Game will be played on February 19. Even though has been sidelined since December 19 following surgery on his left big toe he is leading the All-Star balloting. Phoenix Suns' Steve Nash from Canada is second among Western Conference guards with 981,623. Houston Rockets Tracy McGrady is the top vote getter among Western Conference forwards with 1,066,013, followed by Kevin Garnett of the Minnesota Timberwolveswith 793,078. Miami Heat center Shaquille O'Neal is the leader among Eastern Conference players with 1,188,830 votes, owning a 37,910-vote leadon Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James. Jermaine O'Neal of the Indiana Pacers is second among East forwards with 689,526 votes. Philadelphia's Allen Iverson leads Eastern Conference guards with 1,144,250 votes and Miami's Dwyane Wade is second with 827,913. Enditem.

WHICH THE BLISTERING TEAM?

After coach Brian Billick’s Ravens seven of its first nine games this season Billick was asked whether he had any concerns about his job security. Billick suggested that the remaining two years and $9 million on his contract pretty much guaranteed his return in 2006, despite the consequences of how the rest of `05 played out. Billick turned out to be right. The team wouldn't be making a coaching change. By this time next week, there could be as many as eight teams looking for a new head coach. There haven't been more than seven head-coaching changes in one year since 1998, when eight jobs turned over. Last year, there were only three: Nick Saban replaced Dave Wannstedt in Miami, Romeo Crennel replaced Butch Davis in Cleveland, and Mike Nolan succeeded Dennis Erickson in San Francisco. Injuries and poor personnel decisions by Sherman when he also was the club's GM are mainly responsible for the 3-12 fix the Packers are in. Sherman is a competent coach, but new GM Ted Thompson probably will bring in his own hire to help with the rebuilding process. His status is on a bubble. It’s been only two years since Turner joined the Raiders, but owner Al Davis is known for his quick hook. Big Al thought the Raiders could make a Super Bowl run this season. Instead, they're 4-11. Somebody has to pay for that. Ya! You are right, it will be Turner. Bill Parcells has little else in his life other than coaching. It gives him a reason to get up in the morning and take back his job.

IN SEARCH OF AN NHL TEAM

Eight years after the Whalers left Hartford for North Carolina, a developer wants to bring another NHL team to the Connecticut capital. Lawrence Gottesdiener is head of Northland Investment Corp., and owns $500 million US worth of property in Hartford. He would like to put the team in a $250 million arena he hopes to build. He has got his own money, and is willing to invest in an arena and to buy a NHL team that would stand as an important entity and symbol of the city, the region and the state. ottesdiener's plan calls for a publicly subsidized, 16,000-seat venue that would be home to a major hockey team. The University of Connecticut men's and women's basketball teams also would play some games there. The new arena would replace the Hartford Civic Center under the proposal, which was announced Wednesday amid talk of the Civic Center's future.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

NAME AND NOTOREITY

On December 26, 2005, Reardon was taken into custody and charged by the Palm Beach Gardens, Florida Police Department for allegedly committing armed robbery at a Hamilton Jewelers store at the Gardens Mall. Reardon blamed the incident on the depression medication he had been taking since his son died of a drug overdose in February 2004. Jeff Reardon, one of the top relief pitchers of all time retired in 1994. The 50-year-old Reardon walked into Hamilton Jewelers at The Gardens Mall on Monday and handed an employee a note saying he had a gun and the store was being robbed, police said Tuesday.

Reardon, who had 40 or more saves in a season for the Montreal Expos, Minnesota Twins and Boston Red Sox, fled the store with an undisclosed amount of cash, but was later found at a nearby restaurant. The cops recovered $170 and charged him with armed robbery. Reardon easily surrendered himself when handcuffed. Reardon has been residing in the city for more than 20 years and never caused problems, neither got involved in such kind of embarrassing situations. Reardon had a 20-year-old son, Shane, who died of a drug overdose in 2004, and probably this is the reason for his misery. Reardon, who is married and has two other children, underwent a heart angioplasty last week and has been taking medication for that condition. An interesting part of the episode is that, Reardon, who made more than $11 million during his career, was not having financial problems and this wasn't characteristic of him. Reardon ranks sixth in career saves. The four-time All-Star was 73-77 with 367 saves and a 3.16 ERA in 16 seasons with the New York Mets, Expos, Twins, Red Sox, Atlanta Braves, Cincinnati Reds and New York Yankees.

MLB IN 2005

Baseball in 2005 took lot of shots as the sport majorly struggled with steroids. Where the Chicago White Sox were getting appreciation for their first World Series title since 1917, Rafael Palmeiro flawed the good-will of his team when he was tested positive for a steroid after nudging a finger in the air and forcefully telling Congress: "I have never used steroids." His statement was followed by Aug. 1 suspension. Mark McGwire followed the trail as set by Palmeiro and Sammy Sosa. On March 17 he refused to comment upon whether he had used steroids, which consequently shattered his reputation left his induction in the Hall of Fame shaky. Bonds, too, was part of the steroids story.

Precisely in 2005, MLB ended up with the toughest steroids program in American sports. Baseball went from no drug policy in 2002, to anonymous testing in 2003, to counseling for positive tests in 2004 to a dozen 10-day suspensions this year. The next season, MLB will become more rigid and an initial positive test will cost a 50-game suspension, and players will be tested for amphetamines for the first time -- with penalties for a second positive result.

On December 19, 2006 baseball's labor contract will expire, and with it the sport's luxury tax, designed to slow spending by the New York Yankees, who despite baseball's first $200 million payroll failed to advance past the first round of the playoffs. New York has run up tax bills of $3.15 million in 2003, $25.96 million last year and $34.05 million this season. The only other teams to exceed the payroll thresholds were Boston ($3.15 million in 2004 and $4.16 million this year) and the Angels ($927,059 last year). The fiscal and economic landscape is not at this point equivalent to what it was in 2001 and '02. And the MLB clubs have been commenting in virtually all of the negotiations about distressed economic conditions.

Baseball's $2.5 billion, six-year television contract with Fox, which broadcasts a Saturday game of the week, the All-Star game, the World Series and most of the playoffs, is about to expire and the sport's plans to start a baseball channel seem to have been put on hold.

PISTONS” THE VICTIM OF N.B.A.'s WORST

The Pistons improved to an N.B.A.-best 23-3, their best 26-game record in franchise history. They matched the sensational start Phoenix had last season, one victory away from the best 26-game mark in league history. Richard Hamilton scored 24, Chauncey Billups had 21 points and 13 assists, and the Detroit Pistons won their eighth consecutive game defeating the visiting Toronto Raptors, 113-106. Chris Bosh scored a career-high 37 points for the Raptors, who fell to a league-worst 6-22. Bosh was 16 of 26 from the field and had 11 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 blocks. Detroit, which never trailed, pulled away with a 21-6 run midway through the second quarter. The Pistons scored a season-high 63 points in the first half and had an 18-point lead at halftime. Six Pistons scored in double figures, including Tayshaun Prince with 18 and Rasheed Wallace with 16.

HUNTER HILLENMEYER BLAZING ON NFL’S BEST DEFENSE

Hunter Taverner Hillenmeyer was originally selected with the 31st pick of the fifth round of the 2003 NFL Draft by the Green Bay Packers out of Vanderbilt University. It is a derisory truth that Hunter Hillenmeyer once faced the dilemma of remaining with the Green Bay Packers or joining the Chicago Bears. The former Montgomery Bell Academy and Vanderbilt football star was standing in this mid of stream in 2003. After being waived by the Packers as a rookie during the preseason, he was given the option of returning as a member of the practice squad or signing with the Bears as a free agent. For two years, Hillenmeyer has been a starting linebacker and has helped the Bears become the NFL’s most feared defense. In fact, some consider it to be one of the best in league history. It seems Hillenmeyer’s good-will has followed him in the Bears team also. The Bears have clinched a first-round bye in the NFC playoffs. Green Bay, meanwhile, ranks among the league’s worst teams at 3-12. Hindsight is 20-20 and is a starter on the best defense in the NFL. Everything is going great. The Packers saw Hillenmeyer’s potential while he played at Vanderbilt and traded up 19 spots in the fifth round of the 2003 draft to select him. Hillenmeyer started 11 games a year ago and posted 80 tackles, fourth-best on the team. Even when Urlacher, Chicago’s defensive star, returned to full health this summer, Bears coaches made a spot for Hillenmeyer and inserted him at strong-side linebacker.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

A RIB-TICKLING BUZZ

As a hockey coach, Paul Maurice is as famous for his wit as for his proficiency. He is famous for cracking up a press conference. An NHL coach at age 28, one whom Leaf fans best remember as the bench boss behind the Carolina Hurricanes' rise to the 2002 Stanley Cup final, Maurice now calls the shots with the Toronto Marlies. At that time, for the older players, there was a certain respect to the title, head coach, and your job is to keep that respect. And when respect is the most important thing for a coach, a lot of guys played for coaches and did not respect one bit, but they had confidence in them at game time. He is the person who has encountered unique incidents. As a junior, he was struck in the eye with a puck, which obviously ended his playing career. In his own words,” One, I lost most of my eye, and I got injured at birth because I lost most of my talent. But that (puck in the eye) was indirectly the best thing that ever happened to me because I don't think I'd have ever played in the NHL.” Unbelievably, the thing that he would have inherited came to him incidentally, since his father lost the sight in his right eye while shovelling snow, and his brother Mike was born without sight in his right eye. And a society of one-eyed people doesn’t get any extraordinary attention. Maurice, now 38, says his wife and kids keep him grounded.

BIG LEAGUE CAREER WITH A WORLD SERIES RING

There ain’t any surprise that Brian Anderson may be patrolling center field for the White Sox in 2006. These days though he is in a perfect holiday mood, on the contrary he is perpetually full of holiday cheer, whether it's December or August, but his always upbeat but still laid-back attitude won’t work out everywhere. As he takes over for Aaron Rowand in center field for the White Sox during the 2006 campaign, the young outfielder would be just as comfortable throwing no-look passes to Kobe Bryant out in Los Angeles as he will be gathering in fly balls in the Windy City. Many of you won’t know that baseball isn't his favorite sport. His favorite sport is basketball. And while he knows he's living out a dream right now, it just wasn't the original dream he had as a youngster in Southern California. As he watched the Magic Johnson-led Lakers teams of the late Eighties and early Nineties dominate professional basketball, he wove some different fancies for himself. He always wanted to be a better shooter. It was only as a sophomore in high school he realized that his ability with the lumber would be his ticket rather than his ability to play on the hardwood. During his sophomore year he watched Ian and his whole life going gung ho about baseball. So Anderson discarded his basketball dream, only occasionally shooting around these days as he is preparing for his chance to be the starting center fielder for the defending World Champs on Opening Day. His opportunity came about when the Sox dealt Aaron Rowand to Philadelphia in the Jim Thome deal. Anderson hit .295 in 118 games at Triple-A Charlotte, smacking 16 homers and driving in 57. He got the call to come to Chicago in August when Scott Podsednik got hurt and proceeded to hit .176 with two homers and three RBIs in a 13-game audition. He is playing with No. 44, though he wanted 32, that was Magic Johnson's digits after all, but Dustin Hermanson is the owner of that number.

THE GLORY OF NAME AND NOT GLORY OF GAME

Professional sports are both competition and entertainment, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the NBA. And in terms of entertainment it is a one-man show. Every time you look on TV, it's not Houston and L.A., it's T-Mac [Tracy McGrady] and Kobe against each other. It is a bleak picture of style versus substance. The Lakers and the Heat don't deserve to be the marquee game, but still this weekend Miami Heat and the Los Angeles Lakers will see the rivals Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant and Pat Riley and Phil Jackson pitting. Even the fashion-conscious Riley, who returned seven games ago as celebrity coach of the Heat, can see the contradiction at work. The contradiction is that if the game is based on the two best teams, the two finalists, the world champions and Detroit Pistons, they should be in the marquee game. But the sidebar charisma of the Heat and Lakers rise above the purity of the game. No wonder, the Spurs-Pistons finals in June were the second-lowest rated in a quarter century, which was more of a reminder that the two best teams in the league are used for motivation only when convenient. Saunders has made Detroit the sixth-highest-scoring team in the league (99.8), and the defense is sixth best in points allowed (91.3). Point guard Chauncey Billups will probably go to the All-Star Game for the first time, and Richard Hamilton is scoring a career-best 21.9 points a game. The Heat has not come close to peak form, with injuries to O'Neal and Jason Williams disturbing the flow. On the heels of Bryant's the Lakers come in with the better record (by a half-game) at 15-11. The annual grudge match between Bryant and O'Neal, whom the Lakers traded in favor of keeping Bryant, is behind the times. The real subplot is being getting cooked on the sidelines with coaches chasing one final chance at a ring. The Heat has won five of seven under Riley, while the Lakers have won 9 of their last 11. The two have been rivals since their playing days.

SHAUN ALEXANDER’S THREE TIMES ENDEAVOR TO EQUAL AN NFL SINGLE-SEASON RECORD FOR TD’S

On December 24, 2005, in a game against the Indianapolis Colts, Alexander tied the record for touchdowns in a season, 27. Alexander scored in the first, third and fourth quarters to take his seasonal total to 27 - level with Priest Holmes' record from 2003. On December 18th, 2005, against the Titans, he recorded 1,600 yards for the 2nd consecutive season, Shaun ran for his franchise record 10th 100 yard rushing game, also scoring his 24th rushing Touchdown of the year, and 86th Rushing TD of his career, tying him with Priest Holmes at 12th on the All-Time Rushing Touchdown Leader list. Perhaps even more substantial is this, his 96th Career Touchdown, moved him into a 18th place tie with Randy Moss and Eric Dickerson on the All-Time Touchdown Leader list having already bumped Priest Holmes (94 TDs) into 21st. Alexander’s most recent victory has increased Seattle's winning run to 11 games and set a franchise record with their 13th win of the season. Their victory also meant a second successive loss for the Colts, who won their first 13 games. The Colts played without coach Tony Dungy, whose 18-year-old son was found dead in his Florida apartment.

In 2004, Alexander remained one of the key components of Seattle's offense. He finished second in the NFL in rushing yards (with 1,696) to the New York Jets' Curtis Martin by a single yard. 2003 was equally productive for Alexander. He rushed his way to a career high of 1,435 rushing yards and scored 16 touchdowns. Seattle also made its first playoff appearance since 2000. Alexander's success in the 2003 season earned him his first trip to Honolulu for the annual Pro Bowl. He was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks with the 19th pick of the 2000 NFL Draft.

THE RESILIENCE OF CHANGED NHL RULES

There ain’t any surprise that Brian Anderson may be patrolling center field for the White Sox in 2006. These days though he is in a perfect holiday mood, on the contrary he is perpetually full of holiday cheer, whether it's December or August, but his always upbeat but still laid-back attitude won’t work out everywhere. As he takes over for Aaron Rowand in center field for the White Sox during the 2006 campaign, the young outfielder would be just as comfortable throwing no-look passes to Kobe Bryant out in Los Angeles as he will be gathering in fly balls in the Windy City. Many of you won’t know that baseball isn't his favorite sport. His favorite sport is basketball. And while he knows he's living out a dream right now, it just wasn't the original dream he had as a youngster in Southern California. As he watched the Magic Johnson-led Lakers teams of the late Eighties and early Nineties dominate professional basketball, he wove some different fancies for himself. He always wanted to be a better shooter. It was only as a sophomore in high school he realized that his ability with the lumber would be his ticket rather than his ability to play on the hardwood. During his sophomore year he watched Ian and his whole life going gung ho about baseball. So Anderson discarded his basketball dream, only occasionally shooting around these days as he is preparing for his chance to be the starting center fielder for the defending World Champs on Opening Day. His opportunity came about when the Sox dealt Aaron Rowand to Philadelphia in the Jim Thome deal. Anderson hit .295 in 118 games at Triple-A Charlotte, smacking 16 homers and driving in 57. He got the call to come to Chicago in August when Scott Podsednik got hurt and proceeded to hit .176 with two homers and three RBIs in a 13-game audition. He is playing with No. 44, though he wanted 32, that was Magic Johnson's digits after all, but Dustin Hermanson is the owner of that number.