Wednesday, January 11, 2006

NOTHING BETTER THAN THAT

The Sox have lately signed 39 year old backup 1B, and Jim Rice still isn’t in the Hall of Fame (regardless of whether he should be). Baseball is fun, it’s dirty, and sometimes it’s painful to watch while other times it shows the things that are never thought of. The time before the true superstars, when baseball players were still guys who eked out livings, when MLB was just starting to assert its increasingly centralized nature, and right at the hinge between the dead ball and live ball eras, baseball had hit all the right notes. Some of the most entertaining characters ever to not play the game were Willie Mays Hayes, the intensely cocky speedster, Ricky Vaughn, the nearsighted closer, Jake Taylor, the grizzled catcher and team leader, and Lou Brown, the almost impossibly grizzled manager. The Field of Dreams takes the latter and adds the former. It holds at its heart the father-son bond, which is so central to so many baseball lives, and there’s an intense sadness about it - a question of what might have been that pervades baseball history.

HALL OF FAME FOR SUTTER



Bruce Sutter began his career with the Cubs in 1976 and joined the Cardinals in 1981. He is the first pitcher elected to the Hall with no career starts, was listed on 76.9 percent of the ballots cast by 10-year members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. The split-finger pioneer collected 400 of a record 520 ballots. Bruce Sutter threw his last pitch in 1988 and waited more than 17 years to get the Hall call. It is a call that every player anticipates, but never really expects it to happen. After falling short of votes a dozen times, Bruce Sutter was relieved. He became only the fourth reliever given baseball's highest honor, gaining election to the Hall of Fame. He was listed on 76.9 percent of the ballots, fetching 400 of record 520 votes cast by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America who have been in the organization for 10 consecutive years or more. Players needed 390 votes (75 percent) to become the Hall of Famer. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, he became the only pitcher to lead the National League in saves five times (1979-1982, 1984), and retired with 300 saves which was at that time, the third highest total in history. After being selected by the Washington Senators in the 21st round of the June 1970 draft, Sutter instead attended Old Dominion University, and later signed with the Chicago Cubs as a free agent in September 1971. He was also a member of the Cardinals team which won the 1982 World Series and is credited with two saves in that Series. He was named to the NL's All-Star team six times ((1977-1981, 1984) earning the win in 1978 and 1979, and saves in 1980 and 1981. He is the first pitcher ever elected who never started a game the first to end his career with fewer than 1700.

CHALLENGING KOBE BRYANT’S 45 PPG STREAK FOR FOUR GAMES

Kobe Bryant’s significant scoring run in which he has averaged over 45 points a games for a four game stretch (the first time in 40 years) and helped lead the Lakers to three wins is indeed a challenge for any current NBA player. It is doubtful if any other current NBA player could potentially match Bryant’s achievements. To surpass his achievements a more complex effort, he has raised his FG% this year to 44.3% and is enjoying being back in the triangle offense. He has to the height where many other great scorers in decades failed to including Larry Bird, Karl Malone, Allen Iverson, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, David Robinson, Isiah Thomas, and even the "great one" Michael Jordan. It is a tough job to repeat the performance as recorded by Bryant. He one of the most talented players ever, who also takes a high percentage of his teams shots and scores for a team without any other fellow stars, except for Lamar Odom. Considering some other candidates who are having minimal chances to supersede his scores are Allen Iverson (He is on a scoring realm with Bryant night in and night out basis); Vince Carter (He has averaged about 37 points a game during a 10 game winning stretch); LeBron James knows how good he can be and is a triple threat. Tracy McGrady can be a prolific scorer at times and his team needs his offense; Dwyane Wade shares the scoring load on a good to potentially great team with Shaquille O’Neal; Amare Stoudemire, if comes back strong seemingly will dominate inside as much as anyone in the game, and shoots a high percentage. Gilbert Arenas, Carmello Anthony, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Dirk Nowitzky, Kevin Garnett are also equally capable contenders.

BLOG OF REVERENCE: IN THE MEMORY OF DAVE BROWN

Dave Brown, a defensive back who played 16 seasons in the NFL for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers died at the age of 52 after suffering an apparent heart attack while playing basketball on campus at Texas Tech. Dave lived a great life that anyone could be proud of. He played his college football at the University of Michigan before beginning his professional career with the Steelers. He was a unanimous All-America in 1974 at Michigan and fetched All-Big Ten honours for three years there. He was also named to the school's All-Century team and garnered All-Big Ten honours from 1972 to '74. Brown won a Super Bowl with the Pittsburgh Steelers against the Dallas Cowboys in 1975. In 1976 he was chosen by the Seahawks in the NFL expansion draft and remained with the Seahawks for 10 more seasons before finishing with the Green Bay Packers in 1990. A 1984 All-Pro selection, Brown finished his career with 62 interceptions, tying Dick LeBeau for seventh on the NFL's career list. He also holds the all-time record in Seattle with 50 interceptions and tied an NFL record with two interception returns for touchdowns in 1984, against Kansas City. Since 2001, Brown was coaching the Red Raiders' secondary. On Monday he was going to celebrate his 53rd birthday. Brown was one of seven members of the Ring of Honor. To reflect upon not only a great football player, but also a great man lets observe a moment of silence.

NHL ON ITS SUMMIT AFTER THE LOST SEASON

The new National Hockey League is fondly appreciated by the fans. Halfway into the 2005-06 season, the NHL is enjoying unparalleled success. Expected to struggle with attendance after shutting the game down for a year with a controversial and ugly lockout, most NHL owners are enjoying strong display of their teams at the turn of the season. The league was most successful in November in the 88-year history of the league, drawing an average of 16,818 fans per game for the 199 contests that month. The NHL also enjoyed a excellence in the first month of the season in October as fans flocked to hold close both the new, more competitive economic system that is the soul of the sport, as well as a more forceful, offense-heavy creation on the ice. 24 of the 30 NHL clubs are either at level or ahead of their attendance pace the last campaign before the lockout. Pittsburgh leads the way with a 36-percent bang, followed by the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning (24 percent), the Calgary Flames (21 percent), the Boston Bruins (21 percent) and the Carolina Hurricanes (19 percent). The local markets have also spruced up with television ratings. The critics of the league forecasted that it would take years, if ever, before the league could undo the damage from the full-season work stoppage in order to get orchestrated owner-friendly new collective bargaining agreement. It was obvious also for the critics to think like this since three other major professional team sports in North America — baseball, football, basketball — all initially struggled when they returned from various work stoppages in the past two decades. On the contrary NHL was cautious, but optimistic, about fan response as this season approached. It has been anticipated that the league will surpass its forecast of $1.8 billion in revenue this year, which means that the $39 million salary cap per team will stay the same or climb a little bit. Many believed the Predators would struggle to survive the lockout because the team's fan base, after just six NHL seasons, but today, the Predators are competing in every area. On the ice, they are among the league's top teams. Historically, the NHL has experienced flow in attendance after the Christmas season, and surprisingly the revival version of NHL could get even better as the season progresses.

Monday, January 09, 2006

NEW SEASON, NEW PROSPECTS, REFRESH HOPES

The World Baseball Classic is just around the corner and the sport's ultimate honor could be highlighting some of the finest closers in Major League history. Roster transformations continued over the holidays, the most notable being the Rangers signing free agent starting pitcher Kevin Millwood to a four-year, $60 million contract. On the coming Tuesday, 29 Hall of Fame candidates will finally come to know whether they will be enshrined in Cooperstown, N.Y.

Nearly half of the candidates listed on the ballot mailed to more than 550 10-year members of the Baseball Writers Association of America in mid-December are eligible for the first time. The 14 newcomers include former Cy Young Award winners Dwight Gooden and Orel Hershiser and RBI leaders Albert Belle and Will Clark. But former premier closers Bruce Sutter (13th year on the ballot), Rich "Goose" Gossage (seventh year) and all-time saves leader Lee Smith (fourth year) are the leading candidates to get at least 75 percent of the votes. Sutter, who transformed the split-finger fastball, was listed on 66.7 percent of the record. The only other players named on at least half the ballots were former American League Most Valuable Player Jim Rice (59.5), Gossage (55.2) and former National League MVP Andre Dawson (52.3).

Players with at least three years of MLB experience and are not "officially" signed for the 2006 season or beyond, exchange salary arbitration figures with their respective clubs. Avoiding salary arbitration can be prove to be expensive because it has become a part of the baseball dictionary. Players with between three and six years of MLB service, plus the most senior 17 percent of those with between two and three years, are eligible for salary arbitration.

AN EXTRAVAGANT PAYROLL

Last year the New York Yankees finished with a record $207.2 million payroll, which was more than $90 million ahead of any other team. Boston’s final figures ranked second at $116.7 million. The Chicago White Sox after winning the World Series for the first time since 1917, were 13th at $73.2 million. Houston, swept by the White Sox in the Astros' first Series appearance, was 12th at $76.2 million. The figures of the the New York Mets ranked third at $104 million, followed by the Los Angeles Angels ($97 million), Philadelphia ($94.8 million), the Los Angeles Dodgers ($87.8 million), St. Louis ($87.4 million) and Atlanta ($85.9 million).

Tampa Bay had the lowest payroll at $26.6 million, with the Pirates at $30.1 million, Colorado at $32.5 million and Kansas City at $34.9 million. The criterion for determining the final figures is based on Aug. 31 active rosters and disabled lists and also includes prorated shares of signing bonuses.

The average salary was $2,349,394, a 5.5 percent increase from 2004 ($2,227,347). American League MVP Alex Rodriguez was the highest-paid player at $21.8 million, which is not inclusive of $4 million paid by Texas. It was converted to an "assignment bonus" under the 2004 restructuring of his $252 million, 10-year contract.

The talk of the town is Florida Marlins team due to their possible relocation to the city in the event it fails to get a baseball-only stadium in South Florida.

THE ACQUAINTANCE OF BOB HILL TO NBA

Nine years back Bob Hill was fired as head coach of the San Antonio Spurs and last week only the scenario looked as if never left the league after he debuted as head coach of the Seattle SuperSonics on Wednesday in Chicago and immediately put his impression on the team that had struggled deficiently in the first two months of the season. A former assistant coach in Orlando during the 1993-94 season, Hill joined the Sonics this season as an assistant under veteran Bob Weiss. Hill had been head coach at Fordham University for five seasons before leaving in 2002. In contrast to some midseason coaching changes in the past, Hill has immediately made an impact and has reorganized the Sonics, pleasing some players and irritating others. He made 19-year-old rookie Johan Petro his starting center and 20-year-old Robert Swift off the inactive list and put him into the regular front-court rotation. He put an end to the experiment that he had been conducting with Damien Wilkins at point guard, and re-inserted Luke Ridnour. Vladimir Radmanovic got his first start of the season last week in place of Reggie Evans. The Sonics won 52 games last season and reached the second round of the playoffs. They were just 13-17 when Weiss was fired last week. In San Antonio, Hill coached the Spurs to 62 and 59 victories, but he was fired early the next season when David Robinson sat out with an injury, and the Spurs struggled to a 3-15 start.

THE ELIMINATION OF GIANTS BY THE PANTHERS

It was the first time an NFL playoff team playing away from home held an opponent scoreless since the Los Angeles Rams beat Tampa Bay 9-0 in the 1980 National Football Conference championship. The Carolina Panthers defeated the New York Giants 23- 0 in a National Football League first-round playoff game, which was their first road shutout in the postseason in 26 years. The Panthers third-ranked high powered defense held the Giants fourth ranked offense to just 132 yards and intercepted Eli Manning three times at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Manning, in his first postseason game, finished 10-of-18 for 113 yards; he was sacked four times and dropped once to go along with his three interceptions. The Panthers also held Tiki Barber, the NFL's second-leading rusher during the regular season, to 41 yards on 19 carries. Smith put a 22-yard reception from Delhomme in the second quarter. A John Kasay field goal fortified Carolina's lead to 10-0 prior to halftime. DeShaun Foster had 151 yards on the ground and Nick Goings added 63 yards for Carolina as the Panthers held onto the ball for 42 minutes, 45 seconds, compared with 17:15 for the Giants (11-6). Delhomme completed 15 of 22 passes for 140 yards.

The Panthers had 223 rushing yards to win for the seventh time in eight road games. The Panthers advance to play the Chicago Bears in the second round of the NFC playoffs scheduled to be held Jan. 15. The Bears (11-5) had a first-round bye.

FLYERS METICULOSNESS

The Flyers may not win the Stanley Cup this season, but they are certainly the losing winners for their city where the civilians don’t have any grudge against the team’s Stanley Cup deficit. They have given the city something to talk about over the first 41 games. On Friday they bested Washington, 3-1, to fetch the impressive overall NHL lead in the standings with 60 points at the halfway mark of the season. The Flyers are really the stars given five regulars are still sidelined with injury and at one point in November they were down nine players. The Flyers possess the depth to overcome their injuries. The players like R.J. Umberger, Ben Eager, Freddy Meyer, and Randy Jones have proved that they can play in the NHL and can contribute with points. The Flyers have three games left on this 11-game road trip and are 7-0-1 and have earned at least one point in 14 consecutive road games (12-0-2). They can successfully break the 1979-80 team record of a point in 16 consecutive road games in Detroit. That phase came during Pat Quinn's 35-game winning streak. The Flyers have not won in Detroit since Nov. 4, 1988 and since then; they're 0-12-2. The team can rely on Simon Gagnes scoring. He has scored 29 goals in 35 games. That plays out to almost 70. Reggie Leach is the only Flyer to tally more than 60 goals. He scored 61 goals in 1975-76. After the Flyers' Friday night win over Washington, they hold a nine-point lead on the Rangers in the Atlantic Division. Except for a collapse in the second half of the season, it is doubtful that the Rangers can bridge the cap.

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