Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Wednesday's Big Blog

All sorts of stuff to read this morning:

The Rangers trying to get something done with Michael Young …But the comparables to Derek Jeter that Evan Grant offers seem a bit silly. Don’t believe me? In 1993, Bobby Hebert and Craig Erickson had way more TD passes than Troy Aikman. Did stats mis-lead back then? Jeter gets paid what he gets paid because he has more rings than he can carry; plays in October every year; and helps run the flying circus that is the Yankees. Young is a nice player on a 3rd place team. I would say there are more Young’s than Jeter’s.

According to a major league source, the Rangers have offered shortstop Michael Young a contract extension that would keep him in Texas beyond 2008. But neither side is publicly talking about an offer or about anything having to do with the contract. That could simply mean both sides are interested in furthering dialogue without negotiating publicly.

Young, on whom the club holds a 2008 option for between $4 million and $5 million, and general manager Jon Daniels both declined to comment on the issue Tuesday. Young's agent, Dan Lozano, did not return a phone message. Rangers owner Tom Hicks also declined to comment.

Young is expected to report to camp either today or Thursday. He has said he'd rather put contract negotiations aside and focus on baseball once he reports.
The length of contract, more than the annual value of salary, might be the trickiest part of doing a deal. Young's performance over the last four years puts him on a par with both Philadelphia's Chase Utley and Toronto's Vernon Wells, who each signed seven-year extensions this winter. Young, 30, is two years older than both Utley, who received $85 million, and Wells, who got $126 million.

Utley, however, would not have been eligible for free agency until after 2009, which meant he had only limited bargaining leverage.

Over the last four years, Young has matched Derek Jeter, who is averaging $18.9 million per year, in batting average (.316) and has more RBIs (365 to 297).

What a Country! Andre Gurode grabs a $10 million dollar signing bonus

On Tuesday, the Cowboys made Gurode one of the highest-paid centers in the NFL when they signed him to a six-year deal worth close to $30 million, including a $10 million signing bonus.

With Gurode scheduled to become a free agent March 2, the Cowboys did not want to risk losing him after seeing him develop into a 17-game starter last season and be added to the Pro Bowl.

"The question of hunger, that's not even a real question," Gurode said. "I want to continue to work and get better. There's a lot of improvement in different areas. I want to get to the point where I can be fullspeed for an entire game."

Gurode is the sixth player the Cowboys have re-signed since last summer to keep off the open market, joining safety Roy Williams ($11 million signing bonus), tight end Jason Witten ($12 million in bonus money), linebacker Bradie James ($8 million signing bonus), quarterback Tony Romo ($2 million signing bonus) and cornerback Aaron Glenn.

After watching those players re-sign with the team, Gurode said, he wondered if his time would ever get here.

"A couple of the guys told me to keep working and eventually it would come," Gurode said.

Leonard Shapiro on Irvin’s firing

No official reason was given by ESPN. But after Irvin's blatantly reverse-racist comments suggesting that Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo's athletic prowess had to due with the fact that some of his relatives must have slept with slaves "back in the day," someone in the worldwide leader's executive suite decided that enough was enough. They finally realized they could easily live without a guy who potentially could cause the network even bigger problems down the line, doing or saying who knows what on or off the air.

I was stunned at the time of Irvin's Romo comments that the network didn't immediately suspend him and at the very least send him away for sensitivity training. But in retrospect, this is a far better solution. I only wish my fellow Hall of Fame selectors had shown more wisdom in punching his ticket to Canton ahead of Monk, a man who never brought the slightest whiff of shame or scandal to his team, his town or his family at any time since he joined the Washington Redskins a quarter-century ago.

The sad part is I suspect Irvin won't be unemployed for very long. If I were a betting man, I'd venture that the NFL Network people already are preparing to make him an offer. Perhaps they could pair him with another despicable former player, Sterling Sharpe, who made a career of never speaking to the media when he played for the Green Bay Packers, then became a media hotshot himself, initially courtesy of ESPN before he also was let go. Good riddance to both.

Now, the early word is that ESPN may be interested in former Dallas Cowboys head coach Bill Parcells, another occasional media-basher himself in his recent coaching stints. ESPN reporters, or any reporters, for that matter, were never permitted to speak with Parcells' assistant coaches, but he'll likely be rewarded with a fat contract and a prime seat on the Sunday set.

Ironically, if a similar prohibition had been placed on Parcells when he was an unknown assistant back with the New England Patriots 30 years ago, this Tuna might still be in the can. Back then, Parcells was befriended by influential Boston Globe football writer Will McDonough, who more than occasionally wrote about him and often passed along his name to NFL executives as a promising up-and-comer. McDonough didn't get Parcells the Giants head coaching job, but several league executives have told me for years that his considerable influence certainly didn't hurt Parcells' cause.

NBA Trade Deadline creeps up

There was an Allen Iverson blockbuster in December, followed by an eight-player megadeal between Golden State and Indiana in January, after which we were treated to the unexpected free-agent availability of Chris Webber, Eddie Jones and now a 41-year-old comeback kid named Scottie Pippen.

Want more?

Sure you do.

The following, then, is the latest trade chatter dribbling in to Stein Line HQ as of 2 a.m. on Wednesday morning, just over 36 hours away from NBA's Thursday 3 p.m. trade deadline:

Unless one side budges from their respective hard lines in the next day-plus, New Jersey won't be trading Jason Kidd to the Lakers.

The Nets, as you've surely heard by now, are holding out for 7-footer Andrew Bynum, who happens to have Jersey ties in addition to his prodigious potential.

The Lakers refuse to include Bynum -- as well as obvious untouchables Kobe Bryant and Lamar Odom -- and thus can't offer the Nets much more than cap relief, future draft considerations and role players like Kwame Brown, Luke Walton or Jordan Farmar.

Who blinks? My sense is neither side will, at least not between now and the trade buzzer.

One of the more interesting scenarios I heard Tuesday came from my ESPN colleague Ric Bucher, who reported on NBA Coast to Coast and SportsCenter that the Lakers recently had a deal in place to acquire Mike Bibby from Sacramento before Kings owners Joe and Gavin Maloof vetoed it, unable to stomach the thought of helping their playoff rivals of yesteryear.

Had that deal gone down, there would be no Kidd-to-the-Lakers talk.

Bibby going to Cleveland, however, remains a possibility. The Cavs lack the trade assets to complete a trade for Bibby, but one scenario in circulation Tuesday had Minnesota joining in on a three-team deal that would potentially send Mike James, among others, to Sacramento as Bibby's successor at the point.
The Wolves, according to NBA front-office sources, have committed to trying to move James before the deadline after he lasted just a half-season as the No. 1 point guard in Minnesota before ceding his starting spot to rookie Randy Foye.

Kobe develops …and gets in a text message battle with Chuck…

It started with an e-mail.

Then another. And another.

Back and forth they went, coach and player, over the summer.

Phil Jackson's were written mainly from his Montana lakeside home, site of his annual retreat from basketball and the big city.

Kobe Bryant's were written from his Newport Beach home or during his venture through the Far East while traveling with the U.S. national team.

The message from Jackson, one e-mail at a time: Become a leader by not always showing teammates the way. Back off at times. Comfort them sometimes, cajole them at others.

Somewhere in cyberspace, there was a connection.

"Phil helped me out a great deal over the summer in terms of being a mentor and how to become a better leader," Bryant said. "It kind of goes back to being a parent. There's certain things that make you want to jump on top of your kids and try to tell them how to do everything. … Sometimes it's best if you just step back and kind of guide them a little bit and allow them to learn on their own. Very subtle. That's kind of one of the things he taught me this summer, is how to do that."

Because of Bryant, the Lakers (30-24) have been an on-court case study this season. The final results won't be known until spring, but it has been an intriguing ride so far.

The Lakers have struggled recently without Luke Walton and Kwame Brown, and also while trying to assimilate Lamar Odom back into the lineup, yet Bryant doesn't stray far from the new pattern in his play.

Rarely does he launch shot after shot as he did last season on the way to his first scoring title. His scoring average and shots per game have dropped considerably. His assists have risen, as has his field-goal percentage.

None of his Lakers teammates have ever been All-Stars, but he tries to involve them in the share-the-wealth concept of Jackson's triangle offense. Sometimes he wanders from the script, returning to last season's shoot-at-will ways, but Bryant usually heads into the second quarter, if not the fourth, with surprisingly pedestrian stats.

He doesn't even always take the final shot. That honor went to Odom last week against New York. It was an airball. The Lakers lost by a point.

"I think the biggest step he's taken in becoming a leader is sacrificing some of his own personal abilities in games to help better the team," Walton said. "He's realizing that for us to be at a championship level, he needs all of us involved…. It's got to be hard to be as good as he is and to be willing to take a step back to let the rest of the team grow. He's doing a great job of adjusting." Buoyed by his summer correspondence with Jackson, Bryant has been more open to coaching than ever. There are no more blowups with teammates, such as the ugly on-court tiff with Odom last season or, further back, a stinging critique from Chucky Atkins in which he derisively referred to Bryant as the team's "general manager."

Perhaps Bryant's only conflict since the Lakers' playoff elimination last season was a text-message feud with TNT analyst Charles Barkley, who accused him of quitting in the second half of the Lakers' final game against Phoenix.

Not long after that, Bryant, 28, began corresponding with Jackson.

"He's actually sought out guys and sought out how to motivate people, and [thought], 'How can I help this team in the long run?' " Jackson said. "One of the encouragements that I've used with Kobe over the last year is that we're not going to beat a team like Phoenix or a team like Dallas or San Antonio or any of these good teams in the playoffs if you try to score 40 points. As good a player as he is, it's the same old thing we faced in Chicago with Michael Jordan. It's got to be a team effort. Kobe's really bought into that. That's where his growth has been very important."

Although the Lakers have yet to make a run that firmly entrenches them among the top four teams in the Western Conference, Bryant has taken some off-court victories.

His new No. 24 jersey was the top seller among all NBA players in figures released last month. He won his second All-Star most-valuable-player award Sunday in Las Vegas after a 31-point, six-assist, six-steal effort.

Overall, he has been booed less on the road this season, with the exception of Sacramento, where the Lakers-Kings rivalry never seems to die; in Washington, where the Wizards' All-Star guard Gilbert Arenas is their choice; and in Toronto, which was apparently still miffed at Bryant's 81-point outburst against the Raptors last season.

His approval ratings are on a slight uptick, according to a survey that measures a celebrity's ability to influence brand affinity and consumer purchases. Last August, he was ranked No. 571 in the Davie Brown Index of 1,500 celebrities and athletes. His ranking rose to 553 last month, according to DBI results that showed an increase in his appeal, influence and trust among consumers compared with last summer.

As a Badger, Badger, Badger, I have to say that being ranked #1 for 24 hours still counts. Wisconsin loses to the white dude who can’t miss

One day after Wisconsin celebrated being No. 1, Michigan State celebrated beating No. 1.

Drew Neitzel scored 28 to carry the Spartans to a 64-55 victory -- and possibly an NCAA Tournament bid -- Tuesday night at Breslin Center.

Neitzel, the smallest player on the court, took over just when it appeared Wisconsin was in position to put the game away. He had 11 straight points, including three 3-pointers, to turn a 49-45 deficit into a 56-51 lead.

The last 3-pointer was just meant to be. It hit the back rim, the front rim, the backboard, the back rim again and the front rim again before finally falling through the net with 2:25 remaining.

"That was crazy," Neitzel said. "I guess there was a little luck on our side tonight."

" Said coach Tom Izzo: "Even the official looked at me. I said, 'My God.'

Neitzel, a 6-foot junior guard, has been taking over games for most of the season like an all-Big Ten player, if not even an All-America candidate at times.

Dallas Clark gets tossed from HS Girls game!

Indianapolis Colts tight end Dallas Clark was ejected from a high school girls basketball game Saturday in Burnside, Iowa, for comments he made to officials from the stands.

The incident occurred between the third and fourth quarters of a state playoff game between Clark's alma mater, Twin River Valley, and host Southeast Webster-Grand.

Mike Dick, associate director of the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union, said after speaking to the official who ejected Clark that the Colts player made "several inappropriate comments," none of which were threatening or obscene.

"He said the officials were terrible and he called an official by his name, which is not the best thing to do," Dick said. "He made a reference to them being 'brutal' at one point. It was all during a dead ball. The officials
were right in front of him and they had enough."

Clark's brother once coached with the official who ejected Clark, said Don Hasenkamp, principal at Twin River Valley.

Dan Grandfield, principal of Southeast Webster-Grand, said he escorted Clark into the hall without incident. He said the crowd didn't even notice what happened because they were close to the gym door.

Dan Daly with no sympathy for the old NFL player

Stop the presses: Football is hazardous to your health.

This "revelation" seems to have caught many retired NFL players, and their spokespeople in the media, unawares. It was certainly a hot topic at the Super Bowl, where new commissioner Roger Goodell was blitzed with questions about why the league wasn't doing more for Aging Gladiators in Need -- whether the need be medical help, financial assistance or just a shoulder to lean on.

And truth be known, the NFL, stinking rich as it is, could be a little more generous to its pioneers, many of whom didn't have a union to look after their interests. But that's all the sympathy the old-timers are going to get this morning because, as Sam Huff put it in Time magazine back in the '50s, "This is a man's game" -- and Real Men are accountable for their actions.

That's what has been missing from this discussion -- any mention of the players' own responsibility. After all, when you sign an NFL contract, what you're basically saying is, "The party of the first part agrees to sell his body to the party of the second part for [insert amount here]." That's the basic transaction -- money for blood, money for broken bones, money for collisions that make people gasp. The rest of Huff's quote in Time says it all:

"We try to hurt everybody. We hit each other as hard as we can."

Of course, when you try to hurt everybody, when you try to hit each other as hard as you can, there are going to be repercussions -- maybe today, maybe tomorrow. Brains are going to be scrambled. Hips and knees are going to need replacing. This is what football is, NASCAR in cleats (only without the HANS devices).

And anyone who steps on the field accepts this, understands that the reason his paycheck is so sizable, so much larger than the average working stiff's, is that, well, he ain't playin' two-hand touch out there. On the contrary, he's abusing his anatomy in ways it should never be abused, all in the name of sport ... and commerce.

Tonight is it for Chief Illiniwek

Sometime Wednesday night at the University of Illinois' Assembly Hall, hundreds of folks will linger around the basketball court awaiting what will be a rather historic halftime show at the men's basketball team's final home game of the regular season.

Chief Illiniwek will dance his last dance.

It surely will be greeted by the mournful glances of thousands of frat boys in face paint, cool sun shades, fuzzy orange wigs, sweaty orange bandanas, ball caps, T-shirts and headbands; they will stand shoulder to shoulder, arm in arm, rocking and swaying to solemn drum beats, not quite sure why any of this should have to end.

Good gosh, I can't begin to express how glad I am that we'll never see this nonsense anymore. Every time I've attended an Illinois game and seen the "chief" do his so-called tribal dance around the court, I felt completely and utterly creeped out. People kept telling me this kid in the grease paint without a drop of American Indian blood in his veins was performing a tribute to the Illiniwek tribe. I kept thinking it never felt right in the same way it never felt right to hear Pat Boone sing "Tutti Frutti."

For 81 years, University of Illinois fans have thought of this as a time-honored bit of school spirit. It never dawned on them until protest groups began complaining, that the notion of an American Indian school mascot might be seen not only as poor taste, but downright offensive.

But it's finally over now, even if it took a shotgun wedding to bring Illinois to this age of enlightenment. Decades of protests by American Indians never fazed the Illinois administration; years of listening to them presenting their outrage and offense at Chief Illiniwek could not push the school away from "tradition."

Watch him dance; and prepare to protest.

What is wrong with 24?

Even those who declare this season as good as ever follow up with "but." Here are some theories that come up over and over:

— Last season was just too good. Almost everyone agrees that "Day Five," in which Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) came back from the dead and saved the world from terrorists with nerve gas, was the best yet. It landed "24" its first Emmy and set up any follow-up to be a letdown.

— Too much of our "24" family is gone. Tony, Michelle, President David Palmer and even cuddly Edgar were struck down last season, leaving Jack virtually alone on his return from a Chinese prison. And the replacements at CTU — well, let's just say Milo and Morris are no Edgar.

— Giving Jack an extended real family was cool. For a minute. And James Cromwell ought to be riveting as cruel Papa Bauer. But really, wouldn't we have known before this if Jack had a father and brother?

— Chloe isn't Chloe anymore. First, they straightened her hair; then, they sucked out too much of her personality. Producers said Chloe (Mary Lynn Rajskub) would be "trending toward normal" this season. Quick, trend her back.

— Really, this time the plotting is too preposterous. From "Day One," "24" has demanded suspension of disbelief. Whether it was a question of when Jack went to the bathroom or how cars could travel 20 miles in five minutes in Los Angeles traffic, pesky questions of logic always arose. But at best, the ticking clock distracted us from details. This season, minds are wandering to such topics as why, after a nuclear explosion wiped out the LA suburb of Valencia, there weren't more traffic jams.

— The level of violence, especially torture, is out of hand. Fans of "24" don't shun violent content; if they did, they wouldn't be fans of "24." But gruesome scenes of torture that have drawn widespread criticism may have become "a little trite," executive producer Howard Gordon told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "Personally, I think the audience may be tiring of it as well," Gordon was quoted as saying. "My wife says it's too much."

My Liverpool (and Mr. Hicks) attempt to battle Ronaldinho and Barcelona

The Liverpool team were left unattended on the Tarmac upon touchdown at Barcelona airport yesterday, the authorities having initially mistaken their plane for that of a charter flight returning from a skiing package holiday. Once the oversight had been spotted, with the ground crews belatedly dispatched to end the awkward hiatus, the locals will have recognised the familiar foe in the travelling party's midst with a shudder of apprehension.

Rafael Benítez returns to Camp Nou this evening with Liverpool's season in effect hingeing upon their ability to emerge from a daunting first leg with progress in the tie still possible. The Spaniard returned to his homeland to be bombarded with questions over his team's alcohol-fuelled antics on the Algarve last week but, if the Catalans were infuriated by his attempts to dead-bat that controversy, they will be well aware of Benítez's uncanny ability to infuriate them out on the pitch. Three times he brought his Valencia side to these parts and departed undefeated with the locals in uproar; Liverpool will be aiming to emulate that achievement tonight.

The manager's message yesterday was very much that, even with the karaoke fall-out rumbling on, his squad were ready to repair the reputations they tarnished at their training camp in Portugal against the holders tonight. "I was surprised by what happened but their response was perfect for me," said Benítez, who is still considering how many of his squad will be fined for breaking a 12.30am curfew and whether to impose heavier sanction on Craig Bellamy after he allegedly threatened his team-mate John Arne Riise with a golf club. "They apologised immediately, said they'd made a mistake and that they were sorry. They indicated to me that they would accept any internal disciplinary action. We will do something, the players must be fined but they are focused on this match."

That acceptance of guilt is understood to have been made at a team meeting in the immediate wake of the embarrassing events on the Algarve. The manager, rather pointedly, refused to be drawn on Bellamy's long-term future at the club, though the Welshman is likely to have a part to play at some stage tonight with the visitors sure to play on the counter-attack against a team who have not lost at home in European competition for 13 matches.

Benítez will endeavour to starve Ronaldinho of service and space in an attempt to nullify the Brazilian's obvious threat, most likely offering his recent £2.6m signing Alvaro Arbeloa a full debut with Steve Finnan shifted further into midfield.

Alabama Assistant Coach eats a booger

Back by popular demand: the 2007 Homer Call of the year - Gol De Scholes


BACM said...

First and still gay.

It's an extremely sad day for Red Raider least we still own Aggie.


Jake said...

iTTU got skeezed last night by _urant, no D.

Did anyone by chance see predator with Howdy shirt on Dateline last night??? I hope he's just a t-shirt fan, not a real student or alum.

Lost, Alias, JJ Abrams, Meltdown... coincidence?

tvb said...

I agree. At least TTU owns Aggie in Football and Basketball!

Jay Clendenin said...

can you find tech on that list, BACM?

cracker1743 said...

Why do journalists get their panties in a wad over players/coaches who don't want to speak with them? This guy's acting like the nerd that keeps taking shots at the popular kids even after he's all growns up. So Sterling Sharpe is "despicable" because he never wanted to talk to your sorry ass, and implies that Parcells is the same b/c he didn't give McDonough a reacharound in thanks for the "career boost"? Whatever.

Oh, and by the way Leonard, it ain't "reverse racism." It's just racism, period. But you're probably one of those who call an end around a reverse. Moron.

Ok, rant over. Good strong blogging today, Bob, though I didn't really need all that much about the Lakers rapist.

Fake Sturm said...

aggy getting caught soliciting little kids on Dateline?? Are we talking boys or girls? At least it will help end the stereotype that aggy only likes sheep.

"The sad part is I suspect Irvin won't be unemployed for very long."
Sounds like this dude has got some personal issues with the Playmaker.

"iTTU got skeezed last night by _urant, no D."
Not quite sure what "skeezed" means, but Durant only had 17 points and 8 boards. Last night was an example of a great team game by the Horns, and when they play like that they are tough to beat. All 5 starters in double figures, none over 20.

eric in keller said...

BACM, if you don't think that Durant plays D then I suggest you go back to Basketball Scouting School. His D has improved a ton and he was rock solid last night.

Jake said...

I make a comment and BACM gets blamed, gold.

Eric and Fake, that was one freakin' game, don't buy into _urant having D yet.

BTW, skeezed = owned

Just Sayin' said...

Michael Young is greatness.

BACM said...

Wow, tap the breaks. I didn't know comments that I didn't even make would get you guys so menstrual.

Basketball Scouting School? I guess I overlooked that major while in college.

"CAn you find Tech on that list?"

Neither is Duke or Sam Houston State, bottom line is I don't care. I never claimed Tech as a powerhouse in basketball. I enjoy the rivalry we have between both Aggie and Longhorn. Period.

Let me know if I've (or my ghost)has struck any other nerves

andrew said...

I'm offended by your suggestion that I might be offended by your comments.

Fake Sturm said...

Does anybody on this plane speak jive?

Cap It said...

Woman4 : Oh stewardess, I speak jive.
Attndnt : Ohhhh, good.
Woman4 : He said that he's in great pain and he wants to know
if you can help him.
Attndnt : Would you tell him to just relax and I'll be back as
soon as I can with some medicine.
Woman : Jus' hang loose blooood. She goonna catch up on the`
rebound a de medcide.
Jivemn2 : What it is big mamma, my mamma didn't raise no dummy, I
dug her rap.
Woman4 : Cut me som' slac' jak! Chump don wan no help, chump
don git no help. Jive ass dude don got no brains