Monday, March 17, 2008

St Patrick's Day Blogsphere

The only blog with the courage to post a Monday blog without any NCAA links. Make sure you send me your brackets, by the way. I am dying to know who you have coming out of the West….

Tiger steals the Show ….Again!

There have been five winning streaks of at least five tournaments in PGA Tour history. Woods owns three of them, with the others belonging to Hogan (6) and Byron Nelson, whose 11 in a row is considered among the most untouchable records in all of sports.

Woods won Bay Hill for the fifth time, becoming the first player in PGA Tour history to win at least five times in four different tournaments. The others are the Buick Invitational, Bridgestone Invitational and the CA Championship, where he plays next week at Doral as the three-time defending champion.

No wonder some are starting to question whether he will lose again.

Not since Bay Hill in 2001 against Phil Mickelson has Woods won a PGA Tour event with a birdie on the 72nd hole to win by a shot.

"I kept telling myself, 'I've done this before. I did it against Phil, and this time it's a little bit deeper into the green and the putt has a little bit more break and it has a little more grain. I've done it before, and I can do it again,' " Woods said.

And he did.

Palmer grinned and nodded, as if to tell those around him, "I told you so."

"He just said, 'It doesn't surprise me you made the putt,' " Woods said, who passed Palmer on the career victory list a month ago in Arizona. "Somehow you just get a food feeling. And he being a player knows better than anybody."

Hogan won 64 times over 21 years, the last victory coming at the 1959 Colonial National Invitational. The next target for Woods is Jack Nicklaus at 73, with Sam Snead's record of 82 victories looking closer each time Woods plays.

"It's pretty amazing to be in that kind of company," Woods said. "I've had an amazing run in my career, and hopefully, it continues."

No one can say these guys are laying down for Woods. He had to fight to the finish under a sweltering sun, and Bryant was visibly disappointed when he heard the roar and saw the putt. A victory would have sent him to the World Golf Championship next week, and earned him a spot in the Masters.

How about some baseball? Friday, the story emerged of Johan and the Rangers

Several weeks before Johan Santana went to the Mets, the Texas Rangers came very close to making a blockbuster trade for the superstar pitcher, people familiar with those talks say.

The Rangers kept their intentions and progress remarkably quiet this winter, but sources indicate that they were actually the most aggressive early pursuer of Santana, who they viewed him as a rotation-transforming pitcher. Some are suggesting now that they believe the Rangers would have been willing to pay Santana as much or more than the $137.5 million, six-year contract -- or technically, $124 million, five-year extension -- he got from the Mets.

Texas once was the salary trendsetter, with Alex Rodriguez's $252-million deal in 2000, which was since topped by the Yankees' new $275-million deal for A-Rod. And apparently, the Rangers were willing to set the pitching market for Santana this winter.

But they never quite had that chance.

Indications are that Texas' trade discussions with the Twins progressed to the point
where there was either agreement or near agreement on the young players going back to Minnesota. At that point, executives involved in the talks believed that the trade was very likely to be consummated if only Santana gave a more enthusiastic response when Twins higher ups quizzed him about whether he'd accept a trade to the Rangers. However, a diplomatic Santana is believed to have told the Twins only that he'd "consider'' going to Texas, an answer that was seen as less than enthusiastic.
It was shortly after receiving Santana's lukewarm response that the Twins stopped pursuing the trade with Texas. People familiar with the talks say they believe Minnesota wanted to avoid agreeing to a trade proposal that could eventually be rejected by Santana, whose full no-trade clause put the power in his hands. Such a scenario could have hurt their leverage in future trade talks.

Word is, Santana actually thought about the Rangers long enough to have quizzed his long-time Twins teammate Torii Hunter, a free agent, about his own intentions. But it appears that when Hunter, a resident of Prosper, Texas, and close friend of Rangers manager Ron Washington, was noncommittal about whether he'd sign with the Rangers (he eventually signed with the Angels), Santana appears to have followed Hunter's lead.

Others suggest Santana liked the idea of going to the East Coast, anyway, and eventually the Twins did focus on three East Coast teams: the Yankees, Red Sox and Mets. Seattle also showed interest but Mariners people also had the impression Santana wanted to go east.

It isn't known which prospects the Rangers agreed to send to Minnesota, but Texas is well-stocked with young pitchers, leading with Eric Hurley and many others (plus, they had Edinson Volquez back then, before trading him to the Reds for talented center fielder Josh Hamilton); clearly, they had the chips to get the deal done.
Had Texas acquired both former Twins stars, as they hoped, the Rangers would have looked vastly different this year. But when they didn't get Santana and Hunter, instead of rushing into big-money deals for established but lesser pitchers, as they have done in the past, they wisely decided to play for their future.

The Tale of Josh Hamilton is getting out of control

Josh Hamilton had just finished a particularly breathtaking round of batting practice at the Texas Rangers' spring training complex. Marlon Byrd stepped into the batting cage to take his final hacks of the day.

Hitting instructor Rudy Jaramillo, always supportive, offered up this advice for Byrd:

"Good luck following that, kid."

Yes, the legend is growing. What started with a few awe-inspiring rounds of batting practice has quickly become the biggest story in the Rangers' camp. Well, the biggest story that doesn't involve a pitcher, an ice pack and a strained muscle.

Hamilton went 1-for-2 with a pair of walks in Sunday's 9-7 loss to Oakland. A called third strike in his final at-bat of the game ended a streak of 13 consecutive times reaching base.

It also dropped his batting average to .600 for the spring. But since batting average has become a relatively insignificant statistic in the modern baseball world, consider Hamilton's on-base percentage (.647) or his on-base-plus-slugging average (1.747). It may be the best spring training by a Ranger, ever.

Or by any player. Anywhere.

"It's an absolute joke," Rangers starter Kevin Millwood said. "He doesn't swing at a single bad pitch, and he doesn't miss anything he swings at."

So why did the Reds trade him? Edinson

For those of you wondering why the Reds were willing to trade Josh Hamilton for Edinson Volquez, the answer was on display at Ed Smith Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

"You just saw why we got him," Reds catcher Javier Valentin said. "He showed what people expect to see of him."

Matched against Philadelphia's Brett Myers and facing a lineup that included Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, Volquez pitched five scoreless innings.

The right-hander struck out six to boost his spring total to 19 -- more than any pitcher in the Grapefruit or Cactus Leagues through Sunday's early games. He's racked up that impressive total in just 13 innings. Volquez gave up just three hits, all singles, and lowered his ERA to 3.46. He has walked only three batters.

Spring Training results can be misleading, but there's no denying Volquez has a Major League repertoire.

Volquez got Rollins, the reigning National League Most Valuable Player, to chase a changeup for strike three in the first. Moments later he fanned Howard, the 2006 NL MVP, on another changeup.

"That changeup is his best pitch," Valentin said. "He had it today. He's got four pitches he can throw anytime [and] he's not afraid to use them."

Volquez is making a serious bid for a spot in the Reds rotation. If the 24-year-old Dominican can keep throwing his changeup, fastball, curveball and slider for strikes with this frequency, the Reds may have something special. And if Monday's scheduled starter, Johnny Cueto, keeps wowing scouts, Reds staff and everyone else, the Reds might be ready to make some noise in the NL Central.

Such notions are premature for now. Any Rangers fan will tell you Volquez has shown flashes of brilliance before, only to fall on hard times when control problems undermined his efforts.

The kid says this time is different.

"Not like this," he said when asked about those teasing performances in Texas. "I feel more comfortable now, [I'm] throwing more strikes. That's what I was looking for, throwing more strikes and being consistent in the zone."

There's one other difference, according to Volquez.

"I'm controlling my emotions, too," he said, then laughed, "I'm getting older, man!"

Mavs win without breaking a sweat

It was a great day in Miami, hovering in the 80s.

That was the temperature, not the size of the Dallas Mavericks' lead, although it was difficult to tell the difference when they were done brutalizing the soft-shell Miami Heat, 98-73, on Sunday evening at American Airlines Arena.

This isn't your daddy's Heat. Or even Dwyane Wade's or Shawn Marion's – both are out with injuries. Even the NCAA would bypass the Heat at this point.

So the Mavericks did what they had to do. They rambled out to leads of 9-0 and 19-2 and never looked back. They completed a five-game trip through the Eastern Conference dregs with a spotless record, beating all five by at least 19 points and drumming up what confidence they can for more important matters this week.

They play the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday, Boston on Thursday and San Antonio on Saturday. It's an important stretch.

With their five-game winning streak, they are 21 games over .500 (44-23) for the first time this season. They remain in seventh place in the West, 2 ½ games behind first-place Houston. With three wins this week, it's not farfetched to think the Mavericks will rise in the West.

"They understand," Avery Johnson said of his players. "They know what's happening in the standings. They know who won last night and who lost. It's ignited them.

22 in a row in Houston

A day like no other in the winning streak ended the way they all have — with the Rockets finding answers for whatever difficulties crossed their path.

From Alston's scoring a career-high 31 points to Shane Battier's blanketing Kobe Bryant down the stretch, the Rockets blew past the Los Angeles Lakers 104-92 before 18,409 at Toyota Center on Sunday to take sole possession of first place in the Western Conference with their 22nd consecutive win.

"That's the makeup of our team," Tracy McGrady said. "You never know who is going to come through for you.

"This was really all about how good the Rockets are. This is what this game was about, (with) the Lakers coming in here on the top of the Western Conference. This game determined where we are. I think we answered those questions. We took on that challenge, and we're standing alone. And the streak keeps going."

With McGrady struggling with his shot, going scoreless in the first half and making just four of 16 shots, the Rockets needed Alston's shooting. After making nine of 37 shots in the previous two games, he made 10 of 22, including a career-high eight 3-pointers in 11 attempts from beyond the arc.

"Man. Man, man, man. He was unbelievable," McGrady said. "I was in awe of his performance. This guy was doing some stuff that was just amazing, the way he was shooting the ball. It got to a point every shot he was going to put up seemed like it was going to go in."

Bobby Jackson, who had made six of 22 shots in his previous four games, made seven of nine en route to 19 points, his most in his 11 games since being acquired in the trade-deadline deal with the Hornets.

But while the guards offered unusual offensive support, the Rockets needed Battier's typical defensive performance every bit as much.

Bryant scored 24 points but made just 11 of 33 attempts. In the fourth quarter, when the Rockets rebuilt their lead to as much as 15, Bryant made just two of 10 shots.
33 straight

• 1971-72 L.A. Lakers
22 straight
• 2007-08 Houston Rockets
20 straight
• 1970-71 Milwaukee Bucks
19 straight
• 1999-2000 L.A. Lakers
18 straight
• 1969-70 N.Y. Knicks
• 1981-82 Boston Celtics
• 1995-96 Chicago Bulls

Troy Hambrick prepares for prison

Once, the name Troy Hambrick was synonymous with athletic glory.

He and elder brother Darren Hambrick helped lead Pasco High School to the county's only state football championship in 1993. A year later, no one in Florida scored more touchdowns than Troy. He went on to carry the ball in college and then the pros.

Now the former NFL running back and Pasco County football great is in serious trouble. Troy Hambrick, 31, was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges he sold crack cocaine.

"You never wanna hear anything negative or bad about your former players," said his old Pasco High coach, Perry Brown. "Hopefully it's not true."


The indictment was returned on Dec. 6, according to federal records, and charged the younger Hambrick brother - a.k.a. Troy Grant - with three felony counts of selling, distributing or dispensing narcotics.

Federal authorities accused the Lacoochee father of selling the narcotic on three occasions: 5 or more grams Sept. 7; 50 grams or more Sept. 14 and Sept. 27.

If convicted, Troy Hambrick could face between five and 20 years in federal prison.
The alleged drug sales occurred just weeks before Hambrick began his football comeback.

He signed a free-agent contract Nov. 9 with the Utah Blaze of the Arena Football League. Training camp was set to begin Feb. 6.

But Hambrick was waived by the team late Wednesday, hours after a Times reporter called the league office seeking comment. A team spokeswoman would not comment on his situation.

Blake Hoffarber 2 days ago

Blake Hoffarber 2 years ago

And it has become tradition, so here it is…Mobile on St Patrick’s Day (5.5million views later)


MrSimic said...

No UTA talk? ;)

TheDude said...

OK, if ESPN continues to try and emulate pop-culture, shouldn't they get it correct? It's "all growNs up," not "all grows up." Posers.