Archive for July, 2004

July 31st, 2004

Ugh

Five innings. Seven earned runs. Welcome to the Mets, Mr. Benson. Serously, Aaron Heilman couldn’t do this?

As for the Nomar trade, I’m as baffled as Michael. I understand trading Nomar, as he’s two months away from free agency. But, wow, what a lousy deal for the Red Sox. Let’s put it this way: the Pirates got more for Kris Benson (a .500 pitcher who is also soon to be a free agent) than the Sox did for one of the best players in the game today.

 
July 31st, 2004

No more No-mah

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In a baffling 4-team trade, the Boston Red Sox have dealt 2-time batting champion and 5-time All-Star shortstop Nomar Garciaparra, along with one of their best prospects, outfielder Matt Murton, to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for Expos’ shortstop Orlando Cabera and Twins’ first-baseman Doug Mientkiewicz. Also as part of this blockbuster deal, the Montreal Expos obtained shortstop Alex Gonzalez, pitcher Francis Beltran, and infielder Brendan Harris, while the Minnesota Twins picked up left-handed pitcher Justin Jones, a top Cubs’ prospect.

For Red Sox fans, this trade is nothing short of startling. Not so much that Garciaparra, in the final year of his contract, was dealt, but that so little was received in return. In fact, Cabrera, 29, has hit worse than Pokey Reese this season, and Mientkiewicz, 30, is a .246 hitting first-baseman with little power. Granted, both have won gold-gloves, and both have hit better in the past, but this deal appears lopsided nonetheless, particularly since Cabrera is also a free agent at year’s end. Moreover, to include Murton, whom Baseball America ranks as the 5th best prospect in the Red Sox organization, seems dubious. One can only imagine the reaction of Red Sox fans if Murton were to become the next Jeff Bagwell, who rose to All-Star status with the Houston Astros after the Red Sox dealt him in 1990.

Maybe it’s just me, but a franchise shortstop like Garciaparra and top a prospect like Murton should have netted more than two guys having off-years — particularly on a day where the team’s arch rival, the New York Yankees, talked the Chicago White Sox into surrendering Esteban Loaiza, a 21-game winner last season, for the pricey and perpetually-enigmatic Jose Contreras.

On the other hand, there may be one bright spot for Red Sox fans after all: Trades like these only dispel the belief that the franchise is somehow “cursed.” No, the Red Sox just tend to make bad trades, while their rivals tend to make good ones.

And unfortunately for Red Sox Nation, there’s nothing mysterious about that.

 
July 31st, 2004

What the Hull?

In an earlier post I wondered aloud if Bobby Hull Jr.’s public discussions of negotiations with Dallas and Phoenix were an attempt to spark a bidding war for the services of his brother Brett. Now Hull Jr. is telling anyone that will listen (including the Pittsburgh Tribune Reviewand the Arizona Republic) that Pittsburgh GM Craig Patrick gave him a call on Wednesday and expressed interest in signing the aging Hull who sits third on the career goal scoring list. Apparently Hull would love to play with Mario and Mark Recchi and Patrick is intrigued by Hull’s low asking price which is in the $2-3 million range.

How happy can the teams involved be that a high profile player’s agent is making every offer an inquiry public? And how much is all the publicity impacting the negotiations? My guess is that all three teams (the Stars, Coyotes and Penguins) are going to be feeling a lot of pressure from their respective fan bases to sign the sharp-shooting Hull. Personally I’d like to see him go to Pittsburgh just so we could see what the Pens can do with Recchi, Hull, a healthy Mario and then Fleury between the pipes. That’s a whole lot more than they had to work with last year and I think Hull would enjoy being part of a rebuilding project. He’s a natural leader and could play a huge role in the development of Pittsburgh’s younger players. Not to mention that a competitive team could help Mario get the team a new arena deal.

 
July 30th, 2004

Eh

Shows what a prognosticator I am. No sooner do I predict that the Mets will stand pat than they make not one but two deals giving up prospects for starting pitchers. After seeming to be out of the running, the Mets wound up with Kris Benson after all, giving up Ty Wigginton and two solid Double A prospects, pitcher Matt Peterson and catcher Justin Huber (Huber actually went to Kansas City for infielder Jose Bautista, who then was sent on to Pittsburgh in the Benson deal). And from Tampa Bay the Mets acquired Victor Zambrano, giving up their top pitching prospect, Scott Kazmir, in the process.

There’s no question that Benson and Zambrano represent signficant upgrades over Jae Seo and whatever fifth starter the Mets might happen to field in a given week. And while Wigginton was a solid presence and regular contributor in the lineup, he was a defensive liability and, with rookie David Wright taking over at third, had become a man without a position. So giving him up was not a huge loss.

But here’s the thing: the Mets are not going to win this year. When the trades were made this afternoon, they were 49-52 (that’s not including tonight’s 3-1 loss to the division-leading Braves). To finish 86-76, they’d have to go 37-24 over the rest of the schedule. That’s a .607 pace over the course of 61 games. Is there any reason to think that the Mets are capable of playing at that sustained level of excellence for two months? I think not. Zambrano and Benson are decent starters, but they’re not exactly Pedro Martinez and Curt Schilling (and even if they were, the Mets have other holes, as I listed last night). And even if the Mets got to 86 wins, that wouldn’t be enough to win the division unless the Braves played less than .500 baseball, and neither the Phillies nor the Marlins got hot.

Zambrano and Benson might be around for awhile, of course (Benson is a free agent at the end of the year, but the Mets apparently are confident of signing him). But neither is likely to develop, at this point in his career, into a true ace, the kind needed to replace Al Leiter and Tom Glavine over the next couple of years. Kazmir, at least, might have been that: after a rough start in St. Lucie this year, he’s had a 1.73 e.r.a. in four starts at Double A Binghamton.

So here’s the bottom line: the Mets marginally improved at a time when marginal improvement won’t really mean anything. And while they added a couple of decent pieces for the future, they gave up a sizable chunk of their minor-league talent. Not much of a step forward.

 
July 30th, 2004

Season in the Balance: Whither Chamique..?

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The Chamique Holdsclaw mystery deepened yesterday when the All-Star failed to show up at practice following a Wednesday loss to the Shock in which she shot 3 for 13. According to the Washington Post, though, she appeared

 
July 30th, 2004

Cherry Stays On, Burke and Burke to Cover Wold Cup

In what could prove to be the biggest signing of the summer so far Don Cherry has agreed to terms with the CBC and will be back for the 53rd season of Hockey Night in Canada. the rest of the crew- Bob Cole, Kelly Hrudey, Greg Millen and Harry Neale- will all be back as well, as will Ron MacLean.

As an added bonus for CBC viewers the network has hired NHL stopper Sean Burke and former Canucks GM Brian Burke to do analysis for the World Cup of Hockey this August. If he isn’t hired by another NHL club Brian Burke will be staying on as an occasional contributor to HNIC.

Cheers to CBC for not screwing this one up.

 
July 30th, 2004

Pronger Nets $10 million In A Busy Week

According to various news outlets Chris Pronger has signed a 1-year deal worth $10 million to stay with the Blues. The deal is one of the biggest of the summer so far and is just one of many defensively minded signings this week. Pronger tied a career high for goals last season, netting 14, while collecting 54 points in 80 games which placed him second in defenseman scoring behind Sergei Gonchar’s 58 points.

Earlier in the week Tom Fitzgerald signed on with Boston for two years. The two-way winger will likely get a lot of the ice-time that was freed up by the departures of Ted Donato (retired and now the head coach at Harvard) and Rob Zamuner (an unsigned free agent who most likely won’t be back in Boston).

Meanwhile Atlanta locked up their first ever draft pick, Patrik Stefan. Stefan was supposed to blossom into a high-scoring power forward but the big center has instead been molded into a solid defensive player. The former number one pick had a career year last year with 14 goals and 40 points in 82 games. Atlanta also signed top prospect Braydon Coburn. the 6’5″ defenseman was an all-star in the WHL with Portland and was taken eighth overall in this year’s entry draft. The 19-year old has a decent shot at making the Thrashers lineup this year to help out a much improved blueline in Atlanta. With the acquisitions of Nicolas Havelid, Jaroslav Modry and forward Scott Mellanby Atlanta has been one of the NHL’s busiest teams this offseason.

Elsewhere around the league Carolina has been busy re-signing Erik Cole, Justin Williams and veteran Kevyn Adams.

Keeping with the defensive tren the Rangers re-signed goalie Dan Blackburn who missed all of last season with a shoulder injury.Despite limited success so far in the NHL the Ranger still have high hopes for Blackburn although if he doesn’t put together a good year (probably in the minors) he could be passed on the depth chart by Al Montoya who is spending next year with the Michigan Wolverines. The Rangers also inked tough-guy defender Dale Purinton. Purinton played in just 40 games for New York last season scoring one goal and collecting one assist on route to collecting 117 penalty minutes.

Finally, Detroit re-signed forward Jason Williams who has split the last few seasons between the Red Wings and the minors. Williams had 13 points in 49 games with the big club last season. As with most of the contracts I’ve mentioned, terms were undisclosed.

In a final bit of news out of Dallas it appears that Brett Hull may spurn the Coyotes’ offer and go back to Dallas. According to Brett’s brother and agent, Bobby Hull Jr, Dallas is willing to shell out a bit more than Phoenix, albeit for one year instead of two. Dallas appears to be the strong front runner between the two teams and the parties are set to meet next week to finalize a deal. Bobby Hull Jr. seems to be doing a great job of forcing Phoenix and Dallas into a bidding war of sorts. We’ll have to wait and see if the Coyotes try to sweeten their offer.

 
July 29th, 2004

Ambiguous Meaning

The Mets’ 10-1 win in Montreal this afternoon put a temporary end to their recent struggles. It was an impressive outing all around, as Mike Cameron hit two home runs, Richard Hidalgo added another, Eric Valent hit for the cycle, and newcomer David Wright drove in a run with two singles. Al Leiter, meanwhile, allowed one run in six innings for his seventh win; he leads the league with a 2.18 e.r.a.

It would be easy to assume that today’s romp will snap the Mets out of their recent doldrums, just as it would have been easy Monday night to assume that the disastrous 19-10 loss that evening signaled a total implosion. Both assumptions would be mistakes. Things aren’t as bad as they appeared Monday, but neither are they as good as they seemed today. The Mets still lack even vaguely reliable fourth and fifth starters–they gave up on the Scott Erickson experiment after only two starts. They’re nicked up–Jose Reyes is out with an ankle injury, leaving Ty Wigginton (already a defensive liability at third base) to play second, Mike Piazza isn’t at full strength, and Cliff Floyd’s constant pain has him contemplating retirement in a couple of years. The bullpen, except for closer Braden Looper, is inconsistent at best. And the infield defense is porous–witness shortstop Kaz Matsui’s league-leading 22nd error today.

At the beginning of the year, owner Fred Wilpon said that he hoped the team would be playing “meaningful games” late into the year. For one exciting stretch in late June and early July–a time in which the Mets swept the Yankees in a four-game series and twice played the Phillies for a share of first place (losing both), that seemed a possibility. The recent slump, though, has left the Mets three games below .500, in fourth place, and six behind the surging Braves. While it’s not impossible to come back from a deficit like that, it’s extremely unlikely.

So, with the trading deadline 48 hours away, are the Mets buyers or sellers? Neither, I suspect. The Mets did spend much of July in pursuit of the Pirates’ Kris Benson, but the Pirates were unwilling to take Ty Wigginton, and the Mets were unwilling to give up David Wright. A solid fourth starter would make the Mets a better team, no doubt. But the addition of a single player of Benson’s caliber is not going to transform this bunch into a juggernaut. There are simply too many holes.

On the other hand, after two thoroughly dismal years, and with the team still hovering around .500, the Mets can ill afford to give up on this bunch by trading veterans for prospects. Al Leiter, Mike Piazza, Richard Hidalgo, and others would bring good prospects in return. But making that move would mean another two years of misery as the prospects matured. In New York, with the Yankees across town, that won’t do. It’s not an ideal approach, by any means. But it’s reality.

So this team seems likely to end the year in much the same way it has played the past couple of months, finishing at or near .500. Barring a Braves collapse and a 1973-like jumble at the end of season (when the Mets won the division with an 82-79 record), that won’t be enough for a postseason berth. But it would sure be a heck of a lot better than we’ve endured the past two years.

 
July 29th, 2004

Found in Translation?

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At age 24, Yuta Tabuse (pronounced Ta-BOO-say) has a dream: To become the first player of Japanese nationality to play in the NBA. And as Mike Tulumello of the East Valley Tribune (Arizona) reports, Tabuse greatly impressed the Phoenix Suns’ coaching staff while he was a member of the Suns’ 2004 summer league entry — so much so that he might be invited to the Suns’ training camp this fall, with a chance to earn a spot on the regular season roster. This isn’t Tabuse’s first attempt at the NBA, as he played for the Denver Nuggets’ summer league team last year.

Interestingly, Tabuse’s NBA attempt has reached the most advanced stage of any Japanese player since that of Yasutaka “Chibi” Okayama, who was selected by the Golden State Warriors in the 8th round of the 1981 NBA Draft. Okayama, who stood 7’8 (yes, 7’8) and played at the University of Osaka, never showed up, so Tabuse is already ahead of the game, so to speak.

Unfortunately for Tabuse, however, he will encounter some obstacles should he get to play with the “big boys” this fall. For one, he’s only 5’9 and weighs 165 pounds, and he’s trying to play in a league where the average player is 6’7 and weighs 225 pounds. Now, lack of size has never been an automatic disqualifier for entrance into the NBA (5’5 Earl Boykins, 5’7 Spud Webb, and 5’2 Muggsy Bogues all say hello), but it’s certainly a hindrance (5’9 Scoonie Penn, 5’9 Jemeil Rich, and 5’8 Terrell McIntyre all say goodbye). Tabuse also possesses a rather modest background for an NBA prospect, having only played in Division II college basketball (at BYU-Hawill), as well as in the minor-league American Basketball Association and the Japanese Basketball League (where he was the league’s rookie of the year in 2002).

Nevertheless, the prospect of a Japanese player in the NBA likely intrigues NBA executives, particularly as the league attempts to attract a more global audience. And Tabuse is widely regarded as the most popular basketball player in Japan, especially given his flashy, if erratic style on the court (a lot of assists and a lot of turnovers — think Jason Williams, the pre-Hubie Brown version). Indeed, the Japanese media has closely followed Tabuse around the U.S, even though at age 24, he’s best regarded as a fringe NBA prospect.

So is the NBA hoping for its own version of Ichiro, the Japanese native and All-Star outfielder for the Seattle Mariners? Not likely, for if Tabuse were to earn a spot on the Suns’ roster, it would be as the team’s 3rd-string point guard. Doubtless, he would still attract attention, but the NBA’s Ichiro he is not.

Rather, the only real question for Tabuse and the NBA is whether the Suns’ coaching staff will be telling him “konnichiha” or “adexyuu” this fall.

And that’s the very same question that so many players stuck between minor-league stardom and bench-warmer NBA status will be looking to have answered as well.

 
July 29th, 2004

Ultra-Modern Sports Design (Made with Old-School-Style Slave Labor)

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There are some incredibly cool stadium designs just submitted for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.. That

 
July 29th, 2004

Chris Chelios’ Table Manners

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Chris Chelios was enjoying a nice meal at an upscale restaurant in Las Vegas this week with Jennifer Capriati and some other luminaries when he thought it might be a good idea to start smashing dinner plates.. Sound crazy? That

 
July 29th, 2004

Myles Brand’s Peculiar Plans for Men’s Olympic Sports

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I like college athletics. A lot. They extol the highest virtues in amateur competition and nowhere is that more true than in the Olympic sports. An elite selection of those splendid Americans will represent us before the world in a few weeks.

That

 
July 28th, 2004

HDTV to the Rescue

Despite being considered one of the top four major sports, professional hockey has always lagged behind both golf and NASCAR in national popularity. Television ratings, which weren

 
July 28th, 2004

Filling the Golf Void

As a summertime duffer, I do my best to squeeze a round of golf into my day a few times a week. Like most folks, I find the task easier said than done, as family, social, and of course, work obligations always seem to interfere with a tee time I scheduled five days in advance.

Perhaps it

 
July 28th, 2004

Baseball Stops at the District Line…

Peter Angelos may have begun his final descent into madness. During an interview on WBAL radio yesterday, the Orioles owner brought out his strongest argument for keeping baseball out of D.C.:

 
July 28th, 2004

The Title IX Obstruction

After reading through Jim

 
July 27th, 2004

Everything’s Just Fine Here. Move Along.

For the last several days, WNBA field goal leader, Chamique Holdsclaw, has been missing in action. Is she injured? Is she on a Rod-Strickland-style bender? Is she pulling a Ricky Williams and calling it quits? It

 
July 27th, 2004

Soviet Snubs

As is the case with other sports, the annual Hockey Hall of Fame selection process never fails to spark debate. Pundits and fans alike love to ponder which players belong in the Hall, taking into account various factors, including personal statistics, championships won, and overall contributions to the sport.

While defensemen Raymond Bourque and Paul Coffey undoubtedly deserved to be inducted this year, some folks questioned whether high-scoring blueliner Larry Murphy belonged on the ballot. As talented as any two-way defenseman of his era, Murphy was not nearly as flashy or well-recognized as his two HOF counterparts. Nevertheless, the four-time Stanley Cup winner was indeed voted into the Hall on June 9th.

On the whole, it

 
July 27th, 2004

From the Squared Circle to the Gridiron

I don’t usually write about the NFL and there’s a very good reason for that- I generally don’t enjoy it. I’m not a huge football fan to begin with and when I do watch it the NFL is at the bottom of my list. I love the CFL, I got into NCAA football while going to school in the US and I’ve been known to watch arena football. I even watched half of the XFL season which was actually a lot more exciting than you’ve been told it was.

This one time though I have to comment on some football news. Why? Because I found it on a wrestling web site. You see, I’m a recovering wrestling fan. I used to watch it all the time- Raw and Smackdown! I’ve even written academic papers on it. But now I have a cable package that doesn’t allow me to watch it and I’ve weened myself of the best choreographed sport this side of figure skating, but every once in a while I need to check the good ol’ wrestling sites to see what craziness is going on. So here it is.

The Minnesota Vikings have scheduled a press conference for 11:00 am tomorrow morning to announce that they’ve signed Brock Lesnar to a contract. Who’s Brock Lesnar? He’s a 6’3″ 285 lb former NJCAA (Bismarck) and NCAA (Minnesota) wrestling champion from South Dakota who was also the WWE heavyweight champion. And he hasn’t played football since high school.

Vince McMahon loved Brock Lesnar. The guy is huge and incredibly athletic. He’s been lifting weights pretty much his whole life and has told the press that he’ll take and pass a drug test anytime, anywhere, so when Brock announced that he was leaving the world of pro wrestling right after Wrestlemania XX in March so that he could pursue his dream of playing in the NFL Vince wasn’t so happy. He’d just lost a marketing dream. Rumors has it that most wrestlers thought Brock would fall flat on his face and return to the WEE with his tail between his legs and most football writers thought the 27 year old Lesnar’s dream was a joke. Like I said, he hadn’t played football since high school in South Dakota. Then Brock had a motorbike accident in May that back his training and workout schedule but apparently his workouts were impressive enough that the Vikings are willing to take a gamble on the former wrestler who now calls Minnesota home. According to the Twin Cities Pioneer Press he’s slated to be a defensive tackle and should be at training camp on Friday pending a physical.

Plenty of former football players have made careers of wrestling but can a wrestler make the switch to pro football? Lesnar’s size, strength and knowledge of wrestling fundamentals that rely on leverage should give him a chance. I wonder if his fellow Vikings will.

 
July 27th, 2004

Cloutier Avoids Arbitration

Dan Cloutier and the Vancouver Canucks avoided arbitration yesterday when Cloutier accepted a one year contract valued at $3 million US. A lot of Canucks fans might not like the deal given that Cloutier hasn’t exactly blown anyone away in the playoffs but as Tom Benjamin points out keeping Cloutier around was probably the best of a limited number of options. There isn’t exactly a glut of young high-quality NHL netminders to be had via free agency or trades and Cloutier had a pretty good year. Benjamin also points out that by keeping Auld as the backup rather than Hedberg Vancouver’s combined goalie salaries have remained more or less unchanged.

Vancouver’s situation is similar to Ottawa’s- they had a solid enough regular season but didn’t live up to expectations in the playoffs (for a variety of reasons) and it was easy to point fingers at the goaltender. Lalime and Cloutier had comparable stats- Cloutier had 33 wins, a 2.27 GAA and a .914 save percentage to go along with 5 shutouts. Lalime had 25 wins, a 2.29 GAA and a .905 save percentage, also with 5 shutouts. Ottawa chose to use Lalime as a scapegoat and gamble with Hasek (although $2 million isn’t a huge gamble when you have two hot prospects like Prusek and Emory wanting to step in if the experiment goes awry). That option wasn’t available to Vancouver and there wasn’t nearly as much pressure to blame the season’s woes on the goalie so Cloutier is back.

Remember the days when fans and management would have been thrilled to pay $3 million for a goals against under 2.50?

**UPDATE**

Shortly after writing this post TSN announced that Vancouver has also signed forward Brendan Morrison for $3.55 million US meaning none of the Canucks’ players will be going to arbitration. Morrison gets a raise of $1.05 million which could be significantly less than he would have gotten in arbitration but Vancouver GM Dave Nonis had openly stated that he wold walk away from any arbitration awards that didn’t fit in the team budget. Odds are that threat played a role in Morrison and Coutier’s decisions to sign.

 
July 27th, 2004

Title IX is the Coolest! (Unless you’re an Olympic athlete with the wrong chromosomes)

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Think that Title IX is all sweetness, light and Wheaties box covers? Here

 
July 26th, 2004

Get On the Bandwagon Before It’s Too Late

ESPN.com golf writer Jason Sobel is trying to restart the Michelle Wie bandwagon after what he deemed an

 
July 26th, 2004

A Blog About a Blog About a Blog…

Media blogger Tom Biro passes along an item from blogger Steve Rubel about… a new blog! (Off Wing Opinion: Providing the best in third-hand information, at least when the guest bloggers are in charge!) The new blog in question is a “premium” sports site published by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. It costs $6.95 per month or $29.95 per year, and provides constant updates on the Braves, Falcons, Hawks, and Thrashers.

 
July 26th, 2004

Olympic Dreams and Feminist Hurdles

Here

 
July 26th, 2004

Neither Snow, Nor Sleet, Nor Antitrust…

If Lance Armstrong returns to the Tour de France next year, it will not be under the banner of the U.S. Postal Service. The Discovery Channel will assume the title sponsorship of Armstrong

 
July 26th, 2004

Calculating the Political Risk of Attending Sporting Events

I’ve often wondered how politicians evaluate the pros and cons of appearing at a game.

Just take last night’s Red Sox-Yankees series finale. Senator John Kerry, who had been scheduled to fly to Florida, flew instead to Boston to make an unexpected appearance at the game, and he threw out the first pitch. His surprise visit was no doubt a thrill for the Fenway faithful, perhaps save for whoever had been previously scheduled to throw out the first pitch.

Or go back to last month, when the Red Sox were playing at Yankee Stadium, and Vice President Dick Cheney was spotted sitting between Rudy Giuliani and Senator George Pataki. Apparently figuring that Massachusetts’ 12 electoral votes wouldn’t be coming his way anyway, he also donned a Yankees cap throughout the entire game.

Actually, sports has played a recurring role in the 2004 presidential race. Perhaps this was best seen in January, when after New England Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady decided to sit with First Lady Laura Bush during her husband’s state-of-the-union address, John Kerry was asked, “Senator, has President Bush stolen Tom Brady from you?”

Of course, politicians and sports is not a uniquely American mix. Just this past weekend, in fact, Hsu Tien-tsair, the Mayor of Tainan (Taiwan), threw out the first pitch of game 1 of the Second World University Baseball Championship, an international tournament held in Taiwan.

But what might make the mix different in the United States is the risk involved. Specifically, the risk of being booed loudly by tens of thousands of fans, all of whom are standing right around you. To illustrate, consider that while Vice President Cheney was wearing a Yankees cap, and was sitting between Giuliani and Pataki, he still received the jeers of New Yorkers when his picture was displayed on the centerfield scoreboard. Similarly, John Kerry apparently heard more than a few boos last night at Fenway, even though the Park was full of DNC people, as well as his own Massachusetts constituents. This reminded me of when Donovan McNabb was at the 1999 NFL Draft, and while being congratulated by Commissioner Paul Tagliabue for being selected by the Philadelphia Eagles, a small, but strikingly vocal contingent of Eagles fans started booing him. Loudly. And that was probably the most memorable moment of the draft.

I guess the real lesson is, if you’re a political advisor and your boss is scheduled to attend a sporting event, the best three words you can probably tell him are: “Don’t show up.”

On the other hand, maybe that’s what makes America so unique and so appealing: The fans aren’t afraid to boo their leaders, even when they’re standing right next to them. Just a hunch, but I bet that doesn’t always happen in Tainan. And maybe that’s why Mayor Hsu encountered “cheering crowds.”

 
July 26th, 2004

NHL Contract Round-up

Better late than never. Here’s your weekend NHL contract signing update:

Alex Tanguay signed a one year deal on Friday to stay with Colorado. He had a great year last year with 79 points in 69 games. If he had have stayed healthy he would have been in the hunt for the Art Ross.

Also on Friday, Capital Mike Greir opted to stay with the Sabres and accepted the club’s qualifying offer. GM Darcy Reiger is happy to have Greir’s physical presence and leadership back.

The Canadiens have locked up up-and-coming defenseman Ron Hainsey for two more years. Hainsey spent most of last year with Hamilton in the AHL but has a good chance of making the Habs squad this year.

According to the AJC the Thrashers and winger Scott Mellanby have come to an agreement that will see the 8 time 20 goal scorer suit up for Atlanta for the next two seasons. Mellanby is upset over the way a perceived deal with Florida fell through so he’ll be out to prove Mike Keenan made a mistake by supposedly reneging on their deal. Mellanby will be second or third on the depth chart at right wing behind Heatley (assuming he plays despite the legal proceedings against him) and perhaps Ronald Petrovicky. Either way he should get time on the second power-play unit on a team that lacks offensive depth.

In Calgary fan favourite Mike Commodore has signed a two-year deal. the 6′ 4″ 230 lb defender played just 12 regular season games with the Flames but impressed everyone with solid defensive play over 20 playoff games while Denis Gauthier and Toni Lyndman were out with injuries.

And finally, TSN is reporting that the sixth pick of this year’s entry draft, Rangers prospect Al Montoya, has decided to stay at Michigan for another year. TSN quotes Montoya as saying that he has some things he still wants to accomplish at the college level. One of those things might be simply playing. With a possible lockout looming it didn’t make a lot of sense for Montoya to give up his NCAA eligibility to potentially sit out an NHL season or be shipped to the AHL.

On the rumour side of things, Spector Hockey is reporting that Steve Sullivan could be seeking upwards of $4 million in arbitration while Predators winger Vladimir Orszagh is also looking for a raise during next month’s hearings. Spector also reports (via the St. Louis dispatch_ that the Coyotes are interested in acquiring Brett Hull. Dallas and St. Louis are other teams said to be interested in the aging winger.

 
July 26th, 2004

Number Six

Lance Armstrong’s remarkable run to a sixth consecutive Tour de France victory has been nothing short of awe-inspiring. That’s an overused word, perhaps, but for this it seems apt: when I read yesterday that Armstrong had won the nineteenth stage, a 60 km time trial, by over a minute, I felt what can only be described as a sense of giddy awe. Superlatives aren’t sufficient to describe what Armstrong accomplished between last Saturday and yesterday: competing against the world’s best cyclists, often on treacherous mountain courses, Armstrong won five of seven stages to go from more than five minutes off the leader’s pace to more than six minutes in front of his closest rivals. That a human being can accomplish what Armstrong did is remarkable. That a human being can accomplish what Armstrong has in the eight years after being diagnosed with advanced testicular cancer is, well, awe-inspiring.

The day of Armstrong’s triumph seems an appropriate time to recall one of my favorite early posts on my blog, Cooped Up, taking issue with a sportswriter who had the temerity, as Armstrong approached his fourth consecutive Tour de France win, to suggest that Armstrong was not an athlete.

And, as inspiring as I find Armstrong’s win, there are others, including some of my acquaintance, to whom it means so much more.

 
July 25th, 2004

Katz Crazy About ACC

The first tip off won’t be for a few more months but with the preseason NIT invitations having been mailed out this week and the final cuts for the World Championship for Young Men’s USA Basketball team being made it’s time to start thinking about NCAA basketball. ESPN’s Andy Katz has his Sizzling Summer Top 50 list to break things down for you and guess what? Duke isn’t #1. They aren’t even in the top three for the ACC. Having lost Chris Duhon to graduation and Luol Deng and signee Shaun Livingston to the draft they barely make Katz’s Top 10.

For his top two picks Katz went with ACC teams that are returning their starting lineups and gave people fits last year. Wake Forest takes the top spot thanks in large part to the outstanding play of last year’s super-freshman, Chris Paul and All-ACC player Justin Gray. North Carolina also returns a strong lineup as well which includes Rashad McCants, Raymond Felton and Shawn Williams. Players from the two schools take up three of the twelve spots on the American World Championship for Young Men team and there easily could have been five- McCants was surprisingly cut and Wake’s Eric Williams was the last cut for health reasons. Sean May, Justin Gray and Chris Paul all made the team and you can bet that the experience they gain this summer will be a huge asset come next March when both teams should be in the hunt for top seeds in the NCAA Tournament.

NCAA Champion UConn dropped down to the seventh spot on Katz’s list largely because of the losses of Okafor and Gordon. Finalist Georgia Tech hangs in at number four with perennial favourites Kansas being the team that prevented the ACC from sweeping the top three spots. Rounding out the top ten are 2003 champions, Syracuse at number five followed by Big 12 powerhouse Oklahoma State, the aforementioned Huskies at seven, the much-hyped Arizona Wildcats at eight, the always tough Illini of Illinois at nine and finally Duke taking up the tenth spot. That’s right, four ACC teams in the top 10. Scroll down and you’ll find four more by the time you hit number 36. The only ACC team from last year (remember the ACC expanded to 11 teams this year with the additions of Miami and Virginia Tech) that didn’t crack the list is Clemson who did manage to beat BC, Florida State, NC State and UNC last year- hardly pushovers.

What does it all mean? It means the NCAA selection committee might have a hard time finding not taking up to eight solid ACC teams come March and it means I’ll once again be cursing Canadian networks for not covering any NCAA basketball, let alone what could be the best Atlantic Coast Conference in years, until March.

And in case you were wondering the American Young Men’s team mopped the floor with Canada’s squad this afternoon in one of the best named arenas in North America- Saint John’s Harbour Station. Leading 24-6 at half the Americans went on to win 88-54 in exhibition play. May led the Americans with 16 points while Chris Paul played a game high 29 minutes.

 
July 25th, 2004

Fear and Loathing in NASCAR

Flak magazine is a terrific online publication with loads of fresh essays on just about every topic under the sun. Their Sports section is edgy and provocative — a smart, R-rated read. Check out this take on NASCAR anti-hero Tony Stewart.