Monday, October 29, 2007

A-Rod Opts Out; Slammed by Gammons

What cannot have been a surprise to anyone who follows baseball or Scott Boras, A-Rod announced through his agent (Boras) that he is opting out of the final 3 years of his deal with the Yankees.

What was a surprise to me was the reaction tonight on ESPN from Peter Gammons. Gammons said that the announcement -- during Game 4 of the World Series -- showed a complete disrespect for the game. Gammons went on saying that it was particularly disrespectful coming from a guy who claims he wants to play for a championship team, and that A-Rod's actions may show why he's never even played in a World Series. Gammons also added that this should act as a warning to those who are considering signing him to a $250M+ contract. Wow.

Pats Crush Skins

52-7. Wow. I guess Joe Gibbs wasn't kidding during his press conference this week when he asked if anyone had a game plan to stop the Patriots. Clearly Joe got nothing from the beat reporters and came up empty with ideas of his own.

I'm going to pass on any commentary on the actual game, but just send a shout out to my good friend Mark D, but unfortunately a Redskins fan living in Rhode Island, just miles from Gillette Stadium. I'm sure he got dozens of calls from his friends after this beat-down. He already has an email from me :)

But one stat I do want to talk about. Yes, Brady, Moss, Welker and the rest of the receiving corps are on their way to setting just about every offensive record in the book. But the most stunning stat I noticed today was point differential. The Pats have a +204 differential. That's impressive. But it's even more impressive when you realize that only two other teams have SCORED more than 204 points this year.

Next week's "Showdown in Speedtown" between the Pats and Colts should be as good as advertised.

Red Sox Win World Series

Really amazing postseason for the Sox. Pushed to the brink of extinction by the Indians, but then won 7 straight in route to their second World Series in 4 years. Definitely a lot of Red Sox Nation must have been holding their breath when Jamey Carrol lined one to the wall for the second out of the ninth. But Papelbon settled down and closed it out.

Tonight an extremely gutsy outing by Jon Lester, who last year this time was being treated for Hodgkins disease. Only 9 months after completing his chemotherapy treatment, he's the winner of the closeout game, going 5-2/3 innings and giving up no runs.

Gotta love that Mike Lowell, basically the throw-in as a salary dump by the Marlins as the "cost" to acquire ace Josh Beckett was just crowned the 2007 WS MVP. Good for him. He's a glue guy, a leader in the clubhouse and was probably the MVP of the regular season for the Sox.

Jacoby Ellsbury had an awesome series, being inserted into the leadoff spot at the beginning of the series. You're looking at the starting CF for the Sox for the next decade.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Now that brings a smile to my heart

Celtics 101 Knicks 61

I know it's only pre-season and the games don't matter, but just seeing the box score from tonight's pre-season opener at the TD Banknorth Garden made me smile. The Knicks shot 25.9% from the floor and didn't have one player reach double digits. Nice.

And on the same day, MSG and Isiah ask the court to reduce the punitive damage award to Anucha Browne-Sanders. Not overturn the finding of the jury and exhonorate Isiah Thomas, but simply reduce the amount of the award. This seems to be a very different posture than the response from Thomas the day that the jury found him and MSG liable, where he stated his disappointment in the jury's findings that he sexually harassed Ms. Browne-Sanders. Where's the indignation now? I thought Isiah said that he was not guilty of the things that he was accused of? This hardly seems the response of an "innocent" man. When will the Knicks learn that this does not reduce the damages. It merely brings the story back to the forefront and the back pages of the NY papers. If they wanted to cut their losses, they'd have just paid the money and tried to put it behind them. Ah, the Jimmy Dolan brain trust is at it again.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Isiah and MSG Found Liable for Sexual Harrassment

"Yes, and it counts!". That was my initial reaction to hearing the news that Isiah, Dolan and the rest of the Keystone Kops that inhabit the "World's Most Repugnant Arena". And yes, I danced a little jig in the hotel room as the news went across the scroll on ESPN.

There have been probably millions of words written about the trial and the result. Some of my favorite articles have been written by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, columnists Shaun Powell, Johnette Howard and Jim Baumbach of Newsday, Mike Vacarro of the New York Post, ESPN's Bill Simmons and countless others.

But of course I have to get my 2 cents in. I guess I see a few different angles outside the ordinary:
* Tawny Thomas' -- Isiah and Clarence: The irony is almost inconceivable. Could it have been timed any better than this? In the same week that Isiah, Dolan and just about everybody at MSG tries to sully the reputation of an up-and-coming black female in a sexual harassment suit, that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas releases his book 'My Grandfather’s Son' in which he recounts his clashes with, Anita Hill, the clerk that accused Clarence of sexual harrassment. Both in during the confirmation hearings, and again in the book, Clarence tries to disparage and defame the reputation of the woman making the charges against him. The same tactic that Isiah and the MSG execs used. The only difference in the two stories is that Isiah was found liable. Clarence Thomas is only a liability for the nation.

* Isiah and Imus: Where's the Outrage Now? So now what. In the aftermath, it appears that Isiah, Dolan or the Knicks will walk away nary a scratch (excepting the $11.6M that MSG and Dolan must cough up -- but who's kidding who, that doesn't affect the Knicks one bit). No suspensions, no lost draft picks, nothing that impacts the franchise. Personally I think that David Stern, the Commissioner of the NBA, missed an opportunity. He has hit players far worse for far less. But what's worse in my opinion is that the people who have the real power, the advertisers, have not weighed in at all. When Don Imus called the members of the Rutgers women's basketball team "a bunch of nappy headed ho's", Imus was widely derided, abandoned and in short order lost his job. Why did that happen, because the advertisers who supported his show for decades withdrew their support immediately. I am in no way advocating or defending Imus' conduct (although for full disclosure I was a long time listener and found Imus funny), what he did was nothing compared to what Isiah did. Imus called them names. Isiah SEXUALLY HARASSED Ms. Browne-Sanders and MSG enabled the environment and further fired Ms. Browne-Sanders in retribution. Where is the outrage from the advertisers now? Jimmy Dolan is an idiot, but even he, or perhaps his father Charles who owns Cablevision, might do something if all of their advertisers withdrew their support. So again I say, where's the outrage now?

On a related note, another show I listen to diligently is ESPN's Pardon the Interruption (PTI), hosted by renowned Washington Post columnists Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon. I love these guys, but in their October 2 episode they talked about the Isiah trial result. Both found Isiah's actions repugnant, but felt that he should still be allowed to coach the Knicks (which perhaps they felt was punishment enough). But moments after that segment, during the "Big Finish", Mr. Kornheiser mentioned that Don Imus was reportedly being given a new radio show and asked Mr. Wilbon whether he thought that was OK. Mr. Wilbon answered "no, not really". That was stunning to me. Wilbon had not even initially thought that Imus should have lost his job when the Rutgers incident occurred. But now he thought it was OK for Isiah to keep coaching while Imus shouldn't be given another chance after being out of work for 6 months? I was stunned and disappointed. I mean not only did Isiah SEXUALLY HARASS the person in this case, but he also used the term "black bitch" while referring Ms. Browne-Sanders and further stated in video testimony that it was OK for black males to use this phrase, but not for white males. How is Imus' actions worse than Isiah's, on any level? I don't know why Mr. Wilbon took this position. I don't think it was a "black solidarity thing". Perhaps it is simply a case of being too close to his sources, having known Isiah for many years as he covered the NBA. But certainly, Mr. Wilbon has fallen a few pegs in my book.

Finally, just yesterday I realized that the apocalypse is nearly upon us. Yes, it appears that Rev. Al Sharpton is the voice of reason. Clearly the end of times is upon us. But Rev. Sharpton is the only person calling on Isiah to recant his statements about the appropriateness of calling black females "Bitches". And suprisingly, has called for picketing MSG unless Isiah does so. Amazing.

SCHIP: Bush and GOP Play Poker with Sick Kids

For a guy that hadn't vetoed any legislation in his first 6-1/2 years in office, Bush is certainly making up for lost time. And true to form for this "compassionate conservative", the people at the business end of his latest veto are again poor, sick and needy.

Both the House (265-159) and the Senate (68-31) passed nearly identical legislation to increase funding of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) by $35 billion over 5 years. SCHIP provides health insurance to children whose parents cannot afford health insurance, but earn too much to qualify for Medicaid. The legislation would have increased the number of children covered by this program from 6.6 million to over 10.5 million -- roughly a 60% increase. And how would this be paid for? A $1 tax increase on cigarettes.

So let's recap, more poor children who have no healthcare would receive coverage and the cost of the program would be borne by cigarette smokers. Sounds good, right?

If you agree, you clearly have fallen for the trap that Bush was too clever for (first time for everything?). Lost in the shuffle of these good deeds is the evil undercurrent of socialized medicine. For this program, surely begins the slippery slope towards having the government responsible for health care for everyone in the country. Aha! Bush has caught you devilish democrats.

It's a joke. Bush is calling for a smaller increase that according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) will actually take 1 million children off the program over the next five years. The bickering over $6 billion a year is ludicrous given the $200 billion request that Bush has made for the war in Iraq for this year only. It's amazing that the President who has been a driving force for "No Child Left Behind" is against this. Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) captured this sentiment best when he said "it's a bizarre thing that a president who believes in testing kids for math does not believe in testing kids for measles and mumps." But then again, this is the same president who recently stated that "Childrens do learn" in front of elementary schoold children while promoting "No Child Left Behind".

It's sad that the White House and the GOP have been able to gather enough support in the House to enable Bush's veto. Pelosi and the Dems have scheduled another vote this week to try to get the 15 more votes they need to make the legislation veto-proof (the Senate margin already is). Let's hope they are successful.

Requiem for the Mets

I've been meaning to get to this and other subjects, but I happily spent most of last week on vacation with my family at Disney World in Orlando. I had a great time watching my daughter enjoy her first visit to Disney and meeting all the princesses. It was also good because I didn't have to be home watching the games or the lowlights on ESPN as the Mets completed their collapse.

The 5-12 finish to the season put the Mets in the pantheon of losers that include the '51 Dodgers, '64 Phillies and '78 Red Sox. Rare company indeed. But what I think makes this collapse worse than all of them is that 8 of the 12 losses came from the bottom of the division -- the Marlins and Nationals. If they got beat by good teams, contenders down the stretch, this would have been somewhat more bearable. But in the final week, the Mets showed less heart than the Tin Man, less courage than the Lion and with 12 errors in 3 games versus the Marlins, less brains than the Scarecrow.

The only other saving grace is that the Phillies and the Cubs (servers you right Wilbon...more on that in another column) were swept out of the playoffs. So the bragging rights by my brother-in-law Steve will be kept to a minimum.