Monthly Archives: April 2008

Nomo Finally, Pathetically No Mo’

The comeback has ended. A dream has died. The Kansas City Royals’ experiment with veteran pitcher Hideo Nomo is finally, pathetically no mo’.

The Royals climactically came to their senses and designated Nomo for assignment on April 20. They then requested unconditional release waivers on April 25 and released Nomo, officially, on April 28. Barring an unlikely scenario, Nomo will not be offered another contract from another team and his 13-year major league career is over.

He was the first of the modern wave of Asian players to succeed in the majors. Nomo won 123 major league games; hurled two no-hitters and still stands as the Dodgers’ best free-agent signing ever — TWICE. He struck out more than 220 batters in a season four times. Now 39 and out of gas, Nomo leaves the game battered, if not bruised.

The right-hander had an ERA above 18.00 in four appearances this season before somebody inside the Royals woke up and slapped themselves. It probably WASN’T manager Trey Hillman, a long-time admirer of Nomo. A former Japanese League manager, Hillman wanted Nomo for his new team but is now dealing with the reality that his man-crush isn’t enough to bring new life into an old limb.

Hillman may be crazy, but Nomo was actually a great pitcher who deserved adulation, once. His twisted delivery fooled National League hitters during his first season in 1995, going 13-6 with a 2.56 ERA en route to a Rookie of the Year award. He rekindled a bit of Fernando Mania that year, too. Probably more so than any player since.

His outstanding statistic: Most career victories of any Japanese pitcher. Not bad, if you were born in Japan. Does that deserve serious Hall of Fame consideration? Unlikely. But it could happen.

Coincidentally, Nomo never attempted to learn English, reportedly, so that he didn’t have to communicate with American media. Probably a smart move for him. Who wants to talk the a abrasive American media when you don’t have to? Or the Hall of Fame, if and when they come calling.

What is most memorable about Hideo Nomo? Take the poll.

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Filed under Baseball, Los Angeles Dodgers, MLB

Beckham, Donovan Best Duo In Soccer

David Beckham and Landon Donovan have teamed to create the best 1-2 punch in all of soccer. This has been evident since the start of the Major League Soccer season but was highlighted by the recent dismantling of Chivas USA in the latest SuperClasico match at Home Depot Center. Sure, the victory was nice; the Galaxy hadn’t defeated Chivas USA in a year, but the performances of Beckham, and especially Donovan, have made MLS relevant. And who ever thought that was possible?

So starting at the top, here’s my Top 5 Soccer Duos list:

1. David Beckham and Landon Donovan, Los Angeles Galaxy (MLS): Sure the Premiership, La Liga, Serie A and the Bundesliga have a some tremendous couplings, but Beckham (3 helpers) to Donovan (8 goals) is giving MLS defenders nightmares so far this season. Their chemistry is apparent because they both take pressure off the other player in different ways. The team is winning, which is good for Beckham; and Beckham is contributing, which is good for Donovan.

2. Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney, Manchester United (EPL): Ronaldo, now the reigning two-time Footballers’ Player of the Year, has had a stellar campaign, scoring 28 times for the Premiership champs. Rooney continues to refine his all-around game and has added 12 goals and 11 assists in helping ManU reach the Champions League final this season.

3. Emmanuel Adebavor and Francesc Fabregas, Arsenal (EPL): Adebavor, 24, has made every run count for Arsenal, netting 21 goals in 30 EPL matches and a few more during their Champions League semifinal run. Fabregas, only 21, has 19 assists and seven goals in his first full season with Arsenal. “Cesc” as he’s known, was recently named Young Footballer of the Year and would be considered the best player in the world if not for the play of ManU’s Ronaldo.

4. Fernando Torres and Steven Garrard, Liverpool (EPL): Perhaps the most mature goal-scorer in the world, Torres’ speedy play netted 22 goals for the Reds this season. Garrard, the aged English captain, remains a colossus at midfield, scoring 11 times and adding 11 helpers to guide his club side to another Top-4 finish in the Premiership and with it, another qualification to Europe next season.

5. Raul and Guti, Barcelona (La Liga): Raul has netted 17 goals thus far for Barca, which reached the semifinals of the Champions League and currently sit atop the Spanish La Liga, again. Guti has a team-high 14 assists on a side with Brazilian Robinho (10 goals, 7 asst.), one of the better playmakers in the world.

What’s the best soccer duo? Take the poll.

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Filed under Los Angeles Galaxy, MLS, Soccer

Mocking NFL Mock Drafts

Mel Kiper Jr. may have the best hair on TV, and Todd McShay may provide the best analysis, but they’re not the only personalities with the moxie to mock the NFL Draft.

Here’s my projected first round: 

1. Miami Dolphins. OT Jake Long (Michigan). New GM Bill Parcells wasted little time in selecting Long, signing him to a contract four days before the draft. And hey, the Dolphins need help everywhere, so it makes sense that they start with the best “big ugly” available.

2. St. Louis Rams. DL Chris Long (Virginia). Howie’s son is a sure bet to be an impact player for the next 10 years. The Rams need defense, any defense and Long makes long-term sense.

3. Atlanta Falcons. QB Matt Ryan (Boston College). Reportedly, Falcons owner Arthur Blank is enamored with Ryan, much the same way he was with another QB the Falcons drafted in the first round several years ago. They’d be better served picking Glenn Dorsey, but Blank writes the checks. “To Mike, I mean Matt, with love. Arthur.”

4. Oakland Raiders. RB Darren McFadden (Arkansas). Al Davis already has said that he likes him. And what’s not to like? The Raiders need offense like the Rams need defense and McFadden could be great for a team looking for a home run hitter.

5. Kansas City Chiefs. LB/DE Vernon Gholston (Ohio State). An impact player to be sure, Gholston was a freak at the NFL Combine and could be an instant Pro Bowl player. The Chiefs will be lucky if he falls this far; his potential career arch is much greater than any other defensive player on the board.

6. New York Jets. LB Keith Rivers (USC). Head coach Eric Mangini knows Bill Belichick and the Patriots, who have the following selection, covet Rivers for his intelligence. Mangini could prove he’s really a genius by taking Rivers right out from under Belichick’s nose.

7. New England Patiots. OT Ryan Clady (Boise St.) With Rivers gone, Belichick does the smart thing and takes the next best lineman on the board. Tom Brady can never have too much protection, and Clady can start right away at left tackle. Their names also rhyme. Clady. Brady.

8. Baltimore Ravens. DT Sedrick Ellis (USC). Unable to draft QB Matt Ryan, the Ravens select Ellis to help reinvigorate a defense that slumped last season. Ellis was ranked below LSU’s Glenn Dorsey on most draft boards, but rated higher at the NFL Combine and is without health concerns.

9. CIncinnati Bengals. DT Glenn Dorsey (LSU). He slipped from projections placing him at the top of the draft based upon his health issues (cracked shin bone, gimpy knees, etc.). The Bengals, as porous as ever on defense and morality, could use Dorsey’s huge body and flawless character.

10. New Orleans Saints. CB Mike Jenkins (South Florida). They were hoping local boy Glenn Dorsey would fall one more spot but take Jenkins because he’s the best defensive player still available. He could start almost immediately for the Saints, who were sinners on defense last season.

11. Buffalo Bills. WR Devin Thomas (Michigan State). Reportedly, they’ve already decided they want a receiver. That may not be the smartest move in such a defense-heavy draft but the Bills think they need another target for J.P. Losman or Trent Edwards or whomever.

12. Denver Broncos. OT Chris Williams (Vanderbilt). Mike Shanahan is determined to protect quarterback Jay Cutler, who happens to be a Vanderbilt product. Who better to do that than Williams, who some scouts say is the smartest person in the the draft.

13. Carolina Panthers. DE Derrick Harvey (Florida). A monster in the SEC the last three season, Harvey slips because of the draft overall depth on defense. Place Harvey opposite Julius Peppers and the Panthers have quite a defensive end tandem until Peppers retires.

14. Chicago Bears. OT Branden Albert (Virginia). The Bears are a mess so adding Albert is about the smartest move. He played guard at Virginia and practiced against Chris Long everyday and survived, so he’ll carry his weight in Chicago.

15. Detroit Lions. DE Philip Sterling (Clemson). The Lions hoped Harvey would fall further but select Sterling instead. An all-SEC selection the last two seasons, Sterling fits head coach Rod Marinelli’s defensive system and can start right away.

16. Arizona Cardinals. RB Rashard Mendenhall (Illinois). The Cardinals running game lacks explosiveness with Edgerrin James. Mendenall has the ability to change that. He led the Fightin’ Illini to the Rose Bowl last season and should be a solid pro back.

17. Kansas City Chiefs. OT Jeff Otah (Pittsburgh). The second-best run blocker in the draft, Otah will start immediately and help Larry Johnson and the Chiefs’ re-establish their abysmal running game next season.

18. Houston Texans. CB Leodis McKelvin (Troy). The fastest player at the NFL Combine, KcKelvin should start right away with injuries plaguing the Texans’ secondary. So what continues to plague the Texans’ offense?

19. Phidelphia Eagles. OT Godser Cherilus (Boston College). The Eagles desperately need help up front.  Head coach Andy Reid and the Eagles wanted Vanderbilt’s Chris Williams but reluctantly take Cherilus, the last elite lineman left on the board.

20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers. CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (Tennessee State). Head coach Jon Gruden probably wants another quarterback but cooler heads (Monte Kiffin’s) prevail and the Bucs will select Rodgers-Cromartie as the eventual replacement for Ronde Barber.

21. Washington Redskins. WR Malcolm Kelly (Oklahoma). Rumor has it that Redskins’ QB Jason Campbell has already thrown passes to Kelly during a workout in Norman, Okla. last week. No one else wants him this high, so he’ll be here for the ‘Skins to take.

22. Dallas Cowboys. RB Felix Jones (Arkansas). They might still select a cornerback despite the acquisition of Adam “Pacman” Jones, but the Cowboys are more likely to go with Arkansas’ Jones because they need a back to replace Julius Jones, who left for the Seattle Seahawks via free agency. Not to mention owner Jerry Jones is an Arkansas alum and was probably already paying Felix. Boosters are the heart of any good collegiate athletic program!

23. Tennessee Titans. CB Aqib Talib (Kansas). The Titans, thrilled to be rid of Pacman Jones, draft Talib, who many consider the best cover corner in the draft. Thing is, Talib got stoned a few times in college. He came clean with teams at the NFL Combine. The Titans appreciate the honesty.

24. Pittsburgh Steelers. WR Limas Sweed (Texas). Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger gets his wish — a big receiver. Sweed, who most scouts agree resembles a poor-man’s Roy Williams, won’t start immediately but will have a solid career if Roethlisberger stays healthy.

25. Seattle Seahawks. TE Fred Davis (USC). The Seahawks are done with Jerramy Stevens and select Davis to give quarterback Matt Hasselbeck a bigger, more consistant target. Davis had a great senior season at Southern Cal and could be a Pro Bowl tight end in three years or less.

26. Jacksonville Jaguars. DT Kentwan Balmer (North Carolina). The Jags lost some key players through free agency and are in need of some retooling on defense if they want to meet their goal of reaching — and losing — in the playoffs. Balmer’s a stud who can start now for a team stuck in second gear.

27. San Diego Chargers. RB Jonathan Stewart (Oregon). Stewart is a special player that has fallen to the Chargers as a gift. He’ll easily keep pace with the production the Bolts were receiving from Michael Turner, who bolted during free agency.

28. Dallas Cowboys. CB Brandon Flowers (Virginia Tech). The Cowboys know they can’t count on Pacman Jones so the select Flowers to cover themselves. Or they trade the pick to Miami so Parcells can take Michigan QB Chad Henne or USC QB John David Booty.

29. San Francisco 49ers. WR DeSean Jackson (California). The Niners have lacked a legitimate deep-play threat since oh, Jerry Rice. Jackson, though small, could fit the bill. The 49ers would probably be better off selecting Tennessee’s Jerod Mayo, but they’ve drafted a linebacker each of the last two seasons.

30. Green Bay Packers. S Kenny Phillips (Miami). The Packers, post Brett Favre, continue to improve their defense with the selection of Phillips, who’ll add muscle and consistency to their secondary. But from where will the muscle and consistancy come to their offense?

31. New York Giants. LB Jerod Mayo (Tennessee). The Giants lost some key pieces to their Super Bowl team, none bigger than LB Antonio Pierce. Mayo, a prototypical middle linebacker, will start and make an immediate impact.

Who will have the best NFL career? Take the poll.

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Filed under Football, NCAA, NFL

Cowboys Acquire Another Knucklehead

The Dallas Cowboys have a long history of success — five Super Bowl wins, two Hall-of-Fame quarterbacks, the star on the helmet. Yet despite all that is good, all that is “America” about the Cowboys, they can’t stop acquiring knuckleheads.

The latest is Adam “Pacman” Jones, who has a long history of failure — numerous arrests, an alleged forced extortion, the small brain UNDER his helmet. Yet despite all that is bad, all that is toxic about Pacman, the Cowboys want him anyway.

Jones, a first-round draft pick by the Tennessee Titans two years ago, may not even play this season. He’s still waiting for Roger Goodell to reinstate him after being suspended for the entire 2007 season.

But that didn’t stop the Cowboys from trading a fourth-round pick in this year’s NFL Draft to the Titans to acquire his rights. The Cowboys also agreed to send another pick in 2009 should Jones reach a playing-time quota, while the Titans agreed to return a pick should Jones NOT play.

So the Cowboys have covered their backsides in the event Jones remains suspended; they still have an owner who has the unstoppable urge to sign players rife with personal turmoil (real or imagined) and pay more than market cost.

Case No. 1: Terrell Owens. Everyone knows this guy is a head-case, at best. At worst he’s a locker-room cancer who takes shots at his quarterback in the media. Sure he can play, but at what cost? He’s under contract for $10 million next season.

Case No. 2: Tank Johnson. What’s a little drugs and some guns to today’s NFL player? Jail time? He’s served plenty. He’s also the starting nose tackle and being paid about $404,000 for next season. Not a bad paycheck for a guy who can go jailhouse on an opposing tackle at any time.

Case No. 3: Pacman Jones. He’s the new O.J.! He’s on TV more than Peyton Manning! And he still has court dates! Now there’s news he paid money to a man linked with the “Make it Rain” shooting in Las Vegas. As part of his plea deal with Nevada authorities, he’s picked that man out of a lineup recently but must still testify in the case. Jones’ lawyer said the trade has nothing to do with his legal status.

Obviously, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones must really believe in giving second chances. He’s kind of like a redemtion healer. “Bring me your tired, your sick, your malajusted, delinquent and criminal…” Can he get Pacman on a path toward success? Perhaps. One thing is for sure though… must take one to know one.

Do you think Pacman will help the Cowboys? Take the poll.

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Blame Old Quacks For Ducks’ Clipping

If it weren’t for old hags Teemu Selanne and Scott Neidermayer, the Anaheim Ducks may still be alive against Dallas Stars in the 2008 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Instead, the Ducks lost the first-round series in six games and are now the fifth consecutive team to have won Lord Stanley’s Cup and not advanced past their first playoff opponent the following season.

Selanne and Niedermayer combined for two goals, four assists and a minus-3 rating in the six games. Pretty pathetic numbers for two sure-fire HOFers trying to give it one last, final shot at… paying the mortgage by way of playing professional hockey.

The two clearly should have stayed retired. The Ducks would’ve been better served allowing younger, hungrier players to play key minutes, especially with the series tied in Game 3. Neither Selanne or Neidermayer pointed in that game and the Ducks fell behind in the series for good.

The Game 6, the Ducks were blitzed for four goals in the third period en route to a 4-1 loss and an early playoff exit. The only note-worthy item from the game was that Selanne scored the Ducks’ lone goal on an assist from Neidermayer in the second period. Way to put your name on the statsheet guys!

They both obviously lacked the motivation and desire it took to win another Cup. Selanne had chased one his whole life before the Ducks’ improbable run to glory last season; and Neidermayer was no longer being pushed by his teammate and brother Rob, who, like Selanne, had also been Cup-less before last season.

So it is, without much notice, that they’ll both likely retire for good this off-season. Two great careers linked by two years together in Anaheim, where they connected to score their team’s final goal of a 2008 season in which they wasted their own time and plenty of the Ducks’ money.

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Filed under Anaheim Ducks, Hockey, NHL

An NFL Team? In SoCal? So What.

So billionaire Edward P. Roski Jr. wants to again bring an NFL team to the greater Los Angeles area.

So what.

Reportedly, the plan is to build a 75,000-seat stadium at the intersection of the 57 and 60 Freeways, in and around Chino Hills (Ca.). It’ll cost $800 bazillion, be built on a property he already owns and be completed in time for exhibition games in 2011.

Sounds awfully convenient, I know, but this could actually be the plan that entices the NFL into returning a pro football ghost town. Roski Jr., worth approx. 2.3 billion, is a realty and development magnate and has worked with the NFL before. (He was involved with the previous group whose bid was REJECTED in favor of the one which eventually became the Houston Texans.)

But Roski Jr., a part owner of the Lakers and Kings, and his realty group say they’ve taken away any location/stadium uncertainty the NFL may have about returning to the L.A. market.

So there might be a stadium coming to a neighborhood close to you. But who is going to play in it? And who is going to come watch?

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has said that expansion “is off the table” right now, likely meaning the only way a team could enter L.A. is through relocation. But Goodell is nothing more than a mouthpiece for the owners; despite all the disciplinary action he’s had to administer lately, he’s a smarmy businessman and would likely take full credit for helping instigate a return to the nation’s second-largest market if it means helping further bloat the NFL’s pocketbook.

As for athletic supporters… when the Raiders and Rams left 1995, their fans left with them, if not physically then emotionally. Sure, there’s likely a segment of the population that would be open to supporting an expansion/relocated team (women, children) but it would be hard to sway the real NFL demographic, males 18-65. No true NFL fan would ever change their allegiance just because a new team is now only 20 minutes away. See a game or two, sure. Maybe even buy a t-shirt. But root for them to DEFEAT their team, never.

Which means that unless Roski Jr. has a family numbering thousands of ticket-holders and can fill the stadium with his in-laws; or a plan to field a competitive squad worth watching, the new team will be met with the same apathy as that which drove L.A.’s previous franchises into exile. ‘Cause you know RaiderFan isn’t going to change (Orelay!). And RamFan, if such a thing still exists in California, is behind a closet door somewhere, still hiding from RaiderFan.

What kind of NFL team do you want in SoCal? Take the poll.

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Filed under Football, NFL

The NFL Ignores NFC West Fans

Does the NFL even care about fans of the NFC West anymore? Looking at the 2008 schedule, it would be easy to say, emphatically, NO!

Next season, fans of the NFC West have only four opportunities to see those teams on television in prime time. That is, either the Sunday night game on NBC or Monday Night Football on ESPN. Oh, and it also includes those few late-season Thursday night games. And they have only four of those ALL SEASON: one Monday night game (SF at ARI, Nov. 10), and three Sunday night games (SEA at TB, Oct. 19; SEA at SF, Oct. 26; NE at SEA, Dec. 7). No division plays fewer games in prime time.

Analyzed one step further and you see that the Seahawks get three, the 49ers get two and the Cardinals get one. Where are the Rams? Actually, the Rams were one of five teams which will not appear in prime time next season. The others being the Chiefs, Dolphins, Falcons and Lions. Suppose those franchises and their fans now know what the NFL and the networks think of their prospects next season?

Conversely, the NFC East will play a league-high 17 games in prime time, including almost half of the their 12 divisional games. Reportedly, it’s a hellacious gauntlet for the networks to schedule these games. Their motivation: to earn the most advertising bang for their buck, so they chose teams from huge media markets they can bank on. I mean, who can argue against the money New York City, Philadelphia, D.C. and Dallas can attract? Apparently not the NFL or the networks, which have just collectively ignored fans and advertisers in San Francisco, Seattle, Phoenix/Glendale and St. Louis.

Yeah, the New York Giants are the Super Bowl champs and the East had two other playoff teams last season, but the disparity between the two divisions clearly illustrates the kind of biased mathematics the NFL is choosing to use in its marketing scheme for next season — that the fans and advertisers on the East Coast are more valuable than those on the West Coast, at a ratio of more than 4-to-1.

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Filed under Football, NFL, San Francisco 49ers