Saturday, July 07, 2007

Saturday 07/07 A.M. (Very) Quickie:
Summer League Debuts, Morneau, Wimby, More!

Kevin Durant's Summer League debut: The good? 16 points. The bad? On 5-of-17 FG shooting. And that's against SUMMER LEAGUE DEFENSE.

Greg Oden also made his debut, even less auspicious: 6 points (on only 4 shots) and only 2 rebounds in 20 minutes, with – if I read the NBA box score right – 10 personal fouls. That makes him four points shy of a double-double. (Meanwhile, LaMarcus Aldridge? 26 and 11. Damn.)

Meanwhile, Yi had 23 points (7/15 FG) in an 86-77 loss to the Grizzlies. (Mike Conley: 12 pts on 4/6 FG.)

Why doesn't the NBA sell Summerleague jerseys? You'd think that would be a terrific ancillary revenue stream of merchandise.

Vick Watch: The Feds say Vick's property was the site of housing and training pit-fighting dogs, at the very least. Things don't look good.

MLB Stud: Justin Morneau, who hit 3 HR in a Twins thrashing of the White Sox last night. Wasn't it just a week or so ago when we were wondering about the state of Morneau's health? Not anymore.

MLB Dud: Neifi Perez becomes the first MLB player hit with the suspension related to the ban on stimulants. Now, where is my 5th cup of coffee this morning...

Griffey hits HR No. 586, which ties him with Frank Robinson for 6th on the all-time list. Damn he's in rare air.

Wimbledon: Venus is into the final, and with Justine Henin upset in the other semi, the path is clear for a(nother) Williams Wimby title.

Nice to see Tiger show up at his own tournament.

Ooh: Have you heard? It's 07/07/07! Most Overrated. Numerological Gimmick. Ever.

-- D.S.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Friday 07/06 A.M. Quickie:
Tour de France, Final Vote, Verlander, Tiger, More!

Tour de Farce 2007: No Lance. No Landis. I'd say the intrigue is about the TdF being "wide open," but we thought it would be that way LAST year too, didn't we?

After the fact, it turned out that – yet again – cheating was at the heart of the race. It seems like a million years ago that this event was a quirky-cool must-see for the casual American fan.

(It has to be asked: If stardom -- Lance -- or scandal -- Landis -- is the only reason a casual fan would pay attention to this event, is the Tour de France better off with something scandalous happening? As far as capturing wide attention in America, I think it might be.)

MLB All-Star Final Vote: The fans have spoken! As predicted here, Hideki Okajima won the AL's extra All-Star spot. As not predicted here, Chris Young won the NL's spot. (Travis Liles has a really interesting post: Should a player suspension that runs across the ASG impact a player's ASG availability? Hmm...)

But it's a nice consolation prize for Pat Neshek that he emerged as the bloggers' choice as one of the most cult-ish MLB players.

(There's a fascinating point to be made about Neshek's ability to go from quasi-anonymous middle reliever to blogger sensation with tons of "cred." It's a lesson for any/all athletes and follows the Paul Shirley model: You don't have to be a superstar like Gilbert Arenas to increase your visibility and popularity among fans through emerging media.)

MLB Stud, Team: Tigers. A sweep of the Indians put Detroit just a game back in the Central. What a race this will be.

12-game winner CC Sabathia was beaten by 10-game winner Justin Verlander, in a matchup between possible AL All-Star starters. (My money's on Verlander; just look who is doing the picking for the AL.)

Unsurprisingly, Barry Bonds will not participate in the Home Run Derby. Oh, but if he did! (In front of Bonds-friendly fans in San Francisco, it's not even that much of a p.r. risk for him. Injury-wise, though...)

Kobe apologizes to Kupchak: So much for Bryant's impossibly hard-line stance. And, yet, the Lakers are no closer to fulfilling Kobe's mandate to create a contender than before.

Tiger's Tournament: It would be so NOT cool if Tiger missed the cut at his own party. (And stop the easy blame of the new parenthood!)

NBA Summer League Mania! Tips off today, with your first chance to see Kevin Durant, Mike Conley and Greg Oden. Oh, and Yi, but playing for Team China, not Team Milwaukee.

Grant Hill signs with the Suns: That might mean that Hill could finally get out of the first round of the NBA playoffs.

Juan Carlos Navarro Watch: Signs are pointing toward the Wizards trading Navarro, using him to unload a dead-weight contract like Brendan Haywood's or Etan Thomas'. I am kind of upset by this. The Wizards' bench production was anemic, and JCN is one of the most dynamic Euro guards ever produced. Yes: By all means, give him away.

Youth Olympics in 2010: Not sure how they'll find the athletes aged 14-18 (aren't a bunch of them REAL Olympians already?), but it's just a matter of time before we have our first PED scandal.

Reggie Bush to be in TV booth for Beckham's MLS debut: I can't knock this marketing ploy. MLS needs all the help it can get (yes, even with Beckham's star power). Is it a little skeevy that they are marketing partners for adidas? Slightly. But Bush adds a little spice to the mix. Now, no NFL fan who isn't an MLS fan will tune in just because of Bush's appearance -- and avid MLS fans might resent the play for casual eyeballs -- so it nets out as a bit of a no-man's-land move.

The mysterious death of former Florida DB Avery Atkins is the tragic end of a really sad story involving a very promising player whose future was derailed early on and spiraled down from there.

NFL Offseason: Belichick moving to NFC? Ah, ProFootballTalk... what would we fans do without you? Spicing up the slowest stretch of the year in NFL news, they float the idea that Belichick might be done with the Pats after 2007 and moving on to the NFC in '08. Make this happen!

Random, but kind of fascinating: An interview with the Snorg T-shirt girl. (h/t: Winning the Turnover Battle)

Chestnut beats Kobayashi, Cont'd: What does it say that even as the NBA ratings plummet, the ratings for events like this one skyrocket?

It says that the most sustainable model for niche-sport success (which now includes the NBA, like it or not) is to create a once-a-year event model.

That's why the NBA Draft or the NBA All-Star Weekend -- or even the traditional Xmas Day game (usually the biggest and most compelling game of the regular season) -- are, proportionally, way more viscerally enjoyable than the NBA Finals.

-- D.S.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Thursday 07/05 A.M. Quickie:
Chesnut, Rockies, Darko, Tiger, Roenick, More!

Chesnut beats Kobayashi for Hot Dog Eating title: I was trying to think about a "real"-sport analogue for yesterday's greatest moment in competitive eating history.

Consider the who: The sport's greatest legend, a quasi-mysterious foreigner, against his biggest rival, an American upstart. The when and where: Coney Island on the Fourth of July, live on national TV. And the performance: BOTH competitors shattered the previous world record, then the challenger pulled away from the champ to take the title.

If comp-eating wasn't such a farce (by design, mind you), this result would be cinematic in scope. It's like a mash-up of the first four "Rocky" movies.

Think about the greatest game or performance or moment in any "real" sport -- then consider them all happening at the same time. That's what happened yesterday at Coney Island.

And that's why, as laughable as it sounds, I have trouble coming up with an analogue from traditional sports history that compares to what happened yesterday with Chesnut and Kobayashi.

The idea that it was unprecedented in sports history gets choked down like that 66th hot dog at the 12-minute mark.

UPDATE: But what about the puke?! I totally neglected to mention the part where Kobayashi vomited -- on-camera, no less. That particular part of this "greatest" moment is apparently not allowed to air on ESPN, even though "reversals of fortune" -- particularly one of this magnitude -- is (a) part of the charm ("charm") of competitive eating and (b) only adds to the drama of yesterday's results. Is it because the clip is gross? Or because, technically, Kobayashi should have been disqualified for the R.O.F.? Show the clip! (Watch it here. This will be the most YouTube-able moment of the event.)

Will A-Rod skip the All-Star Game? If the best thing for his team is for him to spend the three days resting, he should. The fans who made gave him the mega-vote totals will understand. The worst thing he could do is force it, play in the ASG, then end up pushing back his full recovery. Just show up to SF to enjoy the spectacle.

In case you missed it from Tuesday night: Bonds 751.

MLB Stud, Team: The Rockies. Between sweeping the Yankees last month and now the Mets this week, who would have guessed that the best baseball team in New York would be based in Colorado?

MLB Stud, Player: Fred Lewis, the rookie filled in for Barry Bonds and hit a grand slam, his second of the season (a first for a Giants rookie).

OK, OK: Hunter Pence. There, I said it.

Durant Era begins for Sonics: Seattle signs their franchise cornerstone, along with running-mate Jeff Green. Now, with both Durant and Oden signed, we can look forward to their summer-league matchup next week, which will arguably be the most hotly anticipated NBA summer-league game in league history.

Will the Mavs get KG? Cuban wants him, but I still think that KG ends up in Golden State -- if anywhere.

NBA Free Agency: In case you missed it yesterday, I declared Darko Milicic the most intriguing remaining free agent of the season. Despite an early career that didn't live up to the pre-draft hype, he still has the tantalizing potential of a 22-year-old 7-footer with 3-ish years of NBA experience (including a ring!) (a) Who will sign him, and (b) how much will they (over-)pay?

Juan Carlos Navarro Watch: As a Wizards fan, I would be really ticked if they traded his rights, now that he's finally available to come over from Europe to play in the NBA.

Wimbledon: Venus crushes Maria, but Serena is ousted on that bad wheel.

Hockey: Jeremy Roenick retired. So I guess the question is how quickly he gets himself that TV gig he has so obviously wanted all these years. He rivals Curt Schilling (surprisingly quiet during his stint on the DL) for media whoredom. Not that that's a bad thing.

Olympics: Sochi, Russia was awarded the 2014 Winter Olympics. Hell, by then, the climate problems will have made it better for the Summer Games than the Winter ones.

Tiger Watch: Let the speculation run wild over whether new fatherhood will hurt Tiger's focus, particularly merely three weeks into the experience. Hell, I went back to writing the Quickie within a week of the kid being born. (Wait... that isn't the same thing?)

-- D.S.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Wednesday 07/04 (Very) Quickie:
Have a Happy (Mid-Week) July 4th!

Update: Joey Chesnut wins Nathan's Hot Dog Championship! In what was arguably the greatest moment in competitive-eating history, Chesnut out-dueled Kobayashi 66-63, with both competitors shattering Chesnut's then-world-record of 59.5 dogs. Wow. Spectacular, with the American ripping the title from his rival -- and the sport's biggest legend. Here's a live-blog report from Gothamist.

Bonds: 751! Everyone keeps using TYING Aaron as the number ("only four away...") but isn't the relevant number FIVE, the number he needs to BREAK Aaron's record?

MLB All-Star Final Vote: I wonder if Carlos Zambrano's 8K-3H win over the Nats will help his cause. I have him pegged as the NL's F.V. rep.

AL Final Vote. Three words: Vote. Pat. Neshek. There is no dispute that he must be the sports bloggers' (and blog readers') choice. That link above is a must-read as to why.

Daddy Tiger Woods hosts his own golf tournament, in my hometown no less: He even explained why their baby is named "Sam" -- it's what Tiger's dad used to call him when he was a kid. Awww...

Sonics to hire PJ Carlesimo: I'm sorry, but I expected a little bit more of an innovative choice from 30-year-old GM Sam Presti than to imply hit the NBA's Coaching Recyling Bin.

NBA Free Agency: Billups re-signs with the Pistons, in a desperate bid by Detroit to stay remotely relevant as either a Finals contender or merely a power in the East. But if LeBron can oust them from the playoffs with slop around him, what good will an older Billups do?

Darko... freed! The most intriguing NBA free agent is Darko Milicic, who was made an unrestricted free agent by the Magic (who made their own splash with Rashard Lewis). It's going to be very interesting to see who lands Darko and how much they pay for him -- or overpay. Then again, he is a 22-year-old 7-footer who averaged 8 ppg, 5 rpg and 1.8 bpg in 24 mpg. He still has a ton of promise.

Juan Carlos Navarro coming to NBA: Buried in a notes column about the Wizards hiring an assistant coach to focus on -- WTF? -- "de-fense" is a small item worth noting:

Phenomenal Euro PG Juan Carlos Navarro has been let out of his contract and can join the NBA next season. The Wizards own his rights and have been waiting on him for years. Suddenly, the Wizards' backcourt off the bench – Navarro and first-round pick Nick Young -- is pretty strong.

Wimbledon: 64 matches behind? Yikes.

Soccer: Freddy Adu scores 3 in USA's U-20 win over Poland.

Happy 4th of July, everyone. If you get the day off, hope you're enjoying it.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Tuesday 07/03 A.M. Quickie:
Rocket, Ryan, Rashard, Recruiting, More!

Clemens: Joins the 350-Win Club. Now with eight members, it's more exclusive than the 3,000 (Hit) Club or the 500 (HR) Club -- but less exclusive than the 600 (HR) Club.

The Home Run Derby gets a boost: No, Barry Bonds won't be participating (if only he would!), but defending champ Ryan Howard – the reigning Face of Baseball – will be. (Phillies fans cringe at the thought of him injuring himself.)

Update: I realize I totally forgot MLB Studs/Duds today. I leave it to you, but also leave you with this: Ben Francisco! (Get on that bandwagon already!)

MLB All-Star, Cont'd: I just want to say that I sure am glad that the Commenters are here to deliver phenomenal MLB analysis when I can do no better than my usual shallow contributions. If you haven't looked through the (mostly) All-Star comments from yesterday's a.m. post, I highly recommend it. (Scroll past post to Comments section.)

Hargrove resigns, cont'd: I don't know about you, but I'm happy to embrace the various conspiracy theories floating around as to why Hargrove would quit the Mariners just as he was winning.

What's bigger news: That A-Rod injured his hamstring last night or that his wife wore a tank top with an obscenity on it on Sunday?

NBA Free Agency: I think Rashard Lewis ends up on the Magic – and that makes Orlando a hell of a good young team in the East. Howard and Lewis? Wow.

UPDATE: Rashard Lewis to the Magic is apparently a done-deal, but Orlando is going to give him the MAX?! That's a stretch for a player who won't be the team's No. 1 star.

Oden signs contract with Blazers: Hat-tip to the NBA's rookie-salary scale, which makes signing easy. As does a low-key No. 1 pick.

More NBA: Ray Allen's veteran professionalism will really make the Celtics a more admirable Lottery team in 2008.

Here's to Derek Fisher, who was released by the Jazz and will now be able to spend more time with his sick daughter.

Wimbledon: The only match that might get my attention before the finals is something like Venus-vs-Maria. Ask and ye shall receive...

College Hoops Recruiting: Even AOL Fanhouse has picked up the amazing story of the 1-year-old who verbally committed to play college basketball for Florida.

Meanwhile, Billy Gillispie racks up another rising 10th-grader for Kentucky's 2010 recruiting class. It would be laughable if I didn't know every other college coach wouldn't do the exact same thing.)

ProFootballTalk vs. Arena League: Hmm, that's kind of an interesting battle, actually.

Heads-up: The next installment of the Varsity Letters Reading Series is Thursday night in NYC! To consider: What is your own personal biggest "must-do" sports event for your lifetime?

Summer Fashion: The must-have T-shirts for the summer come from Mothering Hut. (My favorite is "DNP: Coach's Decision.") Check them all out here. (Yes, Mothering Hut was my collaborator on the Florida "&" T-shirts. No Gator fan should be without!)

-- D.S.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Monday 07/02 A.M. Quickie:
Bonds, More All-Stars, NBA/NHL Free Agency, More!

Barry Bonds will be an All-Star: And impressively, too. He came back from a 119,000-vote deficit in the vote's final days to finish 123,000 votes ahead of Alfonso Soriano for the NL's third outfield spot. Who says the fans can't get it right? This was the ONLY choice to make.

The upshot: Bonds isn't hated NEARLY as much as the media will have you believe, AND fans – even if they hate Bonds – still want to see him in the All-Star Game in San Francisco in this year, of any year.

His selection -- and his appearance, particularly among his adoring, see-no-evil home fans of San Francisco and particularly given that he is ready to set the all-time career home-run record any day now -- is by far the biggest storyline of this year's All-Star Game.

Comments question: Which player(s) got screwed worst by the All-Star selection? And which All-Star was least deserving?

In the AL, there are few novel names among the starters beyond the usual suspects you could have predicted before the season started. (Frankly, among reserves, there are very few you wouldn't have predicted before the season there, either.)

Nice to see: Gil Meche, particularly after all the grief he and the Royals took in the offseason for signing him to such a big-ass deal.

In the NL, Prince Fielder and Russ Martin crash what is otherwise the usual suspects among the starters. For the reserves, it's hard to believe that the left side of the infield, league-wide, is so thin that they can only support ONE reserve SS and ONE reserve 3B. (C'mon: Where's Ryan Braun?)

Nice to see: Dmitri Young, whose career seemed irrevocably imploded as recently as last season -- now resurrected as the leader of the Nats.

ASG starting pitchers: I think Peavy is a no-brainer in the NL. In the AL, I could see Jim Leyland using his boy Justin Verlander, but the real starter should be Dan Haren.

"Final Vote" Mania! My favorite MLB marketing gimmick of the last I-don't-know-how-long:

In the AL, it's Bonderman, Halladay, Escobar, Neshek and Okajima. (They're all lucky there are no White Sox involved.) Halladay is the biggest name, but I'm betting on Okajima to upend traditional xenophobia/racism (Oh, fine. I hear you, Commenters.) The biggest thing going against him is that he's on the Red Sox.

In the NL, I think it will be Carlos Zambrano, over Gorzelanny, Oswalt, reigning NL Cy Young Brandon Webb and Chris Young the pitcher. If Hanley Ramirez was on this ballot, I think he'd win (and would deserve to win).

Comments: Who are your picks for the "Final Vote" in each league?

MLB Stud: Tim Lincecum, the Giants rookie SP who struck out 12 batters -- a career-high in his admittedly short career.

MLB Dud: Mike Hargrove, who resigned as Mariners manager because he couldn't hack it anymore. Let's hope another team does NOT give him another chance as part of the MLB Manager Recycling Program. (For example, the Reds, after they fired Jerry Narron.)

NBA Free Agency: Nets re-sign Vince Carter. I don't care how much money it was for -- it was a bad move. I understand the guy is popular (Wait: to whom, exactly? His popularity is a mystery to me.), but is it worth mortgaging the future of the franchise for it?

Rashard Lewis Watch: The Rockets want him. The Magic want him. The Knicks want him. Let's eliminate the Knicks right now, right?

I think the NBA Free Agent to Watch is Gerald Wallace, who is arguably not just a better value than the rest of the top-tier, but a better player, period, given his age, versatility and recent production.

NBA Relocation: Jason Kapono is taking his conscience-free 3-point shooting from Miami to Toronto, presumably where their international-friendly style probably fits his one-dimensional strengths best.

NHL Free Agency: Crazy start. See what a little extra cap room can do for player movement? In another era, Chris Drury's move to New York to play for the Rangers would have made him a national sports star. As it stands, he's still best-known for the Little League thing. The Rangers picked up the Devils' Scott Gomez from across the river, too.

Chris Benoit Murders: In a horrifying new development, it looks like Benoit may have used his "signature finishing move" to kill his own son. This is sick beyond words.

New Varsity Dad post up this morning: A parody off the story of 14-year-old Ryan Boatright committing to play hoops for USC. Here's the link.

-- D.S.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Sunday 07/01 A.M. (Very) Quickie

MLB Stud: Carlos Beltran, who had his second 2-HR a row.

Study of the Week: Southern-born pitchers more likely to plunk batters.

(Rare) kudos to Scott Boras: I think you'll hear a lot about his plan for a best-of-9 World Series, including a first-weekend bonanza of awards, Hall of Fame and Games 1/2 at a neutral site.

NBA Free Agency: The Rockets want Rashard Lewis... Vince Carter opted out of his Nets deal, but it still looks like he'll re-sign with the team (ugh)... Grant Hill to the Suns? Great match.

NBA Draft, Cont'd: I like Kevin Durant, too, but what all the Durant-slurpers tend to NOT mention while they are doing said slurping is this:

If Durant is so transcendentally talented, why couldn't he lead his Texas team out of the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament against a merely good USC team?

I have yet to hear from Durant's fans in the media any sort of explanation of the startling discrepancy between Durant's presumptive ability to lead his NBA team to an NBA title and his actual inability to lead his college team merely into college hoops' Sweet 16.

After all: Carmelo didn't just score and rebound prolifically as a freshman, but he led his team to the national title. And it's not like Melo has been able to replicate that in the pros. (And he's got a better team around him than Durant will have...and likely will have for YEARS.)

Durant will be a great pro, in the same way he was a great college player. But it's a huge difference between being a great player and being a champion -- at either level.

So: Anyone get an iPhone? Or know anyone who did? Any early reviews?

-- D.S.