Saturday, July 14, 2007

Saturday 07/14 A.M. Quickie:
Cuban, Beckham, Freeney, Sheffield, Durant, More!

Cuban and the Cubs, Cont'd: This story continues to send exciting shockwaves around baseball. Who DOESN'T want to see this happen? (Oh, right: Bud Selig and other MLB owners.)

I wonder what Jason Giambi told George Mitchell yesterday...

The Phillies are "stuck" at loss No. 9,999 after beating the Cardinals last night. Will "10K" happen today?

Beckham introduced in L.A.: And it is the craziest MLS p.r. event ever. Steinberg emerged out of his Bog to get the front-page coverage in the Post about it. Great scene-setter.

NBA Summer: Durant finally has his breakout game. "Finally," of course, is relative. Whatever: KD poured in 32 points in a loss to Golden State, where Durant went head-to-head with Warriors summer sensation Marco Belinelli, who had 16 points (and has slowed down considerably since his breakout debut game). As impressive as Durant's 32 was, keep in mind that he was 9-for-23 on FG shooting to make it happen.

More of Friday's Summer (Rookie) Notables: Al Horford (18 pts, 6 reb in summer debut)... Aaron Brooks (23 points)... Oleksey Pecherov (26 pts, 14 reb)... Javaris Crittenton (16 pts, 6 ast), though the Lakers gave up 120(!) points to the Nuggets... Big Baby Davis (16 pts, 9 reb)... Al Thornton (19 pts, 10 reb)... Mike Conley (9 pts, 8 ast)... DJ Strawberry (13 pts, 9 ast), who is looking like one of the steals of the draft, for the Suns... Thaddeus Young, like Horford playing in the Rocky Mtn Revue, had 19...

Nets re-sign Vince Carter: Again, if you're a Nets fan, this isn't thrilling news.

Wizards re-sign Deshawn Stevenson: Which absolutely sucks if you're a Wizards fan, because now they're going to have to trade the rights to Euro sensation Juan Carlos Navarro. So essentially the Wizards have traded Stevenson for Navarro, which will go down as one of the worst trades in team history (and for the Wiz, that's saying a lot). Let's hope Ernie Grunfeld can pull something out of his hat to re-sign JCN.

If you want an underrated NBA signing, it's Steve Blake going to the Blazers. This seems like a no-brainer to me. How could a pass-first PG NOT want to have a dominant center to get the ball to? And how could a team building around a dominant center NOT want a pass-first PG?

The Darko Milicic Image Rehabilitation Project began yesterday, when the Grizzlies not only gave him a sizeable salary ($7M per for 3 years), but virtually swiped him from the Magic. If everyone is agreeing that signing Darko was a GOOD thing – a SMART thing – instead of a "WTF?!" thing, then the rehab has begun.

Colts re-sign Dwight Freeney: He'll be one of the NFL's highest-paid players, as he should be. His $30 million signing bonus is the highest-ever for a defensive player.

Speaking of rich deals: Ichiro, 5Y/$90M. And worth it.

Bud won't sponsor Dale Jr. on his new team: Wow, what an opportunity for one of A-B's rivals. I think Miller pays whatever it takes.

Rickey being Rickey: Henderson becomes the Mets' new first base coach. He's come a long way as a Met since ducking out of a playoff game to play cards in the clubhouse.

Looking ahead to next week, people will be talking about Gary Sheffield's fiery interview with HBO "Real Sports" airing Tuesday night, where he accuses Joe Torre of treating black players differently than white players. He also admitted to using the "cream" and the "clear," but denied taking steroids. Sheffield re-affirmed the interview details yesterday.

-- D.S.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Friday 07/13 A.M. Quickie:
Cubs, Beckham, Wells, Redick, Fujikawa, More (Slow Day!)

Wow, I thought Wednesday was supposed to be sports' slowest day of the year. Turns out it was yesterday, given the dearth of good stories to talk about today...

MARK CUB-FAN: Mark Cuban submits application to buy the Cubs. MLB would be crazy to turn him away. It's hard to imagine a sports owner -- a baseball owner, no less -- saving a sport (if MLB even needs saving), but Cuban is the guy to do it.

His combination of marketing savvy, fan-friendliness, commitment to quantitative measurement and competitive drive to field a winner would electrify baseball... and, I predict, lead the Cubs to that long-awaited World Series title.

I have to imagine that Bud and the existing MLB owners will find a way to screw this up.

UPDATE: I'm late on this, but I just watched Miss Gossip's video interview with Greg Oden, and it's fantastic. Oden really does have a likable personality, and Miss Gossip is a better interviewer than, like, 99 percent of mainstream media TV reporters out there. Worth your 7 minutes, if you haven't seen it yet. Here's the link. That's as good a way to start the day as any.

LA Galaxy to introduce David Beckham today: This will be yet another high-water mark of just how little most American sports fans care about this development.

MLB Dud: David Wells, suspended 7 games for arguing with an umpire last weekend. Can't disagree with a suspension, but seven games? Wow. That seems like a lot. They suspend guys for less for doing more. (Of course, for starting pitchers, suspensions are always a joke, given that, at most, he'll miss 2 starts.)

Who else is bummed that Julio Franco, MLB's Methuselah, was designated for assignment? What other team might want a 49-year-old pinch-hitter, even if he is freakishly still productive (given his age)? I'm hoping that someone like Billy Beane scoops him up. (h/t MLB Fanhouse).

MLB Stud: A-Rod hits HR No. 31. Jeter and Abreu hit homers, too, in a Yankees win over the D-Rays. Among the more notable second-half storylines, whether the Yankees can get off to a hot start and insert themselves into the AL Wild Card race is one of them. Because if they don't, it could be bye-bye for Joe Torre and Brian Cashman and the coup de grace that the Yankees' decade-long era of relevance is over.

File it away: David Ortiz revealed he has knee problems. They haven't required surgery (all together now: "Yet"), but that has "ominous foreshadowing" written all over it.

NBA Summer, Orlando: I have been so focused on Las Vegas that I have neglected to cover the Orlando league. Here's the headline: JJ Redick is destroying people. No, that is not some kind of sick joke. He is lighting it up.

With Dwight Howard (who just signed an $80M contract extension) demanding double-teams down low and Rashard Lewis demanding double-teams on the wing, that frees up JJ for a lot of open jumpshots (and, perhaps, NBA redemption after a weak rookie year).

NBA Summer Rookies, Vegas: Aaron Brooks goes for 28 for the Rockets... Stuckey and Afflalo combine for 38 points for the Pistons... Mike Conley had 13 points and 7 assists in 22 efficient minutes for the Grizzlies... Spencer Hawes had 22 for the Kings... Yikes: Julian Wright had a goose-egg on 0/9 FG shooting for the Hornets... And Corey Brewer was 2/12 FG, finishing with 8 points (plus 6 rebounds) in a T'wolves loss.

Finally: You've got to give Isiah Thomas credit where it's due as a guy with a pretty freaking good track record as a drafter for the Knicks. Second-round pick Demetris Nichols (17 points last night) looks like one of the second-round steals of the draft (along with Suns' second-rounder DJ Strawberry).

The Nets will officially announce their re-signing of Vince Carter today. That rush of air you feel is the excitement leaving the bodies of Nets fans.

Tadd Fujikawa turns pro: He's only 16 (and only 5-foot-1) but that only means his marketing potential is that much greater. By the way, note the lack of outrage from the folks who bemoaned preps going straight into the NBA.

Ronny Thompson quits as Ball State basketball coach after only one season, after some violations of NCAA guidelines about offseason team workouts. Remember when he was the hot Thompson-progeny coach?

BALCO leak lawyer gets 2.5 years in prison: If the prosecutors can't actually get anyone who – y'know – actually used steroids (or perjured themselves in talking about it), they can always get the guy who leaked details about the investigation to reporters. Hardly a moral victory. (Not that I'm condoning the leak.)

So: Given how slow things are today, what does everyone have going on this weekend? Anything sports-related?

-- D.S.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Thursday 07/12 A.M. Quickie:
MLB 2nd Half, Oklahoma, Pronk vs. Rashard, More!

Heading into baseball's second half, what are your predictions for how things will go? I think the big story will be the continued surge of the Brewers as the NL's breakout (and best) team of 2007. Put your own predictions in the comments.

Oklahoma's 8 wins in 2005 stricken from the record: I like the humiliation aspect of the punishment, but it isn't nearly punitive enough to simply erase the record books and strip away two scholarships over the next two years.

Tulsa, Kansas State, Nebraska, Texas A&M, Kansas, Baylor, Oklahoma State and Oregon get a win back in the column. Gee: Thanks. I've always been torn about this punishment, because it really does nothing to remedy the original sin delivered against the teams that lost the game.

I'm not going to crunch the numbers myself, but I have to believe that the winning teams that were affected each lost potential bowl revenue by being sent to a lower-revenue bowl because they had that one extra loss. At the very least. It's impossible to truly calculate damages.

At minimum, I think given the bowl-payout implications for the teams it beat, if Oklahoma is going to have its 2005 season obliterated, it should also be banned from all bowl participation for one year and banned from all BCS or other New Year's Day bowls for two more. Only then can you begin to inflict a measurement of payback for the actual harm done to the teams that OU beat in 2005.

(Update: Now Oklahoma says it's going to appeal? That's Sooner-sized chutzpah.)

Tony LaRussa vs. Albert Pujols: Why can't LaRussa just admit that he screwed this up?

Travis Hafner signs extension: 4Y/$57M, which seems appropriate for one of the Top 3 most productive offensive players in the AL. (As a throw-in, can the guy please have permanent fantasy eligibility at 1B to go with his usual "Utility" spot?)

Magic officially get Rashard Lewis for, like, $100 gajillion dollars. OK, so it's more like $110 million. But that's a lot of money for a "Robin"-style player. Orlando makes the big – no, HUGE – bet that Howard-Lewis will be enough to be a contender in the East for the next half-decade.

UPDATE: Darko to the Grizzlies, reportedly at a rate of 3Y/$21M, which isn't too shabby for a guy continually labeled a bust as a 22-year-old 7-footer who got a lot better last year. He'll benefit from playing next to Pau Gasol, but more from playing in Marc Iavaroni's system, especially with end-to-end talents like Mike Conley and Rudy Gay.

Bobcats keep Gerald Wallace: For those of you who have been waiting all century for Michael Jordan the Executive to make a personnel move that didn't fall within his usual range from "laughable" to "sucks," here you go.

NBA Summer: Corey Brewer made his debut, and it was a freakish one. He scored 8 points on 1-of-10 FG shooting, but also pulled down 13 rebounds. (Meanwhile, Foye and McCants showed flashes of a Backcourt of the Future, combining for 39 points.) More: Nick Young settles down after a terrible first game to rebound with 20 points on 8/16 FG shooting for the Wiz in a loss... Thaddeus Young had his breakout game, going for 20 and 10 for the Sixers... OK, so Alando Tucker might just fit into the Suns' scheme: He made his Summer debut with 29 points and 6 assists. And fellow PHX rookie DJ Strawberry had 19 points and 7 assists... Kevin Durant had a DNP. What: He's tired already? Or maybe just freaked after his first few games showed that scoring on those oh-so-tough NBA Summerleague defenses is tougher than college.

Dan Artest Mania: Meanwhile, Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post's DC Sports Bog has once again become the market-maker for trend-spotting. His latest find is Daniel Artest (yes, Ron's brother), and Dan Artest Mania is spreading throughout the sports blogosphere. How can you NOT root for the 300-pound brother of Ron Artest who fancies himself a jumpshooter?

Uniform Watch: Michigan... and adidas? Some of us have associated Michigan with Nike for as long as we can remember. Frankly, for both football and hoops, Michigan is one of those foundation Nike schools. So how weird is it going to be to see Michigan playing in adidas uniforms? (Related: Dale Jr. signed a deal with Adidas, too. Let's review: David Beckham. Reggie Bush. Gilbert Arenas. Dale Jr. Michigan football. Kansas basketball. Not a bad collection.)

Beckham Invasion, Cont'd: So the Galaxy are changing their uniforms for Beckham's debut. (Duh: It's all about the jersey sales.) But the boldest thing would have been to splash "BECKHAM" across the front like the usual soccer jersey sponsorship. I mean, isn't that how blatant MLS and everyone involved with MLS is being about Beckham's arrival?

ESPYs (Um... Spoiler alert, I guess...): LaDainian Tomlinson was the big winner, grabbing four awards. The Colts won "Best Team," but it's hard for me to see how FINALLY meeting long-missed expectations tops Florida repeating as college hoops national champs. And I'm glad to see Boise State pick up two awards (as anticipated) for Best Game and Best Play. What a great capper to a dream season for the Broncos.

Now THIS will be interesting: Vanderbilt honcho Gordon Gee is taking over as president at Ohio State. You might remember Gee as the guy who wanted to de-emphasize the power of athletics at Vandy. So: He's either going to trigger revolt at tOSU or become academia's biggest hypocrite. Doesn't look like a winning situation for him either way.

My Bad: Obviously, I meant to say "1992" not "1996" about the Dream Team in yesterday's item about greatest teams of all time. I'm sure you all knew what I meant. I wrote that particular item bleary-eyed at 2 a.m. (not that that's an excuse) and neglected to go back and fix it. Then I was stuck on an airplane all day and didn't see that it needed changing until it was way WAY too late. Sorry 'bout that.

-- D.S.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Wednesday 07/11 A.M. Quickie:
Ichiro, Bonds, All-Stars, All-Timers, ESPYs, More

MLB All-Star Game: Ichiro! It’s hard to be first to ever do something in an All-Star Game with a history as long as MLB’s, but MVP Ichiro did it, hitting the game’s first-ever inside-the-park home run (which is so cool, btw).

He also went 3-for-3 with 2 RBI. He also clinched home-field advantage for the AL in the 2007 World Series. He also made reports of his decision to sign a contract extension with the Mariners that much more of a relief for Seattle fans. Big day overall for Ichiro.

Meanwhile, did you catch the end of the game? I didn’t, but I heard the ending was plenty dramatic, with Soriano’s 2-out, 2-run HR closing the AL’s lead to 1 run before the next three NL batters were walked to load the bases. Aaron Rowand hit a flyout to right to end the game and the late thrills.

(Let the second-guessing begin: Tony LaRussa left Albert Pujols – arguably the NL’s best hitter AND HIS OWN PLAYER – on the bench, rather than let him be the hero. When your team has no hope of taking advantage of World Series home-field advantage, I guess you can make moves like that. Yeah, LaRussa SURE is some managerial genius. I could make the easy “Anyone give him a Breathalyzer?” joke, but I won’t.)

Looking to re-live the game via live-blog?
Here’s AOL Fanhouse (PostmanR)
Here’s Deadspin (Babes Love Baseball)

Bonds greeted like... a hero: What else would you expect? The game was in front of his fans in San Francisco. In any other park, he would have been booed. It was actually kind of nice to see him get that kind of reception on a national stage – most likely for the last time in his career.

Selig to watch Bonds break Aaron’s record? The story is slippery. First, reports were that he would. Then, he said he still hadn’t made up his mind. The right thing to do – in the best interests of baseball, you might say – would be to be there, whether he (or the legion of Bonds-haters… until he plays for their team, of course) likes it or not.

Penguins sign Sidney Crosby to 5Y/$43M extension. What does it say when the most dynamic player in hockey only commands less than $9 million a year? Imagine that compared to the NFL, NBA or MLB. (By comparison, Ichiro will get $20 million per.)

More contract-related news: The NBA set its salary cap at $55.63 million, a $2.5 million increase over last season. Some individual players with inflated contracts are going to be the main beneficiaries.

Greg Oden to have tonsils removed: Either that explains his slow start to the summer-league season or that’s the most complicated cover-up I’ve ever heard of to keep a player off the court.

Speaking of the Blazers, they waived and bought out Steve Francis, who can now afford ($34 million? I’d say he can!) to take a low-ball offer to join a contender, like the Mavs or the Heat. Or the Clippers, who employ his best buddy, Cuttino Mobley.

New Media: Smart move by MLB to give fans a chance to create historical playoff highlight video mash-ups. But the site name – – is ACK.

More Dan Patrick: Who will replace Patrick in his radio slot? For starters, let’s eliminate Schrutebag. Simmons? He’s got a voice for online writing (and that’s coming from one of the biggest high-talkers to ever grace ESPN’s airwaves). The name being thrown around is Mike Tirico. (h/t Larry Brown Sports) Why can’t they bring Tony Kornheiser back into the fold? He hates his gig with Washington Post Radio.

NBA Summer: Marco Belinelli Watch! Comes back to Earth with 15 points on 5/13 FG shooting against what I can only assume is a tough defensive-minded Spurs team... Meanwhile: Al Thornton: 17 and 7… Coby Karl: 23 points on 8/13 FG shooting… Nick Young had a weak debut: 11 points on 3/14 FG shooting. And the Yi Update: 3 points and 5 turnovers on 0/6 FG shooting… wow, yikes. Today: The T’wolves make their first Summer appearance, and the rookie to watch is Corey Brewer.

College Football: Rivals is running a “Greatest of All-Time” poll. Here are the leaders (and, frankly, I think the fans have it pretty right here):

QB: Vince Young; RB: Barry Sanders; RB: Bo Jackson; WR: Calvin Johnson; WR: Randy Moss; TE: Keith Jackson; OL: Orlando Pace; OL: Tony Boselli; OL: Jonathan Ogden; OL: Dan Dierdorf; OL: John Hannah; DL: Warren Sapp; DL: Reggie White; DL: Julius Peppers; DL: Jevon Kearse; LB: Dick Butkus; LB: Ray Lewis; LB: Lawrence Taylor; DB: Champ Bailey; DB: Deion Sanders; DB: Ronnie Lot; DB: Charles Woodson; K: Sabastian Janikowski; P: Ray Guy; Returner: Raghib Ismail; Coach: Paul "Bear" Bryant.

A few reactions: How wild is it that Calvin Johnson makes the list? (And people say that I have the Instant History fetish!)… It would be tough to bounce either Barry or Bo, but what about Herschel Walker?... I wasn’t a Gators fan in the Kearse Era, but wasn’t he a LB?... The most controversial position will be QB. I have no problems with Vince Young. (How can you begrudge VY when the No. 2 vote-getter is Peyton?)

More College Football: The great Brian Cook over at MGoBlog is in a bit of a feud with a local newspaper sports columnist over the future of coaching at Michigan. The slack-jawed newspaper guy floats Les Miles, which Brian smacks down effectively. (I simply call it ludicrous.) Brian floats Jeff Tedford, which is nice if you want to produce QBs who look good at combine workouts but suck in the NFL. I still say Rich Rodriguez will be the guy… if Michigan wants to be relevant into the next decade. Otherwise, they can pick a typical “Michigan Man” and continue to exist as the perennial second-tier team in the perennial second-tier conference. (OK, I’ll accept Greg Schiano, too, except I think he thinks that Rutgers is a better gig than Michigan. Cue Nelson Muntz: HA-ha!)

More “All-Time” superlatives: World Soccer magazine has called the 1970 Brazil World Cup champ the greatest soccer team of all time. Now, an interesting – if apples to oranges – debate would be what is the greatest sports team of all time, period: 1970 Brazil, 1996 1992* Dream Team, 1996 Bulls, 1985 Bears, 1927 Yankees? I just picked the obvious choice in NBA, NFL and MLB – that’s not necessarily the greatest team in each sport’s history. But would it even matter? Wouldn’t the final inevitably be '96 '92* Dream Team vs. ’70 Brazil, which was basically soccer’s Dream Team?

* - UPDATE: Obviously, I meant to say "1992" not "1996" here. I'm sure you all knew what I meant. I wrote that particular item bleary-eyed at 2 a.m. (not that that's an excuse) and neglected to go back and fix it. Then I was stuck on an airplane all day and didn't see that it needed changing until it was way WAY too late. Sorry 'bout that.

High school football: Could be a lost season for national power Miami Northwestern, embroiled in a sex scandal with the superintendend threatening to cancel the team’s season. It’s tough to punish all the kids for the leadership failures of the team’s star and administrators, but that has all the signals of a program that has totally lost its way. (As I suspect most top-tier high school football programs have.)

More youth sports: That kids’ baseball coach who paid one of his players in 2005 to intentionally bean the 9-year-old with autism lost an appeal and will be going to prison. This was arguably the most despicable story of the decade, and I hope the coach finds prison horrifying… and painful. (h/t AOL Fanhouse via Lion In Oil)

Nickname Watch: For some reason, the AP picked up a story about Arkansas Tech thinking of changing its nickname. I didn’t know what the school’s nickname was before, but upon hearing that it’s “Wonder Boys” for the guys and “Golden Suns” for the women’s teams, I have to ask: How can you eliminate “Wonder Boys?” That’s an amazing nickname.

From my “Tips” Box: Reader/commenter Scott D. and his buddies put together an NFL preview mash-up involving Dave Matthews.

And: Of all the NHL gimmicks, my favorite is the outdoor game, next season on New Year’s Day. Reader Charlie R. wrote an impassioned case why Buffalo deserves it more than Detroit. And, given Sabres fans’ last few months, I’m with him. They need it more.

Attention, Simpsons fans: So it turns out Springfield is in… Vermont? And the town won the online poll with 15,000 votes? Hell, we could have swung that election ourselves!

Finally, the ESPYs are tonight. I can’t believe I’m doing this, but…

My ESPY Award Picks, including who should win (and who will win, more often than not the same) based on each category’s nominee list:

Best Male Athlete
Should win/will win: LaDainian Tomlinson
Best Female Athlete
Should win/will win: Candace Parker
Best Team
Should win: Florida Gators Basketball
Will win: Indianapolis Colts
Best Coach/Manager
Should win: Billy Donovan
Will win: Jim Leyland
Best Game
Should win/will win: Boise St over Oklahoma
Best Championship Performance
(What a weak nominee list!)
Should win/will win: Peyton Manning
Best Moment
Should win/will win: Saints return to New Orleans
Best Play
Should win/will win: Boise St 2-pt conversion
Best Finish
Should win/will win: Dodgers Back2Back2Back2Back
Best Upset
Should win: Florida over Ohio State, BCS title game
Will win: Warriors over Mavericks, NBA Playoffs
Best Breakthrough Athlete
Should win/will win: Kevin Durant
Best Record-Breaking Performance
Should win/will win: LaDainian Tomlinson

As always, look forward to your picks in the Comments section. Here’s a link with the nominees.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Tuesday 07/10 A.M. Quickie:
Bonds, MLB All-Stars, Vlad, Durant, More!

MLB All-Star Game: It’s all about Barry Bonds. How appropriate that in this season that will be defined by Barry Bonds breaking the all-time home run record (while simultaneously causing all-time levels of agita among many fans), the All-Star Game will be a virtual celebration of Bonds.

The game is in San Francisco. The fans are on his side. He’s batting second, which will maximize his at-bats in an abbreviated appearance. Pitchers are under pressure (if not direct orders) not to avoid him – and strikes are pitches he can hit.

Yesterday, he was the star of the show during his one big media melee/appearance. He seemed and sounded so at peace with the craziness around him. Sure, he’s a bit of a d-bag, but he carries himself like he IS the Home Run King, above the media trying to trip him into saying something jerk-ish.

I’d say the biggest news is that he re-committed to playing again in 2008. It might not be with the Giants – in fact, I’d bet that it WON’T be with the Giants; he should head for the AL, where he can sit back as a DH and pile on his HR record.

But here’s what I guarantee: While the fans of San Francisco cheer him tonight, declaring their loyalty as publicly as it gets, the moment he leaves, they’ll boo him like he was never theirs. Who's the REAL jerk in that scenario?

More ASG: This Time It Counts, Again. The AL’s 9-0-1 record over the last 10 All-Star Games is impressive, but keep in mind the very real (and continually controversial) stakes: Home-field advantage in the World Series. (Maybe today is the day to revisit Scott Boras’ inspired idea for a best-of-9 World Series with the first two games at a neutral site and wrapping in post-season awards and the Hall of Fame announcement.)

MLB Home Run Derby: Vlad Guerrero wins the title over Alex Rios. (I’m sorry: That thing was ENDLESS. I only tuned in for a few minutes, but I couldn’t believe how much it dragged on and on. The demise of the Derby and the Dunk Contest are two of the more regrettable erosions of the sports landscape over the last 20 years.)

More MLB All-Star Game: Dan Haren and Jake Peavy will start for their leagues. Nice to see Bay Area star Haren get the start over Leyland’s boy Bonderman WTFWIT?!?!?* Verlander. (And even though I didn’t give Haren the first-half AL Cy in yesterday’s first-half awards rundown. Guess what: I change my mind -- Haren is my first-half AL Cy. Not because Haren is necessarily better than Johan Santana, but because I discounted two things I usually weight heavily: Novelty and a player’s devotion to Seinfeld. I only found out this morning via a USA Today profile that Haren is a Seinfeld nut. That’s enough for me.)

(* - I know I said "Bonderman" instead of "Verlander." That's because I'm equal parts lazy and crack-addled, which is quite a combo -- but also explains the mental hiccup. All apologies to everyone for the confusion and for further reminding everyone how truly and sincerely ignorant I can be.)

NBA Summer: Kevin Durant overrated? I'm not ready to declare that yet, but Durant is having a lot of trouble. He scored 18 points against the Knicks, but it was on 4-of-19 FG shooting, his second straight atrocious performance. Again: Given how paltry the defense is in Summer games, what does that portend about Kevin Durant’s ability to score against REAL defenders? (It's only been two games, but admit it: You expected him to dominate from the get-go.)

More: OK, at this point, I am entirely about the point output by the rookies. That’s why I was so blown away by Marco Belinelli over the weekend (and last night: 23 points! He’s terrific.) And why Rodney Stuckey’s 27 points for the Pistons last night made me think: OK, he might match the hype. (Mike Conley: Only 8 points? Welcome to the realization that the kid can’t score.) Knicks rookies Wilson Chandler and Demitris Nichols combined for 25 points in the Knicks’ win over the Sonics, with each shooting 50 percent from the field.

And, yet, the big news was that vet Marcus Banks set a Summer League record (yes, they keep records for those things) with 42 points last night. Yes, it’s “only” Summer League, but that’s still impressive. (Again: If it’s “only” Summer League, why can’t Kevin Durant do that?)

Dan Patrick is leaving ESPN, but either doesn’t know what he wants to do next – or simply won’t announce it: He saw how much fun this Dan was having as an out-of-work blogger and said, “Yes! Get me some of THAT!”

Regardless, it’s the end of an era at ESPN that began with the epic “Big Show” era with Keith Olbermann that combined with the “This Is SportsCenter” ads to put ESPN on the fan-cultural map. In the last 6-7 years, Patrick felt more and more like a relic from an earlier time. (Not using "relic" in a bad way... he was subsumed by a sea of wannabes around him.)

I can understand why he’d want to do something else, although I sincerely wonder what he CAN do, besides sports. He doesn’t strike me as versatile as Olbermann to carry his own news-focused show. And although Patrick has the smarminess to pull off hosting “Price is Right,” he’s a little bit too smug to fill the role. I guess he’ll try to become a syndicated sports-radio guy. (What’s the difference between that and what he’s doing now, except that he won’t have the audience he has now?)

College Football: One more reason that EDSBS and Orson Swindle is the best thing going in college football blogging, even at the height of the sport’s offseason twilight zone.

Varsity, Varsity Mom: Congrats to Kim Clijsters, whose pregnancy was announced (by her dad) today. Expect this to be a big sensation in Europe.

Mea Culpa from Monday: I didn't mean to diminish the epic-ness of Federer's Wimby finals win over Nadal by reminding everyone that his fifth straight title was hardly unexpected. And the year-over-year TV ratings increase bears it out: Federer-vs-Nadal drives viewers. (So does a Williams in the women's final... women's final ratings were up even bigger.)

Warning: Just one day away from the slowest sports day of the year! (Am I really going to have to make our big topic of discussion ESPY Awards predictions? Apparently so.)

-- D.S.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Monday 07/09 A.M. Quickie:
MLB Awards, HR Derby, NBA Summer, SI Scandal, More!

MLB All-Star Break: Here we go: Midseason Awards! It's the unofficial official unofficial midpoint of the season, so here's your chance to weigh in with your award winners. Here are your categories (along with my picks):

AL MVP: Magglio Ordonez
Why: Because I'm an OPS snob.
AL Cy: Johan Santana
Why: Because he's STILL the AL's best.
AL Rookie: Delmon Young
Why: Because who could pick Elijah Dukes?
AL Manager: Mike Hargrove
Why: Because it's so damn ironic.

NL MVP: Prince Fielder
Why: Because he's the new Ryan Howard.
NL Cy: Jake Peavy
Why: Because he was so due for this.
NL Rookie: Ryan Braun
Why: Because he's Jewish only 160 AB into it.
NL Manager: Ned Yost
Why: Because the Brewers are in 1st.

Use the comments section to weigh in with your selections. Extra credit for inspired unconventional picks (but don't forget to back 'em up).

Finally, a special category worthy of our daily routine: Biggest AL Dud and Biggest NL Dud. (We'll presume that "MVP" is a proxy for "Stud.") I leave that one up to you -- fans' choice.

MLB All-Star Home Run Derby: The group is one of the more compelling in years: Defending champ Ryan Howard, Albert Pujols (which is totally exciting), Prince Fielder, Alex Rios, and a trio of AL MVPs: Vlad Guerrero (2004), Justin Morneau (2006), Magglio Ordonez (2007?!). My pick: Prince Fielder, the new Ryan Howard.

MLB All-Star Blogger Award: To USS Mariner, long the gold standard among MLB team blogs. The Mariners' pitching coach actually used one of their blog posts to change strategy for Felix Hernandez... and it worked. This is up there with TrueHoop's acquisition by ESPN as one of the guaranteed Top 3 sports-blog moments of 2007... if not ever. (h/t: reader Scott H.)

The hottest team in baseball: The Tigers, who have won 5 straight (including a weekend sweep of the Red Sox) and 14 of 19, to move into first place in the brutally tough AL Central. The defending AL champs were no one-season wonder.

Mark Buehrle is staying with the White Sox: 4 years, $56 million. Quite the opposite of "imminent trade," isn't it?

NBA Summer: What you missed this weekend... In two games, Greg Oden has picked up the same number of fouls (19) as points... Kevin Durant is off to only a slightly better start (5-of-17 FG shooting against Summer League D)... Yi Watch: In last night's win for Team China, he got 20 points the hard way – 3/11 FG, 14/17 FT... Marco Belinelli is the early break-out star of the summer, with his 37-point debut... Javaris Crittenton is legit, too (18 points on 8/13 FG shooting last night)... Al Thornton joins the headliner list of rookie sensations, scoring 24 in his Summer League debut for the Clippers.

Tiger's Golf Tournament: KJ Choi wins it. But it was more significant for what it meant to Tiger in his ability to create his own PGA-type event. Or will that be... events?

Wimbledon: Federer wins 5th straight Wimby title. The problem is: This was such a done-deal from the get-go that you didn't need to watch the entire tournament, let alone the final. He's simply the best ever. (Chris gets "First Comment!" privileges and weighs in with a good point. I didn't mean to suggest the final itself was a "done deal" -- just that Federer winning yet another Wimbledon title was.)

Tour de France: Sprint specialist Robbie McEwen finished first in the first stage. McEwen is one of those rider names you always heard about during the Lance Era as "If only Lance wasn't competing." Which means the positive drug test should be happening any minute now.

TV: "The Bronx is Burning," Part 1 tonight on ESPN after the HR Derby. Haven't seen the show, but I'm a fan of both John Turturro (playing Billy Martin) and Daniel Sunjata (playing Reggie Jackson). Here's what I know: Jonathan Mahler's book that the miniseries is based on is phenomenal and a terrific summer read. (Disclosure: Mahler graciously participated in my reading series last summer.)

Navel-Gazing: If you are as fascinated as I am by the relationship between mainstream sports media and sports blogs, Matt Ufford's Fanhouse post explaining said sports blogs to said mainstream media is a must-read. (TrueHoop picked up the SI gaffe, too.)

-- D.S.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Sunday 07/08 A.M. (Very) Quickie:
Buehrle, Belinelli, Venus, Bill Maas, Eva, More!

A-Rod to play in All-Star Game: Or so he's saying now. With the game in San Francisco, I wonder if he'll be the player to get the most jeers from the crowd. (Because it won't be Bonds.)

MLB Stud, Pitcher: Mark Buehrle, who pitched 8 scoreless in what might have been his final start in front of White Sox fans before the team trades him.

MLB Stud, Batter: Prince Fielder, who heads into the All-Star break (and his first ASG appearance -- a start, no less) with a 2HR game in a Brewers loss to the Nats.

NBA Summer: It's Belinelli's World. Marco Belinelli: 37 points. First impressions are important. Compare that to Oden or even Durant and you begin to realize that in Nellie's Golden State system, Belinelli could end up being the steal of the draft.

Here's a pretty detailed breakdown of his debut, via HoopsWorld. (I disagree with their opening contention that it's "only" Summer League. If scoring in Summer League was so easy, why couldn't Durant do it more effectively?)

More: Yi: 9 points on 2/14 FG shooting... Spencer Hawes: 19 (9/14 FG) and 7 reb in SL debut... Pistons' rookie trio (Stuckey, Afflalo, Mejia) combine for 40.

Venus wins Wimbledon: The Williams Era returns?

NASCAR changes name to "Sprint Cup," which is just about the coolest name for an auto-racing product as there can be.

Bad weekend for Bill Maas: The Fox NFL on-air guy was charged with drug possession and weapons charges. Yikes. From the AP report: "The search turned up a .22-caliber revolver, five grams of suspected marijuana, six grams of suspected cocaine and 28 pills of Ecstasy, according to police." That ain't just playing grab-ass with the make-up lady.

Congrats to Tony and Eva. They are the most media-whorish of the celebrity-sports couples, but I wouldn't say most beloved. Maybe in France. Maybe.

-- D.S.