Monday, June 30, 2008

Braves: A Look at "Half-Way"

The Atlanta Braves have reached the half-way point of the 2008 MLB season. Their record stands at 40-43, 4 games behind the division leading Philadelphia Phillies. Despite being 3 games below the .500 mark, they remain in striking distance of the Phils. This seems almost remarkable to me because I have seen them actually give away 5 games they should have (not could have) won, they have set a record for 1-run road losses, and they have had more than their share of injuries. Add all of that to the fact that Jeff Francoeur has been terrible, Mark Teixeira is just now getting hot, and we have had to rely on young "arms" you hadn't even heard of before the season. Now that 4 game deficit looks really good, at least considering how bad it could be at this point. Mark Kotsay is set to return off of the DL, and even though Chipper is set to go on it, we should have our regular position players ready for the stretch run after the All-Star break. If Kelly Johnson can get consistently stable defensively at 2nd, the infield of Jones, Yunel Escober, Johnson and Teixeira is solid all around. It would be nice to think one guy would step up and claim the left field post, but we might just be stuck with Bobby's platoon system forever out there. After all, its been that way for several years now so I don't see that changing unless Matt Diaz comes back red hot. I'm all in favor of sitting Francoeur more often until he comes out of this hitting slump he's mired in. In fact, a 2 week dose of AAA Richmond might not be such a bad prescription. But since I've berated Jeff, he'll probably snap out of it and go into a hitting frenzy. The return of Kotsay in center field is going to be huge. He's a veteran who knows how to play the game. His solid and consistent play will be crucial to our success. We are as good behind the plate as anyone else in the league. Brian McCann is the real deal, and he will just continue to get better and better. Our starting pitching has been much better than we could have expected with both Smoltz and Glavine missing so many turns in the rotation. Of course Smoltzy is out for the year, and you aren't going to get much more that 5 innings per start out of Glavine if he even pitches again. Of course you know your chances are better at winning the lottery than they are of ever seeing Mike Hampton chunk the rock again. So we have Tim Hudson, Jo-Jo Reyes, Jair Jurrjens, Jorge Campillo and Charlie Morton as the rotation. Lately, this group has been better than the support they've received from the offense. We've actually wasted several quality starts because our bats went dead. The depleted bullpen will scare you to death, but they have had some good outings themselves. We will have to settle on the right hitter for the lead off spot; a riddle Cox and staff haven't been able to solve yet. Kelly Johnson isn't the guy, and Escober seems to function better in the number 2 slot. That just about only leaves that left field group to pick from. Good luck to us there. Chipper must get healthy and stay healthy. He's the straw that stirs the drink. When he is in the line-up, he picks everyone else up, not to mention the guy can flat out play. He isn't bad in the clutch either. We are finished with inter-league play, and the number of games within our division will increase. We have to win series; not necessarily sweep them but win them in order to gain ground. The law of averages says we have to win more 1-run road games in the second half, and I would hope the injury bug will ease up on the Braves to some degree. It would be interesting to see how good a healthy Atlanta club could be. I'm not sure we're the best team in the East, but none of the others have taken it by storm either. I believe the Phillies are the team to beat, and we begin a 3 game set with them July 1st at Turner Field. If we win this series, then the Phillies, Mets, and Marlins all have to take us very seriously again. Since they have let us hang around this long, we might as well make 'em pay for it! Yes I know. I'm the one who made the post back on June 11th that the Braves were dead. What can I say? "Hope springs eternal!" I'm reminded of former Braves announcer Milo Hamilton saying often: "We gotta go get 'em Braves!"

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Tradition Never Rebuilds....

...It Just Reloads! UGA I ended "The Drought" against Tech,won the 1959 SEC championship, and watched Fran Tarkenton and the Dawgs whip Missouri in the 1960 Orange Bowl. UGA II was the mascot for the SEC champs of 1966 and 1968.. He supported such Georgia greats as Bill Stanfill and Jake Scott. UGA III was named to "Animal Who's Who" and closed out his illustrious career with a National Championship victory over Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl. UGA IV sported a bow tie and formal collar to be Herschel Walker's honored guest at the 1982 Heisman Trophy banquet. He closed out a fantastic career with 77 wins. UGA V was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1998 and earned a featured role in the Savannah based movie "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil". He earned the unending love of Georgia fans everywhere after his famous lunge at an Auburn player in the quadruple overtime Dawg win in 1996. UGA VI, the heaviest of all the UGA's, was the winningest of all-time with 87 victories. He ushered in the Mark Richt era with two SEC championships to go along with seven bowl victories. UGA VII will be named and in place "Between the Hedges" soon. As you can see, each of his predecessors accomplished great things and he will as well. It will be well worth the experience to see just what those milestones turn out to be. As for all the white English bulldogs who set the table for him, they might be gone, but they never will be forgotten. And that brings to mind another Georgia expression: "Once a Dawg...Always a Dawg"!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

UGA VI: Damn Good Dawg!!

UGA VI, the revered Churchillian English bulldog has died of congestive heart failure. The ever popular mascot, registered as "UGA V's Whatchagot Loran?", had served nine seasons roaming the Georgia sidelines, becoming the winningest Dawg of all his predecessors. During his herculean reign, his University of Georgia football teams compiled a record of 87 wins and 27 losses, including two SEC championships and a 7-2 bowl record. The previous record was held by UGA IV, who posted an impressive 77-24-4 record himself. The all white bulldogs have become a famous symbol of the University of Georgia, as well as one of the most famous icons in college football. They have worn tuxedos, been on the Senate floor, accompanied Herschel to New York to receive his Heisman, appeared in the movies, named the top mascot by Sports Illustrated, and lunged at an Auburn receiver who encroached on UGA V's territory! UGA VI was the biggest to serve as mascot, tipping the scales at 65 pounds, a good 20 pounds heavier than his father. This Dawg was no welterweight, in size nor character! The announcement of his successor will be forthcoming by the Seiler Family, the owners of the UGA lineage, and the University Athletic Association. Not to worry Bulldog Nation, that lineage is secure. Thanks for all the memories UGA VI. As we say in Georgia, "Damn Good Dawg!"

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Flord Patterson -vs- Ingemar Johansson: 6-26-1959

This date in time: June 26, 1959. Floyd Patterson -vs- Ingemar Johansson for the World's Heavyweight title. The Swede Johansson defeated the American Patterson with a devastating right hand in the 3rd round at Yankee Stadium in New York. An outdoor crowd of 21,961 braved threatening weather conditions to witness the event. The utter irony of the fight was that both men were participants in the 1952 Olympic games where Patterson won a middleweight Gold Medal, and where Johansson was disqualified by a referee for 'not trying'. The Swede had a bout against another American, Ed Sanders, and both fighters actually stayed away from each other, trying to 'feel each other out', when the official abruptly stopped the fight by disqualifying Johansson. And it was Ingemar who was portrayed as a coward when he seemed to be disinclined to fight the American. It was learned later that his corner had instructed him to allow Sanders to do all the leading and then counter-punch him. Patterson brought his Gold Medal home to America as a hero, whereas Johansson returned to Sweden in disgrace of himself, as well as his country, after having not been allowed to stand on the medal stand nor receive his Silver Medal. Not until this monumental victory over Patterson could "Ingy" feel vindicated for the debacle in Helsinki. He was no longer a coward. Now he was the Heavyweight Champion of the World! He had knocked Patterson down seven times in this fight. Seven. And Patterson had been a 5-1 favorite. He had been the youngest to win the Heavyweight Title, now he was the youngest to lose it also. This was a distinction no one had planned on, as this was considered as big an upset as the heavyweight division had ever known. But it also opened an entire new era for a boxing division in dire need of renewed interest to help it return to its once lofty status. This fight invigorated the glamor division, and the two participants went on to face each other two more times over a span of two years. Each of the three fights ended in knockouts, with Patterson winning the final two bouts, and each fight was better than the one that preceded it. This rivalry, of sorts, had put the heavyweight division back in the limelight, and primed it for the Liston/Clay and Ali/Frazier classics that awaited down the road. It all started this date in history ,1959.

Jim Brown: #44 Syracuse University

Jim Brown has been named by Sports Illustrated as the greatest player to ever wear the number 44. He of course wore the number at Syracuse University from 1954 to 1956 as an All-American running back. In his final regular season game against Colgate, Brown rushed for 197 yards, scored six touchdowns, and kicked seven extra points for 43 points. At Syracuse he played not only football but also earned letters in basketball, lacrosse, and track. It is interesting to note that he is argued to be the best lacrosse player of all time. There have been two other famous All-American 44's at Syracuse, Ernie Davis and Floyd Little. Since 1954, eleven players have worn the number 44 at the school. I applaud SU for not having retired the number. Everyone knows what that number stands for at Syracuse, and I think its legacy is enhanced by the fact that it is still open to wear. When schools retire numbers, they are robbing other athletes of the opportunity to wear a number that is special to them as well. Just recognize great players AND the number in some special way, like a ring of honor or banner, etc. The player is enshrined so to speak, but the number lives on to play another day. That seems like a win-win situation to me. Even go back an 'unretire' numbers (wow, talk about controversy!). I would like to see guys at Georgia have the chance to wear the number 34 again, and you know who wore that one (Herschel was also named by SI as the greatest to wear 34). At UGA, 47 (David Pollack) hasn't been retired, so EVERY other number should be available to gridiron Dawgs. And any number at any school for that matter. After all, you never know who the next great tailback might be at Syracuse University. And he just might be wearing the famous 44!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Collegiate Licensing = Big Buck$

The Collegiate Licensing Company is a full service licensing and marketing company. It is the nation's leader in collegiate trademark licensing and marketing. CLC represents nearly 200 colleges, universities, conferences, bowl games, and the NCAA and all of its championships. Collegiate Licensed Products is more than a $2.5 billion-a-year industry. Schools ranked in the Top 10 can expect to receive upwards of $5 million annually from the sale of merchandise bearing their logos. The CLC recently released the rankings of schools for the third quarter of 2007-2008, which covered the period of 1-1-08 to 3-31-08. The following is a list of the top 10 schools:

1. Texas

2. Michigan

3. Florida

4. Notre Dame

5. LSU

6. Georgia

7. North Carolina

8. Penn State

9. Alabama

10. Tennessee

It is not unusual for the Top 10 to jostle around from quarter to quarter, but the same 10 to 15 schools are always around that top echelon. Winning, of course, is a major factor in sales along with the size of alumni/fan base, student body enrollment, high visibility alumni who continue to drive the schools notoriety, and overall fan followings. It all has to do with brand recognition. Most universities use the revenue funds for financial aid and to fund athletic scholarships.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Erin Andrews: Back By Popular Demand!

We received so many referrals because of our first posted photo of Miss Andrews that we thought it wise to bring her back. For the past week or so she has been seen around the dugouts at the College World Series (Erin, what was that blue dress 'thingy' Saturday?). She was asked once what she thought about all the "Marry Me Erin" signs that are regularly visible at games she works and her reply was: "No one has shown up with a ring yet". Since most of her assignments are at the college level, a 'rock' is a tall order for a college kid. Can't blame a guy for trying though, can ya?!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Teixeira Must Mean Three!

Mark Teixeira blasted 3 home runs Sunday afternoon as the Atlanta Braves defeated the Seattle Mariners 8-3. He belted two solo shots and one 2-runner for a total of 4 RBI's on the day. It was his second career 3-homer day and the first for an Atlanta player at Turner Field. The 3 round-trippers give Mark T a total of 13 for the season. 6 of those 13 have come in the month of June. After a slow and inconsistent start so far this season, maybe this game is the start of more good things to follow. With all the injures the Braves continue to experience, they need Teixeira to begin putting it all together offensively. Also in Sunday's contest, Tim Hudson allowed only 4 hits in 7 scoreless innings, lowering his ERA to 2.96 for the season.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Johnny Miller: No Words Minced Here

Johnny Miller has always been one to say what others only dare to think. He brings no bashfulness to the booth. What comes up, comes out. Just as at the U.S. Open this past week when he said Rocco Mediate looked like the guy who cleans Tiger Woods pool. This week he apologized for those remarks, saying he did not mean to offend anyone. The message I thought he was trying to convey with the flippant remark was that Mediate looked as though he should be working for Woods instead of playing a round of golf with him. It seemed like a shot at the pool boy and the golfer. But I'll admit, it seemed more aggressive than it did stereotypical. Just Miller being Miller I suppose. Once he thought the quality of golf was so poor a particular tournament that he quipped: "If I had been in the gallery, I'd have gone home". Maybe Miller's creed is that if you think it, you might as well say it. He seems to be pretty good at that, and he probably doesn't care what you or I think. He will issue an apology, but he does it knowing he would say the same thing again. And I know he would too.

Terrell Davis: "Bargain Basement"

After missing most of his senior year at Georgia with a hamstring injury, Terrell Davis fell to the sixth round of the NFL Draft where he was secured by the Denver Broncos. And "the rest is history" as they say. He went on to help lead the Broncos to two Super Bowl wins in 1997 & 1998. He also became just the fourth running back to rush for 2,000 yards in a season in 1998. Not too shabby for a sixth rounder! As K-Mart would say: " A Blue Light Special"!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Notre Dame & NBC: WHY?

NBC renewed its television contract with Notre Dame today through the 2015 season. The contract calls for 7 home games and 1 off-campus 'home' game. All home games at Notre Dame must be played in the afternoon. Night games are said to be too disruptive for Irish students. So with all the potentially great college football match-ups around the country practically every fall Saturday afternoon, one powerful network sticks us with Notre Dame. NBC says it is not about ratings, which are understandably down. They feel the Irish still have that 'lure'; that we want to watch them just because they're the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. I've got news for you guys: we want to watch good football teams and exciting football games. Notre Dame has finished in the Top 10 only three times during their 17 year run with the network. They were 3-9 last year. When most teams finish below .500 they have to "play their way" back on TV. In other words, they have to get better to be seen on Saturday's airways. Evidently NBC is saying they would rather have a mediocre Notre Dame as opposed to a legitimate Top 10 contest. I don't think that's quite the same as saying you'd take Tiger on 1 1/2 legs as opposed to anyone else on the PGA Tour. If you think about it this fall when ND is occupying that mid-afternoon time slot playing another "wanna be", check and see the other games not being televised that you would much rather be able to view. Now that will be a good way to get you all riled-up on Game Day.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Advantage to Both "Bulldogs" at CWS

Both the Fresno State Bulldogs and the Georgia Bulldogs sit atop their respective CWS brackets with unblemished 2-0 records. Considering that Florida State and Rice have already departed the tournament, the other four teams have essentially spotted both Bulldogs a game up advantage. The next best news in all of this for the two leaders is that by the time they play again, two of the higher seeded teams will also have exited the field. On Fresno's side, either LSU or North Carolina will be sent packing after they play in an elimination game, and on UGA's side the same holds true for Stanford or Miami. These are four of the highest seeded teams on the brink of elimination. That certainly does make the two 'Dogs combined four wins seem huge, as well they are. The two winners from the loser's bracket will have to defeat Georgia and Fresno State twice to advance to the championship game. It can happen, but you gotta know any of those teams would love to be undefeated at this point themselves. It is definitely 'Advantage Bulldogs'! I realize that all these teams have outstanding pitching, but one thing I keep thinking about on UGA's behalf is that they haven't had one of their double digit run explosion games. They are capable of that, just ask N.C. State. I believe we just might see one of those games from them in Omaha. They've come up with the clutch hits when they've had to have them, but they haven't gone on one of those 'rampages' yet. The bullpen has been sound, as has the defense. I know this is really going to sound like a 'homer' remark, but Georgia has overcome a couple of bad calls too. O.K, O.K., I know, everyone playing in the College World Series has suffered through bad calls. I just had to get that in there in defense of my Dawgs! Nevertheless, "Perno's Pups" are in a great position to reach the championship game. Being the veteran club they are I don't see them departing easily. It just might be the year of the "Oval G 'Dawgs"!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Willie Randolph: Midnight Madness

Now, as a Braves fan, you can imagine how much concern I have had about all the rumors surrounding Willie Randolph's lack of job security with the Mets. I figured keep him, fire him, ho hum, whatever will be will be. But wait a minute. You let the guy fly to the west coast to open a series with the Angels, then fire him when he returns to the team hotel AFTER a win? At midnight? I'll bet the hard-hearted Steinbrenners across town were even impressed by that move. If you let him go after a win, you must have known before hand you were gonna put the guy in the road. Why even make him board the plane? I wonder if the team offered to fly the poor guy back to New York? I suppose that the die was cast less than a week ago when he got the public support of the Mets front office. Doesn't that always spell F-I-R-E? I'm not arguing the validity of the firing because I don't have an opinion on whether it was the right thing to do for the team or not (see ho-hum above). I'm merely saying that was one heck of a way to do it. I do realize it was face to face, and that it was before it leaked to the press, but couldn't you have done it in NY? Before dark? Before the long flight? Before the team's third win in four games? At least one 'before' is right: You did it before the Braves kick your keisters again!

A "Tip of the Cap" For Rocco Mediate

No, Rocco Mediate is not the 2008 U.S. Open Champion. And really, none of us expected him to be. I checked out Monday's playoff in the late afternoon to see how many strokes he was down. (I'm sorry Rocco, no faith on my part). At that time he was tied for the lead. I wanted him to do well, but I was afraid for him. I wanted him to win, but I knew the odds did not favor that. I wanted him to win because he was such an immense under dog. I wanted him to win because he's been around and has paid his dues. I wanted him to win because I wanted the domination of the sport to at least be side-tracked for a big weekend. I'm not too hyped on 'moral victories", and I would not insult Mediate by suggesting this was at least that for him. It was bigger than that. He brought his "A" game and played his heart out. Mickelson didn't do that. Not even close. And Rocco said Monday night, "I threw everything I had at him ." That you did my man!
You kept it close, and interesting, and thrilling, and fun. You did you ever compete. You made all of us under dogs proud. You said in an interview after Saturday's round that you probably wouldn't have the opportunity to be in this position again. Here's hoping that you do, and that when you do you pull out the win. At least we know you'll throw everything you have at 'em!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Joey Logano: Nascar's Future Super Star

Joey Logano won the Meijer 300 Saturday night at Kentucky Speedway. At 18 years of age, he became the youngest winner in Nationwide Series history. Logano, who drives for Joe Gibbs Racing, won the event from the pole. In his three Nationwide starts he has two poles and one victory. In his first series start at Dover, he recorded a sixth place finish. After having to wait until he turned 18 to compete in one of Nascar's three national divisions, the buildup and anticipation of his arrival was unprecedented. It is expected that he will make a few starts in Sprint Cup Series races this year, and compete full time in Sprint Cup in 2009. Nextel Cup driver Mark Martin calls Logano the "real deal", and says he already has more talent than some drivers he races against now. Martin went on to say "I don't think Nascar has ever seen anything like Joey Logano". He's been racing since before he was 7 years old. He signed his professional contract with JGR at the tender age of 15, after having been tabbed a can't miss prodigy that early. With his immense talent, focus and determination Logano just might be a name to remember. His affiliation with Joe Gibbs racing won't hurt either.

Big Brown: What...Me Worry?

Big Brown's trainer Rick Dutrow speaking on the odds of his horse winning the 2008 Belmont, thus the Triple Crown of racing: "I don't think they can beat our horse, so why should I be afraid of them? I feel as confident as I ever have with the horse. He looks better now than he ever looked. Things are as good as they can be." But they got as bad as they could get when Big Brown finished dead last at Belmont. Not all sports guarantees turn out as prophetic as Joe Namath's before Super Bowl III.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Bill Curry: GSU Head Coach

This week, Georgia State University named Bill Curry as its first head football coach. The Panthers will begin play in 2010. Curry, who is 65, signed a 5 year deal with the school. He grew up in College Park, Ga. and played at Georgia Tech. After graduating with a degree in industrial management, he played in the NFL 10 years and was an All Pro center with the Baltimore Colts. After retirement, he was an assistant with the Packers before beginning a 17 year stint as a college head coach. Those years involved jobs at Tech, Alabama, and Kentucky. For the past 11 years, he has been a college football analyst for ESPN. With no equipment, no facilities, no coaching staff. and no nothing, Curry will try to duplicate the success of the late Erk Russell at Georgia Southern. Erk started the Eagles program from scratch and built it into a Division 1-AA powerhouse. That GSU has captured 6 National Championships. From all I've heard about Bill Curry, he is a class act. With that in mind, I wish him well in Atlanta. I hope his gridiron Panthers enjoy success early and often. But Bill, if this is what it took to get you off your television gig, I wish Georgia State had started a football program about 11 years ago!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Ryne Sandberg: Know When to Fold 'Em

For this week's throw back, we take a look at a memorable June 13th occasion. On June 13, 1994, Ryne Sandberg retired from baseball. Stating that he could no longer perform at an acceptable level of play, the Cubs second baseman forfeited $15.7 million of his $25 million contract.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Georgia Bulldogs: World Series Bound

Gordon Beckham and the number 8 ranked Georgia Bulldogs will meet the number 1 ranked Miami Hurricanes in the first round of the College World Series Saturday night. The Hurricanes are headed to Omaha on a roll, having won 19 of their last 23 games. This will be the 23rd CWS appearance for the 'Canes. The Dawgs are also on a streak of their own, having scored 90 runs in their last 8 games. As they head to the CWS for the 7th time, they have no fear of Miami and its storied baseball program. They realize that every team in Omaha is there because they deserve to be there. So regardless of your draw, you're going to be facing a very good team. The Bulldogs of Coach David Perno are a veteran squad who believes it is peaking at the right time. They should match up well and hold their own against 'the best of the best' at Rosenblatt Stadium as the Series gets underway this weekend. Try to catch a few innings here and there of college baseball at its finest at the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska.

SEC Rundown: University of Florida

In 2007 the Florida Gators were 9-4 overall and 5-3 in the conference. They only lost two starters from an offense that led the conference in scoring. They of course retain the services of Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow at quarterback, as well as the versatile offensive specialist Percy Harvin. If the Gators can find a tailback and are able to improve their rushing game apart from Tebow, scoring points again will be no problem at all for this unit. Florida will be exceptional on offense again in 2008. There are more concerns for them on defense, but they will be solid at linebacker. They will have needs in the defensive backfield, as well as at the tackle positions. But talent abounds in Gainesville. There are hosses in the barn. It might just be a case of plugging in a new face on the defensive side of the ball and continuing to 'chomp' away. Brandon James returns on special teams to show everyone again that speed does kill. He led the SEC in yards per punt return and was second in kickoff yards per return. He is definitely a game breaker. The Gators spread offense will be outstanding again this year, and if the new personnel comes around on defense, Florida will be a force in the SEC as well as the nation. The winner of the Georgia-Florida game at the big cocktail party in Jacksonville will go on to take the Conference Championship and have the inside track on the National Championship as well. Urban Meyer and his staff will reload this Florida squad and they will be right back in the thick of everything. Other than the Dawgs in Jacksonville, the Gators have to go to Tennessee early, but will then have both LSU and South Carolina in 'The Swamp". So even if you are a true "Gator Hater", you just can't count this team out. You better "Beware of the Gators"!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Hey Plaxico, Come Out and Play!

Plaxico Burress isn't happy with the contract he signed, so he isn't going to practice with the team until they renegotiate with him. Professional athletes pull this stunt all the time, and most of the time owners give in to them. I say sue 'em. You signed it, you play it out. Why didn't you have enough guts to sign a one year deal so you would have some leverage at this point. No guarantees, huh? You might have sustained a career threatening injury, huh? Oh yea, let the owners eat the contracts. I say sue 'em and sit'em. The game is bigger than they are. They need the game more than the game needs them. Sit 'em, sue'em, and forget 'em! Burress has three years remaining on his six year, $25 million deal with the Giants. He says he is unhappy with the $3.25 million he is to be paid this year, as well as with the $3.5 mil in 2009, and the 3.75 scheduled for 2010. If he chooses not to participate and not to practice, don't let him play. Don't negotiate a trade for him. Run him out of the league. Sit, sue and forget. See how he likes $4.00 a gallon gasoline without those $3 million smacks in his old checking account. In the real world we are concerned about inflation and recession, and this bozo wants to renege on a $25 million deal HE SIGNED in the first place. We are suppose to care? Give me a break. Go find another wide receiver. They're out there. Quit pampering these half-grown brats. You don't like the next guy making more than you? Well sign 'em one year at a time, big boy. If not, the owner has the leverage. He took all the risks. He holds all the cards. But Plaxico my man, this is your lucky day because the owners have more money than they have sense. They don't realize they actually do hold all the cards. So relax, Plax. They'll give you what you want. Not me though, I'd sit ya, sue ya, and forget ya! And the sports world would forget you too. As quick as you can say Plaxico!

Stick A Fork in the Braves 'Cause They Are Done!

Go back and mark this date on your calendar: Friday, June 6, 2008. This is the day the Atlanta Braves began their fall out of contention in the National League East, not to return this year. There are several reasons I denote this particular date, the most significant of which is they lost a game they should have won to the division leading Philadelphia Phillies. But it wasn't that they lost it altogether, it was the way they managed to lose it. And I say that more from the mental aspect of the loss than the game in the 'loss column' itself. You're winning in the ninth and you get the first two men out. Then you walk two with no pitching change. The killer is you drop a pop-up third out to allow the tying run to score, and have to throw the go ahead run out at the plate for out number three. Just as you would expect from this ninth inning debacle, you eventually lose in extra innings. In order not to beat Kelly Johnson up for the crucial error, it must be remembered that the Braves made not one, but two base running blunders; one cost a run for sure, and the other to end an inning with a runner on third. And oh yea, Atlanta left a ton of guys on base, so that tells you there were not enough key hits. Now that's one heck of an understatement! And to make it even sweeter, you drop both the Saturday and Sunday games as well. After a Monday day off, the Cubs beat our eyes out Tuesday night. After four consecutive losses, the Bravos are 6 1/2 games out. Certainly not an insurmountable lead for the Phils, but you just don't get those positive vibes from Atlanta. Too many guys and too much time on the DL, very inconsistent play and a lack of overall clutch hitting. I'm not trying to kick the Braves because they're down. I want them to do well. I'm a Braves fan (even though they charged me $6.50 for a beer!). But I don't see this as being our year. I hate the fact that we're wasting great first halfs by Chipper, Escobar, and McCann. I hate that Kotsay has been out so much, that Francoeur has been disappointing, and we don't have the prototypical lead-off hitter we need. It's another platoon year in left field, and we're certainly not steady at 2nd base. I thought Teixeira was going to have a year like Andruw had in 2007 but he's just now trying to get it going. Remember, you are not going to resign him; he will demand too much and we won't be able to deal with his agent anyway. Make sure you get something for him as soon as contenders start looking for playoff help. Sit Frenchy down some more, because I know you don't have it in you to send him to Richmond(AAA) for a couple of weeks. We've had to deal with more injuries before the All Star break than you should have to deal with in an entire year, so if you believe in "jinxes", then maybe that's the answer. Nevertheless, this is just not our year. It is not going to happen for us. But then again, my predictions have been off lately. Hey, maybe I just removed that hex. Yea right, believe that and you would probably believe that Chief Nocahoma is going to return again!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Ken Griffey, Jr.: 600 Home Runs

Ken Griffey, Jr. hit his 600th home run Monday night in a game -vs- the Florida Marlins against Mark Hendrickson. He is now in the company of Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron and Sammy Sosa. It is a very prestigious and exclusive club, these 6 guys with 600 homers. Junior hit his first in his first at bat off the first pitch he saw from Eric King. He was then a 19 year old rookie making his first start on opening day in 1987. He was the first round draft choice of the Seattle Mariners that year, and he went on to hit 16 homers as a rookie. Other memorable dingers include back to back homers by the Griffeys Senior and Junior in 1990 off the Angels' Kirk McCaskill. This feat was a first in MLB history and hasn't been duplicated since. In 1993, Griffey hit a home run in eight consecutive games, which had been done twice before at that time. When he hit numbers 300, 350, 400, and 450 he was the youngest to do so. He was the one picked to catch Aaron, not Bonds. The talk then was not about 755, but about 800. Then the injuries began and the numbers fell off. When he hit 500, it should have been 600, except for the injuries. Same song , different verse now at 600 that could have been 700. But we all know that injuries are a huge part of sports. Some athletes are not as fortunate as others in escaping major setbacks. Just as for Griffey now, I always wondered what Mickey Mantle's numbers would have been, could have been, without the injuries and the self -inflicted abuse to his tremendously gifted body. But don't sell Junior short just yet. There are more significant home runs left in that 39 year old body. How about becoming just the third player to hit a home run in the Bigs as a teenager and as 40 year old? Or the fourth player to hit home runs in four different decades? Or even the first player to hit 300 home runs for two different teams in two different leagues? So Ken Griffey , Jr. is not a "what could have been" as much as he is a "what's going to be" ballplayer. His glass is not half empty. No way. His glass is half full. Now Junior, "fill 'er up"!

Tiger & Phil: The 2008 U.S. Open

Might you see this pair going head to head in the final grouping at the U.S Open Sunday afternoon? They are the top two ranked players in the world, and they know the Torrey Pines layout better than anyone. They have a combined nine tour victories there, and they are the odds-on favorites going into the tournament. All golf fans look forward to seeing Phil & Tiger go head to head, especially in one of the Majors. If it should come to pass, it would be a tremendous duel for the title. But then again, I'm the one who predicted Sunday's French Open tennis final would be a great match.

SEC Rundown: University of Kentucky

In 2007, the Wildcats were 8-5 overall and 3-5 in the SEC. Of course they lost Heisman hopeful Andre Woodson at quarterback, and they have no one returning to be excited about at that position at this time. However, they do have good depth at the tailback position, and they do return three starters from last year's offensive line. They will need to be able to sustain the ball on the ground until a passing attack has time to materialize. The Cats defense ranked last in scoring defense in the conference last year. But they were successful in coming up with the big play on that side of the ball in some big games. They should be much better than in 2007 simply because they return several starters and experienced players. However, getting better when you were the worst is almost inevitable isn't it? They do have kickoff specialist Tim Mashay coming back who recorded 23 kickoffs for touch backs last year. Now that's not too shabby. But they retained the SEC's worst coach in Rich Brooks, so all the positives I mentioned are offset by that. Coming off unheard of back to back 8 win seasons for Big Blue football, they will be hard pressed to post a winning season in 2008. You guys can take down all those "BELIEVE" posters now, 'cause it's H-I-S-T-O-R-Y and it's over. Here's forecasting that Vandy gets that last conference bowl slot and you 'Kittens" can just sit in Rupp Arena over the holidays. Oh yea, one more thing: no one in college football gets a turnover in overtime and still LOSES, except the University of Kentucky. Big Blue my behind!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Carrie Underwood: Softball Player

And you thought she was just a singer. Carrie Underwood participated in the 18th annual City of Hope Celebrity Softball Challenge. This was a Gibson Foundation event benefiting research and treatment of cancer and other life threatening diseases. A terrific cause, but Carrie, don't give up your "day job"!

Georgia: Do You Buy Into The Hype?

I've started breaking down the SEC East on this site and I've made it through three teams. But I have to interject these thoughts about the Dawgs before I look at the other teams. What's the rush anyway, it is only June right? But college football is such a big deal, it's hard for any of us not to already be talking it up. For example, check out the great article on the SEC at The World According to Moondog. The guys at Georgia Sports Blog never stray far from the gridiron, although they give super info on everything the Dawgs are involved in. The Dawg-Gone Blog gives you some insight into UGA's impact players. You can check out many college sports blogs, and none of us go very long without getting back to football. There are HUGE expectations regarding our Georgia Bulldogs. Some would say these are legitimate expectations, some would say the Bulldogs are vastly overrated. We are projected to be a Top 5 pre-season pick, and probably closer to 1 than to 5. That's legit because we did finish the season strong last year and we do return many key players. We are loaded as far as talent is concerned, but at least half of the teams in the SEC are loaded. Loaded meaning not only talent at the starting positions, but talented depth at the back-up positions as well. SEC schools such as Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, Alabama, Auburn and LSU all have guys not starting who could start at 95% of other schools. That says alot about the kids coming out of high schools in the south. Nevertheless, let me share 4 things that Georgia must have in order to win the SEC East. Notice I said to win our division, not win the national title. That's because winning the Eastern Division of the Southeastern Conference is the hardest part of winning the National Championship. And once you win that division, you will have a good chance to win that crystal trophy. Just look at Florida and LSU. Now for those 4 criteria:

1. Matthew Stafford will have to become the super-star quarterback we have
expected him to be since he arrived in Athens from Texas. He wiil have to take control of
games when they are on the line. In those times, he cannot make costly mistakes

2. A leader will have to emerge from the defensive side of the ball. By that I
am referring to a big play guy like Scott Woerner or David Pollack. The guy
who is going to make the big play when you have to have it.

3. Consistent and reliable play from the special teams. A punt or kickoff returned
to "The House' will possibly be a key ingredient in some crucial game. Not
allowing either of those in a close game will be just as crucial.

4. Getting good bounces of the ball and avoiding "bad" calls that make or break
games. Call it good luck if you want, but you must have it in key situations
throughout the course of the season.

All of that sounds easy enough, doesn't it? Easy or not, I feel all must happen for the University of Georgia to win the SEC East, the SEC Championship and the National Championship. If we don't accomplish those things, those of you who think we are overrated just might be right.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Jim McKay: "They've All Gone"

The world of sports lost legendary announcer Jim McKay this week. He was 86 years old. He is perhaps best known for his marathon performance during the Munich Olympics massacre and his final remark "They're all gone" referring to the murdered Israeli Olympians. The calmness, composure, dignity and class he displayed not only at that particular time but throughout his career is what he will be remembered for. He is most recalled for his years with ABC's Wide World of Sports. However, his first love was horse racing and he anchored many of those events, including the triple crown events. Yes Jim McKay, you brought us "the thrill of victory" and you taught us "the agony of defeat." We thank you for enhancing this world of sports we love so much in your own special, dynamic and enlightening way.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Dusty Rhodes: The American Dream

You know I have to give you a throw-back about once a week or so. Well here we go today with the WWE's All American Boy, Mr. Dusty Rhodes. The man of the hour, the man with the power, too d_ _ _ sweet to ever be sour! The Common Man, workin' hard with his hands! The chubby son of a plumber man from Austin, Texas. "He has wined and dined with kings and queens, but he has also slept in alleys, and dined on cold pork and beans". He's been around!

The Brawl in Boston

With boxing's Heavyweight Division somewhat without an identity at the moment, Boston and Tampa Bay did their best Thursday night to give boxing fans something to get into. In the second inning, the Devil Ray's James Shields hit the Red Sox Coco Crisp on the right leg. Yes, the right leg, not the right temple. Anyway, Crisp storms the mound and the "fight" is on. Shields takes the first swing and Crisp dodges the blow. Chrisp gets his shot at Shields just before the Rays DH Jonny Gomes arrives on the scene. Gomes lands several punches while Crisp is under a couple of TB players. From what I've read on line, it was Gomes involvement that has the Sox and their fans upset. I suspect that it was his 'successful involvement' that has them riled. His punches landed. On the Tampa Bay side, this entire incident was a carry-over from Wednesday night. On a double play grounder, Crisp slides LATE and on the far inside of second base, taking out second baseman Akinori Iwamura. Manager Joe Maddon called the late slide an intentional attempt to injure his second baseman. I saw the play live on TV, and it looked like more than the 'normal' break-up-the-double play slide. I have no idea how much malice there was in CC's mind. But here's the thing: I just knew that in Thursday night's game, Crisp would be thrown at. Both of those teams had to know that. They have a bad history against each other anyway. His slide was somewhat questionable. No, it was downright unquestionable. I don't always agree with the commentary of Rick Sutcliffe, but he got this one correct. He as much said it was a dirty play. So Boston, I like your sports teams, but chill out about this brawl. You had to see it coming. Get over it. Coco Crisp was not the victim, he was the instigator. You swept the series didn't you? Take your center fielder who sounds like a cereal box and get ready for your next game. No one owes you anything just because you finally won a couple of championships on the diamond. Just keep whipping up on the Yankees; that's all you need to get fired up about. Oh yea, when you release Coco, tell him to call Vince McMahon. He can wrestle as "The Human Cereal Box"!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Chipper Jones: 400 and Counting!

Chipper Jones hit career home run number 400 tonight against the Florida Marlins and off right-hander Ricky Nolasco. Congratulations #10! The Yankees Hall of Fame superstar Mickey Mantle leads all switch hitters with 536. Eddie Murray is second with 504. Not bad guys to be trailing Chipper. At 36 years of age, both Mantle anf Murray are in the range of Jones. He has said he would like to play 4 to 6 more years. Chip becomes just the 43rd player in Major League Baseball history to reach the 400 milestone. Also with the homerun tonight he is 3 for 4 in the game, raising his major league leading average to .415. And the quest to hit .400 for the season rolls on....

SEC Rundown: University of South Carolina

In 2007 the Gamecocks were 6-6 overall and 3-5 in the SEC. For the 2008 season Mike Davis returns at running back to replace the departed Cory Boyd. The quarterback position remains unsettled, and if the offensive line issues of a year ago remain, even the offensive minded Steve Spurrier will have trouble coming up with a way to put points on the board. On the other hand, the Gamecocks should be solid defensively. New defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson's first task will be to rebuild a rush defense that ranked last against the run in 2007. The return of linebacker Casper Brinkley from knee surgery should make a big difference. The secondary should be strong with four starters returning. Entering his fourth year as the South Carolina Head Coach, Spurrier is starting to build some depth into his program. Now his teams have to start showing consistency in their play if they ever want to win that elusive SEC Championship.
After staying home for the bowl season, there goals have to start with playing during the holidays. But doesn't that always seem to be the goal of the Gamecocks? Not much as changed.
And not much is going to change in 2008. They'll pull off their occasional upset like they do each year, but when it's all said and done they will be on the outside looking in. Same 'ole Carolina. The place where old coaches go to die.


Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The French Open Final: Get Ready!

Are you looking at this year's French Open Final pairing? Both Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have advanced to Friday's semifinals at Roland Garros. Federer will face 59th ranked, 21 year old Gael Monfils, who will be making his first Grand Slam semifinal appearance. Nadal will duel with No. 3 Novak Djokovic, the reigning Australian Open Champion. If both advance, they will square off in their third consecutive French Open Final. Nadal won the championship in both 2006 and 2007, and is regarded as the best clay court player in the world. On the other hand, many feel this title is the one most coveted by Federer, because it would complete a Career Slam for him. Who knows, this might just be the year for the world's number 1 ranked player to add his 13th major championship with a win at Roland Garros. If they both do reach the final, it very possibly could be "one for the ages"! If you're a fan of great tennis, you will not want to miss it.

SEC Rundown: University of Tennessee

In 2007 the Vols were 10-4 overall and 6-2 in the conference. They were the Eastern Division Champions. For 2008, they return one of the best tailbacks in the SEC in Adrian Foster who rushed for 1,193 yards in 2007, and one of the top receivers in the conference in Lucas Taylor. First year starting quarterback Jonathan Crompton will be the key to the offense. If he can avoid too many first year mistakes, he has a good enough supporting cast around him to be proficient. Tennessee should be improved on defense over last year, when they averaged giving up over 400 yards per game. They will have six players coming back in the secondary with starting experience. The line also returns experience. Their biggest task will be to replace departed linebacker Jerod Mayo, who led the SEC in tackles in 2007. Tennessee has not won the Southeastern Conference Championship in 10 years, and if they expect to this year the will have to run the football better, as well as stop the run better. These two categories are what UT football is known for anyway. They will need to be good early, because they play UCLA, Florida, and Auburn after opening with UAB. The early open date between UCLA and Florida will probably be bigger than it sounds now. The Volunteers may very well be better than last year's division champs, but they will not repeat that feat again in 2008. If a key win saved the job of the most over-rated head coach in the conference in 2007, then another year without that trophy might just be another nail in Phillip Fulmer's big orange coffin.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

SEC Rundown: Vanderbilt University

In 2007 the Commodores were 5-7 overall and 2-6 in conference play. For 2008, they are returning 3 starters on offense and 6 on defense. Top returners include All SEC cornerback D.J. Moore, as well as all returning starters in the secondary. Vandy's defense will keep them in games, and it will certainly have to. There is no clear cut starter a quarterback, although both Mackenzi Adams and Chris Nickson had significant playing time last year. The biggest concern on the offensive side of the ball is that all 5 starters on the offensive line are gone. There is talent there, and even some experience, but no cohesiveness. It will be difficult for the 'Dores to find another 5 games this year on their schedule they can win. Vanderbilt does have talent because they have recruited well the last several years. They just don't have it as deep as the perennial powers in the SEC. Bobby Johnson has done a fantastic job of convincing his players that they now can win games in the conference. They are not the league's easy homecoming opponent they once were. They have been building for a long time during Johnson's tenure, and for once this year they might get to say they are actually rebuilding to some degree. He has brought them a long way. But they have a long way to go still.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Mike Ditka: Quote of the Day

On the Mike & Mike Show this morning, former NFL player and coach, Hall of Famer Mike Ditka said: "Yesterday's history. Tomorrow's a mystery. Today's a gift, that's why they call it the present". Thanks, Coach! Enough said.

Face of the Program

ESPN is giving college football fans the chance to decide the "Face of the Program". Every football college has a Face of the Program: an icon who defines the program. A direct association or identifier, if you will. For the University of Georgia several, perhaps even many, names could justifiably be presented. Any program with a storied history like Georgia should elicit many images and names. Based on recent history, anyone in the Bulldog Nation would immediately name the two "Davids", Greene and Pollack. From entirely different eras Vernon "Catfish" Smith, Frankie Sinkwich, Charlie Trippi, Theron Sapp, and Fran Tarkenton are certainly legitimate among others. You could even go with a different line of thinking and name non-players in Larry Munson, Vince Dooley, and of course, UGA himself. In reality, anyone who has played for Georga, coached at Georgia, or made contributions (I'm not referring to monetary ones either) to the program all make up the Face of the Program. Absolutely! No question about it. However, if you must make me select one, I would have to go with the 'Big Boy" from Wrightsville, Georgia, the one and only #34 Herschel Walker. There are a lot of bricks in the foundation, but Herschel is the rock! For me, he is our "Face of the Program".

Sunday, June 1, 2008

The Southeastern Conference: Absolutely the Best

The last two college football national championships were won by SEC teams. Florida in 2006 and LSU in 2007 both made a whipping boy of Ohio State to take home the crystal trophy. In 2007, nine teams went to bowl games, and only two lost. Florida was upset by a surprising Michigan performance in the Capital One Bowl, and Missouri defeated Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl. Two SEC teams played in BCS games and they both won. LSU as we mentioned above and of course our Georgia Bulldogs thrashed Hawaii 41-10 in the Sugar Bowl. The conference produced not only the Heisman Trophy winner in Florida's Tim Tebow, but also its runner-up in Arkansas' Darren McFadden. Glenn Dorsey of LSU was also named the nation's best defensive player. I think you can smell what's cooking here, and the dish isn't done yet. In 2008, the conference just might be better. Better as in more competitive. So many solid teams have so many good players returning. The conference has so many good coaches. Every Saturday stadiums are at capacity with knowledgeable, energetic, and loud crowds. Winning on the road is no easy task in the SEC, regardless of the venue you visit. It is absolutely the toughest football conference in America. This being said, I predict that NO TEAM (zero) will run the table in the conference in 2008. There will be no unblemished conference records when all is said and done in December. It is just too tough to do. Not only is it a matter of WHO you play, but WHERE you play them and WHEN you play them. Scheduling is so critical and something you don't have a lot of control over. Just show up and play, and may the best team win. Sometimes in the Southeastern Conference, it's difficult to know who the best team is. So many are so good.