Thursday, April 29, 2010

Ga. Tech in the S.E.C.: Not No , But He- - No!

An AJC article posed the question, "How would Georgia Tech fit in the Southeastern Conference?". I'll tell you how: about like a New Orleans prostitute in a rural, southern Baptist church. As far as I'm concerned, "Yellow Tech" has already had their 'say and stay' in the S.E.C. Their beloved Bobby Dodd chose to leave the conference in 1963 after a feud with Alabama's Bear Bryant. Tech decided to vacate its seat, and that position should never be made available to them again. No way, no how. Not now, not ever. In 1991, the conference expanded from ten to twelve teams by adding Arkansas and South Carolina. Tech didn't get in then, so they shouldn't get in if the S.E.C. ever decides to expand again. No way, no how. Not now, not ever. Don't even think about it. They have no one to blame but themselves. And Bobby Dodd.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Atlanta Braves: $83,890,334 Payroll

The Atlanta Braves nearly $84 million payroll ranks as the seventeenth highest out of 30 major league baseball clubs. The Yankees are first of course, with a whopping $213,359,389 payout. Just their starting infield brings down a staggering $85.2 million, which is more than the entire payroll of 15 other franchises. They are led by Alex Rodriguez's $33 million coup. The club that is ranked in last place with the lowest payroll is San Diego. The Padres only allocate $37,799,300 in player salaries. By the way, the Braves top salaried ballplayers are Derek Lowe at $15 million and Chipper Jones at $13 million. And how is your salary holding up during this recessionary period?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

St. Andrews Lengthens the "Road Hole"

Technology had taken some of the danger out of St. Andrews infamous par 4 17th. With golfers able to drive the ball so much further now, short irons to the green were taking the greenside bunker and the gravel road virtually out of play. For the first time ever, the tee box has been moved back 40 yards, which will make players use longer irons with their second shots into the green. The hole will now play 490 yards, but the line of shot off the tee remains unchanged. Having long been known as one of the toughest holes in golf, the "Road Hole" now has its old mystique back. Especially during Sunday's round of the British Open when the Claret Jug is at stake.

Ryan Howard: He Left the Door Wide Open...

Ryan Howard signed a five year contract extension with the Philadelphia Phillies that is worth at least $125 million. Howard was scheduled to be a free agent after the 2011 season, joining the likes of other first basemen Albert Pujols, Adrian Gonzalez, and Prince Fielder. It's as if all the fruit got ripe at the same time. At least for the other three, Howard made sure the bar was set at a high price level. Pujols, arguably the best of the bunch, will command at least $30 million per year. Gonzalez and Fielder will both be on a level very close to Howard's $25 million annual take. The Cardinals will have to come up with the money for Pujols. He has too many productive years left to allow him to leave St. Louis. San Diego is already shopping Gonzalez around, with the Braves and Red Sox rumored to be a couple of the interested parties. Fielder is the straw that stirs the drink in Milwaukee. He and the Brewers will work out a deal to keep the stout first baseman around for awhile. Now that Howard has made this $100 million first baseman club so accessible, it will be interesting to keep an eye on these guys until the next three deals get done. There are three clubs out there who are going to have to give up some serious cash. Stay tuned...

Dick Fosbury: He "Flipped" the High Jump Event

Sports Illustrated Vault had a series on athletes who revolutionized their sports. Since we're still into full-blown track and field season, I thought I would reminisce about Dick Fosbury and his "Fosbury Flop". In 1968, Fosbury won the Olympic Gold Medal in the high jump. His winning mark of 7' 4.5" was a new Olympic, as well as, United States record. His head/back first approach to the bar seemed awkward to everyone at first. However, when Fosbury continued to have extraordinary success with the technique, more and more high jumpers adapted to the flop style. Even today, his back first style is the prevailing technique for the event.

Logan Gray: Gonna Go or Gonna Stay?

Georgia's back-up quarterback Logan Gray met with head coach Mark Richt yesterday regarding the junior signal callers future. It appears that Gray is considering the possibility of transferring to another school for his two final years of eligibility. Gray, a Columbia, Missouri native, probably feels lost on the depth chart once again. He had previously considered a change of position to obtain more playing time, but with the abrupt exodus of former QB Zach Mettenberger, that change of position isn't very realistic. If indeed Gray does leave the Bulldogs, redshirt freshman Aaron Murray would be the only scholarship quarterback on campus until freshman Hutson Mason arrives in a month from now. I said all last year that offensive coordinator Mike Bobo should have found a way to get Gray more playing time. There were a ton of opportunities to get the kid on the field when former QB Joe Cox faltered. If Gray had received more meaningful minutes in 2009, he might not be considering this move at this stage. But of course that is a moot point now. If Logan Gray wants to play another position at Georgia, give him that opportunity. If he wants to work harder in hopes of playing more at the quarterback position, then tell him to make that commitment. If he wants to leave UGA, wish him well as he walks out the door. The only Dawgs we need in Athens are the ones who truly want to be there.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Jeff & Jimmie, The '24' & the '48': My, My...

Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson drive for the same car owner. In the world of NASCAR, that makes them teammates. To compound and confuse the situation, they have had 'negative' close encounters with each other for two weeks in a row now. One week ago it was because Gordon was racing Johnson "too hard'. Yesterday at Talladega, Johnson caused Gordon to wreck. Jimmie did admit to just that, but said his intentions were to pull down in front of Jeff so that they could work together. You do realize that now in NASCAR, you have to have a partner to successfully maneuver yourself around all the tri-ovals these days. This sounds more like Dancing With The Stars than it does automobile racing. These are all some of the many things wrong with NASCAR in my opinion: too many teammates, too much crying about competitors driving to close or racing too hard, and too many partnerships. Gimme a break. The NASCAR governing body is too controlling, and the drivers are too spoiled. Gordon and Johnson will hug and make up. Car owner Rick Hendrick will see to that. But the best thing that could happen to the sport is for a few intense rivalries to break out. There's way too much crying in NASCAR. By everyone.

Usain Bolt: Truly One of a Kind

Usain Bolt is to track and field what Arnold Palmer was to golf. He's putting his sport on the map, just as Palmer did with his. Spectators at events anticipate his arrival. He brings electricity to the air. He indeed does have that special quality seen in only those athletes who are the very best at what they do. Bolt is one of those unusual athletes who comes along very seldom, if ever. He dominates his sport with seemingly effortless splendor, and we need to count ourselves fortunate to be able to see such an extraordinary talent. He's shown below anchoring his teams 4 X 100 meter relay event. He and his Jamaican teammates set a new Penn Relays record in this relay, due much in part to his 8.79 finishing leg.

Jevan Snead: An Undrafted Free Agent

2009 was not a good season for Ole Miss quarterback Jevon Snead. His 20 touchdowns were equaled by his 20 interceptions. He completed only 54 percent of his passes. With those statistics in hand, why skip your senior campaign after such a dismal year on the field? There were a lot of pundits out there who wondered that very thing, but I doubt that any of them thought Snead would go through the entire NFL Draft completely undrafted. My gosh, even Tennessee's Jonathan Crompton was selected in the fifth round by San Diego. A total of 13 quarterbacks were taken in the draft, apparently not one of those teams believed enough in Snead to expend even a late, late round selection on him. At least Tampa Bay has offered him a free agent contract. Who knows, he might recover some of the luster he showed in 2008 and make the Bucs roster, but as Tom Cruise said in Top Gun, he "crashed and burned" in the draft. I think he should have remained a Rebel one more year. What the heck, his stock couldn't go any lower.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Andruw Jones: "He Hung It, and He Hit It"!

What does one do to celebrate his 33th birthday? How about going clubbing? Clubbing mammoth homers that is. Andruw Jones did just that on Friday as he turned 33 years old. He hit two home runs, and his second dinger was a ninth inning walk-off blast that sealed the Sox victory over the Seattle Mariners. Jones is 15 pounds lighter than he has been in a couple of years, and it seems with the loss of weight he has regained his enthusiasm for the game he once played so well. Happy Birthday, Andruw. Here's hoping that the hits just keep on coming.

Aaron Murray: "It's Pretty Cool"...

Georgia coach Mark Richt announced on Thursday that Aaron Murray emerged from spring practice as the Bulldogs number one quarterback on the depth chart. After his first day on campus as the "Top Dawg", Murray found the experience "pretty cool". Murray looks forward to the challenge of the position, and realizes it's only a first step in the many he must take as the Dawgs leading man. Junior Logan Gray follows Murray on Georgia's treacherously thin QB depth chart. Stay healthy young men, and stay the heck out of trouble.

Rennie Curran: From A Dawg To A Titan...

Rennie Curran elected to pass up his senior year at the University of Georgia and enter the NFL Draft. The Tennessee Titans made that decision worthwhile late Friday night by selecting Curran as the 97th pick in the third round of the draft. He was the first Bulldog taken in the 2010 draft. Even if Curran had stayed 'Between the Hedges' for another season and played lights-out in Todd Grantham's new 3-4 defense, the debate over his size would still have been an issue in next years' draft as well. His stock probably would not have risen that much regardless. As much as I would have liked to see him remain a collegian, he made the right choice for himself. Good luck, Rennie.

Carlos Zambrano: $91.5 Reliever

Chicago Cubs manager Lou Piniella has moved former ace starter Carlos Zambrano to the bullpen. Zambrano agreed to a $91.5 million five year contract extension in 2007. He also reluctantly agreed to the relief assignment as long as it would help the struggling Cubs win. It seems as if every year the Cubs are struggling and need all kinds of help. I thought the Chicago franchise of the National League did a smart thing when they finally got rid of their overpriced and outdated cheerleader Sammy Sosa. Now, they would be just as wise to free themselves of the vastly overrated and volatile Zambrano. They would have to eat and absorb many of those contract dollars, but in the long run it would be worth it to deal Zambrano to another club. However, in their arrangement with the hard throwing right hander, the Cubs are just like a family in an upside down house mortgage; he's locked in for a heck of a lot more than he's worth. Nevertheless, the Cubs should begin testing the market with some pitching starved teams. But they better be willing to sweeten the pot. A whole lot!

Tim Tebow: What A Sales Job

Tim Tebow was drafted in the first round of the NFL draft by the Denver Broncos. He was taken before quarterbacks Jimmy Clausen and Colt McCoy, both who were presumed to be selected before him. Tebow was drafted high and early even though there are tons of questions regarding his ability to be a productive professional quarterback. He was drafted in the first round because Tim Tebow did a magnificent job of selling himself to the Denver brass. His talent as a quarterback did not get him drafted in the first round, but the qualities of his character most certainly did. He sold himself big time. He said he would do exactly what his coaches told him to do. He promised he would outwork everyone in the Broncos' organization, being the first to arrive and the last to leave. He stated how he loves a challenge, especially when people say he can't do something. It will be interesting to see how Tebow backs up his talk with action in the National Football League. And to tell you the truth, I wouldn't bet against the guy.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Zach Mettenberger: Oh My Gosh...

Retain the above photo in your memory bank. You'll never see Zach Mettenberger wear the 'Red & Black' of the Georgia Bulldogs again. Mettenberger, a redshirt freshman quarterback, was dismissed from the team Sunday by head coach Mark Richt for violation of team rules. Richt had earlier suspended "Mett" for at least one game due to a spring break charge of underage drinking in south Georgia back in March. Everything you're hearing and reading now is merely speculation, but suffice it to say he has to be guilty of more than underage drinking. What were you thinking, Zach? Or more accurately, what were you not thinking? The kid played high school football ten minutes from Sanford Stadium. His dream was always to be a Bulldog. He remained firmly committed to the Dawgs even when he knew quarterback Aaron Murray was coming in the same signing class with him. His mother even works in the football offices at UGA for crying out loud. He just finished spring drills with a very legitimate opportunity to be the starting signal caller for Georgia at some point in this upcoming season. Now all of that is washed away, never to come his way again. At least not while wearing the Georgia Oval G on his helmet. Whatever it was, I hope it was worth it Zach.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Hawks -vs- Celtics 1988 Playoffs

As the NBA playoffs get underway, I was reminded of a classic head-to-head duel between Dominique Wilkins and Larry Bird in the 1988 East semifinals. The two super-stars put their respective teams on their backs and counter punched each other with one great play after another. Wilkins scored 47 spectacular points, but the Celtics prevailed when Bird scored 20 of his 34 points in the fourth quarter. The final score in this epic game 7 was 118-116.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Trey Is Gonna Stay...

Trey Thompkins told coach Mark Fox, "Don't worry Coach, I'm coming back". To which Fox replied,"God bless you, Trey". Thompkins will thus remain a Bulldog for his junior year and pass-up the NBA draft. He had been projected to be a late first or early second round selection. His decision gives Georgia an opportunity to be a really good basketball team in what will be Fox' second year at the helm in Athens. If they can be good next year, it will make recruiting easier at UGA, and Fox can be off and running in pursuit of his goal of building a successful basketball program at Georgia. As Mark Fox looks back on this program in four or five years, this decision by Thompkins, as well as the one earlier by Travis Leslie, might turn out to be key cornerstones in the foundation of the building process.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Georgia: A Quarterback Competition, Not A Controversy

Spring practice has come and now it's gone; but the quarterback battle lingers on. That little lyric just about sums up the Georgia Bulldogs' three way quarterback competition. None of the participants stepped up and claimed the job outright as the starting quarterback. The one irony surfacing out of Athens might just be that the signal caller who actually was the most impressive this spring, cannot be the Dawgs opening game quarterback. I'm referring to Zach Mettenberger (center), who will be suspended for at least one game due to an underage drinking charge. From everything I've heard and read, he possibly has the chance to emerge as the early number one depth wise. However, Aaron Murray (right), as well as veteran Logan Gray, have had their good days this spring also. Head coach Mark Richt and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo expect to have a quarterback depth chart within a week. However, they both admit that in this case the early pecking order is only window dressing and that the competition will be ongoing throughout the summer. I have the feeling we will see more than one earn significant playing time during the entire season. I don't think they'll alternate or rotate specifically, but I don't see one player dominating either. The next four months will prove to be very interesting around UGA football. One great point worth noting is that with a veteran offensive line and two proven running backs, the quarterback won't be put into as many situations where he has to shoulder the bulk of the offensive production. That has not been the case for the last several years.

Joe West: "Play Ball"

Major League umpire Joe West issued the following statement about the Yankees and the Red Sox: "They're the two clubs that don't try to pick up the pace. They're two of the best teams in baseball. Why are they playing the slowest? It's pathetic and embarrassing. They take too long to play." That's probably true. I don't find it hard to believe at all considering they are baseball's prima donna teams. What I don't get is an umpire complaining about the speed of a game. Doesn't the umpiring crew control the game? If so, then the umpires can also dictate the pace of the game between innings. If the home plate umpire puts a stopwatch on the teams and puts the ball in play when he deems appropriate, he most definitely can control how efficiently the two teams exchange the field. Once the pitcher throws a couple of quick strikes to an empty batter's box, there will no more worries concerning the pace of play. We'll all begin to see the Yankees and Red Sox "get the lead out" and play faster. Come on Joe West, make the call/

Martin Prado: Hotter Than Hot!

There's hot, then there's smokin' hot. Martin Prado is the latter. He is on fire. He leads the Major Leagues in hitting with a .542 average. That "out-of-sight" average is the result of 13 hits in 24 plate appearances. Let's hope he stays this hot until the Braves bullpen solidifies, some other hitters get consistent as well, and Chipper Jones returns to the lineup. Baseball is a game of ups and downs, and 162 games is a long stretch of a season. Prado won't stay this hot of course, but he began proving last year that he can remain consistent. Carry on Martin!

Stadium Party: Texas Style!

Texas Stadium is no more. The big hole in the roof is just a big hole all over. Now that Jerry Jones has completed the Taj Mahal of sports facilities, the old stadium was no longer needed. The 60 second implosion took place early Sunday morning, but clean-up is expected to take much longer. Try July for completion. Like they say, everything is bigger in Texas, even the mess. People began gathering Saturday night to "tailgate", enjoy fireworks, and be saddened by the ten-ton dynamite demolition. Were they mourning the death of the old stadium, or the fact that Jerry has raised all the ticket prices in the new Cowboys Stadium? Hum....

Hop On "Lefty's" Roller Coaster

To follow a round with Phil Mickelson at the helm of a golf club is to be on a roller coaster of emotions for several hours. He will astonish you with his ability to create and execute tremendous golf shots, then he will turn around and frustrate and infuriate you with the quagmires he gets himself into with his wreckless style of play. This was the journey he led us on yesterday, one Harrison Ford would have been proud to claim. All he had to do was exchange a fedora for a golf cap. Yesterday on the back nine at Augusta, Mickelson makes a fantastic birdie at the 12th to snatch a huge portion of the Masters momentum. Then on the 13th tee, he blasts a driver through the fairway into the tall Georgia pines. Why hit the driver you might have wondered, as did I? Because it's Phil Mickelson. He knows no other way to play. Just always attack and don't look back. But he follows up this bogus tee box mistake with perhaps the shot of his entire career. His ball is on the pine straw, behind a tree, with only a four foot opening and 187 yards from the front of the green over water (this sounds like one of those old Larry Bird trick shot commercials!). So he'll lay up of course? Not Mickelson. He hits it stiff to within three feet of the cup. He missed the eagle put, which only helped keep the decibel level down somewhat over the course, but made birdie. And the rest is history. He triumphs, and the rest of us are just as worn out as he is. But it sure was a lot of fun.

Phil Mickelson: Finally the Talk of the Town

Everyone should have been talking about Phil Mickelson the entire week of the Masters. However, he didn't capture the attention of the media until his birdie heroics on Saturday. His back nine barrage that day forced the media to shift their futile attention from Tiger Woods to Mickelson. The media desperately adored the man who cheated on his wife, but they got the man who adored his wife. They also got a storybook ending to a week that was wrongly fixated on one golfer rather than on the tournament itself. Fred Couples got ignored, even while leading after Thursday. Lee Westwood got ignored while posting great numbers. K.J. Choi got ignored even though he played head to head and stroke for stroke with Woods. But in the end, it all worked out. All of the golfers above were finally noticed for their terrific play as they should have been all along. And the "Knight in Shining Armour" comes through in the end to save the day, the week, and the tournament. Thanks Phil Mickelson, you should have been the talk of the town all week. For a heck of a lot of reasons.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Brad Stevens: How About a Little Job Security?

Brad Stevens led tiny Butler to the championship game of the NCAA tournament. Now it looks as though he will be the leading man for the Butler Bulldogs for many seasons to come. Yesterday he signed a 12 year contract extension that will keep him at Butler until the ripe old age of 45. It appeared that Stevens had set himself up as the hottest basketball coaching commodity in the country. It would have been interesting to see what the schools without coaches, such as Wake Forest and Clemson, would have offered Stevens to take over their programs. His Butler compensation package before the extension was $750,000. Nevertheless, its refreshing to see coaches show loyalty to their schools and to trade dollars for staying where they are happy coaching. With that in mind, it would be good to see Brad Stevens and Butler make several more Final Fours.

ESPN: The Masters is Bigger Than Woods

There were ten golfers with the same score or lower than Tiger Woods after completion of the first round of the Masters. Tiger Woods was not leading after the initial round, but you would have thought he was already ahead by ten or twelve shots. ESPN's Sports Center coverage this morning centered around Mr. Woods. He had his own long segment when the show came on the air. The first round leader, Fred Couples (above), wasn't mentioned until about 15 minutes later and he was grouped with remainder of the ten I mentioned above. Is the media covering the Masters, or Tiger Woods? It appears to me they're making his "comeback" bigger than the tournament itself. And it isn't really a comeback. If you want to talk about a golf comeback, all you have to do is recall Ben Hogan's return after his near fatal automobile accident in 1949. Hogan was returning after being run over by a Greyhound, which resulted in a shattered pelvis, broken collarbone, and fractured ankle. Now that was a comeback of dynamic proportions. All Woods wrecked was his image, and if he hadn't been stupid with his cell phone, his indiscretions would still be continuing as I type. Give me a break. He is a great golfer. Perhaps the greatest of all-time. But there are other very talented golfers on the PGA Tour, and all of them are playing in Augusta this week. Give them their attention and focus when they earn it and deserve it.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Kentucky Wildcats: One and Done

Five underclassmen members of John Calipari's Kentucky Wildcat basketball team have declared for the upcoming NBA draft. Four of the five are freshmen who decided one year in the blue grass state was enough. Everyone knew that John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins would leave early, and they are joined by fellow freshmen Daniel Orton and Eric Bledsoe. Junior forward Patrick Patterson is also loading his U-Haul and leaving without a national title, but hopefully a college diploma. Patterson is one of those collegiate athletes who seems like he has been in college seven years. I would have believed he was a junior years ago. Oh well...Calipari will now have only five returning players from this year's squad. Last year was considered a rebuilding year, and the Wildcats went 35-3 with the Southeastern Conference regular season and tournament titles. I wouldn't bet against Kentucky being successful again next year, but I would bet against 35-3. John Wall was responsible for several of those "35s" and his type of player doesn't fall in your lap every year.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Remember Me? I'm Will Clark

As the entire baseball world has just about soaked up Jason Heyward's dramatic homerun in his first major league at bat, I found a few more guys who have experienced that very same thing. A couple of them were Atlanta Braves, just like Heyward. In fact, Jordan Schafer homered in his first at bat for the Braves last season. Jermaine Dye went yard for Atlanta in 1996 in his first major league plate appearance. Will Clark (above) accomplished the feat in 1986 as a member of the San Francisco Giants. Don't forget, not all homeruns hit in first major league at bats were hit on Opening Day, as was Heyward's. And very few were as dramatic as his!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Jason Heyward: The Kids Got Game

Get used to it Atlanta. This kid is for real. I know, I know, one game does not a season make, much less a career. But Jason Heyward is special. Not just because he hit a towering, three-run homer in his first at bat in the major leagues. Not because he transformed a normally sedate Turner Field into a reverberating jam box. Not because of all the hype that preceded him taking his place as the starting right fielder for the Braves on Opening Day. And not because he wrote a new script for some future "Dreamy Braves Days" print with a little kid imagining his own first day in an Atlanta Braves uniform. Not just because any of that. Because of all of that, plus the fact that Heyward has more talent than an American Idol tryout. If Jeff Francoeur was once labeled the "Natural", then this guy has to be deemed the "Super-Natural". He has all the tools, as they say, as well a good 'head on his shoulders'. And that might turn out to be his most valuable commodity because playing consistently well at the major league level is not easy. How well he is able to work through slumps will be another indication of what this kid is made of. I'm believing Heyward will be able to handle it all. He'll handle it well, and for a long time. It's gonna be a lot of fun watching this kid play baseball.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

It's Masters Week

Tomorrow is the beginning of golf's biggest week. To cliche it would be to say it is perhaps the PGA's Super Bowl. To put it simply would be to say it is the greatest tournament in the world. To downsize it into one word is to just say it is the Masters. It is Augusta National, and that's where all the beauty, splendor, color, and excitement comes in. Television does a more than adequate job of translating the awesomeness of the setting to its viewers. However to walk the grounds of Augusta National is an experience like no other. It is a landscaper's showcase, where all the beauty of spring in the South is on display. It is perfection. And the saga that is the golf tournament is played out on this flawless stage, culminated on the world's most famous back nine on Sunday afternoon. Those taunting three holes in succession aren't called "Amen Corner" for nothing. All the varied skills of the professional golfer are put to the test, and the test on Sunday is under extreme fire if he's high on the leader board. He must keep his drives on the plush fairway turf and off of the straw created by those giant Georgia pines. Playing pinball with those big babes reeks havoc on a scorecard. The Pro must also be able to deftly place his approach shots on the correct area of the greens. To err here is to stare a 3-putt in the face. And lastly, the player must be a magician on and around the tantalizing Augusta National greens. Birdies become bogies very quickly on misplays relatively close to the hole. All of this beauty and suspense is what we, the fans, have to look forward to this week. This week will not be about the return of a guy to competition from a series of love fests, I assure you. It will be about Augusta National and the Masters. To borrow from Barnum and Bailey, it is the Greatest Show On Earth! Enjoy.

Friday, April 2, 2010

It's Baseball Season Indeed!

Yes it is baseball season, but in the immortal words of Yogi Berra "If people don't want to come out to the ballpark, how you gonna stop them?". Heck if I know Yogi. Anyway, see you at the game. And don't leave early, because Yogi also said "It ain't over...'til it's over.".