Feb. 16, 2004
Bud Selig:
What's "BALCO?" Via A-Rod, MLB eclipses both NBA and NASCAR's biggest events of 2004 -- and confirms start of wildest baseball season ever.
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:

Penny-wise, pound-foolish.

That's the appropriate slogan for the 2004 Red Sox, who have pioneered a new SABR-style baseball stat category: False economy.

For a Red Sox team obsessed with (a) beating the Yankees and (b) winning a World Series (in that order), what's an extra 15 million dollars to have landed A-Rod -- or just to have kept him away from New York? Everything, apparently.

The Sox tried to spend like the Yankees this winter, but they've just been shown what a real wallet looks like.

The Sox cry "Cowboy Up!" -- but, in the end, it's just talk. The Yankees have the ultimate slogan:

Pony Up!©

Look for that T-shirt alongside the new hottest fashion statement in New York -- the No. 13 A-Rod jersey.

NBA All-Star Game
How the All-Star Game mirrors real life:

* Shaq and Kobe on the same team forges an unbeatable tandem. (West beats East, 136-132.)

* Shaq is the MVP (24 pts, 11 reb), and Kobe is the petulant, publicity-seeking second-fiddle who stokes all the drama ...

... Kobe Watch
Two quotes in Sunday's L.A. Times:

"I don't like Phil [Jackson] as a person, but I love him as a coach."

Who wants to bet the feeling's mutual?

"I'd be lying if I said the challenge on a team [without Shaq] doesn't interest me."

Enjoy life on the 20-win Clippers. Hmm, or ...

Yanks GM Brian Cashman: Out-foxes rival GM Theo Epstein
Stanford: Will be new college hoops No. 1 (St. Joe's No. 2)
Dale Earnhardt Jr: NASCAR "It" Guy *AND* D500 winner
Theo Epstein: Penny-wise, pound-foolish. ('Nuff said.)
UConn: Best in the country? Not even best in Big East
Peja, J-Rich: Defending 3pt/Slam champs can't 3peat
... On a related note: The irony-free report that the Nuggets would be interested in Kobe if he's acquitted is the most laughable rumor of the year -- not the "if acquitted" part, but the idea that he'd settle down in Colorado).

Daytona 500
As a NASCAR newbie sticking through all four hours of the D500, I experienced a couple of notable things:

*Mind-blowing "all-access":
On-board cams and pit-driver audio are a level of viewer experience that no other sports leagues can touch right now.

The model every major pro league -- particularly the NHL -- should consider carefully.

*Color commentators:
Part "Keith Jackson," part "pro-wrestling announcing ex-pats."

*Two simple words of advice:
Minority inclusion.

Knicks Trade
Isiah Thomas' interest in shipping Keith Van Horn out of town is no surprise; the shocker

is that he was able to pull it off, finding a sucker partner in Milwaukee, willing both to take on KVH's enormous salary and give up on Tim Thomas, a NYC-region product who, like Marbury, will be revitalized by a homecoming.

N.C. St. 78, Duke 74
Finally, an end to the pro-Duke tyranny in the Top 25 rankings (and want to bet there are voters who still want to rank 'em No. 1?).

But unranked N.C. State is obviously underrated: And as long as Duke wins out, an NCAA Tournament No. 1 seed is still theirs.

Sunday's result impacts semantics, more than anything: Unbeaten Stanford will take its rightful place at No. 1, with likely No. 2 St. Joe's waiting for the Cardinal to stumble.

John Henry:
The most ironic part is that the guy spent like crazy this winter, but will be remembered for cheaping it up on A-Rod (unless the Sox win).
Today on ESPN.com
P2: Cap'n A-Rod's Spring Training Quiz
Daytona 500 coverage
MLB: Winners, losers in A-Rod deal
Ranking A-Rod-related camps
Top 5 lineup EVER?
"Financial flexibility?" HA!
O/U: Games 'til he's a 3B?
No sympathy for Affleck
Should have un-retired "3"

I hear Red Sox owner John Henry is investing in a musical: "No! No! I Can't Believe The Yankees Just Did That To Us!"...

Learning from Boston's "penny/pound" mistake, the Cubs smartly increased their offer to Greg Maddux. Look for signing soon ...

Once D500 2nd-place owner Joe Gibbs returns to his day job running the Redskins, maybe he'll deal with Champ Bailey's trade-or-pay situation (is Detroit the destination?) ...

NBA's 6-game ban for Chris Webber is toothless: Can't Kings activate him from injured list, knowing he wouldn't play anyway? ...

How lame was the NBA dunk contest? The judges should have just used the sick slam highlights from the Rookie Game ...

Who's willing to bet against A-Rod and Jeter being an AL All-Star infield combo for the next, oh, five years?...

Happy B-day: To me, and, among others, William "Greatest American Hero" Katt, Ice-T and the guy who played Boba Fett in "Empire" ...

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