Friday, July 18, 2003
Updated: September 10, 4:31 PM ET
Extra Points for July 1-15, 2003
Davis: Why the fuss?
TUESDAY, JULY 15, 2003
Extra Point -- Rece Davis (morning): "Why are players so chapped over the concept of giving home-field advantage in the World Series to the winner of the All-Star Game? John Smoltz said it's almost like a slap in the face, as if the players weren't trying before. Many of baseball's so-called unwritten rules are about being shown up, but I don't think this shows up the players at all. They tried before. They'll try now. Baseball was shown up by the All-Star Game tie last year. That'll probably never happen again, but give me the drama. In fact, let's raise the stakes even more. Let's say the Devil Rays' Lance Carter is facing the Padres' Rondell White, game on the line in the ninth. Winner of the duel not only earns home field for his league, he gets a share of the World Series winner's cash. Players on have-not teams taking cash out of the haves' pocket -- and each other's pockets. Carter vs. White for the World Series and cold, hard cash. Oh, about that All-Star from every team thing."
Extra Point -- Dan Davis (afternoon): "Give Bud Selig credit. He took note of last year's complete, All-Star Game fiasco and at least tried to do something about it. They declared that this All-Star Game tonight will determine which league gets the seventh game of the next World Series. However, All-Star Game realities are undoing this plan and proving that the so-called mid-summer classic is finished as a meaningful event. You will recall that the real problem a year ago wasn't Bud Selig. It was the fact that managers Joe Torre and Bob Brenly used 14 pitchers for an inning or less each. And guess what? That problem still exists. Big-league teams, which are spending millions on talent, just refuse to allow that talent to be used up in an exhibition game. Typical of this reality is the action of Oakland A's manager Ken Macha, who yanked Barry Zito out of his AL uniform without consulting the pitcher. Not only that, but Macha has ordered AL skipper Mike Scioscia to use Mark Mulder for not more than two innings and Keith Foulke no more than one. The All-Star Game is just a TV show and nothing more."
SportsBeat -- Brent Musburger (afternoon): "Before the game begins, will the griping ever end? Ever since Major League Baseball announced that home-field advantage for the World Series would be tied to the All-Star Game, we've heard nothing but complaining and belly-aching and second-guessing. I'll admit it. Last month you heard me use this show to say it's an awful idea to use an exhibition game to determine who'll host a seventh game of the World Series. But the Players Association bought into this plan for this year and next, and nothing is going to change it. Yes, the stakes are high. The team that had the home-field advantage was won 15 of last 17 World Series, including the last eight Game 7s. Funny, isn't it? This may be the closest Chicago comes in our lifetime to changing the outcome of a World Series. You can hear the All-Star Game tonight at 8 Eastern, 7 Central time, on ESPN Radio.
"Let's play the interleague card as we hand out our first-half baseball awards. Our major-league MVP so far has to be the Cardinals' Albert Pujols. The Triple Crown remains a very real possibility, and since he's only 23, we may be saying that more than just this year. We told you yesterday our top pitcher is Toronto's Roy Halladay, and another pitcher is our rookie of the first half -- Florida's Dontrelle Willis. But how about yet another pitcher for another award? José Lima was a flash in the Astros' pan four years ago. It wasn't much more than four weeks ago he was pitching for the Newark Bears. Now he's 5-0 for the first-place Kansas City Royals. Oh, finally, let's give our notice of probable failure to Dr. Bud Selig. We're not talking med-school superstar here, folks. When he announced Roger Clemens would take Barry Zito's place on the American League roster tonight, Selig said it was because Zito was hurt. This came as news to Zito, who was surprised to find out about this while he talking to reporters yesterday. Folks, if there's one thing baseball knows very well these days, it's how to spell 'oops.'"
Anderson: Personal effects
MONDAY, JULY 14, 2003
Extra Point -- John Anderson (morning): "Soon-to-be Laker Karl Malone wants to win a championship, and he's taking an $18 million pay cut to try and get it, but don't think it was strictly a personal decision and not business, because the two can't be separated. Think about it. If the guy saved even a fraction of his career NBA earnings, he won't be cash-starved when he moves to L.A. And other pros -- pick a sport -- who just sign for the big dollars: business? Ha. What's more personal then wanting more money? In addition to comforts for yourself -- perhaps like Ron Artest and others -- you can help a multitude of family members. Very personal. Trade a player for the stretch run or because of the salary cap? Hey, if I have to pick up my family and relocate from Miami to Minnesota, that's personal. It's also personal to that kid in South Florida who has his bedroom wallpapered with my poster or all the fans wearing my jersey. One of the first rules of the journalism business is to follow the money. Do that, and the bottom line in sports is always something personal to somebody."
Extra Point -- Bob Picozzi (afternoon): "Can't you just picture it tomorrow night? Dmitri Young of the 25-67 Tigers lines one into left center field to begin the eighth in a tie game. As he rounds first, he's thinking, 'Rondell White couldn't throw out my mother-in-law. Let me try to stretch it into a double. No, wait. If I get thrown out at second, the Yankees might not get home-field advantage in the World Series. Wait a minute. Everybody hates the Yankees. I'm going.' If anyone really thinks the players will play any differently in the All-Star Game, they are being terribly naïve. Will the managers keep the starters in longer? Without a doubt. Will they try to use every player as in years past? Not a chance. But it will still be an exhibition game. The best part of the evening is the pregame, when the greatest players in their sport receive ovations as they are introduced -- particularly those who have been around a long time. Baseball didn't need to perform major surgery on the All-Star Game. Just make sure it doesn't end in a tie again."
SportsBeat -- Brent Musburger (afternoon): "A harrowing finish for Lance Armstrong today at the Tour de France. With about 5k to go in a mad dash toward the finish line after a dalong battle in the Alps, Joseba Beloki of Team ONCE lost control and crashed right in front of Armstrong. Lance had no place to go, so he pedaled into a field to his left. He crossed the meadow and rejoined the pack after lifting his bicycle over a ditch. Tonight Lance Armstrong is still wearing the yellow jersey, leading by 21 seconds, and he said of the incident that it was the scariest he had ever experienced at the Tour de France. Meanwhile, Beloki is out of the race with a broken leg.
"It's possible Albert Pujols' only action this week will be at the All-Star Game in Chicago. Baseball's newest, bona-fide superstar faces a suspension for punching Padres catcher Gary Bennett in the face yesterday in St. Louis. It all started Saturday night, when Pujols turned his game-winning homer into a stroll-off job, enjoying the view at home plate. So when Albert came up yesterday, Adam Eaton wasted no time in hitting him with a curveball. That emptied both benches and lit the Pujols fire. When Pujols popped Bennett, he probably bought himself some time off to begin the second half. Folks, it looks like Albert Pujols is becoming a little bit of a personality. First, Barry Bonds stirs the pot by saying Pujols isn't in his league. Then he overtakes Sammy Sosa in the All-Star voting in a manner that had Al Gore Floridians scratching their heads. Now he tries to turn a beaning into a fight the day before the All-Star Game. With Bonds taking over the home-run lead, the duel for National League MVP between Pujols and him looks like it will be entertaining all summer long. Speaking of awards, on first blush, our pitcher of the first half would be Florida rookie Dontrelle Willis, but on closer examination, you have to give the nod to Roy Halladay. Who, you ask, is Roy Halladay? Not only is he 13-2, but he's also the only good arm on a bad Toronto pitching staff."
Cohn: Simon very lucky
SATURDAY, JULY 12, 2003
Extra Point -- Linda Cohn (morning): "I hope Randall Simon learned his lesson. In this day and age, where people will try to milk you for all you have, Simon is very fortunate. Think about it. What if 19-year-old Mandy Block, the woman inside the Italian sausage costume, felt like hiring a lawyer -- just for the fun of it. She could have tried to use her 15 minutes of fame to cash in. She chose not to, and Randall Simon can breathe easier. Simon, of course, is the Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman who thought he'd get a laugh by tripping up a tradition that has taken place at Milwaukee Brewers home games since 1995 -- the sausage race. We're not talking about a little poke as the sausage ran by. We're talking about a player who gripped his bat with two hands and swung at the head of the costume. You can't make this stuff up. All Mandy wants to remember Randall by is his bat and his apology. Hopefully, Randall Simon can appreciate a young woman with a good head still on her shoulders."
Moore: Kidd play
FRIDAY, JULY 11, 2003
Extra Point -- Chris Moore (morning): "Well, according to The New York Post, Jason Kidd, the outstanding point guard of the New Jersey Nets, won't re-sign with his team unless head coach Byron Scott is fired. This is the same Byron Scott that got his rather nondescript Nets team to the Finals the last two seasons. On the fact of it, it would seem ridiculous to allow a player that much power, but behind the scenes, don't we all believe this has happened before? The player owns the coach in 2003; that is no secret anymore. What is debatable is at what price? No doubt Kidd sells more tickets than Scott. Kidd means more to the Nets than Scott. The fans care more about Kidd than Scott. The Nets will win more games without Scott than they will without Kidd. All that said, I keep Scott and wave good-bye to Kidd. Leadership is severely underrated in the sports world, and a player that forces out a coach publicly effectively renders the next coach powerless. The Nets aren't better off Scott-free. That's Kidd stuff."
Extra Point -- Shelley Smith (afternoon): "Kobe Bryant is, of course, innocent until proven guilty. With the arrest report and statements from the alleged victim and witnesses sealed and secret, it is nearly impossible to know right now what exactly happened the night of June 30 in Edwards, Colo. What we do know is this: The sheriff's department and a district judge believed they had enough physical evidence to arrest Bryant on suspicion of felony sexual assault, and that Bryant was taken to a local hospital presumably to give a blood sample, and that his fans are stunned. That Bryant even put himself in a position to be accused of something like this is almost as startling as the arrest itself. Unless the sheriff's department is lying, witnesses are lying, the alleged victim is lying or faked the evidence, something obviously happened that night that doesn't fit within the carefully polished, anti-Iverson, squeaky-clean image we have come to believe about the young superstar. And it makes me wonder whether we've been duped."
SportsBeat -- Brent Musburger (afternoon): "While the Lakers and Nets and Pacers play 'Can You Top This?', we are left applauding the fact LeBron James is finally not the biggest story in the NBA. Let's start with in Los Angeles. Having reached agreements with two future Hall of Famers in Karl Malone and Gary Payton, the Lakers are clearly the team to beat next season. Not San Antonio. Not Sacramento. Not New Jersey. No one -- and I mean no one -- is cheering this L.A. story any louder than commissioner David Stern. His anemic television ratings are about to take a quantum leap. I'll repeat what I've always felt about the NBA: It's a sport driven by TV markets, and no one drives the ratings like the Lakers. If 'The Big Diesel' and 'The Glove' and 'The Mailman' stay healthy, and if Kobe-gate fades into memory anytime in the next four months, records like the '96 Bulls' 72-10 season or the '72 Lakers' 33 wins in a row will be in jeopardy.
"It's amazing how a 33-year-old man who hasn't played a regular-season, NBA game in more than a year has moved an Eastern mountain. Alonzo Mourning has agreed to a four-year, $20 million contract with the New Jersey Nets. The story goes that 'Zo only agreed to this deal once he was assured Jason Kidd would be back in New Jersey next season. But before you jump to the conclusion that the Nets will now create a true challenge to the Lakers or anyone else out West, there is a major question about 'Zo's ability to stand up to the rigors of 82 games. Mostly because of his kidney ailment, 'Zo has missed 158 games over the last three years. Meanwhile, put yourself in Byron Scott's shoes. First he hears his star wants him fired as head coach. Twenty-four hours later, he hears he's staying with a remade team. Makes you wonder if he fears turning on the radio tomorrow morning.
"Finally, Larry Bird is back, signing on to become the Indiana Pacers' president of basketball operations. If only the NBA can generate this much excitement during the season, they'll be onto something."
Wingo: Say is ain't so, Kobe
THURSDAY, JULY 10, 2003
Extra Point -- Trey Wingo (morning): "Do any of us really know anybody, especially when it comes to the rich and famous, athletes and/or entertainers? The idea of Kobe Bryant being arrested and possibly charged with sexual assault appears to be an assault on all we know about the young man -- a model citizen in a league filled with players getting arrested, fathering illegitimate children and running wild. Kobe is the player every GM wants his star to be. He works hard, married the first girl he fell in love with, is a doting father. When the season ends he gets his surgery right away so he can be ready when the next season starts -- unlike many big-time players. But really, that's all we know, and I'm not sure if we should no any more. And is that enough to convince us that Kobe couldn't possibly be involved in something nefarious? No. Is it also right to assume that just because he's been arrested, he's guilty? Absolutely not. The one thing you learn in this business is that anybody is capable of anything, and in Kobe's case, you just hope the public persona is the same as the private person."
Extra Point -- John Anderson (afternoon): "Barry Sanders showed up on my TV set Wednesday, broke a four-year retirement silence, pretty much said he's not coming back to the NFL and that he left because he wanted to leave. Nothing terribly riveting. Of course, the man hasn't said anything terribly riveting since I first covered him as a junior at Oklahoma State University. He's a quiet, unassuming, ridiculously gifted man. Hard as it maybe to believe, strange as it may sound, as crazy as it might be to understand, the man just might be happy and content without football. Appears he is, so let's believe him. Amazing how we criticize athletes for hanging on too long but then are never quite happy when they quit too early, either, at least by our career time clocks. The list -- endless. Sanders -- too early. Unitas -- too long. Jim Brown -- too early. Willie Mays -- too long. Michael Jordan -- too early and then too long. I just think after brilliant careers end, sometimes we could best show our appreciation by not demanding an explanation."
SportsBeat -- Brent Musburger (afternoon): "Let's pretend for a moment that the New Jersey Nets are becoming convinced that Jason Kidd is leaving and signing with San Antonio. Let's pretend for a moment that the ownership is convinced that they must protect their small fan base, but they know they won't go back to the NBA Finals without their All-Star point guard. They know during discussions with Kidd's agent that Kidd is not fond with Byron Scott, that he would prefer to play for a different head coach. So let's say that someone in the Nets organization puts a little harsher spin on the discussions. That the word 'demand' leaks out. Such as 'Jason Kidd demands that Byron Scott be fired.' Now stick with me on this, because I wasn't present during any of the meetings, nor was the tabloid writer who wrote the story. If Jason Kidd now walks away from the Nets, who's the bad guy -- the player or the organization? Call me a conspiracy theorist, but I'm just a little suspicious of this story. We've known for the last two years that Kidd and Scott did not exactly go partying together, but Jason knows that when he 'demands' that a coach be fired, he puts his own head squarely on the chopping block. The Nets are caught between a rock and a hard place. Apparently, they're going to lose their best player, which means Scott probably will be fired midway through next season anyway. At least the organization saves a little face by claiming that it can't let the inmates run the asylum.
"Lance Armstrong made his move yesterday, and now he's in great shape as the Tour de France moves within 36 hours of hitting the Alps. His U.S. Postal Service team dominated yesterday's team time trial, and after today's 122-mile ride, Lance remains within one second of the lead. Teammate Victor Hugo Peña of Colombia still wears the yellow jersey. Folks, don't underestimate the power of team play in this sport. The Postal Service team holds the top eight positions in the overall standings, and that's a pack of riders that may prove impossible for the rest of the field to pass."
Wilson: At least pick right rep from weaker teams
WEDNESDAY, JULY 9, 2003
Extra Point -- Chuck Wilson (morning): "There is no way to make everybody happy when it comes to selecting all-stars, but Major League Baseball can improve the way it selects its teams. For one, don't miss a chance to showcase a sensational newcomer like Dontrelle Willis. His exclusion is indefensible. And forget about carrying 12 pitchers. You don't need that many; it's just a knee-jerk reaction to last year's game when the two All-Star squads ran out of pitchers. Simply manage the game without trying to make sure every player gets in, and you eliminate the problem. And be more flexible with the selection process. When you combine the fan vote; the players, managers and coaches vote; a staff of 12 pitchers; and the requirement that every team be represented, you box yourself into a corner. That's how Tampa Bay's relief pitcher Lance Carter ends up being chosen as an All-Star ahead of his more deserving teammates Rocco Baldelli and Aubrey Huff. If you insist on having a player from all 30 teams and still call it an All-Star Game, at least make sure the most deserving players from the weaker teams are the ones invited."
Extra Point -- Chris Moore (afternoon): "LeBron delivers -- again. More than 15,000 people showed up last night in Orlando to watch summer-league basketball, and although reports say that some people scalped $5 tickets for $75, it seems that very few left disappointed. What are we to make of the greatest sports phenom since Tiger Woods? Well, it turns out it's a pretty good question. Fame is funny, and so is the American public. This potentially great basketball player led 'SportsCenter' this morning -- in the middle of July. He is the buzz of sports-talk radio today, and the columnists are having a field day. Theories? Well, we Americans want to be on the cutting edge of celebrity. 'I was there when he played his first summer-league game' holds a lot of weight with other sports fans. The whole 'I was there' thing is very big, and don't forget Michael. In order to be the 'next Michael,' there had to be the first, and the Jordan carrot will always be dangling in front of basketball fans -- and LeBron James."
SportsBeat -- Brent Musburger (afternoon): "Let's say you're one of the world's richest men, and your favorite toy costs you an extra $100 million this year. Do you bite your tongue, look the other way and figure that's the cost of having the toy? Do you sell off some of your assets, like maybe your 'really cool' guitar collection? Or do you do what Paul Allen, the deep-pocketed, high-tech, multi-zillionaire does? In his case, he wipes out about one-third of the Portland Trail Blazers front office. After hearing all this, I have one question: If you're Paul Allen, why don't you fire the $81 million man who was dumb enough to think he could get through an airport metal detector with marijuana wrapped in tin foil? NBA reality says you can't fire Damon Stoudamire, because your former general manager was stupid enough to give him an iron-clad contract through 2005. I guess the Blazers staff should have seen this coming. Paul Allen may have gotten rich partnering with Bill Gates on the Microsoft bandwagon, but that doesn't mean he has the Midas touch. He's laid off employees throughout his teetering empire -- from The Sporting News to Oxygen Media to Vulcan Ventures. Meanwhile, his basketball team hasn't been the same since it blew a 15-point lead to the Lakers in Game 7 three years ago. The only bright moment since came when Maurice Cheeks helped that little girl finish the national anthem. Hope he doesn't fire her, too.
"So Gary Payton is coming to 'Laker Land,' and yes, that figures to be an important move, but it says here 'The Glove' isn't all they need to rebuild the dynasty. I still want to know who's going to step up at power forward and provide quality minutes to relieve Shaquille O'Neal at center. Are you listening Karl Malone? If that piece falls into place, the Lakers could be all the way back -- distractions permitting. Let's face it, folks, the way the Kobe Bryant case is resolved in Colorado may be the most important ingredient in the Lakers' championship recipe -- no matter how many free agents they pile up."
Davis: Different stroke
TUESDAY, JULY 8, 2003
Extra Point -- Rece Davis (morning): "Dontrelle Willis of the Florida Marlins said he didn't deserve to play in the All-Star Game. All he'd done to merit attention was kick his leg high. It was the right thing for a rookie to say. It's the wrong thing for the myriad voting factions to do. If you don't want to start him, fine, but Dontrelle not even on the team? What 'choo talkin' 'bout, Willis? Let's not quibble over numbers -- 8-1 with a 2.13 ERA is strong but not as strong as his star power. You can't explain why someone's got 'it.' They just do. Maybe it's the leg kick. Maybe it's the crooked cap. Maybe it's just because he pitches brilliantly and doesn't fit the mold of the professorial pitcher or the tough-guy pitcher. He's a leg-kicking, sky-peeking, whirling dervish of charisma. He could be baseball's version of a whoopee cushion at a CPA convention. It's the fans' game, and no one has captivated fans like Dontrelle this season. Baseball needs Dontrelle. They need that leg kick -- to apply a swift boot to the rear end of those who didn't make Willis an All-Star."
Extra Point -- Dan Davis (afternoon): "Once upon a time, yours truly was blessed to hold a full-time, sports broadcasting position in lovely, old Boston. There was never a dull moment on that job and only one miserable day every year. That day was Patriots Day. On Patriots Day in Boston, local sportscasters, sports writers and newscasters are required to make believe they actually care about the Boston Marathon. Live TV and radio coverage brings in millions of dollars, even though the only people on the planet who care about the race are those actually running in the race. The one good thing about the Boston Marathon is that it occupies just one day. The same cannot be said of the Tour de France, another ridiculously overhyped media event which drags on for over three weeks. Yes, there are human-interest angles to it, and yes, courage is on display, but three weeks of watching men pedal their bikes? Please. Of course, here I am making a few bucks off it, so I guess it isn't all that bad."
SportsBeat -- Brent Musburger (afternoon): "If there's one thing we've learned over the past four years, it's that Lance Armstrong will not lead from wire to wire at the Tour de France. Remember, he overcame a half-hour deficit two years ago and won going away. So no one should be alarmed to hear Lance finished 69th in today's fourth stage, falling to 12th place, 19 seconds off the lead. The mountains beckon this weekend, and that's where Lance has conquered all on his way to four consecutive victories, but there's reason to believe this won't be such an easy climb to the summit in 2003. Lance knows he will have to beware of Jan Ullrich. Currently sitting sixth, five seconds in front of Lance, the 1996 champ can climb with the best of them and give Armstrong a true rival when he's healthy and not battling drug scandals. Oh, let's also keep an eye on American Tyler Hamilton, who continues to ride despite breaking his collarbone in Sunday's first stage. Believe it or not, the amazing Hamilton is in 10th place, and all signs point to him rolling on for another 1,700 miles.
"Are these really the same Los Angeles Dodgers who were tied for first place a couple weeks ago? They still have the best pitching stats in the big leagues, but that's not getting it done anymore. The L.A. offense is worse than anyone's this side of Detroit, and the result has been 12 losses in the last 14 games. Just last night they lost to the last-place Padres for the fourth time in a row. With a rematch set for tonight in San Diego, the finger-pointing is very much under way. Manager Jim Tracy all but said he doesn't have enough offense to compete. GM Dan Evans says trading for another bat won't cure what ails the team. Pitcher Odalis Pérez criticized the offense before he took a no-hitter into the eighth inning Saturday against Arizona. Then Shawn Green let a flyball drop in front of him to end the no-hit bid, thereby taking the heat off Pérez and inviting jeers from what's left of the Dodger faithful. These days, fans in L.A. really do have a reason to leave early."
Le Batard: No Willis? That's baseball
MONDAY, JULY 7, 2003
Extra Point -- Dan Le Batard (morning): "Only baseball can expand the All-Star teams, allow coaches, players and managers to be a part of the process for the first time in more than three decades and still get it more wrong than ever before. Dontrelle Willis isn't an All-Star? Are you kidding? Yeah, you wouldn't something fresh, funky and different to take part in an exhibition game that gets more stale by the year. Why would you want someone young, different, charismatic, energetic and excellent in a sport that is losing its young fans by the day, because it isn't fast enough, violent enough or cool enough for the short attention spans that keep gravitating toward football and basketball. I usually find the annual crying about All-Star omissions to be silly and overdone, but this one just doesn't make any sense. You keep off the young guy who has a better winning percentage and ERA than any of your starters so you can make room for Armando Benítez? It would be unbelievable if it weren't so baseball."
Extra Point -- Dan Davis (afternoon): "Sure enough, the All-Star teams are announced, and there is a lot of whining going on. 'Every team should be represented.' Why isn't Sammy an All-Star? No Pedro; you kidding me? Hottest new star Dontrelle Willis - 8-1 and missing. Frank Thomas not invited to the star game at his own park. All in all it seems that nothing much has changed. There are always complaints, even though these days big-timers for the most part would rather get a three-day break than play in the All-Star Game. The most notable piece of news here is the obvious punishment doled out by players and fans alike against Sammy Sosa. His omission from the All-Star roster is clearly due to his use of a corked bat in a game. Even though Sammy paid his penalty for that, this All-Star snub is obviously an additional penalty. It also should serve as the absolute guarantee that he will never use a corked bat again. I mean if one of the all-time greats can get snubbed from the All-Star Game, wouldn't a repeat offense pretty much cook his Hall of Fame chances? Yes it would."
SportsBeat -- Brent Musburger (afternoon): "We should ask Dusty Baker if Tiger Woods can handle the lightning better than the white pros on the PGA Tour. Just kidding, Dusty. Just kidding. If you haven't heard Dusty's theories about meteorology and race, don't worry. I'm sure there's a cable news channel or two that will find time to pound them to death tonight. Meanwhile, Dusty's Cubs find themselves swimming upstream in the National League Central. The Cubbies are tied with Houston, two games behind the Cardinals. St. Louis is rematched with the NL West-leading Giants tonight in San Francisco, and Houston gets Roy Oswalt off the disabled list for the first time in a month when he pitches at Cincinnati. As for the Cubs, they've lost nine of their last 12, and they try to get things turned around at Wrigley Field tonight against the streaking Florida Marlins. You heard right. The Florida Marlins have won three in a row, and why not? They have a legitimate all-star in Mike Lowell, who has 26 homers and 73 RBI, and pitcher Dontrelle Willis is a front-runner for Rookie of the Year. Meanwhile, we have Sammy Sosa news today. Not only was he not selected to play on the South Side next week in the All-Star Game, he also says he won't be attending the Home Run Derby. No word on whether his bats will make the trip.
"As chef Emeril would say, the San Antonio Spurs are 'kicking it up a notch.' Last night they wined and dined free-agent point guard Jason Kidd. I'm not exaggerating here, folks. According to the Newark Star-Ledger, the four-hour dinner included lobster, beef, chicken, lamb and five kinds of desserts. Afterward, Jason gave the chef a five-star review. I'll tell you what, folks -- food is not the way to this point guard. The key here is Youmanna Kidd. If she decides that San Antonio offers as many television opportunities as New Jersey, then she and hubby will remember the Alamo, which begs this question: Are any TV stations in San Antonio in need of a good anchorwoman?"
Cohn: Tennis history lesson
SATURDAY, JULY 5, 2003
Extra Point -- Linda Cohn (morning): "Remember all that talk about how men's tennis was boring, how it had no personality, no human interest, nobody you recognized, nobody you wanted to root for? Well, that's history. Take the two men left standing at wimbledon -- Australian Mark Philippoussis and 21-year-old Roger Federer. Twenty-year-old Andy Roddick gave it a nice run but was overmatched by Federer, who becomes the first Swiss man to reach a Grand Slam title match, and he does so five years after being crowned Wimbledon junior champion. The man Federer meets Sunday at the All England Club's Centre Court isn't even seeded. In fact, it's amazing Philippoussis is even playing tennis anymore. He's back after having three left-knee operations. Less than three years ago for a two-month span, Philippoussis could only get around in a wheelchair. Now he will try to become just the third unseeded player to win Wimbledon. Boring? Don't think so."
Wilson: Fourth meaning
FRIDAY, JULY 4, 2003
Extra Point -- Chuck Wilson (morning): "The Fourth of July. Independence Day. In sports, independence holds different meanings. For a special athlete like LeBron James, it can be the financial independence gained from more than $100 million in endorsement deals before playing a single NBA game. For hockey star Paul Kariya, independence can mean using free agency to renew on-ice magic with buddy Teemu Selanne. For others, independence holds a far more basic meaning. Jay Williams is in that group. The Chicago Bulls guard is battling career-threatening injuries from a motorcycle accident. The latest news is encouraging. Jay has been transferred to the Duke University Medical Center, and his family says he has made substantial improvements. There is hope nerve damage to his leg is not as severe as had been feared. July 4 is a day to enjoy family, friends, barbecues and baseball. As you enjoy your independence today, send special wishes to all those trying to regain theirs."
Extra Point -- Dan Davis (afternoon)
"About a month ago some in the media were poking fun at Serena Williams because she allowed her emotions to show after taking a crushing defeat in the semifinals of the French Open. She was charged with a fault in that match when her opponent, Justine Henin-Hardenne, failed to acknowledge that she had held her hand up to signal that she wasn't ready on a serve -- which she had done. So the French fans booed Serena, cheered no-class Henin-Hardenne, and it was an ugly end to Serena's run of grand slams. Now let's give her some credit. When she blew Henin-Hardenne's doors off yesterday in the 'Wimble' semis, Serena rushed to the net, shook hands with enthusiasm and offered a comforting pat on the shoulder in a true demonstration of sportsmanship. A couple of hours later on the same court, her sister, Venus, demonstrated both class and courage when she battled through an obviously painful stomach injury to rally past Kim Clijsters. Good luck to Serena and Venus, who are both winners even before they play each other for the silver platter tomorrow."
SportsBeat -- Brent Musburger (afternoon)
"Cookouts. Fireworks. Parades. The Boston Pops. Yes, baseball. Those certainly are perfect ways to celebrate during America's birthday party, but I've got and idea the morning after. In fact, it's for about three weeks' worth of mornings after. Why not cheer for an American in Paris? Lance Armstrong, sports' most renowned cancer survivor, goes after his fifth consecutive title when the 100th anniversary Tour de France gets rolling tomorrow. Only Spain's Miguel Índurain has won five in a row, ending his run eight years ago. Lance is favored to be wearing yellow again when this year's 2,077-mile ride ends three weeks from Sunday in Paris. Yes, German rival and former winner Jan Ullrich is back from injuries and a drug scandal, but he may be past his prime. Having conquered countless rivals, endless mountains and unsubstantiated claims of doping, Lance may have a new obstacle in 2003. Lance Armstrong is both a sentimental and betting favorite to win the Tour de France for the fifth time in a row, but this year he faces an unprecedented 'X' factor. What kind of backlash will he face from the bitterness over the war in Iraq? Folks, you can't take this for granted. Just ask Serena Williams about her own experience this year in Paris. The difference between tennis and cycling is the shear magnitude of the event. It's one thing to secure an enclosed tennis venue, but it's quite another to try and control the crowds that will line the more than two-thousand miles of road the Tour will encompass. It's easy to hope nothing will upstage the race, but it's also naïve to think the entire race will be incident-free. For his part, Lance does not seem too concerned. As he flatly put it some weeks ago, 'I am not afraid.' Considering he won a death-defying fight against testicular cancer, words such as those are not to be taken lightly from a champion like Lance Armstrong."
Moore: No apologies needed
THURSDAY, JULY 3, 2003
Extra Point -- Chris Moore (morning): "In the last week we have had a baseball game in which the Marlins lost to the Red Sox 25-8, and then these same Marlins went out and beat the division-leading Braves 20-1. Marlins manager Jack McKeon was disappointed with the Red Sox for running it up at Fenway but, as far as I know, offered no apologies for doing the same to Bobby Cox and Co. at Pro Player. What's the point? You can't run it up in pro sports? That's the point. Playing your best against your opponent is an obligation and a privilege, and this is not amateur athletics, where mismatches are often ingrained in the schedule. In professional sports, in my mind, there are no apologies. If the opponent doesn't like getting embarrassed, maybe they ought to play better. Why do we want to shift the responsibility for sportsmanship to the winning team in these spots? How about competing a little bit? We don't want winners to apologize in pro sports. We want losers to play better."
Extra Point -- Bob Picozzi (afternoon): "Did you see this quote? 'We need to go after Notre Dame, and we need to do it quickly.' Must be the words of an ACC fan, right? Or perhaps a player. Actually, they are the words of Florida State University president T.K. Wetherell. Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski acknowledges that the ACC needs to mend some fences, 'because we just went through people's back yards and knocked down some trees.' Meanwhile, the president of another ACC school wants to go after Notre Dame, but what else does Wetherell have to do with all his free time now that a former FSU quarterback has copped a plea on a charge that he gambled on Seminole games? You see, the ACC still needs a 12th team in order to guarantee a lucrative conference football championship game. Why stop with stealing Miami and Virginia Tech from the Big East after trying to steal Boston College and Syracuse? I have a suggestion: Forget about Notre Dame. Why not go after the Jacksonville Jaguars? Imagine the money the Jags could save on travel."
SportsBeat -- Brent Musburger (afternoon): "We've had a couple days to digest it now. After weeks and months of posturing, the ACC bagged its prize -- the University of Miami Hurricanes. Throw in Virginia Tech, and you're looking at two schools that made sound decisions to feather their own beds. Their football tickets will now be sold at a premium in the ACC, far more than they ever were in the Big East, and if they come up with a title game, Miami and Florida State could find their rivalry renewed twice a year -- potentially both in the regular season and for the conference championship. Meanwhile, the often-overlooked economic story is that all sports -- football and otherwise -- will be helped a great deal in both the ACC and the Big East, because the costly trips between the Northeast and Miami will go away. And let's not forget basketball, the very reason the Big East was born. After all is said and done, this is still a very, very good basketball conference. Consider the Syracuse men and Connecticut women, Big East teams who are reigning national champs. But back to football. They may only be temporary members of the Big East, but Miami and Virginia Tech will be among the contenders who could contend for all the Nokias in the Sugar Bowl come Jan. 4. The 'Canes are a consensus top-five team with Brock Berlin moving in at quarterback, and Kevin Jones will continue to shine in the backfield at 'Va-Tech.' But before you declare their Nov. 1 showdown in Blacksburg as the Big East title game, wait just a second. There's another legitimate contender, and that's Pittsburgh, which has record-setting quarterback Rod Rutherford back in the driver's seat. Still, it's problematic that the Big East will have no fewer than three Top 25 teams this fall, and two of them are lame ducks. Folks, the only thing that can save football in the Big East is Notre Dame, but if that's the case, they may as well talk about adding the New York Giants, because it ain't gonna happen."
Wilson: White Sox whitewash
WEDNESDAY, JULY 2, 2003
Extra Point -- Chuck Wilson (morning): "Chicago White Sox fans will never forget the date, July 31, 1997, the day the White Sox rocked baseball by trading three of their top pitchers -- Wilson Álvarez, Roberto Hernández and Danny Darwin to the San Francisco Giants for three prospects. At the time, the White Sox were just 3½ games out of first, but chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said it would be crazy to think the Sox could catch in the Indians in the AL Central. Sox fans were outraged. Now fast-forward. It's July 1, 2003. Once again, the White Sox begin the day 3½ games out of first, only this time management sees a division that can be won with aggressive moves. By trading for Robbie Álomar and Carl Everett, the White Sox added production at the plate, improved their defense and served notice to their players and fans that the team is serious about winning now. In 1997 management waved a white flag on the division race. In 2003 they're trying for the checkered flag."
Extra Point -- Stuart Scott (afternoon): "Do you like everything tidy? Or do you want to be scratching your head, thinking, 'Oh, my goodness.'? With Wimbledon you got both. You have the men's draw, where you're looking for the top seeds. Hello? They ain't there no more. The intrigue is the big-serving Mark Philippoussis, who scores all of his points on aces it seems, and the American Andy Roddick, whose serve is darned near 150 mph. The women's draw: top four seeds, right where they were supposed to end up -- in the semis. Me? I'll take the women's draw. Venus is the forgotten Williams sister, but think about it. Sister Serena, top seed, the best, right? Well, last time she had a match that mattered, she got beat by a girl half her size, by a girl who's right here in the semis with her -- Justin Henin-Hardenne. And you just know Kim Clijsters is good enough to beat either of the three. I like it neat, 'cause it's still filled with drama."
SportsBeat -- Brent Musburger (afternoon): "So the Chicago White Sox go out and get Roberto Álomar and Carl Everett yesterday, and they don't have to pay and arm and a leg to do it. Sounds like a holiday at the house of Reinsdorf, where never is heard a discouraging word, as long as the price is right. Álomar arrived for a $150,000 song. The Mets are still stuck for the other $3¾ million the rest of this year. Everett comes over from the Rangers along with a boatload of cash to help pay the $4½ million left of his 2003 contract. So what does all this mean? Are these really the same White Sox who abandoned ship in the thick of the 1997 pennant race? Well, the Sox may be the same, but the ship is very different. It's clear the White Sox think Kansas City and Minnesota are vulnerable. Because of low attendance, the White Sox were trying to stir up some interest in the franchise and at least show the public that they would make an effort to win this year. Even though they're a game below .500, the White Sox are only three games out of the AL Central lead held by Kansas City, and with a win tonight, they'd sweep the second-place Minnesota Twins. Yes, Álomar has been a bust in New York, and yes, Everett is a charter member of the all-flake team, but their arrival has brought the White Sox back to baseball's forefront.
"Mark Fidrych. Fernando Valenzuela. Dwight Gooden. Danny Almonte. All pitching phenoms -- some lasting longer than others. Now we submit Dontrelle Willis for your approval. He goes after an amazing eighth consecutive victory tonight when the Florida Marlins host the Atlanta Braves. If you haven't seen him yet, Willis is a lanky, 21-year-old left-hander who came out of the Oakland area as California's best high-school baseball player only three years ago. The first thing you notice about him is he has a deceptive throwing motion. The next thing you notice is he's 8-1 with a 2.26 ERA. Something tells me you'll also notice him at the All-Star Game later this month."
Schaap: American men in tennis slump
TUESDAY, JULY 1, 2003
Extra Point -- Jeremy Schaap (morning): "News flash: American men are no longer very good at tennis. Three are in the world top 25: ancient Andre Agassi, rising Andy Roddick and the journeyman Vince Spadea. Not so long ago American men dominated tennis. Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Jim Courier, Michael Chang and Todd Martin -- all born within 22 months of each other -- were perennial top 10 players in the 1990s. Where have all the Americans gone? To the golf course, of course. Golf is a truly international sport; the top 10 players are from six different countries and four different continents. But of the top 25 golfers, 15 are Americans. Strangely, it's a different story with American women. While eight of the top 25 women tennis players are American, only seven of the top 25 women golfers are American. I bet you can't even name the top American woman golfer, who ranks sixth overall. Rosie Jones. Was I right?"
Extra Point -- John Anderson (afternoon): "Want to share with you a great golf tip I picked up on the course the other day -- an absolute fundamental. Enjoy the game. Didn't get that from David Leadbetter or any other arm-and-a-leg-per-hour golf pro but rather from playing a single hole in a tournament with couple of Special Olympians. Two kids, not with handicaps, but with disabilities. One teed off on a par-3 and hit the green from about 135 yards out. Judging by his reaction, you would have thought he won The Masters -- twice. Got up on the green where his partner proceeded to turn that marvelous approach shot into a routine 5-putt. And when that last stroke holed the ball, there was a joy in his step, voice and eyes, greater than any open -- U.S. or British. Just a routine triple-bogey that made this pair's day beyond description. So next time you smother-hook a ball into the woods or chili-dip one in the water, remember how much fun you should be having. Any day on a golf course is a good one. Enjoy it. Some guys smile just for a chance to make 8."
SportsBeat -- Brent Musburger (afternoon): "Maybe Barry Bonds got into Albert Pujols' head a little bit last night. Pujols went 0-for-4 in the first round of their showdown. Bonds went 1-for-5 with an RBI in San Francisco's 5-1 victory in St. Louis. Round two is tonight, but let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. Let me take you back to the weekend. The five-time MVP Bonds was asked to evaluate the 23-year-old Pujols, who is making the best case to be this year's MVP. Said Bonds: 'He's a big, strong dude and a nice guy. He can play.' That all sounds good, right? Then he was asked if Pujols is the next Barry Bonds. The answer: 'He's not. He doesn't run. He has no position.' Did this get the pot stirring in St. Louis? Well, yes and no. When Pujols heard what Bonds said, he laughed and said, 'I think I agree with him.' But then Cardinals manager Tony La Russa offered up the best line yet. 'If I were a woman,' Tony said, 'I'd go for (Pujols) so fast it'd make your head spin.' We can only hope tonight's second game of this series is as good as all this talk.
"Every year they lose another prominent reason for their success. First it was 'The Big Unit' in '98. Then Junior Griffey in 2000. A year later it was 'A-Rod.' This year it was manager Lou Piniella. Through it all, the Seattle Mariners just keep winning. If you hadn't noticed, they have the best record in baseball -- again -- and they hold the biggest lead of any first-place team in the majors. They padded both those numbers last night with a 3-1 win at Oakland. Meanwhile, look at what's happened to all those guys who've left. Randy Johnson has spent most of this year on the D.L. Ken Griffey Junior learned you can't go home again. Alex Rodríguez found out all his millions won't help Texas unless he learns to pitch. And 'Sweet Lou' was happy just to turn the calendar this morning after going through the worst month of his managerial career. I guess as long as players like Ichiro and Edgar Martínez are around, Seattle will be known for a lot more than rain and coffee, especially this time of year."