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December 06, 2001

Clemens-Piazza just one drama
By Dan Patrick

This is one of those special times in the sports world. It happens four or five times a year. There are about six or seven great stories unfolding all at once.

Because I am in New York, I am not doing SportsCenter this week. I need an outlet. So let me pass on some thoughts on the news of the day.

Roger Clemens-Mike Piazza
I have watched the tape many times. I think my take is in the minority.

Mike Piazza
Mike Piazza uses the handle of his broken bat to make his point with Roger Clemens last October.

I don't think Roger Clemens meant to throw that bat shard at Mike Piazza. I honestly think he didn't know what was happening.

Rob Dibble told me that when you are pitching you don't think much about bats. So that thing comes shooting at him, like baseballs so often do to pitchers. He grabs it thinking for a split second it was the ball. He sees that it isn't and just decides to throw it toward the Yankee bat boy over in foul territory.

It happened very quickly and it was most certainly not a calculated action. He wigged out temporarily, no doubt. As he told me yesterday, he was pumped up quite a bit. It's the World Series, it's Piazza, it's the Mets, he's in Yankee Stadium. And he was fully rested. He was totally amped for that start.

So he did this thing in a quick, reflexive way. He throws the thing away. But Piazza was nearby and we have a broiling controversy that is far from over. I don't think Clemens realized what he did at the time. He didn't apologize because, I think, he wanted to maintain his edge.

This incident affected everyone in the game. Joe Torre was uncharacteristically testy with reporters after the game. Bobby Valentine was unusually forgiving of Clemens, saying that he did not like it when people observe him doing something in the heat of a game and later try to guess what his intent was. He declined to do that to Clemens.

The shame is that this stuff will overshadow two straight postseason games in which Clemens was simply brilliant.

But don't tell him he is pitching like the Clemens of old. He's quite defensive about that. Clemens just wants people to know that he's healthy. And this is what you get from him when he's healthy and going on plenty rest.

Consider this. If this series goes back to Yankee Stadium, Clemens will pitch once again against the New York Mets in a Game 6 of the World Series. He did that in 1986 for the Red Sox. I think we know how that turned out. He may get a chance to remake fully his reputation as a postseason pitcher as a New York Yankee.

Aren't sports great?

St. Louis Rams
The great, unbeatable Rams now look beatable. After being whupped by the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, they don't even have in-state bragging rights. They really look vulnerable.

And on top of it, Marshall Faulk gets nicked up, though he'll play Sunday, and Kurt Warner goes down with a broken pinky. He'll miss at least a month. Trent Green did fine in replacing Warner, but the sheen of greatness is off the Rams. The steamroller has slowed down.

The main reason for these St. Louis blues is that the defense is as bad as the offense is great. At the end of the day, if the offense does its job and the defense doesn't, they could be looking at a lot of close games or losses that were blowouts and wins last year.

The main reason for these St. Louis blues is that the defense is as bad as the offense is great.

That's what happened in Kansas City. If the opposing team just says, "screw it, let's play with them" (and they have the guys to do it), the Rams are in trouble because they can't stop anyone.

It reminds me of the time that Indiana played UNLV in the Final Four of the 1987 NCAA tournament.

Bobby Knight told his team that they were going to run with the Runnin' Rebels. Steve Alford and his teammates thought they were doomed. They figured they didn't have the athletes to run with a team that had run all year. But they also figured he's Bobby Knight and he knows what he's doing. Well, they beat them and went on to win the national title.

It seems that Gunther Cunningham said the same thing to his Chiefs. They went right at the Rams and beat them at their own game.

Teams were smart to fear the Rams after a game or two. But a close look reveals that their starting quarterback is down, they have a kicker that had just been cut by the Chiefs and have recently hired 69-year-old Bud Carson out of retirement to consult on that porous defense.

Right now, the Titans look like the best team in football. They have a varied offense that can put points on the board and a defense that hits hard and can stop people. Jeff Fisher has put together a strong, balanced team rather than a team with an overwhelming strength that has to do all the work.

What a concept!

Speaking of offense, Monday night was just another chapter in the great Jets-Dolphins rivalry.

I was there on the goal line when Wesley Walker caught the game-winning touchdown in the epic 51-45 battle between Ken O'Brien and Dan Marino in Week 3 of the 1986 season. That was probably the best football game I ever saw. And there was also the famous Dan Marino "fake spike" play in 1994. And the time that A.J. Duhe had a couple of interceptions against Richard Todd in a wild win.

I must have checked the score four or five times and figured the game was over. Then I checked again and saw that it wasn't over. I saw that the Jets had tied it up and then that they were going to win.

The Jets have a lot of fight in them. And maybe that Miami defense is a notch below the best in the league. They have had a great year but now have only beaten one team with a winning record, the Ravens. The Jets, however, put up 40 points on a defense that had given up only 51 in its previous six games.

A great trip down memory lane for the Jets and Dolphins. Don't miss the rematch in Miami on Nov. 19.

Next : Corey Dillon, Arizona Cardinals, Mike Tyson, Joe Smith and more.

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