Sampras won't play Wimbledon

Let's pause to remember the career of the greatest tennis player ever. 14 Grand Slam titles. Six years as #1. Seven Wimbledons.

Tennis has sort of fallen off the sports map in this country, which is a real shame. It's like there's only room for one elitist, snobby sport and right now, that's golf. The irony is that tennis requires little space and very little equipment, just a racket, a ball, and a place to play. And there are public courts all over. Aside from its country club reputation, tennis is a sport open to just about anyone. It's easier to round up a game of tennis (and a place to play) then just about any other sport save basketball.

The real shame is that we can't appreciate Pete Sampras' dominance. Part of tennis' decline can be attributed to his complete mastery of the circuit, which was even more complete than Tiger Woods. You just didn't beat Pistol Pete when he came to play. Not even Agassi could. Wimbledon will survive without him, but it will seem strange not to see him on centre court.

posted by Poseur 5/16/2003 01:46:00 PM

The Lakers go down!

All of a sudden, the NBA playoffs got interesting. While watching LA win a fourth straight title seemed about as exciting as watching figure skating, seeing a new champion is pretty exciting. And frankly, the field is wide open. Seriously, let's look at who's left.

The Spurs
I argued against Tim Duncan winning the MVP, but he's the best player still playing. And predicting the Spurs is pretty easy: as Duncan goes, so go the Spurs. In the playoffs, he scores 24.5% of the team's points (23.3 PPG), grabs 30.8% of their rebounds (13.9 RPG), dishes out 23.6% of the assists (5.0 APG). and makes 44% of the team's blocks (2.42 BPG). Stephen Jackson has come out of nowhere, and Parker's a pretty good point guard, but let's not delude ourselves into thinking they are anything but supporting players. It's a one-man team. One hell of a one man, but one-man teams rarely win it all. Jordan needed Pippen, Shaq needed Kobe, Isiah needed the Bad Boys. Phoenix took them to the brink, and they exposed the Lakers, but honestly, I don't think they are going all of the way.

Without Webber, Stojakovic has taken his game to new heights. When watching the Kings, though, the player who stands out is Divac. Right now, the Mavs have no answer for the inside-outside big man, who knows he could play with Duncan but not Shaq. Throw in a great point guard in Bibby, and two great Johnsons off the bench: Jim and Bobby. In the playoffs, six players are averaging double-figures (including Webber, but Christie's at 9.5). This is a team that can kill you from any position, they can survive a bad night from anybody. And that makes them so dangerous.

First off, Don Nelson is the Sam Wyche of the NBA. And they don't play defense. But let's face it, they are the most entertaining team in the league. Up and down action, good talent, the always fun owner, and the possiblity of a thermal meltdown at any moment. Yes, they are ridiculously soft, they are also really talented on the offensive end.

The antithesis of the Mavs. They are tough-as-nails, hard-working, and defensively stout. And watching their games is perhaps the most painful way to spend an evening. Rip Hamilton has blossomed into a star (another savvy move by Jordan), but outside of defensive stud Ben Wallace, who on this team would you really want? Definitely greater than the sum of their parts.

OK, are the Sixers a bigger one-man team than the Spurs? AI scores 33.7% of the points (31.1), makes 38% of the assists (7.3), commits 32.9% of the steals (2.45), and grabs 11% of the boards (4.5). So, despite appearnces, no. It's still the Iverson Show, but the Sixers actually have a slightly more productive supporting cast than the Spurs. Heck, what is up with Derrick Coleman?

Nobody looks better than the Nets right now. They play great defense, led by Kenyon Martin. He's been a defensive presence his entire career, the best defensive player not named Ben Wallace, but he suddenly has rediscovered his offensive touch, which everyone thought he had left in college. Jason Kidd is the best point guard in the league, and the rest of the roster can contribute. They are really going 8-deep right now. They can outscore the Mavs and Kings, and they can outdefend even the Pistons. I don't think anyone can match up with them. They are my odds-on favorite.

posted by Poseur 5/16/2003 01:30:00 PM


Let's dip into the old mailbag. Erik Winter writes in with this:

Vijay does not represent me....
nor does he represent most of those I have the fortune or unfortune to get paired with each weekend as I hack my way around a golf course. Our local ladies squad (New Mexico State) regularly outperforms the guys and gets much more local adoration. I realize that most in this country see my chosen favorite pastime as eliteist and right wing. I would like each person to spend a day at their local public course (where I have played 99.99% of all of my golf) and see if those stereotypes are not dispelled just a tad. My foursome on Sunday was the perfect opening line of a joke, "A hack, a minister, and a thug walk to the first tee..." Yes, most pro golfers were rich and snotty long before they started playing the game and most will let you know it but calling the average golf fan a sexist who wishes Annika plays poorly is exactly what Mr Ashcroft d oes to every non-white, non-protestant "criminal," "drug addict" and "raver." I love golf and appreciate the pros because the skill involved in the game is utterly phenominal, not because they hate women and minorities. Please discontinue furthering blanket assumptions and revel in the exceptions, life is too short to hate me before you know me.

Erik Winter.

Fair enough. Let me say my deep hatred of golf does not extend to duffers like Erik who slog around the local course, shooting a 120 or so, and generally having the proverbial "good walk spoiled." Actually, for all I know, Erik has a zero handicap, but if he's out there just playing for fun, I'm happy for him. There's lots of golfers out there and while I think the sport is ridiculously expensive, harmful to the environment, and most damning, really boring; you're certainly welcome to it. Have a good time.

Looking over my post, I wasn't entirely clear, I didn't mean to say all golf fans are sexist. Just that Vijay stepped up to represent the sexist contingent. Just like John Rocker represents the racist baseball fan. Not baseball fans, just the racist ones.

I'd also like to say that Erik has good advice: don't knock it until you've tried it. I actually have played golf a few times, always on public courses, and it's a nice excuse to walk around and drink a lot of beer. Which ain't bad way to spend a day. Of course, going to the movies is fun, too, it doesn't mean it's a sport. Besides, if I'm drinking, I'd rather do it without all of the walking, and if I'm playing something, I'd rather play a game that allows me to hit someone. Personal choice.
posted by Poseur 5/15/2003 06:34:00 PM

Sixers on the brink

OK, after taking Kobe to task, let's take potshots at AI! Um, don't these guys know how to guard an inbound pass? Why on earth was Iverson preventing the ball from going towards midcourt, opening up a lane for Atkins to rush the basket? You want the Pistons to move away from the basket, not towards it!

Ugh, it was a great shot, but it was also a defensive breakdown. 3-2 Pistons in the Ugliest Series In Living Memory.
posted by Poseur 5/15/2003 02:48:00 PM


ACC votes to expand

Miami leaving the Big East is about as monumental as me leaving my house to pick up the dry-cleaning. There was not enough history, in duration or rivalries, to merit any sort of emotional farewell. This ain't Nebraska bolting to join the Pac-10, or the Gators leaving the SEC. So the departure is no big deal here.

The Big East just isn't that good of a football conference. It's as simple as that. Without Miami, they aren't much better than Conference-USA. So the ACC gets the, let's face it, best football program in the nation. They also get the lucrative New York TV market by adding Syracuse. Those two are complete no-brainers. It's the third team which is an interesting call.

VT or BC? If I'm Miami, I want Virginia Tech as far away as possible, as they are the only program which has consistently played even with the Canes over the past decade. So they add Florida State? So what? Can you imagine having to play both FSU and VT every single? Ugh. Now BC isn't a chump team, but they haven't exactly lit the football world on fire. They are good for a 7-5 season every year with a nice upset or two (who can forget that Notre Dame win, huh?), but they are clearly a second tier team... in football.

But let's not forget, while this move is about football, the ACC is still at its heart a basketball conference. And VT brings nothing to the table in basketball. Nothing. FSU was at leats decent before joining the ACC, though the league has pretty much destroyed their hoops program. BC is a very good basketball school. So, to me, the decision is clear.

Take Boston College.

And Hokies, give the Big Ten a call.
posted by Poseur 5/14/2003 01:43:00 PM

Lakers fall just short

There were 14.7 seconds to play with San Antonio up 96-94, the Lakers calling a timeout, inbounding the ball to Shaquille O'Neal, who had been oddly inactive for the first three quarters.

The ball went into the hands of just the right player, Kobe Bryant. But Tim Duncan came over to double him and Kobe passed out to Robert Horry, completely alone beyond the arc as the seconds ticked.

"We've seen that before," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.

The moment seemed almost frozen. For an instant, everything stopped.

And then, CLANG!

Shaq didn't have a great game, but he managed 20 points and 12 boards. and Kobe got 36 points, but this game will be remembered for the three he didn't get. His defender was in midair, all Kobe had to do was jump up and take the shot. He draws the foul, goes to the line and wins the game. Instead, he passes to Horry and, well, you know the rest.

It's hard to single out a guy who scored 36 points for a mistake, but Kobe should have taken that shot. He should have wanted the ball. He should have taken control. That's what All-Stars do. He didn't, and the Lakers lost. Blame it on Kobe.
posted by Poseur 5/14/2003 01:31:00 PM

Cipollini a marked man at the Giro

The 86th Giro d' Italia started last weekend. The second most prestigious cycling race will end June first in Milan. If all goes according to precedent, we're about a week away from a huge doping scandal. For the time being all eyes have been on Mario Cipollini, who is two stage wins shy of setting a new record for most stage wins at the Giro in a career. Through four stages, Cipollini has been frustrated and shut out.

As far as the overall race lead, it's still too early to peg the real contenders to wear the pink jersey in Milan. Currently, Alessandro Petacchi holds the overall lead on the strength of an early sprint stage victory. He's trailed by several of the long term contenders; Stefano Garzelli, Francesco Casagrande, Gilberto Simone, Aitor Gonzales, Ramondas Rumsas, Pavel Tonkov and even Marco Pantani are all within a minute of the lead--all 7 are former podium finishers in at least one of the major cycling tours. The big challenges are yet to come, but it looks as though there is a deep field for this event.

Notice the field is dominated by Italian names. The Italians really come out hard for the Tour of Italy, which is a stark contrast to their half-assed attempts in the Tour de France and the Vuelta a Espana. It's the one major tour they actually care about.

Right now, who's not there is as big a story as who is there. The following teams are not participating: US Postal Service, ONCE, CSC-Tiscali, Banesto, Rabobank, Telekom, and Team Coast. All carry big stars who are sure to play a roll in the Tour de France in July. By skipping the Giro, riders like Lance Armstrong, Jan Ullrich, Levi Leipheimer, Eric Zabel, Joseba Beloki, and others get to rest and train for the main event in two months.

posted by uberschuck 5/14/2003 12:58:00 AM


Santos cleared

They did it right. A full investigation of the charges, follwoed by a huge press consference exonerating Santos with all of the evidence shown to the media. Funny Cide won fair and square. And good for Churchill Downs for running to every media outlet to hype up their decision. Santos didn't deserve the negative press, and The Miami Herald owes him a huge "we're sorry."
posted by Poseur 5/13/2003 12:13:00 PM

In realted news, Vijay Singh named president of Augusta National

Vijay Singh made it clear how he feels about Annika Sorenstam playing on the PGA Tour. He wants to her miss the cut next week in the Colonial. And on the odd chance that he is paired with her, Singh says he won't play...

"I hope she misses the cut," Singh said in an interview with The Associated Press after his runner-up finish at the Wachovia Championship. "Why? Because she doesn't belong out here."

Thanks, Vijay. I was wondering which golfer would step up to represent the sexist golf fan. Congratulations!

The Colonial is golf tournament, dependent on advertising revenue and attendance. Tiger Woods isn't coming, and if Tiger stays home, no one gives a crap about your event. So the organizers gave one of their eight exemptions to the best woman golfer in the world. Who cares?

I'm with Scott Hoch, who hopes she does well, but admits she's probably going to get slaughtered. I doubt she'll make the cut. But you know what? I bet the Colonial actually makes money this year. I bet advertisers want to purchase time. I bet it'll get a decent rating as people tune in to see Anika fail. Really, what's the big deal?

Shut your hole, Vijay. Just go out and beat her.
posted by Poseur 5/13/2003 12:01:00 PM

Good call, make Giguere angry

"Giguere, you know, he's on top of his game," Lemaire said after the Wild's optional practice Sunday. "But like any other goaltender, you look at them closely, and you find they have strengths and weaknesses, and you have to work on his weaknesses. We know where they are and we have to get the opportunity and we'll get there."

The Wild promptly lost 2-0. They managed 24 shots on gaol, and their once-potent power play went 2 for 3. Ooops. Those two goals scored during the Wild power plays were by the Ducks. So maybe they need to commit more penalties and really blow the games open.

But don't count the Wild out, they have already bounced back from two seperate 3-1 holes. They are working on a third.
posted by Poseur 5/13/2003 11:53:00 AM


Torborg gets canned

It's okay to lose. It's not okay to systematically destroy your team's only real asset, young starting pitching. With the way the Phillies loaded up, a division title was a longshot going in, and required a little managerial discretion. Work on the team without burning up the second youngest roster in the bigs. Instead, most of the Marlins rotation is on the DL. How did it happen? Good old fashioned neglect.

Mark Redman (107 pitches per game)
Starts: 110, 100, 106, 104, 131, 92, DL

He's 29, so he's the oldest starter, and he got the worst of the abuse. Only the 131-pitch outing was obscene, but it's just the sheer volume of 100-pitch outings.

Brad Penny (104 PPG)
Starts: 106, 93, 112, 111, 95, 105, 105

The 24-year old is listed as day to day due to blisters. He's just getting trotted out to his limits every start in some psychotic quest to toughen him up before his arm falls off.

AJ Burnett (103 PPG)
Starts: 80, 113, 108, 112, DL

The treatment of his 26-year old arm borders on criminal. He didn't start the year due to arm trouble, so once he's in the rotation, they give him one light start followed by several hardship starts. Only in the 80-pitch game did Burnett notch a quality start. The one that sent him to the DL, Burnett allowed 5 runs in 5 IP. He's probably out for the year.

Josh Beckett (91 PPG)
Starts: 80, 100, 93, 99, 107, 115, 105, 28

He's 22, and Torborg started the year by treating him with kid gloves, slowling giving him more and more pitches. Which is fine, except he was up to 115 in a month, and on the DL two weeks later.

Carl Pavano (88 PPG)
Starts: 91, 82, 96, 97, 89, 33, 63

At 27, Pavano's had enough arm trouble to last a whole career, and he's been spared the wrath of Torborg. Of course, he also hasn't been all that effective.

As a group, these young pitchers have just been abused by negligent management. torborg wasn't just fired for losing, he's also destroying the team's investment in the future. Good riddance.
posted by Poseur 5/12/2003 04:59:00 PM

Raffy goes yeard for the 500th time

500 dingers. That's quite an accomplishment. Palmeiro has reached a plateau that was not acheived by Lou Gehrig, Stan Musial, Carl Yastremski, or Tony Gwynn (just seeing if you're paying attention on that last one).

500 is a lot of homers, and every eligible member of the club is in the Hall of Fame. So is Raffy going in? Before we get to that, a lot has been made of all of the guys reaching 500 home runs. But in recent years, more players have reached 3,000 hits. Is the hit being devalued? I doubt it. Once again, homers are up, but so are strikeouts. It's because more players go all-or-nothing at the plate. It's not diluted pitching, it's not placing a premium on making contact, instead focusing on power. Why is this so difficult for people to grasp?

OK, back to Raffy and the Hall. His closest comp is Fred McGriff, but they aren't that similar. I like the Eddie Murray comparison, another guy who stuck around a long time to hit some big numbers. The difference is, Murray finished top 5 in MVP balloting SIX times, including two runner-ups. In 1984, he led the league in OBP, and in 1981 in both homers (finishing top 5 five times) and RBI's. Even that is pretty low for a Hall of Famer.

Raffy, on the other hand, has only once even finished 5th in MVP voting. In 1990, he led the league in hits, but he's never won a homer crown, but finished top 5 five times as well. Frankly, no one has ever thought Palmeiro was the best player in baseball at any point in his career. And that's a standard for a Hall of Famer. He's never even been considered the top 1st baseman. He's consistent, and that counts, and that 500 dingers will go a long way, but he will be the test case on automatic admission for 500 homers.

Right now, I'm not sure if he's in. It's real close. So, Raffy, keep going yard.

posted by Poseur 5/12/2003 12:13:00 PM

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