Rusedski, as he's been saying all along, is not a doper. The International tennis board agrees, and he will not face a ban of a single match for his positive test, which Rusedski rightly claims was a big misunderstanding. Since most people get their names dragged through the mud over drug use, let's see lots of headlines telling Rusedski they are sorry.

Hey, we always believed you here. Way to go.
posted by Poseur 3/11/2004 01:29:00 PM

Doping and the Hill

By the end of his 21/2 hours in the dock, Fehr got the point. His final comment was directed to McCain. "I understand your words to begin this proceeding," said Fehr, "and I understand the mood of the rest of this hearing."

Since the entire mood was venomously hostile, with senators demanding that the union abandon a position that they ridiculed as "shameful" and "an embarrassment to this country," Fehr may have come close to conceding that a sea change had indeed occurred. With luck, he and his union will move with this new tide of public unanimity. If they don't, they will find themselves in the worst of all places -- on the wrong side of history.

McCain called this juncture a "tipping point" in public outrage at baseball's obliviousness to its cheating, health and "values" problem. In fact, McCain, visibly angry, promised Fehr that if baseball did not fix its "doping epidemic" and do it quickly, he would see to it that bills would be brought before Congress that would do the job. McCain said he hadn't figured out exactly what those laws would be, but if forced -- well, Don, make my day.

McCain assembled exactly the ideal cast of characters to humiliate Fehr and expose the shabbiness of his union's long-standing position to obstruct or limit steroid testing. In essence, Fehr was put on solitary display while every cannon that McCain could muster was aimed straight at him. Then they opened fire.

NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and NFL union leader Gene Upshaw issued a joint statement, explaining how they had stood shoulder to shoulder for nearly 15 years trying to solve exactly the problems that Fehr and his union have tried to prevent baseball from addressing in any serious way. Tagliabue and Upshaw then testified at length about the reasons they brushed aside the sophistic arguments presented by Fehr and, instead, tried to defend the health of their players, the integrity of their sport and the image of NFL athletes in the minds of children.

And then afterwards, the NFL solved the national debt, pronounced world peace, and guarranteed health care to all the uninsured. Puh-leeze.

The reason the union stands shoulder-to-shoulder with management in the NFL is because the NFL union has been thoroughly crushed by management. It's the weakest union in professional sports, and they aren't in much position to demand anything from their employers. Sign away privacy rights? Sure.

Steroids are a serious issue, but despite the bashing it's taking in the court of public opinion, the union is making a principled stand. Your employer doesn't have the right to invade your privacy. It's none of their business what you put in your body. Or are you seriously going to argue you want there to be mandatory drug testing at your job? Where are all the libertarians on this one?

And do you seriously think the NFL isn't doped up to high heavens? This is what I find hysterical. The average lineman has increased in size by about 30 pounds in the past 10 years. That can't be natural. It's the entire league. It's like an entire race of supermen have been bred to play football. It's not for one second believable that NFL squads aren't so doped up they would get kicked out of most Grateful Dead shows.

My body, my business.

posted by Poseur 3/11/2004 01:26:00 PM

More college basketball...

As I write this, Xavier's got a 22 point halftime lead over St. Joe's. Somebody's gnning for the Big Dance.

Anyway, the last few nights have been long on good basketball, but short on real surprises. Monmouth and Eastern Washington were big favorites. UIC scored a minor upset, but they didn't come out of nowhere. So, now the big tourneys start, and maybe we'll finally some real impact on the brackets.

Seton Hall's loss can be categorized as no real biggie. It may keep them out, but that's highly unlikely. This Xavier game might be the first tourney game to really effect the bracket. Stay tuned...

posted by Poseur 3/11/2004 01:17:00 PM

Dusty and sabermetrics

"Who's been the champions the last seven, eight years?" he asked "Have you ever heard the Yankees talk about on-base percentage and walks? Walks help. But you ain't going to walk across the plate. You're going to hit across the plate. That's the school I come from.

"It's called hitting, and it ain't called walking. Do you ever see the top 10 walking? You see top 10 batting average. A lot of those top 10 do walk. But the name of the game is to hit."

For the record, the Yankees were second to the Red Sox in team OBP in the American League last year. The world-champion Florida Marlins were middle of the pack in the NL with a .333 OBP, and the Cubs made it to within five outs of the World Series with a .323 team OBP, fourth from the bottom in the NL.

All of this is not to say that the Cubs don't pay attention to statistics. But don't expect management to stay up late at night reading the 2004 "Baseball Prospectus," perhaps the leading statistical-analysis book on the market today.

The Cubs' approach to offense - and Baker's, in particular - isn't always pleasing to the "Baseball Prospectus" editors, who write: "The Cubs, as a rule, still give the power components of offensive output too much emphasis, the on-base components too little, and weight major-league service time more highly than they should."

Cubs decision-makers might shrug at that assessment, but they'd no doubt scoff at this line in "Baseball Prospectus" on how it would use cleanup man Moises Alou: "As for the best way to use Alou, the Cubs should consider a different route - remaking him as a leadoff hitter."

Dusty's been a a pretty successful manager, so he has the grounds to say whatever he wants. But he's wrong on this one. The Yankees are one of the league leaders in walks every season. Despite their incredibly huge budget, they are oneof the most sabermetrically inclined organizations under Brian Cashman. And the all-time walks leaders are a who's-who of great hitters.

By career:
1. Henderson
2. Bonds
3. Ruth
4. Williams
5. Morgan
6. Yaz
7. Mantle
8. Ott
9. Yost
10. Evans

And last season:
1. Bonds
2. Helton
3. Thome
4. Abreu
5. Berkman
6. Giles
7. Cruz, Jr.
8. Sexson
9. Walker
10. Gonzalez & Jones (tie)

The object isn't to hit the ball, it's to score runs. Dusty does a lot of things really well: he's a genius with the media, he runs a great clubhouse, hitters have great years under him. He also does things incredibly poorly: he runs off young players, he makes terrible in-game decisions, and he absolutely punishes his rotation with overwork.

Take the good with the bad. Oh, but go out and buy Baseball Prospectus. It's the best $18 a baseball fan can spend all year.

posted by Poseur 3/11/2004 01:14:00 PM


A change of scenery

Carmen Policy, the president of the Browns, dismissed Couch's proposed 58 percent pay cut as merely the first negotiating "salvo." No "rolling barrage" of improved offers followed, however. At the same time, you are right if you did not notice Couch giving back any of the money he was overpaid, although he vowed to do so if given assurances it would go to improve the team.
Coach Butch Davis called Couch's tenure "star-crossed." He said he was unsure what stars weren't aligned. (Your pun about the Browns' line goes here.)
When the 5-11 season ended, "continuity" was the buzz word, although, once Garcia became available, Davis decided he was too big an upgrade to pass up. Garcia is eight years older than Couch, is coming off an injury- plagued season, and has to resolve DUI charges in California. Clearly, Davis found entrusting his team to Couch about as palatable as Cavaliers coach Paul Silas did in turning his over to Ricky Davis.

Sometimes, you just need to get the hell out of town. It's best for everybody involved if Couch tries to start over somewhere else. It's good for Couch, getting away from the place he's failed so spectularly behind a line that has seemed at times to be trying to get him killed. It's good for Garcia, who gets far away from San Fransisco's dysfunctional front office. It's good for Policy, who sheds himself of the can't-miss quarterback who missed. Everybody gets to start over and maybe it'll turn out for the better for the each of them.

Or maybe Garcia's washed up, Couch really is a bum, and Policy will continue to keep the Browns the standard bearer for professional mediocrity. But at least we get to find out for sure.

posted by Poseur 3/10/2004 03:42:00 PM

The NHL makes news

What to say about Todd Bertuzzi? First off, I think he's not the only responsible party here. Moore's no innocent, and this all started when it looked like he intentionally injured Naslund a few eeeks back. The Canucks talked openly of getting revenge, not even in the locker room, but in the executive suite. When the GM and coach are mouthing off aboutpayback, it's a recipe for something really bad to happen.

Enter the goon. Bertuzzi's a goon, and he did what goons do: he went out and hurt somebody. that's his whole reason for taking up a roster spot, to go out and physically intimidate. His only skill is hurting people, and it's every NHL GM's fault for keeping people like Bertuzzi in the game. OK, he has decent numbers, but we're not talking abotu waybe Gretzky here. You can't hire a guy for the sole purpose of starting fights and dishing out checks behind the play to protect your stars and then act surprised when he takes it a step too far and puts a guy in the hospital. I'm not trying to excuse Bertuzzi, but I find the NHL's hand-wringing over this akin to being shocked that there is gambling going on at Rick's Cafe.

Did Bertuzzi try and injure Moore? Well, he meant to smack him upside the head, but he did drop his stick before doing so. That immediately puts it behind the truly repugnant hit by Marty McSorely, probably the most dispicable act in hockey history. If Bertuzzi was trying to put the guy in the hospital, he would have used his stick. So let's give him a little bit of benefit of the doubt. However, he hit Moore from behind andthen drove his face into the ice. No good every comes from that. I've defended Bertuzzi up to this point, but that action alone merits a pretty huge suspension. At least until the end of the season, and hopefully the first round of the playoffs as well. But criminal charges? I think that takes it a step too far.

If Bertuzzi is guilty, so is the entire NHL, for supporting the goon culture. Why do we care that this league is about to have a massive work stoppage?

posted by Poseur 3/10/2004 03:42:00 PM


I've got an unhealthy obsession with Championship Week. I spend most of this week making brackets, sorting through bubble teams, and watching lots of basketball on ESPN being played in half-empty gyms. Is placing so much weight on the conference tourney unfair to the regular season champs of the smaller conferences? Of course it is, but that doesn't make any less exciting. The NCAA tourney itself is grossly unfair, rendering a four-month regular season virtually meaningless, but that doesn't mean it isn't the greatest American sporting event. Because it is. The Super Bowl may get the comemrcials, the parties, and the big ratings, but the tourney is the one event which never ever disappoints.

And as good as the tourney is, my favorite part is the first four days followed closely by Championship Week. These teams are playing for their tourney lives and everybody knows it. No one can afford to mail anything in because that three or four days is their season. Why even bother with the rest of the year? So let's get into the magical, yet unfair conference tourneys.

Boston had a great year. 17-1 in conference, a win at Michigan, and RPI in the low 80s. Well, kiss that good year goodbye, as the Terriers saw the whole thing evaporate in one bad night. BU didn't just lose, they lost to Stony Brook, the #8 seed boasting a 10-20 record and an RPI of 266. America East isn't a mid-major, it's one of the lowest-rated conferences in Division I. If you are a bubble team from America East, you simply cannot lose to Stony Brook. Of course, this loss highlights precisely what is so wrong about Championship Week. BU is a pretty good team having a terrific year, but they have about much chance of makign the tourney as, well, Stony Brook. Four months of good work wiped out in ione game. It's completely ridiculous, but it's hard to feel bad for BU. Don't lose to Stony Brook. Vermont's not a bad team, and they'll play Maine in the finals.

It's everything you'd expect from a low-major. Troy St and UCF both should merit at least a second look from the committee. Their RPI's are 62 and 63, and the regular season champ, Troy St, lost in the finals, their first loss in over a month. Troy St's profile actually isn't that bad. 3-3 vs. the RPI top 100, 9-1 in their last 10, conference champ, and 14-4 on the road. If you want a poster child for how unfair life is for the little guys, here's your team: Troy State.

Eastern Washington is 11-3 in conference while not a single other team is above .500 in conference play. The semifinals start tonight, and Eastern Washington has no excuse if they fail to win the automatic bid.

Liberty left no doubt. They won the regular season crown with Birmingham Southern, ineligible for the automatic bid as they are new to the conference. So they went in heavy favorites, and won the title game over the #2 seed 89-44. That's right, they doubled the score. No buzzer beaters needed.

The Colonial's been tight all year, but VCU had dreams of an at-large bid, hanging around at a pretty good #57 in the RPI. Well, they won't need it. The Rams breezed through the tournament until the finla four minutes of last night's game with George Mason, when they inexplicably let the Patriots back in the game and needed a last-second shot to miss to secure the bid.SportsCenter made the game look close, but it wasn't. Had GMU won the game, it would have been a complete and total collapse by the Rams.

The Horizon League final is tonight, and while neither team is much of an at-large possibility, both squads could pull off a first-round upset if they make the field. So watch the game tonight. UW-Milwaukee almost pulled the upset last year, and they won the regular season crown. They should be everybody's favorite Cinderella. Oh, but that would ignore the Flames of UIC. Illinois-Chicago hasn't lost since a one-point defeat on January 21st. Either team will be a 12 or 13 seed and a real threat to ruin somebody's bracket. Hey, but what's the deal with Butler finally losing this thing?

Every bubble team breathed a little easier as Manhattan managed to not blow a 10-point lead in the final seconds due to poor free throw shooting. The Jaspers had a real shot at an at-large bid, but their automatic bid keeps teams like Georgia and Florida State on the bubble. Yay.

Everybody's favorite Cinderella, Valpo, will take on the coolest name in college sports, IUPUI (pronounced oowee-poowee). There are no losers here. They play tonight for a probable 15 tourney seed.

The Salukis' loss opened the door for a second team from the Valley to make the field. It shrunk the bubble by one team, but frankly, I think the Valley always deserves two bids, so I'm happy USI lost. Northern Iowa beat SMS in a double-ovetime thriller which prevented me from going to bed on time and getting a decent night's sleep. Buzzer beaters are cool, but 2 OT's are not. I like to sleep.

Austin Peay was 16-0 during the regular season, but Murray St had a much higher RPI. In their thrid matchup, Murray St finally figured Austin Peay out. It's a shame that the Governors came one game short of an undefeated season, but the Racers really were the better team. It's not that bad of screw job. Well, unless you root for Austin Peay.

East Tennessee State was a bubble team, but not anymore. They blitzed through the conference, secured an automatic bid, and let every bubble team breathe a little easier.

UL-Lafayette has very little shot at an at-large bid, so their tourney hopes rest on tonight's matchup with New Orleans. No matter what, the state of Louisiana gets a team in the Big Dance. They split the season series, but ULL would love to get to the tourney and pull an upset or two. They haven't won any real big games, but they've had plenty of near-misses against Arizona, Xavier, and Dayton.

Gonzaga, of course. They won the conference tourney and there's been some murmerings of a #1 seed, which just ain't gonna happen. Maybe a two, but a one? Ahead of Duke, Mississippi St, St. Joe's, and Stanford? Really?

posted by Poseur 3/09/2004 09:56:00 AM


The bubble

The bubble becomes clearer. Once again, remember the math: 65 bids, 31
of them automatic, 34 at-large. The highest RPI to miss is 33, the
lowest to make it is 74. So it's safe to say RPI's 30-80 make up the
bubble. If you're in the 30's, you are almost assured of a bid as long as
you don't have a glaring negative. In the 40s, you're odds are about
50-50. In the 50s, a couple of teams will nab an at-large, but you're in
deep trouble. 60 or lower, you need a miracle or a special case. Like

ACC (6/2)
IN: Duke, NC State, Wake, UNC, Georgia Tech, Maryland
BUBBLE: #48 Florida St, #54 Virginia

While it's still possible for the ACC to get 7 bids, it seems
increasingly unlikely. Maryland's got to feel good, getting to 7-9, with an RPI
of 29. FSU and UVa are not feeling quite as groovy, as both are 6-10
in the ACC, both would seem to need to pull off a major upset to merit
further attention. Neither one has an RPI which screams "let me in!"
and while they each have some quality wins, they both have fared poorly
against the RPI top 50 and struggled down the stretch. You need to play
your way in. It's not enough to have a tough schedule, you need to win
those games.

ATLANTIC 10 (1/4)
IN: St. Joe's
BUBBLE: #41 Dayton, #79 GW, #42 Richmond, #52 Xavier

As GW's hold on 2nd place slipped, so did their shot at a bid. They
have virtually no shot, but the committee occasionally does something
screwy, so I'll leave them on the bubble for kicks. Dayton's got 22 wins,
and now holds 2nd place in conference. They lack a marquee win, but
they'veplayed well on the road. They are probably in. Richmond's got an
okay RPI, some nice road wins, but they are 1-8 vs. the RPI top 50.
Xavier's got the lower RPI, but they have the same conference and road
record, but they are 4-4 vs. the top 50. And they finished 9-1. I'd
take Xavier before Richmond.

BIG EAST (6/2)
IN: Pitt, UConn, Providence, Syracuse, Seton Hall, Boston College
BUBBLE: #47 Notre Dame, #49 Rutgers

BC and the Hall have played their way off the bubble. 10-6 in
conference with loads of quality wins, they have great profiles. I don't see
Rutgers making it. With a 49 RPI, you need some positives to fill out
your profile. They are 7-9 in conference (bad), 2-9 on the road (really
bad), 2-8 vs. the RPI top 50 (realy bad), and they have three losses to
teams with RPIs over 100 (really, really bad). Notre Dame is good in
comparison, but their profile is mediocre: .500 on the road and in
conference, 6-4 down the stretch, and 4-8 vs, the top 50. They may get in,
they may not, but it won't be a travesty either way.

BIG TEN (2/1)
IN: Illinois, Wisconsin
BUBBLE: #37 Michigan St

The Spartans can feel somewhat comfortable. No, they don't have a
single quality win, but they won 12 conference games, finished up 8-2, and
have a pretty good RPI. There's no reason to exclue them from the

IN: Oklahoma St, Texas, Kansas
BUBBLE: #33 Texas Tech, #39 Missouri, #50 Oklahoma, #53 Colorado

Texas Tech looks pretty good. 5-6 vs. the top 50, 9-7 in conference,
those magical 20 wins. OK, they've slumped down the strech and can't
beat anybody on the road, but that's not a reason to keep the #33 team
home. Mizzou's got problems. The RPI is good, and they reached 9
conference wins. 15-12 overall, 1-8 vs. the top 50 just doesn't cut it
though. They need a nice run in the tourney at the very least. Colorado is
an interesting case. They are the leader in the conference standings
of the bubble teams at 10-6, but they have the lowest RPI. They've
finished strong, and they have a decent road record. They're in better
shape than, say, Oklahoma, who are 0-6 vs. the top 25.

IN: Memphis, Cincy, UAB, Louisville, Charlotte
BUBBLE: #40 DePaul

Strange days in C-USA. The three conference leaders at 12-4 are UAB,
Memphis, and Charlotte. They are all lower in the RPIs than Louisville
and Cincinnati. In theory, as the lowest RPI squad, UAB (#34) could
miss, but that is extemely unlikely. DePaul is also at 12-4, and they've
been blistering hot down the stretch, winning all but one of their last
10. They've got a god awful strength of schedule, but they are road
warriors and are one win away from #20. A sixth bid is more likely than

IN: Air Force
BUBBLE: #28 BYU, #43 Utah

Yes, Air Force has an RPI of 56, but they won the conference title
outright and that counts for a whole bunch. The committee loves taking
conference champs. BYU's probably already punched their ticket provided
they don't bomb out in the first round of the conference tourney. Utah
needs a miracle. They don't have any glaring negatives, but at a 42
RPI, you need some positives, which they also lack.

PAC-10 (1/2)
IN: Stanford
BUBBLE: #36 Arizona, #77 Washington

Arizona has spent the last month trying to lose their at-large bid.
They are 1-3 vs. the RPI top 50, which is terrible. 11-7 in conference
impresses nobody. They have three losses to teams with RPIs over 100.
I still think they are in, but they've got to be nervous. On the
flipside, Washington has come out of nowhere. TheRPI is still bad, but at
77, it's nearing acceptable limits. They are 2nd in the conference, are
3-3 vs. the top 50 including a win over Stanford, and they are 8-2 in
their last 10. The non-conference RPI of 134 is a killer, but they've
perfromed a yeoman's task justgetting on the bubble.

SEC (3/5)
IN: Mississippi St, Kentucky, Florida
BUBBLE: #44 South Carolina, #30 Vandy, #32 LSU, #51 Georgia, #23 Bama

As few as three, as many as eight. Serously. Let's just take them in
order of their RPI:

Overall Conf Road Lst10 vs 1-50
Bama 16-11 8-8 4-6 5-5 3-9
Vandy 19-8 8-8 4-5 5-5 4-5
LSU 18-9 8-8 5-6 5-5 5-5
USC 21-9 8-8 5-6 3-7 6-5
UGa 15-12 7-9 1-9 6-4 5-9

You sort through that and try and pick some teams. There are 4 teams
at .500 in confernece, on the road, and vs. the top 50. Wow.

IN: Gonzaga, Southern Illinois
BUBBLE: #46 UTEP/ #38 Nevada, #55 Western Michigan, #35 Utah St, #45

USI's loss is crippling to many bubble teams. It means the MVC gets
two bids. The WAC might get two, as UTEP and Nevada tied for the
conference title. The MAC usually will send its conference champ if they lose
the tourney, but WMU has the weakest profile for a MAC champ in several
years. Utah St can feel pretty confident regardless. The Metro
Atlantic has never had an at-large team, and Manhattan would rather get the
automatic bid, but they could be the first.

Let's do some math now. I've got nine multi-bid conferences, six
mid-majors which could send one or two teams, leaving me with 16 one-bid
conferences. The mid-majors will send as few as 6 (now 7 with USI's
loss), and as many as 12. In my major conferences, I've got 28 locks, 12
bubble teams leaning in, and 11 leaning out. So, adding the locks
together (28 in the majors, 7 mid-majors, 16 one-bids), we've got 51 teams
aleady in. That leaves 14 slots for my 12 majors leaning in, 11 leaning
out, and 5 remaining mid-major regular season champs. Root for the
conference favorites, boys.

posted by Poseur 3/08/2004 01:19:00 PM

The trouble with TO

File a greivance. TO should also get busy on firing his agent. The league could grant TO free agency. It's not likely, but they could do it, and its perfectly within everybody's rights to pursue that avenue. But refusing to show up for a physical to negate a trade? Are you kdding me? What sort of precedent is this? Does this mean every player ever shipped to Arizona should just refuse the physical so they don't have to play? That's ridiculous.

I feel bad for Owens. His truly incompetent agent cost him several million dollars, and now he's stuck in Baltimore in his old deal despite this team in Philly willing to lavish him with cash. All because he couldn't fill out paperwork on time. It's not TO's fault, but if he wants to place some blame, he knows his agent's phone number.

posted by Poseur 3/08/2004 01:16:00 PM

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