Saturday, November 16, 2002

As the sports world turns



By BOB MATTHEWS
Rochester (N.Y.) Democrat and Chronicle

Many of baseball's 158 free agents probably have played their final games in the majors, but I'd take my chances with the following 25-man All-Star free-agent roster in any pennant race:

Starting lineup - OF Steve Finley, 2B Jeff Kent, DH Frank Thomas, 1B Jim Thome, 3B Edgardo Alfonzo, OF Cliff Floyd, SS Jose Hernandez, OF Reggie Sanders, C Ivan Rodriguez.

Bench - Ray Durham, John Olerud, David Bell, Ruben Sierra, Sandy Alomar Jr.

Starting rotation - Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Paul Byrd, Jamie Moyer, Woody Williams.

Bullpen - Ugueth Urbina, Ramiro Mendoza, Roberto Hernandez, Mike Stanton, Mike Remlinger, Dave Veres.

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Is five-time Most Valuable Player Barry Bonds destined to suffer the same cruel fate as Ty Cobb?

Sixty years ago - in 1942 - The Sporting News polled 102 former players and managers to determine "the all-time best baseball player."

Cobb was the landslide choice with 60 votes. Runner-up Honus Wagner received only 17.

Cobb, who spent most of his 24-years in the majors as center fielder for the Detroit Tigers, had a record .367 career batting average. He won 12 American League batting titles, eight slugging titles and six stolen base titles.

When he retired after the 1928 season, he was the all-time leader in hits, (4,191), runs (2,244) and stolen bases (892). In 1936, when the pioneer Hall of Fame was selected, Cobb received the most votes.

So why, when current fans are asked to name the all-time best center fielder, is Cobb routinely bypassed in favor of Willie Mays, Joe DiMaggio or Mickey Mantle?

Partly because of "out of sight, out of mind." Cobb played a long time ago. But a bigger reason could be his abrasive personality. The more modern fans read and hear about Cobb the man, the more turned off they are by Cobb the player.

By most accounts, Cobb was an ornery, nasty fellow who had few friends on his own team and no friends on opposing teams (which wouldn't have bothered him at all). He was a self-centered braggart who usually backed up what he said.

Bonds has a similar reputation and is aloof to boot. I don't believe his image will improve through the years.

In terms of overall talent, strong arguments could be made that baseball's mythical all-time starting nine should include Cobb in center field and Bonds in left field. Cobb already has been shortchanged and Bonds probably will be, too.

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Good luck to new San Francisco Giants manager Felipe Alou. He's going to need it. Dusty Baker is a tough act to follow and the Giants figure to have a difficult time scoring runs minus departing free agent Jeff Kent. Bonds might be walked 250 times in 2003.

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This past summer, Buffalo fans flocked to Canton, Ohio, for the induction of former Bills quarterback Jim Kelly into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It could be time for New York Giants fans to celebrate next summer.

Kelly's career stats are only slightly better than those of former Giants QB Phil Simms, and Simms' brilliant winning performance in Super Bowl XXI should more than negate Kelly's four losing trips to the Super Bowl.

Former Bills coach Marv Levy already has been elected to Canton, opening the door wider for former Giants coach Bill Parcells. Former Giants linebacker Harry Carson also has a shot to be elected this time around.

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All-time NFL rusher Emmitt Smith wants to play at least one more season but the Dallas Cowboys apparently don't plan to bring him back. One team that should consider adding Smith is Cleveland. The Browns could use his veteran leadership and a healthy Smith at age 34 might be an upgrade over current running backs Jamel White and William Green.

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After University of Massachusetts soccer player Stephanie Santos died in a one-car accident last June, UMass coach Jim Rudy planned to organize a fund-raiser game to collect money for her funeral expenses. The mighty NCAA stepped in and declared it would be a violation of rules if UMass players participated.

I'm a big fan of the NCAA. College sports would be a much bigger mess without it. But I also believe the NCAA should add another committee - a Committee of Common Sense. This group would rule on specific situations and act reasonably instead of strictly adhering to the rules and regulations.

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The Great Wall of China makes some lists for the Seven Wonders of the World, and from what I've seen of 7-foot-5 Chinese rookie center Yao Ming of the Houston Rockets, if he ever becomes an NBA all-star, it would be in the running for the Eighth Wonder of the World.

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Who is the more amazing 40-year-old athlete, Jerry Rice (Oakland Raiders) or John Stockton (Utah Jazz)? Guys their age aren't supposed to be wide receivers or point guards.

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Tim Duncan (San Antonio) and Jason Kidd (New Jersey), 1-2 in last season's NBA MVP balloting, will be free agents after this season and have dropped hints that they'd enjoy playing on the same team. They'd give Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant competition for the best two-player punch in the NBA.




BENGALS
Healthy Couch shows he can shoulder Browns' offensive load
Rookie Dorsch could get his kicks Sunday

AROUND THE NFL
Third-down woes worry Pittsburgh
Excitable Gramatica draws Sauerbrun's ire

UC BEARCATS
Reynolds man on the run

COLLEGE FOOTBALL
Marshall won't change security
Tressel flashes lengthy resume
Mount Saint Joseph vs. Thomas More
After first loss, Sooners set sights on smaller goals
Gators again contenders after sticking with Zook
Today's Top 25 games

COLLEGE BASKETBALL
No. 4 Texas 77, No. 16 Georgia 71
No. 18 Marquette 73, Villanova 61
Louisville, Western Kentucky sign hoopsters
After raising school's profile, Knight readies for new season
Irish aiming for third straight tourney berth
Coach K injures hip flexor muscle

NBA
Mavericks remain unbeaten
Yao feeling pressure

SOCCER
UC, Miami advance in NCAA soccer

HOCKEY
Mogilny burst extends Sabres streak
Gerber's 39 saves leads Ducks

OHIO PREP FOOTBALL PLAYOFFS
Kings' unbeaten run washed away by C-J
Balance meets option in Div. I
Alter 42, Reading 10
High school football scores

KENTUCKY PREP FOOTBALL PLAYOFFS
Beechwood 28, Holy Cross 6
Highlands 52, Scott 0
Boone Co. 40, Louisville Eastern 39
LexCath 29, CovCath 27
Trinity 31, Dixie Heights 16
Roncalli 17, East Central 10 (OT)
Mason Co. 49, Lloyd 21
Newport Central Catholic 47, Raceland 7

BASEBALL
Mets make serious pitch to Glavine
Cubs hire Baker as manager
Seattle picks former catcher to manage
All-Stars win in Japan

NATIONAL SPORTS SPOTLITE
As the sports world turns
Jesse Jackson plans protest if Augusta doesn't admit a woman
Hewitt reaches Masters Cup semis
Oracle, Alinghi into America's Cup semis
Stewart outqualifies Martin in NASCAR season finale