Saturday, May 3, 2003

As the sports world turns...


Mets, Blazers are big-budget flops

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

As The Sports World Turns: What do general managers Steve Phillips of the New York Mets and Bob Whitsitt of the Portland Trail Blazers have in common?

Despite the luxury of having near-unlimited financial resources at their disposal, they managed to assemble the most overpaid and underachieving rosters in their sports.

The Mets are a $117 million mess on the field. The Trail Blazers are a $105 million mess on the court and too frequently in court. Both teams are difficult to watch and impossible for most fans to root for.

Phillips overspent on fading players who had their best seasons with other teams. His collection of big names often performs without passion and taking the field appears to be an exercise to pass time between collecting paychecks. Manager Art Howe must regret leaving the relatively low paid but vastly more successful and entertaining Oakland A's.

Whitsitt ignored team chemistry in his trades, free-agent signings and draft picks and wound up with a roster including too many seemingly ungrateful and clueless social misfits. Coach Maurice Cheeks deserves so much better.

It is time for makeovers for the Mets and Trail Blazers and Phillips and Whitsitt should be among the first to go.

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It was bad enough that the players have decided to go along with a two-year trial to have the Major League Baseball All-Star Game determine the home-field advantage in the World Series, but adding two players per team and keeping the requirement that every team be represented (even the Detroit Tigers) is ridiculous.

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1937 was the only year there were Triple Crown winners in baseball and horse racing. Joe Medwick and War Admiral probably are in no danger of losing that distinction this year.

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The New York Yankees are so good that they might win 100 games if manager Joe Torre drew his batting order out of his cap for every game, but when does it become foolish to waste a hitter with Alfonso Soriano's power in the leadoff spot?

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Rickey Henderson of the Newark Bears in the independent Atlantic League isn't the only former star toiling in the minors this season. Two sluggers with 50-HR seasons in the majors are playing in the Triple A Pacific Coast League. Brady Anderson (50 HRS with the 1996 Baltimore Orioles) is a Portland Beaver and Greg Vaughn (50 HRs with the 1998 San Diego Padres) is a Colorado Springs SkySox.

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The Las Vegas over-under numbers on Major League Baseball victories entering the 2003 season had Detroit and Kansas City each at 64.5. So far, the Tigers are looking very bad and the Royals are looking very good.

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NHL teams play the regular season to determine home-ice advantage in the Stanley Cup playoffs, and in the first 62 playoff games this season (through Thursday), home teams were 31-31. There were 32 one-goal games and 15 overtime games.

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Annika Sorenstam, scheduled to play in the PGA Tour's Colonial tournament May 22-25, ranks No. 1 in driving distance this year. Her 280.4-yard average would rank 129th on the PGA Tour. John Daly leads the men with an average drive of 310.4 yards. Annika's drives usually go straighter.

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This year's British Open will be played at Royal St. George's on July 17-20. Like Augusta National, St. George's has no female members. Unlike the Masters, the British Open expects no protests.

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No NFL team had a tougher draft to grade than Buffalo. If first-round Willis McGahee is one of the league's top two or three running backs within two seasons, the Bills would deserve an "A". If McGahee's rebuilt knee never comes around, the Bills would deserve a "D".

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Hulk Hogan isn't ready to quit. He is expected to prolong his World Wrestling Entertainment career by donning a mask and becoming Mr. America.




BENGALS
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Arrest made in Weathersby shooting
Palmer's first day: 'I'm thinking we're awesome'

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Swarm put out Fire
Manning-Vanderjagt: 'Dead issue'
Alabama's Price awaits decision on job status

REDS
Reds 5, Giants 1
Larkin to return some other day
Demotion raises Larson's offense
Reds notebook: Reitsma to miss next start
Buffalo 5, Louisville 3

MORE BASEBALL
NL: Smoltz stumbles, Braves bounce back
AL: Cameron comes up big again in Chicago
Notes from Friday's Games
In minors, promotion is name of the game
World Series home-field plan won't affect Baker
Radke, Bierbrodt draw suspensions

KENTUCKY DERBY
Derby packed with drama
Frankel has inside track on Hollywood ending
Horse boasts history of a different tune
Kentucky Oaks: Tears fall freely for Zito
Empire Maker is the complete package
Racing finds niche in least likely place

FLYING PIG
Familiar faces are missing from Pig

PREP SPORTS
8th-grade phenom packs 'em in at NCH
St. Dominic girls show all the rest how to take it to the hoop
Friday's Results
Today's Games

BASKETBALL
Eustachy violated NCAA's extra-benefits rule
Eustachy saga becoming PR chess match
Coaches split on possible Eustachy firing
Detroit survives to force Game 7
Duncan wins second straight MVP
Stockton says he'll retire

HOCKEY
Upstart Mighty Ducks looking to clinch series
ECHL: Cyclones even series

AUTO RACING
Crash leaves Nadeau in critical condition
NASCAR fans, drivers love Richmond 400

GOLF
Verplank vaults to lead after 63
Nicklaus' family around for weekend

A LOOK AT SPORTS
As the sports world turns...

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