I can’t wait to see Tim Wakefield pitch in the all-star game. He’s a pleasure to watch, and he deserves to be there for the first time. There isn’t a high profile knuckleballer in the NL right now, so it could be fun to see some of these big guys facing a knuckleballer – perhaps for the first time ever. It’s the little stories like this that have to be relied upon to make the all-star game interesting, because as a whole it’s not a great event in my eyes.
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It was a pretty good day for a pair of friends today.
I had no doubt in my mind before today, but the argument has been made even more compelling – Roger Federer is unquestionably the greatest male tennis player of all time. If you didn’t see the match today then you really missed out. Andy Roddick, to his tremendous credit, played about as well as he could possibly have played. He was aggressive, accurate, and focused – three things that don’t always come in one package for the talented American. No matter what he did, though, Federer was there to match him. Roddick got close to a breakthrough a couple of times in the final marathon set, but whenever he pushed the Swiss star to the brink, Federer would fight his way out. Federer is so ridiculously creative – it’s almost as if he invents shots for particular situations, and as if he adapts his entire game to suit the needs of a particular situation. He wasn’t having an easy time handling Roddick’s blistering serve on Sunday, so he ratcheted his own serve up and, incredibly, almost doubled the number of aces Roddick had. It was a truly epic battle between two warriors, but you couldn’t shake the feeling from he very start that n matter what Roddick tried it wouldn’t quite be enough. Unbelievable.
I just came back from being out and out of touch with the news all day to hear about what happened to Steve McNair. Needless to say I was shocked and more than a little saddened by it all. I became a fan of McNair very early in his career and in strange circumstances. For some strange reason, a game between Grambling and Alcorn State was shown on TV in 1992 – an odd occurrence, though one slightly more common when Eddie Robinson was around. The game was a thrill ride shootout and I couldn’t help but watch it despite knowing nothing about either team. On the final play of the game, the hobbling sophomore QB forAlcorn State, who was coming back from a leg injury, made a heroic dash for the end zone to score the winning TD. That was McNair, and I was hooked. The guy was incredible.
In the first section of this two-part blog on new NFL coaches, I considered five teams’ chances of making the post-season with a new head coach at the helm. Those five, the Indianapolis Colts, New York Jets, Cleveland Browns, Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks, I concluded all had the opportunity to earn a shot at the Super Bowl. The final six, I believe, have either less of a chance or little to none of securing a post-season berth. Here they are.
There are 32 teams in the NFL and about 33% have new coaches! Head coaches tend to be tough guys to figure out—part disciplinarian, part guru, part psychologist and part military general—successful coaches can be contradictory enigmas. Although last season was all about the quarterback shift as rookie and vet signal callers changed the fates of various teams, this season is about massive shake ups is in the coaching ranks. Of course, it’s almost a cliché to say that an owner can’t fire an entire team so they simply fire the coach, creating a scapegoat. That being said, in this two-part blog I’ll take a look at each of the new coaches. First, I’ll start with the five who have the best shot at getting their team into the playoffs in their first at the helm season.
There’s a lot going on in the world today, so let’s touch on a bunch of it briefly:
Aroldis Chapman – This is the Cuban left handed pitching savant who defected from the Cuban national team while at a tournament in the Netherlands this week. The hype is huge on this guy – they are calling him the left-handed Stephen Strasburg. He seems to intend to come to the majors, and there will surely be a Dice-K-esque bidding war for his services. There are some strange elements to the story. First, he is being reported as being 21, yet when he pitched at the World Baseball Classic he was listed as 26. He also wasn’t particularly good against major league talent at the WBC – 5.68 ERA in almost seven innings. That’s obviously a small sample size and all, but it gives you reason to at least pause in the face of the hysteria.
Two guys in the news right now are making their lives much harder than it needs to be because of strange decisions. The first is Dany Heatley, the Ottawa Senators’ sniper. Heatley hasn’t got along well with new Ottawa coach Cory Clouston, and he pouted his way through the second half of the season. His frustration was enough for him to demand a trade after the season ended. That’s a tough situation for the Sens – Heatley is talented, but he doesn’t always play well with others, and he is very expensive. The Kings, Sharks and Rangers all expressed interest, and it seemed like New York was taking the lead when they cleared salary cap space by trading away Scott Gomez to Montreal. Another team came through in the end, though – Edmonton. The Oilers had a deal in place, and they looked like they would add a new sniper for their new coaching staff to play with. Just one problem, though – Heatley has a no-trade clause, and he wasn’t willing to waive it to go to Edmonton, a team that doesn’t have a great reputation among current players. There is another level of difficulty – Heatley was due a $4 million bonus last night at midnight, and Ottawa was hoping to get rid of him before they had to cough that up. Now they have to pay it, and salary cap rules don’t allow them to recoup it from another team in a deal. The Sens therefore have to ask a bigger price for Heatley than they already were. Needless to say, Heatley isn’t a popular character in Ottawa.
NBA free agency is underway, but it doesn’t get going nearly as aggressively as it does in the NHL. The free agency period starts at noon eastern time on July 1st, and money flies around like crazy. The 30 teams in the NHL have spent more than a billion dollars in the last three years combined on the first day alone, and this year was no slower. Here’s a look at the impact of the big deals today and those that came just before players became free agents: