There is a whole lot going on out there today, so we’ll quickly touch on a bunch of them:
1. Roger Federer – Federer closed strong last night to make the semi-finals of the Australian Open. Win or lose, it is the 23rd consecutive Grand Slam he has made at least the semi’s in. Just think about how stunning that is for a second – there are only four Grand Slams a year, so for almost six years in a row Federer has finished at least in the top four of the hardest, deepest tournaments in the year. That’s on three different types of surfaces as well, and they are spread out over eight months. I dare you to name another current athlete that has been that consistently dominant for that long. There isn’t one.
2. Amare Stoudemire – The rumors continue to run rampant about a Stoudemire trade. The latest thing to emerge consistently recently has been that he could be headed to San Antonio – possibly in part of a package that includes Manu Ginobli. I like it – for both sides. The thought of Stoudemire and Duncan in the same front court is enough to make you drool just thinking about it, and Ginobli could get a fresh start, and a consistent chance to start, in a new place. Both of the teams involved aren’t really on the upswing right now, but they aren’t far away so a trade like this could make the difference. There could be chemistry issues in San Antonio, but if those could be worked through then this could be a great move. I like the potential of this deal better than either Chicago or Miami (though Rose to Stoudemire could be a very fun combo).
3. The province of Ontario, the Toronto Raptors, and the NBA are working together to loosen restrictions on gambling on basketball in the province. When the Raptors came to town the province was forced to remove the NBA from Pro-Line, their provincial sports parlay lottery. There is now an effort to get that changed, and it looks like it should happen in time for next year, and potentially for the playoffs this year. Though that’s not a particularly significant move by itself, the fact that the NBA is willing to discuss it and sees the potential of this situation is a very positive step, and hopefully one that has far-ranging implications.
4. Kentucky – That was a rough loss yesterday by the Wildcats, but I’m still not buying that they are automatically going to fall out of the number one ranking. They still have the fewest losses in the country – now they are just tied for that distinction. They lost a road conference game – one in which the conference’s highest scorer had a big day. Ideally, they would have won the game, but unless Kansas or Texas has a particularly good weekend I don’t believe that the loss should be damning.
5. Xavier Nady – The Cubs took a bit of a gamble by signing Nady to a one year deal for just over $3 million. I like it. A lot. Nady missed almost all of last year because of Tommy John surgery. It was his second such surgery, but he had his best year of his career after coming back from the first surgery, so this one by no means indicates that his career is doomed. At his best Nady is a very nice player – a serious bargain at the price. At the worst they only have him for one year. This could be a deal that people are writing about in a very positive way in September.
6. Andre Dawson – Dawson won’t stop whining about it to anyone will listen, but hopefully he will realize sooner or later that the only real decision that the Hall of Fame could have made was for him to wear an Expos cap when he is inducted. It was the right choice. He was just as good with Montreal as he was with Chicago. He might identify himself more with the Cubs, but Chicago has far more representation in the Hall than Montreal has, and they will still get more while Montreal never will. Montreal was a good baseball city that got totally screwed by MLB, so this is a fitting tribute to the team and the city, and it’s quite likely the last one that the team will get. Dawson should be proud to represent that instead of just acting like a big baby.
7. Tiger Woods – Surprising news out of Britain. William Hill, the massive British bookmaker, has reduced the odds that Woods will play in the Masters from 4-6 to 1-4. Those are pretty overwhelming odds, so it’s pretty clear that people are all but certain based on their bets that he will return in April. Of the first 224 bets that they had taken, 217 were on him playing. I’m really surprised. Given that he’s not even practicing right now because he is in Mississippi I would be very surprised if he were to show up. In fact, I would have guessed that the odds of him playing at Augusta would have been closer to 4-1 than 1-4.