Thursday, April 30, 2009

Selig should suspend A-Rod just for effect

Baseball was just about to leap into May with momentum after an amazing April when, once again, the sport has to stop and deal with the latest news of steroid use. And, once again, it’s all about Alex Rodriguez lieing again. A soon-to-be-released book by Sport Illustrated’s Selena Roberts reveals that A-Rod used steroids/performance-enhancing drugs in high school and while with the New York Yankees, disputing A-Rod’s admission that he only dabbled in them while he was playing for the Texas Rangers.

Now I don’t mind the book exposing A-Rod has a fraud and a cheater and a liar. That’s pretty much been established. I’m OK with that.

What bothers me  -- again – is that Bud Selig stands by and says and does absolutely nothing. His strategy seems to be to continue to sweep all these steroid allegations under the rug until people ignore it. Well, the baseball commissioner has so much dirt now piled under the rug that it’s taken on the shape of a volcano.

Selig is being paid an extravagant salary and I can’t believe there is anyone outside of baseball’s owners who believe he earns it. Just once I wish Bud would stomp his feet and point his finger and howl at the moon and do something sensational to get people’s attention and really, seriously deal with these steroid users.

Here’s a suggestion. Suspend A-Rod. Right now. OK, the Players Association wouldn’t allow it and it wouldn’t hold up in a court of law but I wouldn’t mind Selig doing some grandstanding to get a point across. At least he could give appearance that he’s as mad as hell and he’s not going to take it anymore. I’m OK with that.

Instead, we’ll be lucky to have Selig speak on the matter. His sport keeps getting interrupted by allegations of steroid abuse and all he does is calmly address them in his mild-mannered way like it’s just another tumbleweed blowing across Kansas.

Well, actions speak louder than words. Do something, Mr. Commissioner. Blow up, Bud. Blow up!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Big man on little campus takes giant step

There is a new day dawning at Dominican University of California in San Rafael. It is the Year of the Penguin.

Today, 43-year-old Terry Tumey was introduced as the new athletic director at Dominican in front of a standing room only crowd in the lobby of the Conlan Center. Former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, a Dominican trustee, introduced Tumey, a former three-time All Pac-10 noseguard from UCLA who is now in charge of quarterbacking Dominican’s future in the athletic arena.

Tumey, a defensive coach at UCLA and with the Denver Broncos, is going on the offensive. He must.

Here’s the deal: Tumey is the point guard, so to speak, to take Dominican to the next level. The school -- a small, sleepy, private institution renown for its academics nestled in the hills overlooking San Rafael – is going public as it transitions this fall from NAIA to NCAA Division II competition in the Pac West Conference. It has recruited a giant man with a bright smile and big-time athletic pedigree (UCLA, Broncos, San Francisco 49ers) to lead the charge.

Why? Dominican needs a go-getter and Tumey has longed dream of becoming an athletic director. It’s a perfect match. Tumey’s duties as director of football administration with the 49ers had diminished since the man who hired him, Terry Donahue, left the organization. This was the ideal time for Tumey to jump and he has inherited a monumental challenge in this economy to bring fame and fortune to the Penguins.

Tumey is smart and charming. He is bold and daring. He is the right man for the job. He has stepped up to the plate and now it is time for people – coaches, athletes, alumni, donors – to follow suit. Dominican already has its “Field of Dreams” project. Tumey is its voice and vision.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

No need to blow up the Sharks after playoff upset

It’s been 24 hours since the San Jose Sharks were eliminated in the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs and the reaction has been outrageous.

Some people have suggested general manager Doug Wilson, the man who assembled the roster, should be fired. Others think goalie Evgeni Nabokov should be traded. And I heard one expert sound the alarm and announce that the Sharks may be prepared to trade team stars Joe Thornton or Patrick Marleau. Or both! For who? For what?

Wait a minute. This Sharks team in the regular season compiled franchise records for wins (53) and points (117) and won its first ever President’s Trophy and now, after losing four of six games to a pretty damn good No. 8 seed in the playoffs, you want to get rid of its best players?!

Let’s put down the torches and pitch forks for a minute and think this out.

OK, Wilson didn’t score well with some of his late season moves (Claude Lemieux? Travis Moen?) but he should not be made the scapegoat for the Sharks’ early playoff exit. That may not save his job, however, if Sharks investors aren’t pleased if fan discontent evolves into decreased ticket sales. For now, the general manager may need to skate on thin ice. That’s not bad.

As for the team’s stars? There’s no point to blow up the roster when the Sharks were edged out of the playoffs. Anaheim goalie Jonas Hiller played better as the series wore on and Nabokov did not but back-up Brian Boucher isn’t ready to take over for Nabby.

Thornton and Marleau still struggled in the post season but they’ve been so valuable in the regular just to give up on them and ship them someplace else for the sake of feeling like you have to do SOMETHING. Yes,  the roster needs some tweaking because Jeremy Roenick and Lemieux and probably Rob Blake are gone. It needs a character guy more than anything else because the Sharks biggest problem may be lack of leadership in the dressing room.

So my suggestion – if you feel the urge to shake-up the Sharks – is relatively simple. It doesn’t mean adding a new player or two. It’s about changing just one letter – the `C’ on Marleau’s sweater. Put it up for grabs. Let all the players, even Marleau, earn the right to wear it and be team captain. 

To go forward next season, or much deeper into and the playoffs next season, the Sharks need one guy to step up and take charge. Just one. 

Monday, April 27, 2009

Madden's grade of NFL draft: `P' for Patience

John Madden was on KCBS Radio this morning and he was bemoaning the fact that NFL teams that drafted players over the weekend were on Monday being graded by media even though the college players the teams drafted have yet to play a single snap professionally. Madden said it’s best to wait “three years” before giving a grade.

With that in the mind, the winner of the 2006 NFL draft was the Houston Texans. They should get an A+ because they are the only NFL team to have three selections from the draft that ultimately have been selected to play in the Pro Bowl.  And remember how the Texans were hammered in the media for taking North Carolina State defensive end Mario Williams over USC Heisman Trophy-winning running back Reggie Bush with the first pick overall? Williams has played in a Pro Bowl. Bush, who was taken second overall by the New Orleans Saints, has yet to go.

The Tennessee Titans selected Texas quarterback Vince Young with the third overall pick and, though he has played in the Pro Bowl, he is now on the bench. The Titans, however, get a B+ grade because in the seventh round with the 215th pick overall, they drafted Cortland Finnegan, a defensive back out of Samford and he has played in as many Pro Bowls as Vince Young.

The 49ers didn’t do too badly. Out of the 2006 draft, they got four starting players (Vernon Davis, Manny Lawson, Michael Robinson and Parys Haralson) and two back-ups currently listed on their depth chart. Give them a solid B.

As for the Raiders? Like this year they had the seventh pick overall in 2006 and took Texas safety Michael Huff. Though Huff is a starter, that pick hasn’t panned out the way the Raiders had hoped because Huff hasn’t been the impact player the Raiders envisioned. The Raiders, however, made a better selection in the second round with UTEP linebacker Thomas Howard, who has a better chance of playing in the Pro Bowl than Huff. He’s the only other starter the Raiders harvested from that draft. Three of the seven players the Raiders drafted in 2006 are no longer on their roster. Grade C-.

So, before we bury Darrius Heyward-Bey as a dumb move by the Raiders and anoint Michael Crabtree as a lucky pick by the 49ers, let’s give them three years instead of three days or three hours to see if they make the grade.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Wilson's blown save stalls Giants' momentum

I was just about to jump on the San Francisco Giants’ bandwagon – or least eye it as if it was a taxi cab a block away – when Brian Wilson blew a save, Matt Cain’s masterpiece, a sweep in Arizona and the team’s bid to climb over .500 all in one fell swoop.

So, instead of coming home to AT&T Park to play the first-place Dodgers with some momentum, the Giants have to answer the same old question: Are they ever going to score enough runs to win enough games? Basically, their pitching has to be practically perfect for them to prevail.

It was on Sunday as Cain and two relievers handed Wilson a 3-run lead in the ninth inning. Wilson instead surrendered a game-tying home run to the .190-hitting Justin Upton and it was thereafter their destiny to lose in extra innings, the most frustrating loss of the year. A feel-good three-game sweep over the Diamondbacks on the road was wiped out, replaced by the prospect of Barry Zito facing the Dodgers on Monday night.

Cancel that cab ride. I’ll wait.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Raiders picked .... whose wine, what wine, where the hell did I die

Darrius Heyward-Bey????!!!! Speed burns brain cells.

Kiper versus McShay in Wrestlemania? Why not?

Our national nightmare is almost over.

We won’t have to watch a split-screen shot of Mel Kiper, Jr. and Todd McShay on ESPN day after day and night after night for much longer. Maybe until Monday or when ESPN starts analyzing the 2010 NFL draft next month.

I don’t know about you but I’m burned out on the NFL draft and it’s hasn’t even started. I turned on the TV this morning to watch it and there’s actor Matthew McConaughey talking about it. Wait a minute? The NFL draft is a man’s man’s draft. What the hell is McConaughey, a girl’s man, doing on my TV screen. He’s Mr. Chick Flick. And he’s got a shirt on!!!!

Anyway, McConaughey suddenly appears on the pre-draft draft show and the clock is showing three plus hours before the actual draft begins whereas the Detroit Lions will announce that Georgia quarterback Matthew (Don’t Call McConaughey) Stafford is the No. 1 choice in the 2009 NFL draft then we wait another 10 minutes before the No. 2 pick of the 2009 NFL draft is announced and so on and so on and so on.

OK, I’m getting off track. Back to Kiper and McShay. ESPN has faceplanted its two top NFL draft analysts on our cable TV screens side by side more than “before” and “after” photos of dieters and fitness freaks on infomercials. My goodness, Kiper and McShay have been pictured together more than Brad and Angelina. They’ve argued more on ESPN than Bill O’Reilly and liberals on Fox. I’m just plain sick of them.

Besides, Kiper, when he worked alone for years perusing the NFL draft for ESPN, appeared to be a nice guy who has having a ton of fun. Now, whenever he stands or sits  next to McShay, it appears Kiper has had a ton of prune juice. Body language suggests that Kiper is about as eager to engage McShay as a father is a dirty diaper and McShay, hyped on Red Bull or Mountain Dew or something, comes across the screen as smug as a male stripper at a bachelorette party.

All I really care about is whom the Raiders and 49ers will draft on Saturday and Kiper and McShay, over the past, what, eight months or so have probably changed their minds as often as women. Or men think women do.

So let’s make this simple: Raiders take Jeremy Maclin, 49ers take Michael Crabtree and we turn off Kiper and McShay. Deal?

I’m off the clock.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Sharks losing to Ducks has been done before

It amazes me that so many sports fans in the Bay Area are amazed that the San Jose Sharks, a No. 1 seed, are on the verge of losing to the Anaheim Ducks, a No. 8, in the first round of the playoffs. It’s so upsetting.

Hello!? Ring a bell? Wasn’t it just two years ago that a No. 1 seed with the best record in the league got knocked off by a No. 8 seed in the first round that, like the Ducks, had to finish strong just to make the playoffs? Need another hint? WE BELIEVE.

Now you remember. Your Golden State Warriors had to go 8-1 in April to sneak into the playoffs, clinching a berth in the last regular season game at Portland that allowed them to meet a 67-win Dallas Mavericks’ squad in the Western Conference quarterfinals.

It was the first time in 13 years the Warriors made the playoffs and the first time a No. 8 seed had beaten a No. 1 seed in a best-of-seven series in NBA history.

So why are we so shocked that the Sharks are doing a Nowitzki? The Ducks came into the series a hotter team than the Sharks and they’re a bad match-up for San Jose, just as the Warriors were for the Mavericks two years ago. Anaheim’s veteran players are outplaying the Sharks’ veteran players. The Ducks’ young players have raised their level of performance and intensity and San Jose’s have not.  Anaheim’s goalie has been just as good as San Jose’s.

And yet we are stunned that such an upset could occur!? Hey, shit happens.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A Crabtree/Maclin Reunion in Bay Area?

I’m no expert when it comes to the NFL draft, which puts me among the majority of so-called experts who serve us Mock NFL drafts like tuna casserole these days. My guess is as good as theirs.

I can’t tell you whom the Raiders and the 49ers should pick in the first round on Saturday so I’m not going to try.

However, I can tell you whom I’d like for the Raiders and 49ers to pick and a lot of it depends on what teams pick whom above them.

It’s possible that the Raiders, selecting seventh overall, may have a choice between wide receivers Michael Crabtree of Texas Tech or Jeremy Maclin of Missouri. Now we all know that Al Davis loves speed more than the Andretti family. But Davis also loves athletes and it appears that, though Maclin is faster and more explosive, Crabtree is a better athlete and more polished as a route runner/pass catcher. I’d like for the Raiders to draft Crabtree before Maclin because speed is overrated. Just ask Jerry Rice.

Then again, Al Davis is known for doing something extraordinary and unorthodox on draft day. Thus, will he tempted to draft Susan Boyle? Has she won a Heisman Trophy or something?

The 49ers may have a shot at drafting either Crabtree or Maclin, too, and I’d like it if they would because I can’t believe Issac Bruce is still playing and appears to be the team’s only deep threat. He’s a Hall of Fame-bound player but isn’t he now as old as some of the gum stuck beneath seats at Candlestick Park?

There is also a chance that Alabama offensive tackle Andre Smith may be available for the 49ers at No. 10. At the start of this year, Smith was considered the No. 1 pick overall. He could be the next Orlando Pace. Or the next Jonas Jennings.

But, what if the Raiders and 49ers draft Crabtree and Maclin or vice versa? Imagine that. Every week for years to come Raiders and 49ers fans would analyze and argue over who had the better draft and made the wiser choice. A Crabtree/Maclin Tale of the Tape debate would rage in the Bay Area. It would be a wonderful and intoxicating sideshow if both teams continue to suck.

I like that.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Frig is still stocked with memories

The first thing I saw this morning when I logged onto Yahoo! Sports was sad news that the Frig was on the blink.

According to the Associated Press, former Chicago Bears’ defensive lineman William “The Refrigerator” Perry had been hospitalized in South Carolina in serious condition. He has an immune disorder called Guillian-Barre syndrome.

What’s amazing to me is the Frig hasn’t been forgotten. It’s been almost 25 years since he burst onto the scene as a football phenom. He was a defensive tackle by trade but Bears coach Mike Ditka turned him into running threat on goal-line situations. Five times Perry carried the ball during the Bears’ 1985 season, none for more than two yards, yet the Frig became the world’s most popular fat man this side of the Pillsbury Doughboy. He starred in the Bears’ infamous “Super Bowl Shuffle.”  You could say it was the inspiration for “Dancing With The Stars.” It was that much of an international sensation.

I had the fun and privilege of covering the Frig that season when I was sports columnist at the Rockford (Ill.) Register Star. My favorite Frig story was in New Orleans at the Super Bowl. The Bears’ players’ wives and significant others were staying in the same hotel as some media. One night, I was riding down to the lobby in a packed elevator when it stopped at a floor. The doors opened and the Frig appeared, ready to step on.

Talk about feeling like sardines preparing for a whale to invade. Fortunately, the Frig backed off and decided to wait for the next elevator. My luck.

Almost 25 years later, the Frig is still a prominent figure in sports, and it has little to do with his weight, which was reported to be 382 pounds at one time. He could have been heavier.

The fact is the Frig had the same impact on football in 1985 that the late Mark “The Bird” Fidrych had in 1976. They were one-hit wonders, colorful characters that transcended their respective sports.

I’m just glad they are not forgotten.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

NHL playoffs better than NBA playoffs

Why the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs are better than the NBA playoffs this year …
1) The Stanley Cup playoffs are wildly unpredictable in every round. The NBA playoffs, ho hum, are just waiting for the Lakers to meet the Cavaliers.
2) The Stanley Cup playoffs have fans that wear their team colors and uniforms to games. The NBA playoffs have fans dressed to the nines.
3) The Stanley Cup playoffs have James Hetfield of Metalica at rinkside. The NBA playoffs have assorted rap stars and Jack Nicholson at courtside.
4) The Stanley Cup playoffs have players who grow real beards. The NBA playoffs have Pau Gasol.
5) The Stanley Cup playoffs’ two best players paid their dues in juniors worlds apart. The NBA playoffs’ two best players are from neighboring states who didn’t go to college.
6) The Stanley Cup playoffs don’t have any music playing when the puck is moving during the game. The NBA playoffs have “defense” chants ad nauseam.
7) The Stanley Cup playoffs can have two national anthems in a game. The NBA playoffs only have one.
8) The Stanley Cup playoffs have goalies who “stand on their head.” The NBA playoffs have multi-millionaires who sit on the bench.
9)  The Stanley Cup playoffs’ biggest controversy thus far involved Alexander “The Great” Ovechkin. The NBA playoffs’ biggest controversy thus far involved Erick  “Not So Great” Dampier.
10)              The Stanley Cup playoffs end with players shaking hands. The NBA playoffs end with players changing teams.

Monday, April 20, 2009

No more excuses for Sharks

The theme of the head coach and players coming out of the San Jose Sharks dressing room on Sunday night following a second consecutive home playoff loss to the eighth-seeded Anaheim Ducks was:

1)   We outshot them.

2)   We outplayed them.

3)   We outeverythinged them except outscored them.


Quit it. The top-seeded Sharks are outexcusing them. They’re down two games to none in the series going to Anaheim and, to hear them, the Sharks are terribly down on their luck. They’ve hit a crossbar and three posts in two games. They’re getting shots on the power play but, darn it, they just can’t seem to put the puck in the net. They’re playing as hard as they can!

Hogwash. These are the Stanley Cup playoffs. Get used to it. This so far has been a series of skill versus will and will is winning. The Ducks have rarely had any lapses, they’re making fewer mistakes and they’re taking advantage of the Sharks whenever they do. Yet the Sharks make Anaheim goalie Jonas Hiller sound like the second coming of Ken Dryden.

Enough already. The pesky Ducks are playing each shift like they’re the Hansen Brothers. Except Anaheim has the Niedermayer Brothers – Rob, Scott and Douglas C. (better known to Sharks fans as Chris Pronger).  As much as the Sharks and their fans loathed Pronger, I saw the 34-year-old, 6-foot-6, 220-pound defenseman drop to the ice to block a shot by the Sharks’ Joe Pavelski that I thought was for sure going to give San Jose a 2-1 lead in Sunday night’s game.

That’s playing to win. The Sharks are playing not to lose. Big difference.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Last Monday, the Golden State Warriors got blown out by 29 points on Fan Appreciation Night. On Wednesday, the Oakland A’s nearly got no-hit by a 42-year-old knuckleball pitcher. On Thursday, the top-seeded San Jose Sharks got shut out at home in their first playoff game by the No. 8 seed. On Saturday, the San Francisco Giants also got shut out at home.
Who would have imagined they’d collectively have a worse week than Somali pirates?
The way things are going it’s a good thing the San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Raiders have to wait until the coming week to pick in the NFL draft. They might not have been on the ball when they were on the clock.
Oh, brother. What in criminy’s sake is wrong with the San Francisco Bay Area professional sports scene? Is it time to jump on the San Jose Earthquakes’ soccer bandwagon? After all they’ve scored more goals on Saturdays in regular-season games this month than the Giants have scored runs.
The sports world in the Bay Area used to be abuzz with amazing accomplishments. We had championship teams coming out the wazoo in one of the greatest, most desirable places to live on earth except when the ground shook. We were the envy of the sports nation.
Now we can’t win and we can’t get anyone to come here to help us win. I mean, when was the last-time a big-time, big-name free agent in their prime has chosen to work here? Barry Bonds in 1993? Deion Sanders in 1994? Yahoo! in 1995?
We have fallen on hard times and we can’t get up.
In the 80s, the 49ers won four Super Bowls and began a stretch of 17 consecutive non-strike seasons when they won at least 10 games, making the playoffs 16 times. They had Joe Montana and Steve Young and Jerry Rice and Ronnie Lott and Bill Walsh and the West Coast Offense.
Now they have gone south and left us with the Yorks. The 49ers have failed to play in the postseason the past six years and fallen below the nation’s radar. The most attention the 49ers received last season was when then interim head coach Mike Singletary crescent mooned his players. He dropped his pants at halftime and sent his prized tight end Vernon Davis to locker room with his tail between his legs in the second half.
The Raiders returned home to Oakland in 1993 and eventually won three successive AFC West titles to get back to the Super Bowl in 2000. Since then, they’ve had five different head coaches and six straight losing seasons and the only big splash they made last year was when Al Davis resurrected the overhead projector.
The A’s went to three consecutive World Series from 1988-90 then were in the playoffs five out of six seasons from 2000-2006. Since then, they’ve averaged 86 losses a year, finished a collective 42 _ games out of first place and the only true superstar on the team became Billy Beane, the general manager.
The Giants got to a World Series with Will Clark and to another one with Barry Bonds but, after making the playoffs four times in seven years through 2003, the Giants have averaged 88 losses a season and never finished higher than third in the division. The only excitement now comes every fifth day when Cy Young award winner Tim Lincecum starts.
Then there’s the Golden State Warriors. They ended a 13-year playoff drought in 2007 with a “We Believe” team that upset top-seeded Dallas, a 67-win team, in the opening round. The next year they won 48 games, but didn’t make the playoffs. The next year they lost 53 games and finished 36 games behind the Pacific Division-leading L.A. Lakers. We grieve.
The only hope for another team championship in the Bay Area comes from the sport of hockey, which, outside of San Jose, is embraced like the new state sales tax. The Sharks won the President’s Trophy this season with the best record in the NHL but, after losing Game 1 of their opening-round playoff series, San Jose has more hope now of luring the A’s than winning the Stanley Cup.
When will this slump end? What can we do to get out of this funk? Does anyone have any bright ideas to bring Bay Area pro sports teams back to prominence?
I’m as mad as hell and I can’t take this anymore.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Dave Albee: One last trip around the bases‏

Click Here for my last article for the Marin IJ.

Friday, April 17, 2009

"Right Off The Bat" Interview w/Marty Lurie - 4.13.09

Click Here for audio stream of my interview with Marty Lurie on April 13, 2009

Thursday, April 16, 2009