Thursday, February 17, 2011

Ruminating on Pujols' contract, Ralph Wilson's QB desires and Boeheim's eruption

I remember asking Mickey Mantle about 20 years ago how much he’d be worth if he were in his baseball playing prime then, instead of the 1950s and ‘60s. And he joked that he would walk into George Steinbrenner’s office, shake the Yankee owner’s hand and say, ‘Hi partner.’

Well, it appears that Albert Pujols’ agent has proposed the same thing with the owners of the St. Louis Cardinals. Only, he isn’t joking.

Among the crazy things to come out of their stalled contract negotiations is word that Pujols has talked about part ownership in the ballclub. As the only player in baseball history to have started his career averaging 30 homers and 100 RBI a season 10 years in a row, Albert clearly is deserving of a big contract. And I thought the Cardinals were more than fair in offering a reported $200 mil over 8 years. But Pujols wants more money and more years on the deal, so I don’t blame the Cardinals for saying they’ve gone as far as they can go.

Sadly, this probably isn’t going to end well. If he does leave the best baseball town in America for the riches of the Yankees or Red Sox it will be yet another blow for the sport.
Sorry Bills fans, but Ralph Wilson is sticking to his guns about it taking several more years to turn around the mess that is your franchise.

"I've made a lot of mistakes with my team in the last 10 years,'' the Bills owner admitted to AOL Fanhouse columnist Thomas George in a recent interview."I think I'm rectifying that. We'll see. We almost won some games last year against teams that were certainly more talented than us. Buddy (Nix), the scouts, the coaches, they are working. I know it's not going to be an instant turnaround. I think it will take two or three years to have a playoff team -- and that's if we get a quarterback.''

That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement for current QB Ryan Fitzpatrick and it further fuels speculation the Bills might select Auburn quarterback Cam Newton with the draft's No. 3 pick:

"Well, he's very athletic,’’ Wilson said of Newton. “But it's the intangibles. We've had a number of quarterbacks that could throw the ball 100 yards and right into your stomach. But then they got into games and threw it 100 yards into the other team's stomach. There's time. We'll learn more about him.''

Hmmm. Ralph couldn’t have been talking about Rob Johnson, J.P. Losman and Trent Edwards could he?
I’m OK with the Bills drafting a QB at No. 3. But, whether it’s Newton or Blaine Gabbert or Joe Schmoe from Kokomo, they better be right or it will be longer than two or three years before they become a playoff team again. And GM Buddy Nix had better hit home runs with his other picks, too, because there are so many holes to plug on this team, particularly on defense.
Here’s a sports inflation note to chew on: Nolan Ryan became baseball’s first million-dollar-a-year player in 1979 with the Texas Rangers and Albert Belle became the first $10-million-a-season player with the Chicago White Sox in 1996.
As far as press conference meltdowns go, Jim Boeheim’s class-less public excoriation of two respected Syracuse Post-Standard reporters the other day ranks among his most volcanic.

But two more volatile ones come immediately to mind. There was the time at the Big East Conference tourney a few years ago when he dropped enough F-bombs to make even Tommy Lasorda blush while defending Gerry McNamara. And there was the Big East presser years earlier when he smashed a chair after losing a game against Georgetown in which he felt his team got hosed by the officials.

I guess if you are looking for something positive about this latest outburst, perhaps it showed that Jim’s still very passionate about coaching after 35 years on the job.
Couldn’t help but notice that while Pujols was jeopardizing his standing as the face of the Cardinals franchise, the most beloved Cardinal of them all – Stan “The Man” Musial – was being feted by the President of the United States.
You can forget about Donald Trump coming to the rescue of the Bernie Madof-ravaged Mets unless The Donald wants to sell all of his casinos. It would have been interesting, though, if he did gain ownership. Imagine the ego wars between him and the Steinbrenner boys as they jockeyed for the attention of the Big Apple tabloids.
Hard to believe that after all the hype showered upon Joba Chamberlain when he arrived in New York a few years ago that he soon could be pitching for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in the International League or in a mop-up role for another big-league team this summer.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Man, Jimmer would look mighty good in a Syracuse basketball uniform

As I watched the offensively challenged Syracuse basketball team struggle to put the ball through the hoop Wednesday night against Georgetown, my thoughts drifted to Jimmer Fredette.

The Brigham Young guard with the catchy name has electrified fans like a modern-day Pete Maravich without the floppy socks. Able to drill 3-pointers from another area code and befuddle defenders with an array of elusive drives and unorthodox in-close shots, Fredette leads the nation in scoring with 27.6 points per game.

And the reason I was thinking about him last night while watching SU convert just 4-of-16 attempts from outside the arc and score just one point in the final four minutes is that Jimmer could have been an Orange man.

In fact, he wanted to be an Orange man.

And he might have become one had Syracuse not already had a busload of talented guards coming in. Fredette was in the same recruiting class as Jonny Flynn, Scoop Jardine and Tiki Mayben. Flynn, of course, played two stellar seasons for the Cuse before bolting for the NBA, where he now collects a paycheck from the Minnesota Timberwolves. Jardine is a red-shirt junior point guard for the Orange. And Mayben, sadly, failed to qualify academically and has struggled with drug problems.

SU assistant Mike Hopkins said he was well aware of Fredette, who played his high school ball in Glens Falls, a scant 2 1-2 hours east of the Carrier Dome in the Capital District. Jimmer wound up becoming one of New York’s all-time leading high school scorers (more than 2,400 points) while guiding his team to the state championship game. Hopkins firmly believed that Jimmer could play at SU, but the Orange men already had tendered scholarship offers to three guards.

Hopkins was friends with BYU assistant Dave Rice and recommended the Cougars take a look at Fredette because the kid was a Mormon and had relatives in Utah. Rice did, and the rest is history.

Hopkins refers to the recruiting whiff as “the Fredette headache.” It calls to mind another big missed opportunity. Many years ago during his senior year of high school in Canada, future Basketball Hall of Famer Steve Nash sent a tape of his stellar games to Syracuse because he wanted to play for the Orange men. But Jim Boeheim and his staff never responded.

To be fair, Boeheim and Co. are among the nation’s top recruiters. There have been many more home runs than strikeouts through the years. Many more.

Still, imagine how good this dysfunctional SU offense would be with a scoring machine like Fredette in the lineup.

I can guarantee you this: They would not go six minutes without a basket like they did down the final stretch last night against Georgetown.

You may have heard that the Bills are going to unveil new uniforms for the 2011 season (if there is one.) That’s good news because I hate the ones they’ve been wearing since 2002. If I had my druthers they’d wear the retro uniforms from the mid-1960s with the red, grazing buffalo on the white helmets. Of course, any uniform would look a lot better if they had more star players wearing them.

Good news for Yankees fans as we get ready for pitchers and catchers to report: Pitching ace C.C. Sabathia, who had off-season knee surgery, reportedly has shed 30 pounds. He was listed as carrying 309 pounds on his 6-foot-7 frame last season. Which means he was big enough to play left tackle for the Jets or Giants when he wasn’t pitching for the Bronx Bombers.

Perhaps the dumbest take I’ve heard about Christina Aguilera’s botched anthem is that she is unpatriotic. Come on, people, she screwed up the lyrics. It happens to a lot of talented singers and it has nothing to do with the singer’s patriotism. It has to do with being human and making a mistake. My goodness.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Opining on Aaron Rodgers, botched anthems and Syracuse hoops

After completing one of the greatest post-season runs in NFL history and capturing his first Lombardi Trophy, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers now belongs among the handful of elite quarterbacks still active. My rankings would place him fourth behind Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees. In this year’s three playoff games and Super Bowl, Rodgers completed 69 percent of his passes, threw 9 TD passes and only two interceptions and had a 110.7 passer rating. And what makes those numbers even more scintillating is that they were accomplished on the road.


I know this probably won’t make Christina Aguilera feel better, but she’s merely the latest in a long line of stars who goofed up the lyrics to the national anthem – a line that includes the late, great Frank Sinatra. The only difference is that her botched rendition was witnessed by more than 100 million Americans live and who knows how many more on YouTube down the road.

Aguilera’s faux pas called to mind a game I attended between the Yankees and Blue Jays at a sold-out Yankee Stadium in the mid-1980s in which the singer screwed up both the Star-Spangled Banner and Oh Canada! As she tearfully strolled off the field a chorus of boos cascaded down from the upper decks of the stadium. (For more on the Super Bowl, check out my columns at .)


As absurd as it sounds - and it sounds very absurd, given the remarkable prosperity the NFL currently enjoys - the chances are good there will be a lockout, and the 2011 season will wind up being delayed and shortened.

Commissioner Roger Goodell claims the owners are pushing for an 18-game schedule because that’s what the fans want. I don’t believe that for a second. The fans are astute enough to realize an expanded schedule would result in more injuries and water down the quality of play. What they are in favor of is a reduction of exhibition games from four to two.


If state and city officials don’t agree to build a new football stadium for the Minnesota Vikings, the team could be bound for Los Angeles. Interestingly, it wouldn’t be the first time the Twin Cities lost a pro team to L.A. The NBA’s Lakers trace their roots to Minneapolis, which explains why a city that isn’t near any lakes has that nickname.


Just call them Clockwork Orange. Saturday’s 23-point romp at South Florida gave Syracuse 20 wins for the 33rd time in Jim Boeheim’s 35 seasons – an ongoing NCAA record. SU hosts Georgetown Wednesday night at 7 in the Carrier Dome. The Hoyas come to town riding a six-game win streak.


While we’re on the subject of consistency, how about SU senior forward/center Rick Jackson. He had 22 points and 12 rebounds vs. South Florida, marking the 16th time this season he has put up a double-double. And for good measure, Rick also assisted on four scores.


The more I watch Syracuse freshman C.J. Fair, the more I think of Josh Pace, one of the unsung heroes of SU’s 2003 national championship team. Like Pace, Fair has a flair for filling up a score sheet, as evidenced by his 7-point, 9-rebound, 3-steal performance last Saturday.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Billionaire Tom deserves credit for saving the Sabres, not once but twice

I was among those critics who believed Tom Golisano occasionally made decisions about the Buffalo Sabres based on the bottom line rather than the roster. I still believe he and his management team were wrong in allowing both Chris Drury and Daniel Briere to go the free-agency route at a time when the Sabres were a legitimate Stanley Cup contender.

But I’ll always be grateful to the Rochester-born-and-bred billionaire for coming to the rescue of the team in 2003 when it appeared the bankrupt Sabres were about to skate out of town. Golisano brought financial stability to the franchise and fielded a competitive team during his eight years as owner.

And his stature in Sabres history rose even more yesterday after his revelation that he sold the team to Terry Pegula for $70 million less than he could have received from the founder of BlackBerry because Pegula agreed to the clause that said he never would move the franchise.

So credit Golisano with saves even more dramatic than any made by legendary Sabres goalies Ryan Miller and Dominick Hasek.

I think everybody wins in this sale. Golisano and his minority partners were able to deal the NHL franchise for $189 million, over $100 mil more than their original purchase price. Pegula, a diehard Sabres fan, acquires a team he hopes to lead to its first Stanley Cup. And the fans get an owner, who is a Western New York native committed to spending more than his predecessor on the on-ice product.


It also was encouraging to hear Golisano say that he would be interested in purchasing the Bills if it were a situation where they might leave Buffalo after Ralph Wilson’s passing and subsequent sale of the team to the highest bidder.


Wouldn’t it be great if Wilson had a clause in his succession plan that the Bills can’t be moved out of our region?


My Super Bowl prediction (with the warning that betting on my prognostications can be hazardous to your wallet): Pittsburgh 27, Green Bay 23.


Huge win by the slumping Syracuse basketball team in Connecticut the other night. The Orange men have eight games remaining in the regular season: road contests vs. South Florida, Louisville, Villanova and Georgetown, and home games against Georgetown, West Virginia, Rutgers and DePaul. If they split those Big East games, they would finish 23-8 overall and 10-8 in the conference, which should secure an NCAA berth regardless how they do in the league’s tournament.


SU coach Jim Boeheim was justifying ticked by Internet rumors alleging a point-shaving scandal involving three of his players. Even more disturbing was the fact that a member of a news organization reported it as fact.

How a reputable reporter could link to a sleezy website and report rumors as fact is very upsetting to those of us who have made a career as journalists. You can’t believe everything you read on blogs (except this one, of course. ;-)

The Internet can be a great resource of information. But it must be remembered that it is an unfiltered resource, and contains much misinformation. And at its worst can be a cesspool of rumor and innuendo.


The Yankees Core Four is now a Core Three with the announcement of Andy Pettitte's retirement. The lefty with the best pickoff move I've ever witnessed finishes hist career with a 240-138 record and a record 19 victories in the post-season.

Is he a Hall-of-Famer? I'm not sure.

It's going to be interesting to see if his image and his Cooperstown chances take a hit this year when the court case involving Roger Clemens' use of the human growth hormone is finally heard. You might remember that Pettitte testified that he used HGH briefly and said that his former teammate and workout partner, Clemens, did, too.

From the Yankees 2011 season perspective, Pettitte's retirement is a huge blow. They were hoping that he would at least be available for the second half of the season. They're still trying to determine who can be reliable starters behind C.C. Sabbathia and Phil Hughes.


I know Syracuse's recruiting class was highly-rated by the so-called recruiting experts, but there were three things I liked about it: a) every recruit was the captain of his high school, prep school and/or junior college team; b) the athleticism, speed and versatility of the incoming players, and c) the reestablishment of SU as a player in its home state.


Please check out my daily Super Bowl and weekly Syracuse basketball columns at Channel 8's website: