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Monday, May 28, 2007

Baseball update 

The Brewers slump continues, but the NL Central is so atrocious it has not mattered. The Brew crew has gone three up and seven down in their last ten and only given up one game on their lead, which is still 6.5 games. Remember the Cardinals won this Quadruple AAAA division with 83 wins last year. Milwaukee was swept in Sand Diego. The Padres are the Clarion’s sentimental favorite in the NL West. They finished the sweep behind the NL leading Cy Young candidate Jake Peavy . (7-1, 1.47 ERA)

The Yankees on the other hand got swept by the Angels. They are teteering on the brink of done. Mike Mussina a Stanford economics graduate laid out the numbers for reporters yesterday. The Yankees would have to go 72-42 from here on, just to get to 93 and 69, which might not even be enough for the Wild Card. The 2006 and 2005 the Wild Card winners had 95 wins a piece, and the year before that the BoSox had 98 wins in the Wild Card slot.

Worse, the Yankees are not only 7.5 games behind the Tigers, but their are six teams between them. Moneyballers, the Twins and the A’s usually find a way to be competitive in the second half of the year. Although, Minnesota is having mounting bullpen injuries this year they still have Morneau, Mauer, and Santana. The Clarion also likes the core of players assembled in Seattle. Might the Mariners have the pitching to hang in the Wild Card race?

Other notes

Future Hall of Famer, Ichiro has a 20 game hitting streak, and .339 average.

Carlos Delgado may be waking up. Scary thought considering the Mets are already playing plus .650 baseball.

Good news for the Phillies fans. Ryan Howard too, may be waking up. In his return from the D.L. Sunday, he hit two, two-run dingers. His average is still down at a lowly .220. His homers coincided with a Phils sweep of the Braves. Don’t look now, but the Phils are not only two games over .500, but two games back of the Braves for 2nd in the NL East, and within hailing distance of the Wild Card, three back of the Dodgers/Padres.

Speaking of the Dodgers, how brilliantly Americana is this...Chavez Ravine has a 3,000 seat all you can eat section. If you are sitting in one of these outfield seats, pig out all you want for a fixed rate $40 game day ticket or as low as $20 for group sales. You even have your whole own designated concession counters, with no registers. Beer, candy and merchandise are sold at separate stands. And, go figure, it’s a hit!

One follow-up note, no discipline for Elijah Dukes out of the Devils Rays organization. Contrast that with the case of the Seattle Mariners pitcher Julio Mateo who the organization has both demoted and suspended.

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Saturday, May 26, 2007

Britney is looking unwell 

Not sure who is managing Britney Spears image these days. The Clarion was not unhappy with Brit shaving her head. Sometimes an extreme change in physical image is part of what is required to get psychological clarity. But she has looked rough and unhappy several times in recent public appearances and performances. Her expressions go beyond disconnected and spacey to a place that looks more haunted. The Clarion chronicled her extremely brief set at San Diego's House of Blues. She has played a couple of other shows since that time to mixed reviews.

We read the rumors and quotes flying back and forth. K-Fed is saying mean things. Many who made their bread in the mini-industry that was Britney are pulling in opposite directions. She was commoditized, used and discarded. Now they are attempting a resuscitation, a resurrection, but who, if anyone is watching out for her well-being? There is a person that is Brittney Spears.

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Baseball, Devils Rays shamed 

No sooner did the Clarion say that the Tampa Bay Devil Rays success was predicated on staying out of the police blotter, than they are back in trouble. It is one of their former Durham Bulls, who has a history of off the field incidents. Elijah Dukes.

He has been arrested five times since 2003 for assualt and other violent incidents, against a police officer, and an attack on a previous ex-girlfriend. Now the guy can be heard threatening his wife and kids on a voicemail message. He sent his wife a picture of a handgun via cellphone. At the very least he should face mandatory violence counseling, have to make PSA against domestic violence, and serve a suspension.

Judging by how baseball handled or should we say ignored the Bret Myers and Wil Cordero incidents, it is likely Dukes will face little or no punishment. The Clarion would like to say, at least Devil Rays mananger Joe Maddon took a stand and benched Dukes. But Maddon’s ridiculous comments sound like he is more worried about Dukes state of mind, than his wife and children’s safety. "It was my decision to not play him," manager Joe Maddon told reporters. "In visiting with him, I can see he's pretty much upset. I anticipated that, so I thought the wise thing to do would be to not start him (on Wednesday) and more than likely play him (on Thursday)." In a post Rae Carruth world Maddon’s comments look foolish and short sighted.

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Monday, May 21, 2007

Yankees hanging on by a nail 

The Yanks faced a do or die situation last night and a “Clippard” came through for them, not a “Clipper” and definitely, not the original Yankee Clipper, but perhaps someone more suited to a season that through 44 games has entailed eleven different starting pitchers, seven rookies among them. The seventh of them was Tyler Clippard and he pitched six strong innings against the Mets, allowing only one run. And the Yanks averted the sweep. Crucial.

The Clarion believed at the beginning of this stretch of six games, which continues to tonight against Boston, that the Yanks could not lose five of six and stay in the race. By that score the win last night was a big one. Now to avoid the disasterous five of six scenario, the Yanks simply must not get swept by the Sox. Of course, it would be far better to take two of three from Boston than lose two of three, but a sweep is sayanora. After this series, the Yankees, however many games they might have left in the season, only have nine games left against the Red Sox. The pitching match-up tonight Wang vs. Wakefield might favor the Yanks, but Wang is still coming around after starting the season on the D.L. and the old knuckleballer, veteran of 347 big league starts, Tim Wakefield, is pitching to an under 3.00 ERA.

One other Yankees note:

The Clarion thinks it is very unlikely that the Yankees are going to pursue Giambi's contract situation and steroid use mid-season. Regardless of what the New York tabloids are printing. The Clarion thinks the Yanks will not go this route for the most self-serving, utilitarian reasons: to void his contract now would be foolish from the Yankees perspective. They can ill-afford to lose Giambi’s bat in the line-up. They might pursue it after the season, depending on how the year plays out.

That said, now or later, if MLB or the Yankees want to attempt to void the contract, and it can be proven that Giambi cheated, the Clarion would fully support them. Cheaters, though almost always present in sport, undermine the validity and veracity of the game.

Digging into the past has certainly not been baseball’s tack on the steriod and HGH issues thus far.

Giambi seemed to sincerely want to apologize. He was right in this, baseball owes its fans an apology for letting things go the way they did.

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Saturday, May 19, 2007

NBA Playoffs, Round 2 wrap 

It was bad for the NBA that the compelling story of Round 2 was the suspensions and league rulings, rather than the action on the court, what if, not what was. But the worst may yet be to come, the Eastern Conference playoff’s have been, and a deeply indifferent “Meh.,” at best.

The bruising slugfest beeween the Nets and Cavs in Round 2 was dullsville. Are the Cavs world beaters? Has LeBron been unstoppably awesome? No and no. Dominique was way more compelling and never even made the Finals. The late ‘80’s Cavs, of Brad Daugherty, Mark Price and Ron Harper would have cleaned these Cavs clocks. (A squad that despite numerous 50 win seasons never made the Finals, either.) What of the Nets, with ostensibly three superstars? Jason Kidd fills up a stat sheet, but he is a step slow defensively, and they don’t have the post help defense, the shot blocker, to compensate. Kidd hustles, but is reaching the point in his career that Gary Payton did when he bolted first for LA, then Miami. You know the, “Get me somewhere, anywhere, that I can win big, contribute to winning it all, while I still have at least a little something in my legs,” vibe.

In Richard Jefferson, the Nets have, now possibly, the most valuable of the three. He is an ace role player. Good offense, good defense, athletic. Not so, so good, he can’t be guarded, Jefferson needs to be a number two offensive option, but not on a team, with all show, no dough, shooter and black hole extraordinaire, Vince Carter. Despite his bizarre double digit assist performance in Game 5, which was almost like the one half of basketball last season where Kobe passed every time, refused to shoot. Don’t these guys get it? We’re not that studid, passing every single time to pout and mope that it is not working your way is a transparent 3rd grader move. Your selfish behind didn’t suddenly turn into a sharer in one half. We know this is your babyish way of saying, you're mad with the way things are going, and also, look, coach, fans, media, it’s not my fault, I also pass.

In reality, Vince is a ball hog, who settles for guarded fall away jumpers waaaaay too often. He and Kidd are not quick enough to play the kind of run and gun offense that Jefferson would thrive in. Jefferson would be great on the Suns. The Nets have peaked and Rod Thorn needs to blow the thing up while the pieces still have some value.

Speaking of all show and no dough, where is Mr. Big Shot and the rest of the Pistons? Meaning we know, here at the Clarion, 'Sheed is “other worldly” in the most literal sense, since Dennis Rodman and before that, Bill Murray in Caddyshack, but he has the stones. 'Sheed does not shy away from the ball at the big moment. The Pistons have, except for Webber, have all won previously. How did 3-0 counting their money, getting ready for Bron-Bron and the Cavs, become 3-2 with the Baby Bulls, who look good, but are clearly a year away? The Pistons can’t stand prosperity. Do they really misss Larry Brown that badly? Are they concerned that the Cavs took them to seven games last year? Or that Coach Flip Saunders has never won squat?

On a different and certainly not parallel track, how bad are the Knicks comparatively? What is Eddie Curry? Something like the fourth best player on a Nets’ squad that won't even make the Conference final, a team that the Clarion just advocated blowing up. How bad are the Francis and Starbury contracts? ($15 million plus each) How much of a jinx are the Knicks on decent coaches? Not just Larry, whom the Pistons are, as yet, not the same without, but also Don Nelson. Who this year was great in Golden State, but with Knicks despite a .576 career winning percentage was gone after 59 games. What about Hall of Famer Lenny Wilkens, in one year he went from Isiah calling him to the perfect hire to going 40-41 and being gone. A guy who was career 177 games over .500 for his career. Did not Pat Riley win the championship with every other team he coached? And Pitno, well Pitno's not a NBA coach, he shouldn't count, even if he some day wins a the state of Kentucky another NCAA title at Lousiville.

Summary, the East ain’t great and the Knicks aren’t close to as good as the best of the East. As far as this columnist knows they don’t have a Ruthian or even a Billy Goat curse, the City is behind them. Must be Jim Dolan’s karma.

Out West it is hard to know what to make of the Jazz. It seems they are the kind of team that would be world beaters at the Olympics. It is not that it could happen, because they are a mini U.N. with guys from all over the globe, but rather because their style of play and notion of team ball would be perfect for the international game, the wide lane, the pace. In the NBA, they very easily could have lost to Houston in Round 1, they got a perfect match-up in small, undisciplined, Golden State in Round 2, and seem a staggeringly unlikely bet to put up much resistance against the Spurs in the Conference Final. The Jazz are playing great, which means they might win two games.

The NBA better hope the Eastern Conference suddenly becomes compelling.

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Friday, May 18, 2007

Heading into Inter-League Play 

Brewers fans good for you that the ball club came through and won the final game of your seven game roadie through stiffer competition. Too bad for you, as the Clarion warned, once the Brewers got out of the Mr. Softie NL Central, they struggled. Ben Sheets picked’em up large in that final game of the trip. He threw 7 and 2/3, and handed the ball directly to ace closer Francisco Cordero, as they won 3-2 in Philly. Because while losing five of seven was rough, it was far better than losing six of seven and five straight heading into inter-league play. Much as the Clarion has picked on the Brew crew, they are looking strong in the Central right now. Winning the final game on that trip was big for their confidence.

How about the Mets today, a five rune 9th inning comeback, heading it into the subway series tomorrow. It was the first five run, ninth inning rally by the home side at Shea since 1999 against Curt Schilling, then still pitching for the Phils. The Metropolitans have the best record in the National League and All-Star calibre talent Carlos Delgado hasn’t started to hit yet, which he will. Plus, they get Pete back in August for the stretch and the playoffs. Their pitching may be the deepest in either league when he rejoins the rotation.

As for the Yanks, the picture is bleak, Roger may be too little, too late. The comparison with the White Sox, who just took two of three from the denziens of the Bronx, is insightful. The White Sox are three games over despite slow starts by their 3, 4, 5 hitters. Of that trio, Pierzinksi, Dye and Konerko, two of the three of are hitting under .220. Compare that to the Yanks who have A-Rod, Jeter and Posada all hitting over .315, but are three games under .500 and about to use their 11th and starting pitcher this year. Worse, the Yankees are 9 and 1/2 back of Red Sox, whereas the White Sox are only 3 and 1/2 out in the Central.

Yankees fans are officially allowed to fret heading into this week. The Men of the Bronx have a three game series with the Mets and Red Sox, owners of the best records in their respective leagues. The Yankees are already 5 and 1/2 out in the Wild Card race, too. Losing 5 of the next 6 games could be terminal.

Other baseball notes

The Florida Marlins are on pace to break the most strikeouts in season record. Unfortunately for them, it is not their pitchers who are about to break the record, but their hitters. How about the other Florida team, too, the franchise in Tampa Bay, their AAA affiliate, the Durham Bulls, have struck out even more this season than the Marlins. Sure, the Devil Rays have taken all their hitters, up to the big club. (which for those guys is better than the big house.) The Rays still have pitching talent in Durham. Gradually, the Clarion has become moderately optimistic on their medium term future on the field.

That said then, the other questions come to the forefront. Are there inherent obstacles to their success? They have new ownership, but their home park sucks. Tampa is full of transplants who had other prior baseball loyalties. They want to be a regional draw, but they couldn’t sell out a 9,300 seat stadium in Kissimmee for even one of three games against the Texas Rangers. A series that the Rays swept in what by all accounts. was a scenic setting. As horrible as it sounds to say that they could not sell out 9,300 seats in suburban Orlando, the average crowd was better attendance than Tampa did at Tropicana Field* for their six home dates against the Rangers last year. Their regular home attendance is the worst in the league. Can a team contend or even survive in Tampa?

*Field should always be considered a deceptive misnomer for an indoor facility.

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Saturday, May 12, 2007

Brown to follow Blair? 

The Clarion is far from qualified to know whether it is a good thing, but the whiff coming from across the Ocean, the smell of the stew that is May 2007 British politics, it is vaguely familiar. The Clarion finds it oddly reminiscent of a smell that drifted down from north of the border in the second half of 2003.

At that time long serving Minister of Finance, intellectual, and fiscal policy guru, Paul Martin was preparing to takeover the Premiership of Canada from his equally long serving political bugbear nee partner Jean Chrétien. Martin had done nine years as Minister of Finance under Prime Minister Chrétien. He had recieved much credit as the architect of economic policies that had led to a period of sustained growth, low unemployment and reasonably low inflation. Just as Martin was heading into office, the macroeconomic, especially, the budgetary, numbers took a turn for the worse. Martin served just over twenty-seven inglorious months as Prime Minister as compared to Chrétien’s decade in power.

It is the Clarion’s contention that much the same thing is about to happen when Gordon Brown succeeds Tony Blair as head of the Labor Party and Prime Minister of Great Britian. In a slightly softening economic environment, as budget deficits balloon with the costs of the British missions to Iraq and Afghanistan, Brown will be damaged goods. In no more than three years, it is the Clarion’s belief that the Tory party will be returned to power in Britian after more than a decade in the wilderness, much as the united right wing, now under the rubric of the Conservative Party, has been ushered into power in Ottawa after thirteen years on the outside looking in.

Both men’s standing was affected by their predecessors long stays in office. Their countries had grown weary of rule by the same party. Both men were victims of their own success; long term fiscal stability, led them to move away from their initial fiscal prudence and budgetary restraint. Less sound budgets, burdened by large increases in social services spending showed little tangible result, but increased middle class tax burdens and voter disillusionment. On another level they were victims of their own success because the citizens of Canada and Great Britian began to see economic prosperity as a given, not a variable. In the light of that perception, even slight wobbles seemed blame worthy and who better to fault than the ascending finance ministers. (With Paul Martin this scenario has already played out, with Gordon Brown it is still in process.)

There are some specific differences in the Brown-Martin parallels. Martin was damaged severely by a Liberal Party financial scandal that occured under his predecessor, Chrétien. This pay for no work, “Sponsorship”, scandal was rooted in often turbulently nationalist Quebec. Brown has no such Labor Party finance finagles to deal with, but is hurt by his own background and connection to Scotland. While Scotland is by no means as seccessionist as Quebec, it is certainly nearly as distinctive within Britian as Quebec is within Canada. Brown’s ascent is occuring at a time of peak Scottish agitation for autonomy and increased English disdain for such. Brown’s Scottishness has been labelled unreconstructed by mainstream British media.

Both Brown and Martin, and their core party supporters, have had rocky relationships with their respective Prime Ministers and their backers. Both cabinet members were accused of pushing from the Prime Minister’s job long before they got it. Martin actually began his rift with Chrétien in an open fight for party leadership. Brown and Blair made a private deal to avoid this scenario, but Gordon’s people have chaffed under Blair as much or more than Martin’s did under Chrétien. Unlike Brown, Martin fell out completely with Chrétien and resigned or was pushed from the cabinet. At the time, the politcal pundits thought this was a good thing, that this would help him positively distance himself from Chrétien.

Brown, who didn’t fall out or resign, is also hurt by a personal reputation as dour and difficult. These negative perceptions extend from the voting public, where currently only a quarter of the voting public see Mr. Brown as the best, next, Prime Minister to within the political elite, where Brown is perceived as arrogant, difficult and less than a team player even by the civil service. He is considered almost Cheney-esque in his favor for like minded “yes”-men who owe their political patronage completely to him.

Certainly unlike Cheney, and even unlike Blair, Brown came up a true blue lefty, a believer in social justice, equity and fairness over efficiency and the market. The Clarion believes it is not a zero sum choice. Nor, despite the smell, is Mr. Brown’s fate already written.

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Sabbatini baits Tiger 

Mouthy South African golfer Rory Sabbatini, who has won three times in 214 career events, decided to talk some smack to the best golfer of this (and possibly any) generation. Nothing wrong with that, not smart, but nothing inherently wrong with it, either. The Clarion can tell you that the last guy who ran some smack at Tiger was Stephen Ames before the World Match Play Championship. Tiger went out and beat him 9 and 8...for you who are not match play aficionados, that is the equivalent of winning a football game 77-0. Ames, the defending champ this week at the Players, trying to reiterate that he is no Tiger Woods, missed the cut by 7 strokes.

Sabbatini's quote was, "The funny thing is, after watching him play on Sunday, I think he's more beatable than ever. I think there's a few fortuitous occasions out there that really changed the round for him. And realizing that gives me even more confidence to go in and play with him on Sunday again." The problem was Sabbatini busted out this line after Tiger beat him and won the tournament in the final group last week in Charlotte. Then, after running his mouth Thursday, the first round of the Players Championship, he comes back with the huge flub, insert golf club in mouth performance. Sabbatini all eyes on him after his tough talk, made zero birdies and shot 79!! Seventy-freaking-nine to plummet from a tie for the lead to tied for 38th. Way to go tough guy. Smooth move.

All this publicity isn't bad for the sport, and Tiger showed again why he is a global icon, above and beyond his golf game with his comeback, he has a personality. He is terrfic golfer, but also a likable guy. "If I remember the quote correctly, he said he likes the new Tiger," Woods said. "I figure I've won nine of 12 [PGA Tour events], and I've won three times this year -- the same amount he's won in his career. So, I like the new Tiger, as well."

Ha, Ha.

The Clarion is confident the rest of the field is less than pleased that Sabbatini yanked on Tiger's chain. Look out.

One more note the Brewers, playing decent competition, for a change, got beat at Shea Stadium last night. The Mets vanquished one of the ghosts of last year beating former Cardinal Jeff Suppan, who pivotal in the Mets defeat in the LDS last year. More good news for the Mets, perennial All-Star, Carlos Delgado looks like he is finally snapping out of a season long slump.

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Friday, May 11, 2007

espn.com peeves 

It is soooooooooooooooo annoying to have the Sports Center minute or any other video stream automatically open whenever one goes to ESPN.com.

It is as bad or worse than a pop-up ad.

If one wants to see that garbage, one can click on it, or find it endless repeating on the ESPN TV network. (Except on Saturdays and Sundays, when normal working stiffs would be home to watch it, then, there is no repeating SportsCenter, instead there is fishing or talking heads. Morons run this network.)

Someone needs to tell the head honchos to quit making the video link pop open without being requested.

In addition to being annoyingly agressive, it is too data rich. Even on a cable modem, every time one goes to ESPN.com, it is all one can do to pick another link off of and away from the main page as fast as possible because the main ESPN page is slowing down everything else the system is trying to do...

like playing iTunes music, which is another reason the dang pop-up SportsCenter minute is annoying...if one is listening to music, and if one navigates to ESPN.com, suddenly there is somebody, unrequested, talking over the music.

On the Clarion's iBook, one can’t mute only one without muting both, so we desperately have to search for the pause button to shut up, Neil Everett or whomever is blathering on...ad inifintum...ugh

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Baseball minutia 

Brewers' fans you are still beating up on posers and nobodies. Beating the Nationals does not impress the Clarion. Of course, the counter argument would be the whole National League is mediocre. The Clarion isn't buying that, yet. It's better than last year's quadruple A level.

We did say in our preseason predictions that the Arizona Diamondbacks would be pretty weak and we're sticking by it. Ditto for our stance that Randy Johnson will be a no better than .500 pitcher with 4.40+ era. What the Diamondbacks got out of, Randy Johnson Wednesday was about the best they will see out of him all season and it still didn't work out. Johnson started out dominating the Phils. He struck out the first six men he faced. He threw six scoreless frames and Arizona held a three-to-nothing lead heading into the top of the seventh. A leadoff single for Aaron Rowland, a hit batsmen, a walk. Suddenly the Diamondbacks are summoning a middle reliever to takeover for the Unit. Charlie Manuel signals for slumping Ryan Howard, hitting .198 on the season, carrying the 800lb gorilla of last year's National League MVP. Bam!! Howard hits grand slam off Mr. Brandon Medders, who incidentally is charged with the loss; although Johnson put the first three guys on. How about this for breaking Howard out of his slump, too? Ought to be just the tonic. The under .500 Phils, with Manuel still on the hot seat, desperately need him to snap out of it.

Want to read more about this game? 97 year old lefty Jamie Moyer won the game. He and Johnson, who is still winless, formed the oldest pair of lefty starters ever to face-off. Moyer got the win and Johnson got the quote of the night, ""I may have been the old Randy for six innings. Then I just got old."

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Sunday, May 06, 2007

Early Season Baseball notes 

It all started with the lousy weather. What on Earth are they doing with the weather? First of all, they should be opening play on a weekday afternoon in Cincinnati. Secondly, if they weren't playing so many rounds of playoffs, they wouldn't need to start nearly as early in April. The rash of early season injuries were do, in some part, to playing games at sites and in conditions they shouldn't have. Ridiculous, the Cleveland Indians lost a whole home series to a neutral site. A unique baseball screw-up that short of a national crisis, ala Katrina, never happens in the other major sports. It could have been avoided simply by not scheduling a cold weather home series against a non-divisional opponent. Which of course, points up how screwed up the divisions are and therefore the schedule is, but that's a rant for another day.

A few thoughts on some teams...

the Houston Astros had better win some games, it's a lousy division, but the further back they are, the harder it will be to lure back Roger Clemens...

the Milwaukee Brewers have been feasting on their crappy division, 4-1 versus the 'stros and the reeling Cardinals, 16-8 versus the Central overall.

the St. Louis Cardinals, pile on about the baseball results when they're down from something far more substantial? No thanks. But let no one forget their manager was arrested for DUI this Spring, and was somewhat less than cooperative and regretful.He warned his players post Josh Hancock's tragic death that the media was going to turn this into, a "less than sweet story." Hey La Russa, accept some personal responsibility!! It was you, not the Media behind the wheel passed out in an intersection.

the Mets look even better than the Clarion was willing to suppose, they have gotten all kinds of pitching at the beginning of the season. How about early Cy Young candidate John "don't conflate me with Kenny Maine." Excellent work from Oliver Perez as well. Save for one bad outing, his strikeout to walk ratio has been other worldly, then last night they got a contribution from Jorge Sosa...if Pedro ever makes it back they are going to be uber-tough. Love to see 48 year old Julio Franco hit one into the pool in Arizona the other night, set the record for oldest man to homer. He stole a base in the same game. (How out of Bill Veeck nightmare does the phrase "hit it into the pool in Arizona" sound to a baseball traditionalist.)

the Phils may have weathered the early storm. Last year they got off to a slow start and by the time the righted the ship, it was too late, they were too far back. It looked like things were headed in the same direction this year, manager Charlie Manuel was gripping and the Clarion was about to join the ranks of those calling for his firing. But they have pulled back from the brink? Could Bret Myers work out in the bullpen? Perhaps, better than Flash Gordon every would have? The flyin' Hawaiian Shane Victorino is heating up, stealing bags left and right, trailing only Jose Reyes for the MLB lead. What's up with Pat Burrell? Didn't he used to be halfway decent? Does he need to go?

the Red Sox, Beckett has been pitching lights out, 6-0, with an ERA under 3.00, Dice-K less so, pitching to a 5.45 ERA. They are off to a great start. Winning five out of six head to head against the Yankees was huge.

the Yankees themselves, well the Clarion isn't that all fired worried. Surely not as worried as some. Yes, we are glad they fired the strength and conditioning coach. And no, we will never be Brian Cashman's biggest fan. But despite a rash of injuries and losing the aforementioned five of six to the Sox, the Yanks are by no means buried. In the last week they have won five of six, even with A-Rod cooling off a little bit. The pitching could be coming around, after solid starts from Pettitte and Mussina, Wang followed that up with 8 perfect innings yesterday. Can the Yankees nab Clemens? If they could, perhaps they can still have the pitching match-up advantage versus Boston come September and October. The more immediate issue is to get length out of the starters. The Yankees bullpen has been over-taxed and uninspiring. The low point of the season was Joe Torre's use of Mariano Rivera in the 8th inning of the first Boston series. Joe had said all of season and all Spring he wasn't going to overuse Rivera. He claimed over and over he wasn't going to use Rivera in the 8th inning, then in the first game of the year against the Sox, he does it and gets beat. It was very frustrating to see Torre hand the Red Sox that massive psychological advantage this early in the season. However, it must be viewed in the context of the chain reaction that caused it, lousy starting pitching, over worked middle relief, losses and Mo having had the previous five days off.

Lucky for Yankees rooters, like the Clarion, there's a lot of season left.

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Saturday, May 05, 2007

NBA Playoffs continue 

NBA Quickies

One, the Golden State Warriors were remarkable, played like their name, what more can we say? Baron Davis, Stephen Jackson and the long suffering home crowd all came up huge. Assistant Coach Keith Smart on ESPN Radio said the Warriors are confident but not cocky, they focus on what they do well, rather than what they don’t. It sounds simple, but it takes excellent X and O coaching to use your strengths to your advantage regardless of what your opponent tries to do. The modern era of sport has increasingly been about studying your opponent's weakness and breaking it down, using their shortcomings against them. Conversely, they say, John Wooden, the legendary Wizard of Westwood, rarely if ever looked at opponents' game tape. His teams found a way to exercise their will and their style on their opponent. Smart said the Warriors have an ethic of doing what they do decisively. Don’t hesitate, go for it. Smart said they believe, you may not always do the right thing, who always does? But if you do what you do well, with conviction, your talent will prevail. This is an excellent philosophy for the players on this squad.

Smart also said he has never seen a team with more togetherness than this one. Sports fans know he has played for a champion. Can you believe Keith Smart has been working in the NBA for 19 years? The Warriors re-enact the dance from 300 before each game to get themselves pumped. Then Baron Davis, Stephen Jackson and the fellas take that 'tude to the floor and softer teams crumble. Love the way Bill Simmons put it, "There was a playground edge to the Warriors that the Mavericks simply didn't have; it was like watching a prep-school team from Connecticut getting worked over by the kids from Lincoln High."

Two more Warrior questions, what happened to the player who used to be Al Harrington? And is their any reason to think the Warriors can’t keep it against the Jazz or the Rockets? (Who are probably going to be overconfidently licking their chops, grateful that the #1 seed is gone.)

Once and for all, those who say Dukies don’t make it in the pros, can take a look at tonight, as the Bulls led by Luol Deng play Game 1 in Detriot against the Pistons. Another Dukie, Chris Duhon is also a big contributor for the Bulls. Incidentally, the Clarion likes the Pistons experienced veterans to get by the young Bulls this year, look out for Chicago next year.

In a Game 7 in the West tonight, the Jazz and the Rockets each also have important Dukies. The Jazz leading scorer and rebounder is Carlos Boozer. The Rockets human floor burn, all hustle team leader is former Blue Devil, Shane Battier.

Also of note, Deng and Battier finished one, two this week in the voting for the NBA Sportsmanship award, and both played in all of their teams games this season.

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Women's College Basketball Coaches 

An issue the Clarion is following more closely following the Don Imus-Rutgers Women's College Basketball Team explosion, is the race in woman's college basketball. Vivian Stringer, Rutgers coach, said it best when she said, paraphrasing, "Ultimately the color that matters the most to the NCAA and the people who pay Don Imus's salary is green." This ultimate supremacy of the marketplace, though far from perfect, is an improvement over the horrifying racial relations that have existed in America's recent and distant past.

The Black Coaches Association reports four black woman have been hired to head coaching jobs this off-season, that is approximately 20% of the openings in Women's College Basketball. Unimpressive in a sport where nearly half of the athletes are woman of color, but an improvement over the only 9% of NCAA Division I women's basketball programs that were led by black women during the 2005-06 season.

The latest hire was Coquese Washington as the head coach of the Penn State women's basketball program. This is a program that was recently in the spotlight for another discrimination issue that is often swept under the rug and kept off the television set. Penn State coach Rene Portland resigned last month. A fervently anti-gay reputation had been a stain throughout her career. The university which had steadfastly backed her finally had enough after it recently settled, out of court, a lawsuit brought by a former player alleging that Penn State had allowed Portland to have a "no lesbian" policy.

Stringer and the Rutgers team handled the gender and race issues created by Imus's comment head-on, with grace and class. (Unlike their bully pulpit supporters.) The Clarion can only hope that the sexual orientation issue can be raised, too, albeit in a more appropriate manner. Remember, Imus and producer Bernard McGuirk also referred to the Tennessee women's team as fat, ugly cows, a stereotype perhaps less jarring, but no less unfair. It is just as wrong to impugn young women who participate in athletics for their sexual orientation. (or looks) (Judgments and accusations that true or false that are irrelevant to their basketball talents.)

As for Stringer who noted the color of decision would be green, she was oh so correct. Imus at first suspended by CBS Radio was only fired when advertisers started threatening to pull their advertising dollars. Money triumphed. Stringer, who showed herself to be not only a first class molder of young athletes, but also of young people, saw the green, too. Rutgers more than doubled her $450,000 annual salary with a seven year extension.

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Britney has a gig 

Britney Spears played her first show since shaving her head. What was described as brief set, no more than 20 minutes, was not announced beforehand. Supposedly there had been internet rumors of a gig, but there was no pre-billing.

According to the AP in February, at San Diego's House of Blues, Britney had her first live performance in nearly three years. Hard to believe how much publicity she had been generating in recent months without playing a single show. The word on the gig itself, is that it was about the same as usual for Britney's live efforts, "Well, she sure looked great." Several more performances are scheduled in the coming weeks.

Here are some recent out on the town Britney pics, post the head shave, but a week or so prior to last night's gig.

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