D’Allessandro, Readers, Stalking Mile Ilic From Afar

Posted in Basketball at 3:36 am by

From the always entertaining mailbag portion of Dave D’Allessandro’s Nets Blast :

Dave: A couple Euros for your thoughts… 1) Planinic. I don’t know if you remember, but I’ve been asking for more p.t. for this guy since the pre-season. He can plain get by his defender and into the paint. Problem was, was he didn’t always make great decisions after his first move. Now he’s doing better w/ the pick and roll and kick outs. Just patting my back for my Planinic observations. 2) How is our project, 7 footer from Croatia or Serbia (I don’t remember) doing in the Euro league? Can we realistically rely on him for next year or is he 2 years away?
Rich Wong

Hey, Rich: The second Euro is Mile Ilic (he™s Serbian), and Ed Stefanski™s brief update can be found here. The emerging consensus is that he™s a better athlete than Krstic, but his upside can™t be gauged until they bring him over and work him out. I asked Krstic about him yesterday, and he gave one of those what™s-the-use gestures: œIt™s the same as me, he said. œThey won™t play him, and they won™t give him the ball. But if a buyout can be done, Ilic will be spending his summer in East Rutherford. As for Zoran, the Nets should be very proud of him “ not only because the light finally went on in terms of recognizing that he has to drive the damn ball, but because he never bitched and moaned during the dark days of January and February. And don™t forget, it was his energy boost at New Orleans that got this nine-game winning streak started, just as it was Scott Padgett™s five 3-pointers that blasted them off on that 10-gamer. He was looking at the stats last night, and I told him, œDid you ever think you™d play a game in which you had more assists than Steve Nash? And he replied, œI still haven™t taken my eyes off the 1-for-9 yet.

Heyman On MLB’s Bonds Investigation

Posted in Baseball at 3:25 am by

Major League Baseball announced yesterday that former Sen. George Mitchell (above) will head an investigation of steroid use amongst Barry Bonds and others in baseball. For Newsday’s Jon Heyman, this is far too little, too late.

Believe me, it’s no great joy to stick up for Bonds; even his poor lawyers have to know that by now. And yet, it’s way too easy to be a part of the pack calling for his rather ample head.

One problem is that Bonds wasn’t nearly the only one taking steroids in his era. One player told Newsday that baseball would be “astonished” by the number of players who used drugs to enhance performance. If an investigation could really uncover the truth about who used and who didn’t, it may well discover that it’s a lot harder to find a home-run hitter who never took a steroid, never did a drug, during the era of 1990-2005, than to find ones who did.

The one thing we can surely say is that Bonds was the one who used them most effectively. Long before he picked up a needle, Bonds was the best player of his era. But maybe he also had the best drugs, the best chemist, a better cocktail. Steroids expert Gary .Wadler, the Manhasset doctor, said users like to compare notes about who has the best cocktail. Well, I think that argument is just about over now.

According to “Game of Shadows,” the book that juiced up this issue yet again, it was Bonds’ 10-drug cocktail that helped produce 73 home runs in a season in which he was walked a third of the time he came to the plate. If he hadn’t been walked so often, he might have hit 100.

Baseball’s other problem is that it wasn’t looking very hard while Bonds was doing what now seems obvious. So if the investigation is independent and honest, baseball isn’t going to look too good, either. Frankly, we were all too busy celebrating baseball’s rebirth to look. That includes commissioner Bud Selig, baseball executives, reporters, almost everyone.


Dodgers Extend Lt. Dangle

Posted in Baseball at 9:52 pm by

2B Jeff Kent signed a $11.5 million, one-year contract extension with the Dodgers on Wednesday, a pact that includes a club option for 2008 ($9 million) that becomes guaranteed if the Bad Lt. makes 500 plate appearances the prior year.

My initial reaction to this announcement was “you can purchase many pairs of sunglasses and little shorts for $11 million.” Dodger Thoughts’ Jon Wiseman, however, has a more sophisticated take.

It’s possible that Kent is one of those guys, like Roger Clemens, who is going to be performing at a high level past his 40th birthday. Nonetheless, the move comes as a shock, with the combination of age and recent wrist surgery raising questions about whether this would be the year Kent finally tails off, let alone 2007 or 2008.

It seems like a strange time to extend the commitment. I imagine that this is in part to try to keep the prickly player a little more content for the coming 162 games, along with a true belief on Dodger general manager Ned Colletti’s part that Kent is far from done.

On a different note, this definitely raises more questions about the future of Cesar Izturis and Willy Aybar in the organization. With Bill Mueller and Andy LaRoche at third base, Rafael Furcal at shortstop, Kent at second base and James Loney (and possibly Nomar Garciaparra) at first base from now through 2007, there isn’t a place for both Izturis and Aybar, if either. Even if Kent were to move to first base in 2007, only one spot opens up.

Right elbow troubles have put Blue Jays pitcher A.J. Burnett on the shelf to start the season ; Burnett is expected to miss at least two starts.

Steady Eddie, King Of Pranks

Posted in Baseball at 7:11 pm by

Step back, George Brett. The Seattle Times’ Greg Bishop declares Mariners reliever Eddie Guardado, the Prankmeister Supreme. And now we know what’s wrong with Christian Guzman.

Cristian Guzman could not stop itching. This went on for four days, until he found himself on the shoulder of a Minnesota freeway, outside of his car, scratching at his underwear like a man with the worst case of chicken pox in human history. The next day Guzman queried clubhouse attendants about the shampoo and soap they used in the team shower.

His Minnesota Twins teammates had heard enough. They started laughing, cackling, crying, falling on the ground. And right then, Guzman knew.

Mariners closer Eddie Guardado had struck again.

“He used to take people’s cars and hide them down the street,” says Matt Lawton, Guardado’s friend and teammate in Minnesota and now Seattle. “He put peanut butter in people’s shoes, hot sauce in their jocks.

“He’s got some classics. He’s the best I’ve ever seen. He’ll stay up late at night, plotting things to do.”

The David Ortiz story: “He goes, ‘Where’s my shorts?’ I go, ‘Look in the freezer. They’re nice and folded ”and hard as a rock. ‘So his focus was on the shorts. Well, I lined the inside of his jeans with peanut butter. He didn’t even notice. Peanut butter all up on him. I was crying, man. The reaction of the people, that’s where you get your humor.”

Hear Nothing, See Nothing, Say Nothing : QPR Play Out The String Against Stoke

Posted in Football at 4:38 pm by

QPR 1, Stoke City 2

Inept defending, midfield indifference (hello, Marc Bircham!) and a first half penalty muff by Gareth Ainsworth that even Discharge’s Cal could’ve stopped, conspired to sink QPR Tuesday evening, 2-1 losers to Stoke City at Loftus Road.

(the Potters’ Hans Sigurdsson can hardly believe Rangers are so careless on their own turf).

Yours truly could’ve enjoyed the televised splendors of Inter’s 2-1 win over Villarreal in the Champions League, but instead opted for the live drudgery of the nothing-left-to-play-for Superhoops. 28 quid is a lot of money to watch the R’s struggle without Kevin Gallen, but I had to double that toll when I arrived at will call and my ticket was nowhere to be found. Good old Rangers, some things never change.

New Yorker To Sultan Of Surly : Drop Dead

Posted in Baseball at 4:23 pm by

writes Ben Schwartz,

Or, at least, that’s what they mean by this week’s cartoon cover in their own wry, understated, Uptown way. Bonds has offered no comment, nor wry, understated, witty cartoon, in response.

Milton Bradley Fails To Pummel Abusive Fan

Posted in Baseball at 12:05 pm by

The San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser is on the scene with Oakland’s master of restraint, Milton Bradley.

“The only thing people know about me is I get p — off, so the only thing they try to do is p — me off,” the right fielder said a week ago. “Now all the little things people do to p — me off doesn’t work.”

Case in point: A few innings into Tuesday’s game, a fan down the right-field line began to yell racial slurs at Bradley. Bradley simply informed the umpiring crew and second-base umpire Ted Barrett had security remove the fan after the inning was over. There was so little fuss, many in the stadium didn’t even notice.

Bradley went 0-for-3 in Tuesday’s 8-3 victory over the Rangers and he is batting .200 for the spring, but he is not remotely troubled by that.

“I’ve been trying to work out some kinks in my swing, and it feels good,” he said Tuesday morning. “That’s my main concern. I can’t put much stock in spring training (numbers). One year, I hit .360 with six home runs, the next year, I had seven hits all spring. When the season starts, I’ll be fine. When it’s game time, there’s just a different focus. And I’m looking forward to having a good year.”

The AP is reporting Cleveland CF Grady Sizemore has signed a 6 year, $23.5 million contract extension, a pact described as the largest ever signed by a player with less than two years major league service time.

The agreement includes an $8.5 million club option for 2012 with a $500,000 buyout. If the option is exercised, the deal would total $31.45 million over seven seasons, and the option price could increase to $10.5 million depending on whether Sizemore is an All-Star, Gold Glove or Silver Slugger or does well in MVP voting.