Thursday, May 1, 2008

In-Action Jackson

Someone needs to explain to me how Mark Jackson is the leader in the Knicks' vacant clubhouse. I wrote a column about it in The Record on Thursday, stating that Jackson shouldn't even be among the top five candidates to replace Isiah Thomas.

I understand Jackson's an impressive guy to talk to, and I understand he's been smart enough to cultivate relationships in the media. But giving the most difficult job in the NBA to a complete novice just doesn't make any sense.....

Nor does the position Erik Spoelstra finds himself in with the Heat. If Spoelstra loses, Pat Riley fires him. If Spoelstra wins, Pat Riley replaces him. The kid's only chance to hold on to his job is to go 41-41....

Kentucky Derby week coming up, of course, and I can hardly wait. Never been to Churchill Downs, and the extent of my knowledge about horses can be captured by these two thoughts:

Secretariat, very fast.

Mr. Ed, very funny.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Boras Bashing

I'll admit there's no easier target in American sports than Scott Boras, who, of course, brought it all on himself. He declared himself after the 2000 season, when he completely ignored A-Rod's wishes (to go to the Mets) and sold his services to the Texas Rangers for $252 million.
Now think about that figure for a minute. A quarter billion over 10 years -- with a nice and clean $25 mil annual wage -- wasn't enough for Boras; he needed that extra 2 mil to double Kevin Garnett's record $126 million deal with the Timberwolves. Tom Hicks was foolish enough to give it to him. Instead of sending A-Rod to baseball-mad New York and letting him fight Jeter for prince-of-the-city rights, Boras stuck him in a football-mad market with an owner who would never have the budget for championship-level pitching, not with A-Rod bringing in the 252.
Boras didn't just cost A-Rod three years of his prime (and three chances to win that ring that's still not on his finger); he cost him his job. In order to escape to New York, A-Rod had to agree to become a third baseman.
Which brings me to this question: What position will Barry Zito offer to play when he jail-breaks from his personal Alcatraz in San Francisco?
Boras got him a $126 million deal with the Giants -- half an A-Rod, not double a Garnett -- and Zito is 11-19 since, including 0-6 this year. San Fran was the worst possible landing place for Zito. Barry Bonds was still polluting the clubhouse last season, and now the Giants are trying to rebuild in his toxic wake.
Meanwhile, Zito has been so pathetic that he's been demoted to the bullpen. He's officially the world's first $126 million middle reliever.
Boras is on some roll here. Defanged and defrocked by A-Rod after the disgusting opt-out in the middle of the World Series, the uber agent now works for yet another superstar completely miserable in his big-league skin.
Hey, but you can't beat the commission. And that's the only way Scott Boras keeps score.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Hank-enstein

I knew it. Just knew it. The very first proclamation Hank Steinbrenner made following the unofficial ouster of his father last October went like this: Joba's gonna start. Hank made it clear he wasn't taking a survey on that one, either. He wanted Joba out of the pen, and he was going to get Joba out of the pen.
But then Brian Cashman and the new manager, Joe Girardi, decided otherwise. I remember asking Girardi at his introductory news conference in the Bronx whether he'd be comfortable going against Hank's edict if he believed Chamberlain would better serve the Yanks as a setup man, and Girardi gave a non-answer.
Now we know why he was dancing. Hank only needed 20 games of .500 ball to decree he didn't want Joba and Mo Rivera forming the kind of devastating 1-2 bullpen punch the Yanks used to win their first of four World Series titles under Joe Torre, back when Rivera was setting up John Wetteland. Hank blew up in the Times before Cashman countered that Joba would be staying right where he is.
Sure, Hank is down on Mike Mussina (for good reason) and the kids, Hughes and Kennedy. But I think Josh Beckett is the guy who set him off in the Boston series. Hank is tired of watching Beckett shut down his team, tired of watching him be such a relentless big-game pitcher for the other guys. Beckett reminds Hank of exactly what he doesn't have -- a knock-'em-dead postseason ace -- and of what he might've had in Johan Santana, the stud Cashman advised against acquiring at Minnesota's price.
Santana shutting down the Phils on top of Beckett shutting down the Yanks led Hank to go Mount Steinbrenner on the men in his employ....This was Hank's way of reminding these officials that they are, you know, in his employ, just as much as they were in Boss George's employ.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Yanks-Sox?....Just Not Ready

I've been asked to cover the Yanks-Red Sox game tonight at the Stadium, and the assignment isn't exactly stirring my blood. I still count Bucky Dent's homer as tied for the third greatest event of my life (behind marriage and birth of son, tied with the time a sweat-soaked Ashley Judd put her hand on my shoulder in the Kentucky locker room), and I still appreciate this rivalry's place among the very best in sports.
But you can't have these teams playing two series before the NBA playoffs even begin. As it is, it seems the Yanks and Sox play 162 times a year. At least let them play after the NFL draft. It's too much, too soon.
I'm hoping this is just a case of Trevor Immelman burnout that will fade once I pull up to the grand old dame in the Bronx. Still a travesty that they're tearing this ballpark down. Yankee Stadium offers horrible working conditions for the press, but I'm willing to put up with them for another 30 years to keep the place up and running.
It's a moot point. Looks like they're rebuilding the Roman Colosseum next door. Prediction: future Yankee Prince Fielder will be the Ruth of that joint.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Brutal Masters..

This was one of the least interesting I've ever covered, hate to say. The people who run the Masters have just made the Augusta National course too difficult. When weather comes in like it did last year and again on Sunday, Augusta starts to take on the feel of Shinnecock.
I know Immelman had a big lead coming in, but you don't want a guy winning the Masters by shooting 75 on Sunday (highest winning final-round score since Arnie's 75 in 1962). Just like last year, there were no back-nine roars shaking the Georgia pines. The Masters is all about those roars for eagles and birds. That's what the fans want. They don't want the U.S. Open down here, but because the Masters is getting more and more like the Open, you're going to see more winners here like Immelman and Zach Johnson -- grinders.
One guy who's happy about this is Jack Nicklaus. If nothing else, Augusta is making it tougher for Tiger to blow by Jack's record of six green jackets. Woods looked like an old Ben Hogan out there standing over his putts. Even from four feet out, you could tell he had absolutely no confidence in his blade.
Personally, I had more fun watching the Masters when Tiger had a chance to shoot 92-under. The elders at Augusta were afraid of that after Tiger destroyed the course in '97, and now they've created a USGA-sized monster that won't go back in its cage.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Believing in Phil....

is awfully hard to do anymore...but it would be great for the game of golf if Mickelson wins this Masters, if only to temporarily break up the Tiger dynasty. A fourth major and a third green jacket for Lefty would add legitimacy to his claim as a Woods rival..................................Meanwhile, my man Ogilvy isn't doing much 27 holes deep into this tournament. Then again, neither is Tiger...............................................great to see Gary Player, at 72, get a little time on the Augusta National stage without Arnie and Jack around. Player has always been the other Big Three guy, and the people running this tournament have never warmed up to him the way they did to Arnie and Jack...For reasons why, check out my Record column on Player here:

btw: great column today by Posnanski in the Kansas City Star on the old guys at the Masters, and how the toughened Augusta National course has taken them out of play.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Ogilvy to Win Masters

What the hell. I can't pick Tiger, right? So let's go with Australian Geoff Ogilvy, who ended Tiger's winning streak at Doral and beat Phil -- ok, ok, Phil beat himself -- at Winged Foot. Ogilvy knows how to win a major, knows how to beat Tiger (sort of) and rarely beats himself. And when asked the other day if he'd take Tiger or the field on a bet, he took the field. Most of these cowering wimps would've taken Tiger.
It's amazing to me how eager many of the top players here are willing to roll over and play dead for Woods. You'd never believe golf wasn't a contact sport. It's like they're afraid to look over their left shoulders in case Tiger's coming on a blind-side blitz.
Fog delay here at the Masters, but it lifted on El Tigre's command. He's gone par, par on his first two holes. Nobody wants a total runaway here. The ideal, of course, is Tiger-Phil in the final Sunday pairing, but I just don't think Lefty has it in him..........................
And a shout out to Joe Poz for hooking me up on his blog. His wife, Margo, created my web site, http://www.ian-oconnor.com/ and did a heck of a job. But now Joe's bugging me in the Masters' press room looking for his wife's check. I thought Margo was only doing it to be nice; didn't realize there would be a bill coming my way at the end of the process. Joe's looking at me right now, in fact, and he doesn't look happy.
But seriously, Poz is the best columnist in the country, with Bill Plaschke running a close second. Bill's here, too, but he likes my Arnie & Jack book and isn't looking for me to hand over a check. Maybe I'll move him into the No. 1 spot before this tournament's over.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Of Tigers and Pussycats...

Sorry for the delay on Blog 2. Book promotion made it a crazy week, but we're committed to picking up our sorry game from here on out...Made it to Augusta last night, and awoke to the news that Pat Riley has been inducted into the Hall of Fame. Can't argue with the honor; Riles is indeed an all-time great.
But he did his legacy no favors by bailing on the Heat for the alleged purpose of on-site scouting of college basketball's most coveted draft prospects. Riley has a history of disappearing when times get rocky, and of resurfacing just when brighter days are clearly ahead.
No way David Stern should've allowed one of his head coaches to miss games like this. What a horrible precedent. I don't care if Riley is a team president or not; he has plenty of well-paid scouts to study college players while the NBA season is still going on. Riley wasn't as interested in checking Derrick Rose's handle and Michael Beasley's drop step as he was in getting himself as far away from his wretched team as he could.
What happens next year when another four or five losing coaches decide to hand off their teams to assistants and head to the NCAA tournament? Does Stern want a school run by substitute teachers?........................................
Anyway, on to a guy who never takes a day off -- Tiger Woods. I'm currently studying the Masters field to find someone, anyone, who can beat him this week....I've got a guy in mind...I'll throw him up here in a bit.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Hello...

I admit it, I created this blog to sell books. Hopefully lots and lots of books. My second one, "Arnie & Jack: Palmer, Nicklaus, and Golf's Greatest Rivalry," is out this week, and I'm hoping Gary Player isn't the only one who buys it.
Sports Illustrated is running an excerpt in its Masters preview issue, which only means I've extended my SI subscription for life. In three months, after I've harassed every colleague in the business into plugging "Arnie & Jack," I'll have fewer friends than Eliot Spitzer.
So there you have it, a full confession. I've entered the blogosphere with something to sell. Imagine that.
Meanwhile, in between my self-serving blogs on all things Palmer and Nicklaus, I'll actually submit posts that will have no impact on my bottom line (coming soon: there's no 'i" in "team" but there is one in "Riley" (as in Pat) and "hypocrite" (as in Pat). Imagine that, too.
But just in case you missed the 17 other purchase links on this blog, you can buy "Arnie & Jack" here.

Thanks for stopping in. Hope you'll be back.......Ian O'Connor