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12:08PM

RealClearSports: The Dreaded New York State of Mind

By Art Spander



Alex Rodriguez underwent hip surgery. After admitting he took steroids.
Oh, you knew all that? Sorry. I forgot. Whatever happens in New York,
unlike Vegas, doesn't stay in New York.



It inundates virtually all of the free world.



We know the lyric, if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.
What the New York media make of almost every occurrence east of the
Hudson River is far too much.



At least for the rest of us, meaning the other 49 states and the territory of Puerto Rico.



The theory posited here is tabloids are in a large way responsible for
the creation of a great sports town. New York and environs have three
of those babies. And each offers sports on the back of the paper.



Providing some absolutely captivating headlines -- "HIP WRECK," "DOPE
OPERA" and "HIP-HOPE" were three on A-Rod's torn labrum -- and a
measure of overkill.



The non-tabloid New York daily, yes the Times, briefly was able to step
back from the Rodriguez story with a reflection on Terrell Owens, the
receiver who as at each stop previously, San Francisco and
Philadelphia, outlived his welcome and was waived by the Dallas Cowboys.



Almost immediately, T.O. was signed by the Buffalo Bills -- poor
devils; they'll learn -- but the Times piece was how he should have
been acquired by the New York Jets.



New Yorkers delight in pointing out their degree of sporting
sophistication, but in reality they are no less provincial than the
residents of Denver or Cincinnati. In fact, they are more.



And because three of the TV networks, the primary wire service and four
major papers are located there, the country invariably is set up to
believe if it's not the Yankees who count it's the Mets. It certainly
isn't either the Knicks or the Nets.



Third basemen. A-Rod is one. So is Eric Chavez of the Oakland
Athletics. He's attempting to recover from his own injuries and Monday
unexpectedly was not able to start as a position player for the first
time this spring.



Did anyone notice? Not in New York. It was more of the same. More of A-Rod.



The imbalance is startling. The Phillies won the World Series over the
Rays. Pittsburgh and Arizona played in the Super Bowl. Last year's NBA
finals matched the Celtics and Lakers, and this year's very well could
do the same. In the Stanley Cup finals, the Detroit Red Wings defeated
the Pittsburgh Penguins.



Not a New York team among the group. But New York hype and self-loathing was everywhere we looked.



When Rodriguez, after consultations, decided to have his hip partially
repaired immediately instead of waiting, the New York Daily News,
paraphrasing Derek Jeter, headlined WE WILL SURVIVE. They might, but
will anybody else?



No ill will is wished for A-Rod, an MVP, a star, but the coming days in
the New York press will be devoted almost entirely to his recovery.
Sure, room will be found for the NFL draft, of Giants and Jets variety
that is, but be forewarned. Basically the next five months will be
Rodriguez and more Rodriguez.



Of course it's a conspiracy. Had A-Rod stayed with the Mariners, with
whom he entered the majors, or with the Rangers, we would barely know
of the man. The $252 million contract he signed with Texas did raise
him a bit out of the ordinary, but nothing like being a member of the
Yankees.



You recall that Alex and his agent, the dreaded Scott Boras, explored
the idea of joining the Red Sox. That would have been a hoot.



The pieces never would have fit together the way they do in New York,
the tabloids, the critics, the Yankees' inability to advance to the
World Series or last season even to the playoffs.



New York is in love with itself. As depicted in that historic New
Yorker magazine cover, the people perceive everything beyond Manhattan
and the Bronx as wasteland.



An oft-repeated axiom is that while at other locations everything works
but nothing matters, in New York very little works and everything
matters.



With that sense of entitlement, as it were, New Yorkers hurl their
thoughts and preferences at the rest of us, who have spent a lifetime
trying unsuccessfully to avoid them.



At the moment, A-Rod doesn't work, and to the news folk gleefully
observing the situation that matters more than anything else in sports.



It's difficult to determine whether Alex Rodriguez is a bigger story
playing or not playing. We are about to find out. Unfortunately.



As a reporter since 1960, Art Spander is a living treasure of sports
history. A recipient of the Dick McCann Memorial Award -- given for his
long and distinguished career covering professional football -- he has
earned himself a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. And he has
recently been honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award by the PGA of
America for 2009.




- - - - - -



http://www.realclearsports.com/articles/2009/03/the_dreaded_new_york_state_of.html

© RealClearSports 2009

12:34PM

A's signing of Nomar and Cabrera prove they're serious

PHOENIX -- The T-shirt was a reminder, and
a tease. "No Splash Hits" were the words on the front, a poke at the
team across the bay, the Giants. "Four World Titles," it said on the
shirt's back, a reference to the great days of the Oakland Athletics.



Days the A's have decided to pursue once more.



The A's are off the treadmill, that depressing process of selecting and
developing young talent only to send the players off to other teams and
then starting the procedure once again.



Now it is to be seen if the A's are off to the races -- well, the race. The pennant race.



Rumors became actuality Friday. A short while before Oakland played the
Seattle Mariners on a pleasant afternoon at Phoenix Muni, management
introduced proof it is serious about chasing a championship instead of
continuing the chase to nowhere.



In a little room above the team's spring offices, assistant general
manager Bob Forst brought in Orlando Cabrera, destined to be starting
at shortstop, and Nomar Garciaparra, the man who's been everywhere from
Boston to Chicago to Los Angeles.



What a change. What a welcome change. The A's have, out of desperation
or because of planning, too frequently surrendered their stars or
potential stars, trading a Dan Haren, a Rich Harden.



The talk always was about the future. But to borrow that line from the late football coach George Allen, the future is now.



It was time to stop worrying about a stadium in Fremont, a nonsensical
idea from the start, created more to market real estate than win
titles, and think about playing ball.



It was time to find out if with the right chemistry and a few breaks, a fifth world title would be a possibility.



So the A's signed Matt Holliday, who carries a .319 lifetime batting
average and a $13.5 million contract, and brought back the
still-capable Jason Giambi, who before the steroid talk and the seasons
with the Yankees, was the 2000 American League MVP with Oakland.



That led to the 35-year-old Garciaparra and 34-year-old Cabrera adding
their ages and experience to a franchise too long acknowledged for
being too young.



"Having Giambi back, having Matt here, and Eric Chavez, who's probably
one of my favorites, that's what drew me here," said Cabrera. He hit
.281 with the White Sox in 2008, .301 with the Dodgers in 2007. He was
in the '04 World Series with the Red Sox. And he shows up every day.



Garciaparra, on the Dodgers the last three years, has a history of
injuries. He missed 90 games in '08 and wondered if his career was
finished. But a winter of rehabilitation, of learning strained calf
muscles were an inborn problem that needed continual attention, made
him believe he could stay on as ballplayer.



"The Phillies wanted me to sign a while ago," said Garciaparra, "but I
didn't think it was fair to commit until I made sure I was right. Here,
I was looking at the good combination of young guys and veterans, at
what Jason (Giambi) had accomplished in the game."



Early on last season, the A's, with their youth, were five or six games
behind the Angels, whose regular-season superiority was evident in
their major league high of 100 wins. But then the Athletics began to
slip, and Harden and Chad Gaudin were traded. The slip evolved into a
crash.



Oakland finished 75-86, 24 1/2 games behind the Angels. A's management had conceded. Again.



Just wait, we were told, until the new ballpark in Fremont is finished.
Then the money would pour in and the names could be retained.



It's finished, but not the way A's owner Lew Wolff had in mind.



So the people in the front office decided to sell baseball instead of
selling fans on real estate. Holliday, Giambi, Cabrera, Garciaparra. No
more a "who's he?" lineup.



"We've added talent," assured Forst. "You can talk about young and old,
but we'll always take talent. I think starting with Matt, adding Jason,
bringing in these two, we have added guys we felt could make us better
right away. Plus we have the young players from last year, the Suzukis
(catcher Kurt Suzkuki), plus kids who are coming, (pitchers) Trevor
Cahill and Brett Anderson.



"It wasn't in the conversation, saying, 'Hey, we're going to go for
it.' We always have wanted to put the best team on the field, and I
think the guys we've added will help us achieve that goal."

    

Well, despite the rhetoric, hey, they're going to go for it. Finally.
4:24PM

Carney Lansford's nightmare: His batters against his son

SCOTTSDALE,  Ariz. -- The relaxed mood
of spring baseball no longer existed. The games players say don't mean
that much suddenly meant too much for Carney Lansford.



His son was pitching against the hitters he coaches.



The requirement for 22-year-old Jared Lansford, the Oakland Athletics
reliever, was to prevent any success by batters of the San Francisco
Giants, whose responsibility is that of 52-year-old Carney Lansford.



Who, as fortune would have it, was a longtime member of the Athletics.



"I could not watch," said Carney.



So, in the bottom of the fifth Thursday at Scottsdale Stadium, Lansford
marched into the Giants clubhouse, hiding from reality as it were.
Intelligently so.



"I've seen him pitch a couple of times before," said Carney of Jared,
"but I couldn't do this one. My hitters against my son. A no-win
situation."



For Jared, who got a pre-game hug from his dad, the situation was strange but not quite serious.



"It was different from any other team I faced," said the young pitcher,
now in his fifth season after having been drafted in 2005 out of St.
Francisco High School in Mountain View, Calif.



"I think it was worse for him than for me."



It was. Much worse. Jared would allow a couple of hits in his inning of
a game the A's won, 4-2, and has not allowed a run in three innings of
exhibition play.



"I didn't have my best stuff," Jared conceded, "but I got them to put the ball in play."



Jared appreciated the experience. Up in the stands, so did Debbie
Lansford, mother and wife, and Jared's younger brother, Josh, who will
report to the Cubs' camp in a few days.



"Oh yeah," agreed Debbie, "it was fun. It doesn't matter who they're
playing, I like to watch. It was unusual, but I enjoyed it very much."



Carney did not.



"I wanted him to pitch well, obviously," said Carney. " just couldn't
watch. My heart was pounding too much. And my stomach was in knots."



After the game, the family came together, as close as possible when
Carney and Jared were on one side of the screen behind home plate and
Debbie and Josh on the other. They exchanged smiles and through the
netting handshakes.



"I talked to my dad maybe a minute before the game," said Jared, as
relaxed as Carney was intense, "teasing him a little bit. I asked him
if he gave away my secrets. It was a lot of fun."



Jared's pitching coach is Curt Young, who found the whole thing
fascinating, especially since he now is in charge of Jared's
improvement and in the late 1980s and early 1990s was Carney's teammate
on the A's.



"Just watching it live," said Young, "it was real exciting for me. Just
knowing Carney and playing with him and knowing his son's out there
facing the hitters he's worked with. I'm sure it was a big day for the
two of them."



At least the one of them.



Carney, American League batting champion with the Boston Red Sox in
1981, later asked some of those batters, Rich Aurilia, Juan Uribe and
Steve Holm, what they thought of the pitcher they faced.



Aurilia and Uribe grounded out. Holm and Eugenio Velez singled, Velez'
ball not leaving the infield. Then Andres Torres grounded out. Five
batters, only one ball to the outfield.



"They said he had pretty good movement on his ball," Carney explained.
"Maybe a little too much movement. But he made the pitches when he had
to.



"I saw him pitch a few times in the Fall League, high school and the
minors. But this is a nightmare for me, for him to pitch against our
team."



The nightmare was brief. The Lansfords, all four of them, are staying
in the same condo. "I'm sure we'll talk about it tonight when we all
get there," said Jared.



The Family Lansford never has been far from baseball. Carney signed a
contract in 1975 after graduating from Wilcox High in Santa Clara and
played through 1992. After coaching with the A's and managing the
Angels farm team at Edmonton, he left the game after the 1999 season,
only to return in 2007.



He's been through a great deal, the 1989 Earthquake Series, trades, injuries. But nothing quite like he went through Thursday.



"But now," said Debbie Lansford, "we all go back to the house and have dinner, and life is good for another couple of days."

      

She understands. It's only a game.
8:21PM

RealClearSports: Dodgers Get Manny Happy Returns

By Art Spander











































GLENDALE, Ariz. -- An odd placement for a media conference, on the
deck of the Dodgers training complex, the new ballpark behind Joe
Torre's right shoulder, the old leftfielder in California beyond those
mountains to the west.

Exhibition season, isn't it? And that was some exhibition. Torre,
in uniform, if at the last moment, and general manager Ned Colletti,
explaining how after four months of desultory conversation the Great
Manny Ramirez Confrontation had come to a happy end.

Manny will be Manny once more as a Dodger. Not that this wasn't inevitable.

He has what the Dodgers need, talent. They have what Manny (and his
agent, Scott Boras) want, money. The signing, which technically hadn't
yet taken place Wednesday afternoon, was delayed, but it also was
inevitable.

"We had a desire to try and put the personality back into the
picture instead of just the negotiations," was the Colletti
explanation of how and why Manny (and Boras) at last were willing to
accept the two-year, $45 million contract they were not willing to
accept the last four months.

The guys, pals all, we're advised, sat in the home of Dodgers owner
Frank McCourt in Malibu -- hey, you think he's going to live in Los
Angeles? -- on Tuesday night and worked over the details.

"I thought Manny seemed very happy about the possibility," said Colletti.

And so another sporting crisis is averted. It's always something in our little world, isn't it?

A-Rod's hip. As opposed to A-Rod's 'roids. Kurt Warner visiting the
49ers in search of millions, and of course, signing once more with the
Arizona Cardinals, whose flying saucer-like stadium is quite visible a
couple of miles from the new facility used by the Dodgers and Chicago
White Sox.

We sit around and worry whether the Mannys and Kurts will
eventually reconnect with their current team, or maybe a different one,
while all around us the markets collapse, the economy bottoms out and
jobs are lost by the millions.

On this warm Wednesday in the desert, the Dodgers were playing a
spring game against their rivals, the Giants, who had shown interest in
acquiring Ramirez, but only under their own conditions.

San Francisco appears to have pitching. Randy Johnson struck out
seven on Tuesday. Barry Zito looked decent Wednesday, allowing four
hits, three runs and no walks during his two-plus innings. The Giants,
however, lack hitting. They would not have that problem with Manny.

"Under the right circumstances we would have wanted to sign him,"
said Giants team president Larry Baer, in attendance Wednesday. "We did
have a lot of conversation."

What the Giants would have wanted, the Dodgers obtained. Manny
makes them the favorites in National League West. More than that, Manny
once more makes them an attraction in a town that pays attention only
to attractions.

Manny can send balls over fences. Manny can send fans through the
gates, and in these difficult times -- attendance without Manny on
Wednesday was only 5,944 at the 13,000-seat Camelback Ranch Stadium -- that
is not to be underestimated.

When Zito, in the third year of his own dream-world contract, $126
million, was told the next time he pitches against the Dodgers, Manny
would be in the L.A. lineup, he shrugged.

"He's great and a challenge," was the Zito observation. Advised
the Dodgers now would be the choice in the division, Zito said, "I
think wherever he went he would have brought that with him."

What Ramirez also brings is the infamous baggage, a reputation for
dogging it, of going by his own rules, that proved unacceptable to his
previous team, Boston, but doesn't bother his current one, Los Angeles.

"Manny certainly seems comfortable here," said Torre. The manager
and general manager, delayed by Southern California rains, had flown in
only minutes before the meeting with the press.

"I couldn't be more pleased in how excited he was," said Torre. "Just the prospect of getting back on the field. He's in shape, but
after he shows up it probably will be a week until he's ready."

The Dodgers were ready to sign Ramirez, but as is so often the case
in such situations a charade had to be played out so neither side lost
respect.

It was a chess match destined to end at checkmate and both parties expressing appreciation of the other.

Only last Sunday, McCourt said the negotiations would be started "from scratch." Did that actually occur? The figures, two years, $45
million, had been debated for a while. But we're into the month of
March, and it was time for a settlement.

"We're trying to build a team here that works together," said Colletti, "and sticks together. A team that wins."

For $45 million, that's the least to expect.


As a reporter since 1960, Art Spander is a living treasure of sports
history. A recipient of the Dick McCann Memorial Award -- given for his
long and distinguished career covering professional football -- he has
earned himself a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. And he has
recently been honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award by the PGA of
America for 2009.

- - - - - -

http://www.realclearsports.com/articles/2009/03/dodgers_get_manny_happy_return.html
© RealClearSports 2009

5:00PM

CBS Sports: Norman's ending inevitable, but still not easy to take

SOUTHPORT, England -- It was painful, but it wasn't unexpected. For three days, Greg Norman had defied logic, defeated nature, beaten back the years. We kept hoping he might go on, while deep down we knew he could not.

It was a fairy tale, a delight, a lesson in living.

Read more...