Can the Orioles and Phillies be a fit again?


Can the Orioles and Phillies be a fit again?.

I’m not sure Joe Blanton is the man the Orioles are in search of down the stretch. It will be interestinng to see what happens as the O’s start a series in the Bronx tonight.

O’s Game Notes:


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With a mark of 45-40, the Baltimore Orioles entered the 2012 All-Star break with a winning record for just the second time since 1998, which ironically was the last time the team managed to finish with a winning season. With Lee Mazilli as skipper, the 2005 version of the Orioles entered the break at 47-40, two games behind the first place Boston Red Sox in the American League East.

However, the good times did not last, and the Orioles would win just eight of their next 25 games following the Mid Summer’s Classic.  Lee Mazilli would eventually be fired and be replaced by Sam Perlozzo, as the Birds would finish the second half 27-48, and fourth in the division.

It appeared as if the O’s, who have finished an average of almost 14 games below .500 during the second half since 2006, were on their way to another subpar second half as they came out of the 2012 break. The O’s dropped two out three at home to the white hot Tigers, and the first two games to the Twins in Minnesota. During the first game of the Twins series last Monday, Baltimore allowed 19-runs as Orioles pitcher Chris Tillman never made it out of the first inning.

The Orioles followed up Monday’s blowout loss by coughing up a 4-1 lead as Zach Britton, and the Orioles bullpen looked tired and disharmonious as the Twins rallied to beat the Birds 6-4 at Target Field.

From there, the orioles, as they have done during the past 12 seasons could have folded up the tents, suddenly announced that they were sellers instead of buyers as the trade deadline approaches and shift their attention to getting some of the younger players developed. You know, the new Orioles way of playing baseball from July through early October.

However, this O’s squad decided they were not done being talked about as surprise contenders at the All-Star break, and in the blink of an eye, gained a split as they took the final two games in Minnesota, and are now on the verge of a four game sweep in Cleveland. The O’s have won five straight, and after briefly dropping to third place for the first time since mid-June, are back on top of the A.L Wild Card standings. They return to Camden Yards to host the struggling TB Rays in a pivotal three game series that could further distance the O’s from the Rays, not just in the A.L East, but also in the Wild Card standings as well.

The Orioles picked a great time to win five in a row. The division leading NY Yankees were swept over the weekend in Oakland and in the process watched their nine game lead in the east drop to six games.

Here is a brief recap of the past week, a preview of the Rays series, and some O’s stats you may hear tonight during the broadcast. All notes courtesy of 

Monday July 16: TWINS 19 ORIOLES 7

The Twins Denard Span led the 20-hit parade with five RBIs. Ben Revere and Justin Morneau each had four hits, as the Twins crushed the O’s at hot Target Field. Following 8 1/3 innings in Seattle in which he did not allow an earned run in his previous start, O’s pitcher Chris Tillman  turned in a career-low 2/3 of an inning and allowed eight baserunners over that stretch, unable to shut the door after a Mark Reynolds’ error gave the Twins a pair of two-out runs.

The Twins, who hadn’t scored more than five runs since July 3, scored their most runs ever at Target Field and picked up their second win in nine games, while the O’s dropped to 46-43, the first time they have been fewer than four games over .500 since April 24.

Mark Reynolds, who drove in a run in the third and delivered a three-run homer in the fifth, led the Orioles offense. Endy Chavez also went deep for a two-run homer in the ninth. However, it was not nearly enough to tip the scale back in their favor, as the Orioles — who remain in second place in the American League East despite the loss — need to turn things around in a hurry.

“It’s one game,” Wieters said. “It doesn’t matter if we lose a game 3-2 or 19-7. It’s one game and we got three more this series.”

Tuesday July 17: TWINS 6 ORIOLES 4

The Twins trailed the Orioles by three runs in the fifth before storming back, finally taking the lead by stringing together four straight two-out singles in the seventh inning to score two runs, with Ben Revere’s single putting the Twins ahead to stay.

It was Orioles starter Zach Britton’s much-anticipated season debut, and a few early jams aside, when the 24-year-old took the mound in the bottom of the fifth inning, Britton still had a three-run lead and a chance to secure the win in his first Major League start in nearly 10 months.

Instead, he failed to record an out. Britton, who struggled with his command throughout Tuesday’s start, loaded the bases on a single and a pair of walks — issuing a career-high six free passes — en route to becoming the latest young Orioles starter to disappoint.

Britton, who went 11-11 with a 4.61 ERA as a rookie in 2011, did not last long into the fifth inning, and the O’s bullpen, which needed to register 22 outs the night before, was again being asked to work overtime. Britton turned the ball over to reliever Luis Ayala, who let three inherited runners score to push Britton’s final line to four runs on six hits and six walks over four-plus innings.

Since ending the first half of the season with an American League-leading 2.75 ERA, the bullpen has pitched to a 7.15 ERA in five games. Their success, which buoyed the team through some early uneven pitching performances, will hinge on the starters as the season wears on.

The offense, which has been sluggish the last month, couldn’t capitalize on the early ineffectiveness of Twins starter Samuel Deduno. After getting a first-inning run, which scored on a wild pitch, Jones broke a 1-1 tie with a three-run homer off Deduno in the fifth.

Thirteen of Jones’ 21 homers have tied or given the Orioles the lead this season. But that was all the O’s could muster, despite chasing Deduno from the game after 4 1/3 innings and a line that included six hits and five walks.


After allowing 25 runs in the previous two games combined, the Orioles Tommy Hunter help settle down the O’s staff and pitched his team to a one run win. Francisco Liriano racked up double-digit strikeouts for the second straight start, but it was the O’s Hunter, in his first start since June 19, who got the win, allowing one run over 7 1/3 innings, making Adam Jones’ first-inning two-run homer hold up.


The 26-year-old Hunter turned in the team’s longest outing since Chris Tillman on July 4, helping take the pressure off an overworked bullpen that had pitched 26 2/3 innings in the previous five games. Recalled from Triple-A Norfolk prior to the game, Hunter attacked the strike zone early and often and was able to limit his Achilles’ heel — giving up home runs — by allowing just one solo shot, to Josh Willingham in the fourth.

The team’s defense — which has been a sore spot all season — held firm for Hunter, making all the plays to allow Jones’ first-inning homer to stand up. Of Jones’ 22 home runs this season, 14 have given the Orioles the lead or tied the game, and Wednesday’s held up as the decisive blow against starter Francisco Liriano, who struck out 10 and exited after six innings.



Wei-Yin Chen allowed two runs in the first, but settled down to pitch seven strong innings for the O’s, and Mark Reynolds delivered the win for the left-hander with a two-run single in the eighth inning. Like the second half of their season appeared to be, last Thursdays game appeared destined for another disappointing result for the Orioles. Baltimore stranded baserunner after baserunner, bobbling opportunity after opportunity and continuing a troubling trend.

However, when the O’s put the tying and go-ahead runs on in the eighth inning, Mark Reynolds came through. Reynolds hit a bloop single to center field, which was enough to score two runs and propel Baltimore to a 4-3 win over the Twins at Target Field.

The win salvaged a series split after the Orioles dropped games on Monday and Tuesday, and improved Baltimore’s record to 18-6 in one-run games. Baltimore had been 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position and entered the game 9-for-56 (.161) in scoring situations over the previous eight games.

Chen’s day started in shaky fashion with a two-run first inning. Ben Revere’s one-out infield single was followed by a walk to Mauer and an RBI single by Willingham. Chen struck Morneau out, but Plouffe hit a double to score Mauer and give the Twins an early 2-0 lead.

The left-hander allowed only three additional hits after the first inning. The win snapped a losing streak for Chen, giving him his first win since June 17 at Atlanta. Baltimore has given Chen just 30 runs of support over his last 12 starts.


Ryan Flaherty’s three-run homer and Mark Reynolds’ two-run double highlighted a six-run third inning and Jim Thome passed Sammy Sosa on the all-time home runs list in the Orioles’ blowout of Derek Lowe and the Indians on Friday.

The Orioles rocked struggling pitcher Derek Lowe for nine runs in the first four innings, and they cruised to a 10-2 win over the Indians in the first game of a four-game series at Progressive Field. It was Baltimore’s third consecutive win after dropping 17 of its previous 24 games.

The Orioles had nine total extra-base hits, and eight different Orioles players contributed at least one. First baseman Mark Reynolds had a two-run double in the decisive third inning, and No. 9 hitter Ryan Flaherty smacked a three-run homer into the right-field bleachers later in the frame. Catcher Matt Wieters and right fielder Chris Davis also each had an RBI for the Orioles.

Orioles starter Miguel Gonzalez, who was a little shaky early, settled down to earn his second win of the season. He gave up a first-inning solo home run to Asdrubal Cabrera, and then faced a bases-loaded situation in the inning when he walked Carlos Santana and hit Travis Hafner with a pitch. Nevertheless, Gonzalez worked out of it, and he was barely threatened again.

He allowed only two runs on seven hits over 6 2/3 innings, and after needing 24 pitches to get out of the first inning, Gonzalez threw only 90 during the next 5 2/3 frames, facing the minimum number of batters in a frame four times. The only other blemish came in the seventh when he allowed a solo home run to Jack Hannahan.


Jim Thome

Looking as though he may not make it out his second straight first inning, Orioles starter Chris Tillman settled way down after allowing a homer to lead off the game.  Tillman only allowed five more hits over the next 6 2/3 innings, and after Jim Thome hit a rocket of a two-run homer in the seventh, the Orioles cruised to victory. Ryan Flaherty also homered for Baltimore.

Not only did Ryan Flaherty keep pace with Jim Thome, the young infielder one-upped his 41-year-old teammate on Saturday.

One inning after Thome launched a go-ahead, two-run homer, Flaherty turned on a Zach McAllister fastball and sent a majestic, 430-foot drive over the center-field wall to seal Baltimore’s 3-1 victory over Cleveland. For the second consecutive night, Thome and Flaherty both homered. On Saturday, the O’s designated hitter rounded the bases for the 611st time in his career. Flaherty, 25, circled the bags for the fourth time.


J.J. Hardy accounted for three Orioles’ RBIs, and Zach Britton pitched six shutout innings. Britton had a lead before he ever threw a pitch Sunday, and the young left-hander looked like a new man in his second start of the season. But the bullpen almost let it slip away.

In his debut, Britton struggled with confidence and control, walking six, but Sunday, he went six scoreless. Luis Ayala and Jim Johnson had their hands full getting out of the ninth inning, though, holding off the Indians in a 4-3 victory Sunday at Progressive Field. Britton (1-0) scattered four hits over six innings, walking a pair and striking out five. He said he had moved on from his rocky start earlier in the week against the Twins, and he pitched that way.

O’s closer Jim Johnson recorded his league-leading 30th save.

The Orioles and Indians meet in the finale of their four-game set and the last game of an eight-game road trip through the Central Division that opened with the Birds splitting four games in Minneapolis. The O’s have won five straight and are 6-4 since the break.

The Birds will go for a four-game sweep in Cleveland tonight…The last time the O’s swept a four-game set from the Tribe in Cleveland was September 24-26, 1971 (doubleheader on the 24th)…The O’s have won three games in Cleveland for the first time since 1998 (3-3)…The last time the O’s won four games in Cleveland in one season was 1992 (4-3)…The last four-game road sweep by the Birds was August 22-25, 2011 at Minnesota.

The Birds will send right-hander Tommy Hunter to try to close out the Tribe tonight. Hunterwill be making his 15th start of the season and his 8th start on the road…Hunter is 1-3 with a 6.81 ERA (39.2IP 30ER) in those starts away from Camden Yards…Hunter is 1-0 with a 6.14 ERA (14.2IP, 10ER) in three career games (two starts) against Cleveland, including 1-0 with a 3.46 ERA (13.1IP, 5ER) in two career starts at Progressive Field.

In his last 12 starts combined, the Orioles have scored 34 runs while Tommy Hunter was in the game, with 11 of those 34 coming in his June 14 start against Pittsburgh…The O’s have scored two or fewer runs while Hunter was in the game in seven of his last 12 starts.


WHEN: JULY 24, 25 & 26


The Rays, who have been in a free fall over the last month, will look to get back on track against the Orioles, one of their rivals in the American League East and in the Wild Card race. The two teams will open a three-game series in Baltimore on Tuesday and the Orioles hold a two-game lead in the Wild Card standings as of Sunday afternoon. The Rays are 14-22 since June 11, when they were last in first place in the division, and are coming off a series loss to the Mariners in Tampa Bay. With a nine-game road trip beginning Tuesday, the Rays will turn to right-hander Jeremy Hellickson as they try to reverse their losing trend.

The Rays will play the Orioles, Angels and A’s on the road trip, all of whom are competing for the two AL Wild Card spots. Hellickson knows how important it is to win these key head-to-head matchups.

Rays: Upton heating up in July

BJ Upton

Center fielder B.J. Upton got off to a poor start this season but has begun to turn his season around in July. He is hitting .261 with four home runs this month, a marked improvement on his .243 with five home runs in the first three months of the season.

Upton’s recent surge has him just one home run shy of 100 in his career. If Upton hits his 100th home run before his 28th birthday on Aug. 21, he will become the eighth player in Major League history to hit 100 home runs and steal 200 bases before turning 28.

Worth noting 
Hellickson has given up six home runs in eight games against the Orioles in his three-year career. Outfielders Adam Jones and Nick Markakis have two home runs each off the 25-year old right-hander.


Jim Johnson recorded his 30th save of the year Sunday, becoming the second-fastest pitcher (95 games) to reach 30 saves in an Orioles uniform. Lee Smith recorded his 30th in 1994 in the 87th game of the year on July 14. Randy Myers, who posted 45 saves in 1997, did not record his 30th until the 104th game of the year (on July 30)…Johnson is on pace for 51 saves, which would set an Orioles record, topping Myers’ 45 in 1997…The last Oriole to save 30 games in a season was George Sherrill, who saved 31 games in 2008…Johnson became the first Oriole to be named MLB’s Delivery Man of the Month in May (award began in 2005)…Both of his blown saves resulted in extra innings wins (June 5 at Boston, 10 innings and July 14 vs. Detroit, 13 innings).

The Orioles have posted five straight Quality Starts for the first time since April 28-May 2 against Oakland and New York…Orioles starters are 5-0 with a 1.87 ERA (33.2IP, 7ER) over the span,…The last time they had six straight Quality Starts was May 10-15, 2011 against Seattle and at Tampa Bay.

The Orioles have won five straight games for the fourth time this year (also May 1-6, May 15-19 and June 9-14)…They have not won six straight since August 22-28, 2011…The O’s have won five straight on the road for the first time since they won nine straight road games from May 1-19.

In their 95 games played, the O’s have had 30 games where they failed to get a hit with RISP and 20 more where they posted just one hit with RISP…The Orioles have won 13 games in which they did not get a hit with RISP and have won nine games in which they recorded just one hit with RISP…In their last 13 games, the Orioles have been held to one hit with RISP four times and were held hitless with RISP five times.

Four of the Orioles’ last nine games have been decided in the 7th inning or later and Sunday’s game ended with the tying and winning runs on base…The O’s are 3-1 in those games and came back from a deficit in each of those victories (July 14, 19 and 21)…The Orioles (38-0) and Pittsburgh Pirates (47-0) are the only major league teams who are undefeated when leading after seven innings this season.

The Orioles are 14-89 (.157) with runners in scoring position in the last 12 games…Since going 8-for-17 with RISP against the Pirates on June 14, the Orioles are 36-for-232 (.155) with RISP in their last 32 games…The Orioles have been shut out seven times in the last 44 games after not being shut out in their first 51 games.


Adam Jones fell two hits and one double shy of becoming the first player in franchise history to record 100 hits, 50 runs, 20 doubles, 20 home runs and 10 stolen bases before the All-Star break…The O’s are 17-4 when Jones homers and 14 of his 21 homers have tied the game (3) or given the O’s the lead (11)…Jones did not hit his 20th HR until August 6 and in 2009 and 2010 he had 19 HR for the season…Jones has hit in 49 of his last 64 games, going 75-for-253 (.296)…He has recorded a hit in 73 of 95 games.

In his 10 games back from the first disabled list stint of his career (fractured right hamate bone), Nick Markakis is batting .364 (16-44) with four doubles, six runs scored, one RBI and a .871 OPS in the leadoff spot…Those 10 starts atop the order are the first of his career…The only spot in the lineup where Markakis does not have an at-bat in his career is the sixth position…He has 1,188 at-bats in the second position and 2,140 at-bats in the third position.

Jim Thome has 611 career homers (seventh all-time) and 190 at Progressive Field, the most by any player at the 19-year-old ballpark…According to Elias, only three active players have as many home runs at any stadium: Paul Konerko, 243 at U.S. Cellular Field; Chipper Jones, 221 at Turner Field; and Todd Helton, 216 at Coors Field…Thome has 178 home runs at Progressive Field for the Indians, seven for the White Sox, three for the Twins and two for the O’s…Over his last seven games, he is 10-for-31 (.323) with three doubles, two home runs, four runs and four RBI.

TOMORROW’S STARTER: LH Wei-Yin Chen will make his 20th start and 10th home start…In his nine home starts, Chen is 4-2 with a 3.32 ERA (57.0IP,21ER) and five Quality Starts…In his only career start against the Rays June 1 in St. Petersburg, Chen was tagged with the loss as he allowed five earned runs in 5.2 innings on five hits and four walks while striking out five…He allowed a two-run homer to Hideki Matsui as part of a five-run, 36-pitch first inning…He faced just one batter over the minimum after the rocky first inning and although he walked a career-high four batters, none came around to score



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How close to the deadline was it that the Baltimore Ravens and Ray Rice reached an agreement, The Baltimore Sun, and the Ravens web site did not have the story as of 4:10, but was there ever really any doubt that General Manager Ozzie Newsome, the Ravens and Ray Rice would hammer this thing out?

Ummm, yes I must say there was on my part, but not Ravens fullback Vonta Leach, who said there will be good news by the 4 p.m. franchise deadline. One of running back Ray Rice’s closest friends on the team, Leach hit Twitter to break the news.

It came after ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweeted, “Would be an upset if the Ravens and their franchise player Ray Rice were able to strike a long-term deal by today’s 4 ET deadline.”

Rice agrees, 5-years 40 million

Leach responded: “@AdamSchefter yep it will be but I think we will have goods news at 4pm.” Then Leach expanded on his prediction: “@RayRice27 and the #ravens will get a deal done.”

There’s about half-an-hour until the deadline. Last year, defensive tackle Haloti Ngata’s deal after he was franchised came down to the wire.

The Ravens and Rice reached a deal as did the Chicago Bears and running back Matt Forte today. According to ESPN, the Ravens and franchised running back Ray Rice have agreed to terms on a five-year, $40 million contract, only minutes before Monday’s deadline, league sources told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter. The deal will pay Rice $17 million in the first year and $25 million in the first two years, the sources said.

The Ravens had placed their franchise tag on Rice in March and the sides had until 4 p.m. ET on Monday to reach an agreement. Without a long-term deal, Rice would have had to play the 2012 season under the $7.749 million tender or sit out the season.

The Chicago Bears also signed their franchise player, running back Matt Forte, to a four-year deal earlier Monday. A source told Schefter that deal is worth roughly $32 million.

Rice’s contract expired after a season in which he amassed an NFL-best 2,068 yards from scrimmage and helped the Ravens advance to the AFC Championship Game.

Last September, Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata traded his franchise tag for a five-year, $61 million contract. Rice wanted to follow a similar path.

Soon after Baltimore’s loss to New England in the AFC title game, Rice said, “I’m not going to complain about the franchise tag, but I prefer the long-term. That’s what Baltimore, the city, the fans, would love to know — that Ray Rice is going to be here, not just one year, but for many years to come.”

Rice scored a franchise-record 15 touchdowns in 2011 to go with a career-best 1,364 yards rushing. He also led Baltimore with 76 catches (for 704 yards).

Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun writes. “The five-year deal for the 25-year-old is for $40 million and reportedly includes $25 million over the first two years”.

The signing continues the Ravens’ trend of reaching long-term agreements with designated “franchise” players. The Ravens did it last year with defensive tackle Haloti Ngata just hours before the deadline and the tag has also served as a precursor for past deals with Terrell Suggs and Chris McAlister, among others.

The Sun report goes on to say, Rices’ deal eliminates any uncertainty for the rest of the offseason involving Rice, who didn’t participate in any minicamps and said recently that he missed the camaraderie of being around his teammates this offseason.

The 2011 season was clearly his finest as he led the NFL in yards from scrimmage with a career-high 2,068 yards. He was the only player in the league to reach the 2,000-yard plateau. He also accumulated a career-high 1,364 rushing yards, second in the NFL behind the Jacksonville Jaguars’ Maurice Jones-Drew, and led the Ravens with 76 receptions for a career-high 704 yards.

His 15 touchdowns – 12 rushing, three receiving and one touchdown pass – set a franchise record. He joined Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk as the only players in NFL history to register at least 1,200 rushing yards and 700 receiving yards in multiple seasons.

For more on the Jeff Zrebiec article, just click here. 

information from espn and the AP contributed to this report. Sources highlighted for proof:

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While the underlying issue of the Penn State scandal is atrocious and disgusting, you can pretty much read one article about the timeline of events and the release of the Freeh Report and pretty much say you have read all of the articles pertaining to the situation.

Looking for an opportunity to make my point and write about my feelings on the sickness in not so Happy Valley, PA came via a reply to a comment I made about needing opinions on what the NCAA should do to Penn State, and whether or not the Joe Paterno statue should be taken down.

I made this request on the popular sports page Grumbines Sports Mash on Facebook while preparing to deliver my Blog Talk Radio Show, Z-Best Raw Sports talk on Thursday evening.

I asked for the help of the pages regulars by asking the following, “I need your help once again and this time I only have 90 minutes to get it…What should the NCAA do to Penn State University, and should the Paterno statue at Penn State be taken down? Here is the link to the Freeh Report released today.”

The first comment went without a hitch and was delivered by one of the pages regular contributors.

“As much as I was a Paterno fan, with the FBI evidence now out I’d have to say tear it down, “said Kirk Wilke. Pedophilia is such an awful crime against our whole society and values anyone caught covering it up should not be honored. Breaks my heart.”

Great point by Kirk, but keep in mind that I am in search of an article that not everyone else is writing. The horrible report delivered by former FBI Director Louis Freeh revealed that Penn State leaders covered up assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky’s child sexual abuse for years, disregarding the welfare of his young victims to save the reputation of the school.

Freeh’s report blames former top university officials President Graham Spanier, Vice President Gary Schultz, late head football coach Joe Paterno and athletic director Tim Curley, two of which were directly involved with the schools Division I football program.

Sandusky going away

The second response to my request not only drew my attention, and my ire, but also gave me the story I was looking to write. Thanks to Don Hammerick of Hoopeston Illinois, I was able to write my feelings out about this tragedy, as well as use this as type of healing therapy for myself. This is a situation that has hit close to home and one that still possesses many ghosts in the attic so to speak.

It is important that while we as sports fans may fatigue of stories like Bountygate, and the Dwight Howard trade talks, getting tired of this story would seriously lead me to believe that America is truly headed down the wrong road. I’m not saying we should want to hear about Sandusky and Paterno tragedy every day, but the tragedy of child sex abuse should always be a high priority of concern for every living human adult, and it was not a priority of any magnitude for over a decade at Penn State.

First, I want to thank Don for his comments and opinion. Without the participation of men like him, debates such as this one could not exist, and that would also be a crime. The point of this whole debate from the Freeh report was released is to ensure that justice is served to the very end while continuing to keep the sickness of child sex abuse front and center.

While I strongly disagree with Don’s comments, as an American he has the right to voice them. I respect men like Don, and Kirk for being brave enough to publish what they believe in.

Don’s reply to my request:

“Why should the NCAA do anything? Is this really an NCAA matter? Did any of the horrible crimes involve student/athletes? This is a civil matter and should remain there. As for the statue, leave it up to the University, their board of directors, alumni etc. to decide”.

I do not want to become the typical message board asshole and criticize Don by calling him names, and telling him, he is a moron, that would be wrong and unprofessional.  Don seems like an intelligent sports fan who may be just be one of the many that want this story to end.

The NCAA should get involved for two reasons. The first reason is a simple one,  if any of the people that mattered at Penn State( Paterno, Spanier, Schultz, and Curley) had done EVERYTHING, instead of the minimum, to stop this from happening over and over again, after they learned of the first incident, there may have only been a few victims.

I say only a few victims with a very broken heart. As someone that has been apart of a tragedy similar to this, I can only tell you that one is far too many, and more than one, I can assure you Mr.Hammerick, is hardly just a civil matter. While there are more than one victim, there is also more than one individual that contributed to this crime. One of those individuals happens to be the all-time winingest coach in NCAA Div. I football history. Football is very much apart of this equation, and like or not, the NCAA must become involved. Just because there is no precedent for this type of behavior in the past that the NCAA can draw from, and thank God for that, does not mean they should not act. Just because Penn State did not commit a violation or penalty that involved fair play on the field, doesn’t mean that Penn State didn’t violate NCAA rules.

The NCAA always professes that they are about making sure that student athletes are protected against anything that would harm their futures. Well what about prospective student athletes like say 11, 12, or 13-year old boys? Doesn’t the NCAA have a responsibility about what happens at one of their most storied institutions in and around one of their most storied locker rooms?  Their mission statement, which says, “Our purpose is to govern competition in a fair, safe, equitable and sportsmanlike manner, and to integrate intercollegiate athletics into higher education so that the educational experience of the student-athlete is paramount.”

Even if they do not understand their own rule, Penn State has clearly violated the section of the rules book that is titled, PRINCIPLES OF INSTITUTIONAL CONTROL AS PREPARED BY THE NCAA COMMITTEE ON INFRACTIONS. Specifically, the section that says, “failure to pursue”.

I also found this part of the Institutional Control section interesting:

 “A head coach has special obligation to establish a spirit of compliance among the entire team, including assistant coaches, other staff and student-athletes. The head coach must generally observe the activities of assistant coaches and staff to determine if they are acting in compliance with NCAA rules. Too often, when assistant coaches are involved in a web of serious violations, head coaches profess ignorance, saying that they were too busy to know what was occurring and that they trusted their assistants. Such a failure by head coaches to control their teams, alone or with the assistance of a staff member with compliance responsibilities, is a lack of institutional control”.

To say this is a civil matter is an utterly asinine statement. I say this with the utmost respect and professional courtesy for not knowing Mr. Hammerick. As I said earlier, he is entitled to his opinion.

Mr. Hammerick’s saying this is just a civil matter is almost as asinine as Joe Paternos son, Jay, telling ESPN that he finds the “culture of concealment” purported in the Freeh Report to be “unreasonable.” Even more ridiculous than that quote is Jay Paterno telling ESPN in the same interview, “When you judge people’s actions in a historical event, its human nature to judge those events based on info we have now in 2012,”

WOW. That quote would lead you to believe that Sandusky committed these horrible acts back in the early part the 1900’s, and not that child sex abuse was OK then either. We are talking about a timeline in the Freeh reports of just 14-years.  Jay Paterno is in full denial, and to be fair, I can understand it. How would you feel if your father was a legendary football coach that was considered a father and grandfather figure during his then perceived illustrious career.

If you have ever lost a parent then you know that Jay is still very much mourning his father’s death. Joe Paterno died in January of lung cancer at 85, and the last images of Joe are of him standing at his own front door defending his name, and the school he help build to a football powerhouse during the last 60 years. A defense to which we now know, no reasonable defense exists.

What Paterno did is criminal. According to legal experts and ESPN Chicago, if he were alive today, Joe Paterno — the coach who stood for so long for character and integrity both on and off the football field — could be looking at charges such as child endangerment, perjury and conspiracy.

Telling ESPN that after 430 interviews and 3.5 million document and electronic document reviews that Louis Freeh’s report is merely an opinion would indicate Jay Paterno, and probably the rest of the Paterno family has a very long way to go to heal. The right thing is to also have thoughts and prayers for them. I could not imagine what it is like to be Joe Paternos son today.

Jay will eventually need to accept his father made very bad choices and instead of defending them, Jay will need to figure out how to accept on behalf of his father the responsibility and circumstances that now come with those horrible lapses in judgment.

The NCAA needs to severely punish PSU and swiftly, and it is up to more than just the University, their board of directors, and alumni to decide whether that statue comes down. If Penn State were smart, Jo Pa’s statue should have fallen as quickly as when the Iraqi people toppled the Sadam Hussein statue on August 30, 2007.

I say Joe Pa for the last time because the “Pa” part would indicate a father figure. A real father figure would not conceal this horrible information. If you do not believe me, than maybe you will trust some of the people that stood by Paterno and Penn State, until Thursday.

Within hours of Thursday morning’s release of the 267-page report, Nike moved to remove Paternos name from the child development center on Nike Campus in Beaverton, Ore. Nike’s endorsement deal with Paterno had been longer than with any college coach at the time Paterno died in January at 85.

Nike chairman of the board Phil Knight, who expressed steadfast support for Paternos response to the allegations during the coach’s memorial service, issued a statement that said in part: “It appears Joe made missteps that led to heartbreaking consequences. I missed that Joe missed it, and I am extremely saddened on this day. My love for Joe and his family remains.”

According to the USA Today, several of Paternos former players acknowledged his illustrious résumé, which includes 409 wins, two national championships and many philanthropic acts that touched the lives of countless individual, is forever tarnished.

Former Penn State linebacker LaVar Arrington told USA TODAY Sports that the findings “do not erase everything positive on Joe Paternos résumé,” but they represent a “big mark, a bad mark on his résumé. It certainly does tarnish his reputation.

“We’ve all had lapses of judgment. His happens to be on a monumental level, and there happens to be children’s welfare involved in this.”

Chris Devlin, who played linebacker for Paterno in the early 1970s, said in a telephone interview that the report “just proves that even the best of us are not perfect. Historically, you’ll see that he was a great coach but a sinner like the rest of us. The great tragedies portray both the heroic and the weaknesses in us, not that Joe Paterno is Adolf Hitler or something.”

No Chris Devlin, Joe Paterno is not Adolph Hitler, but he is not the Joe Paterno we all thought he was. Every minute his statue remains is like a slap I the face to the victims, and not just the child abuse victims in this case, but all sex abuse cases. Many of whom may be sitting one Saturday afternoon watching a PSU football game on TV as ABC, or ESPN pan a camera shot past his bronzed life like image. I am sure the memory that will surface is not the time when Penn State upset Miami in the Fiesta Bowl to win the National Championship. Their memories will be a lot darker, and all because of that damn statue.

Don is not alone in his thoughts and opinions. Gregg Doyel of CBS says, “Hitting Penn State over the head with the NCAA’s rulebook, when Penn State didn’t break any NCAA rules, is not fair.

Doyel also wrote that on his Twitter account this past Monday, and was blasted. Many people asked Doyel if the fact that the school covered up rape, is the definition of “a lack of institutional control?”

Doyel goes on to say, “Well, sure. But not as it relates to sports. I’ll allow that Sandusky’s apprehension and conviction years earlier would have hurt recruiting then — as it will hurt Penn State’s recruiting now — but Penn State officials weren’t gutless years ago because they were afraid of a recruiting hit. They were afraid of Joe Paterno. This was his program, his school, and if he wasn’t going to punch Sandusky in the nose and call the cops every hour on the hour until they started investigating that monster, well, neither were they. It wasn’t about some schoolboy quarterback from Altoona; it was about the revered, feared old man running the show”.

Doyel makes my point, the old man running the show was the head football coach, and therefore it becomes an NCAA issue. I know the NCAA has long been considered a laughing stock, and is as corrupt as Capitol Hill and Wall Street, but they have a chance to do something good here, and I do not mean the death penalty.  The NCAA must set the standard and act accordingly. Even if this is just a civil matter technically speaking, is that enough punishment? Since when did the NCAA not believe it wasn’t powerful enough to deliver a punishment, even if they or anyone else believes there is no written rule that was broken?

Unprecedented means never before, so the NCAA needs to be careful that if they do not act, they could be perceived as highly insensitive. Far less serious issues have torn apart administrations and with the announcement of a four-team playoff system in college football two weeks back, the NCAA is risking breaking some serious momentum. That may sound insensitive but it is a fact that men like this consider. You do not need to look further than Freeh’s report to see how true that statement is!

No, Penn State does not deserve the death penalty. Yes, covering up child rape in the football showers is far worse than paying players, but Penn State is, and this is where Don is correct about one thing, going to pay dearly on the civil side of this equation. The amount of money Penn State is going to pay out may as well be a self-imposed death sentence.

However, the death penalty does not sound like a bad option when you read the timeline of events. Prior to August 2005, and six victims later, Penn State, and that means Joe Paterno had ample time to bury this bastard, and have him put away. For God’s sake, when Mike McQueary reported what he saw Sandusky doing to a child in the shower to Joe Paterno, the Freeh Report states that, “Paterno reports the incident to Curley and Schultz on Sunday, February 11 as Paterno did not “want to interfere with their weekends.”

Still do not think this is an NCAA issue? Look at the grand jury report and specifically victim No.4 and then tell me that Penn State didn’t put all of college football at risk. The Grand Jury concluded, as did the Freeh report that Sandusky repeatedly subjected victim four to sexual intercourse and did so on the campus of Penn State and in the football facilities. As if that’s not bad enough, Sandusky who retired from the team as a coach following Penn State’s 24-0 victory over Texas A&M in the Alamo Bowl that year took victim number four to the Bowl game and assaulted him while staying at the team’s hotel.

Looking back, what a pathetic piece of shit Sandusky is, and even that adjective is too good for him, and unfortunately in the eyes of some, too good for Paterno as well. Sickeningly, Sandusky was given the royal treatment following the game, as he was doused with a bucket of Gatorade and carried off the field by his players.

If the NCAA takes away TV for a year or two, as well as the privilege of playing in a Bowl game, the Nitnany Lions may not roar again for at least 10 years. The NCAA needs to do this for the right reasons. First and foremost is for Sandusky’s victims, and the innocent people in the Happy Valley community who need time to heal. Maybe a long time. Not seeing the traditional white on white or dark blue Jerseys and white helmets for a significant period may be a good thing for all involved. Maybe this is where out of sight, out of mind, is a good thing.

Southern Methodist University (SMU) received the only death sentence in NCAA Div. I  history back in 1987 when it was learned that the schools higher-ups maintained a slush fund used for “under the table” payments to players from the mid-1970s through 1986.

The Mustangs had only one winning season over the next 20 years and failed to make another bowl until 2009. It was also one of several factors that led to the collapse of the Southwest Conference. To this day, it is the most severe penalty ever handed down to a Division I athletic program. To date, it is also the only time the NCAA has canceled a football-playing school’s entire season at any level.

As far as for Paterno, it is tough to punish the dead, but it still needs to be done. One of the reasons Joe Paterno stayed and limped around University Park and Beaver Stadium for 14-years years longer than he should have is because of his pursuit to become and remain college football’s winingest coach.

Former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden, who spent nearly a decade battling former Penn State coach Joe Paterno for the most victories in NCAA Division I history, won 389 games in 44 seasons as a coach, including 34 at Florida State. FSU was ordered to vacate 12 victories as part of NCAA sanctions in January 2010, leaving Bowden with a career record of 377-129-4. Paterno, who spent his last two months battling lung cancer, won 409 games and two national championships in 46 seasons at Penn State.

Bowden was ahead of Paterno in all-time victories for a time, but Paterno passed him before Bowden was forced to retire as FSU’s coach near the end of the 2009 season. On Oct. 29, 2009 Paterno won his 409th game, moving him past legendary Grambling State coach Eddie Robinson for the most victories among Division I coaches.

Bowden was not silent about his long time friend’s role in the cover up and feels the statue should be taken down, but not for reasons of disgrace, but to protect Joe and his family as well as Penn State.

“I don’t remember the bad things,” Bowden told the Palm Beach Post. “He didn’t have many bad things.” during a radio interview with Cory Giger, Bowden asked for Paternos famed statue on the Penn State campus to be taken down.

“Should his statue be removed? In my opinion, yes,” Bowden said. “Now the reason is Penn State’s job now is to try to forget this thing. But every time somebody walks by and sees that statue, they’re not going to remember the 80 good years, they’re going to remember this thing with (former assistant coach Jerry) Sandusky.

“Just think, every time you go to a ballgame at Penn State and they shine a camera on that statue, that’s going to be brought up again. So if I was Penn State, if I was Joe’s family, I’d say, ‘move on from all that stuff.'”

Bowden is being kind. very kind, but someone needs to tell the long time Seminole coach that this tragic issue is not simply a matter of “getting over that thing”, or moving on from “stuff”. If I had my way, he would again be atop the leader board as the winingest coach in college football history. That is how the NCAA should punish Paterno, take away every win from the time he was involved in the cover up. It is safe to say that based on Freeh’s report 1998 is a good starting point, but for the sake of accuracy, The NCAA should vacate every victory from Paternos record from the 2000 season until he was fired.

Tear it down now

That would give Paterno 311 career victories, and place him behind Amos Alonzo Stagg for sixth on the Div. I list, and I hate the Seminoles.

Yes, this is a civil matter, but it is also a criminal matter that involves more than Sandusky. It is also a community matter, and is most definitely an NCAA matter, and a matter of facts that must somehow be punished. I always believed that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone gunmen in the killing of President Kennedy for only one reason. I never believed that such important men, whether in the government or the mafia, could keep killing such an important man a secret for so long. Somebody would have talked, wouldn’t they?

This scandal has me rethinking my conclusion about that late November day in 1963. If Paterno, Spanier, Schultz, and Curley proved one thing, it was that important men could indeed keep their mouths shut, sweep horrific events under the carpet and maintain a squeaky-clean image in the process.

In the end, Paternos legendary career is ruined, he is a disgrace to those that did not know him personally, and even to some that did know him. His willingness to protect Penn State, his image and a football program, over the welfare of children leaves for no other conclusion. In the end, it is that simple. Joe Paternos statue needs to fall and the fact that the NCAA has not announced that it intends to act, and the statue still stands only prolongs the hurt and delays the healing process further.

Remember the HBO series OZ, JS may be living it.

The only thing that makes any of this bearable is the fact that Sandusky is likely to face justice of another kind while behind bars. I know, two wrongs do not make a right, but it sure doesn’t hurt that Sandusky is very likely to experience the humiliation, hurt and anguish that he was responsible for doling out for so many years while bunking with Bubba  for the rest of his life.

Prison justice is the only justice that prevails withpredators such as Sandusky.

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Ghost Rider Pictures is now in development on the feature-length movie “Unitas We Stand”.  The screenplay was written by Joe Unitas, the son of Hall of Fame Quarterback Johnny Unitas, and Los Angeles writer Nick Slatkin.  Steven Scaffidi, Oley Sassone, Chris Braun and Joe Unitas will produce the film which is slated for release in 2014 following Super Bowl XLVIII.  The screenplay is based on Tom Calahan’s best-selling book, “Johnny U: The Life and Times of Johnny Unitas”. 
The I-295 Sports Report had Joe Unitas on, and the interview can be heard by clicking the link below. The interview occurs 30 minutes into the show.
Click here to like the Unitas We Stand Facebook page.
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There will be no Z-Best Sports Network Blog Talk Shows (I-295 Sports Report & Z-Best Raw Sports Talk) due to the Fourth of July holiday.  Tomorrow’s the Fan Vs. Fan Broadcast Network show, Z-BEST RAW SPORTS TALK, is also on vacation this week.

So for the next two days please enjoy these articles with videos about what is happening in sports. Be sure to check back tomorrow as I profile the MLB All-Star teams, plus have any updates on NHL and NBA free agency.


FACTS: With his win on Sunday on the Blue Course at Congressional Country Club to win the AT&T National, Tiger Woods passed the Golden Bear, Jack Nicklaus for second in career PGA Tour wins. Woods won for the 74th time as he held off Bo Van Pelton the back nine in temperatures that reached triple digits. With a final-round, 2-under-par 69, Woods beat Van Pelt by two shots and became the first to win three times on the PGA Tour this season. It is the 12th season in which Woods has won at least three times. Woods has won three of his last seven starts, and his 30-month winless drought on Tour after a late-night car accident in November 2009 is becoming a distant memory. Next up for Tiger on the all-time wins list is Sam Snead, who won 82 times during his illustrious career.

And in the oh by the way column, Woods has not lost his touch in terms of getting the fans to watch from home. CBS’ Sunday coverage of the AT&T National drew a 4.6 overnight, up 188% from final-round coverage last year, when Woods didn’t play in the tournament and Nick Watney won it. CBS’ coverage Saturday drew a 2.2 overnight, up 69% from last year.

ALAN’S TAKE: The much-publicized decline of Tiger Woods has been greatly exaggerated. For those of you that say it was not a Major, get over it already. For Woods to do what he did in those temperatures proves he is once again the best competitor in the world on a golf course.  He went 41 straight holes without a bogey and if you do not believe me that even though Tiger is still ranked fourth in the world Woods, despite the win, remained No. 4 in the world golf rankings behind (No. 1 Luke Donald, No. 2 Rory McIlroy and No. 3 Lee Westwood), believe the man that finished second. He said he knows who No. 1 is.

No offense to any of those other guys, but I think (Woods) is the only guy to win three tournaments on Tour this year, right?” Van Pelt said. “On three different golf courses”. And he was leading the U.S. Open after two days. So I’d say that he’s playing the best golf in the world right now.”


FACTS: Michael Phelps earned a chance to swim in eight races when the London Olympics begin in a little over three weeks. However, Phelps and his coach have decided that seven is more than enough. Phelps dropped the 200-meter freestyle from his Olympic program Monday, which means he will swim seven events in London and will not try to duplicate his other worldly eight gold medals in eight events in Beijing. The Baltimore native qualified in five individual events for London and is likely to swim all three relays, as he did in Beijing. His remaining individual races are the 200 and 400 individual medleys, as well as the 100 and 200 butterfly events.

What this allows him to do is really focus his energy on the 4-by-100 relay the second night of the meet without having to do two 200 frees before,” long time coach Bob Bowman said. Phelps won eight gold in Beijing and his 14 gold medals total are an Olympic record.

Heading to London, he has 16 medals (14 gold, 2 bronze) and is two behind only Larisa Latynina, a Soviet gymnast who won 18 in the 1950s and 1960s. Phelps has 26 gold medals, six silvers, and one bronze in his World Championship career. In his two losses (silvers) at the WC last year in Shanghai, Phelps top rival, University of Florida great Ryan Lochte beat Phelps setting up the talk that Phelps may be on the downside heading to the Olympic trials this past week in Omaha.

ALAN’S TAKE:  Like Tiger Woods, the talk of Phelps demise is also greatly exaggerated. The Lochte and Phelps rivalry is real, very real and could be the story line of this summer’s games. Their rivalry had been built up as the next big thing in swimming, with Lochte even suggesting that it could be the biggest story in sports.

It seemed somewhat laughable at the time, a pair of swimmers outdueling the likes of Yankees-Red Sox, Auburn-Alabama or Steelers-Ravens. Nevertheless, after four events and a week of head-to-head duels, it’s not that funny anymore. In fact, if there is anything we learned this week, it is that these two great athletes, who are both two 27-years-old, intend to put on one hell of a show later this month in London.

Phelps struggles over those years mirrored the rise of Lochte, who entered the trials as Phelps’ peer, if not his better. However, Phelps still showed he is the man to beat in Omaha. Of the four events in which the two swimmers faced off in this past week, Phelps won three — the 200-meter individual medley, 200 freestyle and 100 butterfly — while Lochte took the 400 IM. However, Phelps’ combined margin of victory was a mere three-tenths of a second. In no race was the margin less than a second, and Lochte’s winning margin of .83 seconds in the 400 IM was the largest. Of the 16- 50-meter splits the two rivals swam in finals, Phelps was faster in eight of them, Lochte in seven, and there was one tie.

What does that mean? These guys are as close as Brian and Stewie (Family Guy comparison) when their hands were stuck together with glue for a few days. While I cannot speak for you, I am looking forward to the hot summer nights at the end of the month when these two take the blocks to compete against each other. The good news is, in practically every race the two are paired, the United States can probably already place two strokes in the medal count column.

The two swimmers will spend the next three weeks fine-tuning everything from their turns to the way they position their hands in the water, and they will do it while training together. NBC swimming analyst Rowdy Gaines laughed. “I don’t think we’ve learned anything,” he said. “Everyone else comes out here and treats this like their Super Bowl. For these two guys, it was like a regular-season game.”

Gaines said it makes sense because that was the level of effort Phelps and Lochte needed to make the team. In fact, Bowman said this week his swimmer was about “80 percent” where he thought he would be in London.  Lochte noted Sunday he was not fully rested for this meet but would be fully tapered for the Games. He also referred to the trials as a training meet, suggesting there is more to come.

What would really be the icing on the cake for Phelps is to be elected as one of the team’s captains for the first time on his career. While Phelps has always been a focused trainer, he has not been such a great teammate.

Phelps was considered unapproachable in the past and some felt he was extremely arrogant. However, several out of the water incidents, including one arrest and a suspension by the USA Swimming have left Phelps a much more humble man. Phelps was arrested following the Athens games for driving under the influence of alcohol, and a suspension for three months by USA Swimming in the wake of the photo that showed the Olympic record-setting champion inhaling from a marijuana pipe following the Beijing games.

According to a recent ESPN article, those close to Phelps might not agree, but several people within USA Swimming noted this week that the biggest star in their sport appears to be maturing. Maybe it is because of the sentimental pull, knowing his next meet will likely be his last. On the other hand, maybe he is gaining perspective on his career — and life. Whatever the reason, the behind-the-scenes word is Phelps took on much more of a leadership role this week, cheering on, encouraging other swimmers, and being more approachable and available. It will be interesting to see if Phelps’ peers elect him one of the team’s captains for the first time.

If Phelps can win seven more Gold medals, he would have 21 for his career, which would be more gold medals than any other Olympians combined medals. Phelps would also have more Gold medals than 103 of the 139 countries that have won a medal in the Summer Olympics. Simply astonishing to think this could become a reality. Phelps would easily become the greatest athlete of any decade in all of sports history with that accomplishment.

How long do we have to wait? According to the London Olympic clock, it is just 24-days, 17-hours, and 43-minutes as of the writing of this article.


FACT: After winning Euro 2012, put a little butter on the Spaniards, they are on a roll. After thoroughly trouncing Italy 4-0 in Sunday’s European Championship Final in Kiev, Ukraine, Spain has now won three consecutive major soccer tournaments.

The title run began in 2008 when Spain ended a 44-year drought beating Germany 1-0 in Euro 2008. They also won the World Cup in 2010 with a 1-0 extra time victory over the Netherlands, who were making their third finals appearance.  Andrés Iniesta’s goal in the 116th minute gave Spain their first world title.

In 10 knockout-round matches over those three tournaments, Spain has not allowed a single goal. In the entirety of Euro 2012, they allowed just one goal, which came in their very first group-stage match against Italy. In the tournament’s final, also against Italy, they changed their possession-heavy style that drew complaints of being “boring” throughout the tournament back to one with a relentless threat on goal that resulted in a 2-0 lead at halftime. Italy had no answers, and after an injury forced them to play with just 10-men, Spain added two more late goals just to further prove their point and win 4-0.

In addition, Spain captain and goalkeeper Iker Casillas became the first international player ever to win 100 matches with his country with that final victory.

This same Spain team lost 2-0 to the United States in the semi-finals of the 2009 Confederations Cup. The Americans ended a 15-match winning streak with that victory, but fell to Brazil 3-2 in the finals.

With the win, Spain has now won 62 consecutive matches in which they score first. Their last loss in which they tallied the first goal was back in Sept 2006.

Fernando Torres, who scored the teams last two goals during the finale on Sunday, became the first player to score in two separate EURO Final matches. For his efforts, and despite starting in just two of Spain’s six matches, Torres won the tournament’s Golden Boot award (MVP).

Spain also became the first team to score four goals in a Euro Final, as well as the first team to win three straight major titles, including back-to-back Euro championships.

ALAN’S TAKE: In case you missed or are not soccer fans, this event was one of the most underrated watches on television all summer long. Of course, that can only be said in the United States, as every other household in the world undoubtedly had this event on the “tele”. The matches were intense, and the fans in the stands were nuts. If you watched one game, then you no doubt came back for another. It makes me really look forward to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. That is 708 days to kickoff for you diehards out there.


FACTS: NHL free agency got underway Sunday afternoon and let’s just say the anticipation of the day far exceeded anything that has happened during the first 72 hours. It was not all boring, of the 58 players that chose day one to sign a new contract, 46 of them decided to play in another city next season.  However, the two players that are considered the prize catches in this year’s market,  Ryan Suter and Zach Parise, have not yet  picked a team to play for next season and beyond.

While the two biggest stars on the NHL free-agent market were still pondering their futures, a future Hall of Famer found a new home in Texas on Tuesday. The Dallas Stars announced that they have signed former Penguins, Capitals, Rangers and Flyers star, Jaromir Jagr to a one-year deal worth $4.55 million on Tuesday. The 40-year old Czech, who played alongside the Great Mario Lemieux in Pittsburgh, had 19-goals and 35-assists for the other Pennsylvania team last season.  Jagr, who will be entering his 20th season in the NHL, is a nine time All-Star, and In NHL history, ranks first with 16 overtime goals, second with 114 game-winning goals, eighth with 1,653 career points, 11th with 665 goals and 12th with 988 assists.

Want to feel old sports fans, Jagr was a key member of the Penguins back-to-back Stanley Cup winning teams in 1991and 1992. He won his only league MVP in 1999, and led the NHL in scoring five times. Jagr first did it during the 94-95 season, and last accomplished the feat during the 00-01 campaign, when he led the league with 121-points. He needs just 26 more goals to pass his old-line mate, Mario Lemieux for ninth all time and 28 to pass Steve Yzerman. As for Suter and Parise, they are in wait and see mode, which is causing the next top second tier free agents to also wait. This is also driving the hockey fans in those towns crazy.

According to multiple sources, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Detroit and Minnesota are among the teams that are trying to lure him away from the Eastern Conference Champions. Parise said he has been looking at where he wants to live, where he’ll be happy and what team he wants to play for since hitting the market Sunday. And, he’s looking forward to being done with the process.

“It’s been a stressful couple days,” Parise told the Star Tribune.

Both Parise and Suter are 27 and each has been with only one team during their seven-season careers. Suter has played for the Nashville Predators, who are hoping for a quick answer from him so that they can move onto Plan B if necessary. Suter has reportedly been offered a 13-year, $90 million contract by the Detroit Red Wings. A report in the Detroit Free Press says that Suter was offered $80 million by the Red Wings on Sunday, and the team has since increased its offer to the 27-year-old blueliner.

The newspaper says that Red Wings general manager Ken Holland met with Suter at the defenseman’s home in Madison, Wisconsin on Tuesday. The Philadelphia Flyers and Minnesota Wild are reportedly also pursuing Suter, in addition to his former team, the Nashville Predators. His agent, Neil Sheehy, said this week that Suter is taking some time to consider his options.

Second-tier free agents such as defenseman Matt Carle and forward Alexander Semin seem to be waiting for Suter and Praise to sign so that they can offer their talents to teams that don’t get a top target. That has not been the case for other top second tier free agents, but then again, Alex Semin hasn’t always been the first to anything in his career, especially a loose puck.

Semin was recently blasted on TSN (The Sports Network) in Canada as free agency began on Sunday. During the network’s free agency coverage on Sunday, two TSN experts destroyed Semin when discussing his prospects as a free agent.

“You either take a guy who’s a complete winner, or take a guy who’s a complete loser,” said former NHL Marc Crawford. “[Semin] falls in that category.” Crawford was asked to compare Semin with the top free agent forward available, New Jersey’s Zach Parise.

“The difference is, one guy has a ton of character, one guy has no character,” Crawford said. “One guy scores 30 goals and doesn’t help his team. One guy scores 25 goals and helps them in every single way. So, yeah, I would sign him. He’ll be banished to a place like Columbus or something like that, and that’s what those guys do. They head to the island of misfit toys.”

The other expert on the panel, Washington Capitals hater, and NBC analyst Pierre McGuire, didn’t pass on Crawford’s lead in to blast Semin’s ass. “This is not a great teammate,” McGuire said. “I’m telling you right now, not a good guy to have around your group unless you’ve got unbelievably strong leadership. He’s the ultimate coach killer, that’s what it is.”

In terms of the big deals that have been handed out thus far, Colorado kept defenseman Erik Johnson thanks to a $15 million, four-year deal and New Jersey retained defenseman Bryce Salvador with a $9.5 million, three-year contract. In other signings Jiri Hudler signed a $16 million, four-year contract with Calgary – getting much more than Detroit offered to keep him – and former Flames forward Olli Jokinen left to play in Winnipeg on a $9 million, two-year contract on Monday.

There were a flurry of signings Sunday – Day 1 of NHL free agency – including forward P.A. Parenteau leaving the New York Islanders for a $16 million, four-year contract with the Avalanche and 40-year-old forward Ray Whitney getting a $9 million, two-year deal from Dallas.

ALAN’S TAKE: There have been plenty of winners and loser through just three days of free agency. The Dallas Stars appear to have the lead as the early favorite to be crowned this season’s paper champion. Last season’s offseason co- winners, the Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers didn’t meet expectations of their fans after free agency seemed to fill many holes. The Caps struggled to make the playoffs, finishing seventh in the Eastern conference, and needed 81 games to get there. The Flyers are still missing the necessary goaltending after Mr. Universe; Ilya Bryzgalov collapsed during the playoffs and could stop a beach ball. Dallas has missed the postseason four straight times, and general manager Joe Nieuwendyk is taking major steps to see that it doesn’t happen again. He has signed forward Ray Whitney from the Phoenix Coyotes and defenseman Aaron Rome from the Vancouver Canucks.

Nieuwendyk followed those first-day signings by trading center Steve Ott to Buffalo for slick center Derek Roy. Defenseman Adam Pardy also went to Buffalo in the deal. Dallas moved a tough, all-around forward for a finesse player. Roy fills the Stars need for a top six center, and a change of scenery may allow him to elevate his game again. He recorded 81-points in 07-08. Ott also fills a need for Buffalo in the tough Northeast division. He has averaged a tick shy of 155 penalty minutes during the past five NHL seasons.

The Stars were in contention until the last week of the season before being beaten out for the No. 8 spot by the eventual Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings.

The Montreal Canadiens are officially in rebuilding mode and new GM Marc Bergevin put his hard hat on and began work immediately on Sunday. The Habs, who have not won a Stanley Cup since 1993, and are still a long away from doing so, have started the process by acquiring strong veteran talent that will benefit the team on and off the ice.

Bergevin has brought in free agents like Brandon Prust from the New York Rangers, Francis Bouillon from Nashville and Colby Armstrong from Toronto. Prust was not a great point contributor with the regular season Eastern Conference champion New York rangers last season but he brings energy and a feisty nature. According to the Montreal Gazette, Prust led the NHL with 20 fights last season.

The same holds for Bouillon and Armstrong. Bouillon is a solid defensive defenseman, and he is not going to allow the Canadiens to get pushed around. The Canadiens also re-signed All-Star goalie Carey Price to a six-year, $39 million contract. Looks like we can look forward to an Ott vs. Prust bout at least once or twice next season as the Habs and Sabres meet six times.

Other winners include the Colorado avalanche, who signed forward P.A. Parenteau away from the Islanders to help their struggling offense. The Edmonton Oilers, who won the NHL draft lottery for a third straight year and chose the highly touted Nail Yakupov,  has bolstered the defense, which some thought they should have done with the first pick in the draft.

Edmonton signed young free-agent defenseman Justin Schultz, a talented blue liner from the University of Wisconsin. Schultz was a free agent because the Anaheim Ducks drafted him in 2008 and he never signed a contract with the Ducks. As a result, Schultz became a much sought-after free agent, and he signed with the Oilers.

Of course, the Detroit Red Wings always win at everything and this year is no different. You can bank on the fact that they will land one of the two big names on them market or one of the top notch second tier free agents , but for now, the Wings stole, Jordin Tootoo from rival Nashville. Tootoo is coming off the best season of his career in which he registered 6-24-30 with 92 PIM in 77 games.

They also replaced Jiri Hudler, who signed with Calgary for four seasons, with Mikael Samuelsson who previously played for Detroit from 2005-06 to ’08-09. Hudler is coming off a career-high 25 goals and reached the 50-point plateau for the second time this season. His secondary production will be filled by Samuelsson who reached 40 points in three of his four seasons with the Wings.

Our old friend from Washington, Capitals former GM David Poile and his current team, the Nashville Predators have to be at the top of the list as losers through just three days. Poile has yet to re-sign Suter and as just mentioned, lost Tootoo. This on the heels of the much-maligned winger Alexander Radulov going back to Russia after a very disappointing playoffs. One that included a suspension for not making curfew. If Suter does sign elsewhere, the buzzards could start to circle the music city in hopes that Poile will deal defenseman Shea Weber. Poile may need to hit one those storied country bars on Honkey Tonk row for a stiff drink by the time this summer ends.

The feel good story that has been the Phoenix Coyotes is starting to turn sour in the dessert. The uncertain future around the Coyotes is having a negative impact on the team’s free agency.

As previously mentioned, winger Ray Whitney took off for Dallas, and Shane Doan is next on the list and could leave at any time. There is a chance that Doan could remain with the Coyotes, and he may wait until July 9 or beyond to make his decision. Doan wants to see what happens with Greg Jamison’s ownership bid, and July 9 is the likely decision day on that issue. However, the Arizona Republic reports that the issue could take longer.

One of the biggest losers so far also has to be the New York rangers. Unless Glen Sather has something cooking with Columbus, or something else brewing, then day one was quite frustrating for Ranger fans. Fan-favorite Brandon Prust bolted to the Montreal Canadiens for a sizable raise, John Mitchell signed with Colorado and John Scott went to the Buffalo Sabres.

They were bottom six players who brought physicality, character and toughness, Tortorella like players, so Sather tried to replace them, but fail miserably. The Blueshirts inked Michael Haley, formerly of the New York Islanders, to a two-year deal and Aaron Asham completed his tour of duty in the Atlantic Division by signing with the Rangers. Both are goons, with an occasional shot, but neither address the team’s need of scoring. The Rangers are still the favorites to land Rick Nash, but as I said at the start of this segment, all eyes are on Zach Parise, and Mr. Ryan Suter. The free-agency period is not won or lost in a day, but the first day was not Sather’s best as a GM.

At the time this was article is being written, according to Cap there have been 138 players signed, totaling $877,765,000 worth of contracts. This is an average cap hit of $2,138,285. At least the owners will not have to pay out these big new deals if they decide to lock out the players once the current CBA expires on Sept-15. If that happens, then the NHL may need to restructure the entire financial formula of the league. Fans will not return if the league does not start on time. Many are still not watching or attending after the entire 2004 season was lost to a labor dispute.

Early 1900’s journalist Abigail Van Buren once said, “If we could sell our experiences for what they cost us, we’d all be millionaires”. The NHL and most of their players were eventually able to do just that after they returned from missing an entire season in 2004. Superstars such as Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin helped return the league to its rightful spot behind the NBA and back ahead of NASCAR as the No.4 major sport. However, they will not be that fortunate if these negotiations cause even a one-week delay in the season this time.


FACTS: Unlike the NHL, the first 72 hours of NBA free agency have been such a whirlwind that the Lakers’ Metta World Peace is suddenly sounding like the voice of reason. OK, and not really folks, but there is a lot to talk about here.

There has been plenty of signings and trades, though it’s important to note that (almost) nothing becomes official until the league-imposed moratorium on free-agent signings is lifted on July 11.

As he did at the NBA trade deadline, Dwight Howard wants out of Orlando, AGAIN! This time, the Magic are going to oblige their ailing center, who is recovering from back surgery. first things first, and there has to be prep deal so that Howard can fit into the salary cap where ever he ends up, so its off to Brooklyn, NY with the Nets, or Atlanta with the Hawks. See, even I can’t keep up , but  Quire Ramirez of laid it all out pretty nicely this way for the fans of the NBA.

Atlanta traded Joe Johnson to Brooklyn for Jordan Farmar, Anthony Morrow, Johan Petro, DeShawn Stevenson, Jordan Williams and 2013 lottery-protected pick via Houston

Danny Ferry orchestrated a nice haul — as nice as return could possibly look with the words Johan Petro, that is — for one of the worst contracts in basketball. Joe Johnson is due $89.4 million over the next four years (AAV: $22.4 million). The fact that Atlanta found themselves a willing trade partner for Johnson was especially fortuitous.

Not only was Brooklyn willing to hamstring their future for an effective, yet extremely overpaid, scorer but they had oodles of cap space and, most importantly, desperation. Brooklyn is desperate for success and their recent agreement with Gerald Wallace and deal for Johnson certainly affirms this.

So how did Atlanta win this despite giving up a talented player in exchange what will likely amount to little on-court production? NBA analysts throw around this term quite often — flexibility. The reprieve that of trading Johnson ostensibly represents a temporary reset button on the entire operation. The prior regime never pushed that reset button, opting to create mediocre teams instead. Ferry finally pushed that reset button. Atlanta’s newfound flexibility — here is that term again — is invaluable.

Seriously. Get this: Atlanta traded away $105 million in long-term salary for $23.5 million. When you factor in Farmar’s potential buy-out, saving $2.75 million, the Hawks will be capable of bringing in Dwight Howard and Chris Paul. Thanks Johan Petro.

My take is that the Nets get Johnson, in what they hope was a precursor to creating their own Big Three of Deron Williams, Johnson and Howard.  Speaking of Deron Williams, who was the most sought after free agent this offseason, he re-signed with Brooklyn.

Tuesday night, Williams tweeted, “Made a very difficult decision today …,” and he added a link to a photo of the Nets’ logo.

Williams’ decision to stay with the Nets was confirmed by multiple media outlets, and his contract will be a five-year deal worth between $98 million and $100 million. Williams, 28, picked the Nets over the Dallas Mavericks, who could offer no more than a four-year, $75 million deal because of limitations in the collective bargaining agreement.

The Nets are making a lot of moves, re-signing forward Gerald Wallace and trading for Joe Johnson, and they reportedly are trying to work out a deal that would bring Orlando center Dwight Howard to Brooklyn. If they cannot obtain Howard, the Nets will probably try to re-sign free agent center Brook Lopez and free-agent forward Kris Humphries. Williams has said he’s enjoyed living in New York with his family and liked the marketing opportunities available there.

Williams was traded from the Utah Jazz to the Nets on Feb. 23, 2011. He averaged 15.0 points and 12.8 assists in 12 games with the Nets in 2010-2011, then averaged 21.0 points and 8.7 assists in 55 games for the Nets this past season. He’s been an All-Star each of the past three seasons.

In the complete opposite direction of the Parise and Suter situation, the NBA’s second best free agent, who happens to be a restricted one, signed an offer sheet to play with the Phoenix Suns Tuesday night.

The following segment is courtesy of Hoops World.

New Orleans Hornets free agent guard Eric Gordon has agreed to sign a maximum 4-year, $58 million offer sheet with Phoenix, according to’s Chris Broussard.  Gordon, who averaged 20.6 ppg in only nine games for the Hornets last year, is one of the more highly coveted free agents in this class because of his elite scoring ability, but because he’s a restricted free agent New Orleans can and probably will match the offer.

Gordon met with Phoenix on Tuesday and had a fruitful enough meeting to walk out with an offer.  Since the team is most likely losing Steve Nash this summer, they are looking for a new star to build around, and Gordon certainly would qualify as that.

“After visiting the Suns, the impression the organization made on me was incredible,” Gordon told Broussard. “Mr. (Robert) Sarver, Lon Babby, Lance Blanks, the Front Office Staff and Coach (Alvin) Gentry run a first-class organization, and I strongly feel they are the right franchise for me. Phoenix is just where my heart is now.”

Wherever Gordon’s heart may be, hit talents may be in New Orleans for the next four years if the Hornets match this offer as expected.  They’ve got plenty of cap space, a couple of promising rookies in Austin Rivers and Anthony Davis, and a brand new owner looking to help turn the franchise around after a pretty dismal year one of the post-Chris-Paul Era.  It would truly come as a shock if they simply let the best asset from the Paul trade walk away for nothing.

With Kobe Bryant and Dwayne Wade gracefully aging into the twilights of their careers, Gordon is on an upward swing that could end up with him being one of the top two or three shooting guards in the league.  The only question will be whether he can stay healthy; Gordon has missed 103 games over the course of the last three seasons.

Despite all that, he’s still worth the money, which is probably why Phoenix offered it to him.  New Orleans probably had a good idea Gordon would get a max offer and will have been planning for that for months now.

Gordon will sign the offer sheet on July 11, at which point the Hornets will have three days to match it.

In other news, The Los Angeles Lakers are making a “hard push” to acquire Steve Nash, according to David Aldridge. The Lakers join the Dallas Mavericks, Toronto Raptors and New York Knicks as teams that are pursuing Nash.

Much like the Knicks, the Lakers would have to put together a sign-and-trade to land the star point guard. The Lakers still have the $8.9 million traded-player exception that they acquired when they dealt Lamar Odom to the Dallas Mavericks.

According to multiple reports, the Houston Rockets have withdrawn the qualifying offer that would have made Courtney Lee a restricted free agent. Lee is now free to sign anywhere he chooses, so expect renewed interest from some of his former suitors: Chicago, Indiana, Minnesota, among them.

Finally, the Dwight Howard saga has come down to an inevitable messy divorce with the Magic. The Magic have informed teams that they will listen to trade offers for Howard, Yahoo! Sports is reporting.

According the Orlando Sentinel, Magic CEO Alex Martins has said the team will not go into the 2012-13 season with Howard’s situation unresolved. Many members of the Magic organization have believed for weeks that Howard wanted out.

Howard and new general manager Rob Hennigan met face-to-face Friday in Southern California — with Howard reportedly telling Hennigan that he wants a trade — it appears that Magic officials are ready to seek the best offers for the six-time All-Star.

According to ESPN, the  Nets are offering the Magic Brook Lopez, Kris Humphries, MarShon Brooks and their’ first-round draft picks in 2013, 2015 and 2017 for Howard — the most dominant big man in the league. Mike Bianchi of the Sentinel wrote that this would be like trading in an ’87 Yugo and getting a brand new Lexis in return. Maybe, maybe not, but one thing is for sure, the Magic will never move forward with Howard flip flopping like this, and the last time I checked, Yugo’s, or ay old car for that matter that still runs, if properly maintained will move forward and eventually you will arrive at your destination. There will always be a sucker in the NBA that takes any kind of a trade in.

The Magic must start to rebuild and it begins with a Howard trade to the NETS. If they can send him to Houston or LA in the Western Conference and get a similar deal, then it should be already done.

For a list of available NBA Free agents click here and to keep up with the big signings, stay with Z-Best Sports Talk.

Posted in Dwight Howard, EURO 2012, London olympics, NBA, NFL, Orlando Magic, UEFA | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


Joey Crabb, a Matt Hendricks like player

As of 12:16 a.m. Tuesday morning, there have been 129 players that have either signed with new teams or stayed with their old ones. The total amount of dollars spent on these contracts has been $855,275,000 or an average salary cap hit of $2,185,381, according to Cap Geek.

Washington has spent a whopping $950k on just one player and his name is Joey Crabb, who joins Washington via Toronto, Chicago and Atlanta. Signed as a free agent by Atlanta, August 31, 2006, Crabb was traded to Chicago by Atlanta with Marty Reasoner, Jeremy Morin and New Jersey’s 1st (previously acquired, Chicago selected Kevin Hayes) and 2nd (previously acquired, Chicago selected Justin Holl) round choices in 2010 Entry Draft for Brent Sopel, Dustin Byfuglien, Ben Eager and Akim Aliu, June 24, 2010.

In 290-American Hockey League games with the Chicago Wolves, and Toronto Marlies, Crabb scored 66-goals had 91 assists for 157 points. His best season was in 09-10 when had 53 points in 79 games for the Hawks top AHL affiliate.

He then signed as a free agent with Toronto, July 15, 2010 and has played 144 games in the NHL scoring 18-goals and recording 50-points. McPhee compared him to Matt Hendricks so let’s hope he at least has Hendricks like moves during the shootouts at the end of overtime.

Crabb is a hardnosed player that loves to crash the net. If you are wondering why the Capitals have been so quiet, you can thank last year’s crop of free agents that many said made the Capitals Stanley Cup favorites before the season began.

McPhee signed right wing Joel Ward (three years, $12 million), defenseman Roman Hamrlik (two years, $7 million), Jeff Halpern (one year, $825,000) and goaltender Tomas Vokoun (one year, $1.5 million), all in the first two days of free agency.

He also traded Russian net minder Semyon Varlamov to the Colorado Avalanche for their first round pick in last week’s NHL entry draft. With the 11th overall selection the Capitals landed Filip Forsberg from Ostervala, Sweden. Forsberg, just 17, was the top-ranked European skater according to NHL Central Scouting. He was the youngest player on Team Sweden at the 2012 World Junior Championships, helping his team capture their first World Junior gold medal since 1981 by recording one assist in six tournament games.

The Ostervala, Sweden, native collected 17 points (eight goals, nine assists) in 43 games with Leksand in the second division of Sweden’s senior league in 2011-12.

McPhee is using the opposite approach of last off season when he traded the Caps first round pick (26th overall) to the Chicago Blackhawks for one of the teams better players this season, Troy Brouwer. With their second pick in this year’s first round Washington chose Thomas Wilson.

Wilson, who is just 18, is considered a tough hardnosed player that was ranked 15th overall among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting. He collected 27 points (nine goals, 18 assists) and 141 penalty minutes in 49 games with Plymouth of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) and added 13 points (seven goals, six assists) in 13 OHL playoff games. The Toronto native was voted as the ‘Best Body Checker’ in the OHL’s 2012 Western Conference Coaches Poll and was a runner up for the ‘Hardest Worker’ category.

The 6’4”, 203-pound forward won a gold medal with Team Canada at the 2011 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament, posting three goals in five games. He also won gold with Team Ontario at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, recording one assist and six penalty minutes in four games.

You cannot blame McPhee for relying more on the draft this season to re-tool the Caps. Especially when you consider that every free agent signing McPhee inked last July 1-3 has to be considered a major bust. Joel Ward (6-G 12-A) had his worst season as a pro, Roman Hamrlik had a good post season, but was a healthy scratch during the Dale Hunter regime for his poor play at times. Hamrlik, like Ward, also suffered through his worst offensive season as a pro. The 20-year veteran recorded just 13 points in 67 games, which was the first season the 37-year old defenseman recorded less than 26 points since he registered 21 for the TB Lightning way back during the 1993-94 season, the second year of his career.

Jeff Halpern never found a second wind to his career and Tomas Vokoun finished the year watching with an injury, but was never consistently effective, and during one stretch this season was pulled in two straight games.

Poker Face McPhee, lets hope

Washington will add a free agent or two, and it is possible that they are in the hunt for Devils Captain Zach Parise. The hiring of former Devils assistant coach Adam Oates last Tuesday has to at least have the Caps in the talk. McPhee knows he has work to do, and may simply not be tipping his hat. Playing this time of the year with a poker face is something GMGM does very very well.

Forwards Alexander Semin, Mike Knuble and Jeff Halpern, as well as defenseman Dennis Wideman, who was traded to Calgary last week, leave gaping holes, and McPhee will make sure they are filled. However, it is unlikely he will do it as he did last off-season. He does not like handing out bad contracts and said so on Monday when speaking with the media.

“You can survive the loss of a player, but it’s hard to survive bad contracts. Sometimes you can do something at this time of year that handcuffs you for years,” he said. “We haven’t done that; we’re not interested in doing that.”

will Parise Join Oates in D.C

The Caps will be  just fine, and if you remember how surprised everyone was when Tomas Vokoun signed in D.C. last year, just think how surprised everyone will be when they see Blue Jackets superstar Rick Nash  wearing a different color scheme of red, white and blue, preferably more red than blue. And I’m not talking about the New York Rangers.

While trading for Nash is highly unlikely, my point is that McPhee will do something, it just won’t be overspending on third line players or aging defenseman and centers. Look for the Caps to continue adding depth, and if a Zach Parise is within the grasp of Owner Ted Leonsis, and George McPhee then you can bet he will be in Washington. While McPhee is on a warm seat, the only thing he has not accomplished is winning a Stanley Cup, and trust me Caps fans, nobody thinks about it more than GMGM.

Capitals Corner and Z-Best Sports Talk will keep you up to date with any breaking Caps news. Here is a little treat as Joey Crabb has a sit down with a Toronto sports reporter about the upcoming off-season.

Posted in NFL OFF SEASON, WASHINGTON CAPITALS | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments