Thursday, August 30, 2007

AL West Renamed The Guerrero Division

Wednesday in Seattle, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim routed the Mariners 8-2 to complete a three-game sweep of their closest divisional pursuers. Vladimir Guerrero smacked his 22nd home run of the year, as the Angels moved to five games in front of Seattle. At the time, the division was known as the American League West. However, Major League Baseball has announced that the AL West will now be known as the Guerrero Division.

The decision was based on Vlad’s complete dominance against divisional foes this season. In 37 games against Seattle, Oakland, and Texas, Guerrero has 12 home runs, 41 RBI, and a .438 batting average. As commissioner Bud Selig remarked, “The change from the AL West to the Guerrero Division is just a formality. We just wanted to recognize what is already obvious: Vladimir owns that division.”

Guerrero has been a particular nuisance to the second-place Mariners. In 14 games versus the M’s, he has batted .500, with five home runs and 17 RBI. In the Emerald City, Vladimir is responsible for more runs than Shaun Alexander. No one has done more scoring at Safeco Field this year, unless Senator Larry Craig ducked into one of its men’s rooms.

The Dominican superstar hasn’t been any easier on his Northern California adversaries. In 10 matchups with the A’s, Guerrero has gone deep six times, with 13 RBI and a .432 batting average. When Vlad won last month’s Home Run Derby in San Francisco, he must have believed that he was across the bay in Oakland. Besides demoralizing the Athletics, Guerrero has completely ridiculed the Moneyball organization’s philosophy by flourishing with his free-swinging ways. As Oakland General Manager Billy Beane lamented, “We keep telling our guys the value of being patient and not chasing bad pitches. Then we lose because this freak of nature swings at everything from his eyes to his feet and knocks the ball out of the park! He makes me look like a total stooge!”

While Guerrero is hitting a mere .367 against Texas this year, historically he’s been a nemesis like no other to the Rangers. Vlad had a 44-game hitting streak against Texas until last August, when the Rangers ended the streak by walking him four times. The locals say that everything’s bigger in Texas. In the context of the Guerrero Division, that saying is true for the Rangers’ ERA, as well as their deficit behind the Angels. The Texas pitching staff has less chance of success versus Vlad than Paris Hilton does with the MCAT exam. The clubs square off in Anaheim this weekend, but the Rangers do have a plan for Guerrero when his team visits Arlington on September 24. Rangers Ballpark security has been ordered not to allow him onto the premises.

It is unusual for a professional sports division to be named after a person. However, long before the Guerrero Division, there was precedent in the National Hockey League. The NHL was once comprised of the Adams, Patrick, Norris, and Smythe Divisions. The comparisons between the former Montreal Expos superstar and the NHL do not stop there. Like the Stanley Cup, Guerrero used to be entrenched in Canada, but now he calls Anaheim home.

Guerrero is called by many nicknames, including Vlad the Impaler and Big Daddy Vladdy. However, for the unlucky trio of pursuers in the Guerrero Division, only one name fits for the fearsome slugger: The Angel of Death.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Dodgers To Play For Little League World Series Championship

Sunday in Williamsport, Dalton Carriker smashed a walk-off home run in the 8th inning to lift Warner Robins, GA to a dramatic 3-2 victory over Tokyo in the Little League World Series. Carriker’s teammates jubilantly celebrated, believing that they had captured the LLWS title. However, one more obstacle remains for the kids from the Peach State. The championship will actually be at stake on Monday, when Warner Robins takes on the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Monday’s showdown resulted from an obscure loophole in the LLWS bylaws. According to this provision, competition for the Little League title shall be open to any ballclub managed by someone named Little. Therefore, the Grady Little-led Dodgers were entitled to a matchup with Sunday’s winner. The 2002 champions from Louisville benefited from the same rule, as manager Stuart Little became the first animated mouse to capture the title.

The controversial decision sparked an immediate public outcry. As one critic pointed out, “Sure, L.A.’s had a youth movement this year, but not a movement to youth baseball!” Serious questions of fair play have arisen, as rather than 11 and 12-year-old players, the Dodger roster ranges from 22-year-old Matt Kemp to 44-year-old new addition David Wells. Warner Robins parents are particularly concerned about Wells, fearing that he’ll take their kids out drinking before the game.

Little League officials responded that Warner Robins will provide the Dodgers with more of a challenge than their previously scheduled Monday opponents, the Washington Nationals. Also, the Dodger franchise has a strong historical connection with Little League. The LLWS began in 1947, the same year Jackie Robinson ushered in a new era for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Furthermore, Los Angeles has taken to heart the Little League Pledge: “I trust in God. I love my country and will respect its laws. I will play fair and strive to win. But win or lose I will always do my best.” The Dodgers’ version has the slight modifications of “I trust in Lasorda” and “but win or lose I will always hate the Giants.”

Additionally, Warner Robins has reasons for optimism as it enters Monday’s title matchup. Since their 1988 World Series championship, the Dodgers are a woeful 1-12 in playoff games. In their previous postseason showdown with a Georgia ballclub, the Atlanta Braves swept the Dodgers out of the 1996 Division Series. Warner Robins will certainly feel like it has the advantage if L.A. turns to closer Takashi Saito. Carriker proved on Sunday that he can tee off on Japanese relievers.

Despite these issues, the Dodgers do have some items in their favor. They should feel comfortable in Williamsport, having gone 5-2 in Pennsylvania this year. Most significantly for Little, games in the LLWS are shorter than in the ALCS. Therefore, if his starter is leading after six innings, the game is over. Little can’t have a brain-cramp and leave his starter in until the eighth while the opponents tie the game.

Also, the Dodgers’ chances in the Little League World Series will be enhanced by two players who have already been World Series heroes. Taking his regularly scheduled start will be Derek Lowe, the winner in Boston’s Fall Classic clincher in 2004. If late inning heroics are needed, the Dodgers can turn to Luis Gonzalez in hopes of a repeat of his 2001 walk-off single against Mariano Rivera. If it gets desperate, L.A. could even try to reproduce a Kirk Gibson scenario, with a crippled slugger limping to the plate. That situation could arise if Jeff Kent tries to “wash his truck” before his final at-bat.

So the stage is set for Monday, as the Warner Robins kids take their shot against the big leaguers. The Dodgers will try to be the first LLWS champions from California since Long Beach won in 1992 and 1993. They already feel like the spirit of the 1988 postseason is on their side. Broadcasting for ABC, Orel Hershiser will be in the house.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Vick Abbreviations: Old & New

The week's dominant sports story is that Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick will enter a guilty plea next Monday in a federal dogfighting case. At that time, Vick will make official his stunning fall from celebrated athlete to convicted felon. To see just how much his fortunes have plummeted, here's a look at numerous Vick-related abbreviations. First are the old, traditional meanings, followed by their new context.

Old: National Football League
New: Now Freedom's Lost

Old: National Football Conference
New: No Fighting Canines

Old: Atlanta
New: Against The Law

Old: Virginia Polytechnic Institute
New: Vick's Pending Incarceration

Old: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
New: Plea Entered, Tells Attorney

Old: American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals
New: Atlanta Sundays: Petrino's Crushing Agony

Old: Entertainment & Sports Programming Network
New: Endorsements? "Sayonara," Proclaims Nike

Old: Won-Loss
New: Walled Lifestyle

Old: Quarterback
New: Queasy Blank

Old: Attempts
New: Acquaintances: Totally Trouble

Old: Completions
New: Cellmate's Opinion: Michael's Pretty

Old: Percentage
New: Puppies Count, Too

Old: Touchdown
New: Torture-free Dogs

Old: Interception
New: Inmate, Not Teammate

Old: Yards Per Attempt
New: Your Pet's Avenged

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Arenas Loans "Agent Zero" To Webb

He’s the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner. He’s thrown 42 consecutive scoreless innings for the team with the best record in the National League. However, Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Brandon Webb still lags well behind injured teammate Randy Johnson in terms of national recognition. Skilled in the art of promotion, Washington Wizards star Gilbert Arenas has decided to lend a hand to Arizona’s ace. Arenas has loaned his “Agent Zero” moniker to Webb for the next two months.

The label is highly appropriate for the right-hander, since opposing lineups have put up nothing but zeroes against him since July 20. Friday night at Turner Field, Webb tossed a complete game two-hitter in a 4-0 victory over the Atlanta Braves. It was his third consecutive complete game shutout and left him 17 scoreless innings short of the all-time record, set by Orel Hershiser in 1988. Webb’s dominance has delighted teammates, with the exception of daredevil outfielder Eric Byrnes. Webb’s devastating sinker results in so many ground ball outs, it provides Byrnes with no opportunities to smash full-speed into walls.

In explaining his decision, Arenas reasoned that since he’s in the off-season, he can’t take full advantage of “Agent Zero” for the time being. Loaning it out to Webb brings the man known as “Hibachi,” “The Black President,” and “The East Coast Assassin” down to a dangerously low 78 nicknames. However, Arenas plans to reclaim “Agent Zero” as he opens the NBA season at Indiana on October 31, so Webb will be on his own if he pitches Game 6 of the World Series that night. Arenas was further motivated to loan out his nickname based on his enjoyment from writing a highly popular blog on After hearing that blog is short for “web log,” he decided he should “give something back and help out a dude named Webb.”

Arenas does feel a connection with Webb in many ways. Brandon currently plays for Arizona, as Gilbert did in college. Webb has 60 career wins, equaling Arenas’s career-high in points. Also, both of them were Wildcats in college. Webb played at Kentucky, so expect Fox and TBS to capitalize on that background if he pitches in the postseason. Each of his starts will feature approximately 50 crowd shots of Ashley Judd.

Arenas has attached some conditions on the use of “Agent Zero” by Webb. After each start, the pitcher must hurl his jersey into the stands. Also, Webb must mimic Gilbert’s free throw ritual before every pitch. Therefore, the right-hander will spin the baseball around his waist and dribble it three times on the mound before tossing it to home plate. Webb has dismissed concerns that this activity would result in a balk, pointing out that he never has base-runners these days. Webb will not have to shout “Hibachi!” after each out, since the home fans in Phoenix don’t need any more reminders of things that are really hot.

Some Diamondback fans have expressed concern that the “Agent Zero” nickname could leave Webb susceptible to a season-ending knee injury, as Arenas suffered before last spring’s playoffs. However, the ace downplayed those fears, noting that he’s been a workhorse who exceeded 200 innings in each of the previous three seasons. Webb added that unlike Arenas, he’s highly unlikely to have Gerald Wallace fall into his leg while he’s on the mound.

Expecting to be fully healthy when the NBA season begins, Arenas is more eager than ever to pile up the points. In the meantime, the new Agent Zero will be keeping scores low.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

MLB Before and After

We’re about to hit the stretch run in baseball, so the time is right for an edition of “MLB Before and After!” Every once in a while, I do a “Sports Before and After” column as a way of paying homage to my Jeopardy! experience. As with the “Before and After” category on the show, the answer to each clue combines two different subjects, with the end of the first part being the beginning of the second. For example, if asked for the Florida Marlins pitcher who recently joined the Baltimore Ravens backfield, you would answer “Dontrelle Willis McGahee.”

Now that you’re prepared, go ahead and try your luck! Every entry relates to someone or something that’s currently involved with major league baseball. Answers are listed at the end, and there’s no need to phrase your responses in the form of a question. As a matter of tradition, the first clue always relates to UNC.

1. Detroit Tigers lefthander who’s a cold-filtered beer

2. 2005 Preakness and Belmont Stakes winner who just hit his 500th home run

3. 1978 Best Picture Oscar winner about a Houston Astros rookie outfielder

4. Stick shift named for the Philadelphia Phillies manager

5. Republican presidential candidate who’s a necessary piece of equipment for Ivan Rodriguez

6. Speedy Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder who’s a state capital

7. Fall Classic starring Mike Myers and Dana Carvey

8. Colorado Rockies slugger who’s a hotel where guests “Stay Smart”

9. Barney Fife catchphrase centered on the MLB commissioner

10. 19th century American art movement inspired by an Atlanta Braves starter

11. Fenway Park fence that got into a 1988 street fight with Mike Tyson

12. New York Mets third baseman who sang “I’m Too Sexy”

13. Samuel Jackson and Christina Ricci movie about the San Diego Padres manager

14. Applebee’s slogan about a Philadelphia Phillies starter

15. Steve Miller Band hit about an automatic pop-up out

16. Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder who sang “Saturday Night”

17. Cincinnati venue named for an ancient Greek king

18. Los Angeles Dodgers starter who starred on Laverne and Shirley

19. Kansas City Royals manager who hit the charts in 1990 with “Poison”

20. 2002 James Bond movie about the 2005 World Series MVP

21. Saskatchewan city named for a Seattle mascot

22. 1979-81 NBC series set in 2491, about a Fox broadcaster

23. Pictionary-like game show inspired by a San Francisco Giants outfielder

24. Long luxury car in which “Take Me Out To the Ballgame” is sung

25. Cincinnati Reds starter who starred in Death Wish


1. Andrew Miller Genuine Draft

2. Afleet Alex Rodriguez

3. The Deer Hunter Pence

4. Charlie Manuel Transmission

5. Catcher’s Mitt Romney

6. Juan Pierre, South Dakota

7. Wayne’s World Series

8. Matt Holliday Inn Express

9. Nip it in the Bud Selig!

10. Tim Hudson River School

11. Mitch “Blood” Green Monster

12. David Wright Said Fred

13. Bud Black Snake Moan

14. Adam Eaton Good in the Neighborhood

15. Infield Fly Like an Eagle

16. Jason Bay City Rollers

17. Alexander the Great American Ballpark

18. Brad Penny Marshall

19. Buddy Bell Biv Devoe

20. Jermaine Dye Another Day

21. Mariner Moose Jaw

22. Joe Buck Rogers in the 25th Century

23. Randy Winn, Lose Or Draw

24. 7th-inning Stretch Limousine

25. Charles Bronson Arroyo

Sunday, August 12, 2007

13 Majors

Sunday at a scorching Southern Hills Country Club, Tiger Woods outpaced Woody Austin by two strokes to capture his fourth PGA Championship. Woods now has 13 major titles overall. Outside the golf world, “Major” can mean many things. In honor of Tiger, here’s a look at 13 such Majors.

John Major: Former British Prime Minister. On three occasions, Tiger has also ruled the British.

Major League: Tiger’s shots were much more accurate than Rick Vaughn’s pitches. Still, it would have been cool to hear “Wild Thing” blasting as Woods walked down the 18th fairway.

Mid-Major: Classification for the Tulsa Golden Hurricane, located in the tournament’s host city.

Lee Majors: Best known as The Six Million Dollar Man. Tiger makes that on a good weekend.

5-Minute Major: Punishment for fighting in ice hockey. So let’s recap. NHL: Pummeling someone with punches takes you out for five minutes. PGA: Signing an incorrect scorecard takes you out completely. Maybe Sergio should put on some skates.

Major Harris: Redshirt sophomore quarterback who led West Virginia to an undefeated regular season in 1988. Woods also knows how to win after putting on a red shirt.

Major Margaret Houlihan: M*A*S*H* character known as “Hot Lips.” With triple-degree temperatures each day, everything was hot at Southern Hills.

Economics: Tiger’s major at Stanford. Ironically, he learned far more about the subject by leaving college early.

Major Dad: Sunday provided a reminder of the Gerald McRaney sitcom, as Woods won his first major as a dad.

Ursa Major: Big Dipper constellation whose name means “Great Bear.” Tiger is gaining on the great Golden Bear.

Major Steve Trevor: Companion of Wonder Woman. Tiger is buddies with golf’s wonder woman, Annika Sörenstam.

“Major Tom”: Hit 1983 song by Peter Schilling. With 13 majors, Woods has equaled the combined total of Tom Watson, Tom Lehman, Tom Kite, Tom Weiskopf, Tommy Aaron, and David Toms.

Major Payne: Damon Wayans trained the “green boys,” including a cadet named Tiger. The other Tiger trains to win green jackets.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Bonds & Other Barrys

As everyone knows by now, Barry Bonds slammed his 756th major league home run Tuesday night, breaking the all-time record. Bonds has passed Hank, but how does he compare to other Barrys? Let’s take a look.

Barry Bonds: Smoked the record-breaker off a Washington player
Marion Barry: Smoked crack as the Washington mayor

Barry Alvarez: Was the leader of the Wisconsin Badgers
Barry Bonds: Thanks to him, the MLB leader from Wisconsin was badgered

Barry Bonds: Has a high on-base percentage for the Giants
Barry Zito: Has a high earned run average for the Giants

Rick Barry: Was a prickly Bay Area superstar
Barry Bonds: Is a prickly Bay Area superstar

Barry Bonds: Somehow, he doesn’t have a World Series championship ring
Barry Switzer: Somehow, he has a Super Bowl championship ring

Barry Melrose: Noted for his mullet hair
Barry Bonds: Noted for his mammoth head

Barry Levinson: Collaborated with Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man and Wag the Dog
Barry Bonds: Collaborated with Dusty Baker in Candlestick and Pac Bell Parks

Barry Bonds: Born in 1964
Barry Goldwater: Burned in 1964 election

Dave Barry: Displays his sense of humor as a newspaper columnist
Barry Bonds: Rarely displays his sense of humor to newspaper columnists

Barry Sanders: Retired before breaking the all-time record
Barry Bonds: To many fans’ chagrin, DIDN’T retire before breaking the all-time record

Barry Bonds: Draws lots of passes to get to first base
Barry White: Helped lots of guys get past first base

Barry Bonds: Endured a stressful home run chase
Barry Pepper: Endured a stressful home run chase, as Roger Maris in 61* (MLB must really hate him, given all the “No Pepper Allowed” signs at the ballpark)

Barry Foster: Rushed for 1,690 yards for Pittsburgh in 1992
Barry Bonds: Rushed out of Pittsburgh in 1992

Barry Manilow: Sang “Can’t Smile Without You”
Barry Bonds: Jeff Kent smiles without him

Barry Williams: Portrayed Greg Brady
Barry Bonds: Regarding two Andersons, critics say he got steroids from Greg and hit tainted home runs like Brady

Barry Larkin: One-time MVP who played shortstop
Barry Bonds: Seven-time MVP with a short fuse

Barry Bonds: Sports legend who testified before a grand jury
Barry Scheck: As part of O.J.’s defense team, made sure a sports legend didn’t testify before a jury

Barry Sonnenfeld: Directed Big Trouble and Wild Wild West
Barry Bonds: Team is in big trouble in the NL West

Barry Bostwick: Rocky Horror Picture Show star has inspired fans to throw toast
Barry Bonds: MLB star has inspired fans to throw syringes

Barry Gibb: Fueled disco fever with the Bee Gees’ smash hits
Barry Bonds: Fuels Giants fans’ fever with splash hits

Sunday, August 05, 2007

A Woody Allen Guide To College Football's Top 16

On Friday, the pre-season USA Today college football coaches’ poll was released. Stocked with stud athletes, you might not expect these teams to have anything in common with Woody Allen. However, the nebbish director’s films have relevance for each of the top 16. Granted, Sleeper isn’t an appropriate match for the teams at the top. Here’s the Scoop on the movies that do have a connection to the big men on campus.

16. Rutgers: New York Stories. With Allen involved, we have to include a team in the shadow of the Big Apple.

15. Tennessee: September. After road trips to Berkeley on September 1 and Gainesville September 15, we’ll know early if the Vols are award-worthy.

14. Auburn: Bananas. That’s what the entire state of Alabama will be on November 24, when Nick Saban brings the Tide to Jordan-Hare Stadium.

13. Georgia: Mighty Aphrodite. A Greek goddess is appropriate for a team that plays in Athens. To beat Florida for a change, the Bulldogs actually need help from the gods.

12. California: Shadows and Fog. That’s all opponents will see when trying to contain DeSean Jackson on kick returns.

11. Louisville: Deconstructing Harry. Harry Douglas will be in a leading role as he hauls in touchdowns from Brian Brohm.

10. Ohio State: Take The Money And Run. Lots of last year’s Buckeyes are now collecting NFL salaries. On a separate note, it’s safe to say that Allen isn’t the most popular Woody in Columbus.

9. Virginia Tech: Everyone Says I Love You. The Hokies will be everyone’s sentimental choice this fall.

8. Oklahoma: Crimes and Misdemeanors. Due to NCAA violations, the Sooners were stripped of eight wins from 2005. Unfortunately for them, the infractions committee was composed entirely of Pac-10 replay officials.

7. Wisconsin: Annie Hall. The character of Annie Hall was a Wisconsin native. The scenes in which Diane Keaton wore a cheesehead didn’t make the final cut.

6. West Virginia: Bullets Over Broadway. Pat White and Steve Slaton will give the Mountaineer mascot plenty of occasions to fire his gun. Meanwhile, former WVU players will be shooting up strip clubs.

5. Michigan: Anything Else. Before a game against Ohio State or a bowl opponent, that’s Lloyd Carr’s response when asked, “What would you rather be doing?”

4. Texas: Manhattan. Last year in Manhattan, Colt McCoy was knocked out of a loss to Kansas State. This December, McCoy hopes to be in another Manhattan.

3. Florida: Play It Again, Sam. Fans in Gainesville want another trophy. Yeah, another one.

2. LSU: Hollywood Ending. That’s what the Tigers would have if they win a national title in New Orleans.

1. USC: Celebrity. Speaking of Hollywood, the Trojans keep turning out high-wattage stars in Tinseltown. Pete Carroll’s not a bad director, either.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

What's Next After "Who's Now?"

If you’ve tuned into SportsCenter any time over the past month, you’ve been inundated with the question of “Who’s Now?” Tiger Woods and LeBron James are the finalists, with the “Now” person being revealed on Sunday. Presumably, the runner-up will have “Vice-Now” status and will assume the top position if the winner is no longer able to be “Now.”

ESPN has clearly enjoyed the “Who’s Now?” run, so expect to see some similar themes on future installments of SportsCenter. Here are some other possibilities, along with the potential winners.

Who’s Frau? Steffi Graf

Who’s Ow? Shaun Livingston

Who’s Meow? (The top Cat) Billy Gillispie

Who’s Yao? Yao Ming (Duh!)

Who’s Wow? Vince Young

Who’s Howe? (High-scoring Detroit Red Wing) Pavel Datsyuk

Who’s Dow? (An up-and-down Jones) Andruw Jones

Who’s Noun? (Person, place, or thing) Chuck Person

Who’s Mao? Yi Jianlian (Yao was already used)

Who’s Pow? Floyd Mayweather, Jr.

Who’s Crying Now? 1981 hit from Journey

Who’s Chow? Joey Chestnut

Who’s Sow? Darren McFadden (I know, a sow is a FEMALE Hog, but how many girls are up for the Heisman?)

Who’s Plow? Eric Snow

Who’s Cow? (Sacramento coach, in Phil Jackson’s words) Reggie Theus

Who’s Show? (As in Eric Show, who surrendered Pete Rose’s record-breaking hit) Victim of Barry’s 756th

Who’s Vow? (Just married) Tony Parker