Monday, January 31, 2011

Cal Coach Jeff Tedford Rooting for Aaron Rodgers in Super Bowl

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How fitting that Cal football coach Jeff Tedford was on the two-lane road heading into Chico for a recruiting trip Wednesday -- just days after his last success story from the same small California college town earned a ticket to the biggest show in sports.

Tedford watched his former quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, lead the Green Bay Packers to Super Bowl XLV by winning the NFC Championship Game on Sunday. He watched as a fan, cheering for Rodgers and another former Cal player and Packers linebacker Desmond Bishop. And he watched as a coach.

"I'll break it down, watch tendencies, that kind of thing," Tedford said. "But mostly, I was rooting for him and Des. I was watching both sides of the ball."

Tedford is the coach who discovered Rodgers. Rodgers had not been offered a Division I scholarship and he was playing at Butte College in Chico when Tedford spotted him while there to recruit another player.

Tedford, who had previously mentored Trent Dilfer, Kyle Boller and David Carr, turned Rodgers from an under-regarded passer into a star college quarterback. Rodgers was named the starting quarterback by the fifth game of his debut season at Cal. He led Cal to bowl games at the end of the 2003 and 2004 seasons, finishing 10-1 in 2004, including a loss at USC in which Rodgers tied an NCAA record with 23 consecutive passes completed in one game.

 

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Byron Scott Has Been Through Worse Than Cavs' Losing Streak

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ORLANDO, Fla. - This isn't the worst thing to happen to Cleveland Cavaliers coach Byron Scott. It's not even the worst basketball thing.

Not even close.

Scott may have won three NBA championships as a player and reached the NBA Finals twice as a head coach, but he is no stranger to tough basketball times.

Scott and his Cavs lost their 20th consecutive game Sunday night, 103-87, to the Magic, leaving them just three away from the NBA record for consecutive losses - set by a team on which Scott played a key role.

Scott may have found fame playing alongside Magic Johnson as part of the Showtime Los Angeles Lakers, but he also spent one miserable season with the first-year expansion Vancouver Grizzlies, which lost 23 consecutive games during the 1995-96 season.

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Mets Searching for 'Strategic Partners' With Madoff Lawsuit Ongoing

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Fred WilponThe New York Mets announced that they are looking for "strategic partners" as they continue to feel the financial pressure of a lawsuit brought against Sterling Equities -- Fred Wilpon's real estate investment firm, which also owns and operates the Mets -- by the trustee of victims of Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme.

In a conference call with the media, Fred and son Jeff said they are looking to sell up to 25 percent of the team, perhaps to multiple stakeholders. Citi Field and SNY, which are also owned by Sterling, will not be part of any deal, however.

"At the outset I want to emphasize what we are discussing today has not or will not affect the Mets day-to-day operations and control," Fred Wilpon told reporters. "Let me stress, at the end of the day we may or may not do anything."

We have known for quite some time that the Wilpon family was connected to Madoff, who defrauded investors of billions of dollars before he was arrested in 2008. We have also known since late 2010 that the Wilpons were being sued by that trustee, Irving Picard, a sign that the family actually profited as a byproduct of Madoff's scheme.

 

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Mariners Expect David Aardsma By April; Chris Ray Might Help Close Early in Year

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The Seattle Mariners are hoping that they can get closer David Aardsma back by the middle of April.

Mariners trainer Rick Griffin said Thursday that Aardsma, who had hip surgery just after the new year, is on crutches and is likely to be there for a total of 8-10 weeks.

That would mean he wouldn't be ready to walk on his own until about the first of March, one-third of the way through spring training.

"He's doing a lot of therapy work," Griffin said. "And he is doing shoulder exercises. The doctors are saying that he should be ready the second week of the season."

That would mean that Aardsma would have about six weeks from the time he gets off the crutches until the time he's pitching in games. While he's out, setup man Brandon League, who was 6-for-12 in save chances when Aardsma was unavailable last season, will take over.

 

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2010 Team Reviews: Stewart-Haas Racing Steps Back

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Not everyone doubted Tony Stewart when he announced his departure from Joe Gibbs Racing in 2008 to form his own Sprint Cup team, Stewart-Haas Racing.

But he will certainly note, as will anyone else around at that point, that so many people from so many corners of NASCAR thought the two-time champion was committing career suicide.

Instead, 2009 proved to be about as far from the gloomy predictions as possible when both Stewart and teammate Ryan Newman qualified for NASCAR's championship battle. Their campaigns in the 2009 Chase to the Sprint Cup were to little avail, but seemed to paint a soon-to-be-dominant future for the race team.

Comparatively, 2010 was a step back for the SHR team -- back to about the level most thought Stewart would be competing at by now.

 

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Whither Keith Olbermann Now That MSNBC Is in Rearview Mirror?

by Milton Kent

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Keith OlbermannWhere do you go when every bridge you've crossed has been burned behind you?

That's the question facing Keith Olbermann now that his time at MSNBC has come to an abrupt end. Olbermann, who, when teamed with Dan Patrick in the 1990's turned ESPN's SportsCenter into must-see TV, announced that he was leaving Countdown, MSNBC's most popular prime-time program, at the end of Friday's show.

Neither Olbermann nor NBC News, which owns MSNBC, would say why he was leaving, though many media observers have linked the notion that NBC-Universal just this week received governmental permission to be acquired by communications giant Comcast to his stepping down. An NBC spokesman told NPR that the two items were not connected.

There still may be places for Olbermann to turn up, even back in sports. For instance, Olbermann is known in baseball circles as a historian, which could make him a prime candidate to serve as an anchor on MLB Network. Olbermann would also be an intriguing choice for a show on HBO, which could have elements of news and sports.

And despite his having been bounced from MSNBC and from a spot on Football Night in America, one wonders if a rebranded Versus or an entirely new NBC sports channel wouldn't welcome a personality like Olbermann's, even if he is anathema to conservative viewers.

Wherever Olbermann might land, he'll bring significant baggage and a reputation for being difficult to work with. He famously flamed out at ESPN, then went to FOX Sports Net, where his sports highlight show failed to gain traction against ESPN, though he also was a studio host on FOX's baseball coverage.

He joined MSNBC in 2003, and gradually molded Countdown into a liberal challenger to Fox News' prime-time lineup. Though Countdown was MSNBC's most-popular program, it never approached the ratings of Bill O'Reilly or Sean Hannity, Olbermann's principal competitors. He openly feuded with O'Reilly.

Olbermann was suspended for two days in November for contributing to Democratic candidates, a violation of NBC News policy.

 

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Mariners Expect David Aardsma By April; Chris Ray Might Help Close Early in Year

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The Seattle Mariners are hoping that they can get closer David Aardsma back by the middle of April.

Mariners trainer Rick Griffin said Thursday that Aardsma, who had hip surgery just after the new year, is on crutches and is likely to be there for a total of 8-10 weeks.

That would mean he wouldn't be ready to walk on his own until about the first of March, one-third of the way through spring training.

"He's doing a lot of therapy work," Griffin said. "And he is doing shoulder exercises. The doctors are saying that he should be ready the second week of the season."

That would mean that Aardsma would have about six weeks from the time he gets off the crutches until the time he's pitching in games. While he's out, setup man Brandon League, who was 6-for-12 in save chances when Aardsma was unavailable last season, will take over.

 

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Americans Abroad: Oguchi Onyewu, Maurice Edu Find Net

americans abroad maurice eduA major knee injury, lengthy rehab and his subsequent banishment to the furthest end of AC Milan's bench haven't left U.S. national team center back Oguchi Onyewu with much to be happy about over the past 18 months.

So it's no surprise the 28-year-old seemed ecstatic after playing 90 minutes and scoring a goal in a friendly against a German fourth-division club.

Making his first appearance with FC Twente since signing a loan deal earlier in the week, Onyewu went the distance and nodded home a corner kick during the Dutch champion's 2-2 draw with Sportfreunde Lotte on Saturday.

He tweeted afterward: "First friendly match with FC Twente, and your boy has already notched his first goal! We tied 2-2. Back on track! God is GREAT!!! BLESS!!!"

 

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United forging new identity for 2011

WASHINGTON ? Banishing the nightmares of a poor 2010 season is paramount for D.C. United as they start a fresh year this week in the nation?s capital.

The team?s focus heading into a long preseason is creating and fostering a winning mentality that will carry into the season opener on March 19 against Columbus and beyond.

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Steve Spagnuolo Slowly Prepares to Seek Out Rams' Next Quarterbacks Coach

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There was some thought when Josh McDaniels was hired by St. Louis as the Rams' offensive coordinator that he would double as the quarterbacks coach.

But now, a week after the hiring, it seems that St. Louis coach Steve Spagnuolo is leaning toward adding a replacement for the retiring quarterbacks coach, Richard Curl. And McDaniels would likely have some input on the hire.

Talking at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., to stltoday.com, Spagnuolo said he had not talked to any prospective candidates, but he hinted that he might start doing so in the near future.

"I have some names,'' Spagnuolo said when talking about the open position. "We'll probably start having to bring some people into St. Louis. But we're in no real rush. We want to get the right guy, and I want Josh to feel good about him, too, and the rest of the staff.''

Spagnuolo was due back in St. Louis on Friday and the plan was to sit down with McDaniels to talk about how to go forward.

"I want to get back there and sit down with Josh,'' Spagnuolo said. "We've got to hone in on (the quarterback coach). Josh has done it both ways as a coordinator. Josh has had a quarterback coach, and has not had one. He'll still have a lot to do with the quarterback even if we do have a quarterback coach.''

 

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The Worst of the MLS SuperDraft

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mls superdraft mls draftAs the Vancouver Whitecaps prepare to select first in Thursday's MLS SuperDraft, the expansion side should heed this cautionary tale: Half of the No. 1 overall picks since the event was established in 2000 have been busts.

So choose well, Vancouver. For every Maurice Edu, there has been a Nikolas Besagno. To emphasize the point, check out FanHouse's all-time worst SuperDraft XI below.

After highlighting the best players the mechanism has produced, it's now time to call out the selections who haven't fared so swimmingly.

Whether the top pick during the proceedings in Baltimore ends up being Perry Kitchen, Darlington Nagbe or someone else entirely, Vancouver (or maybe a team that trades to the top spot) will hope its choice doesn't belong on this list in the future.

 

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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Vladimir Guerrero Reportedly Gets Offer From Orioles

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Vladimir Guerrero is running out of places to ply his trade in 2011.

Teams in need of a full-time designated hitter (and Vlad's one trip to the outfield in the World Series proved he is nothing more than that) are few and far between, which could mean that the first team to make an offer will win his services. If that's the case, the Baltimore Orioles have to be considered the front-runner.

According to Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com, the Orioles have made an offer to Guerrero. He doesn't have any specific financial terms, but does say that it reflects the current market for designated hitters. That means it is almost certainly a one-year deal, as opposed to the two years Guerrero was seeking earlier this offseason, and that it is for relatively little guaranteed money.

 

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MLS unveils roster and player rules for 2011

NEW YORK ? Fans can now follow every transaction made by their club in 2011 afer the league released of the full set of MLS player and roster rules on Friday.

SEE THE FULL SET OF 2011 LEAGUE RULES HERE

The document outlines the current MLS roster structure and the mechanisms by which players can be acquired and released.

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Eagles Reportedly to Tag Michael Vick, Listen to Offers for Kevin Kolb

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The Eagles' plan at quarterback is reportedly beginning to come into focus, as the team plans to apply the franchise tag to Michael Vick and entertain trade offers for Kevin Kolb, according to Adam Schefter.

If the Eagles tag Vick, he'd be under contract for 2011 at the average salary of the five highest-paid quarterbacks in the league under the current rules surrounding the franchise tag. It is unknown how a new collective bargaining agreement would impact the tag.

Kolb, on the other hand, would be perhaps the best quarterback available in the offseason, and could command a very good return from a needy team. If the Eagles choose to keep him, he'll be playing for a very palatable $1.4 million.

The Eagles faced a similar situation entering last season, with Kolb entering the season as a starter. But an injury in the season's first game forced Vick into action, and the story of his season is well-known. Vick never relinquished the starting job, electrifying the league on the way to his fourth career Pro Bowl in his second season removed from prison.

 

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A's Chris Carter Eyes Big '11 Impact

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Athletics prospect Chris Carter could be poised to provide a big boost to an Oakland offense that struggled to score runs last year. Carter sits down to talk with FanHouse TV's Jeff Fletcher about how he feels heading into spring training and about his goals for the 2011 season.

 

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Rays Switching to AstroTurf Surface at Tropicana Field

by Andrew Johnson

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The Tampa Bay Rays are installing a new playing surface at their home ballpark, Tropicana Field, in time for the 2011 season.

The Rays have played on synthetic turf since their inaugural season in 1998, but on Opening Day this year they will be playing on AstroTurf 3D60H GameDay Grass.

"The AstroTurf fiber and in-fill systems contain the very latest technology and will provide our players the best playing surface available," said Rays president Matt Silverman in a statement.

 

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NASCAR Announces New Points Format, Chase Changes, New Qualifying Rules

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Citing the need to make the championship format "simpler," NASCAR chairman Brian France formally introduced a new points system for the three national touring series Wednesday and also announced slight changes to the Chase for the Sprint Cup playoff format and race qualifying procedures.

As has been rumored during the last two weeks, the new points payout will be 43-to-1 -- paying 43 points to the race winner with each position decreasing in one-point intervals, with a single point going to last place in the 43-car fields.

The race winner will also receive a three-point bonus. There are one-point bonuses available for leading one lap and for the driver who leads the most laps, meaning there is a maximum of 48 points available for a race winner who leads the most laps.

"So now everyone will know, when a driver is down by 10 points, that he needs to pass 11 more cars to take the lead in the point standings,'' France told a crowded room of reporters at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in downtown Charlotte.

"Very much a simple, easy to understand system for us."

In other significant news, France announced the third major change to the Chase playoff format since its inception eight years ago. The top 10 drivers in points after the 26-race regular season will qualify for the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. And in an effort to emphasize winning, NASCAR will now make the 11th and 12th place Chase qualifiers the drivers outside the top-10 with the most wins -- giving it a sort of wild-card feel.

The top-10 drivers will be reseeded as before, with a three-point bonus given for each win, compared to the 10-point bonus previously handed out. The 11th and 12th place drivers will be reseeded but will not receive bonus points for their wins.

"These guys are going to be driving like their hair is on fire,'' Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage said.

"Give NASCAR credit for placing the emphasis on winning races with the new points system. The points championship should be secondary to winning races week in and week out. If you do that, championships take care of themselves."

 

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Hannah Storm Signs New ESPN Contract

by Milton Kent

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Hannah Storm, arguably the most visible woman at ESPN, has signed a contract extension that will bolster her visibility, the channel announced Wednesday.

Storm, who came to the Worldwide Leader from CBS News in 2008 to launch the late-morning "SportsCenter", has inked a deal, the length and financial terms of which were not disclosed.

However, ESPN was all too happy to announce that Storm, who began hosting NBA coverage, will also be on-site host for the channel's coverage of the Super Bowl, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, as well as the NBA Finals.

Storm will also make appearances on "The Sports Reporters", while continuing to host "SportsCenter" on Sunday mornings during the NFL season and the Tournament of Roses Parade and "ESPN Sports Saturday" on ABC. .

Storm, who previously worked at NBC Sports and at CNN, is the wife of NBC's Dan Hicks.

 

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White Sox Might Be Staying in the Freddy Garcia Business

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Every time Freddy Garcia thinks he's out, the White Sox pull him back in.

Well, maybe. Jon Heyman of SI.com reports that the team is considering bringing Garcia back for the 2011 season, which would make for a really roundabout way of staying put. The team expressed interest in keeping him all the way back at the start of the offseason, Garcia went on to be linked to just about every team with pitching needs (which means just about every team in the big leagues) and now things have come full circle.

The biggest stumbling block for the White Sox, as Heyman mentions, is that they will have one starter too many once Jake Peavy is ready to pitch again. That's not going to be until June at the earliest, however, and that leaves quite a few starts to fill before even taking into account the various anvils that can fall onto the heads of starting pitchers over the course of the season.

 

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Phil Simms, Jim Nantz Respond to Charges of Patriots Bias

by Milton Kent

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Few things draw the ire of network announcers more than allegations that they favor one team or player over another or that they pull punches. That, and cutting off their clothing and hair-care allowances.

So, it shouldn't have come as a surprise that Jim Nantz and Phil Simms, CBS' No.1 NFL announce team, were all too happy to refute allegations that they took a little off their respective fastballs recently and made too nice with the New England Patriots during last Sunday's telecast.

"That's always the case, especially with fans," said Simms Thursday during a conference call to promote CBS' coverage of Sunday's AFC championship game between Pittsburgh and the New York Jets. "I walk out of the booth almost every week (and hear), 'Aw, you don't say enough good things about us.' "

Simms added, in a sarcastic tone, "That's OK. You're right. I want to show favoritism and get fired."

The piece that triggered the response was written by veteran media critic Bob Raissman of the New York Daily News, who contended Monday that Simms had failed to take Patriots coach Bill Belichick to task for strategic gaffes he might have made during Sunday's divisional playoff loss to the Jets.

 

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Mark Martin to Race in All Three NASCAR Series in 2011

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Just when we thought Mark Martin might be winding up his long and storied career as a NASCAR driver, he's decided to jump back in with both feet in 2011 by running races in all three of NASCAR's national touring series.

In his final, lame-duck year with Hendrick Motorsports in the Sprint Cup series, Martin has decided to also run selected Nationwide series and Camping World Truck series events for Turner Motorsports.

Martin will drive the No. 32 Dollar General Chevrolet in Nationwide races at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Ca., Michigan International Speedway and Kentucky Speedway, with Trent Owens serving as his crew chief, the team announced Wednesday.

Martin will also drive the No. 32 Chevy Silverado truck in NASCAR Truck series races at Michigan as well as Pocono Raceway.

"I'm excited to be running back in the Nationwide and Truck Series again," said Martin. "Everyone at Dollar General and Turner Motorsports has been great and I'm looking forward to hitting the track with them next year. Working with Turner, I get to extend my relationship with Chevrolet and continue to have Hendrick horsepower under the hood, which is really, really good."

 

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White Sox Might Be Staying in the Freddy Garcia Business

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Every time Freddy Garcia thinks he's out, the White Sox pull him back in.

Well, maybe. Jon Heyman of SI.com reports that the team is considering bringing Garcia back for the 2011 season, which would make for a really roundabout way of staying put. The team expressed interest in keeping him all the way back at the start of the offseason, Garcia went on to be linked to just about every team with pitching needs (which means just about every team in the big leagues) and now things have come full circle.

The biggest stumbling block for the White Sox, as Heyman mentions, is that they will have one starter too many once Jake Peavy is ready to pitch again. That's not going to be until June at the earliest, however, and that leaves quite a few starts to fill before even taking into account the various anvils that can fall onto the heads of starting pitchers over the course of the season.

 

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Jim Harbaugh and Trent Baalke Aboard, 49ers Unlikely to Make Sweeping Changes

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The San Francisco 49ers are unlikely to undergo wholesale changes now that Trent Baalke has taken over as general manager and Jim Harbaugh has left Stanford to join the organization as coach.

There are no plans to change overall defensive schemes, and the offense that Stanford ran under Harbaugh would seem to fit most of the offensive players on the San Francisco roster.

"There's a lot of similarities to what we've done in the past,'' Baalke told The Sacramento Bee Thursday. "We're still working through with the coaches exactly what they're looking for at each position.

"But the systems on both sides of the ball should marry up very well with the personnel that we have now and the personnel that we've been looking for.''

Harbaugh brought Vic Fangio along from Stanford as the defensive coordinator, and Fangio's defense with the Cardinal stressed quickness more than massive bulk along the defensive line.

 

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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Phil Simms, Jim Nantz Respond to Charges of Patriots Bias

by Milton Kent

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Few things draw the ire of network announcers more than allegations that they favor one team or player over another or that they pull punches. That, and cutting off their clothing and hair-care allowances.

So, it shouldn't have come as a surprise that Jim Nantz and Phil Simms, CBS' No.1 NFL announce team, were all too happy to refute allegations that they took a little off their respective fastballs recently and made too nice with the New England Patriots during last Sunday's telecast.

"That's always the case, especially with fans," said Simms Thursday during a conference call to promote CBS' coverage of Sunday's AFC championship game between Pittsburgh and the New York Jets. "I walk out of the booth almost every week (and hear), 'Aw, you don't say enough good things about us.' "

Simms added, in a sarcastic tone, "That's OK. You're right. I want to show favoritism and get fired."

The piece that triggered the response was written by veteran media critic Bob Raissman of the New York Daily News, who contended Monday that Simms had failed to take Patriots coach Bill Belichick to task for strategic gaffes he might have made during Sunday's divisional playoff loss to the Jets.

 

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Mets Searching for 'Strategic Partners' With Madoff Lawsuit Ongoing

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Fred WilponThe New York Mets announced that they are looking for "strategic partners" as they continue to feel the financial pressure of a lawsuit brought against Sterling Equities -- Fred Wilpon's real estate investment firm, which also owns and operates the Mets -- by the trustee of victims of Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme.

In a conference call with the media, Fred and son Jeff said they are looking to sell up to 25 percent of the team, perhaps to multiple stakeholders. Citi Field and SNY, which are also owned by Sterling, will not be part of any deal, however.

"At the outset I want to emphasize what we are discussing today has not or will not affect the Mets day-to-day operations and control," Fred Wilpon told reporters. "Let me stress, at the end of the day we may or may not do anything."

We have known for quite some time that the Wilpon family was connected to Madoff, who defrauded investors of billions of dollars before he was arrested in 2008. We have also known since late 2010 that the Wilpons were being sued by that trustee, Irving Picard, a sign that the family actually profited as a byproduct of Madoff's scheme.

 

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Yankees' Offseason Has Been Heavy on Talk, Light in Substance

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Note: Brian Cashman took exception to the use of the word "backtracks" in this column, and I told him it was probably a poor choice of words in order to get off a one-liner. Cashman insisted he has not "backtracked" this winter but has often had to explain himself (usually as a function of the way modern media, in an era of immediacy, often lends itself to misinterpretation, misquoting or incompletness).

Cashman said he was misinterpreted on the Pettitte story -- the article was eventually taken down from the website -- that he was honest about being overruled on Soriano and that some outlets misquoted his Jeter/outfield remarks, forcing him to clarify his stance. I stand by my main point: Cashman's repeated appearance in somewhat controversial stories -- even if not his fault -- have partially covered up a Yankees offseason that hasn't gone as hoped, but that doesn't mean he is looking to leave New York. -- Ed Price


When the Yankees move Derek Jeter to center field, they have to hope he backtracks as well as Brian Cashman has this winter.

Three times in the past few weeks, Cashman has had to come up with ways to explain away some quotes.

The Yankees general manager said the New York Daily News misquoted him when it reported he said Andy Pettitte would not be able to pitch when the 2011 season opens but could come back midseason.

He declared he wouldn't sign reliever Rafael Soriano as a setup man because it would cost the Yankees their first-round draft pick. Once the Yankees did indeed sign Soriano, Cashman made it known that he was overruled by ownership.

He was then quoted, at a fan function, as saying that he didn't expect Jeter to last at shortstop for the entirety of his four-year contract extension, with a move to the outfield as the next step. Cashman played the "out of context" card on that one.

 

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Chris Tanev Making Good First Impression With Canucks

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VANCOUVER -- As the old saying goes, good timing is everything -- and Chris Tanev is reaping its rewards.

As he embarked on his first pro season, the 21-year-old Vancouver Canucks rookie was not expected to be called up from the minors, but he was. Now, two injuries to veteran defensemen have extended his stay.

"It's been really good," said Tanev. "I've really learned a lot. All these guys are really good guys and they're teaching me new stuff every day on how to be a pro and stuff like that."

 

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Buccaneers Shop for Pass Rushers

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The Buccaneers had 26 sacks in 2010. That was 30th in the NFL. Guess what their need is in the 2011 draft? A wrecking ball in the quarterback's backfield.

The Bucs found some tools for quarterback Josh Freeman in the 2010 draft. They picked wide receivers Mike Williams and Arrelious Benn and were delighted with their progress this season.

Now they are going after some tools for coach Raheem Morris, who calls the shots for the defense. They picked up defensive tackle Gerald McCoy with their first-round pick in the 2010 draft and they will likely go after a pass rushing demon with the 20th pick in the 2011 draft.

The Bucs have some good defensive backs and some aggressive young linebackers. They like linebacker Barrett Ruud enough to start talking about a new contract after snubbing him last offseason.

Now they need a defensive end who flies up field and into the backfield. The Bucs could have their eye on Cal's Cameron Jordan, a 6-4, 285-pound two-way player. He can play run and pass.

 

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US Golf Star Power Dwindling

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Nowhere among the world's top two ranked golfers will you find Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk or any other American.

U.S. golf supremacy, once as dependable as the American dollar, well, still is. While the PGA Tour's Bob Hope Classic was playing out Sunday as a final-round battle between everybody's favorites, Jhonattan Vegas and Gary Woodland, far across the world Germany's Martin Kaymer was winning the Abu Dhabi Championship and vaulting into the world No. 2 spot behind England's Lee Westwood ahead of Woods.

Kaymer, the 26-year-old who made last year's PGA Championship his first major title, shot a 6-under-par 66 to finish 24 under and eight shots clean of Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy. Retief Goosen and Graeme McDowell were another two shots back in third.

Kaymer's winning score and victory margin were the best in tournament history.

Making those facts particularly impressive is the Abu Dhabi field featured all four reigning major champions in addition to
Westwood, Mickelson and a total of seven of the world's top 12.

 

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Nationwide Champ Brad Keselowski 'Will Live With' NASCAR's New Format

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TAMPA, Fla. -- Brad Keselowski arrived at Tampa's Busch Gardens theme park Wednesday to help promote the Feb. 20 Daytona 500 wearing a black jacket emblazoned with a NASCAR Nationwide series logo -- a proud nod to the series championship he won in 2010 but won't be defending in 2011.

In a posting on its official Twitter account earlier this week, NASCAR announced that drivers must declare themselves eligible for only one championship among its three national series, Sprint Cup, Nationwide and the Camping World Truck series.

That means Keselowski, who drives the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge for Penske Racing in the marquee Sprint Cup series, will race in multiple series but won't be able to simultaneously accumulate championship points in Cup and Nationwide as he did this season.

And while NASCAR isn't formally commenting on or confirming the format change yet -- President Mike Helton and Vice President for Competition Robin Pemberton will address it in a scheduled news conference next Friday in Daytona Beach -- Keselowski appeared resigned to his fate.

"There's a lot of different ways of looking at it,'' Keselowski said Tuesday. "Obviously NASCAR has an obligation of trying to do the best for the sport and everything and I respect and appreciate that.

"I still plan on competing even though I can't compete for the championship. I still plan on living up to the commitments that we've made for our sponsors and for our team. I've had the luxury of competing in both series last year and enjoyed it. We'll just kinda live with it and deal with it this year.''

 

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Braves' Tim Hudson Adds to Big Offseason With Hutch Award

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Statistics make it easy to judge the player who's had the best season.

Judging which player has had the best offseason can be tougher, but this winter there can't be many players who have had a better time of it than Atlanta starting pitcher Tim Hudson.

Hudson was in Seattle Wednesday to accept the 46th Hutch Award, which goes annually to a Major League Baseball player who best exemplifies the honor, courage and dedication of former pitcher and manager Fred Hutchinson, a Seattle native who died of cancer at 45 in 1964.

It's the second major award for Hudson, who was awarded the National League's Comeback of the Year award in November.

In between, the Auburn University product moved his family into the Auburn-area home he and his wife, Kim, have built. And they watched their beloved Auburn Tigers football team go through an undefeated season en route to claiming the BCS title and the No. 1 ranking.

 

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Blues' David Backes Relishing All-Star Nod

CALGARY - Nicklas Lidstrom and Eric Staal should be very careful whom they choose in their All-Star fantasy draft. They wouldn't want to rile David Backes.

"I've already mentioned if I'm picked last, there's going to be quite a few body checks thrown," joked Backes. "So that's just a forewarning for anyone picking teams."

In truth, the 26-year-old will probably be happy to just be in the same room as the rest of the National Hockey League's finest as he realizes a dream come true. Backes is the lone St. Louis Blues' representative in the weekend extravaganza, duly rewarded for what has been a fine season.

"It's something I've always wanted to do," he explained. "You're always watching the game at home as a kid and see some of the skills on display, it's pretty impressive. I'm just hoping I can fit in pretty well."

His most vivid memory?

"Actually, Jeremy Roenick, when he started hitting one game, I took note of that. Other than that, it's for fun. No one wants to get injured putting on a show for the fans."

 

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Uh Oh, Sharks Hot Heading Toward Another Break

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The last time San Jose really got its act together was in late December, when the Sharks won four in a row going into the Christmas break.

All it took to throw the team off again was that 48 hours off the ice. The Sharks lost eight of the next 10 after Christmas.

So now, with the All-Star break almost at hand, San Jose is finally back on track, with four wins in a row going into Wednesday night's game at Los Angeles. The Sharks are one point out of a playoff spot, with 55 points, and the Kings, also having a head-scratching season, have 53 points and sit in 11th place.

 

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In 48 Hours, Tennis Turned on Its Head

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MELBOURNE, Australia -- The best transitions in sports happen naturally, and by process. A star player gets old, and the next guy slowly overtakes him and becomes the top dog. It happens with teams, too.

And fans have a chance to adjust, get used to the new order.

Tennis is in a transition stage, too. But on Wednesday, it wasn't. Things are happening a little too fast for tennis' own good.

"From a personal point of view," Andy Murray said, "I would rather be in the final than watching Roger and Rafa at home, playing again."

Murray had just beaten David Ferrer 4-6, 7-6 (7-2), 6-1, 7-6 (7-2) Friday to advance to the final of the Australian Open. He'll play Novak Djokovic on Sunday for the year's first major.

Roger and Rafa -- Federer and Nadal -- is your regularly scheduled program for major finals. At least one of them, anyway. And this is part of the change.

Just 48 hours ago, the Federer-Nadal rivalry was as solid as ever. Federer had re-established himself over the past few months on that top tier. Nadal was going for the Rafa Slam, winning all four majors in a row.




On the women's side, while we wait for Serena Williams to recover, Kim Clijsters was dominating the tour. Justine Henin, one of the all-time greats, was struggling some in her comeback with a sore elbow.

Blink.

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Mets Searching for 'Strategic Partners' With Madoff Lawsuit Ongoing

by Andrew Johnson

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Fred WilponThe New York Mets announced that they are looking for "strategic partners" as they continue to feel the financial pressure of a lawsuit brought against Sterling Equities -- Fred Wilpon's real estate investment firm, which also owns and operates the Mets -- by the trustee of victims of Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme.

In a conference call with the media, Fred and son Jeff said they are looking to sell up to 25 percent of the team, perhaps to multiple stakeholders. Citi Field and SNY, which are also owned by Sterling, will not be part of any deal, however.

"At the outset I want to emphasize what we are discussing today has not or will not affect the Mets day-to-day operations and control," Fred Wilpon told reporters. "Let me stress, at the end of the day we may or may not do anything."

We have known for quite some time that the Wilpon family was connected to Madoff, who defrauded investors of billions of dollars before he was arrested in 2008. We have also known since late 2010 that the Wilpons were being sued by that trustee, Irving Picard, a sign that the family actually profited as a byproduct of Madoff's scheme.

 

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