Sports Outside the Beltway

Vancouver Canucks’ Roberto Luongo completes third straight shutout

It was the second time the goaltender accomplished this feat in his career. From AP-

VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Roberto Luongo made 26 saves for his third straight shutout, setting personal and franchise records while leading the Vancouver Canucks to a 2-0 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday night.

Luongo, who began the streak against Chicago and Anaheim, hasn’t allowed a goal in 193 minutes, 56 seconds. He got some help from Brendan Morrison, who swept a dangerous loose puck away from the goal line with 17 seconds left.

Defensemen Matttias Ohlund and Lukas Krajicek scored for the Canucks, who after losing the first game in November — and losing top defenders Kevin Bieksa and Sami Salo to serious injuries the same night — finished the month on a 9-1-2 run.


Luongo, who had consecutive shutouts three times with Florida, passed his personal best, set with the Panthers in 2004, at 8:39 of the third period. He then eclipsed a 32-year-old franchise record at 10:22, moving past Ken Lockett, a backup who played 55 games over two seasons and set the mark in April 1975.

I will say it again, the Florida Panthers shot themselves in the foot when they dealt Luongo in the summer of 2006. All the team has to show for it is Bryan Allen. The Panthers got Luongo and Olli Jokinen in one of the all-time great NHL trade steals. Seven years later, Florida returned the favor to Vancouver.

Current Panther goaltender Tomas Vokoun is a very good goaltender, but Luongo is better. To make matters worse, Florida gave up three draft picks to fix the goalie mess they created by trading Luongo. I sometimes wonder if Florida will ever see the playoffs again.


Tampa Bay Rays sign Troy Percival

A favorite Strat-O-Matic player of mine continues his comeback.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Troy Percival thinks the Tampa Bay Rays have a bright future, and wants to do everything he can to help the young team realize its potential.

Spurning suitors that included the New York Yankees, the 38-year-old reliever agreed to an $8 million, two-year contract Friday with Tampa Bay, which needed to upgrade one of the worst bullpens in the major leagues.

Percival, who came out of retirement to go 3-0 with a 1.80 ERA in 34 appearances for St. Louis in 2007, will have a chance to earn another $4 million-plus in bonuses.

He said he had comparable offers from other teams and may have even been able to get more money, but he likes Tampa Bay’s nucleus of young talent and thinks longtime friend Joe Maddon is the right manager to get the Rays out of the AL East cellar.

Tampa Bay needs a great deal more than Percival to see a turn around in the team’s fortunes. Troy proved to me he can pitch again. 36 K’s, 10 W and only 24 hits in 40 innings. Sounds like closer material to me, which is what Percival did for the Angels from 1996-2004. As long as the reliever’s arm woes don’t come back, I see this as a good move for the Rays.


NHL owners approve scheduling changes

All NHL teams will meet again once every season. From AP-

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – The NHL’s board of governors approved the sale of the Nashville Predators and changed the league’s scheduling format Thursday night to allow every team to face each other at least once every season.

Paul Kelly, the new executive director of the NHL Players Association, also addressed the league’s owners during a late-afternoon session to open the board’s two-day meeting at an elite resort on the Northern California coast.

After a three-year experiment in developing rivalries in hockey’s far-flung outposts, the NHL voted to go back to the scheduling format used before the 2004-05 lockout, most notably decreasing the current eight games against every team’s divisional opponents to six.

Starting next season, teams will play just 24 total games against their four divisional foes, 40 against the rest of the conference and 18 against the other conference — one game against all 15 foes, and three home-and-home series against wild-card opponents.

First let me state, my interest in hockey was only rekindled in the last year. Otherwise I had watched little of the sport since the end of the NY Islanders Dynasty in the early to mid eighties.

The arrangement where teams didn’t all meet seemed dumb to me. Fans in the west miss out on seeing players like Sidney Crosby and fans in the east miss getting to see……. well see what problem I have. LOL, make that former Florida Panther and ace goaltender Roberto Luongo. Now I can learn about the LA Kings, San Jose Sharks etc. To be honest I’m sick of Atlanta. You would be too if you had to see the Thrashers and Panthers cross sticks eight times a year.


Arrests made in the Sean Taylor murder case

It appears the suspects came to the home to burglarize it and that at least one of them knew Taylor personally. If found guilty, I hope they all rot in jail.

LEHIGH ACRES — Miami-Dade police and prosecutors have arrested four people in connection with this week’s slaying of NFL star Sean Taylor.

The men: Jason Mitchell, 19, Eric Rivera, 17, Charles Wardlow, 18 and Venjah Hunte, 20. They will be charged with murder.

Miami-Dade Director Robert Parker said Friday night that the men targeted the house in a burglary and did not think Taylor was home.


Respected T.O. Becomes Respectable

Terrell Owens has gone from malcontent to model citizen in a few months. Could it be that, at age 32, he’s finally growing up? Or maybe, just maybe, that he started acting like a grown man about the same time that he started getting treated like one?

Clarence Hill of the Fort-Worth Star Telegraph makes a persuasive case that it’s the latter in a piece called “Longtime coach has earned Owens’ longtime respect.”

In August, Cowboys receivers coach Ray Sherman made it perfectly clear to a reporter that he was not brought in to baby-sit Terrell Owens. The reporter thought it would be a cute way to describe any new coach’s relationship with Owens and his well-chronicled history of petulance and combustibility. But Sherman, 56, didn’t find anything funny about it. He had been in the league too long to be disrespected — no matter how seemingly trivial.

Besides, Sherman goes by the simple credo that if you treat him with respect, he will treat you with respect.

Just ask Owens. He has gone from uncoachable and unreachable a year ago with then-coach Todd Haley running the receivers meetings to text messaging Sherman after games. And instead of sending messages through the media about snitches in the locker room — a not so veiled outing of Haley — he is joining the other receivers for dinner at Sherman’s house.

“It’s night and day from what I had,” Owens said. “I cherish people like that. That was the relationship I tried to have here with Todd last year. I really tried to make a concerted effort for that to happen and it didn’t happen. So I’m very fortunate for Ray. He treats us like men. We have to respect that.”


“That’s the only way I know how to treat them, with respect,” Sherman said. “You want to be a teacher first, but also put them in position where they can get the job done and work with them and get them focused on what they need to do.”


He knows the game, and he knows when to get serious. The difference is in the approach. Sherman doesn’t berate players for mistakes or curse them to get his point across as Haley often did last year.

“He will get on you, but nothing that belittles you,” receiver Patrick Crayton said. Said Owens: “There’s no hollering at you or cursing about this and that. He’s one of those guys, you know when he’s serious and you know when he’s not serious. I know when to respect that and to take his teaching and coaching as such.”

But not only is Owens taking Sherman’s teaching and coaching, he is coming back for more. Contrary to popular belief, he said he’s always wanted that. “I just didn’t have that relationship with my coach last year,” Owens said. “I’m always looking for coaching tips, for a coach to point out my weaknesses to make me better. Obviously that’s going to help the team. “If they see something that’s not right, correct me.”

Now he has that with Sherman, whom he credits with helping him stay patient and stay in the game when balls aren’t coming his way.

Sherman effectively soothing an emotional Owens on the sideline against Washington on Nov. 18 paid dividends in a career-high four touchdown performance. “I talked to him and said ‘you got to relax and stay calm… we’re going to need you,’” Sherman said. “He calmed down and patted me on the leg.”

Not long after the game, Sherman’s phone started to buzz with a text message from Owens, telling him “to keep pushing me, keep making me the best that ever was.”

“I respect who he is, him coaching me,” Owens said of Sherman. “I want to be the best in whatever I can do to help this team win. That’s all I ever wanted. I feel like I’m in a situation that’s showing that.”

Imagine that.


Yankee News – November 29 edition

- What is the right package for Santana? Does the Tampa deal kill any chance the Yanks have of trading for Johan? I believe so. The Twins will need another starter (now that Garza’s gone) capable of going 200+ innings. Hughes and Joba wont go over 150 each. Kennedy and Wang are the only pitchers capable of that, but neither are good enough in Minny’s opinion to trade for Santana. They want a higher ceiling pitcher. Also, they may not be in the market for a centerfielder anymore. Minny acquired a minor league centerfielder (Jason Pridie) and Delmon Young, a major league right-fielder who could probably play an average CF. He’d probably have below average range but his cannon arm could make up for it. Anyway, now that they have two solid CF candidates, their interest in our centerfielders – Melky and Austin Jackson – could dissipate.

- The Yanks are looking at David Riske and Troy Percival to better the bullpen. I don’t know how much better they would be than what we have in the minors, e.g. Ohlendorf, Edwar, Britton, Veras, Whelan, etc. But for the right deal (in terms of money and length), sure, go ahead.

- Call me crazy, but I don’t get why Clay Buchholz of Boston is getting more love than Phil Hughes right now (ok, maybe I do – because of the no-hitter). Did everyone forget that Hughes was pitching a no-no of his own back in May (only to have it cut 7 outs short by injury)? Hughes has more ML innings under his belt than Clay. Outside of k/9, he has better minor league stats across the board (era, hits/9, walks/9, HR/9 and k/bb) than Clay. Oh, one more thing – Hughes is two years younger!

- How does the mid-90s Mets Trio compare to the current Yanks Trio? Is there any chance they bust as much as Pulsipher, Wilson and Isringhausen?
The following are their MiLB stats through age 23:

(he missed the entire 1996 season with injuries at the age of 22, derailing his whole career. Let’s look at what he did up to that point.)
527 ip
7.65 h/9
3.9 bb/9
7.65 k/9
1.96 k/bb
2.87 era

248 ip
7.26 h/9
2.69 bb/9
9.22 k/9
3.53 k/bb
2.98 era

476 ip
7.0 h/9
2.7 bb/9
2.9 k/bb
7.85 k/9
2.72 era

Very good overall. Izzy’s career was set back by an injury that cost him his entire age-23 season.

Now for the Bronx guys
Kennedy first
149 ip
5.62 h/9
3.14 bb/9
9.97 k/9
3.17 k/bb
era 1.87

88.1 ip
6.33 h/9
2.76 bb/9
13.79 k/9
5 k/bb
2.45 era
followed by an even more impressive ML stint

275 ip
5.56 h/9
2.16 bb/9
10.18 k/9
4.7 k/bb
2.03 era

The Yankee Trio puts the Met Trio to shame. Far, far better minor league stats at younger ages. I don’t think the two should even be compared.

- is in the process of listing it’s top 50 prospects. Two Yankees have been named so far: A-Jax at 49 and Kennedy at 26. Tabata and Joba will inevitably be in the top 20.

- Mark Melancon’s on the mend. The guy has closer potential and could be setting up Mo sometime next year – ala Joba in 2007.


Why do media organizations hire clueless people to write about golf?

Jason Coskrey of The Japan Times Online is our latest example. In an article about recent Mizuno Classic winner Momoko Ueda possibly joining the LPGA Tour, Jason writes-

Japanese athletes have made strides on the world stage in a number of sports, including the Mao Asada-led Japanese dominance of the figure skating circuit, but Japanese golfers have yet to find any real consistent success internationally on the links.

Hisako Higuchi, who is in the World Golf Hall of Fame, did win the 1977 LPGA Championship and two other tour titles some 30 years ago, but achieved her status primarily based upon her 69 titles in Japan. She only played part-time on the LPGA Tour.

Isao Aoki, best known abroad for his runnerup finish to Jack Nicklaus in the 1980 U.S. Open, won one PGA Tour tournament, and is also enshrined in golf’s hall. He won 51 JPGA titles.

While South Korea, led by Hall of Famer Pak Se Ri and 2006 LPGA Rookie of the Year Lee Seon Hwa, has prospered in the women’s game, Japan has yet to produce any true crossover stars of its own.

Momoko Ueda, winner of five JLPGA tournaments in 2007, became the tour’s youngest money-title winner ever this year at just 21.

Just a few years ago the hopes of the nation were placed upon Miyazato, a 14-time champion on the JLPGA. After a dominating showing in the LPGA Q-School, Miyazato was pegged by many to become Japan’s first international golf sensation.

However, Miyazato has struggled at times and is winless in 54 tournaments

Lets see who Jason is forgetting.

She was born in 1951 in Hiroshima Japan

She won her first professional golf tournament in 1975. Ironically named The Mizuno tournament.

She won the JLPGA Championship in 1979 and won 8 JLPGA events in 1981 while topping the money list.

In 1982 this player won the first of her 17 LPGA Tour triumphs at The Arizona Copper Classic. Between 1983 and 1991 she finished in the top 10 LPGA money winners eight times.

She was 1987 LPGA leading money winner and won player of the year honors.

By the way she was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2005.

A person being paid to write about the history of Japanese professional golfers playing in the United States should have the name Ayako Okamoto roll off their tongue in two seconds flat. Forgetting Okamoto when talking Japan golf is like a baseball writer not mentioning Babe Ruth when talking all-time homerun hitters.

Jason Coskrey is a clueless idiot. If the Japan Times has any credibility, they’d fire him.

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Baylor hires Univ. of Houston’s Art Briles as football coach

Not too long ago this would have been a move from one Southwest Conference school to another. From AP-

FORT WORTH, Texas – Houston coach Art Briles is next to take on the task of pulling Baylor out of the Big 12 basement.

Briles confirmed he was leaving in a news conference Wednesday at Houston after meeting with his players.

Baylor spokesman Nick Joos said a news conference was scheduled later in the day on the Waco campus to announce the school’s new football coach.

Briles led Houston to four bowls in his five seasons. He was offered the job Wednesday, a day after meeting with Baylor athletic director Ian McCaw in Dallas.

“Life is full of decisions. Sometimes, you have to look at things from a professional, personal standpoint,” Briles said. “Professionally, (Houston) … is great university with a situation I’m proud to be a part of. Personally, the move allows a person of my nature a little more security. When you’re getting up in my age, that’s an important factor in life.”

The Houston Chronicle reported on its Web site that Briles will get a seven-year contract for about $1.8 million per season. Briles, who turns 52 Monday, had four years left on his Houston contract with a base salary of $900,000 annually.

Briles replaces Guy Morriss, who was fired Nov. 18 after five seasons. Morriss’ firing came the day after the Bears (3-9) completed their 12th straight losing season with their 12th consecutive Big 12 loss, 45-14 to Oklahoma State.

Unless Briles’ status as UH coach was shaky for some unknown reason, this is certainly a down market move. Baylor has been hapless since Grant Teaff retired as head coach. I’m betting the 100% increase in salary was the motivating factor for Briles. Athletes, Coaches, plaintiffs in lawsuits are all alike. They never say it’s never about the money.


Hall of Fame Jockey Bill Hartack dead at age 74

He was a thoroughbred racing legend. RIP.

(Bill) Hartack, the Hall of Famer and five-time Kentucky Derby winner, was found dead in a cabin while on a hunting vacation in Freer, Texas. He was 74. He died Monday night from natural causes due to heart disease, said Dr. Corinne Stern, the chief medical examiner in south Texas’ Webb County.

Stern said Tuesday that Hartack’s family has been notified, and funeral arrangements were being made.

Hartack and fellow Hall of Fame rider Eddie Arcaro are the only jockeys to win the Kentucky Derby five times. Known for his burning desire to win every race, Hartack won his first Derby with Iron Liege in 1957. He then won with Venetian Way in 1960, Decidedly in 1962, Northern Dancer in 1964 and Majestic Prince in 1969.


Miami Heat’s Henry Parker in valet parking dispute

From the Miami Herald-

Upset with his parking service, Heat guard Henry ”Smush” Parker pushed the valet podium and later tussled with a female attendant for his keys, Miami police said Wednesday.

About 9:50 a.m. Tuesday, Parker asked for his car keys at a condo building at 355 Biscayne Blvd. The attendant got the keys and asked for $12.

Parker insisted he had paid the night before.

The attendant said there was no record of a payment. An assistant manager agreed. With no cash on hand, Parker asked for the nearest bank — but not before knocking down the valet podium, according to a police report.

When he came back, Parker was told he would have to pay for the damaged podium.

No charges are being pressed. I guess Murphy owes the parking service a great deal more now than the disputed $12.

Hat tip- Alex at SOTP


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