Sports Outside the Beltway

Indianapolis Colts name Jim Caldwell head coach

He replaces Tony Dungy who announced his retirement yesterday. From ESPN-

Jim Caldwell wants to build on Tony Dungy’s success, not be a carbon copy of his former boss.

Caldwell, 53, was introduced Tuesday by the Colts as Dungy’s replacement.

The move was not a surprise: The Colts announced their succession plan last year when Caldwell was elevated to associate head coach.

Caldwell has a four-year deal, but team owner Jim Irsay would not disclose the financial details other than to say it was competitive for a first-time NFL head coach.

Caldwell’s only prior head coaching experience came at Wake Forest, where he went 26-63 in eight seasons.

The Wake Forest record reminds me of another highly touted NFL assistant who coached college ball. How did Cam Cameron work out in Miami? We’ll have to see if Caldwell can beat that coach’s dismal rookie season as a coach.A year ago another NFL team hired a highly touted Offensive Coordinator to be head coach. Like Caldwell the coordinator had a unsuccessful stint as a College head coach. Who am I talking about? Cam Cameron who lasted one year at the helm of the Miami Dolphins.

Having a Peyton Manning or Dree Brees at QB can make a coach look extraordinary. We’ll have to see how Caldwell works out in Indianapolis.


Henderon & Rice elected to Hall of Fame

There were no surprises today as Rickey Henderson and Jim Rice became the newest members of baseballs Hall of Fame. Henderson in his first year on the ballot was named on 94.8% of the ballots while Rice in his last year of eligibility sneaked in with 76.4% – 75% is needed for induction. Henderson has generally been regarded as the best leadoff hitter in baseball history while Rice was perceived as the “most feared hitter of his era”.

Henderson in a career that spanned 25 years collected 3055 hits (21st all time) and is the major league record holder in runs (2295) and stolen bases (1406). His 130 stolen bases in 1982 remain a single season record. A 10 time all-star he was also the American League’s MVP in 1990.

Rice, an 8 time all-star, hit 382 home runs in a 16 year career that was spent entirely with the Boston Red Sox. The 1978 AL MVP also had 2452 hits and 1451 RBI’s. Always a borderline candidate his election may  now pave the way for future induction for Andre Dawson and Dale Murphy, similar sluggers of his era.

Bert Blyleven fell short once again with 62.7% support and in his final year on the ballot 288 game winner Tommy John received only 31.7%. David Cone, the 1994 AL Cy Young award winner and the owner of five Worls Series rings, recieved only 3.9% in his one and only year on the ballot. Candidates must receive 5% to remain on the ballot.


Tony Dungy Retires

Tony Dungy is calling it quits, ESPN reports.

The Indianapolis Colts have scheduled a news conference for Monday afternoon, presumably to announce the retirement of coach Tony reported Monday that Dungy will step down after seven seasons in Indianapolis. The news conference is scheduled for 5 p.m. ET at the team’s practice facility, although the Colts did not given a reason early Monday for their announcement.

A source told that Dungy has talked his decision over with family members and they decided it was the best time for him to step aside. Dungy, the source said, was at the team’s complex in Indianapolis on Monday morning saying goodbyes to players and team employees.

The Colts have designated associate coach Jim Caldwell as Dungy’s eventual replacement.

Since winning the Super Bowl after the 2006 season, Dungy has thought long and hard each offseason about how much longer he really wants to work in the NFL. He said after the Colts’ overtime playoff loss to the San Diego Chargers in the AFC wild-card game nine days ago that he would spend about a week deciding whether to return for an eighth season as coach.

He spent much of that time in Tampa, Fla., where his wife Lauren and children moved full-time about a year ago. The Dungys had the week to contemplate his future with the Colts, but a trip to New York for son Jordan’s surgery on a broken leg occupied their time. Jordan Dungy is back home in Florida and doing well after surgery.

In Dungy’s 13 seasons as a head coach, including six with Tampa Bay, he’s put together a sparkling resume.  He has 148 career wins, including playoffs, and ranks 19th all-time in victories. He’s the only black coach to win a Super Bowl, the first coach in league history to reach the postseason in 10 consecutive seasons and the only coach to preside over six straight seasons of 12 wins or more.

This isn’t shocking.  Dungy’s been hinting at retirement for the last couple of years and, certainly, being an NFL head coach is a grueling job.   My guess is that work with prison ministry and so forth won’t provide the same level of challenge and satisfaction that he gets from coaching and that he’ll be back in two or three years.


Clipping their wings- Florida pounds Atlanta 8-4

The Panthers tallied the most amount of goals this afternoon since they defeated Toronto on February 5th of 2008. With the win Florida is just one point behind Carolina for the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

I have quite a bit to note about today’s exciting win.

*- Florida was outshot 32 to 28.

*- Seven different Florida players scored goals. Ville Peltonen scored twice. The other goals were scored by Radek Dvorak, Jay Bouwmeester, Nathan Horton, Cory Stillman, David Booth, and Michael Frolik. Gregory Campbell had three assists, Karlis Skrastins and Richard Zednik two each. Today’s win was definitely a team effort.

*- Radek Dvorak’s goal today was his second in a shorthanded situation this week. He had another SH on Sunday versus Montreal.

*- Michael Frolik’s goal was on a penalty shot. It marked only the second time Florida has scored one of these at home in franchise history. The other took place on March 2nd 2007 when Peltonen netted one against Tampa Bay.

*- The game was one of momentum swings. Florida was up 3-1 after the first period. Atlanta scored two unanswered goals in the 2nd to tie it at 3-3. Then Florida came out blazing in the third, two goals in less than two minutes, and five for the entire period.

*- Florida is 4-0-1 in its last 5 games in which they scored 27 goals!

*- Why is there a blimp at an indoor hockey game?

*- Florida has scored four or more goals in its last five games. That is the first time this has happened in franchise history.

*- Atlanta’s Goalie Kari Lehtonen is inconsistent to say the least. He shut out New Jersey a few days ago, then gives up seven goals to Florida.

*- Never heard the term ‘sin bin’ used for the penalty box before today’s game. Anyone ever heard it used? I admit to watching very little hockey for over 20 years before getting the ‘Florida Panther’ bug two years ago. Now my wife asks me daily- ‘Is there hockey tonight?’

*- Talking about the penalty box, Anthony Stewart and Chris Thorburn got put in it for five minutes each. The penalty was fighting, but it looked more like dancing to me. Where’s Wade Belak when you need him?

*- No Panther game again till January 16th. Boy will I be suffering from withdrawal by then.


Rookie Goalie Steve Mason stymies Washington, Columbus wins 3-0

It’s because of Mason that the Blue Jackets find themselves in contention for their first ever playoff appearance. From

Steve Mason already led the NHL in goals-against average and save percentage. The rookie goaltending sensation for the Columbus Blue Jackets now has sole possession of the lead in shutouts as well, despite having spent the first month of the season in the minor leagues.

Mason stopped all 45 shots by the Washington Capitals, and the injury-plagued Jackets got a goal and assist each from Jared Boll and Fedor Tyutin in a 3-0 win Friday night at Verizon Center, finishing with an impressive 4-2 record on a six-game road trip.

“It’s huge for us,” Mason said. “Obviously, with a lot of guys out of the lineup it was a big opportunity for other guys to step up. They did that. We had a down first period, but the guys bounced back in the second and the third.”

Mason’s sixth shutout broke a tie with Niklas Backstrom of Minnesota and Roberto Luongo of Vancouver, who achieved all of his prior to Nov. 8 and has been out since late November after hurting his groin.

Mason, whose goals against fell to 1.74 while his save percentage improved to .939, didn’t make his NHL debut until Nov. 5, but he took advantage of an injury to Pascal Leclaire and has since taken the starting job.

Mason is having a great year and should be given serious consideration for rookie of the year.


Former MLB pitcher Dave Roberts dead at 64

I remember Roberts. He and Clay Kirby were the 1-2 pitching combo for the Padres in their infant years. His 14-17 2.10 ERA year with the 71 Padres was truly outstanding. For the Padres went 61-100 that year.

Roberts was a journeyman but one able to win over 100 ML games. Which according to wikipedia, makes him the 4th winningest Jewish pitcher in baseball history. He also swung a mean bat for a pitcher as seen in .194 career batting average, 7 career homeruns, and .500 Slugging Pct in 1977 for the Chicago Cubs. RIP.


Florida Panthers and the Eastern NHL Conference at the half way mark

The Florida Panthers played their 41st game of the NHL season last night. A 4-2 win over division rival Carolina Panthers. Before I make some comments, here are the standings

1 Boston Bruins Games played- 41 Record- 30-7-4 Points- 64
2 Washington Capitals 41, 27-11-3, 57
3 Philadelphia Flyers 41, 22-10-9, 53
4 Montréal Canadiens 40, 24-10-6, 54
5 New York Rangers 42, 24-15-3, 51
6 New Jersey Devils 40, 23-14-3, 49
7 Carolina Hurricanes 42, 21-16-5, 47
8 Buffalo Sabres 40, 20-15-5, 45
9 Florida Panthers 41, 19-16-6, 44
10 Pittsburgh Penguins 42, 20-18-4, 44
11 Toronto Maple Leafs 41, 16-19-6, 38
12 Atlanta Thrashers 42, 14-23-5, 33
13 Ottawa Senators 39, 13-20-6, 32
14 Tampa Bay Lightning 40, 11-19-10, 32
15 New York Islanders 42, 12-26-4, 28

First I can safely conclude the NY Islanders, Tampa Bay, Ottawa, and Atlanta are out of the playoff picture. Toronto faces a uphill battle, but I won’t count them out yet.

Look where Pittsburgh is only one year after making the Stanley Cup finals. What is going on up there? They recently had a five-game losing streak at home.

They aren’t the only recent memory Stanley Cup final team fallen on hard times. Ottawa who made it in the 06-07 looks to be re-building. How did anyone in Senator management think Alex Doug Auld and Martin Gerber were playoff quality goalies?

Tampa Bay has gotten out of the cellar. Two wins against Florida in late December helped. Will Rick Tocchet still be coaching next season?

Florida has its best record at the half way since the 1999-2000 season, or the last time they went to the playoffs. I had high hopes for Florida last year only to see them dashed. Could they make it this year?

Definitely. The teams immediately ahead of them are beatable. If Florida sneaks in as the 7th or 8th seed, they are most likely to get buzz sawed by Boston or Montreal.(Though Florida does have a good record against Goalie Tim Thomas and are the only NHL team with a lifetime winning record against the Canadians. )

Some miscellaneous Florida notes-

Their defensemen have scored more goals than any other team in the Eastern Conference

Florida has gained at least 1 pt in every game Gregory Campbell has scored in.

Yesterday’s game marked just the 3rd time ever Florida went without a penalty in a game.

Tomas Vokoun now has 201 career wins as a goalie.

Florida has a very good goalie at Rochester that the name eludes me. Would Florida consider a deal for Craig Anderson and bring up the rookie before the season ends? Anderson is a free agent at the end of the year and not expected to be back.

Florida signed a multi-year agreement with Fox Sports Florida which as a result have more Panther games on television.(I got NHL Center Ice too, so I rarely miss a game unless there is no television at all) That’s good news. Now I would like FSN to stop showing upcoming programming promos while play is happening on ice. Those idiotic spinning pucks fill 1/8th of the television screen and often interfere with watching play. Every time I see this crap I feel like screaming at the television.


Daily Racing Form columnist Joe Hirsch dead at 80

While the primary form of horse racing that I follow is harness racing, I did however hear of Mr. Hirsch. I didn’t know however that he was roommates with Joe Namath. Did he room with Joe or Joe’s luggage? LOL, either way RIP.


A big win- Florida defeats Carolina 4-2

Goals from Nathan Horton, David Booth, Gregory Campbell, and Jay Bouwmeester allow the Panthers to defeat a divisional rival that always gives them trouble. With tonight’s win, Florida is 3-0-1 in their last 4 games where they also scored 19 goals. That is a great deal of offense for a team not known for its explosiveness.

A key to the win- Florida committed no penalties. Tomas Vokoun made 31 saves.

The Panthers have reached the halfway point of the 2008-09 season with a record of 19-16-6 for a total of 44 pts. That has them in 10th place in the Eastern Conference. I’ll blog more about the midpoint of the season in another post.


John Smoltz Signs With Red Sox

Longtime Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz has snubbed the team and signed with the Red Sox. ESPN:

John Smoltz has pitched his entire major league career with the Atlanta Braves, but he is on the verge of a deal with the Boston Red Sox, according to sources.

Smoltz, 41, has pitched in 708 games for the Braves, winning 210 games and earning 154 saves. He has been been rehabilitating his shoulder since having surgery last season, and there have been reports that the has made excellent progress.

Smoltz’s departure from Atlanta would come in a winter in which the Braves have struggled to fill holes in their rotation; Atlanta was unable to land Jake Peavy, after extensive trade talks, and was unable to sign free agent A.J. Burnett.

Despite the qualifiers, AJC is reporting it as a done deal. The Braves are shocked.

John Smoltz’s career with the Braves is ending. The iconic Atlanta pitcher, who’s recovering from June shoulder surgery, has agreed to a contract to pitch for the Boston Red Sox and will likely inform the Braves of his decision today, a person familiar with the situation confirmed.


Smoltz, who contacted Braves players Wednesday night to inform them of his decision, has said many times in the past year that he wanted to finish his career with the Braves. However, the team had not offered a major league contract to Smoltz that was anywhere near the amount that the Red Sox have reportedly guaranteed him. The Braves were expected to go no higher than $3 million guaranteed, regardless of other offers he got.

“John is a great guy. He follows his own head, and I just don’t know what’s going on with him right now,” Braves Chairman and CEO Terry McGuirk said today. “We’ve offered less of a guarantee, but we’ve offered a substantial guarantee. Coming off an injury like this, we feel like it’s the right thing that we should be doing (in regards to our offer).

“We’ve offered him a package that would get him in the $10 million range, if he were to pitch a full season and pitch well. For him to walk away from that and to go to another place, I’m just shocked and surprised.

“I read today in something that his agent said the other set of incentives (from the Red Sox) were “more attainable.” If John Smoltz pitches like John Smoltz pitches, I think (what we offered) is attainable. If he’s not healthy, it’s not going to happen.”

According to a person familiar with the situation, Smoltz would have been required to pitch 200 innings next season to reach the maximum incentives in the Braves’ offer. Incentives in the Red Sox proposal are more easily attainable.

One can’t blame the Braves, who have a much more limited payroll than the Sox, for hedging their bets on a player who has been constantly injured in recent years.  Nor, really, can fans blame Smoltz for preferring $5.5 million to $3 million as his career winds down.  Still, it’s a shame to see him play in another uniform.


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