Sports Outside the Beltway

Crystal Ball Time

My annual sports predictions for the upcoming year. Due to some unknown reason, I skipped doing this a year ago. What matters is I came back, right?

1 Cleveland beats the LA Lakers for the NBA Championship
2 Indianapolis defeats Arizona in the Super Bowl Crystall ball
3 San Jose defeats Washington for the Stanley Cup
4 St. Louis beats the Los Angeles Angels in the World Series
5 Tiger Woods returns to golf, wins at least one tournament but no major championships. That is a risky prediction in light of the fact that Tiger has won majors on 3 of this year’s host courses.(Augusta National, Pebble Beach, St. Andrews)
6 Phil Mickelson wins the US Open
7 Michelle Wie wins at least two tournaments, one of which is a major championship
8 Ji Yai Shin is LPGA player of the year
9 A non-Korean golfer will be LPGA rookie of the year
10 Yu-Na Kim wins figure skating gold at the 2010 Olympics
11 The Miami Dolphins don’t make this year’s playoffs but have a winning 2010 season
12 The Miami Heat make the playoffs but lose in the 1st round
13 The Florida Marlins have a winning record but don’t make the playoffs
14 Urban Meyer doesn’t return as coach of the Florida Gators
15 Joe Paterno announces his retirement after the 2010 Penn State season is complete
16 The Florida Panthers don’t make the playoffs
17 The Florida Panthers trade Goalie Tomas Vokoun
18 Manny Pacquiao loses to Floyd Mayweather
19 Kansas defeats Purdue for the NCAA Basketball Championship
20 Texas defeats Alabama in the BCS Championship game
21 Army has a winning football season and gets a bowl invitation
22 Washington Redskins fire Coach Jim Zorn
23 Serena Williams wins at Wimbledon
24 Versus and Directv finally settle their dispute
25 A North American horse racing track closes its doors.
26 Sebastian Vettel wins the Formula World Drivers Championship
27 New York Rangers fire Coach John Tortorella
28 The New Jersey Nets don’t finish with the worst record in NBA history
29 Connecticut defeats Tennessee for the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship
30 At least half these predictions are wrong

We’ll come back on December 31st 2010 and see how I did.


Preview?- San Jose beats Washington 5-2

Are these the two teams that will face off in the Stanley Cup finals. From AP-

Joe Thornton had an unusual decision to make when he prepared for his penalty shot in the third period. Having watched teammate Ryane Clowe already convert a penalty shot with a backhander, Thornton figured he needed to try a different tact.SJ-Wash

“I was thinking of going to the backhand but Clowe kind of perfected that earlier,” Thornton said. “So I thought I’d go with the shot and see what I could do.”

Thornton delivered, making San Jose the first team in more than 27 years to score on two penalty shots in a game. The Sharks went on to beat the Washington Capitals 5-2 Wednesday night.

“It’s kind of strange having two in one game,” Thornton said. “I’m not sure the last time that happened.”

It hadn’t happened since Feb. 11, 1982, when Thomas Gradin and Ivan Hlinka converted for Vancouver in Detroit.

That Clowe and Thornton managed to do it could be somewhat surprising considering their records in shootouts. Thornton has missed both shootout attempts this season, while Clowe has made just one of five.

A single penalty shot doesn’t happen very often. For instance, my favorite team the Florida Panthers, hasn’t had one occur in any of their 40 games this season.

San Jose with Thornton, Deny Heatley, Patrick Marleau plus Evegeni Nabokov in goal, I think is the class of the Western Conference. I’ve always put down Washington because of their mediocre goaltending(Jose Theodore and his 3.05 Goals against average stink but The Capitals other goalies this year have been good to very good.). It is hard to bet against a team with someone like Alexander Ovechkin. I do think there is a 50% chance or more that Washington and San Jose will play for the Stanley Cup next spring.


Texas Tech fires Coach Mike Leach

He was threatening to sue the school before the firing. From ESPN-

Texas Tech fired coach Mike Leach on Wednesday, two days after he was suspended by the school as it investigated his treatment of a player with a concussion.

The school handed a termination letter to Leach’s attorney, Ted Liggett, minutes before the two sides were to appear in a Lubbock courtroom for a hearing on the coach’s suspension.

Liggett said Texas Tech general counsel Pat Campbell approached him outside the courtroom and told him that win, lose or draw in the hearing, Leach was out effective immediately.

Liggett told the judge there was no need for the hearing on Leach’s request that he be reinstated to coach the Valero Alamo Bowl. Texas Tech plays Michigan State on Saturday in San Antonio.

As for Leach’s reaction, Liggett said, “Well, he’s not thrilled.” Liggett said he planned to file a lawsuit on Leach’s behalf against the school “soon.”

“We can guarantee that the fight has just begun,” he said.

Leach was suspended by the university on Monday as the school investigated his treatment of receiver Adam James. The sophomore alleged the coach twice confined him to small, dark spaces while the team practiced.

I hold to my original opinion, Leach didn’t just deserve to be fired but prosecuted criminally. He involuntarily confined a injured football player. There is no excusing it. I’d find myself behind bars or so would any employer and deservingly. Leach shouldn’t be any different.

This kind of abuse of athletes is probably more widespread than the public knows and the Leach and recent incidents at Army and Kansas should be a siren call. These people can’t just do anything to the young men and women put in their charge and if a coach steps over the line, they should face stiffest of punishment.


Minnesota Timberwolves report trade before it’s completed

Not only sports websites are reporting news this month that isn’t true. From AP-

The Minnesota Timberwolves’ trade of backup point guard Jason Hart didn’t exactly go as smoothly as planned.

Hours after mistakenly letting a release leak on the team Web site announcing a trade with New Orleans that never came to fruition, the Timberwolves did ship Hart out after all, to the Suns.

Instead of ending up with Devin Brown from the Hornets, the Wolves landed Alando Tucker, a second-round pick and cash considerations from Phoenix.

Timberwolves president David Kahn was in talks with the Hornets about acquiring Brown, a 6-foot-5 guard shooting a career-high 41 percent from 3-point range this season. The Hornets were looking to dump Brown’s $1.1 million salary and the Wolves needed perimeter shooting.

Kahn went so far as to prepare a statement for the deal.

“Jason has been the consummate professional during his time with us, but it was a rare opportunity to add a proven player with 3-point shooting capabilities that will help our offense,” Kahn said. “Devin should be a nice addition to our team defensively, as well. He has a reputation as a tough kid and hard-nosed defender.”

Just one problem — the deal wasn’t done. The release somehow found its way into cyberspace, and the trade never materialized. So it was removed from the site and the Wolves eventually announced a deal with the Suns for Tucker, a 6-6 forward that has had trouble finding playing time in three seasons in Phoenix.

“All I know is we were in conversations with teams,” Wolves coach Kurt Rambis said before Minnesota’s game at San Antonio on Tuesday night.

Ted Johnson, Timberwolves senior vice president for communications and chief marketing officer, said the release on Brown appeared on a “dead” Web page.

Here is one vital thing I’ve learned in my other three years of blogging at OTB Sports. Don’t write posts till ‘news’ is official. I get most of my sports reports from ESPN. Much of ESPN’s reporting starts ‘Sources say…..”. The source is always another media outlet and the ‘news’ a unconfirmed report in regard to some sports team or athlete. I’ve made it a practice in the last year, to avoid blogging these reports till the news becomes official. If it ever does.

What happened with the Minnesota Timberwolves arose out of human error and had no other other motivation than to keep its fan informed. The mistakes made by the media in regards to the Tiger Woods have stemmed from the competition to be first in reporting ‘news’ about the golf star. Too many media outlets are reporting without the slightest bit of background checks and like today, a local television station in Florida is reporting something that is discredited for at least two days.


New Orleans DE Bobby McCray arrested for DUI

A former 7th round pick out of Florida, McCray is currently in his second season playing for the Saints. From AP-

New Orleans Saints defensive end Bobby McCray was arrested early Tuesday and charged with driving while intoxicated and other counts, police said.

Police spokesman Gary Flot says McCray, 28, was stopped by an officer who saw him speeding about 4:30 a.m. Tuesday. He was booked into Orleans Parish Prison on charges of driving while intoxicated, speeding, careless operation of a motor vehicle and not having his vehicle registration with him.

A jail spokesman said McCray was released on his own recognizance around 7 a.m.

McCray refused to take a Breathalyzer test, police spokesman Janssen Valencia said.

“You have the right to refuse the test, but it has consequences,” Valencia said. “Those include arrest and losing your license.”

I’ve never understood how a country that has a constitutional ammendment protecting those accused of a crime from incriminating themselves, then penalizes those who refuse to incriminate themselves. Which is what a person refusing a Breathalyzer test is doing. Does anyone else see the paradox?


Here we go again- Lack of cable deal will affect Tampa Bay Lightning

It’s the team’s fans that are seeing the plug pulled. From the St. Petersburg Times-

By now, most folks know it’s possible that Fox channels will not be seen on Bright House Networks if a new contract is not reached before midnight Thursday.

While fans worry about missing NFL playoff and BCS bowl games on Fox (locally, Ch. 13), there are other local fans who could be affected. If a deal between Fox and Time Warner Cable, which oversees content for Bright House, is not reached, Lightning and Magic games will disappear as well. Those games are on Sun Sports and Fox Sports Florida, which are owned by Fox.

“Obviously, we are keenly interested observers on this one, and we hope that Fox and Time Warner can get something done to prevent any programming from being lost in viewers’ homes,” said Bill Wickett, Lightning executive VP/communications. “We are concerned for Lightning fans and will continue to monitor the situation closely but have confidence that the companies will work hard to reach a deal before the deadline.”

The first Lightning game that could be affected is Jan. 2 against the Penguins. Fox isn’t hopeful a deal will be reached in time.

Lightning fans better not hold their breaths. It was four months ago that the dispute between Directv and Versus ratcheted up with the satellite service no longer airing the channel that broadcasts weekly NHL games, WAC football, and other sports. The dispute still hasn’t been settled and who knows if Fox-Time Warner fight will drag on just as long.


Will Cybergolf’s Dave Andrews please answer the White Courtesy phone

My first advice to him. Check pro golf schedules before making suggestions how to improve a LPGA schedule. Andrews wrote-

It’s hard to believe, even in the current economic downturn, that there are no LPGA events scheduled between the end of February and the last week in March here in the U.S. Ideally, those weeks would be filled with tournaments in Florida and other warm-weather states.

The LPGA would not come to Florida during the dates Dave is suggesting. You know why? Because the PGA Tour is dominating the Sunshine State golf scene at that time. Tournaments known as Doral, Honda, Bay Hill, and the Tampa tournament or the The Players Championship are or were played in usually 4 consecutive weeks. If Dave used that Harvard educated brain of his instead of being lazy or careless in not putting to use’s stat section, he would have noticed the LPGA avoids the Sunshine State when the men are playing here. Traditionally late February and March have been months for LPGA events in Arizona, California, and Hawaii. NOT FLORIDA and I checked back to 1980. No LPGA event has been played in Florida from the last weekend in February through all of March from 1980-2009. The latest a LPGA pre April Florida based tournament has ended in any of those years is February 21st.

He would also have known that the LPGA not starting its US based tournaments till mid March is new either. The LPGA Tour in 2003 didn’t finish its first event till March 16th.

If Dave answers my page, I’d tell him to do some research in the future.


AFC and NFC playoff picture rundown

Someone got their abacos out and did all the playoff calculations. Here they are-

Baltimore, the Jets, Denver, Pittsburgh and Houston can also make the playoffs if they tie this week with various other things happening. Jacksonville and Miami cannot make the playoffs with a tie.


Baltimore clinches a playoff spot:
1) BAL win

NY Jets clinch a playoff spot:
1) NYJ win

Denver clinches a playoff spot:
1) DEN win + NYJ loss or tie + BAL loss or tie
2) DEN win + NYJ loss or tie + PIT loss or tie
3) DEN win + NYJ loss or tie + HOU win
4) DEN win + BAL loss or tie + PIT loss or tie
5) DEN win + BAL loss or tie + HOU win
6) PIT loss + BAL loss + HOU loss + JAC loss
7) PIT loss + BAL loss + HOU loss + NYJ loss
8.) PIT loss + BAL loss + JAC loss + NYJ loss
9) PIT loss + HOU loss + JAC loss + NYJ loss
10) MIA loss or tie + NYJ loss + BAL loss + HOU loss + JAC loss or tie


Pittsburgh clinches a playoff spot:
1) PIT win + HOU loss or tie + NYJ loss or tie
2) PIT win + HOU loss or tie + BAL loss or tie
3) PIT win + NYJ loss or tie + BAL loss or tie + DEN loss or tie

Houston clinches a playoff spot:
1) HOU win + NYJ loss or tie + BAL loss or tie
2) HOU win + NYJ loss or tie + DEN loss or tie
3) HOU win + BAL loss or tie + DEN loss or tie

Jacksonville clinches a playoff spot:
1) JAC win + PIT loss + BAL loss + DEN loss + HOU loss
2) JAC win + PIT loss + BAL loss + DEN loss + NYJ loss
3) JAC win + PIT loss + BAL loss + HOU loss + NYJ loss
4) JAC win + PIT loss + DEN loss + HOU loss + NYJ loss
5) JAC win + NYJ loss + DEN loss + HOU loss + BAL loss

Miami clinches a playoff spot:
1) MIA win + NYJ loss + BAL loss + HOU loss + JAC loss or tie

Unlike the AFC, the NFC playoff picture is pretty clear. All that needs to be determined is seeding and who will win the Eastern Division.


New Orleans — South division and a first-round bye.
Minnesota — North division.
Arizona — West division.
Philadelphia — playoff spot.
Green Bay — playoff spot.
Dallas — playoff spot.

Detroit, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Washington, Chicago, Seattle, Carolina, Atlanta, San Francisco, NY Giants.

New Orleans clinches home-field advantage:
1) NO win or tie
2) MIN loss or tie

New Orleans clinches home-field advantage.

Minnesota clinches home-field advantage:

1) MIN win + NO loss

Minnesota clinches a first-round bye:
1) MIN win or tie
2) PHI loss or tie

1) MIN win + PHI loss or tie
2) MIN tie + PHI loss


Arizona clinches a first-round bye:
1) ARI win + MIN loss + PHI loss

Philadelphia clinches East division:
1) PHI win or tie

Philadelphia clinches a first-round bye:
1) PHI win + MIN loss

1) PHI win
2) PHI tie + MIN loss or tie

Dallas clinches East division:
1) DAL win

Dallas clinches a first-round bye:
1) DAL win + MIN loss + ARI loss or tie

In the AFC I predict the Ravens and Broncos to make it.


Arizona Diamondbacks sign P Bobby Howry

The right-handed reliever spent the 2009 season with the San Francisco Giants. From AP-

Reliever Bobby Howry signed a one-year deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks on Monday.

The D-backs have a club option for 2011, but terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Howry, 36, pitched for the San Francisco Giants last season, going 2-6 with a 3.39 ERA in 63 games. He has pitched in 731 games during his 12-year career, with 66 career saves.

The Diamondbacks have reshaped their pitching staff in the offseason, trading for pitchers Edwin Jackson and Ian Kennedy in a three-team deal with the New York Yankees and Detroit Tigers earlier this month. They also expect Brandon Webb to be ready for the start of the season, following his shoulder surgery last summer.

While I am not optimistic about Arizona’s pitching bouncing back in 2010, I do think the acquisition of Howry, who has never started a Major League game, is a good move. He has been a more than solid setup man for over 10 years. Howry limited opposing batters to a .214 batting average in 2009 and was almost equally difficult on both righty and lefty batters. Any MLB team can make use of a pitcher with those skills and numbers.


Streaks- Oklahoma City beats New Jersey 105-89

The Thunder have a three-game winning streak, their longest this season. From AP-

The Oklahoma City Thunder seemingly have found a winning formula — Kevin Durant and a lot of defense.

Durant matched his season high with 40 points and the Thunder defeated New Jersey 105-89 Monday night, sending the Nets to their 10th straight loss — their second double-digit losing streak of the season.

The key for the Thunder was the final 17 minutes when they limited New Jersey to 17 points, including 13 in the final quarter.


The win was a season-high third straight for the Thunder (16-14).

“We have a long ways to go,” Durant said. “We still have a lot of slip-ups in games, but we are getting better. Hopefully, we peak at the right time.”

Former Net Nenad Krstic added 19 points and Russell Westbrook had 16 points and 10 assists. Reserve Nick Collison added 11 points and 10 rebounds.

Last night’s defeat was the 10th in a row for the Nets and the second time this season(in just 31 games) that New Jersey has put together a double digit losing streak. They opened the 2009-10 NBA season with 10 straight losses.

Up next for New Jersey are New York, Cleveland, and Milwaukee. The Knicks and Bucks are each playing about .400 basketball. So there is a fair chance the Nets latest losing streak will end soon.

While New Jersey’s disastrous season has drawn lots of attention, the Thunder’s good year(16-14) has gone relatively unnoticed. I did note their victory over Miami last month.

Oklahoma City plays 7 of their next games against losing teams. The team formerly known as the Seattle Supersonics could be playoff bound.


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