Quick Takes

 

    Star clutch left-handed pitcher of the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers, Johnny Podres, passed away on January 13 at 75. Heíll always be remembered best for his great performance in the 1955 World Series as he shut out the Yankees in Game 7, 2-0, for the only World Series won by the Brooklyn Dodgers. He was named the first-ever World Series MVP.

 

    The Pro Football Hall of Fame will induct Art Monk, among others, this year. He was a terrific receiver, but before Iíd put him in the Hall, Iíd personally vote for Chris Carter, now eligible. Monkís YPR were slightly higher, but Carter clearly has a better resume.
             Years    Games    Receptions    Yards    TDís    Yards Per Reception
Monk      14        224        940              12721      68     13.5  
Carter    12        234       1101               13899    130     12.6
    And then thereís the great linebacker Derrick Thomas. Like Carter, he was left off the list. It isnít right! What else is new? Iím disgusted with all of the major sports Halls and their lack of sound judgment in their selections.
 

    The Lakers made a tremendous acquisition in Pau Gasol from Memphis. When Andrew Bynum comes back, the Lakers just might be the best in the West with Kobe leading the teamís way, and Derek Fisher alongside in the backcourt. I must now give credit to Mitch Kupchak, finally, although Jerry West would not have permitted this long Lakers drought. West is the premier GM in NBA history period!

 

    Itís difficult enough to acquire one needed piece of a puzzle, but the Celtics did a two-timer in the off-season. Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen were added to team with Paul Pierce. GM Danny Ainge did a great job in filling in two big blanks in Boston.

 

    Roger Clemens is having his ďlegitĒ problems right now with Congress. I love it, although I suspect Mike Piazza is enjoying it even more than I. Clemens can't throw a ball.....or a bat.....at Piazza's head to get out of this mess. Do you remember?

 

    Shaquille O'Neal, 35, earned $20 million per season from the Heat, with that contract having three seasons remaining. His endorsement earnings are similar. Heís played 32 games while Miami is a dreadful 9-39 at this writing  this season. The beat goes on; last season, he played a whole 40 games while Miami went 44-38. I wish I could work part-time and earn $40 million a year. Hell, I wish I could work full-time and earn $40 million a year. Now heíll be working part-time for Phoenix. Miami made a good deal getting Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks for the guy who shoots free throws like bricks, and that assumes he shows up for work.

 

Story of the Week
JAMES DOLAN & MADISON SQUARE GARDEN

 

    We all have our strengths and weaknesses. Running sports franchises is not exactly a strength of James Dolan. Dolan is the head of Cablevision Systems, parent company of Madison Square Garden. MSG owns the Knicks (NBA), the Rangers (NHL), and the Liberty (WNBA).  Dolan's financial success as a sports franchise owner has been mixed with competitive failure and other controversies. He has justifiably become a target of the media in New York, as if the Gotham media needs an excuse.

 

NY RANGERS

 

    Under James Dolan, the Rangers failed to make the playoffs for seven consecutive seasons beginning with the 1997-1998 season. This was the longest playoff drought in franchise history. In recent years, the Rangers have enjoyed moderate success and have at least made the playoffs the last two seasons. This year, the Rangers are 28-24 at this writing with a realistic shot at the playoffs.

 

    Whatever negatives can be written about the NY Rangers under James Dolan pale by comparison to those of the NY Knicks.

 

NY KNICKS

 

    The Knicks have suffered in recent years. Dolan has come under fire from many Knicks fans for more dubious player-personnel decisions by his organization. In a recent Sports Illustrated players poll, he received the most votes as the worst owner in the NBA.

 

    Many fans are frustrated with player personnel decisions of the team. One example was the decision to give shooting guard Allan Houston a 6-year, $100 million contract in 2001, when no other team had offered Houston more than $75 million. However a straight comparison of offer amounts is misleading because of the rules of the "Larry Bird exception" of the NBA salary cap. Houston retired due to injury after just four seasons and over $40 million remaining on his contract.

 

    After the 2004-2005 season, the Knicks signed head coach Larry Brown to a five year, $50 million contract. After just one (losing) season, Brown was fired. This obligated the Knicks to buy-out Brown's contract for $18 million. Brown walked away with a total of $28 million for coaching the Knicks for just one year.

 

    Other recent coaches of the Knicks also had short tenures including Don Cheney (2001-2003) and Lenny Wilkens (2003-2005). Both are currently receiving salaries after being offered long term contracts, but are not coaching the team.

 

    Upon the firing of Larry Brown, President of Basketball Operations Isiah Thomas assumed duties as head coach of the Knicks. Despite the constant criticism that he has recieved from Knicks fans (and me), Thomas maintains that he has no intention of leaving until he has turned the team around. On January 3, 2008 he predicted that he would lead the Knicks to a championship, and he stated that his goal was to leave behind a "championship legacy" with the Knicks, just as he had done for the Detroit Pistons. This prediction was met with widespread skepticism from NBA fans, as the Knicks have a combined record of 41-71 at this writing with Isiah coaching, leaving him subject to frequent fan chants of "Fire Isiah."

 

    To add to the Isiah legacy, in 2006 former team employee Anucha Browne Sanders accused Dolan and Thomas of sexually harassing her personally and creating a hostile work environment. In a civil trial brought by Ms. Sanders The team was found guilty based partially on Thomas' conduct (although Thomas himself was not personally found guilty). The case was settled at a cost of over $11,000,000. Thomas kept his job following this incident despite numerous calls from fans and within the media for him to be fired. Could it be that Thomas has pictures of Dolan that canít be shown to the Girl Scouts of America?

 

    This year, the Knicks are 15-37 at this writing with the fifth worst record in the NBA.

 

NEW YORK LIBERTY

 

    Who? Who cares?!

 

    Madison Square Garden does not have to book a circus for entertainment. To be sure, all the controversies under James Dolanís watch, especially the Knicks, make MSG a first-class circus in itself.

 

Last Weekís Trivia

 

    Al Benton is the only MLB pitcher to have faced both Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle. He pitched to Ruth in his rookie season, 1934, as a member of the Philadelphia Aís. He pitched to Mantle in his final season, 1952, as a member of the Boston Red Sox.

 

Trivia Question of the Week

 

    How many times did Muhammad Ali lose the heavyweight title only to win it back again? Who beat him? Who did he beat to win it back? See next weekís Sports Junkie for the answer.