Thursday, March 26, 2009

Not One Hall of a Pitcher


We should be happy about one thing regarding Bloody Sock Schilling’s recent retirement announcement: There was no teary press conference. Oh, you can bet he will break down at some point during the “exclusive” three-minute, in-depth “conversation” he has with a sympathetic slo-pitch tosser some time in the next month, but for now we can be thankful that Schilling did not produce a maudlin event, during which he tells us, “I promised myself I wouldn’t cry.”

Since he didn’t pitch last season, Schilling is now four years away from Hall of Fame eligibility. That means we have less time than usual to argue about his credentials. And, make no mistake; it’s going to be one helluva debate. Few players in recent baseball history are as polarizing as Schilling. He may not be in the class of BALCO Bonds, who divided fans into two camps: Realists and those who believe the Yankees’ 2010 pitching rotation will be Santa Claus, The Easter Bunny, The Tooth Fairy, Sasquatch and Whitey Ford, but Schilling was pretty divisive.

The trouble began during the Phillies’ improbable 1993 drive to the NL pennant. Schilling, who had shown glimpses of being something special the previous season by going 14-11 with a 2.35 ERA blossomed into a stalwart, winning 16 games and throwing a gem in the World Series. Fans loved him, but his teammates didn’t quite embrace his look-at-me qualities, such as covering his head with a towel in the dugout whenever volatile closer Wild Thing Williams took the mound, and calling into sports radio stations at all hours to advance his personal agenda. By the time he worked his way out of town by meddling in front-office affairs and demanding (rightfully so) a better supporting cast, Schilling wasn’t exactly the most popular player in the organization. He behaved himself better in Arizona, teaming with Randy Johnson to help the Serpents to the 2001 World Series title, but Schilling always preferred to air his concerns publicly, rather than handle them behind the scenes. That led to continued conflict with teammates, who favored man-to-man methods, rather than man-to-microphone.

When Schilling signed with the Red Sawx, he earned plaudits for announcing his arrival on, a fan web site. It was a savvy move to gain support and popularity but again another Schilling tactic to keep himself in the spotlight. A mere press conference wasn’t enough. He had to commune with the people. Only, he wasn’t really communing, rather giving the illusion of hanging with them by posting on the site. Shrewd.

Then came the Bloody Sock. Whether that indeed was blood on the sock, or it was ketchup, Mercurochrome or Sloe Gin, the legend of the night has been overblown. That’s not necessarily Schilling’s fault, although he could have changed the sock once the bleeding had been stanched. But it shouldn’t have any bearing whatsoever on whether he gets into the Hall of Fame. Thousands of baseball players work through injuries; the big difference is they don’t celebrate it for the TV cameras. Chase Utley played just about the entire 2008 season with a torn labrum in his hip, but every time he was asked about his condition, he downplayed it. Perhaps Utley should have left the syringes used to give him painkilling injections lying around the clubhouse. Then again, given the climate in baseball these days, that wouldn’t have been such a good idea, since Utley didn’t want people to start calling him “Chuice.” But you get the idea. Utley could have played up his injury but didn’t.

Enough about Schilling the man, except to say that his work fighting ALS does deserve major kudos. A lot of professional athletes set up “foundations” and say they do charity work, when all they do is appear at a few events arranged by their minions. Schilling was – and is – committed to the fight and has built up some political capital because of it.

So, what about the Hall? This is a tricky one, because there are plenty of arguments on both sides. His 3,116 strikeouts are a compelling opening gambit, since the 3,000 number is something of a magic mark. He won 20 games three times, hardly overwhelming but more than Greg Maddux and most other pitchers with whom he is compared. Schilling was an animal during the 2001, ’04 and ’07 post-seasons, and his 11-2 career record in the playoffs and Series is impressive, indeed. Schilling had a 4.38 strikeouts:walks ratio, the best ever, and he had two seasons with double-digit complete games, quite an accomplishment in today’s seven-innings-or-bust climate. Those who support Schilling say he was the “dominant pitcher of his age,” which serves as the criteria for many arguments for the Hall. That’s the main case for Sandy Koufax’s truncated career, although let’s be honest, Schilling (and really nobody else) was not Sandy Koufax.

The anti-Schilling side has some pretty heavy artillery, too. His 216 wins are hardly overwhelming. They are three fewer than Kenny Rogers’ total, and he isn’t going to Cooperstown. Schilling pitched for 20 years, and though he battled injuries, he had only nine seasons in which he posted double-digit victory totals and an above .500 winning percentage. He never strung together more than three years of prosperity and had seven sub-.500 seasons, an 8-8 campaign and a 9-8 year. That doesn’t scream long-term greatness. And to those who look at his 3.45 ERA as lower than the average of the age, consider that Schilling pitched the majority of his career in the National League, which didn’t have a DH. Schilling never won a Cy Young Award, although he did finish second three times. While he does get points for his endurance, his 83 career complete games fall well short of Jack Morris’ 175.

Speaking of Morris, if Schilling goes into the Hall, so should Morris. Morris won 254 career games, had three 20-game seasons and 2,478 strikeouts. And what about Bert Blyleven, who won 287 games, struck out 3,701 and had a career 3.31 ERA? Even Jim Kaat, who won 283 career games, had a trio of 20-win seasons, a 3.45 ERA and 2,461 Ks can make a case if Schilling gets in.

When Sports Illustrated football writer Peter King discusses the credentials of those who are being considered for inclusion in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, for which he casts one of the few votes, he sometimes refers to players who belong in the “Hall of Very Good.” That seems to be Schilling. If we divorce ourselves from the bloody-sock drama and accept his post-season success as a strong argument, rather than an absolute requirement, for Hall inclusion, we see a pitcher who had several strong seasons during a 20-year career but not the kind of complete dominance during any prolonged stretch or longevity to close the deal.

Schilling will get plenty of support, and he already has his advance team working hard on his behalf. He’ll make some compelling arguments himself, you can count on that. But he’s not a Hall of Fame pitcher. And if he gets in, then voters had better be committed to enshrining a bunch of similarly very good hurlers, because they will have established a new standard.

And that will be worthy of some tears.

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EL HOMBRE SEZ: The West Michigan Whitecaps, a Class A minor-league baseball team, will offer fans a 4,800-calorie, four-pound hamburger this season. What’s the big deal about that? The Celtics have been serving up a 205-pound hot dog for the past three weeks: Stephon Marbury…Let’s hear it for the NFL’s new rule that prohibits players on the ground from hitting quarterbacks. What’s next, flag football? It’s unfortunate that Tom Brady tore a knee ligament last year in the opener when he was hit by a scrambling Kansas City lineman, but if the league protects quarterbacks any more, they’ll be able to sit in the pocket and get pedicures without worrying about getting hit…New Browns (and former Jets) coach Eric Mangini has issued an open invitation to Cowboy Quarterback to visit Cleveland’s training camp. Isn’t that nice? Maybe he can teach Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson to retire a couple times and hold a franchise hostage. Or, he can show them how to fade down the stretch of a season… Congratulations to Japan for winning the World Baseball Classic. Anybody who takes that as a sign that U.S. baseball is in trouble needs to add some HGH to their common-sense gland. Despite the best efforts of Majoke League Baseball and its propaganda partners, nobody cares. Okay, nobody in America cares. They went crazy in Tokyo – and then went back to their 90-hour work weeks…Catholics in southeast Michigan are furious with the Tigers for scheduling their home opener this season at 1:05 on Good Friday afternoon, right in the middle of the time Catholics believe Christ was on the cross. Talk about bad karma. Well, guess you can kiss those Central Division title hopes good-bye, Detroit. Here’s an idea: Next year sponsor a religious intolerance night and get the Lutherans, Methodists, Jews, Buddhists, Muslims and Shintoists mad at you, too. Brilliant.

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YOU GOT A PROBLEM WITH THAT? Andy Reid held a sit-down with local newspaper writers yesterday to give his spin on the Eagles’ off-season moves and to look ahead. As usual, it was enlightening and was sprinkled with the usual sampling of “I don’t want to get into that” “We’re always looking to improve our team” and “I’ll always look at something if there is a great player out there.” Truly enlightening. It is Reid’s prerogative to obfuscate and parry as much as he wants with the media. But must we be subjected to these semi-annual wastes of space that do little more than send the media diving into the morass of his answers with the same enthusiasm Kremlinologists used to reserve for analysis of who was in favor based on where they were standing on Lenin’s Tomb during the annual May Day festivities? Enough, already. Let Reid talk from the “podium” during the season and leave him alone the rest of the year. We’ll all be better for it.

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AND ANOTHER THING: The folks at NC2A HQ in Indianapolis must be thrilled with the name-brand Sweet 16 that has emerged from the original tourney pairings. All of the top three seeds survived, and no hyphenated schools, satellite campuses or colleges named for Colonial-era heroes can be found. Of course, the first two rounds were far more bland than usual, but safe is good when you’re investing so much money, especially in this economy. So, enjoy the games and keep the following in mind: Purdue over Connecticut; Villanova over Dook and Syracuse over Oklahoma. Enjoy.

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ONE MORE FOR THE ROAD: This is the 250th “El Hombre,” and as the world embarks on the semiquincentennial celebrations of the column’s bicenquinquagenary, know that this has been a delightful ride that ain’t ending soon. So, to those who can’t stand the sarcasm and Animal House references – or for those demented minds who crave more – keep on reading. The best is yet to come.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Getting Madder Every Year


It’s a damn good thing the RPI was not around back in 1979, when the Indiana State Sycamores made their historic run to the NC2A final and the brink of perfection, because it’s unlikely Larry Bird and the fellas would have received a number one seed. Hell, by today’s standards, if ISU hadn’t knocked off New Mexico State in the ‘79 Missouri Valley Conference finals, it probably wouldn’t have received an at-large bid, either. Given the strength of the Sycamore schedule, that might have been tough to justify.

The Sycamores’ non-conference slate was dotted with powerhouses like Lawrence College of Appleton, WI, and Morris Harvey, which is now known as the University of Charleston. Yes, Indiana State played Purdue – on the road, of course – but Evansville, Butler, Cleveland State, Ball State, East Carolina and Illinois State do not exactly constitute a rugged slate. Perhaps the toughest team the Sycamores played all year was the Soviet National Team, which was a year away from dominating perennial hoop powers like North Korea, Bulgaria and Vietnam in the ’80 Commie Games. As we celebrate the 30th anniversary of the game that made the NC2A tournament a vital part of the nation’s sporting culture, it’s instructive to realize that today’s selection committee members would have done all they could to make sure the Bird-Magic matchup didn’t happen. Michigan State-Indiana State? That couldn’t possibly be good for ratings.

In 2004, 12 schools from non-BCS (that dreaded acronym even finds its way onto the basketball court) conferences earned at-large invites to the tournament. This year, four are in the field. The Selection Committee, led by uber-powerful SEC commissioner Mike Slive, would have us believe the only reason schools from the Missouri Valley, West Coast and Southern Conferences aren’t in the tournament and mediocre squads like Minnesota, Arizona (loses of five of its last six), Michigan and Maryland are is that the bigger names played tougher non-conference schedules. It wouldn’t happen to have anything to do with the fact that the NC2A wants name brands in there. While that warms the corporate hearts of big-school shills like Jay Bilas (more on him later), it doesn’t help the tournament, which thrives on the excitement of upsets that occur the first week. Which would get your interest more, a first-round win by Creighton over California or one by Maryland over the Golden Bears? How about St. Mary’s over Texas or Minnesota over Texas? And if Davidson beat Utah, would you be more prone to take notice than if Arizona does so?

The tournament has had its period of glasnost. Now, it’s back to the hard, cold autocracy that keeps the little guy down. The committee isn’t handing out invitations to mid-major schools anymore. It’s looking at the big fellas, who beef up their resumes in contrived, made-for-TV conference tournaments after floundering around during the regular season. Meanwhile, the smaller leagues sell their souls for two hours on espn at the expense of their true champion, which earns its stripes during two months of competition, only to risk on during a three-day game of Russian roulette. As a result, an ugly semifinal loss by Creighton in the MVC tourney spoils an entire season of strong play. Davidson goes 18-2 in Southern Conference play but watches Chattanooga move on to the tournament, despite seven fewer conference victories. Hey, but the conference got two hours on “Championship Week,” so it doesn’t matter if has made a joke of its regular season. Next year, expect the league to swap its integrity for a handful of magic beans.

This year’s tourney includes seven teams from a Big Ten so mediocre it makes the average American Idol finalist look like John Mayer. It has Arizona, even though the Wildcats play in late February and March only looked good after five shots of tequila. There’s a lot to like about the tourney, but this trend is making it easier for the NC2A to say one day that automatic berths for the smaller conferences should go away, or that the little guys should all play pigtail games, the better to leave more spaces for giant schools. You wait; it’s going to happen.

It hasn’t yet, and that’s good news for the ’09 tourney, which has plenty of great plot lines on the road to Detroit. Here are a few.

One More Reason: If it wasn’t already so easy to hate Duke because of its disingenuous coach, obstreperous fans and cheerleading media, the growing influence of Jay Bilas alone would make even the Dalai Lama loathe the Blue Devils. Bilas’ blatant distaste for any school that isn’t in a power conference is enough to make Billy Packer cuddly. Just imagine El Hombre’s disgust when he realized that he would be at the same first-round tourney venue as Bilas. The bile has started its rise already. If it were up to the Duke graduate, no one who didn’t play for the sainted Coach K could talk about basketball, and every one of the 65 spots in the bracket would be occupied by a school from a BCS conference. His continued rise to prominence is one of sports’ great catastrophes.

Fuhgedaboutit: It would be absolutely great if Carl Showalter, Gaear Grimsrud and the rest of the fellas from Fargo could take out Kansas, but North Dakota State, in its first year of full D-I eligibility, isn’t going to beat the Jayhawks. It’s going to be quite a party in Minneapolis when the NDSU crowd buses down, and 5-11 gunner Ben Woodside is fun to watch, but the Bison are headed for the wood chipper.

Welcome Back: Twenty-three years ago, Mouse McFadden and the Cleveland State Vikings advanced to the Sweet 16. Then coach Kevin Mackey got busted for drunken driving on his way home from a crack house. Bad break. Well, CSU is back, and headed for a date with Wake Forest. Put your money on the Deacons, but don’t expect the Vikes to back down. Meanwhile, former Cal coach Todd Bozeman, who led Jason Kidd and the Bears to a second-round upset of Duke in 1993 (bless his heart) before being driven out of coaching for paying a recruit’s parents, has led Morgan State to the tournament, where it will be pile-driven by Oklahoma. Still, good for Bozeman. Finally, give it up for Michigan, which has returned to the tourney for the first time in 10 years. Not bad for a hockey school.

Upset City: Here are your first-rounders: Arizona (12) over Utah (5), Utah State (11) over Marquette (6), Maryland (10) over California (7), Western Kentucky (12) over Illinois and Akron (13) over Gonzaga (4). Later on, look for West Virginia to reach the Elite Eight from its six seed, where it will join Louisville, Purdue, Memphis, Pittsburgh, Villanova, North Carolina and Syracuse.

On to Detroit: And, no, El Hombre won’t be making cracks about the Final Four venue. Why kick a town when it’s down – really down. The four to make it are: Louisville, Memphis, Pittsburgh and UNC. Louisville meets Carolina for the title, with the Tar Heels prevailing.

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EL HOMBRE SEZ: Let’s see now. Jay Cutler has won zero playoff games, yet he can get indignant when a new coach entertains the idea of a trade involving him? The Broncos should get rid of him, because if he’s whining about this, what happens when things get tight on the field?...Bucks forward Charlie Villanueva was caught by coach Scott Skiles Twittering at halftime of Sunday’s win over Boston. That’s right, the newest, most annoying way to communicate has reached the NBA locker rooms. It should be no surprise, since new Celts’ guard Stephon Marbury tried to start a Facebook community of his former Knicks teammates earlier this year, but he couldn’t get anybody to accept his invitations to become a friend…Good news for Mets fans: Johan Santana pitched four innings against minor leaguers Tuesday and looked better than he did in his last start, his first of the spring. Santana gave up two runs on six hits and struck out five. He had to be restrained from going out to the mound for the fifth, though, and was heard screaming, “Don’t let the bullpen blow it again!!” Mets Fever – Catch It…Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin landed the nation’s top uncommitted player, Kansas running back Bryce Brown, who turned down Miami because Kiffin told him he would end up a short-order cook if he played there, Kansas State because he didn’t want to be a sanitation engineer and Oregon because he was afraid of becoming a hobo. Kiffin was unavailable for comment, but a diabolical laughter could be heard coming from the UT football offices after Brown’s signed letter-of-intent came across the mojo wire…espn’s latest attempt to pump its own programming involves the women’s NC2A hoops tournament (good luck). Even though an all-star team of the other teams in the field couldn’t touch Connecticut, the network is trying to convince us that the Huskies could lose. Put it this way; if there were gambling on women’s basketball – and somewhere there must be – the opening line on UConn’s first-round game against Vermont would be about 60 ½. So much for drama.

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AND ANOTHER THING: Congratulations to DeMaurice Smith, who over the weekend was elected the new executive director of the NFL Players Association. Smith, an outsider who impressed the rank-and-file with his toughness, leadership skills, good ideas and willingness to work with owners, has one of the least desirable jobs in sports ahead of him. The owners have already opted out of the current collective bargaining agreement – effective 2010 – and are threatening to lock the players out the following season, in order to get a more favorable contract. All Smith has to do is cut a deal with a group of cutthroats who won’t be easily cajoled into an agreement, as they were by Paul Tagliabue a few years ago. These guys want it all, and it will be up to Smith to make sure they don’t spill too much of the players’ blood. That won’t be easy. At the same time, he has to deal with the retired players, who feel former director Gene Upshaw didn’t help them enough. It’s a high-stakes game with plenty of opportunities for disaster. Let’s hope Smith survives.


Thursday, March 5, 2009

Days of Reckoning


This has not been a good week to be a me-first, overpaid, team-dividing professional athlete. First, Allen Iverson’s “back” flared up, forcing him to the sidelines for at least two weeks, and probably the rest of the year. Then, Dallas Cowboys owner False Face decided it was time to get rid of the NFL’s biggest distraction, Me-O. Fans of drama were overwrought, but those of us who despise sports’ culture of selfishness rejoiced like the producers of Slumdog Millionaire on Oscar night.

Owens’ dismissal and Iverson’s “injury” hardly stemmed the tide of egocentricity. After all, Stephon Marbury has found work with the Celtics, Manny Ramirez just signed with the Dodgers (more on that later) and Chad Johnson remains unfulfilled. As long as there are non-stop highlights on the big screen and a parade of sycophantic “journalists” glorifying the minute accomplishments of top athletes – “LeBron dribbled through his legs!! – there will be self-centered athletes. The Pistons’ and Cowboys’ moves show us that everybody has their limit.

The Iverson case is less notable than L’affair Owens, since his transfer to Antoine Cadillac’s town was affected solely because of his expiring contract. GM Joe Dumars traded Chauncey Billups and his three-year deal to Denver for Iverson’s $21 million albatross, simply to clear room for future activity. As part of the trade, deliriously grateful Nuggets coach George Karl promised to wash and wax Dumars’ car every Saturday this summer. Still, there were some deluded souls who believed Iverson could help the Pistons win. Let’s hope those folks are not allowed to operate heavy machinery. A singular talent who could have led his team to a championship had he played to win, rather than to self-aggrandize, Iverson is all about himself. Always has been. The popular line among wags during Iverson’s time in Philadelphia was, “There’s no ‘I’ in team and no ‘team’ in Iverson.” Perhaps former Georgetown coach John Thompson put it best when asked during a mid-1990s Big East basketball media day about Iverson’s ability to become a point guard. In that unmistakable baritone, Thompson said, “You can’t change a zebra’s stripes.” Even he knew what the guy was about.

After a couple months of the charade, the Pistons found out what it was like to play without Iverson, and they liked it. Now that his “injury” has gotten worse, Detroit can make a charge at the fourth spot in the Eastern Conference hierarchy. The Pistons are 3-0 without Iverson and are back to playing the winning ball they did before he arrived. Danger lurks, of course, because there is always the chance Iverson will heal and demand 40 minutes and 25 shots again. If that happens, abandon all hope. The next chapter of this story should be interesting, since the market for aging, six-foot, ball-hogging two guards might not be so robust during the off-season, especially since half the league will be looking for a government bailout in a few months.

While Iverson braces for an off-season storm, the best part of the Me-O saga is yet to come. He has already provided some insight into his shattered emotions through his mouthpiece, Stephen Naismith. According to Naismith, Me-O feels “betrayed.” Thinks False Face lied to him. And this is just the beginning. There have been no teary-eyed press conferences or carefully-scripted “sit-downs” between Me-O and his apologists. You know the ones. There’s more softballs tossed than at an old King and His Court exhibition. And there’s always a moment when (insert aggrieved athlete’s name here) sits motionless with a single tear running down his cheek, a la the crestfallen Native American from the 1970s “Keep America Beautiful” commercial. One can only imagine the fusillade of emotional artillery Me-O will unload on the general public, in a bid to reinforce his assertion that he is the victim.

Close on the heels of that performance will come the reports from Valley Ranch about the two factions of Cowboy players, those who side with Me-O and those who are celebrating his release as if the government just announced that overpriced cars, jewelry and homes were tax-deductible. As that tempest swirls, False Face will give his side, complete with analysis of just how hard the whole process was and how the team has to “move on.” Chances are, he’ll throw a couple players under the bus, and he might even impugn his own son, team GM Stephen, who most likely was the impetus behind the move. The resulting stew will be so spicy that Rachael Ray would mud-wrestle Martha Stewart on pay-per-view for the rights to the recipe. El Hombre has said it before, and he’ll say it again: False Face may want to win, but he also loves attention and doesn’t care whether it’s of a positive or negative nature.

All of that doesn’t even begin to consider the hours and pages of speculation about the team’s next move and how the Me-O dismissal will affect the team’s performance, not to mention the handicapping of the Me-O sweepstakes, in which executives vie to prove who is more stupid by trying to sign a fading wideout who has poisoned three different franchises. The overwhelming early-line favorite: Al Davis and the Raiders. Duh.

Wow. That sure is a lot to anticipate. Stay tuned for all the action. And if you happen to be a selfish star with a somewhat vulnerable contract position, beware. You could be next, God willing.

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EL HOMBRE SEZ: While the Cavs are celebrating their status as the first NBA team to clinch a playoff spot, the Clippers are hosting “Anybody With A Pulse” night at Staples Center. Anyone actually alive who wants to come and see the team play can do so for free. The team will also throw in a beverage, a frankfurter and the number of a psychiatrist…The NHL trading deadline came and went Wednesday, with the only notable trade involving Olli Jokinen. What, wasn’t Ogie Oglethorpe available?...The NC2A basketball tournament approaches, and that means plenty of high comedy at espn, as smug, corporate Billy Packer clone Jay Bilas jousts with Mr. Bracketology, Joe Lunardi. There’s even a new drinking game surrounding their segments. Every time Bilas is condescending, take a sip. Every time Lunardi looks like he wants to remove Bilas’ liver with a penknife, chug a beer. Chances are, you’ll be smashed in three minutes…The boating accident off the Florida Gulf Coast that claimed two NFL players and a former South Florida team member was truly a tragedy. While we celebrate the survival of one member of the boating party, we must remember the unbelievable power of the sea and the need to respect it. A 20-foot boat was not made to survive six-foot swells 50 miles from shore. Let their loss be a lesson for the rest of us about safety on the water.

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YOU GOT A PROBLEM WITH THAT? The gnashing of teeth over the Eagles’ decision to kick Brian Dawkins to the curb proves that the team’s fans have no idea what they really want. On the one hand, they decry any move not designed to win a Super Bowl. On the other, they become irate when the team makes personnel decisions that will provide long-run help for the team. Granted, the decision on Dawkins couldn’t just be about his value as a safety – which is diminishing, thanks to awful coverage ability. He’s a great leader and a true fan favorite. Re-signing him would have been a tremendous P.R. move and would have engendered significant good will. The fans love Dawkins, and for some, it’s impossible to imagine him in an opponent’s uniform. But from a football standpoint, letting him go to Denver made sense. Yes, he made the Pro Bowl, but he’s not someone you can use in passing situations without manipulating the defense to hide him. That’s hardly the best way to get to – or win – the Super Bowl. This is not a congratulatory letter to the Eagles for the move. It would have been nice for them to use some of their abundant cap space to reward Dawkins for meritorious service. But Eagles fans need to be honest with themselves and ask whether they’re looking for a team that wins or a team that does “the right thing,” because good corporate citizenship doesn’t usually produce a trophy.

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AND ANOTHER THING: How about that Scott Boras? Lucifer’s chief negotiator took one on the chops this week when the Dodgers ended their bidding against themselves and convinced Manny Ramirez to accept $45 million over two years. Boras, who had promised his client something on the order of four years and $130 million, didn’t quite get his price. Now, it would have been better had the Dodgers played some real hardball with the traveling-secretary-hitting bully and his cloven-hoofed rep by lowering their offer every week a deal wasn’t consummated, but the contract as written does favor L.A. Since Ramirez can void the deal after a year, in order to chase another giant offer (as if), he’ll have to hustle and behave himself, as he did during his truncated tenure with the Dodgers last year. Since he doesn’t have the security of a long-term deal, Ramirez can’t dog it, treat team employees poorly and basically act like himself. If he does, he’ll either have to take a paltry $20 million next year – some of it deferred – or go back into a market that doesn’t promise to be much more robust, especially for what will be a 37-year old slugger with a history of malingering. Congratulations to the Dodgers for beating Boras and putting Ramirez in a situation where he has to be a professional – at least if he has any long-term goals.