Monday, February 11, 2008

This is it

After giving it a good amount of thought, I've decided I need to focus my blogging efforts on contributing to the Press-Enterprise site. So, as of now, this will be my last post here for a while.

You'll be able to catch me on the P-E pro sports blog, and on its college sports counterpart. Hopefully at some point we'll be able to get it expanded to include a full columnist's blog, but until then I'll try and sneak as much opinion and commentary on there as I can.

The year plus on this site has been fun, and I appreciate my regular followers who visited this site frequently. Thank you again. I'm not deleting this site, because ... well, just because. One never knows.

But I'm not leaving, just moving (to contribute content to the people who actually pay me to do so, and isn't that what America is all about?).

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Sunday, January 20, 2008

Kings' timing horrendous?

When is it counterproductive to win? When you have a shot at the No. 1 draft pick ... maybe.

When we looked in on the Kings last week, they were still 30th in the NHL but starting to make a move, with two straight victories. Since then, they've gone on the road and won two out of three, victories in Edmonton and Vancouver sandwiched around a 6-1 loss in Calgary.

What does it mean? Not much in the standings, since the Kings still aren't going to make the playoffs. But every victory puts their lottery chances in jeopardy -- and, consequently, their chances of getting Steve Stamkos, a center for Sarnia in the OHL who is considered the consensus No. 1 pick in the draft this June.

In a survey of scouts by TSN (Canada's version of ESPN) before the season, one scout was quoted thusly about Stamkos: "He has star written all over him. He is a dynamic player with speed, skill and size. He's No. 1. It's not even close."

Kings fans are already salivating over the possibility of Stamkos joining the current nucleus of young talent, and some of them have suggested that all these victories aren't necessarily that good a thing. Even The Hockey News chimed in, with a recent cover featuring Stamkos and fellow stud John Tavares, the projected No. 1 pick in 2009, wearing their Team Canada jerseys and gold medals from the recent world junior championships. The headline said: "Hey, L.A., STAY BAD!"

The team with the worst record is guaranteed one of the top two picks. In this case, No. 2 might as well be No. 12.

But here's a question for those who want losses: Is it really worth it to tank if it means that guys like Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Jack Johnson, etc. get used to losing?

I'm not so sure it is. And neither is GM Dean Lombardi.

Incidentally, here's an interesting possibility, and maybe a reason why Lombardi hasn't shown current coach Marc Crawford the door (other than the fact that Crawford is the guy he hired):

Mike Babcock, who got the Ducks to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2003 and has Detroit again perking along with the best record in the West, can be a coaching free agent at the end of this season -- and is said to be considering not exercising his option with the Red Wings for 2008-09, which would put him on the open market.

Just a thought.

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Somewhat more complex than C-A-T

From Foxborough, Mass.:

Or is it Foxboro? There seems to be no consensus on the proper spelling for the home of the New England Patriots, even on the road signs along Rte. 1 -- jam-packed Rte. 1, may we add -- leading to Gillette Stadium.

The AP style seems to be Foxborough. But it's spelled both ways on the road signs. And when I go on the website to get forecasts for today's Chargers-Patriots game, I type Foxborough, MA into the search box and get "no link found." But I type in Foxboro, and voila!

(Incidentally, at 12:45 p.m. EST, it's 24 degrees (and feels like 11 degrees), with winds at 14 mph gusting up to 21 mph.)

That, as I wrote this morning, could be the X-factor in today's game. Lots of wind would have an effect on the passing game, and could reduce this to a slug-it-out ground battle.

Would that help the Chargers, enough to make the upset of the ages possible? Not sure.

But there's an interesting trend. Most of the media -- virtually all of the national media, and absolutely all of the media back here -- are taking a New England victory almost as an article of faith. The consensus is that the Patriots will cruise. (ESPN's absolutely unscientific poll revealed that all 50 states voted for New England. I mean, the Chargers couldn't even carry their home state, which would go down as an Al Gore moment.)

But in talking to a few of the Patriot fans we've run into since getting here, the assumption is that this game could be a lot closer than the pundits predict, regardless of the conditions.

My pick? The Chargers will cover the 13 1/2-point spread, but the Patriots will win.

(Incidentally, this post and lots of others from today's game will be available here, at the Chargers blog.)

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

Enjoy it now, Laker fans

It's too bad newspapers aren't already running the NBA standings according to conference rankings rather than by division, because Laker fans really would want to clip and save today's standings.

Here, then, courtesy of, is something you can print and save for posterity, while dreaming of a Lakers-Celtics NBA Final. (Right now, that's still all it is -- a dream.)

The presumption, of course, is that it's too good to last. The Lakers have played one game without the injured Andrew Bynum, barely outlasting the hapless Seattle-Oklahoma City SuperSonics (it's not too soon to start calling them that, is it?) on Monday night.

Now comes the tough stretch. Beginning with tonight's TNT game against Phoenix, the Lakers face five teams that are a combined 51 games over .500 -- home games against the Suns and Nuggets, a road trip to San Antonio and Dallas, back home to play Cleveland. After a bye (OK, it's a Tuesday night home game against the Knicks), the meat-grinder resumes with the start of that nine-game Grammy-necessitated road trip: stops in Detroit (19 over .500), Toronto (3 over), Washington (3 over), New Jersey (2 under), Atlanta (1 under) and Orlando (7 over).

If they survive that, maybe they can get well at the end of the trip, which takes them to Miami (21 under), Charlotte (8 under) and Minnesota (27 under).

If the doctors are correct and Bynum is out for eight weeks, the Lakers will have played 27 games without him by the time he returns March 11 against Toronto. If they go 14-13 without him, they'll be 39-24 when he gets back and probably somewhere in the middle of the pack in the West.

The most optimistic projection, considering who they play during that stretch, would be 17-12. That would put them at 42-21, on a pace for 55 victories and still in the mix for home court in the first round.

Anything better than that, and you'd have to conclude this team is special. And Laker fan doesn't even want to think of the alternative -- team goes in tank, sneaking into the playoffs as a low seed or missing them altogether, and Kobe resumes his "I Want Out" Tour.

Either way, the NBA season in Los Angeles just got even more interesting.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Is history about to repeat itself?

The last time the Padres made it to the World Series, the civic euphoria in San Diego seduced enough voters that an initiative for a new ballpark (which we now know as Petco Park) passed just weeks later.

It's happening again.

According to this story -- printed, incidentally, by a newspaper whose building is currently adorned with a huge banner that says: "Go Chargers! We're Proud Of You!" -- a trip to the Super Bowl would go a large way toward getting the Spanoses the stadium/land development deal they've been seeking.

Also of note: This column (which is essentially a platform for Dean Spanos and his hired gun, Mark Fabiani) ... and, just as interestingly, the comments section below it, which reveals a pretty strong diversity of opinion.

(And for those of you wondering what happens to all of that civic goodwill if the Chargers get hammered by the Patriots this Sunday, remember this: The Padres got swept by the Yankees in that 1998 World Series and still got their new stadium, though it was delayed a couple years by lawsuits.)

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More food for thought

Leonard Pitts, who is an op-ed columnist for the Miami Herald (and whose work appears frequently in the Press-Enterprise) is one of This Space's favorites, mainliy because of his ability to cut through the hysteria of a given situation and deliver the rational point of view.

He did it again here.

The whole flap over Golf Channel commentator Kelly Tilghman's flip comment about Tiger Woods is yet another example of how the chattering class takes an incident and turns it into a crisis.

Did she say something stupid? Absolutely. Is it a firable offense? No. Does it reveal a pattern of thought or deed? No. Are those who pounced on it doing so for their own selfish reasons? What do you think.

Maybe the problem is that the chattering class fell into the same trap as Ms. Tilghman -- not thinking sufficiently before speaking.

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That would save us all a trip!

According to Boston Herald columnist Gerry Callahan, there's no reason for any of us to show up in Foxborough on Sunday, and the Patriots should just stamp their pass for the Super Bowl right now and save the Chargers the risk of frostbite.

That is the majority opinion, and there is some logic to it. Still, as over-the-top as this column was, I wonder if maybe Callahan had tongue firmly planted in cheek.

After all, nobody's that much of a homer -- not even certain San Diego media entities (I name no names) who are very good at hoisting the banner and hopping on the bandwagon.

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Monday, January 14, 2008

One step from a Super Bowl ... really

I'm guessing if anyone tried to pitch this script, they'd get laughed out of the room. (Then again, nobody's writing any scripts these days. Right?)

Let's see, this football team flamed out in the postseason, replaced its coach, then started the next season 1-3. The public screamed, demanding accountability or at least a scalp or two. Yet this team fought back to 5-5, then reeled off a winning streak. And in its biggest game of the year, the star running back and the star quarterback were injured, on the road, against the defending champs ... and the little-used backups saved the day.

Nah. Totally unbelievable. Too Disney. Too trite, too corny, too ... true?

Face it, the only way the Chargers can improve on this script is to go into New England and beat the undefeated Patriots, then go to the Super Bowl and win, and then sign that stadium deal with Chula Vista.

It can't happen. Can it?

* * *

Incidentally, I was struck by one thing in particular in Indianapolis Sunday afternoon, as the favored Colts saw their chances of defending their Super Bowl title go down in a blizzard of incomplete passes.

Walking downstairs to the locker room level, I was surrounded by a gaggle of Colts fans, all wearing some sort of team gear. They were disappointed, of course. They'd hoped for and expected better. But there was no anger, no finger-pointing, no looking for someone to blame.

I don't know. Maybe that's manifesting itself on the call-in shows back there today. But Colts fans struck me as being very much like St. Louis baseball fans, and maybe it's just a trait of the heartland. They love their team, win or lose, and rather than looking for scapegoats or demanding changes, they take a "get 'em next year" approach.

That's good, because it shows an uncommon perspective. Of course, I wonder if that also makes it easier for a player to fail, knowing that he's not going to be on the same hot seat as he might be in, say, New York or Philly? (Or even, to a degree, Los Angeles.)

Gee, you think Peyton and Eli Manning compare notes on what they hear from their respective fans? Peyton's going to be living off his accomplishments and his championship for a long time in Indy. Eli is in the quintessential "what have you done for me lately" town, and I'm not sure even winning feeds the beast in New York. I'm sure his performance, even in victory, is being picked over pretty well today.

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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Chargers game blog

If you're looking for blog items on the Chargers and Colts, please go here.

And if you couldn't resist clicking this link, a weather report: 70 and clear in the RCA Dome. Outside, snow early in the day followed by rain.

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A Conversation With … Bob Miller

The Kings’ play-by-play man has been with the organization for 35 seasons, long enough to see the best and the worst – and long enough to realize the utter, unflinching loyalty of the people we wrote about this morning, those who continue to support the team, year after year.

(You’ve been through a lot with this franchise. Is this the worst point?)

“It’s been disappointing, because after last year I think everybody felt this would be a better year, (that) if we get decent goaltending, this is gonna be a team that could contend for the playoffs. AndI think that’s the disappointing part of this, they’re so far out now, and they’ve been so inconsistent during the year.

“Several times we’ve seen games like the 8-2 win over Buffalo and a win like (Thursday) over Toronto and think, ‘Are they gonna build on this now, and are they gonna settle down and play well? And they wouldn’t, they couldn’t put that string of wins together.”

(It’s almost like a tease.)

“Yeah, and you wonder, why the ups and downs of this team? Why look so good one night with eight goals, and the next night you cant score against Phoenix in a game at home?

“And the disappointing thing to me too is, to battle back in a game against Calgary and take a 4-3 lead in your building, with about five or six minutes to go – that should be the end of the game, on your ice, and you let it get away and lose a game. Those are the frustrating points of this season, the inconsistency from one game to the next, or one series of games to the next series of games.”

(Within that, though, do you see glimmers of hope? There’s some talent out here.)

“Oh, there is, and we keep saying we’re a young team but the young guys are he guys who are really coming through and playing well. That’s what you look for -- somebody like (Anze) Kopitar and (Dustin Brown) and (Michael) Cammalleri when he’s healthy, and (Alexander) Frolov and (Patrick) O’Sullivan and guys like that. And you say there’s going to be a nucleus here.

“And we keep hearing about how well some of the players are playing in junior hockey, four of them going to the world championships, (and) how well they’re playing in the minor leagues. And you think, in the next year or couple of years, all that talent is going to be here. And the young guys who are playing well now are still going to be young guys, and are going to be in their prime.

“So I think from that standpoint, yes, there’s a glimmer of hope.

“From a fan’s standpoint, fans want things to happen right away. Its one thing to say ‘be patient.’ We’ve said that for 40 years to our fans. Be patient. And our fans are so good and they’re so loyal. You look around and see we’re averaging 16,000, and some nights sellouts, some nights averaging 14,000, 15,000 with a team that’s on a losing streak. And you think, if we ever put together, in my opinion, a year like Detroit is having, or some other teams are having, you’d never get a ticket to get into this building. It would be almost impossible.

(Can you imagine this franchise doing what the franchise down the freeway did last year? Then again, it’s been there.)

“We saw it in ’93 (in the Stanley Cup finals). Not only was the building filled, but everybody – not everybody in the city, but a majority of people in this city all of a sudden followed the Kings, had them on TV and radio, and read about them. Reporters were sent on the road to the Toronto series and the Stanley cup finals. So it’s there. And I think this can be a great hockey city.

“People forget that we’ve had pretty good crowds. The image has always been, going back to the days of the early days of this franchise, the late ‘60s, the early ‘70s, that nobody showed up. But there were times in the mid-70s that we outdrew the Lakers.”

(And you had better teams.)

Yeah. In ‘74-75, ‘75-76. and the building filled, and everybody talking about the Kings. The problem, and Bob Pulford, who was coaching then, mentioned it: We’d get to a certain point, and we’re not able to advance from there and really get everybody excited. We’d get to a certain point in the playoffs, and then we’re out and everybody forgets about the Kings. The only exception was ‘93, when we had a mediocre regular season, and yet got hot at the right time and went to the Finals.

“And I still believe . . . I feel Dean (Lombardi) is doing the right thing here, stockpiling some young talent who may not be ready right now, but they are going to be ready. And I still have faith in him because of what he accomplished in San Jose in those years. I think the wrong thing to do would be, let’s panic and let’s throw everything away and start over again. We’ve done that too many times, with four-year plans, five-year plans. We’d get halfway into them and say, ‘Ulp, let’s scrap that,’ and now we’re back to square one and we’ve just wasted 2-3 years.

(Do you get a lot of feedback from fans?)

“I get it, obviously not on the air. I don’t do a talk show, which is fortunate. The one I used to do, I did before the game. That’s the time to do it. Everybody’s in a good mood.

“But when I’m walking around, or even out shopping or something, I’ll run into somebody. And yeah, I sense the frustration, as we all do. ‘What’s gonna happen? Why can’t they win? When are we gonna win?’ So yeah, there is. I get reaction from them from time to time, yeah.”

(And the amazing thing is, this is probably the most loyal fan base that any team in Southern California has.)

“Yeah, I think so. People come up to me and say, ‘I’ve been a season ticket holder 35 years,’ or 40 years, 28 years. And one person tonight said, ‘Bob, I’m not going anywhere. I’m here, and I know they’re going to get better. I’m not going to abandon this team.’

“And I think you’re right. We’ve had extremely loyal fans. And for that reason, a game like a 7-0 loss (to Nashville Tuesday night) upsets me, because I think, people paid to see this. And it’s so disappointing.

“So I’m happy two nights later to see it turn around, and somebody comes and says, they really played well tonight.”

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A Conversation With … Dean Lombardi

The Kings’ President and General Manager talks about some of the issues addressed in today’s column – including more specifics on why he’s inclined to be more patient with the younger prospects coming up through the system, what exactly was done to address the organization’s infrastructure needs, and how studying baseball’s player development system helped influence what he’s tried to do in hockey.

(On the minor league ECHL affiliate that is slated for the new Ontario arena this coming fall:)

“Well, actually that’s not (official). We’re gonna have the East Coast League team, it looks like. I guess it’s still in the works is probably the best way to describe it. Nothing’s been finalized.

“The problem is, it’s not like baseball, with Double-A, triple-A. The East Coast League, you send goaltenders down there, maybe tough guys.. . . Actually that’s not totally true. There have been some players that advanced out of there. But it makes sense to have a team closer.

“That’s a semi-pleasant topic . . . ”

(Has there been much semi-pleasant this year?)

“Actually, yes. But it’s not things that fans care about and see. And they shouldn’t, when they’ve been through what they’ve been through here for 40 years and the last 15.

“The positives are the things I believe in. I brought in my whole scouting staff. For instance, your amateur scouts, (this is) the first year they’ve been all together. We feel that right now, actually at the end of the month, we’ll be where we were in June. The last year has been kind of a fire drill for all of us. (There’s) the integration of technology that wasn’t used in the past. We finally got that up and running after a year, that guys are using. So things in the infrastructure, I’m pretty happy.

“That said, being a general manager, I’m responsible for the NHL team, the minor league team, pro scouting, amateur and development. All five gotta be operating. I think we’re doing pretty well. I always felt it took three years in San Jose to get those parts of the machine running, because I really believe if you don’t do that, you’re never gonna have what you need here.

“Right now, as far as this part (on the ice in Los Angeles), it’s not good, it’s not where we expected to be, and this is what people pay their money to see. They don’t pay to hear about what some scout’s doing in Saskatoon. It’s very important in the end, but right now that’s not good. And I think we’re all on the same page here when we say we didn’t expect to be world-beaters, but we didn’t expect to be this far out of it.”

(You figured you might in the hunt for a playoff spot.)

“Yeah, I think that was realistic. You know, that’s one of the things: it’s always hard to gauge. I said it, and I don’t know if you heard it, but when you’re that active in free agency it’s usually not a great sign.

“I believe in free agency, and ideally you have your core. Maybe you get a core player that goes with the core you’ve got built, or you’re looking for one or two role players that fit. And when you’ve got to carpet-bomb the market to try and fill a number of holes like that, and bring in five, six new guys, that’s always a crap shoot.”

(I do remember you talked about that in the summertime, about having as many as eight holes that needed to be filled.)

“The thing it does, it’s always rolling the dice up here. But the thing it did allow us to do was to keep . . . One of the problems we had was, last year in the minor league system we had maybe five young players, and maybe two of them were prospects. So there wasn’t anybody ready to come up and challenge for a job, other than maybe one or two that had an outside shot.

“So we have some pretty good prospects down there now. We completely flip-flopped our minor league team. It’s one of the youngest teams in the American League this year, versus last year when it was one of the oldest. So you’ve got like 15 kids there that are ‘85 born and younger.

“Now, they’re not all gonna play, but it’s giving you more chances. You’ve got maybe two or three who are gonna knock on the door and have a chance maybe a little this year or next year, where at least we can look at an open box and say, we can fill this from within. We couldn’t do that last year, so it was our only alternative.

“Then the question became, OK, who, and how much money to spend? And whenever you get in that free agent market, you’re gonna overpay. If you’re gonna get involved, assume you’re gonna overpay. That’s just the way it is.

“But to have that many guys? You bring in six new guys like that . . . are they gonna perform up to expectations? It’s always an issue, as you see in free agency – a lot of guys, that first year is tough on them. And secondly,.are they going to mesh as a group? All new faces, are they going to fit in their roles?”

(Has that been a problem?)

“The one thing we haven’t had, we haven’t had I guess . . . you’ve seen rooms where they come in and they just don’t get along. It’s not only that it doesn’t fit as a hockey team, but they just don’t fit as people. We haven’t had that. We haven’t had the classic jackass in the locker room, so to speak, for lack of a better term. But, on the other hand, have they felt comfortable in their role? Have you seen the competitiveness you’d like? No. But we haven’t had chemistry from the standpoint like, hey, these guys just don’t get along. So that hasn’t been an issue.

“A lot of these guys for the most part, too . . . one thing like I know about (Michal) Handzus, we had him in Philly, he struggled but one thing we know about Handzus, he cares. He’s not gonna cheat you. (Kyle) Calder competes most nights. So we haven’t had bad guys. And those I definitely would stay away from, particularly as you bring in young players. You’ve got some young ones here. We have to . . . it’s part of this process, eventually, because we’re not a young team.

“That’s another thing I had said. We have the illusion of being young because some of our top forwards are young. They’re high profile. But we’re not young on the back, we don’t have young goaltending. We don’t have young players in roles at the forward position. And again, that’s something that when I took the job, I said this has got to change. We’re too old, we’re not good enough, and we’re going to have to replenish the system and bring it along the right way.

“One thing I will say that free agency allows you to do, it allows you to keep a guy like (Ted) Purcell who’s in the minors, the second leading scorer in the minors in his first year, it allows you to keep him there and do it right. You bring him up too soon, you expect too much out of them, and then they go through this. I firmly believe that’s what the minors are for. And you can do that, leave them there, because you’ve got some players here that you’re not forced to use him.

“But like I said, that still doesn’t solve the issue of people paying $80 a night and watching a 7-0 blowout (such as Tuesday's against Nashville).”

(Now this was brought up earlier in the year – Brady Murray, and I think someone else, maybe Bernier, were sent down because of the worry that being in a losing environment might affect their development negatively. Is that also a concern?)

“Was there somebody else?”

(It seems like there were two, but maybe it was just one. But the idea was that these are young players and you really don’t want them to be exposed to a negative atmosphere.)

“I don’t know if that’s it. When Brady went down . . . there’s a difference. It’s like Bernier. There’s a difference between saying, OK, the kid is the best player for the job, versus, he’s ready.

“Bernier’s a classic example to me. When everybody wanted us to keep him here, I (asked my staff): Look, is it that he’s ready for the National Hockey League? Or is he the best of this lot? Because just the fact that he’s the best of this lot is not the right answer. Because you’re trying to make sure this guy has a chance to become a bona fide (No.) 1. And if he’s not ready, as we’ve seen with so many goaltenders, you can ruin them.

“The Kings had a little history of that with Jamie Storr. Now whether Storr was good enough, the jury’s out. But it’s still in the back of everybody’s mind. Even the fans say it. Part of it was, too much too soon. Who’s right, who’s wrong? There’s still that argument.”

(But then you’ll hear the same thing from fans: You need to bring Bernier up, or you need to do this or do that.)

“Because you know what they want? (To win, now.) And they have a right to it, and this is the problem you’re in now, because again, we aren’t that young.

“And this kind of happened in San Jose. When you’re in the building process, we got younger every year and we improved six years in a row. Getting younger and getting better. The fans start buying it when they see a piece come in, because you’re building hope. They see, OK, he’s young, he’s got a chance to get better, I see some flashes. When you’re stuck here . . . Jack Johnson’s the one kid that’s come in, (Patrick) O’Sullivan’s certainly gotten better, and right now they want to hurry that hope along. But I’ve got to look at it …

“You know I’ve seen in my experience, and before I became general manager, I learned early in my career that nobody has been ruined by being overprepared. But the history of athletes being ruined (by) being underprepared, by too much too soon, there’s oodles of cases.

“And so Brady in a way was like that when he went down. We wanted to give him a shot at the job, and we saw some things in his game that weren’t where they needed to be. Brady had played in Europe, so he was a little older. He could have had a shot. He was a little more physically mature than some of the other young guys, like (Trevor) Lewis and (David) Meckler and these guys. But he wasn’t quite there, and he hadn’t played in the American Hockey League, which is still very different from Europe, where he was playing on the big rink and everything. And so we said, mmm, not quite ready, go back down, we gotta get some things fixed.

“Now, going to your point, I do think that’s a relevant point. You do have to be careful that when young guys come up – and that’s one of the things we’ve got here, whether we like it or not. When you have a team that’s 15 years, four playoff appearances – that’s lowest in the league. Fifteen years, one playoff round won, that’s lowest in the league, for teams that have been around that long.

“If you’re going to maybe change a culture, then you really gotta latch on to making sure they’re prepared. So it’s a combination. One thing we haven’t had, and I’ve always believed this and seen it: Yzerman hands off to Datsyuk (in Detroit). Winning organization, pass the mantle. Sakic, winning organization (in Colorado), passes off to Stasny.

“We don’t have that at our disposal right now. So we’re going to have to build up that winning attitude, tradition, whatever, from the grass roots. And part of that is trying to make sure they’re prepared, because already (Anze) Kopitar’s our best player. Now I can say that’s great. On the other hand, that’s not good that we don’t have a 25- or a 26-year-old, or a guy in his prime who’s our best player. So it can cut both ways.”

(And it’s almost like he’s out there on an island, him and a couple of others. There’s not that support system yet.)

“But he’s handled it well. That’s one thing I’m very cognizant of. He hasn’t slid backwards. He’s trended a little up, but at least he hasn’t gone like this (roller-coaster). In a lot of ways, it’s too much ice time for a young guy, but hey, he’s a special kid. He’s got his head on straight.

“But we’ve talked to him, both him and Johnson (and said): Some day, you’re gonna have to take responsibility for winning. This is going to be your fault if this doesn’t get turned around. I’m not going to hold you to it now because you’re young and you’re still finding your place in the league. But understand that you’re going to be called up here someday and held accountable for this.

“That’s the other thing. When you’re developing players, we always forget: Drafted at 18, 19, we’re not just developing players, we’re developing men. And I’m sorry, but it goes the other way. When you give a kid . . . I’ve often heard people say, ‘Well, they’re getting paid $3 million, so they should act like pros, or should act mature.’ No, no. If somebody gave me $3 million at 21 years old, I wonder how I would act. I think I might have gone the other way.”

(They have to learn)


(You had to basically tear this thing down and rebuild it when you came in last year. That’s a Herculean task, because it’s not like you just come in and plug in a few fixes here and there. It’s total.)

“And that’s the thing. I’ve said this before. The one advantage I had in San Jose, before I took over, my infrastructure was for the most part, the key parts were in place. The scouts had already worked together. There was just no direction. But I had a lot of the infrastructure in place, the core, and was then able to add (to) and develop the department, things like that.

“I didn’t realize that – again, any manager that comes in, whether it’s right or wrong, he has to have his way of doing things. And it’s just different. You have to get people who are willing to do things the way you want them done. The type player I want you looking for, the way I want you to go about finding that player. You don’t leave the rink without going downstairs and talking to the kid. You start using video to back up what you see live. You start making your later list early. This does not happen overnight. Again, I’m not saying it’s right, I’m not saying it’s wrong. This is the way I want things done.

“And I went from the amateurs to the pro side. We just put in the development department. To me, that should have always been. That’s a singular entity, the whole development thing. You can’t just rely on the coaches, because they’ve got to focus on some winning. That was a department that essentially had to be created from scratch. So that was a lot bigger task …

“I wish I knew now what I knew then. I probably would have run some things different. But I really wanted to get some things fast and get going, so I was like, let’s go, let’s go, we gotta get this and that. We were trying to do way too much at once. I went through two months without having Ron Hextall there, and thank God. I’ve got some great people around me now. But that in itself is a project.

“It goes back to the Lou Lamoriello philosophy in Jersey. Some of those guys were a great help to me when I was young. And Louie always said, you know, the Jersey success -- he started out with a similar thing. Do things this way, everybody has to be on the same page, and you do things right. Eventually that pays off, when you look at the way New Jersey does things. There’s no such thing as a quick fix. But getting the right people …

“What people forget is, I always thought our staff in San Jose didn’t hit stride till the third year, where it becomes like a machine. Everybody knows their role, they all fit in, the buzz words are all the same. My goal here was to try and get it going in two.

“I think we’re making progress here. But again, it certainly doesn’t show on the ice on this big club, that’s for sure.”

(How much support have you gotten from AEG? Have they been pretty good at giving you everything you need?)

“As far as when I came in, that was one of the questions I asked. We don’t need to spend the most money. But when it’s time and we are a contender, I can go to you and say, ‘We’re a contender, can we spend the money to stay one?’ Will you do it?

“(They said) ‘We’re nowhere near that now. But when it comes, yes.’

“I said, then, the next thing I need is all the tools necessary in scouting and development. I don’t need all the other fluff. But scouting and development, I have some ideas on .that. I want to take it to another level. It’ll pay off for you in the long run.

“And I haven’t been denied.

“Right into the locker room, too. I was thinking, Holy smoke, when I first got in here – we gotta change this. We completely redid the weight room and (some other) things.

“The developmental camp we put together this summer, I had complete support. So everything I asked for, they lived up to, because I always thought that was essential. I told them, if you’re going to have me here, infrastructure is key. Not going out and getting a $1 billion free agent or something to turn this around. At some point he might be a piece. But that’s down the road. Like I said, when we’re a contender I hope we’re gonna go for it. But to get there, you’ve got to invest in these areas. I haven’t been denied one thing, and that’s the God’s honest truth. I’m not gonna blow smoke.”

(You talk about a development department. That’s fairly common in baseball, but is it unusual for hockey?)

“Well, that was the thing, when I was an assistant GM in Minnesota – it was funny, because those were my two sports growing up, hockey and baseball. I used to work at a baseball school in the summer when I was 14. And it was almost like a minor league, the way they did things – the detail, the stations, the lecture halls. That’s when it first hit me.

“Then, when I was an assistant GM, I went and studied, went down and watched the Oakland A’s and watched their program – the whole field, the way they do the winter ball and all.

“I remember saying, I knew it: hockey is light years behind in terms of the way they treat the offseason. The teaching that goes on. We totally underestimate the amount of teaching that goes on in baseball.

“And the other thing that happens, I realized – this kind of happened with the kids who were around in the summer – those kids start bonding, right away. So you’re creating chemistry, in an atmosphere where there’s not always that pressure, the next game, win or lose. You start seeing guys become buddies, which is going by the wayside.

“But that is a baseball model, and when I started in San Jose so much of the philosophy was based on baseball.

“They’re phenomenal, the way they do things – each level, single-A, double-A, triple-A, has a certain purpose. The idea that if you’re in the minor leagues, we don’t care, but you’re gonna learn.

“One of their top prospects was getting the crap beat out of him. (The guy) said, ‘We don’t care. He’s gotta learn how to throw the curveball. So he’s gonna learn to throw it, and if he has to throw it 60 times a night, we don’t care. It’s the only way he’s gonna learn.’ ”

(And you don’t only have a manager and coaches at each level in baseball, but you have roving instructors, too.)

“You get a guy like Mike O’Connell, who’s the former GM of the Bruins (and is now the Kings director of pro development). He’s just tremendous at that. He provides the way. He’s really into the detail and things.

“And you’re always . . . that’s the thing in the cap era. In the end, the cap’s supposed to make everybody equal. So that’s the other thing I learned. Before the lockout, I talked to a lot of football guys. ‘How do you become better?’ One guy said to me, it’s a series of five percenters. You have to be a little better in all these areas. Take out this. Be a little better here, a little better here, a little better. Then grow in each of those areas.

“There’s no cap on intelligence and work ethic. It shows in an amount of time. There’s no cap on what you can invest in development and human resources as well as technology. So that’s up to you, and that’s where you can become better.

“Unfortunately, like I say, though, it takes time. And you’re dealing with an 18-year-old draft. That’s why baseball is more analogous than any of the other sports, because football and basketball get a free minor league system – college.”

(And they draft a guy and he’s expected to play right away, or at least pretty quickly.)

“Right. We’re the only two sports that have to draft 18-year-olds. So there’s a lot of similarities there. But baseball’s so far ahead once they draft that kid. There’s a definitive system in place.

“The winter ball thing, I was amazed. In hockey, back in ’95 when I was starting – I became GM in ’96 – they didn’t have summer programs. If they went to a weight room it was considered good stuff. Baseball, you’re always training, whether it’s the pivot at second base . . . you’re seeing that guy, half-hour a day, and all he’s doing is that pivot. So why wouldn’t it be the same in hockey? There’s analogous things on the ice.

“To be honest with you, that’s the fun part of the job. You see a young guy come through the system and get better. That’s the one time, too – I know it’s changing, but I’ve always said the greatest empire in the world fell because it had too many mercenaries.

“If you’re gonna get an edge, again, in a cap era, guys come up through your system with just a little more here (heart). That’s all they’ve known is that organization, those colors. They’re not looking to go elsewhere and get money and all that stuff. They’re still at that innocent stage where you think you’re gonna wear that jersey forever. It sounds corny, but it’s true.”

(How’s your coach holding up?)

“We all have our ups and downs when you go through this. It’s part of your job as a GM to keep him focused, remembering that as you’re going through this part of it, make sure that those young players get better.

“It hasn’t been easy on him. It’s not easy on all of us. But then . . . he’s on the front lines out there, so it’s even harder on him. And he’s a guy who’s used to having a lot of success. He had success in Colorado, some at Vancouver. And I don’t think he’s ever had this type of downturn. So, he’s human.”

(His job isn’t in jeopardy, is it?)

“No. People have been asking me that. I just don’t see that as . . . I’m not in that frame of mind. I want you to fight your way through and show me you’re still committed, (that) you’re doing the best you can to make us better. That’s all I’m focused on.

“It really hasn’t crossed my mind as an option. I just don’t see it as an option right now.”

(Is it at the point where you’re just looking for little things to represent progress?)

“I think . . . when I was gone (to scout the World Junior Championships), I left Ron Hextall here. Don’t know if you know Hexy at all, but you know how he was as a player. He brings the same thing as a manager. He’s an intense guy, a smart guy, tremendous work ethic. He’s got GM written all over him.

“One of the things he’s deeply in tune with, knowing him and the organization he comes from (Philly), he flies off the handle a lot quicker than I do when he sees things that are a competitive issue. We’re not the best team or the most skilled, but we should compete. That was one of my concerns before I left.

“In the six games we played while I was gone, we won three in a row and actually the other three we could have easily won. But his whole thing – I asked him, how was the competitiveness. He said, good. And when he tells me that, I believe him because he doesn’t blow smoke. He’ll tell you when it’s not.

“Then you have one like Nashville. That’s brutal. So when you say, what do we look for, that’s not acceptable. At this stage you have to have enough pride to go out there and play hard, and that’s still first and foremost. Because the thing is, too, you start establishing this, like a Nashville, it’s gonna affect Kopitar. And that’s a tough cancer to get out of a young player.

“Secondly, we have to do some things to cut down the goals-against. We have to start finding out more as to why. Our goals-for is fine. That’s the harder part, because that’s more of a skill thing. We’re scoring goals, and the power play’s doing great – not great, but certainly respectable. But geez . . .

“Last year the goaltending was awful. No doubt about it. And that really does affect your whole team. And that’s real hard to play in. For the other players, lack of confidence, OK, I can see the goals-against there. But one of the things that we were talking about, Jason (LaBarbera) struggled early. But we were about at that range where I thought we’d be. We were 1-4, we started out. I think part of that, the whole European thing, coming back, we got in a little rut. And then after that, we were 10-10-2, which is probably where I thought we’d be. I would have liked us, realistically, looking at it, to be .500, get to January and hope the kids start getting a little better. If you can get above that, you’ve got a chance to get in the playoffs, and then anything can happen.

“We were on that bullet. And Jason, during that period, had a .916 save percentage and was fourth in the conference. So we were getting goaltending. And I don’t think that’s gonna disappear. This guy’s made some tremendous progress. And now he gets injured, and he comes back a little bit and maybe hasn’t been at the top of his game. But it wasn’t like last year, where it was just kinda … we had trouble stopping beach balls at times.

“So when you ask what we look for in this . . . that’s one thing, our ability to keep our chances down and cut down our goals-against is something we can start putting in place now, so when we go back – we were talking about those kids, when they come up or come through and they start learning what’s expected of them, we gotta start establishing that and figure out why. It’s not only the goaltending here. Sure, it hasn’t been Patrick Roy, but it’s been good enough where if we become better in terms of the way we defend the rush and in our own end, it should start coming down.

“I don’t care who you are. It’s still the same. Pitching and defense still wins. They can change the rules all they want, they can change the ball, it still comes down to pitching and defense. (And here) it’s goaltending and defense. The goaltending was at an average level, and that’s certainly what we had the right to expect, but we have to be better in terms of finding out how we’re gonna get this corrected in terms of our chances and things.

“Because it’s the same thing. Whether a team’s in first place or one of the top teams – again, Detroit and San Jose and those teams aren’t giving up a lot of goals.

“And like I say – the good part is, we’ve got the hardest part down. You cant teach that part. But you can teach defense. So those are some of the things you look for.

“Obviously at some point here we’re going to bring a couple kids up from the minors, give them some experience up here so when they go into the summer they’ll know how far away they are, and give ‘em a little push. I’ll be curious how some of those kids adapt. Some of them are down there ready for a shot. They paid some dues. I don’t think they’re ready to come in here and turn this thing around or anything, but they’re ready for the challenge.”

(It’s a fragile thing, isn’t it, to know when a kid is ready.)

“Yeah, it is. It comes with a little bit of experience. Like in Ted Purcell’s case, OK, the kid’s putting up numbers. Second in the (American) league in scoring, so obviously he’s showing his skill level is good enough down there and might be good enough up here. The thing to key on now is the little things – the work ethic, the loose pucks, being responsible defensively. That’s why Hexy’s going down there next week. He’s going through all the videos. This goes back to development. Mike (O’Connell) and Hexy have put together the thing: Here’s every loose puck battle, and how many you win and how many you lose. If you’re not going to start winning these you’re not going to play here. You’ll be able to play in the league but you’re not gonna play on a winner. And we want you to be a winner.

“It’s like putting hopefully the final touches on him before he gets his shot, and we’ll see. And he’ll be like any other kid. He’ll come up here and have this and this, but you just hope it’s trending up.

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Mail call ...

The readers have their views, and we have the bandwidth. (Lots of it, fortunately … )

Two responses from Wednesday’s column on the Riverside Sport Hall of Fame:
From Brian, aka

“I visited it for the first time a couple months ago. My question is: Where is Bob Rule?”

And from Dolph Mason:

“The Riverside Sports Hall of Fame will be hollow rather than hallowed until it
includes Bob Rule.”

Both bring up a good point, whether they came up with it independently or are starting a campaign. Rule was the linchpin of the first two of Jerry Tarkanian’s three straight state championship teams at RCC (1964-65-66), and went on to a distinguished career at Colorado State and a solid career in the NBA with Seattle and Cleveland. I would imagine he’ll be in at some point, and if I were them I’d go to the Hall of Fame website, find out the procedure for nominating someone, and prepare their case.

* * *

Tony Pejack of Yucaipa has issues with the Sunday story on Norv Turner, the premise of which was that his staying on course was credited by many players with allowing the Chargers to dig out of their early hole:

“I was dismayed upon seeing your headlined article on the front page of the Sports Section of the Press Enterprise today (Sunday 1/6/08). After yesrterday's NFL
playoff games, one of which was a ‘white knuckler’ I expected coverage apropos for
the occasion. Your article, in my opinion was a ‘reach’ and one that will surely be
premature to today's offerings in the playoff picture.

“Specifically, I really don't grasp the idea what you were putting forth by stating
the "Norv Turner Turnaround." Most astute pro football fans are aware that the
Chargers have had problems especially with the ‘one and done’ monicker
characteristic of ‘Martyball’. So Norv Turner is taking the Chargers to the
playoffs with a 11-5 season record and although you view this as his personal
‘turnaround’ for the season, it still doesn't allay the fact that fans are more
concerned with the playoff picture notwithstanding last year's record of 14-2. Thus
your article was written (and headlined) a day early in my opinion, and the idea
that Mr. Turner righted his ship has little significance in light of what he was
hired to do in the first place. Many fans are now wondering if, by chance, the
Chargers lose today and again are ‘one and done’ will Norv Turner also be fired?
And by the same token if the Chargers win today, that would be the proper time to
headline the ‘turnaround’ and all Turner's machinations through the season. Don't
get me wrong, I am not disgruntled, I just prefer coverage to be timely and apropos
in the sports pages -- (The Redskin/ Seahawk game was relegated to page C-11 -- what's right about that)?”

Obviously, he wrote this before Sunday’s game. He also obviously doesn’t understand the concept of midweek or advance coverage. It’s almost always fluff by definition.

* * *

Nancy Leo wrote in mid-December about my forecast that the return of Scott Niedermayer would make a big difference in the Ducks:

“Dear Jim, I was reading your article this morning, and just wanted to make a few comments. I know you write for a local paper, and the Ducks are the only shining hockey light in Southern California , but…

“How is one player, Niedermayer, going to save an abysmal season by last year’s Stanley Cup winning team? And, if the Ducks are so good, why does the management see fit to get rid of other players, just to get Niedermayer back for one season. Niedermayer has been stringing along the team by not making up his mind until recently. I think that you need to review his comment in your article. ‘It all mixes together. I’ll try to be myself, I guess, and if that helps a little bit, then good. But I don’t know if it will.’ Seems that Niedermayer is the only one who really gets it. I know that he is an elite player, but the Ducks are not an elite team, and one guy just isn’t going to change the whole thing around.

“Just one more comment. The only team that has won back-to-back Cups in the last decade is the Detroit Red Wings. You might have gotten technical, because first win was 96-97, then 97-98, but in reality, Detroit did it.

“In closing, I guess I’m getting tired of reading rosy reports on how great the Ducks are, and how they will come back. Maybe some fans want to believe it, but it just ain’t going to happen.”

Uh, Ms. Leo, have you checked the Pacific Division standings between then and now?

* * *

Harold Bradford felt the need to vent in mid-December about the Monday Night Football telecasts:

“Can you tell me some way to email a message to ESPN, Disney, or anyone to tell them how much I dislike the guys in the booth on MNF? I’m tired of their constant blathering, like drunks at the sports bar, instead of paying attention to the game. (Mike) Tirico is OK, but (Ron) Jaworski and (Tony Kornheiser) are a disaster. I’ll say this much: they make Sunday Night Football with Madden and Michaels look really good!”

It’s ESPN, and the first thing you have to understand is that the Worldwide Leader in Self Promotion doesn’t really care what you think. (Especially if you live on the West Coast.)

* * *

George Kramer of Lake Elsinore responded to the column following up on the Corona Centennial-Concord De La Salle state football championship game:

“Mr. Alexander: Good piece on the web.

“A sloppy state championship game in ‘D-1’ still put an awful lot of talent on the field. As the PE staff suggested ahead of time, there was a coaching advantage for De La Salle (at least in getting its kids to perform well).

“But it also showed me the farce in leaving the CIF leagues with descriptive, regional names -- decrying the long-standing use of numbers 1-12 that more surely considered enrollment and long-term performance in a given sport. Yes, PAC 5, for example, does group several former D-1 level teams, but was passed over for Inland's Centennial (a good choice), which was formerly, even recently, called a D-5. (It may have been a 2 for a time as well).

“And Centennial showed it belonged. But how does a school consistently beat other non D-1 teams (some now actually closer to D-8 looking at the number of suited varsity players) by scores of 35 to 50 points every week if Centennial is properly aligned? CIF hopes we don't remember who was where, just a couple of seasons back. It ignores enrollments, tradition and demographics, which are clearly in flux with all the new public schools in the Inland Empire.

“It's hard to determine great teams if their wins come against watered down opponents. But it's even harder to watch undermanned teams try to swim upstream.”

The problem with league and divisional alignments on the high school level is that there is no solution that will satisfy everybody’s needs. Each realignment – which, I believe, is a three-year deal – is a temporary stopgap.

Personally, I liked it better when there were five divisions – 4A, 3A, 2A, 1A and Small Schools. But that meant fewer champions, less self-esteem … aw, you know where that train of thought is going.

* * *

Matthew Roderigues checked in, just before Christmas, on my column about the Hall of Fame, and what will become an increasingly difficult chore wading through the excesses of the steroid era.

“ … In response to your column concerning Hall of Fame ballots, I have just a few thoughts. I would like to say I have enjoyed your column over the years, (I am 48 and have been around to read them for a while). First, did Mark McGuire use substances to improve his body, etc? I, with almost everyone else, would say, obviously. Did he use illegal substances (according the rules of baseball during his career)? How could he have, they were not yet in effect during his career. He played by the rules, no matter how horrible those rules were at the time. Yes, these rules should have been implemented long before they were for the health of the players and the integrity of the game. Since we are now finding out that many, many players were ‘using,’ for the era of baseball were it had not yet been declared illegal, why would you hold that against a player? Hey, I'm no Mark McGuire fan, but hold it against those in control of the rules of baseball, as there can be no enforcement if there are no rules, correct?

“Finally, one more issue. It is my understanding, that HGH, can be a very helpful and safe healing agent (according to several physicians who are friends of mine). It is my feelings, that if a credible doctor, who is responsible for the care and health of one of his patients, believes HGH should be used, why would any reasonable person be against this. Are we against the ‘Tommy John’ surgery? This was not available to other players in eras prior to the 1970's. Does this too taint the history and records of baseball? I think we should leave the health and care of people, (including professional players) in the more than capable hands of trained professionals in the field of medicine and let the other issues regarding the playing fields of the varying sports be handled by their respective associations. I would hope all who have the honored responsibility of casting votes for any Hall of Fame, would get off of their high horses, and make judgments of players according to the rules of which ever eras these player's careers happen to fall in.”

One difference: Reconstructive surgery has never been against the laws of the United States. Steroids have been, and HGH has been. That’s why I don’t buy the argument that players technically weren’t breaking baseball’s rules. They were breaking the law. And, as former commissioner Fay Vincent pointed out, that indeed was a violation of baseball’s rules, even if the specific substance in question wasn’t spelled out.

After all, you probably could make a case that cocaine use technically wasn’t against baseball’s rules, either – but a lot of guys sure got suspended because of it, didn’t they?

* * *

Brian Jensen – a CPA, evidently, wrote me to plead Bert Blyleven’s case (and basically drowned me in numbers):

“I have compiled stats on Bert Blyleven & feel that he would be in the Hall of Fame had he played for other teams….Teams that produced runs. Bert had 242 complete games (compared to Clemens 118) & he had 60 shut outs (Clemens? 46). 474 times in Bert’s career he allowed 3 earned runs or less…yet he was able to win only 287 games!?!? Seems like he did his job…he just needed run support. 346 times in his career he allowed 2 or less earned runs & in those games he was rewarded with enough run support to win only 224 of those games! Too many times voters get stuck on the number of wins….It’s the teams job to win…it’s the pitchers job to put the team in a position to win…Bert did that a lot more than 287 times in his career. Check out the following analysis of quality starts …………

Bert Blyleven, career:
Starts: 685
Quality Starts 426
Wins 287
Pct of Starts That were Quality 62.190
Wins per Quality Start 67.371

Others Random Seasons

Steve Carlton - 1972
Starts: 41
Quality Starts 29
Wins 27
Pct of Starts That were Quality 70.732
Wins per Quality Start 93.103

Steve Carlton - 1976
Starts: 35
Quality Starts 22
Wins 20
Pct of Starts That were Quality 62.857
Wins per Quality Start 90.909

Steve Carlton - 1980
Starts: 38
Quality Starts 29
Wins 24
Pct of Starts That were Quality 76.316
Wins per Quality Start 82.759

Don Sutton - 1975
Starts: 35
Quality Starts 24
Wins 16
Pct of Starts That were Quality 68.571
Wins per Quality Start 66.667

Don Sutton - 1976
Quality Starts 20
Wins 21
Pct of Starts That were Quality 58.824
Wins per Quality Start 105.000

Don Sutton - 1977
Starts: 33
Quality Starts 20
Wins 14
Pct of Starts That were Quality 60.606
Wins per Quality Start 70.000

Whitey Ford - 1961
Starts: 39
Quality Starts 24
Wins 25
Pct of Starts That were Quality 61.538
Wins per Quality Start 104.167

Whitey Ford - 1960
Starts: 29
Quality Starts 14
Wins 12
Pct of Starts That were Quality 48.276
Wins per Quality Start 85.714

Whitey Ford - 1963
Starts: 37
Quality Starts 25
Wins 24
Pct of Starts That were Quality 67.568
Wins per Quality Start 96.000

Roger Clemens - 1986
Starts: 33
Quality Starts 23
Wins 24
Pct of Starts That were Quality 69.697.
Wins per Quality Start 104.348

Roger Clemens - 1990
Starts: 31
Quality Starts 26
Wins 21
Pct of Starts That were Quality 83.871
Wins per Quality Start 80.769

Roger Clemens - 1995
Starts: 23
Quality Starts 13
Wins 10
Pct of Starts That were Quality 56.522
Wins per Quality Start 76.923

Fergie Jenkins - 1969
Starts: 42
Quality Starts 24
Wins 22
Pct of Starts That were Quality 57.143
Wins per Quality Start 91.667

Fergie Jenkins - 1968
Starts: 40
Quality Starts 30
Wins 20
Pct of Starts That were Quality 75.000
Wins per Quality Start 66.667

Fergie Jenkins - 1970
Starts: 39
Quality Starts 35
Wins 22
Pct of Starts That were Quality 89.744
Wins per Quality Start 62.857

Jim Palmer - 1969
Starts: 23
Quality Starts 17
Wins 16
Pct of Starts That were Quality 73.913
Wins per Quality Start 94.118

Jim Palmer - 1970
Starts: 39
Quality Starts 24
Wins 20
Pct of Starts That were Quality 61.538
Wins per Quality Start 83.333

Jim Palmer - 1971
Starts: 37
Quality Starts 22
Wins 20
Pct of Starts That were Quality 59.459
Wins per Quality Start 90.909

Bob Gibson - 1967
Starts: 24
Quality Starts 16
Wins 13
Pct of Starts That were Quality 66.667
Wins per Quality Start 81.250

Bob Gibson - 1968
Starts: 34
Quality Starts 30
Wins 22
Pct of Starts That were Quality 88.235
Wins per Quality Start 73.333

Bob Gibson - 1969
Starts: 35
Quality Starts 27
Wins 20
Pct of Starts That were Quality 77.143
Wins per Quality Start 74.074

Nolan Ryan - 1977
Starts: 37
Quality Starts 24
Wins 19
Pct of Starts That were Quality 64.865
Wins per Quality Start 79.167

Nolan Ryan - 1980
Starts: 35
Quality Starts 20
Wins 11
Pct of Starts That were Quality 57.143
Wins per Quality Start 55.000

Nolan Ryan - 1984
Starts: 30
Quality Starts 20
Wins 12
Pct of Starts That were Quality 66.667
Wins per Quality Start 60.000

Tom Seaver - 1969
Starts: 35
Quality Starts 27
Wins 25
Pct of Starts That were Quality 77.143
Wins per Quality Start 92.593

Tom Seaver - 1972
Starts: 35
Quality Starts 21
Wins 21
Pct of Starts That were Quality 60.000
Wins per Quality Start 100.000

Tom Seaver - 1974
Starts: 32
Quality Starts 18
Wins 11
Pct of Starts That were Quality 56.250
Wins per Quality Start 61.111

Starts: 925
Quality Starts 624
Wins 512
Pct of Starts That were Quality 67.459
Wins per Quality Start 82.051

“These pitchers got enough run support that when they had a quality start, they won 82.051% of the time.

“Bert only got enough run support to win in 67.371% of his quality starts.

“If Bert gets the run support of these pitchers, he'd have gotten 349.54 wins.

“Thanks for reading.”

I’m surprised you didn’t stick Christy Matthewson’s stats in there, too, or Lefty Grove’s or Bob Feller’s.

This only verifies what I’ve said all along: You can manipulate statistics to make any point you want, which is why I don’t depend on them in casting my Hall of Fame ballot.

Oh, and how did we get along all those years without the “quality start” statistic. (Which, if you translate it literally – three runs over six innings of work – translates to a 4.50 ERA. Maybe “ordinary start” should be more like it.)

* * *

Sam Zavala of Riverside comes up with an accusation I haven’t heard in a while:

“Jim: I realize you're an avowed Raider-hater and thus biased. But Lane Kiffin will get this abortion turned around and the Raiders will once again use the Chargerettes as their doormat in the AFC West.

“You actually think Pizza Face (ED: I presume he means Norv Turner) is going to lead the Chargerettes to a Super Bowl? Forget it. He's a career loser as a head coach which is why we fired him. His club will be out of the postseason very shortly.”

Again, this was written before last Sunday’s game. But Raider Nation is nothing if not stubborn … er, I mean loyal.

* * *

Finally, Al Price of Beaumont discusses the New Year’s Day column regarding the Rose Bowl, and the suggestion that the folks in Pasadena are so protective of tradition that they would pull out of the BCS, and take the Pac-10 and Big Ten with them, rather than allow the Rose Bowl to be devalued further.

“Very interesting article in the Rose Bowl Preview section. One thought struck me
as I read of (Pac-10 commissioner) Tom Hansen's speculation that the Rose Bowl, Pac-10, and Big Ten might ‘secede from the BCS.’ How long do you think the quality athletes would continue to pick those schools knowing they would never play for a national championship, only for a Rose Bowl victory? Do (Big Ten commissioner Jim) Delaney and Hansen truly think that would hold their interests?”

Somehow, I don’t think they ever considered that.

* * *

There were two more letters, by the way, which I will not reprint. I’ll just say that they illustrate perfectly why I don't do more with high school sports.

One of them was from a Corona Centennial parent expressing shock that anyone actually wrote something positive about her school. The other was from a parent of a player at archrival Corona Santiago, somehow convinced that by writing nice things about Centennial I had inferred that her school didn’t deserve to play for a championship.

My conclusion: High school parents are crazy.

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