Friday, February 10, 2006

Sans Stats

Welcome back, ladies and gentlemen, to Sans Stats, the only weekly website column that should have its own theme music. Busy week in sports, as we’ve got plenty of dunderhead moves to cover. The only question is, where do we start?

How about in the attention-starved NHL, where New Jersey police uncovered a nationwide sports gambling ring, allegedly headed by Phoenix Coyotes assistant coach Rich Tochett. Police discovered the ring via an undercover investigation they called “Operation Slap Shot.” Twelve NHL related personalities are being implicated in the ring in addition to Tochett, one of whom is Janet Jones, wife of Coyotes head coach Wayne Gretzky.

The message is clear: NHL players are feeling the brunt of the payroll cuts mandated by their new Collective Bargaining Agreement. They’re living so far below their standards that they have to resort to betting on other sports in order to recoup their lost income. Can you blame them? How would you feel if your $3.5 million salary was rolled back to $2.8 million?

Law enforcement authorities didn’t see it the same way, however. Tochett is being charged with conspiring with another to commit promoting gambling and money laundering (the “commit promoting gambling” bit was taken right from the complaint). If only they knew the plight of the NHL employee, maybe they wouldn’t be levying such harsh charges. Maybe if the State of New Jersey rolled back their salaries 20 percent, the State Police would let this one slide. Come on! It was ONLY $1.7 million spread over 1,000 wagers in a 40-day span. What’s next, busting a guy for scalping his Super Bowl tickets?

Let it be known that this is the only NHL story that will be covered here at the Sporting Brews. Quite honestly, we embraced their lockout last season, since it meant more programming time for college basketball, a sport of kings. It’s a shame that I don’t have an NCAA segue right here. In fact, I was about to transition into some football. Yeah, football!

The Oakland Raiders remain the sole coachless team, as Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino declined a 5-year, $18 million offer to relocate out west. This comes on the heels of Steelers offensive coordinator Ken Wisenhunt’s statement that he will remain with his team through the 2006 season. Former Giants coach and current Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Fassel has been linked to the job, though he has not formally interviewed. The frontrunner: former Raiders coach Art Shell. Hopefully all you Yankees fans out there can make this connection, but I’ll come out with it anyway. Al Davis is to Art Shell as George Steinbrenner is to Billy Martin. This could become quite the running story line in the years to come.

While we’re talking about the NFL, it would be blasphemy if I didn’t bring up the Al Michaels issue. Last week, I covered the Michaels contract issue. Apparently, he doesn’t think his signature is worth the paper it’s printed on, and was working behind the scenes to get out of his ESPN broadcasting contract. The issue came to fruition this week, as Disney traded Al Michaels for a few sports broadcasting rights and Oswald the Lucky Bunny, a Disney creation from the 1930s.

Personally, I would have forced Michaels to honor his contract. Maybe he’s unhappy, but what is he going to do, tank a broadcast? Yeah, like he’d be willing to taint his resume like that. In fact, the best course of action would be to force Michaels into the booth for Monday Night Football and have his color commentator impersonate John Madden. Come on, people. Michaels has a visibly open wound. Let’s get the salt truck and start pouring it in.

Adding to the list of people I find horribly ridiculous, Bengie Molina sounded off this week, slamming the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (yes, a jury decided that will be their official moniker, so get those scoreboards geared up with “LAA” for years to come) for not contacting him before declining to offer him salary arbitration. Listen, Bengie, and listen good. First off, you have the name of a dog, which gives you exactly zero leverage in any situation. Second, you were involved in free agent rumors all winter. There were no media reports of Molina returning to LA, but only of him heading to New York, Toronto, or San Diego.

Molina obviously doesn’t understand the definition of the term “double standard.” Maybe the Angels didn’t contact you, sir, but you clearly didn’t make re-signing with them a priority. No, you mulled offers like the 3-year, $18 million one from the Mets, but for some reason you forgot one major fact. You’re a 30-something catcher who has had exactly one good year in his career. And that was THIS year.

Personally, I can’t wait for the 2006-2007 off-season, when Molina is seeking another $5 mil. I just have this feeling that he won’t have as much to back it up this time around.

What better place to wrap up this week’s edition of Sans Stats than with Isiah Thomas? Rumor has it that he’s looking into trading expiring contract Penny Hardaway and rookie surprise Channing Frye to Denver for Kenyon Martin and Earl Watson.

Okay, I’m going to be very very serious for a minute. Thomas is an idiot. He has no clue as to how to build or run an NBA franchise. If he wants to beat me up over that statement, fine. But I have plenty of evidence in my corner, including the requisite “look at what you’ve done and look at the results” argument. The only thing he has done right in the past two years is the 2005 draft, and now he’s looking to throw that away by dealing Frye. And who is he going to get in exchange? A mediocre point guard and a guy with creaky knees.

The problem is that Thomas is averse to learning. He continues to make terrible moves because he does not recognize that his previous moves were terrible. How many times can an owner apologize for a GM who overhauls the roster multiple times in one tenure? I could do a better job as the Knicks GM, and I say that will full confidence. The Knicks have won 14 goddamn games this year, so the season is all but officially over. Why dish expiring contracts and take on ones that don’t expire until 2011? Why further cripple the team? How is he getting away with this?

With all the draft picks he’s dealt and the enormity and length of the contracts he’s acquired, Thomas has ensured that the Knicks will not be competitive until 2010 at the earliest. Yes, you heard me, we’re in for another four years of last place finishes and no draft picks as compensation.

But you know what? I’m not going to launch into a diatribe about firing Isiah. Rather, I am officially leading a coup to depose the Dolans as owners of the team. They’re the ones that allow Thomas carte blanche to be a nincompoop, and we must attack the problem at its source. Leave a comment if you’re with me!

That’ll just about do it for this week’s edition of Sans Stats. And remember, if you’re a fan of the Knicks, you’re better off boycotting them.