Today's Calls: Joba Chamberlain vs. Carlos Zambrano, J.P. Ricciardi vs. Adam Dunn, O.J. Mayo vs. NBA GMs, Charles Barkley vs. Gambling, NHL draft age-limit vs. NBA draft age-limit, NBA vs. Olympics and More!
The Opening Pitch: When we look back at the end of the year, I think we will realize that two of the top three sports stories of the year happened this past week:
Tiger Woods' uber-dramatic performance in the U.S. Open, followed by the equally dramatic end to his season ...
... And the Celtics' restoration to the top of the NBA, accompanied by the "best-career-without-a-title" validation of Kevin Garnett.
(No. 3? Leaving very little margin for error over the next six months, obviously, the Giants' win over the Pats in the Super Bowl, although I think the Super Bowl should be counted against the previous year.)
I had every intention of ranking one over the other:
*Ubiquity: "Tiger made golf THE national story" vs. "The Celtics made NBA hoops THE national story."
*Superlative: "Greatest win in Tiger's singularly amazing career" vs. "Most singularly redemptive moment in the history of the NBA."
*Consequence: "Golf cannot possibly survive 2008 without Tiger" vs. "The NBA cannot possibly do any better -- ever again -- than this week."
But, I cannot possibly choose, nor should we even bother to debate it.
This is one of those unique moments where two ridiculously epic -- even sport-defining -- stories happened within 48 hours of each other. It is enough to say, with a ludicrous level of understatement: What a week.
MLB Instant History: OK, so maybe Joba Chamberlain is going to be a pretty good starter. That would be a 9-K outing in helping the Yankees rack up their seventh straight win. Don't look now, but the Yankees have the fifth-best record in the AL, just 3.5 GB the Rays for the wild card.
Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi apologizes to Adam Dunn through Reds GM Walt Jocketty for his critical analysis of the player on a radio call-in show. I found Ricciardi's observations to be refreshingly candid, if entirely impolitic for a GM to make.
More: The Rays sweep the Cubs, in what might have been Tampa's most revealing series of the season yet. ... Injury Watch: Carlos Zambrano, who will miss at least one start. ... Chipper Jones is now hitting below .400, after an oh-fer night in a Braves loss to the Rangers; he is unlikely to see .400 again this season. ... Nothing says "eh, this prob'ly ain't our year" like Jim Riggleman. ... Fantasy Stud: Jermaine Dye (3-4, 2 HR, 6 RBI) and Jorge De La Rosa (career-high 10 Ks, following 8 Ks in his last start). ... Bonds Watch: Not like you particularly care, but Greg Anderson's wife is now being targeted by the Feds.
NBA Draft: O.J. Mayo's all-eyes-on-me workout Saturday may create the most important piece of conventional wisdom of the entire lead-up to the draft. Mayo is this year's lead domino, and how teams feel about him could have an impact all the way through the lottery. (Meanwhile, here is Nathaniel Friedman's mock.)
Olympic Hoops: Dwyane Wade is in; Tayshaun Prince is in; Amare Stoudemire is out. And the rest of the team will be announced Monday, but at the pace we're going with the leaks, we should know the Beijing Dozen by, oh, Saturday.
Given the Spurs' resistance to injured Manu Ginobili suiting up for his country, why isn't there similar hesitancy from the Heat that Wade might hurt himself for the NBA season by playing for the United States?
(Where should Wade's loyalty lie? I wish I could be more patriotic, but given the injuries he battled all season long, I think it should be with the Heat, the NBA and his pro career.)
Charles Barkley is gambling again, not a month after his little stunt claiming he was done with gambling for a few years.
The fact that he is in a charity poker tournament doesn't change the fact that the guy is so helplessly addicted that he can't even restrain himself when there isn't even any money on the line. Offensively, he wraps his self-enabling in "charity."
I never bought into his moratorium anyway, so this doesn't surprise me -- I do continue to wish he would be straight with his fans and himself and drop this pretense that he has any control over his problem.
NFL: Bears give DT Tommie Harris a 4Y/$40M deal; entirely appropriate for a 25-year-old player with three Pro Bowl selections in four NFL seasons.
More: Jason Taylor to the Packers? It's not quite the spotlight that South Beach is for a guy who so desperately wants to be Tiki Barber. But if he wants to earn some "NFL cred" to balance out his "Gone Hollywood" rep, Green Bay is the place to do it.
Sports Media/CFB: NBC re-ups with Notre Dame until 2015. This has always been the most unique relationship in sports TV, which was hilariously awkward a season ago as ND kept losing in gloriously tortured ways and their homer NBC broadcasters kept having to turn it into some kind of positive. And this deal all but assures that ND won't join a conference (like the Big Ten) in the next few years.
NHL Draft: The Lightning are expected to make 18-year-old C Steven Stamkos the No. 1 player selected. But, please, by all means continue to support a draconian NBA system that artificially blocks an 18-year-old prospect's interests in joining the league, even if a GM is willing to make him a first-round pick -- even a No. 1 overall pick.
(Meanwhile, the NHL would love to oust MSG as the owner of the Rangers. Sigh: Again, if only the NBA would have the good sense to follow hockey on a similar move in this one, regarding MSG and the Knicks.)
Euro 08: Germany dismisses Portugal. Group play is over, and now we're into the knockout stage. Margin for error: Zero. The semifinal pairings will be decided by Monday. If you are ready to start paying attention now, your bandwagon choice is the Netherlands.
Golf: The latest conventional wisdom about Tiger Woods? That he was able to win the U.S. Open on one good leg makes him even more spectacular and legendary. "To have a will as strong as that, I take my hat off to him" -- Jack Nicklaus.
The Last Word: Farewell to the Blog Show
Dan Shanoff writes The Wake-Up Call every weekday morning for SportingNews.com and blogs daily at DanShanoff.com. Got any comments, questions or feedback? Email Dan at shanofftsn-[at]-gmail-[dot]-com.
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