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Baseball Down Under?  ‘It’s not taking hold’

Baseball has been played in Australia for almost as long as it’s been played here.  American gold miners took the game Down Under in the late 19th century.

But as Bob Ryan of ESPN’s Sports Reporters put it:  “It’s not taking hold.”  In fact, baseball is not among the top 15 participation sports in Australia.  

So Ryan saw no reason for Major League Baseball to open its season in Sydney this Saturday (in most US time zones).  “I don’t know what they think is going to happen,” he said, meaning not much benefit will come from this journey.  It will bring little international exposure, competing with the start of Australian football, or rugby.

On the same show, Mitch Albom pointed out that it could have a long-term negative impact on the teams playing there, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks“It’s not just the 16-hour flight,” he said.  “I was there in January and I’m still jet-lagged.” 


Bonds’ surliness helped him as a player 

Barry Bonds, always known for his surliness with the media, has been as sunny as the Arizona sky now that he’s a roving batting instructor for the San Francisco Giants.   When he was a ballplayer, “I was a different character. . . . I needed ‘that guy’ to play.  It was who I was at the time.” 

His antipathy with the media was part of what motivated him.  Hey, it worked for Ty Cobb and Ted Williams.  But Bonds insisted the Bad Barry “was not who I am in my day to day life.  I’m the same person, but a different character.”

Prediction:  We will see the good Bonds character at least until the Baseball Writers vote him into the Hall of Fame.


Lakers stuck ‘on rock bottom’

With both starting guards, Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash, injured and old, and a CEO, Jim Buss, who has none of the business acumen of his late father, the LA Lakers could be doomed for years.  Israel Gutierrez of Sports Reporters:  “Why do we think there will be a magic rebuild?  . . .  Hope rock bottom is more comfortable than it sounds.”

Nash finds it comfortable enough, thank you.  He has no intention of retiring even though at 40 his once elite athletic skills are gone.  By refusing to retire –- and free up salary-cap space for his team — Nash will cash paychecks for $9.7 million. 

“The reality is, I’m not going to retire because I want the money.” 

Nash also said he “loves the game,” but cynics suspect the enjoyment he attains from counting his cash exceeds the joy he accumulates playing his 10 games a year. So Lakerland is going tweet-crazy.  Bryan Burwell of Sports Reporters said: “Nash is old enough to know you can’t go blurting out the unvarnished truth.”

A team going the opposite direction: the Chicago Bulls, led by the full-court power play of Joakim NoahMike Wilbon of ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption: “Noah is getting triple doubles . . . He’s the toughest guy out there.”


‘Blake Griffin is gonna have to pop somebody’

Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin is having a breakout season.  He’s no longer just a dunkmaster but has added jump shots, bank shots and free throws to his arsenal and has drawn mention, along with Kevin Love and Joakim Noah, as MVP not named James or Durant.

But that’s not enough.  Opponents and sometimes even teammates have questioned Griffin’s physical toughness.  Mike Wilbon said:  “Blake Griffin is gonna have to pop somebody.” 

Wilbon thinks that’s the only way he will keep opponents from continuing to bully him on the court, pushing, wrestling and tackling that could lead to injury. A former Clippers teammate, Chauncey Billups, said last year: “I don’t agree that Blake is soft, but maybe he’s too nice a guy.”

Which is a nice way of saying he’s soft.


Greg Hardy:  Panthers will miss Steve Smith 

Carolina Panthers players as well as fans were shocked when there was no effort to keep star receiver Steve Smith, now a Baltimore Raven.  Although Smith at 34 is no longer a burner, he still makes all the catches, and his work ethic motivates teammates.  Greg Hardy, Carolina’s Pro Bowl defensive end: “I would have paid him before I paid me.”

Reports are that Smith left because the front office tired of his mouth: the trash-talking of opponents as well as criticisms of teammates – most notably QB Cam Newton.  The hope is that with Smith’s voice absent, Newton steps up as a leader.

Followup Question:  Do you mean no more Superman gestures?

Bridgewater ‘average at best’ on his pro day   

Mike Mayock, draft analyst for NFL Network, had Teddy Bridgewater No. 1 among QBs heading for the May draft.  But that ranking may change with the Louisville player “very average at best” on his pro day.  “I saw a lot of flutter, a lot of inaccuracy,” Mayock said.  “To be honest, I was expecting more.”

Other observers agreed that Bridgewater’s arm was not what’s expected of an early first-round pick, that he had trouble driving the ball downfield.  Kurt Warner said, “I have seen a couple of balls hanging on him a bit.”

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