and Lance Williams:
S.F. Chronicle reporters who investigated the Barry Bonds story dig for what will arguably be the sports-news scoop of our era. Or is it just confirmation?
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:
There will be no "Say it ain't so" moment for Barry Bonds.
Only "Say it so."
The case against Bonds may remain allegations that he denies. But thanks to some stunningly thorough investigative reporting, there's no denying:
Bonds' rep is ruined. The mythic statistics may stand. The Hall induction may happen. The home run record may even fall.
But Bonds' reputation will never recover. I'm curious to see the reaction of fans, who have always been more forgiving of baseball's Steroid Era heroes than the media.
This isn't simply rumor or innuendo or a blustery statement, like "I just know he's a 'roider." This is a paper trail. This is evidence. This is damning.
Early poll results show fans' reactions to be as harsh as you'd expect them to be:
*81 percent already thought he was a user; only 4 percent changed their mind after hearing about the book, but there wasn't much room to go up.
*60 percent consider Roger Maris' 61 to be MLB's true single-season HR record. (But the next-highest vote, 25 percent, was for Bonds' 73.)
*58 percent believe that Bonds does not belong in the Baseball Hall of Fame. All it takes is 25 percent of Hall voters to make that a reality.
Despite the answers the book provides, what we're left with are a lot more questions:
How will Bonds react? What happens to this season? Will this drive him out of baseball, or will he defiantly play on?
What will MLB do? (What can they do?) How will Bud Selig react in the face of intense public pressure to do something?
What happens to his records? Does anyone really believe that an asterisk solves anything, particularly given the reported widespread use of enhancers by lots of players during the Steroid Era?
What about the record: The home run record? What happens if (or when) Bonds passes Babe Ruth? What happens if he passes Hank Aaron?
And what about the Hall? Bonds should have been a first-ballot lock; he was arguably the greatest player of the last 50 years. It's unlikely he'll be held off the ballot, like Rose. Will voters keep him out?
How can fans possibly process the implications of this bombshell, not just for Bonds' own career, but its impact on baseball history?
If you're left feeling like you're losing your mind because of all of the various questions and story lines and arguments being thrown around, you're not alone.
For now, that is Bonds' legacy.
Bigger East Tourney
Everything about the Big East is Bigger: More teams (16). More NCAA invites (8? 9? 10?) More first-team all-conference players (11). More TV exposure (four games today on ESPN).
And, starting today, a conference tournament that is so loaded, it deserves its own label: The "Big (East) Dance." At least 8 of the 12 teams included should make the NCAA Tournament field. The other 4 could easily end up in the Final Four of the NIT.
This is the deepest, nastiest conference tournament ever played. And it starts today. Check out today's schedule:
Noon: Cincy (8) vs. Syracuse (9)
2 p.m.: G'town (5) vs. N.D. (12)
7 p.m.: S. Hall (7) vs. Rutgers (10)
9 p.m.: Pitt (6) vs. L'ville (11)
*The tip-off game is widely considered an NCAA play-in game. The winner is in; the loser is bubbling, big time.
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*Notre Dame lost 10 conference games by a combined total of 35 points. Hard luck or can't finish? One of those losses came by 3 to G'town.
*Seton Hall and Rutgers play in a New Jersey grudge match that makes "The Sopranos" season premiere seem tame. The Hall needs one more W.
*And Louisville, a Final Four team a year ago, was humiliated in its inaugural Big East season; however, a run to the title game wouldn't be farfetched.
Meanwhile, the top four seeds (UConn, Villanova, West Virginia, Marquette) don't even tip-off till tomorrow, when the quarterfinal lineup might be so loaded it could beat (or be) half of this year's NCAA Sweet 16.
From the moment the Big East announced its expansion, college hoops fans have been waiting for this stretch of tournament games in New York.
Bigger is better.
*The U.S.'s pitching is its advantage. Starting with Jake Peavy, the team used 7 pitchers to hold Mexico to 4 hits. (Did pitch limits have an effect? 75 percent of their pitches went for strikes.)
*The D.R. lineup is awesome. 11 runs scored were more than enough to overcome a perceived Venezuelan pitching edge.
*David Ortiz is still clutch. No Vlad? No Pedro? No problem, when you have Papi thumping 2 home runs. Got him in your WBC Fantasy League?
*A-Rod's fan appeal is iffy. Those were really boos from the Latin fans when A-Rod came up to bat for the U.S. Ouch.
*Non-U.S. fans care a lot more. Did you hear about the crowd-control issues in the D.R.-VZ game? That's not disruption; that's passion!
*My Venezuela-as-champ pick already looks tenuous. Remarkable how that works, eh?
Owners may vote today. And, if they're lucky, their rejection of the union's plan might be eclipsed by second-day Bonds coverage.
It's hard to believe that they'll go from unanimous rejection to the necessary 24 (out of 32) owners approving when the players' union only dropped their revenue cut demand by a couple tenths of a percent.
Clemens Done for Good?
Roger Clemens goes back and forth so much about his retirement plans, I'm simply going to give you the quote he gave USA Today and let you add your own cynical postscript:
"Right now, I don't see myself playing. I'm not going to start the season with anyone. I made my mind up. And when I do shut it down, I'll be walking away with a smile on my face. There will be no regrets, because I feel like I've done it the right way."
Isiah to Indiana?
Isiah Thomas denied he was interested in the Indiana coaching job, despite rumors fueled by a trip he made to Bloomington.
I wouldn't give up my cushy job as an NBA executive for the hard life of a big-time college hoops coach either.
But Isiah must have known he would spark a frenzy by visiting his alma mater now. Is he intentionally trying to crank the rumor mill?
(Obligatory Isiah joke: He said he went to go visit his old friend Scott May. Rumor has it he offered him a 4-year deal worth $44 million.)
Hornets Head Home
When the Hornets return to New Orleans tonight for the first time since Hurricane Katrina, it will be fascinating to see what the crowd support will be like.
Will they go wild for the chance to cheer their team for the first time all season? It's not like the team had great attendance a year ago.
In fact, the starkest difference between the Hornets of New Orleans and the Hornets of Oklahoma City (besides overall record) is the support from the home crowd.
OKC fans have revitalized the Hornets franchise. We'll see tonight whether the presence of the Hornets, at the very least, can do the same for their old fans.
Quickie CBB All-Ams
Andy Katz was right on: If ever there was a year to split the player of the year awards, it's this one, between J.J. Redick and Adam Morrison, who also wins Facial Hair of the Year.
(Not that either player is winning the national title to go with it, but if the tournament committee has a sense of humor -- and I think they do -- they would be sure to seed Duke and Gonzaga in the same region.)
It's too bad Randy Foye, leader of Villanova's innovative four-guard offense, was eclipsed. Against tougher conference competition than either Redick or Morrison, he was stellar (and may yet be NCAA Tourney MOP).
There was a fourth player that was a consensus pick among ESPN.com's expert panel: Duke C Shelden Williams. I agree: He's the most dominating big man in college hoops.
The real intrigue is who gets that fifth spot. I surveyed the panel's non-consensus choices, which ranged from Brandon Roy to Mardy Collins to Rudy Gay to Nick Fazekas.
I briefly considered Ohio State big man Terence Dials, but I can't deny a player from the No. 1 team: I'll go with Rudy Gay. I'll let the appearance of him phoning it in a bit too often slide.
|Today on ESPN.com|
|Page 2 Index|
|Best conf tourney ever?|
|What's up with Duke?|
|RPI's top-rated league|
|Vols' problems open door|
|Can Texas find the mo'?|
C-Week last night: Congrats to Oral Roberts (1st bid in 22 years); Wisconsin-Milwaukee (returns after Sweet 16 run last year); and South Alabama.|
C-Week, Cont'd: Northeast title game (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2); Big Sky title game (9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2). You're not picking either winner in your bracket anyway.
Nice prove-it win for the Clippers last night, snapping the Spurs' win streak behind Brand's 30. Tied with Bugs as top NBA comeback story.
The hot NFL free agent? How about Kevin Mawae? He's reportedly being courted by the Eagles and the Dolphins.
Today's SportsNation tidbit: Larry Brown has a 21 percent approval rating from fans, 2nd worst in the NBA. See a full list on the NBA index.
To get the most astute explanation of the Mo Valley's mastery of the RPI, check out Andy Glockner's post about it on Insider's Champ Week blog.
Don't forget: You can get a jump on the Tournament Challenge by signing up now. Search for "Daily Quickie Readers" group. No password needed!