May 11, 2006
Elton Brand:
Scored 27 points with 10 rebounds (more on that below) to lead all five Clippers starters in double-figures in a series-tying 122-97 win in Phoenix.
 
 
 
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:
PUJOLS.  POWER.

Pujols is the anti-Bonds:

Humble, awesome, untainted (to our knowledge).

While everyone's attention is focused on Bonds this week as he tries to top Babe Ruth's mythical 714, Albert Pujols has done something even Bonds hasn't done:

Pujols hit another home run Wednesday night, giving him 18 in the season's first 35 games. That's the 2nd-fewest games in MLB history to hit 18 HR (behind the suddenly conjured Cy Williams, who hit 18 in 34 games in 1923).

So I'm starting to dream...

Instead of wasting my energy booing Bonds, I'm cheering for my new slogan of the season:

"Pujols 74."

With last night's HR, Pujols is on pace to hit 84, leaving a nice cushion to top Bonds' single-season record of 73.

Wouldn't that be the most spectacular reversal in a season that otherwise looks like it will be defined by Bonds passing Babe?

Instead of debating the value of Bonds' 700-whatever for the next six months, fans can just say, "whatever," tossing it aside in favor of tracking Pujols as he knocks Bonds from his own greatest record.

So, I implore MLB pitchers:
Please: Keep pitching to Pujols. Everyone has been waiting for Albert to get the "Bonds treatment" and never see another decent pitch to hit again.

It hasn't happened yet. After his killer April (14 HR), he has seen an average of 3.4 at-bats per game in 10 games in May, with only 3 total walks.

That's a good sign. (Maybe MLB, managers and the media are colluding to give Pujols a chance to beat Bonds' record. As far as collusions go, fans could get behind that one.)

Breaking Bonds' single-season walks record (232 in 2004; Pujols has 31 so far) wouldn't be particularly satisfying.

But if there ever has been a year to break Bonds' home run record, this is the right one -- and the right player is set up to do it.

Keep hitting 'em out, Albert: for the good of the game.

Clippers Rebound
57-26: That was the Clippers' rebounding margin last night and, unquestionably, the reason they won. The wildest stat? 19-5 margin for offensive rebounds. The Clippers had more offensive boards in the first half than the Suns had total rebounds.

When the Clippers missed, they scored. When the Suns missed, they never got a second chance.

Holding the Suns under 100 points (they are 0-4 in the playoffs when they don't break triple digits) was less a function of great D than it was of the Clippers finally exercising their size advantage.

Heat Crush Nets
So I was wrong: Whether hobbled Richard Jefferson played last night made no difference to the Heat.

Despite 16 points (8/16 FG), Jefferson admitted he was tentative at the start; it must have affected his entire team:

Why? Because Miami needed all of six minutes to put the game away, taking a 25-4 lead halfway through the 1st quarter.

Three Dwyane Wade 3s during that run were foreshadowing:

The Heat shot a scorching 11/20 from 3 (53 percent overall) and held the Nets to 40 pct FG shooting, including 5/16 from 3.

Boss Backs Down
"It wasn't an apology," Joe Torre reported of a conversation he had with George Steinbrenner about the Boss' criticism of A-Rod from Tuesday.

"It was basically that he doesn't feel that way. That's the best I can give you."

Good timing: A-Rod finally got a clutch hit against the Red Sox (or, in the case of this season, any hit vs. Boston), and it was a doozy: A home run off Schilling in the 5th to break a tie and lead New York to a 7-3 win.

Does one hit create a reputation that he's clutch? More specifically, can it undo his rep of being unclutch? Hardly.

CHECK OUT THE QUICKIE EVERY WEEKDAY MORNING!
WHO'S GOT THE MOMENTUM ...
Sabres and Canes: Each take dominant 3-0 NHL series leads
Eddie Jordan: Wizards coach draws interest of Sacto Kings
Chicago: City will explore a bid for the 2016 Olympics
... AND WHO'S GOT NO MO'
Ben Sheets: Brewers ace put on the 15-day DL (yes, again)
Jermaine O'Neal trade rumors: Pacers have no plan to trade
Tom Osborne: Loses GOP primary for Nebraska governor
 
As far as A-Rod's doubters and haters are concerned, until he does it either at the end of the season with the playoffs on the line -- or in the playoffs themselves -- he'll still be a powder-puff superstar.

But, for now, it keeps his Boss quiet. And, given yesterday's rhetorical skirmish, that's not such a bad thing.

Bonds Desperate?
How badly does Bonds want to hit (and break) 714 in the comfy confines of San Francisco?

Bad enough that he reportedly is going to make a rare start today in a day game after a night game. (He went 0-3 last night.)

Meanwhile, here's a sample of user reactions to yesterday's lead argument that if Bonds ended up on your team in '07, you'd root for him:

"Every person alive would root for Barry once he was on your team. It's fine to say you don't WANT him, but it's just like Clemens and every other hated superstar: He's hated until he plays for you." (Jake from Virginia Beach)

"If he can help the team then I would take him ... and root for him. If you are a fan of the team, you root for its players. Period." (Tim from Indianapolis)

"When you boil sports down to the essence, it's all about the team and cheering for the team as a whole, not just a player. So if the team just happens to include Barry, welcome aboard!" (Andrew from New York)

"My question to all that say no: Bonds is on your team and they make the World Series. Bottom of the 9th, your team is down 1. Bonds comes to the plate with a man on 1st. What do you do?" (Kito from New Jersey)

Meanwhile, some interesting results from yesterday's Quickie Poll on the topic:

35 pct would boo him.
31 pct would cheer him.
24 pct would stew silently.
11 pct would root silently.
I think I have the most respect for that 11 percent who would root silently: I respect that they don't want to cheer Bonds but still want to support their team.

But I suspect that if he hit that playoff game-winning HR in the 9th, the 70 percent who previously booed or sat silently would be standing and cheering him.

Knuckle Update
So maybe I'm a knucklehead (and not just a Knuckle Head) for being so bullish on the prospects of White Sox rookie knuckleballer Charlie Haeger.

The 22-year-old made his debut last night ... and got rocked, giving up 6R and 6BB in only 4.1 IP. Great early lesson about his gimmick: It's usually all or nothing. In this case? He got nothing.

(But I'm not giving up on it! A good schtick like a knuckleball is still the most promising route for my kid to make his 2022 high school JV baseball team. Hmm, unless I can get him to develop a nasty "eephus.")

Cuban Fined $200K
It's possible that the only company making real money in the blog industry is the NBA. They fined Mark Cuban $200K for his criticism about refs he published on BlogMaverick (along with his on-court complaints).

Doesn't David Stern know about Cuban's Webby Award this week as "Entrepreneur of the Year"? That fine is great for Cuban's blogger cred -- but not so great for the bottom line. What price can you put on your blog voice?

Here's an example from the "offending" post:

"But the NBA has a huge problem. It doesn't view the playoffs as a place where the very best of the best of officials go to work. It views the playoffs as part of a reward system for officials."

(No response from Cuban on his blog ... yet. Tracking.)

NBA Rookie Award
A few observations:

Which moron voter gave a 1st-place vote to Deron Williams, denying Chris Paul the unanimous win he deserved? Revoke that idiot's privileges.

(Update: It was Ron Boone, the TV analyst for the Jazz. What is such an obvious homer doing as a member of a voting pool? Blame Boone, but blame the NBA for allowing this farce.)

How could Ryan Gomes earn only a single third-place vote? Note the difference between him and the eight players ahead of him: Gomes was the only second-round pick. Said it before: Defying expectations should count for more.

Scanning the all-time list of ROYs, how foolish does it look that voters picked Emeka Okafor over Dwight Howard last year?

Early pick for 2006-07 ROY (without knowing which player will be on which team): (1) Adam Morrison; (2) Rudy Gay; (3) Marcus Williams.

Hamels is Coming
Who is 2006's King Felix? Is it too early in Felix's career to ask? OK, then: Who will be this year's Zach Duke?

Continuing the unnatural level of attention I've paid to the Phillies this week, Philly sports fans get another moment of positive PR:

Cole Hamels is coming.

The 22-year-old lefty phenom has 273 K's in 35 minor league starts, including 65 K's in 7 starts this season. In his last 3 starts (23 IP), he has thrown 36 K's with just 1 BB. And that's against AAA.

(If you haven't already targeted him on your fantasy league waiver wire, you're so far behind it's probably not even worth checking on it.)

What does it take to reach "phenom" status at the MLB level? Instant success helps, but let's see how some recent pitching phenoms performed in their first starts:

2005a: Felix Hernandez
5IP, 3H, 1ER, 4K, 81 PC (L)

2005b: Zach Duke
7IP, 5H, 3ER, 9K, 106 PC (ND)

2004: Zach Greinke
5IP, 5H, 2ER, 1K, 84 PC (ND)

2003: Dontrelle Willis
6IP, 7H, 3ER, 7K, 93 PC (ND)

2002: Mark Prior
6IP, 4H, 2ER, 10K, 103 PC (W)

Hamels will make his debut tomorrow against the Reds. Let the Duke-style man-crushes begin! Do Philly fans have room, given their Sal Fasano lust?

(After all this love today, will you irate Philly fans who e-mailed me over yesterday's lead item forgive me now? No? Eh: I'll live with it.)

University of Colorado:
The hoops program is being investigated regarding allegations of sexual harassment involving a former employee.
 
 
Today on ESPN.com
Quickie: Live!
NBA Daily Dime
Page 2 Index
 
'06 MLB HR Leaders
Albert Pujols (18)
You know how I feel.
 
Carlos Lee (15)
Career high is 32 ('05)
 
Jim Thome (14)
Career renaissance
 
Adam Dunn (13)
Leads surprising Reds
 
(5 tied at 12)
Rays' Gomes is breakout
 

Don't let Charlie Casserly's resignation as Texans GM fool you: He was always going to get the boot; it had nothing to do with not drafting Bush.

More Bush: The Pac-10's investigation into him is being hamstrung by the civil suit between his family and that marketing firm (via LA Times).

More Yankees: An MRI on Randy Johnson's shoulder was clear. So does that mean he doesn't have an excuse and is simply ineffective?

Here's a weird one: NBC admitted to plagiarism in a feature story before Saturday's Kentucky Derby, lifting lines from an old "West Wing." (via NY Times)

I'm thrilled to hear the Wachowski Bros might get involved in a live-action version of "Speed Racer." (But Vince Vaughn as "Racer X"? I'll pass.)

"Deadwood" creator David Milch reportedly is working on a new dramatic series about surfing for HBO. Will there be swearing like in Deadwood? $@#%!



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