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Monday, February 9, 2009

Will Carling’s Ten Rugby Players To Watch In The 6 Nations


Just one day to go until the start of the 2009 6 Nations rugby tournament, here are my top ten to watch over the coming weeks..

Will Carling, is the former captain of England from 1988 to 1996, winning 72 caps. He is now blogging anything, *ahem*, writing his thoughts daily on his blog Will ’s World and is a big Twitter fan, add him by clicking @willcarling. Will has recently launched a social network for Rugby fans called Rucku. Rucku is the World’s first virtual rugby clubhouse and boasts many stars from the past and present, Will is known there as willc and does a weekly ramble about Rugby on video with this week a preview on the 6 Nations.

My Top Ten to watch in the six nations rugby tournament

Sergio Parisse (ITALY)

Sergio Parisse

The Italian number eight is rated as the best in the world and I would not argue with that. Italy have a huge pack of forwards and this man will be their driver and leader, so watch out for his powerful running but also his great skills and reading of the game.

Martyn Williams (WALES)

Martyn Williams

He came out of International retirement to make Wales ‘great’ and he will be a key man in that attempt. A great link player and vital to Wales’s need to play a fast fluid game.

Gavin Henson (WALES)

Gavin Henson

OK all fake tan jokes aside, if this man shines then Wales will be hard to beat. His form has been intermittent to be polite, but he has the ability to dictate a game and bring the best out in Wales’s very talented back line. (Yes I know he is ruled out of tomorrow’s game, trust me!)

Shane Williams (WALES)

Shane Williams

Voted the IRB player of the year this man has the quickest feet in the Northern Hemisphere rugby. He can worry and then destroy defensive line ups in a second, and Wales will need him at his very best to turn the tight matches.

Brian O’Driscoll (IRELAND)

Brian O'Driscoll

In my mind still the best centre in World Rugby and can create a try out of very very little. His captaincy as well as his attacking genius will be crucial if Ireland are to eventually turn all their promise into success in this year’s Chamionship.

Lionel Beauxis (FRANCE)

Lionel Beauxis

Nicknamed “Bernardo” after Zorro’s mute servant, he is also rated as having all the skills and talent to become France’s best Number 10 for many years. Can spark the French into their magic with his vision and distribution.

Sebastian Chabal (FRANCE)

Sebastian Chabal

Now an iconic figure with his long hair and cave man appearance. His defence is awesome as New Zealand’s Masoe will testify and his powerful ball carrying will be key to France getting on the front foot against the opposition.

Thierry Dusautoir (FRANCE)

Thierry Dusautoir

France’s answer to Richie McCaw this man could be one of the surprise stars of the Six Nations. He has all the attributes, pace, power, skill and vision and if the French pack play well he could be wrecking havoc in attack and defence.

James Haskell (ENGLAND)

James Haskell

If England are to do well this year a huge amount will rest with this man. He is very athletic and powerful and will need to make some huge hits in defence for England as well as being explosive and brutal when carrying the ball.

Delon Armitage (ENGLAND)

Delon Armitage

A success story for England in the November tests, and that can not be underestimated. He has a natural ability to counter attack, he has pace and as his confidence grows he could be one of England’s most potent attacking weapons

What do you think? Where did I get it wrong? Feel free to leave me comments here or join Rucku and add me “willc” on there, I will add you back and we can discuss there - am having a few beers tonight - so be warned! I do read every message on Twitter but is easier for me to manage on Rucku!

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Sumo Smokers Busted for Pot

Getty Images

Sumo wrestlers are notorious for their out-sized appetites. But maybe it's just the munchies.

TOKYO — Sumo wrestlers with pot bellies, yes. Sumo wrestlers with pot? Now that's harder to grapple with.

In the past six months, four wrestlers have been kicked out of the ancient sport for allegedly smoking marijuana, creating the biggest drugs-in-sports scandal that Japan has ever seen.

Although three of the wrestlers who have been expelled from the sport were from Russia, the arrest last week of a 25-year-old Japanese athlete who goes by the ring name of Wakakirin for possession of marijuana has raised concern that use of the drug may be more widespread than originally thought.

In Japan, sumo wrestlers are not seen as athletes in the way that baseball or tennis players are. A photo of U.S. swimming star Michael Phelps with a marijuana pipe got wide play in the media here, but nowhere near the consternation of the sumo scandal.

The sting of the busts in sumo — which only recently introduced doping tests — was made all the worse because of the breakdown in Japan's still relatively drug-free environment. Marijuana use, in particular, is rising rapidly despite a stiff punishment — up to five years in prison for possession.

"We are appalled by his utter folly," The Asahi, a major newspaper, said in an outraged editorial. "Some young people casually try pot. It is vital that we educate them on the risks of this drug from a fairly early age."

More than being simply a drug issue, however, the scandal has been amplified by the fact that it involves one of the world's oldest and most tradition-bound sports — and one that is solidly rooted in religious purification ritual.

Sumo wrestlers are expected to live the old-school life of a disciple. They wear their hair in topknots, dress in traditional robes and train in communal "stables." Their schedules are tightly regulated and the word of their coaches, who are still called "masters," is absolute and final.

Sumo aficionados like to note that former grand champion Musashimaru, of Hawaii, had a 10 p.m. curfew.

But that is changing.

The wrestlers at the center of the scandal came from training stables where a new, and often younger, stable master was in charge, and discipline was not what it might have been in the old days.

"In the most recent cases, the normal connections are not there anymore," said David Shapiro, a sumo color commentator for broadcaster NHK. "Stable masters normally are your surrogate fathers and now they are your surrogate stepfathers. There are certain stables where this never would have happened."

Still, many Japanese believe that to stain the purity of sumo is to tarnish the heart of Japan itself.

Moving quickly to ease criticism, the Japan Sumo Association, which oversees the professional sport, voted this week to dismiss Wakakirin, whose legal name is Shinichi Suzukawa.

Many Japanese saw even that punishment as too light. Dismissal — unlike the harsher punishment of expulsion from the sport — leaves open the door for Wakakirin to receive severance pay, although the Kyodo news agency reported that he has opted not to do so.

"It is hard not to call them lenient in this case," said Sports Minister Ryu Shionoya. "This is utterly shameful."

Sumo initiated limited drug-testing in September after the Russian wrestler Wakanoho was caught by police for allegedly possessing marijuana. Two wrestlers, Roho and his brother, Hakurozan, also of Russia, tested positive and were kicked out of the sport.

All three were top-division wrestlers, and well-known in Japan even beyond sumo circles.

With Wakakirin's arrest, officials now say they will further beef up doping tests for marijuana and stimulants. Marijuana is not considered a performance-enhancing drug.

Wakakirin reportedly became interested in marijuana after reading about it in magazines and seeing others smoking it at hip-hop clubs.

Mark Buckton, a sumo columnist and blogger, said he thinks the scandal has pretty much run its course.

"A lot of these guys are young and single so it could go further, but it's not really fair to say it's a breakdown in discipline in sumo," he said. "There are 700 men in sumo and the majority of them don't smoke marijuana."

In sumo, competitors vie to push their opponents out of the ring or make them touch the dirt with any part of their bodies other than the soles of their feet. The wrestlers, who can weigh up to 550 pounds and are mostly in their 20s, fight in six 15-day tournaments each year.

Despite its status as Japan's national sport, sumo has been hit with several scandals in recent years, including persistent accusations of bout-fixing, the hazing death of a young wrestler two years ago, and the antics of its top champion, a fiery Mongolian who fights under the name of Asashoryu.

Asashoryu recently had to sit out three tournaments as punishment for skipping a road trip to go home to Mongolia. He claimed he had an injury, but was seen playing a spirited game of soccer in his homeland. Last month, after winning the most recent tournament, Asashoryu was warned by sumo officials for pumping his fists to celebrate.

Displays of emotion in the ring, which is considered sacred ground, are frowned upon.

Copyright Associated Press

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Tennis prodigy, four, coached by man who trained Venus and Serena Williams

Mia Lines: Tennis prodigy, four, coached by man who trained Venus and Serena Williams
Four year old Mia Lines from Wantirna South, Australia during a training session in Miami, Florida Photo: BARRY BLAND/BARCROFT MEDIA

Mia Lines picked up a racket at the age of only one and is now gaining from the enormous experience of renowned tennis coach Rick Macci at his academy.

Macci has coached a series of Grand Slam winners but said he has never seen a more impressive player at the age of four than Mia, who is from Australia.

"I have seen hundreds of kids come through my school in the 25 years I have been doing this and I have never seen a four year old with such god-given talent," he said.

Stunned by the precision of Mia's ability to read the court and also because she can hit the ball from baseline to baseline, Rick is cautiously guarded about her potential due to her age.

"It is difficult to compare Mia to players I have coached like Venus and Serena Williams, Andy Roddick and Maria Sharapova," the 54-year-old said. "Mia's technique is incredible and what she is doing is bringing foot-work you can't teach to the table.

"What I would say is ask me if she can go all the way in five years and I will be able to tell you then.

"In the meantime my opinion is that she can not be any better than she is at this age."

This is the second one month stint that Mia has done with Macci, a seven time national US coach of the year, the first having been in July of last year when she was still only three.

"Well I found out my child was going to be a girl I ran round telling everyone that she is going to be a tennis player," said Mia's father Glenn.

"From the moment that she was born I insisted on working with her hand eye co-ordination and then at the age of one I gave her a tennis racket."

Mr Lines had her practising indoors with soft balls, until he took her outside onto his parents own tennis court.

"I have always been a tennis fan so I knew of Rick Macci. As she progressed year on year I wondered whether I had a special child, so I got in contact with Rick.

"We eventually got her to his Florida camp last year and this year has just confirmed what we have all thought," said Mr Lines, from Melbourne.

"I know nothing about ballet, nothing about swimming, but I do know something about tennis and I am just trying to guide her as best as i can.

"If she is good enough and she wants to do it then that is up to her. She drives the bus."

For Mia it is the thought of being the next Sharapova that is most appealing.

"My favourite part of my tennis exercises is the breathing, when I have to breath in before I hit the ball and exhale when I hit it," she said.

"It makes me think that I am Sharapova."

Original here

Report: Sharapova out of next two events

Maria Sharapova
Maria Sharapova

Women's tennis star Maria Sharapova has withdrawn from the next two events while continuing her recovery from shoulder surgery, the Sport Express reported.

The former world No. 1 has withdrawn from the Open Gaz de France in Paris and the Dubai (United Arab Emirates) Tennis Championships.

"I am just not near the level I need to be to compete at the highest levels," she said before deciding last month that she would not defend her 2008 title at the Australian Open.

The 23-year-old native of Nyagan, Russia, has not played since August and has fallen to No. 17 in the latest world rankings.

She has won three Grand Slam tournaments and earned more than $12 million since turning pro in April 2001.

Among the events she missed in 2008 due to injury were the Beijing Olympics and the U.S. Open.

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Mexico's voodoo promo for soccer match gets sponsor

By PETER ORSI Associated Press

photo Gregory Bull AP

Mario Munoz, a soccer fan, displays a voodoo doll dressed as a soccer player from the U.S. national team at a Blockbuster video store in Mexico City on Friday.

MEXICO CITY — After Radioshack dropped out, a Mexican newspaper has found a new U.S. corporate sponsor to help put a voodoo hex on the U.S. national soccer team — and end Mexico’s decade-long losing streak.

Blockbuster stores in Mexico City began trading Record newspaper coupons for voodoo-doll likenesses of U.S. soccer players Friday. The back of the dolls’ jersey reads, “Gringos.”

They should be used to wish for a Mexico goal during the World Cup qualifier Wednesday in Colombus, Ohio, according to the instructions.

Mexico has not beaten the Americans on U.S. soil in 10 years.

“Hold a needle firmly between your thumb and index finger and prick slowly the part of the doll where you want to affect the opponent,” the instructions say.

Electronics retailer RadioShack, of Forth Worth, Texas, dropped out as a distribution partner last week after learning details of the campaign.

But Record merely had to go to Dallas to find another co-sponsor, DVD and video game rental chain Blockbuster Inc. A phone message left with the company’s public relations office was not returned Friday.

But Record spokesman Daniel Paz said the promotion is lighthearted.

“In soccer, training and practice are what determine the results. The best team will win,” he said. “But without any doubt, this little doll can help the good vibes of the Mexican fans to change the history of Mexico and turn things around.”

Mexico fan Mauricio Munoz, picking up one of the Blockbuster dolls, said he doesn’t believe black magic will have any effect on his team or the winless streak.

“But in any case,” he said, “it’s a good way to have fun.”

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Beckham eager to stay with Milan

David Beckham
Beckham is hoping to stay at Milan

David Beckham has confirmed he wants to secure a permanent move to AC Milan from his American club LA Galaxy.

Beckham denied his lawyers were talking to the Galaxy, as Milan general manager Adriano Galliani had claimed, but hopes the two clubs can agree a deal.

"I have expressed my desire to stay," he said. "Now it's just down to Milan and Galaxy to come to an agreement.

"I have enjoyed my time here. I knew I would enjoy it but I didn't expect to enjoy it as much as I have."

Beckham was speaking in Glasgow on Wednesday after playing the first 45 minutes for Milan in their 2-2 friendly draw with Rangers.

The England international, 33, is on loan at the San Siro until 9 March and has helped lift Milan to second place in Serie A, scoring in his last two games.

"I've expressed my desire to stay here for a while but at the moment I'm still a Galaxy player," Beckham said.

"I respect the Galaxy and everything they have done for me. They have always been great to me."

But Beckham added: "I hope they can come to an agreement and it's down to the clubs now. At this point it's out of my hands. I've said what my feelings are to both clubs.

"To be given the chance again to play at this level at my age is pretty incredible and I've enjoyed it so much I would like to continue it. I think people have seen the way I've been since playing at this level again."

One of Beckham's key reasons for joining Milan on loan was to prove himself to England manager Fabio Capello and after putting in such impressive performances in Italy so far Beckham now believes the 2010 World Cup in South Africa is a realistic target.

"It's nothing against the MLS and the football over there, because it's a game that will grow but it will take quite a few years.

"I'm still confident that will happen eventually, but I want to have a chance of being involved in 2010 and I believe my best chance of doing so is to remain here."

Galliani had said earlier on Wednesday that Beckham's lawyers were already talking to Galaxy.

We are looking to get him either on loan until the end of the season or on a permanent basis
Adriano Galliani - Milan general manager

"If they show themselves to be ready to look at a deal, we would be really happy to do so," Galliani said.

Beckham is registered with the Serie A giants until 30 June, so if a deal is agreed with the Major League Soccer side then the loan term can be extended outside the transfer window, which closed on Monday.

Milan have taken that into account by including the England player in their Uefa Cup squad.

"We are looking to get him either on loan until the end of the season or on a permanent basis," added Galliani.

"Otherwise, with the greatest regret from everyone - starting with me - Beckham will have to go.

"Players can make their choices but their clubs can refuse their wishes.

"Moreover, Los Angeles Galaxy have always been very nice to us and have behaved in a very gentlemanly manner.

"In any case, at this moment there are no dealings and we haven't made an offer but Beckham's lawyers are talking with Los Angeles.

"There is time until 8 March to get us round a table and close a possible deal."

The Galaxy refused to discuss Galliani's claims. Spokesman Patrick Donnelly said on Wednesday: "We have no comment to make."

However, the former general manager of LA Galaxy, Alexi Lalas says Backham's England career may be the reason he wants to stay in Italy while also recognising the significance his departure would have on the game in America.

"I know how important it is for David to play with the national team," said Lalas.

"Obviously he feels that for him and maybe for Fabio Capello, the best route in order to do that is to be at Milan.

"He has obviously done great things on the field since he has been there and I think he is happy by all accounts.

"For the Galaxy, for Major League Soccer and for soccer in the United States, obviously it is a loss."

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Lane Kiffin's recruiting remark draws reprimand from SEC

Michael Phelps

Michael Phelps powers through the breaststroke during his victory in the 400-meter individual medley at the Summer Olympics in Beijing.

Staff And Wire Reports

Tennessee football Coach Lane Kiffin was reprimanded by the Southeastern Conference on Thursday for falsely accusing Florida Coach Urban Meyer of a recruiting violation, and the new Volunteers coach has apologized for his remarks.

Kiffin told fans attending a breakfast to celebrate his first recruiting class that Meyer violated recruiting rules by phoning wide receiver prospect Nu'Keese Richardson, WVLT-TV reported.
"I love the fact that Urban had to cheat and still didn't get him," Kiffin said.

NCAA and Southeastern Conference officials said it is not against recruiting rules to contact a prospect while he is on an official visit to another school.

Kiffin later issued a statement apologizing, and said he was trying to excite the crowd of donors and alumni.

Florida Athletic Director Jeremy Foley said the comments were slanderous and violated SEC rules against publicly criticizing another coach and school.

Richardson, a Pahokee, Fla., native, signed with the Volunteers, despite having indicated he would sign with the Gators.

Jawanza Starling, a defensive back from Lincoln High in Tallahassee, Fla., became the 18th recruit to sign a letter of intent to play football at USC. He is the seventh out-of-state player to sign with the Trojans in the class of 2009.

PRO FOOTBALL

Franchise tag put on Cassel

The New England Patriots put the franchise tag on quarterback Matt Cassel. The move means he remains a free agent, but the Patriots can match any offer made by another team or allow him to sign with that team in exchange for two first-round draft picks.

If or when he signs the one-year franchise tag designation, worth $14.65 million for 2009, he will be under contract to the Patriots, who could keep him or trade him.

Teams are allowed to put the franchise tag on one player per season. Without it, Cassel would have become an unrestricted free agent Feb. 27 and could have signed with any team without compensation to the Patriots.

The NFL Players Assn. is appealing a federal court decision ordering the union to pay $28.1 million to retired players for allegedly cutting them out of lucrative marketing deals.

BASEBALL

Padres, Floyd agree to deal

Outfielder Cliff Floyd agreed to a $750,000, one-year deal with San Diego, giving the Padres a veteran to come off the bench. Floyd batted .268 with 11 homers and 39 runs batted in for the Tampa Bay Rays last season. To make room for Floyd, Matt Bush, the No. 1 pick in the 2004 amateur draft, was designated for assignment. . . . Free-agent right-hander Ben Sheets could be headed for elbow surgery after contract negotiations with the Texas Rangers fell through because of the injury, a source told the Associated Press. . . . Left-hander Odalis Perez and the Washington Nationals agreed to a non-guaranteed minor league contract. . . . Outfielder Jacque Jones and first baseman-outfielder Daryle Ward agreed to minor league contracts with the Cincinnati Reds.

ETC.

Unbeaten Calzaghe retires

Former super-middleweight champion Joe Calzaghe has decided to retire from boxing with a 46-0 record. The 36-year-old Welshman outpointed Roy Jones Jr. in November in his last fight of a 16-year pro career.

Calzaghe held the WBO super-middleweight world title for more than 10 years, unifying the title against Mikkel Kessler in April 2007, before moving up to light-heavyweight to fight Bernard Hopkins and Jones.

The Nevada State Athletic Commission says it is considering punishment for Ultimate Fighting Championship fighter Georges St. Pierre after his corner illegally applied petroleum jelly to his shoulders and upper back during his victory over B.J. Penn last week.

The final two rounds of match play at the Denny's Dick Weber Open, a Professional Bowlers Assn. event, end today at the Fountain Bowl in Fountain Valley.

PBA heavyweights Norm Duke, Walter Ray Williams Jr., Chris Barnes and Pete Weber were among the top 24 finishers in Thursday's final qualifying round. Jason Belmonte, a young Australian bowler who uses an unorthodox two-handed technique, finished 12th to also advance.

The top five bowlers from match play then move on to a stepladder final on Sunday. It will air live on ESPN at 10 a.m.

-- James Wagner

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Video: Driver does handbrake turns on M62 motorway after row with girlfriend

A driver performed two handbrake turns on a motorway after stopping on the hard shoulder during a row with his girlfriend. ; http://link.brightcove.com/services/link/bcpid1488655367/bctid10489529001 http://www.brightcove.com/channel.jsp?channel=1139053637

Marc Kirk was caught by CCTV cameras as he did a U-turn across two lanes of the M62, forcing other drivers to brake hard.

He later attacked a police officer who went to investigate.

But Kirk, 20, a labourer who has previous convictions for drink-driving, and disorderly behaviour, was given a two-year conditional discharge because he is about to start a new job.

Judge Clement Goldstone, at Manchester Crown Court, described Kirk's driving as "lunatic" but said he could not impose a suspended prison sentence.

He said that because Kirk had a job in Ireland, he wouldn't be able to carry out any community punishment in the UK - which forms part of all suspended sentences.

"I cannot impose such a requirement in this case because you are not going to be here to fulfil it and I'm not going to set you up to fail," said the judge.

He said he would otherwise have handed him a suspended six months sentence in a young offenders' institution.

The court was told that Kirk suddenly stopped his silver Vauxhall Corsa on the hard-shoulder near junction 18 because of a row with his girlfriend.

CCTV footage shows Kirk, his girlfriend and two others get out of the car near Birch services at 2am after a night out in Blackpool.

Kirk was getting back into his car and carrying out a U-turn which took him across the motorway into the fast lane. Two on-coming cars slammed on their brakes and Kirk did a hand-brake turn until he was side-on in the middle lane of the motorway.

He then sped back to the hard-shoulder where he had originally pulled over and carried out a second handbrake turn, leaving the car again facing the wrong way towards the on-coming traffic.

Kirk then assaulted a passing patrol cop who tried to stop him. The court heard he repeatedly punched the officer in the face, knocking off and smashing the officer's glasses.

The pair ended up rolling across the hard-shoulder as the officer struggled to arrest Kirk, who also kicked the officer in the head.

Kirk, of Keighley, West Yorkshire, was arrested and later admitted dangerous driving and assault.

He was banned from driving for two years and ordered to take an extended test when he is eligible to return to the roads.

He was also ordered to pay £1,800 in compensation to the officer and court costs.

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Pole-sitter Menard wrecks in practice


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) -- Paul Menard started the first wreck of the 2009 NASCAR season.

Menard, the pole-sitter for Saturday night's Budweiser Shootout, got sideways during practice Friday at Daytona International Speedway and crashed with rookie Scott Speed.

As Menard slowed don while trying to straighten out his No. 98 Ford in a turn on the 21/2-mile superspeedway, Speed drove his No. 82 Toyota into his left-front fender. Both cars spun across the track and came to a stop near the infield.

"The guy in front of me started spinning out and slowing down, and I had nowhere to go, so I started doing the same," said Speed, a former Formula One driver. "I couldn't really see much, honestly. ... It's good we got my first wreck under my belt here at Daytona."

Speed's car sustained little damage, but Menard's had to be towed to the garage area. Menard was treated and released from the infield car facility. He said he thought he had a tire going flat before the spin.

Team officials said Menard's team was going to repair the damage instead of going to a backup car. If they can't fix it, Menard would have to switch cars and start from the back of the 28-car field. If that happens, Reed Sorenson would become the pole-sitter for NASCAR's non-points, All-Star event that officially kicks off Speedweeks.

The two practice sessions had a few other hairy moments, too.

Kyle Busch got hit from behind shortly after Menard's wreck. Jeff Burton blew an engine and will have to start from the back of the pack in Saturday's race. Kasey Kahne brushed the wall through one turn. And Carl Edwards narrowly avoided a crash when he had to make a quick move at high speed to avoid a piece of debris that flew off another car.

Busch and three-time defending series champion Jimmie Johnson had the fastest laps in the first practice. Johnson was atop the speed chart in the second session. Johnson's top speed was 192.620 mph.

Copyright 2009 Associated Press.

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Source: Avery going to AHL's Hartford

By Pierre LeBrun
ESPN.com

The Dallas Stars are expected to assign Sean Avery to the AHL's Hartford Wolf Pack on Tuesday, a source told ESPN.com on Monday night.

Sean Avery

Avery

Hartford is the main AHL affiliate of the New York Rangers, the only NHL club that seems to have any interest in helping revive Avery's career.

Avery was cleared from the NHL/NHLPA counseling program last weekend, which officially put him back on the Stars' roster. Dallas then immediately put him on waivers and he cleared Monday. He will remain property of the Stars even while in Hartford until Dallas puts him on re-entry waivers and the Rangers put in a claim for him.

The Stars don't have an AHL affiliate and Stars co-GM Les Jackson was working the phones all weekend and on Monday trying to find a team. Hartford had long been the favorite because of its official ties to the Rangers.

Avery was only 23 games into a four-year, $15.5 million deal when NHL commissioner Gary Bettman suspended him on Dec. 5 for making a crude remark about his ex-girlfriends dating other hockey players.

Simmering tension between Avery and his teammates and coach boiled over in the aftermath, with Dallas' dressing room united in its stance against him ever wearing a Stars sweater again.

Avery is earning $3.5 million this season and has three more years left on the deal that pays him $4 million a season. Should any NHL team claim him on re-entry waivers, it would be on the hook for half of that, with the Stars paying the other half.

In Avery's season and a half with the Rangers, the club was 50-23-13 when he played and 24-35-9 when he was out of the lineup.

"Sean is a good hockey player," Rangers head coach Tom Renney said last weekend. "He can help anybody he plays for, there's no question about that. ... This is a guy who can play and is a great teammate. He was always there for his teammates and laid it on the line every night. How can you not admire that? We had him in a good situation and we used him, I think, appropriately. The entire organization benefits by that."

Avery, acquired by the Rangers in a trade with the Los Angeles Kings on Feb. 5, 2006, had 15 goals and 18 assists in 57 regular-season games for the Rangers in 2007-08, then added four goals and three assists in eight playoff games. He had three goals, seven assists and 77 penalty minutes in 23 games for Dallas this season.

The Stars, meanwhile, remained firm with their decision not to allow Avery back on their team.

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Wish you were here, Tiger Woods

p1.tiger-woods.si.jpg
It's been eight months since Tiger Woods' amazing performance at the U.S. Open.

Are you enjoying the 2009 PGA Tour?

Oh, you didn't realize there was a PGA Tour anymore.

Well, I can certainly understand that. Please, don't be embarrassed. It's easy to misplace something so suddenly insignificant.

I mean, let's be honest. At some point, the Tour became a wholly-subsumed subsidiary of Tiger Woods, and without him anymore there simply doesn't appear to be anything there. The PGA: Professional Golfers Anonymous.

It isn't just that Tiger is away, recovering from knee surgery. His magical exit, winning the U.S. Open in a playoff last June, while manifestly in pain, playing on a rotten leg, was so exquisite, it is as if he then left for the heavens, not for rehabilitation.

And slim pickin's remain behind. It isn't Woods' fault, but it's just a very fallow field that he has plowed under. Consider the talent Jack Nicklaus had to battle: Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Lee Trevino, Tom Watson -- all four of them far superior to any of the Lilliputians who have been in Woods' thrall.

It's all the more understandable, then, that the Tour, and its sponsors and television producers came to depend more and more on Woods. Just think how many times the cameras would stay on him as he merely strolled down a fairway, while other players presumably actually hit golf balls. In that sense, golf let Woods become the very face of the whole sport, and no one stopped to consider that as he blocked out the sun, no other golfer could grow an identity. Never forget that, notwithstanding what Cassius told Brutus, the fault of individual sports is with their stars, not their underlings.

Woods has been such a phenomenon that when he won that playoff over Rocco Mediate, he even brought commerce to a halt. Trading that day on Wall Street fell by 71 million shares, almost 10 percent. TV ratings used to regularly double in tournaments when he played. And perhaps more than any statistical measure, Woods gave golf buzz. Without him, the sport seems to have pretty much dropped out of the cultural conversation.

It does not help, of course, that golf has been losing participants in the last few years. Moreover, it is especially vulnerable to the economic downturn because the sport was so heavily supported by two especially cursed groups of sponsors: automobiles and financial institutions. Live by the sword ...

Woods is hoping to return to the tour in time for the Masters, early in April. Golf's plight now is reminiscent of the situation the country went through recently, with a lame duck administration technically in charge as we awaited the arrival of the anointed. But we knew for sure we'd have a new president on January 20th. Not to be a Cassandra, but the left leg is a vital cog in the golfer machine. There's hardly any guarantee with Woods' health, so it'll be even more agonizing if the sport has to keep running in place, waiting, without really knowing, when its meal ticket may finally return. Or worse: suppose the Tiger Woods who finally does come back is not the deity who left? Not even Tiger Woods may be able to come off serious surgery and wish himself back to the power and glory he knew.

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Jamal Anderson released from jail

Former Falcons running back Jamal Anderson was released from an Atlanta-area jail on $6,000 bond Sunday night after his arrest on a felony possession-of-cocaine charge and a possession-of-marijuana charge, a misdemeanor.

Anderson
Anderson

Anderson, an NFL analyst for ESPN's "First Take" this past season, was booked into the Fulton County jail in Georgia late Saturday night.

His first hearing was set for Monday morning, the Fulton County sheriff's office said Sunday.

According to a police spokesman, a nightclub patron at the Peachtree Tavern alerted an off-duty police officer who was working security to possible drug use in the club's restroom, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

Mark Daniel Hudson, 20, who police say was with Anderson, was also arrested at the bar in the Buckhead area of Atlanta. The Fulton County Superior Court clerk's office said Monday that charges had been dropped against Hudson.

Police found a 1-inch-square bag of cocaine and a suspected marijuana cigarette in Anderson's pocket, according to the paper.

ESPN released a statement regarding Anderson on Monday.

"He is not currently on our schedule to work," the statement said. "We will announce a decision closer to next season."

Anderson, 36, last played in 2001. He helped lead the Falcons to their first NFC title in 1998, when he rushed for 1,846 yards and set an NFL record for carries in a season with 410. It was his only Pro Bowl season.

The Falcons lost to the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl that season.

Anderson rushed for 5,336 yards in eight NFL seasons, all with the Falcons. He retired after tearing the ACL in his left knee. He tore the ACL in his right knee during the 1999 season.

He was drafted out of Utah by the Falcons in the seventh round of the 1994 NFL draft,
No. 201 overall.

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Steelers deny knowledge of QB injury

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers have no knowledge that Ben Roethlisberger played the Super Bowl with two broken ribs, as the quarterback told a Web site.

According to SI.com, Roethlisberger said his fractured ribs did not show up on X-rays taken before he led the Steelers to a 27-23 win over Arizona on Feb. 1, but were revealed only during a MRI test he had last week.

Roethlisberger
Roethlisberger

"Luckily, in the game, I didn't take any big hits to make 'em hurt," Roethlisberger told SI.com. "But I knew all along there was something wrong. There wouldn't have been anything that could have been done about fractured ribs anyway. It was just suck it up and play."

Roethlisberger did not miss any practices before the Super Bowl, although a pool report from the Wednesday practice said he attempted during the middle of the workout to stretch his torso. He missed one practice during the off week before the Super Bowl because of what the team said was a back injury.

"There's not a whole lot to say," Steelers spokesman Dave Lockett said Monday. "Ben was fine to go. He was cleared to play. He didn't miss any [practice] time. There was no doubt he was going to play."

The Steelers said it would have been difficult for Roethlisberger to play any better than he did in leading the decisive 78-yard drive that ended with a precisely thrown 6-yard touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes with 35 seconds remaining.

Several plays before, Roethlisberger -- leading his sixth game-winning drive of the season -- hit Holmes on a 40-yard completion.

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Roethlisberger did not mention any possible injury during postgame interviews.

It is uncertain if the validity of Roethlisberger's claim will be proven.

NFL teams do not routinely require players to undergo MRI or other medical tests during the offseason, and Roethlisberger isn't due back in Pittsburgh until offseason workouts begin in April. By then, any problem that occurred before or during the Super Bowl might not show up in tests.

Roethlisberger has previously exaggerated or misstated injuries he supposedly suffered during his five-season career.

The day after the January 2005 AFC Championship Game, Roethlisberger said he broke two toes during the 41-27 loss to New England. Coach Bill Cowher emphatically denied that, saying the quarterback merely aggravated a toe injury from college. Roethlisberger never brought up the issue again.

Roethlisberger also said during training camp in 2006 that he played the Steelers' Super Bowl-winning season of 2005 with a broken thumb. Roethlisberger missed no playing time after supposedly being hurt on Nov. 28, 2005, in Indianapolis and the team never revealed any such injury.

After Cowher resigned following the 2006 season, Roethlisberger acknowledged he and the coach didn't always get along -- in part, apparently, because Cowher felt the quarterback exaggerated the extent of injuries.

It also was reported that Roethlisberger sustained a spinal cord concussion against Cleveland on Dec. 28, but the team said only that he had a concussion.

"Ben's health is often the subject of inaccurate reports," coach Mike Tomlin said before the Super Bowl. "He's fine."


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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Fitzgerald leads NFC Pro Bowl victory

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, shown during Media Day at the Super Bowl Jan. 27, 2009. (UPI Photo/Roger L. Wollenberg)
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, shown during Media Day at the Super Bowl

Arizona Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald caught two touchdown passes Sunday to help the NFC top the AFC 30-21 in the Pro Bowl in Honolulu.

Fitzgerald grabbed a 46-yard scoring pass from Drew Brees in the second quarter and a 2-yarder from Eli Manning with just over 4 minutes left in the game.

The Cardinals wideout was named Most Valuable Player of the all-star contest, which has been played in Honolulu for 30 years but will be moved to Miami in 2010. That game will be played a week before, instead of after, the Super Bowl.

Brees completed 11-of-19 passes for 142 yards, the Minnesota Vikings' Adrian Peterson, last year's MVP, ran for 48 yards and a score, and John Carney booted three field goals for the NFC.

Peyton Manning and Kerry Collins each tossed a touchdown pass and LaRon McClain ran for a score for the AFC.

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Pro wrestler in altercation with Victoria fans; was blocked by several hundred people

By Katie DeRosa, Times Colonist

Chris Jericho in an altercation with Victoria fans at Save-on-Foods Memorial centre yesterday/

Chris Jericho in an altercation with Victoria fans at Save-on-Foods Memorial centre yesterday/

Photograph by: Darshan Stevens, Special to the Times Colonist

Witnesses say pro wrestler Chris Jericho hit a woman in the face outside Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre after a World Wrestling Entertainment match Saturday afternoon, in a profanity-laced brawl captured by a witness on a cellphone camera and posted on YouTube.

The incident occurred when Jericho, driving away in a white Chevy Tahoe, was surrounded at a stop sign by hundreds of people, who prevented him from leaving. They were heckling him after he lost Saturday’s RAW Live WWE bout.

In the video, one man can be heard yelling at Jericho, “You’re an insult to Canadians you [expletive].” A blond girl pushes Jericho. The wrestler, wearing dark sunglasses and a leather jacket, stares her down for several seconds, then turns around to get back into the SUV. She pushes him again, and he retaliates with a swing to the face that knocks her to the ground.

A melee ensues where Jericho pushes at least one arena security guard, yelling, “Do your [expletive] job — get this stupid [expletive] out of here.”

Several witnesses said arena security guards were standing around and not doing enough to break up the fight.

One witness said she saw the 225-pound wrestler spit in the blond woman’s face after she approached his SUV. The woman started hitting Jericho, which is when he punched her, said Darshan Stevens, who watched from about a metre away.

“I was really surprised that a pro wrestler would do that with everyone watching,” Stevens said. “And hit a girl, what are you thinking?”

Jericho drove off, she said, just minutes before several Victoria police cruisers arrived.

Victoria police confirmed there was an altercation involving Jericho and two others outside the arena, but said the wrestler left before police had a chance to speak to him. Two fans were taken into police custody but later released.

Investigating officer Const. Brenda Kelly said yesterday that police are trying to contact WWE representatives and Jericho, but have so far been unsuccessful. No charges have been laid and the incident is under investigation. Police want any witnesses to contact them, said Kelly.

The WWE issued a statement yesterday saying that Jericho physically and verbally assaulted after his car was attacked by a “mob” when he was attempting to leave the parking lot.

WWE spokesman Kevin Hennessy said yesterday in a telephone interview that the female fan provoked the incident. He rejected suggestions that Jericho punched the woman, calling the term “a little extreme.” “I didn’t see him actually take a swing,” he said, referring to the video.

As for whether Jericho was assaulted, he said, “That’s for the cops to decide.”

The woman who was hit, 20-year-old Ashley Levey, said the altercation began when her boyfriend, Kalen Johl, heckled Jericho. Jericho got out of his vehicle, Levey said, and made a derogatory comment to Johl, who is South Asian. She said Jericho pushed Kohl first. Levey called Jericho a racist, so he spit on and punched her, she said. Levey said she and Johl were later arrested but released without charge. She wants Jericho charged with assault.

Jericho is a five-time World Heavyweight Champion and the first WWF Undisputed Champion. Raised in Winnipeg, Jericho was inducted into the Canadian Wrestling Hall of Fame in 1997. In 2004, he was awarded Manitoba’s Order of the Buffalo Hunt for his achievements in wrestling and his work with underprivileged children. The award was previously given to Pope John Paul II, Desmond Tutu and Mother Teresa.

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Surfer rides monster wave caused by British storm front

By Murray Wardrop

Surfer rides monster wave caused by British storm front
Benjamin Sanchis surfs the wave at Belharra situated on the border of France and Spain Photo: 'Stephane Salerno / BillabongXXL.com

Benjamin Sanchis looks like an ant on the face of the 60ft wave at Belharra in the Bay of Biscay.

Frozen in time, the picture shows the lip of the wave lurching forward threatening to crush the Frenchman with hundreds of tons of water.

But the 29-year-old professional surfer managed to avoid wiping-out and could earn a place in the history books for the ride.

The photo has won him a nomination for this year's Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Awards - a contest normally dominated by locations in the Pacific Ocean.

The wave, which breaks over an offshore reef near the border of France and Spain in the Basque Country, only picks up during huge swells.

However, the Atlantic has been host to several gigantic swells this winter, which have caused weather chaos in the UK.

The wave Mr Sanchis rode on January 18 was created by one of the deepest depression in recent years, which brought gale force winds and giant waves to Britain.

And forecasters are predicting more large swells in the Atlantic during the coming weeks.

A spokesman for surf forecasters, Surfline, said: "The North Atlantic has been in a very active pattern over the past few weeks producing a series of large swells.

"We continue to remain in a very active pattern with plenty of solid swell due for the region over the coming days.

"The North Atlantic storm track is expected to remain fairly active over the next couple of weeks which means potential for even more extra, extra, large swell."

Meanwhile, big wave surfers in Hawaii and the west coast of the US, areas which usually see high seas at this time of year, have been "starved for waves" during recent weeks, Surfline said.

The spokesman added: "The Atlantic Ocean has produced a bounty of massive storms and swells, becoming a key focus of the 2009 Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Awards."

An spokesman for the awards said: "While some of the Atlantic storms lashing the European coastline have arrived with unfavourable weather, there have been many days where the conditions have come together for the surfers who have been on the prowl for the right window of opportunity."

Mr Sanchis, from Hossegor, has been surfing since the age of seven and made his historic ride just 11 days after his 29th birthday.

The picture was taken by surf photographer Stephane Salerno.

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Irishman runs seven marathons on seven continents in five days

Irish ultra distance runner Richard Donovan running in the Antarctic
Irish ultra distance runner Richard Donovan running in the Antarctic Photo: PA

Richard Donovan, 42, from Galway in the west of Ireland, began his challenge in numbing sub-zero temperatures in Antarctica on January 31 and finished in Sydney just five days, nine hours and eight minutes later.

"What he did was staggering, quite remarkable," John O'Shea, founder and chief executive of third world charity Goal, told AFP, adding that the money raised would help the charity's work in Sudan's Darfur region.

"It is extraordinary given the conditions and the time scale involved. I can't believe he managed it. I am in awe of what he achieved to bring attention to the tragedy of Dafur and to alleviate the suffering there.

After starting in the Antarctic, Mr Donovan got on a plane to South Africa and completed a marathon in Cape Town. He then flew to Dubai and ran another one, completing three marathons in two days.

Braving snow storms that shut down London on Monday, Mr Donovan completed his fourth marathon there before going to Toronto in Canada for his fifth. Then it was on to Chile for a Santiago marathon and finally to Australia.

Over 129 hours, Mr Donovan endured extreme temperatures and only slept in the economy class seats of airplanes between continents, said Mr O'Shea.

In total he ran 183 miles and flew tens of thousands of miles.

"It brings into focus how little the world does and how much one man does for Dafur. He feels almost as strongly as I do about the lack of an adequate international response in Dafur where 400,000 people have died," Mr O'Shea said.

Goal has been working in Sudan since 1985 and spent about 18 million euros (£15.7 million) there on aid in 2007.

In 2002, Mr Donovan became the first person in the world to run a marathon at both the North and South Poles.

He now organises the northernmost marathon on earth, the North Pole Marathon, and the southernmost marathon on earth, the Antarctic Ice Marathon.

Mr Donovan has won the South Pole Marathon, the Inca Trail Marathon, the Everest Challenge Marathon, the Antarctic 100km and the Himalayan 100-Mile Stage Race.

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Report: TNT's Barkley set to return

Charles Barkley will return to the TNT network as an NBA analyst soon after its airing of the All-Star Game on Sunday, the Sports Business Journal has reported.

Barkley
Barkley

Barkley, who faces a drunken-driving charge after a Dec. 31 arrest, took a leave of absence last month. Test results revealed Barkley had a blood-alcohol level at .149, nearly twice the legal limit of .08 in Arizona.

The leave was for a minimum of several weeks, and Turner spokesman Jeff Pomeroy confirmed Monday that it will continue through All-Star weekend, when TNT usually draws some of its best ratings.

"It wasn't a hard decision for me to give him some time off to get his legal matters straight and to get his personal life in order," Turner Sports president David Levy said, according to the report. "The question is, when is the right time to bring him back? There is no magic answer to that. It's just a gut feel."

While waiting for results of the blood test, TNT considered suspending Barkley if the results showed his blood-alcohol content was over the legal limit, a source told ESPN.com.

The network has not chosen a specific date for his return to its "Inside the NBA" studio show, the Sports Business Journal reported, and plans are forthcoming as to how Barkley will address the incident.

"We haven't really thought about it, but I'm sure Charles will have something to say," Levy said. "What's really nice is that he's had so much support from a lot of people in this challenging time for him. He's humbled a little bit."

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Lakers get Adam Morrison for Vladimir Radmanovic

By Mike Bresnahan

Forward Vladimir Radmanovic chases down a loose ball against New Jersey's Bobby Simmons earlier this season.

Reporting from Cleveland -- Forward Vladimir Radmanovic, who was once infamously called a "space cadet" by Lakers Coach Phil Jackson, has found a new team to orbit.

In a move that trims $8.5 million off the Lakers' payroll, Radmanovic was sent Saturday to the Charlotte Bobcats for a pair of third-year pros -- forward Adam Morrison and guard Shannon Brown.

Neither Brown nor Morrison, the third pick in the 2006 draft, figure to get significant playing time in the near future, though the Lakers hope they can eventually contribute to an already deep batch of reserves.

They will undergo physical exams in Los Angeles on Monday morning and could be activated Tuesday against Oklahoma City.

Radmanovic started 28 games this season and all 21 for the Lakers in last season's playoffs, though he could never shake his overall inconsistent play. He is ninth in the league in three-point accuracy (44.1%), but a below-average defender and prone to make glaring mistakes with the ball.

Morrison, 24, averaged a respectable 11.8 points a game as a floppy-haired rookie out of Gonzaga but missed the entire 2007-08 season after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in an October 2007 exhibition game against the Lakers.

He has played 44 games this season, including five starts, and averaged 4.5 points and 1.6 rebounds in 15.2 minutes a game.

"He was a prolific scorer in college. After a devastating injury, he really hasn't had a chance to develop as a player yet." Jackson said. "He's a real good spot-up shooter."

Brown, 23, was selected 25th in 2006 out of Michigan State. He averaged 3.2 points as a rookie for Cleveland, spent time with the Cavaliers and Chicago in his second season, and was averaging 4.8 points in 11.4 minutes a game with the Bobcats this season.

"We felt we picked up two players that have upside," Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak said. "We pick up some flexibility down the road with a shortened [financial] commitment . . . "

Radmanovic, 28, had two more years and almost $13.4 million on his contract after this season and figured to have an almost immovable contract. The Lakers, however, were able to strike a deal 12 days before the trade deadline.

Morrison has one more season left on his contract at $5.2 million before becoming a restricted free agent in July 2010. Brown will make almost $800,000 this season before becoming an unrestricted free agent in five months.

Despite saving money by lopping Radmanovic's deal off the books, the Lakers are not expected to be players in the summer 2010 free-agent derby that could include LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. They will still be well over the salary cap, and probably the luxury-tax threshold, and that's without taking into consideration that Trevor Ariza and Lamar Odom will be free agents in July.

Jackson recently said he did not expect the team to make any trades because of their on-court chemistry, but Radmanovic had already been looking in from the outside. He did not play Thursday against Boston and averaged only eight minutes in the previous four games.

Radmanovic was friendly with teammates but grumbled about his playing time. When he was benched after starting the Lakers' first 20 games, he said he wasn't "really happy with it" and "didn't get any heads-up or explanation."

"Vlade was well-liked," Kupchak said. "If he continued not to play, he would have just been more and more unhappy, and then maybe the chemistry side of it doesn't look as good."

Radmanovic found himself in the franchise's doghouse when he came back with a separated shoulder after a snowboarding accident in Utah during the 2007 All-Star break. He initially fibbed about his injury, saying he slipped on a patch of ice while crossing the street in Park City, but eventually came clean and was fined $500,000 by the Lakers while sitting out seven weeks because of the injury.

Saturday's trade increases the Lakers' roster to the league maximum of 15 players, but are they done before the Feb. 19 trade deadline?

"I wouldn't say that I'm out there making a lot of calls," Kupchak said. "We've got the best record in the league right now. We've just had a great road trip and hopefully we can end it really strong [today in Cleveland]. I'm not sure we want to address anything more than continuing to win as many games as possible and hope to get Andrew [Bynum] back. I don't think there's a deal out there that can make us a better team."

Rivers fined

Celtics Coach Doc Rivers was fined $15,000 by the NBA for "verbal abuse of game officials" after the Lakers' 110-109 overtime victory Thursday over Boston.

Rivers said at the time that "the game got out of control . . . and I thought the officials allowed it to get out of control. I just thought it was a chippy game in the second half and it didn't need to be."

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Worst contracts in MLB history

Worst contracts

ESPN.com illustration

    "Make 'em all free agents!"
    -- Former Oakland A's owner Charlie Finley
    "We have the only legal monopoly in the country and we are f---ing it up"
    -- Former Atlanta Braves owner Ted Turner

Ah … the folly of baseball owners and their big piles of cash. Last week we gave you baseball's best free-agent signings ever. We'll be honest: This week's list was much more fun to compile (and so many contracts to choose from!).

But before we give our top-10 list of worst contracts ever, we have some runner-up prizes to hand out.

The Bill Bavasi Memorial Division
During his reign of terror as Mariners GM, Bavasi had an unprecedented run of bad free-agent signings, bad trades and bad draft picks. Kind of like winning the Triple Crown, except the opposite.

Scott Spiezio

Otto Greule Jr./Getty Images

Spiezio should have been arrested for the damage he caused the Mariners with his bat.

Scott Spiezio, 2004: 3 years, $9 million. In Bavasi's first big signing as GM, Spiezio was brought in to play third base. He hit .215 in '04 and then .064 in '05. The Mariners didn't like the trend and figured they'd release him rather than see what came next. (As it turned out, he won a World Series ring with St. Louis. Odd.)

Richie Sexson, 2005: 4 years, $50 million. Big Richie was actually productive in his first two seasons, hitting 73 home runs and driving in 228 runs. But then overnight he turned into the girlfriend who shaves her head, starts smoking three packs a day, quits her job, starts watching reruns of "The Tyra Banks Show" and sleeps with all your co-workers. He hit .205 in '07 while being the 10th-highest-paid player in baseball. He hit .218 in '08 while being the 20th-highest-paid player. No wonder the M's dumped him in August.

Adrian Beltre, 2005: 5 years, $64 million. Beltre hasn't been a bad player with the Mariners, and while he's been durable and provides a good glove, he's also never posted an on-base percentage above .328 or driven in a hundred runs.

Jarrod Washburn, 2006: 4 years, $37.5 million. Washburn had a superficially low 3.20 ERA in 2005, and Bavasi fell for it hook, line and sinker. "There's no question in my mind this team is going to be good," Washburn said when signed. "Jarrod is a proven major league winner who immediately makes us better in the starting rotation," Bavasi said about a pitcher who had won more than 11 games just once. With Seattle, he's never pitched 200 innings, never had an ERA below 4.32 and is 23-43. And no, the Mariners have not been good.

Carl Everett, 2006: 1 year, $3.4 million. He hit .227 with a .297 on-base percentage and was released in July. No dinosaurs, however, were spotted in Safeco during his tenure.

Miguel Batista, 2007: 3 years, $25 million. Batista did win 16 games in '07 despite mediocre peripheral numbers (1.523 WHIP). But he went 4-14 with a 6.26 ERA in '08. Mariners fans can hold out hope that he'll pitch well in 2009. Mariners fans can also hold out hope that time travel exists and they can bring back the 1997 versions of Ken Griffey Jr., Alex Rodriguez and Randy Johnson.

Jeff Weaver, 2007: 1 year, $8.3 million. Opponents hit .315 and slugged .519 off him. You might not believe this, but he didn't pitch in the majors last season.

Carlos Silva, 2008: 4 years, $48 million. Silva is that rare phenomenon: A sinkerball pitcher who also gives up a lot of home runs. Kind of a deadly combo, which explains why he went 4-15 with a 6.46 ERA in '08.

Brad Wilkerson, 2008: 1 year, $3 million. Released after just 19 games.

Kenji Johjima, 2008: 3-year extension, $24 million. While Bavasi's hands might have been forced by the team's Japanese ownership on this one, the signing was curious: It came on April 26, when the 31-year-old catcher was hitting .200 with a .514 OPS. He finished the season at .227 with a .609 OPS. He's signed through 2011. At least Mariners pitchers enjoy throwing to him; oh wait, actually they don't.

Total money spent: $272.2 million. Mariners' cumulative record, 2004-08: 359-451. Quote from Mariners CEO Howard Lincoln after Bavasi was finally fired last June: "Change is in order."

The Tom Hicks Memorial Division
Tom Hicks purchased the Rangers in 1998 and won division titles his first two seasons. Maybe he was lucky. Or maybe he got a lot dumber. They've had just one winning season since.

Mark Clark

Harry How/Getty Images

The only thing crueler than Clark's parents naming him Mark is what he did to Rangers fans.

Mark Clark, 1999: 2 years, $9.3 million. Remember when $9.3 million was a big contract for a back-of-the-rotation starter? The Rangers gave Clark the then-sizable deal despite his going 9-14 with a 4.84 ERA for the Cubs in 1998. Clark battled injuries with Texas and went 6-12 with an 8.37 ERA over two seasons. No, that ERA is not a typo.

Alex Rodriguez, 2001: 10 years, $252 million. A-Rod, of course, was magnificent with the Rangers, crushing 156 home runs and knocking in 395 runs in his three seasons. The Rangers also lost 89, 90 and 91 games those three years, in part because Rodriguez's monster contract hamstrung the team's payroll. But at least the Rangers eventually turned Rodriguez into Soriano and turned Soriano into Brad Wilkerson, Armando Galarraga (who was traded to the Tigers) and Terrmel Sledge … which means, uh, the Rangers have nothing showing on their current roster for Rodriguez.

Ken Caminiti, 2001: 2 years, $9.5 million. Caminiti played just 54 games with the Rangers. So no, that Rodriguez-Caminiti 1-2 punch didn't exactly pan out.

Chan Ho Park, 2002: 5 years, $65 million. Park won 22 games with the Rangers. Over three-plus seasons. Park was one of the 10 highest-paid players in the league from '02 through '05. Park, like Rodriguez, was a Scott Boras client. Which only proves that Scott Boras was a much smarter negotiator than Tom Hicks.

Juan Gonzalez, 2002: 2 years, $24 million. Gonzalez had hit .325 with 140 RBIs for Cleveland in 2001, but it would be his last productive season. He spent much of his two seasons on the DL and hit just 32 home runs. In a TV interview in 2007, Hicks said he suspected Gonzalez had used steroids and that "we just gave that money away."

Mike Modano, 2005: 5 years, $17 million. Oops, wrong sport.

Kevin Millwood, 2006: 5 years, $60 million. "The Rangers finally got the legitimate No. 1 starter they have been seeking," heralded the AP story when Millwood signed. (He had won 18 games combined the previous two seasons, so perhaps it was bit of an exaggeration by the writer.) Millwood's ERAs with Texas: 4.52, 5.16, 5.07. His innings: 215, 172 2/3, 168 2/3.

Michael Young, 2007: 5-year contract extension, $80 million. Young is a very nice player, a five-time All-Star. But there is a trend with his slugging percentage that Captain Edward John Smith could relate to: .513, .459, .418, .402. And the Gold Glove Award that he won in 2008 was so well received by management that he's moving to third base in 2009 (and the Rangers thought they'd never have to pay out that $25,000 Gold Glove bonus!). So now you have a declining offensive player without much power moving to a power position and signed for $16 million a year through 2013.

New York Yankees Memorial Division
Where we would be without the New York Yankees? Having a lot less to poke fun at, that's where.

Dave Collins, 1982: 3 years, $2.5 million. "New Look in New York" read the cover of The Sporting News in April. The Yankees, World Series losers the previous fall, looked to remake their team with speed. Collins had swiped 79 for the Reds two years before. He stole 13 with the Yankees, hit .253 and was traded to the Blue Jays after the season for Dale Murray. Oh, the Yankees also threw in a minor leaguer named Fred McGriff.

Danny Tartabull

Ronald C. Modra/Sports Imagery/Getty Images

Tartabull was one of the many reasons why the Yankees missed the playoffs for 13 years.

Danny Tartabull, 1992: 5 years, $27 million. "Making a dramatic turnaround from their winter-long slumber, the Yankees executed a stunning move late last night, reaching an agreement with Danny Tartabull, the most attractive free agent still available, on a five-year contract worth $27 million," trumpeted The New York Times. Tartabull, the AL's highest-paid player in 1992, was actually productive his first two years before falling off. George Steinbrenner would later attack Tartabull for his lack of production; for his part, when traded, Tartabull said he felt like he'd been "released from jail."

Hideki Irabu, 1997: 4 years, $12.3 million. Hey, 29 wins, a great nickname courtesy of the Boss … and two World Series rings. So why all the complaints, Yankee fans?

Jason Giambi, 2002: 7 years, $120 million. Nowhere near as terrible as widely believed, but two of the seven seasons were washouts, and by the end the team was paying $23 million for a DH with a bad mustache and a very dirty thong.

Carl Pavano, 2005: 4 years, $40 million. Nine wins, 75 strikeouts, 5.00 ERA. Oh, and just a couple inuries (shoulder, elbow, hip, rib and buttocks ... yes, buttocks).

Jaret Wright, 2005: 3 years, $21 million. Sixteen wins over two seasons.

Kyle Farnsworth, 2006: 3 years, $17.5 million. Allowed 28 home runs in 170.3 innings and claimed it was Joe Torre's fault for not knowing how to use him.

Kei Igawa, 2007: 5 years, $46 million (includes $26 million posting fee). Two wins … and counting. So maybe it's too early to write this one off. [Snickering voice coming from background.]


And now, with apologies to many, many other deserving omissions (we mean you, Kevin Brown!), baseball's 10 worst contracts:

10. Wayne Garland, Indians, 1977
The background: Call this one an ode to the early days of free agency. Garland was part of baseball's first free-agent class following the 1976 season. With Baltimore, he had gone 20-7 with a 2.68 ERA in his first season as a starter (rules were different then, and Garland became a free agent even though he'd spent only three years in the majors). For some reason, the Indians figured a 10-year contract was the way to go, even though Garland struck out only 113 batters in 232 innings. (And you wonder why Cleveland went from 1955 through 1994 without a playoff appearance.)

The contract: 10 years, $2.3 million.

The result: The money doesn't match the megadeals of today, but considering Garland did see his salary increase from $19,000 to an average of $230,000 per season, it was still a hefty risk. Garland pitched 282 innings in '77 and completed 21 games, but then shoulder problems set in. He won only 15 games over the final nine years of the contract.

9. Chan Ho Park, Rangers, 2002
See above. Or better yet, don't. Avert your eyes.

Juan Pierre

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Welcome to MLB, where being nice is apparently worth millions of dollars.

8. Juan Pierre, Dodgers, 2007
The background: A singles-hitting center fielder who had compiled an OPS better than league average just once in his career, due to an inability to draw walks or hit for power. But he had led the NL five times in caught stealing.

The contract: Five years, $44 million.

The result: Though Pierre is known as one of the good guys in baseball, the Dodgers nonetheless admitted their own mistake after just one season, as they signed Andruw Jones to play center field in 2008. Oops.

7. Gary Matthews Jr., Angels, 2007
The background: A career fourth-outfielder type, Matthews hit a flukey .313 with the Rangers in 2006, the first time in his career he'd been above .275. He also made one awesome catch that year. The Angels decided to make him the first backup outfielder to earn $10 million per season.

The contract: Five years, $50 million.

The result: Two years with an OPS below league average, and now a place as … the Angels' fourth outfielder.

6. Albert Belle, Orioles
The background: Had destroyed American League pitchers with the Indians and White Sox, averaging 40 home runs while leading the league three times in RBIs during 1992-98. Orioles owner Peter Angelos made the surly slugger the highest-paid player in baseball.

The contract: Five years, $65 million.

The result: Declining numbers and a degenerative hip condition that forced him to retire two years into the contract.

5. Darren Dreifort, Dodgers, 2001
The background: Had three good months for the Dodgers at the end of the 2000 season.

The contract: Five years, $55 million.

The result: Despite only 39 career wins and Dreifort's coming off a season in which he allowed 31 home runs, the Dodgers re-signed him to a megabucks deal in the crazy 2000-01 offseason. He won nine games.

Denny Neagle

Brian Bahr/Getty Images

Denny provided a lot of fans in the bleachers with souvenirs in his playing days.

4. Denny Neagle, Rockies, 2001
The background: Lefty had gone 20-5 and finished third in the Cy Young vote with Atlanta in 1997. But his ERAs had gone from 2.97 to 3.55 to 4.27 to 4.52. Maybe you can spot that trend better than Rockies GM Dan O'Dowd did at the time. Anyway, after signing, Neagle said, "People say I give up a lot of home runs, and I don't think that number is going to change."

The contract: Five years, $51.5 million.

The result: Well, here's a list of file names from the ESPN.com archives:

Neagle's struggles
Neagle demoted
Neagle leaves game
Rockies' Neagle charged with DUI
Neagle operation
Neagle allegedly solicits prostitute
Neagle contract scrapped
Union files Neagle grievance
Neagle pleads not guilty
Rockies, Neagle reach settlement
Neagle pleads guilty

3. Barry Zito, Giants, 2007
The background: The AL's Cy Young winner in 2002, Zito hadn't repeated that season but was regarded as a solid, durable lefty when he became a free agent. The Giants ignored a bad 151/99 SO/BB ratio in 2006 and gave him the richest deal ever for a pitcher.

The contract: Seven years, $126 million.

The result: Thirty losses, ERAs of 4.53 and 5.15, 102 walks last season and only five more years left on the deal!

2. Mo Vaughn, Angels, 1999
The background: Vaughn was one of the AL's top sluggers, coming off a 40-homer, .337 season in '98. But he was 31 years old, sort of what you might describe as "fat," a tombstone at first base, the type of player who wouldn't be expected to age well and who had benefited greatly from a stroke tailored to Fenway Park. Otherwise, his future looked bright.

The contract: Six years, $80 million.

The result: Two decent, non-All-Star seasons with the Angels, a knee injury that wiped out 2001, a trade to the Mets, a new pants size and over $34 million in salary in 2003-04 … when he hit a grand total of three home runs.

1. Mike Hampton, Rockies, 2001
The background: Hampton was a nice pitcher who had gone 37-14 with the Astros and Mets over the previous two seasons. The Rockies figured his ability to induce groundballs would work in Coors Field.

The contract: Eight years, $121 million.

The result: There were warning signs that Hampton had a fine line of success; he had walked 200 batters the previous two seasons. The Rockies must have missed that part of the stat line. He went 14-13 his first season, but with a 5.41 ERA. And it wasn't Coors' fault: Hampton had a 5.10 ERA on the road and allowed 16 home runs in 109 innings. He was just bad. After an even worse 2002 season, the Rockies would swing a deal that relieved them of much of the contract's burden. Hampton ended up battling injuries and won just 56 games over the eight seasons. But the schools in Denver were great and the skiing awesome.

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Pat Summitt gets win 1,000

Tennessee Lady Vols Head Coach Pat Summitt and Nicky Anosike (R) exchange a brief hug and congratulations after winning the Women's NCAA Final Four championship at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio on April 3, 2007.  The Tennessee Lady Vols defeated the Rutgers Scarlet Knights 59-46.  (UPI Photo/ Stephanie Krell)
Tennessee Lady Vols Head Coach Pat Summitt and Nicky Anosike (R) exchange a brief hug and congratulations after winning the Women's NCAA Final Four championship at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio on April 3, 2007. The Tennessee Lady Vols defeated the Rutgers Scarlet Knights 59-46. (UPI Photo/ Stephanie Krell)

Tennessee women's basketball Coach Pat Summitt recorded her 1,000th career victory Thursday night in a 73-43 rout of SEC foe Georgia.

In her 35th year in Knoxville, Summitt is the first coach, man or woman, to reach the 1,000-victory plateau. She did it in her second try this week.

The 17th-ranked Lady Volunteers, whose roster this season features seven freshmen, suffered an 80-70 loss at second-ranked Oklahoma Monday night.

Summitt's career record rose to 1,000-186, and her career milestones include being co-captain during Team USA's silver medal-winning team at the 1976 Olympics; eight national championships, three straight from 1996-98; and an Olympic gold medal in 1984.

"I've been extremely blessed to be your coach," she told a packed, enthusiastic crowd at Thompson-Boling Arena. "We've had a few challenges this year and we may be young, but our plan is to be at the Final Four."

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