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Monday, March 16, 2009

Ken Shamrock Tests Positive For Steroids, Suspended One Year

Posted by Kris Karkoski

Ken Shamrock

Ken Shamrock

The California State Athletic Commission on Wednesday suspended Ken Shamrock for one year after the veteran fighter tested positive for multiple steroids following his first-round submission of Ross Clifton on February 13th in Fresno, California. The win was Shamrock’s first in nearly five years.

Shamrock’s suspension runs until February 1, 2010 and he also faces a $2,500 fine after testing positive for Norandrosterone, Noretiocholanolone, and Stanozolol. Norandrosterone and Noretiocholanolone are metabolites of the commonly used anabolic steroid nandrolone, while Stanozolol is another commonly used performance enhancer.

“The World’s Most Dangerous Man” was slated to square off with former professional wrestler Bobby Lashley in the MMA main event of “March Badness,” a hybrid boxing/MMA event scheduled for March 21st in Pensacola, Florida.

Shamrock has the right to appeal the suspension and will reportedly do so, according to Sherdog, who spoke with his attorney, Rod Donohoo.

“Ken was taking legal over-the-counter products, and based upon our preliminary research, I’m investigating if those products were the result of these findings,” said Donohoo. “Ken is willing to submit to immediate testing in Sacramento to prove his innocence.”

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Defiant Ferguson demands response

Sir Alex Ferguson
Ferguson's side have been beaten twice by Liverpool in the league this season

Sir Alex Ferguson has insisted that Saturday's 4-1 defeat by Liverpool would not halt his side's attempt to retain their Premier League title.

Despite the loss, leaders United still head their Merseyside rivals by four points and with a game in hand.

"It is a hard one to take because I thought we were the better team and the score does not reflect that," he said.

"Now the thing is to respond. It always is at this club - you lose a game and you respond. We always do."

Realistically, we have to win all of our remaining games
Rafa Benitez
Liverpool recorded their biggest win at Old Trafford since 1936, coming from behind to win, with United having Nemanja Vidic sent off after the break for the second time this season against the Anfield side.

Cristiano Ronaldo gave United the lead but Fernando Torres soon levelled and a Steven Gerrard penalty just before the break gave Liverpool the advantage before Fabio Aurelio and Andrea Dossena heaped further misery on the leaders.

"There is no complacency on our part," added Ferguson. "It was a bad day in terms of the goals we lost but I couldn't argue with the quality of play that much," he said.

"One or two players were a little bit short in terms of what we expect of them but I do know the football was good, we kept driving on and they showed good energy, even though we only had two-and-a-half days to prepare for the match."

United legend Sir Bobby Charlton told BBC Radio 5 Live's Sportsweek that the defeat could even help strengthen the champions' resolve through the title run-in.

PHIL MCNULTY BLOG

"There was a little bit of stress because we kept on winning matches. It helps to maybe turn the gas down a little bit, and a lot of pressure has maybe eased. I'm hoping we're going to do better because of this result," he said.

"It wasn't a result that anyone at Manchester United could be proud of, but nevertheless you have to say that Liverpool really played well and they deserved to win."

Charlton backed Ferguson to get his side's defence straight back on track in the next league outing away to Fulham on Saturday.

"He will make sure they get their confidence back. It's a bit of a blow - to lose four goals at home hasn't been done for so many years. There's a bit of pride been hurt there, but I don't think he'll have to work too hard to rejuvenate them.

"Getting to the end of the season, all matches are important. So they'll suffer a little bit on this one and when the next one comes along next week, I'm sure we'll be ready for it."

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Buffalo Bills Acquire Final Piece Of Shit Of The Puzzle


BUFFALO, NY—In a move that will immediately impact a roster that is already full of shit, the Bills added what many believe will be the missing piece of shit to the team's puzzle Saturday by signing world-class shitass Terrell Owens. "With T.O., the Bills get a complete and total shit with the potential to generate more disappointment than anyone in Buffalo could have hoped for," said NFL.com senior analyst Pat Kirwan. "Throw him in with their pile-of-shit offensive line, future Hall of Fame shithead at running back, shitty quarterback, and shit-for-brains coach, and this team has everything in place needed to achieve its shitful potential." According to Bill's front-office dipshits, the team has the tenacity to fight for the full 60 minutes in the huddle, in the locker room, and in local strip club parking lots.

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Crash of speeding Ferrari kills mixed martial arts figure Charles Lewis

Fatal Ferrari crash splits car in two

A Newport Beach police officer surveys wreckage of a Ferrari that split in half after hitting a pole on Jamboree Road. One man was killed, a woman was injured and another man was arrested in connection with the crash.
A passenger is injured and the other driver is in jail on charges of DUI. Police say men may have been racing.

By Christine Hanley and Lance Pugmire

He was a former lawman who called himself "Mask" and advocated a hold-nothing-back lifestyle that helped transform mixed martial arts fighting into a craze and turned his own fighting apparel company into a multimillion-dollar business.

Before dawn Wednesday on a long, straight stretch of road in Newport Beach, Charles Lewis was killed when his red Ferrari collided with a white Porsche in an accident so violent that the red sports car was ripped in half and his female passenger was hurled into the street.

Police said the two cars appeared to have been traveling side by side at a high rate of speed at 12:57 a.m. on Jamboree Road near the Upper Newport Bay when they collided. Officers said they are investigating whether the drivers were racing.

The Porsche driver, identified as Jeffrey David Kirby, 51, of Costa Mesa, was arrested after allegedly abandoning his car on a side street near the collision and taking off on foot with his female passenger. Kirby is being held on suspicion of felony drunk driving and driving under the influence. Bail is set at $2 million.

Kirby's passenger, Lynn Marie Nabozny, 32, of Newport Beach, was arrested for public intoxication and later released. The motion picture database imdb.com lists a Lynn Marie Nabozny as having acted in the 1997 television series "The Heartbreak Cafe."

Lewis' passenger remained in critical condition at Western Medical Center in Santa Ana.

Before he broke into the mixed martial arts scene, Lewis, 45, was a San Bernardino County sheriff's deputy who worked at the Central Detention Center in downtown San Bernardino from December 1996 to May 1998.

The Ferrari had "confidential plates" registered with the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department because Lewis was a former deputy.

According to Orange County Superior Court records, Kirby has been cited for at least eight traffic violations since 2001, including a conviction for driving under the influence in which he was sentenced to three years' probation.

In the 2001 drunk driving arrest, Kirby allegedly told the arresting officer that his father was a retired CHP patrolman who always advised him to never submit to a sobriety test. He also told the officer that "he shouldn't be picking on people with money," according to the police report.

At TapouT offices in San Bernardino County, the secretary who answered the phone was in tears. The company's Web page was updated during the day to acknowledge the death of "our beloved friend, brother and co-founder."

TapouT spokesman Adam Feigen said Lewis and co-founder Dan "Punkass" Caldwell started TapouT in 1997, selling T-shirts out of the trunks of their cars at mixed martial arts shows to earn gas money. Fight promoter T. Jay Thompson recalled having to pick up hotel costs for the two men so they could sell their shirts at the shows.

As mixed martial arts exploded in recent years, TapouT became the apparel of choice for many fighters. TapouT was the exclusive apparel used in the Ultimate Fighting Championship's popular reality fighting television series on Spike TV, "The Ultimate Fighter."

"Everyone's going to miss him," said Ultimate Fighting superstar Chuck Liddell, who said he was looking forward to seeing Lewis at his upcoming fight next month in Montreal. "He had a great personality and he was at all the shows."

Lewis' infectious personality was captured for two seasons on the Versus reality show, "TapouT," in which Lewis and his partners traveled the country seeking mixed martial art's next star. A third season was about to begin filming.

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NCAA Tournament's Forgotten Stars: Where Are They Now?

El-Amin was the toast of Storrs during his tenure for UConn, but his game struggled to translate to the NBA.


1989 – Rumeal Robinson (Michigan)
Pre-Fab Five, Steve Fisher took over mid-season to lead his team to his own National Title. Robinson was the consummate point guard, and hit the clinching free throws to beat Seton Hall in the finals. What happened to him? Robinson was taken with the 10th pick in the 1990 draft, but was nothing more than a journeyman in the NBA. He now is a real estate developer and an advocate for restoring the Michigan basketball program after the Ed Martin scandal.



1990 – Anderson Hunt (UNLV) Nevada-Las Vegas was one of the best teams ever assembled on a college floor. They had Larry Johnson, Stacey Augmon, Greg Anthony and Hunt who could beat you on any given night. However, out of all the stars on that team, Hunt won the Most Outstanding Player award after a 103-73 thumping of Duke in the finals. He would be a key component of the 1991 Final Four team as well. What happened to him? As the only underclassmen in the starting lineup in 1991, he decided to leave school a year early. Despite dominating at the college level, he was the only starter to go undrafted in the NBA. He played overseas for a few years, but the little headlines he has made since have been mostly negative.



1991 – Greg Koubek (Duke) Koubek became the first player in NCAA history to play in four Final Fours. He never possessed much individual talent, but was one of the first great system players for Coach K. What happened to him? He founded the Greg Koubek Basketball Camp Inc. soon after graduation with his brother Tim in upstate New York.



1992 – Bobby Hurley (Duke)
One of the greatest point guards in college basketball history was a mainstay on three straight finals teams. His sophomore year, he played every minute of the Final Four, and in his junior year he took home Most Outstanding Player honors. He left Duke as the NCAA all-time assists leader. What happened to him? Early into his NBA career, he was involved in a car accident after a game for the Kings that pretty much ended his career. He made a few comebacks, but was never the same player Sacramento thought they drafted with the 7th overall pick. These days, he owned Devil Eleven Stables as a thoroughbred racing fan, as well pursuing his aspirations to coach basketball in the near future.



1993 – Donald Williams (North Carolina) Most basketball fans remember the 1993 NCAA Championship more for the Chris Webber timeout blunder, but Williams was great in other ways in that game. He hit five three-pointers on his way to 25 points and Most Outstanding Player honors. What happened to him? Williams was another one of those tweeners, never playing in the NBA put in numurous places overseas. After officially ending his playing career, Williams now coaches the varsity girls basketball coach at Raleigh Charter High School in Raleigh.



1994 – Scotty Thurman (Arkansas) The Razorbacks' run to back-to-back title games were led by Corliss Williamson and Thurman, the outstanding guard who could do everything. His huge three in the final minute of the '94 title game against Duke will forever be remembered in the state of Arkansas. Whatever happened to him? After 1995, Thurman was the victim of bad advice. He declared for the NBA draft with those around him saying he was guaranteed a first-round pick. He never was drafted nor stepped foot in the NBA, settling for a career in other countries. These days, he is employed in contruction back in Little Rock, as well as coaching AAU basketball.



1995 – Ed and Charles O’Bannon (UCLA) I had to pair the O'Bannon brothers together, although you could basically say this whole team seemingly disappeared as fast as Jim Harrick was out of coaching. J.R. Henderson? Tyus Edney? Toby Bailey? George Zidek? Cameron Dollar? These guys all teamed up to bring UCLA their first title in 20 years, and the O'Bannon brothers headlined the front court. What happened to them? Ed was too much of a tweener and had too many injuries to ever really produce in the NBA, despite being a lottery pick. After a few years in various countries, he called it a career. He went back to finish his degree (at UNLV), and now sells cars in Nevada. Charles was also drafted, although just a 2nd round pick by the Pistons. He played two seasons in the NBA. He currently is the leading scorer in the Japanese Basketball League for Toyota Alvark.



1996 – Jeff Sheppard (Kentucky) From 1996-1998, no team in NCAA basketball was better than Kentucky. Sheppard was on both title teams, and while his best tournament might have been 1998, he was a solid four year player for the Wildcats. What happened to him? He played a total of 18 games in the NBA before making a living overseas. He officially called his basketball career after 9/11. In 2003, he and his wife Stacey started a clothing company called 15inc., which sells corporate and sports apparel with custom logos. He also is a sales director for WazooSports.com, a site dedicated to live high school sports broadcasts in Kentucky.




1997 – Miles Simon (Arizona) The backcourt of Mike Bibby and Simon proved to be the only recipe to prevent a 3-peat for Kentucky. What happened to him? Playing briefly for the Magic, he made his professional name in the CBA. In the 2001-2002 season for the Dakota Wizards, he was the CBA Rookie of the Year, MVP and Playoff MVP. He returned to Arizona in 2005 to become part of Lute Olson's staff, but his contract was not renewed after the 2007-2008 season.




1998 – Wayne Turner (Kentucky)
Turner left Kentucky in 1998 with the aforementioned Sheppard as a two-time NCAA champion. The point guard also became the NCAA leader in total games played. What happened to him? A short stint for the Celtics was all Turner could get in the NBA. He played one year for the Harlem Globtrotters before spending quite a few years in Australia to play. These days, he is back in Kentucky playing for the East Kentucky Miners of the CBA.



1999 – Khalid El-Amin (UConn) Who could forget the face of the Huskies back in '99? He yelled into the camera that they "shocked the world" by beating Duke, but the husky Husky had a pretty good team as well. What happened to him? Citing financial issues at home, El-Amin shockingly entered into the NBA draft after his junior year. Although he did play in the 200 Rookie All-Star game, he only appeared in 50 total game in the association. He's had quite a few successful years overseas, particularly in the Turkish League. He currently plays for Azovmash in the Ukraine League.



2000 – Mateen Cleaves (Michigan State)
A throwback point guard, he quarterbacked the Spartans to their first title since Magic Johnson was there. His college career was pretty remarkable. He was a 3-time All-American, as well as being named the Big Ten Player of the Year twice. His small size and lack of a jump shot made people wonder about his NBA future though. What happened to him? Those doubts ended up being true. He was a lottery pick after graduation, but never became any type of NBA threat. After bouncing around four NBA teams, he now plays in the Development League with the Bakersfield Jam.



2001 – Jason Williams (Duke) Back when he was known as Jason, the do-everything point guard dominated college basketball. He was also one of the first players to leave early, but still graduate in the three years in Durham. What happened to him? The similarities between Hurley's career and Williams' are eerily similar. After a pretty decent rookie season, Williams almost lost his life in the summer of 2003 in a motorcycle accident. The injuries he suffered made many wonder if he would ever return to basketball, and the Bulls eventually bought him out of his contract. He made a brief comeback attempt with the Nets and in the Development League, but has now called it quits on playing. He now serves as an analyst during college basketball broadcasts for ESPN.



2002 – Lonny Baxter (Maryland) Baxter was one of the mainstays for the great Maryland teams in the early '00s. He twice earned Regional MVPs in the tournament. What happened to him? Baxter played briefly and sparingly for a handful of teams in the NBA until 2006. In August of that year, he was arrested for firing a gun in the air near the White House. He served jail time for pleading guilty to possession of an unregistered firearm and unregistered ammunition charges. He also is still currently in the middle of a 2-year supervised release for shipping firearms without properly notifying FedEx.



2003 – Gerry McNamara (Syracuse) Everyone remembers Carmelo Anthony, but McNamara was the other super freshman who helped lead the Orange to the title. He hit 6 threes in the first half of the title game against Kansas, and was named to the all-tournament team. Later on as a senior, he took a below .500 Orange team to the Big East Tournament Title, cementing his legacy. What happened to him? Going undrafted in the NBA out of college, he has never played a minute in the NBA. He has continued his play both abroad and in the minor leagues. He was playing most recently for the Reno Bighorns of the NBDL, but was waived for personal reasons a week ago.



2004 – Rashad Anderson (Connecticut) The clutch sharp-shooter from deep was always overlooked in the shadows of Emeka Okafor and Ben Gordon, but he still played an intergral part in their championship run. He had 28 in the regional final against Alabama, and 18 in the title game against Georgia Tech. What happened to him? Another player with great numbers could not find a NBA team interested in him. He currently plays for TDShop.It Livorno in the Serie A2 Italian League.



2005 – Jackie Manuel (North Carolina) A tri-captain for the 2005 team, Manuel was a defensive specialist and the key senior for the Tar Heels. What happened to him? Manuel saw a lot of his underclassmen teammates drafted, but his name was never called. He has played primarily in the NBDL, receiving only one invite from the Celtics to training camp before being waived. He plays for the Erie Bayhawks currently.



2006 – Taurean Green (Florida) Green was the point guard for the talented 2004 recruiting class for the Gators. What happened to him? The Blazers took him late in the 2nd round of the 2007 draft. He went back and forth between the NBDL and NBA before being traded to the Nuggets near the trade deadline for Von Wafer. That summer, he was once again traded to the Knicks, who promptly waived him the next day. He currently plays for CAI Zaragoza in the Spanish ACB.



2007 – Lee Humphrey (Florida)
Out of the five starters for Florida during their back-to-back championships, it was easy to forget Humphrey. He was the only one not to be drafted, and was also the only senior in 2007 out of them. He owns the record for most 3-pointers in NCAA tournament history, and scored 14 in the championship against Ohio State his senior year. He was also a first team Academic All-American. What happened to him? Despite not being drafted, he did get an invite to the Wizards summer league before being cut. He now plays for Ratiopharm Ulm in the first German Division.



2008 – Russell Robinson (Kansas) Known as the glue for the Jayhawks, Robinson controlled the ball and played tenacious defense in their championship run last year. What happened to him? He currently plays for the Reno Bighorns, hoping to catch the eye of a NBA team to call him up from the Development League.



By Daniel Utts

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The 2009 All-Clean Team (We Think)

As we enter the 2009 Major League Baseball season, many baseball fans do so with a renewed sense of hope in their team. Some enter it with the same cynicism that this year will be just as bad as the last, or even worse. Some fans are also disenchanted over the steroid and drug scandal surrounding the game and are either so thoroughly disgusted they’ve stopped watching, or don’t believe anything they see can ever be achieved cleanly again.

In cooperation with some of the other brilliant minds at FanIQ, here is our projected “All-Clean Team” for 2009. These are all players projected to be starting on an active MLB roster this season. They are all superstars or stars-in-the-making. Most importantly, they all came up in the system under the current drug-testing program, so we are (fairly) certain they are not among those who have or are still using steroids, HGH, or other performance-enhancing drugs.

Please keep in mind if your favorite player isn’t on here, we are not suggesting he’s on the juice. This is simply a team of talented young players to watch for 2009 that you can feel good about rooting for, as their performance should be genuine.


Tim Lincecum, San Francisco Giants – RHP #55
Age: 24 (Will turn 25 on June 15) - Ht: 5-11 - Wt: 170 - Bats: Left - Throws: Right
2008 Season: 18-5, 2.62 ERA, 265 K, 1.17 WHIP

Tim Lincecum is a certified stud pitcher and showed it with a 2008 campaign that saw him earn a spot on the All-Star team and win the NL Cy Young award in just his second MLB season. His league-leading 265 strikeouts and .221 opposing batting average over 227 innings was a huge bright spot for an otherwise disappointing year for the Giants. Lincecum's deceptive delivery, excellent fastball, and filthy changeup make for a long day for opposing hitters. There is also talk that he is working in a slider for 2009. With the addition of first-ballot future Hall-of-Famer Randy Johnson to the Giants roster, Lincecum may find a mentor in the five-time Cy Young award winner. The Big Unit has a pretty wicked slide piece himself.

With the disappointing start to Barry Zito’s career in a Giants uniform, it appears they still may have found their ace in Lincecum. Assuming he is healthy, the amount of hardware this kid may have in his trophy case when all is said and done could be staggering.


Cole Hamels, Philadelphia Phillies – RHP #35
Age: 25 - Ht: 6-3 - Wt: 192 - Bats/Throws: Left
2008 Season: 14-10, 3.09 ERA, 196K, 1.08 WHIP

Hamels, the 2008 NLCS and World Series MVP, worked 227.1 innings and improved his strikeouts by 19 and lowered both his ERA and opposing batting average considerably over the 2007 season. His effort in the World Series against a white-hot, made-for-Cinderella-story Tampa Bay Rays team was nothing short of spectacular. Hamels won two games in the Series, going 4-0 for the entire preseason with an ERA under 2.

The big lefty brings a traditional fastball/curveball/changeup repertoire to the mound. His over-the-top delivery and mid-90’s heat can give opposing hitters fits. Right-handed hitters hit just .215 against him in 2008. Lefties had a better season against Hamels, touching him up for a .262 average.

The Phillies locked up Hamels with a 3-year, $20.5 million contract that was signed just before spring training began. He will be the clear ace in a projected rotation of Hamels, Brett Myers, Joe Blanton, the ageless Jamie Moyer and young right-hander Kyle Kendrick. He does have a history of arm-related injuries and 2008 marked the first year he did not spend time on the disabled list. When Cole Hamels is healthy, he’s one of the best left-handed starters available. The question will be if his good health will continue in 2009.


CL – Huston Street, Colorado Rockies – RHP #16
Age: 25 (Will turn 26 on August 2) - Ht: 6-0 - Wt: 200 - Bats/Throws: Right
2008 Season (with Oakland): 7-5, 18 Saves, 3.73 ERA, 69K, 1.21 WHIP

A lot of people might not remember that Huston Street won the 2005 AL Rookie of the Year in Oakland in 2005. Street was traded in November 2008 to Colorado as part of the deal that brought Matt Holliday to Oakland. After 60 saves over his first two seasons, Street has been plagued with injuries; managing only 16 and 18 saves for 2007 and 2008 respectively. An injured hip flexor healed in September and Street managed a nice finish to his 2008 campaign, which probably increased his trade value to get Holliday.

Street is projected to battle Manny Corpas for the closer role, but most experts agree he’ll get the job barring injury as Corpas and his 4.52 2008 ERA isn’t very impressive. If Street can stay off the DL, he still has the ability to save 30 or more for the Rockies in 2009. I’m not sure what the rest of the team is going to look like, but Street appears to be healthy for the first time in going on three seasons, and is expected to return to his 2005-06 form.


Catcher: Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins - #7

Age: 25 (Will turn 26 on April 19) - Ht: 6-5 - Wt: 225 - Bats: Left - Throws: Right
2008 Season: .328 AVG, 9 HR, 85 RBI, .413 OBP

It would figure that I choose Mauer for this spot and then a report comes out today that he may begin 2009 on the disabled list due to surgery complications.

Mauer is the best offensive catcher since Mike Piazza. In fact, besides the career home runs, he’s better. Mauer is a career .317 hitter, two-time All-Star, batting champion, and Silver Slugger award winner. He also collected his first gold glove in 2008 AND finished fourth in the All-Star MVP balloting. He’s an absolute beast at his position, and he plays 81 home games in one of the worst ballparks in the league. This is the type of player you can make the face of your franchise or your league.

Hopefully Mauer’s complications are minimal and he will be healthy and able to play soon. He is a rising star in MLB and with the Twins opening a new yard in 2010, this is the kind of player you want to build a franchise around and get that ballpark filled. Memo to the Twins front office: lock this guy up for as long as you possibly can. He’s going to do a lot of great things before his career is over.


First Baseman: Prince Fielder, Milwaukee Brewers - #28

Age: 24 (Will turn 25 on May 9) - Ht: 5-11 - Wt: 268 - Bats: Left - Throws: Right
2008 Season: .276 AVG, 34 HR, 102 RBI, .372 OBP

Prince is the biggest vegetarian I’ve seen since Forrest Whitaker, but whatever. Big man can swing the stick. I don’t know if Fielder is really 268 pounds, but I do know the guy can flat-out rake. He’s already the youngest to ever hit 50 home runs and has established himself as the de-facto leader of a Brewers team full of potential young stars like J.J. Hardy, Ryan Braun, Rickie Weeks, and Tony Gwynn, Jr. Like most big, power-hitting first basemen, Fielder is a liability in the field and led the league in errors in 2007 with 14, and committing 17 more in 2008. If he ever catches on in the American League as a DH, I fear for the safety of opposing pitchers.

One question about Prince Fielder will be how his change to a strict vegan diet will affect his conditioning and power. He has only been practicing this dietary change since the start of the 2008 season. Another question will be about his maturity. After a dust-up with a teammate in August of last year, it will be interesting to see how he has grown as a player and as a leader in the clubhouse. Fielder signed a two-year, $18 million contract in January, so he’ll be swinging for the fences in Milwaukee for at least that long. Can he lead the Brew Crew to the postseason again?


Second Baseman: Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox - #15
Age: 25 (Will turn 26 on August 17) - Ht: 5-9 - Wt: 180 - Bats/Throws: Right
2008 Season: .326 AVG, 17 HR, 83 RBI, .376 OBP

I believe Pedroia to be 5-9 about as much as I believe Prince Fielder weighs 268 pounds. Regardless, the bite-sized terror has brought home armfuls of hardware in his first two seasons in the majors. The 2007 Rookie of the Year also added a World Series ring to his trophy case, and in 2008, the man they called “Pedroia the Destroyah” in Boston completely blew up. Even in the face of Manny Ramirez leaving for Los Angeles and David Ortiz contending with an injured wrist and surgery during the season, Pedroia almost single-handedly kept the Red Sox in post-season contention. Because of this, he was awarded an All-Star selection, a Gold Glove for his slick work with the leather at second, and finally the 2008 American League MVP.

Pedroia, who was once told he was too small for baseball, draws parallels to another legendary Red Sox player, Dominic DiMaggio. The Little Professor was also “listed” at 5-9 and went on to make seven All-Star teams. He did not, however, win an MVP award. Fans, you may be looking at the best defensive second baseman since Roberto Alomar and the best offensive second baseman since Ryne Sandberg. Dustin Pedroia has the talent, the heart and competitive fire that is often missing from this game.

After the season, he quickly agreed to a six-year, $40.5 million contract with Boston, with a team option for 2015, assuring that second base is the most stable it has been since Jerry Remy played there.


Third Baseman: Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays - #3

Age: 23 - Ht: 6-2 - Wt: 210 - Bats/Throws: Right
2008 Season: .272 AVG, 27 HR, 85 RBI, .343 OBP

The legend surrounding Evan Longoria has been spun since his time as a college player at Long Beach State and his semi-pro summer games in the storied Cape Cod League. Very few prospects of Longoria’s caliber truly live up to the hype, but in this case, he has been just as good as advertised.

Longoria was called up in early April, 2008 when Willy Aybar went down with an injury and despite going on the DL on August 11 with a broken wrist, he was unanimously voted as the American League Rookie of the Year. Nobody has been chosen unanimously since Nomar Garciaparra won the honor in 1997. Longoria was also essential to the Tampa Bay Rays’ improbable post-season run to their first-ever World Series appearance. Returning from injury, Longoria hit six home runs and drove in thirteen, leading the Rays to beat two powerhouse teams in the Chicago White Sox and Boston Red Sox to reach the World Series, where they eventually fell to Philadelphia in five games.

In April of 2008, the Rays made a very smart move, signing Longoria to a six-year $17.5 million contract with three option years. This keeps much of the Rays’ young nucleus together and should assure some very competitive baseball in Tampa after many years of 100-loss seasons and futile efforts to win.


Shortstop: Jose Reyes, New York Mets - #7

Age: 25 (Will turn 26 on June 11) - Ht: 6-1 - Wt: 200 - Bats: Switch - Throws: Right
2008 Season: .297 AVG, 16 HR, 68 RBI, .358 OBP, 56 SB

Where base running, the triple and the stolen base have become a dying era in the current age of professional baseball, it is alive and well in the National League. One of the best to play the “small ball” game is Jose Reyes. In five seasons, he is already the Mets’ all-time career leader in stolen bases and triples. He has led the NL in those categories in three of the last four seasons. Reyes is more than just a slap-hitting, speedy leadoff man though. He can hit the long ball as needed, with respectable leadoff totals of 19, 12, and 16 dingers his last three seasons.

Reyes is a fan favorite and a dynamic and exciting player for New York. Combined with 3B David Wright, they might be the best 3B/SS combination in baseball. The one criticism of Reyes is his effort and maturity. He has had a history of losing focus when the Mets are doing poorly and not running out ground balls or being silly in the dugout when the situation isn’t appropriate. Reyes made a commitment to work on this in 2008 and it seems he has grown out of much of these antics. He is still a very charismatic player who has fun in the dugout, but the tantrums, sulking, and defeatist style of play has seemed to disappear.

The sky is the limit for Jose Reyes. He has all the tools to become a Hall of Fame caliber player. He is beloved by the Mets faithful and is celebrated by the strong Latin American population in the borough of Queens, which I saw firsthand. He will no doubt bring the love-fest from Shea Stadium across the parking lot to shiny new Citi Field in 2009.


Outfield: Hunter Pence, Houston Astros - #9

Age: 25 (Will turn 26 April 13) - Ht: 6-4 - Wt: 210 - Bats/Throws: Right
2008 Season: .269 AVG, 25 HR, 83 RBI, .318 OBP

The big Texan out-performed his 2007 rookie campaign with more home runs and RBI, but his average dropped sharply from .322 to .269 in 2008. Pence finished second or third behind Ryan Braun in the voting for just about every single rookie award available in 2007, and hopes remain high for the outfielder who now enters his third season.

What was very impressive about the kid was that he played some Gold Glove-caliber defense in 2008, earning a .997 fielding percentage with only one error in 154 games and 357 total chances in Right Field for the Astros. If Pence can exercise some plate discipline, he could have a strong 2009.


Outfield: Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers - #27
Age: 24 (Will turn 25 September 27) - Ht: 6-2 - Wt: 230 - Bats/Throws: Right
2008 Season: .290 AVG, 18 HR, 76 RBI, .340 OPS, 35 SB

Matt Kemp is a machine, and it won’t be long before he adds a 30-30 or maybe even a 40-40 season to his resume. He’s the kind of guy that you could feel comfortable batting leadoff or cleanup, depending on the situation. He’s built like an NFL wide receiver and runs like one too. Kemp has some pop in his bat and is very fast on the base paths. I fear for the catcher who has to block home plate with this big guy bearing down from third. He’s also strong in the field as well, committing just two errors in the outfield last season.

As 2009 is essentially Matt Kemp’s first as a full-time starting outfielder for the Dodgers, it will be interesting to see what he does with the extra at-bat opportunities. If he can stay healthy, I think a 20-20 season is almost guaranteed at this point. He reminds me of Garrett Anderson but with more steals. I believe Kemp will be an essential piece to any hopes the Dodgers have of making the playoffs again.


Outfield: Grady Sizemore, Cleveland Indians - #24

Age: 26 (Will turn 27 on August 2) - Ht: 6-2 - Wt: 200 - Bats/Throws: Left
2008 Season: .268 AVG, 33 HR, 90 RBI, .374 OBP, 38 SB

Alright, maybe the phrase “five-tool player” is often overused, but if there is ANY guy it describes, it’s Grady Sizemore. He’s already a three-time All-Star and two-time Gold Glove Award winner, along with the 2008 Silver Slugger Award. On top of that, he joined the 30-30 club in 2008, hitting 33 HR and stealing 38 bases. In the field, he has as many errors as years of MLB service. Five. This includes just one error in 386 total chances in center field in 2008. Much like Matt Kemp, he is an excellent composition of power and speed. I had an opportunity to see Sizemore play in Boston against the Red Sox on Memorial Day two years ago. He is definitely one of the next generation of players worth paying admission to see.

Much like Joe Mauer, Grady Sizemore is the type of player that could represent a "new MLB" trying to get away from the negativity of the last ten years or so. He is a young, talented player with a strong work ethic and a clean off-field reputation. He represents the diverse cuture of the game as the son of an African-American father and a Caucasian mother. He's the type of player that fans of any age, background, or generation could respect and appreciate.


Designated Hitter: Billy Butler, Kansas City Royals - #16
Age: 22 (Will turn 23 on April 18) - Ht: 6-1 - Wt: 240 - Bats/Throws: Right
2008 Season: .275 AVG, 11 HR, 55 RBI, .324 OBP

This was initially meant as a joke. I didn’t know much about Butler until I saw him on TV during a game last season. He had to have one of the worst physiques I have ever seen on a baseball player. I figured he was just some big .210 hitting goon the Royals found in the minors to try and replace some of the power they lost when Mike Sweeney finally got out of there. I was curious, so I read up on him. Butler was a first-round pick and MVP of the 2006 All-Star Futures game. I wasn’t seeing it.

I saw this kid who had a uniform on that looked a size or two too small, and on top of that he was fat. Not even like the still kind of intimidating, NFL lineman kind of fat where it’s a big, broad-shouldered guy with a gut, but the lumpy, awkward kind where he looked like he was shot out of a soft-serve machine.

Then, I saw him hit.

Butler is probably going to be this generation’s Gorman Thomas or maybe a poor man’s, right-handed Adam Dunn. He is a straight-up destroyer of left-handed pitching. In 443 at-bats last year, he hit right-handers at a .244 clip with 3 homers, but feasted on lefties for a .340 average and 8 bombs.

Apparently the big fella has employed a personal trainer in the off-season, has cut about 15 pounds and aims to gain some agility in the field when he plays first base. A 22-year old right-handed slugger at about 225 pounds sounds pretty dangerous to me. If the weight loss translates to some extra bat speed to get around on those right-handers, Butler could be a very pleasant surprise for Royals fans.

All of these players are worth watching and should entertain Major League Baseball fans for at least the next ten years or more. My hope is with the existing drug testing policy that these guys will remain clean and that their achievements will be reached honorably and without controversy or accusations of wrongdoing.

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Mets Use Tours as Lure to Sell Tickets to Citi Field

Yana Paskova for The New York Times

The unsettled economy has had an effect on the Mets’ ticket sales at Citi Field.

By KEN BELSON

With just a month to go before the first regular-season game at Citi Field, the Mets are doing all they can to sign up season-ticket holders, including offering prospective customers tours of the stadium.

Thus far, a healthy number of fans seem willing to visit the unfinished park to look at seats. It is unclear, though, how many of them are committing to ticket plans, particularly in the most expensive sections.

On Wednesday afternoon, tours were running a half-hour late because the team did not have enough hard hats for visitors to wear. About two dozen fans, some wearing team jerseys and hats, were left to mill around a third-floor lobby.

Groups of about six customers were eventually led to the Caesars Club. The room was set up for a presentation to bartenders and food-service workers who were going to see a slide show that included one slide on “the benefits of serving food fast.”

Ticket agents were friendly, but not pushy. They took fans to whatever sections they wanted to see and did not ask for any commitments at the end of the tour. One guide was reluctant to say how much a luxury suite cost on a per-game basis.

A reporter on one tour saw many groups visiting the upper deck, and a few in the middle decks and outfield sections, but none in the more expensive lower bowl. The search for cheaper seats is consistent with the sale of single-game tickets on Mets.com for games in April and May. For games against the Nationals in April, there are plenty of field-level seats for $180 and a sprinkling of upper-deck outfield seats for $15, but fewer in between.

“We’ve been saying that price is certainly an issue, and our customers are shopping price, and that is attributable to the economy,” said Dave Howard, the team’s executive vice president for business operations.

The Mets are not alone in trying to find buyers for their expensive seats. The Yankees hired a division of a Manhattan residential real estate brokerage, Prudential Douglas Elliman, to help sell some of their unsold premium seats and luxury boxes at the new Yankee Stadium. Those seats cost $350 to $2,500 a game.

The Mets sold out their two exhibition games with the Boston Red Sox in less than an hour. Another baseball game between St. John’s and Georgetown, with tickets at $5 each, sold out as quickly.

The Mets have sold the equivalent of nearly 25,000 full season-ticket packages and another 500,000 tickets in partial packages, about 70 percent of available seats. The Saturday and weekday 15-game packages are sold out, and the Sunday packages are nearly gone.

Seats in the Sterling Level and Field Level run as high as $18,325 each for a season ticket. The cheapest season tickets on the field level are $4,080. The Excelsior Level one deck above starts at $3,264 a seat and runs as high as $14,275 a seat.

In the lobby, the former Mets first baseman Ed Kranepool was seen talking with a receptionist. Asked if he expected his number to be retired some day, he said with a chuckle that because it was not retired at Shea Stadium, where he played from 1964 until 1979, there was no reason to expect it would happen in the Mets’ new home.

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Yankees' Backup 3rd Baseman Woken Up


TAMPA, FL—His team lacking a third baseman for Tuesday's Grapefruit League game against the Reds, the Yankees' Derek Jeter reluctantly awoke backup third baseman Cody Ransom, who until that point had been sleeping peacefully at the far end of the dugout. "Hey, buddy. Hey, time to get up," Jeter whispered to Ransom, who had slept in the same spot every day since spring training began. When the journeyman responded by mumbling incoherently and readjusting the glove he was using as a pillow, Jeter was forced to take a firmer but still gentle tone, telling Ransom that "today is a big day for you" and that "we need you out in the field to pick up all the grounders and bat ninth and everything, okay, big guy?" Ransom responded by stretching deeply, opening one eye, and asking Jeter what day it was and why everyone looked so worried.

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