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23 posts from August 2008

August 20, 2008

Marlin pitches complete game. No, seriously!

Aaa1nolasco      Beyond view of most of South Florida, around 1 a.m. this morning, Marlins pitcher Ricky Nolasco finished a complete game in a 6-0 victory at San Francisco. I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't stayed up to watch 'til the end.

     It was a 2-hit, 11-strikeout gem. It would have been a no-hitter into the ninth if not for a cheap first inning hit that actually was an error by first baseman Mike (Where Grounders Go to Enjoy a Second Chance) Jacobs. But that's beside the point. It was the Marlins' first complete game after a major league-record 301 consecutive starts without one.

     There was manager Fredi (Hook) Gonzalez, blessedly staying seated in the dugout. There was setup guy Renyel (Blowing Up Like a 1971 Ford) Pinto, blessedly not hearing a phone ring in the bullpen. There was Kevin (Crapshoot) Gregg, blessedly not even close to closing.

     Can I get a bleepin' hallelujah!

     [Personal note: My buddy Le Batard and his 790 The Ticket crew are hosting another night at Dania Jai-Alai tonight from around 7-10 p.m. I'm going to try to swing by. They are collecting canned goods for a food drive, so help out if you can].

August 19, 2008

Football Wars: NFL vs. College (with poll)

     One of the perks of being a sports writer -- along with low pay, impossible deadlines, uncooperative athletes, reader disdain and a crumbling industry -- is that people mail you books without you asking. One such is Saturday Rules by Austin Murphy, subtitled, "Why college football outpasses, outclasses and flat-out surpasses the NFL."

     I don't buy the premise any more than I bought the book. While liking both brands, I prefer the pro game, which, if you think about it, is college football grown up, with all the lesser players weeded out and only the best still playing. You can have the brass bands and the live buffalo crapping on the sideline. I'll take the more competitive game and leave all those 38-point spreads to the kids.

     So how about you, sporties? I know most of you probably like both, but what if you had to choose? Saturday or Sunday? Canes or Dolphins? NCAA or NFL? (Hey nobody said life was easy).

     Partake of The Not Quite Daily Poll and drop off a comment of explanation. And here's a challenge: Make your case for college or pro in one sentence. Dare ya!

     [Postscript: Not sure if this was a wise business venture by me. Am trying to unload 100,000 "I SURVIVED FAY!" T-shirts].

August 18, 2008

Sick of all you Hurricane Wimps

Aaa1fay     (Sorry to disappoint you, Gator fans, but this blog post has nothing to do with the Miami Hurricanes).

     So I'm in my local Publix on Saturday -- when there is not the slightest indication of likelihood that Tropical Storm Fay will either become a big hurricane or strike South Florida -- and I notice the supply of "D" batteries is being ravaged by panic-stricken shoppers. The bread shelf is depleted, Ramen noodles are scarce, and 24-packs of bottled water have disappeared.

Aaa1panic3 Aaa1panic2      Yesterday Miami-Dade and then (falling in line like sheep) Broward said no to the opening of the school year today -- for no good reason whatsoever. Even if the worst happened, Tuesday would have been the day to close schools, not today, but local government has come to run scared at every gathering storm, overreacting egregiously while local meteorologists overdramatize the threat for ratings.

    In my neighborhood today, a couple of houses have their windows shuttered. I feel like leaving a note on the doors. "Dear Homeowner: Are you aware that South Florida has fallen out of the forecast zone? You have shuttered for no reason except to make yourself appear to the rest of the world like a reactionary, overly precautious nerd."

    The main photo on page 1A of today's Herald, sure as Groundhog Day: A Key West business being boarded up with plywood. The story basically reports, accurately, that Fay has steered away from us but we're going through all the motions anyway.

     Ridiculous. Sick of it. Don't get me wrong. I respect a legitimate hurricane threat. I grew up in South Florida. One of my earliest childhood memories was my father looking for the roof of our back porch after Betsy hit us hard in 1965. I felt for our neighbors to the south who got smacked so violently by Andrew in '92. I was among the many of us without electricity for days after Wilma in '05.

     But anybody who has lived down here more than 10 minutes should know the difference between a legitimate, impending threat that demands we prepare for it, and something we simply keep an eye on without panic or overreaction. The only thing good to say about a hurricane is that it gives you several days of warning, time to prepare.

     Reacting as we have to Fay is the equivalent of feeling the least little chill and throwing on a winter coast and ear muffs. People are entitled to their "Beat the Rush, Panic Now" mentality, just as I am entitled to sway in my hammock with a Corona, amused by the spectacle.

     [By the way, thanks to all who joined our live online chat today. We do it every Monday from 1-2 p.m. Click here to post a question any time during the week or to join live on Mondays].

August 16, 2008

PS2: Dolphins 19, Jacksonville 14 (final); Pennington sharp in debut

Aaa1dolphs Aaa1jax     Note: A reminder that our live online chat is every Monday from 1-2 p.m. Click here to join in live OR to post a question early any time during the the week.

     [Sunday morning postmortem: A column in today's Herald about the running back situation asks who the starter should be. Get your answer here: The starter should be Ricky Williams until Ronnie Brown proves he is the runner he was before his injury last year. At which time the starter should then be Brown. Simple. Not a tough choice. Next question?]

     Final thoughts: The Dolphins won resoundingly tonight, I don't care how close the score looks. Preseason results are meaningless, sure, but this one mattered even if it didn't count. To Tony Sparano, inheriting a 1-15 team and trying to change a losing culture, any victory is important. This one was impressive because new QB Chad Pennington, in his Dolphins debut, put up a 10-0 lead on a good opponent, Chad Henne looked solid again, and the defense got off the field enough to make it a time-of-possession rout for Miami. Too many penalties, again. But overall, this was progress. Progress from last week to this week. And progress from last season to a 2008 that promises to be much better.

     Your thoughts welcome.

     In-game chatter:

     Jags add a short TD pass with 18 seconds left to make the soon-to-be-final score seem close, when the game was not.

     (Marlins win a big one, 2-1 over Cubs, before almost 40K at the yard. Old Gregg with the save).

     Jax spoils the shuout, punches in a short TD with 6 minutes left against mostly Dolphin reserve defenders.

     Carpenter yet another FG for 19-0. Game in hand. Wouldn't you think they'd want to give Josh McCown or John Beck a series?

     Another Dan Carpenter FG. Rook now 5-5 on 3's in the pre. Snipin' Jay Feely has just shrunk to the size of a Bobblehead doll.

     (Quick Olympic update: During halftime of the Dolphins game, Michael Phelps won his 43rd, 44th and 45th gold medals).

     Backup CB Joey Thomas intercepts ex-Dolph Cleo Lemon early in 3Q, after Miami was fortunate to have apparent TD catch in end zone ruled incomplete.

     Halftime thoughts: You can hear the disgruntlement in the Jax fans, as if they're saying, "We're losing to a 1-15 team!?" Correction, though. This is not a 1-15 team. This is not the '07 Dolphins. Not saying '08 will be playoff-bound, but this will be a competitive team. Pennington looked sharp. So did Ricky. Defense making some plays. Penalties still an issue of concern.

     Dan Carpenter 47-yard FG in closing seconds for a 13-0 Dolphin lead at halftime.

     Big break for Miami. Jags 1st and goal from 3, fumble out of end zone for touchback. Dolph ball. (Marlins up 2-1 over Cubs in 5th on Cody Ross single).

     Channing Crowder 15-yard roughing penalty on helmet hit on QB. Penalties the continuing negative tonight on an otherwise positive night so far.

     Chad hands off to Chad. Henne in at QB with 11:02 left in 2Q, earlier than expected. Pennington was impressive. Enough to satisfy Dolphins coaches. Henne will get a couple series at least with the first unit. (Cubs tie Marlins 1-1).

     Miami 10-0 now, early 2Q, on a 31-yard FG by rookie Dan Carpenter. (Jay Feely? Who!?) Wait, Dolphins 10-0 against a good opponent? Su-per Bowl! Su-per B--sorry, getting carried away here.

     Dolphins driving again as quarters turn from 1 to 2. Another big Ginn catch. Nice reverse by Derek Hagan.

     Jags miss 51-yard FG try. Dolphins getting some decent pass rush and pressure on David Garrard.

     Ricky Williams 4-yard TD run finishes an impressive Chad Pennington drive highlighted by a nice Ted Ginn catch. (No more Ginn Jr. We know it's not his dad, OK?). Dolphs, 7-0. Very nice. Ricky can still run, folks.

     Dolphins opening punt after two delay-of-game penalties. Ugly. You see Tony Sparano melt the facemask of WR Davone Bess? Sweet.

     U.S. hoops kicked Spanish butt in the Olympics today, with Dwyane Wade continuing to look great. I heard a Dolphin game was about to start.

     Marlins, 1-0,  on a Hanley Ramirez homer. Hey I'm full-service live-blogging!

     Hello, coming to you live from Sony Stadium, meaning I am not on assignment at tonight's game. I am home watching on TV just like most of you, affording me a different and rare perspective.

     I'll be game intensive tonight unless my wife wrests the remote from me and dabbles in Marlins and Olympics. Already she has surfed to the Jets game, where Brett Favre was 3-3 on the opening series. I think Favre and Chad Pennington will be compared all season.

     Original post:

     Dolphins' second preseason game is tonight in the Smelly City -- that may or may not be Jacksonville's official nickname -- against a strong Jaguars team that is expected to be an AFC playoff squad.

     A victory would be a welcome surprise but we'd be satisfied with signs of offense as new QB Chad Pennington makes his Dolphins debut and likely plays the whole first half before giving way to Henne, The Other Chad. Pennington and Ronnie-Ricky/Ricky-Ronnie are not the biggest questions on offense. The O-line jelling and the absence of a game-breaking wide receiver are bigger issues at the moment.

     Comments welcome before, during and of course after the game. Particularly interested in your first impressions of Pennington and on who else impressed you or didn't.

August 15, 2008

Dolphins QB shuffle: Why Beck should be odd man out (with poll)

     [Reminder: I do a live online chat every Monday from 1-2 p.m., but questions may be posted any time during the week by clicking here and then scrolling to bottom of screen].

     We know as well as we can without it being spoken-out-loud-official that the Chads rule Miami. That Chad Pennington is the Dolphins starting quarterback this season and until rookie Chad Henne is ready for the handoff.

Aaa1beck Aaa1josh      We also know, logically, that Miami will not keep four QBs, even though coach Tony Sparano touts the possibility. Summary: John Beck or Josh McCown goes, and probably soon. Miami gets what little it can in a trade or more likely simply cuts one of them. But who?

     I say it makes more sense to quit hoping Beck turns into what he obviously is not. It makes more sense to keep McCown, a young veteran who is more proven and game-ready and would make an experienced backup in case Pennington (of the dubious durability) is injured.

     A foundation of my thought process is that Team Tuna evidently has locked onto Henne as their guy for the future. They appear to think Henne would benefit from what amounts to a redshirt year of all learning and no playing. If so you need a reliable arm behind Pennington. McCown may be a journeyman, but I'd want him in there more than I'd trust Beck.

     But that's just me. What do you think? Partake of The Not Quite Daily Poll below and add a comment to offer your reasoning:

     [Poll update: The above is our 30th blog poll to careen past 1,000 votes in its first day. Thanks as always. A peculiarity in Beck's voting surge. The numbers usually do not move this steadily in one direction with this many votes cast. It tells me there is a concerted i.e. organized effort on Beck's behalf somewhere out there. Hey, it's all good. Democracy, baby!]   

     [Note: There was a scuffle among players at Dolphins practice today. It lasted maybe 20 seconds and nobody was hurt. I have seen it described as a "brawl" and a "melee." Sounds to me more like typical macho bulls--- indicative of a long, hot training camp grinding to an end. Can we please not make more of this than what little it was? Thanks].

     Finally for this Dolphincentric post, nice of Jay Feely to observe, among his snipey parting shots after being cut, that Miami "doesn't have enough talent." Gee, thanks Jay. There's a revelation! They were 1-15. They're rebuilding. I guess it figures, though, that if anybody would kick a team while it's down, it'd be a kicker.

Marlins' great Dallas McPherson debate

     The slipping Marlins, 33-39 since late May after dropping three of four at home to the Cardinals, are not acting like a playoff team. I wrote a rather harsh column off last night's game (click here) essentially saying this team that constantly gets patted on the back needs a kick in the ass instead. Was I on the mark or too critical?

Aaa1dallas      Anyway, the Marlins need help right now, mostly the offensive jolt they sought in going hard after Manny Ramirez. So naturally there is clamoring among fans (yes wiseguy, the Marlins have fans) to bring up slugger Dallas McPherson (pictured) from Triple-A Albuquerque.

     After all this is a 6-4, 230-pound guy hitting .285 with 40 homers and 91 RBIs -- tearing it up. And he's 28 with chunks of three seasons of big-league experience with the Angels. he seems ready. Right?

     Two issues. First, he's a third baseman. You don't bench Jorge Cantu. Maybe you move Cantu to first, but that's benching 25 homers in Mike Jacobs. But finding a spot for McPherson isn't the biggest issue. This is: He has struck out 146 times in 112 AAA games. Makes Dan Uggla look like a contact hitter. The Marlins leads the majors in strikeouts as is.

     So consider the K's as you clamor for McPherson's call-up. Marlins management certainly is.

August 12, 2008

Chad Ocho Cinco, Dolphins kicking ass, Chinese lying dogs, Marlins, 700-pound men, smiling horses and more

Aaa1chad      [Wednesday bulletin: Miamian Chad Johnson, the Bengals' receiver, reportedly is taking steps to have his name legally changed to Chad Ocho Cinco, after his uniform number, 85. I couldn't say it if it weren't true. Well, I could. But I'm not. Click here. Hope this doesn't start a trend. What's next? Dolphins Chad Henne and Chad Pennington wear No. 7 and No. 10. Chad Siete? Chad Diez?]

     Another mess o' miscellania, all free, just for you...

Aaa1feely       Kicking ass and cutting names: Dolphins axe veteran kicker Jay Feely despite his coming off a strong season, in favor of rookie Dan Carpenter. Smart? Dumb? Premature? What? I have a related column online now (click here) and shipping to Wednesday's paper giving the new Parcells/Sparano regime credit for instilling a healthy fear in this team in an effort to sweep out the leftover complacency, softness and sense of entitlement. Feely is the latest example. Your thoughts? (Team says Feely is out based on performance vs. Carpenter this camp, but Feely's outspokenness and chumminess with the media didn't exactly endear him to Team Tuna. As a parting shot, Jay announced his own departure this mroning on Joe Rose's radio show before the club made it official. That was his right, but not real classy, either).

      Tigers dump Sheffield: Detroit placed disgruntled Gary Sheffield on waivers this afternoon. Please. Pleeeaaase. I'm begging you! Nobody say how great it would be if the Marlins got him.


     700-pound man leaves house!: But enough about me. How was your day?      

     Favre vs. Pennington: Some prop-bet lines already are out for the Sept. 7 Jets-Dolphins opener, courtesy of Bodog. Most passing yards is Brett Favre minus-75 vs. Chad Pennington. Pennington going 0-2 against his former team this year is a huge 1-to-2 pick. Ouch. (Bettors need to bear in mind the Jets aren't very good, either, and won't be a playoff team even with Mr. Favrelous).

Aaa1bats      Slip slidin' away for Marlins?: Ballclub has lost six of eight entering tonight's home fray vs. Cards. Crowds haven't picked up either, but they've got a nice promotion planned for tomorrow. I hear it's "Flying Shards of Splintered Bat Night." We kid, but dangerous bats (pictured) have become a real problem this season in baseball.

     Fredi's silence is golden: Speaking of the Fish, good for Fredi Gonzalez not calling out 2B Dan Uggla publicly for his mistakes in Monday night's loss. That's how to fracture a clubhouse. Some things go without saying and only are made worse bhy a manager's drum-beating. A good example: Hanley Ramirez's sub-.200 average with runners in scoring position.

Aaa1brooke     Not to be rude, but...: Am I the only one who thinks Brooke Hogan (Hulk's daughter) looks a little like a man in drag? Hey I'm just asking! I wouldn't be so mean if she weren't all over the place as some instant faux-celebrity for no good reason whatsoever.

Aaa1china_2       China's "half people": That's Bela Karolyi's apt description for a couple of Chinese female gymnasts who seem visually to not meet the Olympics' minimum age requirement of 16. Two in particular, Yang Yilin and Jiang Yuyuani, look more like little girls one might see capering on the playground of an elementary school. "China Cheats." You can't be the alliteration! Yuyuani is pictured at left walking to tonight's competition. (Click on Homely Girl Replaced by Lip-Synching Cutie for another reason why the Chinese government cannot be trusted. P.S: The lip-synching girl is 9. I think she's competing in the floor exercise tonight).

     Redeem Team beats Angola with no sweat(er): Also in Beijing, the U.S. Olympic men's basketball team has kicked the collective ass of Angola. Give Angola credit, though. They make one helluva sweater.

Aaa1catfashion_2     Dear Greg...: Your blog's OK, but would be much better if occasionally you would show a picture of a cat wearing a fancy green dress.

Aaa1horse      Headline You Never Thought You'd See, one in a series: Click on I'd say OK but with one strict rule. The horse must keep his pants on! to see the headline. Check back. Might be adding/updating here later. Meanwhile, the horse is smiling. It must mean this blog post has had a happy ending.

August 09, 2008

PS1: Tampa Bay 17, Dolphins 6 (Final); the emergence of Henne

     I thought the most notable thing to see in Saturday night's loss was the emergence of Chad Henne in the quarterback-of-the-future sweepstakes. Click on Henne, Rising to read my column off the game. What was the one biggest positive you took from the game?

     In-game chatter: 

     10:19 -- Game done. Dolphins lose, 17-6. What'd you think?

     10:02 -- Bucs add a short field goal to make it 17-6 with 2:57 to play.

     9:51 -- Josh McCown in for Miami.

     9:45 -- Tampa 1-yard Michael Bennett TD run for a 14-6 lead, with 10 minutes and change left. A 13-play, 76-yard Bucs drive.

     9:32 -- Dan Carpenter 49-yard FG draws Miami within 1 points late in third quarter. Henne on the scoring drive.

     9:22 -- Bucs miss 52-yard FG try, after big sack by DE Rodrique Wright.

     8:50 -- Tampa scores on last play of first half, on short Brian Griese TD flip. Overall thoughts? Note, I may be updating this post less frequently in the second half as my maniacal deadline for the newspaper column fast approaches. Writing for the paper ... it's what I do when not blogging!

     8:31 -- Dan Carpenter 41-yard FG, Dolphins up 3-0. Henne on the scoring drive.

     8:27 -- Wonder if I should post all of these remarks in the Comments section to artifically inflate the Comments total? Hey, I'm just asking! Chad Henne in, Beck out. Beck's totals: 5-for-9, 45 yards.

     8:22 -- Bucs miss 36-yard FG wide right.

     8:15 -- Hey, all the mascots are here. Billy the Marlin, the Ibis, Gators, FSU, FIU, FAU, Rays, the Dolphins' T.D. Love a mascot. Oh, and  Burnie, too.

     8:12 -- End of scoreless first quarter. No surprise. Offenses usually behind this early in camp. How 'bout first team to 10 points wins?

     7:59 -- Ricky Williams nice 9-yard run. Man, Dolfans love Ricky. Biggest cheer of the night the first time his name was announced.

     7:52 -- Dolphins two straight punts. Crowd filling in nicely. For an exhibition. Uneventful game, but early preseasoners often are. Nice play by S Jason Allen on third down pass brings about a Buc punt.

     7:41 -- Buc Luke McCown tackled for loss by Jason Ferguson on opening TB play. The Other Jason.

     7:40 -- Dolphins 1-2-3-punt after Derek Hagan drops a low but catchable third-down pass from Beck.

     7:37 -- Game on! Season on!

     7:30--Dolphins defense runs onto field to an enthusasitic but sparse crowd. Not Marlinesque sparse. But NFL sparse. Chad Pennington in the house, wearing shorts and a No. 10 Dolphins jersey.

     7:26 -- Four "honorary captains" for Fish tonight, guys from the past. One, Larry Seiple, merits the honor. Bobby Harden, Ed Perry and James Pruitt? Not so much.

     7:16 -- John Beck starts tonight. He may be playing for his Dolphins future.

     7:05 p.m. -- Live blogging! At the stadium. Weather clearing. Crowd trickling in. Will no-shows outnumber fans in seats? Could be. "A New Beginning"! No Josh McCown tonight. Henne and Beck at QB. Speculation Chad Pennington is in town and will be introduced after the game.      

     Original post:      

     Dolphins preseason game numero uno tonight/Saturday at the defrocked Joe Robbie Stadium as "A NewAaa1bucs Beginning" segueAaa1dolphinss from theme and theory to something (hopefully) tangible.

     I'll be at the yard observing, blogging live right here, and columnizing as well. Won't live-blog with a running commentary of arcane minutia ("Poindexter off left tackle for 1 yard. No...2!"), but will offer observations on significant plays and notable trends, along with instant updates with every score.

     I have a feeling Tony Sparano, trying to change a losing culture, will want to win this game more than do most coaches in exhibition openers. I also think who wins is less important than the continuing evolution of the quarterback position. Ex-Jet Chad Pennington is the new temp-starter (he won't play tonight, of course), but there is still much to find out. Such as whether Chad Henne is indisputably the guy for the future, whether Josh McCown will stick as a backup, and whether John Beck has any business believing he is NFL-caliber.

Aaa1bucs2_3     By the way, I know Tampa Bay has a manly logo now (see above left), but I'd like to tweak the Bucs and their fans here by reminding all what their old logo looked like. Is this a pirate or a guy headed to a leather bar!? NICE HAT! This looks like the kind of pirate who would board your ship not to plunder, but to redecorate.

     Participate in our live blog in the 'Comments' section below with your take on the game and especially on who is most impressing you or isn't. Yeah, it's only preseason, but it's still the unveiling of the 2008 Dolphins!

     Welcoming your thoughts here before, during and of course after the game.

August 08, 2008

Dolphins sign Chad Pennington. Excited? Confused?

Aaa1chad      Wow, this is weird. I would not blame a Dolfan for raising his fist in jubilation. Nor would I blame a Dolfan for shaking his head in bewilderment.

     Is Chad Pennington better than Josh McCown? Well, yes.

     Is Chad Pennington better than Brett Favre? Umm...no.

     Is Chad Pennington any different than previous Dolphin stopgap QBs like Gus Frerotte, Joey Harrington or Trent Green? We'll see.

     By this Dolphin signing we know that McCown isn't good enough and may or may not have a future as Miami's backup. We know that Chad Henne probably remains the QB of the future but isn't ready. And we know that John Beck probably should be sending his resume to 31 other cities.

     What's troubling is this:

     Chad Pennington is the latest bridge.

     But we're still not sure what's on the other side.

     Click here for today's column by me on the signing. Click on 'Comments' below to share your thoughts on the Pennington acquisition.

Beijing Olympics fever! Or not? (with poll)

Aaa1beijing      The long-awaited and controversial Beijing Games begin today/Friday with the opening ceremony to kick off the Summer Olympics. That's if anybody can see it for all the smog. Or unless the repressive Chinese government starts arresting athletes for exercising free thought.

     Partake of The Daily Poll on your opinion about the modern Olympics, then tell us: What is the one sport, event or athlete of most interest to you? I mean, you don't have to be a flag-waving Olyhead to find something that interests you, right? Michael Phelps or Dara Torres in swimming? Some of our locals in track? D-Wade and hoops? Women's gymnastics? Nude parcheesi? (OK I made up that last one, although based on what I've seen, beach volleyball comes close, except without the parcheesi).