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Category: Bill Plaschke

Plaschke-Simers video: Should Kobe Bryant play overseas?

Kobe Bryant has been offered $6.7 million to play for Italian club team Virtus Bologna for a season. Should he go?

Times columnist Bill Plaschke and T.J. Simers disagree.

Plaschke thinks Bryant's loyalty is to the Lakers and he shouldn't risk jeopardizing his health and adding even more mileage to his long NBA career that began when he was just 18 years old.

Simers simply doesn't care. He argues that it's none of our business what a player does during the offseason.

Plaschke and Simers will be doing a weekly video, appropriately named "L.A. Loud." The video will be moderated by Times sports reporter Melissa Rohlin.

If Bryant plays overseas, other players will surely follow suit. Rohlin wonders if that could expedite the negotiation process since the owners don't want to risk their top players getting hurt.

MORE:

Kobe Bryant offered $6.7 million to play in Italy

Poll: Which side do you agree with more in the NBA lockout?

NBA postpones training camps, scraps some preseason games

--Melissa Rohlin

Bill Plaschke: It's fun watching the Red Sox lose

Photo: Boston Red Sox. Credit: Mark L. Baer / U.S. Presswire.  Plas The Boston Red Sox are choking, and I’m loving it.

Seven years after they broke an 86-year-old curse, I’m loving it that a different curse has seemingly returned.

The Curse Of Those Who Forget Who They Were.

Back in 2004, when the Red Sox had not won a championship in forever, they crawled to the World Series on the bony fingers of need. This time, two titles and millions of payroll dollars later, those hands are heavy with rings, soft with entitlement, dropping everything in sight. Once America’s beloved underdogs, the Red Sox have become America’s insufferable winners, and I’m loving it that they are being reminded of the difference.

I’m loving watching Boston Manager Terry Francona literally run out of the back of the dugout Wednesday night after the Red Sox blew another game with another ace on the mound in a 6-4 loss to the sorry Baltimore Orioles.

On this night, Josh Beckett gave it up. A night earlier, Jonathan Papelbon gave it up. Your two best pitchers can’t hold two leads against a team with the second-worst record in the American League, where do you go from here? Oh, yeah, they now go to New York to play the Yankees this weekend, and I’m loving it.

The Red Sox have lost 14 of their last 18 games and seen a nine-game wild-card lead on Sept. 3 shrink to 2½ games over the creeping Angels and crawling Tampa Bay Rays. The Red Sox starters’ ERA this month is 6.77. They have committed 23 errors in 21 games. The only group of major leaguers that have had a worse September has been the two-win Minnesota Twins.

All of which would elicit a sympathetic wince if the Red Sox didn’t have the third-highest payroll in baseball at $161 million -- which is $119 million more than the Rays. These are the Red Sox who bought Carl Crawford out of Tampa, bought John Lackey from the Angels, stole Adrian Gonzalez out of San Diego because the Padres couldn’t pay him. These are the Red Sox who discovered a way to make more cash by putting seats on top of the Green Monster, for Yaz's sake.

These Red Sox might not yet be worthy of the “Evil Empire” tag they once put on the New York Yankees, but they have become an empire nonetheless, draining much of the charm from what was once one of the coolest teams in baseball history. Remember The Idiots? Remember how they historically overcame a three-games-to-none deficit to beat the Yankees in the 2004 league championship series, beginning their journey to that long-awaited world championship?

Only four players from that team are still in the Red Sox clubhouse, so they’ve obviously forgotten. Watching them fail to hit a ball out of the infield while rolling over in nine pitches against Baltimore’s Jack Johnson in the ninth inning Wednesday, it was easy for the rest of us to forget.

In 2004, seemingly every Red Sox game in Fenway Park was dominated by camera shots of long-suffering fans holding their hands over their mouths as if praying. On Wednesday night, those hands were removed so the team could hear their boos, and I’m loving it.

MORE:

Dodgers-Giants box score

Bankruptcy doesn't mean Dodgers can't offer big contracts

Frank McCourt said not to respond to $1.2-billion Dodgers bid

Photo: Boston Red Sox pitching change. Credit: Mark L. Baer / U.S. Presswire

Bill Plaschke: Mariano Rivera is great, but let's not overdo it

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Plaschke-mug_100 He came into the game with one inning remaining. He threw all of 13 pitches. He recorded exactly three outs.

Then all hell broke loose.

Mariano Rivera, the New York Yankees legendary reliever, recorded his 602nd career save Monday afternoon against the Minnesota Twins to set baseball’s new career record, and suddenly he is Whitey Ford! Make that Lou Gehrig! Actually, no, he’s Babe Ruth!

The praise, which has been flying as furiously as his signature cut fastball, is also just as baffling.

Photos: Mariano Rivera's record-setting day

Mariano Rivera is certainly the greatest relief pitcher ever, with a record 89% save percentage and the lowest career ERA (2.22) and WHIP (1.00) of all pitchers since the 1920s. He is also one of baseball’s greatest pressure players ever, with a record 0.71 postseason career ERA to accompany his record 42 postseason saves.

But one of the greatest pitchers or players ever? A guy whose records are comparable to those legendary marks held by Joe DiMaggio and Pete Rose? Have we completely lost our ability to count?

A baseball game is 27 outs. Over the span of the average career, a decent starting pitcher records 15 of those outs. The great ones record 18 outs.

Rivera has recorded an average of barely more than three outs, with 1,209 innings pitched in 1,039 games.

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Bill Plaschke: Clayton Kershaw's actions were Cy Young-worthy

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Plaschke-mug_100 The first perfect game in American League history was thrown by a pitcher who ended it with a taunt, defending his teammates against an insult, screaming at the final batter, "How do you like that, you hayseed?"

The year was 1904, and the pitcher was Cy Young.

On Wednesday night at Dodger Stadium, imitating that long-ago barb with an inside fastball, a battling Clayton Kershaw proved worthy of winning the award that carries Cy Young’s name.

Although Kershaw will never admit it, his pitch that plunked the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Gerardo Parra in the elbow in the sixth inning of the Dodgers’ eventual 3-2 victory appeared to be a retaliation for Parra’s crotch-grabbing, home-run posing insult of the Dodgers on Tuesday night.

Kershaw was immediately ejected, and some might think his Cy Young bid was derailed, but I propose that it was cemented. At a moment where he would have been excused the greatest of selfishness, he threw one for the team. By hitting Parra, he had everything to lose but his teammates' respect, yet clearly decided he would rather have that respect.

"I’m not disappointed at all," Kershaw told reporters after the game. "We got a win."

At the time of that inside pitch, Kershaw was throwing a one-hitter with five strikeouts. He had retired the previous seven batters. He might have been headed toward his third shutout. All this was happening while his top Cy Young competitor, Roy Halladay of the Philadelphia Phillies, was completing a six-hitter against the Houston Astros.

Kershaw could have played it safe and finished the game and nobody would have blamed him. But Kershaw obviously couldn’t forget the previous night, when Parra was angered by an inside pitch from Hong-Chih Kuo in the seventh inning, and then taunted the Dodgers with gestures both before and after his ensuing home run.

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Bill Plaschke: Oakland Raiders need some brain with their brawn

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Plaschke-mug_100 They were great. They were gross.

They hit hard. They also hit late, cheap, sometimes without helmets, and often without conscience.

As always, I couldn’t stop watching them. But, as always, I could barely stomach what I was seeing.

The Oakland Raiders played perhaps the toughest football of the NFL’s first week Monday, overpowering the Denver Broncos with three forced turnovers and five sacks while rushing for 152 more yards in a 23-20 victory.

They also played absolutely the dumbest, most thuggish football of the first week with 15 penalties for 131 yards, more penalties than were assessed the New Patriots, Green Bay Packers and New York Jets combined.

The Jets, incidentally, had zero penalties while mounting a bruising comeback against the Dallas Cowboys, proving it is possible to use both your muscles and your brains, sometimes even at the same time.

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Bill Plaschke: Baseball move over, the NFL has arrived

Photo: Aaron Rodgers. Credit: Tannen Maury / European Press Agency.   

Plaschke_100 And once again, just like that, America’s dusty antique has been pushed to the back of the shelf, nudged into the shadows for much of the next six months, replaced by America’s hottest gem.

Hello NFL, goodbye baseball.

Thursday was opening day for what has become this country’s new national pastime, the magic of a chilly April afternoon on a baseball diamond replaced by the drama of a delicious night on a Lambeau tundra.

It was the Green Bay Packers hosting the New Orleans Saints, a howling hullabaloo of a game captivating a country that suddenly didn’t care so much about the Boston Red Sox chasing the New York Yankees, or is it the other way around?

There was no bunting, but an entire stadium dressed up like the American flag. There was no first pitch, but the sight of a former great quarterback throwing out the first tear. There was no walk-off homer, but there was a stagger-off goal line stand that ended the Packers’ 42-34 victory and all doubt about what the rest of autumn will bring.

Sorry, baseball, but your face has just been decorated with a shaving cream pie.

From this moment forward, most of America will care about baseball only in moments. The final moments of the regular season. The final moments of a playoff comeback. The final cold, soggy, midnight moment when somebody wins a World Series. 

Baseball is my first and true and forever love, but even I find it increasingly difficult to maintain my embrace when the NFL starts tugging me with more drama, more parity, and better TV. Millions apparently agree as last season, for the first time, a regular-season NFL game attracted more viewers than a World Series game, and the gap is only widening. Compare this year’s NFL opener to a premier baseball contest, and there’s little comparison.

Thursday’s football game was filled with scoring, yet continued at a good pace, starting and ending at a decent time. That’s not baseball.

Thursday’s game was filled with folks wearing helmets, yet the NFL marketing machine has turned them into stars, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees being among America’s most recognized athletes. That’s not marketing-bereft baseball.

Thursday’s game was also the start of a season which will count until the final snap, and in which any team can end up as a champion, and that’s not baseball. There are nearly three weeks still remaining in this year’s baseball season, and the Angels' chase of the Texas Rangers is the only drama left.

Worse yet, the teams that are dominating are the same old teams, the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox and Philadelphia Phillies, giving little hope for a compelling World Series.

Baseball needs to allow Commissioner Bud Selig to reconfigure the divisions and add a wild-card playoff team. Baseball needs to figure out a way to put a clock on the pitcher to shorten the games. Baseball needs, as always, to start the season earlier so its best games aren’t played in Northeastern snow storms.

Meanwhile, buoyed by the sort of gambling interest and fantasy leagues that baseball cannot match, the NFL need only to keep being the NFL.

I must confess, on Sunday, the first full day of the NFL season, I plan to be at a baseball game, as I will be covering what could be an important swing match between the Angels the New York Yankees. However, sitting in the press box, I will frequently check my computer for NFL scores and highlights. You never know, this year’s Fall Classic could be a football game.

MORE:

Packers win shootout in opener, 42-34

Peyton Manning could be out for the season

It's back to basics and buzz as NFL starts up in Green Bay

--Bill Plaschke

Photo: Aaron Rodgers. Credit: Tannen Maury / European Press Agency.

Bill Plaschke: Rex Ryan should be punished for recent comments

Photo: Rex Ryan. Credit: Jeff Zelevansky / Getty Images.

Plaschke_100 The NFL season hasn’t even started yet and officials already need to throw a flag.

Can somebody please penalize Rex Ryan for illegal procedure of his mouth?

Ryan, the giant coach of the New York Jets who talks like he eats -- in huge quantities, sometimes making a huge mess -- has crossed the line from dumb to dangerous.

On Wednesday afternoon, talking about the Dallas Cowboy fans who are expected to show up at MetLife Stadium on Sunday for the season opener, Ryan said, "I don’t know why they’d be here. They’re coming into our stadium. It’s probably not recommended that you wear Cowboys stuff, I would think."

The published account of his quote notes that he, "joked," but this is about as funny as a brain injury.
Amid the current climate of fan violence, Ryan essentially just put out a hit on Cowboy fans.

In warning Cowboy fans to stay away, he’s inciting Jets fans to punish them for showing up, and you have to wonder how Rex Ryan has been able to coach his team while living on another planet.

Did he not see the recent chaos in San Francisco, where fights between fans of the 49ers and Oakland Raiders resulted in 70 ejections, 12 arrests, two parking-lot shootings and one restroom beating that left a man unconscious?

Was he not aware of the violence outside Dodger Stadium last spring, where two Dodger fan beat Bryan Stow into a coma simply because Stow was wearing a San Francisco Giants jersey?

With the economy tanking and unemployment peaking, fans are increasingly coming to games to blow off the steam. Dressed in their team’s jersey, they can scream with the players, celebrate with the players and essentially spend three hours pretending to be a player.

This includes their desire to compete with the opposition like a player. Only, sadly, the opposition is some poor fan in a visiting jersey and the competition is conducted with physical violence.

In the grainy, black-and-white world of George Halas and Vince Lombardi, football coaches could truly joke about visiting fans while attempting to fire up their home fans, and Ryan has always been a grainy, black-and-white sort of coach.

But the sports world has changed, it’s now colorful and caustic, and Ryan should have known better than to urge Jets fans to defend their turf against fans who just happen to cheer for the other team.

Roger Goodell, NFL commissioner, needs to immediately fine Ryan for these comments and issue an edict warning NFL coaches against issuing similar statements.

Seriously, Ryan said he doesn’t know why Cowboy fans would be at Sunday’s game? I don’t know, maybe to watch the game?

MORE:

The NFL is here, and resistance is futile

Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers can settle this matter too

It's back to basics and buzz as NFL starts up in Green Bay

-- Bill Plaschke

Photo: Rex Ryan. Credit: Jeff Zelevansky / Getty Images

Bill Plaschke: Cam Newton and the tattoo controversy

Photo: Cam Newton. Credit: Andrew Weber / U.S. Presswire.   

I love watching Cam Newton. I love watching his pure ability, his unfiltered excitement, the blank slate of his potential.

Plaschke_100 And I’ll admit it, I love that we can watch his football artistry without being distracted by any skin artistry. I love it that the Carolina Panthers rookie quarterback and Heisman Trophy-winner does not have any tattoos or body piercings.

Yet this love makes me a hater?

That is how Panthers owner Jerry Richardson is being painted these days after he conducted an interview on the "Charlie Rose" show and noted that he had asked his No. 1  overall draft pick whether his body contained any ink or trinkets.

Newton reportedly told Richardson, "No sir, I don’t have any."

Richardson then reportedly replied, "Good. We want to keep it that way. We want to keep no tattoos, no piercings and I think you’ve got a very nice haircut."

And boom went the racially charged dynamite, critics everywhere ripping Richardson for acting like some sort of overstuffed plantation owner demanding control of the bodies of his largely African American team.

Seriously? This entire debate is as silly as that drawing on the side of Mike Tyson’s face.

Jerry Richardson is a business owner who was simply making a dress code request of his highest-profile, million-dollar employee. It happens every day in the real world; why can’t it happen in sports?

In many places, it is expected that the new vice president of finance won’t suddenly show up with a set of lips tattooed on his neck, or the new marketing manager won't suddenly put a ring through his lip. It's not about culture. It's not about restraint. It's about business.

The owner of any company has a right to monitor the appearance of his employees, and how is Jerry Richardson any different? All he’s doing here is asking Newton to refrain from altering his body in a way that the owner obviously dislikes.

He’s not ordering Newton. He’s not threatening Newton. Heck, Richardson’s team is filled with players bearing tattoos, and he’ll certainly hire players who are famous for tattoos, witness his off-season signing of tight end Jeremy Shockey.

The owner is just hoping that his clean new star will remain that way, and what’s wrong with that? When asked about the Richardson quotes, Newton reportedly shrugged and said the incident was overblown, and he’s right.

Upon being named the Panthers' opening day starting quarterback, Newton has every right to run out and get "I Love Jerry" tattooed across his chest.

And Jerry Richardson has every right to hate it.

MORE:

Toughness runs in the family of Chargers safety Bob Sanders

Michael Vick agrees to six-year, $100-million contract with Eagles

Analyst casts doubt on economic benefit of downtown L.A. stadium

-- Bill Plaschke

Photo: Cam Newton. Credit: Andrew Weber / U.S. Presswire

Bill Plaschke: Golf wins as Tiger Woods loses at PGA Championship

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The thought settled in my mind at approximately the same time Keegan Bradley’s 35-foot birdie putt settled into the 17th hole, highlighting his humid, howling charge toward a PGA Championship.

I don’t miss Tiger Woods.

The idea pounded through my brain when, a few minutes later, I watched Jason Dufner graciously pump fists with fans before beginning the painful process of coughing up that PGA Championship.

I don’t miss Tiger Woods.

I don’t miss sullen when I can watch joy. I don’t miss aloof when I can watch engaging. I don’t miss plastic when I can watch real.

There will be much discussion today that rookie Bradley’s playoff victory over Dufner in the PGA Championship in Atlanta on Sunday capped a summer that was a major bore. The four biggest tournaments had four different anonymous winners, none of which were named Woods, and isn’t golf going to hell in a head cover?

Wrong. Golf grows. Golf wins. This transformation to younger, unaffected champions is the best thing to happen to golf since, well, Tiger Woods.

It’s fun to watch new faces. It's inspiring to feel a different energy. Charl Schwartzel overcomes Rory McIlroy’s collapse to win the Masters. McIlroy rebounds to dominate the U.S. Open. Darren Clarke rolls out a big-bellied win at the British Open.

Continue reading »

Bill Plaschke: Hall of shame is more like it for Dennis Rodman

Plaschke_640 With his garish appearance, freakish statements and outlandish attitude, Dennis Rodman certainly belongs in a museum.

That museum is Ripley’s Believe It Or Not.

It is not the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Yet the Worm will burrow his way into the hallowed grounds of Springfield, Mass., Friday night, entering basketball’s ultimate destination along with the likes of Chris Mullin, Artis Gilmore and Tex Winter.

Seriously. What is Rodman doing there? And he’s entering with Tex? Can you imagine? One guy who tore apart the Lakers enshrined with a guy who helped rescue them?

"I don’t know what’s more shocking," said Chris Winter, Tex’s son, to reporters. "That they didn’t put Tex in 30 years ago, or they didn’t make Dennis wait another 30 years."

Continue reading »

Bill Plaschke: Real Madrid signing 7-year-old is not so beautiful

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Since long before Beckham first bent it, Americans have viewed European soccer with a mixture of admiration and jealousy.

Their sport is “pure.” Their athletes are “untainted.” Their game is, you know, “beautiful.”

All of which made it very interesting to witness this week’s big load of ugly.

Real Madrid, the soccer version of the New York Yankees, signed a shaggy-haired star who has a great pedigree, a penchant for passing, and only one tiny problem.

The kid is 7 years old.

His name is Leonel Angel Coira, he was born in Argentina, he signed a one-year contract, he will begin playing with Real Madrid’s youth academy next month and … wait. He couldn’t have actually signed the contract, right? Don’t some 7-year-olds still have trouble spelling their last names?

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