EJ Hradek is reporting on ESPNEWS that a 'deal in prinicple' has been agreed upon. The $45M number came up again, but we're still waiting on details. He's saying the announcement will be tomorrow. Still unclear as to whether it's for this season (March) or next. More to come.UPDATE: During a 4:00 PM EST interview on ESPNEWS, EJ backtracked his certainty to "I think, at the end of the day, that a deal is still going to get done." Talks have ended today, and everyone is waiting to hear exactly what happened during the day's meetings. Apparently, they're not sure if there's going to be a press release or news conference today.
Veteran players are believed to be involved in a movement to resurrect the season. One source said many veteran players called NHL commissioner Gary Bettman directly since the cancellation announcement Wednesday afternoon.
Asked if the NHL would be open to meetings that could lead to the cancellation of the season being reversed, Daly responded: "I would love to have that problem."
According to a person with knowledge of the situation, the group is forming an offer it hopes to soon present to the NHL. The proposal, the source said, involves a $46-million cap with a 100 percent luxury tax that starts at $42 million. There also is a provision that drops the cap to $42 million should more than eight teams hit the $46-million cap in the same season.
"This is not being done with the union," the source said.
"We have heard a lot of the rumors that are out there," NHL chief legal officer Bill Daly told The Associated Press. "Unless or until we hear from the union, the rumors are meaningless."UPDATE: I had to go to Off Wing to read this source that's in my backyard.
A league source, who asked for anonymity, told The Tampa Tribune on Thursday that a group of players, which included NHL Players' Association president Trevor Linden, was working to get a deal together to give to the owners. Within 48 hours - the players want time to gauge opinions from union members before approaching the executive committee - the union is expected to make contact with the league. The source also indicated that Wayne Gretzky, now a general partner with the Phoenix Coyotes, and Pittsburgh Penguins owner/player Mario Lemieux were involved in the push. Reports also suggested that agents were working behind the scenes to help broker a deal they hope would end the lockout.FRIDAY NIGHT UPDATE: THN is calling this a done deal, but is it for this season or next? By all accounts, we'll find out in a pres conference tomorrow.
Despite the rumors of a supplemental player envoy that is said to be piecing together an effort on their own to save either this season or the next, I can no longer fit my thoughts about the NHL into adequate words.
So instead, I've invited Jon Jordan, a fellow Tampa resident, to guest-write the below Beach entry:
Hockey fans, undoubtedly the whipping boys of the sports world, took one final shot to the groin Wednesday, as NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced the long-dreaded cancellation of the 2004-2005 NHL season. Lord Stanley’s Cup, resting comfortably in Toronto, via the league office in New York, will remain the property* of the Tampa Bay Lightning for yet another season after the most casual title defense in the history of professional sports. But for Lightning fans, and other hockey diehards in a state that is far more obsessed with baseball, basketball, football and, yes, even NASCAR, there is no reason to celebrate.
Something, maybe the New York blood that will always run through these veins, simply won’t allow my brain to accept NASCAR as entertaining. (Wrecks, of course … no, not even that old argument for me. I never did see the entertainment value of a man crashing a car at superhuman speeds and the possible carnage thereof.) The hockey player in me has never been able to allow the adequate processing of basketball as a suitable substitute either. Something about hip checks over hand checks, penalty shots over free throws, five-minute-majors over personal fouls, among other things has rendered that all but impossible. Football, I get. Who doesn’t profess their love for football these days? And every tried and true American male grew up with baseball, in some way or another.
But there’s just something about hockey.
A writer much better than I recently said, “Hockey is a niche sport. Either you get it, or you don’t.” No better fit for that logic than in the Sunshine State. Either you get hockey in general, or you don’t. Either you understand how not having an NHL season screws with my plans at least three nights a week – seven, if I care to make it so – from October to June, or you don’t.
Nobody cares? Try convincing me, or those of my ilk, that “no one cares.” If you get it, you care. You really care. You’re pissed! You don’t – well, I don’t get you either. No problem.
And, all in all, it’s hockey, really, that I miss – that WE miss. I don’t need the NHL. True hockey fans don’t NEED the NHL. But, here in Florida – here in Tampa, more specifically – true hockey fans are stuck. By default, we DO need the NHL.
Truth be told, I’d almost prefer a local college or major junior team – these kids “get it” – but you won’t find anything fitting that bill anywhere near this area. Same goes for an American Hockey League team, but for that action, you’d have to travel as far as Norfolk, Virginia. The Florida Everblades of the East Coast Hockey League are too far down the coast in Estero, and the Jacksonville Barracudas of the Southern Professional Hockey League, too, play far more than a stone’s throw from the Gulf Coast. There’s the Central League, the United League and literally hundreds of other hockey options – just not here in Florida.
Television is also a non-option now, unless you can settle for sporadic repeats of Lightning “classics,” and a tape-delay of the American League’s All-Star game on a Wednesday afternoon. I can’t.
I want the chance to see the New York Islanders in person, here in Tampa, at least twice a year. I want to see the looks on the faces of the Lightning fans at Newk’s before the game, when my loud, proud, and reasonably crazy, yet practically harmless Islander pals make their annual trek down from Long Island for a good mix of hockey and sunshine. (Tampa hockey fans may truly “get” hockey, especially now, but they’ll never “get” this crew.)
I want the option of just catching a hockey game first hand, as often as I want and can afford it. I want that feeling of knowing there’s a playoff game on tonight – or a regular season game, or a late March Oilers/Sharks game that anyone unlike myself simply wouldn’t understand – that I just can’t get out of my head all day long, no matter what I’m doing. Who’s hot? Who’s not? Who’s hurt? Who’s in goal? Who’s up from the minors? Who’s gonna drop the gloves with Laraques?
Until Wednesday, I still held out hope that maybe I would get to have just a piece of that this year. 28 games and 4 playoff rounds, while not ideal, would have been fine by me. For now. But not this year. Maybe not next year. Who the hell knows what kind of league, if any, will we have when they do come back?
So, for now, I’ll turn my attention to spring training and the upcoming baseball season. I’ll try to understand basketball a little more. When that doesn’t work, and it won’t, I’ll watch a race – one race – and I’ll remember quickly why it is that it just doesn’t do it for me. I’ll look forward to the NFL and college football months later and I’ll sit … and wait … and hope that the NHL and NHLPA powers that be (whomever that might be at the time) can come together for the long-term prosperity of the greatest game on the face of the planet. And then, partly by default and partly because no matter how much defiance I may WANT to show but just won’t be able to, I’ll be back.
I get it. I care. There are a hell of a lot of us that do.
Ready whenever you are, boys.
Nothing reads like baseball season to me more than the word 'prospects.'
It is what every team and every fan thinks about during this time of year.
A few major league clubs have some great, young prospects in their system.
And some clubs are working hard to help reach their prospects' full potential.
And every club begins the year with prospects of making the playoffs.
The age of a baseball player is an important issue for many who are looking to spot breakout performances. Over the next month, I'm going to focus on those players who will play this season within the magical age window of 27-29. To me, those are the most important 'prospects.'
There is also good value to be found in the kids. But disaster is also possible when hitching your team's hopes at any one position to the mind of a 22 year old. Aaron Gleeman, of the Hardball Times, has a writeup of the Top 50 Prospects going into this season. I like this list because it isn't filled with players who are a few years away from the majors. Gleeman makes it an interesting read by including guys who have a chance to make an impact in 2005, as well as those for 2006 an on. His #1 prospect: Joe Mauer.
On the other side of the age spectrum, the Sports Prof wrote today about how old the Yankees' starting lineup is.
[The] average age of their first 9 - 33.44
And here's the pitching staff (or, in some cases, contenders therefor -- average age -- 34.08)
The Prof goes into great detail about the Yankees' aging problem, but he did fail to mention the one age issue that reigns over all. Steinbrenner, now 74, hasn't won a World Series since 2000 and is perhaps selling a large piece of the Yankees' future in order to go out a winner.
The poster boy of sorts for the Dodger Stadium renovation is Derek Lowe, whose four year, $36 million signing this offseason surprised most sabermetrically-inclined onlookers. I’d prefer not to engage in idol speculation on how Lowe will perform with the Dodgers. However, we can fairly easily take Lowe’s performance record in Boston and translate it to a 2005 Dodgers context.
Keep in mind, this is just based on batted ball classification (grounder, fly, line drive), not the distance or speed of batted balls. Salty salt salt salt.
Here are Derek Lowe’s numbers, translated for how they’d look in 2005 with Los Angeles. Note that this is run average, not earned run average. The baseline for RAA and RA+ was the league average starting pitcher, for whom I made the same translation for playing in Dodger Stadium with the same defense (the resulting RA was 4.42):
RA RA+ IP RAA
2002 3.26 135 213.1 27
2003 3.72 119 213.0 17
2004 3.91 113 200.1 11
If Lowe can put up 11 RAA over 200 innings he’s probably worth the $7.5 million he’s owed in 2005, considering the size of the Dodgers’ payroll and their chances at the playoffs. And if he does that, I’d bet some team would be willing to give up a little too much for the right to pay the majority of the $28.5 million remaining on his contract. Paul DePodesta inking Lowe may be a move that we look back upon as very, very shrewd.
"It's the first time I've had the same hitting coach two years in a row," Dunn said. "That's huge."
"I shouldn't probably wear the tape because it gives the impression that something is wrong," Burrell said. "But the training staff said tape it. So, whatever."
I've got my own rec league hockey game at 9:00pm tonight and I can't think of a better way to put this day to bed than that.
I'm not sure if there's anything more in me to say.
This is, I think, the eighth hockey post in the last 24 hours.
PJ Sharkspage live blogged the events of the day, and he did a much better job than I did as I tried to juggle my regular occupational duties.
Eric OffWing and Brett Mirtle also has some thoughts on the way.
Eklund's sources aren't giving up hope on this yet; inspiring some dramatic speculation for a desperate situation.
In the meantime, the Beach will officially turn it's attention to baseball.
Starting tomorrow, that is.
Goodenow spent almost 7 minutes giving us a history report.
A lot of this 'partnership' stuff going around. The difference: NHLPA wants a partner in negotiation. NHL wants a partner in business.
Again, questions in italics, Goodenow in regular print:
As Brian Kenny and Barry Melrose discussed, the philosophical issue is now regarding the 'magnet theory.' Will all 30 teams be drawn to the cap ceiling (as is the case in the NBA and NFL)? I think the real question is, what happens to those teams that can't meet the ceiling? The whole reason the NHL wants a cap is to get everyone spending close to the same amount of money. The NHLPA wants the clubs to spend as much as they want, under a cap or not under a cap. Regardless, the players union is falling apart because they gave so much, and still didn't get a deal done.
As the press conference began, I found myself typing Bettman's words that struck me as important; and mostly paraphrasing as I couldn't keep up. Anything in italics is from a question. All regular text I got from Bettman:
The most up to date info is usually found at tsn.ca/nhl
Some background info from the CBC, including the below explanation:
(BIOS: Gary Bettman & Bob Goodenow)
What is at the root of this crisis?
Like most labour disputes, this is about money. Bettman argues that NHL revenues aren't keeping up with increasing player salaries and that has to change if the league is to survive.
According to Bettman, players' salaries have increased 240 per cent since 1995, while revenues have increased only 160 per cent. The average NHL salary in 1994-95 was $733,000 US. Coming into the 2002-03 season, it's just shy of $2 million per season.
Owners say that, mainly due to the rapid increase in player salaries, many of the NHL's teams are in financial trouble. A recent report in the Wall Street Journal claimed that more than two-thirds of the NHL's 30 franchises suffered losses last season.
The league says total losses amounted to nearly $300 million US last season. Those numbers were seemingly confirmed by Arthur Levitt, a former chairman of the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission, who issued a report on the NHL's finances in early February.
Levitt's study, commissioned by the NHL, found league's teams combined to lose $273 million US last season. The NHLPA characterized the report as "simply another league public relations initiative." They also questioned the legitimacy of the report because Levitt was paid by the NHL.
In the past, the NHL's players union has been skeptical of Bettman's claims, saying that teams have under-reported the money they bring in by tens of millions of dollars.
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Ted Saskin, the union's director of business affairs, said the financial numbers being put out by the League are "garbage in and out."
All 30 NHL teams are required to provide a detailed list of hockey-related income and expenses. Saskin claims some of those reports weren't comprehensive.
"There are a number of significant categories missing," he told the paper. He also added that "a number of teams understated cable revenues and didn't report concessions."
Levitt said he believed that NHL teams were accurately reporting revenues.
(FULL INTERVIEW: ON THE HOT SEAT - LEVITT DEFENDS HIS REPORT)
Why have salaries increased so much?
Bettman believes owners are so competitive that they will do whatever it takes to win, including paying players big salaries.
Goodenow, on the other hand, says the market dictates salaries and that it isn't the players' responsibility to protect the owners from themselves.
"The players are paid what the owners believe they are worth," Goodenow said, "and every time an owner signs a contract with a player, it's like a vote on what that player's value is. From our perspective, it's pretty straight forward. There's no mystery at all."
Why didn't the owners tackle the issue of rising player salaries during negotiations for the last CBA?
They thought they did.
Signed after a four-month lockout, the current CBA, with its rookie salary cap, restrictions on free agency, and new arbitration rules was hailed as a victory for the owners.
Owners believed that limiting how much a player could earn in his first few years and preventing him from becoming an unrestricted free agent until after he was 31 years old would provide a sufficient drag on escalating salaries.
Hindsight shows the owners were wrong.
Creative contracts featuring signing and performance bonuses have largely neutered the effects of the free-agency and rookie restrictions.
Take also this comparison of the four major North American team sports, as provided by Fox Sports:
Here we go. This is what they are fighting about (a big thank you to HockeyZonePlus.com for making this available:
NHL TEAM PAYROLLS SINCE 92-93
Privately, I've been telling anyone who's asked me that there will be a deal; there will be a season.
Publically, I've been hesitant to write anything about it because it's just speculation.
But this is it.
There is a press conference scheduled for tomorrow at 1pm Eastern.
It is a press conference that was originally scheduled to cancel the season, and that is exactly what was needed to save it.
More so than at any other point during the 2004-2005 Lockout, the last two weeks have been a tale of two worlds. There has been the world that my co-workers stick their head into my office to report, and there has been the world of underground rumors, speculation, and instinct.
First, look at the evolution of the blog HockeyRumors.com, whose anonymus author (Eklund) has become such a popular read for anyone interested in the labor talks that he's now become part of the circus. His inclusion started with a few radio personalities and fellow bloggers mentioning his name, asking for interviews, and eventually 'Eklund' was slipped into a real-life newspaper article. Soon there after, it became obvious that both the NHL and the NHLPA were well aware of his site when HockeyRumors.com started getting information on the inside- meaning people were telling him stuff that he couldn't post on his blog. To a certain point, he was being used just like TSN, SportsNet, ESPN, and everyone else.
Then something else happened.
Talk of a so-called 'drop dead date' surfaced.
This is what we've been waiting for.
Many have reported that Bob Goodenow has a reputation for 1) always getting a deal done and, 2) always waiting until the final moment to strike it in hopes that the best possible compromise is found at the 11th hour. In politics, it's called 'brinkmanship' and many regard the theory's founder (or at least it's most notable employer) as John Foster Dulles. Mr. Dulles was the United States' Secretary of State under Eisenhower and is one of the statesmen responsible for escalating the Cold War to such dangerous extremes. Those extremes also led to the eventual fall of Soviet sponsored communism. It's a dangerous way to do business and it usually helps when you have the rule of the right on your side. Does Bob Goodenow fight for justice?
Perhaps that's why, as each day goes by, the NHLPA's failure to negotiate according to the terms they set out to achieve becomes more clear.
The deal that is rumored to be close is one that I liken to the first American government. It's a start. It's something that will get the players back on the ice so that the fans can get back in their seats. But it doesn't seem to be the solution both sides sought. The NHL needs a system that will protect small market teams from the marauding 5 (NY Rangers, Toronto, Philly, Colorado, Detroit) and also those clubs like St. Louis, New Jersey, and Washington that have a history of spending too much money on players they steal from smaller teams. It's not clear that a high cap and luxury tax will do that. Saving the criticism for if (and when) the details are actually announced, I welcome back hockey as soon as possible. Nothing is as bad as nothing. And when teams' are kept off the ice, fans kept out of the buildings, nothing comes calling every winter night.
But in four or five years, everyone will look back at these missed games and wonder why it took so damn long. Everyone but the NHL executives. They knew all along exactly how this was going to happen.
Over the last week, the number of cars parked at the Yankees training facility in Tampa have been growing in number. Unfortunately for everyone but Jose, most of those cars have been from media sources. But finally today, there will be some real baseball news to report. Finally, we'll be able to read about something that happens on the field. Alas, pitchers and catchers have reported.
I'm working on getting some links together that will make searching for useful news easier but baseball blogging is by far the most popular of the four major sports. There are just so many sources, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. In the meantime, Peter Gammons does a good job at getting the spring started with this piece. Just skip past the obligatory steroid chatter and get right to what matters most. Here's a sample:
TEN COMEBACKS TO WATCH:
1. Griffey. With 501 homers for his career and two years of over 50 HRs with no cloud over his head, he needs to be a hero again -- for the game's sake. He hasn't been healthy since 2000, but he hasn't given up on 755 himself. As Junior says, "At least I've left it on the field. My injuries have been in full view of the fans."
2. Mauer. The knee problems that limited him to catching 32 games will be a question right into the season. But, as he turns 22 in April, he is a huge factor in the American League as arguably its best young player, and person.
3. Nomar Garciaparra. His friends say that the bitterness and confusion that dogged his last two years in Boston have disappeared, perhaps coincidental with the retirement of his great wife. The Achilles and wrist feel good, and health will ensure a major comeback. He was so confident of a comeback that he turned down two three-year offers to play for Dusty Baker and re-enter the elite zone with a .330/30/120 season.
4. Roy Halladay. All the pitches he threw in 505 innings in 2002-2003 caught up, but the Jays think he'll be back. If so, they will be back above .500.
5. Andy Pettitte. All indications are good, which mitigates some of the Astros' losses.
6. Magglio Ordonez. The winter's biggest gamble. If he is able to hit, he can wear out the Comerica alleys and protect Pudge.
7. Brad Penny. The bizarre arm injury that limited him to three starts for the Dodgers cost them any chance to advance in the playoffs. He just started to come on during the 2003 postseason and enters his free agent year with high expectations.
8. Kevin Millwood. It has been a strange 1½ years. But better conditions and a return to his old mechanics could see a big return. Millwood is at the crossroad.
9. Wade Miller. If he can pitch from June on, it'll be the best deal Theo Epstein could have made. Some feel that is a big if, but no one questions his soul.
10. Chris Carpenter and Matt Morris. Carpenter experienced an injury similar to Penny's, and says he will be fine. Morris might not be ready to open the season, but if the Cardinals have Carpenter, Morris and Mulder in gear in the second half, they will make another run.
Honorable mention: Rick Ankiel, Joe Mays, Jesse Foppert, Carlos Guillen, Kip Wells (should be better than his 47-50 record), Juan Gonzalez, Preston Wilson, Frank Thomas.
Another fine source is the Baseball News Blog. Their links are extensive and they also do a good job at sampling the day's news. Yahoo's wire links also are a good way to keep up with what's happening.
One last note, ESPN's site says that their baseball fantasy teams will be available on Thursday (2.17.05).
The National Basketball Association is normally a forbidden subject here. Yet the fire-eating fury of the NHL Lockout has left me with only one professional sport to pick games from. Still, there's a big difference between reading the AP's game previews and discussing the comings and goings of NBA life (as the latter is prohibited by Beach Rules). One way around that rule, however, is accomplished by discussing why the Assocation is in such a sorry state.
Michael Sokolove of the NY Times has some good thoughts about why that is in this article he penned for the 02.13.05 edition of The Magazine. Since the Times requires login info and also hides their archives behind a pay-per-view service, the public hereby demands infrengement of the NYT copyright for our future reference.
Unbelievable as it may seem, you can make millions in today's N.B.A. without having even one semireliable way to put the ball in the basket -- no jump shot, no hook shot, no little 12-foot bank shot. In fact, the entire area between dunking range and the three-point line, what used to be prime real estate for scoring, is now a virtual dead zone.
Sokolove doesn't just blame the dunk for the NBA's skill ills and then call for it's banishment. To his credit, instead of just dealing with the end result of a problem, Sokolove goes after the source:
The most obvious aspect of basketball, especially at the N.B.A. level, is the extraordinary athleticism of the players. What is less apparent is that the outcome of games, more so than in any other major sport, is determined by a series of social interactions. Basketball coaches have long taught that the ball must be ''shared'' -- passed from player to player until it ends up in the hands of the one with the best possible shot. Players are urged constantly to ''talk'' on defense -- communicate about the alignment and movements of offensive players -- and to ''give help,'' meaning that a defender is not just responsible for the man he is guarding but also for sliding over to help a teammate who has been beaten by his own man. With just 5 players on the court at a time and rosters that consist of just 12 men, N.B.A. teams are intimate groups, extended families almost, and the ones that succeed cover for individual weaknesses and stress their strengths. They play as if they are aware of, and care for, one another.
The N.B.A.'s upper tier, its elite performers (the American ones, as opposed to the increasing number of foreign-born players), now typically come out of a system in which they have been pointed toward the ''next level'' since grammar school. They have never played in the present tense. Their high-school coach and teammates may well have been secondary to their peer group of nationally recognized megastars. If they stopped off in college before turning pro, it was probably for just a year or two. It is not often easy to coach such a player because he is likely to see himself as a finished product, in no need of instruction, polishing or discipline. (My favorite college coach, John Chaney of Temple University, recently benched a couple of players because they showed up for the team bus without the winter hats he requires in cold weather. Unsurprisingly, Chaney rarely lands any of the nation's most coveted recruits.)
But now the most interesting aspect (to me) of this piece comes into play as Sokolove gives a peripheral study to the increasing influence of internationally trained players (and now coaches) on the Association:
This season, some good things are starting to happen in the N.B.A., possibly because the Olympic debacle was such an eye-opener. Scoring has started to edge up for the first time in years, and some coaches have begun to trust their teams to play a fast-breaking style. After years of exporting the game, the N.B.A. is importing not just players but also a style of play from abroad. The high-scoring Phoenix Suns have been the surprise team of the N.B.A. season so far. Their coach, Mike D'Antoni, holds dual Italian and U.S. citizenship and has spent most of his career playing and coaching in Europe. The Suns' point guard, the master orchestrator of their run-and-gun offense, is Steve Nash, a Canadian. (The Suns signed him as a free agent to replace their point guard of last season, Stephon Marbury.)
The San Antonio Spurs do not play at the frenzied pace of the Suns, but they are one of the N.B.A.'s best teams and, within the coaching fraternity, probably the most admired. On offense, they are a five-man whirl of movement. A player who passes the ball cuts to the basket. The player receiving a pass either shoots, makes a move toward the hoop or quickly passes to someone else. They execute the old-school ''give and go'' play -- a player passes to a teammate, cuts, then gets it right back. ''The Spurs are the gold standard,'' Van Gundy said.
As the Spurs took the floor for a November game in San Antonio against the Knicks, I looked in my program and noted the backgrounds of the players in their starting lineup. Rasho Nesterovic is from Slovenia; Tony Parker, from France; Manu Ginobili, star of the gold-medal-winning Olympic team, from Argentina; and Tim Duncan, the Spurs power forward and best player, from St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Among the Spurs starters, only Bruce Bowen was born on United States soil, and he spent four years after college toiling for minor-league teams in the U.S. and on the European pro circuit. A key reserve, Beno Udrih, is another Slovenian.
This should be an alarming point of fact for anyone who cares about American basketball. Imagine if the Canadian National Hockey team lost to Japan at the Olympics? Imagine if North America produced 5 Alexander Daigle's for every Joe Sakic.
The NBA draws from its fans half of the excitement a college hoops match brings. There isn't anything in the Association's rivalries that is equal to the passion that a Red Sox/Yankee game puts into its fans' hearts. There's no Stanley Cup, no pregame tailgaiting, and never does someone say there's a smell of basketball in the air. So if the NBA is losing it's level of play, what else does it have to offer?
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