HOT STOVE HIGH JINKS
Winners and losers from baseball's hectic off-season
A few things are obvious: The Mets and the Yankees improved, the
A's and the Blue Jays declined, and Barry Bonds got frozen out.
Yet not everything that happened during the first two months of
baseball's off-season was so clear-cut. Who flourished, and who
GREATER DALLAS-FORT WORTH PSYCHOTHERAPISTS Not long ago the
Rangers' clubhouse was a haven for community-minded citizens
(Pudge Rodriguez, Rafael Palmeiro, Rick Helling). Suddenly the
million-dollar question is, Who'll snap first: Carl (I Eat
Managers for Lunch) Everett or John (Gun Rack) Rocker? Will Vince
McMahon be there to televise?
January 14, 2002
FRANK THOMAS With David Wells gone, no one in the young White Sox
clubhouse will have the guts to challenge the Big Hurt when he
misses 20 games with a bruised pinky and then takes a three-hour
pregame nap before begging off playing first base for a night at
MIDDLE-AGED MARVELS Julio Franco, 40, remains the Braves'
starting first baseman. Mike Morgan, 42, re-signed with Arizona.
Jesse Orosco, 44, will be a key lefty out of the Dodgers' pen.
Maybe Cal Ripken Jr. wasn't so tough after all.
MARTY CORDOVA Two years ago Twins manager Tom Kelly considered
Cordova a weak-kneed, washed-up nobody. After a lousy 2000 season
with Toronto (.245 in 62 games) the Blue Jays cut him. After a
solid 2001 season with Cleveland (.301, 20 HRs), he signed a
three-year, $9.1 million deal with the Orioles. Redemption is
KAUFFMAN STADIUM'S SEATS If a baseball that's thrown from second
base slams into hard plastic and nobody sees it, does it make an
E? That's the philosophical debate in moribund Kansas City, where
Royals manager Tony Muser might play crazy-armed Chuck Knoblauch
TINO MARTINEZ He was dropped by baseball's best team, and if he
thought stepping in for Don Mattingly in New York was hard, now
he's following Big Mac in St. Louis.
CHIPPER JONES Once upon a time, Jones seemed destined to go down
as one of the game's celebrated third basemen. Now he's a clumsy
leftfielder and his legacy will change--just to make room for
KEN GRIFFEY HATERS Even those who cringe at Junior's whines,
pouts and occasional indifference have to sympathize with a Hall
of Famer on a sunken ship. Pokey Reese and Dmitri Young are the
latest departees from Junior's woeful, cost-cutting Reds.
BUZZ Headline makers Mark McGwire, Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn have
retired. No new stadiums open in 2002. The Braves, Cardinals,
Diamondbacks, Indians, Mariners, Mets and Yankees are early
playoff favorites. What's new? --Jeff Pearlman
Wait till Next Year
The skinny on top players who'll be eligible for free agency next
Darin Erstad, Angels, OF
Hard-nosed player will give someone a top leadoff hitter.
Jeff Kent, Giants, 2B
Most teams with coin are set at his position--except the Dodgers.
Greg Maddux, Braves, P
Atlanta will probably keep him; if not, he'll have many suitors,
even at 36.
Andy Pettitte, Yankees, P
Lefty will be hotly pursued, but figures to stay in New York, for
love of Joe.
Ivan Rodriguez, Rangers, C
If knee is healed, could command $15 million a year.
TOUGH TIMES FOR ANNA
Time was, a tennis fan could justify rooting for Anna Kournikova
on the grounds that she was a credible top 10 player. As her
handlers would say, she may not be the MVP of women's tennis, but
she's an All-Star. No longer. Kournikova won only 10 matches last
year and finished the season at No. 74, a drop of 62 places since
the beginning of 2001. Last week, in the season-opening ASB Bank
Classic in Auckland, New Zealand, Kournikova blew a golden
opportunity to pick up her first tournament victory by losing in
the semifinals to the lightly regarded (but powerfully named)
Anna Smashnova, ranked 88th in the world.
A stress fracture in Kournikova's left foot that required surgery
and forced her to miss three Grand Slam events last year was the
main reason for her plummeting ranking. Although she
rehabilitated her foot, she didn't cure her notoriously shaky
nerves. After returning to the tour in July following a
five-month absence, she lost five consecutive first-round
matches, mostly to unknowns like 248th-ranked Galina Fokina, who
beat her in October in the Kremlin Cup.
If the 20-year-old Kournikova continues to be so ordinary, her
extraordinary endorsement portfolio will suffer. Companies like
Adidas, Charles Schwab, Lycos and Omega pay her an estimated
total of $12 million a year because of the exposure she receives;
when she loses in the early rounds, that exposure is limited.
"There's a point at which people lose interest even in someone as
attractive as she is," says Bob Williams, president of Burns
Sports, a Chicago-based marketing firm.
For now Kournikova's sponsors profess satisfaction--"She's still a
global icon," says a Lycos spokesperson--and her agents at Octagon
say they keep fielding new offers. Kournikova claims to be
unburdened by her on-court failures, but others suspect
otherwise. "I think Anna puts on a big front," says Carling
Bassett-Seguso, a TV commentator and former player who, like
Kournikova, was known more for her looks than her results.
"There's a huge element of fear and insecurity there."
A Little Overboard
Four months later, the fallout from the Danny Almonte episode is
still being felt. Last month Little League's international
headquarters in Williamsport, Pa., sent a series of stringent new
player-eligibility guidelines to leagues around the world.
Parents of prospective players must now provide a birth
certificate that was issued within 30 days of the child's birth.
Absent that, no fewer than five additional documents supporting
the child's birth date, such as a notarized statement from the
delivering doctor or a hospital certificate, must be provided. As
DeEtte Kapustka, president of the Salmon Creek Little League in
Vancouver, Wash., bluntly says, "This is ridiculous."
The problem, as Kapustka and other local Little League
administrators see it, is that marshaling so many documents may
be beyond the abilities of many parents in the U.S., not to
mention for parents in countries where records are less
meticulously kept. Based on the new guidelines, Kapustka is not
even sure her own son will be able to play this year, because his
birth certificate was filed 44 days after his birth. In addition,
all the extra red tape is likely to overwhelm local
administrators. "Little League is mostly run by volunteers," says
Kapustka. "It puts a huge burden on all of us to make sure all
the documentation is in order."
Little League officials say this is the only way to prevent
cheating. "Yes, there's more paperwork, but it's still easy to
get the necessary documents," says league spokesman Lance Van
Auken. "Some said we should apply this only to the kids who come
from overseas, but there's no way we're going to do that.
Whatever we do, we have to do across the board." --Albert Chen
The Super Bowl vs. The Olympics
One of the more memorable Super Bowl commercials in recent years
was EDS's 2000 spot, Cat Herders, which depicted cowboys rounding
up a bunch of kitties. The technology company followed that up
last year with its equally deadpan Running with the Squirrels. So
what does EDS have in store for this year? Nothing. EDS will skip
the big game and instead spend those ad dollars on the Olympics.
This year's Super Bowl will air on Feb. 3, only five days before
the start of the Salt Lake Games, which means two premier sports
properties are duking it out over advertisers. Rather than buy
one 30-second Super Bowl spot on Fox for $2 million, EDS decided
to air a series of ads during the Olympics on NBC, which is
charging $600,000 for a prime-time commercial. "We want to spend
more time going into the specifics of what we do," says Lawanda
Burrell, EDS's VP of global advertising.
In addition to EDS, Cingular Wireless and Volkswagen have also
scrapped Super Bowl plans in favor of the Olympics. Still, Fox
executives say all their commercial slots will be filled come
game day. NBC execs say they're close to their goal of $720
million in ad revenues for the Games. As for which event will end
up being the better investment, well, that's harder to predict
than a herd of cats.
Some of Pistons guard Jerry Stackhouse's earliest memories are of
his older sisters Lois and Jean injecting themselves with
insulin. At the time he didn't understand what diabetes was.
Today Stackhouse has made education about the disease his
personal mission. "I'm trying to get the word out," he says of
his work as a spokesman for the American Diabetes Association and
the National Diabetes Education Program. "It's crazy how many
people pay attention if they hear an athlete's voice."
Diabetes awareness isn't Stackhouse's only charitable commitment.
He also volunteers for a grade-school literacy program, runs a
free summer hoops camp for junior high students and buys 25
tickets for every Pistons home game for disadvantaged kids.
Still, most of his attention is devoted to diabetes, which has
hit his family hard--Lois and Jean died from the disease, and his
parents, Minnie and George, are both diabetics. "I was a little
leery when I heard he wanted to help. I wondered how genuine he
was," says Jim Haveman, Michigan's Community Health director, who
created public service ads about diabetes with Stackhouse. "But
then I saw he truly cared."
Stackhouse is also a trustee of the Rehabilitation Institute of
Michigan, many of whose patients are diabetics with motor
problems. As one of the youngest board members of a major
hospital, Stackhouse, 27, studies proposals and budgets, attends
meetings and helps in fund-raising. "All I want is to educate,"
says Stackhouse, "to keep everybody from having to bury someone
in the family." --Daniel G. Habib
By the California Department of Motor Vehicles to turn in his
vanity license plate, 1REDSKN, former Washington Redskins
fullback Dale Atkeson, 71. The state says Atkeson's plate is a
slur against Native Americans. Atkeson, whose wife's car
continues to sport the plate RDSKN2, is appealing the order.
Without permission, the final 7:37 of last Saturday's game
against the Penguins, by Rangers forward Theo Fleury, who was
upset after receiving his third penalty of the game. Fleury spent
his AWOL time showering and sitting on the team bus. Earlier in
the week he'd gotten into a postgame tiff with the Sharks'
mascot, Sharkie. Fleury, who refuses to comment on the mascot
incident, reportedly struck Sharkie in the ribs.
The colors blue and white for red on the signage and interior
of a McDonald's restaurant near the home stadium of the Leeds
United soccer club in England. Leeds's team colors are blue,
white and yellow; rival Manchester United wears red.
At age 77, Basketball Hall of Famer and former Ohio State coach
Fred Taylor, of natural causes. Taylor, whose Buckeyes won the
national title in 1960 and whose .778 winning percentage in NCAA
tournament play is the ninth best in history, coached Jerry
Lucas, John Havlicek and Bob Knight, who said that Taylor's teams
"were a working model for me."
Of a heart attack, former White Sox outfielder Al Smith, 73.
Smith, who batted .272 in 12 seasons and played in two All-Star
Games, was immortalized in a photo that shows a fan spilling beer
onto Smith's head as the fan attempted to catch a home run ball
during Game 2 of the 1959 World Series.
Move over, LeRoy Neiman. Sports themes have been cropping up
recently in a number of works of fine art:
WORK Fragment of a Crucifixion (after Francis Bacon), by Paul
Pfeiffer. On display at New York City's Whitney Museum of
DESCRIPTION Pfeiffer, who specializes in what he calls "video
sculpture," created an endless videotape loop of Knicks forward
Larry Johnson celebrating after winning a playoff game. Other
players have been digitally erased.
CRITIQUE "There's an absence of detail and context that unveils
the latent eroticism of the sports spectacle," says Debra Singer,
the Whitney's associate curator of contemporary art.
WORK Here ... Now, a modern dance piece (above) by choreographer
Judith Jamison, in collaboration with jazz musician Wynton
Marsalis. Debuted at Manhattan's City Center on Dec. 7 by the
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, it will be next seen at the
Olympics Arts Festival, beginning on Feb. 9 in Salt Lake City.
DESCRIPTION An interpretive dance inspired by the life of the
late Olympic gold medalist Florence Griffith Joyner.
CRITIQUE "A stunningly inventive work," wrote Anna Kisselgoff,
dance critic of The New York Times. "Ms. Jamison's true theme
refers to the thrill and cost of the physical performance
demanded of athletes and dancers."
WORK David Cone's No-Hitter, by Sidney Tillim. Exhibited at New
York City's Trans-Hudson Gallery last summer.
DESCRIPTION An oil on canvas depicting the former Yankees
pitcher's 1999 perfect game. Tillim, who died in August,
specialized in portraying highly publicized news events through
works painted in a deliberately awkward style.
CRITIQUE "Tillim is producing a kind of eccentric contemporary
history painting," wrote Ken Johnson of The New York Times.
"What Yankee fan would not feel uplifted by...three men in
pinstripes...against a background of blue sky and green grass?"
WORK Cremaster 1-5, by Matthew Barney. Scheduled for exhibition
at the Ludwig Museum in Cologne, Germany, in May.
DESCRIPTION A surrealist film series including scenes of rodeo,
amateur wrestling and double-amputee runner Aimee Mullins.
CRITIQUE Roger D. Hodge wrote in Harper's Magazine, "A cycle of
art films...so potent in their symbolism and private mythology
that astonished critics, fumbling awkwardly for an apt
comparison, routinely evoke some dim memory of Richard Wagner's
After years of insisting that their relationship is merely
platonic, Nomar Garciaparra and Mia Hamm finally admit they're a
couple. Hamm recently told a group of her U.S. soccer teammates
that she and the Red Sox shortstop are dating, confirming rumors
that have circulated since 1999. The two (below) have been
spotted together at numerous public events, but Garciaparra--who
over the years has also been linked to actresses Lauren Holly and
Janine Turner and, recently, to entertainment reporter Jules
Asner--downplayed the speculation. "It's gossip," Garciaparra said
last summer. "It cracks me up. If you look at it, I'm dating
everybody." Hamm, who in July confirmed that she and her husband
of six years, Christiaan Corry, have split up, will reportedly
join Garciaparra in Arizona, where he's training during the
Pop tartlet Britney Spears, who gyrated in last year's Super
Bowl halftime show and was the grand marshal at NASCAR's Pepsi
400 last July, is adding the NBA to her sports resume. Spears
will perform during The NBA All-Star Read to Achieve
Celebration, a one-hour TV special that will air during the
NBA's All-Star weekend. The special, to be hosted by Ahmad
Rashad and Summer Sanders, will air simultaneously on NBC, TNT,
Nickelodeon and BET--which even for Britney and her overexposed
navel qualifies as overkill....
Yes, Virginia, there is a Jayson Williams. Before the holidays,
the ex-NBAer, now an NBC announcer, stopped by one of his
favorite haunts, New York City nightclub Veruka, and tipped the
staff $10,000. He gave the money to a manager and told him to
split it among the workers. A few weeks before that, Williams
doled out $5,000 to homeless people outside the club. Williams
also threw a New Year's party at Veruka, but he failed to show
up, much to the staff's disappointment.
Opening bid on Mike Tyson's 64-acre property in Southington,
Ohio, as listed on eBay; the top bidder gets a 25,000-square-foot
home, two lakes and two ringside seats to a proposed Tyson-Lennox
15, 22, 23, 31, 35
Numbers on a $113,000 winning lottery ticket held by Randy
Hatch, the girls' basketball coach at Carroll Academy in
Huntingdon, Tenn.; the numbers also adorn his starters' jerseys.
Cost to hire the new company College Baseball Advisors Inc. to
enhance a high school player's college scholarship prospects by
analyzing his playing ability and devising a marketing plan for
Expected annual salary of NHLPA head Bob Goodenow, who's
reportedly set to sign a six-year deal, the richest for a union
boss in a team sport.
This Week's Sign of the Apocalypse
Advertising Age phoned the FBI trying to discover whether,
according to a story in the magazine, "it was a pair of Nikes,
Reeboks or Adidas" that Richard Reid was wearing when he
allegedly attempted to ignite a shoe bomb on an American
Airlines flight last month.
"People can lose interest even in someone as attractive as Anna."
They Said It
Bucks coach, after being ejected in a 90-83 loss to the Bulls:
"I'm not criticizing the referees, but it was a poorly