This column is dedicated to anyone who has ever been thrown out of a water slide and lived to tell about it. The first nearly happened to me in San Antonio this weekend, and thank God I didn't have to wonder about the second.
A BRAVE NEW WORLD?
It's really starting to look like Mark Teixeira is going to be traded, and perhaps sooner rather than later. I was listening to Jennifer Engel (The Little Ball of Hate show) on ESPN Radio this morning and she seemed to think that now is not the time to trade the Rangers' franchise cornerstone. The reasoning was that teams may be willing to offer a better package for him in the offseason, and that could be true. But teams need to realize the advantage of having Teixeira in place by July 31 is that they will have him for two pennant runs, this year and next. A team like Atlanta, who is only two games back of the Mets in the NL East, could go over the top if they bring this guy in. Yes, he is represented by Scott "Great Satan" Boras, but if Atlanta does in fact win a World Series this year or next he is going to re-sign with them. He went to college in the area, he's already a local legend and he would be going to a team with a great winning tradition (albeit only one World Series title). He can't get that in Baltimore.
The only real sticking point, then, is what Atlanta would have to give up for him. Most experts predict that nothing gets done without Jarrod Saltalamacchia, plus at least one other young prospect. If I were the Rangers, I would hold that line. Saltalamacchia is a good young hitter and you can play him at first base or behind the plate. In fact, behind the plate may be better because Texas has a glut of young hitting first basemen coming up (Jason Botts, Nate Gold, Chris Davis, Emerson Frostad) but no clear-cut catching prospects (unless you count Taylor Teagarden, who's an injury risk). And I don't think they believe Guillermo Quiroz can get it done, or else he'd be up here now. Gerald Laird is a decent catcher, but I think we've seen the ceiling for him.
CALZAGHE TO MEET KESSLER
Now on to boxing. I would like to announce that Joe Calzaghe read my column and was so thoroughly ashamed of himself that he finally agreed to meet Mikkel Kessler for the undisputed super-middleweight title....but I'm not so full of myself as to think that it was little old me who could have swayed him. Now if we get Taylor/Pavlik and Mayweather/Hatton...
But seriously, the fact that the fight is taking place is great news for the sport. A victory would cement Calzaghe's status as arguably the greatest fighter of his generation and perhaps the best super middleweight of all time (apologies to Roy Jones and Sven Ottke). It might also position him for a potential mega-fight with Roy Jones, who would have to come down in weight but could probably do it, provided he gets past Anthony Hanshaw this weekend. Either way, I applaud him for finally agreeing to take the fight, for whatever reasons he ultimately did so.
Of course, we all have enough common sense to realize that whoever wins this bout will probably not remain undisputed champion very long. Four belts means four mandatory title defenses, and unless the four organizations can find some common ground for the good of the sport (like that will ever happen), they will be back to creating alphabet champions within a year or two. But still, until he retires or gets beaten in the ring, either Calzaghe or Kessler will be viewed by the fans as the undisputed champion, and that's what really matters.
OTHER NOTES FROM THE WORLD OF SPORTS
1. Is there anything Ichiro can't do? He not only hit an ITP home run, but made it look easy while doing it. In 6 1/2 years he has managed to rack up right at 1,500 hits. It's scary to think he could actually threaten 3,000 despite beginning his major-league career at 27. Better start reserving his bust in Cooperstown.
2. Tom Coughlin is a dead man walking. The Rumor Page says he plans to eradicate dissent in the Giants locker room this season. Good luck. That tactic might work if Coughlin was secure in his position, but he has no mandate other than ownership, and at the end of the day it all boils down to what the 53 guys in the locker room think. Jimmy Johnson could do it because he was a winner. Bill Parcells could do it because he was a winner. Coaches before 1993 could do it because a player's options and control over their situations was nowhere near what it is now. Tom Coughlin needs to be careful how he goes about this, because as much as I like putting stuck-up athletes in their place, now is not the time for an iron fist.
3. Awfully nice of the Orlando Magic to send the Seattle Sonics a little something in trade for Rashard Lewis. Granted, a second round pick and a trade exception isn't much, but at least Seattle didn't lose him for nothing.
4. I think if the Pittsburgh Pirates won't spend money this offseason to improve their roster, Bob Nutting should sell the team to someone who will. I understand a business needs to make money, but even more important than that is not cheating the customers with an inferior product. I'm not sure if there is a rule requiring teams to spend money received from revenue sharing on free agents, but there should be.
5. Count me among those who think sabermetrics is the worst thing to ever happen to baseball. But in that numerical quicksand I find myself allied with my common enemy, Mr. Boras, who thinks there should be a stat for great defensive plays. At first, I didn't like the idea, but then I rememebered from having read Moneyball that sabermetrics doesn't take those types of plays into account. This would at least restore some sense of balance to an area of the game that is getting completely out of hand. I mean, who cares what a player's average is with two outs in the ninth inning with two or more runners on versus left-handed pitching in a domed stadium on the road at night in the first game following a homestand of more than four days?
6. At first I was a bit skeptical of his chances, but after seeing him this past weekend, I think Evander Holyfield really has a shot at winning at least one of the four heavyweight belts. He simply did not look like a 40-plus fighter against Lou Savarese. His hard right hand in the 4th round and the 30 seconds that followed proved he still has it. In fact, I think he would be favored against either Ibragimov or Chagaev and possibly against Maskaev. I don't know about Klitschko, but I do think he would give him a more competitive fight than Lamon Brewster did. Talk about unwatchable.
Until next time.