Wednesday

Tiger's Tamed, Let the Firing Begin & Peek at the Picks


Hello again everybody...

Welcome to Wednesday. Does anybody else feel like the early part of the week has gone by quicker than usual? I probably shouldn't say that as I'm working late today and tomorrow, and now those days will seem to go by even slower! So yeah, disregard.

Today I'm talking about the latest revelation about Tiger's knee. Then I'll run down who's new to the unemployment line in baseball. And finally it's this week's Peek at the Picks segment.

Two things scare me. The first is getting hurt. But that's not nearly as scary as the second, which is losing.
-Lance Armstrong (Sept. 18, 1971 - ) American Cyclist and 7-time Tour de France winner

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I thought that quote was appropriate given the latest news on Tiger Woods. For those of you who haven't heard, Tiger announced today that he's going to sit out the rest of the current golf season to allow himself to recover from surgery to repair his ACL as well as to allow a pair of stress fractures in his left tibia to heal.

A little background. We've learned that Woods initially injured his ACL while running at his Orlando home back in 2007 after competing in the British Open. Doctors told Woods that there was no immediate surgery necessary and given time the ACL may heal on it's own. Tiger went on to win 5 of his next 6 events, so apparently the knee wasn't bothering him much at that point.
But this Spring, Woods underwent an arthroscopic procedure on his knee after finishing second in the Masters. This past weekend's U.S. Open was Wood's first tournament since that surgery. And it was obvious to anyone who watched that Tiger was suffering a significant amount of pain, especially during his swings off the tee.

So today comes the news that Tiger's going to have full-on ACL-repair surgery which will take him out of action until next year. Why does this really matter? Well to the PGA it means that there'll be significantly less interest in the rest of their season. Which is especially a problem considering this is the second year of their FedEx Cup, which Woods won last year. It's tough to try and promote your new playoff format to an audience who's not interested if Tiger's not involved.

Then there's the question of how it affects us here locally. We at The Sports Take were looking forward to the possibility of the 2009 PGA Championship at Hazletine National Golf Club here in Minnesota being a potentially historic tournament. Currently Tiger Woods has 14 major championship victories. The record is 18 held by Jack Nicklaus. There are 5 majors between now and the '09 PGA. So if Tiger'd won 3 of those 5, he'd have come to Minnesota attempting to tie Jack. And if he'd won 4, he'd be trying to pass Jack. Now with this latest news, you can cross off 2 of those 5 opportunities. That means that Tiger would need to win the '09 Masters, U.S. Open and British Open to create a historical opportunity at Hazeltine. Which creates an interesting scenario in and of itself, since doing so would not only put him in line to tie Jack, but also would mean he'd be shooting for a Grand Slam.

But there's no guarantee that he'll even be competing in the '09 Masters, much less winning it. The only time-table we have currently is that he'll be missing the rest of this season. Here's a quote from TigerWoods.com:

"While I am obviously disappointed to have to miss the remainder of the season, I have to do the right thing for my long-term health and look forward to returning to competitive golf when my doctors agree that my knee is sufficiently healthy. My doctors assure me with the proper rehabilitation and training, the knee will be strong and there will be no long-term effects."

So hopefully the surgery will go well and Tiger will be in shape for the majors next year. In the mean-time, there's still baseball to watch everybody!

Though not everybody's going to be enjoying the rest of the baseball season as much as you and I. This week saw the beginnings of baseball's annual "pink slip season".

On Monday, the Seattle Mariners fired G.M. Bill Bavasi. This move is interesting on several levels. Generally if a firing happens in the middle of a season, it's the Manager who gets the axe. Sometimes that can light a fire under players and turn a season around. But firing the G.M.? That doesn't usually have the same effect.

Don't get me wrong, the guy deserved to get shown the door. Look at this short list of free agents and players acquired via trade under Bavasi: Carlos Silva, Erik Bedard, Richie Sexson, Adrian Beltre, Jose Guillen, Jarrod Washburn, Brad Wilkerson and Jeff Weaver. Outside of Bedard, who's been mediocre at best, the rest of those guys could easily be considered busts. And that many busts will get any general manager fired.

But if you're going to fire the G.M. in the middle of the year, why aren't you bringing in the guy who's going to rebuild the thing, so that he can get a half-season's look at what he'll be starting with? Instead, they promoted an assistant G.M. on an interim basis. And while it's possible that the assistant could get the job, if you're looking to go in a different direction, you'd want to bring in someone from the outside of your organization, no?

As for field manager John McLaren? It looks like he'll last at least until a new G.M. is hired. After that, his odds of remaining employed drop precipitously. McLaren was hired by Bavasi, so the new G.M. wouldn't be expected to have any particular loyalty to him.

Not that managers always enjoy the loyalty of the G.M.'s who hire them. Enter Willie Randolph. On Monday night, after a victory over the Angels out west, Mets general manager Omar Minaya fired Randolph, as well as his pitching coach Rick Peterson and hitting coach Tom Nieto. There are generally about 6 coaches on a staff, so blowing out half that number is a significant firing.

The firing of Randolph wasn't entirely unexpected. In fact, I predicted it in a previous column. The manner in which it was done was a bit surprising however. Randolph had a conversation with Minaya on Sunday before the Mets left for California. According to Randolph, he asked Minaya to go ahead and make the move if that's what he was going to do, instead of letting Willie travel all the way out West only to fire him then.

"I actually asked him," Randolph said, according to the New York Times. "I said: 'Omar, do this now. If you're going to do this, do this now. I know you've got a lot of pressure on you, but if I'm not the guy to lead this team, then don't let me get on this plane.' I did say that to him."

But Minaya didn't make the move then, instead waiting til Monday night after the Mets beat the Angels. Conveniently it happened at 3 a.m. Eastern time. Long after the New York papers had gone to press. The alleged reasoning for the delay is that Minaya hadn't yet finalized the hires he was going to make to replace the coaches he was going to fire. Whether that's true or not, we may never know. But either way, Minaya's catching all sorts of grief in the New York media over a move that's being described as very disrespectful to Randolph and his staff.

The Mets certainly aren't where they wanted to be. They added a significant amount to their payroll in their offseason. And this year's poor start, coupled with last year's blatant collapse meant that a change needed to be made. It's too bad that the nature of the change is overwhelming talk about whether the change has a chance to be successful (my picks hope so, but at this point I'm highly doubtful). But that's all part of living in the crazy world of New York baseball!

Finally today, it's time for this week's Peek at the Picks segment where I compare the current MLB standings to my pre-season picks.

NL East: Philadelphia Phillies, 42-31 (Dan's Pick: NY Mets, 6.5 games behind)
The Mets aren't dead and buried. But I have serious doubts as to whether interim manager Jerry Manuel is going to be the type of personality to get that club turned around. The Phillies are starting to put some distance between them and the rest of the East, opening up a 3-game lead on the Marlins.

NL Central: Chicago Cubs, 45-26 (DP: Cubs)
Things are settling down in the Central. The Cubbies maintain a 3.5 game lead on the Cardinals and a 7.5 game lead on the Brewers. One of those two teams is going to have to get hot to challenge the Cubs, otherwise Chicago could walk away with this thing.

NL West: Arizona Diamondbacks, 37-34 (DP: D'backs)
The Snakes are still scuffling. They got destroyed last night by the Oakland A's even with Brandon Webb on the mound. They still have a 4.5 game lead on the Dodgers. This may turn out to be the only division in baseball won by a team with a .500 record. Oof.

AL East: Boston Red Sox (whom I hate), 45-29 (DP: Boston, whom I hate)
I was really hoping that losing David Ortiz and Daisuke Matsuzaka would really put a dent in the Red Sox (whom I hate), but apparently not so much. And now both are on rehab assignments and will return soon. Tampa Bay's hanging in there only 2 games back. And they do lead the Wild Card race. But they'd better maintain that Wild Card lead, because they're not getting to the post season any other way.

AL Central: Chicago White Sox, 39-31 (DP: Detroit Tigers, 6.5 GB)
The Tigers are on a mini-roll lately, winners of 8 of their last 10. Has the warm weather finally woken up their bats? Perhaps. There's a lot of time left and Chicago's shown no indication that they're going to run away and hide. I'm not dead yet here folks! Not yet!

AL West: L.A. Angels, 43-29 (DP: Seattle Mariners, 17.5 GB)
So what's the over/under on how many games back the Mariners finish? 25? 30? Yeesh.
Torii Hunter watch: .273, 9 HR, 36 RBI. Still no eye-popping numbers from Torii. Not bad either though. Torii's currently 11th amongst AL outfielders in fan voting, meaning he'll need a nod from AL All-Star Manager Terry Francona in order to make the mid-summer classic. I'm starting to worry that may not happen. So click over to http://www.mlb.com/ and get your votes in now!

That's all for today folks. I'm back on Friday with more sports pontification!

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