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Old 04-23-2002, 09:34 PM   #1
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Post Sports Central Newsletter - #75 - Shooting Star or Comeback Kid?

The Sports Central Newsletter
April 21st, 2002 - Issue #75

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|-- IN THIS ISSUE... --|

- Words From the Editor 04.21.02
- Reader's Showcase (Sports Rant)
- The Lancaster Report 04.21.02
- What's new at Sports Central?
- Marquee Matchups (MLB, NHL) 04.21.02
- Feature article: Shooting Star or Comeback Kid?



Hello folks,

Our long-time columnist Lee Manchur has kindly created free printable
playoff brackets for the ongoing NBA and NHL playoffs. Make your
predictions for the series and chart your progress along the way:

NBA: https://www.sports-central.org/image...ckets_2002.jpg
NHL: https://www.sports-central.org/image...ckets_2002.jpg

Are you someone aspiring to have a job in the sports industry? In April's
"Sports Career Center" column, our partner SportsWorkers.com
(http://www.SportsWorkers.com) explains the importance of college majors in
landing that dream sports job. Find out more:

Check out this week's noteable sports quote. "Say What?":

"I think my guys are bored sometimes. Postseason's going to be
another matter. I know they're going to be focused, and they're not
going to be shying away. So I'm not worried at all. We'll be

- Shaquille O'Neal

We'll see just how bored O'Neal and the Lakers are as they battle some
increasingly difficult teams out West. Enjoy this playoff-packed SC issue!

Until next time,

- Marc James
mailto:[email protected]


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Each issue, the Reader's Showcase features either challenging sports trivia
or sports rant entries from readers on a rotating basis. For the Sports
Trivia questions, we will randomly choose trivia questions ranging from
baseball to hockey to golf. As for the Sports Rant, you, the readers,
have the opportunity write-in with your opinions and thoughts and have your
thoughts published in front of thousands of interested eyes.

In this issue, we're featuring another Sports Rant from your fellow


"TheWittyOne" wrote-in with this comment:

"Since [Ken] Griffey, Jr. arrived in Cincinnati, the Reds have
steadily declined. Admittedly, the pitching has a lot to do with
it, and Griffey has been injured so one cannot blame lack of
performance on his part. The problem is that the Reds are a low
budget team, and Griffey and Larkin account for 1/3 of the payroll
while all five starting pitchers combined only make a few million
dollars. Unless you have a big budget team, signing a superstar
causes the team to be out of balance. This explains why Seattle was
pathetic most of the time Griffey was there."


Are expensive, big-name stars like Ken Griffey, Jr. worth it for teams?
Voice your opinion and it could be published in front of thousands of
interested eyes! Let us know: mailto:[email protected]



Last issue's trivia question was: "Since the NBA draft lottery's inception
in 1985, who is the only team not to make a lottery selection?"

Congratulations to Michael Nashalsky who correctly answered that the Jazz
were the only team not to make a lottery selection. Better luck next time
to those who participated!



By Ross Lancaster

The NBA playoffs are just underway, and in this issue of TLR, all first
round NBA series are previewed. In the NHL, the sudden 0-2 downfall of the
Detroit Red wings is explained. It's all inside this edition of TLR.


--> Western Conference

(1) Sacramento vs. (8) Utah

This will most likely be the most lopsided series in the first round.
Sacramento swept the Jazz in their four meetings, beating them by a
combined 91 points. Also, the teams are going in opposite directions;
Sacramento up-and-coming and Utah old and aging. There is a small chance
for a letdown, but it is very unlikely with these two. Expect Chris Webber
to dominate Karl Malone in every one of the games in this likely short
series. Sacramento barely squeaked by with Game 1, though, showing Utah has
some chance.

Prediction: Sacramento in three

(4) Dallas vs. (5) Minnesota

This series should be just like a 4-5 series should be: closely matched.
The two teams split their season series, with each team winning a game
handily and winning a close one. There is no question that Dallas is the
better team but Dirk Nowitski and Steve Nash have been nursing injuries
down the stretch. A crucial factor as to what team will win this series
will undoubtedly be the point guard play of both teams. Chauncey Billups of
the Timberwolves has had big games this season against the Mavs, and the
same can be said with Steve Nash against the 'Wolves. Expect Dallas to win
this one, in four, possibly five tough-fought games.

Prediction: Dallas in four

(2) San Antonio vs. (7) Seattle

This series should be a short-lived one, as well. Also, if having to deal
with two seven-foot monsters in the paint isn't hard enough, Seattle has
6'10" Rashard Lewis and 6'10" Vladimir Radmanovic hobbling with injuries
that may keep them out for part or all of this series. However, there is
some light at the end of the tunnel for Seattle, as they split the season
series with the Spurs. That being said, San Antonio will overmatch Seattle
with David Robinson and possible league-MVP Tim Duncan, winning in four
games. San Antonio took Game 1 Saturday afternoon.

Prediction: San Antonio in four

(3) L.A. Lakers vs. (6) Portland

We knew that Portland's clubhouse chemistry can't possibly last. After
playing much of this season in cohesion, the Blazers have fallen back to
reality, which is that they can not get along. Meanwhile, the team that
the Blazers are facing is the two-time defending champions who have beaten
the exact same Portland team two years in a row in the playoffs, including
last year's first round sweep. The Lakers could rest Shaq for this whole
series and probably still win. Chalk down a three-game sweep for Shaq,
Kobe, and the Lakers.

Prediction: Los Angeles in 3

--> Eastern Conference

(1) New Jersey vs. (8) Indiana

New Jersey surprised everyone by winning the Eastern Conference during the
regular season, while Indiana was very disappointing, having to win on the
last day of the season to even get to the playoffs. Is each team's success
about to end or start? At press time, the Pacers took Game 1 in a shocker.
However, if Jason Kidd does his job like he has been, the Indiana defense
will have a very hard time stopping the potential MVP. After Saturday, I
see New Jersey winning three straight to close out the pesky Pacers, led by
Jermaine O'Neal.

Prediction: New Jersey in 4

(4) Charlotte vs. (5) Orlando

This is probably the hardest series to pick. On one hand, you have the
Hornets, who have been playing great as a team for the last two months and
are being picked as a Finals contender by many. On the other hand, you have
the Magic, who would definitely not be here if it weren't for the
talent of Tracy McGrady. In this 4-5, I'll pick Charlotte, because Orlando
is as much of a one-man team as any in the league. Expect this to go the

Prediction: Charlotte in 5

(2) Detroit vs. (7) Toronto

About a month ago, Toronto was believed to be down for the count, and then
Vince Carter went down. Their record since: 12-2. Detroit was also not
supposed to be here, but someone forgot to tell them that. Ben Wallace has
been the league's best rebounding player by far this season and Rick
Carlisle would be my pick for Coach of the Year. In other words, these two
teams are playing great and this series will be very competitive. However,
as well as Detroit's surprise season has been going, I say it ends here in
an upset pick.

Prediction: Toronto in 5

(3) Boston vs. (6) Philadelphia

This series, just like the others in the East, should be very competitive.
However "The Answer" is definitely the answer to how the Sixers
will advance into the second round and possibly even back to the Finals.
Even with Iverson, Boston still poses a challenge for the Sixers. One
thing is for sure, though, Philadelphia will have an upper hand in the
paint, with Mutombo as a force and Potapenko out for Boston. Allen Iverson
should play, though, and his playing, in my opinion, will be what the
Sixers need to win a close series.

Prediction: Philadelphia in 5

--> Motor City Breakdown

The Detroit Red Wings were stunned in their first two home playoff games
and because of it, are just two losses away from ending their season. They
are down 2-0 to Vancouver with the Canucks going back home in Game 3 later
Sunday night.

However, the sudden collapse of the Red Wings can actually be supported.
One, the Canucks have been playing extremely well in order to get
themselves into the playoffs. Two, the Red Wings have been resting their
players for weeks in order to prepare for the playoffs. This has caused
them to lose some unity of not playing together. Three, Detroit is just an
old team and may have spent up a lot of their energy during the regular

What is for sure, though, is that even if they do find some way to
win four of the next five, the once forgone conclusion of a Stanley Cup may
turn into a doubtful situation.


Send us your feedback:
mailto:[email protected]?subject=TLR

You are welcome to post your thoughts on the message boards at:



Revisiting the new articles for the week of 04/15/02 - 04/21/02:


MLB: Ways to improve the game (Pt. 1)
By Gary Cozine

You've heard the arguments before, but SC's Gary Cozine says it's time to
re-examine some of baseball's shortcomings, including eliminating the
widening salary gaps and the downsides of the designated hitter.



NHL: Making the dream team roster
By Josie Lemieux

Sixteen teams have taken the playoff ranks by storm. The Stanley Cup is now
up for grabs: who will win it this year? With extreme talent in every
locker room, ever wondered who would make your perfect playoff team? Forget
the actual rosters and injuries: here are some of Josie Lemieux's favorite
player picks.



COLUMN: Jock Strip:
By Greg Turner and Ken Karl

The Jock Strip is a sports editorial cartoon series "for the athletic
supporter" and is the creation of Portland, Oregon's Greg Turner and St.
Louis, Missouri's Ken Karl.



COLUMN: Career Center: College majors for the sports industry
By SportsWorkers.com

People often ask us what they should be majoring in to make it in the
sports industry. They should be asking what they can't be majoring in.
The truth is that just about any major will qualify you for some aspect of
the sports industry.



COLUMN: Amico Report: Picking the playoffs
By Sam Amico

After hours upon hours of studying the brackets and losing lots of sleep,
hoops columnist Sam Amico presents you with his breakdown of the 2002 NBA
Playoffs. These playoffs are a story of countless teams contending who came
out of nowhere; from rags to riches in one season. Can the Lakers repeat,
who is strong enough to emerge out of the tight East? Find out in this
week's Amico Report.



NFL: Football's draft dodgers
By Mason Williams

Ideally, the NFL draft is where the League's future stars are found.
Unfortunately, many highly-regarded first round draft picks never become
stars, and even worse, they become draft day "busts." SC's Mason Williams
takes a look at the top draft busts of all-time.



NHL: 2002 Stanley Cup playoffs preview
By Lee Manchur

On Wednesday, the most exciting tournament in recent years and the race for
the oldest trophy in professional sports begins. Eight exciting series
begin this week, and SC's Lee Manchur has his take on how the race will pan



MLB: Early season news and notes
By Peter Friberg

Two weeks into the 2002 MLB season, the baseball world has seen a lot of
things happen. SC's Peter Friberg provides a popouri of interesting tidbits
from the first two weeks of action. How many homeruns is Barry Bonds on
pace for and will the Tigers ever get a win?



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--> Major League Baseball

By Ross Lancaster
Record: 1-0

Last issue:
Predicted: Mets 6, Cubs 4; Actual: Mets 3, Cubs 2

This issue:
New York Yankees (11-8) (Hernandez) at Oakland Athletics (10-8) (Hudson)
Tuesday, April 23rd; 10:05 PM EST; Oakland, CA; Network Associates
Colosseum; TV: Local only

On Tuesday, the Yankees will go to Oakland for the first time since the
playoffs, when Oakland had a 2-0 lead on the Yanks and wound up losing the
series. Both teams have been on a slump recently, as both Oakland and New
York are 4-6 in their last 10 games.

The A's are being carried by their pitching, hitting only .245 as a team.
However, they got a big blow when Mark Mulder was placed on the 15-day DL
last week with a forearm injury. Meanwhile, the Yankees are almost in the
exact same boat as the A's, getting off to a slow start with the bats, and
one of their best pitchers, Andy Pettitte, on the 15-day DL, as well.

[ Game Breakdown ]

Pitching - Athletics
Hitting - Yankees
Fielding - Draw
Infield - Yankees
Outfield - Yankees
Manager - Yankees
Intangibles - Athletics

Prediction: Yankees 7, Athletics 4


--> National Hockey League

By Lee Manchur
Record: 3-2

Last issue:
Prediction: San Jose 3, Los Angeles 2; Actual: San Jose 3, Los Angeles 1

This issue: Ottawa Senators vs. Philadelphia Flyers
April 22nd, 7 PM EST; Ottawa, Ontario; Corel Center; TV: ESPN, CBC, RDS

The last time the Ottawa Senators played a home playoff game, they were the
favored No. 2 seed playing the seventh-seeded Toronto Maple Leafs. The
Senators lost two consecutive home games, were shut out in both of them,
booed out of their home rink, and eventually lost to the Leafs in four
straight games.

This year, it's much of the same. The Senators are the fifth-highest
scoring team in the NHL tournament and have scored just 3 goals in the
first two games of the postseason.

The Senators are still too small to keep up physically with the Flyers.
While they kept up with the Flyers in both of the opening two games,
eventually, the Senators will wear down as they cannot play that way night
in-and-night out due to their small frames.

A plus for the Sens is goaltending as Lalime has had to play outstanding to
even give the Senators a chance in this series. Meanwhile, Philadelphia's
power play is dead cold and there is definite frustration. Perhaps it is
the home town pressure, as this team has been considered a serious
contender since the start of the season with the addition of Jeremey
Roenick and the trade deadline acquisition of Adam Oates.

Because of the home town fans not putting the pressure on, and being away
from Philly reporters, I think the Flyers will win Game 3 of this series.

[ Game Breakdown ]

Offense - Flyers
Defense - Draw
Goaltending - Senators
Power Play - Senators
Penalty Kill - Flyers
Coaching - Flyers
Intangibles - Flyers

Prediction: Philadelphia 3, Ottawa 1


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Shooting Star or Comeback Kid?

After a disastrous start to the season, motormouth Texas Rangers closer
John Rocker has been sent to the minors. It's been downhill for Rocker ever
since his infamous outburst to Sports Illustrated's Jeff Pearlman back in
1999. A trade to Texas followed a short, unsuccessful spell in Cleveland.
Now he's in Oklahoma City and talking of retirement - is this the end of a
shooting star in the majors?


By Mike Round

John Rocker has never been a normal ballplayer, ever since he arrived in
the majors in 1998. His trademark sprint to the mound, the manic
expression, the feuding with opposition fans, and the tirades of abuse at
anyone and everyone who offends his sensibilities.

Most of all, the man could throw - a high 90's fastball and a wicked slider
- skills that were perfect for a role as a closer, probably baseball's
hardest job. Back in 1999, the world was his oyster, following 38 saves
with the Braves.

Then came THAT interview, the well-documented tirade against anyone who
wasn't a regular, hunting, fishing, good ol' white boy who could trace his
roots back to Abe Lincoln. Personally, I found the fuss and furore over
that interview a trifle ridiculous, and I suspect the author Jeff Pearlman
did, too.

Anyone who hadn't already guessed that Rocker held those types of opinions
was an idiot, and to hear him actually document them openly was about as
shocking as finding out Mike Tyson isn't interested in flower arranging or
interior design. Plus, it's still a free country here, despite the efforts
of Washington's button-downed politicians. A man or woman should be free to
show his or her ignorance - Al Sharpton can, so why not John Rocker?

Rocker seemed overwhelmed by the whole episode and was soon ostracized in
his own (Braves) clubhouse. Most of all, it affected his game. He was soon
optioned to the minors by the Braves, after another confrontation with
Pearlman, and eventually lost the closer job at The Ted. After being traded
to the Indians, he couldn't beat out incumbent closer Bob Wickman and ended
up being the setup man, with minimal success. Texas seemed to be the last
chance saloon for a guy who was beginning to resemble Mark Wohlers, though
for different reasons.

There isn't a harder job than closing out a baseball game in all of sports.
You don't get a second chance. It's you against the world and if the world
wins, chances are you're back again the next night to do it all again.
There's no past in the world of closing - just now. If you got beat last
night, forget it, and move on.

That's how Manny does it in New York. He blew the ultimate game - a World
Series decider. Unlike Wohlers, he managed to move on and has looked as
good as he ever does in the early stages of the season. John Smoltz will do
the same after some early season glitches. The great closers have tunnel
vision and no memory - an essential part of their psychological makeup.

Rocker can't move on. He bitches and whines. He hates. He broods and fires
broadsides at a convenient target, like journalists, teammates, the
opposition players, and fans. It's not his fault. In true Bart Simpson
style, he didn't do it. His whole persona is unsuited to the high-stakes,
high-pressure, closing situation. He can't be a setup guy either, like
Manny was to John Wettland for years. His ego won't tolerate it.

Most worryingly, for Rocker and the Rangers, his stuff has deteriorated.
His fastball, always a bit wild, has lost a few miles per hour and hangs
invitingly for hitters. He can't find his slider and never developed a
consistent changeup. Once the fastball became hittable and batters were no
longer intimidated, he became a liability, hence a 9.53 ERA and 2 blown
saves out of three opportunities this season in Arlington.

The last time Rocker was demoted to the minors, he talked openly of
retirement, bemoaning the pressure of the modern game and the media
scrutiny after his infamous comments. So far, its unclear whether he'll
report to Oklahoma or not, though if he doesn't, he can't become a free
agent, having only 4=four years in the majors. So, if he does accept his
assignment, he has to try to recapture his 1999 form. After all that's
happened, it seems unlikely.

Rocker wasn't projected as a closer when he was drafted in the 18th round
of the 1993 draft. He was nervous and eccentric - not good traits for a
closer. He'd started throughout his amateur career, though his 1999 spell
at AA Greenville wasn't a complete success, with a 5-6, 4.86 ERA record.
The Braves turned him into a reliever, out of necessity.

He's young in baseball terms and could bounce back from this latest
setback. But I don't see him ever being an effective closer again. The only
other option is starting, and to do that he'll need to acquire much better
control, more guile in outwitting batters and some more tricks in his
armory. A bunch of 95-mph fastballs won't cut it as a starter.

The shooting star that was John Rocker looks to have burned out. Many will
be rejoicing.


Send us your feedback:
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You are welcome to post your thoughts on the message boards at:


Special thanks to our newsletter editor, Lee Manchur! Visit his web site:

GPCI Online - http://im.pein.org/gph

(Thanks for reading! Next issue set to come out on 05/05/02.)

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