Sunday, January 29, 2006

The Week that was - The Sunday Nine

So because I’ve not thought about it a lot, the name of this column is going to be The Sunday Nine.

First up this week will be the rumour gathering strength that MLB is returning to Five for yet another season. The channel will take the ESPN nationally televised game on a Sunday night but no news as yet as to whether Wednesday Night Baseball will return to the network. Most British baseball fans would never have discovered the game if it hadn’t been for Five’s coverage on the terrestrial network so even though many of us now fork out for and/or NASN, having the nationally televised game back for a Sunday night is superb news.

Now what is next, ah yes some little thing called the Superbowl. Not the game that most were expecting as Big Ben has led his Steelers to Detroit where they will meet league MVP Shaun Alexander and pals the Seahawks. Whilst it may not be the great match-up name wise it might well be a great match-up on the field of play. Both teams have good defences and the Seahawks have the better running game but I’d say the Steelers throwing game is better. It really could be a classic next week

The best deal of the MLB off season? For me this is a no brainer, the Oakland Athletics this week signed up Frank Thomas for a basic $500k with incentives that could take his salary up to $3.1m depending on performance. The A’s needed a power bat to play DH and who better than a borderline Hall of Famer who despite injury plagued years in 2004 and 2005 hit 30 Home Runs in 345 AB’s and in his last full year in 2003 went deep 42 times in 546 AB’s. Big Hurt still has the pop in his bat and I predict that despite playing in that big ballpark in Oakland, will have a 30 HR/100 RBI season and I think that’s value whatever he ends up costing them.

Last Sunday night whilst we were all concentrating on the Championship Games, Kobe Bryant was putting together the second best night any player has ever had on the court. By jacking up 81 points against the Toronto Raptors, Bryant became only the second player to score over 80 points in a game and yet he is still dissed by the media. The fact is the Lakers stink and unless Kobe shoots then the Lakers aren’t going to win many games, so until he has some talent around him, he’s still going to jack up the ball and rightly so.

There is a lot of talk about the possibility of a name change down in Tampa for the Devil Rays. What the franchise needs is not a name change but to play in an outdoor stadium. Tropicana Field is one of the worst places around MLB to watch a game and considering Tampa itself is such a beautiful place with pretty damn good weather, having an indoor stadium is not far of lunacy. Build an outdoor ballpark and that franchise may well thrive, if you don’t then it’ll always struggle.

This week Michael Vick came out in support of his brother, noble enough you might think but to say that Marcus’s stamp on an opposition player in the Gator Bowl wasn’t on purpose is just a flat out lie. The proof is in the pudding is what they say and the TV replays look pretty conclusive to me, and pretty much every other person with at least one working eye. Marcus clearly has a lot of skill in the Quarterback position, but sadly the baggage outweighs that skill and for that reason I’d be surprised if any team takes a flyer on Vick in the NFL draft at this moment in time.

I don’t know how many Americans will have heard of the 19 year-old boxing sensation Amir Khan. Well if you are any type of boxing fan then it won’t be long until you do. This kid has tremendous hand speed with bucket loads of power and most importantly, his feet firmly planted on the ground. He won his fifth professional bout on Saturday night after flooring Belarusian Vitali Martynov (10-1-0) after just 75 seconds with the ref stopping the fight as his opponent stumbled around wondering what country he was in. The boxing world needs a superstar and this kid could be that person. He is due to fight again next month on the under card of the Matt Skelton v Danny Williams fight and I think most people will be more interested in the young Bolton lad than in the main event, where the winner will fight for one of the Heavyweight title belts.

Just how great is the Martina Hingis story? The 25 year-old Swiss tennis player returned to action this month after three years after retiring from the sport at the young age of 22 due to ankle problems. She may have lost in the last eight in Melbourne but showed enough that she will be a force to be reckoned with this season and I for one am delighted. A comeback is always a great story and considering she is still only 25, she may yet return to the very top of her sport.

We’ll end this with a bit of a rant. On a scale of one to ten, how bored am I at the antics of Bode Miller? The skier who boasted about skiing drunk has now turned around and said Barry Bonds and lance Armstrong do drugs, and how much he hates being in the media spotlight. He makes these claims in an interview in Rolling Stone magazine. This is the guy who was on the front of Time magazine and was interviewed on 60 minutes. He is very quickly becoming a guy you don’t just love to hate; he’s a guy you hate. People will tune into the Winter Olympics to watch this guy fail and boy if he does, he’s going to be in for a rough ride.

I think that wraps it up for this week, more news and views from around sport next week and from the Yanks and the Sox throughout the week.

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