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NEWS ALERT ... NFL commish under fire

Roger Goodell's story regarding Ray Rice isn't adding up, which is embarrassing for a leader making $44 million a year.

Who does A.J. Preller think he is? Making deals at a pace like he’s Trader Jack McKeon

12/19/2014

Who does A.J. Preller think he is? The new “Trader Jack?”

The new general manager of the San Diego Padres just keeps on wheeling and dealing and his trades are transforming a club that badly needed a makeover.

It’s gone from no hope, no offense and really, really boring baseball to renewed hope, tons of offensive bats and actually able to score runs.

Yeah, touching home plate could again become a thing.

Preller has acquired a new whole new outfield by getting Matt Kemp from the Los Angeles Dodgers, Justin Upton from the Atlanta Braves and Wil Myers from the Tampa Bay Rays. He also landed catcher Derek Norris from the Oakland Athletics and third baseman Will Middlebrooks from the Boston Red Sox.

He accomplished this maneuvering without having to trade any of his top three starting pitchers in Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross and Ian Kennedy.

It’s pretty amazing stuff for a club that has been operating on the cheap during the entire Petco Park era.

Preller also hasn’t dealt any of his top prospects though you never know when one of those mid-range prospects will turn into Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber (yep, the Padres dealt him as a minor leaguer to get journeyman outfielder Ryan Ludwick in 2010).

But back to Preller’s amazing work.

The big difference is the 37-year-old Preller doesn’t have any limits on him. He wouldn’t have accepted the GM job if he couldn’t take the steps necessary to revamp a putrid offensive roster.

Suddenly, the Padres are spending money and able to land high-priced players like Kemp and Upton. Just as quickly, fans are excited and people nationally are talking about the Padres.

When is the last time that has happened in December?

And we all know how seldom the Padres create a buzz in October.

Only time will tell whether Preller’s inaugural flurry of trades produces a memorable season or the typical San Diego campaign of more losses than wins with nobody caring or watching once the Chargers begin their season.

But for now, he is showing signs of having the dealing ability of “Trader Jack” McKeon, the general manager who made trade after trade and signed key free agents to get the Padres into the World Series for the first time in 1984.

They have been back only one other time, which is pretty sad if you think about. But the first step is moving away from last season’s terrible club and being competitive in the National League West.

Preller seems to have already taken five steps to improve the club’s fortunes – with plenty of time in the offseason to make more moves.

Wow, feels weird to hear optimism about the Padres in December. Next step: Not having it fade away in April.

All the bad San Diego State teams never had a lower-scoring game than the current Aztecs

12/08/2014

Just think of all the really bad San Diego State basketball teams I covered over the years.

Picture the horrible teams under Jim Brandenburg and the terrible teams put together by Fred Trenkle.

Remember all those junior-college guys and high school guys that had no business being on the roster? Guys pinching themselves that they were actually part of a Division I program.

Oh yeah, we can’t forget Steve Fisher’s first season as San Diego State coach. You know, when he didn’t win a single conference game.

After that season, junior-college star Randy Holcomb orally committed to the Aztecs and during a phone conversation, he asked me to tell him exactly how bad it was.

I told him I was an expert at writing 20-loss stories. He responded that his junior-college team would have routed the Aztecs.

So think of all that and then let it sink in that San Diego State gave its worst performance as a Division I program on Sunday. Yes, the worst.

Worst ever.

Washington punished the Aztecs 49-36 and the putrid 36 points are San Diego State’s fewest since turning Division I in 1969. (see stellar recap here – http://cbpost.sportsdirectinc.com/basketball/ncaab-boxscores.aspx?page=/data/NCAAB/results/2014-2015/recap889200.html)

Yeah, the No. 13 team in the nation – the Aztecs ought to free fall down the rankings on Monday – just gave a scoring effort worse than all the bad teams in program history.

San Diego State shot 20.4 percent and let’s just say it was a good thing that its last shot – a 3-pointer by Matt Shrigley – went through the nylon or otherwise the Aztecs shoot less than 20 percent.

That’s a pretty low percentage for scholarship players. A collection of cooks, bus drivers and welders might be able to do that.

These Aztecs missed their first 10 shots, were 5-for-30 at halftime and 7-for-47 late in the game en route to the program’s worst shooting percentage since 1996. (Naturally, a team coached by Trenkle). Oh yeah, the starting five was 4-of-36.

Repeat … FOUR OF THIRTY-SIX.

“Our offense was bad and that’s the only way you could put it, and they had a lot to do with that,” Fisher said afterwards. “We had a lot to do with that also. They gave us nothing easy until the very end.”

The previous low for a San Diego State team was 38 points in 1999 — an 86-38 loss at Utah. The next morning, Trenkle announced his resignation. Fisher gets to keep on working.

The scary part is that this San Diego State team has already shot less than 25 percent twice this season in eight games – the other in a win over Cal State Bakersfield (24.6).

Overall, the Aztecs are shooting 39.3 percent from the field and 28.6 percent from 3-point range. Forward Winston Shepard, with a skimpy 10.3 average, is the only player averaging double digits.

Unless freshman Trey Kell (7.8) emerges as a bona fide threat, San Diego State might go the entire season without a go-to player.

Playing stellar defense is great and will win the Aztecs numerous conference games. Could win them the conference tournament too.

But here is one fact that always holds true: If you can’t score points, you can’t advance far during March Madness.

Right now, these Aztecs struggle to score and don’t shoot well.

And also are the unhappy owners of the most inept scoring performance in 45 years as a Division I program.

I keep hearing this will be a bad World Series — those people are so wrong

10/21/2014

I keep seeing references to what a bad World Series this is going to be. Even seen a few claiming it will be the worst World Series ever.

That’s the worst thing about the Internet age. All kinds of clowns who could’ve never written for a publication a decade ago can now act like they are experts.

All I know is I see an American League team in the World Series that hasn’t lost since September. You know, three whole weeks ago.

That would be the Kansas City Royals, who are an attention-getting 8-0 this postseason. And this is Kansas City’s first trip to the World Series since 1985.

Amazing story, no matter how you slice it.

Then I see a National League team that is in the World Series for the third time in five seasons. Repeat, three times in five seasons.

Heck, the San Diego Padres have only gone to the World Series twice in their entire history. Seems there shouldn’t be an issue with the Giants playing in late October.

Another solid story.

The Giants are managed by Bruce Bochy, who managed the Padres to one of their two World Series appearances. Bochy is four victories away from knowing he’s headed to the Hall of Fame.

San Francisco has solid hitters in catcher Buster Posey, third baseman Pablo Sandoval and right fielder Hunter Pence. The Giants surround them with role players, including Travis Ishikawa – now forever known for hitting the game-winning three-run homer to finish off the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Championship Series.

The Giants have a pretty solid bullpen – Santiago Casilla being the best of the bunch – but it is nothing like Kansas City’s collection of arms. The nation now understands why Royals closer Greg Holland is considered the best closer in the majors.

The Royals have some solid offensive players in first baseman Eric Hosmer, left fielder Alex Gordon and designated hitter Billy Butler. Then they have defensive stalwarts and fast pinch runners everywhere.

Manager Ned Yost isn’t considered as being on par with Bochy and he does some downright weird stuff. The funny thing is a lot of the wacky moves work. That’s actually amazing too.

The starting pitching will probably decide this series so one guy on the spot is Kansas City Game 1 starter James Shields. He somehow has landed the nickname “Big Game James” and nobody knows why.

He has a 5.63 ERA this postseason and only lasted 5 1/3 innings per start. Compare to that to San Francisco Game 1 starter Madison Bumgarner, who has a 1.42 ERA while averaging 7.9 innings. (See stellar Game 1 preview here — http://cbpost.sportsdirectinc.com/baseball/mlb-preview.aspx?page=/data/MLB/matchups/g4_preview_1.html)

What does this tell me? Look for “Big Game Mad Bum” to win Game 1 and then watch the Kansas City Royals do their thing.

Look for Kansas City to win the series in six games.

Chargers deliver a crushing victory over Seahawks and suddenly 4-1 seems possible

09/14/2014

The San Diego Chargers have developed a reputation for letting fourth-quarter leads get away.

The problem that occurred way too often last season reared its ugly head in the season-opening loss to the Arizona Cardinals as an 11-point lead gave way to an 18-17 defeat.

So we know what the prevalent thought was when the Chargers took a six-point lead into the fourth quarter against the Seattle Seahawks.

You figured the reigning Super Bowl champions would put forth a frantic comeback, putting San Diego in position to have to fight off a heavy assault.

But guess what – the Chargers just continued on with their game-long domination and posted an impressive 30-21 victory over the Seahawks – see stellar recap here: http://cbpost.sportsdirectinc.com/football/nfl-boxscores.aspx?page=/data/nfl/results/2014-2015/recap42156.html

There was a lot to like about this San Diego victory. Quarterback Philip Rivers was sharp and efficient and the team didn’t commit a single turnover. Tight end Antonio Gates turned back the clock with three touchdown receptions while having his way with the Seattle secondary.

The Chargers possessed the ball for 42 minutes, 15 seconds – almost as if they were pushing around a high school team and not the top NFL squad from 2013. San Diego ran off 75 plays and Seattle was on the field for a measly 40.

Apparently getting worked over by the Chargers is a bit annoying and hard to handle. Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman refused to speak to reporters afterward.

Anytime you can shut up Sherman, you know you are having a good day.

And then second-year receiver Keenan Allen rubbed it by telling reporters that Sherman “isn’t really a shut-down corner.”

Beating the Seahawks and then popping off. What has gotten into these Chargers?

Either way, it only counts as one win in the standings and now coach Mike McCoy needs to get his team ready to deliver another strong performance.

The Chargers visit Buffalo next Sunday and then return home to face Jacksonville and the New York Jets. Record a win in Buffalo and San Diego will have a strong chance of opening up 4-1.

That’s quite different than what most people thought after the season-opening loss. But one impressive win over the defending champions has changed how the club is viewed.

And in a very good way.

Boise needs a new ballpark for its minor-league team — here is my preferred site

09/12/2014

site.eagle.fairviewThe corner of Eagle and Fairview is a pile of weeds in September but would make a perfect home for a new ballpark for the minor-league Boise Hawks.

The Chicago Cubs have dropped the Boise Hawks from their list of minor-league affiliates.

I didn’t see the decision as anything shocking as the Cubs hinted strongly over the past few years that decaying Memorial Stadium didn’t fit the bill.

I remember there being some action a few years back per the Hawks getting a new ballpark but that talk has been quiet lately. I would think it would suddenly percolate since Boise wants a relationship with a new major-league team.

And whichever team picks up the Hawks – the Colorado Rockies, San Francisco Giants and San Diego Padres are among the possibilities – you would expect the new major-league team to lodge the same concerns over the shaky condition of the ballpark.

I’m not sure where the process lies – this is Boise so there are no newspapers doing enterprise/investigative journalism (my specialties). And that only hurts the Hawks as there is nobody pushing the narrative and getting people talking about the possibilities.

I drive past a great site for the ballpark all the time – Hawks general manager Todd Rahr can send me a finder’s fee – at the corner of Eagle and Fairview.

The intersection is the busiest in the state and the Village of Meridian shopping mall recently opened across the street. Talk about a win-win for people who want to eat prior to a game or go have a cocktail afterward. Build a pedestrian bridge over the road to keep people from having to walk down to the corner.

There is a gigantic parcel of unused land so perhaps the owner is just waiting for a financial windfall someday. But I would much rather see the ballpark built there than perhaps three or four car dealerships or another 100 homes that can be built anywhere.

Perhaps the problem is that land is in Meridian and not Boise. But as anyone paying attention knows, the center of the Treasure Valley is no longer in Boise. It is in Meridian and it is going to continue to move west with all the home construction in Meridian.

Another problem could be that we’re talking a short-season Single-A league. That’s only 38 regular-season games a year.

Is the cost of a ballpark – likely between $20-25 million to construct – not worth the return? If I was covering this like a journalist – like when the San Diego Padres were looking to get approval of a downtown ballpark – I’d make a few calls and find out the answer.

But my instincts tell me no when you consider the Hawks draw less than 3,000 fans per game.

I occasionally go to a Hawks’ game – looks like I didn’t attend any in 2014 – and it really isn’t about the baseball.

The most-anticipated event of the night is always the “Beer Batter.” If that person reaches base, people flood out of the stands to buy a beer for $1.

For children, the big deal is seeing the mascot – named “Humphrey the Hawk.” You know how most mascots are scary looking and weird? Humphrey actually seems OK.

As for the game itself, nobody really gets all that worked up over whether the team wins or loses. There are some die-hards but the majority of people are just fine with three hours of entertainment.

Remember, I lived most of my life in a major-league town. So going to watch a bunch of kids just out of high school will always seem a bit weird to me.

But this is Boise’s plight in the baseball world. The Hawks are an important entity. And at some point, a city (Boise? Meridian?) needs to invest in a better facility.

Doesn’t matter if it is my preferred site at Eagle and Fairview or somewhere in the heart of town, Boise needs a better ballpark than the dreary place it currently calls home.

TMZ Sports comes through, shows disgraced puncher Ray Rice is face of domestic violence

09/08/2014

It took video evidence for the NFL to get a clue per the Ray Rice situation.

Good thing the outlet TMZ Sports has better investigators than the NFL and were able to secure the video that shows Rice pummeling his then-fiancé, Janay, in the face.

Previously we saw Rice dragging Janay outside the elevator – which should have been damning enough evidence. Did NFL commissioner Roger Goodell think she stumbled playing hopscotch in the elevator? Maybe fell on her head counting her money?

Remember, the commish – well behind the times when it comes to domestic violence – gave Rice a two-game suspension.

So the guy that runs the NFL isn’t smart enough to know a woman doesn’t just fall unconscious for no reason in an elevator?

But once the video was seen on Monday, the NFL no longer could control the situation. Nor could the Baltimore Ravens engage in spin control – a favorite pastime of all 32 NFL teams.

The video was graphic as Rice delivered his best Mike Tyson punch and knocked out his then-fiance. It has given domestic violence a face – that of Ray Rice – moving forward.

The Ravens quickly did an about-face, going from supportive of Rice to releasing him with three years left on his contract. The NFL piled on and changed Rice’s suspension from two games to indefinite.

The NFL sure wanted it known that it had never seen the video prior to Monday. Who knows whether that is true or not. Sporting leagues and individual teams lie about minor things all the time. So a big deal like this is sure something worth trying to cover up.

Let’s assume the NFL never saw the video until Monday. In that case, how funny is it that TMZ can get its hands on a tape that the all-powerful NFL can’t. Makes you wonder a little, doesn’t it?

Perhaps the guy running the NFL is a bit over his head, huh? If not for TMZ, Rice would be completing a light suspension on Thursday and back on the field in Week 3.

Instead, Rice likely won’t play for any team in 2014. No organization will risk drawing the ire of its fan base by signing him this season.

Rice will likely be back on the field in 2015. But know this: that good-guy reputation he previously had will never return.

Rice is now the face of domestic violence – the type of person none of us like or want to be around. None of us.

Thumping by Ole Miss continues new Boise State tradition: Losing as often as you win

08/29/2014

Looks like they have a new football tradition at Boise State.

Instead of winning all the time, it is called losing anytime the Broncos play anyone decent.

Boise State wilted badly in its 2014 season-opening contest, allowing 28 fourth-quarter points as Mississippi recorded a 35-13 victory in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic in Atlanta (see stellar game recap here – http://cbpost.sportsdirectinc.com/football/ncaaf-boxscores.aspx?page=/data/NCAAF/results/2014-2015/recap42810.html).

That gives the Broncos six losses since the beginning of the 2013 season. To provide proper context, consider this: Boise State lost five total games in a five-season span from 2008-12.

Repeat: Five.

The Broncos had a future College Hall of Famer in quarterback Kellen Moore during the first four of those years and former coach Chris Petersen was still highly motivated in making sure Boise State was top-notch.

That’s in contrast to last season’s “Coach Pete,” who was in talks with USC about its opening midway through the season and then highly interested in Washington’s gig once Steve Sarkisian was hired as the Trojans’ coach.

I pointed out how Petersen was outcoached and outprepared after one Boise State loss and some dude on Twitter felt bold enough to tell me that wasn’t true. Kind of laughable as I am the one living in Boise who gets to see and hear what’s going on and there was clearly a lack of fire in Coach Pete’s mannerisms and actions most of last season.

Those facts also are why it is a good thing that Bryan Harsin is now the head coach of the Broncos. The former Boise State offensive coordinator can provide a fresh look at how things have been done and put his own stamp on the program.

He inherits a team with nowhere near the talent of some those recent powerhouse squads – running back Doug Martin, receivers Titus Young and Austin Pettis, defensive ends Tyrone Crawford and Demarcus Lawrence, linebacker Shea McClellin, and cornerbacks Kyle Wilson and Jamar Taylor were among the standouts taken high in the NFL Draft – and it will take a while to rebuild the talent level.

The good thing for Boise State is that is still toils in the Mountain West, a weak football conference that is one of the sports’ have-not leagues. So the schedule will eventually turn weak and opponents like New Mexico and Wyoming will prove to be the easy walk-over wins that fans in Boise are accustomed to seeing.

Ole Miss was easily the toughest team on the 2014 schedule. A mid-September road game at Connecticut and a late-October home game against Brigham Young are the toughest nonconference games left on the docket.

There is plenty of time for Harsin to get his team in gear and win a lot of games. But there is also just as good a chance that the Broncos win only eight games again this season.

Assuming a bowl game, that would make back-to-back five-loss seasons. Or twice as many defeats in a two-year span as that five-year period in which Boise State went 61-5.

Perhaps going 8-6 over 14-game spans is the new future for the Broncos. If so, it will be interesting to see how their fans act. They didn’t handle things so well when they were thumped 38-6 by Washington last season.

You learn a lot about a team’s fan base when things aren’t going so well. Especially in Boise.

Padres’ decision to honor Bud Selig makes me want to dig up this brick and throw it

08/27/2014

brick.dad

There is a brick that honors my late father in the courtyard behind and below the Western Metal Building at Petco Park.

It is always an awesome feeling to go to this area when I visit San Diego. But unfortunately, I might have to throw up the next time I visit the stellar ballpark.

Because I will see this name adorned in the area: Selig Hall of Fame Plaza.

Really? Naming something after outgoing commissioner Bud Selig? Why?

Sounds like some sucking up by the latest ownership of the Padres – who might want to focus on putting a better product on the playing surface than naming something after the commissioner infamous for closing his eyes during baseball’s steroid era.

Selig has nothing to do with San Diego and there is no reason to name anything at Petco Park after this guy.

Just last month, the guy didn’t even feel honoring the late Tony Gwynn during the All-Star Game was a worthwhile thing to do.

And I saw some spin control saying Selig saved baseball in San Diego. Wow.

I was one of the reporters covering the process that got the downtown ballpark built and Larry Lucchino – with a decent amount of help from John Moores – saved baseball in San Diego.

And baseball fans in San Diego are very much aware of that.

To name something after Bud Selig is just further proof that the Padres are a franchise with no clue what the public or the fans think. Because this is one big swing-and-a-miss.

Take your own survey at the ballpark. Fans will suggest it be named after Gwynn or late broadcaster Jerry Coleman.

If you had asked this question last week and told fans it could be named after anybody in baseball, it’s hard to fathom even five people saying “Hey, name it after Bud Selig.”

It’s such a stupid notion that I wouldn’t mind digging up the brick to honor my father right now.

The problem with that is I would be tempted to throw it at either executive chairman Ron Fowler or CEO Mike Dee.

Then again, hitting them in the head with a brick might make them think more clearly.

Only Tony Stewart can reveal his true intentions in tragic death of Kevin Ward Jr.

08/10/2014

There is no way to look inside of the mind of Tony Stewart and know if there was true intent.

Nor is there anything that can be done to bring 20-year-old Kevin Ward Jr. back to life.

What happened at Canandaigua Motorsports Park on Saturday night can’t be undone and Stewart is going to be forever stained by the incident in which he struck Ward with his car and killed the young man.

You’d like to hope that Saturday’s incident wasn’t intentional but only Stewart truly knows. Because of his past – which includes many on-track examples of anger issues – there will always be doubt when it comes to Stewart’s intentions.

And a rich and famous NASCAR driver like Stewart has the influence and resources to sway any legal procedures. But he is powerless when it comes to public opinion.

This is one situation that isn’t going away anytime soon.

I watched the video of the incident – I will not post it here as I’m not one of those online entities begging for page views – and it certainly was stunning.

Ward was upset after spinning into a wall due to contact with Stewart’s car. He was angry and apparently wanted to yell at and confront Stewart on his next pass around the track.

He ventured toward Stewart’s car and Stewart struck him with the right back of his car. It is a horrible sight to see and Ward went flying and his limp body lay prone on the track.

Medical personnel scurried out to assist Ward and you can immediately see their panic when they reach him. They instantly know it’s a very, very dire situation.

The angle of the video doesn’t provide enough of a view to tell if Stewart moved his car into Ward’s direction but there are witness accounts that claim Stewart pumped his throttle as he approached Ward.

So perhaps Stewart was trying to send Ward a message and merely scare him. You would like to think a veteran driver like Stewart wouldn’t care too much about some 20-year-old yelling at him but it’s that track record of his that provides people with such doubt.

Again, I can’t see inside Stewart’s head so who knows what he thought and felt in that exact moment.

I don’t doubt that he feels bad now – he rightfully withdrew from Sunday’s NASCAR race at nearby Watkins Glen – and is probably deeply affected by what happened.

Authorities are investigating the incident and the District Attorney’s office stated “there is no evidence to support criminal charges or intent at this time.”

Sheriff Philip Povero also said there are no charges pending but he also is requesting that eyewitnesses with video of the crash contact his office.

So we will wait on the authorities to see if charges are brought against Stewart. And we will wonder why Ward couldn’t have been a little less agitated and not put himself in such a situation.

When it comes down to it – there is only one person who can tell us what really happened.

That is Tony Stewart.

Do tell, Tony. Your reputation depends on it.

People calling David Wilson a bust don’t understand the physical demands of football

08/06/2014

I see the social-media “experts” are terming David Wilson as a “bust.”

You know, all those people who know football through their televisions … or fantasy-football stats … or their “Madden” teams.

In other words, not the type of people who played the game for a living … or have attended hundreds or thousands of football practices … or have seen up close the physical toll playing football takes on someone’s body.

So there they are – calling David Wilson a bust because the career of the New York Giants’ running back lasted just two seasons before being cut short by a serious spinal condition.

A bust? Really? For suffering a career-ending injury before his career even got moving?

Seriously, nobody really has a clue how Wilson – who recently turned 23 – was going to develop as a player. There is a difference between a guy being a bust – hey there Ryan Leaf and Brian Bosworth – as opposed to someone getting hurt and never really getting the opportunity to show whether or not he could play at the NFL level.

It is perfectly fine if you were disappointed in Wilson’s 2012 rookie season output of 358 rushing yards. It’s not the first time a guy struggled in his first NFL campaign but obviously his production didn’t live up to the standards of a first-round pick.

It didn’t help that Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie Doug Martin – a back I thought should have been selected before Wilson, not after – rushed for 1,454 yards and 11 touchdowns that same season.

Wilson got hurt last season and played just five games. He underwent major neck surgery and having a neck issue is never good for any human, let alone one in a profession that calls for repeated physical collisions at high speed.

So when Wilson recently suffered a setback early in training camp, it was surely a concern. During the examinations, doctors determined he has spinal stenosis – a narrowing of the spinal canal – and advised him to give up the sport.

Makes perfect sense to me.

Something tells me risking paralysis isn’t a smart move. Wilson made the right decision by leaving the game (he didn’t officially retire yet, meaning he will be placed on injured reserve and be paid his 2014 salary).

So call him a bust if that makes you feel better about yourself. Let out that anger that the Giants selected him and not a different player.

But you know, there is nothing wrong with leaving the word bust out of the equation and simply looking at Wilson this way:

As a guy whose NFL career was cut short by injury.

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