Anyway, I still maintain that Len Bias was the best college basketball player I had ever seen. Better than Michael Jordan, Ralph Sampson, David Robinson, James Worthy, Patrick Ewing, Pearl Washington, Chris Mullin or any of those guys for UNLV.
Anyone who says Bias wasn’t a bigger, stronger, meaner and more polished Michael Jordan, just doesn’t know any better.
Said The Washington Post’s Michael Wilbon: “I saw great players from both the ACC and Big East every night. Jordan. Ewing. Mullin. Sampson. Later on, David Robinson. But Bias was the most awesome collegiate player of that bunch. That jumper was so pure. I mean, Michael Jordan, at that time, would have killed for that jumper. And Bias was 2 ½ inches taller.”
Charles Barkley: “I'd have played against him for the next 14 years. I would have been in my prime and he would have been in his. I'll never forget what he looked like. He was a ‘Wow!’ player. When Maryland played and was on television, I watched. It was like, ‘I need to watch this guy; I'll be seeing him real soon.’ . . . It was just shocking. Thing is, cocaine was huge then. My brother had been in and out of rehab. . . . It was a popular drug at the time. And guys I was playing against, like John Lucas and Michael Ray Richardson and John Drew had done cocaine. I was thinking: ‘What the hell is up with this cocaine? I should try this once to see what it was all about.’ Then, we heard the reports were that Bias only used it once . . . that it was his first time. When I heard that, it scared me to death . . . scared the daylights out of me. It scared me into not trying it even once, not going anywhere near it.”
Twenty one years and it still seems like it was just yesterday.
Inevitably, when the Detroit Tigers and manager Jim Leyland arrived in Philadelphia for last weekend’s series, the comparisons between the two skippers would crop up. I suppose the Tigers appearance in last October’s World Series didn’t quell the argument regarding Charlie Manuel and Leyland in some circles because people talked about it.
Leyland, of course, wasn’t too interested in talking about losing out on the Phillies’ gig to Charlie, telling reporters curtly, “Don’t go there,” when the subject was broached last Friday.
Former Phillie Placido Polanco wasn’t too jazzed about comparing Charlie and Leyland either, saying, “What are you trying to say? That Charlie's no good? When you lose, it's the manager's fault, but when you win, the players play good. You have to give the manager credit, but the players have to make the plays.”
Polanco is definitely right about that, but that’s the way it goes in baseball. The manager is always looked at by the fans as some sort of Svengali, when in reality the best managers are smart enough to know to stay out of the way.
Besides, skippering a team like the Detroit Tigers doesn’t exactly take a whole lot of innovation. All Leyland has to do is fill out the lineup card with Polanco, Gary Sheffield, Magglio Ordonez and the rest of that murderers’ row or tell one of his lights’ out young pitcher to throw a no-hitter or shutout. In that regard the strategy showdown between Charlie and Leyland never really manifested.
How hard is it to manage a bunch of home runs?
Regardless, Manuel may have out-smarted himself when he decided to yank starting pitcher Adam Eaton in the seventh inning of Sunday’s game with Gary Sheffield coming to the plate. To that point in the game Eaton had a two-run lead and had just allowed a pair of the six hits he yielded. But instead of letting his starting pitcher with just 91 pitches on the odometer try to wiggle out of his mess, Manuel turned to his bullpen three different times to get the final two outs of the innings.
When it was all finished, the two-run lead had become a three-run deficit and the sit-back-and-let-it-unfold-style of managing that had marked the series blew up like one of those rubber cigars from the cartoons.
Worse, the second-guessing started.
That statistics and sabermetric folks have crunched a lot of numbers to make them prove a lot of different things about the game, but it might be worth it to see what the stats show in regard to meddlesome managers. Certainly Manuel has been criticized for being too loyal and leaving players in spots when they have long surpassed their effectiveness. Pat Burrell springs to mind in that regard.
However, after spending most of the first part of the season doing all he could to avoid his bullpen, Manuel wasn’t shy about using four pitchers to get out of the seventh on Sunday.
From White Sox skipper Ozzie Guillen on Polanco:
“He's the heart of that club. I don't know why the hell the Phillies let him go.
“To me, the key to that team is Polanco. He's clutch. He's one of the most underrated players in the game. People don't know how good he is.”
Ask Ed Wade about David Bell if you’re looking for the answer on that one.
If you’re watching the Indians and Phillies play this week it looks as if Cleveland is treating some familiar faces quite well. David Dellucci, Jason Michaels, Aaron Fultz, Roberto Hernandez and Paul Byrd have all landed with the Indians and have made big contributions to the leaders of the AL Central.
Meanwhile, Joe Borowski is pleased that he ended up with the Indians instead of the Phillies.
If you're in Cleveland and looking for a good place to unwind after the Phillies game and don't mind taking a little drive and/or want to avoid the tourist traps and post-frat boy joints on The Flats, try The Barking Spider out near Case Western Reserve University.
I spent a week there one night about a decade ago.
Anyway, it's approximately five miles from the ballpark...
Quick observation about the U.S. Open:
How about the dichotomy in the trio of leaders down the stretch? Jim Furyk looked lean and mean and looked just like he did when he was playing hoops for Manheim Township. Tiger Woods looked like a guy who spent all of his free time in the gym and was not to shy about showing off his newly sculpted physique.
And then there was champion Angel Cabrera who chain-smoked his way through the back nine and stopped at the turn for a couple of hotdogs and a beer.
Here’s my prediction – Furyk and Tiger will be amongst the top 10 golfers in the world for the next decade while Cabrera is never heard from again.
Either that or he joins the John Daly wing of the PGA Tour.
Tomorrow: Airports, summer travelling, Bobby Abreu, Jim Furyk and Floyd Landis.