Richard’s Weekly Sports Round-Up
It was one of the slowest sports weeks we’ve experienced in awhile. Although the MLB All-Star Game, the Tour de France and the British Open kept us entertained, there was no other big news. Without American golfer Tom Watson, no sports figure would have stood out last week. But, football season is extremely close. The summer sports months are fun, but this is football country. August is the first month of football. Fall practice and training camp are approaching. High school, college and professional football will begin. You need to practice tightening your chinstrap. Work on your famous chip dip. Stretch the quads, and keep the mind clear. Study your playbook. Football season is almost upon us.
10. St. Louis Cardinal first baseman Albert Pujols discussed with USA Today’s Bob Nightengale about Pujols’ image, the steroid era and his potential free agency in 2011. Pujols is upset that people are questioning whether he used performance-enhancing drugs throughout his 8½-year career. Pujols said he was drug tested six times last year. The 29-year-old slugger said he will return all the money he has earned with the Cardinals if he tests positive for PEDs. My Take: Pujols is the poster boy for Major League Baseball. I have never questioned that he is a “clean” ball player. I wish he would break Barry Bonds’ home run record. I don’t doubt Pujols will crush his fair share of MLB records. He’s the best in baseball.
9. Milwaukee Brewer Prince Fielder won last Monday’s MLB Home Run Derby. He defeated Texas Ranger outfielder Nelson Cruz in the final. Phillies slugger Ryan Howard and Cardinal Albert Pujols advanced to the second round, but their subtotals of 15 and 11 home runs, respectively, did not allow them to make the two-man final. The Derby received a 6.0 cable television rating, down from last year’s 6.4 rating. My Take: The Home Run Derby is so hit or miss for me. Watching Fielder and Cruz in the final just about put me to sleep. I almost wish it had. Compared to last year’s Derby, in which Texas Ranger Josh Hamilton fizzled in the final against Minnesota Twin Justin Morneau, this year’s was pathetic. I want to see Hamilton’s first round record of 28 home runs broken every year. But, that’s just me.
8. The Jacksonville Jaguars signed its fifth-round pick, Jarett Dillard from Rice University. The 5-foot-10 wide receiver is expected to battle for starting time. Dillard is well-known for holding the NCAA record for receiving touchdowns with a total of 60. Last year, as a senior, he led the country with 20 touchdowns. Dillard is the third rookie draft pick to be signed by the Jaguars. My Take: Like I said last week, the team needs to focus on signing offensive tackles Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton. Holdouts have to be avoided. Players report for training camp on August 2. Every player should be there. There cannot be excuses. The mentality of a winning team needs to be in place from the start.
7. According to a Brazilian newspaper that obtained Arturo Gatti’s autopsy report, his body was “suspended and hanged, indicating he may have committed suicide.” He also may have been killed or murdered. Brazilian police say Gatti’s wife, Amanda Rodrigues, is still the only suspect in Gatti’s July 11 death. Police are almost positive Rodrigues killed the boxer with a purse strap during the night as he slept. My Take: Rodrigues’ lawyer is petitioning for a court release for Amanda Rodrigues. With the suicide door being opened, this investigation needs time to develop. New facts will be released weekly. I think the wife needs more than one lawyer. She needs a team of lawyers to sift through the evidence and present their client with defense options.
6. Pitcher Pedro Martinez formally joined the defending World Series champion Philadelphia Phillies in a press conference on Wednesday. He signed a one-year, $1 million contract, but has the opportunity to earn much more with incentives. He is expected to be a starter and not a reliever, which he performed as during the World Baseball Classic in March. My Take: The Phillies’ pitching staff gets a steal with the 37-year-old Martinez. The three-time Cy Young Award winner went 5-6 with a 5.61 ERA last season. Even though injuries riddled his tenure with the New York Mets, Martinez’s motivation to win his second World Series ring will prevail over any ailments he has this year. A team can never have too much good pitching.
5. It was announced Tuesday that Matt Cassel signed a six-year deal with the Kansas City Chiefs. The deal should keep the 27-year-old Cassel with the Chiefs through 2014. His contract is for $63 million ($28 million guaranteed). Last year, Cassel took over the quarterbacking duties for the New England Patriots when Tom Brady went down with his severe knee injury. My Take: In 15 starts last season, Cassel threw for 3,693 yards with 21 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions. I’m not expecting Cassel to have another stellar year. With the Patriots, he was throwing to standout receivers Randy Moss and Wes Welker. Entering his fifth NFL season, Cassel is financially set for life. Good for him.
4. In the continuing Jeremy Mayfield saga, the former NASCAR driver believes that NASCAR tainted his urine sample that tested positive for methamphetamines. Mayfield says an independent drug test showed no trace of meth. Mayfield doubts he will ever drive again in NASCAR. After a second failed drug test, NASCAR is attempting to reinstate Mayfield’s suspension. My Take: Obviously, a second failed drug test hurts Mayfield. Mayfield’s stepmother’s additional accusations that Jeremy used drugs multiple times around her is mind-boggling. In response, Jeremy said NASCAR paid his stepmother to make the allegations. It’s an incredible soap opera. But, it’s impossible to overlook the second failed drug test.
3. The Jacksonville Jaguars’ two new ticket packages are being offered for the 2009 NFL season. The club is introducing the Half-Packs and Value-Packs. The Half-Pack allows the same seat for five home games at half the price. Two options are available for it: Teal and Black. The four-seat Value-Pack is available for every home game. With the $50 cost of an individual seat, a meal is included (hot dog, soft drink, popcorn). My Take: The team is struggling to sell tickets. With these new ticket options, a Jaguar fan can enjoy NFL games for less than $50. Take advantage of it. But if you can't attend, I’ll be covering the Jaguars all season.
2. Once again, the American League defeated the National League, 4-3 in the 80th MLB All-Star Game Tuesday night in St. Louis. Tampa Bay Ray Carl Crawford was named the Game’s MVP after a spectacular catch to rob an NL home run from Colorado’s Brad Hawpe. Since 1996, the AL is 12-0-1 against the NL. With the Midsummer Classic win, the AL team will have home-field advantage in this year’s World Series. My Take: Yankee star Mariano Rivera recorded his fourth career All-Star Game save. In eight appearances, the future Hall of Famer has given up zero earned runs. Speaking of studs, Crawford is one of the ten best athletes in the country right now. For me, the MLB All-Star Game is, hands down, the best all-star competition.
1. American Stewart Cink won the 138th Open Championship at Turnberry, Scotland, on Sunday over fellow American Tom Watson. Cink won a four-hole playoff by six shots over the 59-year-old Watson. The British Open win is the first major title for Cink. It was a disappointing day for Watson, a five-time British Open winner. Walking into his press conference after his playoff loss, Watson said it best: “This ain’t a funeral, you know.” My Take: The British Open has always been my favorite golf tournament. There’s nothing better than waking up to Saturday or Sunday golf. It’s something about the links courses and the death-traps that are the bunkers. Even though Watson didn’t take home the claret jug, he gained an enormous spectator following. As an eight-time major champion, Watson showed off his talents all week at the ripe old age of 59.
5. Tonight “The T.O. Show” premieres on VH-1. That’s correct. Current Buffalo Bill receiver Terrell Owens now has his own reality television show. And, he is the executive producer. I’m most interested to see how he reacts on camera when he finds out the Dallas Cowboys cut him.
4. The local rugby team, the Jacksonville Axemen, play their final regular season game this Saturday. The Axemen (7-0) play the Philadelphia Fight in Philly. Jacksonville has locked up a first-round bye in the American National Rugby League playoffs.
3. All week the 29th annual AT&T Greater Jacksonville Kingfish Tournament & Festival will be in action at Sisters Creek Park. The Junior Angler Tournament is on Tuesday while the General Tournament is Thursday and Friday. The overall awards ceremony will be Saturday followed by music and fireworks.
2. Michael Vick, former Atlanta Falcon quarterback, ends a two-month home confinement sentence in Hampton, Virginia, today. The 29-year-old completed a 23-month sentence for his role in an illegal dog fighting operation. Vick still has three years of probation. Although six teams have voiced displeasure about potentially signing Vick, the former Virginia Tech Hokie wants to play in the NFL again.
1. The Jacksonville Jaguars’ two home preseason games will be blacked out. The home games are August 22 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and September 3 versus the Washington Redskins. It is an NFL requirement that if a team doesn’t sellout, then the game is blacked out in the home market. However, local CBS affiliate, WTEV TV-47, will broadcast the Jaguars two preseason road games.