Feb 16, 2006 

Grisham Writing Book On Former A's Draft Pick

The author of 18 best-sellers is writing a non-fiction book about a little-known Oakland Athletics draft pick from 1971.

In a book, due sometime this fall, John Grisham, will tell the story of 1971 second-round pick Ronald Williamson who committed murder, came within five days of being executed on Oklahoma's death row and was exonerated of the crime 12 years later with the aid of DNA evidence. Williamson died in 1999.

The book is untitled and Grisham's first attempt at non-fiction.

Reading the non-roster invitees this time of the year can be quite an exercise in nostalgia.

Former A's pitcher, Kevin Appier is trying to hook up with the Seattle Mariners as is former Giant Dave Burba.

Adam Hyzdu, known more for being the player picked by the Giants before the A's drafted Mark McGwire is still trying to find a job in the majors, this time in Texas.

The cranky Ruben Sierra is hanging the Twins' spring training complex as are former A's Steve Karsay and Jose Flores in Cleveland.


Chavez Should Walk In Mexican Shoes First


Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen hates American ballplayers of distant Latin descent jockeying for spots in next month's World Baseball Classic, especially the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez.
I hate hypocrites: He's full of shit, said Guillen in Sports Illustrated. The Dominican team doesn't need his ass. It's the same with [Nomar] Garciaparra playing for Mexico. Garciaparra only knows Cancun because he went to visit.

If Rodriguez and Garciaparra's foreign credential are suspect, then what about Oakland's Eric Chavez and his quest to play for Mexico after being left off the United States' 30-man roster Tuesday.

It could be said that Chavez's knowledge of his Mexican heritage consists of knowing the intrinsic differences between a chalupa and a gordita at the local Taco Bell.

Born into a middle-class Southern California upbringing and sheepishly aware of his inability to speak Spanish despite his Latin surname, decisions like Chavez's threaten to undermine the spirit and future of this tournament.

The main idea, despite creating a cash cow, was to merge baseball and patriotism in the same way that the FIFA World Cup energizes the soccer world every four years.

This competition is devoid of any patriotism thus far. Guys like Rodriguez, Garciaparra and Chavez are Americans and should, if given the opportunity, feel obliged to put on that uniform.

What Chavez is doing is akin to a teenager looking for a new high school after being cut from the varsity team. In this case, Chavez is attempting to look for another country and that act is unpatriotic.

If he desires to play for Mexico he should pull up stakes in his cushy East Bay home, learn how to speak Spanish and move to Mexico City. While there, he should walk those streets and witness the poverty and empty eyes of its inhabitants. If he did that, then maybe becoming Mexican for two weeks just to get some quality at-bats in mid-March will seem quite hallow.

Feb 7, 2006 

NFLPA Should Have Protected Stevens


There will always be trash-talking between competitive individuals in all professional sports. That's a given, especially with our society's tendency towards nastiness, but what if those verbal jabs cost another player his reputation and future earnings?

Pittsburgh's Joey Porter called the Seahawks' tight end, Jerramy Stevens "soft", among other things, before Sunday's Super Bowl.

Aside from catching a touchdown in Seattle's 21-10 loss to the Steelers, Stevens pretty much proved Porter right.

Stevens was timid in running his routes and dropped four catchable passes from QB Matt Hasselback. Two of which cost Seattle field position and a possible key first down in Steelers territory during the fourth quarter.

The fact that Stevens had little to say after Porter lambasted him in the media, gave many the impression that the former first round pick would let his play on Sunday do the talking. His actions proved quieter than his words after proclaiming that Pittsburgh's Jerome Bettis would encounter an unhappy ending inhis return to hometown Detroit for Super Bowl XL.

Football is a business like any other in America. On one side you have management and on the other, labor. Porter and Stevens, while opposed on the gridiron, belong to the same players union. It's conceivable that Porter's public assessment of Stevens' football ability could one day hamper the tight end's ability to find work with another team or, more likely, garner a smaller contract than he normally would have received if not labeled "soft" and exposed as "soft" by his Super Bowl performance.

Should the union protect its members from each other? It's in the union's best interest to seek the largest contract possible in a free market that is commensurate with that members ability. Trash-talking to another what he's going to do to him on the diamond, court or gridiron is one thing, attacking his manhood is another.

If anything, Joey Porter probably has a future in someone's scouting department one day.

Why in the world did it take John Madden 27 years to get into football's Hall of Fame? Two words: Oakland Raiders.

The common refrain of all Raiders fans is that the NFL is against Al Davis and the Raiders. The proverbial "hotline" connecting commissioner, Paul Tagliabue, and any NFL official at a Raiders game is well nurtured in the Raider Nation.

"The Tuck" rule, seemingly created on the spot during the 2001 playoff against New England, brought the perceived bias into the national spotlight. It's probably hokum, but how do you explain Madden's sleight?

There are only a handful of coaches more qualified for enshrinement than Madden in the history of the game. He was the quickest to 100 victories, never had a losing season and won a Super Bowl. Not only, did his career on the sideline warrant inclusion sooner than this year, but his contributions to the NFL from the broadcast booth and his top-selling video games may have done more to grow the game of football than any other person, period.

How then do you explain the long wait?

Davis, himself, also one of the game's greatest figures took over 25 years to be inducted. Madden is still very entangled with Davis and his involvement with the NFL's biggest thorn in their "backfield" hurt Madden to the point that the NFL waited until the public scrutiny and outcry for Madden in the Hall of Fame grew too loud.

Getting too close to the man who has moved his franchise twice and has had a tendency to suing the NFL on a few occasions has proven to be a hindrance. Hopefully some of the possible coaching candidates for the Raiders aren't paying attention.

Several reports say that Pittsburgh offensive coordinator, Ken Whisenhunt, is traveling to the Bay Area to interview for the Raiders opening.

Waiting out the other eight head coaching jobs might turn into a stroke of genius on the Raiders part if Whisenhunt takes the job. By waiting, the Raiders have this year's only "hot" coaching prospect to themselves.

Is there a better choice out there for the Raiders needs? After only two years on the job Whisenhunt turned the young Ben Roethlisberger into a juggernaut and created a multi-functional offense that could lull an opponent to sleep on the ground and dazzle with trick plays. His Super Bowl gameplan was his greatest job. It's not often that a team wins a Super Bowl with its quarterback playing a sub-standard game.

The Raiders are eerily similar to the Steelers of two years ago. Both have question marks at quarterback and young and talented signal-callers on the bench. Third-stringer Andrew Walter has great size and talent, but the draft might also bring Vanderbilt's Jay Cutler to Oakland if Whisenhunt wishes.

To that, Whisenhunt didn't have a power runner in his prime like Lamont Jordan with Pittsburgh, nor did he have Randy Moss and the other above-average receiver that the Raiders possess.

If Whisenhunt gets the job it could be a boon to this once-great franchise, if not, the risk of opting out of the coaching carousel when more candidates were available will fizzle. It'll be back to former assistant Jim Fassel and the likely return of QB Kerry Collins or maybe even Art Shell.


Possibly the two greatest plays in Raiders Super Bowl history were eclipsed in Super Bowl XL.

Bill King's mythical call of Willie Brown's interception return against Minnesota is etched in slow motion in every Raider fan's mind.

"Old man Willie!"

Seattle's Kelly Herndon's 75-yard return topped Brown's return as the longest in Super Bowl history.

Willie Parker's second half-opening 75-yard run for touchdown also topped another Raider record.

Marcus Allen's reverse field scamper in Super Bowl XVII may be the greatest play in the history of the Raiders.