BASEBALL NEWS & NOTES: THE M'S KEEP ON FREE-FALLING
So, what big-league team has reason to be frustrated with its slow start in 2010 more than any other?
How about the Seattle Mariners who exited Friday night's 8-0 home loss to the Los Angeles Angels at 11-18 and on a seven-game losing skid as the loss to the Halos happened right after having gotten whacked three in a row at home by the rollicking Tampa Bay Rays.
Not only did the M's lose the start made in that series by off-season acquisition LHP Cliff Lee but Seattle scored a grand total of five runs in that set and now have OF Milton Bradley"acting up" to compound the team's troubles.
So, what did the M's do on Friday to right that bunch of offensive wrongs? They were no-hit for six-plus innings by Angels RHP Jared Weaver (4-1, 2.66 ERA) en route to a listless 8-0 loss before a boo-filled Safeco Field crowd.
Seattle manager Don Wakamatsu is pondering all sorts of lineup changes these days with this anemic attack - earlier this week the Mariners had only two everyday players hitting better than .243 - and do-everything INF Chone Figgins has been unable to be the catalyst this club needed despite the fact the former Los Angeles Angels star has reached base in 15 of his last 19 games.
Heck, even RF Ichiro Suzuki is hitting only .308 (he went 0-for-4 in Friday's game) with no home runs and 3 RBI in his first 120 at-bats. No doubt Ichiro (11 home runs last year) isn't known for his power but maybe he needs a couple of long balls to wake up this slumbering bunch.
Prediction: Another two weeks of this brutal baseball and not only will Wakamatsu be gone - yes, we'll call current ESPN analyst Bobby Valentine the favorite for this possible vacancy - but Ichiro could be trade bait with the Mariners looking to 2011 and beyond.
In case you're wondering, right now the other MLB managers that we'd have to say were sitting on a"hot seat" these days includes Baltimore's Dave Tremblay and Kansas City's Trey Hillman.
Two"hot names" other than Valentine that might find their way into a major-league dugout before the end of the 2010 season are current Chicago White Sox coach Joey Cora and New York Mets third base coach Chip Hale - note that both were interviewed for the Mariners job last year.
AL GAME OF THE WEEK
On Wednesday night, the Hurley Network came out with a strong Game of the Week play in a marquee situation, and the Phillies shut out the Cardinals 4-zip! On Sunday, our numbers say it's time to jump to the American League side with a game that grades out equally strong! This is an ideal spot, where our stats and the information from our on-scene sources meshes together. It further combines with the fact that the only baseball game the linesmakers are giving any real attention to this weekend is Red Sox-Yankees, as that, along with the NBA playoffs, dominates their handle. It creates a perfect betting environment for savvy handicappers like the Network and we want you with us for our American League Game of the Week!
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NFL 2010 SCHEDULES: WHAT TO WATCH WITH THE SAINTS, JETS & EAGLES
It's been a very busy sports time with the NBA Playoffs, Major-League Baseball and all the exciting Horse Racing - and so forgive us here at Jim Sez for not yet commenting on the NFL 2010 schedules.
The league published the '10 skeds during NFL Draft week and there's some great"What to Watch" elements for a trio of teams:
NEW ORLEANS - The defending Super Bowl champions get into the Week 1 limelight - a/k/a the season-opening Thursday Night Game on Sept. 9th - with a showdown against the Minnesota Vikings in a rematch of last year's NFC Championship Game but now will that Brett Favre fellow be playing for the Vikes?
Then, the Saints must wait till Monday, Sept. 20th for their next game - at the San Francisco 49ers. Hmmm.
New Orleans will play four road games against teams that made it to the post-season last year - that's Arizona, Baltimore, Cincinnati and Dallas - and note Sean Payton's team plays at the Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day. In all, the Saints will appear in prime time a minimum of four times (including a Week 8 home game against the Pittsburgh Steelers who should have troubled QB Ben Roethlisberger back by then) and so everyone will get to eyeball last year's NFL feel-good story a whole bunch of times.
NEW YORK JETS - Here's another team that's gonna be hogging the national TV spotlight plenty this fall. The J-E-T-S spent lots of loot getting their hands of some high-profile (and controversial) players from other teams this spring and by now you know this AFC East crew will be the subject of HBO's Hard Knocks series that will air this August.
When the Jets finally do get to this year's regular-season schedule, it will all begin with a Monday Night Football home clash on Sept. 13th against the Baltimore Ravens - yes, the second regular-season game to be played at the new Meadowlands Stadium (following the New York Giants' home opener the day before versus Carolina) - and then note the Jets won't trek outside the Eastern time zone until a Week 6 game in Denver on Oct. 17th.
The Jets also will be playing on Turkey Day - a prime-timer at home against Cincinnati - and then Rex Ryan's gang will have 10 full days to prep for a Monday Nighter at New England on Dec. 6th. Might the NFL folks in the Park Avenue offices be"looking out" for the colorful Jets this year?
PHILADELPHIA - Now that the Eagles have jettisoned QB Donovan McNabb, there's gonna be a lot of early-season attention paid to this NFC East team and the Birds won't have to play a divisional foe till a Week 4 home game against - you guessed it - the Redskins.
Andy Reid's club will have its bye in Week 8 and so that means two full weeks to prep for the Week 9 home game against the AFC champion Indianapolis Colts and then the following Monday Night it's the 'Skins again with this hyped game in D.C. on Nov. 15th.
Now, comes the really tricky part for the Eagles: They conclude the '10 season with a pair of games against the hated/rival Dallas Cowboys (Week 14 in Arlington and Week 17 at Philadelphia) and in between those tilts are games against the host New York Giants and the visiting Vikings.
In other words, Philly better count on getting off to a good start in 2010 because the last month of the season is a doozy!
Now, here's a look at Sunday's two NBA Playoff Games:
CLEVELAND at BOSTON - Cavaliers lead series 2-1
Maybe now it's time for everyone to stop talking about James' elbow.
The Cavaliers king-sized star put all that chit-chat to rest with a franchise-record 21-point first quarter en route to a stat-sheet stuffing night that included 38 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists in a non-competitive 124-95 win that had Celtics fans dashing for the exits right after halftime. Okay, so it helped the Cleveland cause in Game 3 that Boston missed 10 of its first 13 field-goal attempts and really staggered from the proverbial get-go but now the $64,000 question is can Doc Rivers get his Celts focused for a better showing in Game 4?
Maybe it's conventional wisdom to believe that a prideful Boston bunch automatically will"bounce back" here but keep in mind the fact that Cleveland played with a sheer ferocity in Game 3 - or didn't you see James angrily argue a foul call while up 27 points in the late stages of the third quarter? - and you do get the feeling from the Cavaliers' post-game comments that they don't intend to be content with just a mere split of these two games in Beantown.
If James is allowed to rifle up another 22 shots - give or take - and if Antawn Jamison and/or Delonte West (they combined for 34 points on 12-of-22 FG shooting on Friday night) get into a rhythm here, then the Celtics could be history in this playoff round faster than you can say Tommy Heinsohn!
PHOENIX at SAN ANTONIO - Suns lead series 3-0
Is there really any reason to remind you that no NBA team has ever come back from a three games-to-none deficit in the playoffs?
No doubt the Spurs soon will be added to that list - it's 88-0 right now, in case you're wondering - and hats off to the Suns for overcoming an 18-point first-half deficit en route to that rousing 110-96 win that featured Dragic's 26 points (23 of which were scored in the fourth quarter) and a whole lot of splendid Phoenix bench work. On a night when the Spurs looked slow and disorganized for much of the second half - remember that San Antonio sported a 50-44 halftime advantage - the Suns shot 53 percent from the field (that's 42-of-79) and worked the ball magically.
If San Antonio doesn't pep up its free-throw shooting here (the Spurs drained just 16-of-28 charity shots, including seven misses in succession at one point in the first half) than this could well be clean sweep city - and isn't it just a little bit funny that we haven't even mentioned Suns point guard/leader Steve Nash who wound up sitting out the first nine minutes of the fourth quarter in Game 3 while Dragic did his thing.
Nash (16 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists in just 34 minutes in Game 3) figures to be super-fresh here for this Mother's Day bash in the Alamo City... is there any other bad news you'd like, San Antonio hoop fans?
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