Sunday, January 20, 2008

Big D-isaster

Darlings to disappointments in a week. The story plays out in sports every season, particularly in the NFL playoffs, where one bad afternoon can erase four months of dominance. The Colts and Chargers played the role the past two seasons, Dallas stepped into the role this year – the first top seed in the NFC to lose a Divisional Playoff game since the current playoff format started in 1990.

The Cowboys demise began in December, long before the Tony Romo-Jessica Simpson Cabo getaway. After toying with Green Bay on November 29th, Dallas let up and it showed. Focus and preparation clearly dropped a notch, and it showed on the field - struggling to beat Carolina, losing to both Philadelphia and Washington. While attention shifts to playoff teams that rest star players after clinching playoff berths, but teams that backpedal into the playoffs are more prone to failure.

Anyone who points to Romo spending the bye week on the beach instead of in Jason Garrett’s offensive playbook prep class as the problem is misguided. Romo should use better judgment, realizing he now lives in the spotlight. Still, it was not exactly the night before the game, or even during game week - the vacation does not correlate with the performance.

However, Romo’s mental meltdown in the fourth quarter did hurt the Cowboys last Sunday. Akin to what we expect out of Philip Rivers, Romo lost his composure in the fourth quarter, outwardly displaying his frustration as the pressure mounted and the clock ticked. Instead of firing up his team, he channeled his emotions into complaints. It affected his decision making – failing to throw the ball away when facing a rush and then throwing it away while still in the pocket – and seemed to rattle his teammates, who committed a few debilitating penalties down the stretch.

If the Cowboys did not face enough pressure trying to comeback in the final minutes, the Fox camera showed Jerry Jones standing arms length away from head coach Wade Phillips. Like George Steinbrenner, Jones will build a team to win at any cost, top class facilities, free agent signings, whatever it takes. Simultaneously he can make the team lose. The owner looking over their shoulders is the last thing players, or a head coach already facing the pressure of losing his job to one of his assistants, needs to see in the final minutes of a playoff game. Does Garrett really want this job? Jones creates an untenable situation by showing up on the sidelines.

Throw in the Tony Sparano to Miami and Jason Garrett to any team with a head coaching vacancy rumors, and you have a recipe for disaster. Forget 13-3, the 2007 Dallas Cowboys go down as the upset victim in the playoffs, possibly remembered as a footnote in a Giants Cinderella story. Last year Indy bounced back to win the Super Bowl, this season San Diego won its first playoff games in over 13 years and finds itself in the AFC Title Game. What does 2008 hold for Dallas?

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Not So Sweet Science

Successful local sports talk radio caters to what the fans in that market want to hear. Case in point, NASCAR does not typically come up in New York, where baseball and football rule. Outside of the week leading into a big fight, which are farther and fewer between in recent years, boxing belongs on the backburner. Unfortunately, 1050 ESPN Radio did not get the memo.

How can ESPN suits allow Max Kellerman to spout about meaningless boxing matches that have about as much fan interest as his ratings depleted show, never mind the day after a Giant playoff win and the Clemens 60-minute interview? I try to look past the arrogance, try to look past the ridiculous arguments backed by crazy statistics and rhetoric, but the Kellerman/Kenny combo loses me with boxing. Not just a few plugs, but entire segments. Shows like this pop up in the middle of the night on far away channels, and on cable access, where Kellerman started and should relegate his daily boxing diatribe.

Treat the listeners with a little respect. Kellerman insults everyone’s intelligence by insisting every point that develops from his MENSA caliber mind is bulletproof, and not even acknowledge rebuttals. Then he assumes that New York fans want to hear about boxing for 20 or 30 minutes. The Benigno and Roberts combo, who have really synergized into an entertaining team, look that much better next to the mid-morning production of Boxing After Dark.

Toss in Bill James radio puppet, next to boxing aficionado, and Noble prize sports analyst, on Kellerman’s mantle. Stats do not always translate well to radio, they are more entertaining to read. Using numbers to make a point or support an argument is one thing, but who needs to listen to obscure batting stats in an attempt to prove Jason Giambi should play, for example. Watch the game, Giambi should not play, his bat is slow and he can’t field, forget his OBP, OPS, and the like. I am a baseball geek and can live on the statistical rhetoric. The general public does not want to hear it.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Fox, NCAA Fumble the Ball

Picture this: after a full season of listening to Simms and Nantz, Aikman and Buck, or Michaels and Madden, broadcast NFL games every Sunday right through the playoffs for their respective networks, the NFL decides to put the Super Bowl on ABC with Brent Musburger and Kirk Herbstreit behind the mic. Take nothing away from Musburger and Herbstreit, but do you think critics would go knuts about having two guys and a network that has nothing to do with the NFL put on the biggest game of the year?

That’s exactly the situation with the BCS Championship Game.
Fox did not cover one college football game all season, not one, not even a lowly bowl game played in Idaho in mid-December, yet the only place to find four of the five biggest games of the season, including college football’s “Super Bowl” is Fox. Yes, they host the BCS Standings show every Sunday, and undoubtedly know how to put on a big sports event, but I want the broadcasters I watch all season, the crews that have insight to those defining moments in mid-October.

Fox offset the lack of in-season college football experience with a strong cast of studio analysts and some game analysts, notably former Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez, Charles Davis, and even Urban Meyer for the title game. Jimmy Johnson, and the Kenny Albert/Moose Johnston tandem leaped over after covering the NFL all season. Still, the coverage lacks personal insight. Analyzing the game does not change, but familiarity with the players, referencing specific games during the season, bringing other teams into the discussion that can make a case for the crown, these guys and the network as a whole are not prepared for good college football coverage. I say this without even mentioned the Cotton Bowl, when Pat Summerall, who they ran off the stations NFL coverage a few seasons ago, had the call, and frankly, I could not bear to listen. For a few minutes it was great hearing the legendary voice, but his lack of knowledge quickly shined through and drove me to the next game.

To make matters worse, Fox and the NCAA completely blow the scheduling. Explain this one, build up for over a month, then play four BCS games in three days, before taking three days off prior to the title game. The final ratings will tell the story, but Fox lost out. A weekend of exciting NFL football, and the Clemens steroid debacle, completely overshadowed the game on Monday. Why wait? What was wrong with Friday night, while you have the audience captivated? Or, god forbid, play two of these games in the same time slot, perish the thought? Every week fans watch college football all day Saturday, and find a way to watch multiple games, and actually enjoy it. College football succeeded for years playing every game on New Years Day. Maybe squeezing all the games into one day will be too much, but why not start with the Rose Bowl on New Years afternoon, followed by a nighttime doubleheader, then two consecutive nights to finish the BCS.

The BCS also suffers from competitiveness problems. Without the exact stats in front of me, recent years have provided more unwatchable, blowouts than nail biters. For every Boise St. upset win we have a series of blowouts of over twenty points, case in point, four of this seasons five games. Another advantage of having two games played simultaneously is preventing a blowout from driving away the audience.
Picking the teams that play in the BCS, and the merits of a playoff system, is an argument for a different day. For now, the NCAA and the networks should at least fix the schedule, and make Fox get involved with coverage before the last week of the season, so they can present a game the viewers can enjoy.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Balance of Power Tilts

Apparently two fellow superstars, and a contract extension, made Boston look markedly better to Kevin Garnett. Slightly more than a month after reportedly nixing a trade to the Celtics, due to the perception of negative treatment towards African Americans, Garnett blessed the deal that unites him with Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, creating a modern day Big Three.

The trade sends Garnett to Boston, with Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes, Sebastian Telfair, Theo Ratliff, and Gerald Green, heading back to Minnesota. Suddenly, the widely criticized draft day acquisition of Ray Allen, makes sense. After losing the Greg Oden-Kevin Durant lottery, Danny Ainge decided to fast track the rebuilding process through trades, positioning the Celts to win now, not continue the perpetual wait for rookies to develop.

Combining an All-Star sharp shooting guard, coming off a 26 ppg season, an established team leader, who posted a solid 25 ppg in an injury shortened season at the wing, with arguably the most complete player in the NBA, Boston can win on any given night. Even scarier, without any Tim Duncan’s, Dirk Nowitzki’s, or Yao Ming’s, Garnett has no equal in the Eastern Conference. Adding the Big Ticket immediately vaults Boston ahead of a young Toronto team and healthy Nets team, as the favorites in the Atlantic division, alongside Cleveland, Miami, and Detroit, as the leaders to represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals.

Before handing Boston 50 wins and Conference championship, keep a few important facts in mind: a team of superstar players rarely equal more than the sum of the parts, none of the Celtics new Big Three have any postseason success of note, and Boston lacks depth beyond the three stars. For years Garnett plead to play with another star, that he needed a formidable second option to make a deep playoff run, well, now he has two. No more excuses for first round failures.

Typically, spreading the ball around and getting each star a representative number of touches and shot becomes a sore spot, particularly with three big scorers splitting the load. These three do not carry the egos, at least publicly, that scream, “I need the ball”, like an Allen Iverson, or Kobe Bryant. I envision each will remain content scoring less, and winning more. Does that automatically mean everything will work out splendid? Not quite, look at the US Olympic team, full of superstars that failed to function as a cohesive unit.

Reportedly, the Nets made a run at KG before the draft, offering a package of Richard Jefferson, Nenad Kristic, and Marcus Williams to Minnesota, which the Wolves declined. New Jersey lacked the quantity and quality of young players, draft picks, and expiring contracts that Minnesota wanted. Now, the Nets get a close look at Garnett four times a year, and every time they glance at the standings, a scary proposition.

The brief Paul Pierce-Antoine Walker led run earlier this decade aside, the Celts are relevant for the first time since the Reggie Lewis tragically died, ending the remnants of the 1980’s dynasty. Bostonians snatched up season tickets at record pace after the trade. Celtic pride is back - good for Boston, good for the league, bad for the rest of the Eastern Conference.

…To add insult to injury, Boston signed former Net Eddie House to a one-year, $1.5 million contract, to help replenish their depleted roster following the trade. House averaged 8.4 ppg last season, but more importantly, presented the Nets only legitimate, consistent 3-point shooter, connection on 43% from long range (75-175) providing a spark off the bench.

Look for New Jersey to sift through remaining, inexpensive free agents to find a replacement. Robert Hite, who shot the ball well during summer league and impressed Net brass with his gritty play, may receive first crack at the job.

…Josh Boone continues recovering from off-season knee surgery. Coach Lawrence Frank recently stated Boone will compete for playing time at the Forward/Center position, with new additions Jamaal Magloire and Sean Williams, and incumbent Jason Collins. Frank affirmed Boone is making, “good progress” in his recovery.

Nets Reward Frank, Continue Building Stability

From August 2nd, 2007:

Last week the Nets rewarded Head Coach Lawrence Frank with a two-year contract extension at $8.6 million, and authorized a raise for 2007-08, increasing the value to $12.3 million for three years. With Frank inked through 2009-10, the Nets took another step toward assuring stability and competitiveness as they prepare to move to Brooklyn in 2009.

Frank, who joined the Nets in 2000 as an assistant in Byron Scott’s first season, replaced Scott as head coach in January 2004, immediately reeling off 13 straight wins. Three and half seasons later, the 36-year-old, who began his coaching journey as a team manager for Bobby Knight at Indiana, boasts a 157-129 record with the Nets, the winningest NBA coach in Nets history. The new contract brings Frank compensation back above the average NBA coach salary, a well-deserved raise.

However, coming off two trips to the Finals, the Nets have failed to escape the second round of the playoffs since Frank took the helm, posting an 18-20 record during his tenure.

The consummate players’ coach, keeping the teams stars happy, especially Jason Kidd, who almost single-handedly orchestrated the coaching change that elevated Frank to the top spot, alone makes the deal worthwhile. Besides pleasing current players, a known players coach with a history of coexisting with star players, makes New Jersey a desirable destination to help lure star players in the future.

More importantly, Frank can flat out coach. Long considered one of the premier X’s and O’s coach in the league, Frank also possesses strong leadership skills, and an uncanny ability to handle the pressure of coaching in the media capital of the world.

Holding an injury-ravaged squad together through an extended rough stretch, where the Nets dropped seven games under .500 leading to rumors that Frank was on the chopping block, proved his mettle. Eventually, Frank led the Nets on a late season tear, and first round upset of the division champion Raptors, where he thoroughly out coached the Coach of the Year, Sam Mitchell, neutralizing superstar Chris Bosh, while exposing weaknesses in the Raptors defense.

With Carter returning, a healthy Nenad Kristic returning, and the addition of Sean Williams and Jamaal Magloire to boost the lackluster post position, Frank must produce. Rod Thorn and Bruce Ratner expect more than second round playoff exits, so does Lawrence Frank.

The Nets are on the clock; Jason Kidd turns 35 next season and Vince Carter 31, with the Pistons displaying major holes last postseason, the Cavs little more than a one man show, and Shaq another year older, the East is ripe for the taking.

…Keep an eye on the USA Basketball team, scheduled to play in the Olympic qualifier later this month, which held a mini-camp the weekend of July 21st. It appears Jason Kidd will play an intricate role in Team USA’s attempt to return to prominence, after a humiliating bronze medal effort in Athens led to a revamping the entire USA Basketball system.

Now, after the initial season of the Jerry Colangelo/Coach K led organization produced another dismal third place finish, the pressure is on to show drastic improvement immediately, and head into Beijing in 2008 as the favorites. Coach K will rely heavily on Kidd, unbeaten in 28 international games, to lead the team, while providing the size and strength in the backcourt to neutralize the more physical international style.

Should the Nets worry about the extra workload hampering an aging Kidd later in the season? Relatively healthy the past few seasons, following microfracture knee surgery, Kidd has carried a heavy load of mostly intense minutes the past few seasons, as the Nets lacked depth at point guard, and continually looked to Kidd to carry the team. For now, just monitor Kidd’s role and watch him perform. Hopefully an emerging Marcus Williams, takes some pressure off Kidd this season, but if an injury or fatigue pop up in the latter third of the season, remember, we warned you…

… recently posted its post summer league Rookie Rankings. Sean Williams missed the cut overall, ranking fourth among rookies at the Orlando summer camp, marking his only mention in the entire rankings and subsequent page of notes.

Aaron Brooks, the diminutive Oregon point guard drafted by Houston, topped the list, with Williams’ former BC teammate Jared Dudley ranking fifth, while the Knicks boast two rookies in the top ten, Wilson Chandler and second-round pick Demetrius Nichols, rated sixth and seventh respectively.

What does it mean? Come regular season time, absolutely nothing. It remains highly unlikely Brooks, or either Knick prospect, will hoist the Rookie of the Year trophy. The Nets need Williams to fill a role, not be a star. If he fills that role, an athletic shot blocking presence under the basket that play solid defense, rebound, and contribute a little offensively, Williams should crack the top 10 by season ends. Then again, if he rolls another joint, he may become a top ten bust, thus the uncertainty of rookies.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Chubby and Chummy

Waking up for work is one of the least favorite parts of most people’s day, right next to traveling to work, and working. Radio serves as the refuge for many to survive the anguish. For all the hoopla about Imus’ April departure leaving WFAN without a viable morning option, I respectively disagree and feel quite the contrary, the I-Man’s departure was a blessing in disguise. In recent years, as his already immense arrogance grew to unchartered heights, or lows, the Imus Morning Show turned more into a grouchy old man bickering about the world, and acting as a forum for select politicians and political activists. Imus, already disliked by many, become that old grandfather figure that nobody liked, with a personality, and mentality, better suited for the Midwest or South, on a non-sports station.

The past few months WFAN trotted in everything but the kitchen sink to buy time, while searching for a replacement, or some believe, waiting for CBS to relent and bring Imus back. While Mike and the Mad Dog are the golden carafe of sports talk, they lost some edge when trying to take on political and non-sports current event topics. It is simply not their forte. The past two weeks Chris Carlin showed how a talk show could entertain, remain sports centric, while still finding time to make light of Hollywood news and tackle political issues, appealing to a multitude of listeners.

I highly doubt the FAN dubs Carlin the new morning man, in fact, sources report Boomer Esiason is on the verge of inking a contract to take the helm, but Carlin clearly has a future in this realm. Carlin’s personality really shines through, which is both good and bad. The Big Guy is genuinely funny and personable, making for good, light-hearted radio, and great sidekick banter. However, he still seems reluctant to insight controversy by taking a hard stance on a tough issue. That’s what made Imus, and Stern, so successful. WFAN needs to decide if they want to continue playing in that genre, or shift gears, going to back their roots, with a sports-oriented morning show, ala ESPN’s Mike and Mike.

It appears WFAN will remain in the general, big name, morning show realm, for now at least, but Carlin would make the perfect host if they go sports. His banter with Ian Eagle created enough laughing to swerve me out of my lane on the Garden State. They took the conversation away from sports, into reality television, movies, and real life, keeping the atmosphere light and fun. For a second I enjoyed the ride to work, until I remembered I still had to work. More importantly, the Continent is knowledgeable in sports, a relative insider for most NY teams having covered the Giants and Rutgers, while making numerous contacts with other teams in the past decade.

In recent years, critics have accused WFAN of becoming bland and uninteresting, monotone radio. Here is the perfect chance to spurn that sentiment. Insert Carlin, mornings, middays, wherever. He needs to be on everyday.

Unhappy Campers

Jets LG Pete Kendall made no secret of his discontent, almost as soon as last season ended. Scheduled to earn $1.7 million this season, the 12-year veteran wants a million dollar raise. Despite threatening to hold out, Kendall attended June workouts and was present at training camp Day One this week. Now, his motivation is to avoid the $14,000 daily fine, and a malcontented veteran player spewing venom to the media looms as a distraction, but Kendall showed up, and the Jets know his position.

Michael Strahan is the other side of the spectrum. Last season ends, roster bonuses paid out in March, the April draft passes, free agency comes and goes, June voluntary workouts finish, with team’s 2007 plans solidified training camp arrives in July. Then, out of the clear blue, the night before training camp opens, after an eternal offseason, your 14-year veteran defensive end, seven-time Pro Bowler, unofficial leader, and public face of the team, leaves a voicemail that he is not coming. What? That is a maneuver 12-year olds, who want to play video games instead, pull in Little League.

Varying reports say Strahan is honestly considering retirement, mulling lucrative broadcast offers, or that he is holding out for a raise. Strahan contract has two seasons remaining at $4 million each. Either way, the active sack leader must have come across this thought, and his decision not to report, before 11PM the night before camp. The Giants deserve better. His only NFL team stuck by him through a messy divorce, rewarded him with lucrative contracts throughout his illustrious career, and went so far as to move budding star Mathias Kiwanuka to OLB to accommodate Strahan’s return to DE after an injury riddled season. The last minute move reeks of unprofessionalism.

If Strahan wants to retire, that is fine, more power to him; he earned that right after 14 tough seasons. Just let the team know ahead of time so they can plan accordingly, maybe not early enough to disrupt the previous season, Tiki are you listening, but before the Giants spend an entire offseason practicing your backup at a new position and after most viable free agents are already scooped up. However, if the no show is contract related, Strahan becomes another greedy malcontent in a league full of them. Last check players receive raises, such as the one Dwight Freeny signed, based on merit and potential. A 34-year-old, coming off a major injury, already earning $4 million, does not fit the bill. I think GM Jerry Reese agrees.

One other possibility, maybe he simply wants to skip training camp. It is funny how many veteran players, with job security, suddenly come up with minor injuries, or contract problems, when training camp opens. Two-a-days, 100 degree heat, drills, running, repetition, not exactly appealing to the 30 and over crowd. Though doubtful, it is the best scenario for the Giants.

The Giant mantra for 2007 was all busy, no distractions, no talking. Two days into training camp, one media blow up, Reese publicly calling out former LT Luke Pettigout, and one mega hold out. So much for avoiding distractions. As shocking as it sounds, reports are the retirement talk is serious. For sake of Strahan’s public perception, I hope it is. No matter the reason, Strahan is missing, and the Giants are scrambling.

Back at Hofstra, the Jets, given a chance to prepare for the Kendall situation, “unknowingly” assigned the 34-year-old to the rookie dorm. A move in the Bellichek mold. Season one was a magic carpet ride for Mangini, season two is full of expectations. Starting training camp with controversy is not recommended, in addition to the first rookie holdout in almost a decade. The Jets need to address the Kendall situation immediately. One option is to meet his contract demands, unlikely. Another unlikely option is releasing Kendall, leaving him available to every team, including division rivals. The likely options are coming to a mutual agreement to play, or orchestrating a trade, or relegating him to the bench behind Adrien Clarke.

About that rookie hold out. CB Darrelle Revis, the 14th pick in Aprils draft, which the Jets were lauded for, wants a five year contract, while the Jets are offering six, the maximum for a Top 15 pick. I think Revis wins this battle. Other top picks have already inked 5-year deals, while it means Revis hits free agency a year early, the Jets need him now and cannot worry too much about the effects on the 2012 roster. Training camp is more important for NFL rookies than in any other sport, due to the complex systems, and steep learning curve. Unlike baseball, or basketball, players do not just step onto the field and play. It best serves the Jets to get Revis into camp ASAP.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Nets Act Swiftly, Smartly

Last season’s diamond in the rough, center Mikki Moore, who rose from oblivion to ably fill in for Nenad Kristic, decided to head to greener pastures, and more green, signing with Sacramento on Friday. Less than a day later, the Nets reached an agreement with 6’11”, 260-pound center Jamaal Magloire to fill the vacancy.

The sequence of moves became inevitable after Moore declined the Nets 3 year, $11 million offer, which New Jersey subsequently pulled off the table. At 32-years old, looking to capitalize on his breakout season, where he averaged 9.8 ppg and 5.1 rpg, Moore went to the highest bidder. A career journeyman, Moore made the right personal decision, cashing in on what is likely his only big free agent opportunity, receiving 3 years, $18 million from the Kings.

While Moore, who led the NBA in FG shooting percentage, played an enormous role in holding the Nets together as injuries ravaged the roster, the Nets made a sound financial decision letting him walk. Moore is scrappy, plays hard, quickly became a fan favorite, but reached and exceeded his ceiling last year. Unlikely to replicate last season’s performance, and expected to head back to the bench with Kristic’s return, committing $18 million to Mikki Moore would be hasty.

Magloire comes to New Jersey with a one-year, $4 million contract, after underperforming in Portland the past two seasons. Prior to Portland, Magloire averaged close to a double-double for three consecutive seasons in New Orleans, including 13.6 ppg and 10.3 rpg during his 2003-04 All-Star season. This is a great value signing low risk at one season and a modest salary, but high reward, if Magloire can find his old self and present a formidable presence in the middle, something the Nets have sorely lacked for years.
The Nets have suffered with Jason Collins in the middle, a non-existent offense player, with limited rebounding skills. I expect Coach Lawrence Frank to immediately insert Magloire, a skilled offensive post player, with double-digit rebounding ability, into the starting lineup. He provides a nice complement to Kristic’s mid-range, finesse post game, also providing an inside threat taking some defensive pressure off Vince Carter and Richard Jefferson.

The environment is perfect for Magloire, but he needs to avoid the attitude problems that have surfaced in the past, understand his role, and play hard. With Kidd, Carter, Jefferson, and Kristic the primary offensive targets, the Nets need Magloire to focus on defense and rebounding, while acting as an alternate option in the offense, a concept he has struggled with in the past. If Magloire can remain patient, rest assured Jason Kidd will open up scoring opportunities.

One casualty of the signing is Hassan Adams, cut by the Nets. The second-year second-round draft pick had a non-guaranteed $687,000 contract for the upcoming season. Unable to find takes for Bernard Robinson or Milie Illic, the Nets cut ties with Adams to get under $67.8 million salary cap, evading the luxury tax for now. Adams, coming off a solid summer league, should catch on somewhere quickly. A potential defense-stopper in the making, the Nets pay the price for committing to Illic and Robinson, both mistakes thus far.

On another note, reports surfaced that Rod Thorn rejected a trade for Pacers center Jermaine O’Neal on draft night. The blockbuster deal would have sent Jefferson, Kristic, and Collins to Indiana for O’Neal. Any such deal now appears unlikely, with New Jersey signing Magloire. At that price, the Nets are better served with their current team, rather than dismantling the starting lineup for one player, with injury problems.

A week after the official free agent signing period, the Nets are arguably the most improved team in the Eastern Conference, without any blockbuster moves. The return of Carter, a legitimate center, drafting a potential impact big-man, and a healthy Nenad Kristic, put New Jersey firmly amongst the favorites in the East. Then again, does that say much?

Monday, July 09, 2007

Tough Day for the Doggie; Patrick Out

For all his hard work, and double shifts for the post-Imus WFAN, the station threw “Mad Dog” a bone, sending him to the All-Star game this week. Doggie’s beloved Giants are hosting. As usual the WFAN brand lured in top notch guests, starting with Giants owner Peter McGowan off the top, right through A-Rod, Beltran, Wagner, and the recently controversial Jose Reyes.

Russo, typically a good interviewer, not afraid to ask the tough question, did a great job with McGowan, but totally dropped the ball with Reyes. The day started with a bang, questioning McGowan about Bonds, leading the Giant owner to admit he was disappointed Barry was missing the home run contest, felt he should be there, that Giant personnel did speak to him about participating, and even Willie Mays tried to convince his godson to no avail. Great quotes, chock full of news.

Then came the Reyes interview, a perfect example of poor preparation. Russo recapped the ballyhooed grounder Reyes loafed to first base on, leading to his benching on Friday night. Then Dog started asking about how it felt sitting out Saturday’s game as punishment. Only problem, Reyes played. After straightening out the problem, and apologizing to Reyes, who could only laugh at this point, Russo used the long flight to San Fran excuse for not knowing. Next, he let totally let Reyes off the hook about Wagner’s comments. Dog phrased the question in a manner that Reyes easily sidetracked; asking if he heard what Wagner said, Reyes replying no, end of discussion.

First off, long flight or not, Russo is paid, and paid well, to intelligently speak about New York sports. Was he in a time capsule, or the same flight that millions of Americans make all the time? Pick up any New York Sunday paper this past week, these stories are plastered all over the place. No excuses, Doggie, not on your “vacation” week. If you have time for Wimbledon, make time for the Mets and Yankees.

…After 18 years at ESPN, Dan Patrick is leaving the station in mid-August. Rumors first surfaced over a week ago, only intensifying as Patrick took an unplanned extended vacation through the entire Fourth of July week. Outside of Chris Berman, Patrick defines ESPN. He helped make Sportscenter a household name, and anchored ESPN Radio during its rise to prominence. All while remaining somewhat grounded, and thankfully, much less dramatic and commercialized, than the Chris Berman’s and Stu Scott’s of the world.

Sometimes longevity breeds complacency. Patrick made no announcement about his next destination, but I feel a change may help invigorate his journalism. The radio show has been less than exhilarating the past year or so, and covering the NBA Finals, well, was there really anything to cover this year. The rumor mill mentions Patrick stepping into Imus’ old role, replacing Bob Barker on the Price is Right, or heading to The Sporting News Radio to work with his brother. Switching to Westwood One, a direct ESPN Radio competitor, to replace Imus, going head to head with Mike and Mike, would provide great theater. For now, we wait for the next big announcement.

…Jones and Carlin, it has a nice ring to it. Vacations and scheduling quirks, allowed Chris Carlin and Kim Jones to slide into the mid-day shift at WFAN the past week. The combo, which paired up previously on a few special occasions, such as preceding Met-Yankee Sunday night games, is dripping with chemistry. The two both exhibit wit and engage in playful banter, while still focusing on sports. Jones and Carlin are well-rounded analysts, with extensive baseball and football backgrounds, providing solid insight and coverage, unless you want to talk hockey. I feel this duo is much stronger than Beningno and Roberts, plays to the audience better, and would register solid ratings. Will we get a chance to find out? Unlikely, given Jones Yankee responsibilities, and Carlin’s gigs covering Rutgers football, and the NY Giants. But, never say never, especially at the unstable, post-Imus FAN.