Sports Nut

The Sports Pages: Don’t Kill Whitey

A weekly look at the sports commentariat.

In a speech in Iowa last week, Whitey Herzog claimed that affirmative action prevents qualified white managers from getting jobs in the major leagues. “I do think there are a lot of capable minorities. But I do think today, the people that are really getting it stuck to them are guys like this guy over here, because he isn’t a minority,” Herzog said, referring to minor-league manager Bruce Kimm, who is white. “When our country was built, the best man always got the job. The most capable person was the guy. It didn’t make any difference what color he was. It didn’t make any difference if he was a minority.” Herzog apologized two days later.

The Kansas City Star’s Jason Whitlock mounts a lukewarm defense of Herzog’s actions. “What we don’t realize is that we can all make statements just as silly as Whitey’s. After the Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, I had a long discussion with Bucs tackle Warren Sapp, explaining to him that Tony Dungy’s firing was no different than Marty Schottenheimer’s dismissal in Cleveland, Kansas City and, now, Washington. Sapp couldn’t see it. He believes Dungy’s black skin is contributing to Dungy’s demise,” Whitlock writes. “Whitey Herzog looks at a white, mediocre, minor-league manager and fantasizes that minorities have taken over major-league baseball. Warren Sapp looks at a black, millionaire NFL coach whose team hasn’t scored a playoff touchdown in three straight games and sees a victim.”

Florida picks another winner for Washington: Spurned by big-name candidates everywhere, the Florida Gators replaced coach Steve Spurrier with an unknown: Ron Zook, the defensive coordinator of the New Orleans Saints. With in-state rivals Florida State and Miami looming,’s Rod Gilmore worries that Zook won’t be able to land prize recruits. But according to the Gainesville Sun’sPat Dooley, Zook already won his most important recruiting battle. He convinced sophomore quarterback Rex Grossman to stay in school. Grossman had toyed with bolting for the pros—even calling Spurrier to see if his old coach would draft him—before agreeing to give Zook a chance. “It might be dull around here, but I might be more happy with the situation,” Grossman says.

Spurrier, meanwhile, hopped to the Washington Redskins, where he landed a five-year, $25 million contract. Last week, the Washington Post’s Tony Kornheiser begged owner Daniel Snyder to hire Spurrier. Now, he’s not so sure: “The owner in Washington doesn’t have a quarterback worthy of Spurrier’s spit, and his most reputed wide receiver has been seven years worth of disappointment. But he hired Spurrier in a heartbeat. … What does he expect Spurrier to do, wave a magic wand over these guys?”

Did Gary Carter miss his chance? Last week, Ozzie Smith landed in the Hall of Fame on his first try, securing votes on 92 percent of the ballots cast by sportswriters (a player needs 75 percent to gain induction). Even so, the Washington Post’s Thomas Boswell says the Wiz might be underrated: “Since Smith’s been retired only five years, you would think memories of him would be fresh. But they’re not. … He’s already lumped in conversations with the best defensive shortstops of this period, especially Omar Vizquel.” But look at the numbers: “Last season, a dozen shortstops played 140 games (average 151 games). They averaged 427 assists. Or about 100 a year less than Ozzie in his prime.”

Hall bridesmaids Gary Carter, Jim Rice, and Andre Dawson may have a rough time getting to Cooperstown next year. “It is never easy for the fringe holdovers to get in when the ballot contains one or more strong first-ballot candidates,” the Philadelphia Daily News’ Bill Conlin suggests. Who are next year’s first-timers? “Second baseman Ryne Sandberg will be eligible with numbers that compare to the great Rogers Hornsby’s. Eddie Murray, a power switch-hitter second only to Mickey Mantle, comes glowering onto the ballot, which will be a test of integrity for many writers dissed by the slugger throughout his career. And Lee Arthur Smith, the all-time saves leader, will debut.”

Angels on the runway: The Anaheim Angels, who dropped 19 of their final 22 games last season, unveiled new red-on-red uniforms and caps as part of a promotional campaign called “It’s a Red Dawn for Anaheim Angels.” The Los Angeles Times’ T.J. Simers attended the ceremony: “The Angels had a stage outside Edison Field, and had a hung a sign: ‘THINK RED INSTEAD.’ … But THINK RED INSTEAD of what? Tim Salmon’s batting average?” Simers continues: “You could tell some of the kids [at the ceremony] had already been to an Angel game because they weren’t bothered by the fact nothing exciting was going on.” Angels outfielder Garret Anderson offered this endorsement: “It looks like a baseball uniform.” Click here to judge the new unis for yourself.

Fish fried: Finally, the Miami Dolphins’ playoff-caliber record was “exposed as a lie,” the Miami Herald’s Dan LeBatard writes. “Miami has now made its past four playoff exits by the combined score of 147-13, which is as preposterous as it is unfathomable.”