The Sports pages

Writers to MJ: Just Don’t

Battling a knee injury that reduced him to a bench player, Michael Jordan shelved himself for the rest of the season. The sportswriters want him to stay there. The Chicago Sun-Times’ Jay Mariotti writes: “He tried, he stumbled, he failed. And now, before he allows a deep disappointment to freefall into an embarrassing farce, I urge Jordan … to heed the harsh lessons of his basketball twilight and retire.” The Rocky Mountain News’ Bernie Lincicome asks:

Was Jordan more foolish than Mark Spitz trying to swim to the Olympics at age 40 or Joe Louis, needing the money, which Jordan did not, being turned into sausage by Rocky Marciano? Was it nuttier than Jim Palmer stepping out of an underwear ad back onto the pitching mound, or Magic Johnson no longer able to play or recognize the game he invented? Yes, to all of those. Yes, because Jordan was greater and his ultimate failure was more important.

Where did Jordan err? “It turns out, Jordan’s worst decision wasn’t coming back to play,” the New York Daily News’ Mitch Lawrence argues. “But coming back to play too soon after he had arthroscopic surgery on the knee.” The New York Post’s Peter Vecsey says Jordan’s poor salary-cap management as general manager overshadowed his impact on the court. “The Wiz, minus free agents-in-waiting Popeye Jones and Tyrone Nesby, are committed to $37.3 million guaranteed. … In other words, Washington will have no more money to invest in a free agent than capped teams—the vast majority—who own a $4.5 million mid-level exception. Not good.”

Only the Washington Post’s Tony Kornheiser supports the comeback and predicts it isn’t over. “I can’t even imagine Jordan won’t play next season. With a few months to heal? Come on. He didn’t give up that front office gig to play 60 stinking games.”

This is a recording: Kornheiser floats the theory that Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos might be sandbagging his own club:

[T]he cynic in me could see a shrewd and cunning attorney like Angelos thinking that the best way to persuade Bud Selig to keep a baseball team out of Washington would be to say it would kill Angelos financially. And the best way to prove that would be to show your own attendance dropping like a rock. And the best way to do that would be to deliberately field a team nobody wants to see. It would be a brilliant preemptive strike.

Sports Nut recommends to Kornheiser the collected works of Thomas Boswell, his colleague at the Post. Boswell—uncredited in Kornheiser’s column—floated the same theory three weeks ago: “Why can’t the owner of a rich team, like the Orioles, field as drab a club as possible for one crucial season so that it can whack its own attendance and build a case for preventing baseball from returning to Washington? Well, of course, he can. Look up Interstate 95. He’s doing it.”

Pedro Martinez is still hurt: In his first start of the season, Boston Red Sox ace Pedro Martinez got rocked: three innings, nine hits, seven earned runs. The Red Sox nation worried that Martinez’s ailing shoulder, which held him out last season, had turned him into a meatballer. Then, on Sunday, Martinez threw six shutout innings against Baltimore, allowing only three hits. Problem solved, right?

Maybe not. The Boston Herald’s Tony Massarotti dissects Martinez’s first outing and finds some troubling stats. For example, only 10 percent of Pedro’s pitches were curveballs, the pitch that puts the most strain on his shoulders. His usual rate is 25 percent. And Toronto hitters swung and missed Martinez’s fastballs only eight times in that game, a pretty low rate for a strikeout pitcher. Pedro doesn’t look like baseball’s best pitcher, Massarotti argues. He looks like a “man who has doubts.”

No, thanks: The Charlotte Observer’s Scott Fowler profiles Rich Williams, an offensive lineman from tiny Gardner-Webb University. Despite spending his playing career in Boiling Springs, N.C., Williams garnered visits from 20 NFL scouts. He figured to go somewhere between the second and fifth rounds of this year’s draft and earn an initial signing bonus of about half a million dollars. But last week Williams told his agent to take his name off the draft-eligible list. “I’m not a big fan of money,” he tells Fowler. “I’m just a laid-back, old-school type guy. The only things I need are a refrigerator and an old rugged truck and I’m happy.” Williams doesn’t have a truck yet. He plans to pursue a career as a powerlifter.

Understatement of the Year Award: Ken Griffey Jr. dislocated his right kneecap and tore his patella tendon Sunday. The Cincinnati Enquirer’s Paul Daugherty writes, “The sinking feeling now is that the whole Junior Griffey homecoming just isn’t going to work out.”

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