Friday, October 30, 2009

It's ChicagoNow now

To read Mike Nadel's The Baldest Truth, please go to his page at

Joining forces with a juggernaut

The Bald Truth

OK, folks, here's a little more foreplay ...

Within the next day or three or five, The Baldest Truth will be a regular feature on ChicagoNow, Tribune Co.'s new blog site.

You will need to go to a new address, which I will provide here as soon as my stuff is up and running. Until then, do feel free to check out the site - CLICK HERE - if for no other reason than to see how much better it will be after I start posting there. (That's a joke, ChicagoNow folks; please take it as such.)

I'm not doing this for the money, because there won't be much of it coming my way. I'll be getting paid mostly by the pageview, so be sure to tell your friends and families (and families of friends) - especially Chicago-area peeps, because local hits count more toward my bottom line.

Nor am I doing this for the exposure. I've been at this so long, all that ego-driven stuff has become secondary.

Mostly, I'm doing it because I've got abso-freakin'-lutely nuthin' better to do! Wait ... I didn't really say that ...

Actually, I'm doing it because it's a cool opportunity for a guy who has been a newspaper hack for most of his life.

It's a chance to join forces on ChicagoNow with media personalities such as Len Kasper, Bob Brenly, David Kaplan, Chet Coppock and Bruce Wolf as well as jock/bloggers like Black Jack McDowell and Adewale Ogunleye.

And it's a natural next progression given that The Baldest Truth has been up and running for nearly three years.

Yes, it really has been that long. I started blogging back when the Bears were on their way to the Super Bowl and before the Copleys sold me and my colleagues into the debt cesspool that is GateHouse Media.

So keep an eye out for The Baldest Truth's grand ChicagoNow unveiling by checking back here early and often.

Phew! I need a cigarette. Was it good for you, too?

The Balder Truth

Nice to see that first-base ump Brian Gorman brought his A-game to the World Series.

Hey, he succeeded at getting three outs on only two blown calls.

Take that, Phil Cuzzi!


As a guy who regularly pokes fun at Bobby Knight - after all, the man is such a large, stationary target - I also have to give him one of these (I'm doing a thumbs-up sign) when he does the right thing.

Somewhere, somebody probably is ripping The General for declining to attend his induction into Indiana's Athletic Hall of Fame, but they shouldn't. Knight is absolutely right in believing his appearance would be a huge sideshow - and a major distraction for the six other inductees.

So kudos, Bobby. You are the one of the five classiest guys ever to choke Neil Reed.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Icons R Us: From Favre to Kobe to Phil Ivey

The Bald Truth

Frankly, I didn't pay attention to a single thing Brett Favre said as he talked about getting ready to play his first game in Green Bay since becoming America's most famous vagabond since Jack Kerouac.

It was his tone of voice - almost catatonic, as if he had been awakened from a deep slumber just in time for his midweek press conference - that told me all I needed to know.

He is working so hard to seem low-key, it's obvious he's not. The man is as nervous and anxious as a teenage boy going to his first high-school dance.

Which is perfectly normal. Favre doesn't want to show up for the dance, trip over his own two feet and land face-down in the onion dip. Pretty hard to impress the ladies, the peers and the onlookers that way.

I'm guessing Favre will be received quite well by the folks who spent more than a decade and a half naming their kids Brett.

And he should be. Favre created wonderful memories for those Cheeseheads. He won them a championship. He restored pride in all things Packer. He played hard and with the enthusiasm of a rookie, even when he was old and gray. He never missed an opening coin toss, no matter how crappy he might have felt on a given day. He gave his life and blood for that organization.

Yeah, it ended weirdly. Yeah, in recent years he's been more wishy-washy than John Kerry on a bad day. Yeah, it sucks for Packerland to see Favre in freakin' purple.

But it's all worked out pretty well for the Packers, too. There certainly aren't many QBs better than Aaron Rodgers.

Of course, Favre is approaching Sunday's return with great anticipation. I'm really looking forward to the game, too - and I'm not a Packers fan, not a Vikings fan and, last I looked, not scheduled to play in it.

The Balder Truth

The NBA season has begun, so I'm just a little tardy with my predictions:

The Lakers will beat the Celtics in the NBA Finals.

Kobe will repeat as MVP.

The Spurs will take the Lakers to 7 games in the Western Conference finals.

The Cavaliers will win fewer games with Shaq than they did without him.

LeBron will start shopping for real estate in New York.

The Bulls will increase their win total from 41 to 43 and again will lose in the first round of the playoffs.

Will that convince John Paxson and Jerry Reinsdorf to extend Vinny Del Negro's contract? Only if they are fools.


Imagine Phil Mickelson turning in a Masters scorecard with the wrong score marked down at No. 12. Or Kevin Garnett shooting at the wrong end and scoring an important basket for the opponent in the NBA Finals. Or Peyton Manning looking right at a wide-open receiver in the end zone and, instead of throwing the ball, taking a knee in the third quarter of the Super Bowl. Or Derek Jeter forgetting how many outs there were in Game 5 of the World Series and throwing the ball into the stands to allow a run to score.

Hello, Phil Ivey.

ESPN The Magazine's latest cover boy as "The Best Poker Player On Earth," Ivey had what should have been a winning flush on Day 8 of the World Series of Poker's Main Event. Instead, he simply threw it away.

I'm not saying he folded because he wasn't sure he could beat his opponent. I'm saying the betting already had ended for the hand and his opponent already had shown his two-pair when Ivey, without taking another look at his two face-down cards, mucked his ace-high spade flush into the discard pile.

Incredible. The best poker player on the planet, playing on the game's biggest stage, simply forgot what he had in his hand.

The mistake cost Ivey more than 2 million chips and was a huge part of his free-fall from near the chip lead to the brink of elimination.

This all took place shortly after a pre-recorded interview in which Ivey spoke of his heightened concentration level and his determination to finally reach the Main Event final table - a destination that has eluded him forever.

It's a tribute to Phil's skill that he was able to recover and qualify for the final table. And it's a lesson - a rather refreshing one, too - that even the masters screw up royally.

Phil goes for 11, Yanks go for 27

The Bald Truth

This seems hard to believe, but my unimpeachable source swears it's true:

Now that he has received his 10th NBA championship ring and with his Lakers favored to win it all again, Phil Jackson has contacted Antonio Alfonseca to learn the secret behind growing a sixth finger on each hand.

The Balder Truth

Yes, Larry Johnson twice tweeted gay slurs. Yes, he told a sportswriter who asked about the tweets to "get your faggot ass out of here." Yes, in a prepared statement issued by his agent, the Chiefs' All-Pro-turned-All-Stiff has said he was sorry because "I did not intend to offend anyone." Yes, has been told by the team to take a hike.

And yes, I am outraged!

I mean, there once was a time when an insincere apology meant something.


Well, it's World Series time, which means it's time to break down how the Yankees and Phillies stack up against each other.*

*All this is contingent on the umps blowing a maximum of two calls per game.

1B: Mark Teixeira is a great fielder and he led the AL in HR and RBI, but, as Ryan Howard was heard to say: "I got chunks of guys like you in my stool!" Advantage ... Phillies

2B: Robinson Cano has become a good all-around player again but he's no Chase Utley. Unless, of course, Utley's right arm continues doing its Steve Sax/Chuck Knoblauch imitation. For argument's sake, let's figure that Chase will be all right. Advantage ... Phillies

3B: Pedro Feliz doesn't put up the kind of numbers Alex Rodriguez does. Duh! A-Rod's HGH is twice as good as any stuff Feliz can afford! Advantage ... Yankees

SS: We'll assume Jimmy Rollins is past getting benched for lack of hustle. Still, how can anybody pick against Derek Jeter, whose fundamentally perfect play is the sole reason the Yankees have won 26 championships? Gehrig Schmehrig! Advantage ... Yankees

LF: Even after four years in pinstripes, Johnny Damon still looks funny with cropped hair and a clean face. That alone would have cost him in a contest against Raul Ibanez, but Ben Francisco will be getting major PT in left while Ibanez does the DH thing. Advantage ... Yankees

CF: Melky Cabrera is OK, I guess, but Shane Victorino's very name spells "victori, no?" Advantage ... Phillies

RF: Nick Swisher being lost at the plate must feel like deja vu to White Sox fans. Meanwhile, Jayson Werth is the best ballplayer from Springfield since Homer Simpson in his prime. Advantage ... Phillies

C: With his big-game experience, Jorge Posada would seem the obvious choice. But A.J. Burnett will throw only to banjo-hitting Jose Molina. For the second straight postseason, Carlos Ruiz has stepped into the phone booth and turned into SuperCatcher. Or at least he would have if there were phone booths any more. Advantage ... Phillies

DH: When Ibanez is here, he's a nice match for Hideki Matsui. When it's Matt Stairs or Greg Dobbs, not so much. And in the three games in Philly, Godzilla will give the Yankees the most dangerous pinch-hitter in the series. Advantage ... Yankees

SP: The World Series already is stretched out, and a few rain days would make it possible for CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee to start a half-dozen times each. (Thank you, Cleveland!) Just because Pedro Martinez would drill Babe Ruth in the ass, it doesn't mean Pedrold should be the No. 2 pitcher for a championship team. Advantage ... Yankees

RP: Brad Lidge makes my head explode, so I can only imagine what he does to the phine pholks of Philly. He's great ... he's crap ... he's great ... he's crap. And right now, he's, um, who the hell knows? Then there's Mariano Rivera. About him, everybody the hell knows. Advantage ... Yankees

Prediction: It'll be close, as it should be. This ain't the BCS, ya know.

Yankees in 7.

Monday, October 26, 2009

My new deal and La Russa's new coach

The Bald Truth

Within a few days, The Baldest Truth will be joining the family of a major media company. I will provide details as soon as things are finalized.

Yes, if you're like me, you're so excited you can barely keep down the 2 1/2 pounds of bacon you had for breakfast!

The Balder Truth

For underdog lovers everywhere, it sure was heartwarming to see those freckle-faced lads Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Derek Jeter hugging and squealing like schoolgirls after they and the rest of their underpaid, no-name New York crew won the AL pennant.


Sources close to Tony La Russa's ego say Jose Canseco will be the Cardinals' new strength and conditioning coach.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Bears obviously determined to avoid another narrow defeat

The Bald Truth

You know, if a few plays go differently in that game, the Bears only lose by 21.

28, tops.

The List

Five Bears who should be most embarrassed by Sunday's 45-10 loss to the Bengals:

1. Lovie Smith. The head coach - who brazenly promoted himself to defensive coordinator/czar/guru - had to watch helplessly as his heralded gang got bent, folded, mutilated, fooled, befuddled and bamboozled. Bengals offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski seemed to know exactly what Lovie's lads were going to do on every single play. Lovie's fingerprints were all over this game - and they're all over a 3-3 team that, as usual, has been built to break Bear Country's collective heart.

2 (tie). Every Offensive & Defensive Lineman. We all could see what Jay Cutler and Matt Forte weren't doing for the Bears and what Carson Palmer and Cedric Benson were doing for the Bengals. Really, though, the skill players were relative bit players. The Bengals so dominated both lines of scrimmage it was as if they were playing Walter Payton College Prep instead of Sweetness' former team.

3. Peanut Tillman. All week long, Chad Ochocinco promised he was going to whip Peanut into butter. Then the game came, and No. 85 made Tillman look like No. 2, if you get my drift.

4. Chicago Scribes. Pretty much every voice in the Tribune and Sun-Times, including Mike Royko's ghost, forecast a Bears triumph. The prevailing logic seemed to be: The defense would be all riled up to prove that Benson's been a fluke this year; and Cutler would have a huge day. And these guys are supposed to be experts? Come on! They should be like me and be perfect with every prediction! (Um, the Cubs and White Sox did win their divisions this year, right?)

5. Brad Maynard. Well, not really. But Wanny used to like to blame Todd Sauerbrun when things went bad, so there certainly is precedent for fingering the punter.

The Balder Truth

Here was the Bears' first play from scrimmage in the ...

First Quarter: Defense allows 19-yard pass from Palmer to Ochocinco. (Palmer goes on to throw for 5 TDs, including dos to Ochocinco.)

Second Quarter: Despite a perfectly good snap from Olin Kreutz, Cutler fumbles. (Bears Savior J.C. finishes with 3 interceptions, 2 fumbles and about 30 bruises as his offensive line apparently thought it was supposed to be a night game.)

Third Quarter: Cutler passes to Earl Bennett for a 2-yard loss. (Rough day all around for the Bears' resident Vanderbiltians.)

Fourth Quarter: Benson scores on a 1-yard run. (The ex-Bear formerly known as Sled-ric pounds and scoots his way to 189 yards - and to bragging rights forever.)

So I don't want to hear that the Bears were inconsistent, because they really were paragons of consistency all day long.

The Quote

"Jay Cutler really has not had a chance in this game. Unless they get better up front ... they're gonna struggle. That O-line's gotta improve." - Fox-TV analyst Tim Ryan.

The D-line, as well. Because while Cutler was getting clobbered pretty much every time he dropped back to pass, Palmer had so much time to kill in the Bengals' pocket that he could be seen filing his nails, reading biblical passages and downloading new tunes to his iPod.

Oh, and finding wide-open receivers, too.


After Benson's TD made it 45-3, I wondered how he was going to celebrate. Would he taunt the defensive players who used to relish hitting him extra hard in practice? Did he have props stored somewhere near the end zone? Would there be an elaborate dance? Would he dive into the stands and whoop it up with fans who love him?

At first, I was mildly disappointed when he simply put the football on the ground, accepted congratulations from teammates and dropped to one knee in prayer.

Soon enough, though, he jumped to his feet and started taking a victory lap around the inside of the stadium. He waved to fans and soaked in the cheers until a teammate stopped him from rubbing it in and acting so unprofessionally.

That teammate, of course, was ...

Chad Ochocinco, Voice of Reason!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Just three more steps and I'm calling you for traveling!

The Bald Truth

Absolutely thrilled that the NBA and its referees have agreed on a new contract.

It will be nice to hear the players stop whining about the horrible replacement refs so they can get back to whining about the horrible regular refs.

The Balder Truth

With Ozzie Guillen set to do TV work during the World Series, word is that Fox will be using new technology they're calling "double-strength 7-second delay."


Prediction time: The Vikings will lose in Pittsburgh and the Saints will fall in Miami, leaving only the Broncos and Colts with unbeaten records.

The Broncos have a bye this week. And the Colts have something even better than a bye - a practice game against the Rams.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The bald truth about Cedric Benson

The Bald Truth

Cedric Benson says that Bears players resented him while he was in Chicago and that Bears honchos badmouthed and blackballed him after he left. Lovie Smith says they didn't. Bengals coach Marvin Lewis, who has benefited from Benson's emergence, says Smith actually spoke up on Benson's behalf. What really happened?

Aside from Benson pissing off the Bears by not inviting any of them on his party boat, that is?

Well, here goes ...

Immediately after the Bears drafted him, Benson played the poor-poor-pitiful-me routine, actually crying because he was ready to prove all the naysayers wrong.

He wasn't all that ready, though, because he held out and missed the start of camp. Then, upon signing, he was arrogant and aloof.

So it was all Benson's fault then? Not exactly.

Thomas Jones, obviously threatened by the presence of a top draft pick at his position, was very popular with the other players and took every opportunity to turn his teammates against Benson. Defensive players relished the opportunity to take extra-hard shots at the cocky Benson during training camp.

Just because Benson is paranoid doesn't mean many of his teammates weren't out to get him.

As for blackballing ...

Because Benson offered not even a sliver of evidence, it's pretty tough to give his charge much credence. He's bitter and has an ax to grind. Of course, the fact that the Bears wasted the fourth-overall draft pick and a lot of money on Benson gave some front-office types motive to do a little blackballing.

We probably never will know the truth about that part of the story. So let's just say that if Benson's Bengals beat the Bears in Cinci this Sunday, he's right. And if he loses, he's wrong.

Sounds fair to me.

For what it's worth, the Bengals say they love Benson, who is the league's third-leading rusher. They praise his work habits and say he's a good guy in the locker room. The Bears probably think that if Benson had been this dedicated way back when, things would have been different for him in Chicago.

In the end, this clearly is one of those deals in which everybody won.

Benson needed to get out of Chicago.

The Bears needed to move on.

The Bengals needed a good tailback.

Benson has helped Cincinnati become one of the NFL's surprise teams.

And Matt Forte has the Bears' running game going in high gear. As long as "reverse" also is considered a gear.

The Balder Truth

One could say that Mike Scioscia pulled his starter too early and that Joe Girardi pulled his starter too late.

Or one could say that the pitchers employed by both ALCS teams should have done better at the jobs they are paid handsomely to do.

Egads! Actually holding zillionaire athletes accountable! Have I lost my mind?

As it turned out, after blowing a 4-0 lead, the Angels rallied for a 7-6 victory over the Yankees, sending the series back to New York for Game 6 ... and making their manager look less stupid.

By the way, we all should be as stupid as Scioscia and Girardi.


It's so sad to hear that Magic Johnson and Isiah Thomas are having a spat.

I mean, isn't it time for them to kiss (again) and make up?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Moolah trumps "Boolah! Boolah!" every time

While contemplating why the Bears felt compelled to extend the contract of a QB who has yet to prove anything and whether the Cubs' signing of new hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo means another tour of duty for Milton Bradley, I posted another exclusive column on

The topic: Should top pro prospects - such as Sam Bradford and Jimmy Clausen - bolt college for the big bucks as soon as they can? Click here for my take.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Urlacher's bald head is unfair advantage in sexy-athlete competition

The Bald Truth

This e-mail, from the Bulls, was a pleasant diversion from the normal humdrum fare I usually get in my in-box:



Model Marisa Miller to present Rose with his nomination Thurs. at the Berto Center

WHO: Derrick Rose, Bulls Guard

Marisa Miller, Model and Victoria's Secret Angel

WHAT: After practice on Thursday, Victoria's Secret Angel Marisa Miller will make a special appearance to present Derrick Rose with his Victoria's Secret “What’s Sexy Now Chicago Athlete” nomination.

Rose will compete for the award against the Bears' Brian Urlacher and the Blackhawks' Patrick Sharp.

To cast your vote and see the full list of Chicago nominees, visit, celebrating all things sexy in Chicago.

This event is taking place in conjunction with the opening of the new Victoria's Secret flagship store located at 734 N. Michigan Avenue on Thursday.

The List

Five events in which Rose, Urlacher and Sharp will compete as they vie for the "What's Sexy Now Chicago Athlete" honor:

5. Looking sexy in stylish glasses while taking the SAT. (That's a college entrance exam, Derrick, in case you never heard of it.)

4. Most sex leading to children fathered. (Wait ... I think Urlacher has this one clinched.)

3. Swimsuit competition. (No thongs. Please! No! Thongs!)

2. Sexiest pout while demanding a new contract. (Urlacher is the overwhelming favorite because he has so much practice.)

1. Ice-Dancing with the Stars. (Hey, Sharp deserves to have one event he can win.)

The Balder Truth

If it seems strange that 47-year-old Chris Chelios has signed to play in the minors for the Chicago Wolves, just remember this:

He's not even 7 in wolf years.

The Quote

"We're two plays away from being 5-0." - Robbie Gould, Tuesday on WSCR-AM.

Yep. And his Bears are two plays away from being 1-4, too, but we won't talk about those.

3-2 ... that seems just about right for Lovie's Lads.


Thanks to a new iPhone application costing a mere $4.99, fans of Chad Ochocinco can keep tabs on the Bengals receiver's tweets and such. As a bonus, the AP story says, "They can ask his device on dating or anything else."

Oooh! Oooh! Me first!

"Mr. Ochocinco, is it best to kiss a girl before or after I whisper sweet trash-talk in her ear?"

Yankee fundamentals, Denver duds and baseball math

The Bald Truth

The Yankees ended up losing an inning later, but there was a play in the bottom of the 10th at Anaheim in which left fielder Johnny Damon backed up Mariano Rivera's errant throw to third base. And as I watched Damon's fundamentally perfect, game-saving play, I said to myself:

"You know, I'm sure Alfonso Soriano would have done the exact same thing."

The List

Three-word descriptions for the Broncos' throwback unis:

5. Butt Freakin' Fuggly.

4. Musta Lost Bet.

3. World Of Mustards.

2. Thift Store Rejects.

1. Baby Has Diarrhea.

The Balder Truth

Jeff Jordan is back ... and just in time for the Illini.

Finally, somebody decent to play quarterback!

Mile High Surprise

What? Balloon Boy was a hoax? The next thing you're gonna tell me is that Kyle Orton's Broncos are 6-0.


Jonathan Broxton 99 mph heater to the plate + Jimmy Rollins 100 mph laser to right-center field = Phillies 5, Dodgers 4.

See? The new math isn't all that hard to understand.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Bears: Scared of the dark

This Week's NFL Top Ten Things:

1. Good news for the Bears: They only have one more Sunday night game scheduled.

And if they have a chance to be "flexed" into another, they should politely turn it down.

Weird stuff happens on Sunday nights to Lovie's Lads - who are 3-0 during the day and 0-2 in prime time, with losses at Green Bay to start the season and now at Atlanta.

Jay Cutler is Mr. Franchise in the afternoon, Mr. Not So Much at night. Matt Forte, who just about never fumbles, coughs up the football on consecutive goal-line plays. Pisa Tinoisamoa gets hurt on the first play of the season at Green Bay, misses the next three games and then gets hurt again at Atlanta. Orlando Pace, the 119-year-old statue of a left tackle, costs the Bears dearly when he loses his balance for a penalty on a late fourth-and-1 snap at the Georgia Dome. The special teams, sensational in the three afternoon games, are mistake-prone, penalty-prone and what-the-f-just-happened prone at night.

And it doesn't get any weirder than this:

Lovie actually admits to NBC's Andrea Kremer that he and his defense have been bamboozled by Atlanta's no-huddle offense.

2. With the Patriots leading the Titans 45-0 in the third quarter, Hoodie Belichick still had Tom Brady in the game.

Not only that ... Brady, who missed all but a few plays of 2008 with a knee injury, was still dropping back, still planting his surgically repaired knee in the New England snow and still flinging passes.

If anything happened to Brady, Pats owner Bob Kraft would have had little choice but to fire Hoodie immediately.

Either that, or shoot him.

3. Quote of the day (and perhaps the season) from Titans tight end Bo Scaife:

"I don't think anybody in this league is 59 points better than us."

Way to stand proud, Bo!

4. It's fun to watch the way great QBs such as Drew Brees and Brett Favre trust their receivers to make big plays.

The receivers in New Orleans and Minnesota aren't always wide open but Brees and Favre put the ball in places that let their guys jump or dive or stretch or do whatever they have to do to catch passes - and to make great QBs look even greater.

Guys like Brees and Favre don't just "take what the defense gives us." That's what losers do.

Brees and Favre try to take what needs to be taken. Not coincidentally, their teams have yet to lose.

5. Obviously inspired by Rush Limbaugh's ouster from a potential ownership group ...

The Rams went out and almost didn't suck.

6. Only time will tell if Rex Ryan is as big a head-coaching fraud as his old man was.

He's off to a good start.

7. Goat of the day:

You could almost hear Steve Hauschka's knees knockin' as the young Ravens kicker lined up for the 44-yard field goal that would have beaten the Vikings.

8. My wife thinks Falcons coach Mike Smith "kinda looks like Paulie Walnuts."

And, you know what? Add a few streaks of black dye to Smith's hair, and she's kinda right!

9. It seems statistically impossible that the Redskins have faced only winless teams in their first six games.

Bad as the Redskins are, it seems just plain impossible that they actually have won twice.

10. One week after going 2-of-17 for 23 yards with a 15.1 rating, Derek Anderson really lit it up for the Browns:

9-of-24 for 122 yards with a 51.0 rating as the Browns managed to get outgained by a mere 346 yards against the Steelers.

Anderson, by the by, is entrenched as Eric Mangenius' QB.

Um ... how bad must Brady Quinn be?

BONUS THING: If they were playing the Phillies, the Eagles would have lost 11-9.

Friday, October 16, 2009

We have clearance, Clarence ... Roger, Roger ... What's our vector, Victor?

The Bald Truth

As one of the guest celebrities playing for charity this week on Jeopardy, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar impressively nailed correct responses in categories about books, history and oceans. Then came this answer in the category I WENT TO UCLA:


Kareem buzzed in first and, with a knowing gleam in his eyes, confidently spit out: "Who is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar?"

To which Alex Trebek immediately scolded: "No!"

With a shocked look on Abdul-Jabbar's face, Trebek continued: "You're the one who delivered the line, but it was about Bill Walton!"

Kareem, who had delivered that line as co-pilot Roger Murdock in 1980's hilarious Airplane!, hesitated for a second, slapped his bald head, laughed and moaned: "Ohhh ... "

Said Trebek: "Embarrassing moments on Jeopardy!"

In the end, Kareem finished well behind comedic actor Michael McKean (but ahead of CNN's Soledad O'Brien).

Somehow, I think it would have gone better, stewardess, had Trebek spoken jive.

The Balder Truth

Here's a shock: Instead of ripping prospective bid leader Dave Checketts for caving in to public pressure and stabbing him in the back by booting him from a prospective Rams ownership group, Rush Limbaugh blamed "Obama's America."

Tune in Monday, when Limbaugh blames Obama for ESPN firing Rush in 2003, for Rush getting hooked on drugs a few years earlier and for Rush dropping out of college three decades before that.

Damn Obama! Is there no evil that man and his minions cannot perpetrate!


Albert Pujols says he's in no hurry to work out a contract extension with the Cardinals. A perfect response for a guy who seems in no hurry to get his first postseason extra-base hit since 2006.

How many ND fans will be pulling for USC to beat Weis?

The Bald Truth

Just as some so-called patriotic Republicans are rooting against the president of the United States, will there be self-professed diehard Notre Dame fans rooting against Charlie Weis this Saturday?

As wrong as that seems, Weis has become so despised by a fairly large faction of Fighting Irish faithful that it's possible some Golden Domers would rather see him lose - and lose big - to USC than gain glory by winning.

Notre Dame has won a lot of close games against a lot of not-so-great teams this season, but those count, too. Jimmy Clausen's production down the stretch in those games has helped him climb in stature among the nation's QBs.

Now here comes USC - a team that last lost to Notre Dame two coaches ago and a squad that whipped the Irish by approximately 8 gazillion points the last couple of seasons - for just the kind of home game a coach must win if he wants to be taken seriously.

And if Weis does happen to beat USC, I can't wait to see what he'll do about Afghanistan.

The Balder Truth

And speaking of coaches you can't take seriously ...

Another fine job by Ron Zook. The man's team is all ILL, no ini.

Call me crazy, but when you're six games into your program's fifth season, you should have a pretty good idea who your quarterback is, no?

Hey, let's go easy on the Zooker. He just wants everybody in Illiniland to get excited about hoops season early.


With convicted dog-abuser Michael Vick coming to town, a Bay Area animal-rights group plans to protest Sunday's Raiders-Eagles game.

These folks believe that if smacking around humans was good enough for Raiders coach Tom Cable, it should have been good enough for Vick, too.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Some real bald baseball predictions

The Bald Truth

For all those who somehow missed that Wednesday was Bald and Free Day - really; you can look it up! - I, as Grand Pooh-bald, have extended the event through the end of the week.

So now that you have several more days, feel free to hug your favorite bald dude ... or dudette, if Natalie Portman, Sinead O'Connor or Demi Moore happen to be around.

The Balder Truth

Wow, I remember the Rams' Rush Limbaugh Era as if it were just yesterday.

Wait ... it was just yesterday.


For all the talk about a possible Freeway Series out in La-La-Land, why do I get the feeling we're going to see a Nothing-Free-About-It I-95 Series instead?

Well, because the Yankees and Phillies are better than the Angels and Dodgers, that's why.

Of course, that doesn't always matter. It doesn't take a lot of imagination to see the fundamentally sound, motivated-by-tragedy Angels nibbling CC Sabathia until he weighs only 300 pounds and shutting down A-Roid & Co. Nor does it take much imagination to see Manny being vintage Manny and the good Dodgers pitching making life tough on the Phils.

But I'm not letting my imagination run wild here. I'm going with chalk.

This just feels like the Yankees' year. They have more great players than any other team, and those great players have been playing especially well lately. Yankees in 6.

And as much as I want to see Jim Thome do some DH-ing in the World Series, his Dodgers simply will not be able to keep up with the balanced Philly lineup. I'm going to put a little caveat out here: As long as Brad Lidge isn't terrible, Phillies in 6.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

It's my party and I'll write if I want to

I turned 49 Tuesday ... and I don't look a day older than 50. Assuming that you didn't already buy me a new Lexus, I'll accept as a gift you checking out the latest piece I wrote for SportsFanLive: READ IT!

A serious hockey comeback and a seriously good movie

The Bald Truth

As I prepare to start covering Blackhawks games again for the first time in years - my first assignment is Wednesday - I ventured to the United Center for Monday's wild game against the Flames. Playing about as horrendously as a team can play, the Hawks fell behind by five goals ... only to come back and win 6-5 in OT.

As has become the case during the team's renaissance, the crowd at the United Center was amazing, and the Blackhawks were all smiles afterward.

But let me tell you: This team has zero chance to live up to the Stanley Cup hype with Cristobal Huet in goal. For all of the Blackhawks' offensive firepower, pretty much every team they'd play in the playoffs would have a huge advantage in net.

Let's see how good Bowman & Son are at finding a championship goalie in a hockey haystack.

The Quote

"That first period, I think we were still in our pregame nap." - Kris Versteeg


Earlier Monday, the missus and I saw the Coen brothers' latest flick, A Serious Man.

You'll enjoy it more if you're Jewish. So if you're not, I highly recommend converting before plunking down your 10 bucks.

Seriously (pun intended), it was a fun period piece and a funny biblical parable, and it had the kind of witty writing and zany characters typical to the Coens' work.

As a comedy, it certainly wasn't Fargo, one of my 20 favorite movies ever. As a drama, it wasn't in the same league as No Country for Old Men (nor did it attempt to be). But I'd put A Serious Man against any of the Coens' other flicks - and that's some pretty good company.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Baseball is batty about brooms

The Bald Truth

MLB calls this a competitive postseason? I haven't seen so many sweeps since Lombardi was in his heyday.

An especially nice job - again - by the NL Central chumps. Since the Cardinals won the World Series in 2006, the Central champions are a combined 0-9 in the postseason. And don't let that 0-9 fool you; things weren't really all that close.

The Cardinals showed that one of the things we love most about sport - there simply are no guarantees - also serves as one of the most painful lessons.

An already decent St. Louis team did everything right, adding a star in Matt Holliday as well as solid role players Mark DeRosa, Julio Lugo and John Smoltz. And still ... bupkis! Swept by a Dodger group that stumbled into the playoffs having almost blown a huge division lead.

As former St. Louis pitcher/philosopher/poet Joaquin Andujar famously said:

"There is one word in America that says it all, and that one word is, 'You never know.'"

Pretty surprising the way the Angels took care of the Red Sox, too. Though the result isn't so surprising when we see that Kevin Youkilis, Jason Bay and David Ortiz combined to go 3-for-32, Josh Beckett was roughed up and Jonathan Papelbon had a 13.50 ERA.

Way to channel your inner Cub, boys.

Finally, there were the Yankees closing down the Metrodome in style. Cool that the underdogs from New York could prevail over the mighty Twinkies.

At least now Minnesotans can concentrate on important things: Brett Favre, Gopher hockey and ice fishing.

And Speaking Of Ice Fishing ...

Whoever stole autumn, give it back this instant!

The Balder Truth

Brilliant of the golf overlords to stage the Presidents Cup during the baseball postseason, the football and hockey seasons and the NBA preseason.

I don't know about you, but I didn't watch even one second of the thing ... and I love golf.

The real shame is that even after a dominant 5-0 showing, one U.S. golfer remains a complete unknown.

Here's hoping this doesn't scar that Woods kid for life.

The Quote

"Obviously, this is a low point for the organization and the fan base. This is not where we expected to be right now." - Bills GM Russ Brandon

Brandon, talking after his team lost 6-3 at home to the previously winless Browns, had been asked about coach Dick Jauron's job status.

Reports said Brandon declined to comment about Jauron. Really? Read that quote again. The GM said all he needed to say.

As an NFL coach, Dick Jauron is a nice guy and a decent defensive coordinator.


I spent most of my weekend in Madison, where the missus and I rocked and rolled with our favorite band, Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers.

Clyne is best known for penning the King of the Hill theme song and the official Diamondbacks' anthem D-backs Swing. However, music insiders - and the group's legion of loyal fans - know him as a charismatic frontman and prolific producer of superior music.

If you want to learn more about a true rock original - and you should! - you owe it to yourself to check out THIS WEB SITE.

Here's to life!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

On the next Heroes: A-Roid and Bulky Barry

The Bald Truth

Thrilled to see Alex Rodriguez come through in the clutch for the Yankees. You know, it's about time one of America's unselfish, clean-living, freckle-faced lads gets a little well-deserved attention.

The Balder Truth

Congratulations, President Obama! Then again, if I had known that all it took to win the Nobel Peace Prize was not getting my hometown the Olympics, I'd have campaigned for Milford, Conn., decades ago.


How wonderful that a San Francisco hospital has accepted a $250,000 donation from one of the city's all-time sports icons to create the modestly named Barry Bonds Family Foundation Playroom.

Besides a Lego station, a slide and a reading area, the playroom has intelligently placed dispensers for the clear and the cream at heights any kid can reach.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Brant Brown's got a new best friend

The Bald Truth

As that great baseball philosopher Ron Santo would have moaned if he loved the Cardinals:

"No! Oh no! Oh n-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o!"

Well, You Know The Old Saying ...

The way to a Dodger's heart is through Matt Holliday's stomach.

The Balder Truth

Unusual to hear a Tony La Russa team whining and making excuses. The ball got lost in the lights? The ball got lost in the white towels L.A. fans were waving?

What? You mean it wasn't Don Denkinger's fault?


Just as the Cubs still led after the Bartman-Alou Fiasco of '03, the Cardinals were still ahead after Holliday's screw-up.

I mean, there was no law saying Ryan Franklin had to have a mound meltdown Thursday, was there?

We're about to see how mentally tough the Cardinals are now.

For one thing, it would help a little if that guy in the No. 5 jersey would start hitting like Albert Pujols.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

So I guess this means McNabb's not going to St. Louis?

The Bald Truth

When Rush Limbaugh says he wants to buy half of the Rams, we have to assume he's talking about the white half.

The Balder Truth

Word out of Memphis is that new Grizzlies guard Allen Iverson has a partially torn hamstring. He must have gotten it while partially practicing.


Jeez, DeRo, nice throw!

Somebody please tell Mark DeRosa he's no longer with the Cubs and therefore is not contractually obligated to choke in the playoffs.

OK, OK ... DeRo also got three hits in the Cards' Game 1 loss to the Dodgers. And that's as many as Alfonso Soriano and Aramis Ramirez combined for when the Cubbies got swept by L.A. last year.

But still ... nice throw, DeRo!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Can Twins keep going? (Uh ... no.)

The Bald Truth

Stupid Cubs! They would have been the postseason's only sure prediction: Three and out, with pretty much everybody (including Lou Piniella) having an oh-fer series. But they had to ruin it ... and now who knows what's gonna happen?

So here goes nuthin':

Yankees over Twins in 4 ... You have to admire everything the Twins accomplished, coming back from three down with four to play by winning out - including one against Zack Greinke and Tuesday's epic victory over the Tigers. But there is no such thing as momentum in baseball, and Minnesota - especially its pitching - is spent. The Yankees figure to score lots of runs in this series. I'm picking them in four only because I see the Twins winning one more time at the Metrodome before it's all over.

Red Sox over Angels in 4 ... The Angels are one of those nice teams that are good at lots of things but great at not particularly anything. So it's hard for me to take them over Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and a lineup filled with guys who know how this whole October deal works.

Rockies over Phillies in 5 ... I hate the Phillies' bullpen and really like the way the Rockies have done so many things right since Jim Tracy took over as manager. They are very much like the '07 pennant-winning Rox except they pitch better. The Phillies have an incredibly balanced lineup and I'm picking this series to go the limit ... so I'd hardly be surprised if the Phils win Game 5 at home to advance. These teams are very evenly matched and this is kind of a hunch, I admit.

Cardinals over Dodgers in 3 ... Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright will win the first two games and the Cards will find a way to finish off the sweep at home. If I had a little more faith in Manny Ramirez snapping out of his slump and in the Dodgers' pitching, I'd think this could be a series ... but I don't and it won't.

The Quote

"You have to tip your cap to Jim Leyland and the Detroit Tigers. They could not hold a seven-game lead in the division." - Chip Caray

The guy calls everything a "hot shot." He thought the fly that resulted in an inning-ending double play was the game-winning base hit. And he was telling us to tip our caps to a bunch of chokers. Bring back Skip and Harry, please!

On The Other Hand

Pretty impressed with Ron Darling's color work for TBS. He told us that Twins starter Scott Baker's big problem was giving up home runs to right-handed hitters and, one pitch later, Miguel Cabrera went yard. And that was just one of many insightful observations.


Before the playoffs get going, let's hand out some hardware ...

NL MVP: Aramis Ramirez. What? It's easy to pick ALBERT PUJOLS. It takes guts to pick Aramis. But think about it: Lou Piniella says Ramirez's injury ruined the Cubbies' season, so Aramis has to be more valuable than anybody else. Pujols? Come on! Just because a guy leads the league in pretty much everything while his team wins the division going away, I'm supposed to cave in and follow the crowd?

AL MVP: Somehow, the Twins overcame a seven-game deficit in a month without top run-producer (and former MVP) Justin Morneau. OK, there's no "somehow" about it. JOE MAUER is how. And to think: The Twins sure screwed up when they drafted him instead of Mark Prior! Seriously, both Mauer and Pujols should be unanimous selections.

NL CY YOUNG: Adam Wainwright had two more wins and only a slightly higher ERA, but Chris Carpenter had incredible stats and was the driving force behind the Cardinals' incredible march to a surprising division title. Besides, Carpenter's story is one of the best in sports this year, and I've always been a sucker for a great story.

AL CY YOUNG: This isn't most valuable pitcher; it's best pitcher. And from beginning to end, ZACK GREINKE was lights-out. Give him a decent team and he wins 22, maybe even 25, games. Felix Hernandez and Justin Verlander are right up there, too, as is Mariano Rivera.

NL ROOKIE: A very difficult choice, what with J.A. Happ's pitching, Andrew McCutchen's all-around talent and Casey McGehee's out-of-nowhere RBI bat. Still, I've got to go with CHRIS COGHLAN, who batted .385 in August and .390 in September/October to help keep the Marlins in the race and lead all MLB rookies in hitting.

AL ROOKIE: This is a two-man race between Rick Porcello and GORDON BECKHAM, and I'm taking the White Sox infielder whose 63 RBIs were 18 more than any other AL rookie. I'm not a guy who dismisses pitchers from the conversation just because they work only every fifth day. In fact, this was so close that I probably would have gone with Porcello had he beaten the Twins on Tuesday. In the end, I'm going with the guy who put up with Ozzie every day.

NL MANAGER: It's nearly impossible to avoid picking Tracy, but I'm going to do it. TONY LA RUSSA simply wouldn't let the Cardinals settle for anything less than a title in a division that was supposed to go handily to the Cubs. He's already the best free agent available this offseason, and I'm thinking he's going to better his bargaining power before autumn is through.

AL MANAGER: No team had to overcome more adversity than the Angels, and MIKE SCIOSCIA is ever the steady hand. I don't know him at all, really, but he seems like the kind of manager I'd like to play for. If I could hit a curveball (or anything else), of course.

NL BUST: And I thought the MVPs were obvious? There's no bigger no-brainer than MILTON BRADLEY for this "honor."

AL BUST: How could a guy with as much talent as B.J. UPTON only bat .241, drive in just 55 runs and strike out 152 times? A leading reason the Rays turned back into pumpkins months before Halloween.

Monday, October 5, 2009

While Bucky felt ducky, Beantown was down

Bucky Dent didn't choke, but he did choke up. That and other recollections on this week's SportsFanLive post - READ IT HERE.

Losers easy to find ... in NFL stadiums & at Chicago ballparks

The Bald Truth

Just two weeks ago, the Lions were national punchlines. Now, Detroit isn't even close to being the NFL's worst team. I'm not sure if that tells us more about the Lions and the positive changes they've made or about the putrid state of the league's lowest reaches.

Among those the Lions have eclipsed:

Browns: The funniest thing is that they thought Eric Mangini was the answer. Next savior genius on their list: Gotta be Charlie Weis, right?

Bucs: It must be quite a blow to Malcolm Glazer's enormous ego that his squad is, at best, Florida's sixth-best pro football team, behind the Jaguars, Dolphins, Gators, Hurricanes and Seminoles.

Raiders: And speaking of blows and egos ... if only Al Davis would fire himself.

Bills: Another fine Dick Jauron production. A terrible team and an unhappy T.O. Talk about a jackpot!

Panthers: Was Jake Delhomme really a Super Bowl QB once upon a time?

Chiefs: As bad as they are - hint: real bad - they aren't even the worst team in Missouri by a long shot. That honor goes to ...

Rams: Pull Jim Hart and Dan Dierdorf out of their steakhouses and put 'em on the field, and the Rams wouldn't be one lick worse than they are right now. I know I'd bet on a reunion of '75 Cardinals over this crew.

The Balder Truth

The final Cubs play of the season: Geovany Soto swinging through a mediocre fastball. How perfect! The 2008 NL Rookie of the Year finishes a lost season with one last utter failure.

Lou Piniella can blame injuries all he wants, but it was the team's supposed best players' inability to come through over and over and over again that condemned the Cubbies to beginning another century doing what they do best (or worst, as the case may be).

The final White Sox play of the season: Alex Rios grounding into a double play. How perfect! Ken Williams' wild, desperate stab at saving a hopeless season backfires one last time.

One last time in 2009, anyway. The White Sox will be overpaying this guy for years. I'm a big fan of Williams' willingness to aggressively pursue championships - his relentless, masterful Jake Peavy deal will turn out to be a great one as long as the guy stays healthy - but Rios was available for any taker for a reason. Methinks Williams got took.


It has become clear that only one person could have saved Chicago's Olympic bid.

Why weren't you in Copenhagen, Jay Cutler?

Wouldn't even have cost us taxpayers a dime because J.C. could have walked all the way there!

Friday, October 2, 2009

No Olympics? Blame Michael, Oprah, Daley, Milton and the Prez

The List

Top 5 reasons Chicago didn't get the 2016 Olympics:

5. IOC didn't appreciate Michael Jordan using his Hall of Fame induction speech to trash-talk Juan Antonio Samaranch.

4. Brazilian babes in bikinis 1, Oprah 0.

3. Mayor-for-life Daley went too far with his proposed legislation barring ketchup on hot dogs in the Olympic Village.

2. Damn that Milton Bradley!

1. Death panels for tired marathoners? What was Obama thinking?

The Bald Truth

When Los Angeles passed Chicago in population (and, some might say, relevance) years ago, many in The Second City were none too pleased to be living in The Third City.

And now here we are: The Fourth City in the eyes of the Olympic movement.

That's right: Chicago didn't even make it to the medal stand in a tournament the experts expected it to win handily.

This never would have happened a few years ago, when IOC members routinely put out their palms for greasing.

To think ... Salt Lake City got away with giving out graft and Chicago couldn't!

What is this world coming to?

The Balder Truth

Nobody should feel sorry for Mayor-for-life Daley and all of his power-tripping pals. In fact, it was kind of nice to see their egos land with a thud. For most of these yahoos, it was about them, their "legacies" and their chance to line the pockets of their cronies.

There are plenty of people to feel sorry for, though. An Olympics in Chicago would have created thousands of jobs, many of them long-term, for people desperately in need.

Heck, even yours baldly (and many of my unemployed writer colleagues) might have made a buck or three off the 2016 Games.

Oh well, there's always the old standby: running a dogfighting ring. I mean, what could possibly go wrong?


On a totally unrelated note, I covered my final ballgame of the season Friday ... and the Cubs were so inspired they managed three late runs to only lose 12-3 to the mighty D-Backs.

The day's highlight: One last Lou-ism.

Asked about the 2016 Olympics, the Cubbie skipper said:

"Seven years from now, I'm gonna be in Montenegro. I've always wanted to go there since I saw that James Bond movie. It's amazing how you learn things from movies, or you wanna do things. I remember when I was young in the Carolina League and I went to see the movie 'Hud,' with Paul Newman, and as soon as I left the theater, I went to have a Jack Daniels and water. And I had my share during my career."

Shortly thereafter, I shook Lou's hand and wished him a relaxing offseason. He needs it. And a few more Jack-and-waters, too.

Metrodome almost gone (for baseball) but not forgotten

The Bald Truth

Though I will always have a soft spot in my heart for the place, few will mourn the demise of baseball at the Metrodome.

In a recent Sports Illustrated poll, the Twins' soon-to-be-former home was the only ballpark that not a single player chose as his favorite. Billy Martin famously called it "a Chinese ping-pong palace" ... and feeling that didn't adequately capture his distate for the joint, "a bleeping Little League park."

Players hate the white ceiling that makes pop-ups disappear, the Hefty bag that swallows right-fielders whole, the bouncy artificial turf, the speakers that deflect outfield flys and the total lack of charm. Target Field, the new outdoor facility the Twins will move into for next season's opener, promises to feel more like a ballpark and less like a puffy airplane hangar.

Mike Ditka used to call it the "Rollerdome," and said it was more fit for livestock shows than sports. While the Vikings also want a new stadium, the Metrodome actually is a decent football theater. For baseball, though, most seats are angled so poorly it's hard to follow the game.

Having said all that, I'll mostly remember the Dome fondly - and not just because it was an easy place at which to work (a private staircase leads directly from the press box to the clubhouse).

As the Minneapolis AP hack from 1985-94, I witnessed two World Series (the Twins went 8-0 at home and 0-6 on the road), Dave Winfield's 3,000th hit and Scott Erickson's no-hitter.

I saw dozens of amazing plays and huge home runs by the likes of Kirby Puckett, Gary Gaetti and Kent Hrbek. It was a hitter's park, but that didn't stop Frank Viola and Jack Morris from dominating on the mound; I was the Minnesota BBWAA chairman the year after Viola won the Cy Young and got to present him the award during a pregame ceremony.

I was there the time a severe windstorm tore a hole in the roof and was there many, many times when fans raised the roof cheering their heroes.

I've been in this business for three decades and I've never been in a louder arena than the Metrodome after Hrbek's Game 6 grand slam assured there would be a seventh game in the 1987 World Series. Of course, Puckett's amazing catch and subsequent homer in Game 6 of the '91 Series came close.

The Twins will miss having one of the best home-field advantages in all of sports. It was more than the noise factor, as significant as that was. It also was the quirkiness of the place. The Twins knew all the angles; their overwhelmed opponents ... not so much.

Fans will love the new ballpark, but I doubt they'll love having games rained - and snowed! - out. As long as they were committing zillions of dollars to Target Field anyway, why didn't the movers and shakers pony up the extra bucks necessary to give it a retractable roof?

Mostly, shame on skinflint Carl Pohlad, the team's late owner who also happened to be one of the richest men in the universe. Apparently, he must have thought he really could take it all with him.

For 28 years, the Metrodome truly has been a dump of a baseball facility. But the team would have left for Florida or some other sunny state long ago had the place not been built.

Maybe Minnesotans will remember that come next April, when they're sitting at the new ballpark and brushing the snow off of their parkas.

Self-Cubfilling Prophecy?

Here's the third paragraph of the story after the Lovable Losers officially were eliminated from the wild-card race a couple days ago:

"It's now 102 years and counting for the Cubs."

Hear that, Cubbieland? Don't bother showing up next season, either!


Chris Carpenter not only pitched five shutout innings for the Cardinals on Friday, he also hit a grand slam and a two-run double.

Six RBIs!

Kind of reminded me of one of Milton Bradley's better months.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Angels get tough, Cubs get excuses

When I heard that White Sox second baseman Chris Getz would have sports hernia surgery this week, I was half-expecting Lou Piniella to use that as another excuse for his Cubs' shoddy season.

Hey, Lou! We get it! Your team had some boo-boos this year, and that's the only logical way to explain the Cubbies' complete failure to compete.

I mean, how else can anybody explain Wednesday's double-dip defeat to the mighty Pirates?

The fact that Carlos Zambrano and Ted Lilly - $131.5 million worth of starting pitchers - were outperformed by two no-name Pittsburgh kids who are making 800 grand between them ... it must have been because Reed Johnson got hurt three months ago, right?

Here's a list Lou and other excuse-makers might find interesting:

Nick Adenhart ... Kelvim Escobar ... Ervin Santana ... Joe Saunders ... John Lackey ... Vlad Guerrero ... Torii Hunter ... Kevin Jepsen ... Darren Oliver ... Shane Loux.

The first young man died in a car accident after a stellar season debut for the Angels. The next four, all starting pitchers, spent significant time on the DL. Vlad and Torii were on the disabled list simultaneously later in the year; for Vlad, it was his second stint. Relievers Jepsen, Oliver and Loux also were hurt.

Recap: That's four-fifths of the starting rotation, two-thirds of the All-Star outfield and a big chunk of the bullpen hurt ... as well as a tragedy that could have undermined the season.

And yet Mike Scioscia's Angels - whose payroll was lower than that of the Cubs this season - are 30 games over .500 and AL West champs.

Some teams get tough. Others get alibis.

Congratulations to Lou's crew for perfecting the latter.