Monday Morning Links

Let’s start with some props to this guy, who legitimately won the 2009 Open Championship on the links of Turnberry by making some putts down the stretch, including a non-gimme on the 72nd hole of regulation. Then, he made a good par save on the first playoff hole and from there played nearly flawless golf. Take nothing away from how well Tom Watson played this week, don’t let a bogey on his last hole, followed by an ugly display in the playoff, fool you into think his carriage turned into a pumpkin. Mark Herrmann agrees, as did Rick Reilly in his closing essay on the ESPN telecast. If it’s any consolation to Watson, he took a big leap in the latest World Golf Rankings. Stewart Cink, meanwhile, has a career-altering victory which validates his consistently excellent play on Tour– something his relative lack of wins might have hidden for a while. By the way, check out Cink’s photos on the twitter feed I linked to, which includes the photo seen in today’s first post. Plenty of commenters already, while the family and fans back in Georgia are quite proud too. As Mark Bradley indicates, hopefully we will all appreciate Cink’s accomplishment eventually, rather than just dwell on what might have been for Watson.

Elsewhere in sports, we find some Roy Halladay trade rumors. This store caught fire leading up to the All Star Game when the Blue Jays indicated that they’d consider a deal if they were blown away by an offer. Doesn’t look like anything’s too close though. The Orioles also may deal some veterans, but are being pretty coy about it to try and drive up the price. The Brewers did make a move, getting Felipe Lopez from Arizona for a couple of minor leaguers. He should immediately become the second baseman, and might also be their leadoff hitter. They still need more pitching, however, to keep pace with the Cardinals and Cubs in the NL Central.

In other news…

Man walked on the Moon 40 years ago tomorrow, and HowStuffWorks posted a film commemorating the legendary Apollo 11 and its journey. Newsday has a photo gallery, as do other media outlets. I’m sure there is or will be even more content out there. The astronauts themselves say that Mars needs to be our next mission. They’ll be at the White House today. Kind of ironic that this anniversary occurs just after Walter Cronkite’s death. Cronkite was quite an admirer of space exploration. He was a giant of journalism, and we will all miss him.

Speaking of the White House, I’m going to try and get back to posting some political stuff- legitimately fair and balanced, of course. Mike Allen has some other tidbits on today in Washington, including a state visit from India’s Prime Minister in November. Also, the healthcare issue is still vexing, and the President has plenty of critics who smell blood. The public polling numbers, to the extent they will actually influence Congress, are not on President Obama’s side. Not sure if I think Bobby Jindal offers many alternative solutions to those which likely would be in any eventual reform. Naturally, President Obama intends to fight back. But can he really get the Senate’s Finance Committee to put a bill on the table this week, as Jake Tapper reports? Deliberative is probably a better approach here. The government gets one chance to do this even close to correctly.

Various other political perspectives, on the left, right, and in the middle, can be found through links here and here.


More Free Agent Fun

Apparently, miss a few hours today, and you miss a ton. So, here’s a round-up of what else happened in the NHL today, plus some reaction from various pundits.

Newsday and ESPN both reporting that the Rangers have signed Marian Gaborik to a five year, $37.5 million contract. It’s a lot of money, but Gaborik is 27 and is a top notch scorer when healthy. Okay, that’s a big question mark with him. He missed all but 17 games last year for Minnesota with a hip injury, although he recorded 13 points in the games that he did play, and scored 42 goals just two years ago. Also, his salary would be comparable to the now-departed Scott Gomez, and again, assuming good health, Gaborik’s definitely a better scorer than Gomez while still being able to set up others too. Which means Rangers GM Glen Sather turned Gomez into three players (Gaborik, Chris Higgins, and Ryan McDonagh) who could all contribute in the years to come, probably for no more than an extra $1-2 million per year. Potentially very good business on his part. After Marian Hossa, Gaborik was the most coveted winger in the free agency pool.

They also lost Fredrik Sjostrom to Calgary. No surprise there. He wanted a pay raise, and is a good penalty killer. Still, even at $750,000 a year, he was dispensable. Rookies probably could give them about the same, and for something closer to the league’s minimum salary. On the other hand, adding Sjostrom to the signing of Jay Bouwmeester must make Miikka Kiprusoff very happy in the Flames’ crease.

Montreal continued to splash the cash and remake its team (sounds like longtime captain Saku Koivu is headed elsewhere), and tonight their arch-rivals, the Toronto Maple Leafs were heard from too. The Habs added Mike Cammaleri and Brian Gionta. Both are solid scorers, and if Cammaleri’s 31 goal outburst last year wasn’t a fluke, his $6 million per year price could soon become a bargain. Gionta at $5 million seems a bit pricey, although he has scored 20+ goals in each of the past four seasons for New Jersey. Checking line standout Steve Begin headed to Montreal’s other rival, Boston. Meanwhile, Toronto traded Pavel Kubina to Atlanta for Garnet Exelby (a couple of other relatively minor names were involved too). The Leafs clear a bad contract, while Atlanta adds some veteran leadership to their young blueline, which features 20-somethings Zach Bogosian and Tobias Enstrom. Also, while Toronto didn’t sign Cammaleri, a a Toronto-area native, they did win the bidding war with several teams for now ex-Canadien Mike Komisarek. Good defensive defenseman, and if he takes fewer penalties while maintaining his physical presence, look out. Toronto should improve next season, and they could leave plenty of bruises on teams even in defeat.

Minnesota acted swiftly to replace Marian Gaborik, signing Martin Havlat, who was made redundant in Chicago by the signing of Marian Hossa. They have also offered Saku Koivu a deal (his brother Mikko plays for the Wild) and might get an answer within a day or two.

Finally, a quick round-up of some other deals. Some fairly notable players changed addresses, including John Madden and Sami Pahlsson, while Chris Neil chose to stay in Ottawa. The National Post (Canada) has an even more extensive list, plus some quotes on a few of the bigger moves.

So now let’s hear from the peanut gallery. SI’s Allan Muir joined me and others in questioning the day’s big move, Hossa’s big score with the Blackhawks. Again, it was about the length of the deal and how the Blackhawks intend to pay for some of their other stars once they get off of entry-level contracts. This Detroit fan was pleased that his team didn’t match what the Wings’ rivals offered.

Muir also sounded off on perceived winners and losers. Personally, I think the Knuble and Ohlund signings will make a bigger impact than those of Komisarek and Khabibulin- even if he can help the Oilers persuade Dany Heatley to waive his no-trade-clause to join them.

This Panthers fan had a somewhat light-hearted, somewhat cynical take on the day.

Puck Daddy likes the Gaborik signing, as well as what the Blue Jackets did (adding Pahlsson and back-up goalie Mathieu Garon). He’s not so sure about Montreal’s team construction. They might score goals, but he is right about their sudden size issues. Wouldn’t surprise me if they get worn down by physical teams unless they fix this over the next three months. Bob McKenzie is also unsure what to expect from the Canadiens next season.

Other Ranger fans seem mixed on Gaborik, based on posts to blog threads or their own commentaries. SNY’s bloggers worry about the injury problems but appreciate his obvious talent. Rangers Review definitely likes the move. Hockey Rodent thinks there’s more to come.

Hall-of-Fame reporter Eric Duhatschek thinks Calgary became a serious title contender. Bruce Arthur adds that the Flames have so much money tied up in eight players, that injury problems could lead to a repeat of last year, when they were too close to the cap to dress the full allotment of 20 players for several games. Beyond that, he says, it was a very interesting day in Canada as each team tried to get better. And with the cap and stronger Canadian dollar in place, none of that country’s six teams has an excuse for losing anymore.

I’ll be back some time tomorrow. We’ll run through whatever else transpires, and get into some moves in the NBA and other sports. Oh, baseball’s All Star Game voting ends this week and Manny Ramirez can return from suspension too…

Marian Hossa Signs

There’s the big one, reports Pierre LeBrun, and confirmed on some of the live blogs elsewhere. And what a whopper contract it is- 12 years averaging $5.2 million per. Nice addition for the Blackhawks, of course, but can they still afford the pay raises that will eventually be owed to Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, and perhaps a couple of others? Oh, and Hossa will be 42 years old when his contract expires (although obviously he may not be playing at that point). This blogger already seems a bit skeptical, making reference to Brian Campbell and his albatross of a contract. On the other hand, a Penguins fan writes that Hossa’s cap hit will be less than Martin Havlat’s ever was, and he’s probably a better player too. We’ll see who got this one right eventually.

Free Agent Frenzy

As TSN hypes NHL free agency every year! We’ll update from time-to-time over the course of the day with stuff culled from various sources. Quick-fire reactions as warranted.

Canucks will take over a $12 million cap hit per year to keep the Sedin twins. Mild surprise there, because it sounded like Toronto was going to bid and possibly go all-in on them. But they keep the playmaking and goal-scoring pair, and for not much more than they would have paid under one of those 10-12 year deals players have gotten lately (these contracts are for 5 years each). At least one Canucks fan/blogger likes it on the grounds that Vancouver is keeping its core intact, and might now even have a window to win the Cup, especially if they add one more top-notch scorer.

On the other hand, they lose Mattias Ohlund, who is headed to Tampa. The ‘Bolts did give him a seven year deal, even though he’s 33 years old, but that keeps the cap hit under $4 million per year. For at least the first 3-4 years of the deal, he should definitely improve their porous blueline from last year, and could be a valuable mentor for this year’s #2 overall pick and fellow Swede Victor Hedman. As Scott Burnside notes in ESPN’s running blog (linked above), this may up the price for Mike Komisarek and Rob Scuderi, because with Jay Bouwmeester choosing to accept Calgary’s offer last night, there aren’t many good defensemen on the market.

1:15- Puck Daddy has a live blog with twitters from various good sources and some comments. Good stuff so far. Also one from TSN. I will mostly post what is officially confirmed. Nonetheless, there are rumors that the Leafs have signed former Ranger Colton Orr. Not a bad move, because as Derek Harmsworth notes, Brian Burke wants them to be a tougher, workmanlike team than they have been in recent years.

1:20- Remember to hit refresh (or just check in every so often) for updated posts. WordPress doesn’t post what I add automatically…

1:27- Another blog notes that Radek Dvorak re-signed with Florida, which the Sun-Sentinel confirms. Scintillating, I know.

1:34- A Flyer fan’s wishlist. Not sure if they’ve really got the cap room to do much though. Chris Pronger might be it for the moment.

1:43- Andy Greene resigns with New Jersey. Probably more of a depth move than anything else; they actually didn’t give him a qualifying offer because of cap considerations, hence he became a free agent.

1:50- TSN confirms the Panthers have re-signed David Booth to a 6 year contract worth over $25 million. Booth set a personal-best with 31 goals last season, and could make next year’s U.S. Olympic team.

Game, Set & Match (NCAA Championship Instant Reaction)

Ty Lawson celebrates a good play

Ty Lawson celebrates a good play

Source: UNC’s Athletic Department website.

Wow, North Carolina made that look easy.

55-34 at the half, the highest point total and lead any team has ever had in the title game. Michigan State had more turnovers (14) than field goals (12) in the first half, and for the game it was 22 field goals to 21 turnovers. Raymar Morgan, Delvon Roe, and Travis Walton all held to under five points apiece. A double-digit UNC lead from virtually the first TV timeout-on. Boom. Good night; the 89-72 score being mostly window-dressing and an opportunity for players to pad their stats in the final period.

Seriously though. You gotta give the Tar Heels credit for this performance. Everybody stood out tonight. Ty Lawson had to be stopped for Michigan State to contend. Result? 21 points, a final game record eight steals, six assists, and one turnover. MOP (aka “MVP”) Wayne Ellington- 7-12 on field goals and 19 points total. Oh, and that Hansbrough kid? Yeah, he signed off on college pretty nicely, grabbing 18 points. He also leads a class of seniors that won a school-record 124 games. Thanks to Lawson’s spectacular performance (and you could have made as good an argument for him as MOP as for Ellington), he was once again not very many people’s focus. A reality which pretty much tells you how close to unstoppable North Carolina was in this one- and throughout the tournament. They won every single game by double figures; uber-rival Duke was the last team to do that back in 2001. As Jim Nantz said near the end of the game, North Carolina trailed in games for less than 10 minutes total. Both of those stats are mind-boggling in a tournament known for parity, close games, and upsets.

So let the coronation begin of a team that actually lived up to the hype, both prior to and during the season. And as I write this, wild parties and street celebrations have broken out in Chapel Hill which undoubtedly will last into tomorrow and maybe beyond (update: they actually cleared out around 2 or 3 AM, per local police). While President Obama picked the ‘Heels, and I didn’t on my facebook bracket, I did have them in The Beer Lodge league and made a late rally to finish second, two points behind. As for facebook, I finished in the Top 14% but unfortunately outside the top-50,000 people. All things considered, I guess my friends are right about me having decent sports knowledge, at least compared to most Americans. But obviously I still have a long way to go! And based on percentile, Obama only finished in ESPN’s top-20%! Okay, I don’t think I could fare as well as him at his day job.

Who Knew?

That you could be in almost 35,000th place on facebook and still be in the upper 9% of brackets. I guess that’s what happens when there aren’t many upsets. And a couple that I predicted might happen didn’t materialize.

Still, it means we’ll get some monster match-ups in the Sweet 16 and probably beyond. Does UConn-Memphis or UNC vs. Oklahoma or Syracuse grab you? Also, Darren Rovell reports that nobody will be winning the big jackpot I mentioned over the weekend. So I’m not going to have to imagine that I could do what somebody else actually did, even though apparently someone on facebook still has a chance to get a perfect bracket.

More good news from a friend. Apparently, I’m definitely still ahead of the president, which Jake Tapper confirms (I doubt ESPN’s contest is too different from the ones CBS/Facebook or Yahoo are running). Come the end of the tournament, I wonder how many people will make facebook groups poking fun at that sort of stat? Hopefully, while his bracket scores may improve with all the high seeds he had getting this far, his and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner’s plan to deal with the banking crisis does even better.

Sweet 16 and Elite 8 picks coming next time, plus a review of the World Baseball Classic final.

And All is Right in the World…

Okay, not exactly. I don’t have a solution to health care, and we’ll see if the various groups who discussed how to find one at the White House can do better. Same with all the other issues.

And A-Rod could be out for a while. Despite the vociferous boos from a minority of Yankee fans, I appreciate how great a player is. What the Yankees do will have a lot to do with his performance because he is unquestionably the most dangerous hitter in the lineup. If A-Rod needs to have surgery for his torn labrum now instead of after the season, I’m not sure that the Yankees are that likely to win the AL East. I really think the Rays still have room to improve (even if tougher competition means their win total could still drop) and it’s anyone’s guess what the Red Sox will do this season. They will likely at least get the wild card because a reasonably healthy C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Chien-Ming Wang on the mound should turn a few losses from last year (started by the likes of Sidney Ponson and Darrell Rasner) into wins.

But… some warmer weather is finally coming to NY. And this guy’s back. Now things are really getting better. He’s not fit yet, while Derek Morris and Nik Antropov have to adjust to their new teammates, but coupled with the Blueshirts’ other acquisitions, the Rangers should at least be entertaining for the remainder of this season, if probably not a title contender. Granted it’s come against two of the NHL’s worst teams in the Avalanche and Islanders, but they are starting to win and score goals again.

Credit to ESPN and the Associated Press for this photo of a rivalry that we apparently haven’t seen the last of. Life is getting better each day.