A very long day today--the weather, honestly, has been irritating lately. Entirely too much rain and not nearly enough sun for me, and with the return of daylight savings time comes the return of driving to work in absolute darkness each and every morning. Actually, to use the term "morning" is misleading--it's unquestionably night when I drive to work. Morning only starts, in my mind, once I see the sun.
This post is going to be all over the place; just warning you ahead of time.
I thought the interview this morning with Tony LaRussa went really well; the guy is a fantastic subject to interview, and I was struck by a couple of things he told us this morning. First of all, when I asked him about Albert Pujols, he described him as "perfect". I gotta tell you, that's the first time I've ever heard a coach or manager describe anyone that way. Typically, you want to avoid raising expectations, but, then again, LaRussa has never done too much in a typical fashion. He also said that he was concerned about the beginning of the season, because there are a few too many off days in the Cards' early schedule for his liking--he said it would be hard to work the young guys in because it would be more important to get the veterans in a rhythm. Little things like that can factor into play come September.
After the show, I headed downtown to the Forum to check out the United States team practicing for the Nike Hoop Summit on Saturday night. It has been a pleasure thus far to work with the people at USA Basketball, and Craig Miller, the guy leading their media relations effort for the event, has been incredibly complimentary of the city and the building. In fact, he told me that he thinks the Hoop Summit will be held annually in Memphis from here on out--they want to build it in one city, and with Nike having a distribution center here, and with the city loving hoops so much, it's a natural fit.
Here's the roster for the US squad. I would say that at least 2, and maybe as many as 4 of these guys will be headed for the NBA Draft. I was impressed by Tyler Hansbrough, the North Carolina signee--in the words of US Head Coach Tom Diener, he's a "hell of a rebounder". He outworked Richard Hendrix, the biggest guy on the team, three times in a row to get offensive rebounds on a drill. Hansbrough has good size now, but will get stronger, and has great instincts for the ball. Monta Ellis from Jackson, Mississippi also caught my eye. The guy can score the ball--I'd be shocked if he spent any time at all in college; Mississippi State fans will likely soon be disappointed. Sorry. He may make an official announcement as soon as right after the Hoop Summit on Saturday. Martell Webster and Jon Brockman, both heading to Washington, will make Lorenzo Romar very happy. Brockman's a big dude who has been the most physically impressive player I've seen so far--he bangs around and is not afraid of the dirty work. Webster's a big guard (6'8'', 235 or so) that has a sweet stroke, good moves, and good basketball IQ.
Incidentally, I mentioned coach Diener, and he's been fun to watch--he's taking this thing seriously. One quote went something like this (this isn't quite exact, but it's close enough)--"They'll try to tip the ball out on a rebound. If they tip that (shirt) out, we will (ficking) run that (shirt) down their throat. (Fick) 'em." He's not playing around, folks. He even had the guys doing five pushups every time the ball was turned over.
However, the scrimmage I saw the US guys have against a Memphis select team (including Raleigh-Egypt's Lawrence Kinnard, Fairley's Anthony Mason, Jr., Hillcrest's Calvin Williams, Ridgeway's Jordan Mincy, and even Briarcrest's Michael Oher) left me a little concerned about the team. It was sloppy. Julian Wright ha a nasty one-handed dunk, Jon Brockman and Tyler Hansbrough were solid inside, but, apart from that, it was ugly. Missed shots and turnovers abounded on both ends of the court--and, for one 10 minute stretch, the Memphis team beat the US. Still a lot of work to do for Coach Diener.
Finally, the day ended with a trip to AutoZone Park for the Redbirds' season opener. What a terrible night for baseball--drizzly, kind of cold, and pretty windy. The crowd was lackluster, not surprising given the terrible weather and the fact that it was a Thursday night opener. The weekend will be better. Great food in the press box tonight, by the way--Rendezvous barbeque pork AND chicken! Does it get better? Eli and I hung out in the radio booth for a little bit, talking to the new radio voice of the Redbirds, David Kelly, along with Reggie Williams. David's adjusting nicely to Memphis, it would appear--and what I heard of the broadcast I liked. Plus, some fan of theirs sent cookies and brownies to them--that crap never happens to me. Although, to be fair, I doubt I would eat unsolicited food--I dunno, maybe it's just an irrational fear, but I wouldn't trust it. Oh yeah, Redbirds won 1-0. The pitching better be lights out, because the offense isn't going to give you much this year. Don't believe me? Ask Baseball America. They rank the Cardinals 30th out of 30 teams for minor league talent. A lot of quick games for the 'Birds this season, I would bet.
Interesting info from George Lapides about the possible cancellation of the Memphis/Ole Miss football series. This series should always continue. From an Ole Miss perspective, I would have to agree that until the majority of Rebel fans come to grips with the fact that the University of Memphis football program has increased in stature over the last 2-3 years, it is almost a no-win game. If the Rebels win, it's what was expected--if they lose, it's inexcusable. We've talked on the show about the expectations of the Ole Miss fans, and I think they've got to be more realistic. Ole Miss and Memphis are not at all far apart, talent-wise. Memphis has a coach who has won his last two against Ole Miss, Ole Miss has a coach who has never been so much as a coordinator on the D-1 level. Ed Orgeron may turn out to be great, but no one can say for sure. The series is evening out, and the Rebels want out. I'm not sure that's a coincidence.
Ron Mexico? Here's a tip to all NFL jockriders and skanks: avoid
Worse TV performance--frightened sportscaster or horrific weather guy?
Well, this can't be good. Extremely notable AAA rehab starts:
Mark Prior (Iowa): 6 IP, 7 ER, 9 H, 7 K, 1 BB (88 pitches, 55 strikes)
Curt Schilling (Pawtucket): 6 IP, 7 ER, 11 H, 6 K, 0 BB (104 pitches, 77 strikes)