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Madden: When Yankees win, baseball is loser

Saturday, October 28, 2000

Here it is, folks, my radio show on paper. You really don't have to listen anymore -- although I'd prefer that you still do, especially if you keep a ratings diary for Arbitron.

*Wow, the New York Yankees are the world champions of baseball. The biggest payroll beat everybody for a third consecutive year. I am just so excited. George Steinbrenner should put a bank-vault door in Yankee Stadium's monument park. Stick a big steel monolith with a combination lock right there in center field, right next to the slabs honoring Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, etc. Just think how good the Yankees will be once they sign free agent Alex Rodriguez. Yankees Win! Thaaaaaaa Yankees Win! And baseball loses. Again.

Yankees fans will rebut the above item by saying that the Yankees have developed a lot of good players within their minor-league system. That's true. So did the Pirates once upon a time. But the Yankees have the cash to keep everyone they develop. The Pirates -- and 80 percent of baseball's other teams -- don't. You don't have to go the free-agent route to buy a championship. You can shop at home, like the Yankees.

Adding to my contempt for the Yankees is the fact that washed-up actor/Yankees fan Billy Crystal has appointed himself the guardian/spokesman of the Yankees' tradition and, worse yet, people seem to be taking him seriously, putting him on camera at every opportunity. You'd think Yogi Berra might have more to say about the past of the pinstripes -- after all, he actually played -- but no, Crystal got more World Series TV face time than Yogi. Then again, Yogi's face ain't much to look at.

If you're wondering why Penguins defenseman Darius Kasparaitis isn't quite the body-checking presence he's been in years past, here's an Xs & Os explanation. The Penguins employ a system called the left-wing lock. The left-wing lock holds the left wing responsible for sealing off the left boards in the neutral zone, thus putting the left defenseman in the center of the rink. This pretty much eliminates any chance a left defenseman might have to pinch an opponent on the boards to render a hit of concussive effect. Kasparaitis is a left defenseman, ergo, less hits for Kasparaitis. He is still playing solid positional defense and doing a good job with the puck, but he's a hitter. The Penguins need to let him hit.

Once upon a time, Jaromir Jagr played on a line with Mario Lemieux and Ron Francis. Now he seems to prefer skating with guys such as Jan Hrdina and Kip Miller. Why? I know, I know, those guys get him the puck constantly. But Jagr doesn't need the puck constantly. He just needs to have it when it's appropriate. If you put two polished players with Jagr, No. 68 will open up space for them, and they'll get Jagr the puck in dangerous situations. More to the point, Jagr will compile more points skating with, say, Martin Straka and Aleksey Morozov than he could ever produce with Hrdina and Miller.

Mario Lemieux said this past Wednesday on my show that he could still compete in the NHL, but not over an entire season. How about just the home games, Mario?

There never has been a more embarrassing notion in college football than Penn State's anti-booing resolution. If Penn State wanted to make itself a laughingstock, mission accomplished. The yokels in Happy Valley should sponsor a resolution that condemns Penn State's offense. Or the has-been coaches.

When the NBA learned that the Minnesota Timberwolves had made a secret deal with Joe Smith to circumvent the salary cap, the NBA fined the Timberwolves $3.5 million, made Smith a free agent and took away five first-round draft picks. When the NFL learned that the San Francisco 49ers mangled the salary cap throughout the '90s, the NFL did little to hurt the 49ers on the field. The NFL didn't cut any players loose. The 49ers lost second- and sixth-round picks. Big deal. The NBA's message is clear: Don't cheat. The NFL's message is equally clear.

When Kordell Stewart talks about using his legs, about not being a drop-back, statue-style quarterback, it sounds like he's planning to improvise, which is quite the oxymoron. Stewart needs to execute the playbook, period. Discipline and execution have brought the Steelers back from 0-3. Kordell needs to forget about making the offense his own. He needs to become part of the offense.

Pitt has three chances against Virginia Tech today -- slim, none and hurt Tech QB Michael Vick. That's not something you set out to do. At least not out loud, anyway.

Pitt senior receiver Latef Grim is a class act. Sophomore teammate Antonio Bryant has buzzed by Grim in terms of catches and prominence, yet Grim has remained a terrific team guy who knows his time will again come. That kind of attitude guarantees that Grim's time will, indeed, again come. Pretty soon Bryant will pull the double coverage away from Grim. Then Grim will shine. Maybe as soon as today.

Charles Barkley recently pointed out that society has gone haywire when he said, "What kind of world is it when the best rapper is a white guy and the best golfer is a black guy?"

Mark Madden's talk show is heard 4-8 p.m. weekdays on WEAE-AM (1250).

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