Archive for November, 2011

Hall of Fame: Murphy thumbs up, juicers thumbs down

There's too much smoke about steroid use.

There's too much smoke around Bagwell

Murphy will get my vote -- but he won't get in.

Murphy will get my vote — but he's a longshot.

I was going to hold off on this blog for a few weeks until I actually had the 2012 Hall of Fame ballot in my hand and started checking off names for the next class to be enshrined in Cooperstown, N.Y. (a trip that, by the way, remains on my bucket list). But after listing the candidates Wednesday and finding myself debating the merits of Dale Murphy (clean) and Mark McGwire (dirty) on Facebook and Twitter, I figured I might as well get this out of the way now.

So, following are the 27 players on the ballot. Voters can select anywhere from zero to 10 players for enshrinement. Some voters are really silly about this, like they won’t vote a guy in the first time because they don’t think he’s a “first ballot” Hall of Famer, but they’ll vote for him after. Seems kind of stupid to me. If a guy belongs in, I don’t see the point in waiting. Anyway, I’m voting for seven. (Prediction: Only Barry Larkin …

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Hawks should trade any two players for Dwight Howard

If it takes trading Josh Smith and somebody else to get Dwight Howard, do it. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

If Orlando wants Josh Smith and another player to get Dwight Howard, fine (Curtis Compton)

NBA teams are starting to open their facility doors to players, having conversations with agents and formulating plans for their respective rosters.

What a great time for the Hawks to push for the one move they could make that would grab everybody’s attention, fill Philips Arena and possibly move them closer to title contention: Trade for Dwight Howard.

I realize this is a long shot. But Howard almost certainly is going to be traded some time over the next several months. He can opt out of his contract after this season and there’s no indication that he wants to stay in Orlando.

Howard never has stated that he wants to come back home to Atlanta to play center for the Hawks. But let’s put the team’s potential sales pitch to him on hold for just a minute.

Here’s the plan, after my high-level talks with Michael “Ice Man” Cunningham: Tell the Magic they can have any two players they want.

At …

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After Boise State, Murray foresaw Georgia in SEC title game

Aaron Murray brings something to Georgia's offense far more important than statistics. (Brant Sanderlin/bsanderlin@ajc.com)

Aaron Murray brings something to Georgia's offense far more important than statistics. (Brant Sanderlin/bsanderlin@ajc.com)

ATHENS – Several weeks ago, when Georgia was looking like Liberty Bowl bait and Mark Richt was waiting for that first thrown rock through his office window, Aaron Murray did something rather unexpected. He prophesied an SEC championship game for the Bulldogs.

We can’t be certain if this should be attributed to Murray’s unwavering confidence or the fact that he had just been hit in the head 37 times by Boise State. But the sophomore quarterback walked out of the Georgia locker room after the Bulldogs had just laid a 35-21 egg against Boise State at the Georgia Dome to open the season, met up with his former high school coach and uttered these words: “Coach, we’re going to the SEC championship.”

At that point, Robert Weiner, Murray’s coach at Plant High School resisted temptations to alert medical personnel who might still in the Georgia Dome. He had …

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Florida fans: Stop whining about Meyer going to Ohio State

Before Florida fans complain, they should remember Urban Meyer won this for them -- twice. (AP photo)

Before Florida fans complain, they should remember Urban Meyer won this thing for them — twice. (AP photo)

(Updated: 10:35 a.m.)

Urban Meyer just went from savior to Satan in Gainesville. Sorry, but did Florida fans really expect he was going to spend the rest of his life sitting in a climate-controlled studio and planting pansies?

Welcome to reality, Gator fans. You’re apparently the last one to figure out that Meyer is no less disingenuous than any other college coach, and he might be worse.

The former Florida coach reportedly has taken the head coaching job at Ohio State, confirming the worst kept secret in sports. Kudos to the blog sites ElevenWarriors and SportsByBrooks, which were way ahead of this story on Nov. 18.

(For what it’s worth: Meyer’s agent denied to cbssports.com’s Dennis Dodd that Meyer has accepted the job. But at this point, we’re probably talking semantics.)

Gator fans are upset. They believe Meyer betrayed them, and, well, maybe he did just a little. …

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Georgia has far better than ‘puncher’s chance’ against LSU

Aron White and Christian Robinson punctuate Georgia's return by planting the school flag at Tech.

Aron White, Christian Robinson punctuate UGA's return with school flag . (Johnny Crawford)

This is the column that I didn’t think I would be writing six weeks ago, when Georgia fizzled and nearly self-destructed at Vanderbilt, and a five-game winning streak seemed like the furthest thing from Mark Richt’s mind.

This is the column that didn’t seem plausible three months ago when I looked up at the scoreboard and saw, “Boise State 35, Georgia 21” after looking down on the Georgia Dome field to see a Bulldogs team get beat physically by a Mountain West Conference team and play flat emotionally — the worst possible exacta for a hyped-up season opener.

This is the column that says Georgia can beat LSU.

This is not to diminish anything LSU has accomplished this season. How can one diminish an SEC team going 12-0? The Tigers have played and beaten seven teams that were ranked at the time they played. That includes No. 3 Oregon to start the season (40-27), No. 2 Alabama in Tuscaloosa …

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Georgia Tech drilled, problems start with Al Groh’s defense

A common scene: A Bulldog (Chris Conley) scoring and a Jacket (Rod Sweeting) watching. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

Common scene: UGA (Chris Conley) scoring, Tech (Rod Sweeting) watching. (Brant Sanderlin)

When a team looks flat, lost and beat up and loses 31-17 to its chief rival — and it really wasn’t even that close — generally no player or area is immune to criticism.

Physically, Georgia Tech got hammered Saturday by Georgia. There were mental lapses. Emotionally, the Jackets seemed to lack a pulse on their home field against the only opponent that usually defines their season — which probably is the greatest indictment of all, considering the 364 days of buildup on a campus where the rallying cry is, “To hell with Georgia.”

“You have to play with everything you have. We didn’t,” linebacker Steven Sylvester said.

How does that happen? Were they saving it for the Sun Bowl?

But Tech’s biggest problem Saturday against Georgia was no different than what its biggest problem has been for four years under coach Paul Johnson. Their defense stinks. They can’t stop anybody or intimidate anybody. …

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NBA lockout: Nobody won, now league must fight for attention

David Stern's league will start amid NFL playoff races. Not great timing. (AP photo)

David Stern's league will start during NFL playoff races. Not great timing. (AP photo)

The NBA lockout unofficially ended. Almost everybody was asleep. How’s that for irony?

The owners and players reached a tentative agreement on a new deal at about 3 a.m. So congratulations to both sides for proving once again that in all CBA talks, money generally trumps stupidity at some point.

Players lost paychecks. Owners, at least those who make money, lost revenue. The NBA, a winter league that’s constantly fighting for attention in the window between football and baseball, suffered an unnecessary shot to its image.

All of the ushers, peanut vendors, parking attendants and business owners near NBA arenas who lost a month’s worth of revenue are out of luck

Wasn’t that worth it?

It’s nonsensical to declare winners and losers. Everybody lost. Just leave it at that.

If the players approve the deal as expected, the league will resume play on Christmas. Teams will play a 66-game season. The …

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Bulldogs, Jackets seeking a boost from their defense

Todd Grantahm. (Jason Getz/AJC)

Todd Grantham's Georgia defense ranks among leaders nationally in several categories, but struggled last year against Tech. (Jason Getz/AJC)

Two years ago, the head coaches at Georgia and Georgia Tech, both with offensive backgrounds, fired their respective defensive coordinators.

So ended the frequent lampooning of Willie Martinez in Athens and the most often heard question at Tech, “What idiot is coaching Paul Johnson’s defense?” (His name was Dave Wommack.)

As Georgia and Georgia Tech prepare to face each other again Saturday, it’s easy to see that the biggest difference between the programs is defense.

The Bulldogs rank fourth nationally in total defense, 11th in scoring, ninth in takeaways and second in third-down percentage.

The Jackets, in those respective categories, rank 43rd, 56th, 52nd and 89th.

Now, it would be an oversimplification to say Todd Grantham is succeeding in his job and Al Groh isn’t. Grantham has better players. But after seeing some progress on …

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Stuffed Predictions: Dogs over Jackets; LSU and Bama roll

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Hello and welcome to that special time of year, and I speak of course of when we overindulge on turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, potatoes au gratin, Mr. Potato, potato chips and onion dip, creamed corn, that string-bean-mushroom soup-Styrofoam-onion-ring thing that nobody really eats but the dog loves it when you mix it in his kibble, probably something with cheese, rolls (three kinds), margarine (light) and three to seven desserts, after which we fall face down in our plate of Cool Whip remnants and lapse into a tryptophan coma … until we wake up at 3:45 a.m. and scream, “NOOO! I OVERSLEPT! Play-doh goes on sale at Toy Zoo for 39 cents in 15 minutes! Where are my keys!?!” And then you take one step and suddenly there’s a strange jingling sound coming from your stomach.

If you're in this picture, you really need to get a life.

If you're in this picture, you really need to get a life.

By the way, if you go to Walmart on Black Friday, just don’t tell Paul Johnson, or he might punch you. (Actually, after Johnson …

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Paul Johnson says SEC’s superiority all about perceptions

Paul Johnson believes the SEC isn't the overwhelming beast it's made out to be. (Johnny Crawford/AJC)

Paul Johnson says the SEC isn't the overwhelming beast it's made out to be. (Johnny Crawford)

The same week that the top of the BCS rankings are punctuated with three SEC teams and the overwhelming shadow beast of Athens prepares to bring its football team to Georgia Tech, Paul Johnson said precisely what we’ve come to expect from him.

To capsulize his thoughts: Whatever.

Johnson, whose weekly news conferences can be relative standup comedy dotted with sarcastic jabs, was unusually low key Tuesday. But afterward, he addressed perceptions of the SEC’s Godzilla to the ACC’s Bambi, which filters down to the annual Georgia-Georgia Tech game. This subject has been one of Johnson’s pet peeves since he arrived at Tech in 2008 (and won at Georgia in his first season, after the Jackets had lost the previous seven in the series).

“It’s all perceptions,” Johnson said. “People will think what they’re going to think. There’s nothing I’m not going to do to change their mind.

“Personally, I …

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