January 10, 2006
Kobe Bryant:
Becomes the first player since Wilt in '64 to score at least 45 points per game in four straight games, the latest in a 96-90 win over the Pacers.
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:

If the Baseball Hall of Fame voters had any integrity, there would be a shutout in this year's class.

I'm already suspicious of the insular Baseball Writers Association of America:

The worst is that they refuse to consider thoughtful, relevant and more-than-qualified writers like my colleague Rob Neyer and ones who have spent their career online and have catapulted baseball from the pre-Web Dark Ages to today.

I hope my 10 ESPN.com colleagues with a Hall vote appreciate that if they had started their careers online (where they are now), and not in newspapers (where they qualified), then they would be sitting this process out.

I don't know what would be more troubling: If I found out the BBWAA was intentionally dissing the new-school online writers ... or if they were so ignorant they didn't even know these writers existed to begin with.

Here's the test: If the BBWAA disbanded and the Hall of Fame put together a new group of voters from scratch, how many existing voters wouldn't make the cut anymore? And how many new voices would be worthy?

(Personally, I would lobby to include the fans in the voting in some way, even if it was in some nominal way. To maintain a paternalistic, media-knows-best conclave-type system is to marginalize and infantilize the very fans who cheered these players to greatness.)

But I digress...

I'm not here to lobby or dis the merits of Bruce Sutter or Goose Gossage (the two players closest to making the cut), Jim Rice (an East Coast Bias favorite), or any of the others (the "Hell Freezes Over" cohort).

I simply want to say that if these players didn't get the 75 percent of "yes" votes needed for entry in previous years, I don't understand how they are suddenly qualified. These are baseball players, not bottles of wine.

It's as though the swing voters (the ones switching from "no" to "yes") can't handle a year without a Hall enshrinement. Is the food in Cooperstown so great that they don't want to miss a party?

In reality, any previously unqualified player who suddenly makes the cut is just another example of how broken the Hall of Fame voting system is.

I'm not saying the players are unqualified; I'm just arguing that the system is broken and needs fixing.

NFL Job Board
Mangini to Jets? I don't care whether or not 34-year-old Pats defensive coordinator and Belichick disciple Eric Mangini is ready to be an NFL head coach -- he is the bold choice the Jets should make.

GM Terry Bradway played coy about it yesterday, but the move would be inspired. Mangini is young enough to infuse the franchise with enthusiasm and has the Belichick pedigree to bring it instant credibility.

Allen Iverson: Overshadowed by Kobe, scores 41 of his own
Sean Payton: Cowboys asst. interviewing with Saints on Wed.
Jose Theodore: Habs goalie stops shots by freak on-ice fan
Levitra: Ends deal with NFL. "Advertorial dysfunction?"
D.J. White: Newly Top 10-ranked Indiana star soph out (foot)
Bode Miller: Ripped by USA Skiing for "60 Minutes" interview
Bulletin Bears
Pretty bold talk for a team that hasn't proven anything in the playoffs yet:

"[The Panthers] get a lot of credit for a team that people who predict these things figured they'd go to the Super Bowl. I just don't think they deserve that credit. I think they have to prove it. We proved it one time. We'll have to do it again."
-- Bears DE Adewale Ogunleye Spitter Fined
The NFL revealed some inconsistency in its punishments:

Sean Taylor had a history of fineable offenses off the field and questionable conduct on it. And yet, his fine for spitting in the face of Michael Pittman is only $17,000 -- merely the share each Skin got for winning Saturday's game.

What happened to the "T.O. Standard," in which the sequence of a player's antics becomes additive, resulting in increasingly punitive measures?

With wrist slaps like this one, you can see the escalating train wreck on the horizon for young Mr. Taylor. But neither the NFL nor the Redskins will be able to say they didn't see it coming.

Nets vs. Spurs
Tonight in the NBA: The league's best team hosts the hottest team. The Nets have won 10 in a row and lead the otherwise sorry Atlantic Division with a record over .600. Here's the trick: Vince Carter is playing as well has he has in his entire career. In the last 10 games, he's averaged 33.5 ppg. We'll see what he can do against the champs.

More VY Mania
Instant history from fans? In a survey with more than 130,000 respondents, Vince Young ranked nearly even with Matt Leinart in a poll asking who is the better NFL prospect.

Here's what the poll can't capture: Doesn't context count? Wouldn't either player be better learning under Norm Chow and Steve McNair in Tennessee than walking into the coach-less, QB-less maw of New Orleans?

The question then becomes: If all other conditions were equal, which QB is the better pro prospect? Again: Misleading. NFL offenses are geared to Leinart's game, not Young's. Just look at Michael Vick.

That's why critics are hung up on Young's throwing motion. It doesn't fit current assumptions about what a QB can be. So as long as the conventional offensive coordinators are still in charge, Leinart will have an advantage.

CBB Top 25 Update
When half of the teams in the Top 15 lose in one weekend, the next week's poll looks especially sketchy. Fans can rightfully ask of pollsters: Well, why should we believe you now?

I watch a lot of Florida basketball, and the Gators are a great story. They play amazingly well together; they lost a couple of selfish stars and they're better for it. They've also beaten a couple of decent teams.

But they ascended to No. 2 because of my biggest pollster gripe -- inertia. Just because they're undefeated (and everyone around them lost), they automatically move up?

Kind of makes you wonder (yet again) how much basketball is watched by those who vote.

King vs. Machine
It had to be asked: Who has the better pro career ahead of him -- The Burger King (most recently seen dousing Don Shula)? Or the Diet Pepsi Machine (most recently seen still embarrassing the Pats)?

Key skills
King: INTs, TD dances
Machine: Pass-catching

Previous experience
King: Fast-food franchises
Machine: Convenience stores

"Poor man's" comparison
King: Deion Sanders
Machine: Jerome Bettis

"Legitimizing" endorsement
King: Don Shula
Machine: Suzy Kolber

Overall vibe
King: Still a little creepy
Machine: Anthropomorphism?

Marcus Vick:
Just when you thought it couldn't get worse, Vick is arrested for waving a gun in a teen's face. (And I'll bet he STILL gets drafted.)
Today on ESPN.com
Quickie: Live!
Page 2 Index
Top 5 ESPN.com HOF vote-getters
Rich Gossage
The consensus pick
Jim Rice
Hmm: Regional bias?
Bruce Sutter
Jayson Stark loves him
Jack Morris
It's not going to happen
Bert Blyleven
Still outside looking in

Hmm ... Haven't heard any Pats talking about disrespect this week. Maybe because everyone picks them to win, on the road, at a team that beat them.

T.O. Trade Rumors: Is he going to the Bucs? To the Jets? (Come on: Isn't every team with a need at WR going to make this rumor list by default?)

USC losses: RB LenDale White expected to go pro (ya think?), along with OT Winston Justice. WR Steve Smith will stay. (via LA Daily News)

CBB: UConn PG Marcus Williams gets all the pub, but if the Huskies make a March run, watch emerging C Hilton Armstrong (14/10, 6 blocks in W vs. Cincy).

MLB Hot Stove: O's get Cubs CF Corey Patterson, and not even as part of a Tejada deal. All he was worth was two minor-leaguers.

Weekend remainders: Mayne ousted from "Dancing with the Stars." I originally tabbed him as the first cut, then I switched to the atrocious Master P. P will be next.

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