With Major Leaguers reporting to spring training, Arkansas firing Nolan Richardson, and the Big Ten Tournament mercifully ending another pathetic season of Michigan basketball – all happening in a small amount of time – I found myself with too many topics to write about for just one column this week. Thus, in ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption form, I’ll cover all of them.

Paul Wong
Raphael Goodstein, The SportsMonday Column

First topic: There was a time when spring training was a time of rebirth and hope. Now it’s just another chance for the New York Yankees to prove that they’re the best team in sports. If you’ve got something to say about it, don’t – or they’ll go and sign another All Star. Losing the World Series to the Arizona Diamondbacks caused a few people to make comments like, “It’s the end of the dynasty.”

Owner George Steinbrenner responded to these claims the way he usually does – getting out his checkbook and offering more money than anyone else can.

The Yankees improved their offense this offseason by signing Jason Giambi – maybe the best hitter in baseball – outfielder Rondell White – who, when healthy can play at an All Star level – and trading for Robin Ventura while thirdbase prospect Drew Henson learns how to hit a curveball at Triple-A Columbus.

I spent the better part of an afternoon in Mexico trying to figure out a problem with this team. Could it be the pitching?

Nope. Roger Clemens, Mike Mussina and Mariano Rivera are as good as anyone.

Could it be the hitting? Well, it was last year. But this year’s team has Giambi, which means that Bernie Williams and Derek Jeter will be better.

We all know it won’t be the managing, as Joe Torre is one of the all-time greats.

Finally, after computing statistics, searching almanacs, and interviewing some of the best baseball minds of our time, I found a weakness – www.yankees.com.

That’s right Yankees fans, your website is a tad too busy. Oh, and finding the team roster is tougher than it should be.

Bing!

While searching for a weakness with the Yankees, a couple of friends started forecasting the Detroit Tigers season.

One asked me if I thought there was any chance that this team finishes above .500.

I’m still left wondering what prescription drug he was on when he asked me.

Under his scenario, outfielder Bobby Higginson would hit 40 home runs in the spacious Comerica Park; Jeff Weaver would win 20 games (which would require 20 shutouts) and first baseman Dmitri Young would become an All Star.

Even if all of this happened, the Tigers would still need some of their players, who all seem to be first basemen/designated hitters, to become legitimate Major League pitchers.

In other words, fans won’t have too much to get excited for about until draft time. But hey, Cecil Fielder’s kid, Prince, apparently, is quite the power hitter.

Bing!

The University of Arkansas bought out the remainder of basketball coach Nolan Richardson contract after he publicly commented that he’s treated differently from white coaches in the SEC because he’s black.

Arkansas proved Richardson right by essentially firing him.

A southern state treating a black employee differently than it would have treated a white employee?

Shocking.

The reality, sadly enough, is that this is an old story. A black man gets a job in the South, and, despite his success, his crotchety white boss finds a reason to fire him.

All this shows is that the “New South” is still the South.

Bing!

Next topic, Michigan basketball.

Why is it that every team at this University – except the field hockey team – is worse today than it was when I received my acceptance letter here nearly four years ago?

In case you didn’t already know – and chances are you didn’t because you don’t care – the basketball team finished in 10th place again this year. The most exciting thing Michigan basketball fans have to look forward to is Daniel Horton playing in the McDonald’s All America game – the first Wolverine to be selected to play in it since LaVell Blanchard three years ago.

But hey, at least the Big Ten Tournament will give Michigan one last chance at beating Big Ten power Northwestern.

Raphael Goodstein can be reached at raphaelg@umich.edu.

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