Dodgers Lose Sixth Straight, Celtics Sign Von Wafer, & Other Headline Truths

August 3, 2010 presents our quick truths on today's top headlines in the world of sports. The truth shall set you free . . .

HEADLINE: Celtics Sign Guard Von Wafer
TRUTH: Wafer should be a good addition to the Boston bench because of his size, athleticism, and streaky ability to drain jumpers from the perimeter.

Expect Coach Doc Rivers to occasionally go nuts however, now that the Celtics second unit will feature a Wafer-Nate Robinson backcourt. Both instinctively look for their own shot first, which is wonderful when their strokes are right, but not so great at other times.

HEADLINE: U.S. National Swimming Championships Set To Begin Without New High Tech Suits
TRUTH: Expect quality performances, exciting races, and perhaps a little Michael Phelps dominance at this week's U.S. National Swimming Championships, but do not look for too many world records. After having 43 records set at last year's World Championships with the new high-tech swimsuits, a return to the "old" gear should produce far fewer jaw-dropping times.

HEADLINE: Rangers Begin Series With Mariners 8 Games Ahead of the A's and Angels in the AL West
TRUTH: The Texas Rangers have a lot going for them right now with Vlad Guerrero rejuvenated and hitting well, and complete-game machine Cliff Lee taking the hill every fifth start.

But one overlooked key to the Rangers' success this year has been the play of their bullpen. The Texas 'pen has been solid all year, and is blessed with several arms that can bring the heat.

HEADLINE: Shaq in Negotiations With The Boston Celtics
TRUTH: If the Celtics sign center Shaquille O'Neal, he certainly would fill a need position with Kendrick Perkins' health in limbo following knee surgery. Shaq would likely start ahead of recent acquisition Jermaine O'Neal, and should blend well offensively with KG or Big Baby Davis, as both of those players have the outside touch to play high-low with the Diesel.

What could be problematic for Beantown, however, is Shaq's impact on the C's defense.

While O'Neal would be a good post defender and shotblocking threat, he also will be a huge liability in the pick-and-roll. The backbone of the Celtics' recent success has been their stalwart D, which O'Neal could undermine to a degree in screen-roll situations.

HEADLINE: Albert Haynesworth Fails Conditioning Test Again
TRUTH: ESPN recently had retired NFL lineman and Bristol employee Mike Golic successfully perform the same conditioning drill that Albert Haynesworth has failed to complete multiple times this preseason.

Similar to many things Bristol, the cheap theatrics proved nothing, as no GM in football is looking to hire Golic at this time. Moreover, the experiment failed to simulate how a current NFL defensive tackle in today's bigger NFL should perform because a current tackle was not the one doing the test.

While most of the national media has portrayed the Haynesworth story as a case of an unmotivated, out-of-shape athlete milking his ballclub for every penny of his enormous contract, in reality, the situation is far more complex.

First, Haynesworth's knee has been bothering him, and thus, there is a contributing injury factor related to his inability to finish the tests. Second, the test itself is largely irrelevant to his interior defensive lineman skill-set because Haynesworth is unlikely to ever run even one 50-yard sprint during the course of any snap this season.

Third, no one put a gun to the head of Redskins owner Daniel Snyder and forced him to sign the man. There were plenty of red flags surrounding Haynesworth prior to his signing, but Snyder did what he normally does - rush to lock up a "name" player to a hefty contract.

Granted, Haynesworth is a head case, and his performance fell far short of expectations last year. But he did sign a multi-year deal with the expectation of playing in a 4-3 scheme, rather than this year's 3-4. Haynesworth knows his game is best suited to attacking gaps, not taking on double teams at the nose.

Of course, skipping the 'Skins offseason conditioning program was the incorrect way for Haynesworth to protest the new alignment, but perhaps equally misguided was Coach Mike Shanahan's effort to "embarrass" Haynesworth into conformity in front of the entire national public.

Shanahan's methods could produce two effects in the 'Skins locker room this year. Ironically, it could boost the team by making Shanahan the bad guy and uniting the troops behind Haynesworth. Such solidarity could be an asset in the long term, particularly if Washington starts off well.

On the other hand, it also could divide the team and create multiple factions, some pro-Shanahan, some pro-Haynesworth, and some against both sides. Should Washington get on an early losing streak, such a divide would be disastrous for a team in the perhaps the league's best division.

HEADLINE: New York Red Bulls Sign Defender Rafael Marquez
TRUTH: Just two days after his release from Barcelona, the 31-year old Marquez signed a deal with the New York Red Bulls of the MLS. Marquez, the captain of Mexico's National Team, is the second-high profile signing by New York, following their acquisition of French star Thierry Henry earlier this season.

New York currently is second in the East, trailing Columbus by seven points in the standings. As such, the Henry and Marquez moves both should be viewed as serious efforts to improve the club, rather than just as mere publicity stunts to drive ticket sales.

Henry still has more than enough left to make an impact on the pitch this postseason, especially at the MLS level. Meanwhile, Marquez had his share of quality moments during the recent 2010 World Cup, including a goal in the tournament's opening match against host nation South Africa.

HEADLINE: Dodgers Drop Sixth Straight In 10-5 Loss To Padres
TRUTH: Now that they trail San Diego by 9 games, is it safe to say that the Dodgers' NL West Division hopes are officially over?

The truth is that the Dodgers are an absolute mess right now. The bullpen has been a wreck all year, thanks largely to lefty George Sherrill's incompetence. Moreover, Manager Joe Torre seemingly only trusts Hong-Chih Kuo and Jonathan Broxton in the late innings, which is risky considering Kuo's injury history and the potential for wearing down Broxton.

Worse yet, the bats have gone cold. Young stars Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier have seen a gradual drop in production, exacerbating the impact of Manny Ramirez's absence from the lineup.

As for Ramirez, his days in the NL are likely over after this season.

After last season's steroid debacle, Ramirez rebounded and proved that he still has his batting stroke when healthy. Unfortunately for Los Angeles, Ramirez is best suited to a DH role at this stage of his career because his body can no longer handle playing in the field.

Thus far, Manny has been in the same routine all year - hit well, get hurt, come back, find his rhythm, and then get hurt again. Should it continue, the Dodgers simply will not have enough pop to compete.

San Diego, meanwhile, has surprised the baseball world by their performance this year.

On paper, the Padres appeared to have a weak lineup and questionable pitching entering the season. After they got off to a solid start, most expected them to eventually fade, similar to last season.

However, Manager Bud Black - who should be the 2010 Manager of the Year - has worked wonders, particularly with his use of the Padres' bullpen.

San Diego's success this year has been rooted in their bullpen strength, as any lead after 6 innings has usually ended up in a Padres' victory.

Furthermore, San Diego has boosted their postseason chances by acquiring two veteran bats in Miguel Tejada and Ryan Ludwick at the trade deadline. Their addition will provide more lineup protection and better pitches for Padres slugger Adrian Gonzalez.

In contrast, the frugal Dodgers were not nearly as effective with their mid-season dealings, as they acquired pitcher Ted Lilly and some spare parts, but missed out on All Star arms Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, and Dan Haren.

At this point, the Dodgers would be fortunate to nab the wild card berth.

By Mike Elliott
Staff Editor for

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