Friday is the deadline for baseball Hall of Fame voters to submit their ballots, and if the Jan. 5 announcement goes the way of my ballot, Roberto Alomar and Larry Walker will be going into Cooperstown along with Tim Raines and Mark McGwire.
Alomar, the best second baseman I've seen, should have been a first-ballot entrant but he was victimized by the stuffy "nobody should ever be a first-ballot winner," sentiment that is still common among some voters. He will get in easily this time around - I see a vote total in the high 80-per-cent area - and Toronto Blue Jays fans might plan their trip to Cooperstown now because it doesn't look as though any other player will go in as a member of the Blue Jays for a long, long time.
I don't use the allotted 10 picks because Cooperstown should be as restrictive as possible. Dropping and adding names along the way is silly, because if a player isn't a Hall of Famer in the first year of his candidacy it's illogical to say he is in the fourth year. I have also come to the conclusion that focusing on players I have actually seen play since starting to cover baseball in 1989 is a way around much of the hokum that dominates the process. Voting for McGwire, warts and all, is easy because he was the most feared hitter in a period when I believe most players and pitchers were using performance-enhancing substances. Raines is an article of faith with me and as for Walker? Yeah, I'm playing the nationalist card. So sue me. Walker is one of the best all-around players I have ever seen and even with the Coors Field factor, an MVP award is an MVP award. Far less deserving players have received votes.
THE MONDAY NUMBERS
The Buffalo Sabres' road record in their past seven games ahead of Monday's game at the Scotiabank Saddledome against the Calgary Flames and Tuesday's game at Rexall Place against the Edmonton Oilers.
The degree to which the Sabres have been outscored by their opponents on those road games.
Number of Sabres in the top 50 in NHL scoring - Derek Roy, without whom the Sabres will now play the rest of the season, because of a torn quadriceps tendon.
"Monday, I'm going to kick some ass at practice. I'm going to beat it into their heads," LA Lakers Guard Kobe Bryant. Note to Dion Phaneuf: that's how a captain reacts to a loss. Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers is promising all manner of hell this week, with games against the 25-4 San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday and the 17-12 New Orleans Hornets on Wednesday. The Lakers lost 96-80 on Christmas Day to the Miami Heat in a mean-spirited game, throughout which Bryant and LeBron James talked trash. Just like the old Magic and Bird days.
"All we can say now is those seem to be the proposals from football and basketball. While a lot of the words and the phrases are the same and while all three industries have caps of various types, all three industries are different and the nature of the internal economies is not the same, " NHLPA head Donald Fehr tells The Associated Press that the root demands of the NFL and NBA - a reduced portion of revenues going to players' salaries - could very well form the basis of NHL ownership's demands in 2012
CLEARING THE CREASE
Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke sounds as though he'll come out of his Christmas trade freeze by seeing the shadow of his team in the snow and realizing: "Hey, they pretty much stink!" So much for answers from within. … Just a suggestion, but if Donovan McNabb gets his release from the Washington Redskins, shouldn't the Buffalo Bills be all over him? 'Cause right now they could be drafting ninth or 11th and they won't get a franchise QB there. … Man, I miss Paul Maurice. The Carolina Hurricanes and their coach will be at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto on Tuesday and Scotiabank Placein Ottawa on Wednesday and this was his response to the Raleigh News-Observer when asked about his team at the Christmas break: "I can't tell you exactly the kind of games we're going to get. It's like Special Ops. They throw you into the jungle, and then you adapt to whatever you've got." … This just in from the Capitalism Sucks Dept.: Ticketmaster has slapped a 54-per-cent surcharge on $25 tickets to the New Year's Eve exhibition game at Heinz Field between a Pittsburgh Penguins alumni team featuring Mario Lemieux and a team of Washington Capitals alumni. Ticketmaster added $13.50 to the tickets for "fees." No explanation: just "fees." The exhibition game will be played ahead of Saturday's Winter Classic.
THE FINAL WORD
Good lord but we're going to hear a lot about labour stoppages in 2011, and the good news is that some of it will be from people who even know what they're talking about. Here's a prediction: the NBA and NFL will lock out their players long in advance of the next season. The players will cave and the games will proceed because in this economy nobody's going to have any time for it. My guess is the NHL is the league facing the biggest labour crisis: but that will be on commissioner Gary Bettman and the owners, not on NHLPA head Donald Fehr. And that won't be until 2012. So, you know … Happy New Year!