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Thoughts on Cliff Harris, Rich Cho, John Spencer and MLB realignment

According to a KEZI-TV report in Eugene, a University of Oregon female employee gave her weekend rental to Duck cornerback Cliff Harris and a friend to use, and she got cash in advance to cover the cost.

Even if this is true, it still seems like an extra service and benefit, because Harris wasn't able to rent the car himself, for various reasons, including his suspended driver's license. Even if he wasn't supposed to be driving, he would have at least had to use of the car, with a friend as the driver - an extra service and benefit, too.

• At 118 miles per hour, Harris and his buddies could have gone from Portland to Eugene in about 60 minutes.

Couldn't they have just taken a Nike helicopter or private plane?

• I just wanna know what uniform combination they all were wearing.

• Here we go again: The normally loquacious Harris barely spoke to the media last season after his "big brother-little brother" comment before the Civil War game. He isn't likely to say much now, until, say, before or after a bowl game. Talk to you in December or January, Cliff.

• The good news for the Ducks: By all accounts, Will Lyles wasn't in the car.

• Hey, after getting some practice behind the wheel at 118 mph, you think Harris is going to be fazed by a punt defense tackler moving at a mere 40 yards-in-4.5 seconds pace?

• We really need that Vancouver, B.C.-Eugene high-speed rail.

• I heard this argument today for paying Division I college football players and other D-I athletes: If they aren't paid, they might have to live a "student's life."

My first reaction was, yes, and how about all the other students that have to live a "student's life"?

And, yeah, big-time college athletes really have to "suffer" through their student's life - with only a few things to ease the pain, things like scholarship, academic assistance, coddling, notoriety and assorted privileges and perks.

Not to mention that many athletes, if they play their cards right, can parlay their former college status, and all the connections and prestige that go with it, into advantages over others in the "real world."

Obviously, though, I'm missing a major reason why football players need more direct compensation - so they can pay for rental cars and high-speed overnight cruising.

• It's been suggested that the Trail Blazers might be in no hurry to hire a general manager because of an impending NBA lockout. If so, why did the Charlotte Bobcats feel the urgency to now hire Rich Cho, who was fired by the Blazers, as their GM?

It's also been speculated that the Blazers are waiting to hire a GM in part to save a few bucks. Charlotte obviously wasn't doing that.

There's still a lot more to the Cho story than we've heard, I've got to believe, and it probably involves an owner who wants to go in the proverbial "different direction" with the Blazer roster than Cho was advising.

In any case, Cho's stock obviously wasn't affected by his supposed flunked chemistry test with the Blazers - or by the surviving management's attempts to take credit after the fact for the Gerald Wallace trade with Charlotte.

• Good ratings for the NBA finals this year. It shows the value to the league of having a marquee team and semi-villain personality (Miami and LeBron James) AND a competitive underdog/likable challenger (Dallas).

By the way, it was nice having an NBA finals without much whining about the officials and without coaches lobbying between games for calls, too.

• John Spencer's tirade after the Portland Timbers' 1-0 loss last week to Colorado made for great copy, but it was nothing new in soccer.

Coaches often complain about the officials. Bobby Howe did it as Timbers coach, picking his spots. Spencer's immediate predecessor, Gavin Wilkinson, played the "refs were embarrasing" card over and over, making it as much his theme song as "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" is for Tony Bennett.

Among other things, Spencer ripped the referee in the Colorado game for not covering enough ground in following the play.

Heard that countless times, too. Losing coaches always seem to expect the referee to be a cross between Galen Rupp and Usain Bolt.

Of course, you always like it when a coach or athlete tells you how they really feel. And sure, some refs are better than others. But refs have to make calls all the time without being close enough to read all the sponsors' names on their jerseys.

And, let's face it, Spencer's remarks served in part to take the focus off of how and why the Portland defense blew the game, how the Timbers lost again at home and how they extended their losing streak to three games.

• MLB realignment talk interests me a lot. But even though major league baseball is struggling in many ways, it's hard for me to imagine the owners making drastic changes.

Some want to even the number of teams in each division or league, so that in one division a team doesn't have a 1-in-4 chance of winning while in another a team has a 1-in-5 or 1-in-6 chance.

Seems to me that the easiest way to do this is to move Houston into the AL West. That would give each of the six divisions five teams, and it would put Texas and Houston in the same division.

I also like to take pencil and paper and scribble out other alignments, like I'm commissioner of a tabletop or computer similation baseball league.

I did this last night while in alpha or theta mode, and I liked this geographically-based three-division format, with 10 teams in each division:

Division A

Seattle

Oakland

San Francisco

L.A. Angels

L.A. Dodgers

San Diego

Colorado

Arizona

Texas

Houston

Division B

N.Y. Yankees

N.Y. Mets

Boston

Philadelphia

Pittsburgh

Baltimore

Washington

Atlanta

Florida

Tampa Bay

Division C

Chicago Cubs

Chicago White Sox

Cincinnati

Cleveland

Milwaukee

Detroit

Toronto

Kansas City

Minnesota

St. Louis

Teams would be guaranteed 11 games against each division opponent (99 total), plus three games with each team in the other two divisions (60 games). To get to 162 games, teams would play an additional three-game series against a different division opponent each year.

Not sure what to name these make-believe divisions, but the American and National might have to give way to something like West, Central and East.

If you want a total of 10 teams in the playoffs instead of the current eight, take the top three teams in each division and add one wildcard.

I know this, or something like it, has less chance of flying than I do of winning 300 games and getting 3,000 hits. It's either too complicated or too easy, and three teams would have to say they finished 10th.

I find it fun to play around with the possibilities, though. And I can always try it out with Strat-O-Matic.

• If the universe is constantly expanding, why is it still so hard to find a parking space in Northwest Portland?