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From Maddux to Vandy, with a side trip to L.A.

By Randy Horick

JUNE 1, 1999:  "I'm getting a new job," chirped the voice at the other end of the phone. That single sentence gave me several key pieces of information. One, it was Dee from Atlanta. Two, since it was Monday morning and Dee was in his office, it meant either that he and his clients couldn't get an early tee time or that he needed to fill out some expense reports. Three, he was preparing to embark upon a full-bore rant against some team or player.

"What job?" I asked, accepting the bait.

"I'm going to join the pitching staff of the Atlanta Braves," he declared, his voice exuding the confidence of a man who has just drawn a fourth ace.

"Do the Braves know about this yet?" I inquired.

"Let's just say they're in the process of getting back to me," he replied.


"But here's my thinking. Do they REALLY need to pay Greg Maddux all those millions to lead the league in hits allowed, when I could accomplish that for, say, $100,000? I don't think so. Also, unlike Mark Wohlers, I can get the ball over the plate at least a couple of times an inning. And that's a conservative estimate."

"As usual," I said, "your logic dazzles. But I imagine the Braves figure that Maddux's numbers will get better."

"When that happens, I'll willingly step aside. For the good of the team. But right now they're a stupendously mediocre club."

"You also wouldn't look as good as Maddux in those Nike commercials."

"My dog and I take exception to that."

"Anyway, last time I checked, the Braves were leading their division."

"How do you let Gary Gaetti beat you with a grand slam?" fumed Dee, working himself into a funk. "His bat speed is slower than Heinz ketchup, so what do they throw him? A changeup. They stink."

"Well, I hate for you to hear it here first, but the Braves wouldn't be favored to beat Cleveland or the Yankees in the World Series, anyway."

"I'm not sure they'll beat the festered Mets."

"Might not."

"Not if their pitchers keep getting tattooed worse than Rodman and Iverson combined."

"Speaking of the Worm," I offered, looking for an exit, "the Lakers could have used him against San Antonio."

"Sure, what's one more cashew on a team of mixed nuts."

"Well, that's my theory as to why the Lakers couldn't keep him."

"Because he's a nut?"

"No, because the team is already full of celebrity head cases. They didn't want Rodman getting all the attention as the Chief Flake."

"It seemed like such a natural fit."

"Well, see, that's the irony. My theory is that playing in L.A. today makes you flaky. Shaq plays in two NBA Finals and a Conference Final with Orlando, but with the Lakers he's on some other planet half the time. Robert Horry wins with Houston, and now he couldn't tell you which direction the sun rises from. Kobe Bryant started off as this level-headed kid, and now he's convinced himself he really is Michael Jordan. He thinks just because he can drive, every doofy-looking thing he throws up will go straight in."

"Your theory would also explain Cedric Ceballos and Nick Van Exel."

"Exactly. And if you give Glen Rice another year out there, he'll be crazier than a road lizard, too."

"So you're saying that Rodman, because he was already wacked, would have been immune to the L.A. effect, stuck with his normal game, and therefore could have been the missing piece for the team."

"Exactly. But the rest of the lunatics were jealous, so they canned him and got swept."

"What they really needed against San Antonio was a tank or two."

"They HAD a tank--and all he did was whine about getting fouled and brick free throws."

"On the subject of fouls, it was nice to see Will Perdue again for the Spurs."

"Now there's a player who'll find a way to beat you--on the arms, upside the head...."

"You can outrun him, but you can't out-hammer him."

"I know--and just when he's in the spotlight, Travis Knight for the Lakers fouls out in just six minutes. Like he was trying to upstage the master or something."

"Speaking of master, you suppose Ricky Williams is shopping for a new agent about now?"

"He won't dump Master P."

"He might when he figures out how hard it is to average 100 yards a game in the NFL (especially for a team like the Saints)--and that he signed a deal that pays him like a rookie unless he puts up those kinds of numbers."

"Maybe he just wanted to give himself some goals to shoot for and didn't want to come across like some spoiled top draft pick. Some people might call that admirable."

"Here's what's admirable," retorted Dee. "I thought Ditka had finally gone nuts trading off every draft pick he had just to get Williams. But, this way, Williams could have a very good year and still not make a lot of money, so Ditka will have the cash to go out and buy a bunch of free agents to make up for the lost draft picks. He's a genius."

"We'll see. Personally, I think he's still a great candidate to be the first coach ever to spontaneously combust on the sidelines during a game. Wait till Danny Wuerffel throws a few interceptions."

"By the way," asked Dee, who with justification counts himself among the Taliban of Vanderbilt fans, "did the Commodores finally sign that point guard from Kentucky? The one that really wanted to be a Wildcat?"

"Rick Jones? Yeah, he finally mailed in his letter after he figured out that his phone really was working, it was just that Tubby Smith wasn't calling. You'll like this part. Now he says he wouldn't have played for Kentucky even if they HAD offered him a scholarship. He was MIFFED."

"Sounds suspicious to me. I wouldn't take him."

"You forget that if Vandy doesn't take him, they won't have a recruiting class this year. Besides, he was Mr. Basketball in Kentucky."

"I think he might be a plant."

"A whut?"

"You know, like the Manchurian Candidate or something. Those people up there might have hypnotized him to screw up whenever Vanderbilt plays the Wildcats."

"Not that you're a little paranoid or anything."

"It's a religion with them."

"Like snake handling?"


"Have you alerted Kevin Stallings about this?"

"Let's just say he's in the process of getting back to me."

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