Joe Santoro: Sports fodder for a Friday |

Joe Santoro: Sports fodder for a Friday

Seeding will mean absolutely nothing in this year’s Western Athletic Conference men’s basketball tournament next week at Lawlor Events Center. You can play the first-place team in your first game. You can play the last-place team. You can go to the corner 7-Eleven, recruit the first five guys who aren’t confused by the push or pull sign on the door and play them. It doesn’t matter. Your odds of winning or losing are equal in any of those games. And that goes for every team in the conference. Welcome to the Wonderful World of the Wild, Wild WAC where every player is just as likely to hit the game-winning shot at the buzzer as shoot the ball off the side of a cheerleader’s head. It promises to be a very entertaining week.

Is there any question that Mark Fox and his coaching staff are the best recruiters in the WAC? Under Fox, the Wolf Pack has had two of the last four WAC Freshmen of the Year in Ramon Sessions (2004-05) and Armon Johnson (2007-08). And this year it should be three of the last five with Luke Babbitt. That tells you three things about Fox and his staff: First, they recognize young talent at the high school level. Second, they can recruit young talent. And, third, they aren’t afraid to put the ball in the hands of that young talent right away.

Utah State’s Stew Morrill also is deserving, but Fox is certainly worthy of his fourth WAC Coach of the Year award in the past five years. This has been Fox’s best season of coaching since he got the top job in the spring of 2004. It’s March and the Pack is on its way to another 20-win season and a possible NCAA Tournament spot. What else can you ask for? And, don’t forget, this is a season when, at any time, it was more than likely that four of the five guys on the floor were playing high school ball just two years ago. This Pack team is so young most of them think Nick Fazekas played when the Pack wore short shorts. It’s time the Pack starts making room for the Fox statue in Legacy Hall.

The Los Angeles Dodgers just bought the National League West title by signing Manny Ramirez. Forget the numbers. Everybody knows that Manny will hit 35 homers, drive in 125 runs and hit .300. That’s a given. The man is on his way to the Hall of Fame. But the best thing Manny does for the Dodgers is he takes all of the pressure off the Dodger youngsters Matt Kemp, James Loney and Russell Martin. You can argue that the Dodgers have the best everyday lineup in baseball to go along with the best manager. Sorry, Giants fans. But don’t worry. The best team never wins the World Series anymore.

Yu Darvish is now my favorite player in all of baseball. It’s not even close. First of all, you have to love that name. And that’s just the cliff notes version. His dad is Iranian (his mother is Japanese) so his real last name is Darvishsefad. Try putting that on the back of a uniform. He’s 6-foot-5, is just 22-years-old, has four strikeout pitches and he just opened the World Baseball Classic by not allowing a hit to China in four innings. The kid has it all. He should be a character on Heroes.

Do you want Terrell Owens on your favorite football team? The Oakland Raiders, for some reason, are already rumored to have interest. Didn’t they learn anything from Randy Moss? There are some teams ” the Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Tampa Bay Bucs, St. Louis Rams, to name a few ” who probably should take a chance on Owens, if only to sell a few season tickets. Actually, if some team had the guts, they could sign Owens and Marvin Harrison, coax Brett Favre out of retirement, and give itself an instant Hall of Fame offense. Two decades ago Al Davis would have already added all three ” not to mention Michael Vick and Pacman Jones ” to the roster by now.

Don’t be shocked to see the Oakland A’s in the playoffs next fall. Crazy? Probably. But the additions of Matt Holiday, Orlando Cabrera and Jason Giambi just might make this team 20 games better than they were in 2008. The Giants also will be at least 10 games better this year. It’s going to be nice to have actual major league baseball in the Bay Area again.

” Joe Santoro writes a weekly column for the Nevada Appeal, the Sierra Sun’s sister paper in Carson City.

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