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Thoughts for a new year

Sylas Wright
SierraSun

LaDainian Tomlinson is a great football player and Kevin Martin a rising star in the NBA. That established, the media ” or whoever is responsible ” has no right tagging them with already-taken nicknames.

L.T., as talking heads often call Tomlinson, was and still is Lawrence Taylor, no matter how many NFL records Tomlinson shatters or how old the original L.T. grows.

Same goes for Martin, the Sacramento Kings’ up-and-coming shooting guard who somehow has become K-Mart ” at least in the land of fervent Kings fans.

This cannot be. K-Mart is Kenyon Martin of the Denver Nuggets. Granted, the original K-Mart is injured and hasn’t posted stellar stats of late, but nevertheless, he shouldn’t have to share his nickname.

On the other Coast, some refer to New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter as Mr. October based on the unwavering clutch play he has become known for during the final month of the major league season.

While Jeter is among the most clutch baseball players of his generation ” as well as a true professional and a classy example of how to represent the game, both on and off the field ” he is not Mr. October. He can’t be. Hall of Fame slugger Reggie Jackson is. Has been for a long time.

What’s next, another Dr. J, T.O., A-Rod, Iron Mike, Flying Tomato?

No, the stolen moniker has to stop, and it starts with a little originality.

– For those who may have been vacationing in a cave this past week, the San Francisco Giants signed former Oakland A’s pitcher Barry Zito to a seven-year, $126 million contract ” the most lucrative in the club’s history.

Zito is good, though, winning 23 games and the American League Cy Young Award in 2002 and making 222 consecutive starts since his debut in 2000. He also has proven himself as an effective second-half pitcher, compiling a 59-27 record after the All-Star break.

However, Zito has only nine complete games in his career and zero over the past three seasons, meaning he relies largely on the bullpen to secure his wins.

For the Giants, that puts more emphasis on addressing their desperate need for a closer, assuming overpaid bust Armando Benitez continues his batting-practice relief pitching when the game is on the line.

What really makes the Zito deal dicey is simply the fact that he’s a pitcher ” a position reserved for freaks of nature whose arms must withstand the unnatural wear and tear associated with firing a ball 60-feet, 6-inches repeatedly.

Only time will tell if Zito defies the norm and continues to pitch worthy of a multi-million-dollar mega contract for seven years.

– On the subject of Bay Area baseball, the word “rival” is used too loosely. There is no Giants-A’s rivalry. Not in the true sense of the word, anyway.

The Giants and Dodgers, Yankees and Red Sox, Raiders and Broncos, Trojans and Bruins, Lakers and Wolverines are rivals.

The only rivalry between the Giants and A’s is the one created by the media and those in charge of interleague game scheduling ” same thing with the 49ers and Raiders.

The Giants and A’s are not even in the same league, and many baseball fans in this area root for both. So that cross-bay rivalry talk needs to be squashed in 2007 like the stolen nickname racket.

Oh yeah, I nearly forgot: Happy New Year!

Sylas Wright is the sports editor at the Sierra Sun. He may be reached at swright@sierrasun.com.


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