King Kaufman's Sports Daily

Don't call it a comeback! Actually, do call it that. Ricky Williams, Barry Larkin and Larry Brown are in various stages of reanimation.


Salon Staff
July 26, 2005 11:03PM (UTC)

The first thing Ricky Williams did upon returning to the Miami Dolphins Monday was apologize to his teammates for the way he left, and then later he apologized to fans at a press conference.

So I guess I won't be hearing from any of the people who wrote letters a year ago taking me to task for saying Williams, whom I'd previously had a soft spot for, had acted like a self-centered punk.

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"I do realize that to a lot of people, it comes off as being very, very selfish," he said Monday.

And while Williams stopped just short of admitting that he had been selfish -- "to a lot of people, it comes off" -- he did actually apologize, for real. I mean, this guy just can't seem to follow the rules. Doesn't he know that people in sports are only supposed to offer non-apology apologies?

Before the quote above Williams said, "I realized by making that decision [to quit on the eve of training camp], I affected the team in a negative way. I upset a lot of the fans. I'm very regretful that people were hurt in the process of me doing that."

And then after the thing about being "selfish" he said, "So I do offer an apology to all the people who were negatively affected by my decision."

Ricky, Ricky, Ricky. Here's how it should have gone:

"I realize that some people may have interpreted my leaving as an act of selfishness. I'm sorry they felt that way. To anyone who may have felt hurt or offended by my doing the things I felt were necessary, I can only say I regret that you're so sensitive. What I think is important now is that we all move on. Thank you."

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In response to a question, Williams admitted that money played into his decision to come back to the Dolphins. A judge found him in breach of contract and ordered him to return millions in bonus money to the team. Kind of a silly question and a silly thing to have to admit. I can't think of a reason to play professional football -- a job that routinely leaves workers crippled by middle age -- other than for the money.

But whatever his reasons for coming back, financial, spiritual, the realization that smoking dope with Lenny Kravitz is only fun for so long, I'm upset with Williams for the way he's handling his return. It's just no fun for us columnists if a guy acts like a self-centered punk one time, then turns around and admits it and owns up to it and apologizes for real and acts like a grown-up.

We like to keep things simple.

Having settled all outstanding Ricky Williams business, here's what I think his return means for the Miami Dolphins: Not much. Williams was pretty much toast by the time he left. The guy carried the mail 775 times in his two years with the Dolphins. The next busiest workhorse, Jamaal Lewis of the Baltimore Ravens, carried the ball 695 times in those two years, 11 percent less often.

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That's a ton of pounding, and it took its toll. Williams rushed for 4.8 yards per carry in 2002, 3.5 in 2003. You can attribute some of that to weaker blocking if you want to, but the Dolphins' other running backs, Travis Minor and Rob Konrad, averaged 4.6 a carry that year.

And now Williams is coming back after a year off, and he's 28, which is old for a running back who isn't named Curtis Martin. If Miami's going to get production out of the running back position, it's going to have to come from first-round draft pick Ronnie Brown.

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Yo, Dick Cheney: Grab a bat [PERMALINK]

You know things are going badly for a baseball team when the general manager starts trolling the front office looking for guys who can suit up. That's what's happening in Washington, where Nationals G.M. Jim Bowden has asked his special advisor to take off his tie and go play shortstop.

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Barry Larkin was to have made a decision by Tuesday about whether to do it or not. Media rumblings are that he'll say yes.

Larkin retired after last season, his 19th with the Cincinnati Reds. He won three Gold Gloves and an MVP award and made the All-Star team 12 times in a career that should land him in the Hall of Fame someday. Even at 41, he should be an upgrade over Cristian Guzman, who is putting up offensive numbers that would be acceptable only if he were a pitcher. A good pitcher.

Guzman is hitting .186, with an on-base percentage of .226 and a slugging percentage of .275 for an OPS of .501. You pretty much get an OPS of .500 for putting your uniform on. It's like how you get 400 on your SAT for writing your name.

In his worst year, 2002, Larkin put up numbers that looked about like a typical Guzman season in Minnesota, where he spent six years playing in a hitter's park before signing with the Nationals this winter.

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Larkin rebounded and had a couple of nice seasons in 2003 and '04. Not Barry Larkin perennial All-Star seasons, but decent. Better than anything Guzman's ever done.

Don't get me wrong. The Nationals would be getting a guy with diminished skills who's been working in the front office for half a season. But a 41-year-old Barry Larkin would be an upgrade from Cristian Guzman, even if Guzman, who has about an average glove, is a little better in the field than Larkin would figure to be at this point.

Shoot, a 41-year-old Lenny Kravitz would be an upgrade from Cristian Guzman, and 71-year-old Luis Aparicio might be a wash.

The Nats signing Guzman to a four-year, $16 million contract before this season has to rank among the worst fiscal decisions made in Washington since the heyday of the $7,600 coffee pot. It's the kind of personnel move made by teams that don't go on to spend most of the season in first place.

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In other words, the Guzman signing was one more thing that's made the Nationals' run thus far so surprising. Their current slump -- they've lost 13 of their last 18 -- has dropped them into a first-place tie with the Atlanta Braves in both the National League East and the wild-card race.

Even with Guzman sitting on the bench or released, I don't believe the Nationals will make the playoffs this year, though I hope they do because that'd be a fun story. For all the talk of the veteran leadership Larkin will provide, the Nationals need more than that.

They trail the league in runs scored, and not all of that is attributable to their home park. The Nats need bats. If they could get that other Barry who's been sitting out this year, they might be on to something.

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Larry Brown in New York [PERMALINK]

Speaking of veteran leadership, ladies and germs: Larry Brown!

The former Cougars, Nuggets, Nets, Spurs, Clippers, Pacers, Sixers, Pistons, Bruins, Jayhawks and Olympics coach is all set to take over in New York.

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For the Knicks, hiring Brown can be thought of as "Hey, look! We got Larry Brown to coach [whispered: this collection of bums we're stuck with for the duration because of our mismanaged salary cap]. Buy tickets! It's going to be an exciting year [think of the drama that awaits as Brown begins negotiating with the Utah Jazz, Toronto Raptors, Beijing Sharks and Harrison High School Warriors by the All-Star break! If he stays it will be trouble -- but if he goes it will be double!]. Don't miss it!"

Three predictions for the Knicks if Brown signs on: 1) 48 wins next year, a 15-game improvement. 2) No championships. 3) New coach by the start of 2007-08.

Previous column: After Sunday, I'm a believer

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