- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 22, 2009

The more I hear about this phony Nationals prospect, the more I’m beginning to wonder if he even speaks Spanish.

• • •

Here’s the Nats’ biggest problem: When 19-year-old Esmailyn Gonzalez turns out to be 23-year-old Carlos Alvarez, there’s no way you can blame it on a typographical error.

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Heck, I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that Gonzalez/Alvarez is the illegitimate son of Sidd Finch - that pitcher with the 168 mph fastball that George Plimpton dreamed up years ago.

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I have just one question for club president Stan Kasten: The kid’s birthday wouldn’t be April Fools’ Day, would it?

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Maybe they could trade him even-up for Joe Hardy.

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“Make no mistake,” Kasten said, “this wasn’t a college kid with a fake ID that came in and did this.”

You’ve got that right, Stan. I mean, a college kid with a fake ID would probably still be buying rounds at the team watering hole.

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About the only way this story could be better is if Gonzalez/Alvarez had invested his $1.4 million bonus with Bernie Madoff.

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You know what this situation is almost exactly like? It’s like Washington spending $611 million on a ballpark and thinking it was getting a major league team.

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Let’s see, we’ve got Josh McDaniels in Denver, Eric Mangini in Cleveland, Scott Pioli and Todd Haley in Kansas City - all former Bill Belichick proteges. If this keeps up, there won’t be anybody on the NFL injury report.

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On the list of franchise players this year are a 5-foot-6 running back who has never rushed for more than 330 yards in a season (the Chargers’ Darren Sproles), a quarterback who started his first game in nine years last fall (the Patriots’ Matt Cassel), a punter who finished 27th in the league in net average (the Falcons’ Michael Koenen) and a receiver who was out of football in ‘07 because of a failed drug test and general misbehavior (the Bucs’ Antonio Bryant).

Next year let’s shoot for a long snapper and a one-legged tight end.

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Then there’s Seahawks outside linebacker Leroy Hill, who has yet to make the Pro Bowl and whose sacks have dropped from 7.5 as a rookie to one last season, his fourth in the NFL. For this he gets franchised and paid a guaranteed $8.3 million? Who needs Wall Street CEOs when you’ve got franchise players?

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Did you see Lou Holtz is taking a squad of former Notre Damers to Tokyo to play against Japan’s national football team?

Boy, some schools will do anything to be bowl eligible.

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Something tells me the Irish will have more sakes while they’re over there than sacks.

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The matchup I’m really looking forward to is Benny Guilbeaux, the erstwhile ND safety, against Benihana.

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Fearless prediction: Even with the language barrier, Holtz will be no less understandable to the Japanese than he is to us.

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Now that Tiger Woods is returning to the PGA Tour in this week’s Match Play Championship, it might be interesting to see which players have made the most hay while Tiger’s been away. So let me break out the calculator and figure out who the top money winners on the tour have been since Woods packed it in after last year’s U.S. Open (with the Northern Trust Open still to be completed).

1. Vijay Singh, $4,318,063

2. Camilo Villegas, $3,766,679

3. Kenny Perry, $3,610,062

4. Anthony Kim, 3,003,143

5. Paddy Harrington, $2,984,455

6. Mike Weir, $2,707,883

7. Dustin Johnson, $2,577,720

8. Sergio Garcia, $2,461,054

9. Zach Johnson, $2,348,375

10. Ken Duke, $1,887,652

Who would have guessed last June that Duke, who was 122nd on the money list at the time with $368,573, would spend the next eight months outearning Phil Mickelson ($1,259,665), Jim Furyk ($1,856,203), Adam Scott ($729,851), Ernie Els ($1,252,418) and Justin Leonard ($1,288,225)? Indeed, Duke, a 40-year-old who has never won on the tour, almost made more dough than Mickelson and Scott combined.

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Everybody got a kick out of the Penn State basketball team scoring 38 points the other night and beating Illinois - the same number of points the Nittany Lions put up against the Illini in football last season.

But that kind of stuff happens more often than you’d think. Why, 11 days earlier, Tulsa beat UTEP 76-65 - after running up 77 points on them (11 touchdowns, 11 PATs) back in October.

All it takes is a below-freezing shooting night - somewhere between Antarctica and the Yukon Territory - or a football coach who likes to make the scoreboard explode.

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Oklahoma, which scored TDs by the helmetful last year, has almost done it twice this hoops season.

c Vs. Texas A&M;: 66 points in football, 69 in basketball (on Jan. 17).

c Vs. Kansas State: 58 in football, 61 in basketball.

(And the Sooners may yet accomplish the feat. All they need is an off-game against 11th-ranked Missouri on March 4. Their footballers dropped 62 on the Tigers, you may recall, in the Big 12 title game.)

• • •

I keep hearing that Joe Smith, the Maryland legend, might go to the Celtics for the stretch run if he can get the Thunder to buy out his contract. Joe sure has gotten around, hasn’t he? If he ends up in Boston, it would be the 10th club he has played for in 14 seasons, and Doc Rivers would be his 14th coach (not counting one interim).

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When Joe retires, they shouldn’t give him a rocking chair, they should give him a GPS receiver.

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And finally…

Am I the only one who wishes the Wizards would lose the gold uniforms? They look like they’re at a Shriners convention, for goodness sakes.

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