THE UKIAH DAILY JOURNAL WEDNESDAY, DEC. 1, 1999 —9 Familiar story for the Raiders * Once again, a collapse. * For five straight seasons now, the big collapse. \ Collapsing is the only consistency the Raiders have shown since returning to Oakland in 1995. I Instead of a pirate's head, the Raiders logo should be five flat tires, including the spare. One flat per season. * The Raiders us"ed to spin out playoff t^ams every year, but that was long ago. The current Raiders give early signs of playoff potential, then collapse. It happened again Sunday, only with a more resounding thud. The Raiders had a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter, but Kansas City won the game, 37-34. How did it happen? A broken pass coverage, a fumbled pass reception, a missed field goal. But regardless of the reasons, it always happens. The final margin throws everyone off. The Raiders haven't been out of a single game all year, yet their record is 5-6. All together now: They're just good enough to lose. Well, it's true. Let us count the ways, but you can't even blame Rickey Dudley for the team's insufferable play. Dudley, in recent weeks, has looked like the tight end of the 21st century. He's scoring touchdowns, he's not dropping passes. Maybe he had a hands transplant, but it's working finally, in his fourth NFL season. Then what's wrong? The answer is a little bit of everything. Rich Gannon has days when he looks anything but his image as a journeyman quarterback. On other days, he definitely is a journeyman. One such day was Sunday. Gannon threw two interceptions, both horribly off the mark, and one was returned for a touchdown by Cris Dishman. Another such day was a week ago Monday in Denver. Gannon's strength is that he's a good runner and passer. But against the Broncos, he couldn't make up his mind whether to pass or run. This indecisiveness contributed to a 27-21 overtime defeat for NEWHOUSE NEWS BY DAVE NEWHOUSE the Raiders. Though it's hardly all Gannon's fault, the Raiders are a combined 2-17 against the Chiefs and Broncos since moving back to Oakland. So what are the other contributing factors to the Raiders falling out of the playoff chase, even though they aren't yet mathematically eliminated? Their wide receivers since coming back to Oakland have been Tim Brown and James Jett. Brown is a great talent, though you can count on him now for at least one drop per game. Jett is a speedster without moves or moxie for the football. The Raiders desperately need a big-time deep threat such as Marvin Harrison of Indianapolis in order to juice their offense. Brown and Jett together haven't produced a plus .500 season yet in Oakland. The Raiders' offensive line is solid, especially with Napoleon Kaufman and Tyrone Wheatley running behind it, and fullback Jon Ritchie blocking and catching the ball effectively. Punter Leo Araguz, arguably the team's MVP last year, has been inconsistent this fall. Kicker Michael Husted has been horrendous. His missed 44-yard field goal with two minutes left Sunday cost the Raiders a chance to win the game, possibly in overtime. Cole Ford, Greg Davis and now Husted - can't the Raiders find an accurate kicker? Defensively, the Raiders have done a good job all year. Two Chiefs touchdowns came off Raiders offensive turnovers. Oakland's front seven has been decent. The linebacker's only weakness is pass coverage. In the secondary, cornerback Eric Allen and strong safety Anthony Newman are suspect, while free safety Eric Turner continues to battle injuries. The coaching has been fine. Jon Gruden isn't the reason the team is under .500 with five weeks left. He has had more of a positive effect on his teams than his predecessors, Mike White and Joe Bugel. The Raiders simply need better players if they're going to make the playoffs. They also need better character. A perfect case in point is defensive tackle Darrell Russell. Upset with "dirty" blocking tactics by Denver's linemen, Russell vowed revenge on the Broncos quarterback before the recent game at Mile High Stadium. Russell said he would "break him off," like one would snap a twig off a branch. Russell also said he would "try and kill him" if the Denver linemen didn't play fair. They played fair, and Russell never got to the quarterback - or anyone else. He didn't have one tackle, not even an assist. And' he was blocked one-on-one most of the game. Russell was a Pro Bowl starter last year, but he followed up that dreadful performance in Denver by recording one tackle against the Chiefs. Apparently, Russell can't walk the talk. The Raiders need players who will shut up and play, players who will produce every Sunday, especially in meaningful games like the last two. Unless they find these players in the near future, you can expect a sixth collapse next season. Dave Newhouse is a columnist for the Oakland Tribune/ANG Newspapers. LT pleads no contest to cocaine charges Associated Press CLEARWATER, Fla. — It wasn't easy to get Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor to change his plea from innocent to no contest on charges he bought crack cocaine. "It's kind of tough to swallow that pill." Taylor's lawyer. Angelo Ferlita, said Tuesday, noting that Taylor avoided a potentially lengthy trial and can now move on with his life. Circuit Judge Lauren Laughlin withheld a finding of guilt against Taylor, charged with buying the drug last year while in St. Pete Beach for a celebrity golf tournament. After first arguing that police entrapped him. Taylor decided not to fight charges of buying crack cocaine, possession of crack cocaine and possession of drug paraphernalia. Laughlin said she was prepared to sentence Taylor to 18 months of probation. Her ruling means Taylor would have no criminal record in this case if he successfully completes probation. She set sentencing for Feb. 1, and ordered Taylor to pay about $1,250 in court costs and the cost of the police investigation. Asked why he changed his plea from innocent, the 40-year-old Taylor said as he left the courthouse, "I'm not answering nothing." Ferlita earlier asked the judge to dismiss the charges, insisting the former linebacker was entrapped by police. Ferlita said police used an informant to set up Taylor, preying on the retired football star because of his history of drug abuse. The plea came during a pretrial hearing. Police informant Clemente Brown took the stand and said Taylor approached him to buy drugs. Ferlita did not dispute that. However, he tried to portray Brown as a cocaine addict who hoped to score more drugs from Taylor. And when he didn't, he went to police and offered to set up the ex-player, Ferlita said. Taylor, of Saddle River, N.J., was charged in October of 1998 in St. Pete Beach. "You don't take drugs to somebody's hotel room at two in the morning when they have a drug addiction," Ferlita said. Taylor was arrested on similar charges two years ago. Baseball approves Yankees merger with the Nets Associated Press IRVING, Texas — Just hours after baseball gave its approval, the New York Yankees and New Jersey Nets, completed-the first merger between a major league and NBA team. "The resulting company, Yan- keeNets, intends to become a significant sports and entertainment entity," Howard Rubenstein, a Yankees spokesman and a member of the new company's Doard, said Tuesday. The merger does not change ihe control of either team, meaning that George Steinbrenner is still The Boss of the World Series champions. NBA . owners approved the deal several months ago. "There were some changes made overall, although George is still clearly running the New York Yankees," commissioner Bud Selig said. "We.approved the transfer of some control to the YankeeNets board." While no action was taken on issues such as revenue sharing and the expiration of the luxury tax, baseball owners also gave their unanimous approval to the sale of the Montreal Expos and the change in control for the Seattle Mariners. "We'covered a lot of subjects today, but these are the reasons I convened the meeting. We needed to take care of these items," said Selig, who had tried to keep the 3 1/2-hour session secret. Steinbrenner, like other owners, refused comment after the meeting. The sale of the Expos to a group headed by New York art dealer Jeffrey Loria had been in the works since last winter, tied to a proposal to construct a new baseball-only ballpark in downtown Montreal. Expos chairman Jacques Menard, part of Claude Brochu's ownership group, helped put together Loria's group, which would take over the lowest- drawing team in the major leagues. Montreal drew just 773,227 to Olympic Stadium this year, more than 400,000 fewer fans than any other team and an average of just 9,547. "I am very hopeful that this is going to contribute to the long- term stability and health of the Montreal Expos franchise, and I'm glad to have that behind us," Selig said. Now Brochu and the other partners can move forward and ' determine when the sale will be finalized. Former Nintendo of America Inc. executive Howard Lincoln became chairman of the Mariners in September, two months before the approval Tuesday from the other owners. Despite that move, John Ellis will continue to represent Seattle on baseball's executive council. Lincoln has said he plans to boost the Mariners' payroll about as high as he can, $65 million to $70 million, about a 30 percent increase, after three years at roughly $50 million. As for the Yankees-Nets merger, Steinbrenner decided to merge his team's business operations with the Nets last February after breaking off sale talks with Cablevision Systems Corp. Steinbrenner concluded the Yankees needed a partner before the expiration of their current TV deal, a $486 million, 12-year contract with the MSG Network that runs through next season. Cablevision acquired the MSG Network when it gained control of: Madison 'Square Garden,'which gave Cablevision a monopoly on regional sports cable in New York City. RELIABLE EMPLOYEES Keady to Work! Tim Fletcher, Manager Maverick Enterprises, Inc. "Tom Crespo works for us as a Compactor andForklifi Driver. He began as a part time worker and advanced tofiill time, eventually taking on more responsibilities. Much of our work here is routine and many people dislike routine work, so do not stay. We have found a permanent, reliable employee in Tom, who is anxious to work and appreciates the opportunity." 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"While we are pleased that the district attorney has seen fit to drop the charges, we're disappointed they were filed in the first place," Dykstra's attorney, Daniel Petrocelli, said Tuesday after a motion brought by the Ventura County District attorney's office to dismiss the charges was granted. "The case had no merit from the outset," Petrocelli said. "No incident of harassment occurred, let alone anything that could conceivably justify the filing of a criminal prosecution." When Dykstra was arrested, spokesman Allan Mayer said the teen-ager claimed Dykstra touched her outside her clothing. "While the district attorney believes that the defendant did engage in the conduct as origi- nally described by the victim, the subsequent investigation revealed additional facts which leads to the conclusion that the charges alleged in the complaint cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury," the district attorney's motion read in part. Deputy District Attorney Ryan Wright, who prosecuted the case, said he wouldn't comment further because of the girl's age. "Based on our investigation and the evidence we marshaled and turned over to the district attorney's office, it was confirmed that the young lady who brought these charges was not honest, and not credible," Petrocelli said. "It's not uncommon for high-profile personalities, sports figures, to be a target for unmeritorious charges." Following his arrest, Dykstra was taken to a sheriff's station and then released on $5,000 bail. Simi Valley police Sgt. Bob Gardner said at that time that the alleged incident occurred Oct. 1 at the car wash, where the teenager was employed. "She was an employee of Mr. Dykstra's car wash, she came to his car wash facility at a time of day when she knew he was present, when she was not scheduled to work, she was supposed to be in school," Petrocelli said. "She sought him out and engaged him in conversation. The next thing Mr. Dykstra knew, she was alleging sexual harassment against him. "He is extremely disappointed and dismayed that his name, reputation, as well as his business have been sullied by the filing of these false charges. But at the same time, he is relieved that whatever damage has been done can now stop and hopefully be rectified." Petrocelli said he would review the former outfielder's legal problems but was certain Dykstra wanted to put the matter behind him "without any further damage to his name and reputation." Dykstra announced his retirement a year ago after he was unable to come back from a debilitating back injury. Known as "Nails" for his hard-nosed style of play, Dykstra played for the Mets and Philadelphia Phillies for 12-plus seasons. He led the Phillies to the World Series in 1993, when he led the NL in at-bats, runs, hits and walks. Dykstra, who hit .285 as a big leaguer, was a member of the Phillies when he retired. Please Join u, OPE HOUSE Monday, December 6 Sauings Bank OF MENDOCINO COUNTY A Full Service Community Bank Member FDIC •100 REFRESHMENTS DRAWINGS Christmas Shopping Sprees (issued in American Express Travelers Cheques) '/!« WINNER at EACH BRANCH HOLIDAY OOD DRIVE Please bring nonperishable foods and new toys for local Christmas efforts.
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