Sports Briefs

Posted: Sunday, August 17, 2003

Smith suspended for violating drug policy

Receiver Jimmy Smith of the Jacksonville Jaguars was suspended for four games by the NFL on Saturday for violating the league's substance abuse policy. Details of Smith's violation are confidential.

Smith, an 11-year veteran who has been to five Pro Bowls, told his teammates about the suspension during an emotional meeting Saturday.

Later, he released a statement through the team that said, ''I would like to apologize to my families, parents, friends, the Jaguars organization and fans. I would especially like to apologize to (owner) Wayne Weaver, who I know I have embarrassed and disappointed so much. I am sincerely sorry that I have concealed this from everyone and let them down.''

In 2001, the leading receiver in team history was found to have traces of metabolized cocaine in his system after being pulled over for speeding and on suspicion of drunk driving. He was never charged, and when news of the drug test went public he angrily denied doing cocaine.

Coach told players to lie about Dennehy

WACO, Texas Former Baylor basketball coach Dave Bliss tried to cover up alleged NCAA violations by telling assistant coaches and players to lie and say a slain player had been dealing drugs to pay for school, secretly recorded audiotapes reveal.

The recordings were made by an assistant coach who turned them over to Baylor and NCAA investigators on Friday. Copies of the tapes were obtained by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

''The tapes reveal a desperate man trying to figure out how to cover himself and to cover up'' NCAA violations, said Kirk Watson, counsel for Baylor's in-house investigations committee.

Bliss talked to two or three players about the scheme, although only one took the phony story to investigators and he has since recanted. Watson would not identify the player.

Neither Bliss nor any of his assistant coaches actually used the fake story with investigators, Watson said.

Hatch out with torn ACL

ANAHEIM, Calif. The U.S. women's gymnastics team endured its second big loss in two days Saturday when vault specialist Annia Hatch tore ligaments in her left knee during practice.

Hatch was hurt performing a vault and was taken to the hospital. USA gymnastics officials said she completely tore her ACL and meniscus.

The 1996 world-championship bronze medalist joins reigning world balance beam champion Ashley Postell on the sidelines. Postell has a severe case of stomach flu and was scratched by team coordinator Martha Karolyi on Friday.

The women's preliminaries begin Sunday, and the Americans had been considered strong contenders for the gold medal. Now, their hopes aren't nearly as bright, especially considering they lost their best gymnast in their weakest event.

Pirates trade Simon in another deal with Cubs

PITTSBURGH First baseman Randall Simon was traded Saturday by Pittsburgh to the Chicago Cubs for a minor league outfielder the third regular the Pirates have dealt to the Cubs in less than a month.

The deal follows the July 22 trade that sent third baseman Aramis Ramirez and center fielder Kenny Lofton to Chicago in a salary-cutting move that drew considerable fan criticism in Pittsburgh.

In the latest deal, the Pirates get Ray Sadler, who is hitting .291 with 31 doubles, six homers and 42 RBIs at Double-A West Tenn.

Simon is best known this season for hitting one of the Milwaukee Brewers' racing sausages with his bat last month, drawing fines from local authorities and Major League Baseball in addition to a three-game suspension.

With the Cubs struggling for production at first base, Simon figures to get considerable playing time down the stretch. The left handed-hitter is batting .274 with 10 homers and 51 RBIs.

''He can play first base and he's got a quality bat off the bench,'' Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said. ''He's almost a lifetime .300 hitter. He's got a good personality.''

Chicago trails first-place Houston by a half-game in the NL Central. The Cubs also have Eric Karros and Hee Seop Choi at first base, leaving manager Dusty Baker with plenty of options the rest of the season.

''He will play who's hot. He's got really good instincts with that,'' Hendry said.

Simon hit .301 with 19 homers and 82 RBIs last season with Detroit, but wasn't re-signed because the Tigers like the Pirates now were looking to slash payroll.

Simon, who is making $1,475,000, is eligible for arbitration after this season. With the Pirates looking to trim their payroll by as much as $20 million in 2004, general manager Dave Littlefield said he didn't fit into their long-range plans.

''With where we're at now, we're looking at giving our at-bats at first base to other players,'' Littlefield said. ''As we look to 2004, we didn't see Randall being part of our team. He'll be a second-year arbitration eligible player and he didn't really seem to fit what we're doing.''

The Pirates, who have had 10 straight losing seasons, plan to rebuild mostly with prospects and low-priced players. They've dealt the three everyday regulars, starting pitcher Jeff Suppan, closer Mike Williams and setup man Scott Sauerback over the last 3 1/2 weeks.

The trades follow owner Kevin McClatchy's recent claim the team might lose as much as $30 million in its first three seasons in PNC Park.

For the rest of the season, the Pirates probably will split the playing time at first base among Craig Wilson, Matt Stairs and Carlos Rivera.

Sadler, a .308 hitter in his first four pro seasons, has good speed but wasn't considered a top prospect coming out of high school. He was a 30th-round draft pick by the Cubs in 1999.

''He's an athletic guy who's performed pretty well,'' Littlefield said. ''He's a fast outfielder who can play a good center field. Like a lot of young hitters, he has trouble with command of the strike zone, but we really like his athleticism.''

Pittsburgh fans certainly didn't seem to like the first Cubs-Pirates trade that sent Ramirez and Lofton to the Cubs for third baseman Jose Hernandez, minor league second baseman Bobby Hill and minor league pitcher Matt Bruback.

Hernandez is on pace to set a single-season strikeout record and almost certainly won't return to the Pirates next season. They already have taken Bruback off their 40-man roster and exposed him to waivers, meaning they probably will end up only with Hill for two of their most productive regulars.

Fans have flooded the team and newspapers with e-mails and phone calls criticizing the deal, with many saying McClatchy is worried only about not losing money.

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