Like Sockers, maybe Blast better off with so-so regular season


Now that the Major Soccer League All-Star Game is history, it's time for the Blast to take care of a more important matter -- winning a bunch of league games and getting in position for the playoffs.

The Blast is in an unusual spot, stuck with a losing record (17-18) with only 17 games remaining. This is a radical switch for the Baltimore team.

One of coach Kenny Cooper's former players believes the Blast coach will be under a new kind of pressure the rest of the way.

"Kenny's goal every year is to finish the regular season with the best record in the league," the player says. "I think he feels that way he solidifies himself with the owner.

"But in pushing the team so hard to attain that goal, he burns out a lot of players. They just can't treat every game like it's the end of the world for 52 games and have anything left for the playoffs, which are really the most important part of the season.

"That's why the Blast has such an outstanding regular-season record year after year but hasn't won the championship since 1984."

In any event, Cooper will have to start turning things around beginning with the Blast's next game here Saturday (7:35 p.m.) against Dallas. Baltimore has lost three in a row and five of its last six.

Maybe Cooper is pulling a compete switcheroo this year, taking it easy now (San Diego Sockers style) and saving it for the playoffs.

* The Los Angeles Lakers weren't even close to the NBA record for consecutive wins when their 16-game streak was ended Tuesday in Phoenix. And who should know that better than the Lakers? They hold the record: 33 straight in '71-'72.

If you're a true pro basketball buff, you can name the starting five for that Lakers team: guards Gail Goodrich and Jerry West (now the GM), forwards Jim McMillian and Happy Hairston and center Wilt Chamberlain.

* The late Bill Veeck's son, Mike, who is a graduate of Loyola College, is a chip off the old block. Mike, 38, runs a minor-league ballclub in Florida called the Pompano Storm.

Young Veeck wrote Baltimore adman Bill Costello, an old friend, recently and said: "You've got to come down for opening day. I plan to have Minnie Minoso in the lineup." Minoso, a favorite of the elder Veeck when Bill ran the White Sox, is now 68 years old.

* Indoor lacrosse brings out the savage beast even in players who have been models of decorum in their outdoor careers. Paul Gait, one of the fabled Syracuse U. twins, now of the Detroit Turbos, had a fight with John Tucker of the Philadelphia Wings in a game last weekend.

* I watched the Bullets' John Williams make his first appearance of the season Tuesday in the 102-92 loss at San Antonio. Big John looked like a man who had missed 112 games, which he had. He has a long way to go to regain his timing and conditioning.

Ledell Eackles, come to think of it, appears almost as roly-poly as Williams -- and Eackles led Bullets scorers with 24 points. The Bullets have a game coming up in the Baltimore Arena Sunday afternoon with Cleveland.

* Cal Ripken and his agent, Ron Shapiro, rather than being upset that the Orioles will pay Glenn Davis more this year ($3,275,000) than Ripken's $2,466,667, have to love it. All Davis has done is drive the market up for Rip and every other Orioles player. Now Cal will get more in his contract to begin in '93 than he would have otherwise.

The contract that has major-league owners and executives stewing is Roger Clemens' $21.5 million deal with Boston. Personally, I have no sympathy for the owners. Not one player or agent has come in with a gun to negotiate.

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