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Columnist
Benson story just doesn't stand up
By Barry Rozner | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 5/8/2008 12:13 AM

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Far be it from me to question the report from, or the tactics used by, the officers of the Lower Colorado River Authority, which patrols Lake Travis.

And while one can certainly make assumptions about the treatment of wealthy black athletes who may skirt the law near Austin, Texas, I'm not doing that, either.

However, something else about the Cedric Benson episode hasn't made sense from the moment the story broke.

This is a man who makes his living on a football field, where even the most gentle of personalities are transformed into hired killers, where even the most refined of gentlemen off the field take grand pleasure in trying to decapitate their fellow humans.

And, yet, to this day you've yet to see Cedric Benson suggest by his actions that he has any interest in any physical confrontation on the field, let alone off it, where he seems three-quarters asleep most of the time.

This is a guy who has never broken a tackle in anger, and not even with a 7-yard head start can he bulldoze an opposing defensive player, standing upright and still.

Breathe on him, and Benson falls down.

He is perhaps the softest 220-pound Chicago Bear in recent memory.

The public is supposed to believe, however, that this same man resisted arrest, even while handcuffed, to the point where he needed to get hit with pepper spray, and that during the event he used profanity and was combative, cocky and insulting.

Without wanting to pile on here, if Benson ever resisted tackles in that manner, it'd be easier to believe.

If he ever acted on the field in a combative and cocky manner and hurled insults and profanity toward opposing players, this story would not only make more sense but he wouldn't have been on the verge of being dumped by the Bears even before this happened.

It's because of a complete lack of intensity and violent behavior that Benson's NFL career is hanging by a thread, and it's his passive nature on and off the field that had teams looking the other way on draft day.

Now, if the Bears were planning to cut him anyway, this incident probably doesn't change anything, but if they weren't sure what they were going to do, or had planned to keep him, it's hard to believe this changes their mind in any way.

They know Benson, and even if he had a 12-pack in him, which is doubtful, the Bears know it stretches the imagination to believe this behavior sounds like Benson.

Again, there are always two sides to every story, sometimes three, and we'll probably never know exactly what happened.

But this is a story that just doesn't add up.

Cooked and baked

Sure, Dusty Baker had nothing to do with the long-term health issues of Kerry Wood and Mark Prior, or even Chad Fox, for that matter.

Just consider the plight of 24-year-old Edinson Volquez, who took the mound Wednesday in the seventh inning against the Cubs after 94 pitches.

The score was 9-0.

He was going to be 5-1, he already had a 1.09 ERA, the field was in terrible shape after a constant rain, and the condition of the mound was awful.

At that moment in the seventh inning, Volquez owned 121 big-league innings, and he'd thrown at least 100 pitches his last 4 starts.

So, most managers with thoughts of this kid pitching a long time in the big leagues, knowing the season is very long and that the strain on a young arm goes up exponentially the more fatigued he becomes, would have thought 94 pitches was enough with a 9-0 lead.

Instead, Baker sent Volquez back out for a sloppy, 24-pitch inning that achieved absolutely nothing, just as Baker did so many times to Wood and Prior, most dramatically in Game 2 of the 2003 NLCS.

After 5 innings and 74 pitches with an 11-0 lead, after Prior had pitched 227 innings that season, many more than at any time in his life, after a shoulder injury that caused him to miss a month, and after averaging 127 pitches a start the previous 7 outings, Baker pitched Prior into the eighth and 116 pitches.

Who knows how that Game 6 eighth inning might have looked different if Prior had those 42 pitches back, if he wasn't on fumes, but that's Baker's style.

The Reds on Wednesday didn't even take the tarp off the bullpen mound until Volquez was at a career-high 114 pitches, and he left the game at 118.

But by all means, let's stick with that story that Baker didn't do anything to harm Wood or Prior.

Bull stuff

Yeah, we know what you're thinking, that Tyson Chandler would sure look good here if the Bulls hire Mike D'Antoni.

But Chandler's game hasn't really changed at all since he went to New Orleans. He's just got a coach now who pats him on the back once in awhile and lets him do what he does best, which is run fast, jump high, and go to the bucket.

Shocking.

Ivan Boldirev-ing

There are whispers that the Hawks are considering inviting back Billy Gardner as part of the radio team, or perhaps in some other broadcasting fashion.

As long as they're righting so many other wrongs, and with Gardner's ouster being the worst of all the wrongs, this would be a huge gesture on their part if it occurs.

The stat

Phil Jackson's teams are 39-0 in series during his career when winning Game 1.

Best headline

Sportspickle.com: "Co-worker insists he's been a fan of the New Orleans Hornets his whole life.''

And finally …

Mike Lupica, New York Daily News: "There's so much finger-pointing going on in Phoenix about who really wanted Shaq, they'll be blaming the trade on Sen. McCain next."

brozner@dailyherald.com