From Dominic Fifeld, Nils Pratley and Matt Scott in Thursday’s Guardian.
The Glazer family’s first visit to Old Trafford ended in ugly and violent scenes last night as police clashed with supporters who had effectively barricaded Manchester United’s new owners inside the stadium.
Malcolm Glazer’s three sons, Joel, Avi and Bryan, were given first-hand experience of the vitriol generated by their controversial takeover as they had to be smuggled down the players’ tunnel and out of the ground in two police tactical aid vans for their own safety.
United fans then sat in the road, forcing the vehicles to stop. When some of the 400 supporters started hammering on the vans and pelting them with stones, police officers used dogs and batons to clear a path.
It provided a farcical if troubling finale to a chaotic day at Old Trafford. United officials had initially indicated that the Glazers – unaccompanied by their father – would not be visiting the stadium following their talks on Tuesday with the sports minister Richard Caborn and officials from the Premier League and the Football Association.
That proved to be little more than a smokescreen and, with confirmation that the three brothers, the chief executive David Gill and the commercial director Andy Anson had arrived at the ground in three silver people carriers at around 6.15 last night, disgruntled fans began gathering.
Their presence prompted a huge security operation. The club employed their own new 8ft high steel gates to keep the increasingly frustrated crowds away from the directors’ entrance, though the fans wasted little time in building their own makeshift barriers across roads, effectively laying the new owners under siege.
Supporters launched angry chants of “Die, die Glazer” and “We’ll be running round Old Trafford with his head” while the Glazers themselves enjoyed a stroll around the pitch and met various members of staff.
Writes ESPN’s Darren Rovell, “Something tells me things will calm down when they see that Glazer wants the team to do well so he can make the most money.”
Rovell ought to remember that Glazer didn’t use his own cash on hand to purchase United. He’s borrowed heavily to increase his stake and there are legit reasons for fans to worry about how that debt will be paid down.
After Keith Foulke was smacked around by the Indians in Boston’s 12-8 loss Tuesday evening, Red Sox manager Terry Francona opted to use Mike Timlin in Wednesday’s 9th inning. The New Hampshire Union-Leader’s Alex Speier says this was only a temporary measure.
One night after Foulke (above) transformed an 8-5 advantage into a crushing 12-8 defeat, Timlin steered through a scoreless ninth. Although he yielded a pair of hits, he preserved the 5-2 score that he inherited as the 39-year-old recorded his third save in 171 appearances in his three years with the Sox.
While Timlin’s successful outing will surely pique interest from a Foulke-flaying fandom, however, it did not represent an affront to the embattled pitcher’s job security. Timlin pitched the ninth only because Foulke was unavailable after logging 47 pitches on Tuesday.
“We don’t need a quarterback controversy,” pronounced Francona. “You set up your ballclub where you think they can be most successful. . . . Getting to the ninth isn’t easy either. Sometimes those innings are maybe more important than the ninth. So if you start plugging one perceived hole then you create maybe a bigger one somewhere else. So we need to keep that in mind.”
That belief all but signals the death knell of any challenges to Foulke’s ninth-inning duties. Francona believes in track records and history suggests that no member of the Red Sox bullpen could provide certainty at the back end of the game.
As yesterday confirmed, Timlin represents a fine stopgap measure when Foulke is fatigued. Still, in three different cities (Toronto, Seattle, Baltimore), he got bounced as a finisher after each club determined that he was constitutionally better suited for a setup role.
Moreover, his difficulty against lefties this year (who pounded him for a .328 mark entering yesterday) suggests someone better deployed against particular stretches of the lineup.
If change to the ineffective Sox bullpen is to come, it would have to arrive from outside the big-league roster. That may happen, but given the paucity of established closers on the market (or, for that matter, in the team’s farm system), Foulke’s job does not appear to face any imminent jeopardy.
Instead, the current and future closer of the Red Sox will surely face more taunts from “Johnny from Burger King” and the rest of the booing legions at Fenway. In sickness and in health, the Sox will entrust their fate to Foulke.
Over time, I’ve talked a lot of shit about MLB.TV’s webcast scheme, but being able to watch last night’s Braves/Marlins game on demand is a very good thing.
From the Palm Beach Post’s Joe Capozzi.
Slugging right fielder Gary Sheffield would return to the Marlins in a proposed deal that would send right-hander A.J. Burnett and right fielder Juan Encarnacion to the New York Yankees, according to a National League source.
An American League source confirmed that the Yankees are interested in Burnett and Encarnacion and have talked to the Marlins about them. But that source also said connecting Sheffield to the discussions “might be premature.”
Burnett, who was sought by the Yankees in December, also has attracted interest this week from the Baltimore Orioles.
Burnett is a free agent after the season and is not expected to re-sign. But if the Marlins remain in contention, they might be content to keep Burnett all year and then lose him to free agency, as the team did with Carl Pavano last season, in exchange for a first-round draft pick.
The Marlin probably will have a surplus of starters soon. Right-hander Josh Beckett is expected to be activated from the disabled list today, injured right-hander Ismael Valdez is due back after the All-Star break and rookie left-hander Scott Olsen has been impressive.
Lovers of free expression and godly behavior alike will be thrilled to know that the Post is now publishing Todd Jones’ blog.
Mets 5, Phillies 1 (top of the 5th)
I’m sure there are more surprises to come as the 2005 season unfolds, but no matter else happens this afternoon, it will be hard to top the eye-rubbing provoked by Cliff Floyd bunting for a base hit, then stealing 2nd. The same Cliff Floyd whom contemplated early retirement last autumn, was a defensive liability for much of last year and whose sour disposition seemed contagious.
I’m already petitioning Bobby Valentine to name him to the All-Star Team.
For a guy who has spent a lot of time in Manhattan, Keith Hernandez seemed particularly troubled by a beer vendor’s tattoos. “Why would you want to do that to yourself?” wondered Mex. I dunno, why would you want to smoke cigarettes, snort cocaine or dye your hair? Less of the lifestyle advice from the finest fielding 1B of his generation, please.
Fran Healy reports that ex-Met Todd Pratt was tossed by home plate ump Alfonso Marquez for uttering “uncomfortable words”. My guess is, it was either “recalcitrant” or “motherfucker” that did the trick.
Jae Seo struck out 9 Mud Hens yesterday, winning his 6th game for the Mets’ Norfolk affiliate. Seo, shown above in one of the ugliest caps in the history of organized baseball, had his photo taken while watching highlights of Kaz Ishii’s outing last night.
The Daily News’ Sam Borden reports that relievers Paul Quantril and Mike Stanton will be sent packing by the New York Yankees.
One Yankee insider wasn’t certain what method the Yanks might use to cut ties with Stanton and Quantrill, but indicated the Bombers were looking to get younger in their bullpen. Earlier yesterday, reliever Jason Anderson was called up from Triple-A Columbus; he joins Scott Proctor (above), a hard throwing righthander who was also promoted recently.
Adds the New York Times’ Tyner Keppner,
Quantrill and Stanton shook hands and exchanged hugs with teammates and club personnel after Wednesday night’s rainout at Camden Yards. Quantrill would not comment after leaving the clubhouse, and Stanton said, “You can read between the lines.”
I certainly can. Those Yankees are very affectionate.
Aspiring New Jersey talent scout Jon Solomon graciously calls our attention to Melodic Warrior, sadly not the website marking the long awaited Jim Hellwig/Michael Quercio collaboration, but rather the guh-guh-gushy vocal stylings of Mr. Niko Papasideris (above).
I’m not a religious person but between this and news of the Smashing Pumpkins reunion, I am begining to suspect there is a Higher Power after all. And He or She is punishing us.
From the AP :
Japan said Thursday it has tentatively agreed to take part in the inaugural 16-country World Baseball Classic subject to the approval of the Japanese baseball players’ association.
Japanese baseball officials were responding to an end-of-the-month deadline set by Major League Baseball for Japanese owners and players to decide on whether to take part in the World-Cup style tournament set for March, 2006.
The Japanese players’ association will hold a meeting on July 22 to decide whether to take part.
Major League Baseball and its players association have already approved the tournament.
MLB officials and union travelled to Japan earlier this month and set an end-of-the-month deadline for Japan to reach a decision. MLB wants to make an announcement about the tournament on July 11, the day before the all-star game in Detroit.
Masashi Tsunoda, an official with the Softbank Hawks of Japan’s Pacific League, told reporters that a letter sent to the MLB included a counterproposal from Japan’s players on when to hold the tournament.
Players in Japan have proposed holding the qualifying games in March and the finals in July, during the all-star break.
Though I can’t imagine MLB accepting said proposal, the final round(s) of such a tournament would be far more compelling TV than the All-Star Game, Home Run Derby, etc.
Was there a more questionable decision Tuesday night than Toronto’s selection of UConn’s Charlie Villanueva with the 7th overall pick? Other than Stephen A. Smith being allowed to make like an uninformed hoops version of Mel Kiper Jr., that is. The Toronto Star’s Dave Feschuk on the Raptors’ latest gaffe.
As the ESPN analysts vociferously panned the Raptors’ choice ” “Absolutely shocked!” hollered the usually rah-rah Dick Vitale ” the crowd cheered in agreement. When Villanueva took the podium in New York’s Madison Square Garden for his first interview as a Raptor, Toronto’s fans, saddened via satellite, filled the Air Canada Centre with boos.
“There’s gotta be a trade,” said one distraught fan. “Gotta be,” said another.
But there was no trade brewing behind the scenes, no secret swap to explain the unexpected. A year after defying expectations and selecting the disastrous Rafael Araujo in the No. 8 slot, Raptors general manager Rob Babcock had dropped another out-of-nowhere name.
You’ve heard of out-of-the-box thinking, but this ” going with a frequently maligned 20-year-old few experts figured worthy of the top 10 ” was out-on-a-limb thinking. And, if it doesn’t pan out the way the Raptors are hoping, it could be, for Babcock, out-of-a-job thinking.
Taking Villanueva (above) was unconventional if you’re being generous, inexcusable if you’re not. Not only does he play the same position as the club’s best young player, Chris Bosh, Villanueva has also compiled a checkered record of blasÃ© performances during his two-year stint at the University of Connecticut.
“The average fan isn’t studying the draft and all the players like we do,” said Babcock.
I heard one explanation on the radio earlier today ; the Raptors had Villenuva work out and “fell in love with him”. In that case, invite Charlie to a Viletones reunion gig. If things go ok, you can both visit Tim Horton’s Donuts in the morning. But for the love of god, don’t draft him at number seven!