Braves Clobber Trachsel, Mets Fail To Clinch NL East Before May 1

Posted in Baseball at 7:40 pm by

Braves 8, Mets 5

Atlanta RF Jeff Francoeur had struggled through most of April (5 for is last 45), but busted out in big way this afternoon, rocking the Mets to the tune of 4 hits (1 HR, three singles),5 RBI’s and a pair of runs scored. Mets starter Steve Trachsel was plagued by control problems and suffered through an outing that can best be described as Victor Zambrano-esque (5 BB’s, 8 hits, 6 earned runs). New York reliever Jorge Julio, reverting to earlier form, struck out 5 but served up a gopher ball to Francoeur.

Amongst the few highlights for the Mets, a long HR to left center off Kyle Davies (the 7th he’s allowed in ’06) by the recently returned Carlos Beltran, and perhaps most incredibly, 3 walks credited to Jose Reyes. Though Reyes’ on base percentage of .308 is still unacceptably low, he’s currently on pace to walk twice as often this season as he did in ’05.

Francoeur, as quoted postgame by the AP :

”I’ve really been down on myself and it was starting to take a toll on me,” he said. ”So last night, I decided to watch a couple of movies. I watched the end of ‘Gladiator’ and the end of ‘Rudy.”’

”I’m a little superstitious, and sometimes you need something to get you going,” Francoeur said. ”If ‘Rudy’ doesn’t do it, nothing will.”
I’d recommend the following the next time Jeff is looking for a little inspiration (they’ve always worked for me) :

“Arthur 2: On The Rocks”

(fuck that Knute Rockne bullshit, Griffin Dunne has a talking penis)
“Me And Him”

“Shanghai Surprise”

It’s a long season. Even if Francoeur is a-ok from here on in, I think Larry, Andruw and Smoltzy should consider purchasing the above triology on DVD and exercising some veteran leadership – the entire Braves 25 man roster needs to stay up all night before every game watching these films until they have every line of dialogue memorized. If this helps them win a 15th consecutive NL East title, I’ll happily accept a partial playoff share.

Binghamton’s William Collazo took a no-hitter into the 8th inning today against Erie, a game the Mets won, 4-2. Henry Owens earned his 6th save.

Smush Stole The Ball…

Posted in Basketball at 6:13 pm by

Lakers 99, Suns 98 (OT)

…shame Chick Hearn isn’t around to repeat the above words, over and over again. Your 2-time MVP / former Tottenham trainee (above) gave up possession at the end of regulation and at the end of OT (though on the second occasion, it looked more like he was mugged)…and Kobe took full advantage in both situations.

I’m the last person on the planet to acknowlege the following : the Lakers look like a fully realized team. Not at the Spurs or Pistons’ levels, naturally, but Odom, Kwame (12 points, 10 rebounds), Luke Walton (9 rebounds, tieing up Nash and winning the tip at the end of OT) are no longer mere props in the Kobe show (and haven’t been for some time, according to those who’ve actually been watching LA for the past few months). It’s been suggested that knocking off no. 2 Phoenix would be Phil Jackson’s greatest coaching accomplishment, but it might also say a bit about the roster assembly skills of acting General Manager Kobe Bryant.

90 Degrees Outside, Thinking About The NHL

Posted in Hockey at 5:08 pm by

Did the best NY Rangers campaign in 9 seasons have to end so miserably? Or more to the point, did the season really come to a crashing halt right around the begining of March? Either way, the Devils and Rangers entered their first round series headed in opposite directions, and the former’s late-season turnaround would rank as a huge achievment, even if their cross-Hudson rivals weren’t so banged up.

Tonight’s night’s Game 5 between the Predators and Sharks won’t be blacked out in the Nashville area, but not for a lack of trying on the part of Predators management, writes the New York Post’s Larry Brooks.

Steve Violetta, Executive VP in charge of blackmail, announced during the week that the team was 2,600 seats short of a sellout, and if 1,600 of those tickets were not sold by Friday morning, the Predators would exercise their right to black out the game. Violetta declared the decision was supported by both the NHL and OLN.

Never mind that the Predators reversed the decision on Friday, even though they’d fallen short of the stated goal. Never mind that Violetta had originally said the threat – my word, not his – wasn’t aimed at the fan, but rather was intended to stir the business community into greater support of the franchise.

The fact is, this ownership – with support from the league – not only somehow ever believed selling 1,600 tickets took precedence over getting the game exposure in the 904,000 homes that comprise the 30th largest television market in the U.S., but publicly announced that Wirtzian philosophy.

Exposing the game? How about exposing ownership? How about exposing the league? I thought the cap was going to take care of all this.

With Edmonton taking a 3-2 series lead over Detroit, Covered In Oil, pays tribute to the goaltending of Dwayne Roloson :

Ah, but this is where Dwayne Roloson’s .935 SV% shimmers like sparkling wine. It’s not like Roloson is making supersick saves in a 1997 Curtis Joseph sense; but he’s definitely looking more calm and assertive than he ever has in his 20-25 games as an Oiler. His glove hand looked good, and if he popped out any rebounds Roli managed to keep them clear from the high slot. His little eyes-shut zen meditation thing between plays seems to work, and more importantly it’s miles away from the scared flailing that passed for goaltending early in the season.

Unsatisfied with citing mere hockey attributes, the Edmonton Sun’s Jeremey Loome goes a little further in dismissing the Motor City (“a cruddy, decaying mess”), citing segreation, a high crime rate and the number of bodies moved from inner city cemeteries to other towns (“how bad a place is your hometown when even the dead people are leaving?”). A fairly mean-spirited drubbing of Detroit, without once mentioning the Insane Clown Posse.

Mike Modano and the Stars have been eliminated by the Avalanche, and even worse, it’s already too hot to play golf in Dallas.  The Jose Theodore Revival of 2006 continued with a 50 save performance in today’s OT win ; somewhere on Earth there is a bookmaker who will accept a bet on Montreal providing Colorado with a playoff caliber goalie in the year 2016.

Ozzie Challenges Laws Of Physics, Dares Escobar To Throw At Himself

Posted in Baseball at 3:59 pm by

MLB’s no. 1 heel A.J. Pierzynski was hit by a Kelvim Escobar pitch during the White Sox’s 2-1 win over the Angels last night. As you might expect, Chicago manager Ozzie Guillen had something to say about it to the Daily Herald’s Scott Gregor (link culled from Baseball Think Factory)

œIf Escobar is going to hit somebody, he should hit himself,™™ Guillen said. œA.J. didn™t have anything to do with the dumb(bleep) plays they made. Josh Paul and him, the two dumb (bleeping) plays they made and now they™re blaming A.J.

œYou have to be dumb enough to blame it on somebody when you screwed it up. If you™re going to blame somebody, look in the mirror. A.J. didn™t have anything to do with that. I think that™s a low-(bleep) way to play baseball.™™

Guillen was just getting warmed up.

œPeople in Los Angeles should remember that play like the Bill Buckner thing,™™ said Guillen, recalling Buckner™s infamous error in the 1986 World Series.

œIt™s nobody™s fault Josh Paul didn™t tag the guy. It™s nobody™s fault (Escobar) tagged the guy with the wrong hand. Blame yourself. And now you™re going to hit somebody for no reason? You can get somebody hurt with no reason.™™

Pierzynski appeared to have a few words for Escobar as he headed to first base after being hit, but he denied saying anything.

œI don™t know why the (heck) he™s hitting me,™™ Pierzynski said. œI just ran to first. Maybe he should hit the guy (Paul) that rolled the ball back to the mound. I didn™t do anything to show him up.™™

They’re tied at 2-2 in Anaheim this afternoon after 3 innings, with Jon Garland facing Ervin Santana. Jim Thome and Paul Konkero each have an RBI on a third inning single and sacrifice fly respectively.

Despite starting the season 0-13 in the Southern League, Atlanta catching prospect Jarrod Saltamacchia is apparently the subject of a tug-of-war between agents. As long as Salty stays far away from Michael Michaels (or Jay Mohr), things can’t be that bad.

Taylor Buchholz, obtained from Philly in the Billy Wagner trade, earned his second victory for the Astros today, throwing 6 and a third innings of 3-hit ball in Houston’s 3-2 defeat of Cincinnati. Lance Berkman (29 RBI’s in April) and Jason Lane homered for the Astros, while Brad Lidge collected his 8th save, striking out 3 in a scoreless 9th.

A’s Kendall : “You Can’t Throw Everybody Out”

Posted in Baseball at 12:51 pm by

…which sounds a little better than “I can’t throw anybody out.”  From the Contra Costa Times’ Joe Roderick.

Last season, Oakland catcher Jason Kendall threw out runners only 18 times in 119 stolen base attempts (15.1 percent), the second lowest percentage in the major leagues. This year, Kendall has nailed six of 10, including the last three who have attempted to steal.

When given a chance to fire back at his critics, Kendall backed off.

“I didn’t get upset at that,” he said. “I’ve got stuff to prove to myself. I don’t have to prove anything to anybody. I had a bad year last year, both offensively and defensively. This year I can’t find the holes (hitting). It’s early. I’ve got a lot to prove to myself.”

“That’s the hardest throw in baseball to make. You just got to be consistent. You can’t throw everybody out. It’s impossible. A lot of times you want to try to throw everybody out and you rush and you put more on it. I can launch a ball into center field with the best of them. There’s no shame in it.”

Last night’s A’s/Royals tilt was washed out ; in about an hour’s time, KC’s Scott Elarton will attempt to lose his 5th game in the month of April.  Elarton brings an ERA of 3.16 into today’s contest ; the Royals have scored a total of 5 runs in his 5 previous starts.

Cubs Receiver Disses Newfangled Helmets

Posted in Baseball at 12:38 pm by

Chicago’s Michael Barrett, his head like a hole, black as your soul, he’d rather die than give you control.

Sorry about that. From the Palm Beach Sun’s Joe Capozzi :

Eleven teams are using the Coolflo Batter’s Helmet, introduced during spring training by Rawlings Sporting Goods. The company’s goal is to have all 30 teams using them by 2007.

The Marlins were among the 19 teams that rejected the futuristic lids during a trial run in March.

“I started to size the players and five of the first six said, ‘Do we need to wear these?’ ” said John Silverman, the Marlins’ equipment manager. “I said, ‘No.’ They said they were comfortable with what we have. They like to be old school.”

Third baseman Miguel Cabrera first wore the helmets ” the first new design since 1983 ” when they were introduced at the All-Star Game last July.

“It’s a different look,” outfielder Chris Aguila said. “Maybe it was a little bit lighter, but I like the old ones.”

Cubs catcher Michael Barrett was skeptical of the Coolflo lids, which have 15 vents.

“A lot of times, it doesn’t feel like there’s a helmet there because it feels like my hair is sticking out through those big holes,” he said.

Barrett found out those holes are more than just for ventilation. “It’s supposed to be more shock resistant,” he said. “If the ball hits you in the head, it’s supposed to glide off a little bit easier.”

“I got hit last year and it’s no fun,” Barrett said. “If it’s better when it comes to getting hit in the head, then I’ll take their word for it. I don’t know how true it is and hopefully I won’t find out any time soon.”

Heyman Touting Piniella To Philly

Posted in Baseball, General at 11:31 am by

In addition to predicting that Roger Clemens ultimately returns to Houston, Newsday’s Jon Heyman rubs his crystal balls and tries to identify the next manager of the Philadelphia Phillies.

The speculation hasn’t yet started, but Lou Piniella could be the best choice to turn around the Phillies.

Jim Fregosi, Davey Johnson and Jimy Williams also might be in the mix once GM Pat Gillick does the inevitable and fires Charlie Manuel, a nice man who’s not cut out for Philadelphia. As the popular manager of the ’93 team, Fregosi might elicit even more reaction than Piniella in Philly.

Piniella (above) has told friends he’s waiting for the right situation, generally taken to mean the Yankees. But his old boss Gillick might have a chance to convince him the Phillies are better than they’ve played for Manuel, who finally got around to correcting his bizarre original lineup by moving Chase Utley up to second, where he belongs, and Ryan Howard up to fifth.

Piniella paired beautifully with Gillick in Seattle for 116 victories in 2001 before growing tired of what he saw as the tightfisted ways of ownership and going to Tampa Bay, which turned out to beeven tighter. Piniella originally told folks he wanted to take a year to decompress; when we called Friday, his wife said he was out water skiing.

Morrison’s Agent : My Client’s A Moron

Posted in Basketball at 11:23 am by

Gonzaga cut-up Adam Morrison, sabotaging his own draft prospects? From the Boston Herald’s Mark Murphy.

Both Morrison and his father talked about the long-term perils of diabetes – such as circulation and heart complications – during recent interviews. During one sit-down – in what agent Mark Bartlestein insists was merely an off-hand attempt at humor – the wise-cracking Morrison feigned concern over losing his fingers and toes, and that as a result he must enter the draft ASAP.

By the time news of that interview reached one league executive last week, doubt had settled in.

œWhy would he even say something like that, the executive said, unaware that Morrison was apparently speaking in jest. œIf you™re thinking about taking him, what are you supposed to think?

Can you say damage control?

œThe whole thing was taken out of context, Bartlestein said. œI™ve talked to his doctor – a guy he™s had since he was a kid – and he said there was absolutely no problem.

œUnfortunately, people ran with it, and now we have this. But I will make sure that everyone in the league knows what is up with that.

DC’s Jordan : Hoping That LeBron Gets Called For Hopping

Posted in Basketball at 11:08 am by

Claiming the Black President “doesn’t get the calls LeBron gets”, Wizards coach Eddie Jordan is steamed about the whistle swallowing that ensued after King James hopped his way to the winning shot with seconds remaining in Friday’s Game 2 between Cleveland and Washington.  From the Baltimore Sun :

Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said yesterday, what he thinks should have been a traveling call is part of a pattern of James’ getting protection from referees. He said that’s the type of help Washington’s own All-Star, Gilbert Arenas, isn’t receiving in the first-round Eastern Conference series that the Cleveland Cavaliers lead 2-1.

“I’m not going to get fined for saying what’s obvious. Everybody sees it,” Jordan said after practice ahead of today’s Game 4 against the Cavaliers.

“Officials are human, and they see a great move by a great player … or they see a hop-through move that’s a travel, and they say, ‘That’s a great move by a great player, and it’s an exciting move. It’s a great finish. We’ll let it go.’ That’s how I look at it,” Jordan said.

Reggie Evans Charged With Cock Block

Posted in Basketball at 10:58 am by

The NBA Playoffs are only 8 days old, but we’ll struggle to find a hotter story than today’s coverage of the Clippers’ Game 3 win over the Nuggets by the Denver Post’s Mark Kizla.

You don’t expect to tune in a playoff game on the tube and see a display so offensive it should be rated TV-14 for sexual situations.

It was obscene, not to mention cowardly, the way Denver forward Reggie Evans touched the private parts of L.A. center Chris Kaman during the second quarter.

“I felt violated,” Kaman said, ambushed below the belt by Evans, as the Nuggets scored on a rare clean jumper to cut L.A.’s lead to 30-27. “I felt I got a little violated by another man.”

There are many inventive ways to establish rebound position, but until Evans groped Kaman below the belt under the basket, I thought I had seen every dirty trick in basketball’s book.

Not to suggest the way Evans touched Kaman was risqué, but I’m not sure Kim Cattrall ever did a more graphic scene on “Sex and the City.”

Kaman angrily responded by knocking Evans to the floor.

“I think it would have been stupid to swing or throw a punch, so I just kind of shoved him,” Kaman said.

There are not many unwritten rules in sports. Evans, however, broke No. 1: Do not mess with a man’s private business.

“It’s just inappropriate for a basketball game. Or any sport,” Kaman said.

If the Nuggets’ basketball IQ were any lower, somebody would have to water them as plants.