The Revolution is Televised: Zambrano Tosses Out an Umpire, Cubs Win 5-2

Posted in Baseball at 10:24 pm by

[Zambrano declares declares home plate the "people's plate" at Wrigley.]

Carlos Zambrano this afternoon offered the kind of Wrigley meltdown that Chicago sporting scribes have been predicting Lou Piniella would throw, and should throw, for three years running “ and that Milton Bradley would inevitably throw every day.  Even MB himself commented that “It was on a Bradley level.”  Umpire Mark Carlson called Pittsburgh’s Nyler Morgan safe after a wild pitch from Zambrano, which allowed Morgan to score from 3rd.  Video backs up Justice Carlson on this, but Zambrano offered a dissenting opinion.  Zambrano’s flare up got him kicked out of the game, which he quickly responded to by throwing Carlson out of the game, as seen here.

[Zambrano puts The Whole Damn System on trial.]

Paul Sullivan reports the game, and Z’s prodigal return to the North Side “ and even got a quote out of Milton Bradley,  here:

Carlos Zambrano received the official Milton Bradley seal of approval after being ejected on Wednesday and throwing a temper tantrum for the ages in the Cubs 5-2 win over Pittsburgh.

“That was pretty impressive,” Bradley said. “It was on a Bradley level.”

That it was, and soon the Cubs will find out whether or not Zambrano’s tantrum will be grounds for suspension.

After arguing with plate umpire Mark Carlson after Nyjer Morgan stuck his left hand around Zambrano’s tag to score the tying run in the seventh inning, Zambrano made contact with Carlson, putting his shoulder into the umpire.

Zambrano could be suspended for as many as 10 games for his conduct, depending on the review of the umpire’s report to Major League Baseball.

“I’m a competitor and I think he was out, but that was his call,” Zambrano said. “I over-exaggerated after that play to throw the ball [into left-center field] and to do the other things. But hopefully MLB will review the play and we’ll see what happens.”

Zambrano would not discuss whether he made contact, though the Cubs insisted it was Carlson who initiated the contact.

“If you look at the film the umpire sort of walks in a little bit,” manager Lou Piniella said. “The league makes that determination, but you’ve got to be more careful than that.”

Carlson was not available after the game. Crew chief Tim Tschida confirmed a report was being sent to MLB, but declined to comment.

Cubs catcher Geovany Soto said he couldn’t keep Zambrano from getting into Carlson’s face.

“I was kind of far away,” he said. “I was disappointed at the call, and when I looked, he was already tossed.”

Even after his crazy routine with Carlson, where he pretended to be thumbing the umpire out of the game after he’d been ejected, Zambrano was not finished. No, in fact, he was just starting.

First he launched the ball towards the left field warning track.

“I was kind of disappointed,” Reed Johnson said. “I thought it was going to go up into the stands. The wind was blowing in today.”

NCAA : Calipari’s Two-For-Two In Tainted Final Four Appearances

Posted in Basketball, College Spurts at 9:02 pm by

Not everyone loves John Calipari, but give the current Kentucky coach some credit ; he’s a wiz at knowing when to get the fuck out of Dodge.   From the Memphis Commercial Appeal’s Dan Wolken :

The University of Memphis is in the process of responding to an NCAA notice of allegations charging the men™s basketball program with major violations during the 2007-08 season under John Calipari.

The allegations include œknowing fraudulence or misconduct on an SAT exam by a player on the 2007-08 team.

The player has subsequently denied the charge, according to university personnel.

The only player on the roster who competed only during that season was Derrick Rose, who subsequently was the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft last June.

If proven to be true, the Tigers could be forced to forfeit their NCAA-record 38 victories and Final Four appearance.

Memphis, which received the notice of allegations Jan. 16, is scheduled to appear before the NCAA Committee on Infractions June 6.

Calipari, who left Memphis for Kentucky on March 31, is not named in the report, but the NCAA has requested his presence at the hearing.

Davidoff : Mets, Minaya Have Mishandled Injury Crisis

Posted in Baseball, Medical Science at 8:47 pm by

Though a fourth favorable video review in the past week has played a part in the Mets’ 5-3 lead over the Nationals tonight, let’s hop in the time machine and return to, errr, Wednesday morning, when Newsday’s Ken Davidoff declared of the Amazingly Disableds, “you can wonder why the Mets have seemingly put themselves on an island the last couple of years, consistently choosing aggressive paths for injury treatment when most other teams have swerved toward the more conservative approach.” Davidoff pinpoints the following ;

* – An ownership that comes off as overly sensitive to the day-to-day happenings of the team and the media coverage, rather than stepping back and taking a more macrocosmic view.

* – Minaya himself. First of all, he appears naturally assertive about these cases. He explained Tuesday that, if he thinks a player can return in five to eight days, he’d rather go shorthanded for as long as a week than shelve a player for 15 days.

* – Second of all, Minaya’s decisions probably are clouded by the lack of organizational depth. Yes, it’s unusual and unlucky that both Reyes and Alex Cora went down. But it happens. You have to prepare for it. Ramon Martinez just can’t be option number three.

* – The medical staff. As Minaya mentioned, the team’s doctors thought that Reyes would need just a couple of days before returning. Remember, trainers don’t want their players to go on the DL, because it reflects poorly upon them. “I feel very comfortable that our medical people have given us very good advice,” Minaya said.

Given the Mets followed their treatment of  Jose Reyes’ myriad health woes some years ago with putting the multi-concussed Ryan Church on a cross-country flight, I can fully understand why some conscientious superstars employ their own training staff.

Gillispie’s Kentucky Lawsuit

Posted in Basketball, College Spurts, The Law at 7:11 pm by

Former University Of Kentucky Men’s basketball coach Billy Gillispie, unceremoniously canned last March, is suing the school for breach of contract, with the following report brutally clipped from the Lexington Herald-Leader’s Ryan Alessi and Jerry Tipton.

Gillispie never signed a formal contract, but he was operating under a memorandum of understanding with the athletics association.

“Throughout the entirety of Coach Gillispie’s tenure, he treated it, correctly, as the binding, written contract between him and the defendant,” the suit says.

Gillispie is seeking $6 million that he says he is owed for “termination without cause,” according to the agreement.

The memorandum of understanding said that Gillispie, if fired, would be paid $1.5 million a year for up to four remaining years on the agreement.

In addition, the suit says UK lured Gillispie away from Texas A & M at a point when that university was negotiating to give him a contract extension through 2015. He also is seeking punitive damages and the cost of attorney fees.

Stuart Campbell, Gillispie’s agent, also declined to describe any settlement negotiations between the two sides.

When asked whether the two sides were close to an agreement, he laughed. “We’ll see what happens,” he said.

A better question might be how Campbell and Gillispie’s attorneys allowed their client to to toil for two entire seasons at Kentucky without a long-form agreement being signed by both sides. You know you’ve screwed up bigtime when Wally Backman’s lawyer is shaking his head.

Roch, Rock & Rule : O’s Plying Bloggers WIth Bottled Water & Kubatko Kameos

Posted in Baseball, Blogged Down, Sports Journalism at 6:21 pm by

The subject of professional sports franchises wooing the blogging unwashed has come up in this space previously, whether it was Caps owner Ted Leonsis rolling out the dessert cart or the New York Islanders’ ill-advised “Blogger Box”.   With an overture that sounds quite similar to SNY’s 2008 attempt to make-nice with a gang of Matthew Cerrone-approved Mets bloggers, MASN and the Orioles invited a collection of O’s bloggers to enjoy the splendors of a Camden Yards luxury box.  Camden Chat‘s Stacy reveals the highlights :

I’d never been in a suite at Camden Yards before and I felt especially fancy. There was plenty of good food, a refrigerator stocked with beer, soda, and water, AND celebrity visitors! Gregg Zaun had his entourage there, and Rick Dempsey spent a good deal of the game in the suite with us. Duck was especially geeked to get his picture taken with the Demper. Jim Hunter also stopped by for a bit and Al Bumbry was hanging around as well. The entire thing was just so…cool. Perhaps the greatest celebrity run in was when Rock Kubatko stopped in and Duck introduced himself as being from Camden Chat. I’ll let Duck tell the story as I wasn’t there when it happened, but the bottom line is Roch wasn’t amused about the time that a story was written about Roch challenging a Camden Chatter to fisticuffs. Sadly I did not even see Roch as I was outside cheering on the O’s.

Rather than engage in (another) unseemly pissing match over blogger ethics, let’s just say we’re living in a world of very low expectations when Roch Kubatko qualifies as celebrity.

National Pastime Gets Goth Treatment Via Slate’s Mooalem

Posted in Baseball at 4:55 pm by

Not in the sense that he’s retouched pictures of Adam Dunn to add eye makeup or dyed-black hair, although that’d obviously be worth doing. But at Slate, Jon Mooalem has an article that falls, in the words of Peter Segall, somewhere between “fascinatingly morbid” and “morbidly fascinating.” Mooalem has unearthed something like baseball’s book of the dead — a bizarre project by Robert Gorman and David Weeks, a pair of Winthrop University baseball historians, that purports to chart every baseball-related death to have occurred over the sport’s history. As creepy baseball-related projects go, theirs probably about as darkly weird a document as we’ll get until Steve Carlton writes his autobiography. Mooalem writes:

The authors say their aim was to “raise awareness” about baseball’s many dangers, but there aren’t any recommendations for making the sport safer here, no real signs of impassioned outrage, and no warnings to suburban parents about aluminum bats. Death at the Ballpark is fundamentally a reference book”a list carefully organized into categories like “Thrown Ball Fatalities, Amateur Fatalities”Position Players” and “Thrown Ball Fatalities, Amateur Fatalities”Baserunners.” Often, however, the authors pause for a half-page to narrate a death in noirlike detail. The opening paragraph of one entry ominously begins, “Patrick J. McTavey, 38, worked home plate during a heated semipro championship game on Long Island, NY, on September 26, 1927,” and ends: “It was the last call he ever made.”

…All the old romantic baseball tropes turn up again and again in Death at the Ballpark. But the effect is haunting, since here each is mercilessly punctuated with a death. There’s the aging minor leaguer, battling his way back to the majors after a couple of stints in the show”except that Millard Fillmore “Dixie” Howell, who played in the White Sox farm system in the ’50s, never gets called up again and dies of a heart attack instead. A few incidents are such ruthless perversions of our shared baseball idylls that it’s as if Roman Polanski had recut Field of Dreams. One July night in a backyard in Houston in 1950, a 7-year-old boy asks if he can throw his dad one more pitch before heading inside. The father says OK. The son pitches. Then the father swings and connects, inadvertently “striking his son over the heart.” The son dies before they can make it to the hospital.

Have a great day!

Schmuck : I Have Seen The Future of Rock’n'Roll The Baltimore Orioles & It’s Name Is Bruce Springsteen Matt Wieters

Posted in Baseball at 12:32 am by

HR’s from Nolan Reimold, Adam Jones and Aubrey Huff paced the Orioles to a 7-2 win over Toronto last night, helping rookie starter Jason Berken earn a victory in his big league debut. If closing to within 7 games of first place Boston in the AL East strikes you as no-big-thing, you’re not alone, as the Baltimore Sun’s Peter Schmuck is far more consumed with Tuesday’s announcement catching starlet Matt Wieters is being promoted from Norfolk.

Orioles fans have been waiting to hear this since Wieters became one of the most prized draft picks in club history in 2007. The waiting for Wieters became almost unbearable as he tore through two levels of the minor league system last year and batted .333 in the Grapefruit League this spring. The clock began ticking louder when he bounced back from an April hamstring injury and started to heat up at the plate at Triple-A Norfolk during the past couple of weeks.

He is the embodiment of the new era that Orioles fans have been awaiting for more than a decade. He is the jewel of a rebuilding plan that has gathered steam with a series of recent roster moves, including the one that put Triple-A Norfolk call-up Jason Berken on the mound to deliver a scrappy five-inning performance against the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday night.

The changeover has been swift — so swift that it’s getting to the point where you can’t tell the players without a Norfolk program. Brad Bergesen was called up in April to replace Alfredo Simon. Nolan Reimold came up two weeks ago and took over most of the playing time in left field. Rich Hill came off the disabled list 11 days ago to deliver a pair of solid starts against the Kansas City Royals and Washington Nationals. Berken wasn’t even through his third inning when MacPhail made the Wieters announcement and hinted that another Triple-A pitcher could be headed here to make Thursday night’s start.

Who knows how this group of unproven young players will perform the rest of the way, but one thing is certain. The 2009 season, which seemed so hopeless a few days ago, suddenly is relevant again. Every remaining game has an extra layer of meaning. The future will be right here in front of your eyes, and there is more to come.


Obama Chooses ‘Savior of Baseball’ in Sotomayor Pick

Posted in Baseball, non-sporting journalism, politics, social crusaders at 5:36 pm by


[What Does a Guy in That Hat Know About Baseball Anyway?]

While I don’t have much of an opinion yet on SCOTUS nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor (outside of my knee-jerk rubber stamp approval for Obama), of note to baseball fans is the Obama Administration touting her as the judge who “saved baseball.” In 1995, Sotomayor ruled in the baseball strike that stymied everyone from MLB, the players union, and President Clinton.  Given Obama’s South Side sympathies, he’s always on thin ice when talking baseball.  However, there’s a long list of baseball observers who think she did save that season.  The National Review’s Ted Frank quickly tried to shoot down that notion here:

That’s nonsense.  Judge Sotomayor ruled on a NLRB petition seeking an injunction against the owner’s 1995 lockout of the players.  As I noted at the time, the court hearing the matter would be making a straightforward ruling on labor law: and the owners were plainly in the wrong legally by their conduct in the labor negotiations.  Any judge randomly assigned to the case would have made the same ruling.  Indeed, a three judge panel of the Second Circuit, in an opinion by conservative Judge Ralph Winter, unanimously upheld Sotomayor’s grant of the injunction.

To say that the judge in the case saved baseball (or expressed sympathy for highly paid baseball players, as Kathryn snarks below) is making the very mistake that separates conservative viewpoints on the role of the judiciary from Obama’s view of the judiciary as activist.  A judge acts as an umpire, making the calls of balls and strikes: neither the judge nor the umpire is supposed to decide that one party is more sympathetic than the other and deserves the benefit of the ruling.

Presidential hyperbole or not, 90% of life is showing up, and she made a competent ruling “ not to be taken lightly in post-Bush America “ so, yeah, she gets credit for moving the season forward.

I quote Frank, though, as yet another conservative making that tired umpires = Supreme Court Justice equation.  They apparently have no idea what umpires do for a living.   It’s the Court’s job to rule on the Constitutionality of laws — they invalidate or uphold them via decisions of lower courts.  Umpires don’t invalidate or validate baseball rules “ they are the lower court.   Umpires don’t strike down the infield fly rule or shift the score in a game to help a team disadvantaged by a smaller payroll over a big city team (except in the case of the Pirates and Cubs last night “ WTF!?!?!?).  It wasn’t the umpires who invalidated “seperate but equal” in baseball and let Jackie Robinson play.  It was the Court, in Brown v Board of Education, that desegregated schools. Umpires didn’t even decide the recent Milton Bradley 1-game suspension dispute.  Disputed decisions are settled by MLB, a higher authority, that also determines which rules go into effect each season.  Whatever you think of the “activist judge” debate, Justices are not umpires.  It’s an intellectually dishonest argument, if politcally savvy, in the bumper sticker mentality of talk radio.  Feh.

Omar Minaya Makes Deal in Response to Mets’ Injury Issues

Posted in Baseball at 5:21 pm by

No one plans for injuries to their cleanup hitter, leadoff hitter, and six-hole hitter. Well… that’s not totally true. A lot of your more successful baseball general manager types like to have a few serviceable options and backups on hand in case stuff like this goes down. What I probably should’ve written is that Omar Minaya didn’t necessarily plan for injuries to his cleanup hitter, leadoff hitter, etc., and instead opted to field a Triple-A team that is less impressive than its 13-29 record suggests, and which would almost certainly lose seven of 10 games to the Newark Bears. And now, with Jose Reyes and Ryan Church joining Carlos Delgado on the 15-day DL this afternoon, the Mets are officially without a plurality of their Opening Day starters.

Which, you know, is a shitty deal. But while I don’t have much to add on this topic beyond my usual (in Jerry Stiller voice) “what the hell did you trade Jeff Keppinger for!” maunderings, I kind of have to applaud Omar for 1) making a much-needed trade today while 2) sticking to his strategy of entrusting a bunch of roster spots on his $150 million team’s fortunes to aging, Atlantic League-ready humps. In exchange for a player to be named later, Omar just secured a middle infielder from the Indians. Not ex-prospect Josh Barfield, who’s at Triple-A and not going anywhere, and not versatile evangelical Jamey Carroll, who’s reputedly a Minaya favorite. Nah, why waste time with those goofs when you can get this guy. Who is maybe the only player available in another organization who’s less likely to help at the Big League level than the Mets’ current Triple-A shortstop.

Now, to be fair to Wilson Valdez, his .211/.255/.277 Major League splits come in just 254 at-bats. And he is only 31 years old. And he did slug (slug!) .207 at Triple-A this season, so he’s clearly due. For something. I am aware that caring about deals like this is not good for me, and also takes more energy than the trades deserve. But being a fan of the team that traded Jason Bay for Steve Reed and is currently starting both Livan Hernandez and Tim Redding because it dealt Brian Bannister for Ruben Gotay kind of distorts things a bit.

So anyway, welcome Wilson Valdez. You are the current symbol to me of everything wrong with the Minaya Administration, until something else comes along. (Oh, also, the Mets called up Fernando Martinez to take Church’s place)

Fox, MLB Combat The Public’s Distaste For Joe Buck…

Posted in Baseball, Sports TV, The Marketplace at 4:44 pm by

….with a series of commercials featuring Joe Buck. At least that the prognosis supplied by the Wall Street Journal’s Matthew Futterman, reporting earlier today that Major League Baseball’s Saturday afternoon telecasts on the Fox network have suffered a 4% rattings dip compared to the same period in 2008.

Fox Sports spokesman Lou D’Ermilio confirmed network executives will head to Milwaukee next week to strategize with Commissioner Bud Selig about reversing the downward trends. “The purpose of the meeting is to find a way to boost the ratings for the All-Star Game and the World Series,” he said. Plans include showing baseball movies on Sunday afternoons on Fox’s sister channel FX, and promotional ads with broadcasters Joe Buck and Tim McCarver. Fox says it is less concerned with the shrinking Saturday audience, since the regular season games represent about 10% of the value of the $255 million annual rights fee the network pays.

It would interesting to learn, for instance, how Fox’s Saturday numbers thur far in 2009 compared to ESPN’s Sunday night tally, or TBS’ Sunday afternoon results. The oft-cited Saturday blackout period no longer applies to MLB.TV’s online offerings so long as the games have a 1pm start. I doubt this is enough of a factor to contribute to a 4 percent drop in viewership for the late afternoon national TV game, but it makes as much sense as Futterman musing “additional revelations of steroid use certainly haven’t helped.”