(above : a sickening character who milked his association with the New York Yankees for all it was worth. And on the left, the late Hideki Irabu)
Hideki Irabu, a two-time World Series winner with the Yankees, and an outstanding starter for 9 seasons with Chiba Lotte Marines, was found dead today in Rancho Palas Verdes, CA. Irabu, last seen in this space attempting a comeback with the Long Beach Armada of the now defunct Golden League, never managed to live up to the gargantuan expectations of Yankee ownership or fans after signing a 4-year, $12.8 deal in 1997. Said pact came after San Diego purchased Irabu’s Japanese contract, but were forced to deal the right-hander to New York when he refused to sign with the Padres.
Rightly or wrongly, Irabu will probably be best remembered by American sports fans as the subject of ridicule, by characters real and ficitious.
Of University Of North Carolina head football coach Butch Davis (above, left) “accepting full responsibility” for his program’s laundry list of violations, The News & Observer’s Luke DeCock opined, “when an oil tanker runs aground, they don’t put the captain in charge of the cleanup.” Yet that’s exactly what school President Holden Thorp did by allowing Davis to remain employed after a scandal-plagued 2010 campaign, with said tenure ending, curiously enough, earlier today. And it’s the wait that has DeCock crowing, loudly.
Thorp and the trustees put the players on North Carolina’s football team who didn’t do a thing wrong — the vast majority of the players on this year’s roster — in an almost impossible position going forward. A coaching change a week before the start of training camp is about as big a negative as you can slap onto a team’s season. It’s an uphill climb for the Tar Heels now, a season in purgatory, and there are a lot of innocent players who already saw last season diminished by the misdeeds of their teammates.
Thorp has had ample reason to cut Davis loose for almost a year, ever since that awkward night he apologized to fans because the investigation had uncovered possible academic fraud and, oh by the way, the tutor we would soon know as the mysterious Jennifer Wiley just happened to have worked in the Davis household. Even the day last month when the NCAA finally got around to handing down its Notice of Allegations would have been a better day.
The timing of Davis’ firing is as baffling as the long delay in getting to this point in the first place.
Perhaps mistaking Atlanta for Detroit and attempting to heed Jalen Rose’s advice that nothing’s open after 2am except hospitals and legs, umpire Jerry Meals ended last night’s Pirates/Braves, 19-inning marathon by calling Julio Lugo safe at home despite being gunned down by Pedro Alvarez by a good 10 feet. At least one observer has dubbed Meals’ failure to recognize a sweeping tag by Pittsburgh backstop Mike McKenry, “a new worst call ever”, but professional skeptic Rob Neyer of SB Nation asks, “isn’t it possible that umpire Meals saw something the rest of us didn’t?”
It might not be likely, but it’s possible that Jerry Meals (above) saw something, something real, that none of the cameras were able to see. If there was an eighth of an inch between Michael McKenry’s mitt and Julio Lugo’s pants, would the cameras have caught that gap? Not from what I’ve been able to tell; none of the cameras were placed in just the right place to see that gap, if there was one.
Yeah, I know Lugo behaved as if he were out. Players do that all the time. Sometimes they just don’t know. Sometimes they assume they’re out because the throw beat them by 10 feet. Usually they’re right. Not always.
You can blame Jerry Meals for the Pirates’ loss, and I suppose there’s a pretty good chance he deserves it. But what about Clint Hurdle, who lost a 19-inning game and never used his best relief pitcher, instead asking another of his relief pitchers to throw more than 90 pitches? What about McKenry, who employed the swipe tag when he could have planted his glove squarely on just about any part of Lugo’s person?
(above : Beltran’s loving farewell to Jay Horowitz, who might be able to eat solid food again in a few weeks)
Multiple Tweeters of considerable prominence are reporting the San Francisco Giants’ acquisition of Mets RF Carlos Beltran is nearly complete, with outfielder Gary Brown and /or pitcher Zach Wheeler (maybe) heading to Flushing, pending Beltran waiving his no trade clause. Though it’s not the happiest end to the 6-time All-Star’s tenure in New York, that Sandy Alderson received anyone of substance in return for a two-month rental is slight consolation after ownership have waved the white flag on the 2011 season for the 3rd or 4th time since Spring. More comforting from a Met perspective is whatever solace can be found in not having to watch Beltran performing postseason heroics in a Braves or Phillies uniform. G’bye and good luck, Carlos. Thanks for the (mostly) pleasant memories, and if anyone from the Giants front office mentions something about visiting a veteran’s hospital, make absolutely certain you’re there several hours early (and maybe send out a press release criticizing whatever Brian Wilson wore that day.)
Much like Allen Iverson, Dwayne Schintzius’ fashion statements weren’t always appreciated in the early ’90′s NBA, and the former Spurs C is quoted by the San Antonio Express-News’ Tim Griffin, explaining the toll such bold moves took on his hoops career.
Schintzius believes his mullet-style lobster haircut he wore during his season with the team was the major reason for the trade.
It seems that then-Spurs general manager Bob Bass didn’t like the haircut and wanted his prized rookie to trim his locks.
“He told me to cut it,” Schintzius told old friend Joey Johnson of the Tampa Tribune (hat tip Project Spurs.com). “So I got it cut and sent him the shavings in an envelope. I’m not sure he appreciated that. And then, away I went.”
Calling Stephen Drew’s gruesome ankle break last Wednesday night “a freak fluke” , D-Backs first base coach Eric Young reminds fans and pupils alike there’s a more surefire path to injury (and a higher-pitched way of making the argument than Gary Cohen might provide). From the Arizona Republic’s Jim Gintonio :
“(Drew) is one guy I wouldn’t have to ever worry about getting hurt sliding. We would have never thought that, not with him, he has the proper technique always, and his spikes just got caught in the dirt, and that’s a freak accident, a freak terrible accident.”
Head-first slides – which Justin Upton executed Sunday – can prove to be even more dangerous to a player, and Young usually avoided those as a player.
“I’m not a big proponent of the head-first slide; you leave your hands exposed to a lot. I know as a base stealer, I did it sometimes at second base and at third base if I felt I got a slow jump,” he said.
“At home plate, definitely, no head-first. I’m totally against it, and pretty much I’ve indicated to the guys: Let me tell you something, I’ve seen a lot of guys get hurt going head-first because that catcher will, with all that equipment on, will fall on you, hands, elbows, everything, head, neck, just so many things, shoulder, that can happen going head first.
“During the intensity, the act of the game, you do whatever comes, but I try to tell them, please avoid that because we can find you on the (15-day disabled list) quickly.”
Philly gossip columnist Dan Gross lifts the lid on hockey’s love of booze, with the kind of story that’s supposed to never get out of the locker room… as Philadelphia Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren notes, while not really denying the most juicy stuff:
The hard-partying ways of Flyers captain Mike Richards and center Jeff Carter played a major role in the organization’s decision to trade both players in June, say two Flyers who played with the pair last season….
Shortly after his arrival in December 2009, coach Peter Laviolette instituted what players came to call the “Dry Island.” Laviolette asked team members to commit to not drinking for a month, and each player was asked to write his number on a locker room board as a pledge. No. 17 (Carter) and No. 18 (Richards) were absent from the board on the first Dry Island, as well as the estimated five more times the policy was instituted….
Holmgren was “really upset that this is out there. That’s our locker room. Our inner sanctum. Our board. Someone’s crossing a line here,” in discussing the Dry Island.
Holmgren did deny such things led to the trades (Carter now plays for Columbus, and Richards for L.A.). And Carter’s agent said it was “bull—-” that “they are out partying and not focused on hockey,” though that’s certainly not new gossip to anybody who reads Flyers message boards (or Sports by Brooks).
…which is to say, the Manchester City striker actually did something memorable in one of those bullshit U.S. tour friendlies that are high in appearances fees, low on genuine soccer drama. The Guardian’s Daniel Taylor on Balotelli’s “remarkable act of self-indulgence” ;
Balotelli had opened the scoring from the penalty spot but manager Roberto Mancini was so incensed with the showboating that he immediately signalled for James Milner to replace the former Internazionale striker. The manager studiously ignored Balotelli as he was substituted only for the player to confront him and demand to know why he had been replaced. Mancini rose to his feet and started to berate him angrily before Balotelli stalked off.
“I hope this is a lesson for him,” said Mancini, who hopes a deal for the Atlético Madrid striker, Sergio Agüero, can be done in the next four or five days. “In football you always need to be professional, always serious and in this moment he wasn’t professional. He needs to understand his behaviour has to be good in every game – not just in a final or a semi-final but every game.
“He knows he made a mistake. Football should always be serious and if you have a chance to score, you should score. If you are serious, you can play 90 minutes. If not, you can come and sit by me on the bench. Mario is young, I want to help him and that is the end of it. To take him off after 30 minutes is enough punishment. It won’t have been easy for him but it has to be a lesson.”
“Are people in Chicago getting tired about talking about Viciedo?” said Guillen, responding to suggestions that the Sox should move infielder Omar Vizquel to make room for Viciedo. “We are going to keep this recording about Viciedo for people in Chicago because sooner or later, they are going to hate Viciedo — at least for a week and talk about how bad Viciedo is and how crazy we are to bring this guy from Cuba.”
“But I want to make it clear about those people who want Viciedo here, I want Viciedo here. But the thing is where do I play him?”
In addition to the outfield logjam, Guillen said Vizquel is the Sox’s lone true backup shortstop.
“I wish I could play 10 players like a softball game, play him (Viciedo) in the middle of the field, and then we bring him (up),” Guillen said. “If Vizquel leaves, that doesn’t do anything good for us having Viciedo here.”