Speed Read: Posada Gets Yankees In Stupid Brawl

You might wonder why you see the occasional baseball fight during July or even August, but almost never in September. For a good reason why, ask Bill Lee. (Actually don’t, because you’ll probably get a two-hour lecture on pot. Or the evil of the DH. Or both.) Even though it happened in May of 1976, him separating his shoulder during a huge brawl between the Yankees and the Red Sox caused him to miss the majority of the season (and possibly ruined his career).

Yankees vs Blue Jays brawl

So the same reason last night’s fight between the Yankees and the Blue Jays was both so compelling and ridiculously stupid. Because they were throwing real punches - not just the usual preschool pushing of most big league fights - and big-name pitchers like Joba Chamberlain and C.C. Sabathia were right in the middle, just waiting for a Blue Jay with a grudge to rip up their multimillion dollar arms. A good rule of thumb: don’t get into fights with teams who are 13 games under .500 - they don’t really have much to lose. Read more…

Has Curse Of Alyssa Milano Finally Been Broken?

By all appearances, Brad Penny is a new man. As Richard mentioned in this morning’s Speed Read, Penny’s San Francisco Giants’ debut was nothing short of awesome, as he tossed eight scoreless innings in a 4-0 win over the Phillies on Wednesday. This after throwing a grand total of one shutout inning for the Red Sox over the previous five months.

Curse of Alyssa Milano

Somewhere in a Beverly Hills mansion, surrounded by dishes of caviar and flying monkeys, Alyssa Milano violently curses the fates. Penny, who dated the fetching actress for a brief period in 2005, seems to be the latest of her former boyfriends to have beaten the terrible Curse of Alyssa Milano. Could it be that her bony grip on America’s Major League pitching has finally been broken for good? Consider the evidence:

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Speed Read: Yes, Denver, You’re Stuck With Orton

Sure, Denver Bronco fans booed Jay Cutler with all their might last night when he returned to play against his old team for the first time, but the boos eventually faded to mild displeasure, and then the eventual realization by the home crowd that they are, in fact, really stuck with Kyle Orton. The Bears won the first half — when both guys played — 17-3, and won the game 27-17.

Jay Cutler sign sad Broncos fan

In other words, the Broncos are about to fade into oblivion, somewhere they really aren’t used to inhabiting. It just took last night’s game for it to finally sink in. Even the lady pictured above doesn’t really seem to have her heart in that sign. She’s quite clearly not lovin’ it. Chargers fans, meanwhile, are already clearing their weekends in January. They could probably take four games off this year and still win the AFC West.

Cutler, of course, played well last night for his new team despite all of the distractions and a concerted attempt by the Bronco defense to make things as tough as possible on him. Suddenly, the Bears are brimming with confidence heading into their opener at Green Bay, and thinking they might be able to duplicate their Super Bowl run a couple of years back — this time with a QB who isn’t allergic to footballs.

Rex Grossman

Orton, of course, didn’t even make it to halftime because he sliced his finger open on another player’s helmet. For what it’s worth, he actually played fairly well (12-for-16 for 96 yards). But this is a guy who the Bears really only grudgingly let be their starter because a better option wasn’t available. Are there even five other teams where he’d be the #1 guy?

FOX SPORTS’ Alex Marvez just comes right out and says the Broncos were fleeced in the trade, not only in the 50-cents-on-the-dollar they got in return, but because of the way coach Josh McDaniels and owner Pat Bowlen botched the whole situation from the start. Maybe Mike Shanahan had lost his way a little, but wouldn’t your average Bronco fan rather have him and Cutler than the McDaniel-Orton combo? Did it really have to come to this?

Well, at least you can look forward to some more scenes like this out at the local bars, Denver:

Kyle Orton and girl

Which AFC West team is more dysfunctional?

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Some idiot blogger totally wrote off the Giants last week after they lost an excruciating game to the Rockies that dropped them four games back in the wild card hunt. In fact, all of the talk was about how Colorado might even run down the Dodgers when all was said and done. And no, I wasn’t the only one sticking the fork in San Francisco.

What a difference a week makes. Edgar Renteria, perpetually just barely good enough to keep getting a job, hit a grand slam that lifted the Giants to a 9-5 win over the Rockies and a series sweep. The teams are now tied heading into baseball’s official stretch run.

Edgar Renteria

(Edgar Renteria: When your team just doesn’t care enough to find a better shortstop)

I knew, of course, that Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain would always give their team a chance to win. But I hadn’t counted on the sudden rejuvenation of Barry Zito. Since a meltdown against the Padres on July 18th that made me wonder if they’d find a way to get rid of him altogether, he’s posted a 1.92 ERA in his last nine starts. Throw in Jonathan Sanchez, whose ERA has been right around 3.00 since the beginning of July, and you’ve got the best starting pitching in baseball right now. Just think if they could hit!

Now, the Giants have to find a way to stay close over the next 10 days. The Rockies start a 10-game homestand on Tuesday and host the Mets, Diamondbacks, and Reds. San Francisco, on the other hand, travels to Philadelphia and Milwaukee before returning home to play the Padres.

Barry Zito

(Yes, that is Zito not only tipping his cap, but also receiving applause)

• The US Open is starting today. An 18-year-old kid named Devin Britton won the NCAA championship this year, and his reward is a first-round match against Roger Federer. Let’s hope he handles the pressure better than Richie Tenenbaum did:

• TRUE HOOP has a great post about last week’s episode of “Mad Men,” which had a subplot dealing with the outrage about tearing down the old Penn Station to build Madison Square Garden in the 1960s, and how MSG is revered today as a sports venue:

Four decades later, it’s ironic that the building that was the bête noire of architectural preservationists has become the defining symbol of basketball preservationists — a receptacle for the sort of sentimentalism that fueled the opposition to its creation. 

• 124th-ranked Heath Slocum drained a 20-footer to beat Tiger Woods, Padraig Harrington, and Ernie Els by a shot at the Barclays tournament in Jersey. Tiger missed a six-footer on the 18th that would’ve tied it. The real winner of the day, though, was former MLB hurler Heathcliff Slocumb, who I briefly thought about for the first time in 10 years.

Heathcliff Slocumb

(Think the Red Sox regret trading him for Varitek and Lowe?)

• I’m not saying Daisuke Matsuzaka is finished, but a 49-pitch, five-run first inning in a AA game isn’t a good sign that things are back on track.

Tedy Bruschi is going to retire today, and then become the 18,214th talking head on NBC’s NFL coverage.

• The Pirates have now lost 21 straight games in Milwaukee.

• A 26-year-old female rugby player had her head run over by a two-ton grass roller set free by a bunch of teenage male rugby players while she was camping in a tent in Wales. Now she looks like, well, like she just played rugby:

Emma Winch, female rugby player

• Are the Cardinals really the team to be scared of in the NL? We all know that pitching rotations shorten in the playoffs, and the Cards are 29-4 since July 1st in games started by their big three of Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter, and Joel Pineiro.

• Want more evidence that the Mets are a little cash poor? They’re canceling their fall instructional league because it costs too much. The NY DAILY NEWS’ Adam Rubin says it costs about $300,000 to put on, which is about 1/40th of Oliver Perez‘ 2009 salary. Of course, the whole story is just Rubin angling for a job in the organization.

•  The LA TIMES’ Kurt Streeter is the latest to say what we’re all thinking. Gambling on football is rampant, so why isn’t our country making any money off of it?

• This is what the world has come to in 2009: There is now a “Twitter Warning” sign at the US Open cautioning players against revealing too much “inside info” in a tweet.

Andy Roddick tweets about Twitter warning at US Open

Speed Read: Can We End The Stanley Cup Finals?

Let’s be honest with ourselves: the Penguins are done. Sure, technically all Detroit did on Sunday night was hold home ice advantage with their 3-1 win over Pittsburgh in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals, the same score as Game 1. But their 2-0 lead pretty much feels insurmountable - does anyone feel like the Penguins can take four of the next five games against the Red Wings? Didn’t think so.

Chris Osgood

Especially since the Red Wings and their old, tired legs, were able to outhustle, outskate and just plain outplay the Penguins 24 hours after Game 1, a made-for-TV contrivance that was supposed to be their downfall. Pittsburgh’s Big Two of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have combined for one goal in the first two games, half as many as Detroit’s Justin Abdelkader, who was playing minor-league hockey in May. And both of his goals have been beauties, including his singlehanded effort last night:

The bottom line for Pittsburgh is simple: when their main goal scorers are being held in check, and their goaltending is soft, they are going to lose. It doesn’t matter how much revenge they want, or if Evgeni Malkin tries to start fights to fire the team up - Detroit is just the better team (and doing this without Pavel Datsyuk, mind you).

Speaking of Malkin’s fisticuffs: despite picking up an instigator penalty at the end of Game 2, which should be an automatic one-game suspension, the NHL has decided that Malkin will be on the ice when the serious returns to Pittsburgh. Think the league wants to avoid a sweep?

OK, remember how Texas beat Boston College 3-2 in 25 innings Friday night-slash-Saturday morning in an NCAA baseball tournament game? Well, their following opponents were Army, and while the game ended in nine innings, it was just as dramatic as the BC contest. The Longhorns scored eight times in the ninth inning for a 14-10 win, including a walk-off grand slam by Preston Clark. Check out the highlights here:

With the win, Texas advances to the Super Regional, where they will play TCU in a Best-of-Three series that will likely come down to the final pitch of Game Three. Seriously, guys, it’s OK just to win a 5-1 snoozer every once in a while. (Or if you are Florida State, a 37-6 snoozer.)

Jamie Moyer

Finally, congratulations for Jamie Moyer for getting his 250th career win yesterday, a 4-2 Phillies win over the Nationals. (And really, shouldn’t that could as half a win?) The achievements of the 46-year-old goes to show that not being able to throw hard enough to break glass isn’t a prerequisite to being successful. And it also shows that if you are a lefty with a durable arm, even a 4.23 career ERA can’t keep you from reaching some big milestones.

  • Give Brad Childress credit for having a good sense of humor: he busted out a nifty fake wig atop his notorious chrome dome at practice, and then said that he would only wear it during the season “if it had ‘Reebok’ across the top of it.” Here’s the photographic evidence (and it still looked better than Jared Allen’s hair):
  • Brad Childress

  • BLACK SPORTS ONLINE wants LeBron James to “man up” and shake hands after getting knocked out of the playoffs, or come to the post-game press conference. Two things he didn’t do last night after the Magic bounced the Cavs.
  • The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim rallied from a seven-run deficit in the final three innings to beat the Mariners 9-8 yesterday. Talk to Texas about it, guys.
  • I’m making a list of pitchers who don’t want to go to the Chicago White Sox, and apparently every No. 1 is on the list. First it was Jake Peavy of the Padres rejecting a deal, and now the HOUSTON CHRONICLE is saying that Roy Oswalt of the Astros will exercise his veto rights to nix any deal. But I’m sure Barry Zito is still available.
  • Here’s one way to break out of 0-for-18 slump: Ali Gardiner ripped a grand slam with two outs in the bottom of the last inning to lift the Florida over Alabama 6-5 to send the Gators to the College Softball World Series championship game.
  • How not to win your first PGA Tour tournament: miss putts inside 10 feet on the final hole of regulation and the first hole of a playoff, and then have your approach on the second playoff hole ricochet off the pin and roll back more than 20 feet from the hole. Steve Stricker was the beneficiary of Tim Clark’s bad luck/meltdown, picking up the Crowne Plaza Invitational.
  • The Orlando Magic thought they had lost All-Star point guard Jameer Nelson to injury for the season back in February, but now the ORLANDO SENTINEL is saying that the rehab for his shoulder injury is “dramatically” ahead of schedule and he might be available for the NBA Finals.
  • Arkansas DT Lavunce Askew was arrested on Saturday after allegedly stealing a laptop from an apartment. His teammate Matt Marshall also stole an iPod Touch, but was not charged after he returned it to the doorstep and helped police track down Askew. See, Marshall might be a thief and a stool pigeon, but his heart is in the right place.
  • World champion hurdler Jana Rawlinson was forced to confirm an embarrassing, poorly-kept secret circulating around the track world for months. Not that she’s using PEDs, but that she had breast augmentation. You would think if there’s one sport where being busty is a disadvantage, it’s hurdling. Check out some Russ Meyer-approved before and after action:
  • Jana Rawlinson

  • A tough week for auto racing: two veteran drivers are killed in separate short-track racing incidents in the Midwest.

Other than Kobe and Superman, who is the most important player in the NBA Finals?

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Alyssa Milano Dishes On Bad Sex With Pitchers

Well, now Giants fans know who to blame for Barry Zito’s career implosion. According to THE NATIONAL ENQUIRER, Alyssa Milano’s new tell all, “Safe-at-Home”, drops all the details from her past flings with star pitchers Carl Pavano, Zito and Brad Penny, even dropping the fact that Penny made her wear his jersey to bed.

alyssa milano

(Two thirds of the Milano bad luck club, as compiled by SI.com)

It’s the latest step in a trave-sham-ockery of a career for Milano, who’s gone from classic crap TV (Who’s the Boss?) to modern crap TV (Charmed) to baseball clothing. It’s only too appropriate that the outlet to break the story has such high standards of integrity that it thinks Barry Zito’s first name is Brad. At each step of the way, she’s gone to lengths to have very public relationships with high profile pitchers, each of which has immediately gone into the tank after they broke up with Milano.

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Barry Zito Goes To Hollywood For Night With Paris

I suppose one trainwreck deserves another. That’s why it shouldn’t surprise anyone that Paris Hilton’s new squeeze appears to be none other Giants pitcher Barry Zito, a man being paid nearly $20 million a year to not get anybody out.

Barry Zito and Paris Hilton

Perhaps Barry is still crushed over the news that his ex, Alyssa Milano, is getting married, and is taking out some frustration. My best guess, though, is that Paris thinks she’s dating Matt Leinart and doesn’t know any better.

Details of Paris and Barry’s night out after the jump.

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Did The Giants Sign Big Unit Just To Sell Tickets?

The Giants hadn’t exactly made a splash in free agency this offseason, moving away from a potential trade for Jake Peavy and failing to add significant bats to a pretty anemic offense. But all that may have started to change late last night, when the Giants inked 21-year veteran Randy Johnson to shore up the back end of their rotation. According to the SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE, Johnson’s deal is for a single year at $8 million, with another $2.5 million up for grabs in achievable incentives.

randy johnson

(Johnson put on an extra layer of orange toner just for Giants fans.)

That’s right folks, the Big Unit has a job, and now he’ll have plenty of motivation for a handful of starts during the season, when he can take on his former employers, the Diamondbacks. Still, as much as Johnson’s debut in the Bay Area could be a significant bolster to San Francisco’s hopes to becoming a legitimate ball club again, it’s hard not to be a bit cynical about the Giants’ latest signing: Is it possible that they just want to get in on another record chase?

Consider this: the Giants’ attendance plummeted last year after the departure of Barry Bonds. While the chase to befoul Hank Aaron’s record drove people to AT&T Park in droves, despite a crappy product on the field, the lack of drama surrounding the team’s young core made San Francisco an utterly skippable baseball commodity. In the next offseason, the Giants go out and sign an aging pitcher on the verge of 300 wins.

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Speed Read: Kings Turn Back Clock, Beat Lakers

Suddenly it was 2002 all over again for the Lakers vs. Kings rivalry last night in Sacramento. The Arco Arena crowd was hooting and hollering and the Maloofs were acting like giant cheeseballs, high-fiving, bear-hugging and giving lap dances to anyone within reach. Sacramento temporarily forgot how lousy they are in delivering a 113-101 beatdown of Los Angeles that really wasn’t that close. Wake up the echoes of Vlade and C-Webb, indeed.

John Salmons and Kobe Bryant

What the game came down to was defense, specifically the Lakers’ total lack of it. They were unable to stop the high pick and roll, leaving the Kings with huge lanes to the basket to score or dish for threes. This is not a good sign for the Lakers going into tonight’s game against Steve Nash and the Suns, even if Shaq isn’t playing.

That’s three bad performances in their last four road games against average to awful teams (Indiana, Washington, Sacramento), which should be enough to silence any talk about 70 wins. But before Lakers fans go calling their therapist for a new prescription of Zoloft, they should remember that the team is still 17-3.

Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Mo Williams

Meanwhile in Cleveland, a legendary Cavaliers superstar reached a huge career milestone. Congratulations to Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who had set the franchise record for career rebounds in the team’s 114-94 rout of the Toronto Raptors. And oh yeah, some guy named LeBron James tried to horn in on the Big Z’s big night by setting the team’s career mark for steals and chipping in with 31 points.

Other sports news to read while you consider calling in gay to work today:

    Wayne Rooney and accused killer Anthony Corsi

  • Apparently, about the worst thing you can do in England is tell someone they look like Manchester United star Wayne Rooney. THE SUN reports that drunken slur in a taxi line led to one man’s death while the Rooney lookalike is currently facing manslaughter charges.
  • The DETROIT NEWS has word that big-mouth former Michigan QB and mediocre MLB player Rick Leach thinks that former Wolverines coach Lloyd Carr should “support” the guy who replaced him, Rich Rodriguez.
  • An Australian politician rues to the HERALD SUN that having soccer players overstay their visas and apply for asylum is one of the risks of hosting the Homeless World Cup.
  • The WINSTON-SALEM JOURNAL notes that Ted Turner and TBS have been found guilty of a breach of contract in the sale of the Atlanta Hawks and Thrashers and ordered to pay $316 million in damages. Turner immediately protests that this “was nothing like an episode of Law & Order.”
  • Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller is cross that a ref swore at him during Monday’s game against Pittsburgh, says the BUFFALO NEWS. Reg Dunlop does not approve.
  • A good hint for coaches: don’t tell the press that it’s impossible for your team to win a game against your No. 1 rival, and Real Madrid’s Bernd Schuster said ahead of his team’s game against Barcelona. Not surprisingly, the NEW YORK TIMES reports Schuster’s been sacked. Also, don’t believe any rumors that Stephon Marbury is heading there to be the next coach.
  • 20 years later, Billy Ripken talks to CNBC’s Darren Rovell about his infamous baseball card. He still gets recognized “a couple of times a week” because of it - three guesses what people call him. Hint: it rhymes with “duck race.”
  • Stephen Curry: he’s streaky, but he’s also really good, as anyone who saw his second-half performance against West Virginia can attest to. The NEW YORK TIMES has all the details.
  • The latest name to enter the CC Sabathia Sweepstakes? The San Francisco Giants, who apparently weren’t burnt badly enough by Barry Zito to swear off big money pitchers. But Giants’ GM Brian Sabean tells the SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS his team is just a “fallback” option if Sabathia doesn’t sign with the Yankees.
  • Remember when Texas Tech QB Graham Harrell said there was a “great chance” that Mike Leach wouldn’t be back coaching the Red Raiders next season. Turns out he’s changed his mind, says the AP (via the SEATTLE TIMES).

Which high-priced free-agent is some team going to most regret signing this off-season?

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Blog-A-Roni: Beasley Sports New Nationals Tattoo

• MR. IRRELEVANT inks up news of Michael Beasley representin’ D.C. by sporting a brand new Washington Nationals tattoo.

Michael Beasley Senators tattoo

• DEADSPIN can’t decide what to watch on August 28 - Barack Obama’s convention speech, or Wake Forest @ Baylor.

• HOME RUN DERBY discovers that this season has been so bad for Barry Zito that his Fathead poster is on sale for 80% off the original retail price.

• STANLEY CUP JOURNAL has the highlights of the fun Fourth of July weekend the NHL trophy spent in southern California.

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Blog Jam: Ah-nold Gets Carded In New Topps Set

Chris Olds of the ORLANDO SENTINEL deals up some kooky baseball cards, including one of Arnold Schwarzenegger as President.

Arnold Schwarzenegger baseball card

• KTRE reports on a high school basketball coach accused of having sex with student - the twist being that both coach & student are female.

Rick Reilly devotes his debut ESPN column to his drunken dad.

• AOL FANHOUSE serves up notice that Michael Jordan has requested a restraining order on the woman who keeps bugging him about her baby.

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