Speed Read: Mo Saves #500 As Mets Melt Again

Back in April of 1996, Minnesota Twins manager Tom Kelly said of Mariano Rivera: “That guy, he should be in a higher league. Ban him from baseball. He should be illegal.” At the time, Rivera had zero Major League saves and the Mets and Yankees had never played each other in a game that counted. Last night, Mo earned his 500th career save in a 4-2 win over the Mets, and it will be just as memorable for what he did at the plate than what he did on the mound.

Mariano Rivera

Rivera came in to pitch in the 8th inning last night with the Yankees clinging to a 3-2 lead and Met runner in scoring position. After striking out Omir Santos, the Yankee lineup ended up getting to Rivera’s spot in the order. And Mo did something he had never ever done in his Major League career — reach base. Not only that, he earned an RBI for his bases-loaded walk by Francisco Rodriguez.

Earlier in the inning, the Yankees had engaged in some shenangians, sending Francisco Cervelli to the on-deck circle for Rivera when Derek Jeter was up with runners on 2nd and 3rd with 2 outs. This led to maybe the only time in history in which Steve Phillips and Joe Morgan have made tons of sense. There’s no way Rivera’s coming out of the game, with the Yankees leading 3-2, yet Jerry Manuel initially chose to have K-Rod pitch to Jeter with a base open. Knowing, mind you, that there was a 0% chance that Joe Girardi would lift Rivera for a pinch-hitter. Morgan and Phillips stopped just short of calling Manuel a moron for throwing Jeter a strike on the first pitch. After two balls out of the zone, the Mets finally gave Jeter the free pass. Rivera, of course, strolled to the plate, and was promptly walked (after he fought off a tough 2-2 pitch).

Rivera is still #2 all-time in saves to Trevor Hoffman, but will go down in history as the best closer ever because of his ridiculous 0.77 ERA (in 117+ innings) and 34 saves in the postseason. Plus, he’s now the only closer in MLB history with 500 saves who has been walked by another pitcher (Hoffman has no walks in 35 plate appearances).

It’s only fitting that the Mets were instrumental in all of this, as they keep finding new and interesting ways to fail against their cross-town rivals.

Luis Castillo

Speaking of fail, a little league game broke out in Arizona yesterday when the D-Backs hosted the Angels. Not only did Gary Matthews pull of a straight steal of home (which the media apparently thinks isn’t as “scrappy” as Jacoby Ellsbury doing it), but Arizona’s defense in the top of the fifth inning would’ve shamed Morris Buttermaker.

Diamondbacks fan

Let us count the ways:

1) Shortstop Stephen Drew lobbed a perfect strike to first baseman Mark Reynolds on a routine grounder. And Reynolds dropped the ball. Just dropped it. It was so bad, it actively looked like he was either trying to drop the ball or had never played baseball in his life.

2) Maicer Izturis lined a shot directly to right fielder Justin Upton. This ball also had the gall to hit Upton right in the glove, and he too made a complete mess out of it, as it bounded away from him and rolled to the wall.

3) The next batter, Bobby Abreu hit a ground ball directly at second baseman Felipe Lopez, who fielded the ball and threw him out. Unfortunately, the ball Lopez fielded was imaginary and the actual ball was somewhere in right-center.

This disaster came just one day after Arizona played a bunt by Erick Aybar into a t-ball home run (courtesy of two throwing errors on the same play). Is it any wonder the D-Backs are 30-46? Weren’t they one of the rising teams in baseball a couple of years ago?

Diamondbacks fan

By now, you’ve surely heard about the big soccer game yesterday, in which the Americans lost a heartbreaker to Brazil in the final of a goofy tournament that seemed to exist mostly to see if South Africa could host the World Cup next year without anyone dying. And, by all accounts, things went pretty well there other than the airhorns that the locals blew non-stop for the duration of every game (FIFA went as far as to try and temper the outcry by writing an article explaining how important making a horrible noise for two straight hours is to the South African people). Oh, and there was also the whole thing with the hookers and the Egyptians. But other than that, everything was great.

And everything was looking really great for the U.S., which came back from near-certain elimination in the group stage of the Confederations Cup to shock Spain in the semis and take a 2-0 halftime lead over Brazil in the final. And while the Americans deserved the early lead, the Brazilians were clearly the better team over the course of 90 minutes, outshooting the U.S. 31-9. It was only a matter of time before they found the back of the net, and they beat Tim Howard three times in the second half to take the title.

Brazil

The NEW YORK TIMES says that U.S. soccer narrowly missed a “moment” it needed to gain the sport traction in this country again. While the run to the 2002 World Cup quarterfinals was gripping, the games were played in the middle of the night and the Americans came up short in the one game everyone finally tuned into (the quarterfinal loss to Germany). Likewise, most casual fans missed the huge win over Spain on Wednesday, but were glued to the screen as Brazil stormed back to crush our dreams once again on Sunday.

Still, the U.S. soccer program is in better shape now than it has ever been, but if the sport is really going to take the next step in this country (if that can actually ever happen), they can’t afford to have a weak showing on the return trip to South Africa next summer.

US soccer

• The single-A California League is known as the place where pitchers’ ERAs go to die. This is especially true in the wind-blown desert of Victorville, where the High Desert Mavericks scored 18 runs last night in a home game against the Lake Elsinore Storm. Oh, and they lost by 15 runs.

You read that right. The Storm scored 22 runs in the first five innings, then added 11 more in the last two, and beat High Desert 33-18. The game lasted 4 hours and 10 minutes and was played in 100-degree heat. There were 10 home runs hit, and Lake Elsinore’s starting pitcher gave up 11 runs and would’ve earned the win if his manager hadn’t lifted him with 2 outs in the fifth inning and his team leading by 11 runs. Lake Elsinore picked up 32 hits while the Mavericks had 26. Two of those hits were by outfielder James McOwen, a lightly-regarded prospect who extended his hitting streak to a league-record 36 games.

• The CHICAGO TRIBUNE’s Phil Rogers has a mean case of sports columnist hyperbole syndrome, suggesting that the the Cubs should waive Carlos Zambrano because they’ll never win anything with him on the team. That may be true, but of course they’ll be further away from winning anything without him, because, you know, he’s a good pitcher.

• A teenager is being congratulated for driving like three times the speed limit in New Hamsphire.

Free Shawn Estes!

• TNT’s play-by-play man for NASCAR was suspended from yesterday’s broadcast for a “loud and public confrontation” that took place at his hotel the other night. Nobody in the booth mentioned their missing colleague, Bill Weber.

Ricky Rubio is now faced with the harrowing dilemma of whether to live in Minnesota or Turkey.

• Hey, when did Dennis Rodman become a Laker fan? (photo courtesy of J.E. Skeets)

scary Laker girl

• Hey, things are looking up, Detroit — Marian Hossa probably isn’t coming back, so you can go back to winning Stanley Cups now.

• The sock-puppet Stephen A. Smith, who is sort of the Triumph the Insult Comic Dog of the NBA Draft, made his final appearance at the Draft on Thursday. I will have a cheez doodle in his honor.

• BLACK VOICES says Serena Williams is writing a TV pilot inspired by both “Sex and the City” and “Family Guy.”  Just to warn you, Serena, the Sarah Jessica Parker-looks-like-a-horse joke is kind of a tired bit now.

• Scottish star Andy Murray is drawing record crowds to see him play at Wimbledon this year, and he’s up against Stanislas Wawrinka in the fourth round today. And if you tune in, you might want to keep your eyes peeled for Murray’s girlfriend, Kim Sears:

Kim Sears

Kim Sears

Has America’s performance in the Confederations Cup made you more interested in watching the World Cup next summer?

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Latest Bradley Meltdown Pushes Pinella Past Limit

Perhaps Lou Pinella could have used some of that pot he admitted to having smoked after watching yet another meltdown by one of his players last night. Not surprisingly, it was Milton Bradley who was the instigator this time, flinging his batting helmet in disgust and tossing a Gatorade cooler around the dugout after a bad at-bat in the team’s game versus the Chicago White Sox. (And what do baseball players have against Gatorade? If Tiger Woods ever walked into a MLB dugout, he’d probably be clubbed to death on sight.)

Milton Bradley throwing baseballs

(Lou Pinella was shocked that this guy lost his temper.)

But while Bradley’s meltdown was tame compared to his previous antics (no announcers were screamed at) or that of teammates such as Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster and Ted Lilly earlier this season, Pinella had apparently reached his limit. So MLB.COM says he had words with Bradley in the tunnel, ending with him telling Bradley to “take his uniform off and go home.” So do you think the Cubs are regretting signing Bradley to that three year, $30 million contract in the off-season?

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McHale’s Move From Minny Tweeted With By Love

Kevin Love is the first one to tell, er, Tweet the world that Kevin McHale would be leaving the Timberwolves.

Kevin McHale Kevin Love Minnesota Timberwolves

• Now that’s what you call a road test fiesta! Thanks, Top Gear!

• Could Coach K depart Duke to land as head honcho for the Lakers?

Eddie Van Halen is very hot at Nike for ripping off his guitar to design their new shoes.

• The Stanley Cup takes a dip in Mario Lemieux’s pool.

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Video: Ozzie Guillen y Carlos Zambrano Por Pepsi

As the Windy City Series gets underway at Wrigley today, Ozzie Guillen managed to have a hearty laugh at some Cubs fans selling shirts that make a mini-mockery of his Hispanic heritage. After such grand guffawing, one is bound to be bedeviled by a parched throat. Hey, Ozzie, how ’bout a Pepsi?


And look who’s co-starring in the commercial with the White Sox manager - it’s none other than Cubs hurler Carlos Zambrano. And even Bobby Abreu makes a last-second cameo.

Ahhh, muy refrescante!

As for the offensive shirts, Ozzie really does get the last laugh - at least for today.

Speed Read: Braves Get Their Man (& Ditch One)

Credit the Atlanta Braves for knowing how to manage a news cycle. They flipped three prospects to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Nate McLouth to answer the need for outfield help (which they failed to answer correctly the first time by not signing Adam Dunn in the offseason), and called up Tommy Hanson (pitching phenom) and sent down Jordan Schafer (outfielder phenom) and look at all the exciting news!

Nate McLouth

(Nate McLouth: interstate man of mystery no longer)

And, oh by the way, they cut local hero Tom Glavine so they wouldn’t have to pay him up to $3.5 million to throw weaker than Jamie Moyer in a headwind when they don’t really need a farewell tour but more of a starting pitcher. But look! Nate McLouth! All-Star!

Braves GM Frank Wren swears it’s not about the money - which always means it’s about the money. McLouth is actually fairly inexpensive through 2011 with a club option for 2012 if he’s worth $10 million, but the team is replacing three minor league salaries with a major league one (roughly speaking).

Glavine will look for another job and has a decent chance of finding one if the price is right for a desperate franchise. However, no franchise has shown enough desperation to hook up with Sammy Sosa since Baltimore began its bizarre fascination with Chicago Cubs outfielders in 2005 and Texas took Sammy out around the block in 2007.

Sammy Sosa getting hit in head

Therefore, he’s announcing his retirement officially this week… sometime. As always, Sammy has to get an extra swing or two in before finally connecting, so his actual retirement will be later this week. Possibly.

Some will celebrate their last chance to moralize about him before his Hall of Fame eligibility kicks in. Others will tell Sammy to put a cork in it because they’re sick of him. The best recommendation? Smash a boom box with a baseball bat. It’s like an aural piñata!

Finally, the U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team squirted the bed in a simply filthy manner last night in San José, Costa Rica. The U.S. squad gave up two goals in the first 15 minutes of a World Cup qualifier to Costa Rica at the notoriously difficult Saprissa Stadium (banned: alcohol, batteries, and coins) on their way to a 3-1 thumping that wasn’t remotely that close.

Costa Rican Superman

(A Costa Rican Superman? Well, that explains a lot)

The bastard out there at ESPN that thought it would help ratings if they jammed Jon & Kate Plus 8 in front of U.S. keeper Tim Howard instead delivered a showing that led the Galavision announcers to chastise the Costa Ricans for not stomping on the throats of the Americans even more and to compare one goal in particular to stealing candy from a baby.

Jon & Kate Plus 8 Plus Tim Howard

(Actual photo of attempted defensive wall)

Because of two silly yellow cards received by two U.S. players, the American team will be short two people when they play against Honduras at Soldier Field in Chicago Saturday, in what promises to feel like an away game with maybe 25% of the 60,000 fans cheering for Uncle Sam’s boys. If the U.S. doesn’t earn three points with a win, there’s a very real chance they could miss next year’s World Cup in South Africa.

If U.S. coach Bob Bradley is still looking for a left back that has never played there before in a crucial situation, why not call on Tom Glavine? He’s available; he’s a winner; he’s looking for a job. At worst, he can help heave batteries back into the crowd at a gentle 83 mph.

And now a hail of sapphire bullet points of pure love for the Queen of the Blues on her passing

  • One old baseball man who tabled his moment in the sun: Randy Johnson. His first attempt at 300 wins in D.C. last night got washed out by Mother Nature (whom Randy went to elementary school with) and will be played today at 4 pm ET with Mr. Unit on the mound.
  • Carlos Zambrano continues to show disrespect to inanimate objects by blowing off the team jet to Atlanta (and not for the first time). Needless to say, this story doesn’t have legs if the Cubs aren’t splashing around .500 still.
  • Also filed under “not living up to expectations and therefore open to criticism”, please note the Serena Williams entry created when she lost in the quarterfinals. She showed up to the French Open out of shape mentally and physically, choosing to wear outfits that accentuated the latter and threw snit fits that proved the former. The only person this “athlete/actress” is cheating is herself.

Serena Williams at the 2009 French Open

Jose Lima Wife

How did the Braves’ efforts yesterday affect the NL East race?

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Cubs’ Gatorade Machine To Be Placed On Waivers

Proving once again that FOX’s Ken Rosenthal gets to the heart of the biggest stories in MLB, he reported yesterday during the Cubs-Dodgers telecast that the Cubs are going to be getting rid of the Gatorade dispenser in their dugout after Ryan Dempster and Carlos Zambrano beat the living crap out of it in separate incidents earlier this week.

Cubs gatorade machine

In the good old days, players just laid the wood to a garden-variety barrel that was easily replaced by a new one. But the dispenser (pictured above) is like the self-serve soda machine at your local fast-food joint — an actual mechanism that requires a service call to fix if it’s blasted with 35 ounces of maple. And, “in this economy,” the Cubs decided they didn’t want to have to keep calling the repairman to come put the thing back together.

Dempster, in a somewhat hilarious interview (video after the jump), says the dispenser will be missed but has to share in some of the blame.

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Speed Read: Michigan St. Gets Tar Heel Bruising

Is there any reason we shouldn’t have seen this coming?  Sure, North Carolina had more talent, depth and balance than Michigan State. They also had more experience. So why shouldn’t the Tar Heels have rolled up a rout in the national title game, cruising past the Spartans, 89-72, and validating North Carolina’s upperclassmen who decided to come back for a final year rather than head to the NBA.

north carolina celebrate

Yet, by halftime, this wasn’t a game so much as a massacre on hostile territory.  North Carolina built up the biggest halftime lead in national title game history, and the few moments when Michigan State climbed closer than that in the second half proved more fleeting and false than impressive.

In the end, the final game of the entire NCAA Tournament, the game for which we sat through a month of buildup, complete with a compelling Final Four David vs. Goliath script and 60,000+ screaming, green-clad fans in economically depressed Detroit, was almost like the early season North Carolina rout of Michigan state on replay. If we’d whitewashed the original, 98-63 score and written in 89-72, would anyone have noticed? We dare say they wouldn’t have.

michigan state bench cry

In fact, if there were overnight Nielsen ratings that cut off at halftime, we’d love to see them. Something tells us the second half viewers were significantly less than the TBS re-runs that preempted Game 7 of the ALCS last October.

Yet, as is always the case, there was plenty of celebratory violence/delirium in Chapel Hill as soon as the final buzzer sounded. In fact, it probably hit well before the final buzzer, given that the rout was fully on well before the game wrapped up.

tar heels fans chapel hill

According to the NEWS & OBSERVER, fans wasted little time ratcheting up the rowdy, starting fires and tossing around alcohol at a terrific pace. No, they didn’t temporarily relocate Franklin Street to College Park, Md., but you might not have known any better if you just shot a cursory glance at the post-title celebration.

And what was the motivation behind the fans’ craziness? Oh, it was all in good fun … and venting, naturally.

“It’s the culmination of the entire year of yelling at the TV,” said 24-year-old Elliot Rubin, who attended UNC, of the experience. “It’s the most jubilant feeling ever.”

“The crowd is definitely bigger this year,” said DeeDee Monzee, a 2007 UNC graduate, before jumping through a bonfire. “There’s a lot more alumni out here.”

Yes, you read that correctly. Those fans were giving journalistic quotes between leaps through bonfires. That, dear friends, is the way to live life on the edge.  Now, if only they could get the police on board …

What is it about Jacksonville wide receivers? Not only did Reggie Williams find himself arrested on a felony count of possession of a controlled substance (cough, cocaine, cough), he also may have been using the magical Sweet & Low, seeing as how his arrest blowback against the cops earned him a straight tasering.

jaguars reggie williams

Yes folks, you’ve got that right: For the second time in a year, a Jacksonville wide receiver has been arrested in possession with cocaine. And this is the second time in three months that Williams has been arrested for DUI and some sort of drugs. Clearly, these guys don’t believe in discretion, or learning from others’ mistakes. And they don’t seem to care, either. After all, Matt Jones opted for jail instead of probation just so he could keep hitting the sauce. What’s to make us believe that Williams will pull out of a steady nose sugar habit just because of one nasty arrest in Houston. After all, what else are drug test masking kits for?

The bigger question is what the remaining wide receivers on the Jacksonville roster — Troy Williamson (who knows what it’s like to get suspended), D’Juan Woods, Mike Walker and Nate Hughes –  are going to do now that Williams has burned his last possible bridge back to Jacksonville. Please say a huge party, please say a huge party, please say a huge party …

bus cook agent

hasheem thabeet sunglasses

stamford bridge

Did you watch the second half of the title game last night?

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Speed Read: Time To Perform Last Rites On Cubs

Apparently, not even God can save the Cubs. The CHICAGO TRIBUNE reports that team brought in a priest to spread Holy Water on their bench before Game 1 to exorcise the demons of collapses past. But after last night’s wretched 10-3 loss to the Dodgers in Game 2, the Cubs look ready to call the priest back - this time to perform Last Rites.

Crying Cubs fan

How bad was it last night? How about every starting infielder making an error. Not the kind of night the Cubs needed when Carlos Zambrano decided to bring his less-than-A Game to the mound - more like his Z Game. The only bad news for the Dodgers was that Takashi Saito got shelled, giving up three hits and two runs without recording an out. Somehow I think the Dodgers will take the results.

Eva and Evan Longoria

In other playoff news, it turns out the Rays are pretty good after all. At least we know that Evan Longoria is. Tampa Bay’s rookie sensation became the second player in baseball history to smack homers in his first two post-season at-bats in the team’s 6-4 win over the White Sox. (The first? Gary Gaetti, now a coach with in the Rays’ farm system.) If almost-namesake Eva Longoria sent him champagne to celebrate the Rays’ playoff berth, what’s she going to get him now?

But it wasn’t all sunshine and roses in Tampa last night. As the Rays were doing something historic, the No. 10 South Florida football team was doing something familiar: getting upset on an ESPN Thursday night game. In this case it was Pittsburgh doing the honors, with Dave Wannstedt pulling of the type of victory that will somehow save his job after the team finishes 7-5.

As for other sports news, here’s what you missed while you were watching the Vice Presidential Debate and wondering if Joe Biden was wearing more make-up than Sarah Palin:

John Daly

What Chicago-area sports miracle has the best chance of happening?

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Redskins TE Cooley Is Very Revealing In His Blog

• We figured Chris Cooley’s blog would let us get to better know the inner workings of the Redskins’ TE, but we never would have guessed we would see this far inside.

Chris Cooley Christy

If there were naughty bits to be shown on Cooley’s blog, why couldn’t they have belonged to his new hot wife, Christy?

• Cubs hurler Carlos Zambrano no-hits the Astros in Milwaukee. Somehow, that causes Ned Yost to be bounced from the Brewers.

• Speaking of teams with curses, a soccer goalie in the Congo tries to use a little witchcraft, only to see 11 people die in the ensuing mid-game riot.

• The Chiefs get tomahawked by the Raiders. Looks like the wrong AFC West coach is about to get fired.

• Meanwhile, Chargers fans seem ready to hack off Ed Hoculi’s limbs for his questionable non-fumble call against the Broncos.

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Big Z Shows No Mercy, No-Hits Ike-Weary Astros

Milwaukee’s Miller Park saw its first no-hitter on Sunday night — and the Brewers were in Philadelphia. Proving once again that Hurricane Ike was some sort of sign from God for the Cubs and Astros, Carlos Zambrano threw the first Cubs no-no in 36 years in front of more than 23,000 screaming Cub fans (and four guys rooting for the Astros) at Houston’s “home game.”

Carlos Zambrano

It was a cruel twist of fate for the surging ‘Stros, who arrived by plane just hours before the first pitch after spending the past two days dealing with chaos in their hometown. Meanwhile, the Cubs hopped a bus for a 90-minute ride up the expressway.  It was almost the perfect conditions for a no-hitter — if Zambrano hadn’t just spent nearly two weeks recovering from a sore rotator cuff.

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