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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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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Random Guy Celebrated WS Title In Locker Room

Meet Lionel Rodia. He’s either A) the luckiest fan in America or B) the country’s most convincing liar. How do we know? Because, depending on whether or not you believe his story, he actually snuck down to a seat near the field for the conclusion of the Phillies’ clinching Game 5 of the World Series at Citizens Bank Park, then ran on the field, got in on the dogpile and, eventually, sprayed champagne all over players like Jamie Moyer and Ryan Howard.

lionel rodia phillies champions

(That’s either Rodia in the locker room or the work of a Photoshop master.)

Sure, it seems like a stretch, but Rodia’s story — and at least a couple supporting photos — are convincing enough that SPORTS ILLUTRATED ESPN columnist Rick Reilly wrote a classic 800-word piece on his escapades, which include this ultimate punchline: The man didn’t even pay for his World Series ticket.

In fairness, it does sound like the ultimate fan experience couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy. According to Reilly’s story — and to Rodia’s best friend, one Tom “Tush” Millison (of course his name is Tush) — Rodia had been laid off from his job at a staffing company the prior year, and was bumming his way into games and events with some aplomb. So his World Series adventure wasn’t unprecendented. It was just impressive.

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Jamie Moyer Pitching At 50 Increasingly Possible

When you win the World Series like the Phillies just did, you can get away with just about anything. Exhibit A? Signing Chan Ho Park. Exhibit B? Giving a two-year deal to a 46-year-old pitcher.

Jamie Moyer

(How old is Moyer? His rookie card came out when baseball cards were still cool. This, of course, is a 1987 Topps)

Of course, Jamie Moyer is no average 46-year-old pitcher (though there aren’t any others right now). Moyer is a Philly-area native who was instrumental in bringing the title to his hometown. And Moyer is one of the most durable pitchers in the game, even at his advanced age. I sometimes wonder if Mark Prior just sits at home silently watching Moyer, shaking his head at the absurdity of it all.

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Speed Read: Dodgers Done, Cowboys To Follow?

How often does the first batter tell you everything you need to know about how a baseball game is going to go? But after seeing Jimmy Rollins take Chad Billingsley deep in the first inning of Game 5 of the NLCS, did anyone have any doubt that the Phillies would be going to the World Series? The result wound up 5-1 for Philadelphia, but it might have been 1,000-1 after that first at-bat.

Philadelphia Phillies clinch NL Pennant

With how Cole Hamels was pitching, it’s not as though the Phillies needed much help, but Rafael Furcal channeling some combination of the Chicago Cubs’ infield, Steve Sax and Rick Ankiel (pitcher version) didn’t help. Furcal made three errors in the fifth inning, tying an MLB post-season record. I can sympathize with Furcal: I also once made three errors in one inning. Of course, I was 12, and a terrible Little League player.

Rafael Furcal and Joe Torre

I hate to burst the bubble of die-hard Philly fans like THE 700 LEVEL who are reveling on their team’s victory, and the fact that they are four games away from bringing the city its first major professional sports title in 25 years. So I won’t mention that the Phillies’ Big Three (Rollins, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley) are hitting a meager .250 combined in the 2008 playoffs.

Or that Jamie Moyer might wind up starting a World Series game, and that your starters not named Cole Hamels have an ERA just over 6.00 this postseason.

Or that the Rays have somehow turned into the 1929 Yankees, if that’s who you wind up playing.

Or that other than Manny Ramirez, this wasn’t a very good Dodgers team, and beating them in five games wasn’t really that huge of an accomplishment.

Just sleep tight, Phillie fans, after a night of serious celebrating. Probably in a pool of your own vomit, but sleep tight none the less, and don’t worry about tomorrow.

Meanwhile, as the Los Angeles Dodgers’ season ended with a thud, the slow-motion train wreck that the Dallas Cowboys’ season is becoming is continuing. A day after they were fleeced by the Lions (the Lions!) to complete their Roy Williams collection, the DALLAS MORNING NEWS reports that head coach Wade Phillips doesn’t expect Adam “Pac-Man” Jones to return to the team regardless of the length of his suspension.

Also not expected to come back after this season: Wade Phillps.

But fear not, Cowboys’ fans! Remember Tony Romo’s pinkie injury that was going to sideline him for four games? Turns out that he’s going to try to play this week against the Rams. Because having a quarterback trying to play with a broken finger on his throwing hand always ends up well. Right, USC fans?

Here’s what else happened last night while you were rolling your eyes at John McCain rolling his eyes:

    Mets bullpen car

  • THE LEGEND OF CECILIO GUANTE prays for the return of the bullpen car. I don’t know: as cool as they are, it’s a little less intimidating when NAME OF YOUR TEAM’S CLOSER HERE comes in from the bullpen to the sounds of AC/DC OR GUNS ‘N’ ROSES OR METALLICA OR BLACK SABBATH when he’s riding in a giant, cartoon helmet.
  • The LOS ANGELES TIMES reports that Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal, the Mob bookmaker and casino boss who inspired the movie Casino, has cashed in and gone to that comped room in the sky.
  • MICHIGAN DAILY notes that Michigan running back Mike Milano has been indefinitely suspended from the team after allegedly assaulting Wolverines hockey player and Anaheim Ducks prospect Steve Kampfer on campus, slamming him to the ground and knocking him unconscious.
  • Kansas State assistant coach Dalonte Hill reportedly makes $420,000 a year. THE CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION points out that is more than the school’s President makes.
  • How fat is Eddy Curry? So fat that he sat on his exercise ball and it exploded. That’s not a joke: THE DAILY NEWS’ KNICKS KNATION says this actually happened at practice on Monday.
  • BRAVES LAUNCH PAD notes the striking similarities between Phillies slugger Ryan Howard and The Office temp-turned-executive-turned-secretary of the same name.
  • VEGAS NEWS delivers a strike with news that Make That Spare is coming back to TV. Pro bowlers making spares over and over? That’s must see TV!
  • Your World Cup qualifying recap from the LOS ANGELES TIMES: The US, having secured their spot in the next round, fields a youthful squad and falls to Trinidad and Tobago, 2-1. Meanwhile, Mexico has to rally to tie Canada and is in danger of missing the final round of qualifying.
  • The NEW YORK TIMES’ SLAP SHOT follows up on the fallout from the tragic death of Rangers’ prospect Alexei Cherepanov at age 19, including the confusion over the possible causes of his death.
  • Finally, the AP has word that Bobby Knight told a TV interviewer that he would consider coaching again. But he was such a natural, energetic analyst working for ESPN. (Note: I’m being sarcastic here.)

Who do you blame for the Dodgers’ failures in the NLCS?

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Blog-O-Rama: Braun Makes Ads with Marisa Miller

• WITH LEATHER brews up photos of Milwaukee all-star Ryan Braun shooting an ad with the marvelous Marisa Miller.

Marisa Miller Ryan Braun commercial shoot

Lucky dog.

• THE FIGHTINS’ punch up video of the Phillies’ Jamie Moyer running over an ump who doesn’t make a goood speed bump.

• The ARIZONA REPUBLIC gets the gold for the goofiest Olympic blog headline so far: “Gay texts mom: Kobe asked about my leg

• EVERY DAY SHOULD BE SATURDAY isn’t so sure about Georgia’s chances for a BCS title, especially with Russian tanks roaming the countrysude.

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