Speed Read: Should We Want A Freeway Series?

I guess with all the trade deadline rumors about deals that did or didn’t happen, it’s kind of easy to overlook the most important thing in baseball: the standings. Because the story no one seems to be talking about is the fact that the best records in each league belong to teams in Southern California, setting up a real possibility of the first-ever Freeway Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the…let’s just call them the Angels.

Matt Kemp

Both teams looked the part of World Series contenders on Sunday. In Atlanta, the Dodgers used a three-run homer by Matt Kemp to pound the Braves 9-1; meanwhile, the Angels hammered the Twins 13-4 to complete a three-game road sweep where they scored 35 runs. And while not everything is 100 percent for either team (Chad Billingsley left his start early with cramps during the Dodgers’ win, while Vladimir Guerrero suddenly turned 150 years old this season for the Angels), there’s at least a strong possibility of an all-LA (kinda, sorta) World Series.

Mike Napoli

And as a baseball fan living in Los Angeles, here’s my feeling on this: I hope to God this doesn’t happen. The first reason is selfish: I have to drive past Dodger Stadium every day for work - it’s almost impossible for a Tuesday night game against Florida, so I can’t imagine what a World Series game against the Angels would be like. A 30-minute commute turning into a two-hour nightmare? No thanks.

But more importantly, I’d have to hear weeks of coverage about the series as if it’s a real, heated rivalry. Which would make my head explode, because it just isn’t. This isn’t Red Sox vs. Yankees, with real, palpable hatred. Or even Yankees vs. Mets or Cubs vs. White Sox, both of which are city rivalries with loads of class, race and societal baggage (in that who you root for speaks volumes about who you are and where you came from).

Dodgers vs. Angels has none of this. People root for one or the other based on which ballpark was closer to them growing up. (Fortunately, the area that is equidistant from Dodger Stadium and Angel Stadium is the mini-mall and warehouse-filled patch of nothingness called Norwalk.) If Dodger fans think about the Angels at all, it’s with a dismissive chuckle. Meanwhile, Angels fans will quickly point out who has the last World Series title while secretly grimacing at the whole “Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim” fiasco.

So in summary: just because Chan-Ho Park karate-kicked Tim Belcher 8,000 years ago, this isn’t a heated rivalry, and a Freeway Series won’t change that. Now a Lakers vs. Clippers Western Conference final…

Melky Cabrera

After having sex with a porn star, the closest most people get to a “cycle” is starting the next round of penicillin in hopes that their genitals go back to normal. But apparently Melky Cabrera defied the odds and got a decidedly more wholesome cycle, in this case becoming the first Yankee in 14 years to hit for the cycle in their 8-5 win over the Chicago White Sox. (Although I can’t comment one way or the other about his need for penicillin, but if he did sleep with former California gubernatorial candidate/drunk/professional sex object Mary Carey, it’s a small miracle if he didn’t catch something.)

Finally, an update on a couple of noted sports underachievers: Michael Phelps only managed to win five gold medals at the World Championships, adding his final one on Sunday by anchoring the Americans’ record-setting 400-meter medley relay team; and Tiger Woods won just his fourth tournament of the season by winning (probably last-ever playing of) the Buick Open by three shots. If only those two could maximize their potential, they might really make something of themselves.

  • Does anyone understand why the Chiefs’ mascot is a wolf? And one that has trouble clearing small fences, as photos tracked down by ARROWHEAD PRIDE from training camp seem to indicate.
  • FANTASY FORECAST breaks down eight different types of people found at every fantasy football league draft. Although I think they left off Guy Who Gets So Drunk He’s Picking “Poopy Fartpants” by Round 6.
  • If you’re a big NFL fan near Troy, NY tonight, you might want to check out some minor-league baseball as the Tri-Cities ValleyCats take on the Oneonta Tigers. Why? Because SI’s Peter King is going to be throwing out the first pitch and hanging out with fans to talk about the upcoming season, along with a host of NFL experts including NFL.COM’s Adam Schefter, Sporting News’ Albert Breer, NY Giants radio voice Bob Papa and Redskins lineman Ross Tucker.
  • The CHICAGO TRIBUNE breathlessly reports that Jay Cutler completed his first 12 passes during 7-on-7 drills at camp yesterday. Although to be fair, Kyle Orton and Rex Grossman probably couldn’t complete 12 passes back and forth to each other.
  • PRO FOOTBALL TALK says Bengals QB Carson Palmer has missed the last two days of practice with flu-like symptoms. Let’s hope he didn’t catch swine flu from eating any undercooked wieners
  • Formula One driver Jensen Button spent part of his break from racing competing in the London Triathlon, where he set a personal best. I would have spent the time watching his girlfriend Jessica Michibata giving her personal best while modeling bikinis on a beach in Japan.
  • Samantha Thavasa

  • We told you last week about Andy Reid’s hellish training camps and love of full-contact drills. Turns out there’s a down side to that: two Eagles players left last night’s practice with injuries.
  • Letdown City: the rally car racing final at the X Games gets stopped halfway through when Travis Pastrana wrecks his car, handing the win to former Indy 500 winner Kenny Brack. To celebrate, Brack knocked back a tall glass of ice cold Red Bull and milk.
  • I guess you could say that the Red Sox’s trade for Victor Martinez has paid some early dividends: he went 5-for-6 in Boston’s 18-10 win over Baltimore. Too bad Clay Buchholz is still not very good at pitching to big league hitters.
  • Finally, BALL DON’T LIE has video of the cheap shot that Italy’s Stefano Mancinelli delivered to the back of Aaron Doornekamp’s head during a “friendly” international basketball game against Canada:

Which baseball intra-area rivalry is the real deal?

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Victor Martinez Bobblehead Night … Awk-ward

And so we learn the folly of scheduling a bobblehead night featuring one of your star players on the day after the MLB trading deadline. The Cleveland Indians have some ’splainin’ to do on Saturday during Victor Martinez Bobblehead Night. I hear that anyone who’s anyone in Cleveland will be there, except of course Victor Martinez, who was traded to the Red Sox in exchange for Justin Masterson and Nick Hagadone a few hours ago.

Victor Martinez

So does this become an instant collector’s item, or a handy object to throw onto Progressive Field in disgust? We’ll find out tomorrow. Meanwhile, the Padres are breathing a sigh of relief that they decided to cancel Saturday’s Jake Peavy Kissing Booth. Read more…

Speed Read: MLB Ump Fist Bumps Marlin Catcher

This mustache belongs to the most hated man in Atlanta, MLB umpire Bill Hohn:

Bill Hohn

(”No, you listen to me, I’m telling a ‘you might be a redneck if…’ joke and there’s nothing you can do about it.”)

Hohn has been a bit suspect (to say the least) with his calls in games involving the Braves this year. As BLEACHER REPORT details, Hohn seems to operate with an entirely different strike zone when Atlanta is pitching, which resulted in a huge scene earlier in the year in Boston, in which Bobby Cox, Chipper Jones, and pitcher Eric O’Flaherty were ejected from the game on the same play for arguing balls and strikes.

On Wednesday night, the Braves and Hohn butted heads again over his strike zone, resulting in yet another ejection for Cox — one that he was baited into when Hohn told Cox he had to eject someone and then pulled out his lineup card to “decide” who to toss. Cox volunteered himself, and then threw up his arms in disbelief when Hohn did it. Moments later, Brian McCann was tossed for asking Hohn to admit he missed a call during his last at bat.

Even so, as egregious as Hohn’s mistakes may have been, it’s easy to dismiss Atlanta’s protests as just your average sour grapes. But then something happened on Wednesday night. When Marlins catcher John Baker caught the final strike in Florida’s 6-3 win over the Braves, he turned around and extended his fist toward Hohn, to which Hohn obliged with a response. Yeah, you heard it right, an umpire actually fist-bumped a player. Here’s the evidence, in animated GIF form. A screenshot of the bumping moment:

Bill Hohn fist bump John Baker

No word on whether or not Hohn “blew it up.”

Hohn likely didn’t realize how that would look, as Baker was probably just telling Hohn he did a good job (as players will sometimes do after games), but on a night when Hohn ejected the opposing manager for arguing about the strike zone, that was a pretty poor decision. One that probably should earn Hohn a game or two off.

The Braves were steaming when word got to them about the bump. Chipper says he’s never seen such a thing in his entire career, and all but accused Hohn and fellow ump Jerry Meals of having it out for his team. This a day after LaTroy Hawkins raised eyebrows for claiming the umps wanted the Cubs to beat his Houston team.

Still fuming, the Braves shook it off last night and beat the Marlins 6-3 on a 10th inning homer by McCann.

Bill Hohn

Your 2009  trade deadline is just hours away, ladies and gentlemen. J.P. Ricciardi continues to hold firm on a steep price for Roy Halladay, and we’ll see this afternoon just how serious he is about making a deal. Many teams have been in the hunt, but all seem to be unwilling to give up the one key prospect the Jays covet. And since Ricciardi can hold on to Halladay and do this all over again next year, he doesn’t feel that dealing him is a necessity.

Late last night, FOX’s Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi wrote that the Rangers might be the last team that will take a crack at Halladay, but seem reluctant to part with pitcher Derek Holland, who dominated the Mariners last night.

If Halladay doesn’t go anywhere, we might be headed for a dud of a deadline headlined by such blockbusters as Orlando Cabrera going to the Twins and/or Nick Johnson going to the Marlins.

Orlando Cabrera

(If Nick Punto was your shortstop, this guy would seem like a great option)

The Red Sox are going to to everything they can, though, to shake things up and land either Victor Martinez or Adrian Gonzalez. Gonzalez would be a huge coup for the Sox, as he’s signed through 2010 at about $2.5 million, and his option for 2011 is a very reasonable $5.5 million. I’m not sure, in fact, why the Padres would want to trade him unless they were getting a ton in return (something like Clay Buchholz, Jed Lowrie, and of Boston’s other top two or three prospects, and even that might not seem like enough). Not surprisingly, Jon Heyman has been told the Sox prefer Gonzalez over Martinez. Martinez has a team option for next year at $7 million, is four years older than Gonzalez, and doesn’t OPS anywhere near .929.

Either way, the Sox would have a huge jam with Mike Lowell and Kevin Youkilis competing for time at third base, while the new player would vie for time at first with Adam LaRoche.

Adrian Gonzalez

(Just like Big Papi, but a little less ‘roidy)

• A historic baseball stadium in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, is under water right now due to massive flooding. The COLLEGE BASEBALL BLOG has pictures of the mess.

• CNBC’s Darren Rovell says that one indication that our economy might be heading the right direction is that golf manufacturer Callaway’s stock price is on the rise on forecasts that club sales may be picking up.

• Alright, I’m pretty sure this is the final nail in coffin for the “grill” phenomenon:

Ryan Lochte grill

 • Tiger Woods has never missed consecutive cuts in his PGA career, so his 96th-place standing after day 1 of the Buick Open doesn’t bode very well.

• Eight year olds, dude: Dustin Pedroia’s brother sentenced to only one year in prison (and eight on probation) for sexual contact with a minor.

DeWayne Wise’s big week continues, as he singled in the winning run in the ninth inning of a 3-2 victory over the Yankees last night.

• Screw that whole east coast bias, the Pac-10 thinks it’s huuuuuuge in China. Good thing, since that’s where all the Harris Poll voters seem to live.

• Oh, Sarge (h/t AWFUL ANNOUNCING)

• I’m sure you’ve wanted to punch someone in the face during a game of Monopoly, but somebody finally went through with it. The victim’s crime? An apparent unwillingness to sell Park Place and Boardwalk.

• The Cubs beat the Astros 12-3 yesteray afternoon, and by early evening both starting pitchers from the game were no longer with their teams. Kevin Hart was among those traded by the Cubs to the Pirates for John Grabow and Tom Gorzelanny. Meanwhile, Houston put Russ Ortiz out of his misery.

• The guys at KISSING SUZY KOLBER think they’ve figured out who got in the way of the Reggie Bush-Kim Kardashian relationship. Shockingly, it’s a model, and her name is Carmen Ortega:

Carmen Ortega

Is today’s trade deadline going to deliver?

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