Planet Flips Out In Anticipation Of Rocket’s Return

Posted in Baseball, Sports Radio at 1:12 pm by

(well, that’s another great artist whose CD’s are heading straight for eBay)

How fitting that during a period in which The Sultan Of Surly is almost universally loathed for the 24-and-one environment surrounding his swelled head, the Astros are again prepared to break the bank and every (unwritten) rule about team chemistry to gain the services of Roger Clemens for a final 4 months.

Jayson Stark was on Mike Greenburg and Mike Golic’s ESPN show this morning, opining that Koby Clemens’ (Kobe? Kory? Kruncy? Kasey? Krusty?) presence as an Astros farmhand was the deciding factor. “The Rocket’s tune up starts for Lexington might be the most watched minor league games of the year!” drooled Stark, further suggesting that heads might explode in a Cronenburgian frenzy were we to witness Koby digging in against his Dad during a competitive game.

I mean no disrepect to Stark, whose journalistic chops pretty much kill anything I can offer as a cut and paster. But as someone who watches the odd minor league contest every now and then, I’d like to point out the following :

1) Were Clemens to re-sign with the Astros, it is highly unlikely he’d be pitching against Koby. Not unless the younger Clemens was traded to another team. If Stark misspoke and meant Koby as a battery mate for Roger, perhaps he’s not noticed that Koby has been playing 3B this season.

2) Nothing against Lexington, KY, but Corpus Christi and/or Round Rock are far more likely venues for a trial launch of the Rocket. Particularly as Clemens has a small stake in both clubs.

(KORRECTION KORNER : Lexington, Corpus Christi and Rock Rock are all said to be sites of forthcoming tune-up starts for the Rocket, so I goofed. Stark was not incorrect, though I still don’t get what he meant by father-pitching-to-son.  If Lexington are going to move the recently injured Koby behind the plate after he’s been playing 3rd just for the purpose of forming a father/son battery, why not invite all other available members of the Clemens Klan to fill out the other positions?)

Even Kendra Davis Thought This Was Over The Top

Posted in Basketball at 9:22 am by

Phoenix 106, Dallas 86

(poster sales for Dirk should be through the roof in the Phoenix area this summer)

More coffee, please for the two guys on Sporting News Radio this morning who claimed that comparing Raja Bell’s presence last night to Willis Reed’s inspirational play in the 1970 NBA Finals 7th game against L.A. was “inappropriate”. In what way? While the Suns weren’t facing elimnation last night, does anyone doubt they’d have little chance of advancing were they trailing 3-1?

Wasn’t it Mark Cuban that said rivalries were good for the NBA?

 From the Arizona Republic’s Norm Fraunheim.

Two Phoenix fans filed a complaint against the wife of Dallas Mavericks coach Avery Johnson as the result of a confrontation Tuesday night during Game 4 of the Western Conference finals at US Airways Center.

Rebecca Kettle, 32, and Jose Martinez, 34, alleged misdemeanor assault after they got into an argument with Cassandra Johnson midway through the first quarter of the Mavericks-Suns playoff game, according to arena security.

Kettle and Martinez were escorted out of the arena not long after the incident.

Players on the Dallas bench turned around and looked up into the stands when the argument started. However, Avery Johnson said he wasn’t sure what happened.

“I heard something went on,” he said after the Suns evened the series at two games with a 106-86 victory. “We’ve been in situations before on the road. (Mavericks owner Mark Cuban’s) wife has had problems. My wife. Our president (Terdema Ussery).

“You know, when you’re on the road, you know things happen. People throw stuff at you. So, we’ll see what happens. I haven’t really talked to her, yet.”

The East Valley Tribune’s Mike Tulumello has a few more details including the always welcome allegation of “f-bombs” being levelled.

Sultan Of Surly Sullied By Fat Nick Association

Posted in Racism Corner, The Law at 7:31 am by

I sincerely hope that Tim Kurkjian doesn’t think this victim of racial hatred did anything to bring it upon himself. From the New York Daily News’ Scott Shifrel.

When hate-crime defendant Nicholas (Fat Nick) Minucci clubbed a black man with a baseball bat in Howard Beach last year, “It sounded like Barry Bonds hit a home run,” a former pal told jurors at his trial yesterday.

“Like ‘bing,’ [just] like that!” was how witness Frank Agostini described the sound of Minucci’s aluminum bat slamming against the skull of victim Glenn Moore.

He said Minucci, also 19, swung the bat a second time, again striking Moore, 23, in the head. Moore suffered a fractured skull, but survived the assault.

Then, as they fled the scene, Agostini recalled an angry Minucci saying: “N—-rs want to come to the ‘hood and rob s–t. They learned their lesson.”

Visibly nervous, Agostini avoided eye contact with Minucci and instead sought out his detective father in the back of the courtroom.

Minucci, meanwhile, shot daggers at Agostini, but also busied himself reading a Harvard Law School professor’s treatise on the N-word. He contends he used a variation of the vile slur as a hip-hop friendly greeting to Moore and his pals – and not as a racial slur.

The N-word, along with other profanities, was laced throughout Agostini’s testimony.

Surely Fat Nick’s defense team are aware that Barry Bonds hasn’t used an aluminum bat since his days at ASU?

Minor League Umpiring Strike Ends

Posted in Baseball at 2:56 am by

From the New Britain Herald’s Ken Lipshez.

The Rock Cats were notified early Tuesday that the striking minor league umpires union had ratified a new six-year collective bargaining agreement and will return to work on or before Monday’s game.

The new pact increases salaries by $100 per month and daily meal-money allowance by $3 a day. The union – Association of Minor League Umpires – rejected a similar deal a month ago. Salaries in the Eastern League average out at about $12,000 over the 5½ months of the season, according to the umpires.

Umps had said their salaries previously averaged $15,000 at Triple-A, $12,000 at Double-A, $10,000 in full-season A-ball and $5,500 in rookie leagues.

As part of the new deal, per diems rise $3 to $28 at Triple-A, $25 at Double-A and $23 at Class A. They will rise gradually to $40 at Triple-A in 2011, $35 at Double-A and $30 at Class A.

In the meantime, the incalculable damage done to the careers of Delmon Young and Tim Ireland won’t be redressed.

Life & Death Of A Rip City One-Tracker

Posted in Basketball at 2:49 am by

Jason Cohen forwards the following item from Chicago Tribune’s Sam Smith which ran on Monday :

The Portland Trail Blazers, the NBA’s most repressive regime, appear to be becoming more so with a new media policy that includes tape recording interviews between reporters and players. Not surprisingly, the dysfunctional Blazers already have had to apologize to the Portland Oregonian for getting quotes wrong in their transcript.

Commissioner David Stern, during a media session last week in San Antonio in which no member of his staff thought to record the questions and answers, was asked about Portland’s new policy, unheard of in the NBA, and responded: “I haven’t had the opportunity [to see the policy], but I think they ought to have some discussions with the Chinese government to see if they can align their policies.”

Stern joked he would “love to muzzle everyone in this room and have you print exactly the story that we’d like.” But he added, turning serious, that he was proud of the NBA’s media access, which is a conduit to its fans, and that it disappoints him when one of the teams doesn’t pursue that goal.

Of course, Stern said, “I don’t know all the facts. I read it in a newspaper, which is inherently unreliable.”

Have we got the funniest commissioner, or what?

In a completely unrelated note, Blazers GM John Nash was relieved of his duties yesterday. The Oregonian’s John Canzano figures it’s just as well, as Nash didn’t have nearly enough autonomy.

I asked Nash often about the team’s three-headed management team, and he usually said something like, “This franchise isn’t run unlike a lot of others. This is my job. I’m part of this.” And maybe some of that is true, but anyone who has observed the sociological experiment going on at One Center Court knows there is only one other show like this on Earth.Even that one has a ringleader.

This is one of those days I wish we could call in investigators, tape off the franchise with yellow crime-scene tape, and dust for fingerprints. I suspect we’d find that Nash’s prints would show up sparingly. He overruled scouts and drafted Sebastian Telfair two years ago, for sure. Best we can tell, he pulled the trigger, too, on signing free agents Steve Blake ($1 million salary), Joel Przybilla ($1.6 million) and Juan Dixon ($2.5 million).

That is, he had the juice to make the little moves. And you know, he jabbed with the best of them. But it’s haymakers — the knockout moves, for crying out loud — this franchise needed most during this era. And those were noticeably absent. Someone always stood in the way.


Waechter Lives, Dies By The Splange

Posted in Baseball at 10:31 pm by

Every wonder where new pitching innovations come from? Me neither. Fortunately, Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times is the inquisitive type. (link lifted from Repoz and Baseball Think Factory).

When Doug Waechter was warming up to pitch in Boston on Thursday, he didn’t have a good feel for the split-finger fastball he had debuted in his previous start.

He fidgeted with his grip until it felt comfortable and ended up somewhere between how he holds the ball for a splitter and how he holds it for a changeup, with his index finger on the side of the ball and his middle finger on a seam.

From that, the “splange” was born.

“I just figured I’d compromise. I decided I’d grip it right in between and let it rip,” Waechter said. “I’d never even thought about it before. It was one of those things that just comes to you.”

Waechter figures he threw the “splange” about eight times Thursday, including several to Boston slugger Manny Ramirez, and usually with good results. It isn’t as hard as his fastball, and it dropped dramatically out of the strike zone.

He plans to throw more “splanges” again tonight when he starts against the Orioles. “It worked, so I might as well stick with it,” he said.

Waechter may have invented the pitch, but manager Joe Maddon took credit for the name. Pitching coach Mike Butcher was working the other direction, trying to call it a “chitter,” but Maddon liked the sound of “splange.”

Sadly for the Devil Rays, the spalnge wasn’t working too well on Tuesday night, Waechter’s record falling to 0-4 in a 7-5 loss to Baltimore. Miguel Tejada hit his 14th HR of the season in the O’s 3 run 5th.

As long as Mets fans are allowed to moan endlessly about the price paid for Victor Zambrano, consider the cost of Kris Benson ; Ty Wigginton, 12 HR’s and 39 RBI’s in the season’s first two months. I’m not suggesting for a moment that Wigginton had any long-term future to speak of in New York, but he’s not doing badly considering where he was at a year ago.

Detroit’s Best Team In A Dogfight (With Apologies To The North Shore Animal League)

Posted in Baseball at 10:00 pm by

Yankees 6, Tigers 6 (top of the 11th)

With the Pistons headed for a likely exit and the Red Wings long since adjourned to the golf course, the Tigers’ insane start to ’06 rightfully takes center stage, and tonight’s encounter with the Highlanders hasn’t lacked for drama. Detroit came back from deficits of 5-0 and 6-1, as I-Rod’s remarkable career resurrection continues unabated ; Pudge (3-5, 3 RBI’s) hit a solo HR to left off Aaron Small in the 3rd, and his retrieval of a Fernando Rodney wild pitch in the top of the 9th was a possible game-saver ; Rodney tagged out Robinson Cano at the plate. At first glance, it appeared as though Cano got in under the tag, but replays revealed his left foot popped up slightly just prior to making contact with the dish. For all the occastions in which umpires are slaughtered in this forum and everywhere else, let it be noted that Tim Tschida make a terrific call.

Diamondbacks 7, Mets 2

Nothing like a couple of days in Flushing to make Eric Brynes look like an All-Star. The cause of animal over-population aside (I could go on about Chris Cotter all night), there’s not much to say here. Miguel Batista pitched a decent game for the Snakes (CG, 9 hits, 2 earned runs, a solo HR allowed to Jose Valentin), Conor Jackson should’ve already rendered Tony Clark someone else’s first baseman, Alay Soler was horrible, Darren Oliver just fine in relief….and Lastings Milledge (above) not only had a double in his 3rd big league at bat, but he’s got a huge gold crucifix that’s sure to create serious glare problems on a summer day.