Speed Read: Mets Make All The Stops, Prevail 1-0

In the long run, not only did Jerry Manuel’s latest brainstorm contribute to team unity, but it’s going to save the Mets a ton of money. On Tuesday following New York’s season-worst fifth straight loss, Manuel read the riot act to his underachieving minions in a closed-door meeting, and ended things by making an unexpected transportation demand. For their game on Wednesday against the Brewers, the team would eschew their separate taxi rides and travel together in the team bus.

Mike Pelfrey, David Wright, Carlos Beltran

Not sure how much hazing occurred in the back seat where the driver couldn’t see what was going on,  and … hey Beltran! Quit mooning those girls and get back in your seat! But the result on the field was positive, as the Mets prevailed 1-0 behind 7 2/3 scoreless innings from Mike Pelfrey. Pelfrey, ironically, was the only player who missed Manuel’s mini-tirade the day before, having received permission to leave early to rest for Wednesday’s game.

Oh, don’t worry — they’re still the Mets. New York struck out 12 times against Yovani Gallardo (8-5). But Ryan Church’s one-out single in the sixth, which scored Luis Castillo, who had doubled, was the only offense needed. So New York (38-39) moved back within a game of .500, two games behind the first-place Phillies. The Mets head to Pittsburgh for a rainout makeup today before a weekend series at Philadelphia. That’ll be a long bus ride.

Meanwhile, check that Wimbledon ticket you just bought online — I’m pretty sure you’ve been duped. Andy MurrayMania has gripped this staid tennis event with a fervor, as tickets for Sunday’s men’s final are being offered for as much as £20,000 each on some sites. I’m not sure what that is in American money — a million bucks? — but it’s a freaking lot for tennis. Of course it’s all because Murray is British, and someone from those shores hasn’t won Wimbledon in 73 years (down with the Kaiser! Where’s the Titanic? It’s overdue!). Murray, a 7-5, 6-3, 6-2 quarterfinal victor over Juan Carlos Ferrero, could be on his way to his first grand-slam title.

His semifinal today against sixth seed Andy Roddick could set up a final against Roger Federer, which even I would watch.

Fans have been queueing outside Wimbledon for 48 hours to get their hands on tickets for the semi-finals and final, while agencies report that demand is up four-fold. But the prices are higher than ever, with a pair of quarter-final tickets for Murray’s Centre Court match yesterday, worth £170, selling for £6,100.

With the avalanche of demand has come the threat of fraud. Wimbledon authorities are investigating bogus websites charging thousands of pounds for tickets that do not exist. One site under investigation — onlinewimbledontickets.com — is almost a replica of the official Wimbledon website, in the familiar green-and-purple livery, offering Centre Court tickets for the final at £2,499.

A Romanian businessman, who paid more than £11,000 online, is among more than 50 victims, mainly from mainland Europe. The website, with telephone numbers in London and Ireland, takes the money online but does not deliver the tickets. Their phone lines were dead yesterday.

And now for something completely different. It always pays to read the fine print, as a Twin Cities sportswriter has learned after mistaking the blog Sir Charles In Charge as being authored by the actual Charles Barkley. ST. PAUL PIONEER-PRESS writer Don Seeholzer attributed an item on the blog to Barkley, writing that Sir Charles was promoting Del Harris as the next head coach of the Timberwolves. Actually Barkley has nothing to do with the site, as it states in the disclaimer.

Charles Barkley at American Century

(”Is that a blog, or a duck? Damn, I’m confused.”)

The main reason I mention this is because I happen to know that Barkley just recently learned what the word “blog” means, and he certainly won’t be starting one anytime soon. I followed Barkley for the duration of the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship at Lake Tahoe last year, blogging about his game for NBC SPORTS. Just before the first round on the first day, I approached him to let him know what I was doing. His response: “What’s a blog?”

On the third day, Barkley was telling everyone who would listen: “This guy says he’s blogging my game. I don’t know what a blog is, but it don’t sound good.”

That was a mere 12 months ago. I doubt that he’s become the next Will Leitch in the meantime.

And now, links to peruse as you lament the demise of your neighborhood bikini fireworks stand:

  • You may think that Shaquille O’Neal’s arrival in Cleveland won’t make that much of a difference, but Vegas types tend to disagree. Bodog.com has just installed the Cavaliers as co-favorites with the Lakers to win the NBA title, both at 9/4. Bodog had Cleveland at 3/1 on June 15. Rounding out the top five are the Celtics (5/1), Magic (6/1) and Spurs (11/1). Once again I shall slap down a ten-spot on my Golden State Warriors, at 100/1.
  • Oh, and Bodog’s pick to win Saturday’s Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest: Joey Chestnut at 2/3 (Takeru Kobayashi is second at 6/5, Tim “Eater” Janus third at 12/1). Over-under on hot dogs consumed: 61 1/2.
  • Attention, Scott Boras: Eric Whitfield, 12, son of former major leaguer Terry Whitfield, had four home runs in four at-bats and also pitched two innings of perfect relief to lead his Hillsborough (Calif.) Little League All-Star team to a 17-0 win over Redwood City National on Wednesday. Hillsborough has won four of the past five District 52 All-Star titles (district play being the first rung on the ladder toward the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.).
  • Unfortunately, America is apparently not yet ready to see a video of Chris Cooley burning the body of a dead horse which he found on his property. After much soul-searching, Cooley decided not to post it on his blog. Even though “the video is amazing! I spent over an hour today putting it together and it is one of my finest works, one that my kids will look back on and cherish. So for now, I’m sad.” As always, the comments are the best part.
  • Jessica Simpson, Tiger Woods, Tony Romo

  • And speaking of celebrity golf, here’s your Jessica Simspon, Tony Romo, Tiger Woods fix for the week. It’s the opening ceremony of the AT&T National on Wednesday in Bethesda, Md., whee! Also on hand were Bruce Boudreau, Jason Campbell, Antwaan Randle El, Rock Cartwright, Shaun Suisham and Leon Harris. Thanks for the photos from Dan Steinberg at DC SPORTS BOG, who also noted that “Some wise soul managed to write “Go Redskins” in Romo’s yardage book, which was one of the better moments of the day.” Jessica also favored all in attendance with a tune.
  • OK, that starting position for Blake Griffin seems to be open now. On Wednesday the Clippers agreed to trade power forward Zack Randolph to the Grizzlies for Quentin Richardson, according to the LOS ANGELES TIMES. The deal can’t be finalized until July 8, when the league establishes the salary cap.
  • The Dallas Mavericks are preparing to offer Jason Kidd $25 million over three years, according to ESPN. The Knicks may also be ready to offer a three-year deal, although for what amount, it isn’t certain.
  • OK, some hockey news. Fine. Marian Gaborik, the finest athlete with a Marian-sounding name since Marion Morrison, agreed to a five-year deal with the Rangers for $7.5 million per year.
  • Prepare for the lovefest surrounding the return of drug cheat misunderstood genius Manny Ramirez, who returns to the Los Angeles Dodgers lineup on Friday night in San Diego. LA went 29-21 without him, and are seven games up on the second-place Giants. Why not stop by Petco and give him a standing ovulation … er, I mean, ovation?

Will you be glad to see Manny back in Dodger blue?

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