Now Is Not A Good Time To Be An MLBer’s Skull

Remember those weird-ass Japanese robots that play baseball? Maybe the Japanese were onto something. After all, this is a sport with a hard object often flying much faster than human reflexes can catch up to. So when robots take a cruel and unusual amount of physical abuse, it’s usually awesome and never scary or disconcerting.

David Wright HBP
(Oh, that ain’t good.)

The exact opposite is true for humans, though, and the Summer of 2009 Death March has turned its attention from random celebrities to the brain cells of baseball players. The results have been predictably harrowing.

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Ump Tosses LA Angels Pitcher After Two Pitches

John Lackey, one of the approximately 6.2 million Los Angeles Angels of Anywhere We Can Make a Buck pitchers that have been unavailable thus far this season, came back today for his first game of the season.  The sigh of relief from Angels’ fans had barely escaped their lips when Lackey threw his first pitch behind the head of Texas Rangers infielder Ian Kinsler, possibly for his two home runs Saturday.

Mike Scioscia arguing

Lackey (and Mike Scioscia?) must have truly been confident there would be few repercussions for this because the second pitch hit Kinsler in the trunk.  Who would throw out John Lackey, one of the best pitchers in baseball, on his first batter of the season?  As it turns out, umpire Bob Davidson would.

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Speed Read: Floyd’s Follies Continue to Roil USC

Tim Floyd, USC’s men’s basketball coach for the moment (and this after almost becoming a leader of Wildcats), allegedly paid a handler a thousand dollars in cash to be delivered to O.J. Mayo in a successful attempt to encourage the young point guard to follow through on joining USC for a season after signing his letter of intent.  (No, the handler wasn’t Li’l Romeo.  Good guess, though.)

O.J. Mayo Tim Floyd

Everyone from the handler to Floyd to USC could be in varying levels of trouble if true.  Therefore, absolutely no one except YAHOO! SPORTS’ source will speak on the record.   Their investigative journalism has been hit and miss, though their commitment to providing original reporting has not wavered.

It’s unclear how seriously the reporting from the site with the silly name can be taken, though, as they clearly do not have fake conversations where they hype their stories around a ridiculously small table while being filmed in black-and-white.  It’s not really journalism if it’s colorized.

E60 from ESPN

(Journalism!)

From one stereotypically smoky back room to another, Delaware’s legislature has passed a law permitting sports betting in a desperate attempt to fill a gaping $600 million maw in the state budget.  The governor has promised his signature on the bill once the state Supreme Court has spoken to the state constitutionality of the bill.

Delaware is one of only four states with a legal exemption to a 1992 federal law banning sports gambling and the only one east of the Mississippi.  State lawmakers have high hopes of becoming a gambling mecca for sports enthusiasts; one called the opportunity “an unbelievable cash cow”.  Again, it’s unclear how true this can be if no one will be allowed to gamble on the Wilmington Blue Rocks.

Wilmington Blue Rocks - Rocky Bluewinkle

(The only thing you can tease here is the moose, sir)

Finally, from one set of rocks to another, Boston came back to defeat the Orlando Magic 92-88 last night to take a 3-2 series lead in a highly predictable collapse from the team in blue that has only one mode: jack the three up and cross your fingers.

Magic against Celtics

Houston also got a condescending pat on the head for their Game 4 effort without Yao Ming before being penetrated 118-78 by the Lakers and falling behind 3-2 in their series. The Rockets now only have one reliable position: fetal.

Phil Mickelson and wife

(”… so that’s winning!  Interesting.”)

On the other hand, three fine NHL Game 7s have now been scheduled after wins by Anaheim and Boston last night.  Detroit never found its offense despite approximately 40392109 minutes on the power play while Carolina’s Cam Ward couldn’t quite figure out what all that goalie equipment should be used for. One possibility: handing off $1,000 in cash to the next O.J. Mayo?

Anaheim Ducks

And now a hail of bullet points discovered behind the olive loaf sandwich in the break room fridge; you know, the fridge that sent half your office to the hospital

Do you believe sports betting should be legalized?

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Bobby Jenks Admits To Intentionally Headhunting

It’s an established fact that most pro athletes see the media as annoyance that should be ignored, misled, and undermined at every turn. Lately, we’ve seen athletes deflect questions about things like steroids by feigning ignorance or outright lying. It’s frustrating as a fan to be treated with such disdain and indifference by athletes whose careers wouldn’t even exist without fans’ willingness to shell out money for tickets and merchandise. It’s also frustrating as a reporter to be constantly stonewalled on every question and every issue.

bobby jenks horrible goatee

(Guilty … of being sexy.)

Enter butt-loving pitcher Bobby Jenks of the Chicago White Sox. On Saturday, Jenks fired a wicked fastball behind Texas Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler. When asked about it after the game, did Jenks feign ignorance or give the standard non-answer answer about control issues? If you guessed yes, you don’t know much about Bobby Jenks.

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Speed Read: Yawn, Another Bulls/Celtics Classic

A few days ago, I thought that nothing could in the Celtics vs. Bulls series could top Boston’s wild OT victory over Chicago in Game 5, featuring Paul Pierce playing out of his mind to carry Boston to the win, Kirk Hinrich getting tripped by Rajon Rondo and smashing his face on the floor, or Brad Miller almost getting his faced ripped off (again by Rondo) before missing potential game-tying free throws with two seconds left to seal the victory for the Celtics.

Joakim Noah

But after last night’s Game 6 in Chicago,  I was clearly very, very wrong, as the Bulls’ 128-127 win in triple OT has not only pushed the series back to Boston on Friday for a deciding seventh game, but pushed the series from “epic” to “best ever” territory. And we can forget the qualifiers like “best ever first round series” or “best ever non-Finals series” - based on the series so far and what we can expect on Friday, this might be as good as an NBA series can possibly get.

Kirk Hinrich and Rajon Rondo square off

Just to recap some of the highlights, the fun started when Rondo and Hinrich got into it again early in the first quarter, with Rondo basically slinging Heinrich into the scorer’s table, with Heinrich immediately popping up looking for blood. Cooler heads prevailed and no one was ejected, but it sure served warning about what was to come.

Keep in mind that this game - and the series - should have all rights been over midway through the fourth quarter as the Celtics used a 25-2 run - 25-2! - to turn a 12-point deficit into a 99-91 lead with just under four minutes to go. In most series - hell, in any other series - a 25-2 fourth quarter run by the defending champs is enough to put an end to things.

But there were the Bulls, seemingly unable to grasp just how screwed they were, using their own 10-2 run to take the game to overtime. And from there, it was on. Taking the role of one-man team for the Celtics last night was Ray Allen, who scored 51 points including a game-tying three at the end of the second OT.

Even Allen wouldn’t be enough to fend off a wave of Bulls, all looking to be part of the heroics. One minute, it was John Salmons suddenly becoming unstoppable while scoring 35 points. The next it was Joakim Noah screaming down court after a steal for a ferocious dunk that led to a three-point play and Pierce fouling out with 35 seconds left in the third OT. And finally, Derrick Rose turning in the defensive ply of the season by blocking Rondo’s potential game-winner with three seconds left.

The series has been exhilarating, frustrating, ridiculous and incredible. But as Jalen Rose wisely pointed out on ESPN after the game, the Bulls will have people over the next two days congratulating them on their win, while the Celtics will be stewing on the anger of dropping it, which could be all the motivation they need. Remember what happened last season when the Celtics were pushed to a first-round Game 7 by an upstart team? For the good of sports, I hope history doesn’t repeat itself - sports fans deserve a classic game to end a classic series.

Meanwhile, Bill Simmons’Ewing Theory” - where a team inexplicably plays better without their star player - seemed to be alive and well elsewhere in the NBA playoffs last night. Despite having Superman grounded with a suspension after his hard foul on Samuel Dalembert, the Dwight Howard-less Magic were able to drill the 76ers 114-89 to close out their series.

Howard spent his time Twittering during the game, and I can tell you that I understand absolutely nothing he wrote. (Except for something about the Polish Hammer, which makes me wonder why he’s writing about former WWF wrestler Ivan Putski.) Not Twittering was Howard’s teammate Courtney Lee, who was too busy recovering from surgery on his sinus cavity which could cause him to miss the first few games of the Magic’s second round series to “tweet”.

The other example of the Ewing Theory came from out West, where the Rockets’ 92-76 victory over the Trailblazers clinched their first playoff series win since 1997. This was all done, of course, with Houston star Tracy McGrady on the shelf for the season since late February recovering from microfracture surgery on his knee. Coupling the Rockets’ success with Denver’s closing out of New Orleans - giving Carmelo Anthony his first playoff series victory - and there’s now no question who is going to be known as the Best Player Never To Have Won A Playoff Series.

Meanwhile, I’m sure you’ve taken the time this week to butter up your friend with the illegal cable box, since there is a big-time boxing match coming up this weekend as giant killer Manny Pacquiao takes on Ricky Hatton. Since there’s only two days to go until the fight, the fighters have shut up as the hype machine ramps up to sell PPV buys and tickets, meaning that everyone has to get their two cents in about the fight.

That includes the trainers, who seem to be threatening to become the bigger story than their charges. Hatton’s new trainer Floyd Mayweather Sr. has been defending claims that his combative presence has created problems in the Hatton camp - tough to do when you remember what a jerk Hatton’s father/trainer could be. Meanwhile, Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach is telling people that Mayweather was a “poor choice” to train Hatton and that he would have been better served making a different choice of trainer - like himself.

And with any big fight, the media has to track down some brain-damaged, washed-up former champion to give their bleary opinion on who is going to win the fight. God knows where they find these poor sods, but I hope they at least bought them breakfast. People like this sad case named Oscar De La Hoya, who drooled out an opinion for the DAILY TELEGRAPH:

“Hatton can confuse you, offset you, and especially with the Mayweather factor in the corner in this fight,” he told Telegraph Sport. “I know Mayweather, what he is capable of, what he plants – those little details he plants in your head.

“I’m crossing my fingers that Mayweather and Hatton can go undefeated for many years to come. There will be a chess match going on mentally and physically between both camps but, with all due respect to Freddie Roach’s training ability and his team, Mayweather is the better trainer.”

“I’m speaking from experience. He is more technically sound. He teaches you the craft, the art of boxing. He’s old school – an amazing trainer – yes, he’s one crazy son of a gun, but mentally he plants those little details in your head for you to become King Kong inside the ring.”

It sounds to me like De La Hoya’s fight against Pacquiao should have been stopped about eight rounds earlier than it was; clearly the 200 straight blows to the head he took during the fight have rattled his brain to the point of no return. And think about this: if De La Hoya thinks Mayweather Sr. is a better trainer than Roach, what would have happened to him if Mayweather Sr. had trained Pacquiao instead of Roach? Yikes!

Hinrich vs. Rondo was pattycakes compared to some NBA playoff incidents. Which one is your favorite?

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Speed Read: A Handy LeBron Coronation Program

The 82-game NBA season ended with a gentle thud last night as the Bulls failed to secure the sixth spot in the East while the Spurs latched onto #3 in the West.  The Great Bennydini will be angered by this turn of events.

The Great Bennydini (Benny the Bull)

However, you can now express your joy in the NBA’s second season with your own SPORTSbyBROOKS NBA playoff matchups in convenient chart form:

Eastern Conference

  • #1 Cleveland We’ll Be Shouting ‘BOOBIE!’ as Much as Possibles vs. #8 Detroit Ballast Jettisoners
  • #2 Boston Can We Borrow a Dead Guy’s Knee for KG Like We Did for Curt Schillings vs. #7 Chicago Sixteen Guards and Whaddya Gets
  • #3 Orlando Dwight Hasn’t Figured Out a Costume Change to Make Him a Point Guard, Toos vs. #6 Philadelphia So Glad We’re Paying Elton Brand $18 Million in 2012-2013s
  • #4 Atlanta Name Three Players vs. #5 Miami Name Twos

Western Conference

  • #1 Los Angeles Kobe Clubs Baby Seals with Portuguese Water Dogs Wrapped in Veals vs. #8 Utah Deron Williams Falls Asleep Every Night Clutching a Copy of His Tear-Stained Contract After Failing to Find an Out Clauses
  • #2 Denver You’ve Got to Be Kiddings vs. #7 New Orleans Seriously, Aren’t These in the Wrong Orders
  • #3 San Antonio Flashbacks vs. #6 Dallas Hey, At Least We Haven’t Traded for Shaq Yets (Note: the above series has been moved to CBS and the Hallmark Channel as per FCC regulations around programming for the elderly.)
  • #4 Portland Maybe Next Years (But Don’t Tell Joel Przybilla’s Grandma We Said So) vs. #5 Houston There’s Also a Regression Analysis to Prove Shane Battier Makes the Best Damned Mojitos in Texas

As always, it’s the gift you didn’t even have to ask for.  Or didn’t want to.

Major League Baseball tried yet again yesterday to provide another round of gifts to Jackie Robinson, who has been feted nearly as often as Frank Sinatra since his death. Yesterday, every player in baseball wore number 42 in his honor to avoid the embarrassment of 42 wearer infighting last year.

Jackie Robinson

However, since MLB continues to be a bit short in providing affection through monetary donations, at least a couple players did their best to pursue great achievements on Robinson’s day.  Tim Wakefield took a no-hit bid into the eighth inning in Oakland before noted hater Kurt Suzuki ended the fun with a base hit.

Ian Kinsler followed up on this attempt with his own success: 6-6 at the plate with a cycle attached.  If the opposing team last night (the Orioles) happened to be your sleeper team this year, you may want to check just how deep that sleep is.

Speaking of deep sleep, former Illinois governor (and current Illinois chew toy) Rod Blagojevich apparently didn’t feel it necessary to stop at meddling with the affairs of Tribune Co. when he didn’t get his way.  He also sent a note to Cubs manager Lou Piniella to recommend a lineup change in 2007.

Rod Blagojevich

S’funny; we don’t remember Blago being so receptive to a lineup change at the state level earlier this year.  Perhaps he isn’t a big fan of having his moves micromanaged by impotent whiners who never held the position dictating his actions from afar when they’ve never been in the trenches, y’know?

Speaking of, what say we peek around the Internet with a gentle tap-tap-tapping of bullets on your window pane while you consider the effects of an on-campus bar in Redmond, WA, on Windows 7 development

  • Congratulations on playing all 82 games this season, Grant Hill.  Also, congratulations on getting your wife, Tamia, a spot at All-Star Weekend and various local charity events in Arizona.  Strong season all ’round.
  • Now that the WALL STREET JOURNAL has a sports section, expect to see sabermetric notions exposed to a larger audience.  That might explain why the guy in the cubicle next to you suddenly wants to talk about batting the pitcher eighth.
  • Best of luck with the dissertation, PhDribble.
  • Presumptive #1 NFL draft pick Matthew Stafford will be on Jimmy Fallon’s show Thursday, but Fallon won’t bring him out until three other picks have been introduced.
  • We suspect the last time an angry bear was used to sell hockey tickets involved Bruce Vilanch and the Los Angeles Kings, but this isn’t so bad, either:

Now that the non-playoff teams have been determined in the NBA, who will end up the winner in the Blake Griffin sweepstakes?

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