Speed Read: The End Of The Road For Smoltz?

One of the sadder sights in sports is watching a legend come to a realization that, despite still having the desire and the will, they just don’t have it anymore. You could see it in John Smoltz‘ eyes when he was staring blankly out of the Red Sox dugout last night, stewing in the crushing reality of getting battered by the Yankees for eight runs and nine hits in just 3 1/3 innings of a 13-6 loss.

John Smoltz

It was the first time the Yankees have beaten the Sox this year, and maybe the last time we’ll see Smoltz on the mound. He’s now 2-5 with an 8.33 ERA. He’s given up at least five runs in six of his eight starts. He has zero quality starts and hasn’t gone more than six innings in any game. More importantly, he’s pitching for a team that’s struggling to stay ahead in the wild card race and can’t afford to give the guy charity starts, even if he is a sure-fire Hall of Famer. In some ways, it’s probably better to be Tom Glavine — a guy who wanted to go out on different terms but might be better off that he didn’t have to go out this way.

As for the Sox, it can’t be good knowing that you’ve won eight of nine from your biggest rivals and you’re still 3 1/2 games out of first. The Yankees are 10 1/2 games better than the Sox in games in which they haven’t played each other. And with A-Rod back in the lineup, it’s hard to see the Sox winning eight of the next nine the teams play. In fact, the Yankees haven’t seemed so in control of the AL East since 2006. And any time you have Muhammad Ali wearing your cap in the stands, that can’t hurt:

Muhammad Ali Yankee hat

And now, I bring you what may turn out to be the lamest sports feud ever. Seems that former baseball commissioner Fay Vincent has drawn the ire of John McEnroe’s father (who also happens to be named John McEnroe). To the point where the elder McEnroe felt compelled to write a letter to the PALM BEACH POST about a column Vincent wrote that was supposed to be a tribute to Walter Cronkite. Yes, the combined age of the people involved in this dispute is about 341 years (and one of them’s dead!).

Fay Vincent

(A fine baseball historian, but a total hack when it comes to tennis)

Vincent’s original column was a nod to a comment Cronkite supposedly made after the senior McEnroe was seen shouting at CBS president Tom Wyman because a network cameraman accidentally ran onto the court to capture the end of the 1985 US Open Final a point early:

Mr. Cronkite and I had sat silently through all this, but with Wyman’s explanation, the cultured and civil Cronkite whispered in my ear, “Fay, a real block off the old chip.” I laughed loudly and told him he had it just right.

For many years after, whenever I saw Cronkite at a gathering or in a restaurant I always made it a point to remind him of the event and to congratulate him for such a perfect and witty comment. Interestingly, he always admitted he remembered.

Somehow I recall Cronkite more fondly and respectfully than I do either of the two McEnroes. By the way, the father was a successful partner in a major New York law firm.

Old Mac isn’t having any of that noise.

John P. McEnroe

(”You cannot be serious, Fay!”)

Quoth Mac Sr.:

I write in response to Fay Vincent’s recent column, which centered on a comment from Walter Cronkite and involved my son and me. He recalls sitting next to Walter Cronkite and Tom Wyman, president of CBS, at an unidentified final match at the U.S. Tennis Open. I held Mr. Vincent’s tenure as the commissioner of Major League Baseball in high esteem, but must reconsider after reading his unflattering and virtually totally inaccurate account.

BOOM! Take that, Vincent. I bet you’ll think twice the next time you consider spinning a yarn about the 1985 US Open final like nobody’s gonna call you on your bullcrap. In McEnroe’s defense, it appears as if Vincent completely botched not only the most basic aspects of the match (for example, he contends that the younger McEnroe dispatched of Ivan Lendl easily when Lendl actually won in straight sets). But McEnroe’s real anger is directed at Vincent’s accusation that he directed a profane tirade at Wyman. He then goes on to essentially say that Vincent made up the “block off the old chip” quote and even gets in this weird comment about Cronkite:

Personally, I had two brief encounters with Walter Cronkite over the years. The first was in the men’s room at the Yale Bowl one year at halftime of the Yale-Harvard game where we briefly spoke (but did not shake hands). A similar incident happened in the men’s room at a Manhattan restaurant a few months later and I said something like “we have to stop meeting like this,” at which he chuckled and agreed.

It’s a shame Cronkite isn’t around anymore, if for no other reason than the inevitable “I’m pretty sure we shook hands” rebuttal that would’ve been in the paper on Monday.

grumpy old men

Andre Ethier hit his third walk-off homer of the season last night against the Braves. By comparison, Ichiro has one walk-off hit in nine years.

• The Patriots have acquired Raiders holdout Derrick Burgess, who led the NFL in sacks four years ago.

• Remember when Freddy Adu was a big deal? 19-year-old American soccer phenom Jozy Altidore has joined English Premier League team Hull City, and should be in their lineup for the opener against Chelsea next week.

Jozy Altidore

• YAHOO!’s Dan Wetzel has an interesting take on the Michael Crabtree situation (which we covered yesterday), specifically on the notion that Crabtree is trying to negotiate based on where he was going in mock drafts, and not the actual one.

• THE WIZ OF ODDS says sports betting is back on again in Delaware.

• Hockey season may seem far away now, but those Red Hot Flames will make the wait a little more palatable. I’m guessing that what happens at the 0:55 mark won’t be included in the montage at Brett Hull’s Hall of Fame induction:

Julio Castillo, the minor-league pitcher who was convicted of assault for throwing a ball into the stands last year, was sentenced to 30 days in jail and three years’ probation yesterday.

• As a huge Guided By Voices fan, I have to tip my cap to WALKOFF WALK for building a post around comparing Robert Pollard and Roger Clemens.

• Topps has signed an exclusive deal with MLB to become the sole licensed manufacturer of baseball cards starting next season. This comes as quite a shock to those of us who thought they stopped making baseball cards in 1991.

John Hughes hadn’t directed a movie in 18 years, but his death is still a shock to any of us who grew up in the ’80s. He had his hand in a few clunkers over the years, but where would any of us be today without Ferris Bueller or The Breakfast Club? How would we know how to properly chatter?

Should the Red Sox give John Smoltz another start?

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Review: Sklars’ Topps Web Series Far From Mint

The reviews are in for Topps’ new Web series Back on Topps, starring Randy and Jason Sklar. OK, “review,” but it’s a Web series - what did you expect, Roger Ebert? Unfortunately, AD AGE isn’t being too kind, calling the Sklar Brothers “dopey” and saying the whole thing seems like a “sad imitator” of shows like Arrested Development. Is this the Waterworld of promotional Web series?

Back on Topps

The premise? The Sklars play Leyland and Leif Topps, who find out that their uncle has sold the company business to a corporate conglomerate owned by Michael Eisner. They struggle to keep the mission of Topps cards afloat as the mean penny-pinching executive plots their downfall. Also, there’s a stalker. And sports cameos by Andre Ethier, Russell Martin and Kevin Love. So basically, whatever B-list athletes happened to be hanging around in LA that day and were down for getting a free lunch.

Is it any good? Check out an episode for yourself after the jump:

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Dinner With Andre Ethier: Throat Tacos, Anyone?

I’m not hitting .595 for Los Angeles Dodgers in September, and I’m not with my pregnant ex-gymnast wife as she’s getting ready to give birth either. But Andre Ethier and I apparently have one thing in common: We love to eat, especially random hole-in-the-wall places here in LA. Ethiopian food? Sure. Hungarian goulash place? You bet!

Andre Ethier

The WALL STREET JOURNAL reports that Ethier is getting quite the reputation as the Anthony Bourdain of the majors, with a willingness to try anything from grilled cartilage at a Japanese BBQ to throat meat tacos. Which is probably a bit more adventurous than even I’m willing to try. (I know, right. Eating meat from the side of a cow is perfectly fine, but the throat? That’s just gross.)

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Notes From the Manny-Dodgers Honeymoon Phase

Last night I had the pleasure of taking in the Dodgers-Diamondbacks sporting contest in the cool night air of Chavez Ravine. A very, very brief summary of the event: All of the Dodgers fans want to have Manny’s babies!

Manny Ramirez and the Dodgers, in love

Seeing as it’s only Manny’s 2nd game in Dodger Blue, the fans are still in what armchair psychologists refer to as “the Honeymoon Phase” of the relationship.

According to Wikipedia, this is “the phase early in a long-term relationship characterized by greater than typical joy and lesser than typical friction. Usually during this time there is much more physical contact between the two partners in the relationship.” In other words, the place went nuts when he knocked out his first home run as a Dodger.

A partial analysis of the rest of the evening after the jump.

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AJ Burnett Gets Rid Of His Nipple Rings Much To Relief Of Dodgers

BURNETT NIPPLES CAUSE RIPPLE IN DODGERS CLUBHOUSE: The TORONTO STAR reported during Spring Training this season that Blue Jays pitcher A.J. Burnett had nipple rings.

A.J. Burnett


But as of this week, the TORONTO SUN’s Kathryn Humphreys sadly reports that Burnett is no longer wearing them.

The news came as a relief to Dodger catcher Russell Martin, who for some reason felt the need to present this scenario to Humphreys: “What if I’m sliding into second base and they rip? Ouch. And what if you go in the sun and they get hot and it burns? I don’t want that to happen to me.

Russell Martin


Humphreys asked another Dodger, Andre Ethier, if he wore the torso decorations. The outfielder replied, “You’ll be shocked to find this out, but I have nipple rings.”

Andre Ethier


Turns out Ethier was fibbing, but he did say that he once had a minor league teammate who chose that particular piercing, and “In fact, I made a point not to look as much. You don’t want to be the gawker. You don’t want to be that guy, especially in the shower.

Maybe it’s just us, but gang showers and gawkers don’t usually bring nipple rings first to mind.