Mark Grace: Died At Fantasy Camp? That’s $2 Fine

Dan Bickley of the ARIZONA REPUBLIC with a gem of a column today. Lede:

Don Schulz died at Fantasy Camp, fined $2 by Mark Grace

The dawn of baseball season seemed so bright. The Diamondbacks had reunited with Gonzo (Luis Gonzalez), now a club employee. They had refitted with some deft moves from their general manager, adding the spice of promise to spring training. And then Donald Schulz, a converted Cubs fan, simply stole the moment.

He went out and died in fantasy camp.

“He was just a good old Chicago boy,” Diamondbacks broadcaster Mark Grace said. “And it just sucked.”

Save the tears. This is not a sad story.

Former IRS Agent Schulz was a 75-year-old widower who was already a wreck, reduced to non-participation because of heart problems that resulted in a pacemaker.

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NL Pennant Race Getting Too Hot For Dodgers?

Well, this is looking ominous. Like Ralph in the final scene in “Lord of the Flies,” the Dodgers hope this week just to escape the smoke and make it to the beach in one piece. So far their game with Arizona tonight has not been called off, although they are planning to sell marshmallows on long sticks. Read more…

Wright, Kuroda Feeling Impact Of Scary Incidents

It was not a good night to be the noggin of an MLB player last night, as there were two scary incidents that left players with concussions that could have been much, much worse. Fortunately, it doesn’t appear that either Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Hiroki Kuroda or New York Mets third baseman David Wright will have long-term issues resulting from their incidents on Saturday night.

David Wright and Hiroki Kuroda

The first to go down was Wright, who took a 93-mph fastball from the Giants’ Matt Cain to the side of the head. He stayed down for several minutes but eventually walked off under his own power. The was taken to the hospital where, as Yogi Berra may or may not have said, “they took X-rays of my head and found nothing.”

Video of the incident after the jump, including the sickening sound of ball meeting helmet:

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Speed Read: Moral Victory Leaves Magic Down 2-0

If Game 1 of the NBA Finals seemly confirmed the suspicion that the Orlando Magic didn’t belong on the same floor with the Los Angeles Lakers, at least the Magic put an end to that on Sunday night in Game 2. They remembered how to shoot (at least two of them did), played some (at times) stingy defense, and generally were a total pest in pushing the Lakers to overtime.

Kobe Bryant

Unfortunately for the Magic, what they didn’t prove is that they could beat the Lakers in the NBA Finals, as the home team held on for a 101-96 victory to take a 2-0 lead as the series shifts to Orlando for the next three (probably?) games. But they came tantalizingly close at the end of regulation. Hedu Turkoglu found Courtney Lee cutting to the basket behind Kobe Bryant on an inbounds play with 0.6 seconds left and tossed him a lob that reached Lee but forced a midair adjustment, causing his lay-in to be just off the mark, bouncing off the front of the rim as time expired.

Courtney Lee

While the Magic might not admit it, they seemed drained by the missed opportunity in overtime, although their inability to stop Pau Gasol in the extra period was just as crippling. The Spaniard scored seven of his 24 points in overtime, including a three-point play with 1:14 left that gave the Lakers an insurmountable six point lead.

As for the Magic’s shooting: Rashard Lewis and Turkoglu were outstanding, with Lewis hitting 6-of-12 three-pointers en route to 34 points, while Turkoglu added 22 points including three three-pointers. The rest of the team? Not so much, as the Magic weren’t helped by Rafer Alston and J.J. Redick combining to go 2-for-17 for the game, including a woeful 1-10 from behind the arc. Also not helping: that J.J. Redick was anywhere near the floor for any length of time, much less 27 minutes. For all the great coaching Stan Van Gundy might have done in Game 2, that can’t be considered his finest hour.

Right now, it will take an amazing comeback for the Orlando Magic to win the NBA Title. (Before the 2006 Miami Heat did it, who was the last team to go down 2-0 and win the NBA Title? The 1977 Portland Trail Blazers.) But perhaps they need to take a clue from famous local resident and occasional Magic fan Tiger Woods, who had some Magic of his own on Sunday, no overtime needed. Woods came from four shots back to win the Memorial Tournament in front of host Jack Nicklaus with one of his most impressive final round performances, shooting a 65 while hitting every fairway in regulation.

Tiger Woods

The performance was awe-inspiring enough to prompt Nicklaus to cave in Woods’ surgically repaired knee with a nine-iron after the match in an attempt to prevent Woods from reaching his record of 18 major championships, before standing over a fallen Woods and shouting a Ric Flair style “Woooooooo!” Actually, that’s a lie; in fact, Nicklaus remarked that it would “greatly surprise” him if Woods didn’t win major No. 15 in two weeks at the U.S. Open.

Finally, it’s kind of hard to fault the San Diego Padres’ Josh Wilson for giving up the go-ahead three-run homer to the Diamondbacks’ Mark Reynolds in the 18th inning of Arizona’s 9-6 win on Sunday. Sure, Wilson might have had extra motivation for pitching against the team that released him earlier this season, but he really shouldn’t have been out there anyway. Wilson is an infielder, and was only pitching after Padres manager Bud Black ran out of pitchers in bullpen. So he sent Wilson out there, who got fastballs up to 88 mph and mixed in a few change-ups as well.

David Eckstein

Also, when you are relying on David Eckstein to homer to take the game into extra innings, you really should consider yourself lucky to be there in the first place, which is what the Padres needed in the ninth inning to erase a three-run deficit. Then again, the Padres really didn’t do much after that against the Diamondbacks’ bullpen, getting no-hit for all nine innings of extra baseball.

  • THE SPORTS HERNIA wonders if Pau Gasol might be missing Game 3 after some…explosive rectal issues?
  • Pau Gasol

  • Chicago Cubs broadcaster Bob Brenly has a message after watching the Cubs slog to a 4-3, 11-inning loss to the Cincinnati Reds on Sunday: “If there are any Little Leaguers watching, turn the TV off.”
  • Former Philadelphia Eagles defensive lineman Sam Rayburn tells the PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER that he was taking more than 100 painkillers a day before being caught forging prescriptions and getting clean. Or as Elizabeth Taylor would call that, lunch.
  • What could bring together Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and former head coach Jimmy Johnson? How about a concert headlined by George Strait and Reba McEntire to open the new Cowboys Stadium?
  • Just when things couldn’t get any worse for the Washington Nationals, DC SPORTS BOG checks in with this: they had a malfunction during their fireworks display, and the debris just happened to fall on the D.C. fire chief. Proving that the Nationals really have turned into a bad 1970s sitcom.
  • Mike Brown proved that his WEC featherweight title victory over Urijah Faber in November was no fluke in the rematch on Sunday, going into Faber’s hometown of Sacramento, CA and winning a unanimous decision that left Faber in the hospital after the match.
  • Among the “highlights” of the ongoing court battle over the fate of the Phoenix Coyotes: the Phoenix suburb of Glendale (where the Coyotes actually play) is suggesting that coach and minority owner Wayne Gretzky is “overpaid” and should have his salary cut by more than $6 million. Because going after The Great One is a winning legal strategy in Canadian courts.
  • David Wells says that Jose Canseco offered HGH to him when they were teammates on the Chicago White Sox, but he declined. Instead, he dropped 30 pounds by giving up beer in the offseason and actually working out. Also, is there anyone Jose Canseco hasn’t offered performance-enhancing drugs to in baseball at this point?
  • HOME RUN DERBY casts a discriminating eye at the reverse negative error baseball card, the bain of beleaguered Topps photo editors everywhere. (Well, specifically at the Topps offices, I guess.)
  • Long Island high school athlete Ryan Harrigan uses his abilities to chase down a would-be purse snatcher while working his after-school job as a grocery store employee. Would you like paper, plastic or handcuffs, Sir?

What was the most impressive performance yesterday?

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Scott Schoeneweis’s Wife Passes Away At Home

Some terrible news coming out from Fountain Hills, Arizona, as Gabrielle Dawn Schoeneweis, wife of longtime major league pitcher & current Diamondback Scott Schoeneweis, was found dead in her home this afternoon.

Scott Schoeneweis

As this story is unfolding as we speak, details are few and far between. According to AZCENTRAL.COM, one thing we do know, sadly, is that the discovery was made when her eldest daughter went through something no teenager should ever have to experience: finding their mother’s body. Read more…

Let’s All Watch The D-Backs’ New Manager Fail

The most dysfunctional team in baseball toils in obscurity, but only because no one has ever paid attention to the Diamondbacks. But that could change, because Arizona has become a volatile mix of factors that could boil over anytime.

A.J. Hinch

The problems started with the hiring of A.J. Hinch, a 34-year old ex-catcher who had never managed before, at any level. OK, the problems really started with a terrible team that required a new manager a month into the season, but Hinch’s presence seems to be rubbing some current and former Diamondbacks the wrong way. According to one, “he doesn’t have any credibility between the lines as a manager.”

Yikes.

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Speed Read: No One Is Shocked By Mannygate

It’s been said that either Manny Ramirez is incredibly dumb, or incredibly good at playing dumb, and his response to his 50-game suspension for violating MLB’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program gives proponents of either theory plenty of fuel for the fire. On one hand, claiming that a doctor gave him medicine for a “personal problem” seems like a flimsy attempt to use ignorance to cover up cheating, especially since the drug in question (hCG) is primarily used as a fertility treatment for women.

Manny Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez

But what the “personal problem” really was personal - like he was trying to get pregnant? Maybe he saw that Arnold Schwarzenegger movie “Junior” on a plane flight and thought that sounded like a great idea. I mean, come on: Manny’s so crazy, he doesn’t even know that men can’t conceive. That’s just Manny being Manny.

Junior

(The only thing inconceivable is Manny Ramirez’s story.)

Are you buying it? Me either. As the news spread throughout the baseball world, the most shocking aspect is just how not shocked anyone who wasn’t a Dodger fan was about it. His former teammates with the Boston Red Sox seemed to be more upset that they have to talk about Manny Ramirez again than anything else, with closer Jonathan Papelbon summing up most player’s thoughts:

“I just walked in the clubhouse today and found out about it. I haven’t really thought about it all. We’ve got more things to worry about on our club. Obviously, it’s a news story, blah, blah, blah. There’s so many more things we have to go get ready for. He’s not in our clubhouse anymore, so this is something that we’re not even worried about.”

Meanwhile, the debate seemed to come not about Manny Ramirez’s guilt or innocence, but about everything surrounding his presumed guilt. Such as Brooks’ question that if everyone is doing PEDs, then do we have to let Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Roger Clemens into the Hall of Fame? Or if the Dodgers are going to symbolically tear down “Mannywood,” the section devoted to the team’s Cult of Personality.

Dodgers fans celebrate Mannywood

So how did the Dodgers react on the field without their leader? In a word: shaky. Oh, it started out good, jumping out a 6-0 first inning lead on the dreadful Washington Nationals. But then it all fell apart, although this had nothing to do with Ramirez’s absence.

Blame this on the Dodgers’ increasingly leaky bullpen, which allowed nine runs in the seventh and eigth innings en route to an 11-9 Dodgers loss - which stopped the team’s record home winning streak to start the season at 13. You also couldn’t blame Ramirez’s replacement in left field, Juan Pierre, who went 2-for-4 but did make the inning-ending out in the eighth with the bases loaded.

Meanwhile, back to Ramirez’s former team again … actually, let’s look at both of them, since his original team (the Cleveland Indians) just happened to be visiting his most recent team (the Red Sox) on Thursday night. And while it might be tacky after the events of yesterday to says that Boston’s offense was on steroids, it’s safe to say that they were at least jacked up on a six-pack of Jolt colas.

Scoreboard of Red Sox vs Indians

The Red Sox matched a major league record by scoring 12 runs in the sixth inning while drubbing the Indians 13-3. At least we can be sure that Jason Bay isn’t juicing, unless he tests positive for having too much maple syrup in his blood.

And speaking of blowouts, let’s take a moment to congratulate the Atlanta Hawks for making it to the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs as they collect their parting gifts and head to the exits. Sure, they are only down 2-0 to the Cleveland Cavaliers, and they are returning home.

Cleveland Cavaliers bench

But anyone who saw just a few minutes of Cleveland’s 105-85 thrashing of the Hawks knows that this series has all the makings of a sweep. Cleveland lead by as many as 36 before calling off the dogs, and LeBron James was just toying with defenders. And oh yeah, Joe Johnson sprained his ankle and might be out for the series. Have fun at the golf course, Atlanta!

More news that you might have missed last night as you were slowly backing away from Kiefer Sutherland and avoiding eye contact as not to enrage the beast:

  • The Players Championship teed off in Florida yesterday, and of course Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson share the lead. Actually, that’s a lie: the FLORIDA TIMES-UNION says that while Ben Crane leads after an opening-round 65, Woods dealt with a balky putter while shooting a 71 and Mickelson was all over the place while putting up a 73.
  • Tiger Woods

  • But if Tiger feels like he needs any help, he can call on Lee Trevino, as the DALLAS MORNING NEWS says that “Super Mex” has offered to teach him a power fade that will make sure that “he doesn’t lose any tournament.” At the least, he would like him to try an authentic salsa from Texas versus a competitor made in … NEW YORK CITY?!?
  • As usual, the Stanley Cup playoffs didn’t disappoint: the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES says that the Blackhawks relied on a late third-period goal to pull even and then scored early in OT to win 2-1 and level their series with Vancouver at 2-2.
  • Meanwhile, the DETROIT NEWS says the Red Wings also tied their series with Anaheim at 2-2 but were far less dramatic about it, playing some old time hockey on the way to a 6-2 blowout.
  • And as hockey attempts to shine on the ice, it continues to stumble elsewhere, as the TORONTO GLOBE AND MAIL says that a group of investors trying to buy the failing Phoenix Coyotes and move them to Hamilton, Ontario are accusing the NHL and Commissioner Gary Bettman of “operating like an illegal cartel” in blocking the sale and move. Kind of like a more stupid version of the Mafia.
  • As the baseball world was reacting to Manny Ramirez’s suspension, the EAST VALLEY TRIBUNE says the Arizona Diamondbacks took the opportunity to relieve manager Bob Melvin of his duties while no one was looking. He’s being replaced by former major league catcher A.J. Hinch, because that’s apparently the only people who can manage the Diamondbacks.
  • YAHOO! SPORTS claims that Louisville coach Rick Pitino has made himself a candidate for the Sacramento Kings coaching job. It probably won’t have as much impact when he tells the local media that “Vlade Divac is not walking through that door.”
  • The WASHINGTON POST says there was plenty of hot disciplinary action in the NBA, as the Magic’s Rafer Alston received a one-game suspension for his head-slap on the Celtics’ Eddie House, while the Lakers’ Derek Fisher received the game punishment for his cross-check of the Rockets’ Luis Scola. There were no suspensions given to Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest or any pieces of furniture.
  • It wasn’t just Didier Drogba who was upset with Norwegian referee Tom Henning Ovrebo for several calls that didn’t go Chelsea’s way in the 1-1 tie with Barcelona that knocked them out of the Champions League semifinals. EUROSPORT says the ref had to be “smuggled” out of the country under police escort.
  • A football player at Chico High in Texas has been arrested for assaulting a 13-year-old girl in what WFAA-TV is referring to as a “sex game” gone horribly wrong, involving freshman girls “sexting” the popular football players to gain popularity.

What was your initial reaction when you heard about Manny Ramirez’s suspension?

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Speed Read: Michigan St. Gets Tar Heel Bruising

Is there any reason we shouldn’t have seen this coming?  Sure, North Carolina had more talent, depth and balance than Michigan State. They also had more experience. So why shouldn’t the Tar Heels have rolled up a rout in the national title game, cruising past the Spartans, 89-72, and validating North Carolina’s upperclassmen who decided to come back for a final year rather than head to the NBA.

north carolina celebrate

Yet, by halftime, this wasn’t a game so much as a massacre on hostile territory.  North Carolina built up the biggest halftime lead in national title game history, and the few moments when Michigan State climbed closer than that in the second half proved more fleeting and false than impressive.

In the end, the final game of the entire NCAA Tournament, the game for which we sat through a month of buildup, complete with a compelling Final Four David vs. Goliath script and 60,000+ screaming, green-clad fans in economically depressed Detroit, was almost like the early season North Carolina rout of Michigan state on replay. If we’d whitewashed the original, 98-63 score and written in 89-72, would anyone have noticed? We dare say they wouldn’t have.

michigan state bench cry

In fact, if there were overnight Nielsen ratings that cut off at halftime, we’d love to see them. Something tells us the second half viewers were significantly less than the TBS re-runs that preempted Game 7 of the ALCS last October.

Yet, as is always the case, there was plenty of celebratory violence/delirium in Chapel Hill as soon as the final buzzer sounded. In fact, it probably hit well before the final buzzer, given that the rout was fully on well before the game wrapped up.

tar heels fans chapel hill

According to the NEWS & OBSERVER, fans wasted little time ratcheting up the rowdy, starting fires and tossing around alcohol at a terrific pace. No, they didn’t temporarily relocate Franklin Street to College Park, Md., but you might not have known any better if you just shot a cursory glance at the post-title celebration.

And what was the motivation behind the fans’ craziness? Oh, it was all in good fun … and venting, naturally.

“It’s the culmination of the entire year of yelling at the TV,” said 24-year-old Elliot Rubin, who attended UNC, of the experience. “It’s the most jubilant feeling ever.”

“The crowd is definitely bigger this year,” said DeeDee Monzee, a 2007 UNC graduate, before jumping through a bonfire. “There’s a lot more alumni out here.”

Yes, you read that correctly. Those fans were giving journalistic quotes between leaps through bonfires. That, dear friends, is the way to live life on the edge.  Now, if only they could get the police on board …

What is it about Jacksonville wide receivers? Not only did Reggie Williams find himself arrested on a felony count of possession of a controlled substance (cough, cocaine, cough), he also may have been using the magical Sweet & Low, seeing as how his arrest blowback against the cops earned him a straight tasering.

jaguars reggie williams

Yes folks, you’ve got that right: For the second time in a year, a Jacksonville wide receiver has been arrested in possession with cocaine. And this is the second time in three months that Williams has been arrested for DUI and some sort of drugs. Clearly, these guys don’t believe in discretion, or learning from others’ mistakes. And they don’t seem to care, either. After all, Matt Jones opted for jail instead of probation just so he could keep hitting the sauce. What’s to make us believe that Williams will pull out of a steady nose sugar habit just because of one nasty arrest in Houston. After all, what else are drug test masking kits for?

The bigger question is what the remaining wide receivers on the Jacksonville roster — Troy Williamson (who knows what it’s like to get suspended), D’Juan Woods, Mike Walker and Nate Hughes –  are going to do now that Williams has burned his last possible bridge back to Jacksonville. Please say a huge party, please say a huge party, please say a huge party …

bus cook agent

hasheem thabeet sunglasses

stamford bridge

Did you watch the second half of the title game last night?

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Twosome Who Torched McNabb’s Lawn Turned In

• Police have put the cuffs on the pyromaniacal perpetrators who messed up Donovan McNabb’s suburban Phoenix lawn.

Rex Perkins Donovan McNabb Ryan Hanlon

(Criminal masterminds Rex Perkins [L] & Ryan Hanlon [R])

• Notre Dame denies the rumors that they want to grab Jon Gruden.

• First Sir Charles, and now the D-Backs mascot. Guys, just call a cab.

• This parrot has ceased to be … a spectator at an English soccer game, because he kept impersonating the ref’s whistle.

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Diamondbacks Mascot Joins List of Arizona DUIs

The outbreak of athletes in Arizona with a penchant for dangerous and/or drunk driving (usually while under the influence of bear claws) has been well-documented, but it has not been fully disclosed until now.  The ARIZONA REPUBLIC is reporting this morning that the epidemic extends beyond even the athletes to the mascots themselves.

Baxter the Arizona Diamondbacks mascot

D. Baxter, the Arizona Diamondbacks mascot, was busted for suspected “extreme DUI” in September and hid it under his fur until a few weeks ago.  Once the team found out, he was taken out to the desert and terminated.  From his position.  And just the guy in the suit, David Hamilton. He was driving a car with the D-Backs logo and had the suit in the trunk.
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