When you think heated Major League Baseball rivalries, you think Yankees vs. Red Sox. (That’s because ESPN has mercilessly pounded this particular rivalry into sports fans’ minds at the expense of the rest of the MLB clubs. Or so says Heath Bell.) Well, the Worldwide Leader might want to add the burgeoning bad blood between the Mets & Pirates to its lineup.
Earlier this week, the Mets were swept by the perennially pathetic Pirates, and that didn’t sit well with some of the New York players. Centerfielder Carlos Beltran went as far as to call it an embarrassment, adding, “I know they’re a big-league ball club, but we’re better than them.”
In return, such conceited comments didn’t please some of the Pittsburgh players, particularly Adam LaRoche. As far as the Pirates first baseman is concerned, Carlos is like school in summertime - no class.
The Pittsburgh Penguins finally figured out what they hadn’t been doing very well the first two games of the Stanley Cup Finals — cheating! Give the Pens credit for taking it to the Red Wings in the the third period (outshooting them 10-3), but there’s no doubt that the home team benefited from a few calls that led to a 4-2 win and a manageable 2-1 series deficit. Max Talbot scored twice, including an empty-netter to put it away in the final minute.
The most egregious no-call of the night came when the Penguins played for 21 seconds with six skaters on the ice — which four on-ice officials somehow failed to notice. Or did they? According to this MLIVE blog entry, Wings analyst Mickey Redmond said that the officials actually saw the Pens with too many men, and then told them to get a guy off the ice instead of calling a penalty. That’s a pretty serious accusation by Redmond, and an inexcusable show of judgment by the officiating crew if true. I know that linesmen will sometimes say something to guy who’s slow to get off the ice during a line change instead of whistling a penalty, but if there are six guys hanging out in the attacking zone (as there were last night), that’s supposed to be called 100% of the time. Soon after, the Wings were whistled for a penalty and Kris Letang scored on the power play to tie the game at 2-2.
(an approximation of the scene in front of Chris Osgood on Tuesday)
More pivotal to the outcome, however, was the questionable call against Jonathan Ericsson in the third period that led to Sergei Gonchar’s game-winning goal, while Pittsburgh’s Hal Gill has been doing basically the same thing over and over again all series long without getting called for it (This Finnish guy will tell you all about it).
Conspiracy theories abound that the league has had enough of the Wings winning and want to get Sidney Crosby in the winner’s circle to further secure his status as the league’s golden boy. It was Gary Bettman’s birthday yesterday, and there’s no doubt he’d like for this series (the highest-rated thus far since 2002) to go the distance. The DETROIT FREE PRESS even noted that Tony Kornheiser suggested on PTI that this is what Bettman would like as a gift:
“And now as a birthday present to himself, Bettman will instruct the referees to make sure Pittsburgh wins the next two games at home and Sidney Crosby gets a hat trick in each.”
If the Penguins can get another win on Thursday, they’ll at least ensure that this guy can “perform” to “Crazy Train” one more time this year:
Referee disputes aside, the Penguins were up to the challenge last night and the Wings have to be kicking themselves for not being able to convert on a 14-4 shot advantage in the second period. That was Detroit’s chance to seize control of the game and get the crowd out of it. And I’m sure Osgood wants the Gonchar goal back, as even though he was screened, he made a lackluster attempt to catch the puck when he did finally get a look at it.
Now, let’s move on to more important things. Like which professional sports team is going to be the first to be decimated by the swine flu.
• The possible secret weapon in negotiations between the U.S. and North Korea? How about Michael Jordan. The NEW YORK TIMES says that the reported successor to Kim Jong-il is his youngest son Kim Jong-un (as opposed to one of the many other Kim Jong-suffixes running around out there), who is a big fan of His Airness. That’s mostly because they’ve just finally received VHS footage of the 1994-95 NBA season in North Korea.
(Kim Jong-un just heard about this new band called Silverchair too)
• Want to know more about the man who motivated Jordan to become the best ever? Check out Leroy Smith’s official website (thanks to the SMOKING SECTION for the tip):
Yeah, I thought it was Eddie Murphy at first too. But it’s way too funny for him to be involved with, which is why it makes much more sense that this is Charlie Murphy, Eddie’s brother and “Chapelle’s Show” stalwart. Murphy’s playing the alter ego to the hilt, even doing an interview in character with Scoop Jackson.
• Speaking of the Nats, FEDERAL BASEBALL says they’ve axed pitching coach Randy St. Claire, a holdover from the Montreal days. The Nats are 14-36, and manager Manny Acta is rumored to be next to go. You know it’s getting bad when local TV analyst Rob Dibble can’t resist calling the Nats a “beer league softball team.”
Maybe Pete Carroll was right when he called the Pac-10 schedule “ridiculously difficult” - or the Trojans just had another epic meltdown against a far lesser opponent. Either way, the end result was a shocking 27-21 loss to Oregon State. Yes, those Beavers. The same Beavers who lost to Penn State and Stanford by a combined 39 points.
You could look for goats in the game: defensive back Kevin Thomas, who let an interception in the end zone slip through his hands at the end of the first half and into the hands of James Rodgers. Or quarterback Mark Sanchez, who despite three touchdowns also threw a fourth-quarter interception that set up the eventually winning touchdown for the Beavers.
But ultimately, blame has to go to one person: Pete Carroll. Yet again, the Trojans fell flat on their face against teams with far less talent. It’s the second time Oregon State has done it to USC, along with Stanford, UCLA…basically, any team that’s beaten USC since 2002 other than Texas.
The team came out flat and uninspired - a content, cocky team expecting to win because they were USC. (and as the LA TIMES’ FABULOUS FORUM points out, maybe celebrating a touchdown to close to 21-7 isn’t such a great idea, Ronald Johnson.) And the coaching staff was incapable of adjusting until halftime, when they had dug themselves too deep of a hole. But really, who could have seen this being anything but a Trojans blowout. Except maybe for Brooks right before the game:
I like the Beavers and the points tonight, which means I’ll be laughing in about two hours, or waist-deep into my sixth Boilermaker* at Coach & Horses around 12 bells.
“And Mark will have plenty of time to recuperate, as USC doesn’t take the field again until Thursday, September 25, when they travel to Oregon State. But remember what happened the last time the Trojans took a trip to Corvallis - a 33-31 shocker.”
Far less of a shock is that the Los Angeles Dodgers finally clinched the NL West title, thanks to the Diamondbacks’ 12-3 thumping by the Cardinals. Now Los Angeles’ notoriously fickle sports fans can forget about USC’s collapse and focus on the Dodgers in the playoffs - until they lose in four games to some team like the Cubs. But by that point, hey, isn’t the Lakers’ season starting?
The Dodgers’ clinching the NL West leaves three playoff spots to be decided: the AL Central race between the Twins and the White Sox, and the Phillies/Mets/Brewers mess for the NL East and/or Wild Card.
The Mets and the Brewers remained tied for the Wild Card, both winning in dramatic fashion: New York using a ninth-inning single by Carlos Beltran for a 6-5 victory over the Cubs, while Milwaukee knocked off the Pirates 5-1 on Ryan Braun’s two-out grand slam in the tenth. The Phillies could only sit home idle and watch their lead in the NL East shrink to one game.
Meanwhile, the Twins and the White Sox also went ten innings. In this case, Minnesota put together a five-run rally of their own to win 7-6 to complete a series sweep of Chicago and take the AL Central lead for the first time in a month. Even worse, the White Sox seem to be imploded, as the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES reports that Orlando Cabrera seems intent on destroying team chemistry as he heads out of town.
Other late-breaking news last night, straight from the sports desk of Tank McNamara:
THE LOS ANGELES DAILY NEWS notes that the Los Angeles Sparks had to play Game 1 of their WNBA Western Conference Finals at USC’s Galen Center instead of the Staples Center. Why? There was a dinosaur exhibit already scheduled. Usually when I think of “WNBA” and “slow, lumbering, extinct creatures” Rebecca Lobo comes to mind.
It didn’t take long for Troy Brown to find work after retiring from the Pats: the BOSTON HERALD says he’s already been hired as an analyst by Comcast SportsNet. A great, versatile player, but if any myopic Boston fans try to convince you he belongs in the Hall of Fame, you have permission to punch them in the face.
ESPN.COM pokes around to find out that the NFL has reviewed tapes and ruled that the Browns defense did not intentionally try to gouge out the eyes of the Ravens’ Willis McGahee last Sunday - those were just accidental eye gouges.
Usually when a baseball manager and umpire get into a heated argument that evolves into bodily bumping, it’s the guy from the dugout who gets a suspension. But this time, it’s the man in blue who’s taking a time out.
The ASSOCIATED PRESS reports that umpire Brian Runge has been suspended for one game for bumping Mets manager Jerry Manuel during Tuesday night’s contest against the Mariners. Read more…
“My jeweler said you don’t want to spend a lot of money on earrings. So anybody trying to get something for their wife or something, don’t spend a lot on the earrings because they’re just an accessory. You might as well get cubic zirconium.”