ESPN’s Miller: Investigate Rockies For Cheating

Last Thursday ESPN and San Francisco Giants announcer Jon Miller appeared on KNBR-AM in San Francisco and said the Colorado Rockies may be manipulating the supply of humidor-stored baseballs at Coors Field to suit their needs in certain game situations.

Colorado Rockies Humidor

More specifically, Miller inferred that the Rockies may be providing umpires with harder, humidor-free baseballs when behind, to give the home team a better chance of scoring runs.

It wasn’t a coincidence that Miller’s accusation came the morning after the Rockies scored nine runs in the bottom of the ninth to beat the Cardinals 12-9. Miller used that game as one example of his theory.

Excerpts of Miller’s comments:

“There’s a feeling that the Rockies are doing something with the humidor-stored baseballs, and sometimes late in games when the Rockies need help, that some non-humidor baseballs slip into the mix. Nobody has been able to prove it. Read more…

Did Rockies Actually Lie About Game-Time Temp?

It’s Monday, time for us to ask the musical question: Why were they playing a night game in frigid Denver on Sunday, when the Twins and Yankees, who were playing in a nice heated dome, were scheduled for the afternoon? Couldn’t they have flipped that? (In Mr. Magoo voice) “Bud Selig, you’ve done it again.”

I guess there is nothing MLB will not do to accommodate television, even if it means frost-brewing several of their athletes, Rocky Mountain style. But the most hilarious part of Sunday’s Phillies-Rockies game was an apparent attempt by the home team to cover up the actual game-time temperature. Read more…

Oh Boy, Were The Utley Blown Calls Ever Stinkers

All pardons if you didn’t stay up to watch the end of the Rockies-Phillies game. Even those who go to bed before 11 on the west coast would have probably missed the pivotal play, to say nothing of the hardy souls on the east coast who had to stay up well past 2:00 to see Brad Lidge close the game out. Playoff baseball: it’s awesome for insomniacs!

Chase Utley 1
(As with ringworms, the circles indicate problem areas.)

If you missed the crucial play, then, allow us to recap. With one out and a man on third in the ninth inning, Chase Utley fouled a pitch off his leg, then ran to first anyway, where the throw beat him. For his trouble, Utley was declared safe and the Phillies scored the winning run on a sacrifice fly by the next batter, Ryan Howard. You may think we’re using deliberately partisan language out of some deep bias against the Phils, but no - evidence shows that Utley had no business standing on first.

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Troy Tulowitzki’s Magnificent Mullet Goes Down

Here in Los Angeles, we’re one round away from a Freeway Series, but that doesn’t mean I’m not more than a little melancholy this Monday.

Troy Tulowitzki Mullet Kenny Powers

I was really, REALLY looking forward to welcoming back the Kenny-Powered Rockies to The Ravine one more time. To bask in majesty that is Troy Tulowitzi’s mullet, and exalt in the endless, empty rhetoric emanating from the world’s blandest man: Jim Tracy.

Only thing that’ll make Dodgers-Phillies worthwhile: Both clubs breakout ol’ timey bullpen cars - and allow Dykstra to bunk in them.

Speed Read: Rich Rod Fails At Jedi Mind Tricks

Rich Rodriguez finally has some breathing room at Michigan. After going on the hot seat after a 3-9 debut season that was the worst in school history, Rodriguez was almost buried before the season began by a range of allegations including violating NCAA practice rules and getting sued for a condo deal gone bad. But after a 38-34 win over Notre Dame in one of the most amazing college football games ever played a college football game, the Wolverines are back in the Top 25 and suddenly relevant again.

Rich Rodriguez point

So how does Rich Rod celebrate this stunning reversal of fortune? Exactly like you would expect he would: by opening his fool mouth and blowing out any goodwill he had earned by blatantly lying. It’s not his fault: it’s human nature. We all revert back to our default mechanisms at some point. For Rodriguez, it’s making an ass out of himself.

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Food Vendors To Blame For Bad Baseball Luck?

Step aside, Bill James, because there’s a new theory on the block, one with a surprising amount of mathematical evidence behind it. All the stats about player performance and pitch counts and WHIP and VORP? Feh. Inconsequential, those.

Aramark Protest
(The protest was a smashing success, mainly because of how the protesters rhymed the word “luck.”)

No, it turns out that some of the most innocuous details you can imagine may affect an entire season. Selling a front row seat to a grown man with a glove? Could go very wrong. Even the food vendor of choice, it turns out, may be enough to swing a playoff run.

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Speed Read: Yes, Denver, You’re Stuck With Orton

Sure, Denver Bronco fans booed Jay Cutler with all their might last night when he returned to play against his old team for the first time, but the boos eventually faded to mild displeasure, and then the eventual realization by the home crowd that they are, in fact, really stuck with Kyle Orton. The Bears won the first half — when both guys played — 17-3, and won the game 27-17.

Jay Cutler sign sad Broncos fan

In other words, the Broncos are about to fade into oblivion, somewhere they really aren’t used to inhabiting. It just took last night’s game for it to finally sink in. Even the lady pictured above doesn’t really seem to have her heart in that sign. She’s quite clearly not lovin’ it. Chargers fans, meanwhile, are already clearing their weekends in January. They could probably take four games off this year and still win the AFC West.

Cutler, of course, played well last night for his new team despite all of the distractions and a concerted attempt by the Bronco defense to make things as tough as possible on him. Suddenly, the Bears are brimming with confidence heading into their opener at Green Bay, and thinking they might be able to duplicate their Super Bowl run a couple of years back — this time with a QB who isn’t allergic to footballs.

Rex Grossman

Orton, of course, didn’t even make it to halftime because he sliced his finger open on another player’s helmet. For what it’s worth, he actually played fairly well (12-for-16 for 96 yards). But this is a guy who the Bears really only grudgingly let be their starter because a better option wasn’t available. Are there even five other teams where he’d be the #1 guy?

FOX SPORTS’ Alex Marvez just comes right out and says the Broncos were fleeced in the trade, not only in the 50-cents-on-the-dollar they got in return, but because of the way coach Josh McDaniels and owner Pat Bowlen botched the whole situation from the start. Maybe Mike Shanahan had lost his way a little, but wouldn’t your average Bronco fan rather have him and Cutler than the McDaniel-Orton combo? Did it really have to come to this?

Well, at least you can look forward to some more scenes like this out at the local bars, Denver:

Kyle Orton and girl

Which AFC West team is more dysfunctional?

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Some idiot blogger totally wrote off the Giants last week after they lost an excruciating game to the Rockies that dropped them four games back in the wild card hunt. In fact, all of the talk was about how Colorado might even run down the Dodgers when all was said and done. And no, I wasn’t the only one sticking the fork in San Francisco.

What a difference a week makes. Edgar Renteria, perpetually just barely good enough to keep getting a job, hit a grand slam that lifted the Giants to a 9-5 win over the Rockies and a series sweep. The teams are now tied heading into baseball’s official stretch run.

Edgar Renteria

(Edgar Renteria: When your team just doesn’t care enough to find a better shortstop)

I knew, of course, that Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain would always give their team a chance to win. But I hadn’t counted on the sudden rejuvenation of Barry Zito. Since a meltdown against the Padres on July 18th that made me wonder if they’d find a way to get rid of him altogether, he’s posted a 1.92 ERA in his last nine starts. Throw in Jonathan Sanchez, whose ERA has been right around 3.00 since the beginning of July, and you’ve got the best starting pitching in baseball right now. Just think if they could hit!

Now, the Giants have to find a way to stay close over the next 10 days. The Rockies start a 10-game homestand on Tuesday and host the Mets, Diamondbacks, and Reds. San Francisco, on the other hand, travels to Philadelphia and Milwaukee before returning home to play the Padres.

Barry Zito

(Yes, that is Zito not only tipping his cap, but also receiving applause)

• The US Open is starting today. An 18-year-old kid named Devin Britton won the NCAA championship this year, and his reward is a first-round match against Roger Federer. Let’s hope he handles the pressure better than Richie Tenenbaum did:

• TRUE HOOP has a great post about last week’s episode of “Mad Men,” which had a subplot dealing with the outrage about tearing down the old Penn Station to build Madison Square Garden in the 1960s, and how MSG is revered today as a sports venue:

Four decades later, it’s ironic that the building that was the bête noire of architectural preservationists has become the defining symbol of basketball preservationists — a receptacle for the sort of sentimentalism that fueled the opposition to its creation. 

• 124th-ranked Heath Slocum drained a 20-footer to beat Tiger Woods, Padraig Harrington, and Ernie Els by a shot at the Barclays tournament in Jersey. Tiger missed a six-footer on the 18th that would’ve tied it. The real winner of the day, though, was former MLB hurler Heathcliff Slocumb, who I briefly thought about for the first time in 10 years.

Heathcliff Slocumb

(Think the Red Sox regret trading him for Varitek and Lowe?)

• I’m not saying Daisuke Matsuzaka is finished, but a 49-pitch, five-run first inning in a AA game isn’t a good sign that things are back on track.

Tedy Bruschi is going to retire today, and then become the 18,214th talking head on NBC’s NFL coverage.

• The Pirates have now lost 21 straight games in Milwaukee.

• A 26-year-old female rugby player had her head run over by a two-ton grass roller set free by a bunch of teenage male rugby players while she was camping in a tent in Wales. Now she looks like, well, like she just played rugby:

Emma Winch, female rugby player

• Are the Cardinals really the team to be scared of in the NL? We all know that pitching rotations shorten in the playoffs, and the Cards are 29-4 since July 1st in games started by their big three of Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter, and Joel Pineiro.

• Want more evidence that the Mets are a little cash poor? They’re canceling their fall instructional league because it costs too much. The NY DAILY NEWS’ Adam Rubin says it costs about $300,000 to put on, which is about 1/40th of Oliver Perez‘ 2009 salary. Of course, the whole story is just Rubin angling for a job in the organization.

•  The LA TIMES’ Kurt Streeter is the latest to say what we’re all thinking. Gambling on football is rampant, so why isn’t our country making any money off of it?

• This is what the world has come to in 2009: There is now a “Twitter Warning” sign at the US Open cautioning players against revealing too much “inside info” in a tweet.

Andy Roddick tweets about Twitter warning at US Open

Stanford $$$ Flushed Down Coach’s $70K Toilet?

• While Stanford suffers through athletic budget problems, football coach Jim Harbaugh gets himself a new $70,000 private bathroom & shower.

Jim Harbaugh golden toilet

• The SEC is certainly a selfless b-ball conference. When the players aren’t giving up scholarships to allow other people onto the team, their coaches are giving up raises so they can afford team trips to Australia.

• UConn is taking the first steps to curtail catastrophic cheerleader injuries.

• Schools aren’t sold on Bud Light’s plans for college-colored Fan Cans.

• Are fantasy sports a nightmare for relationships & fan allegiances?

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It’s Rockies vs. Umpires — Let’s Start The Feud!

For Giants fans such as myself, Monday’s 14-inning frustration-fest with the Rockies was about as entertaining as watching workmen build a gallows in the center of town. Ryan Spilborghs’ walk-off grand slam was them testing the trap door. Bam! Isn’t anyone going to ask me if I have any last words? Well, as if that day needed any more drama, now comes word that Rockies players and umpires were feuding all through the game, and both factions may be in for disciplinary action.

Yes, I said players and umpires may be suspended by MLB dean of discipline Bob Watson, who is speaking to all parties involved before bringing down the terrible ruler of justice. Chief among the combatants, as I understand it, are umpire Bill Miller and Colorado catcher Yorvit Torrealba, who really got into it after the game (artist’s interpretation of that argument shown above, center). Read more…

Speed Read: Punting Momentarily Controversial

With baseball not quite into the stretch run and the NFL and college football not quite ready to get underway, sports news has been a bit slow this week. So perhaps that’s why Punting-Into-The-Giant-HD-Screen-Gate just isn’t going away. Peter King spent an inordinate amount of time talking about it in his Monday Morning QB column yesterday, and he insinuates that the NFL might have as much to do with the mistake as Jerry Jones.

Cowboys Stadium

(Can’t the Geek Squad come and pick it up and put a new one in next week?)

It’s strange that the Cowboys had everything about the new stadium approved by the league, but Colts President Bill Polian — who is on the league’s competition committee — is quoted by King as saying this:

“The irony is that our stadium architect [at new Lucas Oil Stadium] wanted to hang the videoboards the same way in our stadium,” Polian said. “So we put a metal beam about 90 feet above the ground and had our punter at the time, Hunter Smith, punt the ball up there trying to hit it. He hit it the majority of the time. That’s why we put our replay boards on the wall.”

facepalm

Seriously, nobody from the NFL or the Colts, realizing that another team was building a new stadium, said anything to anyone else at the NFL or with the Cowboys about this possible issue? A guy on the competition committee didn’t see where the screens were going to be and say “uhhh, that’s not gonna work?” Or did Jerry Jones just not want to listen to anything because his punters don’t do silly things like kick the ball high and hard? Jones, for what it’s worth, installed the screens five feet higher than is required by the NFL. So why, if 90 feet wasn’t high enough for Indianapolis, does the NFL still only require 85 feet of clearance?

Cowboys punter Mat McBriar said yesterday that he plans on kicking to the sidelines, and isn’t worried about the boards. That’s great for Mat and all, but the problem is that you don’t want to get in a position of the screen being in play at all. It’s entirely possible that it could be hit two or three times in a row, and then you’re stuck with do-overs that exhaust players and open more opportunities for injuries.

The NEW YORK TIMES’ Richard Sandomir says that a screen like this is a completely new animal, and was specifically designed to hang at its current height. It is also designed to be able to be lowered, but not raised. One imagines that permanently raising it up would certainly be possible, but quite costly. And who foots the bill in that case? Jones (because it’s his stadium), or the NFL (because they approved it to begin with)? A Cowboys spokesman tells the DALLAS MORNING NEWS that the team doesn’t believe the height of the board will be a factor “in a competitive-game situation.” I guess they just think that A.J. Trapasso was screwing around when he plunked it.

But hey, I we’re just splitting hairs here. It’s a minor miracle that the thing still has a roof.

Cowboys Practice Dome

Don’t look now, but baseball’s 2007 darlings are well on their way to becoming baseball’s 2009 darlings. After a stunning walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the 14th inning from Ryan Spilborghs last night to crush the Giants 6-4, the Colorado Rockies are now four games up in the wild card race and just three games out of first place in the NL West heading into a huge showdown with the Dodgers at Coors.

Colorado Rockies

The Giants looked poised to pull within two games of the Rox, scoring three times in the top of the 14th to take a seemingly insurmountable 4-1 lead. But then Merkin Valdez completely blew up in the bottom of the ninth, walking pitcher Adam Eaton with the bases loaded to make it 4-2, then serving up the game-ending meatball to Spilborghs two pitches later.

Let’s be honest, here. The Giants are extremely fortunate to be anywhere near a playoff spot. It’s a testament to guys like Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain that they’re able to overcome an offense that features Bengie Molina’s .280 on-base percentage batting fourth every night. They’ve always seemed a bat or two away from being a real threat, and Freddy Sanchez wasn’t exactly the answer.

The Rockies are cruising now, and could potentially tie the Dodgers if they could pull off a sweep. Things are certainly much different this time around. The last times the Dodgers visited Denver, they swept the series and the Rockies fired Clint Hurdle the next day. Since Jim Tracy took over, Colorado is 53-26 and has cut L.A.’s lead over them from 14 games to three.

If Colorado can split the six games left with the Giants in San Francisco, they have a very favorable schedule, including 10 straight home games in September against the D-backs, Mets, and Reds. Then they get six games with San Diego down the stretch. It all leads up to a three-game showdown at Dodger Stadium to end the regular season. The Giants have nine games with Arizona and six with the Dodgers, but also have to go on the road to Philadelphia and Milwaukee while Colorado is in the midst of its long homestand.

Crazy to think that the NL West has become the best race in baseball, considering how well the Dodgers were going earlier in the year. And yes, a lot of that lead was built without Manny in the lineup.

Manny Ramirez Dodgers

 

NL West. Who ya got?

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Yeah, that’s really this kid’s name:

Mister Jones

His middle name is “Quincy,” and his entire name was devised by his grandmother, who filled out his birth certificate with his mother’s knowledge.

Mark Sanchez threw his first career touchdown pass…to the Ravens’ Haloti Ngata.

• A 13-year-old, 383-lb. football player from St. Louis collapsed and died of a heart condition last week during practice. Anthony Troupe, Jr.’s father dropped dead at the age of 45 in 2007. The AP asks if all student athletes should be tested for heart problems. I think the more reasonable question is why a 13-year-old kid was allowed to reach 383 lbs. Not to judge the kid himself, but someone around him should’ve taken some initiative to ensure that he was healthy enough to play football, considering the fate his father suffered.

• Hey, guess who just signed a $93 million extension?

Philip Rivers

• This whole Phoenix Coyotes business is just getting silly at this point. Jim Balsillie is offering $212 million to move the team to a place where it will become immediately successful, and the NHL is maintaining that they’d rather see Jerry Reinsdorf’s group buy the team for $60 million less and keep playing in a half-full building.

• SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY says that CBS and NBC are having trouble selling advertising for the Super Bowl and the Winter Olympics, respectively.

• Your ridiculously violent Bolivian soccer incident of the week, courtesy of WHO ATE ALL THE PIES:

Billy Wagner has shunned the Red Sox and will stay with the Mets, according to FOX SPORTS’ Ken Rosenthal. The Mets will get two draft picks for Wagner when he walks as a free agent following the season.

• …and, Johan Santana is probably going to miss the rest of the season. I’m surprised his arm just didn’t come flying off during his last start. Even Frenchy’s on the shelf now.

• Look, I know the WNBA isn’t very popular, but the NEW YORK TIMES might want to employ a copy editor the one time they actually put something about the league on the front page:

Leslie Leslie

(I’m suddenly reminded of former Wisconsin player Duany Duany)

Plaxico Burress went on ESPN last night and said that he didn’t even realize he shot himself until he saw blood dripping on his shoe. Well, that, and the really terrible pain coming from his leg. I guess he thought he just cramped up.