Speed Read: Time To Expand MLB Instant Replay?

In the wake of the awful call at home plate on Monday night that ended the A’s 14-13 win over the Twins (go here if you’re not familiar with the play), the sports media world was spinning yesterday with varying opinions on the idea of expanding instant replay. I guess it was only a matter of time until a call was blown so egregiously at home plate that some people have decided that umpires basically can’t be trusted to get anything right anymore.

Twins lose on bad call

(Yeah, that’s not really even close)

Neil Velleman of TMR ZOO makes a pretty good case for expanding replay to cover close calls on the bases, as long as there’s a challenge system that is used in sports like football and tennis. Heck, every play at the wickets in important cricket matches is reviewed instantaneously using video technology to determine whether a runner is safe or not (this is analagous to using replay on the bases in baseball). I guess it is inherently silly that the whole world knew Michael Cuddyer was safe when he slid into home plate, and umpire Mike Muchlinski was the only one who didn’t see it. I’m all for letting officials use their best judgment in situations that require interpretation, but these kinds of plays aren’t really “judgment calls.” A player is either out or he isn’t, and if there’s a better way to determine that, why wouldn’t it be considered?

cricket

(Even these guys have replay)

The SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE’s Gwen Knapp says that baseball shouldn’t act hastily to enact replay based on one bad call, even though last year’s hastily-enacted system seems to work pretty well.  The SACRAMENTO BEE says that even David Stern has given referees latitude to use replay, and that in matters of clear right and wrong there’s no reason not to use the information you have available.

On the flip side, I can see the argument that we’re heading down the slippery slope of not using on-field umpires at all. There are automated systems in place now that can call every pitch a ball or a strike. If similar systems can be developed to determine outs on the bases and call balls fair or foul, why would we need umpires at all? You could also argue that if the bad calls are evenly distributed, everyone will benefit from them at some point. Sure, the Twins were victimized at the worst possible time, but they also shouldn’t have blown a 12-2 lead in the first place.

I just don’t want replay to ever extend into youth baseball, for the sake of future umpire baiters everywhere. I’m still proud of that time I really sold a tag at home plate with my glove when the ball was sitting like three feet behind me and I got the call. And, actually, the more that I think about it, I’m not sure I’m into this whole replay thing. What, is Ozzie Guillen going to argue with a machine? (well, he’s a bad example I guess)

Ozzie Guillen

Right after the All-Star break, the Phillies went to Miami for what was billed as a crucial four-game series that might swing the momentum in the NL East toward the Marlins and make the race wide open again. But after sweeping the Fish and taking the first two from the Cubs, the Phils have won 10 games in a row for the first time since 1991, and now look like they might be re-asserting themselves as the team to beat in baseball.

I’m not sure that Pedro Martinez is going to make all that much of a difference, but the idea that they could land Roy Halladay can’t make other NL teams very happy. And one of the biggest reasons for the team’s recent resurgence is Jimmy Rollins, who has decided to wake up after napping through the first three months of the season. Rollins is hitting .375 with a 1.039 OPS in July, which has still only managed to bring his average up to .238 for the year. But with all of the home runs the middle of the order is hitting, it sure can’t hurt to have their lead-off guy on base once in a while. Rollins homered last night, and Jayson Werth’s three-run shot in the bottom of the 13th won the game and kept the Phillies 6 1/2 games in front of second-place Atlanta.

Jayson Werth walk-off

The Dodgers blasted the Reds last night to win their fourth in a row and stay safely ahead of Philly in the race for the best record in the NL, but may have to go without Manny Ramirez for a couple of days after he was hit on the hand with a pitch. X-rays were negative, but he’s listed as day-to-day. Unfortunately, it might mean that he’ll miss his own bobblehead night, which is tonight at Dodger Stadium. Kaiser Permanente, the health-care provider that was originally the sponsor of the giveaway, has decided to withdraw its support because of his positive drug test.

Manny Ramirez

The Red Sox continued their offensive woes last night, losing to the Rangers 4-2 and dropping a full game behind the Yankees, who beat the Orioles 6-4. Even worse for the Sox, Tim Wakefield has been put on the DL because his back is in too much pain to toss a 65-mph floater.

Now, here’s some links to help you pass the time while you wait for that solar eclipse:

• It’s a good thing TMZ got that Michael Jackson death report right, because they were way off on UFC fighter Kimo Leopoldo, who isn’t actually dead. Kimo confirmed his non-death to YAHOO!: “I knew I wasn’t dead.” Well, as long as he knows, that’s good enough for me.

• UNI WATCH says Ivan Rodriguez just decided to change his uniform number to 77 out of the blue the other night. He had to abandon his #7 when he was traded to the Yankees (that Mickey Mantle guy wore it) and now can’t wear it in Houston because of Craig Biggio. So I guess he decided two 7s were better than one. It worked for Ray Bourque (once, anyway).

Ivan Rodriguez #77

• And you thought we’d seen the last of Ed O’Bannon. Yeah, well think again, mojambo.

“Stone Cold” Steve Austin owes the state of California more than $22,000, according to the BIG LEAD.

• MLB TRADE RUMORS says the Nationals aren’t even close to signing Stephen Strasburg, but also maintain that they won’t be conducting any negotiations through the media.

Tyler Perry is sending all of those kids who were kicked out of that swim club in Pennsylvania to Disney World.

Mark Cuban is firing back at Ross Perot Jr.’s lawsuit, saying that he “must be desperate from the losses he has suffered from Victory and his hedge funds.”

• Why will the UFL go the way of every other wannabe competitor to the NFL? They’re banking on people actually wanting to see J.P. Losman play.

J.P. Losman

(The next Tommy Maddox?)

• More proof that soccer’s struggles in America has everything to do with the level of competition in our pro league: a friendly match between Chelsea and Inter Milan drew 81,000 fans to the Rose Bowl last night.

• Model/actress Katie Price, who goes by the name “Jordan,” is apparently a really big star in the U.K. And now that she’s split with husband Peter Andre (someone else who people over there are familiar with), she says she wants to go the WAG route and “do” Frank Lampard and Cristiano Ronaldo. Think she’s got a chance?

Katie Price Jordan

Should MLB expand instant replay to include plays on the bases?

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Because What America Needs Now Is Pro Cricket

This type of detail frequently gets lost in numbers discussions, but scale is thrown dramatically out of whack when it comes to the American population. For example, (Asian) Indian Americans comprise less than 1% of the population of the United States. That seems insignificant until you realize it means roughly three million people, which is a pretty decent base upon which to build, say, a collection of fans.

Rinku Singh
(Hey guys, while you’re over here…)

We bring this fact up because what seems to be a laughable decision with even laughabler (new word alert, adjust dictionaries accordingly) quotes may yet be a masterstroke. We’re referring to the USA Cricket Association’s announcement that they’re formally requesting proposals to start a professional cricket league here stateside.

Read more…

Speed Read: Is Big Ben Lying About Broken Ribs?

So, what’s the deal with Ben Roethlisberger? We all know now that he told Peter King that he played in the Super Bowl with two broken ribs, but it wasn’t anywhere to be found on the official injury report in the lead up to the game, and there hasn’t been any independent confirmation that this is true. Would Big Ben lie about broken ribs just to seem like a bigger man? ESPN.COM notes that he has “previously exaggerated or misstated injuries he supposedly suffered during his five-season career.”

Ben Roethlisberger

PRO FOOTBALL TALK seems to have the biggest problem with all of this because, if it’s true that he had bad ribs and had in fact had an x-ray prior to the Super Bowl, it should have been on the injury report because NFL rules require teams to disclose injuries (for gamblers, of course). All Ben admitted to was having an x-ray “somewhere”, and Mike Tomlin said he “hadn’t heard” anything about an x-ray. This all was probably concocted to keep the Cardinals from going right after his ribs and forcing Byron Leftwich into the game. But the point of the injury disclosure rules are to identify which players are injured. If the Steelers deliberately misled the media and the league about Roethlisberger’s injury — even if he 100% intended to play in the game — doesn’t that break league rules?

PFT’s Mike Florio has a lot to say about the matter, and here’s a summary:

The reality, however, is that the individual teams are more concerned about competitive advantage or, more importantly, disadvantage.  If, as it appears, the Steelers took pains to conceal the fact that Roethlisberger received an X-ray on his ribs and that, as Roethsliberger said, “I knew all along there was something wrong,” they did so in order to prevent the Cardinals from targeting his midsection early and often, in the hopes of knocking him out of the game.

It appears, then, that the NFL is striking the delicate balance between the integrity of the game and notions of competitive disadvantage by making the injury report an issue of availability only, not of effectiveness and/or potential for aggravation.

Thus, there’s a loophole in the injury report.  A player can be injured, and his team can avoid reporting it.

And, consequently, there’s an incentive for folks inclined to place and/or accept wagers, legal or otherwise, to attempt to develop relationships aimed at getting to the truth.

The way the Steelers are reacting to this news, it’s hard to figure out if they’re trying to avoid embarrassing their QB by not calling him a liar or if they really were covering up a possibly serious injury. It begs the question, though: if the public knew that Big Ben had fractured ribs, what would the line have been? Might it have been less than, say, four? The decision to keep it under wraps may have cost Steeler bettors a bunch of cash.

Ben Roethlisberger Lombardi Trophy

In Indiana, the Pacers stunned the Cavs 96-95 in one of the more bizarre endings you’ll see. It was so contentious that it caused Cleveland coach Mike Brown to say this afterward:

“I went back and I watched the last two plays and that last call on LeBron was the worst call I’ve ever been a part of… We didn’t play particularly well. But that was a bad call that was predetermined that determined the outcome of the game. Simple as that. They can fine me for this crap. I don’t care. That was the worst call I’ve ever been part of. I’m talking from little league on up.”

Mike Brown

The call? LeBron James was called for a phantom foul on an alley-oop pass to Danny Granger with 0.1 seconds remaining in a tie game. Granger made a free throw and the Pacers won the game. But with 0.8 remaining and the Cavs trailing by two, Granger was called for a nearly identical foul on James that enraged the Pacers and the Conseco Fieldhouse crowd. Brown implied that referee Joey Crawford deliberately called the foul on James to compensate for what he felt to be a bad call by Bernie Adams on the other end.  Here’s the video:

Antonio Margarito isn’t going to be fighting Shane Mosley again anytime soon. In fact, he isn’t going to be fighting anyone anytime soon as he’s been banned for a year by the California State Athletic Commission for using illegal hand wraps in his fight with Mosley last month.

• The final round of World Cup qualifying starts tonight, and the U.S. is attempting to resume its recent dominance of Mexico on American soil. Luckily, tonight’s game is in Ohio, so only about half the crowd should be rooting for Mexico, as opposed to the 99.7% if the game were played in California.

• Another brutal hockey attack has made its way to the internet. PUCK DADDY has this video of Oshawa Generals captain and Florida Panthers prospect James Delory slashing and attacking Nathan Moon of Kingston. Although, it should be noted that Moon gave Delory a shot first:

• Remember that Bud Light ad from the Super Bowl where a guy is thrown out of the window of a conference room because he suggests that his office give up drinking Bud Light during the work day? Well, it turns out that the creative director of the agency that created the ad actually did jump out of a window and kill himself last year, according to BNET. So maybe that wasn’t very funny after all.

Sean Avery is now one step closer to starting a sloppy second stint with the Rangers. He’s joined the Rangers’ AHL affiliate in Hartford, but still remains under contract with the Stars.

• Hey, remember how everybody ridiculed Jose Canseco for saying that he introduced A-Rod to a steroids dealer? Uh, oops. Now Jose is saying he wants to help MLB move beyond the steroids era. And, oddly, he might actually be one of the only people who can make it happen.

• Does Danica Patrick still race cars, or does she just do this for a living now?:

Danica Patrick

• Oklahoma State basketball coach Travis Ford is sorry that he called one of his players a f***ing idiot on Saturday, says the AP.  Ford might want to consult Cowboy football coach Mike Gundy about how to deal with any lingering criticism.

• GRANEY & THE PIG (whoever they are) would like everyone to boycott Kellogg’s for dropping Michael Phelps. Yeah, I’m sure a stoner boycott of cereal will go really well.

• BASEBALL PROSPECTUS has come up with its projections for the 2009 season. Oddly, the Pirates are not projected to do well. Even more oddly, the Yankees are not picked to win the AL East.

• Thankfully, all in the cricket world is well after India battered Sri Lanka by three wickets in Colombo. The hosts posted a formidable 171/4 after Tillakaratne Dilshan put up 61 runs on just 47 balls. But the partnership of Yusuf and Irfan Pathan rescued India with 59 late runs, after the visitors had limped to 115/7 and looked to be a little on the ropes. I have no idea what I just wrote.

Do you think Ben Roethlisberger is lying about playing with broken ribs in the Super Bowl?

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Speed Read: Matt Stairs Is A Very Bad Man, Eh?

Matt Freaking Stairs. The 40-year-old who had all of 17 at-bats with the Phillies after being acquired from the Blue Jays on August 30th hit the first postseason bomb of his career in the eighth inning off of Jonathan Broxton as the Phils came from behind to stun the Dodgers 7-5 and go up 3-1 in the NLCS.

Matt Stairs

Stairs has had a decent career. He has 254 regular-season home runs, which is second all-time among Canadians. But if you’re a Phillies fan did you ever think that a guy who coaches hockey in Maine in the off-season was going to turn into your hero? Stairs, who seemed a little astounded by the whole experience, makes no bones about trying to hit long balls (and man, was it long):

“I try to swing for the fences,” Stairs said. “That’s what I’ve done my whole career. I was very fortunate to square one up tonight.”

Meanwhile, things are going so well for the Rays that Rocco Baldelli is hitting home runs off Red Sox pitching. Baldelli has overcome seven knee replacements and Ebola to get back into baseball, and now his team has a 2-1 series lead over the defending champs. The BOSTON GLOBE’s Amalie Benjamin is panicking a little because Jacoby Ellsbury isn’t getting on base and David Ortiz doesn’t have a hit in the series, while the Rays have hit seven homers in the last two games.

Rocco Baldelli

The Giants can take some solace in knowing that most of the sports world was watching baseball last night, because they got their heads bashed in by the Browns, 35-14. The rest of the world rejoices as the Brady Quinn era just got moved back at least another week. And I guess Kellen Winslow’s balls can keep swelling up because his teammates didn’t miss them.

How bad is the upcoming Tampa Bay-Seattle matchup on Sunday Night Football this week? So horrifying that John Madden can’t even imagine sitting through it. The big winner in all of this? Cris Collinsworth, who doesn’t have to hang out with Olbermann and Patrick all night now. (”Dan, have I used ‘it’s deep, and I don’t think it’s playable’ this week yet?”). Of course we all know the real reason Madden is staying home: he can’t miss the season premiere of Frank TV.

Frank Caliendo is John Madden

• I know you want to see it, so here it is. Footage of a bunch of idiots slamming as many Famiglia pizza slices into their yaps as they can in 10 minutes. Famiglia? I’ve had that garbage in the JetBlue terminal at JFK. I can barely keep one down.

• Two Toledo football players celebrated their win at Michigan by getting arrested. From one big house to another, all in the same day!• The season of North Carolina receiver and kick returner Brandon Tate is over. Bill Cole of the WINSTON-SALEM JOURNAL has all the details. Tate is the all-time NCAA leader in combined punt and kickoff return yardage.• After the Lane Kiffin firing, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen has turned his attentions to all things Adam Jones. Mort says that if Sir Adam was drinking the night that he got in his bodyguard altercation, that would be violation of his probation and could mean the end of his season.

• ESPN RISE has the odd story of a Florida high school football game that ended 91-0. The winning coach is being told that he ran up the score even though he didn’t even play some of his best players and his team only ran 31 plays.

• The “Thunder” played their first game in the state of Oklahoma last night, a win over the Rockets in Tulsa. The TULSA WORLD can’t contain its excitement.

• Poor Washington State. The SEATTLE TIMES reports that the Cougars have managed to lose yet another quarterback to a serious injury, and will go on Saturday with a guy who has already broken a vertebra this year. I’m giving this guy roughly six plays before he’s carted off the field in a mangled mess. The Cougs are currently 42-point home underdogs to USC.

• The TELEGRAPH’s Gill Hornby wonders how exactly AIG is honoring its ridiculously expensive sponsorship deal with Manchester United.

• Screeching Weasel singer Ben Weasel grew up a Cubs fan, but jumped off the bandwagon when Rick Aguilera gave up a home run to Jason Kendall in 2000, according to his blog, WEASEL MANOR. I managed to stay on the bandwagon until Wil Cordero immediately hit another homer off Aguilera.

• What do you do when you’re playing cricket all day and it starts getting dark? According to FOX SPORTS AUSTRALIA, you just go home and call the match a draw.

What was the best moment in Monday’s Dodgers-Phillies game?

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Chicken, Irony, Both Delicious in KFC Cricket Deal

You may recall how poorly the Aussies acted after being denied their beer and vegemite. Now someone’s trying to take away their fried chicken.

Fat Cricketer

Two researchers from the University of Sydney’s Institute of Nutrition Obesity and Exercise, while not busy trying to fit that on their business cards, demanded that Cricket Australia drop its sponsorship deal with KFC, which they say is adding to the nation’s childhood obesity epidemic. Read more…

Blog Jam: KC’s Soria OK with ‘Mexicutioner’ Label

• USA TODAY’s GAME ON learns that Royals pitcher Joakim Soria doesn’t mind being nicknamed the “Mexicutioner“.

Joakim Soria Royals

• DEUCE OF DAVENPORT passes along a photo of one dog’s opinion of the game of cricket.

• EVERY DAY SHOULD BE SATURDAY believes Urban Meyer looks a lot like new Batman Christian Bale.

• DC SPORTS BOG has a fun time attending a World Team Tennis match.

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What The? Pakistani Nukes Have Aussies Spooked

Because you have Australian cricket booked in your RSS, you already know that the national team has agreed to play some matches in 2009 and 2010 in Pakistan, which is a big cricket country. And since you also have “nuclear tests” in your Google News alerts, you’re well aware that Pakistan just carried out some nuclear tests. Now put the days together, and you have:

Cricket Australia to play in Pakistan

Nuclear scare! Whee! Yes, the SYDNEY MORNING HERALD is wondering if Australian cricket players would be privy to skipping games in Pakistan if their fears of nuclear missiles got the best of them. Read more…

Lara Bingle Topless Photos Causing Crash Again?

The SYDNEY MORNING HERALD claims that topless photos of Lara Bingle, Aussie model and companion to cricketer Michael Clarke, have appeared again on a German magazine’s website.

Lara Bingle

In March 2007, GQ’s German edition showed shots of Bingle in her birthday suit (possibly NSFW). The nudie pics caused quite a stir, as Lara was known for her brief bikini appearances in cricket ads - and for having an affair with married Australian football player Brendan Fevola.

The commotion was also felt by GQ’s website, as the torrents of traffic caused the mag’s Internet servers to crash.

But when we followed the Herald’s links to the supposedly new pics, we found something interesting. Or make that, didn’t find. Read more…

Aussies Rather Watch Cricket Than Maria vs. Ana

With such an alluring match-up between Maria Sharapova & Ana Ivanovic, it would’ve been hard not to tune in to the Australian Open women’s final.

Maria Sharapova Ana Ivanovic

Unless you had the tube on Down Under, and there was cricket on other stations.

The BRISBANE COURIER-MAIL reports that Aussie TV ratings for this year’s “Glam Slam” were actually down from last year’s final. Over 33% less viewers tuned in Australia’s Channel Seven to see Maria beat Ana than those that watched Sharapova lose to Serena Williams in 2007.

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