The Bigger Beauty Contest: Miss America Or MLB?

Remember that delightful helmet David Wright of the New York Mets wore last year? Of course you do.

David Wright's Huge Helmet. Minor Leaguers Hate It Too

The helmet is designed to protect a batter from a 100-mph fastball, along with re-entry through the earth’s atmosphere.

Thanks to the Major League Baseball players union, the monstrosity, called the S100 by Rawlings, is not standard issue. Though, much to the delight of minor leaguers, it is required headwear for pros not in The Show.

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This Car Is Serious Horsey Racing Business, Folks

Look, we can all agree that horse safety is a big deal, and surely anybody who isn’t a sick bastard/future serial killer wants to see issues like the Barbaro situation or the Eight Belles on-track euthanization fiasco. Thus, then, all steps forward in terms of monitoring training are good things, yes? Yes.

Horseymobile
(Oh my God, they turned a horse into Darth Vader’s head.)

So while we laugh (oh, how we laugh) at the above picture, rest assured that we only laugh because we care here, as this monstrosity is actually designed to help horse owners train their horses without overexerting them and leaving them at greater risk of injury. This is a positive development, and now here is where we indulge our childish sense of humor, start referring to horses as “horseys,” and show you what else this all looks like to us.

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Speed Read: Another Ivanovic Bust At U.S. Open

Back in January 2008, the Australian Open finals featured Ana Ivanovic and Maria Sharapova in one of the most eagerly-anticipated women’s tennis matches ever. Sharapova won the match, but it seemed like the sport was set for one of the hottest - in every sense of the world - rivalries in recent memories.

Ana Ivanovic

Now flash forward to last night. While a Bedazzled Sharapova (more on that in a minute) started her comeback from shoulder surgery with an easy straight set win over Tsvetana Pironkova, Ivanovic continued her freefall into oblivion by getting bounced by unheralded Kateryna Bondarenko. That makes a tidy zero titles for Ivanovic this year and no appearances past the fourth round in any major - and another early round exit from the U.S. Open after last year’s shocking loss to Julie Coin in the second round.

Ana Ivanovic Topless Photo

(Ana Ivanovic in happier times…for everyone)

It’s not just that Ivanovic lost - at times, she looked absolutely lost, seemingly unable to do something as simple as throw the ball into the air correctly during her serves. Call it the tennis equivalent of Rick Ankiel’s pitching yips, although more attractive to watch if just as awkward. Ivanovic took to burying her head in a towel during changeovers, which is probably what a lot of fans wanted to do after watching her stumble to defeat.

Maria Sharapova

Meanwhile, Sharapova was confident and poised in her easy victory. Her tennis game looked great, while her outfit … let’s just say it looked like something you might have seen in a teen dance competition in Sioux City, Iowa, in 1987. And not to go Mr. Blackwell on your here, but honey, Cher called from 1975 and she wants her beaded headband back. Unless you are planning on belting out a rousing version of “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves” after winning your next match - in that case, it’s all yours.

Sharapova said that her outfit was “inspired by the architecture of New York.” Which is a perfect transition to talk about one of the other great metropolises of the Americans: Saskatoon. Because FACEOFF.COM says that one of the bidders for the Phoenix Coyotes has already booked five dates at the Credit Union Centre (the Madison Square Garden of Saskatchewan) to hold games there if they get the team next season.

Downtown Saskatoon

(There really is nothing quite like Saskatoon in December…)

Which leads to the question: what other events would possibly be happening in Saskatoon so you would need to save the date? A quick look at the Credit Union Centre event schedule shows a lot of minor league hockey…and not much else. Somehow I think that the arena would be willing to postpone the Saskatoon Blades vs. Moose Jaw Warriors showdown for an NHL game.

A partner for Ice Edge Holdings said that the team would be playing most of its games in Phoenix and not moving to Saskatoon permanently, which is too bad: it would be great to see NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman get an involuntary eye twitch every time he tries to explain how having a team in Saskatoon is good for the league.

Finally, Adrian Beltre returned to the Seattle Mariners last night after learning a valuable lesson about wearing a cup while playing third base on August 14 - as in “for the love of all things good and holy, wear one!” You might remember that Beltre thought his testicle had “exploded” after taking a scorching drive to the crotch.

Adrian Beltre nutcracker

After sitting out a few weeks (and probably getting some counseling for his lingering trauma issues), Beltre was back, and the Mariners decided to have a little fun at his expense. Ken Griffey Jr. had said he had the “perfect” music for Beltre’s first at-bat, and the person in charge of the songs being played over the PA delivered. Our own Scott Sepich was at the game, so I’ll pass along what he relayed to me:

“I was at the Mariners-Angels game tonight, and in Adrian Beltre’s first at-bat since coming off the DL, the music they played for him when he came to the plate was the “Nutcracker Suite.” A few of us in the press box caught on, but I’m not sure that the crowd got it. I thought it was pretty brilliant.”

Brilliant, indeed. In case you need further proof, the SEATTLE TIMES game blog not only mentions the musical cue but has audio of it as well. While I find it ironic that Ken Griffey Jr. - a man who once suffered a season-ending groin injury while fielding a fly ball - thinks that Beltre’s situation is hilarious. But it was a good choice of music, certainly more subtle than what I would have selected.

  • SPORTS HERNIA seems to think that David Wright’s new mega-helmet makes him look like Dark Helmet or The Great Gazoo. Personally, I think that he should be paying royalty money to Mark Kelso for infringing on his “dorky guy in a giant helmet” trademark.
  • David Wright

  • If there was one team in the NFL that had to be screwing the fans over by selling tickets directly to scalpers, it had to be the Washington Redskins, right? Too bad they can’t do the same thing with Six Flags tickets to prop up sales numbers.
  • Your nightly NFLPA train wreck update: the Department of Justice is confirming that they are investigating collusion claims by the union’s former HR director. She says that former player representative Troy Vincent had illegal meetings with Roger Goodell and Texas owner Robert McNair where he divulged classified information. Troy Vincent had a trouble keeping information private? That sounds strangely familiar.
  • Ladies, Rafael Nadal is playing at the U.S. Open in see-through shorts. Why can’t we get this technology in the women’s side of things (except for Serena Williams)?
  • Sometimes being a”football hero” takes on a different connotation: Kaleb Eulls, a star player at Yazoo High in Mississippi who has committed to Mississippi State, is being praised after disarming a 14-year-old girl who pulled out a loaded semi-automatic weapon on a full school bus.
  • Former Kentucky basketball star Edward Davender has been arrested as part of a ticket scalping scam involving Wildcats basketball tickets. If convicted, he could be sentenced to work for the Washington Redskins.
  • Adam “Pac-Man” Jones and Charles Rogers on the same CFL football team? Can someone please tell me how I can get Winnipeg Blue Bombers games on TV here in the lower 48?
  • Andy Roddick is less than thrilled with the U.S. Open trying to clamp down on players Twittering because they are concerned about players giving up “inside information.” Roddick’s retort (via Twitter): “you would seriously have to be a moron to send ‘inside info’ through a tweet.”
  • Anheuser-Busch plans to switch sports advertising tactics, targeting specific beer brands with demographics based on major sports. Bud Light to be linked to the NFL, while Budweiser will feature heavily in MLB advertising. No word on if Natural Ice will now be the Official Beer of Competitive Binge Drinking.
  • If they are going to start sending people to jail for 30 days for socking an opposing coach at a baseball game for 8-year-olds and then swinging a bat at people trying to break it up, then I just don’t know what baseball is anymore.

Best song for a player returning from a “bruised testicle”:

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Now Is Not A Good Time To Be An MLBer’s Skull

Remember those weird-ass Japanese robots that play baseball? Maybe the Japanese were onto something. After all, this is a sport with a hard object often flying much faster than human reflexes can catch up to. So when robots take a cruel and unusual amount of physical abuse, it’s usually awesome and never scary or disconcerting.

David Wright HBP
(Oh, that ain’t good.)

The exact opposite is true for humans, though, and the Summer of 2009 Death March has turned its attention from random celebrities to the brain cells of baseball players. The results have been predictably harrowing.

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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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Week In Review: Angels’ Adenhart Dies In Crash

• A very tough week for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Pitcher Nick Adenhart dies in a hit & run car accident caused by a drunk driver, just days after a fan dies from a post-game fight in an Angel Stadium stairwell.

Nick Adenhart Brian Powers

(Left - Nick Adenhart; Right - Fight victim Brian Powers)

Cheryl Miller wasn’t pleased that Scot Pollard was late for their NBA TV show, and she wasn’t afraid to use the airtime to air her grievances.

• ESPN reporter Shelley Smith takes a misstep at a Detroit bar during the Final Four.

• Fans fighting while their team’s championship banner is being raised, and booing while World Series rings are given out? Must be Philadelphia.

• A former Gonzaga women’s basketball star-turned-high school softball coach gets zagged for having sex with one of her 16-year-old players.

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Cougar Aniston Now Prowling For David Wright?

It’s pretty good to be David Wright these days. He’s got millions of dollars, Mets fans love him, and he never has to deal with being all over the back page of the POST and DAILY NEWS because of A-Rod and Derek Jeter.

Jennifer Aniston and David Wright

He has also apparently caught the eye of the newly-single Jennifer Aniston, who recently broke up with John Mayer. I mean, if a British tabloid called NOW says she’s interested, it must be true, right? According to Jen’s “friend” (the ‘Deep Throat’ of the gossip world), she has become intrigued with the idea of dating an athlete ever since seeing the “passionate” relationship between A-Rod and Madonna. Yuck.

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Speed Read: Is Brodeur The Greatest Goalie Ever?

It’s hard at this moment to put into perspective what Martin Brodeur accomplished last night by becoming the NHL’s all-time leader in wins as a goaltender. For one, there’s no such thing as a tie anymore and Marty has had his share of shootout wins over the past few seasons. But it’s clear that this is a big deal, especially since Brodeur — a Montreal native — passed his childhood idol Patrick Roy to get the record.

Martin Brodeur

(Would you know this was one of the 10 best hockey players of all time if you saw him walking down the street?)

But just think how huge the celebration of this record would have been if Brodeur had played his entire career just 5 1/2 miles east of at Madison Square Garden instead of at the afterthought that is the Meadowlands (and if he had led the Blueshirts to three Stanley Cups instead of the Devils. And yes, I know the Devils play in Newark now, but that’s only been a little over a year). As someone who’s lived in New York, I know firsthand that those 5 1/2 miles might as well be 500 miles, considering how little attention is paid to the Devils and Nets in the city.

That’s not a knock on the Devils’ franchise, which has quite clearly been superior to the Rangers for 15 years now, mostly because of Brodeur.  It’s just that he’s never really been a superstar — that guy who’s a must-see along the lines of Gretzky, Lemieux, Roy, Ovechkin, Crosby, and any number of other guys who draws huge crowds wherever they go. And that’s largely because he’s been fairly anonymous despite playing in the largest market in the NHL. He’s never even filled his own building on a regular basis. Heck, you can count the number of Devils sellout crowds on one hand most years. They can’t even pack their barn for playoff games. I bought tickets to a 2003 Stanley Cup Finals game the day before from Ticketmaster.

When Brodeur retires with what will likely be many more wins (100 more? 200?) than Roy, he will have set a bar that may never be topped. But will he be remembered as fondly as the NHL’s other greats? Personally, as a hockey fan, I kind of a agree with this guy:

Roy fan taunts Brodeur

I think Brodeur is a great technical goaltender who’s been fortunate to be able to play at high level for many years. But he always has had a great defensive team in front of him — something many other great goaltenders like Dominik Hasek and Ed Belfour were not blessed with on a regular basis. But for my money, but Roy is still the best I’ve ever seen.

Do you have WBC fever yet? Do you know it’s even happening? As if we needed further evidence that America’s attention is squarely on college basketball this month, America’s scintillating 9th-inning comeback victory over Puerto Rico last night — which avenged P.R.’s 11-1 mercy-rule win over the U.S. a few days ago and sent the Americans into the semifinals — was seen by an announced crowd of just over 13,000 at Dolphins Stadium in Miami. To put it into perspective, the Korea-Japan game in San Diego drew more than 15,000. To recap: it’s our national pastime, in our country, playing against an American territory with a large population in the Miami area, and we couldn’t outdraw the Korea-Japan game. The U.S. team is now apparently taking this all very seriously, after nearly deciding to drop out of the tournament because too many people were getting hurt. I’m going to put the probability at about 98% that this is the last World Baseball Classic.

As it happened, though, it was a great game. Shane Victorino drew the ire of the Puerto Ricans in the 7th inning when he “accidentally” deflected a ball thrown in from the outfield while he was running the bases, allowing him to take an extra base. If the game wasn’t close, he likely would’ve taken one off his ear flap the next time up. Puerto Rico had a 5-3 lead going into the bottom of the 9th, but the U.S. rallied, culminating in David Wright’s 2-run single that won it, setting off a genuinely boisterous celebration.

WBC celebration

The NIT started last night with eight matchups, and “snubbed” teams like San Diego State and Saint Mary’s came through with victories. Stephen Curry did his usual thing, scoring 32 as Davidson won at South Carolina. Meanwhile, only 2,039 people bothered to show up in South Bend to see Notre Dame beat UAB. Kentucky played its first game at Lexington’s Memorial Coliseum since 1976 because Rupp Arena had a scheduling conflict, and the Wildcats downed UNLV in front of a sell-out crowd.

Stephen Curry

(Steph’s team wouldn’t make an NCAA run this year, so isn’t it better that we might see him take the NIT crown?)

• Should the Astros follow up their signing of Pudge Rodriguez with Pedro Martinez? Some commenters on BASEBALL PROSPECTUS think it’s all crazy enough to work, but BP’s Will Carroll is just shaking his head at Ed Wade (who says the team has had no conversations with Pedro, for what it’s worth).

Oh, God. Yes, that’s A-Rod making out with himself:

Alex Rodriguez making out with himself

Morehead State beat Alabama State in the game the NCAA refuses to call the “play-in” game.  Their reward? A beatdown by Louisville on Friday. In fact, the Cards beat Morehead 79-41 earlier this season, so expect the line to be set somewhere around 38 on this one. The tragedy in all of this? No more chances to see Grlenntys Chief Kickingstallionsims, Jr. play.

• According to MLIVE, players for the Lions are no longer permitted to talk to the media unless it’s been cleared with the team’s media relations department first. Because if there’s any organization that has a pristine reputation to uphold, it’s the Detroit Lions.

• Florida State president T.K. Wetherell kinda lost it in a press conference yesterday, so says the ORLANDO SENTINEL. First, he referred to Bobby Bowden’s first school (Samford) as a “dipsh*t school,” then he outlined a hypothetical way that the ‘Noles could beat Florida, which includes a frighteningly well-thought-out fraud scheme involving Tim Tebow and fake schoolwork submitted in his name.

• PASSION AND PRIDE cautions against Phillies fans panicking about Cole Hamels‘ injury. It looks like he has no structural damage to his elbow, but still. 260 innings last year.

• ROYALS REVIEW warns against a cheeseburger shortage in KC, with Billy Butler and Sidney Ponson now both in town (and isn’t Ponson just the perfect Royals guy?)

Sidney Ponson cheeseburgers

Steve Nash is really excited that Vancouver’s going to get an MLS team, as his Twitter feed indicates. With the rate the MLS is expanding, Nash will probably be playing for them after his deal with the Suns expires.  So now the MLS has two Canadian teams. It’s all part of a master plan to start gradually putting MLS teams in other countries. The league clearly believes it’s about time that the rest of the world gets some exposure to soccer.

• Speaking of soccer, it’s time to bid for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups! The frontrunner? Gotta be Qatar.

• The AP reports that two sled dogs died in the Iditarod yesterday. Their hometown? Wasilla. The cause of death is unknown, but it probably has to do with running in the snow in ridiculously freezing weather.

If you needed to win one hockey game, who would be your goalie?

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Jeter On Camera Phones: “Worst Invention Ever”

Derek Jeter has been the Yankees’ shortstop since 1995, and in that time we’ve seen Al Gore’s baby, the Internet, morph from a primitive means for science nerds to communicate (yeah, Arapanet!) to a sophisticated network of tubes that allows anybody with a camera phone and a USB cable to get their message halfway around the globe in the time it takes to Google “A-Rod’s manly stripper friend.”

Derek Jeter Comic Book Guy

Amazingly, Jeter has somehow managed to stay above the paparazzi fray when it comes to negative publicity, even though he’s one of the most recognizable athletes playing in the largest, media-frenzied market. But that doesn’t mean he’s happy about how technology has made his life more difficult.

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Blog Jam: Wright Throws Girlfriend Surprise Party

• THE BIG LEAD gives a toast to David Wright for throwing a surprise birthday party for girlfriend Molly Beers.

David Wright Molly Beers

• WITH LEATHER swears that the AL’s current All-Star success is all thanks to the potty-mouthed Ichiro Suzuki.

• DEADSPIN finds someone pleading with the Packers to put Brett Favre back in the starting lineup, and that someone is … Newt Gingrich?

• SIGNAL TO NOISE learns that the NFL doesn’t want to see its image Crip-pled by players flashing gang signs during games.

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