8:30 PM The Rochester Democrat & Chronicle notes that the Rochester Red Wings were the last American baseball team to play in Cuba before the U.S. embargo began in 1960. The July 25 game against the Havana Sugar Kings ended in a 3-3 tie after fans began firing weapons to celebrate Fidel Castro's revolution.
Venezuela’s president, Hugo Chavez took time away from his busy schedule imprisoning and murdering political dissidents and uniting South America as a totalitarian-run continent to put in a phone call to Mets closer and Venezuelan Francisco Rodriguez.
Apparently the news of Rodriguez being arraigned on charges of assaulting the grandfather of his children struck a chord with the bloodthirsty tyrant.
Chavez recently talked about that phone conversation during a speech delivered on Venezuelan’s state-run television network: Read more…
The Clippers’ selection of Blake Griffin with the first pick in the NBA Draft last night was a forgone conclusion, so most of the draft drama was centered around Spanish point guard sensation Ricky Rubio. Over the past couple of weeks, Rubio became one of the most fascinating prospects in draft history — he doesn’t want to play in a small market or a cold city, his agent didn’t let him work out against other humans (which led to the strange one-on-none workout in Sacramento), he still has a huge buyout in his European contract, and nobody can really agree about how good he really is (he could be the next Steve Nash or the next Dan Dickau, and neither scenario would be surprising).
In other words, Ricky seems to be rejecting Minneapolis as his future home. Any threat to not come to the NBA isn’t really financial leverage, since his contract is slotted based on his position in the draft. But he could be pulling this stunt to try and force a trade to a city that’s more to his liking, such as New York. He might also be wondering (like a lot of other people) why the Wolves took another point guard (Johnny Flynn) with the #6 pick. Here’s what Mr. Rubio told MARCA (via FANHOUSE):
“We are going to speak with the [staff] of Minnesota and see what’s happening, because, in some hours, we may be in Minnesota or in another place.”
He’s either expressing confusion over the Wolves’ intentions of keeping his son, or he’s basically telling them they better trade because there’s no way Ricky’s coming to play there.
After being drafted, ESPN’s Mark Jones asked Ricky to compare his game to that of a current NBA player. To which he simply replied: “I’m Ricky Rubio” (to the amusement of the MSG crowd). Scroll to the 3:20 mark of this video:
Surely I’m not the only person who thought of this when I saw the interview:
After Minnesota picked Flynn, it looked like Stephen Curry might fall to the Knicks, and it was no secret that he wanted to call MSG his home. But the Warriors didn’t get the memo and picked him, sending the Knicks fans on hand into depressed hysterics. It was only fitting that the boos rained down on Jordan Hill, who had no chance to win over the New York crowd in such a short period of time. At least he’s probably better than Renaldo Balkman.
The other strange development of the night was Brandon Jennings‘ last-minute decision to not attend the draft at the advice of his agent, who seemed uneasy about letting his client end up like Rashard Lewis, who famously slid way down the draft board while TV cameras watched his every emotion. Well, as it turns out, Jennings went 10th to the Bucks, then decided to show up a few picks later to get his photo op with David Stern. Now, if Jennings turns out anything like Lewis, he wouldn’t have cared when he was drafted.
HOOPSHYPE has a good recap of the draft up, and Kings fans are going to need to steer clear of hairdryers and bathtubs after reading that they’ve got the next Larry Hughes on their hands. The suit of the night, without a doubt, belonged to James Harden:
(Mustard suit + bowtie = smooth)
There were some other things going on in the sports world last night, including the resolution to one of the stupidest athlete spats in recent memory. With the Yankees heading to Queens for a weekend series with the Mets, the tensions between Francisco Rodriguez and Brian Bruney once again became back page news. But the NY DAILY NEWS reports that it was all settled last week, when Bruney sent a clubhouse attendant over the Mets clubhouse to apologize to K-Rod on his behalf. I was accused of some anti-Yankee bias in my original post about this matter, but really, c’mon, sending an attendant to apologize for you? How lame is that? I would’ve loved to see that exchange at K-Rod’s locker.
A lot of major league pitchers struggle, and a lot are sent to the minors to work through their troubles. But few actually go to their team and ask to be sent down, like the Pirates’ Ian Snell has done. Snell is 2-8 this year with a 5.36 ERA and awful 1.624 WHIP. He had actually been throwing better as of late, but said he thought it was best for the team to be sent down because he was bringing too much negativity to the team. I can’t decide if this is an alarming lack of confidence and perseverance on Snell’s part or a refreshing selfless decision done in the interest of helping his team and his own career. Regardless, Snell has actually been slightly better this year than last, when he had a 5.42 ERA and even more god-awful 1.765 WHIP, and he threw a full slate of 31 starts. Here’s what Snell told the PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE’s Dejan Kovacevic:
“I don’t want to point fingers and make excuses. I just made a better decision for myself, my career and my life.” I asked what he needs to do: “Nothing. You guys don’t understand it unless you played baseball. You don’t understand it, and the people at home don’t understand it. I’m just going down there, get my thoughts together and do well.”
I think he just needs a hug, not a stint in AAA.
Before we get to today’s links, I feel like taking a few minutes to watch the “Smooth Criminal” video again. There’s no doubt that Michael Jackson was a weird dude, and possibly a perv on such a level that he doesn’t deserve our grief. But is it so bad to spend a day remembering why we loved the guy? All that other stuff will come back around soon enough.
Now let’s get on with those links:
• Ever wonder who that lady is who gives the draft picks their hat before they walk over to meet David Stern? Wonder no more.
• Vijay Singhattempted to bail accused swindler Allen Stanford out of jail, but was told he couldn’t because he isn’t an American, according to CNBC’s Darren Rovell. This is like the first time I’ve ever heard about Vijay being a really generous guy, and it’s to someone who probably stole a bunch of money from him.
• According to this AFP story, “Gay clocks wind-aided 9.75″ at the US Track and Field Championships. Miss California is unimpressed.
• Frank Thomassays he’s “close” to retiring, which will be news to the one person in the universe who doesn’t already think that Frank Thomas is retired. That person being Frank Thomas, of course.
• A man has now been arrested in connection with Karen Sypher’s plan to extort cash from Rick Pitino. Why was Lester Goetzinger so willing to help out in this scheme? Were sexual favors involved or something? Oh, actually, they were.
• Wimbledon’s in full swing, and a rising star you might want to keep an eye on (or both your eyes on, really) is Caroline Wozniacki out of Denmark. She’s the #9 seed and has advanced to the third round. Here she is enjoying some time off the court:
On a weekend featuring Luis Castillo’s inexplicable error and one of the worst starts of Johan Santana’s career, DL’d Yankee reliever Brian Bruney somehow managed to steal the spotlight when he went after Francisco Rodriguez after Friday night’s game. K-Rod responded to the comments initially with a resounding “Who?“, but today escalated the situation by seeking Bruney out during warmups today and getting right in his face.
(”What did you say about my lobster bisque?”)
So what was it that raised K-Rod’s ire? After Castillo’s dropped pop-up that gave the Yankees the win on Friday with Rodriguez on the mound, Bruney gave this quote to the HUNTERDON COUNTY DEMOCRAT: “Couldn’t have happened to a better guy on the mound, either. He’s got a tired act. He gets what he deserves, man. I just don’t like watching the guy pitch. I think it’s embarrassing.”
The most telling part in all of this is that the only paper that was interested in getting Bruney’s reaction after the game was the HUNTERDON COUNTY DEMOCRAT (which is apparently in New Jersey). And from Sunday’s reports, it appears as if K-Rod is getting the best of this confrontation. There’s a reason he’s a closer, you know.
What if you had a hitter who was all-but guaranteed to walk every time at bat. That’d be the most useful player ever, right? An OBP of 1.000. An OPS better than all but a couple major leaguers. A guaranteed leadoff baserunner. A guaranteed bases-loaded walk.
(Flood’s the one at bottom, FYI.)
That’s the thinking behind the independent York Revolution trying out 3-foot-2-inch Dave Flood in spring training. It’s easy to jump to the conclusion that this is a publicity stunt, one which Atlantic League teams are known for. But there’s hard research behind this experiment, and at least some people think it could change the game of baseball.
The Mets have drawn even with the Phillies in one vital area. Not in the standings, obviously. But in trash-talking.
(He may need that hardhat when the division lead starts crumbling.)
Giving Jimmy Rollins competition for most obvious bulletin board material is new Met Francisco Rodriguez. Frankie, saying this kind of thing may have flown in Anaheim, where no one really cared about baseball. But here, you made the mistake of talking where the media could hear you; this story is going to be run into the ground before spring training.
Baseball’s Winter Meetings had been pretty boring before Francisco Rodriguez signed a three-year deal with the New York Mets on Tuesday, and K-Rod agreed to a deal that was well short of the five-year contract he and his agent had been looking for. Apparently seeing that Rodriguez, who set the MLB saves record last season with 62, couldn’t even get money and years he was looking for set off some alarms in CC Sabathia’s head.
CC may have wanted to be a Dodger, and he may have been hoping that some west coast team would come swooping in and offer him a deal comparable to the $140 million the Yankees had been offering, but it was becoming more apparent with each hour that it just wasn’t going to happen. Which is probably why, in the end, Sabathia finally realized he’d be the world’s biggest moron to turn down that kind of money right now.
The Angels’ Francisco Rodriguez is lucky enough to play on a team that on 63 occasions this year has managed to take a lead, but not too big of a lead, into the ninth inning. And since he’s been successful in that role 57 times he now shares the single-season record in a weird, arbitrary statistic. Seriously, all you need to know about saves is that a guy once got one in a game his team won by 27 runs.
In last night’s win over Seattle, the Angels took a 7-3 lead into the ninth inning, when Scot Shields allowed the first two runners to reach safely. Mike Scioscia immediately popped out of the dugout to remove Shields and bring in Rodriguez, who shockingly managed to not pitch like an absolute moron and held on to that precarious four-run advantage against a crappy Mariner offense. And oh yeah, he got the save.