Speed Read: Cutler Crappy As Packers Stuff Bears

It’s been a while since the Bears have had a good quarterback. And it’s a shame, considering they’ve had some pretty good teams that were ultimately sabotaged by guys like Jim Miller and Rex Grossman. So we all know what a huge relief it was for the people of Chicago that they finally would have a real, legitimate star under center.

Jay Cutler

So, anyone missing Orton yet? In what is always a monumental game for the Bears, Jay Cutler was Brian Griese-esque as he threw four interceptions in a 21-15 loss to Green Bay at Lambeau Field. The CHICAGO TRIBUNE’s David Haugh says that Cutler wasn’t exactly keeping a cool head while everything crumbled around him:

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Speed Read: “Desperate” Plax Faces Grand Jury

As we speak, Plaxico Burress is preparing to testify before a grand jury in Manhattan about shooting himself in the leg last year. And those of you with some familiarity with the legal system might have this reaction to that news: uhhh, wha?

Plaxico Burress

(”I saved the world from having to deal with 19-0. Doesn’t that count for something?”)

In a move that ESPN’s Lester Munson is calling “desperate” and “highly unusual,” Burress will subject himself to questioning in an effort to get the grand jury to consider lesser charges than the felony that is currently on the table. It’s rare for a lawyer to allow this to happen because it can backfire in so many ways. For one, Plax has to be very careful about what he says. If any statement he makes ends up not being true, he could find a perjury charge added to whatever else he’s facing. And, since the prosecutors can ask anything they want, if Burress is forthcoming with every detail, he could basically end up admitting his guilt. Although, as one ESPN commenter noted, Burress really only needs to be asked three questions:

1. Did you have a gun in your possession when you shot yourself?
2. Do you have a permit to have that gun?
3. Do you have a permit to carry a concealed weapon in New York?

If the answer is “yes” to #1 and “no” to the other two questions, that’s basically all they need to make their decision.

Lester Munson

(Things aren’t going well if this guy’s talking about you)

So why do it? Munson and fellow analyst Roger Cossack seem to think that Burress’ lawer, Benjamin Brafman, might be using this as a means to encourage a plea bargain. But Munson says that they don’t have any leverage here, since they’re the ones facing all the downside related to Burress’ testimony. The term “bluff” is being thrown around, but what’s the bluff? Why would the D.A. be worried about Plax testifying?

The only reasonable theory being offered is that maybe Plax can charm the jurors into thinking he’s a good guy who didn’t know the law and just wanted to protect himself. But he’ll have to do all of this without his lawyer, who won’t be allowed into the courtroom.

On Monday, Manhattan D.A. Jack McCoy Robert Morgenthau spoke publicly about the case, saying that Plax was OK with doing a year in jail, but that the people won’t accept a deal that involves less than two years in the clink. Morgenthau even suggested that he’s looking at charging Antonio Pierce for his role in the incident, something Cossack claims was “out of bounds” for the D.A. to talk about publicly, and certainly meant to bait Burress into a deal.

None of this looks particularly good, and one wonders if that two-year deal from the D.A. is still on the table. And I think it’s safe to say it would be the worst two-year deal any NFL free agent would be signing this year.

Robert Morgenthau

(When the guy with the huge ears says you’re doing time, you’re doing time)

Mark Buehrle made his first start since his perfect game, and for an hour and a half or so at the Metrodome, the awesome gift-giver looked like he might have a legitimate shot at the utterly unthinkable. Buehrle retired the first 17 Twins he faced on Tuesday night, before it finally all fell apart and he gave up five runs and five hits.

Despite the eventual unraveling, Buehrle set a major league record by sending down 45 consecutive batters. That’s 15 consecutive innings without allowing a baserunner. The previous record was 41, held by two players, including Buehrle’s teammate, Bobby Jenks (who did it in three-batter increments as a closer).

Mark Buehrle White Sox

Elsewhere around baseball, Ichiro did something he’d never done before — end a game with a hit. That’s right, none of his previous 1,952 hits were of the walk-off variety, by far the longest such active streak in baseball. To give you an idea, Alex Cora now holds the active record for most hits without a walk-off at 742.

Ichiro Suzuki Seattle Mariners

(”You know, maybe if you didn’t have Yuniesky Betancourt hitting in front of me for four years I would’ve done it once or twice.”)

It’s been a good year for the Dodgers, but things took a turn for the embarrassing when Mark Loretta had to come on to pitch with two outs in the eighth inning at L.A. trailing 10-0 to the Cardinals. Loretta was the first position player to pitch in a game for the Dodgers since 2004, and after drilling Matt Holliday with a fastball he got Ryan Ludwick to fly out to end the inning. In other words, he did way better than Chien-Ming Wang had done this year. The Yankees finally Old Yellered him and are sending him to have surgery that can’t possibly make him any worse. Wang’s future with the Yanks is in doubt, as the team must offer him at least $4 million to keep him next year or lose him to free agency.

Chien-Ming Wang  cheerleader

Jessica Simpson is no longer welcome in Tony Romo’s neighborhood. She’s taking the high road, though, by not asking Romo to give her back the boat she bought him.

• Maryland football coach Ralph Friedgen isn’t anywhere near the man he used to be. He’s much less. 95 pounds worth, to be exact.

• Because everyone’s been asking for it, here are those long-awaited highlights of the touch football game played by NFL legends before Super Bowl X in 1976. If you’ve ever wanted to see Paul Hornung make a gay joke, watch a bunch of guys try and cop a feel on Phyllis George, and hear why Johnny Unitas likes to drive Pontiacs, look no further:

As you can see, Bill Murray and Christopher Guest had nowhere to go but up.

• OK, Jason Marquis has been pretty good this year, but the DENVER POST’s Mark Kiszla has to settle down. Kiszla says that because Marquis has been on a heater for 19 starts this year that he deserves a long-term contract from the Rockies. Because those other nine years Marquis pitched must have been some kind of aberration.

• BASKETBAWFUL wonders why it’s so hard to keep score of a pickup basketball game, despite using the theoretically easier 1-point/2-point scoring system.

• DEADSPIN has the strangest overreaction to the whole Erin Andrews mess that has been published so far.

• Yes, this is in fact Garth Brooks tossing a coin into his own face before an international soccer match (TMZ is covering something other than Michael Jackson these days):

Garth Brooks tossing coin into own face

Homeless man starts passing notes to Mario Lemieux and Sidney Crosby. Penguins win Stanley Cup. Coincidence?

• The Cowboys will play at the Chiefs on October 11th in Kansas City, and the home team will be wearing a helmet with a big picture of Texas on it.

Vin Scully has announced that next season — his 61st as broadcaster for the Dodgers — will be his last.

• And just because we can, here’s some pictures of Anna Kournikova and Martina Hingis getting ready to kiss each other:

Anna Kournikova and Martina Hingis

Anna Kournikova and Martina Hingis

Speed Read: NL Weaker Than Obama’s First Pitch

If MLB and Fox executives are wondering why no one watches the All-Star Game anymore, here’s Exhibit A: the winning run for the AL in their 4-3 victory over the NL was driven in by an eighth-inning sacrifice fly from Adam Jones of the Baltimore Orioles, a name that resonates with a thud among all but the most die-hard baseball fans. And the person he scored was the Tigers’ Curtis Granderson, who can be politely called “slightly more well-known than Adam Jones.”

Adam Jones

To put it mildly, if the All-Star Game was a weekly series, it would be on the verge of cancellation by now. Especially after TV critics would have inevitably slammed it for its lack of imagination and formulaic structure. Yes, we get it - the AL is always going to win. Can’t we just have a twist on that every once in a while? (And not the shoddy “Who’s Going to Pitch?” cliffhanger that Bud Selig and company cooked up a few years ago.)

Barack Obama

After 13 years of not seeing the National League win, it’s not surprising that people just aren’t that interested anymore. But there was an attempt to spice things up this year by bringing in a big-game star for a special guest appearance: President Barack Obama. After warming up with Albert Pujols in the batting cages before the game, Obama took the mound and delivered a pitch that was about as effective as his pitch for the bank bailout.

I’ll leave it to WIDE WHITE to give a breakdown of Obama’s pitch as it relates to his policies, but suffice it to say that it was neither great nor awful. He should just be thankful that Pujols was there to make a great pick to keep the ball from hitting the dirt. (And that was Pujols’ best play of the night, since he went 0-for-3 before the hometown crowd.)

The game MVP was Tampa Bay’s Carl Crawford, not so much for what he did at the plate but for his actions in the field, most notably his catch that robbed Brad Hawpe of what would have been a go-ahead home run in the seventh. And the NL can’t blame the loss on the AL being fired up because of Ichiro Suzuki’s notoriously profanity-laden pregame pep talks - President Obama’s visit to the clubhouses took up so much time that he didn’t get to give one.

Speaking of Ichiro, he took some time out of his schedule on Monday to visit the grave of George Sisler, whose record for hits in a season he broke in 2004. It was a nice touch, except for the fact that instead of bringing flowers or a wreath, Ichiro just swore at Sisler’s grave for 15 minutes straight until being escorted away by cemetary workers. Oh well, I guess it’s the thought that counts.

While MLB was playing a game that no one really cares about, the NBA is knee-deep in something arguably more exciting and definitely more important: free-agency. The main story right now is what will happen to Lamar Odom, and the saga took another turn last night as the Lakers have pulled their three-year deal worth $9 million off the table. The reason? Owner Jerry Buss is upset that Odom’s people haven’t responded to the offer while continuing to negotiate with the Mavericks and Heat.

Lamar Odom

But there’s another free-agency drama going on that is a little more below the radar screen, but just as fascinating. The Portland Trailblazers have made a four-year, $32 million offer sheet to promising young Utah forward Paul Millsap, who is a restricted free agent. That means that the Jazz have until the end of the week to match the offer and keep Millsap on the team.

The problem is that Millsap’s offer from the Trailblazers includes an immediate cash payout of $10.3 million, which Utah would also have to do if they match the offer sheet. And apparently, the cash isn’t flowing through the streets of Salt Lake as readily as Mormon children, since the Jazz ownership would likely have to take out a short-term bank loan to get the deal approved. (Portland doesn’t have that problem, since $10.6 million is vending machine money to billionaire owner Paul Allen.)

Not only does this make me question the solvency of the Utah ownership group, but it also makes me wonder how the whole loan process would go down. Would they have to wait in line at the bank before getting seated at one of those tables out in the lobby. What would they have to put up as collateral - Jerry Sloan? It simply boggles the mind.

Other sports news:

  • It turns out that with 22 points, WNBA star Diana Taurasi outscored her blood alcohol level the night she was arrested for a DUI - barely, as the AP reports that she’s been charged with an “Extreme DUI” after her blood alcohol level was shown to be 0.17 percent - twice the legal limit in Arizona.
  • Speaking of the WNBA, they announced their All-Star Game starters yesterday. No word on if Michelle Obama will be there for the traditional “First Fundamentally Sound Screen” of the game, or if they’ll get “stuck” with Hillary Clinton.
  • One thing you might not have seen at the All-Star Game (other than the National League hitting the ball) was a lot of black players. The PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER floats one reason why: the lack of strong black male role models in the inner cities makes it tough to find coaches for organized games.
  • The WALL STREET JOURNAL gives us an “Unofficial Guide to Life as a Ref” while wondering why NFL refs make so much for working one game a week.
  • With all the talk about Tiger Woods taking on Turnberry this week, there’s one thing that should be noted: Padraig Harrington is going after his third freakin’ straight British Open title. USA TODAY says it might be difficult since he’s completely changed his swing from last year.
  • The World Series of Poker Main Event is down to the final three tables, and poker celebrity/Norman Chad man crush Phil Ivey is still very much in the hunt, standing at fourth place with more than 11 million chips. Antonio “The Magician” Esfandiari is also alive as they play down to the final table tomorrow.
  • Bud Selig calls claims of collusion to drive down the price of free agentssome make-believe scenario that doesn’t exist.” Right, because MLB would never get involved in collusion.
  • ESPN goes a different route and hires former NBC President Don Ohlmeyer as their new ombudsman. His first call: hiring his good friend O.J. Simpson to replace Bill Simmons as “The Sports Guy.”
  • Anthony Randolph notched his name in Las Vegas NBA Summer League history by tying the single-game scoring record by putting up 42 in the Warriors’ victory over the Bulls. Something tells me you won’t find any pictures of him posing with a basketball with “42″ written on it.
  • While sports talk radio is struggling elsewhere, it seems to be alive and well in Boston, where legendary rock station WBCN in being pulled off the air and replaced by the city’s third all-sports station.

Which remaining free agent is worth the most money?

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Ichiro, Apparent Ulcer In Clubhouse, Now Has One

Last season was one full of dreary discord for the Seattle Mariners. The M’s finished with the worst record in the American League; manager John McLaren went off on a bleep-filled post-game tirade & was canned soon after; and teammates wanted to “knock out” each other, with fists aimed specifically toward Ichiro Suzuki.

Ichiro hit

But it’s a new season & time for a fresh start for the AL West club. However, they’re going to have to start off without their star player. For Ichiro, who has been accused of being an ulcer in the clubhouse, now has one of his own.

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Speed Read: Broncos Done Foolin’ with Jay Cutler

Jay Cutler has moved from snit fit to full-on martyrdom and Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen has chosen to accommodate the young quarterback and search for a trade partner, thus saving Broncos fans from competency at the quarterback position.

Jay Cutler Broncos

(Sign language is still communication, right?)

Chris Simms will stand as the only vaguely quarterback-like substance on the roster, pending trade returns, after Cutler and his agent would not even return text messages for ten days (or so claimed by the Broncos organization).

While this seems superficially about placating the petulant, it would be disastrous to employ the Marcel Marceau of quarterbacks this fall if he continues his silent ways. There would be no playcalling, no leadership, and no franchise-polishing post-game quotes. For that, the Broncos could just look up Joey Harrington.

Also abandoning ship: just about every recruit formerly headed to the University of Memphis. John Calipari’s move to the University of Kentucky has most recruits for next year’s class eying the escape clause in their letters of intent that lets them wiggle free if Calipari squirms out as well.

John Calipari

(The Sweet’n'Low is also coming with him to Lexington)

With Tyreke Evans already on his way to the NBA and everyone else on the team either graduating or looking for a new school, the University of Memphis basketball team may have to outfit the equipment manager, three physical education majors, and Marc Cohn himself.

(Sure, Cohn only has one move, but he closes out every night with it.)

And now join us for a hail of bullets on the day each year the entire Internet is racked with inaccuracies, tall tales, and outright lies (and actually admits it) as we remember how the pros handle this tomfoolery

Bemidji, MN Paul Bunyan and Babe

Ron Artest at a Britney Spears concert

Jay Cutler’s next home will be…

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Speed Read: What’s Going On With A-Rod’s Hip?

So, here’s what we know: Alex Rodriguez is hurt. Beyond that, we know nothing. From what I hear, he could be out for anywhere from an hour to seven years. What’s really going on is so elusive that A-Rod’s brother was being used as the definitive source on his injury for the first half of Thursday. One SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE writer is saying that the “mystery” surrounding the injury is reminiscent of Barry Bonds‘ knee troubles in 2005.

Alex Rodriguez

Now, instead of surgery that would keep him out for 10 weeks (which was the brother’s story), Brian Cashman is saying that the Yankees are planning on taking a “conservative approach” to the injury, which involves a bunch of rest and rehab with the hopes that surgery won’t be necessary. But how long do you go with that? Cashman admitted that the surgery would probably keep A-Rod out for four months. But if they try this rehab thing for another few weeks, then are stuck with the surgery, suddenly he’s looking at no earlier than mid-to-late August for a return. But, as we all know, if A-Rod’s going to miss four months, it’s much better for all involved that it’s the last four.

NEWSDAY even says that the surgery A-Rod would likely undergo isn’t guaranteed to work:

Dr. Louis Romeo, director of the Joint Replacement Center at Stony Brook University Medical Center, said the surgery to treat an ailment of A-Rod’s type - probably a procedure called a hip arthroscopy - is not the most predictable procedure.

“It’s controversial because the results are not as predictable as you’d like them to be,” said Romeo, who is not involved in the Yankees third baseman’s treatment. “A knee replacement or a hip replacement, you can give someone a 90 percent success rate. Hip arthroscopy, depending on the underlying pathology, may not have as high a success rate.”

A-Rod guitar

(Yeah, I suppose you could go the Bernie Williams route, Alex)

The NCAA tournament bubble is much larger than usual (I mean, Northwestern is now in play, for crap’s sake), which makes every night crucial in college hoops. Last night, Providence took a hit by losing big at Villanova, and Arizona took a big step backward by losing to California at home (the Bears, meanwhile, probably have moved to “lock” status). Tennessee also solidified a likely bid by locking up the SEC East at South Carolina, which suddenly looks vulnerable.

Bruce Pearl Hotties

(I’m taking advantage of any excuse to run these pictures of Bruce Pearl)

Sean Avery made his return to ice last night in the Rangers’ win over the Islanders. Fortunately, Mike Comrie was recently traded away from the Islanders so Avery didn’t have a chance to get it any Hilary Duff-related blasts. Avery was actually well-behaved, and it seems as if he may be content to fly under the radar for the rest of the year. Mostly, Avery’s just glad to be back in New York so he can go to the Project Runway finale.

Sean Avery

Ichiro is apparently depressed about the 0-for-16 slump he’s in right now, and uttered this classic line in a REUTERS story about it:

“It’s depressing,” Suzuki told Japanese media on Friday. “After the game I got picked for a doping test — things are going from bad to worse.”

• Now that A-Rod may be out for a while, the Yankees need to find someone to play third base in the interim. Cody Ransom? Angel Berroa? The NEW YORK POST thinks the team might want to consider some outside options. Like Aaron Boone, apparently.

• FANIQ has the pictures from Anna Kournikova’s latest advertising shoot for K-Swiss. Didn’t she used to play a sport? Badminton or something?

Anna Kournikova

• Fuzzy math time! A lawmaker in North Carolina wants to completely ban athletics at schools where more than half of the students score below the 50th percentile on end-of-year tests for two straight years. But, don’t half the students by definition score below the 50th percentile? Isn’t that what “50th percentile” means? And don’t athletes already have minimum standards for playing?

• A dad at the Iowa state 5th-grade girl’s basketball tournament set some sort of record when he got tossed from a game by the ref just 30 seconds into the game, according to the DES MOINES REGISTER. And yes, I have the same question you do: there’s a state tournament for 5th grade girls?

• Remember last year, when Drake was one of the best stories in college basketball and ended up with a 5 seed, but then was heartbroken on a buzzer beater by Western Kentucky? Yeah, they never quite got over that. They lost to Indiana State in the first round of the MVC tournament last night and are likely not headed to the postseason.

• Some good news from COLONIAL HOOPS: It looks like one of the greatest names in the NBA, Pops Mensah-Bonsu, is going to sign with Toronto for the rest of the year. Pops just wrapped up a 10-day contract with the Spurs, after playing for their D-league team most of the year.

• The NBA shot of the night comes from the Nuggets’ J.R. Smith, who nailed a (nearly) half-court shot at the end of the first half against Portland. Unfortunately, it was all a big hoax perpetrated by one of his friends.

• Need more proof that we’re in a recession? The MILWAUKEE JOURNAL-SENTINEL says Miller Park is implementing a $1 menu at their concession stands. You’re only going to get one peanut, but hey, it’s something.

• The University of Alabama has admitted to a number of NCAA violations…regarding the distribution of textbooks. So, athletes get too many textbooks and that’s a problem? Shouldn’t we be thrilled they’re bothering to get any? CBS SPORTSLINE has the horrifying details. Certainly, ‘Bama deserves the death penalty for this.

How much of the regular season is A-Rod going to miss with his hip injury?

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Big Ben Battled In Big Game With 2 Broken Ribs

Ben Roethlisberger played Super Bowl XLIII with two fractured ribs.

Ben Roethlisberger Redskins cheerleader

Yet this he-man tough guy is afraid of cheerleaders?

Charles Barkley has sobered up enough since his wild New Year’s Eve to make a triumphant return to the TNT studios.

Tiger Woods is a proud papa once again, as he & wife Elin welcome little Charlie Axel into the world.

• A Red Sox fan gets to spend 9 months in jail for thrashing someone who tapped him with a Thunderstick.

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Ichiro Now Comes Equipped With 92MPH Fastball

Throughout the history of baseball there have been many great hitters who could double as pitchers, and many great pitchers who weren’t pushovers with the stick in their hands either.  The greatest example of this type of player will always be Babe Ruth, who won 89 games as a member of the Boston Red Sox before being sold to the Yankees where he became the Sultan of Swat and started smacking homers in between shotgunning beers and hot dogs (sometimes doing all three at the same time).

It’s not surprising considering that most young pitchers also play the field and bat through college, and don’t become one or the other until they turn pro.  Of course, even though Ichiro Suzuki didn’t grow up in the United States, that didn’t keep him from knowing how to pitch as well as hit, and there’s a possibility Ichiro may be used as an emergency pitcher on Japan’s WBC team.  Which is why he’s been working on his fastball.

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Oregon St. Topples Top-Ranked Trojans Yet Again

• Leave it to the Beavers: Once again, Oregon State shocks highly-ranked USC in Corvallis.

Oregon State USC

This is becoming quite a trend.

• But such a monumental upset is no comfort to OSU alum Steven Jackson, as the Rams RB is too busy lashing out at coach Scott Linehan.

Pat Summitt may be basketball’s all-time winningest coach, but the Lady Vols leader is no match when it comes to rasslin’ with raccoons.

• How melancholy is the Mariners’ clubhouse? One teammate of Ichiro openly talked about wanting to knock the Seattle star slugger out.

• Despite the Colts’ 1-2 record, Tony Dungy must still be pretty popular in Indianapolis - why else would someone return a credit card the coach left at a gas station?

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Mariners Teammate Wanted To ‘Knock Out’ Ichiro

It’s been a rough sports year in the Pacific Northwest. (Actually, with Oregon State’s [latest] shocker against USC, let’s be more Puget Sound-specific.) The Sonics have skedaddled out of town for Oklahoma City. The Washington Huskies football squad is horrendous. (And for Wazzu alums in Seattle, the Cougars ain’t doing much better.) And the Mariners are about to wrap up another miserable season.

Ichiro Suzuki Seattle Mariners

How bad has it been for the souls at Safeco Field? Not only had it driven manager John McLaren to a potty-mouthed post-game tirade (and to the unemployment line), but one Mariners player had openly spoke of plans on pummeling the M’s star attraction, Ichiro Suzuki.

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