Once-Great Athlete Returns To Play Another Day

You probably thought we were avoiding it today. And you know what? We were going to. I mean, come on - the guy’s way past his prime. Just because he’s going north, back to his old stomping grounds doesn’t mean he’s the same player he was in the ’90s and the earlier part of this decade. The magic is gone at this point; he only looks like the superstar of 10-15 years ago.

Ivan Rodriguez

(This picture sorta ruins the joke.)

Yeah, we said we weren’t going to talk about him, but we just couldn’t help ourselves. And when you consider the guy’s been in the league since 1991 - anytime he changes teams, it’s a big story. So here we are.

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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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Speed Read: O.J. Simpson Chase, 15 Years Later

Wednesday was the 15th anniversary of the O.J. Simpson Ford Bronco chase, perhaps the most riveting low-speed pursuit of all time until James Harrison’s fumble return in this year’s Super Bowl. I wonder if someone baked O.J. a cake in jail? (I point this out basically so I can remind everyone that’s where he is right now - in jail. No matter how down or depressed I might get in life, I can now always remind myself of this and smile.)

OJ Simpson Bronco low speed chase

Of course, someone reminded me that O.J. Simpson spent more time in jail over the double murder of his wife and Ronald Goldman than Donte Stallworth will for his DUI manslaughter conviction - and O.J. was found not guilty. Which, of course, is another reminder of just how screwed up the criminal justice system is, causing me to start grinding my teeth again. But then I think: “O.J.’s in jail, trying to fend off the advances of Stickpin Bubba,” and I start to feel better again.

OJ Simpson

It’s amazing to me that, in a pre-9/11 world, the question of “where were you when O.J. ran?” was basically my generation’s version of the JFK assassination. How gloriously naive we were back then. I was home on summer break from college, having just returned from playing some basketball with my friends and sitting slack-jawed with my Mom as the whole thing unfolded. Now the whole thing seems like some dated bit of pop trivia - except for when Fred Goldman pops up to remind you that real people died, and he’d really like to see O.J.’s stuff get sold so he can get some of his money.

Matt Millen’s reputation isn’t as far in the gutter as O.J.’s, but after destroying any shred of hope that the Detroit Lions might have had for winning in the next 20 years, it isn’t good. Which makes you wonder how much credibility he’ll have working as an analyst for the NFL Network this season. But don’t worry, Matt: Don Banks from SPORTS ILLUSTRATED is here to help, with what I assume was meant to be a puff piece on Millen but turns out to be a master class in unintentional comedy.

Matt Millen back on TV

First off, Banks’ main premise is that the stage is set for Millen to have a huge comeback - like Richard Nixon. Yeah, Nixon. Not Frank Sinatra or John Travolta or even Anvil, but Richard Nixon. A good rule of thumb: if you are comparing your interview subject to Richard Nixon in any way, you probably aren’t doing yourself any favors. At least he didn’t compare him to Hitler (that only happens in Detroit).

But it turns out that Matt Millen “admits to being something of a Nixon buff.” Of course he is. And much like Tricky Dick, Millen seems to see himself as the perpetual victim:

“I don’t go backwards,” Millen said. “I just don’t think like that. There’s nothing I can do about [Detroit]. All I can do is from here on out. I understand. In Detroit, they need a bad guy. I was a bad guy. I was to blame for the fall of the auto industry and the housing market. Somehow, I had something to do with [Detroit mayor] Kwame Kilpatrick [resigning], although I’m not sure what. But that’s what happens when you lose in this game. You give everyone a cheap and easy story to jump on.”

Right, because your gross incompetence in leading the Lions to the worst eight-year record in modern NFL history was “cheap and easy” and not at all deserved. Come on. I liked Millen a lot as an analyst, but to try and whitewash his awful tenure in Detroit is simply insane. But Banks seems to think that Millen’s career as an executive might not be over:

I’m intrigued with the idea that Millen, in this era of ultra-short attention spans and a 24/7 news cycle, can put his head down, go back to work at the TV and radio gigs he once excelled at, and re-emerge some day soon with a different reputation and image than he engenders today. I not only think it could happen, I’m convinced it will happen.

Don Banks is clearly off of his meds. Just hang tight there, Don: the men with the white jackets will be there soon to take you back to the funny farm. The idea that a team would be stupid enough to let Matt Millen anywhere near their personnel department is nuts. But then again, as long as Cincinnati is still in the league, anything is possible.

Finally, the Day of the Lakers wrapped up in Los Angeles with Kobe Bryant appearing on the “Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien” to discuss winning his fourth NBA title. Nothing earth-shattering happened (no Triumph the Insult Comic Dog coming on to ask about Colorado), but there were a few decent moments. And seriously, Kobe couldn’t be bothered to get out of his tracksuit for the interview?:

More sports news to consider whether it’s OK to laugh at this window washer’s Wile E. Coyote-like tumble as he fell six stories before bouncing off a lower roof since somehow he lived to tell the tale:

Who is the best catcher of all time?

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Reserve Infielder Solves Royals’ Pitching Problems

After seeing the Detroit Tigers put up 19 runs through eight innings of play against Luke Hochevar, Robinson Tejeda, Jimmy Gobble and Leo Nunez - all guys listed with the word “Pitcher” next to their name in the Kansas City Royals’ media guide - manager Trey Hillman decided to go in a different direction in the ninth inning.

Tony Pena Jr Pitches

Trailing 19-4, Hillman must have wanted to save the arms of a pitching staff with a collective ERA of 4.68 (2nd worst in the AL) for a more meaningful game - like “Dodge Buck Night” on August 8th against the Minnesota Twins, where hot dogs, peanuts and soft drinks are just a $1 each. (In this struggling economy, that’s a meaningful game even if the Royals are 11 games back.)

With very few options remaining, the manager turned to reserve infielder Tony Pena Jr. to follow up Gobble’s 10-run debacle in the eighth to close out the game.

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Former Rangers GM Responds To Rocker’s Claims

NEW YORK NEWSDAY tracks down John Hart, as the former Texas Rangers GM responds to John Rocker’s allegations that the team & union told him and other players how to take steroids.

John Hart Former Texas Rangers GM

Hart, who served as GM from 2001 to 2005, said he “absolutely did not have any idea” that Rocker had previously failed a drug test in 2000. And Hart was even more dumbfounded at accusations that the team would be giving out steroid advice: Read more…