Speed Read: The End Of The Road For Smoltz?

One of the sadder sights in sports is watching a legend come to a realization that, despite still having the desire and the will, they just don’t have it anymore. You could see it in John Smoltz‘ eyes when he was staring blankly out of the Red Sox dugout last night, stewing in the crushing reality of getting battered by the Yankees for eight runs and nine hits in just 3 1/3 innings of a 13-6 loss.

John Smoltz

It was the first time the Yankees have beaten the Sox this year, and maybe the last time we’ll see Smoltz on the mound. He’s now 2-5 with an 8.33 ERA. He’s given up at least five runs in six of his eight starts. He has zero quality starts and hasn’t gone more than six innings in any game. More importantly, he’s pitching for a team that’s struggling to stay ahead in the wild card race and can’t afford to give the guy charity starts, even if he is a sure-fire Hall of Famer. In some ways, it’s probably better to be Tom Glavine — a guy who wanted to go out on different terms but might be better off that he didn’t have to go out this way.

As for the Sox, it can’t be good knowing that you’ve won eight of nine from your biggest rivals and you’re still 3 1/2 games out of first. The Yankees are 10 1/2 games better than the Sox in games in which they haven’t played each other. And with A-Rod back in the lineup, it’s hard to see the Sox winning eight of the next nine the teams play. In fact, the Yankees haven’t seemed so in control of the AL East since 2006. And any time you have Muhammad Ali wearing your cap in the stands, that can’t hurt:

Muhammad Ali Yankee hat

And now, I bring you what may turn out to be the lamest sports feud ever. Seems that former baseball commissioner Fay Vincent has drawn the ire of John McEnroe’s father (who also happens to be named John McEnroe). To the point where the elder McEnroe felt compelled to write a letter to the PALM BEACH POST about a column Vincent wrote that was supposed to be a tribute to Walter Cronkite. Yes, the combined age of the people involved in this dispute is about 341 years (and one of them’s dead!).

Fay Vincent

(A fine baseball historian, but a total hack when it comes to tennis)

Vincent’s original column was a nod to a comment Cronkite supposedly made after the senior McEnroe was seen shouting at CBS president Tom Wyman because a network cameraman accidentally ran onto the court to capture the end of the 1985 US Open Final a point early:

Mr. Cronkite and I had sat silently through all this, but with Wyman’s explanation, the cultured and civil Cronkite whispered in my ear, “Fay, a real block off the old chip.” I laughed loudly and told him he had it just right.

For many years after, whenever I saw Cronkite at a gathering or in a restaurant I always made it a point to remind him of the event and to congratulate him for such a perfect and witty comment. Interestingly, he always admitted he remembered.

Somehow I recall Cronkite more fondly and respectfully than I do either of the two McEnroes. By the way, the father was a successful partner in a major New York law firm.

Old Mac isn’t having any of that noise.

John P. McEnroe

(”You cannot be serious, Fay!”)

Quoth Mac Sr.:

I write in response to Fay Vincent’s recent column, which centered on a comment from Walter Cronkite and involved my son and me. He recalls sitting next to Walter Cronkite and Tom Wyman, president of CBS, at an unidentified final match at the U.S. Tennis Open. I held Mr. Vincent’s tenure as the commissioner of Major League Baseball in high esteem, but must reconsider after reading his unflattering and virtually totally inaccurate account.

BOOM! Take that, Vincent. I bet you’ll think twice the next time you consider spinning a yarn about the 1985 US Open final like nobody’s gonna call you on your bullcrap. In McEnroe’s defense, it appears as if Vincent completely botched not only the most basic aspects of the match (for example, he contends that the younger McEnroe dispatched of Ivan Lendl easily when Lendl actually won in straight sets). But McEnroe’s real anger is directed at Vincent’s accusation that he directed a profane tirade at Wyman. He then goes on to essentially say that Vincent made up the “block off the old chip” quote and even gets in this weird comment about Cronkite:

Personally, I had two brief encounters with Walter Cronkite over the years. The first was in the men’s room at the Yale Bowl one year at halftime of the Yale-Harvard game where we briefly spoke (but did not shake hands). A similar incident happened in the men’s room at a Manhattan restaurant a few months later and I said something like “we have to stop meeting like this,” at which he chuckled and agreed.

It’s a shame Cronkite isn’t around anymore, if for no other reason than the inevitable “I’m pretty sure we shook hands” rebuttal that would’ve been in the paper on Monday.

grumpy old men

Andre Ethier hit his third walk-off homer of the season last night against the Braves. By comparison, Ichiro has one walk-off hit in nine years.

• The Patriots have acquired Raiders holdout Derrick Burgess, who led the NFL in sacks four years ago.

• Remember when Freddy Adu was a big deal? 19-year-old American soccer phenom Jozy Altidore has joined English Premier League team Hull City, and should be in their lineup for the opener against Chelsea next week.

Jozy Altidore

• YAHOO!’s Dan Wetzel has an interesting take on the Michael Crabtree situation (which we covered yesterday), specifically on the notion that Crabtree is trying to negotiate based on where he was going in mock drafts, and not the actual one.

• THE WIZ OF ODDS says sports betting is back on again in Delaware.

• Hockey season may seem far away now, but those Red Hot Flames will make the wait a little more palatable. I’m guessing that what happens at the 0:55 mark won’t be included in the montage at Brett Hull’s Hall of Fame induction:

Julio Castillo, the minor-league pitcher who was convicted of assault for throwing a ball into the stands last year, was sentenced to 30 days in jail and three years’ probation yesterday.

• As a huge Guided By Voices fan, I have to tip my cap to WALKOFF WALK for building a post around comparing Robert Pollard and Roger Clemens.

• Topps has signed an exclusive deal with MLB to become the sole licensed manufacturer of baseball cards starting next season. This comes as quite a shock to those of us who thought they stopped making baseball cards in 1991.

John Hughes hadn’t directed a movie in 18 years, but his death is still a shock to any of us who grew up in the ’80s. He had his hand in a few clunkers over the years, but where would any of us be today without Ferris Bueller or The Breakfast Club? How would we know how to properly chatter?

Should the Red Sox give John Smoltz another start?

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Speed Read: It’s All A Formality Until The Finals

This was one hell of a starting weekend for the NBA playoffs. We mentioned it before, yes, but we can’t shut up about it because it’s something that ought not be shut up about: Derrick Rose’s highly testicular 36-point performance at the Boston Garden was one of the most remarkable playoff performances in the last, let’s say, decade. He made tough shot after tough shot while being defended by one of the premier point defenders, Rajon Rondo, and hit every single free throw, including two to swing a one-point lead to the Bulls with time running out in regulation.

Derrick Rose

Then there’s the shredding that the Lakers delivered to the Jazz at the Staples Center. Sure, the final score was somewhat close, but the Jazz were never in serious contention after the first quarter; the Lakers are too deep and too talented to drop a game at home in this series. And speaking of depth, how dangerous is the Lake Show with not only its regular cast of characters, but a 95% healthy Andrew Bynum, a motivated Lamar Odom, and a productive Trevor Ariza? That’s such a bad sign for the rest of the league; you could conceivably take Kobe Bryant or Pau Gasol off that team and still win a series against most teams. Got to think Derek Fisher’s total implosion can’t help, though. You know the Lakers are drafting a point guard who can play right away in the draft.

As for the rest of the league, we had the Lakers’ dominance as mentioned above, and then the only other top 3 seed who looked capable of going deep in the playoffs was Cleveland, who just toyed with the Pistons, 102-84. Lebron James … what can you say? 38 points, 8 boards, 7 dimes, and this absurd shot one step in from half-court:

How many players can take a shot like that and know it’s good from the moment it leaves their fingers? Look at him running at it. He knows. He’s Neo. He’s stopping the bullets and throwing them back at people. He sees those green numbers. He can fly.

Yes, we should mention the Nuggets’ 29-point win too, but having watched that game, we’re still not sold at all. Sure, if Chauncey Billups goes 8-9 from behind the arc in any other games from here on out, they’re probably going to win. But the final score, in this case, doesn’t reflect the competitiveness of the game; New Orleans was within seven points late in the third before collapsing. Denver’s still not a good 2 seed, and Chauncey’s avalanche seems like far more of an anomaly than J.R. Smith’s brickfest; he went 0-7 from downtown. Not sold, man.

And so that’s it. There’s nobody who, right now, looks like they can challenge the Lakers or Cavaliers. That’s not to say there won’t be exciting basketball, of course - witness Chicago-Boston or the Philly-Orlando game iced by Andre Iguodala - but those are sideshows, the undercard to the impending main event. The best part, then, is that even with the ultimate matchup worth writing in ink, we still have no idea who wins that series. The Lakers are deep, but Lebron is Lebron.

Is there a decent segue between anything Lebron does and the word “Gay”? No? Yeah, that sounds right. Anyway, golf has a fresh round of locker room jokes at the ready after Brian Gay set Harbour Town on fire, breaking Loren Roberts‘ scoring record and shooting -20 at the Verizon Heritage, including seven under in the final round. Well played, Brian Gay. Tyson Homosexual is impressed.

Brian Gay
(Resisting temptation for any reference to his wardrobe…)

And what’s the deal with the “Gay” surname? Like, yeah, it’s only been a big deal for the last two generations or so, whereas the name’s been around for a lot longer, and yeah, being gay isn’t in and of itself a problem. But it’s still got to be utter hell for a child; can’t people just change their kids’ names to “Gray” until they turn 18, and then it’s a judgment call when the kid becomes an adult? Nobody likes to be the butt of gay jokes, after all. Haha, I said “butt.” Let’s just move on.

Some quick hits while you make your very own flaming bacon lance of death

That’ll be good ebough for a one-game suspension for Milan Lucic; you can’t just hit dudes in the head in hockey, man! Except for their famous bare-knuckle sideshows that happen in every single game. Aside from that, we mean.

  • Don’t look now, but the Royals’ Zack Greinke is on a streak of 34 straight scoreless innings, meaning he’s just 25 away from tying Orel Hershiser’s record. We know what you’re thinking, and no, “Greinke” doesn’t rhyme with “stinky.” Grow up.
  • On the other side of pitching competence, there have been 25 home runs in Yankee Stadium in the first five games; that’s about 2.5 times as many as last season. Is it the new park? Lighter balls? How about “nobody on that entire team can pitch worth a crap”? I win!

USC Song Girls

  • Those would be the famous USC Song Girls, caputred in bikini form by - who else - BUSTED COVERAGE. It’s where you can read about sports, but masturbate at the same time!
  • But back to the Yankees, once you’ve cleaned up. You got some on your hand there. Okay, good. Anyway, the Yankees don’t really have much choice what to do with Chien-Ming Wang. He’s got a 34.50 ERA, but he’s not injured and he can’t be sent to AAA. But, on the plus side, manager Joe Girardi can throw him out of an airplane into the ocean. It’s in the collective bargaining agreement; read it.
  • And finally, here’s a hockey player using two sticks. How is this not legal?

Should playing hockey with two sticks be legal?

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