So The Red Sox Had Some Adventures In Umpiring

As you can see in the photo below, the standard for being called out on your way to first base has changed a bit. Now, apparently, not only must you tag the runner, but you must also tackle him before he reaches the base and tie his feet, rodeo style. At least if the umpire is C.B. Bucknor.

Kevin Youkilis tag

Red Sox Nation is a little miffed this morning over a couple of blown calls by Bucknor, who not only inexplicably missed this tag by Kevin Youkilis, but botched another call at first in the sixth. And within minutes of the conclusion of the Angels’ 5-0 win in Game 1, the assault on Bucknor’s Wikipedia page had begun. Fun! Read more…

Speed Read: What’s Rick Pitino Going To Do Now?

As Brooks mentioned late last night, the LOUISVILLE COURIER-JOURNAL is reporting that Rick Pitino admitted to police that he had sex with Karen Sypher, the woman he has accused of extortion, then paid her $3,000 to get an abortion when she became pregnant. All of this happened back in 2003, and the reasons behind his case against her have become much clearer: she demanded $10 million, among other things, to keep quiet about all of it. He wasn’t having any of that, and went to the FBI about it.

Rick Pitino

Sypher fired back with a rape charge against Pitino, saying that the liaison that led to her pregnancy was an assault, and not a consensual incident. Pitino was never charged with anything because Sypher’s story is full of holes and she could offer no evidence of such an assault (in fact, she went on to marry Louisville’s equipment manager, Tim Sypher, ensuring that she would be spending more time around Pitino).

So now what for Pitino? His lawyer says he’s not making any public statements until the trial, but this is a pretty large matzo ball just hanging out there now. There’s not much else going in Louisville other than this, so it’s just going to keep building and building. How can the guy be an effective coach at this point?

I won’t try and recount the entire COURIER-JOURNAL story here (however, it’s well worth your time to read it), but I will mention a few things that have stood out for me since taking some time to digest everything:

1. Brooks noted months ago that it was curious that ESPN used Pat Forde to report on the situation originally, considering the fact that Forde is a Louisville resident who co-authored a book with Pitino last year. Well, the WWL obviously hasn’t reconsidered that decision, as they trotted him back out last night to comment on the situation on ESPNEWS. Forde was presented simply as an “ESPN.COM senior writer,” and no mention was made on the air of his personal ties to Pitino. Predictably, Forde tried to downplay the latest revelations and focused mostly on emphasizing Sypher’s legal troubles. He admitted that Pitino was in an uncomfortable spot now, but stopped well short of saying anything critical of the coach.

Pat Forde

(Where’s Cossack or Munson?)

1A. If Sypher filed a civil suit against Pitino for allegedly raping her, would ESPN find that worthy of coverage?

2. We don’t know for sure that this was Pitino’s kid, right? Pitino says he would request a paternity test if she decided to have the kid, but she opted for an abortion instead. She then accepted $3,000 from him for the procedure. She clearly had the abortion, but isn’t it possible that she went to Pitino for the money because she knew he would pay up? He says she told him that she hadn’t had sex with anyone else in months, but she hasn’t appeared to be entirely trustworthy here.

3. Pitino says that he and Karen Sypher met at Tim Sypher’s condo (she and Tim didn’t know each other at the time) to talk about the pregnancy and figure out what to do. Now, knowing what was going on, what on earth would make Tim go “you know what, I think I need to get aboard the Karen train”? Shockingly, the Syphers are now estranged.

Karen Sypher

4. UL president Tom Jurich is quoted as saying that Pitino “has been truthful about this matter with us all along.” Does that mean the school has known all of these details for six years? If not, when did they find out? Was there any sort of off-the-record punishment for this? Some coaches have gotten canned for drinking beer at a frat party, so I can’t imagine that UL would’ve taken too kindly to their married coach impregnating a woman at a restaurant.

5. Pitino isn’t in any sort of trouble legally, but as this drags on in court it’s going to be a huge distraction. Was that a consideration in bringing Ralph Willard over from Holy Cross to be his new lead assistant? Willard’s exactly the kind of guy who could step in on an interim basis if Pitino decides to either take time off or step down altogether. Pitino actually had a possible way out of Louisville a few months ago when the Sacramento Kings were looking for a new coach, but he decided to stick around.

Ralph Willard

(UL’s next coach?)

Is Rick Pitino going to be Louisville’s coach in 2009-10?

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It may not be the biggest soccer game the U.S. has ever played, but today’s showdown with Mexico in a World Cup qualifier sure seems like a big deal. That’s probably because ESPN has spent an inordinate amount of time hyping the game. Having just acquired English Premier League rights, and coming off a summer of showing a number of games involving European clubs touring the U.S., the network is clearly committed to promoting the sport like never before. And they finally seem to have realized that they way to make the game more popular in this country is to give us less MLS and more actual good soccer.

US soccer fans

(USA! USA! USA!)

That recent commitment has resulted in a first — ESPN has sent Bob Ley and Alexi Lalas down to Mexico City to put on a 30-minute pre-game show for today’s match. This despite the fact that the game isn’t being shown on ESPN (it’s on some channel called mun2 if you’re wondering).

U.S. Mexico soccer

Despite all the attention, the game is much less crucial to the U.S. than it may seem. The Americans are comfortable in second place in the qualifying group, and while a loss to Mexico wouldn’t be ideal, the U.S. would still have the edge in the standings. The expectations aren’t exactly high, either — the U.S. is 0-22-1 in Mexico.

That puts all of the pressure squarely on Mexico, which sits in fourth place in the group and needs to get into the top three to automatically qualify for the World Cup. A loss to the U.S. would be a complete disaster and might put them in too deep a hole to dig out of. In other words, the Americans don’t have a whole lot to lose out there, and if they can shock Azteca Stadium with an early goal, watch out. That won’t be easy, though, as this LA TIMES article contends. At 7,400 feet in the middle of a smoggy afternoon in a cavernous stadium that will be shaking with noise, it’s maybe the worst stadium atmosphere for visitors in the entire world.

Azteca Stadium

Let’s get on with the links:

• The BOSTON GLOBE has a great photo essay of Kevin Youkilis losing his s*** after getting plunked by Detroit’s Rick Porcello last night:

Kevin Youkilis charging mound

It was a poor effort by Youk, who had all the upper hand when he tossed his helmet at a stunned Porcello, and still ended up getting spun down to the ground by the 20-year-old. In other words, he only did marginally better than Zimmer.

Don Zimmer Pedro Martinez

A horse trainer in Arizona has been accused of sexual abuse with his students. People (young girls), if you’re wondering.

• Politicians in New Jersey are threatening to withhold state money from pro teams that play there but don’t mention the state on their uniforms. Which appears to be all of them except the Devils, now that the Nets have removed the “New Jersey” from their road unis.

new jersey nets dancers

(OK, so maybe these don’t technically say New Jersey, but we get the picture)

• Baseball and softball are out, but women’s boxing might be in for the 2012 Olympics. Also, it’s about time they fixed the debacle that is the modern pentathlon.

• All these years, I had no idea that Brooks was in a country music duo with Adam Dunn. Well, used to be in a country music duo.

• Coming soon to “The Ocho,” the world championships of catching laptops in your butt:

Adrian Gonzalez set a Padres franchise record with 6 hits in a 9-inning win over the Brewers last night. The last Padre with 6 hits was Tony Gwynn, who did it in an extra-inning game 16 years and 80 pounds ago.

• Australian Trent Oeltjen spent 9 years in the minors, but he’s 12-for-24 with 3 homers in his first 5 games in the majors with Arizona. He got a standing ovation from the Chase Field crowd during his 4-hit game last night against the Mets (it’s been a rough year there).

• We reported yesterday that the USFL is supposedly coming back, and wants to resurrect the teams from the old league. Not sure how they’re going to get a license for those names and logos, though, as this site has been selling USFL logo merchandise for a few years (I got a Portland Breakers shirt there).

New Jersey Generals

(Now here’s a team the fine folks of New Jersey can be proud of)

• One month later, Arturo Gatti’s death is just a big a mystery as ever.

• You think pro athletes in this country behave outrageously? Australia’s National Rugby League is in the midst of a crisis due to one ridiculous scandal after another. Sponsors are considering pulling their support from the league until things get under control. The latest incident involves Greg Inglis, said to be one of the best players in the world. He is charged with assaulting his girlfriend over the weekend. It’s kind of the equivalent of Kobe Bryant hypothetically getting accused of something like sexual assault…oh, wait.

Eckersley Talks Defecation, Masturbation On Air

Don’t live in Boston? I’ll catch you up to speed. No one likes Dennis Eckersley’s color commentary on NESN. He’s filling in while Jerry Remy recovers, and it’s pretty much a train wreck. He’s not particularly knowledgeable, his meandering anecdotes go nowhere, and he’ll out-and-out ignore the action. 

Dennis Eckersley

But we all stop to look at train wrecks, don’t we? He’s the creator of the soon-to-be catchphrase, “he’s a little gay with his cheese.” You really never know what Eck is going to say, and last night he really topped himself twice. Once with a flat-out swear, and once with a not-so-subtle Freudian slip.

Videos after the jump.

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Speed Read: NCAA Bans Recruiting 8th Graders

Finally realizing that we might be headed for a day when future hoops stars are recruited out of the womb, the NCAA has passed legislation banning contact by coaches with players who have not yet reached high school. That means no more offering 13-year-olds a full ride, there, Billy Gillispie.

Billy Gillispie

(”Noooooooo! I already had the class of 2019 signed!”)

It also means that this Mr. Show skit, which was starting to look less far-fetched over time, won’t eventually reflect reality:

The WASHINGTON POST explains the new legislation:

Over the past few years, some college coaches have looked to gain recruiting advantages by working at basketball camps comprising elite seventh- and eighth-graders because there was no NCAA rule prohibiting it. But the NCAA will now designate boys’ basketball players as “prospects” beginning in the seventh grade, which will prevent college coaches from working at such camps.

This is bad news for seventh and eighth graders, who now have to do things like, you know, go to school and learn rather than worry about their college hoops prospects all the time.

Speaking of hoops, Luol Deng woke from his season-long slumber and led the Bulls to a 102-93 upset victory over the Cavs in Chicago, where it was approximately -293° last night. LeBron James made only eight of 28 shots and turned it over eight times for what he termed his worst performance of the season — but he also said he was sick.

Luol Deng

In New Jersey, yet another rookie had a breakout performance for the Trail Blazers, as Jerryd Bayless scored a career-high 23 in Portland’s 105-99 win over the Nets. Meanwhile, the Nets owners (remember when they were going to move to Brooklyn?) are exploring playing preseason games next year at the Devils’ new arena in Newark, but want the NHL franchise to guarantee regular-season-sized crowds to do it. How are the Devils responsible for that?

It’s official. The Dodgers paid Andruw Jones $12 million for each home run he hit, and he’s not going to be hitting any more in their uniform. After attempting to trade him, L.A. finally released Andruw after one insanely horrible season, and Jones agreed to accept the $22 million he’s owed over a period of six years. Which means your team will still be paying for him in 2014, Dodger fans. Two years ago, Jones looked like he had a chance to hit 700 home runs. Now, it looks like he might not get 700 more at-bats in his career.

So, as you read here yesterday, Mark Cuban confronted J.R. Smith on the court for allegedly throwing an elbow at a Dallas player during the Mavs-Nuggets game on Tuesday night. Cubes reported the incident to the league office and even sent back a pair of signed shoes Smith sent him as a peace offering, saying Smith needed to sell them to help pay for the fine that was coming.

Mark Cuban thinks he's awesome

Well, it appears the joke is on Cuban. The NBA has cleared Smith of any wrongdoing, and — and this is great — are now pursuing possible punishment against Cuban for going on the court. George Karl wasn’t amused with the owner’s antics on Tuesday:

“If you want to interact, interact with the league office and interact with your own players, but don’t mess with my players. There’s no room for it.

“If this was a normal fan, he would have been banned from the building and maybe not ever let back in the game,” Karl said. “When the game starts, he is a fan. After the game, he’s an owner, but during the game, he’s a fan.”

Ouch.

Mark Cuban mad

Barry Melrose told people he wanted the Lightning to lose every game this season after he got fired. Former Leafs coach Paul Maurice has upped the ante, saying he’d like to see his old club not win a game for 10 years, according to the TORONTO STAR.

• THE JOY OF SOX is giddy that the Red Sox have extended Kevin Youkilis‘ contract for a very reasonable price of $40 million for four years. It’s four more years of this, anyway:

Kevin Youkilis

• The Rangers have asked their Gold Glove-winning shortstop Michael Young to move to third base to make way for a rookie named Elvis. Young was not happy with this request, but now tells MLB.COM it’s all been worked out.

• There’s dismal, and then there’s Northwestern blowing a 14-point second-half lead at home to Purdue and losing its 1,452,918th Big 10 game of all time.

• Baseball finally fixed the rules to definitively say that a postseason game must be played to its completion regardless of weather, and also eliminated the coin flip as the way to determine who would host a one-game playoff. They’re doing this crazy thing now where the team that won the season series would host the game, rather than something completely freaking random (the Twins would’ve hosted the playoff against the White Sox last year, had this whole “merit” approach been in effect).

• PETA is doing this thing where they’re trying to get fish renamed “sea kittens” to make them seem cuter or something. Anyway, WPBF-TV says they sent a letter to Palm Beach Atlantic University asking the school to change its nickname from Sailfish to Sea Kittens. Which begs this question: Is Palm Beach Atlantic University the most high-profile school you can go after, PETA? I think they play in Division XIV.

PBAU Sailfish

• 90-year-old Atlanta sportswriter Furman Bisher somehow has managed to put together a blog. Bisher is so old that he once interviewed Shoeless Joe Jackson about the Black Sox scandal. At the bottom of this entry he pushes the bounds of taste about the new stampede of Japanese media coming to cover pitcher Kenshin Kawakami (ah, so? Really, Furman?)

• Yankees blogger Todd Drew passed away on Tuesday at the age of 41. Drew was a frequent contributor to BRONX BANTER, which memorialized him yesterday. Drew had his own blog called YANKEES FOR JUSTICE.

Drew Rosenhaus tells the DALLAS MORNING NEWS that he’s certain that Terrell Owens will still be with the Cowboys next year. And we all know what a great source Rosenhaus is about all things T.O.

• You think the A-Rod deal is out of control? EPL TALK is reporting that Manchester City (that’s soccer) is offering to pay £243 million (that’s more than $362 million) to acquire Brazilian midfielder Kaka from the Italian league’s AC Milan.

Should Mark Cuban be allowed to go on the court during games and interact with players?

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Youk’s Charity Called Out For Ignoring Tax Forms

Say what you will about the Red Sox (and I do), but it’s hard to doubt their commitment to charity. The Jimmy Fund, the Red Sox Wives, the Shade Foundation, Hits For Kids…actually, scratch that last one. In the eyes of the state of Massachusetts, Kevin Youkilis‘ charity isn’t technically a charitable organization, because they “forgot” to register as a nonprofit. Whoops.

Kevin Youkilis and Enza Sambataro

Youk’s Hits For Kids raised more than $1 million last year, and donated more than 80 percent of that to various children’s hospitals and charities. But tell that to Massachusetts Attorney Grinch, I mean General, Martha Coakley, who notified the organization this week that it is violation of state law, and if it’s not rectified soon, those kids are just going to have to find their cancer treatment somewhere else.

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Youkilis Happily Takes Affleck’s Sloppy Seconds

Ben Affleck fancies himself one of the biggest Red Sox fans. Now the actor is sharing one more thing with his favorite team: former girlfriend Enza Sambataro, who married Kevin Youkilis yesterday. Because Youkilis is so tough, he’ll likely play through the lacerations he received from stepping on the glass.

Enza Sambataro

David Ortiz, Mike Lowell and Dustin Pedroia attended the wedding in Cabo San Lucas, along with Mike O’Malley and one of the Wahlberg brothers, and this post is fast turning into Boston B-List Hell. Far be it from me to say that Youkilis is just looking for eye candy to add to the current stable of Red Sox wives, but Sambataro’s job is listed as CEO of Youkilis’ charity. Thankfully she is pretty easy on the eyes: (Pics after the jump.)

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Youkilis Attracted By “SlumpBuster” Drink Deal

BOSTONIST has the exciting news today that Red Sox first baseman “Kevin Youkilis has signed up to market a new energy drink entitled … SlumpBuster.’” We love the (pantless?) can:

SlumpBuster Energy Drink

BEV NET has confirmation that indeed, the venture is a real one: “Red Sox Gold Glove first baseman Kevin Youkilis has teamed up with California based MBSB Holdings, LLC to produce a new energy drink geared towards sports fans and athletes. SlumpBuster, a term widely recognized by athletes and fans, will be launched in the 1st quarter of ‘08 with hopes of being the official energy drink of locker rooms and stadium concession stands worldwide.”

And there’s even more exciting news about Youkilis’ involvement.

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Enza Sambataro Photos Kevin Youkilis Fiance

FINDING THE BEST WAY TO YOUKILIS A BALLPLAYER’S LIFE: ATTN: Kevin Youkilis. Please answer the following yes-no questions in order to better help you find your future wife.

Are you looking for a girl who:

1) Has been used-up and spit out by Ben Affleck?
2) Has already been married and pushed out a kid?
3) Refers to you as “insta-dad”?
4) Has been arrested for shoplifting?

If you answered “Yes” to all these questions, please proceed to the nearest ATM machine, take out all your cash, and hand it to this woman:

KevinYoukilis Enza Sambataro

Oops, looks like you already did!Our favorite quote in the BOSTON GLOBE puffer from Youkilis’ “insta-mom“, Enza Sambataro: “It’s a day-to-day thing,” she said, laughing. “Saturday, we weren’t getting married because Kevin had too many margaritas. But it’s back on now. Right, Kev?