Speed Read: Mets Enjoy Manny Adventure Cruise

It’s hard to determine what’s more exciting; Manny Ramirez at the plate, or in the outfield. Fans at Citi Field actually cheered him on Wednesday, but not for his leadoff homer in the ninth. Manny got a standing O when he misplayed Daniel Murphy’s one-out liner into a double in the first — now is not the time to moonwalk, Manny — blah blah blah, Mets win 5-4.

Despite a rather leaky outing by Oliver Perez, who is finally back after a two-month vacation on the DL, and an equally unsettling-yet-effective closing stint from K-Rod, the Mets ended a four-game losing streak and sent Alyssa Milano into a deep, 24-hour depression. But what caught my eye was the absolutely sick play turned in by Murphy, seen in all its YouTube goodness below, on Mark Loretta’s grounder to first. The ball hits the bag, pops into the air, and Murphy fields it with his bare hand and in one motion, flips it behind his back to reliever Bobby Parnell covering. Wizard Cat approves.

And here comes Joe Torre out to argue. You know it’s a great play when you get a 68-year-old man to run all the way to the first-base line from the visitor’s dugout to find out just what the hell happened. Get this man a Hoveround Mobility Scooter.

And speaking of one sparkling glove, did anyone catch Ken Griffey Jr.’s tribute to Michael Jackson on Tuesday? A bit bizarre, but much better than a rambling speech at the Staples Center, Griffey donned one white glove for his first at-bat against the Orioles. Then he returned to his usual two-black-glove ensemble for the rest of the game. He also used “Billie Jean” as his walk-up music. We won’t discuss the sequined jock. Thanks to the madcap merrymakers at UniwatchBlog.

It’s never the crime, it’s always the coverup. Just ask LeBron James, whose panicky reaction to getting dunked on by a college player — which we mentioned Wednesday — is quickly growing to mythic proportions. By now you’ve heard that Xavier sophomore Jordan Crawford dunked over James during a pickup game at LeBron’s Skill Academy in Akron on Monday, a move that was filmed by various videographers. But James immediately had a Nike rep confiscate the tapes, which is causing far more of a sensation than ever would have happened if he had just laughed it off. Just take a look here, here, here and here, for starters.

Attention passengers: Our flight will be delayed on account of turtles. In the meantime, please enjoy these links.

  • These things tend to happen in threes … Andruw Jones feasted on delicious Angels pitching Wednesday, blasting three homers in his first three at-bats during the Rangers’ 8-1 victory in Anaheim. That meant he got to spend the rest of the game (two more at-bats) trying to become the first player in six years to hit four homers in a game. He popped up and struck out.
  • In non-dunking NBA news, the Mavericks have reached a trade agreement with the Raptors to acquire Shawn Marion, according to league sources, in a deal that also involved the Grizzlies and the Magic. From YAHOO SPORTS: The Mavericks and Raptors recruited the Orlando Magic and Memphis Grizzlies to help facilitate the deal. The Raptors will get Hedo Turkoglu in a sign-and-trade deal with the Magic rather than signing him outright. They also will receive forwards Devean George and Antoine Wright from the Mavericks. Marion will receive a five-year, $40 million contract from the Mavericks. Jerry Stackhouse will go to the Grizzlies, who will waive him. Only $2 million of Stackhouse’s $7 million contract for next season is guaranteed. The Grizzlies will receive cash, likely $3 million, to participate in the trade. Toronto, which gets to keep its midlevel salary-cap exception, sends a trade exception to Orlando. The Mavericks also will receive forward Kris Humphries from the Raptors. Got all that?
  • Meanwhile, the Celtics felt the need for Sheed, bringing in Rasheed Wallace on Wednesday to patrol the low post and cast up occasional longe-range bombs to thrill the children. Terms were not released. The four-time All-Star figures to back up Kevin Garnett and power forward, among other things.

And now, Official Major League Baseball rules as explained by Miss South Carolina. Today: The infield fly rule.

rule 2.00 (definition of terms)

“I personally believe an INFIELD FLY, uh, is a fair fly ball (not including a line drive nor an attempted bunt, such as) which can be caught by most U.S. Americans with ordinary effort, when first and second, or, uh, first, second and third bases are occupied, before two are out. Like, such as, the pitcher, catcher and any outfielder who doesn’t have maps. Any infielder everywhere, such as the Iraq, should help the U.S., uh, or, uh, should help South Africa and should help the Iraq and the Asian countries when it seems apparent that a batted ball will be caught in the infield with less than two out. Anyone in our nation who stations himself in the infield on the play shall be considered infielders for, uh, the purpose of this rule, such as. Runners may advance at their own risk, so we will be able to build up our future, for our [unintelligible].

  • John McCain has been using Twitter to give his opinions on the MLB All-Star voting, specifically to hype the Diamondbacks’ Mark Reynolds. Says Conan O’Brien: “Apparently, no one has had the heart to tell McCain that he’s been Twittering with his garage door opener.”
  • If you love it, set it free … San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom now seems resigned to the notion that the 49ers will be moving to Santa Clara; a sharp turnaround from his recent, previous stance (that of clinging to the team’s ankles, begging them to stay). Saying that he wants to “avoid being used as leverage” in the team’s effort to negotiate a new stadium in the South Bay, Newsom can now turn his efforts to more important issues: growing apricots.
  • Michael Phelps — remember him? — won both the 200 butterfly and the 200 free on Wednesday at the U.S. national championships in Indianapolis, but both were short of his best times in the events. Still, the victories qualified him for a trip to Rome for the world championships later this month. Aaron Peirsol set a world record in the 100-meter backstroke in 51.94 seconds, reclaiming the world mark he’s held for all but one week since the 2004 Olympics.

  • It’s hard to believe that Alexander the Great conquered most of the known world without cardboard tubes. Now the Cardboard Tube Fighting League, once thought to be primarily a west coast phenomenon, is reaching across the country; a Cardboard Tube Fighting League Tournament will be held on Sunday in Brooklyn. Participants are encouraged to create cardboard costumes and armor, but no outside tubes allowed. You can take our lives, but you’ll never take our CARDBOARD!
  • How do you pick up a win without throwing a pitch? Alan Embree did it on Tuesday for the Rockies, who beat the Nationals 5-4. Embree came in with two outs in the eighth and promptly picked off Austin Kearns at first, ending the inning, and his evening.
  • With his 2-for-4 performance against San Jose on Wednesday, Jamie McOwen’s hitting streak has reached 45 games — Minor League Baseball’s longest streak since Waco’s Roman Mejias hit in 55 straight games in 1954. McOwen has a hit in every game since May 10 for High Desert, Seattle’s Class A California League affiliate.

Is Jamie McOwen’s 45-game hitting streak a major story?

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Speed Read: Moral Victory Leaves Magic Down 2-0

If Game 1 of the NBA Finals seemly confirmed the suspicion that the Orlando Magic didn’t belong on the same floor with the Los Angeles Lakers, at least the Magic put an end to that on Sunday night in Game 2. They remembered how to shoot (at least two of them did), played some (at times) stingy defense, and generally were a total pest in pushing the Lakers to overtime.

Kobe Bryant

Unfortunately for the Magic, what they didn’t prove is that they could beat the Lakers in the NBA Finals, as the home team held on for a 101-96 victory to take a 2-0 lead as the series shifts to Orlando for the next three (probably?) games. But they came tantalizingly close at the end of regulation. Hedu Turkoglu found Courtney Lee cutting to the basket behind Kobe Bryant on an inbounds play with 0.6 seconds left and tossed him a lob that reached Lee but forced a midair adjustment, causing his lay-in to be just off the mark, bouncing off the front of the rim as time expired.

Courtney Lee

While the Magic might not admit it, they seemed drained by the missed opportunity in overtime, although their inability to stop Pau Gasol in the extra period was just as crippling. The Spaniard scored seven of his 24 points in overtime, including a three-point play with 1:14 left that gave the Lakers an insurmountable six point lead.

As for the Magic’s shooting: Rashard Lewis and Turkoglu were outstanding, with Lewis hitting 6-of-12 three-pointers en route to 34 points, while Turkoglu added 22 points including three three-pointers. The rest of the team? Not so much, as the Magic weren’t helped by Rafer Alston and J.J. Redick combining to go 2-for-17 for the game, including a woeful 1-10 from behind the arc. Also not helping: that J.J. Redick was anywhere near the floor for any length of time, much less 27 minutes. For all the great coaching Stan Van Gundy might have done in Game 2, that can’t be considered his finest hour.

Right now, it will take an amazing comeback for the Orlando Magic to win the NBA Title. (Before the 2006 Miami Heat did it, who was the last team to go down 2-0 and win the NBA Title? The 1977 Portland Trail Blazers.) But perhaps they need to take a clue from famous local resident and occasional Magic fan Tiger Woods, who had some Magic of his own on Sunday, no overtime needed. Woods came from four shots back to win the Memorial Tournament in front of host Jack Nicklaus with one of his most impressive final round performances, shooting a 65 while hitting every fairway in regulation.

Tiger Woods

The performance was awe-inspiring enough to prompt Nicklaus to cave in Woods’ surgically repaired knee with a nine-iron after the match in an attempt to prevent Woods from reaching his record of 18 major championships, before standing over a fallen Woods and shouting a Ric Flair style “Woooooooo!” Actually, that’s a lie; in fact, Nicklaus remarked that it would “greatly surprise” him if Woods didn’t win major No. 15 in two weeks at the U.S. Open.

Finally, it’s kind of hard to fault the San Diego Padres’ Josh Wilson for giving up the go-ahead three-run homer to the Diamondbacks’ Mark Reynolds in the 18th inning of Arizona’s 9-6 win on Sunday. Sure, Wilson might have had extra motivation for pitching against the team that released him earlier this season, but he really shouldn’t have been out there anyway. Wilson is an infielder, and was only pitching after Padres manager Bud Black ran out of pitchers in bullpen. So he sent Wilson out there, who got fastballs up to 88 mph and mixed in a few change-ups as well.

David Eckstein

Also, when you are relying on David Eckstein to homer to take the game into extra innings, you really should consider yourself lucky to be there in the first place, which is what the Padres needed in the ninth inning to erase a three-run deficit. Then again, the Padres really didn’t do much after that against the Diamondbacks’ bullpen, getting no-hit for all nine innings of extra baseball.

  • THE SPORTS HERNIA wonders if Pau Gasol might be missing Game 3 after some…explosive rectal issues?
  • Pau Gasol

  • Chicago Cubs broadcaster Bob Brenly has a message after watching the Cubs slog to a 4-3, 11-inning loss to the Cincinnati Reds on Sunday: “If there are any Little Leaguers watching, turn the TV off.”
  • Former Philadelphia Eagles defensive lineman Sam Rayburn tells the PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER that he was taking more than 100 painkillers a day before being caught forging prescriptions and getting clean. Or as Elizabeth Taylor would call that, lunch.
  • What could bring together Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and former head coach Jimmy Johnson? How about a concert headlined by George Strait and Reba McEntire to open the new Cowboys Stadium?
  • Just when things couldn’t get any worse for the Washington Nationals, DC SPORTS BOG checks in with this: they had a malfunction during their fireworks display, and the debris just happened to fall on the D.C. fire chief. Proving that the Nationals really have turned into a bad 1970s sitcom.
  • Mike Brown proved that his WEC featherweight title victory over Urijah Faber in November was no fluke in the rematch on Sunday, going into Faber’s hometown of Sacramento, CA and winning a unanimous decision that left Faber in the hospital after the match.
  • Among the “highlights” of the ongoing court battle over the fate of the Phoenix Coyotes: the Phoenix suburb of Glendale (where the Coyotes actually play) is suggesting that coach and minority owner Wayne Gretzky is “overpaid” and should have his salary cut by more than $6 million. Because going after The Great One is a winning legal strategy in Canadian courts.
  • David Wells says that Jose Canseco offered HGH to him when they were teammates on the Chicago White Sox, but he declined. Instead, he dropped 30 pounds by giving up beer in the offseason and actually working out. Also, is there anyone Jose Canseco hasn’t offered performance-enhancing drugs to in baseball at this point?
  • HOME RUN DERBY casts a discriminating eye at the reverse negative error baseball card, the bain of beleaguered Topps photo editors everywhere. (Well, specifically at the Topps offices, I guess.)
  • Long Island high school athlete Ryan Harrigan uses his abilities to chase down a would-be purse snatcher while working his after-school job as a grocery store employee. Would you like paper, plastic or handcuffs, Sir?

What was the most impressive performance yesterday?

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Mark Reynolds Is The King Of Swing (And A Miss)

As the Diamondbacks were officially eliminated from the playoffs today, third baseman Mark Reynolds became the first MLB player ever to reach a dubious milestone — 200 strikeouts in a season. Jack Cust got all the publicity last week for setting the AL strikeout mark, but Reynolds is now the true undisputed Wizard Of Whiff. Big #200 came in the 2nd inning against Joel Pineiro this afternoon in the D-Backs’ 12-3 loss to the Cardinals. He later added his 201st K.

Mark Reynolds and a windmill

By contrast, Albert Pujols has struck out 226 times…over the last four seasons. Jose Hernandez made headlines a few years back when he was held out of the lineup to avoid setting the record at home, but guys like Reynolds have taken their lumps mostly in stride. And it appears as if Reynolds might have some company in the 200 Club by the end of the weekend.

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