It’s been a rough decade for the Baltimore Orioles. The once proud franchise has long been third fiddle to the Yankees and Red Sox in the AL East, but with the sudden rise of the Rays and the continuing competence of the Blue Jays, it’s hard to imagine a team that’s further away from being a contender in any division in baseball than the O’s.
So it’s fitting that when the O’s finally did achieve something great, nobody was around to see it. Trailing 9-1 to Boston in the fifth inning last night at Camden Yards, the rain came and most of the crowd took off during a 79-minute delay. After resuming, the Sox added a 10th run in the top of the seventh inning before all heck broke loose. Baltimore scored five times in the bottom of the inning off of Justin Masterson. Then they added five more in the eighth that included a three-run pinch homer by Oscar Salazar, and capped off by a Nick Markakis double off of Jonathan Papelbon.
And just like that, history was made. George Sherrill shut the door on the Sox in the 9th and an epic meltdown was complete, sending the nine Baltimore fans in attendance into hysterics (while a few thousand Sox fans sat in stunned silence). Final score: Baltimore 11, Boston 10. It was the biggest comeback in the history of the Orioles franchise (which dates to when they moved there from St. Louis in 1954), and the biggest comeback by a last-place team over a first-place team in the history of the game. For Boston, it was the second-largest blown lead in their history (they choked away a 10-0 lead to Toronto in 1989).
The rally seemingly came out of nowhere, but perhaps we should’ve seen that the Sox didn’t exactly have their heads in it after the rain delay when the entire infield left the field in the bottom of the sixth inning…after recording the second out.
July 1st is upon us, and that means NBA free-agent season is about to kick into gear. Today was the deadline for players with options to decide whether or not to honor their deals or look elsewhere. And with most NBA teams looking to slash payrolls, it’s no surprise that there aren’t a lot of people choosing to opt out. Kobe Bryant heads the list, but nobody really expected him to opt out.
Carlos Boozer, on the other hand, declared months ago that he would be on the open market come July. But a lot has changed since then. Detroit was the only team in position to offer Boozer a substantial deal, but they balked at offering a deal that would pay him more than the $12.7 million he’ll earn next season for sticking around Utah. Plus, Boozer’s really into going to Sundance and he wouldn’t be able to do that in Detroit.
Boozer’s choice to exercise his option, and Mehmet Okur’s decision to do the same, has put the Jazz in a tough spot. They expect to lose Boozer after next season, and probably would’ve preferred if he bolted now. They’d like to sign youngster Paul Millsap to a long-term deal, and will now have to pay the luxury tax if they do so.
Meanwhile, Hedo Turkoglu is officially a free-agent, and while he’s garnering the most buzz, a lot of good players, such as Ron Artest, Jason Kidd, Ben Gordon, Andre Miller, Chris “Birdman” Andersen, and some guy named Allen Iverson could be had for the right price. Another guy on the market is Charlie Villanueva, who the Bucks declined to even make an offer to. TRUEHOOP says that’s a major indication that the economy is really taking its toll on the league. The Rockets are somewhat creepily taking a bit run at Marcin Gortat to replace Yao Ming for the time being, going as far as knocking on his door at 12:01 a.m. and setting up a Gmail account just for Gortat-based fanmail.
(A future star, or a really well paid cheerleader?)
Speaking of Yao, people in China aren’t buying that he’s really all that hurt, suggesting that the Rockets are overstating his injury so that he’ll be cheaper to re-sign when his contract is up next year. But will Houston want him back? Regardless of whether or not he’s healed, China expects him to play in next summer’s World Championships, which could lead to further injury and basically stick the fork in him (if it hasn’t been already).
(If Yao can’t run by next summer, he’s going to reinvent himself as Earl Boykins on wheels)
And now, without further adieu, let’s kick off July’s links with some bad goalkeeping, cheerleader car washes, and disembodied hair:
• On the plus side, this goalie showed some nice hops in saving this ball from going out of bounds. On the minus side, well, you’ll see (thanks to SPORTS RUBBISH):
• The ONLINE SPORTS GUYS has the story of Florida International’s cheerleaders — whose program was cut from the school’s athletic budget — trying to save their team the only way they know how: a giant car wash. Video goodness within.
• JOCK AND BALLS has 10 mullets we all know and love.
• Pacifiers featuring logos of NHL teams are being recalled because they cause a risk for choking. Surprisingly, neither the Bruins nor the Sharks are among the featured logos.
• Who has the NBA’s biggest payroll? Gotta be the Lakers or Celtics, right? No, actually, it’s New Orleans. And I’m sure that Wizards fans out there will be excited to learn that their team is #3 on the list.
• You’ve got just about three days left if you want to buy Magglio Ordonez’s hair in an Ebay auction.
On second thought, that miiiiight be a dead puli.
• You want to edit some home video footage of Ty Cobb? Better respond to this Craigslist ad fast. He assures you that this is not a fake, because as we all know, people are always trying to pass around fraudulent Ty Cobb videos.
• The BIRMINGHAM NEWS has posted odds on which college football program will be the next to commit a major violation, courtesy of USBET.COM. #1 on the list? USC. Last on the list? The Australian Institute of Ethics.
• Penguins star Evgeni Malkin has a Conn Smythe Trophy, and now he’s cavorting somewhere warm with Oksana Kondakova, a model with creative tastes in bikini tops:
Looks like Malkin’s enjoying the off-season: