Speed Read: Braves Get Their Man (& Ditch One)

Credit the Atlanta Braves for knowing how to manage a news cycle. They flipped three prospects to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Nate McLouth to answer the need for outfield help (which they failed to answer correctly the first time by not signing Adam Dunn in the offseason), and called up Tommy Hanson (pitching phenom) and sent down Jordan Schafer (outfielder phenom) and look at all the exciting news!

Nate McLouth

(Nate McLouth: interstate man of mystery no longer)

And, oh by the way, they cut local hero Tom Glavine so they wouldn’t have to pay him up to $3.5 million to throw weaker than Jamie Moyer in a headwind when they don’t really need a farewell tour but more of a starting pitcher. But look! Nate McLouth! All-Star!

Braves GM Frank Wren swears it’s not about the money - which always means it’s about the money. McLouth is actually fairly inexpensive through 2011 with a club option for 2012 if he’s worth $10 million, but the team is replacing three minor league salaries with a major league one (roughly speaking).

Glavine will look for another job and has a decent chance of finding one if the price is right for a desperate franchise. However, no franchise has shown enough desperation to hook up with Sammy Sosa since Baltimore began its bizarre fascination with Chicago Cubs outfielders in 2005 and Texas took Sammy out around the block in 2007.

Sammy Sosa getting hit in head

Therefore, he’s announcing his retirement officially this week… sometime. As always, Sammy has to get an extra swing or two in before finally connecting, so his actual retirement will be later this week. Possibly.

Some will celebrate their last chance to moralize about him before his Hall of Fame eligibility kicks in. Others will tell Sammy to put a cork in it because they’re sick of him. The best recommendation? Smash a boom box with a baseball bat. It’s like an aural piñata!

Finally, the U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team squirted the bed in a simply filthy manner last night in San José, Costa Rica. The U.S. squad gave up two goals in the first 15 minutes of a World Cup qualifier to Costa Rica at the notoriously difficult Saprissa Stadium (banned: alcohol, batteries, and coins) on their way to a 3-1 thumping that wasn’t remotely that close.

Costa Rican Superman

(A Costa Rican Superman? Well, that explains a lot)

The bastard out there at ESPN that thought it would help ratings if they jammed Jon & Kate Plus 8 in front of U.S. keeper Tim Howard instead delivered a showing that led the Galavision announcers to chastise the Costa Ricans for not stomping on the throats of the Americans even more and to compare one goal in particular to stealing candy from a baby.

Jon & Kate Plus 8 Plus Tim Howard

(Actual photo of attempted defensive wall)

Because of two silly yellow cards received by two U.S. players, the American team will be short two people when they play against Honduras at Soldier Field in Chicago Saturday, in what promises to feel like an away game with maybe 25% of the 60,000 fans cheering for Uncle Sam’s boys. If the U.S. doesn’t earn three points with a win, there’s a very real chance they could miss next year’s World Cup in South Africa.

If U.S. coach Bob Bradley is still looking for a left back that has never played there before in a crucial situation, why not call on Tom Glavine? He’s available; he’s a winner; he’s looking for a job. At worst, he can help heave batteries back into the crowd at a gentle 83 mph.

And now a hail of sapphire bullet points of pure love for the Queen of the Blues on her passing

  • One old baseball man who tabled his moment in the sun: Randy Johnson. His first attempt at 300 wins in D.C. last night got washed out by Mother Nature (whom Randy went to elementary school with) and will be played today at 4 pm ET with Mr. Unit on the mound.
  • Carlos Zambrano continues to show disrespect to inanimate objects by blowing off the team jet to Atlanta (and not for the first time). Needless to say, this story doesn’t have legs if the Cubs aren’t splashing around .500 still.
  • Also filed under “not living up to expectations and therefore open to criticism”, please note the Serena Williams entry created when she lost in the quarterfinals. She showed up to the French Open out of shape mentally and physically, choosing to wear outfits that accentuated the latter and threw snit fits that proved the former. The only person this “athlete/actress” is cheating is herself.

Serena Williams at the 2009 French Open

Jose Lima Wife

How did the Braves’ efforts yesterday affect the NL East race?

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Speed Read: Hansbrough, UNC Handle Duke Again

You have to hand it to the Cameron Crazies. Not so much for dressing a student as Beaker from “The Muppet Show” to point out the resemblance with North Carolina star Tyler Hansbrough. Frankly, this is old news. But having said Duke student/Muppet wear a T-shirt that says “D League,” as the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER noted. That’s classic - even North Carolina players were laughing over that one.

Tyler Hansbrough and Beaker

But then again, it was the Tar Heels and Hansbrough who had the last laugh again, as North Carolina pulled away in the second half to take down the Blue Devils 101-87 at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Which made Hansbrough and senior teammate Danny Green the only two players to play in four straight victories at Duke since Mike Krzyzewski took over as the Blue Devils’ coach.

Mike Krzyzewski reacts to UNC loss

The spark for North Carolina was Ty Lawson, who scored 21 points in the second half to help the Tar Heels rally from an eight-point halftime deficit. (Good thing there is nothing the Duke fans could have given him grief about.) But as usual, the story was Hansbrough, whether he was hitting key three-pointers, getting compared to a Muppet, or getting cracked in the jaw by a Kyle Singler elbow:

You have to love the crackerjack ESPN crew of Mike Patrick and Dick Vitale totally missing the elbow. But at least Vitale - once he noticed what was happening - actually admitted that a Duke player did a bad, bad thing. Unlike Billy Packer, who probably would have chided Hansbrough for ramming into Singler’s elbow with his face.

And what’s the best way to celebrate a big win if you’re a North Carolina student? Why, burning a Christmas tree, of course. Take that, Christmas! (Why they still had a tree in February is another question.):

Speaking of Christmas…it’s time to give you the gift that keeps on giving: Brett Favre is finally gone. After the Jets’ meltdown to end the season, it was obvious what was going to happen, but it’s official: he’s filed his retirement paperwork with the league and is apparently done. No teary press conferences, no 24/7 ESPN media watch, just an old man making sure, as the NEW YORK DAILY NEWS reports, he gets his severance pay like an auto worker reaching retirement age.

Brett Favre

So our national nightmare is over. Unless Favre goes online and reads stories like those from Dan Pompei of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE, who immediately wrote a column that suggested Favre could still “lead certain teams to the Super Bowl. Certain teams meaning “Minnesota Vikings.” For God’s sake, Pompei, let’s not give him any ideas - this is like Edward R. Murrow going on the radio and suggesting that Joseph McCarthy should try exposing gay in the military instead of Communists.

Other sports stories that happened last night as you regretted eating peanut butter and peanut sandwiches for dinner (with peanut brittle for dessert):

  • CNBC says that jewelry maker Robindira Unsworth received a surprise when one of her creations wound up dangling from the neck of Bar Refaeli on the cover of the SI Swimsuit Issue. Which makes me wonder: has anyone even noticed her necklace while looking at the cover? Perhaps boyfriend Leonard DiCaprio bought it for her, a nice gift - as the LA TIMES says some people think the SI cover was.
  • Bar Refaeli SI swimsuit cover

  • GOAL.COM says Mexico soccer captain Rafael Marquez is really sorry that he drove his spikes into US goalkeeper Tim Howard’s thigh, earning him a red card in his team’s 2-0 loss in a World Cup qualifying match in Columbus last night.  He might want to apologize to Mexico coach Sven-Goran Eriksson, who is now in danger of losing his job after El Tri have only won one of their last seven games.
  • Remember the testing program Lance Armstrong was going to undertake during his comeback to prove that he was free of performing-enhancing drugs? What a shock - it’s been scrapped, as KCRA-TV reports that he now claims that it’s too expensive and complex to pull off this year. I guess getting rid of Favre is all we could ask for.
  • Just what the already-volatile Dallas Cowboys’ locker room needs: Ray Lewis. The DALLAS MORNING NEWS reports that Terrell Owens has been making phone calls trying to recruit the Ravens’ linebacker/non-murder to play for Dallas this season.
  • Despite claims in a lawsuit filed by his ex-girlfriend, Roberto Alomar tells ESPN that he’s perfectly healthy and does not have AIDS. And he’s willing to spit anywhere needed to prove it.
  • Former Congressman Tom Davis tells NBCSPORTS.COM that it’s time to “cut your losses,” and that you can expect charges against Roger Clemens for lying under oath soon.
  • A woman in Fresno put up her old baseball card on eBay for $10, but decided to pull the item after receiving way too many e-mails asking if it was real. It turns out that the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings card was real, and worth a lot more than she thought: the AP says she sold it yesterday for almost $65,000.
  • Speaking of eBay, IDIOTS ON SPORTS found this beauty up for sale on the auction site, although I doubt it’s worth $65,000:
  • Bobby Labonte limo thing

  • The WACO TRIBUNE reports that Baylor football recruit Willie Jefferson was arrested 10 days before signing his letter of intent and charged with marijuana possession after cops found a “small bag of marijuana, a marijuana cigarette and several cigars in a cavity on the floorboard of the vehicle” Jefferson was driving. This is why you don’t by a used car from Tommy Chong.
  • See, Sirius XM isn’t going bankrupt. If it was, why would they be flying Chris Russo out first-class to spring training- twice! - as he told Howard Stern yesterday. Just like there’s no way the banks could be going under if they can still afford to fly their executives out to expensive resorts for annual meetings.

Which rivalry are you most sick of hearing about?

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