Speed Read: Should We Want A Freeway Series?

I guess with all the trade deadline rumors about deals that did or didn’t happen, it’s kind of easy to overlook the most important thing in baseball: the standings. Because the story no one seems to be talking about is the fact that the best records in each league belong to teams in Southern California, setting up a real possibility of the first-ever Freeway Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the…let’s just call them the Angels.

Matt Kemp

Both teams looked the part of World Series contenders on Sunday. In Atlanta, the Dodgers used a three-run homer by Matt Kemp to pound the Braves 9-1; meanwhile, the Angels hammered the Twins 13-4 to complete a three-game road sweep where they scored 35 runs. And while not everything is 100 percent for either team (Chad Billingsley left his start early with cramps during the Dodgers’ win, while Vladimir Guerrero suddenly turned 150 years old this season for the Angels), there’s at least a strong possibility of an all-LA (kinda, sorta) World Series.

Mike Napoli

And as a baseball fan living in Los Angeles, here’s my feeling on this: I hope to God this doesn’t happen. The first reason is selfish: I have to drive past Dodger Stadium every day for work - it’s almost impossible for a Tuesday night game against Florida, so I can’t imagine what a World Series game against the Angels would be like. A 30-minute commute turning into a two-hour nightmare? No thanks.

But more importantly, I’d have to hear weeks of coverage about the series as if it’s a real, heated rivalry. Which would make my head explode, because it just isn’t. This isn’t Red Sox vs. Yankees, with real, palpable hatred. Or even Yankees vs. Mets or Cubs vs. White Sox, both of which are city rivalries with loads of class, race and societal baggage (in that who you root for speaks volumes about who you are and where you came from).

Dodgers vs. Angels has none of this. People root for one or the other based on which ballpark was closer to them growing up. (Fortunately, the area that is equidistant from Dodger Stadium and Angel Stadium is the mini-mall and warehouse-filled patch of nothingness called Norwalk.) If Dodger fans think about the Angels at all, it’s with a dismissive chuckle. Meanwhile, Angels fans will quickly point out who has the last World Series title while secretly grimacing at the whole “Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim” fiasco.

So in summary: just because Chan-Ho Park karate-kicked Tim Belcher 8,000 years ago, this isn’t a heated rivalry, and a Freeway Series won’t change that. Now a Lakers vs. Clippers Western Conference final…

Melky Cabrera

After having sex with a porn star, the closest most people get to a “cycle” is starting the next round of penicillin in hopes that their genitals go back to normal. But apparently Melky Cabrera defied the odds and got a decidedly more wholesome cycle, in this case becoming the first Yankee in 14 years to hit for the cycle in their 8-5 win over the Chicago White Sox. (Although I can’t comment one way or the other about his need for penicillin, but if he did sleep with former California gubernatorial candidate/drunk/professional sex object Mary Carey, it’s a small miracle if he didn’t catch something.)

Finally, an update on a couple of noted sports underachievers: Michael Phelps only managed to win five gold medals at the World Championships, adding his final one on Sunday by anchoring the Americans’ record-setting 400-meter medley relay team; and Tiger Woods won just his fourth tournament of the season by winning (probably last-ever playing of) the Buick Open by three shots. If only those two could maximize their potential, they might really make something of themselves.

  • Does anyone understand why the Chiefs’ mascot is a wolf? And one that has trouble clearing small fences, as photos tracked down by ARROWHEAD PRIDE from training camp seem to indicate.
  • FANTASY FORECAST breaks down eight different types of people found at every fantasy football league draft. Although I think they left off Guy Who Gets So Drunk He’s Picking “Poopy Fartpants” by Round 6.
  • If you’re a big NFL fan near Troy, NY tonight, you might want to check out some minor-league baseball as the Tri-Cities ValleyCats take on the Oneonta Tigers. Why? Because SI’s Peter King is going to be throwing out the first pitch and hanging out with fans to talk about the upcoming season, along with a host of NFL experts including NFL.COM’s Adam Schefter, Sporting News’ Albert Breer, NY Giants radio voice Bob Papa and Redskins lineman Ross Tucker.
  • The CHICAGO TRIBUNE breathlessly reports that Jay Cutler completed his first 12 passes during 7-on-7 drills at camp yesterday. Although to be fair, Kyle Orton and Rex Grossman probably couldn’t complete 12 passes back and forth to each other.
  • PRO FOOTBALL TALK says Bengals QB Carson Palmer has missed the last two days of practice with flu-like symptoms. Let’s hope he didn’t catch swine flu from eating any undercooked wieners
  • Formula One driver Jensen Button spent part of his break from racing competing in the London Triathlon, where he set a personal best. I would have spent the time watching his girlfriend Jessica Michibata giving her personal best while modeling bikinis on a beach in Japan.
  • Samantha Thavasa

  • We told you last week about Andy Reid’s hellish training camps and love of full-contact drills. Turns out there’s a down side to that: two Eagles players left last night’s practice with injuries.
  • Letdown City: the rally car racing final at the X Games gets stopped halfway through when Travis Pastrana wrecks his car, handing the win to former Indy 500 winner Kenny Brack. To celebrate, Brack knocked back a tall glass of ice cold Red Bull and milk.
  • I guess you could say that the Red Sox’s trade for Victor Martinez has paid some early dividends: he went 5-for-6 in Boston’s 18-10 win over Baltimore. Too bad Clay Buchholz is still not very good at pitching to big league hitters.
  • Finally, BALL DON’T LIE has video of the cheap shot that Italy’s Stefano Mancinelli delivered to the back of Aaron Doornekamp’s head during a “friendly” international basketball game against Canada:

Which baseball intra-area rivalry is the real deal?

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Mother of Vladimir Guerrero Happy To Cook For All

VLAD’S MOM GLAD TO COOK IT UP & HOOK IT UP FOR ALL: Watch out, Mrs. McNabb - here’s a sports mom who really knows how to cook:

McNabb Vlad Guerrero moms

The ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER samples the scrumptions selections of Altagracia Alvino, mother to Angels star Vladimir Guerrero - and a maternal figure to many other MLB players from the Dominican Republic.

Alvino, who lives with Guerrero in his Anaheim home, cooks not only for her son, but teammates, coaches, and even players from opposing teams who miss the tempting tastes of their Republica Dominicana.

Vladimir Guerrero Mom

And it’s not just a once-a-week job - Alvino creates meals every day, filling tubs of Tupperware that Vladimir delivers to Angel Stadium before each night game, where he distributes the Dominican delicacies to whoever has a hunger for the haute cuisine.

Angels teammate Erick Aybar points out that it’s not just the Dominican players Alvino warms the bellies and hearts of. “She’s a mother to all. “She’s the same person for the Americans and everyone.”

Angels Stadium Trash

Considering the recent relevations of foul food findings at the Big A, Alvino may want to expand her operations from the clubhouse to the stands.

Edgerrin James Takes Out Gold Teeth To Improve Endorsement Chances

• WILL DENTAL DAMN GIVE JAMES AN ENDORSEMENT EDGE? On ESPN’s “PTI” this week, MIAMI HERALD columnist Dan Le Batard said NFL Cardinals running back Edgerrin James has taken out his trademark gold teeth and said, “More endorsements if you don’t (have gold teeth). A little more mainstream.

Edgerrin James Gold Teeth

Since when was our man Flavor Flav not mainstream?

Flavor Flav

• SNL WAG - MANNING CAME UP WITH CHILD ABUSE ANGLE: “SNL” head writer and cast member Seth Meyers recalled to the BOSTON GLOBE Peyton Manning’s performance, saying the Colts QB “showed up and right off the bat wanted to do something where he was mean to kids. That’s free comedy right there, so we were happy to oblige.

Peyton Manning Kids

Wonder if that deep-seated yearning had something to do with this?

• NFL BANS “DOG”, “OOKIE” FROM MICHAEL VICK JERSEYS: Darren Rovell reports today that “the NFL banned the word ‘Ookie’ and the word ‘Dog’ from the back of jerseys in light of Michael Vick’s indictment related to dogfighting.”

Michael Vick Ookie Jersey

Yesterday, I was able to get those words, as well as many others, through the first step of personalization on NFLShop.com. Today, the site rejects anyone who hopes the league will put Vick’s nickname ‘Ookie’ on the back of his number 7 jersey or any other team jersey for that matter.”

UPDATE: Rovell reports Nike has “suspended” the release of Vick’s upcoming new Nike shoe.

• BAG HANDLERS ENJOYING EXTENDED SUMMER VACATION: The BOSTON GLOBE reports today that PGA Tour player Joe Durant, who is entered in the British Open, dropped $700 at The Open merchandise tent because his luggage had not arrived as of last night.

Durant, after two days wearing the same clothes, said, “If I look like Groundhog Day, you’ll know why.”

Meanwhile, Celtic FC, which is pitted against the MLS All-Stars tonight in Denver (yawn), had to postpone practice yesterday after baggage handlers at Denver International Airport could not locate their cleats when the team arrived Monday night.

We would say unbelievable. But of course, that would be the wrong word.

• SAB - Vladimir Guerrero and Coolio (thanks to reader Scott):

Vladimir Guerrero

• The Mayor of Sherman Oaks, Larry Brown (LARRY BROWN SPORTS), organized a great shindig in L.A. for local sports bloggers last night in Hollywood. Nice to meet everyone and hope we can do it again!

Grandfather Of Vladimir Guerrero Had 22 Children

VLAD GUERRERO PROVIDES GIGS FOR GINORMOUS FAMILY: The RIVERSIDE PRESS-ENTERPRISE has a fun profile on perhaps the most boring mysterious pro sports superstar we can think of, Angels outfielder Vladimir Guerrero.

Vladimir Guerrero

Guerrero, who speaks very little English and conducts all interviews through an interpreter, reports that his grandfather has 22 children.

The Dominican MLBer is also one of nine children himself, and essentially supports his entire family through “numerous business ventures — a construction company, a supermarket, a propane distributorship, acres of farmland, a hardware store, a women’s clothing store, (and) a seafood distributorship.

Guerrero brought 18 members of his family to last week’s all-star game. Their mini-bar bill was probably higher than the GNP of Curacao.

Juan Pierre to Become Most Overpaid CF of All Time

After signing Nomar Garciaparra to play 80 games for $18.5M, the LA Dodgers plan to pay Juan Pierre about $154,000 per steal over five years.

Pierre is one of the worst center fielders in the league with the 29th ranked OPS (.727) and a popgun arm that makes Johnny Damon look like Vladimir Guerrero.

Juan Pierre Caught Stealing

BUT he’s successful on nearly 75% of his steal attempts, which makes him worth every penny… if you’re Joe Morgan.


SPORTS’ MOST ANNOYING PERSON? At No. 5 overall, Vladimir Guerrero inexplicably ranks as the most-disliked sports personality on the AmIAnnoying.com’s ever-fluctuating list of most-annoying personalities. Saddam Hussein, Kevin Federline and Lizzie Grubman all fashioned higher approval ratings than the reigning AL MVP. And they’re people you’d run across the street just to smash in the head with a brick.

Peter Gammons, on MLB free agency: "Even…

Peter Gammons, on MLB free agency: "Even the most optimistic of agents don’t think we’ll see another $17M-a-year player."

One unidentified NL GM tells ESPN.com: "I don’t think you’ll see anyone other than Vladimir Guerrero go much over $10M. Not until all the bad contracts are off the books. And I don’t think you’ll see any pitcher get more than three years."

Pepsi announced this week that Vladimir Guerr…

Pepsi announced this week that Vladimir Guerrero and Alex Rodriguez will appear in two national TV spots this year. SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL’s Terry Lefton reports one of the spots, titled "Stand-off," will air in English and Spanish in May, coinciding with the beginning of Fox-TV’s national Saturday afternoon MLB schedule. The commercial, shot just before spring training, features Guerrero and Rodriguez matching up in a hitting contest while "competing for the can of Pepsi shown on a table next to home plate."

Earlier this week, Letterman produced a comme…

Earlier this week, Letterman produced a commercial-spoof touting the New York Yankees off-season signings: "Hey Yankee fans, 2004 is going to be the best season yet!

"So come on down next spring and welcome the newest bombers: Gary Sheffield, Javier Vasquez, Kevin Brown, Randy Johnson, Alex Rodriguez, Nomar Garciaparra, Vladimir Guerrero, Pedro Martinez, Barry Bonds, Albert Pujols, Jim Thome, Carlos Delgado, the entire infield of the Yomiuri Giants and your new designated hitter, Ted Williams’ frozen head. See you at the ballpark."

Part of Letterman’s "Top Ten Other Observations Made By Saddam Hussein’s Daughter":

#6) "My dad isn’t as screwed as the New York Giants."