Sports Outside the Beltway

Walking The Batter Before A-Rod, Not Always A Good Idea

15yankees_CA0-popupLast night, the Minnesota Twins took a gamble, and lost:

NEW YORK – Alex Rodriguez waited on deck, with runners at second and third and the Yankees trailing by a run in the seventh inning. Boy, did Ron Gardenhire have a tough decision to make.

Pitch to Mark Teixeira or intentionally walk him and bring in right-handed sinkerballer Matt Guerrier to replace Brian Duensing? Even though A-Rod was 4 for 6 against Guerrier with three home runs?

Yup, Guerrier came in.

And the ball went out.

Rodriguez hit his 19th career grand slam, moving past Frank Robinson into sole possession of seventh place with his 587th home run and powering the New York Yankees over the Minnesota Twins 8-4 Friday night.

“That’s why I hit fourth,” A-Rod said. “My team is expecting me to get big hits in those type of situations.”

He was so excited as the ball went over the left-field wall that he nearly carried his bat all the way to first base. He then raised a fist in triumph after the drive gave the Yankees a 7-4 lead.

Part of the problem that the Twins faced, of course, is that the Yankee lineup is simply too strong to assume anyone is an easy out. Teixeira has had a hot bat all month, so walking him and bringing in the righthander to get Rodriguez isn’t necessarily a dumb call.

Except in retrospect as you’re watching that ball go over the wall and the bases clear.


Former NFL DT Norman Hand dead at 37

He played for the Miami Dolphins for two years but unfortunately I don’t remember Hand. RIPNew Norman Hand.

Former Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Norman Hand has died after collapsing at his home in South Carolina.

Colleton County Coroner Richard Harvey said the 37-year-old Hand collapsed at his home in Walterboro about 11 a.m. Friday and died about 90 minutes later at a local hospital.

The cause of death has not been determined. The coroner said an autopsy is planned Saturday. He said Hand’s family was with him when he died.

Hand’s 10-year NFL career included playing stints with the Dolphins, Saints, Chargers, Seahawks and Giants. Hand, who had 22 1/2 career sacks, was drafted in the fifth round by the Dolphins in 1995 after playing at Mississippi.


Perfect Games Becoming More Common Than No-Hitters

20100510_braden_560x375The New York Times noted the other day a statistical oddity regarding two of baseball’s most difficult achievements, the perfect game and the no-hitter:

Dallas Braden’s perfect game for Oakland has generated plenty of press, and only partly because of his feud with Alex Rodriguez. A perfect game is celebrated with bold headlines because it is one of baseball’s rarest achievements. But somehow, without anyone noticing, the perfect game has started to become more common, while no-hitters over all have become harder to come by.

Before 1998, only 6 percent of no-hitters were perfect games, but from 1998 to 2003, 20 percent were, and since then 27 percent have been.

From 1900 through 1980, baseball witnessed only seven perfect games, including two in the dead-ball era and three during the glory days for pitchers in the mid-1960s. But in the 30 seasons beginning with 1981, nine pitchers have achieved perfection. And, oddly, regular no-hitters have decreased in frequency while becoming more erratic in their appearance.

“There is probably a fair amount of chance involved” in the jump in perfect games, said Rob Neyer, a baseball columnist with ESPN. He says the rise of free-swingers helps because strikeouts mean fewer balls in play and thus fewer possible hits and errors — although he noted that fewer balls in play should also mean more no-hitters. Improved fielding has probably helped as well, he said.

In the 20 years before Babe Ruth and the live ball era of 1920, no-hitters were far more common, with pitchers hurling 48 of them. In the two decades that followed — the most explosive offensive period before the steroids era — there were just 16 no-hitters, one of which was a perfect game. Baseball found an equilibrium in the 1940s and ’50s and that span yielded 30 no-hitters.

Not surprisingly, the swinging (and missing) ’60s produced an astonishing 30 no-hitters, along with three perfect games, but even after baseball lowered the pitching mound, pitchers churned out 31 no-hitters in the 1970s. In other words, from 1960-1979, baseball averaged more than three no-hitters per season yet only one perfect game about every seven years. Since then, the pattern has shifted: There have been 48 no-hitters over the past 30 years, meaning it now takes two seasons to produce three no-hitters. In the last decade, there were only 13 — none in 2000 and only one (a perfect game) from June 11, 2003, through Sept. 6, 2006.

That decline might make sense considering that the strike zone, the ballparks, the ball and steroids all conspired to boost offense, yet there have been 10 perfect games in that span, meaning they are now coming along every three seasons on average instead of every seven. In fact, perfect games before this year were fairly evenly spaced out, appearing in 1981, 1984, 1988, 1991, 1994, 1998, 1999, 2004 and 2009.

Perhaps it’s just a statistical oddity. Perhaps it’s the fact that, in the modern era, when someone does get on base, even if by a walk in what is otherwise a no-hitter, the odds of getting them out decrease. Perhaps it’s a reflection of the decline in fielding on some teams.

But if it means more perfect games, then I’m all for it.


NASCAR Driver Brian Vickers hospitalized with blood clots

He has two career wins. From AP-

NASCAR driver Brian Vickers was hospitalized with blood clots in his legs and around his lungs.

Red Bull Racing general manager Jay Frye says Vickers is on medication and was hopeful of being released from the hospital on Friday.

Frye says Vickers complained of discomfort on his chest and went to the hospital. He says the team is not sure what caused the clots.

Frye says there is “no timetable” for Vickers’ return.

The 26-year-old is in his seventh full season racing in NASCAR’s elite Sprint Cup Series. He has two career Cup wins and made the 12-driver Chase for the championship last season.

It sounds like Vickers suffered a pulmonary embolism which is very serious. I know about it from personal, a PE almost killed me in 2005. The medication Vickers will take is coumadin. It is a blood thinner and I’m still taking it today.

Vickers could be back racing very quickly. I hope he gets well soon.


Celtics Defeat Cavaliers In NBA Playoffs, LeBron James Speculation Begins

lebronjamesOnce again, LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers fell short in the quest for an NBA Championship:

BOSTON (AP) — The Boston Celtics sent LeBron James and the Cavaliers back to Cleveland to admire all of their regular-season accomplishments.

It’s the Celtics who are still in the chase for an NBA title.

Kevin Garnett scored 22 points and added 12 rebounds, and Rajon Rondo had 21 points and 12 assists to beat Cleveland 94-85 in Game 6 on Thursday night. Boston advanced to the Eastern Conference finals, which begin Sunday in Orlando against the Magic, who are 8-0 in the playoffs after sweeping the Charlotte Bobcats and the Atlanta Hawks in the opening rounds.

Despite his fifth career playoff triple-double, James is headed for another early offseason after winning a second MVP award and leading the Cavs to an NBA-best 61 wins and a home-court advantage they never got to use.

This one is destined to define the future of the franchise — and the rest of the NBA, too.

The LeBron watch began at 10:53 p.m., when Rondo dribbled out the last 14 seconds and the Celtics began celebrating. James is eligible to opt out of his contract this summer, a move that would make the two-time MVP — and zero-time NBA champion — a free agent and set off a scramble for his services from New York to Miami to Los Angeles and, of course, back in Cleveland.

”We know their team is fueled by one guy, and he has a hell of a supporting cast,” Garnett said. ”We knew that if we could somehow, someway control that supporting cast, then we had a good chance of beating this team.”

It’s long been speculated that this would be James’s last year in Cleveland if the Cavaliers didn’t win a Championship, and that he’d utilized the opt-out provision in his contract to move to a team that had a better chance of going all the way. Clevelanders, on the other hand, have always held out the hope that James’s ties to the community would keep him in town.

With the playoffs over once again for the Cavs, the ball is, quite literally, in LeBron’s court.


Kansas City Royals fire Manager Trey Hillman

He is the first skipper to get the axe in 2010. From ESPN-

Trey Hillman became the first manager to get fired this season when the Kansas City Royals let him go Thursday after a final win.Trey Hillman

Former Milwaukee Brewers manager Ned Yost, who had joined the Royals’ front office in January, immediately took over the team.

The Royals announced the move after beating the Cleveland Indians 6-4, a win that left Kansas City at 12-23 and last in the AL Central.

The 47-year-old Hillman was in his third season with the Royals and went 152-207. Kansas City was 75-87 in 2008 but then dropped into a last-place tie in 2009 at 65-97.

Yost managed the Brewers from 2003-08, when he was fired late in the season with the team in the playoff race. The Royals hired him last winter as a special adviser for baseball operations.

Hillman spent a 12 years working in the New York Yankees’ system and won a couple manager of the year awards in the minors. He then went to Japan for five years and was considered a major league manager-in-waiting.

The Royals have been dreadful since the mid-90′s. A team that once made it against all odds, now accumulating a record almost as pathetic as their predecessors(The Athletics) in KC. If not for Zach Greinke, the Royals would be certain to lose 100 games this year. They still may do it, and a change of manager isn’t about to alter the franchise’s fortunes.


New York/New Jersey Making Bid For 2014 Super Bowl

svNFL_wideweb__470x330,0The states of New York and New Jersey think that they can convince the National Football League to schedule a Super Bowl for January in an open-air stadium in the north:

There could be the commissioner’s party at the American Museum of Natural History and another party with a view of the Statue of Liberty from Liberty State Park. Maybe a breakfast at Tiffany & Company for team owners and their families. Perhaps even a Super Bowl float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

The bid to host the 2014 Super Bowl at New Meadowlands Stadium, portions of which were obtained by The New York Times in advance of its Wednesday unveiling, dresses the Super Bowl in a giant “I Love New York” T-shirt, spinning even the prospect of bad weather as a chance to go “old school” and embrace a link to some of the N.F.L.’s storied cold-weather games.

Yet for all the spectacular possibilities proposed, the mundane realities of dealing with winter are likely to dominate the conversation about the bid. The plan includes elaborate contingencies for Super Bowl week, everything from providing hand warmers to fans at the game to having hundreds of people standing by with shovels to dig out the stadium. No wonder the proposal calls other public spectacles that have played out in the area, like papal Masses, “practice” for the Super Bowl.

“The focus was on those things that only this community and this stadium can provide,” said one bid official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the plans were not final.

It would certainly be a change for the NFL’s marquee event. The Super Bowl has never been played outdoors in the north, and the coldest recorded game time temperature in Super Bowl history was 39 degrees during Super Bowl VI in New Orleans. New York’s weather in January could be much colder, and snow, ice, sleet, or rain are not at all out of the possibility.

But, the bidding committee is trying to turn the possibility of bad weather into a positive:

“Playing the game in a cold weather outdoor setting will add yet another element of intrigue,” it reads. “The game will take on the ‘old school’ feel of the great outdoor contests of the past, yet it will be played in one of the league’s most technologically advanced stadiums.”

The committee is prepared for the worst, though. The teams, which will practice at the Giants’ and the Jets’ new facilities in New Jersey, which both have indoor fields, will stay at hotels within a few miles of the sites. The bid is built on having up to 800 people with shovels ready to clear the stadium, although more could be added if needed.

Part of the bid calls for covering some of the openings in the stadium to cut down on the wind and for using heaters to warm the concourses. There will be seat and hand warmers. And perhaps fire pits in the parking lots before the game.

“We’re really trying to embrace the weather and make it more of a communal experience,” the bid official said

That does sound a bit like putting lipstick on a pig, but there’s no doubt that a Super Bowl held in something other than a climate-controlled or climate-perfect environment would add a new element to the game, quite literally.

Will the NFL owners be willing to take the risk ? I think they should.


16 again- Texas HS Basketball player really 22

Guerdwich Montimere first played high school basketball in Florida. From AP-

Police say a West Texas student who led his high school basketball team to the state playoffs last season was actually a 22-year-old man.Montimere

Police say the basketball star was really Guerdwich Montimere, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Haiti. School officials say he was recognized last month by Florida coaches as having once been a high school player in Fort Lauderdale.

Ector County school district officials say the man posed as 16-year-old Jerry Joseph and enrolled at Permian High School in Odessa.

The school’s basketball coach, Danny Wright, says he even let the boy live with him.

Montimere was arrested Tuesday and booked on a charge of presenting false identification to a peace officer.

A few years ago there was a 30-year-old playing high school soccer or here in Florida. BTW when I when I went to Deerfield Beach HS, we were in the same district as Dillard the Florida school that Montimere first attended.

This article questions whether Montimere is legally in the United States.


Report: Big Ten Makes Expansion Offers To Four Colleges

If this report from a Kansas City sports radio station is to believed, the Big Ten Conference is thinking big when it comes to expansion:

big_ten_mini_pennant_set_23109bigThe Big Ten Conference has extended initial offers to join the league to four universities including Missouri and Nebraska from the Big 12, according to multiple sources close to the negotiations.

While nothing can be approved until the Big Ten presidents and chancellors meet the first week of June in Chicago, the league has informed the two Big 12 schools, Notre Dame and Rutgers that it would like to have them join. It is not yet clear whether the Big Ten will expand to 14 or 16 teams but sources indicated Missouri and Nebraska are invited in either scenario.  Notre Dame has repeatedly declined the opportunity to join the Big Ten.  If Notre Dame remains independent, Rutgers would be the 14th team.  The Big Ten would then decide whether to stop at 14 or extend offers to two other schools.  If Notre Dame joins, sources say an offer will be extended to one other school making it a 16-team league.

All four are interesting choices, for different reasons.

Notre Dame, of course, is a prize that the Big Ten has been pursuing for years, but it’s always been the one that got away. Given their lucrative television contract and national fan base, remaining independent has always seemed to be to Notre Dame’s advantage. Times are changing, though, and the Fighting Irish aren’t what they used to be. Putting them at the center of a conference where they would be instantly competitive might just be what’s needed to reinvigorate a program still hurting from the Charlie Weis years.

Rutgers seems like a odd choice at first because of it’s geographic distance from the rest of the Conference, but there are two reasons why it makes sense. Under Greg Schiano, the Rutgers football program (and make no mistake, this expansion is mostly geared toward football) has become credible in a way that it never was before. When I attended there in the late 80s and the Scarlet Knights played a rare game against Michigan State, it was an occasion for laughter in Lansing, Michigan. Not anymore. Second, bringing in Rutgers gives the Big Ten access to two of the biggest media markets in the country, which would be a big deal for both football and basketball.

As for Missouri and Nebraska, it’s interesting that the Big Ten would be so brazen about poaching from the Big 12, but both schools would be excellent additions on the football side to a conference that has come to be dominated in recent years by Ohio State and Penn State. Bringing the Tigers and Cornhuskers into the conference, along with Rutgers and Notre Dame, would instantly make football season much more competitive.

All in all, this seems like a smart move for the Big Ten.


LPGA player Erica Blasberg dead at 25

This news is just shocking. The last active PGA or LPGA player* I can recall dying is Payne Stewart in 1999. Tony Lema died in 1966 less than 24 hours after competing in the PGA Championship but there is probably a more recent example. Heather Farr died of cancer at age 28 in 1993, but she hadn’t played the LPGA in 4 years before her death. Erica Blasberg

Blasberg had just finished T44 in Mexico last week. Her best ever LPGA finish was a tie for 8th in 2008.RIP.

The body of Erica Blasberg, an LPGA player, was found Sunday afternoon at her home in Henderson according to a police spokesman. The six-year tour player was 25 years old.< No cause of death was disclosed, according to a spokeswoman for the Clark County Coroner's Office, because of the pending investigation.

In her only start this season, Blasberg tied for 44th two weeks ago at the Tres Marias Championship in Morelia, Mexico, after having Monday qualified.

*- I deliberately omitted the Seniors or Champions Tour. Those players are older and a sudden death is more likely. Bert Yancey went into cardiac arrest in the scorer’s tent and died soon after. He was 56 at the time. Senior Tour player Jack Kiefer died in 1999 of spinal cancer a year after his last tour event.


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