Sports Outside the Beltway

Arizona Diamondback P Edwin Jackson throws a no-hitter

Jackson pitched for the Tampa Bay Rays as recently as two years ago. From AP-

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Edwin Jackson had a chance to finish the ugliest of the no-hitters in this the Year of the Pitcher, and nothing was going to stop of him.APTOPIX Diamondbacks Rays Baseball

Not Arizona manager A.J. Hinch. Certainly not the Tampa Bay Rays.

Barreling ahead despite a soaring pitch count, Jackson tossed the fourth no-hitter of the season Friday night, beating his former team 1-0 despite walking eight, hitting a batter and watching another reach base on an error.

It took an astounding 149 pitches — most in the majors in five years — to complete the second no-hitter in Arizona history.

“We talked every inning after about the sixth because I was checking on him. It’s such a complicated situation with the game in the balance and him chasing a no-hitter,” Hinch said.

“He kept saying he was fine and, `I’m not coming out, I’m not coming out, I’m not coming out.’ As the momentum built and the situation grew, it was pretty evident he had an extra gear. It’s something to celebrate.”

All but one of Jackson’s walks came in the first three innings, but the Rays still were no-hit for the third time in less than a year, including perfect games by Dallas Braden at Oakland on May 9 and Mark Buehrle at Chicago last July 23.

Colorado’s Ubaldo Jimenez no-hit Atlanta on April 17 and Philadelphia’s Roy Halladay tossed a perfect game at Florida on May 29. Detroit’s Armando Galarraga lost his perfect game with two outs in the ninth on a blown call by umpire Jim Joyce.

Jackson’s no-hitter was only the 2nd in Diamondback history and was the first ever thrown at Tropicana Field.

Three no-hitters in a year is hardly unprecedented. In 1969, six no-hitters were thrown. I don’t know if that is a record, it is just the only year with more than five that I could come up with glancing quickly.


Dallas Cowboys Uniform Changing for 2010?

The upcoming season will mark the 50th anniversary of the Dallas Cowboys. And they may mark it with a subtle uniform change that many of us have been begging for for some time.

Richie Whitt, Dallas Observer:

For years and years and years me and my brother have wondered why the Cowboys’ home pants looked – from some angles, in a certain light – green. Ish. Turns out it’s because they are. Tex Schramm designed them that unique shade because, on TV, it came across blue-gray-silver.

“When fans go to our home games in person the No. 1 grief we hear about is the green pants,” says Cowboys vice president of merchandising Bill Priakos. “Now we’re hearing it from fans watching on TV because of HD. It’s too realistic.”

On old-school TV, Cowboys’ green came across silver. On HD TV, Cowboys’ green comes across, well, green.

The solution might be a rare, subtle uniform tweak.

“Nothing’s set in stone,” Priakos says. “But we want the pants to look silver, to be consistent to every fan no matter if they’re at the game or watching on TV, whether we’re home or on the road. Of course, we’ll never change the home white jerseys or the helmets, but we’re experimenting with some different shades in the pants.”

While the Cowboys have had very little change in their uniforms since moving from their original blue and white unis to the current silver and blue in 1966, the divergence in colors between their home and away uniforms has long seemed odd. Here are their official colors:

So, there are actually seven variations on the silver alone! The helmet doesn’t match either set of pants! And there are two distinct blues: a royal for the trim on the home white jerseys and a navy for the helmet star and stripe and the road jerseys. More confusingly, the “throwback” alternate uniform, modeled after the franchise’s original uni, is navy and white even though royal was the team’s official blue until late in the 1980s.

My druthers would be for the silver on the helmets and the pants to match — and for the same set of pants to be used for both main uniforms — and for one blue to be used across the three uniforms, with the helmet star and jersey matching. And, while royal is old school, the navy should likely be that blue.


Florida Marlins fire Manager Fredi Gonzalez

Coaches Jim Presley and Carlos Tosca were also given the boot. From the Miami Herald-

The Florida Marlins have fired manager Fredi Gonzalez and two coaches.Fredi Gonzalez

Edwin Rodriguez, manager at Triple A New Orleans, has been named interim manager.

“We believe we can do better and be better,” owner Jeffrey Loria said in a written statement. “Everybody knows how I feel about winning. That’s the reason we’re making this change.”

Loria said before the season he had high expectations for the Marlins, who improved to 34-36 with Tuesday night’s victory against the Orioles and are in fourth place in the National League East.

Also let go were hitting coach Jim Presley and bench coach Carlos Tosca.

“We still have a long season in front of us, and plenty of time to turn things around,” Loria said.

The Marlins have been burdened by a poor bullpen and slow starts by two of their top hitters, Hanley Ramirez and Chris Coghlan. Defensively, they continue to rank among the worst fielding teams in the majors.

Gonzalez took over as Marlins manager in 2007 when Joe Girardi was fired after one season. Gonzalez has a record of 276-279 with the Marlins and finished with winning records in 2008 and 2009. He won more games than any manager in Marlins history, including World Series winners Jack McKeon and Jim Leyland.

The Marlins has an owner that till only recently, avoided paying out big bucks for talent. Nevertheless Loria has expected miracles from his managers, and mediocrity or insubordination(Joe Girardi) won’t be tolerated.

I thought the firing of Girardi was dumb. As for mediocrity, what can be expected from a team on a limited budget that always has to pin its hopes on some untried prospect? World Series Rings IMHO can’t be expected under those circumstances.

Before today’s firing, Gonzalez was threatening the record for the longest tenure as Florida Marlin manager. The odd thing is, Gonzalez has managed the most games as Marlins manager. What Florida skipper had a longer tenure but managed a smaller amount of games? The answer is beneath the fold.

All that said, Gonzalez has never impressed me as an in game manager. Last week’s lineup snafu is just one of many blunders Gonzalez made during his tenure. The Marlins needed a skipper who can manage and Gonzalez I’m sorry to say, wasn’t the person for the job.


Florida Panthers trade Nathan Horton to Boston

Will the last scorer please turn off the lights at the Bank Atlantic Center. From the Sun-SentinelNathan Horton2-

The Panthers traded right winger Nathan Horton to the Bruins on Tuesday, along with forward Gregory Campbell, for the 15th pick in this year’s draft, defenseman Dennis Wideman and a third-round pick in 2011.

Panthers General Manager Dale Tallon said Horton asked to be traded in Tallon’s initial conversation with the winger after he was hired.

“He showed frustration and felt maybe it would be better if he was able to go somewhere else,” Tallon said.

Horton, 25, was the Panthers’ second-longest tenured player. They drafted him No. 3 in 2003. He was the team’s second-leading scorer this past season, finishing with 57 points (20 goals) in 65 games. He missed 17 games with a broken leg.

Horton was happy to be moving on to Boston.

“I’m not going to say anything bad about the [Panthers] organization, but there have been five coaches in the time I’ve been there,” Horton said. “Now I’m going to a stable, historic organization. I’m very excited. I’m going to give it all I’ve got. I think it’s going to be good.”

Horton said not getting a chance to play in the playoffs has been hard to deal with.

“As a player, that’s the best part of playing hockey,” he said. “When you don’t make them for seven years, I just think it’s too long. It can’t happen. With this [Bruins] organization, it just doesn’t happen. It’s exciting for me just to come and be a part of it.”

Horton has 142 goals and 153 assists in 422 career games.

Tallon said Horton “was frustrated with what had gone on in the past and was leaning toward, if we could help him out, seeing what was out there for him. That’s how this all began.” Tallon said when he told Horton of the trade this morning, “he thanked me.”

Wideman, 27, had six goals and 24 assists for the Bruins this past season and averaged more than 23 minutes of ice time.

First, I’m not going to miss Gregory Campbell. He was an almost total offensive zero last season who got way too much playing time because he was Coach Peter DeBoer’s pet(He coached Campbell in junior leagues). For that reason I think DeBoer was bypassed in the decision making progress that led to this trade. Unless Florida plays well next year, I bet DeBoer won’t be back for the 2011-12 NHL season.

As for Horton, he’s been an underacheiver with a poor work ethic on a team that at best muddles their way through an NHL season. Trading him for a #15 is great but leaves the Panthers with a big offensive hole. 5 draft selections in the top 50 picks are great, but none of them are likely to play in the next NHL season, alone have any kind of impact. Florida could take the pick and trade for someone. Names that are being floated around include Jeff Carter, Jason Spezza, or Kris Versteeg. Florida’s new General Manager came from Chicago, so Versteeg would be the obvious one of the three above but I like Carter the most.

Also blogging on the Horton trade- Donny at the Litter Box and Stanley Cup of Chowder.


Former NBA Giant Manute Bol Dies At 47

1237813050_0Manute Bol, who literally towered over the NBA for ten years, died yesterday at 47 after contracting a skin disease:

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Manute Bol, a lithe 7-foot-7 shot-blocker from Sudan who spent 10 seasons in the NBA and was dedicated to humanitarian work in Africa, died Saturday. He was 47.

Bol died at the University of Virginia Hospital in Charlottesville, where he was being treated for severe kidney trouble and a painful skin condition, Tom Prichard, executive director of the group Sudan Sunrise, said in an e-mail.

“Sudan and the world have lost a hero and an example for all of us,” Prichard said. “Manute, we’ll miss you. Our prayers and best wishes go out to all his family, and all who mourn his loss.”

Bol played in the NBA with Washington, Golden State, Philadelphia and Miami, averaging 2.6 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.3 blocks for his career. He led the league in blocks in 1985-86 with Washington (5.0 per game) and in 1988-89 with Golden State (4.3 a game).

“Manute’s impact on this city, our franchise and the game of basketball cannot be put into words,” 76ers president and general manager Ed Stefanski said in a statement. “He … was continually giving of himself through his generosity and humanitarian efforts in order to make the world around him a much better place, for which he will always be remembered.”

In the years after he left the NBA, Bol devoted himself to humanitarian work in his native Sudan and had actually just returned from there to start a project to build a new school in his home village. It’s believed that the skin disease he contracted may be related to something he encountered on that trip.


MLB Players Like Jim Joyce, Don’t Like Instant Replay

0603-galarraga-joyce-story.h2A new survey of Major League Baseball players reveals that their favorite umpire is Jim Joyce, the man who blew a call that cost Armando Galarraga a perfect game, and that they don’t like instant replay:

Jim Joyce, the umpire whose missed call deprived Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga of a perfect game on June 2, is baseball’s best umpire nonetheless, according to an exclusive ESPN The Magazine Baseball Confidential poll of 100 major league players.

In general, however, baseball players think the umpires are pretty good. Overall, 29 percent of the players surveyed gave the umpires a “B” grade, with 20 percent giving them a “C” and 16 percent and “A.”

Players also were decidedly opposed to replay and overwhelmingly applauded commissioner Bud Selig for not overturning Joyce’s call that kept Galarraga from being the 21st pitcher in history to throw a perfect game.

Joyce was named in 53 percent of the surveys, which asked players for the three best and three worst umpires in the game, as well as questions about instant replay and whether Galarraga’s perfect game should stand. That beat runner-up Tim McClelland, who ironically was panned for his performance in Game 4 of last year’s American League Championship Series. McClelland was named on 34 percent of the ballots.

Joyce, in his 22nd year in the majors, was the clear choice of National League players, with Jim Wolf (18 percent) second. Joyce and McClelland, a 27-year veteran, tied for first among American League players (52 percent) — both were former AL umpires before baseball combined its umpires into one entity in 1999.

CB Bucknor was named on 42 percent of the ballots as worst umpire, leading that category. The total narrowly edged Joe West, who was named on 40 percent, and Angel Hernandez, who was named on 22 percent.

The survey was taken after Joyce’s call, which came on what would have been the final out of a perfect game for Galarraga. Joyce called Cleveland’s Jason Donald safe at first on a ground ball hit to first baseman Miguel Cabrera, who threw to Galarraga covering the bag. Replays showed Donald was clearly out.

Here are some of the results:

Grade the umps:
1. B: 29%
2. C: 20%
3. A: 16%
Average grade: B

Replay on the bases?
Yes: 22%
No: 77%
Maybe: 1%

Replay on fair/foul calls?
Yes: 36%
No: 62%
Not sure: 2%

Overturn calls in Galarraga game?
Yes: 13%
No: 86%
Not sure: 1%

Interesting to say that least, and if the players don’t want instant replay then perhaps those clamoring for it need to stop and think for a bit.


USA Beats England in Thrilling 1-1 Tie

The US beat England in a thrilling 1-1 tie to open the World Cup.

That’s a bit tongue-in-check, of course, but certainly the outcome is being considered a “win” for Team USA (indeed, I’ve received a congratulatory email for the “soccer success” from a European) and a crushing disappointment for the country which invented the sport.

The record will show it was a tie, but it was hardly that.

One found renewed confidence; the other is going to feel the heat back home.

The United States and England played to a 1-1 draw Saturday night in the World Cup, with the Americans rallying when Clint Dempsey scored on a blunder by goalkeeper Robert Green and U.S. goalie Tim Howard withstood a second-half barrage by Wayne Rooney and his celebrated teammates.

Steven Gerrard put England ahead in the fourth minute, blowing past Ricardo Clark to beat Howard from short range. But Dempsey tied it when Green fumbled his 25-yard shot that skipped off the ground twice.

“It was a difficult game,” Gerrard said. “I think the important thing in the first game is not to lose. Unfortunately we’ve let a poor goal in and we couldn’t go on and get the winner.

As an American, where even meaningless games in sports with 162-game regular seasons are played until someone wins, the idea of ending a match in the most important championship tournament on the planet in a tie still boggles the mind. But that’s the tradition in this game, where scoring opportunities are few and far between.


LA Angel 1B Kendry Morales out for the year with a fractured leg

He was leading the team in homeruns before getting hurt. From ESPN-

Los Angeles Angels first baseman Kendry Morales had surgery on his broken left ankle Thursday, and afterward the team said Morales was expected to miss the rest of the season.

Doctors had originally said Morales could begin bearing weight on his left leg within four to six weeks of the surgery and might be able to return in September. The surgery was delayed for 12 days by swelling in the area of the fractured fibula.

Morales broke his leg celebrating his game-winning grand slam May 29. He was batting .290 with 11 home runs and 39 RBIs when he was injured.

It was a fluke accident. Now MLB needs a rule to prevent these things from happening again. More beneath the fold.


Nebraska and Colorado Bolt Big 12: Who’s Next?

The long-predicted collapse of the Big 12 athletic conference — and perhaps college sports as we know it — seems about to happen.

Nebraska is going to the Big Ten and Colorado to the Pac-10, with many other teams expected to flee as well as the big football powers race to establish 16-team super-conferences.

The Boulder (Colo.) Daily Camera reported early Thursday morning that the University of Colorado has officially accepted an invitation to join the Pac-10 and will make the announcement publicly at a 1 p.m. ET press conference on Friday. The Camera says multiple people with knowledge of the move confirmed the news.

Colorado’s addition would give the Pac-10 a total of 11 schools, but speculation persists that the league will also look to bring in Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech to give the conference 16 teams.

The Texas schools seem to hold the keys to the survival of the Big 12 in some form:

Texas and Texas A&M officials are scheduled to meet to discuss the future of their athletic programs and the Big 12 amid speculation the league could be raided by rival conferences and broken apart.

Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds has said he wants to keep the Big 12 together.

Thursday’s meeting at an undisclosed location comes on the heels of reports that Nebraska could be ready to bolt the Big 12 for the Big Ten and Colorado could move to the Pac-10.  Baylor and Texas Tech officials have said that even if the Big 12 breaks apart, they want to remain with Texas and Texas A&M as members of the same conference.

That’s going to be difficult, however.   Texas and A&M are big prizes in college football and Tech has had some recent success.  Baylor . . . not so much.

Still, the Big Ten has, despite the name, had eleven members since Penn State joined in 1993.  Adding Nebraska brings them to 12 and adding the four Texas schools would bring them to the magic 16.   Thing is, they’d much rather have Notre Dame than Baylor.

It’s hard to get particularly nostalgic for the Big 12, itself an amalgamation of the old Big 8 and the carcass of the venerable South West Conference.  It’s only been competing since 1996.  But we appear ready for an arms race for the good football schools that will destroy some of the smaller conferences and, quite possibly, the NCAA.

Sportswriter David Moulton:

Nebraska leaving the Big 12 for the Big Ten is the college sports equivalent of the Archduke Ferdinand being assassinated. His death set off a chain reaction that led to World War I. Nebraska’s shot has set off a chain reaction that will ultimately lead to the death of the Big 12, the Big East, the athletic irrelevancy of major universities and all their sports not named football.

How could this happen?

The roots began four years ago when the Big Ten went looking for more money from ESPN for their product. ESPN said “No.” The Big Ten said, “If you don’t give us more money, we’ll have to start our own network.” ESPN didn’t, so the Big Ten did. The Big Network kicked off in 2007 and regionalized the conference — a bad move which would have to be corrected by expansion — while also becoming a cash cow.


Despite all this incompetence, the only moves that had to take place were the Big Ten, Pac-10 and Big East becoming 12-team conferences. Why? Because BCS bylaws state that to have a conference championship game in football (big $$$) you need 12 teams. The only question that mattered became, who would the Big Ten add?

Immediately, Nebraska raised its hand. The Big Ten would offer them triple their current TV revenue. Of course, they didn’t really want to replace Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas with Indiana, Illinois and Northwestern. Nebraska just wanted more money. Who controls the money in the Big 12? Texas. When Nebraska asked one final time last week to get TV revenue shared equally, the Big 12 (i.e., Texas) said “No.”


Yet despite everything that had transpired the last four years, the school that could have stopped all of this as late as 48 hours ago was Notre Dame. Because they were the only school the Big Ten wanted. If Notre Dame earlier this week, had said to the Big Ten, “OK, you win. Instead of all this crazy expansion talk, blowing up conferences, and us being on the outside looking in, what if we agree to join your conference? Will you then stop the madness?”

On last night’s PTI, Tony Kornheiser suggested that the upshot of all this will be maybe four major conferences, each with 16 teams — thus, 64 total — driving the bus.  And, with all the major football schools in four conferences, who needs the NCAA and it’s pesky rules about academics — much less sharing the massive television revenue with weak sister schools with lousy football teams?

Interestingly, the first of the super-conferences, the vaunted Southeastern Conference (SEC), is keeping its powder dry at the moment. But longtime Atlanta Journal-Constitution hand Tony Barnhart thinks this may be the calm before the storm.

There are also reports out there that very quietly, Mike Slive and his folks at the SEC could still invite Texas and Texas A&M if the Big 12 breaks up. Would Oklahoma and Oklahoma State come along? Yes, I know about the Pac-10 offer to the six Big 12 teams (Texas, A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Colorado). But as one official put it to me yesterday: Do you think DeLoss Dodds (the Texas athletics director) would rather send his women’s softball team to Pullman, Washington (home of  Pac-10 member Washington State) or Tuscaloosa, Ala? I know all about the academic arguments in favor of the Pac-10. I’ll believe it when I see it.

Notice that Baylor’s not on that list, either.

Who cares, though, really?   Big-time college football is about money, after all.  And even with geographically spread-out conferences, schools would only have to take long road trips a few times a season.    But, oops, there are other sports!   Baseball and basketball play much longer schedules and many, many more games each season.   And basketball coaches, like Kansas’ Bill Self, are not happy.

The decisions being made in the ivory towers of presidents’ offices and conference commissioners’ meeting rooms are driven solely by the promise of a potential pigskin-inspired financial windfall.

Nowhere is that more evident than at 1651 Naismith Drive, where Kansas has gone from storied, tradition-laden program of lore to afterthought. If the rumored Pac-16 models are to be believed, the University of Kansas could soon be a sports vagabond, left searching for a new conference home to cobble together.

The Jayhawks would have plenty of company but that Kansas — Kansas — is hanging by a thread tells you just how much of an ugly stepchild basketball has become in this process.   “We play on Naismith Drive; the father of coaching [Phog Allen] was our second coach; Adolph Rupp and Dean Smith went to school here; the most dominant player in the game in Wilt went to school here,’’ KU head coach Bill Self said. “And it’s not like we haven’t lived up to it lately. … But here we are potentially trying to find a home? I don’t get that.’’

But, of course, he does.   Football is the money machine in college sports and Kansas is only occasionally a major player in that sport.


Stephen Strasburg Impresses In Major League Debut

4684450947_131b1bb9f9If you live in the Washington, D.C. area, then you’ve been part of the hype about the Washington Nationals latest new phenom Stephen Strasburg, which started long before he’d ever thrown a single pitch in a Major League game. Last night, we learned that the hype may just have been justified:

WASHINGTON — For all the hype and expectations, projected debut dates guessed and re-guessed, every word and soundbite, millions though they were, one typically critical detail of a starting pitcher’s pregame routine was absent Tuesday night.

Nationals rookie Stephen Strasburg never looked at a scouting report of his opponent.

“I was just trusting everything he called,” Strasburg said after the game, referring to his future Hall of Fame catcher, Ivan Rodriguez.

Strasburg said it so earnestly that maybe he didn’t understand the magnitude of what he had just accomplished. Hailed as the savior of baseball in D.C., the No. 1 overall pick of the 2009 draft, whom some scouts described as the greatest pitching prospect of all time, had somehow managed to match or even exceed the exorbitant expectations placed upon him by striking out a Nationals-record 14 batters in seven innings of no-walk, two-run ball in a 5-2 win over the Pirates.  He interspersed 100 mph fastballs between curveballs and changeups that plummeted to the earth as if gravity’s pull suddenly grew stronger just before home plate.

“I can’t really put it into words any better than you saw,” said manager Jim Riggleman. “It was just a great night for baseball in Washington.”

As commentator George Will, a Nationals season-ticket holder who was among the sellout crowd of 40,315, once wrote, “Sports serve society by providing vivid examples of excellence.

Only time will tell if Strasburg becomes a truly great pitcher, or whether he burns out after a few seasons. So far, though, he’s doing well.


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