Who needs the winter meetings? Apparently not Major League Baseball’s general managers, who, while evidently hopped up on krokodil, executed a flurry of trades and free-agent deals a week before the sport's offseason confab at Disney World. The 48-hour swirl of signings and swaps saw Jacoby Ellsbury commit the ultimate heel turn, the Nationals further solidify their starting rotation, and the A's begin filming their audition tape for Hoarders: Bullpen Strong. Tuesday's action was largely a series of middling moves and “my garbage for your trash” trades, but taken cumulatively, the effect was, well, startling.
As with any period of great upheaval, the stunned citizenry must have questions. Let's try to answer five of them, starting with the big one.
In case you were busy calling out traders on Twitter, here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday:
The Golden State Warriors exploded for 42 points in the fourth quarter as they overturned a 27-point deficit to beat the Toronto Raptors 112-103. Raptors head coach Dwane Casey was incensed after the game, saying, "The Warriors, they're who we thought they were. That's why we took the damn court." Casey then pounded the podium and yelled, "Now if you want to crown them, then crown their ass! But they are who we thought they were! And we let them off the hook." When told of Casey's comments, Warriors point guard Stephen Curry frowned and asked, "This doesn't mean I'm Rex Grossman, does it? Because I really don't want to be Rex Grossman."
In the marquee move of a busy day of major league hot stove action, sources are reporting that outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury will leave the world champion Boston Red Sox, having agreed to terms on a seven-year deal with the New York Yankees. When asked if he saw himself as following in the footsteps of former Red Sox outfielder Johnny Damon, who also moved to the Yankees after winning a World Series title, Ellsbury's eyes darted as he said, "What? No. Who? Who's Johnny Damon? You're crazy." When asked if he was Johnny Damon posing as Jacoby Ellsbury, Ellsbury glared and said, "Why can't you just be cool? If you were cool you wouldn't ask these questions." Ellsbury was then asked if he had ever existed, or if he had always been a clever ruse designed to extend Johnny Damon's career, to which Ellsbury replied, "Seriously, why won't you just let me have this? Please just let me have this."
In case you were busy waiting for some good news in the world of football, seriously, any good news, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday:
In a chippy Western Conference matchup that saw Matt Barnes and Serge Ibaka get ejected, Blake Griffin's double-double proved the difference as the Los Angeles Clippers beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 111-103. "It's not fair!" Ibaka yelled in the Thunder locker room after the game. "It doesn't make sense! Barnes pushed me. Why do I get ejected?" Thunder head coach Scott Brooks sat down next to his furious center, put his hand on Ibaka's back, and said, "Hey bud, sit down. Why do you think they ejected you?" But Ibaka snapped back, "Don't talk to me like that. I'm not a kid anymore, Scott! We're not kids anymore. We're grown men, and it's time you started treating us that way." Brooks smiled and said, "I know, Serge, come on," but Ibaka continued on, saying, "No! You don't know. They say you're a bad coach. They say you've always been a bad coach. Our offense is a joke. Griffin was laughing at our offense. They all were laughing. They all were laughing!" Ibaka balled up his fists and clenched his eyelids shut. Brooks looked at him and said, "Hey, bud. I get it. No one likes to be laughed at. But you don't fight my fights. We're all grown-ups here, Serge. Hey, Serge, look at me." Tears were visible in the corners of Ibaka's eyes as he shook his head, unable to look his coach in the eyes. "Sorry, Scott," Ibaka managed. "I just got carried away." Brooks touched Ibaka's head, told him, "No need to apologize," and started to walk away before turning back and adding, "You got ejected because they caught you fighting back. If you want to fight, you have to start it. That's part of being a man. Time to grow up, ace. Time to grow up."
One of the constants in baseball in the 2000s has been the Cardinals' and Red Sox's status as contenders. Not every year, sure, but most years. So while only a fool would attempt to predict the 2016 World Series matchup with certainty on October 1 of that year, let alone today, it's a safe bet these two franchises will soon find their way back to the big stage. Maybe they'll do it in the same season. Maybe that season will be 2016. Maybe we don't want to talk about PED allegations, and engaging in this little thought experiment seems like a better way to spend the first stretch of baseball's offseason.
So let's go head and assume. Let's assume the Cardinals and Red Sox, two organizations rife with considerable young talent, will meet again in the World Series three years from now. And let's predict what headlines we might encounter at that time.
In case you were busy coming around to the idea that Cowboys tight end Jason Witten is just the sort of guy who sometimes has to be yelled at, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday:
In what may prove to be the biggest upset of the entire NBA season, the Philadelphia 76ers stormed out to an early 19-0 lead before holding on late to beat the two-time defending champion Miami Heat 114-110. Rookie point guard Michael Carter-Williams looked like a star, putting up 22 points, 12 assists, nine steals, and seven rebounds in his NBA debut. Unfortunately, Carter-Williams was shut down for the season after the game by 76ers GM Sam Hinkie for what he described as "precautionary reasons." When asked to clarify, Hinkie said, "I'm hoping this will serve as a precaution to the rest of the team as to where looking like a star will get you."
The Red Sox are your 2013 World Series champions after John Lackey powered Boston past the St. Louis Cardinals, 6-1, in a deciding Game 6. "Just as I predicted," said Boston superfan Aaron Sullivan. "Lackey brings us another banner. Never doubted that it would happen." When asked specifically when he made that prediction, Sullivan replied, "Fourth inning, right after we went up 6-0. And I swear I only backed off it three or four times," before promising to name one of his middle children John Lackey Sullivan, assuming that one of them came out looking a little squished.
For the second time in five games, Jon Lester annihilated the Cardinals lineup and now has the Red Sox on the brink of winning their third World Series in the past decade. As crazy as it is to say this about any Red Sox–related story, it feels like not enough is being made of this.
As a 22-year-old rookie back in 2006, Lester was diagnosed with cancer, specifically anaplastic large cell lymphoma. After the season, he went in for chemotherapy treatments. He started the next season at Single-A ball. By July 23, he was back in the big leagues. In October of that year, he won the World Series–clinching Game 4 in Colorado. A year after that, he was one of the 10 best pitchers in the game, posting a strong 3.21 ERA and getting hitters out by mixing well-placed fastballs, cutters, and curves, without throwing overwhelmingly hard. In less than two years, he went from pondering his mortality at a ludicrously young age to becoming a 210-inning workhorse pitching in a brutally tough environment in the toughest division in baseball.
In case you were busy polishing the screenplay for your gritty new take on Entourage, here's what you missed in sports on Monday:
Jon Lester and Koji Uehara were too much for the Cardinals as the Boston Red Sox now stand one win away from their third World Series title in a decade after beating St. Louis 3-1. "Dus-tone," Red Sox infielder Mike Napoli called across the locker room to his teammate Dustin Pedroia after the game. "This beard thing has really worked out, huh?" Pedroia smiled and said, "Yeah, yeah man, sure has. Can't wait to win this ring and shave this bad boy off." "What?" a stunned Napoli replied. "Shave it? Nah, man, you can't. You're the Mighty Mighty Dus-tone, and I am Mike Skapoli and together we're beard bros forever." Pedroia looked away from his teammate and said, "It's my wife. She's serious. No offseason beards." Napoli nodded at his teammate, but his eyes betrayed his disappointment. "It's for the best," Pedroia assured him, but it took all of Napoli's nerve to force an awkward smile.
In case you were busy regretting your attempt to introduce that exchange student living in your home to the joyful simplicity of America's pastime, here's what you missed in sports last weekend:
A weird weekend in the World Series left the Cardinals and Red Sox knotted at two games apiece, after Saturday's game ended on an obstruction call that handed St. Louis a 5-4 victory, and Sunday's game closed with a Koji Uehara pickoff in Boston's 4-2 win. "What a weekend!" declared MLB rules aficionado Peter Greggsman. "The only way it could have been better is if one of these stadiums had been a dome, so we could get some catwalk interference in there." Greggsman's demeanor then darkened, before he added, "The real tragedy though is that the World Series can't end on an infield fly call. No game can." Greggsman then pounded his fist on his Hardball Times Baseball Annual and cried to the heavens, "Oh founders of baseball, you've cursed us with the possibility of perfection, yet made it as impossible to witness as a local game without digital cable! Damn you apocryphal Abner Doubleday! Damn you straight to the fictional hell you belong in!"
Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson amassed 329 receiving yards, the second-most in NFL history behind former Rams receiver Flipper Anderson, as Detroit came from behind late to stun the Dallas Cowboys 31-30. Meanwhile, back at his New Jersey home, Anderson cracked a bottle of champagne as the game ended. Not because his record was preserved; that would be incredibly tacky. Who would do that? No, he popped a bottle of champagne because it pairs well with the panko-crusted halibut he whipped up for his wife as a special Sunday treat.
The Cardinals beat the Red Sox, 4-2, on Thursday night, sending the World Series back to St. Louis in a 1-1 tie. They won largely because one pitcher didn't do his job. It's baseball, that happens. But with the game on the line, the Sox and manager John Farrell didn't use their best pitcher. That's less Farrell's fault specifically as it is a fundamental misuse of resources by all 30 current major league managers, the 30 men they replaced, and the next 30 to follow.
It needs to stop. If not in the regular season, then at the very least in the postseason.
A sterling combined effort from a trio of rookie pitchers led the St. Louis Cardinals to a 4-2 win over the Boston Red Sox, evening up the World Series at a game apiece. The game hinged on the Cardinals' aggressive baserunning and a clutch hit from veteran outfielder Carlos Beltran, once again proving that the same things that won big games in the mid-'60s will still win them today.
The pitching matchup for Game 1 of the World Series looked like a potential mismatch. The overmatched team would have to compensate by grinding out productive at-bats, playing better defense than the team in the other dugout, and getting at least a decent performance from its own starter.
Turns out it was a mismatch, but not the way you might've expected. Jon Lester, not Adam Wainwright, was the pitcher in complete control Wednesday night. Throw in the Red Sox's productive at-bats and superior defense, and we got a blowout. Boston 8, St. Louis 1.
In case you were out giving the ol' trick-or-treat route a dry run, much to the chagrin of everyone on Greenleaf Street, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday:
Jon Lester and the Boston Red Sox opened the World Series in dominant fashion, beating a sloppy St. Louis Cardinals team 8-1. "We may have played sloppy tonight," said freshly shaven Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma after the game, "but at least we didn't look sloppy. I mean, seriously the Red Sox looked, whoops—" Kozma then fumbled the microphone he was speaking into and bent over to try to pick it up, only to somehow trip over his own shoes, leading to an awkward three-quarters front flip. Writhing in visible pain on the ground, Kozma then added, "As I was saying, seriously, they looked terrible. I could smell sneeze off of Jacoby Ellsbury's beard from the dugout. Have some dignity. Also, I think I just threw my back out."
More bad news for Cardinals fans: Outfielder Carlos Beltran, who was playing in his first career World Series game, was diagnosed with bruised ribs suffered while he was making a grand slam–saving catch. Beltran's injury, however, was good news for fans of correcting people who refer to things as being ironic, when what they mean is coincidental and tragic.