In honor of the Scripps-Howard National Spelling Bee coming up this Wednesday and Thursday, you will find one of the winning words from the last 10 years of competition in each entry. When they don't fit naturally — which will be always, if my prospicience can be trusted, since they're weird and useless for all practical purposes — I will heroically shoehorn them in like a stubborn cobbler.
Here now are the highlights from the upcoming weekend in professional American baseball.
10. How to Become Nationally Irrelevant — Move to Toronto (Saturday, BAL-TOR)
This is in honor of R.A. Dickey, who you may remember as the feel-good story of 2012 when he and his knuckleball amassed a 20-6 record and won the NL Cy Young Award. In New York.
Repeat: in New York.
You may have noticed after reading his name that we have not heard much from R.A. Dickey this season. Sure, he's lost some velocity, and that may not be as irrelevant as you think for a knuckleballer. And his stats — 4-5, 4.50 ERA — are much worse than last year. But I still have a few questions. First, how would he have done last season in a division where he'd be pitching about half his starts against teams that scored a combined 2,947 runs, as opposed to 2,724? And would his excellent story of overcoming adversity have been so prominent if he weren't pitching in New York? And would he have won a Cy Young that probably should've gone to Clayton Kershaw (well, OK, obviously not since he would've been playing in the American League, but you get what I'm saying)? This is all hypothetical, and predicting what might have happened is about as reliable as constructing a neanderthal Ursprache, but it does make you wonder. In any case, he was one of the best parts of last season, and here's hoping he's got some fireworks left in the old arm — the long-range kind, that can reach us across the border.
When he's not serving as the ace of the New York Yankees pitching rotation, CC Sabathia can usually be found at home battling his kids in whatever video game he can find. We had a chance to catch up with Sabathia to ask him about games, baseball, and more.
What's the game of choice in the House of Sabathia?
We play a number of games, but the one everyone can play is Skylander Giants. We have some battles in that game.
What about sports games?
I play sports games with my oldest son. We play a lot of baseball.
Who gets to be the Yankees?
He gets to be the Yankees. I have to be the Dodgers. It's OK because they've got a good team this year. I can do pretty well with Zack Greinke or Clayton Kershaw.
And we are BACK, with your all-purpose* guide to the weekend in MLB action.
*Single-purpose, really. It's super limited in function. You can only read it.
10. no. 2 UNC vs. no. 3 Virginia (Friday, 8 p.m. and Saturday, 2 p.m., ESPN3)
Whoa! Super controversial start! Who is this guy? He must think way outside the box to be including a college baseball game in a post specifically dedicated to MLB. What a challenging artistic choice! I imagine people will have split reactions, but it'll definitely get them talking!
OK, this is here because college baseball gets zero attention, and this is a great series. UNC is 46-7 and UVA is 44-8. Both teams have gaudy statistics; the lowest batting average among UNC's top nine hitters is .278, while the Cavs aren't far behind. But the real attraction here is Carolina's pitching staff, which boasts a 2.50 ERA. Benton Moss and Hobbs Johnson are the starters for the weekend, and we could see both in the bigs someday soon. Anyway, if you're ever going to watch a college baseball game before the College World Series, this is a good start. And I swear, the fact that I'll be at one or both games has nothing to do with why I included it here. (Lies.)
In case you were out looking at buffalo and thanking the heavens that you never had to actually traverse the Oregon Trail by wagon, here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday:
Paul George and the Indiana Pacers remained red hot at home as they pushed the New York Knicks to the brink of elimination with a 93-82 win. This battle of the second- and third-best teams in the Eastern Conference has now tilted firmly in favor of Indiana, which has New York residents stunned. "This was our year," said Daniel Czaplinski of Woodside. "We at least had to make it to the Heat. The Pacers? Gimme a break. Who the heck are they?" When asked if he had seen the Pacers play at all this season, Czaplinski said, "Yeah, they had that Zeller kid, and Oladipo. Not sure what happened to them, but Melo shouldn't be letting this George Paul guy take over. This is an abomination and all these bums should be fired."
The Spurs grabbed a pivotal Game 5 win in the friendly confines of San Antonio, beating the Golden State Warriors, 109-91, behind 25 points and 10 assists from Tony Parker. Parker, a noted French person from Belgium, was quietly finishing off a pack of Gauloises after the game before he mused about the idea of a falcon he had in his mind. "You know, bird that does not exist, your ability to fly is less impressive to some because of your lack of corporeal form. But to me, nonexistent falcon I just named Tweet-Tweet, you are more impressive, as you at least know you do not exist, where as real falcons contend daily with the illusion of reality." After a brief pause when Tweet-Tweet likely asked Parker for his last Gauloise, as Parker dropped one onto the ground next to him, Parker added, "And that is how I defeat the Warriors. They expect me to move at speeds, or to distribute the basketball. But that's all the secondary creative act. The original creative act was forgetting my own creation. Here, let me imagine a treatise for you to read." Unfortunately, Tweet-Tweet does not read French, and used Parker's imaginary philosophical text as bedding for his imaginary nest.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports over the weekend.
Matt Kenseth managed to avoid a 25-car pileup on his way to earning a Sprint Cup victory at Talladega Superspeedway. Kyle Busch, car No. 25 in the pileup, later admitted that he drove in mostly because he "wanted to see what it was like." The only non-car in the pileup, Rex Ryan, said he heard there were free pastries.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday.
The NFL and the referee union released a joint statement last night announcing they had reached an agreement to end the lockout. Unfortunately, this probably means that troubled ex-Charger Ryan Leaf is now out of a job as a Division III line judge.
The baseball season is a long and lonely road. To preserve his sanity, Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter keeps a diary. These are excerpts from The Captain's private journal.
Now that the All-Star Game is in the rearview mirror, I guess it's safe to tell the truth: Any player who's already been to more than one of those things would rather have a couple extra days of vacation than have to show up for it. Except me, naturally — it's always a huge honor to be selected and to play alongside the best in the league, especially now that we're out there battling for home-field advantage. I'm not going to be one of those ingrates who complains about how he could be in St. Barts, or Bora Bora, or recharging his batteries at his 30,000-square-foot compound in Florida. Playing baseball for a living is a blessing, and it would be crazy not to appreciate every single bonus moment of competition you're lucky enough to have the fans impose on you while most of your teammates were left home to nurse their sore hammies or strained obliques so that they can come out of the gate strong for the second half. You have to savor those extra innings you're asked to play in the sweltering mid-July heat, for a manager you're probably going to face for the pennant. It's a great gift every time. Especially when you're a veteran who doesn't know how many more chances you might get to re-experience something you've done 13 or so times before.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday.
It's official. The Knicks announced Tuesday night that they won't match Houston's offer for point guard Jeremy Lin. "I have a feeling if we play hard to get, ole Mr. Lon is gonna come crawling right back to Big Daddy Jim," said Knicks owner James Dolan, mispronouncing Lin's last name hours after the guard tweeted that he was excited to join the Rockets.
Here are the most compelling matchups, stories, and personalities in Major League Baseball for the coming weekend.
The extended All-Star break is officially the worst development in American sports. What am I supposed to do with my life? Actually go outside? No thanks. The only time I want to go outside is if there's an outdoor TV showing baseball. And even then, why not bring the TV inside where there are chips? Baseball players are selfish and should be forced to play tripleheaders for the rest of the season.
Here are the most alluring matchups, stories, and personalities for the coming weekend.
10. Warm-Weather Sabathia, Friday (NYY-DET)
Like a bear slowly shaking off the cobwebs of hibernation, CC Sabathia usually needs a couple months to find his groove. From 2009 to 2011, his ERA was 3.30 in April and 3.69 in May before dropping to 3.03 and 2.60 in June and July. This year has essentially followed form; despite a 6-2 record, his ERA sits at 3.66. But this is the time of year when things start to change, and with the calendar flipping to June, Yankees fans can start to expect vintage CC to wake up.
9.The Weird AL East — Rays vs. Orioles, Jays vs. Red Sox
I know we're risking the East Coast bias tag right now, but any time all five teams in a division are above .500, it's newsworthy. On paper, these two matchups look like pretenders vs. powerhouses. If the Rays and Red Sox sweep or win two of three, it might be the start of a process that finds the Jays and Orioles (losers of five straight) falling back to what we all secretly believe is their rightful place. These are the legitimacy challenges they have to pass in order to earn anyone's belief.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday.
On a night when Kobe Bryant was hampered with a stomach issue, Ty Lawson scored 32 points and the Nuggets forced a Game 7 with a 113-96 win over the Lakers. "It sucks when you're sick for a big playoff game, doesn't it?" said Michael Jordan, in a really sarcastic phone call to Bryant. "So hard to play well. So hard to win. Hey, good luck man. Good luck with everything. Jordan out."
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Monday.
With his team poised to kick a game-winning field goal, Chargers QB Philip Rivers fumbled a snap that allowed the Chiefs to recover and send the game into overtime, where they won 23-20. Both teams are now 4-3, but boast a perfect 7-0 record in terms of being vaguely depressing.