In case you were busy finding out what really happened when your cousin broke your grandmother's collection of valuable plates, here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday:
Cardinals rookie Michael Wacha became the third pitcher to lose a no-hitter with two outs in the ninth inning this season, but still collected a crucial win as St. Louis beat the Washington Nationals, 2-0. A disappointed yet upbeat Wacha addressed the media after the game, saying, "The most important thing is that we won; the no-hitter was secondary. Now I'll take questions from anyone who isn't Fozzie Bear." But when the assembled media began to yell his name, Wacha stormed off the podium, yelling, "Stop following me around, you stupid puppet bear! You're ruining my life!"
The Yankees found themselves short on bobbleheads for Mariano Rivera Bobblehead Night, causing a commotion outside of Yankee Stadium while inside the stadium the team was short on power, losing 7-0 to the Tampa Bay Rays. "You can't have him, you can't," a wild-eyed Yankees general manager Brian Cashman yelled as he sat atop a stack of boxes of Rivera bobbleheads, armed with a shotgun and a bottle marked with three X's. When told by team president Randy Levine that he had to get off the boxes to allow the fans to have them, Cashman threw his bottle at Levine and yelled back, "Let's ask Mo. Do you want to go to the fans?" Cashman then pulled out one of the bobbleheads and tapped its brim. A heartbroken Cashman looked at the small nodding Rivera in his hands with wild eyes and said, "I thought you'd never do this to me. If I can't have you, no one can!" before firing his shotgun wildly into the stack of boxes below him.
It must be nice to make the playoffs. As a long-suffering Yankee fan, I probably won't get to experience that joy this season, and it's been a long time — almost a full year — since we've even sniffed the postseason. With six games left on the schedule, the Yankees are four games behind Cleveland for the final wild-card spot, and with Texas and Kansas City sandwiched in between, it's all over but the shouting.
But hey, you know what? The shouting might not be all that bad. Because even though the Yankees' destination (sadness, golf courses, boring family life) might be fixed, that doesn't mean they can't ruin someone else's fun. In fact, they have three games this week against Tampa Bay, a hated rival. Between 1918 and 2004, Boston fans showed exactly how satisfying it can be rooting for others to fail in lieu of your own success. But actually playing a part in that failure? That has to be 10 times better. As FDR said, it's better to pull the trigger than to cheer the gun.
So let's look at a few teams that can alter the playoff landscape as we move toward Sunday and the end of the regular season. Here are your potential spoilers.
Whoa, whoa, whoa. How is it mid-September? Did we even have August this year? Are the playoffs really sneaking up on us? This is getting serious, gang. Each team has about 15 games left to win, lose, bargain, plead, suffer, and despair. There are only three weekends of regular-season baseball left, starting today, and here's something important: A fancy word for "third-to-last" is "antepenultimate." Armed with that knowledge, it's time for the antepenultimate weekend countdown. Join me!
There's a video that has made the rounds over the past few weeks in Internet Baseball Land. It's a compilation of some of the longest home runs of the past 40 years — well-edited, no B.S., just call after call of obscene dingers.
You can probably guess some of the names called out in the video's 18 minutes and five seconds. There's McGwire and Sosa, Manny and Papi, Bonds and Reggie, Cecil and Prince Fielder, all the biggest power-hitting stars of their time. When Bonds splashes bombs into the Bay and Cecil parks ball after ball on the roof at Tiger Stadium, we hear announcers lose their damn minds.
But there's one player who appears over and over in the video, launching titanic blast after titanic blast. The oddest thing happens after each of those moon shots: The announcers sound completely unimpressed. Some of the longest home runs of this generation, absolute rockets smoked to parts of the ballpark no one else can reach, and the batter might as well have grounded out to second, given how little enthusiasm those home runs produce. If you were an alien who'd just landed on Earth and you wanted to get a representative snapshot of Adam Dunn's career, you could watch this video and be done with it. The 500-foot home runs, flairless trots around the bases, and apathy from those watching — over and over and over.
In case you were busy being ready for some football, some Wednesday-night football, Wednesday-night football that is never going to come, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday:
Tampa Bay Buccaneers corner back Darrelle Revis has said he's "happy to spill the beans," in advance of the Bucs' matchup with his former team, the New York Jets. "It was a nice offer," said Bucs head coach Greg Schiano, "but it's just beans." When asked to clarify Schiano added, "Seriously, their whole playbook is just a box of supposedly magic beans. Apparently they traded their old defensive playbook, which was quite good, with some sort of evil space wizard wearing a sleeveless hooded cloak, and ended up with a box of beans." Schiano, a New Jersey native shrugged and said, "I wouldn't believe it, but, you know Jets."
An all-Italian quarterfinal at the U.S. Open yielded the day's biggest upset as Flavia Pennetta beat out no. 10 seed Roberta Vinci, 6-4, 6-1. Vinci was sanguine despite her loss, saying, "I have no regrets, I came, I saw, I Vinci." Meanwhile, despite advancing to her first career Grand Slam singles semifinal, Pennetta was less pleased with her tournament experience, saying, "I have many regrets; I came, I saw, I was detained at LaGuardia Airport after an idiotic mix-up involving former CIA director Leon Panetta. I did not conquer."
It took longer than it should have. The Red Sox screwed around for too long with the likes of meme generator Brock Holt and Brandon Snyder. Sure, there were reasons. They didn't want to rush their top prospect. They wanted to ensure he could play his natural position. They needed to be positive that he was ready for the big leagues.
The wait is over. Xander Bogaerts finally made his major league debut Tuesday night. He went 0-for-3, grounding out twice, striking out once, and leaving five men on base in his first two at-bats. He also made a nifty play to end the fifth, charging a Marco Scutaro bouncer and gunning him out at first by an eyelash. The bigger takeaway was this: One of baseball's top prospects finally made the Show, and the Red Sox are better for it. Given how Boston's played over the past couple weeks, it's not a moment too soon.
Just 20 years old (he turns 21 on October 1), Bogaerts hit .311/.407/.502 in 56 games at Double-A Portland, then .284/.369/.453 at Triple-A Pawtucket. Those are strong numbers on their face for anyone at any position, given neither league (nor home ballpark) dramatically distorts numbers the way, say, playing in Las Vegas does. Still, it's one thing for a first baseman or corner outfielder to hit for average, show a strong batting eye (63 walks in 515 plate appearances), and have power (15 homers, 23 doubles, and six triples), given the much lower barrier to entry in place to handle those positions defensively. Shortstop is another matter altogether. A player like Jose Iglesias may never amount to much offensively (his numbers this year are due largely to batted-ball luck; he doesn't walk, and he has no power), but he can still slot in as a team's starter for the next half-decade, the way he now is in Detroit after Boston traded him away. Bogaerts doesn't have Iglesias's defensive skill, but he's also so talented offensively that he projects as a future All-Star, given what people expect him to do with the bat versus the relatively low offensive standards set by the average shortstop.
In case you were busy hiding out in your ill-conceived meteor shower bunker, here's what you missed in sports on Monday:
Texas starter Yu Darvish came close to throwing a no-hitter in Houston, but had to settle for a 2-1 win over the Astros after it was broken up with a solo home run by catcher Carlos Corporan. "Carlos seems like a great guy," Darvish said after the game, his lip quivering. "I totally get why my no-hitter would go and fly off with him. It makes total sense to me. I just — I just wish I knew what I'm doing wrong. If I could change who I am, I would. Really. Every time I get close to a no-hitter, it pulls away, and I never see it again. Then another no-hitter comes around, everything seems like it's going great, and bam. Gone again. It shouldn't be this hard." Darvish then shook his head and smiled. "I guess that's what makes it worth it, right? If it were easy, it wouldn't be as meaningful. I get it. I really do. I really, really, really do."
Despite another late scare, David Robertson and the New York Yankees made Hiroki Kuroda's gem hold up for a 2-1 win over the Los Angeles Angels. Robertson, who was visibly relieved after the game, said of his performance, "This team needed a pickup, and I am glad I could bring it. Got some great love from my teammates plus a weird call from a dude calling himself Brosh-Dog saying I'm 'in on clutchtrueyanks.biz,' whatever that means. Then I got a follow-up text saying not to tell Alex about clutchtrueyanks.biz because that would ruin it. Then I got some texts from my family. Then more texts about not telling Alex about some dumb website. Really though, I'm happy for the team and for Mo, that I'm able to give him a day off so he can come back strong. And also I think that website gave me a virus."
In case you were busy letting down the thousands of people who retweeted you by not getting yourself arrested at a public event, here's what you missed in sports on Monday:
Despite being suspended for 211 games by Major League Baseball for violating the league's drug policy, Alex Rodriguez's appeal of the suspension allowed him to play his first game of the season, in which he went 1-for-4 in the Yankees' 8-1 loss to the Chicago White Sox. "Tough game, but it's good to be out there with all my friends, fighting the good fight," Rodriguez said as he sat desperately alone both physically and spiritually at the team's postgame press conference. "I'm at home when I'm with my teammates, and while I've made some mistakes, we all agree that the punishment I'm facing is unfair. Right guys?" Rodriguez then nodded confidently while saying, "Sure thing, Alex. With you to the end," in a falsetto out of the corner of his mouth. Rodriguez then pulled out an acoustic guitar, and yelled, "OK boys, all together now," before launching into an off-key rendition of "This Land Is Your Land."
In more positive baseball news, Jeremy Guthrie threw a shutout while Kansas City's offense exploded in a 13-0 win over the Minnesota Twins. Guthrie, despite the win, was fuming after the game, saying, "'This Land Is Your Land'? Seriously? Son of a bitch besmirches the game, and now he besmirches my family's good name? He better hope he's suspended before the next time we face the Yanks."
Boston acquired right-handed starting pitcher Jake Peavy from the White Sox and righty reliever Brayan Villarreal from the Tigers. Detroit picked up shortstop Jose Iglesias from the Red Sox. The White Sox landed 22-year-old outfielder Avisail Garcia from the Tigers, plus three prospects from the Red Sox: 20-year-old pitcher Francellis Montas, 20-year-old pitcher Jeffrey Wendelken, and 19-year-old shortstop Cleuluis Rondon.
Given all the angles involved here, let's break 'em down one at a time
In case you were busy becoming an expert on the recovery period for hip surgeries, here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday:
The Red Sox bolstered their rotation before the trade deadline, acquiring former Cy Young winner Jake Peavy from the Chicago White Sox in a three-team deal. When asked if he was worried about the pressure of playing in Boston, Peavy responded gravely, "Yes. Terrified. Everything changes. I've spent the last couple of hours weeping into this bucket. Look at it!" Peavy then held up an empty bucket, before adding, "Of course I dumped out the bucket before I came out here. I'm not a weirdo."
Mark Ellis hit a walk-off single and the Dodgers kept on rolling, edging past the New York Yankees, 3-2, and improving to 27-6 over their past 33 games. The hit extended Ellis's hit streak to 11 games, a run he credits to "not having anything to do with hallucinogenic drugs, why is everyone asking me that? Of course I'm not tripping at the plate. That would have made this impossible I would imagine." Ellis then furrowed his brow and asked, "Is this because of that honorary doctorate I got in June?"
Three contenders snagged relief pitchers Monday, addressing pressing needs to better position themselves for playoff runs.
The third announced deal of the day was also the most surprising. The Tampa Bay Rays struck an unusual deal with the Chicago White Sox, acquiring All-Star relief pitcher Jesse Crain in exchange for well, something. Officially, the bounty has been classified as future considerations — of cash. But multiple reports confirm the White Sox will choose from a list of players agreed upon by the two teams. That list will likely depend on how much Crain pitches for the Rays.
Therein lies the rub. Crain has been on the disabled list with a shoulder injury since June 29. The White Sox had hoped to get him back by July 31 to facilitate a trade. Instead, Crain is now a Ray. For the White Sox, dealing him before the 31st ensures that he doesn't need to pass through waivers for a deal to happen. They reportedly tried to package him with starting pitcher Jake Peavy, but couldn't find the right trading partner to make that work. The Sox are now saying they plan to build around Peavy; given we're talking about an injury-prone 32-year-old who's eligible for free agency after next season and a team with a weak farm system and little frontline talent in the big leagues, that seems like a big, fat bluff.
In case you were busy swearing off s'mores forever, here's what you missed in sports on Monday:
David Price finished off a spectacular July by spinning another stellar 7⅓ innings of work in Tampa Bay's 2-1 win over the Boston Red Sox. "I may be pretty good at pitching," said Price of his accomplishments, "but I'm just like anyone else. I still call my dog Astro 'a little munchkin baby bear, who's a baby, who's a little baby, you are, yes you are, good boy. Who thinks he's people? You do. With your little people dog legs. Little fur stick legs. Who's a little Doctor Woofingpants? Astro's a little Doctor Woofingpants, Woofingpants to the OR, Woofingpants to the OR!' just like anybody else." When told that no one else called his dog any of that, Price was too busy trying to get a bite of Astro, thinking his tail was food, to respond.
Jason Giambi at 42 years old broke Hank Aaron's record as the oldest man in baseball history to hit a walk-off home run, as the Cleveland Indians topped the Chicago White Sox 3-2. Giambi then pressed his luck in attempting to also become the oldest man to win Camp Cuyahoga's Chubby Bunny contest, before being rushed to the hospital after choking on marshmallow 36, leaving him three shy of Aaron's mark, set on a getaway day in 1975. When told of Giambi's run at his records, Aaron responded, "Whayouthinthacalmehammah?" before swallowing the half-bag of partially digested marshmallows in his mouth and repeating, "Sorry. Why do you think they call me the Hammer?"
The headline on ESPN.com right now is "A-Rod decries mix-ups, lobbies for Fri. play." My question is, do you think A-Rod knows what "decries" means? It strikes me as such a funny word to use in the context of a guy who allegedly owns pictures of himself painted as a centaur (and if he doesn't, he still let someone take this one). Anyway, the whole bizarre saga took an even stranger turn when A-Rod sought the advice of a second doctor (who never actually met him) because he didn't trust the Yankee team doctor. The second doc said his quad muscle was fine, and he could play pronto, and now A-Rod wants to be in the lineup tonight. Which implies, of course, that the Yankee team doctor was lying about the injury at the behest of the team, presumably to keep him off the roster so the Yankees could collect insurance rather than pay out his exorbitant contract themselves. It makes sense, because now the Yankees only have to sideline him long enough for Bud Selig to levy a Biogenesis/PED suspension on him ("all but assured," per CBS's Jon Heyman), which could happen any day. So the odds of the Yankees actually letting him play are somewhere in the neighborhood of nil, and it's hilarious that they might be lying about his quad to save money. Of course, they'd love it if A-Rod would just shut up and ride lamely off into the sunset, but what happens when you want A-Rod not to be annoying? A-Rod gets annoying! Because after all this, A-Rod has accepted the Yanks rehab plan. I'm a Yankees fan, but personally I hope he brings Cashman and the team doctor and whoever else down with him. My ideal team is just Jeter and Mariano playing 2-on-9, with Eduardo Nunez as the mascot.
In case you were busy giving birth to an heir to a throne (hey, Kate, what's up?) here's what you missed in sports on Monday:
If your favorite sports news is depressing drug suspension news, well, you're in luck, because Denver Broncos' defensive superstar Von Miller is reportedly facing a four-game suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse policy. Good for you, person who likes depressing news. Today is a great day to say about your favorite professional athlete, with a smug shake of the head, that "Everybody's doing it, it's just a matter of time until they're all caught." Me? I'm going to continue to live in denial, and will be literally burying my head in sand and living off nothing but hermit crab meat until this case is overturned as it inevitably, rightly, and irrevocably will be. Moving on, forever, surely …
Oh, we're not moving on? No? OK. Brewers star and former NL MVP Ryan Braun has accepted a 65-game suspension for his violation of the league's policy on performance-enhancing drugs both due to his role in the Biogenesis scandal and for previous statements related to his rescinded suspension before the 2012 season. Guys, you know that we here at About Last Night are all about fostering debate with regards to the biggest sports stories of the day, and this is no exception. I mean, are we really sure that Braun is guilty here? Really? What evidence do we really have? We have a positive test that was overturned because of improper handling. Stricken from the record. Then he have his name written down on paper at a Florida anti-aging clinic. Everything about those words is too sketchy to be believed. Anti-aging clinic? Florida? Handwritten notes? Come on. Handwritten notes? Seriously? What year is this? And finally we have a confession. But do we really know that no one has entered Braun's dreams, planted the idea of taking steroids deep within his subconscious, tricking his now conscious mind into believing that, despite a lifetime of clean living, he has used illegal performance-enhancing drugs? Do we really know? And if we think we know, can we really be sure that our knowledge wasn't planted in our minds by dream invaders out to take control of our family's massive wealth in a Braun-related scheme so convoluted that it is totally impossible to comprehend? Can we really be sure? Really? Checkmate.
10. The 2013 "Oh Wait, They're Good?" Team (ARI-SFG)
Every year, it feels like there's one division-leading team that slips under the radar. This is often because the division itself is terrible, the team hasn't had much playoff success in the past decade or so, and they may or may not be out west in a city not named Los Angeles. In the case of the Arizona Diamondbacks, we've got a solid "all of the above" case. I'm not saying the D-backs have been very impressive — with a paltry plus-nine run differential, they have a huge target on their backs as we start the second half — but come on, shouldn't we give them at least a little credit? I mean, like, Patrick Corbin is really good. And hey, they have a 15-8 record against the NL Central, a.k.a. the best division in baseball. All I'm saying is that the D-backs are exactly the kind of team that could win a crappy division and then storm to a World Series win in the crapshoot that is the MLB playoffs, negating every piece of wisdom anyone has dispensed all season and making us all angry in the process. We should start learning their name.