In case you were busy watching Senator Ted Cruz do his best Eli Manning impression, here's what you missed in sports on Monday:
The New Orleans Saints outclassed the previously unbeaten Miami Dolphins in a 38-17 win, sending a message to the rest of the NFL that they are prepared, after a down year, to return to the ranks of the league's elite. Fortunately we here at ALN got an exclusive leaked copy of the text of that message; here it is in its entirety:
Dear Denver, Seattle, New England, and San Francisco, um, Kansas City? Sure, why not. Kansas City,
Hey, guys, it's the Saints. How are you? We feel like we really lost touch with ya'll last year. And that's our fault. We hate to lay blame or make excuses, but in this case we really feel we must. So much was going on with us, and our coach, and Roger. It's always hard when you get hurt by the ones you love, especially when they aren't being paid to hurt you. But we've moved on, and we'd like to think you guys have too. I heard some of you are even still friends with Roger. That's fine. Seriously, it's fine. That's fine. It's all just fine. Fine. Whatever. You are the company you keep, is what we say down in New Orleans, but do what you must.
In case you were busy spending your EA settlement money as quickly as possible, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday:
Led by running back Frank Gore, the San Francisco 49ers rebounded from two consecutive heavy defeats in style, beating the St. Louis Rams, 35-11. "We couldn't run the ball," said Rams coach Jeff Fisher after the loss. "And they could run the ball." Fisher, a longtime member of the league's competition committee, then added, "That's not fair. At some point it's like, let's at least swap some linemen so that it's a good game. What happened to sportsmanship?"
Mariano Rivera played his final game at Yankee Stadium, throwing 1⅓ perfect innings in New York's 4-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. Rivera, who has spent the season being given gifts on a de facto nationwide farewell tour, was approached by manager Joe Girardi after the game. "I bet you noticed we hadn't given you anything," Girardi told Rivera. "I had, but I don't mind; this organization has given me everything," Rivera said. Girardi smiled, and told his longtime closer, "I saved that third wish for a reason," before yelling, "I wish for Mariano to be free!" Suddenly, a swirl of blue light came from the ground, and the lamp that Rivera had quietly carried with him for his entire Yankees career shattered as if made out of glass. "Now run. No more saving us," Girardi whispered in Rivera's ear. "Now you can save yourself." Rivera then thanked Girardi before awkwardly reminding him that he was still contracted to play the final series of the season at Houston.
In case you were busy getting taken aback by the presence of hockey news in your Twitter feed, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday:
Max Scherzer got his 21st win and the Detroit Tigers clinched the AL Central with a 1-0 win over the Minnesota Twins. "Fine, fine," said every sabermetrician in the world in unison. "We get it. Scherzer is the Cy Young winner, fine, fine. Fine," before adding a passive-aggressive "it's not the worst decision you guys have made — he is leading in fWAR, which you probably haven't even heard of" while throwing their arms up in the air all at once. Then every sabermetrician muttered under their breaths, "He might not even be the best pitcher on the Tigers, but hey, who are we to know things," adding a derisive "as far as you know, we're in our mothers' basements" in one harmonic voice.
"Eliminated," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said, lying flat on his back, after New York's 8-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. "I am no more. The Yankees are no more." Cashman let his mind think back on the odyssey he had taken this season to arrive at this moment: the Jeter injury, the Rodriguez suspension, the retirement of Rivera, the consistent presence of Jayson Nix in his lineup, until of course Nix got hurt. Everyone had gotten hurt. Cashman balled his fists and yelled at his ceiling, "Who am I?" Suddenly, a great shaking took hold of his office, and the ceiling split before him, as the hand of God itself reached down to grab the balding, drunken GM. "You are the Cash-Man," God intoned with a surprisingly feminine voice, as he was lifted into the air. "You are my Cash-Man. And to prove it—" Suddenly, God threw Cashman in the air, a flash of lightning showed Cashman he was falling back to his office floor amid a rain of American currency, and for just a second Cashman glimpsed the face of God. "Mrs. Steinbrenner?" A clap of thunder sounded, and all went black.
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 list of seven players tucked away on a page of the MLB section of ESPN.com. These seven players are described as “lifers,” or players with careers of 10 years or longer, all with the same team: Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Todd Helton, Jimmy Rollins, Brian Roberts, Chase Utley, and Justin Morneau. Morneau, one of the greatest Minnesota Twins of this or any decade, might be on his way out of town, putting Twins fans in a painful but fascinating situation, one that balances the rational against the emotional. This is where sports fandom gets interesting.
In case you were busy arguing about the correct definition of "blue moon," here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday:
Red Sox superprospect Xander Bogaerts went 0-for-3 in his major league debut, and Marco Scutaro drew a walk-off RBI walk to give San Francisco a strange 3-2 win over Boston. "We're disappointed with the loss, but we think we have something good here with Bogaerts," said Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington over a cacophony of ringing phones. "Hold on, let me just get this. Yeah, hello, this is Cherington. No Billy. No. No. It's just one game Billy. No. No deal. How stupid do you think I am Billy? That stupid? Really? Wow. I've literally never said anything like that to another man's face in my life. No. No. Still no. Yes, I understand that phones aren't faces. No. I'm hanging up now, Billy. Bye. Bye. No. Bye."
Los Angeles phenom Yasiel Puig was benched and fined for being late to the ballpark in Miami, but still found a way to be his team's hero, blasting the decisive home run in the eighth inning of the Dodgers' 6-4 win over the Marlins. "Rules are rules," said Dodgers manager Don Mattingly, "and I'm going to enforce them until its strategically untenable to continue to do so. Literally nothing but a moment in which I will gain a strategic advantage as a baseball tactician will stop me from enforcing them. Or if I forget about the rule I'm in the middle of enforcing. Or if I think the person who broke the rule is really sorry. Those are the only three ways I'll let anyone on my team get away with anything."
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."
In case you were busy playing chess while everyone else was eating checkers, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday:
Powered by a clutch Alex Gordon triple, the Kansas City Royals bagged their eighth consecutive win as they held off the Twins, 4-3, in Minnesota. "Vindicated!" yelled Royals general manager Dayton Moore from the top of the waterfall in and empty Kauffman Stadium, both of his arms raised above his head in triumph. "It was all worth it! All the wheeling! All the dealing! All worth it! We're atop the mountain! And nothing is going to bring us down! There shall be no consequences for our hubris!" In unrelated news, Wil Myers.
Clayton Kershaw threw eight magnificent innings, but, matched in brilliance by Hiroki Kuroda, his efforts were not enough as the Los Angeles Dodgers gave up three ninth-inning runs in a 3-0 loss to the New York Yankees. Mariano Rivera, who closed out the game with a 1-2-3 ninth inning, was given a fishing rod by Dodgers owner Magic Johnson as part of a pregame ceremony in honor of Rivera's career. "I know your dad was a fisherman, so I thought you'd like it," Johnson said as he handed over the rod and reel. "Um," Rivera said of the gift, pausing as he looked it over with a bit of a scowl. "No, it's, it's really nice. It's a really great rod. Anyone can see that." Johnson's face fell. "If you don't like it we can get you something else." Rivera forced a smile. "No, no, no. I like it. Look, it's all ready to go. I can't wait to get out on the boat and give it a whirl. No really. Really. Really, I like it. I do. I do like it. It's just. I — you know, I played baseball all these years so I wouldn't have to fish. But I like it. I do. Seriously. It's a really nice gift. Really nice."
In case you were busy confronting your ultimate nemesis, Wichael, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday:
In an AL East showdown, Tampa starter David Price threw a five-hit gem, leading the Rays to a 5-1 win over the Boston Red Sox. The win was Price's third complete game in his past four starts, which Rays closer Fernando Rodney called "kind of disrespectful. It's like he doesn't trust me. And yeah, I've made mistakes. But that was in the past. That's no reason to push me out of your life." Rodney dropped his head. "I just respect him so much, and I wish we could see eye to eye again."
Landon Donovan continued his resurgent play and the U.S. men's national team advanced to the Gold Cup final with a 3-1 win over Honduras. There they won't face rival Mexico, which fell 2-1 to Panama in the other semifinal. "We're rivals too!" said Panama, balling up its fists and kicking at the dirt. America chuckled derisively, and said, "Oh kid, sure you are," before mussing Panama's hair. This just served to further anger Panama, which began swinging wildly at the United States, which defended itself by putting the palm of its hand on Panama's forehead, leaving Panama too far away to land a blow.
In case you were out enjoying a theatrical production of Moby-Dick in Space, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday:
Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter returned from the DL in New York's 8-4 win over Kansas City, but his return might prove short-lived as he was forced to leave the game early with a quad injury. "Don't say a word," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman yelled to a backhoe parked outside of Yankee Stadium as he awaited the results of Jeter's MRI. "Do you think you're a big man, sitting there, laughing at me? Laughing at us? Laughing at the goddamned Yankees way? Do you? A big man, huh. A big ol' snorting man. Are you even a man? What do you got under the hood there? Boy parts or girl? And don't tell me gender's a fucking construct. I know what fucking constructs are. I built this ramshackle piece of shit team; I know what constructs are." Cashman then angrily threw the lobster bib he was wearing as a shirt to the ground. "You're a fucking machine, man. That's what you are. You didn't give birth to me. You don't get to tell me what to do. Unless " Cashman then paused, asking, "Mom? Are you my mother?"
Matt Moore struck out 10 for the Tampa Bay Rays en route to his 13th win in a 4-3 victory over the Minnesota Twins. "Playing the Twins is never easy for me," Moore explained after the game, "ever since I stayed with my parents at this hotel in Colorado as a kid. We were supposed to take care of the place through the winter, but then things got weird. There were these two girls that were always asking me to come play with them. I guess that isn't that weird, but it gave me the willies. I mean, why weren't they in school? Come to think of it, why wasn't I in school? My parents really dropped the ball on that one."
An underachieving team full of stars, a fringe contender hanging around, two also-rans with heavy incentive to sell, and a post-blockbuster team in limbo. Don't sleep on the AL Central as the trade deadline approaches, or even five weeks before.
The Tigers are tied for the worst winning percentage in the majors in extra-inning games, dropping to 2-8 in those contests after Thursday's 10-inning loss to the Angels. The temptation, then, would be to say that Detroit's problem is its bullpen. But that's not entirely right.
In case you were busy making more than $1,244 a week from home using one simple trick, here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday:
Things are getting interesting in the Eastern Conference finals as the Indiana Pacers took Game 4 from the Miami Heat, 99-92, to even up their series at two games apiece. Roy Hibbert was immense for the Pacers, amassing 23 points and 12 rebounds while anchoring an impressive Indiana defense that held All-Star forward Chris Bosh to seven points on 1-for-6 shooting. "They seem to be playing some sort of strange formation," Hibbert explained after the game. "They put out guys who are shorter than we are on the court, and then they try to go around us. It's like they have no idea that height is an advantage in basketball. It makes no sense. It's some crazy sort of tiny orb strategy, because they're small and we play with a regulation-size basketball. I think I'm gonna dub it 'wee sphere,' and hope they keep doing it because man, it's really easy for me to guard short dudes." Hibbert then shrugged before adding, "Baby globe."
The Los Angeles Kings will be returning to the Western Conference finals after holding on to beat the San Jose Sharks, 2-1, in a climactic Game 7 at Staples Center. It was a Pyrrhic victory for the Kings, however, as they lost the services of superfan Samuel L. Jackson midway through giving the following motivational speech: "You think water moves fast? You should see ice. It moves like it has a mind. Like it knows it killed the world once and got a taste for murder. After the Avalanche knocked us out at this stage in '01, it took us a decade to climb out. Now, I don't know exactly when we turned on each other, but I know that nature is lethal but it doesn't hold a candle to man. To Kings!" Jackson was then bitten savagely by Sharks goal scorer Dan Boyle, and decided that hockey "ain't worth my damn time."
In case you were out meeting the Mets, meeting the Mets, stepping right up and greeting the Mets, here's what you missed in sports on Monday:
The Golden State Warriors blew a 16-point lead, and San Antonio's Manu Ginobili hit a game winning 3-pointer with 1.2 seconds left in the second overtime as the Spurs took Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinal at home, 129-127. The final result overshadowed an epic performance from Stephen Curry, who played every minute of the game and scored 44 points. "It's too bad that I'm not allowed to come out of games," Curry said afterward. "I really could've used the rest at the start of the fourth quarter so that I didn't lose the accuracy on my jumper." He then paused and added, "It's weird that everyone else came out for at least a little bit. I wonder why the rules are different for me." Curry then shrugged, before collapsing in a fatigued heap under the weight of his own shoulder movement.
An injury-ravaged Chicago Bulls team shocked the defending champion Heat in Miami, 93-86. The Bulls closed the game on a 10-0 run, which once again raises the question: Can LeBron get it done in the postseason? Hold on. Let me watch some tape of LeBron from last postseason really quickly oh oh, wow, yeah, he totally can. Never mind.
Sportswriters love telling people how unbiased sportswriters are, and a big part of that is rooting for stories, not individual teams. That’s pretty obvious. It’s much easier and much more fun to write about an unusual defensive play, or a no-hitter, or a walk-off hit, than it is to write about an arduous 12-5 yawner that stopped being close after the third inning.
And it’s not just writers who do this. Even without the professional self-interest, fans want to see the underdog overachieve. They want to see the unusual, the exciting, and they want the drama and uncertainty to last as long as possible.
So in the spirit of lasting drama, everyone ought to be rooting as hard as they can against the Detroit Tigers.
The Tigers are kind of old news, with two consecutive division titles in their pockets. They rely heavily on slow guys who walk and hit home runs (and if you’re going to do that, Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder are two pretty good slow guys to have), and they’ve got a starting rotation that might be better than all the other rotations in the division. To balance those strengths come two glaring weaknesses. First, the bullpen has been quite good so far this year but is built on a foundation of quicksand. Second, they have the kind of defense one might expect when a lineup has a lot of slow guys who walk and hit home runs.
Now, none of this makes the Tigers particularly objectionable. The reason you should root against them is that they’re by far the best team in baseball’s worst division, and they’re starting to pull away in the standings.