In case you were busy throwing your old iPad in the garbage like the trash that it is, here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday:
The University of Miami avoided major additional sanctions related to the Nevin Shapiro scandal, as the NCAA only revoked a small number of scholarships, deeming the school's self-imposed two-year bowl ban to be sufficient punishment. "Are you serious?" said former Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel when asked for comment. "Nothing? Weren't they having crazy sex parties? My boys just got a handful of free tattoos and we faced worse. Well, I want to be very careful with what I say here. Because I know NCAA procedure is complicated, and we were not in the right when I was let go. But fuuuuuuuuuuuudge that." Only Tressel didn't say "fudge." He said THE word, the big one, the queen-mother of dirty words, the "F-dash-dash-dash" word. Later, when asked by NCAA president Mark Emmert where he learned that word, Tressel refused to admit that it was from former NCAA president Myles Brand, instead blaming former Michigan coach Lloyd Carr, who is now himself under investigation by the NCAA.
I want to hate Aaron Rodgers. I really do. As a Bears fan, it’s actually my duty, but for whatever reason, I can never muster the requisite anger. Even when I get a chance, like when Greg Jennings was busy filling his Rodgers burn book this summer, I somehow always side with Rodgers. It’s problematic, and quotes like this one don’t help:
“It was never about revenge. It was about reckoning,” Rodgers said. “That’s a Tombstone line right there, people. It was never about revenge.”
That’s Rodgers from Wednesday, talking about whether the 49ers — who passed on Rodgers with the no. 1 overall pick in 2005 — was still a “revenge” game. I’m all for bringing up Tombstone whenever possible, mostly for the peak Kurt Russell mustachery and peak Val Kilmer everything. But here, Rodgers’s words are particularly apt — not only for his situation but for Week 1 across the NFL.
The weekend is here, and I don't know about you, but I'm ready to sit back, watch some baseball, cry, watch more baseball, think about exercising, back to baseball, cry, baseball, eat, cry, baseball, baseball, cryball, eat, cryercise, baseball, eat. WHO'S WITH ME?!
To approach this with sober objectivity: We might be dealing with the best weekend of baseball so far this season. There are no less than four incredible series matchups, a wonderful, tragic pitchers' duel, and a special bonus slotting in at no. 10
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 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."
Let’s get one thing out of the way up front: I’m not trying to diminish the significance of winning two World Series in three years. It’s a tremendous achievement.
But when you try to process how the San Francisco Giants went from that to what they are now — dead last in the NL West — it’s important to understand that the Giants haven’t fallen as far as your typical World Series champion would.
It's August, the worst month of the year! Time to shut your blinds, turn the air conditioner down to 56, and hibernate for 30 days with only baseball and unsweetened ice tea for companions. Here are the best ways to make it through the first weekend of Hell Month.
10. A-Rod A-Rod A-Rod A-Rod
He's holding down the no. 10 spot! The latest news in the suspension saga is that his talks with MLB have "stalled." I mean, how classic is that? A-Rod has literally no ground to stand on, and the only thing saving him from a lifetime ban is that it would be kind of embarrassing for Selig and baseball. But I bet he sauntered into the negotiating room thinking he could talk them down to 30 days and a small fine. "I'm going to drive a hard bargain," he probably said to himself, narrowing his eyes as he took a seat at the table. Man, A-Rod is the worst. The correct tactic was obviously to accept anything less than a lifetime ban, and then drop to his knees in thanks. Instead, he's screwing himself. I shouldn't be surprised, but somehow he has managed to baffle me again.
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.
You can name any one of seven or eight candidates and have a great argument, but Posey gets the slightest of nods. For starters, no National League player has put up better park-adjusted rate stats. That's doubly impressive given Posey is a catcher, the position at which offense is rarest. Posey hasn't quite played all of his games at catcher. But 75 out of 90, with the numbers he's put up at AT&T Park, still plays well. And no, we don't care one whit about the Giants being eight games under .500, compared to, say, some of the top players on winning teams like the Cardinals. Posey, like Yadier Molina and every other player in the league, has no control over the teammates his general manager picks to play with him.
In case you were out watching the extended cut of Inception where the top spins for two years before finally falling, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday:
Hanley Ramirez remained red hot, going 3-for-6 including a tie-breaking 14th-inning home run, as the Los Angeles Dodgers clawed their way back to .500 for the first time since April with a 7-5 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks. "Nah, I'm really happy for him, and the team," said rookie sensation Yasiel Puig. "Jealous? Jealous? Nah. Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah. There's enough room in this town for a pair of superstars. Jealous? I'm happy. Jealous? Jealous? No. I'm not. Not at all."
Andrew Bynum is on his way to Cleveland, after the oft-injured center signed a two-year partially guaranteed deal with the Cavaliers. That said, Cleveland seems like just the sort of town where Andrew Bynum is likely to turn his luck around. Cleveland, or "The Lucky City," as it's known internationally, is a burgh totally bereft of bowling alleys, leaving the Cavaliers' new center without any temptations as he tries to return from his lost season in Philadelphia.
In case you were busy picking the wrong Leonardo DiCaprio movie to model your life after and can't get that damn iron mask off your face, here's what you missed in sports on Monday:
Bryce Harper marked his return from an extended layoff with a home run as the Washington Nationals topped the Milwaukee Brewers, 10-5. "Guys, I spent the time off really pushing things forward," Harper said of his rehab. "And I think I've got it: The Babe. Bryce 'The Babe' Harper. ’Cause I look good. You know. Like a babe." When told that nickname was taken, Harper replied, "Babe don't care. Now someone get me my favorite candy bar: Snickers. Ol' Bryce 'Snickers' Harper."
Manic Monday at the All England Club was headlined by a massive upset on the women's side as Serena Williams was beaten by Sabine Lisicki in a three-set thriller, 6-2, 1-6, 6-4. Well, it was a massive upset for those of you who don't really know women's tennis. [Quickly Googles "Lisicki."] I mean obviously she's a great grass-court player, and despite her low seed is an instant favorite to win the whole thing. Us real tennis fans know [clicks down an entry] that Sabine Lisicki is also both German and tall. [Bings "Lisicki."] Also, I think we all remember her work in Jerry Maguire wait
After yet another spending spree that included a $147 million splurge on Zack Greinke, the Dodgers were expected to be leading contenders for the NL West crown. Their chief competition figured to be the Giants, fresh off winning their second World Series in three years. The Diamondbacks were considered light sleepers, likely weakening their team after trading away Justin Upton for no good reason but still wielding a solid collection of young, homegrown talent. As for the Rockies and Padres? You figured wait till next year before this year even started.
So much for predictions. Only the AL East has seen more parity than the NL West, a division that has its top four teams separated by just 3½ games. Arizona leads the way, the Rockies and Padres are contending, with the Giants and Dodgers bringing up the rear. With so many teams bunched so closely together, the division up for grabs, and two of the National League's three biggest spenders likely to double down, we could see a flurry of action as the trade deadline approaches.
In case you were busy anxiously looking over your shoulder like a wraith was following your every step, here's what you missed in sports on Monday:
Lord Stanley smiles upon Chicago again, as the Blackhawks scored two stunning goals in the final minutes of Game 6 of the Stanley Cup final to earn a series-clinching 3-2 win over the Boston Bruins. Patrick Kane was named the winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy, an honor that Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask mournfully referred to as "Rask! Rask! Rask!" before letting his head fall back and bellowing out a final, tragic "Rask!" as his counterpart, Corey Crawford, skated around Rask's home ice with the Stanley Cup held high over his head.
Rafael Nadal is out of Wimbledon in the first round after falling improbably in straight sets, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (5), 6-4, to Steve Darcis of Belgium. The defeat outranks Nadal's second-round exit last year as the most stunning early-round exit at Wimbledon for a top seed among people who totally forgot that Nadal exited last year's tournament in the second round. For these people, this loss was a perception-rattling affair, a seismic shift in the world of tennis, akin to the shock associated with LeBron James's recent ability to get the NBA Finals monkey off of his back, and yesterday's cathartic Blackhawks Stanley Cup championship.
In case you were busy consolidating power by any means necessary to be prepared for the upcoming console wars, here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday:
In a series filled with future Hall of Famers, it was the play of Gary Neal and Danny Green, who scored a combined 51 points while going 13-for-19 from beyond the arc, that led the San Antonio Spurs to a 113-77 win over the Miami Heat in Game 3 of the NBA Finals. Somewhere out in the vast expanses of America, a curmudgeonly sports reporter sitting on his porch licks two fingers and holds them aloft. "The winds are turning again," he says to himself with a wry smile. "Oh, LeBron, your time has come." And the words will start coming together in his head, but he'll need a deeper source of inspiration. "Honey, can you throw some pretzels in a bowl?," he'll yell back into his two-story Craftsman home. "And throw some popcorn in there, too. And maybe some fish that hasn't been deboned." And his wife will pop her head out of the screen door and ask, "Is this what I think it is?" And he'll nod sagely, and whisper "choking season." And she'll ask if he's sure, and he won't turn to face her, but will say again, "LeBron choking season," and his words will be taken by the wind, and his wife will know that he'll be up working late, divining the perfect phrase to describe how the psychology of the world's greatest basketball player will always betray his talent. And the wind will sing "chokeastrophic" as it swirls through the branches of the oak trees of America. And maybe, just maybe, we'll get our values back.
Jozy Altidore and Eddie Johnson both scored as Jurgen Klinsmann's U.S. men's national team got a critical 2-0 win over Panama in Seattle as they moved atop the CONCACAF standings for World Cup qualifying. The match was the most complete effort by the USMNT during Klinsmann's tenure, leading the crowd to chant, "Klinsmann, a plan, a canal, pan nam snilk," in an ill-conceived attempt to honor the former German striker through palindrome.
Most of the big-ticket free agents reeled in last winter have been, at least so far, colossal busts. The Dodgers' $147 million has bought them five starts' worth of Zack Greinke. The Angels' $125 million investment has yielded a .222/.283/.399 line from Josh Hamilton. The Braves spent $75.25 million on B.J. Upton, who is hitting .148/.236/.252.
With a few exceptions, the best free agents of the past offseason have also been some of the cheapest. As more and more teams re-up their best players before they can reach free agency, mastering the art of shrewd shopping becomes more important, whether your payroll tops $200 million or is one-third that size. Granting that we're only eight weeks into the season, it could be instructive to run through the most successful free-agent pickups of the Hot Stove, and see if we can pick out any traits and patterns common to the best of the bunch.
Here are those top snags, going position by position.