Blog Archives

Late, late, late night games

I am running on less than fumes right now. I have only myself to blame.

I got up at 0350 Friday morning. I just could not sleep Thursday night and in the wee hours of Friday. I had two morning appointments in Overland Park, which of course can be a pain if you have to drive from near KCI like I did. Found out that I need to go back to Morse-McCarthy Monday afternoon to get the brakes replaced. That’s what happens to a nine-year old car with 391,000 kilometers (243,000 miles). But it has not stranded me in the middle of nowhere, so as long as it gets me from Point X to Point Y, I’m good.

I got to play trivia for an hour with Larry at Buffalo Wild Wings, my first visit there in two months. I didn’t linger any longer than I had to so I could get out to Columbia and watch LSU play Missouri in volleyball.

The beginning and end of the time in the middle of Missouri were fine for the most part. The time inside Mizzou Arena left me wondering if I can ever go back to LSU.

I e-mailed the volleyball team’s media relations contact, Chelsey Chamberlain, that I was coming. I sent it out Monday. Not one word back. No contact elsewhere either.

Inside the arena, Ms. Chamberlain did her best to avoid eye contact.

Am I that repulsive? Maybe I am. 

LSU stayed competitive with Mizzou through the first two sets. In the second sert, LSU led 24-23 and could have tied the match, but blew set point. Mizzou won the next two points to win the set, then dominated the third. Final: 25-22, 26-24, 25-12.

The beginning and end was pretty good because I found some things I can’t in Kansas City, and certainly nowhere in Kansas.

Before the match, I hit the jackpot at Schnucks, the leading grocery chain in St. Louis which has expanded west, but only as far west as Columbia.

Schnucks had the peppers I love so much on hot dogs, peppers which are not carried by Hy-Vee or Hen House in Kansas City, not by Whole Foods, and certainly not by Target and Shit Mart, er, Walmart. I bought six jars, and they happened to be on sale for $2.50 each. I’m set.

After the match, I picked up White Castle. Again, Columbia is as close as I can get to White Castle. The company has introduced a slider made with plant-based materials, and I must say it is delicious.

Now I want to drive back to Columbia for Schnucks and White Castle. Believe me I’ll be hoarding if I’m there for LSU’s baseball series vs. Mizzou in mid-April.

I had to drive back to Kansas City because hotels in Columbia were almost all booked, and those that weren’t had exorbitant rates, because Mizzou hosts Kentucky in football. In fact, the game kicks off in less than an hour.

Exorbitant doesn’t begin to describe the price of going to see LSU-Alabama a week from tonight. I don’t want any part of it. I think next Saturday I’ll be in bed before 1900, even though we go back to standard time (FINALLY) and have an extra hour. I might be up at 0200 the next morning.

When I returned to the hotel at 0015, Game 3 of the World Series was still going strong. I turned it on in the 13th when Boston took a 2-1 lead. Sure enough, Los Angeles tied it in the bottom of the 13th.

I stayed awake long enough for the 14th, then zoned out. When I woke up at 0730, I discovered the Dodgers won in EIGHTEEN innings on a solo home run by Max Muncy.

The game took SEVEN HOURS and 20 minutes. It ended at 0030 Pacific, which was 0330 in Boston. By far the longest postseason game in history in terms of game time, and easily the longest in World Series history. There was an 18-inning National League Division Series game in 2005 between the Astros and Braves.

As far as marathon postseason games go, the National Hockey League is the only league which comes close. No NBA playoff game has lasted more than four overtimes, and the longest NFL postseason game, Miami at Kansas City on Christmas 1971 in the last game at Kansas City’s Municipal Stadium, went one and a half overtime periods. Association football matches have never lasted more than 120 minutes of playing time before (a) going to a shootout or (b) being replayed entirely.

I am feeling run down. That happens when you’re up for 21 straight hours then  sleep only six.

Red Sox, it’s yours to lose; Saban vs. Snyder is a pipe dream; I can’t advocate freeing Devin White

Boston won again last night. The Red Sox are now halfway home to their fourth World Series title this millennium following a 4-2 victory.

The Red Sox are, as Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic said often during the NFL season, a Stone Cold Lead Pipe Lock.

The last five teams to take a 2-0 lead in the World Series have won in either four or five games. The roll call: 2004 and ’07 Red Sox, 2010 and ’12 Giants, 2015 Royals. Only the 2010 Rangers and 2015 Mets managed to win a game in their home park.

The 2001 Yankees are the most recent team to fall behind 2-0 (to the Diamondbacks in Phoenix) and at least get the series back to where it started. That year, the home team won EVERY game, the same way it occurred in ’87 (Twins over Cardinals) and ’91 (Twins over Braves).

In 1998, ’99 and 2000, the Yankees won the first two games of the series and it never returned to where it started. In ’98 and 2000, the series began in the Bronx; in ’99, the Yankees won the first two in Atlanta, then the next two at Yankee Stadium II.

Only three times has a team lost the first two games at home and come back to win: 1985 Royals, ’86 Mets, ’96 Yankees.

The Dodgers are down 2-0 for the fourth time since making their first World Series appearance representing Los Angeles. In 1965 (vs. Minnesota) and ’81 (vs. Yankees), the Dodgers won all three games at Chavez Ravine, then won the series on the road (Game 7 in ’65, Game 6 in ’81). In 1966, the Dodgers lost twice at home to Baltimore and were cooked; the Orioles won a pair of 1-0 games in Maryland. Shortly thereafter, Sandy Koufax, who beat the Twins in Game 7 of ’65 on two days rest, retired.

In 1955, the Brooklyn Dodgers were behind 2-0 after losing twice in the Bronx. The Bums won all three at Ebbets Field, only to lose Game 6 back in the Bronx. Fortunately for the Brooklynites, Johnny Podres pitched the game of his life to give the Dodgers their first world title.

The next year, the Dodgers took a 2-0 lead at Ebbets Field. To nobody’s surprise, the Yankees won all three in the Bronx, with the last of those three being Don Larsen’s perfect game. Brooklyn won Game 6 back at home, but the Yankees pummeled the Dodgers 9-0 in Game 7 in the last World Series game in Flatbush.

The Red Sox swept the Cardinals in 2004 and the Rockies in ’07, but they were up 2-0 on the Mets in ’86 going back to Fenway. The denizens of Queens won Games 3 and 4 before Boston won Game 5. Then you know what happened next…Bill Buckner.

The Dodgers won’t be going back to Fenway. Not this season at least. It’s over. Boston will have a long flight to celebrate its latest World Series championship, much the same way the Bruins had a transcontinental journey from Vancouver when they won the Stanley Cup in 2011, or the Celtics after vanquishing the Lakers in 1962, ’68 and ’69.

The Patriots have never played in a Super Bowl in California. Three in New Orleans, two each in Houston and Phoenix (technically Glendale), one each in Minneapolis, Jacksonville and Indianapolis. I would have loved to be on the flight back from Tempe after the Patriots lost to the Giants in Super Bowl XLII. I’m sure it was tons of fun. If that were the case, I’ve got a beachfront house under construction in Russell.

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Speaking of Bill Belichick, I’m sure I would pee in my pants if I were anywhere near him or Nick Saban. Actually, I got pretty close physically to Saban during media day at the Sugar Bowl 15 years ago when LSU played Oklahoma for the national championship. People say Belichick and Saban are different people away from football. I don’t know either man personally, so I can’t tell.

If I did meet Saban, I would love to ask him about how he game planned at Michigan State for facing Iowa. When Saban was the defensive coordinator in East Lansing (1983-87), the Hawkeyes’ offensive coordinator was none other than Bill Snyder. Saban went to the NFL in 1988, Snyder’s last year in Iowa City, and ’89, when Snyder took over at K-State. Their paths last crossed in 1987, when Michigan State went to the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1965. Iowa went to Pasadena in 1985.

Of course, you cannot convince anyone in Kansas (minus Jayhawk fanatics) that there is a college football coach greater than Bill Snyder. I’m not denying Snyder has done great things at Kansas State. However, I am not buying into the narrative of him being the best coach ever.

I will say one thing: Saban and Snyder are 180 degrees apart when it comes to scheduling.

Saban wants to play all Power Five teams and nine conference games instead of eight. He would rather not play the ‘buy games’ to give the fans much more bang for their buck, but it isn’t feasible if nobody else wants to do it. Until every other SEC school agrees to play only Power Five teams, Saban simply is stuck.

The SEC and ACC should have to play nine conference games. If the Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12 are doing it, the other two should have to as well. I honestly think the College Football Playoff committee should seriously penalize SEC and ACC schools until (a) they play nine conference games or (b) cut the crappy teams and play at least two Power Fives in non-conference.

I’m not the biggest Saban fan, but I applaud the man for willing to put his considerable money where his mouth is, not backing down from the best.

Snyder would rather load up his schedule with cupcakes and lesser lights, the fans be damned. He doesn’t mind feeding Wildcat faithful filler until Big 12 season goes along. I’m sure he was royally pissed when the Big 12 required a full round-robin schedule following the loss of Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska and Texas A&M, and the addition of TCU and West Virginia. Snyder wanted two five-team divisions so he could schedule at least one, maybe two, more softies. At least the Big 12 had the foresight to ignore him.

Because of that, Saban and Snyder will never face off unless they are matched in a bowl game. No chance Snyder wants to take the Wildcats to Tuscaloosa. None. And no way K-State gets into Alabama’s ionosphere for a bowl game, so the Saban vs. Snyder dream match will have to remain a relic of the old Big Ten, when the conference actually had 10 teams.

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As for Saban’s current team, Alabama visits Baton Rouge a week from Saturday for another apocalyptic game, at least for LSU fans. Crimson Tide rooters really could care less, because as Bear Bryant famously said, he would rather beat the Cow College (Auburn) once than Notre Dame (or LSU or just about anyone else) ten times.

LSU fans have been in a tizzy since about 2100 Saturday, when All-SEC linebacker Devin White was ejected for targeting on a hit against Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald. With just under five minutes remaining and LSU leading 19-3, White was called by referee John McDaid for leading with his helmet and hitting Fitzgerald below the face mask, which is the definition of targeting.

It appeared White attempted to hold up, and he led with a two-hand shove, not a launch with the helmet. It was a very, very questionable targeting. Yes, White should have been penalized, but ejecting him was probably over the top.

The worst thing about a targeting call in the second half is that player is suspended for the first half of the next game. This means White will be a spectator or held in the locker room during the first minutes of the tussle between the Bayou Bengals and Crimson Tide.

Had this been against the Alabama offense of two years ago, it might not have been so bad. LSU and Alabama were scoreless through three quarters before the Tide offense got going and won 10-0.

Now, it is a major loss.

Alabama has a more explosive offense than Joe Namath, Bart Starr or Kenny Stabler ever could have dreamed of. Tua Tagiviola, who came off the bench in the second half of last year’s national championship game vs. Georgia and rallied the Tide from a 13-0 deficit to win in overtime, is favored to win the Heisman. In fact, you cannot get even money odds on Tua at any Las Vegas sports book. Alabama has routed every opponent so far, and Tua has yet to see the fourth quarter of any game.

The Twitter hashtag #freedevinwhite trended immediately after the game and most of Sunday. LSU athletic director Joe Alleva was incensed and begged SEC commissioner Greg Sankey to overturn the suspension.

It got so heated political guru James Carville, a Louisiana native and LSU graduate, wrote a letter to The Advocate in Baton Rouge claiming the officials of the SEC were in cahoots with Alabama. Carville claimed the directive to uphold the targeting call against White came from SEC Director of Officials Steve Shaw, an Alabama graduate and native of Birmingham.

Carville wasn’t the only politically connected Bayou State resident who chimed in.

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards, who also graduated from LSU, demanded to know from Shaw and Sankey why White was ejected and just how it was targeting.

Edwards is the first governor to be this invested in LSU football since John McKeithen helped Charles McClendon recruit during his two terms (1964-72). John Bel, no relation to Edwin Edwards, has traveled with the Tigers and is very close to Ed Orgeron and his wife Kelly.

It’s nice to see JBE loving LSU football. Edwin Edwards graduated from LSU, but really didn’t care about sports, although he was on the LSU plane to Philadelphia for the 1981 Final Four. Dave Treen graduated from Tulane, so he saw LSU as the enemy, at least in athletics. Mike Foster graduated from LSU, but only cared about hunting and fishing. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco hated LSU, having graduated from UL Lafayette. As for Buddy Roemer and Bobby Jindal, they didn’t give a you know what–both graduated from Harvard.

As it turns out, neither Shaw nor Sankey has the power to vacate the suspension. That belongs to the NCAA and Director of Football Officiating Rogers Redding, who, like Shaw, was a longtime referee in the SEC. Redding said it’s not happening.

Orgeron, to his credit, has moved on and is focusing on getting the Bayou Bengals ready for the Tide. Alleva is taking up the fight, which is what a good athletic director should do. Governor Edwards has bigger fish to fry, though. It’s nice to see him care about the state’s flagship school, but funding the academic side should be priority one, not the football team.

I’m of the mind that if the officials–McDaid, Shaw, the replay official in the booth at Tiger Stadium and any other officials in Birmingham with Shaw at command central–did not see enough clear and convincing evidence to overturn the targeting call, it should stand. McDaid said the call was “confirmed” after replay, which meant there was clear and convincing evidence in their minds.

Steve Shaw was the sine qua non of college football officials when he wore the white hat. Every time there was a huge game involving an SEC school during the regular season, Steve Shaw was the man announcing the penalties. If there was a major bowl game, there was a good chance Shaw was the man in charge. He only got to work two national championship games (Florida State vs. Virginia Tech in ’99, USC vs. Oklahoma in 2004) because the SEC almost always had a team in the title game, so by rule, Shaw and all SEC officials were barred from working. But three Rose Bowls isn’t a bad consolation, especially considering SEC officials never worked the Rose Bowl until the 1991 season.

Shaw is one of the two greatest college football officials who ever lived. The other is Jimmy Harper, who was a referee in the SEC from the early 1970s through 1995. Harper had a Georgia drawl which made me laugh nearly every time. And Harper explained penalties so well you could understand even if you had never watched a football game before.

My father loved Harper. My dad called Harper the ‘white-haired gentleman’. The good news is Harper was probably watching the LSU-Mississippi State game from his home in Atlanta. He’s still alive and kicking at 84.

Shaw and Harper both could have been NFL referees. I’m sure they would have been as legendary as Jerry Markbreit, Ed Hochuli, Jim Tunney and Ben Dreith. But they chose to stay in college, which obviously was a great decision.

I don’t believe for one nanosecond Steve Shaw has a biased cell in his body. He is a man of the utmost integrity. He doesn’t care the teams playing. He only cares that the game is played fairly, and that when someone violates the rules of the game, he is penalized accordingly. I will never buy LSU fans claiming Shaw is biased. No way.

It’s a tough break for LSU, but it’s football. White will learn and be better for it.

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I’m rambling yet again. Sorry. That’s all for now.

Red Sox wins; Cardinals seeing red

The Red Sox did what I thought they would last night. They closed out the Astros in Houston and clinched their fourth American League pennant this millennium. Boston now awaits the Dodgers or Brewers in the World Series.

MLB executives, especially commissioner Rob Manfred, have to be having multiple orgasms over the probable Dodgers-Red Sox World Series. They were loathing a potential Brewers-Indians or Brewers-Athletics World Series when the postseason began. Now, they have one of their three most desirable matchups (Dodgers-Yankees and Cubs-Yankees were the others).

The Red Sox and Dodgers have played only once in the World Series–way, way, WAY back in 1916. That’s before the Curse of the Babe. Ruth was a 21-year old hotshot left-handed pitcher for that year’s Red Sox, and Boston easily won the series in five games.

Two interesting things about the 1916 World Series.

First, the first two games were in Boston, the next two in Brooklyn, then it was back to Boston for the clincher, not the 2-3-2 we are used to seeing. The format was presumably 2-2-1-1-1, the same as the NBA Finals and Stanley Cup Finals.

Second, the Red Sox opted to play their home games at Braves Field, home of the future artists known as the Milwaukee and Atlanta Braves. The Sox moved their games out of Fenway to shoehorn more fans into Braves Field, which opened in 1915. In 1914, when the Braves swept the Philadelphia Athletics in the World Series, the National League team played their home games at Fenway due to the decrepit condition of their rickety old stadium, the South End Grounds.

I am very pessimistic about the Brewers tonight. Hopefully there’s a game tomorrow. But I have my doubts.

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Speaking of decrepit, that would accurately describe the Arizona Cardinals. They were demolished 45-10 by the Broncos last night in Glendale, and frankly, it should have been worse.

Denver led 35-3 at halftime, and State Farm (nee University of Phoenix) Stadium sounded more like Mile High or whatever it’s called these days. It was a throwback to the days the Cardinals played in front of tons of aluminum and a few fans (mostly visiting team, especially when the Cowboys were there) at Sun Devil Stadium on the other side of the Phoenix metro.

I knew the Cardinals were seriously screwed when they hired Steve Wilks. Wilks has no business being a head football coach at any level, especially the highest level of football.

This buffoon was a head coach just once before moving to Arizona, and that was in 1998 at mighty Savannah State, a perennial punching bag for Power Five teams willing to exchange a few hundred thousand dollars for the right to win by 70 to 80 points. When Wilks coached there, Savannah State was Division II. And the team went 5-6 under Wilks’ leadership.

Wilks’ professional playing experience consisted of one year in Arena Football with the Charlotte Rage. Are you kidding me?

Ron Rivera, who was Wilks’ boss in Carolina before the latter was hired by the Cardinals, conned Michael Bidwill and Steve Keim good. Then again, Steve Keim is a known drunk, so it wasn’t hard to pull the wool over his eyes.

If the Cardinals wanted an African-American coach, why not hire Herm Edwards? He got a job in the Phoenix area not long after Wilks when Arizona State hired him to succeed turd Todd Graham. Edwards’ failure with the Chiefs was not all his own doing; he had a lot of help from terrible drafting, free agent signings and trading by Carl Peterson, who clearly was awful without a strong personality as a head coach like Jim Mora with the USFL’s Philadelphia/Baltimore Stars and Marty Schottenheimer in Kansas City.

Josh Rosen threw not one, but TWO pick-sixes in the first quarter. Geez, the Cardinals could have brought back Ryan Lindley, John Skelton, Max Hall, Kevin Kolb or Stan Gelbaugh to do that instead of wasting the tenth overall pick in the 2018 draft.

Then again, Rosen has zero protection. The Cardinals have had a woeful offensive line for their entire stay in the desert. In my opinion, it has been really, really bad since the glory days of Dan Dierdorf, Conrad Dobler, Tom Banks and Tom Brahaney in the 1970s, when Don Coryell led St. Louis to NFC East titles in 1974 and ’75.

Arizona’s defense is Chandler Jones, Patrick Peterson and a whole lot of crap. Peterson and Jones deserve better than this. They are true professionals and would be All-Pros if they played on a halfway decent defense.

Larry Fitzgerald, WHY did you come back for this? Your professionalism and dedication to the Cardinals is admirable. But you could have easily rode off in to the sunset. All you’re doing is pushing back your Hall of Fame induction.

Wilks is by far the worst Cardinals coach I’ve witnessed in my lifetime. And I can remember all the way back to Jim Hanifan (1980-85). Dave McGinnis was mocked and went 17-44 in three and a half seasons, but his teams never looked as absolutely awful as the Cardinals have under Wilks. Buddy Ryan was pretty bad, but at least the defense was fierce in 1994. Too bad he hated offensive players and had no clue what to do at quarterback.

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Starting next year, Wimbledon is implementing the tiebreak in the final set when the score reaches 6-6.

I will only watch tennis if someone pays me a ton of cash, and that hasn’t happened. And I will NEVER watch Serena Williams. But I think this is dead wrong.

I understand why the All-England Club is doing this. They want to avoid marathon last sets like the one between John Isner and Nicholas Mahut in 2010 in a match that took 11 hours and three different days to complete, with Isner winning the fifth set 70-68.

I totally disagree with doing this in what is supposed to be tennis’ signature event. This is a grand slam event, the most prestigious championship on earth. It should be EARNED. And if it takes 138 games in the final set to do so, so be it.

If Wimbledon wants to implement the tiebreak in the final set, it should not be at 6-6. It should be at minimum after 8-8, maybe 10-10 or 12-12. And that rule should be in all five sets for men or three for women.

The Australian and French Opens, the other grand slams, have not announced they will. implement a tiebreak in the final set. However, I’m certain they will be under enormous pressure to do so now that the U.S. Open and Wimbledon have them.

Using a tiebreak in the final set at Wimbledon is the same as The Masters using a sudden death playoff if there is a tie for the low score after 72 holes.

The Masters bills itself as the premier event in golf, although I will always believe it is The Open Championship. If The Masters is so high and mighty, why not make those tied play a fifth round? If it’s television they’re worried about, there are enough cable channels which would salivate at the chance to televise a round from Augusta for 18 holes. Besides, The Masters rarely allows full 18-hole coverage anyway, so how hard would it be to cut in for the last nine? Also, I’m sure CBS could pre-empt The Price Is Right, The Young and the Restless, and The Bold and the Beautiful for one day.

The U.S. Open was the last golf major to require a full 18-hole playoff if there was a tie after 72 holes. Last year, that ended and it became a two-hole playoff, which wasn’t necessary when Brooks Koepka won it outright. That’s even worse than The Open (four holes) and PGA Championship (three holes). All majors should be the full 18-hole playoff. Sudden death is just fine for a regular tournament in late October, mid-January or early August. But not for the majors.

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I’m guessing ESPN is going to try to force the officials to speed up the Mississippi State-LSU game in Baton Rouge tomorrow night. That’s because the network is scheduled to show the Rockets-Lakers game from Los Angeles at 2130 CT (1930 PT), which will be LeBron’s first regular season game at Staples Center. It would probably anger the suits in Bristol, as well as two of America’s four largest metropolitan areas, if a trivial football game in the Southeastern Conference goes overtime.

LSU and Mississippi State are not teams which throw the ball on every down. I hope 3 1/2 hours is enough time to get the game in, because college football games drag on and on and on! I remember non-televised games when I was attending LSU could last as short as 2 1/2 hours. But every game in the SEC is now televised, so that’s not happening. Not unless the NCAA wants to return to the terrible idea of starting the clock after the ball is spotted on a change of possession, an experiment which failed miserably in 2006. Not stopping the clock after a first down would be a good start. Maybe that rule could be limited to the final two minutes of the first half and final five of the second, much the way the out-of-bounds timing rules change in the NFL in those periods.

CBS is notorious for forcing the games in the late window (1525 CT on doubleheader days; 1505 on non-doubleheader games) to speed up in order that 60 Minutes starts on time, either 1800 or 1830 CT. Fox doesn’t care, because it never airs new episodes of The Simpsons (JUST END IT ALREADY!) on Sunday nights before 1900 CT.  Actually, Fox prefers longer games in the late window when it has the doubleheader, so it can switch to bonus coverage, then Terry, Howie, Michael and Jimmy can drone on and on until 1900.

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I have a runny nose this morning. Using lots of tissues. Need to stop by the store before I leave Kansas City.

Just saw I was close to 1700 words. Time to end it.

Astronomical a-holes

Thanks to two MORONS in Houston last night, the Astros may not have the opportunity to defend their World Series championship.

In the first inning of Game 4 of the American League Championship Series, Jose Altuve launched a fly ball to deep right-center. Boston right fielder Mookie Betts backed up to the wall and leaped in an attempt to reel the ball in, but a pair of assholes had to reach over the fence and attempt to catch the $12 baseball.

Right field umpire and crew chief Joe West, an umpire whom I think should have been put out to pasture 25 years ago, this time got it right. As much as I dislike the Red Sox, he got it right by calling the fans for interference and calling Altuve out. Houston manager A.J. Hinch came out to argue and got West and the MLB command center in New York to review the call, but it stood.

The Red Sox ended up winning 8-6 and now lead the ALCS 3-1.

Worse, the Astros let the stupid sacks of shit who interfered with Betts to stay inside Minute Maid Park.

At least Jeffrey Maier was thrown out of Yankee Stadium in 1996 when he reached well over the right field fence and stole a ball off the bat of Derek Jeter which would have either been caught by Orioles right fielder Tony Tarasco, or at most, been a double.

Right field umpire Rich Garcia, one of the best umpires in the game (and one of the stupidest, because he drank Richie Phillips’ poisoned Flavor-Aid three years later, costing Garcia his job and a possible spot in Cooperstown) did not see Maier reaching over Tarasco’s shoulder and called the play a home run for Jeter. Of course, there was no instant replay in 1996, but he also made a colossal mistake by not getting the other five umpires together and at least asking if someone else had a better view. Crew chief Larry Barnett also bears some of the blame for not calling for a conference when Baltimore manager Davey Johnson came out to argue. Johnson would have had every right to find Maier and kick him in the nuts.

Of course, the Yankees’ #1 super fan, then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani, treated Maier as a conquering hero by giving him a key to the city. David Letterman praised him on his late night show. Unfortunately for Rudy and the rest of the nation, he redeemed himself big time (and then some) five years later in the face of unspeakable evil.

Back to Houston last night.

This morning, one of Kansas City’s most respected sports talk radio hosts, Soren Petro, stated on WHB 810 AM that the fans should be able to jostle with players on the field on a fly ball. He said the fans pay good money to sit in the seats close to the field, and they should be able to do as they please if the ball and/or a fielder come close to them.

Petro also went on to say West had no right to interject himself into the play and call fan interference. He also said he abhorred replay in baseball.

I’m not a fan of replay in baseball in nearly all instances. But had West NOT called fan interference, I would have supported replay, even if the call went in favor of the Red Sox, who aren’t my least favorite team (they’re above the Reds, White Sox, Rangers and Marlins for sure), but I certainly don’t care for. I’m not a huge Astros fan, either, but they were the team I followed the most living in Louisiana for 29 years.

WHAT THE HELL?

Soren, you sir stated something so idiotic it does not justify me taking my time to refute it. However, I’m not someone to just let it be, so I am going to respond.

Fans have NO RIGHT to interfere with play. NONE. They buy a ticket to be a spectator, not an active participant in the game. The game is for the players, the coaches, officials and anyone who has an active role in the game, whether it be on the field, in the press box, or somewhere else in the stadium/field/arena. Fans of the home team at a Major League Baseball game should know better than to reach over the fence in an attempt to catch a $12 baseball. They should especially know this in a postseason game.

Because these two C U Next Tuesdays could not keep their hands to themselves, they may have very well cost their beloved Astros a return to the World Series. These two “fans” should be found and tarred and feathered. At the very least, the Astros, Rockets and Texans should ban these people FOR LIFE. And MLB should do the same to them at all 30 parks. Of course, the Red Sox may have season tickets in right field at Fenway waiting for them.

Do not attempt to compare these two garbage sacks to Steve Bartman.

Bartman did not reach over the fence down the left field line at Wrigley Field and attempt to interfere with Moises Alou. Bartman’s hands were straight up in the air, as were the hands of several other fans in that section, attempting to catch the foul ball. Mike Everitt, the left field umpire that night at Wrigley, made the right call by determining no fan interference.

The hate Cubs fans heaped upon Bartman was sickening. Steve Bartman didn’t do a thing wrong. Not a thing. The Cubs only had themselves to blame for (a) melting down in the eighth inning of Game 6 by giving up eight runs to the Marlins, and (b) melting down again in Game 7. It is a crying shame Bartman can no longer go to an MLB park and enjoy the sport he loved to play and coach. It is a crying shame he could not be in Cleveland the night the Cubs ended their 108-year championship drought. It is a crying shame he could not be at Wrigley when the Cubs received their World Series rings.

Shame on you, Houston Astros, for letting these fans remain in the ballpark. I’m certain the Royals and nearly every other MLB team would have told these pieces of fecal matter to leave and never come back, just like the idiot who poured beer on and flipped off the Chiefs’ Tyreek Hill in Foxborough during last Sunday’s game with the Patriots.

Maybe the Astros will find the intestinal fortitude (a term used way, way, WAY too much by legendary World Wrestling Federation announcer Gorilla Monsoon) to at least get the series back to Boston. But I have my doubts.

We’re heading for a Red Sox-Dodgers World Series. Heaven help us.

Anxiety in Atlanta

Turner Broadcasting executives are an unhappy bunch this morning.

Their network is televising the American League playoffs, and the League Championship Series will be Cleveland vs. Toronto, barring two unforeseen comebacks by Boston (vs. the Indians) and Texas (vs. Toronto).

One of Major League Baseball’s smallest markets vs. its only Canadian team battling for the right to represent the DH league in the World Series.It had to be TBS’ nightmare scenario long before the playoffs began Tuesday with the AL Wild Card game.

Canadian teams are the scourge of the American television networks.

If you ever took time to analyze the NHL schedule on NBC Sports Network and NBC itself, you will notice there are extremely few games involving the Canadiens, Maple Leafs, Senators, Oilers, Flames, Jets and Canucks. If a Canadian team is involved in a game on an NBC property, it will certainly be  in the United States.

During the first three rounds of the playoffs, if NBC broadcasts a game from a Canadian arena, it will use the CBC or TSN feed. ONLY if a Canadian team plays in the Stanley Cup finals will NBC send Doc Emrick, Eddie Olzcyk and Pierre McGuire north of the border. I’m sure an all-Canada final would cause some NBC execs to pull out their hair, but it hasn’t happened since 1989. ESPN wasn’t thrilled with its first Stanley Cup Finals, Canadiens-Flames in 1986. ESPN also had two finals from Edmonton and one from Montreal in its early years of televising the NHL, and USA Network did three from Edmonton and one from Vancouver when it had a contract from 1981-85.

The Raptors are almost never featured by TNT, ESPN or ABC for its NBA coverage, except during the playoffs. The Canadian teams in Major League Soccer, the Montreal Impact and Toronto FC, never have home games shown by ESPN or Fox Sports 1.

ESPN will show an occasional Blue Jays regular season game from Rogers Centre, but almost always it’s against the Red Sox or Yankees, and it is NEVER on Sunday Night Baseball. The good thing for Toronto is it can play Saturday afternoon games, since it is exempt from Fox’s exclusivity rules, which don’t allow local telecasts of games when it is broadcasting.

If the NFL placed a team in Canada–highly unlikely–would CBS or Fox show the game anywhere outside the visiting team’s footprint? Would NBC ever televise a Sunday Night game? Same for ESPN on Monday night and NFL Network on Thursday night?

I, for one, am glad the ALCS now looks like it will be Toronto-Cleveland.

The good citizens of Toronto need something to cheer about, since the Maple Leafs have been pretty much putrid since winning their last Stanley Cup in 1967, and Toronto FC won’t be winning the MLS Cup anytime soon. Yes, the Argonauts have won more Grey Cups (16) than any other CFL franchise, but how many people outside the nine CFL cities (and all of Saskatchewan) know this?

Cleveland broke its sports jinx in June when the Cavaliers (or, LeBron James and the rest of the Cavaliers) won the NBA championship, but the Indians haven’t won the World Series since 1948. The Tribe played far too many seasons before tens of thousands of empty seats at Municipal Stadium (The Mistake by the Lake), and now don’t get the proper support at Progressive (nee Jacobs) Field, which once had a streak of 455 consecutive sellouts. Cleveland needs something to take their minds off the Browns. If the Indians make the World Series, it will work out perfectly: the Cavaliers will start their season while the Indians are in the World Series, so they don’t have to think about the Browns, period.

The dream ALCS for any network is Red Sox-Yankees (it isn’t mine). It happened in 2003 and 2004, but in was a different era for the playoffs. First, there was only one wild card team, so that team did not face a winner-take-all game to get into the main bracket; second, the wild card could not play the champion of the same division in the division series, so the Red Sox got to avoid the Yankees in the division series in both instances. The Yankees had the best record in the AL both times, and instead got to face Minnesota, which has won only one playoff series (2002 ALDS vs. Oakland) since winning the 1991 World Series.

Boston has the better chance of extending its series, simply because the next two are at Fenway Park. But the Indians beat the Red Sox’ two best pitchers, Rick Porcello and David Price, so John Farrell is up against it. And Terry Francona would love nothing better than to clinch the series at Fenway, where he managed the Red Sox from 2004-13, leading Boston to two World Series titles with sweeps of the Cardinals (2004) and Rockies (2007).

Texas is really behind the 8-ball. For the second consecutive year, the Rangers lost two games to the Blue Jays in Arlington. The Rangers have been a terrible home team during its playoff history. It lost Games 4 and 5 to the Giants in the 2010 World Series, and had to watch San Francisco celebrate at what was then Rangers Park (now Globe Life Park). The Yankees clinched the ALDS in 1996, ’98 and ’99 in Arlington. Tampa Bay won twice at Texas in the 2010 ALDS, even though the Rangers won all three in St. Petersburg.

Call the Rangers’ home struggles in the postseason the curse of Bowie Kuhn. It was Kuhn, as Commissioner of Baseball, who vehemently opposed the move of the second Washington Senators to Texas for the 1972 season. Bob Short, the owner of the Senators/Rangers, was a cheapskate who took a sweetheart deal from Arlington to play in a crappy minor league stadium in the shadow of Six Flags. Ted Williams may also be cursing the Rangers; he was the Senators’ manager who was forced to move from D.C. to Texas, and he absolutely hated Dallas/Fort Worth.

The Rangers are proposing to build a new ballpark with a retractable roof in time for 2021. Geez, shouldn’t that have been done in the 1990s, when George W. Bush owned the team and the Rangers were attempting to replace the decrepit Arlington Stadium?

Today is travel day in the AL. Hopefully by Monday morning, we’ll have our Blue Jays-Indians ALCS all set.

As for the NL, it was Blue Friday. The Dodgers beat the Nationals in Washington, and the Cubs won 1-0 on an eighth inning home run by Javier Baez.  Game two for both series today.

Recalling Hendu’s strange Sunday

Dave Henderson, who played the outfield for the Mariners, Red Sox and Athletics during the 1980s and early 1990s, died Sunday at 57 from a heart attack.

Henderson figured prominently in another of the many childhood memories of sports I can readily recall.

Earlier this morning, I described an NFL game I watched at my maternal grandmother’s house many moons ago.

Now, I hearken back to a memorable baseball game I watched in the same house almost two years later.

The date was October 12, 1986. One day before my 10th birthday. Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev were holding a summit in Iceland.  Miami and Penn State were headed for an epic college football showdown at the end of the season. Wayne Gretzky still played hockey in Edmonton, and Bird and Magic still dominated the NBA.

That Sunday, the California Angels were within one victory of advancing to the World Series for the first time since it began play in 1961. The Angels, led by manager Gene Mauch and several stars past their prime, including Reggie Jackson, Bobby Grich, Bob Boone, Doug DeCinces and Brian Downing, led the Boston Red Sox, powered by 24-game winner Roger Clemens, 3 games to 1, in the American League Championship Series.

All it would take is a victory at Anaheim Stadium, which the Angels shared with the Rams by that time, to move into the Fall Classic against either Houston or the New York Mets.

When the 1986 season opened, the Red Sox were deeply entrenched under the Curse of the Bambino, which took effect in 1920 when then-Boston owner Harry Frazee traded Babe Ruth, his star pitcher, to the Yankees. The rest is history.

Boston won the American League East in 1986, its first division title since 1975. Clemens, only three years removed from helping the Texas Longhorns win the College World Series, enjoyed what would be the best year of his lengthy career, going 24-4 with a 1.53 earned run average.

His signature game came on April 29 of that season when he struck out 20 Seattle Mariners at Fenway Park. The Mariners’ starting center fielder that night, Dave Henderson, was strikeout victim No. 6, No. 13 and No. 18 against The Rocket.

Later that season, Henderson and the Mariners’ starting shortstop that cold night in Boston, Spike Owen, a teammate of Clemens with the 1983 Longhorns, were traded to the Red Sox.

Owen immediately stabilized a position which had been a weakness for Boston since Rick Burleson departed for the Angels. Henderson provided the Red Sox with much better defense in center field than Tony Armas, a man who was a born designated hitter long before anyone in Red Sox Nation could have dreamed of David Ortiz. Armas hit 43 home runs in  1984, but struck out way too much and was awful in the field. Boston was very fortunate right fielder Dwight Evans was one of baseball’s best defensive outfielders and thus tracked down numerous balls Armas missed.

 

Dave Henderson lived several lifetimes the afternoon of October 12, 1986.

With Boston ahead 2-1 in the bottom of the sixth, Bobby Grich, who won Game 4 the previous night with an RBI single in the 11th, hit a long fly ball to center field. Henderson leaped at the wall in an attempt to deny Grich a home run, but instead, the ball hit off of the top of the webbing of Henderson’s glove and fell over the fence.

Home run. Angels 3, Red Sox 2. The Big A was in delirium.

One inning later, Rob Wilfong singled home two more runs, and the Red Sox were in dire straits, trailing 5-2 with only six outs standing between them and the end of the 1986 season.

Nobody scored in the eight. Angels starter Mike Witt, who pitched a perfect game on the final day  of the 1984 season at Texas and pitched a complete game victory in Game 1 of the 1986 ALCS at Boston, got one out in the ninth, but also gave up a two-run home run to Don Baylor, whom, ironically, was the AL’s Most Valuable Player in 1979, when he led the Angels to their first AL West championship.

Angels manager Gene Mauch lifted Witt in favor of left-handed reliever Gary Lucas, who would face Boston’s left-handed hitting catcher, Rich Gedman. Gedman was 3-for-3 on the day, but had a bad history vs. Lucas. Lucas hit Gedman, and Mauch immediately called for closer Donnie Moore.

Moore retired Evans on a popup, bringing Henderson to the plate. The Angel hurler got ahead in the count 1-2, but Henderson fought off the next three pitches to stay alive.

On the seventh pitch of the at-bat, Moore threw a fastball low and in. Henderson swung.

The ball skied to left field. Downing tracked the ball, but when he reached the wall, all he could do is look up in disgust and then slam his glove into the fence.

Home run Henderson. Red Sox lead 6-5.

The Angels somehow pulled themselves up off the carpet to score once in the bottom of the ninth and tie the game, but in the 11th, Baylor was hit by a pitch, moved to second on an Evans single and third on a Gedman sacrifice.

Henderson came through again vs. Moore, lifting a sacrifice fly to plate Baylor and put Boston back on top.

California went down meekly in the bottom of the 11th. The Angels would soon be on their way to LAX for the cross-country flight they didn’t want to make.

The Angels would have been better off calling in two forfeits.

The Red Sox won Games 6 and 7 10-4 and 8-1. Boston was on to the World Series. The Mets would be the opposition. Most of you know what happened then.

The Angels would not return to the playoffs until 2002, when they won the World Series vs. the Giants. There hasn’t been a World Series game in Anaheim since Game 7 in 2002.

Boston won it two years later vs. the Cardinals, then added titles in 2007 vs. the Rockies–who wouldn’t come into existence until 1995–and the Cardinals again in 2013.

The Mets haven’t won a World Series since 1986, losing to the Yankees in 2000 and the Royals this past season.

Henderson won his World Series ring in 1989 with Oakland, when it swept San Francisco in the series interrupted by the Loma Prieta earthquake.

Dave Henderson won’t be in Cooperstown. But for anyone who watched Major League Baseball during the 1980s, Hendu’s roller coaster ride in Anaheim won’t soon be forgotten.

 

Yankees-Red Sox blah blah blah blah blah

In addition to the Kentucky Derby, NBA playoffs, NHL playoffs and the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight, ESPN mentioned the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry as being part of the greatest day of sports this year.

First, the greatest day in sports, at least in my opinion, is Super Bowl Sunday. Sure, the game disappointed for many years, but anyone who doesn’t watch the game doesn’t have a pulse, or I have to question their credentials as an American. There are also far better sports days than today, like New Year’s Day for college football, the first two days of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, MLB opening day, NFL opening Sunday…I could go on and on.

Second, I have had it up to here with Yankees-Red Sox. ESPN has forced Yankees-Red Sox down our throats for the last 25 years, since the Total Sports Network first acquired Major League Baseball rights in 1990. I understand ESPN’s headquarters are in Bristol, Conn., where Yankees and Red Sox fans dominate. But last I checked, ESPN is broadcast to more places than New York City, northern New Jersey and New England, so the vast majority of baseball fans are not Yankees or Red Sox fans. In fact, many baseball fans despise one or the other, or both, as is the case in Kansas City.

Third, what is the big deal about a series on the first weekend of May between a 14-9 team and a 12-11 team? NOT A DARN THING. If ESPN was serious about showing the best teams in baseball, it would be showing Tigers-Royals on Sunday night, or better yet, Mariners-Astros. Houston currently is tied with KC for the best record in the American League, amazing to think that franchise had three consecutive 100-loss seasons in 2011, 2012 and 2013. Houston folks thought 70-92 in 2014 was cause for celebration.

Oh boy. The Kentucky Derby hype has started on NBC over three hours before post time. That’s what we all need–a three-hour leadup to the race. If it were Secretariat, or a horse in the Belmont Stakes going for the Triple Crown, then maybe. Not now.

I know what I will NOT be watching tomorrow at 7 p.m. Hint: it’s ESPN.