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Brief chronicles of our sporting times.

A New Meaning to ‘Thrown Under the Bus’



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Oops:

MADRID — Real Madrid waited 18 years to win back the Copa del Rey trophy – only to drop the cup and watch it get crushed under the wheels of a bus.

The 33-pound cup slipped from the hands of Madrid defender Sergio Ramos while atop the team bus during celebrations Thursday morning in the capital. Only hours before, the club defeated rival Barcelona in the domestic cup final in Valencia.

The front right wheel of the bus rolled over the trophy before the driver stopped.

Emergency service members gathered up the broken pieces and returned them to the bus. The trophy did not reappear at the club’s traditional celebration spot at the Plaza de Cibeles in central Madrid.

Video here. . .

Tags: Misc.

Why Do We Cheer a Force Out?



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The scene is every professional baseball stadium. The home team has a runner on first base and there is one man out. The batter hits a slow, bouncing ball to the second baseman, who flips the ball to the shortstop for the force out at second base. Two outs. In turn, the shortstop guns the ball to first base. The play is close, but the batter manages to beat the throw. Up to half of the home team fans cheer. 

Huh?!?

From 1993 to 2010, the inning run expectancy index of a runner on first and one man out has been 0.555 runs, whereas the index of a runner on first and two men out is only 0.240 runs, a greater than 50% drop. In other words, the batter did nothing to help his teammates win.

Put it another way: if the batter had hit an infield fly that the second baseman caught, the result would have been the same — a runner on first with two outs — but none of those fans would have clapped.

So what’s the story?

Are these folks appreciative that the batter hustled down the line? Is the cheering just a knee-jerk reaction to seeing an umpire give the safe call?

Your thoughts are most welcome.

Tags: MLB

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Did Both Chicago Teams Throw the World Series?



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Did Cubs players receive cash payments in exchange for purposely losing the 1918 World Series?

If Chicago has been willing to believe that a cow caused the Great Chicago Fire, maybe it will buy this one: The White Sox got the idea to throw the 1919 World Series after the Cubs did the same thing one year earlier.

That’s the suggestion — more of a hint, really — from Eddie Cicotte, one of the infamous Black Sox banned from baseball after their tainted World Series against Cincinnati.

In a 1920 court deposition the Chicago History Museum recently put on its website, Cicotte said “the boys on the club” talked about how a Cub or a number of Cubs were offered $10,000 to throw the 1918 Series they lost 4-2 to the Boston Red Sox.

Of particular interest is the suspicious play of outfielder Max Flack:

In the fourth game, Flack was picked off not once, but twice. Flack turned a catchable fly ball in the sixth and final game into an error that allowed two runs to score in the Red Sox’s 2-1 win.

And there was the time Babe Ruth came to the plate for the Red Sox — a pitcher at the time, but emerging as one of the game’s best hitters — and the Cubs’ pitcher, Lefty Tyler, saw that Flack was not playing deep enough in right field.

“He waved him back and Flack just stood there,” Deveney said. “Sure enough, Babe hit one over his head” for a triple that scored two runs.

The entire Chicago History Museum post, “Court Confession of a Banished Ball Player,” may be found here.

Tags: MLB

NFL Draft Day Watch: RB Taiwan Jones



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Keep an eye on running back Taiwan Jones out of Eastern Washington at this Thursday’s draft. He’s fast — 4.27 in the 40-yard-dash — and that’s with a broken foot that’s not fully healed.

Admittedly, I never heard of Jones until a friend e-mailed me this YouTube video of Jones jumping out of a three-foot-deep pool — backwards — and landing on his feet.

NFL, here he comes. . .

Tags: NCAA

Sample Size III



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Tags: MLB

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McCourt Is No Longer in Session



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Picking up on Dan’s earlier post about Major League Baseball assuming control over the Los Angeles Dodgers, those rather odd sounds you hear emanating from throughout the Southland are millions of champagne corks popping in celebration, as the team’s fans realize that the McCourt era is finally coming to an end. A longtime Dodger season-ticket holder e-mails, “That is the best #### news i have heard in ages.”

Tags: MLB

Knixed in Boston



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Yeah, yeah. I picked the Knicks in six.

Alas, they lost game one by two points, on a late bucket by Ray Allen — who got open courtesy of an uncalled offensive foul by Kevin Garnett — and after losing five-time All-Star Chauncey Billups to injury earlier in the fourth quarter.

And they lost game two by three points, after losing six-time All-Star Amar’e Stoudemire to injury in the first half. Carmelo Anthony’s heroics — 42 points, 17 boards, and six assists — were wasted. Celtics fans have to love the non-call on Paul Pierce’s foul of Anthony on a baseline drive in the fourth quarter — the refs showed less restraint with 21 seconds left in game one when they called Anthony for an offensive foul against a flopping Paul Pierce away from the ball.

The Celts may win this series, but they’re done after that. They’re not going to get those parquet-floor calls in Miami.

Tags: NBA

Dodgers Temporarily Montreal Expos



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Via the AP:

NEW YORK — Major League Baseball is taking over the Los Angeles Dodgers, a team financially paralyzed by the divorce of its owners.

Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig says in a release Wednesday that he will appoint a representative to oversee the “business and the day-to-day operations of the Club.”

Selig says he took action “because of my deep concerns regarding the finances and operations of the Dodgers.”

His decision followed a report by the Los Angeles Times that owner Frank McCourt had arranged a $30 million loan from the Fox, the team’s television partner.

Between the Dodgers and the Mets, the finances of the National League’s two biggest-market teams are a shambles.

Tags: MLB

Extra Nationem Nulla Salus



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I am serving as an RCIA sponsor for a friend of the family in his conversion to Catholicism this Easter weekend. I’ve struggled mightily with whether I can serve that role for him. You see, he’s a Yankees fan, and I’m not sure I can save him from eternal damnation.

So I have decided that the profession of faith at the Easter Vigil will need a few extra lines. If my friend can assent to these, I’ll be right there with my hand on his shoulder:

Do you reject Derek Jeter, his slap singles and all of his unearned gold gloves?
Do you believe in Ted Williams, the almighty, the best hitter of all time?
Do you believe that God created the heavens, the earth, and Fenway Park?
Do you believe that by coming back from a three games to none deficit, beating the Evil Empire, and winning the World Series, the Red Sox have set the Nation free?
Do you believe in the Bloody Sock, the Green Monster, the forgiveness of Bill Buckner, the resurrection from the dead (of the ’04 Sox), and happiness everlasting, provided that the Yankees finish behind Boston in the standings?

Tags: MLB

Behold, The Power of Troy



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Over at Fangraphs, Jeff Zimmerman charted Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki’s career hitting tendencies. As any Mets fan will mournfully attest, Tulowitzki is enjoying a power surge to start the season: He was .793 SLG and 205 wRC+ heading into last night’s game against the Giants. Through the use of a Loess Curve (see below), Zimmeran discovered that Tulo is turning on pitches with much greater frequency, which leads to an unsurprising conclusion:

This change has allowed him to put the ball into the left-field corner, and the corners are usually the shortest part of the field — which increases the chances of a home run.

Zimmerman suggests that the increased power stems from a changed swing dating back to mid-2009 and improved health.

Tags: MLB

The 2011 NFL Schedule Is Out



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Here.

Tags: NFL

Holy Promotional Days!



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USA Today reports on the effort by various professional-sports franchises to boost group-ticket sales by hosting religious fan days for Christian, Jewish, and Mormon groups.

They found a CAIR spokesman to chime in, who sees the phenomenon as an opportunity to demonstrate Americans’ fabled anti-Muslim attitudes, natch.

But some religious and secular groups don’t think such fan day promotions are appropriate.

For example, the Muslim advocacy group Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) wants equal time for other religions.

“The ultimate test of this kind of policy would be to have a Muslim Family Day — and gauge the public reaction to it,” says spokesman Ibrahim Hooper. “Given the heightened state of anti-Muslim sentiment in our society, I have a feeling there would be some objections to that.”

The Colorado Rockies, of course, have a Faith Day, where people of all creeds are invited.

But what about no creed?

Teams have pushed ethnic heritage days for years. But religion? That’s problematic, answers Blair Scott, spokesman for American Atheists. It’s not illegal, but Scott believes it’s unethical.

“They’re out to make a buck. They’re taking advantage of people’s religiosity to make that buck. “

Scott doubts he’ll ever see “Atheist Day” at stadiums.

“When you have a Super Bowl party in the atheist community, two people show up. We don’t tend to be big sports fans.”

Tags: Misc.

Sidd Finch is Alive and Well



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 . . . and pitching for the Cincinnati Reds.

Aroldis Chapman threw a fastball so hard Monday night it baffled the radar guns, with one recording his ninth-inning pitch at 106 mph and another showing 105 mph.The Cincinnati Reds’ 22-year-old flamethrower, who defected from Cuba in 2009, currently holds the Major League Baseball record for the fastest pitch with his 105.1 mph hurl last September.

Tags: MLB

Can Michael Vick Play Football in Canada?



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Vick’s Eagles open up the NFL season in Toronto — and Canadians aren’t too keen on admitting felons into their country.

NBC Sports:

Few details have emerged regarding the 2011 regular-season NFL schedule, which will be released tonight.  We know that the Packers will host the NBC Thursday night opener on September 8 (we think they’ll face the Saints or the Bears; we’re leaning Bears), we assume one of the New York teams will host the NBC prime-time game the 10th anniversary of 9/11 (we think a Jets-Giants game is unlikely for that evening), and we know that the Lions and Cowboys will play at home on Thanksgiving.  (Given the network assignments for the 2011 Thanksgiving games, the Lions will host one of their NFC opponents, and the Cowboys will welcome either the Dolphins or the Bills.)

Thanks to the folks at the Fan 590 in Toronto, we know that the Bills will face the Eagles in Toronto.  Per the report, the game will be played on November 13 or 20 at Rogers Centre.

The fact that the Eagles are making the trip is a bit curious, given:  (1) the stringent Canadian rules on the admission of felons into the country; and (2) the fact that the Eagles’ starting quarterback is a convicted felon.  Our guess (and it’s just a guess) is that the NFL has worked out these details in advance, ensuring that Mike Vick will be able to play.  If, for some reason, Canada refuses to allow him onto their soil, the NFL will look foolish in hindsight for sending the Eagles north of the border.

The rest here.

Tags: NFL

If You Like Boise State’s Blue Turf . . .



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. . . get ready for the purple and gray of Central Arkansas.

Installation of a new artificial turf field begins today at Central Arkansas, an FCS program in the Southland Conference. That’s noteworthy because the field will be painted purple and gray.

Purple and gray will be alternated in 5-yard sections from the goal lines out to the 45-yard lines. Between the 45s will be a 10-yard gray segment with the logo centered at midfield. The end zones will be black with “Bears” in white lettering, with bear-paw logos on either side of the nickname.

UCA’s field will be the third NCAA field to be a color other than green. Boise State has its blue field, and defending FCS champ Eastern Washington unveiled a red field last season.

Tags: NCAA

Say It Like Yoda: There is . . . another . . . Woods . . .



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Tiger’s niece, Cheyenne Woods, just won the ACC Championship.

Tags: Golf

Re: Notre Dame Issues Report on Student’s Death



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Both head coach Brian Kelly and athletic director Jack Swarbrick, who was at practice that day, should have been fired.

David Haugh has more in the Chicago Tribune:

It’s unfathomable that Sullivan can lose his life because of a stunning lack of common sense and nobody in charge of his welfare loses a job or income as a result of disciplinary action.

“Insofar as the president is responsible for the university as a whole, I am the individual who bears the most responsibility, and I accept that,” Jenkins said.

That’s noble as the head of the university, but it was empty rhetoric. Jenkins and athletic director Jack Swarbrick did not resign, and neither did anyone else. Nobody got reassigned, fined or suspended. Heck, former head athletic trainer Jim Russ got a new title with more responsibility in January.

Claiming “collective responsibility” without consequences for anybody involved sounds like a lawyered-up cop-out. That’s like rehiring a babysitter who let your kid burn himself playing with fire because the sitter claimed not to know how hot the flame was.

The most egregious part of the dissatisfying 145-page report? It suggests when Sullivan tweeted, “Gust of wind up to 60 mph today … I guess I’ve lived long enough,” minutes before a 53 mph gust blew the lift over, it reflected his joking nature, according to friends. And presumably it was Sullivan’s sense of humor, not foreboding, that provoked him to tweet, “Holy (expletive), this is terrifying.”

His whole piece here.

Tags: NCAA

Notre Dame Issues Report on Student’s Death



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So no one is responsible for videographer Declan Sullivan’s death? I can understand Notre Dame’s reluctance to hire its fifth coach in a decade, but Brian Kelly should face some sort of disciplinary action for Sullivan’s death.

Tags: NCAA

Blow Up the NCAA



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That’s the advice from ESPN’s Gene Wojciechowski. I have to say, I’m on board with this. The NCAA is less concerned about the student-athlete (despite their best efforts to tell us otherwise), and far more concerned about protecting its member institutions and the billions of dollars they rake in every year. For those who complain that regulators have a too-cozy relationship with those they oversee, look no further than the NCAA.

Tags: NCAA

Not that It Means Anything, But . . .



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A refurbished Grady Sizemore and his AL Central-leading (!) Indians are in Kansas City today to begin a four-game series with the second-place (!) Royals. Just for fun, I looked up on Baseball-Reference how Cleveland has fared historically when starting out a season 11-4. In the nine previous instances, the Tribe has finished first only twice and three times ended up with a losing record. In contrast, plugging in 10-5 and the Royals, who started play in 1969, reveals that KC has enjoyed only one other identical beginning; the club finished in second place in 1973.

Game time at Kauffman Stadium is 7:10 pm CDT.

Tags: MLB

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