Sunday, May 26, 2013

Sports this 'n' that

It was a nice story Thursday night in Boston. Too bad Red Sox Nation didn't get a happy ending out of it.

Former Boston manager Terry Francona made his return to Fenway Park, this time as a visiting manager, leading his current club, the Cleveland Indians to a romp over the BoSox, whom he led to 2 World titles in 4 years (2004, 2007) before resigning after an epic collapse in 2011. After making a few appearances at Fenway as an ESPN announcer last year, Francona was back on the field Thursday, and the Red Sox showed him the ultimate respect by playing a highlight reel of his run in Beantown. Boston has since bounced back to win the next two games in the series, but what was perhaps the most embarrassing thing on Thursday was that MLB Network chose the game---NESN feed and all---for national broadcast.

Meanwhile, Madison Square Garden is dark, at least until WNBA season starts in a few weeks. In the space of a week, the Knicks & Rangers were both eliminated from the playoffs, meaning the focus of the obsessive tabloid media tightens on the Yankees & Mets. The WNBA's Liberty? Fuhgeddaboutit. They never get a back page headline.

The Yankees have played the part of the children's book, The Little Engine That Could, clawing their way into first place in the AL East, defying the media naysayers. Outfielder Curtis Granderson, about a week removed from his season debut, was sent back to the disabled list on Saturday, after getting a knuckle on his left pinky broken by a pitched ball on Friday night. While the tabloid media response was predictable, stopping short of going all Chicken Little as usual, the Yankee management shrugged. Ex-Tiger Brennan Bosch was called up from Triple A Scranton-Wilkes Barre. Bosch has been one of those role playing veterans who've contributed to the Yankees' gradual rise to the top of the standings. It may only be the end of May, but it seems to me that the media mavens who dismissed the Yankees in pre-season as pretenders were only fooling themselves.

The injury curse afflicting the Mets since the opening of Citi Field 4 years ago may also be including fractured pysches.

Case in point: First baseman Ike Davis, for the 2nd straight year, is having a horrible start to his season. Of course, the media is calling for GM Sandy Alderson to do the right thing and send Davis to the minors to get his game back to normal. Problem is, after an eternity of Triple A ball in the International League, the Mets' top farm team is in the Pacific Coast League this year, and in, of all places, Las Vegas, which used to be San Diego's top team. I don't understand the logic of that particular business decision. The Buffalo Bisons, which was the Mets' top farm team the last couple of years, now is tethered to Toronto. I digress. Everyone thinks the thin air in Nevada will help Davis regain his lost confidence and batting stroke. Last year, the Mets resisted sending Davis to Buffalo, and he responded by coming back to life in the 2nd half. However, this year, the media scrutiny is much more intense as the Mets have already settled into 4th place (like, Miami is not getting out of the basement any time soon), 12 games in back of Atlanta and 12 under .500.

Davis isn't the only one needing a vacation in Vegas. Shortstop Ruben Tejada isn't hitting like he should, but the notation that he is hitting more pop flies than line drives reminds that his predecessor, Jose Reyes, now on the DL in Toronto, had the same problem for years. The diff is, Reyes is a charismatic presence on the field and in the clubhouse. Tejada has let early season defensive struggles affect his batting, while Davis has of late been the opposite. The tabloid media won't let the story go, but in Davis' case, he's the one preventing the team from making the necessary move. Reportedly, he doesn't want to go west, even though he would be accorded more chances to play in front of family and friends in his native Arizona, which has teams in the PCL. The New York Daily News reported the other day that the legendary mentalist, The Amazing Kreskin, has offered to help.


The Mets would be better off hiring a staff psychologist, as they did in the late 80's, to deal with Davis and his fragile psyche. Truthfully speaking the Mets would be well served to advise Davis that he really has no say in the matter. The Mets can shift Lucas Duda, currently their left fielder, back to his natural position at first, and bring outfielder Collin Cowgill back from Vegas to team with Rick Ankiel & Marlon Byrd in the outfield, or let rookie Juan Legares play full time. All I'm asking the tabloids to do is back off a little and not nag the Mets to death.

It's bad enough that the WWE has one wrestler sidelined with a legitimate concussion (Dolph Ziggler, as previously reported). Now, they've decided to create a separate storyline involving a worked concussion.

Last week, at the Extreme Rules PPV, former WWE & UFC champion Brock Lesnar used Triple H's signature weapon of last resort, the sledgehammer, and a timely assist from Paul Heyman, to defeat the "Cerebral Assassin" in the rubber match of their feud. The next night, Heyman announced that he had added a new man to his stable, one Curtis Axel (real name: Joe Hennig, formerly known in WWE as Michael McGillicutty 2010-13), the grandson of Larry "The Axe" Hennig, and son of the late Curt Hennig, aka Mr. Perfect. Axel was thrown right into a main event match against an angry HHH, but the match never reached a true conclusion. Just as he was about to put Axel away, HHH began to feel dizzy and retreated to the ringside area. Doctors had warned him not to try to compete, but he did anyway, and now it cost him. He was seen collapsing to the floor as Monday Night Raw drew to a close.

The storyline unfolded over the next few nights, with reports that HHH had suffered from Post Concussion Syndrome, thanks to the sledgehammer shot to the jaw a week ago. In truth, he's fine, but Vince McMahon, who picks up another Weasel of the Week award as a result, decided to do this storyline, ignoring the real-life issues facing Ziggler, who has been sidelined for a couple of weeks. The rumor mill speculated already that the chairman/CEO would return to a prominent television role in an attempt to talk his son-in-law into retiring (Triple H, aka Paul LeVesque, turns 44 in July), for the sake of his family. Inevitably, HHH will get another crack at Axel, probably not until later in the year (Survivor Series in November would be a good time for the rematch), or next year at the latest.

Does anyone feel as I do, that the NBA playoffs are creating an easier and easier path for the Miami Heat to win another title? I am so not digging.

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