Batting Around is BC Sports' look back at the week's happenings in the world o' sports, presented in a lineup card format for some undisclosed reason.
The Lineup Card
1. 2B Kaz Matsui — If you need only one example of how goofy this baseball postseason has been so far, look no further than the bottom of the seventh inning of Game 3 between the Phillies and the Rockies in the NLDS.
Tied at 1-all, catcher Yorvit Torrealba singled and reached second on a sacrifice, bringing up the Rockies' unlikely spark plug leadoff hitter, Matsui. Hitting .417 in the series, Phillies pitcher Tom Gordon decided to intentionally walk Matsui and instead face Rookie of the Year frontrunner Troy Tulowitzki, who he eventually struck out, ending the threat.
It was a good strategy. And never before in the postseason has a wise strategy entailed intentionally walking Kaz Matsui.
2. QB Trent Green — The Dolphins' signal-caller is rather familiar with injury. In the 1999 preseason, he went down for the year, paving the way for Kurt Warner's unfathomable MVP season and Super Bowl victory. His QB scramble in Kansas City last year awarded him a concussion. And on Sunday, his low block on the Houston Texans' Travis Johnson during a Ted Ginn, Jr., end-around went awry as Green's helmet ran full speed into Johnson's knee. He lay motionless on the field, stretchered off, and was diagnosed with a Grade III concussion, which means he was unconscious for at least five minutes.
He might not play again this year. At 38, he doesn't have many years left, if at all. If this is his lasting impression on the gridiron, consider it one of hustle, intangibles, and leadership. In short, a learning experience for all his fellow Miami Dolphins on how to play the game. As if it were your last play.
3. DT Travis Johnson — And then there's this guy. The man whose knee collided with Trent Green's head looks like a complete douche cauldron after (a) chewing him out as he lay motionless on the field, for which he was flagged for taunting, and (b) throwing a tirade after the game, including the phrase "Fuck Trent Green" and "He's like the scarecrow. He wanted to get courage while I wasn't looking and hit me in my knee instead of trying to hit me in my head."
First of all, someone rent this guy The Wizard of Oz so he knows his scarecrow from his cowardly lion. Secondly, regarding the "malicious hit," well, he's right. I'm not excusing Johnson's classless venting to the media about Trent Green and his wishes of forcible intercourse upon him, but Green's block was a malicious cut-block, and while cut-blocks are quite prevalent, there's such a fine line between a great cut-block, a penalty, and a cheap shot.
I really feel bad for both these guys, because neither deserved what came to them, but injuries are the cruel mistress and drunken neighbor rolled into one that always drop by and ruin the party that is a great football game.
And a bad knee, you say? Nothing an oil can won't fix.
4. PG Isiah Thomas — He was always known for passing the ball around in his championship years with the Detroit Pistons. Via SPORTSbyBROOKS comes yet another clutch assist in Thomas' career. Rather than selfishly pay the entire $11.6 million settlement awarded to "bitch" Anucha Browne Sanders in the sexual harassment lawsuit she won against Thomas, he and Madison Square Garden are dishing the ball to the taxpayers of New York City.
Every year, MSG receives a $10.9 million tax break from the city. That's well over 90 percent of the settlement's lump sum. But then again, this is like getting a $500 bonus from work, and thinking in one's head that somehow it all covers expenses for that speeding ticket, that Nintendo Wii, the flat tire you had last weekend, and the paid escort you had the weekend before that.
5. #24 Jeff Gordon — I couldn't tell you off the bat which racing series Jacques Villeneuve races for, but he's Canadian, so I'll just say either IRL or Formula 1. Like fellow open-wheel drivers Helio Castroneves and Dario Franchitti before him, Villeneuve took his greenhorn laps a NASCAR Nextel Cup race Sunday in Talladega.
And he was welcomed by open arms. Actually, they weren't looking to hug him. They were trying to block him from getting by.
Nope, points leader Jeff Gordon wanted nothing to do with Villeneuve's debut during The Chase. Before Sunday's race, Gordon said, "I think he's a tremendous talent and he belongs in this series, and I'm excited to have him in this series. But I don't care if you're Michael Schumacher, Jacques Villeneuve or Dario Franchitti. The greatest driver on the planet should not be running their first race this weekend."
Having never been a points leader in a NASCAR Series — well, at least this late in the season — I can't see what Gordon's rationale is here. Yes, Villeneuve is an inexperienced with racing in cars that look like, well, cars, as well as the track at Talladega. And he could have made an error in driving and crashed Gordon out.
But if Villeneuve wasn't out there, the 43rd driver would have been … who? A Busch Series rookie? Another fish out of water? Lapping cars worse than you is all part of the race, Gordon. You've been around a while, but this whole immigration of racers from other circuits is all new to you. It's okay. It's totally natural.
6. CS Norman Chad — The CS is for "Couch Slouch," Chad's weekly syndicated column that, every couple months or so, I admonish myself for forgetting to read on a weekly basis. As penance, he's this week's Batting Sixth Quote Of The Week:
Last week on "Monday Night Football," the other analyst — not the former sportswriter — said of the Patriots' success: "This is a single-minded organization. The objective is to win football games." Which, I guess, separates them from, say, the Colts and the Raiders and the Cowboys, whose objective is to bring peace to the Middle East.
7. K Nick Folk — While you were watching Joe Torre's last precious moments in the Yankees dugout, you missed a Jesus-Christ-did-that-just-happen finish in the Cowboys-Bills game on Monday Night Football. Forget Tony Romo and his five interceptions. Forget Terrell Owens' paddle-handed effort on the two-point conversion to tie the game with less than a minute to play. Just remember Nick Folk's kick that sealed the crazy 25-24 comeback win for Dallas.
And it doesn't matter which kick you remember — the first one or the second one. They were the same result.
Right before the snap, Bills coach Dick Jauron called a timeout to nullify the first successful attempt. Well within the rules, it's been seen this year in the college and pro ranks with some success (see: Janikowski, Sebastian) and sometimes it fails completely (see: Byrum, Wes). But I'm with mjd in his Tuesday morning issue of "The Debriefing." somehow, they need to make a rule banning it.
8. S Tony Joiner — Last week, when the Florida Gators defensive captain was arrested for "stealing" his girlfriend's car out of an impound lot, the owner of the towing company wanted to drop the charges all along. But before Stan Forron eventually got the police to drop the charges, he received about 200 phone calls from Gator fans.
Something tells me Forron wasn't re-enacting the Gator fan scene from Big Trouble:
"I’m a Gator fan and I’m calling."
"And what do you have to say?"
"You said we didn’t have the guts to call, so I’m calling."
"Yeah, okay, and so what do you have to say?"
"I’m sayin’ here I am and I’m calling."
"That’s it? You’re calling to say you’re calling?"
"You said we didn’t have the guts."
9. SP Paul Byrd — So much was said about the Cleveland Indians and manager Eric Wedge for going with fourth starter Paul Byrd over ace C.C. Sabathia on short rest. People contended Wedge didn't "understand what the playoffs were all about."
But Wedge did understand the playoffs. The pressure was still on the Yankees, and an aggressive lineup would have fared better on an aggressive pitcher like Sabathia (especially on three days rest), whereas Byrd was like the spread offense against the Yankees' Michigan Wolverines defense. An equalizer. Not a master of deception, but just enough craftiness to turn home runs into flyouts, and doubles into double plays.
And what was Wedge thinking, sending Joe Borowski into the ninth inning to close out the game? His ERA was over 5.00 in the regular season. They should have used Fausto Carmona on two days rest.
Coach: Jim Harbaugh — The underdog stories just aren't gonna end this year in NCAA football. Harbaugh's young Stanford Cardinal team — an underdog by almost seven touchdowns in some sportsbooks — didn't just cover the spread, they covered straight up against the once-first-ranked USC Trojans.
The Cardinal capitalized on five USC turnovers to set up a final winning drive that included a 4th-and-20 conversion and a 4th-and-goal touchdown strike. In fact, the atmosphere in Memorial Coliseum was so raucous, Stanford quarterback Tavita Pritchard couldn't hear Harbaugh's play call on the 4th-and-20, so he had to call his own play.
Stanford hasn't played great this year, getting bushwhacked by UCLA, Oregon, and Arizona State. But after the USC win, they stand just at 2-3 and received a few votes in the USA Today national poll. With that, murmurs that Harbaugh, a former Michigan quarterback, could replace Lloyd Carr at UM in 2008 suddenly aren't that far-fetched.