MLB General

The Full Count: The White Sox remind us who the champs are

1. Remember us?: It seemed as though Detroit had captured the AL Central division title. After all, they were leading at 10 games at one point while their main foe, the White Sox, weren’t looking too good. In fact, many thought Detroit’s main challenger would be the red-hot Minnesota Twins. Not anymore. The Sox just swept up Detroit like they were the last place team of years past. They won their 70th game by defeating the Tigers yesterday. Freddy Garcia picked up his 11th win while Bobby Jenks closed the door for the 33rd time. Now, as the Tigers have lost 5 straight, the White Sox are just 5.5 games back, their lowest deficit in about a month. Minnesota still looms 8 games back.

2. Sunday Night Duel: Last night’s Sunday Night Baseball featured one of the best pitching matchups of the season. The Giants’ Jason Schmidt took on the Dodgers’ Greg Maddux in a memorable affair. Neither pitcher allowed a run and both pitched 8 innings, though they got there in remarkably different ways. Schmidt threw 115 pitches and struck out 9. The high pitch count isn’t unusual for him; he has averaged 110 pitches per start this season. Maddux was much more efficient in achieving the same result. He threw in mere 68 in his outing, 50 for strikes. He allowed just 2 hits and no walk in his third straight gem start since being traded to LA. Both of these pitchers were so brilliant, but both walked away with no-decisions. The ninth inning didn’t decide anything either, as the shutout continued for both sides. But in the bottom of the 11th, the Dodgers’ little-known catcher Russell Martin stepped up to the plate, and ended the game with a solo shot. That gave the first-place Dodgers their 4th straight win and 15th of 16, while the Giants were sent home with their fourth-straight loss.

3. Watch out: The Cleveland Indians, the consensus most disappointing and most inconsistent team of the year, have won their 6th game in a row. They swept up the Kansas City Royals in four games, including a 13-0 demolition yesterday. The Tribe showed what their offense is capable of, putting up 11 runs in the first inning. KC starter Luke Hudson, who recorded only one out, was charged with all 11. His outing was easily the worst of the year by a starter, in fact in was the worst in over 100 years. Hudson became the first pitcher since 1897 to allow 11 runs in the first inning of a ballgame. The scoring that inning was capped off by a Travis Hafner grand slam, his 6th of the year. That ties a major-league record for most grand slams in a season. Hafner, who has the highest OPS in the American League, is on pace for 49 homers and 145 RBI.

4. How wild: The Cincinnati Reds, at least for now, are still in first place for the NL Wild Card. They escaped 7-5 yesterday over Philadelphia in an 11-inning game. Juan Castro and Ken Griffey drove in runs in the 11th to seal the deal. The Reds also got back-to-back-to-back homers in the 6th inning, including Adam Dunn’s 35th. They won despite another big-time effort from Ryan Howard, who hit his NL-best 41st homer and tied the game in the 9th with an RBI single. Still, the Reds won and are ahead of second-place San Diego by a half-game. The Phillies are just four games back.

5. What a year: Can you say 8-0? Jered Weaver can, because he has accomplished that record this year for the Angels. The only significant undefeated pitcher left in baseball, Weaver was on top of things yesterday as the Angels cruised to a 5-3 win over the Yankees. Weaver struck out 8 in six innings of work, and he has been a part of the Angels’ major league best class of rookies. Howie Kendrick is hitting .319 after a 3-5 effort yesterday. Catcher Mike Napoli has 12 homeruns on the year. Both, of course, are rookies. The Yankees, after losing their second consecutive game, now only lead the Red Sox by one game and have a worse record than the Wild Card leading White Sox.

MLB General

The Full Count: Red Sox Swept by a AAA team?

1. A Royal Sweep: What has happened to the Boston Red Sox? The team, once dominant over the AL East, has lost five straight games. They have fallen from first place to 3 games back in that span, and they are just not looking good right now. The Kansas City Royals of all teams just hammered the Sox in a three game sweep. Yesterday they prevailed 5-4, despite an incredible 8th-inning single by David Ortiz that many national columnists are calling “clutch.” Anyway, the Royals got three hits and two RBIs by vet Reggie Sanders, and a decent start by Runelvys Hernandez, who had allowed 17 runs in his previous two outings. For the Red Sox, Curt Schilling allowed an uncharacteristic 11 hits and 5 runs to one of the league’s worst offenses. Until the Red Sox can figure out what’s going on, the Yankees have a chance at dominating the division.

2. Different Sox, different story: Ready to take some more blame, Alex Rodriguez? The Yankees slugger, who had been relatively quiet for like a week, made a costly throwing error against the White Sox. His errant throw let Jermaine Dye score, and four runs total crossed the plate that inning. So with those runs and a Scott Podsednik RBI, the White Sox won to take the series of three. Javier Vasquez walked six but struck out 8 and Bobby Jenks closed the door for his AL-leading 31st save. With that Chicago was able to re-pass Minnesota for second place in the division. The 76-38 Tigers, who were off yesterday, still loom large in first.

3. Back to the normal: The Earth rotates, the sky is blue, and the Houston Astros are in Wild Card contention. Those are the facts of life these days. The `Stros, who have won the Wild Card and advanced to the NLCS for two consecutive seasons, are now two games back after sweeping the Pirates. Roger Clemens pitched last night to close out the series, with his 4th win of the year. Incredibly the Rocket has allowed three earned runs or less in each of his 10 starts. So now the Astros, despite an underwhelming record of 56-58, trail the leading Reds by just 2.5 games. In the American League, their record would put them 11.5 games out.

4. One game changes everything: San Diego had the NL West lead when they woke up on Thursday. Now, after they lost and the Dodgers won, the Padres find themselves tied for second. SD lost to El Duque Hernandez of the Mets, who after early struggles has won four straight decisions. The Dodgers, meanwhile, defeated the Rockies despite an ace performance by their starter Jason Jennings. Underrated youngster Andre Ethier hit his 11th homerun for LA. They lead both the Padres and the Diamondbacks (who were off) by a half-game. With how crazy this division is, however, the Dodgers could find themselves in third place by tomorrow.

5. Don’t believe it Phillies fans: The Fightins might be 3 games out of Wild Card contention and starting a series against the Cincinnati Reds who lead the WC race but don’t get your hopes up. This is, after all, the Phillies. They will break your hearts every time. Even worse so because they give you some hope. Just move it along. Move it along to football and the Eagles. This has been a public service announcement from Sportscolumn blog.

MLB General

August 2 in Sports History: Thurman Munson dies in plane crash

In 1979: New York Yankees catcher Thurman Munson was killed when the single-engine plane he was learning to fly crashed in Canton, OH. Munson, the clubhouse leader of an outstanding Yankee team that had won back-to-back World Series titles, was 32. He was a seven-time All-Star, three-time Gold Glove winner and won the 1970 A.L. Rookie of the Year award and the 1976 A.L. MVP. He was a career .292 hitter, but hit .356 in 30 postseason games. A memorial service would be held the next night at Yankee Stadium vs. the Orioles, with 51,151 fans attending. It was the largest crowd of the season.

In 1921: The eight Chicago White Sox players accused of throwing the 1919 World Series are acquitted by a jury in Chicago. According to trial accounts, the jurors hoisted the “Black Sox” on their shoulders as they left the courtroom. Newly appointed Commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landis would have none of it, and the very next day he banned Buck Weaver, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Eddie Cicotte, Chick Gandil, Happy Felsch, Lefty Williams, Swede Risberg and Fred McMullin from baseball for life. Weaver and Jackson (although he earlier confessed to it) contended that they were not in on the fix; and despite their best efforts to be reinstated, they never again played a big league game.

MLB General

The Full Count: White Sox keep spiralling down

1. Another Brick in the Wall: Going into their series against the Twins, the White Sox enjoyed a three-game lead over the team. But now that the series is over, that lead has disappeared. The Twins did what they needed to do, sweeping three close games to tie the defending World Champs for second place in the venerable Central. For the White Sox and pitcher Mark Buehrle, winning has just been harder to come by recently. The White Sox have gone just 2-9 since the All Star break, with Buehrle going 0-3 with an 11.15 ERA in that span. Since the end of June, Buehrle has gone 0-5 and seen his ERA inflate from 3.22 to 4.89. Now they have lost what once seemed like an insurmountable Wild Card lead, and the Sox are 8.5 back of Detroit. Conversely, Minnesota cannot seem to lose a game. Could the White Sox, universally considered the best team in baseball about a month ago, miss the playoffs? It’s possible.

2. Back in Business: With the numerous injuries, struggles, and poor play that the Yankees have experienced this season, many thought that this would be the year that they miss the playoffs. Well, if the season ended today, the Bronx Bombers would be in the postseason. With a win yesterday, the Yankees swept the Rangers and moved into first place in the American League Wild Card standings. They can thank Jason Giambi, who broke out of a 4-32 slump with a game-winning homer. Giambi has struggled hugely this month, with a .195 average and .727 OPS. But last night he stepped up in a crucial situation, homering off Akinori Otsuka in the ninth. The Yankees scored 6 of their 8 runs in the last two innings, and the Rangers could not keep up despite all of their key players having excellent games. New York is now 1.5 back of Boston and a half game ahead of Chicago for the division and Wild Card leads, respectively.

3. Ready to collide: The Mets and Braves have not met since Atlanta became one of the NL’s hottest ballclubs. But on Friday, the teams will start a three-game series that could turn the Mets’ longstanding double-digit lead into an 8-game lead should the Braves take the series. But more importantly for New York, the series will finally mark the return of Pedro Martinez, who has missed nearly a month. Pedro, who has a 3.45 ERA and 7-4 record this year, will pitch on Friday in his returning start. This series is huge for the Braves, who won last night against the Marlins and are fighting multiple teams for the Wild Card. Currently they are 4.5 games back of Cincy and in fourth place, but we all know how quickly things can change in the crazy National League this season.

4. It’s good to share: The LA Angels and Oakland A’s have now shared the AL West lead for three days now. The teams have coordinated winning and losing, and last night was a good night for both teams. Despite Bartolo Colon leaving after one inning due to injury, the Angels crushed the D-Rays 15-6 in an offensive outburst. They produced so well that they moved up to 10th in both OPS and runs in the AL. That’s not saying much until you consider that Oakland is below them in both categories. How could two of the AL’s worst offensive teams be co-leading a division? The answer is pitching, and both teams are solid in that aspect. The A’s pitching was showcased last night when they nearly blanked the tough Boston offense. Dan Haren allowed the only run of the night and Huston Street continued his scoreless July. He has recorded two saves and two wins in a month in which his ERA has plummeted almost a point. Both teams stand at 52-49.

5. Ring my Belle: Albert Belle, the former Indians slugger who hit almost 400 homeruns in his career, has joined the extensive list of pro athletes in jail recently. Belle pleaded guilty to stalking his girlfriend and could face a 3-month jail sentence. Belle had apparently attached a GPS system to his girlfriend’s car and threatened her. (Insert your own Cincinnati Bengals-in-jail reference here).

MLB General

The Full Count: Juiced on the mound


1. If you thought Mark Redman wasn’t an All Star…: Jose Canseco’s All Star appearance was 1 for 2. While he did win the home run derby in the Golden Baseball League All Star extravaganza, his pitching was awful even by independent league standards. He allowed 4 runs while recording just one out; his knuckleball evidently not working. Canseco had pitched in the majors before in a blowout situation. In that appearance he allowed 3 runs while throwing almost double the amount of balls than strikes. He also tore a ligament in his elbow, ending his season. Maybe it’s not such a good idea to let a power hitter like Canseco pitch.

2. Young pitchers rule, Part 1: Where would the Red Sox be without their rookie pitchers? We’re talking about Jon Lester and Jonathan Papelbon, who have both been lights-out in their action so far this year. They were showcased more than ever yesterday, when they combined to one-hit the Kansas City Royals. Lester pitched 8 near-perfect innings for the victory, while Papelbon cleaned up with his 28th save. Combine those saves with Lester’s 5-0 record and Papelbon’s 2-1 record, and that means that these two pitchers have been a part of a combined 35 Red Sox victories. They are both a part of one of the most intriguing stories in baseball this year–the AL’s rookie pitchers.

3. Young pitchers rule, Part II: Many have already conceded the AL rookie of the year award to Papelbon. While he is very deserving, you cannot have that discussion without mentioning Francisco Liriano. Liriano bounced back from his worst start of the season last week with a shutdown of the Devil Rays yesterday. He was one out short of a complete game and allowed no runs and 3 hits. Liriano outdeuled another young stud, Scott Kazmir, who allowed 4 runs in 6 innings. Now Liriano is first in the majors in both ERA (1.94) and WHIP (.95) among starters. He has held opponents to just a .196 batting average and has more strikeouts (115) than innings pitched (102.0). How could you not give this guy some love for ROTY? With him and Johan Santana, the Twins will have two excellent starters for a long time.

4. Belting Beltran: Carlos Beltran accomplished a very special feat yesterday. For the second game in a row, Beltran hit a grand slam, becoming only the 23rd player ever to do that and the first since 2002. Even more interestingly, prior to the slams he was 0-11 with the bases loaded in the last 2 seasons. Beltran, who was considered a bust last year with a mere 16 homers and 78 RBIs, is on pace for 50 and 144 this year. His OPS has increased from .744 to 1.002, and he is slugging 200 points higher. This is the player the Mets expected when they signed him to a $13 million/season contract two years ago, and that contact is now worth every penny. If it wasn’t for Albert Pujols, Beltran would be considered an MVP favorite.

5. White Sox would have an even record against each other this year since they are the top two teams in baseball. But so far, the #2 White Sox have dominated their Detroit rivals. Last night was no different, as Chicago won 7-1 to improve to 6-1 on the year against the Tigers. Jon Garland, who has been one of the most inconsistent pitchers in the majors this year, had one of his better games. Garland allowed one run over 7, and his offense gave him plenty of support. Paul Konerko homered twice and drove in 4 runs, and Joe Crede hit another homer, his 18th. For the losing Tigers, Nate Robinson had one of his worst games, allowing 6 earned runs. These two teams will become very familiar with each other over the next few months. They play 12 more times, including games today and tomorrow that will both be on ESPN.

MLB General

July 12 in Sports History: Disco Sucks!

In 1976: Owner Ted Turner of the Atlanta Braves offers perhaps one of the goofiest promotions of all time to fans attending the game versus the Mets. First, 34 couples were married in a ceremony at home plate. Then, Turner held a card for his fledgling Championship Wrestling league on the field; thus the (I guess) appropriately named “Headlocks and Wedlocks” promotion.

In 1979: As strange as Turner’s promotion might have been, it doesn’t hold a candle (or should I say blowtorch?) to a charter member of the Sick Promotions Hall of Fame: Disco Demolition Night at Chicago’s Comiskey Park. The White Sox were playing a doubleheader against the Detroit Tigers, and White Sox owner Bill Veeck encouraged fans to exchange their unwanted disco records for a dollar admission to the game. Fans also brought records into the game and were tossing them like Frisbees. It quickly got ugly, as Chicago DJ Steve Dahl blew up a box of disco records in center field (and tearing a hole in the field). Fans quickly rushed the field, started their own fires, and police in riot gear had to clear the field. The White Sox forfeited the second game of the doubleheader.

MLB General

The Full Count: Marathon baseball

1. The never ending game: The longest game of the year was played right when the two teams involved didn’t want it–the day before the All Star break. The Red Sox and the White Sox battled for a total of 19 innings–the longest game since April 2003. The Red Sox should have had it won it the ninth–Jonathan Papelbon was in and they were leading by one. But then Jermaine Dye homered, his 25th of the year and third in the last two days. That sent the game into extras, and in the 11th, both teams scored two runs. Then it was scoreless again until the 19th inning, when Tadahito Iguchi hit a game-winning RBI single. The White Sox’s win avoided a sweep, and they are only two back of Detroit now. Boston has kept their three-game lead. This was the longest game of the year at 6 hours and 19 minutes. Boston’s Trot Nixon became the first player to go 0-9 since 1991. Teammate Jason Varitek wasn’t much better at 0-8.

2. Another long game: The battle of the Sox wasn’t the only game to go into extras last night. The Astros-Cardinals matchup went into 12 innings–on Sunday Night Baseball. The Astros were down 2 runs in the eighth but battled back with a Chris Burke two-run homer and a Craig Biggio sac fly. So the game went into extras and was scorless until the 12th, when pinch-hitter Aaron Miles hit a two-run single off Houston closer Brad Lidge, whose struggles this year have yet to stop. The Cardinals now have a four-game division lead going into the break. Houston is six games out.

3. AL’s best pitcher?: Roy Halladay has just dominated this season. He picked up his 12th win yesterday against the Royals, becoming the first pitcher in the majors to reach that mark. His solid 7 inning, 1 earned run start lowered his ERA to 2.92 and his WHIP to 1.03. Halladay has now won four starts in a row, and 7 of his last 8 decisions have been victories. His excellent performance this year has earned him a trip to Pittsburgh for the All Star game and has helped out the Blue Jays’ somewhat inconsistent rotation.

4. They’ll welcome the break: The Pittsburgh Pirates are certainly glad the All Star break is here. They have fallen to 30-60 on the year, the worse record in the majors. Their 8-3 loss to the Phillies yesterday gave Philly their first series win in a month. The Pirates have gone 4-20 in their last 24 games and are even worse than the Chicago Cubs. They are five games behind the Cubs and 19.5 games behind the division-leading Cardinals.

5. Leading at the break: The first half of the season is now in the books, and here are some interesting notes from the statistical leaders. David Ortiz, who wasn’t on the leaderboard until recently, is now first in the majors in RBI (87) and homeruns (31). Also, Albert Pujols, despite missing 15 games, is first in homers (29) and second in RBIs (76) in the NL. Adam Dunn (28), Jason Giambi (27), and Travis Hafner (25) rank in the top 10 in homers but won’t be going to the All Star game. Now to the pitchers. Jason Isringhausen is first in the NL in saves (26) despite an underwhelming 3.35 ERA and 1.41 WHIP. Meanwhile, two rookies (Francisco Liriano and Justin Verlander) are in the AL’s top five in ERA, but neither will be going to Pittsburgh for the All Star game.

MLB General

The Full Count: No birthday present for George

1. Happy Birthday, Boss: George Steinbrenner celebrated his 76th birthday last night. So did the Yankees’ opponent, the Indians. Cleveland’s offense came alive for a 19-1 bashing of New York, the second-most runs scored by any team in a game this season. Travis Hafner demonstrated why he should be on the All Star team by crushing 2 home runs and 4 RBIs. Catcher Victor Martinez, one of the league’s most underrated players, went 5-6 and drove in 3. Six Indians had 2 or more hits, and six also had 2 or more RBIs. Shawn Chacon took the bulk of the beating for the Yankees by allowing 7 runs in less than 2 innings. The Indians also featured some good pitching in the rout: Jake Westbrook went 7 innings and allowed no earned runs. Cleveland is no stranger to blowing out the Yankees; in August 2004 they crushed them 22-0.

2. Tying it up: The Blue Jays have been creeping up on the Yankees for almost two months now, and they finally tied them in the standings yesterday. Roy Halladay, the Blue Jays’ All Star pitcher, became the first AL starter to reach 11 wins on the year. Halladay worked 7.2 scoreless innings to capture what eventually became a 3-2 win over the Rangers. That’s because BJ Ryan almost blew the game in the 9th inning. Ryan, whose ERA has been well below 1 for most of the season, allowed 2 runs in the ninth but escaped with the save. Both the Blue Jays and the Yanks are now 4 games back of the Red Sox in the East, and that’s with Boston losing yesterday. Meanwhile, the Rangers fell to 42-42 but are still in 2nd place in the awful AL West division.

3. Make it 17: Jose Contreras, the AL’s likely starter in the All Star game, remained undefeated with one of his best outings in a while yesterday. Contreras, who posted a 6.21 ERA in June but escaped 3-0, worked 6.2 scoreless innings last night to improve to 9-0. Contreras needed little run support but he got plenty of it; the White Sox offense blew up the Orioles for 13 runs. Paul Konerko hit his 21st homer of the season as every Sox starter scored a run and got a hit. At 54-29, Chicago remains 1.5 back of the Tigers for the AL Central lead.

4. A three-way tie: The NL West has been the most competitive division in the majors ever since the season started. Teams move in and out of first very quickly in this division, in which currently all 5 teams are separated by just 3.5 games. Right now three teams are tied for the lead: the Rockies, the Padres, and the Dodgers (43-40 each). The Giants are just a half game back, while the struggling Diamondbacks are bringing up the rear. The division could be called the NL’s best or worst depending on how you look at it. While all teams are close, the 43-40 mark is the worst in the majors for any division leader. Which team should emerge from this mess? We’ll take the Dodgers, whose offense surprisingly leads the NL in runs scored.

5. LLLLLLima time!!!: In one of the most entertaining stories possible, the Mets recalled Jose Lima from AAA. Lima, who posted an 8.79 ERA in three starts earlier this year, will look to further the Mets’ recent struggles. Or maybe not, considering his 3.86 ERA in seven starts in the minors. Either way, we’ll get to say “Lima Time” one more time.

MLB General

The Full Count: Fun in Lexington

1. The Single-A leader in attention-getting: The Lexington Legends have been in the news twice in their lifetime, both times ironically this month. First they were host to Roger Clemens’ first rehab start, and yesterday they hosted one of the wildest tantrums in baseball history. Joe Mikulik, manager of the visiting Asheville Tourists, was just slightly upset about an umpire’s call about a second-base pickoff attempt. When Koby Clemens (yes, that Koby Clemens) was called safe at second, Mikulik ran out of the dugout, argued with the ump, and was ejected. Of course he didn’t stop there, picking up second base and throwing it into the infield, covering home plate with dirt, and throwing bats onto the field. Milkulik said, “I could get two mannequins at Sears and umpire better than what I saw this series.”

2. A comeback for the ages: It was a shame the Chicago White Sox lost to the Houston Astros Sunday night, because if they hadn’t it might have been considered one of the great all-time MLB comebacks. The Astros simply dominated the first 7 innings of this ballgame. Ace Roy Oswalt allowed 2 runs in seven and struck out Jim Thome 3 times. Lance Berkman hit a homer and 3 RBIs. Sox starter Javier Vasquez allowed 9 earned runs, and the Sox trailed at this point 9-2. People were even starting to leave the stands at US Cellular Field. But the performance they missed was legendary. Tadahito Iguchi, the White Sox’s unremarkable second baseman, hit a three-run homer in the eighth that set the score to 9-5. Then Houston closer Brad Lidge came on in the ninth even though it wasn’t a save situation. Two singles, two outs, and a walk brought up Iguchi again. Iguchi homered again, a grand slam that tied up what was once an eight run game. Iguchi’s seven RBI in the last two innings to tie it up would be one of the most memorable individual performances in MLB history had this been the postseason. But it wasn’t, and there was no storybook ending for Chicago. Willie Taveras hit a single in the 13th inning to win the game for Houston. The loss ended a 9-game winning streak for the White Sox.

3. Mr. Excitement: Jose Reyes was struggling about three weeks ago at this time. He was only hitting .246 in the leadoff spot for the Mets, with a measly .308 on-base percentage. But now he has proven himself as one of the best table-setters in the game, as a 13 game hitting streak has increased his average to .302. In June he is hitting .430 with 15 steals, a substantial portion of his major-league leading 34 in the latter category. Yesterday he helped the Mets to a 7-4 win over Toronto, with 4 hits, a homer, and a steal. This is what the Mets have always hoped for from Reyes, who in his first full season last year posted an OBP of just .300. With Reyes’ help the Mets are one of just two NL teams with a winning record in interleague play (the Rockies are the other).

4. Just what the Braves needed: The Braves haven’t been able to buy a win in June, as both their pitching and hitting has floundered. But yesterday they finally found some hope, as first-time starter Chuck James allowed just 3 hits and a run in 8 innings pitched. James, who is considered by one scouting service the #7 prospect in the big leagues, allowed just one hit through seven innings to Tampa. He is filling in for the demoted Jorge Sosa and brings a young talent the Braves desperately need from their pitching staff. The Braves won the game 4-1, and captured their first series win since May 25-28 vs. the Cubs.

5. Pros vs. Joes: The Yankees and Marlins played a doubleheader yesterday, significant because of the $185 million difference in payroll between the teams. It also allowed the Yankees to preview some of their future players when the Marlins dump everyone after winning the 2008 World Series. Anyways, the first game marked the best pitching duel of Sunday, as Mike Mussina took on Dontrelle Willis. Both were excellent, Willis allowing 2 runs and Mussina just one. Johnny Damon’s two run homer allowed the Yankees to take Game 1. But Game 2 was a different story, as the Marlins blanked the Yanks 5-0. Anibal Sanchez, in his first major league start for Florida, won the game with an impressive 5.2 inning performance. The Marlins’ bullpen allowed no hits the rest of the way as the team cruised to victory. In the department of the unordinary, just 6,800 people showed up for Game 2, the lowest total at Yankee Stadium in more than 10 years. It was almost like giving the Marlins home-field advantage, as they are used to those kind of crowds back in Miami.

Chicago White Sox

Odds and Ends 05.31.06: Make way for MVP Thome

A change of scenery has Jim Thome being talked about as a strong MVP candidate. Even Paul Konerko understands this is one of those magical seasons for a player. He is willing to step aside in interleague play so that Thome can play 1B and get his at-bats in.

There’s no way I’m going to sit this guy,” Guillen said of Thome, who leads the Sox with 20 home runs. “I already talked to Konerko about that, and he’s willing to do what I want him to do. That’s why I think it’s easy to manage this club. Nobody has an ego, and, obviously, when you’re playing interleague, you want to be in the lineup.

In other news…

[MSNBA]: Barry Bonds wants us to think he’s human after all

[Pioneer Press]: Kevin McHale is delusional

[USA Today]: Report clears Armstrong of doping in 1999 Tour de France

[Sportsline]: NCAA rule change allows coaches one replay challenge per game

[SignOnSanDiego]: Sauerbeck is sorry for getting arrested

[Mirror UK]: England’s March Madness — 15% plan “illness” during World Cup matches