Travis looks at two of sport’s greatest current rivalries, tries to hold on to Rampage’s title reign, and fumbles with his phone in an attempt to break baseball trades.
I’ll admit that I failed to catch both the beginning and the end of today’s Roger Federer -Rafael Nadal Wimbledon men’s final. What I did see, however, ranks up there with some of the best tennis matches I’ve seen. I’ve already documented my Federer favouritism, so it was a disappointment to see him go down, but the show he and Nadal put on today leaves no doubt as to who the best two tennis players in the world are, even if the Spaniard might be number one for the time being.
Two things from the world of combat sports: First, for a quick-but-meaningful boxing match, here’s Saturday’s Kendall Holt-Ricardo Torres rematch. It counts as one of those quirky, enthralling boxing matches that you only get two or three of each year. I definitely recommend taking the four minutes to watch it. If you need some context to get into it, here’s Graham Houston’s preview of the fight.
As for UFC 86, I didn’t see much of the show. Forrest Griffin’s light heavyweight championship win over Rampage Jackson, which I did manage to see, was an instant classic. I’m not buying the whole controversial scoring claim, as I had it 48-47 for Griffin, all the while cheering for Jackson. Note that I did not even award Griffin a 10-8 second round, as I use those very sparingly, and felt that a 10-8 did not qualify in that five-minute span. I’m not writing this to hype the fight, however. The best thing to come out of this fight – Even better than a brilliant season of The Ultimate Fighter – was Jackson’s interview three days previous with the always-fun Savage Dog Show. Download the show from here, and the interview’s from the 13-minute mark to the 32-minute mark, and must be listened to through to the end. If you enjoyed Jackson on The Ultimate Fighter even the slightest bit, take the 20 minutes and listen to this interview. You won’t be disappointed.
The other big piece of news today: CC Sabathia’s going to the Brewers. Though it certainly aids Team Travis, I can’t determine if it’s the right thing for the Indians. Forget their record this year, as the talent’s clearly there to make a playoff run if they get off to the right start. Cleveland could’ve put up a competitive offer at the end of the season, or even offered arbitration, and brought him back for another run with a clean slate. Now, they’re banking on a rotation headed by Cliff Lee (who won’t have another year like this one) and Fausto Carmona (who nobody’s quite yet certain on the talent level of). Sure, Cleveland could trade him and then try to sign him in the off-season, but there aren’t many cases of a guy going back to the team that sold on him, and I don’t think Sabathia is one of those guys. As for the Brewers? Great trade. The NL’s not particularly strong this year, they’re probably the favourites to take the Wild Card at this point, and you never know how a prospect, especially one who’s only in Double A, will perform in the bigs. In fact, Cleveland should just look at Andy Marte to see how a prospect doesn’t always pan out.
One last thing on Sabathia: The closest thing we’ve heard to a confirmation so far has been a text message to Amy K. Nelson? A text message? I don’t know what to do with this news or how to comment on it, but trades are being confirmed via text message at this point. Do with that what you may.
On, finally, to today’s baseball game, the ESPN Sunday Nighter between the Red Sox and the Yankees:
52-38 Red Sox (Tim Wakefield, 5-6, 3.72) @ 46-42 Yankees (Joba Chamberlain, 2-2, 2.22)
I’ll admit that this was not my first choice of game to watch today. I was hoping to catch the Oakland/Chicago game, but the timing failed to work out. Not one to give up on watching baseball for the day altogether, I tuned in Jon Miller and Joe Morgan for their coverage of baseball’s best rivalry!
The game’s first play of note was an A-Rod home run that ties Mickey Mantle on the all-time list, so it was 1-0 Yankees in the 2 nd. Chamberlain (who I was happy to get the chance to watch) seemed comfortable until allowing a couple of hits to start the 5 th, which signaled the beginning of his downfall. A wild pitch scored Youkilis, and, with the bases loaded moments later, Pedroia singled in two more, and it was 3-1 Boston. The Yankees cut the lead down to one in an eventful sixth inning. After Chamberlain throws behind a clearly agitated Youkilis, and following Joe Girardi’s getting ejected for arguing balls and strikes with plate ump Laz Diaz, Derek Jeter singles in Brett Gardner. Julio Lugo made a leaping grab and doubled off Jeter to prevent any more damage from happening. The game was even after seven, as a Boston insurance run was reciprocated by a Robinson Cano two-run triple to even it up at four. After that, it was a trip to extra innings, where Brett Gardner got his first Yankee Stadium curtain call, singling in Cano off of Jonathan Papelbon in the bottom of the 10 th for the walkoff win.
Both Wakefield and Chamberlain were good-but-not-great. Terry Francona pulled Wakefield after a Giambi flyout in the 7 th, and the Yankees game-tying rally occurred against the bullpen. I’m still amazed as to how serviceable a pitcher Wakefield still is, but he keeps defying age and whatever else limits a long-time veteran pitcher, and should again benefit Boston in the second half of the season. As for Chamberlain, who left positioned for the loss, there’s clearly potential in the kid, but I can’t help but think that he wouldn’t be starting if the Yankees were a legitimate contender this year.
During Boston’s big 5 th inning, Joba strikes out Lugo and Kevin Cash, and gets two strikes on Jacoby Ellsbury with two men on. The Yankee Stadium crowd rises to their feet. Why doesn’t every stadium do this? I’m not a fan of the Yankees, but reasons like this are largely why I continue to hold a huge respect for their fanbase. Why don’t the fans do this in Toronto, Oakland, Kansas City, etc.?
Before we get to the verdicts, I’m going to have to say something about the headwear used in Major League Baseball this weekend. The American (and Canadian) flag hats have been a nice sign of patriotism, and I’m sure they’ve done a fantastic job of supporting the great cause that is the Welcome Back Veterans Foundation, but I’m hoping they don’t stick. They’ll be the exact type of thing we’ll look back at ten years from now and wonder what somebody was thinking in blanketing this design across the majors. Now, onto my final words:
The Yankee Verdict: They’re more polished than I thought they’d be, and, save for top-notch starting pitching, all the pieces are there. I don’t see them making the playoffs this year, but Joba’s gonna be something, and it’ll probably just be one October off for the Bombers.
The Boston Verdict: I still haven’t watched them win this year, and this confuses me. I know they’re good, and I might just be picking the wrong games, but they don’t have that aura that they had this past October, or in 2004. This is not a Red Sox team I’ll be picking to win a championship, because I probably should have seen some sort of sign out of them by now. Now that I’m saying this, they’ll probably get healthy and win the division by 12 games, but as they look now, I wouldn’t be too worried about facing them.
July teams left to watch
Chicago White Sox
All of Travis MacKenzie’s work can be found on his site, Travis Time. He also covers sports for the Brock Press. Any questions or comments directed towards Travis can be placed in comments on Travis Time, on any of his Armchair GM posts, or e-mailed to TravisTime@gmail.com