Tag: Sports & Society

Real World Reaction: When Tragedy Eclipses the Sports World

Let me begin by saying this is never an article I envisioned I would ever have to write.

There are times in the world where we, the fans, lose sight of what is important in the world. We become so obsessed with free-agency signings, poor performances, wins, losses and lockouts that we forget that the games we become so obsessed with our merely that: games.

We clamor for the big-name player, victories, championships and heroes. We at times consider selling all of our possessions just for the opportunity to gain access to a ticket to the big game.

We put things like key games, playoffs, and sports rumors in front of what really matters: friends, family—our loved ones.

Yesterday was one of those days that truly helps put the world into perspective, making us realize that there are scarier things in the world than losing a game. When we realize how trivial one game seems in comparison to a life. What is more difficult to imagine is that it wasn’t just a life.

It was 27. And 20 of those were children.

I will not rehash the incomprehensible story that occurred on Dec. 14 in Newtown, Connecticut, if only to demonstrate humanity and sympathy to the families who are suffering from despicable evils that came to be.

I will simply try to understand and explain the impact that a catastrophe like today can have.

When we awoke that morning, it appeared as if it were a day like any other. The sun rose as it always does, and most of the world woke up to continue life as it always had.

We went to our respected jobs, sat down at our desks, sipped our first cup of coffee and began working as if it was just another day.

The athletes we have grown to worship went to their respected weight rooms, began there workouts and continued on as it it was just another day.

We all felt excitement for the events to come later on in the day—whether it was students in Ohio hoping that Mt. Union Football would take home it’s 11th national championship, or whether it was Brooklyn Nets fans hoping to witness the continued development of what they hope will be a championship year.

Even people as small as myself woke up yesterday looking forward as to how I would spin for my fellow Seattle Mariner fans the recent signing of Josh Hamilton by the Los Angeles Angels.

We were all looking forward to things that were so small, things that were so minuscule, that we forgot to look forward to the biggest thing of them all.


We all learned yesterday just how small our events truly are. Just how small a national championship seemed in perspective to the fragile life of a child. It seems that the only way many people in the world today can realize this perspective is through tragedy.

I will not try and cast myself in any higher light, for I am just as guilty as the rest of the world in that regard. But incidents like the Newtown shootings should not be what reminds us that professional sports are but a small luxury we have in our lives.

Regardless, what is important today is that we all remember and cherish the opportunities we are given. This is not something that is limited to just sports fans. It doesn’t matter your race, religion, economic standing or political opinions.

This is a lesson we all had to be reminded of.

Yesterday will forever live in infamy as the day 27 human beings lost their lives, with 20 of those losing them before they had even been given the chance to begin. The only way we can learn is by waking up tomorrow morning with a new understanding of the true importance of life.

So before you leave your loved ones tomorrow, remember to hug them and remind them just how much you care. Because caring for them is so much more meaningful than caring about the result of some game.

Because the biggest game in the world today is life, and the result of THAT game is the one we should all care about.

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Ejection Tantrum: Joe Mikulik Meltdown Shamefully Typical of Baseball Blame Game

Joe Mikulik has served as manager of the minor league Asheville Tourists since 2000 and has been an embarrassment to professional baseball on the national stage since 2006.

A former San Jacinto Junior College walk-on, Mikulik was drafted by the Houston Astros in 1984, sputtering around the minor leagues until retiring in the early 1990s, never having made it to MLB action.

Despite his stalled playing career, Mikulik endeavored to assist others in achieving their dreams, turning to coaching and accepting a position with the Canton-Akron Indians in 1995 before his promotion to manager of the Burlington Indians in 1997 and finally landing with the Asheville Tourists—a Colorado Rockies affiliate—in 2000.

Though as altruistic as the minor league player-turned-coach story might be, Mikulik appears to have never quite gotten over the pill of retirement, as evidenced by two significant meltdowns since taking the job. 

Michael Erwin of CareerBuilder advises employees not to curse in the workplace—57 percent of surveyed employers said swearing could cost an employee a promotion—but don’t tell that to Mikulik, who has been the Single-A Asheville Tourists’ manager ever since.

On June 25, 2006, Mikulik was ejected from a game against Lexington after arguing a safe call at second base.

Cue the insanity.

During his ’06 temper tantrum, Mikulik—and get ready for a long list of misconduct—threw his hat, yelled, dove into second base before picking up the base and showing it to the umpire, threw the bag toward center field, kicked chalk and dirt on home plate—indeed covering the plate with dirt by using his hands—threw bats from the dugout onto the playing field, dumped water on home plate before pretending to be a catcher, spiked a water bottle on the plate and untucked his jersey before finally retreating to the clubhouse, where he knocked over several water coolers and slid a batting practice screen in front of the umpires’ dressing room door.

Mikulik, who was fined $1,000 and suspended seven days for his histrionics, chalked it up to frustration, via ESPN.com: “I don’t think I ever lost total control … It was just frustration and I obviously went a little bit too far. I apologize to fans and to the umpires for my actions, and I regret what happened.”

Apparently, Mikulik was not sorry enough: Fast forward to July 27, 2012 and “Mikulik Meltdown Part II.”

To his credit, Mikulik‘s tantrum was tamer this time around, with the manager only kicking dirt, throwing his hat and running wildly toward third base before picking up the bag, handing it to one lucky fan before tipping his cap to the crowd en route to his club’s dugout.  

Yet acting like a buffoon is not limited to Mikulik.

In 2007, then-Double-A Braves manager Phil Wellman famously created an improvised grenade with a pitcher’s rosin bag before walking away with both second and third base, blowing kisses to fans as he exited through an outfield wall.

In 2010, South Georgia Peanuts manager Wally Backman launched a profanity-laced tirade and threw a bucket of baseballs along with some bats toward home plate—not safe for work—a tantrum featured in the documentary Playing for Peanuts.

Backman also forfeited a game by pulling his team off the field following a bench-clearing brawl. Backman had been ejected in the first inning of that particular contest.

And then there’s former MLB manager “Sweet” Lou Piniella, famous for base-hurling, dirt-kicking, cap-throwing tirades.

Sure the Mikulik and Piniella tantrums make for riveting television—and the oddest of music videos—in a train wreck sort of way, but such meltdowns are an absolute disgrace to the sport: In an Umpire Ejection Fantasy League poll, just 13 percent of respondents agreed that tirades were pure entertainment. The remaining 87 percent of voters pegged such tantrums as at least partially disgraceful, with 49 percent describing them as purely disgraceful.

Baseball, in its ideal state, is intellectual—from sabermetrics to strategy, baseball is a brainy person’s game, whereas the brawny sports of football, basketball and hockey feature brutal contact, towering strength and speedy burliness.

Yet tirades and hissy fits detract from the great baseball paradigm, injecting immaturity into a sport distinguished for its classy and classic nature—while hockey fights are commonplace and accepted, and hard fouls and hits are par for the course in football and basketball, baseball is remarkably gentlemanly.

When a manager or player airs his frustration with an umpire’s call by employing childish tactics—though statistics prove that MLB umpires are right 99.5 percent of the time—he promotes the stereotype that baseball is “dumb.”

When Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon sounded off on umpire D.J. Reyburn after surrendering a game-winning triple to Dodgers shortstop Dee Gordon earlier this season, the veteran reliever bashed Reyburn in a flurry of Freudian-like puerility, calling the umpire “terrible” instead of taking responsibility for his own shortcomings.

During a recent interview on FOX Sports Radio’s Petros & Money, longtime umpire Joe West described baseball as “typically American,” for according to West, “they’re always looking for someone to blame … The sport is so good, it has a place on the scoreboard for errors. There’s no other sport that has that.”

Enter the human element and the psychology of blaming umpires: There is always fault to go around.

When an umpire’s call adversely affects one’s team, it is the arbiter’s fault—even when instant replay deems the call correct.

Even when an umpire reverses a call for—as they say—the explicit purpose of “getting it right,” this is apparently an excuse to complain and induce an ejection.

And it does not stop at calls of “ball,” “strike,” “safe” or “out” either.

In another case of managers wanting umpires to “get it right” only when the call doesn’t go against their own team, Phillies skipper Charlie Manuel was ejected for arguing Joe West’s use of instant replay to declare spectator interference during a 2011 contest, resulting in an official protest and denial at the hands of MLB executive vice president Joe Torre, who publicly supported West’s replay-aided endeavor of “getting it right.”

West is right—baseball is “typically American,” though unfortunately, when baseball turns into a giant finger-pointing affair, it stops being a sport and regresses into a silly, infantile game.


Gil Imber is Bleacher Report’s Rules Featured Columnist and owner of Close Call Sports, a website dedicated to the objective and fair analysis of close or controversial calls in sports.

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Washington Nationals vs. Atlanta Braves: ESPN Sunday Night Baseball Preview

The Washington Nationals (28-18) and Atlanta Braves (26-22) will close out a three-game National League East series on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball, with the first pitch scheduled from Turner Field at 8:05 ET.

Atlanta opened as a minus-140 home favorite in the betting odds, while the total is holding steady at its opening number of 6.5.

Washington has outscored Atlanta by a 15-8 combined margin in winning the first two games of the series, including an 8-4 victory Saturday afternoon. The Nationals will now try to turnaround their dismal 1-5 record when playing on Sunday.

Let’s take a closer look at this nationally-televised contest from a betting perspective.

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Johan Santana: New York Mets SP Seeks First Victory Since May 5

The San Diego Padres (17-30) and New York Mets (25-21) continue a National League series on Saturday afternoon at Citi Field, with the first pitch scheduled for 1:10 p.m. ET.

Las Vegas oddsmakers have established the Mets as -160 home favorites, while the total has remained at its opening number of 7.5.

New York came away with a 6-1 win over San Diego in the second game of the series on Friday night, picking up their third victory in four games. The Mets moved their record to 15-9 against the Padres at home since 2005.

Mets starting pitcher Johan Santana (1-2, 3.24 ERA) will be trying to win his first start since May 5, as he’s failed to earn a decision in his last three outings. He has been bitten by the long ball of late, serving up one home run in his last four starts, after not allowing a long ball in his first five appearances.

The left-hander has garnered a 2-3 record and 2.47 ERA in seven career starts versus the Padres, issuing 20 walks and striking out 30 in 47.1 combined innings.

The Mets are 5-0 in Santana’s last five starts versus NL West teams, while the “under” is 5-1-1 in his last seven home starts.

Clayton Richard (2-5, 4.63 ERA) hasn’t fared very well away from San Diego this year, posting an 0-3 record and 6.68 ERA in five road starts, as opposing hitters have hit .305 against him. He didn’t factor into the decision of a 4-3 setback on the road to the St. Louis Cardinals last time out, allowing two runs and even hits over 7.1 frames.

In three career starts versus the Mets, Richard has gone 1-0 with a 2.41 ERA, issuing nine walks and picking up 16 strikeouts in 18.2 combined innings. 

The Padres are 5-23 in their last 28 road games against left-handed starters, with the “under” going 4-1 in the last five games in that situation.

Weather forecasts suggest scattered thunderstorms and game-time temperatures in the low 80s, with a 5-10 mph breeze out of the southwest.


Follow on Twitter: @JeffGrantSports 

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

ESPN Sunday Night Baseball Preview: Los Angeles Angels vs. Texas Rangers

The Los Angeles Angels (15-19) and Texas Rangers (22-12) will close out a three-game American League West series on Sunday night at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, with the first pitch scheduled for 8:05 p.m. ET on ESPN.

Las Vegas oddsmakers have established the Rangers as slight minus-125 home favorites, while the opening total of eight is facing upward pressure in the betting market.

Los Angeles evened the series with a 4-2 victory on Saturday, improving to 3-2 on its current six-game road trip against the Rangers and Minnesota Twins. The Angels are still a disappointing 6-11 away from Southern California this season.

First baseman Albert Pujols continues to struggle at the plate, hitting .195 with just a single home run and 11 RBI in 33 games played. He will have a hard time improving those numbers against Rangers starter Neftali Feliz, who has limited right-handed batters to a .194 average over the course of his career.

Feliz (2-1, 3.37 ERA) has not allowed an earned run in his last 12.1 innings against the Angels, as he comes off a 10-3 road win over the Baltimore Orioles. He gave up just a single run and four hits over six frames in that effort.

The right-hander has failed to record a decision in 22 career relief appearances in this rivalry, surrendering just four runs (three earned) and nine hits in 22.1 frames. Not a single player on the Angels roster has hit a home run when facing him.

Jered Weaver (5-0, 1.60 ERA) has been tremendous through seven starts this season, but he’ll need to be careful against one of baseball’s most explosive lineups, especially when pitching to Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton.

The 2010 AL MVP launched his ninth home run in six games on Saturday, giving him a major league-leading 18 on the year. He has nine hits in 34 career at-bats (.265) against the Angels right-hander, but has left the yard just once. 

Weaver has not fared well in 13 lifetime outings at Rangers Ballpark, entering with a 2-6 record and 4.55 ERA, including a 1-2 mark and 5.14 ERA in three outings in 2011.

Sports bettors will find that the Angels have still managed to win six of his last eight starts versus the Rangers, while the “under” has cashed in four of the last five opportunities in that situation.

Weather forecasts suggest clear skies and game-time temperatures in the mid-70s, with a 5-to-10 MPH breeze out of the north-northeast (left to right).

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Andy Pettitte: New York Yankees SP Returns to the Bronx as a Heavy Favorite

New York Yankees fans will have a renewed enthusiasm about the 2012 MLB season on Sunday afternoon, as veteran Andy Pettitte will return to the mound at Yankee Stadium after a brief retirement came to an end by signing a one-year minor league contract on March 16. 

Las Vegas oddsmakers are expecting the betting public to hammer the Bronx Bombers, opening them as minus-200 home favorites against the Seattle Mariners, while the total sits at 10.

Pettitte hasn’t been seen at the major league level since suffering an 8-0 home loss to the Texas Rangers in Game 3 of the 2011 American League Championship Series, giving up two runs and five hits over seven strong innings in that effort.

The left-hander posted an 0-2 record and 3.71 ERA in four minor-league starts, while giving up eight runs (seven earned) and 14 hits over 10.2 combined innings in two outings at the extended spring training level.

In 23 career starts versus the Mariners, the 41-year-old has gone 11-11 with a 4.33 ERA, including an 8-4 mark and 4.29 ERA when pitching at home.

Sports bettors will likely lay the number due to the Yankees being 87-40 in day games since the start of the 2010 campaign.

Mariners starting pitcher Kevin Millwood (0-4, 5.88 ERA) has also been around the block a few times, as he looks to snap a personal four-game losing streak. He has allowed 17 runs (15 earned) and 30 hits in 24 innings over that span.

Millwood enters with a 2-6 record and 5.12 ERA in 13 career starts against the Yankees, which includes a 1-1 mark and 8.74 ERA in two outings inside this ball park.

It should be a memorable day in the Bronx, but everyone involved is hoping that the 39-year-old southpaw can solidify a starting rotation that has been shaky at best to start the year.

If not—Yankees general manager Brian Cashman will need to actively pursue a front-line pitcher before the trade deadline on July 31, or the club will likely be watching the postseason from home.


Follow on Twitter: @JeffGrantSports 

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

ESPN Sunday Night Baseball: Philadelphia Phillies vs. Washington Nationals

The Philadelphia Phillies (13-15) and Washington Nationals (18-9) will close out a three-game National League East series on Sunday night at Nationals Park, with the first pitch scheduled for 8:05 ET on ESPN.

Las Vegas oddsmakers have established the Phillies as +105 road underdogs, while the total has held steady at its opening number of 6.

Philadelphia has dropped the first two games of this series, including a 7-1 setback on Saturday afternoon, which moved the club to 4-6 in day games this year. The Phillies will be glad to be facing a right-handed starter in this contest, as they’ve dropped six consecutive games against southpaws.

Cole Hamels (3-1, 2.78 ERA) is definitely a nice option to have on the mound when looking to snap a losing streak, leading the club to four consecutive wins since suffering a 6-2 home loss against the Miami Marlins in his season debut on April 9.

The left-hander boasts a perfect 2-0 record and 2.25 ERA in three road starts, issuing four walks and striking out 17 in 20 combined innings. Tonight will be his fourth straight outing away from Citizens Bank Park.

In 20 career games versus the Nationals, Hamels has compiled a 10-4 mark and 2.71 ERA, including a 2-0 record and 2.05 ERA in four career efforts at this ballpark. He has not surrendered a hit to former teammate Jayson Werth in six at-bats against him.

The Phillies are 9-1 in Hamels’ last 10 starts in this series, while the “over” is 22-7-1 in the last 30 meetings overall in the nation’s capital.

Washington is 8-1 in nine series this year, and is led by a starting rotation that has allowed one or fewer earned runs in 18 of 27 games. The group leads all of baseball with a 2.09 ERA.

Jordan Zimmerman (1-2, 1.89 ERA) has been a key member of the staff, as he looks to bounce back from his worst effort of the 2012 campaign, giving up four runs (three earned) and eight hits over 6.1 innings in a 5-1 home loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The right-hander is searching for his first win of the season in front of the home crowd, going 0-1 with a 2.21 ERA in three starts at Nationals Park, as he’s received just six runs of support in those contests.

Zimmerman will also look to notch his first victory against the Phillies, coming in with a 0-2 mark and 6.60 ERA in three outings. 

The Nationals are 5-12 in Zimmerman’s last 17 starts versus divisional foes, while the “under” has cashed in six straight games when he’s a home favorite.

Weather forecasts suggest clear skies and game-time temperatures in the mid-60s, with a slight 5-10 mph breeze out of the southeast (right to left).


Follow on Twitter: @JeffGrantSports

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Yu Darvish: Texas Rangers SP Aims to Remain Perfect on the Road

The Texas Rangers and Cleveland Indians will close out a three-game American League series on Sunday afternoon at Progressive Field, with the first pitch scheduled 1:05 p.m. ET.

Las Vegas oddsmakers have established the Rangers as -150 road favorites, while the total stands at 8.5, but is facing downward pressure in the market.

Rangers starting pitcher Yu Darvish (4-0, 2.18 ERA) has led the club to victory in all five of his starts, including a 4-1 road win over the Toronto Blue Jays last time out. He’s 2-0 with a 1.42 ERA in three road outings this year.

The right-hander was recently named Major League Baseball’s Rookie of the Month for April earlier this week, as he’s allowed just three earned runs over his last 31 innings of work. He will be facing the Indians for the first time in his career.

Sports bettors will find that the Rangers are 19-7 in their last 26 games as a road favorite of -110 to -150, while “under” has cashed in their last five Sunday contests.

Ubaldo Jimenez (2-2, 5.02 ERA) will be looking to snap a two-game losing streak, as the Indians’ starter has allowed 11 runs (eight earned) and 14 hits over 10.2 innings over that span. He suffered a 7-2 setback on the road to the Chicago White Sox last time out.

The right-hander is 0-1 with a 4.15 ERA in two home starts, as opposing hitters are hitting just .156 against him, but has struggled with his control in issuing six walks and striking out five in 13 frames.

Jimenez made his only career start against the Rangers after being acquired from the Colorado Rockies, not factoring in the decision of an 8-7 road loss on Aug. 5, giving up five runs and seven hits in five innings.

Weather forecasts suggest partly cloudy skies and game-time temperatures in the upper60s, with 10 mph winds out of the northeast (in from right).

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Bryce Harper: Washington Nationals Favored over Los Angeles in His MLB Debut

The Washington Nationals (14-6) and Los Angeles Dodgers (14-6) continue a three-game National League series on Saturday night at Dodger Stadium, with the first pitch scheduled for 9:10 p.m. ET.

Las Vegas oddsmakers have established the Nationals as -125 road favorites due to ace Stephen Strasburg making his fifth start of the year, but the betting odds may be further inflated due to rookie outfielder Bryce Harper making his major league debut.

Harper is getting thrown into the fire due to the lack of offensive production the Nationals have received from a group of left fielders this season, as Michael Morse has sat out the opening month with a shoulder injury.

Fans should have realistic expectations with the call-up, especially considering that the 19-year-old out of Las Vegas was hitting just .250 with a single home run and three RBIs in 20 games at Triple-A Syracuse.

Strasburg (2-0, 1.08 ERA) has led the club to victory in his first four starts, including a 3-2 home win over the Miami Marlins last time out in a no-decision effort, tossing six shutout frames and allowing four hits.

The hard-throwing right-hander is 1-0 with a 0.69 ERA in two road starts, surrendering just one run and seven hits over 13 combined innings. He has registered a 5-1 mark and 1.74 ERA in eight career starts away from the nation’s capital.  

Washington dropped a 7-3 home decision in Strasburg’s lone career start versus the Dodgers, as he tallied five shutout innings and allowed just two hits. The 23-year-old managed to retire Los Angeles outfielder Matt Kemp in both of his at-bats.

The Nationals are 7-0 in his last seven starts as a road favorite, while the “under” is 27-10 in their last 37 games overall.

Los Angeles will counter with Chad Billingsley (2-1, 3.04 ERA), who will look to bounce back from his first rough outing of the year, allowing nine runs (five earned) and four hits over 3.1 innings in a 12-0 road loss to the Houston Astros.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 3.21 ERA in seven lifetime outings versus the Nationals, including a 1-0 mark and 4.82 ERA in two starts last year.

Weather forecasts suggest clear skies and game-time temperatures in the mid-60s, with a slight breeze out of the southwest. 

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Clay Buchholz: Boston Red Sox SP May Provide Lift After Ellsbury Injury

The Boston Red Sox (2-5) continue a four-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday afternoon inside Fenway Park, with the first pitch scheduled for 4:05 p.m. ET.

Las Vegas oddsmakers have established the Red Sox as -130 home favorites after snapping a two-game losing streak, and the total stands at nine.

Boston started the season 0-4 during day games before Friday’s 12-2 matinee victory, but the club also suffered a devastating blow to its starting lineup. Outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury is expected to miss six to eight weeks with a shoulder injury after trying to break up a double play at second base.

Clay Buchholz (0-0, 15.75 ERA) may provide a lift for the club due to his career numbers versus Tampa Bay. Bucholz has a 4-2 record and 1.81 ERA in eight starts against the Rays. The right-hander has managed to allow three earned runs or less in each of those outings.

The Red Sox are 11-4 in Buchholz’s last 15 starts as a favorite of -110 to -150, while the “under” is 16-5-1 in that situation.

Tampa Bay has dropped three of four games on its recent road trip, which immediately followed a three-game sweep of the New York Yankees at Tropicana Field. The Rays have managed to score just eight combined runs away from the Sunshine State, with the “under” going 2-1-1 over that span.

Jeremy Hellickson (1-0, 0.00 ERA) is coming off a brilliant performance against the Bronx Bombers, tossing 8.2 shutout innings and scattering just three hits in a 3-0 win on April 8. He will be closely monitored on the mound in this one after throwing 118 pitches in that effort.

In five career appearances (four starts) versus the Red Sox, Hellickson is 2-1 with a 4.21 ERA, including a perfect 2-0 mark and 4.26 ERA in three outings at Fenway Park. Sports bettors will need to be cautious, though as the Rays are 1-4  in his last five starts as a road underdog.

Weather forecasts are calling for mostly cloudy skies and game-time temperatures in the mid to upper-60s, with 10-15 mph winds out of the southwest (out to center).

Total players will find that the “over” was 9-3 and games averaged 11.67 runs in those conditions inside this historic ballpark last year.

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