Do you find this randy?

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Incidental Dodger stat offered in today’s media notes, before the Dodgers’ Randy Wolf faces the Cubs’ Randy Wells at Wrigley Field (5 p.m., Prime Ticket)

Today marks the sixth time in Randy Wolf’s career that he is facing an opposing pitcher with the same first name. Wolf has matched up with Randy Johnson four previous times in his career, including twice last season. The left-hander also locked horns with the Yankees’ Randy Keisler in an Interleague game back in 2001.

They actually have this stat you can look up? FYI, on MLB 2K9, I have Wolf facing the Padres’ Randy Jones tonight.

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Our Daily Dread: Do we have to spell it out for you?

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Reuters
Paige Vasseur, a 13-year-old from Rio Norte Junior High in Valencia and sponsored by the Daily News, tries to stay focused during Round II of the 2009 National Spelling Bee on Wednesday.

Although we’ve struggled with this skewed idea year after year, and re-planted it again yesterday when the first signs of it started to penetrate the wire services (linked here), the more we sit unentertained by ESPN’s three-hour-plus coverage of the 82nd Scripps National Spelling Bee from Washington D.C., this morning, the easier it was to construct a list of the top five things that the all-sports network should not be allowed to air on any of its competitive channels, even though in some cases we’ve come to not just accept but embarassingly embrace:

1. Poker
2. The hot-dog eating championships
3. Bloated anchors who believe they’re bigger than whatever they are covering
4. The Little League World Series
5. The Spelling Bee

The first two are better suited for the Game Show Network and/or the Food Channel.
The last two should be, if Disney really wants it that badly, on a Disney Channel of core kids programming — not filtering their way through the other Mickey Mouse outlets of ESPN and then, in a two-hour live (East Coast) event, on ABC for the Spelling Bee finale tonight (8 to 10 p.m.), with Tom Bergeron putting his ‘Dancing With the Stars” and “America’s Funniest Home Movies” spin on it.

The third one doesn’t belong anywhere.

Trying to catch our daily “SportsCenter” update this morning, we were interrupted by a program that at one point was reduced to Erin Andews crouched down in a tight green dress, trying to extract an interview with a 9-year-old third grader named Sriram Hathwar from a Montessori School in Painted Post, N.Y., whose mouth was crammed with a cookie as he explained how he failed to nail the word “fodient” (he used an “a” instead of an “e”) — and was already adept as using all the cliche responses that a college football player would have told Andrews in the same situation if she was at an Ohio State-Michigan contest.

So, little Sriram (check notes to make sure the name is right), you have five more years of eligibility left, Andrews reminded him, as if she was talking to Beanie Wells. When does studying begin for next year?

“Well, maybe we’ll just, like, let it go for a week or so then we’ll start studying again,” Hathwar said.

“Maybe you deserve a little break,” Andrews said, completing ignoring the parent’s wishes and putting them on the spot now to give their poor kid a break — from you and everyone else trying to manipulate his schedule, thank you very much.

And maybe we all need a break from this on ESPN, which actually went past its three-hour window to complete the fifth round (that was once around for 41 contestants, then another for the 36 left from that).

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Paige Vasseur (pictured here, from a link to her bio on the official Spelling Bee website), a 13-year-old eighth grader from Valencia’s Rio Norte Junior High (and sponsored by the Daily News), got her big break here today.

She left batting .500.

Scribbling on the back of her giant No. 12 card the letters to put together “brachylogy” in her first go-around (sounds like something that Dick Vitale tries to master each March), she was tripped up in her second appearance on “skeuomorph,” a noun that no one in their right mind would ever just drop into a sentence on the playground. She couldn’t decide if it started with an “s” or a “c.” She guessed incorrectly. Her mom was there to give her a hug.

(Paige’s bio page, by the way, mentions that she has two Roborovski hamsters named Fluffernutter and Miss Fluffykins, and she wants to become a scientist. So she’s got that going for her).

With all apologies to Akeelah and her Spelling Bee adventure on the silver screen, how fair is that to skew up a kid’s self esteem going into high school already seen as someone who couldn’t go the distance by her future classmates. Can Paige turn the page on this weekend that quickly and enjoy the rest of her summer, or will “skeuomorph” keep her up at night in a cold sweat? Thanks, ESPN, for helping her sleep better. And exposing her to boys who stumbled onto this when they were looking for more of Erin Andrews.

Chris McKendry reminded us at the top of the broadcast that 11 million kids entered this thing around the world months ago, and 293 made it these nationals. Included in those final 41 who made what Andrews called “the ESPN round” were names such as Kavya Shivashankar, Avvinash Radakrishnam, Aishwarya Pastapur, Viabhau Vivilala, Kennyi Aouda, Neetu Chandak, Siraj Sindhu, Tino Cusi Delamerced, Anamika Veeramani, Akshay Raghoram, Mouctika Palori, Aditya Chemudupaty and Serena Skye Laine-Lobsinger.

Wait, how did she get in?

Even analyst Paul Loeffler, a one-time contestant but now a grown man paid to explain everything, admitted that for most of these children, English is a second language. They had to study it more carefully — all those crazy rules that made no sense. So, in fact, they have an advantage in some respects than those who were taught in American schools (although many are home schooled or go to private institutions).

Do you see this becoming a national incident in need of U.N. intervention?

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Oh, and among those who made it to the final rounds, we left out Sidharth Chand, a 13-year-old eighth grader from Detroit Country Day School.

Who has a mustache. He almost looks like a mini-Norman Chad on a poker show.

Connor Aberle, a 13-year-old seventh grader homeschooled in Portland, Ore., also has some fuzz under the nose.

Danny Almonte would be proud of them.

So, what kind of louche plan does ESPN have for allowing these potential people — some of them just a couple years removed from Huggies — under the TV spotlight on a channel that specializes in wins, losses and keeping score, and tell them they did a “great job!” even if they couldn’t shuffle through the alphabet quickly enough to complete words such as machtpolitik, cicatrize, bardiglio, strepitoso, myriacanthous, laeotryopus, myriarch or Beckmesser?

(Louche, by the way, was a word that Miss Chemudupaty, a 14-year-old from Staunton, Va., was forced to spell at one point. It means “devious, perverse, sinister”)

At one point, Veronica Penny, an 11-year-old from Ontario, Canada, put the palm of her hands up to her eyes and buried her face as she tried to extract the correct spelling of “clary” clearly in her mind.

“Don’t be alarmed,” said Loeffler. “It helps her concentrate.”

“She’s not crying,” added McKendry.

No, we are. Just from watching these kids unnecessarily put through the ringer while we await ESPN’s next expose on “Outside The Lines” about pushy parents and their non-athletic kids who just want to stop reading a dictionary during their down time.

For the all-sports channel’s functionality, we did notice that it continued to run its revolving scroll across the bottom of the screen with any pertinent news that came through. Including, as one kid was trying to crank out the word “nescience,” that the A’s had put Nomar Garciaparra (calf) back on the DL.

Apparently, a non- slow news day. And it came after a commercial break where Sports Illustrated was pimping the fact that it has a subscription deal that can save you 69 percent, plus get the Swimsuit issue included, and before McKendry was promoting the network’s coverage Friday of the Lakers-Nuggets Game 6, as “the Lakers try to close it out, but it won’t be easy.”

Just as uneasy as watching a pre-teen asking the judge to use “tonsorial” in a sentence and getting: “Rob wore a baseball cap for two weeks following his tonsorial disaster.” (It has nothing to do with getting his tonsils ripped out, but having a bad barber … keep that in mind the next time you see Tiki Barber on the “Today” show).

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Another spry youngin’, 13-year-old eighth grader Miguel Gatmaytan, was asked to figure out how to spell “mancala.”

Which is, by definition, “Any of the various games from Africa or southern Asia that involve competition between two players in the distribution of pieces (as beans or pebbles) into rows of holes or pockets (as on a board), under rules that permit accumulation of pieces by capture.” In a sentence: “There are 200 versions of mancala played around the world.”

There’s another thing that we should never have to see on ESPN: The Mancala World Series. With Chris Berman hosting.

Comment here or at thomas.hoffarth@dailynews.com.

More reading: Linda Holmes’ “Monkey See” piece on National Public Radio’s site (linked here), where she calls this event an “oddly addictive spectacle.” She writes: “You’re not seeing kids demonstrate that they spell well in real life as much as you are seeing them perform an advanced academic trick. … There aren’t a lot of televised triumphs available for kids who are very, very bright and unusual, and that’s part of what makes the Bee mesmerizing. Television will show you lots of kids who are attractive and conventionally cute, and from time to time, it will show you the ones who are good at sports. But very, very bright and unusual?”

Also: This Q-and-A by Time magazine with Jacques Bailly on winning the event as a 14-year-old in 1980 and now acting as the judge who prounces the words and banters with the contestants as they try to quiz him for more information (as well as stall for time) (linked here).

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AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin
That’s Tim Ruiter — common spelling — a 12-year-old from Centreville, Va., after spelling his word correctly in round six this morning of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, bringing him to tonight’s finals.

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How Sonia Sotomayor saved baseball nearly 15 years ago

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By Ronald Blum
The Associated Press

Long before she was a Supreme Court nominee, Sonia Sotomayor was an umpire between baseball players and team owners.

Her decision as a U.S. District Court judge to issue an injunction against owners on March 31, 1995, ended a 7-month strike that had wiped out the World Series for the first time in 90 years.

“We thought it was well written, tightly reasoned,” union head Donald Fehr recalled this week. “She had done her homework, ran a good courtroom. The experience we had there certainly would suggest that she would acquit herself well anywhere.”

When the National Labor Relations Board went to court that March 27 seeking an injunction forcing owners to restore free agent bidding, salary arbitration and the anti-collusion provisions of an expired collective bargaining agreement, Sotomayor’s name came out of the wheel.

She held a telephone conference call with the parties, decided witnesses weren’t necessary and scheduled oral arguments. After listening to lawyers for 90 minutes, she took 15 minutes to deliberate, then spent 45 minutes reading her decision, making clear the bulk of it had been prepared ahead of time.

“She came to the oral arguments on the case with a decision at hand and used the oral arguments basically to confront her own decision-making,” said Gene Orza, the union’s chief operating officer. “She obviously found the
parties’ arguments did not require any change in the conclusion she had reached.”

Continue reading

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Ortiz using ster … we’re not gonna put that out there

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From the latest Fox MLB press release:

With David Ortiz’s continued struggles and his recent demotion to sixth in the Red Sox lineup, MLB on Fox reporter Ken Rosenthal has noticed that the whispers of steroids and performance enhancing drugs has started and he believes its unfair.

“Ten years ago, no self-respecting journalist would have speculated that a player was using PEDs without some form of proof. Today, respected journalists, blogs, chat rooms and other Internet vehicles, have blithely suggested that Ortiz is in a decline because he no longer take PEDs,” said Rosenthal. “It’s irresponsible. It’s unfair. It needs to stop. Several times in recent weeks, radio talk-show hosts have asked me what I thought of the possibility that Ortiz was using PEDs.

“I have no idea if David Ortiz used PEDs; probably no journalist does. I could not even make an educated guess, and it would be unprofessional of me to do so. Here’s one thing I do know: Before steroids, players actually declined as they got older. Ortiz is 33. Maybe he is losing his skills. Maybe he just stinks. If I were an innocent player, I would fight back. But I wouldn’t even know where to start.”

More of Rosenthal’s column (linked here)

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Vote for Manny … please … and how it take this long?

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If you’ll recall the list of 50 things Manny Ramirez could do during his 50-game suspension, check out No. 25 (linked here) and then read this story:

The Associated Press

Jason Rosenberg was heading home and listening to satellite radio when he heard that Manny Ramirez was fourth among National League outfielders in initial All-Star voting. By the end of the night, a new Web site was born: Vote for Manny.

“I said it would be funny if Manny got elected, because he’s coming off a suspension on July 3 and the All-Star Game is a week later, so they don’t even have that sort of built-in protection,” the 39-year-old from New York suburb Ardsley said Wednesday. “So I got home, and just quickly threw a Web site together.”

Rosenberg got voteformanny.blogspot.com up and running Tuesday night, designed to point out that MLB has no rule preventing players coming off drug suspensions from becoming All-Stars. It links to an online All-Star ballot and implores fans: “Remember, vote early and often!”

Ramirez was suspended for 50 games on May 7 after his drug test showed artificial testosterone and baseball investigators obtained documentation that he received HCG, a banned female fertility drug taken by some after steroid cycles to restart natural testosterone production.

He’s eligible to return to the Dodgers on July 3, 11 days before the All-Star Game in St. Louis.

In the initial All-Star vote released Tuesday, Ramirez was on 442,763 ballots, trailing Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun (663,164), the Chicago Cubs’ Alfonso Soriano (545,354) and the New York Mets’ Carlos Beltran (476,843).

“The All-Star Game is for the fans and I think if he got voted in, then it would be appropriate for him to play,” said Philadelphia’s Charlie Manuel, the NL manager. “Once he serves his suspension, he’s paid his penalty and he’s just like every other player.”

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa had the opposite view: “The fans have a right to vote, but I think it’s probably not fair to the guys who are out there playing. It’s pretty tough to do what he did and then miss a good part of the season. But it’s up to the fans.”

Voting began April 22, so it’s unclear how many were cast for Ramirez before the suspension. Baseball’s drug agreement states “a player shall be deemed to have been eligible to play in the All-Star Game if he was elected or selected to play; the commissioner’s office shall not exclude a player from eligibility for election or selection because he is suspended under the program.”

In AL voting released Wednesday, the Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez was third among third basemen with 245,414, trailing Tampa Bay’s Evan Longoria (664,060) and Texas’ Michael Young (296,025).

“It would be too interesting, too funny, too pick-your-adjective to see Manny get elected,” Rosenberg said. “It’s got to be MLB’s nightmare that the two biggest stars who have implicated themselves or gotten implicated by this are now potentially starting in their signature midsummer moment.”

Rosenberg is a Yankees fan who works in finance and has a regular blog devoted to baseball at itsaboutthemoney.blogspot.com, which he started more than a year ago.

He intends to keep the Manny Web site up and running through the All-Star Game.

“Most fans have had enough PED discussion, the steroids discussion, are sick of hearing it,” Rosenberg said. “Voting proves it, and yet the media still wants to cast everyone as an outcast and a pariah if they ever used or been accused or, in Manny’s case, been caught.”

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