‘Showdown Saturday’ – So Much Sports, So Little Time

Saturday was a day when I simply could not get out of the house, especially considering it was scorching hot outside, and even hotter on the TV set.

A certain outlet based in Bristol, Connecticut billed the events going on as  ‘Showdown Saturday’.

The headliners were Game 7 of the NBA Eastern Conference Final and the Los Angeles Kings failing in their second attempt to clinch the Stanley Cup title (suggestion: Kings might want to win Game 6 to avoid hearing the ‘C’ word).

There was also the French Open Ladies Final (Sharapova career Grand Slam), Manny Pacquiao’s title defense versus Timothy Bradley, and a photo finish in the Belmont Stakes, which was originally supposed to be a Triple Crown attempt for I’ll Have Another.

But there was even more – including the second day of soccer’s UEFA Euro 12, which now gets plenty of interest in the States, amazing considering the fact that there is obviously no Team USA involved (although Ireland qualified!!!).

Then there was MLB. During the day there were five games available in my market alone: Nats/Red Sox (MLB Network), Padres/Brewers, Tigers/Reds (through the MLB app), Tribe/Cards, and A’s/D-Backs (MLB Network).

(Quick aside: The Washington Nationals are especially must-watch when Bryce Harper is in the lineup and Stephen Strasburg is on the bump, as was the case Friday night when Strasburg K’d 13 in six innings (119 pitches). Unfortunately MLB Network aired Mets/Yankees, and I was stuck hearing the Joe Castiglione call on Red Sox radio. At least there was also the Seattle Mariners’ combined six-pitcher no-hitter in a game where it looked like the M’s might lose to the Dodgers without giving up a hit. I fell asleep only to be woken by the Seattle PBP man screaming something about a no-hitter, then figured I was dreaming and nodded off again. When the Mariners (as opposed to the Mets) pitch a no-hitter, it doesn’t make much of a sound, especially in the middle of the night.)

LSU-Stony Brook: Thrills and Controversy

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Getting back to yesterday, there was the Super Regional (Sweet 16) Round of the NCAA baseball tournament – which ESPN actually gives tremendous coverage to, especially considering they also had Game 7 of Celtics/Heat and two Euro ’12 matches. I consider the Super Regional to be the prime portion of college baseball, as it is played on campus venues; for instance, LSU’s baseball facility is located with Tiger Stadium lurking beyond the center field fence.

It was LSU’s best-of-three matchup against Stony Brook (Long Island) where one the weekend’s  controversies took place.

LSU rallied twice in the late innings, the second time on a game-tying home run in the 11th inning. That actually occurred Friday before the game was suspended due to rain. The contest resumed Saturday morning with LSU bringing their ace pitcher, Kevin Gausman into the game. Gausman got through the inning on an economical 12 pitches and LSU won the game in the bottom half of the inning.

Game 2 of the series started less than an hour later, with Gausman as the starting pitcher. He ultimately went six innings and threw 93 pitches. In all, Gausman threw 105 pitches on the day. Stony Brook starter Tyler Johnson threw 127 pitches in Game 2.

Gausman’s workload is a big deal because the Baltimore Orioles earlier in the week invested the fourth overall pick in the 2012 Amateur Draft on Gausman – much like they used a top overall pick on LSU product Ben McDonald back in the day. That was a huge issue to the talking heads over at ESPN, who were ready to accuse the LSU baseball program of negligence for having a highly touted MLB prospect finish one game, then take an hour break, then start in the second game.

What was LSU supposed to do? Last time I checked the player was still under scholarship. It is a playoff series. The school is shooting for it’s 16th College World Series appearance. Are they now supposed to shut their pitcher down in the best interests of their future MLB employer?

I don’t even want to think of the fallout if Gausman’s arm winds up barking. Stony Brook (seeking first CWS berth ever) forced Game 3 of the series. what if that game is tight in the late innings? Good chance Gausman may be coming in again.

Not to sound like Rob Dibble, but I wouldn’t go haywire on the pitch counts. If LSU left the kid in for 140 pitches or something, then there might be more of an issue. As is the case with most top collegiate pitchers, the Orioles will likely let Gausman rest and keep him out of any pro games until the Arizona Fall League at the earliest.

Everyone also went bonkers about Johan Santana being left in to throw 133 pitches to complete a no-hitter. We know he is coming off an arm injury, but it’s not like he’s on pace to throw 250 innings. Nolan Ryan once managed to throw a no-hitter striking out 15 and walking eight – what would had been his pitch count if they were counting in that era? Nolan obviously lived to tell about it.

The Belmont Stakes: ‘I’ll Have Another’ Didn’t

About the only profession where the ‘athletes’ are handled with kid gloves even more than baseball pitchers would be horse racing. This leads to the story of the owners of I’ll Have Another deciding that he will have no more – as the potential Triple Crown threat was suddenly scratched from the Belmont Stakes and subsequently retired.

I'll Have AnotherNot being an equine sports expert and hearing the initial reports, the timing seemed bad but the story made sense.

The horse came down with a bad leg that they didn’t want to chance injuring further. The upside of running the horse would be winning the Triple Crown, which obviously would be historic and huge. The downside would be the horse breaking down during the 1 ½ miile ‘Test of Champions’ and then being put down. Such an occurrence would not only have been an obvious tragedy, but also a financial disaster to the owners, especially considering they initially bought the horse for a song. If there had been a pro draft for potential race horses, I’ll Have Another would not have been a first round pick, which is why the horse had become such a great story in the past month.

But there is also suspicion about I’ll Have Another, in particular involving trainer Doug O’Neill, who is about to serve a 45-day suspension in regards to an abnormal blood test on another one of his horses back in 2010.

Could I’ll Have Another be the Ryan Braun of horse racing? Does ‘I’ll Have Another’ mean having another PED milkshake? If so, the handlers sure played up the supposed tendonitis injury enough, wrapping the horse’s leg, etc..

Without knowing much more I have to give the benefit of doubt. Thoroughbreds are incredible athletes, five times the weight of an NFL running back and can do 1 ¼ miles in two minutes, ridden by jockeys who somehow have to keep their weight below 115 lbs. Pretty amazing when you think about it, but the equine athlete is also very fragile. The only place I’ll Have Another’s owners want their investment to perform now is as a stud – and they wouldn’t want to risk that by seeing the horse get hurt…

Or fail a drug test…

Pacquiao v Bradley Controversial End

Finally, there is the Pacquiao fight – I’ll quote one of my Facebook friends on that one:

 ‘What in the living (expletive) is going on in boxing??  Pacquiao schools Bradley 10 of 12 rounds and loses a decision. Holy (manure). No wonder people are watching MMA and tetherball (soccer).’

I don’t know about ‘tetherball.’ As anyone following the frequent match-fixing scandals in the Italiano Leagues can attest, one can’t assume everything that happens in that sport is on the up and up either.

Am I supposed to be the least bit shocked about a judging controversy in boxing? It will no doubt be the most controversial thing that happens until something goes down in Olympic gymnastics. It’s what happens when results are put in the hands of ‘judges’.

Manny PacquiaoI guess Manny should had gone for the KO – or maybe forget about that NBA game and show up on time.

No – I didn’t drop $60 to watch it. But I’ll take the word of Kevin Iole on Yahoo: the result was controversial, but not necessarily a bad thing for boxing. The fight went the distance, and both fighters gave it their all. If you did invest in the PPV, you likely didn’t feel ripped off. So Pacquiao lost a fight where he was projected to have won 9-10 rounds, but is it a horrible injustice for him?

Two words, four syllables: Rematch. Payday.

As promoter Bob Arum calls the judges the ‘Three Blind Mice’, he’s already selling Tim v. Pacman II. Pacquiao finally has something to ‘avenge’.

And give Tim Bradley credit too. He injured BOTH of his feet in the bout and showed up in a wheelchair for the post-bout presser. Boxing remains absolutely brutal.

Bradley will end up getting another big pay-check for the rematch, and good for him. Telling his corner that he thought he broke his ankle in the second round, the trainer responded by saying he can either throw in the towel or ‘suck it up like a warrior’. Fortunately for those who invested on the broadcast, Bradley chose the latter – even if you feel he didn’t win the fight he definitely won respect.

Maybe even Floyd Mayweather can get out of jail, and he and Pacquiao can actually fight him some point in our lifetimes.

NBA, tennis,  soccer, MLB, horses, NCAA baseball, hockey, boxing – and a ton of talking points.

And if I left out Tiger Woods/golf. Can’t wait for next weekend…

About the Author

Kurt Allen

Have written/blogged about sports since 2000, along with starting my popular Twitter feed in 2009. I also closely follow fantasy sports developments, along with events such as the NFL Draft.