Michael Jackson Autopsy Results May Reveal Root of Recent Redsox Woes

Are the Yankees to blame for Jackson's untimely demise? Is there even such thing as a timely demise?

Are the Yankees to blame for Jackson's untimely demise? Is there even such thing as a timely demise?

A team long known for its history of curses may have stumbled upon another with yesterday’s news that pop star Michael Jackson’s death has been ruled a homicide by L.A. coroners. Jackson, a lifelong Red Sox fan, died as a result of a drug overdose of propofol and lorazepam, drugs that were administered by former New York Yankees’ farmhand Dr. Conrad Murray. While no foul play is suspected, the damage has already been done to Boston’s season. Since June 25th, the date of Jackson’s passing, the Red Sox have gone from 4 games up in the AL East to trailing the New York Yankees by 6 games after play on August 25th. Boston has looked utterly lost at times since the King of Pop ascended to his heavenly throne next to Elvis and Tupac—blowing leads, weeping at the mere mention of “Thriller,” and making costly errors that helped create losing streaks of 5 and 6 games. The Red Sox still lead the Wild Card race by 1.5 games over Texas, but this latest news likely hammered the final nail into Boston’s 2009 season.

After their 6-3 win over Chicago on Tuesday night the team took turns addressing the media. A tearful J.D. Drew took the microphone first, saying “Hell yeah it’s been a difficult two months for us, he was the friggin’ king of pop! He wasn’t just a musician to this team…he was our inspiration. The first time I heard ‘Billy Jean’ I knew my life would never be the same. I decided that since I couldn’t sing, baseball was what Michael would want me to do.” Drew and Jackson were good friends in the off-season, and could frequently be spotted at Boston-area amusement parks and swimming pools. Drew fell into a tailspin after Jackson’s death, hitting only .217 in July, and admitted that he was pressing in the wake of his friends passing. After drying his eyes, Drew continued, “The only thing Michael loved more than children was baseball, he’s the reason I got into this game. Now? I just don’t know anymore…I guess maybe I’ll have to start from scratch, see what the man in the mirror has to say.”

Did Jackson's music help the Red Sox capture the '04 World Series?

Did Jackson's music help the Red Sox capture the '04 World Series?

Most casual sports fans didn’t realize the inexorable link between baseball and Michael Jackson, but the pop star was a lifelong admirer of the game, a theme which often appeared in his music. A number of Jackson’s songs pay tribute to the American past-time, including: “Black & White” (dedicated to Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier), “Smooth Criminal” (in reference to Rickie Henderson’s prowess on the basepaths during the 1980’s), “Bad” (the Pittsburgh Pirates), “Thriller” (a musical version of the 1960 World Series) and “Beat It” (referring to the Boston Red Sox World Series drought). Jackson was a Red Sox season ticket holder and would often join the team for batting practice. Despite his waifish figure, several Boston players recall Michael hitting some tape-measure shots over the Green Monster. David Ortiz called him “the greatest ‘natural’ hitter I have ever seen. I wish he wasn’t such a great singer and dancer, or we would have signed him. That guy would have moonwalked all over the AL East pitchers“.

A bad season just got even worse for the Red Sox.

A bad season just got even worse for the Red Sox.

After a violent Drew was removed from the interview room by security, noted X-Files fan and paranoid-schizophrenic Rocco Baldelli took the podium. Baldelli, wearing a tinfoil hat and bubble-wrap suit, avoided looking directly at the media, but did say the following: “You think what happened was an accident? You dumb (bleeps) have got to be out of your (bleeping) minds. I knew all along he was murdered, and leave it to a former Yankee to inject him with the lethal dose. My horoscope told me this was going to happen, but I just didn’t want to believe it. I can’t understand how the commisioner didn’t suspend the rest of the season, because it’s clear we can’t play with the fear and sorrow that we have felt over the past two months. Clearly this is just another conspiracy against us by Bud Selig and the Yankees, I’m going to have my lawyer take a look at this situation and see if we can’t get things straightened out, because this is an absolute travesty. Goodbye sweet Michael, we will meet again on the Milky Way.”

The news conference was then abruptly cancelled with the start of the new episode of “Brooke Knows Best” on Josh Beckett’s clubhouse TV, but on the way out of the media room a sullen Jason Bay was heard muttering “jamon, jamon, jamon“.

Jamon indeed Red Sox fans, because with the death of Michael Jackson at the hands of a former Yankee, it might just be another 86 years until you win your next World Series.

Testicular Health is No Joke: A Public Service Announcement From Adrian Beltre

Do the right thing. Wear a cup. Every day, every game, every time.

Do the right thing. Wear a cup. Every day, every game, every time.

Cue: Adrian Beltre sitting on chair in Mariners’ t-shirt, facing the camera. 

“Hi I’m Adrian Beltre, third-baseman for the Seattle Mariners, and I’m here today to talk to you about a very important issue…the safety and protection of your testicles.”

Cue: Video of Beltre taking groundball to the groin. Cut back to Beltre in studio grimacing in pain after watching video, a single tear rolling down his check. Beltre turns back to camera, a serious expression marks his face.

“I used to think it was cool not to wear a protective cup. I could move around freely, there was no chafing, and best of all it didn’t look like I was smuggling a VW Beetle in my pants. I used to think it was cool…until…the accident.”

Cue: Replay video of groundball to the groin. Cut back to Beltre in studio.

“Even a gold glover like me didn’t have a chance against that grounder, and because I wasn’t wearing a cup, I had no protection against the worst pain I’ve ever felt in my life. When that ball hit me in the groin, it cost my team a shot at the playoffs, but it may end up costing me a whole lot more. ”

Cue: Replay video of groundball to the groin. Cut back to Beltre in studio.

“You see, when that ball hit me in the groin, it contused my left testicle and caused some fairly severe bleeding. That’s right, a bleeding testicle…two words that should never go together. Team doctors say that the injury might require surgery, meaning that I would miss the rest of the season…and possibly my chance to have more children, all because I didn’t wear a cup”.

Cue: Replay video of groundball to the groin one more time, zooming in on impact and pained expression on Beltre’s face. Cut back to Beltre in studio.

“I had to learn the hard way the importance of wearing a cup, so now you don’t have to. Please, the next time you play baseball, take the extra minute to put on a protective cup. It might just be the difference between a happy life and one spent alone and barren. Do the right thing. Protect your self and your future by wearing a protective cup. Every day, every game, every time”.

Cue: “The More You Know” Music.

Old Ironsides Finally Headed Ashore: John Smoltz Released by The Boston Red Sox

Smoltz will be remember as one of the best postseason pitchers of all time.

Smoltz will be remembered as one of the best postseason pitchers of all time.

When Boston cut ties with starting pitcher John Smoltz last week, the Red Sox likely brought the end to a memorable career for the 42-year-old right hander. Though probably best known for a bizarre incident in which he burned himself while ironing a shirt that was still on his body (at least he didn’t pull a Marty Cordova, baseball’s original metro-sexual, who burned himself tanning), Smoltz also managed to carve out a niche in baseball history as a member of the Atlanta Braves’ pitching troika of the 1990’s that featured Smoltz, Omar Daal Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine. Those three pitchers were the cornerstone of an Atlanta team that won 14 consecutive division crowns (not surprisingly, a record) and a World Series title in 1995. However, the greatest achievement of Smoltz’s career may have been his successful transition from starter to reliever back to starter (and possibly back to reliever if he signs with another team). Smoltz’s ability to thrive in any role, bulldog-like demeanor on the mound and clutch postseason pitching (15-4, 2.67 ERA in 40 career playoff games) make him a strong candidate to join his Braves’ teammates in Cooperstown one day.

Boston signed the veteran free-agent in the off-season in hopes that Smoltz could bolster their pitching staff during baseball’s pennant race in the always competitive AL East. Smoltz was recovering from shoulder surgery, but the aging pitcher still flashed good velocity, and after a lengthy rehab program joined the Red Sox on June 26. Smoltz struggled from the get go as he fought to gain command of his secondary pitches and allowed homeruns at a career-worst rate. Things quickly went from bad to worse, and Boston finally decided to move on after Smoltz’s last start against the Yankees in which he gave up 8 runs and 9 hits in just 3 1/3 innings (or as they say in the biz, he “Ponson-ed” it). At the time of his release, Smoltz was 2-5 with a 8.33 ERA and 1.70 WHIP. Multiple teams have expressed interest in Smoltz and the Red Sox have considered moving him to the bullpen, but no decision has been made yet. Despite his struggles this season, Smoltz will be fondly remembered for his storied tenure with the Braves.

Many baseball experts blame the failing health of Smoltz's beloved pug, Scuzz, for his recent struggles.

Many baseball experts blame the failing health of Smoltz's beloved pug, Scuzz, for the star pitcher's struggles.

Smoltz spent 20 seasons in Atlanta, winning over 200 games and capturing the NL Cy Young award in 1996, a season in which he went 24-8 with a 2.95 ERA and 276 K’s. The talented hurler made the All-Star team in 1989, 1992, 1993, 1996, 2005 and 2007 as a starting pitcher and 2002-2003 as a closer, becoming Dennis Eckersley 2.0 in the process. Smoltz saved 154 games between 2001-04, and became only the second player in baseball history to win 20 games in one season and save 50 in another. Smoltz was converted back to a starter in 2005, and recorded his 3,000 career strikeout in an injury shortened 2008. With Maddux and Glavine both retired, Smoltz becomes the last of one of baseball’s most talented pitching trios to leave the game. The National League belonged to the Atlanta Braves in the 1990’s, and John Smoltz is a major reason why.

Even if he doesn’t sign with another team, Smoltz’s legacy as one of baseball’s fiercest competitors and clutch performers is safe. His ability to shift from the starting rotation to the bullpen and back again is truly a measure of Smoltz’s hard-work, determination and pitching prowess. Will it be enough to get him into the Hall-of-Fame? Only time will tell, but Smoltz will certainly be remembered as one of the best all-around pitchers of the 1990’s and 2000’s. Baseball lost a good one when Boston released Smoltz, but great hurlers never stop pitching…they just kind of, fade away.

Mariners Monthly Roundup: July “It Was Fun While It Lasted” Edition

Gutierrez's emergence at the plate should give fans plenty of optimism for 2010.

Gutierrez's emergence at the plate gives M's fans hope for 2010.

Record: 14-13 (53-50 overall)

AL West Standings: LA (61-40); Rangers 3 GB; Mariners 9 GB; A’s 17.5 GB.

Top Hitter: Franklin Gutierrez has become one of the most exciting defensive outfielders in all of baseball this season, saving the Mariners countless runs with his strong arm, good instincts and unbelievable range.  In the month of July his bat finally caught up to his glove, as the 26-year-old Venezeluan hit .351 with 5 HRs and 17 RBIs. Simply en fuego. Gutierrez recovered quickly from a scary collision with the wall in Detroit and continues to cement himself as one of the cornerstones of Seattle’s rebuilding project. Almost an afterthought in the Mariners’ offseason moves, Gutierrez has arguably become the best all-around player on the team and his continued maturation at the plate gives M’s fans plenty to look forward to in the coming seasons.

Top Pitcher(s): Despite the fact that he no longer plays for the team, Jarrod Washburn was clearly the Mariners’ best pitcher in July. The suddenly reborn southpaw went 4-1 with a 1.44 ERA in the month and only allowed batters to hit .185 against him. It’s unfortunate that Washburn wasn’t able to pitch like this throughout his entire tenure with the Mariners, but his improvement this season allowed Seattle to maximize his trade value, and they received two good arms in return from Detroit (Luke French–a virtual clone of Washburn, and Mauricio Robles–a young, flame-throwing lefty with exciting potential). The Mariners have discussed the possibility of resigning Washburn in the offseason, and if they are able to accomplish that, this trade will look like a real steal for Jack Zdrunciek.

Beltre could return as soon as August 4th.

Beltre could return to the field as soon as August 4th.

Biggest Surprise: Adrian Beltre is making incredible progress in his return from shoulder surgery and is expected to be activated next week against Kansas City. Beltre dealt with bone spurs for most of the season and there was a possibility he wouldn’t play at all this year after surgery, but his return should provide a boost for the M’s over the season’s last two months providing he is fully recovered. A free-agent this offseason, Beltre will be eager to prove that he is still one of the better 3B in the game; let’s hope he does. It was fun while it lasted Jack Hanahan.

Biggest Disappointment: Lefty Garrett Olson continues to struggle in the starting rotation and may have puched a permament ticket to the bullpen with his latest stinker against Texas (3 2/3 innings, 6 hits, 4 ER, 3 HR). Olson has shown flashes of brilliance, but nothing consistent, and ended July with a 7.53 ERA. It’s unclear what Seattle’s long-term plan his for him, but it seems like Olson is best suited as a reliever (2.76 ERA out of the bullpen).

Griffey Watch: Junior got all of Seattle feeling nostalgic when he hit a two-out, two-run go ahead double against Roy Halladay over the weekend, but otherwise his July was utterly forgettable. Seattle’s DH hit .224 in the month, with only 1 HR and 5 RBIs. You can’t overlook his influence in the clubhouse but on the field Griffey is a 39-year-old at the tail-end of his career. It’s been wonderful having the Kid back in the Emerald City, but here’s hoping he hangs up the cleats at the end of the season.

Injuries: Endy Chavez (torn ACL–out for year); Adrian Beltre (bone spurs in left shoulder–early August return); Erik Bedard (left shoulder inflammation–due back mid-August);  Carlos Silva (fraying of labrum, enlarged stomach, loss of any tangible baseball skills, etc.).

Is Michael Saunders the answer in left field?

Is Michael Saunders finally the answer for the revolving door in left field?

Welcome Aboard: Jack Wilson (a nice upgrade over the Betancourt-Cedeno disaster at SS), Ian Snell (tons of potential, will a change of scenery make the difference?), Luke French (a solid lefty, #5 starter type), Michael Saunders (does anyone want to play LF for the M’s?), Jack Hannahan (fun name, good glove, but little else), Ryan Langerhans (thank the guys at USS Mariner for this one).

Happy Trails: Yuniesky Betancourt (you won’t be missed!), Wladimir Balentien (what a strange way to spell your name!), Jeff Clement (Pittsburgh is a wonderful baseball town! Also, a small list of players Bavasi could have drafted instead of Clement in 2005: Ryan Braun, Ryan Zimmerman, Troy Tulowitzki, Ricky Romero, Jay Bruce, Jacoby Ellsbury, Andrew McCutchen), Jarrod Washburn (Where was this kind of performance the past 3 years?!).

August Schedule: 2 @ Texas, 3 @ Kansas City, 3 vs. Tampa Bay; 3 vs. Chicago; 4 vs. New York; 3 @ Detroit; 3 @ Cleveland; 3 vs Oakland; 4 vs. Kansas City; 1 vs. Los Angeles.

Overall Grade: (B) The Mariners really weren’t that bad in July, they finished a game over .500, but a three game sweep at the hands of the Indians and the continued success of the Angels all but ended Seattle’s shot at making the postseason. Although they gave up Washburn, the Mariners should remain competitive throughout the rest of the season, and it will be interesting to see if the new pieces (Wilson, Snell, Saunders, French) can become part of Seattle’s longterm plan. Wakamatsu and the rest of the coaching staff should receive high praise for keeping the M’s in contention this last into the season, and fans should be excited about what’s in store for 2010. The Mariners are certainly making strides in the right direction and will look to play spoiler to pontential playoff teams down the stretch.