The Opening Pitch: I believe Dara Torres. Period. Let's get this out of the way, then not talk about it again until August. I don't think she cheats using performance-enhancing drugs.
I don't think her jaw-dropping accomplishments this past weekend are tainted in any way -- beyond the ludicrous claims she cheated her way to success.
You can call me naive, but I think I have a pretty good record of skepticism when it comes to athlete accomplishments.
(Certainly better than the so-called "mainstream" sports columnists and reporters, the ones who so negligently ignored baseball's steroid problem -- and continue to do so in football.)
But there's a bright line between healthy skepticism and contrarian cynicism.
The knee-jerk "She's 41 and setting records so she MUST be juicing" reactions are the worst kind of cynicism, cloaked in "Hey, I'm just a product of the era we're living in -- blame Barry Bonds, not me!"
The strongest argument in Torres' favor is that she has proclaimed herself ready to subject herself to ANY drug test -- she'll pee in a cup for you right here and now!
Torres is a lot of things: For starters, she is an Olympic-sized megalomaniac. (Which gives her at least one thing in common with her accusers, sports yappers who would say anything for attention.)
She is also the poster "child" for the advancements in athletic training methods. (And, no, I didn't label them "advancements," although obviously there is plenty of "that" out there, too.)
Torres uses an insanely extensive -- and expensive -- posse of specialists to prepare for a race lasting less than a half-minute. So, unfortunately, her success isn't really accessible to anyone else; however, that success remains entirely reasonable.
But a cheater? I don't believe it for a second. Or, as it happens, 24.25 seconds.
Mike Beasley vs. Derrick Rose: Round 1 goes to Beasley, who was predictably a monster in the Heat's 94-70 win in their Summer League debut.
Beasley scored 28 with 9 boards ... all with a fractured sternum. Let's clock how fast the doubters recognize just how very wrong they were.
Meanwhile, Rose had 10 points (3/8 FG) and 4 assists, with 5 turnovers. I'm not saying Rose was a bust, but he was certainly nothing as obviously and immediately special as Beasley.
And that version of instant history IS important, because it was at the heart of what the whole Rose-vs.-Beasley debate was all about.
(BTW: Heat PG Mario Chalmers looks like a 2nd-round steal: 11 points, 6 assists, 1 turnover, 4 steals. Mark it down: Chalmers will be starting, alongside Beasley when the NBA season opens in November.)
Sports Media: Olbermann and Patrick reunited! NBC should simply turn the entire "Football Night in America" show over to the pair and skip the trite analysis and lame "inside" info. What a coup for NBC.
It will be interesting to see if they still have it, 15 years after they made their imprint on impressionable fans like me. Their brand of snark is more of a commodity these days than it was back then.
MLB Instant History: David Wright wants your "Final Vote" vote, hitting his 17th HR in a Mets near-choke. ... Fantasy Stud: Hiroki Kuroda (CG 1-hit shutout, 6 Ks), just shy of a perfect game. ... THERE'S the Torii Hunter (2 HR, 3 RBI) the Angels paid all that loot for. ... Midseason Award contenders: Presumptive AL Cy K-Rod gets save No. 35; presumptive NL MVP Chase Utley hits HR No. 25. ... Streaks: Greg Maddux has now gone 11 starts without a win; at his expense, Ricky Nolasco hits the 10-W mark (8 IP, 1 ER, 5 H, 7 K). ... Milton Bradley is guest-blogging for the New York Times, and it's actually pretty humanizing.
Sabathia to Brewers, officially: So I'm a little obsessed with the 1984 Cubs, whose dramatic "Next Year Is Here" playoff run was catalyzed by a mid-season trade ... with the Indians ... for a once-solid, then-struggling front-line starting pitcher.
In 1983, Rick Sutcliffe was 17-11 for the Indians with a 4.29 ERA with 160 Ks in a workmanlike 243 IP. His start to 1984 was less auspicious: 4-5 in 15 starts with an ERA of 5.15.
After his trade to the NL (for Joe Carter, among others), Sutcliffe went 16-1 in 20 starts with an ERA of 2.69, averaging more than a K per IP and a 4-1 K-BB ratio. He won the NL Cy (and finished 4th in MVP voting!) all in a half-season of work -- and the Cubs won the NL East.
I'm not saying that nearly a quarter-century later, Sabathia will pull a Sutcliffe. (God, has it been that long?) But there is the gold standard for midseason, interleague trades of a top-line SP.
(The question then becomes: Will the Cubs match the Brewers by pulling off a mid-season trade of their own, landing the A's Rich Harden?)
A-Rod vs. C-Rod: Divorce, American (League) Style! I get "extramarital affairs," but what -- pray tell -- might be included in "other marital misconduct?" That's why we created divorce depositions.
All-Star "Final Vote" Campaign: The biggest threat to my "Longoria for AL Final Vote" effort comes from the American Mustache Institute, who is backing -- no surprise -- Jason Giambi.
Olympics: More Dara. Torres won't swim the 100 free, instead opting to focus on her main event, the 50 free. (The big beneficiary: Lacey Nymeyer, who finished 3rd at the Trials.)
NBA Free Agency: What does it signal that Elton Brand put his L.A. house on the market? So, what's the housing market in Philly like these days, anyway? (h/t: Hardwood Paroxysm)
Epic Wimbledon Final, Cont'd: The match produced the biggest TV audience for a Wimbledon men's final since 2000. Any sports event that shows that kind of trend-flipping impact is amazing for the sport and sports fans. They don't happen often, but it's special when they do.
CBB: When John Henson emerges from obscurity as the No. 1-ranked player in the Class of 2009, you'll thank my SN colleague Mike DeCourcy for being the one who clued you in first. UNC fans should be thrilled.
The Last Word: I am calling it right now that Josh Hamilton will win the Home Run Derby -- it's just too perfect of a chapter for his ongoing Cinderella story.
Besides, I'm not sure Chase Utley, Dan Uggla, Grady Sizemore or Lance Berkman scare me. (Save the complaints, Philly fans, although with every swat like last night, Utley makes me doubt my Derby intuition.)
Seriously: When was the last time the HR Derby featured two players from that vaunted power position of 2B? (Actually, that's a testament to Utley and Uggla.)
Dan Shanoff writes The Wake-Up Call every weekday morning for SportingNews.com and blogs daily at DanShanoff.com. Got any comments, questions or feedback? Email Dan at shanofftsn-[at]-gmail-[dot]-com.
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