OK, it is finally time for another Wisconsin vacation. I shall return to the blog and to the radio on July 2, so for now I leave you in the hopefully capable hands of SeaBass. He is normally capable, but I believe him to be a bit of a blogging virgin.
Catalanotto does something …
One night earlier, Frank Catalanotto came to the plate trying to follow the impossible: He was the guy who batted immediately following Sammy Sosa's 600th home run.
Thursday, he found a way to be a showstopper himself. He did it by, well, stopping the show.
After sitting on the bench for three hours, Catalanotto lined a one-out fastball into the right-field corner to score Kenny Lofton from second and give the Rangers a 6-5 win over the Chicago Cubs.
It's the first walk-off pinch hit for the Rangers since Hank Blalock beat out an infield single to beat Minnesota on Aug. 28, 2005.
Catalanotto's liner sent what remained of a crowd worn down by a big blown lead and a nearly-wasted ninth-inning rally into histrionics. His teammates piled out of the dugout to mob Catalanotto with even more fervor than Sosa received Wednesday.
"There was nothing I could do to upstage Sammy or even to get the crowd clapping for me [on Wednesday]," said Catalanotto, who did homer in the at-bat after 600. "But today, I had a chance to get something down and help the team. That was important.
"Then [Young] gave me that fake double hand slap and picked me up," said Catalanotto, starting to smile. "My legs were just flailing around in midair. Yeah, it made me a little uncomfortable."
Rangers found someone they can beat! The NL Central …
The Rangers are last in the American League West, and that doesn't seem likely to change.
But they're doing OK in the National League Central.
With a 6-5, walk-off victory over the Cubs on Thursday, the Rangers have won four of five series against NL Central teams this season.
Texas has won five of the past seven games, a bona fide hot streak for a team that shed its "worst record in baseball" tag for at least a day after passing Cincinnati in the major league standings.
"This is the most confident I've seen this clubhouse," Frank Catalanotto, whose pinch-hit single in the bottom of the ninth drove in Kenny Lofton to win the game, said. "We haven't really played up to our potential. Hopefully we can continue to get there. There are a lot of good things that we've been seeing."
Checking Padilla’s numbers …
Vicente Padilla 15 starts with just 4 Quality Starts (26%) – 4/8, 4/19, 5/5, 5/11. His ERA splits look like this: April = 5.66, May = 7.31, and June = 7.90. In December, he signed for 3 years and $34 million. Look for a trip to the DL soon.
Cowlishaw says Sammy for All-Star Team …
I think the most logical choice is Sammy Sosa. He wouldn't be the first slugger named to the team for something close to a lifetime achievement award.
Sosa's comeback, capped by his 600th home run Wednesday night, has him on pace to drive in well over 100 runs. That's far better than what the Rangers thought they were getting when they rolled the dice on a low-risk gamble.
Forget the low walk total and the high strikeout numbers. Letting Sosa swing the bat one final time in the All-Star Game wouldn't be the worst thing to happen to the summer showcase, regardless of the circumstantial evidence of cheating that follows him around.
That stuff is always going to be there with Sosa. But given the absence of a failed drug test or sworn testimony against him, he is regarded only with suspicion.
Baseball fans being a fairly forgiving bunch, they are quickly taken in by Sosa's smile.
So send him to San Francisco, where he can play opposite Barry Bonds in the All-Star Game.
But it might be a good idea to leave both out of the Home Run Derby.
Giambi cooperates …
Jason Giambi of the Yankees agreed yesterday to cooperate with George J. Mitchell’s investigation into the use of performance-enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball, apparently becoming the first active player who has consented to speak with Mitchell, the former United States Senator. Mitchell’s investigation is almost 15 months old.
After a telephone conversation with Commissioner Bud Selig yesterday, Giambi said in a statement that he was convinced that “baseball would be best served by such a meeting.” Giambi, the Yankees’ designated hitter, said that he would not discuss what other players might have done, but that he would be “candid about my past history regarding steroids.”
After Giambi tacitly admitted to using steroids in an article in USA Today last month, Selig requested on June 6 that he cooperate with Mitchell within two weeks. Lawyers for the players union and for Major League Baseball have been negotiating the details of the meeting for several days.
Statements released by Giambi and Selig suggest what Giambi will discuss.
“As I have always done, I will address my own personal history regarding steroids,” Giambi said. “I will not discuss in any fashion any other individual.”
Selig’s statement noted that Giambi had told Selig that he was prepared to discuss his “personal involvement with performance-enhancing substances.” The commissioner called Giambi’s willingness to cooperate “an important step” in Mitchell’s efforts to put together a comprehensive report. No date was set for the meeting, but it is unlikely to occur next week.
Although the guidelines for the meeting have been established, there is no script for how it will unfold, and there are bound to be questions that Giambi will not want to answer.
Selig could still fine and suspend Giambi. Selig said that he would make that determination after gauging Giambi’s level of cooperation with Mitchell.
In addition to asking Giambi when and where he used steroids, investigators will probably ask him to describe the steroid landscape in baseball. Mitchell wants a picture of what was going on in and around clubhouses. For instance, were unauthorized individuals gaining access to clubhouses to fuel the steroid business?
But Arn Tellem, Giambi’s lawyer, and union lawyers will likely balk at allowing him to give those kinds of specifics. Mitchell may also ask Giambi about Greg Anderson, Barry Bonds’s personal trainer.
Giambi said he did not want his family to endure a lengthy legal challenge to support his position, but that type of battle could still occur. If Giambi does not answer questions as openly as Selig believes he should, Giambi could be disciplined. If that happens, Giambi would surely file a grievance through the union. Giambi has never tested positive for steroids.
Tellem called this “an enormously stressful process” for Giambi, who was quoted by USA Today on May 18 as saying, “I was wrong for doing that stuff,” in an article about steroids. Giambi met with baseball lawyers on May 23 to discuss his comments. Tellem was optimistic that Giambi’s next meeting would resolve an issue that has followed him during this injury-scarred season.
“Rather than subject himself, his family and the Yankees to a protracted legal battle, Jason has made a very difficult decision that we believe will lead to a positive resolution of this matter,” Tellem said in a statement.
Giambi, who is on the disabled list with a torn left plantar fascia, said he did not want to be “embroiled in a legal battle” that could undermine his rehabilitation and his attempt to return this season.
Since Selig is personally deciding Giambi’s punishment, he has reminded the Yankees that they cannot also attempt to punish him. George Steinbrenner, the Yankees’ principal owner, issued a statement saying that he fully supported Selig. Giambi is in the sixth year of a seven-year, $120 million contract.
To Hockey, where July 1 will be the first day of Free Agency, and the Draft is tonight.
Giguere signs for big dollars …
Jean-Sebastien Giguere figured last winter that his days with the Anaheim Ducks might be numbered.
''I wondered if I'd be back,'' he said of the angst of playing through the last year of his contract with unrestricted free agency in the offing. ''But I decided I wasn't going to worry about it.
''By the time the trading deadline came, I was playing most of the games and I felt pretty comfortable that I was going to be here for the rest of the season.''
The star 30-year-old goaltender from Montreal will be around a lot longer than that after agreeing to a US$24-million, four-year contract Thursday.
Giguere will be pulling down $5.5 million in each of the first two years, $6 million in the third year and $7 million in the fourth year. He might have got a bit more somewhere else but he loves life in southern California too much to part company with a team he just helped win the Stanley Cup.
5 Free Agents to Follow …
Here are five guys who will get, and deserve, a lot of attention:
Daniel Briere, C, Sabres
A nifty center with explosive acceleration, Briere finished 10th in the league's scoring race with a career-best 95-point season and with a league-high 65 even-strength points. Last season, Briere, 29, earned $5 million. He'd like to stay in Buffalo, but the club might not be able to pony up the cash for both him and co-captain Chris Drury. There are several teams, most notably the rebuilding Flyers, who'd be willing to pay him $6 million or more.
Chris Drury, C, Sabres
The numbers say a lot -- a personal-best 37 goals this past season -- but not everything. Drury, 30, is an old-school competitor who can play in any situation and is a team leader both on and off the ice. He earned $3.154 million in 2006-07; the bidding likely will begin at $5 million. The Kings and Rangers are among those interested, but Los Angeles may have an edge: Drury owns a beachfront home in Southern California. Either way, it could be more bad news for Buffalonians.
Scott Gomez, C, Devils
With two Cups on his résumé, the Anchorage, Alaska, native has averaged more than 50 assists the past three seasons. A gimpy groin hurt his regular-season production (13 goals), but he wowed potential suitors in the playoffs with 14 points in 11 games. Gomez, 27, earned $5 million last season, and if the price is right, he said he'll consider staying in Jersey. If it isn't, look for the Flames, Rangers and Flyers, among others, to come calling.
Ryan Smyth, LW, Islanders
After 10-plus seasons as a local hero in Edmonton, the popular winger was sent to the Islanders at the trade deadline. The Isles were thrilled to get the crease-crashing vet, who scored 36 goals in each of the past two seasons. But Smyth, 31, wanted $5.5 million in his failed talks with Edmonton, and there will be as many as 10 teams, Detroit chief among them, willing to pay a lot more to land this no-nonsense, fiery leader.
Sheldon Souray, D, Canadiens
Looking to add punch to your power play? Speed-dial this rugged 30-year-old, among the league's real blue-line threats. Armed with a 100-plus mph slap shot, he set a single-season record for defensemen with 19 power-play goals, which should help him significantly upgrade his $2.432 million salary. The pride of Elk Point, Alberta, has been rumored to be interested in relocating to the left coast. The Sharks and Kings will be happy to help.
Remember the call against Ghana that didn’t go our way? Well, soccer karma blessed Sam’s Army…. The US gets fortunate against Canada …
Canada thought it was a goal. The Americans said it was offside.
Fortunately for the Americans, the linesman and referee agreed with them.
Canada had a goal in the final minute of stoppage time waved off Thursday night, preserving the Americans' 2-1 victory and their spot in the CONCACAF Gold Cup final.
Frankie Hejduk scored his first goal in almost seven years, and Landon Donovan converted yet another penalty kick for the winner.
"I thought he was offsides. But it doesn't matter," American goalkeeper Kasey Keller said. "The linesman made the call, so it's offsides."
But the wacky ending tainted what should have been a big victory for the Americans, who are trying to win their fourth Gold Cup title and second in a row. Keller played in his 100th international game, matching Tony Meola's American mark for goalkeepers. With 33 career goals, Donovan moved within one of Eric Wynalda's U.S. career record.
The United States will play Mexico, a 1-0 winner over tiny Guadeloupe, in Sunday's final for a berth in the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup in South Africa. The defending champion Americans will be without Hejduk and Michael Bradley, though. Hejduk picked up his second yellow card in as many games while Bradley, the son of U.S. coach Bob Bradley, was given a red card in the 89th minute for a reckless tackle.
"I think these young guys are realizing that we need to be up for every game," Hejduk said. "We've made it a little hard on ourselves by giving up late goals, but I think those guys are realizing how hard we need to play."
After second half sub Iain Hume scored in the 76th minute, the Canadians put even more pressure on Keller. In the final minute of stoppage time, Atiba Hutchinson got a shot past him, but Mexican referee Benito Archundia waved the goal off, saying the Canadian was offside.
Replays showed the ball went off U.S. defender Oguchi Onyewu, and that Canadian attackers appeared to be even with the last American defender, meaning the goal should have counted.
"Their player headed the ball down into the box and our player kicked it in," Canada coach Stephen Hart said. "If one of their players played the ball back, it's a back pass and it cannot be offsides. That's how I saw it." Canada forward Dwayne DeRosario agreed.
"It was definitely a goal. No question," he said. "It's very frustrating."
Dale Jr turns his back on Bud …
Junior is setting down the Bud and picking up the remote.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. ended the uncertainty Thursday about what corporate logo would be on the hood of his new ride with Hendrick Motorsports by announcing his partnership with Sony Electronics.
"I'm a big electronics fan. I'm a big computer guy. It's products I can dig," Earnhardt told reporters at a winery in the heart of California's Napa Valley. He will be competing on Sunday in the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway in nearby Sonoma.
Earnhardt would not comment on whether his longtime sponsor Budweiser would play any part next season when he leaves the team founded by his late father to join racetrack rivals Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson at Hendrick.
Happy Birthday Dirk
Holland Sweet Goal