HEN I'M KING of the World . . .
Baseball's Rules Committee will implement an "Umpire's Balk" for application only in situations after the seventh inning where a no-hitter is ended by a possibly blown call . . . The manager asks the crew chief for a video review. The crew views a replay. If the umpire misses the call at first base, as veteran Jim Joyce did with two outs in Armando Galarraga's denied perfect game, an umpire's balk is called. Which means there was no pitch, no play, a do-over. The call will not be simply overruled because an umpire doesn't have the benefit of replay. The slow-developing play on Indians rookie Jason Donald's roller wide of first gave Joyce every indication of an impending bang-bang play. Miguel Cabrera ranged far to backhand the ball. He cut in front of Tigers second baseman Carlos Guillen, who would have had a routine play. But corner infielders are taught to go as far as possible to their left and right on slow-hit balls. Cabrera was forced to lead Galarraga with a hard throw. But the righthander did everything right and clearly beat Donald with daylight to spare.
There was speculation Joyce ruled that Galarraga, who snow-coned the ball, might not have controlled the throw. However, if that had been his ruling, Joyce would have flashed a juggle sign, giving the official scorer latitude to rule an error and preserve the no-hitter. Afterward, Joyce was a man about his role in tearing up a page of baseball history that would have included three perfect games in less than a month. Oh, well, maybe Roy Halladay will pitch another one against the Padres. For the disintegrating Phillies to win, Doc may have to spin up another perfecto, or at least a shutout . . . Fab rookie Austin Jackson ran farther and at a more difficult angle to make his sensational robbery of the Indians' Mark Grudzielanek leading off the ninth than Willie Mays did on his famed catch of a Vic Wertz drive in the 1954 World Series . . . Is it too early to call the Phillies' funk the Curse of Cliff Lee?
Bryce Harper isn't baseball's only teenage sensation. South Jersey's Mike Trout, a 6-1, 215-pound centerfielder from Millville, was only 17 when the Angels made him the 25th pick in the 2009 June draft. He raised a lot of eyebrows by batting .360 in the Arizona Rookie League and began this season in the full-season, much more advanced Midwest League. Two months short of his 19th birthday, Trout is tearing up a traditional pitcher's league where spring takes its time shaking off winter. He was 4-for-5 Wednesday night for Cedar Rapids and leads the low Class A league with a .376 average, 45 runs, 77 hits and 28 stolen bases in 32 attempts. Trout appears to be growing into what the Angels feel will be plus power, with six triples and a team-leading six homers. Baseball America has been touting Trout as a Minor League Player of the Year candidate.
When I'm King of the World . . . .
The National Football League will take a hard look at the amount of contact that is done during the various activities that lead up to the full-squad attrition that begins in July and ends in January . . . This is not the same game I played with limited success back in the twilight of two-way football. It is not the game my father played well enough to support a family during the lean years of the Great Depression. It is not the same game played by Steve Van Buren and the Eagles of the championship years in the late 1940s. It is not the same game played by Chuck Bednarik, Tommy McDonald, Pete Retzlaff, Norm Van Brocklin and the title game stars of 1960. It is not even the same game played by Dick Vermeil's Super Bowl team of 1980.
It is a faster, more specialized game played by bigger, more powerful and more athletic men. Each game inflicts the jarring injury potential of a series of 35-mph auto wrecks. The number of high-speed helmet-to-helmet hits have bred an epidemic of concussions. NFL fans know more about the function of the anterior cruciate ligament and Lisfranc mid-foot fracture than they do about the West Coast offense and Cover Two. When Michigan State coach Duffy Daugherty (also attributed to Vince Lombardi) said, "Football is not a contact sport, football is a collision sport. Dancing is a contact sport," he was talking about the game of that day. In the game of today, football, particularly the four exhibition, 16-game NFL gantlet, is a high-speed wreck where the repetitive impacts can produce permanent injury and reduced lifespans.
It is sad to hear that before Father's Day, ill-starred safety Marlin Jackson suffered what turned out to be a career-threatening Achilles' tendon rupture during an Eagles minicamp session Tuesday. He was coming back from a second torn ACL. Concern was voiced over an apparent recurrence of the foot injury that kept important guard Todd Herremans out of the first five games last season. Moreover, the hitting at these minicamps is not nearly as intense as the brutal scrums of training camp, where the many called are hitting for a chosen few roster spots. But it is hitting nevertheless.
Speaking of hitting and Bryce Harper, the 17-year-old Southern Nevada wunderkind went into Game 4 of the Juco World Series in Grand Junction, Colo., batting .500. But the damage he had inflicted was minimal. That ended in a Tuesday night winner's bracket game against Iowa Western. With his No. 2 ranked Coyotes trailing 3-0, Harper evened it with a laser homer to right. Southern Nevada trailed 5-3 when he tied it again with a double to left. And then he put the game away his next at bat with a towering, opposite-field shot over the bleachers in left. Just an eight-RBI performance for The Unnatural. In Wednesday night's 10-8 winner's bracket loss to No. 1 San Jacinto, Harper was ejected in the fifth inning for wordlessly drawing a line next to the plate with his bat after being called out on strikes by umpire Art Gilmore, who missed the pitch badly. It was Harper's second ejection of the season. According to NJCAA rules, he must sit out two games. Harper's next at-bat could be for a Washington Nationals rookie league team.
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