Forget Hollywood – Cleveland was the place writing a fairytale blockbuster last week.
The incredible, edge-of-the-seat drama unleashed by the Indians rivalled anything Tinsel Town has to offer.
And, although there was an inevitable dose of heartbreak, the adoring crowd rose to their feet and voraciously applauded the superstars of the show.
It was an incredible week of streaks in Major League Baseball. Yet while the once imperious Los Angeles Dodgers – Sports Illustrated’s front page a few weeks ago wondered if they were the best team ever – ended a stomachwrenching run of 11 defeats on the spin, let’s instead focus on the Cleveland Indians.
The way victory against the Detroit Tigers was snatched from the gaping jaws of defeat in the ninth innings was a great story in itself. Yet the fact it helped them score their 22nd consecutive win made it so much sweeter.
Last season’s World Series runners-up haven’t just hit a purple patch recently – they’ve taken permanent residence in one for the last three weeks.
Beating the Tigers on Wednesday helped eclipse the 20-game streak which catapulted the Moneyball Oakland Athletics of 2002 into the history books – and onto the silver screen.
The next target was the record set by the Chicago Cubs all the way back in 1935. That would leave them just four games from the alltime tally of 26 set in 1916 by the then New York Giants. It’s not easy to string so many triumphs together over an energysapping 162 game season.
Such is the never-ending grind of baseball, there won’t be a perfect campaign. Indeed, winning threequarters would be scarcely believable, something Cleveland would have accomplished if their magic stretched from start to finish.
If you need more context, no-one has won more than 16 in row since 1957. That’s 60 whole years so excuse Indians fans for going berserk on Thursday night. This is a team, don’t forget , that isn’t used to wowing the nation.
Their last World Series win came in 1948 and even though it was agonisingly close last year (can it be more heartbreaking than losing in extra innings of Game 7?) before being edged out by a Cubs team hell bent on ending their own hoodo, Cleveland fans aren’t an optimistic bunch.
At the bottom of the ninth, fears were being realised. Down 2-1. One out remaining. But up stepped Francisco Lindor and the scores were level before Jay Bruce (left) showed nerves of steel to steer them home in the bottom of the 10th and spark mayhem in the stands.
“It was like a playoff game,” fan Gary Demshar told me. “And yeah, you could say going on a run like this is a surprise.” “This doesn’t really happen any where,” ackonwledged Bruce, who only arrived from the New York Mets last month.
The 3-2 extra-innings thriller was the first time in this stretch the game hasn’t been finished in nine innings. It finally wasn’t their night when Kansas City turned party poopers, beating the Indians 4-3. The disappointment was tangible.
Yet the players immediately showed their appreciation to a fanbase which has been criticised in parts for not backing their boys with attendances often failing to pack the 35,000 capacity Progressive Field.
There was still plenty of love flying down from the bleachers as they dished out a standing ovation to their finally fallen heroes – and why not?
With a post-season place now guaranteed and the chance of overtaking the 94-52 Dodgers – who remain nicely poised as the No1 team despite as shocking a September as Cleveland’s has been spectacular – to secure home field advantage throughout the playoffs, there’s everything to play for.
Cleveland will undoubtedly push for a World Series return, yet know nothing is guaranteed. Those Oakland As went out in the very first round 15 years ago.
The same could befall the Indians, but their place in history will remain.
They say everything’s bigger in Texas – especially when it comes to the Dallas Cowboys. A franchise which cost owner Jerry Jones a mere $140 million in 1989 is now worth an astonishing $4 billion, according to Forbes’ annual list of team values across all sports.
That also rubberstamped the Cowboys’ place as the most valuable team on the planet. It’s the first time an NFL team has hit this mark – and when news came through, Jones must have fancied hitting the town to celebrate.
Dallas beat Real Madrid ($3.26bn), the New England Patriots ($3.2bn), the New York Yankees ($3.2bn) and Barcelona ($3.16bn) to finish top of the pile.
It’s a graphic illustration of why it’s boom time in the NFL – just four years ago only two teams were in the two billion dollar club. Now there are nine with two more just below.
No wonder Roger Goodell is so desperate to show everyone his game isn’t the life-threatening, walking-concussion machine many fear it has become.
Take a bow Atlanta United. Fresh off a 7-0 thumping of the New England Revolution in midweek, new boys United broke the MLS attendance record as the city’s sparkling new Mercedes-Benz Stadium was fully opened.
The state-of-the-art $1.6 billion arena also tasted NFL action last night with the Falcons making their first appearance there, facing the Green Bay Packers.
That was poised to be an 71,000 sell-out (there’s an option to increase capacity to 83,000 for events like the Super Bowl) though the 70,425 which took in the 3-3 draw with Orlando on Saturday was the highest ever in MLS. Not bad for a new team in its first season.
It eclipsed the previous high of 69,255 set in 1996 for the LA Galaxy’s debut match, though what’s most encouraging for United fans and those who push MLS forward is that the club’s average of 45,000 is on course to beat the previous best held by Seattle two years ago.
In a city where NFL is king, that’s impressive.
It’s not the type of espionage to get James Bond excited.
Some guys watching a catcher’s signal and then relaying the info to coaching staff who used their Apple Watches to inform players on the pitch?
Normally it’s a grizzled old coach using his eye-sight and experience to unlock the code.
But this is different. Welcome to Sign Stealing: 2017.
It’s gone on for years yet the use of technology has raised the intensity of the hatred between these two proud sporting cities.
The inquiry started at the end of last month after Yankees GM Brian Cashman filed a complaint which included video footage of the Red Sox bench during a three-game series between the two teams at Fenway Park last month.
There, clear as day, was footage of Sox staff checking their watches and then telling colleagues who would then signal to players on the field.
Boston didn’t deny anything.
In fact, they’d been doing it for weeks yet had the temerity to accuse the Yankees of using a host broadcaster to do the same.
That was denied by the Bronx Bombers who were adamant something was amiss. There was an overriding feeling of the home batters being too in sync with balls flying their way.
— Boston Strong (@BostonStrong_34) September 7, 2017
The ploy works a treat when a runner is on second base.
He can not only see what the catcher is doing with his hands but can also let the batter know what’s coming his way.
Otherwise, timing is key. The information needs to be rushed from the dugout in super quick time. So, enter the Apple Watch!
The evidence in this case is interesting: During the opening game of the series, the first two times the home team had runners on second, they came up trumps. In the second inning, a home run helped the Sox creep 2-0 ahead.
It didn’t work out as well in the other two games though suspicions had already been raised.
What’s the most surprising is the Boston Red Sox, in their infinite wisdom, not only thought it was a cracking idea but they’d actually get away with it.
Is there something in the New England water?
No-one in New York will ever forget Spygate – Bill ‘ We will never do it again ‘ Belichick’s attempt to uncover secrets about the Jets’ tactics.
And now this.
What a shame these two won’t meet again in the regular season.
It’s unlikely, however, the MLB will smash the AL East leaders with serious punishment.
After all, this is the governing body who happily allow drug cheats to keep their records despite everyone knowing they were bashing home runs juiced up to the max on steroids.
Commissioner Rob Manfred, who just so happened to be in Beantown when the story broken initially by the New York Times surfaced (which has convinced the Sox that the Yankee’s leaking of the story was timed to perfection), will seemingly hand out slapped wrists.
“It has been part of the game for a very, very long time,” he said.
Indeed. Snooping around to gain an advantage isn’t new.
The most famous scandal came all the way back in 1951, when the New York Giants overcame a 13 ½-game deficit over the final two months of the season to catch the Brooklyn Dodgers and eventually win the National League pennant. Half a century later it emerged that telescopes were used from the nearby Polo Grounds to gain an advantage.
Information is often passed on nefariously, yet it was the use of technology which broke the rules here.
Binoculars are banned. So too are mobile phones.
It’s sporting dark arts.
Technological doping, if you fancy.
Just like greasing up a cricket ball or taking an extended bathroom break in tennis, players find a way to operate in between the rules.
It’s certainly not on a par with the shocking Cardinals hack into Houston Astros database two years ago which resulted in a a $2 million fine and the snatching of draft picks.
But it has still caused a stink.
“I’ve never thought it’s wrong. Everyone in the game has been involved in it throughout the years,” said David Dombrowski, the Sox president of operations and a man with no shame.
That much may be true though the old adage remains: Don’t get caught, but if you do, don’t use an Apple Watch.
No-one – not even a sporting powerhouse like the Miami Dolphins – was safe from the devastating effects of Hurricane Irma.
As the terrifying winds and rain lashed the Sunshine State , the Dolphins, who had already seen their opening day clash against the Bucs called off , were headed to Los Angeles to avoid the carnage.
I live in South Florida and followed suit even if many friends stayed put, determined to ‘ride it out.’
Nevertheless, it was the kind of situation which had everyone thinking of their safety.
Training was cancelled on Wednesday to give players and their families time to prepare their houses before the team travelled to California two days later.
“A lot these guys have a lot on their plate — moving their families — and you’ve got people coming in, and your house and your cars,” Jay Cutler, the quarterback, said.
Fellow Florida NFL side ,the Jacksonville Jaguars, also had their plans thrown into disarray. They planned to remain in Houston after yesterday’s match – a city which is still coming to terms with the shocking aftermath of Hurricane Harvey which destroyed large parts of Texas at the start of the month.
“For us, obviously, we need to stay safe,” said QB Chad Henne. “There’s no need to put a plane into the storm, but you worry about the families here and you worry about the community.”
First the loudmouth father. Then the overpriced shoes and a reality TV show.
Now the rap single eulogy for his kid brother.
Lonzo Ball has packed a lot into his career so far and he’s yet to play a minute in the NBA. Yet , thanks in no part to his often nauseating dad Lavar, everyone knows his name and this latest attempt to self promote just adds to the circus surrounding the 19 year-old Laker.
His debut rap single “Melo Ball 1” is available for your audible delight and features Lonzo spitting lyrics in honour of his little brother who’s had quite a few weeks himself.
If turning 16 years old wasn’t exciting enough , he also became the first ever High School player to have his own brand of basketball shoes – called Melo Ball 1s.
See what they’ve done there? Geniuses , the lot of them.
It was like a scene from the schoolyard.
A petty argument becomes a mass brawl with bodies and fists flying everywhere. I’m sure if you really turn up the volume, you can hear someone shouting ‘BUNDLE.’
What’s unmistakable , however, is everyone who’s seen the quite stunning footage of the New York Yankees and Detroit Tigers acting like kids at the end of a three hour fizzy drink binge knows just how stupid these alleged role models were.
Scraps happen all the time in most sports. Baseball at this time of year can be particularly spiky – the post season is looming into view. The pressure is on. The nation’s favourite pastime on a knife edge is brilliant sporting drama.
And while the Tigers are way out of the mix and having nothing to lose, the Yankees have everything to play for. The race for a wildcard is in their hands though many more stupid afternoon’s like this and it will be slipping through their fingers.
They are on the heels of the Red Sox in the AL East. It’s going to take one hell of a run to top them though it’s possible.
Well, it would have been more feasible if red hot Gary Sanchez was leading the charge instead of sitting out four games for needlessly getting involved in the MLB’s own version of WWE. The benches cleared three times in total in Detroit last Thursday.. That’s a lot of anger.
The catcher had just hit his 10th homer in the last 16 games. While Aaron Judge , who’s enjoyed a similarly brilliant rookie season to the one Sanchez wowed everyone with in 2016, continues to blow hot and cold, the Dominican Republic star has been the Yankees’ go-to man in recent weeks.
Now the only place he’s heading is home to contemplate his stupidity. At least he’s young enough to learn from his mistakes.
The bad blood between these two teams had been festering. During their clash in the Big Apple at the end of July, Detroit’s Mikie Mahtook was smashed in the head with pitches before Michael Fulmer responded with more fireworks. This time, Jacoby Ellsbury’s backside bore the brunt.
So it was boiling up for sure. Yet when Miguel Cabrera and Yanks back-up Austin Romine started exchanging pleasantries before engaging in the violent equivalent of disco dancing , all hell broke loose and then some.
The benches cleared . Players ran in from everywhere. Punches rained down. No-one came out of this smelling of roses but the video footage of Sanchez was particularly damaging and emphasised, if needed , just how hairbrained the 24 year-old was.
His cheap shots to the face of a grounded Cabrera and Nicholas Castellanos belonged in the Octagon, not the baseball field. Only MLB chiefs will know why he copped such a lenient punishment.
Though, as New York coach Joe Giradi , who had already been ejected for slaughtering the officials making it his FOURTH sending off this campaign , was at pains to point out afterwards, it shouldn’t have come to this.
Sanchez, bless him, had taken a few rough pitches in the match which eventually saw the stung Tigers eek out a 10-6 win in a three game series where he’d smacked four home-runs.
This is where the officials erred and were , in effect , guilty of sparking the madness which followed. Fulmer escaped scot free for throwing behind the batter instead of being dished out a warning which would have helped diffuse the situation and made the pitcher rethink his strategy. So when Yankees reliever Tommy Kahnle was chucked out for something similarly wayward, Giradi went ballistic.
While the MLB were delivering their verdicts on the players , it’s hoped a dim view of the umpires – where was the home plate ref to stop it before everything started ? – was also taken although don’t hold your breath.
They weren’t mentioned on a naughty list which saw Romine banned for two, Cabrera for seven games, teammate Alex Wilson will miss four while coach Tigers manager Brad Ausmus was suspended for one game.
Eight players in total were ejected. As balls flew at batters , the dugouts rose as one , ready for war.
The Yankees will be praying it doesn’t stall their push.
“It is hard, because everything is happening very fast,” Sanchez said.
“I was in the dugout and I saw Romine rolling on the [ground] with the other guys.At that moment, just instincts take over, because you want to defend your teammate. That’s your family out there.”
The most functional families, however, need everyone pulling together – not needlessly lumping people in the face.
There’s political correctness gone mad. And then there is political correctness gone totally haywire.
ESPN conformed to the latter this week when dumping a college football commentator … because of his name.
Robert Lee was told he wouldn’t be required for the University of Virginia’s first football game of the season next month because he shares the same name as the Confederate general whose statue sparked scenes of horrific violence three weeks ago.
Charlottesville was the center of attention in the US after protests flooded to the city to show their disgust at a decision to remove a memorial to Robert E Lee.
Lee the sports caller is , ironically, Asian American and obviously has nothing whatsoever to do with the mindless idiots who shamed a nation.
“We collectively made the decision with Robert to switch games as the tragic events in Charlottesville were unfolding, simply because of the coincidence of his name,” ESPN said in a statement.
“In that moment it felt right to all parties. It’s a shame that this is even a topic of conversation and we regret that who calls play-by-play for a football game has become an issue.”
But didn’t ESPN make it an issue in the first place?
Sporting Kansas will be hoping their new kid on the block will fare better than the boy who last stole the headlines for being the youngest in MLS.
At the age of just 15 years and 89 days, Gianluca Busio is 10 months older than Freddy Adu who was 14 when he signed for DC United in 2004.
Yet while Adu’s career has been a nomadic, globe trotting failure, hopes are high for Busio who was born in North Carolina and tracked by a number of teams in Europe.
He is a versatile forward with an eye for goal and is certainly at the right club. Sporting KC had no hesitation in giving defender Erik Palmer-Brown his debut just nine months after penning a deal as a 16 year-old.
“Since I was a kid, I always dreamed of being a professional soccer player,” Busio said, missing the fact that he’s still a kid.
— Gianluca Busio (@gbusio10) August 25, 2017