June 8, 2006
Jason Grimsley:
D-Backs release reliever in wake of HGH scandal. Waiting for "Grim Reaper 2: Jason's Revenge," where Jason names names PUBLICLY (more Grim news below).
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:

There is a compelling body of explanations for why reasonable fans can pick the Heat to lose to the Mavs:

Haslem can't stop Dirk.
Payton isn't June clutch.
Antoine Walker can't play D.
J-Will has no FG consistency.
Josh Howard can contain Wade.
Riley's gimmicks? Overrated.

Yet there's one body that outweighs all those factors: Shaq.

There's a reason Mark Cuban wanted to trade for Shaq back when he was escaping L.A. Historically, Shaq has absolutely demolished Dallas: 29.3 ppg in his career, the most he has averaged against any team; no player has owned the Mavs so prolifically, either.

Which Mavs will guard him? Diop? Dampier? Van Horn? How will they possibly stop him?

No one will ever argue that Shaq goes all-out all season, but when he's motivated (and healthy), he's still unstoppable. Now that he's here, I think Shaq has one more run in him. Back in the Finals, he is back in his element:

"Three [titles] is cool," Shaq said from the media podium that he will own for the next 10 days. "Three is a nice-sized book. But I want a novel. With four or five, it's a New York Times best seller."

Counting on Shaq isn't without risk: The longer the series goes, the more he will wear down and the more likely his impact will diminish, particularly with the way everyone expects the Mavs to try to quicken the tempo.

But for now, he's spry, physically and emotionally. That's why I think, behind Shaq and his fourth Finals MVP award, Miami closes out the series quickly.

Heat in 5.

(Sorry, Mark Cuban. But I still want to see you blog the Finals live from your courtside seats.)

More Grimsley
Wow, here's a wild twist: Grimsley's lawyer accused the feds of outing his client after Grimsley refused to cooperate in an alleged attempt by the government to sting Barry Bonds.

Where to start with that?

That it's unsurprising that the story leads back to Bonds?

That the feds are so wildly aggressive (or thought this wouldn't eventually leak out)?

Or maybe that Grimsley cost himself his career by not participating?

Obviously, anyone who dismissed this as a one-day story exclusively about Grimsley was seriously wrong.

England's Rooney OK
In the biggest World Cup news of the week so far, England's best player, Wayne Rooney, was cleared by docs to play.

It remains to be seen how effective he'll be; he won't be available until after the first-round "group" stage (watch for insane pressure to play him if England faces a win-or-go-home match at the end of the group stage).

Reds: Sweep Cards (7 straight W's), tie for NL Central lead
Kelly Kulik: First woman to qualify for men's bowling tour
New Jersey: 1st state to approve 'roid tests in H.S. sports
Orioles: Grimsley ordered double dose of HGH when in Balto
Barry Bonds: Likely to miss entire Pirates series
Eric Gagne: New elbow inflammation to sideline L.A. closer
Needless to say, without Rooney, England had zero chance to advance very far. With him, the Three Lions might be able to stave off inevitable disappointment an extra round or two.

England earned a sort of pre-World Cup Triple Crown:

• Injury to Watch (Rooney)
• Hairstyle to Watch (Beckham)
• Goal Dance to Watch (Crouch)

(Haven't heard of Peter Crouch? England's 6-foot-6 forward created a mania when he made doing The Robot his signature move after scoring this season. On the World Cup stage, it could be the goal-celebration sensation.)

MLB Hit List
Fans know what happens when a manager bumps an ump (suspension!), but what happens to an ump (Tony Randazzo) who bumps a manager (Clint Hurdle)? Common sense says the ump needs a timeout for a few games, too.

Durham Bulls curse? First, top player Delmon Young was suspended for 50 games for flipping a bat at an ump. Then, manager John Tamargo was suspended for bumping an ump.

Now, completing the trifecta of slapstick action, a seagull was hit by a pitch from a Bulls pitcher during a game in Buffalo.

You may never hear from the pitcher or batter again, but the bird surely will live forever in YouTube glory.

(Though this wasn't nearly as freaky as when Randy Johnson killed a dove with a pitch in 2001.)

That Red Sox-Yankees rainout Wednesday night in NYC might become the most pivotal game of the year: It likely will be rescheduled as part of a doubleheader in the teams' final series of the year in mid-September.

McNair to Ravens
And, just like that, "Kyle Boller is our starting quarterback" (Brian Billick) becomes the quickest-outdated proclamation from a head coach in NFL history.

It's not just that Steve McNair (if healthy ... big "if") will beat out Boller for the job; it's that there's no way the Ravens could keep fans who are sick of Boller's inconsistency from demanding McNair get the job.

I'd say this is a training-camp battle to watch in August, but -- really -- doesn't the ending have to be in doubt for something to be considered a "battle"?

(Meanwhile, John Clayton has the must-read analysis.)

Rout Rules Changed
Remember "Score Management"? A few weeks ago, Connecticut instituted a rule that football coaches who won by more than 50 points would be suspended for a game.

The rule caused an outcry (on both sides of the issue), and yesterday the state smartly added an appeal process.

Now, coaches who make a good-faith attempt at sportsmanship aren't penalized when, say, a 5th-string RB breaks a few tackles late in a rout and rightfully jaunts toward the goal line, in the highlight of his young life.

MLB Draft Cont'd
Jeffrey Maier/Danny Almonte: The two biggest names in the MLB draft went undrafted.

Here's what I don't get: A team is more willing to spend a 50th-round pick on a no-name nobody from Nowheresville with no future, rather than get at least some value for its brand by taking one of these sideshow acts?

If Clemens can pack 9,000 fans in Lexington, Ky., then Maier could easily draw a decent-sized crowd for the Yankees' Single A team in Staten Island, or Almonte for the Mets' Single A team in Brooklyn.

Hey, how about for the night the two teams play each other: Has-Been Night! It would be a sure-fire sellout, and the two teams would make back whatever meager bonus they gave each player to sign.

World Cup Match II
Back by popular demand:
More World Cup Match Game!

Match team to nickname below:

1. Costa Rica
2. Czech Republic
3. Ecuador
4. France
5. Germany
6. Mexico
7. South Korea
8. Spain
9. Switzerland
10. United States

A. The Team
B. The Stars and Stripes
C. Red Fury
D. Los Ticos
E. Les Bleus
F. Locomotive
G. "Oath Comrades"
H. Taeguk Warriors
I. Le Tri
J. El Tri

Jussi Markkanen:
Really didn't matter WHO was in goal for the Oilers. As long as it wasn't injured star Dwayne Roloson, it was going to have the potential to be ugly. Oh, and it was.
Today on ESPN.com
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Finals MVP Watch List
He has 3 others to prove it
Dwyane Wade
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Dirk Nowitzki
Continues sick postseason
Josh Howard
Mavs 24-0 when he scores 20+
Jason Terry
Difficult matchup for Heat

More "naming names": Completing one of its most productive crackdowns ever, the NCAA finally outed specific "diploma mills" that are no longer eligible.

NBA: The Jay Williams Rehab Tour continues. The Nets reportedly will bring Williams in for a workout on June 17. N.J. could use a backup for Kidd.

Medical Procedure of the Week: Texans rookie DE Mario Williams will sit this week after having the toenails on both of his big toes removed. Yeeeesh.

You never promised me a Rose Garden, but you can buy the Portland arena, along with its basketball tenant. The West Coast version of the Knicks needs a fresh start.

Answers to the World Cup Match Game Quiz, Part 2: 1-D, 2-F, 3-I, 4-E, 5-A, 6-J, 7-H, 8-C, 9-G, 10-B.

Don't forget to sign up for the "Daily Quickie Readers" group of ESPN.com's World Cup "Pick 'Em" game. No password (or expertise) needed!

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