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Senior Baseball Columnist

Baseball season not all fun and jokes so far -- there's been plenty of milestones, too


Joe Maddon hasn't only gotten into it with umps, but fellow managers as well. (Getty Images)  
Joe Maddon hasn't only gotten into it with umps, but fellow managers as well. (Getty Images)  

Time out, and humbabe!

Is it me, or has this crazy season full of clown questions and knuckleballs, cowards and wusses been more fun than a free summer's worth of ice cream at Friendly's? (I could never make up my mind between the Fribble and the Reese's Pieces Sundae ... or Bryce Harper and Mike Trout).

Seems like Rays manager Joe Maddon and his "tweeter" have taken on every manager in the league. And good thing that Joel Peralta and Frank Francisco do not pitch in the same bullpen, cluck, cluck, otherwise the Yankees would have been pine-tarred and feathered long ago.

Five no-hitters? Two perfect games? Josh Hamilton crushing four homers in one breathtaking night in Baltimore? R.A. Dickey's movie-script comeback? Harper and Trout?

To swipe a slogan from an old skydiving outfit back home in Michigan years ago, this baseball season has been the most fun you can have with your pants on.

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Clearly, we're not going to get through this carnival act of a campaign without many smiles, frequent chicken jokes and, quite possibly, a trip to the local therapist's couch.

Take Dodgers manager Don Mattingly. Increasingly, umpires are. He has now been ejected on both Mother's Day and Father's Day. Thank goodness for the sake of his marriage that Valentine's Day doesn't fall until the offseason.

What's up with the skippers this summer, anyway? Ozzie Guillen hadn't even had time to stick a pink flamingo lawn ornament into his new Miami yard before he was suspended by the Marlins for a Fidel Castro discourse.

Across the entire wacky state of Florida, it's been like something out of a Carl Hiassen novel. Double Whammy, Guillen and Maddon.

It was a month ago when Red Sox pitcher Franklin Morales drilled Rays hitter Luke Scott, because that is exactly what a man must do when another man insults his girl. Boston's girl in this case was Fenway Park but, wow, what a figure!

Benches cleared, tempers were lost and at the end of it Bobby Valentine was saying that he "took offense to the aggressiveness of their coaches. I thought it was very unprofessional."

Maddon's response, on Twitter, was classic: "What occurred in the 9th reeked of intent. Was ridiculous, absurd, idiotic, incompetent, cowardly behavior."

Taken as an isolated occurrence, that is singularly brilliant. Who knew the Digital Age would be this entertaining?

But oh Lord, taken in tandem with last week's Rays-Nationals dustup?

Peralta was ejected -- and subsequently suspended -- when the Nationals fingered him for pine tar on his glove. Because Peralta once played for the Nationals and Maddon thought they were using insider information in a way they shouldn't, the Rays manager again went ballistic.

"I thought it was a real cowardly -- and I've used that word twice this year ... move to go out there and do that under those circumstances," Maddon said.

Hey, who's counting when the entertainment is this exquisite?

Nats manager Davey Johnson told Maddon to read the rule book, then called him a "weird wuss." Which was extraordinarily weird in itself.

"I don't want to get in a shouting match with Joe," Johnson told reporters. "I looked him up on the Internet and found out he has a tweeter, so he can get to more people than me."

"Most men have tweeters," Maddon answered. "And I would never use my tweeter to an unfair advantage."

Were the Nats being unfair with Peralta? Heck, no. They're fighting for a playoff spot. Every win is crucial. This is on Peralta. Why would he use the pine tar during this series when he knew what the Nats knew about him?


Once past the men's tweeter section of the store, the feud raged on with comparisons of the size of each manager's, um ... brain. Maddon has an honorary degree from Lafayette College in Pennsylvania. To which Johnson referred when he said, "You can tell him I have a doctorate of letters, too. Mine's from Loyola, in humanities, and I'm proud of that, too."

It has been an utter Hoot (yep, Hiassen again), this season of umpire Bob Davidson's balks (and one-game suspension for poor work) and Mets closer Frankie Francisco's bawks.

Nobody is quite sure why he called the Yankees "chickens." But sure enough, he stared them down in scooping up a save in Friday's Yankees-Mets game.

Everyone on the Mets side got such a kick out of the whole thing that reliever Tim Byrdak purchased a real chicken in New York's Chinatown, brought it to Citi Field and the Mets named it "little Jerry Seinfeld."

Of course the brainchild of that operation would have a "Byrd" in his name.

"Not bad for a bunch of chickens," outfielder Nick Swisher smirked after the Yankees had taken two of three from the Mets.

This cuckoo season is for the birds ... and in a good way.

Look at the Orioles. Together with the Nationals, they're re-seeding baseball interest in the Beltway. Just don't check with Harper's agents about this, who last week were busy trademarking the phrase "Clown question, bro." It's called protecting their client's interests. Less than 24 hours after Harper lobbed that gem at a Toronto TV guy, folks already were selling clown T-shirts online.

The Angels already have played two seasons, and it's not even July Fourth. There was the stinking-Pujols, pre-Trout April, in which they threatened to disappear entirely. Hitting coach Mickey Hatcher was a casualty of that. Now there are the good-Pujols, about-Trout months of May and June, which have re-lit the Angels' Halo.

Should Trout and Harper, each finger-lickin' good, be in the barbecue capitol of Kansas City for the All-Star Game week after next?

No clown question there, bro. All of 20, Trout led the AL in hitting Tuesday. Harper, 19, showed Cole Hamels how it's done a few weeks ago by swiping home plate after Hamels drilled him with a pitch. Now Hamels is saying he voted for Harper for the All-Star Game in the players' ballot.

Every day this summer brings another gift. By the time the "C" on Cubs pitcher Travis Wood's batting helmet damn near fell off Monday night against the Mets, we were gasping for air.

There Wood was, stepping in to hit, with the "C" limply swinging from his helmet like the broken gate of a fence.

It was almost more than we could take.

And by all means, keep it comin'. Please.


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