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Tipsheet: Dusty Baker is sad today

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Cardinals play Reds in a downpour at Busch
April 30, 2010 - Reds manager Dusty Baker visits with coach Billy Hatcher before their game against the Cardinals Friday at Busch Stadium. Robert Cohen rcohen@post-dispatch.com

The Reds lost three of four games in Philadelphia and seven of eight games overall. Starting pitcher Homer Bailey developed more shoulder discomfort. Their bullpen was taxed by a 19-inning loss Wednesday night (and into and Thursday morning).

Reliever Matt Maloney went on the disabled list with a strained ribcage. Mike Leake is forced to fill a starting rotation slot tonight after Edinson Volquez’s return to the minors.

With Aroldis Chapman also in the minors working on regaining his control, GM Walt Jocketty suddenly needs more pitching.

“I don’t know,” Reds manager Dusty Baker told reporters after the latest lost. “I don’t know how many more changes we have. Walt will be there in Atlanta tonight. We’ll try to figure this thing out. We can’t be sinking too much deeper, too much faster.”

PUJOLS AND HOLLIDAY ARE NICE GUYS

Sports Illustrated surveyed 290 players to identify the nicest guys in baseball. Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday cracked the top 15 and former Cardinal David Eckstein also received votes. Here is the ranking:

  1. Jim Thome, DH, Twins.
  2. Raul Ibanez, Phillies.
  3. Johnny Damon, Rays.
  4. Joe Mauer, Twins.
  5. Curtis Granderson, Yankees.
  6. Derek Jeter, Yankees.
  7. Albert Pujols, Cardinals. (Again, this was a players' vote, not media.)
  8. Orlando Hudson, Padres.
  9. Torii Hunter, Angels.
  10. Carlos Pena, Cubs.
  11. Brian McCann, Braves.
  12. Mark Teixeira, Yankees.
  13. Jason Giambi, Rockies.
  14. Michael Young, Rangers.
  15. Matt Holliday, Cardinals.

ALL HAIL LEBRON

In neutral cities, it’s difficult to cheer for the overdog. The Miami Heat is an easy team for casual viewers to pull against.

But no matter where you stand on LeBron James, you had to admire his shooting performance in the waning moments of the Eastern Conference Finals. He knocked down shot after another to rally the Heat past the Bulls and on into the NBA Championship Series.

His three-pointer with 2:07 left cut Chicago’s lead to 77-72. His three-pointer with 1:01 left tied the game at 79. His jumper with 29.5 seconds put the Heat up 81-79 and provided the winning margin.

That was a hallmark performance, a legacy builder. Many critics had questioned LeBron’s finishing skills, but he left little room for argument Thursday night.

James remains a villain in the eyes of many NBA fans, but he figures he will win some of them over if the Heat keep winning.

“What's today's date -- the 26th?” James asked reporters. “I say we've got about a month left. About a month left of continued hate. We'll see what happens next year.”

CHAD OCHOCINCO, ADVENTURER

Browns owner Mike Brown chided the Bengals wide receiver for his varied lockout activities. “Next maybe he'll be a snake wrangler and we'll watch to see if he gets bit,” Brown told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “He's always up to some stunt. They amuse me in a way. They concern me because let's face it we want a football player. We aren't hiring bull rider, a dancer, a soccer player. We want a football player.”

Chad response via Twitter: “I've partnered with Snake Jungle to go out and become the first black SnakeWrangler thanks to my owner Mike Brown for the great idea Does anyone know these snakes I'm gonna catch,Taipan, Blue Krait, Eastern Brown Snake, Rattle Snake and the Death Adder.”

MYSTERIES OF THE UNIVERSE

Questions to ponder while wondering when Holliday will play again:

Seriously, how does the NCAA and its member schools get away with making billions off the labor of mostly unpaid workers?

Aren't we lucky to have Gorloks and Billikens in the same metropolitan area?

Could you write a book based solely on the odd conversations overheard at sporting events?

QUIPS ‘R US

Here is what some of America’s leading sports pundits have been writing:

Adrian Wojnarowski, Yahoo! Sports: “Here was Game 5 for the Heat in the Eastern Conference finals, and here was the Heat’s season: a disjointed, dispirited stupor transforming itself into sheer genius. Out of nowhere on Thursday night, out of the deafening din of the United Center, out of the anticipation of an uneasy trip back to Miami for Game 6, James and Dwyane Wade gathered themselves, gathered these Heat and obliterated the Bulls with a ferocious, furious flurry within the final four minutes. Down 12 points, and it happened again: From James’ 3-pointers to Wade’s four-point play to the smothering of MVP Derrick Rose, the Heat left the Bulls a stunned, crumpled mass of failure. Out of nowhere, the Heat won 83-80. Pat Riley’s vision had been validated.”

Greg Couch, FanHouse: “What happened? They happened. The Decision happened. The Miami Heat happened. They beat the Chicago Bulls to advance to the NBA Finals with an incredible finish, giving the ultimate example, and reminder, of what superstardom is in the NBA. It was a process, a long and painful road of teaching defense and teamwork, of learning from the highs and lows of a season. That’s what Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said. Funny, because to me it looked like James and Wade looking at each other with 3:14 left, trailing Chicago by 12, and deciding: OK. Now.”

Gregg Doyel, CBSSports.com: “The Dallas Mavericks are going to the NBA Finals because they're older than the Thunder. Not because they're more skilled or more athletic. Not because they're bigger or deeper. Because they're older. In the case of the Western Conference finals, older was better. The last bit of evidence was presented -- and the case was closed -- Wednesday night when the savvy, strong Mavericks rallied past the mentally fragile, physically weak Thunder.”

MEGAPHONE

“I can’t watch a NASCAR race on TV without taking a three-hour nap in the middle of it,” Tracy said. “I have been to races. It is too long and too loud. I don’t really like it. NASCAR is having some trouble with its ratings because it just goes on for such a long time. The exciting part is just the last 25 or 30 laps. In [IndyCar], it is a race from the start to the finish. It is a different scene and a different culture. I like IndyCar a lot more and I think it is a better sport. I like that you can get a 500-mile race but that it is over in 2 hours, 45 minutes.”

IndyCar racer Paul Tracy, ripping stock car racing.

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