Today in sports: the St. Louis Cardinals are still trying to evict their new marketing sensation, a look at the toxic chemistry that led to the Red Sox historic collapse, and the future of the Oakland Raiders following the death of owner Al Davis.
- The St. Louis Cardinals are trying to capture and remove the squirrel (or squirrels) that ran across the Busch Stadium playing surface during the National League Division Series, but that hasn't stopped the club from trying to maximize the critters' marketing potential. According to the Associated Press, the Cardinals will hand out "40,000 rally towels with a squirrel motif" prior to Game 3 of the NL Championship Series tonight, while the team store at Busch Stadium is already selling "Got Squirrel?" shirts and $5 plush "Rally Squirrels." Meanwhile, Cardinals officials say the grounds crew has captured and removed four of the animals from the stadium since last Friday. Major League Baseball has also cut a new playoff ad featuring the rogue squirrels. [Associated Press]
Boston Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein has a deal in place to join the Chicago Cubs in a similar capacity, but an official announcement is still contingent on the two teams working out a compensation agreement. Sources tell ESPN's Buster Olney that Major League Baseball's league office has already voiced "great concern" over the nature of the compensation package "because they do not want this deal to affect how other teams compete in the market for front-office personnel." The deal will likely include a package of cash and minor league prospects, with no Chicago big leaguers being sent to Boston. [ESPN.com]
- More than two weeks since the Red Sox completed their stunning imolation, the Boston Globe's Bob Hohler has written the most detailed account so far about the forces that contributed to the team's September collapse. He chalks it up to a lack of clubhouse discipline, but the specifics are startling: according to Hohler, starting pitchers John Lackey, Josh Beckett, and Jon Lester incurred the resentment of their teammates by drinking, eating takeout chicken, and playing video games in the clubhouse while games were going on, but nobody said anything. Anonymous club sources also tell Hohler that manager Terry Francona "appeared distracted" throughout the season, and speculate that the manager's marriage trouble and "use of pain medication" may have negatively impacted his performance. (Francona denied both suggestions, but acknowledged he "consulted the team’s internist, Dr. Larry Ronan, during spring training after one of his children expressed concern about a pill bottle in his hotel room," but was informed he didn't have a drug problem.) The team's front office enabled selfish behavior from the team.In August, after the team shuffled the start times of the team's series against Oakland to avoid a possible rainout due to Hurricane Irene, players "accused management of caring more about making money than winning." Ownership responded to the gripes by giving every player "$300 headphones and inviting them to enjoy a players-only night on principal owner John W. Henry’s yacht after they returned from a road trip Sept. 11," but that didn't stop the deluge of gripes. [The Boston Globe]
- Al Davis caused no small amount of problems for the NFL during his time as owner of the Oakland Raiders, but the 92-year-old's death Saturday seems unlikely to produce a messy court battle for control of the team. USA Today and CBS Sports' Charley Casserly report that Davis' wife Carol will inherit his majority stake, with son Mark taking over as managing partner. Davis only owned 40 percent of the franchise, but the team's limited partners are "specifically barred from combining to mount any challenge for control," notes Yahoo's Jason Cole. That will likely rule out moving the team back to Los Angeles, since both investment groups that are trying to convince teams to relocate also want to buy an ownership stake in any team. As for daily operations, current CEO Amy Trask will continue running the Raiders business affairs and is expected to hire a personnel executive for football decisions. One possible candidates for that post, even if it's just in an advisory capacity, is former Raiders coach John Madden. Back in 2006, Davis suggested Madden would be involved in determining the franchise's future after his death. Former Green Bay Packers general manager Ron Wolf, who was Oakland's head scout during the 1980s, could also rejoin the team in a similar capacity.
- The NBA's decision to cancel the first two weeks of the regular season will cost each team six to eight games, which may not be such a bad thing, since it will eliminate some of the grueling back-to-back games teams are forced to play during an 82-game season. Former New York Knicks and Houston Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy suggests 70 games would be a more realistic number. That might reduce the value of the league's television package and take revenues from five or so home games away from local economies. The upside is that the league's product could end up being crisper and more closely-contested, with fewer player injuries down the stretch. [The New York Times]