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Roger, Melky and Other Dogs of August

The dog days may be upon us, but there are a plethora of stories vying for what little attention we can muster in the post-Olympic heat. Getting right to them …

Roger Clemens will pitch for the Sugar Land Skeeters of the Atlantic League at age 50. He insists that this outing is purely for fun, not part of a plan to get back to the major leagues. That seems sensible. It’s not as if he’s discovered the Fountain of Youth … again.

Melky Cabrera is suspended for 50 games after testing reveals elevated testosterone levels. This is the kind of thing that gives sudden breakout performances a bad name. Cabrera’s 2011 season in Kansas City saw him set a career high in OPS by more than 50 points – and in 2012 he took a 100-point leap beyond that. It’s not unusual for a 26-year-old to have the kind of surge he showed with the Royals, but extending it substantially in a vastly tougher hitter’s park is a mite suspicious.

What’s rich, though, is the moralistic reaction of some San Francisco media to the suspension. Get that cheater off the team! Let’s go back to winning with integrity like the glory days of 2010! Pay no attention to the hot-air balloon-sized head that hovered over left field for a generation!

Of all teams, the Giants and their fans should have the least to say about this particular story.

ESPN draws criticism for too little Olympics coverage on SportsCenter and too much of the New York Jets camp. For the World Wide Leader, the Olympics pose a unique problem. Another conglomerate controls the rights, and it places firm restrictions on how much video other outlets can use. ESPN can either send a full crew of reporters to produce non-event stories, or it can have its anchors tell stories in front of still photos like in the days before Warner Wolf discovered videotape. 

It chose Option C: A return to the halcyon days of last November-December, with a policy of All Tebow All the Time. Many viewers were struck by the coincidence that this involves a sport televised by ESPN. I prefer to think of it as a blow for monotheism: Mount Olympus was the home of many gods; Tebow is most closely associated with one.

Rafael Nadal will miss the U.S. Open due to knee ailments. Hard courts are rough on Rafa’s legs, and two weeks of five-set play on them can have lingering effects. New Yorkers will get the chance to see him in March, at Madison Square Garden, in the BNP Paribas Showdown, an exhibition against Juan Martin del Potro. Like all exhibitions, it will go the full three sets.

Nadal has won 11 Grand Slams – seven of them at Roland Garros – leaving him six behind Roger Federer’s total of 17. Federer will be the top seed at Flushing Meadows. Longevity in any sport requires some luck, but in general, health is an essential skill.

Chipper Jones hit two home runs on his bobblehead night, and has averages of .311/.390/.510 for a .910 OPS. Only eight other players had an OPS over .900 in a season of 80 games or more at age 40. If Jones goes through with his plan to retire after the season, he will join Ted Williams as the only players to leave the game voluntarily after such a season (Barry Bonds found no takers on the free-agent market after his .276/.480/.565 in 2007). Say it ain’t so, Larry!

Rory McIlroy won his second major, the PGA Championship, by eight strokes. He’s now officially ahead of Tiger Woods’s pace, the same way a guy who homers on Opening Day is ahead of Barry Bonds’. McIlroy is just two majors behind Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els for second place among active golfers. Vijay Singh and Padraig Harrington are the only other active golfers ahead of him, with three each. I’ll let you make the obligatory Caroline Wozniacki comment.

U.S. Open referee Lois Ann Goodman is arrested in New York on a California charge of murdering her husband with a coffee cup. Serena Williams had better think twice before threatening another linesperson.

Jeff Neuman's columns for RealClearSports appear on Monday and Thursday. Follow him on Twitter @NeumanJeff. His collected golf writing and blogging can be found at www.neumanprose.com.

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