* What’s happened to the Wichita Thunder? This was a dominant regular-season and playoff team before meeting up with the Fort Wayne Komets in the CHL Finals, but Fort Wayne has dominated the Thunder in a way I didn’t believe the Thunder could be dominated. True, injuries to Alex Bourret and goalie Adam Russo haven’t helped, to say the least, but this is a team that has prided itself on quality depth and, more importantly, toughness all season long.
* Now the Thunder finds itself down 3-0 in the best-of-seven series with Game 4 to be played Saturday night in Fort Wayne. The last two games have been blowouts, over almost immediately. There’s nothing that feels like the Thunder will be able to eek out a win in this series, which would be a difficult way to end what had been a marvelous season.
* Playoff sweeps stink, no matter whether they come in the first round or the finals. I expected more fight from this bunch. I never thought a team coached by Kevin McClelland would be pushed around like the Thunder has been pushed around by Fort Wayne.
* This curiosity about the Thunder’s plight isn’t to short-change the way Fort Wayne has played in this series. The Komets have taken it to Wichita from the very first puck-drop for Game 1 at Intrust Bank Arena. It’s been a thorough and complete domination.
* It would be a shame if the career of New York Yankees reliever Mariano Rivera ends like this. Rivera, for those who don’t know, suffered a torn ACL in his right knew while shagging balls during the Yankees’ batting practice session before Thursday night’s game against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium. Rivera has been shagging fly balls for years and calls it one of his most enjoyable experiences. But at 42, and with at least a year needed to recover, it’s possible that Rivera’s career is finished.
* If it is over for Rivera, his legacy as baseball’s all-time best closer is entrenched. Rivera might be the best postseason pitcher – starter or reliever – in history. He is the game’s all-time leader in appearances (1,051), bullpen ERA (2.21), saves (608) and, believe it or not, blown saves (73).
* Sorry to hear about the passing of Adam Yauch, one of the three founding members of the Beastie Boys. He died Friday at 43 after battling cancer since 2009.
* Four contestants remain on “American Idol.” I believe Joshua Ledet and Jessica Sanchez are far and away the two most talented and should be in the finale. They could be superstar singers, in my opinion. I also think Skylar Laine and Elise Testone, eliminated in back-to-back weeks, have what it takes to be stars. I’m not so sure about Phillip Phillips, who just doesn’t connect with me. And I go back and forth with the fourth remaining singer, Hollie Cavanagh. There are times I think she’ll be star and times when I doubt she’ll even get a record deal.
* The “American Idol” tour hits Kansas City’s Sprint Center on July 12. Am I going? Let me get back to you on that. There’s a chance I will. A decent chance, because my wife always really enjoys the show. Road trip, anyone?
* Tiger Woods and Albert Pujols need to become buddies.
* As I write this, it appears Woods will miss the cut at the Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte after a second-round 73 on Friday and a two-day total of 144, even par. That is expected to be one shot short of making the cut and would be only the eighth time Woods has missed the cut for a PGA Tour event.
* Pujols, meanwhile, has now topped 100 at-bats for the season (104) and is still without a home run for the Los Angeles Angels. I have no idea how this is even possible for a guy who had homered once every 14.8 at-bats previously in his career. It’s way, way too early to think Pujols is in major trouble with this lack of power production, but it’s a fascinating start to his Angels career, to say the least. Pujols also has only five RBIs and has walked only six times in 26 games. And the more he denies the frustration, the more evident it becomes that it’s something he’s struggling with.
* It doesn’t help that the Angels are off to a 10-16 start after being expected to contend with the Texas Rangers in the American League West. Barely more than a month into the season, LA trails the Rangers by 7 1/2 games. That’s going to be nearly impossible to make up on what might be the best team in baseball.
* It also doesn’t help that Pujols has not been able to gain a comfort level in his new digs. Trust me, going homer-less in 26 games to start a season with a new team after signing a 10-year, $240 million deal is not comfortable. Baseball is a team game, of course, but you have to wonder what the rest of the Angels are thinking about Pujols. Sometimes, it’s what isn’t said that can drive a guy crazy.
* As a Cardinals fan, am I getting any satisfaction from Pujols’ early struggles in LA? Yes, I suppose I am. And I’m not proud of what that says about me. But I just can’t help it. I’m petty in some ways.
* Former Wingnuts right-hander Will Savage is 5-0 for the Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes with a 3.34 ERA. He’s started three games and been in relief in five others. It’s always a great story when a player or pitcher who spend time in the independent leagues gets a shot at getting to the majors, and Savage could be on the cusp.
* Also good to see former Wichita State third baseman Conor Gillaspie getting an early-season promotion to the San Francisco Giants after SF third baseman Pablo Sandoval suffered an injury. Gillaspie, who was 1-for-3 in his Giants debut on Thursday, was batting .362 at Triple-A Fresno with three homers and 13 RBI. He figures to get a long look with the Giants now that Sandoval is on the shelf. Gillaspie has always been able to hit and I doubt that changes in San Francisco. Whether he’ll generate enough power to be an every-day player has always been the question for Gillaspie.
* Rumors are swirling about the possibility of Florida State and Clemson leaving the ACC for the Big 12. Those rumors are everywhere. I just did a Google search and found dozens of references, though it’s not a story that has gotten much run from major websites or publications. But it sounds like it’s something to keep your ears open about.
* You know one of the first tasks for incoming Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby, formerly the athletic director at Stanford, will be to find a way to expand the conference to at least 12 teams so as to re-establish the Big 12 football championship game. Florida State and Clemson seems far-fetched. But most of the changes that have led to conference re-alignment across the country have seemed far-fetched. I’m just saying, this could happen.
Thanks for reading, everyone. And have a great early-May weekend.