Partly because they break up the monotony of baseball’s ridiculously long season, and partly because of the boys-will-be-boys mentality that perpetually exists in the major leagues, pranks are just about as common as breathing in clubhouses.


Most are silly and lack originality. How many times, for instance, can you laugh at a player who reacts with panic after noticing his shoelace is on fire?


A prank at the Philadelphia Phillies’ training camp in Florida the other day, however, was creative, nicely planned and genuinely amusing. It’s the highlight of spring training so far, and it’s spreading like wildfire from camp to camp, largely because it was all captured on video.


Getting punked was Philly pitcher Kyle Kendrick, who was summoned into the office of manager Charlie Manuel and was told he was traded to Japan for Kobayashi Iwamura. There is no Kobayashi Iwamura, and major leaguers can’t be traded to Japan, but a visibly shocked Kendrick had no idea and sadly accepted the news. Teammates expressed dismay to him and wished him well in Japan. Kendrick’s agent also was in on the joke, as was Phils executive Ruben Amaro Jr., who asked the pitcher to sign official trade papers and formally announced the deal to reporters, who quickly huddled around Kendrick for comments.


While he was being interviewed, teammate Brett Myers finally let Kendrick know he was being had. Kendrick’s reaction, and the prank itself, were classic. Check out the video at Yahoo.

• In 2006, Bengie Molina was a slow platoon catcher with a bit of power for the Blue Jays. Now, the Giants expect him to be their cleanup hitter and the replacement for the top offensive player in MLB history, Barry Bonds, who was dumped by San Francisco and is seeking employment. The Giants, clearly, have problems.

More troubled, however, are the injury-plagued St. Louis Cardinals, who will open ’08 minus their best pitchers, Chris Carpenter and Mark Mulder, and their premier hitter, Albert Pujols, who may require elbow-transplant surgery.

• In the NBA, the Cleveland Cavaliers are trying to pick up Ron Artest while the Los Angeles Lakers hope to acquire Caron Butler before Thursday’s trade deadline.

Also, legendary Larry Brown may be back coaching soon. Charlotte chief Michael Jordan would like Brown to reorganize his struggling Bobcats.

• And, in the NFL, the Dolphins have asked Keyshawn Johnson to come out of retirement and resume his receiving career in Miami.

Here’s hoping Johnson accepts the offer because, seriously, I couldn’t possibly take another season of his bafflegab on ESPN’s football panel.