Thursday, March 31, 2005

Heading Into the Homestretch

Now that Spring Training is just about over and the Yankees-RedSox mega rivalry about to renew on Sunday night, what better time to have a look at who did what during the spring to impress or digress. (stats are only through last Friday so buyer beware)

1. The man called ee-chee-row, who battered the MLB record for most hits in a season with 262 to go along with his .372 batting average, picks up where he left off, currently leading the MLB spring in hitting, at .492 clip, nearly 20 points higher than Chisox CF Aaron Rowand. Joining Rowand from Chicago is Cubs rejuvination project Nomah, who is hitting .444 and the Yankees potential leadoff hitter, Tony Womack. What must be thrilling for the Yankees is that hitters 2 and 3 (Jeter and A-Rod) are hitting .364 and .362 respectively.

2. It's hard to take spring powah numbers seriously and in that department, we don't think it's noteworthy that Andruw Jones leads the spring with 10 homers for the Braves. He had a bit of a torrid spring though, hitting .405 as well so there may be a bat on the Braves after all. Brewers fans happily note that Carlos Lee, their ChiSox-imported powah man, has hit 7 homers this spring. Although he tied the Blue Jays spring record with 8 homers, it's taken all this time for OF Gabe Gross to make the team. He will platoon in RF with budding superstar Alex Rios where his power outing is not likely to continue. One name that sticks out for powah and hitting continues to be Albert Pujols whom many had already written off due to a painfully overstated foot injury. Pujols has only dominated in typical fashion, hitting .434 with 6 homers and 19 RBIs and not having struck out all spring and as the Anti-Bonds, will be everybody's favourite to win the NL MVP and Triple Crown.

3. Pitching is another fabulously overrated spring statistic and Toronto Blue Jay rookie lefty Gustavo Chacin who leads the leagues with a whopping 4 victories despite an abrasive 8.55 ERA. THAT's something I'd like to see repeated in the regular season: wins leader with an 8.55 ERA. Brandon McCarthy, who impressed and excited ChiSox fans whilst winning three games on a 3.79 ERA, is still headed for AAA Charlotte, so don't pencil him in for the Cy Young either. But my spring training favourite, Chien-Ming Wang, the 6'3" righty from Taipei Ti Wu college will not make the Yankess just yet despite his gaudy 3-0 record and 1.00 ERA over 9 innings. In fact, free agent signing Jaret Wright, who did nothing but compile an equally impressive 3-0 record and 1.06 ERA over 17 innings, won't even make the starting rotation ahead of The Unit, Mussina, Pavano and Angry Kevin Brown. It just goes to show you, pitching stats don't mean much in the spring.

What is perhaps the only pitching category that's telling in the spring is starts made. There were only 11 pitchers who had 6 starts so far this spring and their six starts are telling. First up is the last remaining ace on the A's, Barry Zito went 2-2 with a 3.46 ERA over 26 innings but perhaps telling was his 11 BBs and 12 Ks. If he does not have a Cy Young-type season this year, the A's are probably not going to get very far.

Another important pitcher in the AL West is Chan Ho Park. Oft-rumoured to be trade bait for the Rangers until they realised there were no takers, Park will likely make his first start against the Mariners on April 8th as the Rangers 4th, but key starter who will probably have to have a good season for the Rangers to have a good season. He has made $38 million for a total of 14 wins over the last 3 seasons and has another $27 million coming to him. Over 6 starts, he went 0-0 with a 6.29 ERA but had 18 K's and only 3 walks over 24 innings. A real enigma.

Other than Zito, the other mystery man on the A's pitching staff will be the long-heralded Rich Harden, their #2 starter. He only went 1-2 with 6.65 ERA with 12 Ks and 7 walks over 23 innings which doesn't bode well but after an 8 K performance last Monday, has now struck out 16 in his last two outings and 29 for the spring.

Can the Orioles get excited about Erik Bedard just yet? Not likely. Penciled in as third in the rotation but ahead of Fat Drunk and Brawling Sid Ponson, Bedard went 3-0 with a 3.71 ERA but had a 17-4 strikeout to walk ration over almost 27 innings. Although slammed recently against the bottom-dwelling Florida Marlins, Bedard had allowed only five earned runs in his previous five starts. Keep an eye out.

Over in Detroit, they're plenty excited about Jeremy Bonderman whose claim to fame to date is having skipped his senior year in High School to pitch. This spring he's gone 3-1 with a meagre 2.25 ERA, 17-11 K-BB ratio over 24 innings and is officially, the Tigers Opening Day starter at 22. That should tell you enough right there about the Tigers chances this season, the youngest since 1986, when Dwight Gooden opened for the Mets at age 20.

Right behind him in starts, as though eager to burn out their rotation quickly, is the number two man in the rotation, Jason Johnson who did not skip HS to pitch and was bumped off as Alan Trammel's original Opening Day starter. Johnson had a 7.97 ERA over 20 innings, won a pair and lost won and struck out 12 whilst walking 7. Small wonder he didn't get the nod.

Another man to get 6 starts this spring was Twins pitcher Kyle Lohse, the fourth starter in the rotation. He'd battled Joe Mays, who has pitched well this spring. Mays, who missed all of last season after Tommy John surgery, has been solid with a 2.50 ERA. Lohse, over 22 innings had a 3.27 ERA, 12-5 k-bb ratio and went 1-1.

Hoping to make a comeback after two stays on the DL last season, former Cy Young winner Roy Halladay will be the Opening Day starter for the Blue Jays against Tampa Bay, whom he hasn't done all that well in during his career. Halladay pitched almost 21 spring innings, struck out 19 and walked only 6 with a 3.92 ERA and a 1-1 record.

Another Oriole on the six spring start list is Opening Day starter Rodrigo Lopez against the A's and Zito. He is 1-1 with a 3.86 ERA in 21 innings in spring training, struck out 20 and walked 10.

The last man standing with six spring starts, other than Ricardo Rodriguez for the Rangers, who isn't worth mentioning more than a name as he was recently demoted to the minors, is Scott Elarton, the Indian's fifth starter. Elarton threw a league high 27 innings trying to work himself back into pitching condition and went 3-0 with a 3-0 record.

A first-round draft pick by Houston in 1994, Elarton won 17 games for the Astros in 2000 and seemed destined for stardom before a series of injuries and surgeries slowed, then nearly stopped, his progress.

While he was on the disabled list in 2001, the Astros traded him to the Rockies for Pedro Astacio. He missed all of 2002 after undergoing shoulder surgery.

Although he was pain free in 2003, Elarton wasn't the same pitcher and spent the season bouncing between Triple-A Colorado Springs and the Rockies, going a combined 10-12.


So that's it for the Spring wrapup for the moment. Look forward to the Sports Amnesia Season Preview coming soon, very soon, to a theatre near you.


Lastly, how could we allow ourselves to consider baseball's opening day when the Final Four of NCAA Basketball is still to be played?

Illinois-Louisville where Illini get the edge but 3 timer Rick Pitino gets the glory.


UNC-Michigan State.

Sports Amnesia pick for the Finals: Illinois and Michigan State. Big Ten Final.

What the hell, right. If you pick enough of these bloody things, one of them is bound to come out right eventually, toch?

Tuesday, March 29, 2005


M.L.S. Beginning New Season With New Names

Lakers To Lottery

Peter King's Monday Morning QB a day late but always interesting, despite the incessant plugging of Starbucks.

Opening Day Jitters for Nats fans

Baseball's rivalries.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Hitting the Hoops, Striking the Goals, Running All The Bases Weekend

*****Final Four And Counting

You'd have been hard-pressed to come up with a more exciting match than Illinois' impossible comeback victory over Arizona on Saturday. With four minutes to go the team that had lost only one game all season was down by a fantastic 15 point margin to the 3rd seeded Wildcats and yet, in a season that has gone well beyond the dreams of Illini fans, they staged a stunning, improbable comeback and finally won the game in overtime, 90-89.

Meanwhile, the Louisville Cardinals staged their own overtime thrilling victory against the West Virginia Mountaineers by a 93-85 margin, overcoming a 20 point deficit of their own and winning despite WVA's mind-bending feat of making 18 of 24 (75%) three-pointers during regulation.

And that was only the first day of what some are already calling the greatest weekend in regionals finals history.

Yesterday, attempting to top the cardiac events of the day before, the Kentucky Wildcats executed the greatest shot in Kentucky basketball history, a double-pump, off-balance, four-bounces-on-the-rim, 3- pointer from Patrick Sparks with no time remaining in regulation that sent the KY-Michigan State match into overtime which then went into double, secret overtime before Michigan State prevailed.

Comparatively, North Carolina's not-so-shocking 88-82 win over Wisconsin in regulation, was a snoozefest.

So, onward to the FINAL FOUR where, in a shocking turn of events, NONE of the teams I selected in my Washington-Syracuse final bracket advanced. Four teams are left playing their 2004/2005 season and they are Illinois, Louisville, N Carolina and Michigan State, two number one seeded teams, a number four seed and a fifth seed. If you had them in your final four well, you're a better guesser than I.

The early guess on this Final Four is that both Michigan State and Louisville are going to be too drained from their double-overtime victories to get in to the finals. That leaves an Illinois-North Carolina Final. How about UNC 88 Illinois 85.


If you weren't exhausted or were in a different time zone from Saturday's regional finals, what you got in addition to NCAA tournament excitement was a wide range of 2006 World Cup qualifying matches.

What we saw was a temporarily dominating English side toy with their Northern Irish opponents in a 4-0 thrashing that saw Joe Cole come of age and perhaps finally resolves England's endless question on the left side attack.

But not all is well. Strachan thinks we still need a striker:

"England's passing was good enough to see off Northern Ireland but there wasn't much variety. They played a lot into the strikers' feet, with one-twos and so on, and there were few crosses from either flank.

Against the top sides you need greater variety. Teams like Italy, Spain, Brazil and Argentina are used to defending that type of play through the middle and you have to be on really top form to pass your way through them.

That is where it helps to have a big striker on hand who can get on to crosses and get headers or scruffy goals. A lot of the top teams have them: Brazil have Adriano, Argentina have Hernan Crespo, Italy have Christian Vieri, Holland have Ruud van Nistelrooy, France have David Trezeguet.

Those teams play some great football but they also have that option of putting in crosses. This is probably England's only weakness at the moment. Variety is really useful because otherwise defenders know what's coming and prepare for that if you always play the same way. I think Arsenal have had that problem in Europe."

David Beckham, playing in from the right and whose star appears to be gradually waning, is rumoured to be headed back to England out of Spain and more likely to the Tottenham Spurs.

Wonder if that leaves Owen for Newcastle (oh, how we can dream!)

But as for Beckham,

"While it is unreasonable to expect heroics from the captain every time, anyone unfamiliar with Beckham's story - you never know, there might be someone, somewhere - would find it hard to work out what he does to deserve the armband. Certainly Beckham is no longer the most important component of the England team and no eyebrows were raised or protests registered when he departed 18 minutes from the end.

Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard are now the ones spraying passes over extravagant distances, Wayne Rooney is the attacker who brings the crowd to their feet and even Joe Cole on the left wing managed to be more influential than the captain on the right. Beckham made a point of enthusiastically joining all the goal celebrations, as a good captain should, but with Lampard taking some of the direct free-kicks in the second half he must be wondering whether England still need him at all.

With Lampard, Gerrard, Michael Owen, Gary Neville and John Terry around, England are not short of captaincy material. Although the injured Wright-Phillips did not advance his cause with a nervous performance when finally granted a start in the recent friendly against Holland at Villa Park, a pacy wide player with the energy and ability to take on defenders would add something to the present line-up. Kieron Dyer almost proved the point within seconds of replacing Beckham, only to see Lampard crash a shot against the bar from his perfect square pass."

Would love to see John Terry replace Becks as the captain.

In any event, England's Qualifying Group is looking a little lopsided these days and is bound to get more so with time. The Poles, England's only real opponent in the Group, slashed and burned through Azerbijan by a 8-0 margin and Azerbijan of course, are England's next opponents on Wednesday.

Of note, Holland and the Czech Republic continued on in style, Italy defeated Scotland to no one's surprise, the gutty Swiss battled the complacent and uninspired France in France to a 0-0 draw and Wales lost to Austria whilst Ireland had a disappointing draw against Israel.

Wednesday will see another toss of matches.

Lastly for football, we were able to watch the entirety of a poorly broadcast Mexico-US WC qualifying match played in the smog and altitude of Estadio Azteca where the US has never won and Mexico have lost only once in their history in WC qualifying matches. The outcome?

The Mexicans won by the skin of their teeth in a 2-1 victory that wasn't anywhere near as exciting as the score might suggest. By and large this was an even battle but for a five minute window where the American defence fell asleep and let two easy goals in to fall behind 2-0.

"I believe our players shut down in the last 15 minutes of the first half, and that cost us the game," Manager Bruce Arena said.

The American defense missed the steadiness of Eddie Pope, who is regaining his form after injury. In his absence, the backline of Steve Cherundolo, Oguchi Onyewu, Gregg Berhalter and Carlos Bocanegra was stretched to the breaking point by Mexico's clever three-forward attack.

Later in the second half, the Americans finally began to look alive, scoring 14 minutes in and despite several very big opportunities for the Mexicans in counterattacks that left the American's wide open, the score remained the same for the rest of the match.

The Americans will play Guatemala at home on Wednesday and the Mexicans are to face surprising Panama.


AL Central April Preview

The White Sox should be nobody's favourites coming into this season. They've lost four straight and gave up 53 runs over 5 games in a recent stretch that has seen them lose seven of their last eight exhibition games.

Better news though, was ace Mark Buerhle throwing without pain after a 10 minute bullpen session. Buerhle nearly saw his season crash before him last Sunday when his left foot was nearly broken shagging fly balls.

If Buerhle isn't ready to pitch opening day, Freddy Garcia will take his place and the buzz around camp these days seems to be 6'7" righty Brandon McCarthy, who went 17-4 with a 3.14 ERA for 3 White Sox farm teams and struck out a minor league high 202 batters.

However, McCarthy may need more seasoning if the game he pitched against the Rangers is any indication. McCarthy gave up 7 runs in 3 2/3 innings.

If their starters can keep them in the game better than they have been lately, the Sox can be encouraged by the development of lefties Neal Cotts and Damaso Marte coming out of the bullpen.

They open 6 of their first 9 games of the season against the Cleveland Indians, who just announced that Juan Gone won their RF spot somehow, despite his .243 spring batting average and three home runs in 37 at-bats.

Lately, the Indians have been moving in the opposite direction as the ChiSox, winning their last five games in a row.

In addition to naming Juan Gone a starter (until his back goes out five minutes in the first game of the season), they have also named the aptly named Jhonny Peralta as their starting shortstop over Brandon Phillips. Peralta has been hitting .395 with 11 RBIs whilst Phillips was hitting under .200. TKO.

Evidently, manager Eric Wedge thinks the Tribe Are Ready To Burst Offensively after scoring the fifth most runs in the AL last season.

Catcher Victor Martinez (He hit .285 (127-for-445) with 35 doubles, 18 homers and 97 RBI in 114 starts in the cleanup spot) joins Juan Gone and Travis Hafner (who hit .311 with 41 doubles, 28 homers and 109 RBI last season) - to form a potent middle of the order nucleus although you've got to wonder about someone named Coco Crisp batting leadoff for the Indians.

Then again, Crisp is hitting .429 (18-for-42) with seven doubles, three RBI and 11 runs this spring. Not to mention that Aaron Boone appears to be back following a year off with injury and is hitting .395 with 2 homers and 12 RBIs this spring.

Lots of depth and versatility might have them making their move for the AL Central title a year sooner than planned.

Of course, no discussion of the AL Central could go on without mentioning the cagey three-time defending champion Minnesota Twins, who will open at Seattle but will open the Metrodome against the ChiSox, making this troika of ChiSox, Tribe and Twins a tough competition straight away.

They appear to be everyone's favourite to repeat but you've got to wonder how a guy with a surname of Balfour is anyone's bullpen help. Batting cleanup, Coach K.

That reminds me: I know it's a bit early on in the season and a bit early in the morning over here in England, but damn, doesn't beer battered fried chicken sound like something you want to spend the summer crunching on during late summer night games?

The most interesting Twins story of Spring Training, as far as I'm concerned, is Justin Morneau, who has had appendicitis, chicken pox, pleurisy and pneumonia and also has had a lymph node removed since last season.

And if you run out of information, it appear the AL Central is becoming so hip it's even got its own roundup.

Are they blogging or blagging?

Lastly, at the lower end of the spectrum of expectation are the Tigers and the Royals. The Tigers are still trying to sort out their starting rotation which can't be a good sign this late in the spring, even if you open the season against the Royals for whom my prediction is: Pain.

But with four teams (if you count the 2005 All Star Game host Detroit Tigers) arguably capable of winning the division, this shapes up to be one of the more exciting races in baseball and Sports Amnesia aims to keep and eye on it.

Predicted April finish:

Twins 17-7 ----
Indians 14-10 3
White Sox 12-12 5
Detroit 10-14 7
Royals 7-17 10


Tomorrow, in the ever-expanding world of previews, Sports Amnesia will see off the AL West.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Two Mighty Blows To Two Contenders

They must be frothing at the mouths in Chicago and San Francisco these days.

After two scares to their two aces when both Mark Prior and Kerry Wood went down to somewhat temporary but perhaps chronic injury, now the man they were courting to regain his former mastery and act as their closer, Joe Borowski, has fractured his wrist and won't be able to throw for at least six weeks.

The Cubs came into camp uncertain about who their closer would be. Now it appears LaTroy Hawkins will likely take that role again. Last season, Hawkins was pressed into the job when Borowski injured his shoulder, and went 25-for-34 in save situations. Hardly a recipe for success.

"I thought it was a joke," Hawkins said. "Then he told me about what happened. It's like déjà vu. It's like 'Groundhog Day'—Prior, 'Woody,' Borowski … "

As usual, Goat Riders of the Apocalypse have an interesting take on the matter:

"We all know by now that the on-the-verge-of-triumphantly-reclaiming-his-rightful-closer-role JoeBo stuck his right hand out instinctively yesterday to stop a batted ball, the very same hand with which he throws baseballs with. He shoulda drank another glass of milk for breakfast, for yesterday, this resulted in a break in a hamate bone, which will limit him to light office duties for the next couple of months.

In the movies, even dim bulbs like Nuke LaLoosh learn not to lead with their throwing hand, but in real life, it's hard to teach a Polack to tuck that baby back in. Whatever, this isn't as dumb as Todd Hollandsworth not wearing a shin guard last year, and I'm not just saying this because I've suffered a similar injury in the past. It's an instinctive thing to throw whatever you have handy at a ball bounding right past you."

Over at The Uncouth Sloth the mood is even darker:

"Now, for all you statheads and pollyannas who get all bent out of shape every time someone says CURSE, feel free to shit in the stew."

It must be a cacophonic heaven to be sat listening to sports talk radio in Chicago these days.

If the Cubs want to win the World Series in 2005, it looks like they'll have to do it the old fashioned way:

Trade Nomar.

What the hell, it worked pretty well for the Red Sox.


Sounds like someone has pissed in Barry Bonds' milk.

Yesterday the steroid-tainted slugger who had been rapidly gaining on Babe Ruth and Hammerin' Hank Aaron's all-time Homerun record, announced petulantly that he will miss months or perhaps the season following his most recent knee surgery.

We can all empathise with what it takes for a 40 year old to rehab for three knee surgeries in four months. A mere mortal would have broken down and curled up into a unrecognisable ball of surrender by now. But not Barry Bonds. Instead of remorse, he was filled with vengeance and bitterness.

"You wanted me to jump off the bridge; I finally have jumped," he reported. "You wanted to bring me down, you've finally brought me and my family down. You've finally done it. So now go kick a different person. I'm done. I'll do the best I can and that's about it. [I'm talking about] inner hurt. I'm physically, mentally done. I'm mentally drained. Tired of my kids crying."

What the hell are his kids crying about? Persistent rumours of steroid use and cheating or living large on their father's big fat $18 million per year salary?

"My son and I are just going to go enjoy our lives. My family is tired. I'm tired," Bonds continued on in typical,persecuted fashion. "You guys wanted to hurt me bad enough; well, you finally got there. I'm not just talking about the [Sunday] story. I'm talking about all of it. Me and my son are going to try and enjoy each other. That's all we've got. You've tried to destroy everything else."

Well, if anything is being destroyed, it is whatever granule of hope the Giants have of winning their division this season. Not only that, but ironically, just last September, the Giants guaranteed Bonds his $18 million salary for 2006, erasing the clause that would have forced Bonds to make 400 plate appearances in 2005 to get the money, giving them the double whammy.

This means Mr Bonds can afford to take the season off and then have the unmitigated gall to blame the media for it so he won't have a guilty conscience for doing it.

However, as El Lefty Malo notes about Bonds' penchant for Hype and Psyche:

"The man himself has admitted in the past that he doesn't even believe half the things he says, so I'm going to take the Dr. Bonds Injury Timeline with a big pinche of salt. It sounds much more like his favorite self-motivation technique: bitch, moan, complain, whine about being tired, beat down, then step to the plate and smash one into the bay. It doesn't win him any sunshine points, but whatever works."

Let's say that the "missing the whole season" is the hyperbole but let's also think realistically that knee surgery two weeks prior to the season is also going to cost him, even if he is historically a bit of a superman, effectiveness and playing time for the first few months of the season.

It equates to Giants Season Flushing Down the Toilet:

Last season's first half:

Giants with Bonds: 44-29 (.603)
Giants without Bonds: 5-11 (.313)

The season before that, similar numbers:

Giants with Bonds .669 winning percentage
Giants without Bonds: .419 winning percentage

Do the math.

San Francisco's April schedule, which includes Los Angeles, Colorado, San Diego, Arizona, Milwaukee and Pittsburgh isn't exactly devastating but if they are only winning 35-40% of their games to start with, the NL West race might be over before Bonds even gets back considering that the Dodgers play essentially the same sort of schedule in that period of time.

It means The Balance of Power Has Shifted in the NL West.

Personally, I believe the fans in San Diego should be rejoicing.

Here is their big chance to pull ahead early and stay ahead for the season.

With the Petco Padres appearing to be running on fumes or less, we have to turn to the Gas Lamp Blog for a few answers questions.

Seriously though, where are all the Padres blogs? With the dearth of blogs about the Padres one has to wonder if it is owed to a general malaise about the Padres or that the great majority of Padres fans are illiterate. Which is it?

Now there's a question worthy of "SportsBlogs".

Perhaps they're all too stunned by the recent trade for Adam Hyzdu to speak.

Well, for my money, the Padres just might be the NL West favourites now that Bonds has gone down and it's a pity there isn't more interest.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Bittersweet 16 Are Mostly 6th Seeds

This year's Bracket Busters have provided a fair share of madness already.

Now it's time to assess the damage.

Well let's see, Team Stijl is dithering along at 10,418th place, just about where you'd expect someone who hasn't followed the season all season and used an elaborate dice sequence to make his selections.

And so far, there's still Arizona and Washington, my last remaining Final Four picks remaining. Tragically however, I had Syracuse winning the National Championship and since they were bounced out by a the mighty University of Vermont, it's time to have a reshuffle and look to see if there's another school ready to be knocked out in the next round by upset that I can root for.

Actually, I will say this much: the major upsets are over. There are only two teams left that are 10th or lower seeds.

Once you get past all the craziness, what you have left are the good teams, the well-coached teams and the powerhouses, sometimes all rolled into one. The fantasy world schools who no one can believe are still here, like the 12th seeded University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, are out on the next high speed train to waiting til next year.

Actually, what's left is this:

#1 seeds - All of them (Illinois, Duke, UNC and Washington)
#2 seeds - 2 of 4 (Okla St & KY)
#3 seeds - 1 of 4 (Arizona)
#4 seeds - 1 of 4 (Louisville)
#5 seeds - 2 of 4 (Michigan St and Villanova)
#6 seeds - 3 of 4!! - (Texas Tech, Utah and Wisconsin!)
#7 seeds - 1 of 4 (West Virginia)

1 10th seeded NC State and of course 12th seeded UW-Milwaukee.

So yeah, the 6th seeds made out.

Of the so-called experts at SI, only one guy has all four of his Final Four still alive.

So, who to root for now?

Who knows? But there should be some classic matchups coming up in the next round:

Duke v Mich St
Louisville v Washington
UNC v Villanova
Arizona v Oklahoma St

The not so classics might be:

Illinois v UW-Milwaukee
Texas Tech v W VA
Wisc v NC State
Utah v Kentucky

And since I might as well, just for the helluvit, here are my....what do they call it, Elite 8? All teams I'll be rooting for but who might not necessarily win.

Texas Tech
NC State
Michigan St

And from there the Revised Final Four:

Michigan St

Deam on. More likely we'll see the same old rubbish: Duke, UNC, and then Louisville and Illinois.


So, what's new on the steroid front?

Well, for one, there are now 3,770,000 results on google for it.

As for Congress, they are still happy that they're still able to waste America's time and money on this rather than on substantive issues like the national debt, Social Security, the War on Terror, etc.

Now they've got undercover investigators out there trying to root out steroid users in baseball wherever they can find them.

But a committee source told the New York Daily News that VA Republican Rep Tom Davis' use of the word "undercover" may "sound more dramatic than it is."

"The committee wants to show how easy it is to obtain steroids," the source said.

I think the committee is doing a damned fine job showing everyone how easy it is to waste taxpayers money on frivolous investigations. I wonder how interested Congressmen would be if they had to pay for these investigations out of their own pockets?

And lo and behold, none other than the esteemed former Prisoner of War himself, Senator John McCain has added his two cents, even though he's not even ON the committee, but "urging" a law on steroids in sports.

McCain, in all his infinite, twisted wisdom also offered advice to Mark McGwire, the retired slugger who evaded questions about steroid use. "The first thing Mark McGwire should do is get himself a new lawyer. I was saddened by what he had to say, and it's unfortunate, because he's one of America's heroes."

Heroes? How is Mark McGwire a hero? He didn't even get killed fighting the War on Terrorism in Afghanistan like our last hero-athlete, Pat Tillman.

Does this mean you don't have to fight for your country to be a hero? That you can just take steroids and hit alot of homeruns and you're still a hero?

Wow. Thanks for the clarification Senator McCain.

Ahem, does this means Barry Bonds is also a hero?


Oh alright, enough of Congress and Steroids.

The good news is, The Mets have bolstered their rotation by trading for Ishii.

You can have a more detailed look at the pros and cons of getting Ishii over at Archie Bunker's Army under the Ishii Come, Ishii Go heading.


Wow, everywhere you look: steroids. It's almost as though "steroids" has replaced "terrorism" as the buzz word of the year.

Some Rockie broadcaster had to apologise for implying Todd Helton had been "on the juice".

Meanwhile, Bonds Bimbo Blabs about the slugger's steroid use. Apparently, he'd paid her off several times in the past and when he stopped, she threatened to sue and decided to pursue writing a book instead and let's face it, other than accusing Bonds of admitting he'd used steroids, what other reason would anyone on earth possibly buy a book written by a Bonds Bimbo?


It's 8:30 in the evening in Worcestershire and I'm listening to a Milwaukee broadcast of the Brewers facing the San Diego Padres in an unbelievably dull Spring Training game that reminds me of the depths it must take to sink to in order to be a Brewers fan. Can you imagine been water-tortured by the dull, sausage-stuffed Midwest somnambulistic voice of Darren Sutton, half asleep with stupidity, droning on and on, game after game, all summer long as loss after loss piles on...

Well, to tell the truth, if the Spring games meant anything, the Brewers would be offensive juggernauts and hell, let's be generous and admit there are a few tidbits of excitement to chew on. Russell Branyan is hitting .371 with 3 homers and 10 RBIs in 14 games so far. Lyle Overbay is hitting .394, Prince Fielder, Cecil's son, is performing beyond expectation and is hitting .333 with 2 homers and 11 RBIs in 13 games, Geoff Jenkins hitting .375 with a pair of homers and new acquisition and former White Sox, Carlos Lee is hitting .421 with 4 homers and 11 RBIs in only 8 games!

Is this the renaissance of The Brew Crew and Harvey's Wallbangers?

Ahhh hell. Bad beer and Bernie Brewer to help you drink yourself into oblivion whilst following the vaunted Milwaukee franchise as it hovers near the NL Central cellar long into the deep, dark summer nights.

Nevertheless, let's keep an eye on Against the Grain this season if things ever shake themselves out of catatonia.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Let The Charade Begin
"I'm Not Here To Talk About The Past" - Mark McGwire, on whether or not he used steroids.

Although loathe to comment on steroids in baseball because frankly, it's Spring Training and I'd rather comment on balls and strikes and the state of my Mets than wildly speculative and unprovable claims of steroid cheating in baseball when cheating in baseball has been around since the beginning of baseball, the blunt introduction of Congress into this mess makes it almost mandatory reading and thus, with the testimony of several of baseball's big names before a pile-on of self-serving egomaniacs calling themselves lawmakers who have somehow managed to wed their insatiable desire for publicity with their duty to their constituents, Sports Amnesia feels compelled to comment on yesterday's first round of hearings.

First of all, let's get to the bottom of why Congress is even wasting their time investigating this to begin with when we all know who the 545 People Responsible For All of America's Woes are. If anything, someone should start their own investigative committee on why Congress is so incompetent and how much money they'll accept to influence their vote. Apparently, baseball is behind on their payments.

The other rationale was this wheedling bombasticity that baseball sluggers taking steroids and hitting alot of homeruns is causing some sort of crisis in America's youth that the rest of society ills isn't.

Too add levity to the hearings, we get two sets of failed parents whose children committed suicide after using steroids and were ALSO amateur baseball players, blablaba - in case no one in Congress noticed, there are ALOT of teen suicides in America. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicide is the third leading cause of death for those ages 15 to 24, surpassed only by car accidents and homicide. Will they be holding Congressional hearings to get at the root cause of all of them? And will that be after or before they investigate the causes of teen deaths via car accidents and homicides?

And let's put this in yet another perspective. There's endemic drug and alchohol abuse in Congress as well as other professions where "kids" look up to their "heroes", like musicians, artists and actors. Is Hollywood next? Then rock and roll? Where does it end? Why isn't current California Governor and the former Counselor for Fitness under President Bush the First, Arnold Schwarzenegger, being hauled in for questioning about steroid use by the heroes of America's kids? Surely all that bodybuilding wasn't merely the cause and effect of lifting a few weights here and there. Is he not being questioned simply because it isn't baseball? Simply because it isn't topical? Simply because the entire concept is idiotic and entirely inappropriate for Congressman to be holding public hearings over in the first place?

As usual, Congress is peddling it's own particularly repulsive brand of hypocrisy.

Now we can move on to a few highlights (or lowlights, depending on your perspective), of America's ponderous Congressmen employing their liberal use of causational logic on the American people:

Rep. Mark Souder, who, as Chairman of the House Government Reform Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy, and Human Resources responsible for authorizing legislation for the Office of National Drug Control Policy, is one of the few who might actually have a legitimate reason for investigating baseball, in a fit of hyperbole, draws an analogy between McGwire and Enron, of all things, when McGwire continues to assert that he doesn't want to talk about the past:

"There's a simple way to solve this," Souder preached, "(by saying),'I am clean.' … The American people can figure out who's willing to say that and who isn't. If the Enron people came in and said, 'I don't want to talk about the past, you think we'd let them say that?"

Witchhunt status confirmed. How, even in this great cynosure of jackasses disguised as a Congressional Hearing, is Mark McGwire on par with the pusillanimous thieves and life destroyers of Enron?

Souder, who was a member of the House Government Reform Committee investigating the Enron collapse, should know better. Leave your sanctimonious hyperbole at the door there, mate.

At least one of the glammer boys "getting at the truth" was a Hall of Fame baseball player in the form of Rep. Jim Bunning, who complained:

"Mr. Chairman, maybe I'm old-fashioned, but I remembered that players didn't get any better as they got older," Bunning said. "We all got worse. When I played with Henry Aaron and Willie Mays and Ted Williams, they didn't put on 40 pounds and bulk up in their careers, and they didn't hit more home runs in their late 30s than they did in their late 20s. What is happening in baseball now isn't natural and it isn't right."

Hmmm. Maybe I'm old fashioned Mr Bunning, but how OLD are you? 74 years old? My god! Why I remember in 1900, the life expectancy of an American was only 48! What are you still doing alive, almost twice the age of life expectancy of 1900?! I'll tell you, Bunning. It isn't natural and it isn't right.

This from the mouth of a Republican from Kentucky. How long would we have to let him prattle on before he began to wax poetic on Creationsim?

Gimme a break. Bunning suffers from the same thing all athletes, musicians and actors suffer from when they get on their political soapboxes: they think we care about their opinions simply because we enjoy their talents in some other field.

Here's a clue for the Hollywood actors, the Jim Bunnings, and the politically inclined musicians of the world: we didn't listen to your music, watch your movies or appreciate your exploits on the athletic field because of your politics, and frankly, it's just best you keep them to yourself. Curt Schilling could take a massive page from this book as well.

Perhaps the only understated, honest view on the entire proceedings was made by Rep. Bernard Sanders of Vermont who noted:

""Let me just say this: I think people are saying, obviously we all know people with money are treated differently. There are God knows how many people rotting in jails. What people in America want to know is that people who are committing the same crimes are treated the same. And that is not the case.

"I would hope that the union and management would substantially raise the standards to tell people who are making millions and millions of dollars, if they want to make that sort of money, they have to not do drugs. Period."

Hahaha. Can you imagine if people who have money were treated the same as people who didn't? What kind of fantasy land is Rep Sanders living in? What's in the maple syrup in Vermont? I think he should have been drug tested immediately, made to piss in a cup and prove his innocence.

Let's face another boring fact: if it weren't for Jose Canseco's outrageous book, which he took plenty of opportunities to hawk yesterday, this little charade wouldn't even be on. Baseball has ignored this problem for at least a decade and so has Congress and it would have all gone down that same road of hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil, were it not for the sensationalised version of Jose Canseco's book.

As he has already confessed not only to his use of steroids, but proudly confessed to introducing other baseball players to it, the epicentre of this steroid problem should be focused on him and him alone. If there are Justice Department proceedings against Giambi and others, so be it but for now, the only idiot with a mouth big enough to admit publically and proudly that he used steroids and aided and abetted others in the use of it, is Jose Canseco. Let him take the fall and let baseball and Congress return to their halcyon days of ignorance and bliss.

About the only productive aspect of these hearings was the chance to see and hear the Grand Master Idiot of Baseball himself, Bud Selig, wriggle on a hook for his inability to do anything productive about baseball's ills.

Minnesota Rep. Gutknecht, very simply, asks the question that is probably most on the minds of baseball fans:

"Mr. Selig, if you had credible evidence that records have been set by people who used illegal chemicals, what would you do?"

Selig, after being asked for the fifth time in the session to speak closer to the microphone, answers in the same wishywashy Midwestern used car salesman logic he is so widely hated for:

"If I had credible evidence, I'd do something about it. There's no question there's a problem. And we need to do something about it."

The Commissioner of Baseball's hands are tied. He couldn't effect a valid steroid policy because of the player's union and he can't do anything substantive about baseball records broken by steroid use because there's no way to prove any of it.

Hell, he can't sell the Washington Nats to an owner that isn't baseball!

So let's not hold our collective breath. Something should be done about steroids in baseball, blablabla. There's alot of injustices in the world. Is this really where Congress should begin?

Monday, March 14, 2005


Oh my, is it ever impossible to ignore. Well, it's pretty easy here in the UK, unless you're looking for it. Over here, we had the FA Cup draw to see who plays whom in the semifinals yesterday and the results were not kind to Newcastle supporters.

Newcastle, who defeated Spurs 1-0 rather controversally, drew FA Cup favourites Manchester United. Of all the possible opponents, Man U was probably the worst one they could draw. Newcastle-Man U, together with Arsenal-Blackburn, are both to be played in Cardiff's Millennium Stadium on the weekend of April 16-17. The final will be at the same venue on May 21.

Newcastle's Alan Shearer was not to be rejected. He remained positively upbeat. Almost absurdly so.

"We have already faced Chelsea, an in-form Tottenham and now we have the likely favourites in the semi-final. It will be a huge game. Massive."

In all probability, Newcastle would have had to have beaten either Man U or Arsenal at some point in this finals march and who knows, perhaps Souness' hope that they face Blackburn in the finals isn't just a pie in the sky.

Nevertheless, if worse comes to worse, you have to admit, another Arsenal-Manchester United grudge match, another chance to rub Arsene Wenger's little rodent face in another humiliating loss, would be the ideal FA Cup Final, which to the uninitiated over in L'America, is the English equivilent of the Super Bowl.

Pay attention now! There could be two American keepers in the finals.

*****Back to Da Brack*****

Perhaps most important in filling out your bracket is how to choose your underdogs properly. Thus, Tips for Picking the Right Cinderella in your Bracket is an invaluable shot across the bow.

A few days ago, I said I hadn't been following the season at all and hadn't seen a single game. Well, Sunday I watched the first 10 minutes of Duke-Georgia Tech and in confirmed my worst fears: the tournament is all that matters. Otherwise, it's difficult to fill the ole tub with the warm water of enthusiasm and simply jump in.

In the event you need them, there are 65 Reasons To Tune In.

#6 sticks out in particular: The only overpaid people involved are announcers and coaches.

I've come across a few names and perhaps the best part of every tournament is picking out your favourite tournament name. The winner this year is:

George Washington's "Pops" Mensah-Bonsu who comes from London, England. Watch quickly because it isn't likely GW will make it very far.

For the record, here are Sports Amnesia's Sweet 16:

Illinois, Boston College, St Marys, Arizona
Washington, Louisville, Texas Tech, West Virginia
UNC, Florida, Kansas, U Conn
Duke, Syracuse, Oklahoma, Kentucky

Sports Amnesia's Final Four Picks:


and of course, Sports Amnesia's NCAA Champions:

Syracuse Orangemen.

See how easy that is?

Hey, this bracket stuff is so addictive, even Major League Baseball has gotten in on the gag.

Indeed, there is a Bracket Challenge to pick the winners of baseball's postseason before Spring Training has really even gotten underway.


Hard to believe the arrogance but considering the source being one of baseball's more pronounced assholes, perhaps it isn't so suprising that Orioles owner Peter Angelos' claim that the Orioles have "exclusive rights" to the entire Washington TV market for their "regional network!.

According to the Post's Tom Boswell, "The Orioles owner's latest action, which borders on the self-destructive, was a full-page "open letter" paid advertisement in The Washington Post Sports section on Sunday in which Angelos brought his line of reasoning out of the shadows. He issued an in-your-face we-own-your-territory manifesto aimed at the very Washington fans whom he claims he still wants to keep as Orioles fans."

Unbelievable. It's amazing what little power MLB owners really have when it comes time to yield it. Major steroid scandal? Sit on their hands in denial, deny Congress their idiotic and ill-advised little witch hunt, create a pointless and toothless steroid policy which everyone in baseball knows is in essence, a joke. Move a franchise to Washington in defiance of Angelos and his demogogic ways? Stand back and let him run rampage over the fledging franchise which, due to owner incompetence, is STILL without a "real" owner.

Better still, the Nats whupped the Orioles, 11-4 and Ball Wonk has it all.

It appears there is grass on the field at ole RFK, via Nationals Pastime.

And in case you like rumours, it is rumoured that Endy Chavez might soon be trade bait as a failed centerfielder. This opens the way for my man, Terrmel Sledge to make a move.


Cubs fans must certainly be rolling in the sands of deja vous all over again now that both aces, Prior and Wood are sidelined with injuries. Sound familiar Cubbie hopefuls?

Another Ace is Down.

The Cubs said Prior's injury is unrelated to the elbow tendinitis that contributed to him missing all of spring training and the first two months of 2004, and should be treatable.

Yeah, sure. Just like last season's injury was "nothing to be worried about".

As Mike Downey points out:

"Magglio Ordonez (gone), Sammy Sosa (gone), Carlos Lee (gone), Moises Alou (gone), Frank Thomas (hurt), Kerry Wood (hurt) and Mark Prior (hurt). Is there some reason a Chicago baseball fan should still feel confident that this is the year either team—or both—will win the pennant?"


Not to get hysterical, but it certainly looks like the Cubbie Curse Continues.

On the other hand, if you WANT to get hysterical, here is a good place to start where already, they are questioning whether or not to kill themselves over the latest news.


Meanwhile, for we Met fans, nothing like a little John Donovon to rub our collective, "foolhardy" noses in the stench of the Kazmir for Zambrano trade as if we don't do it ourselves a million times a day.

I'm beginning to think Donovan has a little axe to grind against us. First was his column a few weeks ago noting that no one was afraid of us and now he calls the Mets "foolhardy" as a backhand slap in the middle of an article about the Devil Rays and Scott Kazmir.


In case you were wondering: Rick Ankiel's recent move from exasperating pitcher with no control to outfielder is still on:

"Scouts always told him he has the arm, the bat and the athletic tools to become a fine major league outfielder. So he decided to change jobs.

Can the Cards afford to keep him on the big league roster as an outfielder?

That’s doubtful, since he needs to go someplace -– we’d suggested extended spring training, then high Class A ball, moving up to Class AA in July -- and start succeeding as a hitter. More than anything, Ankiel needs to regain his athletic confidence.

Will the Cards lose him on waivers?

Maybe, because some team may try to claim him and convince him to give pitching another try. Other baseball folks may believe a change of scenery, not a change of position, is all Ankiel needs."


If you've ever wondered, as I sometimes do, about what happens for reporters to report on in the bogs of baseball like Pittsburgh, here you go:

Hold on to your seats: Todd Ritchie is retiring. Ritchie's retirement follows by a week the retirement of right-hander Todd Van Poppel. Both were No. 1 draft picks as high school players in Texas in 1990.

As a reporter covering the Pirates or baseball in general, I suppose there's always the steroid controversy or the "poor little Pirates" line to whinge in unison when things get so slow your failing fifth starter retiring is news.


And before I forget, what's the deal with the Yankees new Chinaman, Chien-Ming Wang. If this isn't a baseball name, I dunno what is. "Chien", by the way, is French for "Dog".

Anyway, Dog, or Mister Ming Wang, or whatever appelation he goes by, is having marvelous success so far this spring. Just the other day, he followed Randy Johnson in the game, pitched two scoreless innings and earned the win!

This guy's been in TWO games, has earned TWO wins, and has allowed only 4 hits and ZERO runs in 5 innings of pitching.

How cool would it be if he supplants Kevin Brown as the Yankees fifth starter.

Or takes over the closer role for the Mariano Rivera who is experiencing a little elbow bursitis.

Just imagine the Daily News headlines: "There's a CHINK IN YANKEE ARMOUR"...

Sunday, March 13, 2005


Alright, it's not exactly news, but the Daily News has an exclusive that Mark McGwire was juiced.

What's interesting is the Reggie Jackson connection to everything.

Curtis Wenzlaff, one of the two dealers caught in Operation Equine, is allegedly a longtime friend of Reggie Jackson.

"Yes, they had spent some time together," says Jackson, who met Wenzlaff after his career ended with the Oakland A's in 1987.

The Daily News reports that "Jackson, who let Wenzlaff stay in his Oakland home for long stretches in the late 1980s, says he was not aware that Wenzlaff had allegedly supplied steroids to Canseco or anyone else until last year when Wenzlaff testified before a Senate subcommittee investigating steroid use in pro, college and high school sports.

After Reggie and Wenzlaff began working out together Jackson offered Wenzlaff a job up in the Bay Area as a sort of public liaison. Wenzlaff not only accepted the job, he moved into Jackson's house on and off for several years. California property records confirm they lived on Yankee Hill in Oakland.

It was Jackson who introduced Wenzlaff to the A's, bringing him around during trips to the Oakland Coliseum. Wenzlaff says he visited the clubhouse on several occasions, but said any steroid use took place away from the stadium, in private gyms."

It's no indictment against Reggie but how odd that he is the one to have introduced Wenzlaff to the A's who later appeared to be the epicentre of the steroids explosion.


Oh sweet christ, here it comes, March Madness and just ahead of it is today's Selection Sunday.

As I know virtually nothing about this past season, having seen zero college hoops games this season, I'm looking particularly forward to filling out this season's brackets.

For once, there won't be endless hours reviewing pros and cons. I haven't been force-fed speculation for the last two weeks. I'm free. I haven't a clue. I can pick my favourites with a clear conscience. I might even fill out my bracket using some arcane formula, like number of victories by a team divided by the total number of letters for each roster member of that team, including the coach.

Or perhaps I will vote for teams based upon their mascots or cheerleaders.

How about number of points scored during the season by one team times the number of appearances they've made on national television?

You could divide the number of letters in a school's name by the number of letters in their nickname.

The possibilities are unlimited.

Ah, the hell with it. I'll make sure to put The Orangemen in my final so I have someone I like to root for. Nothing's worse than having to root for a team you dislike just because you've got them winning their bracket.

*****FA Cup Is Down To Six*****

It's no final four but the FA Cup reached it's quarter pinnacle this weekend. Suprising virtually no one, Manchester United dumped Southampton 4-0 and Arsenal advanced by beating Bolton 1-0 to advance to the semis. I hate it when Wenger is happy. I much prefer seeing his rodent-like face squelched in disappointment, like earlier this week when they were knocked out of the Champions League, flopping miserably.

And today, the suddenly-mighty Geordies will take on Tottenham. It's been 50 years since Newcastle won the FA Cup and as it had been 50 years since Chelsea claimed their first premiership trophy and Newcastle, it was fitting that Newcastle knocked them out of the FA Cup to get where they are today.

Blackburn face Leicester in the other quarterfinal today.

*****Non-Steroid Baseball*****

Ah yes, far beyond the realm of firing up the steroid grill in Congress, there is still baseball itself to look forward to.

Tom Singer's Overview of the NL East unveils few surprises.

This should be the tightest race, or the divisional race that involves the most teams anyway. Ok, the Nats are a stretch, but how many other divisions can boast four teams with the potential of the Braves, Marlins, Phillies and Mets?

Yeah, the Yankees-Red Sox will still be the biggest story for awhile but isn't rather given that both teams will make it to the postseason and the race for the division title, considering the last three World Champs have been wildcards, is somewhat unimportant in the scheme of things?

Now look ahead to September/October: The Braves play the Marlins six times in their last nine games of the season. In fact, 16 of their final 19 games will be played against either the Marlins, Phillies or Mets.

The Mets, on the other hand, will play six of their final 10 games against the likes of the Nats and the Colorado Rockies. The Phillies, six of of the last nine against the Nats and Reds.

With the Marlins and Braves knocking each other off, if either the Mets or Phillies are close, one of them could use the weak scheduling at season's end to pull forward.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Chelsea Stomp Barcelona 4-2 To Advance In Champions League

Needing to win at home by 1-0 or to win by at least two goals, Chelsea did just that last night after jumping ahead to a quick 3-0 lead, winning by a final margin of 4-2 to advance to the quarterfinals of the Champions League.

Sports Amnesia's favourite English player, John Terry, who headed Chelsea's decisive fourth goal, said, "What a great performance - this win is up there with the best of them.

"We started brilliantly and to go 3-0 up was fantastic - but they came back in it and at half-time it wasn't looking great for us.

Chelsea, who were 2-1 down from the first leg, had been in serious danger of throwing away a seemingly assured win despite having struck three times in the opening 19 minutes of the rematch. By the half, it was already 3-2 and Chelsea would need at least another goal to advance.

Chelsea's heroic manager, Jose Mourinho, who masterminded a series of mind games against Barcelona, flung himself into an ecstatic sea of players at the final whistle, while Barcelona were shepherded down the tunnel amid angry recriminations, scuffles and, seemingly, even spitting.

A simply brilliant, stimulating pregame take on the match is found at Chelsea FC Blog.

"The anti-Chelsea invective spewing from the mouths of those who clearly should know better has been at an all-time high this week, and it’s sure to play a part in the match. In recent days, a number of current Barcelona players, an ex-Barcelona player (whose words give the impression he’s in the first stages of dementia), and even UEFA have all been spouting words born of jealousy. Let’s hope they’ll be chewing on them later tonight"

Almost as exciting was the news of Man U getting knocked out by AC Milan. Sir Alex is already tipping AC Milan as the favourites to win for the rest of the way, naturally.


Ok, back to baseball. Of course, with quasi-regular updates on the state of the Mets at Archie Bunker's Army, there isn't always alot of time left over to focus on the rest of baseball, but it is happening indeed:

The poster boy for steroid abuse, Jason Giambi, took heaps of abuse from frothing Red Sox fans and then smacked them back with a homer to silence them. It's all in an exhibition game with both teams playing few regular starters but it goes to show that the relentless Yankee-Red Sox rivalry, with both teams having knocked the other from the ALCS final in consecutive seasons, is burning ever brighter AND that maybe, just maybe, the man who has taken the brunt of criticism for steroid use and who looked like a shadow of his former self last season, is rounding back and ready to have the kind of season the Yankees are paying him for.

It would indeed make a great story, not just for baseball's battle against steroids, but Jason Giambi's as well and I'm rooting for him to have a great season and shut everyone up once and for all.

(This says nothing about my growing hatred of the Red Sox Nation who have to be the most classless winners in World Series history, not only the fans, who are understandably excited, but especially the players, who have no such excuse and have spent the offseason taunting A-Rod like he were their own personal cabana boy. In fact, Giambi and A-Rod zooming past the Sox seems awfully nice to me, despite my hating the Yankees - here's hoping the Sox finish fourth this season, haha)


Meanwhile, in news that seemed just as big, hired gun Randy Johnson pitched his debut innings yesterday against the Atlanta Braves, throwing two innings in his first start of the spring, allowing two runs on two hits -- one a two-run homer by Chipper Jones. He walked one and struck out two, throwing 36 pitches, including 22 for strikes.

And if that isn't exciting enough it also appears that Randy Johnson is the cure to shut Gary Sheffield up! (no one knew there was a cure)

The Unit is so focused on game day with his game face, that Gary Sheffield wasn't sure whether he should joke around with other teammates in the clubhouse before the game.

"He told me early when he got here [in spring] to stay out of his way," Sheffield said. "I knew already. I didn't know if we should be laughing in there or not."

Just like the Mets before them, the Yanks fell to the merciless Braves. The Unit got the loss and Mike Hampton, still looking for a school for his children, got the victory.

Of course, like most of baseball, we're looking forward to the potential Unit-Schilling opener, but as of yesterday anyway, Schilling is still questionable for the opener.

"I don't think he's supposed to be ready," said Sox manager Terry Francona.

"I just don't think anybody ever eliminated it because of how he does his things. It's not going to be a shock if he's not ready. Again, he's not supposed to be. But it wouldn't be a shock if he was ready. Besides the fact that he's our best pitcher, you need to show some patience. We'd rather have him make 32 starts at full strength than 35 and limp around, that doesn't make sense. You need guys like him to win, but we should be good enough where we can weather the storm."

It makes sense to everyone, really. It'd be much more satisfying to see the Unit outpitch Fat David Wells in the opener so Red Sox fans would have the excuse to open the season, that their best man wasn't on the mound for the opener. Schilling or not, I can't ever recall a more exciting opener in baseball.


Phanatic Phollow Up points out that the Phillies, the Mets' other competition aside from the Marlins and Braves, have dropped four of their last five Spring Training Games.

My preseason best blog name in baseball goes to Goat Riders of the Apocalypse who have taken the charting of Cubs starter Carlos Zambrano's season to unprecedented levels.

Tiger Blog reports that the Tigers have finally lost their first game of the grapefruit league season. Good start or not, with or without free agent signees Magglio Ordoñez and closer Troy Percival, the Tigers are going to have their hands full trying to stay ahead of the Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox this season. Other than the AL East and NL East, the AL Central will be my favourite race to watch this season.

Also on the site is a nice 1935 Championship Diary of the Tigers.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Extra! Extra! Nats Win Their First Game!

Unfortunately for the Mets. Full coverage on Archie Bunker's Army.

Other openers for baseball saw the Dodgers top the Marlins and the Rox Top Sox.

It's still early but the excitement is almost palatable. Today sees a triple header and debut of Yankees, Red Sox AND Cardinals facing the Mets.


Bad news for the Jets. It looks like they are on the verge of losing super backup Lamont Jordan to the Raiders and nose tackle Jason Ferguson to the Cowboys. Losing Lamont wouldn't be so bad if Curtis Martin weren't on his last legs but how many more seasons can Martin continue to pound? One? Maybe two? Jordan was the perfect man to make the smooth transition but now he'll be starting for the suddenly-impressive Raiders offence.


Blog Roll

East Coast Agony has a few tips on starting your own blog. Rule Number One: "Be a Chick".

Nationals Pastime notes that they are First Place in the Grapefruit League.

Disappointly, The Nats Blog, instead of commenting on yesterday's first-ever Nats game, seems to busy pandering to the comments of his (or her?) "better half" and wasting time on idiocies like "Pre-Oscar Picks". Sad, man. Sad. Might have to scratch this one off the list in due time.

El Lefty Malo is on the air and ready to roll with the Dodgers' inaugural game against the Marlins.

Twins Geek is exiting about tonight's opening game.

The Eddie Kranepool Society is on top of the situation and in mid-season form:

"how great was it, with the remnants of Monday's Nor'easter slowly melting, to turn on the TV at 1:00PM and see baseball? Even Swarmy Steve Philip's ugly face couldn't put a damper on the moment. By the way, did you hear ol' Swarmy Steve throwing out the compliments to Willie Randolph? "He will make a great manager", "He's perfect for New York because he knows the territory" and "He has a strong prescence in the clubhouse and that's important" This is the same guy who went on radio and said that when he interviewed Randolph he did not feel he was right for the job. In fact, Phillips said Randolph did not have a good enough plan for running spring training for him to hire him. As for the manager runing a tight clubhouse, well I'm sure Bobby Valentine could give a great dissertation on how he was underminded by Phillips."

Well done.

Honest Wagner revels in the Pirates crushing Manatee CC proving that even the Pirates can beat the community colleges.

The incessantly outrageous Uncouth Sloth is back in bidness.

Waiting for Boof has moved to McCovey Chronicles pointing out yet again that the links all need updating and editing. Hopefull to be sorted out this weekend. A whole new roster!

And No Joy In Metsville has a nice, succinct take on yesterday's opener.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Nevermind the Bullocks! Let's Play Ball!

With big, fat flakes of snow falling gently upon the hills of Worcestershire, it has been exactly 126 days since the last pitch was thrown in a game between two Major League teams and FINALLY baseball is back in business!

A wilder offseason than usual that saw two future Hall of Fame pitchers change sides and a New York franchise that wasn't the Yankees land the two biggest free agents available. An offseason that saw the birth of Jose Conseco's controversial book and the reinvigoration of the steroid controversy. An offseason that shall mercifully end today when Sports Amnesia's beloved Mets face the newly enfranchised Washington Nats in Spring Training's first exhibition game of the season. The end of winter is here!

(Not to mention, the game is available for free to watch on television.)


Tom Glavine is due to start for the Mets rather than Pedro, who won't get his first start until Friday against the Cardinals. Glavine will face Tony Armas Jr. Armas has missed most of the last two seasons because of assorted arm problems and was was 2-4 with a 4.88 ERA in 16 games started last season. Neither is likely to be their teams' opening day starter. The last time Armas pitched in an opener of any kind was on March 31, 2003, when he pitched the first game of the regular season against the Braves in Atlanta.

The Mets intrasquad games this week gave us a glimpse at what the lineup might look like this season: Hamstring Jose leading off, with the fumbling Kaz Man batting behind him. Beltran would follow and then Piazza and then Cliff Floyd and future Allstar David Wright, rounded off by Mientkewicz and (WE PRAY) Victor Diaz rather than the Wildly Whingeing And Uphappy To Be Moved From Centerfielder Mike Cameron.

Further notes on the Mets can be found at Archie Bunker's Army.

Manager Frank Robinson said he would have his regular lineup on the field to start the Grapefruit League season:
1) Endy Chavez -- center field
2) Cristian Guzman -- shortstop
3) Jose Vidro -- second base
4) "Angry" Guillen -- right field
5) Brad Wilkerson -- left field
6) Vinny Castilla -- third base
7) Nick Johnson -- first base
8) Brian Schneider -- catcher
9) Armas -- pitcher

And it's a good thing that this game isn't being played at old RFK Stadium yet because from the looks of it, it still ain't ready yet.

"When I look at the field, I really have to use my imagination," said Jimmy Rodgers, the new head groundskeeper. "But if the weather clears up, we'll get it done."

IF the weather clears?


Meanwhile, back Yankeeland, where seldom is heard, an encouraging word and the skies are cloudy all day with Giambi Steroid Rumours and a Bitchy Gary Sheffield, it can't be an encouraging sign that The Unit has been scratched already from his first scheduled appearance.

Actually, it's only because of tightness in his left calf but in the New York tabloids, this is major news.

Stop the Presses! Randy Johnson is old!

Imagine what happens when his back and knee give out.

Well, he's not the only one, but the Yankees other senior citizen moundsman, Kevin Brown of the punch-yourself-broken fame last season, started off this season a little better than he ended the last one by throwing two scoreless intrasquad innings yesterday.

*****Other Pitching News*****

Dontrelle Willis, one of the Marlins alleged aces, wasn't too sore to pitch but maybe he should have been. The lefty was hit hard in his spring debut Tuesday against the University of Miami, giving up six runs and six hits in 2 1-3 innings whilst the collegiate were beating the Marlins 9-7 in an exhibition at Jupiter, Fla.

Rather auspicious beginning. Not even the Mets have lost to a college team yet this Spring. Of course, it's still early.

Former Yankee and current $18 million man Roger Clemens teammate Andy Pettitte was back on the mound yesterday throwing only fastballs during his 28-pitch performance. He gave up two runs, two walks and three hits before getting an out.

"I felt like I hadn't pitched in a long time," Pettitte said after he pitched for the first time in a long time. "I didn't feel real comfortable out there today."

Hmmmm. Not the kind of comments you want to hear from one of your aces when your offense has already been gutted during the offseason.

*****Baseball and Politics*****

Quickly becoming my least favourite team in the Major Leagues, Jesus Freak and Bush Lover Curt Schilling and his Boston Bloody Red Sox are headed to the White House to be feted.

After an offseason of trash talk completely and perfectly befitting a classless team who has let ONE successful season in 87 years go rapidly to their collectively inflated heads, I am seriously rooting for the Red Sox to go down in flames this season. Of course, as a professed Yankee-hater, this doesn't leave me with many options to root for in the AL East. Slugging Steroid Sosa and the contemptible Peter Angelos-led Orioles, the unexciting and overly Canadian Toronto Blue Jays or Lou Piniella's Tampa Bay Devil Rays who play in the ugliest venue in all the Major Leagues?

Maybe I'll just drop coverage of the AL East altogether.

In other baseball/political news, Jackie Robinson is going to receive a Congressional Gold Medal.

President George W. Bush will present the medal to Rachel Robinson, Jackie's widow, at the conclusion of the 75-minute ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda, which is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. ET. Around 600 people are expected, including Commissioner Bud Selig, Dodgers owners Frank and Jamie McCourt, and John Henry, Larry Lucchino and Tom Werner of the Boston Red Sox. Every member of Congress has been invited.

The gold medal is the highest honor the Congress can give to a non-military individual, movement or institution and has only been awarded about 300 times since the inception of the U.S. government in 1776.