Monday, March 27, 2006

George Bloody Mason in the Final Four??!

All over the nation, beloved brackets took the mightiest blow of the NCAA tournament as the unheralded, 11th seeded George Mason University knocked out U Conn to advance to the Final Four in a stunning turn of overtime events by an 86-84 margin.

The Patriots (27-7) are only the second double-digit seed to make the Final Four, matching LSU's run, also as an 11th seed, in 1986. They are the first true outsider to crash the quartet since Penn and Indiana State both got there in 1979.

Denham Brown of U Conn, who made the reverse layup at the regulation buzzer to send the game to overtime, was just off the mark from the left wing with a potential game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer that finally sealed it.

John Feinstein reminds us at the Washington Post how fragile that victory had been.

"So close to the Final Four, yet so far. In as improbable a basketball game as anyone watching had ever seen, Mason had come from 12 points down late in the first half and nine points down early in the second half to seemingly have control of the game, leading 74-70 with 18 seconds left after two free throws by Lamar Butler. But after Brown's spectacular reverse layup finally dropped after banging the rim over and over, Mason's impossible dream looked just about dead.

Everyone seemed to be thinking the same thing: So close..."


Lost In The Hoopla, Another Upset

Meanwhile, the Florida Gators, led by Joakim Noah, who had 21 points, a career-high 15 rebounds, five blocks and was selected most outstanding player of the regional, knocked off the much-heralded Villanova in another upset of much lesser proportion, by a suprisingly simple 75-62 margin.

The quadruple of upsets sees a Final Four of George Mason, Florida, UCLA and LSU.

It's the first time since the field expanded to 64 back in 1985 that not a single No. 1 seed has earned a spot in the Final Four.

The only one of the quartet that was even ranked in the Associated Press preseason poll was UCLA at No. 19.


"...As B*rry Bonds continues his assault on the home run records of Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron while baseball fans lash out at how much he may have "juiced" to get there, here is the best tack:

Pretend it never happened..."

--Gonzo Sports Journalist, Norman Chad dispenses advice on dealing with the steroid scandals in baseball. Just bury your head.


Fox Sport's Dayn Perry finally wrote something I like. NL MVP - Carlos Delgado.


Nice photo feature in SI of the major players who changed teams this season, playing in their new uniforms. Old Faces In New Places.


Sunday, March 26, 2006

LSU Hooks Horns To Reach Final Four

Not bad for a 4th seeded team. Knocked off the number one and number two seeds in the form of Duke and Texas to make it to their first Final Four since 1986. LSU, which has never won a national title, will face UCLA next Saturday in the national semifinals.

They did it with a dominating front court, 6'9 300 pound Glen Davis aka Big Baby shut down LaMarcus Aldridge, arguably the number one pick in the upcoming NBA draft and scored 26 points of his own as the Tigers won 70-60 in overtime. Tyrus Thomas had 21 points and 13 rebounds and overall, Texas made 21-of-69 from the field -- a dismal 30.4 percent. Barnes credited LSU's defense, which limited top-seeded Duke to its lowest point total since 1996 in a 62-54 upset Thursday.

Sylvia Fowles, no Big Baby but 13 points and 19 rebounds are nothing to sneeze at.

Not to be outdone, the LSU Women's top-seeded team defeated DePaul 66-56 in the San Antonio Regional Skirt Hoop semifinals for the 4th straight year.


UCLA Drains Memphis 50-45

Ray Ratto on UCLA's Stinker Upset:

..."Thus, the Bruins will accept all the snotty remarks they hear over the next several days in a more generous spirit than in which they were given. They beat Memphis by the lowball score of 50-45 (the state Division I high school final was 43-40, and De La Salle and Clovis West played eight fewer minutes, if that helps), and they're going to the Final Four, and that smell of burning tires and long-demised polecat is in your noses, not theirs."

Bill Plaschke of the LA Times echoed the sentiment, noting:

"It was ugly, it was unbelievable, but it was pure UCLA, the Bruins bullying their way to Indiana on Sunday with a team that is less "Hoosiers" than "Pulp Fiction."

Another reason for disgust? Seeing a happy, cheering Bill Walton in the UCLA stands.

Go LSU Tigers!


Looking at this photo of Astro Jeff Bagwell, traded in 1990 by the Red Sox to the Astros for Nowhere Man Larry Anderson, you'd imagine there's a little more wrong with him than just a few bone spurs in his shoulder.

Whether he's ready to admit it or not, the consensus seems to be that Bagwell's career is kaput and we can look at his 448 career homers and 1529 career RBIs, one Rookie of the Year and one MVP award as a stepping stone to the Hall of Fame.

Comparatively speaking, anyway:

Sim Player From To Yrs G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG SB CS OPS+
Jeff Bagwell 1991-2005 15 2150 7797 1517 2314 488 32 449 1529 1401 1558 .297 .408 .540 202 78 150
892 Fred McGriff 1986-2001 16 2201 7865 1243 2260 397 22 448 1400 1202 1698 .287 .381 .514 71 36 136
884 Frank Thomas 1990-2005 16 1959 6956 1327 2136 447 11 448 1465 1466 1165 .307 .427 .568 32 23 161
878 Rafael Palmeiro 1986-2002 17 2413 8992 1456 2634 522 36 490 1575 1140 1167 .293 .373 .522 91 39 135
837* Eddie Murray 1977-1993 17 2598 9734 1420 2820 490 33 441 1662 1187 1285 .290 .364 .483 92 38 135
820* Reggie Jackson 1967-1983 17 2287 8124 1313 2176 393 44 478 1435 1117 2106 .268 .360 .504 216 107 145
810* Duke Snider 1947-1964 18 2143 7161 1259 2116 358 85 407 1333 971 1237 .295 .380 .540 99 50 140
801* Billy Williams 1959-1975 17 2368 8999 1374 2637 422 88 415 1434 987 1002 .293 .363 .498 86 47 134
800* Mike Schmidt 1972-1987 16 2254 7814 1435 2107 380 57 530 1505 1437 1824 .270 .384 .536 171 91 150
790* Carl Yastrzemski 1961-1977 17 2571 9406 1501 2724 516 53 366 1445 1501 1158 .290 .386 .472 161 104 136
789* Frank Robinson 1956-1973 18 2579 9344 1724 2783 496 69 552 1710 1295 1410 .298 .391 .543 199 75 155

(courtesy of Baseball Reference.


Other than Bagwell's speech, the famous Toe makes it's 2006 debut today as Pedro starts against the O's and as noted by Archie Bunker's Army, The Smell of Pedro Is In the Air.


Saturday, March 25, 2006

Well, It Ent The French Open, But We Reckon Yannick Was Impressed

Meet Joakim, field goal kicker and Spawn of Yannick - seen here in even happier days:

In any case, the auld backdoor Princeton offence of Georgetown has been sent packing 57-53 and the Gators will play Villanova for the rights to the Final Four.

They needed overtime but in a match of Huskies, U Conn defeated Washington 98-92. Are we on a collision course for a Big East Semifinal Four?

And speaking of collision courses, what the hell are George Mason doing in the Final Eight?

George Mason.

"...In 1774 Mason again was in the forefront of political events when he assisted in drawing up the Fairfax Resolves, a document that outlined the colonists' constitutional grounds for their objections to the Boston Port Act. Virginia's Declaration of Rights, framed by Mason in 1776, was widely copied in other colonies, served as a model for Jefferson in the first part of the Declaration of Independence, and was the basis for the federal Constitution's Bill of Rights."

It won't do the George Mason Patriots much good against U Conn, of course. The only question is, will they make it a game or will they fold like lawn chair in winter?


Of today's games, Sports Amnesia's crack team of visionaries see victories for Memphis and LSU.


From the Unsolicited Information Department

Teams who have made great leaps of imagination in the 21st century:

2005: Chicago White Sox (+16 wins), Cleveland (+13)
2004: St. Louis (+20), Texas (+18), Anaheim (+15), San Diego (+13)
2003: Kansas City (+21), Florida (+12), Chicago Cubs (+11)
2002: Anaheim (+24), Atlanta (+13), Boston (+11)
2001: Seattle (+25), Chicago Cubs (+23), Houston (+21), Philadelphia (+21), Minnesota (+16), Oakland (+11)
2000: Chicago White Sox (+20), St Louis (+20), Seattle (+12), San Francisco (+11)

Pirates, 13 losing seasons since Barry Bonds left as a free agent for the bright lights of San Fransisco in 1992.

Quote of the Morning comes from Craig Burley in Five Questions: Tampa Bay Devil Rays who says of the former Tampa Bay owner:

"Vince Naimoli may have been the most contemptuous owner in the major leagues, which is sort of like being the drunkest guy at Ozzfest or something."

It's just these kind of analogies that keep blog baseball writing going; reaching for that extra dimension that daily newsrag columnists won't or can't get to.


Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Duke, Gonzaga and Top Scorers Out

(JJ Redick, a season-busting 3 for 18, 11 point finish helps finish Duke)

Any part of a successful NCAA tournament, once your bracket has been busted and your favourite teams have been eliminated, is watching a Duke team's hopes dwindle down the drain as the clock ticks down.

Last night we were blessed to see just that; delicious moments of JJ Redick, the nation's second leading scorer being shut down and another team celebrating at the buzzer as LSU calmly defeated Duke 62-54, scoring the last seven points of the game whilst Duke fell asleep defensively.

4 seed LSU will face 2 seed Texas in their regional final. Sports Amnesia is officially routing for the Tigers in their unofficial capacity as losing team supporter, the kiss of death.

Meanwhile, the nation's top scorer, the Man with the 'Stash, Adam Morrison, the shaggy Pete Marovich wanna-be, ended the game with tears in his eyes as he watched UCLA steal the game from his Gonzaga teammates.

UCLA overcame a 17 point Gonzaga lead to

The Bruins will play in their first regional final since 1997 Saturday against Memphis (33-3), which beat Bradley 80-64 in the first semifinal of the Oakland regional. The Tigers beat the Bruins 88-80 in November.


Why shouldn't the Jets trade up for the number two pick and instead of the oft-projected Leinart, select the incomparable and suddenly impressive Vince Young?

There's a long rap sheet against Young as an NFL QB superstar but in the one stat that matters over all others, he has defeated Leinart in their only head-to-head matchup and he is a National Champion. Yeah, Leinart's a two-time champion and established in a pro-type offence but let's face it, Leinart's pretty boy portfolio might look good to Madison Avenue execs but at the end of the day, the thrill and excitement of the multi-talented Young would bring far more advertising revenue at the end of the day. Besides, Leinart is a So Co lad. Let him stay there and play for somebody with a horrible record with QBs, the San Diego Chargers, payback for NYC stealing Eli Manning.


Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Oh! Japan Are World's First Baseball "Champions"

Manager Sadaharu Oh was thrown up in the air (in celebration) once Japan had finished off Cuba in the first WBC finals, 10-6.

In the end, after all the hoopla, only two Major League baseball players were in the final, Ichiro and the little-known Akinori Otsuka.

In the end, the Cubans, who were almost kept from these games by vindictive American politicians and bitter Cuban exiles, could not pull off the Cinderella story once more; discipline meeting discipline in what promised to be a tactical rather than necessarily super-skilled programme of Major League names.

Suzuki doubled, singled and drove in a run. He also scored three times, including in a four-run first inning that almost swept the Cubans away before they'd had a chance to get started.

However, the Cubans finally pulled to within 6-5 on a two-run homer by Frederich Cepeda with one out in the eighth. Otsuka, the former San Diego Padres reliever now with Texas, came on and retired the side.

Ichiro proved himself to be one of the few MLBers in Major League form.

The Cubans had won 22 of their last 24 games in international competition but were almost out of the running in this one before they got out of the gate.

Cuba starter Ormari Romero was on a short leash to begin with, but was yanked after throwing 23 pitches. He retired leadoff hitter Kawasaki, then loaded the bases on infield singles by Tsuyoshi Nishioka and Nobuhiko Matsunaka, and a walk to Suzuki.

"He wasn't his best today, he didn't have his usual velocity or his control," Velez said.

Vicyhoandry Odelin came on and hit Hitoshi Tamura on the left elbow with a pitch to force in the second run, then walked Ogasawara with two outs to bring in another before Toshiaki Imae hit a sharp, two-run single up the middle to make it 4-0.


Soriano Refusing Outfield Duty

Alfonso Soriano, traded from the Rangers to the Nats this off season, has openly announced he is refusing to play the outfield and refused to take the field in an exhibition game when he was penciled in as the left fielder.

When the Nationals took the field in the top of the first in a game against the LA Dodgers on Monday night, Soriano wasn't out there. With play just about ready to start, left field was empty.

You'd think this might cause some teams' blood to boil but apparently, the Nats are going to give him another chance on Wednesday night and see if his agent can talk some sense into him in the interim.

Soriano wants to play second base however the Nats already have an All Star second baseman in Jose Vidro. It also makes one wonder why the Nats bothered trading for Soriano in the first place considering it was no secret he had no interest in playing outfield. Not only that but to get him, the Nats traded two outfielders, Brad Wilkerson and Terrmel Sledge PLUS pitcher Armando Galarraga.

Soriano told that he would decide on Wednesday whether he will play second based on conversations with his wife and his agent, Diego Bentz. "I'm going to think about it," Soriano told the Web site.

According to The Washington Post, labor experts believe Soriano could be placed on a disqualified list, earn no pay and would not accrue major league service time which in turn, would mean he could not become a free agent and would remain a Nat regardless. "In an industrial setting, they'd use the term 'insubordination,' " said Quinn Mills, a professor at the Harvard Business School.

Should the Nationals and Soriano come to such a moment, the case would likely be heard by an arbitrator. Gould, the former NLRB chair, said unless Soriano had a provision in his contract that he must be a second baseman -- a provision that Soriano's contract doesn't contain -- he wouldn't bet against the club in such a case.

"I think it's likely an arbitrator would find that the player's argument would lack merit," Gould said. "The basic thing that a team expects from a player is team play. A club must have some measure of flexibility to make decisions on assigning players to positions. If not, how do we have team sports?"

D-Day for Soriano is today. Best bet is, he will report, regardless.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

MLB Goes Home Virtually Empty-Handed

"Baseball is not judged by the price of the athletes but by the heart of the people," - Cuban left fielder Frederich Cepeda.

You can say what you'd like about Cuba's fascinating 3-1 victory over a Domincan team stuffed with Major League baseball players but there must be a mixture of relief and embarassment for Bud Selig and his diet soda drinking, used car selling, hotdog munching entourage as the only teams left in this World Baseball Classic are teams with few, if any Major Leaguers.

What it means first of all is that baseball can get back to being Spring Training with the focus on the season ahead, the season everyone gets paid for, the season all the fans are waiting for and the season that matters.

This has all been a nice little lark, an interesting etude in multicultural baseball awaking Caribbean passion we all knew was brimming underneath the surface but let's face it, this isn't the World Cup. It isn't the World Cup first and foremost because the majority of the most talented participants were just warming up their seasons, not winding them down.

Germany 2006 does not begin until all of the most major countries have completed their professional league seasons. Granted, their tired, but at least their fit, both physically and mentally, for the level of competition. Hence the disappointing finish for both the Domincan Republic and the US. They weren't mentally prepared this early for the level of competition. Or so they will say. Who knows.

The better plan would be to hold qualifications in the spring, the first round matchups that involve the relative pushovers, the Australias, South Africas, Chinas, Hollands, etc.

Qualifying for the World Cup entails several years of qualifying matches leading up to a final. Since there aren't very many countries with enough talent to merit inclusion into the WBC, the qualification process for the WBC should be alot simpler and can be broken up alot more easily without overly taxing professional players.

I would also think it would enhance the semi-finals and finals to make them best two out of three. You wouldn't consider a one-off World Series because it wouldn't be a series, it would only be a final. So why cheapen the WBC's final by making it a one-off?

What Bud Selig and his Bat Pack need is a larger vision wherein the MLB season is shortened back to 144 games to allow for qualifiers and first and second rounds to be played gradually over the course of the season rather than crudely jammed into the soft grass of Spring Training like an explorer's flag.

The All Star game probably has to be done away with as well. Let's face it, the birth of the WBC makes an All Star game rather redundant since the best players are already making the rounds in the qualifiers. It would also send a message that the WBC would be seriously integrated into the MLB season rather than as a brief spasm crowding the normal excitement of Spring Training.


Bartolo Colon held up his end of the bargain over six innings for the Dominicans.

The superstitious Cubans had tossed water from the dugout in the seventh inning of their game because they believe it helps rain down runs for them.

It helped water down the Dominican attack perhaps but it didn't help that in the fifth inning, the Mets blundering third base coach Manny Acta, acting as the Domincan's manager, sent slow and heavy Wily Mo Pena from second with another runner on first on a 3-2 pitch to Willy Taveras. Taveras struck out and Pena was easily nabbed at third. Bingbangboom.

Yes, it is a surprise that a team with no Major League players defeated a team heavily infused with Major League players. But the Cubans have been bonding for years, not weeks and perhaps it isn't as unexpected as one might think when you consider how well the Cuban players know each other and the pride of representing all the Cubans who haven't jumped a rubber raft for the payload of the Major Leagues.

Japan 6 Korea 0

(Kosuke Fukudome circles the bases after taking Byung-Hyun Kim deep to break up a scoreless game in the seventh inning.)

Of course, had this been the three game series mentioned above, this game would never have been played. And for that matter, is it fair that a team that only one of three against their opponent, advances instead?

Former Met and South Korea starter Jae Seo allowed three hits in five scoreless innings, retiring the last six batters he faced. Seo allowed only one run in 15 innings in three Classic starts, all for naught.

Ichiro, whose return to the Mariners is now delayed by another game, mad some provocative remarks in his previous games with Korea. In 1997, when the Korea-Japan Super Game was held, he said, "I feel dizzy with all the garlic odor from the ball. It is even hard to hit the ball."

Before the World Baseball Classic started, Ichiro said, "I want to beat South Korea so badly that the South Koreans won't want to play Japan for another 30 years."

After he lost against Korea on Thursday he could not hide his rage saying, "It is the most humiliating day in my entire baseball life."

Now he has his revenge and he's probably not bothered about getting to the final the cheap way.

(Pinch-hitter Kosuke Fukudome of Japan connects on a pitch from Byung-Hyun Kim of South Korea for a two-run home run in the seventh inning.)



Eight of the final 16 are in and for those of you keeping score at home, Sports Amnesia has named a remarkable three of those eight. The powers of vision are blinding at times.


Fat Bill Parcells versus The Amazing T.O.

Yeah that's right. This is what you Cowgirl fans are going to have to witness, Bill Parcells on a bad sausage hangover:


The Mighty Green Super Hero - (think they make that skin in blue and white?)

Now, listen for all the debates, the Terrell Owens Team Cancer debate, the Terrell Owens This Makes the Cowboys Contenders drivel, the Omigod Match Made in Heaven chronicles, etc.

It's mercenaries recruiting mercenaries and the only other team in the NFL that would have been appopriate would have been the Raiders who already have Randy Moss and their silver and black toothless image.

But the Cowboys scratched Keyshawn from their heads like lice and decided that if they were going to have a loudmouth, selfish quasi super star on their roster, they'd might as well take the better one. People forget that Terrell not only ruined the Eagles last season, or helped anyway, a giant push in the right direction, but he has also put his own career on hold. And there won't be many years left in Terrell because his mouth is tiring him out too fast. Worse than a full season of NFL contact.

What I find more interesting has been the free agent signings and trades that have stirred up some dust in the NFL draft. Teams will now have a legitimate shot at both Vince Young and Matt Leinart if they're willing to pay a price because the Saints signing of Drew Brees who ran for the money straight in a dire situation, means they won't be looking to draft Mr Future QB.

Actually, it all means nothing. TO's signing means nothing. Drew Brees will not turn the Saints around. Reggie Bush will look breathtaking in a Texan uniform. The Jets will still not find an everyday answer to their everyday problems.

Clearly Jay Cutler looks more at home in a Saints-like uniform than Brees or a Jets-like uniform. Here's hoping to Matt Leinart jumping to the Jets.

I dunno if that's So Co street cred or Weeb Street cred, but it's gotta go somewhere.

Friday, March 17, 2006


(Welcome to Loserville, USA...)

The tension was palatable. The Inventors of Baseball against their poor cousins South of the Border with elimination on the line, Roger Clemens on the mound.

Vaguely human after all, Clemens allowed six hits and two runs in 4 1/3 innings rather than a complete shutdown of a Mexican batting order that consisted of such stunning talents as Amezega (WHO?), Cantu, Castillo, Durazo, Garcia...well, you get the picture. Not exactly the Dominican Murderer's Row he was facing.

"I couldn't be more proud of how these guys have gone about their business from Day 1,". consoled US losermanager Buck Martinez who managed the inaugural Team USA right out of the their own bloody tournament! Good job.

Or perhaps we might like to pin the tail on the donkey of the US batting order which stumbled and swished with equal ablomb against a Mexican pitching staff which numbered eight by the time the game was over. That's right, eight different pitchers, nearly one for every batter, a pitcher for every occasion.

Derek Jeter? Oh for four. Junior Griffey? One for four. A-Rod, predictably, oh for two, a .167 batting average for the WBC. Perhaps next time America should insist A-Rod play for the Dominicans or Puerto Ricans, or whomever wishes to claim him. In all, three bloody hits all night. Three.

They weren't facing, I dunno, Zeus on the mound with Clemens, Satan and The Big Unit warming up in the bullpen. We're talking Odalis Perez, Jorge de la Rosa, Fransisco Campos, Edgar Gonzalez, et al. You know, the kind of pitchers that strike fear in the hearts of batters all around the world.

So it's all over for the Inventors of Baseball. Back to Spring Training, back to the stinkin' Yankees, disperse in humiliation! Maybe next time they should change the rules so anyone who plays baseball professional in America has to play for America...that ought to sort it out. Crooked umps simply weren't sufficient this time boys.

Japan will now play undefeated Korea a third time and the Dominican Republic will play Cuba and frankly, it's a testament to this new Classic that both of those games are certain to be nail-biting, intercultural, stomach churning classics in their own right.


Day One: Syracuse knocked out, likely exhausted by winning the Big East. My Wisconsin-Milwaukee pick on bracket number three looks like inspired genius but is of course governed by the rule of if you fill out enough brackets, mathematically, eventually, one of the picks is bound to be correct...

Glad to see George Washington make into another round, completing yet another stunning comeback. And oh yeah, all of you that had twelfth seeded Montana knocking Nevada, well, guess you're ahead in your pools today.

Not to mention virtual overload, split screens, screaming, cheering, announcers trembling voices quaking with anticipation - all for free, all op de internet, gratis..still can't believe that one...

White Boys Bringin It Home...

In Philly it is reported that NCAA rules prohibit the Wachovia Center venue from selling alcoholic beverages this weekend, except in privately owned luxury boxes and suites. So only the rich are allowed to get drunk. Or friends of the rich. Or friends of friends who know rich people or corporate leeches who get in on the backs of the friends' fathers, stepchildren, sober and upstanding citizenry...


Thursday, March 16, 2006

Anarchy! Free Internet Broadcast of March Madness!

I've seen the light of freedom, woa damn.


I can't believe I can watch this from England for free on the internet. The world can be an amazing place, many times over.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

CommiesCubans Stun Puerto Rico

All these games and not a single defection. All these days and hardly a protest against Fidel. All these innings and Cuba have ousted Puerto Rico, one of the darkhorse favourites of the WBC, in a tight 4-3 game despite their manager, Higinio Velez, getting tossed from the game in the 7th inning for arguing a call.

In the 7th, trailing 4-1, Puerto Rico third baseman Jose Valentin led off the inning with a double. Alex Cintron followed Valentin with a single and pinch-hitter Ricky Ledee hit what appeared to be routine double play groundball.

Cuba second baseman Yulieski Gourriel fielded Ledee's ball and threw to shortstop Eduardo Paret, who was moving toward second base and preparing to turn two.

Only, second base umpire James Hoye ruled that Paret was pulled off the bag when he caught Gourriel's relay and called Cintron safe. Valentin scored on the play to cut Cuba's lead to 4-2.

This set Cuba manager Velez afire. He raced out of the dugout like a man possessed whilst his female translator chased behind and began first to argue the call. Even starting pitcher Ormari Romero charged out of the dugout, his well spent pitching arm tucked on the inside of his jersey, barking mad and waving his only free arm in protest.

Velez was ejected a few minutes later and continued to vehemently plead his case all the way to the dugout. Fortunately for Cuba, the baseball gods corrected yet another hideous mistake by minor league umps in this charade as Bernie Williams hit into a double-play that doused the rally.

In the ashes of Puerto Rico's chances, Carlos Beltran can now return to the Mets after hitting .286 and driving in 5 runs including an impressive 12 pitch showdown with Cuban pitcher Yunieski Maya that ended in an RBI single. Fading Yankee Bernie Williams, DHing and batting leadoff, had two hits, including a homer, to finish with a .250 batting average. Luis Matos, who according to some in reports I listened to from the O's-Mets exhibition game the other night, has just about blown his chances to start for the O's this season by playing for PR instead of facing the significant challenge from newly acquired Mr Patterson in the centerfield race, went Oh for 3 with a strikeout but finished with a .333 average. Another Met, Carlos Delgado, made an appearance, getting a hit in his only at-bat to keep his Spring average at 1.0000.

The Cubans will now face the daunting Dominicans and their Caribbean All Stars in one of Saturday's semifinals.


Korea Tops Japan; USA Still Alive

Chan Ho Park gives Korean manager In Sik Kim the old knuckle knocker in celebration at the end of the 5th inning.

For the second time in this tournament, Korea knocked off Japan, this time, eliminating them entirely from the WBC and giving Team USA a chance to atone for the miserable performance of Dontrelle et al. the other day.

Despite only a meagre three hits, they got a clutch two-run double in the eighth inning from Jong Beom Lee on the way to a 2-1 victory over Japan in a beautifully pitched game Wednesday night at Angel Stadium.

Full story here

Once again it will be Roger Clemens taking the mound for Team USA, this time against Mexico, with USA's future on the line.


Even though I haven't seen a single game this season, the NCAA Tournament Bracket is one of those sporting event freeforalls which allow everyone, from the inexperienced to the completely oblivious, to partake on equal footing with the alleged experts.

Thus, Sports Amnesia, infinately qualified by virtue of all the same qualifications as Moms at home, reveals the following:




Utah St
Murray St

Ohio St





Ohio St.






Duke 78
Villanova 82

There, I've said it...

Monday, March 13, 2006


You can't say that the inventors of baseball have proven any particular mightiness since the onset of the World Baseball Classic.

Oh sure, you can point to a mercy pasting of the lowly gents from South Africa.

But two losses in five games against the likes of Mexico, Canada, Japan and Korea is hardly the stuff of champions and yesterday's embarassing 7-3 to the Koreans only appeared to solidify the notion that the Americans are far from the World's strongest team, despite their pedigree.

Yesterday, Dontrelle Willis again disappointed but it wasn't soley his unravelling that was the undoing of the Americans. In fact, things were so bad the team was actually booed by the home crowd eager to see their expectations realised, not pissed upon by multimillion dollar All Stars who can't seem to function properly.

To have any hope of advancing, the U.S. must beat Mexico on Thursday with Roger Clemens on the mound and then possibly sweat out the results of other games. Heck, without a controversial call against Japan Sunday, the U.S. may have been all but done last night.

Venezuela 6 Puerto Rico 0

Indians catcher Victor Martinez blasts grandslam to help Venezuela knock off Puerto Rico.

They'd have been eliminated from the WBC if they hadn't won and Venezuela played precisely as though their pride was on the line, knocking previously undefeated Puerto Rico down 6-0 behind Carlos Zambrano, who combined with 6 pitchers on a 7-hitter. A cast of Carlos Silva, Rafael Betancourt, Gustavo Chacin, Victor Zambrano, Jorge Julio and Francisco Rodriguez, two of whom are Mets, allowed five hits over the final five innings. Julio shone in particular, striking out three straight batters in his inning appearance.

Better news still for Mets fans, Endy Chavez hit his second homer of the tournament and even though he's not with the Mets at the moment, you could just hear the outfield competition at Shea grow tighter.

How did Puerto Rico, with Carlos Beltran, Bernie Williams, Javy Lopez and Pudge get shut out? By going 2 for 11 at the plate.

Venezuela plays the Dominican Republic on Tuesday night and Cuba meets Puerto Rico on Wednesday. The winners will advance to the semifinals.

Domincan Republic 7 Cuba 3

Big Papi is still lauching them.

Yesterday he hit his third of the tournament but is still hitting only .143 so far.

Starter Odalis Perez (2-0) struck out three in 4 2-3 scoreless innings, allowing three hits and one walk.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Controversy Tags US Victory Over Japan

Ichiro led off the game with a homer off of Jake Peavey...

Did Japan's Tsuyoshi Nishioka, the go-ahead run on third base in the 8th inning tag just a split second too soon?

"Everybody in our dugout was emphatic that he left early," said third baseman Chipper Jones. "And they're the ones with the best views." well, every Met fan knows you can't trust Chipper "Larry" Jones, much less an Atlanta Brave, even if he is kitted up in a Team USA jersey.

Second base umpire Brian Knight, who had rotated around to third base on the play, called Nishioka safe. But no, wait. USA manager Buck Martinez came out to argue with homeplate umpire Bob Davidson, who says he saw Nishioka leave early. After a brief conversation with Knight, something along the lines of "c'mon Brian, the game's riding on this and god knows we can't rely on A-Rod to pull it out for us in the 9th...", Davidson reversed the call, ruling Nishioka out.

"It's just unimaginable that this could have happened, or this did happen, in the U.S. where baseball is very famous and popular," Japan manager Sadaharuh Oh said through a translator. "And it's a pity that it was overruled."

No no, Mr Oh. It's called homefield advantage.

And just imagine if Japan's manager had been Bobby V or Lou Piniella or some other manager with a little less quiet dignity. All hell would have broken loose.

The television replay apparently appeared to show Nishioka tagging up AFTER the catch.

"The wrong umpire made the initial call," Davidson said in a statement issued afterward. "That's the plate umpire's call. I had it lined up. It's my call, and I had him leaving early and called him out."

Oddly enough, A-Rod did in fact single home the winning run in the bottom of the 9th in what must be the first clutch hit of his career.

Instead of an opening game loss, the USA won 4-3. Tainted, but true. A bullet dodged. One of many.

In the top of the 9th, closer Brad Lidge loaded the bases on walks in the top of the ninth, only to escape by striking out Kiyoshi Tamura to end the threat.

A-Rod, the unlikely hero, came to the plate in a situation that is every kid's dream growing up. (Well, not bloody likely, bottom of the 9th two outs, World Baseball Classic...) A-Rod was facing right-hander Kyuji Fujikawa.

On a 1-1 pitch, A-Rod was jammed, his bat broke but only after managing to squirt a grounder just past Fujikawa and between the second baseman and shortstop, a wobbly little hit into center field that allowed Randy Winn to cross the plate with the winning run. Quite exciting.


Puerto Rico 7, Dominican Republic 1

Gettin' Pudgy With the Dominicans...

This has to be a shocker, perhaps the most shocking upset after Canada beating the USA. Javier Vazquez scattered three hits over five innings whilst Jose Cruz Jr. drove in three runs and Carlos Beltran scored three more, as Puerto Rico beat the Dominican Republic, 7-1, in front of 19,692 loud and crazy fans at sold-out Hiram Bithorn Stadium, i.e. homefield advantage for Puerto Rico.

Javy Lopez had three hits for Puerto Rico, including an RBI double in the fourth that tied the score after Adrian Beltre's solo homer had put the Dominicans ahead 1-0 in the second.

But the PRs erupted for six runs -- only two of them earned -- in the sixth and seventh innings for revenge. Cruz was important to both rallies, hitting a two-run double off Damaso Marte in the sixth and an RBI single off Julian Tavarez in the seventh. The Dominican bullpen battered.

Nats fans will be happy to know that all three of Puerto Rico's runs in the seventh were set up by a one-out error by Dominican Republic second baseman Alfonso Soriano who is allegedly playing in his "natural" position. Jose Valentin followed Cruz's RBI single with a two-run hit that opened a 7-1 lead.

Puerto Rico is now 4-0 and will face a staggered Venezuela team next.


Cuba 7, Venezuela 2

Neo-cons must love this sight...Cuban flag waved with pride - Can you imagine anything bigger in Cuba right now, or if Cuba faces the USA? Wow...

With zero defections to date, Cuba, a team with zero MLB players on their roster finished with twice as many hits as a Venezuelan lineup that consisted entirely of players from the American Major Leagues.

"This is what we wanted to see -- this is Cuban baseball," manager Higinio Velez said through an interpreter. "Our boys recovered from the knockout that we suffered. Today was great, wonderful baseball." (The knockout of course being the 12-2 pasting they took from Puerto Rico the other day...)

After a tough start, Cuban starter Yadel Marti (1-0) matched Venezuelan starter Johann Santana (0-1). He held Venezuela hitless until Magglio Ordonez and Ramon Hernandez led off the bottom of the fifth inning with consecutive singles, and Cuba turned to veteran hard-throwing reliever Pedro Lazo, who promptly bobbled Edgardo Alfonzo's sacrifice bunt to set up the game's turning point.

Bases loaded, no outs, and Cuba clinging to a one-run advantage.

Lazo induced a pair of fly outs to the left fielder Frederich Cepeda, who quickly fired back to the infield before Ordonez could consider tagging up from third base.

Cepeda also hit a three run homer to give the Cubans a 5-0 later on in the game.

Lazo then struck out Carlos Guillen with a 97 mph fastball to strand three Venezuelan baserunners, poof, rally over, Venezuelans lose with their best pitcher on the mound and the now-mightly Puerto Rico up next.

Cuba outhit Venezuela, 10-5, despite an 0-for-5 performance by Cuba's top player, second baseman Yulieski Gourriel. Veteran Eduardo Paret, who sparked the five-run rally by drawing a leadoff walk, scored a pair of runs and three Cuban players finished with two hits.

(Met) Endy Chavez hit a two-run homer to put Venezuela on the board in the seventh, but that was the only damage against Lazo in his five innings or work.

Cuba must now face a tough Dominican team stinging from their loss to Puerto Rico.

You have to admit it, this World Baseball Classic is turning into something that next season, people will be drooling over in anticipation.

If you want to follow it in Spanish, from the horse's mouth so to speak, try reading El Habanero (the Havanese...)


Saturday, March 11, 2006


(Roger Clemens congratulated by catcher Michael Barrett as he leaves the game still with no official team for the 2006 season but impressive nonetheless...)

Needing a victory over the unlikely foils of South Africa, Team USA finally looked something akin to the dream team they should be aspiring to considering they are in a sense, the motherland of baseball to these step children countries looking for a massive upset, trouncing South Africa by a 17-0 score in a game called on account of the Mercy Rule.

Bearing in mind the quality of the opposition, it was still an impressive rout.

Roger Clemens, at 43, was still at his stifling best, allowing 1 hit in 4 1/3 innings whilst striking out 6. The oft-injured, former hopeful for Home Run King Junior Griffey blasted two homers, had four hits in four at-bats and drove in seven runs to raise his three game batting average to .750.

Having already suffered an embarassing loss to their northern neighbours, the Americans are not likely to lose another game in their round robin round against Japan, Mexico and Korea.

Not to count the proverbial chickens before hatching but this is, after all, Team USA, and whilst their next three opponents deserve respect and to be taken seriously, let's be honest, none of the three are top quality teams and certainly don't reach the level of the opponents in the other bracket. Besides, with Jake Peavey, a Dontrelle Willis who will be eager to make up for his crap game against Canada and Roger Clemens, all set to take the mound in the next three games, let's just say there shouldn't be any high scoring opponents.

Meanwhile, Team USA's first opponent will be Japan which in theory, is a team with the second biggest professional league in the world.

"This will be a dogfight," said Peavy, the San Diego ace who will start for Team USA. "The fundamentals of Japanese players are probably twice as sound as we are. They play the game like it's supposed to be played from pitch one to the last one thrown. We're going to have to be on top of our game to win, but I expect the boys to show up with a lot of intensity and do what we have to do to win."

U.S. manager Buck Martinez plans to approach the second round more like the regular season - likely letting his regulars go deeper into games and staying with the most productive bats, while also making sure every player will be as prepared as possible to rejoin his team upon the WBC's conclusion.

Puerto Rico 12 Cuba 2

Mets Superhero Carlos Beltran sliding here, there and everywhere, trying hard to get injured before he has another at-bat for the Mets...(well, not really but he'd damned well better be flying over the field with as much passion at Shea as he has at Hiram Bithorn Stadium...)

In a rather suprisingly easy victory, the Puerto Ricans, led by homers from Carlos Beltran and Bernie Williams, routed the Cubans 12-2 as both teams advanced to the second round and another mercy rule was applied, this time after 7 innings.

Puerto Rico will now join Cuba, the Domincan Republic and Venezuela in the deadlier of the two remaining round robin brackets.

Their first opponent will be the Dominicans, followed by Venezuela and then Cuba.

Netherlands 10 Panama 0

San Francisco Giants minor leaguer Shairon Martis pitched the first no-hitter in the World Baseball Classic, leading the Netherlands over Panama 10-0 Friday in yet another game stopped because of the tournament's mercy rule, this time after seven innings.

Ending the game on his final and 65th pitch (the most allowable in the first round,) Martis didn't strike out a single Panamanian but made the most of an early 5-0 lead to humiliate the Panamanians who, less star-studded than their Dominican and Puerto Rican counterparts, nonetheless, now hold the distinction of the only team to be held hitless.

Domincan Republic 6 Australia 4

Domincan Wily Mo Pena let's fans know they are ready to roll into the next round with their undefeated debut.

The Dominicans continued to push through into the second round with their third consecutive victory, this time a harder-than-imagined victory over an Australian team which had been shut out by Venezuela and Italy in their previous two games.

Australia, even with their enemic batting were still not no-hit like the Panamanians though.

The Dominicans finished undefeated and are perhaps the favoured team in the next round unless Team USA continue to show their mettle against the tougher competition.

Red Sock David Papi Ortiz demonstrates what a mountain of a man he is standing next to Pedro "Happy" Feliz (left) and Miguel Tejada (number 10)...

They will open the next round against Puerto Rico in a star-studded affair, followed by Cuba and Venezuela.


Meanwhile, the exhibition season continues on in the background and the guess here is now that players have seen the passion and coverage of this World Baseball Classic there will be more enthusiasts joining, rather than skipping out of the tournament next time around.

*****WHITE SOX DETOX******

The White Sox, who won last year's World Series without a 20 game winner or a .300 hitter, continued to hear flack from jettisoned players.

First it was the Big Hurt Frank Thomas, disappointed that the White Sox dropped him with little fanfare, was called "an Idiot" by GM Ken Williams after whingeing for the billionth time in public about how "mistreated" he was.

Thomas said he and Williams didn't see eye-to-eye after Williams became the general manager following the 2000 season. Thomas also regargled, in various tones of whinge, bitterness upon bitterness that his team of 16 seasons didn't feel the need to hold on to a guy, albeit great, who has spent the better part of several seasons more injured than healthy.

Hmmm. Loud mouth and oft-injuried rapidly ageing first baseman and DH or World Series MVP....difficult choice, Frank. Hope you hit 40 for the A's because I love seeing players proving GMs wrong.

Willaims also noted "If you go out there and ask any one of my players or staff members, we don't miss him," during a profound anti-Big Hurt rant "We don't miss his attitude. We don't miss the whining. We don't miss it. Good riddance. See you later."

Now it's infamous hothead and team player self-centred twat, Carl Everett. Everett said his former team lacks a vocal leader and Konerko isn't the answer. He criticized the moves general manager Ken Williams made during the offseason, saying, "They are not going to have the same chemistry."

This guy Everett is good: a great career in ironic stand-up comedy ahead of him.

Everett, with all the leadership qualities you might expect from someone who has bordered on the positively psychotic before.

Uncle Carl the Apostolic Christian is certain to provide all those wonderful leadership qualities again some year in his new role as Seattle Mariner mascot.

SI's Jacob Luft helps readers excoriate him here:

Some of Uncle Carl's previous outbursts,

Wrigley Field needs to be "imploded."

Tiger Woods is not an athlete.

"Gays being gay is wrong. Two women can't produce a baby, two men can't produce a baby, so it's not how it's supposed to be. ... I don't believe in gay marrages and I don't believe in being gay."

"It's proven that 99 percent of baseball fans have no idea what they're watching."

Some Mariners fans are clearly not looking forward to a Carl Everett joining them, like U.S.S. Mariner in a juicy timeline which pretty much sums up a career of controversy.

One of my favourites:

"...Gets hit in the head by a cell phone 4/19/2003 thrown by a fan in Oakland. The fan gets charged (outcome unknown). Everett, who takes the phone and throws it over a wall and hits a stadium employee, is not charged..."


A's pitchers' pre-game routines is an interesting look at how Harden, Blanton and Zito get ready, what food they eat, sleeping patterns and bathing habits. Probably more than you want to know about a baseball player but it's always to have an insight of what goes on in a player's head so long as it isn't Carl Everett's bobblehead.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Mexico May Have Saved America

Little makes sense in this Pool B of the World Baseball Classic. Team USA defeated Mexico 2-0 a few days ago, Canada stunned Team USA only two days ago and yesterday, Mexico routed Canada. Will the real contender for Pool B please stand up?

Instead of helping eliminate America with a loss to Canada, Mexico's Jorge Cantu homered and drove in three runs whilst Esteban Loaiza allowed a run in five-plus innings as Mexico defeated Canada 9-1 to leave the U.S. team a win away from reaching the second round. A win over South Africa no less, one of the weakest teams in the Pool, of course, the same team that nearly upset Canada three days ago.

But that's not even the tantalising bit, is it?

No, the tantalising bit comes when Living Legend Roger Clemens makes his WBC debut today against the pesky South Africans.

But here's what you've got to either love or hate about Clemens. He plans on going head-hunting against the enemic South African lineup:

"I'm going to pitch inside," said Clemens, humorlessly, seeming perplexed by the suggestion that he might go easier on the overmatched South Africans.

If the game South Africa and Team USA both had against Canada are any indication, this isn't going to be the walkover people expect so Clemens' mentality might be a blessing. But chances are, taking a South African team seriously is only going to be mean America is going to crush them. Gotta be, right? I mean how many Major Leaguers are from South Africa....

Venezuela Advances

Francisco Rodriguez embraces Henry Blanco after a game-ending strikeout

Not surprisingly, Venezuela advanced to the next round with a victory over the beleaguered Australian team. That they "only" won 2-0 is the surprising part. However perhaps the Vennies, as Sports Amnesia likes to dub them, will be more formidable than expected in the latter rounds. They allowed only three total hits in consecutive shutouts over Italy and Australia the past two nights.

Not that Italy and Australia hold a Murderer's Row, either of them, but two consecutive shutouts are what they are. It still isn't easy; lapses in concentration, boredom, etc.

"It’s a great feeling," said Minnesota Twins ace Johan Santana, who will start Venezuela’s second-round opener Sunday against the winner of Friday night’s game between Puerto Rico and Cuba.

Yesterday, the Vennies threw Angels' fireballer Kelvim Escobar on the mound. Dazzling with a 96 mph fastball, Escobar struck out five in 4 2-3 innings for the win.

With the victory not only the Vennies but also the Dominican Republic (2-0) and playing tonight, advanced to the next round setting up some quite intriguing matchups of Latino teams.

Commies 11, Dutch 2

(Laughing it up during an easy victory, Team Commie second baseman Yuliesky Gourriel, left, hugs centerfielder Carlos Tabares, right, after scoring on a single by Ariel Pestano in the seventh inning against the Netherlands.)

No shocker here, even if we don't know many of the players on either side. Cuba's victory over the Dutch mean they too advance to the next round but not before they face their first real test of the tournament, the first litmus test: against a star-studded Puerto Rican team.

According to MLB propaganda:

Cuba second baseman Yulieski Gourriel, arguably the highest regarded prospect in the country, has been the most recognizable face of a mostly anonymous Cuban squad, and he's done it with style.

Gourriel went 3-for-4 with four RBIs and a home run against Panama. Against the Netherlands, he hit a home run in his first at-bat to give Cuba a 2-0 lead, and finished 1-for-3 with two walks, two runs scored and one RBI.

His style on defense has turned more than a few heads, and his humble yet slightly mischievous demeanor has won over fans from the three other countries participating in the event. Panama pitcher Bruce Chen, a starter with Baltimore, went as far as to say his team would have won had it not been for Gourriel's presence.

The secret is out. Puerto Rico knows of Gourriel, as do the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, the teams predicted to take the top two spots in Pool D in Orlando and advance to Puerto Rico for the next round. But opponents have more than Gourriel to worry about."

Not to be outdone, the USA took the opportunity to accuse Cuba of human rights abuses - what? Just because they don't hide it behind the hollow cheer of the "War on Terrorism" it's bad?

Republica Dominicana 8, Republica Italiana 3

The Monsters yuck it up

Mike Piazza is certainly doing very little to prove he still belongs in the Major Leagues - in fact, you might make the argument that Team USA actively encouraged him to play for Italy, simply because he's washed up and playing for a second rate team like Italy (or the Padres) is where he belongs.

Piazza's meagre contribution to Italy's performance in the WBC to date: 1 hit in 11 at-bats.

Meanwhile, the "real" Dream Team, the Dominicans, continued blazing a trail to an undefeated first round with a simple victory over an overwhelmed team.

Adrian Beltre homered for the third time in two games to pace Thursday’s victory. Albert Pujols and Moises Alou also homered to help the Dominicans improve to 2-0.

After leaving Our Beloved Mets to play for the Dominicans, shortstop Jose Reyes finally got some playing time when Alfonso Soriano was rested. He went 1 for 5. You have to wonder if, not starting for the Dominicans is as good for early season development as starting for the Mets every day but what the hell, he's still a kid and wants his shot.