Tuesday, October 02, 2007

If He Managed To Lose, He Can Manage To Get Lost

I'm sick of the "He didn't pitch like crap in the most important game of the season, he didn't fail to hit when it counted" excuse.

I'm tarred of hearing that one.

That's like saying guns don't ki11 people, people do.

If the manager is blameless than why is he even there?

Why not just let the players write their own lineup cards, set their own starting rotations, nominate themselves to pitch out of the bullpen. Why not hire a different 16 year old kid from Flushing to manage the team every month?

Don't tell me Willie Randolph is blameless.

Clint Hurdle is blameless and his team won rather than lost 14 of their last 15. That's with Kaz Matsui leading off and playing second base.

The manager's job is to keep teams from unraveling just like the Mets did.

If Willie isn't to blame for this, if the players are, then get rid of them all and let Willie manage a team of eager Triple A mishaps to the World Championship.


What was Willie's worst season? 1981 and 1988 he hit .232 and .230 respectively and after both seasons, he came back to hit .282 and .280 respectively. Not career highs, but indicative of an ability to bounce back. And he better bounce back HIGH.

How ironic: Kaz Matsui and Jorge Julio are in the postseason but the Mets aren't?

Top 5 Eligible Managers

1. Bobby V (for Vindication)
2 Joe Girardi
3 Buck Showalter
4 Frank Kremblas
5 Orel Hershiser
6 Lee Mazzilli

Friday, September 28, 2007

NFL WEEK 3 NOTES

what we need dont' need to know but is painfully obvious.
pats wrecking ball
colts and steelers a distant 2nd.

At the moment, no competition which means of course no such thing.

What a turnaround - will the Skins failure to score and the Giants ability to stop the Skins from scoring prove the turning point for both teams this season?

How long will the last hurrah of Brett Favre last? Only a few weeks ago he was washed-up in most minds, nearly a laughingstock. Now he leads the 3-0 Pack on a revival tour.

Gutsiest performance for a New York QB? Tough call. Eli had to come back time and time again, Chad cracked through injuries to overcome. Enormous pressure on both.

In light of the massive, sudden downfall of the Saints after their dreamy unprecedented success last season my nomination for flukiest flight to the top (or near the top) is the 3-0 Pack (Cowboys are probably more for real) and the other 3-0 teams belong.

Best unattributed quote of the week:

If they were a hurricane, the Pats would be a Category 5, with sustained
winds of 38 points per game.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Rutgers Student Section Tells Navy To Eff Off

"This is how you treat people who may die for this country?" Annapolis graduate and West Orange, N.J., native Bill Squires, a spectator on the sideline that night, told Di Ionno. "It was the most classless thing I've seen. … "At one point, I thought, 'We defend this country for people like this?' I wasn't embarrassed as a New Jerseyan. I was embarrassed as a human being."

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

NFL Week One



"We got the 'Brady sucks' thing going on after we beat 'em 38-14. Only in the Meadowlands."
-- Tom Brady, standing on the field at the Meadowlands and talking via a headset with CBS after the Patriots overwhelmed the Jets 38-14. An hour later he added, "That's why I love playing in New York."



Or perhaps it's because it's so easy to spy on them?...



Of course, Randy Moss didn't need a spy. He caught nine Tom Brady passes for 183 yards and a touchdown.

Hard for the Patriots not to go overboard now?

“Tom Brady and Randy Moss looked a little like Larry Bird and Bill Walton in that magical winter of 1985-86: two of the best players of all-time, plotting together for the first time, beating the stuffing out of the other team.”


So are the Pats the team to beat or the team that cheats?

*****

Redskins wore out the Dolphins in OT



“In the end, the Redskins held the Dolphins to 66 yards rushing and running backs Portis (playing his first game since late last season) and Ladell Betts combined for 157 yards rushing. But the most important fact was how the Miami defensive players felt at the end of the game. Despite training in sweltering conditions in South Florida, the Dolphins struck the Redskins as tired. A point of emphasis for this Washington team in the offseason had been trying to wear opponents down at the end of games. Yesterday it worked.”


Oddly enough considering their return to the auld three yards and a cloud of dust mentality at Redskins Park was the announcement that they've signed Reche Caldwell who was released by New England last week after playing just one season with the Patriots and leading the team in receptions.

*****


Granted, it was only the Browns, but Steelers fans must feel good about Mike Tomlin’s debut and whilst no one was ready to compare them to the Pirates, there were indeed questions going in.

"Great starts are always great, but they can't define us," Tomlin said shortly after his players gave him the game ball from their manhandling of the Cleveland Browns, 34-7, to open the NFL season.

"Because the Browns played so poorly, it was difficult for anyone to define the Steelers. It looked like a college opener, Steelers vs. Cupcake State. Before the first quarter ended, the Browns had lost two turnovers, botched a punt and committed what may be an NFL record of four separate penalties on one play, if they kept track of those things.”


Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw four touchdown passes for the first time in his career and the same quarterback who led the NFL last season with 23 interceptions had none yesterday and finished with a healthy passer rating of 114.3. Again, just the Browns.

And perhaps similar to Pirates fans who must console themselves with the feats of the Steelers, Browns fans must bury their heads in the hope that the Indians will make it to the World Series this October to distract them until Brady Quinn gets his debut (if indeed they wait that long…)


Bye Bye Frye

There's one less QB in Cleveland standing in Quinn's way now after the Browns traded the miserable Charlie Frye. The thing I can't figure out is:

A. How in the world did the Browns manage to convince anyone, especially after that wretched performance against Pittsburgh, that Frye was worth ANYTHING, let alone a sixth-round draft pick.

B. What the hell do the Seahawks want with Charlie Frye? Are they looking for insurance against Matt Hasselbeck Disease? Trying to become the new laughingstocks of the NFC West? Woe to the Seahawks fans if Hasselbeck gets hurt. Even if Shawn Alexander looked like his 2005 version on Sunday.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he's the first quarterback since the NFL/AFL merger in 1970 to start his team's season opener and be traded before Week 2.

Running Backs



Chris Brown of the Titans led everyone with 19 carries for 175 yards, a 9.2 average. Against the vaunted Jax Defence. Very impressive. And perhaps weekly performances like that will take some of the pressure off the learning curve of QB Vince Young, who showed that curve is sharp at times.

The rumour is that defenses are so concerned with keeping Young from making big plays rushing to the outside, that gives Brown and LenDale White the ability to do some damage inside. See if it's a trend...



But this Adrian Peterson kid for Vikes, wow - Peterson set a team record for yards rushing by a player in his first NFL game, eclipsing D.J. Dozier's 57 set Sept. 13, 1987. He rushed for 103 and turned a short pass into a 60 yd TD.

He also became the third running back since 2000 to gain 100 yards in his NFL debut (LaDainian Tomlinson and Cadillac Williams were the first two).

*****

Yes, Tony Romo had a strong week with 345 yards and four touchdowns passes plus another rushing, but it didn't hurt having The Mouth making great catches.

Speaking of which, the first Terrell Owens of the Week Award goes to Chad Johnson for donning a gold blazer with "Future Hall of Famer, 20??"

*****

No blip on the radar following coaching change in San Diego. A year ago, league MVP LaDainian Tomlinson and star tight end Antonio Gates had 41 percent of the Chargers' offensive touches. In the Chargers’ 14-3 victory over the Chicago Bears, Turner upped that total to 63 percent (of San Diego’s 52 offensive plays, 33 were receptions or carries by them).

*****

NFL Dogs O Da Week included the Falcons and the Chiefs who lost miserably to Houston who is QB'd by Falcons former backup, Matt Shawub. Small world.

The Bills lost three other defensive starters to serious injuries: free
safety Ko Simpson (broken left ankle); cornerback Jason Webster (broken
forearm); and linebacker Coy Wire (sprained knee this doesn't even consider the tragedy that befell reserve tight end Kevin Everett - bad week one for bills, worse one for Everett.

Adding more insult to injury, Travis Henry had 139 yards rushing in his Broncos debut, playing against his former team. and of course, they lost in the last seconds on a Jason Elam FG.

In the game's final 2:13, Jay Cutler did a pretty good imitation of John Elway. He engineered a 42-yard drive, which included his seven-yard run on fourth-and-2, to Elam's winning field goal. He delivered perfect throws on slant routes to Jevon Walker, deftly managed the clock, and alertly got the offense off the field while the field-goal unit scrambled on for Elam to connect on his 42-yard attempt with one second left.

*****

What happened to Reggie Bush and Vince Young?

Meanwhile, last year's top draft pick, Houston DE Mario Williams, who had two sacks and returned a fumble for a touchdown in the 20-3 win over LOWLY Kansas City.

*****

"Not everyone needs preseason tuneups. Randy Moss, Clinton Portis,
LaDainian Tomlinson and Plaxico Burress didn't play a single down during
the preseason. Yet Moss had a monster debut for the Patriots, Portis
rushed for 98 yards and had a touchdown for the Redskins, L.T. passed
and rushed for TDs and Burress scored a career-high three TDs."


via USA Today

*****

Something To Consider, Post Season...

Before three of his last five starts, the Sox gave Matsuzaka an extra day's rest, but his ERA in that span was 9.57 (28 ER in 26 1/3 innings). He's been giving up home runs in bunches lately, six in his last four starts spanning just 20 1/3 innings. He also has walked 11 in the last four starts.

Misc


ND, the start of a very long seasonIn two games, the Irish have a total of minus-8 rushing yards.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Premiership Week 1

1. Think Sven didn't spend all of Saturday night and most of Sunday chuckling to himself about how he had all those silly English fooled into thinking he was a crap manager when all the while he was plotting his revenge with a bunch of foreigners to take the league by storm? Well, I reckon he was laughing until he watched Man U manage only a draw against Reading (not to mention the collective shrie around fantasy football land when Rooney went down,)and realised who next week's opponent is. The side story to the convincing Man City victory over West Ham was the question of whether West Ham aren't snakebitten now with all the bad karma created by escaping the farcical Tevez escapade with their Premiership membership intact. Of course Rooney's hairline fracture is perfecting timing in the continuing Saga of Tevez.

2. Another last laugh aware must go to Sam Allardyce returning to Bolton with his new team after all the shitty things that were said about him in the week's build-up to the return match first week into the season. It's a bit mad of the schedule makers to put Sam in the frying pan in week one but perhaps they knew all along this one was going to be a larf and wanted to give Sam a little time to relax before the pressure seriously kicks in. And frankly, how bloody high do you think expectations are now that Newcastle looked so, well, capable for the first half of Saturday's game? Villa, watch out.

3. Steven Gerrard, for shame. This proves Liverpool are serious about the Premiership title. Why else would its local hero resort to such Italian tactics to get a free kick? Well, point is he hit it and hit it beautifully, which sort of makes up for it all anyway. And that's three points already. When was the last time you remember Pool taking three on opening day? Again, pity Villa, hopefully O'Neill will not be this season's hard-luck manager.

4. Was the victory by Keano's Lads over Tottenham quite as shocking as people made it out to be? After all, aren't the Spurs historically the underachievingest lot in the whole of the Premiership? Who else could spend a cool £40 million on new players and see only one of them make the starting 11 - (and that one was only there because Ledley King couldn't be...) I've always liked Martin Jol but the gravy train has derailed and embarassments, humiliations, out-right out-performed and disgraces like this Saturday's against Sunderland only serve to underscore the miserable plight of Spurs fans. Forget it, lads. That talk of breaking into the top four is fantasy.

5. As for the league's Top Two on Sunday, well, don't count yourselves the victors just yet. Against Reading the ruddy-faced Scotsman was outsmarted, whingeing bitterly after the match that Reading packed the middle and didn't really play football. It's something you hear top managers complain about all the time, Stand still whilst I try to punch you!...

And the loss of Rooney is symbolic - Man U had it their way all season last season on the way to the top. No major injuries, no recurring nightmares and few hiccups along the way bar an embarassment in the Champions League against a certain Italian side that exposed their midfield embarassments and the snooze of an FA Cup tie against Chelsea. This season, different story. Rooney's injury however hurts Steve McClaren and England's chances more than it does Manchester United because there is no Carlos Tevez warming up on the side for England. Just the likes of a benched Jermaine Defoe or perhaps the unsophisticated youth of Theo Walcott to step in. Still, there's plenty more where that came from for Man U so let's not start crying for them just yet.

Chelsea on the otherhand, came out swinging - perhaps out of necessity given Birmingham's shocking early goal. Encouraging to see that Mourinho's pledge for more exciting football was not lip service. Exciting to see this kind of 3-2 football so rare in the chess-like tactics of the top teams. Of course, exposed in the attack was a rotten defence, particularly the right back, Glen Johnson, who sucks just as bad as he did the first time around with Chelsea, a few pretty games with P'mouth last season notwithstanding. But good on B'ham City to show some spunk on the road and to demonstrate that perhaps they are not destined for relegation just yet.

TOP EIGHT, Week One

1. Chelsea, 3 points
2. Liverpool, 3 points
3. Manchester United, 1 point
4. Arsenal, 3 points
5. Newcastle, 3 points
6. Everton, 3 points
7. Blackburn, 3 points
8. Man City, 3 points (go on, secretly we are all rooting for a Svennis comeback and to hear all the barmy bastids wish aloud Steve McClaren had never arrived...)

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

My All-Star Ballot v. Reality

Quite naturally, having lent hours of scholarly study to the task of selecting my starting 8 for the National and American League All-Star squads, I was quite curious to see how those starting selections fared in the face of reality.

AMERICAN LEAGUE (Sports Amnesia selections first)

First Base: Justin Morneau, MIN v David Ortiz, BSN. Reality reeks of sentimentality and past actions. Not only does Morneau (.280-20-61) have the stats that Ortiz doesn't (.311-13-49) - he's also a first baseman rather than a glorified DH and yes, I know there's no DH this season but does that justify sticking Ortiz in over the Kid who is outhitting and out first baseman'ing him? Not. Point for Sports Amnesia 1, Reality 0.

Second Base: Brian Roberts, BAL (.321-5-25) v Placido Polanco, DET(.331-2-36). Ok, mebbe this is a toss-up but Roberts has 26 stolen bases compared to Polanco's 3. OBP .405 to Polanco's .378. It's close but Sports Amnesia is correct again, 2-0.

Third Base: A-Rod, NYY, mutual choice, no-brainer.

Shortstop: Derek Jeter, NYY. Yes, it pains me to pick to Yankees to start the infield but really, there isn't much to argue in anyone else's favour here.

Catcher: Victor Martinez, CLE v Ivan Rodriguez, DET. Ok, now a 14-time All-Star but are you voting via somnambulism or merit? I-Rod is hitting (.279-8-44) and his cannon arm is ageing. Martinez, on the other hand, (.324-14-63) the heart and guts of his team, like I-Rod was before he started ageing. And I know this isn't supposed to matter but last I looked, the Indians were ahead of the Tigers in the standings. Not being a sentamentalist, it's clear that Sports Amnesia once again, have chosen with the mind rather than the heart. SA 3, Reality 0.

Outfielders: Sports Amnesia selected the trio of Vladimir Guerrero, LAA, Torii Hunter, MIN and Ichiro Suzuki, SEA. Reality selected the trio of Guerrero, Suzuki and Magglio Ordonez. Magglio Ordonez is hitting (.369-13-68) and has wild hair. Sports Amnesia's selection, Torii Hunter, (.296-17-63) - you could almost say a toss-up because Magg's numbers are bigger even if he's a big, fat slow bastid in the field compared to Hunter's six consecutive Gold Gloves. Sports Amnesia 4, Reality NIL.

NATIONAL LEAGUE

First Base: Prince Fielder, MIL. Sensibly, agreed. A no brainer.

Second Base: Kaz Matsui, COL v. Chase Utley, PHI. Admittedly, this selection came simply because as a Met fan, Kaz having disappointed during his Met career and now rejuvinated in the high airs of Coors Field, is the sensible pick when the best choice out there stat-wise is a Philly. You see, Sports Amnesia don't vote for no stinkin' Phillies nor stinkin' Braves so in this case, reality is justified. Sports Amnesia 4, Reality 1.

Third Base: David Wright, METS. Ok. Reality shows common sense.

Shortstop: Jose Reyes, METS. Right. See above. Nobody better.

Catcher: Paul Lo Duca, METS v Russell Martin, LAD. C'mon. Russell Martin? What the fuck, am I on candid camera? What has this punk ever done? (.306-9-55). Arm? Ability to manage a pitching staff? Sixteen stolen bases for a catcher? And you tell me Lo Duca isn't even on the effin reserves? Right, Brian McCann made the squad simply because the Braves needed a token chimp who wasn't a pitcher on their squad? Alright, maybe Sports Amnesia was pickin' with the gut, for the guts of a catcher, a man's man. But still, Russell Martin? C'mon, kids. Sports Amnesia 4, Reality 2.

Outfielders: Ken Griffey Jr., CIN, Corey Hart, MIL and Matt Holliday, COL v. Carlos Beltran METS, Barry Bonds SF and Ken Griffey Jr.
Admittedly, Bonds is unavoidable considering that despite the chase and the controversy and the mad hatred that follows him like a cloud of dirt followed Pig Pen, he's put up decent numbers. And seeing as how the game is being played in SF, well I guess you can't really argue against it. And yes, I find myself in the funny position arguing against a Met but Carlos, meboy, you just haven't cut it this season yet. We've been waiting for the outburst of outbursts to sending you screeching forth into the skies of Superstardom but so far, mate, well, you're just expensive. Reality wins on Bonds but not on Beltran.

FINAL SCORE: Sports Amnesia 5, Reality 3.

Next year, scabs, consult with the oracle before selecting your teams.
Write-in:

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Sosa's 600


Before, 1989


600 homers after...

Congrats to Sammy Sosa for the questionably-achieved 600th homer, making him only the 5th in baseball history to do so.

He now joins Barry Bonds on the Dodgy 600 list.

Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron and Willie Mays remain on the 600-By-Human-Strength-Alone list.

Ironically, Sosa's 600th came against his former team, the Chicago Cubs, for whom he'd hit all but 55 of those homers.

*****

Foot-In-Mouth is headed for the DL even though his MRI was negative.

Seems that near no-no may have been the final straw, pushing too hard. Schilling nearly pitched a no-hitter at Oakland on June 7, giving up a two-out single to Shannon Stewart in the ninth inning. But he allowed 11 earned runs and 19 hits in 9 1-3 innings in his next two starts.

*****


less theatrical congrats...

Dave Trembley won his first game ever in the Bigs last night, as the O's snapped a 9-game losing streak, beating the Padres

Monday, June 18, 2007

What have we missed in the interim of this season?

Most excitingly, two no-hitters.



The first came in mid-April a no-hitter by the White Sox's Mark Buehrle. Buehrle threw the first no-hitter of his career, as well as the first by a Sox pitcher since Wilson Alvarez accomplished the feat on Aug. 11, 1991, as the South Siders beat Texas 6-0 in front of 25,390 at U.S. Cellular Field.

It was also the 16th no-hitter in franchise history, and the first one thrown at home since Joel Horlen did it Sept. 10, 1967, against Detroit.



Coincidentally, the second was tossed by Justin Verlander of the Tigers, the first no-hitter for the Tigers since Jack Morris in 1984 and was the first to do it in the Motor City in more than a half-century.

In between we have had a premature call of the demise of the Yankees who have now won five straight series' (compared to the Mets who started fast and have now lost five straight series'...)

We have had two steroid stars in the news over and over again.

1. Jason Giambi, the disgraced Yankee is now under pressure to spill the beans. Used car salesman and baseball czar Bud Selig said June 6 that he wanted Giambi to meet with "special investigator" George Mitchell within two weeks and to cooperate fully with the steroids investigation. Selig threatened to discipline the New York Yankees designated hitter following published remarks by Giambi that seemed to be an admission of steroids use. Selig said he would take Giambi's cooperation with Mitchell into account in determining discipline.

Selig's threats of course, are empty.

Nick Canepa, of the San Diego Tribune knows the scoop:

"Commish Bud will use his “best interests of baseball” powers to do this, but we know it won't end with the player going quietly. If a suspension comes, the union will fight it and an arbitrator eventually will decide it.

Selig wants Giambi so he can tell Congress: “See, I've caught one. We're doing something.” That much I can see. He wants the politicians off baseball's back, and I'm all for that. Lawmakers should worry about the business of America, not what ballplayers put into their bodies. Congressfolk should try cleaning up their own houses before going after someone else's."


2. And then on the other side of the coast there's the ho-hum historic chase of Hank Aaron's Homerun record.



He was most recently in Boston where Nick Cafardo had his say:

"Bonds's pursuit of Hank Aaron's home run record has often been joyless. He hit his 748th against Tim Wakefield in the sixth inning yesterday, his first at Fenway Park, and even though the Red Sox swept the weekend series, you could tell Bonds enjoyed his time here."


*****

Now we've had our first sacking of the season when the O's Sacked Sam Perlozzo.

Can you blame them, really?

Eight lossess in a row, including three at home to the rival Nationals and you can expect as much. Question is, with a 29-40 record in the impregnable AL East, what difference does it really make? Will anyone in particular make the O's more exciting if they aren't moving any higher than third and have no hope for the playoffs no matter how hot they get under new management?

Monday, June 04, 2007

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Pee Your Pants For the Brewers?

Oh, they sure know how to bring class to baseball, those Brewers. As of Saturday, 420 people had signed a pledge that they would pee their pants if the Brewers make the playoffs this season. Few of those pledges are of an age where such a thing might pose a problem regardless of whether or not the Brewers make the playoffs.

No shortage of press coverage on the Milwaukee Miracle, that the Brewers possess the best record in baseball...

Archie Bunker's Army, who bemoans Saturday's Mets loss to the Brewers and questions the sudden rise in the stats of JJ Hardy.

From wurst to first in Milwaukee

"The Milwaukee Brewers haven't been to the postseason since 1982. They haven't had a winning season since 1992.
The Brewers' identity in recent years has centered on two sideshows - their wisecracking broadcaster, Bob Uecker, and the ever popular sixth-inning sausage race at home games.

Usually in Milwaukee, the sausage-race standings are a lot more compelling than the National League Central standings.

Not this year."


and

Right Mix of Ingredients:

"They are so surprising and so much fun to watch that they inspired a Wisconsin fan to start a website called PeeYourPantsForTheBrewers.com. The 24-year-old fan, known only as "Bernie," is taking pledges from fans to do as the website's name suggests if the team makes the playoffs."


*****


Does this look like Schilling In Shape?

Coming off a 6-1 road trip in which their five starters, Schilling, Josh Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Julian Tavarez and Tim Wakefield had a combined ERA of 1.55, the Red Sox have the second-best road record in baseball at 14-6 (behind the Mets' 14-5). Going into Friday's games, their starters, at 20-9, had the most wins of any rotation in baseball and their bullpen, had the second-lowest ERA (2.38) with 13 saves in 14 chances.

By the way, my prediction on Roger Clemens' season with the Yankees: 9-4 4.17 ERA.


*****

BOOK EXCERPT: "The Real All Americans" By Sally Jenkins


With Jim Thorpe, right, taking pitches out of the single-wing offense, the Carlisle Indians almost were unstoppable. (Cumberland County Historical Society Carlisle, Pa.)

Carlisle roared off to a 6-0 start. On Oct. 26, they went to Philadelphia to face unbeaten Pennsylvania, ranked fourth in the nation, at Franklin Field before a crowd of 22,800. No team all season had crossed Penn's goal line.

On just the second play of the game, Hauser whipped a 40-yard forward pass over the middle that Gardner caught on a dead run.

There are three or four signal moments in the evolution of football, and this was one of them. Imagine the excitement of the crowd that day -- and the confusion of the defenders -- if all they had ever seen was a densely packed, scrumlike game. Suddenly, the center snapped the ball three yards deep to a man who was a powerful runner, a deadeye passer and a great kicker. The play must have felt like an electric charge.

"It will be talked of often this year," the Philadelphia North American said. "No such puny little pass as Penn makes, but a lordly throw, a hurl that went farther than many a kick."


*****



Not quite as impressive as the list of those pledging to pee their pants, there is now a list of people who visited Tank Johnson in Jail. Eat your heart out...wonder what the list will be like for Paris Hilton?

*****

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

AGELESS PITCHING

Wednesday night saw two interesting pitching matchups of ageless wonders:



In Philadelphia, Randy Johnson vs. Jamie Moyer: At 88 years, 48 days, it was the oldest combined age of any opposing lefty starters in Major League history.

The Unit struck out the first 6 Phillies he faced prompting many to begin believing that after two miserable starts to the season, he had finally regained his National League midas touch. He finished with 9 strikeouts over 6 innings and gave up only 4 hits yet was undone by the Diamondback bullpen who surrendered 6 runs working the rest of the game after Johnson had left with a 3-0 lead and what he'd hoped was his first win of the season.

Jamie Moyer, who at 44 is the oldest pitcher in the Major Leagues until Roger Clemens makes his debut for the Yankees. wasn't nearly as flashy but slightly more resilient, lasting 7 innings to earn his 4th win of the season against only two losses.

*****




In Atlanta there was a Hall of Fame Pitcher's Duel matching the 43-year-old Greg Maddux with his 335 career victories against former Brave teammate John Smoltz for the first time since 1992. Imagine that, a duel redux, 15 years later! Smoltz, who turns 40 in less than a week, has "only" 197 wings by comparison but also 154 saves to his credit.

Like The Unit, Maddux left with the lead, after 5 1/3 innings only to see his bullpen waste the potential victory after allowing only one run on four hits. Smoltz, who improved to 5-1 this season and 3-1 lifetime against Maddux, struck out seven, walked none and held the Padres to homers by Geoff Blum, his first, in the second inning, and Adrian Gonzalez, his 10th, in the third.

"It was a special night, it lived up to its billing," Smoltz said. "I think each pitcher would have selfishly like to have beat the other 1-0 and know they pitched a great game. But he showed vintage Maddux stuff and he was able to keep us from hitting the ball when he needed to. You can see while he's still pitching."

*****


Shhhhhh

Another ageing pitcher in the news, albeit more for his mouth than his performance, was Curt Schilling, who never seems to be at a loss for putting his foot in his mouth.

The 38 year old who has 211 victories of his own and who is energetic enough not only to pitch but also write his own blog, 38 pitches, less than a week after noting the Red Sox "didn't need" Roger Clemens (true enough considering their starting rotation), went on a mild tirade about steroid homer side show Barry Bonds, noting:

"Oh yeah. I would think so. I mean, he admitted that he used steroids. I mean, there's no gray area. He admitted to cheating on his wife, cheating on his taxes, and cheating on the game, so I think the reaction around the league, the game, being what it is, in the case of what people think. Hank Aaron not being there. The commissioner trying to figure out where to be. It's sad. And I don't care that he's black, or green, or purple, or yellow, or whatever. It's unfortunate. There's good people and bad people. It's unfortunate that it's happening the way it's happening."


He later issued a rather massive and all-encompassing apology for his remarks.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Rocket To Lift Off In Pinstripes



So now they're paying their latest star pitcher $28 million in addition to coughing up $27 million for A-Rod.

Yet when considering the Red Sox paid $51 million just for the rights to the thus-far underwhelming Daisuke Matsuzaka, perhaps this money well spent.

Well, not perhaps, definately.

Given the shambles of the Yankees starting rotation it was imperative they signed Clemens. Yes, the Astros could have dearly used him as well but the Red Sox, well they seemed pretty set with their own rotation doing quite well so in essence this was probably the Yankees' signing all along.

Andy Pettitte has twice been pressed into relief action to help out a beleaguered bullpen, while Chien-Ming Wang, Mike Mussina, Jeff Karstens, Phil Hughes and Carl Pavano have all spent time on the disabled list.

But Clemens will be with the Yankees as a true Rent-An-Arm. He doesn't have to be with the team on trips he isn't scheduled to pitch on.

"We don't need him" is what Curt Schilling said of the signing. Wonder if that will come back to haunt him.

Funny enough, his debut could be 1st June when the Yankees, currently five and a half games behind, face the Red Sox at Fenway. Mark your calendars.

*****

Guess who has the best record in the National League so far this season...

Not the Mets, nor the Braves nor the Dodgers, Giants, defending champion Cardinals.

The Brewers, 21-10 not only have the best record in the NL but they are ahead of even the Clemens-less Red Sox, who at 20-10 have the best record in the AL.

Anyone have a Brewers-Red Sox World Series predicted?

Didn't think so.

*****

Just when you thought the Phillies' season couldn't get any more ridiculous given the Spring Training boasting that they were the team to beat in the East (where they currently sit in 4th with a 14-17 record, the horrific start to the season and the even more horrific start by Ryan Howard, it did get even more ridiculous when their key starting pitcher signing, Freddy Garcia, was injured by an equipment cart.

Garcia, who is 1-2 with a 6.05 ERA in four starts this year, ran into an equipment cart that had stopped along the warning track in San Francisco's ballpark.

*****

Who is going to be the NL selection for the first base All Stars? Derek Lee is hitting .414 for the suddenly resurgent Cubbies and Rockies first baseman an nearly-traded Todd Helton is hitting .394.

Both have a pair of homers to their credit and Helton has 22 RBIs, one more than Lee. Helton's OBA is .526 whilst Lee's is "only" .496.

*****

Monday, April 30, 2007

NFL Draft

As is custom, the staff are on holiday during the draft week chaos in order to ponder things of deeper meaning that tend to get lost in the earthquake of sporting news like the death of another Cardinal.

I mean, I wake up on a Monday morning, just after midnight to watch the UK broadcast of the Cards-Cubs game and instead we get what? A replay of Game 7 of the 2001 World Series. You remember that one? Schilling on the mound against Clemens, The Unit coming in to relieve. Holy shit, what a game. It's a pity Josh Hancock died but watching the replay of that game was better than any live Cardinals-Cubs broadcast, for certain.

Anyway, I've lost track of the thread here - the NFL Draft. It's one of those things that people bitch and complain about being overhyped yet seem to follow it as closely (some anyway) as the playoffs. Overrated players, unknown picks - what difference just it make just yet? Six years from now, perhaps some impact but right now? Nada.


I'm guessing Joe Thomas and Brady Quinn are not going to lead the Browns to the Super Bowl this season...

They grade the Cleveland Browns ability to take the best offensive lineman available in Joe Thomas who might, like many offensive collegiate juggernauts, prove no good in the NFL and then getting Brady Quinn who might end up being Joe Montana or equally Rick Mirer but more likely somewhere in between. I don't think it's a big deal, a change-the-franchise 'round sort of moment. It's just that the Browns have been so bad for so long, any good news seems like ecstatic news. And granted, if you're a Browns fan you're happy so I won't be pissing on your parade.


Good luck with that one, Tom Brady

But what about the Patriots picking up Randy Moss? This, on the heels of a heady offseason of free agent signings and a solid draft probably make them, with chips on their shoulders and perhaps the final season of Bellichick looming over their shoulders, early favourites to overtake the Colts one last time.

*****

Baseball

Well, the first month's in the bag.

One dead player and for most teams, 24-26 games under their belt -those teams of course that weren't snowed out.

Some suprises in the first month:

1. Yankees ending month at the bottom of the AL East with a 9-14 record.

Sure, Joe Torre is being supported, for now by the Evil Steinbrenner but if this goes on another few weeks, injuries to starters notwithstanding, how long before Joe Girardi gets the nod?

Torre, to these ears unconvincingly, says there's alot of baseball left. True enough, it might just be though that he won't be involved in it...

"I don't think the standings are an issue at this point," Torre said after Sunday's loss. "We all know we're going to start winning consistently sooner or later. Obviously, sooner is more appropriate. … We need to play better. We will. … Long-term, you know, water will seek its level."


2. Defending World Champion Cardingals ending month at the bottom of the NL Central with a 10-14 record.

You knew something was up when they were swept in the first three games of the season by the Mets, a team they'd knocked out in the NLCS to get to the World Series to begin with.

The slow start, the death to another pitcher...it's the hell to pay for last season's success, for sure. But otherwise, it's a dearth of hitting - look at the heart of the lineup - Pujols, Edmonds and Rolen hitting .250, .222 and .250 respectively.

Then you've got a starting pitcher in the form of Kip Wells stinking up the jernt. 6 starts with a 1-5 record and a 5.65 ERA. Ace starter Chris Carpenter has pitched only once this season before getting shelved on to the DL.

3. Baseball card collection fetches $1.6 million at Auction - imagine that - baseball cards making one a millionaire. Think of all those shoe boxes binned by errant mothers in all those lifetimes past...

4. You thought Sandy Koufax was finished? Not in Israel where he was drafted last week to play for one of the six inaugural teams in Israel's newly-formed professional baseball league.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Dice-K Outhurled In Fenway Debut



As a footnote on the long highway of the 2007 season this will probably not mean much or perhaps not even be long-remembered.

But for one night anyway, the hype machine of Dice-K was temporarily derailed when its spotlight was stolen by the brilliant pitching performance of Seattle's own ace hurler, Felix Hernandez.

As you may have heard, Hernandez one-hit the Red Sox in his duel against Daisuke Matsuzaka and had a no-hitter going until JD Drew singled in the 8th.

Watching the game in the pre-dawn hours of England telly I couldn't help but be amazed not by the pitching performance of a 21 year old but by how often the muppet broadcasters mentioned the no-no.

I'd always thought it was supposed to be a bit of a jinx for teammates to mention a potential no-hitter in the midst of it and yet here were these human turds with mouths clamouring for the chance to point out the obvious over and over again, jinxing everything in their midst all in the incessant battle to show, what? They already know what we already know?

You know why you don't see no-hitters on tv? Because big mouthed announcers can't shet their feckin gobs long enough about it, that's why. They don't care about watching a no-hitter, they care about talking about it and talking about it and talking about it until you're almost rooting for a goddamned hit just so they'll shut up about it already.

The Godzilla-Versus-Mothra-like battle between Matsuzaka and Seattle Mariners all-star center fielder Ichiro Suzuki nearly ground the Tokyo stock market to a halt.

If you're a Seattle fan you can wallow in the bliss knowing you didn't spend half a fortune to sign youthful ace pitcher. Hernandez in two starts this season has allowed a grand total of four hits in 17 innings.
CLIMATES AND OPENING DAYS


photo courtsey of Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer

The recent postponement of four scheduled games between the Cleveland Indians and Seattle Mariners due to a freakish Spring snowstorm has sparked furious debate yet again about the commencement dates, length and close of the baseball season.

Some whinge that it is greed prompting the season to start so early and that if it weren't for the greedy owners we wouldn't be seeing snowed out games in April.

Firstly I would reply by noting how eagerly most true baseball fans await their respective teams' Opening Days. Those filling the stadiums aren't clamouring to have another dozen games played down in Arizona or Florida just on the offhand chance it might be too cold or the sun might not be shining bright enough for them to want to take in the game.

Secondly who is to say Bud Selig and his Stooge Crew haven't set such an early start to the season simply out of deference to global warming? After all, if the carbon-footprinting alarmists have it right we're only another microwaved meal or short flight to the Continent away from spending the rest of our summer holidays under a palm tree in Antarctica whilst the rest of the planet turns into a desert punctuated by tsunamis and hailstorms that not even your great grandparents would have walked 20 miles to get to school under.

To those who whinge about it being "too cold" for baseball in April (players included – for the salaries they receive they should be willing to play in the bowels of hell if required,) I say baseball and its fans are getting too soft. How come in Cleveland in the middle of winter, in subzero temperatures and even blizzards grown men can paint their faces, down a few shots and spend 60 minutes worth of outdoor football bare-chested and loving it as the frostbite sets in but in Cleveland in April, just let a few inches of snow fall and they have to not only cancel games but MOVE them to a place like Milwaukee? Aren't baseball players or their fans tough enough to brave a little wind chill and flurries for the love of their sport?

There is no reason to make the baseball season start any later or end any earlier just because society has grown too soft. True, Opening Days in decades past started later in April than they do now. But that doesn't mean an early opener is to blame for the recent snowstorms in Cleveland. This is weather, people. It isn't predictable, no matter how much they pay those goofy airbrushed caricatures meteorologists on your local news to pretend that it is. So long as baseball is willing to be held hostage to the whimsy of Mother Nature, these arguments will prevail. Just don't blame the early Opening Days.

If you don't believe me consider that at the start of the 1907 season, the New York Giants opened against the Phillies following a heavy snowstorm. According to this account, it wasn't even the weather to blame:

In preparation for the game, groundskeepers were forced to shovel large drifts of snow onto the outer edges of the field in foul territory. After falling behind 3-0, the disappointed fans at the Polo Grounds began hurling snowballs onto the playing field, disrupting play. As the melee progressed, chaos ensued and fans began rushing onto the field to continue the snowball fight. After being pelted, Home plate umpire Bill Klem had enough and called a forfeit in favor of the Phillies.

They didn't move the games to Milwaukee, the new Caribbean of the National League. No, they shoveled the snow drifts and carried on back in 1907.

So whilst an excess of 19,000 fans showed up to watch the Indians "host" the Angels at Milwaukee's Miller Park, the Brewers themselves had their game in Florida postponed due to rain in the 10th inning!

If baseball, its players or its fans aren't really willing to overcome, like postmen, rain, sleet or snow in order to play then the only realistic answer to climate change and baseball's inability to overcome it is to make retractable roofs mandatory on all baseball stadiums in America. That way there will be no cancellations, no postponements, no rain delays, no players sliding on puddled tarps. There will just be baseball. Without the weather.

Monday, April 09, 2007

One Week Anniversary

Well, the first week of the new baseball season is behind us.

The Yankees are already being beaten up mercilessly not only by the unlikely O's but also the media, predictably, with their starters going to pieces and a rotten 2-3 start to what had once been a potentially glorious opening season homestand.

"Through five games, one time through the rotation, no Yankees starter has gone beyond the fifth inning, and only Kei Igawa, who gave up seven runs, completed that inning. The starters' ERA in 212/3 innings is 9.97;"


The defending World Champion Cardinals have recovered albeit slowly from the opening series sweep by the Mets, having taken two from the miserable Houston Astros who are now only one loss less miserable than the Washington Nats. The Cards still sit in 5th place in the NL Central, two games behind the Reds.

The defending AL Champion Detroit Tigers fared a little better against the KC Royals to climb back to a game behind the Twins in the AL Central. The Tigers have three regulars who are each 3-for-17, and one who is 0-for-17. "I'm taking perfect swings," insisted Brandon Inge, the 0-for guy. "I think they're cheating. They've got 20 infielders and outfielders when I'm hitting. I actually feel perfect (at the plate)."

The Braves continue to surprise having swept the lowly Phillies to start the season and then to take two of three at home from the NL East defending champion Mets. As Archie Bunker's Army recounts, the Mets are out of first place for the first time in a year.

Hopefully a homestand against the crap Phillies will cure what ails the Mets. The Phillies bloom early, flounder earlier:

"In 'Tales from the Phillies Dugout: A Collection of the Greatest Philadelphia Phillies Stories Ever Told,' Rich Westcott describes how the Phillies organization is one of the worst one-name, one-city franchises in all of professional sports. No club ever finished in last place 29 times; no team blew a pennant after holding a six-and-a-half game lead with 12 left to play; and no team hit .315 for the season, lost 102 games, and finished 40 games out of first place."


Currently they linger ahead of only the miserable Nats in the NL East with only 1 victory this season.

Doing just as poorly are the SF Giants who signed the sought after Barry Zito to their rotation in the offseason. Didn't do them much good.

And the NL MVP candidates, equally poor.

As the season's first week came to an end the 2006 NL MVP Award winner, Ryan Howard of Philadelphia, was hitting .159 (3-for-19) with no homers or RBIs. Albert Pujols of St. Louis, who finished second in the MVP voting last season, was hitting .059 (1-for-17) with no homers or RBIs. Lance Berkman of Houston, who finished third in the balloting, was hitting .235 (4-for-17) with a homer and two RBIs. That's a combined .151 (8-for-53) for the three players who accounted for the top three spots and all 32 first-place votes last season.


This Week

The Mets open today against the Phillies at Shea.

Daisuke Matsuzaka will pitch his first ever game at Fenway on Wednesday.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Let The Season Begin

Amid all the expected pageantry, the flag waving, the nostalgia, and the glorious of another season of baseball the following games opened the season:

Reds 5, Cubs 1

Is it pointless for Cubs fans to EVER get their hopes up for a season?

If you are not a Cubs fan there was something more inevitable to ponder: hosting Opening Day in a city that can claim the first professional baseball game back in 1869.

Rather than join Cubbies fans wallowing in the misery of false expectations that only the signing of Lou Piniella and a trillion dollar payroll could raise, why not consider the momentary euphoria of Reds fans?

I don't think anyone would mistake Cincinnati for a metropolis. In fact, its sorta small town hokeyness is part of its few moments of charm never better represented than on opening day:

It's the kind of place where they can make fun of their goofy, dapper Mayor muffing the opening pitch of the season, doing a Mike Piazza impression of sorts, the auld two or three hop to the bag.

And just in case you thought it was all fun and games, there was Pete Rose hovering over the ceremonies like a dark cloud.

"The all-time hit king, serving a lifetime ban from Major League Baseball for betting on the game, sat seven rows behind home plate in the Diamond Club section. Wearing a Reds hat, gold shirt, jeans and cowboy boots, Rose ate lunch at the Diamond Club's restaurant. He also met with Reds owner Bob Castellini and Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory before finding his seat with a ticket he purchased last month."



Braves 5, Phillies, 3

Oh, much ballyhoo'ed Phillies team prattled on and on all Spring about getting a quick start.

The Phillies opened their 125th Major League season against an old National League East rival, the Atlanta Braves and not suprisingly, lost in the 10th due to a blown save by their rubbish bullpen. A game behind the Mets already!


Renteria gets a frightening 2 homer start

"I just feel bad for my teammates in letting them down. Hopefully, this is the last time I do it this season."

-- Ryan Madson, wanking reliever who surrendered game-losing homer.

Philadelphia went 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position.

Of course even this sort of schadenfreude must be tempered by the idea that it was the Braves doing the winning. Too bad it isn't possible for both teams to lose the same game.

Blue Jays 5, Tigers 3

Not suprisingly, the defending AL Champs lost their home opener. Why not suprisingly? Because these Tigers who swept past anyone's wildest expectations last season will tumble early and hard to earth this season. We can't blame it all on the acquisition of Gary Sheffield, as much as we would profess his signing being such a harbinger of doom.

There's no one to blame it on really, save for reality. You don't suffer 12 losing seasons in a row for nothing. Sports Amnesia have the Tigers finishing 4th in the AL Central behind the Indians, ChiSox and Twins, in that order. I could go all Sabermetric on you, making your head spin with stats and possibilities but the bottom line is this: alot of young pitchers, alot of innings and this season to follow, alot of injuries. Trust me on this one. The magic of The Marlboro Man Manager Jim Leyland can only last so long with a cancer like Sheffield in the clubhouse.

Last season, the Tigers were the comeback kids. They won 12 games after trailing in the sixth inning, 12 after trailing in the seventh and seven after trailing in the eighth. Not this time around.

After 10 innings the Blue Jays, after sneaking past the Red Sox into second place in the AL East last season, out-bullpened the reigning champs and pulled out their own opening game victory.

Marlins 9, Nationals 2

Perhaps fatefully, RFK stadium saw its final Opening Day.

And though hardly a nail-biter, this struggle between the two teams likely to battle it out to avoid the NL East cellar prove that winning isn't everything|?

"It's not how you want to start the season," Nats "ace" John Patterson said afterward. "With so much doubt in the air and everything, it's easy to say, 'I told you so.' But we can't pay attention to that."

Best not pay attention at all. Keep your eyes closed, Nats fans. Another year of misery awaits yea.

And of course, like Chicago which saw both their Cubs and White Sox lose their openers, the Beltway area teams both lost with the O's joining the Nats in a losing effort, a 7-4 loss of their own against the Twins.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Opening Day

Opening Day, or perhaps more precisely, Opening Evening, crept up with great stealth on me this season.

It seemed only a few days ago the Super Bowl was finished and the doldroms of a brief period without either football or baseball had set it as quickly as the anticipation of pitchers and catchers reporting.

Of course, in England one is able to keep oneself preoccupied with a myriad of other choices: The Premiership, wherein Manchester United are poised to regain their lost mantle of supremacy over the new Evil Empire of English sport; Chelsea.

And if the professional league, arguably the best in the world isn't enough to keep your sporting mind occupied there is also the battles of the Champions League which have seen the likes of Man U, Chelsea AND Liverpool advance to the quarterfinals; three English representatives out of eight quarterfinalists, a rather remarkable number. (And if you aren't familiar with the Champions League, this is a sort of Super Competition transposed over the top of the regular season each European league conducts wherein the top two, three or four teams from each of those leagues fights for the title of best professional team in Europe...)

And if these professional competitions still fail to satisfy well, by God, there's still the qualifying matches for the Euro2008. If you have the misfortune of being an England supporter this, in particular, is a painful series of sporting events to watch; England drawing nil nil to Israel and then waiting til late to dispense with tiny Andorra.

Yes, the Euro2008 qualifiers are indeed plenty of fodder to keep the baseball and American football-less minds occupied. Why, second-guessing and berating England manager Steve McClaren has in itself become almost a national pasttime.

And if football isn't your sport there is still more in this bottomless wealth of alternative national sports to occupy the time in England.

Why just last month England's chances to win the Six Nations Championship came down to a last second try allowed by Ireland against Italy, followed by a last second try by France against Scotland and well, by then the English had to satisfy themselves getting humiliated by the Welsh.

Lastly let us not forget glorious, bloody cricket.

This seemingly innocuous sport has in the past weeks of its World Cup brought us not only the compelling escapades of the English captain, Freddie Flintoff, wasted and humiliated by a night out on the piss, but has also brought us the Mother of All Sporting Death Scandals, the death murder of Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer.

And yes, somehow amid all these endless 24 hours, trans-globe sporting events there was time to visit the Dorset Jurassic Coast this past weekend. A few days away from the controversy and excitement of English sport.

Small wonder, then that I overslept beyond my 1 am wakeup call to catch the beginning of the 2007 baseball season to watch my beloved Mets extract a modicum of revenge from the team that kept them from the World Series last season.

Yes, there is indeed a world outside of ESPN, amazing as that might seem and whilst it has been easy to while away these weeks without any major American sport of interest to compel me, Opening Day is here and I'm ever so glad to see it's return.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Predictions

Yes, useless as always (witness the annual humiliation called the Bracket, for example) but equally difficult to avoid, the baseless predictions, this time for the baseball season.

And it is in fact a pleasure (or shall be) some five months from now to look back and thing wow, how bloody daft could I have been to think that? Or if a lucky bet comes to fruition, link to this very article down the road with some smug I-told-you-so phrase on the fingertips.

So for the sake of nothing more than a record, here are my predictions for the 2007 season:

1. Roger Clemens - Will end up with the Yankees this season in order to bring balance to the absurdly imbalanced advantage in starting pitching the Red Sox currently have over the Yankees. It also makes sense. Why go back to the Sox, the only team that said they didn't want him? That said that he was all washed up so many years ago we've all lost count.

I point to this as number one because it is a decision that will likely have a strong influence on the outcome not only of the AL East but the entire post season, Clemens' mission, should he choose to take it. And let's face it, he isn't going to join a club that already has the Japanese Roger Clemens on it anyway, is he?

2. The Disappointments -

a. Nats fans, generally. Not because they're expecting anything anyway but isn't everyone in DC just waiting for the announcement that due to the top in fan interest in a hopelessly losing team the Nats will be moving their franchise to Mexico City or San Juan...
b. The Tigers, whose young arms will burn out because they just can't take that kind of season that young two seasons in a row. Let's call it the Cubs phenomenon, the Kerry Wood/Mark Prior Stigma.
c. The Cubs, simply because they disappoint every year after year and Lou Piniella is not big enough to change that, otherwise he'd have won the World Series with those Mariners teams of auld.
d. The Phillies - and boy oh boy am I going to enjoy watching this season's Phillies flush themselves down the toilet yet again after all the smack they've talked already this season about being the team to beat. Helloooo? Flash Gordon is your closer. Wake up, muppets.

3. The Suprises -

a. Milwaukee Brewers: last year in the legacy of teams rising from the death of the Rust Belt, was the Tigers turn. This year it's time for another perennial loser to rise from the ashes and fly to improbable heights.
b. Sammy Sosa: is he really a surprise? Nah, for some whacky reason, I'm rooting for this guy to make a comeback. More than I care if the petulant Barry Bonds' steroid-ridden joints don't crumble to dust before he reaches Henry Aaron's mark and more than I care if the cowardly Mark McGwire ever makes it to the Hall of Fame after his performance in the face of Congressional hearings.
c. Ben Sheets - let's just say a monster season in store for this lad who has inched along the edge of greatness for the last several seasons.
d. Texas Rangers - no, not because of Sammy Sosa but because Buck Showalter is no longer the manager. That in and of itself usually spells a World Championship. It happened after he left the Yankees and again after he left the Diamondbacks. Watch out Rangers, it's the post Buck Showalter Bump.

Finishes

NL EAST
Mets
Atlanta
Philly
Florida
Nats

NL CENTRAL
Milwaukee
St Louis
Chicago
Cincinnati
Houston

NL WESt
Arizona
San Diego
Los Angeles
San Francisco
Colorado (what? STILL in the league?!)

NL MVP: Jose Reyes, NY Mets
NL CY YOUNG: Ben Sheets, Milwaukee

AL EAST
Boston
NY Yankees
Toronto
Tampa Bay
Baltimore

AL CENTRAL
Cleveland
ChiSox
Minnesota
Detroit
KC

AL WEST
Texas
LA/Anaheim
Seattle
Oakland

AL MVP: Mark Teixeira, Texas
AL CY YOUNG: Roy Holliday, Toronto

PLAYOFFS

NL
NY Mets over Milwaukee
Arizona over Atlanta

NY Mets over Arizona

AL
Cleveland over Boston
NYY over Texas

Cleveland over NYY

WORLD SERIES
Cleveland over NY Mets

Monday, March 19, 2007

Hookaye lads and lasses, we're down to the Sweet Sixteen and there aren't many surprises. In the West, the 1, 2, 3 and 4 seeds remain. South: 1, 2, 3, 5. East: 1, 2, 5, 6. Midwest: 1, 3, 5, 7. Of the top 12 seeds, only two, Wisconsin and Washington State, lost in the first two rounds No "true" Cinderella's in the pack which means my choices of 11th seeded VCU making it along with 14th seeded Oral Roberts were pretty much sperm tadpoles never destined to make it to the mother egg to begin with.

That said Sports Amnesia have 10 of the final 16 standing, or just a hair over mediocre but not humiliating. Primarily because there is no March Madness office pool in England except for maybe the American embassy in London so I don't have to hold up my 10 whilst hanging my head because some overweight suburban mother of two who has never watched a game of college hoops in her entire life, got 12 out of 16 right by guessing based upon team nicknames she fancied.

Of course she probably wasn't as big a plonker as Sports Amnesia's whose pool went bust the minute Wisconsin did their predictable swan dive off the roof and into oblivion.

Guess there's only Memphis left to root for.

Beisbal

Phillies of Philly - Let's face it, despite the impressive array of talent that's been amassed the bottom line is the bullpen sucks and if the bullpen sucks they are going to give away alot of victories they should have had.

And if you like to worry you only have to look as far as the Philly's closer, Tom Gordon, half hurt, half incompetent to worry.

Too boot, the rest of the pen consists of the rehab returned Alfonseca (9.00 earned run average) to back him up along with Fabio Castro (9.35) and Matt Smith(12.00) to make sure the Phillies don't win a game they aren't winning by a dozen runs in the 7th.

*****

More on The Destruction of The O's by Peter Angeleos:

"Just when you probably thought things couldn't get worse for the Baltimore Orioles after nine losing seasons in a row, they have.

Much worse.

Owner Peter Angelos said over the weekend he has no plans to sell the club anytime soon, which should be more than enough to make remaining fans of the Orioles sob in their suds and swallow crab shells -- the hard kind."

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Brains Beer



No March Madness here in Merry Ole on St Paddy's Day, not when the Six Nations rugby was on the telly all afternoon with every game of the deciding Saturday round filling the hours with nail-biting, head-smashing brutality and blood.

What you see in the Six Nations that you won't see in a lifetime of March Madness however, is a team jersey sponsored by a beer company.

That's right. The official jersey of Welsh rugby, good enough to beat England into a pulp in the Saturday finale:



Of course, it was not merely anticlimactic that the entire event was won by the French yet again. In fact, after Ireland had finished thrashing Italy 51-24 at the Stadio Flaminio yet surrendered an all-important try in the dying seconds of the match, France were faced with having to beat Scotland by at least 24 to clinch.

But as even the front page of Le Monde will tell you, La France remporte le Tournoi des Six nations, even if it was only on the last bloody play of the match with the title to be determined by an Irish judge who had to say yes, the final play was in fact a France try and even if it was only on points difference (forget about the fact the French stomped Ireland in Ireland a few weeks before...)

Elvis Vermeulen, hardly your typical French name, came on late to score the decisive try and hand France their fourth title in six years.

So it was exciting even without the basketball and this won't even begin to talk about Ireland St Paddy's Day Massacre of Pakistan in the Cricket World Cup, only the biggest upset in the history of the world cup. Good day for Ireland which, had they not allowed that last Italian try or if Scotland had not allowed that last second France try, would have been an even happier St Paddy's day with a Six Nations title to boot.


*****

MARCH MADNESS



In the Land of Premature Daylight Savings, the day was filled with basketball and further, albeit subtle swings and misses in The Bracket. Ah yes, lads. In The East, we cracked on with the predictable top seed victories in Carolina and GTown advancements. Having backed Oral Roberts, the Vandy victory was a wash. I have Texas over USC in a rematch of the NCAA football title two years ago.

In the South another easy day of picking favourites, Texas A&M and Ohio State both advancing albeit Ohio State only in OT and Texas A&M but the short and curlies, over Rick Pitino and the Cardinals, 72-69. For today, the picks are Memphis and my other darkhorse Long Beach State already took a spill so it doesn't much matter to the bracket if TN or VA win.

In the West, having madly reached for VCU, we took a spill on Pitt but were again redeemed in the favourites category when second-seeded UCLA overcame a boring Indiana's four corners snooze hoops misadventure. I have S Illinois and Kansas in the last two today.

And lastly, the East correctly chosen, Butler over Maryland, barely, 62-59. The remaining games today will require rooting for Florida, Wisconsin and Notre Dame but seeing as how the Irish were out before St Paddy's Day, Winthrop who so few likely had faith in, going another round, just to keep the bracket busters happy.

*****

And what about baseball you say? Well, it's still 14 days to Opening Day and even longer before Roger Clemens makes his decision but there's an interview with him - I learned one nugget from listening: what's the best pitch in baseball?

Strike one.

*****
March Madness First Round



Right - out of 32 matches, 22 right. Many rash upset choices didn't pan out. Missed the Winthrop upset, as did most of you, I'm sure. My own madness, taking Oral Roberts into the 16 went to flames the first night out. Long Beach State also failed to pan out, losing to Tennessee. You see, you try to be crafty, you outthink yourself into a tailspin of losing. Missed Kentucky over Villanova, Indiana over Gonzaga. Oh yea, the Albany upset over Virginia never materialised either. However, I did get the VCU upset over Duke spot on. It pays to root against Duke once every dozen years or so.

Overall, out of my Sweet 16 candidates, after the first round, 13 are still alive.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

March Mistress



Unload all the metaphors! Let loose the flying, unsubstantiated hysteria of hope and unpredictability! The NCAA tournament, the only blip in the amateur or professional basketball season worth noticing is finally here!

And just on time - how apropos that the NCAA tournament and the accompanying, dizzying array of possibilities swing around the corner at the same time the baseball season has just begun and similarly delusional dreams of people and teams destined for disappointment are simultaneously unwrapping the letterbomb of expectation not knowing if it will fizzle or explode.

But over here, in merry ole' there is no such obsession. On this side of the pond brackets are not being mass produced and hours of valuable productivity are not idled away dreaming up a multitude of possible scenarios, goats, unsung heroes and surprises. No, we are still here listening to politically expedient bravado about cutting emissions by 60%, fat chance, with no care about public transportation good luck - whilst over in America, men from state to state are pulling out their remaining hairs contemplating every possible scenario.

Well, the good news is, Sports Amnesia have sorted it all out for you.

That's right. We've combed through all the teams painstakingly just so you over in America can fill out your pools with confidence. We've looked at the trends, examined the rosters and coaches, reviewed seasons and games, watched hours and hours and hours of videotape and news broadcasts and stared vacantly at walls for days in an effort to conjure the answers to the eternal question: Who Will Be In The Final Four?!

Well, not exactly. In truth we've relied upon the science of not knowing for as everyone knows the office pool usually comes down to some twat who is actually somewhat of an inside gambling expert and some fat housewife who has never watched a basketball game in her life, closed her eyes and picked or based her picks on whether or not she liked the team nickname. So hours of planning is pointless save for the fun of it.

Here's how the regions quickly breakdowns as winners:



East - Ignorance is bliss. The one thing I knew before the brackets were announced was forget about the 16th seed. What you can know is that this is a strong group led by top seeds North Carolina and Georgetown. North Carolina would have to beat anyone from New Mexico State to a surprise Texas team to make it to the finals of the group. Georgetown on the other hand, have a relatively simple path Vanderbilt and Texas Tech. Forget about Boston College. My picks: Upsets -I've only got one and that is Oral Roberts making it to the Round of 16. Why? Because I want to see more of the man they call Caleb. Caleb Green. Otherwise, the 1, 2 and 4 seeds go through. Georgetown, having only to defeat a suddenly scaring Oral Roberts, roll into the finals and defeat Texas to make it to the Final Four.

South - Texas A&M seems to be a favourite "darkhorse" pick. It's a wise move, to a point. Too many people believe the hype. My picks: Upsets - Long Beach State and Albany will surprise in the First Round which sets them against each other in the who cares match up to get to the Round of 16 whom I have as LB State, #1 Ohio State, #2 Memphis and #3 Texas A&M. Advantage here goes to Memphis. Why? You don't hear much about them but they were 16-0 in the mighty Conference USA. Louisville is everyone's favourite here if not the Aggies with their senior point guard All American blahblahblah. Go for Memphis. Good music, good BBQ sauce. That's all that matters in the picking. Not the fact that by wins, their coach John Calipari has the sixth-best career start in NCAA history through 14 years with his sparkling 337-129 record (.723). Through 14 collegiate seasons, only North Carolina coach Roy Williams, Louisville Hall of Fame coach Denny Crum, Syracuse's Jim Boeheim, Kentucky's Tubby Smith and Arkansas' Nolan Richardson have won more games than Calipari. Put think about the music and the food. Who would you rather root for?

West - First thing I'll admit is that Duke is in this bracket and I, like millions around the globe, hate Duke with a passion that borders on pathological or insane. I don't ever want to be in the position of having to root for them just to have my bracket work so I will note straight away that I will pick VCU in the first round to upset them. I'm not even sure what VCU stands for, Viet Cong Uni? Aha, send those emails of hatred, little Rams supporters. Virginia Commonwealth indeed. Is it common wealth or wealth which is parsed to a small percentage? In any event, let's keep focused. Send those Dukies home crying in their dirty socks and wiping their arses with their dainty Ivy-in-the-south hands.

A little sidetracked there because there are, after all, 14 other teams in this group. In the realm of upsets I shall recommend to you Gonzaga, Illinois and Villanova doing better than their seeds would allow. It's tempting to seek another first round knock out of Kansas, this time at the hands of the unheralded Niagra, but not likely. Do Gonzaga surprise every year? It seems so. To the point where you wouldn't think it would be a surprise or an upset any more. But I think UCLA get past them. Eric Maynor will lead VCU past Pitt and suddenly you'll find a quasi-predictable Kansas-UCLA regional final. Pick: UCLA.

Midwest - Florida have the chance to repeat their championship from last year's bracket AND lump this with their NCAA football title. No bloody Uni is that good mates so forget about them winning it all this year. I don't have many(any) upsets in this group. Why? Because it's the Midwest and everyone knows how boring the Midwest is. Just shove a few brats in their gobs and let them vote for whatever muppet Republican candidate frightens them the most with speeches about gays taking over the corn crops and there you have it. I've got the 1, 2, 5 and 6 seeds advancing and guess what kids, just because of Richie Cunningham, I'm going with Wisconsin to the Final Four!

So, to summarise the Final Four will comprise of:

Wisconsin v UCLA
Georgetown v Memphis

The Final will see Memphis v Wisconsin and the Badgers are destined to win it all because in some circles it is indeed the Year of the Badger!

(Besides, someone has to make up for Ohio State's humiliating show in the NCAA Football Championship.


Go Badgers, Go!

Saturday, February 03, 2007

WORLD WIDE SUPER BOWL
"People can have the Model T in any colour--so long as it's black."
-- Henry Ford





Following Championship Sunday's shamelessly inaccurate 0-2 showing wherein Sports Amnesia predicted exactly wrong, a Patriots-Saints Super Bowl instead of this immensely unexciting Battle of the All Black Head Coaches Midwest Bowl one might expect a moratorium on NFL predictions for the rest of the season.

The Battle of the All Black Head Coaches Midwest Bowl is of course a dysphamism for explaining why the dismantling of the Old Boys Nework has taken the NFL so long to accomplish (whilst between the lines they can ignore the white GMs, white owners, white television network executives) and we can all imagine a day not far from now when they'll be writing with equal self-congratulatory fascination about the first Super Bowl with both head coaches AND both quarterbacks being black, or the first Super Bowl with a Mexican QB or the first Super Bowl with Chinese wideouts, Iraqi placekickers and North Korean halfbacks. Meanwhile, it's been 19 years since Doug Williams drew fascination for being the first black QB to start and win a Super Bowl and 38 years since Marlon Briscoe became the first black starting quarterback in the NFL, ever.

The NFL is becoming more international and thus, more colourful, it's true. The Super Bowl, we are told, will be aired in 232 countries and territories by 54 international broadcasters in 33 languages.

Last year's game (Pittsburgh Steelers-Seattle Seahawks) was watched by 98 million viewers, 90.7 million of whom were in the United States. On the other hand, the World Cup football final, the mother of all international sporting events, drew 260 million viewers. Of course, the World Cup final's headlines aren't written by American media doyens eager to congratulate themselves on their enlightened approach to minorities in sport and of course, there isn't a long and boring two week delay between the semi finals and the final which force such unfettered headline hunts to accumulate. So perhaps the hyperbolic back patting on having two black head coaches in the Super Bowl at the same time is to be expected.

The other storyline is of course this semi-prodded great defence versus great QB debate - getting less airplay is what it means to have one of the worst defences and worst QBs.

Whilst the Bears defence is not only good this season but historically form in part anyway, the intimidating Monsters of the Midway label and have that awesome Defence of the 1985/86 season to their credit, the Colts defence is a bit ghastly by comparison despite the fact that their black head coach is considered a defensive rather than offensive mind. Only three Super Bowl champions allowed more than 300 points: the 1980 Raiders (306), the 1983 Raiders (338) and 1998 Broncos (309). These Colts have allowed a staggering 360. The Colts ranked last in the NFL against the run with the fourth-worst run defense in history, allowing an average of 173 yards per game and 5.3 yards per rush. The worst run defense to win a Super Bowl was the 2001 New England Patriots, who ranked 19th with an average yield of 115 yards per game.

As for the QBs well, there hasn't often been as big a mismatch - on the one hand the fabled Peyton Manning who, if he wins this Super Bowl might instantly elevate himself into the pantheon of All Time Greats and is already a near certain Hall of Fame candidate. On the other hand, the Bears are led by the oft-maligned and tragically inconsistent Rex Grossman.

Where are the headlines for this being the first Super Bowl with a QB named Rex?

Rex, after all, is Latin for "king". Peyton is ostensibly named after a 1960s soap opera called Peyton Place.

But these aren't the only issues that might allow us to unravel the mystery of the next Super Bowl Champ a day early.

We could also examine certain things which will not come into play but certain sway Sports Amnesia's thinking.


Once, Everbody's Did The Macarena Too, That Didn't Make It Right...

1. The Everyone Else Is Doing It Factor - You can count on one hand the number of non-Chicagoans who think the Bears can beat the Colts. The Colts are established as a seven point favourite going into this game. The celebrities are going with the Colts. Most of the SI football experts, all of whom have a better record than Sports Amnesia at this sort of thing, are going with the Colts. No, I take that back Every Single Expert Is Picking The Colts. That leaves us in the difficult situation on jumping on this hideous Colts bandwagon or rooting against what appears to be common logic. Advantage: Bears.



2. Domed Midwest Football Stadium Factor - The Bears won their NFC Championship game in the cold and with a few snow flurries. The Colts won their AFC Championship game in a climate-controlled dome. As these are both Midwest teams having faced similar outdoor conditions in their respective cities, the fact that one of them plays their games indoors means that the Colts are not immune to climatic factors, like global warming. Sure, you say there is no way to measure toughness of a domed team versus that of a team that plays in the bitter cold but the St Louis Rams of the 2000 Super Bowl were the only home dome team to win a Super Bowl. That doesn't mean there can't be a second one but it means, with the Colts' undefeated record in their cosy little dome, that the slightest bit of inclimate conditions might throw off this delicate little Peyton Passing Machine. It means Da Bears are reall men who play the game outdoors, not inside a computer or inside a dome. Advantage: Bears.



3. Moving Franchise Factor. A quick refresher - the Browns were moved to Baltimore from Cleveland and renamed themselves the Ravens, who did in fact win a Super Bowl against an historical NFL franchise (the NY Giants). The Rams moved from LA to St Louis and won a Super Bowl against another team (the Tennessee Titans) who moved franchise (from Houston to Nashville) but those same Rams who moved from LA to St Louis also lost a Super Bowl against an historical AFC franchise (the Patriots, who "sorta" moved from Boston to "New England".) What it means is that if you've moved your franchise from one city to another as did the Colts from Baltimore to Indianapolis you've got a good chance of winning. However, of teams to have moved from one city to another and won the Super Bowl, NONE of them had won the Super Bowl with the previous city's franchise, i.e. the Browns never made it to the Super Bowl before they became the Ravens, ditto the Rams of LA, the Titans (néé the Oilers of Houston). The Colts won the Super Bowl in 1971 when they were in Baltimore. Advantage: Bears.



3. Peyton's Pressure Factor - Just a few weeks ago Peyton Manning was more known for his inability to win the big one than the collective of brand names he markets. The Bill Belichick and Tom Brady monkees are off his back. Sure, he still hasn't won a Super Bowl but at least he's beaten his nemesis, the Patriots. Historically, overcoming this type of adversity leads to Super Bowl victories, i.e, the Raiders finally overcoming the Steelers in the 70s, the 49ers finally overcoming the Cowboys in the 90s, the Giants overcoming the 49ers, etc. Of course, the Iggles lost three NFC Championship games in a row before making it to the Super Bowl they lost in 2004-05, the Cowboys lost three NFC Championship Games in a row from 1980-83 and didn't make the Super Bowl again until 1992-93 and the Bills, well they LOST FOUR CONSECUTIVE SUPER BOWLS. What it means generally is, if you throw a monkey off your back, you win it all. Advantage: Colts.



4. Coin Toss Factor - I dunno what this means but if you look at the history of the coin toss in the Super Bowl you will see that the last time a team called heads, won the toss AND the game was back in Super Bowl XXVI when the Redskins did it when they beat the Dolphins in a come-from-behind victory. The Colts get to call the toss in this one which means they'd either better call tails or they'd better call heads and lose. Of the last five Super Bowls, the team getting to make the call lost four of them. Advantage: Bears.



5. Rex Grossman Chipped Shoulder Factor - Probably with good reason considering his season to date, Rex Grossman has been ridiculed and humiliated for the last two weeks whenever he, rather than Peyton has been the focus of the media's attention. Admittedly, this factor is related to the everybody favours the Colts factor noted above. You just get the feeling that a team can stand hearing how much they suck only so much before exploding. Rex Grossman will confuse no one with being a Hall of Fame QB unlike his counterpart. This reminds Phil Simms of the abuse he took back in Super Bowl XXI when the Giants faced the Broncos and their Hall of Fame QB, John Elway. Advantage: Bears.

What this is all building to, you guessed it, is Sports Amnesia putting itself on the line once more going against public opinion, common wisdom, logic and probability.

The Pick:



Chicago Bears 30 Indiapolis Colts 27.