Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Adventitious blog entries 7

ad·ven·ti·tious
[ad-vuhn-tish-uhs]
–adjective
''associated with something by chance rather than as an integral part; extrinsic.''

In today's 'adventitious' entry - Lester, Clemen$, Giambi Bonds and Mr April get's classy.

Lester
Pretty good news from Jon Lester's outing at Pawtucket last night. The big left hander went a solid five innings giving up just four hits along with two walks while striking out an impressive six. I wonder what the Sox front office is thinking now, one more rehab start for Lester and then bring him up assuming everything goes okay? Tavarez is doing a fine job as a starter but will fit nicely into the bullpen and will be nice insurance should one of the other four guys pick up and injury.


Lester pitching in that fifth spot of the rotation makes the Red Sox starting pitching staff particularly formidable. Just imagine the possibilities a rotation of Schilling, Beckett, Matsuzaka, Wakefield and Lester brings. A 110 win season? It's not entirely out of the question with that superior staff.

Clemen$
Meanwhile, strange goings on in the Bronx. Ro$er Clemen$ pitched more minor league innings on Monday, going six without giving up a run, meaning he was perfectly positioned to take the hill for the men in pinstripes at Fenway this coming weekend. The 22 Million (pro rated) dollar man steps into the breach and carries the Yankees back into contention on his broad, Texan back, right?

Wrong.

Amazingly the Yankees will not be debuting Clemen$ at Fenway. Joe Torre said;

"I'm not disappointed that he's not pitching at Fenway, I don't think that series needs any more hype than it gets every time we play it, whether it's in Fenway or at the Stadium. You'd obviously be tempted if you had a kid pitching and you can replace him with Roger Clemens. When you have Wang, Moose and Andy, there's really not the temptation to do that."

A couple of quick questions so. First off, has Joe Torre seen Mike Mussina pitch lately? He looks absolutely brutal right now and is obviously struggling. If Clemen$ is here to save the Yankee season, why not drop the Moose down the rotation, take a little pressure off him and throw the big lug Clemen$ in there to lead the way?

Secondly, assuming the Yankees actually want to catch Boston in '07, surely they should be throwing everything including the kitchen sink at Boston this weekend? What does it say that they are going to pay this fella 22 million or whatever and he is not going to be used in a series that will possibly make or break their season?

Make no mistake, if Boston takes 2 or 3 this weekend, it's game over AL East.

Thank you for playing.

Giambi
It has also come out that the Yankees have said their DH Jason Giambi is going to have a cortisone shot on his injured heel tomorrow, Thursday, a day the Yanks have off.

No comment on whether this will render Giambi mute while also healing the pain.

Bonds Meanwhile, on the left coast, Barry Bonds continues to beg America to love him with yet another endearing quote. In response to questions about giving the Hall of Fame souvenirs once he hits this 756th home run. he said;

"I'm not worried about the Hall, I take care of me."

Classy.

Speaking of classy..
Fantastic blog by Dave of 'the Coffin Corner' on Mr April, A-Rod, being photographed heading into a Gentleman's club in Toronto with a mystery woman.

The New York Post is taking a calm, level headed and non judgemental view of the incident;

''Cynthia Rodriguez - A-Rod's wife and mother of their 2 1/2-year-old daughter, Natasha - was nowhere to be seen during the slugger's big night out on the town, which occurred the evening before the last-place Bronx Bombers' pathetic 7-2 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays.''

The Post goes on to describe the entire situation in crime-scene-like detail, down to Mr April's attire and the beautifully sordid finalé;

''As the doors to an elevator opened, he and the blonde got in together, the witness said. The doors then closed, and they disappeared upstairs.''

Boy oh boy, just what those Yankees needed eh?

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Teams that are not going to win the World Series
Exhibit B: The Chicago White Sox

Got an email from the Hurricane's third baseman Eric 'Vegas' Valkys this morning, asking what I thought about the White Sox being pushed out to 33/1 to win the World Series. He wrote;

''Just looking at the odds and what do you think about the White Sox at 33-1?? Good value!! Yeah, if they do make the playoffs, they'd most likely have to play the Red Sox in the first round unless they can pull out 1st in the division!! But for value, what do you think??''

Glad you asked. Before the season started the 'Racing Post', the UK and Ireland's premiere gambling newspaper, actually tipped two teams to win the World Series. Taking a little jab step back, I respect the Racing Post greatly when it comes to its Soccer coverage, they often pick interesting teams to win and those teams often do just that. Obviously, their horse racing coverage is second to none (or so my brother tells me anyway).

However, their US sports coverage is terrible, absolutely brutal. Their two picks for the World Series? Philadelphia and the White Sox. The Phillies, being in the NL, would obviously have a reasonable chance of making the playoffs at least, but anyone who knows their history, indeed the regions sporting history, would shy away from placing actual real money on them to win a major sporting event.

The White Sox selection was particularly poor. The White Sox look to me like a team in transition. They rode superior pitching to the World Series in '05 but either traded some of that away or watched the league figure it out (Jon Garland, for example). Their ageing lineup with Thome and Konerko is struggling mightily to hit and they simply don't have the spark they had in '05.

What odds the White Sox actually breaking this team up, or trading, for example, Jermaine Dye, for younger prospects. He is one of the few success stories of Chicago's season to date.

So, Vegas, to answer your question, take your lovely fiance out for a nice steak dinner or something, buy a couple of DVDs ('Stranger than Fiction' and 'Bobby' are two excellent movies available to buy right now) or go play the slots in Bray for a few hours. Whatever you do, don't waste a single euro on the '07 White Sox. They should be 100/1 not 33/1.

Previously posted
Exhibit A: The Toronto Blue Jays
Let's have a look at the standings!
Checking in on the AL East standings



2007 American League Standings
EASTWLPCTGBHOMEROADRSRA

Boston3515.700-17-718-8272191

Baltimore2427.47111.515-119-16228225

Toronto2327.4601213-1110-16229233

Tampa Bay2128.42913.513-148-14230294

NY Yankees2128.42913.512-139-15256236

Monday, May 28, 2007

I love sports! (Well, some of them)
Sports Guy has another pop at soccer


Okay I have been forced to act. I am placing The Sports Guy, Bill Simmons, on a two-week probationary period. If he chooses to randomly slander Soccer in that period, that's it, I will be done with him for good. This will be disappointing for me as I am a big fan of his work, normally. I gobble up every single article he writes like the rest of his legion of thirty something male fans. However this anti soccer thing he has going on is really ugly.

The Sports Guy - Cheesey does it

Taking a step back...

Simmons had a completely unnecessary pop at Soccer and Europeans in general by blaming them for what he perceived as an increase in 'flopping' (diving) in the NBA. That was equal parts laughable and annoying enough (Um, Sports Guy, remember Bill Laimbeer? The guy deserved an Oscar for some of his performances! Failing Laimbeer, how about Minty pretending to get hit by a pitch in the Yanks v Angels game last night?!) but it appears Sports Guy has taken a decidedly anti soccer slant with this arrogant, throw-away, inane comment. In his recent piece on 'reasons he loves sports....' he writes;

No. 922: MLS Direct Kick Does anyone else crack up each time they see this commercial? "For just $74.95, you can watch every MLS game!" OK, maybe I don't crack up, but there is some mild guffawing.

It is an unusual tactic, particularly considering Simmons made a half-hearted attempt to 'adopt' Tottenham Hotspur as his English League team, he even wrote a huge article on it, and then never followed it up.

However, the most puzzling aspect of this is that Simmons ends his article with 'Just one more reason why I love sports.' How does that work? You love sports because you find advertisements trying to promote a minority sport laughable? That's a deep, all encompassing love alright.

What exactly is he going with this pathetic, childish jab at soccer? Where is the journalistic-skill, class and or nobility in attacking a minority sport like that? All a comment like that does is show ignorance and perhaps fear of the unknown. Does he feel threatened by his lack of understanding of soccer?

Did Sports Guy forget he was going to attempt to get 'into' soccer? Did he recently develop some symptoms of amnesia? Or is he just being lazy and pandering to that asinine, boring and ignorant group of anti-soccer types in the States who refuse to give the worlds greatest game a chance?

Sadly, it's probably the latter. Well, Chief, you are on probation! If I want the above level of rubbish, gutter sports journalism I'll go watch Jim Rome.

Come on Bill, you are better than that.
Vote Coco!
Crisp catch a true gem

It's sad but it's true, some Red Sox fans are just never happy. Coco Crisp is the perfect case in point. Yes, he was hurt last year and no, he is not the second coming of Carlos Beltran (Coco is not a home run hitter) but we are, lately, starting to see what Coco can do on the baseball diamond. And it is pretty special. Sadly there are still people out there who wish the Sox would go 'get someone else', or even 'put Wily Mo in there'.

Well, show me someone else who would have made that catch last night.

For those of you who didn't see it, here's how it went down. In the seventh inning the Rangers grabbed a 4-3 lead and looked set to increase that with Frank Catalanotto at the plate. He ripped a line drive to the outfield with two runners on.

Watching it live, as the ball zipped towards the gap between centre and right, I thought to myself quickly, 'that's two runs anyway'.

Joel Pineiro was the Sox pitcher on the mound when Catalanotto hit the stinger;
“I looked out and saw nobody there and was thinking ‘uh-oh.’'

As I watched the ball head toward it's destiny, the inevitable two run double I suddenly found myself thinking 'Wow, Coco is fast.'

Amazingly Coco managed to track the line drive, pick up speed as he approached the landing point, and then lay himself out completely, stretching his arm and glove out to snag the ball in what was basically a perfect moment of athleticism.

Instead of the inning continuing with a runner on second and a score of 6-3, suddenly it was inning over and Boston still completely in with a chance at only 4-3. Sure enough they mounted an almost inevitable comeback and won the game 6-5. This simply could not have happened without Coco's scintillating catch. Dustin Pedroia understated;

"That was the play of the game right there. If that ball gets down, who knows what happens. That's a momentum swing."

And so the Red Sox win again. What made this win even more amazing and special was that it was Boston’s first three-game sweep in The Texas Ballpark ever, and their first three-game sweep in this city since 1973, which, for those keeping score, was a long, long time ago.

How tasty do the standings look today? The Red Sox have an 11.5 lead on the second place Orioles and a spectacular 12.5 lead on the third placed team from New York.

Those numbers wouldn't be quite so sexy without that simply stunning catch made by Coco last night. It's time for Sox fans to get on board and start enjoying how this kid plays baseball. He's pretty damn good.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Weekend Irish League roundup
Just a quicky! Saturday 26th May

'A' level games
  • Hurricanes 18 Twins 1
  • Blacksox 5 Greystones Mariners 3


Links:


If you would like to get involved with Baseball Ireland at any level, Adult or Youth, or would like to support the game in Ireland, please refer to this link.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


One night in Athens
The Champions League Final

Champions League final
Date: Wednesday, 23 May
Kick-off: 19:45 BST
Venue: Olympic Stadium, Athens

Wonderful sporting lineup tonight. The Champions League Final and then Red Sox at Yankees later on tonight. I think I am one of the seven people in the world who enjoy both American Sports and Soccer. It seems to me that those in the States who support Soccer have (justifiably) such a large chip on their shoulder they actually turn their back on the other major US sports. Those in Europe who love American sports often have no time for Soccer. There is not much of a population in that middle ground. Simply because of the way I grew up, between the States and Ireland, and having a sports mad brother and father, I appreciate Kaka as much as Kanoute and Beckham as much as Brady.

Tonight's Champions League final between AC Milan of Italy and Liverpool of England has a chance to be a wonderful sporting event. Perhaps it can't possibly live up to the amazing 3-3 draw and subsequent Liverpool victory on penalties though. My friend Paul sums up, over email, what most soccer pundits are suggesting;

''..one thing is certain, bar a spaceship landing during halftime filled with light sabre wielding monkeys, its not going to be as good as the 2005 final..''

Clearly that's a Monkey with a couple of lightsabers

Both teams are evenly matched and the two passionate sets of supporters should make for a fantastic atmosphere. If you want something a little different to the starchy, staid, reserved atmosphere at 60% of US professional sporting venues, check it out. US sports simply have nothing on Soccer when it comes to crowd participation.

In an effort to help the average American viewer enjoy tonight's showdown, here are the key players of the assumed starting lineup and their US sports star equivalent. Enjoy.

AC Milan

Dida (goalkeeper) - There is no doubt Dida is a talented player, however he has all the reassurance of Barry Zito (2007 version) . You simply don't know what you are going to get. He may produce a brilliant, game changing save, or he may let one in on his near post, the cardinal goalkeeping sin, as he did against Manchester United in the semi final. Same way you don't know right now if Zito is going to get shelled or throw a no-no.

Paolo Maldini (defender) - The imperious Maldini has overcome injury, self doubt (after the shocking 2005 final defeat to Liverpool) and age to be, once again, one of the greatest defenders in the world. Maldini is a winner, and he always plays with sheer class. A less injury ridden Ken Griffey Junior. A class act with immense talent.

Allesandro Nesta (defender) - Previously the best defender in the world. A great player still who has lost a step or two (or three) of pace over the years. The Teddy Bruschi of AC Milan. Both have been accused of bending the defensive rules a smidgen and one is almost as dirty as the other. Which one? I'll leave that up to you to decide. Both will do anything, literally anything, to get the ball back off attackers.

Marek Jankulovski (defender) - a defender mainly in name, Jankulovski, the Troy Brown (New England Patriots) of Milan loves to go raiding into enemy territory. Brown plays a bit of D and a bit of O but mostly O. Kinda like Janku.

Cafu (midfielder) - Jose Contreras. No one has any clue what age either are. Could be 35, could be 51.

Gennaro Gattuso (midfielder) - One of the best defenders in the world, but a man who simply can not keep his mouth shut. Constantly angers the Sports Karma Gods with his distasteful trash talking. Who am I talking about? That would be Shawne Merriman. Gattuso is as good a defender and talks trash too, but not so much.

Kaka (midfielder) - The real 'best player in the world'. Superb, gifted, game changing midfielder. Kaka is absolutely streets ahead of Manchester United's Ronaldo in nearly every department of the game, and yet Ronaldo won Fifa's World's Best Player award for 2007. Utter rubbish. Kaka is the Steve Nash of 2007.

Clarence Seedorf (midfielder) - Clarence, meet Curt. Seedorf, like Curt Schilling, has a knack of being on winning teams. Both players have won multiple titles and both players appear to be blossoming with age.

Andrea Pirlo (midfielder) - Technically gifted, very talented and clinical. Yet, strangely subdued sometimes. It's Andrea Pirlo, or, is it Dirk Nowitzki? Either way, both have ferociously ugly sneers.

Massimo Ambrosini (midfielder) - Ball winning terrier in the Gattuso mould. Biting tackle, in there to unsettle opposition. Lets go with Ray Lewis, with the exception that Ambrosini, to my knowledge, hasn't been involved in any murders in the past decade.

Liverpool

Reina (goalkeeper) - Before 2007 no one really knew what this player was all about. A few vital saves and some dominant displays later and Reina is now ranked amongst the top players in the world. Kind of Kansas City's pitcher Gil Meche-ish. He actually really is that good.

Jamie Carragher (defender) - About as reliable as they get, local boy turned hero for his hometown team. The Liverpool fans love him and he gives them 100% back. The great former Red Sox outfielder, Tony C without the heartbreak ending.

Daniel Agger (defender) - Young, learning fast, talented and becoming vital to Liverpool's plans. Al Jefferson of the Boston Celtics or Daniel Agger, I can't tell the difference.

Steve Finnan (defender) - Matt Damon (see below, hilarious!)




Jermaine Pennant (midfielder) - Talented, young, skillful, hasn't really delivered the goods yet, but may do just that in 2007. Le Bron James, meet Jermaine Pennant.

Steve Gerard (midfielder) - If Kobe Bryant was a local boy, if he wasn't something of a clown and the most egotistical athlete this side of Mr April, Gerard and he would be the perfect match. Gerard means everything to Liverpool, as Kobe does to the Lakers. Without him, Liverpool are basically nothing.

Javier Mascherano (midfielder) - West Ham cast Mascherano aside thinking he was not going to help them, and suddenly he is a vital cog in Liverpool's Champions League plans. How's Trot Nixon doing for Cleveland right now? If you are a Red Sox fan, and are getting tired of watching JD Drew ground out to second three times a night, you don't want to know the answer to that question.

Peter Crouch (attacker) - Yao Ming. Not quite 7'6'' but the closest man to it tonight. Plays football about as gracefully as the visual equivalent of geriatric elephant trying to tiptoe through a china shop with five lions chasing him.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Three nights in the Bronx
Sox travel to New York with a double digit lead over the Yankees


This one goes out to an old friend of mine. In 2004, with the Sox hanging by a thread after having dropped the first three of the ALCS to the Yankees, I found myself in a TGI Fridays in Long Island. Don't ask. It's amazing, absolutely amazing, the places you end up thanks directly or slightly indirectly to Baseball Ireland. Karlovac, Vienna, Stockholm, Fenway Park, Regensberg, Atwerp, Rhode Island, the OC and TGI Fridays in Long Island.

So while watching the Sox get pummelled in game three on the big screens at the bar I was verbally assaulted by a group of Yankee fans, one in particular. He was a big, rotund individual with dark curly hair and those bulging, Reche Caldwell eyes allot of Americans get after three bottles of Coors Lite (sorry, but it's true!). At one stage, before he was thrown out, he leant in close, and after calling me a 'Mick Bastard' he roared 'The Sox are going to lose, the Sox always lose!'

Well, my inebriated friend from Long Island, the times, the times they are a changing. My God I would love to hear that fellas take on the state of affairs in the American League East right now. I would also have loved to have seen his face the night the Sox finally took that ALCS, but I would settle for his take on what's going on right now.

With the Red Sox in a double digit lead over the Yankees some people in baseball are actually calling the AL East race over and done, in May! Take John Smoltz of the Atlanta Braves.

"People say, 'Hey, there's a lot of baseball left," Smoltz said "But the Red Sox pretty much have cemented themselves in a position where I don't think they can be caught."

Certainly it will be difficult at least for the Yankees to catch Boston as things stand. Sorry Toronto fans, not happening in '07, some Deity or another is really peeved at you fellas, that injury list is debilitating. D-Rays and Orioles, thanks for playing, hope you had fun. So is it too early to say this is a pivotal series about to happen in the big apple?

The pitching matchups for the series at Yankee Stadium are:
  • Monday night: Wakefield vs. Chien-Ming Wang
  • Tuesday night: Tavarez vs. Mike Mussina
  • Wednesday: Schilling vs. Andy Pettitte
Do the Yankees have to take 2 of the 3 or risk having their season be declared over before May 24th? For the Red Sox, they can take things at their pace right now, with practically everything going there way. Even when tested (Beckett's injury and Drew impaling himself on the bullpen wall) the Sox keep coming out smelling of roses. David Ortiz, as he often does, summed it up perfectly;

"We don't need to worry about nobody right now. Everybody needs to worry about us."

Game. Over.

Meanwhile, in the Bronx, panic is beginning to set in.

It's not only sections of the New York media calling for manager Joe Torre's noggin, ESPN is currently running a long article saying it is time for the Yankees to sack Torre, basically saying the players aren't playing for him. Personally I think that would be a tremendous mistake. The Yankees would be nothing without Torre, Do you think Buck Showalter would have created the dynasty that Torre did?

Why should Torre pay for the personnel mistakes the Yankee front office have made, particularly in the last couple of years. If someone has to go, shouldn't it be Cashman?

Taking a step back, it is amazing that the pre-season bookies favourites are now talking about massive upheaval, staff sackings and general panic across the board.

The single biggest mistake looms large. It is not too much of a stretch to imagine that, when Roger 'I, me, myself' Clemens takes the mound against the Sox in just a few weeks time, his current employers could be, say, 15 games out of first place. Just imagine for a second the scene if Clemens gives up a few early runs and the penny suddenly drops for Yankee fans worldwide.

''Woah, woah, hang on a second here. We are paying this guy 28 million (pro-rated) for a half season, half-assed act where he doesn't travel on road trips and we are now looking at a 14 game gap between us and those Red Stockings? Really? We needed this that badly, why, exactly?''

That will be one big, rotund, Texan pill to swallow. And no, sorry, you can't just take back the offer. Contracts have been signed. Roger, meet the third place, 10.5 games back Yankees. You guys have fun and play nice.

By Wednesday the Red Sox could possibly hold a 13.5 game lead over the third place Yankees. The bookies didn't think that possible at the start of the season when they had the Yankees at a ridiculous 3/1 and favourites. The vast majority of baseball writers didn't see this coming, at the start of the season they were tripping over themselves to hand the AL East to the Yankees. Rick Sutcliffe said, while commentating on a Yankee game in early April, that all they had to do was avoid injury and the division was 'theirs to lose'. That ignorant, racist clown that had a pop at me in Long Island that night three years ago, I am pretty sure he didn't see this coming.

However, by Wednesday night, the AL East race could possibly be over. I wonder will Roger even be watching?
Weekend Irish League roundup
May 19th and 20th

A busy, exciting weekend in the Irish League with the Spartans taking on the Greystones Mariners and the Dublin Hurricanes taking on the Blacksox.

A level game
Dublin Hurricanes 6 Blacksox 13

With four games gone the Hurricanes have now managed to dig themselves a hole, one they can get out of but one they are going to have to work their socks off to do so. On the bright side, the Hurricanes are definitely a late-season team, often rounding into shape in June/July. Sunday, in part one of a two part 'A' and 'B' level split double header, the Hurricanes went back and forth with the Blacksox until the 5th inning when the Blacksox went ahead for good.

After a solid opening couple of innings, the game turned into yet another shaky start by starter Cormac Eklof. The Blacksox built up a 5-1 lead in the top of the fourth on the back of a few bloops combined with some good situational hitting however the Hurricanes fought back ferociously in the bottom of the frame to tie the score up at 5-5. With the bases loaded and two away Tom Kelley launched a stinging drive to left field that looked like trouble, however hung up just long enough for the left fielder to make the catch and end the inning. If that had found the fence, and it was only a few feet away, the game might have been completely different.

Instead Eklof committed the cardinal sin of allowing the Blacksox to take the momentum back in the top of the fifth allowing 3 runs to score putting the Hurricanes in a hole they could not drag themselves out of this time. Niall Rowen pitched the entire game for the Blacksox and finished very strong after that shaky fourth inning, shutting any further Hurricanes rallys down without further damage. The Blacksox also did what was needed in the infield with Russ Manning in particular playing a very solid game with the glove.

For the Hurricanes, Daisuke Inoue played well in the outfield and Rich Meade and Raphael Diaz had great at bats in the midst of the four run outburst in the fifth inning. The 'Canes now need to buckle down and ring up a string of victories to get their season back on track. Plus they need Chris Foy, Gordon Ireland and Garrett Pearse back to bring some of that good Mojo back to their game.

A level game
Greystones 4 Dublin Spartans 10

Match report by Darran O'Connor (Dublin Spartans)
''The Spartans returned to action this weekend after a break for the Corkagh Park Annual Youth Tournament and travelled to Shankill to face the Greystones' Mariners. This is the second meeting this season of these two clubs. In their previous encounter, the Spartans took the A game but failed in the B game. The Spartans were fired up for this rematch and showed it by scoring 10 runs off 17 hits. Defensively, the Spartans were not at full strength and the Mariners took advantage of this whenever they could. Fortunately, they left too many runners on base and amassed only 4 runs. The Spartans A stretch their unbeaten streak to 4.''

2007 Irish League 'A' Level standings correct to 21st May

Team
Played
Won
Lost
W/O
Points
A League
Black Sox
5
4
1
0
17
Spartans
4
4
0
0
16
Northstars
4
2
2
0
10
Mariners
5
2
3
0
11
Hurricanes
4
1
3
0
7
Twins
4
0
4
0
4

B level game
Dublin Hurricanes v Blacksox
Dublin Hurricanes 'B' 10 Blacksox 'B' 6

The Hurricanes 'B' got their season kick started with a good win over a Blacksox 'B' side littered with 'A' level players in the heart of its order. The Hurricanes countered this by sending Japanese rookie Daisuke Inoue to the mound. After a somewhat shaky start Daisuke shut the game down with a hard fastball and dazzling changeup. Even with so many 'A' level players in their lineup the Blacksox 'B' had no answer for the young stars power pitching as Daisuke notched up several strikeouts in a complete game victory.

Daisuke, Kaxuma Ogata and Shota Yoshida all had big hits for the Hurricanes and caused havoc on the basepaths. They stole so many bases that it eventually got into Irish League veteran Glen Poor's head. At one stage, with Daisuke on first base after a beautiful bunt single, Glen threw over to first base a mind boggling eight times in the course of one at bat.

So the Hurricanes 'B' kick start their 2007 season over the Blacksox with a 10-6 win paced by the excellent pitching of young Japanese star Daisuke Matsuzaka, I mean, Inoue!

'B' level game
Greystones B v Spartans B
Greystones 11 Spartans 6

Match report by Darran O'Connor (Dublin Spartans)
''In the B fixture, even with a number of A team players taking the field, the Spartans failed to mount a decent attack and scored 6 runs off just 2 hits. The Mariners once again took advantage of errors in the field and drove in 11. The Spartans can take some positives from the game, notably the performance of Irish National team veteran Noel Mitchell who pitched and entire game and a solid performance behind the dish by Canadian Kevin Sisel.''

Team
Played
Won
Lost
W/O
Points

B League
Mariners
4
4
0
0
16
Spartans
3
1
2
0
6
Hurricanes
3
1
2
0
6
Black Sox
2
0
2
0
2


Links:

If you would like to get involved with Baseball Ireland at any level, Adult or Youth, or would like to support the game in Ireland, please refer to this link.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Bill Simmons launches his first Putsch
Foreigners are ruining the NBA!

Is anyone else worried about the direction Sports Guy (Bill Simmons) seems to be taking lately with regards 'Foreign' players in the NBA or is it just me? I'll paraphrase this by saying I am a big fan of his work, and a long term reader. He's funny, generally pretty incisive and brings a nice human touch to the sometimes stale profession that is sports journalism.

I did, however, find his two most recent pieces on the NBA a little worrying. In both he made reference to the influx of 'foreign' players bringing 'flopping' (or diving) into the game.

''Ve have located ze source of ze issue vith the 'flopping' in the NBA, it vill come as zero surprise that it is ze dirty foreigners!''

He starts with the following in this piece;

''The single most disgusting NBA development of the past few years? The flopping. Slowly, regretfully, inexplicably, the sport is morphing into soccer -- as exemplified by Kirilenko's swan dive near the end of Tuesday's Jazz-Warriors game that fouled out Matt Barnes, or Kirk Hinrich's perfectly designed flopparoo to draw Chauncey Billups' fourth foul in Detroit Tuesday. I blame the influx of European players for this trend because flopping has always been an acceptable part of soccer; they grew up watching that crap and understood that it could work in basketball as well''

So let me get this straight, there was no flopping/diving in the NBA until the foreigners arrived? Well, that's pretty ridiculous. I have been an NBA fan since the early eighties and have seen plenty of red blooded, 100% American players take a dive when the situation to take advantage of the rules arose.

Simmons seems to have a vague interest in Soccer but more often than not gets his facts horribly wrong when it comes to the Worlds most popular game (bar none, fact). Flopping has not always been acceptable, it is a relatively new phenomenon that is now a real problem in the game. To say it has always been a part of the game simply shows that you are new to the game and don't really know anything at all about it. If you had met the great Johnny Giles in a bar and told him 'flopping' was an accepted part of soccer, well, let's just say the best you could have hoped for would be a strict verbal rebuke. If you were to have said the same to Vinnie Jones, he would have kicked you into next week.

There is no denying though that 'flopping' has definitely become a problem, and something that fans are getting more and more fed up with. Much like the NBA, until FIFA decide to act, players will continue to use this ugly tactic to gain an advantage during a game. The worst floppers? Dider Drogba, Ballack and Robben of Chelsea, Christiano Ronaldo of Manchester United and the entire German national team. The Brazilians are pretty bad too, come to think of it. Ronaldinho, while supremely talented, is a serious proponent of the flop. The dive. Whatever you want to call it.

It is, however, a relatively new phenomenon, and something that players simply did not get away with less than ten years ago. It would have been far less lazy of Simmons to investigate the actual, real reasons that today's highly paid, heavily pampered NBA players have taken to flopping, instead of resorting to the old Wiemar Republic argument, picking out a minority group and blaming them for any problems or issues arising at the time.

In his other most recent piece, Simmons takes another clumsy swing at 'Foreign' players.

''Have you ever seen more players utterly convinced that they've never committed a foul in their lives than the guys from this Spurs-Suns series? What an annoying bunch of whiners; it's like watching the 2006 World Cup with more whistles. If that's what we get for having "the most international NBA playoff series of all time," then screw it -- let's make rules that no team can have more than three foreign players so we don't have to watch these guys bitch and moan for two straight hours.''

So in the first section Sports Guy was shooting at European players and in this he expanded his target area to 'all foreigners'. This is dangerous stuff. First and foremost, it is entirely without basis. Once again Simmons takes a swipe at Soccer ('' it's like watching the 2006 World Cup with more whistles'') and ends up just looking bitter and foolish. If you don't fully understand something, leave it alone.

Take cricket. I don't get it fully, I understand some of the basics, however I have no clue what's going on most of the time. So what's the point in me making fun of a game that looks silly to me, just because I don't understand it? It's that old chestnut, many Americans simply don't understand that there are exciting 0-0 draws in soccer, and some of the best games end 1-0. Like all sports, there is a flow to the game, it has something special other than the rules and statistics that brings entire nations to a stand still when their country is playing a big game. To knock it as Simmons is there is just drawing attention to his own ignorance of the sport.

It gets worse though.

''let's make rules that no team can have more than three foreign players so we don't have to watch these guys bitch and moan for two straight hours.''

So the entire Suns and Spurs rosters are made up of these nasty, flopping foreigners? Really? It actually isn't even funny, it's dangerous. Blaming anyone who doesn't come from LA or Nebraska, blaming foreigners for the problems inherent to the NBA is lazy, ignorant and irresponsible. To pick on a minority group is pretty unclassy for a guy who generally rises above the label of 'shock jock'.

I would ask Sports Guy, why is it wrong for Imus to label the Rutgers women's basketball team 'Nappy headed hos' when it's okay for him to make a pretty shoddy, sweeping generalisation and blame all foreign players for what's wrong with the NBA today? Does he honestly not see the correlation?

Personally, I am really hoping that Simmons, constrained for time, simply mailed this one in, and doesn't actually believe that it is the dirty, smelly foreigners that are ruining his beloved game of basketball. The alternative is really too scary to consider, when you take into account Sports Guys enormous group of loyal readers.

If he really does believe that it's 'those foreigners' that are to blame for flopping in the NBA, well, how long before he grows a little moustache and starts gesticulating wildly while speaking?
Jason Giambi - ''I'm sorry'' (again)
Yankee first baseman blames MLB for steroids problem

Let's just call him Jason 'Im sorry' Giambi from here on in.

So Jason Giambi is sorry, again. ESPN is reporting that the Yankee slugger has come out with some rather risible comments on steroid use in the majors.

I have asked before and I will ask again. Why does Jason Giambi get a (relatively) free pass on the steroids issue when there is so much hatred and vitriol leveled in Barry Bonds direction (plenty of it coming from me!) on the exact same issue? If anything, Bonds has never ever apologised and thus admitted steroids abuse, whereas Giambi made a clumsy, ugly attempt to do so. Later, In front of a grand jury, Giambi explained where he went to get steroids initially, then how he became involved with BALCO. He gave dates, names of drugs, sources, the whole deal.

So why does he get a completely free pass from press and fans alike? I don't get that one. And now Giambi is at it again, saying sorry;

"I was wrong for doing that stuff,"

No way, really? Drugs are bad? Sadly it's one of those 'apologies' where the individual is only saying sorry so he can apportion some of the blame elsewhere. In this case Major League Baseball. Shouldn't he be calling out the players association too, for basically protecting the players that were and probably still are doing steroids? Giambi also comes out with this hilarious little aside.

"That stuff didn't help me hit home runs. I don't care what people say, nothing is going to give you that gift of hitting a baseball." from ESPN

Fair enough, I guess he took them to help with that pretty complexion of his.

Jason Giambi: America's next top model

ESPN finishes with this line;
''MLB does not test for HGH, but Giambi said he does not use the drug.''

Oh well then, case closed, clearly! If he says he doesn't, has to be true! I mean come on, the guy is clearly nothing but a class act.

It's okay folks, he's writing 'I'm sorry' on this young lady's chest

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Rain, rain go away...


So it's not just Dublin weather that hinders the game of baseball..

..It's Boston weather too...

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Sports Karma's gonna getcha
Overexposure leads to loss?

Something I find myself frequently thinking about, musing about, tossing around in my head enough to drive me mad, is Sports Karma. Call me Gary Busey but I honestly believe there is such a thing. Take last night's Red Sox game for example.

Gary Busey - a man with some interesting theories of his own who would be really into talking for nine hours with you about Sports Karma

One of the rules of Sports Karma is that over exposure of an individual prior to a sporting event leads to that individual, who has probably been on a pretty nice tear up to that point, under preforms in said event.

I first spotted this 'trend' at a young age sitting at the breakfast table reading my Dad's newspapers. Flicking through the sports section I would glance over an article on some soccer player who was playing well at the time and who had a big game that afternoon. Invariably, that player would be completely invisible for the duration of the game, or worse yet, stink up the joint. Later on in life, as age crept in and I started to see things more clearly, I realised this was down to Sports Karma.

Wakefield - The Sports Karma Gods, angered by the proliferation of articles on him on the day, decided Tuesday night wasn't going to be Timmy's night

Well sure enough, there was simply way too many articles about Tim Wakefield doing the rounds yesterday before his big start against El Tigrés. The poor fella didn't stand a snowballs chance in hell of beating the Tigers with the weight of Sports Karma on his back. Pretty much every single baseball related web entity had an article on how Timmy is pitching like he did in his amazing 1995 season. ESPN, the Boston Globe, the Herald (which, lately, print pretty much the same thing every day anyway) and even Fox Sports had pieces on how the knuckleball is fluttering pretty well these days. Timmy had less of a chance than Imus at the Women's NCAA final four.

Athletes who draw attention to themselves, or have attention forced on them, prior to a sporting event, generally fail to live up to expectations in said sporting event. That, kind reader, is going to go down as Sports Karma rule number one.


The rules of Sports Karma;

1. Athletes who draw attention to themselves, or have attention forced on them, prior to a sporting event, generally fail to live up to expectations in said sporting event.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Lowell and behold..
Red Sox Nation likes Mike


Just a short addition to yesterdays post on Mike Lowell. It would appear the vast majority of those answering a Boston Globe poll believe the Sox should sign Mike Lowell to a one year extension, rather than dabbling in any ridiculous trade talks for the likes of Todd Helton.

The poll so far;
Your turn
Do you see Mike Lowell in a Red Sox uniform next season?

Absolutely ... he's a great team player and is a key cog in this lineup as well.
88.0%
No thanks ... he's getting older, and I'd rather see the Sox go hard after A-Rod (who will likely be a free agent) in the offseason.
12.0%
Total votes: 3259

That's not finished yet but the size of the majority is telling. Naturally, maybe that's Mike Lowell's agent, or Mike himself, tapping away clicking 'Yes' over and over on his computer, but it sure does look like Red Sox Nation has the same admiration for the classy Mike Lowell as I do.

The guy makes third base look so easy and he can rake too, as he is showing right now in this hot streak he has going.

Monday, May 14, 2007

To Todd or not to Todd

Reading my favourite Globe journalist Eric Wilbur today I was a bit taken aback when I came across the following in his piece on how maybe it's time to start the Helton trade talks again;

''There’s not a whole lot of chance the Red Sox will look into re-signing Mike Lowell''

Maybe Eric knows something I don't, but, why? Lowell has been absolutely on fire. He has played his usual excellent third base and has been simply fantastic with the bat for the 2007 Red Sox. Lowell sat out last night but had driven in 20 runs in 23 games in April and smacked home runs in three consecutive games against Toronto last week which were all hammer blows against the reeling Jays. Furthermore, Lowell actually leads the Red Sox in batting with runners in scoring position with a whipping .400 average.


Mike Lowell - Red Sox third baseman

His heroics with, in particular, the bat, has been noted in the Sox clubhouse. Uber-Utility player Alex Cora had this to say about the veteran third baseman; "He's very important for us. We know they're going to pitch around some guys at the top of the lineup, and what he's doing right now is balancing everything out.''

Stepping back, Wilbur seems to be struggling mightily internally with the Helton question. In April he said;

''Helton just isn't the powerful force that he once was anymore, for whatever reason. He's still a nice hitter, but not one worth $90 million''

And yet now, with first base and third base actually providing a huge proportion of the Sox '07 offence, Wilbur is talking about revisiting those Helton trade talks? Perhaps it's a slow day in the office or perhaps Wilbur, of Polish heritage, had a few too many Żywiec's last night? At the end of the day, why wouldn't the Sox sign Lowell to a one or two year extension and take their time in selecting a younger, cheaper option for the future at third base?
Barry Bonds, cheat.

Okay so Mr Curt Schilling doesn't get to say this, however I do. Barry Bonds is a cheat. He has admitted, in the past, to using performance enhancing substances, and is a cheat. There is no grey area. This man has appeared in documentation of a legal nature linked to the BALCO scandal. There is no two sides to this story, the man cheated, got away with it, and is now on the verge of history.

Look at that noggin' grow!

Curt Schilling essentially did what most other players are afraid to do, and that is speak openly about another current player. Obviously he then realised he was going 'outside the box' and apologised. Schilling originally, however, said exactly what was on allot of peoples minds.

The Emperor has no clothes folks, Barry Bonds is a cheat. In a perfect world every single pitcher he faces in the next few weeks will just plunk him, hit him right in his fat, steroid ridden backside and put him on base so he doesn't get to swing the bat. The man failed an amphetamines test in 2006! Most of us fail that, we lose our jobs or go to jail. Barry Bonds does it, and ESPN gives him his own reality show.

The massive irony here is that right now it appears Bonds is on a pace to hit the historic home run when the Giants travel to Fenway park later this month. How juicy is that? Imagine Bonds being one home run away from tying or going ahead of Hank Arron and Schilling being on the mound?

There is another added element to Bonds coming to Boston which should have the natives in their best form vocally on the nights he patrols right field. The Bleacher Creatures should have a good time with chants of 'HGH! HGH!' and the Giambi call, 'Steeeeeeeeeeroids....steeeeeroids'. Personally I like the old 'Baaaaaaaaaary...Baaaaaaaaaaaaaary.' It's both annoying and derisive. Anyway, the added element is that not long ago Bonds ripped into Boston as being a 'racist' city. Classy stuff from the Steroid built monster known as Bonds. Generalising an entire City as being racist. In 2004 he said he would not come to Boston, ever, to play. Why? "Boston is too racist for me,'' he said. "I couldn't play there.''. How did Barry arrive at that decision? From research, or first hand experience? "Only (from) what guys have said" he announced, arrogantly.

Imagine Curt Schilling made such a racially charged statement? At the time, when told of Bond's remarks, the great Pedro Martinez laughed and said he had thoroughly enjoyed his seven seasons (to that point) in Boston and had found nothing of the sort that Barry was suggesting.

On top of all that, he's a liar! On February 19, 2006, Bonds announced in an interview with USA Today that he planned on retiring at the conclusion of the 2006 season, with or without the all-time home run record. "I've never cared about records anyway", he said, "so what difference does it make?''

On top of all that, he's just a jerk. Curt Schilling isn't allowed say it but I am. He's a jerk. Bonds withdrew from the MLB Players Association's (MLBPA) licensing agreement because he felt independent marketing deals would be more lucrative for him. That's why Barry Bonds is replaced by "Jon Dowd" in MVP Baseball 2005, "Wes Mailman" in All-Star Baseball 2005, "Joe Young" in MLB 2K7,and "Reggie Stocker" in MLB. He's the only player in the entire Majors to act in this manner.

The man was voted off his own college team because his own teammates couldn't stand him. During his three years at Arizona State University Bonds was voted off the team by a 22-2 margin by teammates. The vote came after head coach Jim Brock had suspended Bonds for violating multiple team rules. ASU coach Jim Brock initiated the vote in the expectation that the team would vote to keep Bonds; when they did not, he overruled them. He's a jerk now, he was, apparently, a jerk then.

Whenever he opens his fat mouth what follows is invariably offensive;

"I ain't never played baseball for fame. I just play to play. I ain't never liked fame. I don't need that [expletive]. I don't need fame.'

That of course, Barry, is why you were the subject of that ridiculous, pathetic ESPN 'documentary/reality show' based on your life last summer, right? Because you shun the limelight to such a great extent?

I hope the Fenway crowd doesn't hold back when Bonds comes to the plate. He brought this all on himself, he deserves every single 'boo' and derogatory comment that is thrown his way. What worries me is what might happen in the media if Fenway does, as I hope, go nuts. Assuming that happens, how long before some idiot writes an article about Boston being a racist city?

If some clown does resort to that, at least they will look completely stupid. Boston, and many other major US cities, certainly have the painful and difficult transition from the 50's and 60's to get through, however it has been home to a racially diverse group of professional athletes for a long time now.

Times change, and if anyone decides to take the easy way out, and call Boston a racist City in the next few weeks while the Fenway crowd unloads verbally on Bonds, well they are simply pandering to a disgusting, egotistical, introverted and vile cheat, who doesn't deserve to wear Henry Aaron's jockstrap let alone break his home run record.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Alas, poor Mariano, I knew him well
Is the Yankee closer done?
Rivera coming into the game: Simply not that scary a sight anymore

Generally, I am absolutely loathe to make snap judgements about a player after a short portion of the season has elapsed. It annoys me how people are already putting Matsuzaka, Lugo and Drew down as expensive semi-busts, for example. I hate reactionary opinions where someone says 'Oh God, that's four bad at bats in a row, he's done!! Let's get a new right fielder!!' Or shortstop, or second baseman, or whatever.

There's nothing worse than that 'mob mentality' that takes over when someone hits a mini slump. The Simpsons captures this 'unruly mob', panic mentality perfectly at least once an episode. Lenny, Karl, Moe or someone shouts 'Get 'em!' and the mob descends on the unfortunate victim.
'They aint gonna win the freakin World Series! Get 'em!'
If these guys ran the Red Sox, we'd be in serious trouble


Having said that, I have to ask, is the great Mariano Rivera done? To me, watching him pitch, he just doesn't look the same. Does he? There is no doubt about it, Mariano Rivera is one of the greatest pitchers that ever threw off a Major League mound, and he is a sure fire lock for the hall of fame. It's just, something seems wrong with him in 2007.

It's not like this is a 'one bad night' thing. As a Red Sox fan, even in 2004 and parts of 2005, Mariano scared the bejeezus out of me. When he came in the came it was generally a done deal. However, in 2007, that simply isn't the case. I have caught plenty of Mariano live this season. Marco Scuttaro got the ball rolling with a walk off home run against him early on in the season. Then the Sox spanked him around a couple of times. On April 28th, after watching the Sox thoroughly embarrass the Yanks, I asked;

''First of all, who was that fella your guys brought in to pitch the ninth? I couldn't tell, his number was hidden by the enormous fork sticking out of his back. Seriously though, what's it like watching your hall of fame closer being taken out in the 9th after basically throwing a can of gasoline on the fire? Very strange moment, I thought anyway. I respect Mariano, great pitcher and he has put up some unbelievable statistics. However, watching Joe Torre pat him on the back wistfully as he took him out, you have to wonder, is he done? Cooked? Finito?''

Rivera relived of duty in another blown save situation

Since then he has done nothing to alleviate Yankee fans fears that their great closer might no longer be able to dominate the ninth inning as he was able to previously.

One might have thought this would be a dominant season from the great closer. It is his last year of his current contract, and Mariano was very disappointed the Yankees chose not to extend the contract in the off season. He went as far as not ruling out a move to Boston in free agency, if only to light a fire under Yankee GM Cashman's posterior. Instead, problems, problems and more problems.

Up to Monday night Mariano was 1-3 on the season with 3 saves and his ERA stood at 8.44. Last night he came into the game with against Texas with the Yankees holding a comfortable four run lead. Mariano got out of the inning, however he allowed a ripped, line drive single to start the inning to Sosa. That just isn't the way the old Mariano would have started the inning. He would have come out and dominated and the other team would go down 1-2-3. On top of that, Torre was clearly bringing Mariano into a game with a four run lead to help bolster his wavering confidence. The Red Sox and Tito won't be bringing Papelbon into any four run games any time soon.

Monday night, against Seattle, was an even more glaring example of how Mariano seems to be in trouble in '07. In the ninth Mo entered a tied game and he blew away Richie Sexson on three pitches for the first out. Jose Guillen then bounced one to Jeter for out number two. The Yankee fans clamoured for that final out. A couple of years ago, it would have been a sure thing. Instead, on the first pitch to Adrian Beltre, a Rivera fastball was too far over the plate and Beltre hammered it over the fence in left center to give the Mariners the lead at 3-2.

How are Yankee fans taking this? How about this description from a Mariano Rivera related blog;

''On Friday night with the Yankees losing 7-4, Rivera entered to get work and he started off okay by catching J.D. Drew looking for the first out. After that, it was a disaster! Mike Lowell lined a single to right, Jason Varitek followed with a hard smash up the middle and Coco Crisp singled to make it 8-4. Dustin Pedroia was then walked and after 21 pitches the unthinkable happened and Mo was pulled from the game.''

The unthinkable has become the very-possible in '07. Finally, how is the former great closer taking this himself?

'Hello, Jesus, this is Mariano...'

"I feel I'm being tested right now, my character, my faith, how I conduct myself. It's different. But I love it. If God allows this test to be on me, hey, I'm willing to carry it. We are just starting; we'll see where we finish.''

It's always fun when a professional athlete starts into a religion-heavy monologue when discussing their sporting careers. Mariano might want to check how that worked out for Kurt Warner before his next interview.

One thing is for sure. Mariano may come back and prove he still has his fighters heart, but it is pretty clear the slow, downward slide has begun. What remains to be seen is if he can arrest the slip long enough to give the Yankees one more dominating season.

Or, as recent evidence has shown, is the Yankee closer simply done?







Irish National baseball team

Irish National baseball team
Team Ireland at the European Championships, Croatia, 2000.

A nice little mention for this blog on Fox Sports

A nice little mention for this blog on Fox Sports

copyright

WHAT THIS MEANS: It means you can quote me or reproduce parts of my postsbut YOU MUST ATTRIBUTE THE SOURCE. Do NOT reproduce any of my posts as a whole. Do NOT reproduce any of my content for commercial gain. ESPECIALLY DO NOT PASS MY WORK OFF AS YOUR OWN. ALL CONTENT UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED IS SOLE PROPERTY OF THE SITE AUTHOR AND PROTECTED UNDER COPYRIGHT.