Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Red Sox 25 Man Active Opening Day Roster set

The Boston red Sox 25 Man Active Opening Day Roster set (barring a last-minute trade)
Chris Carter has beaten out Jeff Bailey for a roster spot.

25 Man Active Roster
-STARTING LINEUP-
(L) Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
(L) David Ortiz, DH
Kevin Youkilis, 1B
(L) J.D. Drew, RF
Jason Bay, LF
Mike Lowell, 3B
(S) Jed Lowrie, SS
(S) Jason Varitek, C

-BENCH-
Rocco Baldelli, OF
Nick Green, IF-OF
(L) George Kottaras, C
(L) Chris Carter, IF-OF

-STARTING ROTATION-
Josh Beckett
(L) Jon Lester
Daisuke Matsuzaka
Tim Wakefield
Brad Penny

-BULLPEN-
Jonathan Papelbon (closer)
Takashi Saito
Hideki Okajima
Justin Masterson
Manny Delcarmen
Ramon Ramirez
(L) Javier Lopez

-DISABLED LIST-
Julio Lugo, SS
John Smoltz, P
(L) Mark Kotsay, OF

Monday, March 30, 2009

This Red Sox Lineup was brought to you by the letter 'J'.

This is a level above surreal. Super Surreal.

Consider, if you will, the Boston Red Sox. The Major League Baseball team. Consider the players on their roster. Check out the number of players on the squad who's name starts with the letter 'J'.

  • Jason Varitek
  • Jed Lowrie
  • Julio Lugo
  • Jason Bay
  • JD Drew
  • Jacoby Ellsbury
  • Justin Masterson
  • Jon Papelbon
  • Jon Lester
  • Javier Lopez
  • Josh Beckett
  • John Smoltz

Eh, what's going on here? That's simply insane, no? There has to be some odd sporting karma in effect here. Is Theo assembling a roster stocked entirely with players who's names begin with the letter 'J'?

What's with all the 'J's at Fenway Park, eh?


Just another 'J'

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Ireland's most important athlete. Ever.

For such a relatively small country, Ireland has been blessed with an inordinate number of great, inspiring and winning athletes. From the brilliant Sonya O'Sullivan, to the regal (as a player anyway) Roy Keane to the superb Eamon Coghlan. Irish athletes have managed to make an impact on world sports far greater, far out of proportion to the size of their native land.

For all the brilliant athletes Ireland has produced, none has had a greater impact over such a sustained period of time than a man who has become the most important Irish athlete ever, Ronan O'Gara.


Quantifying a statement such as that is easiest when you just slam hard, cold facts down peoples throats.

Check out Ronan O'Gara's incredible resumé.
  • O'Gara is the only player to score over 1,000 points in the Heineken Cup
  • O'Gara is Munster's highest points scorer ever with over 1,750 points
  • Two time Heineken Cup winner with Munster ('06 and '08)
  • Ireland's highest points scorer ever
  • The Six Nations highest points scorer ever
  • Fifth highest points scorer ever in International rugby
  • Two times Irish representative on the prestigious Lions touring squad ('01 and '06)
  • And now, Grand Slam winner with Ireland ('09)


O'Gara has not only made his mark at every level he has played at, in every tournament he has participated in, he has dominated the scoring charts in all of them. He is not only mentioned in the same breath as Rugby legends like Dan Carter and Michael Lynagh, he has scored more points than them! There is a realistic chance that if O'Gara manages to stay fit for a few more seasons, and maintains his high level of scoring and clutch ability, he could conceivably become the highest points scorer in International rugby, ever.

The man is, simply put, a winner. Naturally, Ronan is surrounded by a talented support case for both Munster and Ireland, however what sets him apart is that he it the clutch performer that has pushed both teams to success at every level.


O'Gara has taken a difficult skill, goal kicking in rugby, and made it look relatively easy. It is a shock when he doesn't make a kick. The clutch element of so many of those kicks are what makes his achievements stand out all the more.

A last minute drop goal to beat Argentina in 2004. The 2003 last minute conversion against Gloucester, in a game known as 'the Miracle Match'. The last minute penalty from inside his own half against Leicester in 2006. O'Gara is never shaken by the moment. As Ireland drove forward against Wales with only three minutes left in last Saturday's Grand Slam decider, it was almost inevitable it would come down to O'Gara having to take a shot at goal for the winner. And he did. And, he did. His drop goal sent all of Ireland into party mode. The funny thing is, from the moment it left his boot, there was never any doubt.

O'Gara quite literally took an entire nations hopes on his shoulders and kicked Ireland to the 2009 Grand Slam.

The most important athlete in Irish sporting history. The great part is, hopefully starting with this years Heineken Cup, there's so much more to come.


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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

2009 AL East naked prediction

Trying to select the winner of the AL East without the help of statistics, magic potions or drugs.

In European football competitions, when the draw is made for the groups for same, there is invariably a group that's much harder in terms of standard than the others. This often gets dubbed 'the group of death'. Welcome to the 2009 AL East, MLB's own 'group of death'.

With the exception of the pathetic Orioles, the AL East boasts four of the top tier of Major League Baseball clubs. Any of these teams would waltz through the Al Central or give LA a real pennant chase in the West.

Instead they have to battle it out together for the East.

Poor, sorry, sad Baltimore. They have to play Tampa, Boston, NY and Toronto 19 times each! Goodness. Could we be looking at a 100 loss season for the Orioles? It isn't beyond belief. Meanwhile, of the big four, Toronto are a decent side however they are probably not equipped to take on the big three for the entire season. They might play the role of very dangerous spoiler as September approaches.

What to make of those Yankees? Initial indications are not good, if you are a fan of the Bronx Bombers. Sabathia is out of shape (even for him) and getting shelled and A-Fraud is hurt. Whatever about those obvious signs of distress, what is more intriguing is how this club will hold up over the long course of the summer. When exactly will AJ Burnett's arm fall off? How will the A-Fraud steroids scandal affect the clubhouse atmosphere? What happens when one or two players go down and the Yankees have to turn to their almost barren farm system? What about Giradi? He has not proved as yet he can handle managing a club in the pressure cooker that is the New York media circus.

Tampa? Two words. Sophomore slump. Opposition coaches will not be caught be surprise in 2009. Scouting reports will be adjusted, preparations will be more detailed, and baseball will be ready for the 2009 Devil Rays. The Sophomore Slump is not just an idle threat, it actually happens, frequently too, and the Rays are headed for one in 2009. Nothing too dramatic. Just a second place finish to the most well rounded, deepest and overall most talented squad in the AL East, the Boston Red Sox.

Starting pitching? Superb, with Brad Penny and, more importantly, John Smoltz waiting in the wings. Not to mention Clay Bulletholes. Relief? This could be the strongest, deepest bullpen in Theo Epstein's rein. A healthy Saito backing up Papelbon, Okajimi, Delcarmen and Masterson? Lineup? Ellsbury, Pedroia and Youkilis are now the backbone of this team, three gifted young players who are set to tear it up in '09, ably assisted by the more veteran likes of Ortiz, Drew, Lowell and others.

Dustin Pedroia's offseason workout regime raised a few eyebrows...

No doubt it will be a tough, tight season in this 'group of death', however the Red Sox have all the answers to all the toughest questions, pitching in spades and depth at all levels of the farm in case of emergency (wait until you see Daniel Bard pitch in September, wow).

Observe closely, Yankee fans, this is what's called a 'pitching prospect', your farm doesn't have any but this is what one looks like - Daniel Bard

Predicted finish;
  1. Boston
  2. Tampa
  3. New York
  4. Toronto
  5. Baltimore

Monday, March 23, 2009

2009 AL Central naked prediction

Trying to select the winner of the AL Central without the help of statistics, magic potions or drugs.

The AL Central is a mess. How can you pick Chicago for 2009 when their top sluggers are inching closer and close to retirement, their pitching is in flux and one of the few things going for them in terms of 'upside' is that the new President is their biggest fan.

Kansas are suddenly an interesting prospect, a very young side with buckets of potential talent, decent starting pitching (Greinke is going to be a stud in '09), talented relief, and some good young bats in the lineup. Kansas came on pretty strong at the tail end of 2008 and close followers of the game won't be too shocked to see them start to put it together in '09.

With 350lb CC Sabathis now boosting the revenue of burger joints across Manhattan, Cleveland will have to rely heavily on Carmona and Lee, Carmona had a poor '08 and Lee is getting absolutely shelled in spring training. Unless Travis Hafner finds a way to reverse his alarming slide into anonymity, their lineup could once again lack punch.

Detroit? The Tigers lost 88 games last season, and appear to be a team on a continued downward spiral, barring a major and sudden infusion of talent. Brandon Inge catching? Nice idea, but something of a downgrade from the incumbent.

The answer to the puzzle that is the AL Central just might be the Twins. Liriano was starting to look electric again as '08 came to a close, and the Twins lineup, Morneau and co, are possibly the most solid lineup in the Central. Bullpen? Joe Nathan. Game over. Twins to take the Central, possibly without much opposition.

Relax - Joe Nathan's got it covered

Predicted finish:
  1. Minnesota
  2. Kansas
  3. Chicago
  4. Cleveland
  5. Detroit
  • Naked prediction one: The AL West
  • Naked prediction two: The AL Central

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Playing for your country. Risk and reward.

It all became clear to me this weekend. A few things happened that put everything into perspective.

The last few weeks something was nagging at me, and this weekend it became crystal clear to me. A few of the sports I love, baseball, football and, to a lesser extent, basketball, are infested, diseased and quite possibly destined to collapse under the weight of their own all-pervasive greed.

It all came to light from the boot of a 30 year old Irish man born in California.


On Saturday Ireland beat Wales in a nail baiting, dramatic and tension filled encounter that will go down as one of the greatest Rugby games ever played. Ronan O'Gara, Ireland's Californian born out-half supremo kicked the winning points with only minutes left. Ireland's win brought its first Six Nations Grand Slam (winning all five games) in 61 years. The game quite literally brought the entire nations of Ireland and Wales to a standstill, along with hundreds of millions of rugby fans in France, England, Italy, Scotland, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa amongst others.

Today, Sunday, Ireland is enveloped in a feel-good factor the nation hasn't felt for ages, in these times of recession and credit crunch. The Welsh, to their immense credit, have tipped their caps and offered nothing but congratulations. The other big rugby nations all reported on the big game heavily, and rugby playing nations around the world were united by a single great event.

Meanwhile. Several times this weekend, while checking out the usual sporting news websites for baseball news, the headlines spluttered out the usual American sports media negativity about the World Baseball Classic. ''There is just no good time to play the WBC!' or 'WBC causes so and so's injury.' Whatever. Whichever way the US sports media wants to dress it up, players not playing for their country in the WBC is straight up pathetic.

If your country comes calling, you should be on that field of play wearing that jersey unless you have a limb actually hanging off your body. Any other excuse? Players hiding behind the US sporting media's indifference to international competition.

Risk. Reward.

One online media outlet ran a report on Kevin Youkilis 'defending' the WBC, Youk saying he recommended the experience to his peers. The Red Sox first baseman should not have to recommend the experience to the American players who turned their country down when it came calling!! Those players should be fighting, crawling over each other for the privilege of wearing the jersey.

So, while ESPN tried to absolutely ram half filled basketball stadiums hosting 100-50 boring blowouts down my throat all weekend long, I took a break from gambling, Greg Gumble and shoddy 30 second 'reports' on sports. By doing so I slowed things down and focused on the big Six Nations decider. The reward? An incredible feeling of pride and passion, that has lasted all weekend long, brought on by the Irish team delivering the Grand Slam on Saturday evening.

Everyone bought in on it. The team, the players, the sports media and the nation itself. The reward? A huge buzz that you just don't get from anything else. It all starts with the players, they sacrifice their bodies and lucrative club careers for the good of the country who's jersey they are wearing.

On the other side of the Atlantic Ocean you have players who should be playing for their countries hiding behind the US sporting media and US nations general indifference to international sporting events.

Bob Ryan, the Globe journalist, said it best recently when he wrote that the USA was becoming increasingly and worrying insular. Does anyone care? Maybe not. For me, as a fan of sports on both sides of the Atlantic, it is sad though. It's sad that the USA misses out entirely on the feel good factor that countries like Ireland got to experience this weekend. And why? All because of greed, good old fashioned greed, players afraid to jeopardize their lucrative club contracts playing for their countries, all hidden behind a shield of US media insularity and indifference.

Put the fucking jersey on, and be thankful, be thankful for the privilege of wearing it. End of story.




Playing us out tonight, the brilliant Damien Dempsey with the best song ever written about Dublin, 'Spraypaint backalley'




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Thursday, March 19, 2009

2009 AL West naked prediction

Trying to select the winner of the AL West without the help of statistics, magic potions or drugs.


Has the AL West quietly become one of the easiest divisions in Major League Baseball? Outside of the Angels, what's to fear?

The Angels can pretty much start preparing for the 2009 playoffs round about, well, now. Losing Texiera was a blow, however it will have more of an effect in the inevitable playoffs than in the regular season. The Angels get to play pretty horrible baseball teams all summer long. Think about it, they have 19 games each against an anemic Oakland, a pitching challenged Texas and a brutal Seattle club.

That's 57 games against teams that will struggle to break .500 in 2009.

It will be disappointing to the Angels and their fans if they don't go at least 37-20 over that stretch, boosting their overall season record dramatically.

Not long before the Angels will be repeating scenes like these..

The AL West in 2009, it won't be a race as much as a precession. The Angels should be expected to wrap things up by late July. Oakland, who are quasi aggressively re-tooling with spare and used parts, should be slightly superior to pitching challenged Texas in the 'race' for the runners up spot, while Seattle's 2009 is basically a prolonged farewell to Ken Griffey Jnr.

Predicted finish:
  1. Angels (by a country mile)
  2. Oakland
  3. Texas
  4. Seattle



Somewhat related music;
LA - Elliot Smith

Monday, March 16, 2009

Thank you.

This weekend we went over the 50,000 mark on 'Boston Irish'. That's 50,000 unique users, or 50,000 unique IP addresses anyway. Personally that's extremely humbling, that so many people have stopped by and had a read.

Thanks to everyone for passing through, and hopefully, occasionally, it has been worthwhile!



CoRmAc

Friday, March 13, 2009

Links, Links to makes you blinks

Word on the street is it is Friday, can't confirm or deny this, but, sounds like good news!
Some links to send you cruising into the weekend..



Personally I think Papelbon is a breath of fresh air, why? Because he is a Red Stocking? No, not at all, because he is honest to a fault, where else do you get such un-vetted comments from a professional athlete? Normally they speak in cliché and double speak, not Paps, he simply blurts out whatever is on his mind. His comments on the Manny situation give a rare and clear insight into life in a MLB club house. Think it sounds like they miss Manny at all in Boston? No way, no how, no chance. His pathetic, greedy circus act is missed as much as a hole in the head.

Final day of the Cheltenham horse racing festival today. Here is an excellent preview of the big race, the Gold Cup, that my 'savant' like brother wrote, and if you need somewhere to follow the results moments after the race finish, you can do not better than sportinglife.com and its racing section, click on 'fast results' just after a race and you get everything you need. The preview;

3.20 The Gold Cup
The big race of the festival. A pity the Irish have no runner but it still promises to be a great race. I strongly fancy Exotic Dancer to run a big race. I know Kauto Star has beaten him several times but he looked better than ever in the Lexus at Leopardstown at Christmas. He jumped superbly there and I think he would have beaten Neptune Collonges even if he hadn’t fallen. He would have had a big chance in the Irish Hennessy but connections bypassed that race to wait for this. Sensible decisions like that often pay off in racing and I think Exotic Dancer is a cracking each way bet! Barbers Shop is the young, improving horse and I could see him winning, mostly because similar types have won several times before. He comes here with a similar profile to recent winners Best Mate (for the 1st of his 3 wins), Kicking King and War Of Attrition. He was given as the value bet at a few of the preview nights. Paul Nicholls obviously has a very strong hand with last year’s 1, 2, 3 Denman, Kauto Star and Neptune Collonges. Kauto Star, the winner 2 years ago and 2nd last year, has been deliberately raced less often this year to keep him fresh, he raced much more last year and ran very flat in the Gold Cup and then got beaten at Aintree. He should go there in great form this year and has a solid chance but he doesn’t represent value and he would be vulnerable if he were to make one of his now famous jumping howlers. Nicholls probably hasn’t had enough time to get last year’s impressive winner Denman, who had a heart problem, back to the same form as last year. It would be some training performance if he did win again. Last year’s 3rd Neptune Collonges also has a very solid chance, he may have improved from last year, he’ll jump and stay and I like the jockey Christian Williams. The proximity of this race to the postponed Irish Hennessy Gold Cup which he won is a worry. Of the others last year’s Sun Alliance winner Albertas Run could also go well and Air Force One has been really pleasing Charlie Mann and is a live outsider. This year’s Gold Cup promises to be a great race and I go for Exotic Dancer each way. I’m confident he’ll run a big race, I’d be very disappointed if he wasn’t in the first 3 and think he has a genuine chance of winning. I might have a small bet on Barbers Shop too.


For no reason other than to upset any Yankee fan who stumbles across this, my favourite Wikipedia entry of all time. Ah, memories.

Speaking of the Yankees, how about this disturbing picture of CC Sabathia, not to mention the fact that he is getting absolutely pummeled this Spring? Yankees fans worried? Goodness, not at all, I am sure. Apparently 21 gazillion dollars buys you mucho hamburgers.

USA is better than Greece, Ireland, Mexico, Sweden, Denmark and Belgium at soccer, it is official. The USA has jumped three places to a very lofty and respectable 17th in the new FIFA World Soccer rankings. Ireland is also up three places, to a somewhat less lofty and slightly less respectable 26th place. Having seen Spain demolish England recently, it's tough to argue that they are, right now, the best in the World. David Villa and Fernando Torres are a superb, scintillating strike force.

This is pretty funny, an ancient (well, 1997) Pedro Martinez fan site I was playing around with, let's just say I will not be losing the day job for a career in web design. Some cool pictures though, and if you miss Pedro, like I do, a little bit of harmless Friday fun.



Playing us out this Friday, The Foo Fighters, with 'Generator', just for you, TK!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

A big victory for European Baseball

How do you like 'dem apples, Filipe Alou?

Last week the arrogant Dominican manager proclaimed that their defeat to the European minnows the Netherlands was merely a fluke, and that on a normal day the Dominican would pound them '9-0'. Well, Filipe, what excuse have you got now? The Netherlands knocked the over rated Dominican's out of the WBC with a tight, well played 2-1 11 inning win.

What an enormous victory for European baseball, and what a whopper of a cream pie in the face of Filipe Alou.

It wasn't just the manager. The arrogance the Dominicans displayed was all up and down their club. "We're way better than them," Jose Reyes said, on Sunday, after the first time the Netherlands beat them. Well Jose, apparently, you are not.

What a simply beautiful victory for the underdog, and the lovers of the underdog.

The Netherlands 2 The Dominican Republic 1

That ain't no misprint.


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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A message from Nomar to the people of the world

The Greatest Moment in Dublin Hurricanes history; number one: Divito goes yard

The Dublin Hurricanes are one of Ireland's most successful baseball clubs. They have won every award going in Irish baseball, they are the only Irish club side to have traveled several times to European Club competitions and their players have scooped many of the individual awards available to players in the Irish baseball league. In short, it has been a good twelve year run. The team’s core has largely remained the same, which makes the accomplishments and memories all the sweeter to those involved.


Cutting straight to the chase, over the next few days we will be revealing the Top Ten Dublin Hurricanes Baseball Club moments of all time (all time being 1997 – 2008). Hopefully you will join us for the ride, and while we look back at the memories, you the reader will get a good sense of what it means to play baseball for an Irish baseball club.

The list was voted for by several veteran players of the Hurricanes Club.

Straight to the list. Number one.

The Greatest Moment in Dublin Hurricanes history; number one: Divito goes yard

Some of the top ten Hurricanes moments were season long, some were game long, some were just funny incidents that occurred in game (or in the case of TK being assaulted physically by an umpire, pre game). The top Hurricanes moment ever, as voted for by veteran players off the team, was just one simple, single, beautiful swing of the bat.

It all happened in the summer of 2005.

After a long hard but ultimately successful season the Hurricanes met their great rivals the Spartans in the Irish baseball league championships. The finals were best out of three games.

In game one the Spartans had the early upper hand and going into the fifth inning held a tight 5-4 lead over the Hurricanes. For the Spartans, veteran Irish national team star Bill Beglane had turned back the hands of time and was pitching rather well. Hurricanes Captain Steve Divito stepped to the plate with a runner on. Steve had badly injured his ankle in the London tournament just a couple of months previously, and was only starting to rediscover his swing.

Steve Divito himself describes the rest of the at bat;

When I stepped up to the plate, (I can't remember who was on base), I was looking at a pitch to drive into the gap to tie the game. With the lineup we had that year, I knew if we could tie the game we would take the lead and then win game 2 quite easily (which we did). I then proceeded to fall behind in the count; I think 1 ball and 2 strikes. I fouled off a pitch or two and then he hung a curveball down the middle of the plate. I turned on it and took the best swing I could with one functional ankle and it got caught in the jet stream and carried over the fence in right field for a two run homer.


I had the pleasure of seeing that home run first hand, and it didn’t ‘carry over the fence’, it was a moon shot, a bomb, a home run that changed the course of the Irish baseball season. The Hurricanes went on to win 6-5 in one of the best games in Irish playoff baseball history, and took game two 18-3, securing the Irish Championship for the second time in three years.

None of that would have been possible without Divito’s monster two run bomb. The single greatest moment in Hurricanes history.

The Greatest Moment in Dublin Hurricanes history

1. Divito goes yard
2. 18-3
3. Andy Martin's game winning knock
4. Gordon Ireland's 2002 Triple Crown season
5. 'I ja-kneew dey were going to do dat!'
6. TK gets strangled
7. Vegas Valkys goes yard - Croydon 2005
8. Andy Martin's sensational, silver slugger 2004 season
9. The legend of Spencer Grace
10. Gordon Ireland's final at bat as a Hurricane


Baseball Ireland links

Dublin: It's gonna cost ya

News that Dublin had become one of the most expensive cities in the world has not come as a tremendous surprise to those of us lucky/unlucky enough to live here. Once you get used to paying six euros for a pint of beer you know there is something wrong.



The most depressing aspect is when you read which cities Dublin is now more expensive than. the Irish capital is now dearer than London, New York, Rome, Madrid and Berlin. Seriously. No joke.

Considering how relatively small Dublin is to all of those cities, the fact that it is more expensive than all of them is simply embarrassing. The cause? Pure unadulterated, unchecked greed. Hoteliers charge lofty prices because they know the government isn’t going to do anything about it. Dublin’s publicans actually put their already high prices up on big match days and public holidays, and they do so safe in the knowledge that our docile government will not do anything about it.

So, planning a trip to Dublin any time soon? If you could choose between Dublin, London, New York, Rome, Madrid and Berlin, but you knew that Dublin was more expensive to visit than all of the others, I wonder, would that possibly make you choose say, I don’t know, LONDON or NEW YORK over Dublin?

So, Dublin, the thirteenth most expensive city IN THE WORLD...

Unlucky 13 indeed.


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Monday, March 09, 2009

Mailbag time - 09/03/09



Reading the mail this Monday afternoon



In the bag; Jim Rome v Jim Everett redux, Rugby v Football: which is tougher, leaving Matt Leinart alone, Nommie..






Jim Everett v Jim Rome: A classic

Always good to start with an anonymous rant! How about this imbilcillic, illiterate, inane poster. He wrote in to respond to this posting on the famous Jim Rome v Jim Everett showdown, during which I commented that

''His comments of soccer LOL.. soccer isnt popular in america if u didnt notice, and most people dont give a damn about it...LOLOLOL ''


Well, a 'lol' to you too sir! Apparently the English language isn't very popular wherever you are, compadré.

Leave Matt alone, jerk!

This from 'Bob' in Chicago;

''Whats your problem with matt leinart? he has accomplished more in life than you ever will, jerk''


Well, Bobby, you have that right, I will never reach the heights of bong usage that Leinart has assomplished. That's what you meant, right?

Rugby v Football: which is tougher?

Of course not all the mail we at Boston Irish get is hate mail, sometimes you end up feeling good about what you write, thanks to people like Luke from Georgia;

Hey Cormac, I don't use blogger so I couldn't comment, but I loved that blog entry on the American Football/Rugby comparison. I stumbled upon it while googling the topic. It's awesome to see that American Football has some international fans as I rarely hear of such a thing (in fact, my co-workers British boyfriend refers to it as "the queer man's rugby"...I wonder exactly how queer he would think it was after taking a helmet-to-helmet...too much pain for me to think about right now). And upon reading that entry, I checked out the Irish American Football League too. Pretty cool. I'm from Georgia, USA - Falcons country, although I root for the New Orleans Saints. My Madden 09 team is the Bills though; Super underrated and with Marshawn Lynch, their power running game is brutal. Anyways, I won't take up too much of your time. Just thought I'd drop you a line. I appreciated the article and the insight on international American Football support. Thanks, Luke


Luke, thank you for the nice email! Irish American football is slowly growing, as is football all around Europe, it won't be long before people recognise it as a tougher sport than rugby. Having played both there is simply no comparison, football is a more violent and dangerous sport. Not to say Rugby isn't a very tough sport, it sure is, particularly when played at a high level, it just doesn't hold a candle to football. Now, that's not necessarily a good thing of course! However that's another story for another day!

Nommie

I have to admit I do miss Nomar almost as much as this guy. Not recent sulky Nomar though, the old 'young Nomar' that blasted ten runs in against Seattle, and whipped the ball across the diamond like a cobra. This from Tommy in Boston;

''Your post with the Nomar picture really made me remember the great years he spent with the Bo Sox and made the think what might have been had things been handled differently. Nomar should have been with the Sox for life, that's just one mans opinion though. Keep up the good work''


Someday somebody (Jeff Pearlman, right man, right job?) is going to sit down and tackle the whole Nomar story, from the glossy beginnings to the gory ending. Hey, wouldn't it be great to know what people like Nomar actually thought of certain situations, I mean, how about Nomar's thoughts on that famous night at Fenway where he sat sulking (or appearing to sulk) in the dugout while Jeter dove into the stands after a pop up? Realistically, we probably will never know.

Playing us out tonight, Snow Patrol, with 'Crack the shutters', which is pretty nice, I think.

WBC v Bob Ryan

Have to admit I first approached Bob Ryan's piece on the WBC with trepidation, fearing it would be another US sporting journalist slating the tournament. However, as it turns out, it is an excellent, introspective piece that looks at how America's insular sporting view is rather flawed.

Whatever you say about Ryan, he is a naturally gifted writer, and his manages to raise several interesting lines of thought in the space of one single article.

Ryan clearly has a good World View of the true hierarchy of sporting events. Quite a few American journalists would rather eat Tofu than put the following on record;

The rest of the world takes all international competition very seriously. The World Cup is the biggest and most prestigious sporting event in the world.


No matter what argument is put across by anyone, he is completely right in saying that, nothing grips the world like the World Cup.

He continues;

The World Cup is a different matter. I guarantee you that despite all the sour economic news that dominates the conversation in every corner of the globe, when that Cup competition gets underway next year in South Africa, those countries fortunate enough to have qualified will be fixated on their national football teams as long as they are alive. Meanwhile, competition for one of those precious 32 spots galvanizes the population, even now.
You might get bombarded with never ending reports on T.O and college basketball, sure, and it all looks very glossy and important within the framework of ESPN and whatever, however nothing touches the sheer passion and drama of the World Cup, from qualifier to finals, there's zero comparison.

Now, one spot I think he 'missed' a little at, is with the below comment, suggesting the WBC tournament can't be taken seriously because there are several minnows involved;

Instead, we have the WBC, which has been padded with no-hopers such as China, Italy, and South Africa to come up with the nice round number of 16. That would be like the NCAA Tournament filling out the final three at-large spots with club teams. So the WBC cannot be taken seriously on that basis alone.


In response to that, do you think the Dominican will ever take the unfancied Netherlands for granted again?


One of the greatest aspects of International sport is the ability of an underdog to beat a supposedly vastly superior country. Filipe Alou’s arrogant post game conference remarks, where he suggested the Dominican should beat ‘that kind of team’ 9-0 will do nothing to dampen the spirit of the Dutch baseball fans, not to mention all of us European baseball fans, who took great delight on the ‘Oranjes’ shocking victory.

Without the WBC this would never ever have been possible.

You know what, I was annoyed for a few days, reading constant reports from the States that the WBC is at best boring and at worst essentially unimportant, but having watched it unfold, having thoroughly enjoyed the Netherlands wonderful victory over an arrogant, shabby looking Dominican team, give me the WBC any day over some tired, boring hacks inane comments on something he doesn’t understand.

At least Bob Ryan made a pretty good attempt to understand why the tournament is viewed in such a way in the States.



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Friday, March 06, 2009

The Greatest Moment in Dublin Hurricanes history; number two: 18-3

The Dublin Hurricanes are one of Ireland's most adorable, wildest, funkiest, oldest, sexiest, hottest, craziest, fun-lovingest and most successful baseball clubs. They have won every award going in Irish baseball, they are the only Irish club side to have traveled several times to European Club competitions and their players have scooped many of the individual awards available to players in the Irish baseball league. In short, it has been a good twelve year run. The team’s core has largely remained the same, which makes the accomplishments and memories all the sweeter to those involved.


Cutting straight to the chase, over the next few days we will be revealing the Top Ten Dublin Hurricanes Baseball Club moments of all time (all time being 1997 – 2008). Hopefully you will join us for the ride, and while we look back at the memories, you the reader will get a good sense of what it means to play baseball for an Irish baseball club.

The list was voted for by several veteran players of the Hurricanes Club.

Straight to the list. Number Two.

The Greatest Moment in Dublin Hurricanes history; number two: 18-3

The 2005 Irish baseball season was a dramatic and fruitful one for the Dublin Hurricanes. After a slow start, where the ‘Canes assimilated new players into their ranks, the ‘Canes eventually hit gear and made a serious playoff push. For 2005 the league used a new experimental format that ended up being used just the once. The first half of the season's standings determined the league structure for the second half of the year. The top four teams would play in the A league and the bottom five teams would play in the B league. The top two teams in the A would play for the final (best two out of three). The Hurricanes qualified second in the first half and then went to an invitational baseball tournament in Croydon, London at the beginning of July.


The Canes had had a very good tournament and just missed out on making the finals by one run. That trip seemed to galvanise the team as on their return the Canes went 9-0 in the second half of the season. This powerful second half push led to a finals meeting against their great rivals the Spartans, in a best two-out-of-three final.

The Canes slipped past the Spartans in game one of the finals, which then led to the second greatest moment in Dublin Hurricanes history, game two of the series. The Hurricanes lineup that day, which must be one of the greatest lineups ever fielded in Irish League baseball history, was as follows;
  • C: Tom Kelley
  • 2B: Andy Martin
  • 1B: Carlos ‘The big cat’ Melasecca
  • SS: Steve Divito
  • LF: Radek
  • RF: Chris Foy
  • CF: Keith Masterson
  • 3B: Eric ‘Vegas’ Valkys
  • DH: Garret Pearse
  • EP (extra player): Rafael Diaz
  • Pitching: Cormac Eklof

Spartans pitching felt the brunt of that lineup as the Hurricanes exploded for eighteen runs, as a balanced hitting attack just kept coming, piling runs on runs and pushing the ‘Canes to their second Irish league title in the space of three years.

The Hurricanes defence was heavily involved also. Play of the game (and perhaps the season) came as Keith Masterson caught a high fly in mid-deep center field. The Spartans center fielder JD was on first, and made the mistake of straying a little too far up the line towards the second base bag. Keith spotted this and as he caught the pop fly, unleashed a sensational throw to first, doubling JD off and ending the inning for the Spartans.

Game two of the 2005 Irish league championships finished 18-3 as the Hurricanes cruised to the title and the second greatest moment in Hurricanes history.


The Greatest Moment in Dublin Hurricanes history

2. 18-3
3. Andy Martin's game winning knock
4. Gordon Ireland's 2002 Triple Crown season
5. 'I ja-kneew dey were going to do dat!'
6. TK gets strangled
7. Vegas Valkys goes yard - Croydon 2005
8. Andy Martin's sensational, silver slugger 2004 season
9. The legend of Spencer Grace
10. Gordon Ireland's final at bat as a Hurricane


Baseball Ireland links

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Greed.

It is kind of hard to be a fan of Major League Baseball sometimes. It's a beautiful game (if a little on the slow side to the casual observer) of that there is no doubt, but it is going through its own powerful and destructive crisis of identity at the moment.

Take for example the two highest paid players in the game at time of writing.

What a picture those two make. One is a self admitted cheat, a steroid abuser who got away with it for years and, when finally found out, came out with a disgusting charade of phony apologies. The other? When he didn’t get the financial deal he wanted, he simply held an entire franchise hostage until he finally got his way. If you ever doubt that Manny Ramirez basically ‘stopped playing’ for Boston until they let him go as per his wishes, take a gander at his disgraceful at bat against Mariano Rivera and the Yankees, where Manny simply put his bat on his shoulder until striking out.



Alex and Manny, Manny and Alex, two fine figures and role models. Kids! Want to be the best? Take steroids! Kids! Unhappy with your current financial deal? Just quit playing!

Wonderful people.

Of course, before writing off baseball entirely, you have to maintain a sense of perspective. And humour. Believe it or not, there are people of lesser character even than that phony fraud A-Rod or that greedy simpleton, Manny. Take Ashley Cole, the Chelsea fullback, for example. Cole, recently arrested for being drunk and disorderly, is a good example of greed gone mad.

This is a direct quote from Ashley Cole’s painfully narcissistic auto biography explaining why the relationship with his former team Arsenal broke down. ‘Jonathon’ is Cole’s agent. Imagine Scott Boras with added slime.

"Ash! Are you listening?" said a virtually hyperventilating Jonathan. "I'm here in the office and David Dein is saying they aren't going to give you £60k a week. They've agreed £55k and this is their best and final offer. Are you happy with that?"

When I heard Jonathan (Barnett) repeat the figure of £55k, I nearly swerved off the road. "He is taking the piss, Jonathan!" I yelled down the phone. I was so incensed. I was trembling with anger. I couldn't believe what I'd heard. I suppose it all started to fall apart for me from then on. I'd trusted Mr Dein to push the deal through.’’


If you ever want to kill yourself slowly, try Cole’s book, after reading it you actually feel the need to take a shower, or swallow the business end of a shotgun.

Cole - Oozing class

How depressing is it that these idiots, these over paid cry babies, have become the role models for this generations impressionable children?

Maybe ‘Watchmen’ will cheer me up.

The Emerald Diamond - snazzy new 48 min version

"The Emerald Diamond" is a 90-minute documentary about the Irish National Baseball Team. The film's budget of $70,000 was financed on credit cards by first-time filmmaker John Fitzgerald.

Baseball has been played in Ireland since the early 1990s. The Irish National Team made its debut in the 1996 European Championships in England. Today, baseball is played throughout the country - the National Team is based in Dublin and youth baseball is played in Cork, Kerry, Port Stewart and Greystones.

The film debuted to a sold out crowd in New York on February 25, 2006 and has been seen in over 20 theaters across the country since then. It has been featured by The New York Times, New York Post, FoxNews, USA Today, Chicago Tribune and National Public Radio. The Emerald Diamond is now available on DVD.








Important Timecodes in this video:

0:00 - American Mike Kindle sees an Irish Softball Association bumpersticker while walking through Dublin in the early 1990s. The seeds for the Irish National Team is planted.

1:00 - Kindle assembles a ragtag group of Irish natives and American expatriates with little or no baseball experience. They teach themselves the rules and play on rugby and soccer fields in the rain. They have no uniforms and very little equipment.

4:00 - Ireland competes in the 1996 European Championships where they will be destroyed by teams with sketchy baseball pedigrees, including the Czech Republic,Norway, Poland and Lithuania.

6:00 - The first hit in Irish National Team history was by Gus Hernandez - a Mexican who gained Irish citizenship by marrying an Irish woman. Hernandez is immediately picked off first base and the Irish lose their first game by a score of 23-2.

11:30 - Dodgers owner Peter O'Malley donates hundreds of thousands of dollars to build the first real baseball fields in Ireland.

18:00 - The Irish head to the European Championships with a new player from New York. The team loses all of its luggage during a connecting flight. They appear at the Opening Ceremonies in T-shirts and shorts.

24:30 - After losing their first 3 games at the 2000 Euros, the Irish get drunk at the field the night before a game. They somehow win the next morning's game, their only victory of the tournament.

30:15 - The Irish National Team visits Fenway Park for an exhibition game against a local amateur team.

31:40 - A group of Cubans defects to Ireland and finds their way to the baseball fields that were built by Peter O'Malley.

35:35 - A look at baseball in Belfast, Northern Ireland, including a story about how Kindle and his Irish teammates accidentally drove into a Protestant parade and were interrogated by the police for being in the wrong place in uniforms with weapons (baseball bats).

41:00 - A group of Americans try to teach baseball to Irish kids in County Cork and Dublin.

REVIEWS

The New York Times
"Fitzgerald's movie is a charming look at how baseball captivated some dedicated Irishmen... Think of Rudy, the Notre Dame walk-on, and multiply it by about a dozen."
"A Whole New Ballgame in Ireland" by Jack Curry
February 10, 2006

The New York Post
"A terrific film!"
"Irish Have Own Field of Dreams" by Kevin Kernan
February 27, 2006

National Public Radio
"A tale of perseverance salted with humor and irrigated with beer."
"Only a Game" review by Bill Littlefield
March 9, 2006

Cleveland Plain Dealer
"Remarkable baseball story!"
"Begosh and Begorrah! It's Irish Baseball!"
March 16, 2006

The Irish Echo
"A homerun!"
"Pitching an Emerald" by Fiona Walsh
March 17, 2006

Indianapolis Star
"Heart-lifting doc that tracks the incredibly earnest players as they grow from lovable losers into genuine contenders."
Review by Christopher Lloyd
June 2006

Paste Magazine
"Endearing documentary"
August 2006

eFilmCritic.com
“The Emerald Diamond” restores the innocence of the sport for 90 wonderful minutes, easily ranking as one of the best documentaries I’ve seen this year. The Irish National Baseball Team, much like other countries currently building their clubs, is where the heart of the game lies today. I highly recommend this opportunity to live the dream with these hard-working men and their amazing journey.
"Top o' the batting order to ya!" by Brian Orndorff
January 5, 2007

Chicago Tribune
"Heartwarming... In a baseball town like Chicago, the story, told from the players' perspectives along with footage from actual games, illustrates how the love of sport can cross borders (whether country or cross-town) and forge relationships."
At Beverly Fest, every seat's on the Emerald Isle by Janine Schaults
March 2, 2007

Time Out Chicago
"Quite charming...Fitzgerald understands, as do the players, that this story has to be told with a sense of humor—during one particularly humiliating outing at a European competition, the team decided to stop obsessing, went out the night before a game and got blitzed, and played better baseball as a result. The film captures the players’ blend of wry self-deprecation and genuine pride. Sounds pretty Irish to us."
"Dublin Your Pleasure" by Hank Sartin
Issue 105, March 1-7, 2007

On November 12, 2006, "The Emerald Diamond" won the Critic's Choice Award at the National Baseball Hall of Fame Film Festival in Cooperstown, NY. The award was selected and presented by film critic Jeffrey Lyons. Click here to see a video of the festival awards ceremony.

Click here for more information about the DVD

ABOUT JOHN FITZGERALD

Producer/Director John Fitzgerald is currently working on "Playing for Peanuts - a new TV show about minor league baseball.

Choo, choo, choose your workout partner carefully!

Oh boy, this is only going to end in tears.



For many years Tom Brady won one of the coveted parking places in the Patriots players car park reserved for the hardest offseason workers.



It would appear Brady isn’t really gunning for that kind of award in 2009, if his work out partner is anything to go by. Sweet baby Jeebus if it isn’t little Matty ‘Never seen a beer bong I didn’t like’ Leinart.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The Greatest Moment in Dublin Hurricanes history; number three: Andy Martin's game winning knock in the 12 inning 2-1 win over the Spartans - 2008

The Dublin Hurricanes are one of Ireland's wildest, funkiest, oldest, sexiest, hottest, craziest, fun-lovingest and most successful baseball clubs. They have won every award going in Irish baseball, they are the only Irish club side to have traveled several times to European Club competitions and their players have scooped many of the individual awards available to players in the Irish baseball league. In short, it has been a good twelve year run. The team’s core has largely remained the same, which makes the accomplishments and memories all the sweeter to those involved.


Cutting straight to the chase, over the next few days we will be revealing the Top Ten Dublin Hurricanes Baseball Club moments of all time (all time being 1997 – 2008). Hopefully you will join us for the ride, and while we look back at the memories, you the reader will get a good sense of what it means to play baseball for an Irish baseball club.

The list was voted for by several veteran players of the Hurricanes Club.

Straight to the list. Number Three.

The Greatest Moment in Dublin Hurricanes history; number three: Andy Martin's game winning knock in the 12 inning 2-1 win over the Spartans - 2008 playoffs

The first round of the 2008 Irish league playoffs saw one of the most dramatic games in Irish baseball history. The old rivals the Hurricanes and Spartans met looking for a place in the final. The loser would have to play the following week against the winner of the 3rd and 4th place playoff.

The game was a complete classic. Pitching and team defence ruled the day, as both the Spartans and the ‘Canes battled away. Both teams got one run early and that would be it in regulation, so extra innings were required to separate the two old foes. Incredibly the game went twelve innings, and it took a Hurricanes veteran to take matters into his own hands to end the affair.

Andy Martin stepped to the plate with Eric ‘Vegas’ Valkys on second base and two out, in the top of the twelfth inning.

You know what they say, commeth the hour, commeth the man. Vegas Valkys had got on base through a walk and as Andy stepped in and battled against the hard throwing Spartans pitcher, Vegas Valkys stole second. With the count at 1-2 Andy laced a pitch right back up the middle. Vegas spun around third and charged home ahead of the throw, with Martin advancing to second, a smile as wide as the river Liffey on his face.

The deflated Spartans went down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the twelfth and the Hurricanes won the longest playoff game in Irish baseball history, 2-1.

Of course, who to turn to for the best description of the big moment than the man himself, Mr Andy Martin;

''It was all Vegas the Legend. He set it all up with his Dave Roberts impersonation. I had done absolutely nothing against Andrei all year including during the game to that point. I have to give a lot of credit to Foy who was giving me words of encouragement all game to try and help me snap out of it. DiVito's blood, on the other hand, was beginning to boil because of my lack of production. You can even hear him shout words of "encouragement" if you listen to the video, but the tone is more like a threat. Fouled off a couple 2 strike pitches and crafty Vegas had made his way to third by this stage so I knew I just had to put it in play. Low fastball on the outer half of the plate and just knocked it back through the box. Looked over at the bench and Foy had his "I told you so" look. Great team win.''


Video footage from the Hurricanes exciting 2-1 win over the Spartans two which saw them win their way into the Irish baseball finals.



Andy Martin blasts the eventual game winning single up the middle


Thanks to Kevin Richards for the video footage.

The Greatest Moment in Dublin Hurricanes history

3. Andy Martin's game winning knock
4. Gordon Ireland's 2002 Triple Crown season
5. 'I ja-kneew dey were going to do dat!'
6. TK gets strangled
7. Vegas Valkys goes yard - Croydon 2005
8. Andy Martin's sensational, silver slugger 2004 season
9. The legend of Spencer Grace
10. Gordon Ireland's final at bat as a Hurricane


Baseball Ireland links

The haves, and the have-nots...Manny against the common man in LA

So, on one hand you have Manny Ramirez turning down a solid two year $45 million dollar offer to play a game in the sunny confines of LA, and on the other, you have over 7,000 hopeful people turning up at a two day job fair held by the Dodgers who were trying to fill 500 part time jobs that pay as little as $9 an hour.


Perhaps Manny should come down from his Ivory Tower and spend a little time with people like Bob Reider

''Bob Reider, 68, came looking for a beer-cart job to supplement his Social Security check. For Reider, the money would help pay for tuition and books for his two youngest children in their final years of college.''


You know, real people, in the real world, where $45 is a big deal, let alone $45 million.

7,000 people desperate for work. Of course, this being LA, 6,500 left early. No word on what the 'part time' aspect constitutes, perhaps they turn up in the third inning and leave during the seventh inning stretch?



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A little banking humour on a Tuesday morning

Well, I know where I am going to switch my savings account to, stat.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Weekend sporting thoughts

Why was the Mickey Mouse Carling Cup more important to Tottenham than the grand old Uefa Cup? On Thursday night they had a chance to advance in the Uefa cup and instead fielded basically a B team. Today, Sunday, they fielded their top squad against Manchester United in the Carling Cup. They lost both. So, they are now out of the Uefa Cup, the Carling Cup run is over and they are near the bottom of the Premiership. Nice work fellas.

Wildly overrated

The Washington Redskins are suddenly scary good on the defensive side of the ball, with the acquisition of big bad Albert Haynesworth. Meanwhile, what on earth are the Patriots up to? Their mind boggling trade of Matt Cassell and Mike Vrabel to the Chiefs for a second round pick has left many Patriots fans shaking their heads.

First and foremost, this heralds the end of the oddly enjoyable Tyler Thigpen era in Kansas, a brief but somewhat fruitful time. Tyler Thigpen was many a fantasy footballers friend in '08, he will be missed, unless of course he manages to land a starting job somewhere else.

Based on the fact that Cassel's main strengths are completing short, quick passes, and Todd Haley's offense consists mainly of "throw ball far to Larry Fitzgerald", I just don't see this working out too well for the Chiefs.

Oh God, please God, no...Kansas?

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

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