Saturday, July 14, 2007

It's happening...

"Do you believe in Miracles?  YES!"

" The Giants win the Pennant!  The Giants win the Pennant!"

"I don't believe what I just saw!"

There's something new to add to the list:


Friday, July 13, 2007

You Arena Football Conferece Championships Preview

Yep - it's that slow a day here at TSE. JTBI is job-hunting and Seaward, well, God alone knows what he's doing. Me? I'm just trying to get to 5pm so I can go home. So in order to kill some time, I present your AFL Conference Championship Preview.

American Conference

Not surprisingly, since my last post on the AFL, popularity for the league has skyrocketed.* People from all corners of the world are clamoring to see what will happen during this week's conference finals and I am chief among them. The American Conference seems to have the better match up on paper, but as the wise man once said: "games aren't played on paper, they're played inside televisions".

*(probably not, I can't back that up)

The Chicago Rush have been one of the league's best teams throughout this unpredictable AFL season, finishing with three wins to catapult them into 2nd overall in the conference. The quick and able WR Bobby Sippio has been the lynch pin in the Chicago offense and we shouldn't look for that to stop this week. In last week's 52-20 drubbing of the Los Angeles Avengers (how do you score only 20 in an AFL game?) he was all over the offensive side of the field, taking snaps at Quarterback from time-to-time but usually sitting pretty in his role as WR #1 for QB Matt D'Orazio. He's the big play guy for Rush and if he has a strong game, so should Chicago.

Standing in their way, of course, are the San Jose Sabrecats, the conference's #1 seed, who haven't lost a game since the middle of April. The win streak rests firmly on the back of the Sabercat D, which gave up a whopping 400+ yards to the Colorado Crush last week. This wasn't the norm for the 'cats, who gave up 67 points last week, which was the most they've given up at home, where they are undefeated, or on the road all year. If the defense shores up, and and QB Matt Grieb can continue to lead the offense at the 72% season passing clip, then this should be a very close, if not low-scoring game.

San Jose has more weapons, but Defense wins championships. Chicago 51-47.

National Conference

Coming into this game, the [my] Columbus Destroyers are the talk of the Arena Football world, stunning, in consecutive weeks, the Tampa Bay Storm in Tampa and the #1 seed Dallas Desperado's IN big-D. Pundits are calling Columbus one of the more unexpected, nigh stunning teams in AFL playoff history. They will look to QB Matt Nagy to continue the run to ArenaBowl XXI in New Orleans.

They run, headlong this time, into the Georgia Force, who are easily the National Conference's most talented team. Defensively, no one hits harder, as has been the case all season and if Georgia can plant Nagy into the turf early and often, the budding star might lose enough of his shine to make mistakes. Combine that with Georgia's quick-strike offense and it could be a-lot-to-a-little very early into the game.

How can Columbus hope to stack up to the now 15-2 Georgia Force? They'll need some of the same luck that got them there in the first place: luck. They've had it on their side in the first two games and everyone in Columbus is banking on it again. Nagy has been stellar this year and his 75-15 TD-INt ratio must be on display. If WR Damien Groce can elude the Force secondary and get in a few scores early, Columbus is as good as anyone in the second half, outscoring Dallas 24-0 to open the third quarter last week.

Like I said, I'm riding this Columbus bandwagon all the way to ArenaBowl XXI. They beat the Force once before this year and I don't think lady luck has stopped singing for the Destroyers yet. Columbus will humble Georgia 62-48.

Your thoughts and predictions in the comments. more...

The Morning After on TSE - 7.13.2007

Happy Friday the 13th, yo.


Mark Cuban, Major League Baseball owner?

Well, Cubes is trying; the Dallas Mavericks owner has submitted his application to buy the Chicago Cubs to Bud Selig & Co. It seems like a great idea on paper and I, as a lifelong Indians fan who eons ago adopted the Cubbies as his NL team, am absolutely in favor of one of North American sport's best owners taking over one of my favorite teams. According to legendary baseball writer Peter Gammons, however, it seems a bit out of reach.

Problem Child.
You see, Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf is also Chicago Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf and ol' Jer doesn't care too much for ol' Cubes. When Cuban took over the reins in Dallas, Reinsdorf warned David Stern that Cuban would be a problem for the league and Gammons told Erik Kuselias and Brian Kenny (filling in for Mike & Mike) that Reinsdorf would reiterate this stance to Bud Selig, using Cuban's NBA antics to stand in opposition to the former magnate owning his cross-town rival.

Excuse me, but a problem for the league? Really?

I mean, I guess Reinsdorf has a point... because who likes hands-on proactive owners who treat their employees and players like gold? That is, invariably, bad for the league. You don't want a guy who spends lavishly to ensure the comfort of his paid staff & talent to rock the boat in a league where Jeffrey Loria spends as little as humanly possible to field a team. You don't want a guy who has proven he can immediately erase a culture of losing on a franchise in a league where David Glass and Ted Lerner let their teams continue to languish in the basements of their respective divisions for decades at a time.

I'm sure defending "the good of the game" is truly the aim of Reinsdorf. Certainly not looking to protect his ass in a city where his team can win the World Series and still play second fiddle to a team that hasn't grabbed a ring in 99 years. Certainly not.

Even if I weren't a fan, you could never convince me that turning one of baseball's most popular franchises into a perennial winner--as Cuban did with the Mavs--could even be remotely considered bad for the league. Stop being such a dick, Jerry, and get on board the Cuban bandwagon. more...

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Morning After on TSE - 7.12.2007

It's all downhill from here. In a good way. It's July 12th, the MLB All-Star Game is over and we past the slowest day in the sports world. From this day forward, every sport starts to pick up steam. Presented now is a schedule of what to expect in the coming weeks from different sports, different media outlets and the rest of the sports world.

Golf: The British Open
The event (called "The Open" by some, though I maintain that event is played in the States a month or so before and anyone who says otherwise is a Pinko-Commie nutjob who doesn't deserve the right to belt out the lyrics to "Proud to be an American" while shit-can drunk waiting to get into a bar. A little inside, I know) should be one of the most, ahem, open Opens in recent history. So many questions arise: Can Tiger win his first major as a father? Can Phil come back from his wrist injury and play as well as he did at the Tour Championships? Will the winner be an unheralded rookie like Ben Curtis (or Paul Lawrie, considering we're back at Carnoustie) or will it be an unheralded vet like Angel Cabrerra? We'll know in 10 days.

Baseball: August, September and (JTBI: Actober).
The All-Star break is where most teams can do one of two things. They can either use the break to rest up for the playoff push or they can fold like a cheap suit at Wal-Mart. The trade deadline is just over two weeks away and it should be a very exciting few days of transactions to say the least. At press, it seems like the best teams are in the American League, but that's what we said before the Cardinals won the World Series. Can Boston continue it's domination against the AL East (with 14 more games against the Devil Rays, I'd like to think so). Will the Yankees re-sign A-Rod and miss the playoffs? Who will come out of the very good AL Central? Are the LAAoA good enough to win the AL? Can any team from the NL hope to compete? Great teams cut their teeth on the end of July and August, getting ready for September. As Dane Cook tells us, there's only one October and the push to get there begins today.

Football: Hey, at least it's preview time...

OK, we're still pretty far from football, but at least we can almost see the football season in the distance. Several blogs and websites are beginning their football previews (most notably, the Gay Mafia at KSK, who's season preview is always funny). Here at TSE, JTBI has begun looking at his contenders and pretenders in the BCS conferences and college football is even in the news now, as Oklahoma went from 8-4 in 2005 to 0-4. We're getting so close to the beginning of the season that I can almost hear Big$Rich tuning up the band for the beginning of College Gameday*

*Aside to ESPN: please change the opening sequence this year. Big$Rich were kinda sorta popular when people liked watching poker on television a few years ago and it's time to shuffle loose their mortal coil as the intro to Gameday. Suggestions for improvement: I say go Old School and bring out Morris Day and the Time.

Basketball: I guess the summer league kind of counts.
The NBA has the luxury of being a nearly year-long sport, due mainly to the Draft lottery in May, the playoffs running into June and the actual draft after that, summer leagues after the draft and, this year, the FIBA Americas Championships, the qualifier for the 2008 Olympics, in August. Before you know it, NBA players will be reporting to training camps, playing in pre-season games and getting ready for the opening tip of the 2007-2008 season and the cycle will start over again.

Yes, it's just July 12 it's going to get better today. And tomorrow. And the next day.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Baseball's Summer Blockbusters and Bombs Part 3

It is officially one of the two slowest sports days of the summer (and tomorrow will be no picnic), so let's take the time allotted by the sports gods to compare 2007 MLB teams by division to movies released this summer.

A.L. West

1st place -- Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Backed by an owner with infinity billion dollars and carried by an incredibly underrated cast. Their name doesn't make a lot of sense to most Americans, either.

The Angels are...


2nd place -- Seattle Mariners

Everyone has said really good things about this team and they've been able to hang in the standings with the big boys for the past month or so, but this team leaves you with a ton of questions, like... do I really trust the guy steering the ship right now? Just like any Stephen King novel in the past 10 years, the Mariners are a total mixed bag.

The Mariners are...


3rd place -- Oakland Athletics

This team has nearly infinite potential, based on a franchise with decades of high-level success. Unfortunately, noone will know if they're able to fulfill this potential until the end of July.

The A's are...

The Simpsons Movie

4th place -- Texas Rangers

Hey, what's wrong with re-treading players that were relevant 10 years ago and presenting them as fresh and new?

The Rangers are...

Wild Hogs
(NB: Wild Hogs was on the Top 10 grossers list on Memorial Day weekend, so it counts.)

How to save the NHL in one simple step

So, the NHL has decided to have a game outside, at Ralph Wilson Stadium (home of the Buffalo Bills) matching the Pittsburgh Penguins against the Buffalo Sabres. This is one of the many attempts to make the NHL relevant again after sitting out a whole season a few years ago, and it will fail too. Nevermind the fact that this game will be on New Year's Day, a day always reserved for college football Bowl games, that will refuse to take a backseat to the NHL. The ratings will be nothing, the sport will not be any better than it was going into the day. There will not be one move or PR stunt that finally vaults the NHL back to where they think they once were, just not happening. There is one thing that could make the NHL better, as far as reaching out to fans that could care less about what transpires in their sport, like me:

Change when you play the season.

Currently, the NHL runs opposite of the NFL, NBA, College Football, Baseball's Opening Day AND World Series, College Basketball, the "Race for the Cup" AND the Daytona 500 portions of the NASCAR season. NO other sport runs up against more, and no other sport can ill afford to run up against more. This is basically like FOX running American Idol, NBC running Heroes, CBS running CSI, and ABC deciding to air "A Very Special" According to Jim. Right now, the NHL regular season runs from October to April, all they would have to do is flip it. Start the season in April, end it in October, with the playoffs running until mid- November. So, instead of having the dog days of your season attempting to share focus with the BCS, NFL Playoffs, Superbowl, the Final Four, and Opening day (an absolute BRUTAL stretch) they now will have their dog days coinciding with Major League Baseball's.

If I were the NHL, I would much rather go against MLB rather than the NFL. This should be obvious as to why, but I'll say it anyway. Three of the biggest selling points of Hockey is physicality, speed, and precision, which are three things you can also find in the NFL. In fact, I have had a few arguements with Hockey nuts as to what is a harder sport to play: the NFL or NHL. The problem is, that this point is moot because there is NO WAY, even if you could get sports fans to admit that hockey is more physical, fast, and precise, that NFL fans would then abandon thier sport and watch hockey. The NHL is trying to compete with the biggest fanbase among pro sports at the same time, with the same selling points. It just will not work. There are a great many football fans (and sports fans in general) that don't like baseball because the game is too slow. Wouldn't the NHL be a viable option at this point for those fans?

I have been accused of unfairly bashing the NHL because I don't understand the good aspects of the sport. I don't, and one of the main reasons why I don't is because I don't watch it. The main reason I don't watch it is because there is always some other sport I'd rather watch. Take tonight for example. Tonight would be the PERFECT night to air the NHL All-Star Game, or have a game outside, or do something else that can draw attention to the game. Hey, there's a reason that NASCAR has jumped the NHL as the fourth sport in the "Big Four" triumvrate. The Daytona 500, the Super Bowl of NASCAR runs a few weeks after the actual Super Bowl, before march madness. The NHL doesn't need a radical new strategy to attract fans, they just need a new calendar.

Victor Martinez was robbed, and nobody seems to care

We live in a day where nothing is ever good enough anymore. Spurs win four championships since 1999, still many question their viability as a dynasty. A-Rod goes for 30 and 86 in the first half, and the city of New York still doesn't care if he leaves at the end of the month. Kelly Slater wins 8 surfing trophies and is bounced in the first round of Who's Now. As of July 10,2007, you can now add: hitting a game winning home run in the All-Star game no longer means you are the MVP. It happened last night, Victor Martinez came up and knocked a pinch hit homer to left, giving the American League (what turned out to be) the winning run to keep the AL winning streak alive. Then, because Ichiro hit an in the park homer, he won the award, even though without Victor's home run, he isn't the MVP. Ichiro Suzuki is driving Victor Martinez's Chevy Tahoe hybrid, plain and simple. In case you think I'm out of my mind, let's take a look at the last few AS MVP award winners in games decided by two runs or less, and how they won their award.

2006, Michael Young. Hit the game winning two-run triple in top of the ninth, AL wins 3-2.

2003, Garrett Anderson. Hit a two run homer, Melvin Mora scored after pinch-running for Anderson, even though Hank Blalock hit game winning two run homer in bottom of the 8th. AL wins 7-6

1997, Sandy Alomar Jr. Hits game winning two-run homer in the bottom of the seventh. AL wins 3-1.

1995, Jeff Conine. Hits game winning solo home run in the top of the eighth. NL wins 3-2.

1994, Fred McGriff. Hits game tying two-run homer in bottom of the ninth to extend the game. NL wins in bottom of the 10th, 8-7.

1991, Cal Ripken Jr. Hits game winning three-run homer in bottom bottom of the third, makes the score 3-1. AL goes on to win 4-2.

1990, Julio Franco. Hits game winning two-run double in top of the seventh, AL wins 2-0.

1989, Bo Jackson. Homers, and hits into fielder's choice which scores a run, even though Harold Baines hit game winning single in bottom of the third.

1988, Terry Steinbach. Hits homer and game winning sac fly. AL wins 2-1.

1987, Rock Raines. Hits game winning triple in top of the thirteenth. NL wins, 2-0.

That's enough, you get the idea. In the two instances since 1987 in which the person responsible for winning the game was denied the MVP award (Blalock and Baines) lost out two more popular, better known players (Anderson and Jackson).

This is exactly what happened in the 2007 All-Star game. The global icon (Ichiro) beat out the person responsible for the win (Martinez). If you're Victor Martinez, you have to be wondering what you have to do to earn some respect. The Seward pointed out that his numbers were much better than I-Rod's, yet I-Rod got the start. Then, he loses out in the MVP award to a more popular player. Not fair. Ichiro did hit that inside-the-park home run and that was fun to watch, but if Griffey plays that ball correctly, it is a triple at best. Ichiro is nothing in last night's game without Griffey's misplay in right. Everyone is talking about the Pujols snub, when poor Victor was snubbed twice, both worse than what happened to Pujols. I'm so bitter about this situation, so bitter.

The Morning After on TSE - 7.11.2007

Update: Aaron Rowand made the last out of the ballgame, and I forgot to analyze that. All told, I still think you give credit to the All-Stars who made the lineup and give them the chance, even if Pujols is available. Rowand is currently hitting at a higher clip than Hudson is and with more HRs, though Pujols could probably play CF more effectively (though there may be some issues covering the real estate at AT&T Park) than 2B.

Another "if and but", however, for if Rowand hits a single then we wouldn't be talking about this at all. But I realize the point and I thank commenter JPatterson89 for pointing this out, though his comment has since been deleted (not by me).

Welcome, friends, to what is widely regarded as the worst day in sports. With no baseball, football (arena or otherwise), basketball (of note) or hockey today, it's bound to be awfully slow around this and every other sports-related sector of the blogospheres. But the morning shouldn't be too bad because there was a pretty good All-Star Game (ASG, because I'm tired of writing out the full phrase) last night and it is worth writing about. So here we go.

What in the name of God was Tony La Russa thinking?

Here he is, manager of the National League All-Stars, there because his Cardinals won the previous year's World Series, with Albert Pujols, the guy who got him there, ready to bat with two gone and the bases juiced in the bottom of the ninth inning, down by a run. So what does La Russa do? In many estimations, he must have done what he did in spring training again, as Albert sat and Orlando Hudson popped to Alex Rios to end the game. Because of that, Albert isn't talking to Tony and Tony will be inundated with "why not" questions from here until the season's conclusion.

But I am willing to stand up in defense of the Cardinal skipper. Here are (with no apologies to ESPN Classic) the top 4 reasons you can't blame Tony La Russa for not bringing in Albert Pujols.

1. J.J was a Putz and K-Rod was more like BB-Rod.
The AL's choice for closers weren't exactly skilled marksmen in that final half-inning. Putz gave up the HR to Soriano on a badly hanging breaking ball and Rodriguez was doing triple salchows after each pitch. Anything hit in the immediate direction of the pitcher's mound would have either knocked off a turned-around K-Rod or simply zipped through the infield. But that would, of course, mean that K-Rod would have had to throw a hittable pitch, which was done very rarely.

2. Pujols was too valuable to use (almost).
Albert Pujols is a very powerful card to have in one's hand. He's like the left Bauer in a game of Euchre: if he's not played right, it can cost you the hand and maybe the game. Sure, Pujols could have come in and walked or hit a single to tie the game, which may have happened, but in such a case, that would mean Albert Pujols would have to come in on defense, as La Russa was out of reserves. And he probably would have had to play second base for Orlando Hudson. Unless Pujols were to win it with one swing, then putting him in might have been too costly in the next half-inning. And why should Tony La Russa care about the ASG? The Cards probably won't be taking advantage of that home field advantage that was up for grabs last night. In La Russa's mind, it was probably better to keep his star rested for the benefit of his team.

3. Give Orlando Hudson some love, folks (Aaron Rowand, too).
It's not like Orlando Hudson had to beg to make this squad or was given a spot based on ballot-stuffing fans (cough, Ivan Rodriguez, cough). He's batting a shade under .300 for his season and 20 of his 96 hits (21%) are doubles. He's knocked in 47 RBIs and has walked 47 times. In the field, he has 9 boots, but that's probably better on the average than Pujols at the same position. Bottom line: he's having a very good year for a good D'Backs team and saying that Pujols should have almost automatically been substituted for him doesn't give Hudson anywhere near the credit he deserves. If the substitution had to be made, Aaron Rowand is the more logical substitute.

4. Finally, Dad is (almost) always right.
The Old Man used to tell me, "if 'ifs' and 'buts' were candy and nuts, everyday would be Christmas". We'll never know what would have happened if La Russa had put in his star in the bottom of the ninth. He may have gone yard or he may have flied out to right. Fact of the matter is, La Russa did what he thought was right at the time. Whether or not the two will ever speak to one another again, that remains to be seen. more...

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The 2007 Mid-Summer Classic...Live-Blogged for your Pleasure

Hello all, GoCM here and I'm going to be live-blogging as much of this game as I can, perhaps taking some breaks. I'll be updating after each half inning so keep your fingers on that F5 button. Some other TSEers may be joining in later.

The game is on Fox, and will be called by Joe Buck and Tim McCarver (oh joy).

8:32 - Chris Isaac "singing" the National Anthem. If he's not singing "Wicked Games" then I'd just as soon not listen. This is awful.
8:34 - it's over. And sung so fast that the fly-by is about 30 seconds off pace. Lovely organizational job, San Fran.

8:35 - and now it's tribute time for the "say-hey" kid. He's getting a nice ovation from the fans and players, but this really pales in comparison to the 1999 tribute that Ted Williams got at Fenway. I hated the movie "Fever Pitch" but Fallon was right about the old men crying in the stands...and Mays throws a rope to Jose Reyes. Impressive. Sort of. This is touching and all but the Derby went 58 minutes long and it's getting close to 9pm on the East and we haven't seen a pitch yet. It's gonna be a long night.
8:41 - Patricia Heaton and Kelsey Grammar in a new series? When's it on because I need to set my TiVo never to go anywhere near Fox on that night. Frasier and Mrs. Raymond, two of my least favorite people perhaps ever in a series. Kill me now.
8:45 - And there's Joe Buck...and now the show is ruined by McCarver. I would love to quote and re-quote everything dumb he says but I can't type that fast. And now Fox throws it to........Eric Byrnes. In a Kayak. Kenny Mayne is laughing in his luxury jet. And it's another commercial. I should probably get used to this - the commercials, that is.
8:50 - And there's Ironman Cal Jr. reading the AL lineup. The NL is presented to us by the Wizard of Oz. Nice gimmick but I give the award for not fucking this up to Ozzie - Cal's commentary was kind of like his last 5 years during the streak: dragging everything down despite his best efforts. JTBI would probably agree.

Here We Go...

Top of the First
Ichiro steps up and and Jake Peavy looks in and fires ball one and we're underway. True to
form, Ichiro singles to right, bring up Derek Jeter (has AIDS). McCarver tells us that 17 people from Simms, Alabama are here to watch him. I'm guessing it's pretty much the entire population of that town. And similarly true to form, a Yankee grounds into a DP. My brother, Jon, a Yankee fan, is saying that Ichiro should have utilized a take-out slide so that Jeter wouldn't have a negative at-bat. My brother is an idiot. Papi is up (Jon: "he's on roids") and grounds to second, throw to first aaaaaaaaand...Prince Fielder boots it. That's almost embarrassing as pissing your bed in Acapulco. More than once. Buck jokes that Ortiz probably shouldn't laugh too hard, as he's likely to do the same exact thing. A-Rod steps in, hard grinder to David Wright, who forces Ortiz at second. Barry Lamar will bat second in the bottom.

Bottom of the First
Jose Reyes leads off and hits the first pitch he sees up the middle for a single. The San Francisco fans now get their blue balls drained because here comes Barry Bonds. And out of nowhere, Reyes steals second. What? it's the first inning of an exhibition and LaRussa calls for the steal. He better not drive home tonight. Bonds swings and pops up to Vlad in right. I get the feeling that it's all downhill from here. Carlos Beltran comes up and Ks on a 94 MPH fastball, bringing up Junior Griffey, who is having a hell of a year so far. Buck credits it to lack of really strange injuries. I'd half expect to hear that kind of gem out of McCarver. And Junior singles off the pitchers mound bringing in the speedy Reyes. Is it racist if I call him Speedy Gonzalez? I'll let history decide. David Wright comes up with two outs here in the first. Danny Harren is pitching well but has thrown a lot of pitches. Luckily for him, one more will end the inning as Wright grounds out. Inning over, NL leads 1-0.

Top of the Second
Great DHL commercial about Kenny Lofton's travels. He's made an endorsement deal out of his career of skipping around the majors. I liked it. Brad Penny relieves Peavy and he'll begin with Vlad Guerrero who breaks his bat while grounding awkwardly to third. He stepped back as he was swinging, too. This guy swings at everything...and I love it. Maglio Ordonez is up and slices a fly ball to Junior in right...two gone. Pudge up third this inning (Jon: Jorge should have started." Me: "shut up, Jon" get used to that one) and Pudge sends it over to Reyes. Inning over, NL still up 1-0.
Bottom of the Second
There's a schmuck dancing on a water trampoline. Only in San Fran (you can't do that in Pittsburgh, which also has a body of water in right due to the massive amounts of trash, bodies and dead cats floating in the Allegheny River. Trust me - I've seen all three). Prince Fielder walks to lead off and the AL is looking vulnerable for the first time in the last 9 years (it seems). Russel Martin, the starting catcher falls behind 0-2 and lines hard to A-Rod (sounds like a normal weekend...zinger). Chase Utley flies to Ichiro for the second out. Besides the Reyes at bat, Harren is looking great, getting outs and keeping the NL in check. He gets a strikeout and the inning is over, still 1-0 NL.

I'm going to take a break, but I'll be around with some highlights throughout...

Top of the Fifth
Jesus, this Eric Byrnes thing is getting mighty old. Byrnes says his dog is swimming toward the bacon, which means there must be a police boat in the area (zinger) And while they do that, Ichiro Suziki goes ahead and hits an inside-the-park home run. Ken Griffey, Jr. was caught by surprise by the bounce off the wall and Ichiro came in standing. That's the first inside-the-park job in All Star Game history, which is almost as impressive as Ichiro going 3-3 tonight with 2 RBIs and hits off of Peavy, Penny and Sheets, three of the best the NL has to offer. Looks like the Japanese star is taking home an American hybrid truck after this game. C.C. Sabathia replaces Josh Beckett, who was stellar in his two innings.
Top of the Ninth
A Victor Martinez 2-run shot in the 8th put the AL up by 3 runs as we head into what should be the final inning of this game. It's been reasonably exciting with the big blast by Martinez and Ichiro's inside-the-parker, and it's been really quick to say the least, as the pitching has been very good tonight. Trevor Hoffman is will be pitching the 9th for the NL. Carlos Guillen is out number one, grounding weakly to second. Brian Roberts follows suits for out number two. It looks to me like it's getting academic in San Francisco and with K-Rod warming for the home half of the ninth this All Star Game is heading for the books. Unless I'm completely wrong, which I wouldn't put past me. Jorge Posada doubles to center and the AL is in business again. Torii Hunter grounds to third, however and that will bring up the NL with three outs and three runs to score.

Bottom of the Ninth
J.J. Putz is in, actually, I'm guessing until a run scores when Leyland will have K-Rod and Fukijama at the ready. That's some good managing by Leyland. Putz begins his night by striking out Matt Holiday, who has been kicking ass in the big leagues as of late. Not so much tonight; he's 0-2. Bryan McCann, the Braves catcher who didn't think she should even be there stands in. McCarver has told us that the Braves are in second place in the NL East about 12 times tonight, informing us that they are "in second place", "2 games back of the first place Mets" and "2 games ahead of the third place Phillies". That guy's never met a point he didn't hammer into the ground with a shovel for 9 innings. Anyway, McCann pops out bringing up the last hope for the NL in the person of SteakGrowsOnDimitri Young. Putz is throwing hard to Young and Young is looking stupider than normal, but he legs out a deep infield single to second so the NL has a glimmer of hope left. Play is ruled a hit and I'll agree with that. Alfonso Soriano is up, still against Putz who should have been out of here by now but Brian Roberts couldn't handle what Dimitri Young threw at him.

Uh oh...

Soriano has just made it interesting hitting the piss out of a 2-2 fastball and putting it in the right field seats. 5-4 AL and Leyland looks like he could use a Marlboro or six. J.J. Hardy comes up now, in his first All Star Game with a big chance to be a star. Putz looks unaffected and is continuing to sling fireballs to Posada, topping out at 96 mph. K-rod is getting ready, the crowd is excited and Putz walks the tying run. Finally some intrigue. Imagine, had Roberts snagged that grounder. Here comes K-Rod with the tying run on and the winning run at the plate in the person of Derek Lee. I love K-Rod, this guy just throws and doesn't give a shit. Lee looks stupid after a 2-1 curve ball but works the count full. The runners are going. Here comes the pitch...Lee fouls it off his calf. We'll reset, then. full count, two outs, tying run going on the pitch, winning run at the plate...and Lee walks on a checked swing. This is getting very exciting now.

Interesting, with Albert Pujols available, LaRussa opts to use Orlando Hudson from the D'Backs. K-Rod is throwing bullets, but they're missing as he falls behind 2-0. Now 3-0. Now bases loaded on three consecutive AL pitching walks. Aaron Rowand comes up (no Albert?????) to face the jilted K-Rod with two down in the ninth. Finally K-Rod throws an early-count strike. And Rowand pops to right and that will do it. Great drama at the end but not enough. Why Pujols didn't get in is beyond me but the reactions will have to wait for tomorrow's TMA. I hope you enjoyed the live-blog and we'll see you tomorrow.


So the Home Run Derby was last night in San Francisco, which means two things: first, the 2-hour time slot was, at best, wishful thinking (three freaking hours long!!!). And second, that Chris Berman, the smartest person in sports, gets to take center stage with his cliches, knowledge of local geography, nicknames and, of course, his now patented "BACK BACK BACK..." call for each and every home run. This annoys the shit out of me and the rest of the world, I'm sure, but it is comforting in a way that words can't describe. So, like everyone else I watched the derby last night and expected, considering the lineup, to hear the word "back" upwards of 250 times (literally). And, just like Seaward's last two girlfriends, I went to bed unfulfilled. My list of concerns with last night's event are as follows:

- We're coming off of pretty good years of HRDs (Home Run Derbies) with Ryan Howard and David Ortiz trading shots into the Allegheny River last year, Bobby Abreu's 41-dinger night and Miguel Tejada slugging 27 the year before that. This year's winner, the incomparable Vlad Guerrero didn't break 10 in any round and won with a score of three. Lame.

- The performance of the night was Alex Rios belting 16 in the second round (he finished with 27, but misplaced his good round, like so many have done in this competition's history) but we're talking about Alex Rios, not your typical home run golden boy, not yet anyway. Which brings me to my next point

- The golden boy performances everyone was waiting for were straight up duds. Defending champ Ryan Howard hit three, failing to get out of round one. Prince Fielder matched him and sat for rounds two and three. Even Albert Pujols had to go into a slugoff to clear round one against Justin Morneau just to make it past round 1. Golden boys? Hardly.

- About Pujols, one of the guys I was most excited to see, was basically preempted by an interview with Yankee man-boy Alex Rodriguez. This is the national league's premier player and instead of doing some commentary for his at bat, you do the next worse thing by interviewing a player on a sub-.500 team. Screw the fact that he's a Yankee, probably going to win the AL MVP and is having one of the best offensive seasons in recent history. This is a home run derby. Show the dingers, not the idiots in K-Mart suits at the podium.

The Home Run Derby has an interesting history and you can definitely tell when the juiced ball era officially began (Cal Ripken, Jr., of all people, won this thing in the early 90s, to give you a lay of the past home run land). In fact, there were consecutive years when Fielder's or Howard's 3 jackjobs would have won the thing. Now we're two years removed from a 41 home run performance. Either the players are just that much better at belting meatballs out of the bark or there's something in the water at MLB ballparks.

And I won't give The One With Whom Leather Was zero mentions, for he did have one of his worst cliches ever last night. On the topic of Colorado's Matt Holiday, Berman did say that if he were to win, it would certainly be a "National Holiday". It doesn't get any better/worse than that. The chicks love it, though.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Baseball's Summer Blockbusters and Bombs Part 2

It is officially one of the two slowest sports days of the summer (Wednesday will be worse, promise), so let's take the time allotted by the sports gods to compare 2007 MLB teams by division to movies released this summer.

A.L. Central

1st place -- Detroit Tigers

Started way ahead of the curve thanks to their recent success and have built on it so far this year. Lots of big names in the lineup.

The Tigers are...

Shrek the Third

2nd place -- Cleveland Indians

You didn't hear much about this team before the season started but they have asserted themselves as a dark horse for the division since they hit the field. A solid cast of players even though you've only heard of a handful.

The Indians are...

Knocked Up
(this movie was freaking impossible to find a properly sized poster of)

3rd place -- Minnesota Twins

A franchise that has seen success through the better part of this entire decade. Sure they had a hiccup a couple years ago but they're back in their old form now. Unfortunately for them, there are just too many other teams that are much better than they are this year.

The Twins are...

Ocean's Thirteen

4th place -- Chicago White Sox

A franchise with a ton of squandered potential. You really hoped that they'd be able to build on the lessons they learned in their previous installment but instead this ship is taking on more water than ever. What good are all the big names when the end product is so mediocre?

The White Sox are...

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer

5th place -- Kansas City Royals

A young cast, a shaky premise, a bad team.

The Royals are...

Nancy Drew

I, for one, welcome our new AFL overlords

Seaward is right: this is an unbearable week for sports. No real baseball (even though the All Star Game "counts" now) until Thursday and no football for another 6 or 7 weeks. Yes, there is the WNBA but I'll cut off my balls with a rusty spoon before watching that. Yet in the midst of all of this boredom comes the lone beacon of home to get us to real football season.

The AFL, of course.

Through two weeks, things are heating up en route to ArenaBowl XXI. The Dallas Desperados were supposed to run roughshod through the playoffs and bring a title to the Metroplex with relative ease. But they forgot to ask Matt Nagy and the rest of the Columbus Destroyers what he thought about that little plan. That's right, just like last year, a 7-9 team is running rampant through these playoffs. The next two sentences are so incredible, so iconic, they get their own paragraph.

The Columbus Destroyers are one win from ArenaBowl XXI. They are two wins from bringing home Columbus's first professional sports title since the Columbus Quest made it rain in 1997-98.

So it's official: I'm jumping on the bandwagon. Sure, Columbus has their work cut out for them in the persons of the Georgia Force, who rumbled through the regular season at 14-2 and crushed the Philadelphia Soul by 26 yesterday. But Columbus put the hurt to Dallas, scoring 24 points to begin the second half. And if there's one thing that these playoffs have taught us so far, it's that the smaller field levels the scales. And if Matt Nagy, the wily AFL veteran who has methodically guided the Destroyers past better teams for two consecutive weeks can find a rhythm, then me and the rest of the Destroyer DieHards will be booking tickets to New Orleans for the big game in the very near future.

Now a lot of you may not care about the AFL's mutant brand of football. It isn't "Now" (though it is publicised and commercialized to death on the WWL) and it even falls behind the NHL in national popularity (probably). But for the uneducated (read: everyone) I can say from experience that there are a lot of similarities between the AFL and it's cooler, older brother with the car, the NFL. Some details:

- The playoffs are arranged in similar fashion: wild card round, divisional round, conference championships, league championships. There's even that incredibly annoying 2-week wait between games!

- Shitty teams can back into the playoffs and make a splash. The Chicago Rush limped in at 7-9 and won four straight road games last year to win the ArenaBowl title. The Steelers of the NFL did the same thing just weeks earlier in Super Bowl XL.

- Defense? The AFL don't need no stinkin' defense. Last year's ArenaBowl had a final score of 69 (giggity) to 61. So defense doesn't necessarily win championships, but then again neither do the San Francisco 49ers of this decade. Or whatever.

Seek out your AFL playoffs - you won't regret it. And with nothing else on, it's either that or episodes of "John from Cincinnati" on HBO On Demand. And alien football is better than surfing aliens any day of the week.

Note: the tags are all in caps, thus negating the "excessive use of WordCombinationUsingCapitalLetters" tag I so awesomely came up with. Just so you know. more...

Baseball's Summer Blockbusters and Bombs Part 1

It is officially one of the two slowest sports days of the summer (Wednesday will be worse, promise), so let's take the time allotted by the sports gods to compare 2007 MLB teams by division to movies released this summer.

A.L. East

1st place -- Boston Red Sox

I haven't seen a better team so far this summer; they're solid top to bottom. They have a strong Japanese influence and sit atop the standings on July 9th.

The Red Sox are...


2nd place -- Toronto Blue Jays

You probably haven't seen them, but they speak well of Canada.

The Blue Jays are...


3rd place -- New York Yankees

Sure, they have an All-Star lineup, but this act is starting to get a bit tired. Thanks to past success they still make tons of money, but so far they have been a massive disappointment on the field.

The Yankees are...

Spiderman 3

4th place -- Baltimore Orioles

One big name and some up and coming talent... but in the end this team is still pretty bad. I don't really have any interest in ever watching them play.

The Orioles are...

Mr. Brooks

5th place -- Tampa Bay Devil Rays

This team flat-out sucks. Noone goes to see them and not without good reason. Their biggest star has had numerous legal run-ins and the rest of the cast is not much to look at.

The Devil Rays are...

Georgia Rule more...

The Morning After on TSE - 7.9.2007

We're almost two weeks clear of the 2007 NBA Draft and the NBA's summer league has begun with some interesting results. Well, interesting is probably too strong of a word. The NBA is boring enough (just ask any Nielsen family about the 2007 Finals) but now we're talking about exhibition basketball with minor league rosters and it's getting covered like the Superbowl. And I get this: the draft was big business for television's sake and the players in the draft currently are very newsworthy (though ESPN doesn't think any of them are Now) and so it makes sense that the coverage has been pretty in depth so far. It just bores me to tears, is all.

Apropos of nothing else, let's look in at some of the feature players from the 2007 draft class and see how these younglings are adjusting to life in the NBA (summer league).

Greg Oden (#1 pick)

Former Ohio State center and would be season POY, NCAA tournament MOP and still the #1 pick had he stayed for another year (though I'm not bitter...and I love that picture) had an auspicious start to his NBA (summer league) career. In his first 20 minutes wearing that Trail Blazers jersey, Oden managed to score six points and two boards, eventually taking a seat with foul trouble. And by foul trouble, I mean he fouled out, something that is rather tough to do in the NBA (summer league) where 10 fouls get you a front row seat on the bench. This is not characteristic of Oden, who played very intelligently in high school and college when fouls became an issue but that, I guess Oden left that sense in the same place he left all the checks from OSU boosters: back in Columbus (see? I can make Ohio State jokes, too.)

Kevin Durant (#2)

18 points is not bad. 5-17 shooting, 1 board and no assists is bad. The former Texas standout was praised during the season and throughout the draft for his ability not only to elevate his game above the field, but also to get others involved in the action. The single rebound and poor shooting barely elevate squat. And the fact that I have more dimes in my pocket than he had in the game (ZING!) means he that he wasn't helping out too much, either.

Marco Belinelli (#18)

Now you're saying that this space should be saved for a higher pick or at least a name that people outside of the NBA might know, but young Marco turned in the performance of the summer so far. The Warriors 1st rounder had 37 points on 14-20 shooting, 5-7 from the arch. Belinelli's night was the second best turned in in NBA (summer league) history behind Keith Bogans's 38 point night in 2004. Oh yeah: unlike the first two picks in the draft, #18's team actually came away with the "W". So he's got that going for him...which is nice. more...