June 21, 2008

Italy vs. Spain Preview

In the final quarterfinal match of Euro 2008, Spain will face Italy, the World Cup champions. Spain has looked dominant so far, winning all three of their matches. However, the group winners have gone 0-3 in the quarterfinals so far, and the Azzurri should never be counted out.

David Villa celebrations are becoming commonplace.

The case for Spain:
A perfect 3-0 in Group D, Spain is an impressive 17-0-2 in international competition over their last 19 matches, and they are always one of the most talented teams in recent competitions. David Villa and Fernando Torres have impressed up front, while the young Fabregas brings creativity and speed to the mix. Spain may have had their issues in the past, but this team is poised to excel in the elimination round. Additionally, Italy has looked old and slow so far, not even close to their form of two years ago. Italy was crushed by the Dutch, and only managed to tie Romania via a PK save by Buffon. The loss of the Azzurri's captain Cannavaro to injury has really hurt, and it's in doubt whether they will be able to compete with the Spanish youth, speed, and talent.

This success could be a thing of the past, after tomorrow.

The case for Italy:
Most of the players from the World Cup victory have returned, and the quality is there. A return to form would put them among the elite sides in the world. Spain is infamous for folding under the pressure of the elimination stages recently, and they may not be sharp after resting many players in their last group match. Just ask Croatia and the Netherlands how the extra rest went for them. Players with the experience and skill of the Italians know how to fight for their lives.

Spain, 2-1 in extra time.

Gymnastics Olympic Trials

I have a lot of problems with gymnastics as a sport. It's subjectively judged, and some parents allow their children's growth to be stunted to enhance their potential. In addition, who came up with these events? Talk about a random of assortment of stuff that never had any value in everyday life.

On the other hand, your chance to watch the Olympic Trials for the men is this afternoon, so I give you the one reason to watch.

Any man who can do the iron cross has my respect.

June 20, 2008

Nadal Poised to Claim Federer's Crown

Is it finally time for someone to dethrone the mighty Roger Federer? After losing to Novak Djokovic at the Australian Open, Federer was destroyed by Nadal in the French Open final. A little bit of the mystique and swagger is gone, but now Wimbledon is here, on Federer's best surface. The Wimbledon grass has always been good to Federer, and is just the opposite of the slow clay on which Nadal dominates.

Rafael Nadal has just won his 4th straight French Open, but has yet to follow it up with a victory at Wimbledon. Could this be the year? Last year, Nadal took Federer to the absolute limit in the Wimbledon final, forcing Federer to gut out one of the toughest victories of his career. A year later, Nadal is a better player and supremely confident after crushing Federer at Roland Garros. Federer is no better than last year, maybe he's even slipped a little.

On top of the momentum arguments, the draw noticeably favors Nadal. The two highest ranked players in Nadal's half of the Wimbledon field are (4) Davydenko and (6) Roddick. Davydenko is notorious for early exits in London, and Roddick is coming back from injury, with this as his first major tournament. Neither should pose a threat to the Spaniard. On the other side, Federer seems to have tough matches every step of the way, culminating in a potential rematch with (3) Novak Djokovic, the Australian Open champion.

Djokovic wants to quiet the Federer/Nadal talk

Everything is on the line over the next two weeks. If Federer wins, he maintains his title as the best of men's tennis at least a little longer. If Nadal wins, he's the de facto #1 men's player in the world after two consecutive major titles, even if he doesn't take over in the rankings. If Djokovic wins, he's positioned to claim Federer's title of #1 on any surface but clay. I wouldn't put money on anyone other than those 3, they are by far the best players in the game today.

Nothing Worse than Being Replaceable

Duke might be better if they played in a NERF league.

In the eyes of the law, that's exactly what the Duke football program is: replaceable. The Courier-Journal reported yesterday that a Kentucky judge ruled that the Duke team could reasonably be replaced by ANY team in Division I, including what used to be I-AA. WOW.

In a lawsuit by Louisville suing for $450,000 because Duke pulled out of an agreement to play 3 football games, the Duke lawyers successfully argued the "team of similar stature" clause. If Louisville couldn't find a suitable replacement, Duke would have been liable, but because the judge agreed that Duke's 6-45 record meant that absolutely any team would constitute a similar level of opposition, Duke won the suit. Hooray for losing!

Is this the best they could find?

For the ACC, this should be the proof we've been waiting for. Let's kick them out of the conference for football! By their own admission, no other team could be worse. Other private schools win some games in major conferences. Northwestern went to the Rose Bowl under Gary Barnett. Vandy was competitive when Cutler was there, and Stanford beat USC last year. But Duke? Not so much. Maybe Cutcliffe will make a difference, but I doubt it.

Schilling Headed to Cooperstown?

After an impressive career, Curt Schilling may be forced to hang up his cleats for good, undergoing season-ending surgery. So if his career stats stay put, are they enough to get him into the Hall of Fame?

Schilling has never lacked for postseason heroics. The Nation will always remember the Bloody Sock, and that sock has already made the trip to the HoF. During the Diamondbacks' run to the title in 2001, Schilling started 6 postseason games. In those 6 games, he went 48.1 innings with an ERA of 1.12, surrendering only 6 runs while throwing 3 complete games. He was a perfect 4-0, with an incredible 56 K's to only 6 BB's. That has to be one of the greatest postseason performances EVER. For his career in the postseason, Schilling is 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA.

Schilling is also a member of the elite 3,000 K Club. His career ERA is 3.46 through the steroid era, and he managed almost a K per inning throughout his career. An old-school pitcher, Schilling had 83 complete games in 436 career starts, a very impressive number given the quick hook exhibited by most managers. When Schilling was on, few pitchers could beat him.

On the other hand, Schilling only started 436 games (compare to Maddux with 722, Glavine with 681, or Smoltz with 466 starts along with his 150 saves), and Schilling really struggled out of the pen, even though much of that was very early in his career. Curt's 216 wins and 22 saves compare poorly with any of the Atlanta Big Three, and his ERA is similar. Certainly, the seasons with Philadelphia in the 90's didn't help his win total, but the longevity isn't the same either, a result of injuries. A co-MVP of the 2001 World Series, Schilling has not won any Cy Young's and hasn't even really been the ace of any staff during his prime (Pedro with the Sox, the Big Unit with the D'Backs).

Curt Schilling deserves consideration for Cooperstown, and I think he will eventually get in. But he is by no means the sure thing that a number of other pitchers retiring soon will be, and he will not get in on the first ballot. His numbers pale in comparison to Maddux, Smoltz, Glavine, Randy Johnson, and Pedro Martinez, all of whom won at least one Cy Young. The voters will have to weigh his postseason accomplishments and solid stats in the steroid era in light of the time he lost to injuries.

Dodger Stadium Makes Al Gore Cry

So I'm leaving tomorrow for a week-long trip to SoCal hitting up L.A. for five days and San Diego for two. Both the Dodgers and the Padres will be in town while I'm there. While I'd like to see Petco Park, we only have two evenings in town. Plus they have some horrible interleague series going on that I have zero interest in.
Dodger Stadium on the other hand is legendary. It's a spot that I'd truly love to see. Not to mention the fact that the Freeway Series is going on while I'm there... Angels vs. Dodgers. And not to mention that surprisingly tickets are available.
Our loyal readers know how much my wife loves baseball. So convincing her to go to a game at Dodger Stadium when we're already spending a day of our time later this summer in Chicago to go to Wrigley is pretty much out. Have no fear though. We will be staying with the wife's college roommate. I could be a great husband and tell the ladies to have a fun evening off by themselves while I explore Dodger Stadium and Chavez Ravine. Right? Wrong.
You see, we are opting not to rent a car when we're in L.A. because (a) we'll be staying with aforesaid roommate who will be going out with us, and; (b) checking rental car rates online, it seems like rates are at least 36 times more expensive to rent a car than in someplace less exotic like Baltimore.
So I figure well hell, it's a ballpark. Thousands of people go there every night. There must be some sort of public transportation that goes there. Even if I have to take a train through Crenshaw to connect to a bus, at least it'd be accessible. I mean, a stadium that holds 56,000 fans must have some mass transit opportunities for fans to arrive at the game? Right? Wrong.

Dodger fans practice their well-rehearsed routine of staggering departures from the stadium starting with the upper-deck outfield seats in the first inning so that the wait to leave the parking lot is only three hours after the game.

Somehow, Dodger Stadium has exactly zero mass transit to the stadium. According to their website, the Dodgers have solved this problem by having one of the largest parking lots of any sports venue in the world and controlling access to parking lots so that cars are directed into a lot depending upon which of the various freeways within the SoCal freeway maze they are coming from. Apparently the Dodgers explored a mass transit program in 2004 where for Friday evening games, they ran a shuttle bus to Union Station in downtown L.A. (somewhat like if the Nationals ran shuttle buses to Metro Center). That lasted all of one season because, on average, only 400 fans were taking advantage of the shuttle bus option.
I suppose Los Angelians love their cars. And there's no way I'm taking a taxi to the Stadium because sitting in legendary L.A. traffic and watching the meter tick up on the now-exorbitant SoCal taxi rates (check it out online if you don't believe me) means that my taxi fare to and from the stadium would likely exceed the combined cost of a $20 upper deck seat with a view of the mountains, a Dodger Dog, and a beer, by about three or four times.
So there will be no trip to Dodger Stadium for me. Unless any of our west coast readers can recommend any good hitchhiking sites around the 110.

June 19, 2008

Hollywood Endings for Feds' Pursuit of Anderson's Wife

Various sources have reported that the Feds are going after Barry Bonds' personal trainer Greg Anderson again, but using a new method. They are opening a grand jury investigation against his wife on "tax-related issues." You have to ask yourself, when has going after a man's family ever worked out well? And movies always provide an accurate cross-section of potential consequences, right? So here are the possible outcomes.


This didn't work out well for anyone. Romeo and Juliet both died, and in this case, a dead Greg Anderson can't testify. Definitely not a good option for the Feds.

Calling Your Bluff

Bluff or not, when you hold his family hostage and the guy guns them down in cold blood, you know he's not cooperating with you for anything. Kaiser Soze was a bad-ass. Anderson might not go this far, but if he does, you can be darn sure he's not testifying against Bonds.

Rampage (most likely by movie frequency)

There are just too many examples of this to show them all, but here are a few of my favorites.

One mariachi outgunned an entire Mexican cartel. How much easier would this be since Anderson's on steroids?

Same story, American cartel this time. This time, the avenger took the time to make them feel the pain. I'm sure the Feds would enjoy that.

How did this work out for Commodus (the Feds)?

She might not be a man, but when her significant other got whacked, she didn't just kill Bill... She took down every assassin around, and pretty much whoever she felt like killing. You go, girl!

Castle Assault by his Friends

A classic story by Sir Walter Scott, Ivanhoe surrenders in exchange for the release of his family and the women who love him. The terms aren't followed, and his friends storm the castle, releasing him. Later, he fights for the honor of the damsel, and the evil Prince is dethroned by the returning King. (There's an election coming up isn't there? Maybe the new administration will spend federal dollars elsewhere.) Do you think the BALCO guys have enough roid rage to stage a frontal assault on a courthouse? (or assault a precinct like Assault on Precinct 13?)

Showdown on a Cliff

The first 3 minutes are how the Feds want things to go. Anderson chases them, he's outnumbered and outclassed, Feds win. On the other hand, it's hard to talk after falling off a cliff.

So there it is, those are the only possible outcomes. Or at least those are the only outcomes in Hollywood. Death clearly results in all cases, it's just a matter of who dies, who does the killing, and when.

Caption Contest Winner

Would you and three of your friends like to attend Major League Baseball's All-Star Game in Yankee Stadium next month? Would you like $1000? Would you like a free dinner and show on Broadway, on the off chance you're dumb enough to bring your wife? How about a chance to tell one of the finalists in the Home Run Derby where to hit a homer, and getting a Chevy Tahoe Hybrid and 2009 season tickets to the team of your choice if he comes through?

Click the picture above and enter the State Farm Call Your Shot contest. You might win all that and more.

In order to promote the contest, State Farm provided us with a $50 MLB.com gift card. Since there are four of us, and we didn't want to kill Jeremy over his perverted desire to own Nationals' gear, we decided it was best to give the card away as a prize.

We asked you to come up with the best caption for this photo:

Brady Anderson has had difficulty maintaining his playing weight
Gerard Cosloy, of Can't Stop the Bleeding, was the winner.
Other excellent entries:
In Bizarro World, Robin is the epitome of heterosexuality (Josh Walters)
Don't swear off the Orioles, son. You see between the utility belt, bulletproof suit, and the Batmobile much of Batman's power was artificial too. (Mike "Big Tuna" Yates)
So what have you got, kid? Lou Gehrig's? (Benjamin Singer)
Some day you'll be as tall as Earl Weaver, Robin. (Eric Kilhefner)
Ironman and Batman relax after beating Superman and Aquaman in the Finals of the Annual Superhero Double Dutch Jump Roping Competition (Gary Almeter)
Actually, I'm Kevin Costner's kid. (Unsilent Majority)
something magic happens
The true reason for Cal's troubles with his wife: he found his real, true love in this fine strapping young gentleman. (Michael Prodanovich)
every time you go
Best entry by a girl who couldn't pick Cal Ripken out of a two-man lineup:
After the Tanorexia/Down Syndrome benefit, Marvel Studios nixed the Ironman/Batman crossover project. (Sarah Gould)
Thanks to all who entered. Hopefully we'll have more contests like this in the future (with better pictures).

Great Moments in Cross-Dressing in Sports

A lawsuit against Oscar De La Hoya has been dropped after pictures of him in fishnets and heels have proven to be fakes. The most striking aspect of the story is not that it happened, but that cross-dressing seems to be a theme in the world of sports, from rookie hazing to flight attendant chomping. Here are some of our favorite cross-dressing incidents in sports.

1) Oscar De La Hoya - Okay, they're faked. But it led to some great jokes about how he'll always be the Golden Boy and never the Golden Man.

2) Dennis Rodman - This was mostly a publicity stunt, but we later learned that The Worm also has a fascination with men's nipples.

Okay. So long as he never did it again, we'll give him the benefit of the doubt.

Best two out of three?


3) Ricky Williams - Thank goodness it turned out this was the weirdest thing Ricky was in to.

4) Marv Albert - [Photo not avilable...YEEEEEEEESSSS!]

Artist's rendering...

5) Martina Navratilova - One of these must be cross-dressing, right?

Lenny Dykstra - At Least He's Not in Vegas

The way the market is headed these days it seems like honest bloggers like us just can't get any traction towards our dream of nude Scandinavian sex servants. We don't have the inside track on Wall Street, and we need someone in OUR corner - preferably someone we can trust. Maybe it could have been Wade Boggs, but the fried chicken and beer thing doesn't exactly scream responsibility. Ryne Sandberg has been kind of an ass since he went totally bald. We love Cal Ripken here, but I'm not sure he would ever be called a genius.

That only leaves Lenny Dykstra.
Chew Copenhagen

I understand I'm a little late to this party, as he has been profiled on HBO's RealSports (the show Bryant Gumbel doesn't totally deprive of life). Deadspin apparently got to it, too. Frankly, I can't afford HBO after sinking all my investment capital into Countrywide and Bear Stearns (Since when are bubbles bad? I love bubbles.) Even if I missed the boat, I still have some personal insight into the world of Lenny "Nails" Dykstra.

In around 1992 or 1993 I was in Cincinnati on a family vacation (Dad had a business conference). Being from Maryland's Eastern Shore, I grew up equidistant from Baltimore, Washington and Philadelphia, though we were Orioles fans. I did make it up to Philly a couple times a year for Phillies games at the Vet. Unfortunately, the Phillies, Lenny Dykstra, John Kruk and Darren Daulton were in Cincinnati when I was there.

We went to two games at Riverfront, and I had the pleasure of an up close and personal meeting with Mr. Dykstra. The 11 or 12-year-old me still collected autographs, and Lenny was making himself available to the fine people of the Natti. One particularly buxom young blonde (I was into titties already at 11 or 12) wanted Lenny's...um...Hancock. Lenny, of course, obliged the young lady. He grabbed a baseball, and wrote something on it before tossing it to her. The baseball came from a kid I'm pretty sure. He yelled over the crowd of kids, "That's my hotel and room number. Come by after the game and we'll f--k."

And that's why I'm willing to spend $995 for Lenny's stock picks. When Lenny wants something, he doesn't wait for it to come to him. He grabs it by the silicone and takes it. I'm sure that attitude carries over to Wall Street.

Just look at the picture from his website, The Lenny Dykstra Report. The baseball cap tells you he's one of us. The Motorola RAZR in his left hand and equally cheap cell in his right tells us that he means business, but he's also too frugal to splurge on a Blackberry or equally "effective" communications device. The smile tells you he's a winner, and that he's stopped chewing fistfuls of Red Man.

You may wonder about Lenny's secret to success. It's simple really. He uses a ghost picker. Now some people, an insider rag called "Forbes" for example, have called Dykstra a fraud because he does not pick his own stocks. The financial wizards at Deadspin (seriously, they're making money off writing about sports aren't they?) have even intimated that Philadelphia native and stock blowhard Jim Cramer may have even "created" Dykstra out of fan love (Note to readers: We need a "bromance" like word for this phenomenon. As always, portmanteaus are preferred. Keep an eye out for that contest.)

Of course, this is a very shallow way of thinking. Sure, Lenny might rely on others to help him "develop" his opinions. That's what always made Lenny so great. He didn't carry the whole tobacco-chewing load by himself. He trusted the Krukker to take some of that burden. When he disintegrated his car in 1991 on his way home from the One-Nutted Wonder's bachelor party, he let Darren Daulton's face absorb the impact. Lenny has always understood the value of others.

I don't know about you guys, but I'm definitely taking advantage of this opportunity. It'll be the best $995 I give to Lenny since I bought that three-month supply of greenies from him back in 1995.

June 18, 2008

Tiger's ACL Injury Good for his Golf Game?

In a recent announcement, Tiger claims he's been playing with a torn ACL since just after the British Open last year, and that he will now have surgery to repair the problem. Last week's US Open was the first time Tiger was visibly in pain over that time, a period in which he was arguably the most dominant of his career.

Since the 2007 British Open, Tiger is a staggering 10-3 in the events he's entered, with two 2nd's and a 5th in the other 3 tournaments. He has won the PGA Championship and the US Open, along with the last two tournaments of the inaugural Fed Ex Cup end-of-year showdown. He won 2 World Golf Championships and finished 5th in another. He finished 2nd at the Masters. Many articles earlier this year described Tiger as playing the best golf of his career and everyone thought this could be the year he won the Slam. So how bad was this ACL injury? Did it actually benefit Tiger to have a bad ACL? In the 2007 season prior to the ACL tear, Tiger was a comparatively poor 3-11, with two 2nd's but no victories in the 3 majors. He had 3 finishes outside the top 10, none since the injury.

The media is almost certainly going to use this announcement, which he so carefully withheld until after the US Open when it would either excuse or glorify his performance, to decide that the US Open was the greatest accomplishment EVER in any sport. But was it the ACL that was actually causing any of the pain we saw on TV? Did his operation in the spring actually cause more pain? What about the double stress fracture in his left leg? Did he get the stress fracture rehabbing, or was that also there while he was dominating?

I don't doubt that Tiger was in some pain this last weekend. The question is what caused the pain. The ESPN article does not include any mention of re-injuring or further tearing the ACL, so why have the surgery now? Rehabilitating the stress fracture won't take that long. Woods' website says that the April arthroscopic surgery removed damaged cartilage caused by the ACL. Does that mean that removing the cartilage actually caused more pain and the surgery was counter-productive? What's really going on here? Is the pain from the ACL, the stress fracture, or the surgery in April? Why was the surgery in April necessary when he was so dominant? Clearly, if he can walk 5+ miles on the golf course everyday and take hundred of golf shots, it wasn't interfering with his daily life too much. Maybe he couldn't play on his flag football team because sharp cuts hurt, but his ability to perform at the highest level in the occupation of his choice had never been better. Lots of other athletes, like Steve Nash, play through much greater pain on a daily basis. We have not been given the full story here, and it's painfully obvious that we're being played.

Here's some more information coming from Hank Haney, Tiger's swing coach, who explains and answers some of the questions above. Apparently, the stress fractures were caused by the rehab. Combining that with rushing back on a weak knee probably explains the pain we saw last weekend. I would still speculate that Tiger expected things to improve after the scope, not get worse as they did. It would be interesting to hear Tiger compare the pain at the Masters pre-surgery to that at the US Open.

Celtics Looked Uninspired...Until the End

Okay, I owe the Celtics an apology. I assumed, like most people, that they just didn't have a sense of urgency when they were taken to seven games by the lowly Atlanta Hawks. Their inability to play to anywhere near their potential on the road seemed to reinforce that they were on cruise control.

Then came tonight.

Up 35-40 points for most of the fourth quarter, a raw emotion poured out of the Celtics and Doc Rivers that can only be described as profound relief morphing into jubiliation. Kevin Garnett was hopping around and screaming the F-word for most of the latter half of the 4th quarter. He broke down as soon as Michele Tafoya started interviewing him. He got it together long enough to scream, I think, "Anything is possible!" and "Top of the world!", before dropping another F-bomb. He had tears streaming down his face BEFORE he and Bill Russell hugged it out. Paul Pierce was similarly ecstatic.

Clearly they played poorly because they wanted it SO badly. It's a real shame, for the NBA and its TV partners, that they didn't display this emotion during the entire playoffs. Either way, they went from totally unlikeable to inspiring over the course of three hours.

June 17, 2008

Vince Young Implicated in Catfighting Ring

Will they ever learn? Just a little more than a year after Michael Vick's career began to unravel amid dogfighting allegations, Tennessee Titans' quarterback Vince Young is now implicated as the ringleader of a vicious catfighting ring.

Catfighting is a brutal sport. It involves two women battling each other, often until a purplish translucent mascara-tear mixture flows from the eyes. As if these animals were not capable of sufficient brutality on their own, the ladies typically wield razor sharp plastic implements glued to their fingers, making gouging and scratching all the more effective. To show the utter disdain these "people" have for their opponents, many of the women put intricate designs on these blades.

bllahblah Young went to extreme lengths to distance himself from women

According to the Davidson County Sherriff's Department, Vince Young is believed to have orchestrated these battles at his Bunnyhop Ranch outside of Nashville. Detectives uncovered a hidden complex behind his home filled with training and combat devices. Two poles extended from floor to ceiling, apparently used to strengthen the legs and groins of the combatants. Investigators were not certain that the poles were used for illicit activities until they detected a glitter-infused liquid smeared upon them. According to experts, catfighting managers use this substance between their breasts to distract and blind their opponents.

h Billed as entertainment, the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling may have influenced Young

The evidence is damning and the uproar is building amongst the public and the conservative Tennessee Titans fanbase. Candi Bubbles, spokeswoman for People Urging Safety for Strippers (PUSS) said that the extent of catfighting is poorly understood by law enforcement. "They think this is just something that happens in the wild, but the truth is that some of these events are organized chaos. In certain circles, like Las Vegas where this is legal but regulated, the best fighters like Laila Ali and Christy Martin are household names. We believe the practice took off due to the success of the landmark wrestling bout between Cyndi Lauper and The Fabulous Moolah during the heyday of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling (GLOW), but at least that was staged. Now we have this activity taking place under euphemisms like 'Foxy Boxing' and 'Bitch Battle', and that really undermines our efforts to uncover what is taking place behind closed doors."

blahblahblah Titan fan and Vince Young supporter Bucky Covington

Not surprisingly, Young's defenders are arguing that catfighting is a deeply ingrained aspect of his culture. Some Titans fans were quick to come to his defense. Bucky Covington, of Nashville, was representative of those fans, saying "Man I love to see a couple bitches going at it. They really get ahold of each other and sometimes the extensions fly. If it's a really good one you might even see some titty. Man I love me some titties." Clearly, the prosecutors have their work cut out for them.

This isn't the first time catfighting has reared its beautiful, eyeliner-streaked head in professional football. Showing just how dangerous trained catfighters can be in the wild, in November 2005 two Carolina Panthers cheerleaders scissored in a Tampa bar bathroom stall before proceeding to attack patrons who tried to intercede. They were eventually subdued.

However this prosecution is resolved, Vince Young will never enjoy the great reputation he earned as a star Texas Longhorn quarterback and mediocre NFL signal-caller.

June 16, 2008

In Defense of the No-DH Rule

Do pigs get foot-in-mouth disease? Guess so.

In response to the brilliant and ever tactful Hank Steinbrenner and his comments ("I don't like that, and it's about time they address it. That was a rule from the 1800s.") regarding the NL's no Designated Hitter rule, here are 10 reasons why the rule is good and should stay.

1. Managers have to earn their money. Do you let the pitcher hit or pinch-hit for him? Always a tough call after the 5th or 6th inning, the manager must decide how his pitcher's doing, what the chances are of scoring, how good his bench is, etc. The decision is much simpler in the AL, purely a pitching decision.

2. Double switches. Managers can utilize their bench to keep the pitcher's spot from coming up in the lineup, making the position players on the bench critical to an NL team's success, along with the pinch hitting already mentioned. Other than injuries, how often does the bench of an AL team matter?

3. Pitchers can help themselves at the plate. How much happier are you that Carlos Zambrano is pitching when he has a good ERA AND the best average in your lineup? Micah Owings, anyone? This allows the pitcher to contribute in other ways.

4. Squeeze plays. The squeeze is one of the most exciting plays in baseball, but you almost never see it in the AL because the manager doesn't want to take the bat out of the hitter's hands? With a pitcher, it's not a problem. Or just David Eckstein.

Gotta love scoring on a squeeze play in the playoffs.

5. Pitchers take batting practice, allowing them to bond with the position players and improving team chemistry.

6. Quoting one of my favorite movies "Bull Durham" which has been featured recently at ESPN, "It's a simple game. You throw the ball, you catch the ball, you hit the ball." How many of those things does a DH have to do? Should we have a designated fielder who doesn't have to hit?

7. The pitcher's spot in the lineup distinguishes the other slots. The 8th hitter has to be more selective because pitchers are more willing to walk him. The leadoff hitter has more RBI opportunities because the pitcher bunts whenever someone's on first or second with less than 2 outs. An AL lineup doesn't need any structure, but an NL manager has to construct the lineup more carefully. LaRussa and others have even put the pitcher 8th a few times.

8. Extra innings challenge an NL manager's ability to manage his bench, balancing pitching needs with the need to score, trying to save pinch hitters for important situations without giving away too many outs to pitcher ABs.

A game-winning, 10th inning pinch hit single by a pitcher? Never in the AL.

9. Pitchers who can hit can be used as additional pinch hitters. Zambrano and Willis have famously done this, and tonight the Rockies sent Aaron Cook up as a PH in the 5th and he got a hit.

10. Pitchers who can't bunt really damage the team's offensive chances by not advancing runners. Fruitless at-bats prevent the manufacturing of runs, something the NL has always been known for.

Wang after hurting his foot (Photo: Reuters)

Wang's injury, while unfortunate, should not instigate an investigation of a long-standing, well established rule. Pitchers throughout the NL hit and run the bases every game, and very few are injured because of it. Maybe Wang should have stretched or practiced running the bases, or maybe he would have gotten the same injury fielding a bunt later in that game.

June 15, 2008

Tiger Woods: An Inspiration To Us All

Tiger Woods will try to win the US Open on Monday in a playoff with Rocco Mediate. In case you've been living under a rock all weekend, Tiger is playing with an injured knee. As Dan Hicks told us countless times throughout the weekend, this was like a combination of Jordan's flu game, Willis Reed, Kirk Gibson, Schilling with the bloody sock, Byron Leftwitch being carried by his teammates, and Matthew Perry finishing the final season of Friends without his pain pills. Only tougher, because golf is a really difficult sport.

Anyone who's ever been injured can relate to Tiger's story. Here's a guy who left his beautiful model wife home with his newborn daughter to play four rounds of golf in front of thousands of adoring fans. Even though he had arthroscopic knee surgery 8 weeks ago. Sure, NFL players bounce back from having their knees scoped in 6 weeks all the time, but this is golf.

Tiger grimaced after most of his drives, but that was only to show the fans that he was really hurt. I know that I'll go in to work on Monday with a renewed commitment to play through the pain and be more like Tiger. Not only is he the greatest golfer ever, he's an inspiration to everyone.

The comparisons to Kirk Gibson, MJ, and Willis Reed didn't seem quite right to me. I knew I had seen that sort of inspirational performance one time in the past, but couldn't place it. Then I remembered where it was.

Tiger Woods is the Kerri Strug of 2008. He's my hero.

Turkey Rallies, Shocks Czech Republic

Turkey's so good, it's hard to find pictures...

After surrendering a second goal to the Czechs, Turkey was down 2-0 early in the second half, but from that point on, the momentum was entirely Turkey's. Turkey's first goal looked like it might not matter, but Petr Cech dropped the ball (literally) and the Turks tied it in the 87th minute. Incredibly, on almost the next play, the Turkish captain Nihat Kahveci, who had just scored a minute ago, scored on a beautiful shot from the top of the box, catching the bottom edge of the crossbar and falling in. The Czechs went from having an assured berth in the quarterfinals to booking a trip home in about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, Turkey wins this elimination match and will probably face Croatia in the quarterfinals.

Few people thought the Turks had a shot, but this Turkish side has shown an incredible ability to rally. They are the only team to come back from a goal down to win in Euro 2008, and they have now done it twice. In their previous match, they rallied to beat the host Swiss 2-1.

Future Bright for Young Braves

At the start of this season, the Braves were a trendy pick to win the NL East, and possibly even get back to the World Series. While I'm not ready to write them off quite yet, the injuries to 3 of the top 5 starters, 2 of the 3 outfielders, and the top two relievers make things look pretty bleak. However, these injuries have allowed the Braves to test out their farm system and things look pretty good. Here's what the Braves could look like in a couple years, ages and stats as of this year with Atlanta unless noted otherwise.

Morton still looks young, but was strong in his 1st career start.

Starting Pitching:

Tim Hudson (32, 2.76 ERA)
Jair Jurrjens (22, 3.77 ERA)
JoJo Reyes (23, 4.42 ERA)
Charlie Morton (24, 4.50 ERA)
Jorge Campillo (29, 2.15 ERA)

With Hudson as the established ace, Jurrjens, Reyes, and Morton all appear ready (or very close to it) for the majors, and will probably be the next generation of starters for the Braves for a decade. Campillo, Carlyle, and others can fill in as very effective 4th and 5th starters as needed. The last 4 listed have already started 28 games this year because of all the injuries, and all have performed quite well.

Relief Pitching:
Peter Moylan (29, 1.80 ERA last year in 80 games)
Rafael Soriano (28, 3.00 ERA last year in 71 games)
Mike Gonzalez (30)
Blaine Boyer (26, 3.99 ERA)
Combination of Campillo, Carlyle, and Bennett in long relief

Gonzalez is coming off Tommy John, returning to the club soon, while Moylan just underwent that operation. Soriano's also been on the DL a lot this year. In the future, if they come back 100%, they will be an outstanding back-end of the bullpen.

Brian McCann (24, 2-time All Star, .304, 12 HR)

Jones is hitting .500 after his first couple starts, with a HR.


Gregor Blanco (24, .266 BA)
Jeff Francoeur (24, .256 BA)
Brandon Jones (24, .500 BA)
Josh Anderson (25)
Jordan Schafer (21)

Frenchie is well established in RF, but the rest are all fast and talented. Jones has had a wonderful start with the club, while Blanco and Anderson have looked good too. There will be a fierce competition for the starting jobs in center and left next year.

SS Yunel Escobar (25, .299 BA)
2B Kelly Johnson (26, .283 BA)
2B/3B Martin Prado (24, .282 BA)

I think Teixeira (28) will be traded, but if the Braves can resign him, he will obviously anchor 1B for years to come. Either Prado can take over for Chipper, or Chipper will play for 5+ more years, or the Braves can trade one of those great outfield prospects for a third baseman.

So look at all of that young talent. The numbers are decent this year, but should only improve as the players develop and gain experience. This year might be a disappointment, but the future might be quite bright in Atlanta.