Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Roland Garros: It's On!

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My, oh my, how time flies! The first of the men's semifinals at the 2011 French Open is all set and as expected, the (above) two men will battle it out for a ticket to the final.

The guy on the left is a perfect 41-0 in 2011 (43 in a row dating back to 2010) and if he wins the semis, he will take over the World No. 1 ranking (win, lose or draw) in the Final. If he wins the title, it'll be his third career Grand Slam title, 2008 and 2011 Australian Open were the other two.

The guy on the right is perhaps the greatest player to ever play the game-- a 16-time Grand Slam champion-- owns an UNBREAKABLE RECORD of holding the No. 1 ranking for 237 CONSECUTIVE weeks-- everything that can be done in the game of tennis, he has done-- HOWEVER-- for the past 6 months or so he's had to settle for being a third wheel and relinquish the spotlight to the guy on the left as a new rivalry with the current World No. 1 is evolving and it doesn't bear his name-- AND HE DOESN'T LIKE IT!

So it's time to settle it in the only place it can be settled-- the tennis court....

It's on!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Roland Garros: Bring On Mr. Federer!

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Kudos to World No. 9 Gael Monfils on a spectacular (6-4, 2-6, 7-5, 1-6, 8-6) 5-set victory over World No. 7 David Ferrer in their 4th round match at the French Open.

The Frenchman and crowd favorite will now face World No. 3 Roger Federer in the quarterfinals for the right to play the unbeaten and almost-unstoppable World No. 2 Novak Djokovic in the semifinals.

Monfils, who was born in Paris, has always fared well in his home-country Grand Slam, reaching the quarterfinals in 3 out of the last 4 years and was a semifinalist in 2008.

As for Federer, by reaching the French quarters, he set an all-time record of reaching, at least, the quarterfinals in 28 consecutive Grand Slam events. The old record was 27 in a row held by the great Jimmy Connors. To put it in perspective, 28 consecutive quarterfinals appearances is the equivalent of 7 years worth of Grand Slams. Overall, he has made the quarterfinals in 30 of the last 34 Grand Slams, winning a record 16 of them since 2003. Simply incredible!

On the women's side--

World No. 3 Vera Zvonareva is OUT! Zvonareva lost her 4th round match to No. 14 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 7-6, 2-6, 6-2 and as a result there will be no change in the Top 3 rankings regardless of who wins the tournament. The OUSTED Caroline Wozniacki will remain No. 1, the OUSTED Kim Clijsters will remain No. 2 and the OUSTED Zvonareva will remain No. 3.

Oh and that Rafa guy--

He as cruised into the quarterfinals where he will face the only man to ever beat him at Roland Garros, World No. 5 and two-time runner-up Robin Soderling. As of today, Nadal is 42-1 at the French and Soderling is the man responsible for his only blemish, beating an injured Rafa in the 4th round in 2009. A loss that Rafa has never forgotten. That's for sure.

As for Monfils--

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Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Agony of The Twins

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What in the world is going on with the Minnesota Twins?

At 17-34, the Twins, who many picked to win the AL Central, have the WORST record in the major leagues and the worst all-around team in the major leagues. I mean, they have down right STUNK IT UP to this point in the season. They are last in the majors in runs scored (170), last in the majors in RBI (153), 27th in team BA (.234) and last in the majors in team ERA (4.76). The formula is pretty simple: If you can't hit and you can't pitch, you are not going to win games.

But the question on everyone's mind is-- WHY?

The Twins have been a very consistent team under manager Ron Gardenhire, winning the AL Central in 6 out of 9 seasons under his watch. And the 3 seasons they didn't win the division, they still had decent records. Never have the Twins been this bad during Gardenhire's tenure. So did they all of a sudden just forget how to play the game of baseball?

In fact, here's a little FUN STAT which (pretty much) summarizes how the season has been going for Gardenhire and the Twins so far--

Last night, starter Scott Baker threw seven scoreless innings against the Los Angeles Angels and left the game with a 5-0 lead. The Angels scored five runs in the eighth inning and one run in the ninth inning against Minnesota's bullpen and defeated the Twins, 6-5. Baker became the first major-league starter in 13 years to pitch a scoreless outing of at least seven innings and leave with a lead of at least five runs, only to see his team LOSE THE GAME.

It gets more interesting--

This was only the second time since moving to Minnesota from Washington in 1961 that the Twins lost a game in which they led by 5 or more runs going into the 8th inning. The only other time they lost such a game was on July 30, 1971 to the New York Yankees. Since that loss to the Yankees in 1971 the Twins had gone 755-0 (A MAJOR LEAGUE RECORD) in games in which they took a lead of five or more runs into the eighth inning-- UNTIL LAST NIGHT! They are now 755-1 since 1971 in games of that sort. Sheesh! Talk about a bad luck year!

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In defense of the Twins, there's still a lot of baseball left to be played and they still have a chance to turn things around. But if Scott Baker's (bad luck) outing doesn't put the Twins season (thus far) into perspective, then I don't know what does?

Stat courtesy of the Elias Sports Bureau and ESPN

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Roland Garros: Can Anyone Stop Novak?

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World No. 2 Novak Djokovic has done it again.

Today he won two sets in his interrupted third round match against No. 25 Juan Martin del Potro and moved on to the fourth round. The end result was a 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 win for Djokovic over the tough Argentine. Djokovic is now a perfect 40-0 in 2011 and seems unstoppable.

Next up for Djokovic is the Frenchman No. 13 Richard Gasquet, who although is a decent player, shouldn't be a problem for the unbeaten Serbian who is on a collision course to meet either No. 7 David Ferrer or No. 3 Roger Federer in the semifinals.

On another note, World No. 1 Rafael Nadal breezed through his third round match against unseeded Antonio Veic winning 6-1, 6-3, 6-0 and is on a collision course to meet World No. 5 and two-time runner-up Robin Soderling in the quarterfinals before a possible match-up with World No. 4 Andy Murray in the semifinals.

So a lot needs to happen before we get the highly anticipated Nadal vs. Djokovic Final for all the marbles.


Friday, May 27, 2011

Roland Garros: Pardon The Interruption

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The highly anticipated third round battle between World No. 2 Novak Djokovic and No. 25 (a very deceiving No. 25) Juan Martin del Potro was postponed because of darkness, deadlocked at 1 set apiece.

From Djokovic's perspective it's at 6-3, 3-6.

From del Potro's perspective it's at 3-6, 6-3.

The extra day may be a double edge sword for del Potro. On the one hand it gives his surgically repaired right wrist and recent bad hip some extra rest but on the other hand it kills the momentum he gained by winning the second set rather easily. Whatever dent he exposed in Djokovic's armor in the second set needs to be carried over into the third set tomorrow.

For Djokovic he gets a chance to study the film and rectify whatever mistakes he made in the second set and come tomorrow with the mentality that this is a semifinals match (and not a third round match) because that's the type of player he's playing-- a former World No. 4, a former French Open semifinalist and the 2009 U.S. Open champion, who seems to be fully healthy again.

So tomorrow the battle resumes as a best of three.

Great stuff!

Wilson Valdez and Babe Ruth

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Philadelphia Phillies infielder Wilson Valdez has gotten a lot of buzz for his late, late, late, late inning relief effort in the Phillies 19-inning 5-4 win over the Cincinnati Reds the other night.

In a nutshell: By this point in the game, Valdez was the only player left for manager Charlie Manuel, who knew how to get the ball over the plate, other than his starters. Manuel didn't want to risk using one of his starters so he pulled Valdez from the infield and handed him the ball. Valdez went on to pitch a scoreless top of the 19th and eventually got the win when the Phillies scored in the bottom of the 19th. For the record, Valdez retired Joey Votto, hit Scott Rolen with a pitch and then went on to retire Jay Bruce and reliever Carlos Fisher .

Valdez is the first position player to earn a major league pitching win since catcher Brent Mayne of the Colorado Rockies did it on August 22, 2000.


When Mayne got his win he wasn't already in the game so I guess we can say he was brought in as a pinch-pitcher. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Valdez, who was already playing a position in the game, became the first player since Babe Ruth to earn a win as a pitcher after having started the game at another position. Ruth did it on October 1, 1921 at the Polo Grounds, starting the second game of a doubleheader against the Philadelphia Athletics in left field, and then pitching the final four innings of that 11-inning game. Ruth allowed six runs, but got the victory when New York scored in the bottom of the 11th inning to win, 7-6.

So anytime a player does something that was last done by the Sultan of Swat it definitely deserves a mention. Wilson Valdez meet The Bambino.

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What's probably even more amazing is that we're buzzing about a Phillies pitching performance and it doesn't involve any one of the Fantastic Four or Fab Four or Four Horsemen. Go figure!

Roland Garros: Down Goes No. 1!

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The woes continue for World No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki.

Today, Wozniacki was OUSTED from the French Open in the third round (6-1, 6-3) by No. 28 Daniela Hantuchova in a match that wasn't even close. What is going on?

Yesterday, World No. 2 Kim Clijsters was also sent packing in the second round. This marks the first time in the Open Era that the top two seeded women fail to make at least the fourth round in a Grand Slam event.

As for Wozniacki, the dogging from the media lives on and probably has gained strength. For the foreseeable future she will have to hear the same old chant, "Are you worthy of the No. 1 ranking without ever winning a Grand Slam title?" The only consolation for her is that regardless of who wins the title she will hold on to the No. 1 ranking after the tournament by virtue of Clijsters also losing. However, if Wold No. 3 Vera Zvonareva wins the title she would come within 260 points of the top ranking.

It'll be: Wozniacki with 9915 points to Zvonareva's 9655 points-- IF Vera wins the title.

On another upset note, World No. 8 and 2010 runner-up Samantha Stosur was also STUNNED by unseeded Gisela Dulko (4-6, 6-1, 3-6) in the third round.

It's been UPSET CENTRAL on the women's side so far. No doubt about it.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Roland Garros: No Kim Slam!

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The 2011 French Open has quietly moved on to the third round and like any tournament it has had it's shock and awe moments.

Here are some odds and ends--

1) The biggest shocker (by far) has occurred on the women's side in the second round. World No. 2 Kim Clijsters was stunned by unseeded and virtual unknown Aranxta Rus (3-6, 7-5, 6-1). Clijsters, who was going for her 3rd consecutive Grand Slam title, for some strange reason just completely fell apart in the third set. After the match she said, "I started doubting a little bit. When you start doubting yourself on any surface, but for me definitely on clay, it’s the wrong attitude to have.” Clijsters also said her injured ankle was perfectly fine and injuries had nothing to do with it. So was this just a once-in-a-lifetime lucky moment for the 20-year old Rus or is she a future star in the making?

2)Everyone is asking-- What's wrong with World No. 1 Rafael Nadal? Nadal has moved on to the third round but his first two matches (by his standards) have been somewhat bumpy. In the first round John Isner became the first human to take Rafa to 5 sets at Roland Garros. Rafa would eventually win the match (6-4, 6-7, 6-7, 6-2, 6-4) but Isner made quite a name for himself by taking the 5-time champion to the brink for the first time ever. In the second round, journeyman Pablo Andujar also played Rafa tough in a 7-5, 6-3, 7-6 loss. I guess when you're the closest thing to perfect any little bump on the road would make people scratch their heads and ask questions but, nonetheless, Rafa is in the third round and as it stands has a 40-1 record at Roland Garros for his career. 40-1? Mind-boggling, but true.

3) No. 10 Mardy Fish, yes Mardy Fish, is the lone American male to advance to the third round. On the women's side, unseeded Vania King and Bethanie Mattek-Sands are the only American women in the third round. What can I say? It's no secret that U.S. tennis is in the doldrums with a gloomy future ahead.

And last but most definitely not least--

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4) The best match of the early rounds has come to fruition as World No. 2 Novak Djokovic takes on former World No. 4 and 2009 U.S. Open champion Juan Martin del Potro in the third round. Del Potro is seeded 25th but this is perhaps the most deceiving 25th seed in tennis history. Del Potro, who lost his standings in the rankings due to his absence after a devastating wrist injury, is no slouch on clay as his 10-1 record in 2011 speaks for itself. Djokovic, however, is the favorite (and rightly so) in this match but it wouldn't surprise me if del Potro gives him a run for his money. All the pressure is on Djokovic who has a perfect 39-0 record in 2011 to preserve and is seeking to take over the No. 1 ranking from Nadal. For del Potro, 2011 is just a comeback year as he tries to move down the rankings and back into the Top 10. Win or lose, by reaching the third round, he will more than likely move up 4 or 5 spots and inch closer to the Top 20. So there's no pressure on del Potro which is definitely a good thing. And if the 22-year old Argentine is fully healthy and if his serve is at full strength, this match could get interesting. And I mean, very, very interesting. We'll see....

To be continued....

The Mavericks Get It Done!

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CONGRATULATIONS to the Dallas Mavericks on winning the Western Conference Finals.

The Mavs are going to the NBA Finals for the second time in team history and may face the Miami Heat who are up 3-1 on the Chicago Bulls in the Eastern Conference Finals. As destiny would have it, the Mavs and the Heat both made their NBA Finals debut in the same year (2005-06) with the Heat winning the series, 4-2. Unless Chicago makes a miraculous comeback, it looks like Mavs-Heat Round 2 is almost a done deal.

....And something tells me the (above) big man from Wurzburg Germany has other plans this time around.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Cubs and Red Sox Party Like It's 1918

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What in the world were the Chicago Cubs doing in Fenway Park?

The Cubs weekend series against the Boston Red Sox was their first visit to Beantown since the 1918 World Series, which of course they lost 4-2.

We would think that in the 15 years of interleague play that major league baseball would have thought of this idea sooner. Guess not.

Anyway, like the 1918 World Series, the Cubs lost the 3-game series to the Red Sox, 2-1. In fact, their 1 win (a 9-3 victory) was their first REGULAR season win at Fenway Park since beating the Boston Braves 9-1 on May 24, 1915. Their last win of any kind came, of course, in the 1918 World Series when they won Game 5 at Fenway, 3-0. They went on to lose Game 6 by a 2-1 score and the series 4-2. I guess we can say the rest was history and I mean HISTORY with a capital everything-- 86 years later the Red Sox would FINALLY win their next World Series-- 103 years later and the Cubs are STILL waiting for their next championship. I mean, you couldn't make this stuff up. Sheesh!

If this weekend series accomplished anything is that (maybe, just maybe) we can finally put 1918 and all it's historical ramifications behind us. Well, at least the Red Sox can, the Cubs still have their own issues to worry about.

By the way, isn't David Ortiz kinda built like that Babe Ruth guy who won 2 games for Boston during the '18 World Series?

Sorry Billy Goat, I know I keep giving you jazz but you must be used to it by now.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The MLB on TSC: Vlad the Impaler

Getty Images/AP Photos & Columbia Pictures
As the MLB season reaches the 30% mark, here are some interesting odd(ities) and ends from the past week:

1) Kudos to one of my favorite players of the past decade and a half, Vladimir "The Impaler" Guerrero. Last week Vlad put together a monster week with 7 consecutive multi-hit games and went 16 for 36 (.444) during an 8-game stretch. Currently he leads the Orioles with a .309 BA and has actually walked 5 times. Vlad, who is notorious for swinging at anything a pitcher throws at him, has not changed a lick during his 16-year Hall of Fame career. So 5 walks for him are actually impressive. What a player!

Lee photo courtesy of Getty Images

2) The Human Torch Cliff Lee continues to baffle with his uncanny ability to do things never or rarely done in the history of the game. Over the weekend Lee defeated his former team the Texas Ranger, 2-0, pitching 8 scoreless innings and registering 10 strikeouts. Lee became only the second pitcher in major league history to register double-digit strikeouts against the team for which he had pitched in the World Series the previous year. The only other pitcher to do so was Ryne Duren who did it for the Los Angeles Angels in 1961. Duren had 12 strikeouts in a game against his former team the New York Yankees which he pitched for in the 1960 World Series against the Pittsburgh Pirates. For the record, the great Cubs Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg was named after Duren.

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3) And then there's Ozzie and the Chicago White Sox. The Chisox have gone 11-4 during a recent 15-game stretch bringing their record to a semi-respectable 22-27. Ozzie may have finally found a closer (ooops, we're not suppose to call him that) in Sergio Santos who now has 6 SAVES to only 1 BLOWN SAVE. Looks like Ozzie won't need Bobby Thigpen after all.

For those who have no idea what I'm talking about go here-- Trouble in the Land of Ozzie!

4) The Cleveland Indians (30-15) are the first team in the majors to 30 wins. So when can we start saying The Tribe are the real deal and not just a Cinderella story?

5) Finally-- Jose Bautista. 19 home runs and counting. 54 home runs last season. Wow and in the post-Steroids Era too!

Cliff Lee stats courtesy of the Elias Sports Bureau

Monday, May 23, 2011

Roland Garros: Down Goes No. 6!

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We are only two days into the 2011 French Open and we already have our first major upset. The unwanted honor goes to 2010 semifinalist and World No. 6 Tomas Berdych.

Berdych was stunned in the first round by qualifier Stephane Robert (3-6, 3-6, 6-2, 6-2, 9-7). Just by looking at the score we can tell Berdych was cruising along and strangely enough simply fell apart in the third and fourth set. As for Robert this is by far the biggest win of his career. He had won just one match all year long and entered the French with a measly 1-3 match record. In other words, he had played in only three tournaments so far in 2011 and got wiped out in all three.

After the match an exuberant Robert said, "I played my best tennis, I gave everything." No doubt this has to be the highlight of the 31-year old journeyman's career.

For Berdych, the loss was like a dagger through the heart as far as his ranking points go. As a returning semifinalist he entered the tournament needing to defend 720 points. He'll get credit for 10 points just for being in the first round and will take a hit of 710 points which may result in some lost ground in the rankings. His overall points total will drop from 4200 to 3490 as a result of his nightmare French Open experience.

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As for Robert, who has qualified for only 20 tournaments during his entire 11-year career (13-20 match record), this was definitely his shining moment.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Jered Weaver: The Oddest Season In Major League History

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The game of baseball has so many oddities that sometimes we just have to shake our heads and ask ourselves, "WHAT IS GOING ON?"

CASE IN POINT: The see-saw year Los Angeles Angels ace Jered Weaver is having so far. Not only is Weaver having a see-saw year but he's having a see-saw year of historical proportions.

Here are some head-shaking stats from Weaver thus far:

1. On April 15: Weaver (4-0) became the first pitcher in major league history to start and win 4 games by this date.
2. On April 20: Weaver (5-0) became the first pitcher in major league history to start and win 5 games by this date.
3. On April 25: Weaver (6-0) became the first pitcher in major league history to start and win 6 games by this date.
4. On May 2: Weaver was looking to become the first pitcher in the Modern Era (since 1900) to go 7-0 by May 2. Only a guy by the name of Sadie McMahon, WAY WAY back in 1891, while pitching for the Baltimore Orioles of the defunct American Association, had won (at least 7 games) by May 2. Unfortunately for Weaver it was not to be as he wound up losing the game to the Boston Red Sox thus missing the opportunity to tie McMahon and set his own Modern Era record. He was now 6-1.
Jumbo McGinnis
5. Fast forward to May 20: Weaver who began 6-0 is now 6-4 after losing 4 consecutive starts. Weaver is now the first pitcher in the Modern Era (since 1900) to win his first 6 starts and then go on to lose his next 4 starts. The only other pitcher to win his first 6 starts and then lose his next 4 was a guy by the name of Jumbo McGinnis of the St. Louis Brown Stockings of the (defunct) American Association who did it in 1884.


So far this season Weaver has done some things (good and bad) that NO pitcher has been able to do in over 120 years of playing baseball. Now how in the world does that happen????

I guess sometimes facts are stranger than fiction. Sheesh!

Stats courtesy of the Elias Sports Bureau and ESPN

Friday, May 20, 2011

Roland Garros: It's Time Caroline!

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The 2011 French Open is less than a week away--

On the women's side, all eyes are on World No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki as she leads the field with, well, the No. 1 seed and, of course, the most scrutiny.

Since taking over the No. 1 ranking last October, Sweet Caroline has been under a microscope as the top-ranked player. Once again, she will be answering the annoying question that has nagged her since climbing to the top, "Are you worthy of the No. 1 ranking?"

Wozniacki worked her way to the top by winning the most tournaments over the past season and a half, HOWEVER, none of them have been Grand Slam titles. Unfortunately for Wozniacki in the business of tennis you are measured by how many majors you win. Fair or unfair, that is the cold-hard truth.

Personally, I think the scrutiny is very unfair because, after all, she's only 20 and has had pretty good success in the 4 majors thus far in her short career. In the past 2+ years she was a finalist (2009) and a semi-finalist (2010) at the U.S. Open; a semi-finalist at the 2011 Australian Open; back-to-back 4th round appearances (2009, 2010) at Wimbledon and a quarter-finalist at the 2010 French Open. So it's just a matter of time before she breaks through and wins her first major title as she is at the brink of doing so. Besides it's not her fault that she has racked up a lot of computer points by winning the most non-grand slam events and by going deep in the events that she doesn't win. If she does manage to win this year's French, maybe then, she can FINALLY stop hearing the "is she worthy" chatter of holding the No. 1 ranking without a major title under her belt. GOOD LUCK, Caroline! We're all pulling for ya, sweetie!

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But in order to win her first major, chances are, that Wozniacki will have to defeat the dangerous World No. 2 Kim Clijsters, who has recovered and will be at Roland Garros after a two-month injury-plagued layoff.

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Speaking of the world's No. 2 player, she most definitely doesn't have Caroline's "major-less" problems, that's for sure. On the contrary, Clijsters is going to Roland Garros looking for her third consecutive Grand Slam title and 5th overall. She is the two-time defending U.S. Open champion and the defending Australian Open champion and is looking for a French Open title to add to her Hall of Fame resume. Clijsters has twice been a finalist (2001, 2003) at the French Open and twice a semifinalist (2003, 2006) at Wimbledon.

So will Clijsters make it 3 Grand Slams in a row and set the stage for a potential "Kim Slam" at Wimbledon or will Wozniacki finally get the monkey off her back?


Does World No. 3 Vera Zvonareva have other ideas?

Or maybe--

The surging World No. 4 Victoria Azarenka and the defending champion World No. 5 Francesca Schiavone may want to spoil the party also.

And let's not forget World No. 6 Na Li and World No. 7 Maria Sharapova who are lurking in the bushes somewhere. So all in all, it should be a great women's tournament. No doubt.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Fiesta Bowl Survives Despite Their Rap Sheet

The word "fiesta" is Spanish for PARTY. So if we translate the Fiesta Bowl into English it means the Party Bowl, right? Technically yes but never in our wildest dreams did we (the college football fans) think that the head honchos over at the so-called prestigious Fiesta Bowl were taking their name literally. However, according to reports, that's exactly what was going on in Arizona. The Fiesta Bowl, led by corrupt former CEO John Junker, was nothing more than ONE BIG PARTY.

But guess what? They got away with it.

This week the NCAA announced that the disgraced BCS bowl game will retain its license and be allowed to operate as a nonprofit organization. In other words, they only got a slap on the wrist for their scandalous behavior. For their misappropriate spending habits which included-- illegal donations to politicians and Junker spending lavishly on himself for birthday bashes filled with strippers and booze-- all the Fiesta Bowl had to do was apologize and promise to behave themselves in the future.

For all their misconduct the NCAA only slapped them with a one year probation and the BCS fined them $1 million. They will, however, remain one of the four major bowls which determine the national championship along with the Rose Bowl, Sugar Bowl and Orange Bowl. Scandal or no scandal, that's an honor which shouldn't have been granted to the Fiesta Bowl in the first place.

Since Day 1 (when the Bowl Alliance was created back in the '90s) I've said that the Cotton Bowl should have been one of the Big 4 bowls based on prestige and years of existence. But no, the Bowl Alliance HOSED the Cotton Bowl and gave the honor to the Fiesta Bowl.

The Fiesta Bowl has only been around since 1971, while the Cotton Bowl has been around since 1936. Only the Rose, Sugar, Orange and Sun Bowl are older. If anything, the Sun Bowl should have been considered over the Fiesta Bowl.

So once this embarrassing scandal broke out, I thought for sure the Fiesta Bowl was going to get stripped of their prestigious BCS-status and the Cotton Bowl was going to get what should have been rightfully theirs in the first place. But no. I guess, once again, the Cotton Bowl got hosed.

Who wouldn't want to watch the national title game on prime-time in the new state-of-the-art Cowboys Stadium, which is what we'll get (every 4 years) if the Cotton Bowl was part of the BCS?

On a more positive note, if you love sports trivia checkout the blog, Sports History 365, for some interesting brain-wracking trivia. Excellent stuff!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

What's Wrong With Mark Cuban?

Drew Litton/Rocky Mountain News
The Western Conference Finals between the Dallas Mavericks and the Oklahoma City Thunder has some intriguing story-lines. Will the Mavericks' experience be too much for the inexperienced Thunder? On the flip side, with experience comes age, so will the aging Mavericks be in for a rude awakening against the youthful and explosive Thunder? How will the 38-year old Jason Kidd be able to keep up with the young and extremely talented Russell Westbrook, who is 16 years his junior? And not to mention, Dirk Nowitzki and Kevin Durant are both in da house. So lots of good stuff in this series, no doubt.

But another interesting component has to do with the never-lost-for-words owner of the Mavericks, Mark Cuban. Cuban has been curiously mum during these playoffs. So will the eccentric Dallas owner break his self-imposed silence or is it a strategic move on his part to keep the focus off of himself?
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Cuban was one of only two NBA owners to vote against the Super Sonics moving from Seattle and becoming the OKC Thunder, so it's shocking that he hasn't taken a least one shot at the team that now dwells in Sooner country against his blessings.

I highly doubt he's trying to keep the focus off of himself (that would be blasphemous) so I expect Mark to take a shot or two at the Thunder during this series. Or at least talk trash if things don't go Dallas' way as the series progresses.

And why?

Because it's just in his nature.

Harmon Killebrew (1936-2011)

Killebrew: 573 HR, 1584 RBI, 1559 BB, 1283 R, 1969 AL MVP, 1984 Baseball Hall of Fame Inductee.

Farewell to the GREAT Hall of Famer who was the inspiration behind the current major league logo.

The MLB on TSC: The Dog Days of May

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An old philosopher once said, "Sometimes fact is stranger than fiction". Nowhere is that ever more true than in major league baseball. I've always found it interesting how in baseball something DOESN'T happen for 70 to 100 years and then all of a sudden it happens.

Here are some head-scratching stats from the past few days :

1. Let's start with the talk of the day. The performance by Kansas City Royals reliever Vin "I Ain't Diesel" Mazzaro, who officially set the record for the worst pitching performance in major league history in a 19-1 massacre at the hands of the super red-hot Indians from the "LEBRON WHO?" city of Cleveland.

Mazzaro's Box Score: 2.1 IP, 11 H, 14 R, 14 ER, 3 BB, 1 HR, 22.74 ERA

Here is how ESPN and the Elias Sports Bureau summarized his nightmare performance: He was the FIRST pitcher in the Modern Era (since 1900) to allow as many as 14 runs in one game while pitching LESS than three innings. He was the first relief pitcher to allow 14 or more runs in a game since Tommy Warren of the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 30, 1944. He was only the fifth relief pitcher ever to allow 14 or more EARNED runs in one game. The last was Les McCrabb of the Philadelphia Athletics on April 16, 1942.

TSC's take on the massacre: Poor Vin. Shame on the Royals for leaving him in there to get tortured that way.

2. The Los Angeles Dodgers had an oddball game of their own this past week. The artists formerly known as the Brooklyn Robins lost a game to the Arizona Diamondbacks, 1-0, while only allowing 1 hit in the entire game. The last time the Dodgers lost such a game was on July 17, 1914 against the Chicago Cubs when they were, well, the Brooklyn Robins. To add insult to injury, the 1 run charged to hard-luck loser Chad Billingsley was unearned. Ouch!

3. The red-hot Tampa Bay Rays also did something that was last done by a descendant of the LA Dodgers. Last night, the Rays scored 6 runs in a home win against the "in the doldrums" New York Yankees, sending the Yankees to their 6th consecutive loss. The key to this weird phenomena is the 6 runs scored AT HOME by the Rays. It was the first time this season the Rays scored more than 5 runs at home snapping a 22-game (5 runs or less) home start. The last team to start a season with that many HOME GAMES with 5 runs or less were the 1908 Brooklyn Superbas, who began the season with 26 straight 5 runs or less HOME GAMES. The Superbas, of course, evolved into the Brooklyn Robins-Brooklyn Dodgers-Los Angeles Dodgers. Strange but true.

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For the record, the Yankees are a RISP nightmare. Wasn't that clutch-hitting Damon guy a Yankee once? Hmmm?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Posada-Gate Had Some Upsides

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The weekend soap opera between Yankee DH Jorge Posada and manager Joe Girardi had some upsides and downsides depending on which angle you see it from.

In a nutshell: On Saturday, Girardi penciled the slumping DH (.165 BA) to bat 9th for the first time in 12 years. The slumping DH took it personal and bum-rushed Girardi's office half an hour before the game and said something to the effect, "I ain't playin' tonight! Batting ninth is for amateurs with no tiger blood! I'm a 5-time champion, part of the "Core 3" and I deserve mo' respect!" Well, maybe he didn't say it exactly that way but you get the point. Anyway, Girardi was forced to make a quick line-up change and penciled in Andruw Jones as Posada's replacement.

Ok, call it Posada-gate or Lineup-gate or whatever, but the story had some strong legs with the media as it dominated the headlines this whole weekend. Should Posada be sanctioned? Is he thinking of retiring? Why did he make up the "bad back" story? But what was lost in the whole mess was the fact that the Yankees were playing a HUGE weekend series with their arch nemesis the Boston Red Sox and in the past few weeks the Red Sox have been sizzling and the Yankees have been fizzling, so a distraction was the last thing the Yankees needed.

The end result: A 3-game sweep by Beantown.

The Downside:

From a Yankee perspective it was a nightmare of a weekend. At 20-18, they have lost 7 out of their last 10 games and have relinquished first place in the AL East to the red-hot Tampa Bay Rays who are 23-17 after a woeful 1-8 start. So it's safe to say the Yankees are in a funk right now, although I do think they'll be OK once their bats come back from their 2 weeks (and counting) hiatus.

Another Downside:

Posada still has a .165 BA. In other words, disgruntled behavior doesn't improve the mathematics in this business.

The Upside:

From Beantown's perspective it was a weekend for the ages. They swept the "hated" Yankees at Yankee Stadium and perhaps most importantly, they FINALLY reached the .500 mark for the first time this season. The Red Sox are now 20-20 and can officially begin their assault on the AL East which many, including me, still believe is theirs to lose. Reaching .500 was a major hurdle for Boston to clear after their 2-10 start, no doubt about it.

Another Upside:

From a historical perspective, something rather interesting came out of Posada-gate. By Posada refusing to play, Girardi was forced to replace him with Jones, who batted ninth for the first time in his career. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Jones (with 408 career home runs under his belt) became only the second player in major league history to have over 400 HR and bat 9th in a major league game. The only other player to do so was the legendary Hall of Famer Jimmie Foxx (534 career HR) who at the tail end of his career batted 9th while playing for the Philadelphia Phillies. Go figure!

Anyway, for the record, Posada has supposedly apologized to Girardi and the Yankee brass and the incident was laid to rest. "Hip! Hip! Jorge!"

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Man, that Adrian Gonzalez dude is a monster! Isn't he?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Off To Roland Garros

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World No. 2 Novak Djokovic has done the unthinkable.

He has defeated World No. 1 Rafael Nadal in back-to-back tournaments ON CLAY thus becoming the first man ever to beat Rafa TWICE ON CLAY. Last week Djokovic beat Nadal in the Final at the Madrid Open (7-5, 6-4) and today he again bested Rafa (6-4, 6-4) in the Final of the Internazionali BNL d'Italia or Italian Open. Djokovic is now within inches of taking over the No. 1 ranking from Nadal as only 405 ranking points now separate the two. Nadal has 12,070 points to Djokovic's 11,665. So "The Battle for No. 1" should and will be decided in the "granddaddy" of the clay-court season, the upcoming French Open.

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Djokovic will take his 37-0 record and 7 titles (so far in 2011) to Roland Garros where he will most likely be the favorite even though he will still be ranked No. 2. Nadal, however, is still the defending champion and 5-time champion overall and still the most dangerous man on clay. But right now I think all eyes have to be on Novak.

What a year so far for the 23-year old Serbian!

On the women's side--
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Kudos to former World No. 1 and current World No. 8 Maria Sharapova on winning the Italian Open title (6-2, 6-4) over World No. 7 Samantha Stosur. This was Sharapova's first title in over a year and her biggest win on clay. Since her long layoff after shoulder surgery in October 2008 Sharapova has struggled to regain her dominant form which took her to the top of the rankings on 4 different occasions from August 2005 to May 2008. Her progress has been slow and at times frustrating but she has quietly worked her way back into the Top 10. And with the win over Stosur she will move up to No. 7 in the world, which is her highest ranking since her comeback.

During the trophy presentation, Sharapova said, "This is just the beginning of many things to come. This is just the start of everything."

Confidence is always good when heading to a Grand Slam tournament. With (both) Venus and Serena Williams out with tough injuries and World No. 2 Kim Clijsters still doubtful, I wouldn't count Sharapova out at Roland Garros. That's for sure.

Alex Rodriguez and Mel Ott

A-Rod photo courtesy of Getty Images
New York Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez is marching toward another monumental milestone in his career. A-Rod currently has 1853 RBI and at some point this season will become the 11th member of the exclusive 1900-RBI club. But to do so he first has to surpass the man who currently sits at No. 11, the immortal Mel Ott who has 1860 RBI.

Ott, who played his entire career with the New York Giants from 1926 to 1947, is truly one of the GREAT ONES of the game. He was a 12-time All-Star and a World Series champion in 1933. Aside from his 1860 RBI he was a career .304 hitter with 511 home runs, 2876 hits and 1859 runs scored. Ott made his major league debut at the tender age of 17 and went on to become the first National League player to surpass the 500-home run mark.

Ott was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1951.

So once A-Rod passes Ott it's off to 1900 where he will rub elbows with Hank Aaron (2297), Babe Ruth (2213), Cap Anson (2075), Barry Bonds (1996), Lou Gehrig (1995), Stan Musial (1951), Ty Cobb (1938), Jimmie Foxx (1922), Eddie Murray (1917) and Willie Mays (1903). All of these greats are in the Hall of Fame with the exception of, well, Barry Bonds. And we all know Bonds' story and the (potential) rude awakening that awaits him when he becomes Hall Of Fame-eligible in 2013.

If anything, once A-Rod gets to 1900, Bonds shouldn't feel like the only "black sheep" in this all-exclusive club made up of TRUE god-like immortals of the game. That is the harsh reality facing all members of the "PED Era". Sad to say.

But for now Mel Ott is on the clock for A-Rod.

Mel Ott stats and bio courtesy of baseball-reference.com and Wikipedia

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Best Wishes To The Great Harmon Killebrew

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Minnesota Twins great and Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew has announced that he is giving up his fight against esophageal cancer.

Killebrew released a statement through the Minnesota Twins and the Baseball Hall of Fame, which reads--

"It is with profound sadness that I share with you that my continued battle with esophageal cancer is coming to an end. With the continued love and support of my wife, Nita, I have exhausted all options with respect to controlling this awful disease. My illness has progressed beyond my doctors' expectation of cure."

"I have spent the past decade of my life promoting hospice care and educating people on its benefits. I am very comfortable taking this next step and experiencing the compassionate care that hospice provides."

"I am comforted by the fact that I am surrounded by my family and friends. I thank you for the outpouring of concern, prayers and encouragement that you have shown me. I look forward to spending my final days in comfort and peace with Nita by my side."

DEEP! Very deep!

Killebrew played with the Washington Senators/Minnesota Twins from 1954 to 1974. He hit a whopping 573 home runs back in the days when 500 home runs meant something. He was an 11-time All-Star and the 1969 AL MVP. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1984.

BEST WISHES to one of the GREAT ONES and his family!

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Plight Of Kendrys Morales

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As the great story began--

Los Angeles Angels first baseman Kendrys Morales had a breakout year in 2009 with 34 HR and 108 RBI and was an integral part of the Angels' run to the 2009 ALCS. He was viewed as a savior to many Angels fans who felt dissed and betrayed when then-free agent Mark Teixeira turned his back on them and opted to sign with the New York Yankees. Morales' monster year quickly made them forget about Teixeira as a new star was born.

As the great story derailed--

Morales' success carried over into 2010-- until the dreaded day of May 29, 2010.

Up until that day, Morales was leading the team with 11 home runs and 39 RBI and was on his way to another superb year. Then came the MOST bizarre, bumbling, weirdo, bozo, (you name it) career-threatening injury in major league history. Morales broke his left ankle when he jumped on home plate celebrating a walk-off grand slam home run with his teammates. The injury was so severe that he was quickly DONE for the year. Bye Bye 2010. To this day he is yet to recover and now it's been announced that he is DONE for 2011 also. Morales and the Angels opted for more surgery as his rehabilitation program was going nowhere. Bye Bye 2011.

Oh those new baseball rituals!

To date, Morales has been the only victim of this school-yard type trend but if another player gets hurt in a future walk-off celebration, I guess we can start calling the ritual, "THE KENDRYS MORALES CURSE". Or "THE CURSE OF THE KENBINO"-- (no, that's too corny).

Personally, I have no problems with players celebrating after a dramatic win but I think they should all have Morales on the back of their minds when they do so because celebrating is one thing, careless over-celebrating is another. And in Morales' case there seemed to be an element of carelessness involved which has cost him and the Angels dearly. What a bummer!

Hmmm? I wonder if losing the 2009 ALCS to Teixeira and the Yankees had anything to do with Morales' BAD LUCK? Well, in baseball, we do believe in curses, don't we?

What Happened?!

So my understanding is that Blogger was experiencing technical difficulties and has been out of whack for close to 24 hours.

OK, I understand that.

We live in an imperfect world and stuff happens. The technical team has explained the problem, rectified it and has the thing running again.


I have but ONE BEEF and ONE BEEF only with this whole setback--


Don't they know how long it takes to put some of those things together sometimes? Why Derek? STRIP ANYTHING BUT THAT ONE!!!!


UPDATE (5:45 EST): My Jeter post is back up. Life is good again.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The NBA Playoffs on TSC

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In a nutshell: The NBA Playoffs HAVE NOT been going my way thus far. Plain and simple!

Anyway, here are some odds and ends--

1. I predicted an NBA Finals' rematch between the 33-time champions Boston Celtics-Minneapolis/Los Angeles Lakers. The word on the street is-- that ain't gonna happen as the (combined) 3-time defending champions were beaten to a pulp, 8-1, by the Miami Heat and the Dallas Mavericks, respectively. What a bummer!
2. Had I known Kevin Garnett was only going to show up to work once in this series, I would have never spent 10 months hyping up the so-called "Big 3 vs. New Big 3" showdown. WHAT HAPPENED?!
3. The No. 8 seed Memphis Grizzles could have easily taken a commanding 3-1 lead on the Oklahoma City Thunder but blew the opportunity in TRIPLE-OVERTIME in Game 4 and instead now trail the series 3-2. My take on that is, if we're still talking about a No. 8 seed at this point in the conversation then it's all good. So let's go easy on the Grizz!
4. Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls are now one win away from having their best post-Michael Jordan era playoff run. The only question remaining is--will they be able to STAND THE HEAT in the Eastern Conference Final? If not, then they'll have to get out of the kitchen. That simple!

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WHAT HAPPENED, BIG MAN?! {Shaking My Head}

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Derek Jeter and Sam Rice

Jeter photo courtesy of Getty Images
The Derek Jeter March to 3000 Hits (Part 2). (see Part 1 - Derek Jeter and Sam Crawford)

Yesterday, the Yankee Captain Derek Jeter went 2 for 4 against the Kansas City Royals bringing his career total to 2962 hits. In the process he passed the legendary Hall of Famer Sam Crawford (2961 hits) for sole possession of 29th place on the all-time list. Jeter, who got off to a slow start, has quietly risen his batting average to .283 with a solid month of May thus far. So for now the nagging questions about his slump have, for the most part, quieted down.

As for his march to 3000-- next on the list-- Hall of Famer Sam Rice with 2987 hits.

Rice, who played for the Washington Senators from 1915 to 1933, has the highest hit total for any player NOT to reach 3000 hits. He was a pivotal member of the 1924 World Champion Senators team and of the 1925 & 1933 American League Champions Senators teams. During his career he had 13 seasons with a .300+ BA and 6 seasons with 200+ hits. Rice played his final major league season in 1934 with the Cleveland Indians. Years after his retirement Rice was asked about being 13 measly hits short of the milestone, and replied, "The truth of the matter is I did not even know how many hits I had. Nowadays, with radio and television announcers spouting records every time a player comes to bat, I would have known about my hits and probably would have stayed to make 3,000 of them."

Rice was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1963.

So Jeter is now 28 hits shy of passing Rice for sole possession of 28th place on the all-time list and then it's off to the milestone.

And sitting in 27th place is the immortal Roberto Clemente with 3000 hits on the dot. Once Jeter ties Clemente he will become the 28th member of the 3000 hit club, and who knows, 4000 may just be in his future as he is neck-and-neck with all-time hits leader Pete Rose (4256 hits) at this same point in Rose's career.

Rice bio courtesy of Wikipedia

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The MLB on TSC: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

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As the major league season soldiers on, it's time for me to reflect on the week that was or the first 10 days of May that were. Call it: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

The Good:

1. Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander throws a no-hitter. Verlander threw the second no-no of the season, following in the footsteps (literally) of Minnesota Twins ace Francisco Liriano who threw one only 4 days earlier. This was Verlander's second career no-hitter and the 7th in Tiger's history. Ironically, Liriano also threw the 7th in the Twins/Senators history. Verlander is only the second Tiger's pitcher ever to throw multiple no-hitters. He now shares the honor with Virgil Trucks who threw 2 no-hitters for the Tigers in 1952. Let's hope that the 2 no-hitters is the only stat Verlander shares with Trucks as Trucks finished the 1952 campaign with a 5-19 record despite throwing those two no-hitters. Go figure!

More Good:

1. The Tampa Bay Rays are officially tied for 1st place in the AL East with the New York Yankees. The Rays, at 20-14, are smokin' hot since their 0-6 start and are proving to all wannabe experts, including me, that it's easy to sit behind a computer and talk trash when it's the guys on the field who run the show. Good for them!

The Bad:

1. The Baltimore Orioles, after their great 5-1 start, are now 14-19 and dead-last in the AL East. I guess they came back from their vacation in "Cloud Nine Island" and are back to being, well, the Baltimore Orioles.
2. Ozzie and the closer-less Chicago White Stockings have officially erased the word "closer" from the baseball dictionary. I guess that's what they get for running long time closer Bobby Jenks out of town and not making a move for a legit closer during the off-season (i.e. Rafael Soriano). At 14-22, the White Sox have payed a heavy price for that bumbling move so far. On new cl**** Sergio Santos, Ozzie said, "We are going to give him a shot to close again. But in the meanwhile, I cannot name him or give him the title." Huh????

And FINALLY-- The Ugly

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1. The Seattle Mariners have finally done the baseball world a favor and cut ties with their thug-outfielder Milton "Don't Get Loud With Me Or I'll Go Gangsta On Ya" Bradley. All I have to say on that is "GOOD RIDDANCE!"

To be continued....