Wednesday, August 31, 2011

U.S. Open: Early Round Action!

Getty Images
The early rounds of the 2011 U.S. Open has had it's high-lights and it's low-lights thus far.

Here are some early rounds odds and ends--

On the men's side:
  • So far so good for most of the Top 10 players in the world. Some of them had to sweat it out in the first round (i.e. No. 2 Rafael Nadal and No. 5 David Ferrer) but most of them have moved on to the second round. Only No. 6 Robin Soderling (withdrew because of illness) and No. 10 Nicolas Almagro (lost to wild-card entry Julien Benneteau) did not make it past the first round.
  • Two other players who were ousted in the first round were No. 15 Viktor Troicki and No. 16 Mikhail Youzhny. Troicki is perhaps the second best player out of Serbia but if he's going to close the gap between himself and the best Serbian player, he's going to have to perform a lot better than this in Grand Slam tournaments. Right now Troicki is at least 2 light years away from catching up to Serbia's best player, Mr. Novak Djokovic. As for Youzhny, his ranking points are going to take a major beating when the tournament is over. As a 2010 semifinalist, Youzhny had a whole lot of points to defend and losing in the first round was certainly the worst thing that could've happened to the Russian.
  • So far so good for the 2009 champion and No. 18 Juan Martin del Potro. Del Potro easily won his first round match 6-3, 6-1, 6-1 against unseeded Filippo Volandri of Italy. So how deep in the tournament can the Argentine go? Will he go deep enough to clash in the quarterfinals with No. 4 Andy Murray? We'll see.
  • The interesting match of the second round is: No. 27 Marin Cilic vs. Bernard Tomic. If Tomic prevails, he will more than likely face No. 3 Roger Federer in the third round, which could turn out to be a very interesting confrontation. As we may remember, the 18-year old Tomic caught the attention of the tennis world by reaching the quarterfinals at Wimbledon.
Getty Images
On the women's side:
  • It hasn't been a good U.S. Open for 2011 Grand Slam champions. Australian Open champion Kim Clijsters withdrew because of injuries; French Open champion and 6th seeded Na Li was ousted in the first round; Wimbledon champion and 5th seeded Petra Kvitova was also ousted in the first round. So regardless of who wins the tournament, there will be 4 different Grand Slam winners in 2011 on the women's side.
  • The 8th seed Marion Bartoli of France was stunned in the second round (6-7, 2-6) by American teenager Christina McHale. Kudos to the Jersey girl on the biggest win of her career thus far.
  • Two-time champion Venus Williams withdrew from the tournament right before her second round match due to illness. She was scheduled to play Wimbledon semifinalist Sabine Lisicki who has raised a lot of eyebrows in recent times.
  • The interesting match of the second round is: No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki vs. Arantxa Rus. Rus is best remembered for ousting then-World No. 2 Kim Clijsters in the second round at the French Open. But just keep winning Caroline. Hopefully you can finally get the monkey of your back at this Grand Slam.
To be continued....

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Ian Kennedy Takes The Cy Young Award Lead

Getty Images
By virtue of becoming the National League's first 17-game winner, Arizona Diamondbacks ace Ian Kennedy has become the new front-runner in the NL Cy Young Award race. Well, at least in my book.

Kennedy (17-4, 161 K, 3.03 ERA, 1.12 WHIP) has a slight edge (right now) over Clayton Kershaw (17-5, 212 K, 2.45 ERA, 1.02 WHIP) of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Kennedy won his 17th game one day before Kershaw won his 17th.

And although Kershaw's overall numbers are a bit better than Kennedy's, the fact that the Diamondbacks (76-59) are having a fantastic year may give Kennedy the edge he needs. Currently the first-place D'backs are a healthy 5 games ahead of the defending champions San Francisco Giants and Kennedy is a HUGE reason why.

The Dodgers, on the other hand, are 63-70 and out of the pennant race. Not to mention, they're off-the-field drama has overshadowed Kershaw's fabulous season.

So the two team's opposite season performances may sway votes in Kennedy's favor.

For most of the season my money has been on Roy Halladay (15-5, 2.56 ERA) winning the prize (again) but it's no secret Kennedy has always been my sentimental favorite. So consider this a lobbying post.

If Kennedy takes the D'backs deep into the playoffs and eventually wins the Cy Young Award, as a New Yorker, I want to witness the hounding the New York Yankees are going to get from the media for letting go the kid they once considered "untouchable". Patience is NOT a virtue when it comes to the win-now Yankees, that's for sure.

As for the race in the American League--

Fuhgeddaboudit!

The prize is Justin Verlander's (20-5, 218 K, 2.38 ERA, 0.90 WHIP) to lose.

Indeed it is!

Monday, August 29, 2011

The U.S. Open Is Here!

Getty Images
The final Grand Slam of the 2011 tennis season is upon us!

The 2011 U.S. Open kicks off today in Flushing, Queens, N.Y. in just about perfect post-Hurricane Irene weather.

The interesting questions and tidbits of this year's Open are:
  • Will World No. 1 Novak Djokovic continue his historic season and win his third Grand Slam of the year? If Djokovic wins the title, he will leave New York with a mind-boggling 64-2 match record in 2011.
  • Will World No. 2 Rafael Nadal defend his title and win his second U.S. Open crown? Nadal and Djokovic are on opposite ends of the field and are not scheduled to meet until the final. Rafa is 0-5 against Djokovic in Final's matches this year and the questions about his poor showings against the new No. 1 are starting to annoy him.
  • Will World No. 3 Roger Federer capture his 6th U.S. Open title? The 30-year old Swiss still believes he has enough in the tank to get the job done. The physically-fit former World No. 1 has said in the past, it's the body that tells you how old you are not age. We'll see.
  • Will World No. 4 Andy Murray break his Grand Slam funk and capture his first major? If he does-- not only would it be his first but the first by a British player in a gazillion years.
  • And finally there's the 18th seeded Juan Martin del Potro. How will the 2009 champion respond in his return to the big event? Del Potro is "technically" defending his 2009 title as he was unable to play last year due to a wrist injury. He is on a collision course to clash with Murray in the quarterfinals. The Argentine has always said, the U.S. Open is his favorite event of the year. With his epic win over then-No. 1 Roger Federer in the 2009 Final, I think we have to believe him.
On the women's side--

Getty Images
The ladies' side is just as intriguing:
  • First, the same old story. Will World No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki win her first-ever Grand Slam and justify her worthiness of the No. 1 ranking? Fair or unfair, that has been Wozniacki's reality since taking over the No. 1 ranking almost a year ago. And an interesting tidbit would be: How much of a distraction has her new flame, Rory McIlroy, been for her?
  • How in the world was Serena Williams seeded No. 28? The 3-time champion and former World No. 1 may be the first 28th seed in history to be the favorite to win the title. But if Serena has a poor showing, will she be hounded with the following question: Did you leave the tournament in Cincinnati, not because of a right toe injury, but because you didn't want to miss Kim Kardashian's wedding? Just curious. By the way, who did Kim marry anyway? People Magazine didn't even put him on their wedding cover.
  • What will the media frenzy be like if third-seeded and World No. 4 Maria Sharapova wins the title? Somehow I get the feeling the little pooch with the heavy accent may get his old gig back in the Canon commercials if the Russian beauty prevails.
  • No. 2 Vera Zvonareva and No. 4 Victoria Azarenka are overdue. Will either of these ladies win their first-ever Grand Slam title? It's time, ladies!
My predictions:

Men's champion: No. 2 Rafael Nadal
Women's champion: No. 28 Serena Williams

Let's roll!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Alfredo Aceves And Larry Corcoran

Getty Images
Boston Red Sox middle reliever Alfredo Aceves may not be the most popular pitcher in the major leagues but one thing Aceves quietly NEVER does is LOSE games.

On Saturday, Aceves pitched 3 shutout innings in relief to earn a 4-0 win against the Oakland A's, improving his season record to 9-1. Ace (as his former manager Joe Girardi of the New York Yankees used to call him) is now 23-2 for his career. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, his 23-2 career record is the best record in major-league history by a pitcher in his first 25 career decisions. Aceves broke the old record of 22-3 held by Larry Corcoran of the, get this, 1880 Chicago White Stockings (now known as the Cubs).

An 1887 baseball card of Larry Corcoran
That's right, Corcoran had held the record for 131 years, until Aceves broke it yesterday. And I don't care what anybody says, when you do something that hasn't been done in 131 years (the MLB was only 4 years old in 1880), that's a HUGE accomplishment. Aceves may not win a popularity contest any time soon, but he knows how to get the job done. No doubt.

Here's Aceves career won-lost record:

2008 Yankees 1-0
2009 Yankees 10-1
2010 Yankees 3-0
2011 Red Sox 9-1 (thus far)

131 years? Now that's a mighty LONG time. In order to break Aceves' new record, somebody is going to have to go 24-1 or 25-0 in their first 25 decisions. If it took Aceves 131 years, I wonder how long it'll take for someone to break his record?

Finally, for the record, Larry Corcoran and the 1880 Chicago White Stockings/Cubs were the World Champions that year.


....And who says the Cubs don't win world championships?!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Empire Strikes Back

Getty Images
Today, after losing the first two games-- which mathematically means they lost the 3-game series-- the New York Yankees ROMPED the Oakland A's 22-9 in the third and final game of the series.

In the 22-run BASHING, the Yankees hit 3 grand slam home runs thus becoming the first team in major-league history with 3 GRAND SALAMIS in 1 game. Never before had the feat been done, until today.

All I can say is-- Whoa!

Getty Images
The 3 historic home runs were hit by MVP-candidate Curtis Granderson, second baseman-extraordinaire Robinson Cano and power-hitting catcher Russell Martin. All three of these gentlemen were 2011 All-Stars also, adding a component which makes the record that much more harder to duplicate.

Can you imagine the future trivia question: Who are the only three teammates in history to make the All-Star team and each hit a grand slam home run in the same game in the same season? Now that's a tough one to duplicate.

Getty Images
....And to paraphrase what Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland once said in 2006, "this was 'Murderer's Row and then Cano' in action today".

Cano's grand slam came in the 5th inning; Martin hit his in the 6th and Granderson's came in the 8th inning. In the end, a 7-2 deficit became a 22-9 shellacking as history was made at Yankee Stadium.

On a personal note--

I was actually at the stadium with some friends for Game 1 of the series on Tuesday, which the Yankees lost 6-5. Yes, we Met fans go to Yankee games sometimes. Of the tons of pictures I could have taken that night, the only snap shot which caught my attention was the following--


For some reason, seeing former Yankee and 2009 World Series MVP Hideki Matsui (No. 55) at the plate in an A's uniform caught my attention, especially with all the cheers he was getting from the crowd. Or maybe it was the coincidence that both he and Russell Martin both wear No. 55-- who knows?

Also, why couldn't the Yanks have this historic day in Game 1 when I was there?!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The MLB on TSC: The Dog Days of August Soldier On....

Time now for another edition of the MLB on TSC, where baseball's present always meets baseball's past and facts are sometimes stranger than fiction.... oh yeah, and baseball mumbo jumbo is always a fun theme.

Here goes:

CLAYTON KERSHAW AND DWIGHT GOODEN

Getty Images
KUDOS to Los Angeles Dodgers ace and Cy Young candidate Clayton Kershaw (16-5, 207 K, 2.51 ERA) on his monster year thus far. In a year where drama and bickering has consumed the Dodgers (60-69) season, Kershaw has been one of the bright spots for the team out west. On Tuesday, Kershaw passed the 200-strikeout plateau for the second consecutive year. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Kershaw, 23, is the first pitcher under the age of 24 to record back-to-back 200-strikeout seasons since a 19-year old phenom for the New York Mets named Dwight Gooden did so from 1984 to 1986.

However, let's just hope on-the-field numbers is the only thing Kershaw will ever have in common with my one-time idol.

THE MARINERS AND THE BIG 1-0

Getty Images
You would think that asking a team to score 10 runs in a game is a tall order, but actually, in the American League (with the DH), it happens more often than we think. Well, unless of course, you're the Seattle Mariners. The Mariners scored 12 runs on Tuesday against the Cleveland Indians, ending a streak of 102 consecutive games scoring less than 10 runs. That is the longest such streak in the American League this season. Last season the Mariners also had the longest less-than-ten-runs streak in the American League with 120 consecutive single-digit-runs games. According to Elias, the 2010 and 2011 Mariners are the ONLY teams since the 1984 Baltimore Orioles to have such streaks of 100 or more games. The '84 O's had a 103-game streak making them the last non-Mariners team to do so.

Maybe the Mariners should take that freaky stat as a subliminal message as to why they are dead-last in the American League in runs scored.

ATLANTA BRAVES: FOUNDING FATHER NO. 1

Getty Images
The Atlanta Braves, along with the Chicago Cubs, are the only charter members remaining from the original National League (est. 1876). I guess we can say that that makes them the "Founding Fathers" of modern-day baseball. You would think that in 135 years of Braves baseball everything by now should have happened at least once. But no, leave it to the Elias Sports Bureau to come up with their classic first-timers. The Braves recently won a 1-0 game against the Arizona Diamondbacks and the 1 run came on a home run by shortstop Alex Gonzalez. That is the first time in Braves history that a shortstop homers in a 1-0 game. Go figure!

CHICAGO CUBS: FOUNDING FATHER NO. 2

Getty Images
A recent Yahoo! Sports headline read, "Remaking the Cubs begins with critical GM choice."

Remaking the Cubs?

Hold on one second! I thought we were supposed to be at the brink of ending this 103-year thing and now we're talking about remaking? Hello! The team has been in the league for 135 years-- "remaking" should be a word that has long been erased from their dictionary. How in the world do you tell people who have been waiting for a parade for 103 years that "we're in the process of remaking the team"? My goodness, so how long is it gonna take? Another 100 years? {shaking my head}

On another Cubs front--

The above player (Tyler Colvin) is STILL wearing No. 21.

For those who don't know, that's the same number that the estranged Cubs-great Sammy Sosa used to wear. And I'm sure "Say It Ain't So" Sammy is still fuming about the fact that the Cubs have had the "audacity" to keep his number in circulation.

Last year in an interview with Chicago Magazine, a livid Sosa said, “That number should be untouchable because of the things that I did for that organization. That right there shows me that they don’t care about me, and they don’t want to have a good relationship with me.”

I'm sure Sosa still feels that way today. How dare the Cubs NOT retire his number! How dare they, as he put it in the same article, "....throw me into the fire. They made people believe I'm a monster."
AP Photo

I'm no Sammy Sosa defender, but my theory is this:

The dude hit a Cubs-record 545 career home runs. He holds the 3 highest single-season home run totals (66, 64, 63) in Cubs history. Whether the Cubs like it or not, his name is plastered all over their record books. And although I believe Sosa's numbers are suspect, the only voice that matters is major league baseball's-- who have NOT put an asterisk or erased any steroid-era records. So in the eyes of major league baseball, Sosa's stats are legit. And if their legit, then the dude has an argument. If MLB and the Cubs are going to recognize his stats, then the Cubs should definitely retire his number.

Now--

If the Cubs come out and say something to the effect-- we ostracized the dude because 1) his numbers are shady and even though we turned a blind-eye on the situation back then because he was filling up seats, somebody has to be the fall guy and it ain't gonna be us and 2) he threw us under the bus in 2004 and walked out of here like he was Mr. Big Shot and to this day we have not forgiven him for that-- then that's a totally different story. But until the Cubs don't come out and say that, with 545 Cub-homers, the dude has a legitimate beef.



Monday, August 22, 2011

Sharapova Takes Cincy

Getty Images
Former World No. 1 Maria Sharapova has captured the Western and Southern Financial Group Women's Open title in Cincinnati by defeating another former World No. 1 Jelena Jankovic 4-6, 7-6, 6-3 in the final.

For Sharapova, this is her second title of the year as she also won the Italian Open in Rome in early May.

The win in Cincy was definitely sweet for her considering how bitter and disappointing her Cincinnati experience was last year.

Last year in Cincy, Sharapova lost a heart-breaker in the final to Kim Clijsters, waisting 3 match points in the second set and eventually losing the match and the title 2-6, 7-6, 6-2 to Clijsters.

Although--

For a while yesterday it seemed like it was going to be deja vu all over again as she almost dropped the match to Jankovic. After losing the first set, she found herself in a tie-break situation in the second set. But she ran off 5 unanswered points in the tie-breaker to win the set and give herself some breathing room going into the third and final set. Unlike last year, this time around, the 7-6 second set score was in her favor and she was able to pull it off, winning the third set 6-3. It wasn't easy, but she got the job done.

The win gives Sharapova a big boost going into the upcoming U.S. Open where she will undoubtedly be one of the favorites to win it all. Especially after the news came out that two-time defending champion Kim Clijsters has withdrawn from the tournament because of injuries.

Getty Images
So as is always the case, all eyes will be on the new World No. 4 come the U.S. Open.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Djokovic Has A Bum Shoulder!

Getty Images
World No. 1 Novak Djokovic was forced to retire in the second set of his match against World No. 4 Andy Murray due to an ailing shoulder. Murray had a commanding 6-4, 3-0 lead in the final of the Western and Southern Financial Group Masters in Cincinnati when Djokovic, in obvious pain, had to call it quits.

This gave Murray the title by default and handed Djokovic only is second loss of the year. He is now an outstanding 57-2 on the year.

The questions on everyone's mind are: 1) Is playing at such an extremely high level starting to take it's toll on Djokovic? Prior to Cincinnati, Djokovic had won 9 of the 10 tournaments in which he has played in 2011, only losing once to Roger Federer in the French Open semifinals. This is an unprecedented high level of tennis for any mere mortal. 2) How will his shoulder respond in the upcoming U.S. Open?

Here's what Djokovic said when asked these questions--

"There is no good loss, that's for sure. But the good thing is that there is a week, eight days [before] the start of the US Open. So I think that's enough time for me to get ready."

All we can do is wish the new World No. 1 all the best in his recovery and hope that he's 100% healthy for the upcoming U.S. Open, but if anything, at least this proves that he's human.

Well, almost human.

Hey Yankee Fans, Go Easy On A.J.!

Getty Images
It must be tough being A.J. Burnett (9-10, 4.96 ERA) these days.

The New York Yankees starter had another rough outing last night, further putting him in the Yankee fans' doghouse. The buzz words surrounding Burnett around Yankee Nation are inconsistent and unreliable.

In a nutshell, here's what unfolded last night:

With the bases loaded and two outs in the second inning-- already trailing 4-0 against the Minnesota Twins-- Yankee manager Joe Girardi pulled Burnett from the game and apparently Burnett wasn't too happy about it because as he was leaving the mound, he turned back and said something to Girardi. That got the media buzzing as everyone wanted to know what was it that Burnett said. To spice up the story, a disgruntled Burnett went straight to the locker-room, breaking a rule that a pitcher must stay in the dugout until the inning is over. Girardi is caught on camera following Burnett to the locker-room and a few minutes later both men come out. Burnett sat in the dugout until the runners he left on base eventually scored, making the score 7-0. That's when he got up and left again, still breaking the stay-in-the-dugout rule because the inning wasn't over yet.

See video here.

Obviously Girardi was asked about the mini-drama after the game. But it's as if he was ready for it because he quickly gave the media a tongue-lashing. When the question came up, a pissed-off Girardi immediately barked back, “I’m tired of people looking for something between me and A.J.! Me and A.J. have mutual respect for each other. I cheer for this guy. He cheers for me, and we cheer for this team. I want the guy to do well.” When further pressed about going into the locker-room after A.J., a sarcastic Girardi said, "We had a fist fight!". And then dismissed the question by saying he went to look at video of A.J.'s last pitch which was a questionable ball four call.

There's no question all the problems Yankee fans have with A.J. revolve around his contract. At 5-years, $82 million, fans expect this guy to put up Cy Young-caliber seasons but that hasn't been the case. But in A.J.'s defense, the two voices that matter, Girardi and GM Brian Cashman, are still on his side. Both men are still supportive of A.J. and it doesn't seem he's going to be pulled from the starting rotation any time soon.

And as is always the case, all Burnett needs to do is have a clutch pitching performance in the playoffs and all will be forgiven and forgotten. Just like he did in 2009.

People can say what they want about A.J. but he still has wicked stuff. Once he starts locating his pitches better, he'll be the toast of the town again. No doubt.

If you want a sample of how die-hard Yankee fans feel about A.J. and his pitching performances, click here, to read what a Yankee blogger had to say about last night's situation. Parental discretion is advised. 



Friday, August 19, 2011

The Sooners Take The Pole Position

Getty Images
Well folks, we are less than 2 weeks away from the start of another college football season. My how time flies. It seems like just yesterday that Cam Newton and the Auburn Tigers were hoisting the national championship trophy and the Oregon Ducks were left wondering-- what happened?!

As I was looking at the preseason polls which are already available (still waiting on the AP), I noticed a few interesting things--

The Oklahoma Sooners were overwhelmingly ranked No. 1 in the USA Today Coaches Poll with 42 first place votes. This, however, hasn't always worked out too well for the Sooners. If memory serves me correct, more often than not, whenever the Sooners take the pole position and are considered heavy favorites, something always seems to go wrong for them down the road. Remember Kansas State and LSU in 2003?

Here are the Top 10 in the USA Today preseason poll:
  1. Oklahoma
  2. Alabama
  3. Oregon
  4. LSU
  5. Florida State
  6. Stanford
  7. Boise State
  8. Oklahoma St.
  9. Texas A&M
  10. Wisconsin
The No. 3 Oregon Ducks and the No. 4 LSU Tigers will immediately put a dent on the polls as these two powerhouses will collide in Week 1. Personally, I believe the winner of this game should take over the No. 1 ranking in Week 2.  The No. 1 Sooners and the No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide both play at home against two softies (Tulsa and Kent State, respectively) in Week 1, so the strength of schedule component should propel the winner of the Oregon/LSU game to the No. 1 ranking, in my opinion.

The No. 7 Boise State Broncos play a tough road game in Week 1 at the No. 22 Georgia Bulldogs. For Boise State this is a huge and I mean, huge, game. As history has taught them, being a "second-class" citizen in the BCS standings is a tough gig. The Broncos know, all too well, that in order for them to get any consideration for a BCS bowl game, they must have a perfect season. In the world of the so-called "mid-majors" one loss is unacceptable to the BCS. Fair or unfair, that's just the way it is. So a win at Georgia will definitely set up the Bronco's season nicely. If they beat Georgia, they should go into their big clash with TCU undefeated. The Broncos and the Horned Frogs are scheduled to do battle on Nov. 12.

Also, it's nice to see the Texas A&M Aggies in the Top 10 for the first time in a long time. College Station should be an exciting place to be this season.

The bottom of the Top-25 looks like what the top used to look like in yesteryear with Florida at No. 23, Texas at No. 24 and Penn State at No. 25. Who would've thought that these once-powerhouses would be looking up at schools like Boise State and TCU?

Finally, can anyone explain to me why the Big East is a Power-6 conference? No teams in the Top-25, again.

AP Photo
Anyway, other than that, there wasn't much else I found eye-catching about the preseason polls. As we all know, these polls will change a gazillion times from week to week. It'll be interesting to see how long the Sooners hang on to the top spot because, after all, they do run into a brick wall in Week 2 at No. 5 Florida State. There we shall see what the Sooners are made of.

To be continued....

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The MLB on TSC: Jim Thome, Albert Pujols and the D'backs

The MLB season is officially 75% in the books. With only a quarter of the season left, it'll be interesting to see which of the remaining contenders will tough it out and weather the storm or will there be a monumental collapse, a la San Diego Padres, circa 2010.

As we officially enter the eye of the hurricane known as the Dog Days of August, here are some odds and ends from the past 7 days--

JIM THOME AND BABE RUTH

Jim Thome photo courtesy of Getty Images
Aside from the fact that Jim Thome is ONLY the 8th player (and only the 5th with no suspicious baggage) to ever hit 600 home runs, I found it extremely interesting that he did it with the second fewest number of at-bats. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Thome, hit home run No. 600 in his 8,167th career at-bat. That is the second lowest total behind Babe Ruth who hit No. 600 in his 6,920th career at-bat. Very interesting.

Is Cooperstown in Thome's future? Mos def!

ALBERT PUJOLS, BARRY BONDS, ALEX RODRIGUEZ AND JIMMIE FOXX

Getty Images/AP Photos
CONGRATS to St. Louis Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols on hitting his 30th home run of the season. Pujols is the only player in major-league history to hit 30-or-more home runs in his first 11 seasons in the majors. He is also only the 4th player ever with 11-or-more consecutive 30-HR seasons at any point during a career. Barry Bonds did it 13 consecutive seasons. Alex Rodriguez also has done it 13 consecutive seasons and his streak is active. But with only 13 home runs so far this season it looks like A-Rod's streak is going to end at 13 seasons. Hall of Famer Jimmie Foxx had 12 consecutive seasons of 30+ homers.

Something tells me Mr. Pujols isn't done yet and will prolong his streak for years to come.

ARIZONA'S MOST DANGEROUS SNAKES

Getty Images/AP Photo
A message to the World Champion San Francisco Giants:

Hey Giants, if ya think that the Arizona Diamondbacks are going away any time soon, you guys must be out of your mind. From the looks of it, the D'backs are only getting better as the season winds down. They have a potential Cy Young Award winner in Ian Kennedy (15-3, 3.12 ERA) and they have a potential NL MVP in Justin Upton (25 HR, 75 RBI, .305 AVG). And don't count on the wild-card because it looks like the Atlanta Braves have a strangle-hold on that. So if you guys want to defend your title-- it's overtake Arizona or bust.

So you guys better get to work because those guys in Arizona look dangerous, deadly and relentless. Whatever it is that manager Kirk Gibson is doing out there, is working. No doubt.

FINALLY--

Let's keep an eye on Ozzie Guillen and his Chicago White Sox. They are 61-60 and only 3.5 games behind the AL Central-leading Detroit Tigers. Gotta give credit to Ozzie and his boys for being pesky and refusing to go away.

DOUBLE FINALLY--

Can't end this post without mentioning the Pittsburgh Pirates. Sigh! I still haven't lost all hopes of them having a winning season. Yes, they have fallen apart as of late but at 58-63, a winning season is still doable. C'mon Pirates, let's go 24-17 the rest of the way!

Click on images to view larger

Monday, August 15, 2011

CONGRATULATIONS to Jim Thome!!!!

600 HOME RUNS

Getty Images
....8th member of the 600-HR Club

Getty Images
....It couldn't have happened to a nicer guy! ....And LEGIT guy, for that matter!!

Dan Uggla and the Hitting Streak

Getty Images
Well folks, the Dan Uggla hitting streak is over! 33 games. Very impressive.

As Uggla put it, "It was a fun run but all things have got to come to an end sometime."

Indeed it was fun following Uggla's improbable hitting streak. After all, it's not often a .170 hitter goes on a 33-game hitting streak. In fact, it's the first time ever in the modern era (since 1900).

Here are some interesting tidbits about Uggla's streak, according to the Elias Sports Bureau:
  • On July 4, the day before the streak began, Uggla had a .173 batting average.
  • By game 33 of the streak he had raised his average to .232.
  • By game 15 of the streak he had a .197 batting average, a modern day record.
  • By game 20 of the streak he had a .206 batting average, a modern day record.
  • By game 25 of the streak he had a .215 batting average, a modern day record.
  • By game 30 of the streak he had a .220 batting average, a modern day record.
  • All those modern day records are for lowest batting average ever after a milestone number of games of a hitting streak.
  • He hit 15 home runs during the streak, which tied a major-league record for most home runs during a hitting streak of any length. Joe DiMaggio hit 15 HR during his 56-game hitting streak in 1941. Willie McCovey hit 15 HR during a 24-game hitting streak in 1963. Alex Rodriguez hit 15 HR during a 23-game hitting streak over a two season span in 2006 and 2007.
A ONE-HIT WONDER

AP Photos - click on image to view larger

During the streak, Uggla had EXACTLY ONE HIT in 22 of the 33 games. That tied him for the third most 1-hit games during a streak in the Modern Era (since 1900). Joe DiMaggio had 34 1-hit games during his monumental 56-game hitting streak in 1941. Pete Rose had 26 1-hit games during is mind-blowing 44-game hitting streak in 1978. Benito Santiago had 22 1-hit games during his 34-game hitting streak in 1987. Santiago's 34-game hitting streak is the most ever by a rookie and by a catcher.

25 HOME RUNS AND 32+ GAME HITTING STREAKS

Uggla is only 1 of 5 players in major-league history to have a hitting streak of 32 or more games and have 25-or-more home runs in the same season. The other 4 were: Rogers Hornsby in 1922, Joe DiMaggio in 1941, Tommy Holmes in 1945 and Chase Utley in 2006.

Getty Images/AP Photos - click on image to view larger
Incidentally, Tommy Holmes 37-game hitting streak in 1945 for the Boston Braves is the Braves franchise record. Uggla's 33-game streak is the most-ever for the Atlanta Braves. Rico Carty held the previous mark of 31 games in 1970.

So there it is. Everything about Dan Uggla and is out-of-nowhere 33-game hitting streak. Yes I know, way too much stats-- but what can I say-- 1) I'm a stat freak and 2) I'm a huge fan of ESPN's Tim Kurkjian (another stat freak).

Keep up the good work, Tim!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Big Boy #1 Does It Again!

Getty Images
New World No. 1 Novak Djokovic just keeps on rolling!

Djokovic defeated World No. 8 Mardy Fish 6-2, 3-6, 6-4 in the final to win the Rogers Cup in Montreal. In the process, Djokovic captured his 5th ATP Masters 1000 event of the year, setting a new ATP record. No player had ever won this many events in the Masters 1000 Series in a single season. This was also his second Rogers Cup title as he also won the event in 2007.

Here's a look at his Masters 1000 results for 2011 thus far:
  • Pacific Life Open - defeated Rafael Nadal in the Final.
  • Sony Ericsson Open - defeated Rafael Nadal in the Final.
  • Madrid Open - defeated Rafael Nadal in the Final.
  • Italian Open - defeated Rafael Nadal in the Final.
  • Rogers Cup - defeated Mardy Fish in the Final.

Djokovic is now an astonishing 53-1 in 2011. What else is there to say? The guy is virtually unbeatable right now. My goodness!

On the women's side--

AP Photo
Kudos to former World No. 1 Serena Williams on her Rogers Cup victory in Toronto. Since her comeback from a year-long absence due to injuries and illnesses, Serena is starting to heat up and show that she is still the best in the business. The Rogers Cup was her second consecutive title as she also won the Bank of the West Classic in Stanford, California last month. In Stanford she defeated World No. 9 Marion Bartoli in the final, avenging her 4th round loss to Bartoli at Wimbledon.

With her long absence and her inability to defend her 2010 Wimbledon title (mostly due to rust), Serena fell out of the Top 100 in the rankings. But with her win in Stanford she climbed back to No. 80 and now with her BIG win in Toronto, she will climb down to No. 31 when the new rankings come out tomorrow.

Although--

Not that it matters to her anyway, ranked or not ranked, Serena can beat just about anybody on any given day when she's healthy and on her game. No doubt about that.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

PGA Championship: The Eye of the Tiger?

Getty Images
What in the world is wrong with Tiger Woods?

Yesterday, for the first time in his career, Tiger missed the cut at the PGA Championship by a mile. Yes I know, Tiger has been awful since his comeback from the fiasco that has derailed his career, but when he starts missing cuts at major events, something is terribly wrong.

Tiger hasn't won an event (of any kind) since November 2009, just days before his regrettable Thanksgiving weekend fracas which has pretty much cost him everything. And we all know the circus his life became after all his skeletons fell out of the closet.

But my goodness, not even in my wildest dreams did I think that he would still be winless by this point. And now he's missing cuts at majors?!

Dare I say it? Yes I will.

Sean Delonas/NY Post - Click on image to view larger
If going back to his old lifestyle would make a difference than why doesn't he just go back to his old ways? Heck dude, you're single now, so if you walk around with ten hotties, that's your prerogative. If that's what it'll take-- then do what you gotta do. Nobody can say a damn thing because your officially a single man now. Period.

This is mind-boggling. It really is. How is it that a gossip-filled fiasco turns a man from undisputed World No. 1 to World No. "Lucky to be in the PGA"?

Or maybe he needs an Apollo Creed in his life? Yeah, that's what it is. He needs an Apollo-like figure to come into his life and light that fire that was once burning.

Apollo's pet talk would definitely work wonders for him.

Speaking of Apollo, let's listen to the tune he used to help Rocky get out of the doldrums, one more time:



Tiger definitely needs to get THE EYE OF THE TIGER back! No doubt!

C'mon Tiger! I'm pulling for you, bro!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Motown Records

Getty Images
The Detroit Tigers (62-55) may not have the best overall record amongst the division leaders but if they make the playoffs, they can be very dangerous in a short series. As history has shown us, all a team needs to do is get to the post-season and anything can happen. Regular season records get thrown out the window come playoff time. Yes 2006 Cardinals, you crossed my mind as I wrote that last sentence.

Two major reasons why the Tigers could pose a playoff threat is their ace Justin Verlander and their closer Jose Valverde. What a year this combo is having! Verlander is a major league-best 17-5 with a 2.35 ERA and 196 strikeouts. Valverde is 33 for 33 in save opportunities. In a short series, facing Verlander twice may be doomsday and with Valverde lurking, you only have 8 innings per game to get the job done.

For Verlander, his 17th win of the year was also the 100th for his career. According to Yahoo! Sports, Verlander is the quickest Tigers pitcher to 100 wins since Denny McLain in 1969. Of course, McLain is still our last 30-game winner in the majors.

Getty Images
As for Valverde, he set a new Tigers record with his 33rd consecutive save to start the season. The previous mark was held by Willie Hernandez who was 32 for 32 for the 1984 World Champion Tigers. For his perfect season, Hernandez was awarded the AL MVP and AL Cy Young Award.

So what about Valverde? If the Tigers make the playoffs and we use the Hernandez model, shouldn't Valverde be in the MVP and Cy Young Award conversations? As I stated in an earlier post, an argument can be made that Verlander is the Cy Young Award winner and Valverde is the MVP. Sounds a little like wishful thinking with the kind of year Boston Red Sox slugger Adrian Gonzalez is having but there is a legitimate argument. Where would the Tigers be without Valverde?

Anyway, the Tigers are on pace to ONLY win 85 to 88 games but come playoff time, they're the one team, I'm sure, nobody is going to want to play in the first round. These Tigers may just do to their opponents what the 83-78 St. Louis Cardinals did to theirs in 2006, including the 2006 Tigers themselves. Maybe it's the Tigers' turn?

Go Motown!

Getty Images
Wow, that Jhonny Peralta guy has one cool last name!

Oh by the way--

Folks, don't forget to go to Sports History 365 to get a daily-dose of brain-racking sports trivia questions and the historical sports moments of the day. Also checkout The Sportaholic Radio Show every Saturday morning at 10 am. It's a great show with sports savvy minds of regular sports fans.

Down Goes Big Boy #3

Getty Images
My! Oh my! The beat goes on at the Rogers Cup in Montreal. The latest casualty is two-time champion and World No. 3 Roger Federer.

Federer lost in the third round 6-7, 6-4, 1-6 to World No. 16 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France. This is Federer's second consecutive loss to the Frenchman as Tsonga also beat him in the quarterfinals at Wimbledon a couple of months ago.

So now the only Top 4 player still alive is World No. 1 Novak Djokovic. Djokovic has advanced to the quarterfinals where he will meet World No. 7 Gael Monfils of France.
Getty Images

The tournament has been a nightmare for #2 Rafael Nadal, #3 Roger Federer and #4 Andy Murray. The three were a combined 1-3 in the tournament. So much for me hyping this thing up.

Oh by the way--

World No. 8 Mardy Fish has quietly punched his ticket to the semifinals. So an American win in Canada would be nice, unless of course, Mr. Djokovic has other ideas.

Go Mardy!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Down Goes Big Boy #2

AP Photo
What in the world is going on at the Rogers Cup in Montreal??!!

First, two-time defending champion and World No. 4 Andy Murray falters in the second round and now two-time champion and World No. 2 Rafael Nadal bites the dust in the second round also. Sheesh!
AP Photo

Nadal lost his second round match in a nail-biter 6-1, 6-7, 6-7 to World No. 41 Ivan Dodig of Croatia. After the match, Dodig said, "this is the greatest moment of my life."

I'm sure it is.

As for Big Boy #1 and Big Boy #3, both Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer have advanced to the third round.

The way this is going who knows what lies ahead?


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The MLB on TSC: The Dog Days of August

Getty Images
The MLB season has entered the stretch run as the "Dog Days of August" are upon us. And from looking at the standings, unless something miraculous happens in the next 6 weeks, it's safe to say, 17 of the 30 teams can pack it up today and go fishing. So if my math is correct, we have 13 teams (still alive) fighting for 8 playoff spots.

So as the season soldiers on, here are some tidbits from the first 10 days of August--

THE FANTASTIC FIVE

Getty Images and AP Photos
The Philadelphia Phillies (76-40) are playoff bound. Period. They began the season with the much anticipated debut of what is perhaps one of the most lethal starting pitching staffs in major league history. The Fantastic Four or the Fab Four or whatever you want to call them have not disappointed for the most part thus far. Roy Halladay (15-4, 2.51 ERA); Cole Hamels (13-6, 2.53 ERA) and Cliff Lee (12-7, 2.83 ERA) are having monster years. Roy Oswalt (4-7, 3.84 ERA) has missed time due to injuries and personal issues but is still a dangerous pitcher down the stretch.

But the last thing anyone expected was that the Fantastic Four would become the Fantastic Five as Vance Worley (8-1, 2.35 ERA) has emerged as a top-notch pitcher. Worley has put together an extraordinary run in place of injured 5th starter Joe Blanton. In fact, in most of his outings, he has out-performed the Fab Four themselves. With the emergence of Worley there's no doubt the Phillies will ad-Vance deep in the playoffs (pardon the corny pun).

UGGLA KEEPS LOOKING PRETTY

AP Photo
I gotta admit, I'm having a great time following Dan Uggla and his out-of-nowhere hitting streak. For Uggla, the streak is officially at 30 games which ties him with LA Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier for the longest this season. Uggla's overall batting average has now climbed to a "whopping" .220 as a result of the streak. On July 4 (the day before the streak began) Uggla had a .173 batting average and 30 games later he's at .220. In relations to batting average, Uggla's streak has been historical as no player has ever had a hitting streak this long while hovering in the .170 to .220 neighborhood.

Another tidbit about the streak--

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, this is the 9th 30-game hitting streak in the majors so far in the 21st century and all have occurred in the National League. Here's a look--
  • Dan Uggla (2011 Braves)
  • Andre Ethier (2011 Dodgers)
  • Ryan Zimmerman (2009 Nationals)
  • Moises Alou (2007 Mets)
  • Willy Taveras (2006 Astros)
  • Chase Utley (2006 Phillies)
  • Jimmy Rollins (2005 Phillies)
  • Albert Pujols (2003 Cardinals)
  • Luis Castillo (2002 Marlins)
The last 30-game hitting streak in the American League was by Eric Davis of the 1998 Baltimore Orioles, which coincidentally, was the year the Orioles began their current run of consecutive LOSING seasons-- 14 and counting after this season.

JOSE VALVERDE FOR AL MVP?

Getty Images
Detroit Tigers closer Jose Valverde has 32 SAVES and 0 BLOWN SAVES thus far this season. The last time a Tigers' closer had this phenomenal a start was Willie Hernandez back in 1984. That year we were so in awe with what Hernandez did that we awarded him the AL MVP and the AL Cy Young Award. So if we use the same old-school 1980's mentality, shouldn't Valverde be in the Cy Young and MVP conversations this year? Or how about this-- if the Tigers make the playoffs, Valverde's teammate Justin Verlander (16-5, 2.30 ERA) is our AL Cy Young Award winner and Valverde is our AL MVP. Just trying to figure out our logic back in 1984.

A-ROD'S MY NAME, POKER'S MY GAME

Sean Delonas/NY Post - click on image to view larger
I've asked myself, do I really care that New York Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez plays big-bucks poker during his spare time? And do I really care that there's drugs, booze, babes and big-time celebrities involved in these shady poker games? The answer is no! Over the year's I've come to the realization that A-Rod's life will be under a microscope no matter what he does and trouble always seems to follow him around. So these A-Rod stories are getting old and boring. When he starts betting on baseball somebody give me a call. Or if he starts hittin' on the recently-divorced J'Lo, give me a call also. That's a much more juicier story.

THE BREW CREW IS PLAYOFF BOUND

Getty Images
The surging Milwaukee Brewers (66-50) have a respectable 4 game lead in the NL Central. Over the last two seasons, I've said, the Brewers are a solid all-around team if only they can just get their bullpen in order. Well so far this year that has happened and the Brew Crew are enjoying their best season in a LONG time. Closer John Axford has 33 SAVES to only 2 BLOWN SAVES and their set-up men, led by LaTroy Hawkins and Kameron Loe, have an impressive 55 HOLDS on the year. As long as their bullpen doesn't implode (remember Trevor Hoffman?) the Brewers are in business, no doubt about it.

Go Brew Crew!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Down Goes Big Boy #4

Getty Images
The Rogers Cup in Montreal, Canada is barely underway and we already have a stunner. Two-time defending champion and World No. 4 Andy Murray is out!

Murray lost in the second round 6-3, 6-1 to Kevin Anderson of South Africa, who is the 35th ranked player in the world. Anderson was surprised at how easily he beat the two-time defending champion, saying, "It was probably not exactly what I was expecting."

So there will be no three-peat for Murray in Canada.

Getty Images
What a bummer!