Thursday, April 26, 2012

One of these things is not like the other...

Photo Credit: twitter - @SoccerrProblems

Way to be that guy, America...

Monterrey Wins Second Straight Champions League Title

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While it might not have grabbed the headlines the way European clubs Chelsea and Bayern Munich did this week, Monterrey still has a lot to be happy about as they won a second consecutive CONCACAF Champions League title yesterday holding off Herculez Gomez and Santos Laguna by an aggregate score of 3-2. Chilean striker Humberto Suazo scored both goals in the first leg as Monterrey jumped out to a 2-0 lead, but Santos battled back in round 2 getting goals from Daniel Ludueña and Oribe Peralta to even things up. In the end it was Argentinian Neri Cardozo who would be the hero for Monterrey as his shot deflected off a defender and into the net for the series winner in the 82nd minute. Monterrey now advances to the Club World Cup in Japan for a second straight year. Monterrey finished 5th in the tournament 2011 losing to Kashiwa Reysol (Japan) on penalties before beating Espérance (Tunisia) 3-2 in the consolation bracket. Monterrey is the first team to clinch a berth in this year's Club World Cup with six open spots remaining. These berths will go to the winners of the 2012 AFC Champions League, 2012 CAF Champions League, 2012 Copa Libertadores, 2011–12 OFC Champions League, 2011–12 UEFA Champions League and the 2012 J. League Division 1.

First Leg Highlights:

Second Leg Highlights:

USA Women's Hoops Roster Finalized

Asjha Jones was named the 12th and final player to the USA Women's Olympic Basketball Team on Monday bringing the total number of former Connecticut Huskies on the roster to six, in other words half the team. While it was initially speculated that Baylor's 6'8" sensation Brittney Griner would grab the final spot, Griner announced last week she was foregoing potential participation in the Olympic Games this summer because of a family illness and summer-school commitments and that opened the door for Jones.
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Jones won a pair of National Championships at Connecticut before being drafted with the 4th overall pick in the 2002 WNBA Draft. A 2-time all-star and the winner of the EuroLeague Women Final Eight MVP award this year, she currently plays power forward for the Connecticut Sun. Jones averaged 13.3 points and 6.4 rebounds for the Sun while starting every game last season.

Here's a look at the final 12-player roster for the U.S.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Barcelona, Real Madrid Both Ousted in UCL Semifinals

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The Champions League Final that everyone thought we'd see isn't going to happen. Barcelona and Real Madrid both blew leads in the second leg of their semifinal matches and were eliminated by Chelsea and Bayern Munich respectively. After dropping the opener 1-0, Barcelona jumped out to a 2-0 lead against 10-man Chelsea who had lost one starting center back (Gary Cahill) to injury and another (John Terry) to ejection. But Barcelona conceded a first half stoppage time goal to Ramires, and then saw Lionel Messi strike the bar on a second half penalty and then hit the post a second time from the run of play, and then finally had any last hopes crushed when the much-maligned Spaniard Fernando Torres scored in the 90th minute to clinch the win for Chelsea. Despite 80% possession and over 650 completed passes in the match, Barcelona was unable to produce a third goal and as a result won't be defending their title in Munich next month.

Real Madrid similarly overcame a 1-goal aggregate deficit by jumping out to a 2-0 lead in their second leg match against Bayern Munich on a pair of goals by Cristiano Ronaldo, but Arjen Robben knotted the aggregate score at 3 with a first half penalty kick. The match would go to extra time with neither side scoring again setting up a shootout. Bayern Munich and German National Team Keeper Manuel Neuer denied both Ronaldo and Kaka, and Sergio Ramos skied his attempt over the bar setting up the eventual game winner from Bastian Schweinsteiger and sending Bayern Munich through to the Finals.

With the Finals in Munich this year and with Chelsea to be without suspended players Terry, Ramires, Branislav Ivanovic and Raul Meireles, you'd have to think the Final favors the German side. But then again, most people never thought either of these teams would even be here, so you just never know. The Champions League Final will be played on May 19th. 

MLS Recap - Week 7

DC United 1 Montreal 1 - 36 year old Bernardo Corradi gave Montreal a 1-0 lead when he headed in a Lamar Neagle cross midway through the second half, but DC United responded almost immediately with a goal of their own. Second half substitute Maicon Santos buried a low, driven shot from long range to tie the game at 1 and then nearly won it a short while later only to have his second goal of the match overturned on an offsides call. DC United is now unbeaten in 5 straight matches after opening the season with back-to-back losses. Montreal improves to 1-5-2 on the year and gets their first ever point away from home.
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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Weekly Top Tens (4/24/12)

NBA LEADING SCORERS (points per game)

1. Kevin Durant - OKC - 27.9
2. Kobe Bryant - Lakers - 27.9
3. LeBron James - Miami - 27.1
4. Kevin Love - Minnesota - 26.0
5. Russell Westbrook - OKC - 23.7
6. Carmelo Anthony - New York - 22.7
7. LaMarcus Aldridge - Portland - 21.7
8. Dirk Nowitzki - Dallas - 21.6
9. Deron Williams - New Jersey - 21.0
10. Dwight Howard - Orlando - 20.6


1. Dwight Howard - Orlando - 14.5
2. Kevin Love - Minnesota - 13.3
3. Andrew Bynum - Lakers - 11.8
4. Kris Humphries - New Jersey - 11.0
5. Blake Griffin - Clippers - 10.9
6. DeMarcus Cousins - Sacramento - 10.9
7. Pau Gasol - Lakers - 10.4
8. Marcin Gortat - Phoenix - 10.0
9. Tyson Chandler - New York - 10.0
10. Joakim Noah - Chicago - 9.7


1. Rajon Rondo - Boston - 11.6
2. Steve Nash - Phoenix - 10.8
3. Chris Paul - Clippers - 9.1
4. Jose Calderon - Toronto - 8.8
5. Deron Williams - New Jersey - 8.7
6. Ricky Rubio - Minnesota - 8.2
7. John Wall - Washington - 7.9
8. Tony Parker - San Antonio - 7.7
9. Ty Lawson - Denver - 6.7
10. Andre Miller - Denver - 6.6

Tuesday Trivia

Last week's question:

What was the Clippers starting lineup the last time they played a postseason game?


The Clippers last postseason game before this season came on May 22, 2006 when they lost Game 7 of the Western Conference Semifinals to the Phoenix Suns 127-107. The Clippers starting 5 that game consisted of:

Center - Chris Kaman
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Power Forward - Elton Brand
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Small Forward -  Quinton Ross
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Shooting Guard - Cuttino Mobley
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and Point Guard - Sam Cassell
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This week's question:

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Philip Humber just threw the 21st Perfect Game in Major League History against Seattle Mariners on Saturday in a 4-0 win. What Major League Franchise has thrown the most perfect games?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Lushbucket Baseball League - Week 3 Recap

It doesn't happen often, but my boys were outpitched this week.  Despite 6 wins and a 1.72 ERA, i only took 3 of the 5 pitching categories and came up short by a final score of 6-3 giving us our first loss of the young season. Tough to win when you post some of these gems though: Eric Hosmer (.130), Justin Upton (.100), Carlos Gonzalez (.158), Austin Jackson (.118)... Oh well, can't win 'em all. Here's a look at the rest of Week 3:

Monday Mailbag

This came up at dinner last night with my wife.... When is instant replay allowed to be used in MLB games? For what type of plays? - Trucker, San Francisco, CA 
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The current replay system in Major League Baseball allows instant replay to be used to review boundary home run calls to determine:

*fair (home run) or foul
*whether the ball actually left the playing field
*whether the ball was subject to spectator interference

There was a proposal on the table this spring that would expand replay to cover all fair and foul calls as well as balls that are caught or trapped by the player catching the ball. It would also have expanded fan interference reviews beyond the home run boundary to all walls. However, a consensus was not able to be reached on how to implement some of these changes. While it's easy to turn a fair ball into a foul ball, or a hit into an out, the opposite isn't always the case, especially with runners on base. Trying to determine where the runners should end up isn't as simple as it sounds, and as a result of those types of questions, implementation was delayed until at least 2013. 

Philip Humber pitched a perfect game for the White Sox on Saturday. But what if the 3rd batter in 9th inning for the Mariners, Brendan Ryan, had realized more appropriately that the pitch strike 3 was called on was wild, and had sprinted to first, and beat the throw from the catcher? He would have been safe. A strikeout recorded for Humber…. Is it still a perfect game?  - Trucker, San Francisco, CA
Video Screenshot:

No, even though it's technically not an error, and it's by definition a strikeout, nobody can reach base in a perfect game. The pitcher has to retire all 27 hitters without any blemishes. Now as for Ryan's baserunning... it's certainly not going to make Tom Emanski's videos that brought his teams back-to-back-to-back AAU Championships. If he takes off down the line instead of arguing the call with the umpire, I don't know if he beats it, but he at least makes it close.

There are some who are saying that Brendan Ryan checked his swing on the last pitch of Humber's perfect game. I'm not sure, because they never showed the side angle. Regardless, you have to assume the ump made up his mind that anything close was strike three, right? If he had missed the call and ruined the perfect game, that's all we'd be talking about today. Or is that just the pitcher in me talking? - Mike (from Chesapeake, VA in case I make a mailbag)
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Well, Mike, you made the mailbag. I'm kind of with you that the ump was going to punch out Ryan on anything close and his mind was made up before the pitch was even thrown. While that might not seem fair, that's not something that's exclusive to perfect games. When pitchers get in grooves, they tend to get a few more breaks. But this shouldn't come as a surprise to the hitters. Anyhow, the umpires are in a really tough spot in a game like this. If they make a wrong call like Jim Joyce did robbing Detroit's Armando Galarraga of a perfect game back in 2010, they get crucified. But it's not like that if they err to the other side they won't get the same criticism. If your perfect game is the result of a blown call, does that cheapen it? Some might say it does. In any case, the shot above makes it look like Ryan went and umpire Brian Runge made the right call in punching him out. Still, that's a gutsy call for a home-plate umpire to make.

Ok, so it seems like Wigan is on a mission at the moment to avoid relegation. Back-to-back wins over Top of the table Man U. and Third place Arsenal are not only keeping them in the hunt to stay in the PL next season, but doing what they can to keep the title and champions league races interesting. Can this run of form hold up? And what does this say about their hopes for a successful campaign next season? - Cory L., Raceland, LA
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Despite Wigan's last minute 2-1 loss to Fulham on Saturday, it's clear that they're playing much better ball as they hope to avoid relegation from the Premier League. As for whether or not they can keep it up, I really don't know. Consistency has hardly been Wigan's calling card this year although they have managed 4 wins and 2 draws in their last 8 matches. Wigan does play bottom-dwellers Blackburn and Wolverhampton the final two weeks of the season and that could very well be the difference in another season in the Premiership and a trip down a division. High drama to be sure. Regardless, I don't know that anything Wigan does to conclude this season will carry over into the 2012-13 campaign. With such a long gap between matches, transfers, injuries, retirements, etc. momentum tends not to roll from season to season.

I like to watch a lot of the mid-table teams play in the EPL but I always wonder about how they can consider simply staying in the Premier League and not getting relegated as a success. Over here in the NFL, NBA, what have you that would constitute a pretty crappy season. How does one quantify being in, say, 12th place as a success? - Cory L., Raceland, LA
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I think you have to view it the way Americans evaluate a team's college football season. While you're top teams are looking at conference titles and BCS bowls as the measuring sticks for success, you have a lot of schools out there who just aren't going to ever be top-tier football schools: Duke, Vanderbilt, Indiana, Army etc. But that doesn't mean that they have nothing to play for. It just means that success is defined differently. Duke could go 6-6 and qualify for the Insert-My-Ridiculous-Website-Name-Dot-Com Bowl and that could be a hugely successful season for them. Conversely, if LSU or Alabama or Oklahoma goes 6-6, that's a complete disaster. In the Premier League, teams like Swansea City and Stoke City may not be Champions League material, but they can vie for a spot in the Europa League, and they have both the Carling Cup and the FA Cup in which they can contend. Success isn't drawn solely on where they finish during the year, it's what they were able to do as a whole.

Special thanks as always to everyone who wrote in this week. And remember, as the great G$ Meyer says Reading is for Winners, especially when you read Smitty's Mailbag.

Got a question for the mailbag? Click on the link at the top of the page or email us directly at

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Checking Up on Minor League Guy and other Baseball Notes

Remember Minor League Guy from a couple weeks ago?

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The St. Louis Cardinals prospect better known as Oscar Taveras is off to a fast start with AA Springfield hitting .306 in his first 11 games this season. In addition to hitting for average, Taveras has shown some good power tallying 9 extra base hits and driving in 12 runs already and he's riding a 5 game hitting streak.

While we're scoping out the minors, figure we might as well talk about Washington's potential future star (and one of my keepers in our fantasy baseball league) Bryce Harper. Harper's actually struggled out of the gates in AAA batting just .222 with 10 strikeouts and 0 home runs in his first 54 at bats after going 0 for 5 tonight. Still, he's just 19 years old, so even if it takes him a while to adjust to the better pitching, it's not like he's behind schedule or anything. Except in fantasy baseball where he's contributing absolutely nothing to the Flying Cave Donkies.

Speaking of guys who aren't contributing, how about Mark Melancon's start with the Red Sox this year? After a career year for the Astros in 2011, Melancon has been an unmitigated disaster in 2012.

In four games, he's only retired 6 batters and surrendered 5 home runs while posting an almost unbelievable 49.50 ERA. Throw in a pair of losses, a blown save, an opposing batting average of .625 and cap it off with a finale in which he faced 6 hitters, retired zero and gave up three long balls against the Rangers and needless to say, Melancon is no longer with the club having been demoted to AAA today. Junichi Tazawa has been called up to replace Melancon in the Boston bullpen.

Finally, congratulations to Jamie Moyer. The ageless wonder threw 7 innings and didn't allow an earned run against the Padres last night to become the oldest player in Major League History to earn a win. The 49 year old lefty is now 1-2 on the season and leads the Rockies with a 2.55 ERA.
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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Kentucky Wildcats vs Charlotte Bobcats - Who Wins?

I was listening to Mike & Mike on the way in to work today, and they were having a discussion about whether or not this year's NCAA Division I National Champion, the Kentucky Wildcats, could beat the NBA's Charlotte Bobcats (7-53) who are on pace for one of the worst seasons in NBA history. I've got to be honest with you, I don't know how this is even a discussion. There is absolutely no way that Charlotte would ever lose to Kentucky, I don't care how many NBA prospects they have on their roster.
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The Charlotte Bobcats' roster is comprised of 7 former lottery picks, 4 late first and second round picks, 2 seven footers, six other guys who stand at least 6'8", a former two-time NCAA Leading Scorer, and a number of All-Americans. Just because they are a terrible NBA team - and make no mistake about it, they are terrible - they're still made up of guys who were once terrific college players. And along those lines, they have 15 guys on their roster like that. Kentucky basically had a 6-man rotation, 7 if you count Kyle Wiltjer who averaged just over 10 minutes a game. There is no way they can go toe-to-toe with a much bigger Bobcats team for 48 minutes (yes, for the sake of this discussion they'd have to play NBA rules). They just don't have the depth. While it's certainly possible that the starters could maybe make things interesting, at some point the short bench will get exposed. And while the Bobcats can bring in Kemba Walker and D.J. White and Tyrus Thomas, the last 5 guys off the Kentucky bench scored a TOTAL of 37 points in 40 games this year.
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Depth especially becomes a problem when you look at Kentucky's frontcourt. Sure, player of the year and likely number one draft pick Anthony Davis is amazing, but he's also only 6'10", 220 pounds. That's not exactly NBA Center material. You can't tell me he wouldn't have his hands full with even a mediocre NBA center like B.J. Mullens who stands 7'0" and weighs in at 275. Davis's backup Eloy Vargas is 6'11", 244 pounds, but he only played 7 minutes in the NCAA Tournament and averaged less than a point a game this year. After those two guys, the Wildcats have only a pair of 6'9" forwards in Terrence Jones and Wiltjer and that's really it as far as size on the interior. And it's not just height that the Bobcats have on Kentucky, it's mass. It's literally a team of men versus a team of boys. I just don't see Kentucky holding up in a physical game with these guys. Plus, look at who the Bobcats play against every night: Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Rajon Rondo, Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant... The Wildcats played Marist. And Radford. Chattanooga. Lamar. Arkansas-Little Rock... It's not the same thing.

Bottom line at the end of the day, don't forget that the worst player on the Bobcats is still an NBA player. The worst player on Kentucky was once really good in high school.

Tuesday Trivia

Last week's question:

When was the last time two Canadian teams met in the Stanley Cup Finals?


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You have to go all the way back to 1989 when the Calgary Flames defeated the Montreal Canadiens in six games. Hall of Famer Al MacInnis was named the Finals MVP. No Canadian team has won the Stanley Cup since 1993 when Montreal defeated Wayne Gretzky and the Los Angeles Kings in 5 games.

This week's question:
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The Clippers clinched a rare playoff berth last night with their 92-77 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder. What was the Clippers starting lineup the last time they played a postseason game?

Weekly Top Tens - 4/17/12

NBA LEADING SCORERS (points per game)

1. Kobe Bryant - Lakers - 28.1
2. Kevin Durant - OKC - 27.8
3. LeBron James - Miami - 27.1
4. Kevin Love - Minnesota - 26.0
5. Russell Westbrook - OKC - 24.1
6. Dwyane Wade - Miami - 22.6
7. Carmelo Anthony - New York - 22.2
8. LaMarcus Aldridge - Portland - 21.7
9. Dirk Nowitzki - Dallas - 21.6
10. Deron Williams - New Jersey - 21.0


1. Dwight Howard - Orlando - 14.5
2. Kevin Love - Minnesota - 13.3
3. Andrew Bynum - Lakers - 12.2
4. DeMarcus Cousins - Sacramento - 11.0
5. Kris Humphries - New Jersey - 11.0
6. Blake Griffin - Clippers - 10.9
7. Pau Gasol - Lakers - 10.5
8. Tyson Chandler - New York - 10.0
9. Marcin Gortat - Phoenix - 9.8
10. Joakim Noah - Chicago - 9.7


1. Rajon Rondo - Boston - 11.6
2. Steve Nash - Phoenix - 10.9
3. Chris Paul - Clippers - 9.0
4. Jose Calderon - Toronto - 8.8
5. Deron Williams - New Jersey - 8.7
6. Ricky Rubio - Minnesota - 8.2
7. John Wall - Washington - 7.7
8. Tony Parker - San Antonio - 7.6
9. Kyle Lowry - Houston - 6.8
10. Mike Conley - Memphis - 6.7



OUT: ITALY (12) 


1. USA


1. Novak Djokovic (Serbia) - 12670 points
2. Rafael Nadal (Spain) - 9215 points
3. Roger Federer (Switzerland) - 8880 points
4. Andy Murray (Great Britain) - 7680 points
5. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (France) - 4795 points
6. David Ferrer (Spain) - 4280 points
7. Tomas Berdych (Czech Republic) - 3810 points
8. Janko Tipsarevic (Serbia) - 2820 points
9. John Isner (USA) - 2770 points
10. Mardy Fish (USA) - 2725 points


1. Victoria Azarenka (Belarus) - 8980 points
2. Maria Sharapova (Russia) - 7930 points
3. Petra Kvitova (Czech Republic) - 7095 points
4. Agnieszka Radwanska (Poland) - 5960 points
5. Samantha Stosur (Australia) - 5825 points
6. Caroline Wozniacki (Denmark) - 5450 points
7. Marion Bartoli (France) - 5020 points
8. Li Na (China) - 4880 points
9. Serena Williams (USA) - 4300 points
10. Vera Zvonareva (Russia) - 3895 points


1. Robin Van Persie (Netherlands) - Arsenal - 27
2. Wayne Rooney (England) - Manchester United - 24
3. Sergio Agüero (Argentina) - Manchester City - 21
4. Demba Ba (Senegal) - Newcastle United - 16
4. Clint Dempsey (USA) - Fulham - 16 
4. Yakubu Aiyegbeni (Nigeria) - Blackburn Rovers - 16
7. Grant Holt (England) -  Norwich City - 13
7. Edin Dzeko (Bosnia-Herzegovina) - Manchester City - 13
7. Emmanuel Adebayor (Togo) - Tottenham Hotspur - 13
7. Mario Balotelli (Italy) - Manchester City - 13


1. Lionel Messi (Argentina) - Barcelona - 41
1. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) - Real Madrid - 41
3. Falcao (Colombia) - Atlético Madrid - 22
4. Gonzalo Higuaín (Argentina) - Real Madrid - 21
5. Karim Benzema (France) - Real Madrid - 18
6. Fernando Llorente (Spain) - Athletico Bilbao - 17
7. Roberto Soldado (Spain) - Valencia - 16
8. Miguel Pérez Cuesta (Spain) - Rayo Vallecano - 15 
9. Rubén Castro (Spain) - Real Betis - 14
10. Arouna Koné (Ivory Coast) - Levante - 13


1. Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Sweden) - AC Milan - 23
2. Antonio Di Natale (Italy) - Udinese - 20
2. Diego Milito (Argentina) - Internazionale - 20
4. Edinson Cavani (Uruguay) - Napoli - 19
5. Rodrigo Palacio (Argentina) - Genoa - 17 
6. Germán Denis (Argentina) - Atalanta - 15
7. Miroslav Klose (Germany) - Lazio - 13
7. Stevan Jovetic (Montenegro) - Fiorentina - 13
9. Fabrizio Miccoli (Italy) - Palermo - 12
9. David Di Michele (Italy) - Lecce - 12


1. Mario Gomez (Germany) - Bayern Munich - 25
2. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (Neth.) - Schalke 04 - 24
3. Robert Lewandowski (Pol.) - B. Dortmund - 20
4. Lukas Podolski (Germany) - FC Cologne - 17
4. Martin Harnik (Austria) - VfB Stuttgart - 17
6. Claudio Pizarro (Peru) - Werder Bremen - 16
6. Marco Reus (Ger.) - B. Monchengladbach - 16
8. Raúl (Spain) - Schalke 04 - 14
9. Vedad Ibisevic (Bosnia & Herzegovina) - VfB Stuttgart - 13
10. Shinji Kagawa (Japan) - Borussia Dortmund - 12
10. Mario Mandzukic (Croatia) - VfL Wolfsburg - 12
10. Stefan Kießling (Germany) - Bayer Leverkusen - 12


1. Thierry Henry (France) - New York - 7
1. Kenny Cooper (USA) - New York - 7
1. Chris Wondolowski (USA) - San Jose - 7
4. David Estrada (USA/Mexico) - Seattle Sounders - 4
5. Kei Kamara (Sierra Leone) - Sporting KC - 3
5. Fabián Espíndola (Argentina) - Real Salt Lake - 3
5. Darlington Nagbe (Liberia) - Portland - 3
5. C.J. Sapong (USA) - Sporting KC - 3
5. Robbie Keane (Ireland) - L.A. Galaxy - 3
5. Maicon Santos (Brazil) - DC United - 3
5. Blas Pérez (Panama) - FC Dallas - 3
5. Kris Boyd (Scotland) - Portland - 3

Records through 4/8/12, Previous Ranking in Parentheses

1. Florida 28-8 (4)
2. Florida State 29-7 (1)
3. Kentucky 32-5 (2)
4. LSU 30-7 (7)
5. Texas A&M 28-8 (3)
6. North Carolina 27-9 (8)
7. UCLA 24-8 (11)
8. South Carolina 27-10 (9)
9. Baylor 30-7 (14)
10. Stanford 22-9 (5)

Out: Miami FL (12), Arkansas (15)


1. Hunter Mahan (USA) - 1378
2. Bubba Watson (USA) - 1322
3. Phil Mickelson (USA) - 1136
4. Carl Pettersson (Sweden) - 1111
5. Johnson Wagner (USA) - 1056
6. Rory McIlory (Northern Ireland) - 1045
7. Kyle Stanley (USA) - 964
8. Justin Rose (USA) - 948
9. Mark Wilson (USA) - 932
10. Brandt Snedeker (USA) - 888

Out: Tiger Woods (11), Bill Haas (12)


1. Rory McIlroy (Northern Ireland)
2. Luke Donald (England)
3. Lee Westwood (England)
4. Bubba Watson (USA)
5. Hunter Mahan (USA)
6. Martin Kaymer (Germany)
7. Steve Stricker (USA)
8. Tiger Woods (USA)
9. Phil Mickelson (USA)
10. Justin Rose (USA)

Photo Credits (in order of appearance):

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Monday, April 16, 2012

Korir, Cherop win 2012 Boston Marathon

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Kenya dominated the 116th running of the Boston Marathon today taking the top three spots on both the men's and women's sides. High temperatures led to a much slower race than a year ago and neither of this year's winners would've even finished in the Top 10 in 2011 with the times they ran.

Wesley Korir became the 19th Kenyan men's winner in the last 22 years with a winning time of 2:12:40, the second slowest race since 1985. Still, don't let the term "slow race" fool you. It still works out to like a 5:04/mile pace. I ran ONE 5:05 mile ONE TIME... Like 15 years ago... Trust me, that's FAST. Last year's winner Geoffrey Mutai dropped out after 18 miles with stomach cramps.

On the women's side, Sharon Cherop edged out Jemima Jelagat Sumgong by 2 seconds finishing with a winning time of 2:31:50. It's the fifth straight year that a sprint to the finish has decided the women's race. Cherop finished 3rd a year ago just 6 seconds behind winner Caroline Kilel.

Meanwhile the drought for the U.S. continues as no American has won the Boston Marathon since Lisa Larsen Weidenbach won the Women's event in 1985. The last American man to win the race was Greg Meyer in 1983. Jason Hartmann of Boulder, Colorado led the Americans today with a 4th place finish and a time of 2:14:31. Mayumi Fujita was the top American finisher on the women's side at 2:39:11 while fellow American Sheri L. Piers came in 10th.

Top Ten Men

1. Wesley Korir 2:12:40 - Kenya
2. Levy Matebo 2:13:06 - Kenya
3. Bernard Kipyego 2:13:13 - Kenya
4. Jason Hartmann 2:14:31 - USA
5. Wilson Chebet 2:14:56 - Kenya
6. Laban Korir 2:15:29 - Kenya
7. Michel Butter 2:16:38 - Netherlands
8. David Barmasai 2:17:16 - Kenya
9. Hideaki Tamura 2:18:15 - Japan
10. Mathew Kisorio 2:18:15 - Kenya

Top Ten Women

1. Sharon Cherop 2:31:50 - Kenya
2. Jemima Jelagat Sumgong 2:31:52 - Kenya
3. Georgina Rono 2:33:09 - Kenya
4. Firehiwot Dado 2:34:56 - Ethiopia
5. Diana Sigei 2:35:40 - Kenya
6. Rita Jeptoo 2:35:53 - Kenya
7. Mayumi Fujita 2:39:11 - USA
8. Nadezdha Leonteva 2:40:40 - Russia
9. Svetlana Pretot 2:40:50 - France
10. Sheri L. Piers 2:41:55 - USA

Monday Mailbag

With the Premier League season almost over, everybody always seems to be so worried about the top dogs. But what i wanna know is, who do you see getting regulated and who do you think will be advanced for next season? That fight sometimes seems to have so much more drama to it. - Cory L., Raceland, LA
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You're telling me. Wigan Athletic has been playing out of their minds lately throwing the whole race into chaos after back-to-back wins over Manchester United and Arsenal. Anyhow, there are basically six teams at risk of being relegated (the bottom three teams in the English Premier League get sent down a division at the end of each season):
I'd say at this point that it's a forgone conclusion that Wolverhampton will be headed down, so that's one. Blackburn finishes their slate with Norwich City, Spurs, Wigan and Chelsea, so it's tough to see them making a huge push forward, so I'm going to say they're two. I feel like Aston Villa and Wigan - following Wigan's stunning upset at Arsenal today - are probably in the clear, so it comes down to QPR and Bolton. QPR has an absolutely brutal schedule the rest of the way: Spurs, Chelsea, Stoke City and Manchester City. Bolton, in addition to having two more games than QPR does, has a much more reasonable schedule with Swansea City, Aston Villa, Sunderland, Spurs, West Bromwich Albion, and Stoke City. So with the schedules being what they are, I think QPR is going to come up short. So those are my three.

As for who is going to replace them? I think you're looking at Reading and Southampton for sure, and I'm going to say it's between West Ham and Birmingham to win the promotion playoff.

Newcastle has been on fire here lately. Can they keep their run up and going and make a charge to finish in the top 4 and maybe qualify for Champions League ball? And if they do, are they deep enough to compete? - Cory L., Raceland, LA
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Here are the standings as of right now:

As you can see it's basically a three-team race for the fourth spot at this point between Tottenham, Chelsea and Newcastle with five matches to play. Chelsea is at a bit of a disadvantage because in addition to worrying about their Premier League Schedule (which includes matches with Arsenal, Liverpool and Newcastle), they're also still alive in the FA Cup and have the semifinals of the Champions League against Barcelona to worry about.

Spurs appeared to have a Champions League spot locked up a few weeks ago, but following a 5-0 win over Newcastle on February 11th, they've won just 1 of 8 matches. They certainly have a favorable schedule the rest of the way as they take on Queens Park Rangers, Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers, Aston Villa (4 of the bottom 6 teams in the league) and Fulham, but they need to start winning games.

That leaves Newcastle. As you pointed out, they're in form winning their last 5 matches, conceding just 1 goal during that stretch, but Newcastle's schedule is arguably the toughest of the three teams still in contention. They host Stoke City, travel to suddenly red hot Wigan, then go to Stamford Bridge to take on Chelsea, then host Manchester City, and then finish on the road at Everton.

Needless to say it's going to be an exciting finish. Should Newcastle qualify for Champions League play, expect them to make some moves to bolster their roster. Especially if Demba Ba jumps ship. Since the Champions League is never a guarantee for these guys the way it might be for a team like Manchester United, expect them to really go all in.

Fulham are knocking on the door to be competing in Europa League next year. Clint Dempsey says he's not making up his mind about where he wants to play next year until the season is over. Is Fulham's finishing position gonna make a difference in his decision? And if he does test the transfer market, where do you see him going? - Cory L., Raceland, LA
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The general consensus is that regardless of where Fulham ends up this year, Clint Dempsey will be headed to greener pastures. And can you really blame him? His stock will never be higher, and he has aspirations of playing in the Champions League and I can guarantee you there will be a market for him. Dempsey's keeping his mouth shut until the season is over, but there are already teams identified as having an interest. Some of the more plausible destinations:

Schalke 04 - With Dutch striker and leading scorer Klaas Jan Huntelaar and potentially Raul likely gone next season, the German club will need to replace goals. Currently in 3rd place in the Bundesliga, Schalke almost surely will qualify for the Champions League next year and a player like Dempsey could be a solid signing for them.

Paris St. Germain - PSG has money and more importantly, they're looking at a spot in next season's Champions League as they currently sit in second place in France's Ligue 1. PSG has been aggressively pursuing just about everyone under the sun, and they have the potential to put together quite a squad and a player with Dempsey's skill set would seem to be a good fit.

Newcastle/Spurs - Don’t rule out an English club with cash like Tottenham or Newcastle going all in and overpaying for him. Depending on how the race for 4th shakes out, both could be intriguing options. They certainly make more sense than Manchester United or Arsenal, both of which have also been linked to the American striker.

Best tattoo in the NBA? - Garrett M., Boston, MA

It's hard to narrow it down to just one, so I'll give you three to choose from.

DeShawn Stevenson - New Jersey Nets - Abe Lincoln - "I was going to get Martin Luther King and I told Gilbert Arenas. You should never tell nobody your idea. That summer, he came back and got it. So I didn't know who to get. I got Abraham Lincoln because he freed the slaves. I just had Abraham Lincoln and, from a distance, everybody kept saying, 'Who is that?' So I put the five-dollar bill so everybody would stop asking me."
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Brad Miller - Minnesota Timberwolves - Scrappy Doo - Because nothing is more intimidating on a 7-foot tall white guy than Scrappy Doo...
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Marquis Daniels - Boston Celtics - State of Florida - If he tattooed in some highways he could save a ton of money on maps.
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Honorable Mentions:

Greg Ostertag - Retired - Fred Flintstone - Another giant white guy rocking a totally intimidating cartoon character.
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Stephon Marbury - Chinese League - Starbury Logo - Deadspin's Take on the tattoo when he got it back in '08: "It's probably as subtle as you can get for a head tattoo and it clearly shows that for all of his questionable, unhinged behavior of the past year, Marbury is still a very savvy businessman. It's completely logical. One person asks, 'Hey, what's that funny symbol on your head?' and then you just nail them with the cheap sneakers pitch. Ka-ching!"
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Marquis Daniels - Boston Celtics - Guy Shooting Himself in the Head - The best part is that it says 'Only the Strong Survive'... Because you know, that makes sense.
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Who the heck is Colt Knost? - The Dude, Chesapeake, VA
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Colt Knost surprised a lot of people this week at the RBC Heritage Classic when he actually had a two shot lead heading into the weekend and finished 8 under par and in 3rd place for the tournament. Hardly a household name, the 26 year old from SMU earned more for his 3rd place finish this weekend than he did in all of 2011. This was Knost's second 3rd place finish on the tour this year and he currently ranks 54th in the FedEx Cup standings. I don't know that he's on the verge of making a leap to the next level though. While he's shown glimpses of being a very good golfer - like this weekend - he's only finished under par three times in the nine tournaments he's played in this year.

When did Mike Stanton become Giancarlo Stanton and why? - James B., Virginia Beach, VA
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The Florida Marlins aren't the only thing in South Beach that had its name changed this offseason. Power-hitting outfielder Mike Stanton announced this spring that he'd like to go by his given name, Giancarlo for the 2012 season. The Marlins slugger's full name is Giancarlo Cruz Michael Stanton, but his mother calls him Cruz, his father calls him Mike and teammates call him Bigfoot. Stanton became Mike because his junior high school teachers could not properly pronounce Giancarlo. "No one could pronounce it right," he said. "Everyone thought it was two words. Gene-carlo, Juan-carlo, Gionne-carlo. You have seven periods in school, so seven times a day: 'No, that's not the name.'" So he switched to Mike. And now he's switching back. His teammates don't seem to mind, although they do have some suggestions. "I told him he needs to have longer hair," catcher John Buck said. "When I think of Giancarlo, I think of someone with long, flowing hair, like Fabio. But if he keeps hitting homers, I'll call him whatever he wants me to call him."

So I watched Eric Lichaj defend against one of the best wingers in the Premier League in Antonio Valencia and did a pretty solid job. Is he the answer at left back for the USMNT? - Cory L., Raceland, LA
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Lichaj is certainly a player to keep an eye on moving forward. He played capably for the U.S. during last summer's Gold Cup, and we probably would have seen more of him during the Klinsmann era had he not been sidelined with a hip injury. In his absence, no one has really emerged and seized the position - Fabian Johnson has arguably come the closest - so I'd be surprised if he doesn't find himself getting an invite to camp. As to whether or not he's the answer? He's only made 4 starts since returning from injury, and while he hasn't played badly, he's been a part of a defense that has allowed 10 goals in those 4 games. So I don't think he's quite there yet, but the potential certainly is. My bet would be you'll see either him, Johnson, or Timmy Chandler (assuming he doesn't unseat Steve Cherundolo at right back) at left back when World Cup Qualifying kicks off.

Special thanks as always to everyone who wrote in this week. And remember, as the great G$ Meyer says Reading is for Winners, especially when you read Smitty's Mailbag.

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