Saturday, June 30, 2012

The A to Z - from Angels in the Outfield to Tomislav Zubcic

A is for Angels in the Outfield. Remember that flick from the mid 90s? Well Angels rookie Mike Trout made a catch this week that was straight out of the movie taking a home run away from Baltimore's J.J. Hardy. If you haven't seen it yet, it's definitely worth a look. Tell me that's not reminiscent of the catch a young Matthew McConaughey made in the movie. I'm just saying. Hardly seems fair that a team that has Albert Pujols on it would need any help, but you never know. Anyhow, back to the movie, how ridiculous was that cast? Danny Glover, Tony Danza, Christopher Lloyd, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Neal McDonough, Adrien Brody and McConaughey? Not to mention former AL batting champion Carney Lansford as Ken 'Hit or Die' Kesey.
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B is for Balotelli. The Polarizing Mario Balotelli scored twice for Italy against Germany on Thursday to lead the Italians into the Euro 2012 Final. The 21 year old striker who recently helped lead Manchester City to an English Premier League title, struck once with his head and once with his feet in the first half against the favored Germans, and goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon the Italian defense took care of the rest limiting the Germans to a stoppage time penalty kick in the second half and nothing more. Balotelli is tied with Mario Gomez (Germany), Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal), Mario Mandzukic (Croatia) and Alan Dzagoev (Russia) for the tournament scoring lead with 3 goals. Italian coach Cesare Prandelli summed up Balotelli's performance against Germany best when asked if this was the best match of Balotelli's career: "Balotelli's career has just started."
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C is for Casillas. Spain's starting goalkeeper Iker Casillas was at the center of the action on Wednesday as Spain outlasted Portugal 4-2 on penalties to advance to their second straight Euro Cup Final. The Real Madrid keeper denied Joao Moutinho and Bruno Alves drilled a shot off the crossbar during the shootout setting up Cesc Fàbregas's clincher.
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D is for Derek Jeter. The Yankee Captain doubled off Chicago's Jose Quintana in the first inning of Friday night's contest moving him ahead of Cal Ripken and into 13th place on the all-time hits list with 3185. Jeter, who has 97 hits on the season, needs 67 more to tie Nap Lajoie for 12th. Lajoie, in case you aren't familiar with him, played second base for the Phillies, Philadelphia A's and Cleveland Naps between 1896 and 1916. He won the American League Triple Crown way back in 1901.
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E is for Euro 2012 Final. It all comes down to Sunday. The 2006 World Cup Champions Italy, who actually considered withdrawing from this year's tournament due to match-fixing scandals in the Serie A, will take on the 2010 World Cup and reigning Euro Cup Champions Spain for all the marbles. I'll be the first to admit that I didn't see this coming. I didn't even have Italy getting out of their group, let alone into the Finals. But here they are. Taking on a banged up Spanish team that's playing without their leading scorer from the World Cup (David Villa) and without their defensive leader (Carles Puyol). But hey, that's why they play the game. I don't see a lot of scoring taking place on Sunday, but you can be assured that you'll see some pretty good soccer if you tune in. Spain and Italy already played each other during the Group phase and played to a 1-1 draw. Antonio Di Natale gave Italy a 1-0 lead in that one only to have Cesc Fábregas equalize just moments later.
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F is for Festus Ezeli. Or Furkan Aldemir. Pick one. The 6'11" Nigerian-born Ezeli was taken with the 30th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft by the Golden State Warriors after 5 years at Vanderbilt. The Turkish-born Aldemir stands 6'9" and has been playing professionally in Turkey since 2007, and impressive feat considering he doesn't turn 21 until August. The Clippers selected Aldemir with the 53rd pick in the draft. The real question though isn't which player will have a better NBA career, it's which player has a better NBA name.
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G is for Great Britain. David Beckham won't be representing Britain at the 2012 London Olympics as coach Stuart Pearce has opted to go a different direction using his three overage (older than 23) player slots on Welshmen Ryan Giggs and Craig Bellamy and 24 year old Englishman Micah Richards. Beckham had appeared in 115 games for England, a record for a field player, but hasn't represented his country since 2009. Beckham has 2 goals and a team high 5 assists for the surging Galaxy who have won 3 straight in June following their elimination from the U.S. Open Cup.
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H is for Harper. Have any doubts about 19 year old Bryce Harper's maturity as a player? On June 16th, Harper went 0 for 7 with 5 strikeouts against the New York Yankees. A lesser man might delve into a prolonged slump, but Harper's right back to tearing up opposing pitcher tallying three multi-hit games in the past week. On the year, Harper's hitting .274 with 8 homers and 6 steals and who has him as a keeper in his fantasy league? This guy.
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I is for Injuries. NBA Champions Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade will both be sitting out the 2012 Summer Olympics as they tend to injuries sustained during the Miami Heat's title run. Both Bosh and Wade were part of the 'Redeem Team' back in 2008 that went 8-0 en route to a Gold Medal. Bet you couldn't name the other 10 members of that squad: Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Jason Kidd, Carmelo Anthony, Carlos Boozer, Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, Tayshaun Prince, Michael Redd and Deron Williams. James, Williams, Bryant, Paul and Anthony are all expected to return this summer. And yeah, that's Chris Bosh hiding in the background as usual like a Bosh.
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J is for James. Ok, so LeBron James has finally won his NBA Championship meaning he'll no longer be in the same category as Karl Malone and Charles Barkley and Patrick Ewing and all the other great players who never won an NBA Title. Now a lot of the media has started changing their tones about LeBron saying how great he is and how the fans should appreciate him more, and I've got to be honest with you. I don't think they get it. Nobody disliked LeBron because of anything he did on the basketball court. He is an unreal talent, I don't think anyone can dispute that. People don't like LeBron because of 'The Decision', because he took the easy way out by joining forces in Miami with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, and because of how he handles himself during interviews. I don't care if he wins eight titles or however many he promised he'd win. I don't like LeBron James, and I don't have to. How you like them apples?
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K is for Kentucky. The reigning NCAA Men's Basketball Champion Wildcats just had six players drafted in the 2012 NBA Draft: Anthony Davis (Hornets #1), Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Bobcats #2), Terrence Jones (Rockets #18), Marquis Teague (Bulls #29), Doron Lamb (Bucks #42) and Darius Miller (Hornets #46). And yeah, that ties an NBA record for players drafted in a single draft in case you were wondering. More on that next week.
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L is for Lukas Rosol. When you think tennis, Rosol probably isn't the first name that comes to mind. Well, you can bet that's changed for Rafael Nadal. The 11 time Grand Slam winner was shocked in the second round at Wimbledon by the 26 year old Czech 6-7, 6-4, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4. This was the earliest Nadal was eliminated in a major since 2005 when Luxembourg's Gilles Müller ousted him at Wimbledon. Rosol's joy was short-lived though as 27th seeded Philipp Kohlschreiber beat him in straight sets 6-2, 6-3, 7-6 in his next match.
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M is for MLS. MLS reasserted its dominance at the U.S. Open Cup this week as the last of the lower tier teams were eliminated from the competition setting up an All-MLS semifinals. The Philadelphia Union knocked off the Harrisburg City Islanders 5-2, Sporting Kansas City eliminated the Dayton Dutch Lions 3-0, Chivas USA got a goal 4 minutes into second half stoppage time to upend the Charlotte Eagles 2-1, and in the only quarterfinal match between 2 MLS squads, the 3-time defending champion Seattle Sounders defeated the San Jose Earthquakes 1-0. Seattle will now take on Chivas USA on July 10th in one semifinal while Sporting and the Philadelphia Union will face off in the other semifinal on July 11th.
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N is for New Orleans Hornets. It figures that as soon as I leave Louisiana the Hornets would become interesting again. With two picks in the top ten, the Hornets got a legitimate big man in Kentucky's Anthony Davis and a possible point guard of the future in Duke's Austin Rivers. Throw in Kentucky's Darius Miller who was selected in the second round and the draft was especially kind to the Bees. I don't know that these additions make New Orleans a contender, but at the very least it should make them relevant.
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O is for Oswalt. Who's the best team in baseball right now? If you guessed the Texas Rangers, you'd be correct. And now their rotation has gotten a boost with the addition of veteran Roy Oswalt. In two starts since his return, Oswalt has defeated the Rockies and the Tigers and is part of what has become a loaded rotation that includes Matt Harrison (11-3, 3.16 ERA), Colby Lewis (6-6, 3.51 ERA) and Yu Darvish (10-4, 3.57 ERA). Remember when the best pitcher the Rangers had was Roger Pavlik and all they did was hit? Those were simpler times.
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P is for Pettitte. New York's pitching staff took quite a hit this week (pun intended) when Andy Pettitte was struck by a ground ball against the Indians Wednesday and broke his left ankle. Pettitte is expected to miss at least two months and was placed on the 60-Day Disabled List. Pettitte joins fellow starting pitchers CC Sabathia and Michael Pineda on the DL. All together the Yankees have 9 pitchers on the DL right now but still sit atop to the American League East.
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Q is for Quick. It didn't take long for the Los Angeles Kings to show their appreciation for their starting goalie Jonathan Quick. Just a few weeks after clinching the franchise's first Stanley Cup title, Quick was rewarded with a 10 year extension worth a cool $58M. The 26 year old from Milford, CT led all goalies this past postseason with a 1.41 Goals Against Average and a .946 save percentage.
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R is for Rehab. Ryan Howard is on the comeback trail. After tearing his achilles tendon on the final play of last year's NLDS against St. Louis, Howard has finally returned to the diamond taking the field for the Lakewood BlueClaws of the South Atlantic League. Howard is 3 for 6 in two games with 3 runs batted in.
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S is for Scott Brooks. The Oklahoma City Thunder and coach Scott Brooks are closing in on a new contract after some tumultuous negotiations. Brooks has been at the helm for the Thunder for four seasons now and seen their winning percentage improve each season. The Thunder came within 3 wins of an NBA title this year before coming up short against the Heat denying Brooks the chance to join a select group of players to win NBA Championships as players and coaches. Brooks was a member of the '94 Rockets team that defeated the New York Knicks in 7 games.
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T is for Thome. The Phillies are willing to move their left-handed slugger to an AL club looking for a DH. After a slow start to the season, Thome has hit .295 in the month of June including a 12 for 36 stretch as a DH in interleague play against the Orioles, Twins and Blue Jays in which he homered four times. Now 41 years old, Thome has 609 homers in his Major League career dating way back to 1991.
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U is for Uncle Drew. If you haven't seen the commercial yet starring NBA Rookie of the Year Kyrie Irving, you should definitely check it out.
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V is for Verlander. As we approach the half way point of the 2012 Major League Baseball season, Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander is quietly turning in another sensational season as he's on track to go 17-11 with 255 strikeouts and a 2.69 ERA. It's not quite the 24-5 250 strikeout 2.40 ERA season that won him a Cy Young a year ago, but it's nothing to sniffle at. Verlander has won at least 17 games in 5 of the last 6 seasons.
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W is for Wimbledon. No one from Great Britain has won Wimbledon since 1936 when Fred Perry defeated Gottfried von Cramm. Scottish born Andy Murray has been the semifinals in 3 straight years and is through to the fourth round this year following his win over Marcos Baghdatis. With Rafael Nadal's early exit, is it possible that this is the year?
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X is for Xavier Hernández. If Spain captures the Euro 2012 title tomorrow he will have amassed the following hardware: 6 La Liga titles, 2 Copa del Reys, 5 Spanish Supercups, 3 UEFA Champions League titles, 2 UEFA Super Cups, 2 FIFA Club World Cups, a World Cup, two European Football Championships and a FIFA World Youth Championship. Yowzah.
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Y is for Youkilis. Does this look weird to anyone else?
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Z is for Zubčić. Tomislav Zubčić. Gotta love the NBA draft. The Croatian forward was taken with the 56th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft by the Toronto Raptors. 
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Sunday, June 24, 2012

Euro 2012 Semifinals Set

The Euro 2012 Semifinals are set with Portugal taking on Spain on Wednesday and Germany taking on Italy on Thursday. Let's take a quick look at each of the four remaining teams:

SPAIN (World Ranking - 1)
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Tourney Results:

D 1-1 vs Italy
W 4-0 vs Ireland
W 1-0 vs Croatia
W 2-0 vs France
vs Portugal

Leading Scorers - Xabi Alonso, Fernando Torres, Cesc Fábregas - 2
Assist Leader -  David Silva - 3

Worth Noting - Spain defeated Portugal 1-0 at the 2010 World Cup by a score of 1-0. While goalscorer David Villa won't be there for the rematch, much of the squad that outshot the Portuguese 19-9 and dominated the game with 60% possession is returning.

PORTUGAL (World Ranking - 10)
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Tourney Results:

L 1-0 vs Germany
W 3-2 vs Denmark
W 2-1 vs Netherlands
W 1-0 vs Czech Republic
vs Spain

Leading Scorer - Cristiano Ronaldo - 3
Assist Leaders - João Moutinho, Nani - 2

Worth Noting -  Portugal has only reached the Euro Cup Final one time back in 2004 when they were the host nation. Considered the favorites going into the Final, they were shocked 1-0 by Greece on a goal from Angelos Charisteas.

GERMANY (World Ranking - 3)
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Tourney Results:

W 1-0 vs Portugal
W 2-1 vs Netherlands
W 2-1 vs Denmark
W 4-2 vs Greece
vs Italy

Leading Scorer - Mario Gomez - 3
Assist Leader - Mesut Özil - 3

Worth Noting - Germany is now 14-0 in Euro Qualifying and Euro Cup matches during this tournament. The Germans have outscored their opponents 43-11 during that stretch and scored 3 or more goals in 9 of those matches.

ITALY (World Ranking - 12)
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Tourney Results:

D 1-1 vs Spain
D 1-1 vs Croatia
W 2-0 vs Ireland
D 0-0 vs England (won 4-2 on penalties)

Leading Scorers - Andrea Pirlo, Antonio Cassano, Antonio Di Natale, Mario Balotelli - 1
Assist Leader - Andrea Pirlo - 2

Worth Noting - Italy defeated the Germans in the semifinals of the 2006 World Cup in Germany by a score of 2-0 getting goals in the 119th and 121st minutes. That would set the stage for Italy's fourth World Cup Title which they'd claim after a shootout win against the French.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Ommissioner Roger Goodell?

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I'm not sure if the AP is trying to call out Roger Goodell or not, but it seems curious that in an article talking about cover-ups and retractions that they'd refer to him as the Ommissioner... Yes, I know it's not how you actually spell omission, but I thought it was kinda funny.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Davey Johnson, Ace Detective

Tampa Bay reliever Joel Peralta was ejected from last night's game against the Washington Nationals after Washington manager Davey Johnson asked the umpires to check Peralta's glove while the pitcher was warming up in the 8th inning. The umpires found that Peralta had "a significant amount of pine tar" in his mitt (not allowed) and the reliever was tossed and the glove confiscated.
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Peralta pitched for the Nationals in 2010 sparking off some debate as to who his betrayer might have been, but I don't think that's the real story here. Instead, no one's talking about how Davey Johnson is once again at the heart of a controversy involving the ejection of a reliever using pine tar. Flash back to the 1988 NLCS between the Dodgers and Mets. Game 3. 8th Inning. Jay Howell on the mound for the Dodgers with a 4-3 lead. With a 3-2 count on Kevin McReynolds, Mets manager - DAVEY JOHNSON - came out of the dugout, and asked Umpire Harry Wendelstedt to inspect Howell's glove for an illegal substance. Sure enough, Howell was found to have pine tar on his glove, and he was immediately ejected from the game. The Mets would go on to score 5 in the inning and win the game 8-4.
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So that makes TWICE that Davey Johnson has gotten a relief pitcher ejected for using pine tar on his mitt. Is that a record? What's his secret? And how come nobody else is talking about this aspect of the story?
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Five Observations from Games 3 and 4 of the NBA Finals

Needless to say I'm not happy about how this series is unfolding, but nothing I can do about that. Here's five observations I've made about the past two games with Miami now up 3 games to 1:

LeBron James is delivering. This year's finals has been the antithesis of last year's for LeBron James. Whereas last year James was tentative, settling for long jump shots, and disappearing late in games, James is finally playing like the player everyone is accustomed to. James had 29 points and 14 rebounds in Game 3 and 26 points (including a huge tie-breaking 3-pointer late in the fourth quarter), 9 rebounds and 12 assists in Game 4. He's averaging 29 points 10 rebounds and 6 assists in the finals and has his team one win away from a title. In a series full of stars, LeBron has shined the brightest. But I'm still going to root against him.
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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Weekly Top Tens - 6/19/12


1. Joey Votto - Cincinnati - .366 (85/232)
2. Melky Cabrera - San Francisco - .364 (98/269)
3. Carlos Ruiz - Philadelphia - .358 (69/193)
4. David Wright - Mets - .352 (83/236)
5. Carlos Gonzalez - Colorado - .335 (82/245)
6. Andrew McCutchen - Pittsburgh - .329 (77/234)
7. Yadier Molina - St. Louis - .326 (73/224)
8. Ryan Braun - Milwaukee - .317 (77/243)
9. Jose Altuve - Houston - .316 (85/269)
10. Michael Bourn - Atlanta - .311 (90/289)


1. Paul Konerko - White Sox - .356 (79/222)
2. Josh Hamilton - Texas - .330 (77/233)
3. Mark Trumbo - Angels - .319 (69/216)
4. David Ortiz - Boston - .316 (77/244)
5. Derek Jeter - Yankees - .314 (89/283)
6. Miguel Cabrera - Detroit - .314 (85/271)
7. Joe Mauer - Minnesota - .314 (69/220)
8. Prince Fielder - Detroit - .311 (78/251)
9. Adam Jones - Baltimore - .306 (83/271)
10. Adrian Beltre - Texas - .305 (76/249)

Tuesday Trivia

This week's question:
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Matt Cain struck out 14 Astros in his perfect game last week tying Sandy Koufax's record for most strikeouts in a perfect game. In the 22 perfect games in Major League history dating back to 1880, how many times did the pitcher record double digit strikeouts?

Last week's question:

The Seattle Mariners used six different pitchers to no-hit the Los Angeles Dodgers on June 8th: Kevin Millwood, Charlie Furbush, Stephen Pryor, Lucas Luetge, Brandon League and Tom Wilhelmsen. When is the last time six pitchers combined for a Major League no-hitter?

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This was only the second time in Major League history that 6 different pitchers combined to no-hit a team. The Houston Astros no-hit the New York Yankees on June 11, 2003 using 6 pitchers as well. Roy Oswalt left the game in the second inning with a groin injury opening the door for five Astro relievers to make history.
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Pete Munro, Kirk Saarloos, Brad Lidge, Octavio Dotel and Billy Wagner held the Yankees hitless for the remaining 8 innings as they recorded the first 6-man combined no-hitter in Major League History.
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In the end the innings broke down like this:

Roy Oswalt 1 IP
Pete Munro 2 2/3 IP
Kirk Saarloos 1 1/3 IP
Brad Lidge 2 IP
Octavio Dotel 1 IP
Billy Wagner 1 IP

Euro 2012 - Group D Recap

Smitty's Prediction: France, Sweden
Actually Advancing: France, England



France 1 England 1
Ukraine 2 Sweden 1
England 3 Sweden 2
France 2 Ukraine 0
England 1 Ukraine 0
Sweden 2 France 0

Monday, June 18, 2012

Euro 2012 - Group C Recap

Smitty's Prediction: Spain, Croatia
Actually Advancing: Spain, Italy



Spain 1 Italy 1
Croatia 3 Ireland 1
Croatia 1 Italy 1
Spain 4 Ireland 0
Spain 1 Croatia 0
Italy 2 Ireland 0

Lushbucket Baseball League - Week 11 Recap

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Apparently we had a wedding in the LBBL this week as our own Brian Steuerwald tied the knot this weekend. Just for that, I promise not to pick on his last place team this week. Instead I'll relish in the fact the the Donkies have moved into first place by means of some unknown tiebreaker. Sure, it's Week 11, but I'm still going to enjoy the moment. Also, what's going on with the Laser Show? Six straight weeks without a win? Here's a look at the rest of Week 11:

Euro 2012 - Group B Recap

Smitty's Prediction: Germany, Netherlands
Actually Advancing: Germany, Portugal



Denmark 1 Netherlands 0
Germany 1 Portugal 0
Portugal 3 Denmark 2
Germany 2 Netherlands 1
Portugal 2 Netherlands 1
Germany 2 Denmark 1