Monthly archives: March 2008
Braves will give Spiezio another shot
Scott Spiezio, who was cut by the St. Louis Cardinals in spring training after news of a December 30 arrest in Irvine, California for DUI, hit and run, and aggravated assault, has signed a minor league deal with the Atlanta Braves.
They smile in your face, but all the time they worry about the pennant race
Alan Schwartz of the New York Times introduces us to mathematician Steve C. Wang who has used a method of graphical representation of data called Chernoff faces to show what tendencies major league managers have.
There is a popup with a graphic of all the managers. The Jim Tracy representation is very scary.
Opening Day, the rest of the story
The Red Sox, Athletics, Braves, and Nationals all have at least one game under their belts. Weather permitting, the other 26 teams start their seasons today. And this writer has the day off as it's a holiday (Cesar Chavez Day) in the state of California. And you work for the government.
So here's what's on tap for today (and do you need to ask which time zone?):
10:05 am - Kansas City (Gil Meche) at Detroit (Justin Verlander). Jim Leyland finds himself on the other end of a Florida fire sale. Will it work out for him?
11:10 am - Arizona (Brandon Webb) at Cincinnati (Aaron Harang). At long last, our long national nightmare is over. There will be baseball played in the Queen City. I think I'm going to cry...
11:20 am - Milwaukee (Ben Sheets) at Chicago (Carlos Zambrano). Baseball's most "interesting" division has its top two teams square off.
12:05 pm - Washington (Matt Chico) at Philadelphia (Brett Myers). The NL East champs start the season against the team they played in Game 162. The Phillies already are down by 1/2 game in the standings, but they're even in the AILC.
12:05 pm - Tampa Bay (James Shields) at Baltimore (Jeremy Guthrie). At least one of the teams playing in this one has hope.
12:05 pm - Chicago (Mark Buehrle) at Cleveland (C.C. Sabathia). Ozzie Guillen claims that the White Sox are going to contend for the AL Central this year. Sabathia is 14-3 in his career against the White Sox.
1:10 pm - San Francisco (Barry Zito) at Los Angeles (Brad Penny). I believe there will be discussion over here.
1:10 pm - New York (Johan Santana) at Florida (Mark Hendrickson). The Mets finished up last year against the Marlins. It didn't go so well.
3:40 pm - Texas (Kevin Millwood) at Seattle (Erik Bedard). The AL West motto this year "Everybody's got a 1 in 4 chance of winning the division."
4:05 pm - Los Angeles (Jered Weaver) at Minnesota (Livan Hernandez). The Angels are taking applications for healthy pitchers. Livan Hernandez is not Johan Santana.
4:10 pm - Pittsburgh (Ian Snell) at Atlanta (Tom Glavine). There are just two active players in the majors who have played on a winning Pirates team: Tim Wakefield and Miguel Batista. One player from that team, Dennis Lamp, turns 56 later this year.
7:05 pm - Houston (Roy Oswalt) at San Diego (Jake Peavy). The scoreboard operator plans on pressing the "0" button on his keyboard a lot.
The Breaking In of Nationals Park
Reader Sam DC graciously wrote up a summary of his trip to the Washington Nationals first regular season game in their new stadium. The Nats beat the Braves 3-2.
Opening Day, North American style, open thread
Coming to you from Nationals (this space for rent) Park in Washington, DC, it's the Atlanta Braves facing the Washington Nationals. Tim Hudson will be twirling for the men from Georgia, while happy go lucky Odalis Perez will be flinging it for the Nats.
But first MLB decides to have its first games played in Japan. And now the next Opening Day game is played in a place that ISN'T EVEN A STATE! Oh Bud Selig, you've sold out baseball's historic past. You keep heaping indignities upon the good people of Cincinnati. Doesn't anyone ever think of Cincinnati?
You can follow on Gameday if you don't have access to ESPN. But it's more fun to guess at what point in the game Joe Morgan will say something that will make you want to throw something at the TV screen.
NCAA Tournament, Regional Finals, Day 8 open thread
Two more games today and then no basketball (except for the NIT and CBI) until Saturday. And I'll be in Kauai then. But there will still be a thread.
11:20 am - #2 Texas (31-6) vs #1 Memphis (36-1) at Houston (South) - The winner of this game faces UCLA Saturday. Both teams had easy first round games, tough second round games because of poor foul shooting, and then easily won their regional semifinals.
Memphis has lost in regionals the last two years: in 2006 to UCLA and in 2007 to Ohio State. Texas last went to the Final Four in 2003 when they won a regional final against Michigan State in San Antonio. Texas lost a regional final to LSU in 2006. Memphis was a national runnerup in 1973 and also made the Final Four in 1985. The Tigers lost in a regional final in 1992 to Cincinnati.
If the game gets close, I think Texas is behind in the final seconds, Longhorns coach Rick Barnes should run this play.
2:05 pm - #10 Davidson (29-6) vs #1 Kansas (34-3) at Detroit (Midwest) - The Wildcats, behind the superhuman shooting of Stephen Curry are the tournament's last Cinderella team, but they have to face a #1 seed in Kansas that appears to be playing its best basketball of the year. The winner of this game faces North Carolina.
The Wildcats are the first team from the Southern Conference to play in a regional final since VMI in 1976. VMI beat Tennessee and DePaul before losing to Rutgers in the East final that year. Davidson played in a regional final in 1969, losing to North Carolina.
Kansas is playing in its 18th regional final. They are 12-5 in these games, but have lost the last two, in 2004 to Georgia Tech and in 2007 to UCLA.
If the games today get dull, there is always this montage of big shots in the NCAA tournament, most of which are called by Gus Johnson.
Ham Fighter Nation leads the bracket contest, but if Texas beats Memphis today, Sesame Chicken takes over the lead. No one in the contest has Davidson going to the Final Four.
Coming to you from Tunnel 14, Row 52 of the L.A. Memorial Coliseum
For those not scoring at home, James Loney is playing first, Jeff Kent is at second, Andruw Jones has moved from center to behind second base, Rafael Furcal is playing shortstop, Blake Dewitt is at third. Andre Ethier, the left fielder, is actually standing in center and Matt Kemp is in right field. Esteban Loiaza is pitching to Russell Martin. Mike Lowell is batting and David Ortiz is the runner on second.
NCAA Tournament, Regional Finals, Day 7 open thread
It's time for a couple of teams to book a trip to beautiful San Antonio. I've never been to San Antonio so I can't say for sure that it's beautiful, but it seems like the polite thing to say.
After suffering through four blowouts Friday, let's hope we get a pair of close games. Then again, I'm not going to be watching them as I'll be heading off to the Coliseum for the Dodgers-Red Sox exhibition. But I'm sure my radio or BlackBerry will provide me with everything I need to know.
The schedule (as always in PT):
6:05 pm - #3 Louisville (27-8) vs #1 North Carolina (35-2) at Charlotte (East) - These schools have NCAA pedigrees longer than a Best in Show at Westminster. Louisville has been to the Final Four eight times and has won twice. North Carolina has been to the Final Four 16 times. So if the Tar Heels win, they will set an NCAA record with 17 Final Fours, which is one more than what UCLA officially has. Unless of course, UCLA wins earlier in the day. In which case, both teams will officially have 17 Final Four appearances. Remember 1980's Final Four really had just three teams in it. And one of them was Louisville. But perhaps the NCAA has a point. The 1980 Final Four was played here.
North Carolina has played 25 NCAA tournament games in its home state and has lost just one, a 73-69 loss to Penn in Raleigh in 1979.
Ham Fighter Nation leads the Griddle's bracket contest and will still lead at the end of the day unless BOTH Xavier and Louisville win. However, Ham Fighter Nation's wagon is hitched to the Kansas Jayhawks and it will be nearly impossible for him to win without Bill Self hoisting the trophy in San Antonio.
Houston sends Woody Williams packing
After 15 major league seasons, the Houston Astros may have put an end to the career of 41-year old Woody Williams. The veteran was released today as the team opted to give Chris Sampson the last starting job.
The back of my Woody Williams card reads:
2007 Houston 8-15, 5.27 ERA, 188 IP, 216 H, 35 HR, 53 BB, 101 K
Billy Consolo, 1934-2008
Billy Consolo, who played 10 seasons in the majors after making his debut straight from high school in 1953, passed away Thursday in Westlake Village, California.
Consolo was a two-time LA City High School Player of the Year while starring at Dorsey High, where he played alongside Sparky Anderson. Consolo worked alongside Anderson in Detroit for several seasons as a coach. Only two others have been named the top high school player in L.A. in consecutive seasons: Randy Wolf in 1993-94 and Mike Moustakas in 2006-07.
White House weighs in on first pitch situation in DC
The Washington Nationals decided to have manager Manny Acta catch the first pitch in their new ballpark Sunday night, instead of catcher Paul Lo Duca.
The White House insisted that President George Bush would have thrown the ball to whomever was catching and the Nationals insist that Lo Duca was not omitted because he was mentioned in the Mitchell Report.
I was holding out for Elijah Dukes.
NCAA Tournament, Regional Semifinals, Day 6 open thread
The Sweet Sixteen has been pared down to a Tremendous Twelve and after tonight it will be an Elite Eight.
Ham Fighter Nation continues his stranglehold on first place of the Griddle contest. However, Monterey Chris is breathing down his neck.
Friday night's action, all times PT
4:10 pm - #10 Davidson (28-6) vs #3 Wisconsin (31-4) at Detroit (Midwest). Davidson seems to be most people's choice to be the upstart that can win a game in this round. A lot of that is because Wisconsin doesn't excite a lot of people. But the Badgers certainly do win a lot of games. The Badgers last lost on Feb. 9 to Purdue. The Wildcats last lost on December 21 to North Carolina State. This game will be played at Ford Field where the Detroit Lions play. And judging by the lyrics to Wisconsin's famous fight song, the Badgers should be at home on a football field. Davidson hasn't made it to a regional final since 1969. Wisconsin last made a regional final in 2005.
4:27 pm - #3 Stanford (28-7) vs #2 Texas (30-6) at Houston (South) - Texas has done something Stanford couldn't do in three tries, i.e. beat UCLA. The Longhorns are expected to have a homecourt advantage although it's hard to think of Reliant Stadium as a court. Stanford's last regional final appearance was in 2001. Texas did so in 2006. The Stanford fight song, for your listening and viewing pleasure.
6:40 pm - #12 Villanova (22-12) vs #1 Kansas (33-3) at Detroit (Midwest) - Another upstart Wildcats in the Midwest, although Villanova isn't given as much of a shot as Davidson. This could possibly be because I don't know the name of any player on Villanova. Both schools have been in regional finals recently. Villanova was in one in 2006 and Kansas was last year. I believe Villanova may have the youngest cheerleader. Can this girl really be 3 and sing that well?
6:57 pm - #5 Michigan State (27-8) vs #1 Memphis (35-1) at Houston (South) - Memphis has made it this far despite shooting just 59.2% from the free throw line. But the Tigers have won by an average of 18 points per game, so it's usually not an issue. Michigan State has lost twice to Wisconsin and once to UCLA. But the Spartans also lost games to Iowa, Penn State, Purdue, Indiana, and Ohio State. Michigan State may have the least inspiring fight song of all.
Ahh, MLB Gameday, my old nemesis
Last year, MLB.com changed its Gameday application and I didn't like it. But the current format turned out to be a big hit with people such as Joe P. Sheehan of Baseball Analysts who actually able to figure out all the BrX and fX and Z and Y on the screen and distill it into something usable.
MLB.com is promising that we'll like it even more in 2008. They even claim it's like an open source program.
The only addition that I am looking forward to is:
Sunday's home opener for the Nationals against the Braves will be the debut. I, of course, remain skeptical, but at least I have a computer with a lot more RAM now.
NCAA Tournament, Regional Semifinals, Day 5 open thread
For the next two days, there are just four games a day and two at a time. So at least one of them better be interesting or else I'll be cross.
Your schedule for today, all times PT
4:10 pm - #7 West Virginia (26-10) vs #3 Xavier (29-6) in Phoenix (West). To steal somebody else's joke "Number Seven? West Virginia?" Xavier is the lone holdout of the Atlantic 10. The Musketeers last played in a regional final in 2004 when they lost to Duke. The Mountaineers made it to a regional final in 2005 when they lost to Louisville.
4:27 pm - #4 Washington State (26-8) vs #1 North Carolina (34-2) in Charlotte (East). Did you know that Washington State University makes canned cheese? Canned cheese is not to be confused with these guys. The Cougars have only made it to the Elite Eight once and that was in 1941 when only eight teams played in the tournament. North Carolina hasn't played in a regional final since ... last year.
6:40 pm - #12 Western Kentucky (29-6) vs #1 UCLA (33-3) in Phoenix (West). Western Kentucky is in Bowling Green. Bowling Green University however is in Ohio. But I think the Everly Brothers were singing about the city in Kentucky. I think the presence of the word "Kentucky" in the lyrics is a tipoff. The Hilltoppers last made it to a regional final in 1971, although the school had to vacate that appearance. WKU also made it to the Elite Eight in 1940, but there were only eight teams playing in the tournament that year also. They lost to Duquesne. UCLA last played in a regional final ... last year.
6:57 pm - #3 Louisville (26-8) vs #2 Tennessee (31-4) in Charlotte (East). The Cardinals have a long and storied NCAA tournament history. The Volunteers don't. Louisville last made it to a regional final in 2005 (see above near "West Virginia). Tennessee has never played in a regional final and didn't even win an NCAA tournament game of any kind until 1979. Obligatory musical reference.
There's got to be a better way of figuring out which pitcher is best (1910 edition)
Courtesy of the Library of Congress' American Memory site is the 1910 Spalding Guide:
You will need to read the jpegs of the pages here.
Here's a sample:
The more interesting parts are emphasized by me.
A tradition like none other?
No, it's not The Masters. It's the way Pirates reliever Masumi Kuwata announced his retirement today.
Weekly Puzzle #15
Clutch or not when it comes to personal goals
Phil Birnbaum looks at a Bill James study called "The Targeting Phenomenon," where James tried to find out why there are more hitters who finish a season with a batting average between .300 and .304 than there are ones who finish between .296 and .299.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Home of the Grouchy Old Man
First it was Jeff Schultz, channeling Roger Kahn, complaining about the first game of the major league season being played in Japan, but now the Atlanta Journal-Constitution ups the ante: Furman Bisher is against it too!
Bisher, the author of one of my favorite childhood books, Strange But True Baseball Stories, is also in love with Cincinnati and its home opener tradition:
Was Cincinnati always THE first city to host a major league game? We can check on this now you know.
I just picked a year in the past more or less at random, so we'll use 1930 and look at April 15, the first day of the NL season.
There were seven games played in the majors that day. The Reds were at home. So were the Dodgers, Giants, and Cardinals. Three AL teams were hosting their first games of the season that day: the Red Sox, Tigers, and Athletics. But the Red Sox were playing Washington. Washington had already played a game THE DAY BEFORE on April 14, 1930. And that was against the Red Sox. Then the teams took a train back to Boston to play again.
So why doesn't anyone weep for Washington? It's the nation's capital! Instead we get all weepy for Cincinnati? Cincinnati! Please. I say again, Cincinnati? Who cares about Cincinnati?
(Go West Virginia! Beat Xavier!)
Also - Jay Mariotti is angry too!
Petroskey out as HOF President
Dale Petroskey stepped down today as president of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, as reported in the Oneonta Daily Star.
Thanks to Eric Enders.
11:43 am PDT headline from the AP:
11:45 am PDT headline from AP:
Shocked! I'm shocked to find out that Opening Day is in Japan
Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution apparently has just realized that baseball's Opening Day is in Japan. My God! Wasn't there a memo about this?
Oooh, you got Roger Kahn to get all upset! That's so hard to do! Don't tell Kahn that the Dodgers moved out of Brooklyn either.
I don't know where Roger Kahn drinks in Oakland, but California law prohibits the sale of alcohol between 2 and 6 am. Perhaps people in Oakland will just be drinking shots in the privacy of their own home at 3 am. Sounds a lot like something Jack London would have done.
Look, it's not great that I'm not going to see the first two games of the major league season. But you know what? I'll live with it. I won't get all pissed off about it like idiots such as Jeff Schultz and Roger Freakin' Kahn.
You know what pisses me off? Roger Kahn! And dopes like Jeff Schultz.
The fact that for many years the major league season would open with a game in Washington is apparently lost on Schultz. You know they would do things like get the President to throw out the first pitch. Stuff like that. But instead Schultz goes on and on about Cincinnati. Does anyone really miss seeing Opening Day in Cincinnati?
And there was even one year when the first game of the year was in ... MEXICO!
This wasn't specific enough for me
In other news today, I climbed
Coming to a TV near you Tuesday at 3 am PT
It will be Opening Day from the Tokyo Dome.
I'll read about it when I get up.
Here are a couple of clips of the Red Sox and Athletics playing in Tokyo.
And Oakland, not quite as popular with the Japanese fans or with YouTube clips.
The hottest catching prospect in MY book
Like most of you, I like to catch up on matters that appear in the Northwest Arkansas Times. I especially like to read the high school sports sections.
Behold the story of Fayetteville High, the Purple Dogs, and their senior catcher Dan Hollenbeck.
Emphasis mine, of course.
For those scoring at home, catcher's interference calls are not included in either the numerator or denominator to figure out on-base percentage.
First round WBC sites finalized
The Dominican Republic federation earlier had threatened to boycott the tournament if not given the right to host first round games. I haven't found reaction from the Dominican Republic yet.
According to Wikipedia, the stadium in Mexico City is 417 ft to center and 326 ft and 333 ft down each line.
NCAA Tournament, Second Round, Day 4 thread
It's Easter Sunday. At least if you're in a Western Christian religion. Did you know this is the earliest Easter has fallen on in your lifetime? Unless you were born before March 23, 1913 that is. If you are that old and reading this blog, good for you!
Easter won't be on March 23 again until 2160. And if we're still alive then, you can all come over to my place to watch the NCAA Tournament. Bring your own Soylent Green. And some dip.
The gory details about the debate to settle the date for Easter can be found here. (It involves St. Polycarp, often described as the patron saint of "The Far Side.") And there is an easy to use formula here.
Now that I've whetted your appetite with those exciting links, here's what's on tap for Sunday, all times PT.
9:10 am - #13 Siena vs #12 Villanova in Tampa (Midwest) - The Saints and the Wildcats get the spotlight to themselves early in the morning. Siena is a Franciscan school and Villanova is an Augustinian school. The winner gets Kansas.
11:15 am - #7 Miami (FL) vs #2 Texas in North Little Rock (South) - Longhorns looking for revenge for 1991 Cotton Bowl humiliation. The winner faces Stanford.
11:30 am - #7 Butler vs #2 Tennessee in Birmingham (East) - The Bulldogs are the last hope for the state of Indiana. Tennessee is not the last hope for the Volunteer State. The winner faces the other winner from Birmingham.
about 11:40 am - #13 San Diego vs #12 Western Kentucky in Tampa (West) - These two teams have actually played each other twice before. The Hilltoppers have the 15th most wins in NCAA history. San Diego is one of those schools you don't think is Catholic, but it is. The winner faces UCLA.
11:50 am - #10 Davidson vs #2 Georgetown in Raleigh (Midwest) - The Wildcats put the nation's longest winning streak up against a team that went to the Final Four last year. Billy Packer will mention the fact that Lefty Driesell used to coach Davidson about 15 times. Georgetown is a Jesuit school and also the only one of the 16 schools playing today that I've visited. The winner faces Wisconsin.
about 1:45 pm - #8 Mississippi State vs #1 Memphis in North Little Rock (South) - Will Mississippi State be the last Bulldog team to fall? Or will Memphis be the last Tiger team? The winner plays Michigan State.
about 2:00 pm - #6 Oklahoma vs #3 Louisville in Birmingham (East) - There is a Louisville High in Los Angeles which is a Catholic school. The University of Louisville is not a Catholic school. But just be prepared in case the school switches allegiances. The winner plays the winner of the other game that I couldn't say who the winner would play after they won.
about 2:20 pm - #9 Arkansas vs #1 North Carolina in Raleigh (East) - Rematch from the 1995 Final Four. Billy Packer will call Roy Williams "Roy" most of the game, but John Pelphrey will never be called "John." The winner plays Washington State.
There is a three-way tie for first in the Griddle's bracket's contest. Four entries are one point behind. Ham Fighter Nation has the highest number of possible points left.
Cabrera reportedly cashes in with Detroit
NCAA tournament second round, Day 3 thread (plus totally unrelated Japan update)
For those wondering, the opening round game was Day 0.
Happy birthday to gpellamjr, Daniel Zappala, and my niece Genny!
The games dwindle down to just eight. All times PT.
11:10 am - #7 West Virginia vs #2 Duke in Washington (West). The early game on Saturday traditionally runs without any other games going on. So everybody gets to see loveable underdog Duke take on West Virginia coached by the warm and cuddly Bob Huggins.
1:20 pm - #11 Kansas State vs #3 Wisconsin in Omaha (Midwest). The Wildcats have a lot of young talent that you may never see in college basketball. Wisconsin has a lot of guys who will likely be back, and yet you will never remember their names.
about 1:40 pm - #6 Purdue vs #3 Xavier in Washington (West) - Did you know Purdue went 15-3 in the Big 10? Did you know Xavier won the Atlantic 10 regular season title? If you didn't, now you do. Purdue is in West Lafayette, Indiana, but does anyone care about Lafayette, Indiana? The latter has more people in it. I want respect for Lafayette.
3:40 pm - #5 Notre Dame vs #4 Washington State in Denver (East) - Expect to hear the words "underrated" and "overachievers" to be used a lot during this game.
3:45 pm - #6 Marquette vs #3 Stanford in Anaheim (South) - A matchup between two schools that I have visited in person! What are the odds?
about 3:50 pm - #8 UNLV vs #1 Kansas in Omaha (Midwest) - Why is UNLV called the Runnin' Rebels when the state of Nevada was created during the Civil War to give the Republicans two more votes in the Senate? Then again, why is my mom's high school in St. Louis, an all girls Catholic school called Notre Dame, called the Rebels as well?
about 6:10 pm - #5 Michigan State vs #4 Pittsburgh in Denver (South) - Expect lots of fouls to be called in this game. If not, expect a lot of guys to be on the floor with injuries. Another matchup between two schools that I have visited in person. What are the odds? For today, I guess it's one in four.
about 6:15 pm - #9 Texas A&M vs #1 UCLA in Anaheim (West) - The last time these two teams met was last season. And it was in Anaheim. UCLA has played a team from Texas three times in the NCAA tournament, beating Houston twice and losing to Texas Tech. A&M has never played a team from California in the NCAA tournament.
Los Longhorns leads the bracket contest with 25 winners out of the first 32, but his forecasted runnerup, Connecticut, is out, so he's likely not going to win. 12 entries are one point behind.
Also today, the Division III men's final tip off at 1 pm and it will feature Amherst and Washington. That game will be played in Salem, VA. Messiah will play Howard Payne in the D-III women's final in Holland, MI at 3 pm.
Messiah has been known to have good comeback qualities this time of year.
NCAA tournament first round, Day 2 thread
After having Thursday off and a chance to watch a lot of games, most of which weren't interesting until later in the day, when I would have been home anyway, I go back to work Friday after a three-day hiatus. This guarantees that:
The games early in the day will be exciting
I won't know what's going on because I have three days of backlog to catch up on
But for your Good Friday viewing pleasure (all times PT):
No one had a perfect record in the Bracket contest. 11 people had 15 of 16 right. I got 11 right, which put me in a tie for 70th.
My links to all the schools were the victim of a browser crash. You can use Google.
It's the first trip to the NCAA tournament for the Retrievers, Eagles, and, Mavericks. You can try to match them up to their respective schools.
Opening Day in Japan, but in Japanese
Japan's Pacific League started its regular season Thursday with three games.
Defending PL champ Nippon Ham got a 1-0 shutout from ace Yu Darvish to beat the Chiba Lotte Marines in Sapporo. Darvish gave up four hits, walked one, and struck out 10.
The Fukuoka Softbank Hawks got a 3-run pinch homer in the ninth from Hiroshi Shibahara to beat the Rakuten Golden Eagles 4-3.
The Orix Buffaloes edged the Saitama Seibu Lions 2-1.
Chiba manager Bobby Valentine is not happy that there are MLB games competing with NPB regular season games.
NCAA tournament first round, Day 1 thread
The rest of your schedule (all times PT):
If you're hear before tipoff of the Georgia-Xavier game, you can still join the Griddle's contest here. It's group 38980 and password "griddle"
Because of an odd workweek, I have today off and get to experience the long day of basketball. I have loaded up on yogurt and bananas to give me something to snack on during the day.
I haven't attended an NCAA men's basketball tournament game in person since 1986 when I saw two first round games of the West Regional at the Long Beach Arena. In the first game, #1 seed St. John's, led by Walter Berry beat #16 seed Montana State, which had upset Montana and Larry Krystkowiak in the Big Sky Conference tournament (that season the Big Sky Conference used a three point line that is shorter than the present line). In the second game, #8 seed Auburn, led by Chuck Person, beat the #9 seed school from Tucson, 73-63. Auburn would beat St. John's in the next round and UNLV in the Sweet Sixteen, before losing to eventual champion Louisville in the West Final.
The Tucson school's fans were quite annoying and I've probably been irritated for 22 years by that night.
I was still a student at UCLA and when I got back to my dorm, I had missed dinner and I didn't really have the energy or wherewithal to go find food. So I ate the only food I had in my room, Oreos. If you are familiar with Oreo packaging, let's just say that "I did a line" of Oreos. I spent much of the next day in the bathroom.
I have not eaten an Oreo since then.
And I should have posted this earlier to set the tone:
The man who named names
Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports interviews Larry Bigbie, who will be starting this season with the Yokohama BayStars.
The Griddle NCAA Tournament contest returns (the drive for 100!)
For the second straight year, an eternity for most people, I will be hosting an NCAA Tournament contest here on the Griddle through Yahoo! The group will be called "The Griddle" and will be group #38980 and the password to join will be "griddle". I like simplicity.
There will be prizes, including:
Having your name on the sidebar (unless it's something obscene or profane) until the next tournament. Right now, last year's champ Suffering Bruin has his name on the sidebar. Suffering Bruin's key to victory last year, of course, was picking UCLA to lose to Florida. Remember, pick winners with your head, not your heart.
Also, you can win a copy of Sayonara Home Run! : The Art of the Japanese Baseball Card by John Gall and Gary Engel.
I'll bump up this thread as we get closer to the start of the tournament next Thursday.
Added prize! The winner can also opt to receive an OFFICIAL Pac-10 Tournament Oregon State t-shirt, XXL only. You may cover over the k and t in basketball if you wish.
The server will likely be busy the first few hours. But you have until right before the first game tips off Thursday morning to fill out a bracket.
UPDATE - There are 66 entries in the contest as of 1:30 pm today. There were over 100 last year and it came down to the final game. Time to go find your favorite algorithm to pick winners. Is there wisdom in crowds? What counts for more: RPI, SOS, W-L?
UPDATE 2 - There are 78 entries as of 7:30. Let's make it 100! That way if you have a C in your name, you can make it a different color.
Red Sox players threaten to pull out of Japan trip
The Boston Red Sox players have not taken the field yet for their Grapefruit League game against Toronto and are threatening not to go to Japan unless coaches and other staff receive extra payments for the trip. There is also a debate over whether families could come along the trip, which would also involve a stop in Los Angeles upon returning from Tokyo.
ESPN is supposed to televise the game today from Fort Myers.
ESPN is also reporting that the Oakland team is considering similar action.
UPDATE - The Red Sox will play the Blue Jays today at 10:10 am PT.
NPB modifies playoff format again
For what I believe is the fifth straight year, the Japanese major leagues (NPB) have modified the format for their playoffs. The top three teams in each league will make the playoffs. The second and third place teams will play a best of three series as they did last year.
However, in the Japanese equivalent to the LCS, called the Climax Series in Japan, the first place team will be given a one-win head start and the series will last no more than six games.
From 2004 through 2006, only the Pacific League had playoffs and each year the league changed which teams would get homefield advantage for how many games. The Central League added a postseason last year.
Bob Purkey, 1929-2008
Purkey started Game 3 of the 1961 World Series for the Reds against the Yankees and took a 2-1 lead into the eighth, but gave up a home run to John Blanchard to tie the game and then Roger Maris won the game with a homer in the top of the ninth.
NCAA tournament opening round open thread
From Dayton! It's the Mid-Eastern Champion Coppin State facing Northeast Conference champion Mount St. Mary's.
Coppin State, coached by veteran Ron "Fang" Mitchell is 16-20, the most losses of any team to make the NCAA tournament ever. The Eagles, from Baltimore, started the season 4-19.
Mount St. Mary's is 18-14. The Mountaineers play in Emmitsburg, MD and are coached by Milan Brown.
Don't forget the Griddle's NCAA Tournament contests. Win nominal prizes! Go here and look for group 38980 and password "griddle"
Play baseball faster, it's good for the environment?
The Japanese major league (NPB) is aiming to cut the playing time of its games by 6 percent (12 minutes) in effort to reduce carbon emissions used for lighting and other things. Setting aside the idea that I can't figure out what stopping 12 minutes earlier will accomplish, here is what NPB plans to do to shorten games:
Nowhere included is the greatest frustration of watching Japanese baseball, i.e., getting the pitchers to throw the ball over the plate. Also changing pitchers like Tony La Russa in a September game is the norm.
MLB Opening Day starters set
With his new baby apparently safe at home (the third base coach told the baby to slide), Boston's Daisuke Matsuzaka was named the Opening Day starter for the Red Sox game at the Tokyo Dome on March 25 against the Athletics. Jon Lester will pitch the second game. Joe Blanton is scheduled to start the first game for Oakland, followed by Rich Harden.
I'm betting that the Japanese media will be a tad more interested in Mr. Matsuzaka than Mr. Blanton.
Both teams will be allowed to have a 28-player roster for the first two games, but three players will be ineligible. Each team will also play exhibition games against the Hanshin Tigers and Yomiuri Giants.
Save the date: April 3
Just as a reminder again, on Thursday, April 3 (see I even remembered the right date this time!), I'll be giving a talk at the Los Angeles Central Library from 12:15 to 1 pm on the controversy about how the city of L.A. got from this:
Puerto Rico to restart winter baseball league
After suspending operations this winter because of a lack of funding (to do stuff like pay people), the Puerto Rican Winter League will resume in the next offseason. The AP report states that various Puerto Rican municipalities have agreed to help out on stadium rental fees.
Matsuzakas welcome new arrival
Tomoyo Matsuzaka and Daisuke Matsuzaka welcomed a new baby boy in to the world Saturday morning (6 lbs, 10 oz for those of you not weighing at home).
This means that Papa Matsuzaka would be able to start the MLB opener for the Red Sox in Tokyo against Oakland on March 25. The Red Sox head to Japan on Wednesday.
Weekly Puzzle #13
The stadium that never was?
Back on February 28, 1957, the Los Angeles Examiner ran this artists rendering of what a 60,000 seat version of Wrigley Field (West Coast Edition) would have looked like:
Photo courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library
So, did anyone remember where we parked the Buick in the world's largest undifferentiated parking lot?
Red Sox release single task catcher
My father once said to me, "Find something you're good at in life, and then make a career out of that."
Actually, he never said anything like that. But if had given out career advice to me, it might have sounded like that. In reality, our talks about careers tended to be things like "Don't be late on your first day" or "You get paid to stay home on Columbus Day?"
But I digress.
The Red Sox released Tim Wakefield's personal catcher, Doug Mirabelli, today. Kevin Cash has apparently figured out how to catch a knuckleball.
I like him better with a tonsure
Also from the AP story: The star was the Padres mascot—“The Swinging Friar.” Hundreds mugged for photos. Some thought it was a promotion for McDonald’s restaurants.
From the same source, Trevor Hoffman plays ball on the Great Wall:
Canada, Taiwan earn final two Olympic baseball berths
Canada and Taiwan clinched the final two spots in the Olympic baseball tournament during the qualifying tournament in Taiwan.
Canada beat Korea, who had already clinched a spot, 4-3. Taiwan defeated South Africa, 4-0. This gave Korea, Canada, and Taiwan 5-1 records and two games up on the other five nations participating with just one game left.
The field in Beijing for the Olympics will be: China (host), USA, Cuba, Netherlands, Japan, Korea, Canada, and Taiwan.
Australia's coach, John Deeble, let loose on the qualifying tournament setup to Australian paper, The Age. Deeble felt that the tournament was scheduled at a poor time (during spring training in the US and Japan) that kept Australia, the silver medalist in Athens in 2000, from using its best players and that the Asian teams and Canada would benefit.
Smart man, John Deeble.
The IBAF (International Baseball Federation) tiebreaker won't have to be used:
The ranking of the teams after the round robin shall be according to the win-loss record of all the games played.
All ties after the round robin, Semi-finals and Finals shall be settled as follows (in order):
How high can I be?
Presently, as I type this I am at Staples Center, Section 301, Row 14, Seat 25. How many rows does the top section go to? Well, looking behind me, I will tell you that there are 15 rows. However, I am too law abiding to move down into a better seat. Others may choose a different adjective for me.
Nothing ever is where you thought it was
The above is a detail from the USGS topographical map for the Los Angeles quadrangle. It's interesting to note that while Dodger Stadium is synonymous with Chavez Ravine, the actually geographic feature that is Chavez Ravine is not now nor has it ever been part of Dodger Stadium. As you can see it's on the other side of Stadium Way, one of the main entrances to the park.
Baldelli still on the shelf for Tampa Bay
Rocco Baldelli was placed on the DL for Tampa Bay with fatigue. And it sounds rather vague, but at least Baldelli seems to have been paying attention in biology class.
Jays lose Janssen
Casey Janssen of Toronto will miss the 2008 season after being diagnosed with a torn labrum in his right shoulder.
Will Armando Benitez be providing relief for the good people of Toronto instead?
Day 5 of Olympic Qualifying
After one day off, the Olympic qualifying tournament in Taiwan resumed:
Korea has clinched a spot in the 2008 Olympics with their 5-0 record. The next two spots seem to be ready for Canada and Taiwan, who are both 4-1. Germany, Australia, and Mexico are 2-3. Spain (1-4) and South Africa (0-5) are just playing out the string.
Taiwan's next game is against South Africa, so with the expected win in that game, Taiwan will wrap up a spot in the Olympics. Canada plays Korea in its next game, but finishes with Germany. A 5-2 record for both Taiwan and Canada will get them a ticket to Beijing.
If there is a tie, the first tiebreaker is head-to-head record and then runs allowed.
Vote No on B? Why? Looking back 50 years
On Thursday, April 3 from 12:15-1 pm, I'll be giving a talk at the Los Angeles Central Library about the political battle of bringing the Dodgers to L.A. I won't be able to reproduce my entire presentation here for a variety of reasons, namely that there are a lot of photos I'm using that I can't guarantee I have copyright clearance for. But there is plenty of stuff in the public domain and I thought people might find it interesting to read a piece of campaign literature opposing Proposition B.
Proposition B was a referendum put on the June 3, 1958 ballot for voters in Los Angeles to approve or disapprove the deal the previous October when the Los Angeles City Council voted to let Dodgers owner Walter O'Malley trade his property at Wrigley Field for about 300 acres at Chavez Ravine as well as financial considerations to help build roads to the new park. O'Malley was also supposed to build a recreation center near the area.
You can read the piece and then decide for yourself if the arguments from 50 years ago still hold water today.
Day 4 of Olympic qualifying
Korea is just about in, but the last two spots are still up for grabs. And South Africa can wait for another year.
Standings (with 3 games to go): Korea 4-0, Canada and Taiwan 3-1, Australia and Germany 2-2, Spain and Mexico 1-3, South Africa 0-4.
Finale episode of The Wire chat
After five seasons, one of my favorite TV series ever, "The Wire", airs its final episode tonight.
Jon is the usual host for entertainment chat, but he's graciously allowed me to host tonight's chat. Remember that the episode airs at different times in different parts of the country, so not all people will get to see it at the same time. I'll be watching the East Coast feed, which comes on at 6 pm. So please be courteous toward West Coast residents who might not get to watch for three hours later. If you spoil the episode, you may hear this (not suitable for children).
Perhaps I should get some Honey Nut Cheerios to eat during the finale.
Day 3 of Olympic qualifying
Standings: Korea, Taiwan 3-0, Australia, Canada 2-1, Spain, Germany 1-2, Mexico, South Africa 0-3.
I haven't been able to determine what screwball tiebreaker the IBAF will use to break a tie for third.
Notes from the tournament: Germany's starting pitcher in Game 2 was Enorbel Marquez Ramirez. In Game 3, the Germans started Andre Hughes. Chin-Feng Chen is missing the tournament for Taiwan with an injury. Korean slugger Seung Yeop Lee is playing in the tournament.
Number 9, number 9....
Ned Yost has decided for sure that he will be batting Jason Kendall in the #9 slot for the Brewers this year. Earlier, Yost had said he was just considering it.
Link via BTF.
The Revolution starts in Kansas City again
Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports interviews Brian Bannister of the Kansas City Royals. Bannister is likely the first major league player to implement knowledge of sabermetrics in a way that can improve his own pitching.
Army wins in Pakistan! Even in baseball!
The Pakistan Army team won the 16th National Baseball Championship in Lahore defeating the WAPDA team, 11-10 in the championship game.
The game went into to extra innings, but the Daily Times story is a bit hard to follow.
Chapter 2 of Bad Days at the Copy Desk
Correia Giants pitching staff much-needed good news in win over Nationals
First two paragraphs:
Day 2 of Olympic qualifying
So Canada, Taiwan, and Korea are 2-0, Germany and Australia are 1-1, South Africa, Mexico, and Spain are 0-2. The top three advance to Beijing.
Fox baseball schedule
Awful Announcing has the poorly spelled list of Saturday afternoon games on Fox. So poorly spelled, that you will have to read it yourself.
The Mets make the most appearances, but Fox has multiple games and it's unlikely that everyone in the country will see New York play that many times.
Unless you live in New York.
Copy editor, please read lead of story
Matsuzaka, awaiting birth of child, likely to follow Red Sox to Tokyo
FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP)—Daisuke Matsuzaka probably won’t fly to Tokyo with his teammates because his wife’s due date is March 19, the date of the flight, but the Red Sox hope he can join them in his native country.
Day 1 of Olympic qualifying
Korea, Canada, Australia, and Taiwan all won their opening games in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Taiwan.
The top three teams from the round robin event will advance to the Olympic tournament in Beijing this summer. Already qualified for that tournament are the USA, China, Cuba, Netherlands, and Japan.
Weekly Puzzle #12
Bill James takes time to talk to Time
Some excerpts from an interesting interview of Bill James by Sean Gregory of Time magazine.
ESPN Sunday Night games
Via Awful Announcing is the schedule for the first half of the ESPN Sunday Night baseball schedule. And yes, Joe Morgan is back! And trust me, he's right. And he knows more than you.
March 30- Atlanta at Washington
Does anybody remember who won the NL West last year? I think it was a team from Arizona. Are they making an appearance? I guess the jury is still out on them. The Braves-Nats game is something of an outlier as it the only game without New York, Los Angeles, Boston, or Chicago involved.
What was the name of that team that won the AL Central? Wait, I'll think of it...
June 15 isn't scheduled but the Marlins are playing the Rays that day. I think the Rays should offer that as a night game. The Marlins wouldn't mind flying to their next game, at Seattle, right after that would they?
The British aren't coming! The British aren't coming!
To Olympic baseball qualifying that is...
Team GB, the British international baseball squad, finally had to drop out of Olympic qualifying after the British Olympic Association decided against advancing the group £40,000 to compete in the final qualifier in Taiwan.
The BBC story goes in to greater detail.
The final three spots for the 2008 Olympics will come from an eight-team tournament involving Australia, Canada, Chinese Taipei (Taiwan to most of us), Korea, Mexico, South Africa, Spain, and Germany. The Germans are replacing the British.
The British baseball team will take on all-star squad of cricketers on October 4.
Also, in Lahore, Pakistan WAPDA defeated the Pakistani National Police team 7-6 in the National Baseball championships. The Army team routed Balochistan 17-2, but Balochistan, as we all know, is through to the second round.
Balochistan and NWFP move on to second round in Pakistan Classic!
Balochistan and NWFP (Northwest Frontier Province) stormed into the second round of the 16th annual Pakistan national baseball championship at Lahore.
Balochistan beat Punjab 11-10 and then NWFP 8-7. But NWFP moved on after beating Sindh in its second game of the day "comprehensively."
My cable system doesn't pick up these games, so we have to rely on the Daily Times for info.
The final Olympic qualifying tournament starts on March 7 in Taichung, Taiwan. Pakistan is not among the nations competing for the final three slots.
Dominican Republic threatens to hold WBC hostage
The Associated Press reports that the president of the Dominican Republic baseball federation has threatened to pull the nation out of the 2009 World Baseball Classic unless a Dominican city is picked to host first round games.
The Dominican Republic made it to the semifinals in the 2006 WBC, losing to Cuba 3-1.
Do the Dominicans have much to gain by threatening to drop out?
The Buck stops in St. Louis, Stone goes back to Chicago
Joe Buck said Monday night to Dan Caesar of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he will no longer be calling any Cardinals local broadcasts, solely working national games for Fox. Buck's father, Jack, started broadcasting Cardinals games in 1954, missed the 1960 season, and then either Jack or Joe has been in the booth for the Cardinals since then.
Jack Buck passed away in 2002.
Link via BTF.
UPDATE - The Chicago White Sox have announced that they have hired Steve Stone for a fulltime analyst job for radio alongside Ed Farmer. Chris Singleton, who was the analyst last year, is moving to ESPN.
Is the disparity in quality between Farmer and Stone the greatest among any pair of broadcasters working together today?
Lowry's long first inning
Giants lefthander Noah Lowry had a bad first inning at Scottsdale, walking seven Texas batters and allowing four runs, and then walking the first two batters in the second before being pulled.
Lowry allowed no hits in his one plus inning of work and the Rangers had no at bats in their first trip through the order, seven walks and two sacrifice flies. Lowry also made an error and threw two wild pitches.
The Giants pitchers walked 15 batters overall in the game, which the Rangers won 8-6 in 10 innings.
The Late Winter Classic in Lahore
The 16th National Baseball Championships of Pakistan are underway in Lahore! Punjab beat the Pakistan Navy 5-0. Balochistan beat Sindh 1-0. However, Sindh beat Islamabad 10-1 in the third match.
Sadly, the Daily Times of Pakistan story is lacking in important details. No boxscores are available as far as I can tell.
Coaches all over weigh in on the great helmet debate of 2008
At the risk of being the object of further ridicule, here is a link to Tom Singer's story in MLB.com about coaches thought baseball giving their opinion about the mandatory helmet rule for base coaches.
First of all, MLB is going to enforce the rule:
Second, some don't mind the helmet:
Third, some don't like the rule at all:
And finally, I can't figure out what the deal with Jose Oquendo is:
I'm curious as to just how Mr. Oquendo chews gum
No wonder they have a lot of money left over
The Florida Marlins today renewed the contracts of 16 players today. SIXTEEN. Lots of guys making the minimum or just above it out there. And that list includes Hanley Ramirez and Dan Uggla. It appears that the highest paid Marlin players this year will be Kevin Gregg ($2.5 million) and Luis Gonzalez ($2 million). Mark Hendrickson ($1.5 million) and Andrew Miller ($1.3 million) will be next. Source here.
Milton Bradley, the continually angry man
In the New York Times, Alan Schwarz profiles Texas Rangers outfielder Milton Bradley, who has apparently given up on the idea of changing his image.
Spiezio's strange night detailed in police report
Elizabethe Holland of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports on the details of the night of December 30, 2007, when Scott Spiezio fell off the wagon in a very big way.
Later a friend took Spiezio back to his home, but Spiezio allegedly then threw a punch at him. Spiezio and his agent did not mention the incident to the Cardinals front office in a February 17 meeting.
A place where a man can slow down to a walk and live his life full measure, but he has to keep his watch on Pacific Time.
About the Toaster
Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
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