Thursday, July 29, 2010


The Red Sox improved to 7-0 against the Angels on the season, and still have 3 games remaining against that charitable team. Someone tell Mike Scioscia to hit-and-run, or try a squeeze play or something.

Beckett had to work his way through this one, but improved as the game progressed. That's a really good sign. This is similar to how Buchholz performed the other day. He finished with 3 earned runs in 7 innings. It's nothing short of remarkable how the Sox have done so well considering this only their 2nd win from Beckett, and only his 4th Quality Start.

The offense eventually broke through against the Angels' array of relievers (Scot Shields had to start as Pinerio was scratched). Scutaro had the big game, going 3 for 4 with the big Grand Slam in the 8th. He was 7/14 in the series with 4 runs and 4 RBI.

Eric Patterson was a homerun shy of the cycle.

The Sox were still only 2 for 14 with runners in scoring position, and left 13 men. Scutaro's Grand Slam made up for this inadequacy, but it still wasn't a great day for the Sox' bats against a series of middle-relievers.

But pitching is how this team will either win or lose. And Beckett's back to form. Maybe. We'll see 2 starts from now how consistent he is. Buchholz is back. Lackey's apparently turned a corner.

I'm not going to get too giddy. The Angels are mediocre at best. And remember the weekend? When the Sox split 4 with the godawful M's?

The Sox have an off-day then host the Tigers. Lester opposes Armando Galarraga Friday night.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


An inspired start by John Lackey, and some late inning offense gave the Sox' their 6th straight win over the Angels. Lackey went 7.1 innings, allowing 2 runs off 7 hits, finally securing that elusive 10th win. He's been stellar in his last 3 starts, all against AL West opponents. He has a 1.61 ERA over that stretch.

It probably should have been a 7 inning, 1 earned run start by Lackey. Francona tried him in the 8th inning, and it didn't work. I understand the desire to keep Bard fresh, but Lackey's pitch-count was up there, the game was very tight, and the Sox can't afford to lose games at this stage because they're afraid of losing games in September.

The Sox got their production from some relatively unlikely sources. Scutaro was 3 for 5 with a double and 2 runs. Lowrie was 2 for 5 with a pair of doubles and 2 RBI. His big hit in the 7th turned the game to the Sox' favor.

The Sox look for the sweep this afternoon at 3:35 as Beckett faces Joel Pineiro.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


I hate the term "must-win," especially if it's used for a baseball team in July. However, last night was as close to a must-win scenarios as you can get this time of year. The Rays won, the Yankees won, and the Sox were fresh off a 2-2 split in Seattle.

The Sox won't be acquiring any big name players at the deadline, but they did add All-Star catcher Victor Martinez last night. And he immediately contributed, hitting an RBI single in the 2nd.

But the two big stories were Clay Buchholz and the collective performance by the Sox' 3-4-5 hitters. Buchholz navigated his way around danger - including a 0 out, bases loaded situation in the 2nd - and went 7 solid innings. During that bases loaded jam, his body language got all flustered, by he bore down and did his job. He's come a long way in the confidence department. He couldn't do that last year. His outing was almost spoiled by a wretched Scott Atchison appearance.

I think the Sox should invest in either one good middle-reliever, or two decent middle-relievers at the deadline. Okajima, Delcarmen, Atchison, and Ramirez are all dreadful. They've leaned on Bard all season, and I hate seeing them forced to use Papelbon to get more than 3 outs.

Back to the positives from last night, the 3-4-5 hitters (Youkilis-Ortiz-Beltre) were stupendous, combining to go 7 for 12, scoring 5 runs, knocking in 3. Ortiz hit a pair of homers, Beltre a triple.

The Sox will strive to make it 6-0 against the Angels tonight, as Lackey faces 9-2 Jared Weaver.

Monday, July 26, 2010


The Sox now find themselves 8 games behind New York, and 5 behind Tampa Bay, thanks in no small part to an unfortunate weekend in Seattle. The Mariners are more than 20 games below .500, yet they looked the better team, splitting a 4 game set with the Sox.

There was good starting pitching, but no offense, and an atrocious bullpen. Jerry Remy described Okajima's appearance in Sunday's loss as a "trainwreck," and that's extremely accurate. He allowed 2 runs off 5 hits, getting only 2 men out. This swelled his ERA to 5.81.

Matsuzaka was an accomplice to the crime. He had a nice 6 inning start, but in vintage Daisuke style, needed 110 pitches to get that far. He walked 5 and allowed 4 hits.

The Sox have an awful record against awful teams this season. They're 6-6 against Baltimore, 2-2 against Cleveland, 4-3 against the Royals, and 2-2 against the Mariners. That's a 14-13 record against the 4 worst teams in the AL. Inexcusable.

Thankfully, the Sox take on a good team down in Anaheim. They're 4-0 against the Angels so far. Buchholz opposes Joel Pineiro at 10 tonight.

Friday, July 23, 2010


OK, so you're starter allows 0 hits through the first 7.2 innings. The offense scores 6 runs, and the starter finishes with 8 innings pitched, 0 earned runs, 1 total run. That sounds like ane asy win. But not for the Red Sox.

It's true that the Sox have been plagued with injuries, but the bullpen's been healthy. Maybe that's the problem. The Sox' bullpen, apart from Bard and Papelbon, has been crap. Manny Delcarmen nearly handed this game to the Mariners. Papelbon was far from sharp, but he's at least been good this season. Delcarmen has sucked.

If the Sox make any move, they should acquire a token mid-reliever that doesn't blow. Declarmen is simply awful and doesn't belong on this roster.

A win is a win, but the Mariners are 20+ games below .500. This should have been an easy win for the Sox to cruise to, and instead it got dramatic.

Josh Beckett makes his return tonight. He opposes Jason Vargas, who is 6-4 with a 2.97 ERA. Why do I get the feeling that the Sox will lose 5-2?

Photo Credit:
Getty Images

Thursday, July 22, 2010


It was one of the weirdest looking events I've seen on TV. Maybe that's because Fenway looked backwards from the angle the camera shot the game. Maybe because the field looked 20 yards shorter and 20 yards thinner than a regulation soccer field.

In front of a sellout crowd, Glasgow Celtic defeated Sporting Portugal on penalty kicks (6-5).

I have to say the Sox did a fantastic job putting on this event. The timing was perfect, with the Red Sox out West and playing at 3:30 local time. The World Cup just ended so lots of people who aren't big soccer fans might tune in to see these two European teams play. And they picked a perfect team to come to Fenway. While Celtic aren't one of the elite teams in the world, they have a fanatical following almost everywhere.

I think you'll see the Sox stage another international exhibition game at Fenway next summer.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo


Clay Buchholz returned from the DL, but was visibly rusty. For the most part, he was fine, but a few pitches were left in juicy spots of the strike zone, and he paid for it. This was the first time Buchholz allowed multiple homeruns since September of '09.

But for me, the story of this game was the injuries deadening the lineup, along with the lack of bullpen depth the Sox have featured all season.

Apart from Adrian Beltre and his 3 RBI afternoon, the Sox offense was hardly noticeable.

The Sox continue to struggle against bad and mediocre teams. And this has me concerned as they go up to Seattle for 4 games. Think about this, the Sox are responsible for 1/5 of Baltimore's total wins this season.

But I'm sure Buchholz will be sharper in his next start. He was fresh off the DL, so the occasional knee-high fastball over the middle of the plate is excusable.

Lackey faces the 1-9 Ryan Rowland-Smith, who's Australian and has a 6.18 ERA, mate.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


The NHL rejected the Devils/Kovalchuk contract, determining that it was an effort to navigate around the salary cap. A player's cap number is determined by their average salary over the life of the contract. So Kovalchuk's 17 year, $102 million deal would result in a $6 million hit for the Devils. Not bad for a guy with 338 goals and 642 points in 621 games.

The problem is, $98.5 million of that deal was frontloaded into the first 11 years ($8.9 million per season). The remaining 6 years paid $550,000 a season, and served only to lower the overall cap hit. The idea was that Kovalchuk probably wouldn't be playing for $550k at that point. He'd either sign a new deal with the Devils, or with someone else, maybe even in the KHL. But the Devils would get a decade of production from Kovalchuk, and take a $6 million hit instead of a $9 million.

I'm glad the NHL stepped up and negated this deal. I think the NHL cap is too inflexible, with no wiggle room or exemptions for homegrown talent to stay with their original team. But this is the right thing for the NHL to do.

AP via Yahoo Sports


Well you're not going to get much better than 6 innings and 3 runs out of Wakefield. But the Sox squandered that solid outing, as Ramon Ramirez took his 3rd loss of the season. Even though it was Bowden who yielded the walk-off single, it was Ramirez who put the guy on with 2 outs, then balked him into scoring position.

Ramirez has been subpar this season, with a 4.85 ERA to go along with his 0-3 record and 1.36 WHIP. He's getting $1.15 million to do that. Which for the Sox isn't a lot, but still: damn.

But it wasn't entirely his fault. If a guy like Okajima could go more than 0.1 inning, then maybe Ramirez doesn't even get into the game. If Ramirez has been subpar, Okajima has been nothing short of craptastic.

The A's are a .500 team, and nothing more. I know it's tough being on the West Coast, but the Sox simply need to do better against an average team like this. The Sox had chances, but didn't cash in after the 2nd. They left 12 men on base. They out-hit the A's 12 to 6, and drew the same number of walks. The Sox also hit 4 doubles compared to Oakland's 2. But the Sox couldn't do these things consecutively, or they did them all in the 2nd inning.

The Sox also lost a chance to gain ground in the AL East, as both New York and Tampa Bay lost.

Clay Buchholz makes his return this afternoon against 8-6 Gio Gonzalez.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Ilya Kovalchuk will be a Devil for a long, long time. 17 more years, to be precise. The 27 year old stud winger signed a 17 year contract worth a total of $102 million. That only works out to be $6 million a year, on average, but the absurd length of the deal makes it worthwhile for him. He'll be receiving paychecks until he's 44. His actual salary will fluctuate up and down, peaking at $11.5 million for a 5 year stretch in the middle of the deal, and settling down to $550,000 a season at the end.

I get why Kovalchuk signed this deal. He's set for life. In my opinion, he could have gotten more salary for shorter years. But then there's a risk of being a 33 year old free agent that nobody wants because of injuries or lackluster performances. And $102 million ain't peanuts. Furthermore, he gets to play in a "big market" (at least close to one) that consistently fields competitive teams.

And while I think I understand what the Devils are thinking, I still think it's kind of crazy. He'll be drawing a $6.5 million salary in 2020. That's a long time from now. If this were Wayne Gretzky, it'd be the smartest signing in history. But as it is, the Devils have committed a lot of cap space for 17 years.

So if this is what Kovalchuk wanted, I'm glad the Bruins didn't even (apparently) place a bid. The Devils have a great scorer, and will have him for a long, long time.

Maybe Kovalchuk just wanted a deal that matched his uniform number (#17).

Puck Daddy

Photo Credit:
AP Photo


The Sox needed a great start from Daisuke last night, and they got one. He only allowed 2 hits and 2 walks in 6.2 innings, allowing the Sox to score only twice and still claim the victory.

Daisuke's been throwing strikes lately. 62 of his 89 pitches were strikes, and he started 19 of the 24 batters he faced with strikes. Then again, he threw 8 of his 27 balls in the 7th, which is partially why Francona pulled him for Bard. Call me old-fashioned, call me greedy, but it'd be nice if a starter could throw 100 pitches and go 7+ innings. How often is Daisuke under 90 pitches in the 7th? It's a shame not to be able to take advantage of that, and have him go 7 or 8 innings.

Then again, if it were a 4-1 game when he allowed a walk and a double in the 7th, Francona's leash may have been longer.

Bard had his 20th Hold (3rd most in baseball), and Papelbon recorded his 21st Save.

The Sox scored both their runs in the 4th, as Ortiz hit a sac-fly, and Beltre knocked out his 15th homer of the season. Ortiz and Beltre have 59 and 59 RBI, respectively.

Wakefield faces Dallas Braden late night tonight.

Monday, July 19, 2010


Recently, the Bruins signed Mark Stuart to a 1 year deal worth $1.675 million. This means that the Bruins have 6 defensemen locked down and under contract for 2010-11: Chara, Seidenberg, Boychuk, Stuart, Hunwick, and Ference. And I think 5 of these guys (everyone but Ference) is a good, solid D-man. And as far as Ference goes, you can do a lot worse that low on the depth chart.

The team is decidedly defensive in nature now. There's no feasible way to acquire a guy like Kovalchuk, or even a second-tier kind of scoring forward. And it seems like shipping Thomas' contract has proven more difficult than anyone could have imagined.

Rask will be in net, with frequent cameos from Thomas. It's funny how many Tuukka Time Twits criticized Thomas' style but fail to notice that Rask's style is even more, shall we say, original. Rask collapses back into his net like a funnel spider. Then again, it's been working... so far.

Chara and Seidenberg will pair up most of the time. That is a formidable duo. And with Boychuk, Hunwick, Ference, and Stuart; the Bruins have a good blend of youth, experience, puck-skills, and utter ferocity.

The forwards are not as deep, nor as menacing. The Bruins have a bevy of playmaking centers, but nobody to finish the plays made. Guys like Marco Sturm and Nathan Horton will get their 20 goals, but there won't be the On-Demand offense that's needed to win big games. And if there are just one or two injuries to guys like Savard or Sturm, the offense really gets anemic.

Tyler Seguin can start the season at AHL Providence. If he dazzles, which he likely will, the Bruins can trade Savard or Krejci. I'd rather trade Krejci since he has more value in a trade, and is essentially Savard Jr. By that I mean he's both younger, and not as good.

I've asked it before, but do the Bruins really need so many playmaking centers, when they lack wingers that can put the puck into the net?

The wingers are really weak for the Bruins. Guys like Lucic and Ryder need to step up. Lucic, when healthy, is a bulldozer, but he has no touch with the puck. Again, another guy who can help create chances for teammates, if only there were scorers he could play with. I'd put him on a line with Seguin when the time comes.

Mark Recchi is the best finisher on the team, but he's an AARP member.

Nathan Horton will contribute some offense, and should excel when paired with Savard/Krejci.

The Bruins can put out a solid team, worthy of a top 4 seed in the East. Their goaltending and defense will have to take it from there. The hope is that Seguin is a quick learner, and is capable of being an NHL scoring machine by the Spring. That's asking a lot in such a short time frame.

But this team's not bad. They've got the right coach for a defensive philosophy. Chara, Lucic, Boychuk, Thornton and Stuart can be physical, and can impose their will on opponents. Some people, like Michael Ryder, need to step up to the plate. They're not physical, so they must be skillful or be eliminated.

I think they still need a veteran forward, either a grinder, or just a solid type of guy that doesn't make mistakes with the puck. Their psychological difficulties last season were a real handicap. A guy like Seguin can add goals, but how much leadership can he contribute? There are a lot of followers on the Bruins, a few lead-by-example guys, and almost no true leaders.

It'll be hard to fit him in, but I still want Billy Guerin on this team. He's from Wilbraham, MA. Friendly's is from Wilbraham, MA. Everything from Wilbraham is exceedingly awesome.

But even without Guerin, this team is shaping up to be a competitor. And without borrowing against their future. There'll be a considerable amount of cap room opened after the upcoming season. But still some key players will be locked up.

It's asking a lot in the salary cap era to completely transform a team in just one off-season. If not for that #2 overall pick, the Bruins would look pretty much exactly the same. I don't think they'll win the Cup, or even advance further than the 2nd round. But like I said, the 2010-11 off-season could see some radical change.


While the Fenway crowd booed and berated homeplate umpire Gary Darling, the real blame for Sunday's loss rests on the Red Sox' shoulders. Lester was solid, but the best thing he threw was that mini-tantrum as he left the mound after the 8th. Double-steals, and bang-bang plays at the plate ultimately undid Lester's efforts, but teams can't double-steal unless the pitcher lets runners get to the corners. And Lester's 8th inning started with a double, then a walk, then a single. That's a good way to give up runs, with or without close calls at the plate.

Then there was the Red Sox' hitting. CJ Wilson was throwing well, but the Red Sox did him favors by swinging at balls. He issued 5 walks in his 6.2 innings, but had the bottom of the lineup been more patient, they may have drew more. At the very least, they could have inflated his pitch count to get him out of the game earlier.

The Sox were 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position.

It was a rough weekend, and it ended with the Sox being 7 behind New York in the loss column, and 5 behind Tampa. And things don't look too hopeful in the immediate future.

The Sox play 20 of their next 27 games on the road, where they are 22-20 this season. They have a long trip out West, a 7 game homestand, then trips to New York, Toronto, and Texas. This team has excelled in tough stretches this season, however. And they'll get to play some poorly teams like Seattle and Cleveland on the way. So even though it looks bad, it might not turn out that way.

Daisuke vs. Ben Sheets in Oakland late night.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Friday, July 16, 2010


The Rangers welcomed themselves to Fenway Park with a 6 run 1st inning. After that, Tommy Hunter turned on the cruise control, and that was that. Not a fun way to begin the 2nd half of the season. And while Wakefield had been tolerable the last few weeks before this (4.92 ERA in his last 7 starts), he had a major setback last night.

JD Drew and Bill Hall provided the Sox with a solo homerun each. The 1-4 hitters in the lineup were a combined 0 for 17, and none managed to reach base.

Felix Doubrant faces Colby Lewis tonight. Doubront is the one on our team.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


David Ortiz became the first Red Sox player to win the Homerun Derby. He did so convincingly, belting a total of 32 homeruns over 3 rounds. He seemed to revel in the spotlight. It was sort of a re-introduction for him to the rest of the baseball world. Just two and a half months ago, he had a .143 average with only 1 homerun to his credit.

Hopefully this event didn't mess with his swing. And hopefully he has a few more homeruns left in him.

Photo Credit:
Getty Images

Monday, July 12, 2010


The Sox ended their "first half" (they've played 88 games and have 74 to go, so it's more like the 11/20 mark of the season) with a 3-2 win over the Blue Jays. Daisuke was stellar until the 7th. Thankfully, Bard logged a 2 inning hold, and Papelbon got his 20th Save by pitching a scoreless 9th. It was a Quality Start for Daisuke, his 6th in 12 starts this season. But as usual, his box score features an anomoly. 6 innings, 2 earned runs (fine so far), 6 hits, 0 walks (not bad), 5 strikeouts, 1 homerun (okie dokie), and 88 pitches. 88 pitches? Why didn't he get at least another inning? Because he's Daisuke, and nothing can ever be standard or typical.

The Sox go into The Break with a 51-37 record. Certainly laudable considering their overcrowded disabled list. And when you remember that the Sox started 19-20, and are 32-17 since then, it's hard to be dissatisfied. The problem is, the Sox play in one hell of a division, and are 5 games behind the Yankees, and 3 behind the Rays. The Sox are 3rd in the AL East, but also 3rd in the entire AL. They have the 4th best record in baseball.

But if the Sox can tread water while their talent convalesces, then maybe they can make a surge for the Wild Card.

Speaking of which, Josh Beckett pitched 4 innings of rehab for AAA Pawtucket against Syracuse. He allowed a solo homerun, but that was only one of two hits he surrendered. He struck out 4 and walked 0. He threw 68 pitches, 42 for strikes. His fastball was in the 92-94 range most of the day. (Source: Boston Herald)

Red Sox resume their schedule on Thursday when they host the Rangers.

Photo Credits:
AP Photo


Spain has always been renowned for the quality of their club football. Real Madrid and Barcelona have won 12 European Cups between them (Madrid have won the most all time with 9). But up until recently, the Spanish National Team had been a joke. They'd never advanced past the quarterfinals of a World Cup until this year. And now they're the best team in the world.

They beat the Netherlands by controlling the game. Spain only scored 8 goals this World Cup, in 7 games. Compare this to Germany who scored 16 goals. The Netherlands scored 12, Uruguay scored 11, Argentina scored 10 (in 5 games), and Brazil scored 9 (also in 5 games).

That's kind of lame. Spain didn't play a defensive game, they just know how to pass. And pass. And pass. And apart from David Villa, they don't know how to shoot. And their big goals in big games didn't directly result from their adept passing. They beat Germany 1-0 off a set-piece. And they beat the Dutch 1-0 thanks to a fortuitous bounce that found Andres Iniesta's feet.

Don't get me wrong, Spain were the best team in the tournament, but I'd say that Germany, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, the Netherlands, Ghana, the USA, and Chile were all more exciting.

Germany beat Uruguay 3-2 in the always more wide-open 3rd place game. Both Diego Forlan and Thomas Müller scored a goal. Miroslav Klose did not play, so he's still tied for 2nd all-time with 14 World Cup goals.

The awards:
Golden Boot (most goals, there was a tie so the tie-breaker of assists was used): Thomas Müller (Germany) - 5 goals (3 assists)

Golden Gloves (best goalie): Iker Casillas (Spain)

Golden Ball (best player): Diego Forlan (Uruguay)

World Cup 2014 will be in Brazil.

Friday, July 09, 2010


Everybody seems to hate LeBron James today. Everyone in New York, everyone in Chicago, in Boston, and especially in Ohio. And we all dislike ESPN. ESPN have been called "enablers" for their non-stop Favresque LeBron James coverage.

Miami was the right choice for LeBron. Sorry, Cleveland, but it's true. Here's why.

#1: Best chance to win a title

#2: Minimal pressure from fanbase (compared with NY, for example). If you lose in Miami, the fans just go to the beach.

#3: Would you rather spend your winters in northern Ohio or southern Florida? Seriously, this could matter.

#4: Did he seem that happy with the Cleveland organization? I'm just going to venture a guess that he wasn't.

He's an absolute toolbox for announcing his decision on an inane one hour special on ESPN. But you watched it, didn't you? So did I. Not the whole thing, but the important parts. It seems kind of weird to criticize a TV network for programming something millions of people watched. And to be fair to LeBron, it's not like he's the first narcissist athlete who thought the world revolved around him. Athletes are obsessed with themselves, just like all of us. Only their obsession is reciprocated. Athletes have reality TV shows, and their tweets are studied by millions.

People knew LeBron would pick Miami because somebody went out of their way to discover that he'd rented a place in south Florida to celebrate. Then millions of people read that. We can be disgusted at how much LeBron James loves LeBron James, but we're the ones who have enabled that.

ESPN doesn't put things on TV if people won't watch (see: NHL). And we all watched. And LeBron Heat jerseys will sell like crack, and not just in Florida. All the schmucks outside Ohio who have worn LeBron jerseys will now switch colors.

I do indeed hate LeBron James. I've always disliked him. But I also watched that first nationally televised game he played in high school. I watched part of his show last night. I have helped make him the egomaniac monster that he is today. And so have you.


Clockwork Orange versus La Furia Roja (the red fury). Spain vs. Holland. In the 1500s, the Netherlands was a part of Spain, until some guy named William of Orange started a revolt, which eventually resulted in the formation of the Dutch Republic. Hence the orange uniforms.

Speaking of history, these teams have met 9 times, each winning 4 times, with 1 tie. But when they've met in competitive games, the Netherlands typically wins. Then again, before Euro 2008, everybody beat the Spanish in big games.

Neither team has dazzled, and that's partially why they're here. They're steady, consistent, reliable, intelligent. They don't make big mistakes.

The Spanish are the favorites, but I'm picking against them. I have a 13-1 record picking games in the elimination round, so I'd take me seriously. The Spanish offense has been patient, but I don't think they can take their time and handcraft (footcraft) more than 1 goal against the Netherlands. Maybe 2. Meanwhile, the Dutch can get quick goals, can score on set-pieces, and can press the Spanish defenders.

I say the Netherlands wins 2-1.

And Germany wins the 3rd place game 3-2.

Thursday, July 08, 2010


Spain are not the most exhilarating team to watch. That's because they're patient. But they may very well be the best team in the world right now.

Spain 1, Germany 0

Spain have lost twice in their last 54 games. That's absurd, especially playing in European Championships and competing against European teams to qualify for the World Cup. And they don't thrash their opponents, either. They're the masters of the 1-0 and 2-1 wins. And this domination was on display against Germany.

You can't counterattck if the other team keeps the ball. And that's basically what Spain did. In the few times they did lose possession in dangerous areas, their defense aggressively clamped down, not on the guy with the ball, but on the 2nd and 3rd guys with the ball. Guys like Schweinsteiger and Özil had no time or space to matriculate the ball forward to Podolski or Klose.

The Spaniards inflicted their game on Germany. And ironically, it was a set-piece that decided the matter. The Germans are historically the masters of set-piece chess soccer. But maybe so much focus on mobility and speed has reduced their adeptness at corner-kicks.

Whatever. Germany will win the World Cup in 2014. But for the 2010 World Cup, we are guaranteed to have a first time winner. We'll have a preview of the Finals on Friday.


At least this loss didn't hurt as much. With David Price facing Wakefield, even the most irrationally exuberant Sox fan could conceptualize losing this game. It was an easy night for catchers giving signals as Price threw almost exclusively fastballs, and Wakefield, of course, was 99% knucklers. But Price's fastball is better than Wakefield's knuckleball, and the Rays offense is better than the JV Sox lineup.

Walks killed Wakefield, and so did some second-rate fielding. It was a sloppy game for the Sox, who seemed resigned to defeat until Price left the game. But by then it was too little too late.

Then there's Youkilis, who did play, but did not look comfortable. If he does wind up getting the nod for the All-Star Game, he probably won't play. After the game, Francona said that the turf was bothering. Hopefully the turf in Toronto doesn't bother him either.

Part of me feels like with all these injuries, the Sox need to play Youkilis until he's clearly injured, especially as the gap with the Yankees widens. But the rest of me thinks that the Sox should be extra-careful with Youkilis. I'd rather bench Youk for 3 days than lose him for 6 weeks.

Sox at Blue Jays starting Friday. Lester vs. Ricky Romero.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Wednesday, July 07, 2010


Uruguay's gritty run is over, and the Netherlands are in the Finals for the first time since 1978.

Netherlands 3, Uruguay 2

While this game was closely fought, the Netherlands were clearly the better finishing team. Once they were able to navigate around the Uruguay defenders congesting the middle, they were able to open the game up and pull away. Wesley Sneijder scored his 5th of the tournament. Diego Forlan ended his World Cup in style with a long-range goal. But it was Gio van Bronckhorst's missile that might wind up being the goal of the tournament.

With the Netherlands facing either Spain or Germany, it means an all-Europe final for the second consecutive World Cup. The last time there's been back-to-back all-Europe finals was in the 30s. This also means that a European team will win the World Cup on another continent for the first time ever.

Germany vs. Spain this afternoon. Uruguay gets the loser on Saturday, the Netherlands gets the winner on Sunday.


The Red Sox lost another close game to the Rays, thanks in part to some shoddy bullpen work. But more worrisome is that they might lose yet another key player. Kevin Youkilis left the game before leading off the 4th inning. He was in the on-deck circle, preparing to hit, when he gingerly tested his right foot, then went to the ground in pain. The Sox are describing the injury as "right ankle pain," so you can probably guess that he's still being diagnosed.

The Sox were forced to replace Youkilis with Niuman Romero. So not only did the Sox lose Youkilis, they lost Ortiz, as Romero's presence behind him in the lineup allowed the Rays to intentionally walk him 3 times.

Felix Doubrant was serviceable, allowing 2 runs in 5.2 innings. Okajima returned and really disappointed, giving the Rays an insurance run they'd wind up needing.

Without Youkilis, the Sox lineup really is toothless. And this team is getting unrecognizable. Imagine if you took a vacation 2 weeks ago to some remote place with no internet or TV. You come back and you'd think that you traveled through time. There are so many "video game players," on the Sox. These are the guys whose names sound like the token names that video games give new players when you do franchise mode stuff.

It doesn't look good for tonight's game, either. Wakefield opposes David Price, who's 11-4 with a 2.42 ERA.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Tuesday, July 06, 2010


In the South America vs. Europe storyline, Europe definitely won the battle over the weekend. Only one South American team survived, and they didn't even beat a European side in the quarterfinals. And that South American team is a bit of a surprise. Two of the three European representatives are also somewhat surprising. So let's look at these matches.

Today 2:30 PM - ESPN
Uruguay vs. Netherlands
Uruguay hasn't advanced this far since the 50s. The Dutch haven't since the 70s. So this is a pretty big deal for both countries. The Uruguayans have been tough, gritty, rugged, determined, and more than a little lucky. They needed several penalty misses in order to beat Ghana. The Dutch, on the other hand, haven't mesmerized, but they have won. They're the only team that's won every single game it's played. They just beat Brazil, and they should trouble Uruguay's worn out defenders with their multifaceted offensive approach. The Uruguayans will also be missing Suarez, the guy who slapped away Ghana's would-be-game-winning-goal. Without him, it's really only the 31 year old Forlan up front, and he's looked increasingly tired. Netherlands 3, Uruguay 1.

Wednesday 2:30 PM - ESPN
Germany vs. Spain
A rematch of the Euro 2008 title game. The Germans are in their 3rd straight World Cup semifinal, and 10th overall. The Spanish are in their first ever semifinal. Which is stunning to the casual fan. You'd think Spain would get into the final four more often, but until they won Euro 2008, they had a reputation as underachievers and chokers. And they have underachieved at this tournament a bit, they've just been able to eek out the results. And Germany has overachieved, or rather has gotten the absolute maximum from their talent. But they've shown gaps. And they'll miss the suspended Thomas Müller, who's scored 4 of their 13 goals.

The Germans will still test Spain, and put them under pressure. Spain's had to deal with some stifling defensive tactics (Switzerland, Portugal, Paraguay), which is probably why they haven't looked that stellar. Germany has a solid defense, but they play forward and aggressive. Germany will need to finish their chances and hope for another early lead. I'm picking Spain, but hoping I'm wrong. 3-2 Spain.


The World Cup had been dominated by South America up to this point. All 5 South American teams advanced to the Round of 16. And the only one to get knocked out was Chile, who were eliminated by a fellow South American team. Europe, meanwhile, had seen powers like Italy and France fail to escape the group phase. But Europe vs. South America has been flipped on its head, as the Europeans were 3-0 against South American opponents in the quarterfinals.

Netherlands 2, Brazil 1

This wasn't as big of an upset as you might think. I picked the Netherlands to win, and they're also the 4th ranked team in the world. And they're one of the only team that's won every single game they've played in this World Cup. That being said, Brazil is Brazil is Brazil. They went up 1-0, and before Friday Brazil had NEVER lost a World Cup game when they led at half-time. 37 straight games without losing when leading at halftime. But they did so on Friday and lost 2-1. Watch out for the Dutch (the wave of Orange should make them easy to see), who are aiming for their first World Cup title.

Uruguay 1 (4), Ghana 1 (2)

I was not rooting for Ghana. Fuck Ghana. How can you root for the team that knocked out the US two Cups in a row? And I've been rooting for Uruguay since they won over my heart by stifling France on Day 1 of this tournament.

Both teams scored non-traditional, long distance goals. Sulley Muntari had a forgettable game, except for his why-not-shoot goal just before halftime. Diego Forlan had a monumental game and scored with a free kick in the 55th.

But the ending of this game is the story. After 120 minutes of back-and-forth soccer, Luis Suarez makes a fist save on a ball ticketed for the back of the net. But Suarez is a forward, not a goalie. So he gets a straight red for an intentional handball, but it was an intelligent play. If he keeps his hands down, Ghana scores and wins. Instead, he gave his team a fraction of a chance to win. They just needed Ghana to miss the penalty.

And that's what happened. The Uruguayan goalie became my new favorite non-German player when he started talking to the crossbar after Asamoah Gyan bounced his shot off it. Then when his teammates are taking penalties, the goalie has his back turned to the action, watching the crowd. Fernando Muslero, you are the man. Oh yeah, he also made a great diving save that turned out to be the difference in the penalty shootout.

Germany 4, Argentina 0

Again, Germany blows a team out, but it wasn't as close as the score suggests. That being said, Germany never looked the inferior team in this one. Their defense was able to stop Argentina's ferocious attacking just in the nick of time. And Germany's vaunted counterattack produced the final 3 goals.

Fuck Argentina, and fuck Maradonna, who called Thomas Müller a ball-boy a while back. Well Müller scored the opening goal, and participated in another. He was also harshly yellow carded and will miss the semifinals.

Miroslav Klose played his 100th game for Germany Saturday, and scored twice, which gives him 14 career World Cup goals. That's tied for 2nd all-time.

This game was the first of the elimination stage that I didn't pick correctly. I love being wrong sometimes.

Spain 1, Paraguay 0

The Paraguayans kept the Spanish at bay for over 80 minutes. At one crazy point of the game, two penalties were missed in the span of 2 or 3 minutes (one was hit, but disallowed for encroachment). Spain hasn't dazzled, but they've been able to win without playing at their absolute best. That's the mark of a potential World Cup Champion.

Believe it or not, this will be Spain's first trip to the World Cup semifinals.

We'll have a preview of the Semifinals very soon.

Friday, July 02, 2010


The quarterfinals start today. I was 8 for 8 with my picks in the Round of 16. But that's an easier round to pick. 7 of the 8 group winners won their game (the US being the only one who didn't). The story in the quarterfinals is South America. 4 of the 8 teams are South American, the most they've ever sent this far into the competition. There are 3 European teams, but that's out of 13 total entrants. Africa fills out the field with 1 representative. No Asian or North American teams remain.

Friday 10:00 AM - ESPN
Netherlands vs. Brazil
We all know how powerful Brazil is. But don't overlook the Netherlands. Guys like Kuyt, van Persie, Robben and Sneijder all have the skill sets to score. The Dutch play a fluid, adaptive style up front that should give the Brazilian defense fits. The Brazilians have Fabiano, Kaka, and the best goalie in the world Julio Cesar. But I'm leaning Dutch in this one. Netherlands 3, Brazil 2.

Friday 2:30 PM - ESPN
Uruguay vs. Ghana
Two nice stories here. The Uruguayans haven't made the semifinals since 1970. The Ghanaians have NEVER made the semifinals. Uruguay's been the most solid team in the tournament. They have a tight defense, careful midfield, and potent strikers. Luis Suarez and Diego Forlan will undoubtedly be the best strikers Ghana has faced (Klose was suspended for Germany when they played Ghana). Ghana's biggest weakness is their back 4, and these two guys will exploit them. Uruguay 2, Ghana 0.

Saturday 10:00 AM - ABC
Germany vs. Argentina
A rematch from the '06 World Cup which saw the Germans advance on penalty kicks. But Argentina looks slightly better than they did 4 years ago, and Germany looks a bit inconsistent. Sure they abused England, but the English midfield was trash. Argentina will exploit Germany's youth, and win 2-1.

Saturday 2:30 PM - ABC
Paraguay vs. Spain
The Paraguayans are just happy to get this far, and they should be. This is their first trip to the World Cup quarterfinals. They should enjoy it while it lasts because Spain will toss them aside with ease. Spain 3, Paraguay 1.