Monday, June 25, 2012

Euro 2012 Update*

The semifinals are set. Only four teams remain after the weekend's games...

Germany 4, Greece 2
The Germans dominated this game, although they struggled to finish their opportunities in the first half. This was a 1-0 game at the midpoint, and Greece tied it 1-1 in the 55th minute. But the Germans were relentless. Sami Khedira was finally in form and scored a goal. Miroslav Klose scored his bazillionth goal for Germany, and Marco Reus justified his spot in the starting lineup by scoring.

Greece scored on a late penalty. The German defense has looked vulnerable throughout this tournament, but their offense has been overwhelming. They scored 4 times and could have easily had 6 or 7.

They'll also enjoy nearly a full week off before their semifinal Thursday.

Spain 2, France 0
The French are always undermined by internal dissent, squabbling, bickering, whining, and general laziness. And the same goes for their soccer team. Florent Malouda was lazy, didn't cover Xabi Alonso at the start of a run, and Alonso scored. Alonso later added a goal after a penalty. It was his 100th game for Spain.

They'll play their neighbors Portugal in the semifinals Wednesday.

Italy 0, England 0, Italy wins 4-2 on penalty kicks
When English soccer commentators discuss penalty kicks, they always talk about pressure on the kicker. Even though the goalie has maybe a 10% chance of making a save. Because in England, missing PKs in big matches is a tradition. Usually they do it against the Germans. This time it was the Italians.

Italy will face Germany in the semifinals on Thursday.

There's no reason to expect the Spanish to lose. Unless Cristiano Ronaldo plays the game of his life for Portugal. Spain always seem to find a way to win close games, and I predict they'll do so again. They'll beat Portugal 1-0.

Germany might not have distributor Bastian Schweinsteiger on Thursday. But they'll be well-rested, especially compared to an Italian team that played extra time on Sunday. Germany wins 2-1.

And Germany wins the Final on Sunday, 3-2.

Bruins Draft Recap

Before I start, I want to thank for being such a comprehensive and easy to use resource for this post.

With all that happened this weekend in sports, you can be forgiven for overlooking the NHL Draft. And as a Bruins fan, even I was a bit disinterested. After back-to-back drafts with premium picks, the B's would be selecting a very ho hum 24th.

The Bruins, however, made an interesting selection with their uninteresting pick. They took Malcolm Subban, a 6' 1" 188 pound 18 year old currently playing for the Belleville Bulls of the Ontario Hockey League. Three things make this pick interesting.

#1, Malcolm Subban is a goalie. Which means we get to mention Tim Thomas. And he wears the number 30.

#2, Malcolm Subban has an older brother named PK Subban, an easy to hate defenseman on the Montreal Canadiens. This guy:

#3, He also has a younger brother named Jordan, so he is Malcom in the Middle. He's also Malcolm S. This guy is a blogger's dream come true.

Subban had a 2.50 GAA with Belleville in 39 games last season. He had a save percentage of .923. Considering his age, and how much time it will take him to learn the position, I seriously doubt Tim Thomas leaving the Bruins had anything to do with this selection. And just because the Bruins got him doesn't mean their long-term plans for Rask have changed.

You're not going to get an instantly impactful player with the 24th pick. This guy has talent, room to improve, and could one day be a good NHL goalie. He'll likely stay in the OHL, get some playoff and national team experience (he played 5 games for Canada in the 2011 Under-18 World Junior Championship, Canada finished 4th), and in a few years he'll contend for a spot on the Bruins' depth chart.

The Bruins also traded the rights to restricted free agent Benoit Pouliot to Tampa Bay in exchange for Michel Ouellet and a 5th round pick.

I was never a fan of Benoit Pouliot. He just didn't fit in. He scored 16 goals, had 16 assists, but he never really seemed like a Bruin. He wasn't particularly physical, he wasn't a talented scorer, and he made more mistakes with the puck than most of the other forwards. He was a restricted free agent and I'm not upset that he's gone.

Michel Ouellet isn't an improvement though. He's 30 years old and hasn't played in the NHL since 2008. In the last three years he's played in Virginia, Germany, and Switzerland. Don't expect to see him play in Boston.

In the 3rd round, the Bruins selected Matthew Grzelcyk, a native of Charlestown, MA. He turned 18 in January. He's a 170 pound 5' 9" defenseman. He'll be playing at BU next season, where Coach Jack Parker turns regular defensemen into puck movers and scorers.

In the 5th round, the B's took Seth Griffith, a 19 year old center out of the OHL. He's 5' 9" and 180 pounds and plays for the London Knights. He's a scorer. In 68 games for London last season, he scored 45 goals and added 40 assists. In 19 playoff games he had 10 goals and 13 assists. The word on him is that he doesn't amaze you with talent, but he gets results.

Later in the 5th round, the Bruins made their only European selection. And it was an English winger. Cody Payne is from London, England but plays Juniors in Plymouth of the OHL. He's 18 years old, 6' 2" and 200 pounds. And he does this (he's in white and red):

In the 6th round, the Bruins selected Matthew Benning of the Spruce Grove Saints of the Alberta Junior Hockey League. He's 18 years old, 6' 0", and 216 pounds. That's a good frame for a defenseman. He's also able to score once and awhile and accumulate penalty minutes. His father and uncle both had lengthy NHL careers.

With their final pick in the 7th round, the B's took Colton Hargrove (who I think needs to be called Colton Hargrove III with a name like that). He turned 20 yesterday, he's 6' 1" and 215 pounds. He's from Dallas and played left-wing for the Fargo Force of the USHL. He'll be playing for Western Michigan this upcoming season. He scored 16 goals in 54 games last year, and earned 140 penalty minutes. Impressive.

So that's the Bruins' draft. Not spectacular, but there's some potential future Bruins there. Subban could get to Providence in 2 years. Grzelcyk should develop well at BU, where some quality NHL talent has recently been produced. Griffith can score. Payne can fight. Benning can hit. Hargrove can sit in the penalty box.

I like it.

Jerry Sandusky Convicted on 45 Counts

Jerry Sandusky is on suicide watch after being convicted of 45 counts of sexual abuse. It only took the jury 20 hours to deliberate, less than 30 minutes per charge. They didn't seem to have any doubt that Sandusky was guilty.

And neither did any of us. From eye-witness testimony, to his adopted son accusing him of sexual abuse, to an endless stream of victims who came forward to tell the world what Sandusky did to them. The evidence was overwhelming.

Justice finally caught up with Jerry Sandusky, a monster who feasted on innocence. He preyed and fed on young boys for years, and at last the predator has been caged. It's a satisfying ending to an horrific story.

There is no way for those boys to recover what he stole from them. There can be no retribution or revenge. This ending is satisfactory, but a story such as this can never have a truly happy ending. The effects of Sandusky's crimes will go on for years after he dies in a prison cell, or perhaps more appropriately, a prison shower.

It could have ended sooner, though. Had Joe Paterno used his unparalleled clout to find out what his friend and assistant was truly doing, the story could have stopped there. JoePa didn't pursue the matter. It was presented to him and he dismissed it out of hand. It was potentially damaging to Penn State Football, and that was where Paterno's priorities laid.

Some might remember Paterno as a great coach. I'll remember him as the man who delayed Justice for the sake of a football team. He allowed boys to be raped because it wasn't in the best interest of the Nittany Lions.

There were many officials at Penn State who knew more than Paterno and did even less. They too delayed Justice, for the sake of their school's reputation.

Jerry Sandusky is a monster. But Joe Paterno and Penn State allowed the monster to hunt unimpeded. There's no defending that. There's no excusing that. And there's no forgetting that.

Jerry Sandusky feels no shame or guilt. But there are people involved in this story who should feel ashamed of themselves. There's the guidance counselor that dismissed one of the victim's allegations, citing Jerry Sandusky's "heart of gold." There's also Sandusky's ephebophile of an attorney: Joe Amendola, who once impregnated a 17 year old client. And there's attorney Karl Rominger, who was part of Amendola's team. Rominger proudly tweeted this after the verdict was announced:

After all that became public in this trial, some people still feel that Joe Paterno's legacy is more important than the safety and innocence of young boys. This media whore of an attorney also feels as though he won, even though his client will die in prison, and he was defending a serial rapist.

Thankfully, not all of us have our priorities so sadly out of order.

Thankfully Justice caught up with Jerry Sandusky, despite what Joe Paterno, Penn State officials, and his lawyers did to protect him.

Photo Credits:
AP Photo/Centre County Correctional Facility
AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

Kevin Youkilis Traded to White Sox

It finally happened. After countless rumors, what had to be done was finally done. The Red Sox parted ways with Kevin Youkilis.

Youkilis' last day on the team was thoroughly pleasant, a sentimental end to an intriguing and unfortunate tale of miscommunication, internal strife within the Red Sox organization, and a very confused chain-of-command on Yawkey Way. Youkilis was given a start yesterday. He went 2 for 4 with an RBI triple. He received numerous ovations, both when he stepped to the plate and when he was replaced by pinch-runner Nick Punto.

After the game, it was announced that the Red Sox had traded him to the White Sox. The Red Sox will still be paying part of Youkilis' $12.25 million salary. In return, they received Zach Stewart, a 25 year old minor league pitcher. And Brent Lillibridge, a utility player with experience in the outfield and infield.

Yeah. That's it.

Zach Stewart was recently optioned by the White Sox to AAA Charlotte. He made 18 appearances for Chicago, 1 of them was a start. He's been a long-reliever type for them, and carries a 6.00 ERA. As a reliever, he has a 5.18 ERA. He made 11 starts last year between the White Sox and Blue Jays. He was 2-6 with a 5.88 ERA. He did manage a Complete Game Shutout.

He was drafted by the Reds, then traded to Toronto, then signed by Chicago, and now he's in Boston. He'll actually be sent to Pawtucket. At best, this guy could potentially be a decent mid-reliever.

Brent Lillibridge is versatile. He's played all infield and outfield positions. He has no bat. He's a career .215 hitter. He strikes out in 29.6% of his plate appearances. He doesn't walk.

He showed some potential in 2011, hitting 13 homeruns in 186 at-bats. And his average was a decent-for-a-utility-player .258. He's also had some occasional good numbers in AAA, but never with consistency.

He's fast. And he can play 7 positions. Considering the Red Sox' injury situation, he's not a bad guy to have on the roster just in case. But he doesn't do much to improve a healthy team.

I guess this was the best the Red Sox could do. Stewart at least has potential for growth into a reliever. And if more players go down, Lillibridge can play the field. It's not much for a guy who was once an MVP candidate and has a career OBP of .388.

The Sox were in a corner. Youkilis has been awful this year. Middlebrooks has been great. With Ortiz and Gonzalez, there was no place else for Youkilis. He's been repeatedly injured, and it will cost a team $1 million to buy-out his contract next year.

The alternatives to this motivated selling were to release him, get nothing, and still pay him. Or to keep him as a bench player. And after this trade, it doesn't look like that would have been a horrible thing. At least not in theory.

There were concerns about what a benched Youkilis might do for the chemistry of the team. He voiced displeasure at the Red Sox failing to communicate with him what their intentions were. At the same time, the media knew more about the Youkilis situation than Youkilis did. Fenway Park is a 100 year old structure but the most incessant leaks have been Youkilis rumors.

The Red Sox bungled this situation. Information and rumors were leaked to the media. The organization itself didn't seem to know what it was doing, yet was never afraid of making determined declarations. For instance in May you had Ben Cherington declaring Youkilis would keep his starting job, even though he was still injured and Middlebrooks was hitting .381 at the time.

And during all this, as rumors flowed, the Sox didn't communicate with Youkilis. And that might have made him more of a clubhouse concern than his lack of playing time. Weirdly, the trade rumors may have instigated the need to trade him. That and the Sox not knowing what they were going to do and then not keeping Youkilis in the loop about his future.

The Youkilis situation has finally been resolved, but the Chain of Command that runs the Red Sox is still a tangled mess of contradictions and confusion.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo

Red Sox Drive Braves Out of Boston... Again

The Red Sox finished interleague play with a 12-6 record. Of course it helps when you play the lowly Cubs 3 times and the mediocre Marlins 6 times. Though considering the health of the Red Sox' rotation, taking 2 of 3 from a solid Braves team is a nice little achievement.

Franklin Morales is the latest secondary player to play a primary role in the Sox winning. He's been very respectable filling in for Josh Beckett. He threw 6 innings Saturday night, striking out 8, and only allowing 2 earned runs. As a starter he's thrown 11 innings, only walked 1 batter, allowed 4 earned runs (3.27 ERA), and struck out 17. 17 strikeouts and only 1 walk. That's fantastic.

Guys like Morales, Prince Felix Doubront, and Cody Ross have kept the Sox afloat this year. They are The Other Guys.

Speaking of Cody Ross, he hit his 10th and 11th homeruns yesterday. In 6 games since coming off the DL, Ross is 7 for 22 (.318 average), with 3 doubles, and 3 homeruns (.864 slugging).

The Sox have endured injuries this season, especially in the rotation and the outfield. The secondary players have stepped up, especially in the rotation and the outfield. They're playing at their maximum potential. Now if only some of the stars would do that, this team could go on a serious run.

If these secondary guys continue to contribute, and guys like Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, and Dustin Pedroia perform as they're capable of performing, this team is a contender.

But they need every player playing at that maximum level.

They host the 5th place Blue Jays. Prince Felix faces 22 year old righty Henderson Alvarez. Alvarez is 3-6 with a 4.30 ERA. He's not much more than an innings eater, and he's allowed most of his earned runs in his last 6 starts. Since May 20th, he's 0-3 with a 6.94 ERA. The Sox, in theory, should hit him.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo