Sunday, August 31, 2008

Rays Win Streak at 5 - Extend AL East Lead

I'm not sure what has surprised baseball enthusiasts more this year:

1. The fact that the Rays are playing above .600 ball

2. That the Yankees will not make the playoffs

It sure seems like neither of these two have happened before and were certainly not expected for this season. I personally find it quite refreshing to think that a team which was so lousy one year can be so great the next. Perhaps it was the loss of the "Devil" as an additional aspect of the team's name. It is more likely that the success can be attributed to the Rays' lights-out bullpen, which has accumulated a 3.35 ERA (compared with 6.24 at this time last season). Compare this to pretty much every other team and you'll see why the Rays are where they are in the standings.

Bullpens are an underrated trigger for success or failure, and more commonly failure. At least for me, I remember the times when the likes of Tyler Walker or Jack Taschner blow games for the Giants, yet seem to take it for granted when the lead is preserved. For the Rays fans, however, it is only once in a blue moon that leads are relinquished.

So at this point, I am ready to guarantee that the Rays will make the playoffs. They have shown their toughness by enduring injuries to their best players: Crawford and Longoria; not just breaking even but producing wins with their absences. Look for the Rays to meet the Angels in the ALCS this year.

Sabathia's No-hitter? Not Quite - At Least Not Yet


In today's game featuring the Brewers and the Pirates, CC Sabathia pitched a gem of a game. The only blemish to the potential no hitter came in the 5th inning, when batter Andy LaRoche hit a swinging bunt down the 3rd base line. When CC hustled off the mound and attempted to pick the ball up with a bare hand, he didn't get a firm grip and botched the play. Although I am not saying that it was by any means a routine play, to award a hit to LaRoche is a bit uncalled for. And perhaps I was biased by my hopes of witnessing a no-hitter. But CC should really have made that play, and that play therefore should have been ruled an error. As expected, the Brewers have already appealed the call by sending in a DVD of the play to the commissioner's office. And if the call is overturned, it would mark the first time in MLB history that a no-hitter has been awarded after the fact.

A video clip of the questionable hit can be seen at:
Please give your opinion on whether the call should stand or be changed to an error.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

MLB Playoff Picture


Here are my playoff predictions for the MLB. The 8 bolded teams are my picks to make the playoffs.


AL West:
I think it is fair to say that the only team clearly in the playoffs is the Los Angeles Angels, with its 18 game lead over the Rangers. No further explanation necessary.


AL Central:
The Chicago White Sox are currently half a game ahead of the Minnesota Twins, which essentially makes the two teams even for playoff contention purposes. One of the largest differences between the two teams is their home run production, with Chicago hitting more than twice as many as Minnesota (195 to 95). In the remainder of the season, each team will play in 8 series after finishing games this Sunday. Of the 8 teams each will face, the White Sox and Twins have four teams common between their schedules. That leaves 4 series to determine who has an easier schedule. However, the two teams face off in a series as well towards the end of the season. So, discounting that series, 3 series can be used to determine schedule difficulty. The Sox, in those 3 games, will face the Angels, Yankees, and Indians, who combine for a .545 winning percentage. The Twins, however, will face the Royals, Orioles, and Rays, who combine for a .502 winning percentage. Now, this gives a huge advantage to the Twins and their easier schedule. Because of this, I call that the Minnesota Twins will make the playoffs.


AL East:
Also, Tampa Bay sits in an ideal situation. Even though they are only ahead of the Red Sox by 4.5 games, the cushion for playoff birth is much more generous because of the wild card, which will likely be given to an American League East team once again. However, this time it won't be the Yankees and Red Sox advancing to the World Series. Sorry, I said it: The Yankees will not make the World Series. And the pin stripes are 11.5 games out of first place and 7 games out of the Wild Card race. So why did I have to wait so long to make the call? Because the Yankees have made the playoffs for over the past 10 years, and every year which Torre has managed the ball club. And it is quite obvious why they aren't going to make it this year - a pitching staff plagued by injury and inconsistency.


NL West:
Ok, so this is a sad division to talk about because of their one team above .500 (The D-Backs sit precariously at .511). It really seems like nobody wants to win this division. At least the Rockies have fallen far enough back that they can be discounted from the race, unless of course they pull something off reminiscent of last year. And this would have to be a spectacular run. But I frankly don't see them doing the same this year. Even though the Dodgers are 3.5 games back of the D-Backs and currently below .500, I pick them to win the division. Here's why: the Dodgers have had a consistent pitching staff, combining for a 3.81 ERA (2nd best in the NL). Furthermore, the Los Angeles Dodgers have added Manny to their lineup, which has been paying its dues in the form of a 4 for 5 day to lift the Dodgers over the Diamondbacks.


NL Central:
The Cubs have been playing so well this year that I don't foresee any team challenging their 5.5 game lead. The Cubs' pitchers have earned the best ERA in the NL and their batters have earned the 2nd best batting average in the league (which is .025) points ahead of the Brewers. I pick the Chicago Cubs and their .625 win percentage to win the division handily. That's not to say "too bad" to the crew however. Their .585 win percentage will not be for naught. That's why the wild card was created many years ago. The Milwaukee Brewers will make the playoffs by winning the NL Wild Card.


NL East:
The race is too close between the Mets and the Phillies to give any team an advantage in standings position. I just can't bring myself to say that the Mets and their horrible bullpen are going to make the playoffs. I will give that honor to the Philadelphia Phillies, who lead the NL with home runs as a result of a potent lineup stacked with the likes of Howard, Utley, and Burrell (each of whom has 30+ hrs).


That's it for my predictions. But just in case you want a condensed version, here is my list:
Los Angeles Angels
Minnesota Twins
Tampa Bay Rays
Boston Red Sox
LA Dodgers
Chicago Cubs
Milwaukee Brewers
Philadelphia Phillies

Friday, August 29, 2008

NFL Fantasy Football Sleepers

Throughout the course of the NFL season, we'll be providing weekly fantasy updates complete with sleepers, who to play, and who to sit. In this post, we will give our sleepers for this coming season. Consider to trade for, pick up, or draft the players mentioned below.
Look for the Week 1 fantasy update at the end of this 3 day weekend.

Season Sleepers:

QB

1. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay
Why: Rodgers is surrounded by the same potent offense that Brett Favre enjoyed last year. Wide receiver Greg Jennings is ready for a breakout season, and fellow starter Donald Driver is still a solid producer. Everything depends on how well Rodgers knows the offense and how good his chemistry is with his receivers, but he has been groomed three years for this moment.
When: Look for Rodgers in the late rounds of a standard draft.
What: Rodgers has the potential for 3200+ yards and 25+ touchdowns.

2. Eli Manning, New York Giants
Why: After his scintillating performances in the playoffs, Manning has established himself as the leader of the Giant offense. Manning already has 4 seasons and a Super Bowl victory under his belt and is too mature now to produce another high interception tally. With a strong receiving corps, Manning is ready to become a #1 fantasy QB.
When: Manning is readily available in the middle rounds and is a steal in the later rounds of the draft.
What: Expect Manning to put forth his best statistical season yet. He has the tools to near 4000 yards and 30 touchdowns.

RB

1. Reggie Bush, New Orleans
Why: Bush is now the starting back in a high-powered Saints attack. Because of New Orleans' spread offense, Bush will be able to run against many smaller nickel and dime packages. In addition, he figures to see a lot of passes thrown his way, since it will be very difficult for defenses to account for all of the Saints' offensive weapons.
When: Look for Bush in the early to middle rounds. He has been about the 20th back picked in drafts this season.
What: Bush is fully capable of 1500+ total yards and a double-digit touchdown total. His value increases exponentially in leagues that reward receptions, as he will have at least 70-75 catches this year.

2. Jonathan Stewart, Carolina
Why: The 13th overall pick out of Oregon, Stewart will be splitting carries this year with DeAngelo Williams. However, Stewart figures to receive most of the goal-line action, as he is more of a pounding, breaking tackles type of running back than Williams. In addition, the Panthers will rely heavily on their ground game this year, considering the multitude of injuries and suspensions that their receivers are currently facing.
When: Stewart is a mid-to-late round pick. In a standard draft, he should definitely be taken if he falls past the 9th round.
What: Expect Stewart to be somewhat of a Marion Barber who racks up the touchdowns but not the yards. He has the ability to go for 800-900 yards on the ground and 10+ touchdowns.

WR

1. Eddie Royal, Denver
Why: Broncos Coach Mike Shanahan has said that prior to the draft, he thought Royal was the best receiver available, and that Royal has yet to prove him wrong. This statement indicates Royal's abilities; the Virginia Tech product has moved his way into the starting lineup, now lining up opposite Brandon Marshall as the Z receiver. Royal's speed and quickness make him a big-play receiver who will be sure to receiver his share of touchdowns. He is also Denver's return man on kick and punts, so he may score fantasy owners a couple of bonus special teams touchdowns as well.
When: Royal is going undrafted in most leagues, but he deserves a pick-up, as he will be a solid #3 receiver barring injury.
What: Royal will be looking at around 700-800 receiving yards as well as 7-8 touchdowns.

2. Javon Walker, Oakland
Why: After two injury-plagued seasons with the Broncos, Walker comes to the Raiders as a starting receiver. Walker's pairing with JaMarcus Russell is a fantasy gift; Russell can throw the deep ball, and Walker is a down-the-field receiver, a combination that translates to yards and touchdowns. Yes, the Raiders will focus on running the ball this year, but that might just benefit Walker, who will see a lot of 1-on-1 coverage if the defense puts 8 men in the box.
When: Walker is a mid-to-late round pick, which is very good value for a borderline #2 or #3 fantasy receiver.
What: Walker can easily produce an 1000+ yard season with 8+ touchdowns.

TE

1. Kevin Boss, New York Giants
Why: The Giants are serious about Boss, considering that they traded away star Jeremy Shockey to make space for Boss in the starting lineup. A physical specimen at 6-6 250, Boss will give defenses trouble, as he is much larger than any safety and also faster than most linebackers.
When: Look for Boss in the late rounds of a standard draft.
What: Boss can certainly put up solid #1 TE numbers. Look for 500+ yards and 6+ touchdowns.

2. Vernon Davis, San Francisco
Why: Although Davis is not exactly a traditional sleeper as a current mid-round pick, his potential is still being undervalued. With an exceptionally poor group of wide receivers, quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan will throw a lot of passes to his tight ends. Davis may very well join the upper echelon of tight ends this season.
When: Davis will be taken in the middle rounds of most drafts.
What: Now completely injury-free, Davis could go for 700+ yards and 7+ touchdowns.

K

1. Robbie Gould, Chicago
Why: Even though Gould lacks in leg strength, he still kicked tied for the 2nd most field goals in the league last year, and there is no reason to believe why that would change. Gould, however, has been about the 20th kicker taken in most drafts this year, making him a giant steal for the owner shrewd enough to take him.
When: Gould will be readily available in the late rounds.
What: Expect Gould to produce another 30+ field goal season.

D/ST

1. Seattle
Why: The Seahawks forced the 2nd most turnovers in the league last year, and only gave up about 18 points per game on average. With their defense remaining largely intact, they are primed to post similar numbers this year, which would greatly undervalue their current late-round draft placement.
When: Seattle D/ST has been taken in the last couple rounds of a standard draft, where they are a steal.
What: Seattle will be a top-5 fantasy D/ST this year, barring injury to their key players.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

MLB Approves Instant Replay


Well, this is certainly a change for the better. With the new use of technology, many more (but still not all) "boundary calls" will be made correctly. So no more incidents like what happened to Delgado or ARod will occur. Of course there will be times when the umpires will feel confident that they saw the flight of the ball correctly, regardless of whether they actually did. But on the ones where the blues either don't see the play or aren't sure of the call, the correct call will be safe. On one hand it is a sad goodbye to wins caused by fortune (although there are still plenty of non-boundary calls to change the tide of the game). But looking on the bright side, no longer will batters be robbed of home runs nor pitchers charged with them unnecessarily. I think that this is a good choice, as tennis adopted the use of instant reply for serves and other borderline shots. And football has had replay for a while, which has enhanced the viewing experience. As MLB has predicted that the whole process from the time instant replay is called upon the be 2.5 minutes. I have to say that if it gets any longer than this amount of time, the pitchers will start to stiffen up, changing the course of play. Other than the possible delay of game, however, I see no possible downsides to instant replay.

Monday, August 25, 2008

US Open

After Nadal came home with the Olympic Gold, he was on his way to Flushing, NY for the US Open - another major tennis tourney. Going into it, Nadal hopes to defeat arch nemesis Roger Federer (still within reach of Number 1) one more time on a large scale. So here are some predictions about current the Men's singles draws:

First Draw - Nadal's competition does not look too stiff. The toughest competition would have to be Blake or Nalbandian. There are quite a few other solid players in the draw including Monfils, Karlovic, and Berdych. Even the junior American champion Donald Young - a bright light for American tennis. Unfortunately, he faces Blake in the first round. Nadal is on a hot streak - his movement on the court is impeccable, his strokes have a ridiculous amount of top-spin for most other players to handle, and a strong mental game. In this draw - Nadal (probably over Blake, I don't believe there will be any major upsets in this bracket)

Second Draw - Key players - David Ferrer, JM del Potro, Wawrinka, F. Lopez, and Murray. This bracket is more likely for a major upset because the players are equally matched. Already there has been one upset - 29th seed Juan Monaco falls to Japan's Kei Nishikori. I am looking forward to see Ferrer and Murray battle it out. Murray's style is rather intriguing as he has a great baseline game versus Ferrer. If there is any sort of upset it will be Feliciano Lopez massacring the draw and crushing Murray or Ferrer. Here is last year's Lopez vs. Federer (of course Roger has some amazing shots, but there is a lot of potential for Lopez): In this draw - F. Lopez or Murray



Third Draw: Djokovic, Roddick, Kiefer, Tsonga...Djokovic will cruise by this bracket hands down. Roddick only has a strong serve compared to Djokovic's all around game (including strong net play). There really is not much to say about this draw...Novak FTW - Here are some clips from the Dubai tournament last year: Djokovic vs. Roddick (even though Djokovic lost, I doubt he will during the US Open)



Fourth and Final: Federer vs. Davydenko or Gasquet. You see, I don't really believe in upsets too much unless its college basketball where the teams play erratically. Nothing funky is going down in this draw, and my thoughts are Federer winning this bracket easy peezy.


I will try to give some more info later... so here is a list of potential winners:
Nadal, Federer, Murray, F. Lopez, Blake, and of course Djokovic.

My bets are on Federer.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Chinese Gymnastics Controversy

With all the debate regarding the ages of the Chinese gymnasts, I thought that I should bring up this argument to those who believe they are underage: the gymnasts might just look younger than they actually are. I know that this has been said many times already, but, unlike others, I have evidence to support this claim. Have a look at this photo of Chinese gymnast Cheng Fei, taken just this past week at a medal ceremony. When I first saw her, I thought that she might have been 13 years old. Not true; she's actually a ripe 20 years of age, born May 28, 1988, only 2 years after Usain Bolt and a whole 4 years before Shawn Johnson. In addition, there have never been any disputes about her birthdate or any suggestions that the government modified her birth records, so we can be pretty sure that she was actually born in 1988. Anyway, if Cheng Fei, a 20 year old, can look 13, why can't He Kexin or Yang Yilin be 16 years old? Maybe they just look younger than they are. Yes, this observation doesn't dispel any of those uncovered archived documents, but it does present an interesting alternative explanation to this whole dilemma.

photo credits: http://images.china.cn/images1/200607/349041.jpg

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Dodgers Don't Stop with Manny

Manny Ramirez is the key to getting in the playoffs, right? Well, at least not him alone. The Dodgers acquired future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux from the Padres for two minor leaguers to be named later. After today's games, the Dodgers remain one game back from the first place Diamondbacks. So now the additions of Manny Ramirez, Casey Blake, and Greg Maddux will be put to the test. I guess I should have added Joe Torre to the list since this is his first year with the Dodgers organization. This recipe has worked before. I'm talking about when the Dodgers added Maddux in 2006 during their postseason push and were successful. My money is on the Dodgers all the way, even with the Diamondbacks' acquisition of Adam Dunn. It seems that the NL West, which now has two teams above .500 (wohoo!) has come down to a race between two teams. As much as I hate to say it because of my support of the Giants, the Dodgers will make the playoffs. And why should that be surprising? After all, Torre made the playoffs every year from 1996-2007 with the Yankees.

USA Olympics Baseball Advances


Ok, so even with shaky pool play, USA's baseball team will get to play in the semifinals on Wednesday against Japan. USA's win over China, however, proved to be more than just advancing to the medal rounds. The matchup featured the Chinese pitchers hitting a combined five U.S. batters. In return, as the U.S. would never let China's deeds go unpunished, Nate Schierholtz absolutely decked the Chinese catcher, sending his mask and helmet flying. I'm glad of course that our home-country team, and somewhat of a favorite, was able to advance. After all, the four best teams (Japan, Korea, Cuba, and U.S.A.) all advanced to the semis. U.S.A. has not faced Japan yet during this Olympics, but Japan has lost to both Cuba and Korea in pool play. The same can be said about U.S.A. So whoever does win in the Japan vs. USA matchup will face a team that they have already lost to. As much as I hate to say it, I think USA will be lucky to salvage a bronze medal. My predictions for the baseball tournament:

Gold: Cuba
Silver: Korea
Bronze: U.S.A.
Fourth: Japan
Go USA!

Sports Commercials

Today I was just pondering about random thoughts. I realized how integral commercials are in sports. During the Olympics there have been some really amazing commercials especially the Visa one with Derek Redmond. Nike has had a string of several inspiring videos that I want to show you guys. Check it out in the following 3 videos.

New Nike Courage Video



Visa Derek Redmond Commercial with Godly commentating by Morgan Freeman



Derek Redmond - Full Story

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Live from Beijing (Part 3)

Finally, here's a list of interesting things/insights/happenings in the games and around the city.

-I was impressed with the level of play in the women's basketball games. Entering the first basketball game, Russia vs. South Korea, I mistakenly thought that women's basketball was a joke. However, all the players were very good ball handlers, played good defense, and had range from the field.
-The exception to the aforementioned good play was the Belarus point guard, #4. I'm sorry if I'm being a little harsh, but she was by far the worst player on the court in both Belarus games that we saw. I have no idea why she was starting, since her stat line for both games was something like 1-5 from the field, with 6 turnovers and maybe 2 assists. Against South Korea, she almost singlehandedly allowed South Korea back into the game; in the second half, she bounced the ball off her foot out of bounds when she was taking it up the court and repeatedly dribbled into corners, either losing the ball or stepping out of bounds. She also had a strange, out-of-control style of dribbling and did not contribute anything to Belarus (her passes were all hand-offs or throws around the perimeter) except for one breakaway, two-handed layup that she threw off the backboard and somehow got to go in.
-Diana Taurasi, an American guard, and Isabel Sanchez, a Spanish player, were mixing it up during the U.S. vs. Spain game. They had already been exchanging pushes and shoves early in the 2nd quarter, and after Sanchez was called for carrying, the two got in each other's faces, but no technicals were called. The head referee did bring the two over in a huddle to speak to them, during which Taurasi strangely placed her hand on the ref's hindside for about 15 seconds.
-An Italian volleyball player, #11, was very insistent on having the floor around him clean. After almost every point, he called in the blue-shirted volunteers to wipe the court with their towels, which took about 15 seconds and became rather annoying by the 3rd and 4th sets.
-The Brazilian libero, Sergio, appeared to be high on Red Bull for the entire match. He carried out huge Tiger fist pumps after every point that Brazil won, and generally pranced around the court when he was in and around the bench when Brazil was serving. I do admit, though, that he was very entertaining to watch.
-The American weightlifter, Chad Vaughn, had a very long pre-lift routine, in which he performed a quirky head shake that actually made the crowd laugh at him. Right before he lifted the barbell, he tilted his head to the side and sort of wagged it a couple of times. The crowd was surprised the first time, but chuckled at him every other time.
-Erkand Qerimaj, the Hungarian lifter, looked to both sides with a smirk on his face and nodded while holding his finish in the clean & jerk. The crowd absolutely loved it, and he went on to take a couple of bows and wave.
-Ever since it rained for the entire day on the 11th, the skies in Beijing have been blue, with few clouds and no smog. It also poured again on the 14th.
-We were fortunate enough to be able to play a round of golf at Pine Valley Golf Club, on the morning of the 14th before the rain. The private golf clubs in China are apparently just as nice as the clubs in America; in the clubhouse, there was a board with tacks that implored the members to vote on the color design for the club's private plane (the initiation fee at Pine Valley is $500,000)
-Some gas stations in China don't allow people to fill up during thunderstorms. For some reason, the employees at the station that we were at said that it was dangerous.
-The organizers liked playing music and showing animations on the video screens during every break in play. We heard everything from Linkin Park to Juanes to Chinese pop. In several events, we also saw an interesting message on the screen, urging the crowd: "Let's do the Mexican wave" (see the picture).














-The toilets in a lot of public places in Beijing are just holes in the ground. It's rather strange.
-The "Water Cube" swimming arena isn't even a cube. I'm not even sure if it's a square in length and width, and it's definitely not as tall as it is lengthwise on either side.
-We witnessed more interesting driving around the city. On a one-way, three lane road out of a train station, we saw a taxi driving slowly down the right hand lane...in the other direction. We also drove past another car on a one-way road going in the opposite direction (I'm pretty sure we were going the legal way).
-We visited a large shopping center called Silk Street/Pearl Market in the center of the city that sold basically everything imaginable for 1/10 of the normal price. I think most of it was fake, but we did manage to buy a Swiss army knife for 4 dollars, a Breitling/Bentley watch for 25 dollars, and a lot of clothing at extremely low prices. We also saw members of several Olympic teams there, including some Russian, Italian, and Jamaican athletes.
-Finally, I have to reiterate that the locals are all very kind and friendly. At the U.S. vs. Spain basketball game, a woman in the row in front of us heard us speaking English and turned around and offered us an American flag. In general, everyone we have talked to has greeted us with a smile and treated us kindly.

Sorry about the time difference between posts. I had some problems with the internet connection.

Only a week of games left...enjoy the Olympics while they last!

Live from Beijing (Part 2)

It is now the evening of Day 9 at the Beijing Olympics. I know I promised to post earlier, but we have been very busy for the last week or so. Here's a quick recap of the events that we have seen.

8/10: Swimming

Since all the swims were prelims, they weren't that exciting, but we did get to experience the Water Cube. It lived up to all our expectations; the scales on the outside changed color every several minutes, and there was even water running down all the interior walls into a large continuous pond. We also saw Michael Phelps in the 200 meter freestyle heats and Natalie Coughlin in the 100 meter backstroke heats. Throughout the heats, a lot of Olympic records were broken and a couple of world records were set as well, but the most exciting moment was when the 4 x 100 freestyle U.S. relay team set a world record (yes, it was smashed the day after, but it was still impressive considering it was the U.S.'s B team).

8/11: Women's Basketball

We watched two preliminary games: Russia vs. South Korea and Belarus vs. Latvia. Russia won over South Korea 77-72, but I thought that they had been outplayed for the entire game. South Korea was called for traveling 3 times in the final 4 minutes, which killed their chances of pulling off an upset. Even though Russia was much taller, South Korea played really good defense (I think Russia had 25 turnovers). However, Russia shot something like 72% from the field, so I guess they kind of deserved to win. Belarus won the other game 79-57. It was close in the first half, but Belarus blew it open in the third quarter. The game got pretty ugly in the fourth quarter with the substitutes in.

8/12: Men's Volleyball

We saw two games again (one ticket buys you two games): the U.S. vs. Italy and Brazil vs. Serbia. The U.S. won in four sets over Italy; they lost the first set but won the next three. An American player, Reid Priddy, was very impressive. He was probably 2 or 3 inches shorter than the other hitters on the team, but he had the most kills and might have had the most blocks. Brazil also won in four sets over Serbia, and also lost the first set but won the rest. Neither team was great at blocking, but Brazil played better defense and also had some powerful outside hitters.

8/13: Weightlifting

We watched the men's 69-77 kg event. I'm not exactly sure how it worked, since we thought it was a preliminary, but then when we looked at the results in the evening, all of the scores that we saw were in the results for the final. Anyhow, we apparently saw the worser of the two groups, since Erkand Qerimaj, the winner of the group, was 13th in the final results. There was an American, Chad Vaughn, but he had a DNF after he couldn't lift 182 kg in the clean & jerk on any of his 3 tries. In addition, Janos Baranyai, a Hungarian lifter, unfortunately dislocated his elbow in the clean & jerk. Thankfully, the injury did not jeopardize his career.

8/15: Women's Basketball

We saw another 2 women's prelim games: the U.S. vs. Spain and Belarus vs. South Korea. The U.S. won handily over Spain, 93-55. It was actually only 39-34 at halftime; the U.S. coach put in the subs after Spain was down 17-4, but Spain fought and climbed back. The second half was a blowout, though, with the U.S. hitting their jumpers and playing tough defense. In the second game, Belarus defeated South Korea 63-53. It wasn't a pretty game. I think Belarus shot around 32% from the field and South Korea might have shot under 30%. South Korea also had trouble defending the much taller Belarus forwards and centers.

8/16: Men's Baseball

Yesterday, we watched Cuba defeat Chinese Taipei (Taiwan) 1-0. It was a pitcher's duel; the lone run of the game was a solo home run in the 7th inning, after which the Taiwan starter was taken out. Taiwan only managed 4 hits, one of them being a 2-out single in the top of the 9th. Cuba wasn't much better offensively, only getting 5 hits themselves. The only extra-base hit of the game was the home run.

We didn't watch anything on the 14th or today; instead, we visited the Forbidden City and the Great Wall, respectively. I didn't think the Forbidden City was that interesting, since all we saw were antique buildings with thrones in the middle. However, the Great Wall was much more exciting. We visited the Badaling section of the Wall, about 50 km north of Beijing. The wall was open to access in both directions from the entrance, and we arbitrarily picked the one with less people. We ended up walking a very hilly 2 miles to the end of where visitors are allowed (there was one set of stairs that probably went up about 18 feet vertically in 10 feet of horizontal distance, with steps right in front of your face all the way up). The views, though, of the surrounding mountains were exhilarating.

I decided to split this up into two posts, so see the above post for tidbits on the games and on life around the city.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson go 1-2 in Women's All Around Gymnastics

For Gymnasts the All-around event is like claiming your MVP of gymnastics..and thats exactly what Nastia Liukin is. She started off slowly with the Vault (lower start value) although she stuck the landing. In fact, Nastia stuck every single one of her landings in the all around event. However in the remaining three events including floor and uneven bars she was unmatched in her form and artistic creativity. Being the gymnastic prodigy of two world champion gymnasts (her father won 2 gold medal, but fell short of the All around gold medal in 1988), Nastia and her father embraced after every event. In a way he was reliving his dream through her.

Nastia's parents never wanted her to become a gymnast like them - they knew how grueling and painful it would be. However, they ended up taking her to the gym while they worked out. She started watching the other gymnasts, mimicking their moves, and starting her future. She has intense workout regiments (about 6 - 7 hours a day), but she also has school and homework.

Shawn Johnson had a solid performance as well...but had a recurring problem that cost her first place - her landing. She was never able to stick a perfect landing and had this one crossover step that cost her greatly in the vault (her best event). Otherwise, she had a solid performance and just fell short of Nastia. Great job to both of them for making history..it was fun to watch. I can't wait till London to see them compete again. Shawn will be 20 and Nastia will be 22.

Friday, August 15, 2008

WOW Is All I Can Say


Was anybody else fortunate enough to see Michael Phelps in the 100 meter butterfly tonight? That has got to be the most exciting 50 seconds of sports I have ever seen. In 7th place after half of the race, Phelps somehow found a way to win, not passing the previous leader until the last moment before touching the wall. In the end, only one-hundredth of a second separated Phelps from his Serbian adversary. While Cavic (silver medalist) decided to coast in for the last meter or so, Phelps decided to slam into the wall by adding an additional stroke just before hitting the wall. The great part of watching the event was that I sympathized with Phelps. Just after I saw what appeared to be a tie, I waited for the results to be posted. And when I finally saw his winning time, I shouted for joy, although not as raucously as Phelps. So now Phelps has 7 gold medals, and might I add in only 7 events. So he's tied Mark Spitz for the all time record of medals won at a single Olympics. On August 17th, Phelps will be a part of the 4x100 meter medley relay team, and have a chance to win a record 8th gold medal. Phelps is by far the best athlete in the Olympics games (but if you disagree, please feel free to share). So I support him all the way and think USA has a great chance of winning the gold on Sunday.

Cuban Baseball Team Beats USA 5-4

Oh boy, the USA Olympic baseball team is now 1-2. As the game was decided in the 11th inning, the new extra-inning rule that I detailed in my last article was implemented. And an obviously biased group of US players after the game denounced the rule. Now I know that everybody has to play by the rules, but this rule is one for the hating. A Phillies AAA shortstop stated "I'm not a big fan of it, because in extra inning games you have to earn the victory." Obviously, the loss as a result never gave the rule a fair chance. But to some extent, I do agree with what Donald (the shortstop) said.
There is no way to deny, however, that the team is 1-2. And I understand that the baseball team is one of the only teams that USA fields which is not a "dream team." Unlike in basketball, the USA's baseball team is composed of minor league players combined with a few college players. This is due mostly in part to the large contracts that pros sign and the overlap of the season with the Olympics.
And USA's next game, which was against Canada, just ended with a US victory 5-4. So now the red, white and blue will take their 2-2 record to Wukesong stadium to battle China on Monday. That will sure be an intense matchup. I think that the US will beat China and advance to the semi finals at the end of group play.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Team USA Basketball Cruises by Greece

In the long awaited matchup, Team USA cruised by Greece with a 92-69 victory. Looks like the "redeem team" is playing up to par. Dwayne Wade claims the team played like they "wanted to win. We played together." Kobe finally found his shooting touch going 7-14 from the field with 18 points. Bosh had 18, Wade had 17, and James had 13. Greeks shot 41% from the field and 22% from beyond the arc - Team USA had some bonecrushing defense giving no breathing space for the struggling Greek team. I really want Team USA to utilize their Big Men some more they could really do some damage down in the paint. Their next matchup is Spain - the world champions.

After this fantastic display of basketball, Team USA looks in good shape to secure the gold medal. China is leading the overall medal count by 1 (they are at 35) US is at 34. Lets keep it up.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Olympic Baseball Update and Rule Explanation


Uh oh, everybody: USA lost to Korea in the Olympic Opener. Both sides fought hard to the end, when Korea's walk-off sac fly in the 9th secured an 8-7 victory. The inexperience of the US team was obvious, with botched pick offs as well as offline throws to the plate. The wacky extra inning rule was almost used. I will explain shortly what it is. I understand that in the Olympics, with teams having to play on many consecutive days, 16+ inning games can crush both the winning and losing teams. But the new-fangled rule that pretty much limits games to 11 or 12 innings seems a bit absurd. The procedure for games tied entering the 11th inning goes as follows: both managers can pick two consecutive players from the batting order to place on 1st and 2nd base. Then, the batter following those two leads off the inning. According to an article published by ESPN.com (http://espn.go.com/mlb/playoffs2000/2000/1010/811158.html), in this situation, the batting team has historically averaged 1.63 runs/inning and scores at least one run 66% of the time. With such a high probability of scoring, the ties will be broken in only a couple of innings. I personally think this is a bad policy. I hate to say it but I'd rather see a tie than a game decided by the tie-breaking rule. Back to team USA. Don't worry: since 4 out of 8 teams advance from pool play, which consists of 7 games, USA still has a good chance of playing in a medal game. They play next today against the Netherlands at 10:30 pm.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Congrats to Team USA Basketball and Swimming

The two sports I have truly been following during the Olympics.

1) Basketball - Team USA just cruised on by crushing Angola in a 97-76 victory. LeBron James used his body to muscle his way through the defense of the African champions. Wade had 19 points, Dwight had 14, and James had 12. However, the US continues to have a tough time from beyond the arc. They face their toughest opponent next, the Greeks. Last time the two teams confronted each other the Greeks won 101-95 in one of the most depressing games I've seen. From that time, Team USA has strengthened both mentally and physically so I am relatively certain they can win. US will need to improve from the three point line in order to secure a victory against the possibly best European team. Good luck.

2) Swimming - Probably the most exciting Olympic sport to watch. Of course Phelps is 3/3 in his quest to beat Spitz's record of 7 golds. The 400 m relay was one of the most exciting swimming races I have seen. Jason Lezak showed you true spirit, determination, and willpower. As corny as this sounds, I was extremely proud to be American. Natalie Coughlin got the gold for the 100 meter backstroke as well. Aaron Peirsol, the laid back California native, won the men's 100 meter backstroke. Great job! Stay tuned for more news...

Check out this hilarious video from the Sydney Olympics 00'

Monday, August 11, 2008

MLB's First Place Teams


1. Tampa Bay Rays: Perhaps my article was a jinx for the team, because the first place ball club now has 2 of its star players on the DL. Carl Crawford and All-Star Evan Longoria are both currently on the DL, a terrible blow to the Rays' offense. I still think the Rays have a good shot of making the playoffs, just that it won't be as easy as I first suspected. The 4 game cushion should hold up until both leaders can return to the lineup.


2. Arizona Diamondbacks: The NL West leaders added another slugger to their potent offense. Long-time power hitter Adam Dunn was signed by the D-backs of waivers on Monday in exchange for two minor league pitchers. Although Dunn has a .247 career batting average, over the last 4 seasons, he has crushed at least 40 home runs, and is poised to repeat that feat this year. Bottom line: this guy knows how to drive in runs. To me, this is exactly what the young Diamondbacks team needed. Furthermore, the addition of Dunn to Arizona balances out the Ramirez trade with to the Dodgers. I know, I know: Ramirez is a much better hitter than Dunn, but both players will have a similar effect. I think that the Diamondbacks will get to the playoffs, which is not a very bold position. On a more risky note, I also think that Arizona will advance at least to the NLCS if not the World Series led by a great pitching staff in a weak National League.

Spanish Basketball Team Scandal


Take a look at this picture. These gold medal contenders seem to mock their Chinese counterparts. The Spanish team claims that they don't mean to poke fun at the host team, but there is no question that this picture will spark a great deal of controversy - perhaps in a diplomatic sense. Hopefully only the players took part in this childish display. This is a seemingly recurring problem. In 2004, some black soccer players were subject to a great deal of verbal abuse from the Spanish team. Moreover, after the game the Spanish coach (who was going to be fired) made this statement: "he called Thierry Henry a "black sh*t". The team includes quite a few NBA players including Pau Gasol, JC Navarro, and Jose Calderon.

AND: I did not mean to offend anyone by writing this article. If I did, I am wholeheartedly sorry.

Men's Volleyball Makes Statement with a W; Women's Volleyball Falls Short Despite Crowd Support

Despite the recent fatal stabbing of Coach Hugh McCutcheon's father-in-law, Todd Bachman, the United States men's volleyball team were able to grab a win against Venezuela. Instead of the typical pre-game excitement, the players linked arms and bowed their heads in a moment of silence. Bachman's wife was also injured and is recovering at a hospital in Beijing. The couple have always been adamant supporters of both men's and women's volleyball, regulars at practices and games. Assistant coach Ron Larsen has taken the role of head coach until McCutcheon returns. The team got off to a strong start, taking the 1st and 2nd sets, but faltered in the 3rd and 4th. They were able to seal the victory with a score of 15-10 in the 5th set. The U.S. men's volleyball team is ranked 3rd in the world behind Brazil and Russia while Venezuela is 20th, but I'm still impressed that they were able to focus and pull off the victory considering the circumstances. McCutcheon's wife played on the 2004 women's volleyball Olympic team, and 8 of her teammates are on this year's team, so the players were very emotional as they stepped on the court for their game. The arena was packed with fans cheering for them, but they were swept by 3rd-ranked Cuba. Despite the loss, if the 4th-ranked U.S. squad can win against 29th-ranked Venezuela, they will likely get into the elimination round. Unforeseen circumstances like this demand a great deal of mental strength. Let's hope both teams have it in them.

R.I.P. Todd Bachman

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Rays Stun Fans


Perhaps it was the dropping of the "Devil" before the team's name that catapulted the Rays to their best season in franchise history. But it is more likely that their success is due to the run production of young ballplayers, such as Carl Crawford (27), Evan Longoria (22), and B.J. Upton (23). The Rays, who had never won more than 70 games in a single season, are now at 71 wins with 45 games remaining. At this pace, the team boasting the 2nd best record in MLB will have 98 games, completely shattering their previous mark. Although the Rays certainly have a young team filled with talent and are poised to make the poised to make the playoffs, I have a bad feeling about their World Series ambitions. Because of their inexperience when compared to, say, the Angles, White Sox, or Red Sox, I believe that their regular season glory WON'T reflect in postseason advancement. So although it has been a fun ride for all Rays fans, as well as fans of any team (other than the Red Sox and Yankees), I'm sorry to say that another team will win the Commissioner's trophy.


Michael Phelps: You Can't Touch This


Looks like the only one who can break Phelp's world records is Phelps himself. In the finals of 400-meter individual medley, supposedly one of his most difficult events, Michael Phelps not only crushed the competition but also smashed his own world record with a time of 4 minutes and 3.84 seconds, giving the United States its 2nd Olympic gold this summer. This will be his 9th Olympic career gold and his 1st of possibly 8 in Beijing. The competition was pretty close at times. Ryan Lochte of the U.S., as predicted, made a move during the breathstroke, his strongest and Phelp's weakest stroke, but it wasn't enough. Laszlo Cseh of Hungary took silver while Lochte made it to the podium with a bronze. Phelp's nearly flawless race could spell trouble for the competition. How do you beat a guy with seemingly no weaknesses? You don't. Cseh said, "Maybe sometime we can catch [Phelps], but not now."

picture and quotation source: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/11/sports/olympics/11vecsey.html?hp

U.S. Men's Basketball Off to a Good Start

In one of the most anticipated events of these Olympics, the United States took on China in their first game of the tournament. Both teams got off to a sloppy start, turning the ball over time and time again. It stayed close through most of the second quarter with the U.S. players using their strength to dunk over their opponents while the Chinese knocked down shots from beyond the 3-point arc. The fast pace of the game created a fastbreak offense for both teams rather than plays in a halfcourt set. The score was tied at 29 halfway through the 2nd, but the U.S. capped off the quarter with a big run, taking a 12-point lead with them to the locker room. They never looked back. Despite Yao Ming's solid efforts around the basket, the U.S. lead grew to 26 by the end of 3 in large part due to the quick ball movement and Michael Redd taking over the 3-point game. President Bush left midway through the 4th, confident that his country's team could hold their huge lead for the remaining minutes. Yao took a seat in the 4th quarter to a huge round of applause but stood up and cheered for his teammates until the buzzer sounded. Although the final score was 101-70, the U.S. is going to have to pull it together a lot earlier than the end of the first half to take the gold. Next up: Angola.

picture source: http://sports.espn.go.com/oly/summer08/basketball/men/recap?gameId=765&campaign=rss&source=ESPNHeadlines

Kobe to Italy?

Why do people choose the United States to work, live, and play? Is it the freedom? The power? The American Dream? Regardless of the reason, USA has been the ideal destination for all professionals, especially for basketball, as the world did not need the 1992 Olympics to see who dominated the sport (although it did help). This is why the recent trend of professional basketball players preferring the European market over the American market strikes me as surprising. What completely knocks me off my wooden chair is the world's best basketball player announcing the possibility of playing in Italy. (This could possibly be worse than Chris Kaman playing for the German national team because his grandfather lived there for a few years) Yes, the MVP of the National Basketball Association, the winner of the Western Conference, and a USA Olympian, said he would leave his cozy home and million dollar automatic Lamborghini for fifty million dollars a year in Europe. Now I did the math and it occurred to me that he could buy fifty Lamborghinis (he wouldn't have to pay the shipping fee since he would be living in Italy), but I still can not imagine why someone who gets a seven foot Spaniard just because he throws a tantrum would take off to go to... well ... Italy. What can he buy for 50 million dollars that he can't for 20 million? I don't know about you, but hearing that Josh Childress prefers the Euro to the dollar is much less terrifying than Kobe Bryant contemplating spaghetti over cheese burgers.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Olympic Baseball

With baseball having been voted out of the 2012 Olympics in London, the sport must make a good showing in hope of being revived for the 2016 games. USA plays their first game on Wednesday the 13th against Korea, which will most likely be one of the strongest opposing teams the Americans will face. Starting with Wednesday's game, USA will play games on 5 consecutive days, a sure test for any team's pitching staff. Fortunately, the pitching staff is composed of top minor leaguers who's performance on the bump is as good as hard money. So if you are having debt problems, simply gamble on the Americans and their team stacked with top-rated prospects. A Giants fan myself, I watched Nate Schierholtz crush the ball for the professional ball club. Now that he gets to tee off against inferior pitching, there's no limit to the success that the red, white, and blue will have. Hopefully, this will not be the last Olympic games to feature baseball as a sport, but if it happens to be, at least we can end on a high note. If USA does not win the gold this year, then I will seriously have to congratulate whoever does happen to dethrone them. In my opinion, America will win it all.

Live from Beijing

I am currently in Beijing for the Olympics; today is my third day in the city. I'll try to post about once every three days about the happenings here. Yesterday, we were able to watch two women's soccer preliminary games: Sweden vs. Argentina and China vs. Canada. These games were held in Tianjin, a large city about 100 miles southeast of Beijing. Chinese fans filled the venue, Tianjin Olympic Center Stadium, although there were some scattered foreign spectators. The stadium, with a seating capacity of 65,000, had an announced crowd of 56,000 people for the China vs. Canada game. This large crowd was rather unusual for a preliminary game, but the Chinese fans poured in to watch their home team, zealously chanting and clapping for the Chinese squad and unreservedly booing the Canadians. The Sweden vs. Argentina game was first, at 5:00 pm, but we were only able to watch the second half, since all of the train tickets from Beijing to Tianjin were already sold out for the earlier trips. Sweden dominated the second half (they probably did the same in the first half also). They controlled the ball for literally 75% of the half and won 1-0. Sweden could have easily scored 3 or 4 times, but the Argentinian goalie had some nice saves, and the Swedes also hit the crossbar several times.

The game that the crowd was waiting for followed at 7:45 pm. Raucous Chinese fans cheered loudly when their national team was introduced and also gave the loudest rendition of the national anthem that I had ever heard. However, they were soon silenced by the Canadian team, which outplayed China for the entire game (China was lucky to salvage a 1-1 tie). The Canadians had three times as many shots on goal (12-4) and also had many more legitimate scoring chances. While the Chinese capitalized on probably their only real opportunity of the night, a striker breakaway, the Canadians hit the post and also barely missed a couple of other shots from inside the box. The Chinese fans knew that their team was outmatched and were not too dejected with the tie.

Some interesting tidbits about the games and about life around the city:

-the smog was pretty bad on the 8th, the day of the opening ceremonies, but the air was a little bit clearer yesterday, and some blue could even be spotted in the skies
-there were thunderstorms and showers this morning, but most of it has subsided by now (it's currently 10:46 am in China)
-the drivers in China are somewhat reckless; the lane markers in the roads are useless, since not that many people follow them
-there are also some strange traffic rules (U-turns are allowed on red lights)
-the locals are very friendly and most of the volunteers/workers for the Olympics speak good English
-there was an NBC cameraman filming at the ticket pick-up building
-the subways and trains in and around the city are very efficient; it only took 30 minutes for us to go 100 miles from Beijing to Tianjin (the train reached speeds of 350 km/h)
-the food choices in Beijing are becoming more westernized; we spotted a bunch of McDonald's, KFC, and Pizza Hut joints

Okay, that's it for now, but check back in 2 or 3 days for another update from Beijing. Let's hope for better weather and some exciting games.

Will team USA lose the Medal Count?


Looks like the Chinese have really given it all this time. Into the first day of the Olympics, they have already secured 2 gold medals. The US has only 1, but it also has 1 silver and 1 bronze. Chinese women's swimming was quite a display. A couple of unheard Chinese swimmers swept the field, defeating several of the favorites. I believe the Chinese have been training hard with an attitude of - Go for the Gold or nothing. This extreme tenacity might give them the edge over the US in the overall medal count. We have seen the US's difference in medal count between China slowly decrease - as the Chinese creep upon first place. Chinese men's gymnastics easily conquered the field well ahead of the second and third place finishers (Spain and Italy). However, the US has made it to the finals even though they are missing a key component of the team - Paul Hamm - due to a severe injury(check out rosh's article) . USA is still strong - especially with Phelps leading the swim team. He has secured the number 1 seed which was his primary objective during the prelims. Hopefully, both mens and womens basketball can bring home the gold for the US. All we can do is watch and wait..so stay tuned.

Friday, August 8, 2008

(Fantasy) Baseball Corner


1. Don't worry Yankees Fans:
Starting pitcher phenom Joba Chamberlain is expected to join the Yankees rotation some time this month. At only 22 years old, Joba is naturally a quick recoverer, and could ultimately decide the fate of the Yankees this year. The Yankees do, however, have the odds against them because of their losses of Wang and Hughes. Yet I think that the return of Joba and his electric pitching style could spark the team and bring some confidence. To me, the Yankees have appeared to be a team lacking and heart or competitive nature, when compared to say, the Angels. I guess it could just be that the Yankees are used to winning, but the attitude they had up until now isn't gonna cut it during their fight to make it in the playoffs, something that has become expected of the stripes. Along with Chamberlain, Hideki Matsui also appears to be rehabbing well, and should be able to return to the lineup this season. So if whether you have Joba on your fantasy team or you are a diehard Yankees fan, I wouldn't worry too much because he'll be back soon. One quick note about Hideki Matsui: he chose not to undergo season-ending surgery. Therefore, (if and) when he does return, I personally don't think he'll be the same batter he was for the first part of the season. However, his presence will certainly bring experience and leadership to a lackluster ballclub.

2. Angels Fans: you should be real happy. The only division that has a clear winner right now is the American League West, where the Angels sit 12 games in front of the second place Rangers. Now, with the addition of Mark Texiera, an even more potent lineup will tee off against the upcoming games against Seatle and Cleveland, both of which are last placed teams. When most people think of the Angels, they think of Vlad crushing home runs. But this year, with only one regular player batting above .300 (Howie Kendrick at .322), the Angels have had to rely on a shut down pitching staff. Led by Ervin Santana and Joe Saunders, the 5 starting pitchers have a combined 55 wins. And the consistency with which K-Rod has been converting saves has put an end to all possible late inning meltdowns (which currently plague teams such as the Mets and Braves). So as the Angles look ahead to the ALDS, where they will possibly meet the Red Sox, it will be the workhorses of the Angels that will make the difference between win and loss.

Countrywide Classic and PGA Championship

Olympics have really overshadowed several other sporting events including the Countrywide Classic and the PGA Championship. Andy Roddick cruised by the second round defeating Dusan Vermic 6-2, 6-2. However, several major upsets occurred including - Amer Delic (NCAA champion) defeating Carlos Moya in 3 sets. Also, 19 year old American Donald Young was destroyed by Frenchman March Gicquel 6-3, 6-3.

Roddick claims that his opponent played "a little wild with drops and slices" but it is difficult for any player to win like that. Andy is probably the strongest player in the field right now. And I would like to congratulate Donald Young for his largest ATP victory - defeating Tommy Haas (#8 seed) ..However, he has trouble winning matches back to back in the pros. I hope he improves because he has great potential - reminds me of Gael Monfils, the French youngster.

Now, the next event that hasn't been discussed is the PGA Championship. In the second day, JB Holmes - the long hitter - has taken the lead by one stroke. However, Sergio has surged and is now in contention for the win. Ben Curtis, 2003 British Open Winner, posted a 67 and is one stroke behind Holmes. I would like to note how strange it is to have Tiger missing from such a major golfing event; it just doesn't feel right. Like many others, I anticipate his return (which will be a while) and hope he will keep his game up. Most players are in accord that today (Friday) the course played much harder...resulting in Jeev Milka Singh and Karlsson (co-leaders on Thursday) playing poorly on the Front 9. Anyways stay tuned for updates on tennis and golf.

Obama Basketball Prowess

Well...we won't share political opinions but McCain ain't got nothing on this.



Quite versatile - shooting, driving to the rim, rebounding, passing - now that's a great player.
Oh my, this is frightening - Ex-Presidential Candidate John Edwards admits to having an affair.

Check out this link: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080808/ap_on_el_pr/edwards_affair

Beijing Olympics Open with a Bang

As of 8:08 pm on 8/8/08 in China, the Olympic games are open. Reportedly the most expensive extravaganza in Olympic history, China went all out to give spectators nothing short of an absolutely amazing show depicting numerous aspects of its culture. The ceremony was capped off with 30,000 fireworks in a dazzling display. George Bush was there, the first U.S. president to ever attend an Olympics outside the country. I could tell you more about it, but I wouldn't really do it justice, so turn on NBC at 7:30 pm or go to http://www.nbcolympics.com/ to watch it yourself. Keep checking back here for updates on the 2008 Olympic games. 8 is a lucky number in China, but hopefully the U.S. will find some luck of its own. Bei Jing Huan Ying Ni. Beijing Welcomes You.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Green Bay Opts for the Hand Off of Brett Favre


With all the current sports issues, and by that I mean the trade deadline in baseball and the upcoming Olympics, it has been hard to write about possibly the most talked about happening this week in sports. So as you all know (or so I hope), Brett Favre has been traded to the New York Jets. Finally, I will get to watch ESPN's highlight shows and not be stuck watching a whole hour-long analysis of the Favre situation. Of course, I am not the only one happy that the air has been cleared. Not only Favre but also the Green Bay organization are pleased that they can focus on preparing their teams for the season to come. Brett's decision can be disected and discussed until we're blue in the face, but in the end it comes down to this: the old man was tired of the staff at Green Bay, and Green Bay was tired of him. And you can't blame No. 4, who had spent 16 seasons with the Packers. The unfortunate aspect of the trade for Favre is that he is leaving a team that was full of talent and potential, and arriving at a team striving for mediocrity. But it was the right thing to do, because Favre had simply nothing left to play for in Green Bay, with all possible goals accomplished. The Jets are taking a huge gamble because Favre most likely won't be around in the game much longer (Jets will be lucky if he makes it through the end of the season). So the time to win is now, and its not entirely out of the question. Even though the Jets went 4-12 last year, they made offseason acquisitions for the likes of offensive linemen Alan Faneca and Damien Woody. So from Favre's perspective, he'll have to learn a whole playbook, targeted at hitting wide recievers Laveranues Coles and Jerricho Cotchery, with the thought that he only has one year to turn the Jets around from a lousy season last year to a Superbowl contending team this year. Personally, I think Brett Favre alone will NOT cause the Jets to make the playoffs.

Injury forces Hamm Twins out of Olympics

Just over a week after his twin brother, Paul, dropped from the U.S. men's gymnastics team due to a strained left rotator cuff, Morgan Hamm figured it was best to do the same after aggravating a left ankle injury during training. Both are still battling back from earlier injuries as well; Paul broke his right hand 2 months ago, and Morgan tore a chest muscle back in October. In a matter of 10 days, a strong team has now been reduced to a group of gymnasts with no Olympic experience. Don't count them out of the medal race, but I'm not getting my hopes up either. The Hamms planned to retire after Beijing, so these injuries mean the end of their careers. And some careers they've had. Since the Hamm twins are gone for good, we'll just have to wait to see who can step up to fill the void and maybe lead the U.S. to the podium.

Theories/Strange Facts about Beijing Olympics 2008

Several researchers have come up with interesting and unique hypotheses about the Beijing Olympics.

1. (theory)No world records will be broken - Due to the high smog levels athletes will not be able to cope with the high levels of CO2 in their lungs. This will cause breathing problems resulting in a weaker performance.

  • In my opinion - Why would they even decide to make the Olympics in Beijing? Couldn't the committee pick some smaller town on the outskirts where pollution is less of a factor. Also it would be easier to move in and out of a smaller suburb than the insides of Beijing.
2. (fact) Nobody with AIDS/STD's is allowed to enter the game.
  • In my opinion - All I can do is laugh.
3. (fact) The torch has been extinguished several times during the relay.
  • In my opinion - Well, this time the Olympics torch relay was a disgrace - especially with the protests and all...hopefully the Olympics committee learned their lesson.
4. (fact) The most disturbing fact about this year's Olympics - 1.5 million people have been displaced due to the Olympics. The worst part is the government has denied any claims that this has happened. Apparently, the government has incarcerated folks who protested against their eviction.
  • In my opinion - This speaks for itself.

First Week Success

Hey everyone! Our blog is slowly growing - within the first week we had a total of 702 readers! Thanks everyone... and if you have any ideas for improvements/comments please e-mail me at
letstalkaboutsports@gmail.com. Also, any ideas about publicity for the website will be greatly appreciated! Tell your friends about us... And I would like to thank all my authors for giving such high-quality articles. We were planning on making some sort of a YouTube video which would be very humorous and extraneous - to get the most views.

Let's keep moving forward.

- Sanjeev

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

King James to Europe?

It doesn't sound right, but it just might happen. Lebron James is the latest name in talks of NBA players going to Europe. The difference is that he is one of the most prominent athletes in the game today. A defining icon of the NBA. James' contract with Cleveland runs through the 2010-2011 season, but he can choose to opt out the year before. But why would he want to leave the world's biggest basketball stage? Money. And money can make you a global icon. So how much is James asking for? No less than $50 million dollars. Per year. Ludicrous as it sounds, a deal like that for one of the best players in the world may not be too hard to come by. At least in Europe. Unlike the NBA, the European league does not have salary caps, and the euro is continuing to increase in value in comparison to our dollar. Despite these trends, Joel Litvin, the NBA's president of league and basketball operations, is confident that there will not be a need to remove the salary cap in order to compete with offers from Europe. Although James only plans to play abroad for a year or two before returning to the NBA, it's hard not to worry about what kind of precedence this could set. It's too early to know what kind of impact this trend could have on the NBA, but it doesn't look good. I guess only time will tell...

US Olympic Basketball: Part 4 of the Journey

Arrival in China.

After finishing up a relatively easy exhibition schedule with the exception of the game against Australia, Team USA got off the private plane and landed among a throng of Chinese basketball crazed fans. They were all wearing American jerseys with some of the biggest names - James, Bryant, Wade, etc. Although the Team is focusing on basketball - they need some down time. They plan on visiting the Great Wall of China and watching other Olympic events. Even Coach K wants to take a break. The Hall of Famer NCAAA B-ball coach, after months of practice, desires some rest before the Olympics. However, nothing will stop the team from achieving their goal - the Gold Medal.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

CC Strikes Gold in Milwaukee


C.C. Sabathia, who was recently traded from the Cleveland Indians to the Milwaukee Brewers, has really found his groove with the new ballclub. For his new team, Sabathia has won 5 out of his 6 starts, the 6th being a no decision. In that stretch, the big lefty has also posted a 1.88 ERA. For you fantasy baseball players out there, the 28-year-old will only get better with age. This season, CC is dominating Johan Santana in not only wins but also strikeouts and is among the league leaders in almost every category. This year, I drafted Johan Santana first round in my fantasy league, a decision that I now regret based on his season's performance. Next year I definitely won't make the same mistake, and if I do decide to draft a pitcher first round, it will be Sabathia. As the Brewers stand 5 games behind the Cubs in the NL Central race, CC will attempt to carry over on his pitcher of the month performance to bring the Brew Crew to the top. If you can get a late season trade for the hard throwing pitcher, don't hesitate to accept, as he is a valuable asset for any fantasy team.


Brandon Marshall Suspended 3 Games

Roger Goodell has really mixed it up since he became the commissioner of the league two seasons ago. Actually, ruler is probably an apter title; Goodell knows how to assert his power. Did we ever even hear the words "Paul Tagliabue" and "discipline" together once in the 15 seasons before Goodell's reign? Anyway, Broncos wideout Brandon Marshall is just one out of quite a few players suspended by Goodell/the league. The most publicized case, Pacman "Call me Adam" Jones, comes to mind, along with Bears DT Tank Johnson, Bengals WR Chris Henry, and fellow Bengal LB Odell Thurman. Of course, Mike Vick deserves a mention on this list, but then again, even Tagliabue might have done something about him, given that the feds themselves locked him up for a couple of years. Speaking of Mike Vick, I spotted someone adorning his jersey last week at a Taco Bell (it was actually the first Vick jersey I've seen since he was connected with dogfighting). It got me to thinking: what happened to that little chihuahua that used to appear in all of Taco Bell's ads, with that "Yo quiero Taco Bell" slogan? I wonder if Vick was somehow involved.

But back to the point. Since he was drafted by the Broncos, Marshall has never even been convicted on any serious charges. He does have his DUI trial set for September 16th, and he has gotten tickets for traffic violations, but I believe that Goodell should have waited to see the results of the trial before calling for any suspensions. With all the previous perpetrators, Goodell had least waited until after their trials to levy disciplinary measures. In addition, all of them, with the exception of Thurman, who pleaded no contest, had been found guilty in court. These unprecedented actions by Goodell send a message to the players: bad behavior is not tolerated, even if it safely gets through the court system. Gone are the days of avoiding punishment despite being implicated in a double murder (see Ray Lewis). Now, all the misbehaving players of the league have to watch out for themselves (see the members of the Cincinatti Bengals). Hopefully, we will see a season with fewer suspensions and better player conduct.

Welcome Back Mr. Bonds


Sorry for the misleading title, but just to clear the air: no, he is not playing again. The Giants are hosting a celebration for the greatest outfielders to ever wear the black, orange, and white. And Barry Bonds definitely meets the criteria. The big name (accompanied by a big creature), has not made an appearance to the fans in San Francisco since the end of last season. Now is the time for Bonds to shine once again on the field and especially to thank the fans for the support that we have given him. Of course Barry is the only one to make this decision, but the ceremony without Bonds is almost equivalent to the British Open without Tiger. I hope that I see Barry there, because he was truly one of the greatest outfielders to ever play the game.

US Olympic Basketball: Part 3 of the Journey

Seems like Team USA got too much of a confidence boost from the last couple of commanding victories. The final exhibition match against Australia proved to be a grueling test. The Americans played horribly, 3/18 from beyond the arc and 20/33 from the FT line. Despicable numbers that parallel to the match they lost 2 years ago in Greece. Wade and James led the team scoring wise - 22 and 16 points respectively. Australia did not play its best player, the Bucks' Andrew Bogut, until the fourth quarter(which just compounds to the embarassment). Going into the half the US only had a 4 point lead. Fortunately, Wade and Anthony stopped a 11 point run the Australians made in the third, and pushed the lead back to double digits. If you watched the game on ESPN 2, the Americans played with half the spirit they did of the other games. Weak shooting, sloppy defense, no hustling were the ultimate reasons for this near loss. Hopefully they can recover quickly and get back on track.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Dara Torres Proves Age Doesn't Matter

Number 2 on Time's list of 100 Olympic athletes to watch, Dara Torres will be racing against the odds. The 41-year old mother broke the U.S. record in the 50-meter freestyle, a record which was previously held by none other than Torres herself. She qualified for both the 50-meter and 100-meter freestyle events but chose to solely compete in the former in Beijing. This will be the 5th Olympics she will be competing in, a feat no other swimmer has achieved. Steroid talks have swirled around Torres since she continues to dominate her event despite her age, but she has been more than open to testing. She is one of the few members of the United States Anti-Doping Agency's pilot project, which involves rigorous testing far beyond the Olympic standard. So if not drugs, then what is her secret? Resistance training and core work. Looks like that simple recipe may just be enough to bring home another gold medal.

"Happy Birthday Dear Roger..."

So with all the hype regarding the playoffs, last minute trades, and so on, the whole steroids discussion has gone on the low down. Personally, I am in favor of less talk about the whole steroids thing. All I want to say is Happy Birthday to one of the best pitchers in the game, Roger Clemens, who turned 46 this fine day. In his honor, I would like to rattle off some of his stats, in case you may have forgotten:
- 354 career wins (8th all time)
- 4672 career strikeouts
- 3.12 career ERA
- 46 Shutouts (26th all time)
- 7 Cy Young Awards

Greg Maddux is next behind Roger in wins with 352 (and will likely pass him). Only Randy Johnson has more strikeouts as an active players, and Clemens leads active players in not only shutouts but also complete games. It is my opinion, and most likely almost everybody's, that Roger Clemens is a definite Hall of Famer, even with all the controversy that surrounded him at the end of his career. Happy Birthday Roger!

Stats were founds at http://www.baseball-reference.com/c/clemero02.shtml

National League West: Not Pretty but Still Undecided

All baseball fans know that this year, the National League West is the weakest division in the sport. Not one of the five teams in the division posted a winning record in interleague play, and the first place team in the division, the Dbacks, stand at only .514. That record would make them third or worse in any other division. While the records might be disgusting, the lack of a clear leader will make the remaining games even more exciting. While Arizona and L.A. seem to be the only teams battling for a playoff birth, we can't count the Rockies out yet, who sit 7 games out entering Monday's games. Remember that it was the Rockies who won 14 out of their last 15 games last year to win the wild card for the National League. And with the help of a surging Matt Holiday (9 Hr, 21 RBIs, 25 Runs, 5 Stolen Bases, .447 OBP), a comeback of 7 games is definitely not out of the picture. We'll get so see Arizona's aces (Webb and Haren), the Dodgers' Manny Ramirez, and the Rockies' Matt Holiday battle it out for the remaining 52 games in the season. Oh boy, this'll be a good one!

Continuing International Trading Trend? (Updated on August 6th)



David Stern has to be mad. International players have developed a steady fan base here in the Americas. Now, the players are slowly migrating back to their home countries or neighboring European countries. Nenad Kristic - Russia. Bostjan Nachbar - Russia. Carlos Delfino - Russia. Primoz Brezec - Italy. Arroyo - Spain. Heck, even one college kid Brandon Jennings went straight to Italy instead of the NBA. As my fellow author said earlier, Childress is moving to Greece. The pay is on par with the NBA if not even better and there are several other countless benefits to moving. It will be interesting to see how many more players move back to other countries - Europe, Russia, etc. I want to keep track of how many players move out of the US and into other countries. Once the African American players start moving out of the NBA and into Euroleague and other basketball associations, David Stern might just have an anxiety attack. Oh wow. Now LeBron James just claimed if he gets an offer of 50 mills a year from a Euro team he would play in Europe. That shows you how money oriented these individuals are. I mean your leaving all your fans, friends, family - and ultimately tougher competition just for the big bucks. And well David Stern (if James were to move) might just run off a cliff.
Image from: http://www.judiciaryreport.com/images/david-stern-after.jpg

Murray pulls major upset, knocks off Djokovic!

Wow, I thought Djokovic would beat Nadal, but it was stunning that he fell to Murray in straight sets! 7-6. 7-6. Whenever you see a score like that, it came down to mental game. The two players were playing at the same physical level, but Murray surpassed Djokovic in the head. In the past Murray has struggled, but it seems as if the sweltering temperature helped him seize his sixth career victory (and possibly the largest). Djokovic fought off 4 match points, but eventually gave in on the fifth. Murray played relatively sloppily as did Djokovic. Murray - 16 winners 43 unforced errors. Djokovic - 6 double faults (in the course of two sets).

“Well done to Andy. It is his first Masters Series but I am sure there are going to be a lot more.”
- Novak Djokovic

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Tyson Gay: Ready for Beijing

Millions of Americans held their breath when Tyson Gay fell to the track grabbing his left hamstring during the 200-meter quarterfinal race at the U.S. Olympic trials almost a month ago, costing him the chance to compete in the 200-meter event in Beijing, but more importantly, calling into question whether he would be able to run at all. Gay qualified for the 100-meter race the week before with a time of 9.68 seconds, a time which would have gone down in the record books except for the strong tailwind. Despite choosing to withdraw from a race in late July in order to continue rehabilitating his hamstring, Gay is expected to be ready to compete in Beijing. Hopefully, that means he will be at 100% because he'll need nothing less against Jamaica's sprinting superstars Asafa Powell and Usain Bolt. Did I mention Bolt happens to be the current world record-holder? No pressure Tyson.

Manny Finds Power Surge in LA


After batting .299 with 20 home runs and 68 RBIs through 100 games with the Sox this year, Manny got off to a lightning hot start with the Dodgers. In his debut series, the last-minute acquisition proved to be more than worth the "baggage" that he carries with him. Ramirez went 8-13 with 2 home runs and 5 RBI in just 3 games. A Giants fan myself, I not only fear that the Dodgers have become an even more formidable rival, but also sympathize with the Dodger's front office, which decided to gamble on Manny's raw talent over his distractive nature. Although the Dodgers lost 2 of 3 from the division leading Dbacks, Arizona's 1 game lead over Manny's new ballclub may not remain much longer.

Surprising Offseason Trades in the NBA

I guess I can hardly call it surprising considering the blockbuster deals this past season. After the Celtics started off the season with trades to get Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, the Lakers (Dare I say) stole Pau Gasol and the Suns acquired Shaquille O'Neal midseason in attempts to match. The Lakers' and Celtics' success gives these other teams little choice but to do the same. Even though it wasn't unexpected, it is still shocking to see this many superstars swapping jerseys. Elton Brand to the Sixers, Baron Davis to the Clippers, Corey Maggette to the Warriors, James Posey to the Hornets... and Josh Childress to Greece? The Hawks are looking to veteran guard Maurice Evans to fill Childress' role. Teams who fell short of the playoffs are looking for a fresh start with new foundations. Others make minor improvements that will hopefully be enough to push farther in the playoffs this coming season. The primary criticism of the Hornets was their inexperience, while the Spurs were hammered for their aging lineup, and both teams have made moves to change that. Is your head spinning yet? Mine too. We'll just have to wait until next season to see if each deal proves to be an upgrade or a bust.

US Olympic Basketball: Part 2 of the Journey

Image credit of: http://sports.yahoo.com/olympics/beijing/photo?slug=4c5e6c3690199b95256c692dc32e7407-getty-82070184mn033_usa_v_russia_&prov=getty
Yahoo Sports.

USA cruises by in an easy victory over the European Champion, Russia. 89-68. Kobe did most of the heavy offensive damage leading the team scoring 19 points, Carmelo scored 17, Wade scored 16. AK-47 (Andrei Kirilenko) scored 18 points for the Russians, in a game where the American had control since the first quarter 20 point lead. Coach K decided to play a small lineup since LeBron and Carmelo are the big guys on the team - odd if you ask me. US has been placed in Group B which has some formidable opponents including African Champion Angola, Spain, Greece, and Germany. Hopefully the success continues for Team USA who are looking to end the 8 year drought since the Sydney Olympics in 00'.

Nadal falls to Djokovic

Well, just as I predicted Nadal had tough opponents left - and in my earlier post, I called Djokovic beating Nadal as Djokovic has a much better hardcourt record than Nadal. 6-1. 7-5. Now, if you ask me Nadal didn't play with the intensity of the match he played during the Wimbledon. However, now (based on fact) Nadal will inevitably move up to the number 1 spot that Federer has held for 235 consecutive weeks. I doubt Nadal can keep a streak of 235 consecutive weeks as Number 1 during his reign as the best tennis player in the world. Anyways, I anticipate Federer's return to the Number 1 spot.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

US Olympic Basketball: Part 1 of the Journey

The Men's basketball team has started off with a hint of hot coal underneath their bellies. They easily beat the Canadians and Lithuanians. In the match against the Lithuanians, Kobe had to avenge his previous encounter with Sarunas Jasikevicius - who massacred the US team last time due to superior perimeter offense(7 3-pointers last Olympics total of 28 points in the game). However, Kobe playing an adequate amount of offense with some excellent in-your-face defense slowed down the international three point superstar. Kobe, Dwight, LeBron, and Wade won in a great collaborative effort. US won 120-84. Hopefully, the success continues on for Team America.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Federer Lost! Number 1 in Sight for Rafa



Oh my, as I posted below - the threat of losing number 1 in now imminent for Roger Federer. After several years of retaining the prestigious ranking his loss at this Cincinnati tournament puts him at risk to falling to number 2. Federer will be ousted IF Nadal is able to win the tournament outright. However, this will not be an easy feat for Nadal because if he keeps trudging on he will encounter - Djokovic and Murray. If it were a Nadal vs. Djokovic, I would favor Djokovic for his impressive performance on hard court. Anyways, I'm pretty depressed about Federer's performance this year..

Image credit goes here: http://blog.killervirgo.com/archive/2007_08_01_archive.html