Category Archives: Sport- Baseball

The new ‘Evil Empire’?

Birmingham has been infested with the Tory Party Conference this week.  Lots of hatchet-faced women in twin-sets and pearls and William Hague clones who look as though they’re too young to shave, let alone vote.

Among the sideshows to the rabble-rousing in the main auditorium, there was – allegedly – a ‘straw poll’ taken among delegates, ‘Daily Mail’ readers  and like-minded fellow-travellers to determine the most evil forces throughout history.

Full results are given below, but it’s interesting to note that Satan & all his Minions are still keeping Tony & Gordon from the # 1 spot and that Adolf & the boys have slipped to # 7 – well, it is the Tories after all…..

And now the results….

1. Satan and all his Minions

2. Brown and Blair

3. Sauron & the Hosts of Mordor

4. Voldemort

5. ‘Guardian’ readers

6. Hunt saboteurs

7. The Nazis

8. Peter Mandelson

9. The EU

10. Any other lefties, dole scroungers, illegal immigrants, northerners etc….

So far, so predictable, but the really big story came in midweek as news broke that the owners of the  Boston Red Sox were proposing to take over Liverpool FC.  The prospect of such an Unholy Alliance led to the poll results being suppressed.  An unofficial recount from a limited number of voters suggested that this new Combine of Evil would have come in at # 3 if not higher.

In all seriousness, do I really need any more reasons to despise both Liverpool and the Red Sux?  As a fan of Manchester United and the New York Yankees, I would characterise this new initiative as a marriage forged in the nethermost regions of Hell.

Also, interestingly, Sir Alex Ferguson is currently having a break from the club….in New York.   It would just be terrific if Fergie got himself out to Yankee Stadium and persuaded the Steinbrenner family to buy out the Glazers.  That would really set the cat amongst the pigeons….

Baseball is back….

Seems like a good while ago now that I was blogging about the Yankees’ World Series win over Philadelphia, but suddenly, baseball is back and the Yankees got off to their customarily sluggish start with a 7-9 loss to the Red Sox at Fenway.  Oh well, there’s another 160-0dd games to put things right.  Worth noting that  two of the veteran principals from last year’s WS victory have been moved on…neither Hideki Matsui nor Johnny Damon will be wearing pinstripes this year with Damon in Detroit and Matsui in Anaheim.  The Yanks’ main off-season acquisition is probably centre-fielder Curtis Granderson, who has joined from Detroit and who announced his first Yankees at-bat with a 455-foot home run at Fenway.  The first of many, I hope…

Ennui, schadenfreude and Godzilla’s big night…..

It’s been a big week of sport, but there are those who would argue that it usually is in this house.  Such cynicism….

Anyway, to deal with matters chronologically, I should start by reflecting on Manchester United’s….sorta, kinda thrilling….comeback in Tuesday’s Champions League game to draw 3-3 with CSKA Moscow.   The thing is,  was it actually  that thrilling?  The large numbers of empty red seats on show at The Vatican would suggest that no-one in Mancunia was particularly thrilled.  Rather amusingly, the stadium announcer gave out the attendance as 73 thousand and change, which was perhaps a reference to the number of errors made by our defence rather than the number of bored onlookers.  The problem for United – and I’m not sure I have detected it anywhere else – is that the whole club has become like an ageing Casanova, needing  bizarre and increasingly salacious scenarios before they can…errr…get it up and get it on….if you’ll excuse the extended (ouch!) metaphor. 

Another problem is that everyone is pining for Ronaldo.  Sure, the manager and the TV gurus have tried to talk up Rooney and to be fair to New Dad, he did spice things up a bit when he came on.  Even so, without Ronaldo and with United way clear in their group and, therefore, with the dull neccessities of the CL Group Phase virtually over, it’s all become a bit tedious.  How the crowd would have thrilled to a slaloming run through the Russian defence by Ol’ Twinkletoes or one of those ludicrous 70-yard free-kicks that  would virtually loop-the-loop before crashing into the back of the net.  They would have thrilled to CR’s vanity, and smiled indulgently at his temper tantrums…anything to enliven things a bit.

As it was, on a dull rainy evening which benighted southerners think is Manchester’s default climate, United contrived a little excitement by conceding three goals with some pantomime defending which will be making Lampard, Drogba and the shaven-headed drones of West London slaver ahead of Sunday’s PL game at Stamford Bridge.  The excitement, such as it was,  came from the realisation that United were finally mounting (ooh-err!) some sustained pressure and that the game was heading for a big climax (Oh stop it….).

In the end, a Scholes header and a deflected Antonio Valencia shot gave United a point that they scarcely deserved and a place in the knockout phase of the Champions League, starting in February.  United’s fans are (often rightly) castigated for their arrogance and it would seem that our years of serial CL qualification have produced something akin to catatonic indifference  in all concerned until about the quarter-finals.  Players and manager alike will blather on about professionalism, but where’s the passion?  Spoiled rotten, we are…..

 

christiano-ronaldo-300x400

Cristiano – Missing you……..

However, no matter how turgid things might be at The Vatican, there is always plenty of distraction among those loveable rogues and noisy neighbours from Dipperland.  The Benitez Soap Opera has moved into a new and compelling phase; after beating us recently, he was once again a Master of the Universe, then defeats at home to Lyon and away to Fulham reduced him to a sweaty and twitching caricature, muttering gnomically about focussing on his job and walking through storms with his head on backwards and suchlike.  Thus to last night’s game in Lyon, which I half-watched out of a morbid sense of schadenfreude.  Pleasing to be able to report, therefore, that Rafa’s boys did not disappoint – the manager showed a stroke of genius in replacing the lumpen Voronin with the laughably overpriced Babel, who then came up with two bits of play that will probably define his Liverpool career. First, cutting in from the left, he produced a bullet of a right-foot shot that flew into the top of the Lyon net.  Simultaneous earth tremors on Merseyside were attributed to an attack of mass jaw-dropping among the local intelligentsia.  Then, just a few minutes later, he found himself in an almost identical position on the left, cut in and produced a bullet of a right-foot shot….that went out for a throw-in on the far side of the pitch.

Then, of course, with the game in its dying moments and Scousers gambolling like so many acquitted Steven Gerrards in the Lyon stands, the French team equalised, qualifying them for the knock-out phase and leaving Liverpool’s presence in this year’s tournament hanging by a thread.  Never mind lads, there’s always the Lancashire Senior Cup.

Rafael-Benitez-responds-to-critics_1948834 Rafa the GafferMissing you already…..

Across the water, I’ m delighted to be able to report that the New York Yankees are the winners of this year’s World Series.  In Game 6, played in The Bronx last night, they overcame the Philadelphia Phillies by 7-3, thanks to an astonishing performance by Hideki Matsui, who hit a two-run homer, a two-run single and a two-run double, all of which pretty much made the MVP Award for the series a formality, particularly as ‘Godzilla’ (as he’s known by Yankees fans) has batted pretty well throughout the series.  With his contract up and with two dodgy knees, it’s unlikely that Matsui will be back in 2010, but if last night was his final fling, it was certainly a memorable one.

*Nov 04 - 00:05*

‘Godzilla’ – not missing much at all……..

Anyway, congratulations  to all within the Yankees’ organisation on a thoroughly deserved win, the first since 2000. There will be a ‘Canyon of Heroes’ ticker-tape event in Manhattan on Friday and how I would love to be there…..oh well….

Back to The Bronx…

I’ve been writing and thinking too much about baseball lately, so I’ll pause merely to reflect  on the fact that A.J. Burnett had another flaky night and Chase Utley hit his 5th homer of the World Series (tieing Reggie Jackson’s all-time record) as the Phillies overcame the Yankees by 8-6 last night.  So, it’s Game 6 on Wednesday back in The Bronx, with – presumably – Andy Pettitte doing the pitching for the Yankees.  It would be great to be there, but I don’t think I’ll follow the lead of the Phillies fan who implied in a ‘Personals’ ad  that she would trade sex for World Series tickets (and got caught by the Feds).  It’s not that I’m not that desperate, more that I’m not that confident…

World Series Game 4: Johnny come lately sees the Yankees through…..

Apparently, viewing figures for this year’s World Series are up on previous years and whilst that might well be something to do with the Yankees’ popularity in many corners of the globe, it has probably also got something to do with the fact that both the Yanks and the Philadelphia Phillies play an expansive kind of baseball that sports fans are bound to find an attractive prospect.  So far, so attractive for the 2009 World Series,  but what it lacked until last night was a bona fide classic encounter.  Now it has that as well…

Last night’s game was close throughout.  The Yankees led for most of it, but never by more than 2 runs.  Sabathia pitched well for a guy on short rest, but you always felt that he was vulnerable – especially to Chase Utley, who has owned him  and who blasted his third homer of the Series (all of them off Sabathia) last night. 

It was largely the veteran lead-off duo of Jeter and Damon who kept the Yankees ahead with a selction of flares and bloops, but the Phillies finally caught up when Feliz homered off Joba Chamberlain in the 8th to level things at 4-4.

In the top of the ninth, Phillies closer Brad Lidge soon saw off pinch-hitter Matsui and Jeter, leaving Johnny Damon as the last man standing.  In a nine pitch at-bat, he fouled off pitch after pitch before finally lining one into left field for a single.  That brought up the hitherto invisible Mark Teixeira, batting left-handed (not that it seems to make much difference right now) and the Phillies promptly applied a shift, moving their whole infield defence across to cover the right field into which Teixeira might, were he not in a slump of elephantine proportions, be expected to hit the ball.

Johnny Damon, meanwhile,  surveying all this from first base decided to do some base-stealing and easily made it into second as Lidge pitched to Teixeira.  The throw to second base was weak and third baseman Pedro Feliz,  now covering second in the shift, had to step forward to field the ball.  Damon, realising that the Phillies’ shift had left third base unattended, simply set off for third

... allowing Damon to take third when he realizes the plate is left unprotected.

Go, Johnny go;  Damon makes the break for third with Feliz trailing in his wake

as fast as his thirty-something legs could carry him.  Lidge didn’t come across to cut him off and Feliz couldn’t catch him, so Damon made into third and an inning that had threatened to expire for the Yankees was suddenly alive again

Lidge, clearly rattled, then did the Yankees a major favour by hitting Teixeira with a pitch, sending him to first and bringing A-Rod to the plate. It hasn’t exactly been a vintage World Series for Rodriguez either, though at least he hit a home run in Game 3 .  This time he produced just the right hit at just the right time – a one-hop line drive into the left field wall, bringing home Damon from third to make it 5-4 for the Yankees.  That brought up another cool head in Jorge Posada,  whose 2-run single brought home Teixeira and A-Rod to pad the lead to 7-4.  Another 8-pitch classic from Mariano Rivera  then saw the Yankees home in some comfort.

So, the Yankees could clinch the World Series in Philadelphia tonight, but the impressive Cliff Lee will be on the mound for the Phillies, so they will have to do it the hard way.  For all the brave talk, you sense that the Phillies will be hurting more than a little over last night’s loss and the Yankees will no doubt be oozing confidence. 

For me, it’s too close to call….maybe tonight will be the night Mark Teixeira arrives in the World Series….well, I can hope, can’t I?

World Series Game 3: Things hotting up in Philadelphia…

Good to see the Yankees getting their noses in front in Game 3 of the World Series.  Pettitte pitched a stormer and  Matsui, A-Rod and the ‘rehabbed’ Nick Swisher hit home runs in an 8-5 win

The Yankees now lead 2-1 in the series and with C.C. Sabathia probably pitching tonight, they can really turn the screws on the Phillies…..Philadelphia are a very good team, but a  potential 3-1 lead , with the possibility of  Games 6 & 7 back in The Bronx has got to look inviting to the Yanks, so let’s hope that C.C. is back to his normal unstoppable self tonight.

Andy Pettitte – a vintage performance in Game 3

World Series, Game 2: No meltdown from A.J……….

After my previous comments (28/10) about the need for the Yankees to shackle Chase Utley & Ryan Howard in order to beat the Phillies, the fact that Utley got away from C.C. Sabathia to hit two home runs in a Game 1 mauling seemed horribly prophetic.

I was hoping to be not  quite so accurate when  revisiting  my earlier comments about A.J. Burnett, who was the starting pitcher in what was already looking like a crucial Game 2 last night.  For someone reputed to be a pitching ‘ace’,  A.J. has looked a tad wobbly at times in his first season, but last night he did – thankfully – have his ‘A’ game available and outfought Pedro Martinez as the Yankees took Game 2 by 3-1.  Homers from Teixeira & Matsui gave the Yankees enough of an edge and Mo came on in the 8th to see that things finished quietly.

Next up, the whole circus moves to Philadelphia for three games, presumably with Andy Pettitte facing up to the erratic Cole Hamels on Saturday in Game 3 and, given the circumstances,  probably with C.C. back for  Game 4.

Last year, the Phillies split the opening two games with the Rays, then returned home and won the next three, so let’s hope that there’s no repeat and that the Yankees emerge from Philly with more than just cheese-steak stains on their clothes to show for their visit….

In search of # 27…..

The World Series begins in The Bronx tonight…..

How Yankees fans have waited…and waited… and waited to be able to say that.

The last year they made it was the first year I started watching baseball seriously- 2003 – when they lost to the Marlins.

Better luck this time, guys.

You have to hope that the experience of the likes of Posada, Mo & Jeter has a calming effect on people like Swisher & Burnett whose nervousness is almost tangible. A.J. in particular needs to get his game face on without any further screw-ups.

The Phillies are a good team but if the Yankees can shackle Utley & Howard, they could be on the way to World Championship # 27.

Here’s hoping….

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Mixed emotions

Liverpool 2 United 0……

Yankees 5  Angels 2……

A day of mixed emotions….Both teams looked below par at Anfield and the predicted draw looked on until Rio allowed Torres to out-muscle him.  Once behind, United came out of their shell and looked far more dangerous, but Reina was still severely under-occupied. Not sure that Paul Scholes can really function at this level any more, Patrice Evra once again our most dynamic player.  The referee was a ‘homer’ as well – how he could (rightly) send off Vidic and not send off Carragher for a similar offence on Owen beggars belief.  I’m sure that Ferguson would have slated him were he not already in hot water for his comments about referees of late.  A disappointing afternoon for all United fans but I suspect this win won’t save the Dippers season…we shall see.

*Oct 25 - 00:05*

 

Better news from The Bronx, where a stellar pitching performance from Andy Pettitte finally laid the pesky Angels to rest as the Yankees took Game 6 of the ALCS to win the series 4-2.

The Yankees won’t have long to celebrate though as the World Series starts Wednesday….the so-called ‘Turnpike Series’ vs the current World Champion Philadelphia Phillies.

In a way, I can’t lose as the Phillies are my ‘other’ (National League) team, but I won’t be sitting on the fence as I’ll be rooting for the Yankees….

Home comforts for Yankees…

With the increasingly erratic A.J. Burnett digging the Yankees into a 0-4 hole in the first inning of last night’s ALCS5 in Anaheim, I headed for bed with few expectations.  However, a quick check this morning reveals that the Yankees hauled themselves out of that hole only to promptly fall right back in again, ultimately losing 7-6 and setting up Game 6 back in the Bronx on Saturday.  Let’s hope that the friendly confines of Yankee Stadium prove to be just that, with Andy Pettitte on the mound.

ALCS Game 5 - New York Yankees vs. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Burnett can’t bear to look after a less-than-stellar start to Game 5 – I know how he feels……