Monday, June 23, 2008

Olympics: Men's gymnastics team announced

A day late and perhaps a dollar short, but here's the team:

Jonathan Horton earned his spot outright by placing first in the Trials process (40% Nationals and 60% Olympic Trials meet). The selection committee (rightly) named Paul Hamm to the team. He broke his hand at Nats and had to petition for a spot. He should be healthy for the Olympics in plenty of time (he'll prove his health in late July at a training camp). Morgan Hamm was also named to the team, and my gut says this is a good add.

The other three? I THOUGHT the committee would give a spot to Raj Bhavsar (Houston native and 2004 alternate), David Durante (who looks to be a vault/rings guy), and Sasha Artemev (who could cover pommel horse quite well). But no! My casual fanship of this sport over the last couple years (and dedicated fanship from 2000-2004) was apparently not enough for me to make ANY accurate predictions beyond the Hamm twins and Horton.

Joe Hagerty, Justin Spring, and Kevin Tan make up the rest of the team. I've never heard of Hagerty, I've heard Spring's name for a few years and seen a couple of his routines, and Kevin Tan is a guy that is unknown to me beyond seeing his name on quickly-scanned results pages. I was SHOCKED to see this lineup, and I hope that these guys have enough experience (I don't think so) to hack it at the Olympics because there are high hopes for this team. I want to see another team medal. With Sasha, David, and Raj I thought we could get a gold, even. Seeing what those guys are capable of, I had confidence in them. These other three? No idea. I'll be reading up on them in the last month or so until the Olympics. I hope the selection committee is seeing something I'm missing, cause this looks like a great disappointment waiting to happen. Think: 2000.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Marco Scutaro, how are you real?

This was inspired by a thread on Myspace about how awesome Mariano Rivera is, even though he's kind of old. Whenever the-last-remaining-#42 is mentioned, just one game comes to mind, one glorious game in April.

I wrote this little ditty and posted it in that thread, but decided that here would be a good, permanent home for it.

Warnings: The following may induce A's fans (or people who love to see the Yankees fail in the grandest fashions) to throw their hands in the air in triumph -- make sure you're not going to punch anything that may hurt you or be broken before continuing.


I will tell you about my favorite Mariano Rivera outing. I invite you all to share your own.

Over a year ago in the bright sunlight of the Oakland Coliseum, it’s a day game in April, and the date is Sunday the 15th.

The attendance is 35,077, the same it’s been for the whole series – a sellout crowd (in more ways than one). The Yankees are in town. More than just the famed Mariano Rivera is wearing the number 42.

Rich Harden is pitching.

A two-run first inning had put the A's up early, but their bats were unable to produce the rest of the game.

Goose eggs for both teams until the seventh inning, where after two pitches to Alex Rodriguez (a strike and a ball) Jason Kendall trots out to the mound in all his veteran glory and is joined by home plate umpire Laz Diaz and then the pitching coach, manager, and trainer.

Meanwhile, Rodriguez gets treatment of his own for a bloody nose.

Rich shakes his head at Larry Davis and speaks some in his Canadian tongue, which he slips into in moments of frustration and pain. (Davis, of course, is well-versed in Canadian after spending so much time with the oft-injured pitcher.)

Rich shrugs, nods, and smirks at manager Bob Geren, who is not so familiar with Canadian and steps off the mound to allow Rich to throw some pitches. Rich throws one high and windmills his shoulder. He insists upon staying in the game and Geren, lulled into a false sense of security by the Canadian's charm and gentle smirk, lets him stay in.

Rodriguez, bloody nose taken care of, steps into the box. He works a double off Rich and Geren heads back to the mound and takes the ball from that tricky Canadian. He is done for the day, done for the week, and done for most of the season.

Joe Kennedy (may he rest in peace) enters the game to face Jason Giambi (who is being heartily booed by the Oakland faithful). His first pitch ends up in right field and there are runners on the corners with no outs, Jorge Posada up to the plate. He scorches a double down the left field line on the 9th pitch of the at-bat, scoring Rodriguez and sending Giambi, not exactly fleet of foot, to third. Rich's run has scored and the lead is hanging on by a thread with men on second and third and no outs. The sun beats down on Joe's fair skin and the temperature rises.

Giambi scores on a sacrifice fly by Robinson Cano and it’s a tie ballgame. It’s 2-2 and Rich’s win is gone. Joe has blown the save and with one out and a runner on third he can only hope to get back into the dugout without giving up another run.

Kiko Calero is up in the bullpen.

The Yankees take the lead on a sac fly from Melky Cabrera and Joe keeps sweating. Doug Mientkiewicz strikes out trying to check his swing and the inning is over.

But in the 8th, Joe gives up another run to make it 4-2, Yankees. Kiko comes in to finish of the inning and Jay Marshall pitches a scoreless 9th.

Athletics fans shake their heads when Mariano Rivera steps in, that number 42 on his back making them wince, thinking of their broken starter on this Jackie Robinson Day (not to mention the closer’s impeccable stats and spotless baseball reputation).

Eric Chavez grounds out on the first pitch of his at bat and A’s fans sigh.

Bobby Crosby hits a fly ball to right field, giving the A’s fans a brief rush of “Maybe, could he possibly …?” before it lands in Bobby Abreu’s glove. The A’s fans either sit down to wait out the last out or walk up the aisles to beat the traffic home.

Todd Walker (who else remembered he had a stint with the A’s in 2007?) slaps a basehit to left field and some of those fans walking out slide into a seat, just in case.

Jason Kendall is at bat and as he is swinging through a pitch Todd takes second base on defensive indifference. Jason takes on a 3-1 count and the umpire calls a strike. Geren hollers from the A’s dugout and A’s fans make themselves known. “Are ya crazy, blue? That was a mile high! Who’s payin’ your salary -- Steinbrenner?”

Marco Scutaro is on deck, taking his swings and waiting for the moment he was born for.

Jason fouls off the next pitch and the pitch after that and the one after that goes off his ankle. He’s a hard-nosed gamer not afraid to get dirty, but that’s not what he’s getting paid to do as an Oakland Athletic; he’s getting paid to get on base.

Jason steps back in and waves his bat and takes a pitch high and at his hands. As he takes his base the remaining A’s fans get to their feet – the winning run is at the plate and it’s Marco Scutaro holding the bat!

Posada walks out to the mound and pats Rivera on the back. Maybe he’s saying what to throw next, maybe he’s talking about what Marco’s weaknesses are, and maybe he’s just telling him a joke. Whatever it is, Marco waits patiently, prepared.

Batting ninth in this game Marco has struck out twice and grounded to short, hardly anyone’s best hope in this kind of situation, but all of Oakland remembers his magical doubles and how the stadium shook with their shouts of his name last October, the team clean and crisp and finally finally winning.

Rivera paints the black for a called strike and Marco steps back, appraising the opposing pitcher. He bows his head, adjusts his helmet, and eyes his bat as if to say, “You got a hit in you? Please, jus’ don’ strike out.” He spits in the dirt and steps back in, tapping the ground with his bat and digging in with his cleats. Marco pulls the next pitch foul and the crowd is so full of Yankees fans that hardly a sound goes up in hope. Marco steps out of the box and applies more pine tar to his bat.

It’s the bottom of the ninth. There are two outs. Todd Walker is on second, Jason Kendall is on first, the score is 4-2 favoring the visitors and Marco stands in with an 0-2 count. The crowd gets loud, Yankees fans cheering for a strike and Oakland fans just wanting to get another man on for Bradley. They dare not hope for more. Their tender hearts are already hurting from the loss of their short right-handed power pitcher.

The runners take their leads off their respective bases.

Rivera leans in, gets his sign, then straightens up.

Marco peers out intently from under the brim of his batting helmet and the ball is on its way.

Marco makes contact to left field, it’s high, it’s away, it’s heading towards the foul pole --

“If it’s fair, it’s ------ GONE! THE A’S WIN IT! SCUTARO WINS IT! Celebrate -- Oakland A’s, are you kidding me?”

Marco rounds the bases after Todd and Jason, rushing to meet the clutch of his teammates surrounding home plate, smiles splashed across their faces and the A’s fans, out-cheering the Yankees fans for once, shouting his name --



Rivera left Oakland that April 15th, still looking for his first save of the 2007 season.

Monday, June 9, 2008

2008 Beijing Olympics

As many of you may already know, I live for the Olympics. I remember one swimming event from Barcelona, a bunch of stuff from women's gymnastics in 1996, but my real love for the Olympics began in 2000 during the Sydney Games.

I'll refrain from waxing poetic on the importance of the Olympics. This post is just to introduce my "obsession" to my readers. As the summer goes on and the Olympics start I'll post more about the Games.