Wednesday, July 12, 2006

WAIT, I THOUGHT THE MARATHON WAS IN APRIL

Thoughts while I am still trying to catch-up on everything after the emotional roller coaster on Sunday of the Sox game that finally ended after nineteen innings:

The controversy surrounding Manny Ramirez not going to the All-Star Game is so ludicrous. I mean, Barry Bonds is walking the streets of San Francisco as a free man and Bud Lite Selig can only rant and rave about Manny. Whether he was the highest vote-getter or the last player chosen, he has every right to say no for no reason whatsoever. What is criminal is when players with no claim to being close to an All-Star are dragged onto the squad and a worthy All-Star is left back. I remember in the 90s the Red Sox had no one even close to All-Star status, but Scott Cooper was picked as the team representative (because every team must be represented) and it was such a source of shame. I remember thinking it would be preferable that no one represented the team rather than someone who was so not worthy as being seen as one of the top 25 odd players in the league. I think that is the same debate you have seen with the Kansas City Royals and Mark Redman this season: no one deserves it and someone has to go, worthy or not, so someone else deserving of the spot is left back. At least this year there were no .220 hitters sliding in due to being a traditional fan favorite.

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Nice to see Mark Loretta, the much deserving All Star second baseman. Hey, where was Tony Graffanino? I thought the consensus from the windbags on the blather box was: Graff iz way bettah den dis here Loretta guy. That there is the number one reason I could never be a radio talk host: I cannot deal with these bozos and Frank from Gloucester types. I would just insult them and hang-up. All day long. I would not give them the bully pulpit to show the world their ignorance.

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How funny was it that four out of the six former Red Sox shortstops (or shortstop prospects) in the last decade were at the All-Star Game? Nomar, David Eckstein, Freddy Sanchez (traded for Suppan. Suppan!), and Edgar Renteria were all on the NL squad (Hanley Ramirez, a potential future all star, and Adam Everett, who has yet to start hitting for the Astros took the three days off).

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Not to continue to beat-up on Proud to Be Your Bud Selig, but to say that baseball is eradicating amphetamine use and that they only recently knew of the issue is mind-boggling. I knew it was an issue as a kid back in the 80s and I knew that because I read one of the most popular baseball books, Ball Four by Jim Bouton, which was published in the late sixties/early seventies. If I knew there was an amphetamine problem in baseball at the age of eight, what the where the heck was Bud Dry the past 30 years? (The literal answer is: Milwaukee. But I meant it figuratively.)

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Poor Ken Rosenthal doing his first report from the stands at the all-star game. He should have slugged that obnoxious invertebrate that was waving and mugging for the camera behind him. How any of these guys (and Tina Cervasio at NESN, so not just guys) deal with these drunk protozoa is beyond me.
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I try to like the Joe Young Buck on Fox. His Dad was one of the greatest announcers ever, and he has a tough act to follow: as many doors as his last name has opened, just as many have closed because of the impossible standards his Dad set all those years announcing Cardinal games in the Midwest. Young Joe is an improving writer in his monthly article in the Sporting News, his Fathers Day Budweiser ad was truly moving, and he has to put up with Tim McCarver, which makes anyone have to do that much more behind the mike to raise the level of the broadcast. Nothing is really wrong with him. I guess it could have been worse: we could have had the RemDawg shilling his wares throughout the game.

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WORLD CUP WRAP-UP:

Azzurri: Campione del mondo

Yes, it's true. The Italian squad is the newly crowned World Cup champion.

After an extra time thriller vs. 1998 Cup champs France, the Azzurri win on penalty kicks 5-3. Think of the parties in the North End last night. I didn't hear of any cars getting trashed, but then again, I haven't tuned into the news this morning. The match was definitely an exciting one, with an early penalty on the Italians for a "trip" of winger Florent Malouda in the 6th minute of play. Zinedine Zidane chipped in a goal on the penalty kick to put Les Bleus up 1-0. However, Italy found their equalizer with a beautiful header later on in the first half. That's the way things stayed, even through extra time, with both teams coming dangerously close to scoring for a second time. The decider of penalty kicks was the usually-accurate Davide Trezeguet hitting the top of the crossbar and getting denide while the sure-footed Italians faked out Febien Barthez each time to score 5 straight and win the match and the cup.

Zinedine Zidane

Throughout the World Cup, I have been impressed with the play of Zinedine Zidane. So much impressed, that I even considered searching for a Zidane replica jersey to sport on Sunday. However, my opinion of him deflated in extra time vs. Italy when he landed a head-butt on an Italian player, thus getting himself red-carded and sent off to end his international career on a disgraceful note. How unfortunate that a player, a highly skilled player, whose legacy started in the 1998 world cup with a championship, gets to leave on such a sour note, a note that will surely resonate with Zidane fans and Zidane-haters worldwide. One can only imagine what could have been if Zidane was taking a penalty kick at the end of Sunday's game. France might well be hoisting the trophy today.

What may have been

I am, like many Americans, always a champion for the underdog. That is why I was rooting for Australia to make the field of 16, and to upset the Italians in the second round. Unfortunately, the Socceroos fell short, giving a way a highly-debatable penalty kick at the very end of stoppage time in their match vs. Italy. What if the Italians had gone to extra time a man down vs. the Aussies? Perhaps Australia would have pulled off the upset. What would that have meant for the rest of the field? Well, my thought is that Australia would have had the most amazing tournament ever.

Given that they weren't even expected to make the round of 16, I'd say Guus Hiddink managed the boys from down-under quite well. However, the next match for Australia, had they toppled the giants, would have been vs. another upstart, Ukraine. Definitely a winnable match for the Australians.

Do not ask the Germans about "What if..." in this case, because that would mean the German squad would get to play Australia or Ukraine in the semi-finals. Given the superiority of the home squad to both of the upstarts, I'd say the finals would have been a lock for Michael Ballack and the boys from Germany. Still, things turned out the way they did with Italy ending Australia's world cup dream in stoppage time, defeating Ukraine handily, and then breaking Germany's collective hearts in extra time, and then finally winning it all vs. France. A good, action-packed World Cup in 2006, to say the least.

Wayne Rooney

Don't talk to me about Rooney. That punk may make me into a Liverpool fan yet...

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