Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Flyers battle full moon for win

Maybe it was the full moon.

After a nearly four-hour marathon rife with confusion, shaky officiating, a schizophrenic scoreboard and a lineup card blunder, Orange County Flyers wrapped up a three-game sweep over the Long Beach Armada, 10-9, Wednesday night at Blair Field. The Flyers improved to a Golden Baseball League leading 14-6 record. They have now won their last seven games, including 11 of their last 12.

This game began to develop an eyebrow-raising theme as a full moon set in, however no credible horoscope could have predicted the ensuing confusion. In the bottom of the third with the Armada holding a 2-1 lead, Long Beach’s DH Chris Wakeland opened the inning by blasting a shot to deep left field just inches shy of clearing the wall. The ball bounced on top of the wall and came back into the field, never actually leaving the ballpark. The umpires ruled it a homerun for Wakeland, which brought Flyers manager Garry Templeton out for the first of the games many discussions.

Long Beach (10-10) scored three in the bottom of the third to open at 5-1 lead. Scott Goodman jump-started the Flyers offense to lead off the fourth inning with a solo homerun off the scoreboard in right-center field. The Flyers used a three-run fourth to get back into the game. Goodman finished the night 2-3 with 3 RBI.

With the game tied 5-5 heading into the sixth inning, David Bacani and Garry Templeton II reached on consecutive walks. Flyers DH Rich Pohle singled to score Bacani and move Templeton to second, setting up Peanut Williams for what would turn into an eventful at-bat. Williams struck out looking as both Templeton and Pohle began running for third and second, respectively. Long Beach catcher Cole Cicateli threw the ball into left field trying to catch Templeton at third.

As Templeton broke for home and Pohle for third, the focus shifted to the batter’s circle, where home plate umpire Jeff Cisneros tossed the 2006 GBL MVP Williams for arguing the called third strike, taking Cisneros’ attention away from the play. Armada manager Darrell Evans then emerged from the home dugout to argue interference on Williams.

The game settled down until the seventh inning, where the only thing more unclear than the umpires was the scoreboard, which at one point displayed a football-like score of Flyers 17, Armada 31. Aaron Davis stepped up to the plate in the top of the seventh with one out and Hector Zamora on first. Davis tapped a ball in front of the plate, and Cicateli made the routine fielder’s choice throw to second for the force out on Zamora. Davis ran down the first base line, stepped on first and veered off into foul territory before the next at bat. Armada pitcher Sean Buller then threw the ball to first base, where Jason Mooneyham tagged Davis in foul territory for the final out of the frame. The umpires ruled Davis had vacated first, however, Davis – the league’s leading hitter – never made an aggressive move toward second.

The moon played tricks on the Armada’s compass in the bottom of the eighth when Dan Trumble stepped in to bat for Jorge Araiza. With no one out and Armada second baseman Kirk Gross on first, Trumble popped up to shallow right field. The ball dropped, but Bacani quickly slung the ball to second for the force out. Templeton then came out to protest Trumble’s at-bat, arguing he was not on the lineup card for this game. Trumble was ruled out, prompting Evans to come out of the dugout and argue the call. The inning ended one batter later when Long Beach’s John Kaplan grounded into a 6-4-3 double play.

The Armada made a charge in the bottom of the ninth down 10-7, when Jaime Martinez crushed a two-run homerun through the thick Long Beach sky, pulling the fleet within one run before Dave Coggin retired the next two batters to secure the win.

After battling the full moon and all her mischief, the Flyers hit the road for four games against second-place Chico to wrap up the week. Orange County is 2-0 against the Outlaws on the season. Thursday’s first pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m.

The games can be heard live on 1370 KWRM and at

Monday, June 18, 2007

OC Flyers

As many of you know, for the past month I've been working with the Orange County Flyers professional baseball team -- and what a month it's been. If you haven't heard about the Flyers, you're missing out. Big time.

I've been to different minor league baseball stadiums from Texas to California and a few places in between, and from what I've seen, no one puts on a better show than the Flyers. Sure, it's not major league baseball, but that's not why you're going to come to our games. You're going to come for the fun atmosphere and the family setting.

So if you're sitting at home at night not having any fun, we've got the cure down at Goodwin Field in Fullerton. Come to a Flyers game!

And hey, if you're not there for the baseball, you can see me get beat up by Coal Train the coyote, our crazy mascot. So check it out, and we'll see yall there.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

French Open title not needed for Federer

As I rolled out of bed this morning at the ungodly hour of 6:00 a.m. Pacific Time to watch the French Open men's singles final between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal (recap/results), I thought about how a win for Federer would most likely secure his place as the greatest men's singles champion of all time. Then I thought about how ridiculous of a statement that truly was.

It's not ridiculous to think winning the French Open would make him one of the all-time greats - after all, he's already got 10 grand slam titles, only four shy of tying Pete Sampras for the most all time. But it's ridiculous to think that he'd need to win a championship at Roland Garros to prove his greatness. Hasn't Roger already done enough? If you just look at what he's done in the tennis realm, you know he has.

Just think about. He's won 10 grand slams since the summer of 2003, when he captured his first of four consecutive Wimbledon titles. In a little less than a month, he'll try to make it five in a row. No one has ever won Wimbledon five straight times in the Open Era (since 1968), and it hasn't been done since Laurie Doherty did it more than 100 years ago (1902-1906).

Federer might as well be a landscaper. No one knows how to work grass better than he does. Pete Sampras may have seven titles at the All England Lawn and Tennis Club, but he - much like the rest of men's singles players - is powerless to stop Federer's assault on the record books (and the field). Aside from his four titles at Wimbledon, he has three championships at both the Australian and U.S. Opens. The only non-bright spot - if you can even call it that - is the fact that he hasn't won the French Open.

Boo [expletive] hoo

Federer will continue to close in on Sampras's record of 14 slam titles until he eventually passes Pistol Pete to become to greatest champion ever in men's tennis. The fact that Rafael Nadal has beaten Federer in the last two French Open finals, preventing a career slam for Federer, has zero effect on Federer's place in history. Federer does not need a clay-court slam to be the all-time greatest.

Pete Sampras is the greatest men's singles player of all-time ... for now. A look at Sampras's numbers adding up to his 14 career Glam Slam titles:
- 7 championships at Wimbledom
- career record at Wimbledon: 63-7
- 2 championship at the Australian Open
- career record at the Australian Open: 45-9
- 5 championships at the U.S. Open
- career record at the U.S. Open: 71-9

And here's a quick look at how Sampras finished at Roland Garros each time he played there:
- 13 appearances
- 8 combined first- and second-round loses
- one semi-final appearance (1996)
- career record at the French Open: 24-13

Sampras in his prime at best sniffed the finals at the French Open. Federer has already played in two championship matches on the red clay. Those two loses came at the hands of possibly one of the best clay-court stars in the history of the sports (after all, Nadal is 34-0 now in best-of-5 matches on clay in his career with a 21-0 record at the French Open).

So while Federer may have been unable to defeat Nadal to complete his career slam, I say it's not necessary. Federer's legacy will be one of the best until the day he passes Sampras, at which point he will be regarded as the best.

Sure, Federer doesn't have much competition outside Nadal - and if you think Andy Roddick has any chance of competing with him, you either don't follow tennis or you got hit in the head by one of Federer's serves. Sampras had to go up against some great players to win his 14 championships, including Andre Agassi, Goran Ivanisevic, Boris Becker and Michael Chang. Other than Nadal, Federer's competition has about as much star-power as the Kansas City Royals.

That's not meant to take anything away from Federer. He's virtually untouchable unless your name is Rafael Nadal and you're playing on red clay. So don't think that a career lacking a title at Roland Garros isn't worthy of being known as the greatest career ever assembled. With 10 slams already conquered, it's only a matter of time before he ties and passes Sampras.

The clock will certainly continue to tick at The Championships at Wimbledon where Federer will no doubt pick up No. 11.

Nadal may own Federer on clay, but when they get to London, the Spaniard's ass ... well ... is grass.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Tipping off: NBA Finals Preview

The NBA's King is in position to firmly take control of his throne. After walloping the Wizards, nipping the Nets, and posterizing the Pistons, LeBron James has the Cleveland Cavaliers in the franchises first-ever NBA Finals.

It sounds good on paper. The NBA's golden boy in the finals. The "next MJ" is about to take that step toward greatness. Winning the championship in his fourth season puts LeBron in a category by himself -- as in he's doing this virtually by himself.

There's just one problem.

The San Antonio Spurs - winners of three of the last eight NBA Finals - are back in the big show. Anchored by Tim Duncan and Tony Parker, the defenders of the Alamo are set to once again conquer the Association. Yes, I've seen that one highlight of LeBron dunking over Duncan from this season. But, please please EPSN, get over it. It's one highlight. Check it out when you're watching Sportscenter. That's the only highlight they're showing of James, because he hasn't really done much else.

Yes, he beat the Pistons with an amazing performance to secure that series in the pivotal Game 5 in Detroit. But while it seems so many people are drinking James's Kool-Aid, I'm not ready to grab a cup and fill 'er up.

One thing to keep in mind for the NBA Finals is the scheduling format. It's no longer a 2-2-1-1-1 series. The Finals are 2-3-2. Some people argue that it's very hard for the lower seed to win three consecutive home games - then Detroit and Miami dispelled that myth in 2004 and 2006, respectively. For this series, I think the Spurs defend their home court. They've done a decent job of it throughout the playoffs - not flawless, but good enough. The Cavs on the other hand haven't dominated on the road in the postseason.

If the Spurs win the first two games, the Cavs will be more than capable of bouncing back and evening the series at 2-2. But I think that fifth game is when San Antonio's experience will come into play. Unlike the Pistons - whose we'll show up when we feel like it mentality during the postseason left them at home for the Finals - the Spurs know how to rise to the occasion. The team around LeBron is too young and too inexperienced to truly compete with San Antonio.

Don't get me wrong. Cleveland is good. LeBron is borderline great. But they are going to need to wait a year before they bring home a title to Cleveland.

I know some of the stats say that the Cavs can contend. As a matter of fact, I think they'll do more than contend. They'll downright push the Spurs to the brink. But when the Spurs get pushed to the brink, more often than not they push back much harder. (And when they're not pushing back, Manu Ginobili is fouling Dirk Nowitzki to send the Mavs to the 2006 Western Conference Finals.) Point is, the Spurs don't lose all that much in the playoffs.

Look at the teams that have beaten San Antonio in the past few postseasons:
2006 - Mavericks (conference semis) - 7 games
2005 - NBA Champions
2004 - Los Angeles Lakers (conference semis) - 6 games
2003 - NBA Champions
2002 - Los Angeles Lakers (conference semis) - 5 games

Those Lakers teams were untouchable, and that Mavericks team benefitted from the Leon Lett Appreciation Moment of Ginobili's career.

Tell me exactly how the Cavs are going to put their names on that list?

They won't. Not this season.

No Joshin' prediction: Spurs in 6

Monday, June 04, 2007

You got served

Storylines like today's will help bring tennis back. There's no doubt that the sport of tennis is suffering here in the U.S. It doesn't help that only one American singles player - Serena Williams - is left in the draw.

And today the focus is on Williams's match with Justine Henin. It's not just No. 8 versus No. 1. It's not just the lone American versus the two-time defending French Open champion. This is a rematch from a three-set thriller I vividly remember watching in the summer of 2003. The 2003 semifinals at Roland Garros frustrated the hell out of me.

In my opinion it is the match that defines who Justine Henin is as a tennis player: a unsportsmanlike cheat.

In the third set, Serena Williams was serving a crucial point when Henin raised her hand signaling she wasn't ready. Serena pulled up short on her serve, serving a fault. The chair umpire called a fault, so Serena pleaded her case that Henin signaled for her to hold up. Henin didn't acknowledge the guesture. Instead, she just shrugged it off and asked to continue the match.

From there a jeering crowd began to get to the then-unbeatable Williams. Henin went on to win the third set and began a downward spiral for Williams's career. Everyone watching that match could see numerous replays of Henin clearly raising a hand to stop Williams from serving. And then everyone also saw her fail to live up to a code of sportsmanship expected in a game like tennis. When asked about it after the match, all she had to say was that in the heat of competition, she wasn't sure what Serena was arguing, so she just stayed out of it.


Ever since I've had Henin pegged as a liar and a cheat. It was one serve, and she clearly put her hand up to stall Williams. Live up to it. Admit it. Come clean with it. And yet, she didn't.

So when Williams takes the court to face off against the women's draw's top seed, I want to see Williams completely dismantle the Belgian. I've wanted to see Williams win to see the advancement of Americans (or really the only American) in Grand Slam tournaments. But for tomorrow's match, I just want Henin to get a taste of the bitter medicine she served Serena four years ago.

A win tomorrow by Serena Williams is not only a win for the United States. It's a win for sportsmanship.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Hockey sighting

Tonight the Stanley Cup Finals made its triumphant 2007 network television debut, and the sport didn't disappoint.

The Ducks and Senators put on a high-energy, high-scoring game 3 that proved capable of capturing the attention of any half-hearted sports fan who may be channel-surfing on by (which is how I ended up watching the second and third periods). I thought I'd be focused on the Pistons-Cavs Game 6 tonight; I like watching basketball more than hockey. Instead, I watched the NBA Eastern Conference Finals during commercials and intermissions, going back to the Cup Finals as my primary channel.

It was great.

I really enjoyed watching the hockey game - a privilege I was denied for the first two games of the Stanley Cup Finals because it was only televised on the Versus (whatthefuck?) network. Thanks to NBC, the county was able to at least have the opportunity to watch hockey tonight. I don't know how many people tuned it, but if the NHL plays more games like that one, the league will have no problem gaining fans.

Ottawa came to life for the first time in this series to win, 5-3. The crowd in Ottawa represented a hockey-loving nation yearning for a championship, but also represented the passion this sport can generate. As a casual hockey fan, I can appreciate the energy and excitement tonight's game stirred up.

The NHL better hope that remaining games of these Stanley Cup Finals are just as competitve. They need the ratings. They need to gain back the fans. More importantly, they need a reason to keep their games on networks that people have heard of.

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