Friday, March 31, 2006

WMC: Team Profile Fenson

Meant to do a profile yesterday, but life got in the way, so today I'm going to try to get the last two in. First up is Team Fenson, also known as Team USA.

The United States was supposed to be a force to be reckoned with on the Pinerolo ice, we were heavily favored to go home from the Torino games having won the nation's first curling medal. This was after the women dropped two games during the semifinals on the ice in Provo in 2002, leaving with 4th place.

The only problem? It was our women who were favored, not our men. It was the Curl Girls who were supposed to be decorated, whereas Pete Fenson's team was supposed to finish somewhere in the middle of the pack. Well, the Torino games are now history, and the Curl Girls fell apart while Pete Fenson made a quiet run where he just kept not losing games. When all was said and done, it was the pizza man from Minnesota who stood on the podium in the Torino piazza, having beaten out the Scottish team for the bronze medal.

The new problem? No one will be overlooking the United States now. There's a very real chance that we surprised a few teams in Torino, but now all the expectations in the world are being heaped upon us. Not only has the US team walked away witha surprise medal in Torino, but it's also the host nation for this bonspiel. It's not going to be on the Bimidji ice where Fenson and Johnson both grew up curling, but it is American ice. Of course it's American ice close enough to Canada for the curling-mad Canadians to fill the ice house in Lowell. But that's a matter for the next team profile.

If the US can pull off another strong performance, and end up in the Page Finals, it's going to be huge. We've done well at world championships in the past, but it would be great to see Team Fenson become a legitimate power on the world curling stage, and not just a one time fluke in Torino.

Not bad for a pizzaria owner.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

WMC: Team Profile Murdoch

Scotland is the nation that has perhaps the best claim to the invention of the sport of curling. It fits the track record of the other sports that have come out of the nation. Getting a small ball into a cup hundreds of yards away. Trying to throw a giant timber. Trying to keep your kilt from blowing up in a strong wind. And, trying to get hunks of granite to stop at a specific point after being slid down a sheet of ice.

However, invention has not guaranteed success.

In the Olympic bonspiel, four teams advance out of the round robin to play for medals. Three of them will be successful. The fourth...well... Know the old cliche that second place is first loser? I'd argue that in the Olympics, fourth place is first loser. And looking back to Tornio, the Scottish nation team (playing, as they do for the games, under the flag of Great Britian) went into the semis as part of a pack of three teams that finished a game back from the robin winnning Finns, and ended up losing first to U15, and then to the Pizzaman's upstart team of Yanks.

Murdoch is back. And the team is back under Saint Andrew's Cross, playing for Scotland on the Lowell ice. And probably looking for some revenge, or at least a better finish than they managed in Tornio.

And there ain't no one better to be skipping for them than Murdoch. Coming out of Lockerbie (yes, that Lockerbie) he debuted getting silver at last year's World Championship, took his rink into the semis of a deep field in Torino, and has a lot of success on the European Junior circuit under his belt. Also, at only 27 he's likely to be a force in international curling for at least one or two more Olympic cycles. Though Scotland is one of the tougher places to make a name for yourself curling. With better than 90% of the sheets in Great Britian, there's always going to be someone else looking to take your place.

Backing up Murdoch will be the same quartet that he lead to 4th place in Torino, a sort of dream team culled from Scottish curling clubs. Most countries send pre-established teams to these tournaments, but the Scots decided to try and maximize success the same way the US has in basketball the last few Olympics. Now the team is a little more congealed, and know each others styles even better, it could be a serious force of nature in Lowell.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

WMC: Team Profile U15

Can you stand more curling? Of course! The last big bonspiel of the season is kicking off this Saturday in Lowell, Mass. It's time for the 2006 World Mens Championship! After this tournament, this blog will go from being mostly curling to being generic sports with a slight Nationals focus, as there's just going to be less curling to talk about.

But let's not think about that, let's think about the WMC! There's four teams that I'm going to be following healily this tournament. They happen to be the same four countries that made the playoffs in Torino, and they are viewed as probably the favorite four rinks going into Lowell. Somewhat sadly, the Kiwi team that bumped their way into the Olympic bonspiel just to go home empty handed has not qualified for a spot this tournament. In addition, the auto-qualified Italian team that made some waves is not going to be present. Instead, the field is as follows:

Denmark, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Norway, Scotland, Sweden, Switzerland, Australia, Japan, Canada, USA

So, let's look first at the team that took silver in Torino. Finland is going to be represented by the same four curlers that took the Pinerolo ice, lead by the notably geeky man that the world just calls U15. His real name is the quite unweildy Markku Uusipaavalniemi, hence the rush to find him a nickname. U15 simply refers to the length of his last name. It's also the last time you're going to see his full name in this blog, because I had to copy and paste it that time, and there's no way I'm ever going to get it right.

The man is, by no stretch, a mathematical genius. He was once tested as the best mathematical mind in his country, can blow through a Rubik's Cube in seconds, and takes that knowledge out onto the ice. Curling is, at its base, a game of physics, angles, and math. Of course, there's knowing where the perfect shot needs to go, then actually putting it there.

This is the team that emerged atop the Olympic round robin with a 7-2 record that included losses only to Germany and the Swiss, before a horrible gold medal match that included surrendering a 6-point end (that should have been seven save for a missed shot by the Canadian skip) and ultimately conceding and taking home the silver after 8 ends.

Whether or not U-15 sees that as something that needs to be avenged, there's no way this Finland team is going to roll over, and they will be a force to be reckoned with on the Lowell ice.

WMC: Team Profile U15

Can you stand more curling? Of course! The last big bonspiel of the season is kicking off this Saturday in Lowell, Mass. It's time for the 2006 World Mens Championship! After this tournament, this blog will go from being mostly curling to being generic sports with a slight Nationals focus, as there's just going to be less curling to talk about.

But let's not think about that, let's think about the WMC! There's four teams that I'm going to be following healily this tournament. They happen to be the same four countries that made the playoffs in Torino, and they are viewed as probably the favorite four rinks going into Lowell. Somewhat sadly, the Kiwi team that bumped their way into the Olympic bonspiel just to go home empty handed has not qualified for a spot this tournament. In addition, the auto-qualified Italian team that made some waves is not going to be present. Instead, the field is as follows:

Denmark, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Norway, Scotland, Sweden, Switzerland, Australia, Japan, Canada, USA

So, let's look first at the team that took silver in Torino. Finland is going to be represented by the same four curlers that took the Pinerolo ice, lead by the notably geeky man that the world just calls U15. His real name is the quite unweildy Markku Uusipaavalniemi, hence the rush to find him a nickname. U15 simply refers to the length of his last name. It's also the last time you're going to see his full name in this blog, because I had to copy and paste it that time, and there's no way I'm ever going to get it right.

The man is, by no stretch, a mathematical genius. He was once tested as the best mathematical mind in his country, can blow through a Rubik's Cube in seconds, and takes that knowledge out onto the ice. Curling is, at its base, a game of physics, angles, and math. Of course, there's knowing where the perfect shot needs to go, then actually putting it there.

This is the team that emerged atop the Olympic round robin with a 7-2 record that included losses only to Germany and the Swiss, before a horrible gold medal match that included surrendering a 6-point end (that should have been seven save for a missed shot by the Canadian skip) and ultimately conceding and taking home the silver after 8 ends.

Whether or not U-15 sees that as something that needs to be avenged, there's no way this Finland team is going to roll over, and they will be a force to be reckoned with on the Lowell ice.

Monday, March 27, 2006


Yes, it's probably the biggest bandwagon in the nation to jump on right now, but it's really just great to see GMU kicking some ass in the NCAA tournament. I don't know just how they've pulled it off, I'd be lying if I said I've been watching the games, but it's been great watching the coverage, and seeing a local midmajor kicking some serious ass.

I think they could win it all. I think they could also get shut down by Florida. We'll see what happens Saturday.

FWWCC: Coming soon to ESPN2!

It took me a little while to figure out exactly how the playoff round of the FWWCC was going to work, since it's different than the Olympic tournament, which had 1v4, 2v3, then a championship between the two winners. FWWCC works as follows.

A: 1v2
B: 3v4 (loser eliminated)

C: A loser v B winner (loser eliminated)

D: A winner v C winner (winner crowned champion)

So, during the page playoffs, the US and Sweden met for the second time, and Sweden walked away with the win, forcing the US to the semifinal game (game C) against Canada, who defeated Germany. The US rebounded against Canada with a 2 point 10th end that gave them a 8-7 victory, so advanced to play their third game against Sweden where...

...oh, before I say the result, I'd like to say that someone at ESPN was obviously paying attention to the ratings numbers that Olympic curling did for CNBC. Thus, they apparently did what I hoped they would do, head to the FWWCC to get some footage. I think the original plan was to turn it into a 2 hour show on the whole tournament, but since the US advanced to the final, instead they'll be showing a 2 hour edited down version of the US/Sweden final game. That's why I stopped a second ago. For anyone who would like to see the game, it's on ESPN2 at 2pm this coming Sunday. If anyone cares about not being spoiled about the result, you can find the official USA Curling press release here.

Friday, March 24, 2006

FWWCC: Round Robin Recap

Somehow I had the order of yesterday's draw wrong, because the round robin came down to Canada playing Norway in the 17th and final draw. If Canada pulled out a win, then it would be the US, Sweden, Germany, and Canada going into the playoffs. If Norway pulled it off, then it would have been Canada, China, Denmark, and Norway playing for the fourth and final spot in the playoffs.

Well. Canada had a hell of a finisher, stealing the 10th end to force an 11th, then stealing that end to eliminate the rest of the field, and set the playoffs.

The US had little trouble advancing, though the US did have to fend off an early flurry of scoring by a Japanese team hungry for one last win before leaving Grande Prairie. It wasn't to be, though, as the US put up 5 points over the last three ends to turn a 7-7 tie into a 12-7 victory.

Sweden on the other hand got beat by an opportunistic Scottish team in the first draw yesterday. Whether they were just outplayed, or whether they weren't putting their best on the ice with advancement assured is hard to say. They did turn it right back around, though, and blew through the Swiss in the last draw of the Robin, beating them 10-2 in a game conceded after just 7 ends.

The rankings for the advancing teams look like this, then.
Sewden 10-1
United States 10-1
Germany 8-3
Canada 7-4

The Netherlands, unfortunately, went home winless, with their last game a 10-3 loss to the Americans. The Netherlander team did hold strong, and it was tied 2-2 after 6 end, but things just fell apart as the US put up three scoring ends after that, including a three point steal in the 10th. Always a shame to see a team walk away from a tournament like this without at least one victory under their belts.

The Chinese team that put on such a surprising showing ended up just one game out of the playoffs with a 6-5 record after beating Italy but failing to pull it off against Germany, a win that would have forced a three-team tiebreaker for the last two spots in the playoff.

The ice will be quiet today, since this is when tiebreakers would be happening. It will resume Saturday with the US and Sweden facing off on one sheet, and Germany/Canada on the other. (Yeah, that's not a typo, the semifinals are seeded as 1v2, 3v4.)

Thursday, March 23, 2006


I think the Soriano game yesterday has been covered in as many different ways as a game can be covered, and I couldn't provide anything but an amalgamation of information from the other Natosphere blogs. So, let's look at something else.

Bud Selig announced yesterday that he's working to bring the All Star Game to Kansas City sometime between 2010 and 2014. This announcement pisses me off. Not because I want him to leave a spot open for DC to get an ASG before 2038, but because it speaks as much to what he isn't announcing as to what he is.

There's still no owner for the Nationals.

Now, there are some possible ways this is okay. They could be working out the final contract negotiations with a selected owner. They could be waiting to have it be a big surprise announcement at the home opener (my secret hope). Or, it could be that Selig is once again sitting on his hands and demonstrating that he doesn't give two damns (or even a quarter of a damn) about the future of the Washington Nationals. That he couldn't be bothered making the most important decision that is facing baseball right now, and instead wants to fiddle around with who gets all star games in 4-8 years time.

I hope I'm wrong, but if I am, couldn't baseball at least announce that the process is in motion? Announce that they're working with a selected owner but due diligence doesn't allow them to announce who it is. Say that they'll let the world know on the diamond at RFK on April 11th. Just say something to make us think that they're not completely ignoring the Washington ownership situation.


FWWCC: Sweden and US advance ahead of last three draws

Sweden and the US both went undefeated yesterday, putting them atop the leaderboard. Each has two draws left today, but their records already have them in the next round.

Yesterday's action had the Swedish team destroying the hapless, and still winless, team from the Netherlands before being played close by the Chinese, who are currently a game out of the top four positions that will advance to the playoffs.

The United States team, after getting two consecutive draws off to rest up, dispatched the Italian team 9-7, and the Canadians by a convincing 6-2 score. So right now, it's looking very much like a revenge fueled US team, the defending Olympic champs of last month...and everyone else. The pack starts two games back from the United States right now.

Today features the last three draws of the Round Robin. The United States will rest the first draw before playing the Netherlands (0-9) and Japan (2-7). We should sweep those two games (no pun intended) but with our spot in the playoffs assured, we might hold back.

The four teams going for the last two spots have the following tasks ahead of them today:

Germany (6-3) plays Italy (4-5), then is off, then China (5-4)
Canada (6-3) plays Denmark (5-4), then is off, then Norway (4-5)
China (5-4) starts on a bye draw, then plays Italy (4-5), and Germany (6-3)
Denmark (5-4) plays Canada (6-3), Norway (4-5), and has off the last draw

Magic number is 8 wins right now. Germany and Canada are in with sweeps. Denmark and China can force a playoff with a sweep, since each has one of the 6-3 teams on tap.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Okay, this is just ******* confusing

We're getting a better picture of what happened when Soriano refused to take the field on Monday. Bear with me, I think I understand this...

Soriano did not refuse to take the field. What happened is that two rosters had been written up, one that had his name, and one that didn't. Apparently the latter was for an emergency use, but ended up being the one posted, and Soriano is claiming it's the one he saw. Therefore he was not sitting in protest, but because his understanding was that he wasn't in the starting lineup.

Okay, that much makes sense. However, Soriano, when talking this event up, made it very clear that he wouldn't have taken the field if his name was penciled in as the left fielder. So...he wasn't sitting in protest, and would like everyone to know he didn't think he was playing, but wouldn't have taken the field anyway if he had known that he was part of the lineup.

Therefore, in Soriano World, this means that he shouldn't be villianized for what happened on Monday, because it was a misunderstanding. Now, don't be mistaken, he wouldn't have taken the field anyway, but his sitting on Monday was not out of protest, so tomorrow should apparently not be seen as his Big Last Chance To Play Ball.

So...even though he would have sat anyway, he wasn't sitting in protest, so he shouldn't have been characterized as sitting in protest, even though he was completely willing and ready to sit in protest.

Make sense?

FWWCC: US continues to roll

Another great day for the United States team at Fords. There's still a draw going on right now, but the US is resting, having played and won in the first two draws of the day. First draw resulted in an 11-3 routing of the Scottish team that was conceded after seven ends. Second draw was a 6-5 victory over the Germans, with the victory coming with two in the 9th and a stolen 10th end.

Sweden still looks strong. They started play in the second draw, and beat the team from Norway, and are currently holding onto a slight lead against the Italians.

Netherland team just cannot catch a break. They lost in the first draw today to a Swiss team that had just one previous victory in the tournament to that point, and are right now being demolished by the Canadians, already in a 10-3 hole after 5 ends (and that was with the Netherlanders scoring 2 in the fifth). They're floundering fast, and are going to almost have to settle for not leaving Grand Prairie winless as a moral victory. Only got four more chances at that.

Big news, though, is that McCormick's US team is in a great spot to avenge the trouncing the Curl Girls suffered in Torino. Tomorrow the US starts with the first draw off before facing Italy and Canada. Both are nipping at the heels of the leaders, and looking for big wins to make a case for advancement beyond the round robin. I'll be happy with splitting those games.

Looking ahead to the last day of the robin, the US will close out against the two teams currently at the bottom of the rankings.

FWWCC: Mini-robin.

In the three draws yesterday at the Ford Championship, there was an unplanned mini round robin within the full round robin that pitted the three 3-0 teams against each other. Sweden rolled, the Danes crumbled, and the United States split their games:

Sweden-8, USA-5
Sweden-8, Denmark-6
USA-9, Denmark-2 (6 ends)

That last game was just the result of the US tearing the Danes apart, as they put up 1 with the first end hammer, then went on to steal ends of 2 and 3 points, putting up a quick 6-0 lead, taking a 9-1 lead into the fifth end break. When the Danes only managed 1 in the sixth end, they decided to concede, lick their wounds, and get ready for their next match against a surprising Chinese team.

That same team China busted past curling powerhouses Canada (5-4 China) and Scotland (10-5 China) showing that they're not to be messed around with.

Standings are lead by Sweden at 5-0, the USA at 4-1, and then a pack of 6 teams at 3-2. While not mathematically eliminated, it's going to be difficult for anyone currently at 2-3 or worse (Scotland, Switzerland, Netherlands, Japan) to break into the playoff round, just because of how many teams ahead would have to falter.

But I've been proven wrong before.

Today the United States women face the Scots in the morning draw, Germany in the afternoon draw, and get the late draw off. The leading Swedes have off, Norway, Italy on their schedule, going against two of the 3-2 pack.

Monday, March 20, 2006

And begins

The Washington Nationals internal news service is reporting that Soriano was put in the lineup today at left field, and refused to leave the dugout at the start of the game. An emergency shift completed the day's lineup, and Soriano spent the game on the bench.

Looks like any hope that this situation would magically resolve itself has gone out the window.

Dave Sheinin has a wonderful piece in today's WaPost detailing the whole situation, and exactly where the fault lies. No big surprises there, it's someone with the initials J.B.

FWWCC: USA setting the world on fire

FWWCC would, of course, be the Ford Worlds Women Curling Championship which is currently being contested in Grande Prairie, Alberta. This is the first big international bonspiel since Torino, and amazingly the first event to earn points towards Vancouver qualification.

Team USA, lead by skip Debbie McCormick, started play this weekend, and has already built up a 3-0 record and a share of first place in the 12-team round robin event. Results thus far:

USA-8, Switzerland-1 (8 ends)
USA-8, China-5
USA-8, Norway-5 (9 ends)

Eight seems to be our lucky number right now. As I'm writing this, the USA is currently taking on co-leader Sweden. Denmark, the other 3-0 team, has a bye in the morning draw, but will see action this afternoon against the Swedes with the US having a bye. Big day, as a team that can emerge from those matchups with an unbeaten record in tact is in control of the round robin.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Nationals-10, Mets (SS)-2

(Meant to write this yesterday but life got in the way...not that anyone was expecting it or anything, though.)

For the first time this season, I got to sit down and watch the Nats play some baseball, thanks to MASN picking up the preseason game and sticking it on UPN-20 (the Cox deal doesn't start until the regular season). I've got to say, I liked what I saw.

Now, I'm not referring to the game itself, though that was a great win after a long, hard spring training to date. Yes, it was just half the Mets, and it was the half that doesn't have their jobs wrapped up, but the two observations that I would have is that most of our runs were earned and not gifted by errors, and we were playing against people who had a huge incentive to do as much as they could to prove they should make the 25-man. Now, the score probably would have been closer playing the full team, maybe 8-6, but it was a very good showing by the Nationals.

But that's not what I meant by liking what I saw. I liked the broadcast. It just plain looked better than the MASN/UPN broadcasts ever did last year. Those always looked low resolution and grainy, yesterday's looked like it was being filmed with cameras that might have been constructed sometime before the Taft administration. And I like the new broadcast team. It's the first time they've worked together, but they mentioned having known each other for years, so there's a built in chemistry going on there. Yay for that. Last year was an unestablished team with forced chemistry. Here's to hoping they stay a good team, and maybe even stick with the Nationals if they prove to be as enjoyable in September as they were yesterday.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Batting helmet sundaes

I know this was something that people bemoaned the lack of during the 2005 season at RFK Stadium (I think primarily either Fisher or Boz, can't remember which). Well, there's an ad running during MASN broadcasts that talks about what food can be eaten at the ballpark, and one thing they include is "Ice a little batters helmet." Does this mean that helmet sundaes will be found in RFK for the 2006 season? Yet to be seen.

Of course...I...kinda like Dippin' Dots. Just wish there were a few more flavor options at the stadium.

Edit: Some research confirms my supposition, it was Fisher calling for better ice cream and helmet sundaes.

Friday, March 17, 2006

WBC: Nat Stats 2

Once again, tracking how Nats (and a few key former Nats) are doing at the WBC. The entire squad of participating Nats made it through to the second round. Stats below are going to be cumulative for the tournament, as that's what I've got access to. Sure, I could use the round one stats to figure out round two, but when it starts coming to things like ERA, that's getting beyond my knowledge.

All but one Nat has now been eliminated with Mexico, Venezuela and (sob) the USA all eliminated from play.

Schneider (USA). 3G, 6AB, 0R, 0H, 0RBI
Castillo (DOM). 3G, 9AB, 1R, 3H, 2RBI
Soriano (DOM). 3G, 11AB, 0R, 0H, 0RBI
Castilla (MEX). 6G, 24AB, 3R, 7H, 0RBI

Majewski (USA). 2G, 2.2IP, 5H, 1ER, 3.38 ERA
Cordero (USA). 2G, 1.1IP, 0H, 0ER, 0.00 ERA (not used second round)
Ayala (MEX). 3G, 1.1IP, 2H, 1ER, 6.75 ERA
Armas (VEN). 1G, 1.2IP, 0H, 0ER, 0.00 ERA (not used second round)
Loaiza (MEX). 2G, 9.0IP, 10H, 5ER, 5.00 ERA

In addition, it's being reported that Ayala blew the crap out of his arm, and will require Tommy John surgery, making him the second National lost for the season. I don't blame the WBC, though, because if his arm is as bad as the reports are claiming, he would have blown it up with or without the WBC quite likely.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

WBC: And the road ends for Team USA

There were some odd ways in which we could lose tonight's game and still advance, but none of them came to fruition. We just flat out lost what was a rather sad showing to a Mexican team hungrier for a moral victory than we gave them credit for. Our last hit came in the 5th inning, and we were ultimately eliminated on a double play, just to add that last little screw.

Semifinals are set. Korea/Japan and Dominican/Cuba. Korea has beaten the Japanese twice, and the DR won its only meeting so far against Cuba. My pick right now is for Korea to actually win the whole shebang, which will be interesting, because they were not one of the big pretournament favorites.

I'll do a rundown of the stats for all the Nats through two rounds tomorrow. Right now, the only National still playing is Soriano. With Mexico and the US eliminated, we'll be getting back three of our better relievers, and Schneider. Hopefully they'll infuse some life into a Nationals team that's been just limping through a pathetic Spring Training. Though I'm worried our problems are much bigger than anything they can solve.

Oh, and Ayala looked like he hurt himself pitching in relief for the Mexicans. So not only did they eliminate the US, but might have taken out one of the Nats better relievers in the process. Oh joy of joy.

In happier news, the showdown with Soriano has been postponed at least two more days with the Dominicans advancing. Of course, if that's the up side, things are pretty grim right now.

Speed round!

Item: Red flag! Looks like Guzman's shoulder might be in seriously bad condition. The Washington Post is reporting that the Nationals starting shortstop is going to Cincinnati for a second opinion. do we or do we not have our own team doctors? Anyway, looks increasingly like Royce Clayton could be our shortstop for opening day and beyond.

Item: Catchup! Marc Fisher has both an article and Raw Fisher post looking beyond the stadium design to how long the stadium will be a gleaming island in a sea the area looks now. Interesting reality check about areas that, in the watercolors, look like beautiful tree-lined corridors.

Item: WBC! As I mentioned, three quarters of the WBC field has been set. In Pool 1 action, Korea managed a second win over Japan and is now the only undefeated team. In Pool 2 action, Cuba eliminated Puerto Rico before a home team crowd at Hiram Bithorn in San Juan, and avenged the mercy killing they suffered in the first round. They will next play the Dominican team they lost to in earlier play. Korea will either face the US team they beat 7-3, the Japanese team they've beaten twice, or even an outside chance of the Mexican team they beat 2-1.

Item: Madness! March Madness starts today. I'll admit I've not been following college basketball since Wake Forest started sucking, which was the preseason NIT. Still, my big upset pick? GW over Duke in the second round. If for no other reason than to watch Dukie V go into conniptions.

Item: Curling! Fords Womens Curling Championship starts this weekend. Curl Girls will not be Team USA for the event, falling in the semis of the American quals last week. Still, this is the first chance to recover from a rather sorry performance in Torino.

Item: Football? Lot of QB signings this week, including the Redskins picking up a new backup QB, casting Ramsey to the wind. He's still technically on the team, but he's being heavily shopped. Two most likely destinations? Miami to back up new acquisition Dauntee Sexboat or up to the Jets to step in when Pennington inevitably has some part of his body explode into blood and gore. Yum yum.

WBC: How to pitch the Rocket...

The USA has escaped a doomsday scenario two rounds in a row. First round the Canadians and Mexicans could have eliminated us if Mexico had won that game 2-1, 2-0, or 1-0. Last night, it was a rather different scenario, as Japan just had to beat Korea with a score of anywhere up to 8 runs and the two Asian teams would advance, eliminating the USA.

Somewhere deep in the middle of the night, Korea pulled off a 2-1 victory, putting themselves through to the final round (plus keeping them as the only undefeated team in the tournament), and keeping the United States alive.

Today, The Rocket takes the mound for what people are saying could be his last game. It's tough, because I'm sure the USA would love to ride him for the championship game (assuming we can get past the Koreans, which is far from a safe assumption). The way the rotation is set up, Peavy would get the Koreans, and Willis would get the winner of Cuba/Dominican. Problem is that Willis has racked up both of the American wins, and I'm not sure anyone really wants to be relying on him for the championship.

Who wouldn't prefer the Rocket?

The problem is that, with the rules of the tournament, as soon as Rocket hurls his 50th pitch tonight, he triggers 4 off days, which would be March 17-20. The semis are the 18th and the final is the 20th. Thus, pitch 50 eliminates him from the rest of the tournament. This is a big part of why the US did not want the Mexican game to be must-win. If we didn't need the win, we could put the Rocket in for a short start, or even use a platoon of relievers, each getting to 49 pitches (or maybe burning the first one used by allowing him to get 50+).

It's hard to say what to do. If the game looks like a runaway do you pull Rocket at or about 45 pitches to keep him available for a theoretical chamionship (or hell, at that point he'd be technically available for the semifinal). Even if not as a starter, using him in relief all-star-game style. How close of a game do you keep him in, understanding that not beating the Mexicans makes any other planning moot?

This is the one time that the schedule has worked against the US. Had we been playing yesterday, and Kor/Jap today, it wouldn't have mattered. Rocket's four days off would have been 16-19, and he'd be ready to go in the championship, should we make it.

Tough calls. It's why I'm not a baseball manager, and certainly not the Team USA skip.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Stadium Unveiled

There was a nice dog and pony show at the DC Convention Center that showed off the HOK design for the Washington Nationals stadium. In general, I like the look and feel of the stadium. There's a lot of talk that it's generic, there's a lot of talk that it's borrowed heavily from the design of OPACY. However, there's worse things in the world that a stadium that borrows from OPACY. I know, I know, that's their park, and we're getting our own park, and I think that HOK did pull it off. It looks like MCI, and it looks like the Convention Center. It looks like a piece of architecture from modern DC.

Now, it's not exactly the "monumental" feel that was being bandied around for awhile, something that would blend in with Lincoln and Jefferson, but then again, I don't want to go see a baseball game at the Lincoln Memorial. I'm not going to go and say that it'll be the great park ever ever, but it looks like they've done a great job designing a park for the Nationals.

I'll admit fully that I might be just excited that we have a stadium design, but for now, I'll take that.

For anyone who has possibly managed to avoid all the news, here's the design:

Bygone bye gone?

As noted in Raw Fisher, the company that is sitting on the trademark for the Washington Nationals name seems to have slipped away quietly into the night. Bygone Sports (no link cause there's nothing to link to) has apparently removed its entire web presence, to include the site where they were selling $6 Washington Nationals t-shirts. What this likely means is that there's been a settlement quietly reached between both MLB and Bygone.

What it actually is likely to mean is that Bygone realized that any offer it got would be better than (a) the profits from the shirts and (b) no offer. The latter seemed likely if they pushed back at all, as MLB had expressed no reservations in changing the team name if they got too much pushback from the trademark squatters. Heck, would have been a chance to have all the Nats fans be in a position to buy a whole new set of merchandise.

Hopefully this is the last we've heard of Bygone Sports. And the checklist of things the Nats are lacking is quickly shrinking. As soon as we have an owner, the only two items left will be a full rotation of pitchers, and an outfield.

UPDATE: WTOP is confirming a settlement, with no details of the specifics. (Tip of the pin to Basil for pointing me to this new article.)

Monday, March 13, 2006

What have we gotten ourselves into?

Today the Dominican Republic faced off against Cuba in the World Baseball Classic. One person who was not part of the face off? Soriano.

Soriano has do I put this best. He's sucked. And blowed. Both in the same game quite often. He's sitting pretty with more errors (1) than hits (0), and has been letting balls get by him that are imminently playable. And this is at second base. The position he wants to play.

He's been at plate 14 times, with 11 official at bats and a trio of walks. Those walks represent the only times that he has made it to first base.

I know that it's in no way new to say that Soriano wasn't a good acquisition, but it's one thing to talk about it, but it's another to see it in action, to see him producing absolutely nothing for the Dominicans. It would be nice to hope this is a temporary slump (that's assuming that we plan to hold onto him, and not deal him to some other club, in which case screw it, he can suck as much as he wants). However, I can't help but wonder what this is doing to his trade equity. It's a player who is due a seven-figure salary this coming year, and has demonstrated for any scout to see that his fielding is just horrible, and that he can't get buy a base hit right now. We're to the point that he might have to actually prove himself during the regular season, which just means it's that much longer until the team can start getting fixed, and it brings the whole drama to a head about will-he-or-won't-he as far as moving to the outfield. I have no idea how his performance in San Juan will change that whole soap opera, if at all.

All I know is that nothing about his WBC performance is making me feel even the tiniest bit better about his acquisition.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Next stadium step

Yes, this is my third post in under an hour, but it's on a different topic. The next step towards getting the stadium built has occurred. WTOP is reporting that a DC judge has given the green light for the District to start the process of acquiring land to build the stadium. Some of it is already under District control, but this will let them start the process of claiming through eminent domain the property that was not freely sold.

All of this is getting us closer to the golden shovel moment. I'm seriously considering trying to make it downtown for the ground breaking when it happens, and reporting on it right here, in thurdl sports.

Washington Post has a more detail story on the process. Five of seven landowners have been ordered to clear out. The other two (a trash transfer company, and an "adult-oriented business") are in an active mediation process with the District, so have been exempted from the court order. The get out order has a March 27th deadline. Sounds like the District could have control of all the land by April.

Nats Stats

Thought I'd just throw out the first round stats for the Nats in the WBC. First up, none of the Nationals playing in the Classic have been eliminated, as Teams USA, Mexico, Dominican, and Venezuela all advanced to the next round. Also threw in the two biggest ex-Nats playing (marked with *).

Maybe I'll make this nice and formatted in tables later, but for now, just a listing.

Schneider (USA). 2G, 3AB, 0R, 0H, 0RBI
Soriano (DOM). 2G, 8AB, 0R, 0H, 0RBI
A.Castillo (DOM). 2G, 6AB, 0R, 2H, 2RBI
* V.Castilla (MEX). 3G, 12AB, 3R, 4H, 0RBI

Cordero (USA). 2G, 1.1IP, 0H, 0ER, 0.00ERA
Majewski (USA). 1G, 1.2IP, 3H, 1ER, 5.40ERA
Ayala (MEX). 1G, 0.1IP, 0H, 0ER, 0.00ERA
Armas (VEN). 1G, 1.2IP, 0H, 0ER, 0.00ERA
* Loaiza (MEX). 1G, 5.0IP, 3H, 1R, 1.80ERA

WBC Mercy Kill Day

WBC rules state that a mercy kill will be declared if a team is trailing by 15 runs after 5 innings, or 10 runs after 7 innings. That's rather important today...

Netherlands-10, Panama-0 (7)
USA-17, RSA-0 (5)

But the biggest shocker of all is the Puerto Rican team manhandling the Cubans, ending the game after just seven innings of play with a 12-2 lead. That...was not a pretty game for the Cubans, who were unquestionably playing for a win, and not just treading water. The game was essentially meaningless, since both teams were guaranteed an advance, but you could tell that Castro's boys did not want to walk out of there losers.

Oh, but they did. And in rather embarrasing fashion, thanks to being mercy killed.

The only team that forced all nine innings in its loss today was the Australians, which struck a 1-0 lead in the first inning. That's important because it was the first run the Aussies had manufactured all tournament, and it was against the powerhouse Dominican team.

Another amazing performance to point out is the Dutch pitcher. Notice I use the singular. Now, calling a mercy kill shortened game a "complete game" is a bit of a stretch, but the Dutch only used one pitcher in the win. Keep in mind that, in the first round, pitchers are held to only 65 pitches. Which was the final count for the Dutch starter. Only issued one walk, and no actual strikeouts, but stayed on the mound longer than anyone else has managed in the tournament.

Now, there is still some grumbling that the Cuban team might pack it up and go home after they felt the games getting too political. If that happens, the Dutch will move into their second round spot. However, I think they're hurting for another shot at the Puerto Ricans, which the tournament format will promise them at the end of Pool 2 play.

Limited Nationals action today, but Cordero did record the last out in the South America blowout. And Soriano let a ball get by him in the Dominican game against Australia, which ultimately resulted in that first run they scored.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Multi-sport update

Curling: Curl Girls lost today, so will have to win a tiebreaker game to advance to the playoff rounds of the US Quals. Doesn't look good for them being the US representative to the womens worlds.

College hoops: After the season Wake Forest has had, I'll take any minor victory that I can, which came in the form of beating the Noles in the first round of the ACC tournament. Wake becomes the first 12th seed to advance out of the first round of the ACC tourney. Of course, Wake also because the first ever 12th seed. Stupid expansion.

WBC: Full update to come, but it looks like the fears that Mexico and Canada could work together to eliminate the US were unfounded. Mexico is cruising against the Canucks, and will advance on to Pool 1 with the victory. US will need a win against RSA tomorrow, and then...I don't know exactly how we'll have to win to advance, but there might or might not be a certain number of runs we need to score. I'll probably crib that off someone else's blog before my full WBC wrapup tomorrow.

Football: Labor deal was reached. Okay, that doesn't excite me too much, but I thought I'd include it. Notice it's all the way down at #4. I think I'd actually miss fantasy football more than the NFL itself, except that the latter is a key part of the former.

Hurling: Okay, I'm told this sport exists, but am not sure what it is. Don't know why I'm even including it in my update.

NBA: New Orleans Hornets came home again, which is great for the city. Then they got trounced by the Lakers. It's sort of a depressing pattern that they're playing so well in OKC just to lose in the first game back in New Orleans. Though it's unlikely they would have beat the Lakers in either city.

Bowling: I threw a 147 this weekend. Okay, yeah, it was flanked by two games where I didn't break 100, but 147 is good for me. And it's my blog, so I'll boast about my own sports stuff if I want.

What of the Curl Girls

Those who have visited since the rebranding of this blog with a new template may have noticed my inclusion of Cassie Johnson in the banner, and a link to the Curl Girls website down the right hand side. So, how are they doing since Torino?

Cassie is taking a short leave of absence from her rink, which is currently being skipped by her vice, Jessica Schultz, for the US team qualifiers being held in Bimidji. This will determine who gets to represent the US later this month for the Fords World Womens Championship being held up in Canada. Right now the Curl Girls are sitting on a 4-2 record in round robin play, a game back from the leading rink, and needing one more win to assure a spot in the playoff. It's far from a given if they'll be the US reps up north, but I believe Cassie is due back with the rink if they advance to the Worlds.

On the mens side in the same qualifier, Team Fenson is in tact from Torino, is holding onto a tie for the top spot, and has clinched a spot in the playoff.

Keep an eye out here, as I'll be interspercing my commentary on Spring Training and the WBC with updates of the US qualifiers and the Womens Worlds.

US falls to Canada -- WBC roundup

I'm sure most everyone has seen the big headline from yesterday's action in the World Baseball Classic. Does it surprise me that there was a huge first round upset? No. It's baseball, sometimes the big upset blowout happens, it's the nature of the game. Am I surprised the US was the victim? Frankly, yes, but that might just be nationalism speaking. Am I disappointed that the US put itself in a position where it was working back from an 8-run defecit?


However, we're still in a good position to advance with a win over the South Africans on Friday. If Canada beats Mexico today, the win over RSA is enough. If not, we might have to build up some tie breakers, since there'll be a circle of wins at that point.

In other action, Panama again surprised one of the more heavily favored teams in its bracket before falling to the Cubans in extra innings. That eliminates a Panamanian team that really is better than its current 0-2 record bespeaks. They'll get one last chance for a save-face win agains the Dutch on Friday.

Those same Dutch lost to the Puerto Ricans. They held it close most of the game before getting blown apart starting in the sixth inning. I still have a good feeling about the Dutch team for reasons I can't explain, but their game against the Cubans today just became a must win. Of course, if I want a dark horse to advance, the Canadians put up a good argument yesterday.

No other surprises yesterday. Venezuelans shut out the Italians. Mexicans got scored on by the South Africans, but were never in any real danger of losing.

As far as Nationals who got to see some action yesterday. The Dominicans were off yesterday. Neither the Venezuelans or Mexicans played their Nationals. Did see some action in the Team USA game:

Gary Majewski pitched 1.2 innings, giving up one run on three hits, striking out three. However that one run was the inside-the-park home run that Stern pounded in the fifth inning. He also gave up an RBI hit in the fourth, but the runs were scored to the pitcher he was in relief of.

Schneider came in late in the game, didn't manage a hit in one at bat, but did put on a spectacular tag at the end of a relay that started deep in right field.

Cordero was on a rules-required day off.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

thurdl sports under construction

This is something that I probably should have done in the off season, but I never did like that whole white-text-on-dark-blue look this blog had. So, I'm trying to make it slowly look better, more professional, etc. First step is this swanky new template which now requires me to rebuild my list of Nats blogs, which is fine, cause several links were out of date.

Basically, I'm looking to step from the fringes into the heart of the Natsphere, and step one was a blog that is actually readable.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Final vote passes 9-4

The stadium will be built. The long wrangling is over. I think Boswell has put it best: "the Nationals are here -- the Nats are home -- for good." Amen.

In WBC news, the US managed an opening round shutout of rival Mexico. Italy looked surprisingly strong in a seven inning mercy kill of the Aussies. The Dominican Republic opened a 9th inning can of whoop ass in what will likely be the first of three games against Venezuela. Panama held tough but fell 2-1 to the heavily favored Puerto Ricans. And right now, Canada had to come from behind to take a 7th inning lead against the uder-underdog South African team.

There are some surprises in there. I thought PR would have an easier time with the Panamians, who may not be the doormats I expected when predicting the Dutch would advance from that pool. I don't expect any more wins out of the Italians or Aussies, but the level of demolition that the Italian team laid down was a magnitude greater than I expected, and maybe they'll make for an interesting game against the two new world juggernauts in their pool. Either South Africa is stronger than expected or Canada is weaker, but that does seem to point to the Pool B qualifiers being the US and Mexico. Which is good, nice to get at least one more game against the team that has, historically, been our biggest baseball rival. Venezuela gave up 11 runs with what was supposed to be one of the best bullpens in the tournament, not quite sure what was up with that.

As far as Nats who got play today:
Dominican Republic:
Soriano went 0-5 for the Dominican team, with on GIDP.
Castillo had a slightly better showing going 1-4 plus a walk for the Dominicans

United States:
Schneider started at catcher for the US team but was blanked in two at bats
Cordero pitched one inning, and took out the side with only 11 pitches, earning a hold
Majewski did not play

No other Nats saw action today.

Monday, March 06, 2006

How do these bond things work?

I'm talking about the stadium bonds. I know general how a government bond works. Bond is issued, and entity X buys the bond, which has a promise of being paid back, usually after Y years.

What I'm curious about is how the stadium bonds will work. Are these things that only banks or financial institutions will be able to buy? Cause if there's an option to buy a stadium bond, if that's something open to the everyday type person, I'd be interested.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Big yay happy news!

Ladies and gentlemen...the lease has been signed by MLB. I'm not actually sure how much more needs be said.

Saturday, March 04, 2006


8th row in the bouncing seats opening day!

Back into baseball

It's been a long and mostly quiet off season here at the thurdl sports page. That's because I don't get a lot of the intricate stuff that goes on in the off season, so the best I could do would be copy the entries of some of my fellow Natsphere bloggers. But, now we're back to something I understand: Playing baseball!

Some of the things that have happened in the off season. Or not happened. We still don't have a stadium lease signed by both parties (though that could change by Monday). We still don't have an owner, as that is pending the previous. We still don't have a GM that cares about the team, something that I think is rather self evident in what's been going on. Bowden must see the writing on the wall. The remaining ownership groups all have GMs in mind, and I don't think it's Bowden in any case. So he's a lame duck.

We've got an outfielder who wants to play second base, and might force us into an unprecidented-in-modern-era labor dispute. We've got an outfielder who played injured all season and, surprise surprise, injured himself in the process, so he's out until a month starting with 'J', and that's just when he'll be ready for a rehab assignment down in Potomac.

And now we don't even have the clothing trademark for the team name, thank you very much Bygone Sports, trademark squatters. Plus we've got the sports media saying that baseball is failing in DC because we only drew 2600 fans to our preseason opener down in Viera.

But none of that matters to me right now, because in under ten minutes, tickets go on sale for opening day. This whole post, in fact, is a way to get me to stop hitting refresh for a few minutes, but I'll be going right back into it. The one thing that always gets me to take heart is to remember this: We may not have an owner, a stadium, a name, or an outfield...but we do have a baseball team. They'll suck, but they'll suck in RFK, not Stadia Olympique. Or Cashman Field. Or Beaver Stadium. Here. DC. Baseball!