Speed Read: The U.S. Is O-U-T Of The WBC Again

Well, that was embarrassing. With a chance to redeem cultural elitism in the sport its country created, the U.S. team at the World Baseball Classic threw away its chances like this Derek Jeter error below, losing to Japan in a 9-4 blowout in the World Baseball Classic semifinals on Sunday.

jeter us

That makes the U.S. 0-for-2 in these quadrennial shindigs, while the Japanese get a shot at 2-for-2 on Monday night, in the team’s fifth faceoff with Korea in this World Baseball Classic alone.

Of course, that’s hardly the story here. Instead, this is a tale of how A) Roy Oswalt couldn’t hold a lead, B) the U.S. couldn’t mount a rally off of Daisuke Matsuzaka and C) Jeter made a horribly costly error in the bottom of the eighth, just as the U.S. seemed to be getting back in the game.

In fairness, the Oswalt-Matsuzaka matchup played out much the way it should have, just perhaps in a slightly adjusted time frame. The Americans got on the board in the first inning, but by the time he was done, it was Matsuzaka who had held the U.S. in check, while Oswalt had folded repeatedly to Japan’s litany of slap hitters.

As for Jeter, in the end his error didn’t affect the decision in the game. But his error, a badly off target throw on a jumping play as he wheeled to his right, gave the Japanese a crushing three-run lead — which soon ballooned to the final five-run margin — when the U.S. could have gotten out of the inning with the heart of the team’s order coming up in the top of the ninth.

It all goes to prove that nothing is certain in baseball anymore, especially in the World Baseball Classic, as much as it really may be a money-grubbing, made-for-TV event. Then again, we already knew that, thanks to our friends in the Netherlands.

Of course, the Americans weren’t the only superpower to go down on Sunday night. Just ask the Lady Vols of Tennessee.

tennessee summitt

That’s right, the only women’s basketball program powerful enough to copyright their team name as its own brand was eliminated in the first round of the NCAA Tournament for the first time ever. In fact, before Ball State stunned record-breaker Pat Summit’s team in Bowling Green, Ky. last night, the Vols had never lost in either of the first two rounds. That made them a whopping 42-0.

Not anymore. Of course, Summit was as much a realist about the loss as she is about anything else, shining a pretty stark light on her team’s shortcomings.

“I thought we were tentative, maybe uptight,” Summitt said. “But you have to give credit where credit is due and that’s to the Ball State basketball team. They had a lot more toughness. They beat us to loose balls. They made shots.”

Evidently that still makes all the difference between wins and losses, whether you’re Pat Summit or a nobody like Ball State Coach Kelly Packard, who has a whopping 26 career wins.

There had to be some winners on Sunday, and there were plenty in men’s college basketball. But of all the teams going where the Tennessee women (and men, for that matter) fear to tread, none can truly be called “Cinderella.”

hill arizona

Sure, there’s still a 12-seed out there in Arizona. But to call the Wildcats a Cinderella team is as unfair as it would have been to call Wisconsin a slipper-wearing team. In fact, ESPN’s Andy Katz makes a pretty compelling case that this season’s Sweet 16 is about as chalk-filled in any of recent memory. Sure, it makes for some pretty strong matchups, but that doesn’t help us glorify the next Cinderella. If only Siena had held on …

Now that the “Cinderellas” are out, I’m pulling for:

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greg oden depressed

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Speed Read: Running Up The Score On Venezuela

WOOOO! YEAH! AMERICA ROCKS! OUR FOREIGN POLICY HAS JUST BEEN VINDICATED BECAUSE WE KICKED SOME ASS ON THE DIAMOND! YEAH! The score was USA 15, Venezuela 6 in first-round World Baseball Classic action last night, and with a 2-0 record in pool play, the Americans are assured of advancing to the next round. Your heroes are Chris Ianetta (3-run double in 6th inning) and Mark DeRosa (4 RBI). Wait, those guys are actually on America’s roster? Seriously?

Mark DeRosa slide
(DeRosa, proving that refs totally listen to you when you say you’re safe.)

As to whether we can glean too much joy from beating the tar out of a team from a country with a GDP that’s roughly the same as the state of Iowa? (By the way, you’ve got to click that link; I don’t know if Alabama’s or Texas’ corollary is funnier or more offensive to their residents.) Sure. For as meh a country as Venezuela is on the global stage, their lineup was filled with starting-caliber talent. The meat of the Venezuela order, consisting of Bobby Abreu, Miguel Cabrera, Magglio Ordonez, and Carlos Guillen, is downright All-Star quality. If only their pitching wasn’t garbage.

In college basketball, we now know five teams that’ll be losing in the first round of the tournament, plus North Carolina smacked Duke down for the ACC regular season title, 79-71. The men of the match were Tyler Hansborough, giving the Dean Dome 17 points in his last home game, and Ty Lawson, who was doubtful to play (oh, please) with a sprained toe but poured in 13, 9, and 8 in the win.

UNC Duke Scheyer Face
(Scheyer Face alert! Code red! This is not a drill!)

UNC’s now 6 for their last 7 against the Blue Devils, who were beaten for the second seed in the ACC tourney by Wake Forest. Suddenly, even a 2 seed in the NCAAs doesn’t seem so assured for Coach K’s charges. FIRE THE BUM!

As for hockey (or as they call it in Europe, “football”), we do need to commend Washington Capitals fans with a spirited, to say the least, attack on Sidney Crosby’s worth as a hockey player and as a man. The singular fatal flaw in their plan, however, was the fact that Crosby’s still one of the five best players in the NHL. As it turns out, Crosby made Washington pay dearly: one goal, one assist, and the clinching goal in the shootout to give Pittsburgh the 4-3 victory. But hey… nice work on the signs, fans.

Sidney Crosby Crybaby
(And you can’t spell “Penguin” without “P-U-N!” Wakka wakka wakka!)

As for Alex Ovechkin, the Caps’ superstar, he had a magnificent performance of his own. No, it won’t show up in the stat sheet… but it will show up on TV and YouTube, because it’s incredible. Courtesy of the DC SPORTS BOG:

Some links to consider while you recover from being run over by a bull

  • Did you ever watch that “Real Housewives of Atlanta” show? No? Us neither. But apparently the one who’s the ex-wife former Atlanta Falcon Bob Whitfield’s being sued by Whitfield for about $87,000. Honest mistake on her part, we’re sure.
  • The Toronto Maple Leafs GM, on whether the NHL will ban fighting: “I will personally challenge anyone who wants to get to rid of fighting to a fight.” Um, that’s a joke, right?
  • Fat Ronaldo’s back from that horrific injury, and his first goal is a game-winner in injury time. Naturally, it comes replete with fans going completely ballistic and fences being torn down. Because hey, it’s soccer, and that’s just, y’know, what you do.

Will Duke ever be better than UNC while Coach K and Roy Williams are around?

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