Posted by – June 30, 2010
Believe it or not, we’re nearly halfway through 2010. My how time flies when you’re having fun. Here are your last grades for the month of June. You can hear Josh Houchins and I break these down inside the shiny new ESPN 1440 studio around 8:20 today on WGEM SportsCenter:
A — Bubba Watson. Did you ever think you’d see a guy named Bubba win a PGA Tour event? Well, the long-hitting Watson broke through for his first win last weekend, winning a three-way playoff at the Travelers Championship. I’ve been following him on Twitter for a long time and he seems like a good guy, one you can easily get behind. Here’s to hoping for a lot more wins for Bubba.
B — Randy Neuenfeldt. OK, no one knows who this guy is and we’ll quickly forget all about him in about three minutes. Seems when Randy was an 11-year-old scamp running around San Antonio Missions baseball games, he was picked to run against the Puffy Taco — and lost. It was the Puffy Taco’s only win ever. Well, a 29-year-old Neuenfeldt got his revenge against the Puffy Taco last week and beat him senseless. Guess this is a warning for GemBird as well as Shoo-Less Joe and Rascal down at Clemens Field: Don’t ever beat a kid or they’ll come back to beat on you.
C — U.S. men’s national soccer team. The Americans wound up being who the rankings thought they were. Ranked No. 14 in the world, the U.S. did what it should have and reached the round of 16 in the World Cup. Sure there’s been a lot gnashing of teeth over the 2-1 loss to Ghana, but what more can we expect? We’re not going to win this tournament. For now, we should be happy to get through the group stage.
D — FIFA. Soccer’s governing body has been upgraded a bit since their last Grades appearance. Sepp Bladder and Co. were headed toward another “F” until coming out Tuesday and saying they’ll look at replay after the tournament is over. Originally, Bladder said the organization had no interest in bringing instant replay into the game. At least he’s listening.
F — Carlos Zambrano. Not that it was too tough to see coming, but I’d like to point out that I called Zambrano’s latest meltdown months before it happened. So now the Cubs have sent Zambrano into timeout like he’s a 2-year old. They’re hoping some counseling will help him out. At this point, he’s really a lost cause, and the Cubs are stuck with him. He’s owed around $45 million through the end of the 2012 season and has a full no-trade clause in his contract. What a mess.
Posted by – June 29, 2010
Two quick hits on the world of sports:
1. Get ready for the LeBron roller coaster
As a Chicago Bulls fan, I’d love nothing more than to see LeBron James running around the United Center next season wearing a Bulls uniform. The team has put all of its eggs in the LeBron basket. Whether or not he decides to come to the Windy City will determine my state of mind — as well as millions of other Bulls fans. If he comes, it’s like we’ve won the lottery. If he snubs us, it’s as if we lost everything (even though in reality it’s not really that bad.) Over the last 72 hours, I’ve read that the Bulls are the leaders for his services. But I’ve also read that the Miami Heat may not only get James, but Chris Bosh as well. When the free agency period starts on Thursday, it’s going to take a lot to separate fact from fiction.
2. Nationals’ rookie pitcher is good, but not an All-Star yet
There’s growing support in the media for putting Washington Nationals phenom Stephen Strasburg in next month’s All-Star Game in Anaheim. Strasburg has made just five starts this season. He’s been pretty darn good, too, with a 2-2 record and a 2.47 ERA. He’s also struck out 48 batters in 31 2/3 innings. National League manager Charlie Manuel, who will pick the pitchers for the NL roster, says he’ll keep an open mind when it comes to Strasburg. I’m guessing that Strasburg still has some work to do to impress the Phillies’ manager.
Posted by – June 25, 2010
(Apologies to Dragnet)
Guy with cool announcers’ voice: “Ladies and Gentlemen: The story you are about to read is true. Only the names have been changed to protect the ignorant.”
Theme music, please.
This week’s Slap of the Week honor goes to a person few know, but hits close to home for DOBservations. This guy, who we’ll Jeb Roni, wound up getting your blog host temporarily banned from noon hoops at the Quincy Family YMCA.
Seems that Jeb didn’t like how I was posting up in the low block during Tuesday’s noon-time run of old guys. Jeb thought I was elbowing him, so he turned around and threw an elbow at me.
After halting play, I tried to show him that what I was doing was just a simple basketball move. Jeb Roni wasn’t having any of it. He elbowed me once again and used both of his hands to push me. Since my last playground fight happened in 1982, I wasn’t about ready to get into another scrape some 28 years later.
I turned Jeb Roni in to the powers that be, but wound up getting temporarily banned from noon ball in the process. I felt like Brazilian soccer star Kaka after he received an unwarrented red card in a World Cup group match against Ivory Coast.
My banishment lasted 48 hours during the Y’s investigation. It seems that Jeb Roni’s ban has been lifted as well, but he’s on notice that his shenanigans will no longer be tolerated.
Being that Jeb tried to rip my arm out of its socket while scrambling for a loose ball last month, I’m not holding my breath that he’s going to change any.
If you plan on coming to play noon ball at the Y, you’d better come strong or don’t come at all, I guess.
Posted by – June 23, 2010
Here’s the latest look at the grade book for the summer school students. Listen in to WGEM SportsCenter on ESPN 1440 (we’re also streamed live on the Internet) every Wednesday to hear show host Josh Houchins and I break these down. To chime in, text us at 217-617-9437 or email us at email@example.com. Here we go:
A — Manute Bol. He’s probably the most famous NBA player ever to average just 2.3 points per game. The 7-foot-6 Sudanese shot blocker gained fame for his slender frame, his ability to block shots and his awkward 3-point attempts. Bol died much too soon, succumbing to kidney failure and a rare skin condition last week at age 47. He used the money he earned playing in the league to help his poor homeland. He went so far as to box William Perry in a celebrity boxing match and played hockey in order to raise money for his cause. It’s tough to see anyone like Bol coming down the chute again.
B — Matt Holliday. It looks like the Cardinals slugger is starting to heat up with the weather. After hitting four home runs last week to earn him National League Player of the Week honors, Holliday continued his bashing ways on Tuesday with one of four Cardinal homers in a 9-4 win at Toronto. He’s done all of his recent damage in the No. 2 spot. How soon until Tony La Russa moves him back down to serve as protection for Albert Pujols.
C — Florida Marlins. From the team that brought you ticket sales from a game that had already been played, the Marlins tried to catch World Cup fever over the weekend by offering up air horns — a vuvuzela rip-off — to the first 15,000 fans who showed up to their game against the Tampa Bay Rays. The Marlins lost the game — possibly because of the horns — but were winners at the gate, which made the bosses happy. Those on the field, didn’t care too much for the soccer atmosphere at a baseball game. Rays manager Joe Maddon says the horns should be banned. I agree. They should be banned from every sporting event — world wide. Sorry, South Africa.
D —Kader Keita. The World Cup can make you an instant hero or goat. After his Oscar-worthy performance in drawing a second yellow card on Brazil star Kaka last week, Keita was dubbed the Ivory Coast coward. Keita decided to flop worse than Vlade Divac during a play late in Brazil’s 3-1 win last week. The blind officials ruled that Kaka had taken Keita down, earning him his second yellow card and an immediate ejection. Kaka will also miss Brazil’s last group stage game thanks to Keita’s foolishness. Check out Keita’s handy work here.
F — Steve Smith. The Carolina wide receiver may get a spot in the Hall of Fame for stupid people after his stunt over the weekend. Smith broke his arm while playing flag football over the weekend. He tried to tell the Panthers that he broke the arm during a youth football camp. Then it came to light that he was playing in a local YMCA flag football league. If that wasn’t bad enough, it seems that Smith tried to load up his team with other NFL players.
Posted by – June 22, 2010
One man, two thoughts on the sports world:
1. Watch out for Tiger
He didn’t close as well as he knows he should have. Still Tiger Woods put himself in position to win last weekend at the U.S. Open. With one of his favorite venues — St. Andrews — set to host the British Open next month, the smart money is on Woods to claim major title No. 15 there. He’s won at the Old Course twice and will try to become the first golfer in the 150-year history of the Open championship to win there three times. He’s been at his best during this turbulent year in the major championships. He’ll be ready to win again in Scotland.
2. Don’t get caught in the draft
There’s been very little buzz about the NBA draft this year. On Thursday night, the NBA will hold its annual draft, which pales in comparison to the NFL’s version. Teams eyes have been more focused on July 1 — the first day of the free-agent signing period — than June 24. John Wall may be a big deal for the Washington Wizards, who have the No. 1 pick, but everyone else wants to know where LeBron James is going to wind up. The area’s closest NBA team, the Chicago Bulls, have the 17th pick. If the Bulls don’t get LeBron, fans can look forward to getting to know Marshall 7-footer Hassan Whiteside, according to NBAdraft.net.
Posted by – June 18, 2010
Wither Koman Coulibaly.
In today’s Twitter world, justice is swift. And the head official from the U.S-Slovenia match was getting killed online in the wake of his botched call in a 2-2 World Cup draw on Friday morning. I had plenty to say, too.
Here’s what they were saying within minutes of Coulibaly’s big gaffe, which made him the No. 1 trending topic on the social website:
williamfleitch: I think Koman Coulibaly should be happy his awful call went against the U.S., rather than, say, Colombia.
GrantWahl: Referee Koman Coulibaly has become the Malian version of Don Denkinger.
andrewgooding: In a historic first, FIFA referee Koman Coulibaly accepted today’s Man of the Match award for his defensive efforts for the Slovenia squad
Jesus_M_Christ: Rumor has it BP paid off idiot referee Koman Coulibaly to distract everyone from the oil spill.
Heck, wikipedia had to lock down the guy’s page because of “vandalism.”
Had the guy immediately given an explanation for his call, there might not be as big of an outcry. But no one — players or coaches — know why a shot by Maurice Edu in the 86th minute didn’t count.
Unlike former Slap of the Week award winner Jim Joyce, Coulibaly seemingly just walked away from the whole thing. Maybe language was an issue. But in a game as important as this on the world’s biggest sports stage, Coulibaly needed to tell us what the deal was.
In order to move on, the U.S. needs to win its final match against Algeria on Wednesday and hope England wins out. Let’s hope that Coulibaly is nowhere to be found in any of those matches.
Posted by – June 16, 2010
After weighing all of my options to move the Mid-Week Grades, I’ve decided to stay here after being guaranteed more money by whig.com and WGEM SportsCenter. We’ll break these down on ESPN 1440 around 8:20 on Wednesday. If you have a grade, feel free to chime in via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or text at (217) 617-9437.
A — McDonald’s/Herald-Whig Classic Illinois boys all-stars. At the half on Saturday night, it looked like Missouri might be in line for a second straight win. The Land of Lincoln stars led by just five points and didn’t look like they had much going. A pep talk by coach Brian Rea worked wonders as the Illini stars came out firing and rolled to a 111-71 victory at Quincy University’s Pepsi Arena. The second half was the best half of Classic basketball I’ve seen in 14 games. The Illinois played together. There was little to no showboating. Instead, they were focused on the task at hand.
B — Bernie Miklasz. Maybe the St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist is hacking into Tony La Russa’s computer. Or maybe TLR is just letting Bernie call the shots. For the second time this year, La Russa made a move hours after Miklasz suggested it. On Monday morning, Miklasz suggested moving Ryan Ludwick to the cleanup spot. Eight hours later, Ludwick was in the No. 4 spot and blasting a three-run homer in a 9-3 victory over Seattle. Earlier this year, Miklasz suggested flip-flopping Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday in the order. Later that night, La Russa did just that, moving Pujols into the cleanup spot. He’s taking no credit, but Miklasz is a hero to sports writers everywhere.
C — Big 12 Conference. So, it looks like the league is going to survive. The rich (Texas) will get richer in whatever deal the league has ironed out, while the poor (Missouri, Iowa State, everyone not named Texas or Oklahoma) will continue to play second fiddle. How will a 10-team conference do? It will be fine. The only thing missing is a football championship game. We’ll have to revisit this in a few years to see how it all shakes out.
D — Abby Sunderland. Color me shocked that a 16-year-old girl failed to sail around the world by herself. And it turns out her Mom and Dad let her take off so that a reality show could be made about her trip. Again, another shocker. Thankfully, the girl was saved by a fishing boat and didn’t die because of her trip.
F — FIFA. Sepp Blatter and Co. have no problem with those pesky little vuvuzelas that fans at the World Cup are using. Thought I’d be able to take a nap to the World Cup on Sunday afternoon only to find out that there’s no possible way for that to happen. Seems that everyone outside of South Africa hates the buzzing. The BBC is trying to figure out how to do broadcasts with the vuvuzela noise wiped out.
Posted by – June 15, 2010
1. Rooting for a no-hitter
I was admonished by a fellow Cardinals fan for sending a tweet out on Sunday night, saying I was rooting for Cubs lefty Ted Lilly to throw a no-hitter. Obviously, the anti-Cub sentiment is strong in a lot of people. I don’t care who’s on the bump, if the no-hitter is in play, then I’m on their side. Would I feel differently if the Cardinals were the team being no-hit? Proabaly, but that hasn’t happened in 20 years. (Bonus points if you can tell me who the last pitcher to no-hit the Redbirds was. Leave a comment if you know. No cheating!)
2. Rain, rain go away
The weather has reeked havoc with the local baseball scene. It will be interesting to see how Gems manager Chris Martin juggles his short-handed pitching staff this week with his team set to play what amounts to two doubleheaders on Thursday and Friday. On Thursday, the Gems will continue a suspended game with DeKalb, which was stopped in the second inning, before playing a regularly scheduled game. On Friday, the Gems will play two with the Hannibal Cavemen at QU-Stadium. It’s just as bad for local youth baseball and softball and adult softball leagues, which all have rainouts backlogging their schedules.
Posted by – June 12, 2010
Here’s a look at the three top stars from the 27th annual McDonald’s/Herald-Whig Classic, which was held Saturday night at Quincy University’s Pepsi Arena:
1. Regan Bruenger
He was the difference-maker for Illinois. Yes, he scored a game-high 22 points and had a game-best eight assists, but he impressed me the most with his defense. He threatened a Classic record with six steals to help the Illinois boys set a Classic record with 25 swipes. John Wood Community College has an absolute steal in their hands in Bruenger, who would look good in a Quincy University uniform one day.
2. Brennan Rakers
I was torn on my Most Outstanding Player vote. Rakers made it tough with his sparkling performance in his last basketball game. He had 21 points thanks to a 7-for-7 effort at the free-throw line. He did his part on defense, too, with four steals. Offered a chance to walk-on to the QU men’s basketball team, Rakers instead will cast his college sports lot in golf. He made sure his last shot as a hoopster counted.
3. Cole Hetzler
You have to wonder how good Hetzler might have been had he not had two knee injuries during his high school career. On the biggest stage of his career, the Highland product didn’t disappoint, leading Missouri with 15 points and 12 rebounds. His team didn’t win, but he has to be satisfied with how his competitive basketball career ended.
For a game that looked like it was going to be tight all the way after a slow first half, it turned into something much different. The Illinois boys fell two points shy of the Classic record for points in a half, scoring 74, and the 40-point margin of victory was just one point shy of the Illinois team’s dominant performance in a 110-69 victory in 1992. … Another player in his last basketball game had a night to remember. Illini West product Jacob Schmudlach didn’t miss a shot from the field, going 7 for 7, including two 3-pointers, to finish with 18 points. He’ll play football at Drake. … Credit the Missouri boys for playing until the end. On the team’s last possession, Knox County’s Tristan Lonberger hit Louisiana’s Michael Ivey with a nice bounce pass in transition. The assist was one of seven on the night for Lonberger. … Illinois now leads the all-time series 25-2. … If you want to see what I had to say about the game as it happened, check out my Twitter feed.
Posted by – June 12, 2010
Here’s a look at Saturday three biggest stars from the 28th annual girls McDonald’s/Herald-Whig Classic all-star basketball game, held at Quincy University’s Pepsi Arena:
1. Leigh McLaughlin
Illinois coach Eric Orne, who coached McLaughlin at Quincy Notre Dame, said after the game that he was happy to get the chance to coach her one last time. I’m sure there are quite a few college coaches who would love to get the chance to coach her the first time. McLaughlin was the difference maker for Illinois in the second half. She had 10 points, five assists and two steals in the second half as Illinois pulled away after being tied at 29 at halftime. She was, without a doubt, the best player on the floor. She may try her foot at soccer at the University of Missouri. If that doesn’t work out for her, she could certainly find a college future as a basketball player.
2. Dawn March
The Central graduate made four of her Classic-tying five 3-pointers in the first half to keep the Land of Lincoln stars in the game. She also had three assists and three steals, surely making Norm Rodriguez, her future coach at John Wood Community College, smile. If she can shoot like that inside Mountain Dew Court next season, she’ll be a threat for JWCC.
3. Karlee Gengenbacher
The QND grad had a nice first prime-time experience on her college home court. She scored 15 points and grabbed a team-high nine rebounds. It will be interesting to see how much she contributes for the Lady Hawks next season as a freshman. With former Central-Southeastern star Ali Schwagmeyer transferring into the program from Charleston Southern, Gengenbacher may have to fight for minutes early on.
It was a tough night for the West Hancock trio of Marley Hall, Jackie Bunn and Cassie Yager. They combined to shoot 6 for 25 for 15 points. Hall did have a game-high four steals. … The game came down to which team had the better point guard play and McLaughlin and Quincy High’s Shelby Wires helped give Illinois a huge edge. … Missouri never got into a good flow offensively. Team MOP Tori Niemman had 12 points, four rebounds and four assists to lead the way. … Two members of the Missouri girls team were nominated for the McDonald’s All-America team — Niemann and South Shelby’s Jenna Mueller. … The 51 points scored by Missouri set a Classic record. … The win helped Illinois snap a two-game losing streak and cut Missouri’s lead in the all-time series to 17-11.