Thursday, June 26, 2008

Blog Hits the Road

The Blog hits the road today as the whole family travels to Houston, Texas to Visit Katie & Marcus and cove the REd Sox and Astros sereis in Minute Maid Park. If we have internet coverage at the hotel I'll be reporting from there.


Ole Miss Releases Renderings of New HD Football Video Board

Ole Miss is proud to release the renderings of the new high definition video board at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium/ Hollingsworth Field. The $6 million integrated system is being designed, manufactured and installed by Daktronics Inc.
The video board will be the largest true HD display in the Southeastern Conference and is scheduled to be installed and operational for the 2008 season opener against Memphis.
With the Daktronics HD-X technology, the board can serve as a single giant display or be divided into multiple zones (windows) to show a wide variety of statistics, information, graphics, animation and live and recorded video. The gameday experience will be enhanced by the seamless display of scoring, timing, statistics, out-of-town game scores, public service messages, in-game promotions, graphics, animation, video replays and live video, delivered through a truly integrated system.
Daktronics PS-X video display technology will also be featured in the stadium, both on the front of the display and greeting visitors on the back of the display. Light emitting diode (LED) video displays from Daktronics use the latest LED technology to present live and recorded video images, colorful animation and vivid graphics with incredible brightness and wide-angle visibility.
A complete sound system from Daktronics Sportsound® division completes the integrated system. The sound system speakers will be based in a cabinet above the video display. The video, scoring, timing and sound components will be integrated through Daktronics proven control system.

Hornets trading pick

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -The Hornets have agreed to send their first-round draft pick, the 27th overall, to the Portland Trail Blazers in exchange for cash that could help New Orleans add a key free agent to a rising young squad.The deal awaits league approval and may not become official until Thursday's draft has begun, according to a person who works in the NBA and is familiar with the transaction. The person spoke on condition of anonymity Wednesday because the deal hadn't been formally announced.The Trail Blazers already have the 13th overall selection and adding the 27th pick would give them five draft picks overall, including three in the second round. The Trail Blazers also have yet to see action from Greg Oden, last year's top overall pick in the draft, because of knee surgery that sidelined him for all of his rookie season.Hornets general manager Jeff Bower declined to confirm a trade, saying nothing is official until the league approves it. However, he talked about how the Hornets' could benefit in free agency by taking cash for their only pick in this year's NBA draft.The Hornets fell one victory short of the Western Conference finals this past season, losing in seven games to the San Antonio Spurs in the second round. Bower said it is rare for a rookie selected in the bottom fifth of the draft's opening round to be a difference-maker on a team looking to contend for a championship."That type of production normally comes two or three years down the road," Bower said.The Hornets' rebuilding years are behind them, however, and head coach Byron Scott has only two seasons on his current contract.With a starting lineup that includes All-Stars Chris Paul and David West, along with perimeter sharpshooter Peja Stojakovic and 7-foot-1 center Tyson Chandler, the goal is to contend for a title next season. Conventional wisdom points to free agency as the fastest way to make the Hornets, who won a franchise-record 56 games in the regular season, a better playoff team."We have to make the judgment as to where we can get the quickest help," Bower said. "So we're looking at, really, from a draft pick at 27 or maybe we're better served looking at other avenues."With no incoming rookies, the Hornets would add money that would otherwise have been spent on draft choices into their pot for free agency - in addition to cash received from another team in a trade, which could be as high as $3 million under league rules, Bower said.As of Wednesday, the Hornets did not have a second-round choice in the draft. It was traded to Houston last season as part of a deal that sent Bobby Jackson to the Rockets in exchange for Bonzi Wells and Mike James. Houston later dealt that pick, the 56th overall, to Seattle.Wells will become an unrestricted free agent July 1.

Cash Homers to Give Wakefield Win

One night, the starting catcher, Jason Varitek, knocked in the deciding run in a 5-4 win. The next night, the backup, Kevin Cash, had one of those starry nights - throwing out a runner attempting to steal, drawing the first intentional walk of his major league career, and blasting a three-run homer in the eighth inning to provide insurance in a 5-0 win for the Red Sox over the Diamondbacks.
In a game for the ages, or rather the aged, 41-year-old Tim Wakefield beat 44-year-old Randy Johnson before 37,924 at Fenway Park in the oldest pitching matchup in the major leagues since July 21, 2007, when the combined ages of Philadelphia's Jamie Moyer and San Diego's David Wells was 88 years, 308 days. Wakefield and Johnson were a mere 86 years, 252 days old combined, but both submitted prime-time performances. It was a contrast in styles to be sure, Johnson, a lefthanded flamethrower, against Wakefield, a knuckleballer.
Cash has made people forget Doug Mirabelli, Wakefield's former personal catcher, for he not only caught Wakefield flawlessly, he helped the knuckleballer over his seven two-hit innings by nailing Chris Young on a strong throw to Julio Lugo at second base to end the fifth inning.
"I've gotten so much better on that," said Cash. "[Bullpen coach] Gary Tuck has really helped me out. There was a time I'd throw that ball into center or I wouldn't make the throw."
Every five days, Cash is eager to do his part to remain a major leaguer. The Sox never expected him to be a factor at the plate. They just hoped he would provide a hit every once in a while. He did that last night, connecting on a 2-2 slider from Juan Cruz with two on and first base open in the eighth.
While it looked like a garbage-time homer, it appeared an inning later the Sox might need it. After Manny Delcarmen's perfect eighth, which included two strikeouts, Craig Hansen loaded the bases in the ninth, forcing Jonathan Papelbon into the game to close it.
"It was a big hit, but it was a bigger hit because they loaded the bases against us in the ninth inning," Cash said. "He threw me some fastballs inside, but he threw me a slider that caught too much of the plate and I got it. It felt good to contribute like that."
Back in the sixth, in a strange managerial decision with the Sox leading, 1-0, Arizona's Bob Melvin ordered that Cash, who was hitting .237, be intentionally walked for the first time in his major league career, loading the bases for lefthanded-hitting Brandon Moss. Turns out there was some method to Melvin's madness.
Still, Cash was mired in a 1-for-22 slump and Johnson had struck him out on three fastballs in the fourth. Nevertheless, Cash stood in the box with the bat on his shoulders doing what he probably hadn't done since high school.
Moss then stepped in and lined a hard shot that Justin Upton tracked down in deep right. Mike Lowell came home on the sacrifice fly with Boston's second run.
"I don't think it was unusual," said Moss. "Cash is a righthanded hitter, I'm lefthanded. You have a guy out there with 20 years experience and a hitter with 20 games."
Of course, Melvin's respect for Cash seemed warranted when in the eighth, with runners at second and third and nobody out, Cash hit a mammoth homer over everything in left off Cruz for a 5-0 lead. It was Cash's first home run since hitting one while with Tampa Bay June 21, 2005, against Johnson.
"I think I've had a couple [of intentional walks] in the minor leagues," Cash said. "A little bit surprising. In fact, when the catcher called for four balls, I looked back and said, 'What?' But when you look at it, Randy would be working left on left [against Moss] with the bases loaded. I don't think that homer I hit off Randy had too much to do with it. I don't think scouting reports go that far back."
Cash's recollection of the homer against Johnson was a little fuzzy. He said he hit a 96-mile-per-hour fastball and "we got like 10 runs off him and they came back to beat us, 16-14, or something like that. It was a four- or five-hour game. It wasn't fun." It was actually a 20-11 Yankees' win in which New York scored 13 runs in the eighth inning to overcome Cash and the Devil Rays. Cash's homer was the second of back-to-back shots in the second inning.
Cash said Wakefield had exceptional movement on his knuckleball last night, and lately Wakefield has been pitching deep into games. In each of his last six starts he's pitched seven or more innings, and his two-hit, seven-inning outing last night lowered his ERA to 3.88.
Moss gave the Sox a 1-0 lead in the second inning with a ground out that scored Mike Lowell. Lowell had singled and advanced to third on Coco Crisp's double.
A big run at the time with the way the ageless wonders were throwing.
"It was a great game to watch and be a part of," said Cash. "You get to watch a guy who's going to be in the Hall of Fame against Wake, one of the greatest knuckleball pitchers ever. Pretty cool to be part of that. It was just great for our team to come out of here with a win and we get to go on the road trip on a positive note."

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Nick Stavanoha Breaks into Majors

Former LSU outfielder Nick Stavinoha made his major league debut Sunday night in Boston as he was the designated hitter for the St. Louis Cardinals in their 5-3 interleague loss to the Red Sox at Fenway Park.
Stavinoha was 1-for-6 at the plate in his first MLB game.
Stavinoha played at LSU in 2004 and 2005, earning second-team All-SEC recognition in 2005 when he batted .370 with 23 doubles, one triple, 18 homers and 65 RBI.
Stavinoha, a native of Houston, was the Cardinals’ seventh-round draft pick in June 2005. He is the second former LSU player to make his major league debut this season, joining pitcher Greg Smith of the Oakland Athletics.
LSU has produced 43 MLB players since 1985, including 23 pitchers and 20 position players.
The Tigers have had at least one former player make his MLB debut in each of the past 18 seasons (1991-2008).

Chris Paul Named to Olympic Team

USA Basketball Men’s Senior National Team managing director Jerry Colangelo announced today that New Orleans Hornets point guard Chris Paul was selected to the 2008 Men’s Senior National Team to represent the United States in the Aug. 8-24 Olympic Summer Games in Beijing, China. Paul is one of 12 players who were approved by the USA Basketball Executive Committee, and will be nominated to the United States Olympic Committee to participate in the 2008 Olympic Games."It is a true blessing to be selected to Team USA," Paul said. "I am humbled by the selection and am proud to be able to represent the Hornets, the city of New Orleans and the United States at the Olympics. It has always been a dream of mine to play in the Olympics and representing my country is the ultimate honor."Joining Paul on the team are Carmelo Anthony (Denver Nuggets), Carlos Boozer (Utah Jazz), Chris Bosh (Toronto Raptors), Kobe Bryant (Los Angeles Lakers), Dwight Howard (Orlando Magic), LeBron James (Cleveland Cavaliers), Jason Kidd (Dallas Mavericks), Tayshaun Prince (Detroit Pistons), Michael Redd (Milwaukee Bucks), Dwyane Wade (Miami Heat), and Deron Williams (Utah Jazz).“This has been, to say the least, an extremely difficult selection process. The 33 players who committed to be part of the USA Senior National Team program and have been involved in our various training camps and competitions the past two summers deserve recognition and acknowledgment for their contributions and for their commitment to their country,” said Colangelo. “The 12 players selected have incredible talent, and more importantly, we think this team has excellent leadership; great versatility and balance; and very good chemistry which are critical parts in building a great team. I believe this team is a team all Americans can and will be proud of.”Paul was a member of the 2006 team that captured the bronze medal and finished with an 8-1 overall record in the 2006 FIBA World Championship in Satiama, Japan. Paul averaged a team-high 4.9 assists to go along with 7.0 points and 3.4 rebounds in 23.7 minutes of play.“I am thrilled for Chris to be selected to the team,” Hornets owner George Shinn said. “I couldn’t think of anyone better to represent not only the Hornets, but the city of New Orleans, state of Louisiana and our great country.”Paul led the Hornets to their first Southwest Division title and the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference. Paul paced the league in assists (11.6 apg) and steals (2.7 spg), becoming the first player since John Stockton in 1992 to lead the NBA in both categories the same season. He also averaged a team-high 21.1 points per game. 2008 USA Men's Senior National Team Roster
Carmelo Anthony
Denver Nuggets/Syracuse University
Carlos Boozer
Utah Jazz /Duke University
Chris Bosh
Toronto Raptors/Georgia Tech
Kobe Bryant
Los Angeles Lakers/Lower Merion H.S. (PA)
Dwight Howard
Orlando Magic/Southwest Atlanta Christian Acd. (GA)
LeBron James
Cleveland Cavaliers/St.Vincent-St. Mary H.S. (OH)
Jason Kidd
Dallas Mavericks/University of California
Chris Paul
New Orleans Hornets/Wake Forest University
Tayshaun Prince
Detroit Pistons/University of Kentucky
Michael Redd
Milwaukee Bucks/Ohio State University
Dwyane Wade
Miami Heat/Marquette University
Deron Williams
Utah Jazz/University of IllinoisManaging Director: Jerry Colangelo Head Coach: Mike Krzyzewski, Duke UniversityAssistant Coach: Jim Boeheim, Syracuse UniversityAssistant Coach: Mike D'Antoni, New York KnicksAssistant Coach: Nate McMillan, Portland Trail BlazersTeam Physician: Sheldon Burns, Minnesota TimberwolvesAthletic Trainer: Keith Jones, Houston Rockets Athletic Trainer: Casey Smith, Dallas Mavericks

Monday, June 23, 2008

Red Sox Walkl Off with a Win in 13 Innings

Let's just say the Red Sox didn't rush scoring runs on Sunday against the Cardinals.
After waiting out a 49-minute rain delay at Fenway Park, Boston's lineup came alive in the seventh inning and beyond, stealing a 5-3, 13-inning showdown with the Cardinals. In doing so, the Sox avoided their first home sweep of the season and broke out of a nasty funk against Cardinals pitching.

It was Kevin Youkilis who provided most of the damage for the Red Sox, as the first basemen launched two home runs over the Green Monster in left field -- the latter being a walk-off two-run shot that finally put and end to a four-hour, 25-minute game.
"You can't beat it," Youkilis said. "I think it was even more exciting when you have a 13-inning game and you just want to get out of here. But it's always a great feeling, and it's great to do it at home."
The two homers were Youkilis' only two hits on the day, but they came at important junctures. His first, off starter Joel Pineiro in the seventh inning, cut the Cardinals' lead to 2-1 and finally put the Sox on the board. At the time, Pineiro was cruising through the Boston order.
The Sox tied the game on a sacrifice fly by Julio Lugo in the eighth, then took the lead when reliever Chris Perez walked home Dustin Pedroia. Harboring a one-run lead going into the ninth, closer Jonathan Papelbon came in looking for his 22nd save.
But Papelbon surrendered a game-tying RBI double to pinch-hitter Adam Kennedy despite striking out the first two batters he faced.
"That's the way we had it drawn up; you have Manny [Delcarmen] go in, then Okie [Hideki Okajima], and then you get to Papelbon," reliever Javier Lopez said. "That's the recipe for success we've had going for a year now.
"You get caught up in it, because he's pretty much lights out every time he's in there. When [he blows a save opportunity] you're shocked for a second, but we did it in true Red Sox fashion. We hung in there and battled."
"Every five days, he gets the ball, he works quicker. He's throwing strikes. He's doing a great job."
-- Red Sox manager Terry Francona on Jon Lester
In order to be in position for Youkilis' walk-off homer, Boston had to rely on its already tired bullpen. After using the 'pen for eight innings on Saturday, Boston sent five more relievers to the mound against the Cardinals on Sunday.
They held up, allowing just the lone run by Papelbon in the ninth. But their success came with a nice heaping dose of defense along the way.
With one out in the 13th, Lopez replaced Craig Hansen and immediately gave up a double to Chris Duncan. Kennedy -- who went 3-for-3 after pinch-hitting in the ninth -- knocked a single to right field and Duncan headed for home.
Right fielder J.D. Drew came up firing, throwing out Duncan and preserving the 3-3 tie.
"In a game like this, sometimes you need a play like that," said manager Terry Francona.
It appeared that way on Sunday, a day when offensive production took a backseat to strong pitching and strong defense. In each inning between the 10th and the 12th frames, Boston led off with a double. In each instance, that lead runner did not cross the plate.
"We had that runner on second and couldn't score," said Francona. "And some days that's what it takes is for someone to run the ball out of the ballpark."
Once Drew's throw kept the game tied heading into the bottom of the inning, Youkilis took advantage of the situation.
"J.D. made that great throw; when the bats weren't going as well, we did a lot more on defense," Youkilis said. "There's a lot of great stuff we did on defense today to keep us in this game."
Nearly lost in the intensity of the latter six innings was the production of starter Jon Lester in the first seven. Still, Lester did exactly what he's done in his previous five starts: engineered a strong performance that led to a Red Sox win. He went 7 1/3 innings, allowing just two runs on nine hits.
"It's getting a little repetitive, but that's a good thing," Francona said. "Every five days, he gets the ball, he works quicker. He's throwing strikes. He's doing a great job."
With that type of pitching and a little timely hitting from the lineup, the Sox stole the series finale while hoping to keep a little of that momentum heading into a series with the National League West-leading D-backs starting on Monday.
"It was just good to get out of here with a win and not get swept," Youkilis said. "Getting out of here with a win was huge for us."

Sunday, June 22, 2008

It's Been A Hell of a Year for New Orleans Sports Fans

When compared with the New England sports fan, our experience in New Orleans pales. The Celtics and Red Sox hold onto national championship trophies and the Patriots were within one minute of winning the Super Bowl. But to tell you the truth, I think we sports fans in New Orleans, especially those of us who pull for the Tigers, have had a hell of a year!
Think about it, We got to see the Tigers win the BCS college football championship in our own back yard in the Superdome, this after they won the SEC West title by beating Alabama and former coach Nick Saban in Tuscaloosa and then Tennessee to win the SEC championship. LSU slipped during basketball season, but redeemed themselves by hiring a first rate coach, Trent Johnson to lead the program. Johnson left Stanford where he was 1 game away from the final four last year.
Baseball started slow but a miraculous 23 game winning streak vaulted the Tigers to an SEC championship, a regional championship and a spot in the College World Series. Not bad for a sophomore and freshman dominated nine.
Talking about baseball, has anyone bothered to check the standings in the International League. The Zephyrs are rest in first place in their division.
Pro football was a disappointment. The Saints were riddled by injuries and Reggie Bush suffered a sophomore slump. And yet, if Bush doesn’t make the SNAFU pitch out at the end of the Tampa Bay game, the Saints would have gone to the playoffs. And just to mention in passing. It was New Orleans born and raised Eli Manning who threw the winning pass to beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl.
The returning Hornets, who had been relocated to Oklahoma City for 2 years after Hurricane Katrina, gave us a season to remember for a long time. Playing in the beefed up Western Division of the NBA, New Orleans, led by All-Star and Olympian Chris Paul, finished just 1 game behind the Lakers in second place. A team that was teetering on leaving the town because of poor support at the beginning of the season ended up selling out most of their games in the second half of the season and all of their home playoff games. They won their first playoff series against Dallas and then took the reigning NBA champions to 7 games before succumbing to San Antonio at the Hive.
I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve had a great time pulling for my teams. I hope for more years like this.

Daisuke Roughed Up in First Game Back

As comebacks go, this was one to forget for Daisuke Matsuzaka. He certainly wasn't out there long enough to form many memories.
Making his shortest start as a member of the Red Sox -- in fact, the briefest outing by any Boston starter since Derek Lowe on Sept. 18, 2004, at Yankee Stadium -- Matsuzaka had just about nothing from the outset. The Cardinals let him know it, teeing off on the right-hander in what wound up a 9-3 victory over the Red Sox.

Just like that, the Cardinals ensured a series victory, meaning the Red Sox have lost a home series for the first time since April 22-24 against the Angels.
The Red Sox will send their hottest pitcher to the mound Sunday in Jon Lester in hopes of avoiding a three-game sweep.
"We're always disappointed whenever we lose a series," said Red Sox shortstop Alex Cora. "Our goal is to win every series we play, and, obviously, we can't do it now."
Matsuzaka, who was returning from the disabled list after his bout with a mild right rotator cuff strain, pitched just one full inning. He departed in the second with the bases loaded and nobody out. Two batters after Matsuzaka's exit, Chris Smith -- making his Major League debut -- gave up a grand slam to Troy Glaus.
"I got behind the ball a little bit, threw a little blooper up there," said Smith. "Troy is obviously an experienced hitter, and he probably said, 'Thank you,' and then hit it over the Monster. I threw that slurve, curveball, whatever you want to call it, and he just extended his arms and hit it as far as he could. I was trying to throw something down and away, and it didn't happen."
Once Glaus was done rounding the bases, the book officially closed on Dice-K, who was belted around for six hits and seven runs, walking three and striking out one. It was the first loss of the season for Matsuzaka, who is 8-1 with a 3.46 ERA.
"We caught a break," said Cardinals manager Tony La Russa. "He's coming off the disabled list, and you could tell he was rusty. He fell behind and had to throw the ball down the middle. Sometimes you pop up. Today, we didn't."
Making his first start since May 27, Matsuzaka walked the first batter he faced in Skip Schumaker. Then, he gave up a two-run homer to Aaron Miles, who hadn't gone deep all season. Matsuzaka gave up four runs in the first, throwing 35 pitches in the process.
Matsuzaka stated emphatically that there was nothing wrong with him physically.
"I don't think there is any problem," Matsuzaka said through interpreter Masa Hoshino. "I was hoping to do a good job after being away for so long, but I don't think the gap [in between starts] was part of the problem."
Aside from the grand slam, Smith's first career outing was a pretty good one. He gave up three hits and a run over four innings, walking none and striking out three.
"He came in in a difficult situation," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "Besides the breaking ball to Glaus, what he really did for us was, because of the length he gave us, we have more of a chance to win the game [Sunday]. We didn't overuse anybody, and he pitched a lot. You can tell he loves to pitch. But he did a really good job."
Down 8-0 by the time they dug in for the second, the Red Sox were in uncharted waters.
"We haven't been in this situation in a year and a half or something," said Cora. "The big swing by Troy, that kind of took the air out of us. We kept battling, but it was a pretty big hole."
The only bright spot was Smith, who turned in the longest relief appearance for the Red Sox since Kyle Snyder went 4 1/3 innings against the Indians on July 31, 2006, a game that David Ortiz won with a walk-off homer in the bottom of the ninth.
There were no such heroics in this one, as the Cardinals did a nice job of handling the Boston bats. Cora's two-run double in the second and J.D. Drew's solo homer to right in the sixth were simply not enough on a day Boston had dug such a large hole. Winning pitcher Mitchell Boggs went 5 1/3 innings, giving up five hits and three runs. The bullpen took it home by recording the final 11 outs without giving up a run.
"It's a tough way to play, a real tough way to play," said Francona. "We talk so much about scoring first and then scoring next, and that's exactly what they did."
Despite the end result, this was a memorable day for Smith, a 27-year-old veteran of the Minor Leagues.
"Four innings is a pretty long span, but it went so fast," Smith said. "Overall it was, to me, one of the greatest experiences ever. Words don't even explain what you feel when you come through those doors and then run out on the field. And not to mention, I made my debut with the bases loaded and no outs. That's kind of weird."
Weird would also be a way to explain what kind of day this was for Matsuzaka. When was the last time the righty logged just one inning -- if ever?
"Yes, I can remember," said Matsuzaka. "It happened in Japan, and I can't remember exactly how many years ago it was. But in that instance, I didn't even make it through the first inning."
Matsuzaka will now regroup before he next takes the ball at Houston on Friday.
"His outing wasn't as consistent or comparable to the way he threw the ball during his rehab start," said Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell. "Again, I think the most productive thing out of today is that he came out and felt fine. But the overall crispness and command and action of his stuff was well below his normal standard."