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Saturday, August 4, 2007

Dbacks Continue Run

Wow. What a fantastic game last night between the Dbacks and Dodgers. A 1-0 win for the Dbacks in what can only be described as a classic pitcher's duel. Chad Billingsley pitched outstanding, allowing just five hits over 7 2/3 innings. Unfortunately for him, one of those hits was a solo shot by Chris Snyder to lead off the 8th inning. Up to that point, the Dbacks had not had a runner advance past 1st base.

Across the diamond, Doug Davis was lights out in his 8 innings, allowing just three hits all night, and never really getting into any trouble. The only base runner that advanced past 1st base against him was Juan Pierre, who advanced to 2nd on a blown tag-out by O'Dog, and advanced to third on a missed catch by O'Dog trying to catch him at 2nd (again). Davis was all but out of the game after the 7th inning, with him due up to bat 2nd in the eighth. However, after Snyder hit the home run to lead off, the Dbacks coaches allowed Davis to hit in his spot, and return to pitch the bottom of the eighth, which he promptly retired in order.

Jose Valverde came on in the ninth, and after blowing his last two saves (which luckily the Dbacks were able to come back and win both of those games), looked unhittable, getting a popout to begin the inning and striking out the next two batters. With the win, the Dbacks have won 11 of 13, sit 11 games over .500, and lead the division by 1.5 games over San Diego, who passed the Dodgers last night.

There is no other way to put it: The Dbacks are ROLLING. We better enjoy it while we can, because here are some scary numbers for you: The Dbacks are next to last in the NL in batting average and hits, and third from last in runs and on-base percentage. Oh, and they're still being outscored for the season. So how are the Dbacks doing so well? That is the million dollar question, and not an easy one to answer. All i can say is that the Dbacks have a knack for pulling out close games, and when they do lose, they tend to lose big (as evidenced by their last two losses being 14-0 and 11-0 blowouts). Say what you will, but if you're going to have guys stink out the joint, might as well be the entire team in one game and get it out of their system.

While the Dbacks still have not been getting a ton of press across the country, they are quickly becoming one of the most exciting teams in baseball. They lead MLB in walk-off home runs with 5, and have seven walk-off hits total. Call them the cardiac kids, late-comers, or whatever you want, but this team definitely builds the drama into games. Last night's eighth inning, game-winning home run was no different. As Darren Sutton put it on the broadcast as it got into the 6th inning, it was a blink-first game. Whichever team blinked first was going to lose the game. It became true as Billingsley's 2nd pitch off the eighth was left up and out over the plate, and Snyder promptly deposited it into the left field bleachers.

Though the true star of the night was indeed Doug Davis, who turned in a masterful performance and gave most of the bullpen the night off. Davis has been arguably Arizona's best pitcher of the last month, going 3-1 in his last six starts, with the team winning five of those six games. He has also gone at least six innings in every one of those starts, allowing the Dbacks to let their big three in the bullpen of Tony Pena, Brandon Lyon, and Valverde close out games.

The Dbacks are back at it tonight in LA, playing the 2nd of a three game set against the Dodgers. After going 2-1 in three games at San Diego, if the Dbacks can win tonight or tomorrow against the Dodgers, it will have been a very successful road trip for them, and they would be in great shape in the division race. The last two months of the season are shaping up to be great, and the Dbacks are in prime position to make a push into the playoffs. And with that, it should be a fantastic race to the finish...

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Justin Upton!

The most anticipated player in the Diamondback minor league system is now in the bigs. With Carlos Quentin tweaking his hamstring on his double last night and a trip to the 15 day Disabled List, it opened the door for the 19 year old. My guess is he will receive an at-bat late in todays game verses the Padres and get his first start Friday night against the Dodgers.

I have been against bringing him up for most of the year because I want him to continue to develop playing full time vs playing sparingly for the Dbacks. But with Hairston traded last week and Quentin on the DL, it looks as if he will get the opportunity to play every day. It also leaves DaVanon on the bench as the 4th outfielder, which is where he belongs. The other reason I didn't want Upton to come up is because of the huge responsibility of leading the Diamondbacks that will ultimately fall on his shoulders. He has been portrayed as the future or savior of the DBacks, and that is too much to put on any 19 year old.

Now actually might be a good time to bring him up because of the 10 wins in the past 11 games. The team is rolling and instead of having to be the savior, he can focus on being the right fielder. He can get comfortable with the big leagues and slowly develop his major league game while just being a cog on a hot baseball team. There will be less pressure on him because the team is playing so well. If he is the real deal, he can help lead the Dbacks to the playoffs. If he struggles... well Quentin was only batting .205, so the RF production has been terrible anyway. Looking forward to seeing the kid Friday night and lets hope the team continues to win series', play well, and lead the division.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Great Stat

Just heard this on the broadcast tonight from Darren Sutton and Mark Grace (Who, by the way, are one of the best announcing tandems in all of baseball), and thought i would pass it along as i think it's an amazing stat.

The Dbacks, when they wake up tomorrow morning, will be in first place in the division, either alone or in a tie, depending on the last two innings of the Dodgers game. That will make 8 of the Dbacks 10 years in existence they have been in 1st or 2nd place in their division on August 1st.

That is an amazing, and impressive, stat. Shows the Valley how good they have had it with the Dbacks...

Card's Winning Attitude...

As first reported by azcentral.com here, the Valley is already gearing up in anticipation of the Super Bowl being held in February, with party-planning in full mode. And while this does all look interesting and i'm already scheming to find a way into some of those parties (hey, why not?), i did find one particular tidbit of note.

One of the parties being planned and put together is hosted by John Travolta and Matt Leinart. Umm, hey Matt? Maybe you should, you know, at least attempt to act like you're not already conceding the season. I mean, realistically, there is basically no chance the Cardinal's make the Super Bowl. But shouldn't our star quarterback at least not be making his plans for that week already?

I see even a new coach hasn't changed the 'winning' attitude of this franchise...

Monday, July 30, 2007

The NBA Referee Betting Scandal.

I've held off long enough, i was bound to write about it at some point...

In what is sure to be a blow to all leagues, but the NBA in specific, it was announced last week that the FBI is investigating NBA referee Tim Donaghy for his role in a gambling ring that placed bets on NBA games, in particular games in which Donaghy himself was officiating. While there are many details yet to come, it appears Donaghy got mixed up in gambling debts, and as a result agreed to help ‘fix’ games in which he was working. The good news is that it appears he acted alone. The bad news is that this happened in the first place.

(Sigh). What a disaster. There is no other way to put it, for NBA fans, for basketball fans, for sports fans. And in particular for Suns fans, though I will get to that a bit later. The shoe has finally dropped, a scandal so big it pushes all the other ‘scandals’ off the front page (Mike Vick, Barry Bonds, Tour de France anyone?). This is worst-case scenario, defcon level 5, red-alert type news. If you need evidence of this, look no further than commissioner David Stern’s news conference about the scandal. Stern has always been able to stand up and face criticism, controversy, and scandal while still remaining the appearance of strength and control. In his news conference on Tuesday, however, Stern for the first time in his tenure looked, acted, and sounded defeated (Read the transcript and watch the video here).

You can take your Mike Vick dog-fighting ring (which admittedly is horrific, especially some of the things he allegedly did to the dogs), your Barry Bonds steroid induced run to the home run record, and your Tour de France’s on-going doping problems, which led yesterday to this year’s leader being kicked out for failing a test, and bury them on the back page. This NBA Ref scandal is bigger. It’s much, much bigger. All the other things are about individuals. And while those individuals may taint themselves, and in turn taint the game they play, in the end it is that individual that takes the fall and comes out worse for the wear. The game itself has always prevailed. Until now.

This taints the very game that, up to this point, has been almost un-taintable (I don’t think that’s a word. No matter.) It destroys the credibility of a league, one that has admitted it suffers from a somewhat lack of credibility due to its already questionable officiating. And it betrays any confidence the fans had of watching a ‘fair’ game being played out, one that is not influenced by TV ratings, a desire to see certain players do well, or the want of big market teams to be in the finals.

All these things have been questioned, time and time again, but fans of the NBA. Especially the last two years, when questionable officiating has become the norm in the playoffs. Take the 2006 Finals between Dallas and Miami. After dropping the first two games to the Mavericks, the Heat looked to be on their last leg heading home. Then came the Dwayne Wade Free Throw Barrage. Wade was put on the line so many times in the finals, it had conspiracy theorists all over the world screaming something wasn’t right.

Follow that up with this years Suns-Spurs series (here it comes Suns fans), in which the officiating throughout was patently low-grade, Y-league level. Most Suns fans have been pointing out two instances in which the officiating of that game hurt the Suns. One, the end of game 1 when Nash missed the last two minutes of the game because he had his nose split open and a foul called on him. The second was at the end of game four when Cheap Shot Rob Horry hip checked Steve Nash into the scorer’s table, eventually resulting in Boris Diaw and Amare Stoudemire being suspended for game 5. Well Suns fans, now we have another instance to gripe about, and this one appears legit.

Tim Donaghy was working game 3 of this series, in which Suns fans may remember there were plenty of, *ahem*, questionable calls. The worst ones can be seen here – pay special attention to the quote used from Bill Simmons, the announcers of the game, and the fact that on the first ‘highlight’ shown Donaghy called the foul, late, from 40 feet away, while the ref 5 feet away did not call anything. Suns fans may also remember this game as the one in which Amare played only 21 minutes because of foul trouble. Donaghy called Amare’s first two fouls, as well as the Tech on D’Antoni late in the game. I’m not saying, I’m just, uh, saying. That’s not to say Donaghy was the only one botching calls in that game (or the series for that matter), because the entire crew looked completely incompetent most of the game.

Regardless, the NBA is in trouble, worse trouble than it was following the Pistons-Pacers brawl from a few years ago. How can the league, and David Stern, and in particular the referees, regain the confidence and trust of sports fans? And more importantly, doesn’t this call into question other sports referees as well? I would imagine it would be hard to fix a baseball game as an ump, but then again one could shrink or expand the strike zone. Close calls at the plate can easily go one way or the other.

Football is all about judgment calls. Holding calls go uncalled all the time. How do you judge if a ball was catchable or not for interference? What about simple plays such as late hits on the quarterback? How many times have you seen that called and not agreed with it?

What about soccer? A renegade ref could easily card a player for a perceived rough tackle, or even for taking a dive. You don’t think kicking a player out of the game, forcing a team to play with 10 players vs. a team with 11 could be unfair?

I can go on and on. The point isn’t that it’s happening, or even that it could be happening. The point isn’t that we now need even more scrutiny on our officials and referees. The point is that now, whenever a questionable call comes up in any sport, there will be sports fans wondering if the fix is in. And that is the bigger issue this referee scandal will ultimately unveil. Fans no longer trust the integrity of the game.

Is it enough to cause people to stop watching and stop caring? No. Sports are too ingrained in our culture to give it up entirely. But some of the innocence of sports has been lost forever, and that will never be gained back. There will always be people wondering if the game is fixed. Which, ultimately and unfortunately, will kill a bit of the competitive and entertainment value of sports. That is where sports fans will lose.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Bloodbath

Well, that was fun. 14-0 Dbacks lose. It's hard to complain when they have won the last eight in a row, but Jesus.... that was a whooping. What a great game to go to. I think i might skip out on the rest of my season tickets....

Oh, and special thanks to Livan Hernandez, who got absolutely shelled...

Off to the game!

The Smitty Clan is heading out to the Dbacks-Braves game this afternoon, so there won't be any updates until at least tonight. And probably not til tomorrow cause we will most likely all be in Hungry Hill Brat and beer induced comas afterward. Here's hoping we don't jinx this winning streak by showing up to the game....