Sports Outside the Beltway

Mexico, The Most Popular Team In America

Atleast when it comes to soccer.

A frenzied crowd of nearly 50,000 soccer fans, the largest ever to watch a non-World Cup game in Northern California, will gather in Oakland tonight to watch an exhibition game between two national teams from foreign countries — Mexico and Ecuador.

The Mexican national team is the most popular soccer team in the United States and consistently outdraws America’s team, or any other soccer club for that matter.

And any game in California is like a home game for the Mexicans.

The Oakland Coliseum will be filled with thousands of screaming fans wearing “El Tricolor” — the green, red and white of the Mexican national flag. The game sold out nearly a month ago. Tickets originally priced at $60 were being resold on Craigslist for $150 on Tuesday.

“We in Mexi-fornia consider this a home game,” said Roger Fernandez, owner of ChivaMex, a store in Oakland’s Fruitvale District that specializes in Mexican League and other international soccer apparel. “I mean Ecuador is coming to our house, so we got to represent for Mexico.”

Its really not suprising story to read because despite America’s size soccer’s popularity ranks somewhere between the NHL and hitting yourself in the head with a hammer. Beyond that its really not suprising that Mexican immigrants maintain a close tie to the team the respresents their home country, especially given the large amount of spanish media outlets that can provide an up to the second link to their childhood teams. Of course with everything there are problems because many of the fans still act like they are in Mexico for the game, which is why I aviod any game in which a Latin American Team is involved. At any given game played in Southern California its not uncommon for the US National Anthem to be booed, objects thrown at non-Mexican fan, threats of violence, and so on. Its great to support your team, even I pull for teams that represent countries where my family comes from (when they aren’t playing the US), but you don’t need to be a soccer hooligan to do it.


Kraft Nabisco Championship starts today

That’s my longshot pick for this weekend’s Kraft Nabisco Championship, Grace Park. Grace wouldn’t normally be considered a longshot. She is the 2004 KN Champ plus a former winner of the Vare trophy. When healthy, I doubt there are more than four better players on tour than Grace Park.

However Grace has been injured for much of the last two years. She had her worst season ever in 2006. Kind of reminds of what happened to Se Ri Pak in 2004 and 2005. We all know what happened to the Korean Golf Queen in 2006.

On the plus side for Grace, she had a top 20 last week at the Safeway tournament in Arizona. That included a third round 65. That’s the type of play that could make Grace a winner this weekend.

Other longshot or not obvious picks are(and South Korean golfers) are Shi Hyun Ahn, Jee Young Lee and Seon Hwa Lee. Any of these ladies could be jumping into the pond after Sunday’s final round.

Oh and for the latest stupidity in the Golf MSM, we have who else John Antonini from Golf World magazine who writes of Hee Won Han-

The Kraft Nabisco is the only major a Korean player hasn’t won, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be represented on the leaderboard.

Grace Park is definitely South Korean.

She has lived in the US since age 11, but considers herself Korean. John Antonini is just one more clueless idiot in the golf media.

Doug Ferguson writes about the obvious(or some would say realistic) pick this weekend. No doubt about it, Lorena Ochoa is playing sensational golf and has to be considered the favorite. I’ll stand by my New Year’s pick, Se Ri Pak.

Reminder- Michelle Wie is not playing this week.

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – Lorena Ochoa finds inspiration just about everywhere she turns in the California desert.

She never came closer to winning a major than one year ago in the Kraft Nabisco Championship. The Mexican star tied an LPGA major record with a 62 in the opening round, only to carelessly throw away shots over the weekend. And despite a birdie-par-eagle finish to force a playoff, she left Mission Hills empty after losing to Karrie Webb in a playoff.

“I didn’t like the feeling of losing, kind of giving the tournament away after a great first round,” she said. advertisement

But the Coachella Valley is filled with positive vibes, too, for it was only five months ago at Bighorn that Ochoa produced perhaps her most significant victory to date.

She trailed Annika Sorenstam by 3 shots going into the final round of the Samsung World Championship on a course where Sorenstam had never lost and was going after a record sixth victory. Despite such daunting odds, the fearless Ochoa fired at flags and closed with a 7-under 65 to win by 2.

It sent Ochoa on her way to winning LPGA Player of the Year and the money title, which had belonged to Sorenstam the past five years. And it allowed her to truly believe that being No. 1 in the world was only a matter of time.

Perhaps the time is now.

Ochoa can move to No. 1 in the women’s world ranking and fill the only hole in her credentials with a victory in the Kraft Nabisco Championship, which starts today at Mission Hills.

There is little to suggest she is not the favorite.

She is coming off a six-victory season that allowed her to sweep all the major awards. And she is coming off a victory last week against a strong field at Superstition Mountain in Gold Canyon, where she birdied four of the last five holes.

“I would say Lorena is playing very, very well,” Sorenstam said. ” . . . So far, and right now, she’s playing some superb golf. So I’m not surprised that the gap is smaller and smaller.”

The Kraft Nabisco is played on the same course every year, and the 101 players make it the smallest field among LPGA majors.

In her fifth year on tour, about the only thing Ochoa, 25, has not achieved is winning a major.

Her first decent chance came two years at Cherry Hills, a grueling test for the 2005 U.S. Women’s Open. Ochoa was among the early starters and was poised to post a score of 3 over – the winning score that day – until she hooked her tee shot on the 18th into the water and stumbled to a quadruple bogey.


Graceless, yes. But antisemitic?

I saw the headline CBA coach Richardson suspended for remarks and wondered what happened.

“I’ve got big-time lawyers,” Richardson said, according to the Times Union. “I’ve got big-time Jew lawyers.”

When told by the reporters that the comment could be offensive to people because it plays to the stereotype that Jews are crafty and shrewd, he responded with, “Are you kidding me? They are. They’ve got the best security system in the world. Have you ever been to an airport in Tel Aviv? They’re real crafty. Listen, they are hated all over the world, so they’ve got to be crafty.”

And he continued, “They got a lot of power in this world, you know what I mean?” he said. “Which I think is great. I don’t think there’s nothing wrong with it. If you look in most professional sports, they’re run by Jewish people. If you look at a lot of most successful corporations and stuff, more businesses, they’re run by Jewish. It’s not a knock, but they are some crafty people.”

If he left off the last part I would have had less of a problem with the statements. The earlier statements were certainly graceless, but I don’t see them as being antisemitic. He didn’t say “people hate Jews because they’re crafty” but the other way around. Plus using “Jew” as an adjective is often done in antisemitic rants. While “Jews are crafty” is certainly a stereotype is it necessarily bigotry?

And even the last part when he says that Jews own corporations. He seems to be saying it admiringly. It’s a bit awkward for sure. But is it antisemitism? Al Sharpton’s said a lot worse and hasn’t paid a political price. I don’t see why Michael Ray Richardson should be paying a professional price for his statements.

Crossposted on Soccer Dad.


Steinbrenner’s heir up in the air

From Pete Abraham -

The question of who takes control of the Yankees when George Steinbrenner steps down or passes away has been reopened.

Steinbrenner’s son-in-law and designated successor, Steve Swindal, has been sued for divorce. Jennifer Steinbrenner filed papers in the Hillsborough County Circuit Court’s family law department on Tuesday. She cited “irreconcilable differences.”

The divorce proceedings came 40 days after Swindal was arrested for driving under the influence and speeding in an unsavory section of St. Petersburg. Swindal is expected to lose his position as general partner.

Steinbrenner’s two sons, Hank and Hal, have not previously exhibited much interest in the operation of the team. Hank Steinbrenner is a senior vice president and general partner and Hal Steinbrenner a general partner. But both have spent more time at Legends Field this spring, particularly in the wake of Swindal’s arrest.

Another son-in-law, Felix Lopez, is a senior vice president of the team.

This is a significant development for fans. Once Steinbrenner dies, it is unclear whether his family would retain control of the team or sell it.

Stay tuned.


Jack Johnson To Play Thursday

Its been a week for Jack Johnson, in 6 days he will have gone from playing in the NCAA Tournment to suiting up for his first NHL game. A trip that will take him from Ann Arbor to Los ANgeles with a lay over in Denver. After argeeing to a deal with the Kings on Monfay he spent Tuesday working out with some players on injured reserve, today was full practice with the team and his childhood hockey idol Rob Blake.

Jack Johnson
Photo Source: RinkRat @

While Anze Kopitar has become a foundation for the team at the center position, Dean Lombardi has been singing the praised of Johnson since he was aquired looking to him to be the cornerstone of the team on the blue line for better part of the next two decades. By Johnson jumping right into the NHL, it gives the Kings a glimpse at where his development stands to this point. The season is already a loss for the team but getting Johnson NHL experience will help in the creation of a development plan over the summer, acclimates him to NHL life and will shape the off-season aquisitions the Kigns will make with their anticipated $15-$17m in cap space this off-season. This move alone may end up selling out the last two home games fo the season because it sure won’t be playoff excitement. I of course will be at the game, because I am pretty much always there.


Brewers have two spots open

I do find it remarkably comforting to see the participants in what appears to be the last two spots on the Crew’s 25 man roster. The battles appear to be between Tony Gwynn Jr. and Vinny Rottino for the final position player spot, and Jose Capellan and Greg Aquino for the last spot in the bullpen, assuming there are not any trades or waiver pickups…and with 5 empty spots on the 40 man, I expect to see a couple players claimed, though they may well be Marino Salas types, not major league ready.

If you take a glance at Rotoworld, or other similar sites, you’ll see names mentioned for the 5th starter, and even starting spots that are, to be kind, weak. As long as it is true that both Aquino and Capellan have options left, regardless of who makes the team, they will have the loser of that battle and Dennis Sarfate at AAA Nashville, two players that would probably have made the 25 man roster of over half the teams in the bigs, and probably two of the hardest throwers in AAA that can actually find the plate. My only fear is that Jose is not at full strength and hiding an injury of some sort, suffered in winter ball, as he’s not even been hitting 90.

On the same line of thinking, I think Tony will hit the majors and stay next year, but would prefer he spend ’07 getting 500 PA’s and hopefully, dominating the AAA level, making him at least a platoon option in CF for someone. I do think his overall package is tempting (though as Robert often points out, the 25th man makes little difference), as he would be used as a PR, early innings PH, leadoff PH late, and possible defensive replacement (probably just for Kevin Mench). Rottino is a nice utility guy, as he’s played all 8 spots off the mound, and is decent at 5 of them (all but 2B, SS, CF). He is a nice 3rd catcher, if you’d like to use Johnny Estrada as a PH when Damian Miller is catching, or use a PR for one of them. He’s also a RH bat, he’d actually be the only one on the bench (other than Miller or the switch-hitting Estrada) when a lefty starts. I would go with Vinny myself, but understand that Gwynn may well see more time if he is chosen.

There are probably players that will hit waivers that will tempt the braintrust as well, a RH slugger that could backup 1B/3B is one thing that comes to my mind, as well as that elusive loogy, although I would expect that piece to be added before the deadline in July, and not be a loogy by definition, but rather a solid reliever who happens to throw LH. Regardless, the quality of the 26th and 27th men make me feel pretty good about the strength of the depth that we’ve been hearing about all offseason.


Royals Pick Up RHP Hendrickson From Brewers

The Kansas City Royals traded minor league catcher Maxim St. Pierre to the Milwaukee Brewers for right-handed pitcher Ben Hendrickson today.

Despite having a kick-ass name, St. Pierre was one of a bevy of backup catchers clogging the Royals minor league system.

Of course, any trade that doesn’t involve the names Emil Brown or Reggie Sanders isn’t likely to make Royals fans happy in the near future, but for now, let’s take a look at what they got.

Ben Hendrickson has been working his way up through the Brewers farm system since 2000. A few brief stints with the big league club in ’04 and last year haven’t gone so well for young Ben, but in the minors, his numbers look solid if unspectacular.

His best talent seems to be avoiding the long ball, giving up only 0.57 home runs per nine innings over his minor-league career. He appeared to wear down over the course of the season last year, his key stats rising with each passing month until September, when every batter he faced looked like Roy Hobbs swinging a magical wood bat.

Hendrickson will start out the season with AAA Omaha, but he looks like another young arm that general manager Dayton Moore is stockpiling for when Jorge De La Rosa continues pitching like he did today.


The NHL Draft System Explained

Spurred on by the post Jeff Van Gundy Wants Random NBA Lottery, it is worth looking at the NHL, who also combines a lottery with the inverse order of finish and playoff success to building its draft order.

The first is the distinction between playoff teams (finish as 1-16) and non-playoff teams (finish as 17-30) and the draft ordering, as well as the first round and rounds two thru seven.

Rounds 2 thru 7
Picks 1-14: Non-playoff teams ranked in order of fewest points (2 pts for a win, 1 pt for overtime loss).
Picks 15-24: Non-Division Winners who did not make the Conference Finals ranked by points, will consist of 6 to 10 teams.
Picks 21-26: Division Winners who did not make the Conference Finals ranked by points , will consist of 2 to 6 teams.
Pick 27: Conference Final Loser with least points.
Pick 28: Conference Final Loser with most points.
Pick 29: Stanley Cup Runner-Up.
Pick 30: Stanley Cup Champion.

1st Round
Picks 1-14: Teams ranked by points. Balls numbered 1-14 are selected to form series of numbers with the 14 Teams involved assigned combinations of numbers using a probability chart. The four-digit series that results from the balls drawn are be compared to the probability chart to determine the team to which that combination has been assigned. There are 1,001 numerical combinations possible, with one combination eliminated to make the odds fair; if the eliminated combination is drawn (a 0.1% probability), the drawing is immediately re-done. The percentage chance of being selected in the lottery is as follows, based on team finish:

30th: 25.0% (250 combinations), but a 48.2% chance of picking first
29th: 18.8% (188 combinations)
28th: 14.2% (142 combinations)
27th: 10.7% (107 combinations)
26th: 8.1% (81 combinations)
25th: 6.2% (62 combinations)
24th: 4.7% (47 combinations)
23rd: 3.6% (36 combinations)
22nd: 2.7% (27 combinations)
21st: 2.1% (21 combinations)
20th: 1.5% (15 combinations)
19th: 1.1% (11 combinations)
18th: 0.8% (8 combinations)
17th: 0.5% (5 combinations)

The team selected in the lottery may not move up more than four positions in the draft order. Thus the only clubs with the opportunity to receive the 1st overall selection are the five clubs with the lowest regular-season point totals (or clubs that acquired those clubs’ first-round drafting positions). No club can move down more than one position as a result of the lottery. Under the weighted lottery system, the club with the fewest regular-season points will have the greatest chance (25%) of winning the lottery and will pick no lower than second at the Entry Draft.

After the club selected moves up, the balance of the first 14 draft selections are adjusted by one, with the appropriate clubs moving down one slot to accommodate the winner, if necessary.

Picks 15-30: Same as Rounds 2 thru 7.

2005 was an exception to the standard draft procedure, due to the NHL Lockout. Teams felt it was unfair to reuse the the 2004 Draft order, so teams were assigned 1 to 3 balls based on playoff appearence over the previous 3 seasons (3 balls = 0 playoff appearneces, 2 balls = 1 playoff appearence, 1 ball = 2 or more playoff appearances). To make the draft “fair” the draft order was reversed each round, so who ever picked last in the current round pick first in the next round. The developing of this draft was quite tense as it was the year of the Sidney Crosby Sweepstakes and every team wanted a shot at him. And yes there were accusations similar to the Patrick Ewing frozen envolope draft involving weighted balls to make sure Pittsburgh got Crosby to “help” the team stay in Pittsburgh.


So You Picked the Final Four? Join the Club

Pete Thamel reports that, if you picked all four teams in this year’s NCAA tourney, you’re not alone.

Last year at this time, of the 3.1 million entries in’s bracket pool, only four chose the correct Final Four teams. This year, 161,869 of 3.3 million entries have the Gators, the Buckeyes, the Bruins and the Hoyas still alive.

Sadly, I was not among them. Having followed college basketball news even less closely this year than in the past, I picked several used-to-be-good teams to upset highly ranked teams whose recent resurgence flew under my radar screen. While I picked seven of the Elite Eight, only Florida remains alive in my Final Four bracket.

via Dan Drezner


Jeff Van Gundy Wants Random NBA Lottery

Jeff Van Gundy wants to make a parody of parity.

The Dallas Mavericks with the No. 1 pick in the 2007 NBA draft? If Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy had his way, that could happen.

Van Gundy wants to open up the NBA draft lottery to all 30 NBA teams in an effort to keep teams from losing intentionally to hopefully secure the No. 1 pick. “I think every team should have an equal chance at winning the lottery, from the best team all the way down,” Van Gundy told The Houston Chronicle. “I don’t want to accuse anyone of anything. I would say to take away any possible conflict of interest, everyone should have an equal chance at the top pick all the way down. That way there would be absolutely no question by anybody about anything. If it’s better for the game, they should do it. I never quite understood why losing is rewarded, other than [for] parity.”

According to The Chronicle, Van Gundy presented his proposal to the NBA, but wasn’t taken seriously.

Ya think? Saying “I never quite understood why losing is rewarded, other than [for] parity” is like saying, “I never understood why people bother to breathe, other than the living.”

Indeed, the NBA is the only league with a lottery than a pure inverse order of finish draft. Until a few years ago, every team had a chance to get the top player, although it was weighted. Still, it resulted in the best teams occasionally getting ridiculously high picks.


Visitors Since Feb. 4, 2003

All original content copyright 2003-2008 by OTB Media. All rights reserved.