Sports Outside the Beltway

The HSBC Matchplay

The men are playing the British Open this week. That doesn’t mean the women golfers have a week off.

The world of Women’s professional golf plays its only match play event of the year this week when the HSBC Women’s World Match Play Championship in New Rochelle, New York is played at the brilliant Wykagyl Country Club.

The Wykagyl Country Club was built around 1900 and is one of those courses that link us with the past, Lawrence Van Etten being the original designer, but Donald Ross, A.W. Tillinghast and more recently Arthur Hills and Crenshaw and Coore all having a role in its development over the years. It is highlighted by rolling fairways, tight fairways and small greens so typical of traditional north-eastern courses from a bygone era. The course has played host to the Sybase Classic since 1990 but that event moved to New Jersey in 2007 while the Crenshaw and Coore restorations were being completed but this fine golf course gets the ongoing exposure it deserves.

The field brings together 64 of the world’s leading players competing for a first prize of US$500,000. The defending champion is Brittany Lincicome who beat Juli Inkster in the final at the Hamilton Farm Golf Club in Gladstone New Jersey to win her first USLPGA Tour event.

Colombian Marissa Baena won in 2005 when she defeated Meena Lee by a narrow 1 up margin.

The nature of matchplay has already shown the capacity of the format to produce upsets and there is every reason to believe there might be another this year.

There certainly will be upsets. I’m going to make my predictions based on my picks for this week’s Pakpicker.(Note play is already underway. I had things to do this morning, that delayed my making this post) The Matchplay Brackets are above, but you can also click here to see them.

1st Round

Ochoa over Simon
Francella over M Lee
Prammanasudh over Johnson
Hurst over Young
Creamer over Sergas
Matthew over Hjorth
Inkster over Choi
Stanford over Bae- Stanford is playing well, but Bae finished second on this course last year. Either one of these players could be a sleeper this week
Kerr over Hung- No that’s not a bad joke.
Young Kim over IK Kim
Lincicome over Koch
Granada over Rankin
Pak over Bader
Christina Kim over Gulbis
Miyazato over Morgan
Steinhauer over Min
Webb over Mayorkas
Diaz over JM Kim
JY Lee over Sjodin
Kang over Castrale
Pettersen over IB Park
Hetherington over Ahn
MH Kim over Doolan
S Lee over Chung
Sorenstam over Hull
Wright over Lang
Jang over Baena
A Park over Cavalleri
*- B Kim over Pressel- 2005 US Open rematch. Over a dismal year and a half, Birdie has been playing pretty solid golf in 2007. Imagine if they come to 18 tied and Birdie is in the bunker……
Davies over Redman
Shin over Moodie
SH Lee over D’Alessio

*- Upset(s) of the Round

2nd Round

Ochoa over Francella- This match could have the potential for an upset. Francella is a New Yorker and has played well this year, including a playoff win over Annika Sorenstam in Mexico.
Hurst over Prammanasudh
Creamer over Matthew
Stanford over Inkster
*- Y Kim over Kerr
Lincicome over Granada
Pak over C Kim
Miyazato over Steinhauer
*- Diaz over Webb
JY Lee over Kang
*- Hetherington over Pettersen
MH Kim over S Lee
Sorenstam over Wright
Jang over A Park
Davies over B Kim
Shin over SH Lee

3rd Round

Ochoa over Hurst- Pat could surprise but she isn’t having quite as good a year as she had in 2006.
*- Stanford over Creamer

Y Kim over Lincicome
Pak over Miyazato
JY Lee over Diaz
MH Kim over Hetherington
Jang over Sorenstam- Annika is still not up to par
Shin over Davies- The pudge match as I call it. The Stocky Shin vs The Rugby like Davies.


Ochoa over Stanford
Pak over Y Kim
*- JY Lee over MH Kim
Shin over Jang


Pak over Ochoa
Shin over JY Lee. Jee Young is the most underrated of the Korean players on the LPGA. She could win this whole thing.


Pak over Shin

Se Ri beats Shin, the Korean golfer that shattered many of Se Ri’s KLPGA records in 2006. Yi Yai will come to play in the USA one day and win a tournament here in memory of her mother. As Casey Stengel may have said- “You can write that down.”

We’ll see if I’m right about my HSBC picks over the next few days.


Tiger Woods Leads British Open

Tiger Woods shares the lead in the British Open after one day. If history is any indication, he’ll dominate the rest of the tournament, winning his third Claret Jug in a row.

Tiger Woods Leads 2007 British Open Tiger Woods of the United States plays from the 2nd tee during the first round of the British Open Golf Championship at Carnoustie, Scotland, Thursday July 19, 2007. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant) With his jacket zipped up tight and oversized gloves to keep his hands warm between shots, Tiger Woods got off to a strong start Thursday at chilly Carnoustie in his quest for a third straight British Open title. Woods joined K.J. Choi atop the leaderboard by rolling in a 20-foot eagle putt at the sixth hole, leaving both players at 3 under on a dreary morning along the North Sea.


Woods, his new daughter back home in Florida, was trying to become the first golfer in more than a half-century to pull off an Open three-peat. Peter Thomson claimed the claret jug from 1954-56, and only three others have won three straight years in a championship that dates to 1860.

Thomson, who won five times overall and was runner-up on three other occasions, expects Woods to be posing with the trophy come Sunday. “He has a chance to win eight in a row,” said the revered Aussie, now a member of the Royal & Ancient. “If I could do it, surely he could.”

Indeed. I don’t expect Tiger to win eight in a row — the game’s just too hard and the competition too stiff — but he doesn’t tend to lose Majors if he gets off to a good start.


Julio Franco Signs with Braves

Julio Franco, the Dick Clark of Baseball, has re-signed with the Atlanta Braves, extending his quest to play in the Major Leagues until age 50.

Julio Franco will get another chance to swing the bat in the big leagues.

The 48-year-old utilityman signed with Atlanta on Wednesday, rejoining the Braves a week after he was cut by the New York Mets. Franco cleared waivers during the Braves’ game against Cincinnati. Atlanta signed him for the rest of the season and said he would be activated for Thursday night’s game against St. Louis.

Franco, who turns 49 next month, played for the Braves in a backup role from 2001-05. He is a 24-year veteran with 2,576 career hits and is a lifetime .298 hitter. He hit just .200 (10-for-50) with one homer as a reserve with the Mets. Franco will serve in the same capacity for Atlanta.

This season, Franco became the oldest player to hit a home run in major-league history. He has said he would like to play until he turns 50.

Good news for the Braves. I predicted this would happen when the Mets cut him albeit, sadly, not on the blog.


Deadline deals

Now is the time when major league teams will decide if they have a realistic chance of making the playoffs or not. If they do they will look for players who can strengthen a weakness. Still teams need to balance their immediate needs against their long term needs. If they give up too much in a trade and don’t make the post-season will they regret the move?

Ken Rosenthal gets to the crux of the problem.

“Prospects are overvalued,” one general manager says. “Four to six years ago, perceived certainty (from veterans) was overvalued, and zero-to-six players weren’t nearly valued enough.

“Now it’s completely changed. The attrition rate on prospects isn’t being valued or properly considered. There’s zero regard for the attrition rate right now.”

The attrition rate, of course, is one reason that teams stubbornly hold onto prospects, knowing that not all will produce.

But shrewd teams — most notably, the Braves — evaluate their youngsters objectively and trade players they determine to be marginal.

(The anonymous GM is speaking too generally. There are still a number teams where experience is over-valued.) But it’s not always so easy to see the future. Still nowadays the tools are there for evaluating talent more accurately than in the past.

Dayn Perry gives a rundown of what various contenders (and near contenders) need. Sometimes his suggestion is to sit pat and wait for a player to improve or to use a player already on the roster more frequently.

More interesting still is Keith Law’s (free preview) overview of the borderline contenders and what they need. For the seven teams he evaluates, he makes specific recommendations.

Obviously this is one of the hardest parts of the game. In 2000 the Orioles had a selling spree, trading off a number veterans: Mike Bordick, Mike Timlin and B.J. Surhoff, and the only player of value they got back in return was Melvin Mora. (The supposed “crown jewel” of all these trades was oft-injured pitcher Luis Rivera from Atlanta. He never made it to the bigs due to injuries. Nor did the Orioles learn their lesson when they traded Sidney Ponson, the key player to the deal was the injured Kurt Ainsworth.)

Right now the Orioles have a few players that could be attractive to the right team: Keith Millar, Chad Bradford and Jamie Walker. Can the Orioles get anyone of value in return. None of these three is likely to bring more than one prospect in return. Hopefully, if the Orioles trade anyone they won’t be looking for help this year and will take a chance on a AA player with an upside instead of a AAA suspect. Recent history hasn’t been encouraging.

Crossposted on Soccer Dad.


Yankees win in spite of Torre

- Why Joe, why? Is Torre living in some strange, bizarro universe in which bad pitchers are good, and good pitchers bad? That seems the only explanation for his continued use of Kyle Farnsworth late in close games. Edwar Ramirez goes on his 11th straight day riding the bench. He might as well be sent down to Scranton to stay sharp, because no pitcher can stay sharp after a layoff this long. Then predictably, when Torre does use him and he falters due to rust, he’ll be even deeper in Joe’s doghouse. A vicious cycle. He’s better than just a mop up guy – save that for Myers, Farnsworth and Villone. Just watch, now that Vizcaino is pitching well, Joe will overwork him and burn him out (like every good reliever so far).

- Maybe its about time Damon is DLed, and either Shelley Duncan is brought up to DH, or one of Brett Gardner or Justin Christian is brought up to play LF, pushing Matsui to DH. Damon is hurt, right? How else could he be hitting .238? Their season stats -
Damon, .238/.339/.330, 16 sb, 1 cs
S. Duncan, 28 (AAA): .292/.376/.571, 2 sb, 2 cs
Christian, 27 (AA & AAA): .266/.310/.370, 29 sb, 4 cs
Gardner, 23 (AA & AAA): .301/.395/.419, 21 sb, 4 cs

- Melky seems to make another great play every night. Tonight it was on Aaron Hill’s liner to left center (that looked like a sure double) that he ran down. Not to mention practically tying the game by himself in bottom of the 9th.

- Cano went from goat to hero in two innings. He struck out with two on to end the 8th, then drove in the winning run in the 10th.

- The forgotten hero is Andy Pettitte, who escaped several jams, and matched Halladay pitch for pitch through seven strong innings.

- Arod had a two-out, two-strike RBI single in the first which didn’t seem like much at the time, but turned out to be the difference in the game. He also made some very nice plays at 3b.

- The forgotten goats are Bobby Abreu and Derek Jeter, who – in the second and third spots in the lineup – went 0-10 with three Ks.

- An organizational sweep today as every team under the Yankee umbrella won – the GCL Yankees even swept a doubleheader.


Atlanta Falcon QB Michael Vick indicted on Federal Charges

They are related to the dogfighting investigation that has been underway the last few months.

RICHMOND, Va. – Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick was indicted Tuesday by a federal grand jury on charges related to illegal dogfighting. Vick and three others were charged with violating federal laws against competitive dogfighting, procuring and training pit bulls for fighting and conducting the enterprise across state lines.

The indictment alleges that Vick and his co-defendants began sponsoring dogfighting in early 2001, the former Virginia Tech star’s rookie year with the Falcons.

It accuses Vick, Purnell A. Peace, Quanis L. Phillips and Tony Taylor of “knowingly sponsoring and exhibiting an animal fighting venture,” of conducting a business enterprise involving gambling, as well as buying, transporting and receiving dogs for the purposes of an animal fighting venture.

If I were to make a guess, Vick will be suspended by the NFL till these charges are settled one way or another. Commissioner Roger Goodell has shown little mercy to players who get into serious trouble. If Goodell is to be consistent, he’ll have to take action on Vick also.


Miami Dolphins Release Daunte Culpepper

The former Pro Bowler was let go this afternoon.

MIAMI – The Miami Dolphins released quarterback Daunte Culpepper on Tuesday, ending the former Pro Bowler’s short stint in South Florida and wrapping up what became a contentious split between the player and the team.

The Dolphins made the move in a one-sentence release, without further comment.

Miami tried for weeks to trade Culpepper, the former Minnesota star who was acquired by the Dolphins before the 2006 season even though he was coming off major knee surgery. Culpepper never regained his form last year, struggling in four games before the team shut him down so he could continue rehabilitating the knee.

A grievance filed by the NFL Players Association on Culpepper’s behalf against the Dolphins was scheduled to be heard Wednesday, after the team told Culpepper he couldn’t fully participate in offseason practices. That move came shortly after Miami traded with Kansas City for quarterback Trent Green, who’s expected to be the new starter for the Dolphins.

Daunte’s future in Miami became doubtful the moment Nick Saban left town. A little over a year ago Miami thought Culpepper was the team’s salvation at QB, that he was healthier and cheaper than the injured Drew Brees. Two second round picks(The trade for Culpepper, plus the 2007 selection of Beck) plus a fifth round pick(The Trent Green deal)later and Miami’s QB situation is still murky. Will Beck develop as the team hopes? Will Green do a good job in the interim? The team still has questions but few answers. One answer we know for sure. When asked what the Dolphins experience with Daunte Culpepper was, the word fiasco is the only proper reply.

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Sheffield opens his mouth

by Joel Sherman -

Gary Sheffield was half-right, which is a lot different from Derek Jeter being “half-black.”

Sheffield was right that Joe Torre plays favorites. He favors the players who won him the four rings.

Torre loves Jeter best of all. He’d love him if he was half-green, half-awake or half-in-the-bag. Because Jeter and Mariano Rivera are the two players most responsible for Torre’s four rings.

Torre loves Jorge Posada and Bernie Williams and Andy Pettitte, too, because they are the next three players most responsible for the four rings. Torre also loves those five players because they are quiet, professional gentlemen.

I suspect Torre didn’t love Sheffield because he is neither quiet nor professional, and I suspect he likes him even less now because Sheffield won’t shut up about how Torre mistreated him. And now it’s about how Torre mistreated Sheffield because he’s African-American and how he mistreats all African-American players.

Continued here.


Phillies 10,000th Loss Most in Professional Sports History

The Philadelphia Phillies have reached a dubious milestone, becoming the first professional team in any sport to lose 10,000 games.

Phillies 10,000th Loss Most in Professional Sports HistoryThrough the last-place finishes, September collapses and every agonizing failure over the past 125 years, no team has lost quite like the Philadelphia Phillies. Futility has followed them since the day they were born, and Sunday night was no different for the losingest team in sports history. Loss No. 10,000 came when Albert Pujols hit two of the St. Louis Cardinals’ six homers in a 10-2 rout.

Not surprisingly, this defeat resembled the thousands that came before. Bad starting pitching, brutal relief and hardly any hitting. And, of course, lots of booing. By the ninth inning, with the outcome inevitable, the boos turned to cheers. Fans in the sellout crowd of 44,872 thumbed their noses at the dubious mark, standing and applauding. One held up a sign that read: “10,000 N Proud” as NL MVP Ryan Howard struck out to end the game.

“I don’t know too much about 10,000 losses,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. “I try and concentrate on the wins.”

From Connie Mack Stadium to the Vet and Citizens Bank Park, the Phillies have had few moments to celebrate. The franchise, born in 1883 as the Philadelphia Quakers and briefly called the Blue Jays in the mid-1940s, fell to 8,810-10,000.

Next on the losing list: the Braves, with 9,681 defeats. It took them stints in three cities (Boston, Milwaukee and Atlanta) to reach that total. Not even those lovable losers, the Chicago Cubs, come close at 9,425. And for those counting, it was the 58th time the Phillies have lost by that exact 10-2 score, the Elias Sports Bureau said.

While it’s a somewhat embarrassing record, it’s a bit misleading. For one thing, baseball teams play radically more games than in any other professional sport. Moreover, even the best teams will lose 35-40 percent of their games, amassing 60 loses even in great seasons. And the Phillies have been around longer than virtually all other teams.

Still, not a record to cheer.


Seve Ballesteros Retires

Seve Ballesteros is retiring from golf after a failed bid to succeed on the seniors’ tour convinced him it just wasn’t worth the grind anymore.

Seve Ballesteros, a five-time major championship winner, announced his retirement from golf on Monday.The Spaniard, who won the British Open three times and the Masters twice, told a news conference at the British Open: “This has been the most difficult decision of my life.”

Ballesteros, who turned 50 in April, has not been a force in golf for the last 10 years as he has coped with back injuries.

Ballesteros recently underwent hospital tests recently over a minor heart scare. He said he had made up his mind to retire only after a failed attempt to play on the Champions Tour in the U.S. this year. “For several months there was something confusing inside. It was an internal fight — my head said I should retire. I kept saying that over and over,” he said. “My heart kept telling me it would be better to keep playing and compete. So it was difficult for quite a while. Finally, I decided to go to try on the Champions Tour [the seniors tour in the U.S.]. So I went there and played one tournament and then I came back. That really made me think … I should retire.”

He continued: “I don’t have the desire any longer. I have worked very hard from morning to night and put all my energy and effort into the game, focused 100 percent and I felt that was enough.

“I have a number of good years left and I’d rather spend time now with my three children and my companies and friends.”

Ballesteros did for Europe what Arnold Palmer did for American golf a generation earlier. He was a swashbuckler on the course, a combination of power and amazing imagination. He won one of his three British Open titles by playing a shot from the car park (a temporary parking lot), and perhaps his greatest shot was a 3-wood from bunker on the final hole of the Ryder Cup in 1983, the first time Europe had a chance.

Inspired by his fierce style, Europe closed the gap on the United States in the matches until winning for the first time in 1985, and dominating ever since. One of those victory came in 1997 at Valderrama, with Ballesteros as the captain.

He’s certainly earned his retirement.

Bill Jempty Update- Ballesteros was a short game wizard. As seen in his wins at Augusta and hid recovery from the car park at the 1979 Open.(I was doing my Navy Basic Training in Orlando Florida at the time of that Open. So I only saw Seve’s miracles that year afterwards) I followed golf even more heavily in the 80′s and Seve’s exploits are very vivid to me. There has been serious questions about Seve’s health of late. I hope he is well and wish Seve a happy retirement.


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