Sports Outside the Beltway

Crystal Ball Time

My annual sports predictions for the upcoming year. Due to some unknown reason, I skipped doing this a year ago. What matters is I came back, right?

1 Cleveland beats the LA Lakers for the NBA Championship
2 Indianapolis defeats Arizona in the Super Bowl Crystall ball
3 San Jose defeats Washington for the Stanley Cup
4 St. Louis beats the Los Angeles Angels in the World Series
5 Tiger Woods returns to golf, wins at least one tournament but no major championships. That is a risky prediction in light of the fact that Tiger has won majors on 3 of this year’s host courses.(Augusta National, Pebble Beach, St. Andrews)
6 Phil Mickelson wins the US Open
7 Michelle Wie wins at least two tournaments, one of which is a major championship
8 Ji Yai Shin is LPGA player of the year
9 A non-Korean golfer will be LPGA rookie of the year
10 Yu-Na Kim wins figure skating gold at the 2010 Olympics
11 The Miami Dolphins don’t make this year’s playoffs but have a winning 2010 season
12 The Miami Heat make the playoffs but lose in the 1st round
13 The Florida Marlins have a winning record but don’t make the playoffs
14 Urban Meyer doesn’t return as coach of the Florida Gators
15 Joe Paterno announces his retirement after the 2010 Penn State season is complete
16 The Florida Panthers don’t make the playoffs
17 The Florida Panthers trade Goalie Tomas Vokoun
18 Manny Pacquiao loses to Floyd Mayweather
19 Kansas defeats Purdue for the NCAA Basketball Championship
20 Texas defeats Alabama in the BCS Championship game
21 Army has a winning football season and gets a bowl invitation
22 Washington Redskins fire Coach Jim Zorn
23 Serena Williams wins at Wimbledon
24 Versus and Directv finally settle their dispute
25 A North American horse racing track closes its doors.
26 Sebastian Vettel wins the Formula World Drivers Championship
27 New York Rangers fire Coach John Tortorella
28 The New Jersey Nets don’t finish with the worst record in NBA history
29 Connecticut defeats Tennessee for the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship
30 At least half these predictions are wrong

We’ll come back on December 31st 2010 and see how I did.


Texas Rangers sign P Darren Oliver

This will be his third stint with the team. From the Dallas Morning News- Darren Oliver

The agreement between Darren Oliver and the Rangers is now official. He will receive $3 million in base salary this season with a vesting option worth $3.25 million. The option would vest if Oliver appears in 59 games in 2010. He has averaged 58 games a season over the last three years. If the option is not picked up, Oliver would receive a $500,000 buyout, guaranteeing him at least $3.5 million.

Oliver is a good acquisition in my opinion. Originally a starting pitcher, he has been a reliever of late. And not a left handed specialist, Oliver has been tough on right handed hitters during his career. The last two years of which was spent with the Los Angeles Angels where he went 12-2 with an ERA under 2.85.

A little known fact about Oliver is that he swings a pretty good bat. He has a .221 lifetime batting average. Of course in the Designated Hitter ruled American League Oliver is unlikely to be called upon to hit.

Note- I’ve always liked Oliver. Partly due to the fact he was a pitcher on my first ever Star Tournament Championship team back in October 2000.


Washington Nationals sign C Ivan Rodriguez

The Nationals will be Pudge’s 5th team in three years. From the Washington Times-

The Washington Nationals have agreed with former Texas Rangers catcher Ivan Rodriguez on a two-year deal, according to a club source. The deal is believed to be worth $6 million, and it gives Washington the veteran catcher who can both spell and mentor Jesus Flores that general manager Mike Rizzo said he’s been looking for.Pudge

The move came shortly after the midnight deadline for free agents to accept arbitration offers. Rodriguez declined arbitration, instead landing a multi-year deal at the age of 38.

What the Nationals will primarily be getting is experience; the future Hall of Famer has played nearly 2,400 major-league games and reached 14 All-Star Games. He has thrown out 46 percent of baserunners during his career.

Washington has been searching for an insurance policy behind the plate with Flores trying to return from shoulder surgery. He also won rave reviews for his work with a young pitching staff in Detroit from 2004-08, and will be counted on to duplicate those efforts with the Nationals’ young arms, particularly top overall pick Stephen Strasburg.

The Nationals goals of having Rodriguez tutor Flores and Strasburg are realistic. Pudge’s goal of playing 70 or more games next season, is more problematic. He is 38 and with almost 2,300 games under his belt. I don’t think he is capable of maintaining a heavy and productive workload but that’s my opinion.


Florida Marlins trade OF Jeremy Hermida to Boston

He was the team’s first round draft selection in 2002. From AP-

The Red Sox acquired outfielder Jeremy Hermida from the Florida Marlins Thursday in exchange for left-handed pitchers Hunter Jones and Jose Alvarez.

Hermida, 25, hit .259 with 13 home runs and 47 RBIs over 129 games with the Marlins in 2009 and set a career high with 56 walks. The left-handed hitter appeared in 81 games (73 starts) in right field and 51 (40 starts) in left. He made just one error in 205 total chances for a .995 fielding percentage, sixth among qualifying National League outfielders. He appeared in only three games after Aug. 31 because of an intercostal strain on his right side.

What the move means

ESPN’s Peter Gammons thinks the Red Sox’s acquisition of left fielder Jeremy Hermida gives them flexibility. Story
Hermida, Florida’s first-round pick (11th overall) of the 2002 draft, has a .265 career batting average with 57 homers and 210 RBIs in 516 games.


Jones, 25, made his major league debut this season with Boston and appeared in 11 games in relief. The left-hander posted a 9.24 ERA with the Red Sox, compiling nine strikeouts in 12 2/3 innings. In 36 relief outings with Triple-A Pawtucket, he was 4-3 with two saves and a 4.25 ERA. The Red Sox signed Jones as an undrafted free agent out of the Cape Cod League.

The 20-year-old Alvarez combined to go 9-4 with a 2.26 ERA, 74 strikeouts and 16 walks in 26 games (12 starts) between Class A Salem and Short-A Lowell in 2009. He led the New York-Penn League with a 1.52 ERA while recording eight wins over 14 outings (12 starts) with Lowell. Signed by the Red Sox as a nondrafted free agent on July 2, 2005, Alvarez has compiled a 23-15 record and a 3.21 ERA in 76 career minor league appearances (48 starts) in the Red Sox system.

As usual with ninety percent of the trades made by the Marlins, the main motivation is monetary not the talent received for the player they are trading. Hermida was eligible for salary arbitration this off season.

Hermida after a good start to his pro career has been disappointing the last two years. Alvarez sounds like a good prospect, Evans on the other hand is 25 which is a late age(but not unheard of) to be trying to establish themselves as a MLB pitcher. The Marlins may come out all right from this trade but we won’t know for a few years.


Florida Marlin Ricky Nolasco strikes out 9 consecutive batters

He also finished the night with 16 strikeouts, a team record. From AP-

Florida Marlins pitcher Ricky Nolasco struck out nine consecutive batters against the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday night, one short of the major league record.

The streak ended with a leadoff double by Adam LaRoche in the sixth inning, and Nolasco finished with a club-record 16 strikeouts. After throwing more than 120 pitches, he was lifted by manager Fredi Gonzalez with two outs in the eighth. The Marlins were leading 5-2.

The big league record for consecutive strikeouts in a game is 10 by Hall of Famer Tom Seaver for the New York Mets on April 22, 1970, against San Diego.

Seaver struck out 19 in that game at Shea Stadium, including his final 10 batters in a 2-1 victory.

The Mets were my favorite team while I was growing up on Long Island. I watched that 1970 game on television. The 19th strikeout was a outfielder named Al Ferrara.


Aaron Boone back playing minor league baseball 5 months after having heart surgery

He hopes to be back playing in the major leagues before the 2009 season is completed. From AP-

Aaron Boone is back playing baseball, appearing in a minor league game in Texas less than five months after open-heart surgery.

Boone batted second Monday night for the Corpus Christi Hooks, a Double-A affiliate of the Houston Astros. He swung at the first pitch and popped up to the first baseman in foul territory. Boone played third base against Midland and was hitless in two at-bats before leaving the game.

“It felt good to get out there and play in a real game,” Boone told The Associated Press in a phone interview. “I felt good physically. I always have nerves whether it’s a spring training game or my first game in Corpus.

“I was excited tonight. I think it went really well. I had a couple of balls come my way and got to face pitching for the first time in a long, long time. A little overwhelming, but a necessary step on the way back.”

The 36-year-old Boone had an operation in late March because of a congenital defect in his aortic valve.

Boone is perhaps best remembered for his game 7 winning homerun in the 2003 ALCS. He was a favorite player of mine during the 2001 Star Tournament season. I platooned him with Eric Chavez at both the Fort Lauderdale and Fall Orlando tournaments where I each finished 2nd.

It sounds as if Boone was born with a bicuspid heart valve and had AVR(Aortic Valve replacement) surgery. Something I have more than a passing familiarity with. I had AVR performed on me one year ago this week. Boone is stronger than me, I don’t know if I would be swinging a baseball bat so soon. I wish him well in his recovery and comeback.


Return engagement- Milwaukee Brewers acquire reliever David Weathers

He is one of the last original Florida Marlins to still be playing in the Major Leagues. From AP-

The Milwaukee Brewers have acquired Cincinnati right-hander David Weathers for a player to be named later.

Weathers is 3-3 with a 3.32 ERA in 43 games. He pitched one inning and got the win in Friday’s 10-5 comeback win over the San Francisco Giants.

The 39-year-old reliever starts his second stint with Milwaukee. He previously pitched for the Brewers from 1998-2001.

Weathers, who first came up with Toronto in 1991, is still putting up decent numbers. Anyone want to take a guess how much longer he can keep on pitching in the majors?


Ivan Rodriguez sets all time record for games played as a catcher

He broke the record held by Carlton Fisk. From AP-

Ivan Rodriguez was praised by fans and teammates Wednesday night for becoming the all-time leader in games caught.


Rodriguez, who began his career at age 19 in 1991 and played 12 seasons in Texas, caught his 2,227th game to break Carlton Fisk’s record.

“I’m tickled for Pudge,” Cooper said. “It’s great he was able to break the record. But it’s unfortunate that it didn’t happen on a good night for us.”

Rodriguez received numerous ovations from the Rangers crowd, but also had his first two-error game since Aug. 26, 2004, and sixth in his career. Both of his miscues led to runs.

Pudge’s rifle arm has been prone to miscues. He totaled double digit amounts of errors in three seasons.

Catcher is the most demanding position position on the baseball field. It puts a lot of wear on a player’s feet, back, etc. That’s why 2,000 games at the position is a huge amount, and why many catchers(Anyone remember iron man Randy Hundley) begin breaking down at half or more the amount of games Pudge played.


Milwaukee Brewers release reliever Jorge Julio

This takes place the day after the Florida Marlins shell the veteran righty. From AP-

The Milwaukee Brewers made big changes to their thin bullpen on Tuesday.

One day after reliever Jorge Julio allowed five runs while facing six batters in the sixth inning of Milwaukee’s 7-4 loss to the Florida Marlins, the Brewers released the right-hander.

Julio entered Monday night’s game in Miami with Milwaukee leading 4-2. He gave up two hits, hit two batters, walked one and another reached on an error. Signed to a one-year, $950,000 deal in the offseason, Julio was let go Tuesday after going 1-1 with a 7.79 ERA in 15 appearances.

The Brewers called up right-hander Mike Burns from Triple-A Nashville. Burns was 6-2 with a 2.98 ERA for the Sounds.

Milwaukee’s manager says the bullpen is thin. Which it is, particularly after David Riske was lost for the season after elbow surgery.

Julio, who has played for eight ML teams since 2001, throws very hard. Something baseball managers like. I expect a ninth team to take a chance on him before the 2009 season is over. Perhaps even by the 4th of July.


Florida Marlins’ Anibal Sanchez likely to be out for two months

The once promising rookie pitcher who threw a no-hitter in 2006, looks like he has permanent pitching arm woes. From AP-

Florida Marlins right-hander Anibal Sanchez was placed on the 15-day disabled list Friday because of a sprained right shoulder.

The Marlins made the move before the start of a six-game trip in Colorado. The injury forced Sanchez from Thursday’s game against Atlanta in the fifth inning.

Sanchez had shoulder surgery in June 2007 and returned last July. As a rookie in 2006 he went 10-3 and threw a no-hitter against Arizona, but he’s 1-4 this season with an ERA of 5.79.

Marlins Manager Fredi Gonzalez said team officials initially feared one of four tacks used to stabilize Sanchez’s shoulder had come loose and were relieved when doctors determined the surgical repair remained intact. Still, Gonzalez said Sanchez likely will be sidelined until after the All-Star break.

A simple shoulder sprain shouldn’t bench a pitcher for two months. Unless Florida is being careful. The Marlins starting pitching has been woeful this year, none of them chalked up a win for 20 straight games before last night’s affair.


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