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The Greatest Three Word Phrase In The English Language...
...is, of course, pitchers and catchers. I know we're a few weeks past pitchers and catchers' reporting to Spring Training this year, but that observation always bears repeating.

I wrote a while ago here that I post much more often when my sports teams are doing well. Hence the gaping void that inhabits the time between November 4th and now should tell you something about how my teams have done. But one requisite part of preparing for the baseball season is apublic flogging of myself over my relevant sports thoughts from the past few months, so here goes.

Football. The Broncos collapsed. Griese was inconsistent at best. Ray Rhodes' defense failed to show up oftentimes. The second Broncos game I've ever seen in-person turned out to be just as much of a disaster as the first. And even with all of these shortcomings, the Broncos still had a chance to make the playoffs on the last week of the season if the combination of an engagement party and Dan Reeves hadn't screwed me over. So now the Broncos have gone and cut Brian Griese and signed Jake Plummer. Griese's got betternumbers than Plummer, but:

My cousin Larry tried to engage me in a Patriots vs. Broncos discussion the other day over email. I wouldn't bite. So I won't continue here either. It's baseball season!

College football. PenndestroyedHarvardin that clash I mentioned in my last entry, but who cares? Harvard won The Game!. And who cares about that, either? It's baseball season!

The game with the bouncy big orange ball. The Nets have been playing pretty bdaly since the All-Star break a few weeks ago. They're still in first place in the Atlantic Division, however, and tied with the Pacers and Pistons for the best record in the East. Still, to have a chance come playoffs, we're going to have to figure out how to step it up a bit. But that's not that important, because, well, because it's baseball season!

The game with the small, heavy, cylindrical black "ball." The Devils are also mired in a streak of medicority, and also still sitting in first place in their division. Blah, blah, blah let's wait until the playoffs, at which point we won't care too much anyway because it's baseball season!

College basketball. Penn's destroying everyone in the Ivy League. They've got the country's leading 3-point shooter. That's pretty impressive.

March Madness. I hate the fact that it's March and yet there's still a week and a half to go before the NCAA Tournament starts. At the same time, that gives me an opportunity to actually learn something about this year in college basketball. ... TBC.

Football Season
As Dusty Baker's kid sobbed in the dugout and the Angels' celebrated on the field, the air grew a tad colder, the wind bit a tad sharper, and the days grew a tad shorter as the end of the 2002 baseball season marked the official beginning of the 2002 - 2003 football season. As we join this season midway through, we find the Denver Broncos tied for first place in the AFC West at 6 and 2 (and holding the tiebreaker edge over the San Diego Lightning Bolts), and clicking on all cylinders--except special teams. Back-to-back wins on the road against the Chiefs and the mediocre-at-best Patriots sent the Broncos into their bye week in great shape, and looking forward to next week's Monday Night clash with the Raiders at Denver.

Early comments on the baseball not-playing-games-right-now season (I do not use the vulgar term "off-season," as any true American can tell you that the baseball season is year round.):

Don't look now but your Eastern Conference Champion New Jersey Nets are a stellar 3 and 0! Go Nets! I loved T-Mac, but I'm already loving Dikembe even more. And having Richard Jefferson as a starter? Delicious.

In that other sport-that-fills-the-week-between-football-games-while-baseball-games-aren't-being-played (hockey), the Devils look pretty hot at 7 - 2 - 0 - 0 (four columns? what a crazy sport.). Of course, Pittsburgh and Philly have the same or better records and are also in the Atlantic Division. Crazy. Who cares? They'll all make the playoffs anyway.

College football. The Ivies are looking like they're setting up for a big clash between Penn and Harvard (at Penn) in a couple of weekends. They're the only two undefeated (in league games) teams, and seem to be the best. Harvard's offense has been rather dominant, with two great quarterbacks, a dominant wide receiver, and a whole truckload full of injured running backs. Hopefully those injuries will go away before the Penn game. Need to win that Penn game to enjoy the "Ivy champs!" cheers at The Game the week after.

Crap, I say
What kind of World Series has games that are 11 - 10? That's such crap. Baseball isn't about 11 - 10 games, it's about pitching. Blargh.
Same ol', same ol', Part II
Last week's entry was pretty depressing, so I've got some good news tonight. Not all things that mark a normal October in baseball are bad. Case in point: after going up two games to one in the division series against the Giants, the good ol' Atlanta "Teams sell out their stadiums during the playoffs? Wow!" Braves went ahead and folded like a cheap house of cards, as usual. Tom Glavine got rocked pitching on short rest yesterday, and tonight Russ Ortiz outdueled Kevin Millwood, and Rob Nen held on in the ninth as the Giants advanced to the NLCS. I'm no fan of the Giants, but it sure was sweet to watch the Braves, ever-so-dominant during the regular season, have another season end in a meaningless loss early in the playoffs. Have a good season, Larry, AndrUw, Raphael, and the rest of you. It'll be intereting to see which pitchers are still around there next year.

In other good news, the Broncos rebounded from their atrocious loss last Monday night to soundly thrash the (previously undefeated) Chargers 26 - 9. Brian Griese had just about the best game I can remember having him since he became the starting QB for the Broncos, Clinton Portis rushed for over a hundred yards, McCaffrey was awesome, the defense held Tomlinson to some meager number of yards (40-something?), and special teams made up for last week's debacle with a punt block that resulted in a safety. This puts the Broncos at a respectable 4 - 1, setting up for a big Sunday night showdown this coming week against the Dolphins. Big game coming up... but then again, they're all big games.

My dad keeps bringing up Ivy League football when we talk sports on the phone, so I suppose I should say something there. I haven't been following that closely yet, waiting for there to be regular league games before I turn more of my interest to it. Harvard did beat Brown last week for our first league win, but this week we fell to Lehigh 36 - 35, after running up a large lead. Considering our starting QB is injured, I still think this is a fine (offensive) performance, though I suppose the defense is worrisome. As long as we win the league games though, that's all that matters. Who cares about Lehigh, anyway?

I did a bit above average in each of my football pools this week, maintaining a middle of the pack overall status in both of them. Still need some big weeks to make the end of the season more exciting, but at least no more dismal weeks so far.

So i guess that's it for sports this week. All in all a pretty successful sports week. I'll write more as the league championship series go on. I'm pulling for the Twins and Cardina--huh? wait a second... what's that you say, Mr. Sterling? I can't quite hear you. Could you speak up? Oh, now I hear you: The Yankees lose! Theeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee Yankees lose! Thhhhheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee Yankees lose! Miracle of miracles! Shocker of shockers! Where's Al Michaels at the mic when you need him? That's right, everyone. In the surprise of the season, the Angels beat--no, that's not quite right--demolished the Yankees pitching staff, taking the series from them in four games. The highlights of this incredible, amazing development for me are:

And as a special honorable Angels mention, thanks go to Wing, who took my Yankees premature celebration warning to heart after game two, and acted with the perfect combination of hope and cautiousness (though maybe not the pessimism that's learned over time) and was a large factor in allowing the Angels to defeat the ever evil, ever hated Yankees. Thanks, Wing.

Same ol', same ol'
The baseball playoffs are upon us once more, and as I warned Lynn yesterday, this means that she must tread softly around me as I watch the Yankees do what they do best (or at least what they do most often). So, without further adieu, I present the three-step program followed by the Yankees to win playoff game after playoff game. And to better your learning experience, each point is supplemented with an example from game one of the Angels v. Yankees playoff series (yesterday night):

  1. The opposing team puts up a facade of being an actual competitor for a large portion of the game. (Example: The Angels were up 5 - 4 after 7 1/2 innings of game one.)
  2. The aura of the fucking Yankees / the Devil causes the other team to begin making stupid mistakes that a playoff team should not make. (Example: With two outs in the bottom of the eighth, the Angels walk two Yankees.)
  3. The Yankees get a lucky break or bad call. (Example: Giambi's bad hop / half hop base hit.)
  4. The Yankees, once again endowed with massive amounts of supernatural devilish aid, get a clutch home run. (Example: Bernie Williams' three-run blast.)

It happens time and time again, and yet there are still people who don't believe in it. And every time it happens I feel my insides get yanked out as if by the less-than-surgically-precise paws of a cocker spaniel.

So tonight, I figured we were in for the same pattern, especially following Soriano's home run. The Angels did manage to fight back and pull off a surprise win, however, despite their bullpen's attempt to blow the game in the 8th and 9th innings. Don't worry though, there's about as much chance of the Angels beating the Yankees in this series as there is of Mariano Rivera blowing a save in the World Series. (Oh wait, is that the optimist in me showing through? Damn, I hate it when that happens.)

The most important thing to come out of tonight's game, however, was teaching Wing a lesson. With the Angels up 4 - 0 in the third inning, Wing sent me a couple of emails extolling them and how great their win was going to be. After chastising him, I watched expectantly as the Yankees came back to take the lead. Several tough-love statements later, I think I got Wing to understand how one must always expect the Yankees to win no matter the situation, and how one must only exhale following the final out of the game, and usually only then to breathe the stale air of another Yankees win.

Football. Broncos got killed by the crappy Ravens on Monday night in a horrendous game that I don't feel like writing about. Rooney's been ragging on me mercilessly about the Broncos and the Yankees. He's one of those genetically engineered creatures who roots for the Mets and the Yankees, which I find somewhat reprehensible. So, this one's for you, Rooney, at least for tonight: The Yankees lose! Theeeeeeeeeeee Yankees lose!

I'm doing dead average in both of my football pools, pretty much. I need a couple of top-notch weeks to contend in the overall standings, though I'd be happy with just winning one week in one of the two pools. Still plenty of football to go. Broncos need to turn it around at home against the (undefeated) Chargers this weekend. We'll see.

And finally, the Mets fired Bobby Valentine. They probably should have fired Steve Philips also, but what the heck. This seems to me to be the prototypical case for firing a manager: a bunch of great players who all underperform, both as individuals and as a team. Who else is there to blame but the manager? I like Bobby V., but it's time to move on. It'll be interesting to see who we bring in as the next manager...

Summer of... well, Summer Of Blargh
It's just as well I haven't updated since June. Let's see, what did we miss? We missed the Mets SUCKING. Almost all of the players (except for my fave, Edgardo Alfonzo) have been having incredibly bad years, and just the other day the Braves clinched the division. At this point, I'm pulling for (in this order), the D-backs, the Cardinals, the Dodgers, and the Athletics. I'd tolerate the Giants, Twins, or Angels winning. Of course, the Braves and Yankees better not win.

So, are there any bright sports in my sports view right now? Sure. The Nets have had a very solid offseason, losing Todd "Giant White Person" MacCullough, as well as Keith "I'm not really a forward" Van Horn, but have picked up Rodney Rogers, Chris Childs, and Dikembe Mutumbo. I'll definitely be following the Nets pretty closely this year. Last year ended up being a whole load of fun.

And the NFL has just started this past week. I was pretty lax following the Broncos' offseason moves, but I did do a bunch of reading on them before the first week, and I'm very pleased with what's been done. Clinton Portis looks great so far (and looked very solid in his few carries in the first game), and the combination of Olandis Gary at halfback and Mike Anderson at fullback gives the team one more offensive threat than teams that don't have a fullback who can run and catch the ball. And the defense looks great. Week one: solid win over the Rams, although Brian Griese faltered significantly in the third quarter, he picked it up again in the fourth to secure the win. Bring on the 49ers.

I'm participating in two football pools this year, Scott's and one that Larry (Silva) participates in. The latter is just straight-up picks without the spread, which is somewhat odd; I feel like I should just pick the favorites in every game, but what fun would that be? I should chart how someone applying that strategy would do, though.

More football comments in the future, I'm sure.

I haven't updated in a long while, and a lot has happened in that time period, so I'll cover the highlights. The World Cup started a week or so ago. The games are in Korea and Japan, and so they're broadcast live in the US at 2:30 AM, 5:00 AM, and 7:30 AM. I probably wouldn't watch them anyway, soccer being so boring and all, but this eliminates any chance of it. The Cup opened with a shocking victory by Senegal over France. France has since gone on to tie another game, and unless they have a dominanting (scorewise) win in their third game, they won't advance out of the first round. This would make me incredibly happy.

At the same time, the US men pulled a huge upset by beating Portugal, the fifth ranked team in the world. That's exciting, and if the US manages to win or tie another game and makes it out of the first round I'll try to watch their later matches. All in all though, I still find soccer to be about as exciting as watching two ants race across the sidewalk on a hot summer day.

Hockey. Not much to say here, except that the Carolina Hurricanes have been surprising everyone, and are now playing the (heavily favorited) Red Wings in the finals. The 'canes stole one game in Detroit, but last night lost a triple OT thriller to Detroit in Carolina. The Red Wings will probably coast to victory now (Hull, Fedorov, Hasek, etc. man.) I mention this only because the Devils lost to the Hurricanes, and I'm happy that the Hurricanes have done so well, based on the "root for the team that defeats your team" theory. (That is, were the 'canes to win the Stanley Cup, I could make the claim that the Devils lost to the champions, even though they did so in the first round of the playoffs.)

Baseball. The Mets are absolutely horrible right now. The only bright spots are Timo Perez, who has been hitting both for average and some power, Fonzie, who has hit for average but not power and has finally started to knock in runs, and, for the most part, the pitching, though this has waned lately. Piazza has been cold but OK, he'll likely have a monster second half of the season like he did last year. Mo Vaughn has been ATROCIOUS in every possible way. jerOmy Burnitz couldn't hit the broad side of a barn with his swing, though he succeeded in chucking his bat at Atlanta fans twice while the Mets were being swept in a three-game series. Robbie Alomar has started to hit a bit, but he's still not the Hall of Famer we've been expecting. Something needs to change, and soon now. At least fire some coaches, if not something more drastic.

And, finally, basketball. After a historic game three in which the Nets blew a TWENTY-ONE POINT lead in the fourth quarter to go down two games to one to the Celtics. At that point, I was really pretty sure that the Nets would be too demoralized to make much of the rest of the series. I was wrong.

The Nets roared back to win three straight games to take the series in impressive fashion, limiting the cocky Paul Pierce and Antoine Walker to marginal performances in the process. And thus the Nets moved on for the first time ever to the NBA Finals, to face the LA Lakers, going for their third straight championship. We're now two games into that series, both of which LA has won. I haven't given up hope yet, but it is pretty demoralizing. The Nets have played horribly, and the Lakers have sleepwalked through the first two games, even talking to the press about how bored they've been. The Lakers are the better team, I'm sure, but it'd be nice to at least force them to play their best. The Nets have shot so horridly so far that that hasn't been the case, however. Game three is tonight in New Jersey; hopefully the Nets can pull this one out and make the series interesting.

Triple Play!
I've been watching baseball for years and years, and I've never seen or heard a triple play live (i.e., when it happened). Until about two minutes ago.

Ground ball to Fonzie, threw to Alomar, and then to Vaughn. Your good ol', classic, 5 - 4 - 3 triple play. Wow.

Now I have to go put on ESPN to watch it--there it is! ESPN doesn't miss a beat.

In other baseball news, the Mets have now won three in a row and are winning by four in the middle of tonight's game against San Diego. So far, so good for this west coast road trip.

Bring it on, Boston!
And with yet another dominating performance by Jason Kidd, the New Jersey Nets defeat the Charlotte Hornets 4 games to 1, to reach the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time ever. The Nets are up against the Celtics featuring Paul Pierce (sp?) who averaged 37 points against the Nets during the regular season, so it'll be tough.

I've been listening more and more to Boston sports talk, willfully subjecting myself to heaping dosages of the trademark Boston sports inferiority complex, manifesting itself now via a show of no respect for the Nets. They all seem to think that the Nets will be little more than a pushover, but I'm afraid they have something else entirely coming to them. So, I reiterate my subject: Bring it on, Boston.

The Good and the Bad
So the Mets suck right now. They continue to make approximately twelve errors per game, while the revamped offense continues to take an extended lunch break. The pitching has still been decent, but they'd have to have been spectacular to prevent the current skid. What is this skid of which I speak? Well, coming off a successful road trip, the Mets proceeded to lose five of six at home, including three straight to the Giants. They can't get a clutch hit at all, it's incredibly upsetting. (In fact, the only time we did get a clutch hit was when Joe McEwing hit a three-run home run on Saturday -- the only game on the homestand the Mets won.)

So now the Mets are out west at LA, and currently losing the first game to the Dodgers 2 - 1 after five and a half innings. We'll see what happens, but the Mets have been pretty disappointing so far this year. Luckily, the rest of the NL East is a model of medicority.

So that's the Bad. The Good? Nets, baby, Nets! The Nets took a thrilling game five from the Pacers in double overtime to advance to the conference semis, where they've been playing the Hornets. Having held serve at home, the Nets then lost game three at Charlotte, and in the process Jason Kidd was in a spectacularly bloody collision that left him at the receiving end of twenty stiches. (For fairness's sake, the Hornets have been playing without Jamal Mashburn.) Kidd came out and played an incredible game four even while sporting the latest fashion--a giant bandaid over his right eye, and the Nets have taken a 3 - 1 lead in the series. If they win a fourth, it will mark the first time that New Jersey has made the conference finals in franchise history.

The Celtics are also up three games to one in their series against the Pistons, thus setting up a clash between Boston and New Jersey for the conference championship. AJ, Wing, and I were discussing getting tickets to a game if that series materializes; I've also been plotting privately how I can proclaim my Nets fandom to the Boston infidels around me, how I can spread the gospel of the Net to this quaint New England city. Dodz has also expressed interest in such an excursion.

Baseball stat of the moment: Gary Cohen just pointed out that the Mets have a pinch-hit batting average of 0.327, while the overall team average is 0.241. Incredible! (And, as Dad would say, Pathetic!)

In other Mets news: Johnny Franco injured his elbow badly the other day, to such an extent that he would require Tommy John surgery--complete with at least a year's recovery time. Most people, yours truly included, assumed that the 41-year old would hang up his cletes; in fact, I was pretty upset by the news, as Franco is just about my favorite Met. When he announced his injury to the press, he cried as he told how his son, upon learning of the injury, asked him if it was his fault as they had recently had a catch. How can you not love Johnny Franco?

Today, the Mets announced that Franco has decided to have the surgery, with an estimated return date in the second half of the 2003 season. We'll miss you until then Johnny, and I can't wait until your return.

So I should probably admit right here and now that I'm much more likely to write an entry for this sports log when good things are happening rather than when bad things are happening. It's too depressing to write about Mets bumbling losses, and so I usually just sulk in silence.

Which is why I'm writing now. After a miserable four game series against the Expos last weekend, the Mets took two out of three from the Cardinals and swept the Brewers at Shea. This latest series features Shawn Estes and Pedro Astacio both taking no hitters (in Shawn's case, a perfect game) into the seventh inning before losing them. The Mets won 1 - 0 on a one-hitter on Friday, and 2 - 1 on a three-hitter yesterday. Today Jeff D'Amico started against his former team and had his first bad start for the Mets, as the Brewers jumped out to a 5 - 1 lead. The Mets' bats finally came around as they scored six in the bottom of the 6th inning, and added a jerOmy Burnitz home run later to open up a four run lead that Armando Benitez shakily protected in the ninth.

So where do we stand? The Mets are five games over 0.500, and tied for first in the NL East. The Phillies have been horrible and are in the cellar, already six and a half games back. The Braves have been very shaky, and trail the Mets by three and a half games, four in the loss column. The Marlins are a half game better than the Braves, three behind the Mets. All this means, of course, that it's the Montreal "Fans? What are fans?" Expos that are tied with the Mets after twenty-five games. It won't last, but it's rather startling so far.

Hockey playoffs: the Devils lost to the Carolina Hurricanes. The Hurricanes were the better seed, but the Devils were expected to win. The Devils lost two games in Carolina in overtime and couldn't recover, losing a frustrating 1 - 0 game at home to lose the series in six games.

In better news -- for now -- the Nets dropped their first playoff game at home to the Pacers, but have roared back with two great games by Jason Kidd to take a 2-1 series lead in the best of five opening round. The next game is on Tuesday at Indiana, and, if necessary, the fifth game will be in NJ on Thursday. I'm pretty psyched about the Nets; they're fun to watch, for the most part. They did try their hardest to lose the last game, however, as they missed two free throws with 0.8 seconds left, and then allowed Reggie Miller an open shot at the basket for the win at the buzzer. Luckily, Reggie threw up an air ball and the Nets escaped, albeit barely.

Derek Lowe pitched a one-walk no hitter for the Red Sox yesterday. It was very exciting to watch. The first no hitter pitched at Fenway since 1965, I think they said. Ted Fucking Lily of the Yankees pitched a no-hitter into the eighth against the Mariners yesterday, then gave up an RBI single and lost a one-hitter 1-0. To quote Nelson, "Ha ha!"

One team, one day, two victories
Tiger finished the first day of the Masters (a tradition unlike any other) at two under par, three shots behind Davis Love III, the leader. To wrap up my comment from this afternoon, AJ and I seem to have different interpretations of someone claiming that Tiger Woods is an incredible athlete. AJ tends to interpret the use of athlete as the general meaning of athlete: fit, strong, quick, etc. While Tiger is not a bad athlete by any stretch of the imagination, he doesn't measure up in this way to athletes in more physically demanding sports. I acknowledge that with this interpretation the incredible athlete statement is absurd. Because of this, I tend to interpret such a statement within the context of Tiger's sport. That is, I read the statement implicitly as: If you consider Tiger Wood's golf athleticism in comparison to other golfers, and compare that to other athletes with respect to their own sports, it's incredible. Or something like that. In any case, that's not what I want to write about anyway:

Lynn did her job, and gets credit for the Mets second straight 3 - 2 win over the Cubs, even though she almost blew it in the ninth. Astacio pitched excellently, and another eighth inning Mike Piazza home run gave the Mets a 3 - 1 lead going to the bottom of the ninth. Benitez allowed a lead-off home run to cut the lead to one, and then allowed a baserunner to get to third while gathering two outs, bringing up Sammy Sosa. (As an aside: Man! The Wrigley fans were incredibly loud when Sosa came up in that situation - good for them!) Slammin' Sammy was already 3-for-3 in the game, including a home run. Now class, if you're a manager in your right-mind, what do you do in this situation? I don't want to wreck this oh so difficult quiz, so you'll have to highlight the following to get the answer: .

But apparently---according to Gary Cohen---Armando Benitez has issues with intentionally walking batters. Apparently, it puts him in a bad mood. Maybe he feels like he's giving up some of his manhood or something. In any case, Bobby V. goes out to the mound to talk to Armando. Post-game reports tell us that Bobby told Armando, "You're the best. Show me what you got." Not quite win one for the Gipper, but it served it's purpose: Sosa popped up to Ordonez to end the game.

Change scene. New scene: my first full game of All-Star Baseball 2003 against the PS2 (rather than against Dodzie). I wrack up 14 hits in the first eight innings, but still trail 4 - 3 going to the bottom of the ninth against the Cubs. Rey Ordonez leads off. I only have Lou Collier and Gary Matthews Jr. on my bench, and Rey already has a hit, so why not? Bam, single over the shortstops head. David Weathers is up next, and I stick Lou Collier up to pinch-hit. Bloop to center field, runners on first and second. Timo, replacing an injured Roger Cedeno bats next and lines a single to right field. Single is too hard though, and Rey has to hold at third. This brings to the plate Robbie Alomar. After watching the computer's pitching tendencies, he guesses low, gears up for the power swing, and you guessed it. All at once we've got Lee's first home run in the game, EVER, Lee's first lead in the game, EVER, and, of course, Lee's first win in the game, EVER. Nothing beats a walk-off grand-slam home run.

Defense of Tiger
AJ is such a sports elitist. Just because he's not the World's Strongest Man, he maintains that Tiger Woods is not an incredible athlete. I'll write more about this later, as I should be working now.
In Which My Baseball Emotional Roller Coaster Is In Full Swing
As is probably obvious from my last post, I was real excited by the start of the baseball season. Then, apparently, the Mets forgot that they had added Mo Vaughn, Roger Cedeno, Roberto Alomar, and Jeromy Burnitz to last year's offense, and went back into the mode in which their pitchers overperform yet have nothing to show of it due to an anemic offense that makes the Pirates' Jimmy Anderson and Kip Wells (both youngsters with career 5.00+ ERAs) resemble Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson. So the Mets dropped two-of-three to the worst team in baseball, and headed to Atlanta.

Then the offense woke up, and the Mets spanked the Braves on back-to-back games, with both Jeff D'Amico and Pedro Astacio pitching admirably. Sunday matched Al Leiter against Greg Maddux's replacement (15-day DL) Damian Moss. Excited about the likely sweep, I prepared to post my jubilation here at the conclusion of the day's romp. So, of course, John Valentin misses a relatively straightforward throw from Fonzie, and the Mets lose on a home run by Marcus Giles in the bottom of the 14th. Feh, I say, feh. Taking two of three in Atlanta is always good, but it's such typical Mets to find the only disheartening way to do it. Oh, and Mo Vaughn ended up on the DL.

Move to Chicago. Jon Lieber pitches like, well, Jon Lieber, as Steve Trachsel picks up one of his famed no-support losses, 2 - 0. And then in today's game, Kerry Wood and Shawn Estes pitch spectacularly, as the Mets push across the first run of the game in the top of the seventh on a sacrifice fly. Estes, uncomfortable with such a large run cushion, proceeds to surrender two walks, an error by Mark "Dartmouth" Johnson, a run-scoring single, and a sacrifice fly to put the Mets anemic offense down one run going to the eighth.

Exit Kerry Wood. Enter Jeff Frasero. Same story: Cedeno grounds out, Timo strikes out. Alomar lifts a fly ball the opposite way (which way was that? right field I guess) that just clears the outfield wall to tie the game. Thank you, Roberto. I hope we don't have to wait this long again for you to contribute to the team. Piazza, he of the 0-for-3 with 3 strikeouts against Wood steps to the plate and cranks one to the same spot, only about 30 feet deeper. David "I want to pitch more than Turk Wendell" Weathers pitches another excellent inning; Benitez allows his requisite double while retiring the side for the save. Game two goes to the Mets.

It's not the way it's supposed to go this year: awesome pitching, no hitting. But I'll take the win (as if I considered not taking it). It leaves us, the Phillies, and the Braves at 0.500 eight games into the season (now class, what record do the Phillies, Braves, and Mets all have?) with the Expos (ha!) up one game and the Marlins trailing by a game. That's fine.

Lynn goes to the Mets game at Wrigley tomorrow, so she's responsible, good or bad, for whatever happens then.

I bought Acclaim's All-Star Baseball 2003 for the PS2 today; it has incredible graphics, and, especially for someone who hasn't played a baseball video game since Ken Griffey Jr.'s Baseball on SNES, is extremely tough. I'm going to need a few weeks of BP and fielding practice before I feel ready to take on a season, but wow, what incredible graphics. And the details are all there too, right down to planes taking off periodically in the background at Shea Stadium. (Though from the graphics there, you'd think the runway was situated next to parking location K2 (dog minus seven. get it? nevermind. old joke.).)

Basketball and hockey: both seasons wind down, with the Devils and Nets (ooo, chiasmus) each having only a few games left. The Nets have clinched the Atlantic Division, and are about a win or so away from locking up the number-one seed in the East. I'm very excited to be excited for an NBA playoffs for the first time in years. The Devils and Islanders are battling for the sixth and seventh playoff spots in the East, with Ottawa only a point ahead in the fifth spot. The Devils blanked the Flyers tonight, 1 - 0. It would be exciting for the Devils to play the Flyers in the first round, and perhaps it would actually get them fired up for the rest of the playoffs. I'll have more to say once the playoffs actually start.

It's Baseball Season!
I'll cover the NCAA Tournament first. Oklahoma pleased me very much by advancing to the Final Four, and then disappointed me greatly by falling to the lights-out second-half three-point shooting of the 5-seed Indiana Hoosiers. That eliminated any chance I had of winning the pool. The final, which is at halftime as I bang these words on the keyboard, pits Maryland versus Indiana. If Indiana wins, then Wing wins the pool (and I get my $16 entry fee back, as per a pre-pool deal between Wing and me); if Maryland wins (and they lead by six at halftime), then Lynn's picks win the pool, and as the soon-to-be husband of Ms. Zuckerman, I make out nicely.

To wrap up my role in the foosball tournament I mentioned last time, Rooney and I defeated Elias and Brian three games to none in our first match before dropping three straight matches to be eliminated from the tournament (three games to none to Chris and Wing, three games to two to AJ and Moose, and three games to non to Jordi and Lonnie). Jordi and Lonnie have captured the top seed after the round-robin part of the tournament, while Chris/Wing and AJ/Moose will battle in a semifinal for the right to play Jordi/Lonnie in the finals.

But when I woke up this morning there was a fresh sound in my ears, a fresh smell in the air. The birds were singing and it was spring time at last, and the Mets played their first game of the season at home against the Pirates at 1:10 PM. I listened to the game while I worked today, and boy was it refreshing to hear Bob Murphy's dulcet tones and Gary Cohen's knowledgeable and insightful announcing. As for the game itself, it lived up to the Mets excellent Opening Day tradition: Rey Ordonez went 2 for 2 with a stolen base, Fonzie went 3 for 4, and, most encouragingly, Jay Payton had a home run and two, count 'em, two walks, including one with the bases loaded! Now if that ain't a sign that things have changed since last year then I don't know what is. Al Leiter was solid if not overpowering, David Weathers was overpowering and Armando Benitez was adequate as the Mets coasted to a 6 - 2 victory. 161 games to go!

In other games around the league, Pedro got shelled but the Red Sox fought back only to lose 12 - 11 to the Blue Jays. Roger Clemens injured his hand while giving up eight runs in a 10 - 3 win for the Orioles over the Yankees. That's the miserable, utterly horrible, pathetic Baltimore Orioles for those of you keeping score at home. The Braves won, but I suppose both the Braves and Yankees losing on Opening Day is just too much to ask.

Mets have the traditional day off, and then resume against the Pirates on Wednesday. Jeff and I have started our regular correspondence regarding the Mets, firing off somewhere around 25 emails during the game today. I was considering archiving our Mets emails this year somewhere on my website, but I think they're probably too offensive for such a public forum. One thing's for certain: it's good to have baseball back.

More (unfortunate) Mayhem
As of the end of Saturday night, both of my entries in Scott's pool were sitting pretty. My Oklahoma entry hadn't lost too many points, and so was still on pace to win the pool should Oklahoma pull out a surprise win in the tournament. My Duke brackets was outscoring Scott's picks that have the same exact final 4, 2, and 1. Then Sunday happened. Ohhhhhhh, Sunday.

Among other upsets, Sunday saw UCLA beat Cincinatti in double overtime, and Georgia lose to Southern Illinois. While neither of these losing teams were in my final four, they were both places that I was going to be able to pick up points on Scott's picks. As a result of these (%#%@%!) upsets, my Duke pool will lose to Scott's brackets unless Missouri beats UCLA and Texas beats Oregon. Of course, my OK brackets have Oregon in the final four, but I think that I can survive losing one final four team there, should Oklahoma actually pull out the tournament victory. Missouri looked positively awesome in crushing Ohio State (yeah! I can't stand the Big Ten), so depending on which UCLA team shows up, I think Missouri has a good shot at beating them. But, I already need to root for Oklahoma to beat Arizona if my OK pool is to have a chance, so I may need to go ahead and give up on my Duke pool. Let's go Sooners!

In other tournament related news, the Harvard women got crushed by North Carolina (Harvard was a 13 seed). In the NIT, Princeton lost (barely!) in the first round while Yale won their first ever post-season game beating Rutgers, before bowing out in the second round to Tennesee Tech.

And finally, our March Foosball Maadness tournament is under way. Rooney and I jumped out to a quick start on Monday by sweeping Brian and Elias in our round-robin match, but then melted down today, getting swept by Wing and Chris and losing a 5-game thriller to AJ and Moose. If we manage to beat Jordi and Lonnie, we still have a good chance of moving into the semifinals, but things are looking dim for our team right now.

Just watched Baseball Tonight, which features a piece on Armando Benitez. Apparently Benitez returned to his hometown in the Dominican Republic over this winter and completed the construction of a baseball field for the local kids, as well as some affordable housing complexes. Benitez really does seem like a genuinely good guy off the field, and so I've decided (the magnanimous guy that I am) that he will no longer be my least favorite Met this year, so I'll have to find a new one. The front-runner is Jay "I swing at every pitch, as long as it's at least 5 feet outside" Payton.

IGN says that Salt Lake 2002 is the absolute worst PlayStation 2 game that has been released to date. Just thought you'd all like to know that.

On Mayhem and Ruben Rivera
Today is the first day of the 2002 NCAA Tournament (well, not counting the play-in game for the 64th spot, which Siena won on Tuesday night). As always, I'm pretty excited about the tournament. Duke is the odds-on favorite to win, with an overwhelming amount of talent, and I picked them to win in one of my two entries in Scott Marshall's pool. I have Oklahoma (a #2 seed) in my other entry; much less likely but if it happens I should be sitting pretty.

There've already been several of the requisite upsets in the tournament; USC (#4 seed) lost to UNC-Wilmington. I was impressed with UNC-Wilmington when they dominated USC in overtime after blowing a 19-point lead in the 2nd half to need overtime in the first place. Gonzaga, a six seed who's been complaining about not getting a seed as high as a #3, proved that they've been overrated by bowing out to #11-seed Wyoming tonight. Can't say I was sorry to see them go. I'll update this page as the tournament--and the pool--develops.

The other day, Ruben Rivera admitted to stealing Derek Jeter's glove and bat and selling them for $2,500. The Yankees responded by releasing him. Now, the idiocy involved here is almost mind-boggling. Rivera was due to make almost one million dollars this year, and he threw that all away for $2,500?!?! It makes no sense. Today Rivera was quoted as being surprised that the Yankees released him in response to this incident. I'll never understand how some athletes (don't) think.

I suppose I should finally mention my coworkers and my foosball addiction. Yes, I wrote the software to manage those statistics, with some help from AJ. I mention it now in the context of us beginning our own March Madness next week, in the form of a doubles foosball tournament. I'm paired with my manager, Rooney; we'll see how that tournament goes.

And that reminds me: CBS Sportsline labels its NCAA tournament pages as "March Mayhem" rather than "March Madness." Why is that? Perhaps the term is trademarked, but by whom? Not CBS, as then one would think that Sportsline would have the rights to use it. Would the NCAA trademark such a term? Seems unusual, but not out of the question. Perhaps I'll research it.

Big Mo finally had some big hits in Spring Training today, nailing a double off the wall and a solo home run. Previously he'd only had a few singles to the opposite field. Of course, Mo explained that that (singles to the opposite field) is all he tries for in Spring Training, because, y'know, if that works then all the rest of his hitting came will work, too. Sure, Mo, suuuuuuuuuuuuuuure. Mild injuries to Al Leiter, Johnny Franco, and Jeff D'Amico all have me mildly worried. We'll see what happens.

Back to basketball. Until later...

Winter - full of sports?
Normally, the period from just after the Super Bowl until the NCAA basketball tournament is for me the most boring part of the sports year. While I am a big Devils fan and a consistent Nets fan, I'm not interested enough in either the NBA or the NHL for the regular season to hold my attention. I poor some energy and occasional passion into Harvard basketball, but that tends to always end up a let-down.

This year, I've found this seemingly vast wasteland between football season and the most exciting tournament in sports has flown by. Why? Mainly because of the Nets and the Olympics.

First, the Nets. The Nets, spurred by the the acquisition of Jason ``I sweat assists'' Kidd, have been truly awesome this year. While I still can't see myself ever watching or listening to NBA regular season games with bated breath, following the Nets this year has been thrilling. I've proclaimed myself a Nets fan my whole life--the only two NBA games I've ever been to live have both been Nets game--but have almost never had any worthwhile team to root for. The Nets recently reached 20 games over 0.500 for the first time in their history as an NBA franchise, and with them holding a 5.5 game lead over the nearest team in the East, I can guarantee now that I'll be tuned to the TV or radio come playoff times to root on the New Jersey Nets. They may not be my first passions, but I'm a New Jerseyan and I'm proud to root for the Devils and the Nets; the Devils have been somewhat disappointing this year so far, but I'm glad NJ has the Nets to provide some excitement this year. I only wish that it was reflected more in attendance at Nets home games, which has been anything but stellar this year. If I were still living in NJ now I'd make it my business to show my support by going to a few games - hopefully as the playoffs draw nearer the attendance at Continental Airlines Arena will improve. For sure this year's Nets deserve at least that.

In addition to following the Nets, I've had the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. I've always been a very big fan of the Olympics. I love seeing all of the sports that I don't follow regularly, of course, and I also tend to buy-in to many of the human interest stories that the (American) media throws at the Olympics-watching television viewer. So I was excited as the Olympics drew near this year, but then as they started I was disappointed. I found that I wasn't watching them very often. The pairs figure skating controversy was the hot topic in the first few days, and it just didn't interest me at all. But--and I can't pinpoint a reason for this--as the games progressed I grew more and more interested. You can never go wrong with curling, and the speed skating, downhill and slalom skiing, and women's figure skating were all pretty cool. For the most part, I ignored most of the controversy that surrounded the games; I feel like most of the bitching was just to cover up poor performances. I was glad that Ohno didn't try to excuse his disqualification in the 500 m short-track speed-skating event.

My recap of winter sports wouldn't be complete without a mention of Harvard basketball. In the first year of post-Dan Clemente Harvard basketball, the team has exceeded expectations. They're still the same old enigma, losing to cellar-dwelling Cornell for no good reason whatsoever, but they did provide Dodzie and me with a thrill when they beat Penn (at Harvard) for the second straight year. I don't think Dad, Mom, and Randi enjoyed it quite as much.

That's my winter sports recap for now. Spring training has just started and so I'm sure I"ll have lots to talk about in the next few weeks; I'm looking forward to participating in Scott's NCAA pool as well--it will be the first time in 5 or 6 years that I won't run my own pool.

Oh, one other thought before I cut this entry off. Bill Romanowski just signed with the Oakland Raiders the other day. I'm really not sure how to feel about this. He's a founding member of the "hate him if he's not on your team, love him if he is" club, but if he had signed with any team other than the Raiders I'm pretty sure I would still think fondly of him. However, when you cross his playing style with the amoral tendencies bred into Raiders personel, I think my fond memories of Romo as a Bronco will fade quickly. It will sure make the two Broncos v. Raiders games even more exciting this coming year, though.