31 August, 2005

Nats - birthday edition

Happy Birthday, Frank Robinson.

What do you buy the 70 year old manager of a banged-up team desperately seeking a halt to a two month slide?

Nats GM Jim Bowden provided an early present in the form of San Francisco’s utility infielder Deivi Cruz (.268/.301/.397) to spell the hapless Cristian Guzman (though at .194 he’s getting back up to Mendoza Line standards). Cruz should be an upgrade at the plate, but I have my doubts that he can play everyday at the dizzy heights of .700 OPS. He can fill in for both Guz or (and/or would be a push!) the battered Jose Vidro at second. (Jose: Why leg out a triple when you're hurt and your team cannot afford to throw away baserunners?)

In return, the Gigantes get righty Ben Cox who has put up reasonable numbers in Savannah’s bullpen, but as far as I can figure out is well down the (thin) Nats' depth chart. Net sum zero?

Frank gets another present tomorrow when third baseman shortstop third baseman of the future now, Ryan “Dutch” Zimmerman arrives. Dutch certainly has been tearing it up at Harrisburg. His glove is tearing it up at short too.

Frank gets to tinker with Deivi and Dutch.

Happy Birthday, Frank.

Go new Nats.

30 August, 2005

Alex Smit Dispatches - Nederlandse Honkbal edition

It's coming to the close of the Appalachian League season this week. But, for the Elizabethton Twins leftie reliever, Alexander Smit, the season ended on 23 August.

That was Smit's final appearance of what has been a mixed bag of a season for the 19 year old Dutchman.

In the Twins 4-2 win over Bristol in the Virginia side of that burgh, Smit worked 2 innings of relief to close out the game. He faced 8 batters, allowing two 2-out singles in the eighth. Otherwise, he struck out 3 and got 3 pop outs to the right side, two of those were in foul ground.

Smit's season started with a promotion to Class A after a solid 2004 at Elizabethton. But control problems led to a demotion mid season and a switch to the bullpen. 2005 marked the first full season in the States for the youngster. Last year he pitched twice for the Dutch Olympic side in Athens and the year before he also had time out with the national squad.

Therein lies the reason for Smit's sudden end to the season. He has been named in the Dutch 24 man roster for the XXXVI World Cup in Holland that begins on 2 September.

"Bondscoach Robert a Hoorn its definite selection of 24 players for the WK has confessed baseball in the Netherlands made." (Babel Fish translation)

Smit is one of three US based minor leaguers to get the call. Former Oriole farmhand Eugene Kingsale and a catcher from the Devil Rays' system Chairon Isenia have also got the call. The Dutch can also call upon AAA experience in the form of Infielder Sharnol Adriana who plays in the Mexican League

A couple of other Minor Leaguers, including Calvin Maduro were not released by their Major League employers. Randall Simon, now playing in Japan, is also unavailable.

Also Randall Simon seemed still just as a possibility for the national selection. The antillian battle gun, which 514 played games in the Major League, came sitting beginning this season club. By means of Mexiaanse the competition he arrived eventually in the Japanese Major League. But also at the Orix Buffaloes he could hardly be find turn. By means of the Japanese Minor League-club Kobe Surpass he tries return now at its old level. (You guessed it: Babel Fish translation)

Finally, Olympic assistant coach and ex-Yankee Hensley "Bam Bam" Muelens is also caught Stateside, but another helper for the Athens squad will be in Holland. Davey Johnson, former Mets and Orioles manager won't be with the Oranje. Instead he's leading a group of US Minor Leaguers, including Mets hot prospect Lastings Milledge.

You still have to fancy the Cubans to win the tournament. Holland (with Smit in the team) open on 2 September against China.

It will be interesting to see whether the Dutch keep Smit in the bullpen where he has been so effective this season or put him back in the rotation where he made his name. And, the big question is can he make the team for the World Classic back in the US next March?

I'll have Alex's final Appy League numbers next time round. Kudos to the Twins for releasing him.

More info (in Dutch):
de Nederlandse Honkbalsite
Baseball and Softball in the Netherlands

Bank Holiday posting

Donutball took a short break over the long (UK) holiday weekend, doing chores and visiting family.

We've been glued to the TV and car radio during that time following the further epic battle between English and Australian gladiators cricketers. England triumphed, but only just. More soon.

Tottenham elbowed their way out of first place. "Pictures at eleven."

Despite an August proving that July wasn't that bad, teh Nats sit just 2 1/2 games out of the wild card spot. Er, but are in last place. Believe it or not, this team could go, like, 19-13 the rest of the way and still make the playoffs. Then again, at this rate, 10 wins would be a push.

Finally, there's exciting news about Donutball's poster boy, Alexander Smit, thanks to Babel Fish. Patience.

So, why don't you make Donutball your September call-up?

26 August, 2005

Nats - the Zimmerman Project (revised)

Confirmed as the Nats representatives in this year's Arizona Fall League:

Pitchers: Josh Karp and Chris Schroder
Infielders: Larry Broadway, Brendan Harris and Ryan Zimmerman.

So, it looks like the "Zimmerman project" - converting the Nats third baseman of the future into the shortstop of now - will continue in the Arizona sunshine. "Dutch" was the Nats number one pick in this year's amateur draft. The ideal pick: a smooth swinging infielder with local connections. The club - or at least General Manager Jim Bowden - obviously want to fast track Zimmerman. Great idea on paper. Local boy makes good is great newspaper copy.

From all accounts he has the ability - I won't use the word "tools".

Yet to be convinced in this burgh with the Zimmerman Plan (revised). I don't doubt that Zimmerman can cut it at short, but the plan since before draft day was to cultivate him as a third baseman to spell Vinny Castilla after the latter's contract expires at the end of the 2006 season. Now it seems Bowden wants "Dutch" to replace the sagging Cristian Guzman at short.

Zimmerman did play short in High School, but at UVa played third all the time. That's a four year gap.

Third to short is not the easiest of moves. It's possibly easier than short to third where you need to get used to reaction plays. Range and arm are probably the keys at short. A good third sacker is likely to have the arm. The question is more of whether you can instil the right instincts and read of the game necessary for shortstop. Not quite like learning how to ride a bike again.

I like the idea if the Nats tried it out in Instructional League or even Spring Training 2006. What strikes me as hasty is the announcement that he plays short from here on in and at the same time hint very strongly that he gets the September callup.

I want the guy to succeed. What I don't like seeing is tinkering by the outgoing GM. Looks like fiddling whilst Rome burns. I don't want the Nats to mess with their valuable investment for the future. Then again, if he succeeds then that will show a lot for the guy's character. Of course, character is what wins ball games.

Read Rocket's view on Project Zimmerman.

24 August, 2005

Cricket - "Game On!"

Tomorrow sees the start of the third cricket test between England and Australia. Whatever the final result of the five match Ashes series, this has already been one of the most dramatic in recent English cricket history.

Even the non-aficionado, can appreciate that drama so far.

This is a classic shift of power season. Australia have ruled test cricket since the early nineties. (Test matches are the traditional five day international matches between the elite nations of cricket – England, Australia, West Indies, New Zealand, South Africa, India, Pakistan and in recent years Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe.)

The Australian side are old. Most of the team have been together for most of the ascendancy. They boast two of the most dominant bowlers of the last 10 years – the highly professional Glenn McGrath and the flamboyant, jack-the-lad Shane Warne. Their batting lineup is unparalleled. Despite some criticism, Australia have stuck with the core of the long time “world champs”. Why change a winning formula?

England, by contrast, has spent years in the doldrums. There have been false dawns. But, over the last three years, England have claimed the scalps of South Africa and West Indies (both home and away). True world-class performers have emerged. None more than Andrew “Freddie” Flintoff, the natural heir to England’s lionheart of the 80s, Ian Botham. Freddie bowls and bats with élan and gusto. He is that elusive “all-rounder” that every cricket team craves.

The first test at the home of cricket Lord’s in London saw England take an early advantage. McGrath’s bowling display late on the first day pegged them back. McGrath cut a swathe through English batting; probably the most devastating spell I’ve ever seen. That turned the match Australia’s way and they won easily.

Birmingham. The second test. Warne and Brett Lee very nearly achieved an impossible comeback. On an unforgettable and tense Sunday morning, England won by the smallest margin in any Ashes match. England had outplayed them for most of the match. Still, Australia showed that with their back’s to the wall, they will fight and claw all the way. Adding to the drama, Australia suffered a freak injury to McGrath – he stepped on a ball warming up on the first day and suffered ligament damage.

McGrath miraculously returned a week later to lead Australia’s attack in the third test at Manchester. England dominated again for most of the first four days. Australia were left another run chase on the fifth day. A reported 10,000 people were turned away on that last day as all general admission seats were gone by 8am. The game swayed back and forth throughout the day. Aussie captain Ricky Ponting scored a memorable century (100 runs) to lead the defense, which turned to counter-attack and then back to defense. Time was the final victor, a legacy of the rain affected fourth day. The match was drawn – a psychological win for Australia – as England failed to claim the final wicket (out) needed for victory. Australia had fallen short in runs, but in cricket that means no winner – a draw.

England need to win one of the remaining tests and avoid defeat (win, draw or tie – yes, there’s a difference) in the other. The Ashes are held by Australia. If the series remains level, they retain the Ashes.

All to play for in Nottingham, starting at 10:30am Thursday. As the good Doctor would say: "Bring it on!"

23 August, 2005

Drugs:cycling Cycling:drugs

French sports newspaper, L'Equipe, is reporting once again allegations that 7 times Tour de France winner, Lance Armstrong, used the banned substance EPO.

Armstrong, as you'd expect, vehemently denies the allegations. Armstrong - unlike other repeat foreign champions like Miguel Indurain and Fausto Coppi - never fully won over the French public despite dominating the Tour or perhaps because of it. Armstrong's apparent diffidence and, initially, poor French also contributed to the cool relationship.

It seems that the drug allegations will never disappear as some elements in the French/cycling press see as their duty to chip away at Armstrong's legacy.

My view? Sadly, the allegations about Armstrong will never go away. That's not just because of who Armstrong is. It's a much to do with a sport which has always had a bad reputation for drug taking. Read any account of the sport in the fifties and sixties and you will come across the prevalence of stimulants of one kind or another. For some cyclists it was a way of life, a way to cope with a gruelling sport which, in those days, paid poor rewards. Brandy and speed were a favoured cocktail

There was always a suspicion about Armstrong because of his near miraculous recovery from cancer. Yet, what the whisperers skate over is that Armstrong was, before cancer struck, a champion in waiting. He had won several Tour stages and looked to be on the verge of challenging the top riders of the day.

I cannot prove one way or another that he was a cheat. I'd say, the balance of probabilities are that he didn't. If he did cheat, he probably cheated no more or no less than most other riders.

Armstrong was, perhaps, fortunate in that he burst on to the scene when the sport was in disarray due to other drug scandals that brought down greats such as Pantani and Virenque. But, there's no denying that Armstrong is the greatest Tour rider.

As for drugs in sport? You either have a no tolerance policy or you get the nonsense you see in cycling - or in MLB.

It's a funny old game

Soccer news from Belgium:

A third-division provincial girls football team entered the annals of Belgian soccer on Saturday after suffering a crushing 50-1 defeat because of the absence of a single but crucial player: their music-loving goalkeeper.

SK Berlaar's goal was left unguarded in a match with FC Malines after its goalie opted instead to go to a rock festival, Het Laatste Nieuws reported Monday.

That works out to a goal every 108 seconds. Assuming it takes up to 20 seconds to restart from goal to kick-off, you can figure on a goal every 90 seconds.

As every British schoolboy knows, the world record for a senior men’s match is: Arbroath 36, Bon Accord 0 in the 1885 Scottish FA Cup. Reports from the time suggested that the score could have been much higher! But no evidence that Bon Accord’s goalie bunked off.

Not surprisingly, Bon Accord FC are no longer with us. These days Arbroath – the Red Lichties - grind out in the lowest rung of the Scottish League.

Back in student days I watched the opening period of a junior hockey game – after going ice skating - when one side’s goalie was late getting to the game. The other team netted a dozen or more, scoring at will. Once saw the Washington Capitals score ten at the MCI Center against Tampa Bay.

22 August, 2005

The Alex Smit Dispatches - 22 August

Donutball is following the progress of Dutch phenom, Alexander Smit.

OK, I’ve nicked the idea from Basil’s Rueckel Report, but hey what the heck. Smit’s eye-popping strikeout numbers piqued my interest. I’m also intrigued at the progress of a European in the Minor Leagues.

Smit pitched once over the weekend in Elizabethton’s series with Greeneville. He closed out the Twins 4-0 win on 20 August pitching two innings giving up 2 hits and a walk whilst striking out 4. That makes 83 Ks in 43.2 innings – a clip of 1.90 per 9. Smit’s ERA has dropped to 2.06 in 20 relief appearances with the Twins' Appy League entry.

Despite allowing a one-out triple in the 8th, Smit got out of the inning without scoring thanks to two strikeouts. He picked up another two whiffs – all 4 on swings – in the 9th.

Starting pitcher Ryan Mullins worked 7 innings and gave up only a hit and a walk. He is now 3-0 in 11 starts with a 2.18 ERA

Smit is the second youngest pitcher on the Elizabethton staff. I’m pleased to see he’s got a website, though he’s not updated the diary section since being demoted from Beliot.

21 August, 2005

Give that man a Donut

A new feature at Donutball. For a standout performance, sheer audacity, or just plain stupidity. Whatever it is, every week there is one lucky sports' personality who deserves the words : "Give that man a Donut".

This week, following England soccer team's second half collapse against Denmark:

Sven Goran Eriksson

Not only did England soccer coach Sven insert "Calamity" David James in goal as a sub in Wednesday's game against the Danes, but after James put in the usual horror show of a display, the Swede claims that he'll keep the hapless 'keeper in the squad.

James came on as a second-half substitute against Denmark with the game still goalless.

He was at fault with the first goal and looked ill at ease throughout the 45 minutes he was on the pitch as England suffered their heaviest defeat under Eriksson.

James accepted his share of the blame but was subsequently pilloried for admitting he had not prepared properly for the friendly international.

Yet, Eriksson stands by his man.

Pressed on whether he could take James into the World Cup Finals or the match at the Millennium Stadium, Eriksson said: "I always said that David James after the Austria game last season was very professional, working very hard and trying to come back.

"What happened in Denmark happened. I don't what to talk about David James or whoever in the second half. I think it's a collective disaster."

Top of the League

Bleedin' 'ell!

Spurs. Top of the league!

Er, OK. No need to get carried away. It's only the second week of the season. Nevertheless, it's a start.

Saturday saw drug lad, Edgar Davids, make his Premiership debut as Spurs beat a tough Middlesbrough side 2-0. England flop, Jermain Defoe, scored his second goal of the season. More importantly, the defense didn't concede a goal. 180 minutes and no goals against. That's probably the most encouraging aspect of the first few kicks of the season.

Paul Robinson again was excellent between the posts. Whilst in front of him, an inexperience back line has just about coped.

Tougher challenges await. I'm still hoping for not much more than 9th - i.e. top half of the league. Who knows, it might be better. Top place? For this week only. Happy to be there, but we're keeping it warm for others.

19 August, 2005

Nats: No 1 UK fan

So what’s the deal with this limey Nats’ fan?

As you’ll read elsewhere (when I get around to writing it), most of my growing up was on the sandy shores of Long Island. Those days I was a Metsie, not that my love for the Shea-sters has completely waned. Fast forward from the late 70s when my family escaped Suffolk Co. to the late 90s. Circumstance placed me in D.C. I had a four year posting in the District and had a home in Bethesda.

By this time, I was following the game again. Thanks to a very expensive subscription to Baseball Weekly and weekly videotapes from a company in Belgium, I was pretty knowledgable too. Serendipitously, I saw a lot of Oriole games on tape. Cal and Brady - yeah!

Naturally, I started following the O’s when I arrived in Bethesda in March '97. I probably saw about a dozen or so games a season at OPACY. Friends and I took a road trip up to Cleveland in '98 as a contact had access to very good seats at the Jake. One weekend I drove down to the Smoky Mountains and took the opportunity to catch a couple of Appy League games. Other highlights of that four years included a trip to Spring Training, a three game O’s series in Seattle, being at Busch to see Will Clark homer in his first at bat for the Cards and a couple of games out in Salt Lake.

Back with the Orioles: well, I think we all agree that Angelos sucks. What did that man do to that team that didn’t suck? The O’s went from a contending/big budget team to a bigger budget/underachieving team in the blink of an eye. Still, watching Cal and the Moose was compensation.

In 2001 I came back to the UK. I forgot about the O’s. With little prospect of returning to the US for sometime and no longer involved in DMB, the interest waned. I was vaguely aware of the Angels winning the Series, the Yankees buying everything and the Mets generally buying leftovers and losing.

Come late 2004, in between following the Red Sox triump, I was tracking the prospective move of the Expos to D.C. Knowing how D.C. government and MLB work, it was part fascination to see how the two parties could louse it up. As we all know, they nearly did, but a degree of common sense prevailed.

That could have been that. Interest piqued again, I dipped in and out through Spring Training to see how the Nats were faring. It was probably only when opening day at RFK dawned that I realised that I was starting to care about this team. Well, I think I love ‘em now because I care as much about Ws and Ls as I do about the boneheadedness of management.

But, please don’t tell the Metsies.

18 August, 2005

Nats - transaction corner

Why do the Nats keep jerking around their toolsy outfielders? That’s a rhetorical question.

There is a discernible patter that is bordering on madness. Promote a guy with wheels, or do some minor level deal to obtain similar. Throw him in to the lineup on Monday. If he’s not the reincarnation of Tris Speaker by Friday, it’s off to Nawlins.

Pity poor Brandon Watson. Ok, he may not be the answer to the Nats’ prayers – a healthy, all round, decent hit, decent field center fielder. But, the poor guy didn’t even last long enough to play at RFK.

On the brighter side, it may mean more p/t for the almost forgotten Ryan Church. True, he’s struggling at the plate – a feeble grounder as a pinch hitter in last night’s stifled 7th inning rally. Then again, as I’m sure you’d agree, Church needs ABs. His value is diminished – not to mention his confidence - riding the bench.

There’s a case for sending Church back to AAA though I imagine the outfield is getting a mite crowded down there with Bowden’s castoffs. The flip side is his number are still pretty decent - .294/.352/.480.

In other words, what was the point of promoting Watson in the first place. It would have made some sense if the ailing Church had been placed on the DL at the same time. Otherwise, this is just jerking around.

Meanwhile, it’s Halama time. Funnily enough I’m having chickpea and halama cheese salad tonight.

Dutch - no, not that one; the other one

I was checking through the Appy League stats yesterday lunchtime (don't ask why, it was just a thing to do) and came across the line of Alexander Smit, a 6'4", 205lb, 19 year old lefty in the Twins system.

Smit started the season at Beloit as a starter where his line was:
1-9 5.98 49.2 58H 41R 33ER 9HR 28BB 54SO

After being demoted to Elizabethton, Smit has been used in relief only and his line looks like this:
6-1 2.16 41.2 21H 12R 10ER 3HR 11BB 79SO

That's 17.1 SO/9IP for those without scorecards. Needless to say, Smit leads the Appy League in Ks.

Do you think this guy brings heat? Funnily enough, according to Baseball America's Prospects Guide, Smit has shown inconsistent velocity, which has been a concern for the Twins. He has been developing a knuckle curve, which might provide some explanation for his high K count.

With those kind of numbers, you might think Smit would be closing for the E Twins. But, no. That job has fallen to Pat Lahey who leads the league with 14 saves. Lahey only has 25Ks in 22.1 innings.

Smit is a rare European signing. He's a Dutch national and played for the Netherlands in last year's Olympic baseball tournament. In fact, he's missed parts of the last two seasons through duty with the national squad. Still only 19, he's raw got time to develop. My guess is that he might not turn out to be that B+ player the Twins hope. But, Donutball will keep its eyes peeled.


Smit fanned three, walked one and gave up no hits in two innings Tuesday night. He got credited with a hold as the Twins beat the Bristol Sox 6-3. The Sox committed 6 errors, including one each from the Acosta boys.

17 August, 2005

Top Field Action

Tuesday night saw Hitchin Town clump Northwood 4-2 thanks to a hat-trick from new boy, Thomas Hayes. Hitchin, long time members of the Isthmian League - step 3 on the non-league pyramid - switched to the Southern League Premier Division last season. What an awful season that was. The club, always living hand to mouth, nearly dropped out of the Premier Division. It took a late season run to retain their place.

Back in the mid-90s, I was able to follow the Canaries week-in week-out, having moved back to Hitchin after a 25 year gap. Those were great days as the club - teetering on the brink of bankruptcy - had two fantastic runs in the FA Cup, reaching the second round claiming two Football League scalps - Hereford United and Bristol Rovers - in successive years. That paid the bills for a few years.

Times have been even leaner since I left Hitchin in '97. But, they've gone the independent supporters trust route to secure the financial future and they've got a good web site.

Clunk - Denmark 4, England 1

Thank goodness that was a warm-up for the World Cup qualifiers rather than a qualification match.

Even so, with Svennis putting out pretty nearly a first choice eleven - for the first half at least - this ain't good.

Jermain Defoe. Love him for Tottenham. But, I've got to admit, he's not yet international class. This causes problems with Michael Owen - Mr Goody-Two-Shoes - suspended for the Cardiff match on 3 September. Does Sven stick with the Spurs man or go with Man U's volatile and rarely spectacular Alan Smith?

Thankfully, it's Wales next: not world beaters, but no doubt fired up for England. It would take a minor miracle to stop qualification. But, tonight's reversal and the awful Spanish match last autumn show that England are unlikely to step up a level in next summer's World Cup.

"We are red, we are white/We are Danish dynamite!"

Nats - Umbrella time

Some rainouts are better than others:

Looks like a great day to play two.

16 August, 2005

IRBL - Mariners (at 1 July)

This is how things stood when I took over the Mariners: third in the AL West, 18 games out.

Nats - was the Buck hot dogs what won it

Nationals 6, Broad Street Sissies 3

Thanks to a 5-1 road trip and the $1 hot dogs, the Phillies had a walk-up crowd of more than 7,600 fans.

$1 hot dogs. Eh. Now if it were $1 beer, I'm sure I'd walk up for $10 general admission.

John IV was up late to post, so go read his amazement at P-Wil's explosion. But, don't get carried away. Mookie's kid is still a .250 hitter with medium power who strikes out too much and has limited range. You won't catch him on my team. (I'm carrying Scott Podsednik as a default CF, for chrissake. Here's hoping his DL stint doesn't make him untradeable.)

The return of ¡Livan! is welcome news. Boy, the Nats need their horse saddled and ready to gallop. Just lead him to the water and he'll drink.

Drese (lost his last five starts) v. "Holywood" Lidle (six walks last time out) tonight. Due for a pitcher's duel?

15 August, 2005

Diamond Mind Baseball - IRBL Mariners

[Not a paid promotional post]

After a hiatus of about 7 years, I'm back playing Diamond Mind Baseball. No, this is not fantasy league. It's sadder than that.

My misspent childhood was huddled over dice, spinners, scoresheet, charts and rulebook. It started with "book cricket", each letter from a passage in a book corresponds to action on the field - dot ball, single, wicket, six! Later on, courtesy of Tony the Tiger, I started playing dice baseball and football. Roll 1-1 for a triple, 6-6 to go yard. Three dice were used for football.

My long suffering parents coughed up for a succession of wonderful or awful games. 3M Blue Line Hockey was, I think, the worst. Strangely, I never got hold of classics of the genre - APBA and Strat-o-matic - until mid-life kicked in.

My first experiences wern't that great. Ernie Harwell's APBA commentary for its computer game was very boring. Strat Hockey didn't quite cut it. APBA Hockey had some database wonkiness that sometimes meant goalies never saved shots. There were a few 14-0 games as a result. But, by that time, I'd become hooked on two upstart games, produced with great attention to detail based upon databases unavailable when APBA and Strat kicked off in the 50s.

I'd played mostly solitaire. I didn't realise there were nutters like me who took this stuff seriously. I was pleasantly surprised when I stumbled upon a load of Brits who played in a baseball league. By that time I was playing Statis Pro, but joining the league meant a conversion to Pursue the Pennant.

Now here was one of the best simulations around. PtP replicated the full panoply of baseball game events - the wild plays feature was sheer genius. Those days it was board only. The arrival of each season card set was a major event in my house. It took several hours to carefully tear the perforations on the card stock sheet, then sort each of 500+ player cards.

If you've never played PtP or Strat or any other sports simulation game like them, here's a brief run through. The games reproduce the results of each player's previous year's performance. Roll the dice - 3 dodecahedrons in the case of PtP - and read the results of each card. Simple, yet ingenious. In PtP, if I remember correctly, a roll of 000-499 meant reading of the batter card; 500-999 off the pitcher card. (Or was it the other way around?)

The great thing about these games is the statistical accuracy and the feel of the game. Faceoff Hockey was probably the best card/board based game for flow and realism. It's computer version never really matched it.

PtP started a computer version and then in the mid-90s the board game ceased. PtP morphed to Diamond Mind. The game has changed little over the years as the basic game engine was so perfectly designed. Old time gamers still miss the feel of the dice and cards. But, building your team through trades and the draft, then playing a whole season is still a thrill.

I played for about 10 years in UK based Diamond Mind and Faceoff leagues. I quit the baseball league as life was getting a bit more complicated, I had less free time and the commissioner was becoming a pain. I lasted longer with Faceoff, but that league folded last year as the core of players dwindled to a handful.

So, now I'm back. The IRBL has been running since 1974. That's a pretty impressive record. What's more, there are a couple of players who lasted the whole history.

My Mariners need a little work. Too much emphasis on speed, no power, an uneven starting rotation and nothing on the horizon. I’ll give you the full run down later.

Anyone want Mike Mussina for a sh!tload of prospects?

Nats - Can you say "Yard!"?

Time difference. Bad: it means I miss most MLB games. Good: it means my morning posts beat Stateside bloggers. Hah!

So, here goes nothing...

Coors Field is one of my favourite Major League ballparks. This despite my visit back in 1995 coinciding with a cold snap (I think it snowed) and an argument with my ex which simmered for another two weeks. I love the view, love the microbrew and love the open concourse at field level, which means you can walk around the park and still catch the game.

On the other hand, there are few pitchers around the league who like Coors. The mile high atmosphere and vast spaces in left and right centrefield make this a hitters dream - doubles, triples and homer galore.

Exhibit A: the anaemic Nats offense pounded out 10 hits yesterday, including two home runs, to down the Rocks 9-2. Nine runs. That makes an average of 6 runs per game for the current road trip; for a team that averages 3.94 runs per game. Yesterday was the crooked-ist number the Nats have tagged on the board since June 10.

Has the mile high air and Houston's choo-choo park helped Washington regain their stroke?

One game out in the wild card race with another bandbox on tap. A little Phillie crushing is called for.

14 August, 2005

Football: Premier League, the first week

Blimey. Most of the Guardian pundits picked Tottenham to finish fifth. Ok, that's not quite Champions' League territory. If correct, it would Spurs best ever finish since the Premier League opened up shop in the early nineties.

Fifth. Cripes. Undoubtedly, opinions have been swayed by the calming influence of coach Martin Jol. This time last year, if you remember, Spurs were under the new leadership of former French national coach, Jacques Santini. There was also a technical director, Frank Arnesen, in Spurs new "continental style" setup.

That combination didn't last until Christmas, as Santini left the club claiming personal difficulties. Irrespective of the real reason, the team faltered after a promising start. It became a fitful season, despite further great strides under Jol - Santini's assistant and immediate replacement.

Arnesen, of course, bolted to Chelsea's millions over the summer. Yet, there's still optimism at the Lane. Edgar Davids is only part of that positive outlook. The young squad shows promise. In Jermaine Defoe, Spurs have natural goal poacher though how long they can retain him will be a constant question. There's other talent in Ledley King (though injured); England's no.1 goalie, Paul Robinson; Egyptian star, Mido; midfield dynamo, Michael Carrick; and new signing, Wayne Routledge.

At Portsmouth yesterday, in the driving rain, Tottenham were outplayed, but triumphed 2-0. That's cause for optimism. Good teams overcome indifferent performances against inferior opposition and win.

Fifth? Probably a little beyond hope. My pessimistic prognosis is 10th. Another few wins like this and I might change by mind.

(Isn't this supposed to be a baseball blog?)

Another blog?

Hell yeah!

There is an increasing risk of serial blogger accusations. Not, I hasten to add, accusations of a serial poster. So what.

Even the most-read bloggers take a break from time-to-time, reinvent themselves or just get bored and stopped blogging. My excuse is that Iamadonut lacks a voice. A good blog needs that voice, niche if you like to be of interest. Instead of trying to find that voice, blogging activity has been dispersed first to Donut's Daily Daguerreotype.

Now Donutball.

I've come back to baseball this year. It's been an on-again off-again love affair. Growing up on both sides of the pond, football was my first love. Over the other side baseball quickly sparked my interest. Geography, teenage rebellion, double knit uniforms and Astroturf contributed to declining interest. There'll be more of this later.

In the meantime, what voice will this blog take? Fanboy blog this isn't. The (re)birth of the Washington Nationals played a part in rekindling my baseball interest. This is not a Nationals blog. That part of cyberspace is fairly fully occupied by several excellent blogs (links on the right). But, there'll be plenty of Nats' posts. There will also be coverage of my Diamond Mind Baseball team, the Mariners, who play in the long-running IRBL. Baseball simulations/games are a long-time hobby. Expect comment on the Mets, past and present.

Hell, the football season has just started so "C'mon you Spurs!"