31 October, 2005


Some of your favourite characters from the ever-popular Yuda Gameday Chat.

24 October, 2005

Give that man a donut


My Diamond Mind team, the IRBL Mariners, boasts little in the way of smack from the bat. Next year (of course based on this year - if you know what I mean), my table setter will be Scott Podsednik. Fine.

But, I think I prefer the 12 home runs Podsednik popped as Milwaukee Brewer in 2004. This is no little ball franchise that I'm building.

In 568 plate appearances this season, Podsednik hit precisely zero home runs. Think about that. He played in the second most homer friendly park in the American League.Donut

Podsednik's DMB "card" will have zero HRs on it next year. He'll have less power than Al Weis.

So his two dingers in the post-season - including last night's walk-off shot in Game 2 of the World Series - help me not. Thanks, Scott. Have a donut.

23 October, 2005

Give that man a donut

Donutball has never been a huge fan of Jermaine Jenas. What was the point of Spurs buying the lightweight midfielder? Didn't the club have a surfiet of nearly men?

"Jer-maine Je-nas/Is not an international" as we chant around the Donutball editorial offices.

Well, for the moment, that's forgotten. Jenas's wonder free kick* earned Tottenham an important draw at Manchester United on Saturday.

Forget too that the draw sees Spurs fall from second to third in the table. The point earned is significant. For Spurs to challenge for a top six place, they have to take points from United, Arsenal and the like. A defeat at home to Chelsea on the third Saturday of the season** - aided by Mido's harsh expulsion - was a dent in those hopes. Saturday rekindled the hope.

Next weekend it's the North London clash with Arsenal. Points essential.

"Jen-as for England!"

* - though what was beanpole goalkeeper Edwin van der Saar doing rooted to his line?
** - Tottenham's lone league defeat so far this campaign.
*** - "I think at the end of the day it's probably a fair result." cough, splutter "Sir" Alex Ferguson.

22 October, 2005

Soccer - Hamlet bashed

Ryman League First Division: Dulwich Hamlet 0, Bashley 1

It's going to be a long winter at Champion Hill, home of Dulwich Hamlet.

Hamlet are now out of the two major national knock-out competitions - the FA Cup and the Trophy. Progress, of sorts, continues in the London Senior Cup and the League Cup. But, in the bread and butter of the League, the South London outfit look likely to struggle.

Evidence today confirm that feeling. Dulwich struggled for the second week in a row against inferior opposition. The home side are solid at the back, but lack imagination in midfield (when the bother to play on the ground) and are short of inspiration, touch and firepower up front.

Visitors Bashley, from the New Forest, coped easily with the strikeforce of Charley Side and Paul Scott.

For their part, the Hampshire side created only a couple of openings on the counter attack. Smelling of offside, one of those came off in the 36th minute when Ashley Wilson found Richard Gillespie with a through ball. Gillespie was clear of the defence, rounded the 'keeper and slotted the easiest of chances.

Side managed to wriggle free twice in the first half but could not put a shot on target. His clever lob scraped the bar, but otherwise his shooting let him down.

It was little better in the second half though as time ran down Scott moved to the left wing where he got the better of the defence only for his delivery into the box failing to find a friendly shirt.

Dulwich were denied a clear cut opportunity with seconds ticking away when referee Johnson ignored an advantage and blew for a free-kick outside the box. Mark Simmons, Dulwich's brightest player on the afternoon, headed over from the free-kick.

Within a minute the victim, substitute Richard Brady, scuffed a shot wide after Scott finally got in a good cross. That summed up Hamlet's day.

Bashley held on for a deserved 1-0 victory. Dulwich need to re-group. Goals are going to be as scarce on this performance.

21 October, 2005

Bowling for soup

Donutball knows very little about bowls, except that it is alleged to have been the past time of Sir Francis Drake. Legend has it that Drake played bowls before dispatching the Spanish Armada.

Well, not much Armada dispatching goes on these days. Even the aptly named Willie Wood is not bowling on the greens anymore.

Nevertheless, I came across Bowls News Now, a blog which will keep you up-to-date on all the bowls news you need.

All part of the Donutball experience.


18 October, 2005

District of Baseball - blocked

For some bizarre reason I cannot access the District of Baseball this morning. Some scandal I need to know about?

17 October, 2005

Alex Smit Dispatches - Post-season special

Donutball takes this opportunity to tidy up Alexander Smit's numbers and his unusual post-season. Readers will recall that the young Dutch lefty has been adopted by the good folks at Donutball. Some eye-popping numbers and the fact that he's one of a few Europeans playing ball in the 'States piques our interest.

Smit started the season at Minnesota's low A affiliate, the Beloit Snappers of the Midwest League. In his web diary, he admitted that he lost the sharpness of his curve ball, the youngster's out pitch. It shows from his numbers.

Smit went 1-9 with a 5.98 ERA. He started 10 games and relieved in 4, pitching 49.2 innings, giving up 58 hits, including 9 homers and 28 walks. Smit still picked up 54 strike outs.

So, to Smit's surprise, in July he found himself back in the Appy League. Not only that, he started working exclusively out of the bullpen, usually in short relief. Smit pitched a lot of two inning games and a lot of those games he struck out 5 or more batters.

His numbers back in the Appy League were awesome. In 21 games he went 6-1 with 3 saves, pitching 45.2 innings. He allowed just 25 hits and 12 walks. That's a WHIP of 0.81. Smit fanned 86 batters to lead the league. Think about that. A middle reliever led the league in Strikeouts - at a rate of 16.9 per 9 innings. Ring 'em up!

At the end of the season, Smit was ranked the top LHP in the Appy League. Baseball America ranks him 17th in the Twins system. That's an improvement from 20th last year. He gets a mention on a Twins farm blog and has had features in Baseball America (subscription required) and MILB.com.

We're impressed here that young Smit bounced back from what must have been a big disappointment. Obviously, he's had nothing but success in his short career, over in Holland and in two previous seasons in the Twins system. Those few months in Beloit deflated him. A trip back to the mountains was a wake-up call. Big bonus or not: you have to perform well. To his immense credit, he put in a superb effort at Elizabethton. The Twins must be quietly pleased.

2005 was the first season since signing with Minnesota as a raw 16 year old that Smit pitched the whole season in the US. In both 2003 and 2004, Smit returned to Europe to pitch for the Dutch national side. In 2004, he pitched twice for Holland in the Olympics.

This year Smit completed the season for Elizabethton. But, whilst his teammates went on to the Apply League playoffs - which they won 2 games to 1 over the Danville Braves - Smit again flew across the Atlantic. This time it was for the World Cup hosted by Holland.

The Dutch lost just once in the round robin group phase, against eventual champions Cuba. But, after thumping Puerto Rico 10-0 in the quarter finals, Korea stunned the home side 7-0 in the semis and Panama beat them 7-6 in the third place playoff. Still fourth place was a great achievement for the Netherlands. Smit played no small part in their standing.

Again pitching from the bullpen, he had 4 outings with 5 2/3 innings was 1-0 with a 3.18 ERA. He gave up two runs on 3 hits and one walk. Continuing his propensity for the strike out, he had 8 Ks.

What does next year hold? Guess work on the part of Donutball, but Smit will probably get another look in at Low A Beloit, probably for the whole season. He's now had a full season plus parts of two others at Rookie ball. His move to the bullpen indicates that's where his future might lie. This year's performances were solid after a few wobbles early on. Minnesota is concerned that Smit does not get the velocity on his heater. Smit will live on the curve. He is still very young - only just 20. 2006 will be an important year in his development. One intriguing scenario would see Smit pitching for Holland in the World Baseball Classic.

Whatever happens, Donutball will be watching.

16 October, 2005

Wayback machine - Black Power salute at the Olympics

Donutball remembers and pays tribute:

16 October, 1968. Mexico City. 200 metre gold medallist Tommie Smith and bronze medallist John Carlos stand on the podium and give the Black Power salute.

Colour picture here.

Professor Harry Edwards [professor of sociology at San Jose State university, and friend of Tommie Smith] set up the Olympic Project for Human Rights (OPHR) and appealed to all black American athletes to boycott the games to demonstrate to the world that the civil rights movement in the US had not gone far enough.

He told black Americans they should refuse "to be utilised as 'performing animals' in the games."

Although the [Edwards' proposed] boycott never materialised the OPHR gained much support from black athletes around the world.

On the podium with Smith and Carlos, silver medallist Peter Norman of Australia supported the two by wearing an ORHR badge.

Thirty-seven years on, Smith and Carlos's brave stance still has great poignancy.

If sport and politics don't mix, then sport exists in some fictional bubble.

15 October, 2005

Soccer: Dulwich Hamlet 1, Barking and East Ham 1

More or less, Dulwich Hamlet is our local soccer team. Dulwich is a fabled name in amateur soccer. Throughout the early 20th century, the Hamlet was the cream of the amateur game. Probably most famous of all was Edgar Kail who played three times for the full England side. Kail 427 goals in 15 seasons after the first world war.

At that time, south London was not a hotbed of the professional game. Charlton had a couple of good seasons, but Crystal Palace and Millwall, the other sides in the area were at the bottom rung of the Football League. Sides like Dulwich, Tooting and Mitcham, Corinthian Casuals, Bromley and Croydon had a good following. If not thriving, they survived at the heights of the amateur level.

Times were not so good for the Hamlet after the second world war. Champion Hill, their well-appointed ground declined as times got tough. Finally, in the latter years of the century, the old ground was sold off to accommodate a supermarket and a smaller, modern ground. Today, the small stadium also houses a health club and a thriving social club.

Today was our first visit to Champion Hill though we shop at the adjacent supermarket every weekend.

Barking and East Ham were visitors for an FA Trophy first round match. The Trophy, for those that don't know, is the senior knock-out competition for clubs outside the Premier and Football Leagues. Prior to the distinction between amateurs and professionals being abolished, the Amateur Cup was the top non-League competition.

Barking, a scrappy little side, proved a tough test for the home side. Dulwich had most of the play in the first half - which lacked both skill, entertainment and clear cut chances. The Hamlet had a succession of corners, mostly wasted. Conroy and Williams had the best of the efforts. Conroy should have scored when Cort and Williams linked up well for the first time in the match. But, the midfielder strike was well wide. Hamlet defender De Souza was booked for arguing after Williams was clattered to the ground by an opposing defender. Home supporters and players were amazed that the East Ham player received not even a booking when it looked as though Williams was clear on goal.

Barking got more into the game in the second period. Midfielder Vaughn, in particular, found space. Dulwich, for their part, finally played the ball on the ground, but lacked the telling final pass. Vaughn curled a free kick close after 54 minutes and Barking had their own succession of corners. Seuke in the home goal flapped a couple of times, but no goal.

Dulwich brought on striker Charley Side in the 66th minute and he was almost immediately free, but failed to score. Meanwhile, Brown for Barking was continually finding room in the inside-right channel. With few clear cut chances, time wound down with a 0-0 on the cards.

Suddenly, in stoppage time, from nowhere Vaughn was in space to nod a cross field ball to Taylor who headed wide of Seuke. Vaughn was expelled by referee Mark Links for celebrating by taking his shirt off.

Almost immediately, Side found himself free in the penalty area as De Souza nudged the ball to him whilst stumbling. Side pivotted and shot. Barking's keeper, Tucker, dove to his left, but the ball filled the net.

There was time for a minor scuffle at the far side of the field. Then, Links blew for time. Back to East London for a replay on Tuesday.

13 October, 2005

Give that man a donut

Strike three, Joe Buck said.

Strike three, Tim McCarver said.

Strike three, Lou Piniella said.

Still in play, said Doug Eddings, the only man whose opinion counted. Who are you going to believe -- me or your lying eyes?

Only, seems he didn't. White Sox batter A.J. Pierzynski took off for first, Eddings thought "shit, catcher Josh Paul dropped it. Hey, I don't wanna be a schlump and blow the call. Now did I call him out? Er, heck A.J.'s made it to first. Mommy!"

Give that man a donut.

Better still, give the whole crew plus A.J. a donut.

I will allow that Escobar shouldn't hung an 0-2 pitch to Joe Crede. And, maybe Paul should've tagged Pierzynski just to be sure. Why not add Mike Scoscia, Buck, McCarver and Lou. Call it a Baker's Dozen.

06 October, 2005

Nats - autumn leaves

Donutball catches up with the Yudites: posting a wrap on the Washington Nationals inaugural season. Here's what the 2005 season has meant to me.

I make no excuses. The Nats bandwagon came trundling along around May time. Those were days of thoughts of telling Mr Pythag to stuff it, living with F-Rob's eccentricities, excusing Cristian Guzman's suckiness. It seemed rude not to jump.

That's not entirely true. I picked up this new toy way back in September 2004 when Mayor Williams donned the Curly W. Having worked in DC for 4 years, living in the 'burbs - it has to be said - but spending quality time in NW, being a baseball nut, I had just had to follow this thing.

Pitchers and Catchers meant something again. I could nearly smell the glove oil. But, I wasn't totally hooked until the Nats starting winning.

Now, I wish I'd been smart enough to start one of these things late last year. Donutball is not an exclusive Nats' blog, but Nats fever and the Yudites were catalysts. Donutball can't compete with bloggers who see most games, either in the flesh, on MLB.tv (love it!) or MASN. So, Donutball aims to give a different slant coming from 3500 miles away.

Channel 5
Britain's Channel 5 - our newest free-to-air station - has a chequered history. Early days saw soft porn movies. There's still patchy coverage of parts of the UK. My parents - living in one of the channel's blind spots - never had the opportunity to watch "Best Ever CSI" or one of many lifestyle programmes.

On the other hand, Channel 5 has pulled off a few coups in the sports department. They've bagged the odd big soccer game, specialising in showing British teams in the Uefa Cup - that's the Champions' League's little brother.

Best of all, Channel 5 has from its earliest days showed live baseball on Sunday nights. Mind you, it's ESPN Sunday Night Baseball, which brings me to...

Joe Morgan
And I thought I was the only one who thought Joe Morgan was an idiot. "I don't believe in conspiracy theories unless they have facts behind them." Shut up Joe.

lol. raffie is a rOYd head. ha, ha.

Man, it's difficult to break the habit of a lifetime. I still love the Metsies, but I gosh darn wish they weren't in the same division.

Games I remember
Well, that's difficult because I don't get to see many games live. But, the Pine Tar Game sticks in the mind mostly for the ragging of 6-4-2 Rob. Yer manager's a dickhead and that monkey thing is stupid, but I still want the Haloes to beat the Yankees. But, 'fraid I have to go for an NL team in the series (except the Braves).

Fecking Time Zones
Time zones didn't exist until the railways demanded standardised time. Before then, time was measured at each individual point by reference to a sundial. In fact, before the railways there was no need for accurate time so people didn't really care that much about it.

Well, I'm sorry MLB but you've got to start scheduling more 2pm EDT starts so I can get home and watch games at home in the evening (my time).

Baby Rueckels, Svurgla, Boz, DCN@B, Hondo, Wilko, Officer Schneider, Inning-Endy, Washingtonienne. Ah, memories.

Most of all this Nats season has rekindled my love of the game. That's pretty good, huh?

04 October, 2005

MLB - playoff predictions

Over at Yuda Gameday chats, I made my predictions yesterday. Before the playoffs start - less than an hour from now - I thought I better get them down here for posterity.

AL Divisional Series
Bosox over the Ozzie Sox in 3 - mid season I fancied the Ozzie Sox to go all the way. But, partly on the basis that they've been waiting since May for the playoffs to start and partly because Boston are a monster, the nod goes to the Red Legs.

Yanks over the Angels in 5 - tough call here. Despite LA of A's better record, the Yanks are just about the best team in baseball right now. LA has better starting pitching, but the Yanks hitting is better and the bullpen is lights out from inning 6 onwards.

NL Divisional Series
Cards over the Padres in 3 - unless Peavy shuts them down tonight, I can't see anything other than a blowout. (That's put the mockers on St Louis.)

‘stros over the Braves in 5 - for all the head-to-head nonsense, this one looks likely to be settled by a blown call, error, balk or fan interference. I like Houston's pitching better (especially with Smoltz doubtful), but Andruw could win this single handed.

AL League Championship
Yanks over the Bosox in 7 - A re-match of last year's epic and payback for the New Yorkers. Leaving aside the bats, it could be bullpen arms that win this series.

NL League Championship
‘stros over the Cards in 7 - another rematch and again last year's result gets reversed. Houston's trio of starters has just enough to best St Louis.

World Series
Yanks over the 'Stros in 4 - Houston's first World Series will be an anticlimax. The Yanks are the best team in baseball and they are primed for the playoffs.

03 October, 2005

The Best

News this evening that soccer legend George Best is seriously ill with a kidney infection. Latest reports say that he is out of danger. But, this is the latest development in the sad downfall of the great Ulsterman.

Best burst on to the scene as a lanky teenager for Matt Busby's Manchester United in the mid sixties. The word mercurial was coined for Best. He had speed, strength, a good striker of the ball and was the finest dribbler of the age when dribbling went out of fashion. United won a couple of titles and became the first English club to win the European Cup (in 1968) when Best outshone Benfica's Mozambique genius Eusebio.

Like Eusebio, Best eventually wound up playing in the North American Soccer League in the 1970s. By then, drink and the fast lane had taken a toll on Best. The shy kid was feted, loved the life of wine and women.

Best grew disillusioned with the game, as he was the target of foul after foul. Spells with Fulham and the Los Angeles Aztecs paid the way. There were flashes of genius still. His extracurricular activities sometimes overshadowed the soccer.

My only live view of Best was at Giants Stadium of all places. Best's Aztecs played Pele and the star studded Cosmos. By then Best had stopped training, was overweight and drifted in and out of games. Pele on the pitch possibly inspired him as in the second half, he moved to midfield and dominated the game.

Pele too was in the papers over the weekend (sadly not on the Guardian website). Keith Eddy, the Cosmos captain, recalled Pele's farewell game in the Meadowlands which took place 28 years ago this week. Pele played a half each for the Cosmos and Santos, his Brazilian club, the only other club he played for. The end was tears in the rain.

Best's life will end in tears. Yet, one of his good friends and drinking buddies, another misunderstood genius- Rodney Marsh - always claims that people should not feel sorry for Best. It is not a fall from grace, says Marsh. Best lives the life he wants. So, drink, failed marriages, kidney transplant, jail sentences and Sky Sports punditry are all part of Best's life tapestry.

Remember, the body swerve, the dribble, the sideburns, the skinny frame, the goals.

02 October, 2005



Yep, the Donut has returned from Italy. Refreshed and revitalised. At least until the gruel of work.

Still catching up on what's happening, but looks like the bad news is that the Nats will finish at .500. Tottenham snatched a come-from-behind win at Charlton yesterday. Third place for the Spurs - a false position as several close behind have games in hand.

Bad planning meant that I missed the opportunity of Serie A football on vacation. FC Empoli play just 8km or so from the villa we stayed at for two weeks. The middle Sunday saw the Blues at home. I only found out the day after. Meh.

Empoli is a dump: Vittolini, our base, is a little hilltop village close by Vinci (as in Leonardo) and not a dump.

Italian Soccer has sold it's soul to Rupert Murdoch. Sky Calcio shows every Serie A game live or on tape delay. But, it's pay per view.

Still, every town and village we visited had its own team, mostly in the Toscana regional league. At the top of the dirt track to our villa was a well appointed field, tucked into the mountainside.

Holiday reading included "A Beautiful Game?" - lifting the lid on the theft of football's soul by the Premier League.