31 January, 2006


Bloody Americans. If it isn't Brian McBride it's this guy.

The match that Tottenham had to win: lost to Bocanegra injury time winner. From a radio commentary that was hard to follow, this sounded like a forgettable January midweek match. Fulham, going nowhere in the league, did enough to frustrate a makeshift Spurs side desperate to kick start the season, stalled after the cup defeat at Leicester.

Another London derby follows on Sunday against Charlton. Michael Dawson misses the match after picking up two yellows (equals dismissal) tonight.

Meanwhile, Tottenham have been very active on the last day of the transfer window. Michael Brown goes across London to tonight's opponents Fulham. Earlier Spurs signed Egyptian midfielder Hossam Ghaly from Feyenoord. Net total of zero midfielders there.

Rumours are that Anthony Gardner will go to Charlton by midnight in exchange for (another) midfielder Danny Murphy.

Leading up to the deadline, Tottenham recalled defender Reto Ziegler from a loan spell at Hamburg only to loan him out to Wigan Athletic.

Yesterday, they loaned out two other fringe squad players to Portsmouth - winger Wayne Routledge and midfielder Ognijen Koroman from Serbia & Montenegro. They join Pedro Mendes, Sean Davis and Noe Pamarot who were sold to the south coast club back on 12 January.

The net result of this whirlwind of activity seems to be a thinning out of midfielders, but not quite. Murphy looks like a spare part to me duplicating Michael Carrick, who has been getting better as the season progresses.

Nevertheless, this hardly looks a Champions League challenging side, and there was evidence this evening.

Coach Martin Jol has been quoted as not being shy of wheeling and dealing. But, there must be a few heads spinning at White Hart Lane. Is the balance right? I'd say without Mido (injured in Egypt 2006) the club has struggled. Some of the less experienced defenders keep making silly mistakes.

This false promise is so frustrating.

29 January, 2006


Hitting the books in preparation for the IRBL draft in two weeks time.

The IRBL is a very long running Diamond Mind Baseball keeper league. There are 30 franchises though with resignations some of these are being run as dummy teams.

I joined the league halfway through the 2005 season. Not reading the rules properly and a stupid mistake on overusing players means the Mariners pick last and get just 5 selections in the draft. That wouldn't be too bad as I'm set at every position bar one. Trouble is that at that position I have zero at bats. Okay, it doesn't take much to figure out that I'm lacking a third baseman.

There is hot corner talent available in the draft. The question is whether it will last until the 29th pick.

Meanwhile, I'm trying sort out the Pete Orrs from the Dan Ortmeiers. Ten years ago - as a regular DMB player, a subscriber to the now defunct USA Today Baseball Weekly and watching at least one game a week on tape - I could rattle off the reserve third baseman around MLB.

Back then the internet was in its infancy - I first went online in 1995. Prior to that, I relied on the Stats Scouting Notebook, John Sickels' Minor League Scouting Notebook and Bill James Handbook. Once online I found some statistical stuff - CBS Sportslin, for one - but the web was not nearly as overflowing with update stats, depth charts and profiles as it is now.

Time to do some catching up.

27 January, 2006

Men with funny shaped balls

Lunchtime capers in Trafalgar Square. The Royal Bank of Scotland, who like to call themselves RBS for some reason (are they ashamed of being a bank?), are sponsors of the Six Nations rugby championship. The Six Nations (Five Nations, until Italy were admitted in 2000) is the oldest international rugby tournament. It is the de facto European and northern hemisphere championship.

The roadshow brought former Welsh captain Ieuan Evans to the centre London helping hopefuls like me kick for prizes.

I am not Jonny Wilkinson. Neither am I Garo Yepremian. But, even after my first girlie attempt I nearly put the ball through the middle target. On the third attempt the ball popped through the right target. A bad sponsors t-shirt will follow in the post.

And, no this woman hasn't kicked her foot through the posts.

Six Nations action kicks off next weekend with England hosting champions Wales, Ireland versus Italy and, on Sunday the favourites France travelling to Edinburgh to take on the perpetual wooden spoonists, Scotland.

Another picture here.

25 January, 2006

Good seats available

Alas, I will be spending my vacation time in Dubrovnik (May) and Arizona (July). So, I'll miss out on the World Baseball Classic. But, if you happen to be in Arizona, San Diego, San Francisco, Tokyo, San Juan, Anaheim or Orlando you can buy tickets here.

In response to a thread on Yudachat, I posted this (at #65):

wbc is an event whose time has come.

baseball is already an international game. the standard outside the us, japan and caribbean may not be high, but it’s certainly getting better. imho, events like wbc and the olympics will only serve to improve the game’s profile in the developing baseball nations like italy, australia, south africa and the netherlands.

wbc is more valid than the olympics becuase of mlb involvement. of course, mlb sees this as a marketing opportunity and is compensation for baseball being dropped from the 2012 olympics (boo-hoo).

then again wbc is a gamble. will there be empty stadiums? what about compensation for injured stars?

i’m not enamoured with piazza turning out for italy, but this is nothing new in international sports. italy’s rugby team, for example, is stocked with ex-pat kiwis. but, at least it has made them competitive, raised awareness of the game in italy and attracted more local players.

Spelling errors and lack of capitals are mine. Apologies for a lazy posting.

Here's hoping my £41.99 for cable including NASN brings some WBC action.

24 January, 2006

Le Tour 2007 depart a Londres!

Oui, mes amis!

London will host the start of the 2007 Tour de France. No details yet. We will have to wait until 8 February. Nevertheless, this is a great day for British cycling and another sporting coup for our Olympic mayor and newt lover, Ken Livingstone. (Eat your heart out Tony Williams.)

Inevitably, there's a dedicated web site and countdown clock.

Road racing has always been the poor relation in Britain. The authorities have always been reluctant to close great stretches of road to accommodate the sponsors' caravan, the support vehicles, Monsieur Director and the peleton. Instead, racing has flourished on tracks around the country many of them cinder or wood (!) and in poor condition.

Most of Britain's great riders - "Mr Tom" Simpson, Robert Millar, Graham Obree, Chris Boardman - first made their names on the track before moving to France to tackle the roads.

The 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester delivered a spanking new National velodrome. The 2012 Olympics will bring another high-tech arena - frankly unnecessary. Meanwhile, Herne Hill Cycling Stadium, just up the road from me, crumbles. It nearly closed last year because the local authority wouldn't pony up the rent.

It would be nice to think that this famous old track, which has hosted hundreds of pro and amateur races for a century - including races in the 1948 Olympics - could host either the start or finish London's Tour stage.

As the Grauniad reports, this is the third visit to these shores by teh world's greatest cycling race and one of sport's biggest annual events. Last time around, in 1994, the Tour passed near my brother's village in Hampshire. Silly me didn't make the effort to go down. Though given the flat terrain the peleton would have blown by in a flash.

This time there's no excuse. I'm booking my spot at the barriers, camera in hand, sponsors flag, hat and shopping in tow.


23 January, 2006

Row Z - bits and pieces from the weekend

Tottenham Hotspur 0, Aston Villa 0.

Suddenly Spurs can't score. For the second weekend in a row, Tottenham had plenty of chances but failed to capitalise. For the second weekend in three, Mido was out of the country. This time it was with good reason. He was scoring in Egypt's 3-0 win over Libya in the opening match of the African Cup of Nations.


Speaking of which, I caught bits and pieces of most of the African Cup games over the weekend. Cameroon looked super sharp, Barcelona's Samuel Eto'o in particular. They beat shock World Cup qualifiers Angola 3-1.

But, the best match was DR Congo's surprise 2-0 victory over another World Cup first-timer Togo. Lua Lua was star of the show, but little Mbala Mbutu caught my eye.

Tonight Nigeria downed Ghana 1-0. That's the third World Cup qualifier to go down to a non-qualifier so far in the tournament!

The quality of play has been breathtaking despite the sometimes comical defending. Expect to see those on display not signed by Arsenal to be at Emirates Stadium next year.


Latest news: Sven Goran Eriksson will step down as England coach after the World Cup. This follows his indiscreet remarks to a News of the World journalist masquerading as an Arab millionaire.

No surprise there. Perhaps incentive for the team to go out and win one for the Gipper Swede.

22 January, 2006

Standing proud

Spurs introduce new club badge.

The cockerel stands proud.

The Shelf likes the new badge though notes that the redesign is yet another marketing ploy following the examples of the Arse and Chelski.

I think I've owned one only replica shirt in my life - the horrid tear here stripe Admiral shirt from the 80s. I did buy a "retro" centenary shirt a couple of years ago.

The cockerel has been associated with the club since at least 1910, when the famous cockerel and ball symbol was placed on the old West Stand. It's unclear where the link between Spurs and the cockerel originated. The old club badge featured 'spurs, as in what you dig into a horse and is a reference to Harry Hotspur, Duke of Northumberland. It is on the lands of the Northumberland family that Tottenham first played.

Speaking of commercial revenue, Spurs for many years resisted advertising around the pitch at White Hart Lane. Before the 1910 West Stand was built, White Hart Lane, in common with most grounds of the time, was plastered with all sorts of wooden and enamel signs. In the inter-war years these disappeared. It was late on in comparison with most big clubs that Spurs cashed in on this revenue stream.

No cock and bull stories, please.

Life puts things in perspective (obviously)

A bit late in the day, but I've just read Barry Svrluga's poignant piece from last Wednesday's WaPo about Ryan "Dutch" Zimmerman.

For those who don't know, Zimmerman was the Washington Nationals' first ever pick in the amateur draft. Ignoring the 36 year history of Les Expos, Zimmerman has the potential to be the first franchise player. Certainly his quick promotion to the Major Leagues last September - an impressive debut too - adds to that possibility.

Not only is he a first round pick with huge potential, "Dutch" (and we can debate another time whether that internet journalist hung moniker will stick) is also local(ish), hailing from Virginia and a alumunus of the University of Virginia. Placing such a burden on a young player can be unfair. Zimmerman, by all accounts, seems like the kind of guy who can deal with the pressure.

Anyway, Svrluga's nice little profile focuses not only on Zimmerman's sound personal qualities, but also on how he and his family have faced up to the adversity of illness. Mother Cheryl has suffered with Multiple Scelrosis (MS) for ten years.

MS is a horribly debilitating condition. It is random, progressive and, for many sufferers, soul destroying.

My mum was diagnosed with MS some 25 years ago. What started as a tingling sensation in her legs has steadily got worse taking away her mobility and strength.

I don't know about making those around them better equipped to cope with life, but a disease like MS can hlep put a lot of what one takes for granted in perspective.

Ryan Zimmerman comes across as a good kid, highly talented, motivated and calm. He may not be the next Brooks Robinson or Mike Schmidt. Nats' fans hope he'll be the firstRyan Zimmerman. You just gotta root for the guy.

21 January, 2006

Million Dollar Home Runs

Meanwhile, back in Florida...

Officials from the Washington Nationals met with representatives of free agent slugger Sammy Sosa on Thursday night, the latest step in the club's pursuit of the former all-star who is coming off one of the worst seasons of his career.

Where please is the logic?

What does Sammy Sosa bring to the Nationals?

Sosa is coming off a miserable year with the Baltimore Orioles, when he earned $18 million but hit .221 with 14 home runs and 45 RBI in 102 games.

A mil plus per round tripper.

Interestingly, Sosa had just 4 HRs in supposedly homer friendly Camden Yards (OPACY's HR index for '05 was 101 and is 105 for the last few years). RFK meanwhile had a HR index of 85 - in the bottom third of the league. Sammy would also be playing quite a few games in Miami (78), Hot-lanta (84) and the Big Shea (90). He might struggle to top 14 homers, might have to leg out a few more doubles or Guillen-like pop a lot of warning track outs.

The Bill James Handbook projects (on the basis of 2005 park effects, remember) Sosa in 2006 thus: .265/.355/.521 27HR, 71RC. If Sosa could come near to that projection, then a Minor League incentive laden deal with a Spring Training invitation could be good value.

But, that projection might be a tad optimistic for an injury prone 37 year old playing in a power hitters graveyard. Sosa also carries the baggage of a over dominant and disruptive clubhouse influence. Could be a bad rap, but sure as hell the Nats don't need another overblown ego. Imagine an outfield of Alf "I won't play the outfield" Soriano, Jose "I keel you" Guillen and Sammy "boombox" Sosa. "They looking to set the record for most triples given up in a season?"

On the other hand:

Sosa is fifth on the all-time home run list with 588, two ahead of Nationals Manager Frank Robinson. He also has 2,194 career strikeouts, second all-time behind only Reggie Jackson.

If (and it's a big if), Sosa is healthy and parks the ego for a year, it could pull in some fans in what otherwise promises to be - now that the honeymoon is over - a tough sophomore season.

To the Nats: Noooooooooooooooooooooo!
What happened to the idea of "We need pitching..."? Sentimental signings are not what the club needs at this point. Why not sign Hondo?

To Sammy: ok, you'll make the Hall, but please retire. Now! (Well, you can play in the World Baseball Classic, strike out 10 times in 3 games, get hurt, then retire.)

Banks of the Anacostia has a blow-by-blow account of the negotations, rumours and hubris.

...and, not once did I mention 'roids...

19 January, 2006

Alexander Smit Dispatches: WBC News

Netherlands, reigning European champions, have named 60 potential players for the upcoming World Baseball Classic.

Included in the 60 is Donutball's adopted Minor Leaguer, Alexander Smit. The 20 year-old left-handed pitcher completed his third season as a Minnesota Twin farmhand before flying off for last autumn's World Cup hosted in Holland. The Dutch claimed fourth spot in the 18 team tournament. A U.S. side composed of Minor Leaguers came 7th.

Smit was far from overawed in his four WC appearances and that's helped him earn a good shot at the Dutch team for the WBC. Though the participation of Major Leaguers in the WBC will prove a sterner test.

The final 30-man rosters, which will be selected before the start of the WBC, will be made up of those players on these provisional rosters

The Netherlands will compete in Group C with Puerto Rico, Cuba (tbc) and Panama. Group games will be played in Puerto Rico 7-10 March.

Their roster has been boosted by bona fide all-stars in Oakland's Mark Mulder and the Braves' center fielder Andruw Jones. The former claims Dutch heritage whilst Jones is, of course, from the Dutch territory of Curacao. Coach Robert Eenhoorn might be tempted to pick another Curacao native, Yurendell De Caster, currently on the Pirates' 40-man roster. Shortstop De Caster led the Venezuelan Winter League with 17 homers.

According de Nederlandse Honkbalsite Holland opens camp on 17 February at the Braves Spring Training complex in Orlando, Florida. Former Oakland and Los Angeles pitcher Bob Welch has been named pitching coach by Eenhoorn.

The Dutch are due to take on group hosts Puerto Rico at 2pm local time on Wednesday 8 at San Juan Expos' Hiram Bithorn Stadium.

17 January, 2006

Spurs are on their to Wembley ... (not)

Donutball presents for you a couple of photos courtesy of Mrs Donut showing the spanking new Wembley Stadium taking shape in north-west London.

Spurs will make an appearance in 2011 - year of the one, don't forget.

Check the cool video of the arch going up.

15 January, 2006

Referring decision

[A post would have appeared here yesterday if the author hadn't been baulked with cyberspace in sight. It was the last line of defence. Blog post was inevitable with only the router to beat. Words prevented from reaching the server. Blatant professional foul. No option for the referee to expel the culprit.]

So why, then, did Liverpool's Scott Carson get away with just a yellow card against Luton. He was the last line of defence. Fouled a Luton player who had beaten him. But, no yellow card. Carson didn't even have the benefit of a goalkeeper behind him to bring in some doubt that a goal would have been scored - he was the goalkeeper. Ok, Luton got a penalty and scored. But, perhaps Liverpool might not have won 5-3 if Carson had been sent off.

This week, Tottenham's Paul Stalteri was expelled for a "last line of defence" foul. Yet, Harry Kewell did not have control of the ball. There was still the goalkeeper to beat and defender Lee was tracking back to challenge Kewell.

Maybe Stalteri deserved a red card. But, by the same token Carson should have gone last week.

Same old problem: inconsistent refereeing.

Otherwise: 1-0 defeat, hard to take, but cannot complain.

08 January, 2006

The cup for thrills and humiliation

Just as I was moaning this breakfast time at the lack of upsets in the F.A. Cup* - the oldest soccer competition in the world (tm) - up pop Leyton Orient to down Fulham 2-1 and, horror of horrors, Tottenham crash out to struggling Leicester after going 2-0 ahead.

I can take it ::sob:: Tottenham were cruising at 2-0; let in a soft goal before half-time; missed a golden opportunity to go ahead 3-1; failed to clear a corner (2-2); then undone by sloppy defending to lose in the 91st minute. Truth be told, they deserved to lose. Rasiak, in place of the departed Mido, was at sea. I counted one challenge he won the whole game. Gardner and Dawson were always struggling with De Vries. Brown and Carrick were bossed out of midfield.

So, it's back to the "next game is the most important of the season".

Meanwhile, non-League Burton Albion held Manchester United 0-0**. The two sides are separated by 4 divisions or about 140 teams. Burton usually draw 2000 fans; United 65,000.

Not quite a "giant killing", but certainly a "cup shock".

No overtime or shoot-outs. It means the match is replayed at Manchester. That means another big payday for semi-pro Burton.

The big story out of this match involves Burton's player-manager, Nigel Clough. He is, of course, son of the late and legendary Brian Clough who managed Derby and Nottingham Forest to League Championships and the latter to two European Cup triumphs. Nigel was a thinking centre-forward late on in Clough's reign, before drink and illness drained Clough Snr. Nigel later played for Liverpool, then drifted at the fringes of the game as injury took its toll.

Today, as a manager, he comes from behind the shadow of his father. Unlike his father, he's a quiet unassuming character who puts family before career. It's said he has resisted moving from the part-time game to the heady heights of the Premier League because he prefers the pace and lifestyle he's developed at Burton. His players rewarding him this afternoon. Most of all, goalie Saul Deeney with a superb reflex save in the dying seconds to preserve the 0-0. Who Deeney, indeed.

* - the F.A. Cup is a single elimination tournament open to all senior English sides. Around 600 enter each year. There are 8 rounds in the competition proper, plus 4 qualifying rounds and a preliminary round (sometines also an extra preliminary round). Teams from the top two professional divisions - the Premier League and the Championship - get byes until the third round proper (played this weekend), but there is no other form of seeding. Pairings (what we call "ties" are drawn "out of the hat", lottery style. The third round is the traditional time of "giant-killing exploits". Though these seem to have waned since the Premier League days.

** - For those on the other side of the Atlantic, Burton's achievement is probably the equivalent of a Northern League team holding their own against the New York Yankees.

07 January, 2006

Faded pages

Sad news that Sportspages, the specialist sports book store, is in the hands of the administrator. Unless, a rescue package can be put together, the London shop will close.

My sports' book library owes a lot to Sportspages. And, I guess in turn Sportspages' fortunes owe a small amount to my regular purchases over the years.

Sportspages is also partly responsible for keeping my baseball (and hockey) fix going during the 1990s. In those pre-internet days, it was the only source in the UK for sports books, magazines, videos and games from the US. Short of flying to the States and loading up a suitcase (er, which I did on a couple of occasions), you went to Charing Cross Road for Sporting News guides, USA Today Baseball Weekly, Hockey News, books by Boz and, for a short time, Statis Pro games.

I became unfaithful later on when it became possible to get hold of books direct from Stats Inc. For several years, I even had a subscription with Baseball Weekly - and the hefty credit card bill to go along with it.

But, Sportspages was more than just a source for American sports. The shop burgeoned at the same time as the soccer fanzine explosion in the early 1990s. Self-publication was the thing. Every fan was suddenly a journalist/publisher. Much like the blog explosion, fanzines became an instant source of an alternative view.

Most fanzines were sold from cardboard boxes outside soccer grounds around the country. But, in addition, Sportspages stocked hundreds of titles and rode the boom.

Teh internets help kill Sportspages. Amazon is now a cheaper and more convenient source for books on all manner of sports. And, you can even order US titles not available in chain stores and much cheaper than Sportspages. Many fanzines are now web based - a cheaper option.

I last visited the Charing Cross Road store over the summer. Hardly a soul was there. Most of the shelves were dusty. The baseball section was thin. The staff looked bored.

I doubt the store can turn it around. It served a great purpose; helped many like me follow what are on these shores minority interests. Times change.

Thanks, Sportspages.

04 January, 2006

Solid (against the) Citizens

Manchester City 0, Tottenham Hotspur 2.

As I was saying...a win against Manchester City tonight was vital. It's these kind of games that Tottenham have to win in order to confirm their credentials as legitimate challengers for a Champions' (sic) league place.

And, win they did.

Not only was this a strong performance, it was a great effort in difficult circumstances. Spurs kicked-off with a rebuilt midfield and lacking the tower of Ledley King in defence. With Tainio ill and Edgar "Yellow Card" Davids struggling with injury, teenager Aaron Lennon and the nearly forgotten Michael Brown lined up at the start.

Lennon used his speed and close control to continually harry Man City. Brown was a workhorse in the middle of the park. In defence, Anthony Gardner put in a solid if not always tidy game replacing King.

Lennon it was who carved the opening for the first goal. His enthusiasm unsettled Distin. The City defender should have deposited the ball in row Z. Instead, the quicker Spurs man stole the ball on the goal line and cut back for Mido to side foot home.

Spurs bossed most of the first half, but had only that chance to show. They looked close to scoring early after the break, but again couldn't carve open a clear cut opening. It was City who took hold of the game. But, in a lacklustre display failed to test 'keeper Paul Robinson.

So, it was left for ageless Robbie Keane to pounce on Mido's flicked header direct from a booming Robinson punt. Keane's nifty control set up a thunderous drive which David "Calamity" James had no chance saving.

Black marks: injuries to Lee and the outstanding Mido. The latter, of course, now misses three matches as he travels to play for Egypt in the African Nations' Cup. Spurs get off fairly lightly. Bolton will lose several key players during the tournament (20 Jan- 10 Feb in Egypt). The tournament is a high spot for Sunderland, who lose no players. They need all the help they can get.

In other news, supreme moron Paolo Di Canio has agreed to stop giving the fascist salute. Di Canio, you may remember, had a varied career in England. Revered by West Ham fans, he joined the Hammers after a long suspension for pushing over a referee. Of course, in amateur soccer that kind of behaviour would lead to a life ban. Prima donnas, like Di Canio - a big fan of Mussolini, it seems - can get away with just about murder, or at least assault of an official and a Nazi salute.

I will continue my battle for liberty in other ways, with the help of the lawyers who assist me

Bollocks, mate. Not even worthy of a donut.

03 January, 2006

Nil-Nil to the Ars-e-nal

Good grief. Was I really rooting for the Arse?

Whichever way, 0-0 suits the Spurs.

A quick look at the table sees Tottenham a solid fourth place, three points ahead of the dreaded Arse on the same number of games. Okay, Spurs might not catch the three ahead of them, but fourth place would be a major achievement. Manchester City tomorrow night (I think I'm safe from prosecution for saying that) represents yet another crucial match.

Much was made by Martin Tyler, Sky Sports commentator, of the tiredness of Arsenal and Manchester United players. Four games in nine days. Tyler bleated on the same theme from the kick-off until full-time. However, his prediction of spaces in defence as players grew weary never materialised.

I don't doubt that there was tiredness. Nevertheless, the scoreline, I think, reflected the caution of both teams. It suited Man U more than Arsenal, but hey Arsenal can't afford anymore defeats. The latter would probably accept a 5th place finish, concentrate on the Champions' (sic) League and hope for a run in the FA Cup. Similarly, even Man U manager Alex Ferguson must now accept that the title will return to Chelsea.

Top marks to Capitol Punishment on the latest brick-brat over the Washington Nationals' stadium saga. Never mind a donut, this gets a flying monkey. Blogging at its best.