26 February, 2006

Beisbol - "No cheering in the press box"

A very bad World Baseball Classic article in today's Observer.

It is one of the enduring urban myths in sport that Fidel Castro, who played baseball as a youth, had a trial in the late 1940s with the Washington Senators (or the New York Yankees in some versions) and, had he made it, the course of late twentieth-century history would have been altered.
...the winner of baseball's first World Cup on 20 March won't be the major host nation. With any luck, it will be a victory celebrated by a funny old man in battle fatigues and cheered long into the night in the squares of Havana by people who have been sneered at by their neighbours for too long.

The drugs don't work

On the penultimate day of the Winter Olympics, Britain's Alain Baxter skied to a creditable 16th place in the Men's slalom. That's creditable by British standards, I hasten to add. Alain's brother, Noel, was 20th. Arguably, the Baxters were the top family in the event.

However, what is noteworthy about Alain's performance was the very fact that he was allowed to compete. You see, in the Salt Lake Olympics the Scot placed an unexpected third but was stripped of the medal after testing positive for a banned substance. Baxter had bought an over-the-counter nasal spray which contained a drug on the IOC proscribed list.

Baxter stands in contrast to two British track and field stars Carl Myerscough and Dwain Chambers. Both Chambers and Myerscough served suspensions for drug violations. In both cases, the bans were handed down by the IAAF, the sport's governing body. The difference to Baxter is that the British Olympic Association added lifetime Olympic ban to both athletes.

It strikes me as grossly unfair. Chambers and Myerscough have served lengthy suspensions, depriving them of income. In Chambers case, it looks like he may have to hand back medals and winnings from several years ago. He admitted his offences and went public on how long he'd been abusing drugs. However, he and Myerscough will never get their Olympic bans rescinded.

You does the crime and serves the time. But, why should an athlete serve an international sanction then face a domestic sanction that an athlete from, say, France wouldn't have to suffer in the same circumstances?

I'm stuck in two minds here. I strongly believe that athletes owe it to themselves to know the penalty if they use proscribed drugs. There should be zero tolerance.

It's obvious that many athletes are either tempted to "cheat"; or coaches, trainers or whoever persuade them to take "this supplement" to aid their "nutritional needs" or help their recovery process. Nevertheless, the responsibility falls firmly on the athelete to keep clean.

Then again, there's part of me that says "let them do drugs". Sports men and women get every assistance in their training and preparation. Their diet, exercise and competition programmes are carefully planned and monitored. Why not add a bit of juice?

I guess what persuades me that the drug route is not quite the best option lies in the side effects of such substances - short and long term. One might think it's a good idea to get that little extra edge now. But, how many "cheats" know the risk of steroids, EPO or even the humble "nasal spray". (If they want to knowingly cheat, they sure as hell ought to find out the long term side effects.)

In the "good old days" of cycling, amphetamines and cognac were the kicker of choice. (Cyclists also thought they raced better dry - i.e. with as little water as possible even on those 40 deg Tour de France days in mid-July.) The death of Tom Simpson on Mont Ventoux in 1967 changed much. Simpson almost certainly abused "speed" as much as, if not more than, other cyclists.

As for EPO, there is - I believe - evidence that it leads to an enlarged heart and complications in later life. 'Roids won't do much for life expectancy either.

I wonder if tequila is on the IOC list?

22 February, 2006

Target practice

Donutball offers a sticky fingered hand of commiseration to the British Scottish men's curling team after their heart breaking last stone loss to Finland in this evening's semi-final. Just bronze to aim for as an encouraging start to the Olympic tournament was a false dawn.

Scotland's heroic defeat offers this blog an opportunity to raise a burning issue about Olympic sports.

Winter sports? Well, why not include true winter sports - darts, snooker and shov' ha'penny. OK, this is not an original thought though as I recall the "debate" over darts centred on the 2012 summer games and the inclusion of one traditional British sport.

Then again, everyone knows Britain England invented all decent sports. Those that we didn't invent are either crap - e.g. basketball - or poor derivatives of the original - e.g. Aussie rules and baseball. (I'll make an exception for Kabbadi -though not entirely original - and possibly Naadam though that looks suspiciously like a midsummer English fete without the doilies.)

The Olympics already includes dull target sports - archery, shooting (though it takes little imagination to liven up this sport) and curling. What's wrong with a few more.

Who could argue with darts? It's a true family entertainment. Darts are a bit like javelins anyway. And, all that number crunching in the head, that's truly Olympian.

Snooker has all the subtlety of curling and, in the true Olympic spirit, years of drug abuse.

Shov' Ha'penny: Olympic sport? I offer you...

- Sailing: Olympic sport.
- Horse jumping thing: Olympic sport.
- Blazer wearing: Olympic sport.
- Synchronised diving... well...

I rest my case.

With Phil "The Power", "Rocket" Ronnie and, er, some geezer in a Fair Isle jumper who's the pub games equivalent to David Beckham, Britain England would storm to many a gold reversing years of sporting injustice. Johnny Foreigner would once again be left in our wake where he belongs. Pints of mild would be quaffed in celebration. St George would billow in the wind. It would be the 1950s again. Civil engineered brassieres would heave under cashmere sweaters. God Save the Queen!

21 February, 2006

Olympics news

Late on this one too:

The International Olympic Committee voted just before the Torino games not to vote again on inclusion of baseball and softball at the 2012 Olympics in London. Double feck!

A national disgrace, I call it.

Tour de Obvious

Catching up here, sorry:

Predictably, but disappointingly, the route for 2007's Tour de France prologue is a dull ride through Whitehall, up Victoria Street, Buckingham Palace, Marble Arch and finishing on the Mall. Ken and the orgnaisers have ignored my plea to make use of Herne Hill Cycle Stadium.

To make matters worse, the route out of London to Canterbury for the 1st stage also misses Herne Hill. Instead riders will have to put up usual cliched postcard sites - Tower Bridge, the London Eye and Greenwich. Dull.

20 February, 2006

Shaddup already!

I think this is called sour grapes (or crap and lazy journalism):

We are the Winter Olympics. We bankroll the Olympics with NBC money. We're the biggest, richest country there, we make a staggering commitment to our athletes. And we're not doing squat.

Yes, it's WaPo's Tony Kornheiser. Yeah, Tony we know you love the sound of your voice. And, hey what's the word count for this piece of fecal matter?

Oh wait. There's analysis too:

Norway, a country of moose, is crushing us.

That's Norway, a nation of skiers. Norway with 2 golds against 7 for the USA.

Enough already. Have a donut!


19 February, 2006

Defying gravity

Tottenham Hotspur 2, Wigan Athletic 2

Sky's commentator, I think it was incredibly wispy-haired Alan Parry, was puzzled by the boos coming from Tottenham fans at the end of a nervy, disjointed 2-2 draw this afternoon.

Well, Alan. Let me explain. Without doing down Wigan, this was another in a series of uninspired performances and disappointing results since we ushered in the New Year some 6 weeks ago. In that period, Spurs have won 2 out of 7 league encounters, lost twice and drawn the other 3. Throw out the tough loss at Liverpool, Tottenham have failed to beat Fulham, Sunderland and Aston Villa. Dropping points against these sides is not Champions' League (tm) material.

No, Donutball is not getting carried away with Champions' League (tm) hype. Heck, West Ham fans think they're going to qualify. We've said all along at this blog that a top six finish would be great. However, having got into the top four and having had teams around them struggle to pick up points, Spurs missed a golden opportunity to consolidate fourth place. This weekend, with FA Cup matches taking precedence Spurs failed to advance their Champions' League (tm) claim.

With the Wigan game brought forward a weekend, next week is blank for Tottenham. March sees games against physical Blackburn (home); the chosen Chelsea (away); far from impressive Birmingham (away) and lowly West Brom (home). There's a realistic target of 9 points. That might be just enough to hang on to fourth.

But, April will be the acid test with games against Man United, Arsenal and Bolton plus resurgent Newcastle and a tricky visit to Everton. West Ham lay in wait for the final weekend of the season on 7 May. Believe it or not that could be a Champions' League (tm) decider. More likely, it'll be a battle for the one remaining UEFA Cup place.

Spurs may rue February's dropped points. (Booooooooooooo!)

16 February, 2006

The flying tea tray

So, the new national craze is likely to be whizzing down the ice at 130km on a tea tray. Maybe not. But, if you live outside of Britain you may have escaped seeing our new national hero, Shelley Rudman, who snatched a silver medal in the women's skeleton at the Turin Olympics.

Silver at the Winter Olympics. Nothing to the likes of Norway, Russia, United States or even Austria. But, Britain? That's news. And, not just Britain. England, even. Most of our Olympians come from where snow doesn't signal choas on the streets - i.e. the highlands of Scotland. Rudman comes from Wiltshire - well below the snow belt.

Well done, Shelley.

All we can say here at Donutball is: "White, no sugar, please. Now let's get a medal in the curling!"

12 February, 2006

Draft! 5th round and afterwards

There's little on the table. The 5th round is the Mariners' final pick. Some teams will go on for another 4 or 5 rounds.

At this stage, it searching out the players who can stand up. Hoping for the best.

Update 1753:
Now trying to do a trade for third baseman. Being offered an uneven deal - Aaron Boone for Larry Bigbie. Heck, their numbers are similar, but Boone is 5 years older and is keeping 3b warm for Andy Marte.

Update 2136
In a rush, the Mariners completed a deal sending Larry Bigbie and Chan Ho Park to the Cardinals in exchange for Aaron Boone and Pedro Astacio.

In the draft, the M's final pick was used on pitching prospect Josh Rupe, Texas. Rupe went back last year and might not have the high ceiling forecast earlier. But, he's got the ability to change speeds and throw strikes, which is always a plus. The ceiling now looks like no. 3/4 starter. At #144 in the draft, I'll take that.

As I write this, the draft is still going. 10th round just completed!

Draft! 3rd and 4th Round

A couple of guys I thought might last went before my third pick -


Was surprised Pete Orr lasted until #81.

With pick #87, the Mariners took outfielder Chris Denorfia. Unlike a lot of Reds' prospects, Denorfia doesn't figure to be a "Toolsy" guy. Hey, he's another utility guy. But, in the third round that's all I expected.

It was either Denorfia or Jonathan Braxton, who might turn out to be Eric Gange's caddy at Los Angeles. My bullpen's fine for now.


Nats' fans note: Brandon Watson taken at #84.

1710 update

And, in the 4th round the Mariners snaffle 3rd baseman Jeff Baker. He's a bit of a project. All the skills are there. Baker has good hands, fields his position well and can hit for power to all fields. But, he seems injury prone. That's stymied his progress in the Colorado system. This season should see him find lots of playing time in AAA. Hope he avoids the trainer's table.

Draft! 2nd round pick

After a burst of pitchers going, the Mariners bucked the trend and selected Moneyball type player Omar Quintanilla.

Whilst he's unlikely to make the Hall of Fame or even the All-Star Game, Quintanilla looks like a useful bat off the bench and can play most infield positions. He's not a great glove man, but it's hitting that gets you a job in MLB.

1536 update
Getting to the stage of the draft where picks are pure crapshoot. Most of these guys have had their cups of coffee. The difficult part is figuring out if they stand a chance of becoming a role player.

1540 update
Case in point: Biran Shackleford. Nowhere on my radar, goes at #69.

Draft! Update

First three picks:


update 1310: two possibles for my team just went in the next two picks:


1315 second pitcher goes:


1425 update:

All my third base options went before my turn. Mark TEAHEN went 27th, which was a major blow. I wound up picking Atlanta starter Kyle DAVIES.

No surprises in the first round though I was a little surprised to see Robinson TEJADA go so high.

2nd round update

Lots of pitchers now going. Papelbon lasted until #47. Wandy Rodriguez and Rich Hill have just gone. Hayden Penn, Brad Thompson and Clay Hensley were drafted just before these two.

Mariners up in a couple.

1507 update

Dustin Nippert taken. He was my sleeper.

Later on...

For the record, the full first round went like this:

15 HARDY, J.J.

Live! IRBL Draft

Welcome to Donutball's live coverage of the IRBL rookie/free agent draft. The IRBL is a keeper Diamond Mind Baseball League. it is entering its 33rd season.

The Mariners draft at 28 in the first round, 29th overall.

As usual in drafts of this kind, there a mixture of hot prospects (Felix Hernandez, Jeremy Hermida), sleepers (I think I'll keep the names to myself) and guys who've flown off to Japan (Rick Short and Chris Singelton).

In all there are 239 players to draft. Teh draft begins at 1300 GMT (0800 EST).

05 February, 2006

Raising the bar

Saturday evening's highlight was not the National Lottery draw.

No, it was the amazing shoot-out in the African Cup of Nations quarter final following 120 plus minutes during which Cameroon and the Ivory Coast cancelled each other out.

Only, they did the same in the penalty shoot-out.

The five designated shooters scored without trouble. Sudden-death. They exchanged kicks. Neither 'keeper got near until the Ivory Coast man saved at 7-7. Wait. He moved, said the assistant referee. The repreived penalty taker scored on the re-take.

All ten outfield players scored. Goalies next.

Cameroon's Hamidou rolled the ball in. Tizie, for the Ivory Coast reciprocated.

11-11. 100% penalties! My father would have been proud ("professionals should never miss a penalty").

Up steps Samuel Eto'o for his second pen. The Barca man, greatest striker in Africa blazes over.

Didier Drogba, Chelsea's lion, plants his kick home. 12-11. Ivory Coast through.

Lowering the bar

Tottenham Hotspur 3, Charlton Athletic 1
Two incidents either side of half-time figured prominently. With 45 minutes played, Spurs led 2-0 and are anticipating the half-time whistle.

It was that period of a match where one side is thinking cup of tea, oranges or energy drink. The other - chasing the game - thinks "if we can get steal a goal now, we're back in it for the second 45."

A nothing ball lobbed up to the Charlton front line bounces of a Spurs defender, Marcus Bent lashes the ball in a looping arc goalwards. It dips at the last second, but rattles against the crossbar. The home side breathe easily.

Less than 30 seconds after the break, Jermain Defoe springs the offside trap and latches on to a through ball. The diminutive forward flicks the ball with the outside of his boot over the advancing 'keeper. 3-0. Game over.

Almost. Tottenham coasted. Charlton huffed and puffed. Substitute Jerome Thomas - a familiar irritant to Spurs - bagged a goal. A nervous 15 minutes ensued before the game finally petered out.

Liverpool lose. Wigan and Bolton draw. Blackburn lose. Tottenham securely in 4th place.


A postscript on Sol Campbell. On a personal level, Donutball wishes no ill to Sol. As a professional footballer, Sol has our every respect. What we disrespect is Sol's decision to snub the club that signed him, trained him and nurtured him. Tottenham gave him the opportunity to stake a claim as a great England player. His decision to leave for Arsenal was disrespectful to the club and to the fans.

It was a long time ago, but the bitter memory lingers.

Donutball hopes Sol comes to terms with whatever has caused him to go to ground and recovers to take his place with England in Germany.

01 February, 2006


From the BBC Sport live Premier League update:

Reports claim that Arsenal's Sol Campbell, who was substituted at half-time against West Ham, got changed and left Highbury without watching the second half.

I think it's called Schadenfreude. Well, I happen to know that's exactly what it's called.

Campbell is, of course, a former favourite. In 2001, his Spurs contract ran out. As a free agent, he had his pick of clubs. He'd already made it clear that he believed his future lay in Europe.

Lo and behold, rather than Real or Inter, Sol turns up in N.5 just down the road from N.17. Those that inhabit N.5 are interlopers, moving from their natural home south of the river. Not only did that club bribe the league to allow invading another club's territory, but after the First World War another brown envelope ensured their first division status.

Sol. You were mistaken. The cries of "Judas" were because you lied to the faithful. Your excuse that you didn't realise the hurt a move down the Seven Sisters Road would cause is still hollow.

But. You can redeem yourself. Ditch the blood red shirt. Phone up Martin Jol. Tell him you'll play for free. The "Yid Army" will come out and throw coins to you to pay your electricity bill. Heck, we might hand over some notes to help out with some bling or pay for your helicopter.