Saturday, May 31, 2008

Marlins-Phillies Game 2: The South Florida Fan and Liberty Ball

Follow the Liberty Ball thread here!

And it's over! The Marlins take the second game of the series 7-3, evening things up and reclaiming first place in the NL East. The Braves lost again, the Mets won, so the Fish still have some breathing room above those two squads as well.

Tomorrow is going to be a real challenge. Not only is Jamie Moyer 7-0 lifetime against the Marlins, but this 2008 team is especially fastball-dependent. Andrew Miller will have to bring his A-Game. See you all tomorrow!

Chase Utley homers again to make it 7-3. That's now 7 total HRs for the series...5 more needed to match the over-under.

The thing I want to point out...Utley's right field shot is a double in every other major league park, except for maybe Yankee Stadium. Compare that with the left field balcony shots Uggla has had to hit and you can see the dramatic difference in difficulty. Ballpark plays a huge factor in the Uggla-Utley comparison, whether Phillies fans want to admit it or not.

No game can ever be declared over at Citizens Bank Park, so no reason to get too excited yet. That being said, Cantu and Ross both homer in the 6th, increasing the lead to 7-2. That's 3 HRs for the Fish tonight, matching the Phillies' 3 from last night.

Of all three games, this was probably the worst matchup for the Marlins. Cole Hamels just didn't have his good stuff tonight.

Lastly, can Cody Ross PLEASE become the everyday CF?, we're ready to join you in any campaign.

Luis Gonzalez goes yard! 4-2 Marlins. I've said all along that this series would come down to HRs, and the Marlins take a 1-0 lead tonight in that department. HUGE SHOT.

Welcome back to Philadelphia, Wes Helms! 2 RBI double! We're even at 2-2.

Great catch by Hermida on a sinking line drive from Rollins. Keeps it at 1-0 through 2, perhaps saving the game.

Phillies get a run, even though Nolasco pitches well. Things are just bouncing Philadelphia right now. Victorino gets his bat broken for a double, Nolasco balks, and Burrell gets a 2-out hit. Frustrating, but could be worse. 1-0 Phillies through 1.

Welcome aboard for Round 2! The Marlins lost last night, but that's water under the bridge. The Marlins couldn't score in the first, but the good news? Hanley's okay! We all thought he'd be out for the series. So go ahead and comment!

Florida State explodes for 17 runs, eliminates Florida

What Freddy Kruger, Jason, and that weirdo from the Texas Chainsaw Masscre is to 19 year old sexy coeds, so is today's Florida\Florida State baseball game to pitchers. The Florida State Seminoles eliminated the Florida Gators from the NCAA tournament today by a final score of 17-11. The two teams combined for 35 hits (25 by FSU, 10 by UF). Two big innings by the Seminoles proved too much for the Gators to overcome. A 7-run, 5th inning, in which FSU sent 13 men to the plate, combined with a 5-run 7th inning provided the difference for the Seminoles, who now advance to play the loser of the Bucknell\Tulane game, which will be played this evening.

The Gators actually had a 5-1 lead after the 3rd inning. The Seminoles cut the lead to 5-2 in the 4th, and then came the eruption of offense. After Florida State scored 7 times to take a 9-5 lead, the Gators rallied right back to tie the game at 9 with 4 runs of their own in the bottom of the 5th, thanks in large part to a 3-run home run by Clayton Pisani. That would be the last time the game was close. FSU extended their lead to 15-9 in the top of the 7th, thanks to a 3-run homer of their own by junior Tony Delmonico. Mr. Baseball and probable top-5 draft pick Buster Posey contributed a 2-run home run of his own and the Seminoles easily closed out the final 2 frames for the win.

In other Florida baseball action, while I am typing, the Huricanes of Miami hold a 5-0 lead in the 3rd inning over Missouri in their winner's bracket game. A win for the 'Canes would give them a bye into the Coral Gables Regional championship game.

Topsy Turvy Opening Day to NCAA Baseball Regionals

Top seeds went down all over the country today, including in Tallahassee. The #1 seed Florida State Seminoles and the #2 seed Florida Gators were defeated in the opening round of the NCAA baseball tournament. #1 overall seed Miami was able to get by Bethune-Cookman.

The Seminoles were blanked 7-0 by Bucknell and senior pitcher Matt Wilson, who pitched a complete game shutout, allowing only 6 hits. All the scoring was done in the first 4 innings, as the Bison put up 3 runs in both the 2nd and 4th frames.

Meanwhile, in the early game in Tallahassee, the Tulane Green Wave sent 11 men to the plate in a 6 run 7th inning to defeat the Florida Gators, 7-4. The Gators had just scored 4 runs in the bottom of the 6th to take a 4-1 lead before Tulane erupted in the 7th. Reliever Billy Bullock entered the game with 2 on and nobody out with a 4-1 lead. He faced 5 batters, allowed 3 hits, a walk, and a sacrifice fly. He left the game trailing 6-4, after giving up 3 runs (plus the 2 runners he inherited coming into the game scored, as well as one runner that was on base when he was yanked also scored). To be fair, while Florida had 4 hits in their 4-run 6th inning, they managed just 4 hits in the other 8 frames and never really threatened.

What all this means is that Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m. EST, Florida will play Florida State in an elimination game. Some may have predicted Florida being in this situation, but not many people could have forseen a matchup with FSU in the loser's bracket. Florida State won the regular season series, 2-1. Both teams won a game on their home field, while FSU took the relatively new, annual neutral-field site game in Jacksonville. But all that is meaningless now. Lose tomorrow and your season is over.

Other top seeds that find themselves in the loser's bracket on day 2 include #8 Georiga (who lost 10-7 to Lipscomb), #18 Long Beach State (7-3 losers to Fresno State), #19 Texas (losing 2-1 to St. John's), #20 Stanford (were beat 4-2 by UC Davis), and #21 Vanderbilt (8-5 to Oklahoma).

Friday, May 30, 2008

Marlins-Phillies Commentary: TSFF and Liberty Ball

Follow the Liberty Ball thread here!

Well, it's a 12-3 Phillies victory. Good game for the Phillies fans, not so much for us. Either way, Liberty Ball was a class act all the way. We'll be back on tomorrow for a hopeful Marlins victory.

11-3, on one of the worst-hit HRs I've ever witnessed. Howard essentially slapped a homer into left field. Crazy.

Any way you look at it, the Marlins have the misfortune of playing a red-hot Phillies offense in a tough tough park. This game is quickly getting far out of reach. Big inning needed.

Two poor plays in the field make it 8-3. First Treanor puts So Taguchi (whom I hate) on third with an errant throw, then a Rollins pop fly manages to drop. My reaction went from "yes! too shallow for a sac fly" to "oh sh*t, Luis Gonzalez is really slow." Yeah...not much going right for the Marlins right now. And Hanley just got hurt. Oh great.

Tough break for the Marlins. They get two on but couldn't convert. The difference in this game so far are the two HRs. If the Marlins had two, we'd probably be even.

Side Question: Why isn't Cody Ross starting every game in this ballpark? The guy is on an absolute HR tear, and the Marlins need a bunch of runs. Anyone agree?

Mark Hendrickson has just stunk up the joint in ways I didn't even think he could. He's thrown a few good pitches, but then he makes the mistake pitch. Chase Utley is probably getting some celebratory cheers from the Phillies faithful as the Phillies take a commanding 7-3 lead.

The key for the Marlins will be to stay patient. They don't have to come back in one swing. Myers is patient and wait for the right spots.

Dan Uggla isn't making a strong impression so far. He popped out and then threw a ground ball into the wall. And now it's 3-3. HR Chris Coste. Prepare for a slugfest.

Hendrickson looked good through 1. Side Note: I CAN'T STAND these Blue Cross/Blue Shield "speak out and be heard on healthcare" commercials. They're an insurance company looking for business!!!

An excellent top of the first for the Marlins. A few notes:

1. Hanley Ramirez may be getting out of his slump. It would really help his all-star chances if he could play well in this marquee series.

2. The Marlins got some shocking assists from Brett Myers and Pat Burrell. Myers couldn't throw a strike to save his life, and Burrell horribly misplayed a ball in LF.

3. The Marlins could have scored more if they had shown more patience. Dan Uggla had the worst AB of the inning, swinging away after Myers threw four straight balls to Jacobs. Jacque Jones gets the same criticism.

Even so, I'm happy with the 3-0 lead, but watch out. Philadelphia can score quickly.

From Liberty Ball: I’m going to try to keep an update going throughout the game. I’ll probably be updating in the comments so that anyone else can join in. I’ll also be updating with ASponge here.

Meanwhile Myers has already given up a run in the first. A single, a walk, and a double without an out is not the start he needed. Sadly it’s the start I expected. He always tries to get his fastball accross early but it doesn’t work.

Hey everyone. We're going to be experimenting with a new project this weekend. Our good Phillies friend (and sworn enemy...but friend too) Liberty Ball, will be exchanging back-and-forth comments throughout the series. We'll be posting them up on our sites as the games go along.

I don't think I need to reiterate how important this series is. Tonight's game is of particular significance for the Marlins, since it's the only clear pitching advantage of the weekend. Mark Hendrickson has really struggled of late, but Brett Myers has been far worse. Even Liberty Ball is predicting a slew of runs tonight from the Fish.

So strap your seatbelts and follow along our thread!

Hanley Leads in All-Star Voting!

On May 28th the first All-Star polls came out and Hanley Ramirez finds himself in a very slim lead at the NL Shortstop position. This is a rarity for Marlins players over the years, as South Florida is not the most popular market for baseball and ESPN consistently fails to give teams like the Marlins their fair due. That is why this is so remarkable.

1. Ramirez, H. Marlins 268,386
2. Tejada, M. Astros 256,613
3. Reyes, J. Mets 237,800
4. Theriot, R. Cubs 178,871
5. Rollins, J. Phillies 156,620


Well Hanley has been tearing up the league since his rookie year in 2006 (although he is majorly slumping right now), but that is not really why. He is likely in the lead because of the enormous amount of attention that was alloted to him a few weeks ago by not just the Florida media, but by the national media in his signing deal with the Marlins. His name was suddenly popping up all over the news and the internet in headlines from various sports sites.

Will at last?

It may not. His largest obstacle over the next few months will be keeping ahead of Jimmy Rollins (defending NL MVP) and Jose Reyes who will gather up a ridiculous number of votes only because he plays in front of the New York fan base.

One thing is for sure - I would feel a lot better about his chances if he could stop striking out and start hitting again.

Other Notables:

Dan Uggla finds himself in 4th place in the NL 2nd Base Balloting. He trails the Phillies Chase Utley by 400,000 votes. I know ASponge will have something to say about that.

ESPN Tackles Uggla-Utley

Perhaps in following our lead (I always knew ESPN looked to us for their stories...thanks guys!), ESPN decided to offer their own breakdown of the Uggla-Utley debate. If nothing else, it proves that there is, in fact, an ongoing debate (some of our Philadelphia phriends were reluctant to admit such a phrightening story).

A highlight:

"Utley is no slouch against hard stuff himself, batting .324 with a .647 slugging percentage and 1.060 OPS, but Uggla betters him in all three measures. Since batters typically see more fastballs than other pitches, Uggla should have a good chance of going toe-to-toe statistically with Utley all season long."

I like what I'm reading!

Instant Replay Coming!

This is going to be a very quick post. I just had to let you all know that instant replay is coming!

This is long long long long long overdue. Also amazing how two of the three instances cited in the ESPN article took place at Yankee Stadium. Yeah, it's really these new ballparks that are causing the problem.

The umpiring in this league has been piss poor for over a decade, ever since the likes of Angel Hernadez and Dan Iassogna were assured tenure (I have no idea why). Instant replay is needed not just on home run calls, but also on plays at the bases. We can leave balls and strikes alone for now.

HR Derby: Marlins-Phillies

The over-under on homers hit this weekend in the Marlins-Phillies series has got to be at least 12. That's right...2 for each team in each game, and I'm probably taking the over. Here are the current totals for team HRs:

Philadelphia, 79
Florida, 76
Chicago WS, 63
Texas, 63
Cincinnati, 60

Let's examine those numbers a bit. The Phillies and Marlins are worlds above the rest of the league when it comes to this department, and all three games will be in the bandbox known as Citizens Bank Park.

I've done a close inspection of the numbers, however, and I have to give the Phillies some credit. The home-road disparity isn't as great as you'd think. Of the 79 HRs they've hit, 42 were at home (37 on the road). They've allowed only 51 HRs, with an almost even split of 26 at home and 25 on the road. Of course, they haven't faced the Marlins offense yet.

Technically, the Marlins hit 1.462 HRs a game, the Phillies 1.436. I'm still setting the over-under at 2 a game for each team. Who's joining me and taking the over?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Beasley to the Bulls a Decoy?

It seems pretty evident that everyone here at The South Florida Fan (TSFF) wants the Bulls to take Michael Beasley so the Heat can claim Derrick Rose. Both EJ and I had heard reports that the Bulls were seriously leaning Beasley, which would pave the way for our dream come true.

Since we expounded on that speculation, it would only be fair to present the counterpoint. According to the well-versed Steve Alexander of, we shouldn't be jumping to conclusions:

"Oh, and as for Joey Dorsey's claim that he knows the Bulls and John Paxson will take Michael Beasley with the first pick. Um, no Joey, incorrect. I guarantee you Paxson hasn't even had time to focus on that draft pick, as he's still trying to shuffle things together and find a frickin' coach! Once he does that (um, Mike D'Antoni is no longer available, Jerry Reinsdorf), then Pax and his mystery coach can get together and talk about whether it's Beasley or Derrick Rose (I say Rose - Duh). But out of all the stories I've heard, I believe Paxson. No way he has even given serious consideration to his draft choice at this point. He still needs to find a head coach, who will also have a say in the matter. And as for Reinsdorf still being in charge in Chicago? Turn the page."

Well, Doug Collins was just named the coach. I'm assuming he has considerable sway in this decision, so let's pray he likes Beasley.

Oh, and it may not be the worst thing if the media quiets down on Beasley to the Bulls...we wouldn't want them psyching Chicago into rethinking (if it is indeed true).

NL East a Total Dogfight

With the Braves' victory today, things have gotten more jumbled. As I write, the Mets are also on the verge of winning, so I'll give you the current standings with the assumption that they win:

Florida 30-22
Philadelphia 31-24
Atlanta 29-25
NY Mets 26-26
Washington 23-32

As we've mentioned, the Marlins and Phillies meet for the first time this weekend. The Mets host the Dodgers, the Braves are in Cincinnati. We should have a far better read on things come Sunday evening.

A series win in Philadelphia would be an excellent goal, while perhaps the Braves and Mets will drop two. A sweep in Philadelphia? That would give quite a bit of breathing room. Lose the series and the Phillies are the new NL East leaders. Lots and lots at stake here. It's gut-check time.

Jacques Martin Gets an A?

Jacques Martin seems to have his share of skeptics on this blog. I don't pretend to know more about hockey than Imber, FloridaPanthers4Ever, or Stanley C., but I think it's time we say a nice word about Mr. Martin as GM.

So far, he's done all we could have wanted. Is it possible that his management skills were stunted by his coaching responsibilities?

Better yet, does Martin deserve the benefit of the doubt in that regard? I say yes! Let's show him some love, because as far as the Panthers are concerned, he can say l'etat, c'est moi!

Jason Taylor Update (Snore)

This Jason Taylor story is just getting old...and yet, we still don't have any new information. Taylor says one thing, the team says another, the media says A WHOLE LOT MORE than either side in the form of nonsensical speculation and senseless argument. Yep, that just about sums it up.

For once, FinsNation provides a refreshing take on the situation:

"Hold on. Before I type another sentence, I have to consult my Magic 8-Ball about something….

Waiting.....waiting..... yup, this story is still annoying."

Agreed. Agreed.

(Now weren't we just guilty of everything we blamed the media for? Crap!)

Day Off Doesn't Lessen the Wounds

The Marlins had a much-needed day off today, but it did little to ameliorate the pain from last night's jaw-dropping stomach-punching ball-busting loss. Yes, I'm still pissed.

Alfredo Amezaga put the Marlins ahead 6-5 in the twelfth on a startling HR, only to have Justin Miller blow it (and blow it in horrendous fashion, I might add). Both Miller and Gregg were guilty of blown saves in the same game...quite simply, the Marlins let one slip away.

It is, after all, one game, but it gave the resurgent Mets some new hope and put the Phillies within .5 games. This weekend's series in Philadelphia will decide the leaderboard for the NL East. Should be exciting!

We'll have much more on the upcoming series, so keep following our coverage.

Standing Up For Kimbo

Miami's own Kevin Ferguson, more widely recognized as Mixed Martial Arts star Kimbo Slice, takes on James "The Colossus" Thompson Saturday night on CBS. Many, including Greg Cote (who we respect and love here at The South Florida Fan), see this as a signal of the descent of man into a new and perilous world of unapologetic barbarism. And it is, to an extent. When compared to mixed martial arts and ultimate fighting, boxing seems as refined as a game of cricket over tea and strumpets at a Newport, Rhode Island mansion.

Then why am I proud for Kimbo and ultimately unfazed by this more vicious brand of pugilism? First, because Kimbo's story is compelling. The down-on-his-luck Miami product who lived out of his car and served as strip joint bouncer now graces the cover of ESPN the Magazine. He's made it in a way most will never come close to sniffing. He is a modern internet success story, not unlike Sergei Brin or YouTube - a star singularly engineered for the 21st century. He has the distinctive look - the balding head with the Rick Ross beard, the hirsute chest, the massive frame, the menacing eyes.

In the end, this is not "human cockfighting", not a glorification of the very thing that got Mike Vick in prison, not legalized crime. It is a sport, a sport that men have voluntarily consented to train for and participate in. America's promise of freedom is at the same time a promise that many people will choose to use their freedom in ways that much of the populace considers dangerous and foolhardy. Kimbo wants to do this. Many will scowl, but many more will watch, and I love living in a country that protects both the scowlers and gawkers.

What are your thoughts on Kimbo/mixed martial arts/democracy/the origins and purpose of life?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

NBA Insight and More

Is it just me or are the NBA rumors more interesting than the games? Since the Heat aren't going from worst to first, lets look at reality. A healthy Wade (if not all future entries with be discontinued and I'll be watching Bill Murphy in Groundhog day), Marion (so what if it's 17m plus) and Beasley (I love lefties) as your top three. Haslem, Wright, Banks, and Mourning as your 5 to 8. Basically we need to find a number 4 to be a playoff team and beat an aging Detriot,and a not really that good Boston. Nobody scares me and the Portland State grad will suprise with his coaching.

Breezing thoughts: Quit telling me to go see the Marlins after 13 years of garbage. I'll take the Heat title for this season's record, but baseball's about hope and mine looks like it's moving to Cuba. Do they have hockey down here? Orlando would be better. Can't wait until the NBA draft hoping for a rose to bloom.

This Cody Ross Thing is a Joke

The man is a freak. In a good way.

Out of his last nine hits, eight are homers. He has four RBI tonight and he just gave the Fish a 5-4 lead over the under acheiving Metropolitan Baseball Club of New York. He hit three homers in a game against the Mets in 2006, stay tuned because he could do it again tonight.

As Ross rounded the bases - again - the boos rained down on the Mets - again. He is now batting .207. He only has 19 hits this season and nine of them are homers.

The slumping Jeremy Hermida better pick it up or Ross is going to take his job. Ross' production right now is too valuable.

In my opinion, Fredi has to find a place for this guy in the lineup every night until he cools off.

Breaking News: Panthers Sign Frolik

Just as I was starting to plan what negative things to say when the Panthers were to lose Michael Frolik, the team gets him signed tonight.

This is the biggest news out of Panthersland in quite some time. He's being compared to Jaromir Jagr, just the type of player the Panthers need. Losing out on him would have been devastating to the franchise.

Frolik put up 65 points in 45 games last year in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Coincidentally, he plays for the same team that Sidney Crosby came into the league from.

I said Martin needed to do four things this summer to earn my respect (Sign Frolik, Bouwmeester, a kicking ass type of coach, and some scoring options in free agency). Check one off the board. I can't believe I'm saying this, but way to go Jacques.

Big Game Tonight

The first two games of the Marlins-Mets series went pretty much as expected. The Marlins took the first game against Mike Pelfrey, while stumbling against Santana in Game 2.

The Fish have a wonderful opportunity to assert their division dominance tonight. Not only would it stifle the Mets, but it would give the Marlins ammunition going into the huge weekend series in Philadelphia (a team destroying the ball right now).

Scott Olsen will try and rebound from a poor performance against the Giants. He'll face a shaky-of-late Oliver Perez. The problem, of course, is that the Marlins have struggled mightily against two kinds of pitchers: lefties and junk-throwers. Oliver Perez is both, known especially for his wildness...will the Marlins show enough patience to get men on base?

Perez dominated the Marlins in their first meeting this year, but much has changed. Olsen vs. Perez should be an exciting southpaw armageddon, with considerable bragging rights to go around. As TO might say, "Get your popcorn ready!"

Good News For Those Who Want Rose For Heat

Although Bulls GM John Paxson says that Chicago has yet to decide who it will take in next month's draft, a credible inside source with the Bulls says that they have decided to take Kansas State forward Michael Beasley.

Today, in an Orlando, FL draft camp, Memphis forward Joey Dorsey, Derrick Rose's college teammate, says the exact same thing.

I'm a sports pessimist by nature, but my nostrils are starting to smell Rose(s) in Miami.

Hurricane Football Freshmen Honored

The 2007-2008 All-Dade Breakfast took place yesterday, and a slew of Hurricane true freshmen took home honors. The biggest honor of the night went to 2008 starting cornerback (yeah, I said it) Brandon Harris. Harris starred at Miami Booker T. Washington High School and led his team to the 4A state championship, and on Tuesday won Miami-Dade's Male Athlete of the Year for the second year in a row. Interestingly, Brandon's father Tim, or "Ice" (how bad a man do you have to be to be nicknamed "Ice"?), was named Dade Coach of the Year. "Ice" is now at the U holding a vague and unclassified position. Last I heard it was officially a non-football job, yet Ice has been seen hitting the recruiting trail with the rest of the football coaches.

The two-time state champ and 2008 national champ Northwestern Bulls were also well represented yesterday, as quarterback Jacory Harris was named 6A-4A Offensive Player of the Year and linebacker Sean Spence was named Defensive Player of the Year. While Jacory faces a formidable challenge in taking the starting job from favorite Robert Marve, he did break dozens of county records and showed remarkable leadership over the past couple of years as the Bulls steamrolled virtually everybody they faced in that span. Spence sees a thin linebacking corps in front of him, and word on the street is that his football IQ and tackling ability make him as good a candidate as any to be the next Jonathan Vilma. I predict he'll see some starting action this season.

God it feels great to have a good excuse to write about college football again...

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Cote's Rendition of 'The 4 Questions'

Greg Cote hosted his usual Monday chat, albeit on Tuesday (postponed a day for Memorial Day). As always, he was gracious with our questions. There's no better source on the state of Miami sports, so he's a great person to ask. Today's questions:

1. Q: Have your media counterparts in other cities started to take more notice of the Marlins? Are they finally getting some respect?

A: Yes, gradually, by degrees. Heard Boog Schiambi on the broadcast just yesterday touting Dan Uggla as an NL MVP candidate at this point. Acceptance coming hard, though. Lots of national folk still expect the starting pitching to wither.

Boog Schiambi isn't really an encouraging source, considering his previous history with the Marlins. A strong road trip against NL East rivals would make an impression, I'm sure.

2. Q: Are the Marlins Willie Randolph's worst nightmare? First they knock the Mets out of the playoffs last year, now they could knock him out of his job.

A: Yeah the "Fire Willie" signs have begun to sprout at Shea. Should his supporters counter with "Free Willie" signs?

As stated earlier, I think Randolph is getting too much of the blame. Then again, a new voice might be essential now.

3. Q: Do you see Elton Brand as a member of the 2008-09 Heat? What about Ron Artest?

A: I know Pat Riley has liked Elton Brand's game for years. Ron Artest would be a great signing despite the baggage.

Cote and I wholeheartedly agree. I'd love to see these guys in a Heat uniform next year.

4. Q: Would you rather be stuck on a deserted island with Jason Taylor or Bill Parcells?

A: Oddly enough, probably Parcells. Because I'd rather talk football than dancing. (Time for one more question. Who wins the nonexistent prize!?)

I completely disagree here. First of all, I'd imagine Bill Parcells would eat the bulk of the available food resources. He'd also be pretty useless in terms of hunting and fishing. His grumpy demeanor couldn't be too good for morale either.

And hey...Jason Taylor could teach me how to dance!

Mike Jarvis is the Right Hire for FAU

I'm not surprised that he was hired. The only shocker was that it took so long.

Mike Jarvis was the logical choice for a program that needs a big name coach to be taken seriously. Until the men's basketball team can consistently win more than they lose, splashy hires like this (and Matt Doherty in 2005) are necessary.

Hopefully Jarvis, in his senior citizenship and with high-profile jobs in the rear-view mirror will be comparable to Howard Schnellenberger on the football side. Maybe Jarvis is just old enough to be content at FAU, but still young enough to inspire winning play.

Schnellenberger has the formula down pat, and has built the football program into a winner. Jarvis enters with talented players, a renovated arena and a resume that demands respect. FAU has a bleak basketball history that provides the perfect canvas for Jarvis to paint his final coaching masterpiece.

Pay little attention to the negativity that surrounded his departure from St. John's several years back. It seems to have been an unfortunate blip in an otherwise upstanding (not to mention winning) career.

Signs indicate that Jarvis isn't taking this job as a retirement hobby. He has a clear-cut mission that will drive his competitiveness: He wants to become just the second coach to win 100 games at four D-I men's basketball programs.

So, while there is a risk that Jarvis' transgression at St. John's was a true insight into the kind of coach he really is, it is a risk that FAU needs to take in order to bring men's basketball up to the level of it's record-setting football team.

Here is a story about the official hiring.

Bizarro World: Mets and Marlins

When the schedule-makers put Marlins-Mets on the slate for late May, they imagined two teams in different positions. Surely the Mets would lead the NL East by 2.5 games, soar with confidence, and start thinking about playoff possibilities. The Marlins? 5-6 games back seems about right, maybe even more than expected.

So how did these teams find themselves on the opposite sides of the fence? When in doubt, you need look no further than the NY media. I give, for your immense satisfaction, this NY Post story highlighting this very theme. Here are a few good excerpts:

"The Mets and Marlins are perfect foils, and the series which begins tonight should demonstrate that. The Mets are primarily a group of expensive, underachieving veterans. The upstart Marlins have the lowest payroll in the majors ($21.8 million) and are the biggest surprise of the first two months."

Not to mention that much of the above paragraph is due to trades with each other. The Marlins acquired Mike Jacobs+ for Delgado. In the separate Paul Lo Duca deal, Mr. Lo Duca isn't even with the Mets anymore, while Gaby Hernandez looks poised for a promising career. Larry Beinfest played a significant role in wrecking Omar Minaya and the Mets.

"It didn't help Reyes that the player to whom he is often compared, Marlins shortstop Hanley Ramirez, got off to an MVP-caliber start. Ramirez is batting .305 with nine home runs and 13 stolen bases despite a recent 6-for-39 slump that dropped his batting average almost 40 points and seemed to coincide with being moved from his customary leadoff spot to No. 3."

It's probably not the best time to rave about Hanley, considering he's in a terrible slump, but the Reyes-Hanley contest is a dead argument right now. Even Hanley's defense is better these days.

"Perhaps the bigger culprits in the Mets' demise have been Delgado and Beltran. They are paid handsomely to produce runs but have combined for 12 homers and 53 RBIs. Compare that to the combined 27 home runs and 65 RBIs of Marlins Dan Uggla and Mike Jacobs.

To further illustrate the futility of Beltran and Delgado, compare their numbers to those of Cantu and Jeremy Hermida, the fourth and fifth most productive hitters in the Marlins lineup. They've combined for 13 home runs and 48 RBIs."

And to make matters worse, the Marlins' hitters are on the way up, while some of these Mets are declining rapidly. Finally:

"The Mets are built to win now. That's why they traded talented outfielder Carlos Gomez and three young pitchers for Santana. It also played a part in the trade of controversial prospect Lastings Milledge for catcher Brian Schneider and Church, who has been a revelation in right field.

The Marlins are built for the future, which is why they traded slugger Miguel Cabrera and workhorse lefty Dontrelle Willis for a package of prospects. But as June approaches, it's the Marlins who appear to have most of the pieces in place while the Mets scramble for answers."

That last part tickles the throat like the gooey warmth of a chocolate souffle.

30-20 and What it Means

There's a symmetry to the current Marlins' 30-20 record, a numerical perfection symbolic of a fantastic season. Let's take a closer look:

1. In the modern era, nearly every team employs a 5-man rotation. While there's some degree of variation, a 30-20 record essentially implies that through each turn of the rotation, the Fish take 3. That's an excellent achievement.

2. 10 above .500 through 50 games. Absolutely solid.

3. The Marlins were once 16-14, leading many to assume their hot start had ended. Not so! Since that day, the Fish are a whopping 14-6.

4. All this was accomplished with three starters on the DL, replaced by what many saw as inadequate substitutes, and Willingham has been out the whole month.

Doubters have tried to attribute the Marlins' success to good health, weak opponents, luck in 1-run games, etc. All those arguments look fit for the meat grinder today.

Yes, the Marlins are 30-20...and Monk couldn't be any happier.

Nothing is Guaranteed for Hurricanes Baseball Team

After a riveting ride through the ACC Tournament, which saw the Canes winning their first ACC championship in school history (they joined the ACC in 2005), the Canes are now thrown into the proverbial lion's den to face arguably the toughest pitchers in any NCAA regional taking place this weekend. Miami, who is 47-8 and the #1 team in collegiate baseball (again), faces Bethune-Cookman on Friday at 4 p.m. at Mark Light Field. The other two teams in the Coral Gables regional are #2 seed Missouri and #3 seed Ole' Miss.

Bethune-Cookman, while the #4 seed this weekend and only 36-20 on the season, will send Hiram Burgos to the mound. Burgos has the nation's lowest ERA at 1.20. On the bright side for Miami is that they gave Burgos his only loss of the season. Not that the Canes would ever worry. After all, they did just win the ACC, which features six teams playing in the NCAA regionals, including #4-ranked FSU.

In a statement that must make most Canes fans smile, phenom 1B Yonder Alonso said of Miami's tough regional draw, "Why not? We're Miami. Nothing is easy, and if I want a ring, I want it the hard way." Somewhere Melvin Bratton, Warren Sapp, and Ed Reed are also smiling at the latest expression of the us-against-the-world mentality from a Hurricanes player. It's tough, it's brash, it's cocky, it's old-school Miami. We'll see beginning this weekend if the outward swagger translates into post-season success and a 5th national baseball title.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Surprise! Marlins Win Again

There's something almost unsettling about our friends from the north - those obnoxious Mets fans - wallowing in expected defeat. Wasn't it more fun to beat them when their confidence was up?

The New York media will turn this into a story about Willie Randolph, but here's the real rub:

1. Carlos Beltran lost the Mets the game by stupidly diving for Luis Gonzalez's bases loaded liner. What could have been 1-2 runs turned into 4 (because Gonzalez took second).

2. The Mets offense was putrid and uninspired. Outside of Jose Reyes' two HRs, they showed no fire, no passion. Contrast their attitudes with those in the visitor's dugout and you're comparing Barber's Adagio for Strings with Rossini's William Tell Overture.

And how about the real story? As in, the Marlins are just better.

Florida NCAA baseball fates revealed

2 of the Big 3 Florida schools will host an NCAA regional next week.

The #1 National Seed Miami Hurricanes will host Bethune-Cookman, Ole Miss, and Missouri in what looks like the "group of death." You would have thought being the #1 overall seed would have gotten you a little easier path...

The #4 seed Florida State Seminoles will welcome Bucknell, Tulane, and the Florida Gators to Tallahassee. The Gators were hoping to host their own regional, but with the early exit in the SEC Tournament, those hopes evaporated.

The SEC tied its own NCAA record of having 9 teams invited to the Tournament. The ACC has 3 of the top 4 overall seeds (#1 Miami, #2 UNC, #4 Florida State). Regional action kicks off Friday, May 30.

A Marlins' fan reawakened

I feel the need to reveal myself. I grew up in West Palm Beach, the northern border of "South Florida" I suppose. When the Marlins were inaugurated into the MLB in '93, I was so excited, just a wee lad. Finally a big league team I can call my own! 4 years later, I was sitting in the stands during Game 5 of an NLCS, and then just a short time later, Game 7 of the World Series. I was "hooked" on the Marlins, there was no doubt. I was proud to say I was there for Opening Day 1993, a 3rd grader with season tickets with my Dad for the first 2 seasons. Oh, how my friends envied me! Then came 1998. The Marlins I knew were gone. No longer did I feel a connection to the team. I didn't know anyone. Just 5 years later, the Fish were back to winning a World Series. I was excited, but it didn't feel the same. I followed the games, I checked box scores the next day, but I didn't really feel a connection. Good thing, too, as the post-World-Series-Championship team, part deux, left a gaping void in the dugout again.

Now here we are in 2008, and I finally find myself excited about Marlins baseball again. Maybe it was the all-day doubleheader. Maybe its that the organization finally signed a young, talented prospect to a long-term deal. It probably helps they're playing good baseball. But even last year, as the Marlins pushed into playoff hunt late into the year, I just wasn't that excited. You just knew that Cabrera and Dontrelle were leaving, management just didn't seem like they were interested in forking out big bucks to keep them around, despite the fan favoritism. But yesterday, watching the game(s) on GameCast at work (thank you Brighthouse Cable for not carrying Fox Sports Florida...), I was cheering. I was excited. I was nervous watching 3 little flashing dots load the bases down by 2. I fist pumped seeing the 5 replace the 4 on the scoreboard in the bottom of the 9th. It's been a long time, but I'm excited about the Fish.

"Everybody's doing the Fish. Yeah, yeah, yeah." Bring back Muscle-boy.

Prediction: Jason Taylor Stays

These superstar-management tiffs have a way of working out, especially when there are significant obstacles in the way of a trade. Here are two examples:

1. Kobe Bryant and the Lakers - He demanded a trade all summer, but his no-trade clause and incomparable value forced both sides to coexist.

2. Manny Ramirez and the Red Sox - Manny demands a trade every year, and the Red Sox find a way to placate him by pretending to look around. Never happens, obviously.

Trades are difficult to pull off in the NFL. There are salary cap problems on both sides, the Draft already happened, and JT isn't enhancing his value by plugging his acting career.

Phinsider tells us the rumored teams thus far: San Diego and Washington. Neither seem particularly interested beyond a low-level draft pick.

In my view, the Dolphins and Jason Taylor will reconcile their differences and play out a juicy soap opera. When will Bill Parcells learn that his antagonistic style only exacerbates the situation? He should just shut up and say, "Jason will be on the team come August." Period.

Loyal Fans Rewarded With Two Wins

It was seven hours of baseball, more than eight in real time. It began with searing heat, was interluded with torrential rain, and finished with two comeback wins for the Fish.

As the day progressed the crowd dwindled, but for those who remained throughout, it couldn't have been a more rewarding experience.

The day was a microcosm of the Marlins' season to date. Shaky but serviceable starting pitching, a lights-out bullpen, some serious long ball and hard fought wins. All in front of energetic fans, that as JSponge described, were surely in baseball heaven.

As John Cansella might have asked at some point on Sunday: "Is this heaven?"

No John, it's a mostly-empty football stadium in Miami Gardens.

But, who cares how many people were there? The ones that were, wanted to be. They showed their appreciation by demanding three (THREE!) curtain calls. Dan Uggla, Cody Ross and Jorge Cantu found out first-hand how loud and passionate Marlins fans are.

Most importantly, everyone at the stadium yesterday realized how fun this season is going to be and the love affair that is percolating between this team and its fans.

Bring Back the Doubleheader

Today I went to a Marlins doubleheader, a regularly scheduled game with a second make-up game from last night's rainout, and it brought back loads of memories. Memories of my childhood, memories of 7-hour days and nights at Shea Stadium, and memories of days gone by.

When I was a kid, back in the 60's, we would all eagerly await the baseball schedule to see when there would be a doubleheader. See, back then, doubleheaders were a part of every team's schedule. As a Met fan in those days, there would be around two doubleheaders scheduled on Sundays during the year, often against one of the less popular teams to draw a crowd. They were the most sought after tickets. I remember my first, a doubleheader against the very popular St. Louis Cardinals, and they split. It turned out to be one of the greatest days I ever spent with my dad, at the ballpark on a hot June day in 1964 I believe.

Best of all were the twilight-night doubleheaders, the ones that started around 5:30 P.M. and ended around midnight (unless there were extra innings or a rain delay). There often used to be one of those per season too. Even if you got there late, or left early, there was plenty of baseball to be enjoyed, and the exhaustion at the end of the evening was well worth it. I once remember getting home so late that my parents thought I never would and couldn't reach me at all (no cell phones way back then).

Doubleheaders usually had a headliner pitcher in Game One, and frequently a rookie or part-time starter in Game 2. That was just the way it was today at Dolphins Stadium, with Hendrickson on the mound in the first game and an unknown pitcher, de la Cruz, called up from the Minors for the second. There was around a twenty minute break between games, and a twenty-nine minute rain delay to boot. The crowd was not too large, especially for a doubleheader, and particularly for game 2, but there was plenty of enthusiasm. It didn't hurt one bit that the Marlins swept, coming from behind in both games.

I wish they would schedule at least one doubleheader per season for each team. After all, if the Marlins get the retractable domed stadium as they expect, there won't be any more rainouts or doubleheaders at all. And that would be, well, just tragic!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

What's His Name? DAN UGGLA!!!

I don't have much time to write this post. I'll have an additional one later.

Today was an absolute blast. I went to both games of the doubleheader...such a wonderful atmosphere. The fans may have been few, but they were VERY spirited.

My favorite moment of the game was when Dan Uggla got a curtain call. I played a vocal role in the event, and it was simply wonderful.

Oh yeah, and Dan Uggla also got both game-winning hits.


Approaching a Doubleheader

If you couldn't tell, I get very excited about doubleheaders. Sure, 6 hours of baseball isn't going to make those in your social life all too happy, but they put up with football Sundays in the fall!

Doubleheaders give each team a chance to - as they like to say in little league - both be winners! It's not about winning but having fun, right? Everyone can have it all.

Of course, not every doubleheader is split. Here's my guide to appraching today's game:

1. Marlins lose both games - SUCKS! Let's not even entertain the idea.

2. Marlins split the two games - Well, you came away with something. It's much more enjoyable if your team won the second game. In that case, you already accepted a loss and can spend an evening savoring the win.

3. Marlins win both games - So watch your team gain huge strides in the standings while salivating teal spitballs. The stuff of legends.

Either way, the doubleheader is one of the most exciting baseball attributes, and I wish we'd see more of them.

Double the Fun

No, I'm not talking about a threesome with the Spearmint twins...get your mind out of the gutter!

It's a doubleheader for the Marlins today, which is always more exciting. According to what Marlins Today reports, the opening matchup will feature Burke Badenhop vs. Matt Cain (yesterday's probables), the second Mark Hendrickson vs. Pat Misch. Assuming that holds true to form, both matchups can be favorable for the Fish today.

The key name to watch out for is Tim Lincecum. The Marlins do NOT want to face him...let's hope he's kept aside for the Giants' next series.

Come out to the game(s) and get double the pleasure, double the fun.

Rain-Outs Soon to Be Gone

The Marlins were rained out for the first time at home this season. The precipitous Florida weather has finally decided to appear after a long hiatus (remember those wildfires?)

Enjoy these rain-outs while you can, because 2011 should mark the end of them. When the Marlins put that retractable roof atop their new stadium, every fan can feel certain of a game, all while enjoying the benefits of air conditioning. I for one can't wait.

One also has to wonder if Jay Warman will attend the double-header to make up for the game he missed.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Joey Porter Sounds Off on Spygate...News?

Joey Porter thinks the Patriots deserve a bigger penalty. La la la la la. That's just great, coming from such a viable source.

We all know Joey Porter is a soft-spoken guy, who never wears his heart on his sleeve, who never trash talks. When Joey Porter says something, we should listen, because he's such a standup guy.

And yet...this qualifies as a top headline on ESPN. Add Porter to the list of players more popular at ESPN than on his own team. In case you're interested, here's a piece of his words:

"They [the Patriots] cheated, there should be an asterisk. They cheated and they got caught," the All-Pro linebacker, who spent eight seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers before joining Miami in free agency last season, said in an interview on "NFL Live."

"Why, if you have nothing to hide, would you destroy [the evidence]? That's how I've looked at it from the beginning. Why destroy something that doesn't have to be destroyed? Let everyone know what was on the tapes. Why would you destroy them so fast?"

"They went from zero to 60 overnight and [Belichick] went from a good coach to a great great coach and he got caught cheating," Porter said on "NFL Live."

Well if it was said on NFL Live, then we should all have our ears perked.

In all seriousness, though, I think it's time to put an end to Spygate. Bill Belichick should be suspended for a year (what he should have gotten last year) and we can all move on. The penalty they got truly was a slap on the wrist...there's an easy way to kill the story. Actually apply a real penalty!

The Ironies of Baseball

The Marlins faced two pitchers in the same week:

1. Brandon Webb, 9-0
2. Barry Zito, 0-8

They beat one of them. It wasn't Zito. How does this happen?

It's just more evidence that on any given day, one baseball team can beat another. Baseball is filled with so many variables, and the Marlins had the misfortune of tasting the worst bitterness after inhaling the sumptuousness of the sweetest cola.

It's an extremely disappointing loss to be sure, but the Marlins can rebound in the next two games. Matt Cain, who has been somewhat erratic, squares off against Badenhop tonight. Can "Bad" continue the trend of fellow doormats Ricky Nolasco and Andrew Miller and become a dominant pitcher?

New nickname alert: If Badenhop turns in a strong outing, we'll start calling him Badass until further notice.

Owls Not Dead Yet in Lafayette

After getting smushed in their opening game of the Sun Belt tourney, the baseballin' Owls rebounded to win two games: 12-7 over Middle Tennessee and 4-2 over #1 seed Louisiana Monroe.

The Owls now need to beat Western Kentucky (the team that beat them 9-0 in Wednesday's opener) twice today to advance to the championship game. Not easy. Not impossible either.

Senior catcher Alex Silversmith has been the offensive hero in the two wins. He has hit a big homer in each after not displaying much power prior to this in his FAU career - he hit just nine homers in four years.

Besides FAU and WKU, New Orleans and homestanding ULL remain in the hunt. Bracketologize here.

Friday, May 23, 2008

NL East: Inside Look

I think we've made our readers well aware that the Marlins are in first place right now, but can they really win this division? Below, I'll list the current standings and then make a case for each team...beginning of course with the present-day champion.

1. Florida 27-19
2. Atlanta 26-21
3. Philadelphia 27-22
4. NY Mets 22-23
5. Washington 20-28

Combined record: 122-113 (+9)

Florida: At the beginning of the year, they weren't even worthy of being called a "dark horse," at least according to most pundits. Projected almost unanimously for fifth place, the experts are singing a different tune these days. To sustain their dominance, the Marlins will need more consistent outings from the bottom of the rotation, maintain the lights-out bullpen, and manufacture more runs. This team definitely has more upside, but a lot can go wrong.

Atlanta: I'm beginning to see the Braves as the biggest threat. Early bullpen struggles hampered them through April, but they're really coming on right now. Perhaps the most telling statistic is their unearthly run differential (232-172), which fits a 30-17 record. The 2-12 record in 1-run games has killed them, but fortunes can turn quickly.

Philadelphia: A difficult team to judge. Where would this squad be if Ryan Howard had played anything like his 2006 MVP year? Who knows what to expect from such a crestfallen, star-crossed city long overdue for a fortuitous bounce? With Cole Hamels and Chase Utley leading the way, this team is certain to be in the mix through the end. There's a lot of room to go up.

NY Mets: Do NOT sleep on the Mets. They're loaded with talent, they can make a number of cash-dropping deadline moves, and Willie Randolph's near-end could spark a whole new atmosphere. As far as I'm concerned, they're just as much in the thick of things. And let's face it...99% of the country would bet on them to finish ahead of the Marlins.

Washington: The stiffness of the competition, combined with a lack of talent, does not bode well for the Nats. HOWEVER, the same was remarked about a certain 19-29 team in 2003, which went on to win the World Series. The Nats have played much better ball of late, and they could sneak into the division race with a couple good winning streaks. I'm not counting them out.

I'm not going to predict final records, but I'll give each team's probability of winning the division:

Marlins: 25%
Braves: 30%
Phillies: 25%
Mets: 18%
Nationals: 2%


Should the Heat Go For Elton Brand?

We've talked about the possibilities for Heat trades. They have a very moveable big-salaried chip in Shawn Marion, along with the trusty #2 pick. Elton Brand's name is being thrown around in a number of places, so I'm curious to know what you all think.

Is Brand over the hill, or can he be the dominant inside punch to another Wade-led championship team? If the Heat could get him without dealing the pick and also manage to bring in Ron Artest, wouldn't this be exciting?

PG Derrick Rose
SG Dwyane Wade
SF Ron Artest
PF Udonis Haslem
PF/C Elton Brand/Zo/FA

That would be a whole lot of athleticism on the floor. Possible? Good?

Jason Taylor Remix

So it still seems apparent Jason Taylor is on his way out the door. I've been spirited in my defense of Taylor, while The South Florida Fan as a whole seems to have taken different sides.

It's good to know I have some company from other blogs. FinsNation comes out in support of JT. I still maintain that Taylor isn't much at fault, and the blame should be directed at Bill Parcells.

If Taylor is to be traded, where are his potential destinations? Phinsider makes a strong case for San Diego, throwing out an appetizing idea of a swap for Vincent Jackson + pick. That would be an interesting WR reversal, considering the Dolphins shipped Chris Chambers there last year.

What it really comes down to, though, is which NFL team is close enough to take a gamble. Look at how successful the Giants' defensive line was in the Super Bowl last year. Somewhere out there, a GM is going to cave and offer an earlier pick.

ASponge Crow Bucket: Miller Joins Cantu

Yes, I'm borrowing a bit of terminology from our pal Craig at Fish Stripes (if you didn't know, he puts up a "Chum Bucket" whenever the Marlins have a day off).

So far, there has been one entry in the ASponge Crow Bucket: Jorge Cantu. I had no choice but to relent there, after every contributor at The South Florida Fan (TSFF) was blasting me. While Cantu has certainly dropped off some, he's still been a lot better than expected and still inhabits a spot.

It's now time to add Andrew Miller. In this case, I have some friends. JSponge may have been the only member of The South Florida Fan crew to campaign for Miller. We all wanted him sent down, which is probably why Larry Beinfest has a World Series to his resume and I don't.

Keeping Miller in the majors has turned into a brilliant move. How could I not get the bag of crow ready when Miller shuts down the best team in the NL (or should I say formerly best team) on route to their first zero of the season? Miller has REALLY matured. I think we're all fans of Miller Time now.

P.S. I've also been right about a lot of things, like Matt Treanor for instance. Eat that Beinfest!

Marlins On Top of the World

There are so many positive things to say about this week's shocking series sweep of the Diamondbacks. I'm almost at a loss for words...but I found a few. Here are 10 things to be excited about if you're a Marlins fan:

1. The combined record of the three Diamondbacks pitchers (Owings, Webb, and Haren) was 19-3 coming into the series. Now? 19-6. Wow!

2. At 8 over .500, the Marlins have regained their stride after showing signs of decline.

3. The Marlins won all three games, despite missing Scott Olsen. He goes tonight.

4. Andrew Miller is becoming fantastic. I know, it's amazing. He's throwing fireballs out there and is being referred to as "the ace of the staff" by some.

5. The national media is fully on board now. While many doubt the Marlins' ability to stay the course, they've become, as Tim Kurkjian said, "the most exciting story in the National League."

6. Ricky Nolasco is molding into that solid third starter the Fish have desperately needed...oh wait, fourth starter if Andrew Miller's suddenly the ace.

7. You'll never hear anything again about the Marlins beating up on bad teams.

8. All this was done without Josh Willingham, who was having an All-star level season.

9. It happened with Hanley Ramirez in one of the worst slumps of his career.

10. A torrid Matt Treanor is now the starter...thankfully!

Canes Win In Wildest Of Fashions

The Miami Hurricanes prevailed in the second game of the ACC Tournament Thursday evening in Jacksonville, 15-12, over the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, in a game that was as wild as it was long (just under 4 hours). It was one of the wildest, most action-packed contests I can remember watching - one of those barn-burners in which no lead, however large, was safe.

Homeruns abounded as the Canes tied the single-game ACC Tournament record of 6 bombs. Yonder Alonso and Dave DiNatale both had 2, while Blake Tekotte and freshman sensation Yasmani Grandal each chipped in another. The most clutch of them all was DiNatale's second homer of the night. With UM trailing 12-11 in the top of the 9th, DiNatale hit a 3-run shot to deep left-center to put the Canes ahead for good.

The most concerning aspect of the night for the Canes was that their pitching again got exposed. Besides freshman wunderkind Chris Hernandez, who holds an 11-0 record this season, the pitching has been less-than-stellar. It may not cost you games against Georgia Tech, but it will most assuredly cost you games in the CWS. You simply cannot expect to win all the marbles if you have to put up double digit runs every game just to eke out victories.

Next up for Miami is NC State on Saturday. Win against the Wolfpack and the Canes advance to the title game on Sunday.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Gators swept out of SEC Tourny

It was a short appearance for the Florida Gators in the 2008 SEC baseball tournament. After losing yesterday to the Vanderbilt Commodores, UF faced #7 seed South Carolina today. The Gators jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning, and it was downhill from there. USC scored 5 runs in the 2nd inning, 5 runs in the 8th inning, and went on to win 11-3.

Florida starter Billy Bullock didn't get out of the 2nd inning, needing over 50 pitches to record 4 outs. His final line was flat out ugly. 1.1 IP, 6 hits, 5 runs (all earned), 1 BB, 2 SO's, and 57 pitches.

There were a couple of bright spots in today's blowout, however. A pair of sophmores, Matt den Dekker and Cole Figueroa, combined for 6 of the Gators 10 hits. Den Dekker, the Gator center fielder, went 3 for 4 and scored all 3 of the Gators' runs. Figueroa went 3 for 3 and drove in a run. He did, however, commit an error in the field.

The Gators finished the regular season winning 6 of their final 8 games, earrning the 3rd seed in the tournament. But after this extremely disappointing showing in the SEC, the Gators are left to wait until Monday, when the NCAA field and regional locations will be announced live on ESPN at 12:30. Hopefully they can take this feeling of bitter emptiness and use it to try to avoid a similar letdown in the NCAA's.

9 Days left to Sign Frolik

Will it surprise anyone if they don't get this deal done? For one, I expect them not to get the deal done. On top of this deal, theres the Bouwmeester contract. Does anyone think #4 will be wearing a Panther uniform next season?

Frolik is a special player, I want everyone to know that this draft pick might be one of the best draft picks they have made in YEARS. If they fail to get his contract done, I hope some season ticket holders wake up and realize this organization is going down the drain (well it has been for 7 years).

Frolik could easily come into the NHL and put up 20+ goals his rookie season. He is a rare talent and is known as Baby Jagr. I see Frolik maturing into a top line winger 80+ points a year. If they do not sign him, he will then re-enter in the NHL draft this coming July.

From what I have been apart of for all of these Panther offseasons, I give this organization a 80% chance that either Frolik or Bouwmeester does not get signed by the team. Wouldn't it be something if they both are let go via draft and trade. If that happens, I might be in for a new hockey sweater!

Rememeber, Cohen and JM both said that Bouwmeester was the center piece to the team and that Frolik is the most important prospect for the future of this franchise. They will have lied to all of us faithful fans if they fail to sign both.


It's Always Utley in Philadelphia

Well, we opened the floodgates with the city of Philadelphia yesterday over the Uggla-Utley debate (see here). I have to give them credit...not only do they support their guy, but they do it with spirit. They also seem like fairly knowledgeable fans, so let's give them their due.

My goal was to accomplish two things:

1. Create some intensity between Marlins and Phillies fans. Let's face it...most of our NL East counterparts are focused on each other. The Marlins aren't even on their radar.

2. To alert our division rivals to Uggla's torrid start. While they were still steadfast in their support of Utley, many acknowledged that Uggla was better than advertised. I expect Uggla to garner more respect from now on.

I also want to extend a big thanks to all who participated. It was a lot of fun for me, and I hope we can continue to have discussions like this in the future. One possibility: Rollins vs. Hanley. Even better, how about Rollins-Reyes-Hanley? Let's get those Mets fans off the ledge and partaking too!

Is Nolasco Becoming Good Again?

It's a question I have to ask. We all remember Nolasco as the guy who showed flashes of brilliance in the 2006 season, only to fall victim to injuries and ineffectiveness in 2007. Is he finally back?

I think he is. He was throwing some professional stuff last night, working the fastball very effectively with the rest of his arsenal. The key thing for him, much like Olsen and Miller, is the ability to throw strikes. He seems to have regained a lot of that control, which allows him to challenge the hitters from a higher vantage point.

Olsen and Hendrickson have been terrific so far, but the Fish need a third guy to step up to stay in contention. I'm beginning to believe Nolasco is that guy.

For the record, he's allowed just four runs in his last three starts (one was 4.2 innings, though). The resurgence of Nolasco could be critical to the Marlins' success...more than people realize.

Calling for the Super Broom

The Marlins get swept in Cincinnati, lose two of three to the Royals, and then go out and take the first two from the Diamondbacks. Go figure.

As improbable as the first two wins were (especially Nolasco over Webb), it doesn't get any easier tonight. We get our old pal, Andrew Miller, against the sizzling Dan Haren.

Miller will have to be Nolasco-esque to pull off the sweep, while the Fish need to chip away for at least 3-4 runs. The Marlins have had some success against top pitchers this year, such as Hudson and Oswalt, but they've also struggled (Smoltz and Volquez). Could last night's conquering of Webb open the bats up for a strong showing?

The one thing Miller absolutely CANNOT do is put the game out of reach in the 2nd inning. That's always my fear with him. If he gets it to the 4th without significant damage, then I like the chances. It's those early innings. We'll see.

Rethinking Hanley

A couple days ago, I opined for Hanley to stay in the 3 spot. It was in response to an appeal by Craig of Fish Stripes.

The central thesis to my argument was that the lineup had performed well, even with Hanley's struggles, and that he would snap out of it. As I watched Hanley ride the bench on a "mental dayoff," however, I found myself rethinking things. Here's my dilemma:

1. I much prefer the way the rest of the lineup wraps around Hanley in the 3 hole, particularly in Willingham's absence. Cody Ross responded well to the leadoff spot, and Hermida seems to have picked things up with Hanley behind him. Uggla's ridiculousness is a whole story in itself.

2. Hanley has been terrible. It's not even that he's making's strikeout after strikeout. Maybe he needs some kind of change to get his game going again.

So in retrospect, I no longer endorse Hanley to stay in the third spot. Congratulations Craig, for convincing me here, and thanks for the reference!

Canes Open ACC Tourney Strong, Slam Clemson

The #3 Miami Hurricanes (44-8) downed the Clemson Tigers Wednesday afternoon in Jacksonville in the first game of the ACC Tournament. They defeated the Tigers 7-1 after another overpowering performance by freshman pitcher Chris Hernandez. Hernandez, 11-0 on the season, gave up just 4 hits in 8 innings, and struck out 10. This looks like a future MLB star, folks. Also notable were the performances of Mark Sobolewski, Ryan Jackson, and Joey Terdoslavich. The Canes play the Ramblin' Wreck of Georgia Tech (who still calls them that?) at 5 p.m. today.

I have mixed feelings about how important this Tournament is. On the one hand, winning it gets you a trophy, but not really the one you are striving for. Trying too hard in this tourney, you may get one of the critical pieces to your CWS puzzle unnecessarily injured. On the other hand, in the sense of being able to build momentum going into the regionals and supers, winning this tourney would be nice. Getting a good head of steam going into the "real" post-season really puts a team a step ahead in the race for the grandest prize of them all.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Gator's play ball

It's not just UM and ACC baseball updates on here anymore. The Florida Gators kicked off the SEC tournament today. After a weekend sweep of Vanderbilt, the Gators earned the #3 seed in the tourny. They were rewarded with a first round game against... Vanderbilt. The Commodores jumped out to an early 2-0 lead before the Gators' got a chance to bat, and they never looked back.

The Gators threatened often late in the game, including a bases loaded situation in the 4th, and had 2 men on in the bottom of the 9th. But UF never got the key hit to drive in their runners. They scattered 8 hits and left 14 men on base throughout the game.

The bullpen was impressive, trying to keep the Gators' hopes alive. 4 pitchers combined over 3 innings to give up just 1 run on 5 hits.

Florida will now take on #7 seed South Carolina tomorrow in an elimination game. The Gamecocks lost in the early game to LSU. South Carolina took a 4 run lead to the 9th inning, but LSU scored 4 in the 9th, and a walkoff home run in the 10th won it for the Tigers. The Gators will probably have to win at least this game if they hope to host a regional series in the NCAA tournament.

Marlins Take Down Webb!!!

The Marlins handed Brandon Webb his first loss of the season. Yes, the Brandon Webb who was 9-0 in 9 appearances. Undefeated no more!

It was a perfectly executed 3-1 win, with a little bit of everything. Matt Treanor laid down a superb bunt for a suicide squeeze, Cody Ross homered, and Luis Gonzalez singled home the insurance run.

Major credit must go to Ricky Nolasco, who turned in a spectacular start. He allowed just 1 run in 7 innings, leading the Marlins to one of their best wins of the season.

Brandon Webb: 9-1, and fish fried.

Jason Taylor Era Over?

And the seasons, they go round and round. And the painted ponies go up and down...

Oh wait, that's James Taylor.

Unfortunately, the carousel of time may have reached the end for Jason Taylor and the Dolphins. It's a sad conclusion to a prosperous saga, which never lacked flair, excitement, or sacks for that matter.

An unsympathetic Phinsider says "this is getting very ugly" and puts Taylor with the likes of Nick Saban. I think that's ridiculous, considering the Dolphins did nothing to help Taylor all these years and Bill Parcells has been a total prick. I'm 80% with Taylor on this one.

FinsNation signifies the writing on the wall, entitling his piece: "JT's Days with the Fins are Done." How's he taking it?

"I just dialed up 976-SHRINK and the guy with the Jamaican accent who answered the phone told me that the most reasonable reaction to this news is pure unbridled anger. So just go with that."

That's FinsNation therapy for you. Then again, this sucks. I feel the unbridled anger coming already.

Maybe there's room for one last dance, last chance...for love? Come back Jason!

Kevin Gregg is Back

Kevin Gregg was masterful last night, coming in with the bases loaded and 1 the 8th inning. He struck out both Justin Upton and Eric Byrnes, then breezed through the 9th.

Every player is going to hit a rough stretch now and then, and that appears to be what the Dodgers series was for Gregg. I feared it foretold of his decline, but it was just a blip on the radar. I'm starting to feel more secure when he comes into games now, which is the desired sensation when a closer stomps to the mound.

More on Gregg:

I listened to Gregg on the Dan le Batard show today. He not only hates American Idol, but also implied that those who watch it in the Marlins clubhouse are short in manliness. He was kidding of course.

He also referred to celebrations as "garbage," citing Joba Chamberlain and Jose Valverde as examples. Gregg is a serious guy with a calm, collected outlook on the game. It's good to have confidence in him again.

As for Pinto...heart attacks are way up when he pitches these days.

Be Satisfied with the #2 Pick

Heat fans, you should be very satisfied with the #2 pick. Going into last night, this should have been the mindset:

- 3 or 4, bad
- 2 good
- 1 great

The key thing was to avoid the 4th pick, which had some pretty high odds (we demonstrated that). There are two premier players in this draft (Rose and Beasley), so the Heat are assured one of them.

EJ and I both think the Heat would be better off with Rose, and early indications are that the Bulls covet Beasley. Imagine if the Heat got their guy and paid less!

Another possibility is trading the pick, which still has tremendous value at #2. The Heat could try and package the pick with Shawn Marion for a better superstar or fill a few holes with complementary players. A number of good trading partners come to mind, including Portland (Kevin Pritchard is always trying to swing a deal, and they have copious assets), Sacramento (Ron Artest and a package), Dallas, Charlotte, Indiana, Memphis...the list goes on. The Knicks would love to acquire it, but I'm not sure what the Heat would take in return (David Lee wouldn't be enough, and I seriously hope Eddy Curry isn't being considered). Lots of possibilities regardless.

It's time to put the past behind us and focus on a bright future. The Heat are in good shape.

Nolasco vs. Webb...Yikes

It's a good thing the Marlins eeked out the win last night, because tonight's pitching matchup is not a good one.

Ricky Nolasco will face reigning Cy Young winner Brandon Webb. Let's look at the stat comparison (avert your eyes if it's too much to handle):

Nolasco: 2-3, 5.18 ERA
Webb: 9-0, 2.56 ERA

There's also a bit of history here, as Webb will try to become the second pitcher since 1919 to start a season 10-0 (thanks for the info, Fish Stripes). This is a mismatch of epic proportions.

Now for the silver lining:

In their last 2 starts, here are the totals:

Nolasco: 1-0, 2.53 ERA
Webb: 2-0, 2.76 ERA

Of course, Webb also went many more innings and had big leads. Still, at least there's some cause for optimism.

His name is DAN UGGLA

Update: Uggla restores the argument by blasting a walkoff grand slam against the Phillies. See here!

Update: See the followup post here

Dan Uggla has been so extraordinary of late, it's time he gets an entire blog post dedicated to his awesomeness. What an incredible story too...a no-name prospect dumped for the scraps of Rule 5, to emerge as one of the preeminent second basemen in the game. Here are his current stats:

.323/.403/.696, 14 HR, 16 Doubles, 32 RBI, 35 R

How about in May? He's batting well over .400 with 10 HR, and it's only May 21st!

Now here's the real kicker. Dan Uggla is not only deserving of an all-star spot, but the STARTING spot...over Chase Utley. As amazing as Utley's season has been, Uggla's has been better. Let's stack them up:

Utley: .309/.388/.630, 14 HR, 14 Doubles, 31 RBI, 34 R

So to recap, Uggla has a higher average, OBP, slugging percentage, even in HRs in a MUCH tougher ballpark, more doubles, more RBI, and more runs scored. This is no contest right now. Just look at the numbers! I dare anyone from Philadelphia to challenge me, because it's a losing argument.

Who's the best 2B in the majors? His name is DAN UGGLA!

Heat Fails To Get #1 Pick, But Have To Be Smiling

There are three ways to feel about the Chicago Bulls this morning - frustrated, annoyed, and livid. The team with the 1.7% chance of landing the first selection in next month's NBA Draft got that advantageous bounce of the lottery ball on Tuesday night before Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Insert favorite complaint about the system here.

For the Heat, although I am genuinely disappointed that they do not get to pick from whomever they like among the collegiate ranks, I console myself with the thought that #2 is a no-lose situation, and that it could have been a lot worse. Look, the consensus among Heat fans is that Derrick Rose would be the better fit. I think Rose would be the better fit. But if the Bulls make the smart choice and draft the Chris Paul-like talent, the Heat would in no intelligible sense be "settling" for Kansas State beast Michael Beasley (how's "Michael Beastley" for an early moniker?). A freshman averaging 26 points and 12 rebounds in the Big XII is a surreal talent. The last time a Big XII freshman put up those numbers? Kevin Durant. Tell me you wouldn't be smiling if the NBA Rookie of the Year put on a Heat uniform as a matter of course.

So take your hands off the panic button. While it is true that NBA point guards (Paul, Deron Williams, Tony Parker, etc.) are prized commodities nowadays, so are NBA power forwards (Durant, KG, Gasol, 'Sheed, etc.). You don't pass up amazing talents, no matter what position they play. Period.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Lottery Details, Expectations

After reviewing the ins and outs of the NBA lottery process, it seems to make as much sense as another game involving ping pong balls: beer pong. Of course, nothing really registers when you play beer pong, so maybe that's a step up.

Let me make it simple for you. Here are the Heat's probabilities:

1st pick: 25%
2nd pick: 21.46%
3rd pick: 17.72%
4th pick: 35.82%

So yes, you read that correctly. Despite having the worst record, the Heat have (yes, I insist on plural) the highest probability of getting the 4th pick.

According to custom, they'll reveal each team's picks going down from 14 to 1. Here's your trusty pick-to-pick guide for how to react:

4th pick:
A. Miami is called. Go throw your champagne bottle at the wall, then clean it up next week.
B. Another team. Take a big sigh of relief. The probabilities shift to: 1st pick 38.95%; 2nd pick 33.44%; 3rd pick 27.61%

3rd pick:
A. Miami is called. Utter some profanities at the TV, then put your champagne back on the rocks.
B. Another team. Jump up and down! New probabilities: 1st pick 53.81%; 2nd pick 46.19%

2nd pick:
A. Miami is called. Pop open the champagne and sip it lightly. One of Derrick Rose or Michael Beasley will be coming to Miami, unless the Heat get something better in a trade.
B. Another team. Blow off that cork and party like it's June, 2006! Ugh...that seems so long ago.

So there you have it. Now go find that lucky Keith Askins jersey.

Summoning The Lottery Ping-Pong Ball Gods...

Our thoughts and prayers are with the Miami Heat as they try to have the ball bounce the right way for the first time in the 2007-2008 season!

Here's hoping Flash harnesses his super-hero powers and forces the ping-pong balls to bend to his overpowering will.

Lineup Shifts Under Review

The two big shifts to the Marlins lineup, mostly the result of the Jacobs and Willingham injuries, were Hanley to the 3rd spot and Uggla to the 5th. What began as a 7 game winning streak has turned into a terrible stretch. Are changes needed?

Fish Stripes makes the case that Hanley should return to leadoff. Fredi Gonzalez appears to be thinking the same thing, so don't be surprised if the change is instituted tonight.

As for Uggla, there's no doubting his increased productivity. Fish Stripes also cautions against this, attributing it as much to Uggla's historic May dominance than any lineup shift.

Craig and I have seen eye-to-eye on most things, but this is a scenario in which we both cases. Hanley has certainly slumped, but I don't think it has had anything to do with his lineup position. The offense has not been the problem.

In the last six games, here are the Marlins' run totals: 7,3,6,6,7,3. That averages to 5.33 runs per game, which is more than the team's season average of 4.95 runs per game. If you discount the aforementioned six games, the team averaged 4.89 runs per game. This was all without Willingham.

The Marlins' problem has been terrible relief pitching of late. Three losses fall directly on the bullpen. If anything, the Marlins' bats have been better than ever. In my view, the Marlins should keep the lineup as is.

Canes baseball suffers late setback, but end-of-season honors flow like wine

Two nights after I felt vindicated, the Hurricanes baseball team brought me right down and made me look foolish. I thought they'd rise to the occasion, at home, to make a "statement" this weekend about who the preeminent team in the country was. Alas, they did not, and UNC is the new top dog. Even club stud Yonder Alonso had to concede on Saturday that UNC deserved the honors. As disappointing as the late-game slide was, it means nothing. The Canes finish 43-8 (23-5 in the ACC), #2 in the country, and enter the post-season poised to host regionals and super-regionals, and have as good a shot as any team to ascend to the pinnacle of the sport.

Speaking of pinnacles, Jim Morris was named ACC coach of the year on Monday. The Canes also had 8 guys selected to the All-ACC team. Chris Hernandez was named ACC Freshman of the Year, while Hernandez, Blake Tekotte, Yonder Alonso, Jemile Weeks, Ryan Jackson, and Mark Sobolewski all garnered 1st-team All-ACC honors. Rounding out the honoraria, pitchers Eric Erickson and Carlos Gutierrez were named 2nd-team all-conference.

Marlins Will Have Their Hands Full With D-Backs

The Marlins have an extremely difficult upcoming home series against the Major League-best Arizona Diamondbacks (28-16). This is not exactly the best time to be facing Arizona as the Marlins have now dropped 4 of their last 5 games and are barely hanging on to an NL East lead (1 game over the Mets). The pitching matchups are unfavorable for the Marlins and they have to face 9-0 Brandon Webb:

ARI: Owings (5-1, 3.81 ERA)
FLA: Hendrickson (5-2, 3.91 ERA)

ARI: Webb (9-0, 2.56 ERA)
FLA: Nolasco (2-3, 5.18 ERA)

ARI: Haren (5-2, 3.14 ERA)
FLA: Miller (3-3, 6.18 ERA)

The way the Marlins are playing, I would almost be content to settle for 1 win over these 3 games.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Greg Cote Answers 7 Questions

We at The South Florida Fan (TSFF) are indebted to Greg Cote for being so gracious with our questions. He answered seven of them in his chat today. I give them to you below, with an additional comment from us beneath:

1. Q: With the Hanley Ramirez signing, the Marlins' record, and the poor play from other South Florida teams, do you plan on giving the Marlins some more spirited coverage? They could really use your help!

A: Yeah I've written columns off a handful of games already, most of the spirited variety. Fish have until mid-July (Dolph training camp) to themselves in the market and must take advantage. But the starting pitching is starting to be the concern everyone thought it might be.

Comment: Cote and the Herald have started to jump on board. The Fish need to stay in contention through July to garner perpetual interest.

2. Q: What are your thoughts on the Heat's chances in the lottery tomorrow night? Is the organization doing anything superstitious?

A: No, no rabbit's feet. However Dwyane Wade's feet will be at the lottery. Dwyane just bought his mother a church; maybe he can bribe somebody. As it is the Heat has a 46.5% shot at the 1st or 2nd pick. It's a really bad system that needs reworking. I'll say that now so it doesn't look like I'm whining when the awful Heat get the fourth pick and a much better teams lands Derrick Rose.

Comment: Glad Dwyane Wade will be there. 46.5% for the top 2 picks really isn't all that good, so we should hold off on the Rose vs. Beasley comparisons.

3. Q: Do you support instant replay in baseball, and do you think it will be approved any time soon? Thanks!

A: I don't support instant replay for calls like balls and strikes, but would like to see it for plays such as whether a home run was fair or foul.

Comment: Agreed, except I'd also like plays at the bases to be reviewed.

4. Q: Who makes it bigger in Hollywood: Jason Taylor or Dwyane Wade?

A: Damn good question, which is another way of saying I have no answer. Like both of their futures outside of their sport, but if I had to buystock in one guy's non-sports stardom it might be Wade. His greater appeal to the hip-hop crowd opens a few doors JT might not have. Close call, though.

Comment: Cote has always been fascinated by Hollywood potential. I think Wade has the higher ceiling, but he'll need to regain his top form and stay healthy.

5. Q: Between the Marlins, Heat, Panthers, and Dolphins, who are the five most standup guys? Are they also your favorites?

A: Marlins, Fredi Gonzalez, Luis Gonzalez, Matt Treanor. Panthers, Olli Jokinen. Heat, Wade, Zo, Udonis. Dolphins, Taylor, Channing Crowder, with good early vibes from Tony Sparano. Will miss Zach Thomas. Yes the standup guys tend to be my favorites. The guys who don't duck when things are going wrong.

Comment: Excellent, thorough answer from Cote. Channing Crowder is a surprising inclusion (especially after his infamous "London" comments), but he is a Gator after all. Nice to see Tony Sparano getting some early love from the Miami media.

6. Q: Do you sometimes find yourself rooting against Lebron because he steals so much of Wade's attention (even when Wade won Finals MVP)? I couldn't help myself in the Celtics-Cavs series.

A: No, not really. That's cyclical. In June '06 it looked like Wade had overtaken LeBron. There's enough room for both, just as there was enough for Magic and Bird.

Comment: Apparently that's just me.

7. Q: With Le Batard on sabbatical, do you see yourself stepping in like a backup QB? You could be Steve Young to his Joe Montana...the Herald could have some tough choices.

A: I prefer to think of myself as Lou Gehrig stepping for Wally Pipp. Actually I've written more columns than Dan the past couple of years or so as he's cut back, so taking over this chat every Monday is probably the biggest change for me.

Comment: Any Lou Gehrig (of Columbia fame) reference gets major points at The South Florida Fan.

Thank you to all who participated, and special thanks to Greg Cote for accepting so many questions.

Live Chat with Cote: 1-2PM

Just a notice to all of you that Greg Cote will be holding one of his live chats from 1-2 HERE at the Miami Herald.

It would be great to get a strong The South Florida Fan (TSFF) presence, especially since Cote has always been good about answering our questions. Fans and writers alike, go take a look. Topics should include Hanley Ramirez's contract, the Marlins' legitimacy, and the Jason Taylor saga. See you there!

Jacque Jones a Marlin

That's the rumor, and it's coming from a number of places. Usually, the first words of confirmation involve the phrase, "Ken Rosenthal reports," and here it is. According to Rosenthal:

"Jones, 33, will take a physical Monday morning. He initially will report to extended spring training in Florida to get back into playing shape, according to one source, then return to the majors as a fourth outfielder and left-handed hitter off the bench."

Marlins Today also confirms the report, so count on it happening.

The best part of this news, especially for you Cody Ross fans, is that Jones is not expected to start. He may take a few games away from Amezaga and Ross, but I don't see that changing so quickly. Brett Carroll will certainly be the one sent down (was he even up? You'd never have known it), but what happens when Willingham comes back? That shouldn't be for a while, but it will happen (we hope).

I don't see the Marlins sending down Alfredo Amezaga under any circumstances, so the clear choice would appear to be Robert Andino. The problem, of course, is that Amezaga would become the backup infielder as well as potential starting center fielder, creating a number of pulsating headaches for Fredi in his lineup formations. This is something to keep a close eye on.

In the meantime, we welcome yet another bargain bench player to the friendly confines of South Florida.

Hanley Trying to Do Too Much

Hanley Ramirez has been slumping of late. He clearly hasn't been seeing the ball as well, taking a number of fastball strikes while chasing out of the strike zone (Tommy Hutton reminded us of this about 40 times in the last two days). Most attribute it to "pressing," and there are legitimate reasons for this:

1. The weight of the new contract - Hanley is simply trying to do too much. He wants to prove he's worth the money, that he can lead this team to the playoffs, and so he's overthinking at the plate. He should take a page out of Scott Olsen's book and think less.

2. He's just in a slump. Any time a slump starts, it's difficult to break out of. He will eventually, but it may take a couple more games.

3. He was too homer-happy. I suggested this a while ago. I feared his long-ball success would lead him to swing for the fences too much, and I was right. The good news is that he changed his philosophy, but to no avail. Again, it's causing him to think too much. He needs to just go up there and hit.

Fish Stripes seems to agree with me, while adding a little tidbit on Hanley's defensive lapses (which I wholeheartedly assent to):

"This very common when a player signs a contract for a lot of money. It happens all the time. They end up thinking they need to carry the team everyday when all that is required is that be themselves.

Hanley will be fine.

However if he would like to improve on an aspect of his game, could I suggest, he quit triple pumping on balls he fields which allow the runners to make it to first ahead of the throw. He is doing it way too much this season. I really don't believe it is because he is lackadaisical but I think it is a confidence thing. Field the ball and throw it, quit thinking. Thinking only hurts the ball club."

I want to stress Craig's point about Hanley's effort, because that's been a major misconception. Hanley isn't lazy at all. He just has mental lapses, perhaps because of a shortage of confidence, as Fish Stripes suggests. He's really a good guy.

Instant Replay Gains Support

We've argued before here at TSFF, with some degree of vehemence, that baseball needs instant replay. Aside from the usuals suspects like Angel Hernadez and Dan Iassogna, the umpiring throughout the league has continued to decline.

Lately, the case has been building. David Samson, for instance, told the Marlins' TV guys that he would endorse replay, but cautioned that baseball tends to move at a turtle's pace. What proponents needed was a truly botched call on the national stage, and they got it last night.

In last night's Mets-Yankees game, Mike Reilly blew a Delgado HR call after conferring with his team of befuddled umpires. Buster Olney jumps on board with us today, using that as his example.

It's getting crowded on the instant replay train. I think it's time it left the station.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Marlins Lose a Dull One

There were few exciting moments in this game, at least for a Marlins fan. The Mike Jacobs homer was nice and Dan Uggla's continued mastery compelling, but the game itself was lackluster at best. I missed the last three innings and hardly noticed.

Two lowlights come to mind:

1. Jorge Cantu being thrown out from right field (yes, right field) at first base. Just a bad play.

2. Dan Uggla being tagged out at the plate.

The Marlins have now dropped 5 of 6, maintaining their lead thanks to equivalently poor play from the Phillies. Next up? The sizzling Diamondbacks. The Marlins will need their "A Game" and some more to keep pace.

World Championships end in disappointment for Bouwmeester, Canada

Ilya Kovalchuk scored 2 minutes and 42 seconds into overtime to win the gold for Russia. Canada held leads of 3-1 and 4-2 before the Red Army scored with just over 5 minutes left in regulation to tie it. It was a fantastic game.

Although Bouwmeester started the tournament on the top defensive pairing, he wasn't able to maintain the high level of play he started the tournament with. He was on the ice for Russia's game-tying goal in the gold medal game and appeared to have screened his 'tender, Cam Ward. His stats at the end of the Championships are far from impressive. 0 goals, 0 assists, -1 rating, and only 7 shots on goal, despite being on the ice for over 135 minutes.

Marlins Against Odds Today

Last night's win was terrific, but will it lead to a new streak? The laws of probability aren't kind today, but who are we to listen to that? Didn't probability also predict the Marlins to finish with sub-70 wins?

As a responsible blogger, however (am I really?), I have to report the bad news. The Fish are facing one tough cookie in Zack Greinke. This week's edition of Endinson Volquez, let's examine his stats:

4-1, 1.93 ERA, 38-14 K-BB ratio. Compare those superb statistics with Burke Badenhop (I won't even bother to show his numbers), and you start to get a "sinking" feeling.

The Marlins also have a 4-4 record in day games, a couple of which they pulled out by the skin of their teeth. They've been more effective at night.

Okay, now for some optimism. Greinke hasn't been quite as good of late. He's 1-1 with a 3.15 ERA in his last three games, while Badenhop is 1-0, 4.08 ERA over the same stretch. The Marlins have a better offense, especially with Jacobs back, and they're at home.

The Marlins can definitely take this one, but it will take a strong performance from Badenhop and company.

More on Wes Helms

Just how good was the Wes Helms pickup? Let's take a look:

1. The rival Phillies ate all $3 million of his remaining contract.

2. The Marlins are paying him nothing.

3. He has delivered THREE game-winning hits, including the Miracle on Passover, a 10th-inning homer in Milwaukee, and last night's 3-run bomb.

4. With Mike Jacobs out on extended absence, Helms filled the role adequately enough. His overall stats are pretty atrocious (.225/.273/.380), but in "Close & Late" situations, he's .389/.450/.778. Some will attribute that to luck, but there's no denying the impact his timely hits have had on the team. Luck or not, he's delivering when it counts.

Not bad for a guy on the Phillies payroll.

Phin-Mates the New Bengals?

We've had a lot of positive coverage of the Parcells-era Dolphins lately. You all know I've even been a bit ridiculous, projecting playoff possibilities. As Jason Taylor keeps improving on Dancing With the Stars, so are the Dolphins in their offseason standing.

I regret to inform you, then, that there's a disturbing trend developing among Dolphins players: arrests. Phinfever tells us that the Dolphins now have four arrests this year, thanks to some misbehavior from CB Will Allen. PhinFever's thoughts:

"Even though I am one of the biggest supporters of "innocent until proven guilty" at Phinfever, this is starting to get irritating. It's only May and we already have four arrests on our record for the 2008 season."

Keep in mind that the modern-day record was set by the 2006 Bengals, who managed double digits in arrests. At four, the Dolphins aren't far behind. Right now, Ricky Williams is looking like the most upstanding citizen on the squad.

From the Jaws of Defeat

The Marlins were headed down a similar path, a gruesome pattern that had repeated itself for four straight miserable games. Here's the format:

1. Fall behind
2. Tie the game
3. Fall behind again
4. Almost come back, but lose in heartbreaking fashion

Trailing 3-2 in the 7th inning with the bottom of the lineup at the plate, I wasn't exactly confident. Then Gonzalez laces a single, Rabelo walks on 4 pitches (about all he's good for these days), and in steps Wes Helms. Yes, the same Wes Helms who the Marlins got for absolutely nothing. And he CRUSHES an 0-2 curve into the left field seats.

It was truly exhilarating. Back to winning ways, back to alone in first place, back to confidence. Was it Jay Warman's presence that turned things around? Was it Reader Paul's conclusion of his law school exams? Whatever it was, the Marlins got one back!