Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Sports Chowdah Update- Perfection Denied; NCAA Coaching Legend Passes Away, All Roads Lead To Strasburg, Fisher-Man Masters the C's

(Getty Images)
Man oh man.....as well as the Red Sox have been playing, I've been missing some pretty choice baseball elsewhere lately (much of it caught after the fact). The biggest story heading into tonight was the highly anticipated debut of last year's #1 MLB Draft pick, Stephen Strasburg, for the Washington Nationals.

I distinctly remember during last year's draft all sorts of sports columnists clucking their tongues at the folly of the Nats betting their future on a player who only takes to the field once every five or six days (there is something to that)- and that was if he panned out.

Almost a year to the day later, Strasburg was fast-tracked through the Nats minor-league system and made his Major League debut Tuesday night. To say he lived up to expectations would be something of an understatement. In front of a sellout crowd at Nationals Park, Strasburg struck out 14 in 7 innings of work in Washington's 5-2 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates. The 14 K's is the second highest number of strikeouts in an MLB debut- topped only by J R Richard's 15 strikeouts in his 1971 debut with the Houston Astros.

Strasburg gave up 2 earned runs ans no walks in his debut, throwing 94 pitches and getting run support on solo home runs from Adam Dunn, Ryan Zimmerman and Josh Willingham.

Today also marks the start of the 2010 MLB draft, with Washington getting the #1 overall draft pick again- this time outfielder Bryce Harper.

Then there's last week's saga of what could've been the third perfect game this season were it not for umpire James Joyce's blown call with two out in the 9th inning

Armando Galarraga had a 3-0 lead heading into the top of the 9th inning at Comerica on June 2nd with 2 away, the Tribe's Jason Donald softly hit the ball in the infield and first baseman Miguel Cabrera softly tossed the ball to Galarraga who was sprinting over to the mound to cover. First Base umpire Joyce ruled Donald 'safe' and Galarraga's bid for perfection ended one out shy of the requisite 27 up and 27 down. However, the replay clearly showed that Galarraga reached before the baserunner. Donald would then advance to 2nd on defensive indifference before Trevor Crowe grounded out to Tigers 3B Brandon Inge to finish the game (and what some would say was the 28th out).

Over the next several days, the story wasn't whether or not Joyce made the right call, but how Galarraga and Joyce handled the immediate aftermath of the call that Joyce himself admitted he got wrong. The 22-year veteran apparently approached the pitcher after the game and immediately admitted that he got the call wrong and apologized. The following night [after being awarded a brand-new Corvette from the Chairman of GM] Galarraga would ceremonially present Joyce with the lineup card before that night's game. There were also appeals to Bud Selig to award Galarraga the perfect game ex post facto, although Joyce's erronious call was allowed to stand by the MLB front office.

While it does suck that Joyce blew the call, I'm glad to see that both parties handled it with a tact and maturity that too often seems like it's missing from professional sports.

RED SOX: Kind of unusual for me to go on for this long without any mention of the Olde Towne Team. After taking two out of three from the A's and O's, the Red Sox started out this week on the road at Cleveland. Daisuke Matsuzaka threw eight scoreless innings on Monday night, with most of Boston's offense coming from 'productive outs' in the Sox 4-1 win over the Tribe at Jacobs Field.

After getting roughed up in his previous two outings, Tim Wakefield set all sorts of club milestones in Tuesday night's game against Cleveland. Wake got his 191st career win in Tuesday night's 3-2 win over the Tribe and passed Roger Clemens' club record with 2,777 innings pitched in a Red Sox uniform. Wake gave up 4 hits, one earned run and struck out six in seven and one third innings of work and after falling behind 1-0 in the first inning, got some run support from a Kevin Youkilis RBI-double, a Big Papi RBI single and Bill Hall RBI double in the top of the 4th.

Tomorrow's game will pit Clay Buccholz (8-3) against former Sox hurler Justin Masterson (1-5), who Boston traded last year in the deal to pick up Victor Martinez.

Other Red Sox News: Jacoby Ellsbury will have his ribs examined at the Kerlan Jobe clinic in Los Angeles. The team gave the outfielder permission to undergo another examination at an outside clinic and expects him the re-join the team this upcoming weekend in Boston.

Jonathan Papelbon was placed on the 3-day Bereavement List on June 7th. No details were provided, but Terry Francona told The Springfield Republican that "It's a personal, serious issue and he has our full support". RHP Boof Bonser was activated from the DL and is expected to join the Sox bullpen while Papelbon's gone.

NBA: After knotting up the series 1-1 at the Staples Center, the NBA Finals moved back to the Garden. While the Lakers were able to hold onto a double-digit lead for much of the first half, the Celtics were eventually able to pull within one before LA pulled away, thanks in part to Derek Fisher's 11 points in the 4th quarter, to win Game 3 by a final of 91-84. Kevin Garnett had 25 points and 6 rebounds for the C's while Kobe Bryant had 29 points and 7 rebounds for LA. Fischer had 16 total, with most of his production for LA coming late in the game.

The Lakers take a 2-1 series lead in the finals, with Game 4 tipping off on Thursday night.

JOHN WOODEN: 1910-2010

NCAA HOOPS: Ten time NCAA Men's Champion coach and Basketball Hall of Famer John Wooden passed away on June 4th. As both a player and a coach, Wooden had 11 NCAA Men's Basketball Championships to his name. Wooden was on the 1932 Purdue Boilermakers as a player when they were selected as the Men's national champions (tournament play didn't begin until 1939- prior to that, winners were determined via a panel) and served in the US Navy as a Lieutenant in World War II. As the UCLA Bruins head coach, Wooden earned the moniker 'The Wizard of Westwood' and coached the Bruins to 10 NCAA Men's titles between 1959 and 1975.

Wooden was also a devout Christian who would later on write in his autobiography:

"I have always tried to make it clear that basketball is not the ultimate. It is of small importance in comparison to the total life we live. There is only one kind of life that truly wins, and that is the one that places faith in the hands of the Savior."
Here's to a life well-lived. Rest well, coach.

NHL: It was all Chicago early on as they jumped out to a 3-0 lead on Sunday evening. The Flyers were able to get on the board but would ultimately lose 7-4 at the United Center. The Blackhawks lead 3 games to 2 and could clinch their first Stanley Cup in nearly 50 years with a road win at Philly tomorrow night.

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