Tuesday, July 31, 2007

New Carrie Single Hits Airwaves!

If you're a big Country music and Carrie Underwood fan like me, then yesterday was a pretty big day. Carrie's brand new single, "So Small" hit the airwaves here locally at 3 PM PST on GO Country 105 (KKGO FM). After much anticipation - it's almost been two years since Carrie's "Some Hearts" album came out - it was great to finally hear some new Carrie on the radio... KKGO decided they were going to play it at the top of every hour during the late afternoon show, and given that a lot of my friends' stations weren't being so proactive in playing it, I decided to share the streaming link of KKGO to others all throughout the country! I had friends in Texas, Alabama and Massachusetts listening to my station just to hear Carrie's new song!!! I guess you could call it an online listening party! After producing four consecutive number one singles off of "Some Hearts," her new album definitely has a tough act to follow. So far, so good though. In it's first several hours, "So Small" amassed 145 spins - garnering enough of an audience to land at #56 on the Country chart. Look for this to move swiftly up the charts!

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The big sports story today just has to be the pedning trade of Mark Teixeira from the Texas Rangers to the Atlanta Braves. The Braves sent catcher Jarrod Saltalamachhia and three prospects for the slugger... I guess the big question is where will "Big Teix" hit in the already potent Braves lineup??? With a .397 on-base percentage, perhaps they will hit him third between Edgar Renteria and Chipper Jones. This would bump Andruw Jones down to the 5-slot, Brian McCann down to 6th, and team RBI leader Jeff Francoeur into the 7-slot in the batting order. Yes, it sounds crazy to be hitting "Frenchy" that far down in the order, but I guess it's going to be a testament as to just how potent the Braves new lineup is.

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Lastly, I just wanted to pay tribute to the late Bill Walsh. The Hall of Fame coach of the San Francisco 49ers died yesterday at age 75 from leukemia. Often referred to as "the genius," Walsh revolutionized the game of football in the 1980's with his innovative West Coast Offense, winning three Super Bowls. Not only did his 49er teams win, they won convincingly. And they were FUN to watch.... watching the 49ers during his reign truly was like watching a well-oiled machine. Walsh was not only good at designing an offense, he was good at finding talent. He drafted a quarterback named Joe Montana out of Notre Dame in 1979 and a relatively unknown receiver named Jerry Rice from Mississippi Valley State in the first round of the 1985 NFL draft. As most of you know, Montana became arguably the greatest quarterback in NFL history, while Rice went on to shatter basically every NFL receiving record in the books. In addition to being a great coach, Walsh was a very caring and compassionate person. He was a man of class and dignity. To many of his players, he was like a second father. It's hard to put into words what he did and the influence he had on not just football, but American culture. The city of San Francisco was TOTALLY revitalized just because of him and the image he projected for his team. Ultimately, that image would transcend the city by the Bay. People that don't even know a thing about football, have heard the name Bill Walsh. There are fewer people in sports that were more revered, or more admired than he was. The world has lost a great human being. May he rest in peace.

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Monday, July 30, 2007

Gulbis Nabs 1st LPGA Win


For the LPGA's most marketable player, six long years of heartache and near misses finally ended as Natalie Gulbis broke through to get her first tour victory in the Evian Masters yesterday in France. Undoubtedly the most popular player on tour amongst both the fans and her peers, Natalie nearly won a year ago before falling to Mi Hyun Kim in the third hole of a playoff. Over the years, Natalie has been very unfairly compared to a certain tennis player - one who failed to have any major success on her tour. Many fail to realize that this victory for Natalie was just a matter of time in coming. She earned over a million dollars in 2005 and finished sixth on the money list while scoring 12 top 10 finishes, coming in third twice. Last year, she didn't do quite as well, but still managed to finish 16th on the money list including the aforementioned playoff loss and a third place finish to go along with five other top 10's. Due mostly to some back issues, Natalie was off to a slow start in 2007, only placing in the top 10 once. Little did we know that her breakthrough win would finally come yesterday.

In winning her first tournament, Natalie played steadier than the rest of the field. While perhaps as many as ten players, including Lorena Ochoa and Annika Soranstam, had chances to win the tournament, none of them could make the putts when it counted. Natalie began the day at two under par, four strokes off the lead of Juli Inkster. Inkster quickly faltered, bogeying the second and fourth holes. A few groups ahead of her, Natalie shot a three-under-par 33 on the front nine to seize the lead at five under par. Natalie had several opportunities to stretch her lead on the back nine, but the putts would not fall and she in fact bogeyed the 14th hole to fall to four under par. Ochoa spent much of the back nine tied with Natalie for the lead, before a costly bogey on the 18th hole would leave her one stroke back. Soranstam, Natalie's playing partner on the day, would need an eagle on the 18th to tie for the lead, but she would have to settle for par and a tie for sixth. Inkster would also have her chances, but three bogeys to go with a birdie from 14 through 17 left her at three under par.

As she took the tee at 15, Jeong Jang stood at one under par, three back of Natalie, Ochoa and Inkster, and only probably hoping to get a top 10 finish. Jang birdied 15 and 16 though to get close. She than made another birdie on 18 to get to four under par and into a playoff with Natalie. The first playoff hole was the par-5 18th hole. Jang won the honor and hit a clean drive into the center of the fairway, as did Natalie. Jang's approach shot to the green went over, while Natalie hit a perfect shot, landing about 25 feet from the pin. Jang pitched to about fifteen feet to set up a long birdie effort.

Natalie then hit her eagle putt to within a foot for a tap-in birdie. Jang knew that she would need to hole her putt to have a chance. Her putt quickly veered off to the left and Natalie finally would have her moment in the sun. She made the putt (see picture at left) and raised her hands triumphantly in the air to celebrate her first win. Tears of joy came from her, she then hugged her caddie, her Mom and her longtime friend and recent major winner Cristie Kerr.

This is not just a huge victory for Natalie, but a huge victory for women's golf in general. Although Soranstam and Ochoa may be the tour's two best players, Natalie is undoubtedly the most popular and marketable due to her stunning looks. Many in the sports world hadn't taken Natalie seriously until now, citing the fact that she had never won. Few know that there is probably no one in the game that works harder at her game than Natalie. Her coach Butch Harmon (who also coaches Phil Mickelson) has actually had to tell her to not put in so much time with her game, but to just enjoy life a little more... With her much-awaited first win, you can bet that Natalie's definitely going to be enjoying life on the LPGA tour more than ever now. Congratulations, Natalie on a much-deserved first victory!

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Sunday, July 29, 2007

MARTINA McBRIDE concert!


Last night, I went to see arguably the best vocalist in all of music at the Pacific Amphitheatre in Martina McBride. Many of my friends had told me that I would go away simply in awe of how such powerful vocals could come out of someone so small in stature. Believe me, after last night, there is little doubt that they knew exactly what they were talking about.

Before I tell you all about Martina, I have to talk a little about the venue it was held in - it was an absolute nightmare actually trying to get inside! Those of you that live in Southern California as I do know all about our infamous traffic. It only took about 40 minutes to get from my Aunt's home 45 miles away in Mira Loma to within 1/2 mile of the venue in Costa Mesa via the freeways. From that point though, it took us TWO HOURS to get inside! Can you say mass transit??? Oh how I was longing to be back in D.C. and riding the Metro or busses... By the time we arrived, not only had we missed the entire set by opening act Little Big Town, but we had also missed Martina's opening song "Anyway" off her brand new Waking Up Laughing CD. As my Aunt, Mom and I stepped out of our car, I instantly recognized the chorus to her hit "Wild Angels" playing. Quickly, we all got inside to hear the rest of Martina's set...

During the show, we got to hear all of Martina's big hits including "Happy Girl" and her latest hit "How I Feel." She then went into a set of songs from her Timeless CD, paying homage to her Country heritage. The three songs off that set were her hit cover of Lynn Anderson's "(I Never Promised You A) Rose Garden," along with covers of Loretta Lynn's "You Ain't Woman Enough" and Kris Kristofferson's "I Can't Stop Loving You."

In addition to appreciating her Country heritage, Martina made reference several times to how a day never goes by that she's not thankful for what she has. Growing up, she only wanted to do one thing for a living - SING! We're all pretty thankful for that! Martina continued to deliver her powerful, emotion-filled vocals as she sang "Blessed," "Concrete Angel," and "Love's The Only House." The girls in the audience particularly got into her huge hit "This One's For The Girls," and the crowd was left standing on it's feed, raucously applauding and wanting more as she closed the her hour and a half set with "Independence Day."


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But she wasn't done!!! The crowd roared for an encore and got their wish as she came back from her five minute respite and she broke into an encore cover of Journey's "Don't Stop Believen'" It takes quite a vocalist to cover a Steve Perry song, and let me tell you, she more than did an amazing job - she did an AWESOME job!!! Martina then closed things out with a cover of Pat Benatar's "Hit Me With Your Best Shot." Once again, the crowd REALLY got into and we were left just thirsting for more of this incredible singer!!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

755

To some of you, 755 is just another number. But to those of us that are fans of America's pasttime, it's the most celebrated number in the sport. Hammerin' Hank Aaron clubbed 755 home runs over his career with the Milwaukee and Atlanta Braves and the Milwaukee Brewers. For nearly 40 years, the home run record stood at 714. The great George Herman "Babe" Ruth clubbed most of that number as a member of the famous New York Yankee teams of the 1920's and early 1930's... Many thought the Babe's record would never be broken.

The same can probably be said about Henry Aaron's 755 home run mark. For a very long time, no one seriously approached it. In the late 1990's though, players used new dietary supplements (some of which are very controversial) and put up home run totals that had been previously unseen. Roger Maris famously hit 61 home runs in 1961 to break the Babe's 34-year-old record of 60. No one had come close to approaching 60 homers (and few had even hit 50) until that famous 1998 season when both Mark McGwire (70) and Sammy Sosa (66) would shatter Maris' mark. McGwire would hit 65 homers the next year, but lingering knee injuries would force his retirement just two years later. Sosa would hit 63 homers in 1999, 50 in 2000, and 64 in 2001. Those 64 homers that Sosa hit in 2001 would not even lead the league though - that honor went to the San Francisco Giants' Barry Bonds who shattered McGwire's mark, clubbing 73 homers.

With his 73 home run season, it became obvious that he remained healthy, Bonds would someday approach Aaron's record. While Sosa is now just past 600 homers in spite of all of those 50+ seasons (he took last year off from the game), Bonds is now on the cusp of history. Last night he clubbed his 20th home run of the year in the Giants 12-10 victory over the Florida Marlins last night. For Bonds it was the 754th home run of his career. None of us really know for sure if Bonds (or McGwire or Sosa) put up their record breaking numbers legitimately. Someday, the truth will come out. Regardless, we're now on the brink of a historic moment. Love him/hate him, however you feel about him, Bonds' historic home run chase is "must see TV" if you're a baseball fan like me. ESPN will be televising tonight's Giants/Marlins game at 9PM ET/6PM PT. I actually have a prior engagement so I won't be able to watch tonight. I'm going to see Martina McBride along with Little Big Town in concert, but I'll have my cellphone on me so I can check on ESPN's bottom line for updates...

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Friday, July 27, 2007

Manny Just Being Manny

After his slow start this year, many people (myself included) were questioning the selection of Manny Ramirez to represent the Boston Red Sox in this year's All-Star Game. A .284 batting average and 11 home runs to go along with 45 RBI's? A pace of just 20 homers and 85 RBI's??? This was hardly Manny "just being Manny." People were speculating that perhaps THE MANNY at 35 years of age was on the downside of his career and that he didn't have a lot of productive time left. This is a player who for nine conseuctive years has smashed at least 33 home runs and driven in 102 or more - doing all of this while missing 32 games one season and more than 40 games twice! For him to have such un-Manny-like numbers more than halfway through the season was very disconcerting for most of us.

Apparently, the recent All-Star break was just what the doctor ordered to rejuvenate Mr. Ramirez. Yesterday in Cleveland, he clubbed two homers, including a 484-foot shot to left center field in the Red Sox' 14-9 victory over the Indians. With that huge day, all he has done in the 15 games since the break is hit .415 (22-for-53) with 6 homers, 19 RBI's and a ridiculous .500 on base percentage to go with an .811 slugging average. With a .303 batting average, 17 homers and 64 RBI's on the season, Manny is suddenly close to being on pace for yet another year of 30+ homers, and 100+ RBI's... if you own him in a few fantasy leagues as I do, it indeed is very nice to see Manny Just Being Manny again!

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As I'm sure a lot of you know, there are a lot of milestones close to coming down - Alex Rodriguez needs one more homer for 500 in his career, and a certain San Francisco Giant player needs two more homers to tie the all-time record of Hank Aaron's... Definitely some exciting stuff to look forward to. Not to mention the great Pedro Martinez currently has 2,998 strikeouts, so when the future Hall of Famer comes back next month, he's all but assured of cracking the 3,000 barrier. Speaking of the Hall of Fame, on Sunday the great Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn will be inducted. Two class acts - and players who spent their entire career with only one team. In this day and age of free agency, that indeed is something to be very porud of.

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Lots of games to cover yesterday... In Philadelphia, the Washington Nationals overcame an early 5-2 deficit to score two runs in the 7th and three more in the 8th inning on a Jesus Flores three-run homer to take a 7-5 lead over the Phillies. Ryan Howard clubbed his 29th homer for the home team, but it wasn't enough as "the Chief," Chad Cordero came in to record his 20th save for the Nationals in spite of giving up a run in the bottom of the 9th. The Nats are again playing good ball, winning 8 of 14 games since they held Miss DC Day at RFK Stadium the day before the All-Star break. Like I said before, all they needed was a little inspiration to start playing better!

Speaking of Miss DC connections, Jeff Francoeur hit a monstrous two run homer off rookie sensation Tim Lincecum in the fourth inning to give the Atlanta Braves a 2-0 lead over the Giants at 3-Com Park in San Francisco yesterday afternoon. Just to clarify for those of you that don't know, the soon-to-be-married Francoeur went to Parkview High School in Atlanta, Georgia - the same school as 2006 Miss DC Kate Michael went to. FYI, Francoeur was engaged to his longtime girlfriend, Catie McCoy this past summer. Unfortunately for the Braves, starting pitcher Buddy Carlyle could not keep the Giants in check, surrendering three runs in the fifth inning and one more in the sixth before being pulled with two outs in that frame. Ex-Dodger and UCLA graduate Dave Roberts led the Giants attack with three hits and two RBI's as they took a 4-2 victory over the Braves.

The Dodgers headed off to Colorado yesterday for the first of a four game series against the Rockies. The red-hot Jeff Kent got a day off, but that hardly slowed down the Blue Crew as they would quickly jump to a 5-0 lead off of Rockie starter Rodrigo Lopez, thanks in large part to a 2-run single by Nomar Garciaparra in the fourth inning and a two-run homer by shortstop Rafael Furcal in the fifth. Brad Penny kept the Rockies silent until the sixth when Todd Helton would hit a sacrifice fly, and Brad Hawpe hit a two-run single. Jonathan Broxton would give up a run-scoring single to Hawpe in the bottom of the 8th inning to make it a 5-4 game, but Takeshi Saito would come in and close things out in the 9th for his 26th save of the year. For Penny, it was his league leading 13th victory of the year. The Dodgers now have a 1 1/2 game lead in the National League West over the suddenly resurgent Arizona Diamondbacks who won 7-4 last night thanks to a dramatic three-run walkoff homer by Eric Byrnes with two outs in the ninth off of Florida Marlins' reliever Armando Benitez. With the win, the Diamondbacks swept their four game series with the Marlins.

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Energizer Kent


The calendar may say that Jeff Kent is 39 years young, but he certainly is not playing like it... he just keeps on going and going! There is little doubt that Kent will be elected to the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility - it may come as soon as five years from now if he retires at the end of this season. Just a little more than a month ago, some people were beginning to write Kent off and saying his career may be finished. In an injury plagued 2006 season, Kent only hit 14 homers - the first time in 10 seasons he had failed to hit at least 22. This year, after an 0-for-4 against the Angels at Dodger Stadium on June 17th his batting average stood at .254 with only nine homers and 33 RBI's. Only twice ever had Kent's average been that low at the end of a season - his rookie year of 1992 for the Mets (when he hit .239) and in 1997 with the San Francisco Giants where he only hit .250, but he clouted 29 homers and drove in 121 runs.

Ever since the cross-town Angels left town though, Kent has absolutely been on fire. Over his past 29 games, he is hitting .400 (42-for-105) with six homers, 22 RBI's and 20 runs scored. His batting average now stands at .295, and his 15 homers and 55 RBI's on the season have him on pace for his typical 25 homer, 90 RBI or so campaign. It appears that Mr. Kent still has something left in the tank after all! And with young stars Matt Kemp and James Loney coming along well, not to mention a suddenly resurgent Nomar Garciaparra, it appears Kent is going to continue to see his opportunities... Needless to say, if you have Kent on several fantasy teams as I still do, you're probably counting your blessings that you stuck with him through his slow start!

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Diamonds In The Rough

As the major league baseball trading deadline draws near, I thought it might be a good time to try to unearth a few more "diamonds" for your fantasy teams...

1. Mike Cameron (OF-SD) 69% owned in CBS Sportsline leagues - For a player who has hit 20 or more homers five times and stolen 20 or more bases eight times in his first 10 full major league seasons, Mike Cameron is certainly a guy who should be getting a little more respect in fantasy circles. Just how many consistent 20/20 guys are there out there? Not many!!! Cameron got off to a slow start this year, with his batting average being as low as .200 as late as May 13th. A very streaky hitter, Cameron got his average all the way up to .266 by the end of June, but he has only hit .194 this month so far to bring his average back down to .253. He has homered twice in the past eight games. With Cameron, you know the hot streak is always right around the corner. The key is to get him as it's starting. I think now just might be that time!

2. Matt Garza (SP-MIN) 65% owned - With the way Matt Garza just absolutely tore through the minor leagues last year (a 14-4 record and a 1.995 ERA combined at 3 levels), there was little doubt he would do just fine once he was brought up to the majors. Last year, he struggled with a 5.76 ERA in 50 innings with the big club. So far this year, he's been nothing short of magical. In his first four games with the Twins his year, he's only allowed three earned runs in his first 20 1/3 innings for a sparkling 1.33 ERA. As with any young pitcher, expect some bumps along the way, but he is looking like just another arm that the amazing Twins pitching staff is going to be able to rely on for a very long time.

3. Ryan Freel (OF/3B-CIN) 45% owned - With steals such a precious commodity in fantasy leagues, it's quite surprising that a guy who has racked up 110 steals over the past three years is still so available today. A remarkably consistent hitter, batting .277, .271 and .271 over the past three years, Freel missed a month due to injury, but since his July return, it's been the same old Freel as he's stolen seven bases in his past 15 games. His batting average only stands at .246 at the moment, and you what they say about the law of averages... I'd expect to see his batting average climb closer to the .270 mark from here on out, and if you can use 15 or so steals the rest of the way, you might have your guy!

4. Matt Kemp (OF-LA Dodgers) 35% owned - You probably remember this guy real well from how he burst onto the scene last year for the Dodgers - 7 homers in his first 15 games to go along with a .378 (17-for-45) batting average. Pitchers soon figured the young rookie out though, giving him a steady diet of breaking balls as he only hit .202 (22-for-109) without a homer the rest of the way. The Dodgers worked extensively in the off-season with Kemp in helping him hit the off-speed stuff and so far so good... They are having a very hard time keeping him out of the lineup. In 119 at bats so far this year, he's hitting .361 with 6 homers, 23 RBI's, 23 runs and 3 steals. Kemp is playing almost every day now... If you project his numbers out over a full season, you get some very gaudy looking figures - 30 homers, 115 RBI's, 115 runs and 15 steals. It appears that he is handling the breaking ball just fine these days and I believe he's ready to become a fixture in the Dodgers outfield for many years to come.

5. Pedro Martinez (SP-NYM) 28% owned - As many of you know, I am a HUGE fan of Pedro Martinez... I mean he used to pitch for my Dodgers before they traded him to the Montreal Expos for whom again? One of the worst trades in major league history... Pedro has been responsible for much of my success in the fantasy game this past decade... and all reports indicate that he still has a little left in the tank. His rehab is coming along well, and he's scheduled to make his return to the Mets sometime towards the mid-late part of August. If you have a free bench or DL slot, now is the time to get him. Pedro is a fearless competitor who claims to feel better health-wise than he has in several years. He just might be the guy who in September who will be the difference between your team winning or losing.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

NBA Faces Gambling Issues

I'm not one to usually write about the negative aspects of sports, but after what has happened this past week in the NBA and the NFL, I feel compelled to at least say something. Today, I'll discuss the NBA and the gambling allegations against one of the league's officials. At some later point, I may discuss the NFL and the Michael Vick situation, but quite honestly that particular issue really sickens me to the point where I have a hard time writing about it.

For those of you that don't know, the NBA's scandal involves referee Tim Donaghy betting on and changing the outcome of an unknown number of professional basketball games. Donaghy has been an official in the league for 13 years, and apparently has been under investigation by commissioner David Stern before for gambling allegations. Now he is under investigation by the FBI, and they are now just basically waiting for Donaghy to turn himself in. Apparently, they have quite a lot of evidence to support the allegations.

As someone that has been a fan of the NBA ever since I was very young thanks to the many great Los Angeles Lakers championship teams, I have personally suspected something like this going on for quite some time. Over the past several years, I've noticed a steady decline in the quality of officiating - in particular I've seen A LOT more inconsistency in foul calls. There was a time a few years ago when I used to post a lot on the ESPN fantasy sports boards. I often made reference on those boards to the fact that I thought NBA games were now being rigged. Most of the other posters thought I was crazy to say something like this, but there were a few that did share my sentiments. Now the other shoe has FINALLY dropped...

As I've become more jaded with the NBA, the past few years I began doing something I never used to do before - I started turning games off before they were over due SOLELY to my frustration with the officiating!!! I'd be willing to bet (no pun intended) that more than one of the games I've turned off the past few years has involved some coveniently blown calls by Donaghy.

Don't get me wrong, there can still be some excitement and fun in watching an NBA game - every once in a while, I'll see something really special like Kobe Bryant going off for 81 points in the 2005-2006 season, or the Washington Wizards' Gilbert Arenas dropping 60 on the Lakers in a game last year... The NBA was, for quite a long time, my favorite sport to watch on television. Now with me, it probably ranks a distant seventh behind major league baseball, pro football, golf, college football, college basketball & auto racing.

Commissioner Stern had a press conference yesterday about the allegations and in not so many words is treating this as an "isolated incident." Given what I've seen the past several years, I highly doubt (unfortunately) that this is the case. Was it just me, or did it seem like he was hiding something during that hour long press conference??? Personally, I think Stern is a lot of the problem. Full scale brawls have broken out in games in each of the past two seasons - something which rarely used to happen... As commissioner, his suspensions and fines over the past few years have become more and more inconsistent. The number of fights and incidents in games has been on an upward swing for many years now. It also seems like that the more personal dislike or disdain Stern has for a player, the worse the fine/suspension is for that particular player. If he likes a player, then the player may get off with just a fine for the EXACT same offense! It is well known in league circles that he doesn't care for the aforementioned Bryant and several other players, yet Steve Nash and others can seemingly do no wrong in his eyes. Stern, first and foremost, needs to stop playing favorites!!! As for the gambling allegations, Stern should have dealt with this properly when it first surfaced. Way back in 2005, there were gambling allegations surrounding Donaghy and though they were investigated, no evidence of gambling was found. A deeper, more thorough investigation at the time may have nipped this in the bud.

To me, there really is only ONE solution at this point, and that is to get a new NBA Commissioner. The NBA needs someone who will be fair and impartial and also someone who is truly looking out for the best interests of the league. Stern may have been good for the league at one point, but I think it's time that someone new is brought on board to give the NBA a much needed fresh start.

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My top 20 favorite songs...

1. First Time - Lifehouse (1 week @ #1)
2. Makes Me Wonder - Maroon 5 (1 week @ #1)
3. I Told You So - Keith Urban
4. Home - Daughtry (3 weeks @ #1)
5. How I Feel - Martina McBride
6. I Wonder - Kellie Pickler
7. Teardrops On My Guitar - Taylor Swift
8. Take Me There - Rascal Flatts
9. (You Want To) Make A Memory - Bon Jovi
10. I Need You - Tim McGraw & Faith Hill
11. A Different World - Bucky Covington
12. Lost In This Moment - Big & Rich (1 week @ #1)
13. I Got More - Cole Deggs & The Lonesome
14. 4 In The Morning - Gwen Stefani
15. Johnny Cash - Jason Aldean
16. Undeniable - Mat Kearney
17. Hey There Delilah - Plain White T's
18. Big Girls Don't Cry - Fergie
19. Never Wanted Nothing More - Kenny Chesney
20. Online - Brad Paisley

Monday, July 23, 2007

2007 Miss D.C. Pageant!


I had the great priviledge of attending the 2007 Miss District of Columbia and Miss Teen D.C. pageant this past Saturday at the Bell Multiculural Auditorium. A total of 14 outstanding young women competed for the Miss D.C. title and another four were up for the Miss Teen D.C. crown. Marshawn Evans, 2001 Miss D.C., hosted the event.

Elizabeth Payne, Miss D.C.'s Outstanding Teen 2006 opened with the singing of our National Anthem. The show started with a dance routine led by my friend, 2006 Miss D.C., Kate Michael and all 18 of this year's competitors. It was a very fun and lively routine. The contestants and the judges were then introduced. This was followed by the swimsuit competition. Then came the moment I personally enjoyed the most as Kate then came onstage to perform her jazz dance routine to the song "Fever." - the same routine she had used last year to win the 2006 Miss D.C. title and in the 2007 Miss America pageant. The crowd gave Kate a rousing ovation after her two minute performance!

Following that, Kate interviewed each of the eighteen contestants... The questions had been pre-selected and written by the panel of judges. Then Teri Galvez, Exectutive Director of the Miss D.C. Scholarship Organization, came up to give acknowledgements. Kate was on stage with her, when in a very touching moment, Teri presented Kate with a beautiful framed portrait of herself. Teri then had Kate's parents come on stage and pose with Kate and her portait.

Next came the talent competition, and let me tell you, there was A LOT of talent in this group of girls!!! Every one of the 18 girls gave their all - there were several outstanding vocal performances, a modern dance, a jazz dance, a violinist, a flutist and even a comedic routine amongst the Miss D.C. contestants, while the four Miss Teen D.C. contestants were split between dramatic readings and ballet performances. Every one of the contestants got a much deserved ovation from the audience.

A short fifteen minute or so intermission took place during the talent competition, giving all of us in the audience a chance to mingle and talk with each other. I spent the first part of the intermission with Kate's boyfriend, Bill Dean, and then later had the great pleasure of meeting Kate's parents. Since I'm an avid golf and baseball fan, Kate's father and I soon got to talking about both of those topics... in particular, the British Open that was going on this weekend...

After the intermission, the talent competition finished. Then came another touching moment as a bunch of very young future hopeful Miss D.C.'s came on stage. Kate presented each one of them with a flower and then they made their way back to their seats.

Elizabeth then came on stage to display her amazing voice one final time before giving up her Miss Teen D.C. crown... This was followed by the final competition of the night, the evening wear. The girls all looked simply RADIANT in their outfits!




Following that, Kate then came on stage one last time to reflect on her year as Miss D.C. Kate wore an absolutely STUNNING white dress as the picture to the left will attest! Kate smiled and waved at the crowd, looking beautiful as always!




Finally, the moment everyone was waiting for had almost arrived - the crowning of the two Miss D.C.'s... as per usual though, Marshawn had to stall for time and tell some jokes while the votes were being tabulated. Marshawn then had all of the boyfriends of the competitors and reigning Miss D.C.'s come on stage. She taught them some basics on proper footwook and how to turn. Everyone had a lot of fun watching the guys attempt what the girls make look so easy!!!

With that, the votes were tabulated. Kate and Elizabeth rejoined Marshawn on stage for some closing words and then the moment was here - all 18 of the girls came on stage for the judges final decisions.The 2007 Miss Teen D.C. was announced first, and the winner was LaTonya Abrams! I actually met LaTonya, also known as "L.A.," at the Miss D.C. Day at the Nationals two weeks earlier, and she struck me as someone who just might take home the title. She was also extremely nice! Congrats, LaTonya!

Then the big moment came - the crowning of the 2007 Miss District of Columbia... and the winner was Shayna Rudd!!!
Shayna did an outstanding job in every area of the competition and was VERY deserving of the title. Shayna will have some very big shoes to fill in replacing Kate, but judging by what I saw there and what everyone else was saying after the competition I think she will do a great job representing the District in the coming year! For more on the pageant, please go to the official website of Miss District of Columbia at MissDC.org

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Following the pageant, I got to spend some more time with Bill and also Kate's parents. We took a couple of pictures and then I was invited to the Play Lounge by Bill and Kate to celebrate with some of Kate's other friends. At the club, I had the great pleasure of also meeting a couple of Kate's closest friends - Pamela Sorenson and "big sister" Victoria Michael. We all had a great time there, celebrating Kate and her year as Miss D.C...

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Touring The Smithsonian


On this, my fourth trip to the nation's capital I finally made a visit to the Smithsonian. I had been a little hesitant to visit previously, because I knew that once I went inside one of their many museums that I would have a hard time leaving. Well, that's precisely what happened to me on Saturday afternoon. I first visited the main building, where I saw many different exhibits. There were precious gemstones, famous documents, and a wide variety of other things to see - literally something for everyone! I soon stumbled into an area I had always wanted to see - the exhibit of famous and rare U.S. Coins. Being a coin collector since the age of five, and being fascinated by their history, I was thoroughly intrigued with being able to see some of the world's most valuable and rare coins. The famous 1913 Liberty Nickel (of which only five were made) and the 1804 Silver Dollar were both on display... my jaw simply dropped at the mere sight of these coins!
Later, I visited the Natural History museum and saw an amazing variety of animals that had inhabited our great planet both present and past...












From what everyone tells me, you could spend an entire month in the Smithsonian, and still not get close to seeing everything. I've only touched the tip of the iceberg, and honestly I can't wait to go back and see more!!!

Harrington wins British Open

For three rounds, it appeared that this would finally be the tournament where Sergio Garcia got the "major monkey" off his back. After the third hole of the final round of the 2007 British Open Championship, Garcia had a four stroke lead over his nearest competitor. Things quickly changed though as Garcia went through a four hole stretch (from 5 thru 8) where he bogeyed three times, dropping him to seven under par, and paring his lead to a single stroke.

The final nine holes of the tournament looked like they had to have been scripted from a movie - they had to be seen to be believed! Padrig Harrington began the day six strokes back of Garcia at three under par. Birdies at the the third, sixth and ninth holes got him to within a stroke of the lead. Harrington then birdied the 11th to draw into a tie for the lead.

While Harrington and Garcia seemingly were the only ones seriously contending for the Open Championship, an unknown named Andres Romero had what has to be one of the most incredible, tumultuous rounds in golf history... Romero, who started the day seven strokes back of Sergio, parred his first two holes of the day. Over his next 16 holes, he would only par TWO MORE TIMES - the last of them coming on the 7th hole! Birdies on the fourth, sixth and eighth got him within striking distance of the leaders. A bogey on the ninth temporarily set him back as he birdied 10 and 11 to get into a three-way tie for the lead with Garcia and Harrington. A double bogey at 12 seemingly ended Romero's chances, but then an incredible run of four more consecutive birdies from 13 through 16 got him to nine under par and a two stroke lead over the suddenly chasing Sergio and Harrington.

Just as quickly as Romero seemed to take control of the tournament, he lost it. Harrington would eagle the 14th hole to move back into a tie for the lead. Romero then double bogeyed the 17th hole to fall two back. Garcia suddenly refound his game, with birdies on 13 and 14 to get him to nine under and back into a tie for the lead. Romero would bogey the 18th hole to finish at six under par. Garcia then gave a stroke back at the 15th to slip to eight under par and one behind Harrington. Harrington played stready golf from 15 through 17, making three straight pars. Then came the 18th and disaster! Not one, but two shots of his found the water. Just to salvage a double bogey, he needed to hit his 4th shot close to the pin. He did precisely that and sank the four foot putt to come away with a double bogey. His one stroke lead was now a one stroke deficit as Garcia reassumed the lead at eight under par.

All Garcia needed to do to win was par the 18th hole; a task much easier said than done. The hole was the most difficult one on the course the entire week, playing to more than half a stroke over par... Garcia's tee shot found the fairway, and then after a VERY long wait, his approach shot found the left side bunker. Garcia pitched out to within about seven feet for his par. His par putt was well struck and it appeared to be going into the hole, but it heartbreakingly took a dip into the left side of the hole and then out! The four hole playoff was then on.

The tournament was all but decided on the first playoff hole. Garcia bogeyed and Harrington birdied to take a two stroke lead. Both players parred thenext two holes. Garcia would par the 18th and final hole as well - something he only wished he could have done an hour or so earlier. Harrington would once again find trouble again on 18, needing a 3 1/2 foot putt for a bogey and to close out his first major win. Harrington stroked the putt firmly and it found the center of the cup... the incredible day had finally ended. For Harrington, it was his much anticipated first major win. For Garcia, it was just another close call in a major. This time though, you have to give him A LOT of credit. The old Sergio Garcia would have folded it in after that rough start. This one persevered and came thisclose to winning the tournament. Although he didn't win, Garcia made a whole new legion of fans on Sunday.

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*** Edit *** Well, I had an unexpected complication waiting for me when I arrived home last night - my computer monitor died!!! Fortunately I was able to salvage one from a previous computer and now I'm back up and running. Although this monitor isn't nearly as good as the one that went out, it will suffice for now... ***

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Sergio halfway Open leader

Sergio Garcia is in the all too familiar position of leading a major golf championship. Garcia has led major championships before, just never when it has counted. After opening with a blistering 6-under-par 65 on Thursday, Garcia shot an even par 71 to take a two stroke lead over K.J. Choi. Choi has already won twice on the PGA Tour this year, so he's definitely someone to keep an eye on. Tiger Woods struggled to a three-over-par 74 to finish the day seven strokes behind Garcia at one over. Phil Mickelson wasn't that lucky, double bogeying the 18th hole to finish at six over par, missing the cut by two strokes.

Coverage of the third and fourth rounds can be found on your local ABC affiliate.

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*** Update - Sergio increased his lead to three strokes, shooting a three-under-par 68 to finish the day at 9-under-par. Steve Stricker shot a 65 to get to 6 under par and have sole possession of second place, while Tiger Woods shot a two-under-par 69 to lurk seven strokes back at 2 under par for the tournament. Final round coverage is on your local ABC station.
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Friday, July 20, 2007

I've Been Published!!!

I recently submitted an article on the Washington Nationals' Dmitri Young to the Associated Content website for possible publication... well good news - I've been published!!!

You can read the article here:

The Comeback of Dmitri "Da Meat Hook" Young

Pass it on to friends and rate it five stars if you like it. This is the first thing I've ever written that has been published on the internet, so this is pretty exciting stuff for me.

Thanks again to everyone who has helped encourage me to continue writing this blog and to my friends and family who inspire me to do this.

Young tossed, Nats come back!

I was very tempted to head out to RFK last night to take in the Nationals game against the Colorado Rockies, but sleep won out - I'm never one to take naps, but after only getting about three hours of sleep on my flight to Dulles Airport, I got to my Georgetown hotel, ate breakfast and promptly took a two hour nap. I did a little organzing once I got up, caught up with all of my family and a few friends and made a quick CVS stop before the rains hit at 2:30 in the afternoon. Around 4:30, I get groggy again and take a second two hour nap. By the time it's 6:30 and it's looking like I'm not going to get to the game... which was OK. It was going to be on MASN, The Mid-Atlantic Sports Network for those of you that don't live near DC/Baltimore...

So I took in the Nats game on TV and not five minutes into it, Matt Chico promptly gave up a two-run homer to the second batter in the game, Troy Tulowitski! The Nats would come back to get a run in the bottom of the frame on a Ryan Zimmerman RBI double, to make it 2-1. Dmitri Young would argue a called third strike in the bottom of the third inning and get tossed from the game, making the crowd of just over 20,000 a little unhappy! Chico would get hit by the long ball again as Garrett Atkins would hit another two-run homer in the top of the fourth to give the visitors a 4-1 lead. The rain then came a little after 9PM, and it turned out to have a HUGE impact on the game. The Nats got a run in the sixth inning to make it a two run game. In the bottom of the eighth, one play would totally change the complexion of the game. After a one out Ryan Church single to right, Austin Kearns would get hit by a 1-2 pitch by Rockie reliever Jeremy Affeldt. Jesus Flores then came up to hit for Ryan Langerhans and promptly delievered an opposite field single to right, easily scoring Church. Rockie right fielder Matt Hawpe appreared to have an easy play on the ball, but the ball didn't take the normal hop it should have due to the wet field and the ball went under his glove and between his legs! Kearns would score and Flores would wind up at third. LaTroy Hawkins would come in for the Rockies and close out the inning and it would remain a 4-4 game into the bottom of the 10th inning. Kearns again got on base, singling to begin the inning for the Nats. Catcher Brian Schneider sacrificed Church to second... Hawkins then uncorked a wild pitch (which ended up being called a passed ball) to put Church at third. D'Angelo Jimenez then came to the plate to pinch hit for Nats reliever Jon Rauch. For Jimenez, 2007 had been nothing short of awful before last night. With only one hit in 25 at bats (including NONE in 19 at bats as a pinch hitter), his batting average stood at an anemic .040. Finally, something good happened to Jimenez as he lined a pitch up past Hawkins and into center field to score Church and leave the crowd of 20,573 happy! For the Nationals, it was their sixth win in their past nine games.

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

New CARRIE CD drops October 23rd!

In case you did not know, I'm a huge music fan and in particular a HUGE Carrie Underwood fan... Carrie came on her official website CarrieUnderwood.fm Tuesday afternoon (7/16) to give her fans the scoop on her sophomore album's release before the rest of the general public had ANY knowledge. The official press release on the new album's release came from Nashville yesterday.

In case you've been sleeping under a rock the past couple of years, you're probably aware of just how far Carrie has come in these past two and a half or so years... Here's a brief summary of some of Carrie's biggest accomplishments since winning American Idol 4:

* Four consecutive #1 hit Country singles
* Two Top 10 Adult Contemporary singles
* One Top 10 Christian Adult single
* One Top 10 Hot Adult Contemporary single
* One Top 10 CHR/Pop single
* One #1 Billboard Hot 100 Single
* Over 6 MILLION units shipped of her debut CD "Some Hearts"
* 2 Grammy Awards
* Multiple Country music awards....

It's been quite an AMAZING run for the season four American Idol winner, and needless to say all of her fans can't wait to get our hands on some new music from her! October 23, 2007... MARK IT DOWN!

The OPEN Championship

As a lot of you know, there's another big sporting event happening this weekend - the British Open golf championship... overseas, it's simply known as The Open Championship. One of the big advantages of being on East coast time is you can actually be up to catch all of the day's coverage of the tournament on TNT. Now, while I don't intend on watching golf on TV all day today, I will be doing my share of watching. Tiger Woods has already played his first round and put up a two under par 69, good for a spot on the first page of the leaderboard. Phil Mickelson was at one over par through six holes. As I write this, former Open champion John Daly had taken the lead at five under par.

For a full leaderboard, visit here: 2007 British Open Leaderboard

Live coverage of the tournament will continue on TNT today and tomorrow 10am PT/7am ET through 10pm PT/7 pm ET. On the weekend, the coverage will switch to your local ABC affiliate.

**UPDATE** Sergio Garcia has assumed the first round lead, shooting a six-under-par 65. John Daly, who was in the lead as I originally wrote this, struggled his final seven holes, going eight over par, finishing the day with a 3-over-par 74. Phil Mickelson shot an even par 71. ****
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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Dodgers/Angels give up 22 runs, 42 hits!

I wasn't quite sure what to title this blog... "Massacre in Manhatten," "the Night the Baseball Died in L.A.," "L.A. Baseball Gets Offended"... I had lots of ideas, but none of them seemed to fit perfectly, so I just went with the "total destruction" outcome... combined last night, the Dodgers and Angels managed to give up 22 runs and 42 hits!!!

While I was at the gym last night, my friend Barb & I watched the Dodgers' Mark Hendrickson bob and weave through the first two innings against the Philadelphia Phillies. Hendrickson had stranded five Phillies, including leaving the bases loaded in the second inning. After giving up three runs in the first inning, Hendrickson actually didn't allow a run to score the next two innings. In the fourth inning, it all just fell apart for Hendrickson and the Dodgers at Chavez Ravine. Six consecutive Phillie batters would reach base, punctuated by a two-run Ryan Howard home run. The 3-0 game had suddenly turned into an 8-0 rout! And it would get worse! After the Dodgers scored a run in the bottom of the fourth, the Phillies put up three more in the fifth, with Howard once again hitting a two run homer - a MASSIVE opposite field moon shot deep into the left field pavilion. By then it was 11-1. The Phillies would tally two more runs in the seventh and two more in the ninth... the Dodgers added two in the bottom of the eighth for a 15-3 final. It was a record setting night in many ways. The Phillies tallied 26 hits in the game, the most ever for an Dodger opponent in their 46 year history of playing games at Dodger Stadium. Two Phillies - Shane Victorino and Aaron Rowand had five hits, and Victorino also had SEVEN at bats in the game, a very rare occurance for a nine inning game...

Just before heading to the gym, I watched as the Angels took on the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Ervin Santana was pitching for the Angels at Tropicana Field. Need I say more? Not to sound like a broken record, but this is Ervin Santana pitching on the road and I think you know by now what that means - if you have a little money, and are the gambling sort, it's not a bad idea and go to Vegas and place your bets against the Angels. Such was the case again last night. Santana was able to bob and weave for most of the first four innings, only allowing two runs while giving up nine hits and a walk. In the fifth inning, the Angels actually scored two runs off of D-Ray starter James Shields... However, the law of averages finally caught up with Santana in the bottom of the frame as he walked two batters and gave up five hits. Five runs would score and the Rays now held a 7-2 lead. For Santana, it was just his latest road blowup... Angel manager Mike Scioscia had no mercy for some reason, leaving him in to finish off the inning and then pitch the sixth - he actually retired the side in order that inning. The final line: 14 hits allowed, seven earned runs, four walks allowed. Yes, that's 18 baserunners! Sorry to say this, but someone in one of my main fantasy leagues actually picked him up for this start! OUCH!!! The Ryas would get another run in the seventh. For Shields, the night went very well... In seven innings, he would only give up those two runs, while scattering seven hits and walking a batter. He only struck out two batters, but the main thing for his owners is that he got his eighth win of the year as the pen allowed the Angels a single run in the ninth to close out an 8-3 win.

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And just for you Nats fans, look who is leading the league in hitting now!

2007 NL Leaders (thru 7/18/07)
Batting Avg

1. D. Young WAS .341
2. C. Utley PHI .338
3. C. Jones ATL .338

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Forever Young

Woody Williams of the Houston Astros has always been a somewhat above average major league pitcher. With a career 4.16 ERA and 1.32 WHIP, he's someone that you can occasionally use on your fantasy teams if you're in hopes of getting some wins. Unfortunately, he's not someone you can really count on in the long term, mostly due to the fact that he has problems giving up the long ball (295 of them in his career coming into last night's game). For five innings last night at RFK Stadium, Williams mastered the Washington Nationals, only allowing a run on three hits. In the bottom of the sixth, Ronnie Belliard hit a one out single to center, and Ryan Zimmerman followed with a bunt single. Then it happened... the inevitable if you've followed Woody Williams' career - Dmitri Young deposited a 1-0 pitch into the right field seats, giving the Nats a 4-2 lead. For Williams, it was his league leading 22nd homer allowed - not a category you really want to be leading the league in... For Young, it was his 9th homer of the year, boosting his RBI total to 52 and his batting average to .339. The remarkable comeback continues for "Da Meathook." In his 53 games since bottoming out with a .224 batting average on May 7th, Young has hit an AMAZING .395 (77/195) with six homers and 38 RBI's. Yes, the Oxnard, CA native is back in a big way, and it's nice to see... hopefully he can continue to lead the Nats to victory! Speaking of which, Carlos Lee would homer off Jon Rauch in the top of the 8th, but Chad Cordero would come in and close things out in the 9th as the Nats held on for a 4-3 win.

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Monday, July 16, 2007

Not Just Blowing Smoke!


For Tony Stewart, the 2006 NASCAR season was a frustrating one. Nicknamed "Smoke" due to his somewhat aggressive driving style and usually leaving his persuers in the dust, he finished a disappointing 11th in the Nextel Cup standings after winning his second NASCAR championship the season before... 2007 began similarly to how 2006 ended for Stewart as he failed to win in the first 18 races of the season including finishing dead last in the season-opening Daytona 500. Although firmly entrenched in the top 12 in the standings most of the season, it's been a year of uncharacteristic inconsistency for Stewart. Though he had finished in the top-5 five times this year prior to yesterday, he also had finished 25th or worse six times...

Yesterday, however, it appears Stewart's luck may have began to change... For most of the day he battled with Jimmie Johnson for the lead in the USG Sheetrock 400 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois. Just 45 laps from the finish, one of Johnson's rear tires blew, sending him into the wall. Johnson had led 82 of the races 222 laps to that point. With his biggest competitor out, "Smoke" then left everyone else in his wake, with only eventual second-place finisher Matt Kenseth giving pressing him at all. Stewart would go on to easily claim his 30th career win. As has become his tradition in victory, Stewart climbed the fence at the start/finish line and grabbed the checkered flag, raising it proudly in victory! For the 36-year-old Stewart, it marked a triumphant return to victory circle. As for the overall standings, Jeff Gordon's ninth place finish helped him increase his points lead to 303 over Denny Hamlin. Stewart's win put him into sixth place (482 points back), just ahead of Johnson, who fell to seventh (488 points back) after his wreck and resultant 37th place finish...

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DIAMOND RIO @ The Canyon




It's not often that a "name" act plays here in my local area, but in the past month, I've now had the pleasure of having to travel less than five miles to see two of my favorite acts... Last month, the Christian/rock band Lifehouse played at the local Best Buy here in Thousand Oaks to a very nice crowd. Last night, Country stars Diamond Rio played in front of a very appreciative audience in the Canyon Club in Agoura.

The concert started right after 8pm... The boys opened with "Beautiful Mess," and played all of their big hits including "One More Day", "In A Week Or Two," "Love A Little Stronger," "Unbelieveable" and "I Believe." Lead singer Marty Roe interacted with the audience a lot in their set of songs which hit the chord of so everyone in attendance... For those of you not familiar with them, their selection is varied - from songs of love and loss, to songs about faith and just others that are just plain old fashioned fun!!! There really was really something for everyone there last night. Several of the band members had rousing solos on their guitars as well... actually they had so many guitars, banjos and other similar instruments, it almost seemed as though they had a musical wardrobe!!!

Just after 9pm, they closed their set with their first hit, "Meet in The Middle." The crowd of 500 or so gave them a rousing ovation, so they came out for an encore... Marty talked a couple of minutes about what would be their closing song for the night - a song about patriotism, values, and faith... one that everyone in the audience wildly cheered for even before the first lyric was played... The song "In God We Still Trust" off their second Greatest Hits never really been given the light of day by the music industry for some reason. Even a video was cut for it, which the major video outlets refused to play... The audience cheered non-stop as they broke into the song... it was perhaps the finest moment of the night. And with that the performance was over. Though it had been over four years since the band performed in Southern California, it was obvious the crowd still loved them very much... definitely a must see, and the fact that it was in such an intimate setting made it an unforgettable experience for all!

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Sunday, July 15, 2007

The problematic WINS category!

If you've played fantasy baseball for any length of time, you've probably discovered that there is one category that is more frustrating than any other: WINS. For those of you who don't know much about the game, basically your team of players that you picked in the March or April draft put up statistics for your team (usually) in 10 categories. The most popular settings for hitting are RUNS, HOME RUNS, RBI's, STOLEN BASES and BATTING AVERAGE... for pitching, the categories are usually are WINS, E.R.A., WHIP (Walks+Hits per Inning Pitched), SAVES and STRIKEOUTS...

Now since I pride myself in doing my research and drafting a great team on draft day, I usually have competitive teams in just about every league... my one deficiency tends to usually be speed - I never seem to draft enough of it, or if I do the guys I do draft either end up getting off to slow starts (see Julio Lugo) or injured (Dave Roberts)... While a deficiency in steals can set your team back a little, there is nothing more frustrating than watching what seemed to be a sure win for one of your pitchers suddenly go away... Yesterday I had that happen not once, but TWICE in games I was watching yesterday!!!

I have Derek Lowe of the Los Angeles Dodgers on several of my teams including one of my CBS Sportsline teams... the Dodgers made two errors early, but "D-Lowe" was good enough to get out of each of the resultant jams. For the second day in a row, the Dodgers erupted for a six run inning against the San Francisco Giants. Jeff Kent's three run homer led the fifth inning attack as the Blue Crew took a 6-0 lead. Shortstop Rafael Furcal would commit the Dodgers' third error in the bottom of the frame. The Giants would string together three hits and would add two runs to draw to within 6-2. Lowe would hold the Giants in check in the 6th inning and with that his day was done. The line: eight hits, one earned run, two walks and six strikeouts. The Dodgers added a run in the top of the 7th to take a 7-2 lead and it appeared Lowe's 9th victory of the year was all but assured. Randy Winn though would hit a grand slam homer after fouling a ball hard off his foot in the bottom of the eighth inning to make it a one run game. The foot hurt so bad that he had to leave the game immediately after hitting the homer. In the bottom of the 9th, Barry Bonds led off the inning with a walk off of Dodger closer Takeshi Saito for the Giants and then moved to second on a Ryan Klesko ground out. Bengie Molina then flew out and Saito was one out away from saving Lowe's win for me... and then Pedro Feliz singled to tie the game at 7! Argh! For Saito, it was only his third blown save of the year. The Dodgers would go on to score a run in the top of the 12th to win the game 8-7... but for D-Lowe and me, the damage had been done...

Now, while I was watching the Dodgers/Giants game, I also was flipping to the Chicago White Sox game in Baltimore against the Orioles... I'll just give a brief recap of this one. Javier Vazquez is on several of my fantasy teams as well - 2 of my CBS Sportsline ones. "Vaz" is given a 5-1 lead in the top of the third inning, which he protects until the bottom of the sixth - a solo homer by Kevin Millar and two run shot by Jay Payton make it a one run game. Vazquez gets pulled after that, but the White Sox pen does it's job, shutting down the Orioles for the next 2+ innings. Alex Cintron added an insurance run for the White Sox in the top of the 8th, so closer Bobby Jenks had a two run lead to work with when he entered with two outs in the bottom of the 8th. Jenks closed out the 8th inning and then got two outs while allowing a run to make it 6-5. Then, the unthinkable happened - Jenks threw a WILD PITCH to score the tying run!!! And once again my win was gone... the White Sox would go on to lose the game 7-6 in 10 innings. For Vazquez and me, it was just another frustrating day at the office!!!

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Saturday, July 14, 2007

Redskins 14, Dolphins 10

OK, no it's NOT football season yet, though if you looked at the paper and saw that box score between the Washington Nationals and the Florida Marlins you probably would have thought that a football game had broken out. Of course you could have said the same thing about the Philadelphia Phillies game against the St. Louis Cardinals which turned out to be another football-like 13-3 outcome in favor of the Phillies...

The Nationals were actually never behind in winning their third straight game as All-Star Dmitri Young led the charge, driving in four runs including a bases loaded double in the top of the fourth inning to end Marlins starter Dontrelle Willis' night, giving the Nats a seemingly insurmountable 8-1 lead. Jason Bergmann though would struggle to hold the lead he had just been given, surrendering four runs including a three-run homer to Alfredo Amezaga. The Nats would score three more runs in the top of the fifth inning, so it looked like Bergmann would at least be able to get a win for his efforts, but it didn't work out that way as his night would be finished off by a three-run Josh Willingham homer with one out in the bottom of the frame. Amegaza would single in another run to make it 11-9, but that's as close as the Marlins would get... the Nats scored two more runs in the seventh and added one more in the ninth, while the Marlins added a run in the eighth. Chad Cordero pitched the final inning for the Nats to close out the 14-10 game.

In Oakland, it was just another day at the office for the great Johan Santana of the Minnesota Twins. In seven innings, only Bobby Kielty, Jack Cust and Dan Johnson managed hits (all singles) off him. Kielty actually had two hits... Santana would strike out eight, while walking just one and did not allow a run, leaving with a 5-0 lead... Twins reliever Juan Rincon made things a little interesting, giving up three runs in the top of the 9th inning. Joe Nathan closed things out for his 17th save of the year. For Santana, it was his 11th win of the year, and he also lowered his ERA down to 2.60 and his WHIP to 1.02.

As for my local teams, they both got strong pitching efforts last night. In Anaheim, Kelvim Escobar of the Angels and Kevin Millwood of the Texas Rangers dueled to a draw for seven innings, each only allowing a run. Escobar would actually also pitch the eighth inning as well. Angels closer and All-Star Francisco Rodriguez would pitch the top of the ninth inning, striking out two and walking one... In the bottom of the ninth, the Angels would rally, with Gary Matthews, Jr. doubling to lead off the inning. Garret Anderson moved Matthews to third with an infield out and then Casey Kotchman would plate Matthews with an opposite field single to right to give K-Rod and the Angels a 2-1 win. In San Francisco, Chad Billingsley pitched a strong six shutout innings, while the Giants' Matt Cain struggled through his five innings, giving up three runs (one unearned), seven hits and two walks... the Dodgers took a 3-1 lead into the top of the ninth when everything just fell apart for the Giants. The Dodgers got five bloop singles - Juan Pierre, Jeff Kent, Olmedo Saenz and Nomar Garciaparra - along with doubles from Russell Martin and a bases clearing one from Andre Either to explode for six runs and take a 9-1 lead... Rudy Seanez pitched a scoreless ninth to give Chad Billingsley his sixth win of the year against no losses. With the San Diego Padres' 8-3 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Dodgers drew into a virtual tie with their rivals.

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Friday, July 13, 2007

D-Fish rejoins Lakers!

The Lakers made two moves yesterday in a effort to make the team better and more competitive. First off, they re-signed forward Luke Walton to a six year contract extension, reportedly worth $5 million a year... Walton, very popular here in Los Angeles, really never looked elsewhere as it seemed clear from the start that he was going to give the Lakers every chance to sign him before he tested the free agent market...

And this morning, they have re-signed one of the most beloved Lakers ever in guard Derek Fisher. Fisher helped lead the Lakers to three straight titles from 2000-2002 and also made that amazing shot with no time left on the clock to defeat the San Antonio Spurs in game five of the 2004 conference semi-finals. The Lakers would go on to win game six of that series, and then defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves in the conference finals before losing to the eventual champion Detroit Pistons.

Fisher spent his first eight years with the Lakers, the next two with the Golden State Warriors and also the Utah Jazz last year. Fisher asked to be released out of his contract with the Jazz due to his one-year-old daughter Tatum having a very rare form of eye cancer... the form of cancer is so rare that the only good clinics to be found for it are located in larger cities such as Los Angeles. Hopefully, Tatum can receive the care that she so badly needs and have a full recovery to normal health.

Without a doubt, bringing "D-Fish" back is definitely going to help the Lakers. He plays the game with a strong fire and will to win... he's also a great example as a role model and someone who can persevere... he is a leader and should help take some of that burden off of Kobe Bryant... With moving Kobe Bryant apparently no longer even a consideration, it appears the Lakers are moving in the right direction and trying to make the team better now...

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A short slate of baseball games last night was highlighted by the Boston Red Sox and the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park. The Sox got to Blue Jays starter and all-star Roy Halladay early, pounding him for five runs in the first two innings... Manny Ramirez and Big Papi has big nights, combining to go 5-for-9 with three runs scored and five RBI's. Tim Wakefield pitched an effective six innings, allowing four runs on nine hits as the Red Sox won 7-4. For the knuckballing Wakefield, it was his 10th win of the year. Jonathan Papelbon struck out two in a perfect ninth for his 21st save. In New York, the Yankees took on the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and similarly roughed up their ace, James Shields. Shields gave up five earned runs in six innings, including allowing solo homers to Derek Jeter, Bobby Abreu and Alex Rodriguez. For A-Rod, it was his league leading 31st homer. Andy Pettite pitched an effective 5 1/3 innings, allowing three runs and six hits as the Yankees won 7-3. The win was just the fifth of the year for Pettitte.

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

"Halfway There"....

Although the All-Star break is referred to as the "midpoint" of the season by most people in reality, it isn't... For example, the Arizona Diamondbacks have already played 90 games and four teams have played 89... For the break to truly represent the halfway mark, it would have been last week... At this point, I'd like to check out some of my fantasy teams, give a midseason assessment and also maybe offer up some suggestions as to who to trade and who to target in trades in the coming weeks...

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CBS Sportsline Leagues:

(note: all are 10 team, 5x5, 22 man ML universe leagues with 2 reserve spots - 2 C's, 1 1B, 1 2B, 1 SS, 1 3B, 5 OF, 2 Util, 9 P, 2 bench, no DL slots)

Right Wing Agenda

Rk Team                   BA   HR RBI   R   SB   K   ERA   WHIP  W  S Total
1.California Waves.2785 174 651 618  80 698 3.328 1.161 42 75 79.0
2.Bottom Feeders   .2851 152 624 621  41 679 4.161 1.297 57 51 71.5
3.078 BEEF            .2774 138 566 619 110 732 3.867 1.317 51 39 62.5

Things are going very well in this league... I've opened up a 7.5 point lead and that's with being LAST in wins... I've had a lot of bad luck with wins this year, but as you know they are the most fickle category. The past month though I've finally started getting some... I have very strong leads in Home Runs, RBI's, ERA, WHIP and in Saves... no, it's not over yet, but that trade of A-Rod for Johan Santana ultimately is what has made my team so good - my pitching was just above average at the time of the trade while my power stats were amazing. Dealing A-Rod hasn't hurt my power numbers at all, and my pitching stats are now nothing short of dominant!!!

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Fanatics

Rk Team                 BA   HR  RBI   R   SB   K   ERA   WHIP  W  S Total
1.Bingo All Stars   .2809 149 596 585 101 665 3.819 1.269 46 47 65.5
1.ahchump           .2869 141 600 594  98 643 3.740 1.307 54 56 65.5
3.Calif. Piranhas   .2807 155 575 598  80 654 4.114 1.273 41 68 62.0
4.Grays                .2763 143 587 597  76 651 4.073 1.321 56 65 59.0
5.VictoryDC          .2935 142 605 580  88 690 4.284 1.338 43 62 58.0
6.Bio Boys            .2801 114 559 550  75 692 3.518 1.180 53 47 57.5
6.Apple Jackers    .2728 151 556 625  74 610 3.674 1.263 62 44 57.5
8.Trojans            .2687 153 578 594 112 667 3.969 1.283 52 41 56.5

Now you want to talk about a CRAZY race... look at this - 8 teams within 9 points of the lead!!!... I've personally lost or gained as many as 6 spots in a day... I did manage to spend about 40 minutes in first place a couple of weeks ago, only to slide back to third later that day... As with my California Waves team in the other league, this team of mine has had trouble getting wins. I'm last in them here as well. My ERA is not good either thanks to a lot of bad luck with "two start" pitchers. I do have Jake Peavy, Jon Lackey, Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Javier Vazquez, Rich Hill & James Shields as starters, so I do think the ERA will head down and become more in line with my WHIP soon.

Needless to say, this is anyone's race... if I can just get that ERA down and the WINS up, I should have a great chance here!

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Fantasy Gurus Unite

Rk Team                   BA   HR  RBI   R  SB   K   ERA   WHIP  W  S Total
1.Bald Eagles          .2897 188 677 650 68 618 3.966 1.240 54 54 73.0
2.Pinstripe Pub       .2805 151 615 598 80 644 3.961 1.311 44 66 62.0
3.Team of Destiny   .2854 145 540 570 58 649 3.655 1.241 53 50 61.5
4.Chitown Thrashers.2838 139 622 580 93 679 4.166 1.336 55 47 60.5
5.Hits and Giggles   .2715 153 599 584 74 635 3.886 1.289 46 52 58.5
6.California Crush   .2599 124 501 503 72 693 3.445 1.205 50 68 55.0


Very obviously this team of mine has one major problem: OFFENSE!!! The sub-.260 batting average is only the tip of the iceberg. If you saw my hitting lineup, you wouldn't think there would be much of a problem with the offense, but I managed to pick a bunch of guys on draft day who have totally underperformed offensively. They are led by Andruw Jones and his .211 BA... Jermaine Dye is right there with him at .214 and Carlos Delgado boasts a .241 BA... Mark Teixiera is injured and Big Papi only has 14 homers so far and now is hurting... Who is my team's leader in home runs? Well there are two actually... the aforementioned Jones and the unheraleded Jack Cust with 15 a piece. Cust has done his damage in only 180 at bats!!! With Juan Pierre on pace for 60 steals, speed is not a problem. As is, this team is VERY capable of coming back and winning but only if my underachieving hitters start playing to their capabilities. Once again, my pitching is VERY strong, and I even am doing well in WINS in this league... While 18 points may seem like a lot, it's not - remember I did overcome a 31 point June deficit and 9th place standing in a 10 team 5x5 roto league last year to co-lead three times in the final two weeks. I wound up finishing 3rd there.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

I-C-H-I-R-O!

Since he came to America from Japan in 2001, no one has piled up more hits than the Seattle Mariners' Ichiro Suzuki... an amazing run of six straight 200 hit seasons, including a major league record 262 hits in 2004, have punctuated his success... not to mention his career .333 batting average is the best of any active major leaguer with more than 1,000 plate appearances. Though capable of hitting for power, Ichiro rarely displays it, instead using his incredble hand-eye coordination and speed to get LOTS of singles... with 258 stolen bases in his first 6 1/2 seasons, you also have to always be on the watch for him on the basepaths...

Last night, Ichiro put on a rare display of power and a not-so-rare display of speed, going 3-for-3 including a dramatic 2-run inside-the-park homer off the center field wall in the 5th inning to win the MVP honors as the junior circuit continued their domination with a 5-4 win... The inside-the-park homer was historic - the first one in All-Star Game history! The last time the National League won was in 1996... The Chicago Cubs' Alfonso Soriano made it interesting, homering after an infield single by the Washington Nationals' Dmitri Young to draw the National league within a run... three walks followed, but Francisco Rodriguez was able to get Aaron Rowand to fly out to pick up the save...

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

"Super Vlad" wins HR Derby!

With the All-Star break happening these next several days, it's going to make for some slow blogging days this week... With that, there was one exciting event going on yesterday - the All-Star Game Home Run Derby... Eight players competed: Albert Pujols (Cardinals), Vladimir Guerrero (Angels), Ryan Howard (Phillies), Justin Morneau (Twins), Matt Holliday (Rockies), Alex Rios (Blue Jays), Prince Fielder (Brewers) and Magglio Ordonez (Tigers) competed... Pujols, Morneau, Fielder and Ordonez were eliminated in the first round, with Guerrero and Rios surviving the second round and making it to the final... Rios would only manage two homers, while Guerrero would only need seven of his alloted ten outs to smash three homers (including a prodiguous shot hit over 500 feet to left field)... Guerrero also competed in 2000 as a member of the then Montreal Expos and didn't do so quite so well... it's definitely an achievement all of his fans here in Southern California and elsewhere can definitely be proud of!!!

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As promised a couple of weeks ago, I'm going to be posting my top 20 current favorite songs of the week on a regular basis... here's this week's list:

1. Lost In This Moment - Big & Rich (1 week @ #1)
2. Home - Daughtry (3 weeks @ #1)
3. Makes Me Wonder - Maroon 5
4. First Time - Lifehouse
5. I Told You So - Keith Urban
6. How I Feel - Martina McBride
7. I Wonder - Kellie Pickler
8. Teardrops On My Guitar - Taylor Swift
9. Johnny Cash - Jason Aldean
10. (You Want To) Make A Memory - Bon Jovi
11. I'll Stand By You - Carrie Underwood
12. I Need You - Tim McGraw & Faith Hill
13. A Different World - Bucky Covington
14. I Got More - Cole Deggs & The Lonesome
15. 4 In The Morning - Gwen Stefani
16. Undeniable - Mat Kearney
17. Lucky Man - Montgomery Gentry
18. Take Me There - Rascal Flatts
19. Wrapped - George Strait
20. Ticks - Brad Paisley (2 weeks @ #1)

Monday, July 9, 2007

Miss D.C. Day @ the Nationals


Yesterday, I had the honor of attending the Washington Nationals game against the Milwaukee Brewers. It was "Miss DC Day at the Nationals," so that meant that my friend 2006 Miss DC, Kate Michael would be there and throwing out the first pitch! Yes, Kate's waving at me in the pic to the left - I had come down by the field to get a close-up look at everything!


Elizabeth Payne, Miss D.C.'s Outstanding Teen, sang the National Anthem beautifully just before Kate threw out the first pitch. She also took a moment to pose with Kate and one of those wacky Nationals mascots... Just what is he trying to do to Elizabeth there? :)


Most of us met up with John (the personal trainer of the Miss DC contestants) at the front gate to pick up our tickets for the game right around 1 pm. Kate threw out the first pitch just before 1:30 (it was right over the plate by the way!) Check out my 30 second video of it below!




Thanks to Kate, I had the priviledge of sitting in the Miss DC section along with Kate's boyfriend Bill Dean, President of the Miss DC organization Tricia Morrin Lloyd (along with her husband Michael), Teri Galvez, the Executive Director of the Miss DC organization, and several of the competitors in the upcoming 2007 Miss DC and Miss Teen DC pageants.




During the game, I had a very enjoyable time talking to Kate, Bill and the entire Miss DC party. We all were enjoying each other's company so much that we often lost track of what was happening in the game! Everyone was very friendly and we all had a good time sharing stories on pretty much every topic under the sun.... even I got to be the center of attention a couple of times! One question that I've been wondering about for quite a while that I'm sure some of you were interested in knowing too is that Kate does indeed know fellow Parkview High School graduate and now Atlanta Braves outfielder Jeff Francoeur. Kate assured us all Jeff's a nice guy and she also informed us that he's going to be getting married to his girlfriend in the not too distant future. Congrats to Jeff!

The game itself began on a high note for the Nats as Felipe Lopez hit an opposite field fly which just cleared the right field fence in the second inning to give the Nats a 1-0 lead. The game remained a pitcher's duel through the first five innings as neither starter (Tim Redding of the Nats and Chris Capuano of the Brewers) would be scored upon. The sixth inning changed things though. Redding gave up a two run double to All-Star Prince Fielder to give the Brewers a 2-1 lead... In the bottom of the frame though, the Nats exploded for six runs, highlighted by a two-run homer by Ryan Zimmerman.


Personally, I think Zimmerman might have been inspired in the game as he did get to meet with Kate just before the game started! As quickly as the scoring barrage began, it ended... the Nats wound up winning 7-2 and everyone went home happy! Just before it was all over, Bill took a few shots of Kate and me...


... we all hung out for a bit after the game and then went our separate ways. It a thoroughly enjoyable experience, and as I said to EVERYONE at the end, they should have a Miss DC Day every day at the Nats games!!!

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There of course was one other significant sporting event happening in the D.C. area this weekend and that was Tiger Woods' AT&T National tournament. I managed to get back to my Georgetown hotel room just in time to catch Tiger as he was playing the 17th and 18th holes... Tiger would birdie 18 to wind up with an even par 70 round and tying for 6th in the tournament. Saturday leader Stuart Appleby unfortunately fell apart on Sunday, shooting a 6-over-par 76... K.J. Choi took full advantage, winning his second tournament of the year with a finishing two-under-par 68 for a three round total of 271, 9-under-par. Steve Stricker was second, three strokes back of Choi. With the victory, Choi has now won both "Jack's Tournament" - the Memorial (Jack Nicklaus' tournament held annually) and "Tiger's Tournament"... given how Choi idolized Jack growing up and now with Tiger being today's equivalent to the Golden Bear, I'm sure this has special meaning to Choi. His wife and three kids were also on hand to witness his win.

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