First off, let me formally congratulate Bigalke for making the FanNation Hall of Fame, a fellow Atrooain and a guy that should definitely be getting paid for his writings on sports. Any guy that can follow the Olympics like he does and other sports I don't pay a great deal of attention too, and then follow that up with intensely in depth and thought provoking blogs like he does deserves to be riding the gravy train.
Anyway...on with the blog.
My dad was up in Green Bay, Wisconsin on a business trip from Tuesday the 8th to 10th, being Thursday. I haven't asked him and he hasn't thought to say anything, but I really wonder what the atmosphere is like in those bars and in the little barber shops in downtown Green Bay. Number-four, "Old Greybeard" Brett Favre has been in the news daily about the possibility of a return, inching closer to being on the cusp of becoming today's Michael Jordan or Roger Clemens with the see-saw show of "To Play or Not to Play?" Personally, I love Brett even though I'm a Bears fan, and would love to see him play again. But on the other side of the coin, he needs to stay out. He's killing the Packers and the state of Wisconsin and he's been doing so for a few years now, virtually having them by their collective you know what's. Now, he wants to come off the NFL's Retired list and be unconditionally released by the Packers to pursue other teams -- that naturally being the main talk on ESPN for the past few days. The talks of him coming back have even sparked rallies outside Lambeau Field from die hard Favre faithful, bidding him a welcome home and baiting the Packers management to usher him back. And I bring all this up to tie in the fact that my dad bought me a Favre shirt/jersey-ish thing. It's a shirt that looks like a jersey but isn't, if that makes sense. I'll probably rarely ever wear it for the fear of Bears fans scoffing at me.
Side Note: After flying back from Green Bay on Thursday night, and getting back at the Baton Rouge airport around midnight my dad realized that the key holder that was supposed to be inside the wheel well of the car he had was missing. Prior to that, he had left his keys at the hotel he'd been in up in Green Bay and was hoping he'd not have to call my mom and I to come get him. We did, starting our drive at about 12:10 AM and getting home at 2:45 AM. Great fun, kids!
You know what else has been great fun? Well, it's gotta be watching the NL Central and East races heat up. Last week, the Milwaukee Brewers traded for ace pitcher C.C. Sabathia and made it official this past Monday. This week, the NL Central leading Chicago Cubs made a move sending Matt Murton among other names to the Oakland Athletics for ace hurler Rich Harden. Harden made his debut on Saturday with a five and one-third inning effort featuring 10-strikeouts. As of right now, the Brewers and Cardinals are both at or less than five-games behind the Cubbies. Despite the pickup by the Cubs, something tells me the race for the NL Central wont be done until the final week of the season.
The same can most likely be said for the NL East. The Phillies a week ago looked to be well on their way too cruising through this 2008 campaign and getting a Divisional crown. Fast forward to today, and the New York Mets are now on a nine-game winning streak after burying the Rockies last night at Shea. The Mets are only ½ a game out of the division behind the Phils, with the Florida Marlins right on their heels by 1.5 games. Just last June 28th the Mets were spiraling. Weeks earlier they had gone through a five-game losing streak and by the end of the month, they were out of a manager and sitting in fourth-place. Jerry Manuel helped along with the Summer heat of July get the Mets back in gear and are now flying through on a win streak, a roll that includes a sweep of the Phillies in Philly. And speaking of those Phillies, who are leading the NL East by the hair off their chin, Ryan Howard put his name with a select few this season. Howard has hit 28-home runs in the first half of the 2008 season, but he isn't making the All-Star team. He's one of a few players in MLB history to lead his League in home-runs but not make the All-Star team. And the way he played this week may have been him exiting frustrations for it.
Howard's Stats: 10/27, 7 R, 8 RBI, 4 BB, 5 HR, .370 BA
Howard probably could have and should have been involved in this year's Home Run Derby, which takes place tonight on ESPN. Justin Morneau on the other hand, did get a nod to the Derby and in my mind will probably end up hitting two or three and not making it out of the first round... but who knows, I wont be watching. Morneau and the Minnesota Twins are without a doubt one of the League's biggest surprises this season, right there with the Tampa Bay Rays who have been on a skid lately. Despite getting swept during the week by the Red Sox, the Twins are still only 1.5 games back of the Central leading White Sox and are also 2.5 back of the Rays for the Wild Card. Justin Morneau had himself a week in a Twins uniform, one that included a five-for-five day with a walk-off home-run.
Morneau's Stats: 14/26, 5 R, 3 RBI, 7 BB, 2 HR, .538 BA
One of the guys that contributed to the Twins being swept this past week was Manny Ramirez of the Bo-Sox. To go with his fun-filled day that he had sitting inside the Green Monster talking on a cell-phone, Manny tossed in a hell of a week at the dish. The past few weeks leading up to the one starting on the 7th, Ramirez looked to be showing his age. At 35, Ramirez doesn't have too many more years left in the Majors and it may have been showing - or at least to me who was in a quandary over it. He was not able to catch up to anyone's fastball over the course of about two-weeks. Whether he was fouling them off continually or just swinging right through them, any fastball at 90 MPH or higher he was missing. And then suddenly, after Manny told an analyst that he'd start hitting the next day, he did. Ramirez put the bat in the zone enough times to get stats nearly worthy of MLB POY.
Ramirez' Stats: 11/22, 6 R, 7 RBI, 2 BB, 2 HR, .500 BA
For a night or two, Ramirez was in competition with Hiroki Kuroda of the Los Angeles Dodgers for the POY. Kuroda went nearly eight-innings without allowing a hit, walk or run before finally it was broken up by a hit in the seventh inning while playing the Atlanta Braves. Kuroda was on the verge of a perfect game and had to settle with a clean one-hit effort. If Kuroda's near perfect game isn't good enough news out in L.A., maybe their Dodgers only being back of the West leading D-Backs one whole game is enough. The Diamondbacks started the year 20-8 and had Brandon Webb looking like a 30-game winner - to the insane, of course. Now, they're under .500 and well, Webb is sitting on 13-wins and a Cy Young caliber season.
Kuroda's Stats: 9 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 6 K (W)
But, there was one guy that topped Manny and Hiroki. Hiroki went for one lights out game, Justin Duchscherer went for one lights out game (9-IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 4 K) and another great effort (7.2 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 3 K), totaling up one-win and a ND in his two starts for the Oakland Athletics. The A's are six-games back of the West leading Angels, and may drop a bit more after dealing away Rich Harden to the Cubs. The A's have had one of the best pitching staffs all season long, and are still boasting a solid 51-44 record but still felt it necessary to deal an ace for multiple players. I'm sure they're hoping it works out well like it has for the Orioles who made deals for numerous players by relieving themselves of Eric Bedard and Miguel Tejada.
Duchscherer's Stats: 16.2 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, 1-0
MLB Player of the Week: Justin Duchscherer
The last time I gave notice to the country of Scotland was also the last time I watched Braveheart. This go-around, it was for the Scottish Open that came to a close on Sunday with the highest ranking player Phil Mickelson coming nowhere near the Top performers. (38th)
Instead of "Lefty" coming out victorious, it was Graeme McDowell who finished the tournament with a 13-under 271, and a final day score of 3-under 68 after he birdied the last three holes he encountered. McDowell was the Big Kahuna on Sunday with his masterful finish to the 18-holes that rounded off the tourney.
Next up on the PGA Tour is the British Open.
Kyle Busch's lucky number on Saturday was seven. The number-18 car dawning the M & M's logo raced past Jimmie Johnson on the final lap to get the checkered flag for the seventh time this year. Busch tied Darrel Waltrip's mark of seven wins in the first 19-races of the Sprint Cup Season, second to only the "Intimidator" who leads with eight.
Chicagoland Speedway saw a great race on Saturday night; and a finish that resulted in the 23-year old Busch stretching his lead in the Sprint Cup Standings to 262-points. The race was the last big news of the week in NASCAR, as it had begun with the reports that Tony Stewart had reached an agreement to leave Joe Gibbs Racing, and go onto be a driver and co-owner in 2009 for the CNC Haas Racing team - changing the name to Stewart Haas Racing.
Busch did just fine in overshadowing that news on Saturday - and doubly so since Stewart finished the race four-cars behind. Young Kyle Busch has made every driver in the field look like living scenery throughout this season; simply amazing.
SIFS Player of the Week: Justin Duchscherer
That's it, folks. The first-half of the MLB season is finished. Now it's on to Yankee Stadium to watch sluggers swing for the black, the short porch or even the upper-decks. And then on Tuesday we'll get to watch the NL and AL duel for rights to have home field advantage in the World Series. And naturally, I work on both days and will most likely miss the first 30-minutes of each event. And then I'm sure I'll either be too tired to care or I'll be out somewhere - more than likely the first.