Hi there guys! Only just back from a long weekend trip with my son to Legoland made even longer by the delights of a 2 hour rail delay so I've almost no knowledge of the baseball news of the last few days. Well, I did have a dream that we resigned Manyan, reintroduced the old mug for Bernie to slide into and crushed the Cardinals so hard that LaRussa turned sober but, in the absence of any information to the contrary, I'm treating that very much as fact. Apart from the LaRussa thing – that'd never happen. Still, we now know the finalists for this year's BCB Fantasy League III and, again, having dreamt recently that I'm in the final I've rearranged the matches to make it happen (or perhaps not)...
MSKM (530) lost to More Than A Feeling (659)
While I've never really been one for doing crosswords (mainly on the basis that I'm crap at them) I do like cool facts about words. Earlier today I learnt that the longest English word that doesn't repeat any letters is “uncopyrightable” which means I'll have to shoehorn the word into more conversations so I can show off (you might be surprised on hearing that fact to learn I am currently single). Every one feels a slight frisson of excitement when seeing words like “skiing” with its rare double-i formation, but I've recently heard that “rupturewort” is the longest word that can be typed using solely keys on the top row of letter keys on the keyboard. My most-repeated lexicographic fact is that the only commonly-used words in English (excluding loads of scientific or medical terms that I'm hereby declaring to be worthless) to have all five vowels in them in the correct order are “abstemious” and “facetious”. Actually, given the relatively “meh” showing of my team during the last fortnight I might as well stick to stupidly-useless word facts instead of fantasy baseball. MTAF put up a big day relatively early on and then sneaked a few points each day until he built a 100 point advantage that he was in no danger of losing. Kershaw and Madson (both 66) definitely did the business, but with the exception of Pence (51) and Markakis (50) the hitters never really put enough points on the board. Ianetta (3), Garrett Jones (1) and, surprise surprise, Mr 24ks himself Mark Reynolds (2) all failed when the pressure was on. MTAF was remarkably consistent with MadBum scoring 81 and a host of scores in the 40s from the likes of Ian Kennedy (49), Bautista (46), Carlos Lee and Ajax (both 45) and Cole Hamels (43). The team has been highly consistent all season and now MTAF is only one game away from winning it all.
Bringing Home the Bacon (617) beat Stinky Cheese (613)
Most of us know the feeling from school sports days. You're on the starting line, nervous as hell. You know there's loads of people watching and the pressure is on. The gun goes and as soon as the race starts you realise your best hope is avoiding complete and utter humiliation. That's what Stephen Bradbury felt when lining up in the Winter Olympic 2002 final having got through the qualifying round due to a disqualification, fluked his way through the semi-final due to three of the racers colliding with each other and sliding out and the winner being disqualified. As far as outsiders go, he was without doubt one of the rankest ever. And yet, and yet the unexpected can happen. Much as despite my fear of public humiliation when attempting to swim was completely erased by my come-from-behind victory in the school swimming gala (I lie – I was, in fact, publicly humiliated instead) Stephen Bradbury became a legend in the most unexpected circumstances. Watch this and then you'll finally understand the logic behind the biggest sporting cliché in existence, namely that speed skating events aren't played on paper. If anyone deserved to win Australia and the Southern Hemisphere's first ever Winter Olympics gold medal it was probably a guy who in 1994 lost 4 litres (litres!) of blood and 111 stitches after a fellow skater's blade slashed his thigh and six years later broke his neck in a training accident and was told he should never skate again. Admittedly, its an impressive story but not quite as impressive as BhtB's stupendous rise from being almost bottom of the power rankings a few weeks ago to making his way to the most important game in the history of sport: The BCB League III final, overcoming a 30 point deficit to sneak ahead of SC by a mere five points. James Shields' 74 points was the bedrock of his success with some nifty one-start pitching paying off as well. Carlos Pena (49), Juan Pierre (41) and surprise package Jerome Williams (40) were also big factors in his success. If SC is to spend the rest of his life hating any man it will be John Lester whose -14 points on the last day cost him dearly, but -15 over the fortnight from Daniel Bard and poor scores from Jeffs Francis (-14) and Niemann (-11) didn't help either.
Less meaningful matches
Poughkeepsie Footpickers (549) beat Bumpin' Ugglas (530)
Every so often you come across something just so weird that you wonder why you've never heard of it before. For example, we've all heard repeatedly on the pages of BCB about the Opium Wars in China and how the 18th Century Brits (ably assisted by the Americans) sold tonnes of Opium to China despite the Chinese trying to stop the trade. However, BCB has, until now, been suspiciously quiet on the 1931 great curry powder scandal in Japan where unscrupulous dealers were caught selling cheap domestic curry powder having rebranded it as the more prestigious Crosse & Blackwell brand leading to a notably international diplomatic incident? Sounds strange to us now but perhaps not so weird back then. But then again, Chipper Jones being fit enough to get 41 crucial points for PF seems a bit strange too given that 41 is normally the number of days he is on the DL (out of any randomly selected 41 days during the season). Still, PF sneaked a win thanks to Ellsbury and Moscoso each contributing 51 and assistance from Jones, Pujols (43), Andrus and Bonifacio (both 41). BU couldn't quite compete due mainly to a poor pitching line-up that over-relied on Daniel Hudson's 75 points. Hosmer (68) and Pagan (43) were the only BU hitters to muster more than 33 points as he slipped down the standings...
Social Anxiety All-Stars (451) lost to Little Lebowski Under-Achievers (493)
I've never seen Public Enemy live in concert, but a decade or so ago I saw Chuck D give a speech at a local university. He took a bit of time to get going but eventually it was just about worth the rather exorbitant £12 I spent on a ticket but definitely was not as good as seeing PE in full effect, bwoy. Tbh, I'd kinda forgotten about it all until the other day when I again came across Chuck D's arguments on the Internet about why Tupac faked his death. At the time the arguments seemed really risible and now they seem even more laughable. Chuck's 12 points include the suggestions that 'Pac faked his death because he died on Friday 13th (traditionally no-one dies on that day), the assailants couldn't have hidden in Las Vegas because it has such a small black community (!!), because Las Vegas is so corrupt there's loads of people who could have helped cover it up, his upcoming album was under the name Makaveli when Machiavelli faked his own death and had a picture of Tupac as Christ who, famously, was resurrected. Of course, any rap star worth his salt raps about dying and has delusions of grandeur. I wonder if Chuck still holds to his belief that Shakur is alive and reckons that in a few years he'll reappear as a 50 year-old living in Havana? Doubtless he'll possibly state that LLUA couldn't have beaten SAAS as they did not live up to their name and under-achieve and therefore must be some sort of imposter. After all, is it reasonable to assume that Jason Motte will topscore with 49 points and Marcos Scutaro be second with 38? Very suspicious indeed... Still, it was enough to see off SAAS who had superlative pitching through CJ Wilson (80), Javier Vazquez (73) and King Felix (56) but not much else.
Phoenix Fire (485) lost to Gold Glove Gamels (519)
One of the things that British people find hard to come to terms with about America and sports is the compulsion with college sport. Sure, there's a fair amount of misunderstanding based on lack of knowledge about the role of college sports and their importance within areas that might not have a major team within hundreds of miles but you're likely to get strange assumptions such as that college football is as popular as the NFL (a statement in the recent UK version of Esquire that could have been sorted by an elementary Google search). Mind you, perhaps there is just more pride in your Alma Mater in the States than over here. Saying that, its possibly well-known in the States that more of the 56 signees of the Declaration of Independence were from Harvard than any other University. But I bet it is slightly less well-known that apart from Harvard, no other university had more of its graduates signing the document than the University of Edinburgh. OK, so it had two people signing it (John Witherspoon and Benjamin Rush) and I'm not really convinced that no other American university had more than two signees but that's good enough for me – of course, as a University of Edinburgh graduate I would say that though. Still, the education I got there was enough to help me recognise when someone is out for revenge and GGG continues his one-man mission to prove he should have been in the winning play-offs as he overcomes PF in a tight one. Fister (72) and Halladay (57) kept PF in contact through much of the fortnight but his hitters underperformed and he couldn't live with Cliff Lee (68), Putz (45), Kimbrel (44) and one-man Crew-destroyer Rafael Furcal (40).
The Braun Supremacy (395) beat Harvey's Wallbangers (360)
Now, Noam Chomsky is somewhat of a divisive figure and with BCB being a resolutely non-political site its not really appropriate to go into most of his views, but his view of sport is an interesting one and reveals that, even if you accept his controversial political views, he really can be relatively clueless. Firstly, there's the “bread and circuses” view that sports are convenient alternatives that serve the function of stopping people from getting involved in things that matter conjuring an image of a dystopian future where sports or entertainment do not take place as people get their pure enjoyment from discussing changes in the autonomous community's attempts to devise an economic structure based around Parecon. Secondly, there's his view based on listening to sports talk radio that “the more striking fact is, the callers have a tremendous amount of expertise” and that these discussions and use of arithmetic in sports discussions shows “that people just want to use their intelligence somehow”. In actual fact, discussions about sports on talk radio pretty much mirror political discussions: lots of hot air, ill-informed comments, extrapolation on the basis of a small number of incidents and partisanship taken to ridiculous levels. Of course, that shouldn't be surprising at all, given that the same basic processes are involved in discussing sports and discussing politics but to Chomsky it is all a surprise. Given that he was born in Philadelphia perhaps you'd have thought he'd be aware of the true primitive and obsessive nature of most fan-dom but I guess he hasn't been paying much attention to battery-throwing and Santa Claus-booing over the years. Still, he's probably paid more attention to fantasy baseball than TBS who hasn't changed his team in months but still manages to win the odd game. Kinsler (72) has been on fire for him recently, with decent support from Fat Mo Rivera's 54 points (OK, so he's not at all fat but the name sounds cool) and nice points from David Murphy (51) and V-Mart (50). HW only had Matt Kemp scoring above 40 (41) although Wandy and Soria were only just behind (both 39).
The Team That I Refuse to Name (274) lost to Chin Music (311)
I'd never really thought of him as an author, but the other day I read that Walt Disney was the most translated author of all time. Even when you think about it having Disney as number one seems strange, but the fact that he and Agatha Christie are both more translated than the Bible seems to say something about the world and our priorities that I didn't imagine would be true. To be honest, the rest of the list is equally surprising, with Lenin, Verne, Cartland, Blyton, Shakespeare, Hans Christian Andersen and Brothers Grimm making up the rest of the top ten. Lenin is, for sure, on the slide due to the collapse of the Soviet Bloc and only Verne and Shakespeare can be really called classic authors. I suppose Verne's prominence and Shakespeare being only at number eight is due to the fact that with most people reading English there is more need for translations into English than into French but I'd guess I could have sat for an hour and perhaps guessed no more than two or three of the names. Given his recent form I could pretty much have guessed that TTTIRTN would lose this one and he didn't disappoint. David Wright scored 40 and Joel Hanrahan 37 as he put up a weak overall score. When only one player on your team scores above 37 (Jason Bay with 48) and your pitching “contributes” -13 points and you still win, as CM did, you can count yourself kinda lucky...
Craig Counsell's Steakhouse (210) lost to Never Gonna Give You Upton (388)
As recommended by the good readers of BCB I recently delved into the world of American history by purchasing Paul Johnson's “A History of the American People”. Its a purchased I'm already delighted with for two reasons. Firstly, I finally have a replacement for my recently sold set of golf clubs in the role of “item I'll use to clobber any intruder with”. Secondly, a brief flick through taught me that the most recognised word in English is “OK”, with the second most recognised being “Coca Cola” although perhaps in the years since the book was written “MacDonalds” might be pushing it close. Actually, third most recognised English word or name is probably LaRussaSucks. OK, so its not really a word, but then, to the Cardinals, every other baseball team isn't really a baseball team as they are the sole group playing up to the high standards demanded by the arbiters of the national pastime (which, coincidentally, is themselves). Certainly the moral judges of all that is right and proper would want a serious word with CCS who scored only 210 points in the fortnight to possibly put up the worst performance of the season. How a team can only total 210 points when Miggy hits 53 and Ryan Howard and Vlad Guerrero both get 50 is almost unfathomable, particularly when Cano got 37 and Keppinger another 30. Mind you, when your pitching across two weeks scores -81 points (-81 POINTS!!!!) almost anything is possible. Every single one of the six pitchers the team put up scored negative points. Every single one of them. That made it easy for NGGYU who cruised in behind Justin Upton (53), Ichiro (45) and Gaby Sanchez (43).
Nest week's matches
The BIG ONE as Bringing Home the Bacon (blue corner, Scotland) takes on More Than A Feeling (red corner, USA) for the overall title. MSKM takes on Stinky Cheese in the bronze medal position while Mr Irrelevant/Lanterne Rouge will be either Craig Counsell's Steakhouse or TTTIRTN. A few week's ago I'd have predicted TTTIRTN taking the title but CCS showed some excellent bad form last week and must be hoping that his superlatively poor pitching can live down to their reputation.