Two-Month McAlester News-Capital Roundup

Sportsblognet.com. the hosting website for this blog, was recently sold. In the process, everything I’ve posted since Sept. 30 has been erased.

I’ve tried to get an answer as to whether this content will at some point be restored, but so far nothing. Almost everything I’ve posted has been McAlester News-Capital links, and those are easy enough to replicate.

Everything I’ve written in the past week appears before the cutoff. See the full article for older links.

Midweek Update: Buffs prep for Championship

Alexandria Williams makes the most of MHS

Boyle leads McAlester boys past Hugo

Hugo girls pull away from McAlester

Free throws help Lady Diggers past Lady Cats

Errors cost Canadian against Tushka

McAlester soccer placed in District 5A-4

Eastern postpones High School Invitational

McAlester season/postseason stats

Continue reading Two-Month McAlester News-Capital Roundup

Valentine Accuses Ortiz of Quitting

David Ortiz didn’t quit on the 2012 Red Sox, Bobby Valentine. He quit on you. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

After a horrific season in which the Boston Red Sox started bad, continued to be bad and then finished the season… bad … Bobby Valentine had a chance to walk away with some slight measure of dignity. He could’ve simply taken his firing like a man, then gone back to his gig on TV, which allows him to do what he does best: yell impotently analyze baseball.

Instead, Valentine chose to take one last pot-shot at the Red Sox. One last try at blaming the failures of his team on anybody but a manager hated by basically the entire state of Massachusetts, not to mention every one of his players and every Boston sports writer (though that last group tends to hate everybody).

So who did Valentine call out? David Ortiz. Valentine accused Ortiz of quitting on the Red Sox on an episode of Costas Tonight that aired Tuesday on NBC Sports Night.

It was a cowardly, baseless attack by a weak-willed snake-oil salesman of a “manager.” Red Sox fans would do well to ignore the criticism, anything else Valentine has said or might still say, and probably Valentine’s existence in general.

Would the Red Sox Re-Sign a Quitter?

Baseball, as the cliche goes, is a business. As such, looking at the deals a team makes, the money it spends, is the best way to understand said team’s true feelings.

If the Red Sox ownership really believed Ortiz quit on his team, then why are they trying to sign him to a new, two-year deal? Sure, “closing in” and “signed” can mean vastly different things in baseball language, but if the Red Sox really thought Ortiz bailed on an otherwise-promising season, why would they even bother with negotiations?

At the very least, they’d first test the DH market, then try to lowball Ortiz later.

Ortiz, after all, is a 36-year-old with bad knees, a clicking wrist, an already injured Achilles tendon and almost no fielding ability. Other teams wouldn’t exactly blow up his agent’s phone with new deals if the Red Sox chose to wait and see.

But instead, management went after him before the World Series even began. With $100 million in bad contracts handed over to the Dodgers (easily the best move of the year), John Henry & Co. decided to take care of Ortiz first.

If that doesn’t show loyalty and support, what does?

Youkilis Cut for Character Reasons?

As a stark contrast to Ortiz’s treatment by management, consider the fate of Kevin Youkilis. Youkilis also got hurt and missed considerable time last season, but instead of the Red Sox sticking with him, they traded him, and for not much in return.

So why did the Red Sox stick with Ortiz and not Youkilis? One possibility: Youkilis had become an issue in the clubhouse.

Many writers think Youkilis snitched to Bob Hohler about the drama behind the 2011 collapse. Neither Hohler nor anyone else has ever confirmed or dis-confirmed that speculation, so concluding definitively that the trade happened because Youkilis couldn’t be trusted is impossible.

Nevertheless, Youkils is three years younger than Ortiz, and when healthy, Youkilis brought more to the table (plays defense, can get on base, can hit from multiple spots on the lineup). So if the Red Sox didn’t nix Youkilis because of talent, perhaps they did so because of character.

Both Youkilis and Ortiz have had their characters questioned over the last year. But where Youkilis was traded, Ortiz looks to be coming back, and quickly.

Blame for 2012 lies elsewhere

Injuries notwithstanding, something absolutely derailed the 2012 Red Sox, and it’s named Bobby Valentine. Whereas Terry Francona got through to his players immediately, Valentine utterly failed to get his players on board.

A good skipper inspires loyalty in his players, even when fans and the press are screaming for the manager’s head. The 2005 White Sox defended Ozzie Guillen — another Billy Martin-esque blowhard whose mouth far exceeds his talent — because they loved playing for him.

Meanwhile, how many times during the media’s season-long barrage of criticism did any Red Sox players come to Valentine’s defense? Twice? Once? Never?

To be sure, such moments were few and far between. The rest of the time the Red Sox — Ortiz included — stayed silent because deep down, they hated Valentine as much the fans.

Ortiz didn’t quit on the Red Sox, Bobby V. He quit on you. And so did everyone else.

 

Kevin Youkilis Was Theo Epstein’s First Super-Prospect

More than anything he did in the Majors, Kevin Youkilis heralded the arrival of the Red Sox farm system as one that could create superstar after superstar. (ianonsports.wordpress.com/Sports Illustated)

Former Red Sox Kevin Youkilis wrote a letter to Red Sox Nation Sunday. Youkilis thanked his coaches, his teammates, his family and his fans for what he called the “honor and a privilege to play every home game of my career in Boston before a sold out Fenway Park.”

Classy move by a classy guy, no matter what anyone else may say about his character. But Youkilis brought so much more to the Red Sox than just class.

Youkilis Soared From Game 1

Youkilis’ arrival signaled the beginning of a new age in Red Sox history. From his first game on May 15, 2004 – a 4-0 win over the Blue Jays in which Youkilis batted 2-for-4 with a home run – Red Sox Nation knew they had someone special.

The Red Sox knew it too, putting him on both ALDS and World Series rosters that season. He only appeared in one postseason game, going hit-less in Game 2 of the ALDS, but Terry Francona had him stick around, just in case.

Youkilis played with the fire and grit Red Sox fans have always loved and identified with, making him an instant favorite. “Yoooouk” chants at Fenway Park filled became as commonplace as Fenway Franks or Wally the Green Monster.

Youkilis may never have been the most popular player on team – David Ortiz pretty much has that role locked down – but he was always a fan favorite.

Continue reading Kevin Youkilis Was Theo Epstein’s First Super-Prospect

Chen Out-Duels Beckett, Wins Series for Orioles

Endy Chavez knocks in the eventual game-winning run on a sixth-inning fielder's choice during Wednesday's Red Sox-Orioles game at Fenway Park. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Pitchers who lack a decent fastball rarely survive in the MLB, but there’s such a thing as too much of a good thing. Josh Beckett learned that the hard way Wednesday, losing a 2-1 pitchers’ duel to Baltimore starter Wei-Yin Chen at Fenway Park despite a pinpoint-accurate fastball.

With the loss, the Red Sox fell four games behind the Orioles, who’ve won their last seven games at Fenway, dating back to September 2011. The Red Sox lost a series for the first time since going 1-2 at Kansas City in early May.

Two-Run Sixth Spoils Beckett’s Outing

Beckett needed just 48 pitches to get through the first five innings, setting down the Orioles 1-2-3 four times. He retired the first nine hitters he faced, gave up just a lead-off single in the fourth, and quickly erased it on one of two Red Sox double plays.

Beckett relied heavily on his fastball, throwing just enough curveballs and cutters to keep the Orioles honest. This resulted in better than 71 percent accuracy and 22 first-pitch strikes to 27 batters, but Orioles hitters started looking for the fastball after their first at-bats.

Without much variation to Beckett’s pitch-selection, the Orioles strung together three consecutive singles to start the top of the sixth. The third, by second baseman Robert Andino, scored Wilson Betemit to tie the game 1-1. Right fielder Endy Chavez then drove in left fielder Ryan Flaherty with an RBI fielder’s choice to give the Orioles a 2-1 lead.

Beckett got out of the sixth with Boston’s second double play, then retired six of the next seven batters he faced. Had the Red Sox tied the game or retaken the lead, Beckett probably would’ve finished the game, having thrown just 92 pitches through eight innings.

Continue reading Chen Out-Duels Beckett, Wins Series for Orioles

Punto Powers Red Sox Past Blue Jays and Into Fourth Place

Nick Punto watches the flight of the ball after hitting a home run off Blue Jays pitcher Carlos Villanueva during the ninth inning of Saturday's baseball game in Toronto. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Chris Young)

Ask anyone – teammate, coach, manager, reporter – and he’ll tell you the same thing: Nick Punto is still finding his swing.

Punto found his swing Saturday at Toronto’s Rogers Centre, going 3-for-4 and falling a triple short of the cycle while driving in two and scoring two runs. The Red Sox beat the Blue Jays, 7-4, moving into sole possession of fourth place in the AL East.

Punto’s first hit came in a second-inning sequence of four consecutive Red Sox hits, beginning with a Ryan Sweeney single, off Blue Jays starter Kyle Drabek. After Will Middlebrooks drove in Jarrod Saltalamacchia and moved Sweeney to third with a single to right, Punto doubled to score Sweeney and make it 2-0 Red Sox.

With Middlebrooks and Punto on second and third, Daniel Nava then hit a line drive at Colby Rasmus in center field. The ball hit Rasmus in the glove and fell to the turf, and both Middlebrooks and Punto scored, putting the Red Sox up 4-0.

The play could’ve easily been ruled an error, but instead it was a called a two-RBI single.

Punto also singled in the top of the seventh but advanced no farther than second base, then homered in the ninth to make it 7-4 Boston. Facing reliever Carlos Villanueva, Punto crushed a 2-0 fastball into the second deck overlooking right field for his first home run of the season.

Continue reading Punto Powers Red Sox Past Blue Jays and Into Fourth Place

Tigers Maul Red Sox Pitching, Avoid Sweep

Miguel Cabrera knocks in Quintin Berry in the fifth inning of Thursday's Red Sox-Tigers game at Fenway Park. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

With two inherited runners on and two outs in the top of the eighth, Matt Albers struck out left fielder Don Kelly looking to end the threat.

That was basically the only good thing the Boston Red Sox did on the mound all night.

The Detroit Tigers clubbed 14 hits off Josh Beckett and two relievers Thursday, beating the Red Sox, 7-3, and avoiding the sweep. The Red Sox remain in last place in the AL East, a game behind the Toronto Blue Jays, whom they’ll play on the road this weekend.

Flat Beckett Can’t Hold the Lead

Though Beckett pitched an eight-pitch, 1-2-3 first, his struggles began an inning later, with back-to-back one-out hits putting Tigers on second and third. Beckett got out of the second thanks to Ryan Sweeney, who covered a fair amount of ground to catch Jhonny Peralta‘s fly ball near Pesky’s Pole. Sweeney then threw a perfect one-hopper to Jarrod Saltamacchia, gunning down Delmon Young (3-5) at the plate to end the threat.

Saltalamacchia and Sweeney helped give Beckett a two-run lead in the bottom of the second, with Saltamacchia homering to center to lead off the inning. Sweeney then singled and scored from first on a double to the center field warning track by Scott Podsednik, who’s batting .444 in 12 games this season.

But Beckett immediately coughed up the lead, allowing three runs in the top of the third. Center fielder Quintin Berry (3-5) put the Tigers on the board with an RBI single with two men on, and Brennan Boesch tied the game with a sacrifice fly. Berry then stole second and went to third on a flyout, and Prince Fielder (2-4) singled to center to put the Tigers up 3-2.

Saltalacchia bailed out Beckett in the bottom of the third, following up a Kevin Youkilis double with a game-tying single, but Beckett just couldn’t regain the sharpness his pitches had in the first inning. Berry reached on an infield single to start the fifth, went to third on a stolen base and throwing error by Saltalamacchia, then scored on a single by Miguel Cabrera (2-5) to put the Tigers back up 4-3.

Continue reading Tigers Maul Red Sox Pitching, Avoid Sweep

Book Review: “They Call Me Oil Can,” by Dennis “Oil Can” Boyd with Mike Shalin

"They Call Me Oil Can," by Dennis "Oil Can" Boyd, with Mike Shalin

They Call Me Oil Can is Dennis “Oil Can” Boyd’s autobiography. Boyd played for the Boston Red Sox for eight years, but his undeniable talent was too often overshadowed by disagreements with coaches and teammates.

The fast-moving book is a sounding board for any and all opinions Boyd has built up over his lifetime. Covering everything from life in the South to race relations, baseball to business, TCMOC gives the reader an uncensored, unabashed, unapologetic look at Boyd’s inner workings And if Boyd could’ve written without any of those previously mentioned “un’s,” his book might’ve been a lot better.

Lack of Structure Handicaps the Reader

Boyd admirably doesn’t hold back any of his life’s many conflicts, but he doesn’t inform the reader enough heading into them for the reader to fairly decide who’s right and wrong. Certainly Boyd wants us to like and respect him enough to always side with him, but how Boyd writes doesn’t make him particularly likeable.

Between Boyd’s delusional self-perception when it comes to his obvious cocaine addiction (a word barely used), his paranoia, his repetitive ranting, his refusal to apology even when he’s in the wrong, and his simultaneous wishes to have everyone treated equally and for him to get special treatment because of his background, the reader isn’t always inclined to take his side. And without enough information setting up a particular moment, the reader’s gut-reaction isn’t necessarily to believe Boyd’s interpretation.

A good example concerns a run in with some police officers in the early 80s. Without much reason other than Boyd’s drug history (basically, he’s the Dr. Rockso of professional baseball), the cops pull him out of his car in his own driveway. They harass him, they bend his arm back, they threaten him, and they don’t stop until a lawyer comes out of a nearby house and threatens to sue them.

It’s a sad story, one that helps explain why Boyd considers race relations in this country as bad now as they were 60 years ago. The reader sides with Boyd.

Continue reading Book Review: “They Call Me Oil Can,” by Dennis “Oil Can” Boyd with Mike Shalin

Aviles, Saltalamacchia Homer in Red Sox Rubber-Match Win

David Ortiz congratulates Jarrod Saltalamacchia following Saltalamacchia's three-run homer run against the Phillies Sunday at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

In a typical start by Philadelphia ace Cliff Lee, teams that manage two runs count themselves lucky. The Boston Red Sox scored five against the dominating lefty Sunday afternoon, and they didn’t waste them.

Mike Aviles and Jarrod Saltalamacchia both homered for the second straight day, and Josh Beckett held the Phillies to one run over 7.2 innings, giving the Red Sox a 5-1 rubber-match road victory over the Phillies Sunday afternoon.

Boston has now won eight of its last 10 games. They haven’t lost a series in three weeks.

Red Sox Go Score Early

Aviles led off his second game in a row with a home run, depositing a 1-1 off-speed pitch into the left field bleachers. He added an RBI single in the top of the second, driving in Marlon Byrd with a grounder between third and shortstop. Aviles finished the game 2-for-5, one of just two Red Sox to finish with two hits.

The Red Sox got to Lee again in the third, with Adrian Gonzalez (2-for-4) singling and Will Middlebrooks doubling with one out. That set the stage for Saltalamacchia, who crushed a 2-0 change-up from Lee into the standing area behind the center field seats for a 5-0 Red Sox lead. At this rate, perhaps Saltalamacchia should intentionally get stitches in his ear before every game.

Lee settled down after Saltalamacchia’s home run, retiring the next 11 Red Sox. Despite several long innings early, three 1-2-3 middle innings allowed Lee to pitch a full seven on a season-high 112 pitches. He gave up nine hits and a walk, suffered his second loss of the season and saw his ERA rise from 1.95 to 2.66.

Lee also struck out six, including the side in the first. His curveball proved especially difficult for Red Sox hitters, dropping out of the strike zone at the last possible moment.

Continue reading Aviles, Saltalamacchia Homer in Red Sox Rubber-Match Win

Is Game Over Imminent for Curt Schilling’s Video Game Company?

Kingdom of Amalur's lack of creativity may be the biggest reason Curt Schilling's 38 Studios defaulted on its $1.125 million loan-guarantee payment to the state of Rhode Island. (rpgfan.com)

Curt Schilling has many talents. Pitching in the playoffs, bleeding into socks, butting his nose into steroid hearings without cause – the list goes on and on (and on and on, given Schilling’s talent for ranting).

But apparently one talent Schilling doesn’t have is making video games.

Kate Bramson of the Providence Journal reported Tuesday that 38 Studios, Schilling’s video game company, defaulted on a $1.125 million loan guarantee-payment. Rhode Island governor Lincoln Chafee has called an emergency meeting of the Economic Development Corporation to discuss the $75 million loan-guarantee – two-thirds of which has already been paid – Rhode Island awarded 38 Studios to entice the company to move from Massachusetts.

While the EDC took no action against the company following a meeting Wednesday, fiscal problems like these can’t help but scare the Rhode Island taxpayers whose money went into the loan to 38 Studios.

Clearly, trouble’s brewing in the Kingdom of Amalur (38 Studio’s only game).

Schilling Should’ve Gone MMO

Schilling’s decision to get into video games post-retirement wasn’t a bad one. Globally, video games have become a $65 billion industry. A game that actually gains a foothold in such an industry could translate to jaw-dropping profits and widespread jobs proliferation. Everything Schilling promised Rhode Island could be done with the right game.

Schilling, unfortunately, just made the wrong game. Or, at the very least, he made the wrong decision to change the game midway through. Originally, Kingdom of Amalur: Reckoning was supposed to be a massive multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG). Such games have advantages over their single-player console cousins, bringing in extra revenue from membership fees and easing the deployment of expansion content.

But the final version of Amalur turned out to be a single-player RPG with the size of an MMO but lacking all of the other players that make the world fun. Single-player games shouldn’t take so much time to get anywhere.

Continue reading Is Game Over Imminent for Curt Schilling’s Video Game Company?

Athletics’ Norberto Halts Red Sox Comeback in Ninth

Oakland Athletics second baseman Jemile Weeks drives in two in the fourth inning of Tuesday's game against the Red Sox at Fenway Park. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Down two with two men on in the bottom of the ninth, Kevin Youkilis grabbed a batting helmet. The oft-injured Youkilis didn’t start Tuesday against the Oakland Athletics due to back stiffness, but no one left on the bench gave the Boston Red Sox a better chance of tying and possibly winning the game.

Unfortunately, Youkilis just couldn’t get loose enough to bat. The almost-comeback ended with the “almost” fully intact. The Athletics beat the Red Sox, 5-3.

Norberto Dominates in Two-Thirds Inning

Down 5-1 entering the ninth, the Red Sox finally broke through against reliever Grant Balfour. Cody Ross led off with a double, his third hit and second double of the game, and the Red Sox loaded the bases on Marlon Byrd‘s one-out single and Nick Punto‘s third walk of the game.

Sensing Balfour’s nervousness, the Fenway Park crowd did their best to rattle him, repeatedly chanting his name in a chorus of sing-song mockeries. The fans may very well have succeeded, because Balfour gave up a two-RBI single to Mike Aviles to cut the Athletics’ lead to 5-3.

Lefty Jordan Norberto relieved Balfour following Aviles’ hit, but without Youkilis the Red Sox went with Lars Anderson, who had only entered the game one inning prior. Andersen had yet to get a hit off a lefty in his career, and Norberto struck him out easily on four pitches.

Dustin Pedroia, who’d scored Boston’s only run through the first eight innings on an Adrian Gonzalez RBI ground out in the fourth, followed Anderson. Norberto got Pedroia to ground into an easy fielder’s choice at second base, ending the game and giving Norberto his first save of the season.

Continue reading Athletics’ Norberto Halts Red Sox Comeback in Ninth