Thursday, July 17, 2008

Thu July 17: Tour de France, Superliga and The Open Championship; Olympic Softball Preview

Supposedly yesterday was one of the slowest sports news days of the year. True for some, but for me, the world of sports kept on going. Yesterday, the Tour de France continued amid a second doping scandal and the second round of group matches occured in the Superliga. Also, important news emerged from the world of women's soccer which we'll look into a bit later. And today is the start of The Open Championships in golf, the third grand slam event of the year and the first without Tiger Woods.

Olympic Baseball Roster Announced; Softball Team Looks For Complete Dominance in Beijing
We'll go backwards this time and start with our Countdown to Beijing. Yesterday, we looked at the announcers for NBC and today we go back to the stars on the field. The roster for the Olympic baseball team was announced yesterday, with no major leaguers named to the team.
We discussed on Tuesday that major leaguers will not be on the team, and that's for a variety of reason. Olympic baseball coincides with the Major League Baseball season and the run up to the postseason and MLB officials and managers do not want to take the risk of injuring players before the hunt for October begins. Olympic organizers suggested that instead of an All-Star break, MLB could take several days off for the Olympics instead.

Instead, we'll see several minor leaguers represent the United States in their bid for the last baseball gold medal to be given out before it disappears from the Olympic program. There are several standout names here that may be able to match up with the teams from Cuba and Japan. Matt LaPorta is one of them. He is currently an outfielder, but played very well at first base in the Futures Game last Sunday at Yankee Stadium.

Dexter Fowler has dominated the Double-A division of the minor league and has been referred to as a switch-hitter that "has superstar written all over him." One of their best pitching elements is seen in San Diego State's Stephen Strasburg, a pitcher that can throw strikes and throw in the high 90s.

For the complete roster, click here.
For the comments about the roster made during the press conference, click here.

And keeping with the subject of bat-and-ball sports, we take a look at the Olympic Softball Tournament, where again Team USA is the favorite heading into Beijing. Since the sport was introduced at the Atlanta 1996 games, the United States has won every gold medal and faced little competition.

Like the baseball competition, eight teams will compete in a single pool and will play a round robin format. The top 4 teams with the best records from pool play will advance to the semifinals and compete in a knockout format. The winners advance to the gold medal game while the losers will compete for the bronze medal.

The United States had their best performance in Athens, finishing undefeated and scoring 51 runs while only allowing one, which occured in the gold medal game against Australia. The best news going for the United States is that the core group of players that won gold in Athens will remain with the team in Beijing, including Crystl Bustos and Jennie Finch.

If anyone can slow down the United States, it may be either Japan, who boasts a pitcher that threw the first perfect game in Olympic history, or Australia, the silver medalists in Athens who also has an intimidating veteran pitcher in 36-year-old Tanya Harding.

For a complete preview, check out this article from

USA Women's Soccer Loses Wambach To A Leg Injury
Hopes for a gold medal in Beijing were significantly lowered yesterday when veteran and star-forward Abby Wambach broke her leg after a collision with Brazilian defender Andreia Rosa in an exhibition match held yesterday against Brazil in San Diego. She will be out for three months and will miss next month's Olympic Games. (Click here for story.)

Wambach, who leads the team in goal scoring, still thinks that the United States has the potential to win the gold medal. And that may be true physically. But yesterday's injury lowered expectations and the confidence of many of the younger players on the team who look up to Wambach as a guide and leader. It will be tough for the United States as they will have to learn how to play without Wambach.

They did win the exhibition match by a score of 1-0. However, three of Brazil's top goal scorers, including Marta, did not play in yesterday's exhibition, though they are expected to play with Brazil in the Olympics. The task to defend the gold medal that USA won in Athens will be much tougher to accomplish without Wambach, though they are still expected to get out of the preliminary round with matches against Norway, New Zealand and Japan in the first round. We won't find out until their first match how much Wambach's injury has affect the team. But the outlook isn't very good.

Superliga: New England Revolution and Guadalajara Remain Undefeated
The New England Revolution were able to get away with their second win of the tournament yesterday after being granted a penalty kick in the final moments of their match against Pachuca.

Pachuca is still alive with one win and one loss. Chivas USA is also alive after it's 1-0 win over Santos Laguna, whose second straight loss eliminated them from advancing further in the tournament. On Tuesday, Guadalajara stayed strong with its second win of the tournament over the Houston Dynamo, who stands with one win and one loss after two games. Also in contention is Atlante, who pulled out a 3-2 win over DC United.

As far as the tournament itself, it has been entertaining to watch and hopefully we'll see more people in the stands as we get into the knockout stages. We'll have to see. But I missed soccer since Euro 2008 ended, and this has been a nice fix for my football separation anxiety, especially with the Spanish commentators.

Tour de France update: Britain Has Its Moments While Doping Steals Spotlight
Doping has hit the tour again and has resulted in an entire team from withdrawing from the tour.
It's sad that cyclists haven't learned yet that the sport is going nowhere because of idiots that don't seem to care about anything but winning. What we need to do though is commend the Tour for uncovering these scandals and taking the necessary steps to fix the situation. While the consequences are certainly not positive, there is a reason why cyclists are tested after every stage. It may taint the image of the Tour, but the fact that action is being taken immediately is better than doing nothing at all.

What needs to be done in the future is prevent these incidents from happening, as each scandal that emerges just further ruins the credibility of the race. But I am comforted with the fact that organizers are doing all it can to rid the sport of drug offenders.

Doping has also stolen the spotlight of Britain's Mark Cavendish, who has made history by becoming the first British rider to win three stages of the same tour. The tour has had its moments with views of spectacular mountain climbs and electric sprints to the finish. Despite the recent drug scandals, I'll keep watching the tour. There are still some good guys out there.

The Open Championship: Truly an Open Field
The veterans are struggling while Rocco Mediate has taken the lead in the early round of golf's third major of the year. Mediate was the player who nearly took down Tiger Woods at last month's U.S. Open championship. This time, he doesn't have to fend off Tiger Woods, who is out the rest of the year healing a knee injury that recently underwent surgery.

Mediate is currently -1 after the first round and will be an interesting storyline in a golf tournament that is still new to a world without Tiger Woods. The weather and the course itself could be supporting storylines as the setting has proved to be challenging during today's first round.

For the latest updates and news, visit the offical Open championship website:

So now you're up to date on the world in sports. Glad I was able to help. This weekend, we'll talk more golf and also take a look at some of the marquee sports in out countdown to Beijing.

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