Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Tues July 15: Josh Hamilton Is the Best Loser in Sports History; All-Star Game Preview; Olympic Baseball Preview

Baseball is the topic of discussion today and we have lots of baseball to talk about today. The last All-Star game at Yankee Stadium will take place tonight. And this is probably the best time to talk about Olympic baseball. But first, let's take a look at last night's home run derby, where second seems to be the best.

Morneau Wins But Hamilton Accomplishes Derby's Task
I'm not sure how often an individual can single-handedly capture the hearts and minds of the fans at Yankee Stadium, especially when it comes to the sport of baseball. But Josh Hamilton, for at least a half-hour, captured our attention last night after he sent 28 home runs out to the depths of the stadium in the first round alone.

There really isn't supposed to be any strategy for winning the Home Run derby. You're not meant to just hit a few home runs in the first two rounds and save your strength for the final. Players are just supposed to hit home runs. Justin Morneau just got lucky, and I credit his sportmanship. Even he said that Hamilton should have won.

But then again, the Home Run Derby isn't about winning or losing. It's about hitting home runs and thrilling the fans. Congrats to Justin Morneau for winning, but a greater congratulations to Hamilton for giving the fans what we love to see, and helping to raise $300,000 in charity at the same time.

All-Star Game Tonight

We know what the significance of this game is. It's the last classic at Yankee Stadium, the first since 1977, before the House that Ruth Built is demolished and makes way for the New Yankee Stadium. And the winner of this game gets to have home-field advantage during the world series, a tradition that started in 2003.

The American League has won 11 straight all star games and the possibility of the National League winning is, well let's just say that it exists. Ben Sheets and Cliff Lee will be the starting pitcher for the National and American leagues respectively. Sheets is 10-3 with a 2.85 ERA while Lee is 12-3 with a 2.31 ERA.

Surely, last night's showing by Josh Hamilton will increase the odds that the American League will come out with a win. And the New York fans at the stadium will be rooting for Yankee stars Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Mariano Rivera.

But it seems that the game is rather insignificant and baseball fans will just be enjoying the level of talent that will be concentrated at Yankee Stadium.

For National League fans, hope for some of the stars from teams like the New York Mets, who are in a nine-game winning streak now, to provide some firepower to a relatively weak NL.

Check out this preview for more:;_ylt=Atji4WMuA6DUHeQQWWV6H2w5nYcB?slug=ap-nlstars-alstarspreview&prov=ap&type=lgns

Olympic Baseball Preview
It's the last year for baseball at Yankee Stadium, and it's the last year for baseball at the Olympic Games. The IOC voted in 2005 to remove baseball and softball from the Olympic program, for now at least. So for teams from places were baseball is king, like Japan, Cuba and the USA, this is the last chance to win an Olympic gold medal.

There are eight teams in the tournament and they will play in a round robin tournament against each other. The top four will then move on to the single elimination semifinal round. The gold medal game for baseball is scheduled to be played on Saturday, August 23.

A perennial favorite for Olympic gold is the team from Cuba. The defending gold medalists from Athens have won the gold three times since baseball was introduced into the Olympic program. Cuba is also a multiple gold medalist at the Pan-American games. Last year in Brazil, Cuba defeated the United States by a score of 3-1.

"The man to likely watch on the Cuban team should be third baseman Yulieski Gourriel. A utility infielder of sorts -- he played second in the 2006 WBC -- Gourriel is described by Lefebvre as, "the best looking amateur I've ever seen. ... I know scouts are drooling over him."

But Cuba has been defeated before, most notably by the United States back in 2000 at the Sydney Olympic Games. After being absent from the 2004 olympics, team USA has a good chance of recapturing the gold in Beijing. Unlike in 2004, they were able to qualify by beating Honduras in the regional Olympic qualifying tournament and also beat Cuba in the finals of that tournament.

MLB-players are not allowed to be on the roster (and probably couldn't since it coincides with the MLB season), so expect those who represented Team USA at last Sunday's All-Star Futures game to be on the roster. The official roster for Team USA will not be unveiled until tomorrow (Wed at 2:30PM).

But Team USA was shut-out at the Futures game by the world team in a 3-0 result. And the best team to medal outside of North America may be Japan, who beat Cuba in the final of the World Baseball Classic back in 2006. Japan has a passion for baseball that can arguably be compared to that of the United States in terms of the strong commitment that its players put into the game. They are the best team in Asia by far and can never be counted out.

While Japan can dominate Asia, the Netherlands has well dominated Europe in the sport and has a good chance of taking one of the four spots in the semifinals. They upset the Cubans last year at the World Cup and this year may be a breakout year for them. But if the Dutch don't take one of those spots in the semis, it may be Chinese Taipei (Taiwan), who is putting their faith in Che-Hsuan Lin. Lin performed well at the Futures game last Sunday with a two-run homer to clinch the game for the World Team.

All eight teams have the power and potential to perform well at the Olympics, but if two medal contenders had to be chosen, it would be Cuba and the United States, though Japan may be well in the mix as well. Will Cuba reign again, or will there be a new and everlasting king of Olympic baseball?

The games slowly approach and we'll tak a look at Team USA tomorrow after it's unveiled. Meanwhile, enjoy the game we have now at Yankee Stadium. And I hope you come back tomorrow for more global sports news and our countdown to Beijing.

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