The Champion Underdog

“South Florida sports and perspective for the anti-bandwagon fan.”

Jamie Moyer – No Longer the Fish-Killer

Posted by Editor on August 6, 2008

Tonight’s Marlins game against the division rival Philadelphia Phillies was important for a slew of reasons, and fortunately the results were in Florida’s favor.

Jamie Moyer

Jamie Moyer

Going into the match up, Phillies starter Jamie Moyer held a 10-0 lifetime record against the Fish and was probably the obvious choice for Philly manager Charlie Manuel to start the series. Due in part to another brilliant performance from recently returned pitcher Josh Johnson, and a collective late inning offensive effort, the raucous sold out Philadelphia crowd of 44,896 was silenced as Moyer and the Phil’s dropped the first game by a score of 8-2.

A sweep of the series in the Marlins favor could put them back into first place in the National League East, but in my opinion that was not the big story of tonights game.

With two outs in the seventh inning and one man on, Shane Victorino shot a line drive homer down the left field line off of a Renyel Pinto pitch. TV replays immediately showed that the ball was inches, but definitely, foul before going over the fence. Despite objections from Fredi Gonzalez and Jorge Cantu, third base umpire Dale Scott called the ball fair and the other umpires conferred.

Now first let me say this though, Scott is considered to be one of the better umpires in the league and judging that ball fairly would have been a gamble no matter who was making the call, but Major League Baseball needs to take notice.

Can you imagine if an official’s error of this nature had happened during the playoffs? There would be pandemonium. Could you imagine if the Phillies had gone on to win this game by a single run? The injustice of such an event would have left a long lasting stench on the league.

I say embrace the replay, but keep it simple. Baseball games are already long enough as it is, and maybe that is why league officials seem to be skittish on the matter, but there is no reason to not try and find a balance. Ignoring this technology seems ludicrous. It would be comparable to a criminal court refusing to admit DNA evidence on the grounds that this is just not the way things have been done in the past.

Regulate the usage of the replay, but don’t continue to ignore what millions of baseball fans watching from home already know: sometimes the Umpire’s are just dead wrong.

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“Victory is Just What the Doctor Ordered” – Miami FC beats up on Atlanta 3-0 at Tropical Park

Posted by Editor on July 28, 2008

The Blues seemed to have regained a good much of their swagger after dropping a nine game undefeated streak last Friday in Saputo Stadium, Montreal.  Starved for points in the USL-1 stadings after a poor first quarter of the season, Miami FC looked like a serious playoff contender last night, knocking off Atlanta 3-0 at home.

Head Coach Zinho was quoted after the game as saying:  “I am of course happy with the victory but more important is the timing of the win.  After a difficult loss which came after a nine-game unbeaten streak it was important to get a good result.  This victory showed the team is strong.” 

I think Zinho understands that his legacy as a first year coach is not going to be defined by the dismal first half of the season, but rather by how the team preforms in the final 10 game stretch.  Miami FC is now playing with a starting roster made up of only a handful of players who have been with the club since the beginning of the 2008 campaign.  The additions of Eric Brunner, Avery John, Leo Inacio, Ricardo Cavalcante, Bruno Menezes and Willie Sims have all come at varying times since the season opener on April 12th, and without a doubt this current Miami squad is stronger, more talented, and has far more depth than the team we saw back in April.

Now that all the correct pieces are in place, the true test of Zinho’s abilities to bring Miami a championship will be at stake.  Team chemistry and play execution were all on point Sunday night in Tropical Park Stadium, and I believe Zinho will prove for the long term he is the right man for the job.  Now lets take a look at whats at the Blue’s will be facing in their final 10 game stretch.

2008 Playoff Hunt

In the United Soccer Leagues First Division, only the top seven teams advance to the playoff tournament, with the Commissioner’s Cup winner (regular season champion) receiving a bye into the semi-finals.

I went digging through the USL-1 archives to try and figure out roughly how many points the #7 seeds in years past were needing in order to aqcuire their playoff birth, only to realize that effective as of this season schedules were extended from 28 games to 30, so computing an exact number to strive for was difficult.  However, under the 28 game schedule in the last three years with the USL-1 looking roughly as it does today, it has required an average of 38 points on the season.  Of course securing only 38 points in this season, with two additional games, would not be sufficient.

44.  44 is the number of points that Ive concluded will be sufficient enough to guarentee us a spot in the 2008 playoff brackets.  Of course who am i though? Im just a guy writing on a blog…….. for arguments sake though, lets look at the numbers.

With 10 games left on our plate, we would need to pick up 21 points in order to hit our goal of 44.  In order to achieve that standard, we would need to win at least 7 of the final 10 games.  Put in that perspective it may seem daunting to even the most optimistic of fans, but it may not be as improbable as one might think.

Of the final 10, six of those games are at home, two are against 2008 bottom-feeder Minnesota, and two are against an Atlanta squad that Miami seems to have already figured out how to beat.  With that thought, it is our job as fans make sure at least the home games are well faught, leaving only minimal work to do on the road.  The Blue’s needed to start winning yesterday; and yesterday they did.

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South Florida to be Represented Well in Beijing.

Posted by Editor on July 25, 2008

The 2008 summer Olympic games in Beijing begin exactly two weeks from today; and in preparation for what is arguably the most competitive arena that a career athlete can compete in, I wanted to highlight five of South Florida’s most proud U.S. selections to watch for. Not only are they the greatest in our local region, but they are the greatest in our country. Now lets hope they can prove they’re the greatest in the world!

1) Dwyane Wade

This is an easy number one. Amidst some controversy about whether or not he should participate due to the continued rehabilitation of his knee, the Miami Heat’s star point guard will be front and center come August 8th. I can hear all the Chinese spectators now…. “howy-cow-man-can-fwy.” This is the Flash’s third Olympic appearance, as he will take the court alongside the rest of the 2008 U.S. Men’s Basketball squad including Jason Kidd, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard, Carlos Boozer and co.

2) Venus & Serena Williams

Both current residents of Palm Beach Gardens, it is only fair that two of the most powerful female tennis players in the world receive due recognition sliding into the duece spot. Back in 2000, both Venus and Serena Williams represented the United States at the Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia, alongside Monica Seles and Lyndsey Davenport. Following an amazing winning streak, Venus became the only other woman besides Helen Wills Moody in 1924 to capture a gold medal in both singles and doubles.

3) Jozy Altidore

The 18 year old Hatian-American soccer prodigy who spent time growing up in Boca Raton, will take the field this summer in a U.S. jersey alongside the likes of Freddy Adu and Brian McBride. Last month he was dealt to the Spanish club Villareal for a record American transfer fee of $10,000,000, he is a big time player and should make us proud. – The U.S. team will face Japan, the Netherlands and Nigeria in group play at the Olympics. The top two teams in each group then advance to the quarterfinals.

4) Walter Dix

The 15-time All-American and eight-time NCAA Champion hails from right here at the bottom of the map, being born and raised in Miami-Dade county. Dix is a graduate of Coral Springs High school, and was a track standout for the Seminoles at Florida State University. He will be the only American man running in the 100-200 meter sprints, and will also run in the U.S. 400 meter relay.

5) Dara Torres

In perhaps what is the comeback story of the 2008 games, 41 year old swimmer and supermom Dara Torres has come out of retirement for her fifth Olympic appearance. Born in Jupiter, Florida and currently training at the Coral Springs Swim Club under coach Michael Lohberg, the SoFla product is swimming faster than she did in her 20’s. She has won nine Olympic medals including four golds in years prior, and is a member of the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. More than that, she is a legitimate threat to her competitors in Beijing this summer.

The opening ceremony for the 2008 Beijing Olympic games will be held on Friday, August 8th with competition beginning the following day. The games will continue on through Sunday, August 24th when the closing ceremony will officially mark the end of competition. GO USA!

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Posted by Editor on July 21, 2008

In the coming weeks, there were will be a swath of less informed but well meaning Dol-fans who will try to tell you that we made a big mistake by trading our best defensive player, but make no mistake about it: we got a hell of a deal for trusty ol’ number ninety nine. (the trusty part I’m not so sure about, the old part definitely holding true by NFL standards)

Lets face it, the Washington Redskins were nothing short of desperate when 13-year veteran Phillip Daniels suffered a season-ending knee ligament injury on the first day of training camp. The pass rushing defensive end was missed that much more when second-year defensive end Alex Buzbee ruptured his Achilles’ tendon during the same practice, pretty much shaving their depth at that position to about a thin slice of swiss cheese. From the value pack of course.

I can only imagine Bill Parcels beaming the same way a used car salesman would if he watched a customer walk over to the dealership from the bus stop across the street. “She’s got some miles on her, but she still runs plenty good” I can hear him tell Redskins executive vice president of football operations Vinny Cerrato, and Cerrato not wanting to ride the bus any longer, shelled out a second-round pick in 2009 and a sixth round pick in 2010 for his new defensive end.

At 33 years old and with 12 seasons of NFL punishment behind him, Jason Taylor in no spring chicken. Did he win NFL Defensive Player of the Year only two seasons ago? one loyal but misguided Dol-fan might say. I would answer Yes….. but the clock is ticking. If Taylor were a car, he would be a 1997 model (being drafted the same year) with 150,000 miles on it. Sure it runs great now; but this regime has promised a better future, and a foundation for that future is not built on the aged.

By the way, this car is a 97′ and seriously who the %#$@ drives those anymore

On a personal note

I lost almost all respect for Jason this past off season. I know I may not be the most popular guy after saying this but I don’t give a damn, the man has been acting like a selfish little – something really ugly. NEWSFLASH: I don’t root for the Miami JT’s, the Miami Dolphins are my only true love.

I don’t care about your dancing (that show makes me want to crap anyway). I don’t care about your acting aspirations. I don’t care about your selfish desire to win a championship while abandoning the only team you’ve ever known.

Okay, maybe I’m sounding a bit like a man scorned, but this team needed a leader in the locker room today more than probably ever in history, and you Jason, you were more interested in your legacy, your acting career, your championship….

I say fuck that. We’ll do it without you.

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Miami FC’s nine game undefeated streak comes to an end in Montreal

Posted by Editor on July 20, 2008

It was just that kind of a night. The kind of night where nothing seems to go your way no matter how much you try to change your luck. The Blue’s just could not seem to catch a break on Friday night against the Impact, and discontinued their undefeated streak by losing 3-1 in Montreal’s brand new Saputo Stadium in front of a crowd of 12,000+.

Early on in the match Miami earned itself a Penalty Kick when the Impact’s goalkeeper Matt Jordan tackled forward Sean Fraser inside the penalty box. At this point the Blue’s should have gone up 1-0, but Afonso, who is normally automatic, sent the PK sailing way over the cross bar. The shot looked like it would have been good if the goalposts were mounted on ten foot stilts.

In our team’s defense, I would like to suggest that maybe there is some paranormal meddling in the mix here. Miami FC has a lifetime record against the Montreal Impact of 0-4-4, it is the only team left in the USL-1 that we have never beaten. Watching Afonso miss that penalty kick so early in the match, I knew it was only a pretense of what was to come. My theory is that the Montreal front office has placed some sort of a curse on us, dooming us to play incompetently against the Canadian side these past three years.

The two sides will not meet again in the 2008 season, unless the improbable situation of both teams making it to the playoffs happens. The Blue’s are currently in eight place in the standings, with the Impact close behind in the tenth place spot.

Regardless of Friday’s results, our boys in blue will need to look ahead and focus on the task at hand. We have 11 regular season games left on our schedule and we’ve played an average of 2.7 games more than all other teams in the league, meaning we really only have about eight games left to pick up points.

As an example of how thirsty we are for wins, last place Minnesota is only three points behind us while having played three less games. Meaning if the season were to end today, they would have three chances to pick up a win and challenge us for our eight place spot.

I don’t want to sound the alarm just yet though, there is good news too. Currently we are only three points behind fourth-place Seattle, making a win at our next home game in Tropical Park Stadium that much more important.

We will face the Atlanta Silverbacks on Sunday, July 27 at 6pm (ET) and you can be damn sure that this team will not go down easy. The way I see it, 15 points in the next 11 games should be the minimum par set by head coach Zinho in order to guarantee a playoff birth.

Heres to our next undefeated streak and run for the 2008 USL-1 playoffs!!

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Hanley Ramirez – The Pride of South Florida Baseball

Posted by Editor on July 16, 2008

On November 24, 2005 the Florida Marlins acquired a promising 21 year old Minor League prospect by the name of Hanley Ramirez as part of a trade with the Boston Red Sox that saw all-Stars Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell depart from Miami for good. I can remember at the time hearing plenty of grumblings about Marlins ownership and their unwillingness to shell out the big bucks in order to keep big time talent in South Florida.

The truth of the matter was, my relationship with the Marlins was already deeply scarred by the fire-sale that took place immediately after the 1997 World Championship. At the time I was 11 years old and I couldn’t understand all the business and bottom lines of it, I just knew that all of my favorite players had been sold off and my favorite team had turned into some sort of Major League garage sale. Not even the second championship title in 2003 was able to fully rehash my boyhood love for the fish.

Don’t get me wrong though, they are still my team. They will always be my team when it comes to baseball; but sometimes you have to learn to accept the things you love in spite of their flaws.

However I must say the past two years have brought me new hope in the form of a 24 year old shortstop from the Dominican Republic. In his first season with the marlins (2006) Hanley stole 51 bases and scored 119 runs, ultimately winning himself National League Rookie of the year. In 2007 he repeated that trend by stealing 51 bases, scoring 125 runs, and producing an overall on base percentage of .381.

Part of his charm and appeal to me was the fact that he was making big waves in the pool, without actually having to splash around too much. What i mean by that is he was a player who’s actions on the field did the speaking for him, there was no ego there. In an era of A-Rod’s banking over 250 million dollars in contracts, our Florida Marlins starting shortstop was making roughly $350,00 a season.

The problem then became the impending sale or trade that I was sure to come once other teams around the league starting taking notice at our boy. I figured that I would just enjoy him while I could, and focus the majority of my emotional investments on things less likely to leave me. Then something big happened.

In March of this year Marlins ownership finally pulled the trigger and signed Hanley Ramirez to a cool six year $70 million contract. Hopefully that means our boy will stay in a turquoise and white uniform at least until he turns 30.

This year he became only the second Marlin in franchise history to start in a major league all-star game, and when he ran onto the field during pre-game ceremonies alongside the likes of Whitey Ford, Reggie Jackson, Willie Mays, and Yogi Berra… I must say I felt for a moment that the wounds of post 1997 began to heal and my love for the Florida Marlins again filled me with much pride. Thank you Hanley!

5 Reasons why even non baseball fans can love Hanley Ramirez:

  1. He seems to preform his best when hes needed the most. (how many people do you know that you can say THAT about?)
  2. He doesn’t swing at crappy pitches. (okay, maybe non baseball fans wont appreciate that one)
  3. He refers to his teammates as his “hermanos” or “brothers” (that kinda teamwork and commitment would thrive in any corporate environment)
  4. He constantly professes his undying love to his fans and those who always believed in him.
  5. He’s a stand up husband and father of two.

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Miami FC Still Undefeated- Defense bends but does not break.

Posted by Editor on July 14, 2008

The Blues secured one more point in the USL-1 standings last night with a 0-0 draw on the road against the Rochester Raging Rhinos. The tie counts towards a remarkable undefeated streak of 9 matches that traces back to May 26 of this year when they beat the Portland Timbers 2-0 in Portland.

Just to emphasize that again. Miami FC has not lost since May 26.

With that being said, it is glaringly obvious that there is still some fine tuning to be done before this team can become more of an inspiration to the soccer community in South Florida because simply avoiding loss is not a grand accomplishment within itself. Especially in the game of soccer.

The trio of Goalkeeper Josh Saunders and Defenders Eric Brunner and Avery John has certainly been a focal point in creating what has become a choke-hold defense for opponents; recording 10 shutouts on the season. The Blues have only played 18 games thus far; meaning Miami’s opponents scoring opportunities are about as common as a snow storm in Tropical Park Stadium. However, does a really good defense warrant championship hopes in July?

Personally, I hope so.

But…. goalscoring still remains an issue. Out of the 10 recorded shutouts, six of them were 0-0 draws, and that should be an enormous issue of concern for a team which holds the USL-1 leading point scorer in Brazilian hit-man Alex Afonso (thats Afonso, without an L).

First year midfielder Juan Pablo Galavis has showed some promise scoring two goals on the season, as has Sean Cameron who seems to be progressing, albeit slowly, from last years play. The same can be said for the Honduran nightmare Walter Ramirez, who has showed flashes of brilliance and outstanding athleticism this season.

Production is the key here though. We as fans know intimately the potential our boys in blue have, but scoring goals will be the final test. The season is far from over, and we are certainly on the upside of things, so lets keep hoping that this team that started at 1-6-2 will continue their undefeated streak well into the 2008 USL-1 playoffs. All the while figuring out how to score points with New England Patriots-like efficiency. (yea i know, wrong football reference. sorry about that)

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