Thursday, 27 May 2010

In Praise Of Mitch Talbot

Mitch Talbot, the Indian's right handed rookie sensation, has been surprising everybody this season. Literally, EVERYBODY. No one could have anticipated the impact Mitch would have on this Indians team in 2010. I think it's time the guy earned a little bit of praise (well, from me anyway).

The 26 year old Utah native has caused quite a stir so far. Acquired from the Tampa Bay Rays for Kelly Shoppach in December 2009, Talbot arrived in Cleveland with little-to-no fuss. It seemed most fans had never heard of him, and why should they have? He hardly played at all for the Rays, some relief here, a start in Baltimore there. So it was hardly surprisingly he didn't receive much attention when he was traded to us. However, Talbot entered spring training this year with an outside shot at making the rotation - he had a chance at least. He was up against Aaron Laffey, David Huff, as well as Carlos Carrasco, and proceeded to beat all of them, and earned himself a place in the starting rotation. And he's been fantastic on a poor Indians team ever since, shocking all along the way.

Talbot currently sits at 6-3 with a 3.73 ERA, with 24 walks and 24 strikeouts. I know, looks nothing special right? Well the key difference between Mitch and the rest of his team mates, not to mention his fellow rookie pitchers around the league, is that despite his less-than-impressive numbers, he is getting the job done (currently tied for second place in wins in the AL). He hasn't been fantastic but he has delivered every single start, and has produced the goods in the majors where few others on this Indians' team have (Masterson, Huff etc). He isn't dominant but he is efficient, and we can't really ask much more from him at this stage in his career than that. Many fans have appropriately dubbed him as "The Fury", and rightfully so. He is already being linked to potential trades, as his stock is rising with every appearance. It would be nice if we can keep hold of him for longer than a few months! If Talbot can continue this form, he's set to be a solid middle of the rotation guy for years to come.

If there is nothing else to cheer for in 2010, at least he's giving fans something exciting to watch, in what looks to be another lost season of mediocrity for the Tribe. Keep going Mitch, and long may your success in Cleveland continue.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Catching Up In Cleveland

I know I haven't posted about the Forest City much lately; I've been completely absorbed by Bath City and their recent promotion. However, it doesn't mean I haven't cared or been keeping my eye out on my boys in Cleveland.

First of all, I do not want to talk about the Cavs. I truly felt this was the year to get it done, to win it all. 2010 or bust and all that. Well bust we are, with the Cavalier's exiting the post-season in miserable fashion to the Boston Celtics in six games. With the Cavs failing to make it to the NBA Finals yet again, it looks likely Lebron has played his last game in a Cavs uniform. I hope he stays, but I'm sure he's feeling pretty disillusioned with the team right now, which doesn't bode well for us. He might stick around, we certainly haven't lost him to New York or Chicago yet, but its pretty much all doom and gloom at the moment where the Cavs are concerned. Its a shame that it ends like this, after another fantastic season, and LBJ collecting his second straight MVP award. Lets pray it ends well for the Wine and Gold.

As for the Indians, well its definitely been a mixed bag so far. We're nearing the end of May and 'inconsistency' is the word around town, but what else has changed right? As of today we are 15-20, which is pretty decent considering how low expectations were coming into this season. The story of 2010 so far is the inept offensive output, specifically from Hafner and Sizemore. The young guns like LaPorta and Valbuena have really struggled, and aren't adapting to life in the bigs like we all hoped they would. Luckily our group of veterans and journeymen on the team have got the job done, with Austin Kearns and Mark Grudzielanek doing particularly well. Shin-Soo Choo has continued his brilliant hitting from last year and is carrying the team on his back - hopefully he gets an All Star place this season. Starting pitching has surprised me somewhat, an area the Indians are doing ok in. Carmona's fantastic spring has carried over to the regular season. Alright, so he's not been spectacular but he's been decent and got some good wins under his belt (currently 4-1 with a 3.43 ERA before he faces the Rays tonight). He still walks too many batters, and could get a few more strikeouts, but its Carmona so nothing is perfect. Mitch Talbot has turned into somewhat of a revelation so far, but unfortunately Justin Masterson has struggled. He was predicted by many to be one of our strongest guys in the rotation, but stands at 0-4 with a 5.92 ERA - not too good so far. Jake Westbrook, our grizzly old veteran battling back from injuries that have hindered him the last few years, has been getting better with every game. He had a slow start, but has been quality of late, winning his last 2 games. Westbrook overpowered the Orioles last night, getting 8 strikeouts along the way to a complete game. More stuff like this please Jake. Our firstbaseman Russell Branyan, who's been crocked sine we acquired him, has finally returned from injury and has began to destroy the ball recently - he did especially well against Kansas City, smashing a few homers in a series win for us, and looks set to hit a few more - long may it continue. Overall, Manny Acta's side are doing exactly what is expected of them, which is not much at all. They just need to keep growing and improving, get a few wins here and there and make positive progress hinting towards success in the future. I'd like the Indians to finish with 80 or so wins, and at least try and finish around 500. Anything else would be a dream.

And the Browns? Well not much has changed with the Brownies. Mini camp drills and practices for the rookies have begun, and our new RB Montario Hardesty out of Tennessee has impressed according to early reports. Good signs there, but surely he'll be behind Jerome Harrison in 2010. I'm looking forward to seeing our new QB from Texas, Mr Colt McCoy, in pre-season, even if he won't actually play for the Browns once the real games begin this season. Football is still months away, but I'm always excited about the Browns and can't wait for the games to begin... even if we are a bit shit.

From now on I'll be following the Indians of course, but my focus is turning to the upcoming World Cup in South Africa, which I cannot wait for. Expect a post/preview/World Cup build up blog thing in the near future.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Supporting Fulham For The Final

Tonight is the Europa League Final in Hamburg, between Fulham and Atletico Madrid. I will be getting behind the English club this evening, hoping for a Fulham win. I've had a bit of a soft spot for The Cottagers for a couple of years now. I love Craven Cottage; there is something about small, rustic stadiums that appeal to me. Fulham's kit is pretty nice too, much nicer than that other London club that play in white. It was a couple of years ago that Fulham really gained my appreciation.

In November 2008 I was studying for a presentation I had to give in my history class about 19th century sport in London. I sent out emails to every club in the city, hoping they could help me in any way possible, particularly if I could meet a representative from the club face to face for a chat. My boys at Arsenal came through for me of course, gave me a tour around their museum and that season's yearbook for free. But practically every other club ignored me, especially the scum at Chelsea and Spurs - all except Fulham. They sent me an email back saying unfortunately they could not arrange a face to face meetup, due to their busy schedule (understandable), but they could answer any questions I had or help me in any other way possible. They also chucked in one of their media guides for that season, completely free of charge, which I felt was a really nice touch, and I've admired them ever since.

Fulham have had quite a sensational journey to the Final, especially THAT game at home against Juventus, in which they came from being 4-1 behind on aggregate to win it 5-4. I just hope Roy Hodgson and his men can get the win tonight, and lift that trophy at the end. It's easily Fulham's most important game in their history, and their fans are loving it I'm sure. I'd also like to see Bobby Zamora get a goal or two, and show a certain Mr Capello that he is crazy to have left Bobby out of the initial 30 man England squad for the World Cup. Zamora has been in fantastic form this season, and has quickly become Fulham's talismanic hero, especially in their European run. He is a slight fitness doubt tonight, but I hope he's 100% as Bobby is great to watch when he's firing on all cylinders.

I'll just leave you a little reminder of how dangerous this Fulham side can be. And how can you not love Dempsey's chip?

Thanks for reading.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Welcome To The Show

Bath City FC faced off against Woking yesterday in the Blue Square South Playoff Final. Promotion was the prize, as the winner would go up to the Blue Square Premier for next season. The game wasn't really anything special, but what a day it was...

I heard that the gates were open at 12, so I wanted us to get there early-ish, as a massive crowd was expected (the final number still hasn't been announced - they must still be counting!). Myself and Will made our way to the stadium, but had to wait for our slow bitch of a friend Jamie. Eventually we got to Twerton Park around 1.15, 45 minutes before kickoff, and the lines were huge. Masses of people queuing to get in, quite surreal for a non-league football game, but it was just an example of how important the day was. We got in soon enough, I purchased my programme for £3 (a quid more than usual, bloody money grabbing Conference officials!) and made our way to where we normally stand. It was so busy we ended up standing close to The Legion, the especially vocal supporters who were obviously in good voice given the occasion. The start was delayed for 15-20 minutes to let more fans in, and the suspense continued to build.

The match didn't start well for City. Within a minute of the kickoff, Adam Connolly was injured and had to come off immediately, with Marcus Browning replacing him. Soon after, Woking had a brilliant chance to take the lead. In the 11th minute they hit the inside of the post with a vicious shot from Moses Ademola, which I thought was a certain goal but it bounced out for a goal kick somehow. The first half was end to end stuff, with both sides having a good share of the ball, but no one could stick it in the net and it finished 0-0 at half time. I was particularly impressed with Chris Holland and Gethin Jones in defence, as they were absolutely dominant in the air, and made a fantastic centre-back partnership. Sido Jombati was impressive as always, pure class, and probably my favourite Bath City player (because I am still young and immature enough to have such feelings towards grown men I don't really know).

The second half started brightly for City who had the majority of the possession and looked dangerous. Kaid Mohamed, who had scored twice in the last two games against Chelmsford, looked threatening up front, and lead the line well as usual, with his great composure and ability to hold up the ball. Mohamed was soon to make it three goals in three games: An Adie Harris pass put Darren Edwards clean through on goal, who knocked the ball round the keeper but was then taken out and the referee was quick to point to the penalty spot. We were all surprised Woking's goalie only got a yellow card, as it probably should have been a red. It mattered little to myself and the fans though, as we were all far to occupied with the penalty about to be taken. Mohamed stepped up and put it straight into the corner, sending the Twerton Park faithful into a frenzy. 1-0 and a step closer to going up! Mohemed was booked for his celebration, taking his shirt off, but nobody cared - we were ahead and on our way up!

Woking almost equalised immediately. A long goal kick looped over the defence and Woking striker Guiseppe Sole looked sure to score but Ryan Robinson was out of his goal in a flash and denied Sole with his legs, before scrabbling to secure the ball. City were safe for a bit longer. Woking piled on the pressure, with countless corners flying in to the Bath box, but the magnificent Chris Holland made sure every ball made its way back out with powerful headers - a defensive master class. With roughly 10 minutes to go, Ademola got into space and looked sure to score. From where I was stood it looked like he'd clearly beaten Robinson and had an open goal at his mercy, but he shot wide. There was more panic for the City fans, when a free kick was delivered into the box and got past everybody, except Sido who could only direct it into his own net. It looked like Woking had got their goal and tied up the game 1-1. However, as the Woking fans celebrated the equaliser, they failed to hear the referee's whistle; the goal didn't count. I'm not sure why, probably an offside but it could have been a foul on one of the City players, but all that mattered was that we had escaped. Still 1-0 to City, and they were hanging on by a thread. With minutes to go, Bath managed to get the ball back and keep it, winding down the clock and dominating possession, avoiding any more possible attacks Woking could muster. The final whistle blew and pandemonium began. Captain Jim Rollo (my new best mate on Facebook I repeatedly told Jamie and Will all afternoon) leapt into the crowd like an Olympic diver. He is a City hero, worshipped by everyone, and the passion he has for the club and the fans was all over his face at the end. The fans invaded the pitch as its customary to do on a big day like yesterday, and the celebrations began. As I stepped onto the Twerton Park turf, the smell of the grass was brilliant, and everybody had a wide grin from ear to ear on their faces. The players were ecstatic and deservedly so, as they've enjoyed a brilliant season, arguably the finest in the club's history. A brilliant day, and as the champagne flowed we all revelled in the glory.

Next season is going to be a big challenge, but for now we are all simply rejoicing in the moment, the ecstasy of promotion. Against the odds Bath City have done it and made it back to the big time, the pinnacle of non-league football that is the Blue Square Premier. Football League in a couple of years? We can only dream...

Thanks for reading.

Friday, 7 May 2010

We Are Going Up... We Hope

Bath City FC got the job done away at Chelmsford last weekend with a 1-0 win (3-0 aggregate), which means we are going to the Conference South Playoff Final. Its not quite as exciting as is it sounds (well, it is!), its not a trip to Wembley or anything, but its still set to be a grand day out, hopefully ending in City's promotion to the lofty heights of the Blue Square Premier. I personally cannot wait for Sunday (kickoff is at 2pm if you can make it!) and I'm praying for a City win.

Woking are the visitors to Twerton Park, who have had a rather topsy turvy season. After starting the season well, they had a bit of a torrid time after Christmas but managed to completely turn it around in April, winning 7 in a row to rocket them back into a playoff place. Woking knocked Dover out of over two legs and thoroughly deserve their place in the final on Sunday. Bath were victorious in both meetings during the regular season, including a spanking 5-0 win at Twerton Park on the 1st of December. Here's hoping for a repeat result this weekend!

With promotion on the line, it's set to be a frantic finish to the season. City will be hoping they can battle to just one more victory, arguably the most important match in the club's history, certainly for decades. Lets hope the lads can get it done.

I know I will certainly be there on Sunday cheering them on - the crowd is expected to be over 3000! I'm sure it'll be a brilliant day... so long as City win!

Thanks for reading

(credit to Yuffie for all Bath City photos - quality pics)