DETERMINED DOMINICANS DOMINATE WBC

BY LUIGUI BARRAGAN

Photo by Mike Blake/Reuters

You can say that the weight of their world, their country that is, was on their shoulders.  The memory of that humiliating loss to the Netherlands that eliminated them in the first round of the previous World Baseball Classic in 2009 still assailed the minds of their countrymen and women.  Beaten, on a world stage, at their own game.  Players and coaches for the Dominican Republic talked all tournament long about putting the memory of that loss behind them and focusing solely on their performance in this year’s WBC, leaving the past where it belonged.  Yet they were always one question in a post-game press conference away, a video replay of it on the stadium big screen during batting practice, or the never timely taunt of an unruly fan yelling at them over the railing, from being reminded of it.  Rock bottom for Dominican baseball.  Manager Tony Peña, however, has been the voice in the team’s other ear.  Reminding them that they cannot undo the past.  Urging them to learn from what happened in the past so that it doesn’t happen to them again in the present.  Keeping them concentrated on the one thing that could erase that painful memory: the title of World Baseball Classic Champions in 2013. Continue Reading →

THE US KEEPS WRIGHT ON WINNING

BY LUIGUI BARRAGAN

Photo by Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

The last game for the United States in the 2013 World Baseball Classic had the feel of a Game 7.  That type of intense, playoff baseball reserved for October.  But the calendar does in fact still read March and the “newness” of Spring is just a week away.  The U.S., having survived what third baseman David Wright called “a true Game 7″ against Canada on Sunday afternoon, now had new life, facing Puerto Rico, in the second round of the WBC.  A new round, a new city (from Arizona to Miami), a new venue (from Chase Field to Marlins Park), and, what stood out the most, a new way to begin a ballgame, with the lead.  The first inning of the second round for the U.S. was destined to go scoreless like most early innings for the Americans in round one of this tournament.  But with two out in the first frame, Team USA catcher Joe Mauer doubled to deep, left-center field.  The ball rolled all the way to the wall, allowing left fielder, and former University of Miami standout, Ryan Braun to score all the way from first base.  The U.S. drew first blood for the first time in this World Baseball Classic.

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LAMENTS OF A DENVER BRONCOS FAN

BY LUIGUI BARRAGAN

Picture from Charlie Riedel, Associated Press

I’m bummed, naturally, that the Denver Broncos were bounced by the Baltimore Ravens in the divisional round of this year’s NFL playoffs.  This wasn’t how I envisioned it at all.  Especially not after the Broncos closed out the season with eleven straight victories and finished a-top the American Football Conference.  They were supposed to ride this wave all the way to New Orleans and Super Bowl XLVII.  This was their year, or so I thought.  And with Peyton Manning at the helm, coming back from his fourth neck surgery, proving that he is still one of the best quarterbacks ever to play the game.   It was not supposed to end for them on Saturday night, but it did.  One and done.  So much for the expectations, the Super Bowl dreams.  So much for the number one seed, so much for home field advantage in the playoffs.

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THE MIAMI HEAT ON THE BRINK OF ELIMINATION: JUST THE WAY THEY DREW IT UP

BY LUIGUI BARRAGAN
 Picture by Lucy Nicholson/The Associated Press

If you are the type of person that looks at things strictly through the lens of home court advantage, then the Miami Heat are right where they should be after playing three straight games in Dallas: down three games-to-two in their best of seven NBA Finals series against the Dallas Mavericks. But in this life things are rarely as simple as that.  Especially when you consider that the Miami Heat didn’t defend their home court in Game 2 of this series, when a Texas-size meltdown by the home team (the Heat were outscored 22-5 in the last 7:14 of the game) allowed the series to shift to Dallas tied at one game a-piece. And with the Heat having lassoed home court advantage back from the Mavericks with a victory in Game 3,  Dallas once again stole a win from Miami in Game 4 by outscoring the Heat 13-7 in the last 7:24.  The truth about this series is that it broke away from the script a long time ago.

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A SWEET DREAM FOR BARCELONA

BY LUIGUI BARRAGAN
Picture from Getty Images

Manchester United wore all white for the “dream final” of this year‘s UEFA Champions League against FC Barcelona.  The color of their uniforms very representative of Man U’s road to Rome, which lacked the blemish of a loss.  Perfect through their first twelve tilts entering the final, with a record of 6 wins and 6 ties.  In fact, Manchester came into this game as the very face of Champions League purity, having not experienced defeat in their last 25 Champions League matches.  Accompanied by such an impressive unbeaten streak, the reigning world’s best football player in Cristiano Ronaldo and the title of defending champion, Manchester United came in as the heavy favorite to once again be crowned the kings of European football.

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NOT QUITE YET RIPE ENOUGH FOR REDEMPTION

BY LUIGUI BARRAGAN
Picture by Tom Gannam / The Associated Press

The field at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida remained damp from the on again-off again showers of this Sunday afternoon in Mid-October.

The inclement weather meant the players wore longer cleats to improve their traction on the grass, made slick by the rain. By the time St. Louis Rams rookie kicker Greg Zuerlein came out to attempt his fifth field goal of the game, the field had already been torn into for more than three hours and now bore the scars of a football game that came down to one final play. Continue Reading →

THE SOOTHING POWER OF GOLD

BY LUIGUI BARRAGAN

Photo by Lefteris Pitarakis/AP Photo

Carli Lloyd’s Olympic success burns brighter than the torch that symbolizes the Games.  The thirty year-old midfielder from New Jersey has taken part in two gold medal matches with the U.S. women’s soccer team, and has scored every goal in both games for the Americans.  In 2008, in Beijing, Lloyd struck gold with a shot from just outside the penalty area in the 95th minute, breaking a scoreless tie between the United States and Brazil.  Four years later in London, Lloyd doubled her efforts, scoring twice, resulting in a third consecutive gold medal for the U.S. in women’s soccer. Continue Reading →

ROLE PLAYERS KEY IN HEAT VICTORY

The “Heatles” Big Three Get By In Game 4 With A Little Help From Their Friends

BY LUIGUI BARRAGAN

Photo by Getty Images

The fans took their places inside the American Airlines Arena in time to see the initial tip.  There was nothing fashionable about being late to this game. With the Miami Heat up two games-to-one on the Oklahoma City Thunder in the NBA Finals, Game Four was a crucial tilt for the Heat, who were looking to “stay the course.”  Ready to derail them, however, were the “young guns” of OKC who came out firing in the first quarter to the tune of 62 % from the field, making 15 of 24 shots.  Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook led the charge with 10 first period points of his own.  So far in this series, the Thunder have relied on their offensive prowess to get back into games rather than break from the pack.  But wanting desperately to shift momentum back to their side, the Thunder opened up a 17-point lead and before you knew it there were only 21 seconds left in the first quarter. Continue Reading →

TONY LA RUSSA: ONE CARDINAL THAT CHOSE NOT TO COME BACK

BY LUIGUI BARRAGAN

Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

I too, like former Atlanta Braves manager Bobby Cox, was stunned when I read the news that Tony La Russa had retired from managing in Major League Baseball after 33 seasons.  But I can’t blame him.  We should all be so lucky that we get to call it quits while at the pinnacle of our profession.  In that sense, Tony made another shrewd move in a post-season full of them.  And to Tony’s credit, there was no “miscommunication,” no bad connection between his heart and his head.  “I think this just feels like it’s time to end it,” La Russa said.  “When I look in the mirror, I know I’d come back for the wrong reasons, and I didn’t want to do that.” Continue Reading →