Continuing where we left off in the last World Cup update, both the Netherlands and Ivory Coast were severely biting their nails about their injured star players.
Recent reports state that Ivory Coast hero and captain Didier Drogba will make a nice recovery and rejoin his teammates on the practice pitch today. Arjen Robben of the Netherlands has said he will fight to the last minute to be in playing form for his squad after Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk didn’t name a replacement in his stead.
Both of these teams know how much they need their star forwards and without them, hopes of a deep run in the World Cup could die out rather quickly.
A quick recovery for Robben is on the mind of all the Dutch players after they have already had to deal with the decision of experienced star goaltender Edwin Van Der Sar to not play in this year’s World Cup.
“I will not go the World Cup with Oranje. I made this decision after the World Cup qualifier against Norway and I will not change my mind,” said van der Sar to Algemeen Dagblad.
In addition to their goalie stepping down, another Netherlands legend was not included in the final roster. Ruud Van Nistelrooy who has scored 33 goals for the Oranje over the last 10 years was excluded from the final squad due to an absence from his club Real Madrid because of a knee injury. The Netherlands will definitely miss his scoring power and leadership on the pitch this time around.
Speaking of players snubbed from their teams, what about Brazilian superstars Ronaldo and Ronaldinho? Two of the greatest players in Brazilian soccer history, and World Cup history in Ronaldo’s case, were left off because the squad is taking a new approach this time around. With players like Kaka and Luis Fabiano, it appears as though Brazil wants to focus on their attacking and counter-attacking skills as opposed to nifty moves that rack up the hits on youtube.
England as well has omitted a key player from their roster by not taking Theo Walcott to the World Cup. The speedy young Arsenal forward is believed to be one of the top English players around, but was left off possibly due to a poor effort in Germany 2006 or his 3 goals in 23 matches this year in the Premier League.
While some clubs are looking to change their style and have chosen certain players, other seems to be ruining their style by not taking their top players. Whatever the case, we’ll see how it plays out for them very shortly.
There were some surprises among the first 50 picks in the 2010 draft, let’s check out who did well and who really dropped the ball.
Washington Nationals- To get someone like Bryce Harper who’s only 17 and probably has a big league bat right now, you have to be happy if you’re Mike Rizzo and his staff.
Pittsburgh Pirates- To get a potential ace in Jameson Taillon is a huge coup for a team lacking in the starting rotation. Put him with Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez and Ryan Doumit in the lineup and maybe you finally have something.
Cincinnati Reds- The Reds are not going to shy away from a college player with tons of potential just because of an expensive price tag (see Mike Leake and Yonder Alonso) so grabbing an amazing hitting talent in C Yosmani Grandal at 12 was the steal of the first round and he could come up rather quickly and start. Walt Jocketty and his staff nailed this one.
Tampa Bay Rays- They got two people who had a shot to go in the top 10 in Josh Sale and Justin O’Connor. Thanks to their great farm system, they’re able to take high school kids with tons of potential who can take their time developing in the minor leaguers. Another great job by Tampa.
Boston Red Sox- What a fantastic job by Theo Epstein to get a trio of really good players in Kolbrin Vitek, Bryce Brentz and Anthony Ranaudo. Vitek will have to move from 2B but people call him a gamer, Brentz has a lot of potential in the OF and Ranaudo was once viewed as the top college arm.
St. Louis Cardinals- If Grandal was the steal of the first round, Zack Cox was a very close second with the 25th overall pick. He’s a guaranteed 15-20 homer hitter in the big leagues with a likely future at 2B.
Kansas City Royals- The Royals aren’t contending anytime soon, so reaching for Christian Colon 4th overall just because he can come up to the major leagues quickly is a sign that Dayton Moore’s future in unsafe in KC (what the hell took so long) and is reaching for players who can help their terrible bottom line ASAP.
Houston Astros- Delino DeShields Jr wasn’t that huge of a stretch at 8 but Mike Foltynewicz at 17 and Michael Kvasnicka at 33 certainly were.
Los Angeles Dodgers- Taking someone in the first round who’s going to be a QB for the defending national champions is never that great of an idea, but that’s what they did with Zach Lee at 28.
Others Who Made Out Well- Milwaukee Brewers, Toronto Blue Jays, Baltimore Orioles, Cleveland Indians, Colorado Rockies.
SprungOnSports will return with his regular Thoughts & Theories column on Thursday.
-Before we get started with this special edition of Thoughts and Theories, big shouts to the number one overall pick, Bryce Harper, in yesterday’s draft. It will be a pleasure to look forward to seeing him play next year though ideally the Washington Nationals would like to have him play now especially since they’re still looking for their second win in June. How about an unfortunate note with the Nationals; they have only six wins in the last three weeks, averaging two wins per week. Harper is the future, along with four other prospects in Baseball America’s top 100, but will GM Mike Rizzo be there for the journey? That’s the real question. Moving on to business.
-It was the battle of potential NL MVP’s in San Diego’s Adrian Gonzalez vs Philadelphia’s Ryan Howard in the city of brotherly love, the only problem was that neither of them were involved in the game until later on. The shining star ended up being Phillies Pitcher Cole Hamels, as he had a no-hitter through seven until Gonzalez broke up the no-no with a home run followed by another from Scott Hairston. Of course, the Phillies lost but that is not the issue; the issue is the lack of runs support. The Phils have been outscored 34-26 in the last 10 games, including getting only four wins in the process. This is definitely not the same team from ’09. It’s kind of ironic how the Padres are surging up the headlines and standings by their play; meanwhile the Phillies are stinking up a division where the Atlanta Braves look to be emerging as the NL East champions for the first time since 2005. Lucky for Phils fans, they play the Florida Marlins but who knows maybe they will not play up to Philly standards, which at this point cannot be any worse than they are playing right now.
-Finally after 60 games of baseball in the AL West, the division is starting to look a bit interesting as two teams, the Oakland Athletics and Texas Rangers, are within a game and a half behind the obvious leaders, the Los Angeles Angels. Not in contention to the surprise of many, including myself, are the Seattle Mariners who trail behind by seven. This team is doing almost as badly as the Houston Astros. Actually, that was too harsh because no one is doing as bad as the Astros, the GM Ed Wade firing watch is still looming and will be a matter of time. One thing that the Mariners have going for them is pitcher Cliff Lee who continues to come into his own and impress the Mariners and other teams who will looking for his services within the next several weeks if Seattle keeps playing the way they are. Yes, Mariners fans, by July 31 I am confident that he will be gone because his value is at an all-time high. And what better way to exploit a player with value than by trading him for future talent. By the way, the Mariners did win courtesy of Lee who went the distance for his 15th career complete game, needing only 107 pitches to do it and allowing only two earned runs en route to the win. Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu left him in the game in the 9th after coming up to talk to him, reminding me of a memorable 2003 ALCS moment when Red Sox manager Grady Little had the same talk with pitcher Pedro Martinez to see if he was going to take him out. No need to explain the rest for Red Sox fans who do not want to relive that moment in time.
-I don’t think I remember the last time the St. Louis Cardinals rolled over to a team, but yesterday had to be the night as everything was clearly not clicking for them as they lost 12-4 to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Actually, thanks to the good people at Baseball Reference, the last time they suffered a defeat that bad was July 14, 2009 against the Phillies. Albert Pujols had a rough night going 0-4, maybe he still has manager Tony La Russa on his mind, not in a good way of course! I should not throw the Dodgers under the bus like that because they are forming into a team that people are used to seeing in recent memory, as they trail NL West leading San Diego by just half a game. It should be an interesting rest of the first half of baseball as divisions start to heat up and teams start to realize that they are going to be a contender or a pretender.