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To clear something up here re: European football and parallel competitions...
Let's take English football as an example. The Premier League sees 20 teams play each other team twice, once at home and once on the road, and the winner is the the team with the most points (three for a win, one for a tie) at the end of the season. That's straightforward, I think.
The main domestic cup competition - the FA Cup in English football - runs alongside all the leagues and features pretty much every club in the country. The top teams enter in January, by which point the number of teams remaining stands at 64.
The Champions League is different, in that it's a pan-European tournament. Teams win the right to play in it based on their final domestic league position in the previous season. The number of teams that a country can enter, and whether they have to play off before reaching the competition, varies. More successful countries, such as England and Spain, send four teams. Minor eastern European nations might only send their league winners, and even then they might have to play a few qualification rounds before reaching the start of the competition-proper. The top teams from the main European leagues go straight there. Qualifying for this tournament is financially valuable to clubs, and it's also the most prestigious trophy to win because, obviously, you have to beat the best teams on the continent.
No blackouts in the UK either, which more than makes up for the late nights.
You should all come to London.
Now, any danger of the book showing up this side of the Atlantic?
Oh, and in case you're wondering, a duck is what you get if you get out without scoring a run. If you're out without scoring off your first ball, that's a golden duck. And if it's the first ball of the innings ("innings" is both singular and plural in cricket), it's a diamond duck. Two ducks in a game is referred to as "a pair".
I think everything that Dan Brooks thinks is impressive about AB de Villiers is actually impressive. de Villiers is a wonderful cricketer - a superb batsman who is also a decent wicket-keeper (cricket's version of a catcher). He's one of those people who's pretty good at whichever sport he plays; he could probably play professional golf if he ever got bored of his current occupation. He's a great athlete.
Viv Richards in his prime would probably have been classed as having 70 or 80 power - utterly destructive with a bat in his hand.
On the subject of cricket, there were rumours recently that David Warner, the Australian batsman, was being watched by MLB scouts during the recent series against England, but I'm not sure how much truth there was to that. He'd do pretty well though, I reckon - he combines power and flair with the bat with agility in the field. Not sure he'd get high make-up grades though.
I can't believe you didn't manage to work a "lights out" gag into those headlines.
The former. I started watching baseball with an American friend while at university a few years ago and never looked back!
I'm in the UK, so MLB.TV is available to me during the play-offs. I was looking forward to using the audio overlay function to have Vin Scully's commentary over the pictures last night, but Dodgers radio was was the one audio option not available in this mode. As disappointing as falling asleep before the end of the game!
For all the words and phrases that have made it into the British lexicon, I am so glad that "winningest" and "losingest" have so far been strongly resisted.
The state of the pitch will either favour the batsmen or the bowlers, and in Test matches (which last up to five days), the pitch can go from one extreme to the other during the course of the same match.
If a pitch is hard and even(no cracks, no rough areas) it will be better for the batters, because the bounce will be consistent and the ball will be less likely to move off the pitch. That said, there are a few examples where the pitch is so hard and fast that tall, fast bowlers can cause batsmen a lot of problems, mainly by bowling short (that is, landing the ball further from the batsmen) so that it reaches the batsman around the chest/neck area. Perth in Australia is probably the best example.
As a Test match wears on, the pitch is likely to deteriorate. Cracks might start to emerge; if a ball lands on one of these it's likely to behave unpredictably, either by turning sharply, keeping low or unexpectedly high. Moreover, fast bowlers take long run ups when they bowl, and so once they've released the ball, their momentum causes them to follow through onto the pitch, where their spikes (cleats) cause the pitch to rough up in certain areas. If a spin bowler (who will bowl around 55-60 mph and who relies on the ability to cause the ball to bounce and move laterally, rather than sheer pace) can land the ball in these areas, he will likely have a lot of success.
Different countries have different types of pitches, typically. England's are softer and more grass-covered at the start of the summer, getting better as the season wears on; the same is true in New Zealand. Pitches in Australia and the West Indies tend to be harder. Those in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka tend to be drier and dustier. And then different pitches within each country can behave differently too!
A Test match has only once been abandoned because the pitch was actually dangerous - West Indies v England in 1997. See here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bNV8LJX1Pms
P.S. The weather can also affect things. Essentially, the hotter and sunnier it is, the easier it tends to be to bat. If it's muggy and overcast, fast bowlers are more likely to be able to move the ball in the air.
When talking about sports played on different surfaces, I can't believe you missed a chance to include a reference to cricket!
I completely agree with Jason. It's probably true that there are more people who want to fill such positions than there are positions available. I'll take your word for the fact that organisations can get away with this legally. But it's abhorrent to suggest that it's acceptable for this to happen, for those who don't have the financial means to support themselves without a salary. Just because MLB organisations *can* do this doesn't meant they should.
As I said above, I always enjoy it when cricket is brought up in these podcasts. A few points relating to what was said in this episode:
1. HotSpot has been the main problem in the current England v Australia series. (By the way, each Test series between these two teams is known as The Ashes - http://goo.gl/Rp84ka - Wikipedia). There have been instances where it seems pretty clear that the ball has hit the bat but nothing has shown up on the HotSpot replay. Various theories have arisen - hot weather might cause the technology to not work as well, for instance - but it's not been a good summer for HotSpot.
2. The snickometer has been a staple of TV coverage, in the UK at least, for about 13 years now. The reason why it hasn't been part of the official review system is that it takes too long to produce. Apparently they've managed to sort this out though - or they're close to doing so - and this is likely to be part of the review system soon.
3. The third umpire, whose job it is to adjudicate in these situations, is someone who will be an on-field umpire most of the time.
4. Both sides competing in a series have to agree to video review for it to be used. India refuse to use it, citing concerns with its accuracy, so series involving them rely simply on the decisions of the on-field umpires.
5. Two main effects of the DRS stand out for me. Firstly, and without going into too much detail, there are certain ways a batsman will be given out now that would never have happened in the past. Secondly, it removes a bit of drama each time a batsman is out. An example: England won a really dramatic first game against the Aussies a few weeks ago. The final out came courtesy of a video review by England after the on-field umpire had said "not out". It no longer feels *quite* the same when the umpire gives someone out, because everyone immediately looks to see whether the batsman will review the decision (unless, of course, his side have run out of reviews).
More cricket on Effectively Wild? Superb.
On a slightly-related note, I've noticed an increasing use of the term "change-up", mainly in limited-overs cricket, where "slower ball" would previously have been used. Goodness only knows what the traditionalists will make of this once they pick up on it en masse.
This might be a bit long but...
The speed at which a bowler bowls will certainly have a bearing on positioning. You'll see on that graphic, for instance, that next to Point is Backward Point in brackets. Typically, for a fast bowler (at international level, the top fast bowlers will deliver the ball at about 90-95 mph) the fielder will be positioned at backward point because the ball is more likely to come off the bat at that angle. The same principle applies to the fielders positioned on the boundary on either side (Deep Point and Deep Cover on the off side, Deep Square Leg and Deep Mid-Wicket on the leg side). When it's a spinner (typically about 55-65 mph) bowling, those fielders square of the wicket will often come a bit forward of square.
As far as differing between different close-in positions is concerned, silly mid-off and silly mid-on tend to be a little further from the bat but still quite straight. Typically if the bowler's fast, you'll only really see a short leg in close.
Handedness doesn't come into it so much, but there are specialists at each position. Obviously the wicket-keeper is the most specialised, and he'll stay in that position all game. The slips - the ones who stand next to the wicket-keeper - and the gulley fielder(s) - who stand(s) next to the slips - will have very safe hands. Guys who field at point or cover tend to be the most agile and athletic - think of that as the equivalent of short-stop, I guess. It's usually the same players who field in close too - obviously quick reactions are the key here. The less-capable fielders tend to get stashed on the boundary or at mid-on or mid-off, less demanding positions.
Spray charts and similar graphics are used a lot, and widely incorporated into broadcasts too. The quality of cricket broadcasts in the UK - on TV and radio - is very high. Teams will develop plans for certain batsmen who often get out in similar fashion. They might have difficulty fending off the short ball, for instance, in which case the fielding team might position a man at short leg as well as men in the slips and the gulley. Or they might have trouble resisting the temptation to chase a wide delivery, in which case they're likely to bring the slips into play.
The other main variable is the conditions. If the ball is swinging (moving in the air) a lot, there's a good chance of the batsman edging it to the slips or to gulley. In this instance, the fielding captain might leave an inviting gap in the Cover area to entice the batsman to hit the ball in that area, a risky shot when the ball is swinging away. If the pitch is turning significantly, you'll likely see more men fielding round the bat.
As a British baseball fan, I get a weird sense of enjoyment whenever cricket permeates a discussion on America's favourite bat-and-ball game.
Anyway, there are basically four close-in fielding positions in front of the batsman - silly mid-off, silly mid-on, silly point and short leg. (There's a graphic of the most common positions here: http://www.dangermouse.net/cricket/fielding.gif)
A very extreme example of fielders in close around the bat can be seen here: http://img704.imageshack.us/img704/4684/52977526.jpg
That only tends to happen when the fielding side is well on top and the batting side are down to their worst batsmen who'll struggle to simply hit or just grind their way out of such situations, and also when the pitch is causing the ball to turn significantly.
Is part of the appeal of college football and basketball not that those players could well be playing for an NFL or NBA team the following year, whereas college baseball players tend to take longer to reach the big leagues?