The San Jose Earthquakes' remarkable season ended last night; the team fell in the Major League Soccer playoffs to their arch-rivals the Los Angeles Galaxy. The Quakes had beaten the Galaxy on Saturday, 1-0; last night they lost 3-1, and while in other sports that would mean the teams were tied, it's different in soccer, if you can believe that, sports fans: the Galaxy won on the strength of their 3-2 total goal advantage over the course of two games.
In a May 24 match, the Quakes made an astonishing comeback against the Galaxy by scoring three goals in the last 15 minutes. In a postgame interview, Quakes' forward Steven Lenhart first used the phrase that would come to characterize the rest of the year: Goonies Never Say Die! That was invoked many, many times in this year season of unlikely heroism and stoppage-time goals (the soccer equivalent of a walkoff home run).
While a number of unkind twitterers after last night's game suggested that the Goonies were now "Gone-ies", or in keeping with the film's script, had gone for a ride in Troy's bucket, Quakes' fans at the game seemed to disagree. They stuck around afterward to serenade the players one last time.
But while San Jose is out of the running for the MLS Cup, there is a gleam in their eye beyond next season. Because the Quakes had the best record in the regular season, they won the MLS Supporters' Shield, thus drawing an automatic invitation to the CONCACAF Champions League for 2013-2014. That unwieldly acronym stands for the Confederation of North, Central American, and Caribbean Association Football. The schedule and venues are yet to be determined, but some fans are already hoping San Jose might host a big international match in their new stadium when it opens in 2014.
Giants' GM Brian Sabean said on Wednesday the team plans to tender a contract to outfielder Hunter Pence, who drove in 45 runs in 59 games in the regular season but stalled in the playoffs.
As for re-signing ertswhile and injured closer Brian Wilson, Sabean said the following:
"This was his second [Tommy John], and if anyone could defy the odds, it would be him. But he's a long way from being at full strength, which means he's a long way from being cleared medically. It's wait and see. Until I get more medical information, we're not going near the subject."
Also on Wednesday, the Baseball Writers Association of America announced the finalists for the awards it hands out, and the A's and Giants are equally represented. Buster Posey is up for the National League MVP, the A's Yoenis Cespedes for the American League Rookie of the Year. And both Bruce Bochy and Bob Melvin are nominated for Manager of the Year. The winners will be announced next week.
Speaking of awards, Oakland's general manager Billy Beane was named MLB Executive of the Year last night by his GM counterparts at other clubs. Beane also won the award in 1999. And speaking of Rookies of the Year and baseball executives, the man who won the rookie award in 1988, Walt Weiss, was hired to manage the Colorado Rockies yesterday.
As the 2012 election news cycle comes to a close, a couple of sports-related notes: New York Times blogger and polling guru Nate Silver became a household name in the last few weeks, as his data-crunching produced projections for the presidential race that were criticized, derided, treasured, and finally vindicated.
But long before the New York Times or his previous blog, 538, Silver was known to baseball fans as the inventor of PECOTA (the Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm) and other sophisticated statistical analysis. He was just as controversial then, as this Phillies fan blog recalls.
And finally, I came across this photo Tuesday night:
It's August 2004, and a local politician is throwing out the first pitch at a Kane County Cougars game; the Cougars were at the time the A's Midwest League affiliate. Dallas Braden, the Cougars' actual pitcher, on the left, will go on to become the 19th person in major league history to throw a perfect game. The man on the right -- whose pitching form actually looks pretty good for an amateur basketball player -- will become the 44th person in American history to be elected President of the United States.
(H/t to the Midwest League Traveler.)