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Softball at the Olympics


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#1 dderemer

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Posted 19 August 2008 - 10:29 PM

Previously, the only relevant softball "discussion" was in P&G. But now it's the medal round. US vs. Japan, on NBCOlympics.com now (to be shown tape-delayed on CNBC at midnight), and the competition is actually competing this time. The last time the US faced Japan, Japan didn't throw its ace, who has dealt the US two of its four losses dating back several years.

US and Japan are going into extra innings. Japan was just a hit away from winning in the bottom of the 7th and 8th.

Edited by dderemer, 20 August 2008 - 08:39 AM.


#2 Ananti


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Posted 19 August 2008 - 11:01 PM

What a game. Watching this convinces me that the essence of sports spectatorship is caring about the outcome, if you care about who wins any sport can be exciting.

#3 Tokyo Sox


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Posted 20 August 2008 - 03:18 AM

Question: so, 4 teams advanced from the prelims: USA, Japan, Australia, Canada. In "semi-final match 1", the Aussies beat Canada, so Canada is out. In "semi-final match 2", US beat Japan, so Japan...goes on to play the Aussies to see who gets to go to the gold medal game? This isn't how it works for anything else is it? Why don't Japan & Canada play for the bronze, with USA vs Oz for the gold? Does it have something to with records coming in?

#4 Tokyo Sox


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Posted 20 August 2008 - 04:48 AM

So, Ueno throws 147 pitches against the US in Japan's extra innings loss, and she then starts vs. the Aussies about 5 hours later. WTF.

Japan is down 1-0 heading to the bottom of the 3rd. Ueno hit an Aussie chick in the head with a pitch, as she's taking her base Ueno just keeps continuously bowing to her. Aussie girl clearly had no idea what to make of the situation. Since she's fine, it was all pretty amusing. Still have no idea why Ueno is pitching again though.

#5 FelixMantilla


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Posted 20 August 2008 - 06:51 AM

So, Ueno throws 147 pitches against the US in Japan's extra innings loss, and she then starts vs. the Aussies about 5 hours later. WTF.

Japan is down 1-0 heading to the bottom of the 3rd. Ueno hit an Aussie chick in the head with a pitch, as she's taking her base Ueno just keeps continuously bowing to her. Aussie girl clearly had no idea what to make of the situation. Since she's fine, it was all pretty amusing. Still have no idea why Ueno is pitching again though.

It's not uncommon in softball for one pitcher to pitch all the games. And Ueno is one of the top four pitchers in the sport. Of course, the other three are the three American pitchers.....

#6 dderemer

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Posted 20 August 2008 - 08:28 AM

Question: so, 4 teams advanced from the prelims: USA, Japan, Australia, Canada. In "semi-final match 1", the Aussies beat Canada, so Canada is out. In "semi-final match 2", US beat Japan, so Japan...goes on to play the Aussies to see who gets to go to the gold medal game? This isn't how it works for anything else is it? Why don't Japan & Canada play for the bronze, with USA vs Oz for the gold? Does it have something to with records coming in?

I'm pretty sure this system is unique to softball. I don't know anyone else who has it. It's somewhat misleading to label the games as semifinals.

I gather you've figured out by now, but for anyone else, top four teams in prelim play make the medal round, the winner of a game between 1 vs. 2 gets one gold medal game slot, then the 1 vs. 2 loser plays the 3 vs. 4 winner for the other gold medal slot, and the loser of that game gets the bronze.

There are some things I like about that system. In a system where you have 1 vs. 4 and 2 vs. 3, the marginal benefit of a higher seed within the top 4 aren't all that large. In this system, there's a huge incentive to get one of the top two seeds (though no incentive to finish 1 over 2, which sucked because Japan totally tanked its prelim game vs. the US). Another nice thing is when there are two top teams, you can get two medal round matchups between them and that's fun to watch.

Edited by dderemer, 20 August 2008 - 08:29 AM.


#7 dderemer

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Posted 20 August 2008 - 08:40 AM

So for anyone not following too closely Japan beat US 4-1 in 9 innings (2 extra innings) for one slot in the gold medal game, though Japan came within one hit of beating the US in two different innings. Japan beat the Aussies in the evening in something of a loser’s bracket game to set up a rematch at 6:30 am on USA network. Should be fun with the last Olympic gold in at least 8 years (perhaps forever) on the line, and both teams throwing their aces.

The mediots, who pen one column every four years about softball, look at a few lopsided numbers and conclude that this tournament an exhibition for US and claim gold is a forgone conclusion. Some have even written that it would be good for the US to lose to demonstrate that the sport is still competitive. It's all nonsense. The games between the top four countries have been competitive more often than not, and the US doesn't need to lose to anyone to prove that.

Japan, Australia and China have historically competed well against the US, though China has fallen off since starting its Project 119 binge and turning away from women's team sports that are only worth one medal (look also how irrelevant Chinese women's soccer has become since 1999). In 2000, the US lost to each of the three in the prelims, but they beat them all narrowly in the medal round rematches. Writers gloss over this history when they talk about the inevitably of US victory.

The US was more dominant in the 2004 than in the past, but I'd note (1) it's a small sample, (2) Japan still took the US to extra innings in the prelims that year and (3) international softball moved the pitching rubber from 40 to 43 feet in 2001. The NCAA has been at 43 feet since the early 90s, so the US had an obvious advantage in adjusting to that in the 2004 Olympics. You would expect teams to do better this year. We didn't see that so much in the prelims, as Japan held back its ace who's beaten the US twice in the last three years, and pitched 8 shutout innings against the US yesterday.

The IOC voters who dropped the sport were just completely asinine. It was totally unfair to lump softball in with MLB's problems with steroids and the Olympic schedule. Other common reasons cited for its exclusion are lack of participation worldwide and the US dominance. As for participation, there are more national softball federations than field hockey federations -- it's just Europe and its trillion tiny countries that suck at bat sports that's the problem. As for dominance, the US softball team is far less dominant and far less of a sure thing than the US women's basketball team was from since 1994-2006, which never even lost a game internationally. The two votes for softball’s inclusion have been razor thin, I think one was a tie and all they needed was a simple majority. Tokyo or Chicago winning in 2016 would make a big difference in reinstatement.

#8 Ananti


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Posted 21 August 2008 - 12:41 AM

So this Japanese pitcher threw 9 innings against the US, and another 12 innings on the same day against Australia, probably threw somewhere between 250-300 pitches, I don't know much about softball, but how much could she possibly have left in the tank against the US in finals coming back the next day?

#9 Cuzittt


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Posted 21 August 2008 - 12:51 AM

Ueno threw over 300 pitches (I want to say I heard near 320) yesterday in her 21 innings of work.

#10 SydneySox


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Posted 21 August 2008 - 12:54 AM

... And she was getting faster into the late innings.

Pretty impressive.

#11 BigMike


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Posted 21 August 2008 - 07:11 AM

Gold Medal game is on USA live right now, so I guess no need for spoiler

Getting very late here, US needs to get going fast

#12 FelixMantilla


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Posted 21 August 2008 - 07:20 AM

Mendoza and Bustos coming up. Now is the time.

#13 FelixMantilla


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Posted 21 August 2008 - 07:23 AM

Don't like the bunt with Mendoza. She is probably our best hitter outside of Bustos. Candrella may have some 'splaining to do after the game.

#14 Hendu's Gait


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Posted 21 August 2008 - 07:24 AM

Why are you bunting with a 2-0 count on your #3 hitter?

#15 FelixMantilla


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Posted 21 August 2008 - 07:29 AM

USA leaves the bases juiced. Duran and Nuveman couldn't get it done.

I still can't believe they bunted Mendoza.....

Time to leave for work. I'm not expecting a miracle here.

#16 BigMike


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Posted 21 August 2008 - 07:32 AM

Why are you bunting with a 2-0 count on your #3 hitter?


Complete baffling, you take the bat out of your 2 best hitters hands.

USA is in deep trouble with 8-9-1 coming up next inning I think

#17 BigMike


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Posted 21 August 2008 - 07:40 AM

UGLY inning there with 2 US errors, although the second actually helped to some degree.

USA now needs a real miracle down 3-1 going into their last at bat

#18 Wingack


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Posted 21 August 2008 - 07:46 AM

US loses.

#19 BigMike


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Posted 21 August 2008 - 07:50 AM

Shocking loss.

Tough last inning there. The killer was the absolute rocket off the bat of Whatley. That was a rocket that looked like at least a hit, possibly a double, and somehow the 3B was able to make the play

#20 Wingack


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Posted 21 August 2008 - 07:54 AM

Well now that the US lost, I guess it can be brought back in 2012.

#21 WoburnDiaspora

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Posted 21 August 2008 - 08:17 AM

That Japanese pitcher threw somewhere around 450 pitches the last two days

I would suspect she won't be able to move her arm for a month.

#22 BigMike


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Posted 21 August 2008 - 08:20 AM

That Japanese pitcher threw somewhere around 450 pitches the last two days

I would suspect she won't be able to move her arm for a month.


I think it was just around 410. She got the second out in the 6th inning on her 400th pitch, and then only threw 6-8 pitches in the 7th inning (last 3 outs recorded on consecutive pitches)

Still an amazingly impressive performance, and yeah I think that arm is going to be pampered for a while

#23 FelixMantilla


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Posted 21 August 2008 - 08:28 AM

New York Times probably said it best:

While it was surprising that the Americans did not win the gold, it was not surprising to softball fans that Japan beat them in an all-or-nothing game. Ueno helped beat the United States four times in international tournaments the past four years, the biggest reason why the Americans were a modest 14-6 against Japan since 2004. She held the Americans scoreless through eight innings in the semifinals before allowing four runs in the pivotal ninth inning.

No doubt the USA is the best team in the world, but when it all comes down to one game you never know.....

#24 dderemer

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Posted 21 August 2008 - 08:29 AM

I feel so bad for these US players. To some degree they were in a no-win situation with the media. If they win, their victory was inevitable and they're ruining their sport via their dominance. If they lose, they're chokers. I've never been more frustrated with the media covering an Olympic event than this one. Of course, much of the blame lies with the IOC for creating this environment in which American dominance could be construed as having ruined the sport (even though, as I described, the US-Japan gap was never that large.) I'd like to think the team wasn't bothered by what anyone else thought and just played the game, but they had to answer questions about this crap every day, and no one deserves that.

Congrats to Japan and Ueno though. What an effort.

#25 CaptainLaddie


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Posted 21 August 2008 - 08:59 AM

That Japanese pitcher threw somewhere around 450 pitches the last two days

I would suspect she won't be able to move her arm for a month.

This reminds me of...

Posted Image

#26 Fred not Lynn


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Posted 21 August 2008 - 12:06 PM

That Japanese pitcher threw somewhere around 450 pitches the last two days

I would suspect she won't be able to move her arm for a month.

It's OK, She won't need it until 2016 at the earliest.

And I do think softball really got screwed here, I can understand some of the IOC's thinking on baseball - if you can't bring your best, don't bother coming - but it's too bad softball was the baby that got thrown out with the bathwater.

At least baseball has the WBC. Maybe MLB/IBF/Whoever the softball IF is ought to help out the ladies here and create World Softball Classic to run a little before, a little after or somehow else affiliated with the WBC. Alternatively, maybe someone could answer the question, "Why do we even have softball? Can't women just play baseball?".

In my opinion, softball is like ringette - an adapted version of a men's game developed in a day when it was believed that women couldn't/shouldn't play the men's version.

Ringette, by the way, is a mainly Canadian game played on ice - with a donut style ring instead of a puck, and a straight stick with which you control the ring, basically watered down hockey invented for girls back before women just started playing ice hockey. It sounds pretty lame, and in fact it is - especially now that any girl or woman who is at all athletic is playing ice hockey.

#27 Hendu's Gait


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Posted 21 August 2008 - 12:09 PM

Mendoza, Osterman, and Finch are always welcome at the Hendu's Gait Olympics.

#28 dderemer

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Posted 21 August 2008 - 12:32 PM

At least baseball has the WBC. Maybe MLB/IBF/Whoever the softball IF is ought to help out the ladies here and create World Softball Classic to run a little before, a little after or somehow else affiliated with the WBC. Alternatively, maybe someone could answer the question, "Why do we even have softball? Can't women just play baseball?".

Softball does have World Championships, and they also started an event they called the World Cup with fewer teams so better games all around (none of this US vs. Netherlands crap). So these events already exist. I'd imagine they would increase in importance over the next 8+ years. Hopefully someone like ESPN will televise them, as I imagine they would.

A lot of people feel the Olympic status is kind of a death blow to the sport, but at least it helped spurn the popularity of the Women's College World Series, which I'm pretty sure has done pretty well for ESPN. I mean if they're televise the superregional rounds too in recent years, they must be something right.

In my opinion, softball is like ringette - an adapted version of a men's game developed in a day when it was believed that women couldn't/shouldn't play the men's version. Ringette, by the way, is a mainly Canadian game played on ice - with a donut style ring instead of a puck, and a straight stick with which you control the ring, basically watered down hockey invented for girls back before women just started playing ice hockey. It sounds pretty lame, and in fact it is - especially now that any girl or woman who is at all athletic is playing ice hockey.

It's an interesting question as to why women's softball vs. men's baseball evolved this way, yet ringette never displaced women's hockey. Part of it is probably that ringette never got out of Canada I guess, while softball and baseball were both invented in America? Some women's hockey players for Canada definitely started playing ringette in the past, then switch to ice hockey, though that's probably less common now that women's ice hockey is an established Olympic and NCAA sport (and NCAA relies heavily on Canadian players).

But there's too much infrastructure in place for softball now at the youth, high school, and college levels in the US (and probably worldwide, I don't know what it's like in Aussie/Japan) that I see no way that women's baseball is going to displace women's softball.

#29 Fred not Lynn


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Posted 21 August 2008 - 12:43 PM

It's an interesting question as to why women's softball vs. men's baseball evolved this way, yet ringette never displaced women's hockey. Part of it is probably that ringette never got out of Canada I guess, while softball and baseball were both invented in America? Some women's hockey players for Canada definitely started playing ringette in the past, then switch to ice hockey, though that's probably less common now that women's ice hockey is an established Olympic and NCAA sport (and NCAA relies heavily on Canadian players).

But there's too much infrastructure in place for softball now at the youth, high school, and college levels in the US (and probably worldwide, I don't know what it's like in Aussie/Japan) that I see no way that women's baseball is going to displace women's softball.

I presume it's a timing issue - baseball, and its "ladies version", are just older - and softball had time to really get established before the day came when people realized, "waitaminute, women CAN do the same stuff as men". Ringette, on the other hand, was just newer, and easier to replace. If ringette was slightly more established when NCAA had to create women's hockey teams, I wonder if NCAA would have used that sport instead of ice hockey to satisfy Title IX requirements?

Another issue on the Olympic baseball/softball front is that they're seperate sports with different venues - if they could engineer a solution that made it so both sports could be played on the same fields, it would help things.

Edited by Fred not Lynn, 21 August 2008 - 12:46 PM.


#30 FelixMantilla


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Posted 21 August 2008 - 07:42 PM

In my opinion, softball is like ringette - an adapted version of a men's game developed in a day when it was believed that women couldn't/shouldn't play the men's version.

You do know there's Men's Fastpitch Softball?

I wonder what fastpitch boards are saying about Coach Candrea's decision to bunt Jessica Mendoza with a 2-0 count, one on and nobody out in the 6th inning. I know it wasn't a pure sacrifice, but it had the same effect. It also took the bat out of Crystl Bustos' hands. If you want a major league comparison of these two players, think a left-handed hitting Albert Pujols (Mendoza) and Jimmy Foxx (Bustos). These two are that good.

Also not a big fan of Osterman. Great pitcher, but I would have used Finch in a championship game.

Edited by FelixMantilla, 21 August 2008 - 07:43 PM.


#31 Hendu's Gait


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Posted 24 August 2008 - 12:21 PM

ok, Rogge is now blaming the "Softball federation" for not educating the IOC voters that Softball is a separate sport from Baseball.

#32 The Napkin


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Posted 24 August 2008 - 12:26 PM

I liked how one of the reasons softball was removed from the games was because it was bad for one country to win all the medals.

So that means diving is next to go, right? Then long distance running I suppose. And the Russians seem to win synchro swimming every year, should probably look at that too.

The second best thing was baseball being removed because of steroids in MLB. Good thing we took all those swimming events out in the 70s. And the cycling better go too, those damn tour de francers are always getting busted. Should probably take out track and field as well just to be sure.

#33 Hendu's Gait


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Posted 24 August 2008 - 12:30 PM

I liked how one of the reasons softball was removed from the games was because it was bad for one country to win all the medals.

So that means diving is next to go, right? Then long distance running I suppose. And the Russians seem to win synchro swimming every year, should probably look at that too.

The second best thing was baseball being removed because of steroids in MLB. Good thing we took all those swimming events out in the 70s. And the cycling better go too, those damn tour de francers are always getting busted. Should probably take out track and field as well just to be sure.


and Women's Basketball (5 US - 4 straight- plus 3 Soviet/Unified, no one else winning Gold). And then Men's Basketball will go next because it actually IS the same sport as Women's Basketball.