Hello and welcome to another Wednesday of deep thoughts. What a time to be a sports fan. The football season is beginning to take shape and playoff baseball began with an epic game between the Royals and A’s. Honestly, I missed the first five innings. I went for a run and sat down to find the game and ended up taking a nap. Although I am mad that I missed part of the game, I cannot imagine that the beginning was anything like the ending. Do the Royals look like an old school team or what? 7 stolen bases, four bunts? It was hard to believe that this was an American League game. Brandon Moss did is part to bring the power normally part of AL games, but it was not enough to overcome the resilience of the Royals. I can’t remember 7 different players with a stolen base in one game. It looked to me like Salvador Perez could be the goat in this game. He was 0 for 5 and had missed two opportunities to drive in a big run. Of course, the beautiful thing about baseball is that there are many chances to make up for missed opportunities. Perez came up with the big hit to win the game, but for me…Eric Hosmer’s triple was the biggest hit of the game. When Cain made the first out of the 12th inning, I texted my son and told him that now the Royals would have to hit to win. Otero had Hosmer’s number staying low and away. He missed his target just one time and Hosmer made him pay.
I know that many fans have been critical of the one game play in that the new playoff format created. As I watched this game, I had to believe that it would not have been possible to create the drama of this game with a 5 game format. I really dig the one game playoff and believe it is here to stay. This was a game for the ages and is what is so awesome about playoff baseball. Is it unfair to the A’s to play all season and then be done so quickly? Perhaps, but they brought this upon themselves with their second half collapse. I know what I will remember is the great baseball played to open the 2014 MLB playoffs. The Royals are a long shot at making the World Series, but they live to continue their quest. We can only hope that Wednesday night’s game between the Pirates and Giants is half as entertaining as this game.
There will only be one Big Donkey. Thanks for the memories Adam!
With Oakland’s loss, Adam Dunn will be retiring from baseball. He will join Paul Konerko and Derek Jeter in hanging up the spikes. While Dunn was not in the class of Konerko or Jeter, the “Big Donkey” had perhaps the best nickname of his generation. I always found Dunn to be somewhat of a unique player. It seemed that his at bats were one of three options: a prodigious blast, a walk or a strikeout. 462 HRs, 1317 BBs, and 2379 Ks. Many do not realize that Dunn was recruited to play QB at the University of Texas, but chose to play professional baseball instead. Watching him lumber now, we forget that he once stole 19 bases early in his career. Paul Konerko broke my heart in 2005 with the grand slam in the World Series that beat my Astros. He finishes his career with 439 HRs and 410 2Bs putting him a club shared by just 9 other players in baseball history. You may recognize a few of these names: Jimmie Foxx, Lou Gehrig, Albert Pujols, Eddie Murray, Jeff Bagwell, Fred McGriff, Carlos Delgado, Jason Giambi and Rafael Palmeiro. Konerko also joins Don Sutton and Phil Neikro as the only players to play 16 years or more for one team and less than 100 games for two others. He was selected to the All Star team 6 times during his career. For my eyes, he may fall just short of the HOF, but he had a great career nonetheless.
When I hear the name Paul Konerko...I think of a tough minded guy. A blue collar hero.
While Dunn and Konerko’s final season may surprise some, Derek Jeter’s final season has received plenty of recognition. I have watched baseball fans react to this final season “hype” with mixed emotions. Most baseball fans understand that Jeter is one of the special players in baseball history. Others choose to ignore a career that will surely end in a first ballot selection to the HOF. I believe that for those that have disdain for Jeter, it is because he played in the pinstripes of the New York Yankees. I have thought long and hard trying to understand how a true baseball fan could not like what Derek Jeter has represented. He played the game the right way and lived his life the right way. He declined the spotlight, but was well spoken when his duty as captain required him to speak. We never heard his name associated with steroids or any other illegal activity. Jeter was a winner as a player and as a man. Yes, because he played for the Yankees he received notoriety, but is this his fault? If this is reason to hate a player, then you would hate Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe Dimaggio or Mickey Mantle if they played today. In fact, there are a couple guys in this group that would be crucified today for how they played outside the lines.
This quote perfectly explains how Derek Jeter grabbed success...hard work.
We live in a world that has become jaded and I think results in some becoming cynical of anything or anyone that receives acclaim. When many hold something up as good, there seems to be others that want to play contrarian and look for a reason to disagree. Baseball fans today simply do not seem to recognize greatness and perhaps it has always been that way. Is it possible that we are only able to recognize our best players after they are finished playing? If you watched the final game for Derek Jeter in Yankee stadium, you will understand why Jeter decided to allow the farewell tour. It was not for him or the Yankees, but for baseball fans. This is a guy that understands and appreciates what the fans mean to the game. The farewell tour was his way of saying thank you and goodbye to the fans.
There are only five players in baseball history that have more hits than Derek Jeter: Pete Rose, Ty Cobb, Hank Aaron, Stan Musial and Tris Speaker. These names you will recognize as baseball royalty, which is how I view Derek Jeter. For those fans that look for the negative in good things, it is obvious to me that they suffer the same problem as the Grinch…they have a heart that is several sizes too small. Here is something that hopefully will swell that heart and allow them to enjoy the good as it comes along.
Last weekend, the Texas JUCO baseball played a series of all-star games in Austin to recognize the best players for the spring season the year before. Since so many coaches and scouts are in town, they also do a showcase on Sunday morning. Although Blake was not eligible to play in the all-star game, he was able to participate in the showcase. After his workout, a coach from Houston Baptist came by to talk with Blake. He gave him a packet and indicated he would be contacting him. It is funny…I recognized the coach, but could not place his face. It turns out that his name is Xavier Hernandez and he pitched in the majors for the Astros, Rangers and a few other teams. This got me to thinking about how many former players end up being able to stay in the game in one capacity or another. We typically don’t hear what happens after they finish playing, but it is always cool for me to run across someone that I remembered as a player. I am not sure how things will work out with Houston Baptist for Blake, but it is good to have options. Houston Baptist plays in the Southland Conference along with Sam Houston State, Lamar, University of New Orleans, Lamar and a few other schools. Last year, the conference had 18 players drafted in the MLB draft. As they say, sometimes when God closes a door, he opens a window. We will see what happens, but it sure was fun to see our son play again…it seems like forever since we have had a chance to see him behind the plate.
Dallas Cowboys are celebrating the huge win over the Saints and a 3-1 start to begin the season. To be honest, I am surprised. Like most football fans, I expected the Cowboys to struggle this year. Losing big names off of their defense from last year, it was a foregone conclusion that the defense would be worse (and they were really bad last year). A funny thing happened to the unit that lost Ware and Hatcher…they got better. How is it possible for a team to lose two high profile players and improve? Is this a situation where less is more? Well, I think it is. The Cowboys defense that was literally punked by the Saints in New Orleans returned the favor in the rematch in Dallas. Granted, the Saints are not usually a great road team…but anytime you beat Drew Brees, it is a big deal. So what is the difference in 2014? For one, removing big names on the defense meant that the entire unit had to shoulder the load. The addition of Henry Melton and Rolando McClain has been huge. Also, the Cowboys got back to what made them successful during their Super Bowl seasons…running the ball. I think that Jerry and Co. became enthralled with Romo’s right arm and forgot that successful football begins upfront…on both sides of the ball. It is no coincidence that Dallas has better blocking after they invested early draft picks to shore up the offensive line. Yeah, Johnny Manziel might be a sexy pick in the draft, but a player like Zack Martin truly makes a difference. Martin is a guy that can play at a high level for 15 years or so. Given the fact that Romo is coming off surgery, it is no small deal to be able to keep him upright. Dallas has chosen to focus on running the ball, which has allowed the defense more time on the sideline. If Murray can stay healthy, this could be a season to remember.
But, it is a season that is only 1/4 complete. Yes...Dallas is 3 and 1. How about those Cowboys and all that! Yeah…that is great. But, I am looking ahead now to games against the Houston Texans and a road game in Seattle. I will continue to temper my excitement as I know that there is a long road ahead. Please pardon my lack of excitement as I have been to this rodeo before. It is great to play well in September and October, but championships are won in November and December. I will be watching each game and enjoying the victories, but until I see the late season success…consider me a doubting Thomas.
As surprised as we have been by the play of the Cowboys, I think equally surprising is the poor play of the New England Patriots. Last Monday night, the Patriots laid an egg in Kansas City. Each season, we see early struggles from the Patriots become late season success. So fans are used to seeing the Patriots adjust to early adversity. But, we have never seen the Patriots implode as they did on Monday night against the Chiefs. I have said on several occasions that I thought that Belichick the GM might have missed the mark by allowing Wes Welker to leave. But, given his track record…it is difficult to second guess the moves of Belichick the GM. Patriot after Patriot have been allowed to leave before they were completely done. By taking the best years and not paying for the declining years, New England has remained at the top of the AFC. This may seem cold hearted, but in a league with a salary cap…this “Patriot Way” has proven to be very successful…until this year. I think the struggles of New England’s offense can be directly traced to the trade of Logan Mankins. The 6 time pro bowl guard seems to have been the glue that kept the offense together. As we have seen in Dallas, a good offensive line helps the entire team. By running the ball, it takes pressure off of the QB and keeps the defense off the field. Tom Brady does not look like a QB that has had NFL success. Without time to throw, Brady looks nervous in the pocket and led to comments from Rodney Harrison that Brady looks, “scared to death”. While I think reports that the Patriot dynasty is over are a bit premature, unless Coach Bill can fix the problems that GM Belichick created…this could be a long year for fans in New England.
Have you ever had a chance to take a picture with a famous person? Would you have the balls to do this?
I don't care who you are...that is funny right there!
That is all I have today, but I will leave you with a bit of Jack Handey
"Is there anything more beautiful than a beautiful, beautiful flamingo, flying across in front of a beautiful sunset? And he's carrying a beautiful rose in his beak, and also he's carrying a very beautiful painting with his feet. And also, you're drunk."
"What is it about a beautiful sunny afternoon, with the birds singing and the wind rustling through the leaves, that makes you want to get drunk?" "And after you're real drunk, maybe go down to the public park and stagger around and ask people for money, and then lay down and go to sleep."
Thanks for stopping by and feel free to leave a few deep thoughts of your own.
This weekend marks the final appearence of the contemporary Mr. Yankee at Fenway Park or, for that matter, at any park. Derek Jeter has gone through his farewell tour, in similar fashion to Mariano Rivera last year.
Is it an indication of baseball's flagging though still solid popularity that teams (well, the Yankees anyway) feel compelled to publicize farewell tours while the legends of the game, who played in times when baseball wasn't just king, it was the entire royal family, never had such occasions formally arranged?
Perhaps it's the novelty in the era of free agency of having a player spend his career in one town. Nobody can argue with Jeter's success. He has five Series rings. He's been on seven pennant winners. And he's been arguably the lynchpin of the Yankees throughout his tenure.
But is he really Mr. Yankee? Some modern fans who remember no one else would say yes. But the Yankees have won a lot of pennants. Dating from 1920, the year Babe Ruth (and practically the entire Red Sox roster) went to New York, the Yankees have won 40 pennants and 27 World Series in 95 seasons.
The Yankee pantheon is enormous. From their first run as winners, led by The Babe, they've seen even more successful runs led by Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle.
Mickey Mantle? The winningest player of all time is none other than his teammate Yogi Berra, with an amazing 10 rings. He won 14 pennants, by the way. All this in 16 seasons with the Yankees. Is Yogi really Mr. Yankee?
Joe DiMaggio won at almost the same clip, bagging 9 rings. Gehrig got 8. The Mick had 7.
It seems shocking in retrospect that Babe Ruth, the icon of winning and power, only won 7. More amazing is that 3 of them came within a 6-year span while pitching for the Red Sox, only 4 as a Yankee despite a 15-year tenure. He didn't get a farewell tour, by the way. He got turned down for manager and left to end his career with the Boston Braves, who also turned him down as a manager.
Despite all of that, there's no doubt that the all-time face of the Yankees continues to be Ruth. In fact, he continues to be the most famous baseball player of all time.
So who are some other 'faces of the franchise' around the older clubs?
The only Red Sox with 4 rings is Harry Hooper. He was part of Boston's famous outfield of Tris Speaker, Harry Hooper and Duffy Lewis, but outlasted his companions in a Boston uniform and won four pennants and four Series between 1912 and 1918, four out of seven in that span. But he's not even recognizable to the Pink Hats. They know the name Cy Young, but only as an award. They may recall Carl Yastrzemski. Luis Tiant. Jim Rice. Wade Boggs was big, and for a good team. Clemens too. David Ortiz has won 3 rings with Boston and been a primary contributor for all 3.
But the face of the Sox continues to be Ted Williams, who was more famous than any of them despite reaching only one World Series. A .344 average and 500+ HRs (despite missing nearly 5 seasons as a combat Marine pilot in 2 wars) will do that for you. And he played on teams laden with Hall members (not to mention a few such as Johnny Pesky and Vern Stephens who most believe should be in the Hall).
Detroit? Oh, you have your Trammels, Kalines, Greenbergs, Gehringers and Loliches, but how is Ty Cobb not Mr. Tiger, more than a century after he came up? .367 BA? And his legends deserve some mention. You can't make this stuff up. We think, at least.
Three weeks before his Tiger debut, his mother killed his father with a pistol, supposedly thinking him a prowler. Cobb would dedicate his life to his father. The split-grip dead ball hitter got so tired of hearing about Babe Ruth as his career wound down in the 20s that he announced he would show people something on a trip to St. Louis to play the Browns. He unsplit his grip and hit 5 home runs in 2 days. Then he went back to his old style. His apocryphal urban legends (which may be true) include him carrying a satchel with $1M around with him everywhere (Cobb had invested his money in Coca-Cola very early on and was a shrewd manipulator of stocks) so he could buy anything he wanted on sight, and a guest appearance in a radio booth in his later years where he was asked how he thought he'd do against modern pitching. When he replied "Maybe .310, .320" he was asked if he thought pitching had improves so far as to hold him down like that. He is supposed to have replied something like "No, I'm 70 years old, ya damn fool!"
The A's? Lotsa candidates, but their travels have obscured their history. Certainly in Philly it could be Jimmy Foxx, Al Simmons or Lefty Grove. In Oakland? Any one of a bunch from the team of unknowns with funny names that dominated baseball for 3 years straight, names like Catfish Hunter, Joe Rudi, Sal Bando, Rollie Fingers and Reggie Jackson.
Howsa bout the Washington Senators, now the Twins? They spent a lot of time in the basement in Washington. In Minnesota they've had more luck. Harmon Killebrew sure rings a bell. So does Kirby Puckett. Rod Carew anyone? But it's gotta still be Walter Johnson, the Big Train, at least for DC.
The Cardinals? If it were about stats, Rogers Hornsby ('The Rajah') would have the title hands down. A .358 average? Hit .400 3 times in 4 years? But despite stars before and since who've come and gone (Frisch, Gibson, Brock, Smith, Pujols to name a few) Stan Musial still seems to be the historic figure that leads the pantheon.
The Cubs? Despite some success here and there, they haven't been dominant since Tinker, Evers and Chance. Ernie Banks is more recent, and despite playing for mediocre teams, he's still Mr. Cub.
The Giants? In New York it could have been Christy Mathewson, Carl Hubbell or several others. Bobby Thompson wasn't an all-time great but everybody sure remembers his name. Still, their most famous player spans their two locations, and that's still Willie Mays over Barry Bonds, I'd wager.
Braves? Could be Warren Spahn. Could be any number of great 90s Atlanta pitchers. But it's most probably Hank Aaron.
Orioles. That's a tough one. If you include their St. Louis Browns incarnation, nobody was a better hitter than George Sisler, a contemporary of Ruth and Hornsby who, for a time, was just as good. His run was felled by, of all things, a sinusitis condition that blurred his vision. Remember, there were no antibiotics in the 1920s. These days the face of the O's, however, is probably Cal Ripken (though as a shortstop he sure didn't win as much as Mark Belanger), though I wonder how many still think of Brooks or Frank Robinson? Or Jim Palmer?
The Indians have had tons of good teams. Nap Lajoie dominated the AL's early years. But despite an angry Tris Speaker leaving Boston for Cleveland and playing the balance of his career there, despite the amazing lineups they fielded in the 40s and 90s, and despite the fact that he was an aging cog in the machine that was their pitching staff in 1954 (featuring Early Wynn, Bob Lemon and Mike Garcia), the face of the Tribe probably remains Bob Feller, the fastest pitcher on record.
The White Sox? You tell me. I suppose Frank Thomas is the name that still rings loudest. Could be Carlton Fisk, but he chose a Red Sox hat for the Hall. Truth be told, the most famous names I ever recall for the Hitless Wonders were the keystone combo of Nellie Fox and Luis Aparicio.
The Dodgers? In Brooklyn it may have been Pee Wee Reese, Hal Newhouser or Duke Snider. In LA? Sandy Koufax? Don Drysdale? Maury Wills?
Pittsburgh... Bill Mazeroski held the title for years after hitting the home run that cost Casey Stengel his job. Willie Stargell became an icon. Marty Marion was an octopus at 3rd. Ultimately, their most lasting all-time name may still be a guy who started his career in the 19th Century. That, of course, would be Honus Wagner.
Cincinnati? Hm. They had Frank Robinson, but traded him to the Orioles. They had the Big Red Machine, and Pete Rose. Johnny Bench is a candidate. With Rose's complications, perhaps he's the #1 candidate for Mr. Red.
Phillies? Wow, there was Chuck Klein but he played on bad teams. There's been a recent good streak for the old traditional doormat, but that may be too close to current. Heck, their hot streaks have been so few and far between people still remember Robin Roberts and Richie Ashburn. Or Dick (Richie) Allen. The king may still be Mike Schmidt.
Faces of franchises are things you expect to change, especially with the eternal 'today is better' mentality. It's surprising, even for a traditional sport like baseball, how old some of them are.
It has been 25 years since baseball banned Pete Rose for betting on his Reds. With a new Commissioner of Baseball due to arrive on the scence, does this offer Charlie Hustle any glimmer of hope that baseball will welcome his back into its fraternity before he heads to the Big Bench in the Sky? (Pete is in his 70's) The history behind the ban - and really the appropriateness - while not in dispute for the most part, is not fresh in the minds of most fans. Now what fans remember is that the man with 4,254 hits is banned from the Hall of Fame. The condensed version of his gambling on baseball is that as manager of the Reds, he bet on his team's games on a routine basis with the size of the bets ranging from $2,000 to $10,000. While Rose has admantantly claimed he only bet FOR his team, MLB investigator Dowd has said he believed it was likely that Rose did in fact bet AGAINST the Reds. Periodically a segment of the fan base begins a campaign to reinstate Pete Rose - my view is that perhaps in time, but "Not Yet....Not Yet." (my Gladiator reference of the day).
Which brings me to the other baseball betting "injustice" - the sad plight of Shoeless Joe Jackson. Joe was associated with the Black Sox as one of the Eight Men Out for taking $5,000, a hefty sum in those days, yet Joe was basically dumber than a sack of rocks and did not appreciate the implications of his deeds. At that time in baseball, gamblers were prevelant in and around the clubhouse and games were often influenced by this seedy element around the game...think "The Natural" and the pressure that beset Roy Hobbs by bookie Gus Sands. Joe paid a heavy price for being associated with the Black Sox, who although they were aquitted in court, we still banned for life from Baseball. Joe Jackson would have possibly been as great as Babe Ruth - or maybe even better - but the world will never know. As it stands, his career as a White Sox and his body of work was certainly Hall - worthy. If Rose is to be forgiven, I think Joe Jackson also has to be in the conversation.
Perhaps what Baseball needs is a wing of the Hall for those whose stats are worthy of merit, but for one reason or another, fell into disrepute. Spots for Rose, Jackson, Bonds, Clemens, Sosa, McGuire and others from the steroid era may need a place to call their own. It might be a good solution to a thorny problem.
In other news to note...
Will this be the first time since 1994 that the Yankees and the Red Sox will not be in the playoffs? It is going to take a great run from the Yankees to get in.
How about them O's? To me the Orioles are the surprise team in baseball - they have a monster lineup that has now been dinged further with the loss of Machado, but I am still amazed they have put themselves at the top of the AL (after the Angels) with an unheralded pitching staff. I don't know if they are built for the post season, but we shall see.
Speaking of the post season, I ordered by playoff strips from the Nationals...will I finally get to go to a World Series game? Here is hoping that I don't have to turn those tickets back in for credit on next year's tickets.
A damp Saturday here...nevertheless, the honey-do list will be calling. Have a good one!
Well, I had to start this week with a good pic...As College Football season nears, my Notre Dame Fighting Irish seem to have a problem...
This past week news broke that Notre Dame had an internal investigation looking into allegations Academic Misconduct...When 4 players were noticeably absent at practice, it was easy to figure at least some of who was involved...LB/DE Ishaq Williams, CB Keivarae Russell, WR Davaris Daniels,and LB Kendall Moore...Daniels had just come off of suspension for his GPA dropping...Moore, a 5th year senior has slipped on the depth chart during Spring and Summer...Russell is the top CB on the depth chart...And Williams, while not officially being a bust, has not lived up to expectations, and the Irish were hoping to see him reach his full potential this season...
The players have not been dismissed from the team or University...But they are being withheld from practice and games until the investigation complete...And while the Notre Dame haters are licking their chops, dying to blast us Irish fans who hang our hats on the academic standards, this is the same School that threw their starting QB out shortly before the start of last season for academic violations...
It is reported that a faculty member brought the allegations to the University, feeling that work turned in by these players (and possibly other students) was not their own...There is also speculation, but no confirmation that academic advisors could be involved...What makes me happy is the University took it seriously right away...They didn't try and hush it up, or sweep it under the rug, in the name of football...And the Athletic department, and head coach Brian Kelly put up no fight over...It's also reported that none of the coaching staff was aware of any of this until it was brought to their attention...(so far)...They are all in with finding out what happened and who the problem people are...
I really like what Brian Kelly had to say in his press conference Saturday...
Another sign of how serious Notre Dame is taking this...They brought in Maurice Clarett to speak with the staff, and players Sunday...
Shit, if there's a guy that knows about the pitfalls college athletes can fall into, it's him...Seriously, if you haven't seen the ESPN 30 for 30 about him and Jim Tressel, you have to see it...You'll gain a lot of respect for Clarett, and you'll lose even more for Tressel...What a fake, piece of shit that guy is!
I guess, I don't really have much to say about this yet...Mainly because we know very little...I just know that I'm happy with how Notre Dame is handling it so far...As more information comes out, I may change my mind...I mean these are the guys that thought Manti Te'o had a girlfriend they never saw, then gave him a football to bury with her when she died, you know, whenever he got back to Hawaii to bury her pretend body!